'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 19th, 2011
Special bonus podcast or YouTube (Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson)
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'Read My Lips', Rep. Dennis Kucinich
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#5 'Do the Math', Jeff Madrick
#4 'Keepin' It Class-y', Karl Frisch
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Settling the Scandal?', Ari Rabin-Havt
#2 'School Ain't Cool'
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#1 'Len-Owned', Andy Borowitz
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
Topics: Alec Baldwin, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Class warfare, debt ceiling, deficit plan, Economy, Education, Election 2012, Emmys, Eric Cantor, HPV vaccinations, Jay Leno, John Boehner, Michele Bachmann, middle class, Mitch McConnell, News Corp., phone hacking, Timothy Geithner
Guests: Andy Borowitz, Ari Rabin-Havt, David Shuster, Jeff Madrick, Karl Frisch
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Barack is back. A feisty president releases his deficit plan and comes out swinging.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: I will not support any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And if their pledge to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they should remember, the last time I checked, the only pledge that really matters is the pledge we take to uphold the Constitution.
SHUSTER: That is the Obama progressives want. Republicans hit back with a GOP talking point.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: The President wants to move down the class warfare path.
(Excerpt from video clip) LINDSEY GRAHAM: When you pick one area of the economy and you say, "We're going to tax those people," because most people are not those people, that's class warfare.
SHUSTER: However, the new Obama has an answer.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: This is not class warfare. It's math.
SHUSTER: Murdochgate, Circling the Wagons edition. The Emmys drop a skit featuring a joke about the News Corp. phone hacking scandal. The Emmys - which happen to be on FOX - as news of a financial payment in the case that started it all. And Michele Bachmann's most difficult interview yet - Jay Leno?
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY LENO: When people challenge you on some of this, 'cause, just reading about this, something like 30 million people have had this and there haven't been any cases of this. Or at least recorded cases. And this woman has not come forward. I mean, how do you deal with that when people call on that and go, hey, what do you say?
SHUSTER: Well, at least it gave her a chance to show off her comedy skills.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY LENO: That whole, "Pray the gay away" thing, what - I don't get that.
MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, see, I think when I heard that, I really thought it was, like, kind of a mid-life crisis line. "Pray away the gray," that's what I thought it was.
SHUSTER: All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: It's not funny.
DAVID SHUSTER: Good Evening from New York. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann. This is Monday, September the 19th, 414 days until the 2012 presidential election.
And today, President Obama moved a giant step closer to recapturing the political backbone he will need for re-election, laying out a plan to reduce the deficit by more than $3 trillion. And if it sounds more like a proposal from a Republican President . . . Our fifth story on the "Countdown," Mr. Obama is pledging to cut the deficit like a Democrat. He is ridiculing GOP catcalls of class warfare. More on that a little later in the program.
He's also insisting he'll veto any plan that cuts Medicare benefits without raising taxes on the rich and major corporations. And he is strongly reminding the nation which administration made the current titanic deficit and poor economy possible.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: During this past decade: profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires, the costs of two wars and the recession turned a record surplus in to a yawning deficit. And that left us with a big pile of IOUs.
SHUSTER: IOUs that could be spelled G.W. Bush. George W. Bush. The President - President Obama - also hammered home a fundamental point spelling out the difference between his administration's plan and debt cutting proposals from the GOP.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: It's a plan that reduces out debt by more than $4 trillion and achieves these savings in a way that is fair, by asking everybody to do their part so that no one has to bear too much of the burden on their own.
SHUSTER: While Social Security is off the table, structural reforms to both Medicare and Medicaid are part of the President's plan. Though he's not asking - this time - to have the eligibility age raised from 65. And Mr. Obama insisted today he will defend Medicare from the GOP-approved Ryan budget plan that would have destroyed it.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: While we do need to reduce health care costs, I'm not going to allow that to be an excuse for turning Medicare into a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry. I'm not going to stand for balancing the budget by denying or reducing health care for poor children, or those with disabilities.
SHUSTER: Instead, the President wasn't to balance the budget, in part by following the lead of billionaire investor Warren Buffet.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: Any reform plan will have to raise revenue to help close our deficit. And any reform should follow another simple principle. Middle-class families shouldn't pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That's pretty straightforward. It's hard to argue against that. Warren Buffet's secretary shouldn't pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffet. There's no justification for it.
SHUSTER: So, never mind the aggressive rhetoric and feisty tone. How does the president's debt plan break down?
Well, it starts with tax reform, bringing in $866 billion by allowing the Bush tax cuts for upper earners to expire. Another $410 billion from limiting deductions to people earning over a quarter million dollars a year, while closing tax loopholes and ending special interest tax breaks should bring another $300 billion. More savings will come from program cuts and interest savings. $250 billion from subsidies pension and benefit cuts. $1.1 trillion from ending the Iraq and Afghan wars. $248 billion from reducing Medicare overpayments, $72 billion from other Medicare savings and $430 billion from interest savings. As for the politics of the president's proposals, the GOP has already said, "No, thanks." House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor weighed in with their usual trickle-down talking points.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: We could intro this - tax the rich, tax the rich - but that is not the basis for America. It's not going to get our economy going again.
(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC CANTOR: It's counterintuitive to think you're going to create jobs by raising taxes, period. It's bad policy. Bad policy makes for bad politics.
SHUSTER: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today added his disapproval saying in part that, "Veto threats, a massive tax hike, phantom savings and punting on entitlement reform is not a recipe for economic or job growth." However, former President Bill Clinton saw the Republican critics coming, countering their comments this morning before they even had a chance to make them.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL CLINTON: The Republicans in Washington always say the same thing. Any tax on any upper income person is bad because they're job creators. It's an insult to those people. They - they - they don't' mind being asked to pay their fair share.
SHUSTER: And where voters are concerned, 72% of adults polled by "The Washington Post" and ABC News last July said they favored raising taxes on people earning over a quarter of a million dollars in order to cut the debt. As to whether the White House is ready to take the heat from the GOP, Press Secretary Jay Carney also seemed ready to rumble today when he described the economic mess the Bush administration left behind in 2009.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: We have spent a lot of time in this administration cleaning up the tent - the elephant tent, if you will.
SHUSTER: For more on the President's plan, we are joined by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio and a leading Congressional progressive. Congressman Kucinich, thanks for being with us.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Thank for the invitation. Good to be with you.
SHUSTER: Mr. Obama - did he sound much more like a Democrat today? Is this is a different President, or perhaps maybe one that's consistent with the past two weeks but significantly different than what you've seen over the past two years?
KUCINICH: Well, I think it is good that he's talking about a more equitable tax system. That's very important. But the problem for America, I would respectfully suggest, is not so much the national debt as a personal-debt reduction that Americans need.
The middle class is in trouble right now. People need jobs, higher wages. We need collective bargaining. We need to make sure we have a higher - uh, uh - a fair tax system. But we have to focus on what's happening to the middle class, and we can have all this discussion about the national debt.
You know what? One of the things that concerns me is that, at the same time the President is going to save $1.1 trillion from getting out of these wars - "The New York Times" on Thursday talks about plans to expand war in a broader way. Last time I heard, Afghanistan, we could be there until 2024. We're still in Iraq. Where's $1.1 trillion going to come from?
The emphasis ought to be on job creation. We've got to get America back to work. That's what we ought to be talking. And I think if the President can make - if he made the shift to start taxing those who have more wealth, tax them a little bit more - then he can make the shift towards a grand-scale jobs program to put America back to work.
SHUSTER: But isn't he doing that by talking about middle-class earners and framing the argument that say, look, middle-class earners should not be charged a higher tax rate than the wealthy?
KUCINICH: Oh, of course. There's no argument about that. But I'm saying if you leave the argument there and that's it - that in and of itself does not create the jobs. We've got to create jobs. This is - all this talk about the deficit, we're back to talking about the deficit, a plan to deal with the deficit. We should be talking also about a massive jobs program. If the President goes to a massive jobs program, he's in. But if he doesn't do that, we're still going to see an economy that will stagnate at 9% unemployment. This is something I'm very concerned about.
SHUSTER: I appreciate your concerns about the debt and the national deficit as far as - that's not really going to help create jobs. But the President still has to figure out a way to pay for his jobs program. And so by saying to Republicans, by saying to the American people, as forcefully as he did today, "This is how we're going to pay for it. We're going to ask the rich to pay more and, and - by the way - the things that were on the table over the summertime, those are now off the table. I'm going to fight the Republicans on this."
KUCINICH: Well, you know, it's not the only way you can do this. I mean, I suppose within the limited confines of Washington today, he's going to do the best he can. But frankly, why does the government have to borrow money from banks anyhow if you just want to invest in the economy and spend money into circulation to rebuild America and create jobs?
Why's the fed continuing to give money to foreign banks at the same time that we know - about a month ago - it was the Freedom of Information Act produced information - that said they took $1.2 trillion, created out of nothing, gave it to the banks in this country and other countries. We have a split-level economy going on, something like a schizophrenic economy where - at one end - the banks are doing great, and at the other end - or the banks are getting and bigger - and on the other end, people are going broke. 6.5 million Americans due to lose their homes. The banks are putting pressure on foreclosure.
I like what President Obama said today about more taxes for those who are making more, but that's only a small piece of a larger picture where the - That in and of itself isn't going to move the economy forward. And, you know, I'm glad that he's doing it. I support that. But I want to see a little bit more on the job-creation end, on the wealth-creation end, mindful of the fact that the wealth is accelerating to the top, not just redistributing it through taxes. Good idea. But we've got to do a little bit more than that in terms of wealth creation and job creation.
SHUSTER: Congressman Kucinich, you also said that Social Security is off the table. And while there may be some Medicare/Medicaid cuts, if, in fact, they're matched with taxes on the wealthy. Is this the sort of thing that progressives in Congress are looking for as far as - as they frame the 2012 election?
KUCINICH: Well, I mean, certainly Social Security should never have been on the table. It shouldn't have even been a discussion about it being vulnerable to any kind of reduction in benefits. It's solid through the year 2034 without any changes whatsoever. If you have a problem with Social Security, just lift the caps. I mean, that's not rocket science. So Social Security should never have been a matter to discuss with.
Now, Medicare and Medicaid, we've go to be very careful that we aren't - that in this trade-off where we are saying, "Well, we are going to make those who are wealthy pay more," that we don't say to the poor people, "Oh, you do your fair share." They're already paying 15% of their income for Social Security and Medicare. Why - you know, we've got to be careful how much we ask those who are on the lower end of the economy strata to start to take any kind of cuts at all because they're already hurting. You know, with the wealth going up, the people who are at the bottom or the middle, they're hurting. We shouldn't be talking about any extra burden on them.
You know, so this is - we'll have a little bit of a debate. What the President said today sounded - sounded good. But we're going to have to look at the details to see how far we can run down the road with him on this.
SHUSTER: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio. Congressman, thanks for joining us on the program tonight. We appreciate it.
KUCINICH: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Thank you.
SHUSTER: For more on the economic, as well as the political, side of the President's proposals, we're joined by Jeff Madrick, a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and author of "The Age of Greed." Jeff, thanks for being with us.
JEFF MADRICK: Good to be here, David.
SHUSTER: First of all, the President's numbers - the proposals - do the numbers make sense, to you?
MADRICK: Well, they make sense. Congressman Kucinich is right about something - they make sense as long as you buy the idea we've got to balance this budget. I think the President is trying to face political reality, but at less, which is to say everybody wants to balance the budget.
A lot of economists will say we are seriously exaggerating the need to do that. I'm one of them. But having said that, those numbers do add up, and he has taken the gloves off. The other day, I said, "At last he put the gloves on." He couldn't even take them off. He never had them on. Now he is taking the gloves off. I think we weren't so sure ten days ago he really made a Democratic turn. Now, I think he did. He is saying we are going to raise taxes on upper-income people, and we should be raising taxes on upper-income people. They have done outrageously well, while almost no one else on average has.
SHUSTER: The president also did talk about his Jobs Bill today. And, in fact, he did seemed to sort of deck the Republicans at the beginning, as he has for the last ten days - as you pointed out - much more sort of aggressive in terms of "Pass the Jobs Bill now." And then he pivoted and said, "Here is how we are going to pay for it." Do you think how it gets paid for, the President being as firm as he is, does that help make the jobs part of it easier?
MADRICK: I think that's what he is hoping for. I think he agrees - to get jobs we really need those spending programs. We need some infrastructure programs. We need aid - aid to state and local governments. Some of those tax cuts in the middle will also help. They are Keynesian tax cuts, to bring up a word Republicans say. They will get the economy going some.
But he does not want to be hamstrung by this idea that you cannot raise taxes on the well-off in order to balance this budget, or at least keep it in the ballpark. He is doing the right thing in that sense.
I would like to see more job program creation also, like the Congressman. But I think this is a big step for President Obama. I loved his tone. He is feisty. He's got to keep it up, and I think he will have them on the ropes. Enough with this job creators talk, and the job destroyers talk. It's nonsense. We've had - you know, people don't know. We've had low tax - we had tax cuts under George Bush. It seems to be, anyway, people don't know. From 2001 and 2003, we had the lowest rate of job creation in post-World War II history. What are the Republicans talking about? Those job tax - those tax cuts did not create jobs.
SHUSTER: Who do you see winning this argument, though, among economists? Because there are still several economists on the Republican side that say, "Look, it's never a good idea when the economy sort of in a difficult spot to raise taxes on anybody because that's money that may essentially not get cycled back to the economy."
MADRICK: Well, remember, the President is talking wisely about this. He's saying we're not going to have tax increases until 2013. He wants to leave room for the economy to get back on track, and I think that's pretty good economics.
I think he's talking about raising taxes to balance the budget way down the road. We do not want to balance the budget on the backs on Social Security and Medicare. And one last thing, David. Let me say this quickly: It was very refreshing that he dropped the idea of raising the eligibility age to get Medicare to 67. That was a horrible proposal. It seriously hurt 65- and 66-year-olds. But it actually, according to the Kaiser Foundation, would have required much more spending for all of America on health care. And someday we should examine that a little more.
SHUSTER: We've heard a lot of progressives today who have been incredibly fired up. I haven't seen progressives or heard progressives seem as excited about President Obama in two years, literally. Is that the same sense you're getting from economists who are also supporting his proposals?
MADRICK: I think - undoubtedly. Median wages, down. Poverty rates, way up. People can't get jobs. Record numbers of long-term unemployed. We've got a serious crisis here. Are we going to say we can't tax the rich who have done outrageously well, as I said, in order to start turning that around? Are we going to balance the budget on the back of all these people who have done poorly now for ten - and I would argue, actually, for a generation? I think this is the move we've got to make, and this is the move we can make.
SHUSTER: Jeff Madrick. Jeff, thanks so much for coming in tonight. We appreciate it.
MADRICK: My pleasure.
SHUSTER: A big political question hanging in the air tonight is whether the GOP response of class warfare is an effective countermove. We'll talk about the political optics with media strategist Karl Frisch. Plus, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. doesn't like any public discussion about the phone hacking scandal, and that was proven again last night in the Fox Network broadcast of the Emmy Awards. This is "Countdown."
SHUSTER: The GOP is reacting to the president's aggressive and popular strategy on deficits with the words "class warfare." But does the defense of the rich really work if you have a history of punishing the poor? The top Republican presidential candidates are now bragging about their anti-intellectual credentials, and they are taking it to an extreme. Educational failure, the new virtue in the GOP primaries. Michele Bachmann had a cringe worthy comedic failure on "Jay Leno" Friday night. And Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has just given a huge financial payment to the family of a murdered girl whose phone was hacked and started the controversy.
SHUSTER: President Obama lit a fire under Democrats and Republicans with his debt-reduction proposals today. Democrats are thrilled with his clear defense of social programs. But in the fourth story on the "Countdown", Republicans are burning up over one of their favorite themes - the president is doing it again.
(Excerpt from video clip) PRESIDENT OBAMA: Now we're already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loop holes saying, "This is just class warfare." I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or teacher is class warfare. This is not class warfare. It's math.
SHUSTER: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner explained what was behind the math shortly after the President spoke in the Rose Garden.
(Excerpt from video clip) TIMOTHY GEITHNER: This is about a choice, about what really you want government to play in the economy, how to make the economy stronger in the future, how to make sure we are living within our means, but still preserve room to strengthen the economy in the short term, but also make us more competitive, preserve room for investments in the long term.
SHUSTER: Republicans, of course, have already made their long-term political investments. They claim that tax hikes are job killers. And they argue that tax hikes are as an insidious un-American form of combat with the poor and the middle class on one side and the major corporations and top earners on the other. Speaker of the House John Boehner addressed it today while attacking Mr. Obama.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I don't believe that class warfare is leadership.
SHUSTER: Wisconsin Republican Congressmen Paul Ryan took on the issue on Sunday.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL RYAN: Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.
SHUSTER: Rush Limbaugh, Mr. GOP Talking Points himself, chimed in this afternoon.
(Excerpt from video clip) RUSH LIMBAUGH: To boldly lie that's it's not class warfare - it is class warfare, specifically and purposely class warfare.
SHUSTER: And no surprise, Fox News contributor Karl Rove? He agrees.
(Excerpt from video clip) KARL ROVE: This is class warfare and politics and more of what they've become sick of from this administration.
SHUSTER: Democratic strategist and syndicated columnist Karl Frisch joins us for the politics of class warfare as practiced by the GOP. And Karl, good evening.
KARL FRISCH: Good evening, David.
SHUSTER: Calls of class warfare - is it good politics for the GOP, even if it's such hypocrisy because of what they've done to the poor?
FRISCH: I don't know if its good politics. It's certainly ridiculous. I mean, they only call it class warfare when we decide to fight back. You know, if we didn't fight back, we should just begin calling it, you know, economic genocide, because that's precisely what it is.
The lower class, the middle class in this country - the poor and working people of this country - have done very badly, you know, the last 15 years. Their wealth has shrunk. I saw one number estimating that up to 20 percent of children raised - in their time - in middle-class families are now living with their families in poor families. And that's the stakes that we're in. If there's any warfare happening here, it's being perpetrated by the Republicans.
SHUSTER: What about the battle over independence, the idea that the Tea-Party Republicans are going to suggest to independents that Mr. Obama is seeking to redistribute the wealth? Does that fly with political independents or centrists?
FRISCH: I suppose it flies with political independents and centrists who are billionaires or millionaires. But most people in this country - upwards of 75, 80 percent of the people - believe that the wealthy, the super rich who have done so well over the last 15 years, even as so many of us have struggled, they believe that they should be paying their fair share.
We're not talking about much here. We're talking about, you know, closing some loopholes, we're talking about making them pay a little bit more. Let's be honest, they pay less in taxes than they have as a group in, you know, almost 50 years. This isn't asking too much for a country that has allowed them to flourish.
SHUSTER: We know that the Republicans can be awfully disciplined in how they handle these sort of debates and battles, and I'm sure we're going to be hearing "class warfare" from here for months to come. What's the next step for Democrats as they sort of prepare for it? Is it to sort of drag out the quotes from - whether it's Congressman Steve King, who talks about unemployed being "a nation of slackers," or any of the other Republicans that you want. Is that where the Democrats have to go? They have to go and say, "Wait a second, if you're going to claim class warfare, that's hypocrisy."
FRISCH: Well, it is certainly hypocrisy, and I think we need to scream that from the rooftops. You know, if we don't stand up and fight, the Republicans are going to pull out that Mission Accomplished banner from, you know, storage and put it up there, because they will have won the class warfare.
You know, I'm beginning to think that these Republicans - if they heard the parable from the Bible were it says that, you know, it's easier for a camel to go through the head of a needle than it is for a rich person to get into heaven - they'd accuse tailors and seamstresses of being perpetrators of class warfare, or they'd call Wall Street to find out when the biggest needle in the world has been created.
SHUSTER: Warren Buffet said in 2006 that "There's class warfare all right, but it's my class - the rich class - that's making war, and we're winning." What does the GOP say to counter the likes of Warren Buffet?
FRISCH: They often just say, well, then the rich people who want to should pay more. Well, let's be honest, they won't.
I prefer, you know, this - this Buffet Rule that says that if, you know,the super wealthy have to, you know, pay at least as much in their taxes as people like their secretaries or schoolteachers. Otherwise, you know, Republicans would just assume we have what I guess you could call the General Electric Rule, where multinational American corporations pay absolutely no federal taxes. I think the American people will choose the Buffet Rule over the G.E. Rule.
SHUSTER: And then finally - as far as the president's re-elect - and the election chances of Democrats throughout Congress, how big was today's speech in the context of the President has clearly, clearly drawn a distinction now from what he was - from his first two years in office. We've seen it the last two weeks or so. But today, really feisty, extremely strong, and if he sticks with this, is that something Democrats in Congress can then rally around?
FRISCH: It's interesting. I got a lot of email traffic today from friends and colleagues who are very excited. I don't think the line could be more clear if you painted speaker Boehner bright orange - although I guess that's already happened. They are very excited. This is the Obama that everybody fell in love with. And I think this is the Obama that's going to get re-elected in 2012. And he's going to put a lot of people back to work, if he can get this through.
SHUSTER: Karl Frisch of Bullfight Strategies in Washington. Karl, always great to have you on. Thank you.
FRISCH: Thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Coming up, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. absolutely hates any public discussion or attention to the company's phone-hacking scandal. Still, did Fox really have to kill a joke about it at the Emmy Award broadcast?
Up next, though, an encore performance of Keith Olbermann on HBO's "Real time with Bill Maher" as "Time Marches On!".
SHUSTER: Coming up, Michele Bachmann sits down for her hardest hitting interview yet with - Jay Leno? But first, the "Sanity Break."
It was on this day in 1967 when former Major League pitcher Jim Abbott was born in Flint, Michigan. Despite being born without a right hand, Abbott went on to pitch for 10 years in the majors, retiring in 1999 with a record of 87 and 108. Abbott's career accomplishments are many, including a no-hitter he threw against the Cleveland Indians in September the 4th, 1993. He also graduated from the University of Michigan, where all of us knew him on campus as one of the most modest, down-to-Earth guys around. To one of my favorite fellow U of M alums, happy birthday, Jim.
"Time Marches On!"
This past Friday night, Bill Maher's "Real Time" returned from hiatus to resume its ninth season on HBO, and Bill had a very special guest on his panel. Watch.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL MAHER: This guy, he's the Chief News Officer for Current TV where he hosts "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." The man who helped me find out where Current TV was on my dial, Keith Olbermann. Stand next to a bridge and go, "This bridge is falling down. This guy needs a job."
(Excerpt from video clip) KEITH OLBERMANN: Exactly.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAHER: "He could fix the bridge. Guy. Bridge. The guy could fix the bridge because he's a guy and - "
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: I'm actually on Sarah Palin's side on this.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAHER: Oh, no. Easy, easy.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN #1: Doctor, doctor!
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: I know. Wait, just let me do it - that woman is an idiot. Okay, all right. Back to it. So she got the only - the only pass that Glen Rice ever threw. So what?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN (offscreen) - Why do we care?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMAN: Obamacare - Obamacare is in no way government takeover of healthcare. In fact, it forces people to become customers of private insurance companies, you information-free, bleach-drinking, half-wit.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAHER: The debt ceiling, Bob, is about money we already spent. Already spent! That's the debt-ceiling money!
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Wrestling is fake.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAHER: All right, that's our show. I want to thank my guest, Keith Olbermann.
SHUSTER: Be sure to stay up late or set your DVRs. Keith pays a visit to "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson." Tune in tonight at 12:35 Eastern on CBS.
Coming up, though, censors at the Fox Broadcast Network apparently don't like any jokes about the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal. The Emmy broadcast and the skit that wasn't. Plus, new details of a large financial payment to one family. That's next. This is "Countdown."
SHUSTER: "Countdown" comes to you live each weeknight at 8:00 P.M. Eastern. The program is replayed at 11:00 P.M., 2:00 A.M., 7:00 A.M., noon and 3:00 P.M.
Rupert Murdoch is at it again. His company is offering huge payments to keep victims quiet and is attempting to stifle any mention of the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked his company in recent months. In our third story on the "Countdown," Rupert Murdoch's News International, today, apparently offered nearly $5 million to settle the case that started the phone-hacking scandal. At the same time, Murdoch's company's fending off new charges now from actor Alec Baldwin, who says Fox censored a joke about the hacking scandal at last night's Emmys.
First up, Murdoch's News International is offering that multimillion settlement to the family of Milly Dowler, the 13-year-old murder victim whose phone his employees allegedly hacked. This is not the first time Murdoch has paid to make a scandal go away. In May, his company settled with actress Sienna Miller for $160,000. Then a month later, it paid football announcer Andy Gray $30,000.
Payoffs are not the only trick up Murdoch's sleeve. He's also been accused of using his media holdings to influence public perception of his company. Most recently, Fox's decision to cut part of Alec Baldwin's Emmy appearance in which he joked about the hacking scandal.
Yesterday, Baldwin responded by tweeting, "If I were enmeshed in a scandal where I hacked phones of families of innocent crime victims purely for profit, I'd want that to go away, too."
Fox said it cut the joke because it was in poor taste. But this is not the first time a Murdoch media outlet has seen to adjust its tastes to fit Rupert Murdoch's. As Ari Rabin-Havt of Media Matters points out today, while other media outlets were investigating the hacking charges, "'The Wall Street Journal' editorial board responded to the scandal by attacking critics of its parent company."
Joining us now, the author of that article, Ari Rabin-Havt, executive vice president of Media Matters for America. Ari, thanks for coming on the program.
ARI RABIN-HAVT: Great to be here, David.
SHUSTER: So you wrote that Alec Baldwin's allegations that Fox's decision to cut the joke about Murdoch is part of a larger pattern. Take us through that. And does, therefore, the Baldwin - cutting that out, does that amount to censorship?
RABIN-HAVT: Well, you know, I was frankly surprised they cut the joke. You know, Alec Baldwin plays a right-wing media executive on TV. So he's got a lot in common with Rupert Murdoch considering they're both right-wing media - you know, since Rupert Murdoch is a right-wing media executive.
So they cut this Alec Baldwin joke about the phone-hacking scandal. Then they go out and they claim, "We did it because of - because we wanted to be sensitive to the victims."
But, look, they haven't been sensitive to the victims all along. You have Bill O'Reilly claiming that this is just like a scandal stirred up by "The New York Times." You have "The Wall Street Journal" editorializing against it. You have Murdoch himself saying the company handled this perfectly. So, you know, they lie about that.
Then you have - they issued a press release saying, you know, this is a green event, and we're using LED lights. But Fox anchors themselves have said these LED lights are useless. So you have a company - you have a news company - that exists to lie to its viewers, and that's - that's just not appropriate. You know, if a company's selling widgets and they exaggerate a little bit, big deal. But they're selling news and information, and they need to be honest with their viewing audience.
SHUSTER: It was so intriguing to see Alec Baldwin's reaction. He spoke openly about his concerns. Does this possibly mark a new era in which the Murdoch empire does not have the same stranglehold on news and politics and talent that Murdoch once had?
RABIN-HAVT: I think, you know, when the phone-hacking scandal first broke, people spoke about a lot of these Hollywood types being very scared to come out and talk about how they were hacked by Rupert Murdoch or to take action. And Sienna Miller was quoted as being very brave for actually taking action against Murdoch and suing him over this and eventually reaching a settlement. And I think the Alec Baldwin tweets show the sheen is off. Like, people are not scared of the Murdochs anymore, and I think this is a good thing for the world, basically.
SHUSTER: Ari, I got to ask you about this $5 million settlement with the family of Milly Dowler. What do you make of that? Do you see any criminal prosecution still following this despite the financial settlement?
RABIN-HAVT: Yeah, the Milly Dowler settlement - which hasn't been finalized yet, but News Corp. has offered them almost $5 million - you know, this was a shocking relevation [sic] that came in early July that really set in motion a lot of the media firestorm that News Corp. had hacked a murder victim's phone and deleted voicemails on it, perhaps hindering a police investigation to a murder.
So they settled with that family, and I'm glad if the Dowlers can get closure to this, I think that's a good thing, but there are thousands of phone-hacking victims, and each one of them deserves justice - both in terms of the criminal system and in terms of the civil system. So I don't think this settlement ends it, though I'm glad the Dowlers can get, you know, can find peace.
SHUSTER: Ari, what do you make of how Murdoch's entities, like "The Wall Street Journal" - like Fox News - have handled this whole sort of crisis for Murdoch's empire?
RABIN-HAVT: I mean, it's - it's been despicable. Like, you know, we did a study when the story first - Media Matters did a study of the story when the story first broke in the U.S., and we showed how Fox was covering this at a rate about half of what other media was covering it. And then, after we released that study, their coverage increased, but they still had - you know, they had Bill O'Reilly claiming this is just a political plot by people like "The New York Times."
It's been handled so poorly, they clearly aren't taking - they clearly did not take this seriously. They clearly haven't been taking this seriously. They might think that this settlement could sweep the entire scandal under the rug, but there are thousands of victims out there, and they're not gonna sit down and take this lightly.
SHUSTER: And never mind the credibility, or lack of credibility, that Fox News has long had. "The Wall Street Journal" once had a sterling reputation -
RABIN-HAVT: That's been - that's been the saddest part is you have "The Wall Street Journal," whose news pages - whose editorial page has always been kind of strikingly conservative - but whose news page was once held up as a kind of a paramount of American journalism. You've had journalists there fleeing to Bloomberg and fleeing to other - other outlets because they can't find the independence they once had at "The Wall Street Journal."
SHUSTER: Ari Rabin-Havt, Executive Vice President of Media Matters for America. Ari, great to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us today. We appreciate it.
RABIN-HAVT: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: You're welcome.
RABIN-HAVT: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: Coming up, why are so many Republican presidential candidates convinced that their academic failures are now a virtue? And later, Michele Bachmann, who seems proud of what she doesn't know, can add something new to her list - comedy. On the "Tonight Show", her comedic material and timing were both terrible.
SHUSTER: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is now in damage control mode over a disastrous appearance on Friday's "Tonight Show." Bachmann claims Jay Leno tripped her up by not giving her all the questions in advance. And why is the GOP front-runner Rick Perry bragging about how badly he did in school? I mean, the fact he doesn't understand basic science, that's not the fault of Texas A&M.
SHUSTER: When I was growing up, my parents, my friends' parents and all of our teachers in Bloomington, Indiana, stressed that the more my classmates and I learned in school, the better our community and country would be.
We were told that if we studied hard and got good grades all the way through college, we could do anything we wanted in life, even if we wanted to become President of the United States. It was simply understood that presidents, regardless of their views, were studious and smart. And whether a president subscribed to anything - from William F. Buckley on the right, or Noam Chomsky on the left - there was at least an understanding of both, and an embrace of intellectual thought.
Now consider the 2012 GOP presidential primary. Texas governor Rick Perry, who sits atop Republican polls, got awful of grades in both college and high school and recently boasted about his educational failures.
(Excerpt from video clip)RICK PERRY: I graduated in the top 10 in my graduating class - of 13.
SHUSTER: 10 of 13. Perry has dismissed evolution as quote, "A theory that's out there that has got some gaps in it," and has referred to climate science as "One contrived, phony mess that is falling apart." But that's a lie.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, 98 percent of scientists say global warming is man-made and that the evidence is getting stronger, not weaker. And most biologists who have studied evolution don't dismiss it as just a theory. Then there's Michele Bachmann. Bachmann tossed basic facts out the window last week when she condemned an HPV vaccine for 12-year-old girls.
(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: But I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that - took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.
SHUSTER: Oh, Congresswoman, as any scientist will tell you, mental retardation doesn't suddenly show up when a kid is 12 years old. Furthermore, why are you trusting someone you just met and don't know, instead of relying on what the entire medical research field says about HPV vaccines? Then there's Sarah Palin. She recently stumbled over Paul Revere.
(Excerpt from video clip) SARAH PALIN: He who warned the - the British that they weren't gonna be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he is riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free.
SHUSTER: Ugh. Paul Revere was not ringing bells, he was not firing shots into the air. He had to quietly deliver the message that the British regulars were coming to arrest John Adams and John Hancock. You know, stuff we learned in fifth grade?
To be fair, historical accuracy and political expediency do not always go hand-in-hand. And there is a political benefit in appearing to be ordinary. George W. Bush used it throughout his presidency and even mocked his own academic shortcomings in a speech at his alma mater.
(Excerpt from video clip) GEORGE W. BUSH: To the C students - I say, you too, can be President of the United States.
SHUSTER: At least George W. Bush got those Cs at Yale, an Ivy League university. Rick Perry is bragging being Ds and Fs at a college in Texas. Sarah Palin? She abandoned four different universities, and Michele Bachmann gets to cite whatever unknown source she wants.
Is that now the standard? A major political party is going to demand less from a presidential candidate than our society demands from a college freshman? Do we really want to say that educational achievement makes you an elitist and, thereby, unfit for national leadership?
Let's be clear. Ignorance is not a virtue. Stupidity will not help us solve the complex problems we face, and academic failures should be condemned. They should not be celebrated. I know there are some Republicans who still value intellectual thought and academic success. It's time for you to get involved in the GOP presidential selection process. Your party and your nation need you.
DAVID SHUSTER: A crucial part of running for public office involves building up your name recognition and your likability. That's why candidates do commercials, sit for interviews, and do whatever they can to make sure that people know their name and recognize their face.
But in our number one story on the "Countdown," the concern for a candidate is getting caught in a Sarah Palin deer-in-the-headlights moment, which brings us to Michele Bachmann's Friday appearance on "The Tonight Show."
Leno's couch is a well-known place where a politician can usually go to show how likeable and thoughtful they are. After all, your jokes are teed up for you and the questions are usually of the softball variety. But Friday, Jay did a pretty good job of pressing Bachmann on some of her more-controversial stances, and Michelle did a pretty good job of responding poorly and telling awkward jokes.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY LENO: Please welcome Michele Bachmann.
(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: I think so.
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: Vaccine to prevent - what was it? Cervical cancer?
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: Well, it's - it's - it's HPV, and the - the - the concern is that there's, you know, potentially side effects that can come with something like that. But it gives a false sense of assurance to a young woman when she has that. The - if she's sexually active that she doesn't have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases, and that's not necessarily true.
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: Well, I don't know if it gives assurance. It's just it can prevent cervical cancer. Correct?
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: But it's the - again, it's something that potentially could have dangerous side effects.
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: And people challenge you on some of this 'cause - just reading about this - something like 30 million people have had this and there haven't been any cases of this, or at least recorded cases. And this woman has not come forward. I mean, how do you deal with that when people call you on that and go, "Hey, what do you say?
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: Well, I wasn't speaking as a doctor. I wasn't speaking as a scientist. I was just relating what this woman said.
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: If you become president - and you seem pretty strident in your views - could you compromise?
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: Convicted. I'm convicted.
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: Convicted? No, you don't get convicted until after you're in office. No, that's later. Well, that whole "Pray the gay away" thing. What - I don't get that.
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: See, I think, when I heard that, I really thought it was, like, a kind of a mid-life crisis line: "Pray away the gray." That's what I thought it was.
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: Oh. Who would you pick for a running mate? Would you want someone more moderate, sort of balance out -
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: I want the best that there is out there. Absolutely, I want the best.
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: Anybody in mind? Who do you like?
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: Well, you're taken. You don't want a cut in pay, so what can I say?
(Excerpt from video clip) LENO: Well, thank you very much. Well, we'd probably have an argument over that gay thing.
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: Yeah, yeah.
SHUSTER: Bachmann responded to her disastrous "Tonight Show" appearance today on the radio saying that she was surprised by the questions because that wasn't what they had talked about in the pre-show interview.
Joining us now is the man who never minds when we deviate from the pre-interview questions, comedian and creator of borowitzreport.com, Andy Borowitz. Andy, thanks for being here tonight.
ANDY BOROWITZ: David, it's great to be here, and I really am only going to answer the questions you asked me in advance. If you deviate, I'm out of here. Can we get that straight?
SHUSTER: We can - well, we will see.
SHUSTER: How bad does this look for Michele Bachmann? If she can't handle an interview with Jay Leno, how does she expect to make it through - somebody who actually studies these issues every day and is a news person?
BOROWITZ: Well, you know, first of all, full disclosure, I am an enormous fan of Michele Bachmann as a comedian. She rarely misses. She is hilarious from the get-go. That's why this was so strange when she just - that "pray the gray away" thing just was a shocking, sort of cricket moment for her.
SHUSTER: Is her time - I mean, that could be a good line. Right? As a comedian? It could be a good line.
BOROWITZ: No. No, that could not be a good line. I just - Let's clarify that.
SHUSTER: Her timing, is it so bad that that's what makes it funny for you?
BOROWITZ: Well, you know, she was bad when she was trying to be funny, but she was also bad when she was trying to answer his questions.
And I mean, today she has come out and sort of said he just loaded up with all kinds of "gotcha" questions. And for Michele Bachman, I think, like, a "gotcha" question is any question whose answer involves a fact. You know, if it involves something she either did or said, then that becomes a "gotcha" question.
SHUSTER: What do you make of her answer when Leno pressed her on this mysterious woman who's never - nobody's been able to identify who Bachmann allegedly got this information? She says, "Oh, I wasn't speaking as a doctor or as an expert. I was just saying."
BOROWITZ: Well, I am glad she was not speaking as a doctor, first of all. Let's clarify. That would be the worst thing she could do. But, you know, she says this is - if we can reconstruct - let's just try to unpack this statement of hers.
She said she was at this Tampa debate, and this woman stopped her at the edge of the stage - much as you have, Jay - and just said that she came up to her and told her this terrible story about how her daughter had had a terrible reaction to the HPV vaccine. Now, if you're this woman and you want to get this word out, wouldn't you immediately tell the media, "Here I am. I am her." Identify herself? No one can find this woman. I mean, we can get SEAL Team Six on this. We can't find her. So I think it's - I think that's problematic.
SHUSTER: And if she couldn't anticipate that kind of question from Jay Leno or anybody, that's a huge problem, isn't it?
BOROWITZ: It is a huge problem, and she had a problem explaining the clinics that she and her husband run that, you know, that are trying to counsel - Christian counseling to try to get people to be, uh - Less gay? Completely gay free? I don't know - I find that whole premise ridiculous. I mean, if I'm God and somebody is - and I'm not God, by the way , that - Bill O'Reilly is - that's his, sort of his sphere. But If I'm God and somebody is trying to pray the gay away, I think I would make that person more gay just to show them "Hands off my handiwork. I am doing fine."
SHUSTER: Now that Bachmann has proven that she cannot handle late-night comedy, where can she go to get the kind of friendly, super-softball interviews that might be more at her level?
BOROWITZ: Well, we discussed "Sesame Street" as a possibility, but I would actually say - I would say going to you, David Shuster, because we have stuck strictly to the questions we discussed in advance. Mission accomplished.
SHUSTER: But even Michele Bachmann - anybody who advises her could have said, "Look, maybe you should have an answer about this HPV thing. And oh, by the way, you might get asked about your husband's clinic." I mean, it doesn't take any sort of brain power to anticipate that she might get asked those questions. She looked like she was totally unprepared.
BOROWITZ: Right. And I mean, keep in mind, this is a woman who says that she speaks to God every day and she can't handle Leno. It's a - it's a complicated thing.
SHUSTER: What did you make of the GOP crowd cheering on executions and the idea people must die?
BOROWITZ: Executions - great way to reduce unemployment. Executions - very, very popular. You know, when I look at these debates with the Republican party, I think that this Republican field is veering very dangerously close to being a prank.
It just seems like we are looking at, maybe, a sitcom where - you know, there are no main characters and just wacky neighbors - especially Ron Paul, Bachmann and Rick Perry. I mean, Rick Perry is becoming, like - you know, for those people who felt that George W. Bush was too cerebral, you've got Rick. I mean, he is a scary guy.
SHUSTER: Andy Borowitz from the borowitzreport.com. Andy, always a pleasure. Thanks so much for coming in tonight. Appreciate it.
BOROWITZ: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: That's it for this edition of "Countdown." I'm David Schuster. Have a great night, everybody.