'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'Foreign Policy Fallacies', Ken Vogel
#5 'Down & Dirty?', Thomas DeFrank
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'What Dems Want', Rep. Keith Ellison
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#3 'A Matter of Hours', Larry Cox
#2 Highlights of Keith on the Late Late Show
#1 'Bad Brew', Jamie Kilstein
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
Topics: American Jobs Act, Barack Obama, Class warfare, Craig Ferguson, death penalty, Economy, Election 2012, GOP Primary, Hamas, Israel, Joe Walsh, John Boehner, middle class, Mitt Romney, Nikki Haley, Palestine, Rick Perry, Taxes, Tea Party, Troy Davis, Unemployment, Unions, United Nations
Guests: Jamie Kilstein, Keith Ellison, Ken Vogel, Larry Cox, Thomas DeFrank
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Rick Perry launches an attack on the president claiming Mr. Obama is an enemy of Israel.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naïve and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.
SHUSTER: This as the President prepares for a speech in front of the U.N. General Assembly. The new, tougher Obama's not gonna take this nonsense - the latest from Tom DeFrank.
Troy Davis, sentenced to death in 1991, based entirely on witness testimony. Years later, seven of nine witnesses recant or materially alter their stories. Yet today, his request for clemency - denied. And tea time - another Tea Party candidate plays the socialist card.
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID LEWIS: Well, John Boehner is a socialist. I'm not calling him names.
SHUSTER: It looks like the Ohio Republican primary just got interesting. All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) LEWIS: I am the Tea Party candidate.
DAVID SHUSTER: Good evening. From New York, I'm David Shuster sitting in for Keith Olbermann. This is Tuesday, September 20th, 413 days until the 2012 Presidential election, and that means the GOP has at least 412 days to hammer President Obama on every issue, foreign and domestic, which might conceivably - or not - give the GOP traction with voters.
In our fifth story on the "Countdown," with the United Nations general assembly in session, Republican candidates are shifting their attacks from the economy to Israel. They're blaming the President for failing to stop a Palestinian bid for a U.N. vote on statehood.
Never mind, of course, that Israel and the Obama administration have both condemned the vote and are trying to block it. The G.O.P., however, is trying to weaken the longstanding ties between most Jewish voters and the Democratic party. And if that political effort weakens the President's diplomacy with foreign leaders, well, that's just too bad.
Inside the U.N. today, Mr. Obama made the diplomatic rounds. He met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and he reminded the Libyan rebels, who deposed Muammar Gaddafi, to seek peace and credibility.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: True democracy, however, must flow from its citizens. So as Libyans rightly seek justice for past crimes, let it be done in a spirit of reconciliation and not reprisals and violence.
SHUSTER: However, the spirit of reconciliation was far from Rick Perry's mind. The Texas governor and leading GOP presidential candidate blamed the Palestinian drive for statehood at the U.N. on President Obama.
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: We're equally indignant of the Obama administration and their Middle East policy of appeasement that has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith. Simply put, we would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naïve and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.
SHUSTER: Naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous. Terms which pretty much sum up Governor Rick Perry's approach to foreign and domestic policy. But the Texas governor wasn't through with President Obama.
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: The Obama policy of moral equivalency - which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism - is a very dangerous insult.
SHUSTER: Beyond insulting his listeners' intelligence, Governor Perry couldn't be more wrong about his allegations of equal standing between terrorists in Israel or Palestinian statehood. Ben Rhodes is a Deputy National Security Advisor. Here's what he told the news conference, and what the Obama administration has been saying consistently.
(Excerpt from video clip) BEN RHODES: We could not be clearer that we have, for some time now, opposed Palestinian efforts to pursue statehood in the unilateral basis through the United Nations. And it's the United States that's working very aggressively to make that case and to make that clear to all the parties involved, including making clear that we would veto any actions in the Security Council.
SHUSTER: And the National Jewish Democratic Council agreed saying of Perry, "His baseless attacks on President Barack Obama's strong record of support for Israel are nothing more than a deeply disturbing ploy to inject domestic politics into the U.S./Israel relationship."
The same could be said for the other leading GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, who also attacked the President on Israel in a statement that read in part, "What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster. It is the culmination of President Obama's repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position."
Come on, governor, Rick Perry put on a better show than that.
As for the President, the work of diplomacy continues. He's scheduled a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow.
We are joined now by Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter with Politico. Ken, thanks for being with us.
KEN VOGEL: Hey, it's a pleasure, David.
SHUSTER: Rick Perry attacking the President on Israel. Is he just attacking on the theme of the day - whatever the President does he's against it - or is Perry really trying to establish that he knows something about foreign policy?
VOGEL: I think it's a little bit of both in this case, David. Certainly, Perry does have a long track record of speaking very ardently in support of Israel and urging the U.S. to be more supportive of Israel. He's written about the subject. He's actually traveled to Israel more than any of the other Republican candidates and more even than President Obama.
That said, in this particular case, it really looks like it's an attack in search of a battlefield because on the issue of the day - the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. - the Obama administration is actually pretty close to where most conservatives are. That is - opposed, and they've said that they'll veto this - this bid before the Security Council. So, while Perry does have perhaps the ability to gain some traction on this issue, this seems an odd place to interject himself.
SHUSTER: And what's the political opportunity that Perry is trying to take advantage of here? Because even some sort of right-wing Likudniks in Israel would not make the moral equivalency that Perry tried to make.
VOGEL: Well, yeah, this is not necessarily about winning the Jewish vote. You know, the Jewish vote is not a huge voting bloc, but nonetheless it can be significant. Most Jews do tend to vote Democratic. However, there is some dissatisfaction - among - among Jews for whom Israel is a top voting issue - with President Obama, the Obama administration's stance on the Middle East. However, I don't think that Perry's gonna make huge inroads there.
Where this is more significant for him, electorally, is among evangelical Christians for whom Israel has been a top issue, and also to exert himself and to show that he can be strong on national defense, and even to some extent possibly win over some conservative Jewish donors to - to be able to raise money from them because this is a rather significant donor bloc more than it is a potential bloc - voter bloc from which he can really win any major support.
SHUSTER: As far as Perry's articulation of policy, his claim that President Obama made a moral equivalence between orchestrators of terror in Israel - is he asserting that the President has the made equivalence between the Hamas terror group in Gaza and the Jewish state, and does he really think that anyone accepts that?
VOGEL: It does seem a rather inflammatory comment, and to be fair, he did make some rather precise arguments - including expressing some support for the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, saying that - suggesting that he would potentially move American diplomats from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So these are kind of precise ways in which he was weighed in this debate. However, as with many things Rick Perry, it's accompanied by this inflammatory rhetoric that I think we'll probably see him having to explain for in the days ahead.
SHUSTER: And does that fit Rick Perry's M.O.? And that is - he bastardizes something that President Obama or any political opponent says, twists it, and then throws it back at them in a way that's nonsensical to people who really know the issues?
VOGEL: Well, look, it's a good issue for Republicans in the primary. Obama has really asserted himself on foreign policy. In 2008, he was weak on it. He has, you know - look no further than the killing of Osama Bin Laden - he has demonstrated he has a track record here, and this is one area - Israel, and Israel's relation with its Arab neighbors - in which Republicans seem to think that they have some traction. So, the inflammatory language aside, I think that we're gonna continue to see not only Rick Perry, but also Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and some of the other candidates try to weigh in here.
SHUSTER: And to that point, for them - for the Republican party - standing up for Israel, has that come to mean simply on critical acceptance of anything Israel does, is that the standard down in the GOP?
VOGEL: Well, it does seem to be - that seems to be what we're hearing today, at least. However, that's not as - as - that's sort of more of a campaign position, I think, than it is a governing position.
That said, President Obama has had some trouble when he has tried to sort of call out Israel or get them to change their foreign policy in ways that American Jews in particular have deemed to be insufficiently supportive of the Jewish state. So, what you hear from some of these Republican candidates is an effort to seize on that displeasure and use it against President Obama.
SHUSTER: Ken Vogel, investigative reporter for Politico. Ken, always great to have you on the program. Thanks for coming on tonight.
VOGEL: My pleasure, David.
SHUSTER: President Obama has spent most of his presidency trying to meet Republicans halfway on policy. For many Democrats, it's been even more than halfway.
Well, that changed Monday - when the President defiantly introduced a plan to raise taxes on major corporations and the rich in order to preserve social programs while paying down the debt. Republicans cried class warfare. They may be doing a lot more crying down the road.
The President ran on hope and change in 2008. Now, if he hopes to change the dynamic that has him polling in the 40s and at risk of losing reelection, he may have to turn to the dark side.
"New York Daily News" reporter Thomas DeFrank laid out some of the options today, quoting a veteran Democratic campaigner who said, "I've won many an election with a weak candidate by changing the subject to the other guy. Obama has no choice if he wants to win."
A Democratic strategist close to the White House was just as blunt. Quote, "It's time to make the other side the issue. In short, no hope, no change."
With us now, Thomas DeFrank, Washington Bureau Chief with "The New York Daily News," wrote about the strategist's advice to the president in today's edition. Tom, thanks for coming on.
THOMAS DEFRANK: Happy to be here, David. Thank you.
SHUSTER: So we saw Rick Perry and Mitt Romney sling some mud the president's way today over Israel. Did the strategist you spoke to, did they say that Mr. Obama's going to have to, essentially, fire back in kind at them?
DEFRANK: Well, not in this kind of inflammatory rhetoric, but he's going to have to be tougher, he's going to have to be a lot less professorial. He's the only president I've covered - and I've covered the last eight - who sometimes have answers at press conferences longer than his opening statements.
And this is what he likes to do. He likes to think that he can overwhelm you with the power of his arguments, but he's going to have to be tougher. Basically, second terms or reelection campaigns are usually a referendum on the incumbent. If this is a referendum on President Obama, he'd lose as of today. And Democratic elders - mandarins, people who have run elections and campaigns for a long time - say he does not have the luxury of being above the battle anymore. He's got to be tougher. He's got to take on the Republicans frontally. But I don't think you'll ever hear him saying the sorts of things that Governor Perry said today.
SHUSTER: Right now the GOP candidates, they can hammer Mr. Obama over anything and everything while the President doesn't really have one specific opponent to hammer. How do the Democratic elders see the dynamic changing once there actually is a Republican nominee?
DEFRANK: Well, Martin O'Malley, the governor of Maryland who's also the head of the Democratic Governors Association, said last week that at some point the President will be running against the alternative, not the Almighty. And that's always true.
That's - you're never going to do quite as well when you're running against a generic opponent. But at some point, Obama will have the opportunity to frame the election as a choice, a choice between two people, but also a choice between two ideologies. And he's certainly going to paint the Republican ideology the way he started painting it in the last couple of days, which is an ideology which protects the wealthiest and doesn't want to raise taxes because it kills jobs.
And he's hoping that populous message will take at some point. But what he really has do, according to senior people in the Democratic party, is to convince people that the Republicans are obstructionists. And he's basically got to run a Harry Truman-type campaign when all is said and done.
SHUSTER: As you well know, authenticity is very important for any political candidate. Mr. Obama does nice pretty well. Can he do mean well, without seeming like it's somehow phony?
DEFRANK: No, no. He doesn't do mean well, but he's just got to be tougher, and he's just got to take the position, I think - according to people I was talking to - he's just got to call them out. He's got to - he's got to stop turning the other cheek. And I think he's beginning to understand that. There' s word out of the White House that he's starting to be very unhappy about the state of play and that he knows he's in serious trouble and he's got to do something about it. And he doesn't have a lot of time left at 13 1/2 months.
SHUSTER: Some observers feel that the President has pulled his punches throughout his term for fear of alienating conservative or racist voters who would see him as an angry black man. Can the President go on the low road without that issue coming up, either in terms of them or in terms of how President Obama feels about that perhaps sensitive issue?
DEFRANK: Well, I think that's a little bit of an overreach. He's not going to be inflammatory in his rhetoric. I just think he's got to find a middle ground where he's tougher, he's less conciliatory, he's willing to take on the Republicans in a tougher, more robust way. But I don't think that's an issue in his own mind, and I think most Americans are fair minded about that sort of stuff. The type of people that would be offended by that sort of a - a - M.O. are people who will never vote for President Obama anyway.
SHUSTER: The President has been defiant and feisty for the last three weeks now, going back to his big jobs speech to the nation. What does that say to the Democratic elders you're speaking with? How much time do they believe the President needs to continue, sort of, hammering this day after day in order to start seeing some results either in the polling or in public perceptions?
DEFRANK: Well, he has to keep doing it, and he has to never stop keep doing it. They really say he's got until the end of the year to start changing hearts and minds and all of that. He doesn't have a lot of time. I mean, no president has ever run for reelection with this kind of unemployment, except for Franklin D. Roosevelt, obviously.
But he has to do something to convince the American people that's he's not just doing everything he can. But, what's he's doing - what's he's trying to do would be helpful were it not for the Republicans. That's his real problem because he's not going to - he doesn't have time with an intransigent economy to get much change to it. He can try. He can hope that the trajectory is better - six months, eight months from now - and that people may start feeling a little better about the way things are going, but unemployment's not going to be down to 7%, David. Everybody knows that, including the president.
SHUSTER: Thomas DeFrank of "The New York Daily News." Tom, great reporting, as always, and thanks for coming on our show tonight. We appreciate it.
DEFRANK: My pleasure, David. Thank you.
SHUSTER: As the Obama Administration hits Republicans hard on economic issues and tax policies, some centrist Democrats seem to be getting weak in the knees. What are they saying to their colleagues? Well, we will talk with Congressmen Keith Ellison. And later, the Governor of South Carolina, Tea Party darling, admits she just made up a claim about unemployed workers and the need for drug testing. You're watching "Countdown."
SHUSTER: A man scheduled for execution on Wednesday has lost his final clemency plea. Troy Davis had asked the Georgia Pardon Board to consider all the prosecution testimony and evidence that's fallen apart over the years. But now, the only hope for Davis and the groups convinced he is innocent is a last minute surprise at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today in Washington, the reaction poured in over President Obama's decision to ratchet up his fight with Republicans over economic policy. Why are some Democrats so nervous?
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said we should be nervous about unemployed workers who apply for a job at a nuclear reactor. Turns out, she's the one with the hallucinations. And the crazies are stirring in the district of Republican House Speaker John Boehner. A primary challenger is accusing Boehner of socialism. How do you like your tea now, Mr. Speaker?
SHUSTER: The GOP calls it class warfare. Progressives call it a step in the right direction. So what do centrist Democrats - the voting black Democratic strategists are now paying a lot attention to - think of President Obama's jobs plan? In our fourth story in the "Countdown," a Democratic identity crisis.
Even as party leaders worry about not isolating moderate Dems, new polls show that the group might actually pretty happy with President Obama's recent left turn. President Obama this week, in unusually forceful and defiant terms, pushed his vision for the country, one in which the wealthiest Americans pay more to fund programs that help their poor neighbors.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: This is not class warfare. It's math. The money's going to have to come from some place.
SHUSTER: So was that an extreme left position? Democratic strategist Mark Penn seems to think so.
Writing on the Huffington Post yesterday, quote, "Obama's team actually believes that in the last six months they have courted independent voters, and that didn't work, so now they are turning to activating the base with higher taxes on the wealthy."
Keep in mind, Mark Penn was the genius who misread the '08 primary campaign, sinking his boss Hilary Clinton. But back on point.
Are centrist Dems really a lost cause? And does the center still really exist in this highly-polarized nation? New poll numbers offer some insight.
A Gallup poll out today found that the vast majority of all voters favor the President's jobs proposal to raise taxes. 70 percent of Americans favor increasing taxes on some corporations by eliminating some tax deductions. 66 percent favor increasing taxes on families making more $250,000 a year.
When you look at just Democrats, including those moderate Dems, the numbers are even higher. A whopping 86 percent of all Democrats favor increasing taxes on corporations. And 85 percent favor increasing income taxes on those families making more than $250,000. Seems that not only do the majority of Democrats, including the moderates, not think his plan is class warfare, most don't think its all that revolutionary at all.
Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota. Congressman, thanks for being with us.
KEITH ELLISON: Good to be here. Thank you.
SHUSTER: So Congressman, first, your reaction to both the tone and the substance of the President's jobs and debt plan as he announced it yesterday?
ELLISON: I like it. I'm feeling good about the tone. I think the President has stepped it up at the right time. And I'm definitely in support of the American Jobs Act. I think that it is past time, actually, so I'm really excited.
You know, I like the tax proposal as well. There are a few things that I'd like to talk with the President about. But you know, trying to deal with carried interest and really get after those guys who are just making money hands over foot - over fist - and then, also raising money on the highest-income earners, closing loopholes like the people who get jets and stuff - I'm all for that and I think it's fantastic.
SHUSTER: And yet, we're seeing some Democrats express some nervousness. What are you hearing from some of the more centrist Democrats in the cloak room or on the Hill? What seems to make them nervous, do you think? And what are their concerns?
ELLISON: Well, I think that some folks are just always worried about what the other side - and I mean the other side of the aisle - is going to do or how the other side of the aisle is going to paint them. And that's an obsession with some people.
My thought is, you cannot twist yourself into a shape that the folks in the Tea Party are going to like unless you quit the Democratic Party and join them. Then you'll win their favor. Short of that - they're coming at you, so you might as well be who you are and fight.
You know, if you vote against your conscience or speak against your conscience in order to try to win an election, you will have violated your conscience and perhaps will lose your election. So you might as well do the right thing, 'cause that's - at the end of the day, that's what people hire us to do.
SHUSTER: Given the findings of the polls and the Democratic identity crisis in some quarters, what do you think "centrist Democrat" means now?
ELLISON: You know what, there's getting to be very little room in the center. I think it was Jim Hightower who said, "The only thing in the middle of the road is the dead armadillos, you know, and yellow streaks."
I will say this - it's time now to remember your Democratic roots, why you signed up way back when you were a college kid or whatever, when you said, "You know what, I think I'm a Liberal. I think I'm a Democrat."
But remember what you felt then and stand up and stand on those principles, and let the consequences take care of themselves. I mean, my belief is that - look, our country has been on a slide for the middle and working classes for 30 years, as we've seen people who are in trade unions see their membership roles slide, as we've seen collective bargaining decline, we've also seen the fortunes of the middle class go down. It's time for a turn and a fight and to really reorder our economy to make it work for the American middle class.
SHUSTER: And yet, there is Mark Penn, who has some respect in several Democratic circles - even though he is something of a centrist - he says that President Obama risks losing the center with his current strategy. What do you make -
ELLISON: Those people are - those people are always around. They're always, you know, wringing their hands and scared to death all the time. I mean, the fact is, they should be ignored. And the fact is, we need to listen to people who actually reflect the attitudes of the American people. We need to listen to folks like Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman and Drew Weston and Van Jones - the people who really have their pulse on what the American people are going through.
Hey, it's a good idea for any - any Democrat just to walk on down to your local unemployment line or your food shelf, or to ask people how they're doing. Go on down to where people are in soup lines and people are trying to get food at the food shelf and ask them how they're getting along. That will give any Democrat a clear idea of what's really going on in their state.
SHUSTER: But finally, Congressman, when a centrist Democrat comes up to you and says, 'Look, I face a really tough re-election. They're already painting me as being, you know, wanting to raise taxes. What do I do? I'm in a - maybe a Republican-leaning district. This is going to be really tough for me.' What do you say to your colleague?
ELLISON: I say go to your - go populist. Go to your roots. Talk to the people who are on the ground - the folks facing foreclosure, small-business people who are saying, 'Look, I can't sell nothing 'cause my customer base doesn't have any money.' I mean, go to your root and get populist and speak to the hearts of the people who you are really here to serve.
And you know what? You know - and then run the risk that doing the right thing may not return you to office. I mean, there's no guarantees. But for sure, if you serve the people, nine times out of ten your election's going to go fine. And the one time out of ten that it doesn't, there's no better reason to win an election - I mean, to lose an election - than to do it for the right reason.
SHUSTER: Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota. Congressman, great to talk to you. Thanks for coming on the show.
ELLISON: You bet.
SHUSTER: Coming up, Republican Congressman Joe Walsh has just been named one of the most corrupt politicians in Washington. Walsh failed to disclose liabilities on his disclosure form, including money he owes in child support. And later, John Boehner isn't laughing these days over a Tea Party challenger in a Republican primary. The challenger accuses Boehner of socialism.
SHUSTER: Still ahead, Keith stopped by "The Late Late Show" last night. If you missed it, we have the highlights coming up.
But first, it was on this day in 1929 actress and comedienne Anne Meara was born in Brooklyn, New York. Performing alongside her husband, Jerry Stiller, the comedy team of Stiller and Meara were popular throughout the 1960s and '70s, making regular appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
With Zoolander for a son and Frank Costanza for a husband, I'm sure she had quite the eventful birthday party.
"Time Marches On!"
We begin on the Internet with the "TMO" adorable clip of the day.
It's a puppy with a bad case of the hiccups. Aww. The good news is it doesn't seem to be interrupting his nap. Has anyone tried scaring him? Maybe we should show him the GOP contenders. That would scare anybody! Of course, there's a chance the little guy is just allergic to denim. Or was that the adorable clip of the day?
Presenting the Internet video sensation, "One Cat, One Cup." Can I offer anyone a beverage? Perhaps a cat - ppuccino?
I don't know how he got in there, but I think everyone's glad he did. Looks like he's having a nice, relaxing time unless - oh, no! Somebody's going to drink him! Maybe they'll just have a small sip. A cat nip.
Finally, we travel to Russia where former KGB agent and billionaire newspaper tycoon Alexander Lebedev is appearing on a talk show alongside ex-real estate baron Sergei Polonsky. As the conversation gets heated, Polonsky comments that he would like to "stick one in the mouth" of Lebedev. Assuming he's not talking about sticking a blintz in his mouth. Lebedev literally beats him to the punch.
Oh! From Russia with hate.
Lebedev lands a couple of shots causing Polonsky to fall back off his chair onto the floor. As Yakov Smirnoff once said, "In Russia, you don't hit the floor, the floor hits you."
"Time Marches On!"
Yeah, I know that was terrible.
Just ahead, most of the witnesses have now recanted their testimony, and a former FBI director says the murder conviction should be thrown out. So why is Troy Davis still facing the death penalty?
SHUSTER: "Countdown" comes to you live each week night 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.
A man convicted of murder is in a Georgia jail cell tonight. He insists he's innocent. His execution is scheduled to take place tomorrow. Our third story on the "Countdown." Troy Anthony Davis has exhausted his appeals. Protests from the Pope, former President Jimmy Carter, Amnesty International and hundreds of thousands of people around the world have failed.
Davis' attorneys say the testimony he was convicted on was flawed. Prosecutors say they've got the right man.
As for the crime, in August 1989, off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail of Savannah was shot to death in a Burger King parking lot where he worked as a security guard. He left a wife and two children behind. Two years later, Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder.
Seven of nine key witnesses recanted their testimony. Appeals went up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The sentence was upheld. Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant clemency to Davis today, prompting this from a supporter.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: This is a civil-rights violation and a human-rights violation in the worst way. This is Jim Crow in a new era.
SHUSTER: As for the evidence, former FBI Director William Sessions wrote in "The Atlanta Journal Constitution," that "The evidence in this case consisting almost entirely of conflicting stories, testimonies and statements is inadequate. When it comes to the sentence of death, there should be no room for doubt. This case continues to be permeated by doubt."
But Joan MacPhail-Harris, the slain officer's widow, says this:
(Excerpt from video clip) JOAN MacPHAIL-HARRIS: We are victims. Look at us. We have put up with this stuff for 22 years, and it's time for justice today. He's guilty. He was found guilty, and we need to go 'head and execute and be done.
SHUSTER: For more on this case, let's bring in - from Atlanta - Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International, which has been active in the case. And Larry, thanks for joining us tonight.
LARRY COX: It's my pleasure.
SHUSTER: The governor of Georgia has no power to stop this. Is there any chance for a postponement from anyone, maybe a last-minute stay request again to the U.S. Supreme Court?
COX: There's always a chance. This is not a killing that takes place in a matter of seconds when somebody panics. This is a deliberate, planned killing. The Supreme Court has intervened before at the last minute, and we continue to work and hope that a possibly-innocent man will not be killed in Georgia.
SHUSTER: And what is the argument that the Supreme Court can sort of latch onto to at least issue a stay while they, I suppose, take more time to review it?
COX: Well, the parole board said in 2007 that if there was any doubt at all, they would not allow this execution to take place. There has been nothing but doubt. So we're hoping the Supreme Court will once again say there's too much doubt.
People have looked at it. People who you've already cited like William Sessions of the FBI, Bob Barr, former congressman, have said 'even though we support the death penalty, there is just so much doubt in this case that it should not be allowed to take place,' and we're hoping the Supreme Court will see that, too.
SHUSTER: We heard one of Davis' supporters used the words "civil rights" and "Jim Crow." How much of this case is race based?
COX: Well, it's very hard to tell. That's the problem in all of these cases. This is a very human system. It's a system - a criminal justice system that is pervaded with all of the prejudices of our society, and to use that system to decide who should live and who should die is always problematic, highly problematic, but I - in all my years, of which have been more than 30 of working on the death penalty - have seldom, if ever, seen a case where there was so much contradictory testimony as this one. This should really not be allowed to take place.
SHUSTER: And what is it about that testimony that jumps out compared to all these other cases you've been involved in?
COX: Well, you've not only got seven out of nine of the witnesses - and it was entirely built on eyewitness testimony, there was no forensic evidence whatsoever - you've got seven of the nine recanting or contradicting their testimony.
One of the few who hasn't is the man that 10 others have come forward and say that they think that he's the man who did it, some even testifying that they have heard him admit that he did it. So that is very compelling testimony. It may not free Troy Davis, but it should certainly keep him from being killed.
SHUSTER: This is the fourth time Davis has been scheduled for execution. You've talked with him lately. What is his state of mind now?
COX: Well, he's an amazing man. He's grown tremendously over the years. He's not just fighting for himself - this is a point he always makes - but for others and for human rights and for an end to the death penalty. He's kept the faith. He says he believes that justice will prevail, and - in any case, no matter what happens to him - the fight will go on, and one day the United States will join most of the countries in the world and do away with this penalty once and for all.
SHUSTER: Is this a case where Davis is innocent or merely that the prosecution has not proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?
COX: Well, nobody can know whether he's innocent, but surely it is a case where there is reasonable doubt. Again, when you have people looking at this case in great detail - as Bob Barr has done, as William Sessions has done, as others have done - and say that 'This - we cannot proceed with this, there's just too much doubt.' Clearly, it's a case of reasonable doubt. Jurors have said that if they knew now, or if they knew then what they know now, they would have not have voted for the death penalty.
SHUSTER: Larry Cox of Amnesty International. Larry, thanks so much for joining us on the program tonight. We appreciate it.
COX: Thank you.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, the Tea Party governor of South Carolina has now admitted she made up a wild claim recently about unemployed workers using drugs. Perhaps it's time to drug test Nikki Haley?
But up next, did you catch Craig Ferguson last night? You're watching "Countdown."
SHUSTER: Late-night television has certainly been a lot more interesting the last few days, at least in small part thanks to a few enablers around here.
And later, the madness that is the Tea Party. Republican House Speaker John Boehner now faces a primary challenger who says Boehner is too progressive. We kid you not.
SHUSTER: As you know, Keith has been out for a few nights, and while I was sitting in for him last night, the host of this show was on the west coast helping his buddy, Craig Ferguson. It's pretty funny. And in case you missed it, here's some highlights of Keith from last night's "Late Late Show" on CBS.
(Excerpt from video clip) CRAIG FERGUSON: My first guest tonight is the host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" which airs weeknights on Current TV. Yes, of course, it's Keith Olbermann, everybody.
(Excerpt from video clip) KEITH OLBERMANN: I've been in this building nonstop for, like, three days. They do other television programs here.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Well, they do - well, they do "X Factor'?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: No, I wasn't on that one.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: "Dancing with the Stars"?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: No, I won't - oh, God, no.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: I don't know, man. That might be -
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Me versus Nancy Grace.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: That would be good.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Like this. Boom.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: No.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: That's my impression of her, by the way, doing - hitting me.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: The bleeps are to cover up sometimes - sometimes cuss words are uttered by the guests here. Never by us.
(Excerpt from video clip) CENSOR VOICE: Ooh la la!
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: - yeah.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Yeah? Now -
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: I just - I just lost my virginity. You realize that?
(Excerpt from vidoe clip) OLBERMANN: You know I watch every night. This is my top five shows in television.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: This show?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Absolutely. These deranged, random wandering people can't be wrong, so don't - Take the compliment.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: You're kind of like - you're too -
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: This tie doesn't even have that back thing that this slides into.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Oh, man, you got to - look, I got one right here.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Yeah, see?
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Here. Put in there, man. Help yourself. There you go.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: So, this now doubles as the awkward pause as well, doesn't it? Yeah.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Yeah. This means we're engaged.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Yes. And it's code.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: I'm mad at the Yankees now.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Oh, okay. Well, so what? You aren't going to go Mets, though, are you?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: I said I was mad at the Yankees. I didn't say I was mad. I've gone crazy.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: All right. Who's going to be the new President or will it be the same one again?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: It'll be the same one again.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: You think so?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Yeah, I don't have any question. Unless - unless there's a sudden "Draft Keith" movement with - I could run with Geoff, perhaps.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: No, I don't - I think he's unelectable. He can't make a speech more than 12 feet from an outlet.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Like Dick Cheney.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Yeah, much like Dick Cheney.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: The health care system in Massachusetts that he invented -
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Right.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: - and is - was Romneycare. Far more liberal the Obamacare. As us liberals drrreeeaaaam of Romneycare for this country. Then that one - terrible.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Yeah, if you see - if you say you like him, that's going to really hurt with the Republicans.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: That's exactly - Mitt Romney is my man.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: A man name Mitt can become president.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Well, is that short for something? Mitt - Mittgenstein?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Mittgenstein.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Possibly not.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: I - no. I think Romney is short for something. Ideas. Thank you.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Ooh. Aye, aye.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: Republican will prefer a guy to a woman, all occasions - including, often, at strip clubs - so - well, remember that whole - okay, never mind. We don't have to go through all that.
(Excerpt from video clip) FERGUSON: Keith Olbermann, everybody.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, the Tea Party crazies strike again. A primary challenger says Republican House Speaker John Boehner is a socialist. And South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Tea Party darling, says she never thought she needed to confirm things she heard. Oh, my.
SHUSTER: The Tea Party is not well known for using facts or research. As you no doubt heard, Michelle Bachmann has gotten into a little trouble over the last week, retelling a story without checking basic facts. But in our number one story on the "Countdown," it's just not Michelle Bachmann.
Take the story of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. You may recall that two weeks ago, she cited a statistic that 50 percent of the people who had applied for a job at a nuclear plant had failed a drug test, and she used that as an excuse to drug test people receiving unemployment.
Well, yesterday - while talking to reporters - she basically admitted that she made it up. Quote, "I've never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume that you're given good information. And now, I'm learning through you guys that I have to be careful before I say something."
While ignorant and foolish, at least Haley was not corrupt, unlike her Tea Party counterpart, representative Joe Walsh, who today was named one of the most corrupt representatives in the country.
It's based on his failure to accurately disclose income and liabilities on his personal financial disclosure form, including the more than $100,000 he owes in delinquent child support.
Walsh is one of nine Republicans and five Democrats who the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or C.R.E.W., named the 14 most corrupt politicians. Not on the list was House Speaker John Boehner, but that may be the last time he will even be considered for it.
On Friday, a Tea Party activist named David Lewis announced his candidacy for the seat Boehner won with 85 percent of the vote last time around. And Lewis seems to have a platform of one issue - John Boehner is not conservative enough.
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID LEWIS: Well, John Boehner is a socialist. I'm not calling him names, what I'm doing -
(Excerpt from video clip) NEIL CAVUTO: A socialist?
(Excerpt from video clip) LEWIS: - what I'm doing is -
(Excerpt from video clip) CAVUTO: Now David, David -
(Excerpt from video clip) LEWIS: He's a socialist.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAVUTO: Now, come on. Now that's a little extreme.
SHUSTER: When Neil Cavuto calls you extreme, you may be going a little too far. Joining us now is comedian and co-host of Citizen Radio, Jamie Kilstein. Jamie, thanks for joining us tonight.
JAMIE KILSTEIN: Oh, so much crazy.
SHUSTER: Well, let's start with Michelle Bachmann and Nikki Haley.
SHUSTER: They almost seem surprised that someone would question something they heard from somebody they didn't know or didn't check. Do they really think that just because they heard it somewhere they can believe it? Or they know that maybe it's not true, but it's politically expedient.
KILSTEIN: They must know. I mean, this strategy would never work in a court of law. You know what I mean? Like if the judge asked for evidence, you wouldn't be like, "Oh, some dude told me." Like, that would just never work.
I feel like when a Republican says that somebody told them, that's the equivalent of when, like, your racist uncle says they have a black friend. Like, they don't. They're clearly lying. And if that's how they get their facts, like - can a man on the street go up to them and tell them that their kid died in Iraq? Can a man on the street say that these gay conversion camps have scared their - their - their lesbian daughter for coming out? Which, by the way - with those Mr. Bachmann conversion camps - I hope all the kids that go to those camps just come back with so many phone numbers. Like, I hope it just turns into this - this - this hot datefest.
SHUSTER: What is it about the followers, though, of Michelle Bachmann, Nikki Haley, maybe even Sarah Palin? I mean, even Rick Perry -
SHUSTER: - people who don't believe in evolution or climate change -
SHUSTER: - and they trust their leaders who happen to hear something on the street that's also useful to them?
KILSTEIN: I think it just - it verifies what they want to hear. Do you know what I mean? I think that facts are for gay people and socialists, and numbers and charts are scary and intimidating. And so, you know, you have George Bush going into work as his gut told him to. You have Michelle Bachmann, you know, trying to prevent kids from getting these vaccines, because she saw a crying lady once. I think they just want to hear what they already think they know, which is what they don't know.
SHUSTER: Moving on to John Boehner, it seems like he's tried pretty hard by most standards to move to the right, and now he's got a Tea Party challenger who says that he is a socialist. What does Boehner have to do to not be considered a socialist by the Tea Party?
KILSTEIN: I don't know, man. Like, build a monument to Ayn Rand out of, like, the bones of dead animals that Sarah Palin shot? Like, I honestly - I don't know what else he can do.
And it's like, this week he came out defending tax cuts for millionaires. I don't know. I mean, maybe this guy thought "socialist" meant "alcoholic." Like, I don't know if just the definition was completely wrong, and that someone's going to be like, 'Oh no, socialist means someone who shares the wealth.' And the guy's going to be like, 'Oh, I'm totally sorry.' Like, there were no great socialists of our days who were quoted saying, 'Give me money, give me money - get your dirty poor hands off my money.' Like, it's kind of the antithesis of what socialism is.
SHUSTER: What are the odds that you give this Tea Party guy David Lewis?
KILSTEIN: So, here's what I would say - in wonderful land, I would say nothing, the media's going to stop talking about him and he'll go away. But this is the same mainstream media that for the last presidential election, we listened to a plumber for half of it, so I don't know. I mean, he could stick around for longer than we want. Probably not.
SHUSTER: Congressman Joe Walsh - he owed or had some issues with child support. And C.R.E.W. says that that makes him at the top of the list of the most corrupt. But there would be some who would argue that that's a personal failure - personal corruption - not a public corruption. Your take?
KILSTEIN: Sure. I mean, I never like when we kind of go after sex scandals or things in people's personal lives. But at the same time, it's like - 'Oh, Republicans are kind of corrupt!' - you know what I mean?
Like, I think this exposes something more - more important than just being corrupt, but just being hypocrites. You know, you have this family-value party. And what does family values mean to them? Well, it means that gays can't marry, but they can do things like this. They can not pay child support.
I think that honestly, it exposes sort of this - this larger issue, which is just - they're just mean. Like, I know that sounds childish, and corrupt is a more grown-up word, but they're just mean. I mean, look at the last couple debates. What did they cheer for? They cheered for an uninsured man dying, they cheered for people being wrongfully executed, they cheered for Justin Bieber - that may not be true, but let's just assume they would. They're just mean people.
SHUSTER: If you were going to start a progressive, grassroots group to compete with the Tea Party -
SHUSTER: What would its one issue be? What would its name be?
KILSTEIN: Let's see. I would have Paul Krugman demanding for Donald Trump's birth certificate. No, what I would do is I would just have us just be nice. I mean, that's what liberals stand for. There's nothing extreme about the left. What does the left really want? Health care for all, education for all, not to execute innocent men like Troy Davis? There's nothing extreme about it, and I guess I could name it "I Hate You, Bill O'Reilly," just for kicks.
SHUSTER: Jamie Kilstein, comedian and co-host of Citizen Radio. Thanks so much.
That's it for this edition of "Countdown." I'm David Schuster, thanks for watching Current TV. Have a great night, everybody.