MSNBC’s Fineman: ObamaCare is ‘Preservation & Enhancement of Existing System,’ Obama ‘From Country of Long-Distance Runners’

Appearing on Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman – also of Newsweek – dismissed Republican promises of working to repeal ObamaCare, suggesting that because it would be nearly impossible to have the numbers in Congress to do so after the next election, Republicans are merely using the issue as a fundraising and political ploy: "This isn`t about mathematics, Keith, it`s about theology – and fundraising, as you pointed out. ... But the Republicans aren`t interested in fixing anything. They`re interested in holding out this kind of almost anti-messianic hope that they`re somehow going to be able to repeal the thing."

Fineman also argued that because the ObamaCare bill does not include either the government-run "public option" or a single-payer system, that in reality it is a "preservation and enhancement, if you will, of the existing system."

As he listed factors that helped Democrats successfully pass ObamaCare, Fineman at one point seemed to make Olbermann a little nervous that some would tie the "birther" conspiracy theory in with his contention that President Obama "comes from a country of long-distance runners and was one," as he credited Obama with "persistence."

Olbermann made a point of clarifying:

KEITH OLBERMANN: You know, the headline, by the way, unless we fix this right now. You just said that the President comes from a nation of long-distance runners. You mean he`s descended from them.

HOWARD FINEMAN: Descended from them, excuse me.

OLBERMANN: Otherwise, the headline is, "Fineman, birther."

FINEMAN: Birther, yeah, no, descended from.

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Monday, March 22, Countdown show on MSNBC, with critical portions in bold:

(AFTER AN INTERVIEW WITH LIBERAL MSNBC ANALYST LAWRENCE O’DONNELL)

KEITH OLBERMANN: Let`s turn now to our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for Newsweek magazine, for the big political picture. Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: That was great listening to Lawrence. Boy, once a Senate guy, always a Senate guy.

OLBERMANN: Flashback of Professor Martin at Cornell in 1978, hitting me-

FINEMAN: I knew you were going to get a Cornell plug in here. I know it.

OLBERMANN: But there`s a whole segment later on. Hitting me in the head with the book when I got something wrong. So, was this, in fact, the Republicans’ best bet to do anything to this?

FINEMAN: I think Lawrence has it right, because the Social Security thing would have been a depth charge. The rest of this stuff, they can nickel and dime it, may well force it back to the House, but it doesn`t derail it. But keep in mind, Keith, let`s not take our eye off the ball here. The main bill, the one the President is going to sign tomorrow, that`s 90 percent of what we`re talking about, 90 percent of what we`re talking about in terms of health care reform. These other things in reconciliation were sweeteners for the House liberals and others. So, the main thing is what the President is going to sign in a great ceremony tomorrow.

OLBERMANN: All right, and the main thing then left to the Republicans about this and into the midterms is this idea of repealing it. Have they forgotten that unless they get veto-proof majorities in the midterms, any repeal effort would be vetoed by the President? And we`re talking about a 26-seat net gain, a 26-seat swing in the Senate and a 113-seat swing in the House.

FINEMAN: Yeah, well, there`s never been-

OLBERMANN: Exactly.

FINEMAN: -a swing like that. But this isn`t about mathematics, Keith, it`s about theology – and fundraising, as you pointed out. The Republicans are sort of going for the unpromised land, you know? They see this in the future, they want to keep promising their base that they`re going to do something that the members of Congress know they can`t do. I would agree with those who say, including John McCain, that there`s a lot of anger and confusion and concern out in the country, because this is a big, confusing bill, the way it was done created a lot of controversy. But the Republicans aren`t interested in fixing anything. They`re interested in holding out this kind of almost anti-messianic hope that they`re somehow going to be able to repeal the thing. I think they know that it`s probably impossible. Nothing`s impossible in politics. This is close.

OLBERMANN: What is it of the things that are going to take effect quickly that will be noticed by the average American who is not plugged into politics?

FINEMAN: Well, it`s interesting, because actually, technically, mos, even the so-called immediate things don`t happen the day that the president signs the bill really. It`s going to take some regulations, six months for some of even the immediate features like making sure that children don`t get knocked out of coverage because they have a preexisting condition. But what`s going to happen here is that insurance companies who know they`re going to be regulated by the federal government in a way that they haven`t are going to want to – some of them, I think – are going to want to try to be good citizens and follow the spirit of the law – I asked Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, about this today – follow the spirit of the law even before the regulations kick in, technically six months from now.

OLBERMANN: I`d be, I`ll pay money to see that happen. But after the last year --

FINEMAN: Well, they want to get, they want to get in the exchanges, as Chuck Todd pointed out to me, they want to get into these exchanges that will eventually be created.

OLBERMANN: All right. The point we were going to start before Lawrence had this, the news about the parliamentarian`s ruling, was how the secret to how this actually happened after being dead for two months. We`re going to talk about it for 15 minutes. We now have a minute. How did it happen? In a minute.

FINEMAN: Okay. Persistence by President Obama, who comes from a country of long-distance runners and was one; persistence in canniness by Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel, the speaker and the chief of the staff who know the House and how it works; compromise, because this bill does not have the public option, Keith, it does not have single-payer. This, in some ways, is a preservation and enhancement, if you will, of the existing system. Clever parliamentary maneuvering, pressure on Democrats, mistakes by the Republicans who painted themselves into a corner with the insurance industry, attacks on the insurance industry, last-minute deals involving the student loans which will make the reconciliation bill work, and a deal with Bart Stupak on abortion at the end. That`s how it all went down. I always thought they were going to pass it. I never knew how.

OLBERMANN: You know, the headline, by the way, unless we fix this right now. You just said that the President comes from a nation of long-distance runners. You mean he`s descended from them.

FINEMAN: Descended from them, excuse me.

OLBERMANN: Otherwise, the headline is, "Fineman, birther."

FINEMAN: Birther, yeah, no, descended from.

OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and Newsweek and "Birther Weekly," not really. Thank you, Howard. Good to talk to you again.

FINEMAN: Thanks, Keith. You, too.

OLBERMANN: So we got that going for us now. But unhappily, the attacks continue on Congressman Lewis, on Congressman Cleaver, on Congressman Rodriguez, on Congressman Frank, on Congressman Stupak. Some of them defended now by a Republican congressman from California. Congressman Jim Clyburn, next. And later, a "Special Comment" on how politics has changed with this, how it obviously hasn`t, and how the Republicans still appear to be convinced the Earth is flat and, moreover, that they own it.