'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, January 30th, 2012
Guest host: Bill Press
watch whole playlist
#5 'Sunshine Slugfest', Craig Crawford
#5 'Sunshine Slugfest', Eliot Spitzer
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Iced Tea', Becky Bond
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Occupying Occupy', Josh Harkinson
#2 'Reince Your Mouth Out'
#1 'Birth Control Blowback', Eleanor Smeal
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Bill Press, Eliot Spitzer, Eleanor Smeal, Becky Bond, Josh Harkinson, Craig Crawford
BILL PRESS: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
With Romney pulling ahead in Florida, Gingrich gets desperate.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: He eliminated serving kosher food for elderly Jewish residents under Medicaid.
PRESS: And Romney responds - with a pig roast.
So, where's the GOP primary go after Florida?
"Tea Party 10" - a liberal super PAC identifies the worst of the worst in Congress and targets their seats for the 2012 election.
Uh-oh, Occupy Oakland erupts again. Over 400 are arrested as City Hall is vandalized. Has the peaceful Occupy movement been - occupied?
He said what?
(Excerpt from video clip) REINCE PRIEBUS: We're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama, who's abandoning the ship here in the United States.
PRESS: Yeah, as head of the RNC, Mr. Priebus should know something about sinking ships.
And - what a pill.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: The Obama administration is engaged in a war against religion.
PRESS: You mean by providing all women with access to birth control?
PRESS: Good evening, this is Monday, January 30, 282 days now until the 2012 presidential election. I'm Bill Press, sitting in for Keith Olbermann again tonight. Good to have you with us.
Mitt Romney surging ahead in the polls less than 12 hours before voting starts in tomorrow's Florida Republican primary, while Newt Gingrich insists he's in the race for the long term no matter what happens tomorrow.
The fifth story in the "Countdown" - Romney rising and seeming more confident by the day, Gingrich slipping, but saying he'll be in it all the way to the GOP convention, which starts August 27th in Tampa.
But starting tonight with Mitt. And you know a GOP front-runner must be feeling pretty confident when he takes a few minutes just to toss bags of snacks to reporters on his plane. Trying out for flight attendant, I guess.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: The crowds are good, and you can sense it's coming our way. It's getting better and better every day.
PRESS: Well, it certainly looks that way in the polls. Romney leads Gingrich by 14 points in the Quinnipiac poll and 15 points in the NBC/Marist poll, with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul both trailing far behind.
Regardless of what those numbers say, Newt insists he can still pull ahead in Florida with help from the right wing's least-favorite billionaire. Soros said - he was talking about George Soros, Newt Gingrich - the liberal financier and conservative hate puppet who said that where President Obama and former governor Romney are concerned -
(Excerpt from video clip) GEORGE SOROS: There isn't all that much difference except for the crowd that they bring with them.
PRESS: Yeah, which Soros says - that crowd could include either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich as Vice President if Romney were to win. And if Newt somehow performs a political miracle and wins tomorrow, he might have to thank not only Soros, but his latest celebrity endorsement - Mr. 999 himself, Herman Cain, telling a Tampa crowd:
(Excerpt from video clip) HERMAN CAIN: I like Newt Gingrich for president of the United States.
PRESS: But in Jacksonville, Republicans also seemed to like Romney's explanation for why they don't want Gingrich for president. Meanwhile, Newt told fans in Pensacola that big money was a real issue in this race.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: We will only win if the American people decide that they're sick and tired of the New York and Washington establishment thinking that we're dumb enough to let them try to buy an election.
PRESS: So, who's actually buying an election? Well, according to Talking Points Memo, a Democratic source says, Romney and his "Restore Our Future" super PAC have spent more than $15 million to buy ads in Florida so far, compared to about $4 million for Gingrich and his "Winning Our Future" super PAC.
So, is that all it takes to win an election? Outspend your opponent by around four to one? Romney Florida co-chair Justin Sayfie insists, "Oh, no, no." He's just got the better candidate. And besides, he says, "To think that money is deterministic reveals a crude understanding of what influences voters. It's a lot more complicated than that."
Well, it may be sometimes, but probably not this time. Either way, Obama senior adviser and campaign strategist David Axelrod doesn't seem unhappy at all with how the GOP primaries have turned out so far:
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID AXELROD: The nature of the process is you have to accumulate the delegates necessary to win and I believe this will go on for a while.
PRESS: But that doesn't make Republican Senator John McCain happy at all.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN McCAIN: I think it could go on quite awhile, which would not be to our benefit.
PRESS: And now, for more on what we can expect from tomorrow's GOP Florida primary, I'm joined by Craig Crawford, who blogs on politics at craigcrawford.com. He's also the author of "The Politics Of Life." Hi, Craig, good to see you this evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: Hey! Old buddy, I wish you - I wish you were down here, Bill, you'd have more - you'd have more fun watching these Republicans gnaw each other's limbs off. It's quite a show.
PRESS: Well, you know, in Miami, the Cuban-Americans down there are not so happy to see me, Craig. I'm probably best staying out of there.
PRESS: Now, look, the last - the last time you and I were together was Saturday night a week ago. We were both with Keith, talking about the South Carolina returns, where Newt Gingrich won by 15 points, and now - the eve of the Florida primary - it looks like he's going to lose by 15 points. What the hell happened?
CRAWFORD: You know, I flew down here the day after that South Carolina primary thinking Newt would transfer all that energy down here. It didn't take me long to figure out what the Romney camp was up to. They were rushing the quarterback.
And when I turned on the local TV newscast on Monday night, I counted eight ads by both of them combined. Six of them were Romney ads attacking Gingrich, and only two by Gingrich attacking Romney.
Then, on Monday night - that first debate - Gingrich just kind of phoned it in, and then we could tell that Romney was going on the attack. They're conducting psychological warfare, I'd say, against him.
PRESS: Well - So, you think mainly it is the money - that four-to-one advantage - in the super PACs? The spending by Romney?
CRAWFORD: That and the debates. Yeah, that and the debates. That money means a lot in Florida. I grew up here. I've covered campaigns many years. And often, the money talks and walks in Florida. But there is a lot going on with these debate reactions. A big mystery as to what happened to Newt in those debates. He almost didn't show up.
PRESS: Right. But, Craig, Newt says the reason he was off his game was because he was amazed at the lies that Mitt Romney was telling, and he just stood there and couldn't believe all of those lies. Pretty weak excuse, no?
CRAWFORD: They weren't new, and we saw it coming. It was telegraphed all over the place.
The big problem for Newt was - and this was just bad campaign management - is he did three big events that day, on Thursday, before that. He's so arrogant about these debates, his performance, that he doesn't even prepare, I suppose. And that was a big problem for him. But, you know, he could always come back, Bill. I mean, it's like our old pal James Carville says, "Newt's had more lives than Rasputin, but Rasputin would get more votes."
PRESS: You could never speak better than James Carville when it comes to politics. So, let me ask you this, don't you think, though, that Romney - he looks - he looks a lot more confident. In the debate, he certainly was a lot more forceful. Newt, in a way, has made him a better candidate, hasn't he?
CRAWFORD: Oh, certainly. He's gotten much stronger. The only thing that's lacking from the Romney campaign is - "Why should you vote for Romney?" They're getting very good at telling people to vote against someone else. And, you know, all these ads are doing that - I haven't seen a single positive Romney ad except on the Web. It's all attacking Gingrich. And that's a big problem.
And he's not consolidating those conservative voters either. And that's going to be a problem for him going forward.
PRESS: Yeah, now how do you calculate - why is it that this Republican establishment, from Karl Rove all the way down - maybe with the possible exception of Jeb Bush - are all piling on Newt Gingrich? Are they that afraid of him? Are - they think he would take everybody else down with him. What's the story there?
CRAWFORD: Yeah, I think they're looking down ballot as much as they are the White House. Fearful that Gingrich, not knowing what he would say on any given day, and how it could affect the Congressional races, the Senate races, and on down the ballot. That's a big issue for them, I believe.
But then you've got Sarah Palin out there, defending Gingrich repeatedly on Fox News. I think that has an impact. Santorum is gone. Ron Paul is gone. So, Gingrich should have every reason to consolidate the conservative vote here, and if he doesn't do it, I don't know what his argument is going toward.
PRESS: Given that Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are really trailing in Florida, as expected they would, what do they do after tomorrow? They still hang around or they fold it up?
CRAWFORD: Oh, yeah. Well, Ron Paul's not going to go away. He'll get a - he'll get a suit that fits before he gets out of this race.
But now Santorum - here is an interesting scenario for Santorum, Bill, is - next Tuesday is our next actual primary. We've got caucuses in other states, and they don't pick delegates in Missouri for that primary on Tuesday. It's a beauty contest, but it is a primary and Gingrich did not get on the ballot.
So, you've got a big anti-abortion vote in Missouri. There's a chance Santorum - if he did well, if by some chance he even won that - he could make the argument, say to conservatives, "Look, Gingrich should get out of the race. If he's out of the race, I can beat Romney." Now, that's kind of a fantasy campaign notion, but who knows?
PRESS: Keep hope alive, I guess. Hey, Craig Crawford, enjoy your home state. Thanks for being with us tonight, Craig. See you again soon.
CRAWFORD: Oh, I'm having - I'm having more fun than a cat in a tub of tuna, down here.
PRESS: I haven't heard that one before. All right, Craig, good to see you.
And now, for a look at where we go after Florida, we're joined here in the studio by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Governor, good to see you.
ELIOT SPITZER: Pleasure to be back, thank you.
PRESS: So, Newt is putting out this word - and a lot of the media are, too - that, okay, he loses Florida tomorrow, but then Romney goes on to win maybe the next five or six. But then, we get to Georgia, and Arkansas and Tennessee, and Newt comes roaring back. Is that just fantasy?
SPITZER: Well, I think it's his fantasy. That's for sure. I think the problem for him is that, as you just alluded to, the Republican establishment wants the party to coalesce around a nominee. It is for two reasons, at least.
One, they think Romney will be stronger without this constant assault from Newt Gingrich.
And, also, let's not forget, there are senatorial races, there are gubernatorial races, those candidates are going to be saying, "Hey guys, we do not want the fratricide of internal bickering between now and August. We've got to consolidate a base in states from Montana on elsewhere in the nation, where there are contested races that will determine control of the United States Senate."
PRESS: Right. Karl Rove has said, actually, that if Newt is the nominee, Republicans lose the House.
SPITZER: That's right.
PRESS: And lose the Senate.
SPITZER: Well - well- well, Newt Gingrich radiates out in a way that is disastrous for the Republican party. Let's face it, that's why a lot of us as Democrats are applauding every day saying - you know, give him another $10 billion, we love it.
But from the Republican establishment - Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, even - these guys are saying, "Enough is enough." This is becoming an act of self indulgence, enormous, just sort of an act of complete, you know, self-centered, maniacal behavior by Newt Gingrich, after he loses tomorrow by a big number and then loses the next couple.
PRESS: Now, you're going to be here tomorrow night with me and we'll be doing the "Countdown" from the Florida primary, which is going to be a lot of fun. And when we look ahead, already tonight, if you look at February, there are six races - Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Arizona and Michigan. Mitt Romney won five out of six of those in 2008, so it looks like he'll take the board, right?
SPITZER: Look, I presume so - and I hate to generalize based on geography - but let's face it, Newt Gingrich, if he had an appeal - maybe past tense given all the back and forth - it was going to be South Carolina. Everybody understood that. And to come back to one mistake - what's the cardinal rule of politics? You mentioned James Carville, he will tell you this over and over - never play defense. Mitt Romney played defense throughout the entire week leading up to South Carolina.
PRESS: Up to South Carolina.
SPITZER: He said, "Guys, I blew it." He's been playing offense since then. He's going to continue to play offense. Newt Gingrich is on defense. So, I just don't see where, in this sort of back and forth, at a sort of tactical level, Newt Gingrich can re-emerge.
PRESS: So, if playing offense, Romney wins - really sweeps the board in February - is it possible, do you think, for Newt just to hunker down in February - as some people are saying, and as he says - and then come back in March in some of those other states?
SPITZER: It depends upon money. If the leadership of the Republican party gets - and remember, Newt Gingrich's campaign is not being fed by small, grassroots donors. It is a very limited number of donors sending check for $5 million.
PRESS: It's kind of like one guy.
SPITZER: Yeah, like one guy.
PRESS: And his wife, right?
SPITZER: Precisely. Seventeen million is the number, I mean, crazy numbers, but if Roger Ailes picks up the phone and says, "What are you going? You're going to re-elect Barack Obama" - and this is their argument - that spigot might get turned off.
Now, on the other hand, you never know, you push the wrong button, he may double his contribution, he may be motivated by who knows what. But if they turn off the spigot, then New Gingrich is gone.
PRESS: Now, in the South, I think most people forget - there's one problem for Newt in the South and that is, he did not qualify for the Virginia ballot.
SPITZER: He's not on the ballot, that's exactly right.
PRESS: So, there's a big state that he's just not - no chance of winning any delegates.
SPITZER: Let me make another contrast. Newt Gingrich, who somehow needs the media and the institutional support because he doesn't have grassroots, he can get a small crowd sometimes.
Ron Paul, on the other hand, can continue, because Ron Paul doesn't care about whether the institutional party supports him prospectively in the years out. And Ron Paul, bizarrely - to many of us at least - has this real appeal to younger, activist voters.
So, Ron Paul can cobble together a Ralph Nader-type campaign that will continue to be sort of around the fringes, pecking away at Romney. I don't think Gingrich can.
PRESS: The oldest candidate with the youngest supporters, right? Go figure.
SPITZER: It was amazing to me, as somebody who thought I kind of understood where younger voters were coming from, speaking to 20-to-30-year-old voters, teenagers as well. They find in Ron Paul an authenticity, a sort of linear appeal and logic that we may think - and I may be absolutely persuaded - as wrong, but there is something intellectually appealing to his rhetoric and his simple approach.
PRESS: Can you ever imagine the day when Newt Gingrich endorses Mitt Romney after everything he said?
SPITZER: Yes, and here's why. Because in politics - whatever the screaming and shouting, and we've seen Newt Gingrich in all sorts of crazy dynamics and scenarios - at the end of the day, come the Republican convention, they will be unified. That is the story of that party.
Look, let me get back to the Democratic side of the aisle, my home - Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter.
SPITZER: That was, at times, a very ugly campaign as well. And that continued - and many people said to Ted Kennedy after he was clearly not going to be the nominee - an incumbent president, whom he was challenging, he gave us one of the greatest speeches of Democrat - modern Democratic politics, but many people say, "Yes, he endorsed tepidly, but he also weakened Jimmy Carter to the point where he lost."
PRESS: So, they'll come together at the end -
SPITZER: I don't think there's any question.
PRESS: Against Barack Obama.
PRESS: And we'll be together tomorrow night.
SPITZER: I look forward to it. And I will endorse it.
PRESS: "Countdown," Florida primary. All right. Thanks, Eliot, great to see you.
SPITZER: Pleasure being here. Thank you.
PRESS: All right, a new type of super PAC, one that stands in contrast to those other big-money operations. And also stands against the tea party.
Plus, a violent weekend for some Occupy protesters. What happened to their overarching message of peaceful protest?
Next, on "Countdown."
PRESS: Tea on ice? A new super PAC dedicates itself to defeating the tea party leadership in 2012. We'll talk with CREDO super PAC President Becky Bond.
Then, a weekend of violence for Occupy. Will it overshadow the movement's peaceful message?
And Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus compares President Obama to a man who has been charged with manslaughter. My commentary.
Plus, the Catholic church attacks the Obama administration's new ruling on contraception, and so does Newt Gingrich.
Coming up, on "Countdown."
PRESS: Now, what's up with the tea party?
Well, there are currently 60 members of Congress who identify themselves as part of the tea party caucus. And while their faction is already losing support among the general public, a new organization is working hard to make sure this trend continues.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - a new progressive super PAC plans to spend millions of dollars to defeat tea party favorites this year, while at least one tea party leader is using her platform to help elect - Newt Gingrich.
The super PAC arm of cell phone company CREDO Mobile says it plans to spend about $3 million in its effort to "take down the Tea Party Ten." According to the organization's fund-raising website, "These tea party extremists in Congress have spent the last year attacking women, science and the very notion of equality under the law. Their racist, sexist, anti-science, hypocritical, corrupt and downright crazy actions and beliefs make them unfit to serve in Congress."
The group currently has a list of six Congressmen it is working against. An additional four are going to be named later. Unlike a traditional super PAC, though, CREDO says its operation is based on small donations and millions of volunteers.
Becky Bond, president of the super PAC, and our guest here in just a moment, says, "Where Karl Rove and the Koch brothers can use shady money from a few hidden donors to fund a barrage of TV attack ads, this super PAC will empower local voters and our list of 2.5 million activists to build a grassroots campaign that is as hard-hitting as it is progressive. Using innovative tactics, technology and good, old-fashioned grassroots organizing, we're going to kick some tea party congressmen out of office."
As for the unofficial leader of the tea party movement, former GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin says she's sort of supporting New Gingrich for president. While his many years in Washington might lead one to believe he's in fact part of the Establishment, she argues otherwise:
(Excerpt from video clip) SARAH PALIN: They want to crucify him because he's tapped into that average, everyday American tea party grassroots movement that has said, "Enough is enough," of the establishment that tries to run the show and tweak rules and laws and regulations for their own good and not for our nation's own good.
So, if for no other reason - rage against the machine, vote for Newt. Annoy a liberal. Vote Newt.
PRESS: Annoy a liberal. Nobody can annoy a liberal more than Sarah Palin. All right, joining us now, as promised, president of CREDO super PAC Becky Bond, out in San Francisco. Hey, Becky, thanks for your time tonight. Good to have you with us.
BECKY BOND: Good to be here.
PRESS: Let me ask you the first question that comes to my mind - why does a phone company have a PAC?
BOND: Well, that's a great question. Maybe even a better question is, "Why has a phone company been involved in progressive politics since 1985?"
PRESS: All right, take them both.
BOND: So, for - for - for over 25 years CREDO has been involved in progressive politics. We've been fighting Newt since the mid '90s and we've been pushing for progressive change. And, let me just tell you, in our history we have never seen extremism in the Congress like we've seen since the tea party wave in 2010 that was funded on just buckets of super PAC money from the Koch brothers and from people like Karl Rove. And we've seen a lot of history, and we know this is bad. And as good people of conscience, we've decided that we need to strike back and it's time to fight back and we need to take down some of these tea party Republicans who are destroying our democracy.
PRESS: Amen to that. You say you're going spend $3 million on this 2012 election against these ten tea partiers, but you only have, our research shows, $235,000 today on hand. So, where is the rest of the money coming from?
BOND: Well, our - the thing that's different about our super PAC from the Koch brothers' super PAC is that our super PAC is funded largely with small-dollar donations from our activists on our 2.5 million-person CREDO action list. And we only started our PAC in December and we started asking people for contributing to this PAC. And it's only today that we announced our candidates. We have 15,000 small-dollar donors. Some of them giving $10 to $25 at one time, some of them giving $10 to $25 a month. And we are on track to our goal of raising $3 million.
PRESS: Now, you've identified, so far, six of them. They are, in no particular order: Sean Duffy from Wisconsin, Steve King from Iowa, Allen West from Florida - boy, that's a good start - Joe Walsh from Illinois, Frank Guinta from New Hampshire and Chip Cravaack, I guess it is, from Minnesota. How did you choose these six? How did you select those six targets? Based on what?
BOND: Well, these are some of the worst of the worst tea party Republicans in Congress. And they also are serving in congressional districts where they can be beaten. These are vulnerable seats, and these are congressional districts where a grassroots field campaign, powered by progressive volunteers, can make the difference between whether they win or whether they lose. Now, the right wing has money, but we have people. And if we can put those people to work in these districts, we can throw these guys out of office.
PRESS: Why isn't Michele Bachmann on the list?
BOND: Well, that's - that's a great question. So, we have four -
PRESS: My favorite target.
BOND: We have four more targets that we will be announcing and our members are going to be involved in voting on those targets. And so, who knows, Michele Bachmann could be on the list.
Mostly, on our list, are tea party freshman. These are people who won 2010, many in congressional districts where Obama won election in 2008. Some of them really squeaked by. They've shown themselves to be extreme. We think voters didn't know what they were buying when they voted them into office. And we think we can get them out after only one term.
PRESS: Now, are you going to then be buying TV ads with this money? Will there be any grassroots kind of activity? Going to have local offices in local states where people can get in and - old-fashioned walk precincts or whatever? What's the plan?
BOND: Yeah, we're 100 percent anti-tea party and we're going to run a good field campaign with grassroots volunteers. We - the research shows us that volunteers talking to voters is far more effective than watching a television ad. So, they can pump their millions and millions into ads, but we know that we can spend less money on getting grassroots activists involved and, you know, walking and talking to people in their neighborhoods and making phone calls and protesting at the offices of these tea party incumbents when they say things that are racist or when they do things that are sexist. And this is how we're going to win.
PRESS: Good for you. Becky Bond, good to have you with us tonight, and good luck with your project. We'll be keeping in touch with you. Thank you.
BOND: Thank you and go to teapartyten.com and you can join us, too.
PRESS: All right. You got it.
And, speaking of big money in politics, friends - if you want to know all about the Koch brothers Becky mentioned, and the big money they've been pouring into efforts to bring down President Obama - check out my new book, "The Obama Hate Machine," available in book stores as of tomorrow, January 31. Or you can get it at amazon.com. "The Obama Hate Machine: The Lies, Distortions and Personal Attacks on the President, and Who is Behind Them." Check it out.
As violence and vandalism erupt in Oakland, has the soul of the Occupy movement been co-opted?
And President Obama draws fire from religious groups for making contraception available to all women, regardless of religious beliefs.
Coming up on "Countdown."
PRESS: Coming up - from New York to Washington to Oakland, the Occupy movement spent the weekend making its presence once again known, but is this latest version of Occupy itself being occupied?
But first, the "Sanity Break." It was on this day in 1882 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York.
FDR would enter politics in 1910 as a New York state senator and would later go on to become what even Newt Gingrich has referred to as "the greatest president of the 20th century." And Newt, we know, is a great historian. Just ask him.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Seven-year-old record holder does push-ups on glass bottles.
We begin, as we always do, with extremely strong children doing push-ups on glass bottles.
Seven-year-old Giuliano Stroe, Guinness Record holder for some of his past feats of strength, is attempting a new challenge - push-ups while balanced on glass bottles.
I know it seems like this is dangerous, but, of course, it's not because glass bottles never break. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm now being told glass bottles can break and that this is extremely bad parenting.
Now, this should go without saying - but kids, please don't try this at home. Let your parents do it!
VIDEO: Boxer puppy afraid of one inch of water.
We travel to the world of puppies next, and in this world, everything's a lot scarier than it should be. For a puppy, at least.
Take, for instance, one inch of water.
Little Alfie here wants to get over to his family calling from the other side, but the sea is simply too rough. Finally, Alfie summons the courage and crosses the mighty waters.
He says he now understands what those guys in "The Perfect Storm" must have gone through.
VIDEO: Man forced to carry sign after skipping out on jury duty.
And, finally, we check in with Crown Point, Indiana, where - if you get called to jury duty - you'd better show up and stay until you're told to leave.
Justin Humphrey here did the first part - he showed up. But when the jurors broke for lunch, he broke for the day.
As a punishment for his crime, a creative judge gave him an opinion - an option: pay a fine or wear a sign. And I think you can see by now which one he chose.
Humphrey wore his sign in front of the courthouse this morning and he'll have to do the same thing next Monday, a punishment worse than having to serve on the jury in the first place.
"Time Marches On!"
Occupy protesters in Oakland turned violent, breaking into and vandalizing City Hall. So, is occupy being taken over by the radicals? 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, as the Occupy movement enters its fifth month of existence, more eyes then ever are waiting and hoping for Occupiers to make a mistake.
In our third story tonight - after more violence over the weekend in Oakland, the Occupy movement appears to be now at a crossroads. While some extreme factions have resorted to violence and vandalism, others have endured with passive resistance.
Today, a noon deadline came and passed at Occupy DC. Park rangers had announced over the weekend that it would enforce anti-camping rules starting today at noon. As of now, the Occupy DC camps remain. However, many protesters fear that authorities are just waiting for them to fall asleep tonight before launching their eviction.
On Sunday, police entered Washington's Occupy camps, handing out flyers announcing today's planned eviction. One protester responded by ripping up the flyers and police reacted accordingly - by having three officers surround the protester and taser him to the ground.
In New York, meanwhile, a dozen people were arrested on Sunday, as nearly 300 protesters marched up Fifth Avenue. During the march, some Occupiers threw bottles at police, which - in turn - led to the officers charging and arresting protesters, which somehow seemed appropriate, given that the march was held to support 400 members of Occupy Oakland who were arrested on Saturday.
In Oakland, protesters were attempting to occupy the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, but police arrived first and drove them back, using tear gas. As protesters attempted to move to a second vacant location, police again intervened, this time surrounding the protesters.
Some were able to escape across a vacant lot, eventually seeking refuge in a nearby YMCA. When police surrounded the YMCA, another, more violent group of protesters converged on City Hall, breaking in and vandalizing the building by knocking over models, spray painting walls and even burning an American flag.
So, joining me now for more on what's going on out in the Bay area, close to the sea, there's Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson. Hey, Josh, good to have you with us tonight.
JOSH HARKINSON: Hey, great to be here.
PRESS: So, what is happening, particularly in Oakland? Are these anarchists who are coming in and trying to take over the movement, or just some of the Occupy protesters who've lost their patience after all these months?
HARKINSON: Well, you know, there's always been an anarchist contingent within the Occupy movement. And, I've covered this on both coasts. I've spent a lot of time at Zuccotti Park in New York and I've spent at the Occupation in Oakland. And, you know, there's a difference, though, between anarchists who embrace peaceful, non-violent demonstration methods. And, you know, what we've seen some people do in Oakland recently. And, I think that's the rub. In Oakland, there's a lot more of a kind of militant dynamic. There are a lot of kind of historical reasons for that. But I think that's what we're seeing right now.
PRESS: Can you figure out why it's Oakland? I mean, if you look at New York, Atlanta, Washington, San Francisco, the violence has been mainly - to the extent there has been any - in Oakland. I mean, why Oakland?
HARKINSON: Yeah, so, you know, it goes back really to the '60s or even before that. Oakland is the birthplace of the Black Panthers, and that movement sprung out of racial discrimination, economic inequities. And - however, it also was part of this dynamic in which the police cracked down on militant activists, and that sort of fed even more militant activism. And so, it's this kind of vicious cycle that we're seeing in Oakland. And we're still seeing that play out today.
I mean, I've spoken with members of occupy Oakland who say, "Yes, I mean, the Black Panthers are basically what we're looking to here." And although not all of them, by any means, condone vandalism, I think they're willing to tolerate it more, and partly it's because of that culture. It goes back all the way to the '60s.
PRESS: The mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan, has asked Occupy protesters to condemn the violence over the weekend, disassociate themselves from it. Have they done so? Will they do so?
HARKINSON: Well, I don't think they will in Oakland, at least not based on the conversations I've had with people. It's a bigger question as far as the broader Occupy movement.
And I think they're in a sort of difficult position, because I don't think people within the movement want to side with Mayor Quan, who many of them don't like. I think her approach to evicting the Occupation in Oakland was widely criticized. I think possibly justifiably in some cases.
And I think what's going on, though, is you're seeing solidarity. There were these other demonstrations in a couple dozen cities around the country in solidarity with Occupy Oakland, and I don't think people in the movement want to take sides with Mayor Quan against people who they view as, kind, of their compatriots.
PRESS: For the most part, Josh, the tents are gone. The actual encampments are gone. Does this mean the movement is gone? Or where does it - if it continues, in what form does it continue?
HARKINSON: Well, you know, it's yet to be seen. I think, in some ways, it's being pushed forward by organizations that are outside of the "Occupy groups" in the city, and cities around the country.
I mean, we're seeing efforts to overturn Citizens United which is being pushed by non-profit groups like Move to Amend, but also supported by Occupiers. You know, we're gonna - I think we're going to see other things like that. We're going to see the elections. I think Occupy is going to surface there in terms of just what people talk about, you know, issues of income inequality, corporate political control. You're going to see candidates adopt the language of the movement.
And I think that the challenge is going to be to sort of "keep it real" while, you know, not also, kind of, going off the edge and into kind of vandalism and really extreme tactics.
PRESS: "We are the 99 percent," part of the American dialogue now.
Josh Harkinson, good to have you with us tonight. Thanks, Josh.
HARKINSON: My pleasure, thank you.
PRESS: And coming up, the head of the RNC compares President Obama to that Italian captain who abandoned his sinking ship. Seriously?
PRESS: Chairman Reince Priebus decides it's a good idea to compare President Obama to the Italian cruise captain responsible for the deaths of over 17 people and then refuses to apologize.
And Catholics are up in arms at President Obama for demanding that all women have access to contraception. But I guess we shouldn't be surprised. They've gone on crusades for less.
PRESS: My commentary for tonight.
I'd never dare name the "Worst Person in the World." That's Keith's signature feature and nobody does it better. But there is one person who really, really bugs me today. So, let me just call him the "Worst Person of the Day."
I'm talking about Reince Priebus. Yeah, that's his name, Reince Priebus. You know who I mean - that nondescript, nobody chair of the Republican National Committee.
Now, look, I've been around politics a long time. I know it's not beanbag. You expect strong criticism from time to time, that's the name of the game. But yesterday, on "Face the Nation" with Bob Shieffer, Priebus said something truly horrible and way over the line.
First, he made a dumb comment in response to Schieffer's question about whether or not this ugly Republican primary would end up hurting the party nominee.
(Excerpt from video clip) REINCE PRIEBUS: The history shows, Bob, that - that tough primaries and a little bit of drama are a good thing for the challenging party. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, you know, they killed each other through June and guess what? He won pretty easily. I think the evidence is there.
PRESS: No. Of course, Priebus is dead wrong about 2012 being just like 2008. The difference is - in 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were both serious candidates, and either one of them would make a great president of the United States. The Republican candidates this year, all eight or nine of them, are nothing but a bunch of clowns. The only serious one, Jon Huntsman, dropped out of the race.
But then Priebus pivoted to attack President Obama in the most tasteless manner possible:
(Excerpt from video clip) PRIEBUS: I think it's good for America, and in the end - in a few months - this is all going to be ancient history and we're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama who is abandoning the ship here in the United States and is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president.
PRESS: Can you believe it? How dare Priebus compare President Obama to the captain of that Italian cruise ship? It's an odious comparison for a couple of reasons.
First, the captain abandoned his ship. Totally unlike him, President Obama is busy trying to keep the ship of state afloat and sailing us out of the treacherous waters where George W. Bush, the previous captain of our ship, had left us.
And second, did Priebus forget? The captain of that ship is responsible for the deaths of at least 17 people, with 15 still missing.
Come on! It's bad enough for Rush Limbaugh to call Obama a socialist. But for Priebus to compare him to a bungling idiot whose reckless behavior actually cost lives? Good Lord! Has Priebus no shame? Apparently not. Here he is today doubling down on Fox News:
(Excerpt from video clip) PRIEBUS: This is ridiculous, Megyn. The analogy was made, and it was an analogy of leadership. That in a time of crisis - in a time of crisis - this president is leaving the White House and campaigning nonstop all the time. I think it's pretty clear, but you know, if people out there, especially on the Democratic side, want to try to make hay of it - I mean, they're going to be able to do that. The reality is, it's a fair analogy.
PRESS: Friends, I think we just found out how low Republicans are willing to go to deny Obama a second term. You know, before he embarrasses them any further, Republicans ought to fire Reince Priebus. He is, hands down, the worst and the most despicable person of the day.
PRESS: And now, bringing the birth control debate to Sunday Mass.
In our number-one story on the "Countdown" tonight - Catholic church parishioners across the country this weekend heard letters read from the pulpit scolding the Obama administration for a recent federal rule requiring that all faith-based schools, hospitals and charities pay for contraceptive services under their health-care coverage beginning next year.
At a town hall in Jacksonville, Florida today, Newt Gingrich echoed the outrage from religious leaders, who say this rule is an assault on religious liberty.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: The Obama administration is engaged in a war against religion. The Obamacare standard of what you have to buy as insurance is a direct violation of freedom of religion and an example of the increasingly dictatorial attitude of this administration.
PRESS: Though the church formally forbids all birth control aside from abstinence, surveys have found that 98 percent of sexually-active Catholic women in America have used contraceptives. But according to Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, the administration's message to Catholics is quite clear: "To hell with your religious beliefs. To hell with your religious liberty. To hell with your freedom of conscience."
Well, joining us now to talk about this - Eleanor Smeal, a good friend and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Ellie, it's good to see you tonight. Thank you for joining us.
ELEANOR SMEAL: Good seeing you, Bill.
PRESS: So look, the pope is in his late 80s here, Ellie, why are you picking on the Catholic church and the pope?
SMEAL: We're not picking on the Catholic church. In fact, you know, they keep getting it all wrong. All we're saying is that you can't discriminate against women who want access. And, remember, this is in their public accommodations, or public services. This is them as an employer in hospitals, or in charity services, or in education, colleges and universities. And they are offering a service for which they're receiving money, and their students who go there - or their employees - are not all Catholics. They're all different kinds of religions.
And, even the Catholics who are Catholics might not agree with the bishops on birth control. As you just said, most Catholics practice birth control just as Protestants or anybody else. So, what this would be doing is taking away a benefit from a woman. And, right now, birth control is the number-one expense for women of childbearing ages, out-of-pocket expense in heath care.
PRESS: Well, sort of playing devil's advocate here - don't these women have a choice of going somewhere else to get the Pill, or whatever? They don't have to go to that Catholic hospital. And isn't this forcing the Catholic hospital to do something which is against their, at least for the time, established policy of the church?
SMEAL: No, no, no, they're not getting the Pill from the hospital. What this is, the insurance coverage for the employee would include - if it includes other FDA-approved drugs - they couldn't exclude from their package contraception. The employee then goes to buy it at their pharmacy or wherever they normally buy it. The same thing for the - for the kids, it's their health-insurance plan.
And you can't just say, "Well, no, we're going to discriminate against this and make you pay for it." Remember, this is - it's a part of the preventive-care package. So, they won't have to pay. And actually, it doesn't cost the church anything, or the administration - let's put it this way, the employer. It doesn't cost them anything because it's cheaper, really, than the alternative. So, it actually decreases costs for the program.
PRESS: Is this contraception - this ruling - part of a bigger picture? I mean, is this the new abortion debate, I guess is what I'm asking - contraception? There's been a lot of talk about it. Santorum's not the only one talking about it. We have that initiative down in Mississippi. What's going on here?
SMEAL: What's going on is that, for some reason, the bishops have decided to attack birth control. You know, they are lobbying against the family-planning program. And we're not talking abortion, that's off the - we're talking about the provision of contraception. And this has been a part of our program since about 1972, as supported by the Republicans and Democrats.
Suddenly, the church is pushing this line that is saying, "No birth control." And they're trying to treat it like abortion. And reality is - this is 2011. Most heterosexuals use birth control at some time in their life. And if the candidates actually said, "We want birth control outlawed," believe me, this whole show would be over. I mean, the public is not there.
PRESS: Just quickly - about 20 seconds - President Obama, is this a fight that he should have picked in this election year 2012 against -
SMEAL: Well, he didn't pick the fight. He didn't really pick the fight. Let's be real clear about this. Twenty-eight states already do this in their health - this is a health-insurance provision. And frankly, women want access. They don't want their insurance coverage to be - they don't want to be discriminated against in their insurance coverage. And right now - the affordable-care access, you can't discriminate against women.
PRESS: So, that's what this is. Right.
SMEAL: Yes, and he's just standing firm against terrible pressure.
PRESS: Ellie Smeal, got to go. Thanks again for your leadership on some of the issues.
SMEAL: Good seeing you.
PRESS: Thanks for being with us tonight.
And that's "Countdown" for tonight. I'm Bill Press. For Keith and all of us here at "Countdown," thanks for watching. See you again tomorrow night for Florida.
"The War Room" is next, with Governor Jennifer Granholm.