Guests: Sam Stein, E.J. Dionne, Wendell Potter, Ezra Klein, Isaac Yeffet
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
A warning to President Obama: “We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line,” George Soros tells progressive donors at the Democracy Alliance today. “And if this president can‘t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”
Soros spokesman insists he was not suggesting another Democratic presidential candidate in ‘12 -- then what was he suggesting? With the man who broke the story, Sam Stein of “The Huffington Post.”
Dr. Harris doubles down. The anti-government health care congressman-elect again demands he gets his government health care now. And the insurance industry Plan B from 2007 against the movie “SiCKO” is revealed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDELL POTTER, INSURANCE COMPANY WHISTLEBLOWER: Push Michael Moore off a cliff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Our guest Wendell Potter explains they didn‘t mean that literally.
Deficit hawks, policy ostriches.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA: I‘ll fight every day to keep Washington politicians from mortgaging our children‘s future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But Congressman Steve King and Bachmann and Westmoreland won‘t serve on the House Appropriations Committee because they would then get blamed for the actual budget cuts.
The return of “Worsts”—not really. And another inevitable result of Islamophobia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN TYNER, PASSENGER: If you touch my junk and I‘m going to have you arrested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A Senate hearing on junk. A leak of 400 body scans, an “Apple Daily” video on the fiasco, and a man who designs security for EL AL Airlines saying none of this is necessary, nor even useful. The TSA versus the USA over TNA.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes you just want to come to the airport with no clothes on at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Wednesday, November 17th, 720 days until the 2012 presidential elections.
Elections that President Obama might have to win without the help of one of—if not the most famous progressive bankroll—the boogie man of right wing paranoid fantasy, George Soros.
Our fifth story tonight: Mr. Soros telling a closed door meeting of big money Democratic donors, quote, “If this president can‘t do we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”
“The Huffington Post” reporter who broke the story tonight, Sam Stein, is standing by to join us.
A top adviser to Mr. Soros on political matters telling “The Huffington Post” he did not dispute the accuracy, but they should not be read as a call for a primary challenge to Mr. Obama. The Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist began aggressively supporting progressive causes in an effort to derail President Bush‘s reelection bid in 2004, giving tens of millions to election-oriented groups on the left, as well as to a new universe of think tanks and other progressive groups such as the Center for American Progress and “Media Matters.”
In the course of this week‘s annual meeting of the Democracy Alliance, which matches well-off donors with progressive groups, Soros reportedly met with a handful of other donors yesterday and said he is, quote, “used to fighting losing battles but doesn‘t like to lose without fighting.” According to unnamed sources talking to “The Huffington Post,” quoting again, “We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line, and if this president can‘t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”
Some at the meeting, which attracts between 100 and 150 rich Democratic donors, did come away thinking Soros would welcome a primary challenge to President Obama. But it also seems possible Mr. Soros is instead talking about something Obama himself has given the green light to. After having discouraged spending by and donations to third-party Democratic groups during his 2008 campaign when he raised staggering amounts of cash in small donations, the president has now opened the field for such groups to play a role in the 2012 race following the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court earlier this year that opened the floodgates for anonymous spending from corporations and millionaires on campaign ads directly targeting candidates.
One unnamed Democratic operative at this week‘s meetings told “Huffington Post,” quote, “The main concern was about messaging. I think they are frustrated that the president isn‘t being more direct. The general consensus is that support has to move beyond being about one person, and more about a movement. I don‘t know if we‘ve moved beyond there.”
“Huffington Post” also reporting that dissatisfaction among fat cat donors was not limited to Soros. White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina fielding challenges from multiple sources this morning at the event on why the administration has not stood up more to Republicans.
“The Washington Independent” reporting, quote, “Some donors are getting restless and looking to create a political spending outfit to rival the network of right-wing groups that revolve around American Crossroads and political operative Karl Rove.”
As promised, now to the reporter who broke this story, “Huffington Post” senior political reporter, Sam Stein.
Good evening, Sam.
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How would you characterize with all of the information that‘s available to you, the message that Mr. Soros was delivering?
STEIN: Well, one person called it sober, not somber. I think the euphoria of 2008 and maybe part of 2009 has clearly given way to the recognition that Democrats got their clocks wrong in 2010. And they need to reboot.
And, you know, one of the things that Soros was trying to convey, and his aides stress it wasn‘t a need for a primary challenge, was that there needs to be more of an aggressive stance that the party takes when they are being distorted by Republicans. And if the White House isn‘t willing to do it, fight those battles, then he‘s willing to spend money and put it towards institutions that will do it. And part of that is “Media Matters,” part of that is the Center for American Progress.
But I expect that there‘s also going to be a rise in third-party outfits. Things that Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie did in this past cycle that he will play a big role in funding as well.
OLBERMANN: That phrasing, “If the president can‘t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else”—was it intentionally vague with an undercurrent of other people regarding the presidency? Was it a deliberate—was it a deliberate attempt to both get a message across we need somewhere else in the way of an institution while also suggesting, look, it gets worse, you know, everything is still on the table?
STEIN: Sure. Well, to lift the curtain a little bit, the reason I found out about this was because people interpreted it as if he was hinting at a primary challenge. And that‘s why it was passed back to me.
Now, I trust the people around Soros when they stress very passionately that it had nothing to do with that.
You know, I think—I think the gist is just what we explained, that he wants an institution that can do the sort of pushback rapid response that this White House has largely neglected. Now, keep in mind, there‘s an important context here. In 2008, when the Obama campaign went to the Democracy Alliance, they basically said, funnel all your money through our campaign, our rising tide will lift all boats, and largely that happened. You saw the padding of majorities in the Congress, you saw the winning of the White House.
I don‘t think there‘s a recognition that can take place in 2012. I don‘t think donors are comfortable with the fact that Obama can lift everyone else into political prominence. And so, now, you see people like Soros but also other donors, I‘m getting hints of, who are really looking for other outlets they think could help the party out.
OLBERMANN: If Mr. Obama has OK‘d these outside group endeavors—third party is a confusing term when you‘re talking Democrats or Republicans.
OLBERMANN: But outside parties, outside groups, and Mr. Soros is now leaning in that way and that‘s what this phrase meant. To what degree are they on the same page, in fact, here?
STEIN: Well, legally, of course, they can‘t be on the same page.
STEIN: There‘s no—they can‘t coordinate. But I think philosophically, you‘re starting to see the two worlds get closer to each other. Like I mentioned, and like you mentioned—in 2008, there was a real concerted effort to put all the money in the campaigns that you‘d have one simple message, and that would solve all the problems.
Well, it doesn‘t work that way now. And I think in 2010, what people saw was that Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie were able to create these organizations, basically in the course of one year, that were able to funnel money behind a host of candidates and do it effectively.
Now, the White House insists that they‘re fine with this provided that there‘s transparency among donors. That‘s the big thing. They want to make sure that everyone who donates to these groups at least has their names listed because that‘s their push.
I suspect that you‘re going to actually see a huge amount of
proliferation of outside groups, not third-party groups, because there is -
there is angst among the donor class within the Democratic Party.
OLBERMANN: Sam Stein, senior political reporter at “The Huffington Post”—great thanks, great story.
STEIN: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post,” senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Good evening to you, E.J.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: How are you, Keith?
OLBERMANN: Not bad. Looking for explanations here as usual.
Did Soros jump ship? Threaten to jump ship? Is it a warning shot? Or is this really, as the second-level interpretation seems to suggest, not about President Obama but about these third-party, outside party groups?
DIONNE: Well, you know, I think George Soros is a lot of other progressive activists, except he seems to be worth about $1 billion or $2 billion more than most progressive activists. I think there was a lot of frustration that the election was lost. I think there was a lot of frustration that Democrats, and the president included, didn‘t carry the argument very well.
But I think there is something important about this second-level explanation. I think, after 2008, a lot of progressives who had been organizing a lot of different things during the Bush years felt—all right, there‘s a Democratic president, a Democratic Congress, they can take care of things. And then progressives got out-organized, out-argued and out-sound bitten through that whole period.
So, I think there is, as happens when people lose elections, there is a lot of looking back and saying, we‘ve got to rethink this and maybe do things differently, or else we‘ll get our clocks cleaned next time.
OLBERMANN: And how does that news, then, play inside this White House with this president?
DIONNE: You know, that‘s an interesting question. I mean, we‘re going to see a real test in terms of his ability and willingness to draw lines in the whole fight about whether you extend all of the Bush tax cuts, including those to really rich people. Ironically, we‘re talking about George Soros here. And I think that‘s going to be a test.
I think the White House has had a very mixed at best record in terms of reaching out to a lot of people. It doesn‘t have to be George Soros. I think you find, at least I‘ve found around town, and it‘s not an ideological thing, it‘s moderate Democrats, it‘s left-of-center Democrats, you‘re wondering, do they listen to a lot of voices outside? And I think, again, one of the lessons of this defeat is there going to have to do a lot more outreach and maybe Soros will get a call tomorrow.
OLBERMANN: Soros, as we heard in a second, said, a quote there, said also he doesn‘t like to lose without fighting—on a day when we‘re told that Max Baucus is ready to propose a bill with a two-year extension of all Bush tax cuts. You wrote in your column Monday about Democrats.
Let me quote it: “Imagine a Congress the third party still controls, passing the extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires but leaving the unemployment in the cold. If this happens, laugh out loud the next time the Democrats claim to be on the side of working people.”
If the Democrats lose this without fighting, too, and in the case of
Mr. Baucus, technically at least a Democrat, proposes the surrender terms -
if they‘re not on the side of the working people anymore, what will they have become?
DIONNE: They‘ll become Grover Cleveland Democrats again. They‘ll become John W. Davis Democrats. He got 28 percent of the vote in 1924.
I mean, there‘s a lot of stuff floating around. Baucus is on record as saying he doesn‘t think they should be extended for millionaires. So, it‘s going to be very interesting to see what he is actually writing in that very complicated committee of his. Maybe we‘ll take as long on this as we took on health care, and then we won‘t have to deal with this issue until about a year from now.
But I think you also have surprising Democrats, Dianne Feinstein said, no, we shouldn‘t extend this. Let‘s have a vote on just extending it to $250,000.
And you also have some other proposals out there. Mark Warner is saying, all right, you don‘t want to take that money out of the economy, let‘s take the money that would‘ve gone to the really rich people and put it into more—better uses to create jobs, like maybe a temporary payroll tax cut.
And Schumer proposes you lift it to $1 million, and have a real fight over—all right, are they going to fight only for millionaire tax cuts and leave other people behind?
So, I think there is a sense that there was a lot of anger on the progressive side after the election that they were going to cave on this. And I think some people are re-thinking.
OLBERMANN: E.J. Dionne of “The Washington Post”—always a pleasure, sir. Thanks for your time.
DIONNE: Great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: The titles, meanwhile, may have changed. But many of the names will remain the same. The Republicans and Democrats in the House held their leadership elections today, and as expected, Mr. Boehner of Ohio will be the speaker of the House, Eric Cantor the new majority leader, two newly-elected members will represent the freshman class. Translation: saps to the Tea Party, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
The Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi won her bid to be minority leader;
Steny Hoyer will be the whip. Jim Clyburn will serve in a newly created position of assistant leader.
No title for Dr. Andy Harris, congressman-elect from Maryland. No title we can repeat here.
The anti-government health care Republican who complained he wasn‘t getting his health care fast enough has a solution to this whole vex problem of government health care: give it to congressman from day one and screw the rest of you. Wendell Potter—next.
OLBERMANN: Wendell Potter on what the insurance industry intended to do to him to discredit the movie “SiCKO,” while a sick alliance is revealed between the top anti-reform lobbyist and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
She and the other deficit hawks talked a great game but so scared is she as being identified with actual budget cuts, she won‘t serve on the budget-cutting committee.
He attacks the president while this FOX minions attack him for writing something nice about the Native American who killed Custer at Little Bighorn. “Worst Persons” is back, not really.
And “Apple Daily” cuts to the chase. It will end this way, won‘t it? Well, not if our guest, an expert on Israeli airlines security, can talk some sense into them.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Last night, we told you about the anti-government health care congressman-elect who demanded his government health care the very day he starts his new job. Today, the anesthesiologist from Maryland attempted to remove the foot from his mouth and botched the procedure.
Also, in our fourth story, more details on the health care industry‘s covert attempt to submarine the health care reform they promised to facilitate—and explosive revelations from health insurance company whistleblower Wendell Potter who says his own company, CIGNA, was so scared of what Michael Moore‘s 2007 documentary “SiCKO” would do to its bottom line that they sought a, quote, “campaign to push Michael Moore off a cliff.”
Michael Moore has responded, Wendell Potter is our guest next.
First, to doctor-elect, congressman, whatever, Andy Harris. Yesterday, “Politico” reported the account on an anonymous staffer who was in the room with Harris for his freshman orientation. He had campaigned on repealing health care reform. He was allegedly steamed when he found out he had to wait a month for his government subsidized health care to kick in.
Today, in an interview with FOX, Dr. Harris disagreed with the portrayal of his tone, but not the content of the report, quoting, “It was a simple question any employee should ask. Oh, and by the way, how do I get my health insurance to be seamless?”
The new lawmaker, who has previously said there is no constitutionally mandated role of the federal government in health care, then suggested, quote, “The best solution would be for the federal government to say, yes, we do provide coverage and it‘s from day one.” For him. Not for you.
Today, “Bloomberg News” revealing the extent to which insurance companies went to kill the reform that we did get, citing tax records and people familiar with the donation. “Bloomberg” reports that on August 2009, America‘s Health Insurance Plans, AHIP, the advocacy group that represents companies like United Health, and Aetna, and Humana, funneled $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which in turn spent that money on advertising, polling, and a grassroots campaign to defeat health care reform.
Publicly, AHIP was onboard with health care reform. Recall AHIP CEO Karen Ignani‘s pledge to the president in March of last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN IGNANI, AHIP CEO: We want to work with you. We want to work with the members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here. You have our commitment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And then there was the commitment by the health care giant Cigna to professionally and personally discredit Michael Moore. Former Cigna spokesman-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter writing in his new book, “Deadly Spin,” that Moore‘s 2007 documentary “SiCKO” would inspire politicians to push for universal health care.
From the book, “If Moore‘s movie attracted big audiences and generated a lot of buzz, it might embolden one or more Democratic candidates to join Representative Dennis Kucinich in endorsing the expansion of Medicare to cover everybody. The increasingly profitable insurance industry would find itself in a war for survival.”
Potter telling Democracy Now and Amy Goodman, that his company contacted or contracted, rather, a PR firm to, quote, “defame Michael Moore,” to discredit him. To figuratively, quote, “push Michael off a cliff.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But they were doing an investigation into him personally.
POTTER: Well, absolutely. We knew as much about him probably as he knows about himself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About his wife, about his kids.
POTTER: Oh, yes. You know, it‘s important to know everything that you might be able to use in some kind of a campaign against someone to discredit them professionally and often personally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And do you use that?
POTTER: You use it if necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, as promised, former communications director at Cigna, now senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy, and author now of the new book, “Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans,” Wendell Potter.
Good evening, sir.
POTTER: Hi, Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: Did you—did you use the ample (ph) research on Michael Moore?
POTTER: Yes, of course. But not—we didn‘t have to push him off a cliff.
POTTER: That didn‘t—that wasn‘t necessary. And it wasn‘t just Cigna. It was the entire industry. And, once again, AHIP played a key role in funding the strategy, the plan to discredit the movie.
OLBERMANN: I should point out you and Mr. Moore have agreed to appear on this program together jointly for the first time next Monday.
POTTER: That‘s right. That‘s right.
OLBERMANN: But tonight, Mr. Moore has responded at “Huffington Post” and disagrees with your contention that the smear campaign was successful. He says his movie did, in fact, bring health care reform to the forefront of many minds, particularly in Washington. But he did say, “Their smear campaign was effective and did create the dent they were hoping for—single-payer and the public option never made it on to real discussion on the floor of Congress.”
What do you think of Mr. Moore‘s assessment of that campaign?
POTTER: Well, it was—he had a good movie. And I think people who saw it with an open mind knew that he was—he made a good movie and it told the truth. But he‘s exactly right. The movie did not have as much of an impact as it might have been had it not been for the smear campaign and the efforts to discredit both Moore and the content of the movie.
OLBERMANN: And did you—did I read this correctly, that you got stuff from these talking points? From this smear campaign into mainstream representations of Moore at “New York Times,” perhaps?
POTTER: Oh, absolutely. It was funnel through AHIP into a front group called Healthcare America Now, which was received by mainstream reporters, including “The New York Times,” as a legitimate organization when he was nothing but a front group set up by APCO Worldwide, a big PR firm that works for both the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. It was not anything approaching what it was reporting to be as a grassroots organization. It was a sham group.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned AHIP. We‘ll talk more about Mr. Moore when you‘re both here on Monday, but the “Bloomberg” report that AHIP spent $86 million to stunt or stop health care reform, you know, in this nightmare fantasy, chairing up with—teaming up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - - what did they get for their $86 million?
POTTER: They got a Republican Congress, for one thing. And they got a bill that is kind of like the cake. And now they‘re wanting to eat that cake, too.
The insurance industry played the Obama administration like Stradivarius. And they did the same things with the members of the Tea Party. The Tea Party folks may think that Congress might repeal this legislation, but there ain‘t that chance because what the insurers like about this is the requirement that we all have to buy their products, and there‘s no public option to funnel any of that money away from them. They‘ll be getting new revenue that will be converted into profits for their shareholders.
OLBERMANN: Four House Democrats signed a letter today asking that Republicans like this congressman-elect, Dr. Harris of Maryland, who do not believe that government has a role in health care and are largely in Congress because that‘s what they ran on, that they should now put their mouths where their money is and opt-out of their government subsidized congressional benefits.
Does the kind of proud hypocrisy of Dr. Harris and others like him surprise you at all?
POTTER: Oh, not at all. What we saw during the campaign was demagoguery at its worst and fearmongering at its worst. And what you see from what Harris said was just the way they really are, what they really feel, and what they really believe.
OLBERMANN: Wendell Potter, the former Cigna executive, the new book is “Deadly Sin,” it is an extraordinary document—great thanks, sir.
POTTER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And we‘ll see you and Michael Moore on Monday night.
POTTER: See you Monday. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Why the Republican shrieking the loudest for budgets will not serve on the committee that will actually have to do the budget cutting.
And why behind the horror of your choice get photographed naked or get felt up by strangers lies the truth that at the airport, neither is actually necessary and neither actually works.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Chicken deficit hawks—the big name Republican congressmen who demand budget cuts, but won‘t serve on the committee that will do the slashing for fear of getting blamed. Ezra Klein coming up.
First, the sanity break and the tweet of the day from Steve Weinstein, again. “What is Joe Miller going to do without government health care? I‘m so worried for him. What if he gets an ingrown beard?” I guess we‘ll find out. Lisa Murkowski is to declare victory in the Alaska Senate race after “The Associated Press” today called her the winner in the race against a beard.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN: Laguna Beach, California, hello! Where the police have pulled over a suspected drunk driver. Why did they suspect he was a drunker? Well, one good indication is he put the car into reverse instead of park, and after backing into the police cruiser, he attempts again to put it into park. Good-bye. Car hits an air and water dispenser.
But I hope it was not a surprise, the driver was arrested on the suspicion of DUI. He‘ll have plenty of time to learn to (INAUDIBLE) park in the big house.
On the Internet, more people seem to have trouble parking. This one thinks he‘s got a perfect spot next to the entrance, but he tries to get a little too close to the door. Once again, brake is not an accelerator. No one hurt by the demolition derby wannabe, although he‘s now regretting his time spent at the Jake Blues school of driving.
Finally, to Yongin, South Korea, and with 37 days remaining until Christmas, Santa‘s getting a head start. By the looks of his replacement reindeer, he‘s going to need all the time he can muster. A local amusement park decided it would be a good idea to dress up their animals in full holiday attire.
And then came a march of the penguins without Morgan Freeman. It was all done as a special treat for the local children. The event went much more smoothly than the one in the spring when the park attempted to march the lions around in the bunny outfits. Time marches on.
Michele Bachmann and Steve King calling for budget cuts as long as other people make the budget cuts. Next.
OLBERMANN: It was Elwood. After relentlessly campaigning on it, hitting Democrats over the head for it, conning the public into voting against their own best interests over it, why are Republicans running away from actually doing it? In our third story, the GOP will not commit to cutting government spending, because no one wants to get caught holding the knife.
“Politico” reporting that the GOP is having an awfully hard time recruiting members to serve on the previously coveted House Appropriations Committee. As one GOP insider tells the website, “only one Republican formally asked to join the committee prior to the midterm elections, Congressman Charles Djou of Hawaii.” He lost.
Fortunately, Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia is stepping up to the plate and making rare sense. Speaking to the difficulty of making cuts, quote, “anybody who is a Republican right now, come June is going to be accused of hating seniors, hating education, hating children, hating clean air, and probably hating the military and farmers too. So much of the work is going to be appropriations related. There‘s going to be a lot of tough votes, so some people may want to shy away from the committee. I understand it.”
Mr. Kingston seeking fellow conservatives to join him on that committee, like Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Unfortunately for Mr. Kingston, they declined the invitation.
What about all those well-known fiscal hawks in the Tea Party? Congressman Steve King of Iowa—his website explained that “true courage is exhibited by taking a tough stand and choosing to cut spending.” He‘s a no.
How about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: We need to rein in the spending at all levels. And we need to take a look at all of the decisions that are being made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: She won‘t serve on Appropriations either. OK, so Ms. Bachmann won‘t cut anything. But what about earmarks? Is she willing to forego earmarks?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: It‘s all bad, as far as I‘m concerned. All this pork is bad. The old pork was bad. The new pork is bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But, in an interview with the “Star Tribune of Minneapolis,” Ms. Bachmann decided that some pork may, in fact, be the non-political artery clogging kind. Ms. Bachmann now asking for a redefinition of the word earmark, because she doesn‘t believe that transportation projects, like the 398 million dollar Bridge to Nowhere, should be lumped in there. “Advocating for transportation projects for one‘s district, in my mind, does not equate to an earmark. I don‘t believe that building roads and bridges and interchanges should be considered an earmark. There‘s a big difference between funding a teapot museum and a bridge over a vital waterway.”
Well, why should she be opposed to a teapot museum? Time now to call on MSNBC contributor, staff writer for the “Washington Post,” “Newsweek” columnist Ezra Klein. Good evening, Ezra.
EZRA KLEIN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So according to Congresswoman Bachmann, the very symbol of government waste and excess, the thing they made all the noise about for the last two years, the earmarks to end all earmarks, this is not actually an earmark? How does that work?
KLEIN: I‘m surprised you didn‘t know about this, actually. If you look up earmarks in the Congressional dictionary, it is spending I don‘t like. And when you define it like that, it‘s actually very easy to get rid of earmarks when you get into power. You just don‘t appropriate any spending you don‘t like.
OLBERMANN: You use the word appropriate, which leads me to the word appropriations, which leads us to the Appropriations Committee. And the one sure fire way to cut spending is to sit on that committee. Why aren‘t all these budget-slashing, responsible finance Republicans and Tea Partiers clambering for the chance of these open seats on that committee?
KLEIN: This is quite remarkable, actually. Appropriations was historically one of the most coveted seats in all of Congress, because you could do—originally, you were guardian of the budget, and it was considered a very sort of respected position. And then later on, you were the guy who got to dole out—or the girl who got to dole out all of the goodies. And it was a great way to get reelected.
But now we‘re moving back into a place where people are a little bit in between the two. You don‘t want the responsibility for bringing earmarks home, but you don‘t do it. That‘s what you‘re seeing with Ms. Bachmann there. And on the other hand, you don‘t necessarily want to be the person with the knife cutting all this popular spending.
So better to sort of let the—let someone else hold the cleaver on this one. You can argue in general for cutting spending. But it‘s a little bit tough to be the one who has to actually do it.
OLBERMANN: Not that England and America are the same politically. But we‘ve seen this dynamic play out in Britain. And it was predicted to the point where some people were wondering if the Labor Party leaving office when they did last spring was deliberate, so that the Lib/Dem coalition government would be the ones stuck making these Draconian cuts in spending. As that happens, the popularity of the Labor Party has gone from nothing back to ahead of the other two parties.
But with the Republicans actually in charge of the House, how can they exempt themselves from governing? And how can they be sure that the Democrats won‘t eventually figure this out and call them out on it?
KLEIN: Well, it‘ll be two things. One, eventually that committee will fill and eventually they‘ll do whatever they do. In recent years, our history on cutting spending has not been great. And it remains to be seen whether or not they‘ll be able to make it any better now.
But because we don‘t work like England and one party controls everything is actually able to do things, what the Republican party is primarily going to do is hide behind the Democrats. Democrats run the Senate. They run the White House. And when spending doesn‘t go down, in part because republicans aren‘t actually cutting it, but in part because Democrats don‘t want to move into austerity in the middle of a deep downturn, they will blame the Democrats for the high deficit, you know, even though a lot of it is coming from tax cuts and other traditional Republican priorities here.
So it will be, as it sort of normally is with Congress, a game of hiding the blame.
OLBERMANN: You say the committee will eventually fill up. But there‘s a report from “Politico” that the speaker to be, Mr. Boehner, may wind up choosing to slash the number of members on the committee. Are there implications to that besides it will fill up faster Are we going to hear anything from any of the Tea Party groups that feel that they want to be out front as the slashing gets done.
KLEIN: It‘ll be interesting to see if he does it. I would actually quite support that option. I think it would be a good idea. Appropriations is too big. And so much—we‘re seeing some hypocrisy on the part of the Tea Party folks here. It would also be a good thing if not that many people were jumping on that committee to get sort of lobbyist funded earmarks here, and other types of spending.
So if one of the byproducts of this is that Speaker Boehner can‘t fill the committee and has to bring it down to size a little bit, I actually don‘t think that would be the worst thing in the world. He may have done some good by accident.
OLBERMANN: Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post,” great thanks for your time tonight.
KLEIN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: So here it is. Not really worst persons returns. And you see what happens, Pam? Do you see what happens when you promote religious hatred?
Behind the full-body screening and junk touching at airports, the real question, is this fondling necessary? Does it even work? Apart from inspiring another one of these animated videos.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she‘ll look at why Senator Jon Kyl wants to put a stop to the START Missile Treaty with the Russians.
OLBERMANN: Full-body scans, junk-touching pat-downs, and neither, says a true expert in this field, are necessary. And neither works. Next.
First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for the new and improved Not Really Worst Persons in the World, with a new nicer version of the music.
The not really bronze goes to Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. A hearing today on TV retransmission consent. He says TV is ailing and there is, quote, “endless barking” on cable news. He adds, “there‘s a little bug inside of me which wants get the FCC to say to Fox and MSNBC out, off, end, goodbye. It would be a big favor to political discourse, to our ability to do work here in Congress, and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government, and more importantly in their future.”
Two things, Senator Rockefeller has repeatedly volunteered to me that he is a devoted viewer of this program. We‘re on MSNBC, senator. And more importantly, the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, does not have any control over the content of cable television. Mr. Rockefeller is on the Senate Committee on Commerce, which has oversight on communications, so you would think he could ask somebody about that little detail.
The not really—OK, we need the other music. Brian—thank you. The not really silver, Roger Ailes, as in what ails this country, the chairman of Fixed News. He told an online gossip site today, quote, “the president has not been very successful.” Ailes added, “he had to be told by the French and the Germans that his socialism was too far left for them to deal with.” Ailes added, “he just has a different belief system than most Americans.”
Giving Mr. Ailes befuddled past, pro-Nixon, obsessed with damaging NBC after we fired him, it is absolutely possible that Ailes thinks he is speaking of public opinion and not public opinion he helped to manufacture. One of Ailes‘ Fox News websites today attacked the president for his new children‘s book. “Obama praises Indian chief who defeated U.S. general.” That‘s the cleaned up version. The original headline read “Obama Praises Indian Chief who Killed U.S. General.”
“His most controversial choice may be Sitting Bull, who defeated Custer at Little Bighorn. A Sioux medicine man who healed broken hearts and broken promises.”
Seriously, we‘ve reached the point where Fox News is still rooting for General Custer at Little Bighorn. Have Ailes take Beck and Hannity and O‘Reilly and go to the memorial in Montana and start chanting “USA, USA.”
But our winner, Pam Gellar. If anybody committed the original sin of stirring up the blind, stupid anger that is religious hatred in this country, it‘s this buffoon. When even the Laura Ingrahams of this world thought the Park51 Project in New York City was a great example of cultural outreach and healing, Gellar insisted it was “a triumphal mosque.”
Well, there is a problem with the two minutes hate, you soon lose control of it and it may come back to attack you. It spread from a proposed Islamic center in New York to an actual mosque bombing in Jacsonville, to protests in Tennessee, to this moronic anti-Sharia law in Oklahoma, and now Phoenix. As this structure is being finished, the new dome visible from the I-10 Highway there is taking shape. And people have been coming up to the builders, to the officials demanding to know who let them build the mosque with that funny name “La Luz Del Mundo.”
It‘s “La Luz Del Mundo,” the light of the world. It‘s not a mosque. It‘s a multi-denominational church. A multi-denominational Christian church. Nice work, Ms. Gellar. Now you‘ve got Islamaphobes protesting a church.
Pam Gellar, today‘s Worst Person in the World, not really.
OLBERMANN: It may be the most famous words spoken about U.S. aviation since Captain Sullenberger said “we‘re going to be in the Hudson.” Our number one story tonight, “if you touch my junk, I‘ll have you arrested,” the plea and warning from unhappy San Diego passenger John Tyner about the choice between a full-body scan and a way too up close and personal hand to stuff inspection.
Tonight, our number one story, why are we doing this? Why are we doing this and all of these other remarkably stupid and ineffective invasions of privacy when nations that have nearly perfect records against would be aviation terrorists do not? Nations like Israel?
My next guest is an expert on their airport security. First, the news developments in what appears to be the Transportation Safety Administration‘s losing battle to keep both full-body screening and feeling up passengers alive.
TSA Administrator John Pistole testified this morning to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and naturally used the worst possible cliche. “The bottom line is we need to provide the best possible security.”
Pistole did insist the story about a three-year-old being patted down is an urban legend, that children under 12 are exempt form all inspections. He then added, “am I going to change the policies? No.”
Two pilots today, one woman, one man, sued over the pat-downs and the screenings, claiming they are unconstitutional searches. You have by now seen the aforementioned Tyner warning a TSA employee, in words he could doubtless sell as a new book title, “If You Touch My Junk, I‘ll Have You Arrested.” Officials then told him he had no choice, not even to turn back and leave the airport.
He said he was told he could face the fine of 10,000 dollars if he tried to get away before the security check was complete. The other option, the full-body scan, seems to be only less invasive in a physical sense. And it‘s brought to you in a deal brokered by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
The tech website Gizmodo says these are some of those full-body scans which the public has been promised will never see the light of day because they are immediately deleted by the machine. That would be them seeing the light of day after they were not immediately deleted by the machine. U.S. marshals running the device at a Florida federal courthouse reportedly saved 35,000 images of naked court-going Americans, 100 of which were released under a Freedom of Information Act filing.
The shots were still in the machine when they had to send the machine back for repairs. So your choice, your groin or your privacy.
Our guest, Isaac Yeffet, in just a moment. First, this was summed up best, as ever, by our strange friends at the animation crazy website Apple Daily.
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OLBERMANN: I‘m joined now by Isaac Yeffet. Not only was he a long-time anti-terrorism specialist for the Israeli Secret Services, but he was also director of security for El Al Airlines, and he now runs a security consulting business in New Jersey. Thank you for some of your time tonight, sir.
ISAAC YEFFET, FMR. SECURITY DIR. EL AL AIRLINES: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: As hyperbolic as that animated video is, it‘s not that hyperbolic. Are any of these things that we do now at the airports, pat-downs, the body scans, even taking off the shoes—are any of these things useful?
YEFFET: No, not at all. The opposite. The opposite. If we spend now hundreds of millions of dollars to buy a body scanner only because of the Nigerian Abdulmutallab that hide the explosives in his underwear, and the body scanner is used for pilots that are flying thousands of passengers, and they are the terrorists or they are the suspicious, close the business.
YEFFET: We don‘t need to spend one dollar to buy body scanners. Who you are searching—
YEFFET: -- only suspicious passengers. We interview every passenger.
OLBERMANN: Explain that. Because it seems too simple when we‘ve had ten years of taking our shoes off and standing in line for an hour. Why does it work? And what does the interview consist of? And who does it?
YEFFET: First of all, we have to understand that people are waiting in line to go to the ticket counter. While they are waiting in line, this is opportunity for us as security people to go in to interview every passenger.
We must hire qualified people. We must train them well. And we need to teach them how to approach with the passengers, to let them understand we are not coming to investigate you; we are not coming to insult you; we are coming to help you to fly safe and secure, to go where you go to your destination.
This is our responsibility. So please help me to help you, because I‘m staying on the ground. You take the flight.
OLBERMANN: Passenger profiling. You helped to develop it for El Al. What does it mean? Why does it work? And for people who jump when they hear the word, uh-oh, profiling, who are you profiling? It‘s not members of an ethnic group, is it?
YEFFET: No. We are interviewing every passenger with no exception. Now, we explain to them what we are doing. When they understand that we are working for their security, for their life, because we stay on the ground and they take the flight, 99.9 percent of the passengers are bona fide, are honest. And they love to cooperate with you.
They know that the United States is the biggest target for al Qaeda. We suffered enough from 1988, with Pan Am over Lockerbie. We had technology. Where was the technology? Zero. September 11th, 19 terrorists, five at each security check point, at Logan Airport in Boston. No one was stopped when they were carrying forbidden items.
So we had the technology. Why did we spend the money for technology? Look at the result of September 11th. But we don‘t want or we don‘t know or we don‘t believe two words, being proactive. We like to react. After Pan Am over Lockerbie, we bombed Bolivia. September 11th, look at Afghanistan. And they are telling me that it costs money the security here? Trillions of dollars we spend now in Afghanistan. How many lives of soldiers we lost because of September 11th?
Look at the shoe bomber. Now we have to be punished. Go take your shoes off. Now the Nigerian guy, he hides his explosive in his underwear. Luckily, they cannot tell us to go naked to take the flight. So they now came with the system of the body scanner. And look now, the last one a few days ago, Yemen. Suddenly Yemen has factories that the manufacturer of printers to export to the United States. No one can think for a second? This (INAUDIBLE) country, poor country.
OLBERMANN: They‘re in the export/import business all of a sudden.
YEFFET: What do they have to do with this? And they were smart, al Qaeda, to laugh at us and to say that the address, synagogues in Chicago. When they built the explosive on the way over the United States, the explosive would be exploded and the crew would be losing their life.
This is not the security that we want. This is not a security that the American people deserve. Why we have to drive them nuts with this kind of body scanners?
I told from day one, do you know what kind of negative reaction we‘ll get from the Muslims? I‘m not Muslim. But I respect their tradition.
YEFFET: Woman that is covering her body from the head to the toe, she goes with her husband or with the brother, and we tell them, wait, wait, we want to see your wife or your mother‘s body naked. For what? For what?
OLBERMANN: Just add a few things to their anger. Isaac Yeffet, the former director of El Al Security, thank you kindly for your time tonight. It‘s been an education.
YEFFET: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: That‘s November 17th, 15 days since Republicans took control of the House. Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs? I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss why Jon Kyl wants to go all pro-Ruskie on us and stop the START vote, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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