'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, November 4th, 2011
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 Breaking news on Occupy Oakland, Adam Gabbatt
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#5 Breaking news on Occupy Oakland, Dottie Guy
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Bank Transfer Day', Chase Golding
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Cain't Do Any Wrong', Steve Kornacki
#2 'Backing The Bullies'
#1 'Imagination Station', Derrick Pitts
printable PDF transcript
Categories: Show Transcripts
Contributors: David Shuster
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Occupy, Day 49, and there is now a second Iraq war veteran who has been critically injured in Oakland. This time not from the projectiles, but from police batons. Kayvan Sabehgi lays in intensive care after what he says was an unprovoked beating by police. We'll talk to the reporter who broke the story.
Mitt Romney's best week ever? New poll numbers show a near-tie with the president in 12 swing states. The problem is that - as details continue to drip out in the Herman Cain harassment scandal, his numbers continue to soar. Cain must have a secret weapon.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother.
SHUSTER: And Sputnik in a box!
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: We are proud today to prove that human can go to Mars.
SHUSTER: Six astronauts emerge from a simulated trip to Mars. Five hundred and twenty days locked in a room with no sunlight and lots of electronics. Wait, is that Mars or just another weekend for the average teenager? All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) MARVIN THE MARTIAN: I'm a Martian!
SHUSTER: Good evening from New York, this is Friday, November the 4th, 368 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.
We start with breaking news tonight from Occupy Oakland. A second U.S. veteran has been injured in a clash with Oakland police. According to the British newspaper The Guardian and Iraq Veterans Against the War, Kayvan Sabehgi suffered a lacerated spleen in a police beating Wednesday, and he's in intensive care awaiting surgery.
The fifth story on the "Countdown" - Wednesday's violence between police, Occupy protesters and a small group of black-clad rioters who smashed windows and lit fires has claimed another victim, along with five protesters and several police officers already reported hurt. The violence broke out after a disused building near the protesters camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza was occupied and a barrier near the building set on fire. Police responded with tear gas, flash-bang grenades and non-lethal rounds. Some protesters fought back with rocks and bottles. Oakland police made more than 100 arrests.
Iraq and Afghan war veteran Kayvan Sabehgi told The Guardian he was walking away from the fighting when he ran into the Oakland PD. "They lined up in front of me. I was talking to one of them saying, 'Why are you doing this?' When one moved forward and hit me in the arms and legs and back with his baton. Then, three or four cops tackled me and arrested me." Sabehgi says he then spent three hours handcuffed in a police van before he was driven to jail. By that point, the veteran says he was in "unbelievable pain." "My stomach was really hurting, it got worse to the point where I couldn't stand up. I was on my hands and knees and crawled over to the cell door to call for help."
A nurse was brought to his cell and offered Sabehgi a suppository, which he rejected. Police then let Sabehgi crawl to another toilet that was too clogged to use. "I was vomiting and had diarrhea. I just laid there in pain for hours." Sabehgi was charged with resisting arrest and remaining present at the place of a riot. His bail was posted Thursday afternoon, but he was in too much pain to leave his cell.
An ambulance was called and took Sabehgi to Oakland's Highland Hospital, some 18 hours after the beating took place. He will have company there. Highland is the same hospital where Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen was taken after he suffered a fractured skull from a police tear-gas canister in and Occupy Oakland protest on October the 25th.
We're going to talk with Guardian reporter Adam Gabbatt, who's broke the Kayvan Sabehgi story, and Dottie Guy, with Iraq Veterans Against the War, in a moment.
In Oakland, a cleanup followed Wednesday's violence, while police Chief Howard Jordan tried defending his officers to boos at a city council meeting nearby.
(Excerpt from video clip) HOWARD JORDAN: My officers showed great restraint -
(Excerpt from video clip) LARRY REID: Excuse me! Excuse me! If we're going to disagree, let us disagree respectful, and so if you - if you - if you want us to listen to you, then listen to the police chief.
SHUSTER: Before that meeting ended, Oakland City Council reportedly indicated they wanted to close the Occupy camp. They have yet to vote on any proposals to shut it down.
Elsewhere in the Occupy Movement, Occupy Tucson agreed to close its camp peacefully and move to another location, after police told them they needed the first location for a series of weekend events.
And here in New York, Occupy Wall Street protesters have a busy weekend planned. They'll be taking part in an End to End for 99 Percent march with Harlem residents, in a rally to urge depositors to move their accounts from too-big-to-fail banks to smaller credit unions that serve communities first.
Adam Gabbatt is the correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian, who broke the story of the police attack on Iraq veteran Kayvan Sabehgi. Adam, first of all terrific reporting, thanks for joining us. You just got back from Oakland. When is Sabehgi's surgery scheduled? What do doctors hope to do?
ADAM GABBATT: Well, doctors hope to either insert a blood clot or a patch into his artery - he told me this morning - to stop internal bleeding from his ruptured spleen. He described himself as having a stomach full of blood when we spoke. And he was awaiting surgery, he wasn't sure when it was going to happen. Could be tonight, could be tomorrow.
SHUSTER: He's a war veteran from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Did you detect his mood? What was he sort of - other than the physical pain - the emotional pain?
GABBATT: He was pretty outraged. He couldn't really believe how police had been so violent towards him. He had a lot of anger towards police - although it must be said, when I spoke to him he was clearly in a lot of pain. It was quite distressing to speak to him, actually, you could here the fatigue in his voice. As you mentioned in your intro, he's been 18 hours before he taken to hospital, a lot of it led on a cell floor. And he was very angry with police. He said "I can't believe they've done this," and that's a feeling that Scott Olsen and friends of his seemed to have repeated. How a veteran can go to war - go to Iran, go to Afghanistan - come back safely, thankfully, then suffer these injuries at the hands of the police here in the U.S.A.?
SHUSTER: You covered the general strike for The Guardian on Wednesday, you were in the area where the violence broke out - that was Wednesday night. Describe the scene, describe how it happened.
GABBATT: Protesters occupied a building, a disused building. That was taken - I'm not sure how they gained access, but they did - and that was taken peacefully. And people were gathered in there. This was about 11:00 PM, it was a carnival atmosphere on the street. Music was playing, Rihanna at one point seemed to be a particular favorite. And there was really quite a carnival mood. But then, every so often, waves swept through the crowd suggesting police were on there way.
And at this, I walked down to Telegraph - walked east from this building ,which was on 16th Street - and there protesters had created a barrier to prevent anyone from getting into the street. And I was hanging around there and it became clear that police were massing - at least 200 police officers further up the street, to the north. And at this, some protesters set fire to the barricade, creating quite, sort of - iconic scenes, but also scary scenes. And I think a lot of people got quite intimidated, just by the fires present. That, obviously - police felt they had to act quicker, the fire was getting quite out of control. So they pushed down, and people wouldn't move back as quickly as they wanted, and that was when they fired tear gas, and what I believe to be flash-bang grenades. And I also spoke to one girl who'd been hit by rubber bullets.
SHUSTER: It sounds like Sabehgi was hit with the police batons by perhaps several - did you see any of that sort of activities, with the police actually chasing people or people who were walking away from the scene?
GABBATT: I couldn't see them chasing people. I did see people struck with batons. The police massed in a line across Broadway, which was just to the north of where this was occurring, and they moved forward in a line using their batons like this, in a kind of "trunching" motion. And anyone who was in the way was struck by the baton, and some of the people didn't want to give ground and were hit by batons. I saw one person fall to the ground and be carried away. And the police would then get to a certain point, stop, then move forward again. It took them about two, sort of, movements like that to reclaim the area - the immediate area.
But from when I understand, Kayvan was injured further west from this - he was walking away from all the violence. He wasn't stood trying to prevent police from approaching. He said he was walking away along 14th Street and he came into an isolated group of officers when he suffered his injuries.
SHUSTER: Which is so ironic, because you were just pointing out a minute ago that - off the air - that the Iraq and Afghan War veterans have been, sort of, at the front of the march. In part, because they're a little bit braver and reassuring others that this is going to be peaceful.
GABBATT: That's correct. On the march to the Port of Oakland, which was a very well-organized protest - there must have been thousands, up to ten thousand, different estimates - estimate different numbers. But we walked from the plaza - the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, where the Occupy Oakland protest is based - and headed down to the Port, which is, in total - it was about three-mile walk. And Iraq veterans were at the front of the march, and they were very keen to keep the Iraq veterans in front of the, sort of, bulk of protesters and they were used as a sort of - you're right, as a kind of calming presence. And also - these people have been to war, they're not intimidated, but also, they won't overreact and, you know, throw things, stuff like that.
SHUSTER: What's been the mood since the reporting has gotten out that yet another Iraq War veteran is facing serious injuries at the hands of U.S. police?
GABBATT: I think it's disbelief. I think the first time, people were very emotional to hear of Scott Olsen's injuries, especially when video came out which show - had shown him not being a provocateur in any way. He was - just stood calmly. Since then, I've spoken to people from the Iraq Veterans Against the War movement who - the feeling has been very much "I can't believe they've done it again." Kayvan, from speaking to him - and I believe him, he sounds a very honest guy, he sounded very hurt - but he said he was peaceful, he had his arms folded, he was trying to talk to officers, when someone came forward and started hitting him with a baton. It's just disbelief, and also disgust, that this could have happened again.
GABBATT: Adam Gabbatt, correspondent for The British Guardian, the newspaper. Some incredible reporting, and thanks so much for coming on "Countdown" tonight and sharing with us tonight. We appreciate it.
GABBATT: Thank you very much.
SHUSTER: For more on this story, we're now joined by Dottie Guy, with Iraq Veterans Against the War. Dottie, have you spoken with Kayvan today, and what are you picking up about the incident from your perspective?
DOTTIE GUY: Well I did speak with him today, and he did sound like he was in a lot of pain. I really felt bad that he had to go through this. And there's a lot of disbelief that this happened again, and we were hoping that this event would happen peacefully and it devolved into what happened last - on that night.
SHUSTER: What's your reaction to the reporting that we just got from Adam Gabbatt - that, in fact, this wasn't a case where, essentially, veterans were at the front of the protest, even though they have been - but this was a case where it sounds like he was walking away by himself, and was a fair distance away from the action was, and that's where he got hit with batons.
GUY: I feel that is absolutely just incredible that that would happen in the United States. As you just mentioned before, we did walk in front of the Port of Oakland march and we did - we were there to defend our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and the freedom of speech. And, for a soldier to come back from war and have this happen to him, it's totally unbelievable.
SHUSTER: How did you learn about this case, involving Kayvan, the latest one?
GUY: One of my friends was also - was arrested at the time, and he told me that he saw a vet that was the floor in the jail cell, just,in pain, and just - he let us know, and we contacted the National Lawyers Guild to get more information about his whereabouts and his name.
SHUSTER: Do you see any closer ties between the Occupy movement and activist veterans' groups going forward, perhaps by necessity, because of how dramatic this has become?
GUY: Well, I think it's brought a lot more attention to it and shows that the veterans - we are part of the 99 percent. These wars that we're fighting, they've made a lot of people very rich, and a lot of us aren't getting the care and respect that we deserve. And with the vets that are coming back to the United States after the Iraq war ends, they're coming back to an economy where the unemployment rate is at an astronomical level. And right now there's - I think the unemployment rate is like 12.1 percent for veterans - and what are we going to do for these people when they come home and there's no jobs for them? It's very sad to hear that. These people signed away their life to defend their country, and they're going to come home and not have - not be able to do anything.
SHUSTER: Dottie, suppose there are police officers in the cities across the United States that are watching this interview now, and no doubt will come face-to-face with Iraq and Afghan War veterans who are going to be at these marches. What's the one thing you want them to remember, when they have these face-to-face meetings in the streets?
GUY: I honestly just want them to know that we are there to be peaceful. We are there, exercising our first amendment right to be peaceful, to peacefully protest - and our freedom of speech. And that we are there to make sure that the people who are at these protests don't have to face violence for exercising what's in the Constitution. I honestly feel that I hope that they will use - use a lot more tact in what they do and that they don't - we don't have instances like this again.
SHUSTER: And the irony being that there are a fair number of Iraq and Afghan War veterans who are members of these police departments.
SHUSTER: Who have sort of doubled and what not - and so, just the irony and, sort of, the drama of that makes it perhaps even more sad, I suppose.
GUY: Well, everyone has to work. If they feel that they should be working in the police department, I can't fault them, but I just really hope that they take this into consideration before they do any action that would harm to veterans or civilians.
SHUSTER: And then, Dottie, finally - you have the opportunity to talk to police, what about to fellow veterans out there, even some who may not necessarily quite understand or agree with everything that the Occupy Wall Street movement is about, but may be so outraged over the fact that one of their brothers or sisters - a veteran - has been injured again, what's your message to fellow vets?
GUY: I just want to let them know that they have a voice and they should be able to be heard. Right now, with all the vets coming back with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and the women who are coming back with sexual assault, we really need to know that they - they're not alone and they have a voice and they should be able to voice it in a way that is peaceful and appropriate.
SHUSTER: Dottie Guy, with Iraq Veterans Against the War. Dottie, thanks so much for coming on tonight. We appreciate it.
GUY: Thank you for having me.
SHUSTER: You're welcome.
Up next, the opportunity you have to occupy the financial system. Every day is Bank Transfer Day, but this one is something special.
And later, when the family you've named a bill after publicly condemns you and urges that your bill be defeated, perhaps it's time to back off. Not in Lansing, Michigan. What is wrong with them? This is "Countdown."
SHUSTER: For many years, the Republican party has had difficulty appealing to women voters. And yet again, we've seen the reasons why. A huge financial boost for Herman Cain. And outright mocking of his sexual-harassment accusers.
If you aren't happy about those bailed-out banks, you are going to love the action opportunity this weekend.
Russian Cosmonauts have just emerged from a Mars simulation. Five hundred and twenty days in a dark, windowless room in Moscow. We'll show you the video of when they finally emerged.
And how would you feel if you set a world record in athletic competition, and only 4 fans bothered to show up? And that's what she did - a lot - in "Time Marches On."
SHUSTER: Another grass-roots movement is gaining a groundswell of support among consumers and this one is aimed at major banking institutions.
In our fourth story in the "Countdown" - Bank Transfer Day is an organization urging big-bank customers to close their accounts this Saturday in favor of credit unions.
(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTER: Remember, remember!
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Remember, remember!
(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTER: The fifth of November!
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: The fifth of November!
SHUSTER: The group has now gained the support of the Occupy movement, as well as thousands of fans on Facebook. Bank Transfer Day says its mission for Saturday is straightforward. "If we shift our funds from the for-profit banking institutions in favor of not-for-profit credit unions before this date, we will send a clear message that conscious consumers won't support companies with unethical business practices. It's time to invest in local community growth!"
It appears the movement has already had quite an impact. According to the Credit Union National Association, credit unions have added more than 650,000 members and $4.5 billion in new deposits in the past month. The Los Angeles Times reports only 600,000 total joined credit unions in all of 2010. The group - conceived by Los Angeles gallery owner Kristen Christian - was born on Facebook, was created out of anger against Bank of America's announced monthly $5 debit card fee. BOA has since put those plans on ice. The movement supporters say big banks are the reason we're in this financial mess to begin with.
(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTER 2: If you put your money in an investment bank, you have no idea where it's going to go. And every big bank has an investment-banking branch that they use to turn your money into credit default swaps, toxic assets and things that brought down the mortgage market in the first place and completely crushed our economy.
SHUSTER: Joining us now, one of the organizers of Occupy LA - which has endorsed Bank Transfer Day - Chase Golding. And Chase, good of you to join us tonight. You're organizing a march tomorrow through LA's financial district to show support. What's the message of the march?
CHASE GOLDING: The message of the march is there's too much corporate power and this is one tactic we're using as Occupy Los Angeles to use people power to put a check on that.
SHUSTER: Tell us about the relationship between the Occupy movement and Band Transfer Day.
GOLDING: Here in Los Angeles, I think of them as,actually one in the same. I think we're aligned exactly along the same principles. We believe that banks have way too much power in this country and it's hurting our society. When banks got in trouble, Congress rushed to bail them out with taxpayer dollars, and now that our communities are suffering, we can't get bailed out ourselves. We're being foreclosed on, and so we want to move our money into institutions that will support the creation of jobs and do something with our money that actually helps our communities.
SHUSTER: I've heard a lot of people say that they would like to do this, would like to support it, but it's a pain to, sort of - go through the steps of moving your checking account and your automatic bill payments from one bank to a credit union. Address those concerns. Is it really that difficult?
GOLDING: It's somewhat difficult. I mean, I think we all are at different points. All Occupiers that I talk to have different, sort of, financial situations. But in my experience, when you open a credit union account, they are extremely helpful in working with you to make it as easy as possible. You definitely want to be careful that your direct deposit is switched over and your automatic bill pay. It's not something to rush. But, it's an important statement to make as a conscious consumer.
SHUSTER: We saw - I'm sorry, go ahead, finish.
GOLDING: Oh no - in my experience, credit unions are offering a level of service that we haven't seen from banks lately - real individual attention and stuff like that. So, if that's something you miss, you definitely want to look at a credit union.
SHUSTER: Yesterday, we saw Occupy DC occupy Senator Mitch McConnell's office. Today, of course, we're talking about the Bank Transfer Day movement. Has the Occupy movement provided the framework or, perhaps, a viable forum for a lot of these different causes and issues?
GOLDING: I think, actually, that's the most progress that we've made as a movement - the biggest contribution we've made - is to change that conversation nationally. I remember a month back or - what is it, two months back - the conversation was all about cutting public services and reducing the deficit. Now, we're actually talking about fixing the economy and rebuilding this country. And in my opinion, that's a pretty direct result of the Occupations.
SHUSTER: As far as strategy, though, would all of these various movements be stronger if they joined forces in some way and - would that even be possible?
GOLDING: I think people are always stronger when they come together. This is - there's a lot of problems in this country, and we need comprehensive solutions that are going to take all of us, as Americans, coming together and acting as one to take this country back and put it in a direction that works for all of us again.
SHUSTER: And Chase, what do you see as the ideal next step for the Occupy movement - not just in Los Angeles, but across the country?
GOLDING: Man, it's really tough, there's a lot of problems that we have, that we're facing as a movement. I think the ideal next step is to continue the discourse that we're having. It's moving - I wouldn't say slowly, I would say it's moving deliberately - because we have complex problems that we're facing and so, we need comprehensive, holistic solutions. So, I would urge everyone to go to their local Occupation and I think, within the first couple of minutes, you're going to see how positive it is, how wonderful people coming together in discourse can be, and you're going to feel welcome and you're going to feel powerful.
SHUSTER: Well, I've certainly found that Occupy DC is, perhaps, the most interesting 24-hour political event that we have in that city today and it's just a fascinating thing to watch. But - Chase Golding of Occupy Los Angeles. Chase, thanks so much for coming on the show tonight, we appreciate it.
GOLDING: Thank you.
SHUSTER: You're welcome.
Coming up, the Republican anti-bulling bill in Michigan is so awfully written - perhaps by design - that it actually teaches bullies how they can get away with tormenting gay and lesbian classmates. I have a message for those Michigan Republicans. And Herman Cain, the tea party darling for president, has proclaimed his love for the Koch brothers? Good grief!
SHUSTER: Coming up, a simulated mission to Mars comes to an end, when the six volunteer astronauts return to Earth by exiting a warehouse in Moscow where they've been isolated for 520 days.
But first, the "Sanity Break," and it was on this day in 1879, cowboy philosopher and humorist Will Rogers was born on a ranch in Indian territory. The son of a respected mixed-blood Cherokee couple, William Penn Adair Rogers grew up riding and roping on the plans of Oklahoma. He joined Texas Jack's Wild West show at the age of 32, under the stage name "Cherokee Kid." For all his rope skills, Rogers soon realized that audiences most enjoyed his impromptu jokes, witty remarks - and screenplays for the Lone Ranger.
"Time Marches On!"
We begin, as we always do, with a prairie dog dancing in a tutu - something Poppy the Bichon in D.C. would never do-do. How about that rhyme? Oh - oh, sorry. We don't always begin with dancing dogs? Either way, move over Black Swan and make way for Cute Brownish Prairie Dog. According to reports, the prairie dog actually trained with Baryshnikov in the eighties and mimicked his love of popcorn.
But, let's be honest, those reports are probably not true.
In sports - let's go to the videotape! This young Japanese girl - in front of all those fans - is competing to be the fastest jump-roper in the world. From the look on her face, it seems she really, really loves jumping rope.
In the end, she completes 162 jumps in thirty-seconds. So Japan wins the record for fastest jump-roping, but the record for double-dutch is still held by - the Dutch?
Finally, it's Friday and Maru the cat is so happy, he can't stop trading high fives. The feline doesn't seem to be putting much effort into it. But hell, I'm impressed. I know what you're thinking - Shuster, are you a cat person? I'm thinking, "Hey, can Maru do the other hand?" Yes, he can. He goes left, he goes right. Next, he's going to work on that pat-on-the-backside thing football players do on the sidelines. Meow.
"Time Marches On!"
Up next - according to the polls and the fundraising, Herman Cain is having the best political week of his life. The establishment in the GOP is increasingly nervous. And later, would you ever want to spend a year and a half in a windowless room in Moscow with no lights? Apparently, some Russian cosmonauts volunteered.
SHUSTER: "Countdown" airs every weeknight here on Current TV at 8 P.M. You can also catch our primary replays at 11 P.M. Eastern and 11P.M. Pacific.
The attorney for Herman Cain's accuser spoke out today, but - even as charges against Cain mount - contributions are pouring in and his poll numbers continue to march upward. In our third story tonight - what would have been a very bad week for Herman Cain has turned into a pretty good one, leaving Mitt Romney playing catch up.
First, the harassment victim's lawyer called Cain's denials of the incidents "inaccurate." And the lawyer pointed to the numerous complaints filed against Cain.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOEL BENNETT: There's an expression - "where there's smoke, there's fire." The fact that there are multiple complaints tells me that it's more likely than not that there was some sexual-harassment activity by this man at that time.
SHUSTER: The revelations, though, do not seem to be dampening Republican enthusiasm for Cain or shifting it to anybody else. Seven in ten say the reports don't factor into their preference at all. The reports may have even strengthened Cain's appeal. Rush Limbaugh said today that Cain deserves credit for weathering the media storm.
(Excerpt from video clip) RUSH LIMBAUGH: Politico, you failed. You attempted, along with others in the mainstream media, to take the guy out, and you failed.
SHUSTER: Cain continues to try and appeal to conservatives by making no apologies for his far-right leanings, like his close ties to billionaire conservative funders, the Koch brothers. Here's what Cain said today in front of Americans for Prosperity, the brothers' political-front group.
(Excerpt from video clip) HERMAN CAIN: I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother. Yes, I'm their brother from another mother! And proud of it.
SHUSTER: According to the latest polls, Cain is still neck and neck with Mitt Romney among Republican voters. As for the general election, Mitt Romney would do better than any other Republican candidate against President Obama.
Romney is trying to rally the base by highlighting his conservative credentials. Today, he unveiled a plan to transform Medicare. Romney's top adviser went out of the way to point out the Romney plan is very similar to the one proposed by tea party favorite, Representative Paul Ryan.
Romney is also proposing major slashes to spending, saying he would strip $1.6 billion from Amtrak's budget, take $600 million from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, reduce foreign aid by $100 million and repeal the president's health-care legislation.
On social issues, Romney is also staking out far-right positions. His recent support for so-called "life at conception" legislation earned him this slam from Patrick Gaspard, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, saying, "In other words, a leading candidate for the GOP nomination for president is on the record in favor of a law that would classify literally all abortions - and even many forms of birth control - as murder. To be clear, this is the most radical position any of the Republican candidates have taken on this issue."
Joining us now - Steve Kornacki, news editor for Salon. And Steve, thanks for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI: Sure.
SHUSTER: First of all, Herman Cain - the Teflon candidate, nothing sticks to him? What is going on?
KORNACKI: You know, it surprised me, obviously, because Sunday night - when this story broke - I think everybody thought, "That is it, the bubble's going to burst now and we're gonna see who comes up next to be the main alternative to Romney."
But, I think two things have sort of happened this week. One is that - for all the talk of the scandal, for all the terrible handling that Cain has done of this - there haven't been any really damning revelations. We just know he was accused of sexual harassment, there were settlements - we don't really know, exactly, what it was he's accused of doing. So, I think that's created wiggle room for these guys - like Limbaugh and Sean Hannity - to go out there. And they just love this - they love, you know, "Oh, we're gonna rally around the black conservative who is being persecuted by the liberal media."
Hey, it's a total alternate-reality version of events. But it's one, I think, that has powerful, emotional resonance with the average Republican voter. So, in the absence of damning details, I think that it's a very tempting narrative for them to, kind of, believe in.
SHUSTER: Tempting in the primaries, but in a general election - that seems like that could be death, as you try to reach independents and centrists.
KORNACKI: That's the ultimate irony to me, in watching Rush Limbaugh and listening to Sean Hannity say all these things this week. If they really believe it - and if what they're saying actually has the effect of vaulting Herman Cain to the nomination - they are actually doing a huge favor for Democrats. The whole idea that Democrats would orchestrate an attack on Herman Cain right now is nuts. Because the one thing that, I think, we know would save Barack Obama is 2012 would be if the Republicans nominate Herman Cain. It'd be the best thing that could happen to them.
SHUSTER: Does Cain have staying power in the Republican primaries? I mean - no organization, not a lot of money, no state offices. I mean, it's remarkable, and yet - there he is, skyrocketing in the polls.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I mean, I still doubt it. I still think he is the kind of candidate who - maybe, if there is no more revelations on this thing - maybe he can win Iowa, maybe he can come close in Iowa, something like that. I just have the feeling - for all the reasons you cited, for just for the totally obviousness to guys, not like Hannity and not like Limbaugh, but other Republicans, the total obviousness of what a disaster he'd be as a general election candidate - I think, in the end, someway, somehow - they get to Romney. But boy - Romney can't feel good that it's been this hard.
SHUSTER: As far as Mitt Romney, we saw the, you know, the efforts today to try to line him up with Paul Ryan as far as changing Medicare. Will that work for Mitt Romney, with Republicans? Will they suddenly believe - "Oh, Mitt Romney is one of us."
KORNACKI: Well, it's funny. You look at that list of spending cuts he is proposing - I mean, that's the hit list for conservatives. You know, they like to complain there is way too much spending, government's too big. You ask them what they want to cut, those are the sorts of things - they're emotional hot buttons, like the NEA and public broadcasting - that basically add up to nothing. So, that's what Romney put out today. But it has a lot of, you know, I think - resonance, with the average conservative.
But the problem for Romney - when you start getting into the Medicare stuff, you know, the Paul Ryan plan - that's a politically toxic plan. That was established, I think, earlier this year - when you had that special election in the Republican district in New York. The Paul Ryan plan was the big issue. The Democrats won in a seat the Democrats hadn't won in forever.
So, if Romney has to embrace that stuff to get the Republican nomination - that's the kind of thing that either he sticks to it in the fall, and hurts him because it's an extreme position, or - he does what Romney always does, and he gets to the fall and backs away from it - and it reinforces the flip-flopper narrative. So, Romney has put himself in a tough position either way there.
SHUSTER: Is the flip-flop narrative sticking with Romney, though, among Republicans? I mean, we hear the Democrats making it a lot. There was the president saying, "Hey, we patterned our health care after Mitt Romney." And Perry and Bachmann and others have tried to, sort of, make the charge. Is that working?
KORNACKI: Well, in a way, it is - because it's so well-known, and well-established that he used to be the Massachusetts moderate and he's changed. But, I think, part of the story is that Perry and Bachmann and all these others are spectacularly bad at making that case. And so, it's been sitting there and they've been totally unable - in debate after debate - to formulate a simple, potent, coherent attack on Mitt Romney that says "Hey, conservatives, you can't trust this guy."
So, it's - sort of, it's the low-hanging fruit and these guys are so short and they can't jump - they can't catch it.
SHUSTER: And finally, what are you picking up from the Romney campaign about Herman Cain? Do they continue to, sort of, sit back and wait for him to implode, or do they feel - at a certain point - you know, they have to be more aggressive?
KORNACKI: I - I - my sense of the Romney campaign is - if there's gonna be one, sort of, designated conservative alternative to Romney in the primaries, they're happier with it being Cain than Perry, for the simple fact that - he's getting money this week, Cain still doesn't have Perry money, doesn't have any endorsements, doesn't have any political organization. And, I think, there's more doubt among Republican leaders about Cain's ability to win in the fall than Perry's, although there is plenty of doubt about Perry, too. So I think, all things being equal, they'd rather have Cain be that guy because they think he's a softer - you know, a softer opponent.
SHUSTER: Steve Kornacki, news editor for Salon. Steve, always a pleasure talking politics and anything else with you. Thanks for coming on the show. Appreciate it.
KORNACKI: Sure, happy to do it.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, the anti-bullying legislation - written by Republicans in Lansing, Michigan - is so sloppy and embarrassing, the family it was named after is urging the bill's defeat. Republicans in Michigan, are you listening?
SHUSTER: Lansing, Michigan is known for many things - the Michigan State University Spartans and the state capitol, to name a few. Now, Lansing is also home to the worst-written legislation in the country. It will do exactly the opposite of what the authors say they intend.
And later, Russian cosmonauts actually intended to spend seventeen months in a room with no windows or lights. They emerged today. We will show you the results.
SHUSTER: If you think members of Congress do some pretty stupid things, we now have proof that federal lawmakers are Einsteins compared to the Republicans in the state Senate in Michigan.
In our second story in the "Countdown" - yes, the city of Lansing is now home to a group of Republican lawmakers who wrote a law so badly that even the family it was named after reacted with disgust. This might actually be funny, if it wasn't such a serious issue.
The issue is school bullying. Study after study, in case after case has demonstrated that bullies sometimes drive teenage victims to suicide. Most states are fighting back with laws to protect the victims. Michigan Republicans just moved a bill forward with language to protect - the bullies. Seriously! The Michigan Senate, led by Republicans, added language this week to their self-described "anti-bullying law" with a sentence that says, "This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian."
In other words, you apparently can torment a classmate if you believe the Bible tells you so. That means misguided kids who are taught that being gay is an abomination - well, they are now free to torment their gay and lesbian classmates anytime, anywhere. Here's a reaction from the leader of Michigan Senate Democrats:
(Excerpt from video clip) GRETCHEN WHITMER: There are at least 10 Michigan children in the past decade whose deaths are directly attributable to bullying. You are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying.
SHUSTER: This Bill is called Matt's Law, after a Matt Epling - a 14-year-old boy killed himself in 2002 after anti-gay classmates poured syrup and crushed eggs on his head.
(Excerpt from video clip) WHITMER: The saddest and sickest irony of this whole thing is that it's called Matt's Safe School Law. And after the way that you've gutted it, it wouldn't have done a damn thing to save Matt. This is worse than doing nothing. It's a Republican license to bully.
SHUSTER: Kevin Epling, Matt's father - he called the bill government-sanctioned bigotry.
(Excerpt from video clip) KEVIN EPLING: Bullying is destroying communities. It is destroying lives. There're lives cut short because someone else thought it would be fun to intimidate, humiliate and harass them. Please don't hide it away internally. Let someone know what you're going through.
SHUSTER: And Democratic Senator Glenn Anderson read more from a statement by Matt's father.
(Excerpt from video clip) GLENN ANDERSON: To give people a pass because their verbal or physical abuse - or assault, rather - is sanctioned by religion is mind-boggling. I am ashamed that this could be Michigan's bill on anti-bullying, when it, in fact, is "a bullying is okay in Michigan" law. Shame on our elected officials.
SHUSTER: Republicans say the intent of the legislation is not to give bullies a legal road map, but rather to get each district to write an anti-bullying policy in the next six months. Well, Michigan Senate Republicans, you've picked one hell of a way to inspire the school districts to act. I appreciate that your intention - or the intention of most of you - may not have been to enable wing-nut kids to torment their gay and lesbian classmates. But the fact is, that is exactly what this legislation would do - it would enable the most despicable behavior imaginable and is the worst-written bill I've ever seen in 20 years of covering both state and federal politics. The worst.
Thankfully, the Republican-led House in Michigan doesn't support the language and the governor has questions too. Still, Michigan shouldn't have to rely on the common sense of house Republicans and the Republican governor to see this thing die. This bill is an embarrassment to anybody with half a brain in the great state of Michigan. At best, Senate Republicans there have lost their cognitive-thinking skills. At worst, they are evil, homophobic, bullying enablers. Either way this is outrageous. The legislation is insulting and offensive and it must be stopped.
SHUSTER: Outer space still remains the last frontier. The next logical step in space exploration is a trip to our sister planet, Mars.
In our number-one story, six men have completed what can only be described as an extremely small step for mankind, after completing a 17-month mock mission to Mars - mock being the key word. Six men arrived home today after spending 520 days on a simulated trip to Mars. Oh, sorry, that was footage from the movie "Total Recall." Here's the actual footage of the brave men emerging from - what appears to be a shack.
The $15 million Mars 500 mission was focused on the psychological effects of being in a confined space for an extended period of time. The men were fed rations, rarely showered, and were under constant surveillance to monitor their health. The mission - carried out by the European Space Agency and Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems - seems to have been a success, as all six men emerged healthy. They will undergo evaluations over the next few days to confirm their health. This is a major advancement for the program, after a similar experiment failed in 2000 after two of the participants got in a fistfight.
Still, space officials say - technologically, they are still decades away from protecting astronauts from cosmic radiation, landing them 35 million miles away, and then bringing them home. Basically, everything that would be required in actually sending people to Mars. Here to explain all of this, in terms I can understand, is chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute and "Countdown" contributor Derrick Pitts. Derrick, thanks, as always, for your time tonight. Does this prove that humans are ready to go to Mars?
DERRICK PITTS: I really don't think so, Dave. I think what it does, though, is - it at least gives us a window into figuring out what sorts of things we really have to pay attention to, when we consider sending people on such a long trip. This was only six people. Imagine a real voyage, with maybe 12 people, and they have to travel together for a year and a half or two years - all the way out to Mars, some 45 to 50 million miles away. It's not an easy prospect.
SHUSTER: They still had gravity, they didn't have to take off or land. There's no new atmospheres - what, though, could they possibly learn about a trip to Mars by essentially being locked in a room together for 17 months?
PITTS: Well, the psychological aspect really is very important, when you think about it. You know, here you have a group of people that have been thrown together for this particular mission - and indeed, maybe they have worked together and trained together for a long time - but when you put them under the stresses that really would be involved in a Mars trip, I think it can really change people. And we have to watch out for exactly what kinds of changes might take place.
So, in this particular instance, one of the things that's missing, I think, is the stress of being on a journey that could turn out to be a one way trip, in many ways - depending on how things shake out. So, I think that would add a tremendous amount to interactions between people, how people react to this - all those sorts of things that can't really have any resolution, in a sense, once you get out on a trip like this. So, it's better to try to figure it out ahead of time.
SHUSTER: We have the space station now, so - why not actually try this in actual space?
PITTS: Part of the reason why we aren't doing this just yet in actual space is because it would be very expensive to do this. We'd essentially have to dedicate the International Space Station to at least six months of time just for this alone, and then, of course, there's the risk involved. You know, the International Space Station is 220 miles above the earth, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour. So, when you put those factors together, then it sort of begs the question - do we really want to do this?
So, there needs to be a commitment by all the partners, or players, who might be involved in a trip like this to actually put up the cash and put up the dedication to seeing an experiment like that through - a very important one that should be done at some time.
SHUSTER: Moving on to other space stories, I keep reading that there's an asteroid coming to destroy all of us next week. Are Bruce Willis and his rag-tag group of oil drillers ready to go save the world?
PITTS: I think they need to get ready. We don't have any real impending danger just yet. Although, next Tuesday evening, there will be an asteroid. It's asteroid 2005-YU-55, I believe it is, that's going to pass within about 200 thousand miles of earth. Now, that's even closer than the orbit of the moon, which is 238 thousand miles. This object, though, is only 400 meters in width - and that's about 1,200 feet - and it will pass above the orbital plane of the earth. So, even though it's relatively close - closer than anything else we've seen in like the last 30 years or so - it's not large enough to do any damage to us, no need for us to worry. But it may be possible for some people to actually see it in the evening sky.
SHUSTER: Would you need a telescope to be able to see it?
PITTS: You need a very big telescope to see it, because the object - even though it's 400 meters, David, it's still small, it's still quite dark - dim, even, if you will - and, because it's moving at a pretty good rate of speed, it might be difficult to pick it up. But, it's still observable by professional astronomers using radar telescopes and other instruments.
SHUSTER: Another story out today - about NASA trying to create a laser that acts as a tractor beam. Since we're no longer sending people into space, why do we need a tractor beam?
PITTS: You know, the actual idea of this is not really the "Star Trek" idea of grabbing spacecraft and pulling them in. But, a group of scientists at NASA have figured out that there are certain kinds of physical properties that laser beams have, that - if you cross the beams in just the right way - you can actually make very small particles move along the beams. So, it's somewhat similar to - you know the scene that we saw in "Ghostbusters" where they crossed the beams of the guns and they pulled the spirits in? - well, it's kind of like that, except they're not pulling spirits, they're just pulling very small particles - could be applicable when trying to get particles from distant planets to be drawn up from the surface without sending people down.
SHUSTER: And real quickly, will we ever reach a point where we've reached the smallest particle?
PITTS: I don't think we'll get to that smallest particle. There's so much out there. You know, we're trying right now to figure out how to use a laser beam to identify these really tiny elementary particles. But I think there's a whole lot more in that zoo of them - very, very small - that we have yet to discover.
SHUSTER: Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of the Franklin Institute. Derrick, thanks as always, we appreciate it.
PITTS: My pleasure, David. Thank you.
SHUSTER: And that is it for this edition of "Countdown." I'm David Shuster, in for Keith Olbermann. On behalf of all of us at Current TV, thanks for watching, everybody. Have a great weekend.