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Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, David Hall, David Corn, Paul Waldman, Wendell Potter





KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The GOP blocks the defense authorization bill because it includes the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  To borrow a phrase: why do Republicans hate the troops?


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments.


OLBERMANN:  This was after she said she supported the repeal.

Does the president now have to do this unilaterally, put a moratorium on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” until the Pentagon study comes back in December?

The impact with DADT victim, former Air Force Staff Sergeant David Hall; the politics with David Corn.

As a tax vote nears, the tax cut debate isn‘t a debate.  New polling in battleground states: 62 percent do not want cuts for the rich.  The latest machinations with Howard Fineman.

The new way around health care reform—no new child-only insurance policies.  Our guest: Wendell Potter.

“Worsts”: British police want you to be on the lookout for—this man.

The Delaware Senate race, also known as—seriously?  O‘Donnell denies she spent campaign funds on rent.  She defies description on her explanation of White House czars.


CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE:  No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States.  There you go.  So, I would say to President Obama that czar is certainly a title of nobility, and therefore, it is unconstitutional.


OLBERMANN:  So, what about Lady Gaga or Peter King?  Oh, and she pulled an Angle.


REPORTER:  That was the one question I asked.

O‘DONNELL:  Thank you.  I answered it.

REPORTER:  No, you didn‘t answer it.


OLBERMANN:  All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.


O‘DONNELL:  Sorry, I have to rush out.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Today, Republican senators blocked the defense authorization bill, holding hostage funding for our troops over opposition to a repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

In our fifth story: the opportunity to end a 17-year-old starkly discriminatory policy may have been missed.

And then there is President Obama who has the authority to stop, by executive order, the implementation of that policy until and unless Congress finally gets around to ending the policy itself.

Today, every Senate Republican voted to block a debate on the defense authorization bill, their lifeblood, and its repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” because of the latter that included Susan Collins of Maine who raised procedural objections even though she supports the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

The chairman of the armed services committee, Carl Levin, pointing out that all filibusters are not created equal, that the GOP tactic of preventing even the start of a debate has reached a new high and low.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MICHIGAN), CHAIR, ARMED SERVICES CMITE.:  It is outrageous and it‘s sad that the Republicans have banded together to refuse to even let us begin debate on a bill which is so critically important to our nation‘s defense and so vital to the well-being of the men and women in uniform and their families.

I don‘t think a filibuster has ever before prevented the Senate from getting to a defense authorization bill.  Filibuster should not be used to prevent the Senate from debating.  Debates are important.  Debates on these issues are important.  Debate on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is important.  Debates on these other issues are important.

It‘s a sad day—a sad day when a defense authorization bill is filibustered to the point where we can‘t even get to debate that bill.  It‘s totally unacceptable that for the first time in history, after 42 years, we‘re not going to get to a defense authorization bill because it‘s filibustered by Republicans.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Levin also said that the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is not off the table, but he confessed he could not discern what the path would be at the moment.  The tyranny of the minority also underscored by Senator Jack Reed, who alluded to another part of the defense authorization package, the DREAM Act, which would provide citizenship to immigrants who serve in the military, and which the Pentagon supports.


SEN. JACK REED (D-RHODE ISLAND), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.:  And I think it suggests the unwillingness to even debate is that our colleagues on the side don‘t have great confidence in their arguments against the proposed changes in policy regarding “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and against the DREAM Act.  Or they don‘t want to stand up and take tough votes after thorough, thoughtful debate.


OLBERMANN:  The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, preserved his ability to bring up the same vote again, and some proponents of repeal believe there could be a chance to revisit the issue in December, once the Pentagon completes its study on how to implement lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

But a reminder, the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” would not have happened until 60 days after that Pentagon review came.  And yet, it still drew objections from Senators like John McCain.

From gay rights advocates today—obviously frustration.  Richard Soccarides, the former gay rights adviser to President Bill Clinton, who was our guest here last night, quoting him, “The Democrats have been against ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell‘ for more than a decade, and why we allowed this law to remain in effect for another two years is beyond me.  I think we, as a gay community,” he continued, “all bare a significant share of responsibility for not insisting that the unconstitutional and discriminatory policy not be ended right away.”

The political path to that in a moment.  First, let‘s bring in the director of development for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, David Hall, former Air Force staff sergeant and one of nearly 13,000 servicemen and women discharged under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Was today it?

HALL:  No, today—today wasn‘t it.  I mean, it‘s a very disappointing day that, you know, we didn‘t get—we didn‘t get the votes to get past the filibuster.  But, you know, today wasn‘t an up-or-down vote on repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  You know, it was really more partisan politics.  And I think after the election, during the lame duck, we‘ll be able to get this passed.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think the president will be a force in getting that through in a lame duck session of Congress particularly after the Pentagon review is out?

HALL:  I think he better be.

OLBERMANN:  What about the prospect of direction action?  As we pointed out, he could suspend its implementation by executive order.  Do you think that‘s likely?

HALL:  I doubt that‘s very likely that he‘ll do that.

OLBERMANN:  Is that a purely political decision, or is this part of that process that we saw with health care reform and several other important issues in which the president decided to let the mechanics of the Congress work even when the mechanics of Congress do not work, as they did not today?

HALL:  I think it more would probably come down to the Pentagon and what he has worked out with them.  You know, he gave them the OK to do this study in February.  And I think he‘ll let that process go through until they give him the report.  I don‘t think he wants to interfere with what Gates and Mullen are trying to do.

OLBERMANN:  Describe or contextualize what happened today in light of your own experience and even current public opinion on this issue.

HALL:  Well, you know, I think a lot of people were thinking, you know, today would be the vote and that we would get past cloture and we‘d be able to move on this bill.  But we realize that it came back to what we have been seeing in this Congress the whole time, which is just the partisan politics—that, you know, they‘re more worried about the midterm elections than they are about our American soldiers serving and being able to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

OLBERMANN:  Have civil rights advocacy groups and advocacy groups like your own done enough to make sure this happened during this administration and to frame this as nothing less than the civil rights issue of this time, do you think?

HALL:  I think so.  You know, people have been working on this issue for many years, especially Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has been working on, well, you know, “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” since 1993 and then the repeal part for about five or six years now.  And I think this year, you know, we have given it our all, and we still continue to.  And, you know, it‘s not over yet.  We‘ll still keep going on with the fight.

OLBERMANN:  David Hall of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network—great thanks for your time.

HALL:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  For more on the politics of today‘s failure, let‘s turn to the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine, columnist for, David Corn.

David, good evening.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Do you agree with former Sergeant Hall that this repeal still has a chance in this Congress, in a lame duck session after the midterms?

CORN:  I agree there is a chance.  The question is: how big a chance.  If the Democrats take a big shellacking, and I‘m just saying that‘s an “if.”  I don‘t know—no one knows what‘s going to happen.  It may make it harder.

The president may have a couple of things he wants to do in the lame duck session.  This may be one of a few things that compete for the political capital that he has left at that point in time.  So, it‘s certainly a possibility.

I do know at the White House today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about this, and all he said was: believe you me, we‘re not thinking past the election yet.

OLBERMANN:  Well, if that‘s—that sort of adds to the sense there was a discouraging silence from the White House on this today and what the president is willing to do next.  Is that the idea of discouraging silence, a fair assessment?

CORN:  I think there was discouraging silence before the vote.


CORN:  If you look at what happened in the last couple days, the president made no real pitch for this.  We were told today that Vice President Biden made at least one call, I think to Olympia Snowe, maybe more than that.

And compared that to what Lady Gaga was doing.  I mean, she was up in Maine.  She was doing political organizing.  She was putting pressure on, you know, the grassroots level on the senators who were holding things up, the two Maine senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

So, the White House, you know, really didn‘t throw much behind it.  And there was discouraging silence I think after the vote failed in which she didn‘t hear—you know, Gibbs said all the right things about the Republicans blocking with the filibuster, being obstructionist, and how much the president wants to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and how commit head is to it—but there wasn‘t much—I don‘t know, call it anger or passion—


CORN:  -- in the way he was describing it.  It didn‘t seem like a number one priority here.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I think I would exempt.  I thought Carl Levin expressed it.  He doesn‘t—he‘s not a table-pounder, but he—but he got angry within his context, I thought.  And as you said, one of the major leaders of our society today, Lady Gaga, certainly did her part.

CORN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  But where—but it does raise this larger issue.  When the Republicans held Congress in the first six years of the Bush presidency, anything that got in the way of getting what they wanted attached to this particular bill and other supplementals in particular for Iraq immediately resulted in this chorus of blood curdling screams that the Democrats were putting our troops in the field at risk, even a moment‘s delay, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

CORN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  And we heard Chairman Levin‘s frustration there.  But why are more Democrats—it doesn‘t—it doesn‘t need to be an echo of that, that what—that Republican thing of the early 2000s was borderline insanity.

CORN:  Basically what—


OLBERMANN:  There‘s no—there is no parallel whatsoever.

CORN:  They were basically saying why do you hate the troops so much?

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  Exactly.


OLBERMANN:  Why do the Republicans hate the troops?

CORN:  Yes.  And so, that was the question actually that a few of us

were asking amongst ourselves today at the press briefing.  You didn‘t see

you know, not the president, not the press secretary, come out and say they are holding, you know, money for the troops hostage because of their own social conservative agenda.  You know, why do you hate the troops?  You know, there was—there was none of that.


It leads I think to frustration with the Democratic base which doesn‘t like the Republican tactics, but it‘s like they look, you know, at this over the course of years and they say OK, the Republicans, you know, play rugby and the Democrats are playing ping-pong.  It‘s not a fair fight.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s almost also as if it‘s a part-time job, it feels like sometimes looking at the White House when polls show that 80 percent of Americans are against “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  When the Tea Party ignores this issue because they don‘t think they can get anything done on it.  The GOP‘s intransigence is evidence that it can still be counted on to cater to social radicals, never mind a large will of the people which the Democrats in this case particularly represent.

CORN:  Yes.  Well, you see, you know, that didn‘t seem to matter.  The Republicans, catering to the socialist conservatives as you just said, seem to be more motivated to go to extremes than the White House was when they were—you know, when you would expect them to at least cater to their base.  But also with the acceptance of the wider swath—you know, wider swath of the public supporting the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

So, they had the numbers on their side.  But once again, the Republicans were really motivated by trying to pander or service, you know, what is really—they have two halves to their base now, the Tea Party and social conservatives.  There‘s a lot of overlaps.  And we see that with Christine O‘Donnell.

And, you know, it‘s going to be interesting if the Republicans gain one of the two houses if not both how much they‘re going to, you know, get on their knees to the social conservatives after the election.  This is one indication that they still think very highly of them.

OLBERMANN:  If you know your hockey, the Republicans want to lead the league in penalties and minutes, and the Democrats are looking for the Lady Byng Sportsmanship Award.

David Corn of “Mother Jones”—great thanks.

CORN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Nobody‘s got the Stanley Cup.

The tax cut vote this week in Congress and the other one the Democrats should be pushing for on November 2nd according to the polls.

Plus, a British dragnet for a man who has a cabbage for a head.

And, obviously, Christine O‘Donnell is not a witch, because when confronted with a question she wanted to avoid, she ran away, she didn‘t fly.


OLBERMANN:  The new polls suggesting that which the Democrats fear most—the debate over tax cuts—could, in fact, be the only thing that could save them in the midterms.

Well, besides her.  Her comments about White House czars suggest she can see Russian noblemen from her house.

Two days before health care reform begins to take effect, this spokesman for the insurance lobbyist AHIP reveals the industry‘s revenge and it is aimed against your kids.

And do you recognize this man?  Police in England want to ask him about a burglary.  And also about whether he knows that that is not a toupee, it‘s a piece of lettuce.


OLBERMANN:  Democrats in Congress today say they will face-off with Republicans over Bush tax cuts for the rich before the House adjourns for the campaign season.

Our fourth story tonight: the fight progressives have been clamoring for, the fight Republicans have already signaled they might fold on, the fight in which voters overwhelmingly side with Democrats is on.

“Talking Points Memo” reporting that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has shut down reports that the House might adjourn before battling over whether to extend any or all of Bush tax cuts, which Republicans have threatened to block for the middle class unless Democrats agree to renew them for the richest 2 percent of Americans as well.

In the Senate, Democrat Carl Levin saying battle will be joined this week Thursday or Friday.  And he says leadership will allow votes on both the Democratic middle class tax cut and on the Republican tax cut for the rich.

This on the heels of new polling on the Republican tax cuts for the rich, not a national poll, but a poll in seven battleground states—majorities in California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.  Reporting that the Bush tax cuts for the rich either did not help or actually hurt the economy when they were enacted beginning 10 years ago.  And fewer than 15 percent of Democrats and independents believe they helped.

Paul Begala, adviser to the union that commissioned the poll, SEIU, told “The Plum Line” blog he is going to push congressional Democrats to weigh these poll numbers and make an issue out of tax cuts in their local races.

Extending just the middle class tax cuts presents its own perils for Democrats, though.  The “Washington Post” today wraps comments from economic think tanks and analysis who even say or said that even without extending tax cuts for the rich, the Democratic tax cut package alone would cost more than $3 trillion over just the first 10 years.

Former Obama budget director, Peter Orszag, telling CNN that letting them all expire, returning taxes to their levels during the Clinton years, would put the White House within striking distance of balancing the budget, which you may remember is the very goal tax-cutting Tea Partiers claim to value most.

If the Republicans do hit the president in 2012 for increasing the deficit, they will not have Larry Summers to kick around anymore.  The director of the National Economic Council, a top Obama adviser and a bane to economic progressive, announced today he is leaving the White House at year‘s end and will go back and do whatever it was he used to do.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine—that‘s right, that‘s where you used to be—and soon to be senior editor at “The Huffington Post.”  We‘ll talk about that in a moment.  But it‘s good to see you.


OLBERMANN:  How are the tax cut battles going in each chamber?

FINEMAN:  Well, I‘m here in New York but I‘m calling and e-mailing back to D.C.  And I‘m not entirely sure that this is going to be a profile in courage for the Democrats.

OLBERMANN:  I was surprised.

FINEMAN:  OK.  It sounds like a profile in painful caution.  I was talking to leaders—leadership aides in both House and Senate tonight.  The way I understand it, the Democrats in the House don‘t want to go first because of the famous conservative Blue Dogs.  OK.  Here we go again.


FINEMAN:  The conservative Blue Dogs still feel upset that they were made to vote for that cap-and-trade environmental bill.  Remember that?  A year and a half.

OLBERMANN:  No, I don‘t.  No.

FINEMAN:  All right.


FINEMAN:  They‘re upset about that.  OK.  And they want the Senate to go first.

Normally, the House would be gung-ho.  They want the Senate to go first.  This is from Pelosi‘s office now.  They want the Senate to go first.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid met with Mitch McConnell this evening to try to work out some votes.  They‘ve reached no agreement.  So, at this point, nothing is really clear.  And the Democrats are afraid of their own shadow on this in more ways than I can count.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  So, that‘s what Chris Van Hollen was talking about two weeks ago on the show.  And he said, oh, I‘m confident that before the election, we‘ll have a vote in Congress somewhere—


OLBERMANN:  -- I‘m not saying whether in the House or the Senate.

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Have they—have they at least decided that, in fact, this is not kryptonite, and they can not only address this successfully on the campaign trail, but, in fact, perhaps come out ahead by dressing it on the campaign trail?

FINEMAN:  Well, in classic fashion, I think what the Democrats are trying to do is figure out a way to have the rhetoric of this issue to be able to attack the Republicans for favoring—keeping taxes low on the rich without ever actually having to have a vote before Election Day.  OK.  That‘s what they‘re trying to figure out how to do.

The talk in the Senate is there will be two votes.  There will be a vote on McConnell‘s plan, which would be to keep all the taxes where they are, including for the rich—


FINEMAN:  -- which would fail, in which the Democrats would vote against.  But then, there would be another bill that would have some increased taxes on the rich, but the Democrats can agree in their own caucus on where to put that number, above $250,000, above $1 million, $750,000?  They can‘t agree on it.

So, if anything happens, they‘re just going to be two failed votes.  In other words, whatever happens, no action will be taken.  It‘s just a question of whether they‘re fake votes or no fake votes.

OLBERMAN:  How do the Republicans fare on this while out campaigning?

FINEMAN:  What they were saying in Delaware where I was last week, targeting some voters out there, is that the Republican line is: if they come for the rich, you‘re next.  First, they came for the rich.



FINEMAN:  Yes, OK.  All right.  But that‘s what - -that‘s what their line is going to be, and that‘s what the Democrats, moderate Democrats in blue states, et cetera, et cetera.

Keith, the problem with this is, having been around politics for a long time, it‘s like business.  You can‘t make money unless you spend money, OK?


FINEMAN:  You have to invest.

Political capital only grows if you invest.  Barack Obama has this issue.  The Democrats have this issue.  If they‘re going to make it work, they need to hammer it first, last, and always endlessly, because when they do, they convince the American public.

The poll numbers are not a measure of what you‘ve done.  The poll numbers are a measure of what you‘ve not done.


FINEMAN:  And that‘s the situation here.  You‘re talking about that with regard to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  This is the same kind of thing.

OLBERMANN:  And thank you for quoting Pastor Niemoeller there, that first they came for the rich.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention your personal little corner of the economy.

FINEMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  This is one of the workforce retraining things?  Is that what with you‘ve done here?

FINEMAN:  Yes, it is.  I‘m—I‘m staying with TV.


FINEMAN:  I love my association with NBC and MSNBC.  But on my non-TV side, I‘m moving from “Newsweek” magazine over to “The Huffington Post.”  I‘m going paperless unless I write another book.

And the reason, is “The Huff Post” is one of the biggest news Web sites out there now, battling with “The New York Times” if you can believe it, even though it‘s only a few years old.  They need help from people like me, I think on the traditional reporting side.

Plus, if I‘m going to still cover politics, which I‘d love to do as long as I live, I‘ve got to understand not just the Internet, but social networking.  Obama‘s campaign was a Facebook-based campaign.  The Tea Party is a Twitter-based campaign.  It‘s hashtag politics.

And social networking is what “Huff Po” does in addition to reporting the news.  That‘s why I did it and I‘m excited as hell about it.

OLBERMANN:  Well, congratulations on it.  And we noticed that your volume of tweets has increased here.

FINEMAN:  It has.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s up like two a week now?

FINEMAN:  Yes, I‘m working on that.

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll work on that.  We‘ll done.

Howard Fineman, congratulations, and thanks for coming in.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  So, the whole premise of tax cuts for small businesses, you‘d probably be surprised to learn what a, quote, “small business” really is.  It‘s not based on a small number of employees or small incomes, small profits, small facilities.  What it is based on, turns out to be one of the greatest slight of hand tricks in the United States of 2010 or any other year.

Tomorrow night, a COUNTDOWN exclusive.  It seems like the bigger they are, the smaller a business they are.  Small business, it‘s just a brand name.  Our COUNTDOWN special report tomorrow night, right here.

To the Delaware Senate race where the sad reality of American politics of today becomes more apparent with each passing day, stupid is the new smart.  What did she say about czars?


O‘DONNELL:  Christine O‘Donnell thinks calling somebody a “czar” is unconstitutional because the constitutional forbids the awarding of titles of nobility.  Seriously.

First, the sanity break in the tweet of the day.  And it‘s from—oh, Sarah Palin USA.  That‘s to differentiate her from the woman on Twitter called Sarah Palin North Korea.  “With all the talk from the left re: who funds Tea Party Americans, one might point out the left‘s Tea Party is ACORN, funded by fed govt.”

“A,” is, madam, you do know that ACORN, after being repeatedly slandered by the right and FOX News, disbanded on April 1st, right?  Man with message and cleft stick does reach ice fortress of solitude, no?

And, “B,” are you saying Tea Party Americans are the equivalent of evil, evil, evil ACORN?  Don‘t look back, Ms. Palin, witchy woman might be gaining on you.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”


OLBERMANN:  It‘s me again.  We begin with a little self-promotion.  As many of you and all of you should know, my new book, “Pitchforks and Torches,” hits bookshelves October 26th.  A while back, I was asked to do a promotional read for Amazon.  It was deemed too hot.  I instead recorded a tamer version.  Here is the read that was too racy, even for the Internet. 


OLBERMANN:  Hello again, faithful Amazonians.  It‘s me again, friendly Keith from friendly Keith‘s discount house of words.  My new book, “Pitchforks and Torches,” includes well over 15,000 different words, words like pejorative, ambidextrous, and my personal favorite, abatement. 

Why just look at the cover.  “Pitchforks and Torches: the Worst of the Worst from Beck, Bill and Bush to Palin and Other Posturing Republicans.”  That‘s 19 words right there; 15 of them are different.  Where else are you going to find a different word ratio like that? 

But it‘s not just words, mind you.  Many of these words form actual phrases, questions, and even 12-minute-long political commentaries of the highest order and insight.  Phrases ranging from “how dare you, sir” to “palpable Tea Party nonsense.” 

Friends, I don‘t mean to disparage the average reader of the average book.  But I can see you‘re one of them picky ones that likes his books to contain words, phrases, questions and even 12-minute-long political commentaries of the highest order insight.  It‘s the simple truth that no book on all of Amazon will offer you a higher percentage of them than my new book, “Pitchforks and Torches.”  So buy “Pitchforks and Torches” today before the price goes up. 

I mean, when was the last time you actually saw that happen?  But in this crazy world, you just never know, do you?  “Pitchforks and Torches,” it‘s the best book you‘ll read all year that I wrote.  “Pitchforks and Torches” does not contain either pitchforks or torches.  Please do not eat book. 


OLBERMANN:  Yeah, but they can show this on the Internet: the latest health epidemic, Bieber fever.  Here we have a classic example of a man exhibiting all the symptoms.  Notice the non-stop hip gyration and the sheer resentment of his daughters.  There‘s still no cure for Bieber fever, but if you see someone who appears to be coming down with it, give them two Michael Bubles and let them rest.  And time marches on.

Sixty percent of those polled in Delaware say she is not qualified to be a U.S. senator.  Christine O‘Donnell is pushed for an answer about one of her controversies.  So she pulls a Sharron Angle and runs away.  Next.


OLBERMANN:  It‘s too early to see poll trending in the landmark candidacy of America‘s first ex-Satanic dabbling anti-masturbation “Mice and Men” truther.  But there are new numbers, and they don‘t seem good.  And there are new quotes, and they don‘t sound good.  And best of all, there‘s new videotape and it doesn‘t look good. 

Our third story, apparently Christine O‘Donnell is a little confused about czars.  But she sure can run away.  At Middletown, Delaware, O‘Donnell attending a candidates forum hosted by the First State Patriots.  Topics ranging from immigration and health care to God and government. 


CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN DELEWARE:  Separation of church and state is in spirit supported by our Constitution, but it is not in our Constitution.  I also want to clarify that it‘s separation of church and state, not separate from church and state. 


OLBERMANN:  What she said.  And now the 64,000 dollar question: what role should presidentially appointed czars have in ruling our country? 


O‘DONNELL:  I was going to give a one-word answer and say none, like Brent.  And then Joseph O‘Leary handed me the Constitution and reminded me of a better answer, which is found in our Constitution, Article One, Section Nine: “no title of nobility shall be granted by the United States.”  There you go. 

So I would say to President Obama that czar is certainly a title of nobility and therefore it is unconstitutional. 


OLBERMANN:  All right.  Just think what would a would be Senator O‘Donnell‘s anti-nobility platform would do to Larry King, Congressman Peter King, “The King of Queens,” Queen Latifah, Lady Gaga, and MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer.  Afterwards, O‘Donnell agreed to take one question from reporters responding to allegations that she misused campaign funds. 


O‘DONNELL:  I am confident that we have been ethical.  We have not—

I personally have not misused the campaign funds.  We have our SEC lawyer, a great attorney, answering those charges if it ever goes anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That wasn‘t our question. 


OLBERMANN:  The man you hard speaking there, CNN‘s Gary Tuchman, continued to press Ms. O‘Donnell on whether she paid her rent with campaign money and that‘s when O‘Donnell went full Angle on him. 


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Ms. O‘Donnell, I‘m asking you that one question you promise you would answer. 

O‘DONNELL:  I did answer it. 

TUCHMAN:  No, about the rentals last year. 

O‘DONNELL:  Sorry, tonight not happening. 

TUCHMAN:  That was with the one question I had. 

O‘DONNELL:  I answered it. 

TUCHMAN:  No, you didn‘t answer. 


OLBERMANN:  Leave it to a brave few to turn the spotlight on O‘Donnell‘s opponent Chris Coons. 


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Let‘s not talk about O‘Donnell,  Let‘s talk about the challenger, the Democratic challenger. 

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  He‘s a loon.  He‘s a Marxist.  He admitted it. 

I can‘t even make fun of you for calling him that.  

BECK:  You‘re telling me that she‘s unelectable, but a Marxist is? 


OLBERMANN:  Glenn Beck is the stupidest man still breathing.  You see, 25 years ago, Mr. Coons wrote an opinion piece for his college newspaper titled “The Making of a Bearded Marxist.”  Except the Marxist reference in the title was meant ironically.  It was a joke his friends had made.  Mr.  Coons was describing his political transformation following a trip to Kenya, from a sheltered conservative to a person who still loved America but thought it was important to occasionally question its policies. 

The latest polling from none other than Fox News has Mr. Coons ahead by 15 points, while 60 percent of likely voters think O‘Donnell is not qualified to serve in the Senate.  Perhaps she just needed more face time with voters.  That was the reason behind canceling appearances on “Fox News Sunday” and “Face The Nation” over the weekend.  In fact today, an O‘Donnell spokesperson telling the Associated Press it is highly unlikely the candidate will appear on Bill Maher‘s program either, because the focus is on talking to Delaware residents.  And understandable then that O‘Donnell will keep that focus tonight with a little known local Delaware media personality on whose show she will guest, Sean Hannity. 

Time now to call in the senior correspondent with the “American Prospect” magazine, co-author of “Free Ride,” Paul Waldman.  Paul, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  We‘ll start at the end.  Focusing on Delaware residents, going on a national right-wing talk show.  Is she counting on losing the thing and using this as a platform for a news reading job, or what? 

WALDMAN:  Well, maybe.  But, you know, she‘s gotten all of this money from all over the country.  I think it‘s actually not so—such a bad idea from a strategic perspective, because she needs to keep that money coming in.  And the more that she is visible on the national level, the more she can keep getting those contributions. 

I doubt that she thinks she is going to lose.  I think every candidate thinks in their hearts that they have a chance.  It certainty doesn‘t look that way from the polls right now.  But the more that she continues to be a national story, and be out there in places where she‘ll say things that will get people like you to take a close look at them, the more it works for Democrats.  But she probably thinks it‘s good for her too. 

OLBERMANN:  On this question of Mr. Coons and his writings, let me see if I got this right.  Something that Chris Coons wrote—and it was self-mockingly -- 25 years ago disqualifies him from office.  Anything that Ms.  O‘Donnell said prior to like last Tuesday is irrelevant and part of a plot against her.  Is that about the size of it? 

WALDMAN:  Well, one of the things that‘s happening now is that the Republicans are really circling the wagons around her.  When she first came out right before the primary, and then afterward, there was a lot of criticism from establishment Republicans, people like Karl Rove and Bill Kristol.  But now they‘re kind of stuck with her, and so they are all rallying to her side.  And Rove has recanted. 

Part of that formula is that you have to paint her opponent as a crazy radical.  You know, lately, we have defined Marxism down so that even a sort of run-of-the mill Democrat like Chris Coons can be called a Marxist just because he supports ordinary Democratic policies.  If he hadn‘t written that thing when he was in college, they would find another reason to call him a Marxist. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, then that brings us to the piece de resistance from last night, the stuff about the czars.  I don‘t know where to begin with her view on presidential appointees.  Is there some implication in there that she doesn‘t know that the title is not czar, or that the term wasn‘t introduced by Republican presidents?  Or does she really think they‘re all Romanoffs or something?  What‘s going on with that? 

WALDMAN:  One of the things you see with a lot of these Tea Party candidates is that they have this kind of seventh grade level understanding of the Constitution, combined with an absolute ignorance of the way government works, the way legislation is made.  So you get this kind of thing. 

O‘Donnell is kind of late to the Tea Party.  She really has built a career as a conservative culture warrior.  Talking about things like opposing masturbation and opposing women in the military, and all these kinds of things; that‘s what she made her career of.  But because she was opposing a moderate Republican, the Tea Party kind of swooped in behind her and lifted her on to their shoulders.  Now she has to kind of get with that program and start waving around copies of the Constitution. 

But she obviously has some things to learn about the way government works and the fact that for all the Glenn Beck talk of czars, there is not anyone in the government whose real title is actually czar. 

OLBERMANN:  By the way, I‘m going to have to defend the seventh grade education.  I had the best seventh grade social studies teacher there ever was, Ellen Rice, and she would have happily flunked me if I was as dumb on this subject as this candidate is.  Just in defense of the seventh grade.  Paul Waldman of the “American Prospect,” thank you kindly.

WALDMAN:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The revenge of the insurance industry; as health care reform kicks in this week, the insurers target your kids.  Wendell Potter joins us.

You know, worst person in the world is part metaphor, part hyperbole.  Then you see a picture like this one and you think no, maybe I mean it literally. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she‘ll look into where Karl Rove is getting his money.  He could use one of those lettuce pieces.  


OLBERMANN:  As health care reform begins to take affect, three insurers have found a loophole, just not offering insurance for your kid.  That‘s next.  But first, get out your “Pitchforks and Torches,” time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.  I thought we were going to play the tape again. 

The bronze to detective in Hampshire, in England, who are defending what they call an e-fit of a man suspected of breaking into a home and stealing 60 Pounds.  That‘s British money, in case you didn‘t know.  We would call it a computer rendering, obviously.  The police have issued this picture of a man they wish to interview.  A constable admitted, quote, “we are currently experiencing technical problems with the quality of the hair and are waiting for an upgrade of the system from the company that provides us with the software.  It is important to point out that the suspect in this case is described as having blond-gray hair.  While the hair on this image may not be of the best quality, it takes nothing from the overall clarity of the facial features.  It would therefore be wrong to withhold the release of the e-fit just based on this technical issue.” 

Meanwhile, our friend comedian Bruce McCollough of the “Kids in the Hall” says he can account for his whereabouts at the time of his robbery, saying he was busy trying to get a mercy—I can‘t read the rest of that. 

Runners up.  Steve Doocy and the journalistic con-men over at Fox and Fiends.  Yesterday on CNBC, the president was asked if he could compromise and give tax cuts to the rich, but only the rich making less than a million a year.  This is how President Obama replied.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I can‘t give tax cuts to the top two percent of Americans, 86 percent of that money going to people making a million dollars or more, and lower the deficit at the same time.  I don‘t have the math. 


OLBERMANN:  It might not be a universally popular answer, but there is logic to it.  Tax cuts and deficit reduction are largely mutually exclusive.  But on Fox, as usual, you didn‘t hear the president‘s reasoning.  You only heard this. 


STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  President Obama still refuses to budge on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the most successful people in America and small business owners as well. 

OBAMA:  It is a irresponsible thing for us to do.  I can‘t give tax cuts to the top two percent of Americans. 

DOOCY:  Why not?  That‘s what our next guest wants to know. 


OLBERMANN:  Thanks to the selective editing you just saw, the explanation that you can‘t cut taxes for the rich and reduce the deficit was never discussed.  The word deficit was never even mentioned.  That‘s why if dishonest editing were a crime, Fox would be broadcasting 24 hours a day from Leavenworth. 

But our winner, the GOP‘s candidate for the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker.  His campaign, in which he donned boxing gloves in one commercial, even though his opponent was savagely beaten last year—it has been a joy for the rest of us.  Now he has added to our joy.  Mr.  Walker has issued a 68-page jobs plan.  Here is page one: the logo, the headline, and the words “one of the keys to the”—yep, the whole thing is in like 36-point type.  A later page has exactly 13 words on it.  “We must lower the heavy tax burden that prevents businesses from investing in”—that‘s right.  You can read Scott Walker‘s entire 68-page job proposal aloud in about four and a half minutes. 

Actually less.  I forgot page 55, which consists entirely of “Invest in Infrastructure” in bold type.  I shouldn‘t have counted the three half-page photos.  He‘s got a 68-page jobs plan.  You know a really good jobs plan?  Print the state budget like that, think of all the new forklift operators and hernia surgeons you would need.  Scott Walker, Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin, at least you can see his crap from a mile away, today‘s Worst Person in the World.


OLBERMANN:  After all the ugly town halls over health care reform last summer, after the rise of the Tea Party against government death panels that didn‘t exist, after polls seeming to show Republicans soaring in popularity on the back of health care reform, what do Democrats have to show for it?  This, our number one story.  As of Thursday, September 23rd, it will be the law of the land for the start of every new policy year that American children may no longer be denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. 

Insurance companies may no longer tell Americans sorry, we will not cover you if the cost of your care goes too high.  Americans can no longer be denied their coverage based on innocent mistakes on their applications.  American parents will be able to carry their children on their plans until the age of 26, and just in time, too.  The Census Bureau reported just last week that the number of uninsured Americans like those who have attended free clinics sponsored by you, our viewers, soared by nearly 10 percent last year; 51 million Americans now lack health insurance. 

The mandates for expanding coverage further do not kick in until 2014.  How are insurance companies responding to the milestone on Thursday?  You knew there had to be a catch.  The “Washington Post” reports today that at least three health insurance companies have decided that rather than comply with the new rules for their policies, they will simply stop offering new health insurance plans for children. 

Why?  Because now the child only policies would force them to accept even kids who are already sick.  This provides, quoting an insurance spokesman, “a very powerful incentive for a parent to wait until their child becomes very sick before purchasing coverage.”  That‘s Robert Zerkelback (ph), spokesman for the lobbying group America‘s Health Insurance Plans, AHIP, claiming that parents who could otherwise afford it now have, quote,” a very powerful incentive for a parent to wait until their child becomes very sick before purchasing them the coverage.” 

Which companies will now deny coverage to all kids not covered in their parents‘ plans?  Wellpoint, profit 722 million dollars last quarter.  CEO made 13 million last year.  Cigna, 294 million profit last quarter. 

CEO six million last year.  Coventry One, 278 million.  CEO 17 million. 

Let‘s bring in Wendell Potter, senior fellow for the Center for Media and Democracy and former head of public relations for Cigna.  Wendell, thanks again for coming on tonight. 


OLBERMANN:  I want the start with the good news about Thursday first. 

What is the impact as you see it from the near date here? 

POTTER:  Well, it will be benefit consumers in many different ways.  It will prohibit these companies from rescinding policies or canceling policies when people get sick.  That‘s one important thing.  It will also allow young people to stay on their parents‘ policies until they‘re 26 if they can‘t find coverage in the workplace. 

So there are some very, very important protection—consumer protections that take effect on Thursday.  And one of them will be for insurance companies to no longer be able to deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions. 

What we‘re seeing here is they‘re trying to get around that by saying they won‘t sell these policies or renew them in advance of the implementation of the bill. 

OLBERMANN:  Your colleagues at Cigna, when you were there, they were not monsters.  They were not from outer space.  These were people with families and kids of their own.  How did they come up with the idea to not offer new child only policies to American children just because, in theory, some parent somewhere might not put their kids on those plans at exactly the time Cigna wants them to? 

POTTER:  This should be a reminder to Americans of why we had this debate in the first place and why it was so vital—so urgent that we reform our health care system.  This system that we have is built on profit.  The biggest companies who dominate the industry right now, the insurance industry, are for-profit companies.  They are beholden to Wall Street.  And they need to make the numbers work. 

And you‘re right.  They‘re not monsters, but they know that their obligation is to Wall Street.  And they are just quite willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of our children to meet those Wall Street numbers. 

OLBERMANN:  As this being an indication of what‘s to come, Wendell, as insurance companies try to purge or to block anybody who might cost them a nickel between now and 2014, when the full mandate takes effect, what are Americans supposed to do in self-defense to these sideways attacks that the insurance companies are obviously—this can‘t be the last of them. 

POTTER:  Between now and when this bill is fully implemented, Americans need to reach out to their members of Congress, to their state legislators, to their insurance commissioners, to the governors, any time that they feel they have been wronged by an insurance company, every time that they feel like they‘ve been—they‘re seeing a policy increase, premium increase that‘s unjustified.  Get in touch with the government.  Get in touch with the media.  Be a squeaky wheel. 

Make sure that Congress and the state legislators and lawmakers know what these companies are doing.  That‘s vitally important. 

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans are talking about repealing all or some of the health care reform.  The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, most recently estimated the savings would be 143 billion thanks to health care reform over the next decade.  Between that and the tax breaks to small businesses for providing coverage to their employees, how realistic is it to start taking this apart? 

POTTER:  I don‘t think it‘s very realistic.  For one thing, I think it‘s mostly political rhetoric.  They‘ve been able to demonize this bill so much that they‘re using it as a campaign issue right now.  The reality is that this legislation is also something that the insurance industry really needs, because their business models are not sustainable.  And they will not get the backing of the insurance industry to try to repeal it. 

There are some things that the industry does not like.  That‘s where you‘ll probably see they‘ll be working around the edges and trying to block the implementation, some of the legislation between now and 2014. 

OLBERMANN:  Former Cigna executive Wendell Potter, as always, it is an education.  Thank you kindly, sir. 

POTTER:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s September 21st.  It‘s the 2,700th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, and the 2,889th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 155th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 

Now, with more on the non-vote on Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.  Good evening, Rachel.



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