On Monday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann delivered a
"Special Comment" lambasting members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group
of centrist House Democrats because most of the group's members have
pressured more liberal congressional Democrats compromise in their push
for public health insurance. After reciting campaign contributions
received by some Blue Dog members from the health care industry, he
suggested that these Democrats should just be called "dogs." Olbermann:
"I could call them all out by name, but I think you get the point. We
do not need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one
word 'dogs' is perfectly sufficient."
The MSNBC host also shamelessly tried to use Senator Ted Kennedy's illness to suggest that Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln, a centrist Democrat from Arkansas, should feel guilty about her role in forcing more liberal Democrats to compromise: "Senator Lincoln, by the way, considering how you're obstructing health care reform, how do you feel every time you actually see Senator Kennedy?"
Olbermann began his rant by recounting the case of a horrific fire that hit a New York City factory in 1911, days after business interests had opposed new rules proposed by the fire commissioner, with the fire leading to female workers, whose bodies were ablaze, falling from the building as firefighters tried to quench the fire. The Countdown host compared modern day corporations to those Olbermann blames for the carnage:
Firefighters setting up their ladders literally had to dodge the falling, often burning bodies of women. This was the spirit of the American corporation then. It is the spirit of the American corporation now. It is what the corporation will do, when it is left alone for a week.
He then moved to attacking Republicans, calling South Dakota Senator
John Thune a "bald-faced liar," and charging that "the insurance
industry owns the Republican party." Missing the point that in
countries where the government runs the health care system, it can be
difficult to get around the government-run health system to try to get
a medical procedure performed sooner than the government system agrees
to do it, Olbermann slammed Thune for complaining that "bureaucrats and
politicians" would get in the way of "patients and their doctors," and
sought to find a double standard in conservative opposition to abortion
and euthanasia, even though these cases involve physicians ending lives
rather than simply treating illnesses:
If you really think "bureaucrats and politicians" need to get out of the way of "patients and their doctors," then you support, obviously, a woman patient's right to get an abortion, and you supported Michael Schiavo's right to take his wife off life support, and you oppose "bureaucrats and politicians" getting in the way, and we'll just mark you down on the pro-choice list.
Additionally, in the case of Michael and Terri Schiavo, as Olbermann
tried to portray conservative opposition to removing Terri's life
support to be a case of conservatives wanting to get between "patients
and their doctors," the actual patient, Terri, was unable to consent
and had no living will, leading conservatives to side with her blood
relatives - including her parents - who wanted to continue to keep
her alive, while the courts sided with her husband Michael and forced
the feeding tube's removal.
By contrast, on Friday's 20/20, ABC's John Stossel profiled the case of a Canadian woman who had to travel to Washington state and pay an American physician to treat a clogged artery because the Canadian health system categorized the procedure as elective and would have required her to wait in line for treatment in Canada - a wait that might have proved fatal as the American doctor who treated her believed she could only have survived a few more weeks.
Olbermann also managed to bring up Iraq as he charged that the insurance industry opposes having the government pay medical bills, even though doing so would be only a "billionth as reckless" as the government "paying Halliburton and its spinoffs to kill your kids."
The Countdown host soon tried to use Senator Kennedy's illness to guilt-trip Senator Lincoln into supporting a more liberal health reform plan: "Senator Lincoln, by the way, considering how you're obstructing health care reform, how do you feel every time you actually see Senator Kennedy?"
After attacking a few members of the Blue Dog Coalition, the MSNBC host ended up indirectly calling them "dogs." Olbermann: "I could call them all out by name, but I think you get the point. We do not need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word 'dogs' is perfectly sufficient."
And while most Blue Dog Democrats represent conservative-leaning congressional districts where voters appreciate that these centrist Democrats sometimes oppose the more liberal wing of the Democratic party, as he was nearing the end of his rant, Olbermann made empty threats about the Blue Dogs being defeated. Olbermann: "If you will behave as if you are Republicans - as if you are the prostitutes of our system - you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect, you will lose your jobs!"
Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann's "Special Comment" from the Monday, August 3, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a "Special Comment" on health care reform in this country, and, in particular, the public insurance option. In March of 1911, after a wave of minor factory fires in New York City, the city's fire commissioner issued emergency rules about fire prevention, protection, escape, sprinklers. The city's manufacturers association in turn called an emergency meeting to attack the fire commissioner and his interference with commerce. The new rules were delayed.
Just days later, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The door to the fire escape had been bolted shut to keep the employees from leaving prematurely - 150 of those employees died, many by jumping from the seventh floor windows to avoid the flames. Firefighters setting up their ladders literally had to dodge the falling, often burning bodies of women. This was the spirit of the American corporation then. It is the spirit of the American corporation now. It is what the corporation will do, when it is left alone for a week.
You know the drill. We all know the drill. You get something done at a doctor's, at a dentist's, at an emergency room, and the bills are in your hands before the pain medication wears off. And if you're one of the lucky ones, and you have insurance, you submit the endless paperwork, and no matter whether it is insurance through your company, or your union, or your non-profit, or on your own dime, you then get your turn at the roulette wheel.
How much of it is the insurance company going to pay this time? How much of it is the insurance company - about which you have had next to no choice, and against which you have virtually no appeal - how much is this giant corporation going to give you back? What small percentage of what they told you they were going to pay you, will they actually pay you?
You know the answer. And, you know the answer if you don't have insurance. But do you know why that's the answer? Because the insurance industry owns the Republican party. Not exclusively. Pharma owns part of it, too. Hospitals and HMO's, another part. Nursing homes - they have a share. You name a Republican, any Republican, and he is literally brought to you by campaign donations from the health sector. Senator John Thune of South Dakota? You gave that Republican rebuttal to the President's weekly address the day before yesterday. You said the Democrats' plan was for, quote, "government-run health care that would disrupt our current system, and force millions of Americans who currently enjoy their employer-based coverage into a new health care plan run by government bureaucrats."
That's a bald-faced lie, Senator. And you're a bald-faced liar, whose bald face happens to be covered by your own health care plan run by government bureaucrats. Nobody would be forced into anything, and the public insurance option is no more a disruption than is letting the government sell you water - and not just Poland Spring and Sparkletts. But, as corrupt hypocrites go, Senator, at least you're well paid. What was that one statement worth to you in contributions from the health sector, Senator Thune? Five thousand dollars? Ten? We know what you are, sir. We're arguing about the price.
What about your other quote? "We can accomplish health care reform while keeping patients and their doctors in charge, not bureaucrats and politicians." Wow, Senator - this illustrates how desperate you and the other Republicans are, right? Because Senator Thune, if you really think "bureaucrats and politicians" need to get out of the way of "patients and their doctors," then you support, obviously, a woman patient's right to get an abortion, and you supported Michael Schiavo's right to take his wife off life support, and you oppose "bureaucrats and politicians" getting in the way, and we'll just mark you down on the pro-choice list. That's a rare misstep for you, Senator Thune. No $12,000 payoff for that statement! I'm not being hyperbolic, am I, Senator, about the money?
Senator Thune has thus far received from the health sector, campaign contributions - and all these numbers tonight are from the Center For Responsive Politics - campaign contributions amounting to $1,206,176. So much for Senator Thune.
How about Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite? Good evening, ma'am. You are the Florida representative who claimed on the floor that Democrats had, quote, "released a health care bill which essentially said to America's seniors: Drop dead."
Now those are strong and terrorizing words - that's exactly what your insurance and medical overlords wanted to hear. But are you truly worth every dollar of the $369,255 of them you have received over the years from the health sector? I'd read the rest of the operative part of your great speech myself, but your rendition actually cannot be matched:
REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE (R-FL): Listen up, America. Seniors have very special needs. This bill ignores the needs of Florida's health care system. We should be fixing what is broke, not disseminating - disseminating - decimating the care of our senior population.
OLBERMANN: You can always tell, can't you, Congresswoman, when the hostage is reading her own ransom note, and when she is reading one written for her? So much for Congresswoman Brown-Waite.
There are so many other Republicans, bought and sold - like that unfortunate Congresswoman there - by the health sector. Minority Leader McConnell of the Senate, you're worth $3.1 million to the health sector? A million and a half just for last year's election? And I'm supposed to think you aren't a sellout, a liar, a paid spokesman, a shill, a carnival barker? So much for Senator McConnell.
Congressman Joe Barton of Oklahoma - $2,660,000 - that is 10 times what Senator Robert Byrd has accepted from the health sector. Congressman, what a guy! So much for Congressman Barton.
Senator McCain, $1,600,000 to serve the hospitals and serve the drug companies and serve the nursing homes and not to serve the retirement communities of Arizona or the cancer survivors or the veterans. So much for Senator McCain.
I could go on all night here and never exaggerate in the slightest. PBS pointed out that the health and insurance industries are spending more than $1,400,000 a day just to destroy the public option, the truly nonprofit, wieldy, round up and not round down government from helping you pay your medical bills with about a billionth of the recklessness with which it is still paying Halliburton and its spinoffs to kill your kids. And much of this money is going to and through Republicans.
But that's the real point tonight. Not all of it is going through Republicans because the evil truth is the insurance industry, along with the hospitals, HMOs, nursing homes, it owns Democrats, too. Not the whole party. Candidate Barack Obama got more than $18 million from the health sector just last year, and you can bet somebody in the health trust - somebody responsible for buying influence - they got fired over what Obama has done.
No, the Democrats are not wholly owned. Hundreds of Democrats have taken campaign money from the health care sector without handing over their souls as receipts.
But conveniently, the ones who are owned have made themselves easy to spot in a crowd. They call themselves "Blue Dogs," and they are out there, hand in hand with the Republicans - who they are happy to condemn day and night on everything else - throatily singing kumbaya with the men and women who are bought and sold to defend this con game of an American health care system against the slightest encroachment.
Congressman Mike Ross of Arkansas, leader of the Blue Dogs in the House, you're the guy demanding a guarantee that reform will not add to the deficit. I'm guessing you just forgot to demand that about, say, Iraq. You're a Democrat, you say, Congressman?
You saw what Sandy Baram said? Sandy Baram is 62 years old, she's got a bad heart. She's hoping her valves will hold together for three more years until Medicaid kicks in because she can't afford insurance. Not just for herself, mind you, for her employees, too. She needs the public option. So do those six people who work at that restaurant of hers, Congressman Ross. And why should you give a crap? Because Sandy Baram's restaurant is the Broadway Railroad Café, and it is at a 123 West First Street North in Prescott, Arkansas. Prescott, Arkansas, Congressman Ross - your home town. You are Sandy Baram's Congressman. Hers, sir, not Blue Cross's and Blue Shield's - even if they do insure 75 percent of the state, and they own you. The top donor so far to Congressman Ross's bid for reelection next year - the Blue Dog PAC, $10,000; second, something called Invacare, $7,300. Invacare, oh, they make wheel chairs and rollers and slings. They're big in slings. Tied for third, the American Dental Association, another grand - five grand, matter of fact.
Your top donors by industry, Congressman Ross: Health Professionals, $29,250; and Pharma and Health Products, $12,250. And so far in your career, Congressman Ross, your total hall from the health sector is $921,000. That is ninetieth in the combined list of donations for the House and the Senate, sir - ninetieth out of 537. You should be proud, Congressman. Except for the fact that before you started living off the public dime, you owned a pharmacy, and your grandmother was a nurse. And it turns out you're not Sandy Baram's Congressman after all. You are Blue Cross's. So much for Congressman Ross.
Congressman Bart Gordon of Tennessee. Congressman, undecided on the public option? At $1,173,000 in donations from the health sector, I'm surprised. You should have already said no - and loudly. The only thing you should be "undecided" about is whether or not you're really a Democrat. So much for Congressman Gordon.
Senator Max Baucus of Montana. Good evening, Senator. So you're supposed to be negotiating all this out with the Republicans and the hesitant Democrats? To gain bipartisanship with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the health sector? Bipartisanship that will get you, what? A total of no votes? And your price has been, let's see: $414,000 in donations from the hospitals; about $667,000 in donations from the insurance companies; just over a million from Big Pharma; $1.3 million from other health professionals; and $237,000 from nursing homes.
When you think of getting $237,000 in campaign contributions from nursing homes, Senator Baucus, do you ever think about whether they subtract that amount of money evenly from all the patients suffering and dying in the lousy ones, or just from a few of the lousy ones? So much for Senator Baucus.
Sadly, this list could go on almost all night, too. I could ask Blue Dog Congressman, Democrat John Tanner of Tennessee, if, since he has gotten $215,000 from hospitals over the years, if I and the appropriate number of my friends were willing to make it $216,000, if we could buy his vote - or would there still have to be an auction?
We could bring up Senator Hagan, and Congressman Pomeroy, who, at $628,000, appears to represent the insurance industry and not North Dakota. I could bring up Senator Carper and Senator Blanche Lincoln. Senator Lincoln, by the way, considering how you're obstructing health care reform, how do you feel every time you actually see Senator Kennedy?
I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters' bidding in the House or the Senate, all the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour the health care industries can make so much money that they would kill you for that extra hour of profit.
I could call them all out by name, but I think you get the point. We do not need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word "dogs" is perfectly sufficient. But let me speak to them collectively, anyway.
I warn you all. You were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for these last eight years. You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.
If you will behave as if you are Republicans - as if you are the prostitutes of our system -you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect, you will lose your jobs!
Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril!
Because, Representative Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross. And Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care, even if they have already given you $76,000 towards your re-election. And Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.
Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this earth. Good night and good luck.
- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst for the MRC's News Analysis Division