'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, September 30th, 2011
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'Going Nationwide', John Samuelsen
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#5 'Going Nationwide', Kevin Zeese
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Drone Strikes Again', Jeremy Scahill
# Time Marches On!
#3'Call to Investigate', John Dean
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#1'Primary Malfunction', Craig Crawford
printable PDF transcript
Topics: al-Qaida, Anwar al-Awlaki, Clarence Thomas, drone strikes, Election 2012, Ethics, GOP Primary, Health care, Islamophobia, Labor Unions, Occupy Wall Street, Rezwan Ferdaus, Rick Santorum, Supreme Court
Contributors: Jeremy Scahill, John Dean
Guests: Craig Crawford, John Samuelsen, Kevin Zeese
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Occupy Everywhere.
(Excerpt from video clip) BERNIE SANDERS: We desperately need a coming together of working people to stand up to Wall Street - corporate America - and say, "Enough is enough. We need to rebuild the middle class in this country, and you guys can't have it all."
SHUSTER: The movement continues to grow as more defiant citizens rise up around the country - San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C. How many people need to speak up before those in power listen? Another al-Qaida leader dead.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: Earlier this morning, Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in Yemen. The death of al-Awlaki marks another significant milestone in the broader efforts to defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates.
SHUSTER: Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Muslim cleric, killed by a drone strike in Yemen - another victory for the administration, or the murder of a U.S. citizen without a trial?
Justice Clarence Thomas has not made a peep in court in five years, but twenty House Dems speak up and demand an ethics probe after he failed to disclose his wife's income, income she received from groups working to repeal the health-care law which just so happens to be on its way to the Supreme Court. And the circus carries on:
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: I heard it in Florida. I've heard it in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina - where I'm spending a lot of time - is that they're tired of the Mitt and Rick show.
SHUSTER: Don't worry about being ignored in the debates, Rick. They are so 1998. Nowadays, people get their information from the Internet and Google. Uh-oh.
All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I just love reading the newspapers.
SHUSTER: Good evening from New York. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann. This is Friday, September 30th, 403 days until the 2012 presidential election, as the Occupy movement continues to go national, with some protests more organized than others. The latest include marches in Boston and New York, while many others are planned for the coming weeks, including the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., starting October 6th.
Story number five on the "Countdown," Occupy Wall Street is finding friends and allies across the country, and - for an unstructured group that has yet to formulate any concrete demands - it also has a pretty good slogan to toss at the ultra-rich one percent that dominate Wall Street. "We are the 99 percent, and we are too big to fail."
Too big to fail, and maybe too long in the same spot, New York's Zuccotti Park, for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His Honor told the local radio program that, "People have a right to protest, but we also have to make sure that people who don't want to protest can go down the streets unmolested. You're worried about sanitation, and you're worried about lots of different laws on the books."
And those presumably include the laws against police brutality, which Occupy Wall Street may have had in mind as they march on New York's Police Headquarters following incidents Saturday, including pepper-spray attacks on demonstrators and passers by. And police tactics where - "Certain high ranking members of the NYPD punched through and stepped on peaceful marchers. Arrestees were handcuffed so tight their hands turned blue. Let us also be clear that - when approached as individuals - members of the NYPD have expressed solidarity with our cause."
No solidarity for Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna when he pepper sprayed four female protestors, seemingly without provocation, or when Bologna pepper sprayed several bystanders, including a uniformed police officer and a photographer with a New York press pass. We have details of that first assault today from Kaylee Dedrick, one of four women confined in an NYPD pen when Deputy Inspector Bologna approached with a spray can drawn.
(Excerpt from video clip) KAYLEE DEDRICK: It was definitely an unwarranted attack. I had turned my head just in time to be point-blank pepper sprayed in the face by an officer with the other girls who also got it as well. The pepper spray was directly in my face. It got in my eyes, my nose, my mouth and on my chest. It felt like someone had poured hot, burning fire on my face and my body. It was just - the pain was very intense. And at one point, I couldn't breathe because of the pepper spray in my throat. I was on the ground at that point. I wasn't able to see. I started calling out for a medic, whether it was one of ours or the police officers. Luckily, one of our medics was called to us, came over and started taking care of me with some water, with some eye solution and some milk. I couldn't see for about 45 minutes to an hour. The burning lasted for a couple hours afterwards.
SHUSTER: Kaylee Dedrick was not intimidated. She says it breaks her heart that one percent has the nation's wealth while everyone else is scrambling for change. The demand for change she represents was seen in San Francisco Thursday with a march through that city's financial center to Chase Bank. Six protestors who entered and staged a sit-in were arrested. Outside, City Supervisor - and mayoral candidate - John Avalos addressed about 200 marchers.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN AVALOS: Have you ever felt like you've been had?
(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTORS: Yes!
(Excerpt from video clip) AVALOS: That's why this building right here is a symbol of incredible greed and wealth that is accumulating into fewer and fewer hands in our country. And how do they stay wealthy? They took our tax dollars. They got bailed out.
SHUSTER: While fewer hands have more of the wealth, more hands are joining in to change that. Occupy Boston planned an ongoing protest to start in the city's Dewey Square today. And, in a few minutes, we'll talk to one of the key organizers for a major protest plan for Washington, D.C., next month. In Washington today, there was a major endorsement of the movement from a key labor leader, the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICHARD TRUMKA: I think it's a tactic, and it's a valid tactic to call attention to a problem. Wall Street is out of control.
SHUSTER: And last night on this program, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont added his voice in an interview with Keith Olbermann.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANDERS: My message is: "Reach out to working people. Reach out to the unions. Reach out to the middle class. Bring people together, demanding real Wall Street reform so that the function of Wall Street is to provide capital to the productive economy, create jobs that we desperately need, rather than continue to engage in speculation and casino-type activities, i.e., real, real Wall Street reform."
SHUSTER: Joining us now, the first major labor leader to lend support to the Occupy movement, John Samuelsen, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union. John, thanks for being here.
JOHN SAMUELSEN: Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: Why is the TWU getting involved?
SAMUELSEN: Well, I believe to a large extent, the protestors on Wall Street are singing the same song and fighting the same battle that our union has fought for the last 18 months - basically that working families in New York state are definitely getting shafted while the wealthiest folks in New York state are getting a tax break.
SHUSTER: What have your members been thinking as the protests have developed?
SAMUELSEN: Well, the protests in the greater context - the greater context of the protests are that New York state has just eliminated a tax on the wealthiest folks in the state while working people are truly suffering. If you make $1 million a year, you're bringing home an extra $408 a week under the eliminated millionaire's tax. We have a lot of folks in New York City that aren't even making $408 a week to take care of their families. So, in many ways, the protests on Wall Street resonates with the working folks in our union who run the system in New York City.
SHUSTER: I know that earlier you were checking in with some of your fellow union members to see how things were going. Any rough estimate as to how many members of your union took part in the protest today?
SAMUELSEN: We have a couple of hundred members down there. The executive board voted to endorse the movement just about a day and a half ago. So, as time progresses, we're going to have a more-organized presence and a more-coordinated presence. But certainly members did turn out today, and they do feel a sense of solidarity with the protestors on Wall Street.
SHUSTER: What about in other cities? Will TWU members in other chapters also join those protests - San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C.?
SAMUELSEN: I would imagine that's inevitable, and certainly our sister Transport Workers Union locals in New York City have already reached out to us to put forth a unified front to the TWU in New York.
SHUSTER: What do you hope that the protests, as they are joined - what do you hope that they will accomplish?
SAMUELSEN: Well, I think the speakers that spoke before me just now - they kind of nailed it on the head. There's a sense of desperation, I believe, for working people and working families in this country that the folks that run government just don't get.
You know, there's a lot of millionaires in the Congress that have no idea - a lot of millionaires in the New York state legislature, for that matter - that have no idea what it's like to have to go out and buy a pair of shoes for children every month, or what's it's like to have to feed kids or pay tuition or pay a mortgage. So there's lot of folks in government that are out of touch. These protests, for one thing, have brought attention to the disparity in wealth in the United States that's developed over the last few decades.
SHUSTER: How do these feelings about Wall Street in your particular union - your colleagues - have they been simmering for awhile, since the bailout?
SAMUELSEN: Absolutely, absolutely. I think there's - our union is representative of working families across New York City, and there's a - there's a sense of outrage. You know, just the attacks on the public sector in New York state, the attacks on public-sector unions. At the very moment when the wealthiest New Yorkers are getting a tax break, there's efforts to balance the budgets off the backs of the public-sector workers. We're a public-sector union. There's an expectation that we're going to accept zeros and greatly enhanced medical-benefits contributions while the wealthy folks in New York state are bringing home hundreds of dollars more a week than they were bringing home six months ago.
SHUSTER: Any concerns that, while the protests are now pretty effective in terms of catching on, they seem sort of - you can sense the passion there when you see those pictures, when you're down there - but, they seem better in a sense, at staging protests than in articulating their clear demands. Any concern about that?
SAMUELSEN: No, not at all. We - I think one of the great benefits that organized labor entering into this fight will bring is an ability to articulate the message and articulate that message on behalf of working families whether they're in unions or not in unions.
SHUSTER: Well, John, we certainly appreciate you coming in. John Samuelsen is the president of the Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union. Good luck to you and thanks again for being on the show. We appreciate it.
SAMUELSEN: All right. Thank you.
SHUSTER: You're welcome. With us now, a veteran activist who is playing a key role in organizing the coming protests - an occupation of Washington's Freedom Plaza - Kevin Zeese. Kevin, thank you for your time tonight.
KEVIN ZEESE: Thanks for having me on.
SHUSTER: You go involved in this protest effort before Occupy Wall Street started up. What are your goals and how do they fit into what we're seeing on Wall Street and around the country.
ZEESE: Well, as you can see on our web page - october2011.org - on the front page we have seven areas of policy where a supermajority of Americans take one position and the government is taking another position. We're on the side of the people. And a lot of what was articulated by your previous guest is a lot of what we're talking about - jobs, taxing the wealthy, getting money out of politics, health care for all through an improved Medicare-for-all system, stopping the wars that are draining our economy and destroying so many people around the world - those are the kind of goals we're putting forward. Our basic goal is end corporatism and militarism. Put human needs before corporate greed. And we've been working our demands for quite awhile I think we're quite clear on them. I think they are the demands that people support.
SHUSTER: Is there a specific step, though, that our leaders, our government can do towards those - those efforts?
ZEESE: The problem is it's all tied together with corporatism. You know, it's interesting that the corporate media doesn't want to understand that. You have six corporate media companies that control the news media. They don't want to understand that the problem is concentrated corporate wealth. It's not surprising they don't get that that's the problem, 'cause they're part of the problem. One thing we're doing in our event is, we're advocating for a democratized media. We're telling everybody who comes - they are the media.
We can reach more people than the media if we work together to do it. And so come with your cameras, come with your cell phones to take pictures, be ready to get the word out. We are the media, we are the people, this is a goal to shift power to the people away from concentrated corporate wealth. That's our goal.
SHUSTER: Occupy Wall Street does seem pretty informal down here in New York. Is there a core group that is directing the takeover of Freedom Plaza down in Washington?
ZEESE: There are about 45 members on our steering committee and they cover a range of issues - from people who oppose the wars, people who are concerned about the treatment of Bradley Manning, people concerned about the wealth divide, health care, the environment - we have a wide range of people coming together.
October 6th, when we're starting, is the beginning of the eleventh year of the Afghanistan war, a war that should end immediately. It's also the first week of the new federal fiscal year. When we have an austerity budget for everything except for militarism. Environmental protection goes. Worker - development of jobs goes. We're going to see a decrease in funding for human needs and increased in funding for militarism. And that's why we started that day to bring all these people together. We have 150 organizations who signed on to endorse this. We have thousands of people who signed up to attend. This is going to be a significant shift in the power of the United States.
SHUSTER: How long do you expect to occupy the plaza down in Washington? What are you planning to do? Do you have the permits you need for all the activities and how do you expect the local police and authorities down in D.C. to react?
ZEESE: Well, just like in New York - the police, you know, are suffering with their pensions being threatened, in Washington, D.C. - the police had to hold back their salary to keep their health care. So, they're part of the same problem that we're a part of. And we're for the police, we hope that they're cooperative and support our First-Amendment rights. We have peacekeepers, we have non-violent trainings, we have people with cameras taking pictures, we have health - people coming from - who are health professionals ready to provide health care. So, we have a lot going on to prepare for that issue.
We're going to have a number of things going on throughout the day. We're going to have classes on developing alternative economies, we're going to have committee meetings on fifteen issues you can see on october2011.org. We have 15 core issues where we meet to discuss those. We've already been having kind of an online assembly on october2011.org, discussing those issues.
So, we're going to build the foundation of a movement. We don't think this is the end, we see it as the beginning. A foundation of movement that does two things - one is train and resistance so we can demand what we want, and two - can build an alternative economy so we can opt out of the crony, capitalist, big-business economy. It's a long-term effort, but it's an effort that we think is really going to shift the power back to the people.
SHUSTER: And as you know, that effort can take a lot of time and a lot of attention and again, back to the question - do you envision the protest in Washington as a one-day sort of effort? Or do you anticipate it's going to continue essentially, the same - as long as perhaps it continues here in New York?
ZEESE: That's our goal is to stay and to bring people together and the longer we can stay - the longer we stay will depend on how many people we have. If people come out and show the kind of anger that we know is out there, as incomes drop and wealth increases - anger at the fact that 400 Americans have wealth equal to 154 million Americans, anger that our economy is worse than the Middle Age feudal economy. In the Middle Ages, two percent of the people owned 90 percent of the wealth. We're in a situation were one percent own 95 percent of the wealth. We're worse than the Middle Ages. We are serfs. It's time for the serfs to revolt.
SHUSTER: Kevin Zeese from Baltimore. Kevin, good luck to you and thanks for coming on.
ZEESE: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate the time.
SHUSTER: You're welcome. Ahead, Jenny Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas received over $700,000 from groups working to repeal the health-care bill. Never mind whether Thomas should have removed himself from all health-care cases. And new questions over the military's reliance on drone attacks even as they kill another top al-Qaida leader. You're watching "Countdown."
SHUSTER: The Obama administration has eliminated another top al-Qaida terrorist. Though the debate over drone attacks has intensified. Here at home, right-wing radio host and conservative bloggers have seized on the arrest of Rezwan Ferdaus - a terrorist wannabe - to bash U.S. mosques, never mind, of course, it was a mosque that tipped off law enforcement.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is supposed to reveal his family finances each year, but he neglected to disclose the money his wife got from a group that will be arguing at the court.
And no matter what any of us thought about the last Fox News Republican debate, at least we finally saw Rick Santorum stand in front of a big sign that said Google. Santorum now acknowledges that is the least of his problems.
SHUSTER: Anwar al-Awlaki, one of this country's most-wanted terrorists, was killed today in a drone strike in Yemen. His death deals another significant blow to al-Qaida, following the assassination of Osama bin Laden five months ago. But it also calls the attention to the legality of the President's drone-strike policy, particularly because al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen.
In our fourth story tonight, al-Awlaki's death could make it harder for al-Qaida to recruit Westerners. His fiery online sermons all in fluent English were thought to have inspired extremists in the West, including the perpetrators of the attempted Time Square bombing and the Fort Hood massacre. He was killed along with another American, Samir Khan, the editor of al-Qaida's online newspaper. President Obama said today al-Awlaki's killing proved the strength of America's campaign against al-Qaida.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: This is further proof that al-Qaida and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world.
SHUSTER: Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico, then moved to Yemen at the age of 7. He returned to the United States and was - for a time - the imam at a mosque in Virginia where in 2001, he told The Washington Post this, about the Iraq War:
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP) ANWAR AL-AWLAKI: In my personal opinion, I feel that the U.S. rushed into this war. There could have been some other avenues to solve this problem.
SHUSTER: Al-Awlaki's killing was praised today by even some of President Obama's harshest critics. Here is GOP hopeful Rick Perry:
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: I want to take a moment and congratulate the United States military and our intelligence community and President Obama for sticking with the government's longstanding and aggressive anti-terror policies for getting another key terrorist - international terrorist, I might add - you know, the death of this American-raised al-Qaida leader, Anwar al-Awlaki.
SHUSTER: Others, though, raised concerns about the legality of the killing a U.S. citizen, even one with ties to al-Qaida.
Ron Paul told a New Hampshire audience today, "If the American people accept this blindly and casually - have a precedent of an American president assassinating people who he thinks are bad - I think that is sad."
An ACLU deputy-legal director Jameel Jaffer went even further saying, "The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. This is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process."
The drone program has significantly expanded in the last 15 years. In 1998, President Clinton authorized the CIA to kill Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants, fewer than ten people in total. Then six days after 9/11, President Bush authorized the agency to kill some two dozen al-Qaida leaders. He later expanded that to the - to the so-called "Reasonable Man" standard. If the CIA deemed a target reasonable, the drones could strike.
Drone attacks have now reportedly killed thousands of Pakistanis, and President Obama has expanded the attacks into two additional countries. Yemen and Somalia. The President has argued the attacks are authorized by Congress as part of its approval for the war against al-Qaida. Joining us now, "Countdown" contributor Jeremy Scahill, national-security reporter for The Nation. Jeremy, thanks for being here tonight.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Thank you.
SHUSTER: There are reports that al-Awlaki was connected to the Fort Hood massacre, the Times Square bomber, the so-called underwear bomber. How important was al-Awlaki to al-Qaida?
SCAHILL: I mean, Anwar al-Awlaki wasn't even mid-level management of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. His importance was largely the result of exaggeration and obsession with him in the U.S. counter-terrorism community, because of the fact he spoke English - and he was doing something that the U.S. considered to be very dangerous. He was preaching this message to a lot of young English-speaking Muslims in the U.S. and elsewhere, sort of encouraging them, or inciting them, to try attack the United States.
But on an operational level, it's a real stretch to say that he was the leader - or even a leader - of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. He was more of a propagandist for the group. But there's been no evidence presented by the White House whatsoever that he played an operational role or was directly involved with an imminent threat to Americans, which would have been one of the standards to kill him off of the stated battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan.
He wasn't shooting at U.S. forces or U.S. citizens. He was preaching hate and calling for violence on the Internet. Which, you know, under - under normal circumstances in U.S. law, if a U.S. citizen was doing that, we have a process to deal with it. It's called the justice system, not assassinating our own people.
SHUSTER: Are we now seeing what these drone attacks the emergence of the Obama Doctrine - whereby targeting killings on foreign soil, that's okay? And does this strategy perhaps give the president - any president - too much power?
SCAHILL: Well, yeah. I think that what is more important than looking just at the al-Awlaki case is looking at the precedent that it sets, David. Because this White House - much like the Bush White House - has asserted the right of U.S. military forces and CIA forces to not only go in and operate in any country that they wish, but also to engage in targeted killing operations in those countries.
What I think is particularly interesting about this moment is that President Obama, being a very popular Democrat with Democrats, has normalized some policies that - had Bush or President McCain implemented them - would have been the subject of ire and outrage from liberals. Today what you see is people defending Obama through a - with a partisan voice instead of taking a position that they probably would have taken against Bush that was very different than the one they're taking today.
In other words, what I'm saying is - President Obama is able to do things that a President McCain would not have gotten away with, because a lot of people would have pushed back and you would have had Congressional outrage over it.
SHUSTER: And one of the things that people would have pushed back at is the fact that the Obama administration has refused to essentially reveal its exact legal analysis for targeting al-Awlaki, and lastly the administration invoked the "state secrets" privilege to dismiss a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court.
SHUSTER: That's right.
SCAHILL: Is this legal?
SHUSTER: Well, I mean, the Obama administration is using a legal justification stemming back to the original Congressional authorization for the so-called war against al-Qaida, the Authorization for the Use for Military Force. But in order to pass the threshold for killing someone, you would have to show that they were posing an imminent threat, particularly when they're not engaged in direct combat with U.S. forces.
To me - and I'm glad that the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights have come out and made this clear - the real issue here is - what kind of a country do we live in where the president can serve as the judge, jury and executioner of one of his own citizens? This is a really tragic day, I think, in the American justice system because of how little outrage there is.
When Congressman Dennis Kucinich put forward a bill last year that simply said "The U.S. should not assassinate its own people without due process," only six of his colleagues joined on to sign in that, which is a pretty stunning commentary on where things stand right now in the U.S. Congress.
SHUSTER: We hear from Democrats off camera, away from the microphones, their frustration with this.
SCAHILL: That's where they love it the most.
SHUSTER: Yeah, they like, you know, when they pull you aside and say, "I'm really upset by this." What in your mind keeps them from saying it publicly?
SCAHILL: Well, I think going back to what I said earlier, President Obama - I know from talking to my own sources on the Intelligence Committee and on the Armed-Services Committee - he will personally call key members of those committees and sort of say to them - you know, try to convince them, you know, "This is really the right thing do . . . I know you don't feel comfortable with it, but we really need your support on this."
So, I think part of it is pressure from the White House, part of it is partisan politics. This is a president who, daily, is subjected to racist attacks, to bigotry, to a very well-funded lie machine from the right. And I think a lot of Democrats are afraid that if they start criticizing him that they're going to become part of the pile-on against President Obama.
I would push back against that and say a principle is only a principle if you hold it when a person you like is in power. It's defined more how we treat our enemies - what kind of country we are - than how we treat the people we love and adore. So, the standard should be - how do we treat Anwar al-Awlaki? Not - how do we treat Michelle Obama?
SHUSTER: And finally, what's the - what's the anti-American sentiment that we are essentially brewing through all those drones strikes, the 2,000 Pakistanis killed? How many family members of those killed by drone strikes - those innocents - suddenly become terrorists?
SCAHILL: Well, in Yemen, for instance, the Obama Administration authorized a Tomahawk cruise-missile strike in December of 2009 that ended up killing a tremendous number of innocent people, and that caused real outrage from people that may have been predisposed to support the United States. So, blowback has to be a big part of this conversation. When we engage in these attacks in Pakistan, maybe we kill a few dozen hardcore militants that were actually the intended targets. But when we kill innocent people, their families and many generations after that will be fighting to avenge those deaths. And we seem not to learn these lessons from - from studying our own history.
SHUSTER: Jeremy Scahill, "Countdown" contributor. Jeremy, thanks so much. Nice to have you on the program.
SCAHILL: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, the momentum for an ethics investigation into Clarence Thomas is gaining steam thanks to the Supreme Court Justice himself. And more signs that God is telling our leaders in Washington, D.C., "Don't make Me come down there." "Time Marches On" is next.
SHUSTER: Coming up, Clarence Thomas and his supreme lack of ethics.
But first, the "Sanity Break." It was on this day in 1985 Faheem Rasheed Najm was born, better known as T-Pain. This Grammy award-winning rapper has made a career out of his use of the Auto-Tune pitch-correcting audio processor. Happy birthday, T-Pain. I hope you're celebrating - on a boat.
"Time Marches On!"
We begin with the TMO Adorable Clip of the Day. Simon and Theodore are accounted for, but where's Alvin? Alvin? Turns out he fell asleep in this woman's hair. He looks pretty peaceful. We should let him sleep. But eventually, we will have to send in the Rescue Rangers to get him.
To our nation's capital - We all laughed last month, when Pat Robertson said the earthquake hitting the Washington Monument was a sign from God. Run for your lives! Run for your lives, tourists! But now, there's this. God strikes Washington once again and - this time - the wrath lights up the Jefferson Memorial. Fortunately, we're sending some people to the top of these D.C. landmarks to find out what God is so angry about. Hmm. Has Sarah Palin been talking U.S. history again?
And, finally, one for the nerds. Looking to pass some time, presumably in his mother's basement, this "Star Wars" fan found a way to put his antiquated floppy-disk drives to good use. And you were wondering what George Lucas has been doing with his time.
"Time Marches On!"
Just ahead, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to disclose a salary paid to his wife from groups preparing to argue in front of the court. And later, Florida Republicans are messing around with the 2012 presidential primary schedule. Florida Democrats did it in 2008. What's with the obsession down there over early-bird specials?
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.
Twenty Congressional Democrats want the Justice Department to investigate the ethics of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Such an investigation could have an impact on how the court rules on the recent health-care reform law, a constitutional decisional that could come down next year, during the presidential campaign.
In our third story on the "Countdown," the letter from the Representatives cited Thomas' failure to report nearly $700,000 earned by his wife, Virginia, from the right-wing Heritage Foundation from 2003 through 2007. The conservative group opposes President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Virginia Thomas has said publicly, "I think we need to repeal Obamacare."
A letter was written by Louise Slaughter of New York. Among the other 19 signers were Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois. Among other things, Slaughter wrote, "It is reasonable to believe that a member of the highest court in the land should know how to properly disclose almost $700,000 worth of income. To not be able to do so is suspicious."
Last February, 75 House Democrats asked Thomas to recuse himself from ruling on health care because of his wife's involvement with the issue and the money she earned. Republicans have called for the recusal of Justice Elena Kagan because she was Mr. Obama's top lawyer when the legislation was written. If the court takes the case, the decision could be historic and impact the election.
In a recent New Yorker profile of Justice Thomas, Jeffrey Toobin wrote, "Thomas' views both reflect and inspire the tea party movement, which his wife had helped lead almost since its inception. Thomas's entire career as a judge has been building toward the moment when he would be able to declare that law unconstitutional."
Let's bring in "Countdown" contributor John Dean, former counsel for the Nixon White House and author of "Conservatives Without Conscience." John, thanks for being here, good to see you.
JOHN DEAN: Pleasure, David, thank you.
SHUSTER: Will the Obama Justice Department really dare to take up the call to investigate the ethics of Justice Thomas?
DEAN: I don't know what they're going to do. They really - it's a statute that is applicable by the very terms of the statute. You mentioned that 75 letters - or 75 signatures of a prior letter - is really to get him to comply with the code of ethics, which doesn't apply to Supreme Court justices. When I pulled this statute - this is actually a new story - this statute does apply to justices on the Supreme Court and, indeed, they have followed the procedure in calling this to the attention of the Judicial Conference and in turn, the Judicial Conference may well send it to the Attorney General, but I don't know what he'll do with it.
SHUSTER: What do you imagine that he will do? I mean, do you think that he's gonna dig in his heels or, at certain point, will he very quietly announce, "Okay, I'm gonna recuse myself from this case"?
DEAN: You know, I have a number of colleagues who - Justia, the site we write columns for - who were former Supreme Court law clerks, and I asked them their thoughts on this. I sort of quietly polled them, and nobody seems to think that Thomas is going to recuse himself under any circumstances, and these are people who are not only law professors, a number of them are former Supreme Court law clerks, and they really followed the court's operation very closely. And I think that's pretty much a consensus. Just my reading of the man who's been pressed to recuse himself before, doesn't look to me like he's inclined to back down or - particularly on this issue - at all. As you say, he's been looking to make this decision for a long time.
SHUSTER: And he's also been somebody who defies the normal protocols. He doesn't speak in oral arguments. He hasn't spoken. This latest streak goes five years. He tends to see things a little bit differently than most everybody else. Is that the reason, you think, that he'll just say, "You know what? To hell with all these critics. I'm going to - I'm going to stay."
DEAN: Well, it is a decision that each justice has to make, and they make it in their own way. Some are more inclined - Elena, for example, Kagan has withdrawn on a number of occasions. She's recused herself on things she thought she had tangentially been involved with as Solicitor General, so she's been very cautious. Other justices like Scalia - really don't think they should step aside on much of anything, and I think Thomas is probably the hardcore of all of them, and he's going to make a decision on any case that comes before the Court, certainly anything he wants to, and I - he thinks he can, you know, judge impartially, and that's really the test, and they're not subject to the criteria of looking like they have a conflict. If they don't think they do and say they don't, well, there's nobody who can tell them to recuse themselves.
SHUSTER: Assuming the court does take up the health-care law case, so many people are predicting a close decision. Do you share that prediction that it's going to be close, or is it possibly - we'd be surprised here?
DEAN: Well, actually, that was my initial reaction - that we might have a 5-4, one way or the other, with Kennedy being the swing vote. And, you know, in polling these co-columnists at Justia, I've gotten some very different reads.
I think that these people who are really true, knowledgeable insiders of the Court really see the Court upholding the Obama health-care law. One of them, for example, saw it as much as a decision of 8-1. And one would obviously, probably be the Thomas. And these people are very knowledgeable about the Court, so I haven't found anybody yet who really knows this Court well and follows these things closely who thinks that the decision is going to overturn - it's all going to be decided on the narrow issue. They all think that, but they don't think it's going to overturn the law.
SHUSTER: As far as Justice Thomas himself - if he was a liberal and failed to report his wife's income from a liberal think tank, would the Republican House of Representatives be pushing for his impeachment?
DEAN: It would have started a long time ago. That's the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. There's just no question if it was the reverse. The Democrats think about it differently. They obviously have had the opportunity to do this when they controlled the House. They weren't inclined to do it, so I don't think that there's any doubt that if the shoe were the other way that - we know. We saw that Republicans go after a sitting president on some of the thinnest of grounds, so I - it's just a different mentality and a different way they see govern - government operating.
SHUSTER: Nixon White House council and "Countdown" contributor John Dean. John, always great to see you. Thanks for being on the program tonight.
DEAN: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: You're welcome. Coming up, Rick Santorum is unhappy and not just because of what happens when you Google his name. We'll have the latest on the GOP presidential demolition derby. And Islamophobia from some right-wing radio talkers and bloggers hasn't stopped even thought the latest terrorist arrest came thanks to a tip from Muslim Americans.
SHUSTER: Rezwan Ferdaus wanted to put plastic explosives in radio-controlled planes and fly them into the Capitol and Pentagon. He was stopped thank to the help from Muslim Americans, but that storyline doesn't fit with some on the right, so they're ignoring it.
And Rick Santorum doesn't like it when the media ignores him and focuses on the Mitt and Rick show. Another day, another laugher from the GOP presidential race.
SHUSTER: This week, the FBI arrested and charged a 26-year-old man who was planning to use plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. According to court documents, Rezwan Ferdaus early last year began plotting a "violent jihad" with the goal of terrorizing the United States, decapitating its military center and killing as many non-believers as possible.
Most news reports focused on the remote-controlled planes and explosives Ferdaus wanted to use to carry out his attack. And yes, those are radio-controlled planes that look like U.S. fighter jets.
On some right-wing talk radio shows and Internet blogs, the Ferdaus news has prompted another round of Muslim bashing. "Muslims hate America. They support terrorism." And on and on and on. The lies and Islamophobia have been on display in conservative media for years.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAMELA GELLER: We know from research done by S.A.N.E., that four out of five mosques preach a hate and preach incitements of violence. We know this. As I said, it's part of the Koranic text.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: Violent extremism and Shariah law is being condoned in seventy-five percent of the American Muslim mosques.
SHUSTER: Seventy-five percent? Religious scholars and experts call that conservative talking point "total crap."
And let's go back to the Ferdaus arrest. Lost in most of the news reports was the fact that last year - the mosque he belonged to in Roxbury, Massachusetts, kicked him out. Ferdaus had expressed radical Islamic views, showed hostility towards woman, and praised al-Qaida.
"We said, 'Look, that's not going to work here,'" said Atif Harden, a director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. "I cannot think of a mosque where he was welcome. He was clearly way out of step with the rest of the Muslim community."
Another mosque attendee, Ricardo Maestre said Ferdaus was an extremist. Maestre added, "Some Muslims are afraid to speak out against that. I'm not."
In this case, not only did Muslims speak out against Ferdaus, they called the police and told law enforcement to watch him. And this isn't the first time that's happened. According to federal law-enforcement officials, about a third of all foiled al-Qaida plots in the United States have relied on support of information provided by member of the Muslim community.
Furthermore, a study at Duke University found that many mosque leaders have put significant effort into countering terrorism by building youth programs, sponsoring anti-violence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts. And yet the crucial role Muslim Americans have played in fighting terrorism continues to be ignored or twisted.
I have no doubt the distortion and hatred will continue. Islamophobia exists in our society. It is pervasive. And it serves the political agenda of some folks on the right. But let's be clear - American Muslims are every bit as patriotic and committed to U.S. security as anybody else. They have proven it repeatedly. Not just this week, but for many years. And our society would be better served if all of us would stop and take notice.
SHUSTER: As the old saying goes, timing is everything. This goes for investing, relationships and life in general. And in our number one story, it definitely applies to presidential primaries. The Florida Republican party today announced that it would be moving up its primary from March 6th to January 31st, which would make it the first. This came as a surprise to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, who - according to RNC rules - are to be the first four events on the primary calendar. States that ignore the RNC's rules are subject to having half of their delegates taken away from them when the nominee is chosen at the convention - the convention, which happens to be in - you guessed it - Florida.
The fact that was not lost on Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn, who had some harsh words about Florida's actions, saying in a statement "The arrogance shown by Florida's elected leadership is disappointing, but not surprising. Equally troubling is to see this petulant behavior rewarded with our national convention."
As harsh as those words seemed, it was nothing compared to what Mr. Google himself, Rick Santorum, had to say. He didn't just see a move by a state to raise its input in selecting a nominee. No, Santorum smelled conspiracy.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I don't understand what Florida's trying to accomplish, because whatever they're going to accomplish, they're going to fail . . What I believe is going on is somebody in Florida is shilling for Mitt Romney and probably Rick Perry. They want to shorten the playing field now that these guys are ahead. So, what - we'd rather have this election - I'm sure that they'd like to have the election tomorrow. So, by moving up the calendar, you help the favorites. . . And the chairman of the person who's organizing this is a Perry supporter. So, you can just sort of take it from there.
(Excerpt from video clip) GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Why would he want to help Romney, though? Why would a Perry supporter want to help Romney, then?
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Well, he's helping the favorite candidates. Again, if you shave off a month, and you're looking at the top two candidates, you want this election to be as quickly as possible.
SHUSTER: Rick's outrage wasn't limited to Florida moving up its primary. He was also angry at what he feels is an overall lack of attention on his and almost everyone's campaign.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Yes, I heard it in Florida. I've heard it in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where I have been spending a lot of time - is that they're tired of the Mitt and Rick show.
SHUSTER: Oh, come on Rick. Your campaign has been getting plenty of attention, especially during the last debate. Remember when the gay soldier was booed by the crowd? That question was aimed at you. You botched the answer. But that was definitely the Rick Santorum Show.
Let's bring in Craig Crawford who blogs about politics on his website craigcrawford.com, and is the author of "The Politics of Life." Craig, thanks for your time tonight.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: Hey, Florida strikes again.
SHUSTER: Florida starts again - your old stomping grounds. Why is Florida moving up their primary? More money, more input? Maybe they want to follow what the Democrats did in 2008?
CRAWFORD: Yeah, well, I - you know, Florida's sort of kind of like the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction" - "I will not be ignored."
But, there is a reason. There are a couple of reasons, really. Momentum means more than delegates in the presidential primary process, or candidates wouldn't be spending all that time on New Hampshire, for example, which has very few delegates. But Florida's more interested in getting in the early game to make a difference in who gets nominated.
And, you know, I think these conventions usually are a fait accompli, so, it really doesn't matter how many delegates you have. And there's one dirty secret, David - is that these early states get rewarded once presidents get in office. There's no accident, for example, that Iowa and New Hampshire are way above average in federal spending per person. So, there's that factor as well.
SHUSTER: If Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina all move their primaries before Florida, as they are expected to do, the order of primary events will still be the same, just earlier. Does that mean Florida Republicans - they just lost half of their delegates for nothing? Just the same way Democrats did in 2008.
CRAWFORD: Yeah, and there goes our Christmas vacation, David. Because, we could be looking at middle of December for these things if that happens, and I think it just might. Because, I mean, I believe it's in New Hampshire's constitution that they have to have the first primary. And Iowa, of course, is a caucus. And, they scheduled that eight days before New Hampshire. So, if you do the math, we are - we are climbing into December.
SHUSTER: Michele Bachmann came out last night and said "President Obama is showing weakness towards the Arab world." Then, today, another al-Qaida leader was killed in a drone attack. Is Bachmann done? And is the GOP talking point the Democrats are soft on terror? Is that going to work this time around?
CRAWFORD: I think Obama's going to have to be vigilant in countering - they're going to say it. Even before terrorism, Republicans hit Democrats with the "soft on defense" charge. And Democrats tend to get snake bit by that. They get defensive about being called soft on defense, and I think he's going to have to be very vigilant about countering that and say "Hey, I'm the one that killed bin Laden, remember?" I think he's going to want to remind people of that. He can also - he probably wouldn't want to put it in these words, David, but he can always say "Hey, I'm doing everything Bush did - in the war, and Gitmo and Iraq and Afghanistan. So, what are you talking about?" Of course, his liberal base doesn't want to hear that.
SHUSTER: A week from tomorrow, Mitt Romney is scheduled to share the same stage as the Director of Issue Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, who recently made some pretty derogatory comments about Mormons. Does Mitt Romney not read the speakers list before he agrees to appear at some of these places?
CRAWFORD: No, Romney - now, this is a very influential organization in Republican politics. That radio network that guy has a show on, they - they have 200 Christian radio stations around the country in about 30 states. And, all the Republican candidates line up to go on their shows - very influential. So, Romney has to show up, at least show them some respect and take his lumps. Also, this group, I have noticed - I make myself listen to their shows a lot, and it's not easy, believe me - but, I mean, like that guy you were talking about - one of his claims, for example, is that Hitler preferred gay soldiers because they're more brutal. But this group has been leaning toward Rick Perry, I've noticed. So, it doesn't surprise me that they're taking some shots at Romney.
CRAWFORD: And real quickly here, Craig, at the end. Reports that Mike Huckabee might be considering getting back into the race - do you believe it?
SHUSTER: Could be, because that conservative chair is open now, it's vacant, it's getting late for such a vacancy. What I mean is - a true-red conservative in the race - Rick Perry may be falling apart, Bachmann's falling away, Palin - I guess - isn't getting in. So, that chair's open, which is - probably surprising Huckabee as much as anyone else. And that's another reason Herman Cain's coming on strong is - there's a market in the Republican race for that kind of thinking.
SHUSTER: Craig Crawford of craigcrawford.com. Craig, thanks so much, we appreciate it.
CRAWFORD: Have a good weekend.
SHUSTER: You, too. And that's it for this edition of "Countdown." Thanks for watching. I'm David Shuster. On behalf of Keith Olbermann and all of us here at the show, have a terrific weekend, everybody.