'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 13th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Oddball, Worst Persons
The toss: Meat shirt
Guests: David Cay Johnston, Robert Reich, David Plouffe, Eugene Robinson, Ken Vogel
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The midterms and the "party of the rich" versus the party of everybody else? All hell breaks loose in the GOP when John Boehner hints he might vote for tax cuts that don't include tax cuts for the top 2 percent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I'll vote for 'em.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: John of Orange has now had to walk that back so far that the GOP now says it will vote against, might even filibuster against tax cuts for the poor, middle class, and slightly well off if there aren't also cuts for Daddy Warbucks. And they're even talking about another government shutdown if they take the House.
And, by the way, the federal deficit under the first full fiscal year of Obama, it's down. It's down by 8 percent. The federal deficit is down by 8 percent.
It would seem as if you could make enough out of this and the tax cuts for the rich to save the midterms. We'll ask Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
Newt goes nuts. Even Andy Card was offended by this from Gingrich. Now, the President Obama is following a, quote, "Kenyan anti-colonial" world view. A new Newt straight-to-DVD horror movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the end of time. This is the final struggle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So, Newt, your order of the apocalypse is now:
Islamophobia, end times, Kenya, bed bugs.
O'Donnell of Delaware - the tea partier too "out there" even for Dick Armey.
And the tiny little detail left out of the Islamic center debate:
there was a mosque inside the World Trade Center - inside the South Tower of the World Trade Center on the 17th floor.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Details about the economy are rarely gripping, surprising, or even digestible.
Nevertheless, in our fifth story tonight: Republicans, as we told you, want to extend the Bush tax cuts for those families making more than a quarter million dollars. Democrats, we have reported, only want to extend the tax cuts for those making less.
But as the president pointed out, even if Democrats win, the rich will still get a tax break on their first quarter million, which means the gripping detail is really this: Democrats want to cut everyone's taxes. Republicans want to cut taxes on every dollar earned above a quarter million.
And the surprising detail: the deficit is down. The Treasury Department reports the U.S. is on track to record a $1.3 trillion deficit for the first fiscal year of President Obama's presidency - 8 percent lower. That is 8 percent lower despite the stimulus spending than the 2009 deficit which included the last months of the Bush presidency and reflected economic policy signed into law by the end of 2008 by President Bush.
House Republican Leader John Boehner wants to increase that deficit by $700 billion over 10 years, by extending those Bush tax cuts on income over a quarter million. But with Bob Schieffer yesterday, Boehner even admitted that 97 percent of small businesses will see no benefit from the cut and that 3 percent of what he calls small businesses make half the money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": In a joint committee on taxation, which is a - which is a nonpartisan body, says that only 3 percent of the small business people - you keep talking about all the small business people that are going to get taxed - only 3 percent would be affected by that. Or do you quarrel with that figure? Is that a right figure or a wrong figure?
BOEHNER: Well, it may be 3 percent but it's half of small business income, because obviously the top 3 percent have half of the gross income for those companies that we would term small businesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: When Boehner said he would have to vote for Obama's middle class tax cuts if that was his only option, Schieffer was so incredulous - he asked, again, twice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIEFFER: So, you are saying you would vote for the middle class tax cuts if that's all you can get done?
BOEHNER: If that's what we can get done.
SCHIEFFER: I want to make sure I heard what you said correctly. You are saying that you are willing to vote for the middle class tax cuts even though the bill will not include tax - extending the tax cuts for the upper bracket of Americans?
BOEHNER: Bob, we don't know what the bill is going to say, all right? If the only option I have is to vote for those $250,000 and below, of course, I'm going to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh, you think so? Running damage control today, Senate
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans will vote against tax
cuts if the rich are not included. He then said he had no idea who John
Boehner was. Connecticut senator - I made that up - Joe Lieberman says
he will, too, and four Democrats have indicated they, too, prefer quarter -
including income over a quarter million in the tax cuts.
But McConnell's office declined to tell the "Associated Press" whether the Republicans will filibuster.
Let's bring in David Cay Johnston, the author of "Free Lunch," columnist for "Tax Notes," and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at "The New York Times" on the subject of taxes.
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "FREE LUNCH": Thank you.
OLBERMANN: So, Mr. Boehner admits that the nation's richest 3 percent make half of all income earned by small businesses. Can you - can you fact-check that or at least explain that figure?
JOHNSTON: Well, it's a little misleading. About 44 percent of all of what the IRS business profits go to the top 3 percent. But that includes lawyers, big law firms - not exactly a popular Republican group - doctors, particularly surgeons and specialists. So, these in many cases, are not what we think of as small businesses that are creating and adding to the economy - manufacturers, the creators of new kinds of services.
OLBERMANN: The report from "Bloomberg News" today was, quoting
Moody's, that Moody's had studied tax cuts for the wealthy and confirmed
what common sense would tell you, that when you cut the taxes of the rich -
which is essentially what this boils down to - they don't go out and suddenly hire a bunch of employees. They just put more money in savings.
So, the question then becomes what happens to the economy when you cut the taxes of the rich people?
JOHNSTON: Well, they pile up these huge amounts of capital that they have no place to put to work because there's no demand. There aren't enough people working and earning incomes to buy the goods and services that are being sold.
What you do see is increases in the sales of second, fourth, fifth, ninth luxury homes, personal jets, his and her personal jets, $600,000 wrist watches, oil paintings, unproductive assets that do not build the economy.
OLBERMANN: Well, you need someone to polish the $600,000 wrist watch, perhaps.
But the president still wants to borrow $3 trillion to renew the rest of the tax cuts for the lower 97 percent, 98 percent. Is that a smart move but doing so for the top 2 percent is not, and why?
JOHNSTON: Well, in the long run, the government needs to balance its budget. We've only done that four times in the last 50 years.
Let me make an analogy about this. Suppose, Keith, that you suddenly buy a new house. You're living out in the country, so you have to have two cars, one for you and your spouse, and there's an unexpected pregnancy and both your cars suddenly die. Are you going to say, well, the prudent thing to do is not take on more debt and give up your jobs - and therefore lose your house and not be able to care for the baby - or you're going to say, well, I'm going to have to borrow some money to get two replacement cars and knuckle down to pay this off and build my economic future?
And that's essentially what the president is proposing.
Also, the Americans in the bottom 98 percent are much more likely to spend the money, which, therefore, creates jobs by circulating it, than they are to save it.
OLBERMANN: Putting this all together - obviously, the rich will do better when the economy does better in almost any economy that you can calculate or create. If that's the case, why don't rich Republicans support whatever will actually make the economy better even if it means giving some money back to the not so rich so they can spend it and it still winds up eventually with the rich?
JOHNSTON: Well, some rich Republicans do, but not the ones that are -
we're seeing on Capitol Hill. This is the triumph of ideology and the idea that tax rates are what's important. What's important is how we spend our tax dollars and whether our tax system is encouraging investment in things that produce jobs. Or is it encouraging you to buy unproductive things like real estate and to move your factory to China so that you can make more profit by hiring low-cost workers there while destroying work here?
So, we need to get away from this debate that this is class warfare -
and, by the way, if it's class warfare, it's being waged in both directions
and to the idea of how do we distribute the burdens of government. And the best way to do that is create a tax system that encourages more investment here at home and more jobs. And right now, we're focused on a tax system that just lets you save money so you can spend it in unproductive ways.
OLBERMANN: And $600,000 wrist watches.
Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, the author of "Free Lunch" and now with "Tax Notes - great thanks again for your time tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: If Republicans win the Senate and win the House, some of them now say the party should consider a tried and true tactic for getting what they want, threaten to shut down the federal government. You may remember then-Speaker Newt Gingrich did this in the '90s in a showdown with President Clinton.
Clinton did not budge and Gingrich was not bluffing. The government shut down. Veterans hospitals, Social Security checks, all of it came to a halt. And it worked beautifully - for Democrats.
The political outrage crippled the GOP and helped Clinton win re-election if it didn't win it for himself. So, naturally, Republicans want to do this all over again.
On Friday, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland said he had recruited Republican candidates to the House who would stand with the party to block health care. How? By threatening a shutdown.
One day later Minnesota House candidate Teresa Collett told "Think Progress," "If the stakes are high enough, we might have to shut things down."
Tea Party leader Dick Armey, however, today refused to endorse the idea of a possible government shutdown. It's not clear whether or not he means it.
Why do we say that? "Huffington Post" reports that four years ago, Armey said the reason the Republicans got blamed for the shutdown of the '90s is that they were honest beforehand and revealed that they would do it. Quoting him from then, "You've set the stage for the press to report that the Republicans are now doing in October what they said they'd do in June. Even if, in fact, they thought it was the right strategy to shut down the government, they should have kept their mouths shut about it."
Let's bring in a government shutdown veteran, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now at U.C.-Berkeley, and the author of "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future."
Good evening, sir.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Two real world implications here - one for government employees and the other for taxpayers. Starting with the taxpayers, what happens to the services they rely on and pay for?
REICH: Well, I was there November 14th, 1995, a day that shall live on if not infamy at least stupidity. Republicans suffered by closing government because - look, not only Social Security checks were jeopardized and unemployment insurance and Medicare checks, but also the cops on the beat in terms of health and safety, protection of consumers, protection of workers. All of the things that we take for granted the government has to do, even the Justice Department could not prosecute because there was no money.
The government shut down essentially woke a lot of Americans up to the fact that they need the government, and anybody who threatens to shut it down is not acting in the public interest.
OLBERMANN: And when government employees go without pay, what happens to their lives and what is the ripple effect into the economy, considering how many government employees there are?
REICH: Well, obviously, millions of people no longer get paychecks. They no longer get benefits. They pull into their, you know, into their shells. They're not going to spend any money.
It becomes sort of a worse and worse situation on top of the already extended great recession that we are experiencing. If we had a government shutdown, things would get even worse in terms of just people not spending.
OLBERMANN: Politically, does the '90s shutdown tell us anything about the one that the Republicans have started to invoke this time around?
REICH: Well, here's what we did learn, Keith, and you referred to it before. It was a terrible travesty for Republicans. Newt Gingrich was the one who essentially pulled the plug. He did not like the deal that Bill Clinton was offering on the budget and he said, OK, we're not going to play. We're going to shut down the government.
And it turned out that the public did not like the government being used as a pawn in a partisan battle over the budget. I mean, the Constitution does not say that one party can shut down the government. It gives one party, and there are checks and balances and all sorts of other things that a party can utilize, but not shutting down the government.
And this - this proved to be a disaster for Republicans in the '96 election. I remember a lot of Democratic candidates across the country in congressional elections, they used pictures of Newt Gingrich basically to knock down their opponents.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you about this data that came in from the Treasury Department that seemed to project this total yawn - 8 percent lower fiscal deficit for the first year of the Obama presidency - for the fiscal year of the Obama presidency. Why is that not bigger news than it seems to be?
REICH: Well, it should be bigger news. I think that a lot of the public has become just sort of eyes glaze over it, Keith, when it comes to any kind of numbers or the budget deficit. The fact of the matter is that most people in this country are concerned about jobs and wages. They are not terribly concerned about the budget deficit.
A lot of people, particularly Republicans, have been whipped up into a frenzy over this long-term budget deficit and are told that the government cannot and should not do anything to bring jobs back again even if that means maybe a little bit more deficit spending - and as a result stories like this sort of get buried. But they are important. The public has got to understand that the Obama administration is actually heading in the right direction both in terms of improving the economy, slow as it is.
Remember, this economy was in terrible shape when Obama took over, and also getting some long-term control over the budget deficit.
OLBERMANN: Former labor secretary, Robert Reich - as always, sir, great thanks for your time.
REICH: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Republicans literally threatening to vote against, even filibuster against, tax cuts for everybody else if the rich don't get them, too. The federal deficit drops 8 percent in Obama's first fiscal year - you'd think maybe the president's old campaign manager David Plouffe could work with those details in a campaign? We'll ask him - next.
OLBERMANN: The man who got out the vote for Obama two years ago on getting out the vote two months from now, David Plouffe on where is the midterm messaging. Newt, nuts, now noshing new noodle-headed nonsense.
First, she makes gay innuendoes about her opponent in the GOP Senate primary in Delaware. Then she does not get the endorsement of Dick Armey. Coincidence?
And amid the talk of hallowed ground and sensitivity, what about the unpublicized truth that before the World Trade Center fell, it contained a mosque?
Ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: We're 50 days until the midterm elections - as we told you - Republicans are not merely preparing to hold the middle class tax cuts hostage. They're twisting themselves into knots over whether to admit that they're holding those middle class tax cuts hostage. The uselessness of tax cuts for the rich has proved again and the deficit is down 8 percent.
But yet in our fourth story: still, today, a national magazine, "Newsweek," wrote another pre-mortem for the Democrats in the midterms. What to do, 50 counting, with President Obama's former campaign manager David Plouffe in just a moment. The president will be ramping up his fundraising efforts as the midterms approach. Evidently, a necessity.
According to "The New York Times," over the past six weeks, the GOP has outspent the Democrats in television advertising. Republicans $20 million. Democrats $13 million. And that includes a GOP advantage in spending from outside groups like the David Koch's conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.
As promised, let's turn to Barack Obama's presidential campaign manager, now Democratic Party campaign consultant, David Plouffe. Also author of "The Audacity to Win: How Obama Won and How We Can Beat the Party of Limbaugh, Beck and Palin."
Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
DAVID PLOUFFE, AUTHOR, "THE AUDICITY TO WIN": Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The GOP House leader hints - just hints - at flexibility. Maybe he would vote for just the tax cuts for lower class, middle class incomes. And his party comes out at him like it's the "Lord of the Flies" and they've decided to re-enact it. And he has to back track to the point where now filibustering that position that he said he was open to might be a realistic possibility.
Why is the narrative, look, this is the rich people's party, that's what this election is about - why is that narrative not the narrative of every campaign for the next 50 days?
PLOUFFE: Well, listen, I think it should be the narrative of a lot of campaigns. What we have right now - two things are going to help us have a better election than a lot of the pundits think. One, we turn this into a real choice for voters, and voters want to have a discussion about candidates in districts and states of differences. Second, Democratic turnout.
So, what we have now is very clear. The president and most Democrats want to give a tax cut for the middle class. And, really, as you said, everybody, up to $250,000 in income.
But the Republicans want to do is take $700 billion, the same folks that lecture us about spending, who created this deficit mess in the first place, almost as big as the Recovery Act, by the way, which saved us from the Great Depression, saved us from the policies that led us off the cliff that the Republicans brought and created over 3 million jobs. They want to give $700 billion to millionaires and billionaires.
This is not a single mom and pop small business person. The small business people they want to give a tax cut to who are millionaires, like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.
So, this is a great contrast and we need to drive it home as - first of all, less about the politics than the country can afford this. This is the same policies that took the country to the brink of a Great Depression and these guys want the keys back. So, we got to make this clear to every voter that these are - this is the distinction.
As Robert Reich said, the economy - no one is satisfied where we are today, but we are heading in the right direction. They want to take us back.
OLBERMANN: You said, point number - two to point number two: the polls look dire if you look at likely voters, if you look at registered voters. The polls look tied.
How do Democrats in 50 days turn their supporters from registered voters into likely voters?
PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, we got to work at it. Listen, we had great turnout in '08 and I can tell you, it was not easy. It didn't just happen. It was really hard.
So, we have to go out to those voters and say, there's a real choice here, there's a real stake. These are the same policies that led the country off the cliff.
As you mentioned - all the spending out there, it's by the big oil companies. It's by the big health insurers. Karl Rove and his secretive groups are trying to take over this election. Why is that? Because the special interests, the millionaires and billionaires, like it when the Republicans are in control.
And we got to tell them who the real Republican Party is. I think that will be on display tomorrow in Delaware. McConnell and Boehner are bad enough. It is the party of Limbaugh, Beck and Palin.
And we just got to do good politics, good grassroots work. We got to go out there and I've seen in the last couple of weeks, a real increase in activism and volunteerism. Democrats are starting to get engaged.
We got to find these voters. We've got to talk to them and tell them that if they don't vote, then we're going to hand the keys back over to the Republican Party - and the unprecedented assault they brought to our economy, to the middle class, to small businesses, that's what we're going to get again.
OLBERMANN: In your book, you have written and I'll quote, "Barack Obama and his supporters created something powerful and real, the likes of which we may not see for a very long time with the exception of 2012, I hope."
How does that apply to 2010 in the next 50 days if it does?
PLOUFF: Well, listen, you know, just historically, you're going to have a lot less people voting in an off year. We had 140 million just about in '08. You may have 80 million this time.
A lot of that drop-off were the types of voters we got out in '08.
So, we got to work hard. First of all, you can't take them for granted. And so, you got to persuade them, just as we would an independent swing voter, about the stakes of the election. If you're running a campaign, introduce them to the candidate. And then secondly, we have to do great organizing.
So, are we going to replicate what we did in '08? Of course not. But if we can just get turnout among sporadic-voting Democrats and these first-time voters up a few percentage points, we're going to turn 51/49 losses into 51/49 wins.
OLBERMANN: David Plouffe's new book is "The Audacity to Win: How Obama Won and How We Can Beat the Party of Limbaugh, Beck and Palin" - great thanks for your time and good luck with your book, sir.
PLOUFFE: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Still, for the GOP, it is not all cigarette trees and lemonade springs on "The Big Rock Candy Mountain." Andy Card says what Newt Gingrich has said was out of line and the puppeteer of the Tea Party will not endorse the Tea Party Senate wannabe in Delaware.
OLBERMANN: Newt goes too nuts even for Andy Card. Eugene Robinson joins me.
First, the sanity break. The Twitter report: followers over 111,158. That's up like 10 percent in two weeks. The last tweeted photo of self like two weeks. Coincidence? I think not.
Tweet of the day, from Bfahome, "Google has a Miss Teen South Carolina speech maker" and the address, scribe.googlelabs.com, "type something and then hit enter a bunch."
So, I tried it - scribe.googlelabs.com. Type in one word and then keep hitting enter.
What I got was, "I would like to state that the purpose of the present invention is to provide a login for this account as well as the ability to make a difference in the lives of the people. We're not the same way as the first step to doing all this and more on Facebook in the album named after the famous TV show in the next few years ago, and I have been a number of different ways to get the best deal for the single family house in the big apple to the punch." Scribe.googlelabs.com. It sounds like Sarah Palin.
Let's play "Oddball."
OLBERMANN: We begin with Moroccan soccer. FAR Rabat and Maghreb Fez have gone to penalty kick to see who move on to the quarterfinals in the battle for the Throne Cup. Rabat keeper Khalid Askri makes a diving save and there was much rejoicing. Too much rejoicing as Mr. Askri is pounding his chest, the ball rolled into the goal and ended up being the winner. This, in sports, is what we used to call premature jocularity.
To Yerevan, Armenia, with a chocolate bar that would make Willie Wonka weep. It's the world's largest, over 18 feet long, 10 inches thick or more. The entire bar weighs close to five tons. An Armenian chocolate company made the gigantic bar to celebrate its 10th anniversary. No word if this is a one-time creation or the new plan to market to the giant demographic. Either way, you should see (INAUDIBLE) size of the peanuts in the crunchy version of the bar.
Finally, to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts where we find people making it work. The Annual Spring Fashion Week which takes place in the fall because - well, because fashion has a different calendar. And she sticks the landing. Down goes Frazier. Not bad. But in her defense, it is hard to walk and hold an apple at the same time. Can it core a apple?
But it is tough to decide if this even creeps into our favorite cat walk catastrophes. Can you look back? It's hard to imagine surpassing any of these. The good thing about Fashion Week is it goes on for a week. In fact, it goes on for a week. We at Oddball - hello - we at Oddball will be on the lookout for the next runway splash.
Gene Robinson on the nattering nabob of Newt-ism, as Gingrich claims the president is pursuing a "Kenyan anti-colonial world view," next.
OLBERMANN: Newt Gingrich wants you to know he can deal multiple fear cards all at the same time. In our third story, in the screening of his straight to DVD thriller on radical Islam, the former House Speaker starts pedaling high brow Birtherism. He calls Barack Obama a "Kenyan anti-colonial con," who is, quote, "beyond our comprehension." In other words, the president is so other we can't even understand him.
Perhaps linking his Islmophobia with a side of popcorn, Mr. Gingrich observed September 11th at a screening of "America at Risk, The War With No Name, with Newt and Callista Gingrich." Callista? I thought his wife's name was Jackie. No, not Jackie, that was the first one. Marianne? Marianne's out? Callista is in? How long do you think she's got?
Anyway, the film. In conjunction with the Astroturf group Citizens United, it warns of end times and the final struggle. Speaking afterwards with the "National Review" and MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel, Gingrich praised a recent piece in "Forbes Magazine" about President Obama by conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza. Mr. D'Souza wrote, "the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anti-colonial ambitions is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."
Mr. Gingrich believes that is stunning insight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: What if he is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together, and that is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Gingrich suggesting Obama is following in the Alinsky tradition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with the way the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con as a result of which he is now president. I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating, none of which was true. He was authentically dishonest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But could that be a case of projecting his own life's experience onto somebody else? His second wife, Marianne, telling "Esquire Magazine" about when he cheated on her while ginning up the Clinton impeachment. He asked her to tolerate the affair. She refused. Then he went on to go on to give a speech in Erie, Pennsylvania on family values. Questioning his expertise on that matter, the ex Mrs. Newt Gingrich says the former House speaker told her then, "it doesn't matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I have to say. It doesn't matter what I live."
This morning, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said it does.
He called him out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's trying to appeal to the fringe of people that don't believe the president was born in this country. You would normally expect better from somebody who held position of speaker of the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, former Bush chief of staff Andy Card says Gingrich's words are not helpful and he's, quote, disappointed by the rhetoric. Former Bush speech writer less measured in his response. "Nothing more offends conservatives than liberal accusations of racial animus. Yet here is racial animus unconcealed and unapologetic and it is seized by savvy editors and an ambitious politician as just the material to please a conservative audience. That's an insult to every conservative in America."
And we haven't gotten around to the liberals. Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst, "Washington Post" associate editor, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson. Gene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Years and years ago I was seated at the White House Correspondents Dinner next to Tom Downey, who was a nine-term congressman from New York. Gingrich got up and he spoke. I said to Thomas - or whispered - "I don't agree with a word of this, but at least the man believes in his own convictions." And Tom nearly snapped my head off. "Believes it? He's reading back what his focus groups and his polling tells him it wants to hear."
So, Gene, I don't agree with a word of this, but at least the man believes in his own convictions, right?
ROBINSON: Keith, I don't quite know how to break this to you -
OLBERMANN: fooled again, am I?
ROBINSON: I have a feeling, yes, you've been fooled again. This might, just might, be a cynical political ploy. Clearly I think Robert Gibbs called him out quite accurately, as did David Frum. It's an appeal to the fringe Birthers, to - an attempt to make the president seem exotic and other and also black, by the way. You know, the actual scary thing would be if Gingrich even believed a part of this nonsense about anti-colonial Kenyan behavior.
OLBERMANN: There's something different about this this time, as opposed to all the other crap that Gingrich has thrown out. This is - trying to paint the president as this other sounds to me like George Wallace going from a reasonable, tolerant, I don't give a damn what people look like as long as they vote for me politician in the south in the '50s, into seizing on racial animus as the way to get to the White House. It's a little David Duke-ish even, isn't it?
ROBINSON: Well, this is way out there, in that, you know, he's essentially trying to say foreign, black, militant in another language. The interesting thing, though, is that Gingrich has kind of been out there on the edge about the Lower Manhattan Mosque. He was about Sonia Sotomayor and about Shirley Sherrod. And, you know, in a way that suggests this whole sort of bizarre clash of civilizations idea, the notion that what he would consider as us, the whole kind of Anglo-American, Judeo-Christian white enterprise as being besieged by other civilizations. Number one among them being Islam.
You know, and I hope he doesn't, but one wonders if that idea actually has some purchase inside the unkempt thing that is the head of Newt Gingrich.
OLBERMANN: Given that we were colonies and we rebelled, we were anti-colonialists, when did anti-colonialism become anti-American? I thought we've almost always worked with the colonies who sought to get out from under the thumb of the European colonists.
ROBINSON: Yeah, because we didn't like being colonies. We didn't like colonialism. But somehow, again, inside his head, that narrative has been twisted. And one imagines that he fancies himself as a retired British colonel in 1963, sitting around in his armchair puffing his pipe, saying who lost Kenya, you know, that sort of thing.
OLBERMANN: Why do they call Rhodesia Rhodesia? But do you - what's his end game? Nobody's blown himself up more in America except Wile E. Coyote. What does Newt Gingrich want from us?
ROBINSON: Wile E. Coyote - I suppose we could give him a nice assortment of fine Acme products as a parting gift.
OLBERMANN: One big anvil.
ROBINSON: Other than that, nothing really. This doesn't lead anywhere. I don't know a single Republican involved in politics who believes Newt Gingrich could be president, except Newt Gingrich. So I think this leads perhaps - I don't know - to a cable TV show, a radio show, to becoming one of those small business people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
OLBERMANN: Not with that diction. No, no. MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, great thanks, Gene.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Too Tea Party for Dick Armey. It's Delaware's homophobic, anti-masturbation candidate. She's not going to win tomorrow.
So she just burst out with it on the air in the middle of her newscast, the one thing those of us in news are never supposed to tell you, next in Worsts.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her guest, Katie Miller, the West Point who resigned her commission over Don't Ask/Don't Tell, was Lady Gaga's special guest at last night's Video Music Awards, the one not wearing the meat.
OLBERMANN: The problem with unleashing the crazy, the Tea Party is rapidly discovering, is when the crazy is too crazy for you, which is why Freedom Works is not endorsing Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. That's next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to newscaster Pia Biatta Penderson (ph) of radio station NRK in Oslo, Norway - formerly of radio station NRK. As she started her newscast Saturday, the 18-month veteran of the place complained that her employers why putting too much pressure on everybody, and since she wanted to be able to eat properly again and be able to breathe, she was quitting and walking away. She then grabbed a couple of beers, pulled the cord and jumped down the emergency slide. Seriously, her last words on the air were, nothing important has happened anyway.
Don't tell them that. What are you telling them that for? You're going to ruin our whole professions purpose in life, the whole bit about something near you could kill you and if you don't listen to me you'll never know what it was. This is a nice living here in the news scaring people business. You had to go and tell them that every once in a while there's nothing to worry about? Geez.
Runner up, Michael Steele, the RNC chairman with a bit of an about-face. See if you can spot it. The issue is opening up capital and credit lines for small businesses. Last week, Mr. Steele claimed it was a good Republican idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, RNC CHAIRMAN: The Republican leadership on the Hill has offered, time and time again, and will continue to do so until they take the majority in November, when they can actually begin to act and put into place these policies that empower small businesses by helping them create jobs, by opening up capital in credit markets.
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OLBERMANN: Of course that was last week when Steele liked credit lines for small businesses. Now -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEELE: You have the president proposing a small business bill, which is nothing more than Tarp III, or mini-Tarp. It would basically - you're going to put money into financial institutions on the assumption that small businesses are going to go and take out credit loans or credit lines. They don't need that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Clearly small businesses only need Republican lines of credit, not Democratic lines much of credit.
But our winner, news media in general, the Tokyo Rose Limbaughs of this world in particular, for omitting a fact buried deep in Saturday's editions of "the New York Times." There was a mosque in the World Trade Center. It was on the 17th floor of the South Tower, World Trade Center number two. And it was in operation no later than 1999. It even included a sanctified washing area for the ceremonial cleansing before prayer. And there was a less formalized mosque in a stairwell between the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower, where the Muslim members of workforce at Windows on the World, the restaurant, prayed, and where they presumably died when the buildings were attacked.
Throughout this stupid, childish, xenophobic debate, there was nobody who mentioned this stunningly relevant fact until Samuel G. Friedman did it in the "New York Times" this past Saturday, September 11th. There were two Mosques in Ground Zero the moment it became Ground Zero.
OLBERMANN: Damning words today from one of the Tea Party's leading Astroturf groups about tomorrow's Republican primary in Delaware. "We are not convinced that Christine O'Donnell can win." Our number one story, the hostile takeover of the Republican party by former officials of the Republican party has turned into a circular firing squad of the Republican party in Delaware.
Tomorrow's primary in the first state pits moderate establishment candidate Mike Castle against Christine O'Donnell, marketing consultant, political pundit, and relative unknown before the Tea Party Express, Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint backed her candidacy. This afternoon, on radio with the candidate, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann hopped on the O'Donnell bandwagon, only to find out she got on the wrong bandwagon.
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REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: What a privilege to be on the air today with Delaware's next United States governor.
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OLBERMANN: Freedom Works agrees, O'Donnell will not be the state's next governor, nor senator, which she is running for, actually, Michele. The group's president, former congressional aide and RNC official Matt "the sideburns" Kibbe explaining to reporters at a "Christian Science Monitor" breakfast today that - with a group he leads with former Republican House Leader Dick Armey, quote, "stayed out that race because we're not convinced that Christine O'Donnell can win."
That assessment borne out by Nate Silver's projections. According to Nate, Mike Castle is 95 percent likely to beat Democrat nominee Chris Coons come November. O'Donnell's chance of beating Coons stands at 17 percent. Still, O'Donnell, who portrays herself as a fiscal conservative, in spite of her own troubled financial past, explained to Fox Republican News this morning that she has a larger tent than you think.
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"CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM DELEWARE: I'm excited that the Tea Party has gotten behind us. I do want to point out that we have broad based support. We have a lot of Hillary Democrats working behind us, with us, because they're frustrated with what this administration is doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Apparently that's 42 women actually named Hillary Democrats. Forty two Hillarys agree - incidentally, what does it tell Miss O'Donnell if she wrote this in 1998: "when a married person uses pornography or is unfaithful, it compromises not just his or her purity, but also compromises the spouse's purity. As a church, we need to teach a higher standard than abstinence. We need to teach a righteous lifestyle."
What does it say if she could write that and say it on MTV, and still not get the endorsement of Dick Armey?
There are other headaches for the Republican Tea Parties in primaries tomorrow. In New Hampshire, Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint, who are normally on the same page, have endorsed opposing candidates on the Republican ticket for senator. In the race to become GOP candidate for governor of New York, new polling suggests Carl Paladino is now tied with Rick Lazio. The Tea Party candidate, Mr. Paladino, best known for sending out e-mails that contain racism, porn, and pictures of bestiality.
And then there are the charges of anti-Semitism the Tea Partiers are now addressing or fighting, perhaps. "Politico's" Ken Vogel reporting today about the new effort by Freedom Works called "Diverse Tea," a new outreach program aimed at recruiting African-Americans, Hispanics and Jewish people into the Tea Party. The last group is up first. Ads will begin running in Jewish publications shortly.
Why start there? Freedom Works President Kibbe "explains I think that there is a more open debate to be had in the Jewish community. But there is no genius behind that. I had to start somewhere."
Joining me now is the senior reporter for "Politico," the aforementioned Ken Vogel. Ken, thanks for your time tonight.
KEN VOGEL, "POLITICO": Great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To your piece in a moment. First Christine O'Donnell. What does it say that Armey's group is refusing to endorse, but is obviously the Tea Party candidate in Delaware?
VOGEL: It says that they're pragmatists. They realize that though Mike Castle is a centrist and also an insider, two things that are really anathema in the Tea Party movement, he stands the best chance of winning in the general election. That same set of considerations is clearly not what is driving Tea Partiers. They have thrown their weight behind a series of candidates who are less electable than their primary election competition. And that has Democrats in the sort of strange but increasingly common position again on Tuesday of rooting for the Tea Party candidate, in this case Miss O'Donnell.
OLBERMANN: Is that where her claim of support from Hillary Democrats comes from? Is it, in fact, Democrats who are trying to get her nominated so that Mr. Coons has a prospect of winning that race?
VOGEL: That one is little more puzzling. I really wasn't sure what she was referring to. She said - she seemed to be suggesting that voters who supported Hillary Clinton in her Democratic primary bid against Barack Obama, and who have become frustrated with the Obama administration, might be - there might be some potential traction for her there in a general election.
Well, the folks who are frustrated with Obama, including those Democrats who supported Clinton - the Democrats who are frustrated with him are frustrated because he hasn't been boldly liberal enough. Those people are not going to vote for Christine O'Donnell.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Castle told Kelly O'Donnell - the entire world seems to have this last name apparently, between Norah, Lawrence, Kelly and Christine. Bottom line is if Christine O'Donnell is nominated, the Republicans lose the election automatically. Is he right?
VOGEL: Well, certainly the polls would suggest that Mike Castle has a much greater chance of winning against the likely Democratic nominee, Chris Coons, as opposed to Christine O'Donnell.
However, again, in this year where Tea Party candidates and candidates who effectively seize the banner of the Tea Party are able to trump not just sort of electoral odds, but also what seems to be pragmatic electoral strategy, who knows?
OLBERMANN: What happens to Castle if indeed he wins tomorrow? What happens with the Tea Party in Delaware and the O'Donnell - there was a series of extraordinary cheap shots and innuendo, first on her staff's behalf, and then she finally just ripped the pretext off of it and made these man pants jokes from last week. What happens to Castle even if he wins that thing tomorrow?
VOGEL: I think Castle will be OK to an extent. Let's not forget this guy has held office in Delaware for 30 years, probably shaken every single hand in that state. Democrats will probably try to present him as having tacked to the right a bit on abortion rights, climate change in his primary against Miss O'Donnell.
However, what could potentially damage him more is that he was forced to go negative. And Delaware is not a state in which negative politics are sort of de rigueur. This is not New Jersey. This is not Illinois. So the fact that Mike Castle can now be sort of presented in a different light by Democrats as not the same Mike Castle that has been so popular for so long in Delaware could potentially be more problematic than any alleged tack to the right on policy positions for Castle in the general.
OLBERMANN: Your piece today, the NAACP highlighted anti-Semitism in its statement that called for Tea Party leaders to get their house in order. To find the reality and the perception of the Tea Party's issue with the Jewish community.
VOGEL: Well, I'm not sure that there really is a significant issue, certainly not as much as there is with the black community or the Hispanic community. So this struck me as a little ham handed, pun intended, to be reaching out to Jews initially to try to bring them onboard with the Tea Party movement. If you think about Jews who tend to be conservative, which are the small minority of American Jews, they're either conservative fiscally, in which case they tend to be sort of country club Republicans, to generalize, probably grossly, or they tend to be national security conservatives, so called neo-conservatives, primarily because of their interests in a strong Israel and American foreign policy that supports a strong Israel.
Neither of those two things, country club conservatives or neo-conservatives, are really big parts of the Tea Party base. So it was a little puzzling that they identified Jews as the first groups that they were going to court with this diversity.
OLBERMANN: The Tea Party always with a surprise for all of us, including "Politico's" Ken Vogel. Great thanks, Ken.
VOGEL: Thanks a lot, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's September 13th. It's the 2,693nd day since President Obama declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,281st since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 147th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now to discuss why Lady Gaga brought a former West Point cadet to the Video Music Awards, rather than say Dillon G. Lucas Duda (ph) or the Go-Gos, 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