'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, September 16th, 2011
Special bonus podcast (Real Time with Bill Maher)
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'Fatigue Factor', Markos Moulitsas
#5 'Opposite Days', Craig Crawford
#4 'Labor Pains', John Nichols, Sen. Bernie Sanders
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Hacking in the U.S.A.', Eric Boehlert
#2 'Dear Lord'
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#1 'My Two Suns', Derrick Pitts
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
Topics: alzheimers, American Jobs Act, astronomy, Barack Obama, Chris Christie, Congress, Hillary Clinton, Jobs, John Boehner, News Corp., Pat Robertson, presidential campaign, Scott Walker, Star Wars, Unions, Wisconsin
Contributors: Derrick Pitts, Markos Moulitsas
Guests: Bernie Sanders, Craig Crawford, David Shuster, Eric Boehlert, John Nichols
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The president's job tour hits Virginia.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: Pass the American Jobs Act. I want Congress to pass this jobs bill, right away. Send me the American Jobs Act, right away.
SHUSTER: But while he pushes his legislation in public, he's felt compelled, in private, to reassure Democrats nervous about 2012. At a fund-raiser last night: "The odds of me being re-elected are much higher than the odds of me being elected in the first place." Still, the odds of a primary challenger are growing. The badger governor. More problems surface for Scott Walker as the Feds raid the house of one of his top aides. But Walker flat out deflects any possible connection.
(Excerpt from video clip) SERGEANT SCHULTZ: Oh, I see nothing. I was not here. I did not even get up this morning!
SHUSTER: Mr. "Abortion Caused Katrina" strikes again, giving marriage advice to a man whose wife has Alzheimer's.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAT ROBERTSON: I-I-I know it sounds cruel, but he - he - if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again.
SHUSTER: It certainly does sound cruel. Regardless, you should stick with workout advice. And yesterday, at a press conference far, far away. . .
(Exceprt from video clip) ALAN BOSS: This is the first definitive detection of a circum-binary planet and is the best example we have of a Tatooine-like world from "Star Wars".
SHUSTER: That's right, Luke. We have found your home, and amazingly it's already clear who inhabits the planet.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBI-WAN KENOBI: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
SHUSTER: All that and more, now on "Countdown".
(Excerpt from video clip) YOGURT: Maaaay the Schwaaaaartz beeeee wiiiiiith yooooou!
SHUSTER: Good evening from New York. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann. This is Friday, September the 16th, 417 days until the 2012 presidential election, and while Republicans have months to decide on their candidate, Democrats seem more than a little fatigued with theirs, even though he is - the president. Mr. Obama was in Virginia today, where he looked at student projects at a science and technology high school, before signing the America Invents Act, which should simplify the patent process. Despite his Washington woes, the president was in good humor.
(Audio from video clip) OBAMA: I am hoping that I will learn something just by being close to you, that through - through osmosis, I will - I will soak in - (APPLAUSE) I'll soak in some knowledge. I already feel smarter.
SHUSTER: Perhaps smart enough to know that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican, may have had a point when he told reporters that when it came to the president's American Jobs Act:
(Audio from video clip) MITCH MCCONNELL: I know the president and his advisers are keen on making this idea of making Republicans look bad, but from what I can tell, he's got a bigger problem at the moment lining up supporters in his own party.
SHUSTER: And while some Democrats are balking at all or parts of that bill, others may be balking at letting him run unopposed. Filling in the words of Oregon Congressman Peter Defazio that a primary would "push the president and his advisers a bit to give us back the candidate we had three years ago.
Senator Bernie Sanders agrees, saying, "I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."
However, other progressives are opposed to a primary challenge. Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus says, "I don't think a primary would be healthy for the party nor our prospects in 2012.
Healthy or not, some Democrats are feeling nostalgic for the candidate the president defeated to win the party's nomination in 2008.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she will never run for president again, still her numbers today are better than Mr. Obama's. 64 percent of adults say they view her favorably, while 31 percent do not, and more than a third of those polled say - said they thought the country would be better off under a new Clinton Administration. Though nearly half thought things would be more or less the same.
Senior White House Strategist David Axelrod thinks Democrats need to take a deep breath. In an open letter to producers for the network's Sunday morning public-affairs shows, Axelrod wrote that "better than 80 percent of the president's base approves of his performance." And on the biggest issue facing the country he asserted, "Americans strongly agree with the president's plan to create jobs and provide economic security for the middle class and believe that leaders in both parties should move quickly to pass the American Jobs Act."
Nervous Democrats should also take comfort from polls showing that no matter what happens to the president's ratings, it's unlikely they will ever drop as low as Congress.
Asked if they approved of the way Congress is handling its job, just 12 percent of voters said yes, matching an all-time low. While a whopping 80 percent said no, they do not approve of the way Congress is handling its job. Eighty percent. Congressional Republicans scored almost as badly, a 19 percent approval rate compared to 72 percent who disapprove. However, Congressional Democrats should refrain from gloating. Less than a third of Americans think those lawmakers are doing a good job.
For more on the dissent on the Democrats ranks, we're joined by Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos founder and publisher, and a "Countdown" contributor. Markos, good evening.
MARKOS MOULITSAS: Happy Friday.
SHUSTER: Happy Friday to you. The calls for the primary challenge, Markos - is this just a way for Democrats to tell the president they're angry with his performance, especially his failure to really stand up to the GOP? I mean, we're not going to see anyone seriously taking him on, will we?
MOULITSAS: No, absolutely not. I mean, as a matter of philosophy, I think primaries are good for the party. It forces candidates to have to answer to voters in their own party and fine tune their - their - their approach to governance. So, I'm not opposed to primaries, and if one came up against Obama, you know, I don't think that's a bad thing.
Point is, though, that Obama right now is actually very popular amongst Democrats. I mean, you can't really talk primary until you start looking at an incumbent, you know, 60 percent, 50 percent amongst his own party. So, the notion that you're going to take on somebody who has approval rating of in the high 60s to the low 80s amongst Democrats, really is - is - is - an exercise in futility.
SHUSTER: What do you make of the - what one story referred to as "the mini ground swell" in terms of buyer's remorse with Hillary Clinton. What do you make of that?
MOULITSAS: Yeah, the grass is always greener on the other side. The fact is, her chief advisor was Mark Penn, who was sort of the architect of triangulation. I mean, any notion that she would be better or that Republicans would treat her any differently, I mean, all you have to do is look at the Clinton years to see how that family's been treated by Republicans.
So, you know, like I said, grass is always greener and the fact that it's only 30 percent actually is not a huge number. I mean, that's actually lower than the number of - percent of people supported her in the primary.
SHUSTER: You mentioned the numbers about the Democratic base. So, Axelrod was right in terms of the numbers, but his style - in terms the president's top former advisor to try to appeal to the network Sunday shows - be more fair because, look how great the numbers are with the base. What do you make of that?
MOULITSAS: Yeah, the numbers actually aren't that great with the base. I mean, if you look at favorability, Democrats like him. They like Obama. But if you look at job approval, they're actually much worse, and they are now under 50 percent among Latinos, amongst 18-29-year-olds, against Democrats with college degrees. These are core base groups, who actually are not happy with the way the president is doing his job. Not because he's too liberal, or too wide-eyed or too Kenyan. But because he actually isn't fighting for the things that they care about.
SHUSTER: And is that perhaps the message that David Axelrod and others close to the president are missing?
MOULITSAS: Actually, I fear that that's the case. I mean - I mean, here's what I keep saying, right, it's not a question of appeasing or appealing to liberals. If what the president was doing was winning him independent voters, then I would say - Well, good for him, it's working.
But the fact is, his numbers amongst independents are in the high 20s, low 30s, these are woeful numbers. So, he's not appealing to independents. He's losing them by a big margin. He's not winning liberals, he's not exciting them, anyway. They may be happy - they may like him, but they're not excited about the president, and, of course, Republicans don't like him. So, this is not a recipe to an easy re-election, and he needs to change his tactics because, quite frankly, what he's done so far has not worked.
SHUSTER: As far as working on drawing a distinction with Republicans, particularly with Congress, Congressional Republicans, whose numbers are just - are just abysmal, is that perhaps the right strategy now for the president and say, "Okay, look, if we can't get certain things passed, I'm going to make damn sure that everybody in this country knows these were the Congressional Republicans who blocked me."
MOULITSAS: Well, that's part of it. I mean, right now there clearly is an anti-incumbent sentiment. I mean, this is record numbers of people who want to throw out the bums, including their bum. That usually isn't the case. They want to throw out everybody else's bums, but their own. That's no longer the case. They want them all gone.
That CBS/"New York Times" poll that you just cited actually had 8 percent of people wanted a majority of incumbents re-elected to Congress. That's dangerous. But, remember, the president is also an incumbent, and he's not going to be spared this. So, if the Republicans are able to somehow nominate somebody that isn't insane, actually - I actually worry.
I mean, right now the best ally the president has in his re-election campaign is that Republican presidential field. But we can't necessarily count on them to stay that way, and - and so, it would be nice if people were really ready to vote for Obama because they wanted to vote for him, and not because they were terrified of what the Republicans may put up.
SHUSTER: "Countdown" contributor and Daily Kos founder and publisher, Markos Moulitsas. Markos, thanks, as always, for coming on the program twice this week. We he appreciate it.
MOULITSAS: Thanks very much, have a great weekend.
SHUSTER: You, too. For many Democrats, one of their biggest problems with Mr. Obama is a seeming inability to get the better of his chief adversary in Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Reflecting their miserable poll numbers, House Republicans have been a lot less aggressive in opposing the president's Job Act than they were to every other bill Mr. Obama has tried to pass since taking office. Now, while Boehner has made a show of being conciliatory, he's clearly flat out opposed to passing most of the Jobs Act, refusing to agree to the tax hikes and reforms that would pay for the bill. And on Thursday, he told the economic club of Washington:
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: Let's be honest with ourselves. Now, the president's proposals are a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America.
SHUSTER: But, hey, Mr. President - it's nothing personal, just ideological.
(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: Now, sometimes the conversations that we have would be like two groups of people from two different planets who barely understand each other.
SHUSTER: If the speaker cannot understand Mr. Obama, it's no wonder he cannot understand numbers either, basic numbers, even when he uses them as a club to bash the president. Watch this:
(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: You know, at this moment, the administration has 219 rules in the works that will cost the American economy at least $100 million each. This means under the current Washington agenda, our economy is poised to take a hit from the government of at least $100 million at least 219 times.
SHUSTER: Not exactly. In fact, not at all. The Congressional budget office is non-partisan.
Their spokesperson Meg Reilly says, "It is wrong to say that 219 will be issued this year. These numbers are getting a life of their own."
According to the CBO, here are the real numbers: 42 of the rules haven't been published yet and may not be published for years to come. Another 33 rules were published last year. And of the 144 that remain, some are actually expected to help boost the economy, rather than cost it $100 million each.
For more, we're joined by Craig Crawford, who blogs on politics at craigcrawford.com. He's also the author of "The Politics of Life." Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: Hi. Maybe the president needs to let Boehner win a golf game or two and soften him up.
SHUSTER: Well, Craig, Speaker Boehner is never going to let the facts get in the way of a good attack line, is he?
CRAWFORD: Washington is an evidence-free zone, David. Do you know that? It's always dangerous when you use statistics on things like regulations. It's like the Bible. Anybody can argue anything. But in this case, he's just so way off. I mean, just the mere fact that a lot of the programs that he's talking about put money in the hands of business people he couldn't even mention.
SHUSTER: The Boehner/Obama relationship, the speaker says it's good, except sometimes he feels like he and the president come from different planets. How can the relationship be good if they can't see eye-to-eye on even some of the most basic, simple issues that matter?
CRAWFORD: What was remarkable to me about Boehner's speech - I read the whole thing - and you'd think on his planet that history began when Obama took office. There was no mention in there of any of the prior events like, oh, the financial collapse that caused the problems that we see today. He just left all of that out, and it's all Obama's fault. That's the planet he lives on. And again, it's evidence-free.
SHUSTER: And, Craig, as you know, personal likability is always huge in politics. And even many Democrats say that Boehner, perhaps, has something the president doesn't. Here's a clip that may get to what the folks are talking about. The moderator at the Washington economic club yesterday asked the speaker what he would do if he got an offer from the next Republican presidential nominee. Watch.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: If one of them said to you, "You've done a great job as Speaker. We'd like you to be Vice President of the United States - be on the ticket - would you consider that? Or . . .
BOEHNER: You know, it's hard enough for me to go to funerals of people I know, much less people I don't know. (LAUGHTER)
SHUSTER: Funny, self-deprecating, relaxed - is that, perhaps, an advantage that Boehner has, just in terms of the atmosphere?
CRAWFORD: He's been at this game a long time, and he does have an easy manner about him, but that brings to mind something I've thought about for a while now and seen it before. Is - what are - his incentive? Boehner's incentive, to get a Republican president, does he really have an incentive? Because in the past, what I've seen, the speaker of the House, the leader of a party - I mean, he's the top Republican in Washington. Get a Republican president in the White House, he's not top banana anymore.
SHUSTER: Well, that's such an interesting point. I wonder if it gets to, perhaps, part of the problem. The president is willing to defy his base to get part of his agenda accomplished.
The Speaker seems more like the prisoner of his base, or unwilling to be able to give a Republican presidential nominee any sort of image of a party that can get things done, as far as the governance of the nation. Is that the biggest problem between the two of them?
CRAWFORD: I think so. Also, with Boehner, his focus is on keeping control of the House, and I think that's why they've got to worry about these approval numbers. I mean, these numbers are so low now, it's only the people who work for Congress on Capitol Hill who support and approve what it's doing, it seems like. That is very dangerous.
Of course, that also goes to the Democrats, too. But at the same time, if Obama can stay on this jobs focus - finally stick to something for 90 days, at least - talking about nothing but jobs if he can help it, and his jobs bill, and really rally the country in favor of this bill, and then Republicans say, "No, we're back to the party of 'No Argument Against Republicans'," and I think that becomes a very difficult situation for the Republicans.
SHUSTER: And I wonder if . . .
CRAWFORD: Particularly when you get into this business of - they passed - this cannot be - every Democrat should repeat this often - The House Republicans passed privatizing Medicare. And I know the president keeps yakking about doing something - reforming Medicare, changing it. But, I mean, that was huge - that was a big moment, and that is a real sledgehammer for Democrats in those Congressional races.
SHUSTER: And given the Congressional Republicans' awful numbers, and the fact that the president, at least, seems a lot more feisty the last two weeks. Any anecdotal evidence that you're seeing in D.C., that perhaps, this is starting to work, even at the edges.
CRAWFORD: Finally, the president wrote a bill in his own White House, put a package together, went - this is how presidents used to do things, most of them - and went there and said, "Pass it, pass it right away." We're still trying to get the details, but that is the way to do it. And stay out there and stay focused on it. Don't get away from it. We're not just pivoting here, he's got to be charging in the jobs, not pivoting.
SHUSTER: Craig Crawford. Craig, thanks as always. We appreciate it. Have a great weekend.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
SHUSTER: A quick update on the story we told you yesterday involving FBI training sessions highly critical of Muslims.
The Bureau says it has decided to discontinue the lectures. Furthermore, a Bureau spokesman says that - in the aftermath of the controversy - policy changes are underway to ensure that all counterterrorism training is consistent with FBI standards.
We applaud the FBI for the step, but renew our request to director Mueller that he explain who authorized these counterproductive and un-American lectures in the first place.
This week, law enforcement raided the home of a top aide to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. We'll go to Madison to get the latest details from John Nichols. And here in New York, the case against Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. A whistle-blower is giving federal investigators an earful. You're watching "Countdown".
SHUSTER: Coming up, it certainly looks like a conspiracy. NASA and Hollywood producers have either joined forces or are stealing from one another. We have some new details on that police raid in Wisconsin at the home belonging to a top aide for Governor Scott Walker. We'll talk about those details with John Nichols, and we'll also talk politics from Madison with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Plus, the Justice Department is hearing from a whistle-blower about Rupert Murdoch's operations in America. And even when Pat Robertson says something remotely nuanced or thoughtful about the complexities of marriage, it amounts to hypocrisy because of everything else he's said and because of all those videotapes.
SHUSTER: The Republicans war on organized labor has been going on since - well, since labor got organized. One of the most vocal opponents against organized labor is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose anti-union legislation led to several recall elections in Wisconsin, with talk of his own recall coming in January. But a recall may turn out to be the least of Governor Walker's concerns. In our fourth story in the "Countdown", another Walker staffer has had their home searched by the FBI. The year-long investigation into Walker centers around allegations of county staffers doing campaign work while on county time.
Cynthia Archer worked for Walker as his deputy administration secretary until last month, when she left for another state job. FBI agents raided her Madison home for three hours on Wednesday, taking at least one box of evidence. Mrs. Archer claims that she has nothing to hide.
(Excerpt from audio clip) CYNTHIA ARCHER: They came to my house. They wanted to look at my records and computers and looked through the house, and they certainly didn't need a search warrant to do it, I would have allowed them in.
SHUSTER: Governor Walker did his best to avoid showing any knowledge of the investigation, saying today, "We don't know what exactly is involved."
While the continued investigation into Walker may be a small bit of good news for Labor on a local scale, nationally, the news is not so good. According to the latest Rasmussen Poll released today, 48 percent of Americans believe that unions have outlasted their usefulness, with only 30 percent disagreeing. Although, I have a feeling that the 17.7 million people who were members of a union last year might disagree.
For more, let's turn to John Nichols, Washington correspondent for "The Nation" magazine, and standing beside him is Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont. They are both attending a progressive conference in Madison. Thank you both.
Senator Sanders, I want to start with you because at the top of the show we mentioned that you would like a primary challenge against President Obama. Any indication that is going to happen, and is it really such a good idea?
BERNIE SANDERS: No, I don't know if it's going to happen. I think the main point is that at the grassroots level, we have got to make the President understand that with the middle class collapsing and poverty increasing, he cannot be talking about cuts in Social Security. He cannot be talking about cuts in Medicare. He cannot be talking about cuts in Medicaid.
And, in fact, what we need is a jobs program which is a lot stronger than what he's talking about. We need to rebuild our infrastructure, put millions of people back to work. We need to transform our energy system, and we need a series of new trade policies.
SHUSTER: Would you at least acknowledge though that he's -
SANDERS: The point that I am trying to make - Excuse me.
SHUSTER: Go ahead.
SANDER: The point that I'm trying to make is that it is very important that the President understands that the people who elected him wanted him to stand up to the big money interests. That is the right thing to do, and that is good politics.
SHUSTER: Would you at least acknowledge that he has been at least more aggressive in terms of turning the tables on Republicans the last two weeks than he has been in the last two years?
SANDERS: Well, I could - yes. I think that - I'm glad that he's out on the road. I'm glad that he is talking about the need, asked the wealthiest people in this country - who are doing phenomenally well, whose effective tax rate is the lowest in decades - that demand must be that they start paying their fair share of taxes. We've got to end all of the corporate loopholes. When we do that, we will have the money to rebuild America and put millions of people back to work.
But here's the point, the president cannot compromise with himself. He's got to take the case to the American people who will support him if he sticks to those issues, and then we can win some important victories in Washington.
SHUSTER: John Nichols, turning to this investigation of Governor Walker's aides in Wisconsin - how serious is this, and is their any possibility that Walker could eventually be impeached?
JOHN NICHOLS: I think it's a serious matter, but I would suggest that waiting for impeachment is really not the issue. In Wisconsin right now, we're - Senator Sanders and I are at an event called Fighting Bob Fest, and that event will attract thousands of people from across the state who are passionately committed to recalling Governor Walker, to removing him from office - and my sense is that the scandal, the investigation into his aides, simply feeds the energy for a popular revolt against this governor no matter where things end up with his legal troubles.
SHUSTER: And so you see, essentially, the recall perhaps being more successful on the Democratic side than they would have, say, before this investigation or before it became public that these raids were happening?
NICHOLS: I think Wisconsinites were furious with the governor for attacking labor unions, for undermining local democracy in Wisconsin, there's no question of that. But when you feed in a corruption scandal of this kind, I do believe it becomes easier to talk about a recall. Yes, no question to that.
SHUSTER: Senator Sanders, let's turn to the - to Labor on a national scale. This new Rasmussen Poll we mentioned, saying that nearly half of Americans believe that unions have outlived their usefulness, are people buying into the anti-union message that the Republicans have been pushing?
SANDERS: Well, Rasmussen generally is a Republican pollster, and their results often are at odds with other polling. My experience is that people understand that not only is collective bargaining a Constitutional right, that when workers are able to negotiate decent wages it impacts not only the workers in the union, it impacts the entire community.
One of the reasons - one of the many reasons - that the middle class is collapsing and real wages are going down, is unions are not as strong as they used to be in negotiating decent wages, and when they are not negotiating decent wages, the other people in town are being paid lower wages, as well.
In my view, we have got to expand the union movement, we've got to build the union movement. We've got to, once again, create a strong middle class where working people are earning a living wage. In many cases around America today, that is not the situation.
SHUSTER: John Nichols, I know that progressives and union members always get fired up when they see Senator Bernie Sanders and some others who advocate for the cause in Congress, but what is the mood of this Congress - of the conference in terms of the low poll numbers for President Obama, the difficulty getting legislation through with Republicans, and the sense that perhaps unions are in some trouble?
NICHOLS: Well, look, unions have been under attack. There's no question of that, but my sense is that the Senator's right.
Don't look at a poll that asks whether people like a union or feel good about it. Look at polls that show that, overwhelmingly, Americans want collective bargaining rights, and they understand that trade unions are the fundamental tool that we use to offset the power of multinational corporations in this country.
And, also, I think that the one thing to think about here is not so much that people are feeling put down or put upon. My sense is that Senator Sanders will walk into a hall in about two minutes from now and be greeted with thunderous applause from folks who don't just like him as a person, but who are excited about the things that he's saying.
These are popular messages - defending Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, getting a real jobs program - this isn't just smart policy. This is smart politics. It's winning politics, and I don't think that people are feeling frustrated, I think they're only hoping to hear more people like Senator Sanders.
SHUSTER: John Nichols and Senator Bernie Sanders both joining us from Madison, Wisconsin. Thank you both so much tonight for being on "Countdown." We appreciate it.
NICHOLS: Thank you so much.
SANDERS: You're welcome.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating allegations that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. hacked into computer systems belonging to competitors. And while we're on the subject of reach, a new world record has been set for the length of fingernails. Yes, fingernails. We've got the video next in "Time Marches On".
SHUSTER: Coming up, Pat Robertson will not put a guilty trip on you for a little marital infidelity, that is assuming your spouse has Alzheimer's. But first, the "Sanity Break."
It was on this day in 1956 that, through the magic of childbirth, illusionist David Copperfield was born. Born David Seth Kotkin, Copperfield went on to become the most commercially successful magician in history. However, it was in 1994 that Copperfield achieved his greatest trick, dating supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
Time marches on!
We begin on the Internet with the amazing treat-balancing dog. Stay, stay, good dog. Trust me, you don't want to play Jenga with this guy. Paws like a surgeon. As an award for his skill - Oh! He gets hit in the face with a tower of treats. It's okay, I think a few of those went into his mouth.
We stay on the Internet where it appears this biker is getting ready to go for a ride on his motorcycle. Or is he? Prepare to have your mind blown. That's right, it was all an optical illusion. Very cool stuff, buddy. But at the end of the day, you're still a grown man playing with a toy motorcycle.
Finally, we end with the cringeworthy. Chris "The Duchess" Walton has come to New York all the way from Las Vegas to showcase her new world record. Although this is one thing that happened in Vegas that probably should have stayed in Vegas.
Chris holds the world record for the world's longest fingernails. That's right. She nailed it. Let's make sure to keep her away from all chalk boards. The Duchess - and I'm guessing there's no Duke - won the record with nails measuring 10 feet, 2 inches on her left hand and 9 feet, 7 inches on the right. It's like the old saying, "You scratch my back and, literally, I will vomit."
Time marches on!
And Pat Robertson said this week that divorce is okay if your partner has severe Alzheimer's. So much for the sanctity of marriage, the thing Roberson said he was defending all these years when trying to stop same-sex couples.
SHUSTER: "Countdown" comes to you live each weeknight at 8:00 P.M. Eastern. The program is replayed at 11:00 P.M., 2:00 A.M., 7:00 A.M., noon and 3:00 P.M.
And take note that Bill Maher's guest in tonight's edition of "Real Time" will be none other than Keith Olbermann. "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO tonight at 10:00 P.M. Eastern time.
New revelations in the Murdoch-Gate investigation in this country. Media Matters reported today that investigators are reaching out to a former News Corp. employee turned whistle-blower, who testified that the Murdoch empire was engaged in illegal practices on this side of the Atlantic.
In our third story in the "Countdown," the whistle-blower's testimony could prove not only that News Corp. acted illegally, but also that top officials - including New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie - turned a blind eye when evidence was brought to their attention.
Investigation focuses on a case against the News Corp. subsidiary News America, back in 2005. A competitor, Floor Graphics Inc., claimed the Murdoch-owned marketing agency used proprietary information possibly gleaned from computer hacking to steal clients. Floor Graphics Inc. tried to get the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's office, then run by none other than now-Governor Chris Christie, to pursue criminal charges. But Christie's office consistently refused. So, the company filed a civil suit against Murdoch's company.
Robert Emmel, a former account director at News America, testified at the trial about a series of illegal practices he had witnessed. News Corp. eventually admitted that hacking had taken place, although executives said they did not know who at the company had done it. News Corp. eventually settled that case, along with two other similar cases, at a cost of $700 million. Emmel was forced into bankruptcy because of his long legal battle with Murdoch's company.
Meanwhile, the British "Guardian" newspaper is now reporting that News Corp. paid 29 lawyers and spent over $2 million just to keep Emmel from getting his story out. Even though the case was settled, the charges could still come back to haunt News Corp.
Anthony S. Barkow of NYU School of Law told "The L.A. Times," "Old information can be relevant to a prosecution based on new, recent conduct, and can even be part of such a prosecution."
Joining us now, Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters for America. Eric, thanks for being here tonight.
ERIC BOEHLERT: Sure.
SHUSTER: How damaging could the whistle-blower testimony be in light of the hacking investigation that's already started in Britain?
BOEHLERT: If there is testimony. Right now, we were able to confirm that the investigators have reached out to the whistle blower, which is a first. Because, as you noted - 2005, 2006 - Floor Graphics was begging, basically, any prosecutor - DOJ, FBI, Chris Christie's office, Congressman from New Jersey where Floor Graphics was based - was also beseeching someone to look into this, 'cause it kind of looked like a slam dunk case. So, they were never able to get this off the ground and he was never able to go public with his story. But now, it's being investigated again on this side of the Atlantic, it could be very damaging.
SHUSTER: As they did in Britain, politicians and investigators have seemed reluctant to pursue investigation here. We just had a piece the other day about Darrell Issa not wanting to pursue a Congressional investigation. You have Chris Christie, of course, as the U.S. Attorney who didn't want to pursue it. Does that simply speak to the power that Murdoch has had over so many politicians?
BOEHLERT: Well, yeah. Right now, there is no direct link that anyone went to Chris Christie's office and said "Don't touch this." But it was News Corp., it was Murdoch. Chris Christie has become a star on Fox News. They essentially launched his political career on a national basis. So, that might have something to do with it.
But again, this essentially turned out - it's embarrassing, it turned out to be a slam dunk case. As you reported, News Corp. admitted their computers were used for the hacking. They just claim they couldn't find out who. But this was not, like, a terribly complicated case. The whistle blower we're talking about took the stand just six days into the trial, News Corp. threw in the towel and settled, and then quickly settled the other cases. What he knows about News Corp. is damaging and, as you said, they have spent millions to make sure this whistle blower does not tell his story.
SHUSTER: And as we said, $700 million to settle the civil lawsuit. But is there any indication that whistle blower might be able to provide this sort of evidence that can lead to criminal charges in a Federal criminal investigation?
BOEHLERT: The danger for News Corp. is the question: 'Is there a pattern?' So, now they're investigating the News Corp.'s business behavior in the United States in wake of the phone hacking scandals.There's no allegations really of phone hacking in the United States, but what investigators can look at is has there been a pattern of misconduct within News Corp., has it been, at times, sort of a criminal enterprise.
If you look at the specifics of those three lawsuits we are talking about, it seems like the subsidiary was at times run as a criminal enterprise. Law breaking, hacking, you know - strong arming clients, anti-competitive practices, anti-trust laws, defrauding shareholders. So, if, if investigators really want to find out was there a pattern of misconduct within News Corp. in the United States, just look at those cases. It seems kind of obvious there was.
SHUSTER: Was there anything in those cases that would get you what I think is, perhaps, the easiest prosecution that investigators may have, and that is Obstruction of Justice. If there's evidence that documents were destroyed or that e-mails were destroyed or that evidence was not turned over, that seems to be the way the prosecutors so easily are able to put the squeeze on companies and individuals.
BOEHLERT: Right, that's a good question and we just don't know, because two of those three cases never went to trial. But what we do know is there is a pattern and also one other thing prosecutors will look at is, you know, were people who were involved in possible criminality, were they promoted within the company?
And the answer here is yes. Paul Carlucci who runs the subsidiary right in the middle of all this controversy, couple of years later, he was rewarded with an additional title, publisher of "The New York Post."
SHUSTER: Any possible long-term damage to Chris Christie, and any chance that any of this might link back to the larger, sort of, News Corp. umbrella?
BOEHLERT: If this takes off. If the investigators in the United States decide yes, there's a pattern and yes, they file some sort of criminal charges. Eventually, I hope, people will ask, "Why, exactly, did no one in Chris Christie's office touch this case?" It seemed like a pretty straightforward computer hacking case and there were a lot of other wrongdoing going on.
SHUSTER: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America. Eric, thanks for coming in. Good to see you.
BOEHLERT: My pleasure.
SHUSTER: Still ahead, if NASA and Hollywood movie producers are not working together, our government's space agency may soon face one hell of a lawsuit themselves. And Pat Robertson is certainly not qualified for marriage counseling. That's next. This is "Countdown."
SHUSTER: The Christian evangelist leader Pat Robertson has said a lot of crazy things over the years. This week he offered remarks about marriage that were progressive, nuanced and loaded with hypocrisy. And until now, the idea that a planet might orbit two suns in one solar system, well, that was the stuff of Hollywood. But here comes NASA. And "Star Wars" fans prepare for light speed.
SHUSTER: It's usually not very pretty when a hardline religious leader tries to handle a complex and complicated ethical dilemma. And that was the case this week with evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson. On his television show, "The 700 Club," Robertson took a viewer call from a man who asked how to deal with a friend. The friend has a wife who's suffering from Alzheimer's and deep dementia. The wife no longer recognizes him, and so the husband has started seeing another woman.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAT ROBERTSON: That is a terribly hard thing. It is - I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things because here's the loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years and suddenly that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct, but I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but, you know, to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.
SHUSTER: Robertson was asked about the marriage vows till death do us part. His response? "This is a kind of death."
The reaction from evangelical leaders was harsh. Russell Moore, a dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary responded saying, "This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus."
Perhaps it is a repudiation, but in this particular case, Robertson's view is actually sensitive and respectful to the reality of these awful situations. When anybody is suffering from severe Alzheimer's and dementia, their family members often face deeply personal decisions about care and how to live their own life. The problem here is we're also talking about Pat Robertson, the man who once claimed he could leg press 2,000 pounds. But, seriously, perhaps you'll recall how respectfully he described Islam.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROBERTSON: Islam is a violent - I was going to say religion, but it's not a religion, it's a political system - it's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination. That is the ultimate aim.
SHUSTER: Here's Robertson on hate-crime legislation.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROBERTSON: Just figure this: You've got somebody, he's really weird, and his sexual orientation is he likes to have sex with ducks. Is he protected under hate crime? Is he protected if he likes to have sex with little boys? They haven't made that clear.
SHUSTER: Speaking of ducks and quacks, here's Robertson explaining how some experts in the martial arts get their power.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROBERTSON: They're actually inhaling some demon spirit - and some of them do that, by the way - that all enormous strength comes about not from a human source, but from a demonic source.
SHUSTER: You'll recall that Robertson said the deadly Haiti earthquake was the result of the country making "a pact with the devil." He also claimed Hurricane Katrina was the result of abortions being legally performed in the United States.
And he once said the feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women - it is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.
Let's revisit the sanctity of marriage. Here's how Robertson once described the threat from same-sex marriage:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROBERTSON: You mark my words, this is just the beginning of a long, downward slide in relation to all the things that we consider to be abhorrent.
SHUSTER: So, Pat, let's get this straight. In your world, same-sex marriage is a threat to the sanctity of the institution, but telling folks it's okay to dump their sick spouse, that's okay? And that's your problem, Pat. You have been in crazy land for so long, that even when you stumble and say something remotely nuanced or thoughtful, it's hard to take it seriously or give you any credit. Nonetheless, perhaps this is the beginning of a new Pat Robertson, somebody who recognizes that life is far more complex and deeply personal than what Pat previously taught his followers to believe.
SHUSTER: Space, the final frontier. There is a whole genre of movies dedicated to figuring out what exists in the great beyond. But in our number one story on the Countdown, we are much closer to the world of "Star Wars" moving from science-fiction to reality. And it all happened, literally, in a galaxy not so far away. Scientists have discovered a new planet named Keppler-16b after the Keppler telescope with which it was discovered. The Saturn-sized planet was spotted in the constellation Cygnus. What makes it remarkable is that the planet circles not one, but two stars.
(Excerpt from video clip) NICK GAUTIER: This is the first definitive detection of a circum-binary planet, and is the best example we have of a Tatooine-like world from "Star Wars."
SHUSTER: He said Tatooine, Luke's home planet. For those of you who are not "Star Wars" fans, the reason NASA makes that comparison, is for the famous shot of Luke watching two suns setting. But, perhaps, the conspiracy - I mean, the comparison - was made because the new "Star Wars" Blu-ray box set was released today. I'll report, you decide.
But just know that NASA has found a planet in a two-star system, and that means there is a new spectrum of solar systems that NASA can examine. Instead of focusing on a single-star solar system similar to ours, scientists can search for new planets and systems containing two or three stars, the kind that seem to make up most of the galaxy. Let's bring in Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of The Franklin Institute and a "Countdown" contributor. He also tweets under the alias coolastronomer. And Derrick, if there's anyone that deserves that twitter name, it is you. Thanks for being with us tonight.
DERRICK PITTS: Thank you very much, Dave.
SHUSTER: So, NASA discovers a planet that resembles a pretty major planet in the movie "Star Wars," and they go public with the discovery a day before "Star Wars" comes out on Blu-ray? How much money is George Lucas paying NASA?
PITTS: I hope it's enough to foot the bill for the next launch vehicle we're going to need to get people out there to reach it.
SHUSTER: Turning away from the conspiracy theory, which I think I'm going to hold onto, how does a planet form with two stars? I thought that was impossible.
PITTS: So, this is one of the great things about this particular discovery, is that, you know, and it was thought before that the physics involved in a two-star system, and the title forces involved in a two-star system like this really wouldn't make it possible for planets to form. So, what we're finding here again is that nature can do things out in the universe that we would not suppose could be done in an environment like Earth, or even close to what we suspect. So, we're finding that it is possible. Now, it - there's so many possibilities for what could have happened to create this, but it's great to find one. Now, we go look for more, create some mathematical models, and then see if we can put something together that will simulate what we see.
SHUSTER: And time the announcements out with future Spielberg movies going on Blu-ray. But this is just the latest in a long list of recent planet discoveries. Did we just start looking for planets, or have our techniques just become so much better?
PITTS: Well, actually, you know, this has been the hot thing for astronomers to do for about the last decade. You know, discover planets orbiting other stars. And it really goes with a couple of things, David. It goes with - the first piece it goes with is that we now have this capability that allows us to do these very, very fine measurements at tremendous distances, and we start to pick up these details about what's actually happening orbiting these other stars. But then, there's also the ingenuity of the astronomers themselves that managed to be able to put the puzzle pieces together in a way to make it possible for us to understand that these things now do exist, that we find these other planets somewhere else around the universe. And, of course, it's all topped off by our desire to find some other form of life somewhere else out there.
SHUSTER: Derrick, since Star Wars kind of predicted the idea of a planet with two suns, should we be looking into, I don't know, other ideas from the movies? Traveling at light speed? Blowing up a planet? Maybe even Wookiees.
PITTS: Well, you know, actually, Dave, there's a sort of - there's a really interesting give and take, or back and forth if you will, between the reality of the - you know, the universe we live in, of science, and science-fiction also. Because, what happens is often some ideas come from science-fiction, and end up then manifesting themselves in the real world of science and then occasionally, stuff in the real world of science ends up in science-fiction somehow. So, there has always been a tradeoff back and forth.
SHUSTER: So, if I don't know - if - if astronomers or NASA discovers that there's this gigantic meteor which is headed towards earth, should they wait until "Deep Impact" is released on Blu-ray? I mean, what do you make of the timing?
PITTS: I think it's really wonderful, and I think one of the great things it does is it ties together this great cultural icon, if you will, of the "Star Wars" franchise with real science. And it makes people sort of pay attention and hold onto it longer because of its cultural significance - that is of the "Star Wars" franchise. So, when you put the science together with the story, it makes it something - like a vehicle for people to grab on to.
SHUSTER: Finally, and perhaps the question that could get you into a lot of trouble within the scientific community - "Star Trek" or "Star Wars," and why?
PITTS: Oh, "Star Trek," all the way. I like "Star Wars," it looks really good on a big screen, but Star Trek covered so many great ideas, and through the different phases of the franchise, really advanced so much more than I think "Star Wars" did, except for the last "Star Trek" movie, which I really did like.
SHUSTER: So, um - I think that's Steven Spielberg that's calling on line one for you, Derrick Pitts. What should we look for as far as the next - the big discovery, though? What's out there that is going to be timed out for the next big announcement?
PITTS: The next big things that are coming along is to try to figure out something about what's going on with dark matter and dark energy. These are the two big forces of the universe now that seem to dominate everything in the universe. Everything we know of its matter is just 4 percent of everything that's out there, you know, this existence that we have here, the reality we have. But, there's that, and there's also the hunt for life somewhere in our solar system either on Mars or one of the moons of Saturn -
SHUSTER: And, Derrick, NASA's telling me now we got to cut you off now that you've gone into that topic - the hunt for other life.
PITTS: Thank you.
SHUSTER: Derrick Pitts, thanks as always. We appreciate it. That's it for this edition of Countdown.
I'm David Shuster. Have a great weekend, everybody.