'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
Early #ShowPlug: Our special guest on Rick Santorum's surge from behind in Iowa: @FakeDanSavage (who is the real one, by the way)
#ShowPlug Supplemental: As the Brits say "the campaign is really beginning to froth up now." #GoogleSantorum
#ShowPlug 1: Iowa overreaction. More people voted in Waukesha County WI last April but MSM orgasms over Iowa GOP Caucuses
#ShowPlug 2: @SteveKornacki @7im Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone and who else but @FakeDanSavage on what Santorum left behind in Iowa
#ShowPlug 3: On to New Hampshire - where Occupy is set to greet the front-runners. Plus GOP howls as POTUS makes recess appointments
#ShowPlug Last: God tells Pat Robertson who wins in November, tells him to keep it a secret. He keeps talking #WatchOutForLightningPat
watch whole playlist
#5 'Caucus Crunched', Steve Kornacki
#5 'Conservative Wanted', Tim Dickinson
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Rick Rolling', Dan Savage
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Occupy The Primaries', Michael Grosse
#2 Worst Persons: No Compromise PAC, Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson
#1 'Recess Play', Ian Millhiser
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Tim Dickinson, Dan Savage, Ian Millhiser, Michael Grosse, Steve Kornacki
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(Excerpt from video clip) MATT STRAWN: With seventeen hundred and seventy precincts reporting, Governor Mitt Romney received 30,015 votes, Senator Rick Santorum received 30,007 votes.
OLBERMANN: Rick Santorum comes from behind!
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: Game on!
OLBERMANN: Thus, Mitt Romney in a veritable frothy mixture for first place in Iowa.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: This is a campaign night where America wins.
OLBERMANN: The Republican clown carousel takes another turn, with Steve Kornacki of Salon and Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone. And profiling the Santorum Surge, Dan Savage. Google them.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea.
OLBERMANN: Terrified conservative string-pullers realize the awful truth - Santorum is insane and unelectable, and Romney is not nearly insane enough for conservatives.
Gary Bauer and James Dobson convene an emergency meeting in hopes of finding some kind of consensus conservative candidate. Remember, Reagan is dead, and he was a lousy president. All this leaves an unlikely winner in the Sanest-Of-The-Bunch competition.
(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: And so, last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice. And so, I have decided to stand aside.
OLBERMANN: The GOP and O-C-C-U-P-Y.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Instead our own effort -
(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTERS: Mic Check! The corporate one percent!
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!
OLBERMANN: That was Iowa - next Occupy New Hampshire and Romney.
The president uses recess wisely. Meet Richard Cordray.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: Today, I'm appointing Richard as America's consumer watchdog.
OLBERMANN: And Pat Robertson, still crazy. God has told him who will be elected president this year, but then told him, "Shut yo mouth."
(Excerpt from video clip) PAT ROBERTSON: I think he showed me about the next president, but I'm not supposed to talk about that, so I'll leave you in the dark -
OLBERMANN: So Pat promptly keeps talking about it for half an hour more. All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) ROBERTSON: And God said, and I quote -
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. God is off tonight. I'm Keith Olbermann, filling in for him. This is Wednesday, January 4th, 307 days until the 2012 Presidential election.
Iowa Republicans casting more than 122,000 votes in caucus last night. Front-runner Mitt Romney squeezing ahead of the pack, beating runner-up Rick Santorum by just eight votes.
The fifth story on the "Countdown" - for context, 122,000 votes is a smaller total than voted in a local election last spring in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Smaller than the number of people who voted just for the winner in the 2008 race for the delegate to the Democratic convention from the Second Congressional District of Pennsylvania. Party on, Rick. Party on, Mitt.
First, the final tally. Romney winning with 24.6 percent, Santorum coming right behind him with 24.5. Ron Paul finished third with better than 21 percent, Newt Gingrich fourth around 13, Texas Governor Rick Perry fifth with just over 10 and Michelle Bachmann trailing the field with just five percent. Romney following up his meager victory with a patriotic screed, including a peroration.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I love our freedoms. I love our Constitution. I love our land. I love our people. I love the fact that this is a land of opportunity.
OLBERMANN: Opportunity for the son of a former Republican governor and auto company CEO, who can grow up to earn hundreds of millions of dollars as a venture capitalist and one-time health-care reformer. That was a focus for runner-up Santorum as he prepares to take Romney on in next week's New Hampshire primary.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Game on! Let me tell you -
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Romney care.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: What wins ... what did you say? Oh, Romney care. Okay.
OLBERMANN: Also enjoying last night's caucus results? Third place finisher Representative Ron Paul, who - despite racist newsletters published in his name - declared a kind of victory.
(Excerpt from video clip) RON PAUL: I think there is nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied and be ready and raring to move on, on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire.
OLBERMANN: And on his way there, answering rival Newt Gingrich's charge that his non-intervention foreign policy was dangerous:
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL: Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger, because he - he is - he is putting other people in danger. Some people call that kind of a program a chicken hawk, and I think he falls into that category.
OLBERMANN: As Gingrich, whose Iowa numbers had collapsed under a barrage of attack ads from a Romney super PAC, was busy wedging Romney in a category of his own:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: The Massachusetts moderate who, in fact, will be pretty good at managing the decay, but has given no evidence - in his years in Massachusetts - of any ability to change the culture or change the political structure or change the government.
OLBERMANN: As for Michele Bachmann, there is nothing like the quote that turns out to be the self-applied "kiss of death."
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: We've bought our tickets. We are on our way to South Carolina.
OLBERMANN: That primary, which follows New Hampshire, scheduled for January 21st, and if Bachmann attends it, it will likely be as a spectator.
(Excerpt from video clip) BACHMANN: Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice. And so, I have decided to stand aside.
OLBERMANN: She heard that voice. Rick Perry did not. The Texas governor seemed to be leaning toward bailing out last night.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: I have decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.
OLBERMANN: But after jogging today - apparently finding the path - Perry reportedly surprising some of his own staff by tweeting, "And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State. Here we come, South Carolina!" Break a leg, Governor.
For more on all this, I'm joined by Steve Kornacki, news editor with Salon. And good evening to you, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I want to be the contrarian here. One hundred and twenty-two thousand votes - the special election for Supreme Court and a couple of other positions in Wisconsin in April this year, in Waukesha County alone - 125,000 votes. Why are we taking Iowa seriously?
KORNACKI: Well, I think for a couple of reasons. One, you know, you need somebody to go first, you need somebody to win in the field. But I think the other thing that's worth considering here is - yes, it's a small universe of voters but I think it's actually, when you look at the demographics, it's a fairly representative universe of what today's national Republican party is.
You know, the number that's jumped out at me, the last couple of presidential cycles in Iowa, is the number of caucus goers on the Republican side who identify themselves as evangelical Christians. It was 60 percent in 2008, it was close to 60 percent this time. It will be 60 percent in South Carolina in a few weeks. You know, and nationally, in the 2008 primaries and caucuses everywhere, the number was close to 50 percent.
So, I think - we look at New Hampshire next week, there will be a much higher turnout there proportionally, but New Hampshire is only about 20 percent evangelical Christian. So I think Iowa, in some ways, gives you a better sense of where these guys really stack up with in the Republican Party.
OLBERMANN: For all the trappings of victory last night - Governor Romney still in the 20 to 25 range. No matter who falls off, who falls out, who withdraws, who has to leave the race, he seems to pick up next to nothing - a point one way or the other. How is this a victory for him? That he didn't sink to, like, 12 percent. Is that why it's a victory?
KORNACKI: Yeah, I mean, you win by not losing sometimes. Although I wouldn't actually call it a win for him. I would just say that the story with him is to be continued. I mean all of 2011, the story was the 25 percent ceiling. The 25 percent ceiling stuck last night. Now, we had, you know, six, seven candidates, so in a split field like that he can come in first place - barely.
The question now is - you have got Rick Santorum emerging. So, you know, it's a long-shot for him but you have the possibility that the conservative right now has somebody to rally around against Romney. I don't think New Hampshire, for the demographic reasons I just said, is really going to be a test of whether Santorum can take Romney out. That's why I think the next thing to really look at is South Carolina.
OLBERMANN: The GOP seems to have had more front-runners than it's had debates. Of course, we know it's had a lot of debates. Which raises this question - is Santorum - is he, in fact, going to get - you said he can't take Romney out in New Hampshire, South Carolina is the test - he could really - he could lose his leadership, or his co-leadership, in a week's time, couldn't he? Couldn't Romney really take care of Santorum? Couldn't Santorum come in so low in New Hampshire next week that any momentum he had would be dissipated?
KORNACKI: You know, yes, but I think it depends. I think what Santorum really benefits here from here is - the expectation gap between where he is and Romney is in New Hampshire is just vast. I mean, Santorum was literally at, like, two percent in the state, you know, before the Iowa caucus. So, at this point, if he ends up with, like, 15 percent in New Hampshire, I think he can say, "Good enough."
Conversely, if Romney ends up with 40 percent, I don't think anybody is going to be impressed by that. Now if somebody else slips in there - you know, I don't know, Huntsman, he's been making the big play in New Hampshire, right? If he comes in with, like, 30 percent or something, we have a big story there, maybe. But barring that, you know, I'm really thinking this is the least-consequential New Hampshire primary we've had in awhile.
OLBERMANN: And what is Ron Paul's position going in to this? Because - is third place in Iowa last night his high-water mark? Does the success - and the presumed follow-up failure - threaten to split the GOP? 'Cause it would give him just enough 'oomph' to take the libertarian wing out with him and try a third-party candidacy?
KORNACKI: Yeah, you know, I've gone back and forth now. I suspect last night was probably his high-water mark. He is targeting some of these small-state caucuses in February. Maybe he will pull off a win or two there and grab some delegates.
But my sense is - I've noticed a shift in the way, sort of, Republican Party elites have been approaching Ron Paul in the last few days. A few weeks ago they were panicking. They were going after him very aggressively. I think they were risking that backlash, where he takes the libertarian nomination and runs.
Now, I think they are being a little more respectful. Now, they are saying, "Listen, if this guy is going to get 20, 25 percent in these things, we're okay with that."
And I think the X factor in all of this is - you know, if you are Ron Paul, you are playing a long game here, Ron Paul-style Libertarian Republicanism. He ran in 2008, he's run this time and done better. He can do the kamikaze thing as a Libertarian this fall, out of spite, or he can end up being the good team player in the Republican Party and hand this thing off to his son - the Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul - and keep the franchise going in 2016.
OLBERMANN: Oh Lord, now I am not going to get any sleep tonight, after you put that thought in my head.
Steve Kornacki, news editor of Salon, who got the memo about Sweater Night here on "Countdown." Many thanks, Steve.
OLBERMANN: For many conservatives, it seems a Mitt Romney victory might be as almost as much of a defeat as a second Barack Obama White House term. John McCain is not one of them, though. The Arizona senator, who bitterly fought Romney for the GOP nomination in 2008, flying to New Hampshire to endorse him today.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN McCAIN: To make sure that we make Mitt Romney the next President of the United States of America, and New Hampshire - and New Hampshire is the state that will catapult him on to victory in a very short period of time.
OLBERMANN: That man there ran for president. And, with less than a week till the primary, a Suffolk University tracking poll of likely GOP voters has Romney in the lead with 43 percent, Ron Paul second with 17, Jon Huntsman, as Steve mentioned, at a fairly robust - for him - nine percent, Newt Gingrich at eight, the remaining candidates splitting the remaining seven percent.
Alarming news to some movement conservatives. Politico reporting that James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Don Wildman, founder of the American Family Association and Gary Bauer, with American Values, part of a group inviting "national conservative leaders" to a Texas ranch this weekend in hopes of "attempting to unite and to come to a consensus on which Republican presidential candidate or candidates to support or which not to support."
For more on the right's winter of presidential discontent, we are joined now by Tim Dickinson, contributing editor with Rolling Stone. Tim, good evening.
TIM DICKINSON: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Just as my contrarian point to Steve Kornacki, my contrarian point now to you - Romney can't break that 25 percent ceiling, but as long as he doesn't drop well below it, can he beat the ultra conservatives simply by attrition?
DICKINSON: I think so. He's trying to hope what happened to McCain last year - last election cycle, where Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee split the vote in South Carolina and he shot the middle and went on to victory. So, I think that's the Romney path and I think the conservatives - conservative Christians are trying to get together to make sure that doesn't happen, so they can block Romney in South Carolina. Which seems to be the final opportunity.
OLBERMANN: Given the composition of the field right now, do the conservatives who really can't stand Mitt Romney have anywhere to go? Could Santorum, after last night, and that, sort of - his inflation, if you will, in Iowa, actually be their standard bearer because, you know, he lost his Senate race in 2006 in Pennsylvania by 18 percent. He is not going to do well in New Hampshire and Gingrich is doing better in the polls, but he is running as the conservative stalwart and his inconsistencies seem to have ticked off the real conservative stalwarts.
Is there somebody - who are these Texans looking at? I mean, is there somebody who is not currently in politics or not currently in the U.S.? Or what?
DICKINSON: I'm totally mystified by this race right now, because I don't see how Mitt Romney doesn't take the nomination, but I also don't see how he wins any race south of the Mason-Dixon line if conservatives get serious and rally around anybody but Mitt, which is what they are looking for right now.
And I think that's why you see Perry sticking around in the race. Beause he is not going to compete in New Hampshire and might just come up looking acceptable after Santorum implodes and Newt Gingrich goes on his murder-suicide campaign against Romney this week.
OLBERMANN: But, I mean - are we sure? I mean, you and I sat down - and I think Steve Kornacki would have said the same thing - that Santorum is going to self-destruct, or at least temporarily self-destruct, in New Hampshire.
But there's a story we just got to look at of the Boston Herald from Bedford, New Hampshire where Santorum said tonight at an event, "We feel good. We're going to have resources, we're going to be a much bigger player than people think."
He says his campaign has raised one million dollars in the past day. One million dollars today, after essentially tying for the lead in Iowa. Is that - is that entirely - is his total fundraising between now and next week going to be a million and two dollars? Or is this an indicator he, maybe, has more viability than the rest of us think?
DICKINSON: I think there is a desperation. You think about - Rick Santorum is the bottom of the C-list, anti-Mitt Romney barrel. This guy is a certified bigot and a small-minded - just, you know, the guy makes people cringe. He's not a Mike Huckabee. He's not someone with a real charisma and ability to project a vision. I mean, his speech last night, for all that it looked better than Mitt Romney's, was really pretty terrible last night.
I don't - I don't see that this, once, you know, once the vetting really starts, and people start reminding people that, you know - that Rick Santorum compared the victims of priestly sex abuse to just, you know, people engaging in a normal homosexual relationship - it's not going to wear well. His support is going to evaporate very quickly this week.
OLBERMANN: Let's try to figure something else out here. We know that Iowa, and to some degree the evangelicals, represent the modern-day version of what H.L. Mencken said about Puritanism, which is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."
Dobson, Wildmon - they are emeritus leaders of their organizations. Gary Bauer, of course, have been around since the first Reagan administration. Are these guys a little creaky and even out of touch with their own supposed constituency to be leading an insurgency against Romney? Let's say they find somebody. Are these guys even respected within the evangelical community anymore?
DICKINSON: I think there is a real and, sort of unstated - or, sort of quietly-murmured - fear of Mitt Romney as a Mormon.
I mean, Rick Santorum actually wrote about this in 2007. There is this real fear of having a Mormon in the White House is going to lead Christians astray. That you have this church that's dedicated to conversion and having a Mormon in that high position is going to lead Christians from the path. So, I think that's why you're seeing this sort of panic from evangelical Christian leaders to try and find someone who isn't Mitt Romney, who can be, you know, the standard bearer for the Christian cause.
It may be that they grin and bear it with Santorum. Or - I just don't know where they go from here. You can understand the impulse from their perspective.
OLBERMANN: Tim Dickinson, contributing editor of Rolling Stone. Great thanks for your time tonight, Tim.
DICKINSON: My pleasure, Keith. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: Now, Dan Savage on Rick Santorum. Well, you know what I mean. Next.
OLBERMANN: Rick Santorum is suddenly right behind the other candidates in the GOP race. Who better to comment on that than Dan Savage. Seriously, a homophobic, racist, pro-corporate pinhead led in Iowa. It is time to re-expose him.
Occupy's role in the GOP primaries. The plans to Occupy Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. So to speak.
Even though the last Republican President used a recess appointment to designate our ambassador to the United Nations, the Republican Party pretends to freak out today when this President uses the same method to name a national consumer watchdog.
And now - crazy on television in six different decades. He may have come up with his craziest conditional statement yet. God told him who will be elected president in the fall, but he's supposed to keep it a secret. Because it would be funny to hear Pat say "God told me Obama wins by seven points."
OLBERMANN: After spending months touring Iowa in his pickup truck, Rick Santorum managed a strong second-place finish in the caucus.
In our fourth story - moral people in Iowa don't have Google. But while Santorum was successful in selling himself to the people of Iowa as a blue-collar family man with a plan for the economy, it seems important to remind everybody who the real Rick Santorum is. Last night, he completed his accent to "Not-Romney" front-runner, receiving more than 30 thousand votes and a second-place finish in the caucus.
But even in the face of success, he could not resist sticking his foot in his mouth - talking about helping African Americans by discontinuing welfare payments to them. More on that in "Worst Persons."
But that's simply the latest in a long line of Santorum sound bites that seems to call into question his - well, whether or not he is crazy. We're only an hour-long show, so we had to limit our Santorum lowlights to just the past year, but - oh, what a year it was.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: If you look at the report on Friday, the president's own economic advisors said that the jobs-stimulus package actually created fewer jobs as a - over the period of time since the stimulus package went in place, than it did when they reported back in December, there's 30 million less jobs.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: That's not a loss of jobs Senator, that's a smaller aggregation of jobs.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: There is no such thing as global warming... Family is the bedrock of our society, unless we protect it with the institution of marriage our country will fall. ... One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked before, I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea... I would advocate that any doctor who performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN 2: Do you have any gay friends?
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Yeah. In fact, I've had gay people work for me... And so the gay community said, "He's comparing gay marriage to incest and polygamy. How dare he do this?" And they have gone out on a - I would argue a jihad - against Rick Santorum since then.
OLBERMANN: To tread carefully but deeply into the mind of Rick Santorum - the editorial director and sex-advice columnist for The Stranger, as well as author of "The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and my Family," Dan Savage. Dan, thanks kindly for your time tonight, sir.
DAN SAVAGE: Thanks for having me Keith. Good to be back.
OLBERMANN: What happened in Iowa? Did he do a better job of covering up his gaffes, or were those his people?
SAVAGE: I think he was just the last man standing. You know, Cain and Perry and Bachmann all had their rises and then they collapsed. It's just that his collapse didn't come before the vote happened. His collapse is coming, however.
OLBERMANN: We assume that. And I think anybody looking at this, and looking at what's ahead in New Hampshire, would assume that, too. I mean, it's a guy who lost his last Senatorial race by 18. And yet, we have this report tonight in Bedford, New Hampshire - he announced that, today, his campaign, in the wake of the Iowa caucus - not only did they declare that a victory by eight votes but they raised a million dollars. Is that - is there something indicative of him having more longevity than we thought he was going to have?
SAVAGE: He will stagger along. Mike Huckabee raised millions of dollars in the wake of his victory in the Iowa caucuses and nobody refers to Mike Huckabee as President Mike Huckabee, because the American public isn't interested in electing a scold, a moralist, a man who - in Rick Santorum's case - says that, as president, he would allow states to ban birth control. Ninety-nine percent of Americans, including overwhelming majorities of Catholic Americans, use birth control.
One of the things I am constantly reminding people about Rick Santorum is that he doesn't have merely an anti-gay agenda. He has an anti-straight agenda too. He is against birth control, he's against abortion, he's against pornography, he's against all sorts of things that straight people use and enjoy frequently, almost once a week at least. And you need to know, heterosexual Americans, that the gay bashing isn't his only hobby. The straight bashing is part and parcel of Rick Santorum, too.
OLBERMANN: Yes, as an aside on behalf of America, I would like to thank you for characterizing that as "once a week" as opposed to whatever the correct statistic is, which is a shorter duration.
But moving on, it isn't just sex, obviously, because we are not just talking about this man having these pronounced, deep-seated and, unfortunately, apparently deeply sincere prejudices, but he literally said - I will run the quote later, he literally said it would be a good idea to help black people by ending welfare. And not just saying - if you said, "it's going to help poor people to end welfare," there would be something at least tolerant about that in a bizarre, kind-of-perverse way but he specifically targeted black people, as people he thinks he can help by cutting off any government funding.
SAVAGE: Pushing that conservative, false idea - the big lie that welfare is only for black people - the overwhelming majority of people who receive federal benefits, state benefits, food stamps in this country are white people. He is just stoking all sorts of fears and prejudices out there on the campaign trail. Over 90 percent of the people on welfare and who receive food stamps in Iowa, where he was campaigning when he said that, are white people.
OLBERMANN: The premise of where Santorum stands, relative to the Republican Party, has he - has he changed his views? Has he gotten worse as time has gone by, or has the party just shifted so much to the extreme that he seems closer to being in the middle than he actually is?
SAVAGE: Well, there is no room for moderates in the Republican Party any more. The Republican Party has doubled down on anti-gay bigotry. They are for big government when it comes to your private life. Or maybe they are for small government. They want to shrink government to the size where they can put it in your vagina and they can control what you do and who you are doing it with. No IUDs, but a congressman implanted in your vagina.
OLBERMANN: Fitted not in your bathtub, but in your bed to see if -
SAVAGE: Yeah, absolutely.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, I must ask you, and I didn't want this - and it hasn't been the focus of the interview, but since you are inexorably linked with this man, do you think the Google thing helped him tie for the lead in Iowa, or did it keep him from winning the damn place outright?
SAVAGE: I think it may have hurt him. You know, there's been - Rick Santorum, or Santorum, is the number-one Google search right now, and my website, santorum.com - or spreadingsantorum.com - is the number-one return.
So, all sorts of people - we are getting letters from people. I am getting letters from people who think that the neologism came first - this is actually what Santorum meant, and that Santorum is burdened with this unfortunate last name, and why didn't he change his name before he ran for President? Which is pretty hilarious when you pause to think about it. Hilarious if you are not Rick Santorum.
OLBERMANN: Right, or Doctor Spooner, who - people don't realize there really was a Doctor Spooner who gave birth to spoonerisms. It means something -
SAVAGE: Or the Quislings in Norway.
OLBERMANN: Right, exactly.
SAVAGE: Pretty sad after the second World War, when their name become synonymous with lickspittle, toadie betrayers.
OLBERMANN: Right, they changed their name to Santorum.
The editorial director for The Stranger and the author of "The Commitment," Dan Savage. Google it. Thank you for your time, Dan.
SAVAGE: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I'll have a very special career update, next. Then, defending Michele Bachmann. You heard me.
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney is headed to New Hampshire, and Occupy is waiting there for him. Next.
First, on this date in 1992, Tony Bruno, Chuck Wilson and I signed on the first broadcasts of a new network, ESPN Radio. The network's first big scoop came the second night - 20 years ago tomorrow - when we figured out that a baseball free agent named Danny Tartabull had decided which team he was going to sign with, but we couldn't figure out which one.
That was when producer John Martin said to me, "It's just too effing bad nobody has Danny effing Tartabull's home effing phone number." Which was when I suddenly remembered Tartabull had been my co-host on a baseball show three months earlier and we had traded home phone numbers. We finally got the story.
With fond thanks to John and Tony and Chuck, and everybody else there on day one of ESPN Radio - and Danny Tartabull.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Lazy dog eats spilled dog food.
We begin on the Internets, with someone who has not quite recovered from the holidays. It's the David Hasselhoff of dogs. Thank you.
There's a five-second rule on kibbles, right? Think the New Year's resolution was to get more exercise.
Well, there's always next year.
VIDEO: Ninety-four-year-old grandma dances to dub-step.
We remain on the Internets. It's just about that time of year when the embarrassing Christmas videos start to surface. In this family, it just would not have been Christmas without grandma dancing to some dub-step music.
Ninety-four years old and she still has better moves than most of the people on "Dancing With the Stars". And with more than three hundred thousand views on YouTube, she's more of a star than most of the people on "Dancing With the Stars."
VIDEO: Little girl sounds off against gender stereotypes in toy marketing.
Finally, from the "Kids Say the Darndest Things" department - this little girl, Riley, is not exactly thrilled with the way the way toys are marketed to kids. If there's one thing little kids hate, it's gender stereotypes.
(Excerpt from video clip) RILEY: Why do all the girls have to buy princesses? Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses. Some boy likes superheroes, some boy like princesses.
OLBERMANN: Attention! Attention! Send Consumer-Reinforcement Robot Team to sector four, stat. Repeat, send Consumer-Reinforcement Robot Team to sector four, stat. Independent thinker in the progress.
"Time Marches On!"
Pat Robertson claims he hears voices in his head, yet no one in his family is getting him a CAT scan. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: "Countdown," the longest continuously-running 8PM news hour on cable, unless you consider Fox - news. We're live each night at 8 Eastern. Every night is a "Best of 'Countdown'" night.
From Zuccotti Park to Oakland, Occupy Wall Street encampments have been disbanded in major cities across the nation. But occupying of the primaries continues now from Iowa, with events scheduled now in New Hampshire and South Carolina, as the presidential primaries begin in the east.
In our third story - as caucus results streamed in late last night, Occupy Des Moines strayed from the candidates' headquarters, in which it had spent the past week protesting, to declare its own Iowa primary winner - the 99 percent. Celebrating the week by its own numbers, protests at 10 locations, 61 arrests, visitors from about 20 states, and $2,000 raised. Earlier in the week, Occupiers set their sight on Mitt Romney's last campaign stop in the state, and cued their human microphone.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Instead our own effort -
(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTERS: Mic Check! The corporate one percent!
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Thanks guys. Let's talk about the Constitution again, and by the way...
(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTERS: Citizens United is not part of the constitution! Stop the war on the poor! Stop the war on the poor!
OLBERMANN: The Citizens United reference hits home for Romney, for it was at the Iowa State Fair last August where he denounced raising taxes to stabilize Medicare and Social Security.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on - of course they are!
OLBERMANN: Must have been stoned.
Much like Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park, the messages echoed by protesters in Iowa ran the gamut - everything from denouncing Ron Paul's plan to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency; to Romney's unwillingness to release his own tax returns; to President Obama's decision to sign the law allowing the president to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists, including American citizens. The one persistent theme was the influence of corporate money.
Mark Provost, an organizer for Occupy New Hampshire, said this week, "Every place politicians go from here they are going to hear the same message about the corrosive impact of money in politics."
While it is uncertain what role Occupy protesters will play in the elections of this year, they have already begun to make their voices heard. With less than a week until the primary election in its state, Occupy New Hampshire has events slated to start on Friday, including a gay pride parade on Saturday and a "funeral for the American dream" outside a Republican debate the same day.
Occupy New Hampshire does not have an encampment, but it is gathering momentum ahead of the primary next Tuesday.
For more, let's turn to Michael Grosse of the media committee for Occupy New Hampshire. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
MICHAEL GROSSE: Thank you, Keith, for having me on the show.
OLBERMANN: You're welcome. Without giving away whatever you're planning - which depends upon surprise - how do you want to try to utilize the primary in New Hampshire to get your message out?
GROSSE: Well actually, first, it doesn't depend upon surprise here in New Hampshire. We are transparent and we have, you know, Facebook pages for all of the events. We are trying to be all-inclusive and invite the public to attend as much of these events as they can.
OLBERMANN: So what are - then tell me your highlights, since they are open and available to everybody. A little plugging.
GROSSE: We have a few big ticket items you've already mentioned - the funeral procession for the American dream that will take place right before the debate on Saturday night. Earlier that afternoon, we are going to have a gay pride march, as well, over in Veteran' Park, and we have - we are hoping to see a lot of people come out for these bigger items.
But really, the whole weekend is going to be broken up into two-hour blocks and we offer these two-hour blocks up to other Occupy groups from New England and across the country, really. So each group is coming in and will have their own teach-ins or lectures or street theater and hopefully raise some awareness of some issues that are very - very close to the Occupy Movement's goals.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of the other Occupy groups, did you study what Occupy was doing in Iowa? Is that, to some degree, a template for what you want to accomplish in New Hampshire?
GROSSE: Not personally for me. I have been loosely aware of it. We are really, kind of, doing things a little bit differently here in New Hampshire. I mean, yes - we have been aware of what's going on, and the protest and mic checks they have done have been on the radar for us, but we have been planning this for weeks and weeks, so the past week has been a lot of down-to-the-wire planning and getting things ready to go.
OLBERMANN: All right, apart from the funeral march, this quote from Mark Provost - "Every place politicians go from here, they are going to hear the same message about the corrosive impact of money in politics" - how does that translate? What does that mean, besides that one march? Where - how are they going hear it every day as they go through the week into the voting in New Hampshire?
GROSSE: Well, there is one very interesting - well, not interesting, it's a pretty cool art project that - you know the political signs that supporters will hold up for their individual candidates? We have a massive effort to get as many signs of the same nature, but with that one message - "Money Out of Politics" - and it has both parties represented and the dollar sign.
It really kind of cuts the idea that this isn't a left-leaning movement, it's not a right-leaning movement. It's really apolitical, in the sense that money needs to come out of politics. And people on both sides of the aisle really agree and that message resonates with them. So, it's bringing people together here in New Hampshire for our events.
OLBERMANN: I have one question to ask you about one particular tactic that has been used - and you know where I stand on this, I am not being critical of the movement or the intent, and I am not asking you to be critical of another Occupy group - but the mic checks at news conferences and town halls in Iowa seem to startle candidates, and startle the press and startle the security people, who seem to have flinched.
The optics seem a little weird - there's a vibe of maybe there is some danger - I mean, there isn't, ultimately - but initially there is some sort of, perhaps, a bad vibe going. Do you think that they might wind up doing more harm than good in terms of getting the actual message of Occupy out?
GROSSE: Well, I can only speak for myself, personally, on this.
GROSSE: And I do agree with those sentiments, and I personally would not participate in such an event, but I know there are a lot of people within the movement who see it as a form of interrupting the process of politicians just talking at people and conveying messages to people, rather than having a conversation with them and really taking in the concerns of their constituents or potential constituents.
So, I see both the reason for it and against it. But I can only speak for myself, personally, in saying I agree with the negative message that it kind of throws to the audience. And some people might be a little, you know, skittish about joining a movement that participates in this sort of thing. But there are people on both sides of that debate.
OLBERMANN: And, of course, when the tea party tried it against liberal candidates two years ago, it was seen as a "vibrant democracy." In any event, Michael Grosse of the media committee for Occupy New Hampshire, again thanks for your time tonight.
GROSSE: Thank you so much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: "Worst Persons," and Pat Robertson is hearing voices again. Next.
OLBERMANN: Wait, actor and former Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry is the new federal consumer protection guy? No, not exactly - we'll explain.
No wonder she dropped out. Was it really smart for a PAC which claimed to support Michele Bachmann for president to depict her as - in essence - Tim Tebow in a dress? "Worst," next.
OLBERMANN: Recess! Sadly, not that kind of recess. The President's recess appointments, next.
First - because it was during recess in 1967 that I learned the only way to beat the bully is to kick him in the groin - here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World." A groin kick is earned, we hope.
The bronze ̶- not to kick somebody when they're down - but it's "The No Compromise PAC," which supported ex-Presidential hopeful, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Who, by the way, is the clubhouse leader for sanity, for having bowed out after the first actual voting showed she had no actual support.
But this PAC that was supporting her decided to try to sell her, in a commercial, as the political version of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow:
"The establishment sports guys love to hate Tim Tebow, he's not smart enough, his mechanics are no good, he's not accurate enough - still, he just keeps winning." That's a John Facenda voice. "The same could be said of Michele Bachmann: no baggage, Christian, and like Tebow, she keeps fighting and she just keeps winning votes."
The ad was made before Bachmann got five percent in Iowa. And before Tebow, in the last game of the NFL regular season, gained exactly 60 yards passing, completing just six passes, and he led the Broncos to their third consecutive defeat by the embarrassing score of seven to three. Sheesh - Bachmann scored more in Iowa than Tebow did against Kansas City.
The runner-up? From the other end of the spectrum, Rick Santorum. Not to tar Iowa all with one brush, but it appears they prefer a candidate who comes in and goes all racist on them. He wants to eliminate welfare. You know, for African-Americans. "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them other people's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn their money and provide for themselves and their families. The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling."
I think that's a Herbert Hoover quote. Or maybe the guy who founded the Ku Klux Klan.
Wait, it gets better.
In his "I tied" speech today in Iowa - as opposed to a victory speech - he got fascism backwards, while describing how his grandfather moved here from Italy, "after having fought in World War I, because Mussolini has been in power now for three years and he figured out that fascism was something that would crush his spirit and his freedom.
And we have two parties that are out talking about how they're going to solve those problems. One wants to talk about raising taxes on people who have been successful and redistributing money, increasing dependency in this country, promoting more Medicaid and food stamps and all sorts of social-welfare programs and passing Obamacare to provide even more government subsidies, more and more dependency, more and more government - exactly what my grandfather left in 1925."
No, no, no Rick. Fascism was when Mussolini took government, and tailored it - even gave some of the reins to it - to big business in Italy, and made the specious argument that the people would be the real benefactors if business grew rich and more powerful in Italy. You know, exactly what the Republicans argue today. Fascism.
Congrats, Rick, you sold out everything you claim your grandfather stood for.
But our winner? Good old Pat Robertson. If you're wondering about who's covering what for whom in the caucuses and primaries and the general campaign, why bother?
Pat knows. Because God told him. And then God told him not to tell anybody else. "I think He showed me about the next president, but I'm not supposed to talk about that so I'll leave you in the dark - probably just as well - but I think I know who it's gonna be."
And then he said God doesn't support President Obama and how only "overwhelming prayer" can keep the country from "disintegrating."
"Your country will be torn apart by internal stress. A house divided cannot stand. Your president holds a radical view of the direction of your country which is at odds with the majority. Expect chaos and paralysis." That's just for Pat personally, right? "Your president holds a view which is at the odds with the majority - it's a radical view of the future of this country" - it involves having black people here - "and so that's why we're having this division. This is a spiritual battle which can only be won by overwhelming prayer. The future of the world is at stake because if America falls, there's no longer a strong champion of freedom and a champion of the oppressed of the world. There must be an urgent call to prayer."
Call to prayer is a Muslim thing, isn't it?
Jesus Christ, Pat, God told you you're not supposed to talk about that, and you keep talking about it? I mean, seriously - if I thought God was talking to me, I'd do two things. Number one, I'd get an MRI, or at least a CAT scan. But number two, if the tests came back clean, and he was still telling me not to tell anybody - I'd shut the eff up. Or I'd start practicing ducking lightning bolts.
Pat Robertson - God wants you to shut the eff up, so shut the eff up - today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: You just missed it, Dick Morris is bright orange on Fox. The essence of Republican politics today, underscored in news.
Speaking of Dick Morris - do whatever the law permits you, but if the Democrat does the same thing claim he is "making a unprecedented power grab."
In our number-one story in the "Countdown" - the president takes the congressional recess to appoint Richard Cordray as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The same means by which the last President appointed his, you know, U.N. Ambassador. So naturally, the Republicans claim the appointment is invalid because the Senate is not really in recess.
Mr. Obama nominated Cordray to become the bureau's first director back in July. Senate Republicans blocked the confirmation last month. In May, a filibuster-proof group of them announced it would block any pick until structural changes were made, to its satisfaction, to the bureau. Today, in the crucial 2012 swing state of Ohio - also the state in which Mr. Cordray served as Attorney General - President Obama announced his appointment anyway.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: When Congress refuses to act and, as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them. I am not going to stand by while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead of the people we were elected to serve. Not with so much at stake, not at this make-or-break moment for middle-class Americans.
OLBERMANN: Senate Republican Leader McConnell responding in a statement, saying, "President Obama, in an unprecedented move," Bullspit. "Has arrogantly circumvented the American people by 'recess' appointing Richard Cordray - this recess appointment represents a sharp departure," Bullspit. "From a long standing precedent that has limited the president to recess appointments only when the Senate is in a recess of 10 days or longer." Bullspit. Freaking turtle talking to me here.
The chamber is currently running in pro forma session, session typically held every three days, lasting only a few seconds. A practice used by Democrats during the Bush administration, but the White House says the approach is a gimmick.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, the press secretary Mr. Carney saying, "The president's counsel has determined the Senate has been in recess for weeks and will be in recess for weeks. In the unanimous consent that sent the Senate in recess, it was explicitly stated that the Senate would conduct no business during this period from December 17th or something until January 23rd. That sounds like a recess to me. And as a legal matter, it is very much a recess."
To put things in perspective, the Cordray appointment brought the President Obama's recess appointment tally to 29. President George W. Bush made 171 recess appointments. And Ronald Reagan made 243 of them.
Let's turn now to Ian Millhiser, policy analyst for the Center of American Progress. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
IAN MILLHISER: It's good to be here. Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Given those Bush and Reagan numbers - and there's another one, Teddy Roosevelt made 160 recess appointments in less than one day - is this not, you know, to use the appropriate historical term, a tempest in a teapot?
MILLHISER: It really is. I mean, Teddy Roosevelt made those 160 in one afternoon. There is a reason we have these recess appointments. And the reason why is because the framers of our Constitution understood that, when the Senate isn't around, the government still needs to function. Well, guess what? The Senate is not around right now.
Yeah, they have one guy show up every three days and pretend to be important for a few seconds. But the Senate itself is not around. There is no way they could confirm someone right now.
So, because the Senate isn't around, the - we use mechanisms the framers gave us. President Obama used that mechanism. He made a recess appointment, just like Reagan did over 200 times, just like Teddy Roosevelt did 160 times in an afternoon. This really isn't that big of a deal.
OLBERMANN: I have referred frequently in this hour to the John Bolton appointment, and this underscores something. I mean "advise and consent" is nice - and if you've ever seen the 1962 film it's a great title for a great political movie - but, in point of fact, it really is irrelevant, isn't it? I mean Cordray and every other recess appointment is there to stay.
MILLHISER: I don't know if I would go that far. I mean, first of all, Cordray doesn't get to serve his full term as a recess appointee. There is a shorter term. But beyond that, you know - in a perfect world it's a good thing when the Senate is there to look at each nominee and, in good faith, evaluate whether that nominee belongs in that job and then vote them up or down. The problem is that Mitch McConnell and the Senate minority is not acting in good faith right now. They have made it very clear they don't want a consumer protection agency, they don't want a worker protection agency. So, they just are going to try to shut those agencies down by refusing to confirm anyone. And when the Senate won't act in good faith, the president needs to act to keep the government functioning. That's what he did today.
OLBERMANN: And doing it today, he wasn't the only recess appointment. The president also announced three of them to the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board. Is it coincidence that the appointment - or the appointments - and this, you know, tempest in a teapot, or tempest in a Teapot Dome, are coming on the heels of the first caucuses, the Iowa caucuses? Is there a reason it's done today that ties in with some sort of idea that, maybe - although the general hangers-on of the mainstream media, the beltway brand, are still on the road from going back from Des Moines?
MILLHISER: I will say this, Keith. You know, I think that the way you do politics right is you do right by the American people. And what President Obama did today is he said that consumers who are the victims of predatory lenders, people have been forced to sign their rights away to greedy corporations, he said that an agency whose purpose is to stand as a shield between workers and the managers who will exploit them, what President Obama did today is he said those workers need to be protected.
And I don't know if he did it because it's good politics or if he did it because it's good policy. But I am so glad that he did what he did today, because thousands upon thousands of American families are going to benefit from it.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, quickly, why did McConnell think you could call this "arrogantly circumventing the American people?" This is a recess appointment. Each side has done it, since Roosevelt or before.
MILLHISER: Not just that, let's just keep in mind what Senator McConnell's job title is. McConnell is the Senate minority leader. And the reason he is the Senate minority leader is because his party lost more elections than it won in the Senate.
If he was the majority leader, he could claim - maybe, maybe - he had the American people on his side. But in this case, he is claiming that the party that lost more elections than it won has the power to effectively eliminate two agencies, simply through its own arrogant overreach. I don't think that Mitch McConnell has a leg to stand on here.
OLBERMANN: Ian Millhiser, policy analyst at the Center of American Progress. Thanks for you time tonight, Ian.
MILLHISER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 361st day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House. Thus, 361 days in which the Republicans have failed to pass a jobs bill of any kind.
Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap. I am Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.