'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, October 7th, 2011
ShowPlug1: Here come the attacks: #OWS is "a Paris mob" per Sen. Paul. "anarchists" per Pete King, "mobs occupying Wall Street" per Cantor
ShowPlug2: Cantor, w/unknowing irony, condemns "the pitting of Americans against Americans" (maybe it's a GOP trademark violation)
ShowPlug3: GOP + Dem responses to #OWS w/HuffPo's @RyanGrim ; what actual changes OWS could effect, w/Jeff Madrick of @RooseveltInst
ShowPlug4: Occupy in Pha, Portland, LA, burgeons. @TavisSmiley and @CornelWest join me live from #OccupyLA
ShowPlug5: + the question I got most asked yesterday in Zuccotti Park: where does #OWS fit in protest history? With @GregMitch
ShowPlugLast: My choice on Thurber tonight; Worsts: the tape to play the next time a conservative pretends he actually cared about 9/11
Wait'll ya hear what I say about Neal Boortz in this show open ;-)
watch whole playlist
#5 'War of Words', Ryan Grim
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#5 'War of Words', Jeff Madrick
# Bonus: promo
#4 'Making History?', Greg Mitchell
#3 'Truly 99%', Tavis Smiley & Cornel West
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#2 Worst Persons: Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, Neal Boortz
#1 Fridays with Thurber: A Box To Hide In
printable PDF transcript
Topics: James Thurber, Occupy Together, Occupy Wall Street
Guests: Cornel West, Greg Mitchell, Jeff Madrick, Ryan Grim, Tavis Smiley
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? And here come the insults.
(Excerpt from video clip) RAND PAUL: As far as this Occupy Wall Street movement goes, you know, I see it sort of like a Paris mob. I see the president's rhetoric of envy inflaming the public.
(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC CANTOR: I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.
OLBERMANN: But the winner, the all-time lulu?
(Excerpt from video clip) CANTOR: And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.
OLBERMANN: Eric, what? You're unhappy that they are stealing the Republican Party motto? On the other hand, mayor of Philadelphia shows up just to talk with Occupy Philadelphia - one in the morning. Police in Portland pose for a picture with an infant at Occupy Portland. And in Occupy Los Angeles -
(Excerpt from video clip) JULIE LEVINE: I know the LAPD does not always do the right job, but they are doing the right job with us here. They said, "We do not want to be like the NYPD. We understand that you're peaceful."
OLBERMANN: Day 21 of Occupy. Our special guests at Occupy L.A., Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West. "Worsts." She defends Hank Williams Jr. by attacking who?
(Excerpt from video clip) SARAH PALIN: What about Mike Tyson?
OLBERMANN: And the next time a conservative pretends he'll never forget 9/11, play them this tape - of Neil Boortz.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEIL BOORTZ: Barack Obama is a bigger disaster to this country than 9/11.
OLBERMANN: F--- you. All that and continuing full coverage of Occupy, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Welcome to Wall Street.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Friday, October 7th, 396 days until the 2012 presidential election.
And the start of an all-out effort by some in the GOP and their allies to vilify the Occupy movement. House Majority Leader Cantor, Congressmen Peter King and Senator Rand Paul channeling their inner Marie Antoinette, imagining occupy mobs taking over cities, anarchists waving black flags, taking every iPad from every Apple store and out of its rightful Republican home. As if the Occupy protesters were one step from setting up a guillotine in front of a Bob's Big Boy in LA.
The fifth story on the "Countdown" - while Republicans compare Occupy Wall Street to the Jacobeans who overthrew the French monarchy, mayors and police in some cities with Occupy protests are cooperating with the protesters, with New York's mayor Mike Bloomberg somewhere in the middle on that scale. Majority Leader Cantor, however, is where he is most comfortable - on the far, far, far, far right, telling the crowd at the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit -
(Excerpt from video clip) CANTOR: I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country. And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.
OLBERMANN: Some in that town? After years of honing the GOP's divide-and-conquer tactics, I'm thinking Cantor was just talking about himself or his tea party allies. Perhaps the most divisive racist American political group in decades, a group Cantor praised last year on the equally dubious "Don Imus Show."
(Excerpt from video clip) CANTOR: Tea party is an organic movement. This is not some movement that started in Washington. It's about the people.
OLBERMANN: People like the Koch brothers, Dick Army and the other financiers who kept the tea party afloat in a sea of cash. Meantime, tea party leader Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky - one of the dumbest men who can still walk around the Earth - shared Cantor's dark dream about the dangers of an organic movement that's not some movement that started in Washington that's about the people.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL: As far as this Occupy Wall Street movement goes, you know, I see it sort of like a Paris mob - this Paris mob that I hope doesn't ultimately result in a lawlessness where they say, "Well, gosh, those nice iPads through the window should be mine. Why don't I throw a brick through the window to get them?"
OLBERMANN: What are you, 12? New York Republican Congressmen Peter King, the former IRA supporter, told Laura Ingraham, "The fact is, these people are anarchists. They have no idea what they're doing out there. They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone and anti-capitalist - It's a ragtag mob, basically." Maybe he can investigate it after he gets done smearing Muslim Americans.
New York Mayor Bloomberg, while admitting he was sympathetic to some of the protesters, again defended the banks and the finance firms that provided at least a fifth of the city's annual revenue. He told local radio host John Gambling -
(Excerpt from audio clip) MIKE BLOOMBERG: The protests that are trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city aren't productive. And some of the labor unions - municipal unions - that are participating, their salaries come from the taxes paid by the people that they are trying to vilify.
OLBERMANN: In Zuccotti Park, where the occupation is in its 21st day, a union electrician from Boston observed the Wall Street money flowing in a different direction.
(Excerpt from video clip) BOB BROADHURST: You know the tar sands pipeline that they've been protesting? Well, we've a bigger pipeline. It goes from Wall Street to Washington that is funneling millions and millions of dollars. That one should really be shut down.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of shutting down around the country, officials in some cities tried to stop Occupy protests. Others all but support them. In Portland, Oregon, police pose with an infant at an Occupy protest. Surround the suspect! In Philadelphia, about 700 protesters marched Thursday with police support.
(Excerpt from video clip) CHARLES RAMSEY: The vast majority of people here are peaceful, just want to demonstrate, just want their voices heard. And our job is to help them do that, quite frankly, is to help protect their right to assemble, to protest.
OLBERMANN: Never let him in New York. And when the Philly Occupy protesters settled down for the night, Mayor Michael Nutter, the Democrat, stopped by about one o'clock in the morning. The scene was less peaceful In Sacramento last night. At least about 19 people were arrested for camping in Caesar Chavez Park. But protesters in Austin, Texas, said they plan to be near City Hall for months to come. Protesters in Tampa took to the streets, and, in Indianapolis, protesters began making signs for a scheduled weekend rally. Police there say they will provide all of the security necessary.
For a look at how the Occupy movement is impacting Washington politics, I am joined now by Ryan Grim, the Washington Bureau chief of The Huffington Post. Ryan, good evening.
RYAN GRIM: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Cantor, King, Rand Paul all came out against the Occupy movement on the same day. Is it a talking point or a coincidence?
GRIM: I think it's a coincidence. And one reason that I think that is that - after we reported this morning that Eric Cantor was condemning the Occupy Wall Street movement - his office reached out to us and said, "No, he wasn't condemning it. He was condemning the Democrats who were supporting it, which means that the Democrats are dividing people, one American against the other. And, you know, he recognizes that there are some legitimate concerns that the Occupy Wall Street people have." We left it as is because he did - you played the tape. He did condemn it.
GRIM: You know, he didn't mean mob - he didn't mean like a flash mob, you know, where people, like, did jumping jacks.
OLBERMANN: Growing mobs of Democratic delegates. No, that's not what he said. He said, "I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country."
GRIM: Right. But I don't think that it's coordinated because his staff and other Republican operatives recognize that there is a real, simmering anger out there, that these are not just some like bored college kids on Spring Break. They represent something much deeper across the country. So, they don't want to get firmly against it. They are going to try to find some isolated incidents of somebody acting like a clown and say, "See, we're against that." But they're not going to say they're against protesting Wall Street abuses. I mean, that - you know, even for Republican voters, that doesn't go over.
OLBERMANN: Plus the Republicans are vulnerable, I would think, from a couple of differently directions if they do that because, obviously, you know - the Occupy folks don't like the comparisons to the tea party, but in a broad sense, they fit into some sort of, you know, very large, similar category because the tea party was promoted as grassroots and anti-establishment and organic and "people fed up." And if Republicans were to come out and go after a movement that's, you know - organic and "people fed up," that might raise the ire of the tea party just on a kind of on a union local scale.
GRIM: Right. Exactly. And you are going to - you have areas where the tea party and the Occupy Wall Street movement do intersect. And so you are going to have some support from some elements of the tea party. You know, the Occupy movement, they don't want to be associated with the worst parts of the tea party - you know, the bigotry, the coal baron-funded element of it. But they do want to be associated with the kind of anger at the system and, you know, and an energy, you know - a collective energy to change that system.
So, that part of it, you know - Republicans can't get on the opposite side of, because there are going to be all of these clips that won't be just on "The Daily Show," they will be everywhere of them saying the exact opposite thing about Wall Street that they said about the tea party movement.
OLBERMANN: What about the Democrats? The politicians who have taken this seriously, even sort of touching it to see what it is - Mayor Nutter in Philadelphia last night. Are they saying something in there that, like, Congressional Democrats have not seen? Why are seemingly 99 - ironically enough - percent of liberals hanging back, at least the political liberals?
GRIM: Right, well, 'cause that's what liberals in Congress do. You know, they hang back and they - and they wait until, you know, they are not - they are not used to seeing a kind of grassroots movement that is - that the media is actually covering that they can then trumpet.
And so - you know, that's why, you know, it's only Dennis Kucinich from the beginning that was really out there hammering this. You know - now that it's gained some more legitimacy, you're probably going to see more of that - but that's just, you know, that's the Democratic Party, you know - it waits until it's forced to do the right thing.
OLBERMANN: Well, and then to the head of it, what about the president? What are the other calculations being made now as to whether or not he touches it and sees what it is?
GRIM: Well, there surely are. And over the last several months, you've seen him, you know, moving, moving left and moving a little bit more populist and trying to lay out what the division - you know, what the distinctions are between him and the Republican Party, and there have always been those saying, "Listen, if you take a tougher stand against Wall Street, it will pay off for you electorally and politically."
So, this is his chance. You know, he can actually stand up, and he can take a stand against Wall Street, and he won't even have to do anything other than say a few words. But, as we know, just a couple of words are quite painful to these Wall Street bankers. He called them "fat cats" once - like 14, 15 months ago - and they have not gotten over that yet. So, if he says one single word of support for what they're doing - look for these bankers - their heads are just going to explode.
OLBERMANN: Well, all right. So, there's a positive side to it. Ryan Grim, the Washington Bureau Chief for The Huffington Post, thanks for your time, and have a good weekend.
GRIM: You, too, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, the Occupy movement has the nation's attention, to some degree at least. It's spread to hundreds of cities across the country, thousands - tens of thousands probably - are already taking part in protests. The question of the movement now, how to turn that action in the streets into some sort of action on Capitol Hill?Even more simply - what can be changed? And with me for that, Jeff Madrick, senior fellow with the Roosevelt Institute and the author of "Age of Greed." Good to see you again, Jeff.
JEFF MADRICK: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Occupy movement has some sort of momentum that seems to be building by the day. It's organized just enough to not be an organization.
OLBERMANN: But how does it use what is seemingly building now to actually change something? Once the formula is sort of played out, and they get the answers as to what they want changed, how does it happen?
MADRICK: Well, that is an unknown that we'll have a hard time answering right now. I think we have to recognize, this has been something of a miracle in one week, as you've been reporting - dutifully - and thank you for that.
OLBERMANN: Of course.
MADRICK: Last Sunday, when we went down there, it was nothing like it is now. It's a huge change in just one week. They've gathered a lot of support, as you've noted. I think now, they are seeking to develop a real agenda. But, it is that conflict. "Do we get organized? Do we tell our members what to think? Or do we ask our members what we're thinking?"
And I am going to be speaking to some of them, and I want to here what they are most concerned about because that's where the energy is going to come from. I have a clear agenda about what America should do, but then they've got to develop their own, I think, maybe with some advice from elders.
OLBERMANN: There's plenty of people they are taking advice from now who would fit into this category as well, both of us included, I would think. Do you have concerns about this, from what you've seen? Things that might be, at this point, holding it back? Because I originally thought that the lack of the agenda, at this point, was a drawback, but I'm beginning to think it's a positive. What sort of organizational or protest advice would you give them in that broader sense?
MADRICK: Well, I think it is a positive that there is no agenda, that they're not telling people what to think. You know, in development economics, we learned - the World Bank learned and Washington has learned, a little bit anyway - that smaller countries have to own their policies. These people have to own their policies.
But having said that, I think they have to start thinking about an exit strategy of sorts - a declaration of victory. Maybe not next week, maybe not even next month, but some way to get out of the park and into Washington. I think they have to call politicians out. They need a list of principles, and they have to say - "Which of you actually agree with us and can we talk to? And who should we fight for in elections?" And organize nationally and maybe talk about coming back a few months down the road to see what's happened.
OLBERMANN: Something like a large-scale march on Washington, perhaps? Something with a lot of optics and all the rest of that, plus meetings in the week up to it, or after it?
MADRICK: I think something like that - you know, that's in what happened in the big protests, both over racial integration and the Vietnam War in the old days. It can happen again. They mobilized the support. But I do think they need some kind of set of principles or general agenda. Ask for something, and see what they get, and call these politicians out, because they - correctly - don't trust them.
OLBERMANN: The local president of the TWU, Transport Workers Union, was in here, and he said they were being - their union was galvanized by what they saw, that they were awakened, and they thought - "Why weren't we doing this two years ago?"
So, we know that the unions are benefitting from their association with Occupy. What about the other way around? Is it a benefit to have an established framework that comes with all the positives and the negatives of union politics or is it a negative?
MADRICK: I think they can learn from the unions. The unions have Congressional contacts. They can begin to make Congressional contacts. They can begin to see who they trust. They can talk about their issues. I think taxes on Wall Street will be an issue. I think health care should be an issue. I think mortgage relief has to be an issue in there.
OLBERMANN: Oh, boy, yeah.
MADRICK: And most of all, jobs. You know, I have to remind your viewers - once again - twentysomethings are suffering. It is very hard to get a job if you are in your twenties these days, and - when you get them - the salaries are down from what they used to be 10 years ago. It is a tough time for those kids, and they have every right to make demands on their Congresspeople and it maybe - maybe start focusing their abilities on generating some electoral support for some people they like. Not a bad way. That should be how our democracy works.
OLBERMANN: Right, and oddly enough, the student loans did not - the student mortgages - have not been lowered or delayed or anything while the jobs are not out there. Maybe that's a good starting point.
OLBERMANN: Give us some sort of moratorium on the student loans.
MADRICK: Not a bad idea.
OLBERMANN: I think that might appeal to a lot of people in Zuccotti Park. Jeff Madrick of the Roosevelt Institute, the author of "The Age of Greed," great thanks, have a great weekend as well.
MADRICK: Thank you, Keith, you, too.
OLBERMANN: Does the Occupy movement yet fit in historically? Jeff mentioned a couple of parallels. Is it tea party-level impact? Vietnam protest level? Civil rights level? None of the above? We'll look next.
And, in Los Angeles - a city with a remarkably bad record for tolerating protests, in three different centuries - we have Occupy LA doing pretty well. Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley will join me from there.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Cornell West and Tavis Smiley join me from the Occupy event with the best track record so far with the local police. Occupy L.A.? The big questions I got at Occupy Wall Street yesterday were all about historical context. Is there a chance this could be this decade's anti-Vietnam protest or civil rights movement? We'll ask that question. The least human of the right-wing radio propagandists has let the cat out of the bag. The conservatives don't give a damn about 9/11. And not only is it Friday with Thurber, but tonight I am picking the Thurber story I want to read. Ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: It is too early to know where the Occupy movement will fit into this country's' long history of world-changing protest movements, but its participants say - if the past is any indication - there is reason for hope that it will be on the list somewhere.
In our fourth story in the "Countdown" - Occupy leaders say they are drawing inspiration from the protest events of the last half century, starting with the first rumblings of social change in 1960 - when four Americans simply refused to leave a lunch counter in Greensburg, North Carolina - setting off a wave of sit-ins across the South, that led to increasingly large demonstrations culminating, of course, in the march in Selma, Alabama - 1965 - led by Dr. Martin Luther King.
(Excerpt from video clip) MARTIN LUTHER KING: We are going to walk non-violently and peacefully to let the nation and the world know that we are tired now. We've lived with slavery and segregation 345 years. We waited a long time for freedom.
OLBERMANN: Even after that time - five months later - President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
Then the prospect of the long and violent war in Vietnam led young people across the nation to rise up and protest again. The movement started on college campuses and in high schools, but soon moved to Washington, where hundreds of thousands of protesters were able to turn public opinion and then government policy - later rather than sooner. Inspired by the success of those movements, another group - gay Americans - decided to fight back as well. This participant looked back on what came to be known as "The Stonewall Uprising."
(Excerpt from video clip) DORIC WILSON: Oh, my God. I'm not alone. There are other people that feel exactly the same way.
OLBERMANN: Does that sentiment sounds familiar at all? The most recent movements also emerged when people, not just in this country, discovered others felt the same way - from the thousands who turned out across the country to protest the Iraq war in the last decade, to the streets of Cairo - earlier this year - where Egyptians successfully overthrew a dictator who had managed to stay in power there for three decades until their movement brought him down. Protesters here now saying they are inspired as much by that success as by past movements in this country.
Joining me now - Greg Mitchell, blogger for The Nation, anti-war activist. Greg, good to see you, and apparently the phone is for you (Mitchell's cell phone was ringing on the set.). This thing is three weeks old. Obviously, it can't be rated yet historically, but are there parallels between this movement and the anti-protests that you, yourself, were involved with in the '60s and '70s?
GREG MITCHELL: Well, there are some parallels, of course, but I actually - I think this movement is different than anything we have seen before, really. They're, sort of, making it up as they go along. And it may - when people look back at some of these past movements, they may think there are similarities like that, but actually most of those movements started with either a fixed agenda or at least a general assertion of goals or general, obvious goals - you know, stop a war, civil rights, voting - get new voting rights - end segregation. I was part of the anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s - stop nuclear weapons - but each of those weapons - each of those movements - are really kind of targeted on Washington, you know - something for the White House to change, something for Congress to change - or in the civil rights movement, state laws. This is a much more amorphous, which - as you have said - is in many ways a good thing but it's quite different. It's hard to fit into the continuum.
OLBERMANN: In terms of the direct comparisons, it would seem to be the essence of the difference - apart from that - civil rights, black men were still being lynched in this country, beaten, physically abused and not just in the South, but that predominantly was where it was, Vietnam War, is always - you don't think first that the fact that there was a draft. It was not just that American soldiers were dying in a pointless war. It was they had no choice. In a very real sense, the American government was murdering them. Picking them out of a crowd and they get shot nine months later.
Economic repression, obviously, can cause death, it can cause illness, violence, but it's not that directly - it's not a direct cause and effect. How do you get people to, whatever the game is, to elevate the game to the point where they're changing the world when those that you oppose don't - seemingly, obviously, superficially - threaten their existence?
MITCHELL: Right. Well, I think we're already seeing partly by the makeup of the crowds we're seeing. You know, it's no surprise that young people are leading it, leading the movement because they - it's not quite like with the draft, but they are in some ways on the front line in terms of because of the huge debt that they have, because of the lack of jobs. I mean, I have a son who is 24 years old, I mean I see it firsthand. So it's really not a surprise to see that.
And, of course, we have so many people out of work, the inequities in society are obvious. In a way, what's been frustrating with Obama is that - as this movement shows - there has been majorities of Americans who have been in favor of, you know - higher taxes on the rich, massive job programs. You can go through 19 or 20 other issues, and yet the Democrats have not been able to harness this.
So, I feel this movement is very much what they are getting at, first before they even have an agenda, is this expression of popular will. They're saying, "Hey, Democrats, you do have the majority on your side. Why have you been caving in?"
OLBERMANN: So, who winds up running whom? Because if this is going to change electorally, if this is going to change in terms of Congress, it's not just going to be - it's unlikely that a third party would form quickly and supersede the other two. It would presumably be either brilliant Democrats coming in and going "We're with you," or brilliant Occupy folks becoming the leaders of the Democratic Party. Who subsumes the other?
MITCHELL: Well, it's a good question. I - I - It seems to me the Occupy people, at least right now, are not - at least right now, they're not thinking, "We are not going to endorse candidates, we're not going to work with candidates."
I don't think they're thinking we are going to have a march of half a million people on Washington. I think they see this as quite different local uprisings, you might say, in different cities, that will affect what people do in Washington. I think we've maybe have already seen it this week. We've seen maybe some toughening of the spine in Washington, the president and other people. And I think that's already a victory. It's not enough. But I think that's a little different than, again, completely different from past movements. So, it makes it interesting, but hard to predict.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, maybe instead of half a million or two million or whatever you'd go for in Washington, you split that up among 20 protests around the country, all at the same time.
Greg Mitchell of The Nation, great, thanks for coming in.
MITCHELL: Thanks, sure, any time.
OLBERMANN: By the way, we told you last night that we would be bringing you the perspective of at least one of the leaders at Tiananmen Square, in 1989, Chai Ling. This was not one of these rare flashes of journalistic insight here from me. We were told she wanted to say how Occupy reminded her of Tiananmen by her public relations firm the DeMoss Group. They booked her on this news hour, we told you about it. Today, about six hours to air, the DeMoss Group advised us that Ling decided not to the appear. No other explanation. So, if you were tuning in looking for her, I thought you deserved that explanation. Sorry.
More on Occupy ahead. Bill O'Reilly has spoken out. Even for him, it's hilarious and we'll go to Los Angeles and Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West at Occupy LA, coming up.
OLBERMANN: Well, the eyes of the country have understandably been focused on the growing crowd at Wall Street and the Occupy movement around the country. In our fourth story (sic) - the Occupy groups are not the only groups fed up with the financial institutions.
And - in the spirit of the Occupy movement - several groups joined together in Los Angeles to express their outrage and prove that when they talk about the 99 percenters, it is not an exaggeration. Yesterday, Occupy LA joined with the group Refund Los Angeles and the SCIU to march on the Los Angeles financial district. About 2,000 protesters participated, eventually converging on a branch of Bank of America. Eleven protesters entered the bank and held a sit-in, eventually getting arrested for trespassing. So, while the coast may be different, the sentiment seemed to be the same.
(Excerpt from video clip) SID ORTIZ: It almost seems like this is becoming a Third World country right in front of my eyes, in our generation. Like, how is this happening?
(Excerpt from video clip) HANLEY BONYNGE: You see people losing their homes all across the country. And I feel like it's time for people to finally take a stand, and really you know, fight back.
(Excerpt from video clip) ARIANNA GOUVEIA: I had to take on a second job. And catering. Everybody is working twice as hard for less money now.
OLBERMANN: On the other hand, in a city where - only a century ago - the publisher of The Los Angeles Times had his limousine outfitted with a machine gun on the hood so he could fire at any union organizers he saw, the police are getting really good marks.
(Excerpt from video clip) LEVINE: I know the LAPD does not always do the right job, but they're doing the right job with us here. They said, "We do not want to be like the NYPD. We understand that you're peaceful."
OLBERMANN: Everybody needs a goal. Joining me now PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West, who co-hosts "Smiley and West," the weekly radio show on Public Radio International. Gentlemen, thanks for your time tonight.
TAVIS SMILEY: Thanks, Keith.
DR. CORNEL WEST: Thank you, Brother Keith.
OLBERMANN: Dr. West, you spent time at Occupy Wall Street, and then time today at Occupy LA. Is there a difference between the messages, or are they the same?
WEST: No, I saw the same thing in New York, Occupy Boson as well as Occupy LA - the focus is on corporate greed. It talks about individual liberty, it talks about social justice, it talks about democratic accountability of especially the one percent who own 40 percent of the wealth.
OLBERMANN: All right, so both of you, Tavis, went on this 11-state tour in August. Was there a common grievance that you heard on that tour that you see being addressed in this movement, do you think?
SMILEY: I think so, Keith. And the short answer is that the poor are being rendered invisible in this country every day. They're being treated as if they're disposable, as if they're an afterthought.
And the worst thing you can do to human beings - as evidenced by these Occupy movements - the worst that you can do to a human being is to make him or her feel like they don't matter, as if they are - in fact - invisible.
And - I want to just add right quickly - I was listening to the show earlier, of course, and there are some who have a problem with a lack of coherent or cohesive message. I - maybe it's a bit counterintuitive, Keith, I don't feel that same pressure. There are a lot of folk out here who have a lot of legitimate grievances, and as long as these protests continue to grow, somebody in Washington is going to have to start asking them what their grievances are. So, you lay out a list and we start talking about how we address the problems. There doesn't have to be one particular grievance, as was the case during the Civil Rights era.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, Dr. West, give me your feelings on that, because I started in exactly that place, where it was like - well, "What, what are the demands?" Then, I started to listen to the process by which they were achieving what they wanted to achieve.
And when I went there yesterday, it became very obvious that the attempt here is to find out - we all know something's wrong, let's publicize the fact to as many people as possible that it's wrong, and they're not alone in feeling that it's wrong. And then, the people who have the answers probably aren't in the protest right now they're probably people who have not yet even been touched by this. Do you feel that way?
WEST: Well, I think it's a step-by-step process. This is the early stages of not just a national movement, this is an international movement. One hundred and eight cities around the world, over 70 cities in the United States - we know wealth inequality is wrong, we know corporate greed needs to be reigned in. We know in fact that there's a corporate greed at work in the prison-industrial complex, the military-industrial complex, the corporate-media complex, and Wall Street. We're looking for the connections, but we're trying to do it in such a way that we keep alive the best of democracy, what has to do with a love for ordinary people - a love for everyday people - and trying to ensure that our elites are democratically accountable.
OLBERMANN: Tavis, for every statistic we see about economic repression for people in this country, those numbers are bad enough. In fact, you can very simply multiply them by two and you get the concomitant number for black people and for Latinos. Is there anything in this movement that particularly addresses that harsh and unacceptable fact? And how does it all mesh in when you hear things like Michelle Malkin claiming that the Occupy movement is 99 percent white?
SMILEY: I think the grievances that African Americans and Hispanics have are legitimate as well, and I'm starting to see more and more people of color engage this particular movement. The reality is - as you all know - that black and brown people are hurting the most. And, I've raised three questions, Keith, that I think black folk, to your question have to start to wrestle with.
And number one, what is the pain threshold in black and brown America? For black folk especially, they have been too, shall I say, deferential to this White House. What is the pain threshold in black America, number one?
For black people, number two, what is the presidency actually worth? Is it worth our silence? Worth our capitulation and deference to the president? What's it worth?
And number three - how is history going to regard the silence of black folk in this particular moment? While you celebrate an African American president in the White House, it's clear, the numbers indicate, the bottom is falling out of black America. So, are black folk being too quiet and too deferential in this moment where they, quite frankly, are catching the most hell?
OLBERMANN: Dr. West, do you think this is a - obviously it's three weeks old. It's hard to know what it is, let alone what it means to any component part of it. But, does this seem to be the kind of thing through which the issues that particularly address the African-American community right now can be given the full merit that they deserve, along with the issues that face the 99 percent?
WEST: Oh, we know there's an intimate connection between corporate greed running amok at the top and escalating poverty at the bottom, be it poor white, poor brown, poor yellow, poor black, or what have you. But we also have to keep in mind there's a cultural difference. The tea party looks more like the audience of "Lawrence Welk," and the National Hockey League.
The Wall Street occupation, we look more like the audience of Lupe Fiasco, the audience of Carol King and James Taylor. There's a cultural sensibility that is different in that regard, and they're wrong if they say that the Wall Street Occupation group is 99 percent white. That's just a lie. I've been there - that's LA - and so, if you got brown, you got yellow, we got red brothers and sisters. We are an all-inclusive movement. We - we embrace prophetic Mormons, because the prophetic Mormons are - social justice and corporate greed, come join us. Brother Bill Maher, he's my dear agnostic brother. He's with us. Paul Krugman in New York Times, comes out, he's with us. We're open in ways that the tea party couldn't imagine to be.
OLBERMANN: And Tavis, lastly, starting Monday, the show - your show - is devoting a week - of specials - worth of the subject of poverty in America. Is that - is that the underlying, ultimately, the underlying issue of these protests here, do you think?
SMILEY: I'm not so sure it's their underlying mission or motive. But certainly - as a member of the media, like yourself - I try every day to use the platforms I've been blessed to have to challenge Americans to re-examine their assumptions, to expand their inventory of ideas, to look at the world through a different prism. So, what we did on this tour this summer - going to 11 states in 18 cities is to try to put a face on these numbers, Keith, that you and I talk about every night.
I mean, you connect these numbers to the humanity of everyday people. I think, perhaps we can get some traction on this conversation. So, I'm hoping that this five-night conversation about poverty next week will advance the conversation in some small way.
OLBERMANN: Good luck with it. Good luck with it. Tavis Smiley -
SMILEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: - Dr. Cornel West -
WEST: Thank you so much, brother Keith.
OLBERMANN: - live from Occupy LA Thank you, gentlemen. All the best.
WEST: Thank you so much, brother Keith. Stay strong.
SMILEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Doing it. More on Occupy. Wait till you hear O'Reilly on this. You're going to laugh loud. "Worst Persons" coming up.
OLBERMANN: President Obama keeps moving up on the conservative scale. Monday he was only Hitler, now he's worse than 9/11. And that remark drew cheers from an audience. "Worst Persons" ahead.
First, the "Sanity Break," and 20 years ago today, October 7th, 1991, an obscure University of Oklahoma law professor named Anita Hill told a news conference that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Forces in the first Bush White House and the Senate then did everything they could to destroy Hill, and Thomas was confirmed anyway. And he has since achieved a record of inappropriate conduct and judicial lunkheadedness that makes him the worst Justice since Roger B. Taney. As to Ms. Hill, she tried.
"Time Marches On!"
We begin with some drag racing. Gentlemen, start your engines and, they're - off? Smokey the Bandit stole your wheels. What about Days of Blunder? It's being called the worst disaster in drag since "Big Momma's House 2."
And the TMO adorable clip of the day - all right, of the year - it's the world's most efficient flower girl. You dropped this, and you dropped - and you dropped this, and - "Boy, that flower girl in front of me sure is clumsy." It was quite a scene later at the reception when she kept bringing the bouquet back to the bride.
"Time Marches On!"
The Hank Williams Jr. controversy - he is defended by a politician who says, "What about Mike Tyson and the sports station that recently came out very crudely in some sick comments made. I don't care that it was about me. But some sick comments made and no apology there, no nothing. Again the hypocrisy shines very bright in what it is that we deal with every day. Doesn't it?"
You have until the Worst Person segment to try to figure out what Mike Tyson has to do with Hank William Jr. analogizing the president and Hitler. Go!
OLBERMANN: A Thurber story so good, The New York Times once said it represented its own part of literature - the part that is funny, large-hearted, nervous, troubling and terrifically smart. It should be named after him like a star.
First, the "Worst," - and she may have announced she's running for the Republican nomination after all, but in her mind, a crack about her sex life is more offensive than somebody calling the real president Hitler.
OLBERMANN: A oldie but a goodie on "Fridays with Thurber." First - because these folks may be old, but they ain't good - here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze - well, here's an oldie - Bill O. the Clown. He's apparently noticed the Occupy Wall Street protest even from way up there in his elitist ivory tower. Out the window, just past the stack of nudie magazines. "It got really rowdy on the streets of New York City last night as hundreds of far-left demonstrators roamed around, causing a considerable amount of trouble. At least 28 people were arrested as things became confrontational. My hypothesis - and you correct me if I'm wrong - is this didn't have much to do with economics.
This is about 'we don't like America' - we don't like anything about it, we're far-left loons and, you know, whatever our beef is, we're going to take to the streets, funded by George Soros. These are loons. These are anarchists. You know, burn down the stores. They all have their little cell phones. And their little lattes."
First, either they're dilettante consumerists with iPhones and lattes, or they want to burn down the stores, they can't be both, Billy.
Second, if what I saw yesterday at Zuccotti Park was funded by this Soros guy, boy is Soros a cheapskate. I saw some pizza. I saw people without even Porta Potties, who rely on the kindness of neighborhood businesses. I saw handmade signs. Net value of the infrastructure looked to be about a thousand dollars. But, of course, Billy wouldn't know anything about that because he hasn't gone there, because, frankly, he's afraid to. Totally, consumingly, soil-your-own-falafel terrified. Aren't you, big man?
The runner-up, Sarah Palin, who is now in a new line of work - self-destruction. She is reduced to defending Hank Williams Jr., after he got fired from ESPN for analogizing the president and Hitler. Now, flatly, if you want to defend Williams, I completely disagree, but there is an argument to be made. And I defend your right to make it. Only, try to make that argument make some kind of, you know, sense?
(Excerpt from audio clip) PALIN: Hank Williams and what he is going through now, I think it's a very clear illustration of a greater societal problem and that is the hypocrisy on the left. The liberals who can throw these stones at a conservative and they knowing that they're not going to be held accountable. . . What about Mike Tyson and the sports station that recently came out talking very crudely and some sick comments made? I don't care that it was about me. But some sick comments made and no apology there. No nothing. Again, the hypocrisy shines very bright in what it is that we deal with every day, doesn't it, Sean?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, she doesn't care it was about her. So, On a Las Vegas radio station, Mike Tyson makes a crack about Sarah Palin. And that's exactly the same thing as Hank Williams Jr. going on a TV network and saying John Boehner playing golf with Barack Obama was like Netanyahu talking to Hitler, because Obama was "the enemy."
And she's equivalent in - to the president, in her mind? And a remark about her sex life is the equivalent to somebody invoking Hitler? Maybe I'm going out on a limb here but, that woman is an idiot.
But our winner - one of the sickest men wandering loose about the countryside - radio host Neal Boortz. This actually happened on TV. Well, it's not TV, it's Fox News.
(Excerpt from video clip) BOORTZ: 9/11 changed me somewhat, but - is Attack Watch - do you think they're - okay. Barack Obama is a bigger disaster to this country than 9/11. And you talk about changing - if you took the phrase "fair share," "millionaires" and "billionaires" and "pass this bill" out of his vocabulary, he would be unable to deliver a speech.
(Excerpt from video clip) SEAN HANNITY: Wait, what do you mean he's more disastrous than 9/11? We lost 3,000 lives.
(Excerpt from video clip) BOORTZ: Because, look - the American people developed a fighting spirit after 9/11 and we responded. We went back after them and - if allowed to - the defeat would be total. But Barack Obama, - what he has done to our economy, what he has done to the American spirit of individual responsibility and self-reliance - you know, killing 3,000 people is a tragedy, Sean. It is a real tragedy. But killing the individualism, the self-reliance and the self-respect of the American people, like Barack Obama has done, is much more of a tragedy.
OLBERMANN: Apart from that man's mental illness, just remember - the next time a conservative waves a flag, pretending to never forget the dead of 9/11, or a Republican passes a bill to take away another one of your rights to prevent another 9/11, just remember what this Boortz thing said. Conservatives will forget 9/11 in a second and trash the memories of the dead and hurt the living relatives of the victims and urinate on all of us who went through what we went through that day and on the flag, itself, just to get a round of applause on the freakin' "Sean Hannity Show."
Neil "9/11, I already forgot 9/11″ Boortz, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: I normally pick which James Thurber story to read on Friday night based on a couple of things - which stories my Dad used to enjoy when I read to him in the hospital, which is how this all got started, or which I think you might enjoy or which might be topical.Tonight, I'm getting selfish. I am gonna read my favorite from "the old boy", as he used to mockingly refer to himself.
Few think this is his greatest story, but I do, 'cause it seems to cover all the extreme human emotions, from depression to suicide to murder to riotous laughter. It appeared first in book form in "The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze," in 1935. It was originally published in The New Yorker magazine issue of January 24th, 1931. As usual, I am reading now from the Library of America, "Thurber: Writings and Drawings," edited by Garrison Keillor.
The New York Times once referred to this story by saying its words "resonate with that part of literary modernity, for which Thurber can claim responsibility. The part that is funny, large-hearted, nervous, troubling and terrifically smart. It should be named after him, like a star." Indeed.
And now, because I asked for it, "A Box to Hide In," by James Thurber.
"I waited 'til the large woman with the awful hat took up her sack of groceries and went out, peering at the tomatoes and the lettuce on her way. The clerk asked me what mine was.
"Have you got a box?" I asked. "A large box? I want a box to hide in."
"You want a box?" he asked
"I want a box to hide in," I said.
"What do you mean?" he said. "You mean a big box?"
I said, "I meant a big box, big enough to hold me."
"Oh, I haven't got any boxes," he said. "Only cartons that cans come in."
I tried several other groceries and none of them had a box big enough for me to hide in. There was nothing for it but to face life out. I didn't feel strong and I'd had this overpowering desire to hide in a box for a long time.
"What do you mean you want to hide in this box?" one grocer asked me.
"It's a form of escape," I told him. "Hiding in a box, it circumscribes your worries and the range of your anguish. You don't see people, either."
"How in the hell do you eat when you're in this box?" asked the grocer. "How in the hell do you get anything to eat?"
I said I'd never been in a box and didn't know, but that that would take care of itself.
"Well," he said finally, "I haven't got any boxes, only some pasteboard cartons that cans come in."
And it was the same every place. I gave up when it got dark and the groceries closed and hid in my room again.
I turned out the light and lay on the bed. You feel better when it gets dark. I could have hid in a closet, I suppose, but people are always opening doors. Somebody would find you in a closet. They would be startled. And you'd have to tell them why you were in the closet. Nobody pays any attention to a big box lying on the floor. You could stay in it for days and nobody would think to look in it, not even the cleaning woman.
My cleaning woman came the next morning and woke me up. I was still feeling bad. I asked her if she knew where I could get a large box.
"How big a box you want?" she asked.
"I want a box big enough for me to get inside of," I said.
She looked at me with big, dim eyes. There's something wrong with her glands. She's awful, but she has a big heart, which makes it worse. She's unbearable. Her husband is sick, and her children are sick and she's sick, too.
I got to thinking about how pleasant it would be if I were in a box now and didn't have to see her. I would be in a box, right there, in the room and she wouldn't know. I wondered if you had a desire to bark or laugh when someone who doesn't know walks by the box you're in. Maybe she would have a spell with her heart if I did that and would die right there. The officers and the elevator man and Mr. Grammage would find us.
"Honey, doggone thing happened at the building last night," the doorman would say to his wife. "I let in this woman to clean up 10-F and she never come out, see? She never there more than an hour. But she never come out, see? So when it got to be time for me to go off duty, what I says to Crimmack - who was on the elevator - I says 'What the hell you suppose has happened to the woman cleans 10-F?' He says he didn't know. Says he never seen her after he took her up. So I spoke to Mr. Grammage about it."
'I'm sorry to bother you, Mr. Grammage,' I says, 'but there's something funny about that woman cleans 10-F.' So I told him. So, he said we better have a look. And we all three goes up and knocks on the door and rings the bell, see, and nobody answers. So he said we'd have to walk in. So Crimmack opened the door and we walked in. And here was this woman, cleans the apartment, dead as a herring on the floor and the gentleman that lives there was in a box."
The cleaning woman kept looking at me. It was hard to realize she wasn't dead.
"It's a form of escape," I murmured.
"What say?" she asked dully.
"You don't know of any large packing boxes, do you?" I asked.
"No, I don't," she said.
"I haven't found one yet. But I still have this overpowering urge to hide in a box. Maybe it will go away. Maybe I'll be all right. Maybe it will get worse. It's hard to say.'"
"A Box to Hide In" by James Thurber.
That's "Countdown." In New York, I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.