'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, January 26th, 2012
Guest host: Bill Press
watch whole playlist
#5 'GOP vs. Newt', Nia-Malika Henderson
#5 'It's The Economy', Joe Williams
#4 'PAC-in' It Up', Brian Beutler
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Marriage Proposal', Dan Savage
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#2 'The Crowd Goes...'
#1 'To The Moon, Newt', Derrick Pitts
BILL PRESS: Which of these stories will you be talking tomorrow?
Romney rising in the sunshine state, new polls show him now leading over Gingrich, but Newt strikes back.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: The message we should give Mitt Romney is you know, we aren't that stupid and you aren't that clever.
PRESS: At least he got half of that right. The Senate speaks out on the two-year anniversary of Citizens United, what it's meant for this election and what it may mean for future ones. Chris Christie threatens to veto same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
(Excerpt from video clip) CHRIS CHRISTIE: Let's let the people of New Jersey decide what's right for the state.
PRESS: This as three other states move toward legalization, Dan Savage joins us.
And bang, zoom, straight to the moon.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: We will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.
PRESS: How long until we can send him there? "Countdown" contributor Derrick Pitts on Newt's lunar fantasy.
All that and more on "Countdown."
PRESS: Good evening, this is Thursday, January 26, 286 days now until the 2012 presidential election. I'm Bill Press, sitting in tonight for Keith Olbermann.
Mitt Romney, getting help from one-time GOP leaders as he looks to crush Newt Gingrich, while President Obama's shot at re-election gets a boost from the economy.
The fifth story on the "Countdown" - panic and disarray in the GOP over the prospect that Newt might actually win next Tuesday's Republican primary. And economic numbers that could mean good news for Democrats. President Obama in Las Vegas today to push his energy proposals, telling voters that Democrats are all for success.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: We do not begrudge success in America, we aspire to it. We want everybody to succeed.
PRESS: While Mitt Romney supporters are doing whatever they can to make sure Newt Gingrich fails in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. And perhaps taking some comfort from the latest Insider Advantage Poll showing Romney gaining sharply over Gingrich with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum still trailing far behind. Romney telling a Florida crowd today that while he planned to take on President Obama in tonight's GOP debate -
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: We may talk about the differences between ourselves as well. There may be some give and take, that's always fun and entertaining, I know.
PRESS: Especially now that the GOP's old guard is openly attacking Newt. Former Senate majority leader Bob Dole releasing a statement that reads in part, "I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich, but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney." And former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, remember him piling on today telling radio talk show host Michael Berry -
(Excerpt from video clip) TOM DELAY: He's not really a conservative. I mean, he'll tell you what you want to hear, he has an uncanny ability, sort of like Clinton, to feel your pain and know his audience and speak to his audience and fire them up, but when he was speaker, he was erratic - undisciplined."
PRESS: Yeah, sort of like Clinton. Meanwhile, Romney's attacking Gingrich in Florida with this ad, which focuses on the former House speaker's ethics violation.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Gingrich paid $300,000, later resigned in disgrace. Now Pelosi says she will leak information so secret she once asked her own husband to leave their bedroom so she could discuss it privately on the phone. Information so damaging it would help Obama win. Newt Gingrich, we can't afford risk.
PRESS: As we reported on this news hour last night, Minority Leader Pelosi says that any information she has on Newt is all in the public domain. As for Gingrich he rallied Tea Party supporters today with this attack on Romney and what he described as the Republican establishment.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Many of you probably noticed a number of attack ads and all sorts of junk and that's what it is. This is the desperate last stand of the old order throwing the kitchen sink hoping something sticks because if only they can drown us in enough mud raised with money from companies and people who foreclosed on Floridians.
PRESS: Can't say he's not colorful. For more now I'm joined by good friend Washington Post national political reporter and "Countdown" contributor, Nia-Malika Henderson. Hey, Nia, good to see you this evening. Thank you.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Hey, great to see you, Bill.
PRESS: All right, so yesterday the polls that we all saw showed Newt Gingrich even with Mitt Romney in Florida. And we thought, okay here comes another South Carolina. Tonight, we've got this Insider Advantage Poll and a Monmouth University Poll showing that Romney is perhaps starting to pull away from Newt. What happened overnight?
HENDERSON: I don't know that anything has necessarily happened overnight. I think since the South Carolina experience where literally the ground moved under our feet with this shifting so suddenly. I think at this point I've got an open relationship with these polls, because you can never trust them from day to day, but obviously Mitt Romney went into Florida with a loss in South Carolina but had some advantage there because he'd had ads already up on the air. I think he's got $7 million worth of ad time that he's flooding the airwaves with. We know that's awfully important in Florida. But again, we've got a debate tonight. I guess it's about 8:00, I'm DVRing it right now. I'm going to watch it once I get home. But I think that can also be a game-changer in the way it was down in South Carolina. And Newt Gingrich seems to have finally settled on a populist message that might work for him.
PRESS: Right, but maybe - let me make this a question - was last Monday's debate a game-changer in that Newt wasn't able to play to the crowd and he really didn't have such a great night and the next morning he said how dumb of me not to challenge Brian Williams?
HENDERSON: Right, he definitely said that. And he did turn in a flat performance.
HENDERSON: Tonight, it's going to be Wolf Blitzer and apparently the crowd is going to be able to participate, and I think you'll see a lot of these candidates try to play to that. I was with Rick Santorum a couple of days ago down in Florida and he said he's going to start piling on the media there and hoping he can get some crowd reaction and maybe traction down in Florida, too. But I think tonight is going to be interesting to see if Mitt Romney is going to be able to sustain an argument against Newt Gingrich. Because so far he hasn't been able to. He trotted out this idea of I read the Reagan diaries and guess what Newt Gingrich you aren't mentioned very much in them. But a very hard argument for Mitt Romney to make given that he himself has said that he wasn't a part of the Reagan revolution and he was an independent back in the Reagan era.
PRESS: It's interesting that in the Reagan diaries, Reagan only refers to Newt Gingrich once and said that Newt Gingrich would have killed our defense policy or something like that. Not very complimentary, though. I want to ask you about these polls. Do the polls in Florida reflect and can they in any way reflect the early voting in which Mitt Romney certainly had a head start?
HENDERSON: Yeah, he has had an early start, I think 300,000 folks down there have already started voting. I've ran into a number of them down there. And I think you're right. That's going to be a decisive factor. Romney's put a lot of resources into getting folks out to vote early and getting his message out way ahead of Newt Gingrich and certainly before he could claim a W down in South Carolina. So I think you're right. These polls, that's why I'm not believing these polls until we get closer to the contest on Tuesday.
PRESS: And what about this attack, Newt Gingrich now saying the entire establishment is coming after me, right? The Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment. I mean if he's not part of the establishment - so can that really work with voters, or is it working?
HENDERSON: I mean it seems to be working. How is the that Newt Gingrich who lives in McLean, Virginia was a congressman for three decades is a consultant, lobbyist, lobbyist consultant, call it what you want, he essentially functions as a lobbyist, but somehow has been able to essentially make the same argument against Obama that he's making against Romney, which is they are both representing the establishment and essentially that they are not Americans in the way that ordinary Americans are Americans. And you go to these crowds, you go to these rallies with Newt Gingrich and you've got these folks chanting U.S.A. And so they have - somehow Newt Gingrich has managed to be somewhat of a political chameleon in this way and do the Bill Clinton feel your pain and really resonate with these crowds. It worked very well for him in South Carolina and I think to certain crowds in Florida, he's going to have an advantage over Mitt Romney.
PRESS: You have to give Newt Gingrich credit. He has shown a certain skill in getting Ann Coulter, Tom Delay, Bob Dole and Matt Drudge to all come out against him. Go figure.
HENDERSON: That's right.
PRESS: Washington Post national political reporter and "Countdown" contributor Nia-Malika Henderson. Hey Nia-Malika, great to see you tonight and I'll see you on the radio tomorrow morning.
HENDERSON: That's right, 7:00. All righty, see you.
PRESS: And more good news for the president tonight, this time from an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing Americans are feeling a lot better about the state of the economy. Thirty-seven percent now saying they think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, compared to 17 percent who thinks it's going to get worse, and 44 percent who this it will stay about the same.
Now, those numbers may not sound so thrilling, but consider this the last time that many Americans thought the economy was improving was way back in November 2010. Forty-five percent also telling pollsters they approve how President Obama is handling the economy, and while 50 percent still say the disagree. That's the best score the president has seen since last April.
And more evidence that voters have faith that the economy might be turning around.
For more, let's bring in Joe Williams, White House reporter for Politico, politico.com. Hey, Joe, those numbers they don't sound so great, but with half the voters still saying they disapprove of how the president's handling the economy, but even so this is good news for the White House, isn't it?
JOE WILLIAMS: Well it's good news, not great news. Basically, the analogy that comes to mind is the patient who's laying in bed with tubes and wires and he's no longer on life support and flickering the fingers and eyes start to go move a little bit. So, it's getting better, we're getting the news that we hoped for, but we're not ready to release the patient to go out and play touch football or start tap dancing or anything like that.
PRESS: I hope President Obama is doing a little belter than that. He was up and walking around today.
WILLIAMS: He was. The patient being the economy, that is, but seriously, you raise a very good point in that these are good numbers for the president given where we were because the economy was on an uptick, and any chart and any economist will tell you that the faltering started again once the debt ceiling debate started to smack into the president's plan. So clearly, you can trace a gradual up slope then sharp drop right around summer, late summer of last year and now ticking back up to where it would have been a year ago had that nonsense not gone on.
PRESS: But then we have that nonsense still coming up, right, yet to go through yet again. When these poll numbers came out, Peter Hart does the polling for NBC said that it shows that the American psychology about the economy has switched. So is that what the president is trying to take advantage of as he goes around the country, in Vegas this morning then Denver and into Detroit tonight. Talking about his proposals and the State of the Union.
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. He's trying to build on that momentum. And that is sort of analogist to a baseball player from the movie "Bull Durham" who wears a certain article of clothing and starts winning. If you think that's why your winning, that's why your winning and that's all that matters. So the psychological recovery is almost as important as the literal recovery in getting the economy back on track. People start believing things are getting better, they may want to buy a little bit more, they may want to fix the house they've been delaying or get that car. That triggers the sort of economic uptick and starts the momentum and builds on the momentum that's already been started over the last quarter. So things get better because people believe they are getting better and that has almost as much to do with the recovery as anything else.
PRESS: And meanwhile on the Republican side, whether it's Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or even back in Herman Cain's days, they start their argument in every speech with saying what horrible shape the economy is. What horrible shape the country is in. So does this undercut their argument and if they don't have that argument to make, what do they have?
WILLIAMS: Well, what they've got is the fact that the economy isn't sprinting around or isn't doing much, much better or much robust than it's doing right now. What they do fear is the fact that things will get so much better that they'll have a hollow argument, they'll be making a hollow argument when they start talking about the fact that things are so much worse under this president. Clearly, the facts show otherwise. What they do have is this natural sort of resistance to crediting a Democratic President with doing good, and that's an argument that resonated in South Carolina with Newt Gingrich, it's resonating to a degree in Florida with Mitt Romney and Gingrich going at it toe-to-toe. And it's a message that's going to be slightly easier for the White House to refute on the trail going forward but not necessarily a lock for them to convince everybody that things are getting better. There are a lot of people still hurting and there's still some pain out there.
PRESS: Right, there was cautious optimism at the White House from President Obama on down when the last unemployment numbers came out and it was down to 8.5 percent. So all of this could turn around though if that next report goes up instead of farther down, right, or even taking the same.
WILLIAMS: Certainly, we've had a slight up tick in the unemployment numbers this week, that is a reflection of people starting to look for work a little bit more. It's not that big of a deal. What could undermine the recovery is even more than the economic numbers, the hiring numbers, uncertainty on the gas market. Gas prices going up. Oil is under a threat by the Iranians. Instability in Europe with the debt crisis. Those are things that the White House can't control and keeps them up at night. But there are certainly signs of life, they are going to do everything they can to protect it. There are some things they just can't do and their keeping a close eye on that.
PRESS: Yeah, Ahmadinejad could sink the whole thing with one stupid move.
WILLIAMS: He's not a friend of the U.S. economy.
PRESS: Joe Williams of Politico. Thanks, Joe, good to see you tonight.
WILLIAMS: My pleasure.
PRESS: Now consider this, Gingrich gets destroyed by Romney's super PAC in Iowa, the Gingrich super PAC gets a $10 million cash infusion from Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson. And on the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Courts Citizens United ruling, Newt Gingrich beats Romney to win the South Carolina primary. Apparently, you only need one sugar daddy in the age of Citizens United. That's next.
PRESS: Life gets a lot easier when you have the 8th richest American in your corner. How Citizens United is selling primaries and perhaps the GOP nomination to the highest bidder.
Representative Barney Franks marrying his long time partner in Massachusetts, where it's legal. But, should they want a couple of options, New Jersey, Washington and Maryland might soon become available. Dan Savage joins us.
Since when did presidential debates start sounding like the Maury Povitch show, and is that really what we want in those debates?
And - Newt in outer space. Reports that some science fiction authors agree that Gingrich's ideas about colonizing the moon aren't so crazy after all. Key words there, science fiction.
PRESS: Well, if nothing else, the Gingrich campaign could prove that a single individual can keep an entire candidacy afloat. And the individual in this case is not Newt Gingrich.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - if the pattern holds billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson could propel Newt Gingrich all the way to the Republican nomination and beyond. As we learned today that Adelson is planning to donate even more money to aid Gingrich in his quest for the GOP presidential nod.
Meanwhile, a group of Democratic senators take to the chamber floor to decry the Supreme Court decision that made it all possible. The beneficiary of Adelson's money, the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future, says it's spending $6 million on television ads and other media in the current primary battleground state of Florida where the Adelson gift has helped buy, get this, seven times more add space than the Gingrich campaign itself.
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have given $10 million this month alone to aid the Gingrich campaign, $5 million this week, $5 million earlier in January. Those two contributions are among the largest known political donations in U.S. history.
In South Carolina, the current front-runners, Gingrich and Mitt Romney, each spent or had spent on their behalf about $5 million. The difference, Gingrich's campaign actually put down the least of the four GOP candidates competing in the Palmetto State. The super PAC supporting him did all the rest, to the tune of nearly $4.4 billion.
This isn't Adelson's first time aiding Gingrich. Between 2006 and 2010, Adelson - who is the 8th richest person in this country - gave more than $7 million to the former speakers conservative political group, American Solutions for Winning the Future.
Adelson and Gingrich reportedly met back in 1995 when Gingrich was House Speaker and back legislation lobbied for by Adelson to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Today, on Capital Hill, the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision, which made legal the process by which Adelson and the super PACs have been able to spend all their money, was referred to with words like "disastrous" and "appalling." New York's Senior Senator Chuck Schumer said the decision should be blamed for "undoing our democracy."
(Excerpt from video clip) CHUCK SCHUMER: One of the foremost needs of our society is for a fair, functioning democracy where there's some semblance of equality, that each person votes has about the same weight in the system. The Citizens United decision represents one of the most corrosive and destructive changes in law that has occurred in recent memory.
PRESS: And, of course, speaking of Gingrich's super PAC, I meant to say $4.4 million, not billion. But, there's a lot of money in politics so I get confused sometimes.
And joining me now to talk all about it - Brian Beutler, who's senior Congressional reporter of Talking Points Memo. Hey Brian, good to have you with us. Thanks for your time tonight.
BRIAN BEUTLER: Thanks, Bill.
PRESS: So what is this with Sheldon Adelson? Who is he, and why is he giving so much money to Newt Gingrich? Do we know?
BEUTLER: Like you said, he's the 8th richest man in the country, out of Nevada, big into gambling.
PRESS: Casino operator, right? Isn't he owner/operator?
BEUTLER: Basically, yeah.
BEUTLER: And also, betting on candidates, apparently. He and Gingrich, like you said, go back to Gingrich's speakership. They became closer over the issue of Israel. You know, Adelson found a very powerful ally in Newt Gingrich at the time, and he's been a loyalist to Gingrich sort of ever since. So I don't think it's really an issue where Adelson, like some conservative donors, have a particular problem with Mitt Romney. But, Newt's his guy. So Newt is reaping the benefits of that and without it, as you said, he would have been dead in the water probably after Iowa.
PRESS: Yeah, and as far as we know, just to make clear, what is doing is perfectly legal under Citizens United, correct?
BEUTLER: Yeah, completely legal.
PRESS: Or under current campaign law? Right.
BEUTLER: Right, exactly.
PRESS: And, is there any reason why people shouldn't think, "Well, boy, if this guy gives this much money now during the campaign that he's going to have an impact on, I would have to say, God forbid, a Newt Gingrich in the White House, a presidential policy?"
BEUTLER: Well, I think that for the one issue that Adelson seems really passionate about, it's hard to imagine. I mean, he and Newt are sort of the same mind frame. So it's not like he's buying Newt's views on this. But, you can imagine a different mega-millionaire or billionaire who found a candidate who didn't necessarily share his views, gave him as much money as he needed to win the Presidency and then, that, you know, that candidate would feel, you know, sort of compelled to adhere to those policy views once he won the office. So I don't think that, you know, I don't think that, if in the end Newt Gingrich somehow manages to become the president he's going to adopt a whole new set of views about Israel because he all ready shares those views. But, you can see, you could imagine, in a different situation, exactly what you're talking about happening.
PRESS: They get invited to a lot of nights in the Lincoln Bedroom probably. We can figure that out. Now, you know, we think of people like Richard Mellon, the Koch Brothers, I mean, Adelson's not the first very wealthy individual to like to play into politics and throw his money around.
So, what makes it different now under Citizens United then it was before Citizens United, if anything?
BEUTLER: It's a little bit indirect. Citizen's United's direct impact was on corporate and union donations to independent expenditure groups. Back in 2008, or in 2004, you saw wealthy donors, you know, making direct expenditures on behalf of candidates. They could buy their own ads. They could put in as much money as they wanted to do that, and they could give to these groups, the 527 groups, like the Swift Vote groups.
PRESS: Yeah, right.
BEUTLER: And there was always, sort of, a legal cloud of suspicion hanging over that kind of activity. It was sort of unsettled. What Citizens United sort of - it released a safety valve on that. It basically said you can give as much money as you want to a super PAC whether you're a corporation or a labor union or an individual or any combination of the three if Mitt Romney's the one designating what the differences are.
PRESS: I want to ask you if, in terms of, like, a level playing field, these opportunities have been made available by Citizens United. Are Democrats taking advantage of those, as well as Republicans?
BEUTLER: They are. You know, they didn't really want it to be this way. When Barack Obama won the nomination, a lot of outside democratic affiliated groups wanted big dollar democratic donors to help them fund, you know, basically, an outside game for Obama, and Obama kind of shut that all down.
BEUTLER: He wanted all the work to be done through the traditional Democratic channels. Once Citizens United happened, they sort of reluctantly came to the view that they needed to, you know, play against Republicans in this terrain, and A) they weren't really happy about it because it's not what they want, but B) there aren't a whole, you know, there aren't nearly as many Adelson's on the left as there are on the right. And so, they're at cash disadvantage.
So, there are outside groups on the Democratic side, but they're, you know, they're not as vast. They're not as well-funded yet. And, you know, it sort of remains to be seen how much, after this cycle, Republicans are really interested after Newt Gingrich is throwing their guy off his game, whether they want to keep, you know, the outcome of Citizens United in place.
PRESS: Got it. Yeah, so if you can't beat them, join them. Brian Beutler, of Talking Points Memo. Thanks, Brian. Thank you very much.
BEUTLER: Thank you, Bill.
PRESS: A bill in New Jersey State Senate legalizing same-sex marriage is expected to pass. So, "How's Chris Christie going to get out of this one?" you ask. Don't worry. He's got a plan.
PRESS: Coming up, Barney Frank plans to marry his partner and soon their marriage may be recognized in even more states. Our discussion with Dan Savage.
But first, the "Sanity Break," and today is Australia Day, the official national day of Australia, celebrated annually on January 26th. It commemorates the 1788 arrival of 11 British ships at Sydney Cove and the proclamation that time of British sovereignty.
So, come on, head on down to Outback Steakhouse tonight, pop open a can of Foster's, dust off your boomerang and work on those "Crocodile Dundee" impressions - or, any other stereotypical Australian thing you can think of - and then throw another shrimp on the barbie, of course.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Seattle reporter needs a better thesaurus to help him find a better word for 'large.'
We begin, as we always do, by checking the weather report out in Seattle, here with an update is Q13 Seattle reporter James Lynch.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAMES LYNCH: There are times when only a big-ass tow truck will do. This is one of those times.
PRESS: Yeah, sometimes you need a big-ass tow truck and other times you just need somebody to read over your script before you broadcast it live on TV.
VIDEO: Connecticut politician puts his foot in his mouth over ethnic dinner comments.
And from the "Dumb Politicians Say the Dumbest Things" Department, here is East Haven, Connecticut Mayor Joseph Maturo.
After four of his city's police officers were charged with using excessive force against undocumented immigrants, the mayor had this to say to WPIX reporter Mario Diaz:
(Excerpt from video clip) MARIO DIAZ: What are you doing for the Latino community today?
(Excerpt from video clip) JOSEPH MATURO: I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not quite sure yet.
(Excerpt from video clip) DIAZ: You realize that's not really the comment to say right now - "You might have tacos tonight."
(Excerpt from video clip) MATURO: I might have spaghetti tonight, being of Italian descent. So, if I was going to go out and have a Mexican dinner tonight, an Italian dinner tonight, it's immaterial. It's an open community -
(Excerpt from video clip) DIAZ: I wasn't asking what you were having for dinner, sir, I was asking what you are doing for the community, and you responded immediately "I'm gonna have tacos, probably, tonight."
(Excerpt from video clip) MATURO: Again, if I was going to go out and have tacos I'd go to the -
(Excerpt from video clip) DIAZ: That's not the point here, Mayor. I asked what you are doing for the Latino community.
(Excerpt from video clip) MATURO: I said maybe go out and have a Latino meal tonight. Whether it be tacos or whether it be any other meal -
(Excerpt from video clip) DIAZ: Did you tell me you were going to have tacos tonight?
(Excerpt from video clip) MATURO: I said I might do that, yeah. And I'll say it again, whether I have tacos tonight with the Latino community or spaghetti with the Italian community -
PRESS: Yeah, keep digging, Mayor.
Mayor Maturo apologized the next day and referred to the incident as a "gotcha" moment. Sure. Quote Sarah Palin, Mr. Mayor, that ought to help your case.
"Time Marches On!"
Dan Savage, on same-sex marriage coming to a state near you and how some are planning to stop it. That's next.
PRESS: We bring you "Countdown," live each night at 8:00 Eastern. Primary replays at 11:00PM and 2:00AM Eastern. And now a quick marriage announcement, Congressman Barney Frank announced today that he plans to marry his partner of five year, Jim Reedy, in his home state of Massachusetts. In our third story, they may soon have more options for destination wedding with more states now considering legalizing same sex marriage including state of Washington, Maryland and if legislatures can get by Chris Christy's political posturing, New Jersey. On Tuesday a bill recognizing same sex marriage passed New Jersey's Senate Judiciary Committee, it now moves now to the full Senate where it's also expected to pass. But even if the bill passes there is one large roadblock, Governor Chris Christy has threatened to veto the bill, not necessarily because he disagrees with it but because he doesn't think elected officials are the ones to decide.
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTY: I think this is not an issue that should rest solely in my hands, in the hands of the senate president or the hands of the speaker or the other 118 members of the legislature. Let's let the people of New Jersey decide what's right for the state.
PRESS: Yeah, so instead of wasting time with the democratically elected legislature, you know legislating, he wants to push this onto New Jersey citizens so that he doesn't need to make a decision that could impact maybe a future presidential run. While Governor Christy may be cowering from making and decision, other politicians have shown a lot more backbone. In Maryland, Governor O'Malley presented a bill to the general assembly to legalize same sex marriage. And meanwhile in Washington state a similar bill appears is poised to pass as a majority of legislatures have come out in favor of the bill, including seven Republicans. Governor Christine Gregoire gets a lot of credit for that. Of course, gay marriage opponents have already announced plans to seek referendums overturning the bills in November in both Washington and Maryland if they pass, believe it or not. So joining me now is Dan Savage who writes a syndicated column "Savage Love" and is author of the book "The Commitment" as well as the co-founder of the "It Gets Better" project. Hey Dan, good to see you. Thanks for your time tonight.
DAN SAVAGE: Good to see you too, Bill. Thanks for having me.
PRESS: I guess we should also give you credit for entering a certain senator's name on Google and making us all chuckle when we read it.
SAVAGE: Yes, I am the Google Santorum problem.
PRESS: The Google Santorum problem and proud of it.
SAVAGE: And proud of it. Santorum vilified quite viciously and graphically comparing my 17 year marriage to my partner to child rape and dog rape. And we thought that was disgusting, so we came up with a disgusting definition for Santorum and it stuck as Santorum does stick.
PRESS: And even today he said that homosexuality is not healthy behavior for Americans. The guy's hopeless. But I want to ask you about Chris Christy. So, he's really afraid of this, isn't he?
SAVAGE: Yes -
PRESS: He's willing to let it happen as long as his fingerprints are not on it.
SAVAGE: He's watching what is happening to Mitt Romney and the trouble that Mitt Romney presiding over his objections in Massachusetts at the time. He was the governor when gay marriage was legalized by the State Supreme Court. It happened on his watch. And he's been roundly criticized by the social conservatives in the race. What's idiotic about it though is, the social conservatives in the race, the Bachmann who's out, Cain who's out, Perry who's out, Santorum who's going to be dropping out soon he can't seem to get out of the basement, it's not getting anywhere, this gay bashing. The gay bashing is really on it's last legs. Even if the Republican Party, the old gay bashing part of their base is dying. Young conservatives, young evangelicals, they support marriage equality by wide and growing majorities.
PRESS: Even the young evangelicals?
SAVAGE: Even young evangelicals, they see the distinction - and we need to make that distinction clear between marriage as a civil right, R-I-G-H-T and marriage as a religious R-I-T-E. Nothing about civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians requires any faith, any Catholic churches won't have to marry same sex couples any more than they have to marry couples of differing faiths.
PRESS: Let me ask you - your from Seattle, your home state now of Washington, I met the Governor Christine Gregoire the other night. She's had a turnaround, hasn't she on this issue?
SAVAGE: She has evolved as the president might say. Christine Gregoire used to say just a few years ago that Washington State wasn't ready. And now Washington State is ready. In part, largely in thanks to the efforts of one of our state senators, one of our openly gay elected officials, Ed Murray. Who took a go slow approach. We had three domestic partnership bills come through which just chopped up the rights of marriage and presented them to legislature one chunk at a time. And they all passed. The governor signed them all into law. And it was - and then the state saw you could extend all the same rights and responsibilities that the state controls of marriage to same sex couples without the sky falling. And now people are ready for marriage. It really is a good model for the country. Democrats like Obama who say they support civil unions but not marriage, but then don't act on civil unions, there was no effort when the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House to move a civil unions bill through. And that's what we did in Washington State and now we're going to get full marriage rights.
PRESS: You anticipate my next question. If Christine Gregoire was able to evolve from opposition to support and part of the White House press corps and the question often comes up to the briefing to Jay Carney. Where is the president on this issue, and the answer is always he's considering it or he's thinking about it. So by chance do you think that before November of this year that President Obama will evolve?
SAVAGE: No. No, Christine Gregoire, her evolution, she's in her last term of governor. Oddly enough, she doesn't have to stand for reelection and she made and evolutionary leap. I expect the president will make the same sort of leap in his second term if he has a second term. We have to remember that the president is devolving, he was a supporter of marriage equality in the mid-90's. And then when he ran for national office, he was no longer a supporter of marriage equality. So we're expecting him to evolve backwards to his previous position on marriage. And I expect he'll do that in his second term. This go slow approach.
PRESS: Quickly, how do feel overall about the issue? Do you believe rather, that it's just a matter of time?
PRESS: That time is on your side and America is moving in the right direction, but slowly?
SAVAGE: Moving the right direction, but slowly. And social progress in America always drags. Great Britain got rid of slavery 40 years before our civil war with a vote in Parliament. When it comes to social change we tend to lag despite all the land of the free, home of the brave rhetoric. I expect we will get there. And one of the things that the referendum pushers and the bigots need to realize is it's not over until we say it's over and it's not over until we win.
PRESS: Good for you.
SAVAGE: They passed Prop 8 in California and we're going back to ballot. We're going back to the ballot in Maine. We're pushing it in Washington Sate. Washington State had a state wide referendum on our domestic partnership bill and we won at the ballot box and we're going to win at the ballot box in November.
PRESS: I don't have to ask you to keep up the good fight because you will. You're on the right side, and it's an important civil rights issue. And good luck.
SAVAGE: Thank you.
PRESS: We're all with you. And syndicated columnist Dan, thank you so much. And Believe it or not, Republican debate number 19 is now underway in Jacksonville. Forget about the candidates. How's the audience going to behave?
PRESS: Presidential debates are looking more like game shows where big noise from the audience counts more than good ideas from the candidates. And this must be the boldest campaign promise ever. Newt says he'll put a colony on the moon by 2020. A giant leap for mankind or a small misstep for an unkind man. Derrick Pitts joins me.
PRESS: I'm sure you're as excited as I am about tonight's GOP debate which is happening as we speak. In case you're counting its number 19, more than any halfway sane human being needs to see of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and most TV anchors. But most attention tonight's going to be focused not on the candidates but on the audience. Will they go berserk as they were encouraged to do a week ago tonight in Charleston? I was there in the audience before the debate. A CNN producer actually came out and whipped up the audience and encouraged them to make as much noise as possible. Which they did on the very first question when John King asked Newt whether or not in fact he had asked his wife for open marriage and Newt attacked the media.
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING: As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview at the Washington Post and this story has now gone viral on the internet. In it she says that you came to her in 1999 at a time when you were having an affair, she says asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH: No, but I will. I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.
PRESS: Standing ovation. Or will they be on their best behavior as they were admonished to be just last Monday by Brian Williams.
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We've asked our invited guests here this evening to withhold their applause, any verbal reactions to what they hear onstage so as to assure this is about the four candidates here tonight and what they have to say.
PRESS: The next morning Gingrich actually attacked Williams for stifling free speech and vowed never to appear in another debate unless the audience was allowed to scream and shout like a high school basketball crowd which tells you a lot about Newt. He's not such a good debater, after all he's a good actor who thrives on the cheap shot and audience reaction. It also tells you a lot about American politics today. We've gone from the Lincoln-Douglas debates, we've gone from the Kennedy-Nixon debates, we've gone from the dignified Obama-McCain debates to "The Jerry Springer Show," where it's not who says the smartest things that counts, it's who gets the most laughs or the most applause from the audience. Which, in the end, you know, isn't going to help Newt Gingrich at all because, if he ever makes it to the big leagues debating President Obama, no audience applause is going to be allowed. So, Newt will have to suddenly act like a grownup. And for a spoiled child like him, that is impossible.
PRESS: It all started in the 1950s with one man and a simple idea. "One of these days - Bang! Zoom. Straight to the moon." From there, NASA started and that dream was realized as man walked on the moon. Since then, nothing major has happened in space, but in our number one story tonight, one man seems destined to reignite America's fascination with the lunar surface. That man, of course, Newt Gingrich. At a campaign stop in Cocoa Beach, Florida today, Gingrich channeled past space visionaries like JFK and Wernher von Braun.
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH: By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.
PRESS: But the modern-day Captain Kirk didn't stop there. He looked beyond the moon to our sister planet, Mars.
GINGRICH: By the end of 2020, we will have the first continuous propulsion system in space capable of getting to Mars in a remarkably short time because I am sick of being told we have to be timid, and I am sick of being told we have to be limited to technologies that are 50 years old.
PRESS: Yeah, of course, there's a big difference between being timid and having a lack of funds to support what would be an incredibly expensive undertaking. But the economy's not a concern of Newt Gingrich's, no. He's running on his ability to get people to believe just like he did 26 years ago when he said, quote, "Tourism in space is coming." And it looks like he was as correct then as he is now. All right, let's bring in Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer for the Franklin Institute Science Museum, as well as a "Countdown" contributor. Derrick, good to see you tonight. Thanks for your time. So, in talking about this moon colony by 2020, is Newt Gingrich a visionary or just plain nuts?
DERRICK PITTS: You know, Bill, I think I'm going for the latter on this. Unfortunately. You know, I can understand his enthusiasm about this and I can understand the idea that he wants to sort of put out this great idea of something that can be used to spark technological development here in the U.S. Excuse me - but the fact of the matter is that we don't have the technology available right now. It's going to take us much longer than 2020 to get to where we can actually establish a base on the moon and, besides that, there is the issue of funding. It takes a real commitment to do that. And I think the biggest - the real - the biggest sort of impediment to this is that what he's done is he's spoken to a congressional district that has space industries, and they love to hear that. But would he make that same argument in another congressional district without space industries? Those people there really don't care about that.
PRESS: Well, sooner or later, he's going to have to get to the point of how much this is going to cost, right? I mean, do we have any idea? I mean, talk about that equipment you'd have to put up there, not to mention just the vehicles to get there and what would be necessary to support life on the moon.
PITTS: It would be tremendously expensive to do this in the period of time that he's talking about doing it. In fact, what would have to happen is we would have to completely refocus all of our attentions in this country from things like international terrorism and the economic problems we're having here in the U.S. right now. All these other things. We'd have to push our attention away from that and look specifically at this. And then, at the same time, we'd have to devote a great deal of our national economy to making this work. So, it would equal the amounts that we've been spending in Iraq and in Afghanistan on those wars to actually try to make this work.
PRESS: And if we got there and if we were able to establish this base, what would we get out of it scientifically? What would we learn?
PITTS: Well, there's a lot for us to understand about the moon, and the origin of the moon and, likewise, some about the origin of the earth. But if we're expecting, as Newt I think indicated that there's a possibility that commercial companies might take this on, there has to be a financial benefit for them, and you know what? There is none.
PRESS: Mhmm. You know, Derrick, Newt Gingrich, when he was in Congress - he also introduced a bill called the Northwest Ordinance Space Plan or something, which said that if you get up to 13,000 residents on the moon, they could apply to Congress for statehood. So - we could be looking at two senators from the moon, right?
PITTS: You know, and the real issue here is I hope we can get one of those senators there early. I won't say which one.
PRESS: Right. Well, I - I frankly already think we have a couple of senators from the moon, maybe Jim DeMint, for example. Quickly - just about 30 seconds - Mars. This shuttle back and forth to Mars.
PITTS: What is coming down to pike in the future are better propulsion systems for rocketry. We do have to put more money into the research to make this happen, but if we expect to be able to so-called shrink the solar system so that we can travel around in the solar system, we will have to come up with better methods. One of them - the ion propulsion system - is already in use, but that really is based on very, very long distance travel. Hopefully, we'll come up with something that will cut the travel time between here and Mars soon.
PRESS: All right. Sign me up. Beam me up. "Countdown" contributor Derrick Pitts. Many thanks for your time tonight, Derrick.
PITTS: Thank you, Bill.
PRESS: And that is "Countdown" for tonight. I'm Bill Press in for Keith, and for all of us here at "Countdown," thanks for watching. Have a good night.