Friday, December 30, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, December 30th, 2011

Best Of Countdown. Rerun of Wednesday, December 7th, 2011.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Best Of Countdown. Rerun of Thursday, December 1st, 2011.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Best Of Countdown. Rerun of Wednesday, November 16th, 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Best Of Countdown. Rerun of Tuesday, November 15th, 2011.

Monday, December 26, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, December 26th, 2011

Best Of Countdown. Rerun of Tuesday, November 8th, 2011.

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Best Of Countdown. Rerun of Tuesday, September 13th, 2011.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug 1: After McConnell bashes Boehner, GOP caves on Payroll Tax Cut Extension. Was Cantor trying to steal Speakership?

#ShowPlug 2: @AndrewKroll on nuts & bolts; @Markos on fallout of epic self-injury for Boehner and Republicans

#ShowPlug 3: Justice Dept actually gets $ for victims. $335M for minorities soaked by BOA mortgages. Matt @MTaibbi joins me

#ShowPlug 4: Conservative blogger accuses James O'Keefe of sexual harrassment + worse, implying forced drugging. Civil suit may be next

#ShowPlug 5: The Fake GOP Beefcake Calendar, and Rick Perry trying to Pray Away The Stupids. @MikeyMusto joins me

#ShowPlug Last: George 'Macaca' Allen in video trouble again, and FedEx actually makes the Long Toss Delivery case even worse...

watch whole playlist

#5 'Caveman', Andy Kroll
YouTube, (excerpt)

#5 'Caveman', Markos Moulitsas

#4 'Playing With House Money', Matt Taibbi

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Criminal Intent?', Chris Harris
YouTube, (excerpt)

#2 Worst Persons: dumb carjacker, George Allen, Matthew Thornton III, YouTube

#1 'Turning Up The Heat', Michael Musto

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , ,

KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Payroll-tax-cut extension deal looming as the Republicans abandon John Boehner.

(Excerpt from video clip) VAN HOLLEN: Senator McConnell has, in fact, joined with the other Republican senators on calling on the speaker of the House to pass the Senate compromise bill. That's the bottom line.

OLBERMANN: Then Republican congressmen started calling on him. And his remark from early in the day proved ironic beyond words.

(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: Sometimes, it's hard to do the right thing.

OLBERMANN: As the Republican surrender happens, the next question - did Eric Cantor set up Boehner in hopes of grabbing the speaker's chair from him?

Not just another settlement. Why Bank of America's nine-figure deal with the Justice Department for charging higher mortgage rates and fees to 200,000 blacks and Hispanics might actually mean something.

(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC HOLDER: The settlement provides $335 million in compensation to victims of Countrywide's discrimination.

OLBERMANN: Matt Taibbi joins us.

Serious charges against James O'Keefe. A woman blogger says he demanded she stay at a barn on his parents' property. Implies he may have drugged her. "I found it hard to move and control my muscles."

The GOP 2012, the fun just never stops:

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: I prayed right before I walked over here that I wouldn't make any mistakes that my friends in the media would be able to put on television.

OLBERMANN: You mean besides that one? Plus, the most disturbing fake political calendar of all time.

George Allen in video trouble again:

(Excerpt from video clip) GEORGE ALLEN: Oh, God, torturous. Great spontaneity, take three!

OLBERMANN: And the FedEx guy follow-up.

(Excerpt from audio clip) MAN: We have resolved the issue and the customer is satisfied.

OLBERMANN: Satisfied? So? We're not satisfied.

(Excerpt from video clip) THORNTON: Many of you want to know what is happening to the employee.

OLBERMANN: You bet your ass, Bub. We want to know, because this man represents everything that's wrong with this country.

All that and more, now on "Countdown."

(Excerpt from video clip) BRAD PITT: What's in the box?


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, December 22nd, 320 days until the 2012 presidential election.

Well, now he finally has a good reason to start crying. In our fifth story on the "Countdown" - Speaker John Boehner caves in. It's a cave big enough to go spelunking in.

The pressure from 160 million Americans whose taxes he was about to raise, that he could withstand. It was the pressure from other Republicans - first Mitch McConnell, then Olympia Snowe, then two freshman GOP congressmen on the record in his own House - that did Boehner in today.

The two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut proceeds. Boehner gets nothing more than a promise that Senate Democrats will negotiate about a year-long extension.

Listen to this whole sound bite. The truth leaks past the bullspit at the end:

(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: Senator Reid and I have reached an agreement on payroll-tax relief on behalf of the American people. You know, sometimes it's hard to do the right thing. And sometimes it's politically difficult to do the right thing. But, you know, when everybody called for a one-year extension of the payroll-tax deduction, when everybody wanted a full year of extended unemployment benefits, we were here fighting for the right things. It may not have been the politically - the smartest thing in the world.

OLBERMANN: As for the Senate's take on the deal, Democratic leader Reid issued the statement, "I am grateful that the voices of reason have prevailed and Speaker Boehner has agreed to pass the Senate's bipartisan compromise. I look forward to appointing members of my caucus to continue negotiations towards a year-long agreement. Two months is not a long time, and I expect the negotiators to work expeditiously to forge year-long extensions of these critical policies."

Similar thoughts tonight from the president. His statement read, "When Congress returns, I urge them to keep working to reach an agreement that will extend this tax cut and unemployment insurance for all of 2012 without drama or delay."

One side note about Speaker Boehner's statement tonight, he also used the opportunity to make a claim debunked many times by many authorities, regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.

(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: As you know, this project would create tens of thousands of jobs in our country.

OLBERMANN: No, it won't. One analysis was the pipeline would create 50 permanent jobs, 5-0.

Back to the deal about the deal. It was initiated this morning by Senate Republican Leader McConnell, Democratic Leader Reid agreed. His counterpart in the House made it clear what side she was on.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, writing in part, "The only thing standing between 160 million Americans and a tax increase is House Republicans refusal to act. House Republicans now stand alone."

Indeed, they did. Karl Rove disagreed, The Wall Street Journal editorial board disagreed and then, this afternoon, some House Republicans decided they no longer liked standing alone and they joined the other side.

Two freshman Republicans breaking ranks.

Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin - formerly of MTV's "The Real World" fame - writing, "I'm calling on GOP leadership to immediately bring up the Senate's two-month extension for an up-or-down vote."

And Congressman Rick Crawford of Arkansas noting in a letter to Boehner, "More often than not, an all-or-nothing attitude produces nothing. An all-or-nothing attitude is not what my constituents need now."

President Obama endorsed the compromise as well.

(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: Democrats agree with the Republican leader of the Senate, we should go ahead and get this done. This should not be hard. We all agree it should happen. I believe it's going to happen sooner or later. Why not make it sooner, rather than later?

OLBERMANN: The president also made it clear who was at fault.

(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: This is exactly why people get so frustrated with Washington. This isn't a typical Democrat versus Republican issue. This is an issue where an overwhelming number of people in both parties agree. How can we not get that done?

I mean, has this place become so dysfunctional that - even when people agree to things - we can't do it? It doesn't make any sense.

OLBERMANN: And, if at any point over the last few weeks you thought House Republicans weren't taking the matter seriously enough, there is always Boehner's Number Two to dissuade you.

(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC CANTOR: I saw the president doing his Christmas shopping. I saw he brought his dog with him. We are here. He could bring his dog up here. We are pet-friendly.

OLBERMANN: Speaker Boehner would be his dog right now. The speaker said, tonight, the House will vote tomorrow on the measure.

Joining us from Washington, staff reporter from Mother Jones, Andy Kroll. Andy, thanks for your time tonight.

ANDY KROLL: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Was there one thing that pushed Boehner over the edge today, that everybody had already seen him going over except him?

KROLL: You know, I think that the two statements that you noted - from Rick Crawford in Arkansas and Sean Duffy - I think between those, between The Wall Street Journal editorial ripping the Republican Party, between Karl Rove ripping the Republican Party on national television - I think it was all of these events, you know? It was too many jabs that Boehner was taking to the face. He could not stand up any longer. He had to strike this deal.

OLBERMANN: Louise Slaughter was on this show, night before last - the congresswoman from upstate New York - and said something extraordinary. She said it didn't get any play anywhere else, that she had seen the original version of the House procedural vote on this that would have - that actually, originally stated whether or not the House would "concur" with the Senate version of the tax-payroll-cut extension, and that they changed it out of fear at the last minute before promulgating the thing, that they changed it to "disagree" or some similar word. But she had actually seen the two different documents.

And they changed it, she thought, because if the thing had come to an up-or-down vote in the House, the Republicans would have voted yes, and this thing would have gone away on Wednesday.

Is that, in retrospect, looking like some very accurate reporting by Congresswoman Slaughter?

KROLL: Yeah, it sure sounds like it. What it looked like was a complete breakdown between the Senate and House for one - between Senate Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, and Boehner and Cantor in the House.

But it also looked like Boehner was sort of going it alone, or Boehner and Cantor were trying to make a political statement - you know, "We are here, we are ready to work, you know, bring Bo the dog to Capitol Hill."

But you have got rank-and-file Republicans who are answering their constituents and they are getting an earful. They don't want - they didn't want this brinksmanship. Boehner kept them quiet for - up until today, but clearly, their feelings were not - their allegiances were not with Boehner, you know, for most of this fight.

And it was really the speaker trying to make a name for himself and, instead, you know, having a complete breakdown.

OLBERMANN: I think he did make a name for himself. It just wasn't the one he was planning on.

Did he get anything in this? I mean, a promise to negotiate a year-long long extension doesn't seem like it was much of a concession.

KROLL: The only thing - the only thing that you could say Boehner and the Republicans might have gotten is that the provision that President Obama and the State Department make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in 60 days, that is still in this final measure.

Now the president himself has said, you know, "You can't force me on this. I am not going to," you know, "go by the 60-day decision."

And the State Department has said, "That is not enough time for us. If you force us, we are going to turn it down."


KROLL: So, even that you really couldn't call a win for Speaker Boehner.

OLBERMANN: Of course, Republicans think it would be if he turns that down and there are these 500 million jobs that they can claim are not being created.

What do we see about the second round of this, as they go towards extending this past two months? What's going to happen there? Is there any early lay of the land?

KROLL: Yeah, so the Republicans and the Democrats in both chambers are going to nominate what are called conferees - basically representatives. We're going to have another small committee, just like that super committee that failed, except this one is going to be hashing out a - hopefully, a year-long payroll-tax-cut deal.

You know what? It could play into Democrats' hands, though.

If they get into this committee, Republicans start, you know, obstructing a year-long tax cut just like they obstructed a two-month tax cut, you know, Democrats can do this same thing again. This is an opportunity for them to bash the heck out of the Republicans, and I think you should watch - when this little committee gets together after the first of the year - watch for Democrats to make these same kind of arguments once again.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, but would even the Republicans, after this, step on this same rake again? I mean, this has done some real damage to them.

KROLL: I don't want to say what Republicans will and won't do. But, you know, you think that that would be the case. You know, President Obama's approval ratings have gone up, Republicans have sunk just this week, just on this fight. I would be shocked if they did it again, but I won't put anything past them.

OLBERMANN: It's Christmas.

Andy Kroll, staff reporter for Mother Jones. As always, thanks for your time, Andy.

KROLL: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Let's shift through the debris of the battlefield with the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, "Countdown" contributor Markos Moulitsas. Good evening, sir.

MARKOS MOULITSAS: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Well, Crawford and Duffy cutting Boehner's legs out from under him - as Andy Kroll just said - that was probably was the final straw. When was the last time that two freshmen Congressmen publicly, on the record, defied a speaker in either party and he kept being the speaker long-term?

MOULITSAS: The guy, yeah, he has had a hard time dealing with this. And I remember, two years ago, saying, "I don't know how Boehner is going to survive, given the fact that he has the institutional Republicans on one hand and this entire new crop of crazy, right-wing, out-of-control freshman he has to deal with." And I think this is a perfect example of that.

So, it's going to be rough for him. He has a rough couple of weeks ahead of him. That's for sure.

OLBERMANN: I posed this question at the very start of the news hour. Let me put it to you now so we get an answer, not just a question - is there any reason to suspect, or any evidence that, Eric Cantor set Boehner up in this, in hopes of creating a change in the speaker's chair that would probably fall to him?

MOULITSAS: I don't have any indication that that's the case.

I know, when you look at the fault lines, it was very much establishment versus anti-establishment. Establishment Republicans were very much in favor of this. They saw the politics of it, saw that they were on the wrong side of it. I mean, when was the last time Republicans were on the wrong side of a tax debate?

I mean, the Democrats are too incompetent to make this stuff work most of the time, and here Republicans one-upping that incompetence and giving the issue to the Democrats.

So, you had these freshmen - even grassroots tea party crowd who - that didn't want this to happen, for whatever reason. And it should never have come this far, because it was inevitable that Boehner cave. Instead, he drug it out, he stood his ground and then he basically conceded in about as public and high-profile a way as possible.

OLBERMANN: And to that one point - were the Republicans just so lulled into sleep by the recent tradition of Democrats folding at crunch time that they didn't see how unwinnable this one would be?

MOULITSAS: Maybe that's the brilliant strategy on the Democratic side.

OLBERMANN: Lull them to sleep for two years.

MOULITSAS: You cave time and time again because, eventually, on Christmas Eve, you are going to get them. And if that was the plan, then kudos to them.

I think, finally, Democrats realized they had the winning hand and - not that they haven't had the winning hand before - but this time, it was a really good hand. And they weren't going to fold on it.

OLBERMANN: And they actually bet more than a penny. Any sense of what Boehner thought the win would be? Because, looking at this in retrospect, it was a calamity from the beginning for him.

MOULITSAS: Yeah, I am not quite sure where that's coming - I mean, all indications were that he had agreed to this agreement last weekend. I mean, nobody thought this was going to be this long, drawn-out drama over this week.

It was clear he had his caucus meeting - what was it, Sunday night or Monday - he had his caucus meeting and he comes out suddenly opposed and McConnell is shocked. Obama was shocked. They all thought they had a deal. They thought was done and they could wrap up, go home for the holidays.

And the fact is - that something in that caucus meeting scared Boehner enough that he decided to fight this and, of course, reality has now scared him into caving. So, the fact that that caucus - that tension in the caucus, that fight in the caucus - has to still be there. It's not going away.


MOULITSAS: So, even though two freshmen bolted on this, the fact is that it was probably those freshman, the bulk of those freshman, that forced him to cave on the agreement to begin with and create this unnecessary drama.

OLBERMANN: I know we have said this before, in terms of the dynamics of both parties - but is there any reason to think this changes either the Republicans' somewhat-founded sense that they were infallible in brinksmanship and the Democrats' willingness to, you know, cave with a winning hand? Do we see any suggestion that either side will temper their previous ways, going forward?

MOULITSAS: I would hope so. I mean, it was clear that Senate Republicans were much smarter about this. They knew from the beginning the politics were bad. They didn't cave. They just agreed to a deal to get it off of the table and move on to the next fight.

And Democrats - Republicans in the House could have done the same thing. They could have agreed to this two-month extension and then fight this battle - if they think it's that politically advantageous - fight this battle in February and March when people are starting to really pay attention in the run-up to the election.

Now is not a good time, given the fact that the Senate had already bailed. They didn't have back up.

So, it's clear that Boehner's tactical smarts have to be in question now. I would - if I were part of his caucus, I would not trust Boehner any more. And that is going to make the House Republicans much more - I think, much more of a wild card moving forward, because we have a speaker that no longer feels he can win these battles because Democrats will inevitably cave. And you have a Democratic caucus that realizes that, "Hey! Maybe winning a battle kinda feels good. Let's try to do some more of this."

OLBERMANN: Being hit in the head time and time again feels good when it stops.

MOULITSAS: It's fun to win.

OLBERMANN: Exactly. The founder and publisher of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas. Great, thanks, my friend.

MOULITSAS: Have a great Christmas holidays, and New Year's.

OLBERMANN: And to you too, sir.

For once, the Justice Department has gotten money from a crooked mortgage company that will go to the people the mortgage company ripped off. Matt Taibbi on the 335 million dollars that may mean more symbolically even than it does practically.

That's next. This is "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Bank of America agrees to 335 million dollars in restitution to blacks and Hispanics. Matt Taibbi on the 200,000 Americans whom they ripped off for mortgages between 2004 and 2008.

Little Jimmy O'Keefe gets a break in criminal court. But the judge recommends the woman plaintiff should file a civil suit for what could be unlawful detention and even forced drugging.

Yes, that's Rick Perry's head on some beefcake model's body. And Vanity Fair has assembled an entire calendar full of such horrifying images.

And the worst FedEx guy ever is off the hook. The company issues a nightmarishly bad YouTube apology. Saying the matter has been resolved and he's not working with customers any more.

That's it? The hell it is!


OLBERMANN: The Justice Department has, for the first time, settled with a corrupt mortgage mill and taken the money - not as fines - but as restitution for the actual victims.

In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - the attorney general announcing a $335 million settlement with Bank of America for racial and ethnic bias. According to Eric Holder, the bank's Countrywide Financial unit overcharged black and Hispanic borrowers before Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008.

(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC HOLDER: This settlement will compensate the more than 200,000 African American and Hispanic borrowers who were victims of discriminatory conduct, including more than 10,000 African American or Hispanic borrowers who - despite the fact that they were qualified for prime loans - were steered into sub-prime loans.

Now, sub-prime borrowers often are subjected to penalties and higher interest rates, and have a greater likelihood of default and foreclosure than those who have prime loans.

OLBERMANN: A Washington Post report called Bank of America's purchase of Countrywide an albatross, triggering billions of dollars in lawsuits, legal battles and settlements.

The bank's chief executive said in a conference call earlier this year, "There aren't many days that I get up and think positively about Countrywide transactions."

Next to Holder stood Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who had aggressively pursued Countrywide. She later spoke to PBS:

(Excerpt from video clip) LISA MADIGAN: The compensation structure was such that you would make more money if you put more people into a poor-quality, higher-priced loan. Was that, if you were African American or Latino, you were three times as likely to be put into a sub-prime loan than if you were a similarly-credit-situated white borrower. The wheels of justice sometimes spin slowly but, luckily, they still spin.

The fraudulent, sub-prime loans that Countrywide issued and others issued, they're really at the heart of the collapse of our economy.

OLBERMANN: Let's turn to Rolling Stone contributing editor, "Countdown" contributor Matt Taibbi. Matt, good evening.

MATT TAIBBI: Good evening.

OLBERMANN: That dollar figure - is that more important as a practical thing or is the fact that it's restitution, rather than just another settlement?

TAIBBI: Well, it's symbolically important, definitely, that the actual victims of the financial crisis in this instance were actually going to get some money. But in general - this is good news, but it's - it's not a world-shaking event, because the individuals responsible are still not going to jail. No individuals are paying fines.

It's a good headline. It's a nice start, but until we see all of the other practitioners of these - of this fraud getting punished, I don't know how significant it is.

OLBERMANN: As a good start, is there some suggestion it might be a turning point for the government, no longer this process from those directly regulating the banking and mortgage industries of just accepting, as we described them once, "legal bribes" in exchange to get the prosecutions canceled against these mortgage pushers?

TAIBBI: Well, I don't know how much of a turning point it can be. It's 200,000 victims for a single company, which tells you there were probably a million or more victims out there from other mortgage companies, and, you know, we don't know - is the government going to go after any of that activity at all?

What this is is a highly symbolic act against the very biggest practitioner, which is a now-defunct company. Whether they will go after active companies is another matter entirely.

OLBERMANN: Two hundred thousand cases in which Hispanic or African American would-be homeowners were targeted. How prevalent was the ethnic, racial element to predatory lending?

TAIBBI: It was huge. I interviewed some black and minority homeowners who were put into sub-prime loans and they thought they had regular, fixed-income mortgages.

You know, people - this was an industry-wide practice where, because the - of the incentives built into the system, the brokers were encouraged to put people into more-dangerous and more-risky loans, even if they qualified for safe ones. And as a result, all across the country, people were put into these very, very risky sub-prime loans.

Also, the banks themselves made more money when they re-sold these securities on the open market to investors and pension funds and insurance companies, so they had the incentive to create these risky sub-prime loans, too. So, all of the incentives were wrong and that's why all of these people were put into these bad loans.

OLBERMANN: What is the government, Matt, have in place now to prevent what BofA just had to pay $335 million for their subsidiary doing?

TAIBBI: Well, this has always been illegal. I mean, you can't - you can't discriminate against somebody, you can't knowingly put somebody in a bad loan when they qualify for a better one, you can't hide the derogatory aspects of a loan that - that you are selling to a person. And that's always been against the law.

That we have a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that, ostensibly, is there to protect people from this sort of activity. But, the reality is, there's so many people out there who are getting mortgages and so many brokers out there, there is no way we can actually prevent this stuff from happening. We just have to rely on these companies to behave better and, you know, we just don't know how reliable they are.

OLBERMANN: Once again, we don't.

Rolling Stone contributing editor and "Countdown" contributor, Matt Taibbi. Thank you, Matt.

TAIBBI: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: There is not enough evidence for a criminal complaint. But a woman conservative blogger told a harrowing tale in a New Jersey courtroom about the danger she felt from video doctor James O'Keefe. Details ahead, on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: A New Jersey courtroom heard accusations that a man tried to force a woman to stay overnight with him after possibly drugging her. The man is conservative provocateur James O'Keefe. That's next.

First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date, over several years, were born four people without whom much of American television would not be possible: Diane Sawyer, the actor Hector Elizondo, "Match Game" host Gene Rayburn, and actress Barbara Billingsley, whose fame from "Leave It To Beaver" would eventually be succeeded by her impeccable cameo in the movie "Airplane" and the line "Cut me some slack, Jack! Chump don't want no help, chump don't get no help!"

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: Santa charity run through the streets of Paris.

We begin - as we always do - with more than a thousand Santas running through the streets of Paris.

Trying to get in shape before the big night, they are competing in the annual Santa charity run. Not only did the Santas burn off those cookie calories from last year, they also raised more than $5,000 for charity.

And they made it to the finish line without Rudolph's nose to guide them.

VIDEO: The annual Santa Skiing and Riding Day in Windham, NY.

To Windham, New York. Santas don't only run, they ski. How else do you think Santa gets to all those houses in - well, Windham, New York?

It's the annual Skiing and Riding Santa Day, where over 200 Santas ride the lift to mid-mountain and begin their merry run down the slopes. Dashing through the - oh, a snowboard? Seriously?

The Santas raised more than $2,000 for a local charity, and then went back to the ski lodge to change into their New Year's Baby outfits for that publicity photo-op stunt for the Albany-area ski resorts.

VIDEO: The world's largest ball of mistletoe attracts kissing couples in New York City.

Finally, completing our very special Christmas edition of "Time Marches On," a giant ball of mistletoe right here in New York City.

Look out below! Merry Christmas, I got you some mono.

All of the kissing is for a good cause, with one dollar going to charity for each kiss.

Unfortunately, one couple was kissing for too long, Mayor Bloomberg claimed they were Occupy Wall Street fornicators and he sent in the cops and they paved the whole thing over. None were injured.

"Time Marches On!"

Remember George Allen's "macaca" moment? More trouble for him with the video and the Internet.

And the man of the infamous video-doctoring - James O'Keefe - in court, facing serious accusations today by a woman. A messy civil suit may be looming. Next.


OLBERMANN: "The Rumpus Room with Johnny Olson" will not be seen tonight on Dumont, so we can instead bring you "Countdown," the longest continuously-running 8PM news hour on cable. Unless you consider Fox - "news." We're live each night at 8 Eastern. Every night is a "Best Of 'Countdown'" night.

James O'Keefe - activist, pseudo-journalist, and convicted felon infamous for his ambush-style, selectively-edited interviews - faces a possible civil sexual-harassment suit.

In our third story on the "Countdown" - O'Keefe appeared in court Wednesday, where a criminal judge recommended that the plaintiff in this case - conservative blogger Nadia Naffe - proceed with a civil claim against O'Keefe.

Naffe recounted the series of bizarre events that began October 2nd, after O'Keefe picked her up at the train station and she arrived at the home of O'Keefe's parents in New Jersey.

After refusing to be involved with O'Keefe's upcoming hidden-camera sting about Occupy Wall Street called - or part of his "To Catch A Journalist" series, Naffe asked to be brought to the nearest train station. O'Keefe refused, instead urging her to stay overnight in a barn on his parent's property. That's when she threatened to call the police.

She recounted in testimony that, at one point during the night, "I found it hard to move and control my muscles," saying, "It was his intent to persuade me to spend the night in the barn."

Finally relenting to her requests, O'Keefe and a friend piled her into the car, where she passed out, before eventually arriving at Pennsylvania Station to board a train to Boston. Naffe says she later discovered that a wireless mouse and underpants had been stolen from her luggage.

Naffe turned down an offer of money from O'Keefe, she says, several days later.

Which is when, she says, he began a consistently brutal campaign of emotional harassment. For weeks, she says she received intimidating phone calls and messages from O'Keefe before he rolled out a crusade to tarnish her character, posting a video about her on his site, Project Veritas, calling her "filthy" and "dirty."

"He made me out to be a tramp," she testified. "He used other people to torment me."

For more on this let's turn to Chris Harris, reporter for The Record of Bergen County, with insight of what he saw in the courtroom with James O'Keefe. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

CHRIS HARRIS: No problem, Keith.

OLBERMANN: During the testimony from Ms. Naffe, she said, "I found it hard to control my muscles, it was his intent to persuade me to spend the night in the barn."

Was your inference, as she was recounted her version of the night, that she was suggesting her consciousness had somehow been altered by O'Keefe or by somebody else?

HARRIS: That was certainly the impression that I think a lot of people were left with. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it seemed, sort of, the obvious conclusion, maybe. But she didn't come straight out and say that.


HARRIS: She just sort of, you know, beat around the bush.

OLBERMANN: He's on - O'Keefe that is - federal parole after he was charged with felony for attempting to maliciously interfere with Senator Landrieu's office telephone system in New Orleans. Did he seem, especially in that context, fazed at all by what was going on in the courtroom?

HARRIS: No, no, no. It just seemed like, you know, he was just literally looking like he was waiting for a bus. He could have been at the DMV. Literally, he was cool as a cucumber, just sitting there with his iPhone, you know, sitting through hours of adjournments and family-court-type cases. And then his case came up and that's when everyone, sort of, realized why there reporters - well, why I was there.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, did - did the judge explain why he didn't get the criminal-case proceeding because regardless of, I suppose, regardless of the actual facts in this, the allegations certainly were not milquetoast. They certainly were not offered up in genteel terms. Why is there no criminal case?

HARRIS: I think it's a jurisdictional thing. Ultimately, there was not enough evidence to show that O'Keefe actually made - the harassment stems from Westwood, the borough where he lives with his parents and where this criminal court hearing went down. But yeah, ultimately, he couldn't prove all that stemmed or originated in his jurisdiction. So therefore, he couldn't, you know, the charges wouldn't stick in his court.

OLBERMANN: One line that really jumped out of your story for me about the judge. The judge, to quote your article, "could not find evidence showing the harassment originated in Westwood," as you just said and dismissed Naffe's complaint, adding that she could still pursue a civil claim against O'Keefe. The judge made a point of telling her she could sue him in civil court?

HARRIS: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think he was giving her - telling her what all of her options were as far as where she could go. I mean, he said, you know, basically, it was dead. The criminal procedure - proceeding was dead, but otherwise, you know, it could continue on, as a civil matter, yeah.

OLBERMANN: I would imagine you have spent more time in courtrooms, particularly that kind, than I have. Is that kind of instruction to or advice - it wasn't instruction, it was advice - to a plaintiff in a case that he was dismissing, is that a little unusual? Could it constitute a hint?

HARRIS: I guess it depends upon the judge, ultimately. I have been in courtrooms - all over the country, actually - and it really, ultimately, comes down to the judge and his or her courtroom and what they want to do.

OLBERMANN: Was there any reaction from this blogger, Nadia Naffe, on the way out of it?

HARRIS: Other than she didn't want to talk to a reporter, no. As she stormed off into the police department, which is actually in the same building - it's a small town - and she sort of, you know, eyed at her lawyer, "Come here," because I was trying to talk to him. But she wouldn't talk.

O'Keefe wouldn't talk to reporters, which was kind of disappointing, but yeah. It was quite a hearing.

OLBERMANN: I was going to say - you must see a lot of mundane things and a lot of strange things, but never quite strange in this way.

HARRIS: Yeah. No. No, this was definitely - it was kind of bizarre because no one, you know, people kept asking me, "Why are you here?" Even some of the lawyers were asking me, "Why are you here? Why are you here?"

They didn't understand who this guy was or - you know, so they probably walked next to him in the grocery store and don't even know who James O'Keefe is.

OLBERMANN: Not to draw any undue comparisons, but I believe it was the same thing they said to Woodward and Bernstein.

Chris Harris of, the website of the Record of Bergen and the affiliated papers of Jersey. Great thanks for your time, Chris.

HARRIS: Thank you very much, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Somehow, FedEx makes it worse. The apology that will make you feel like the goods haven't been delivered. "Worst Persons," coming up.


OLBERMANN: Romney and Gingrich argue over kitchens. They should be getting together to fight the Vanity Fair Republican Candidates' Beefcake Calendar.

And how could you make that video of the FedEx guy throwing the computer monitor over the fence worse? Wait'll you hear the FedEx vice president's YouTube apology. "Worst Persons," next on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Donald Trump explains he'd take a lot of votes away from President Obama because he gets along well with African Americans so well.

And Vanity Fair creates the most disturbing, fake, political beefcake calendar of all time.

But first, because these folk are all-too-real, here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze? To the unnamed, failed carjacker in Golden, Colorado - that's the police artist's sketch. He's not a very faint-looking guy.

He approached a woman leaving a gas station there Tuesday night, demanding her purse and the keys to her car. He jumped into the 2004 Audi sedan, gunned the engine and nothing happened.

The 2004 Audi sedan was a stick and he didn't know how to drive a stick.

Our runner-up? George Allen, the former senator from Virginia, now trying to get the seat back. You may recall that Mr. Allen was undone by his lack of understanding of the process by which videotape gets on to the Internet.

(Excerpt from video clip) GEORGE ALLEN: This fellow over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca or whatever his name is, he's with my opponent, he's following us around everywhere.

OLBERMANN: That was August 2006, and Allen spent the rest of the campaign claiming he didn't know that macaca was a racial epithet. It's five years later, and George Allen still doesn't know about the Internet and video. This is from a live web chat yesterday.

(Excerpt from video clip) ALLEN: Thank you all and have a good evening and a wonderful Christmas holiday season.

OLBERMANN: So initially, Mr. Allen understands that, just in case - play the video - that just in case you're still on, you need to be quiet. For 20 seconds, usually a safe length of time - he says nothing. Of course, his staff does nothing. Nobody pushes the "end" button, or turns the mike off, or anything. So, what follows isn't quite Macaca Two, but it'll do:

(Excerpt from video clip) ALLEN: All right, did that one take or not?

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: It took. They were having server problems -

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: The live stream was -

(Excerpt from video clip) ALLEN: Reindeers in the server? Elves? Oh, God. Torturous. Certain great spontaneity, take three!

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: It's very nerve-wracking.

(Excerpt from video clip) ALLEN: How do you reckon it was for me? Let's do this tomorrow!

OLBERMANN: All live on the Internet. George should make his staff carry a tarpaulin they can throw over him when they don't want him accidentally caught on camera.

That, of course, the bad news for George Allen. The good news was that the online carrier has, of course, a record of the number of participants in the Allen web chat, and it turns out the maximum reached was 35.

But our winner? Matthew Thornton the Third, senior vice president for U.S. operations at FedEx.

You have, by now, seen this - the FedEx delivery heard 'round the world. The guy who dumped the computer monitor over the fence, when he never bothered to check if the recipient was home, which he was.

This is Southern California. Based on the tree roots, I am thinking this is Beverly Hills, maybe the Valley. No, the grass is too green. It's been watered recently. That's Beverly Hills.

Anyway, today, this Mr. Thornton the Third posted one of the more hilarious corporate double-speak non-apology apologies in the history of mankind. Here are edited highlights:

(Excerpt from video clip) THORTON: On behalf of all of us at FedEx, please accept my apology. I am upset and embarrassed for our customer's poor experience.

OLBERMANN: Let me just interrupt here to mention that this is not a Kenan Thompson "Saturday Night Live" sketch. Please go on, Mr. Thornton.

(Excerpt from video clip) THORTON: This goes directly against all FedEx values. It's just not who we are. We were determined to make this right. And I am very pleased that we were able to meet with our customer, who has accepted our apology. We have resolved the issue and the customer is satisfied.

OLBERMANN: Bolshoi! The customer may be satisfied but the rest of us are not. We want details. We want to know who this guy is. We want to know how you fired him, and what his name is, so none of us hires him by accident.

(Excerpt from video clip) THORTON: Many of you want to know what is happening to the employee. We take this matter very seriously. While we consider employee information private, I can assure you we are working within our disciplinary policy and the employee is not working with customers.

OLBERMANN: Look, Bub, this isn't resolved. Disciplined? We don't want him disciplined. We want him on live television, all channels at once, begging us to forgive him because he's everything that's wrong with America today - lack of personal responsibility and laziness and stupidity and guys wearing shorts and corporations so dumbing down their employees that the employees have deteriorated from no "longer personally invested in their job," to "not giving a rat's ass about their own performance," and the arrogance of anybody in a uniform, even a FedEx uniform, and doing things so stupid, in public, that they provide excuses for putting security cameras everywhere!

This guy is the Ugly American. And we want his name and address. And we want the right to have one of us - selected in a lottery, a dollar a chance, for charity - we want one of us the right to have - go up to him and rip his FedEx logo off his hoodie and break his glasses by throwing them over a gate! We want this guy court-martialed out of FedEx.

Those are our demands, Mr. Thornton the Third.

Matthew Thornton the Third, Senior Vice President for US Operations at FedEx - today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: When people ask me what I want for Christmas, I reply, "Nothing. The Republicans have already given me enough."

Our number-one story in the "Countdown" - the only thing that could top Rick Perry trying to pray away the stupid, or the return of Mark Foley, would be if there was a beefcake calendar featuring Republicans.

What? There is one? With these Republican would-be nominees, every day is Christmas.

Of all the GOP presidential candidates, Rick Perry remains the gift that keeps on giving. His disastrous debate performances and seemingly unstable speeches made him the star of the primaries. But being the thinker he is, Mr. Perry has come up with a solution to his gaffe problem.

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: I prayed right before I walked over here that I wouldn't make any mistakes that my friends in the media would be able to put on television.

OLBERMANN: Uh, I don't think it worked. As many mistakes as Perry makes, at least he never had to resign in shame, like Mark Foley. Not yet, anyway.

Mr. Foley decided that it would be fun to suggest what he would give as a gift to the GOP presidential candidates. And no, I don't believe he sent it via instant messages to any pages: "That, in the spirit of the holidays, Romney accidentally drinks spiked egg nog and admits it. That, in his new role as a Catholic, Newt Gingrich abstains from lecturing the baby Jesus that Bethlehem was an invented location. That someone tells Bachmann that Hanukkah isn't special bread you make French toast with."

Speaking of embarrassing Republicans, Donald Trump decided to open his mouth again. Surprisingly, he thinks he would make a great third-party candidate - or perhaps fourth, now, with the old governor running - because, as he said before, he has a great relationship with the black people.

(Excerpt from video clip) DONALD TRUMP: I think I'd do great with the African American vote. I just have a great relationship with African Americans and African American voters.

OLBERMANN: Thankfully, Mr. Trump was not included in a Republican beefcake calendar created by Vanity Fair. But some of the people who were - wait, what is this missing? This doesn't seem right. (MUSIC BY BARRY WHITE BEGINS TO PLAY IN THE STUDIO) Okay, better - the calendar features at least the heads of current front-runner Newt Gingrich, Eric Cantor - apparently accomplished painter Eric Cantor - John of Orange before today's compromise, although that's something of a compromise right there. Oh no - Rick Perry.

And, of course, no beefcake calendar would be complete without a shirtless governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

Who else could we bring in to talk about this right now than the one and only Michael Musto, author of "Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back." Michael, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: I think the music is still playing. Either that or I'm having another one of my episodes.

MUSTO: It's making me hot. Is it Barry White?

OLBERMANN: Yes, it is Barry White. Good - you win.

MUSTO: Oh, baby, hubba-hubba.

OLBERMANN: So, we have Cantor painting, Romney is slipping a girl some money in another one of the pages. Ron Paul is lying down in a forest. And there is Chris Christie. Do you have a photo that, say, stands out in your mind above the rest?

MUSTO: I think the one of John Boehner. Is that how you pronounce it? Because he is looking down at his own lack of a "Boehner."

Also, the one of Rick Santorum, to me, is mildly reminiscent of the denizens of a soignee New York club that was called "The Mine Shaft."


MUSTO: Also, the one of Herman Cain I like, because it was obviously taken by one of the 35 women he didn't harass. And I like the piece of pizza there, with the olives. He obviously already gave them the pepperoni.

OLBERMANN: Bah-dum-bump.

MUSTO: Yeah.

OLBERMANN: There's Gingrich again. Twelve months to go - or 12 months in a year - there is only the limited number of pictures they can include. Are we missing somebody, or is there some Republican politician they omitted that should be the feature for next year?

MUSTO: I think Michele Bachmann.


MUSTO: But, you know, if you look at the picture of Rick Perry that actually is Michele Bachmann.


MUSTO: But, if you notice, they kept his crotch area, because it only takes one finger to cover it up.


MUSTO: Look at it.

OLBERMANN: All right, well -

MUSTO: All right, don't.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, okay.

MUSTO: Not without a vomit bag.

OLBERMANN: The one non-active politician in here and - non-office seeker or holder - is - is Grover Norquist. Did the Vanity Fair people not - there is the Norquist shot - did they not branch out enough? Because - if you are going to go for non-elected officers and just Republicans and conservatives - you could put all of the people in Fox News on here? Couldn't you?

MUSTO: I don't think they had the prop budget for all that loofah, and besides, all the Fox News hosts have already done nude spreads somewhere in their cell phones.

I would like to see, actually, the Christian broadcasting hosts get down on their knees, naked, and look like they enjoy it for a change. Or how about a calendar of, like, polar bears from the Animal Planet instead of all these closet-y bears - look at them. Bipolar, closet-y bears.

OLBERMANN: Bipolar, very nice.

MUSTO: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: You have, actually, some experience with these kinds of photo shoots because - I don't know, is this publicly known, that you modeled as Lindsay Lohan modeling as Marilyn Monroe?

MUSTO: I hope so, because it was on the cover of the Village Voice.

OLBERMANN: All right, but I'm just - what's going through the - Lord. Okay, I think we should call the year at an end now. What's going through - what is going through the -

MUSTO: It's the end of civilization.

OLBERMANN: Yes, it's the end of - just call off eternity.

MUSTO: That one's hot, though.

OLBERMANN: Yes, here's the music again.

MUSTO: I am getting mildly aroused by myself. I am getting a "Boehner."

OLBERMANN: Yes, here's the music. When you - when you are being photographed in that - that level of attire, what is going through your mind, if anything?

MUSTO: Not much, but I actually was thinking, "Did Hedda Hopper have to do this to stay relevant?" And I looked it up. And she did. She did a spread as Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn.

OLBERMANN: Hedda Hopper?

MUSTO: She even took the hat off. But Keith, after awhile, it becomes addictive. And I started thinking of more things to take off. And for months after, I was chasing photographers - "Do you want to see me as Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn? Hello, hello?" It's fun.

OLBERMANN: One other topic here, about Perry saying that - praying that he doesn't make another gaffe. That doesn't work. Do we have an alternative suggestion for him, besides "pray away the gaffe?"

MUSTO: How about, maybe, researching, rehearsing and trying to be good, like the old-fashioned thing? I am praying away Rick Perry, I'm praying away the gay haters. Actually, if he exists, he disproves the existence of God. So, how can there be a God if there is a Rick Perry?

OLBERMANN: Mark Foley is back. We heard those gift ideas for the GOP presidential candidates. Turn the tables. Take a few seconds. What would you like to give the former, troubled Congressman on this holiday?

MUSTO: As I recall, he has a fondness for pages. So, maybe the book that Newt Gingrich is reading in his naked shot? I am sure it's a "marital manual."

I don't know, I'm sure Mark would probably like a gift certificate to Walgreen's for some jelly beans and a romance novel. I think what he actually deserves is a job at the Friars Club because - I hate to say this but, much like my own jokes, his jokes are rather repugnant but they're kind of funny. He is hilarious.

OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto of La Dolce Musto, here appearing as Hedda Hopper. Merry Christmas, Hedda.

MUSTO: Barry White, do I hear you? Take me home.

OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this - See you, Mike - the 348th day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House, 348 days in which the Republicans haven't passed a jobs bill of any kind. I'm Keith Olbermann.

This is our last new show of the year. We'll be bringing you "Best Of 'Countdown'" each night from tomorrow through Monday, January 2nd, and then back - live, live, live - on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Congratulations on getting through another year of this crap. Good night and good luck.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug 1: Even Senate GOP Aides slam Boehner, House #GOP for "pulling defeat from the jaws of victory" as Tax Cut Stunt backfires

#ShowPlug 2: @BrianBeutler on latest, w/even Rove slamming Boehner. Rep. @KeithEllison on GOP self-fulfilling demonizing of government

#ShowPlug 3: Occupied, Mike-Checked, Sworn at - and those were Gingrich's highlights, as poll shows him losing to POTUS by 16!

#ShowPlug 4: #NDAA appears to include not just detention of Americans but rendition. Scott Horton of @Harpers analyzes bill's real dangers

#ShowPlug 5: Oh, great. Two more Earth-sized planets. Somewhere for us to... store stuff? @CoolAstronomer Derrick Pitts joins me

#ShowPlug Last: Lowe's changes its story, says FFA had nothing to do with pulling its All-American Muslim ads. Does it all the time!?

watch whole playlist

#5 'Tax Cut Showdown'

#5 'Tax Cut Showdown', Brian Beutler
YouTube, (excerpt)

#4 'Field Of Nightmares', Evan McMorris-Santoro

# Time Marches On!

#3 'I Want You', Scott Horton
YouTube, (excerpt)

#2 Worst Persons: Korin Vanhouten & Eldon Alexander, Cassie Wright, Robert A. Niblock, YouTube

#1 'Space Balls II', Derrick Pitts

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , ,

KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

(Excerpt from video clip) FITZPATRICK: Pursuant to section 3-B of House Resolution 493, the House stands adjourned until 10:00 on Friday.

(Excerpt from video clip) STENY HOYER: Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we would like to ask for unanimous consent that we bring up the bill to extend the tax cut for 160 million Americans as you walk off the floor, Mr. Speaker.

OLBERMANN: That's when John Boehner turns off the TV. The Republicans not only kill a thousand dollars in tax relief for working-class Americans, but then they try to run away like kids who are about to soil their underwear. And try to turn off the T.V. coverage of all of the above.

Boehner, up a tree. A Senate Republican leadership aide says of the GOP in the House, "They are on their own." The nuts and bolts from Brian Beutler of TPM.

Plus, Congressman Keith Ellison, who today writes, "When your entire philosophy is that government is the problem, you make government the problem."

2012 or - more correctly - will Newt Gingrich make it to 2012? Called out during a meet-and-greet in Iowa.

(Excerpt from video clip) SORENSON: You know something, you're a f---ing a------.

OLBERMANN: Then Gingrich, occupado.

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: Let me say first of all -

(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTER: Mic check! We're taking over this press conference. Corporate one percent!

OLBERMANN: Oh, and a new poll - Gingrich would lose to Obama by 16 points.

Even more to fear from the National Defense Authorization Act. Not just detention of American citizens, but rendition of American citizens.

And, have you got a spare Earth anywhere? First Super Earth. Now, two new Earth-sized planets. So, we can - store stuff there? Derrick Pitts joins us.

Lowe's changes its story. It didn't bail out on "All-American Muslim" because of a Florida Islamophobic group. It bails out on eight to ten controversial shows a year!

And - bahh! If you think the mug shot is bad, wait'll you hear what happened to her truck during the mug shot.

All that and more, now on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Wednesday, December 21st, 321 days until the 2012 presidential election, 10 days until the payroll tax extension expires. And Speaker Boehner now working feverishly to control - not the debate - but your access to seeing that debate, even as members of his own party condemn him and declare a Republican defeat.

In our fifth story tonight - President Obama calling Boehner to tell him to pass the Senate's bill. Boehner responding by calling a completely gratuitous news conference, then turning off the cameras inside the House chamber just as the Democrats call for a vote.

In a statement today, White House saying President Obama called Boehner and "urged the Speaker to take up the bipartisan compromise passed in the Senate." According to reports, he also told Boehner "not to waste the next ten days simply because it's an inconvenient time of year."

The President then calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, according to the White House statement, "Again applauded him for the work he conducted with Minority Leader McConnell to achieve a successful bipartisan compromise that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate."

White House Press Secretary Carney today continuing to push that message, praising the Senate bill and blaming Boehner for the hold up.

(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: The compromise exists. It is embodied in the Senate bill that was supported by 90 percent of the United States Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike. It is available, even now, for the House to vote on. There is a stalemate in that the Speaker will not act.

OLBERMANN: Boehner deciding today, instead, to grandstand. Calling a news conference with his eight House Republican negotiators sitting across from eight empty chairs.

(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: We're here, we're ready to go to work, and we're hoping that Senate Democrats will appoint negotiators, come to the table and resolve these differences.

OLBERMANN: Majority Leader Cantor, for once on the mark here.

(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC CANTOR: People are sitting there across America scratching their heads, wondering what Washington is doing.

OLBERMANN: You got that right, sonny. Adding to the confusion, two senior House Democrats showed up at a pro forma session, normally the setting for mundane procedural business, to ask for a vote on the Senate's bill. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer making his case, as the GOP freshman Michael Fitzpatrick, serving as presiding officer, tried to slam the gavel to end the session.

(Excerpt from video clip) STENY HOYER: Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we would like to ask for unanimous consent that we bring up the bill to extend the tax cut for 160 million Americans as you walk off the floor, Mr. Speaker. You're walking out. You're walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers, the unemployed -

OLBERMANN: Even after the officer left, Hoyer continuing, introducing Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the Democrat of Maryland.

(Excerpt from video clip) CANTOR: I am pleased to yield to my friend, Mr. Van Hollen.

OLBERMANN: But as soon as Congressman Van Hollen took the floor, the mic cut out, then the cameras do as well and the shot switches to the Capitol.

Hoyer and Van Hollen reportedly continued for 23 minutes - none of their comments on the record. C-SPAN responding to criticism that it cut them short, by tweeting that, "C-SPAN has no control over the U.S. House TV cameras, the Speaker of the House does."

That's right, that's John Boehner. You may have forgotten that since he never seems to do his goddamned job.

A desperate move from a desperate politician, now under fire from members of his own party.

One Senate GOP leadership aide anonymously telling CNN, "The House Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. They are on their own. This is a lose-lose situation for us. They've let the Democrats get the messaging advantage. The Republicans look like they are the ones blocking tax relief."

And a second aide saying, "The House Republicans pulled defeat from the jaws of victory."

Even the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board with harsh words for House GOP leaders, writing, "The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter. This should be impossible."

Republican uber-strategist Karl Rove, today saying he agrees with that assessment, adding that the Republicans should now wait until the president leaves for the holiday, then blame him once he's gone.

(Excerpt from video clip) KARL ROVE: They've lost the optics on it. And the only way to win it is to stick there and ruin their own Christmases and wait till the president heads off to Hawaii for his, and then lambast the Democrats for having abdicated their responsibilities to pass a year-long tax cut.

OLBERMANN: Meantime, the White House taking to social media to advance its message, asking the Twitterverse to share how the expiration of the tax cut could affect their family budgets. Using the hashtag "40 dollars" - being the average amount per paycheck families will lose if the tax expires - the White House calling on people to tweet what they would do with that money.

The hashtag trending worldwide today, the White House estimating it reached an audience of over 3 million people.

Joining me now from Washington, Brian Beutler, senior congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo. Brian, thanks for your time tonight.

BRIAN BEUTLER: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right, the Republican Senate aides to the House GOP, "This is a lose-lose situation for us... they've let the Democrats get the messaging advantage ... Republicans look like they're the ones blocking tax relief ... the House Republicans pulled defeat from the jaws of victory." Possibly the strongest intra-critical words from any one party towards other members of that same party of the year, but do they have any practical impact on what's going to happen here?

BEUTLER: It could. I mean the Senate - by and large, the Senate Republican caucus has less to lose as a result of this skirmish and this now-stalemate over the payroll-tax cut than House Republicans do. But the whole party is losing. They are losing a message. They are losing a policy fight.

And on top of that, the Senate Republican aides who are talking to reporters about this - and Senate Republicans themselves, who are, you know, up this cycle for re-election, who put themselves out on the line - in addition to wanting to try to bail their whole party out, they feel like they basically tossed a lifeline to House Republicans this weekend and those House Republicans, for a variety of reasons, just kind of shoved it away.

And now, you know, the, sort of - the results are evident. Mitch McConnell is a very, very shrewd tactician and they wouldn't have done this if they didn't think it was, like, a good way out of this payroll-tax problem for everybody.


BEUTLER: And now, the results are evident and they are peeved.

OLBERMANN: Well, Rove's comments, that the GOP should wait until things quiet down, pass the compromise, make a lot of noise - that they have already taken the hit and the best they can do is pretend there isn't much of one, is that actually what's going to happen now?

BEUTLER: You know, there is - I am trying to get a sense, you know, from people on the Hill about just, sort of, what options they are considering to sort of, you know, lose gracefully. They are not saying much.

But my sense is that there is a whole lot of ideas being bandied about - how do we get out of this? How do we put this issue to bed? And Karl Rove and other, you know, party strategists and members of Congress are batting around ideas. This is one of them.

The others that have been, sort of, batted about are that House Republicans say, "Okay, we will pass this, but with," you know, "an iron-clad promise from Harry Reid that he will appoint negotiators."

Other people want to get preemptive concessions from Harry Reid if they pass this, that Reid will stipulate there will be no tax increases as part of the negotiations on a full-year payroll-tax cut.

So, they are - they are trying to figure out how to get out of this. But there's - I haven't talked to a Republican on the Hill, or a Republican aide on the Hill, all week who thinks there is a path to victory for them in this political fight.

OLBERMANN: How did they get so far off their path and into the mire here? I mean, when even Rove and Senate Republicans notice - I mean, it's one thing if Democrats or reporters or commentators notice that this didn't seem to have a win element to it - but when Rove and these aides start talking about it, I mean, it's a bad situation. And it certainly, you know, reeks of bad - certainly, bad game planning. How did they get this far down that path?

BEUTLER: It's sort of a long, complicated story. It's not the result of any sort of grand strategizing by the Democratic Party. They didn't lure anybody into a trap. You know, as much as they might like to take credit for, you know, landing the House Republicans in this spot, that's not what happened.

The House - you know, a lot of House Republicans never really wanted the payroll-tax cut to begin with. Others kind of knew it was inevitable, but they figured "as long as we pretend we are not that hot on it, we can extract concessions from Democrats."

And yet more - when they knew that the big option on the table was this temporary, two-month extension - didn't want to have this fight all over again during the middle of primary season when President Obama was out on the road, when there was yet, you know, probably a greater chance, even, for intra-party skirmishing about it. They were scared of the whole notion of both giving Obama a victory on the payroll-tax cut of any kind and, particularly, of giving him a two-month victory where he could start hitting them, you know, over the head about trying to protect the rich all over again, when people are paying attention, when it's not the holiday season any more.

And so they, you know, they didn't give it much thought beyond just, "Well, let's deny him that." And the ramifications didn't really become clear, I don't think, until after they took the vote, and then there was sort of a "where do we go from here" moment? And there were no good answers to that question.

OLBERMANN: Boehner and his little group of merry men, who still seem to be - at least - plastering the smiles on their faces as they did in the press conference today, they have another one of these news conferences tomorrow at 10 in the morning. What on earth are they going to say during that?

BEUTLER: That's a good - it's Groundhog Day, I think, on Capitol Hill tomorrow.

You know, my sense from the Hill is that, you know, like I said, there is nobody saying, "We are going to win this. We have a way out. We just need some more time."

There is no grand strategy here, but I think, just as far as saving face, the people who kind of landed the House Republicans in this predicament don't want to see - and I don't think that the leadership necessarily wants to do this to them - a quick, immediate, embarrassing cave.

They want to pretend like they gave it their all, they made their case, be able to say - going out to the months and weeks ahead - that, you know, the Democrats kind of left them in the lurch and abdicated their responsibility.

And if they give it, you know, if they give it a few days, or a week, of having these kabuki press conferences and Capitol Hill theatrics about "Where are the Democrats? Why is half this table empty," etcetera, that they walk away feeling, like, that they didn't completely lose, that they extracted some political price from Democrats for not coming back to negotiate.

So, I don't think that you are going to - I don't think that you are going to see any major development, and I would wager that the real development will come when these press events that they schedule hours in advance stop happening.

OLBERMANN: Yes. And what happens - I mean, sort of the - off the playing field, to the next person who says, "You know, we need to really satisfy the tea party," after the results here, because there is nothing in Washington that is more cleanly provable then that that the person or the people who thought something up are blamed for it when it's badly executed.

BEUTLER: And, I mean, one of the reasons that John Boehner is unhappy about the fact he is going to lose on this is that - if he had gotten a full-year extension, that would be it for big business on Capitol Hill, big legislative business on Capitol Hill, for the rest of the year. And that means no having to reckon with his - with the tea party faction within his caucus.

If this two month-extension happens, we have to do this all over again between now and the end of February, and that doesn't please John Boehner and it doesn't please the tea party. I guess the good news for them is that there is not a whole lot of business on the legislative calendar for 2012.

But, you know, from the moment House Republicans won in 2010, it was pretty clear the dynamics of, you know, the new caucus were such that there was going to be big tensions, big divisions within the party. And that those were going to manifest in big fights and that John Boehner's job was going to have to be to steer this, sort of, chaotic caucus towards something that, you know, that looked like unity, that looked like common purpose. And that that was going to be a difficult challenge and that it might well fall apart.

Now, it's falling apart, and I think the big question is how he manages to do this all over again in two months and then beyond that. Whether, you know, those members whom he has been able corral, sort of, over the last several months, if they will listen to him this time or if they'll listen to him when he says, "I want to be your speaker again," in 2013.

OLBERMANN: An excellent point. The senior congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo, Brian Beutler. As always, Brian, thanks for your time.

BEUTLER: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As Barney Frank said, he didn't think he'd led a good enough life to ever see Newt Gingrich become the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Today, we got our first quantitative analysis of what that would mean. It would mean a sixteen-point re-election victory for President Obama. That was the highlight of a bad day for Mr. Newt-ron, next.


OLBERMANN: Shouted down by Occupiers. Called a bleeping ass-bleep to his face by a voter. And down by 16 in the polls to Obama. A good day for Newt Gingrich.

It appears the President is just not signing a bill permitting the indefinite detention of Americans. He's also signing one permitting the rendition of us.

Another day, another extra Earth. Two more Earth-sized planets discovered. Derrick Pitts will explain.

And 16 days later, Lowe's changes its story. It decided to pull out from "All-American Muslim" long before that Florida hate group complained. In fact, it proudly reveals that eight to ten times each year it yanks its advertising from controversial shows. Uh-boy.


OLBERMANN: When David Alexrod articulated the idea that each new Republican presidential front runner gets more scrutiny by presenting his theory of "the monkey's butt." Little did he know one Iowa voter would take that almost literally.

In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - Gingrich addressed in terms like that in a meet-and-greet and that might have been his highlight over the last 48 hours.

First, there was a cyber attack. If you type into your browser you'll be redirected to some of the sites nearest and dearest to Gingrich's heart, including and You may also get linked to articles and videos jabbing at the candidate. A Democratic super PAC - American Bridge 21st Century - is responsible for that.

The organization is willing to give up its hold over that web domain. It has put the address up for sale on Craig's list for a mere one million dollars. They say they would be "happy to accept $500,000 in bling," instead.

In case you're wondering, Gingrich's official campaign website is

Now, the in-person attacks - this morning in Iowa, Gingrich was 'occupied' during a news conference at the state capitol.

(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTER: Mic Check! We're taking over this press conference. Corporate one percent! He's the corporate one percent candidate.

(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTERS: Put people first! Put people first!

OLBERMANN: Yesterday, at another campaign stop in that state, Gingrich got the monkey butt address.

(Excerpt from video clip) TOM SORENSEN: You know something? You're a f---ing a------. Well, it's honesty.

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Luckily, it's a free country.

OLBERMANN: Another encounter didn't go so well. Gingrich was asked about his stance on gay rights.

(Excerpt from video clip) SCOTT: how do you plan to engage and get the hope of gay Americans and those who support them?

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT: I think for those for whom the only issue that really matters is the definition of marriage, I won't get their support. If that's the most important to you, then you should be for Obama.

OLBERMANN: Turns out, plenty of folks are taking Gingrich's suggestion.

According to a new CNN poll, voters prefer President Obama over the former House Speaker by just 16 points - 56/40. Last month, the president was winning that match-up by half that, only eight.

Mitt Romney is doing a little better when matched against the president, but not nearly as well as he was doing one month ago. The president now beating him by seven points. In November, it was Romney beating the president by four, so that's a swing of 11.

Romney is hoping his wife's support can help him boost his numbers. Ann Romney, appearing in a new ad for her husband, attesting to his character. Because the one thing you want to do with a Mormon candidate is remind people about his wife.

Rick Perry's wife also jumping on the ad bandwagon. Anita Perry using the airtime to talk about marrying her high school sweetheart and their Christian values.

Despite the show of family support, both of those candidates were passed over by the CEO of the Iowa-based Christian conservative group, The Family Leader. Bob Vander Plaats announced yesterday that his hair had not moved in 35 years, and that he's throwing his personal support behind Rick Santorum.

Today, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann confirmed that Vander Plaats had called her on Saturday to ask her to end her presidential campaign. She declined.

(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELLE BACHMANN: My numbers have always been above Senator Santorum's, so it makes no sense for me to drop out. Out of all the candidates in the race, I'm the only one that will be able to debate Barack Obama on the stage and defeat him. And I think it's very important that we have a candidate that can go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama.

OLBERMANN: Ah, whatever you say. One final note, if you were aware that former two-term New Mexico governor Gary Johnson was also vying for the GOP presidential nomination - first, congrats. Second, he is no longer in that race. Today, we learned Mr. Johnson is going to run as a Libertarian candidate instead. Third party.

Let's turn now to Evan McMorris-Santoro, reporter for Talking Points Memo, for the latest on our favorite subject - the Republican follies. Thanks for your time tonight, Evan.


OLBERMANN: The non-literal definition of monkey's butt - this is the Gingrich story right now, the anticipated close examination of who he is and how people think of him. And, necessarily, he is dropping out of the leadership, isn't he?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, yeah. You know, one of the things about Newt Gingrich that was always so confusing when he became the front-runner was - he's just got so much baggage going in with him. I mean, he carries so much history and so much, sort of, negative - negative stories galore.

I mean, as a reporter, there is so much to dig into with Newt Gingrich. And it was always surprising that people actually were, kind of, backing him to begin with.

I mean, he came in and stumbled so badly when he started the whole campaign with the whole - talking about Paul Ryan. And now it just took a couple of days - maybe a week or so of tough scrutiny from his opponents, some tough campaign ads, some appearances - to - to really see his whole support collapse in Iowa completely.

I mean, he's still doing better than he was, but he's definitely not the guy who he was, you know, let's say, five, six days ago.

OLBERMANN: The confrontations with the voters that we saw - and nobody is saying either of those guys were Republicans - they make great theater. They make great videotape. But are they actually damaging? Are they reflective of anything? Or are they just two chance encounters?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, they might be damaging to Gingrich, but I think they are definitely damaging to the Republican Party in a way.

You know, a good story from the Gingrich thing is that - beyond the guy who, sort of, confronted him and said that - that bleeped out-phrase - was a woman at that event who claimed to be an Obama - a Gingrich supporter and then asked him, "Well, aren't you too much of a narcissist to be president? Aren't you too -" So, he is facing that problem on his own.

But, you know, the encounter with the gay professor in Iowa - you know, Gingrich's campaign has pushed back a lot on that reporting today. You know, initially, the reporting was "Gingrich says, 'If you are gay, support Obama. If you are gay, don't vote for me."

The Gingrich's campaign's response was, "No, he is basically saying, 'If you think gay marriage is important, maybe you don't want to vote for me.'"

But, what ended up happening is that Gingrich pretty cleanly articulated the reason why gay people probably shouldn't vote for Republicans. His stance on gay marriage is certainly no different than anyone else running for president. I mean, Obama, officially, is not for it. He says he is evolving on gay marriage.

But, what ended up being sort of a moment that the Gingrich campaign is trying to, sort of, change the perception of and make it more - make it better for their candidate, I think, actually, just really fundamentally defines, kind of, where they are with this very important topic of gay rights.

I mean, you see them consistently getting sort of - well, not attacked, but confronted by gay rights activists all over the campaign trail and they all have these awkward moments. And Gingrich's was, sort of, the - maybe the most awkward, but it was just, sort of, one of many. And I think it kind of indicates where they all are falling on this issue. And I think Gingrich really cleaned up for everybody on that one.

OLBERMANN: And as I pointed out already, those two exciting encounters with American people probably were more enjoyable for Mr. Gingrich than the polling news. Minus 16 to the president, which was minus eight a month ago. And it's especially bad for Romney, who was beating Obama in the same polling last month.

The assumption was - Romney's viability was his electability and that seems to be out the window. And Gingrich's viability was his extreme chops for the tea party and the rest of the right wing and, that would lead to some sort of "taking back the country, blah, blah, blah, revolution making it 1926 again."

Both of these things - obviously, it's way early - but both of these things are really being battered, as concepts, by this new polling.

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, yeah. Well, you know, inside the poll is, sort of, information that suggests that Obama is winning partially because of this payroll-tax fight and because people are thinking he is better on the middle class than the Republicans are.

And this has sort of been where Mitt Romney's problem has been. Mitt Romney, of course, at first called this payroll-tax extension "a Band-Aid" and wasn't for it, before almost immediately flip-flopping and saying "Well, I would extend it, but I still think it's a Band-Aid." This kind of rhetoric, I think, it makes things tough for him.

Also, because of being of the fight with Gingrich and, of course, Gingrich gave him a scare there for awhile - I don't know how much that scare is going to end up being, we still have to see how it plays out. South Carolina is a big state for Newt Gingrich, so who knows?

But for now, the scare that he got from Gingrich really forced Romney into some tough positions that really got away from that electability argument. Put him right - farther to the right than I think he wanted to be, farther to the right than I think he was planning on being. And as that started to happen, the Democrats have pounced, shown it off, made the web videos, they've even run some ads in places. Made a lot of noise about it.

And as that's happened, you know, you've seen, sort of, Romney versus the Democrats - that's kind of tanked his numbers, really. I mean, it's - it's - it's just been a tough fight for him and one, I think, is based on the fact that he's had to go to the right where I think, maybe, he has to win these votes. But it's not where he wanted to be right now.

OLBERMANN: What a mess. Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo. Always a pleasure, Evan. Thank you kindly.

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Thank you so much.

OLBERMANN: If you are worried about that part of the National Defense Authorization Act that would permit the indefinite detention of American citizens, maybe you should also worry about that part that permits rendition of American citizens. The latest, ahead on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: The Defense Authorization Act. It's not just detention, it's also rendition, next.

First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1989 Vice President J. Danforth Quayle sent out this lovely Christmas Card to 30,000 people on his mailing list.

The cover is indeed his family, there's no mistake there. Inside was the Vice President's personal greeting, "May our nation continue to be the beakon of hope to the world." Beacon was misspelled "B-E-A-K-O-N. We assume he meant beacon, B-E-A-C-O-N. But it's possible he meant Beaker from the Muppets.

"May our nation continue to be the Beaker of hope to the world." Mee-mee-mee-mee-mee.

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: Cat soothes crying baby.

We begin with the TMO Adorable Clip of the Day, also a nominee for Adorable Clip of the Year.

As everybody knows, the best way to stop a crying baby is to send in the cat.

He's not sure how to stop the crying, but he knows this kid is really disrupting the nap. When in doubt, treat the baby like a ball of yarn. That's just Parenting 101, right in progress. That's it.


World of ballet.

And you know, you go to see the "Nutcracker" and they announce that, instead of the regular star, Mother Ginger is going to be played by former Yankees' first baseman, now Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly? That's what happened in Evansville, Indiana, hometown of Mr. Mattingly.

Donny baseball? Donny ballet. Donny ballet in drag.

It's very strange seeing him out there. I'll have to admit, though, his pointe work is flawless.

VIDEO: All-tuba orchestra performs Christmas carol.

Finally, it's not quite Christmas season without Christmas music. And Christmas music does not sound any better than when it's performed by an all-tuba orchestra.

Tubas on ice! Much better than last year's all-cowbell performance.

"Time Marches On!"

More than two weeks into its scandal, Lowe's has just, today, changed its story about why it pulled its ads from "All-American Muslim." Ahead.


OLBERMANN: "The Rumpus Room with Jonny Olsen" will not be seen tonight on Dumont, so we can instead bring you "Countdown," the longest continuously-running 8 PM news hour on cable. Unless you consider Fox - "news." We're live each night at 8 Eastern. Every night is a "Best Of 'Countdown'" night.

On his second day in office, President Obama signed an executive order shutting down the Bush-era practice of "extraordinary rendition," which involved picking up a suspected terrorists in one country and moving them to a so-called "black site" in another country, where conditions and/or laws concerning torture were sub par.

In our third story - a nearly-overlooked section of the new Defense Authorization Act, which already allows for permanent detention of American citizens, seems to provide the president cover for a revival of this tactic, rendition.

Under the heading "Disposition Under Law of War," which dictates what can be done to the detained, Section Four makes it clear that the president is allowed to "transfer to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity."

Or, in layman's terms, subject them to rendition.

While the president has stopped the Bush Administrations action of "extraordinary rendition," it is possible that Section Four would provide the legal justification for resurrecting a similar program.

Some claim that the Defense Authorization Act does not apply to American citizens at all. They point to an amendment added by Senator Dianne Feinstein, which states that, "Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States," seemingly indicating that none of this applies to American citizens or any person living in the U.S.

However, the idea that this will not "affect existing law" gives that amendment almost the opposite meaning. The Obama administration claims that - under its interpretation of current laws - it already has the power the detain anyone who it think supports al-Qieda, the Taliban-associated forces and, among the potential detainees, American citizens are included.

Let's try to straighten out the meaning of this bill with Scott Horton, contributing editor for Harper's Magazine. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

SCOTT HORTON: Great to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Does that amendment, added by Senator Feinstein, in fact, exclude American citizens from this bill, or does the president's interpretation of the law overrule it?

HORTON: No, it leaves the question open, fairly, I think. And, in fact, Senator Feinstein offered two amendments. The first one, I think, would have resolved this fairly clearly, to the effect that Americans would not be covered unless they were apprehended outside of the country. But that amendment failed, 55 to 45. So, the one that passed is much more ambiguous. I think it makes clear that the law is locked in as it stands, but I think there is a lot of room for argument about how the law stood before this measure was enacted.

OLBERMANN: So, the simple answer to the complex question is probably impossible. What is the simplest, however, answer to the question of what this bill has done to a president's ability to detain American citizens, captured on American property or soil or in the country itself in terms of detention or in terms, now, of rendition?

HORTON: Well, we have a very aggressive attempt to define the homeland as part of the battlefield. That, in fact, figured in the floor arguments for this measure.

And American citizens - clearly not exempt. They clearly can be determined to be with al-Qaida or associated forces. So, it's clear to me - even with the Feinstein amendment, there still would be a clear basis for the president, if he chose to do so, to seize an American citizen and subject him to treatment under this militarized version.

I think there are, sort of, two different ways you can look at this. You can look at an American who wears a foreign uniform of a power at war with us, as happened during World War II. That's a clear-cut case.

But then you've got the case of, let's say, a teenager in Ohio who uploads an al-Qaida video and sends emails arguing or praising al-Qaida's attacks. Well this- such a person could be labeled an al-Qaida sympathizer, as someone working with al-Qaida, could be seized and could be dealt with. But not in the view, I think, of a majority of the Supreme Court justices.

So, I think we have got a lot of room to argue about the second case. But it's not clearly resolved, and there is very good reason for civil libertarians to be troubled by this measure.

OLBERMANN: And about the Supreme Court - the rose-colored view of this suggests that yes, it may be vague but the Feinstein amendment probably covers the chance of throwing that kid in Ohio into the back of a van and locking him up indefinitely and, if it doesn't, don't worry, the Supreme Court will rule it unconstitutional.

But even that scenario would allow the government to keep somebody under wraps for a long period of time until that hypothetical Supreme Court ruling. We are talking about, essentially, three years, four years before there might be a ruling in such a case?

HORTON: Yes, well, the experience since the beginning of the war on terror was three years and up, certainly not less than that. I think it would be some measure of public outroar - uproar if this happened with a school kid from Ohio, but you have standing issues to resolve, many other things.

I think it would be - it would be difficult to get a determination in the Supreme Court quickly. And the Supreme Court is changing. So, you know, I think we have a snapshot from several years ago where the court majority would have been opposed to it. I think that's still the case today. But I think we could see some change in its composition before the question is actually presented.

OLBERMANN: The statement from the attorney general, that the president is going to issue a signing statement for the bill that would help clarify this - any indication what that might be or what should be most clarified?

HORTON: Not clear. I mean, I think there are two major areas where the Obama administration pushed back. One area, fairly effectively, had to do with the president's authority in this area - his authority to direct prosecutions, to choose the system that will be applied and so forth.

And I think the Justice Department probably is going to say, "In signing this, he is not stepping back from the historical view of presidential powers in this area."

But I think the area of greater concern, really, is with civil liberties. And I think there is he is under considerable pressure to step up to the plate and say something about how he will apply this legislation consistent with the Constitution, consistent with the Bill of Rights. And that's where I hope to see Eric Holder to take pen to paper and state something aggressive, but we haven't seen anything like that so far in this administration.


Scott Horton, human rights law authority, and of Harper's Magazine, great thanks for the attempt at the clarifications.

HORTON: Great to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Lowe's changes its story. The President of the University of Texas College Republicans does not. Details on each, ahead in "Worst Persons."


OLBERMANN: Last month we had just one earth. Now there's a Super-Earth plus tonight, reports of two Earth-sized planets newly discovered four Earths. Maybe we can send her to one of the spares. Even as the College Republicans apologize for her racist tweet, the President of them at the University of Texas, doubles down on her insults. "Worst Persons" ahead.


OLBERMANN: First, there was the new "Super Earth". Tonight, there are two more new Earth-sized planets. Tomorrow, we'll discover there's an extra Tim Tebow somewhere in the universe. That's next.

But first, because we can only hope there's just one of these following folks, here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze? To Korin Vanhouten and Eldon Alexander. Last Thursday was just not their day. They were cited in Ogden, Utah, for shoplifting some low-priced merchandise out of a WinCo Foods. After the cop let them go and started to leave, he saw them waving furiously to him from the parking lot. While they were in the store, allegedly shoplifting 25 bucks worth of small stuff, somebody broke into their truck and stole a stereo worth 60 bucks.

Plus, they had to take those mugshots.

The items they were accused of taking? Batteries, energy bars, and make-up.

Our runner-up? Cassie Wright, the president of the University of Texas College Republicans. Who has now acknowledged this was indeed her tweet: "My president is black, he snorts a lot of crack. Holla. #2012. #Obama."

She's not only acknowledging it, she's defending it, and insisting it is not racist. Because, she says, she's just satirizing a rap lyric. And, even though the College Republicans group has apologized for what she tweeted, she is portraying herself as the victim, re-tweeting some of the more vile responses to what she tweeted, then following up with one like this, "Two days later and people still don't care that Obama really did use 'blow' #imsurprised"

As she'll find out, the key is whether, after graduation, you continue to do the same stupid, self-destructive, and often illegal things you did in college. Like being president of the campus Republicans.

But how screwed up this really is was emphasized by Wright complaining when she was attacked on her Facebook page, "I find the fact that Obama was a drug user ironic, considering there is a popular song celebrating his election and character. Not sure how finding humor in this irony is open discrimination again [sic] any race, but believe what you will. I respect your freedom of speech, but please next time just don't use that freedom on my personal Facebook."

Translation? I respect your freedom of speech, except when you try to use it in public to criticize my freedom of speech in public.

But our winner? Robert Niblock, the CEO of Lowe's. Just when you thought the company's cave-in to Islamophobic pressure groups might fade away, Mr. Niblock's people have now changed their story.

For sixteen days, Lowe's has said nothing to contradict the claim by the Islamophobic group Florida Family Association that it got Lowe's to pull its ads from the TLC show "All-American Muslim." Now, it says Florida Family Association had nothing to do with it.

Tom Lamb, Lowe's VP of marketing, with a rather late "This Just In" bulletin, "The decision," he says, "was absolutely not, despite what's been reported in the media, influenced by any one group."

A Lowe's spokeswoman, Chris Ahearn, said that Lowe's ads first ran on "All-American Muslim" on December 4th, and that the next morning, one of Lowe's social media team reported to management that there was "negative chatter" about the show on several social media platforms, and that the decision to pull the ads was made shortly thereafter. And that what they sent to the Florida Family Association the next day was merely a form email:

"While we continue to advertise on various cable networks, including TLC, there are certain programs that do not meet Lowe's advertising guidelines, including the show you brought to our attention. Lowe's will no longer be advertising on that program."

So, Lowe's says it wasn't the FFA's Islamophobia that convinced it to pull out of "All-American Muslim." It was the general Islamophobia on Facebook and Twitter and such. Not only is Lowe's claim a new one, but - get this - the spokeswoman also says Lowe's changes its ad line-up dozens of times each year, and as many as 8 to 10 times each year it will pull ads from shows that are controversial.

Really? So what other hate groups has Lowe's caved in to?

Robert Niblock, CEO of Lowe's - today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: In March 2009, the Kepler telescope was launched on a three and a half year mission in space to search for planets similar to ours.

In our number-one story - after already finding at least 30 planets, the Kepler telescope has made its biggest discovery to date - two Earth-sized planets orbiting a star nearly one thousand light years away, the smallest planets ever discovered. Combine that with the "Super Earth" found earlier this month and - suddenly - we're in a freaking crowd.

The two new places circle a star called Kepler-20, which is located just 950 light years away.

Kepler-20e has a diameter slightly smaller than Earth. Of the pair, it is the closest to the sun - their sun, not ours - taking one Earth week to circle its sun. Because of its close proximity, the surface temperature is just a summery 1,400 degrees.

Its partner planet, cleverly named Kepler-20f, has nearly the same diameter of Earth. It is slightly further from its sun, completing an orbit in a little less than three of our Earth weeks. It, too, does not have a surface conducive to hosting life, but it's cooling off - just eight hundred degrees.

That's tomorrow's forecast, enjoy the day, everybody.

But - according to the lead author of the study, Francois Fressin - it is possible that Kepler-20f began its life further away from its sun, leaving the slight possibility that it could have developed an atmosphere of water vapor, which would be gone by now. The two planets join three other gaseous planets in the Kepler-20 system.

The new find comes on the heels of the discovery of a planet larger than Earth, but located in the so-called "Goldilocks" range - the perfect distance from its own sun, so that its surface temperature is not too hot, too cold but just right. They call it Super Earth.

Joining me to explain what this means, in terms most can understand, "Countdown" contributor and chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute - Derrick Pitts. Good evening, Derrick.

DERRICK PITTS: How are you tonight, Keith?

OLBERMANN: I'm suitably impressed. I'm suitably impressed by these discoveries. Now, tell me why I care.

PITTS: The reason why you care is because - number one, when we figure out these planets are there, it gives us a good indication that our supposition is right. Our ideas about how planets form and where they should be orbiting other stars, we know that stuff is right. And that's a good thing.

But the real reason why we should care, when we get right down to it, is - we are looking for another Earth. Now, I am not sure if we are really looking for Krypton, so we can find out where Superman came from, or the Bizzaro World, but we really are looking for another Earth. Partially because we want to see if planets like ours can develop, are orbiting around other stars. In other words - how common are planets like ours? And, of course, the holy grail of all is - is there any other life out there?

OLBERMANN: By the way, "Kryptin," as Marlon Brando pronounced it. I always liked the "Kryptin" rather than the Krypton, but whatever.

PITTS: I see.

OLBERMANN: What - what is the size of the planet and its proximity to its star matters why, relative to habitability?

PITTS: The reason why it matters is because - if the planet is too close to the star, it turns out that you can't have water there as a liquid. And as far as we know it, for life to develop, just as it did here on Earth, it has to develop in this organic soup of organic chemicals and compounds that are mixed in water.

So, if the planet is too close to the star, then it's too hot for water to exist as a liquid and the chemical bonds that are made cannot form, because there is way too much energy in the system.

If we move that planet too far away from the sun, then what happens is - it's too cold for those bonds in the organic compounds to exist and life can't develop. So, we look for it right in that habitable zone around the planet, far enough away where water can exist as a liquid.

OLBERMANN: So, this is nice to know all of this, obviously, but - since there isn't a possibility foreseeable, even scientifically, even in terms of science fiction - of us traveling to the planets 950 light years away, what is the benefit of finding them? Among other things, we are seeing them as they were a thousand years ago. For all we know, they moved.

PITTS: The benefit for us is - if we can identify that other planets like Earth exist, what it means is, we can start looking for them around certain kinds of stars.


PITTS: And we can look for certain signatures. Now, what Kepler is doing is, it's looking at a group of 150,000 stars in a very small section of the sky, Keith, and - as you said - these are about a thousand light years away. What would happen if we could identify a star, a type of star, that would support this kind of planet, but closer to us? It would at least give us somewhere to aim our television programming to find out if we could get any response from the intelligent folks out there.

OLBERMANN: After having failed to do so here on Earth, you want to send our television programming to some poor Kepler-20f or similar folks nearby.

PITTS: We will see what they think.

OLBERMANN: I hope they enjoy it more. The first thing is to find out where the planets are and whether or not they could sustain life. And the next thing is to find out whether or not there's been life existent on them already, or might yet be. Is there any way to do that, given so far away? Especially in the case of the famous Super Earth?

PITTS: Well, it's a tricky business to try to identify whether or not we can find those organic chemical signatures - organic compound signatures - in the atmospheres of these planets. And that's what we are expecting, is that - when we find an Earth-like planet in the right region - the atmosphere will be able to show us this.

Now, in order for us to do this, we will need to use much more sophisticated, much more capable detectors than we have now. If you look at it this way, Keith - 10 years ago, we couldn't do what we are doing now. So, I would guess that, within 10 years, we will have the equipment to do so and we will have identified many more candidates to examine.

OLBERMANN: The chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute, "Countdown" contributor Derrick Pitts, on the discovery of these two twin Earth-size planets around Keplar-20 - Gabe Kepler and Gabe Kaplin. Great thanks for your time tonight.

PITTS: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 347th day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House. Thus, 347 days in which the Republicans haven't passed a jobs bill of any kind.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap. Good night and good luck.