'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, January 28th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Quick Comment (Obama critics), Quick Comment (O'Keefe), Worst Persons
Via YouTube: Quick Comment (Obama critics), Quick Comment (O'Keefe)
The toss: Meet myself (and bonus: Glasses)
Guests: Jonathan Alter, Chris Hayes, Greg Mitchell, Howard Fineman, David Corn
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The phone-gate plan. Did tampering with Senator Landrieu's switchboard only follow James O'Keefe's failure to get the reaction he wanted, failure to show an office indifferent to its constituents' access? Making the news event fit your politics. The latest blockbuster revelation from New Orleans.
The Republicans' "state of disunion." The GOP tries to ignore Obama's challenge to join him, taking on the big banks, big insurers, big unemployment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What we are hearing tonight is the BIOB. Let's call it that from now on, "blame it on Bush."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Too bad the camera had caught the senator testing that catch phrase to Lindsey Graham, "blame it on Bush." And too bad Bush blamed it on Clinton, and Reagan blamed it on Carter.
POTUS versus SCOTUS at the SOTU.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Did Justice Alito violate Supreme Court etiquette? Did the president violate presidential etiquette? Or ask it this way: How many times did Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Bush publicly slam the Supreme Court for Roe v. Wade? And who is right on the foreign money facts?
"Worsts": The right-wing calls the president "cocky," "arrogant," "defensive," "flippant," "like a punk." You know what those are code for, right, when white guys are talking about a not-white guy?
And eating their own: The revolt inside the tea party revolt. A week before its first national convention, Michele Bachmann cancels her speech there and the true believers declare keynoter Sarah Palin an enemy of the tea party. The second set of revolutionaries decides the first set of revolutionaries are no longer revolutionary enough? What is this - zealots in goofy hats or the French Revolution?
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't be saucy with me, Bernice.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
What started as reports of an attempt to wiretap were quickly revised as merely an attempt to disrupt a U.S. senator's phone lines. But new information tonight suggests the infiltration of Senator Mary Landrieu's office was both smaller and far bigger than that, part of an ad hoc dirty tricks campaign focused against health care reform. A lawyer for one of the four men accused of scheming to interfere with Landrieu's phone service insists to the "Associated Press" the plan was - in the "A.P.'s" words, to record embarrassing hidden camera footage, to document allegations her staff was ignoring calls critical of her stance on health care reform.
Journalists, of course, do not presume allegations are true, but determine whether or not they are. The goal of embarrassing Landrieu over health care is also not a journalistic goal but a political dirty tricks operation.
After Landrieu decided to support reform, Tony Perkins' group, Family Research Council, and the Baton Rouge Tea Party protested her, and Perkins said the protesters complained the senator's office was not answering their calls.
According to the FBI, while James O'Keefe recorded him, co-defendant Joseph Basel dressed as a phone repairman told office staff, quote, "that he could not get through." They lied, hoping, as the lawyer now tells the "A.P." to document the indifference of Landrieu's staff to the claim that calls could not get through.
Imagine their disoriented shock when somebody in Landrieu's office evidently said something like, "Our phones aren't working. Can you fix them for us?" O'Keefe's guys lied, just as O'Keefe lied to ACORN workers and then lied about ACORN workers to make their reactions fit his political goals, just as pharmaceutical shill Betsy McCaughey lied when she made up first the stimulus bill's death panels and then the health care bill's death panels, just as Sarah Palin lied repeating McCaughey's lies, and just as it would seem as health care opponents lied about the summertime confrontation when witnesses claimed a teabagger was brutally beaten - despite videotape that clearly shows him not being brutally beaten. One of those witnesses - according to his own Facebook page noted truth-teller and journalist James O'Keefe.
Politico.com today reports all four men, quote, "had been groomed for years to be part of a new wave of activist conservative journalists by a series of influential and often deep-pocketed benefactors, not as you might imagine friends of health care reform. O'Keefe, Basel and Stan Dai all received grants to start their right-wing college newspapers from the Leadership Institute, right-wing training ground for alumni like Karl Rove and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. They got more funding from the right-wing Collegiate Network funded by Richard Mellon Scaife among others. And O'Keefe's legal bills for the ACORN lawsuit against him are being paid for by a legal group affiliated with James Dobson's Focus on the Family.
After that interesting trip down the trail, let's brings in Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We're going to get to the so-called journalism aspect of this with our next guest, but if we stipulate those four guys were not wiretapping and didn't, at first, anyway, try to disable phones, did their actions make a little bit more sense in the context we just laid out?
HAYES: Well, they make sense in this - in this respect. This is part of a long conservative right-wing tradition. If you go back and read Rick Perlstein - he's a great historian of the modern right and he wrote about Goldwater and he wrote about Nixon - you know, there's actually a name for this in the sort of right-wing sub-culture. It's too profane to utter on the air, but it's something that everyone from college Republicans, like Karl Rove, have been doing for years.
And when you read documentation of what happens and say, a college Republican election, there's all sorts of crazy, dirty tricks being played on each other. So, the notion that this is anything but a manifestation of what is a very long tradition in conservative politics is crazy. It obviously comes from what many on the right have been doing for decades.
OLBERMANN: Something to do with rats.
HAYES: Yes. That's right.
OLBERMANN: Rats and reproduction.
HAYES: That's right.
OLBERMANN: A week ago, O'Keefe was - to the right - a serious journalist, and if one of Landrieu's staff had made a stupid joke about, "Oh, at least the teabaggers won't be calling us now," this would have been all over FOX News, correct?
HAYES: Oh, that's absolutely right. And that's actually what's so frustrating. It's what's so frustrating about that first round with ACORN. You know, there were tapes that were made in the first round when they were going to those ACORN offices, including one in Philadelphia in which the ACORN office called the police and said, "We want to get rid of these people," and, of course, those tapes were never released.
And to me, that shows that what they're doing is not journalism, because you have - if there's any baseline sense of integrity, right, you have to show that the same organization that you're smearing actually did the right thing in this case.
And you're absolutely right, that had they gotten the goods in this case, it would have been aired at any - all over the place no matter what nefarious methods they used to obtain it.
OLBERMANN: So, when the tape comes out, when the video camera, secret camera in the guy's helmet comes out, we can expect Andrew Breitbart and FOX to make a big deal of how, you know, stunningly, seriously Landrieu takes constituents' services and response?
HAYES: Right. Exactly. They won't.
And what really frustrate me, and I have to say, the whole O'Keefe thing really enraged me and the reason is that those people that ACORN work with in those neighborhoods in Baltimore and San Diego and the Bronx, you know what? It's really hard for them to get their political representatives on the line. It's really hard for them to get access to power.
And this notion of entitlement that it is such an outrage that the people who are angry about health care won't get their calls answered and that calls for this kind of - you know, this kind of escalation, this sort of dirty trick, when the same people that they were making fun of and attempting to humiliate live in neighborhoods every day where they are ignored by their political representatives is really, really outrageous.
OLBERMANN: O'Keefe was ordered by the judge to stay at his parents' home until the hearing which is, I think, the 12th or 14t - I can't remember now - presumably in the hope that they will keep him out of trouble. Is there an upside here that we're not looking at for O'Keefe if he fails to help defeat health care reform, at least his parents can put him on their insurance?
HAYES: That's right. In fact, one should note that one of the earliest things that would phase in in the health care bills is extend the amount of time that parents can keep - keep their kids on their health insurance reform, so he might benefit either way.
OLBERMANN: Does that apply to kids out on bail?
HAYES: I don't think there's a carve out. I think that's everyone.
OLBERMANN: Well, I don't know. We'll see whether the tea party will eliminate that, too. Don't worry. Don't you worry about it, they're coming for you.
Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine - thanks as always for your time, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also joining us tonight, Greg Mitchell, the longtime editor of "Editor & Publisher" who's now writing for "Huffington Post."
Greg, good to talk to you.
GREG MITCHELL, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Happy to be here again.
OLBERMANN: From a professional standpoint, how do you determine whether these guys or just O'Keefe by himself, whether they qualify as journalists, rather than political provocateur, or where is - is there a line, is there a clear, bright line, or is it not so bright?
MITCHELL: Well, I think that they seem - they seem more like Borat than Woodward and Bernstein that I think you can make that distinction.
No. This wasn't journalism at all. And it's insulting to the great investigative journalists who go out there every day often unheralded and do tremendous work, often in the public service. Not advocacy, not liberal or conservative people who bust their butts every day for newspapers, large and small, for networks, large and small, go out and interview dozens of people, collect incredible hours of videotape and put together, you know, lengthy series or important programs on television, which are actually in the public service, expose corruption, expose environmental hazards, health hazards, public safety issues. And it's really a smear on all of them to liken any of these people to journalists.
OLBERMANN: And even as a journalist, you can espouse views and maintain sufficient journalistic integrity. I mean, here, we have defended right-wingers when the facts bore it out. We've dropped stories, like trying to prove a negative when I say this, but we've dropped stories when our own fact-checking determined that, you know, John McCain was getting a bum rap, aspects of this very story have been, you know, left on the proverbial cutting room floor because they weren't true. So, we didn't report them.
That's the distinction. You leave out what turns out not to be true.
You don't bury what turns out to be true, and just doesn't fit your story.
MITCHELL: Right. Well, that - I mean, real journalists do an
incredible amount of work behind the scenes. And I think of "60 Minutes"
which has had its share of flubs, you know, we all recognize that. But, on
the other hand, they've done incredible work in which they have large
staffs who spend weeks and months assembling evidence, get thousands or
tens of thousands of pages of documents, and put together reports which are
sure, boiled down to 10 minutes, so you don't see what's behind them.
But you see the work that comes out of it and they can always be held up to people investigating them later and saying, are they fair or not?
But the reason "60 Minutes" has been so successful is that 99 times out of 100, people are not able to show that they were truly not fair, took things out of context, selective editing. That's one of the problems with the ACORN footage is, as you mentioned, the selective editing that went into it and the loss of credibility that really - they really were showing the truth.
OLBERMANN: Yes. I'm suddenly thinking of Martin Short's character Nathan Thurm. Is it him or is it me with the fake Mike Wallace and Harry Shearer years ago?
But there is - the irony to this and the claim that these are journalists or kid journalists who don't really understand the rules, or who were rewriting the rules, whichever, you know, answer is given based on what hour of day it is, it changes all the time, there's an irony here. It would seem they have video documenting the reaction of Landrieu's staff to this, you know, supposed phone bank outage or whatever it was. That's - that could be a scoop.
OLBERMANN: This would refute claims of senatorial office indifference. The irony is, journalistically, if you came back with something like this, as a journalist, this would be a good story.
MITCHELL: Well, I'm not quite sure what they have, and certainly, I hope the message to the many conservative activist journalists which they have tried to inspire in the past is that you certainly don't want to risk going to jail for something, you know, for this kind of dirty trick, trying to get something on cell phone of indifference in a senator's office is hardly worth spending five years in jail.
So, I hope the message that comes out of this, you know, is twofold. Let's make a distinction on what's real journalism and what isn't. And, second, let some of these people who want to try the kind of dirty tricks or dress up as pimps, or do some of these things, let's hope they think twice and networks like FOX think twice about airing this footage in the future.
OLBERMANN: Well, just remember the rule here, though. If it fails it's a prank, just a prank.
OLBERMANN: If it succeeds, it's Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism.
MITCHELL: Yes. Well, I know - I know you know all about Donald Segretti.
MITCHELL: And the difference between Donald Segretti and Seymour Hersh, for example.
OLBERMANN: A mouse and an elephant.
Greg Mitchell, former editor of "Editor & Publisher" - great thanks, sir.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: After an initial and largely sober - initial "Law & Order" kind of response, the right-wing is now pumping the wacky prank defense as I just mentioned. It's consummation, the rhetorical question: do you really think James O'Keefe is that stupid?
Yes. A "Quick Comment": arrested conservative and stupid is no way to go through life, son. Next.
OLBERMANN: The State of the Union and the Republicans' first refusal to support new jobs. But now, tonight's first "Quick Comment" and thus has escalated the frat boy prank defense.
"You're dealing with kids," said James O'Keefe's attorney. "I don't think they thought it through that far."
O'Keefe is 25 and he draws a salary to stage events that fit his preconception of news. His co-defendant Joseph Basel is 24 and has already been the manager of a successful political campaign in Minnesota. Their co-defendant, Robert Flanagan, is 24 and is the son of the acting federal attorney in Shreveport. The fourth man, the one on the car, Stan Dai, identifies himself as the former operations officer of a counterterrorism program in the Bush Pentagon.
And all four have deep and abiding connections to mainstream organizations within the Republican Party and a conservative and tea party movements.
These are not kids. Their arrest was not payback for ACORN. No federal felony crimes occurred in ACORN. This was not a prank.
And the attorneys and the apologists and Washington's dilettantes political commentators can use the cutesy terms like caper and stunt and shenanigans all they want. The difference between wanting to tamper with government phones or to make a federal office believe its communications system had been compromised, or to tap those phones, is not the difference between a prank and a felony. It is the difference between a long prison sentence and a really long prison sentence.
OLBERMANN: At the State of the Union address last night, the House minority leader telegraphing all that President Obama needs to know about the opposition's willingness to work with him on the issues that really matter to most Americans. When the president asked, "If anyone from either party has a better approach to health care reform," Congressman Boehner actually raised his hand as if the president was going to call on him. He did not.
The rest of his party, equally transparent in showing exactly where they stand on a wide range of populist issues that they claim to care about, by staying seated.
On the day after his address at a town hall meeting in Florida, the president continuing his push for job creation but at last night's State of the Union when the president talked about the jobs his administration has already created, the Republicans in attendance seemingly defiantly - anti-job?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The GOP, it appears, preferring to give tax breaks to corporations which ship American jobs overseas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh, you know, I'm like that at the ball games. Sometimes, I don't want to stand up for every pitch either.
And the small businesses in this country that create jobs, not to mention the small business owners - most Republicans apparently against them, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid, and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Just about every week, the Federal Reserve now giving out a list of the small community banks which have failed and folded, but not the massive banks that were deemed too-big-to-fail. When the president called for getting some of their bailout money back, Republicans were seemingly against that, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In the Republican response, meanwhile, Virginia Governor McDonnell and some people standing around him, saying, "We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources and we must use them all."
Hard to be any more clear about the GOP's environmental and energy policies than that, defending offshore oil drilling when the president had just said we needed to make tough decisions about offshore oil drilling.
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REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP: To hear the president tonight talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Minority Whip Cantor, meanwhile, today indicating on this network that the "party of no" is no more willing to work with President Obama now than it was before - among other things, calling job creation a bad thing because government helps create red tape.
In the Senate, Republican James Inhofe today calling the president a liar, claiming that most of last night's speech was not true, his stock such that no one ever even noticed this.
Senator McCain today denying the fact of the deficit that Obama inherited from the previous administration, ridiculing Mr. Obama for blaming it on President Bush.
Thus, lots to talk about with our own Jonathan Alter, national affairs columnist at "Newsweek" magazine.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me guess. Republican leadership in both houses congratulated themselves on doing a great job sitting on their hands while the president stole the "throw the bum's out" horse out from under them and rode it out towards the Capitol building?
ALTER: You know, the "party of no" never disappoints. I mean, you didn't even mention that Rudy Giuliani.
OLBERMANN: Oh, yes.
ALTER: . said that he had - that the president had not said anything about the Christmas Day bombing attempt, when he did.
ALTER: You know, I don't know if he was channel surfing or what, but the ability of these folks to persist in their position, as if it's getting them somewhere, they didn't look closely enough at the election returns in Massachusetts of all places. The reason Scott Brown won was not because he was a Republican. He didn't use that in his advertising. He didn't bash Obama in his advertising.
He won because he won independents, which is something the Democratic Party has to take a close look at. But this idea that somehow there's a resurgence for the Republican Party or what they're doing is working is not. They look like they're sucking pickles. They are so sour and nasty, they're not winning the appreciation of the American people.
OLBERMANN: And what - the take - the takeaway from the Senate election was, I thought, that there is a feeling of anti-everything, anti-big fill in the blank government, business, banks, anti-big unemployment. And that is, in fact, what the president went after. And he may have gone after it using Republican terms, small "C" conservative terms, anything he could think of. But somebody got the bell rang in the White House.
OLBERMANN: Did it really not ring with Republicans, that they did not see that it wasn't just the letter "R" that made this happen, or that they really think it's just going to be duplicated like a Xerox machine?
ALTER: Well, they smell blood.
ALTER: . and they will pick up some seats, but I think that they don't recognize that their party is in decline. You cannot sustain yourself over any period of time as a political party without any sense of governing responsibility, and I think the president did put it to them. Look.
ALTER: . you are in charge, too. And you have to show some leadership, too. If you think that 41 votes determine things in the United States Senate, show some leadership.
They don't even have a bill. At least the House has some kind of health insurance bill. The Senate has - the Senate Republicans have nothing. They offered nothing. It's an nihilistic approach.
OLBERMANN: Looking at the bank stuff, which was obviously the theme last night. If the Democrats now introduce legislation punishing big banks, rewarding community banks, and putting up a statute of any banks.
OLBERMANN: How do the Republicans actually vote no on this? Because they're going to have to or they're going to be an appendage to a Democratic plan to punish the big banks and reward the community banks.
ALTER: It's a very cleverly structured tax. I think Obama should call it a tax not a fee, you know?
ALTER: It is a tax. It's very hard for the Republicans to be against it. The only argument that they have, which Scott Brown used, is that it won't work because the banks will just pass on these costs to the consumer. The problem with that argument, the cleverness, is that it only applies to banks with more than $50 billion in assets, which means: if those banks try to pass on the costs to all of us, what happens? They lose massive market share.
ALTER: The small banks pick up all their - all of their business.
So, these guys are trapped, they're going to have to eat this. It cuts into about 5 percent of their profits. I wish it was a little bit bigger, but it's a start and that money can then go out to people who could really use it.
OLBERMANN: Yes, if they go the other direction, it's just - it's Arianna Huffington's turn. She goes and the small bank - move your money to the small bank campaign.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. Exactly.
OLBERMANN: It's a neat box that he put them in and I don't - perhaps they see it, perhaps they don't.
Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - always a pleasure. And give my regards to Ernie.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president versus the justices. Which is the breach of etiquette? Becoming the fourth president out of the last five to publicly scold the Supreme Court or shaking your heads sourly at the president a year after you ridiculed his vice president-elect at a public dinner?
And when conservatives call this president cocky, arrogant, flippant, and a punk, do you think these might be euphemisms for something else?
OLBERMANN: POTUS-V-SCOTUS in a moment. First, we mention Craig Crawford and shelter boxes for Haiti and it's time to do it again. Craig reports, in large part thanks to your generosity, the contributions have now passed 56,000 dollars. Already, that is enough to buy sufficient shelter boxes for 719 people in Haiti and keep them protected for six months. If you want to help, Craig is online, as you see, at his site, "Trail Mix."
Let's play Oddball.
We begin on the Uptown Six Train here in New York City. Next stop, 51st Street, where transit officials are reviewing this video of a man rolling around on the floor with a chicken. Shot Tuesday by a passenger, posted to Youtube, the man is wearing an MTA sweatshirt, though it's not clear if he is an employee or just a distant relative of Gonzo from "The Muppet Show."
Not really sure what else to say about this particular story. Let me just turn it over to our special correspondent, Ernie Unastus (ph). Ernie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
OLBERMANN: He said something there, but we didn't hear it.
Reykjavik, Iceland, Hello. Restaurant owners Oufar Einstenson (ph) and Thomas Thomason (ph) have vowed not shave until the interest rates of Iceland's central bank fell below 10 percent. I think that's how they got Bernanke confirmed.
Anyway, this week the bank trimmed its lending rate to 9.5, though it's not clear if that was the facial hair ultimatum or actual market forces that caused the dip. Oufar and Thomas brought their barber to the bank for the shaving ceremony. The boys said for another interest point they'll get a Brazilian. Your move, Central Bank.
How far we have come in only four months. Disrespect for the president down from a high of "you lie" to a new low in a Supreme Court judge who just shakes his head and doesn't even understand the implications of the decision with which he concurred. Don't do it too hard, it may fall off, next.
OLBERMANN: The feud over whether a Supreme Court justice should have broken with protocol during President Obama's State of the Union Address has actually devolved in the hands of the president's critics over whether the question - the president was in any way out of bounds in criticizing a Supreme Court decision in that forum. That from the very same conservative politicians who make their careers by decrying so-called activist jurists.
The president, it should be noted, deviated three times last night from his prepared remarks on the Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United. In all three instances, he politely softened an already polite, respectful disagreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.
I don't think American elections should be bank rolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: "That helps correct some of these problems" was ad libbed, and I believe in addition to, as "all due deference to separation of powers" was added. Associate Justice Alito shook his head and mouthed the words "that's not true" or just "not true," a clear break with protocol. That's not in dispute. Justice Alito has rightly been criticized for it.
But from Republican Senator John Cornyn, quote, "I'm sure it was an irresistible impulse, and I understand why he would do it. I don't think the president should have done what he did in trying to call out the Supreme Court for doing its job. They are the final word on the meaning of the United States Constitution, even when we don't."
Like John McCain in June of '08, when the same nine justices ruled that Gitmo detainees had rights, quote, "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country."
By the way, the Supreme Court is the final word right up until a constitutional amendment overturns a bad decision, or, as is more likely, some future court overturns a bad decision, at which point that is the final word.
Besides that, lawmakers have, throughout history, passed laws to mitigate against the worst ramifications of a bad decision, within the parameters of that bad decision, which is exactly what the president called for last night. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, has criticized Justice Alito's display, quoting, "there were days when judges stayed out of politics. It would be nice to go back to those days."
On the floor of the Senate today, Mr. Leahy railed against the decision in Citizens United as the most partisan since Bush v. Gore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: On his confirmation hearing, Justice Alito, I might say under oath, testified that the role of the Supreme Court is a limited role. It has to do what it is supposed to do vigilantly, but it also has to be equally vigilant about not stepping over the bounds, and invading the authority of Congress.
That was then, when he was seeking confirmation. This is now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, quickly responded, quoting, "I'm disappointed that the president and my colleagues are attempting to politicize a very, very serious First Amendment question." Disappointed by this attempt to politicize such a question, not when it's done by his party.
Let's call in "Newsweek Magazine" senior Washington correspondent, political columnist, our own Howard Fineman. Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE": Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How can a Republican senator say something like that with a straight face, without trying to give out some sort of secret message, saying help me, I'm having memory loss?
FINEMAN: You are talking about Senator Cornyn here?
OLBERMANN: Cornyn or you can apply it also to - yeah. OK. I get it.
FINEMAN: I pick Cornyn.
OLBERMANN: All right.
FINEMAN: The irony with Cornyn is that he comes out of Texas, and he comes out of the shop of Karl Rove and George W. Bush. And that is the cockpit of the politicization of judging. They elect all the judges in Texas. And that even amplified further the tendency of the Republican base, as it grew up in the modern Republican party, to vilify judges, on abortion in particular, but also on other things. That's been a staple of the growth of the modern Republican party, to attack judges and their decisions.
OLBERMANN: The other - looking at it from the other end of the spectrum, Senator Leahy also said off camera, about Justice Alito, "this is also the same person who went to a political function and ridiculed the vice president." He was talking about this occasion in which Alito attended a dinner celebrating the "American Spectator Magazine," the conservative publication, and Alito joked about then Vice President-Elect Biden and referred to the plagiarism charges from 1988.
To some degree, have we seen this kind of political awareness? Is it not at least thought that Supreme Court justices, in particular, are supposed to pretend they don't know there is a Democratic party or a Republican party in public?
FINEMAN: Well, they're sort of supposed to pretend it. And they usually do. But let's face it, as a lawyer and an author, I've looked at the history of this. The Supreme Court is a paradox, in that it is the ultimate arbiter of our ruling document, the Constitution. But it's intensely political. Presidents nominate justices, people for the court. They're approved or not by the Senate. So it's supposed to be political and it is political.
It's been ragingly political many times. Go all the way back to Thomas Jefferson or Franklin Roosevelt or Richard Nixon. It's always been political to a point. The difference here is that the president brought it up in front of the justices in the State of the Union. I think that's pretty unusual. Not wrong, just unusual. And, you know, I don't think Alito was that wrong to mutter if he wants to mutter. It's a free country.
OLBERMANN: On the facts, some politicians, some commentators came out this day after that speech, and they were either too dishonest or too stupid, as I guess to some degree Justice Alito must have been, on the facts. Even there are drags on foreign corporations buying into US elections - and leave that open for a moment - the second largest stockholder in Newscorp is a Saudi prince. Citgo is nominally an American company. It's controlled by Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. How can anybody be either simple minded or disingenuous enough as to say this did not open up our elections to foreign money?
FINEMAN: Well, a couple things. First of all, I think the president did leave his critics an opening when he used the phrase "foreign corporations or entities." Justice Kennedy, in the majority opinion in the case said, I'm not dealing with that right now. We're not reaching that question. So he was aware of it.
But as Justice Stephens pointed out in the dissent, the philosophical underpinnings of what the court just did are so vast that there is no reason to think that foreign corporations wouldn't be allowed in. If you're going to detach the right to free speech from the speaker, which is what the court just did, then why not have foreign corporations, as well as foreign entities.
But the fact is that foreign individuals can buy American corporations and exercise American free speech rights in the middle of campaigns by pouring all the profits of an American for-profit corporation into a campaign.
OLBERMANN: Newscorp, Citgo - one quick question. Is Citgo an American corporation or a foreign corporation?
FINEMAN: Well, if it's chartered in the United States, in a state in the United States - and states control the chartering of corporations, it's an American corporation. What the Supreme Court said is that American corporation has the same free speech rights in the middle of a campaign to spend unlimitedly that an individual American citizen does. That's what they said in the majority opinion. And that's, at heart, what Barack Obama was complaining about.
OLBERMANN: Congratulations to Justice Alito for bringing Hugo Chavez into our homes. Hi, I'm Hugo Chavez for the Communist Party.
Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, great thanks.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A quick comment on this next. The president can't criticize the Supreme Court. Well, unless his name was Reagan or Bush.
Will there be a Tea Party junior to protest the original Tea Party? Sarah Palin branded the enemy of the Tea crowd after she endorses the far left John McCain and two big bailouts from next week's big convention.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she'll ask her special guest, Tracy Ullman, about one of her impressions. See if you can guess which - Rachel, somebody stole your glasses.
OLBERMANN: Now the second of tonight's Quick Comments.
How dare you, sir? At only a year, it's so old now. The president of the United States is not allowed to do anything or say anything the conservatives don't like because he is not a conservative. So he criticizes a disastrous, democracy threatening, free speech threatening Supreme Court decision, and they demand an apology.
In 1983, Ronald Reagan wrote, "over the first two years of my administration, I have closely followed and assisted efforts in Congress to reverse the tide of abortion. We continue to work to overturn Roe v. Wade."
George H. W. Bush said "the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned."
Two years ago last week, George W. Bush told the March for Life participants, inside the White House, that he was "proud to be standing with you; all life deserves to be protected."
How many other politicians have criticized the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade? How many of us have tried to deny them that right? The Supreme Court is hardly infallible. It is not inviolable. A president has the perfect right to criticize it. So do you. So do I. So did Reagan.
What is at the heart of this is what is at the heart of the Tea Parties, the Birther movement, Fox News, and, ever more rapidly, the entire Republican party. They don't want to recognize this is the president. And they fail to recognize that their opinion on that is utterly irrelevant.
OLBERMANN: Michele Bachmann dumps out of the Tea Party convention, a convention which might no longer be safe for Sarah Palin because Tea Partiers believe Sarah Palin is now their enemy. Bring your popcorn.
That's next, but first tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Karl Rove, darkening the doors of cluster Fox and Friends. "Is it good politics, Mr. Rove," asked Brian Kilmead of the wise old owl from the Tootsie Pop commercial, "to bring up your predecessor and talk about your first year in office while looking back at his last year in office?"
Rove said, "no, I think it makes you look weak."
Ronald Reagan's 1982 State of the Union Address, "to understand the State of the Union, we must look not only at where we are and where we're going, but where we've been. The situation at this time last year was truly ominous." The problems were, quoting again, "the inheritance of decades of tax and tax and spend and spend."
George W. Bush's first address to Congress, February, 2001, "last year, government spending shot up eight percent. We must take a different path."
Wow. Karl Rove called his own president and Ronald Reagan weak.
Doesn't that mean the Republicans have to boil him in oil or something?
The runner-up, Rudy Giuliani, complaining on, where else, Fixed News, that the president, quote, "didn't mention the word war in the State of the Union." Any way to check that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the midst of war - amid two wars - paying for two wars - we prosecute two wars - the resources they need in war - that I would end this war - this war is ending and all of our troops are coming home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So when Rudy says Obama didn't mention the word "war," he really means Obama mentioned the war seven times. Sadly, Rudy isn't very bright.
But our winners, these guys, assessing not the speech, but the president himself, Erick Erickson, cocky. John Stossel said he hoped the president would admit he was, quote, arrogant. Jay Nordlinger, "looks arrogant whether he is arrogant or not." Marc Thiessen, "defensive, arrogant." John Hood, "flippant and arrogant." Glenn Beck, "like a punk."
Here's a little secret, gathered, sadly, from witnessing it my whole life, even from some in my own family. When racist white guys get together and they don't want to be caught using any of the popular epithets in use every day in this country about black people - and there's a chance one of them, or worse still a white guy who doesn't get it, might wander in and hear the conversation, when there's a risk even in saying uppity or forgetting his place, the racist white guys revert to euphemisms and code words. And among the code words that they think they're getting away with are "cocky, flippant, punk, and especially arrogant." Mark Thiessen of the "Washington Post," Eric Erickson of Red State, John Hood and Jay Nordlinger of the "National Review" and Glenn Beck and John Stossel of Fixed News, today's worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: What was intended to be banquet of revolutionaries dining on surf and turf at the Gaylord Opreyland Hotel has now turned, instead, into a buffet style version of eating your own. Trouble brewing at the Tea Party's upcoming convention. One week out, guest speaker Michele Bachmann sends her regrets. Meanwhile, headliner Sister Sarah may be speaking to a half empty room. She is on the Tea Party's enemies list.
Her endorsement of John McCain for the Arizona Republican Senate nomination over Tea Party wanna-be J.D. Hayworth earned her the title of RINO from no less an authority than the founder of the Draft Sarah 2012 website, who may also be contributing to the sinking of the first Tea Party National Convention.
Former convention organizer Anthony Shrieb (ph) telling "Mother Jones Magazine" that about 500 tickets to hear Palin speak have not yet been sold. Founder Judson Phillips banking on key-noter Palin to guarantee a big turnout, but Tea Partiers appear upset at the convention's steep price tag. It's 349 dollars just to hear Palin speak, 549 bucks to attend the entire convention.
Many would-be convention goers demanding refunds. Refunds? Today, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Marcia Blackburn announcing they are pulling out of the festivities, citing concern over the for-profit Tea Party Nation. Although the convention's website still has both of them listed as speakers. Now several key sponsors have withdrawn their support, as well as the Tea Party Express, claiming it has over extended itself by supporting Scott Brown and launching a campaign against Senator Harry Reid in Nevada.
Mr. Shrieb is surprised Palin has not pulled out yet already, telling "Mother Jones," "in her contract she is allowed to send a representative if she can't make it, if she's sick or something. Maybe she'll come down with the flu."
As you know, the half-term governor is not a quitter. She told "Politico" "this is not about politics or organizers. It is about the soul of our blessed country."
Time now to call in the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones Magazine," David Corn. David, good evening.
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE": Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is this fallout just about ticket prices or, in fact, is there something to this Republican in name only thing about Palin that's actually rearing its ugly head here?
CORN: I think we're seeing two things go on at once, and Sarah Palin is at the crux. One is you have, in the Tea Party movement, a fight between authentic grass roots activists - you and I may disagree with their views - but they're genuine activists out there - and people that are trying to exploit them, profit off them, AstroTurf groups that are coming in, Republican consultants, and trying to make a buck off this movement.
Then you have a real live debate. In fact, it's a Civil War within the Republican party, where you have Tea Party types going after what they consider to be moderate Republicans, like Charlie Crist down in Florida, and now John McCain in Arizona, who is running neck and neck against J.D. Hayworth, who used to be a House member, Republican house member from the Phoenix area, and now he was a talk show host until recently.
So he is the purist. He is the conservative in the race. And Sarah Palin, who is helping - who is making 115,000 dollars off the Tea Party Convention. That's how much she is being paid according to internal documents "Mother Jones" obtained. She now also has agreed to go and campaign with John McCain. So some of the Tea Party types, the true believers are saying, wait a second; if you are really one of us, why aren't you helping J.D.? Why are you on the side of this Republican in name only?
I mean, this is what John McCain gets for running a campaign last year in which he cow-towed to the right, to the conservatives, and picked Sarah Palin. And now they're paying him back by saying that she should be on the other side, trying to boot him from his job.
OLBERMANN: And by the way, J.D. Hayworth, Sarah Palin both ex-sportscasters, I might add.
CORN: There is a future for you here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: No, no, there isn't. The Tea Party, is it, in fact - I used the term before, but is it the French revolution? Palin's Robespierre or somebody else? Does anybody keep their head, so to speak? Does it constantly need something to attack?
CORN: The Tea Party is pretty disparate. It's not an organized
group. There are people who disagree on policy ideas and certainly on
organizational structure. But we see within the conservative movement -
it's not just Tea Party types - you have the group Club for Growth, which
is financing primary challenges to moderate Republicans. Within the whole
conservative side of the fence, you have this battle going on between what
who is pure enough, what makes a true Republican. And in that case, they are starting to eat their own.
We saw it in the New York 23 special election a couple months ago. And it's going to continue on. If they're going after the guy who was the party candidate for president, you know, just, you know, a little over a year ago, it shows how serious it is.
OLBERMANN: And the backlash against Palin for doing that, too. But what is the Michele Bachmann, Marcia Blackburn dump out, and the two of them turning to the Ethics Committee as their excuse? This is - they must be scared Tea Party-less.
CORN: Listen, there was one blogger, one conservative blogger, saying that there was something scammy - that's his word - about the convention. I think the smell has finally reached Washington. And anybody who has an ounce of brains won't want anything to do with this convention. It's not just these high profile speakers pulling out. The sponsoring groups and people who are doing workshops are pulling out.
So the whole thing could collapse. And I think it raises an issue for Sarah Palin. Does she want to make that 115,000 dollars or actually, you know, do the right thing and maybe pull out?
OLBERMANN: Oh, yeah. That's a tough choice. You said an ounce of brains? An ounce of brains, and Bachmann pulled out anyway. OK, had to do it. David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones," great thanks, David.
CORN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,464th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss Tracy Ullman's impression of Rachel Maddow with Tracy Ullman, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END