'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, October 17th, 2011
#ShowPlug 1: 87% of NYC residents support #OWS right to protest, 67% agree with their points. One month in: Occupy is Worldwide
#ShowPlug 2: Guests: Mother Jones' @JoshHarkinson + Sgt. Shamar Thomas, Marine who so eloquently shouted about NYPD's unneeded war stance
#ShowPlug 3: after Tom Hayden's suggestion here last week #OWS now debates actual demands, mass arrest strategy. @TomEHayden here again
#ShowPlug 4: Getting arrested at #OWS? There's an App for that! Dems start to listen to protests. @SenatorSanders joins me for analysis
#ShowPlug 5: Cain's lie that he was "just joking" about killer border fence prompts prominent Texas Republican to resign from party.
#ShowPlug 6: Cain also found to have decried National Sales Tax 10 months before making it part of his 999 plan. @KenVogel joins me
#ShowPlug Last: Lonesome Rhodes' newest conspiracy theory: students being forced to sing Mexican Anthem! (Uhh...it's in Spanish class)
#ShowPlug PS: Late developments on Limbaugh's defense of a Ugandan terrorist gang, + apparent end to our troop presence in Iraq
watch whole playlist
#5 'Taking It To The Streets', Josh Harkinson
#5 'Taking It To The Streets', Sgt. Shamar Thomas
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Occupation Strategy', Tom Hayden
#3 'Lifting the Left?', Sen. Bernie Sanders
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#2 Worst Persons: Tom Leppert, Anita Perry, Glenn Beck
#1 'Cain On A Roll', Ken Vogel
printable PDF transcript
Topics: Election 2012, GOP Primary, Occupy Together, Occupy Wall Street, Veterans
Categories: From the Show, Show Transcripts
Guests: Bernie Sanders, Josh Harkinson, Ken Vogel, Shamar Thomas, Tom Hayden
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? One month in. Two-thirds of New Yorkers agree with the protests. Eighty-seven percent, agree or not, say let them continue. But the NYPD does it again.
(Excerpt from video clip) SHAMAR THOMAS: This is not a warzone. This is not a warzone. These are unarmed people. It doesn't make you tough to hurt these people.
OLBERMANN: Nearly 200 arrested in Chicago, thousands march in New York, tens of thousands march in London. Hundreds of thousands march in Spain. And now Occupy Wall Street plans an agenda, actual demands, actual preparations for mass arrests. There's an app for that? And it debates the Tom Hayden suggestion - every person arrested, exercises their right to a jury trial, clogging the courts. Occupy, Day 31, with Tom Hayden and with Sergeant Shamar Thomas, U.S. Marine Corps.
(Excerpt from video clip) THOMAS: I am from New York City and these cops are hurting people I fought to protect. There is no reason for this.
OLBERMANN: GOP chaos. Herman Cain says he was kidding about that border fence.
(Excerpt from video clip) HERMAN CAIN: It's gonna be 20 feet high. It's gonna have barbed wire on the top. It's gonna be electrocuted-electrified. And there's going to be a sign on the other side that says "It will kill you."
OLBERMANN: Guess he was also kidding last year when he wrote, "The worst idea is a proposed national sales tax." And then put a national sales tax in his "9-9-9" plan. Also, Herman sings.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: Imagine there's no pizza.
OLBERMANN: Okay - Romney, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, who's next? All that, and full coverage of Day 31 of Occupy Wall Street, now on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, October 17th, 386 days until the 2012 presidential election. And a month since the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests. They have spread from Zuccotti Park, in lower Manhattan in New York, to Philadelphia to Denver to Sacramento, and now to London, to Warsaw, to Taipei.
The fifth story in the "Countdown" - Occupy Wall Street has become Occupy the World with marches Saturday in more than 900 cities outside this country. And, if protesters needed any more inspiration to take to the streets, these latest financial reports from Citigroup and Wells Fargo today should help. Citigroup, reporting third-quarter profits of $3.8 billion, up 74 percent from 2010. Wells Fargo, third-quarter profits, $4.1 billion, up 21 percent from last clear.
And while New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and some members of the NYPD seem eager for Occupy Wall Street to leave Zuccotti Park, a new Quinnipiac poll shows New York City voters support the protests, 67 percent saying they agree with the protesters views, 23 percent don't. Incredibly, 87 percent say it's okay that Occupy Wall Street is protesting, even the ones who disagree with their points. Just 10 percent say otherwise.
That - the otherwise - would include the New York Police Department which keeps stepping on the rake of public relations. What it does not hit, it arrests.
With CNET reporting a new Android app that can now send a quick message to a protesters' friends, family and attorney in case of arrest. It would have been useful in New York City on Saturday. Twenty-four protesters were arrested at a sit-in at a Citibank branch in Greenwich Village, some for doing no more than closing their accounts. Followed 42 more during a major rally in Times Square - some protesters reportedly grabbed after they tried to push police barricades aside. Three officers briefly treated for injuries. But to U.S. Marine sergeant Shamar Thomas, who's fought in Iraq, the violence by police against unarmed demonstrators was indefensible.
(Excerpt from video clip) THOMAS: Leave these people alone. They are U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens. U.S. It does not make you tough to do this to them. It doesn't. Stop hurting these people, man. Why are you doing this to our people? I've been to Iraq 14 months for my people. You come over and hurt them, they don't have guns. They don't have guns. They don't - why are you hurting these people?
(Excerpt from video clip) POLICE OFFICER: I was in Iraq with you.
(Excerpt from video clip) THOMAS: So why - why do you allow this? Why are you walking around trying to hurt people?
OLBERMANN: Sergeant Thomas will be our guest on this program in a few moments. After the confrontation in Times Square, more demonstrators gathered at New York's Washington Square Park. Fourteen more arrested there when they refused to observe a 1:00 A.M. curfew, after the NYPD asked them nicely to leave.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLICE OFFICER: I think we treated you with respect. We want to go home. We understand the cause, we understand your voice. We understand what you're saying. But all we want is for you to vacate the park.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: If you plan on getting arrested, sit down in there. If you don't, the park is closed. Time to go.
OLBERMANN: In Washington yesterday, Princeton professor Cornel West was one of 19 arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court while the Martin Luther King Memorial was being dedicated on the mall. Professor West and the others charged with refusing to leave the court's grounds and demonstrating with signs. To the professor, it was all in the spirit of the day.
(Excerpt from video clip) CORNEL WEST: We will not allow this day of Martin Luther King Jr.'s memorial to go without somebody going to jail. Because Martin King would be here right with us.
OLBERMANN: Prosecutors dropped the charges against all 19 today, but struggles between police and protesters continued Sunday night in Chicago where 175 demonstrators were handcuffed after they refused to down their tents and leave the city's Grant Park. And there were more than 40 arrests in Phoenix, again for violating a park curfew.
Moving around the world - in London, five arrests Saturday to protest that drew at least 3,000 marchers. It has now settled down into a fourth day of occupation. At least 135 injured in Rome, after anarchists in black and right-wing soccer fans rioted during an Occupy protest, causing at least 5 million Euros in damage.
And elsewhere, 2,000 marched peacefully in Warsaw, Poland, no reports of arrest. Two thousand more, including unions and indigenous groups, protested in Sydney, Australia. Hundreds more took to the streets in Tokyo, Japan. And more than a hundred marched in sympathy with Occupy Wall Street in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, chanting, "We are the 99 percent" - of Taiwan.
The big domestic picture of Saturday - first, Josh Harkinson is a reporter with Mother Jones magazine, who was at both the Times Square and the Washington Square Occupy protests, and he's with us now. Thanks for your time tonight.
JOSH HARKINSON: Good to be here Keith.
OLBERMANN: What did you see at Times Square? Was the provocation by the protesters at any point that you saw?
HARKINSON: Nothing major. I mean, I think there was some pushing of barricades, back and forth. But, I was told there were times when the police were actually trying to push barricades into protesters and so, you know, the protesters started chanting, "You step back," in response to what the cops had been telling them. So, I didn't see anything that was terrible, but, you know, I wasn't in everywhere at once.
OLBERMANN: Who could be?
OLBERMANN: Was there some sense, though, in Times Square on a Saturday night - which was already a dangerously crowded place, just with tourists and mimes and street artists and whatever else you have - that if you have a protest and then a police department that's got an itchy - not trigger finger, I don't want to use that term, but an itchy combat finger - that there's bound to be too many people and too little space to begin with?
HARKINSON: Yeah. I really think it was a powder keg, and I am surprised that something worse didn't happen. I mean - I think that the way the crowd was hemmed in by all these barricades around Times Square, they were divided into separate places. It was kind of this divide and conquer approach, but it frustrated the crowd because, a) they couldn't get anywhere, and b) they all wanted to be together. And there wasn't enough space for that.
OLBERMANN: Did you have any sense of what the tourists who fill this place now - the way it used to be empty 30 years ago - the amount of empty space now, one person for every available one-person unit? Is there any sense of what those passersby thought of this?
HARKINSON: Yeah, you know it was really funny. It was so crowded, I had nowhere to file my dispatches so I found a broom closet in the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and the guy there was really nice. He was like, "Oh, yeah, use my broom closet." And so I went in there and it was this big, and I'm there with my laptop writing and tweeting. And this guy was really supportive, and all of these tourists were kind of fleeing into there. But once they got in there, I started asking them what they thought. And none of them said anything negative. They're like, "We are totally with these guys."
OLBERMANN: And as the New York number would suggest, there is a 20-point difference between support and support of the right to protest - which is an extraordinary statistic, but it does tell you what the mood is like here.
Are you seeing a change in the protesters? What happened at Washington Square was, "If you don't leave it's time." The policemen sounded awfully reasonable in the tape we used. And people still stayed and were deliberately arrested. Is now that becoming a tactic?
HARKINSON: You know, I don't know exactly what they are going to do going forward as far as arrests go. I think that's an item of debate among the people in the Occupy movement. I have been going to a lot of their meetings. And, you know, they kind of know that the more arrests there are, the more support they get. At least that's been the truth so far.
OLBERMANN: Unbelievably it's true, yes.
HARKINSON: But it's not fun getting arrested, and they, you know, are trying to occupy Washington Square now. And that's kind of a different group of occupiers. So there are those variables.
OLBERMANN: I'm going to go into this in-depth with Tom Hayden in the next segment, but is it - is it a fair statement to say that the leaders of this group - such as they are, amorphous and undecided as they may be about things - are beginning to come around to the idea they want to organize at least their demands or goals for this entire movement?
HARKINSON: I think it's a really contentious thing within the movement.
HARKINSON: I mean, there is this - what's called the Demands Working Group, which The New York Times wrote about today. I was asking people, you know, around Zuccotti about this. And a lot of them just didn't buy it at all. And they really want, you know, to not have demands and instead to just kind of have a set of principles.
But people have tried to come up with demands for this for, you know, ever since it started. There have been, like, two to three attempts and each time, it's failed. So I think it's going to require more time. And it's just really not clear how it's going to shake out right now.
OLBERMANN: Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones, great, thanks for coming in.
HARKINSON: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: As you've seen throughout the month, it has been the unplanned and the unannounced which has been the fulcrum of every milestone in the Occupy movement. Saturday night - as the piece of tape we played earlier showed - when police clashed with protesters in Times Square, an American veteran of the war in Iraq stood up for the people behind the barricades.
(Excerpt from video clip) THOMAS: Why are you all walking like there's a war going on? Nobody has guns! I'm in New York City - I am from New York City - and these cops are hurting people that I fought to protect. There is no reason for this. There is no honor in hurting unarmed civilians, and I won't let it happen.
OLBERMANN: Sergeant Shamar Thomas is a Marine veteran, served two tours in Iraq, took part in Fallujah in the second battle. Comes from a military family, both his parents are veterans, his father served in Afghanistan, his mother in Iraq. It's an honor to have you here, sir.
THOMAS: Thank you, I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Why did you go to Times Square Saturday night, particularly, wearing your medals and your uniform?
THOMAS: I initially went to the protest on October 5th and saw the police brutality. And it made me want to get involved even more to, you know, the understanding that, you know - we have young men and women out here who are trying to inspire, you know, change - and so, why wouldn't I not want to be a part of that? That's my goal is in life is to inspire a generation, you know.
OLBERMANN: Well, obviously because, as I suggested - it was not Sergeant Thomas night on the schedule and yet it sort of became that. You were shouting in a way that - you could see in the policemen's eyes that they were listening, and didn't know what to do. And there were people - Passersby didn't know what to do. And protesters didn't know what to do because, obviously, you were hitting a chord with these people? What were you trying to say? Obviously, we have the quotes, we have the tape. We played it. But what was in your mind as you were, you know, expressing yourself in that vocal a manner?
THOMAS: Well, I've been to Iraq twice. I have been in - I was in a riot in Ar Rutba, Iraq in 2004, where we had rocks thrown at us, and after the rocks were thrown - we didn't go beating up people and arresting people, you know what I mean. We kind of treated it with a level of humility. You know what I mean? And to have the cops beating - I saw, you know, a cop punching a woman in the face, you know, to see that in my own country, you know - my family fought for this country, for people to have a right and these people are peaceful. I haven't seen a video yet where I have seen them try to hurt the cops. Why are they using batons and sticks? Why are they in riot gear when nobody is trying to riot, you know?
OLBERMANN: Did you have a sense at the time that they were listening to you?
THOMAS: I know for sure they were listening to me. I have no - no doubt in my mind that they were listening to me. I had the fire in my gut, you know, so to speak. Like they knew what I meant, you know. I have been to - you know, on over 50 combat missions. So, the intensity is there. They know that I am telling the truth. You know, they know in their hearts, you know, what I am saying is right.
OLBERMANN: With good reason in the last 10 years, particularly the New York Police Department has gotten a little militaristic in their point of view because they now are trained that everything could be fatal, and that's probably a good attitude to have given what happened in 2001. There's an understanding of that, at least where it comes from. However, not every situation is fatal.
OLBERMANN: And it seemed like you were a cold bucket of water against their sort of fevered, "what's going to happen now" thing.
OLBERMANN: Because you've actually been in the real thing where it was life and death. And this was not it. And that's what you were trying to get to them?
THOMAS: It's a time and place for things, you know. It wasn't - when the situation arises where the, you know, the crowd starts getting frantic, that's when it's time to say, "You know what? The crowd is getting frantic." When people are just shouting, you know, "We are the 99 percent, come join us," these are not, you know, chants that incite violence, you know what I mean.
So, why - you know, the riot police were, you know, in form, just walking, marching up and down the street like, you know - like it was a battle going on. And I've been in battles. It was no battle going on.
OLBERMANN: Right. And the other side not only didn't have weapons of any kind, they didn't have the rocks yet.
THOMAS: No rocks.
OLBERMANN: There's no stage at that point. Give me your assessment of the messages that are coming from Occupy Wall Street and are you in favor of them, opposing the corporate greed and holding the banks accountable and supporting the middle class, principally those three.
THOMAS: I support everybody's view. I tell people all the time that I am not a part of any political party. I am not a part of any group or anything like that. I am an American citizen.
OLBERMANN: Okay, so then what does this mean to you?
THOMAS: What this means to me is that - this is our time, in our generation, to change the greed that is in America. Like, both of my parents did twenty-plus years in the military and they have to find jobs now. And it's like, I recruited for the Marines for four months and I taught kids to come join the Marines. So, it's like, come join the Marines and what are you going to do after you get out of the Marines? You know what I mean? So, it's like, we don't - there's no, you know, there's no place for us to go now. You know what I am saying?
OLBERMANN: Is there a place, do you think, - in Occupy, in the entire movement, in the protest movement that's beginning in this country - for veterans' rights, and particularly recent veterans' rights, to be addressed? Should there be some more attention paid to this fact?
THOMAS: Well, that's the whole thing with the uniform. That's what I tell people like, you know, I want to inspire the veterans to come out. Because a lot of veterans have this thing where they don't want to speak against the government. They are so, you know, trained like, "Oh, no, if I speak out, you know, speaking against the government is wrong." You know what I mean? Because we have a chain of command, you know. But I don't think it's about a chain of command. It's about a way of life. Do you understand what I am saying?
OLBERMANN: Chain of command goes both ways. Sergeant Shamar Thomas, U.S. Marine Corps, whose mother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather also served this country, through Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam and World War II. Great thanks to you for your service, to them for their service and spectacular work on Saturday night.
THOMAS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And thanks for coming in here this evening.
THOMAS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Having accelerated and expanded faster than any other protest group in American history, Occupy Wall Street now addresses the prospect of maybe developing demands and goals and strategies, like one suggested last week here by Tom Hayden - mass, non-violent arrests, followed by each protester arrested demanding a jury trial, gumming up the system. Who better to follow up on that idea than Tom Hayden himself? He's next, this is "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: It was one of the strategies for Occupy foreseen last week by our guest Tom Hayden. Now, it's at least under consideration. Each protester arrested exercises their right to a jury trial. Clog the courts. Tom Hayden elaborates next.
The president referenced the protests yesterday. Liberals not only feel liberated by them, they think the Administration may move to the left in the protest's wake.
And - new front-runner, old problem. Now that he's out in front, people are examining his past. Like how he used to fight against tougher drunk-driving laws.
And he has returned, with a conspiracy theory good enough to stump the band. Mandatory singing of the Mexican National Anthem! How dare they! In Spanish class? "Worst Persons" ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Occupy Wall Street - which at this rate will soon be known as Occupy Planet Earth - has grown at a phenomenal rate, from Zuccotti Park in Manhattan to more than 900 cities in a month. That's outside this country.
Now, members of the movement are beginning to suggest it may need two more things - stated goals or demands to reflect its growing strength and are easy to remember, if not easy to define, and operational strategy to grow the movement.
Our fourth story on the "Countdown" - this all may shortly evolve into organized civil disobedience. Protesters at assemblies are struggling with what's next, forming working groups to formulate demands for specific actions from government, while including as many voices as possible.
With mass arrests now becoming commonplace, one strategy for dealing with police and local governments may surface in the next few days, clogging the courts with cases. Or as the defense attorney Martin Stolar told The New York Daily News, "I'd like to suggest to the DA's office the appropriate way to deal with these cases is outright dismissal. The leverage is, we take them all to trial."
Civil rights and anti-war activist Tom Hayden knows as much about formulating strategies for change as anybody in America today. And thanks for coming back on the program so soon, sir.
TOM HAYDEN: Glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: When you were on last Wednesday, you suggested one strategy would be, and I'll quote what you said. "If 10,000 or 20,000 people sat down in the streets of New York and said, 'If you don't do anything about Wall Street, arrest us.'" Do you get the impression that the protesters are either taking that advice or have arrived at sort of the same conclusion that you had?
HAYDEN: No, I was making a prediction about a scenario, not giving advice. I don't know what will happen. The - as a practical matter, about 2,000 people have been arrested around the country. And the pattern that we see is that the protesters are trying, for the most part, to avoid arrests and the politicians and police are trying to avoid confrontations. A reason for that - a practical reason - is if you hold on to a park for protest, for occupation and as a launching pad for marches, you don't want to give it up to be arrested if you can help it. But at some point, something's going to give, and it's predictable that it will go in the direction of civil disobedience unless there's a political solution, which I don't see on the horizon. Do you?
OLBERMANN: No, I think you are correct about that. So, walk me through the next stage of this. And I think people who even know an elemental history of Gandhi knew that he did this in two different countries. Play out the scenario, the courts get clogged to whatever degree clogging is possible. Which, I would think, it would be easier now than ever before. What happens after that?
HAYDEN: Well, I don't think that these occupiers want to get arrested. That's what's different.
HAYDEN: And I don't think the police necessarily want to arrest them. If you look at Wisconsin, the firefighters and the police joined in the demonstrations. So, that's the possibility here that's totally unique. But - if nothing happens - I think it's gradually going to be predictable that the police are going to be ordered to move in.
Then the question is, you know, what do you do? If it descends into just street fighting, it becomes a replay of Chicago '68 and the late '60s - law and order. If there's enough people and they all sit down and say "We want to appeal to a jury of our peers, which is our Constitutional right," that's something that should make the decision makers take pause because I don't think juries are going to convict these people. I don't think - I don't think the Judiciary has the capacity to deal with it.
OLBERMANN: There's still, as I think you noted there, seems to be a lot of public surprise that, a) protesters are being arrested, even though - as you suggest - they seem reluctant and b) the police, although they seem reluctant, are arresting them. Have we lost that protest reflex? I mean, I thought it was that - as long as it was non-violent - weren't you supposed to get arrested at a protest?
HAYDEN: Well, that's the "get arrested and go to jail for 24 hours and get out." But this is about occupying a park or occupying public space, so you've got to be careful if you're a protester, if you get arrested - you lose the space, you lose the launching pad, you get some imagery on television, then the bail costs mount. So, I think this is different.
And I don't think that the police necessarily want to do this. I could be wrong on that. It's - every city is different. But the politicians generally don't want the police to do this. And they don't know what the alternative is. So, it's a stand-off, and it gives an opportunity for the message about Wall Street to be heard. And the occupations are launching pads for demonstrations at Wall Street fat cats' homes. All of that enhances the message.
But if it comes to a non-resolution, the police will probably be sent in, and then people have to decide collectively what do they want to do? What is it? And the Gandhian option, I think, will be there. And I think decision makers - decision makers should know that - that they may face a very difficult "emperor has no clothes" kind of problem if they really have to arrest 50,000 people. So, that should make people try to solve this problem before it comes to that.
OLBERMANN: We'll see if it works this time - with negotiation. The activist, author and educator, Tom Hayden. Once again, a great pleasure, sir.
HAYDEN: Keith, thank you.
OLBERMANN: The president said he wanted to be pushed from the left. He's gotten his wish and then some. Occupy Wall Street's burgeoning political clout next.
OLBERMANN: A month into the Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters might already be able to claim a political victory, energizing the left and giving the president the impetus to push a more progressive agenda. In our third story tonight - Congressional Democrats praising the president for new, bold language, much of it sounding strikingly similar to the Occupy Wall Street protesters' language. Today in North Carolina, the President pushing his jobs plan and criticizing Republicans for their extreme agenda.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: They want to gut regulations, they want to let Wall Street do whatever it wants, they want to drill more and they want to repeal health care reform. That's their jobs plan.
OLBERMANN: President Obama also signaling he may be done trying to compromise with Republicans.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: I don't think anybody doubts that I have gone out of my way to try to find areas of cooperation with these Republicans.
OLBERMANN: His chief strategist David Axelrod also channeling some Occupy Wall Street concerns, yesterday on ABC's "This Week."
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID AXELROD: The American people want a financial system that works on the level. They want to get a fair shake.
OLBERMANN: Democratic lawmakers, who were critical of the president for trying too hard to appeal to centrists during the 2010 elections and thereafter, are now lining up behind him. Representative Raul Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus - who earlier this year said Obama "threw progressives under the bus" in the debt-ceiling debate - now praising the president for his strong words.
He told the Hill today, "For those of us that have been taking those positions for a long time, it is a confidence booster, and I think that makes us a little more assertive."
Representative Luis Gutierrez, the Democrat of Illinois, giving Occupy Wall Street credit for the party's renewed energy: "We're coming together. Maybe the protesters unified the Democratic Party."
With Democrats emboldened by the protests, Republicans are now trying to steer criticism back toward the White House. House Majority leader Cantor - who a week ago called the protesters "mobs" - now simply saying they're "misguided." Arguing on Fox that they should direct their ire not at Wall Street, but at Washington - well, at the Democratic party.
(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC CANTOR: I mean, when you hear some of the Democratic elected leaders, um, joining in, blaming parts of our economy and society versus let's take some of the credit or blame here in Washington.
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent of Vermont. Thanks again for your time, sir.
BERNIE SANDERS: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, one month in - whatever else it has or has not done - is it fair to say Occupy Wall Street has succeeded in turning liberals into liberals?
SANDERS: Well, I am a progressive, so maybe progressives into progressives. I think what they have done - which deserves whole lot of credit and respect - is they are focusing attention on the most powerful, secretive and dangerous entity in the United States of America, and that is Wall Street.
And I think, Keith, if you go any place in America, you find people outraged, that the crooks on Wall Street who caused this terrible, terrible recession - so much unemployment, people losing their life savings, people losing their homes - and meanwhile, the guys on Wall Street - after they bailed them out - they're doing just great. And most Americans don't think that's right.
OLBERMANN: The president specifically, do you think he's seen the light or a light, or he's been enabled to see the light he always knew was there?
SANDERS: Well, I don't know. I think maybe some of his advisers are showing him some polls out there, which say very clearly that when you stand up for working people and you say,"We have got to create millions of jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, rebuilding our schools," you know what? That is exactly what the American people want.
And when you stand up and you say - in the midst of a horrible recession, when Social Security has a $2.5 trillion surplus, can pay out every benefit for the next 25 years - no, no. We are not going to cut Social Security. We are not going raise the eligibility age of Medicare. We're going to defend those life and death programs.
So, I think what the president is catching onto is that the American people want him to stand up tall and straight on behalf of working families who are struggling desperately today, and take on the big-money interests who are so powerful and the wealthiest people who are doing phenomenally well.
OLBERMANN: Does this translate into legislation, does this enable Congress to pass, say - the Jobs Bill - bit by bit, do you think?
SANDERS: If I were a Republican talking about more Wall Street deregulation after Wall Street has caused this recession. If I were a Republican ignoring the fact that we have 25 million Americans unemployed or under-employed, you know what? I would be getting a little bit nervous about going home to my district. So, I would hope that some of these Republicans are waking up and saying, "Yeah, we need a jobs program."
Keith, it is beyond my comprehension how anybody in the United States Congress does not understand that our infrastructure - roads, bridges, water systems, rail, public transportation, all of it - crumbling and in desperate need of repair - we can create millions of jobs doing that. I don't understand how you cannot be supportive of that effort.
OLBERMANN: Do you have, in a big political sense, that the endurance of the protesters on Wall Street and elsewhere in this country has shifted the old "Overton Window," as they call it? Are the parameters of American politics suddenly not just center and right, but actually have a right, a center and a left again in a matter of one month's time?
SANDERS: I think that that's right. And I think when you look at polls - which tell you that people are much more sympathetic to the Wall Street demonstrators' point of view than they are, for example, to the tea party - that tells you something. And it's not only the greed and recklessness of Wall Street.
The other important issue that the demonstrators have been raising is both the moral and economic aspects of a grossly unequal distribution of wealth and income. So, when you have the 400 wealthiest people owning more wealth than the bottom half of America, 150 million Americans, you know what? Most Americans will say, "That ain't right. That's wrong. We got to address the issue of the rich getting richer and everybody else getting poorer."
OLBERMANN: So, I haven't asked you this in all the times that we've done interviews since this started in the last month. As a progressive - as perhaps the leading progressive, certainly in office in this country - how do you feel about this personally, to see this playing out on the streets in this way for the last month?
SANDERS: I feel very, very good, very positive and very proud of what the issues that these demonstrators are raising.
OLBERMANN: I'm glad.
SANDERS: And I think it's going to have a real impact on this country. And I applaud them for their efforts.
OLBERMANN: I am glad to hear that you feel that way and I think the pride on your part is particularly deserved. The great Independent of Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. Always a pleasure, sir. Thank you.
SANDERS: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And then there are the Republicans - now lost in a pro-corporate, anti-minority haze - led by a Romney adviser insisting that women are no longer discriminated against. And Herman Cain touting a federal sales tax - the essence of his "9-9-9" plan - when it turns out that this time last year he was writing that the worst idea we could ever implement would be a federal sales tax. Coming up on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Dumont's Presentation of "Captain Video and His Video Rangers" will not be seen tonight so we can instead bring you "Countdown." It is live weeknights here at 8:00 P.M. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific. Our primary replays are at 11:00 P.M. Eastern and 11:00 P.M. Pacific. We call it "our little miracle."
Herman Cain sings John Lennon's immortal song "Imagine," with pizza lyrics. Imagine there's no pizza. Imagine there's no Herman Cain. Soon?
First, the "Sanity Break." And on this date in 1954, Adrian Burk of the Philadelphia Eagles became only the second quarterback to throw seven touchdowns in one game, in a 49-21 win at Washington. Fame, though, is fleeting. He would throw only 20 more touchdowns in his career.
So, Burk turned to officiating, and he was the back judge in the game of September 28th, 1969 between the Minnesota and Baltimore, when Minnesota quarterback Joe Kapp became the last quarterback to throw seven touchdowns in one game.
"Time Marches On!"
We begin on the Internets, where Blondie seems to have found herself in a compromising position. At least she has some cheese powder to sustain her while she tries to get out. Although she doesn't seem to be rationing it very well. With manners like these, who would ever want to hang out with her?
Well, there's somebody. Blondie, meet Gray-Gray. One tub of ice cream, one tub of cheese balls and I think you guys will get along very well. And they say cats and dogs have nothing in common.
Pittsburgh, where it's World Zombie Day, as if you'd know that already. With so many old and decaying people wandering mindlessly, you'd think you're at the GOP convention. We come to eat your brains. The participants said they had a fun time, but eventually everybody left when the party frankly felt a little bit dead.
Finally, we travel to Pennsylvania, where this cell phone store has a new customer. That's right, the buck stops here. After a brief trip to the bathroom to powder his antlers - whoops, hope you didn't need that - the deer makes his way out of the store. Santa says this is the last damn time he's having the reindeer do the shopping for him.
"Time Marches On!"
Rick Perry's son quits his job at an investment bank to go campaign for Dad. So, naturally, Mrs. Rick Perry claims her son lost his job because of the Obama Administration. "Worst Persons," coming up on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Headlines of import this Monday night. To quote National Journal: "America's involvement in Iraq is ending with a whimper, not a bang."
With Iraq's parliament unable to agree on a proposal to continue immunity from prosecution for the 43,000 U.S. troops there, they will apparently be rushing for the exits in the next six weeks, leaving the American contingent in Iraq at 150 Marines to guard the embassy in Baghdad.
"The message we're getting is," a senior military official told that publication, "'don't let the door hit you on the way out.'"
Rush Limbaugh is under attack from many in the right wing after he defended a murderous Ugandan gang that calls itself "The Lord's Resistance Army" on his radio show. President Obama sent 100 military advisers to central Africa to fight that group. Limbaugh said "Lord's Resistance Army are Christians. It means God."
But even the conservative Eric Erickson wrote "The group has notoriously gone through Uganda capturing children and turning them into soldiers and - when not successful - murdering them. The group engages in sex trafficking, slavery, murder, mutilation." There's been no comment from Limbaugh.
Herman Cain - advocating a national sales tax, a year after he's saying it was the worst idea possible. And "Worst Persons" next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: So, Herman Cain was just joking when he called for an electrified border fence with which to kill illegal immigrants. Guess he was also joking last year when he wrote that the worst thing possible was a national sales tax just before he put it in his infamous "9-9-9" tax plan. Next.
First - because neither bull-crap plans nor juiced fences can keep these Nosferatus out - it's time for "Countdown's" nominees for today's top three "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze to Tom Leppert, would-be nominee for Senate from Texas. He has launched his first political campaign centered on opposition to Occupy Wall Street. First one in the country.
"The Occupy Wall Street crowd represents the same flawed values that got our country into this economic mess," reads his website. There's a petition, naturally. "We will be sending the petition to President Obama, calling on him to denounce the angry Occupy mob."
Turns out Mr. Leppert was the chairman of the audit committee at Washington Mutual Bank. just before it blowed up, and lost $63 billion in investors' money, and got sold to Chase for a pittance, and then we had to go and bail out Chase to the tune of $25 billion.
So, if anybody knows about "the same flawed values that got our country into this economic mess," it's Tom Leppert, 'cause it looks like he invented most of them.
The runner-up? Anita Perry, wife of one-time presidential candidate Rick Perry. And, now we know why she married him. He's actually smarter than she is.
Their son Griffin graduated from college five years ago, went to work at Deutsche Bank as an investment banker. Then the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that you couldn't be an investment banker and have a significant role in a political campaign. How does this rather straightforward, common-sense plan seem - through the misty fog of stupidity - to Mrs. Perry? "My son lost his job because of this administration." Apparently, the Perry family belongs to the "I'm Mad Because I Don't Get Everything I Want" Party.
But the winner? "Lonesome Rhodes" Beck. Having lost 90 percent of his TV audience when he switched to subscriptions, he's now reduced largely to a website. It's called The Blaze and it's hilarious.
It has an exclusive today. "Blaze exclusive: Texas high school students made to recite Mexican national anthem, pledge of allegiance." Duh, duh-duh-duh. "Students in a Texas public high school were made to stand up and recite the Mexican national anthem and Mexican pledge of allegiance as part of a Spanish class assignment, but the school district maintains there was nothing wrong with the lesson."
It was in a sophomore language class. It was in Spanish class. Where they tend to recite stuff - and sing easy-to-remember songs - in, you know, Spanish. But of course, if you're an ethnic and racial bigot like Glenn Beck and the helots who work for him, this becomes a plot to undermine the country and make it possible for, I don't know - Mexico to re-take the Alamo, or drive down the price of gold or something.
You know what they're standing and singing in French class, don't you, Glenn? The Marseillaise, the French national anthem. And you know where the Marseillaise started? In the French Revolution, Glenn. And you know what they had in the French Revolution, don't you, Glenn? Guillotines! Guillotines! We are this close to guillotines in public school French class! This close! It always ends that way!
"Lonesome Rhodes" Beck, conspiracy theorist and goober - today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: Yet another Republican front-runner has begun to melt under the hot glare of attention. In our number-one story on the "Countdown" - it's almost formulaic now, previous unvetted front-runner gets caught on tape having turned 180 degrees from a liberal stance he or she formerly held. Or an embarrassing piece of old video surfaces. Or an embarrassing piece of lobbying or advocacy. Or he or she proposes something too radical even for the radical right and tries to back away, insisting it was just a joke. Or - in Mr. Cain's case - all of the above in one weekend.
The 180, first. Last Thanksgiving, he wrote a column about debt-reduction concepts, posted at a series of leading right-wing sites. "The worst idea is a proposed national sales tax, which is a disguised VAT - value-added tax - on top of everything we already pay in federal taxes."
Twelve months later, a national sales tax is the third nine in Cain's "9-9-9" tax plan. A Cain spokesman told "Businessinsider.Com" that what Cain wrote last year was "one line, taken out of context." So, the publication responded with more context.
The second of his reasons to oppose a national sales tax, that no matter how low you set it - say, nine percent - it could still raised again, later. "In every country that has established a VAT with the promise of reducing its national debt, the VAT has eventually gone up or expanded on top of the existing tax structure ... It would be real easy for an overzealous bureaucrat to insert the language in the legislation - national retail and wholesale tax."
So, Mr. Cain was opposed to the 9-9-9 plan before he was for it. Then there was yesterday's assertion that he didn't really mean the following about an electrified border fence to keep out illegal immigrants.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: We're gonna have a fence. It's gonna be 20 feet high. It's gonna have barbed wire on the top. It's gonna be electrocuted - electrified. And there's going to be a sign on the other side that says "It will kill you."
OLBERMANN: That Mr. Cain was serious about that was underscored when critics came back at him immediately with the charge that the idea of electrocuting people trying to get into the country was "insensitive." And he replied immediately, "It's insensitive for them to be killing our citizens, killing our border agents. That's what's insensitive. And that mess has to stop."
But, by yesterday, when the monstrosity of his idea had become apparent nationally, suddenly Cain claimed he was kidding and it was everybody else's fault that they didn't know that.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: That's a joke, David.
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID GREGORY: It's a joke.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: That's a joke.
(Excerpt from video clip) GREGORY: That's not a serious plan?
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: That's not a serious plan. No, it's not.
(Excerpt from video clip) GREGORY: You got a big laugh out of it. But that's not what you do.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: That's a joke. I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor.
OLBERMANN: It was such a joke that today's the Texas state head of the largest Hispanic GOP group - Somos Republicans - not only quit that organization in protest, he quit the Republican Party after a lifetime in it.
"Where is Republican leadership?" writes Lauro Antonio Garza in a statement, "Where has the guiding principal of morality gone?! If the Republican Party cannot or will not rebuke this hateful bigot and others like him who wear the mantle of Republican then perhaps the time has come for a rebuke to the party itself!"
Maybe Mr. Cain was also just joking in 1996 when he defended drunk driving. Arguing that the blood-alcohol level should be kept at .10, not lowered to .08. Back when he lobbied for the National Restaurant Association, Cain tried to make it easier for people to drive drunk. He argued that the blood-alcohol level for drunk driving should be .10 instead going down. Cain wrote, "The problem is not the responsible drinker. It is the alcohol abuser. Two-thirds of all the alcohol-related fatalities are caused by drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher."
And, lastly, there is that sudden appearance of an ancient, embarrassing piece of videotape, such as this one.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: Imagine there's no pizza/I couldn't if I tried./Eating only tacos/Or Kentucky Fried.
OLBERMANN: Ken Vogel tracks the Republican candidates for Politico and gets to follow that musical number with which we opened the show. Ken, good evening.
KEN VOGEL: Hey, great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Am I wrong to suggest that there's been a certain lack of vetting by Republicans of Republicans?
VOGEL: Yeah, I mean it's not just Republicans. It's the media. This guy has managed to coast - with very little in-depth media scrutiny to this point - to the top of the polls, and what you're seeing now is his belated - some would say overdue - vetting and scrutiny by the media. Where they're looking into his past statements, and you don't have to go too far back. Granted, the video was from ten years ago, twenty years ago.
VOGEL: But the statement from, you know, about opposing the flat tax was from a year ago - or less than a year ago. So, you know, the media has in some ways dropped the ball, but you can kind of see why it might not be something that they would devote a lot of attention to - vetting this candidate who looked like he had no chance of, you know, being on top of the polls for a day, let alone a week, this late in the primary process.
Then, on the flip side, you have the Republican primary voters who - to this point - haven't really seemed to care as the polls indicate. He's had a series of these gaffes. Now, they are getting more attention, though. And now, they're coming - hitting very close to the centerpiece, actually at the centerpiece of his campaign platform, this "9-9-9" plan. So, I think it's going to be tougher for him to laugh off these types of contradictions and sort of scrutiny that he's getting.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of laughs - the fence. If that was a joke, as he suggested to David Gregory yesterday, why did he defend it right after the speech and not say, "That was a joke, moron?"
VOGEL: Well, it's a question that both opponents of the fence - like the gentleman that you mentioned who dropped out of the GOP entirely because of Cain voicing this position - as well as supporters of the fence - like Michele Bachmann, his opponent for the GOP nomination - are not buying. They are taking it seriously and they are criticizing him for it.
We should note, however, that Michele Bachmann also explained her suggestion t - hat the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, which did, in fact, kill many individuals, saying that that was a way of - for God to wake up the politicians in Washington - she explained that as a joke. So, maybe she's not the best arbiter of this.
But these explanations from Cain for his gaffes - whether he's saying something was taken out of context, like his spokesman tried to do with his opposition to the flat tax, or saying that something was a joke or saying that he simply wasn't briefed on something - like he did after he stumbled over a question on Palestinian Right of Return the day after he declared his candidacy - those are no longer going to cut it.
OLBERMANN: So, is what happened to Perry and Bachmann when they, kind of, went through this - post-leadership vetting issue, when vetting is supposed to be pre-leadership - is that instructive as to what's likely to happen to Cain now? Is he going to - people suddenly going to back away and go, "Well, guess what? The other joke in this equation was our support for you?"
VOGEL: I think there's a strong possibility of that, Keith. These Republican primary voters are going to have to start asking themselves the question - who is going to be able to stand toe-to-toe with President Obama?
And while they may think that his candor - Herman Cain's candor - his ability to laugh off mistakes, or to admit that he didn't know something is refreshing and not typical of sort of standard-issue politician, at some point, they're going to have to ask themselves - do we want refreshing, or do we want a viable candidate?
And I think when they start asking themselves - "Is Herman Cain the most viable candidate?" - they're probably going to come to the conclusion that no, he's not.
OLBERMANN: And briefly, on Romney's judicial adviser, Robert Bork, suggesting that women aren't discriminated against anymore - Mr. Bork's managed now to be in a controversy in five different decades. Has Mr. Romney's hope, really, was basically to fly low and watch everybody else self-destruct. Does he have to do something about Bork?
VOGEL: Well, so far, he hasn't. I emailed him and checked my email a few moments ago, and there was no response on this Bork issue. The comments are potentially problematic.
With Bork, as you suggested, there's a trade-off. He appeals to the conservative base. However, you run the risk of offending folks in the center, including, as you noted, women - who are more than 50 percent of the population and play an inordinate role in elections. So, you know, Romney, with all of these things, he's got to ask himself - is this Rose Garden strategy that he is currently using - where he has managed to avoid some of the cut-and-thrust of the daily campaign and hasn't answered questions about his campaign or his past - is that going to be the tack that he takes here, or is he going to be forced to respond?
OLBERMANN: And it's nice to mention Bork again, to remind everybody that Bork was the man that fired Archibald Cox. Ken Vogel, Politico, always a pleasure, Ken. Thank you.
VOGEL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for Monday, 386 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm Keith Olbermann. Give yourself a round of applause, for getting through another day of this crap. Good night and good luck.