'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, Nov. 1st, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Twitter Report, Oddball
The toss: Election desk (and bonus: Local anchor team)
Guests: Howard Dean, E.J. Dionne, David Corn, Jonathan Alter
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The eve. If it seemed crazy before, look at this ad from Michigan:
OLBERMANN: Senator Cornyn and Governor Barbour expect to take the House, but not the Senate. The Senate, Alaska, may not be decided for days, or weeks - or because of medieval write-in rules there, may not be decided until the Supreme Court. Fortunately, that could never happen.
The false narrative that the president and the Democrats are being repudiated for being too liberal when, in fact, what they will lose, they will lose for having been not liberal enough. My guest: Howard Dean.
2012 begins Wednesday morning. Karl Rove's ads will continue during the lame duck session.
And the GOP just brought out the long knives for - guess who? "There is a determined, focused establishment effort to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin," says an establishment Republican to "Politico." "We believe she could get the nomination but Barack Obama would crush her."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: The paper that we just printed this article on, you know, it's not worth even wrapping my King Salmon in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But which Republican gets the gift of that dead fish?
"Worsts": "President Obama should prepare to go to war with Iran," he writes, "to build up the economy." And a special announcement about Worst Persons.
And - what's wrong with this picture?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Killer bees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The terror threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The superbug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Local pandemic.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Illegal aliens.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gun restrictions.
OLBERMANN: Right-wing terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: The right-wing terrorism was after a man intent on killing David Axelrod murdered a guard at the Holocaust Museum. The false equivalence: when we emphatically report facts - that is not the same as FOX News emphatically fabricating falsehoods.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: It's almost certain to be bad news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, November 1st, one day until the 2010 midterm elections.
Presidents historically lose seat in Congress in the first election after they take office. The average is 25 in the House. Voters typically punish incumbents when the economy is hurting. Republican politicians, billionaires and media moguls have hammered Democrats since before the 2008 election, portraying Democrats as led by somebody not really American who is bent on seizing the country through its government.
And yet despite all that, in the latest "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, registered voters said they would vote for Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 49 percent to 44 percent - which in our fifth story tonight: will not matter one bit because registered voters do not decide elections. Voting voters do.
And in polling of those likely voters, those expected actually to get off their butts and actually cast a vote, Republicans are the almost universal favorites, predicted to win control of the House of Representatives. The margin of that victory subject to unusual disagreement among the polls. But some are predicting the Republican wave not seen for decades.
Far less clear, the U.S. Senate with 37 races on the ballot tomorrow. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell predicted to "Politico," quote, "We'll have a really good day," but he needs to switch from minority leader to majority leader - 10 seats just out of reach in nearly every poll out there.
But the final outcome might not be known for days, weeks, conceivably months because not only is the total head count close, so are the individual races which might tip the balance.
Looking at you, Alaska, where Palin's endorsement of Tea Party favorite Joe Miller helped him beat Palin nemesis, Lisa Murkowski, in the primary. And despite Miller's extraordinary unfavorable rating in the state, 59 percent, according to Public Policy Polling, Murkowski's decision to run as a write-in seems to be splitting the Miller protest vote with the Democratic candidate, Scott McAdams. Meaning, if the outcome is determined by write-in votes losing campaigns might sue. We all know what happens when courts get involved in counting votes.
And that's assuming other late-night West Coast races, like the Washington state nail-biter between Senator Patty Murray and her challenger, Dino Rossi, do not also drag out into days of ballot counting or weeks of challenges.
Not to mention the other nail-biter, what happens to the Senate even if Democrats do retain the majority - Majority Leader Reid is also going down to the wire in his contest with Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle - meaning Mr. Reid may not know tomorrow whether he is majority leader of the U.S. Senate, a member of the Senate minority or unemployed.
The overall Republican trend is not limited to federal races either. Republicans are hoping when all is said and done, they will have governors in 30 state houses rather than the 24 they hold now, a crucial edge unless when it comes to redrawing the election districts which will help determine the outcomes of 2012.
With us tonight, as he will be tomorrow night on our coverage, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also the senior political editor of "The Huffington Post."
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I'm not sure if my language was sufficiently apocalyptic to convey these late polls. How bad is it? And how can anybody be certain about how bad it is if the badness is predicated on get-out-the-vote efforts that don't get out until tomorrow?
FINEMAN: Well, nobody can be certain. And in this game, you don't take anybody's word for it. Even if the Democrats are as gloomy as they seem to be, they might not be right either. But I have to say, I'm struck by the fact that Democrats that I've talked to, the people who run these campaigns year in and year out, who do the polling, who do the advertising and so on are very, very gloomy about it.
I heard over the weekend the number 70 brooded about as to the number of House seats the Democrats could lose. And that was from - that was from Democratic insiders. So, that gives you a measure of what could happen on the House side.
I think we're looking at the possibility of some big names who you wouldn't think would be in trouble, unassailable people like Jim Oberstar of Minnesota or Barney Frank of Massachusetts having difficult races on the House side.
OLBERMANN: It must be maddening for Democrats to realize at this late hour that control of one, very remotely, both houses of Congress can be won or lost depending on whether people who already favor the Democrats will take half an hour, hour, two hours out of their day, whatever it is, to bother voting.
FINEMAN: Yes. And I think there you have a failure, I think, to some extent on the part of the White House early on or consistently to explain what it is in kitchen table specifics that they've done to help those people. Those Democrats, those supporters, who say, yes, I'm a Democrat or I favor the Democrat, but they're probably not going to bother to vote.
Things about student loans or health care or - or you name it, they had to spell those out, and the White House did, and I don't think they did very well. And that leaves a lot of people sort of in the mood of Kid Rock, who was singing the other day on the Mall saying, you know, I can't do this, I can't do that, I can't do this, but I care.
What the White House should have hoped he was saying is, but I'll vote.
OLBERMANN: Did you just quote Kid Rock?
FINEMAN: I did, indeed, yes. I'm sorry.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: All right. Back to the unhappy part - Washington and Alaska, it could be several weeks if it's a one-point majority, two-point majority in the Senate.
OLBERMANN: Supposing we have - certainly, Lieberman is in there already, no vote this time. Murkowski perhaps, Crist is a (INAUDIBLE) possibility in Florida. Do they then get to decide which party controls the Senate in the interim?
FINEMAN: Well, possibly, although I don't - the interim is a long way away, Keith, because what's going to happen in Alaska is: they won't know until, I believe, it's the 18th of November whether they're required to count the - count the write-in ballots, whether - you know, what's going to happen with all the absentee ballots and so forth. So, whether Lisa Murkowski might end up in the Senate isn't going to be known for a long time.
But, yes, if she does make it into the Senate, she would join, at least in theory, a block of at least two, which would be Murkowski and Lieberman who would be the balance wheels. I can't imagine Murkowski organizing with the Democrats, but I guess I could imagine Lieberman organizing with the Republicans.
OLBERMANN: Are enough people still undecided to change things? Do we know? Is there any indication of that with the polls having not moved a lot?
FINEMAN: I don't think - no. I don't think that - I don't think there are many undecideds here. The people who are undecided for the most part are not going to vote.
I think what's struck me about this whole season, Keith, for the last couple of months in general, nationally, and for the most part state by state, is how locked in people's judgments seem to be.
The Democrats' only chance is to mitigate what looks like a big wave, is to get every last one of their voters out and we will know pretty early tomorrow night whether they have had any success in doing so. The interesting thing to me is that the Gallup Poll is way out there predicting this historic landslide equivalent to 1938 with, you know, at least 70 seats.
But a lot of the other polls are closer. So, we'll know by early tomorrow night which one of those sets of polling - polls are correct.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also, of course, of "Huffington Post" - thanks for your time tonight. See you tomorrow night.
FINEMAN: Thanks, Keith. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And on election night here on MSNBC tomorrow, we'll be tracking not only the fate of the House and the Senate, the fate of that Tea Party, tracking just how many in Congress will hold extreme views on abortion, Social Security, despite the fact - because despite the fact that parties in power generally suffered during midterms, despite the fact poor economies generally punished incumbents, despite the fact that the president pursued policies, even on health care, that had been endorsed by Republicans in times when Republicans still showed interest in bipartisanship.
Tomorrow's story line is already been, writ large, a perfect storm of factors, sweeping Democrats aside, being read tomorrow as just one factor that the nation is rejecting President Obama's liberal policies when, in fact, policies that were more progressive might have changed the game the other way. "Politico" reporting, quote, "Even White House advisers quietly admit a far more jobs-focused, targeted stimulus would have been more effective as a policy and political tool."
With us tonight to talk about that, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former presidential candidate, Vermont governor, Howard Dean - also, a consultant to Democracy for America and McKenna, Long & Aldridge.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: And the longest introduction in television.
OLBERMANN: Every time I try to shave some seconds off my record, I can't do it.
Leading aside turnout, what is the real explanation for whatever happens tomorrow?
DEAN: Mostly the economy. When the economy is bad, it's a problem. Second, I would say that the Republicans have always been incredibly good at opposition. I mean, they set out when the president was elected not to help him at all, do anything that was good for the country because unless it was good - also good for their party.
Unfortunately, that doesn't go along with being able to govern because, as you know, they make up their own reality. And then when you don't care what the facts are, you can't run anything, as President Bush showed for eight years.
So - and then third, you know, the president's senior staff missed the boat. They're all creatures of Washington. You can't reform Washington if you hire nothing but people that have been there for 20 years. And that's a problem.
OLBERMANN: Is it registering even on the eve of this that perhaps if they had stayed al little bit more true to principle and tact as far left as they could get away with rather than saying, all right, let's getting a moderate cause, of course, we'll get some support from the Republicans. That never came -
DEAN: That was the problem with the inside the Beltway folks who -
DEAN: - I think the president never really got the view of what was going on outside the Beltway. This is not an election about left or right. And the - and the Tea Party is not against big government. That's - these are big fallacies that are put forward by people like FOX.
You know, by the way, I never say FOX News.
DEAN: Those two words don't ever go together. It's either FOX or news, but they don't go together.
OLBERMANN: A gold star (ph).
DEAN: I want to get that through to the rest of the country, that FOX and news don't belong together. But, you know, it's not a matter of left and right. It was a matter of getting it done quickly, it was a matter of being clear and it's a matter of being much tougher. We should have used reconciliation from the very beginning, we wouldn't have gone through this stuff.
But, look, that's over. That's all water over the dam. We've got a big problem tomorrow.
And I'm probably the last person in Washington who thinks we'll hold on to the House by three or four votes, but we'll find out. You know, the early returns from Ohio, the number of Democrats voting early was huge. And so, you know, I think there's some room still to think that we're going to hang on.
OLBERMANN: "The Washington Post" reported that half of those who were inclined not to vote tomorrow believed that Republican control of Congress doesn't matter. I was making - I was thinking, is this akin to the woman in Minnesota who threatened to go to FOX that you mentioned them, because Michele Bachmann was not on her ballot and she would not listen to the calm explanations of the people in charge of the polling place in the early voting who said, you know, you don't live in her district. And she just - she didn't know what that meant.
Whether it's party messaging or simple high school social studies classes - are simple civics facts not being taught enough anymore?
DEAN: No, it's not that. There's actually some really interesting psychological studying that goes on and it's not just about politics. When people make up their mind, you can't change their mind with the facts. Once they invest their emotional being, I hate to sound like a snob, but it's inversely related to education.
But when they invest their emotional being in a set of facts -
DEAN: - the facts don't change their mind, even if their assuming things that are just simply not true.
OLBERMANN: Last point: Mitch McConnell is quoted in "Roll Call" today. "We need to view this with humility. There is no poll data showing the public is in love with us" - which raises the very simple question, if the dog catches the car tomorrow, what does the dog do to it and what happens to the car, and when does the car say get off my car?
DEAN: It's a big problem. We've seen that happen before. That's what happened in 2000 with an able assist from the Supreme Court.
The fact is that we don't know what they're going to do. If they -
60 percent of all the deficits predicted by the CBO in 2018 are due to the Bush tax cuts. So, if their first order of business is extending the Bush tax cut, it is impossible, even if they cut the rest of the deficit to zero, to get rid of the deficit - 60 percent of it is due to the Bush tax cuts.
If that's their first order of business, we'll know it's back to where they were from 2000 to 2006, which is passing stuff for political reasons. If they want to get serious, you won't pass the top end of those tax cuts. You will deal with Social Security and Medicare, and you'll have to deal with defense.
But if you don't want to get serious, you'll see those Bush tax cuts coming flying out of the House, which is what I predict.
OLBERMANN: Well, that's not what they're flying out of, but we can skip where they're actually flying out of.
OLBERMANN: Governor Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic Party - it's always a pleasure, sir. Thank you for your time.
DEAN: Thank you.
DEAN: If the Democrats have often looked like the cliche of the circular firing squad, remember, as of tomorrow, the GOP will be in charge of that, too. Already, it has begun and standing in the middle is the half governor of Alaska.
In the interim, the midterms may be almost over, but the Karl Rove ads are going to continue? Next.
OLBERMANN: Karl Rove's anti-Democratic Party ads will continue after the midterms end. Which evil is that intended for?
The race for 2012 begins within 36 hours. And for the Republicans, target one is knocking her off.
The old tire ad used to ask: I'm to retire. When you propose threatening Iran in order to restart the economy? Yes.
And it is better to fall flat on your face than bend over too far backward. The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Hope, but almost to restore false equivalence. Ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It is useful to recall that when Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts won a special election to the Senate, ending the Democrats filibuster-proof majority, Republicans pounced on that to block everything possible.
In our fourth story: how would they deal with a Republican and radicalized House and a Senate that Democrats hold but in which they need seven, eight, or even nine Republicans just to break filibuster?
And if you thought that all those ads from the Karl Rove monolith would finally stop after Election Day? Sorry. The outside political group plan to advertiser against Democrats during a lame duck session of Congress.
No matter what happens tomorrow, the lame duck session of Congress will obviously be controlled by the Democrats until January of next year. And the Dems hope to deal with those expiring Bush tax cuts for the rich, among other possible items. But the Rove-generated American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS will advertise against Democrats when Congress returns. This is according to "The New York Times."
Beginning Wednesday, 2012 is on as well. The chairman of American Crossroads, Robert Duncan, saying, quote, "It's a bigger prize in 2012 and that's changing the White House. We planted a flag for permanence and we believe that we will play a major role for 2012."
Which brings us back to the lame duck session because if Democrats can't pass the Disclosure Act or DISCLOSE Act, which could force those outside groups to disclose donors, Democrats must decide how to counter that current Republican money advantage.
Let's bring in "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne, also, of course, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
E.J., good evening.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, regardless of outcome, Republicans would howl at anything the Democrats try to pass in the lame duck session, even a - you know, a bill saluting chocolate. So, what should the Democrats try to pass in the lame duck session besides a bill saluting chocolate?
DIONNE: Well, there are a lot of things they could pass. An end to "don't ask, don't tell" would be a good idea, the unemployment insurance extensions, the DREAM Act, to help the kids of illegal immigrants who have done all the right things, a bill to deal with Chinese currency overvaluing, the fact that Chinese currency is overvalued, even a new (INAUDIBLE).
Some of these things might actually pass. But the Republicans will not howl about one thing. At the end of this year, the cut in the inheritance - we have no inheritance tax in the country right now. If there's one thing conservatives seem to care about, it's making sure that wealthy people don't pay estate taxes. And, you know, when you turn to January 1, all the high old rates come back. Paul Krugman referred to as "throw grandma off the train act" of 2001.
So, they're going to want to deal with that. That may give room to try to make some deals on other taxes. And then the question is: do you pass all of the Bush tax cut extensions or is there a real fight?
I think the Democrats should put up a fight. They might as well vote on principle after the election. Many of them were afraid to do it before the election.
OLBERMANN: What is the reality of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove money mean for the Democrats looking forward? Do they have to - should they be more concerned during a lame duck session of coming up with their own slush fund, if you will, to fight fire with fire in the next two years?
DIONNE: You know, I think what the Democrats are worried about is they're going to be fighting tanks and missiles with muskets and bows and arrows.
DIONNE: I mean, the amount of money that I think the Republican side, particularly the part that's very close to corporate interests, can raise compared to what the Democrats can raise - I mean, they can raise a fair amount of money, but I think the risk of being outspent is enormous. And I wish I could just sit here and say this won't happen because we will reform the system to get rid of this secret money.
Now, I think that's going to happen some day. But I think it's going to take a scandal to do that.
So, the Democrats are going to have to play in this arena to some degree, I think very unfortunately. But I just don't know if they're ever going to be able to catch up with the kind of money that the Republicans have.
OLBERMANN: One of the explanations from the White House about worst-case scenario in the House in particular is that the president can still get a lot done in the next two years because he has all the elements of health care reform to enact and sort of guide and such. But, obviously, wouldn't - if we've already heard Tea Party candidates talking about subverting whatever the Supreme Court rules by not funding whatever the ruling pertains to.
Would we not see Republicans in a Republican-controlled House simply try to un-fund, defund or John-fund, you know, the health care reform process?
DIONNE: I think they are going to try to gut it indirectly. First of all, a lot of the Republican states - there will be a lot of new Republican governors - they're committed not really to setting up the exchanges that are required so people can buy health insurance. There are opportunities in Congress not to fund parts of it. So, they can really try to undercut it.
I think that leaves no other alternative to the Democrats and the president but to try to make the case for this in a way they haven't been able to make it before, because they're going to have to defend what this bill does, what it's trying to do.
And it could be an opportunity to start winning the argument again. They pass this thing. They better defend it if they're going to see it come into effect in a few years.
OLBERMANN: "Washington Post" columnist, E.J. Dionne - as always, E.J., great thanks for your time tonight.
DIONNE: Great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Who is Sarah Palin's biggest enemy? The hint is: I'm not even in the top 10, nor are any Democrats or liberals apparently - ahead.
OLBERMANN: She may not like the mainstream media and she thinks I'm evil, but Sarah Palin has just now met her real enemies for the first time:
Republican Party. That's next.
First, the sanity break and the tweet of the day from Marnus3, "Note to the teabaggers: You are carrying water for the very people who will drown you."
They would not listen. They did not know how.
Let's play "Oddball."
OLBERMANN: We begin in Rancho Santa Fe, California, with a chic crime spree. A pair of serial robbers caught on camera as they attempt to burglarize a home. These lavender looters have robbed several homes in the San Diego area. They're seen in one such house crawling around to avoid triggering the alarm sensors. But that does not explain why they decided to dress as grimace for the robbery. The robbers are still at large and are considered armed and extremely stylish.
Let's go to Egypt. The Cairo Opera Ballet Company has launched a show about it's most well-known monarch, King Tut. Tutankhamen the musical utilizes more than 160 artists between the orchestra and Opera Ballet Company. If you can't see this one coming to Broadway with its doors open, I'm ashamed of you.
It is scheduled to run for eight performances between Cairo and Alexandria, with "Oddball" given an exclusive sneak peek on the final musical number.
OLBERMANN: Oh, oh, oh! When does Blue Lou Marini pump out of the (INAUDIBLE) for the sax solo?
And dateline: San Jose, where some people do not find convenience stores convenient enough. Hello! Yes, this man simply could not wait to get his slushy. He decided to bring the slushy to him.
The driver apparently tried to answer his phone and accidentally hit the gas pedal, sending his car crashing to the front door. Usual rules, nobody hurt by the drive-through motorist, but the driver never did get his slushy. Time marches on.
The GOP begins to line up to take down Sister Sarah and she responds with a commendable homage to the godfather by talking about dead fish.
OLBERMANN: Forget about 2010, because in our third story, the Republican road map for 2012 has already been drawn, and it does not include the half governor of Alaska. A "Politico" article, citing anonymous advisers to the main 2012 presidential contenders and veteran Republican operatives, outlines the GOP's collective worry over a Palin presidential quest. As one establishment figure puts it, "there's a determined, focused establishment effort to find a candidate we can coalesce around who can beat Sarah Palin. We believe she could get the nomination, but Barack Obama would crush her."
Palin using her Fox platform to call out those not brave enough to use their name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: If they would man up and if they would, you know, make these claims against me, then I can debate them. I could talk about it. But when they're just - to me it's they're making stuff up again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But Palin's ire was mainly directed at "Politico." She called reporters Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei jokes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: The paper that we just printed this article on, it's not worth even wrapping my king salmon in. I'll just ignore this crap.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, she didn't. "Politico" responded with a statement, "none of these Republicans would speak on the record for obvious reasons. They fear the backlash from Palin and her very passionate supporters around the country."
They don't like fish. To that point, today a very public show of support for Palin. Note, though, it's supporting her running, not winning from would be GOP presidential contenders or those from the past. Mitt Romney, "she would be a great thing for the Republican primary process." Tim Pawlenty, "Palin deserves great credit for all her work on GOP's behalf." Giuliani, "Sarah Palin has every right to make her case to the Republican party."
Palin had also words for Karl Rove, who questioned her readiness for the Oval Office, suggesting that starring in a reality show might not be a serious path to the presidency. Once again, cue the Fox News platform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Those standards have to be high for someone who would ever want to run for president, like wasn't Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn't he in "Bedtime For Bonzo" - Bozo, something"? Ronald Reagan was an actor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yeah. Bozo. Meanwhile, in her home state of Alaska, Palin has been creating further conspiracies involving the media and the Tea Party favorite she endorsed for Senate and then undercut, Joe Miller. Palin is defending a conservative Alaska radio host who was yanked off the air after encouraging voters to help Miller by registering themselves as write-in candidates, in order to bury opponent Senator Lisa Murkowski's name.
At the same time, Palin's condemning reporters who were contemplating how to handle potential negative stories about Miller. Staff at CBS affiliate in Alaska called the Miller campaign to schedule an interview, leaving a voicemail, but forgot to hang up the phone. Again with this not hanging up the phone?
Miller's campaign saving the message, which according to the "Anchorage Daily News" included garbled bits of conversation where folks in the news room discussed far-fetched hypothetical scenarios. Sister Sarah accused reporters of conspiring against Joe Miller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: That's sick. Those are corrupt bastards, Chris. That is what is wrong with the media today, when they have their chosen one. And nine times out of ten - heck, ten times out of ten in the liberal media, it's going to be the liberal as the chosen one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones Magazine" and columnist for PoliticsDaily.com, David Corn. David, good evening.
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One preface to the - if there is substance here, to the substance here, if the media helps elect people Sarah Palin likes, then it's good media, right? And if it doesn't, then it's full of corrupt bastards?
CORN: Well, Sarah Palin cares as much about facts as a grizzly cares about toilet paper. She'll just say whatever she thinks is calculated to the right effect. She has a record, whether it's death panels or media conspiracies in Alaska, of saying whatever she thinks will whip up her supporters. And it doesn't have to be tethered to reality.
OLBERMANN: But, you know, I saw a commercial with the grizzly bears buying that toilet paper out there. I don't know about that.
CORN: Maybe I should say moose.
OLBERMANN: OK. If the - if the premise of that political article is stopping Palin, are the Republicans actually capable of doing that? And was the timing of that accidental?
CORN: Well, I don't know. Can a tail stop a dog? There is no real Republican establishment I think that has the clout to say no to Sarah Palin. If she's out there and she's motivating those voters in those primaries, they have a hard time stopping that train.
I know why they're scared of it. But right now, there's no major figure who they can rally behind, who is going to be able to be a - you know, be a blocker to her from the get-go. I'm not saying she's going to win. I don't know if she's even going to run. But I don't think there's an establishment that can just shut her out because they want to.
OLBERMANN: Isn't that John Thune waiting in the background?
CORN: Well, yes, he's waiting in the background. So is Newt Gingrich. So is Mike Huckabee. There are a lot of ambitious people out there. And they're not going to take their cues from a stop Palin movement within the Republican elite circles.
OLBERMANN: On the other hand, some of these on the record quotes were fascinating in what the - the actual word choice. Romney and saying, she would be a great thing for the primary process. Giuliani, has every right to make her case to the Republican party. I'm not saying they're endorsing - they're endorsing her candidacy but not her nomination, correct?
CORN: I like Romney's remark in particular. She'd be a great thing. Not a great president, not even a great candidate. A great thing. We know I think what they really think. This is one point where I'd agree with Sarah Palin. Why don't they man up and say what they really believe? But they're not going to for the obvious reasons.
OLBERMANN: The media is obviously an easy and sometimes helpful enemy for her at this state in the game, and has been since she was chosen to run with Mr. McCain. What happens when she not only has to answer from questions from media that she hasn't hand-picked, but the other candidates and then presumably the voters, even just the ones on her own side, let alone if she gets to face a Democratic opponent in an actual election where it's her and not her as the side show?
CORN: Well, as I said earlier, I'm not convinced she's running. But she couldn't even make it through her bid as - her run as governor in Alaska. But if she does run, she can run as a Facebook page, as a twitter Avatar, and say I'm not doing debates; I'd rather have interviews with Sean Hannity. And that might just work with a lot of Republican primary voters.
So right now, she's gotten to where she is, which is pretty far down the road, without taking legitimate media questions. And my guess is she will try to continue that strategy if she does run for office.
OLBERMANN: Ladies and gentlemen, the first president of the United States of Facebook. David Corn in Washington, editor of "Mother Jones," thanks, David.
CORN: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Stewart/Colbert rally and an unfortunate dose of fair and balanced. Worsts; so her constituents, she says, are planning to kill themselves over the inheritance tax. Wouldn't protest of an inheritance tax be, you know, living forever?
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, a look at just how
much this Congress did accomplish, and why it will not get anything done
come next year. >
OLBERMANN: The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and one central point that its leaders ignored. That's next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight's Worst Persons in the World.
The bronze to Scott Wheeler, the conspiracy theorist behind the National Republican Trust PAC. It has purchased 25-minute segments on five Fox stations and one ABC station to televise a round-up of some of its most fact-free paranoia over the weekend before the elections. Highlights, Hamas funded President Obama's campaign. The two guys in Philadelphia who called themselves the New Black Panthers are from the president's, quote, past. The president is a revolutionary. And Democrats want trees to sue us and then they want forced sterilization. It's like a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, only not quite as long.
Your runner-up, David Broder of the "Washington Post." He wrote of the president's reelection chances, "look back at FDR and the Great Depression, what finally resolved that economic crisis? World War II. Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve. I'm not suggesting, of course, that the president insight a war to get reelected."
Except you know what? You are. Just retire. You know? Retire.
But our winner, Republican Cynthia Lummis, the only member of the House from Wyoming. The congresswoman, whose money comes from managing the family ranch she inherited - she didn't buy the ranch. She just got it handed to her - has actually said that with the reinstatement of inheritance taxes, quote, "some of her constituents are planning to kill themselves." Here's the quote, "if you spend your whole life building a ranch and you wanted to pass your estate on to your children and you were 88 years old and on dialysis, and the only thing that was keeping you alive was that dialysis, you might make that same decision."
Number one, name one, congresswoman. What do you think? The rest of us are 12 years old? Number two, isn't that a death panel? Don't you have to stop your constituents form doing a death panel. Number three, the inheritance tax is only apply to estates of more than 3.5 million dollars. So if your constituents are worth that much and they haven't figured out a way to transfer assets before death at much lower rates, they should be pulling the plugs not on themselves, but on their tax advisers.
Congresswoman Cynthia "are you sure that's why your constituents want to kill themselves" Lummis, today's Worst Person in the World.
And an announcement about the Worst Person segment. We are suspended it effectively until further notice. I'll explain why next.
OLBERMANN: As you'll hear in the next few minutes, all of us here at Countdown and a lot of us among the progressives had one major, well-defined problem with the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. And we're going to address that in a moment in our number story, a false equivalence between what we do here and what Fox News and the like do there.
But first, the overall message that the tone needs to change, that the volume needs to change was not lost on any of us. The anger in this news hour was not an original part of it, nor was it an artifice that we added to it. It was a response to a threat to this democracy posed by Mr. Bush and now by his lineal descendants. The anger happened. It will still happen. It is not for ratings. And it is not get angry first and find a reason later.
But there is an institutionalization of it that may no longer be valid. That is the Worst Persons in the World segment, which started, of all things, as a way of defending Tucker Carlson. Its satire and whimsy have gradually gotten lost in some anger. so in the spirit of the thing, as of right now, I am unilaterally suspending that segment, with an eye towards discontinuing it.
We don't know how that works long-term. We might bring it back. We might bring back something similar to it. We might kill it outright. Next week, we will solicit your input. It's just that today, given the serious stuff we have to start covering tomorrow, we think it's the right time to do it short-term. And then we'll see what happens. And we'll also see if anybody else on TV or radio will do something similar.
As to the event, an estimated crowd of 215,000 on the national mall on Saturday. The costumes and the take off Tea Party signs were out in full force and were terrific. On stage, the Roots played house band for acts like John Legend, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock. Father Guido Sarducci gave the benediction. The Mythbusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, on hand to conduct crowd wave experiments. And one wore a tie. And one point asking 200,000-plus people to get airborne so they could get a seismic reading when they landed.
Eventually, Colbert and Stewart paired on stage for their sanity versus fear battle royal. In a debate setting, Mr. Stewart called out basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - it's like an inventory of all my friends were at this thing - to prove to Colbert there are not Muslims but people who are Muslim.
For his part, Colbert unleashed the media to help him keep fear alive, playing cable news clip reels, mostly consisting of sound bites from Fox News and MSNBC. The point to demonstrate the left and right going back and forth at one another, sowing fear and division. You see my face in there. I call Brian Kilmeade of Fox News and un-American bastard after he had said all Muslims are terrorist.
John Oliver, as Peter Pan, came out and helped Mr. Stewart slay the fear fronting Colbert. And then Jon Stewart announced he was getting sincere about the real problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": The country's 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder.
Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one's humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done.
But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here or on cable TV.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Embedded in that message is an equivocation of the right-ring cable news network Fox and the one that's on the left, this one, as if we're each equidistant from sanity, each equally blame for the division Stewart talks about. What are the odds of two cable channels on opposite sides of the political spectrum being exactly the same in every other respect? Exactly as bad in dividing the country, exactly as bad in twisting facts, exactly as bad in demonizing religious minorities, exactly as bad in defending the corporatization of the country?
What are the odds that a network, this one, which acquired a progressive bent essentially by inadvertence after I took a stand against the Iraq War that is now the definition of mainstream, would be exactly as bad as a network founded by a conservative billionaire who hired a former Nixon campaign man to run it for the express purpose of espousing the same right wing view of the world that the same company loses millions of dollars a year pushing a failed newspaper with, and which then gave millions of dollars to the Republican party apparatus this year?
Sticking up for the powerless is not the moral equivalent of sticking up for the powerful. Jonathan Alter is, of course, "Newsweek Magazine's" national affairs columnist, MSNBC political analyst. Here's the disclosure. Jon's wife works on "The Colbert Report" and he was a guest on it, correct?
JONATHAN ALTER, "NEWSWEEK": That's correct. Call me Jon Nepotinsky.
OLBERMANN: That's very nice. Put a fresh set of eyes on this for me.
ALTER: My problem with this - this phony equivalence is that it confuses reason and fact, on the one hand, with emotion and opinion on the other. Do we have emotion and opinion?
OLBERMANN: You're damn right we do.
ALTER: Of course we do. But we are - we are, you know, founded in fact and in some participation in what one George H.W. Bush aide called the reality-based community. So we start there. And then sometimes we'll, you know, go off the rails. You know, one of the clips that they used at the rally from you, you later apologized for. You were willing to say, you know, we - I went over the top.
ALTER: The other network does not do that, at least not very often.
ALTER: And to me, the quintessential example of what's wrong with Fox is that on the question of the president's religion, they, time after time after time, over a period of years, have asked guests - they've had anchors asking guests, do you believe the president is a Muslim? As if it's a matter of opinion rather than fact.
And we don't do that here. If something - if something is legitimately a matter of opinion, then we have plenty of that. But we don't confuse the two.
Facts can be stubborn things. Or as Pat Moynihan said, you know, everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts.
OLBERMANN: Why the assumption - I know, to some degree I'm arguing against this by what I did with Worst Persons. But why the assumption that if the good guys stand down, the bullies will, too? I never found that to work with actually bullies on the playground. I haven't found it to work in this equation either.
ALTER: That's the problem. This - politics is a contact sport. And I don't think that, you know, Jon Stewart has to embrace every eye gouge at the line of scrimmage, but I think he's in a little bit of a tricky position where he gets to take shots in his show. And if they're funny, which they almost always are - I don't agree with you that he jumped the shark. I think he's still very funny.
But that's OK. So what he's essentially saying is that when we take shots, that's not OK. Maybe because it's not funny enough, and humor is the only standard. So if our barbs were funny enough and got over his funny bar that, therefore, they would be OK.
OLBERMANN: Well -
ALTER: Otherwise, what he's saying is it's OK for them to do it, but not for us.
OLBERMANN: But in defense of that position, he is a comedian and will advertise himself as such. Does that, in fact, make a difference?
ALTER: It does make a difference. But for him to, you know, bring everybody to the mall, not even say - except Tony Bennett was the only one who said go vote. And then to essentially at the end, after a terrific show - but at the end to say, just one word about the problems in the Capitol and the rest of it is the media's fault, I thought was a - a missed opportunity maybe to focus on what the real problems facing the country are.
I don't think that cable news, with all of its problems, is, you know, the source of - of the great menace to America right now. I think he conveyed that impression a little bit.
OLBERMANN: He also did refer to cable TV, which was sort of, I thought, a funny way to phrase it, since he's on cable TV. The equivalence, though, between Fox and this network didn't start with Jon Stewart, didn't start Saturday at all. And perhaps, you know, when I said there was over the top because I just heard it so many damn times that it's like, are you actually watching? People who see this equivalence, have they actually watched it?
Fox News has multiple presidential candidates on the payroll. They've got Karl Rove, Dick Morris on there fundraising, giving addresses. Christine O'Donnell saying Sean Hannity is in their pocket. They have strait news stories and straight news people talking about the Black Panthers, the Acorn videos or the billion dollar backpacks. There's something coming out of somebody's orifice every day of the week over there.
The last time the White House even mentioned Rachel Maddow or myself, it was a compliment for criticizing the president, this president, not the last one. Why do we get equated, just in the last few years, with Fox News, other than the fact that, more or less, both channels operate in English?
ALTER: Because people are not trying to distinguish between, you know, completely BS stories, like the New Black Panthers, which is just - they - what they do is they'll - they'll hype a story and then they'll try to get people in the mainstream press to ask the White House about or ask other people about it, as if it's a legitimate story, which is the game they have been playing.
So people assume that it's Even Steven. And it's much easier as a media frame to say, oh, it's Fox on the right, MSNBC on the left, and CNN in the boring middle. That's a much, much tidier way of getting your hands around a cable news story than to make the difficult distinctions about who is telling the truth in a particular circumstance and who's not.
That's hard. But that's what journalism is supposed to be about, you know, is making those kinds of distinctions. I think that we - for all of our faults at MSNBC, we do try much harder to put journalism first, then opinionizing second. They put political ax grinding and advancing their Republican party agenda first, and journalism a distance second.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, thank you kindly.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's November first. Our prime time election coverage begins at 6:00 pm Eastern tomorrow. I'll be in the chair until around 2:00 a.m., joined by my colleagues, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O'Donnell, Eugene Robinson and - Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END