'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, January 10th, 2011
Guests: Dr. Rainier Gruessner, Dr. Michael Lemole, Clarence Dupnik,
Patricia Maisch, Mark Potok, Josh Marshall
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): The national moment of silence - at the state of the state address in Arizona - and silence from the defendant in his first appearance in court.
OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The secretary of state in the United Emirates speaks out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman Congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot by an extremist in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: "The extremists," she adds, "and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on TV, that's not who we are."
The honest sheriff of Pima County:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As a senator from his own state criticizes him for speaking out. Our guest is Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
The prognosis for Congresswoman Giffords: still no swelling, hopeful, still precarious. Her doctor joins us.
Don't retreat. Instead, reload. As he tried, she stopped him.
Patricia Maisch will not answer to hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICIA MAISCH, HERO: Just kept firing all along that row of chairs, taking out whoever was in the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: How someone this disturbed got a gun and the right to carry it concealed and the inspiration he seems to have drawn from the white power and anti-Semitic fringe - with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok.
Tom DeLay sentenced.
A word about "Worsts."
And words about words - transforming Palin's bull's eyes into surveyors' marks - with Josh Marshall.
And denouncing violence while hinting of governmental tyranny that could justify violence?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS: I choose to see it for what it is, the life or death of the republic. We're running out of time. We have to make this choice before others just make it for you. Sponsor this half hour is Goldline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We must stand together against all violence. Stand armed evidently.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, January 10th.
As Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona still fights for her life tonight and we get glimmers of hope that we might soon be able to talk about the nature, not the chances of her recovery, her surgeons join us.
In our fifth story tonight: we're beginning tonight to see what impact the shooting and the reaction and the evidence will have when it comes to uniting this country and the commitment to abandon the rhetoric of violence, to abandon the rhetoric of apocalyptic problems that require violent solutions.
That impact today almost negligible. Those refusing to acknowledge that role that politics plays in loading the guns of madmen insisting that politics have no part in this discussion, attacking the Arizona sheriff who made the obvious point that politics is inextricable. The sheriff is standing by to join us as well.
Politics is inextricable from this, politics what drew not just the shooter and the target together but also many of the victims, some of the heroes. One who came to thank Giffords for what the Democratic stimulus package had done for her business ended up saving lives. Also standing by to share her story.
Some of the dead, too, were drawn by politics.
Federal Judge John Roll, 63 years old, wanted to discuss judicial backups.
Gabe Zimmerman, 30-year-old man whose job was politics, working in Giffords' office to serve constituents.
Dorwin Stoddard, 76 years old, married his high school sweetheart. She is one of the wounded. She says her late husband saved her life. They stopped by to tell Giffords what a good job she was doing.
Dorothy Morris, 76, married 55 years. Husband, wounded.
Seventy-nine-year-old Phyllis Schneck who made quilts for charity, a Republican who have come to like Ms. Giffords and came to meet her.
Christina Taylor Green, drawn there to learn about politics, having recently joined her student council. Her life uniquely, American born on 9/11. Christina, a Little Leaguer, the daughter of a former minor league pitcher in the American pastime, granddaughter of Dallas Green, still a hero in Philadelphia, where he managed the Phillies to their first world championship, later manager of both New York teams, general manager of the Chicago's Cubs.
The man accused of killing them, Jared Lee Loughner, at his first court appearance today - his family reportedly blockading their house when the FBI first tried to enter today. Found behind the house, in a camouflage tent, on the cub display, with a replica of a human skull. An envelope found at his house apparently naming Giffords as target for assassination, his politics apparently incoherent, his distrust for government however well-documented, complaining about government takeover, the unconstitutionality of government, U.S. currency, and so forth.
Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona yesterday criticizing Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik for his remarks on Saturday about the political climate in Arizona where Congresswoman Giffords had been targeted repeatedly by violent rhetoric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUPNIK: I hope that all Americans are saddened and as shocked as we are. And I hope that some of them or most of them are as angry as I am and as a lot of us are, and I think it's time as a country that we need to do a little soul-searching because I think it's the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business, and some people in the TV business, and what we see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised, that this has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Right wing radio and some on TV, as he phrased it, responding by, "A," claiming left-wing political rhetoric comes in equal measure and an equal volume, though it does not; and "B," the criticism of violent political rhetoric is itself politically motivated.
Never mind it was Giffords' father when asked if she had any enemies who replied, quote, "The whole Tea Party," unquote.
Or that Giffords herself e-mailed a Republican friend on the eve of her shooting discussing ways to tone down the rhetoric.
Or that the FBI director said the Internet has made the availability of hate speech a challenge.
Or that an anonymous senior Republican senator told "Politico," the shooting was a cautionary tale for Republicans. Quote, "There is need for some reflection here. What is too far now?"
Or that the Tea Party Express replies to this day's events with a fundraising e-mail.
Almost overlooked in all of this was the secretary of state speaking in and to the Middle East in the United Arab Emirates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave, young woman Congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot by an extremist in our country. The extremists and their voices, the crazy voices that sometimes get on the TV, that's not who we are. That's not who you are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: "National Journal" reports tonight, President Obama is likely to go to Tucson on Wednesday.
And if the quintessential American-ness of the victims hadn't been clear, there was today the identical twin of the congresswoman's astronaut husband, himself an astronaut, calling for an end to irresponsible words - calling for that even from the soundless void of space.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SCOTT KELLY, NASA COMMANDER: We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not. These days, we're constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions but also with their irresponsible words.
We are better than this. We must do better.
The crew of ISS Expedition 26 and the flight control centers around the world would like to observe a moment of silence in honor of all the victims, which include my sister-in-law, Gabrielle Giffords, a caring and dedicated public servant.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the president today leading that national moment of silence, speaking later today to the better angels of our nature.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, all of us are still grieving and in shock from the tragedy that took place. Gabby Giffords and others are still fighting to recover. Families are still absorbing the enormity of their losses. We have a criminal investigation that is ongoing and charges that no doubt will be brought against the perpetrator of this heinous crime.
I think it's important for us to also focus, though, on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events - a 20-year-old college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss, a wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage, the citizens who wrestled down the gunman - part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: NBC News confirming now the president is heading to Tucson Wednesday.
We'll start though with the paramount issue.
Dr. Rainier Gruessner, the leader of the surgery team at the hospital treating Congresswoman Giffords, Arizona University Medical Center; and Dr. Michael Lemole, the neurosurgeon who operated on Congresswoman Giffords.
Gentlemen, thank you for your time tonight.
Let me start, Dr. Gruessner, with you. There was smiling, even some joking at the news briefing this morning. Does that say something about the congresswoman's condition?
DR. RAINER GRUESSNER, SURGERY CHAIRMAN, UNIV. OF AZ MED. CTR: Well, it was clearly not in regards to the condition of the patients. There's really nothing to smile about when it comes to statewide or even a national tragedy.
I think - I think we are hopeful the conditions of the patients have stabilized. We have discharged a few of the patients that were originally hospitalized. We have moved most patients from the surgery intensive care unit to regular floors. And the one patient that remains in critical condition is the congresswoman.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Lemole, tomorrow, as I understand it, is considered a kind of benchmark day in terms of monitoring her condition for signs of early indications of how she might do down the road. Can you explain why that is?
DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, NEUROSURGEON: It can be a benchmark day, and that's because we typically see the brain swelling reach its maximum around this day for most dramatic brain injuries. That is not always the case. And because of that, we're constantly using the words like "cautiously optimistic," and the fact that she is still in critical condition.
OLBERMANN: The outside limit on that fingers crossed kind of approach to the swelling is, what, about 10 days?
LEMOLE: I think that is the most we expect to see. But I hope that we'll see the signs that the swelling subsided even before then.
OLBERMANN: Another question and this is - if this is wildly inaccurate, please correct me, Dr. Lemole. The discussion of what her recovery might look like, long term - my layman's understanding of this kind of brain trauma is that which half of the brain was damaged is imperative, that where she was shot, she would be more likely to be facing challenges that relate to speech and walking and maybe vision, but that who she is, the essence of her personality, her memory and such, that's likely to be less impacted? Is that anywhere close to correct?
LEMOLE: Yes. I couldn't even speculate on that at this time. Remember, our ability to examine her right now is very limited - basically to show us a thumb or wiggle your toes or something like that. And so, all of those higher and very subtle cognitive functions cannot even be assessed at this time.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Gruessner, can you give us some idea of how much she might be aware of what happened? Does she know she has been shot? Did she, indeed, as there were reports, events knowledge that her husband was with her after the surgery?
GRUESSNER: Well, she is still intubated so is not able to speak on her own. We believe that she can understand and listen to a certain degree to her husband. But as Dr. Lemole said, everything else at this point is still speculation.
I think once we extubate her, we will have a better assessment and then we'll be able to let you know and the rest of country to what degree she will recover.
But as Dr. Lemole said, I mean, there are so many uncertainties that we're dealing with at this point. I think what is encouraging is the fact that the swelling has decreased. We see it in her face. We also believe that her brain swelling has improved. We will get another CT tomorrow and then reassess things.
But as to a short or particularly long-term prognosis, it is way too early.
Dr. Rainier Gruessner, the chairman of surgery department of the University of Arizona Medical Center and Dr. Gerald Lemole, the neurosurgeon who worked on Congresswoman Giffords - we thank you kindly for your time tonight, gentlemen.
GRUESSNER: Thank you for inviting us.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
Let's turn now to the sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik.
Sheriff Dupnik, thanks again for your time tonight.
DUPNIK: Thank you for inviting me.
OLBERMANN: Can you fill us in to any degree on what happened at the Loughner home today, this report of a barricade of some kind?
DUPNIK: Well, I don't have any information regarding what happened there.
OLBERMANN: The evidence stage of this and finding that is now in the hands of other enforcement agencies, is that correct?
DUPNIK: Not entirely. We're still working hand in glove with the FBI on this case.
OLBERMANN: So, do you - would you know anything about these other specifics that were reported about this skull replica or this bizarre scene in the backyard?
DUPNIK: I've spent all my day dealing with the media as I did yesterday. So, I really haven't had an opportunity today to get into that kind of detail.
OLBERMANN: Well, we apologize for that. There's a picture that - of that backyard scene, and it's grotesque, of course, and we'll move on to the sort of background to this.
Do you have any picture at this point about what drove this suspect, whether it's politically in general or specifically towards Congresswoman Giffords as his target?
DUPNIK: Well, if I could just preface my remarks with the fact that this is a very, very troubled individual. His behavior in the recent past has been very bizarre and somewhat threatening. There's a lot of evidence that indicates that he planned this attack. He planned - he bought the weapon with the intent to assassinate Congresswoman Giffords.
To my knowledge, there was no reasonable reason that anybody could come up with that would give him a motive to do that. We're talking about a very troubled individual. And that's one of the things that concerns me and a lot of other people, that when you're talking with a - about a person who is unstable to begin with and they are motivated in some cases by the rhetoric that they hear and they see and in general terms, that's why I say, that I think that people who make a living preaching hate, to hate the government, to be angry at the government, to destroy the government, to do it to politicians, elected officials, and so forth, have some responsibility.
Even though it may be free speech, I don't think free speech goes without some responsibility and some consequences.
OLBERMANN: As you put it so eloquently on that tragic Saturday night, can you share - I mean, the response to what you said in many quarters was to describe you as a hero in this country. In other quarters, Senator Kyl, the congressman from Arizona, Trent Franks, said you were politicizing this event.
I know in advance the answer to your question about whether you were politicizing it would be: no, you were not. But explain the distinction between what you were trying to say and politicizing.
DUPNIK: Well, what I am trying to say is that it's time, I think, maybe even a majority of people in this country feel that government is broken. That politics at the Washington level is broken. And they're very, very angry about it. And they're tired of all the crap that goes on where people can't sit down and act in a fashion that's in the best interests of the American people.
You know, political ideology aside, I think when it comes to what is in the best interest of the people of America politicians have a responsibility to do that. And anybody with half a brain that's been watching what's been going on for the last two years knows that just the opposite is happening. And it's my feeling that the anger that is being purveyed by people in radio and some people on TV is done deliberately because it benefits one particular party.
OLBERMANN: As a sheriff, is it your - part of your job and part of your responsibility to assess a cultural environment that might increase the chances of injury and danger to your citizens?
DUPNIK: I think that I have a legal responsibility to do that.
OLBERMANN: Perfectly said. Thanks, sir.
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona - thank you belatedly for the extraordinary and extraordinarily detailed comments that you made on Saturday, and thank you kindly for your time this evening.
DUPNIK: Thanks for inviting me.
OLBERMANN: The woman who stepped in and helped make this horror less than it could have been joins us next.
OLBERMANN: Patricia Maisch grabbed the next ammunition magazine, helped pin down the shooter, and treated the wound of one of the men who tackled him. She does not consider herself a hero. She joins us.
Why his writings seem influenced by a white supremacists and how his ramblings on government and grammar echo those of a far right conspiracist. The latest from Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
She proudly called them bull's eyes, the crosshairs over the districts of 20 House Democrats she wanted unseated, including Gabrielle Giffords. Today, mysteriously, the bull's eyes have become surveyors' symbols. Josh Marshall on that.
And if he's dancing, it won't be with the stars. Three years in the slammer for The Hammer.
OLBERMANN: She refuses all attempts to call her a hero. Nonetheless, this afternoon, Patricia Maisch got a phone call from the president of the United States.
Our fourth story: she and several other extraordinary citizens literally stopped Jared Loughner's terrorist attack from being far worse, even than the nightmare it has turned out to be. She joins in a moment.
We will let her describe this herself, she was at that "Congress on Your Corner" event in Tucson on Saturday for its intended purpose and then the unbelievable happened.
When President Obama spoke of the tragedy today, he talked about the people who kept it from getting worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think it's important for us to also focus, though, on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events - part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, as promised, Patricia Maisch.
Great thanks for your time tonight.
MAISCH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Just to start this interview differently than I presume all the other ones you've had to do since Saturday, what did the president have to say when he called?
MAISCH: Well, actually I was on the phone with another media, so he had to leave a message.
MAISCH: So I have the president's phone number.
MAISCH: It was actually his aide or secretary that left the message and I was very touched even before I called back and she put me right through to him. I was just absolutely humbled by his words and thankful that he was so gracious and took the time to call me.
OLBERMANN: I'm sure you appreciated - that's probably your first laugh since Saturday and I know that was mine. So thank you for sharing that.
MAISCH: You're welcome.
OLBERMANN: Unavoidably back to what happened - your part began, I'm assuming, waiting in line to speak with the congresswoman. Had you met her before?
MAISCH: I have met Gabrielle. My husband and I have a heating and cooling business. And some years ago when Gabby had a home down in the barrio, we'd done a bit of repair work for her. So, I had made her acquaintance and I had worked with her sister Melissa on a project. So, I didn't know Gabby well. I know Melissa better.
But I do have an acquaintance with them and I find Gabby to be a brilliant person. She's is a Fulbright scholar, so engaging and so nonjudgmental and open to everybody's ideas. I just find her the perfect congresswoman.
OLBERMANN: On Saturday, did you have any sense that something was wrong before shots were actually fired?
MAISCH: No, I didn't. I was there early because I signed up and I thought I was going to be taken in order of signing up and so, I went into the grocery store for a minute and there was hardly any people there when I arrived but when I got back out of the grocery store there was quite a few people. I would say maybe 20, 25.
So, I just went to the end of the line and decided to enjoy the sunshine and listen in on what people were talking about. And I was listening to the woman next to me whose teenage daughter was there and had served as a page for Gabrielle for three weeks, I think she said. And they were there to get their picture taken.
While they were talking I heard a pop and I'm not a gun person, but I
knew without a doubt it was a gunshot. And at that moment, I decided I
needed to either run or drop to the ground because he had now, just in
another instant, started shooting what has been told to me is semiautomatic
MAISCH: - and just pop, pop, pop, pop. And I did not count, but I decided that I was better off to drop to the ground instead of making myself a target, because he was already very close to me. He walked up and he was shooting at the people right next to me.
The woman with the teenage daughter had shielded her daughter. I found out later she had three wounds, one to each arm and one to the back.
I was just laying there on the ground with - able to look out of the corner of my eye to see the shooter and I was - I was preparing myself thinking, I wonder what a bullet wound feels like and how much damage it's going to do.
But instead, the gunman was now down partly on top of me and I saw the Colonel Badger and that I didn't know who it was then and Roger Sulzgeber had flattened him. He was on his right side.
I immediately got to my knees and they were shouting, "Grab the gun, grab the gun." And I couldn't reach the gun because it was in his right hand and that was the distant one from me.
As they were doing that, he pulled out a magazine from his left pocket and had it in his hand but he dropped it on the sidewalk, and I was able to recover it before he could get it. By then the gun had been secured and I noticed he was flailing his legs and I was afraid that he might be able to get free, so I knelt on his legs, on his ankles. I did that for a couple seconds.
And then I noticed that Colonel Badger had a head wound. He was bleeding pretty badly and I said, "Oh, my God. You've been wounded." And he said, "Yes, but it's not bad." So I looked - I was able to see it while I was still kneeling.
I asked a young man named Joe to come and take my place on his legs and I ran into the Safeway store, picked up paper towels that they gave me, and came back out and made a compress of sorts and held it to Colonel Badger's head and kept it there until the police arrived and secured the shooter and took him away. And then the colonel was able to manage his own bandage and I did not see him again after that. And that was it.
OLBERMANN: And what - all of the events that combined to put all of you there, do you have feelings that pertain to some of the rhetoric that has been out in our political world of late that created this on Saturday?
MAISCH: You know, it's hard for me to say that. I dislike the partisanship. I dislike the rhetoric. I don't know. That man has medical problems, mental problems. I'm not qualified to say that. I would suppose he might have been influenced by it. But that's above my scope of knowledge.
OLBERMANN: Certainly what you did on Saturday was extraordinary and went beyond the ordinary responsibilities of citizenry in this country. So to Patricia Maisch, great thanks for your time tonight. And whether you call it heroism or not, great thanks for what you did on Saturday.
MAISCH: Well, if I am a hero, then the colonel and Roger are super heroes.
OLBERMANN: There you go.
MAISCH: Because they really brought him to the ground. And that took care of him. And the rest was just suspenders with a belt.
OLBERMANN: Wonderfully spoken. Thanks again for your time.
MAISCH: Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: The latest on the investigation of the influence of hate groups on this man, and the extraordinary juxtaposition of the commentator denouncing violence while his website shows him holding a hand gun. One of those he denounces for violent rhetoric is the sheriff of Pima County, who you just heard from.
The Tom Delay sentencing next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: How does someone like Jared Lee Loughner legally get a gun and the right to conceal it? How does someone like Glenn Beck claim to be denouncing those who use violent speech when one of those he denounces is Pima County Sheriff Dupnik?
Before we resume the Gabby Giffords story, though, there is the Tom Delay story tonight. Sentenced today to three years in prison, punishment meted out to the former Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives for his November conviction on money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, a swap of funds between a PAC and state PAC.
Mr. Delay was taken into custody immediately to be processed to the Austin County jail. But the judge granted his release on 10,000 dollars bond pending appeal.
A continuing probe into Jared Lee Loughner and extremist hate groups.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center next.
OLBERMANN: He was deemed not fit to enlist in the Army, nor to continue his studies at a community college. Yet, in our third story, the state of Arizona deemed Jared Lee Loughner fit enough to purchase an assault weapon and ammunition for it that would not have been legal had not the assault weapons ban not expired during the Bush administration.
An Arizonan can legally conceal and carry a weapon without a permit. A gun owner in Arizona can bring a gun to the state capitol, to many restaurants, to bars. The state also bans its cities from passing gun laws stricter than the state law.
All of that helped Loughner purchase a Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol a little over a month ago after passing a background check. Federal investigators say Loughner was carrying 90 rounds of ammunition on Saturday, loading his weapon with two high capacity magazines, clips that hold up to 30 rounds of ammo each.
Federal laws do prohibit selling weapons to the mentally ill. But there is no way to determine if someone who is applying for a gun is, in fact, mentally ill unless they tell you they are, or unless they have been flagged by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Arizona happens to be behind in entering its records into that database.
Loughner railed against what he called government mind control on Myspace and Youtube. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center first reported on this news hour in a special edition Saturday night that Loughner's rambling showed the influence of conspiracist David Winn Miller. It was also reported by Fox News that Mr. Loughner had ties to the right wing, pro-white racist organization American Renaissance.
However, a Homeland Security official tells the Plumline's Greg Sargent that the Department has not established any link between Mr. Loughner and that group.
Joining me now is Mark Potok, the director of Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Thanks again for your time tonight, Mark.
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Thanks for having me, Keith.
I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: A layman looking at the Youtube videos, looking at the list of favorite books that this man claimed to have, would I think rightly say ideologically this guy is all over the map. Is that correct? Is he all over the map?
POTOK: Well, that's not my reading on it. I think it is certainly true that when you look at his material, it is unbelievably discombobulated and hard to get much of a feel for what he is trying to say. He is also practically illiterate. What is strung through his material I think is a very strong attitude of sort of the individual versus the totalitarian or tyrannical state, the government.
That I think you see both in his reading list, everything from the "Communist Manifesto" to "Mein Kampf" to some Ayn Rand books, George Orwell and so on, to some of the kind of shards of ideas that you find when you look through his materials.
He keeps coming back to the idea of the government uses mind control; it manipulates people; it uses grammar. You know, whatever it is, the government always seems to be the enemy.
You know, I don't think that he is any kind of a, you know, seasoned political thinker. That's for sure. I think he looks quite ill, mentally ill. But it does seem like he has absorbed at least some of these ideas from these groups on the extreme right, as you've mentioned earlier.
OLBERMANN: I don't know if you heard this, but Sheriff Dupnik made a similar point earlier in this newscast, that the threat of the writings seems to be simply anti-government. Is that itself a stance that it's identified with any one ideology?
POTOK: Well, I mean, certainly there have been anti-government movements on both right and left. But I think what have seen really in this country over the course of the last 30 years or so is a kind of demonizing of the federal government in particular by certain portions of the right, really big hunks of the republican party.
You know, some of this has been reasonably legitimate. It's just a criticism of large government and so on. But it's often verged over into really vitriolic and demonizing attacks on the actual individuals who make up the government. At the end of the day, these are human beings.
So I would say, yeah. I see the same thing as the sheriff. I think there is a very strong threat of kind of right wing anti-government feeling in what Loughner had to say.
What I did not see, despite the reports of some kind of link to American Renaissance, was anything suggesting racism, anti-Semitism, or even concern about immigration. I just didn't see that. And frankly, I think that the alleged link to American Renaissance is very, very weak, if it exists at all.
OLBERMANN: To the issue of the gun in his hands; the "New York Times" reported that the number of Americans who support stricter gun laws dropped from 78 percent in 1990 gradually, steadily to 44 percent in 2010. Did we get apathetic about this? Why did things like shootings at Virginia Tech or at Columbine or any of the other dozen horrifying incidents have this sort of perverse impact?
POTOK: Well, I'm certainly no expert on that. But, I mean, one thing that occurs to me is how much the fear of having guns taken away has animated the world I cover, the world of the extreme right, the radical right. Certainly that was a very much primary fear of the militia movement of the 1990s. That is a part of their core conspiracy theory. The government is coming after our weapons. Then it will impose martial law. Then it will toss those who resist into concentration camps. And then we'll all be force into a one world government.
The first step in each of these theories is they're coming for our guns. I think that's been stoked very much by organizations like the National Rifle Association, which has played a loathsome role. You may remember at the kind of peak of the militia movement, the NRA put out a missive saying - describing ATF agents and other federal law enforcement officials as "Jack booted thugs."
Immediately before the election in which Obama became president, they also participated in a kind of publicity campaign, headlined "Prepare for the Storm," whatever that meant. So, you know, there are people out there who are stoking these fears, which I think are obviously unfounded. It seems quite clear that Obama intends no real gun control legislation and he said as much.
OLBERMANN: And the NRA did that for money. Mark Potok, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, once again, our thanks for your time, sir.
POTOK: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: As late as November 4th, Sarah Palin proudly called the mark on the district of Congresswoman Giffords a bulls eye. Now the cover up. Now they're surveyors' instruments.
And this is not Photoshop. This is Glenn Beck online, quote, "denouncing violence and the violent," while he is also shown brandishing a hand gun. The images and the imagery of rhetoric with Josh Marshall.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her guest will be Daniel Hernandez, Congresswoman Giffords' intern, the one credited with saving her life.
OLBERMANN: This ordinarily is where you would see our Worst Persons in the World segment. For more than two months, I've struggled with its value. We suspended it for a time. There was a small clamor to bring it back. And bring it back we did.
The segment was born in humor and with clear intentions: criticism, sarcasm, satire, calling out, even ridiculing. But a lot of people, especially those who don't watch the show, still think that I literally mean these are the three worst persons in the world.
There is potential danger in that. So the name has got to go. But the purpose, to employ the French philosopher Burkson's explanation that laughter is a social sanction against inflexible behavior, that remains relevant and important, and maybe more so than ever before.
So we'll have a new version of the segment. No time for it tonight, maybe not even this week. We have sadder and more sober things to discuss, like the miracle of Sarah Palin turning telescopic gun sites into surveyors' map symbols.
Josh Marshall, next.
OLBERMANN: The Special Comment Saturday night concluded with a call for politicians and commentators of all political leanings to take a pledge. I asked for them to denounce acts or threats of violence, and to repudiate, as I did, anything they said in the past, inadvertent or otherwise, that could be construed as advocating either.
In our number one story, the responses from several right wing media figures, however indirect, have been registered. Josh Marshall of "Talking Points Memo" joins me in a moment.
To his credit, on his website, Glenn Beck today said of the killings in Arizona, quote, "we must stand together against all violence." Never mind that guy over there on the left packing heat.
Beck also said the invocation of Sarah Palin's name in all this was an attempt to shut her down. To be clear, the former governor has not been connected in any way to the gunman. Palin's name has been invoked only because of a 2010 web posting on her Sarah-PAC website that featured the congressional district of Gabrielle Giffords as one of 20 with a rifle scope bulls eye target on top of it.
After her vote for health care reform in March last year, the congresswoman's office was vandalized. She came on this network and talked about the impact of Palin's imagery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: The way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun site over our district. When people do that, they have to realize there are consequences to that action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Saturday, Sarah-PAC staffer went on conservative radio and explained the misinterpretation of the bulls eye graphics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REBECCA MANSOUR, SARAH PALIN STAFFER: We never, ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply cross hairs like you'd see on maps.
TAMMY BRUCE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well it's a surveyors symbol.
MANSOUR: A surveyors symbol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From Sarah Palin's Twitter account November 4th, "remember months ago, bulls eye icon used to target the 20 Obama-care loving incumbent seats?"
Saturday, Palin's Fox News boss Roger Ailes implicitly admitted that there is indeed a climate of violence in an interview with Russell Simmons. Ailes made the false equivalency between the vitriolic rhetoric of both sides of the aisle. And he told Simmons his orders to his Fox News staff. Quote, "I told all our guys, shut up, tone it down. Make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that."
Microcosm of that other side? There was an online death threat against me yesterday, a statement from the group - one group online that I had to have a motive to see the congresswoman shot, because I had contributed to her campaign. That came this morning. And then the claim in an editorial tonight in a newspaper that I was lying, since the claim that there is a climate of hatred, quote, "has no empirical backing."
As promised, the founder and editor of "Talking Points Memo," Josh Marshall. Good to see you again, sir.
JOSH MARSHALL, "TALKING POINTS MEMO": Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: One story yesterday - let me read this directly - "a senior Republican senator speaking anonymously in order to freely discuss the tragedy told 'Politico' that the Giffords shooting should be taken as a cautionary tale by Republicans. There is a need for some reflection here. What is too far now, said the senator. What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There has been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody's trying to outdo each other."
Is there anybody listening on that? Or is the fact that it's anonymous all we need to really know about it?
MARSHALL: I think that tells you something. I think the key is here most people in this country like the ballots over bullets model of politics. But we have a history of a lot of assassinations and political violence in this country, going back more than a century - 150 years to the one a lot of us think about.
When you start introducing showing up at town halls with guns, when you start introducing this sort of military or kind of gunfire rhetoric, all of these things - the one thing with Sarah Palin's map, that's just one thing. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do directly with this. But this freaks a lot of people out.
MARSHALL: And people who use that kind of language in a political context can't really be too surprised when something like this happens, people, you know, get in their face a little.
OLBERMANN: Why not on that? I mean, apart from somebody - how could someone say well, those are surveyors' symbols? Extraordinary revisionism. But why not just say we meant no harm, but in light of this tragedy, we're not going to use that imagery anymore. And we hope nobody else does either. How could that possibly be detrimental to somebody from Sarah Palin's organization, to say that?
MARSHALL: Well, I think the key is they've done that. They're kind of pulling - everybody is pulling things offline. They don't want to admit they're wrong. There's a lot of - accountability is hard for people.
OLBERMANN: There are different kinds of vitriol, to use that term again, being put out there. There is the overt imagery, the bulls eye and a dozen other things. Beyond that, every time someone paints the government as treasonous, as dangerous, as having to be stopped, is that just another dog whistle with a different pitch?
MARSHALL: I think it's a little different. I think that there is - you know, we're in a very polarized time. There's a lot of demonization in politics. I do think there are certain adjectives and accusations you can make against people on either side - they're traitors. They, you know - these kind of words that put someone totally outside the pale of our political system. That sort of invites people to think in terms of solutions that are outside of politics.
MARSHALL: I don't put that in the same category of - you know, when a candidate says, well, you know, if this election doesn't work out, we might need to think about Second Amendment solutions.
MARSHALL: We know what that means.
MARSHALL: I think stuff like that is - again, you have a history of assassinations in this country. People are right to get offended and kind of freaked out and worried when people who are not some obscure person on some block somewhere, but someone running for Senate, says something like that. And, you know, there's no - they're not kind of shouted down in a metaphorical sense.
OLBERMANN: Maybe it's good that there's only 30 seconds left to answer this question. The ultimate response to this that has thrown out, the left and the right are the same.
MARSHALL: You know, in the political moment we're in right now, they're just not. I think you can see it by the defensiveness from the right. There was - you know, when the sheriff down in Pima County said, you know, just, you know, culture of hate and violence and so forth, you didn't see people on - you know, the Democratic Party say, what are you accusing me of?
MARSHALL: Everybody knew who was being accused and everybody knew who has gone there recently. So I think it's something that everybody across the political spectrum needs to draw back from. But we shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking it's something that is emerging equally from both sides.
OLBERMANN: Josh Marshall of "Talking Points Memo," again, great thanks.
MARSHALL: Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END