'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, October 10th, 2011
Special bonus podcast and YouTube (Keith's take on Murrow's legacy, at the Edward R Murrow Awards)
ShowPlug1: NYC Mayor Bloomberg says #OWS can stay as long as it abides by law; DC "Oct 2011" gets extension; Kanye West goes to OWS
ShowPlug2: I'm joined by Oct-2011 Organizer, pepper-spray victim, witness to TWO Right Wing provocateurs at Air & Space @DavidCNSwanson
ShowPlug3: @UncleRUSH Russell Simmons here after his 15th trip to #OWS. Political fallout w/ @NewYorker's Hendrik Hertzberg
ShowPlug4: State of the movement with Progressives United, ex-Senator @RussFeingold + Did Perry actually dog whistle on Romney mormon quote
ShowPlugLast: Worst Persons: "Herb" Cain insults somebody else's anonymity, and - wait - you CAN sue for being made to listen to Limbaugh?
ShowPlugPS: Sartorial Surprise tonight http://moby.to/st7owu
An honor to be part of Murrow Awards lifetime presentation to the great Richard C. Hottelet of CBS News http://moby.to/grncua
watch whole playlist
#5 'Growing Pains', David Swanson
#5 'Growing Pains', Russell Simmons
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Occupy Politics', Hendrik Hertzberg
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Who Would Jesus Vote For?', Shira Toeplitz
#2 Worst Persons: Herman Cain, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh
#1 'Mad in Madison, Too', Russ Feingold
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
Topics: Barack Obama, Congress, Election 2012, GOP Primary, Mitt Romney, Occupy Together, Occupy Wall Street, Rick Perry
Guests: David Swanson, Hendrik Hertzberg, Russ Feingold, Russell Simmons, Shira Toeplitz
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
"Stay as long as you like." Mayor of New York says Occupy Wall Street has his grudging blessing. Occupy D.C. finds its permit may be up, but nobody has yet kicked them out. Pepper spray them? Yes. Kick them out? No.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Water, we need water!
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID SWANSON: So, we're at the Air & Space Museum. I just got pepper sprayed.
OLBERMANN: That man, David Swanson, our guest. Plus, a right-wing blogger's claimed that he was a provocateur there, hoping a foment chaos. Occupy Seattle - cars passing by, honking horns in support. Police give them tickets for 144 bucks. Occupy Des Moines - More than 30 arrests and at the Iowa state house amid reports of pepper spray there.
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Let us stay! Let us stay!
OLBERMANN: Nationally, the claim? "Occupy" events in more than 250 cities. Our continuing coverage of what is now Day 24 of Occupy with Russell Simmons, just back from Occupy Wall Street.
(Excerpt from video clip) RUSSELL SIMMONS: I'm here in solidarity.
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: I'm here in solidarity.
(Excerpt from video clip) SIMMONS: To all the people.
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: To all the people.
(Excerpt from video clip) SIMMONS: Who are protesting the money grab.
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Who are protesting the money grab.
(Excerpt from video clip) SIMMONS: And the fierce warfare - class warfare - that's been waged on the poor and the undeserved.
OLBERMANN: With former Senator Russ Feingold.
(Excerpt from video clip) RUSS FEINGOLD: They just don't just understand what the protesters are saying. I'm not just pleased about it. I'm excited about it.
OLBERMANN: And with Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker on the disoriented politicians trying to figure all this out.
(Excerpt from video clip) HERMAN CAIN: It's anti-American because to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying that you're anti-capitalism.
OLBERMANN: And we'll go live to our Geraldo Rivera at Occupy.
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies!
OLBERMANN: Okay, maybe not. The GOP race. Oh, here we go.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROBERT JEFFRESS: In my estimation, Mormonism is a cult, and it would give credence to a cult to have a Mormon candidate.
OLBERMANN: Non-Romney Republicans try to decide whether to distance themselves from that Rick Perry supporter and introducer, or distance themselves from evangelicals who think he's 100 percent correct.
And "Worsts." Finally, somebody has done it. The woman who is suing because she was forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh. All that and more now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) RUSH LIMBAUGH: I'm trying to be inspirational.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, October 10th, 393 days until the 2012 presidential election.
The Occupy movement continuing to spread, with grudging tolerance for its protests from politicians in some cities, pushed back from police in others, and while one right-wing reporter - who came to mock a related protest - helped trigger a pepper spray incident at the Smithsonian. A Fox News dilettante finds there is no patience for his employer's brand of poison at Zuccotti Park.
The fifth story tonight - growing pains for a growing movement, protests continuing in cities big and small around the country. In Washington, where the related group - October 2011 - says it will not leave Freedom Plaza even though its permit has expired.
And in New York City, where Mayor Mike Bloomberg finally found a march he fairly approved of, the Columbus Day parade. But giving the mayor his due, before stepping off, Mr. Bloomberg told reporters that where Occupy Wall Street was concerned, "People want to express themselves. And as long as they obey the laws, we'll allow them to."
In Washington, protesters are saying they are willing to risk arrests to keep their movement going. Again, many of the protesters, members of the October 2011 Stop The Machine group, which is separate from, but supports, Occupy Washington. Park police had given them a two o'clock deadline to fold their tents and leave.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: We are not leaving at two o'clock. We feel that this is our city square. There's people all over the country who are taking over their city squares, and we're going to stay in this one.
OLBERMANN: As yet, there are no reports of arrests nor disturbances from Freedom Plaza where organizers have been speaking with police, but violence did break out Saturday when security guards at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum fired pepper spray at October 2011 marchers protesting drone attacks, American militarism and the Afghan war. And among those sprayed was organizer David Swanson.
(Excerpt from video clip) SWANSON: I'm here at the Air & Space Museum. I just got pepper sprayed as we tried to go inside.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Swanson will be one of my guests in a few moments. All of this happened with the help of an assistant editor for the Conservative American Spectator named Patrick Howley. Mr. Howley claimed he came as a journalist. He, apparently, stayed as a provocateur, writing in an online column that was later sanitized on the Spectator site, that "As far as anyone knew, I was part of this cause, a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine."
After pushing past a protester and security guard, Howley entered the museum. "I was the only one who made it through the doors." Mr. Howley claimed he wasn't giving up before he had his story. He had a face full of pepper spray for his efforts. The only story he has is his own. Howley also mocked the protesters for not having what he called "courage to follow his lead and enter the museum."
Another possible case of infiltration today at Wall Street, Gawker.com posting this video of a man who looks, surprisingly, like the notorious Republican frat boy James O'Keefe - evidently, one of the last ten Americans to still own a colored shirt with a white collar. And 1991 would like it back.
These protesters in Des Moines didn't need a provocateur to risk arrest and make their point. Thirty-two of them were hauled off by police when they refused to leave the park area in front of the state capitol, in solidarity with Occupation Wall Street. The protests have also spread to Toledo, Ohio, to Charlotte, North Carolina - where weekend protests stretched into today. And back in New York, Zuccotti Park, where protesters focused their anger on the media arm of the right-wing machine.
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies! Fox News lies!
OLBERMANN: Geraldo Rivera, a long way away from his New York street cred, beat a hasty retreat. Perhaps he did not think the protesters knew what Fox News has been saying about them. Lies might be the least of it. You might try slander. David Swanson, organizer of the October 2011 protests in Washington and a campaigner for rootsaction.org joins me now, as promised, from Washington. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
DAVID SWANSON: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: What's the latest with the protests at Freedom Plaza? Is everybody still there? Do we know what the status is?
SWANSON: The permit expired at 2:00 P.M. today, in terms of having to have everything out. And the police came by and we asked them to speak with us publicly and they refused. So, we sent a delegation to meet with them privately and we're waiting to hear what they have to say. But our - our determination is to remain and not to voluntarily leave. We think we have a right to be there.
OLBERMANN: The pepper spray incident. Obviously, you were there. Talk us through it from what you saw.
SWANSON: Many people got inside doors. You'll see photographs of that gentleman and others inside doors. And the man in front of him in the photos - in the black T-shirt - is also a provocateur. The two of them were there to cause trouble. The rest of us were there to deliver a message and to leave. We didn't want to shut the place down. Instead, we were greeted with pepper spray in the face. I didn't even get it directly. I got it 10 feet away and it's horrible, horrible stuff.
And, you know, the Air & Space Museum was not our primary target. We were waiting for Congress to get back Tuesday morning, and they will be hearing from us. But this is a museum that's marketing weaponry, that's pushing drones and missiles and bombs. And we don't have any museums promoting health care or housing or retirement security, you know. We wanted people to look at the museum a little bit differently. We didn't want them to be shut out. And I think the guards overreacted dramatically to a message that - as we marched through the streets to the museum - people were leaving the sidewalks to join us.
OLBERMANN: So, the actual confrontation there, do you think that was - I mean, the man is boasting, the fellow from The American Spectator, and the other one that you mentioned - he doesn't talk about it, but - - he would be involved in it, too. But this fellow, Patrick Howley, is basically saying "I sort of escalated this into what it was." Is that your assessment - that without him, we wouldn't have seen pepper spray?
SWANSON: Well, we already had some people inside dropping a banner and displaying messages. The guards were already on high alert and they were prepared to overreact dramatically, I think. But, no doubt, those two gentlemen contributed significantly to what happened.
OLBERMANN: Is it - if you're looking from outside at your own movement, isn't it kind of foolish for people who would be opposed to your movement to not necessarily to try to be provocateurs because - obviously - they were to some degree successful at that, but then to come out and boast that they were provocateurs? It kind of blows the provocateurism? Doesn't it?
SWANSON: You would think so. Yes, they are advertising that our movement, in fact, was more disciplined and more non-violent and more principled than it appeared because they were the problem. They're advertising that. They may be asking for lawsuits as well.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you about the Occupy movement. Are you surprised by this sort of - tidal wave is an exaggeration, of course, and an unfortunate connotation anyway - but it certainly has taken root in a relatively short time and after a relatively inauspicious beginning in terms of public reaction to it. What's your thoughts on it?
SWANSON: Well, some of us have been trying to make this happen for many years and are more encouraged in this moment than we've been for a decade. And a lot of it has to do with the economic insecurity being so widespread and the growing awareness that difficulties in one's home are not personal failings, but problems that everyone's neighbors are dealing with as well.
And so, there's this growing awareness that we are 99 percent. And you're us. And you should join us. And it's a message being welcomed by everyone. Cabbies are dropping people off and not charging them at Freedom Plaza - if they're protesters. You know, we haven't seen that before. And that's what seems, to me, to have the potential to snowball. There's no guarantees. But it's - you know, it's not that the wars have gotten worse or the policies have gotten worse, it's that the economy is hitting people.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. David Swanson, organizer of the 2000 - October 2011 protest in Washington, campaigner for rootsaction.org. Great, thanks.
SWANSON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Back here, hip-hop pioneer, best-selling author, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Russell Simmons has already made several trips down to Zuccotti Park to talk with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and now he's here to talk to us. Good to see you, sir.
RUSSELL SIMMONS: Nice to see you.
OLBERMANN: All right, how many times have you been and what's your impression?
SIMMONS: I've been fifteen times, and my impression is they're young, courageous and inspiring people who are politically astute, and they know what they want. I think it's - to me, I've been, since I have so much access, I've been trying to frame it - it's very simple, that Wall Street - 'cause Wall Street runs our government, and they like to - they'd like it to be a simple idea - power to the people. It's not a difficult idea, you know, that we get their special interests and the money out of Washington, and all of the signs you see - the prison-industrial complex, the war profiteer - you know - they're moving the jobs off shore. Name a sign that a protester has, and it'll be because the government is run by corporations. And if we can get the money out of Washington, then they will have done a tremendous thing.
And what they're doing - this morning, I'm there for yogic prayer, you know, and the media's listening to this beautiful speech this woman gave - and, of course, that goes over most Americans' heads. And then there's this person complaining about, you know, some real issue that affects lots of us, but not all of us, and they say, "Well, we don't know what we want." They want the money out of Washington.
SIMMONS: You know, it's disingenuous to say they're at Wall Street because Wall Street runs our government. And the people would like to run it.
OLBERMANN: The original reaction to this was extraordinarily dismissive. Do you sense that really turning in the last ten days in particular? It seems like something happened, maybe it was the arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge that brought people down - and as these things always do - and nobody wants to be pepper sprayed, but unfortunately -
SIMMONS: Somebody got to take the blow.
OLBERMANN: Well, it's - but, it's often the way you get the attention and, in fact, the credibility, isn't it? If you're looking at it from your experience, from a marketing point of view.
SIMMONS: There are people watching. Last night, I'm out at this cultural event, and I see Sean Combs, I see Kanye - Kanye said "I wanna go. I wanna go see them." I take Kanye West today. He's a big influence. Everybody there, they know this guy. They're artists, they're artistic in some ways. He was a hero today.
And you see Reverend Sharpton comes and he films from there, and he tapes his radio show from there. And you see different people joining as the message crystallizes, and I think it's the beginning of something very important. America has to look at itself in order to make a reasonable, more perfect union. We have to let the people govern, that's what democracy is. And it's happening. And it's gonna continue to grow as people understand it better.
OLBERMANN: Is there a practical end to it? Is there, is there -
SIMMONS: Yeah, you get - you get some - you know, some John McCain or some Joseph Lieberman, and they write legislation that says, "Get the money out of Washington." It's a great thing that they'll accomplish, because that's one thing we know that they all agree on in unison. They agree - the money, the Wall Street problem - has to be solved. And so, somebody can get in front of it, some smart politician. And I think that that's gonna start to happen. You're gonna start to see people who represent the people, who make a choice to go against the establishment and write the kind of legislation that will change this country in a meaningful way.
OLBERMANN: All right, we've had - Senator Bernie Sanders came out for this in the first week.
OLBERMANN: He was probably the first one out there, of course - no surprise to either one of us. To some degree, former Speaker Pelosi, over the weekend, some forget -
SIMMONS: The president has said things.
OLBERMANN: And the president's said things, but the further you get up the food chain, no matter which party you get into - either Republicans are all - this is - "The guillotine is next."
SIMMONS: Of course.
OLBERMANN: But the Democrats are like, "Yeah, we're fully in favor of this, we think?"
SIMMONS: Many of them are punks, though. Because you know, they're still controlled to some degree, they're puppets and, you know, they're afraid to keep their job. In Atlanta, who came out? Great representative -
OLBERMANN: Oh, John Lewis.
SIMMONS: John Lewis, that's right. John Lewis came out - the kind of guy who would start to write the legislation, but, you know, it would be too progressive, that would make it harder. Joseph Lieberman could come out and be a little bit of a hero, because we all know, there's no secret - any issues that we could come up, it's because the corporations are running our government.
That's why I don't pay taxes. 'Cause they leave tax loopholes. They create the corporate welfare. They create - all of these things are because politicians are puppets. And we wanna change that. And I don't think that they're gonna go away until they see significant change.
OLBERMANN: Any idea what this mutates into in its next stage?
SIMMONS: Well, at the very least, it could be - you know, they're educated, they're sophisticated - I hate to call them like the tea party. I hate to say that because these kids are, you know -
OLBERMANN: In the broadest possible sense they fit in that same gigantic category. They are both movements.
SIMMONS: That's right. Except that they can make political statements and support politicians, and move this country in a direction. They have at least that in their horizon.
OLBERMANN: Is that - is that enough, do you think, to make the change? To actually get people to write legislation? Because if you're betting on Lieberman, I'm a little worried about -
SIMMONS: I just said - no, I just - I picked anybody. I picked a guy who's kind of in the middle -
OLBERMANN: Some moderate Democrat?
SIMMONS: I hope they mean their own moderates. Well, some Democrat can write it. I used him as a name because he seemed the most - boring. You know?
SIMMONS: Yes, the most generic, moderate Democrat, but there are some other people who can write the legislation and who know how to collaborate and push. And it's important - we're gonna watch our politicians as this message comes out that Wall Street has hijacked our government. When the message, as it comes out, and people like you speak out, then people have a reason to watch their politician for a change. What are you gonna do about this legislation? Because this is the thing that's gonna change this country.
OLBERMANN: And people like you, when they speak out, Russell Simmons.
SIMMONS: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Many thanks, sir.
SIMMONS: I like your tux.
OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly, it's a new dress policy.
SIMMONS: What's up with the tux?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, I'll explain that in a minute. And here come the politicians. Nancy Pelosi is cautiously enthusiastic. My guest Russ Feingold loudly and proudly so. And virtually every Republican is calling criticism of Wall Street "an attack on America," which - since virtually every Republican is, in fact, owned lock, stock and barrel by Wall Street - should be all the protesters, and all the public needs to know. The political fallout next, and yes, the outfit is for an awards dinner tonight, don't get used to it.
OLBERMANN: "Sowing class envy and social unrest," says Republican supposed "top man" on the economy, about Occupy Wall Street. In other words - "Take what little we rich people give you."
Politicians struggle to deal with the new reality. Some of them don't. Russ Feingold's unabashed support for the protests - he'll join me.
Perry supporter says Romney's not a Christian, and Mormonism is a cult. Perry disavows the supporter - or was that disavow actually a dog whistle suggesting the supporter got it right.
And "Worsts" - he thought he was just making fun of a question about "gotcha" questions. In fact, Herman Cain wound up insulting a country with which we are deep into negotiations to facilitate supplies to American troops overseas. Herman Cain, super genius.
OLBERMANN: Into the fourth week of the Occupy Wall Street movement and a number of Republicans treating it as an insurrection, or an invasion by the Chinese, has far exceeded the number of Democrats treating it as something to respect and embrace.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown": while Republicans find new ways to call the protesters "jealous, anti-American dilettantes," Democrats line up to defend them - kind of. But is it, in fact, that the kind of support the movement needs? Today, Nancy Pelosi practically gushing over Occupy Wall Street.
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY PELOSI: It's young, it's spontaneous, it's focused and it's going to be effective.
OLBERMANN: Protesters are also getting the support of The New York Times editorial page. The paper - which had at first rolled its eyes at the movement - endorsed it Saturday, writing, "The protests are more than a youth uprising. It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That's the job of the nation's leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies."
The New Yorker magazine also saying the movement could be effective if it stays focused. Hendrik Hertzberg writing the upcoming issue, "If Occupy Wall Street can continue to behave with non-violent restraint, if it can avoid hijack by a flakey fringe, if it can shake the center-left out of its funk, if it can embolden Democratic politicians, then preoccupied Main Street will truly owe Occupy Wall Street."
Meanwhile, though, Republicans still can't decide if it's a protest against President Obama or a distraction inspired by President Obama or just Mao Zedong's idea. They know they don't like it. Herman Cain, describing the protest as "an orchestrated effort by unions to distract from problems in Washington." Then calling the non-violent protesters "anti-American." He was on "Face the Nation" yesterday.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: It's anti-American because to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying that you're anti-capitalism.
OLBERMANN: No. No, it's not. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich arguing the entire Occupy movement can be traced back to problems in America's higher education system, not the rising cost of college - Gingrich spends that much in an afternoon at Tiffany's. No, he says the real problem is that American universities have been teaching anti-Americanism.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: We have had a strain of hostility to free enterprise. And, frankly, a strain of hostility to classic America starting in our academic institutions, and spreading across this country. And I regard the Wall Street protest as a natural outcome of a bad education system teaching them really dumb ideas.
OLBERMANN: Delve off into that of another point. Joining me now, the aforementioned Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor and staff writer at The New Yorker, and author of "Obamanos." It's good to see you, sir.
HENDRIK HERTZBERG: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: So, your if/then statement. Is in fact - is there any evidence that it is emboldening Democratic politicians?
HERTZBERG: I think so, yeah. I think that Nancy Pelosi is one example and there are plenty of others. And I think they want to be emboldened, a lot of them. We basically have a center - so-called center - and a right. We haven't had a left. And so the center just keeps kind of moving a little way over to the right, and some of these moderate Democrats are starting to feel not that great about it. So, I think - I think that this could open up a lot of space for Democratic politicians to say what a lot would like to say to begin with.
OLBERMANN: In particular, in the first 12, 14 months of his administration, the president and his spokesman said, "We like that pressure coming in from the left. Keeps it going." We haven't heard as much about that in calendar 2011, I don't think, perhaps, but is this possibly something that will move the president significantly off of the dime, rather than that measured way that has become his well-known way?
HERTZBERG: He will always go in a measured way. He has already started to move. There's a kind of a harmonic convergence between his move - his move to start talking a little tougher - and this movement that's kind of come in. And it could backfire. It could - it could cause a reaction. But if it goes along the way it's going along - feeling its way - they don't know where they're going and, you know, that's part of - that's part of what's so exhilarating about it for the participants.
OLBERMANN: The - the members of this group - the other thing, talking about backfiring - they seem to be, certainly, very suspicious of endorsements by politicians. Are they wise to be so? And is it at some point that position going to have to be moderated where they are going to have to accept the politicians wanting to have a little influence, in exchange for their ability to influence the politicians?
HERTZBERG: I think so. I mean that's the way - that's really the only route to real change - is through politics, through this broken, god-awful political system that we have. Alas, it's the only one we've got, and the Democratic Party is one of the two and it's a system where - that's how many parties you get. It's not a conspiracy. It's because one person gets to be president. The only way you can hope for a majority is to have two parties. So, yeah, I think - I don't think they're trying to co-opt the tea party - I mean, not the tea party, that co-opted the Republicans.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly.
HERTZBERG: They are trying to - they're trying to get co-opted, in a sense. They are not trying to bottle it up. They are trying to get out of their own bottle.
OLBERMANN: To touch on the tea party - the Republicans have had no compunction about slamming this. Romney just said these are people looking for scapegoats. And we heard the Herman Cain theory, you know - it's your fault if you don't have a job right now, or a car, or your own pizza chain - or whatever else it is that he thinks he has gotten through his own great work. Do the Republicans not sense any risk, or are they just calculating that the risk is not sufficient that slamming Occupy Wall Street might contradict their embrace of the tea party supposed populist, pro-Main Street message?
HERTZBERG: It's - it's - to me, I don't know. I can't read their minds. But it feels like a Pavlovian response, for a start. It's kind of like, you know - it brings out all of the old feelings about hippies and radicals and the '60s and culture wars. And I guess they think they that they can - they can pigeonhole this in that particular - in that particular hole - and defang it that way, discredit it that way.
It's weird, because when the tea party came up Democrats - for good reasons and bad - they tended to say, "Well, you know, some frustration is understandable. And we understand - we understand. We respect their feelings and all of that. We don't agree with - " You know, that was more the Democratic attitude.
And they - it remains to be seen whether they are miscalculating in not just keeping a little, teeny window open to the idea that the tea party isn't the only - aren't the only - people that are discontented.
OLBERMANN: It's always dangerous to cite The New York Times as barometer of anything other than in its particular areas of expertise, perhaps. But is its evolution in a period of three weeks from "Oh, look at these la-di-da kids standing around near Wall Street," to an editorial supporting what they're doing - is that kind of a good way to measure the credibility gain for the Occupy Wall Street protesters in the last few weeks, is it an unlikely way -
HERTZBERG: It's a very good way to measure it because those first kind of dismissive stories in The Times - they weren't that unjustified, given what the reporters went and saw with their own eyes. And so, Occupy Wall Street has sort of earned its way into the news pages of The New York Times and then - and now - boom, on the editorial page in a big way.
OLBERMANN: And who knows where next, now that we know that Russell Simmons brought Kanye West today. Hendrik Hertzberg who writes "Occupy Wall Street" in the current issue of The New Yorker. His new book, "Obamanos." Great thanks.
HERTZBERG: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One liberal presenting his support for all without qualification - former Senator Russ Feingold. Coming up here on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: The inevitable result of demanding that your presidential candidate be a Christian - somebody decides that one of them just is not Christian enough. The Gordian Knot that is the Mitt Romney Mormon fallout, next.
First, the "Sanity Break". On this date in 1985 the Hollywood legend Orson Welles died at only 70 years of age. There are four million stories about Welles, but perhaps the most wonderful is from the filming of the movie "Jane Eyre," in which the character played by Welles was to burn to death. As they lit the flames around him, Welles yelled to co-star Joan Fontaine, "I now know what Joan of Arc endured!"
From off-camera Miss Fontaine yelled back "Keep your spirits up. We'll let you know if we smell burning ham!"
"Time Marches On!"
Tampa Bay, Florida - Hello! It's the annual Flugtag Human-Powered Flying Contraption competition. As if you didn't already know. Each team attempts to fly their man-made machine off of a thirty-foot deck. I hope your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device, because - guess what - every flight ends in a water landing. The winner this year was the Willy Wonka-themed aircraft. Although you know Slugworth's just gonna try to steal their design along with the Loompas. Are those Loompas?
To the dog world. Dog's best friend may be man, but his worst enemy appears to be - Julia Roberts? Fido will protect your home from intruders, but he's not messing with Erin Brockovich. Don't mess with the Pretty Woman either. It would be a big mistake. Big. Huge.
Julia's co-star Brad Pitt, on the other hand, appeals to all species. And of all ages, it seems.
(Excerpt from video clip) BABY: Brad Pitt, Brad Pitt, Brad Pitt. Cute, Cute, Cute.
OLBERMANN: Tune in tomorrow for another episode of "What Do Dogs and Babies Think of the Cast of 1988 movie 'Dead Solid Perfect'?"
"Time Marches On!"
At first, Rick Perry was clear his supporter who said Mormonism was a cult, and Mitt Romney was not a Christian, was wrong. Then came the dog-whistle to let everybody know, maybe the guy was right. Next.
OLBERMANN: Walter Compton and the Dumont Network News will not be shown tonight so we can instead bring you "Countdown." Whenever you are watching this, we are live at 8:00 P.M. Eastern Time, and - as good as we think the show is at any time, in any venue - live gives it a certain "What's gonna fall off the top shelf tonight" excitement that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
At every point in human history since at least the French Revolution, when purity becomes the only message and purging the impure becomes the only outcome, there has been only one ultimate outcome - eventually, you run out of the pure.
In our third story - you knew it was only a matter of time. The Christian right has played the "Don't vote for Romney because he's a Mormon" card. The attack is emanating from a minister who introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit. His once-soaring campaign crashing back to earth. Governor Perry was brought to the stage by Pastor Robert Jeffress, of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. While endorsing Governor Perry, Jeffress gave a wink and a nod to the Christian right that if you are a Christian, you'd better vote for Perry.
(Excerpt from video clip) JEFFRESS: Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person or do we want a candidate who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ? Rick Perry is a proven leader. He is a true conservative and he is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
OLBERMANN: Good, he just came out against a good, moral person running for president. Following the speech - as you saw - Perry didn't slug him or say "No way." Jeffress, meanwhile, went from a wink and a nod to a direct shove.
(Excerpt from video clip) JEFFRESS: A reporter asked me afterwards why I wouldn't vote for a Mormon, and I said, "In my estimation Mormonism is a cult and it would give credence to a cult to have a Mormon candidate." I believe Mitt Romney is a good, moral person, has a wonderful family but that's not what makes you a Christian. I believe Governor's Perry's long track record of supporting important biblical values is probably the major reasons most evangelical conservatives would want to vote for him.
OLBERMANN: You don't have to have one of those big bubble heads like that guy to be a good Christian, right? For his part, Perry seemed to try and distance himself from Pastor Jeffress. He had a spokesman say in a statement quote, "That the Governor does not believe it is a cult."
So is that a merely tepid denial, or was that a dog whistle to those evangelicals who would disqualify a candidate because of his religion? Let's bring in Shira Toeplitz, a politics writer for Roll Call. Thanks for your time tonight.
SHIRA TOEPLITZ: Thanks for having me this evening.
OLBERMANN: Was that, to some degree, a dog whistle for Perry? Because - certainly - it was not a very enthusiastic dismissal of what the reverend said there. It sounds like he is trying to have it both ways.
TOEPLITZ: You know, I think you are absolutely right. I think this is a pretty thin line for Perry to be walking across right now. He can do one of two things - he can, sort of, generally push this guy away - have a spokesman deliver a statement - or he can come out loud and clear when a reporter asks him - and I'm sure reporters did today on the trail - and say, "No, I disavow what this guy says. It's not correct." And obviously, he did the former here.
OLBERMANN: If a candidate had said what Mr. Jeffress had said - if the candidate had said it outright - they would have been finished, right? Even in this - with that constant 22 percent of the country in 1967 wouldn't have voted for Romney's father because he was a Mormon, and 22 percent wouldn't do it now - the time has changed in such a way that a candidate, himself, could not have said that and survived?
TOEPLITZ: I certainly hope so at this point. I think we've reached that point where that kind of comment from a candidate - someone running for office - would disqualify them. But look - let's not even talk about the time since Romney's father ran for president. Let's talk about the time since four years ago - four years ago Romney's religion was a huge part of the story line as a candidate. He had to deliver a major speech on it. I want to say half of the news clips I read about Mitt Romney discussed his religion. We are not there any more. This is the first time it's come up in this campaign for him.
OLBERMANN: But - besides some theoretical Muslim candidate or Scientologist candidate - is there a candidate belonging to another religion in this country about which someone - even an alleged man of God - could say this and the man of God not get pounded, and whoever he was seemingly talking about, really take a huge hit.
TOEPLITZ: You know, I think you're always going to have these kind of fringe elements and parties and voters who would stand up and say something, but I think for the most part, if someone says that about another - I'm careful to use this word, mainstream religion -
TOEPLITZ: - or a commonly-practiced religion in America, and they are pretty much shunned a this point. I think the - there is a certain degree of religious tolerism among most mainstream religions or commonly-practiced religions in America right now.
OLBERMANN: In some, do we think that this helped Perry's campaign in some way, or did it hurt it?
TOEPLITZ: I think it helped him, to be perfectly frank. He can, you know, step quietly to the side of the comment as much as he wants, but frankly, anything right now that hurts Mitt Romney - and you know, we can talk about this all we want - but in Iowa and South Carolina, this might resonate with some born again voters, what this Dallas preach - pastor has said. So, in the end, it will be damaging perhaps to Mitt Romney in these states and that's good for Rick Perry, in the end.
OLBERMANN: Governor Perry is not the only one who made controversial statements. Of course not, it's a Republican race. Over the weekend, Mr. Cain said I don't believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way. Do - do - do all of these guys, from your assessment - from your professional assessment - believe this stuff, or are they saying it because they know that's what the base wants to hear?
TOEPLITZ: I think Herman Cain really believes what he is saying. It's kind of hard to think otherwise when the stuff he says can be a little incendiary, you know. I do think he- he's believes in what he says. That being said, I am not sure to who - to whom he is really speaking when he is saying these things. You know, this is not necessarily what I think a lot of even Republican primary voters agree with at this point. I think he is speaking to a pretty small segment of the Republican primary electorate right now.
OLBERMANN: Shira Toeplitz of Roll Call. Great thanks for your time tonight.
TOEPLITZ: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: We have a quick update out of the situation between the park police and David Swanson - our guest earlier in the program, from the October, 2011 group that is kind of co-protesting with Occupy D.C. - after a meeting this afternoon, at which - which was discussed - to discuss the fact that the permit for protest was running out at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, Swanson says the park police of Washington have offered October 2011 a four-month permit. The meaning of that - in terms of whether or not that protest continues uninterrupted - remains to be seen. But, that's the update out of David Swanson.
Everybody was a big hit down at the Values Voters Summit in Washington - huge crowds, conservative frenzies, human sacrifice, mass hysteria - everybody except one guy. He used to have a TV show. Blond fellow. Sees the apocalypse happening every five to 10 days. Tries to sell you gold. Everybody showed up for his speech.
"Worst Persons," ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: One of the former progressive lights of the Senate is perhaps the first main politician to unequivocally endorse Occupy Wall Street. Russ Feingold joins me next. First, the worst can you sue because somebody forces you to listen to him on the radio. A Houston woman says, you bet ya. Next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: He doesn't just understand Occupy Wall Street, he's not just pleased about it - former Senator Russ Feingold says he is excited about it.
First - because we don't understand them, we are not pleased about them and we're certainly not excited about them - here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze to Herman Cain, moron. More than just insisting that the poor should pay the same percentage of taxes on their food as he should on his next BMW, Mr. Cain decided to show the world who is boss when it comes to international relations.
(Audio from video clip) CAIN: I am ready for the "gotcha" questions and they are already starting to come, and when they ask me who is the President of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I am going to say, "You know, I don't know. Do you know?" And then I am going to say, "How is that going to create one job?"
OLBERMANN: Sort of like America's attitude to Herman Cain, or as Sarah Palin called him, "Herb Cain."
Mr. Cain added that he didn't have to know these small insignificant states around the world. Of course since, soon, our only overland route for supplying American forces in Afghanistan will be through Uzbekistan - Mr. Cain ought to shove his unmerited condescension where the sun don't shine. Unless he hates the troops.
The runner-up, "Lonesome Rhodes" Beck. The collapse of the empire continues.
Rick Perry made headlines at the Value Voters Summit. Even Ron Paul made headlines at the Value Voters Summit. But Beck - who lost 90 percent of his TV audience when he switched from cable to an internet subscription service - he made it only "plenty of good seats available."
This is Gawker.com's shot of Beck speaking at a near-empty ballroom at the Shoreham Hotel in D.C. at the Value Voters Summit. I think that listener in the back there - the one nearest in your picture there - may actually be dead.
Moral? You can you-know-what onto somebody's leg and make them think it's lemonade. Just don't try to charge them 10 bucks a month for it.
But our winner? Comedian Rush Limbaugh.
You know, everybody complains about the Rush Limbaugh, but nobody ever does anything about it. Except for Bridgett Nickerson Boyd.
Ms. Boyd's car broke down on the side of a Houston highway. Instead of helping, she says, a Harris County sheriff's deputy named Mark Goad wrote her a ticket for driving on the shoulder, then he arrested her. Then, when the stress shot her heartbeat through the roof, he followed her to the hospital, then put her in jail anyway.
But that's not Ms. Boyd's major complaint. Ms. Boyd notes that she is black, and she claims that - when she was arrested without cause - Deputy Goad forced her to listen to Rush Limbaugh's radio show in which he made, quote "derogatory comments about black people" - made her listen all the way to the jail. All the charges against Ms. Boyd were dismissed.
So, she is now suing and the case now could set a precedent over whether you can sue if somebody makes you listen to that idiot Limbaugh.
Rush Limbaugh, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: Former United States Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is currently out of office but hardly out of the political picture, and - in our number-one story on "Countdown" - Feingold added his influential voice to the Occupy Wall Street movement over the weekend, as it spread to his state's capital city with Occupy Madison.
Feingold said, "People have a limit. . . How long can you rip people off before they start responding?"
Feingold now leads a group called Progressives United. Last winter, he supported public workers against the radical union busting of Republican governor Scott Walker. The current protests in Madison do not have the numbers and energy yet of what happened last winter. But, as Feingold put it yesterday, "We didn't invite protesting in Wisconsin, but we took it to a new level."
As promised, Russ Feingold, former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, co-author of McCain-Feingold and founder of Progressives United. Good to talk to you, sir.
FEINGOLD: Keith, wonderful to be on your show.
OLBERMANN: How far do you think this can go, and - and - what is essentially - there has to be a political end game to it at some point - what's the process by which it causes change to be enacted?
FEINGOLD: Well, I think this can go very far, and I think it will. What I like to say is, by the time this thing is done, it's going to make the tea party look like - a tea party. It will be very extensive.
And the reason is, the crimes against the working people of this country have mounted up, and people have finally realized they can't stop - they have to actually deal with it. They can't just take it. And obviously, the Wall Street abuses keep going, the protection of the very wealthy - that they don't have to participate and try to deal with our deficit problems - the complete domination of the political process by unlimited, secret contributions, the shipping of our jobs overseas through lousy trade agreements while, at the same time, taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
You know, it's finally reached the point where people are saying, "That's it. We are tired of being ripped off," and they are responding. And I think once that's unleashed, it keeps going.
OLBERMANN: Was there a tipping point? You mentioned so many different things that, certainly, contributed to this. Was it, - was it, in fact, that the ball started really rolling in that one direction with the thing that your group - Progressives United - so vehemently opposes, the - the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court about a year and a half ago?
FEINGOLD: Well, I mean, obviously it's a combination of factors. One is the economy being in terrible shape and not rebounding. And then these tea party people pretend that they're going to try to solve the problem, but they come into office and they essentially help make the deficit worse by not having wealthy people participate in solving the problem. They are actually for less regulation of Wall Street than Republicans are, and all of a sudden people realize they are not going to get reform at all.
Then, they understand that much of this is being financed - it took a while before it was implemented. It took a while before people saw it happening - they realized this is being financed through huge contributions from corporations. The Koch brothers, you know, helped finance this awful attack on working people in Wisconsin. So the evidence finally mounted. Got college students that are graduating after having had, you know, loans over the years and they are not getting any jobs.
And finally, you know, how long can people be made fools of? They are saying, "Wait a minute. We have no alternative. The government isn't solving this problem. We are going to start protesting," and I am just very excited that that's starting to happen.
OLBERMANN: Bernie Sanders came out quickly in support of this, I've already mentioned that this evening. And John Lewis did, too, and Minority Leader Pelosi was pretty strong on the weekend too, among others. But where are the other leading liberals and Democrats? Do you get a sense that the people are still hanging back, and what's going to get them to stop doing so?
FEINGOLD: This is no time to hang back. One of the biggest problems Democrats have is that they forget the power and passion that the base of the party has. And actually, this is well beyond the Democratic Party. These are just working people all over the country - or people who want to work - who have just had it. To not understand the power of that kind of populism, to not encourage it, to not embrace it is a huge mistake.
This is not a time for cautious politics. This is not a time for saying, "Well, we better just go a little bit this way or that way." This is a time to fundamentally identify the crooked way this country is being run.
The corruption of Wall Street, the ridiculous notion that very wealthy people are basically saying they shouldn't have to help us solve our problems - it's time to take it up a few notches. And I think every office holder and every leader in the country should say, "Thank you" to the people who are out there protesting.
OLBERMANN: If the - if some liberals and, say, even more Democrats are not active, certainly, the opponents of Occupy Wall Street and related Occupy movements are as active as anything that - you know, there have been suggestions this always leads to the guillotine, or Chairman Mao or whatever else has been said - the nonsense that's been said in response to it - but even Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times today that "The plutocrats are panicking." Is that your sense as well, and do they, in fact, have good reason to do so?
FEINGOLD: Yeah, and let's face it - sometimes, it's even Democrats who are part of this money system, and so there is some nervousness - especially on the Republican side, certainly on Wall Street and Washington where the power structure is. My observation is they are very nervous this might work.
What sort of set me off on this, Keith, was making the mistake of watching Fox News in the morning the other day and watching these people - Barney and the others - mocking the protesters, making fun of the way they were dressed, saying they didn't have a precise agenda. To which I said, you know, they are not filing briefs at the Supreme Court. They are upset.
And so my sense is that there is great fear that this sweet deal that a lot of these people have in - both Washington and New York - this unholy alliance between our government and our media and the financial markets and the financial businesses - that this unholy alliance is finally being threatened and challenged. It is a threat. It is a threat and an attack on every working American, and it's time that we upset the apple cart. And I think they are nervous and they know this has great potential.
OLBERMANN: All right. How do we upset the apple cart without you in office? And I don't mean that as to blow smoke anywhere, but - quite seriously - everybody who has ever stood up for something needs to be on board. I am not criticizing you for not being in office, but when will we see that happen again?
FEINGOLD: Well, look. Being in office is not what it's all about. Obviously, it's one way to do it. I did that for 28 years. But - to me - what we are dealing with here is a situation where Congress can't even vote to overturn Citizens United. You can't do that. The only way to do it is a mass public movement to make it very clear that this Supreme Court decision has to be overturned. That it is a direct attack on our democracy.
So, this goes beyond electoral politics and who is in office and who isn't. It's much more fundamental. And everybody - in or out of office - has to work together to try to turn this thing around. So that's where I am focused on right now and, frankly, I like the freedom to be able to particularly focus on this issue.
There were many other great issues when I was in the Senate, but this is the big overriding issue. This is what's destroying our democracy, Keith, as you know as well as anybody. Unlimited corporate contributions have to be stopped.
OLBERMANN: Okay. Russ Feingold, former senator from Wisconsin. Our great thanks for your service here and for your time tonight.
FEINGOLD: Thanks so much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for Monday. 393 days until the 2012 presidential election.
I am Keith Olbermann. Give yourself a round of applause for getting through another day of this crap. Good night and good luck.