'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
#ShowPlug 1: POTUS Poll Numbers startle: from 53-44 Disapprove to 49-47 APPROVE in six weeks. w/ @JDub321 Joe Williams of Politico
#ShowPlug 2: Obama's new heft as Boehner tries to scuttle Payroll Tax Cut Holiday: Rep. @LouiseSlaughter of New York on GOP "strategy"
#ShowPlug 3: Mitt's Good News: up to 30% in polls. Bad news? That only gets him a tie with Gingrich. @Markos Moulitsas on GOP fun
#ShowPlug 4: Occupy's peace with Denver police collapses, tents on fire; 200,000 signature anti-Islamophobia petition delivered to Lowe's
#ShowPlug Last: Gov. Walker's ad featuring "Job-Creating Small Business Owner"? You won't believe WHERE the guy creates those jobs.
watch whole playlist
#5 'Tax Cut Stalemate', Joe Williams
#5 'Tax Cut Stalemate', Rep. Louise Slaughter
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Attack Pack', Markos Moulitsas
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Occupy Day 95', Ben Meyer
#2 Worst Persons: Cassie Wright, NRA News, Gov. Scott Walker
#1 'Battling Bigotry', Darakshan Raja
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Markos Moulitsas, Louise Slaughter, Darakshan Raja, Joe Williams, Ben Meyer
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: I saw today that one of the House Republicans referred to what they're doing as "high stakes poker." He's right about the stakes. But this is not poker. This is not a game.
OLBERMANN: The President - armed with majority approval ratings for the first time since last spring - tears into the GOP for all-but-killing the payroll-tax-cut extension.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: The bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on January 1st.
OLBERMANN: The Senate won't return. But John of Orange appoints a committee for a conference with the Senate anyway. And brings his chorus with him to applaud his grinchery.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: I need the president to help out -
OLBERMANN: He moved the needle! Mitt Romney up to 30 percent in the Washington Post poll. Story of his life, that's still only good enough for a tie with Newt "Breakfast At Tiffany's" Gingrich.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: Isn't it time for a president who looks like a 1970s game-show host?
OLBERMANN: Off the record, but on twitter. A Gingrich spokesman vents about Romney. Somebody hits send. The quote, "Either a lying politician or a piece of s---."
Occupy's peaceful co-existence with Denver, at an end. Four arrested. The camp on fire.
Occupy Des Moines protests at Democratic headquarters, over the Defense Authorization Act.
Lowe's, still refusing to apologize for Islamaphobia. Two hundred thousand signatures delivered today to Lowe's headquarters.
And the little lie in the Scott Walker anti-recall ad, starring Chris, the small businessman.
(Excerpt from video clip) CHRIS: He wants all of the people of Wisconsin to be successful uh, it's comforting.
OLBERMANN: Uh, it's not really true! Chris, the small businessman, isn't creating jobs in Wisconsin. Where does he create those jobs? You won't believe it.
All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) CHRIS: Governor Walker is a friend.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Tuesday, December 20th, 322 days until the 2012 presidential election.
When John Boehner caved the tea party - to the tea party over the two-month payroll-tax holiday extension that he was actively pushing as early as 2009, Boehner still held most of the cards. President Obama's approval level was still under water.
In the fifth story in the "Countdown" - he rises. For the first time since last spring, the president's approval rating is larger than his disapproval rating. And when the president made an unexpected appearance at the press briefing room today, Boehner's insistence on reneging on the GOP deal on the temporary extension of the cut began to seem like the charge of the lemmings off the cliff.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: The bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on January 1st. It's the only one. I'm calling on the Speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring up the Senate bill for a vote. Give the American people the assurance they need in this holiday season.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Boehner didn't get the memo nor the new polls. He did, however, bring some colleagues along as human shields.
(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: President Obama needs to call on Senate Democrats to go back into session, move to get a conference, and to sit down and resolve this bill as quickly as possible. I need the president to help out.
OLBERMANN: Actual political applause shows up in job-approval ratings and for the president - saving a temporary bump after the killing of Osama bin Laden - they are at their loudest since March.
According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 49 percent of Americans now approve of the way the president is doing his job. His disapproval dropped, in one month, from 53 to 47 when it comes to protecting the middle class - 50 percent say they trust Obama on this issue to just 35 who prefer the GOP. And last month the two sides were about evenly matched on that question.
The toll the fight has taken on Congress overall is stunning, as well. According to a new Gallup poll, Congressional approval - are now - now the ratings for that one is at a new low of 11 percent, the lowest level since the agency first started asking the question in 1974.
Back to the vote today. Rather than bringing the bill to the floor for a direct vote, which would risk the possibility of the measure passing, GOP House leaders instead chose to push the bill into conference with the Senate. That way, they avoid going on the record as voting against the plan which could help millions of Americans. But that's not the reason they're giving. The Boehner excuse thus:
(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: I told the Senate leaders, both Senator Reid and Senator McConnell, that there would be no negotiations with the House until such time as the Senate passed a bill. I meant what I said.
And when they were getting ready to pass this, and somebody passed on to me what they thought it would look like, I made it clear to them, at that point, that I was uncomfortable with where they were going. I expressed my displeasure.
And once again, taking the convenient route and not doing the people's work.
OLBERMANN: Where is the roaring crowd and laughter and everything else and Virginia Foxx and all that stuff?
Not the same story from Senator majority leader Harry Reid. In a statement today Ried wrote, "It is unconscionable that Speaker Boehner is blocking a bipartisan compromise that would protect middle-class families from the tax hike looming on January 1st. A compromise that Senator McConnell and I negotiated at Speaker Boehner's own request."
About the GOP, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi went further:
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY PELOSI: They never wanted a tax cut. Anything they put forth is designed to fail, because that is what they want to do. I tell my caucus - and they may be tired of hearing it from me - that it is like a gentleman who is wooing a potential fiancée and keeps asking her to marry him, to marry him, to marry him, and she says, "Of course, I will marry you. Of course I'll marry you. I can only do it on February 30th." Well, that day is never coming.
OLBERMANN: Still, the speaker today appointed eight House members as negotiators to serve on a conference committee with the Senate. The only problem is Senate Majority Leader Reid and House majority Leader Pelosi say they will not appoint members to any such imaginary committee, rather the House should have an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill.
Additionally, Democrats say they do not intend to call the Senate back into session, and many members have already left town for the holidays. So, why is all of this happening?
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: The House Republicans say they don't dispute the need for a payroll-tax cut. What they are really trying to do, what they are holding out for, is to wring concessions from Democrats on issues that have nothing to do with the payroll-tax cut, issues where the parties fundamentally disagree.
OLBERMANN: Supporting Exhibit A for the president, a January 2009 bill backed by 56 House Republicans - including Michele Bachmann, who did not vote on the bill today - which called for a complete payroll-tax holiday. Clearly, it was okay then - why not now?
Without a bill extending the cuts, payroll taxes will go up for 160 million workers on Jan. 1st. The payroll-tax cut has saved a typical household $1,000 during the year past.
Let's turn to some analysis on this to Politico's White House reporter Joe Williams. Joe, thanks for your time tonight.
JOE WILLIAMS: Hi, great to be here.
OLBERMANN: The ratings - the approval ratings first - the same poll November 3rd, presidential approval was 44 and disapproval was 53. So we went from minus nine to plus two in six weeks. Does the White House have a theory to how that happened?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think there is just one theory at play here, and you have seen it many, many months, and it's the new willingness to engage Republicans over the economy.
I point to the Kansas speech, the one he gave a couple of weeks ago, where he clearly outlined his vision for the economic recovery of the country.
The Republicans, by contrast, don't really have that. They don't have a signature moment. Unless it's now, of course, where they are talking about blocking the payroll-tax-cut extension.
Basically, they don't have an argument to refute that and the president came out swinging a couple of months ago, once the campaign started more or less in earnest. And that has earned him a newfound respect. People have always liked the president. They just want to see him fight.
OLBERMANN: In terms of enthusiasm - self confidence for those fights - one would assume, I suppose, the poll numbers are obviously useful to President Obama. Do they mean anything, practically, in this battle over the - the cut extension with Boehner?
WILLIAMS: They mean leverage, certainly. When you have a president, I think you said in your intro, who was underwater in his approval ratings - back when we had the debt-ceiling fight, back when we were arguing about other things spending-related - he had much less leverage to go to Congress, stand firm and say, "This is what I want. You have to give it to me."
Now that his approval ratings are starting to come back, it shows that the nation is starting to catch up with this argument. They are starting to agree with him. He's always been personally popular, as I mentioned. Now, he's got a little bit more political juice. Plus, it also sends a signal to Republicans that they don't quite have the leverage that they might have thought that they had - or that they did, in fact, have - a year ago.
OLBERMANN: Certainly, it did not seem from that news conference that Mr. Boehner felt he had any loss in leverage. Are there Republicans who think they have avoided getting themselves politically killed on the payroll-tax-cut extension? Does the White House think the Republicans have not avoided that?
WILLIAMS: Well, I think what you have here is a caucus that is - it's sort of like Speaker Boehner is in a car that's stuck with a steering wheel that keeps going to the right. He can't necessarily steer the car back to a center course and he is going to crash into something.
Right now, it's showing that he is crashing into a few members of his own party. You had several Republicans break ranks and vote against this political maneuver that Speaker Boehner brought forward today. And on the other side, you have Scott Brown - who is locked in a very, very tough race with Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the progressives - saying, "Hey, let's not be hasty. Let's not wreck the economy here. We have a good bill with bipartisan support that we have passed in the Senate. The House needs to do the same."
Scott Brown can sense which way the wind is blowing, certainly, in his re-election bid in Massachusetts. And I think he is trying to get Speaker Boehner - and perhaps the rest of the tea party Republicans - to do the same thing.
OLBERMANN: So far, Joe, everything that has come up, like, in this way - in these sort of contexts where it's the White House and/or the Democrats against the Republicans, particularly the ones in the House, it's ended one of two ways - either a compromise that heavily favors the right or the Democrats flatly caving. Are there indications that there might be a third option and that might be the outcome here?
WILLIAMS: If there is a third option, they better find it in a hurry because they've got less than two weeks to get there.
Certainly, President Obama's rhetoric sounded very, very strong today. It sounded like he was more in focus, more willing to go toe-to-toe with Speaker Boehner, and Speaker Boehner, by contrast, is sounding like he is expecting the White House to follow suit and cave like they always have.
This time, I don't necessarily see it happening. Mainly, because of the leverage that we talked about before - the approval numbers going up, more people agreeing with the president's argument - and, frankly, Congress's numbers being dragged to the bottom. I mean, single digits is really hard. They look like they are earning it.
So, I think a third way has to come up. They tried the maneuver today, it's not going to work. I think the third way, if it happens, is going to come through Speaker Boehner's office. That's the only way I can see something happening positive here.
OLBERMANN: Politico White House correspondent Joe Williams. Thank you kindly, sir.
WILLIAMS: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Let's go inside the House with Representative Louise Slaughter of New York. Good to talk to you again, Congresswoman.
LOUISE SLAUGHTER: Always a pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me start where I just left with Joe Williams - are you convinced the Democratic leadership, including the White House, is not going to cave in this time, or do we have Lucy and the football again?
SLAUGHTER: Absolutely. I know the House is not going to cave. But let me tell you what really happened there yesterday, because I don't think - I have not read it anywhere or heard it, but I was a party to it. I just know I am on the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee sees all legislation just before it goes to the floor. The legislation read last night at 7:00 that our first action, in Rules, would be to "concur" with the Senate vote. Now, by the time they got through that great conference, they came up and it was changed to "reject."
Now, all day yesterday while I was walking the halls and talking to some Republicans that I knew, it became more and more apparent to me - if they really put the concurrence vote up so that we could pass the Senate bill - it would pass. And there's no question in my mind that they could not afford that. As a matter of fact, some of the GOP staff has said that what they were afraid of was that, not only would it pass, but that some people who voted "no" needed some cover that they apparently didn't realize they needed.
It was an awful meeting last night, one of the worst meetings I have been to.
I accused them of being Alice in Wonderland, all of them able to believe six impossible things before breakfast. Because everything they have told you is not true. They have killed the bill. It is dead. You know how hard it is to get something through the Senate?
SLAUGHTER: And the idea we could get something, 89 to 10, bipartisan, 80 percent of the Republicans, God bless them, in the Senate voted for this and have all sent messages over to the House - "Please, for heaven's sake, pass it." To turn that down is insane.
And all of the machination they would have to go through to even set up a conference, if they were going to do it, would take forever. The thing would expire. It's gone. The president's right. Last night was the only option. And I knew today. And they all are gleeful about it. I don't know what they are happy about.
Let me tell you what I think they are happy about. We never heard a word for them about tax cuts for this payroll-tax cut. And, certainly, they are not going to talk about the unemployment insurance.
In the bill they passed, if you were to get unemployment insurance, you had two things you had to do. You had to get a GED, if you didn't have one, and you had be drug tested. And if you were going to - their whole bill was going to be paid for by increasing Medicare cost on seniors. Obviously, most of all of us voted against that. But what they really have done now - and they are gleeful about it - they've killed that bill. There will be no payroll tax. Unless they get so much heat at home that we can back in January and do it retroactively.
OLBERMANN: We know, for two years the Republicans have tried to harm the economy and blame the president and blame the Democrats and both houses.
OLBERMANN: But overall, is this just another attempt to do that again?
SLAUGHTER: It sure is.
OLBERMANN: They left their subtlety cloak at home this time?
SLAUGHTER: I am telling you, they literally will look at you and tell you something that's so blatantly untrue. They tried to convince us last night that voting against - to reject the Senate bill was the same as saying that we would like to go to conference or liked the Senate bill. I mean it's crazy. It doesn't make any sense.
My mind, every now and then - I go through this regularly - after a while, I take in so much of it and my mind says, "Louise, don't try to look for sensibility there. There is nothing there. It's hot air." And that's the only way that I maintain my sanity and what is left of a sense of humor I think. It's pretty bad.
OLBERMANN: I think you have - you just explained both your success in the House and a path for the rest of us. So, give us - how is this going to end up? What's the end game here?
SLAUGHTER: Well, four hundred thirty five of us - well, we got two absences - but we were brought back here, at great expense. Nothing happened here, absolutely nothing - it was like the man behind the curtain. Nothing happened here.
There is no conferees coming from the minority leader, from Ms. Pelosi, and Harry Reid is not appointing any. They can't have a conference by themselves if they could put one together. They have killed this bill. And, you know, it's going - I will never believe that that was not their intent. It's gone.
Now, my only hope is that - during Christmas, if they want to talk about Scrooge and Tiny Tim - they will realize that that's them and that they will come back in January and we can try to re-pass the Senate bill. The House bill is not worth even discussing. It was so draconian.
OLBERMANN: Representative Louise Slaughter of the New York 28th, with the information that the GOP staff changed from "concur" to "reject" last night for fear that they would concur. Great thanks for that. And as always, Congresswoman, thanks for your time tonight.
SLAUGHTER: Happy holidays to everybody, despite what's going on here. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. She should have her own show. It would go, like, four hours a day. It would be the perfect show. And it doesn't even necessarily have to be about politics.
All right - good news, Mitt Romney. You've probably - you've finally moved up from 22 percent in the polls to 30. Bad news, Mitt Romney - that's still only good enough for a tie with Newt "Medieval" Gingrich. Next.
OLBERMANN: After six months of poll motionless-ness as all around him have caught fire and then burned out, he has finally hit 30 percent support among Republicans.
It had been a pretty picture almost from the start, Denver and Occupy. Until the tents were lit on fire last night.
Lowe's isn't budging, isn't apologizing. Nor are those protesting the company's caving-in to Islamophobia. Two hundred thousand signatures presented to the company's front door today.
This is Cassie. Cassie is a co-ed. Cassie tweeted something really nice and racist about President Obama. Which, like Cassie, would mean nothing, except Cassie is president of the college Republicans at the University of Texas. "Worst Persons" ahead.
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney making major gains, posting some of his highest numbers since the race began and still only managing to pull up to a tie with Newt Gingrich.
In our fourth story tonight - inside every silver Romney lining there is yet another dark cloud. The poll swing coming after Romney's super PAC dumped millions into the Iowa race to go after Gingrich, so naturally Romney, today, attacking super PACs.
He and Gingrich now in a dead heat nationally, each getting 30 percent of the vote. That's particularly good news for Romney, who had not broken out of the 20s since - the 20s. Well, July.
Romney's rise coming as a super PAC backing his candidacy, called Restore Our Future, unleashes a flood of money in Iowa. And already it has spent more than three million dollars there, twice what the entire GOP field spent in 2008, much of it going towards attack ads against Gingrich.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Newt has more baggage than the airlines. Freddie Mac helped cause the economic collapse, but Gingrich cashed in. Freddie Mac paid Newt nearly $30,000 an hour, $1.6 million.
OLBERMANN: Today, however, Romney on the attack against super PACs like the one running those ads on his behalf:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: They set up these new entities - which I think is a disaster by the way - campaign-finance law has made a mockery of our political campaign season. We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of the super PACs.
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney would go ahead rid of super PACs, like the aforementioned Restore Our Future, which is run by his former staffers and this week is expected to out spend Gingrich 34 to one in Iowa.
Romney previously defended that same group after a former colleague donated a million dollars to it. When it went on to raise $12 million in just the first half of this year, his spokesman told the New York Times, "We are pleased that independent groups will be active in fighting this entrenched power so the country" - sorry - "can get back to work."
Gingrich's spokesman, on the other hand, telling a reporter today - in what was intended to be an off-the-record comment, but ended up as a public tweet - that Romney is "either a lying politician or a piece of" shut-your-mouth.
Hammond later expressing his "sincere apologies" to Governor Romney in an email to the Huffington Post. His boss slightly more polite in his response to the ads:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: The next time you see one of the candidates whose running the negative ads, ask them to take it off the air.
OLBERMANN: Romney's negative ads might be working but his comedy - not so much, Shecky. The famously wooden candidate doing his best Tin Man impression last night on David Letterman's show:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Isn't it time for a president who looks like a 1970s game-show host ... I have no proof, but I have a feeling Canada is playing something... It's a hairpiece.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps the only thing less funny - newly re-released excerpts from Ron Paul's 1992 political report. Now it's the New York Times reminding us that Congressman Paul published a newsletter with such items as this, about the L.A riots, "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks."
The report also referred to Martin Luther King Day, "Hate Whitey Day."
Congressman Paul today re-issuing his insistence from several years ago that he did not write any of that and he is guilty of having lent his name to newsletters without vetting their contents.
Joining me now, "Countdown" contributor Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos. Thanks for some of your time tonight, my friend.
MARKOS MOULITSAS: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, Romney finally gets out of the 20s in the polls and, still, he is only tied with Gingrich?
MOULITSAS: Yeah, and this is one poll, too, we are talking about. So, I wouldn't stake the entire state of the Republican race on that one poll. But, yeah, he has dumped a lot of money in Iowa. I mean, retail politics is dead. The whole reason Iowa and New Hampshire pretend to exist - retail politics - is over.
The fact is, they're going to wage an air battle - they are going to try and knock Gingrich down, they are going to use negative ads - because it works. And the question is not whether Romney is going to pick up that support, but where is that disenfranchised other 20 - 75, 70 percent of the vote going to go? And will they coalesce around a single candidate? That remains to be seen.
OLBERMANN: So will they?
MOULITSAS: I hope so. It's still the bottom line. I hope so, because everybody that is not Romney is fabulous in a general election. So, that is what I expect to happen.
Now, of course, they've gone through pretty much everybody. Is it going to be Ron Paul? Ron Paul may actually win Iowa. He is not going to do well in New Hampshire, South Carolina. So really, if the not-Romney forces expect to win, they going to have to pick one of the retreads. They are going to have to go Perry or Bachmann or somebody they have already rejected.
OLBERMANN: Palin. Palin. Palin.
MOULITSAS: There is always that.
OLBERMANN: Apart from the hypocrisy of criticizing super PACs while you use them, as Romney is doing so, to pulverize your opponents, Romney isn't criticizing the super PACs in a "we need less big money" kind of way, right? I mean, he is criticizing the fact that he doesn't have direct control of those super PACs.
MOULITSAS: Well, Romney was for these super PACs before so, obviously, he has to be against them now. I mean, he wouldn't be - Romney could not be Romney without a flip-flop on every single issue. And I don't actually know what his motivation is.
I suspect, I mean, you know - you may not know this, but there is actually a great deal of support among the tea party crowd for campaign-finance reform and they are just as angry at the amount of money.
Now, they think the amount of money is coming from labor unions. They are under the delusion that it isn't corporate, conservative money, but still - they do not like the buying of elections, or so they claim. And this may be just a Mitt Romney pander to that crowd. So, that's - that's my latest theory.
OLBERMANN: The latest theory from Romney, from Governor Christie - his biggest fan boy, and I mean that in a figurative sense - saying that he wishes Romney was "a little edgier and a little bolder." The attack ads, are they an indication of an edgier Mitt Romney or is there something that - something else that Christie means?
MOULITSAS: I don't know. I don't think the ads are an indication, because these are not Mitt Romney's ads, they are coming from an outside group. So, Romney is Romney. Here is the guy that said that he once had a drink and he wouldn't do that again because that was too wild and wacky? Right? This is having a drink.
So, he's not exactly ever going to be wild and edgy or anything else like that. Romney is Romney. He has to own it. He is what he is. In a certain time, that might be reassuring to people, that the boring guy could be reassuring. I don't know. I don't think it's that time, though.
OLBERMANN: Well, speaking of the boring guy and the crazy lady - it appears that both Governor Romney and Congresswoman Bachmann have decided to tonight to outreach to their many Jewish supporters.
There is a tweet I wanted to show. There are four accepted spellings of Hannukkah. The one that is preferred has and H and two Ks. There are also the two variants that start with CH, but what we have here, H and two Ns? No. And Romney sent one out, same spelling - H and two Ns.
To borrow Mrs. Bachmann's words, this shows a lot of "shoots-paw," doesn't it?
MOULITSAS: Well, you expect that from Bachmann, but apparently Romney's staff cut and pasted - or copied and pasted - Bachmann's tweet, which is, actually, a whole new level of pathetic.
OLBERMANN: And we seem to find a new level of that every week in this campaign.
"Countdown" contributor, Daily Kos publisher and founder Markos Moulitsas. Great thanks. If I don't talk to you before the holidays, happy holidays.
MOULITSAS: Likewise. Thanks so much.
OLBERMANN: What had been an easy peace between Occupy and the city of Denver ends with arrests and Occupy's tents on fire. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Occupy protests Democratic headquarters in Des Moines. The explanation ahead.
First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date 131 years ago, things changed slightly here in New York City.
Just months after Edison secured the patent for the incandescent light bulb, on December 20th, 1880 the Brush Electric Light Company switched on its generator at 25th Street and these newfangled things called "street lights" switched on - on Broadway, from Union Square at 14th Street, to Madison Square on 34th Street.
Contrary to assumptions, though, this was not the birth of the term "The Great White Way" for Broadway. That didn't come into use until around 1900. So there.
"Time Marches On!"
We'll be getting those street lights here soon.
VIDEO: Pandas playing in the snow.
We begin with the TMO Adorable Clip of the Day. It's pandas, and they're playing in the snow!
Hua'ao and Qingfeng, two pandas at a park in China, are enjoying one of the first snowfalls of the season. And they do somersaults. And you thought it was cute when they did kung-fu.
Adorable as it is, unfortunately, it later turned out to be a couple drunk guys in panda suits eating vegetation.
VIDEO: A Swarovski crystal toilet from Japan.
We travel to Japan, where I've said it before - and I'll say it again - "Those Japanese sure go to the bathroom in style."
That's right, a crystal toilet. Don't act like you've never seen one before. Finally, they've combined a disco ball and a toilet, like I've been suggesting for years. Covered in more than seventy thousand Swarovski crystals, the toilet is said to be worth $128,000.
But then, of course, you have to shell out some more money for the gold-leaf toilet paper. Plus, it's a $128,000 down the crapper. Ha-ha-ha-ha.
VIDEO: Senior citizen flash mob at a Target in Lawrence, Kansas.
Finally, we end - as we always do - with senior citizens participating in a Christmas-themed flash mob.
This holiday dance number breaks out at Target in Lawrence, Kansas.
Is he dancing in the middle or about to arrest them all? I can't tell.
"Time Marches On!"
The University of Texas College Republicans president left office after a tweet which approved the assassination of the President. Her replacement? She's just tweeted a racist message about the President. Ah, tradition. "Worst Persons," ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: "Dennis James and the Dumont Fight Of The Week From Sunnyside Gardens in Queens" will not be seen tonight so we can instead bring you "Countdown," the longest continuously-running 8 PM news hour on cable. Unless you consider Fox - "news." We're live each night at 8 Eastern. And every night is a "Best Of 'Countdown.'"
For every violent overreaction by authorities at Occupy Wall Street, or Occupy Oakland, there have been many Occupy camps that were met with understanding and respect for the protesters' First Amendment rights.
In the third story on the "Countdown" - it appears that understanding and respect have a shelf life of two months. The city of Denver ignored peaceful negotiations with the protesters there and instead resorted to what turned out to be a fiery raid.
Today, more than 50 Occupy Denver protesters peacefully returned to Civic Center Park. But it was a much different scene overnight as police in riot gear invaded that park. In an act of defiance, protesters set fire to wooden structures they had built, the structures being the police rationale for their action. Nine protesters were reportedly arrested.
Earlier, on Monday, Denver Police Chief Robert White had met with protesters to try and come to a peaceful conclusion to the Occupation. And, instead, last night he would be on hand to witness the raid.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROBERT WHITE: Obviously, we're going to be here as long as they're going to be here, and we don't want to have to go through this again. I suspect that this probably will not get to this magnitude again.
OLBERMANN: In Iowa, 12 Occupy protesters entered the Iowa Democratic Party Headquarters in Des Moines, requesting that President Obama veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the bill that would give the president authority to indefinitely detain American citizens. After a few hours, eight of the protesters were escorted out and arrested.
Seven Occupy Houston protesters, indicted with felony charges by a grand jury today there, accused of using a criminal instrument after they put there arms through PVC pipe to try and prevent being arrested during the December 12th Occupy the Ports day of action. If convicted, those protesters face up to two years in jail.
In San Antonio, seven Occupy protesters arrested as Hemisfair Park cleared and barricaded off, but don't worry - it was cleared and barricaded off for a good cause.
(Excerpt from video clip) STEVE BAUM: We've been telling them we've got to prepare the park for "Celebrate San Antonio" for New Year's Eve event.
Joining me now - Ben Meyer, member of Occupy Denver who was present at that police raid in Colorado last night. Ben, thank you for your time tonight.
BEN MEYER: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Was there any warning during the day yesterday that the camp was going to be raided?
MEYER: Not any specific warning, being that we just sat in on a meeting with the new police chief that was there and we specifically asked him if he could give us a time when we might be raided. He had that meeting because he said he was interested in avoiding conflict.
So, we asked him, "Are you coming to raid us?" and he chose not to tell us, so there was no warning. We assumed he wouldn't do it because it was cold and snowy last night. It seemed a little heartless. But, what are you going to do?
OLBERMANN: Prior to that, was Occupy Denver's relationship with good as it had been record? Was it actually fairly cooperative?
MEYER: Occupy Denver has always tried our best to comply to the laws that are here. However, the reason we do have a new police chief is because the Denver police does have a history of contentious relationships, especially with protesters if you look back to the DNC. And Occupy hasn't been entirely different than that, either. So, I wouldn't say it was great.
OLBERMANN: What happened last night? What do we not know about? We keep seeing this video of this one person being hit in the chest and knocked over in the middle of this fracas? What happened that you saw that we should know about?
MEYER: That's one our sisters who is very - she is severely schizophrenic.
At Occupy Denver, there is a giant homeless camp. We sleep out - we call it "The Row." It refers to the people who sleep out on Broadway. That was one of our severely mental-ill sisters, who sleeps with us out there.
Last night, I personally went to bed at about 10:00. We built a house, and my friend and I were sleeping in it, and we woke up to the roof being torn off and having the pepper-ball guns and flash lights shined in our face. I asked the officers for reasonable time to comply. We threw on our shoes and tried to get to 14th Street side - that would be heading south on Broadway - but within three minutes of the time we were awake, she was arrested.
And what you saw there was a reaction to people who have been systematically, time and time again, disenfranchised, especially in the city - swept into back alleys, out of sight, out of mind, and that was their response to being called an encumbrance, what they called people on the sidewalk. So, I can understand the anger.
OLBERMANN: After the raid last night, what do you think is next for Occupy Denver?
MEYER: I mean, if you go down there today you will see we are rebuilding, reoccupying, it's all about reclaiming the commons until there is a great place for everybody to sleep and a viable alternative to sleeping out in the freezing cold.
We are going to continue to occupy that park. Nothing has changed. This is the fifth time we have been through it. And every time, we still dig in, and - yes, so already, if you go down there now, there are people there. We will be sleeping out there on the sidewalk in our tarps and stuff tonight. We will keep going.
OLBERMANN: Ben Meyer, from Occupy Denver. Thanks and good luck.
MEYER: All right, thanks for having us.
OLBERMANN: Only Governor Scott Walker could try to fight a recall by trotting out a "small businessman" to talk about his Wisconsin job-creation record when the small businessman isn't creating jobs in Wisconsin, but in another country. "Worst Persons," ahead. This is "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Two hundred thousand signatures presented to them demanding an apology, and still Lowe's stands with the Islamophobes.
First, the Worst, and more bad news for Billo. In the War on Christmas, you won't believe who's come out in favor of "Happy Holidays." They have guns.
Next, on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: The Lowe's protests resume, with two hundred thousand petition signatures delivered to the Islamophobic company's headquarters. That's next.
First, because this is how we deliver our protests, here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze? To Cassie Wright, president of the University of Texas College Republicans. That's Cassie.
Now, there is a chance this a case of Twitter hacking - her Grandma suggests that. Ms. Wright has not said anything about it. The local ABC TV station in Austin quotes a "Republican insider" who claims the tweet is legit.
Nineteen days ago, Ms. Wright replaced Lauren Pierce as president of the University of Texas College Republicans. After somebody had fired a few shots at the White House last month, Ms. Pierce - the ex-president - had tweeted, "Y'all as tempting as it may be, don't shoot Obama. We need him to go down in history as the worst president we've ever had! #2012."
So, exit Ms. Pierce. Unfortunately her replacement, Ms. Wright, also tweets.
Sunday, this one appeared in Ms. Wright's account: "My president is black, he snorts a lot of crack. Holla. #2012 #Obama"
Helpfully, the president Ms. Wright replaced, Ms. Pierce, is still the secretary of the statewide Texas College Republicans, and she reportedly re-tweeted Ms. Wright's "snorts a lot of crack" tweet.
I'd call these young women dumb, but I think the name "UT College Republicans" already implies that part.
The runner-up? Cam Edwards and Ginny Simone and the entire "NRA News Team" from the National Rifle Association.
The War on Christmas is real. And now it's armed. The NRA news team has "Season's Greetings" up on its website, and - you guessed it - Cam and Ginny are wishing you - "Happy Holidays?" Not Merry Christmas? Happy Holidays!
I dunno, O'Reilly - if the NRA has taken the side of the secular "Progressos," or whatever you call them, Santa's toast, man! The NRA has all the guns, dude!
But our winner? Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
With the recall vote all but certain, the Koch brothers' puppet has already launched his ad campaign, designed to try to save his sorry ass.
Let's meet the first person to do a testimonial on behalf of Governor "Droopy the Hound Dog" - Chris. Chris, the businessman. Chris, the small businessman. There's some info about Chris that isn't mentioned in the commercial, but let's let him talk first:
(Excerpt from video clip) CHRIS: Governor Walker is a friend of small business. He recognizes that 70 percent of the jobs created in this country and in this state are by small businesses. He wants all of the people in this state to be successful. Uh, it's comforting.
OLBERMANN: Uh, it's comforting. It's comforting if you are - per the work of the blog UppityWis - Chris Rebholz, and your "Wisconsin small business" makes crap for infomercials like "The Genie Bra," and all of the products are made - not in Wisconsin, but in China. Right.
Chris, the small Wisconsin businessman who praises Scott Walker for being "uh, it's comforting" to Wisconsin job creators like himself? He specializes in - outsourcing jobs to China. Mr. Rebholz is such a funnel for money and jobs out of Wisconsin and to China that he's even a member of the China Business Council.
WISC-TV in Madison also reporting that Rebholz was honored for having grown his business from $200,000 in 2002 to $5.6 million in 2007, and all that growth occurred under Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.
Governor Scott Walker - "Uh, it's a goddamned lie" - today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: Six Christian ministers visiting Lowe's today, but not shopping for Christmas trees nor hardware.
In our number-one story tonight, the ministers delivered a petition with two hundred thousand names on it to company headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. The Internet-generated petition seeking an apology from Lowe's for pulling its advertising from the TV show "All-American Muslim." There is a reality television show on The Learning Channel by that name about families in Dearborn, Michigan.
The ministers spoke cordially, for about an hour today, with Lowe's executives but got no promise nor an apology nor no promise to sponsor the show again.
Lowe's, again, denied it reacted solely to pressure from the Florida Family Association, a right-wing group led by a man who admitted to being a sex addict and a pornography addict. The FAFA, excuse me, the FFA - I got too many Fs in there - claims the program is Muslim propaganda that does not show how Muslims wish to impose sharia law.
One minister said Lowe's should re-think its decision and act in a progressive way.
(Excerpt from video clip) MINISTER: To commit to people learning a more about Muslim-Americans and also to not kow-tow to religious bigotry.
OLBERMANN: That was the message last weekend when more than 100 protesters demonstrated at a Lowe's store near Dearborn. A smaller group of counter-demonstrators claimed to support Lowe's and Christianity. They included at least one armed member of the right-wing Michigan Militia. But at least two members of the "All-American Muslim" cast say there's an upside to the controversy.
(Excerpt from video clip) NAWAL AOUDE: It's brought the community together. It's brought serious unity between the Muslims and the non-Muslims and the Arabs and the non-Arabs in Dearborn.Well, honestly, I just want to thank this Florida Family Association for doing this, because I think what they're trying to do has totally -
NADER AOUDE: Backfired.
NAWAL AOUDE: Backfired, big time.
OLBERMANN: I'm joined now by Darakshan Raja, who co-authored one of the petitions delivered to Lowe's today. Thank you for your time tonight.
DARAKSHAN RAJA: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: So Lowe's won't apologize, they are not bringing back their sponsorship of the show. Should we have expected a different result? And do you still think there is a chance we might get one?
RAJA: Well, I absolutely think we should have expected a different result. I mean, we had - our petition, alone, that my friend and I, Maha Hilal we made, we had 25,000 signatures with other organizations - that was two hundred thousand signatures and for Lowe's to completely not even say anything, when two hundred thousand Americans saying we would like an apology - you know, I, at least, expected something better.
And I wouldn't say that nothing has come of it. I think the fact that this is getting national media attention, and that people's opinions about it are not positive, that they are upset - I think that, in itself, is a powerful statement.
OLBERMANN: It's good to hear that, too. But, do you think Lowe's is basically just trying to outlast you?
RAJA: I wouldn't say they are trying to outlast us. I think that - the way they responded, I, frankly, find it very callous, to not take any responsibility or to even say anything except, you know, trying to sugarcoat the issue.
So, I don't think they are trying to outlast us. I think what they are counting on is that this issue is just going to disappear and that, maybe, Americans are going to forget about it. But that's not what we want to happen.
OLBERMANN: At the - I mentioned, at the demonstration in Dearborn last weekend in Michigan, one of the counter demonstrators brought a gun on his hip and there was a demonstration in New Jersey last week where somebody carried a sign that got the name of the show wrong. You are not really dealing with people who don't like a show, are you? You are dealing with people who have been encouraged to hate a group of people based solely on religion.
RAJA: Absolutely. I mean, that is exactly why we are out there, you know, petitioning - because this is not even about the show any more. This is about racism, this is about Islamaphobia, and it has emboldened people who held these views to come out in a national public space and, you know, come out with a gun or to say that it's okay to have hateful speech against Muslims.
OLBERMANN: The - the sound clip I played, cast members from "All-American Muslim" saying there has been a silver lining, a positive side effect in terms of the two communities - the Arabs and the non-Muslim communities in Dearborn - that there has been a good side effect to this. Have you seen this? Do you think that's true?
RAJA: I think, frankly, it's too early to say what the side effect of this would be. I absolutely do think we have an amazing moment where Americans and different minority groups can come together to come and have a bigger debate on this issue of Islamaphobia or racism or the issue of intolerance.
But I think that the detrimental impact of what has happened is that you have a organization - a corporation like Lowe's has catered to the view of a very small organization, the FFA, and that is a very dangerous precedent to put in place, that a small organization can leverage a huge corporation to take away their ads. And what does this mean for minorities in America, in general? I think that dangerous precedent is what is of huge concern.
OLBERMANN: That's my overall question. You can look at it as an important milestone about fighting Islamaphobia in this country, but how important do you think this Lowe's case is in terms of fighting intolerance? And you can make it religious, ethnic, racial, gender, orientation - whatever you want - just group hatred in this country. How important is this in fighting that?
RAJA: I think it's very, very important because of the fact that it received on a national platform, you know, we are talking about a mainstream media station and I think that, because of that issue, we have a mass audience that we can outreach to, and I think if Lowe's does not take responsibility or does not issue an apology, again - you know, what does that say to Americans, in general, or to various minorities in this country? I, again, think it's complete callousness.
OLBERMANN: Right. You have to remember, everybody is a part of a minority and any minority could be next.
OLBERMANN: One of the authors of the petitions delivered to Lowe's today. Two hundred thousand signatures, Darakshan Raja, great thanks for your time and continued success with your efforts.
RAJA: Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 346th day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House. Thus, 346 days in which the Republicans haven't passed a jobs bill of any kind.
I'm Keith Olbermann. Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap. Good night and good luck.