'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, December 15th, 2011
#ShowPlug 1: Ron Wyden on Paul Ryan Privatize-Medicare Bandwagon? Free Clinics exec dir Nicole Lamoureaux @NAFClinics joins me
#ShowPlug 2: Dems abandon Millionaires' tax as balance to extending payroll tax cut; @BPShow Bill Press joins me
#Showplug 3: Everybody Hates Newt: National Review savages front-runner as GOP circular firing squad heats up, w/TPM's @BenjySarlin
#ShowPlug 4: 50% of the window remains, 90% of the signatures are in. The Recall of Gov. Rat Bastard Walker, w/ @gjzielinski of @WisDems
#ShowPlug 5: Occupy The Primaries? New Iowa and New Hampshire wrinkle in #Occupy w/Hendrik Hertzberg of @NewYorker
#ShowPlug Last: And #Lowe's still stonewalls as World Jewish Congress VP condemns Islamophobia - Let's Build Worst Persons Together
watch whole playlist
#5 'New Mediscare Plan', Nicole Lamoureaux
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#5 'Caving On Taxes', Bill Press
#4 'Everybody Hates Newt', Benjy Sarlin
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Sign Of Success', Graeme Zielinski
#2 Worst Persons: Bill O'Reilly, Mark Meckler, Robert A. Niblock
#1 'Occupy 2.0: The Election', Hendrik Hertzberg
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Nicole D. Lamoureux, Hendrik Hertzberg, Graeme Zielinski, Benjy Sarlin, Bill Press
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Beware of caving Democrats. Senator Ron Wyden signs on to a Paul Ryan plan to partially privatize Medicare.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: At the end of the day, this plan would end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors. The Wyden-Ryan proposal is the wrong way to reform Medicare.
OLBERMANN: Says one Democratic staffer to Wyden, quote, "thanks for nothing." And worst of all, worse than you can possibly imagine - Newt "Breakfast At Tiffany's" Gingrich loves it.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: We had today, a very important breakthrough in that there's a - a Wyden-Ryan Medicare reform bill.
OLBERMANN: Our Medicare guest - the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, Nicole Lamoureux. The Dems also bail out on the "millionaires' tax" to prime the pump for the payroll tax cut, at least for now.
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY PELOSI: While that may, in this negotiation, not be something that - that is a fit because it has been - the - the timetable has been pushed to the limit, I think that fairness in our tax code and simplification of the tax code will always be part of how we go forward.
OLBERMANN: Republican piñata - Gingrich gets beaten up by Michele Bachmann, claiming he's buying votes.
(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: This is something that we've been hearing all across the country - that money is changing hands - and that's not how I do business.
OLBERMANN: Gingrich gets beaten up by The National Review. "We fear that to nominate former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the front-runner in the polls, would be to blow this opportunity. Gingrich has always said he wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform or even govern himself."
(Excerpt from video clip) MIKE TATE: Your strength and determination has helped us collect more than 507,000 signatures to recall Scott Walker.
OLBERMANN: The bid to oust the Koch Brothers' puppet-governor of Wisconsin has 90 percent of the signatures in 50 percent of the time.
The new Occupy.
Occupy Manchester becomes Occupy the New Hampshire Primary. Occupy Des Moines becomes Occupy the Iowa Caucuses.
(Excerpt from video clip) JEANIE SMITH: We will try to engage the candidate in conversation. What we want to do is change the dialogue.
OLBERMANN: One of the founders of the tea party, arrested at an airport for illegally carrying a gun.
And their hole just keeps getting deeper. Lowe's remains silent, even as the Vice President of the World Jewish Congress hits them for Islamophobia. They sell shovels at Lowe's, right?
All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) CHUBBY CHECKER: How low can you go?
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, December 15th, 327 days until the 2012 presidential election. If you are a Democratic senator and your Medicare proposal is applauded by Newt Gingrich, your Medicare proposal is a disaster.
The fifth story on the "Countdown" - Democrats from the White House on down insist they will protect Medicare from raids by the GOP. Sadly, tonight, they all seem to have to protect it from Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He has signed onto a Republican plan that would offer a private option to seniors without, apparently, saving any money.
In the words of a senior Democratic congressional aide, "This is bad policy and a complete political loser, the worst of all worlds."
That world came into telescope's view this morning, presented by its co-sponsors, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, himself the author of a plan to fully privatize Medicare that Democrats hope to run against next year and, inexplicably, the great Oregon Senator Wyden. Their plan would retain today's Medicare as an option while adding private plans. The government would then establish a benchmark level which all plans would have to meet and if seniors wanted a plan that cost more than that, they'd have to pay the difference themselves. The plan drew guarded support from House Speaker John Boehner.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: Some of those ideas were on the table during the - the super committee discussions, some of them were on the table in my discussions with the president and I think this is a bipartisan idea that's worthy of our consideration, worthy of members getting to understand it. But I think, certainly it's a step in the right direction.
OLBERMANN: So you know, it sucks. GOP presidential candidate Newt "Breakfast at Tiffany's" Gingrich liked it even more than that.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: It's a bipartisan effort to really come to grips with one of the major entitlement challenges we face. Maybe it's the beginning of breaking up the logjam and starting to get Democrats and Republicans to talk with each other.
OLBERMANN: Fortunately, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney - talking back - rejected the plan.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: It would raise premiums, forcing many seniors to leave traditional Medicare and join private plans and it would shift costs from the government to seniors. At the end of the day, this plan would end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors. The Wyden-Ryan proposal is the wrong way to reform Medicare.
OLBERMANN: And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted, protecting Senator Wyden a bit as she did, "Representative Ryan's latest Medicare plan is another example of the GOP's desire for Medicare, as Gingrich described, to 'whither on the vine.'"
For more on the Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan, it's a pleasure to be joined by Nicole Lamoureux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics and a "Countdown" contributor. It's good to talk to you, Nicole.
NICOLE LAMOUREUX: Hi Keith, how are you?
OLBERMANN: Not as good as I should be, given this story. It's being sold as a plan to strengthen Medicare. From what you've seen - is that plausible, or is it going to wind up damaging Medicare?
LAMOUREUX: Oh, it's going to wind up damaging Medicare, no question. I mean, well - you heard it already said. It's going to raise premiums and force seniors out of traditional Medicare. There is no way this is going to be a good plan in the end.
OLBERMANN: The senator says it wouldn't require a single senior to purchase a health insurance program from a private company. Instead, it just gives them a choice. Is, in fact, that all this thing does or what's in the fine print?
LAMOUREUX: Well, I think what's in the fine print - the first thing that we have to recognize is, first off, we're talking about 2022, so it's not helping anybody right now.
The second thing is - it's not a bill, it's just a white paper.
I think the third thing, that I found the most interesting, is that they even acknowledge on page one that they're making this plan come out "before the mudslinging of the election." I don't even know if anybody read after that sentence.
But no, it's not going to be just offering choices. It's going to be making everything so much more confusing for seniors. Our offices are flooded with seniors, just wanting to know what plan should they go on or what works for them now. Now, we're gonna force seniors to go through - read through - policy after policy and understand what works for them and what doesn't work for them and should they say - stay with traditional or should they not? This is a bit ridiculous. We're asking our seniors to do even more work than they already have done for this country.
OLBERMANN: I don't know about you but, to me, this is as painful a story as I've covered this year 'cause Ron Wyden isn't just usually right - he's usually on the cutting edge of being right, before the thing is popular, no matter the consequences. Yet he has now, in response to the - the flack today, released this outraged statement in which he says that the idea he would, "co-author a plan to undermine the most important federal safety net for seniors is ridiculous."
What's your response to what he said? And also, are you on the same page with me with Ron Wyden? If this - I mean, if somebody had said which Senator this - this came from, Ron Wyden wouldn't have been, like, the 99th or 100th guess?
LAMOUREUX: I will tell you that I am completely on the same page. I was talking to people in the office today while I was out. And I was saying, "I wonder what is in it. Why is this happening? Why is he doing this?" And - and actually, no one really could give me a really good answer.
I'll - I'll say that, you know, this is not something that's going to be good for seniors. It's not something that's going to make life easier for them.
And actually, I have to tell you that what's concerning me the most is that - if we're asking seniors, as you all said earlier - to pay more, if they pick a plan that's a little bit more than what everyone thinks is appropriate, how is that affordable in giving them access? It's truly going to force more seniors to have to look for access to health care in other locations, such as the free clinics across the country.
OLBERMANN: Lastly here, the politics of a bipartisan plan that partially privatizes Medicare - what does this do to the Democrats who are, obviously, the safer bet in terms of protecting seniors and protecting health-care reform - heading into a presidential election year?
LAMOUREUX: Well, you know, if you look at it this way, someone said, "Is the Ryan plan any different than what it used to be?" Well, sure - now we got a Democrat saying it's a good idea.
LAMOUREUX: And when you're going into elections, now all Democrats have to argue they are not for this type of plan, that they still are - maintain - that having access to quality health care for everyone, especially seniors, is something that's important to them. This one move makes it very difficult for those Democrats, coming up in the next election.
OLBERMANN: Nicole Lamoureux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics. We are honored to say, a "Countdown" contributor. Always a pleasure to talk to you. I'm sorry it's about this.
LAMOUREUX: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
Whether Democrats will cave into Republican demands to privatize Medicare remains to be seen, though caving on GOP demands to drop a surtax on millionaires is apparently a done deal. The surtax would have been used to pay for an extension of the payroll-tax holiday, one of President Obama's top priorities.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: Right now, Congress needs to make sure that 160 million working Americans don't see their taxes go up on January 1st. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to extend these items - the payroll-tax cut, UI - before the holidays.
OLBERMANN: Senate leaders say they're still moving towards a compromise.
(Excerpt from video clip) HARRY REID: What we're going to try to do during the next - few hours is try to work toward resolving some of the outstanding issues.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITCH McCONNELL: We are working hard to figure a way to resolve the remaining differences on the payroll-tax extension, and the related issues that are important to both sides, and we're confident and optimistic we'll be able to resolve both on a bipartisan basis.
OLBERMANN: But Senate aides say taxing millionaires to pay for the surtax is off the table.
Again, to the White House and Press Secretary Carney, who told reporters, "Whatever you might have heard before about this is now inoperative."
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: We have said - I have said - from the beginning of this process, that we are open to different means of paying for it.
OLBERMANN: House Minority Leader Pelosi again in on this, conceding that while the tax may not happen this year:
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY PELOSI: I don't think they've given up on it. It's still something to be considered. This is not the last bill that will ever be passed. I think that - fairness in our tax code and simplification of the tax code will always be part of how we go forward.
OLBERMANN: Ah, maybe not. Not if Majority Leader Boehner has anything to say about it.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: They never did have the votes to pass their so-called "millionaires' tax." Matter of fact, they didn't have it when they had 60 votes in the Senate - didn't have enough voted to pass it. So they're dropping it. They were dropping something that they never had.
OLBERMANN: For more on the latest Democratic collapse and/or drop, I'm joined by Bill Press, the host of "The Bill Press Show" and the author of "Toxic Talk." Bill, good evening. Thanks for your time tonight.
BILL PRESS: Hi, Keith. Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: The latest in the series of Democratic caves, on what was once believed to be this issue of principle - polls showing majorities, even Republican majorities, supporting higher taxes on the very rich. Why did this fall off? Was - is Boehner right? Were the votes never there to begin with? It - it seems like another, whatever it is - strategic or policy disaster. Just another disaster.
PRESS: Yeah, you know, I'll give the short answer and then a slightly longer - the short answer is the Democrats just don't - don't have any backbone when it comes to the crunch, Keith. We've seen it before.
Just a slightly longer answer - look, there was no need to drop this. There was - there was no reason to drop it. As you've pointed out, Democrats are on the right side of this issue - it's the right thing to do, number one. They've got 75 percent to 80 percent of the American people - including a lot of Republicans - who think it's the right thing to do. They were winning on this issue.
And, as we saw last summer - once they get to the crunch, they cave because - I think it's because they're afraid of the government shutdown, but for whatever reason, they're not willing to - to stand, right to the last minute.
So, they caved like they did on the debt ceiling. They've already caved now on getting the payroll-tax cut extended and willing to drop the millionaire surtax, which - Keith, as you pointed out, was always part-and-parcel. The two went together, right? You know, we give the middle class and the 99 percent a tax cut and we make the one percent pay just a teeny bit more.
OLBERMANN: Even - though, if Boehner is right and the 60 votes were - or the - the votes weren't there, in the House, I should say, what happened to the premise of going down on principle and saying, "We got beaten on this. Here are the people who - who beat us on it. Here is who you should vote for and - who you should vote against in the next election"?
PRESS: I don't know whatever happened to that premise, because that's the way to do it. Again, if you're right on the issue, you fight to the end.
Let's take the shutdown. You know, Newt Gingrich, when he was Speaker - Newt Gingrich, of all people - threatened to shut down the government and Bill Clinton said, "Fine."
He called his bluff and said, "Go ahead and do it and we'll see who's gonna suffer." Right? When you're on the right side, I believe, you fight to the end. You don't give in. That's what the American people want and I think Barack Obama missed a boat here. He should have taken a lesson from Bill Clinton and - and defied them.
PRESS: To shut down the government.
OLBERMANN: So you're suggesting we're not gonna have the government shutdown now?
PRESS: No. There's not gonna be a government shutdown. You know - no, there's no way, Keith. And I - again, I believe if - if he had allowed John Boehner to go ahead and shut down the government, the public outrage would have been immense. Everybody would have known who was responsible. Call them out - Boehner, Cantor, Mitch McConnell - and they would have had to fold.
OLBERMANN: And it would have also impacted the Republican primary 'cause it would have invoked the - the whole Gingrich shutdown, as well. It was - it had a practical politics issue - completely separated from the governmental issue, as well. And they let that one pass. What one thing - address -
PRESS: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Address this one - one theory - that the Democrats needed to let the payroll-tax cut expire anyway because, if left to go on indefinitely, the payroll tax cut or holiday will cause, down the road, massive cuts to Social Security and gut Social Security.
PRESS: Well, I've heard that argument, interestingly enough - heard that argument from Republicans, right? Who want to get rid of Social Security, and then suddenly, they're the ones who are saying, "No, no, no, you can't take any money away from Social Security."
The actuaries and the experts that I either talked to or read about looked at that and said that this one more year of extension for the payroll-tax cut would put money in the hands of the middle class. It would not cripple Social Security and I think they were right.
OLBERMANN: All right, we have something from the Associated Press that just crossed as an alert that pertains to this and it's so short, I'm gonna ask you to help me decipher it.
"Washington, AP, Congressional negotiators preparing two-month payroll tax cut," comma, "jobless benefits." That's all I got. What does that mean?
PRESS: I think what that means is - and I'm hearing it for the first time as well - that they're kicking the can down the road to February, which is a classic Washington cop-out, right? They can't agree on everything, so they'll say, "Let's just get out a - let's do something - a Band-Aid, temporary, kick it down the road and we'll come back after Christmas and we're all going to be lovey-dovey and be able to resolve this." B.S.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, the one thing I don't notice in that very cryptic AP story - and I think you've translated the hieroglyph pretty well - the one thing I don't see in there is what the Democrats are going to be giving up. It's probably something worth ten times that much. We'll see.
Bill Press, of "The Bill Press Show," the author of "Toxic Talk." Thank you, Bill.
PRESS: Hey, always good to be with you, Keith. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: My pleasure.
Romney undid his lead by flipping. Bachmann undid hers by flopping the John Wayne versus John Wayne Gacy test. Perry undid his lead by meandering. Cain undid his by philandering. Newt Gingrich? His lead is going to be undone the old-fashioned way, by the Republican circular firing squad. Next.
OLBERMANN: Everybody hates Newt. The right-wing National Review slams him in a way Democrats only dream of. And the GOP carousel continues to turn, faster and faster.
Not that it's better for the others, as Occupy reveals Occupy the Iowa Caucuses, and Occupy the New Hampshire Primaries.
They need 540,000 signatures. They have 500,000 signatures with half the time left for the sign-up sheets to recall the fascist bastard governor of Wisconsin.
And now it's the Vice President of the World Jewish Congress hitting them for their Islamophobic el foldo. And still, Lowe's Home Improvement does nothing.
OLBERMANN: That monkey's butt that David Axelrod spoke about the other day may finally be coming into full view.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - everybody hates Newt. Everybody in the GOP establishment, at least, which can't be a good sign for him. One of the most influential conservative outlets - the National Review - has issued a stinging rebuke of Gingrich, writing, "The White House seems winnable next year. We fear that to nominate former Speaker Newt Gingrich would be to blow this opportunity.
Very few people with a personal history like his - two divorces, two marriages to former mistresses - have ever tried running for president. Gingrich himself has never run for a statewide office, let alone a national one and has not run for anything since 1998.
His character flaws - his impulsiveness, his grandiosity, his weakness for half-baked and not especially conservative ideas" - notice half-baked conservative ideas are good - "made him a poor Speaker of the House. And there is reason to doubt that he has changed. Gingrich has always said he wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself."
Interestingly enough, the publication stopped short of endorsing Mitt Romney, its choice in the 2008 cycle. But there is another conservative publication that is endorsing Romney and blasting Gingrich at the same time.
The editors of The Washington Examiner writing, "The Washington Examiner believes Romney can defeat Obama but Gingrich cannot. And Romney, the businessman, is far better suited to the nation's highest office - by temperament, experience, and cast of mind - than Gingrich, the consummate Washington insider."
Speaking of Washington insiders, current House Speaker Boehner did have some kind words for the former speaker, saying, "I'd have a hard time finding someone who I felt was more intelligent and smarter than Newt Gingrich." But he then went on to say, "He's a big thinker. But you know, like all big thinkers, they got some great ideas, then they have some other ideas. I'm not sure he's as conservative as some people think he is, but Newt is a conservative."
Speaking of conservatives, two former attorneys general under President George W. Bush are calling some of Gingrich's positions on the authority of the federal courts "disturbing."
Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey - remember them? - complained of Gingrich's recently released paper, outlining how he would have Congress subpoena judges who issue what he considers controversial rulings. Terms including "dangerous," "totally irresponsible," "outrageous" and "ridiculous," used to describe parts of the plan.
Speaking of ridiculous, Michelle Bachmann. She was asked last night whether she believes accusations made by her South Carolina spokesman that Newt Gingrich was buying votes. Here's the response:
(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: this is something that we've been hearing all across the country - that money is changing hands - and that's not how I do business.
OLBERMANN: I remember when, I remember when I lost my mind.
Despite all the hate, we did see some love today from Gingrich - for Romney. A newly-released Romney campaign ad is utilizing a clip of Gingrich speaking in 2010:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: Governor Romney, in his business career, created more jobs than the entire Obama cabinet combined.
Joining me now, Benjy Sarlin, reporter for Talking Points Memo. Benjy, Thanks for your time tonight.
BENJY SARLIN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: They hate Newt. Everybody else self-destructs, they can't warm to Romney - who's left and who's left to support him or her?
SARLIN: Well, it's like one of those complicated mathematical equations where you just keep putting new numbers in and you just keep getting gibberish or infinity or null on the other end.
Eventually, if they want to win, they're probably gonna have to take a chance with Romney, but the party is doing everything they can to avoid this conclusion. First, they went for Bachmann, then they went for Perry, then for Herman Cain. Even before all that, Donald Trump. But now, this is the final stage. It's pretty much Newt or Romney.
OLBERMANN: I thought the correct answer to that gibberish question was actually 42. But anyway, moving on. On the show yesterday, I mentioned - speaking of 42 - that the overall poll numbers that had really jumped for Gingrich then and seemed to be slowing in momentum and backing up in a couple of polls.
Are the attacks from the major conservatives going to hurt him further, or are things so screwed up on the Republican side that getting slammed by the National Review might actually goose his margins in some places?
SARLIN: Well, Gingrich - Gingrich and his supporters are certainly making the case that, "Look, he's positioning himself as the anti-establishment guy so, hey, it should help him if The National Review and these other Republican elites are going after him."
But, we've actually heard this case before - about pretty much all of the other insurgent candidates who've come up to try to go against Romney. We heard that, "Oh, the attacks against Michele Bachmann won't work. She's inconvincible. We'll just accept them and - and it'll make her stronger."
We heard the same thing about Perry, about Cain. What we've learned every time is that, in the end, the rules of political gravity do still apply. It may take awhile but a lot of these attacks do sink in and we're starting to really see that with Gingrich, where he's taken a very sudden and dramatic drop in the polls. Now, he is still is in the lead in most states, where they - where they've been polling him. But his momentum has slowed and really started to reverse itself.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Gingrich said - and this was kind of funny to begin with - that he wanted to run a positive campaign, certainly within the Republican Party. I - I think we've seen the cracks on that already, but if he keeps getting hit hard in this way and - The Washington Examiner thing and, to a lesser degree, The National Review thing seem to - they look, at least like - whether or not they really do - like they had Romney's hand behind them. Is Gingrich likely to - to just say, "Screw it, I'm going for the kill," here?
SARLIN: Well, his, sort of, impulsiveness and erratic behavior, his undisciplined nature - that's always been a trademark, and you saw it the other day when he started straying a little and attacking Romney over his time at Bain Capital, saying he got rich laying off employees, which is a harsher attack than pretty much any other Republican would level at Romney.
But in general, he sort of has to keep up this positive campaign, those little accidents aside, because he's made it such an important part of his brand this time around. I mean, his latest run really was built on him going in debate after debate, after his campaign was left for dead and saying, "Look, I think we should all just stop fighting each other and get along." People who support him really, really liked that. So, it would be tough for him to keep that success while still turning very negative.
OLBERMANN: Benjy, remarkably, this debate later tonight is the last before the Iowa Caucus. How can just one debate last us three weeks?
SARLIN: Well, there's the holidays in there, so people won't be paying attention for a few days in between. So, that'll help you out but this is - this debate should be really fun because, as you said, it's the last one. Everyone has to get in their last moments, their last digs, their last chance to show some movement in - in Iowa, before the caucuses. So, this is when you get out the big guns with attacks, when you just leave nothing on the table.
And bear in mind, a lot of these candidates really don't have a lot of money right now. So, this is your last chance to get free, earned media to a large, national audience. They really have to go all out.
OLBERMANN: And plus, given the attention span of the Republican voters, it's essential that they all appear in front, so nobody forgets which one is which.
Benjy Sarlin from TPM, thanks for your time.
SARLIN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: They had 60 days. They needed 540,000 signatures. After just 30 days, the petition to recall Wisconsin's puppet governor already has 500,000 signatures. The latest on Scott Walker, coming up.
OLBERMANN: The Associated Press has now explained that story that we gave to you in hieroglyph form earlier.
The full paragraph from Washington Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says, "Congressional bargainers are preparing a two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut and expiring jobless benefit as a fallback plan in case negotiations on a year-long package don't succeed. Lawmakers also worked on legislation to avoid a government shutdown at midnight, Friday."
So, it's a quote from Harry Reid that a two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut is on the table, being bargained as we speak. More developments if they come through.
Even though they're only halfway to the deadline, they're at 90 percent at the number of signatures needed to force the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. That's next.
First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1974 - because Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley failed to fund a $50,000 deferred-insurance plan agreed to in his contract - an arbitrator ruled that Finley had breached his deal with ace Oakland pitcher Jim Hunter, and Hunter was thus free to sign with any team he wanted.
Seventeen days later, Hunter would become baseball's first big-money free agent, signing with the New York Yankees for $750,000 a season.
Next year, the minimum salary paid to the youngest and worst of baseball's major leaguers will be $480,000 a year.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Bearded dragon lizard plays video game on an iPad.
We begin, as we always do, with a bearded dragon lizard playing a video game.
The makers of "Ant Crusher" probably thought they were designing a game for humans. They were clearly mistaken.
The most adorable part is how he looks up for approval every time he crushes one. "Did you see how good I'm doing, dad? Did ya? Huh? Huh?"
Although he is still a little confused about why he's still hungry. "I've eaten like 20,000 ants, I'm starving. What's going on here?"
VIDEO: Scientists discover a cockroach that can jump.
We stay in the world of insects.
And it's a New Yorker's biggest fear - a cockroach what can jump. "Whee!"
Recently discovered by scientists in South Africa, the Saltoblattella montistabularis - I went to high school with a Tracy Montistabularis - well, this thing can leap fifty body lengths, accelerating with up to 23 Gs of force. So could Tracy!
So anyway, you know, sleep tight tonight. Don't let the bed bugs leap at you with 23 Gs of force!
VIDEO: Actual fat cat gets occupied by a flock of guinea fowl.
Finally, we knew it would happen eventually. The Occupy movement has gone airborne. Here, we see the spontaneous occupation of some fat cat.
Hiding in his palatial estate, the cat complained that the birds didn't have a unified message or demands.
Ultimately the birds were all pepper sprayed by Officer Pike.
"Time Marches On!"
A further bulletin out of Washington and the Associated Press - Congressional negotiators agree on $1 trillion spending measure to avert government shutdown. So, that didn't happen.
One of the founders of the tea party mocks Occupy as a bunch of lawbreakers, while his people never get arrested. And today, he got arrested on a felony - you know, drop the breaking news part - he got arrested on a felony charge. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Dumont's "The Secret Files Of Captain Video" will not be seen tonight so we can instead bring you "Countdown," the longest continuously-running 8:00 PM news hour on cable, unless you consider Fox - "news." We are live each night at 8:00 Eastern. Every night is a "Best of 'Countdown'."
When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker began pushing his budget bill that robbed state employees of their right to collectively bargain, the reaction was massive, as are the flies. In February, 100,000 protesters marched on the capitol to express their anger.
In our third story - in case you thought the Wisconsin momentum had waned, today the state Democratic Party announced that it has collected 94 percent of the signatures required to have Scott Walker recalled, over half a million signatures in less than a month.
Beginning on November 15, Wisconsin Democrats had 60 days to collect 540,208 signatures, to be precise, to force the recall. In a live webcast today, Wisconsin Democratic chairman Mike Tate announced that in half that time - 30 days - they'd collected over 507,000. An average of 16,900 a day. But Tate reiterated there was still a lot of work to do to reach the internal goal of 720,000 signatures.
When word of the large amount of signatures began to leak earlier this week, conservatives began reaching for a way to discredit the recall effort, writing salacious articles with titles like "Mickey Mouse, Adolf Hitler Allowed On Wis. Recall Petitions" Great title to get the fringe fired up, but not so good if you live in the real world. That total of 507,000 had already accounted for flawed signatures, screened out by Wisconsin Democrats.
Joining me now is Graeme Zielinski, Communications Director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Thanks again for your time on this, sir.
GRAEME ZIELINSKI: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: 507,000 in 30 days. Can you admit even you, probably, are surprised by the volume and the rate?
ZIELINSKI: Yeah, it's - that's got to get their attention, at least. It's about seven times Lambeau Field and we're talking, you know - Aaron Rodgers' Lambeau Field. It's a lot of people. It's a boatload of people, and it reflects the appetite that's out here in Wisconsin to stop this guy.
As you said, they've tried to discredit this movement by hook and crook, with all these crazy stories. But it's ultimately gonna fail, so we're happy, and the grassroots movement that has done this has done an incredible job and we're not letting up on the pedal.
OLBERMANN: I think you know in advance this is a rhetorical question, because it could have been asked last February, too - is there any chance that this whole process has peaked too soon? I mean, the actually recall would not take for at least another six months before a vote. Is there chance that the passion people have exhibited for at least a third time in this process might not last until the actual vote?
ZIELINSKI: Well, we keep hearing that. Every couple months, these right wingers will get on and say, "Oh, people forget about it. People forget about it."
You know what we found out today? Wisconsin lost another 11,700 private sector jobs for the five month - fifth month in a row, we've lost jobs. Wisconsin leads the nation in job loss. News like that comes out every single day under Scott Walker, here in Wisconsin. We have bad news every day. We just found out that more than half his money that he's raising comes from out of state, including $250,000 from that swift-boat weirdo.
ZIELINSKI: So, there's no reason to stop being outraged about what Scott Walker is doing to crack up Wisconsin. And look, all corners of the state - not just big places like Milwaukee and Madison, but little places like Iowa County, Grant County, St. Croix - places where, apparently, Scott Walker believes everybody's got novenas burning for him, that's not happening. We've got a lot of opportunity here to stop this guy and it's not letting up.
OLBERMANN: The - the Republicans have taken to filing lawsuits against the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees the elections. They're alleging that the recall violates Governor Walker's 14th Amendment rights. Is that - as implausible it sounds - is that a threat?
ZIELINSKI: I didn't know that they believed in the 14th Amendment.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, seriously.
ZIELINSKI: Or the - or the 15th amendment. The - they're being crybabies. They had plenty of opportunities when they were recalling, or trying to recall, Democratic candidates - Democratic elected officials - like Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Herb Kohl, Governor Jim Doyle. The process was just fine for them then. But now that they see that they're gonna get their rear ends handed to them, now they're crying.
So, these are - these guys are supposed to be big, tough he-men and they're - they're crying because they can't defend Scott Walker's record anymore. So, what do they do? They attack the process. That's all they have left to do.
OLBERMANN: The - the fake-name things - Fox News, in particular, seems to have seized on this. Obviously, if those - those names have been - have been thrown out already and the - the petitions have been vetted, how do you go about countering the perception that there might actually be some large percentage of that favorite Republican boogeyman - voter fraud?
ZIELINSKI: We can't do anything about the fact that Scott Walker's cronies are gonna lie and try to create this fabric of hysteria and fear over the whole process. You don't collect 507,000 signatures in 30 days without an orderly process that has a lot of momentum behind him.
The - what's really Mickey Mouse about all this are claims by Republicans that this process is somehow flawed. They have all sorts of remedies and they know it. And, again, Scott Walker came to office - right here in Milwaukee County - on the back of a recall election, where he had all the same tools available to him to challenge and to do everything.
They weren't complaining about the process then. The only reason they're complaining about the process now is 'cause you have a half a million pissed off Wisconsinites who signed this recall petition and are ready to stop what he's doing to this state.
OLBERMANN: Ah, the old irony of the hoist - being hoist with his own petard.
Graeme Zielinski, Communications Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Once again, great thanks for some of your time tonight.
ZIELINSKI: Thank you so much. Ryan Braun is innocent.
OLBERMANN: We'll see about that one too.
Lowe's won't budge. O'Reilly doesn't realize that civilians run the military and a tea party founder mocks Occupy arrests and then gets arrested this afternoon on a weapons charge. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Like he needed something else to worry about. The Iowa Caucuses will feature Occupy the Iowa Caucuses.
And two months ago, he mocked comparisons between the tea party he helped to found and Occupy. Said the tea party respected police, didn't break the law. That was before he got arrested this afternoon on a felony count at an airport. "Worst Persons," next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Occupy gets political whether it intends to or not. Occupy the New Hampshire Primary and Occupy the Iowa Caucuses, next.
First - because this space here, this is for my version of the occupation - here are "Countdown"'s top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze goes to our old pal, Billo the clown. I used to mean "clown," as in foolish in his opinions. Now, it's about his rapidly-declining performance.
He got into an argument with Alan Colmes about government ineffectiveness. Colmes argued that the government actually has done a pretty good job running the U.S. military over the years. Whereupon, O'Reilly revealed he didn't know that the government ran the military and was insistent that the military runs itself and the secretary of defense and the president just sort of watch from the sidelines while the Pentagon makes all the decisions. Seriously.
(Excerpt from video clip) ALAN COLMES: Can they run the military?
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: They can run the military because it's military controlled, not civilian.
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: That's government run.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: It's not civilian control.
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: It's still the government doing it. We have a civilian government.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: The Pentagon calls the shots.
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: We have civilian - civilian - the commander-in-chief's a civilian.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: No, no, no.
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: The government runs the military well.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: That is wrong. The Pentagon calls the shots on how the military operates.
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: That's the government.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: The Pentagon is military people.
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: It's the government, it's still the government.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: It's overseen by the secretary of defense -
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: And they do a pretty good job of it.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: But the generals, the joint chiefs, call the shots.
(Excerpt from video clip) COLMES: They run - and they work for the government. It's a government-run military.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: "They work for" and "the government running" are two different things.
OLBERMANN: So if you've ever wondered why, to you - as the rational, contemplative scholar that you are - O'Reilly has never made any sense, there's the explanation. He believes we've always lived in a kind of mega-police state where the military operates on its own and the government is something else all together.
The runner-up? Mark Meckler, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. Arrested today at LaGuardia Airport in New York. The district attorney says he tried to get on board a Delta flight and brought with him a box containing a Glock-27 pistol and 19 - count 'em - 19 nine-millimeter cartridges. He has a gun permit in California but not in New York.
Charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon - that's a felony - he could face 15 years.
Two months ago, Mr. Meckler wrote a piece for Politico, raging at any comparisons between Occupy and those peaceful, law-abiding tea partiers. "Unlike protesters in New York," - irony -"I can find no reports of tea partiers being arrested." - irony - "We are not lawbreakers." - irony. By contrast, to him, Occupy is "a group of law-breaking miscreants who treated law enforcement with disrespect and disdain."
Had a gun without a permit and nineteen shells and tried to bring it on a commercial flight. Nice respect for the law, sonny.
But our winner, once again? Robert Niblock, the Chairman of Lowe's hardware. Parenthetically, the number of people who have written to me to say, "By the way, Lowe's sells overpriced crap. You shouldn't buy your stuff there anyway" - it's astounding.
Nevertheless, they have once again remained silent on their astonishing kowtowing to a tiny Florida lunatic right-wing pressure group, which is run by an admitted porn-and-masturbation addict. Which saw them publicly pull their ads from the TLC cable show "All-American Muslim" because the program did not depict enough terrorists to satisfy the psychopathic Islamophobes like Pamela Geller.
Lowe's is still trying to stonewall after its caving in was attacked by the Anti-Defamation League and then 32 members of the US Congress and, today, by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and by Rabbi Marc Schneier, the vice president of the World Jewish Congress.
Lowe's is apparently trying to tough this one out.
We give this award out every night. And once again, we give it to Robert Niblock, the CEO of Lowe's, today's "Worst Person in the World."
Remember, don't shop at Lowe's!
OLBERMANN: Occupy's internal debate has been raging, virtually since its launch on September 17th - Stay away from politics? Embrace one party? Maintain the stance of, "A pox on both your houses?"
In our number-one story on the "Countdown" - circumstances seemingly forcing a decision in Iowa and New Hampshire, at least. Only the Republicans are having primaries or caucuses, thus - if Occupy protests - they will be protesting only Republicans. And evidently, they will.
Occupy Des Moines now planning an Occupy the Iowa Caucus event, in which participants will break into groups - candidate preference groups. But instead of indicating who they'll support, they'll declare which candidate's headquarters they plan to occupy.
(Excerpt from video clip) JEANIE SMITH: We will try to engage the candidate in conversation. What we want to do is change the dialogue.
OLBERMANN: Local Republican leaders expressing their concern.
(Excerpt from video clip) MATT STRAWN: We don't need outside agitators from - quite frankly, outside of Iowa - to come in and disrupt presidential campaigns.
OLBERMANN: Number of Republican candidates from Iowa - zero.
Next up on the GOP candidate schedule - New Hampshire. Occupy organizers there planning to occupy the presidential primary with a series of marches and debates.
Meantime, in New York - the birthplace of the movement - leaders hoping to reinvigorate at Occupy 2.0.
Protesters planning to gather downtown in Manhattan on Saturday to mark the three-month anniversary of the Occupy movement and the one-year commemoration of the day Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire - the tragic start to the Arab Spring.
Organizers saying it is, "part of a call to re-occupy in the wake of the coordinated attacks and subsequent evictions of occupations across the nation and around the world."
The event to be held in a vacant lot owned by Trinity Real Estate, which also owns the Trinity Church on Wall Street. Organizers now calling on the church to allow protesters to stay in that vacant space.
Even without a permanent space, Occupy's message does seem to be resonating. A new poll by the Pew Research Center finding that 77 percent of Americans feel a few rich people and corporations have too much power, only 19 percent disagreed with that. The poll also finding that 61 percent of Americans say the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy. Just 36 percent say the system is generally fair to most Americans.
And Americans also taking a skeptical overall view of Wall Street. Fifty-one percent thinking it hurts the economy more than it helps. Thirty-six percent think it helps more than it hurts.
Joining me now, to look at how Occupy might be changing as it approaches that three-month anniversary - Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor and staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
HENDRIK HERTZBERG: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is - is it - is political engagement the next phase of Occupy? And if it is, would it be effective?
HERTZBERG: Well, it probably has to be. There's really no way that - that Occupy can avoid taking some kind of a stance, vis-à-vis, the elections. That's - that's gonna be - that's gonna be all that's happening in the next year. So, even if they try to stay away from it, that would be a decision to somehow be involved in it. And they just can't avoid making a few decisions here.
OLBERMANN: So, is there - are these steps - these early steps, tests to see if that sort of hands-on, peaceful, non-cooperation would actually work in a political context?
HERTZBERG: Yeah, I think, you know, given the - given the - given the de-centralized nature of Occupy, you know, they'll - they'll sort of try experimentally, without really planning to, they'll experiment with various approaches to electoral politics from - from the description you gave, a minute ago, it sounds like there's a danger, on the one hand, in the Iowa approach of Occupying campaign headquarters - in other words, of kind of invading the headquarters of various Republican candidates and refusing to leave.
The - the New Hampshire approach - which is to create, kind of, counter events is - sounds more promising to me. The big danger for Occupy is to - is to get - is to be drawn into a drama where they're sort of - they are sort of the bullies who are - who are trying to push around people who are going about the business of American democracy. That sort of thing. That is - that - that's certainly a danger. But you know, Occupy's been pretty smart about this kind of thing up 'til now.
OLBERMANN: And - and the opportunity in - in New Hampshire, using that - those definitions we just discussed, would sound like a better sort of exploitation of the - of the national media presence, too.
HERTZBERG: They would, and there's going to be an awful lot of national media there, too. Yeah, absolutely.
OLBERMANN: There was a report in Salon today that the Wall Street - the Occupy Wall Street donations were going at $20,000 a day at - at a - a peak point and it's now $98 a day. Other than the obvious interpretation, which is - that's a lot less - what is that a sign of?
HERTZBERG: Well, I think it's partly a sign of the lack of a geographical center for Occupy. You know, the whole - the whole metaphor of Occupy Wall Street is sort of geographical. You know, it's a place. And when - when they had to leave Zuccotti Park - Zuccotti Park was the international, national, galactic center of the whole Occupy movement and now there is no place.
This - this notion of trying to get this - this vacant lot the Trinity Church owns - I think that's an - that's clearly an attempt to - to establish another place. In a way, though, the - this kind of geographical center has been a replacement for Occupy for the usual sort of hierarchical organization. You know, it gives a headquarters. It gives a place where everything converges.
OLBERMANN: The - the weather would, of course, probably have taken care of a lot of the - the physical presence anyway, as it got colder. And - just as that was a reality that they managed to avert because the police and the mayor were smart enough or stupid enough to throw them out - doesn't the likelihood of there eventually being a spring kind of re-jumpstart - give a sort of second launch to Occupy at some point? March or April of the next year?
HERTZBERG: Yeah, but I think they would make a mistake in repeating - in doing the same thing again. It - it actually was not good for Occupy, I think, to have - to - have had Mayor Bloomberg and the police close them down. I'm pretty sure they were moving toward, sort of, declaring victory and closing themselves down for the winter. That would have - that would have - that would have been better but - they're - they're - that geographical point where things converge is - is crucial to them, especially if they wanna avoid becoming a hierarchical, centralized, letterhead kind of pressure-group organization.
OLBERMANN: With - with office space and $600,000 in the bank, which -
OLBERMANN: Which they happen to have.
New Yorker senior editor and writer Hendrik Hertzberg, always a pleasure to have a conversation with you, sir. Thank you, kindly, for your time.
HERTZBERG: Feel the same way.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 341st day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House, thus 341 days in which the Republicans have not passed a jobs bill of any kind. Fortunately, they're not shutting the government down. Great.
I'm Keith Olbermann. Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap. Good night, and good luck.