'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 12th, 2011
MLB sells out 10th Anniversary of 9/11
via YouTube, h/t cathyferkleheimer
ShowPlug1: POTUS gets Jobs Bill to Congress in record time, promises taxes on rich. w/ @BrianBeutler and Jeff Madrick of @RooseveltInst
ShowPlug2: He meant FONZI scheme! A-a-a-a-ay! Gov. Perry tap dances, flipflops, cartwheels. @KenVogel on that & Mitt-Pawlenty Bromance
ShowPlug3: We were better off when the NY 9th only exposed privates, not Islamophobia. Hate mailings from GOP. TPM's @BenjySarlin joins me
ShowPlug4: Worsts: Gov. Haley flat-out makes up #s to justify drug tests for unemployed + @GlennBeck pay-per-hate-tv #s augur disaster
ShowPlugLast: And selling out 9/11 Police, Fire, First Responders to sell you more caps. A Special Comment on Baseball's Shame.
watch whole playlist
#5 '"Needs to Pass"', Brian Beutler
#5 '"Needs to Pass"', Jeff Madrick
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Show Down', Ken Vogel
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Running on Fear', Benjy Sarlin
#2 Worst Persons: Sen. Mitch McConnell, Gov. Nikki Haley, Glenn Beck
#1 Special Comment: MLB sells out 10th Anniversary of 9/11
Background reading on Baseball Nerd
printable PDF transcript
Guests: Benjy Sarlin, Brian Beutler, Jeff Madrick, Ken Vogel
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(Excerpt from video) BARACK OBAMA: You should pass this jobs plan right away. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this jobs bill. You should pass it right away. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this jobs bill. Pass this Bill right away. This jobs plan, you should pass it.
OLBERMANN: Today -
(Excerpt from video) OBAMA: On Thursday, I told Congress that I'll be sending them a bill called the American Jobs Act. Well, here it is. Pass it immediately. Let's pass this bill. So let's pass this bill. So let's pass this bill. So let's pass this bill. Let's pass this bill. Pass this bill. Passing this bill. So let's pass this bill. Pass this bill. Pass this bill.
OLBERMANN: The answer the Republicans are ready to pass, Eric Cantor tweets. Americans want compromise, Eric Cantor tweets. We'll pass it, Eric Cantor tweets. Just kill half of it.
The Rick Perry Social Security flip-flop.
(Excerpt from video) RICK PERRY: The Republican candidates are talking about ways to transition this program. And it is a monstrous lie. It is a Ponzi scheme.
OLBERMANN: "Ponzi scheme?" he writes today. "Who said anything about a Ponzi scheme? I am just trying to fix Social Security," which I said was a Ponzi scheme. Only I didn't mean it, even though I said it last Wednesday.
Mitt Romney has a new BFF, his new campaign co-chair tiny Tim Pawlenty. They do make a cute couple, though, don't they?
Hate in the New York night. The bid to succeed Anthony Weiner devolves into Republican Islamophobia. A flyer showing a mosque superimposed where the World Trade Center used to be.
Bad anthem, bad anthem.
(Excerpt from video) CYNDI LAUPER: For the ramparts, we watch as our flag was still streaming.
OLBERMANN: "Worsts," Glenn Beckelvision is on the air, and he lost 90 percent of his fox audience. Oops.
And tonight, a special comment, selling out to first responders of 9/11. How Major League Baseball dishonored New York, its police, its firefighters, its EMS and itself so it could try to make 37 bucks off of you.
All that and more now on "Countdown"!
KEITH OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York, this is Monday, September 12th, 421 days until the 2012 presidential election.
Last Thursday, the president unveiled his American Jobs Act. He was hit hard Friday by Republicans and by Democratic skeptics alike for insisting the House pass this bill even though there was no bill ready. He sent it to Congress today.
The fifth story on the "Countdown", the president also scoring on substance, not just speed, saying he will pay for the $447 billion jobs act, mostly by raising taxes on the rich. Mr. Obama speaking from the Rose Garden and keeping pressure on the GOP.
(Excerpt from video) OBAMA: This is the bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays. I'm sending this Bill to Congress today, and they ought to pass it immediately.
OLBERMANN: The president using 11 variations of that phrase to express his urgency. The only reading of public opinion about the bill so far is from the people who gave away ESPN. According to Rasmussen polling, the same people who founded that network, 38 percent of likely voters favored, 36 percent are opposed, whopping 26 percent are undecided and may want to sell out to Getty Oil for $1. But those likely voters still opposed or undecided may be a little happier when they hear this line repeated from last Thursday's speech.
(Excerpt from video) OBAMA: The American Jobs Act is not going to add to the debt. It's fully paid for. I want to repeat that. It is fully paid for.
OLBERMANN: And Democrats should be happier now that they know how the president plans to pay for the jobs act. If enacted as designed, Congress would agree to limit itemized deductions for individuals earning over $200,000 and families making more than a quarter-million a year, producing over $400 billion in revenue. Changing tax laws so investment fund managers would see gains currently taxed as interest taxed at the higher rate applied to ordinary income, producing another $18 billion in revenue, ending tax breaks for oil and gas firms, raising another $40 billion. And changing corporate jet depreciation rules - ahh those private jets - for another $3 billion. The president telling an interviewer that expert opinion is on his side.
(Excerpt from video) OBAMA: When you look at what independent economists are saying about the American Jobs Act, my jobs plan, uniformly what they're saying is, this buys us insurance against a double-dip recession, and it almost certainly helps the economy grow and will put more people back to work.
OLBERMANN: Senators and representatives looking to keep their jobs may feel compelled to agree, at least with parts of the president's plan. According to the latest Gallup poll, just 15 percent of adults approve of the job Congress is doing, 82 percent say they disapprove, and those numbers are actually slightly up from last month, when it was 84 percent going thumbs down to Congress, which may explain this polite cautionary finger wagging but not utterly condemning response from Speaker Boehner's spokesmen Brendan Buck, who said, "This tax increase on job creators is the kind of proposal both parties have opposed in the past. We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn't appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit."
Even the fire-breathing conservative Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that while he rejected the president's all-or-nothing demand that the whole bill be passed, when it came to financial fights with the White House, "I think the risk of bringing about brinksmanship or another potential shutdown is not something right now that we need." Not in an economy so bad that it turns out today Georgia Pacific is planning to layoff some 700 workers. So? Georgia Pacific is owned by the Koch brothers.
I'm joined from Washington by Brian Beutler, senior congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo. Brian, good evening.
BRIAN BEUTLER: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Whether Democrats can pass the president's bill remains to be seen, obviously, but the things that he can control: Getting it done quickly, knocking down on the GOP talking points in advance, following up words with some immediate action. He seems to have gotten a lot done over the weekend, correct?
BEUTLER: Yeah, it's really sort of like night and day. I mean, the whole two and a half years of the President Obama's presidency has been marked by, I guess, to borrow a phrase from the Libya incursion, leading from behind, sending Congress things that they should do, and then letting Congress work out their differences amongst themselves. And that's not what's happening now. They've really accepted that getting things done, politically, is both a matter of strong policy but also of political communication, and they've really been out ahead a lot more this time around than they have, you know, during past initiatives.
OLBERMANN: Are the president's expectations here actual passage? What does he think is going to happen despite that upbeat and repeated message?
BEUTLER: I think that might be changing. You know, a month ago, my sense from the White House was that they were pretty well aware that nothing of significance could pass, certainly nothing $450 billion big like this bill, but if they put forward ideas that were popular and called those ideas a jobs bill, and this bill seems to be sort of both actually a jobs bill and popular on the merits, that Republicans would refuse it, and then they'd have something very crystal clear to run against Republicans on. The way Republicans are dealing with it, at least in the early days, suggests that they may have to make a choice soon - the White House may have to make a choice soon - between having a long protracted political fight over the whole thing or sort of a shorter fight over the areas where Republicans are signaling that they're willing to work with Democrats on. So, you know, payroll tax cut and hiring tax credits, but not the new federal spending.
OLBERMANN: So what happens if that's the process? Does the president then come back with another proposal in six weeks or six weeks after a deal is made? When does he go for the rest of this, or is there some premise that if he gets half of this, that's enough and he thinks he can get re-elected based on half of this?
BEUTLER: We're going to have to wait and see on that. I think that right now, the White House is going to continue this mantra, because it's so effective. Just pass this bill. You must pass this bill. They want some lead time to, you know, very vocally publicly press Congress to do it. You know, you mentioned before that 20-some percent of the voting public has no opinion yet on this jobs plan. Well, a week from now, if the White House is persistent on that message, that number might go down, and that's, I think, what they're hoping for. But two weeks after that, three weeks after that, if there's still no immediate action and Republicans seem to be taking their sweet time with it and letting it draw out, does he just try to cut a deal where he gets $230 billion in new stimulus as opposed to 450? I think it's plausible, but I don't think that the White House is going to tip its hand about that yet.
OLBERMANN: Have the Republicans tipped their hand in the first day's reaction? Because there were a lot of qualifiers in places that there were never qualifiers before. It used to be we're just going to slam your head against the wall with this stuff, and now it's, "Well, we're not happy about it. This is the sort of thing that has led to the slamming of heads against walls in the past." It seems very mealy-mouthed.
BEUTLER: Right. I mean, this is the first time Congress has been confronted with something called a jobs bill. And where the president is using his full bully pulpit, to say Congress hasn't been focusing on jobs, here is a jobs bill. If they just said no to it all, I mean, that's pretty deadly, particularly given how low their poll numbers already are. So they have been really cautious about their rhetoric, but they haven't masked, really, the underlying policy differences that still exist.
And so, you know, Eric Cantor today said he's not going to - there's not going to be much Republican support, if any, for new federal spending. Well, that's nearly a half of what's in the bill. So, you know, unless they're willing to actually have some give and take on the areas where, you know, they don't want to go, Obama will have to - I think Obama will have to choose between continuing the political fight or just, you know, agreeing that this will be another tax-cut stimulus.
OLBERMANN: Nevertheless, the GOP focus groups, last month, must have been nightmarish for it to get to even this point from their point of view. Brian Beutler, senior congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo. As always Brian, great thanks.
BEUTLER: Great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's drill down into the numbers to some degree. I'm joined now by Jeff Madrick, senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and the author of "Age of Greed." Good to see you again, sir.
JEFF MADRICK: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president followed up on the words from Thursday's speech?
MADRICK: He said he's going to pay with taxing the rich.
MADRICK: We're going to give middle-class and working people a tax cut. We're going to tax the rich. I'm a little surprised. I'm pleasantly surprised. I don't want to pooh-pooh this, because this is something of a turn in strategy, at least since that first Obama stimulus early in 2000. Which I think was pretty courageous, if not enough in the end. I'm pretty - I thought we were going to be talking about some social spending cuts. I think, then, I would have started complaining about bang for the buck in these tax cuts, and I still do a little bit. I think these computer models, economic computer models we've seen, are probably a little too optimistic, talking about 2 million more jobs.
MADRICK: And a full-percentage-point drop in the unemployment rate, can't take those too seriously right now. But it's going to have some effect.
MADRICK: If we get a million jobs at half a point cut in the unemployment rate, he's still running on 8.5 percent, 8.6 percent unemployment rate in November, next year, that's a pretty high rate. Nobody ever won with higher than 7.2, and that was Reagan and it came down three full percentage points before then.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, the vow to pay this through the increased taxes on the rich, have you looked into what that specifically means? Is it viable? Is it a plan, or is it just a promise?
MADRICK: Well, I think - you know, you pointed out some of the details, and you saw the numbers yourself. It didn't add up to much. The big one is getting rid of all itemized deductions for people, couples over 250 and individuals over 200. I don't see how that passes Congress. I don't see how we get rid of the the mortgage-interest deduction for people over 250. A lot of people don't think that's a lot of money anymore. So, I think he has some trouble there, but at least he's coming out fighting. At least he's sounding like he's for the working man and not for the wealthy guy.
OLBERMANN: What does it look like, if you look at this thing in poll and we are hearing the Republicans might come down and say, okay, 50 percent of this, we can live with it, and 50 percent of this, you have to take it away and burn it and then bury it and then dig it up and burn it and bury it a second time. Where do you see him giving in, what he's proposing?
MADRICK: I think he's going to give in on - he's going to give in on the spending side, which is where you get the most pop for the jobs.
OLBERMANN: Of course.
MADRICK: We're going to get the temporary cut in payroll taxes because Republicans kind of like that. That's up their alley. I - they - and the increase in that. I think we are going to get some tax credits for business; Republicans will like that. And they're going to cut way back on the infrastructure spending. They're going to denounce it probably or at least, at best, agree a little bit with it. We're not going to get all of the state and local spending we need, which could be very valuable. There may be a fight on the extension of the unemployment insurance. That would be sad. That will create jobs because it will put money in the hands of people who don't have money, and they will spend that money. That's the idea. Even the payroll tax cuts are not that effective in my view because a lot of people will spend those payroll - will save those payroll taxes. Maybe pay down some of their mortgages or maybe pay it for the first time. So we've still got a dilemma, but at least the boxing gloves are on. At least we're out of the corner and swinging a little bit. My gosh.
OLBERMANN: Or rather, it looks like there were two fighters in the same corner just punching at air. Last point - something the president said, he noted that while Harry Truman ran against a do-nothing Congress, the 112th Congress, this one can still do something for the American people. Is there something in there in the way of a threat or something in there in the way of an indicator, or is that just verbiage?
MADRICK: You know, I hope it's a threat.
MADRICK: I hope he's going to say, if you don't pass this or you only pass the half of it you really like, which won't have the pop for the dollar in the job market, it's your responsibility if this economy doesn't come back and we don't put people to work. I think a lot of us have been saying he should do this.
MADRICK: So, yeah, if it's a threat, I like it. I think it was a threat. Do I think he'll keep threatening? I'm dubious about that, and I hope he will.
OLBERMANN: And hopefully, if he does, he spells it out in very large capital letters that do not leave room for any questions, like, "Was that a threat?" We need to hear - if it's going to be a threat, let's hear the threat. The economist Jeff Madrick, the author of "Age of Greed," from the Roosevelt Institute, as ever, great thanks, sir.
MADRICK: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: George H.W. Bush was able to walk back at his phrase, "voodoo economics." Maybe Rick Perry can walk back the phrase "Social Security is a Ponzi scheme." Although, it probably would help him if he would stop insisting he didn't mean it, and he was right about it at the same time. That's next. This is "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: He said Social Security was a Ponzi scheme. He didn't mean, you know, Ponzi scheme. He meant Fonzie scheme. That's it. "Hey."
The previous representative from the New York 9th may have only exposed his privates. The Republican now seeking the seat has just exposed his Islamophobia.
Then there's the business that sold out 9/11 last night just to make money. Baseball shame and my special comment.
And the numbers are in for the debut of Glenn Beck's pay-for-hate program. They are so bad, you will almost feel sorry for him. Almost. Ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: There actually was a Ponzi. He actually had a scheme, and he actually learned it from a fellow inmate in the penitentiary in Atlanta, a man named Charles Morse, who was, of course, a Wall Street investor.
In our fourth story, all of which Rick Perry probably still does not know, as he tries tonight to wriggle out from in back of one of the first self-destructive phrases of the 2012 Presidential Campaign, the gist of which was, "Social Security, it's a Ponzi scheme." By the way, Charles Ponzi's role model, Mr. Morse, his first swindle was an attempt to corner the market on ice. Perry is desperately trying to walk back his unequivocal stance on Social Security at the Republican debate last Wednesday. The governor minced no words.
(Excerpt from video)
PERRY: It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you're paying into a program that's going to be there.
OLBERMANN: What a difference a week makes. Perry arguing today in an op-ed in USA Today, that the system just needs a little re-jiggering. He wrote, "Social Security benefits for current recipients and those nearing retirement must be protected," and that "our elected leaders must have the strength to speak frankly about our entitlement reform if we are to right our nation's financial course."
The strength to speak frankly, and the fortitude to completely reverse position. Roll back an unequivocal position, and then the one you are left with is an equivocal one - or, the attempt to corner the market on ice. Meanwhile, another Republican changing course, Tim Pawlenty, the former GOP candidate who spent a good part of the spring criticizing Mitt Romney's health care plan. This little gem was from Fox News in June.
(Excerpt from video) TIM PAWLENTY: President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare, and basically made it Obamneycare.
OLBERMANN: Today, however, Mr. Pawlenty saying, Romney is the only candidate qualified to be president.
(Excerpt from video) PAWLENTY: There's one candidate in this race who's unmatched in his skills and experience and talent when it comes to turning around this economy and growing jobs, and that's Mitt Romney. And I'm proud and excited to endorse him for President of the United States.
OLBERMANN: Pawlenty rewarded for that endorsement with the National Co-Chairmanship of Romney's campaign. And while Pawlenty has denied the suggestion, some analysts are predicting this "bromance" could be the beginnings of a 2012 Republican ticket - if somehow Romney wins. One Minnesotan not feeling the love, however, Michele Bachmann, who has seen her numbers continue to plummet since Perry entered the race. She should have a home-field advantage, so to speak, at the tea party debate tonight, but if she does not deliver, this could effectively end her election season. If only she understood what that meant.
Joining me now, Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter for Politico. Ken, good evening.
KEN VOGEL: Hey, nice to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Am I missing something here with Governor Perry? Isn't he now kind of denying that it's a Ponzi scheme, but he's standing behind his individual assessments of the details that he said made it a Ponzi scheme?
VOGEL: Well, I think that's exactly - he's not - his people would say he's not denying anything that he said, rather adding context and sort of back filling here. This is going to continue to be a problem for him, but even more than the phrasing, "Ponzi scheme," which we've seen so much attention paid to, is what he wrote in his book, "Fed Up," where he basically said that Social Security was unconstitutional from the beginning, and, by extension, you have to imagine if he still believes that, he thinks it should be abolished. So all of this fretting over "Ponzi scheme," I think, misses a larger point, which is that he has a real Social Security problem. These other candidates are gonna continue to hit him with it, and he's gotta come up with a better way to explain it.
OLBERMANN: It had all been ice cream and roses for him for the start of this campaign, despite some of the things he's said in the past. How is the campaign handling what sounds like the first real slap in the face that he's had to deal with nationally?
VOGEL: Well, they're trying to walk this fine line between not appearing to back off the position while also explaining it, and I think they're probably gonna end up doubling down on it. Even in this op-ed in USA Today, he says that Americans need a president who's gonna speak honestly with them. In the debate, the previous debate, he said maybe it's time for provocative language. So, I think that he's in some ways committing to this course where he's going to continue to assail Social Security and, as we saw when Democrats went after the Paul Ryan budget proposal in the House, that is not a winning position, attacking Social Security. I think it's one that's going to continue to hurt him.
OLBERMANN: The other news of the day, the Pawlenty-Romney deal, what else do we think we know about this?
VOGEL: Well, what we're hearing at Politico is that in fact there is perhaps an offer in the works whereby Mitt Romney, who has proven to be, if nothing else, a prolific fundraiser, might help Tim Pawlenty pay off some of his debt, which we understand to be somewhere in the six figures, possibly mid-six figures. That was one of the reasons why he was having trouble persisting with his campaign, was that he was having a ton of fundraising problems. And we had heard rumors about unpaid staff and the like, so he could be in some financial trouble. Mitt Romney could help him with that.
OLBERMANN: Anything further to it, though - are those just assumptions, or are they based on anything that Pawlenty would be a candidate to be Romney's veep if Romney got the nomination?
VOGEL: Certainly that's some of the speculation. I see it as highly unlikely, he just doesn't add that much to the ticket. He's another former governor, a white guy from a state that, you know, arguably is a swing state, but I think that if you're gonna add someone because of geography, you're gonna look for someone like Marco Rubio from Florida. If you're gonna add someone for demographics, maybe he would also look at Marco Rubio or if you're gonna look at someone with experience in the Senate, and international and national affairs, you might look at someone like John Thune. Tim Pawlenty doesn't really bring any of those key points.
OLBERMANN: Sort of tying everything together, Romney hit Social Security in his book last year. Bachmann's criticized it. Bachmann may now go after Perry for criticizing it. Perry's got two or three different prongs of opinion - if not two or three different opinions - out there. Have any of the Republicans gathered that Social Security is shaping up - just saying the phrase and tying it to reform - that's kind of shaping up as a new third rail?
VOGEL: I think you're exactly right, Keith. It is shaping up as a third rail. And to some extent, it's momentum. These things perpetuate themselves.
VOGEL: Rick Perry has a vulnerability here, that much is clear. Now, whether these other candidates are well served by piling on that vulnerability, clearly at this point at least they think so. However, it also is going to shed light on their own positions. And as we talked about, so far, the Social Security, as a whole, the problems with it, you know, even incorporating and taking into consideration the problems with it, largely favors Democrats. Democrats have emerged and have really staked this claim as being the party that supports Social Security - as is Republicans, not so much. And so, calling so much attention to it, all of the candidates on the Republican presidential nomination, could end up being a mistake that is a vulnerability heading into the general election.
OLBERMANN: The chief investigative reporter of Politico.com, Ken Vogel. As always, Ken, great, thanks for some of your time tonight.
VOGEL: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Some very, very bad numbers for a couple of conservatives today, the governor of South Carolina humiliates herself over some - turns out she made them up out of whole cloth. And so does Glenn Beck on the debut of his new online new world order thing. Ahead.
OLBERMANN: Some people exploit 9/11 to get elected, ask the Republicans in New York City's 9th congressional district, and others do it just for the money. Ask Major League Baseball. My special comment ahead.
First, the sanity break. And on this date in 1933, the atomic physicist Leo Szilard, still fuming that a much more prominent man in his field had written in the paper that morning that nuclear fission, and, thus, atomic energy, was impossible, was standing at a street corner in London waiting for the light to change. The light changed to green, and as Szilard stepped onto the wet street he said he felt as if time had cracked open before him and he saw a way to the future, that you could get nuclear fission if you could control a chain reaction. That thought led to the Manhattan Project, and then, you know, kaboom and stuff like that. And what did you do while waiting for the light this morning?
"Time Marches On!"
We begin at the Pasadena mall where this seagull gave up waiting for the walk sign. Doing some shopping now, probably needs some new wingtips, headed for Bird, Bath & Beyond. Tired of having to fly everywhere, he decides to take the escalator, but unfortunately, as he quickly realizes, uhh, the wrong one. He was just trying to get the exercise, yeah? Either way, he soon thinks better of it, and after a few failed attempts of exiting, he leaves the mall outright because he's just figured out nuclear fusion.
We stay in the animal kingdom, but we travel to France, where these cows seem to be enjoying a little New Orleans jazz. They're soon joined by other cows who are in the "moo-d." Taking an audience wherever they can find one, the American jazz combo New Hot 5 decides to put on a free concert. Are you sure this is how Django Reinhardt got started? The be-bopping bovines enjoyed the show, but did have one comment, "Could have used a little more cowbell."
And lastly, speaking of using something, we checked in on the U.S. Open women's semis where the delightful and ill-fated, on this night, Cyndi Lauper was performing the National Anthem. Girls just want to have fun and lyrics sheets. Girls could use lyrics sheets, too.
(Excerpt from video) CYNDI LAUPER: For the ramparts we watched as our flag was still streaming.
OLBERMANN: Could have used a little more cowbell. Not the best, but Ms. Lauper will be glad to know it could have been much, much worse. In a "Time Marches On!" classic, this Canadian songstress forgets the words to the National Anthem, excuses herself, and comes back with the lyrics and down goes Frazier! She didn't get the chance to do the encore.
"Time Marches On!"
There are whole parts of this country where the Republicans have forgotten the anthem or anything else truly American, and one of them is here in New York City, in the 9th district in the race to succeed Anthony Weiner. Details next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: We come to you live from the Philo T. Farnsworth memorial barn each weeknight at 8 p.m. Eastern. The program is replayed at 11 p.m., 2 a.m., 7 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. "Countdown" - we call it our little miracle.
A year of unexpected instability in New York's 9th congressional district began with unfortunate revelations of private parts by Anthony Weiner. It is now marked by unforgivable revelations of private hate by Republicans backing Weiner's likely successor, Bob Turner.
In our third story on the "Countdown," Islamophobia injected into the equation on election eve. New campaign literature portrays the Democrat in the race, David Weprin, as supporting the so-called "Ground Zero mosque." The other half of the leaflet shows Weprin with President Obama. It's not quite as offensive as the Republican Turner's television commercial which showed the twin towers burning alongside plans for the Islamic center, the Park51 Center in Manhattan.
(Excerpt from video) MAN: President Obama thinks that's a good idea, and so does congressional candidate David Weprin.
OLBERMANN: Turner recently defended these tactics.
(Excerpt from video) BOB TURNER: The site of this mosque is inappropriate, insensitive to the victims. I won't stand for it. It's just the wrong thing at the wrong time.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, you know, it's not even close to Ground Zero, buddy. Maybe you want to go downtown every once in a while. The current survey by Public Policy Polling shows how fear pays off. Turner is ahead by six percentage points, while the Siena Research Institute reveals that same spread in percentage points favoring the Republican.
Let's welcome Benjy Sarlin, staff reporter for Talking Points Memo, who's been covering this race. Good to see you in person, sir.
BENJY SARLIN: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: What do we know of - those Islamophobic flyers and how they sort of skirt the Islamophobia a little bit. They're not full-on stuff. Those are Turner's or are they somebody else's?
SARLIN: Those are the New York Republican Party's, so it's close.
OLBERMANN: Oh, good.
SARLIN: But it's still a little surprising to see them because, you know, that ad you were just showing from Turner, that's the only place you can see it. It's not online. Turner took it down because it was getting such a negative reaction, so it's a little surprising to see the wreckage from Ground Zero show up in a flyer after that.
OLBERMANN: What are they thinking? Is this - it would not seem to be a prime area of Islamophobia based on who represented that district until earlier this year. What's the premise?
SARLIN: I think you might be surprised on that. Anthony Weiner was very careful to - on issues that were very important to many of his Jewish constituents, there's a very orthodox kind of conservative population in there - to tack right. A lot of people don't know this - that Anthony Weiner, for example, was very hard right on Israel. One of his top causes was getting rid of all aid to Saudi Arabia, especially military aid, and on the mosque, he did not take a strong stand in support of the right to build it, so neither has David Weprin, who's running against Turner. So, one of the reasons Democrats are so upset about these ads is that they don't actually accurately represent Weprin's position, the demagoguery aside.
OLBERMANN: So, in other words, they're using that demagoguery against one of the few Democrats who did not come out and protect the right to build this thing? There is an irony to that.
SARLIN: You pretty much nailed it, but the way they're getting around it is that they're trying to make that case that, look, this election isn't really about this David Weprin guy, who - Turner was saying just today - he was telling reporters that on issues like Israel, for example, we pretty much are identical, and Turner's been making this race all about Israel. We may be - we may be in agreement, but the real issue is that you could send a message to Obama and that's what's really hurting the Democrats here, the idea that this is your chance to tell Obama you're angry about the economy or you're angry about the mosque or you're angry about Israel. He's really done a good job of making the race about that.
OLBERMANN: So, ironically, in all of this, the fallout from the Weiner scandal has almost nothing to do with what's going to happen tomorrow?
SARLIN: It barely comes up. Weiner was never that unpopular there when he resigned. He was much more unpopular in Congress.
OLBERMANN: What would have happened - some of us, and I particularly suggested that it wouldn't be a bad idea if he said, "Okay, we're going to actually let the public decide on this one. I'm going to resign and then I'm going to try to stand in the election, even though I have to do so as an independent." What would happen if he had somehow managed to get into this race to succeed himself?
SARLIN: You know, it's a fun counter-factual there. It's hard to tell exactly, but there's ample evidence that he would have had a decent shot. Now this guy, Turner, had run against him just in the election before and he actually gave Weiner a bit more of a scare than he's accustomed to. He got a decent percentage of the vote, but Weiner still won in a very bad year for Democrats with a fairly decisive margin, so there's certainly a chance, even with the scandal, he might have pulled it off.
OLBERMANN: And even for Republicans, this has been one of the sleazier campaigns, certainly in the metropolitan area, you wouldn't normally associate this degree of things: Turner's campaign manager showing up at Weprin's outdoor news conferences and trying to answer the questions from reporters? I mean, I've never - that is brand new, isn't it? Have you ever seen that before?
SARLIN: It's pretty slick. I don't what to make of it. Since you saw in the - what was it? - in the New York 26 race, when campaign manager was stalking the third-party candidate with a camera. That's the first thing I think of with that. So, you've seen some dirty tricks on that end.
OLBERMANN: But he was literally standing - he showed up at - to the right of the podium while Weprin's trying to answer a question. And he would try to - he shouted Weprin down to try to answer the reporters' questions for him. It was an extraordinary thing. Last point on this - this may be academic - all of this trouble, the 9th may vanish anyway?
SARLIN: Yeah, the ironic thing about this race is one of the reasons that neither side has invested that many resources in it until the very last minute, and even on the Republican side, they really haven't put much in at all, is that this whole district might just disappear next year. New York is losing two seats in redistricting, and this particular seat has long been seen as one of the most obvious candidates just because of the way population growth has been distributed around the city. So, it's possible at the end of this, no matter who wins, it'll just be gone. There's a one-year rental.
OLBERMANN: And where does that leave Mr. Turner? The shortest-serving congressman in modern times or what?
SARLIN: Well, who knows? Maybe Republicans will pressure them to keep that seat to say, like, "Look, we won fair and square, and now you're trying to get rid of it." So, it's tough to say what's going to happen.
OLBERMANN: Run him for governor, he seems kind of mild compared to the last guy.
OLBERMANN: From Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin. Thanks for some of your time.
SARLIN: Well, thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: The leading Senate opponent of President Obama's bid to jump-start the economy by investing in infrastructure repair suddenly has to explain that to 50,000 people in his state who can't use that one bridge anymore because it's closed indefinitely because of a lack of infrastructure repair. "Worst Persons" ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Audience, one-tenth of his previous average. Income, $21 million a year, they claim, which would be good if production costs alone might not be twice that.
And why the baseball players most associated with 9/11 could not wear caps saluting the heroes of 9/11 last night, including the late report by one of them that such a cap was taken away from one of his teammates during the game. A special comment, ahead.
OLBERMANN: It's as American as baseball and apple pie and baseball selling out the 9/11 first responders to make some extra money. Special comment next.
First, because in a world where the only feedback they get is positive even if it isn't true, somebody has to tell them they have no new clothes. Here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze to Senate Minority Leader McConnell of Kentucky. He is leading the charge in the Senate against the president's proposal to spend money in infrastructure. Friday afternoon, the Sherman Minton Bridge, which carries 50,000 people a day via Interstate 64 across the Ohio River from Louisville to Indiana, was urgently closed due to poor infrastructure. Cracks in the span, which is not a good thing if you like your bridges, you know, upright. While McConnell tries to stop infrastructure spending, 34 percent of Kentucky's bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete or closed 'til further notice.
The runner-up, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, troglodyte. She looks to what Florida is doing to its residents who apply for welfare and she drools at the prospect of applying it to South Carolinians who apply for jobless benefits. "I so want drug testing. It's something I've been wanting since the first day I walked into office." She spoke about the hiring at a nuclear facility there called River Site. They said of everybody they interviewed, half of them failed a drug test.
Two problems, gov. The South Carolina Department of Energy told The Huffington Post that at River Site, or anywhere else, they don't test job applicants. Quoting a man named Jim Justy, "We only test them when they have been accepted." And even then, the hirees who flunked the drug test at River Site amounted to less than 1 percent.
Worse yet, gov. In 2009, South Carolina State Unemployment Agency crunched the numbers and concluded that there was some drug use by those seeking jobless benefits: 0.03 percent. Three out of every 10,000 applicants were using drugs. Make a trade, governor. Those thrown out of work by your corporate overlords, they'll take the drug test if you'll take the IQ test.
But our winner, Lonesome Rhodes Beck. After months of promotions, billboards in New York's Times Square, throughout the country, his pay TV network launched today with an almost unbelievable number of subscribers: 230,000 reports The Wall Street Journal. That's 230,000 at five bucks a month, that's a total income of a little under $14 million a year. Beck is claiming income of $20 million a year. Unless he's broadcasting using a flip phone, the costs just to get his two-hour show on the air every day would be $10 million to $12 million a year, if they did it cheaply, closer to $15 million to $17 million if he went high-tech.
That does not include advertising for it. That also does not include his salary. That also does not include expenses for the 22 hours a day Beck's own show is not on the air. What it does mean is that Beck premiered today having lost about 90 percent of the audience he had at Fox. Wait. So, why am I angry at him? Glenn, congratulations. As somebody tweeted me today: "They must have spent all of their dough on gold."
Glenn "You've Been Tithed" Beck, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment about yesterday and about the exploitation of 9/11. Not the exploitation by government, nor by Islamophobics, nor by political opportunists. Something simpler. No, something sadder.
When the anniversary was one week and not one decade, Major League Baseball resumed playing its games. It is an exaggeration to say baseball healed the country or helped to heal it, let alone helped to heal New York City. Any true healing has come through love and friendship and counseling and faith and heroism and public service. Some of the "baseball as healer" talk came from a good place and some of it was exploitative. As exploitative as the football commissioner who insisted he was postponing that first weekend's games for the good of the country, when, in fact, he'd just been secretly told that the restart of air traffic in this country would be so chaotic that nobody could guarantee him that all his teams could get to all his games.
But baseball's real value after 9/11 was eloquently expressed on the morning of September 18th, 2001. I had been downtown at the crack of dawn to cover the eerie reopening of Wall Street and the juxtaposition of men and women in expensive suits, tracking through streets, covered by this awful, paste-like coating of debris from the Trade Center and the still-burning, angry pyre, marching like prisoners, they were, past police and National Guard bearing machine guns. It had been a long, long day and I was preparing to go home for a while when I was approached by a policeman who obviously knew me from my time at ESPN.
"This is something," he said, as we stared at the giant American flag that was hanging from the Stock Exchange. It was still occasionally obscured by gusts of smoke, coming from the ground zero fire. I agreed with the officer.
"But I got one question for you," he asked.
I braced myself.
"Do you think the Mets can do it? Can they come back and win the division? They were really getting going 'til last week."
I remember freezing for a moment and then giving him some poorly-devised and no doubt self-contradicting answer. And then I asked him a question. How, given all he had seen, given what he'd be seeing the rest of that day and be seeing all the days and months to come - how it could possibly matter?
"It doesn't, not really," he admitted, without much hesitation. "But I'll tell you what. All day today, I've been thinking at 7 o'clock, I can go home, put up my feet and watch the Mets and Pittsburgh and pretend for a little while that none of this has happened. So that way, it does matter."
And that, not healing, was baseball's gift and baseball's role and what baseball can rightfully claim as the part it played. It was continuity in a time of total disconnection. And for the first responders, New York's police and fire and EMS and equipment workers. For them, it was blessed relief. And that's why what happened last night was so shameful.
For four years now, Major League Baseball has exploited all the in-season holidays - Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, plus, on many occasions, 9/11 - by having all its players wear special baseball caps. All of them made instantly for sale at the ballparks and the memorabilia shops and the online stores, and all of them changing every year. There's a new one every year.
Yesterday, caps with an American flag patch stitched on the back, to the left of the inviolable MLB logo, were worn by all clubs and by all players and managers like Ron Gardenhire, during all games. So, here in New York - where, in 2001, first the Mets and then the Yankees honored the fallen members of, and the heroic and selfless acts of the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, New York EMS, Port Authority Police, New York Sanitation and several other key groups by wearing their caps during the games, during the weeks after the attacks - Major League Baseball said the Mets could wear those caps again, but only during the pregame ceremony. They were refused permission to wear the NYPD caps during last night's actual anniversary game, the only game that was being played within a 30-minute ride from the World Trade Center.
According to team player representative Josh Thole, the Mets players debated violating the dictum anyway and wearing the caps anyway. Thole told reporters shortly thereafter, though, that the league was adamant and it was a "no-go." Evidently, the commissioners' representative reminded them that the punishment, a heavy fine, would be meted out on ownership and not the players. And, for all we know, a major fine might cause the Mets franchise to go out of business before noon tomorrow. For his part, David Wright, of the Mets, wore a police cap on the bench, during the game. His teammate, R.A. Dickey, an erudite and thoughtful pitcher, tweets that a Major League Baseball rep promptly came into the dugout in the middle of the fourth inning and took that cap away from David Wright.
These MLB individuals, who check their souls at the front desk, have been down this path before. Ten years ago, Commissioner Bud Selig and his people initially ruled the Mets and Yankees could not wear the first responders caps during the games. The Mets simply ignored the threat. MLB decided to give them a pass for a game or two and then, the Mets kept wearing them anyway and MLB wisely backed off its nonsensical decision.
Last night's ruling served only to remind everybody that, at that moment, in the nation's greatest unexpected grief in 2001, baseball's moneymaking instinct was unhindered by the blood and the destruction and the fear. At least in 2001, the sport was smart enough to shut up. Not this year. MLB first blocked the Washington Nationals from wearing military caps in tribute during a game after a disaster in Afghanistan last month. Then came this decision, complete with the kind of stupidity that would make a megalomaniac proud. They blamed it on MLB vice president Joe Torre, the native New Yorker, who wore these very caps at the end of 2001 season when he was that manager of the Yankees. Torre argued that baseball has to enforce its uniform code. I suppose that argument might not have seemed like sophistry had not, at the exact same hour, the National Football League, which is truly paranoid about its uniforms and is willing to suspend players over shoe logos and fine them over do-rags, let the New York Jets wear the very same caps on the sidelines of their nationally televised game, also just half an hour from the Trade Center.
Personally, I find it hard to believe that my friend, Torre, was anything more than the patsy for this. Frankly, though, if he was there only to take the heat, he should have resigned first. Of course, the man who took the cap away from David Wright should be banned from baseball for life and from New York City, for that matter. And the man who was ultimately responsible for this fiasco last night, Commissioner Selig, should have overruled it in mid-game. Or he should have apologized today. He has done neither. He should resign.
As an aside, I should note that I actually got a tweet last night from an idiot who wondered why I thought wearing the NYPD, NYFD, PAPD and EMS caps was somehow patriotic. Patriotic never crossed my mind. It's got nothing to do with patriotism. Three hundred forty-three firefighters and paramedics died that day. Twenty-three New York City Policemen did and 37 from the Port Authority police. This is about remembering them and acknowledging what all those who survived did for this city and the wounds that those people still have. For me, as the grandson of a New York fireman and the descendant of several others and many NYPD and regional PD, as well, this is about something deeper than patriotism. Those caps aren't flag-waving. And they aren't jingoism and they aren't political. They are memorials to dead men and women.
The Mets stadium, Citi Field, was, of course, ringed last night, with commemorations and, in particular, the "We shall not forget" logo, placed in the ad, right behind the batter's box. And it has all been rendered utterly hollow because of the crassness of the decision about the NYPD caps. It should have read, "We shall not forget, provided you pay." Because if you still haven't figured out why MLB permitted this public-relations disaster to happen, why Commissioner Selig did not get on the phone and tell the Mets they could wear those caps right away and damn the consequences, the answer is to be found in your wallet.
This is the only cap Major League Baseball permitted the Mets to wear last night. The special, commemorative one, with the flag on the sale - on the side. It is on sale now. That's right. Baseball sold out 9/11 for $36.99. I guess we should be happy. Happy that it was an American flag and that baseball just didn't sell the space to the highest bidder.
Good night and good luck.