Wednesday, February 29, 2012

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug 1: Only in politics could you tie at home + claim you won. Romney's hollow boast, Santorum claim his politics got him low grades

#ShowPlug 2: @Craig_Crawford on Michigan Tie; @Will_Bunch on Santorum's Grade Envy; @DaveCatanese on No GOP End In Sight

#ShowPlug 3: Occupy returns amid news Homeland Security has been investigating - including here on Twitter. W/ @MTaibbi

#ShowPlug 4: James Murdoch out at News Int'l. His choice, they claim. Which makes the timing terrible. @MichaelWolffNYC explains

#ShowPlug Last: Billo sets himself up for responsibility for Tiller Assassination; + RW'er plan: To get food stamps, you must give up voting


#5 'Split Decision', Craig Crawford

#5 'Split Decision', Will Bunch (excerpt)

#4 'Keeps Going And Going', David Catanese

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Occu-Spy', Matt Taibbi

#2 Worst Persons: Brion McClanahan, Rep. John Mathis, Bill O'Reilly

#1 'James Unworthy', Michael Wolff (excerpt)

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , ,

KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that's all that counts.

OLBERMANN: Only in politics could you win 15 delegates and the other guy win 15 delegates on your home field and you get to try to call it a win.

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: We have a lot of wind at our back heading here to Tennessee, and we're going to be taking it all across the Super Tuesday states.

OLBERMANN: Michigan may be over, but the gaffes continue uninterrupted.

Santorum explains his claim that wanting everybody to go to college makes you a snob - it's about the lousy grades he got at Penn State because he was a conservative.

(Excerpt from audio clip) SANTORUM: I can tell you professor after professor who docked my grades because of my - of the viewpoints I expressed and the papers that I wrote.

OLBERMANN: Because there's no possible other explanation for getting bad grades in college.

Craig Crawford on the Michigan tie.

Will Bunch on how Penn State screwed Santorum out of an A-minus.

David Catanese on where the GOP race goes from here.

Occupy is back and - going kind of blue.

(Excerpt from video clip) PROTESTERS: We want progress! F--- you, Congress!

OLBERMANN: And the careful process by which the NYPD chooses which protesters to arrest.

(Excerpt from video clip) COP: Take him.

OLBERMANN: Matt Taibbi on the Occupy Spring.

And Murdoch-gate touches very near the throne. James Murdoch, out. Michael Wolff analyzes.

And the right-winger who has solved the crisis of food stamps. All who receive them, he says, should lose their right to vote.

All that and more, now on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Good evening, this is Wednesday, February 29th, 252 days until the 2012 presidential election.

Romney beats Santorum in last night's Arizona primary, while Santorum loses the vote count but apparently ties Romney in delegates in his home state of Michigan.

The fifth story on the "Countdown" - at the bank, at the ballgame, in the classroom - if you get 15, and the other guy gets 15, you're even. In politics, if you can smile unctuously enough, you can claim 15-15 is a clear victory.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Well, it was a big night last night for me. I was very pleased. Very good news, Arizona and Michigan, right next door.

OLBERMANN: Right next door in Super Tuesday state Ohio, that is, where he was this morning, where he is also crushingly behind and where he repeated the mantra that he really, really won last night.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: We didn't win by a lot but we won by enough, and that's all that counts.

OLBERMANN: Romney polling 41 percent of the vote in Michigan, Santorum trailing him by three points, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich bringing up the cabooses. Romney dominating in Arizona, beating Santorum, as expected, by 20 points.

Santorum thanking his Michigan supporters last night:

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: The people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is, I love you back. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Santorum then claiming the split today:

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: We actually won half the congressional districts, and so we're going to walk out of Michigan with 15 delegates, and he's going to walk out of Michigan with 15 delegates. Good tie.

OLBERMANN: CNN and NBC News both now projecting that when the last votes are tallied, Santorum will be right. The GOP primary leaders splitting Michigan's 14 congressional districts, and thus their 28 delegates, along with the two delegates won through the statewide vote.

Romney adding the 29 delegates from Arizona's winner-take-all primary, now leading Santorum going into Super Tuesday by 80 delegates, with 1,144 needed to win the GOP nomination.

Breaking the Michigan numbers down, the exit polls showing Romney won the male vote from Santorum by one point. Women favored Romney by five points. Santorum winning the plurality of voters earning $99,000 a year or less, and Romney with a plurality of the earning $100,000 or more.

Santorum won half of the voters who styled themselves as "very conservative." Romney with half of those who called themselves "somewhat conservative" and a plurality of voters calling themselves "moderate to liberal."

Romney also winning a plurality of voters with college degrees and Santorum a plurality of those without them. Thereby hangs another tale. Santorum's recent comments about college now stitching themselves together with his own collegiate experience, in very unfortunate terms, that sounded a little self-delusive and very bitter. They were mean to him at Penn State because he was a conservative.

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I can tell you professor after professor who docked my grades because of my - of the viewpoints I expressed and the papers that I wrote.

(Excerpt from video clip) INTERVIEWER: Really? Your grades -

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: There's no question that happened. I used to go to war with some of my professors, you know, who just thought I was just out of the pale and, you know, these ideas are just not proper ideas and got docked in communicating them.

OLBERMANN: But was he even a conservative in college?

Political science professor Robert O'Connor, who taught four classes to Santorum, told The New Republic, "He really has a rich fantasy life. I resent this sort of accusation that I and my colleagues graded students on the basis of their political attitudes. Ridiculous."

Former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Phil English, a Santorum classmate saying, "He was outspoken and aggressive, but had a populist approach, less about issues and more about getting people involved."

And former Florida Republican Congressmen Tom Feeney, another Santorum classmate, adding, "He had Republican values, but it's not like he was running around leading conservative jihads or anything."

Santorum seeming, also, to have undercut his own claim when he told National Public Radio this last May:

(Excerpt from audio clip) SANTORUM: I was generally conservative. I was generally Republican, but I was more of a political operative than I was someone who had strong convictions about issues.

OLBERMANN: And, of course, Philadelphia Magazine quoting Santorum saying in an article published in December 1995, "I was basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress."

Meanwhile, if Romney is thinking of shouting, "Save me, Chris Christie," Quinnipiac polls asking New Jersey voters how Mitt Romney's making the New Jersey governor his vice presidential choice would affect their choice in the general election - Obama wins the state 49-39 over Romney and anybody as VP. And he still wins it 49-43 over Romney and Christie.

Back to school with Rick Santorum in a moment.

First - for more on last night's primaries, per se - I'm joining by Craig Crawford, politics blogger at and author of "The Politics of Life." Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD: Let's just call Michigan "sudden death" for Republicans. It was a tie.

OLBERMANN: It was a tie! Why can't anybody say it was a tie? I mean, I know why Romney can't say it was a tie, but I mean in the newscasts and the political punditry, and everything in print and everything online and everything analyzed, it was a tie. Wasn't it?

CRAWFORD: I mean, Romney went further than some of the commentators on discounting his own victory, saying he didn't win by a lot but he won by enough.

The problem is, Keith, this always happens in every presidential campaign - the media has such a difficult time when the race shifts from playing checkers to playing chess. We're not covering checkers any more. It's not about media momentum and popular-vote victory. It's about counting delegates, and that's where we are now, and it's always tough for the media to make that transition.

OLBERMANN: This is why, when people ask me about covering sports as opposed to politics, this is the one thing I always point out. This is literally the example I give - that, in sports, you have a number and another number, and that means one guy won and another guy didn't win, and if they're the same number that means it's a tie. But you cannot convey this to political quote/unquote "experts." All right, I'll stop.

CRAWFORD: But at least you have overtime in sports. We don't get that in politics. Let's go back to Michigan and try again.

OLBERMANN: Oh, we have overtime in the Republican primary process. We know that. We have lots of overtime to play.

And about again - last night, the consensus was if Romney did not win the popular vote by four or five that it augured poorly for him. Not just because it would mean a split delegate count, which it did, but in other ways. He didn't win by four or five. We know that much. How poorly does this augur for him going forward?

CRAWFORD: Well, I never bought the argument that if he lost Michigan he's out of race, or if he wins Michigan he clenches the nomination. It's just not that simple.

But it is true, when you look at these numbers - this was an embarrassing victory, if it was a victory, for him because this was his native state. He won it by a third of what he won it in the 2008 campaign against McCain, and - and look at all the money and effort and organization and everything else - they put all their marbles in this state, and this is all they could come up with.

A margin, by the way, statewide - you look at the county that he came from in Michigan, that's where he got that margin, the county that he was born in. So this is not a big momentum victory for him.

OLBERMANN: In looking at the exit polls - the Santorum victory with the plurality - can never say the word - plurality of voters who make - he had more than the other guy, who made less than $100,000 a year and Romney got the same with those making more than $100,000 a year. Does that change the campaign narratives going forward, and does that necessarily stick to either one of them if they get the nomination?

CRAWFORD: Well, now we know what Romney's base is - the managerial class of Republicans who can lay off people. Voters who can lay off people, that's who identify with Mitt Romney. The argument that Santorum keeps making, that he - you know, pitching the middle class - he is winning that among those - that income group, at least.

OLBERMANN: There was some expectation that - perhaps, at some point in the near future - people would start to shake out, that this would be a two-man race or a three-man race in the very near future. Did you see anything last night that suggests that's imminent?

CRAWFORD: You know, I think that's one impact of the super PACs, is that candidates can stay in the race as long as they've got rich guys - sugar daddies - to keep them going beyond when they would normally have to drop out. They can just keep on going.

And we're heading into these proportional delegation - allocation-of-delegates states. There are only four states left that are winner-take-all, with a little over 100 delegates to offer, combined. So, we are entering a period where all these candidates, if they keep getting the money flow, can keep getting delegates - not enough to win the nomination, but enough to stay in the game.

And if they win enough states - I believe it's five in the Republican Party, which Santorum is right on that - they can have their names put up for nomination on the ballot at the convention. So, I think they have every incentive to keep doing that.

Plus, they just hate Romney. That's become very obvious.

OLBERMANN: That's because he can't tell the difference between a win and a tie.


OLBERMANN: Enough of that.

Craig Crawford, politics blogger at, author of "The Politics of Life, many thanks as always.

CRAWFORD: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: Now to Rick Santorum, Penn State class of 1980, complaining about his grades. I'm joined now by Will Bunch, the author of "The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama," and a new Kindle single, on a different topic, "Give it to Steve." That's the story of the Philadelphia Eagles, I think. Santorum, Mr. Bunch, it's good to talk to you, as always -

WILL BUNCH: Yes, same, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Santorum attended Penn State between '76 and '80, and we heard Professor O'Connor saying it was not exactly Berkeley around that time. What - how much of a liberal-left hotbed was College Park and, you know, did Rick Santorum stick out like a sore thumb?

BUNCH: Well, I mean, we're laughing hysterically about this here in Pennsylvania. I mean, to call Penn State a liberal icon - I mean, you know, Berkeley - where they rioted over free speech and Vietnam - I mean, that's a liberal icon. Penn State's the place where they rioted when they lost the basketball game to Temple.

So, you know, Penn State's never - never been an ultra-liberal school. I mean, it's a good football school. It's a good academic school. It's not a bastion of liberalism, and Rick Santorum was no flaming conservative when he was at Penn State.

OLBERMANN: The term - and I have to do this as an aside, it's an etymological question - the term, "They docked my grades." Maybe I'm just not hip to the way the word is used in some places. I like to think I know regional dialects and phrases. In Pennsylvania, do you dock grades? I thought you docked salaries, and you docked pay, but I never heard "dock grades" before.

BUNCH: No, unfortunately, they dock pay a lot here, but docking grades? "Docking grades," I've never heard before. You know, this is one of those phrases, it's kind of like - you know, remember when Romney said he was severely conservative? I mean, this is a phrase that should set off your baloney detector, because nobody uses this phrase. And so, you have to wonder, what is he really talking about here? You know, I think this whole story is kind of invented, frankly.

OLBERMANN: Well, he does seem to come up with these bizarre - I mean, man-on-dog sex, first of all. Which is - who else in the history of the world has said that?

BUNCH: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: These comments from the classmates who went on to serve in Congress, they imply that there is something in there exaggerative about Senator Santorum and non-Senator Santorum. Does he have a local reputation of sort of exaggerating the mighty woes that have befallen him in his trudge through life?

BUNCH: Absolutely. I think - you know, it's funny, these quotes about him being a political operative. I mean, first and foremost, Rick Santorum is a politician, and I think he's playing smart politics here, because he understands that - you know, the politics of resentment has been a winning formula in the Republican party ever since the days of Richard Nixon and Nixonland, as Rick Perlstein calls it, and, you know, he's appealing to that. To do that, I mean, he's come up with this kind of a myth of creation in which - you know, that he - you know, he was originally born a conservative, when clearly that's not true.

You know, one thing else about his career at Penn State is that he was the campus campaign manager for John Heinz, who was one of the last - the late John Heinz - who was one of the last liberal Republicans that we had in the Senate, very pro-choice, and this was Rick Santorum's kind of politician back in the 1970s. He was very moderate. He was a pragmatist.

OLBERMANN: What about even the '80s and the '90s, and the early 2000s? Was he that conservative, ultimately, as a congressman and as a senator?

BUNCH: He went back and forth. He was able to zigzag. When he ran for a second term in Pennsylvania in 2000 he ran ads about, you know, all the money he brought home for the state and his, you know, commitment to Medicare and senior citizens and he ran a very - he ran a very centrist campaign to get re-elected.

What happened is - by 2006, he could not play that act any more, because he had just been so out there on social issues, and the result was he lost by 18 points in Pennsylvania, as we all know, so -

OLBERMANN: And the revelations here about his past, that he has not been as conservative as he is now, obviously they will continue by people who don't just believe it and think it's - he's getting away with something. Is it going to have any impact on true believers, or are they just so happy to hear a guy say, "I'm the true conservative, now," that they'll believe it?

BUNCH: Yeah, well, you know - I think he's going to try - you can always do the Reagan thing like on abortion, where, "I converted and - you know, what - this is who I am now," and the reality is, you know, obviously, Rick Santorum has obviously gotten more and more conservative, and he is something of a true believer now. So, I don't think it's going to hurt him. You know, Romney may use this against him, but I think he is the conservative that you see now, definitely.

OLBERMANN: Ah, the joy of the born-again virgin.

Will Bunch, the author of "Backlash" and now "Give it to Steve." Hackley Dial, 1974-1977. Thank you, and Mr. Budlong wants to see you in the office now, son.

BUNCH: Well, thanks for teaching me journalism, Keith. I still appreciate it.

OLBERMANN: I hope you learned something else besides that. All right, take care, Will.

BUNCH: All right, see ya.

OLBERMANN: So, a man who can't tell a tie from a win against the man carrying a 32-year-old chip on his shoulder because his grades weren't what he wanted in Penn State. Where do the Republicans go from here? Next.


OLBERMANN: Associated Press now confirming - 15 Michigan delegates Santorum, 15 Michigan delegates Romney. It was tie! With exit polling there showing barely half of the voters strongly liked the guy they voted for yesterday. With neither Gingrich nor Paul giving a hint of dropping out, where on earth do the Republicans go from here?

Many shoes have fallen, this was the first big one - James Murdoch out at News International. Michael Wolff on whether Rupert might be next.

As it was an Arab Spring in 2011, maybe it will be an Occupy Spring in 2012. If so, today was Opening Day. Mike Taibbi joins us.

And he actually poses an interesting question about Occupy - if you encourage a group, and a member of that group kills somebody, can you be held legally liable? You mean, like whoever encouraged the man who assassinated Dr. George Tiller?


OLBERMANN: "This," says an observer of the Republican primary process, "is like watching a Greek tragedy. It's the negative campaigning and the increasing personal attacks. It should have stopped long ago. Any utility from the debates has been exhausted, and now it's just exchanging cheap shots and personal shots followed by super PAC attacks."

The outside observer is 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. And when John McCain is calling another Republican nomination of another year "a Greek tragedy," that's a problem.

In our fourth story - the conventional wisdom suggests Super Tuesday will be decisive, except Mitt Romney is facing double-digit deficits in next Tuesday's two biggest contests.

After his second-place finish in Arizona and his tie in Michigan, Rick Santorum continued his campaign in Tennessee, where he used last night's results as an indication of success he thinks will come next week.

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: We have a lot of wind in our back heading here to Tennessee, and we're going to be taking it all across the Super Tuesday states.

OLBERMANN: On Tuesday, March 6th, 437 delegates will be doled out - through caucuses in Alaska and North Dakota and Idaho, and through primaries in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Ohio, Georgia and Virginia.

But due to Santorum and Gingrich's inability to get on the ballot, Virginia will be between Romney and Ron Paul only. The two largest states up for grabs next Tuesday are Georgia and Ohio, with 76 and 66 delegates respectively. In both states, Romney faces serious hurdles.

The former governor began his Super Tuesday push today, in Rick Santorum's backyard of Ohio. But recent polls suggest this may be futile. The poll, conducted by the University of Cincinnati, shows Santorum with an 11-point lead among Ohio voters who intend to vote in the primary, a seven-point lead, according to Quinnipiac's poll of likely voters.

After skipping Arizona and Michigan, Gingrich resumed campaigning in his home state of Georgia, hoping that a home-state victory could reinvigorate his sagging campaign, though $10 million from Sheldon Adelson will help. With polling showing a comfortable 15-point lead among likely voters, indeed, Virginia - Georgia, rather - seems to be Gingrich's to lose.

At this point, let's bring in national political reporter for Politico David Catanese. David, thanks for your time tonight.

DAVID CATANESE: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Playing the devil's advocate about McCain's Greek tragedy quote - isn't this exactly what all of us were saying about the Obama/Clinton race four years ago to this second?

CATANESE: Yes, absolutely. I do think there is a bit of a distinction from the '08 race to this race. The '08 race between Clinton and Obama - mainly about experience versus judgment.

This race is getting a little personal. I mean, Rick Santorum's out there - basically, his main case is that Mitt Romney is a fraud. I don't think you heard that strong of language between Clinton and Obama, but - that being said - it is only February. We tend, in the media, to live in the moment, and we'll be completely talking about a different narrative in July if this thing is wrapped up, and I think that's the, you know, chance for the Republicans to come together. And I think there is still an opportunity for them to do that, despite everything that is going on in the primary right now.

OLBERMANN: Well, how does that happen, particularly in the context that usually Super Tuesday - if not decides everything - at least leads towards a decision or it gets us closer to a decision, which would seem to be - from this perspective, anyway - demonstrably false relative to this Super Tuesday for the Republicans.

CATANESE: Right, but there are 400 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. It is the biggest day on the calendar to date. But, correct - I mean, Mitt Romney's not going to be able to clinch the 1,144 delegates by then that he needs to get the nomination. So, there will be a fight that is continued.

But I think this is all about Ohio. There's ten states. I mean - put aside Georgia, because it's Newt Gingrich's home turf. Put aside Massachusetts, that's Romney's home turf. Rick Santorum has basically said in his campaign that, "Hey, I can win the Midwest. Mitt Romney can't. I can win states like Ohio, that's why I'm the better general election candidate." So, if he can't win in Ohio and Mitt Romney is successful there, I think that is a pretty emphatic statement, especially coming after his wins in Michigan and Arizona, two other potential battleground states.

OLBERMANN: Well, if particularly in Ohio - and to a lesser degree in Georgia - is there an indication that what has worked for Romney, and it certainty worked to - people forget Romney did pull himself back up into this tie, even though he's calling it a win, he was significantly behind 10, 12 days ago - can he do what he did in Ohio and Georgia - can he do in Ohio and Georgia what did he in Michigan and, essentially, buy those states with another negative-ad flood?

CATANESE: Yes, I think he can in Ohio. I think it is less likely in Georgia, because he's got two hurdles to overcome. Santorum and Gingrich are ahead of him, according to polls there, and I think Romney will sort of write that off and say that - you know, that's Gingrich's home turf.

Ohio, I think he can. Watch the polls over the weekend. Watch the media campaign that is about to hit that state over the next few days. Remember, we saw him do it in Florida, where he was down, came back with a huge ad campaign. We saw him do it in Michigan, where originally he was down, you know, 10, 15 points. He closed it, day by day, just because of the preponderance of ads that were on the air and his super PAC.

Question is, can Santorum really compete over all these ten states or is he going to put all his eggs in one basket in Ohio? I think that's what he needs to do because that, to me, is his - is the firewall on Super Tuesday.

OLBERMANN: At what point do we see the end games beginning for Paul or Gingrich or both?

CATANESE: You know, that's fascinating for Gingrich. I think Paul probably stays in this for the long run. He's not winning many states. He is picking up delegates, and it's more about the movement for him, I think. He wants a role at the convention. He wants to be on that stage. That's why he's sort of playing nice with Mitt Romney.

Gingrich is a more interesting question mark. I mean, as stubborn as he might be, he is a smart political operative, and he can do the math. Does he ever get out? If he doesn't win his home state, if he somehow, you know - if Santorum is able to pick off Georgia - it's tough for Newt Gingrich to wake up next Wednesday and make a case, a forceful case - as he has - that he can go on, but I'm not going to predict what's in Newt's head.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, especially when Sheldon Adelson will call you up and say, "Here's another $10 million."

David Catanese, of Politico. As always, great thanks for your time tonight, Dave.

CATANESE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Occupy returns to the streets of New York, and Matt Taibbi rejoins us to assess its next moves.


OLBERMANN: The return of Occupy and the exit of James Murdoch. Coming up.

First, the "Sanity Break." Not really tonight.

On this date in 1692, the second set of arrests was carried out for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. By June, they were hanging people or - in one case - pressing a man to death, with 19 executions and five more dead in prison.

Later evidence suggests that the testimony about how Salem residents went into convulsions and shouted Tourette's-like blasphemies - that was not false. The town's grain supply may have been poisoned by a fungus called ergot, from which LSD can be derived.

And that, Rick Santorum, is why you have to keep an absolute separation of church and state.

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: Former Cal football star breaks paper airplane record.

We begin, as we always do, with some record breaking. It's a bird. It's a plane. Well, it's sort of a plane.

Joe Ayoob here trying to break the record for furthest distance traveled by a paper airplane.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Coming in for a hard landing, and - oh, he's stuck it! 226 feet, 10 inches! Breaking the old record by nearly 20 feet.

And for those paper airplane enthusiasts watching at home - scoring at home, or even if you're alone - yes, that is a John Collins-designed plane. As if you couldn't tell.

VIDEO: Tiny Liverpool fan takes on for the team - literally - during winning celebration.

We cross the pond to England, where Liverpool has just won its eighth Carling Cup title, and as the fans celebrate, one of them, five-year-old Shea, gets a bit too excited.

And - oh, right in the eye. Ow!

But like a true fan, he goes on cheering. Yay! Ow. Yay! Ow. Yay! Ow.

VIDEO: Russian bear shows off kung fu skills.

Finally, Jack Black knew it would eventually happen. The bears have learned kung fu.

Pamir, a rare, white-clawed bear living in a zoo in Russia, is pretty handy with the martial arts Bo staff. Experts believe the reason for the white claws is to add to his awesome kung fu mystique.

Zoo officials say Pamir also likes to play with cans, boards, baseball bats and a jet of cold water from a hose. But really, who doesn't?

"Time Marches On!"

Occupy and Homeland Security and Matt Taibbi. Next.


OLBERMANN: No matter what time you're watching this, "Countdown" is live each night at 8:00 Eastern, with the primary replay at 8:00 Pacific, the longest continuously-running 8:00 p.m. news hour on cable, unless you consider Fox - "news."

A mild winter did not chase Occupy Wall Street from Wall Street. Thus, it was perhaps fitting that it returned today, on one of the sloppiest days of that winter.

In our third story on the "Countdown" - fitting, also, that it happens on the heels of new revelations that the Department of Homeland Security has been closely monitoring the protests and has been investigating since Occupy spread across the country last fall. A five-page report analyzing Occupy's disruptive influence also examined Occupy's social media and IT usage. DHS appears to have closely monitored Occupy's Twitter feeds.

On the ground, today, 200 activists focusing on the American Legislative Council, ALEC. They marched from the Pfizer Pharmaceutical headquarters in midtown Manhattan to the offices of Bank of America. Occupy links Pfizer to the funding of ALEC and legislation giving big corporations big tax breaks. Four arrested for disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration.

Overnight, the police had arrested nine people for attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights in Zuccotti Park, a small group met by what journalists on the scene say was an arbitrary and unnecessarily strong show of force.

(Excerpt from video clip) COP #2: I grabbed you, and I felt something, and I asked you what it was. Stop the wise-ass, especially if you're the press. Stop being wise.

(Excerpt from video clip) REPORTER: Well, you're - I'm trying to report on what's going on here.

(Excerpt from video clip) COP #2: Stop being wise. Stop being wise.

OLBERMANN: Ah, generations of New York cops have sounded exactly like that, right down to the "I 'axed' you what it was."

We'll turn to Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributing editor and "Countdown" contributor. It's good to see you, Matt.

MATT TAIBBI: Good evening.

OLBERMANN: So this was Opening Day?

TAIBBI: Yeah. No, I mean, Occupy has been going on all throughout the winter, but - you know, the weather has kept it mostly off the streets, and this is, I think, the beginning of a series of actions that are going to go on throughout the spring, and today was a good day, although the weather was a little bit harsh. We had some things going on last night, too, as well.

So, I think you're going to start to see more and more Occupy activity starting about now and especially next month.

OLBERMANN: What would an Occupy Spring - everybody's used that phrase all ready a thousand times to the point of annoying people with it - what would an Occupy Spring look like, do you think?

TAIBBI: Well, I know the campaign that I'm involved with has a lot of things going on next month. You know, we're involved with this campaign against Bank of America. We've got something teamed up with International Women's Day on March 8th, there's going to be a series of actions around the country. On March 15th, there's going to be a series of actions teaming up with Occupy Homes, demonstrating at foreclosed homes and at branches of Bank of America. We've got things going on April 15th, May 15th, so - and there's a series of things going on all over the country, and there's so many different groups now that are involved. It's just so much bigger than it was back in the fall.

OLBERMANN: And I gather, also, just from listening to you sort of give the schedule for the months ahead, that if you were to look for something that was significantly different between Occupy 2011 and Occupy 2012, this is much more mobile and much less about standing one place and hoping people come and listen to your message.

TAIBBI: Oh, it's so much bigger, so much more organized and so much more targeted than it was in the fall. In the fall, really, it was - it was an impromptu thing, originally, just a whole bunch of people showing up and congregating.

Now, we have things like Occupy the FCC, which submitted a 325-page comment letter to the FCC. That's something that's never been done before by like people like us, you know, in getting involved in the regulatory process. So, there are all these different groups now. There's all these different kinds of people - lawyers, journalists, activists - involved that weren't involved in the fall, and that's why it's going to be bigger.

OLBERMANN: Is this a change in strategy or is this evolutionary?

TAIBBI: It's just evolutionary. There's just more people, physically, involved now. And I think the movement also did a smart thing - they reached out to people who were involved in a lot of these different, you know, realms of the economy, and they said, "We need more expertise. We need to figure out what we could do that will bring more pressure to bear and be more effective," and so they're targeting their resources more effectively, and so, I think you're going to see them have more of an effect in the upcoming year.

OLBERMANN: Is that why you're using the term "we" to describe Occupy?

TAIBBI: I guess, yeah, unconsciously - I guess I'm doing that. I mean, I'm sort of peripheral to all of this. But there are a lot of people -

OLBERMANN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There - there - we are. (Shows video clip of TAIBBI at an Occupy demonstration.) So, is that a royal we, an unofficial we?

TAIBBI: This was - this was my Trotsky moment, here.

OLBERMANN: Oh, how very nice. Oh, good. You remember - yeah, we all know what happened to Trotsky, not wishing you bad luck -

TAIBBI: Pick axe in the neck.

OLBERMANN: - in Mexico City. So, don't go to Mexico City. But, almost to that point - this story that Homeland has been following Occupy, I guess that wouldn't be a surprise if you don't know what an organization is to begin with - but following the Twitter feeds? What now? I'm in Homeland Security's files for #Occupy?

TAIBBI: Yeah, probably.

OLBERMANN: I mean, for other things too, but particularly for that?

TAIBBI: Yeah - no, I mean, it's crazy. This is from Michael Hastings, my colleague at Rolling Stone. You know, the criticism of this story is going to be, "Oh, so what? They're just looking at publicly-available sources."

Of course they're monitoring this, but the question is - are they doing this with the tea party? Are they doing this with other organizations?

The fact that they're monitoring, specifically, Occupy Wall Street is really, really interesting and important - and kind of scary, actually. You know, to date, we haven't seen that there's been more involved surveillance. They haven't caught them with agents provocateurs involved in the movement, but I think we can expect that there probably is that kind of surveillance out there, and everybody - well, I know - who is involved with Occupy expects that has happened.

OLBERMANN: Just because that's happened to every left-of-center protest group in the history of this country?

TAIBBI: Right, yeah. This goes back to the red squads, you know, decades ago.

OLBERMANN: The red squads? It goes back to the Haymarket in 1886.

TAIBBI: Right, right, right. Exactly.

OLBERMANN: It probably goes back to British infiltrators in the Revolutionary War.

TAIBBI: Right.

OLBERMANN: It probably had something to do with the Salem witchcraft trials which I just brought up. Of course it does.

TAIBBI: Right, Keith, ergot poisoning.

OLBERMANN: Or the ergot poisoning. There's ergot poisoning on Occupy. We have to get Homeland Security down there. Boy, I hope not.

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and a "Countdown" contributor, of course. Great thanks for coming in and nice Trotsky. You could shoot me. You didn't want to go with Lenin, 'cause - Trotsky was more -

TAIBBI: I forgot to grow the beard.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, Kerensky maybe? George Kerensky. I mean, he was pretty - he lived in Brooklyn for 40 years, so why not?

TAIBBI: Did he really?

OLBERMANN: Yes. Go look that up. It's fascinating. Only the first free president of Russia, lived most of his life in Brooklyn. It's lovely. Matt Taibbi, thank you kindly.

TAIBBI: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: News International, under the capable leadership of Rupert and James Murdoch. Oh, just Rupert. Michael Wolffe on the big news, ahead.


OLBERMANN: The spin is he wanted out from responsibility for newspapers because he's a TV guy. Michael Wolff de-spins the departure of James Murdoch.

First, the "Worsts," and the proposal to relieve the food stamp crisis, the crisis that exists only in the minds of the far right. That solution? Anybody who gets food stamps loses the right to vote. Next.


OLBERMANN: James Murdoch, out of here. That's next.

First, because these people are not yet out of here, here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze? To a Brion McClanahan - that's Brion with an "O."

Writing on the right-wing agitprop site The Daily Caller - financed by Foster Friess, the guy who recommended aspirin as birth control - McClanahan has suggested denying the vote to anybody who receives food stamps or government aid.

He also wants them shamed every time they buy food at special government food stores carrying only generic brands whose labels merely state "beans" or whatever, like in "Repo Man."

"All food stamp recipients would be required to spend their government dollars at these stores. Because competition is not an issue, taste and quality - with the exception of the baby formula and baby food - would not be a top priority. Anyone who accepts government aid would have to submit to a monthly tobacco and drug test. Food stamp recipients are, after all, wards of the state. They are slaves to the government and should be reminded of that fact. Tax producers would no longer have to knowingly be face-to-face with people at the checkout who are on government assistance but have nicer cell phones and accessories than they do." Envious of somebody else's cell phone. "There should be humiliation and pain in government assistance. Every time someone accepts food stamps, they are spitting on the principles of independence, and they, not the taxpayers who fund the program, should be reminded of that fact."

No, there is no evidence McClanahan is being satirical in a Jonathan Swift kind of way. Swift. Jonathan Swift. "A Modest Proposal." Look it up, Brion with an "O."

Runner-up? John Mathis, Republican state representative in Utah. He's finally doing something about those nightmarish hidden-camera videos that reveal the terrible and unnecessary abuse of animals, and the unsanitary conditions in factory farming.

Eliminate the abuse? Improve the conditions? No, no, no, no, no. He's offered legislation making it illegal to secretly record such violations. It'd be a misdemeanor, escalating to a felony on the second offense.

But our winner? Billo the Clown, who has stepped in it, big time. This starts as an attack on Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, for starting a non-profit that will give up to a million aid-in-grants to Occupy protesters.

But listen as Bill wanders back into a very, very dark place in his soul, where the guilt actually rules:

(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: So, what exactly is a grant? Well, it's a salary. They're going to pay people to agitate all across the U.S.A. That's dangerous, because - as we've seen in cities like Oakland and New York - people get hurt. But apparently, Ben & Jerry don't care.

If Ben & Jerry are paying agitators and those people kill someone, or destroy property, or hurt a police officer or commit violent crimes in their tent cities, can Ben & Jerry be held legally responsible? It's an interesting question.

OLBERMANN: Yes, it is. Leaving aside O'Reilly's exaggerated statement about violence at Occupy - ask who funded the police in Oakland and New York, sir - he raises a fascinating point. If you publicly encourage somebody - indirectly - to agitate, destroy property, hurt people, commit violent crimes or actually kill somebody can you be held legally responsible? I wonder why Bill wonders why?

O'REILLY: None of that seemed to matter to Tiller, nicknamed "The Baby Killer" ... She supported Tiller the Baby Killer out there ... Tiller the Baby Killer case, where Dr. George Tiller destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birthday ... They're not acquitted in Kansas, Tiller the Baby Killer ... We have bad news to report that Tiller the Baby Killer, out in Kansas, acquitted... can you give me one example of those -

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Tiller the Killer?

(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: No.

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Tiller the Killer is -

(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: It's Tiller the Baby Killer, which is what is known by.

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Oh, Tiller the Baby Killer. Oh, absolutely. He's know by that for certain groups.

(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: Am I not supposed to report that?

OLBERMANN: So if you keep calling Dr. George Tiller, Tiller the Killer - Sorry, Tiller the Baby Killer, in front of what you boast is the largest audience in cable news, and you boast of your own remarkable influence over your viewers, can you be held legally responsible when Dr. Tiller is then assassinated by domestic terrorists?

If not legally, I think Bill O'Reilly just agreed you can be held morally responsible. Bill O'Reilly, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: As new revelations in the Murdoch scandal continue to surface each day, one question has remained - how and when would the Murdoch family be directly affected? Today, an answer.

In our number-one story - James Murdoch announced today he would be stepping down as executive chairman of News International, the British newspaper division of his father Rupert's News Corporation. He will, however, be staying on as News Corp's deputy COO.

The junior Mr. Murdoch saying in a statement today, "I deeply appreciate the dedication of my many talented colleagues at News International. As deputy chief operating officer, I look forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation's international television businesses and other key initiatives across the company."

James Murdoch's former duties will be assumed by Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News International, leaving the News International mastheads without a Murdoch name for the first time in many years.

The official reason News Corp. is providing for James' departure is his recent relocation from London to New York, but a more-realistic explanation is his increasingly-evident involvement in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

The move is not exactly unexpected, particularly after Rupert Murdoch returned to London earlier in the month, and was joined - not by James - but by his older brother Lachlan, once thought to be his father's successor until Lachlan's own falling out with News Corp in 2005.

Rupert Murdoch, however, still publicly supporting his younger son, saying in a statement, "We are all grateful for James' leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions." Et cetera.

Joining me now, columnist for The Guardian, author of "The Man Who Owns the News" - the man who owns this story, Michael Wolff. It's good to see you, Michael.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Great to be back.

OLBERMANN: The "he wanted out" answer seems to have gotten a lot of traction. Is it truth or is it just really good spin?

WOLFF: Let me just step back a second. Essentially, since last summer - since the closing of The World, I mean - things have constricted around James. He's - his loss of credibility, his increasing toxicity - so I think that, at some point, you can say he lost his job. He lost his role, his standing, his power, even his presence within the company. Nobody had spoken to James. He's the shadow man.

OLBERMANN: Goodness.

WOLFF: And I think, because of the structure of this company - his father is the chairman and CEO, he himself, with his siblings, controls the voting shares of this company - nobody can say, "Go."

It was, I think, everyone waiting for him to say, "Okay, I understand, you know, and I should go and not be a distraction," or whatever they say. And still - so that's partly what he said today - but still he didn't say it entirely, because they can't give this up, and so the fig leaf that he's coming to America and he's going to be in television and blah, blah, blah. Nothing. He is - he has, in practice, departed this company.

OLBERMANN: So if this is, indeed - to some degree - his choice, if not his intent, why the timing of it now, when this newest of scandals involving his son and bribing military and government officials has just crested over Britain. Coincidental?

WOLFF: I think it's -

OLBERMANN: It's bad timing, then. Isn't it?

WOLFF: I mean, I think it is, partly. But I think it is just - everything now is beginning to converge. You know, I think a lot of people ask, "Why is this taking so long?" We're now longer than Watergate here.

And I think that the reason has to do partly with the way British law works. One of the things is that there's no plea bargaining in Britain after you're charged. There is plea bargaining, however, before you're charged. So I think everybody - Rebekah, Andy Coulson, everybody involved in this - is now having their discussions. So it just moves more and more - and I think it was the moment, the propitious moment, for James to step out of the U.K.

OLBERMANN: Where did Lachlan come back from? I thought he was out of the picture entirely, the other son.

WOLFF: Well, remember, they can't be out of the picture entirely. Each of the four adult children controls 25 percent of the voting shares. All of their wealth is tied up in this company, and they remain a very close family, albeit with enormous tensions that have built up.

I think Lachlan came back because his father wanted him. His father needed someone - someone there, I think. I think Lachlan - remember, this is a - this is a close family. But does Lachlan want back in? Absolutely not.

You know, Lachlan is - is - has made his decision. He is in Australia. I think he would like a piece of this company. I think he would like to run Australia or own Australia but he certainly does not want to come back to New York and - or to London or to anywhere in the frying pan.

OLBERMANN: All right, did James' departure impact, at all, Rupert Murdoch's intermediate future with this company? Is it any kind of symbolization of what might happen, in terms of this scandal?

WOLFF: Well, I think it is. I mean, I think it is just part of - you know the Murdochs are problematic in terms of this company.


WOLFF: And I think - I mean, essentially, the Murdochs, now, have been congregated around the part of the company that is - is a downside. There's no upside here.

I mean, the bulk of this company - the entertainment and sports company, which comprises, by far, the vast part of its revenues and virtually all of its profits - is now run by Chase Carey, with Murdoch almost entirely uninvolved. So here, the Murdoch family is just in this - in terrible legacy imbroglio.

OLBERMANN: But, Rupert's - the biggest smile on Rupert's face in a year was when The Sun on Sunday opened its newspapers. He gets to play with the newspaper while more responsible people run the company.

WOLFF: And those people say, "Oh, my God. How wonderful it is that Rupert is running a newspaper some 3,000 miles away?"

OLBERMANN: He can - he can continue - he can sell it door to door if he wants to, and so he can have that little portion of the company indefinitely?

WOLFF: Well no, I don't think so because I think the - the legal jeopardy is coming down on this - on this part of the company. I mean, this is - you have this other part of the company - enormously healthy, enormously profitable - and it is going to, it has been, and will continue to be, infected by this other part. So they have to do something. They're going to have to cut off, and they're already beginning to talk openly about this.

OLBERMANN: All right. Michael Wolff, great thanks for coming in. "The Man Who Owns the News." And thank you, once again, for explaining James Murdoch's departure for us.

That's "Countdown" for this, the 420th day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House. Thus, 420 days in which Republicans have failed to pass a jobs bill of any kind.

Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug 1: Too close to call; Mitt slams Santorum pitch for Dem vote; Santorum calls him a bully. W/ @DavidShuster in MI, @SteveKornacki

#ShowPlug 2: The real Michigan winner? President Obama. But @RBReich joins us, says housing market is rotting, will hurt recovery

#ShowPlug 3: Alabama joins VA in backing away from Trans-Vaginal before abortions; but new Senate amendment looms. w/ @LEBassett

#ShowPlug 4: Big Pharma buys Oklahoma legislature committee; they go Pro-Meth; Darrell Issa now branding POTUS as South African

#ShowPlug Last: And @SamSeder on the GOP road ahead + Romney's quote "I won't light my hair on fire." Damn, that woulda been FINE!


#5 'Primary Night', David Shuster

#5 'Primary Night', Steve Kornacki

#4 'House Rules', Robert Reich (excerpt)

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Rolling Back Women's Rights', Laura Bassett (excerpt)

#2 Worst Persons: Steve Doocy, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Colby Schwartz

#1 'Pyrrhic Victory', Sam Seder

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , ,

KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Michigan and the battle of the robocalls.

(Excerpt from audio clip) MITT ROMNEY: You're making calls to Republicans today. This is a good thing, all right. Yeah, yeah. And the Santorum campaign is making calls to Democrats today. All right.

OLBERMANN: Santorum's response? "That's what bullies do. When you hit them back, they whine."

Michael Moore's response? "A friend just called to say that he went to vote for Santorum, but each time he asked for a repub ballot, he couldn't stop laughing so he left."

The Michigan subtext? The battle of the unforced errors.

Romney, again, remembers something that didn't happen:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I voted against Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neill, and Bill Clinton. Seemed like a good group to be against.

OLBERMANN: They were never on the same ballot together.

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices.


With David Shuster in Michigan, Salon's Steve Kornacki, and Sam Seder.

Twenty million off women's health care. Not off of the price, off the care.

This Missouri senator pushing to deny more women more health care even as Alabama and Virginia have to back off some of their pro-abortion, trans-vaginal ultrasound demands.

The truth is finally revealed - where Fox News gets its "news."

(Excerpt from video clip) STEVE DOOCY: I read on a conservative blog last night that this could be the intent of the Obama administration.

OLBERMANN: And the latest from Michigan - too close to call - and Arizona - Romney in a breeze.

And the quote of the day:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support.

OLBERMANN: I'm sorry about that. That I would have paid to see.

(Excerpt from video clip) HERBERT MORRISON: One of the worst catastrophes that the world - Oh, the humanity!

OLBERMANN: All of that and more, now on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Good evening, this is Tuesday, February 28th, 253 days until the 2012 presidential election.

Republicans voting in Arizona and Michigan in the presidential primaries tonight, except in Michigan, where one in ten is a Democrat voting in the Republican primary.

Our fifth story on the "Countdown" - the majority of Michigan polling places closing as this news hour begins tonight. It's an hour later in Arizona, that place already all-but-locked into Mitt Romney's win column.

Romney's home state of Michigan anything but, though exit polling there - which we'll review in depth in a moment with David Shuster and Steve Kornacki - is already available and suggesting just one in seven is looking for the true conservative.

The latest Public Policy poll showing - as you're seeing - where front-runners Romney and Rick Santorum are concerned, the race was too close to call. Similar numbers showing, in a Foster McCollum White & Associates poll - this is the Detroit Free Press - is reporting low turnout, with many Democrats voting for Santorum or Ron Paul to deny a win for Romney.

Santorum, perhaps, sparking that turn with a robocall reported on this news hour first last night.

(Excerpt from audio clip) MAN: On Tuesday, join Democrats who are going to send a loud message to Massachusetts' Mitt Romney by voting Rick Santorum for president. This call is supported by hardworking, Democratic men and women and paid for by Rick Santorum for President."

OLBERMANN: That Massachusetts' Mitt Romney wringing his hands over the call on Fox News:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Deceptive and a dirty trick. It's confusing people. It's a new low in this campaign.

OLBERMANN: But not the last.

Santorum, also on Fox News, then thumbing his nose at Romney:

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: One of the things that the Governor Romney's people say is "Oh, he can't attract Democrats." Well, guess what? We'll wait and see. I think we can.

OLBERMANN: Romney attacking Santorum again today, this time from his Michigan call center:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: We want to make sure we get Republicans out to vote. We want this to be a process where Republicans choose a Republican nominee. We don't want the Democrats to choose who they think is the easiest person to run against.

OLBERMANN: Santorum having none of that as he campaigned.

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: If, by appealing as a conservative to conservative Democrats, that's kidnapping the process? That's what bullies do. When you hit them back, they whine.

OLBERMANN: Democrats enjoying the whining from both sides.

Michael Moore tweeting, "A friend just called to say that he went to vote for Santorum, but each time he asked for a repub ballot, he couldn't stop laughing so he left."

The laughter at Romney's recent gaffes apparently getting to him:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: The candidates sometimes make some mistakes.

OLBERMANN: And adding a P.S. that's sure to bring legions of hardcore conservatives to his camp:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: It's very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments. I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support.

OLBERMANN: Is that a Romney torchlight campaign parade? No, it's Romney.

Once again, the governor is undone by his own past, though. Despite his complaints about Santorum's robocall to Democrats, Romney admitting, in an interview during the 2008 campaign, "When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I'd vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican."

The governor tried to clarify that today:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: In my case, I was certainly voting against the Democrat who I thought was the - the person I thought would be the worst leader of our nation. In this case, as I recall, it was Bill Clinton. And certainly I'm against it. I voted against Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neill, and Bill Clinton, seemed like a good group to be against.

OLBERMANN: Two of the greatest legislators in our history and the president who presided over eight prosperous years - good group to be against. And, by the way, they never ran on the same ballot, and the gap between O'Neill's last election and Clinton's first primary was a mere eight years.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum backing off the vomit language in his attack on President Kennedy for his speech on the separation of church and state.

(Excerpt from audio clip) SANTORUM: I wish I, you know - I had that particular line back.

OLBERMANN: Give him a day or two, and Santorum might be backing off another unfortunate claim.

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices. The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because we were looking at four-dollars-a-gallon gasoline.

OLBERMANN: Wrong on all counts, including the date.

And, in case you wondered if Newt Gingrich is still in this race, he is concentrating on next week's Super Tuesday primaries with some help from another substantial contribution from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, to his super PAC - perhaps, as much as $10 million.

While three-term Maine Senator Olympia Snowe not helping the GOP in its efforts to retake the Senate this fall, announcing today she will not run for re-election, citing the polarization paralyzing Washington.

Ironically, that's likely to pave the way for an extreme right winger to run in her place.

Let's start our coverage of Michigan in Michigan. We'll go to "Countdown's" David Shuster. He's coming from Novi, Michigan - the conservative suburb near Detroit. David, good evening.

DAVID SHUSTER: Keith, good evening to you.

OLBERMANN: What are we hearing about turnout? The Free Press says it's low, those early polls - exit polls - suggested that just under half strongly favored their candidate that they voted for this afternoon. How do we interpret that, going into this?

SHUSTER: The turnout is, indeed - at least according to all the indications - that it's lower than it has been, lower than it should be, and that the key that the Romney campaign has to worry about, Keith, is here in the Detroit suburbs - southeastern Michigan - where they have just been bombarding the airwaves with television ads.

And there are also some indication the turnout is a little bit lower than it should be here, and that's a big problem for Mitt Romney, because Rick Santorum is going to do very well in the western and in northern parts of the state, and Romney - as far as winning the overall popular vote - if he's going to do that he's got to pick it up here in southeast Michigan.

So, a lot of very nervous people, Keith, at the Romney watch party tonight, here in Novi.

OLBERMANN: And you could look at the - those early numbers that - one in every ten primary voters was - at least branded themselves - a Democrat as a triumph of this Santorum robocall.

But on the other hand, apparently, in 2000 - when John McCain won this primary - 17 percent in this open primary of the voters were for Democrats - were Democrats who were trying to make their own selection of who the Republican nominee should be.

So, perhaps this was successful, perhaps it wasn't, but 10 percent is a large-enough margin, in this one, to decide it, isn't it?

SHUSTER: It is. And, Keith, if you also look at - there's some union households which sort of don't identify as either sort of Democrats or necessarily independents. Some Republican union households, but for the most part, the union households, as well - they got instructions from the UAW over the past couple of days that they should go ahead and be part of this Operation Chaos and also support Rick Santorum and see if they can move this to Santorum's column.

So, not just sort of this - the self-identified Democrats, but independents, union households, people who go by different labels - there was this entire effort, in several different organizations, to try to cause Mitt Romney some trouble and again, the Santorum campaign is already saying, "Wait a second, if Romney wants to complain about inviting Democrats and independents into this primary, then Romney should complain about what he himself did because, in New Hampshire, when he did the same as far as appealing for Democrats and independents in much greater numbers."

OLBERMANN: And you spoke of Operation Chaos and problems with the Romney campaign. It would seem, at least symbolically, that Operation Chaos has been lead by Romney in terms of self-inflicted injuries.

Is that campaign yet talking off the record about the mistakes? I mean, we heard the candidate say that the campaign didn't necessarily make mistakes, but the candidate did, Romney referring to himself. Is there anything going on below the surface about how they're post- morteming this, even before the results are in?

SHUSTER: Yeah, Keith, there's already some, sort of, infighting in the campaign about who's responsible for the problems in Michigan, and you're starting to hear some of the Romney supporters - certainly the financial supporters here in Michigan - saying, "Look, we've done everything we can. The candidate just had a bad weekend."

And some of the campaign staffers, senior staff, were scratching their head over his comment in Florida at the NASCAR race, Daytona 500, where he said he knew some NASCAR team owners. And, of course, that follows up the horrible Friday that he had where he was at Ford Field in Detroit. They only put a thousand people in a 65,000 seat stadium. So a huge problem for the Romney campaign.

And again, Keith, the biggest fear the Romney campaign staff has tonight - and they are already starting to reach out to their activists, to their organizers and states like Ohio and the other Super Tuesday states - they are - they are very terrified of a tsunami of bad media attention, which will then translate into, perhaps, a loss of 10 to 12 points in some of these states coming up next week.

So, they are already putting out the calls - trying to get their elected officials, their supporters in these states - to calm, to say, "Do whatever you can to spin this to try to control whatever damage we're going to face tonight."

OLBERMANN: Do they have any way to shut down his mistakes because, as suggested, if he is remembering things that didn't happen, and there have been two of those in, I guess, three days between his recollections of something he attended nine months before he was born and this great vote in 1992 where he voted against Tip O'Neill six years after his retirement. That's a big problem if the candidate is beginning to have memory loss.

SHUSTER: Well, and some of the campaign staff, Keith, are suggesting that perhaps too many campaign advisers are now in Romney's head, with people saying, "You need to be more likable. You need to be more relatable to the voters. You need to try to somehow relate to theautomotive companies," and Romney's just not that sort of candidate.

He's much, sort of, stiffer than I think the campaign wants him to be, and as a result, some of his own campaign staff said that - when they're giving him so much advice, and when he's starting to press - it makes matters worse.

But, again, it's the campaign's responsibility to give the candidate advice and say, "Look, you need to be more disciplined and cut down on some of the ways you're trying to relate to people."

OLBERMANN: I'm telling you, though, if he lights his hair on fire, he'll get a heck of a crowd for that.

"Countdown" correspondent David Shuster in Novi, Michigan. Great thanks, David.

SHUSTER: Keith, thank you.

OLBERMANN: For more on the Republican primaries, I'm joined here in New York by Steve Kornacki, news editor of Salon. Good to see you, Steve.


OLBERMANN: Some of the exit polls are fascinating, I really think, although, don't know how useful they are, and that's really what I want to ask you about.

First off - under half strongly favor their candidate. Everybody else is going in, they're going, "Ehh," or trying to suppress somebody else. One in seven want a true conservative, 33 percent are considering electability as the primary number, which is the low point so far, in terms of exit polls in the Republican primary. Of those who are - everybody - not just those are considering electability, but all those who were asked who would answer this - 50 percent or thereabouts - saw Romney as more electable, and only 25 percent see Santorum as the most electable of the Republican field.

Do you get the sense, looking at the exit polls, that the Republicans in Michigan are going through the motions, that this is, like, a primary because they sort of half to?

KORNACKI: It's really what the whole process has felt like. You know, it's sort of been building to this point, because that's been the story in some of the races before this, and it sort of shows that what Santorum has emerged as is sort of a proxy for the doubt that still lingers among conservatives toward Romney. It doesn't mean that he's generated any enthusiasm for himself among them.

I mean, we can talk about the sort of weekend from hell that Mitt Romney had that may have caused him, you know, to blow his lead in Michigan. We'll find out tonight. You know, Santorum really put on quite a show for the last week or two, where I think he probably unnerved even people who agree with him. Just the idea of, "Hey, if this is how the guy is going to be conducting himself, is he really what we need to put up in the fall?" So that's a tough choice for a lot of Republicans to make, and I think it's reflected in his numbers.

OLBERMANN: All right, some of the other ones, 54 percent said what mattered most was the economy, 24 percent said the deficit - as if that is somehow distinguishable from the economy, and I guess it is, although the politicians would have you believe otherwise - 14 percent said abortion and three percent illegal immigration. Given that, also, you have - in the Michigan primary - apparently, among GOP voters - the Detroit bailout was supported by 43 percent of Republican voters in Michigan. Forty percent evangelicals voted. It's a lot of different sets of numbers, but what I'm getting at is - is Michigan usable, predictively, about this race unless Romney loses? In other words, if Romney wins here, did we learn anything about this - about this campaign?

KORNACKI: Well, if Romney wins, I think there's two - there are sort of two "Romney wins" scenarios.

One of them teaches us something very substantial, that's if he wins this thing by a big margin - let's say he's up five, six points tonight, just a clear win - I think we see the old Romney formula actually still works, for all the panning. He can wait for the conservative rival to emerge. He can outspend them like crazy. He can attack them in the debate, and he can win the must- win state, keep marching towards the nomination. Right.

The other thing that's interesting here is - and if Santorum wins, obviously, it's a meltdown for Romney - but what I'm wondering is, what if this is a really long night? What if this ends up being a one- or two-point Mitt Romney victory? Then, it's in his native state. He barely won the thing. He did it after outspending Santorum. At that point, I don't think there's much value there. I think that does a lot of damage to, sort of, the Romney formula that he's been using, too, and I think that could help Santorum coming out of here, too.

OLBERMANN: But, in some sense, here, as I think about it, if only one in seven look for the true conservative, at least that's what they're saying, if 33 percent - which, as we said before, is the low so far in the primary, are considering electability, it's almost as if that middle ground there is actually giving you kind of an honest opinion, and if they are split, somehow, between Romney and Santorum with Paul and Gingrich in the back still, does that just suggest that the Republican base has no focus at this point, and they're just going - they're going to go behind Romney because nobody else can really stand up to fight him?

KORNACKI: Yeah, if those voters are going behind Romney because the other thing to look for there, I think, is - you know, we think of the - Santorum's going to rely on the very conservative voters and the evangelicals, but he was also playing on - and we saw this with that robocall - he is also playing on class identity, and he's also playing on class resentment toward Romney.

And he is also sort of presenting himself - his message is very top one percent, but he's really playing himself up as, you know, a guy with middle-class roots, a guy with, sort of, a middle-class image, and he is hoping that that resonates with voters who aren't necessarily evangelicals, aren't necessarily the most conservative members of the party. He's really then pushing that so maybe that had resonance, and that's showing up there, too.

OLBERMANN: Percentage, quickly, of a slight Romney win that actually can be spun as a Santorum victory is what? Two percent, three percent?

KORNACKI: Yeah, I would say when you get above two percent it starts to get dicey, but less than two percent - and really, I think, the key here is how long does this night go? Because the longer it goes, the more clear it is to everybody watching that this is not a clear-cut verdict either way.

OLBERMANN: Steve Kornacki of Always a pleasure, Steve. Thanks for coming in. KORNACKI: Sure.

OLBERMANN: One result we know ahead of time, when Ed Rollins calls the Republican field "an effing mess" - only he didn't say "effing" - the president won't be running against Romney or Santorum or a brokered convention win by zombie Teddy Roosevelt. He'll be running against the economy and the price of gas. Robert Reich on that presidential race, next.


OLBERMANN: The real big winner in the Michigan primary? President Obama, almost giggling over it today. Robert Reich joins me with some words of caution.

As the blowback in Virginia and Alabama grows so fierce that even the Republicans are toning down their attacks on women's health rights, this senator tries to up the ante.

The California congressman and former car-alarm-voiceover actor now makes a confused claim about the president being South African or something.

And what the actor Ed Harris says about me, in his role as John McCain, in the movie "Game Change." And it ain't, "Hey, you kid, get off my lawn."


OLBERMANN: As the Republican candidates push in the Arizona and Michigan primaries, the big winner is already clear. It's a fellow named President Obama, who today spoke with all the energy and excitement you would expect to see in a victory speech.

In our fourth story - today, the president addressed a raucous gathering of union workers, and - whether it was the energy of the crowd or the low-hanging fruit that is the GOP primary train wreck - we saw a return of the campaigner-in-chief.

At the United Auto Workers conference, the president took time to speak about the success of an auto industry that was once on the verge of bankruptcy. He also found time to take a poke at his challengers' attempts to distance themselves from their criticisms of the auto bailout:

(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: It's been funny to watch some of these folks completely try to rewrite history now that you're back on your feet. The same folks who said, if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, "You can kiss the American automotive industry good-bye." Now, they're saying we were right all along.

OLBERMANN: And again, per the exit polls, 43 percent of GOP voters in Michigan today say they supported the Detroit rescue, and only 51 percent were opposed to it - Republicans. The president then spent time in campaign mode, urging his supporters not to get complacent:

(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Manufacturing is coming back for the first time since the 1990s. Companies are bringing jobs back from overseas. The economy is getting stronger. The recovery is speeding up. Now is the time to keep our foot on the gas, not put on the brakes, and I'm not going to settle for a country where just a few do really well and everybody else is struggling to get by.

OLBERMANN: But, while the president sees the recovery moving forward, others are not so positive.

In a piece titled "Housing is the Rotting Core of the Recovery," former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich writes that the declining housing market is a sign that we may not be out of the woods yet: "The purchases of new homes are down 77 percent from their peak in 2005. They dropped another 0.9 percent in January. Home sales overall are still dropping, and prices are still falling despite already being down by a third from their 2006 peak." Adding, "The negative wealth effect of home values, combined with declining wages, makes it highly unlikely the U.S. will enjoy a robust recovery any time soon."

Joining me now is Robert Reich, former labor secretary, now professor at U.C. Berkeley and author of "Aftershock: the Next Economy and America's Future." Thank you, as always, for your time tonight, sir.

ROBERT REICH: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: To your piece on the housing market in just a moment. But first, about that - the clips we heard from that speech by the president today - is there a reason, to your knowledge, that he doesn't speak with this type of energy more often?

REICH: Well, the president has every right to be very energized right now. I mean, the winds are at his back. The economy does seem to be moving in the right direction. It may not be moving as strongly as it ought to be.

And also, his opponents are engaged in a kind of fratricide. I mean, they are all going after a smaller and smaller minority of extreme right wingers, and independents are swinging over to the president.

So the president's poll numbers look better and better, and obviously, he is charged up, and it is kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy. You've got a candidate who's doing better and better, and he feels better and better, and his audiences are more and more charged up.

OLBERMANN: And here you come, with your note that the stock market is up, more and more people are getting jobs, and yet the housing market is still this, as you said, rotting core. Why does -

REICH: Well, I don't - Keith, I don't want to rain on anybody's parade. I want to be as optimistic as everybody can and should be, but let's be realistic. There is one major chink in this armor, this recovery, and that is housing.

Housing is the major net worth, the major asset of most Americans. Most Americans don't have much money, if any money, in the stock market. You know, the stock market can go past 13,000, the Dow Jones Industrial average - doesn't matter. Most Americans really are reliant on the value of their homes. That's the biggest asset, and home values are down over 33 percent, 34 percent on average, since the second quarter of 2006. That's a huge drop. It's going to take years to get those houses back.

OLBERMANN: The original growth in the housing market, though, is based in large part on what is fairly well understood, if not in the economic particulars, at least in a general sense by the public as a, no pun intended, house of cards, with the banks driving up home prices by loaning money to anybody who could identify - you know, who could show up with their breath on a mirror. Is there a way to recover any kind of growth? Is there anything to be done here, and more importantly, perhaps, is there any way to regain the confidence that homeowners or potential homeowners would have had five, six, seven years ago?

REICH: very, very hard, it's not going to come back very soon. You know, I hope that we are reaching bottom. We keep on hearing that we're reaching bottom with regard to home values, and certainly the decline seems to be slowing, but it's still occurring, Keith. You know, part of it - beyond the bubble or house of cards that was created starting in 2003, 2004 - beyond that has been a change in the attitude of Americans, quite suddenly.

I mean, housing was the best investment you could possibly make because, not only could you deduct your mortgage interest, but housing values for everybody's experience and everybody's experience kept on going up. Well, now you have a large cohort of Americans who have been traumatized by the housing market. They are not quickly going to believe that housing is going to be a great investment again, and they're going to hold back.

OLBERMANN: So if there is - if the question becomes not - in which degree the arrow is pointing, improvement or disimprovement in the economy, and housing is not really going to be restored in any sense that it could be decisive in terms of the election, does the economy - that broad term, 50 percent of the voters in Michigan today voted on the economy, is that boiling down to jobs and then, the rest of it is gas prices? Or how does it break down here?

REICH: I would say - again, this is not scientific - I would say jobs is the overwhelming issue. If jobs begin coming back, if we see a very good jobs report for January, and if the jobs reports continue to improve - even if they don't improve dramatically, as long as the direction is in the right direction - most people are going to feel, "Well, the economy is doing fine."

Consumer confidence is quite bland right now, relative to where it was a few months ago. The housing market is going to continue to be a drag on the economy.

Gas prices - look, it's mostly speculation, as far as I can tell, Keith. Those underlying fundamentals, with regard to supply and demand, are not pointing to much higher gas prices. The Wall Street speculators, the hedge fund managers, they're getting in there and bidding up the price of gas, but that could fall just as quickly as it goes up, as it did last May.

OLBERMANN: As the old Robert Klein joke goes about supply and demand and gas prices, "We have all the supply, we can demand whatever the hell we want."

The former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, the author of "Aftershock." As always, great thanks for your time, sir.

REICH: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: A sneak preview of my role in the movie version of "Game Change," which I didn't even know I had until last night. Next.


OLBERMANN: The Republicans escalate their national assault on women's health rights, ignoring the fact that, tonight, in two other states, the women have fought back and most successfully so.

First, the "Sanity Break," and on March 10th, HBO premieres its film version of the 2008 campaign book "Game Change."

I am reliably informed that not only do I appear in it, in clip form, but at one point Ed Harris, as Senator John McCain says, "Did you see what Olbermann said about me? Have you seen what Keith Olbermann said?"

Presumably, it was about that "Simpsons" joke - about the newspaper clipping starring Grampa, under the headline "Old Man Yells at Cloud."

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: The world's largest sandwich at Milwaukee's Bacon Fest.

We begin as we always do, with the world's largest sandwich - Bacon, peanut butter and banana - in Wisconsin, vying for the record of world's largest. No cheese in Wisconsin?

The 13-foot-by-4-foot behemoth was later cut up and sold as part of Milwaukee's Bacon Fest. All of the money was then donated to charity, and somewhere Elvis is licking his mutton chops.


VIDEO: Pro bowler surpasses father's all-time record, goes a little overboard on enthusiasm.

In sports, it's the final round of the PBA U.S. Open, where Pete Weber is about to surpass his own father with his fifth title, the most in U.S. Open history. He needed that strike, and he's more than a little excited.

(Excerpt from video clip) PETE WEBER: That is right, I did it. I'm number five, are you kidding me? That's right. Who do you think you are? I am!

OLBERMANN: "Who do you think you are? I am!" Formerly, just a song title by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. Now, the new greatest sports taunt ever.

VIDEO: Mega pod of dolphins caught on camera off the coast of Southern California.

Finally, we end with dolphins, lots and lots of dolphins.

This dolphin mega pod - may be 2,000 dolphins - spotted by a whale-watching boat off the coast of southern California. Try to top that, Sea World.

They're saying it's easily the most impressive dolphins display since the days of Dan Marino and Hootie and the Blowfish.

The dolphins were reportedly using their flipper, flipper to move faster than lightning.

"Time - Swims On!"

Alabama and Virginia try to pull back slightly on what is, literally, an assault on women seeking abortions, even as Republicans in the Senate push forward on a figurative assault. Next.


OLBERMANN: No matter what time you're watching this, "Countdown" is live each night at 8:00 Eastern with the primary replay at 8:00 Pacific, the longest continuously-running 8:00 p.m. news hour on cable, unless you consider Fox - "news."

In the same week that a would-be Republican Senate nominee from New York said if Roe v. Wade were to be repealed, almost nobody would notice, the right seems to have been knocked off its feet by how many people noticed lesser GOP assaults on woman's access to reproductive health care.

In our third story on the "Countdown" - Senate Majority Leader Reid announcing today that the "Conscience Clause" amendment, proposed by Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt - which would allow any employer to deny health services to its employees because of moral objections - will come up for a vote in the Senate on Thursday.

This comes on the heels of fervent opposition by religiously-affiliated charities to the idea of employee contraception coverage, arguing that it violated their religious freedom, but Senate Democrats are not going down without a fight here.

Senator Patty Murray described the amendment as, "Extreme. It's dangerous and it puts employers smack between women and their health care and politics between women and their health care."

And much like Virginia, where the contentious trans-vaginal ultrasound bill was amended to be a sort of trans-abdominal ultrasound bill, following public protests and media scrutiny. That state senate passed it today on a party-line vote.

In Alabama, the outrage over another invasive ultrasound bill lasted a fortnight before its sponsor, a state senator named Scofield, announced he would water down his bill, SB12, which in its own, original language would also require a physician to "display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them."

But the bill goes even further. It allows "the father of the unborn child who was the subject of the abortion, or the grandparent of an unborn child, may maintain an action against the person who performed the abortion in knowing or reckless violation of this act for actual and punitive damages." It might be legal, but you can sue.

Let's bring in Laura Bassett, political reporter for The Huffington Post. Thanks for your time tonight.

LAURA BASSETT: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: About Blunt first. If it stands no chance, I would assume, of being enacted in a Democratic Senate, I assume also that it would still be iffy in a Republican-controlled House. What's its purpose?

BASSETT: I think it's purpose, at this point, is to galvanize voters. You know, everybody's in campaign mode right now, and Republicans are fired up about this. Democrats are also fired up about this, and it is getting people, you know, into politics who otherwise wouldn't necessarily be.

And I think that Republicans are courting the Catholic vote right now, and a lot of people criticized Obama's health-care mandate - his birth control mandate - saying that employers had to cover contraception for their employees, and so this is a way of saying, you know, nobody has to cover health care for anyone.

Unfortunately, that - the problem that Democrats have with it is that it takes the decision away from the woman. Why is the employer's conscience mattering more than the women's conscience, I think, is the question that everybody's asking.

OLBERMANN: In politics 2012 everything is a dog whistle, but my question is, which is which here? Is the idea of "Obama is curtailing religious freedom," is that the dog whistle for "Here is a way to whittle down abortion and women's health and reproductive-health issues," or is it the other way around?

BASSETT: I think that women's health right now is being - the argument is being reframed as an argument about religious freedom, and they've had I don't know how many hearings in the House at this point on religious freedom that are actually, specifically, about this birth control amendment and contraception coverage, and they say - the Republicans say - over and over,

"This is not about women's health. This is about religious freedom." Unfortunately, the intention has a consequence which is that, you know, millions of women would lose contraceptive coverage. So it is, in fact, about women's health.

OLBERMANN: The pushbacks - and they're slight in Alabama and Virginia, they're not obviously significant in a real sense, and in Virginia something that might be a bit of a shell game in terms of terminology - but is there any sense that the entire Susan G. Koman/Planned Parenthood debacle was a tipping point here? That something as occurred in the last six weeks in which a lot of women, and probably a lot of men - who did not see this as an all-or-nothing fight from the far right - suddenly woke up and said, "They really are trying to -" I mean, the only stage left would be to repeal women's rights to vote.

BASSETT: Absolutely. I think this has just lit a fire under the women's rights movement. A lot of these bills have been around for a long time. You know, this ultrasound bill has been considered in lots of other states prior to Virginia, and it's been considered in Virginia in previous years. And even with the birth control mandate people are making a big deal out of, you know, that's been law in New Hampshire for 12 years, and nobody noticed.

I think this Susan G. Koman de-funding Planned Parenthood brought in a lot of people that otherwise weren't paying attention to politics, and now people are fired up and any fight against women's health is going to be - you know, they are going to fight back.

OLBERMANN: What do we understand about what the Republican politicians in Alabama and Virginia had to have heard to get them to pull back, at least in this - you know, somewhat technical and gynecological description of what the ultrasounds had to be?

BASSETT: You know, the Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia said that he didn't realize that the ultrasound was going to be a trans-vaginal ultrasound.


BASSETT: And then, when he learned that the procedure was going to be invasive, he then changed his support for it. I don't think that's really the case because a senator - who is also a doctor - in Virginia, stood up and gave a detailed description of what the ultrasound was going to be, and they still passed the bill.

I think what happened was that the bill made Virginia a laughingstock, you know. It made its rounds on the late-night comedy circuits. Jon Stewart took it on, and I think Republicans started to see what it was and become a little embarrassed that they had, you know, become such a joke.

OLBERMANN: Laura Bassett, of The Huffington Post, great thanks for your insight and your time tonight.

BASSETT: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: "Worst Persons," next.

First, we have discovered an error in our broadcast of December 22, 2011, in a story about a New Jersey judge recommending that conservative blogger Nadia Naffe proceed with a civil case against James O'Keefe. Due to a script error, I erroneously referred to O'Keefe as "a convicted felon."

In fact, as I made clear in a later portion of the same broadcast, O'Keefe was originally charged with a felony, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. He was also placed on probation, not on parole. "Countdown" apologizes for the inaccuracy.


OLBERMANN: Five percent of the vote reported so far in Michigan, at one point Santorum leads 40-39. Obviously, too close to call, but his hair still isn't on fire, and we do not know - if we'll know ever - just how many Democrats actually came out to vote against him in a Republican primary. Exit polls said about 10 percent of the votes were Democratic.

The polls closing and we'll have more on them in Michigan and Arizona.

First, the "Worsts," and now we know where they think they get what they call "news" - from comments on right-wing blogs. I mean, even the commentators on the right-wing blogs don't think they're writing down news.



OLBERMANN: The polls in the Central Time Zone, about to close in Michigan, and we've gone nearly an hour without one of the leading Republicans calling the other one a bully.

First, because these people are bullies and this is where we get to call them out, here are "Countdown's" nominees for today's top three "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze? To Steve Doocy, one of the co-hosts of the morning show on the political whorehouse that is Fox News.

Ever wonder where Mr. Doocy and his colleagues get their bizarre ideas? He has now revealed it, during an appearance with one of Fox's analysts.

(Excerpt from video clip) PETER JOHNSON: "This is what we choose," Catholics say, "Respect that. Respect our differences."

(Excerpt from video clip) STEVE DOOCY: I read on a conservative blog last night that this could be the intent of the Obama administration. They just want the Catholic institutions to close.

(Excerpt from video clip) JOHNSON: I read the same thing, and you read the commentary of hundreds of people that write into these blogs, they say, "Yeah, that's the point of what's going on."

OLBERMANN: First, it's nice to finally know what Teller sounds like. Secondly, "I read it on a conservative blog," he says? And the other guy I said, "I read the same thing," and then he goes on to admit he read the comments?

I mean, I may have to rethink my worldview here. I've always assumed Doocy and his colleagues were slow-witted propagandists, but if they're getting their ideas from the comments on the right-wing blogs, I'm leaning towards believing that, while there, they have became the victims of profound psychological and emotional abuse.

Speaking of which, the runner-up? Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California. You will recall he was the one who held the birth control hearings at which he refused to let a proponent of the president's policy on the subject testify - a woman.

Congressman Issa's problem appears to be, he doesn't pay attention to the details. Issa was recorded as he spoke to the California Republican Party Spring Convention, about the prospects of a Republican president.

(Excerpt from audio clip) DARRELL ISSA: We're going to establish a very different policy. One, that we have a president who will respect the Constitution, not try to convert it to some - South African constitution.

OLBERMANN: Uh-huh. So now he's South African? I thought he was Kenyan or Hitler or something. Where does this come from? Think Progress has soused it out.

In Egypt earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that despite the genius of our Constitution, the constitutions of some other countries, like South Africa's, might be better models for future democracies because these newer documents more precisely specify individual rights. And Issa, not paying attention, transformed Justice Ginsburg into President Obama.

Funny that he's not lashing out at the Supreme Court justice who recently testified that the Bill of Rights in the old Soviet Union constitution was "much better than ours." That would have been Justice Antonin Scalia.

But our winner? Oklahoma State Representative Colby Schwartz.

The Republican was one of the seven legislators who killed, in committee, a bill that would've strengthened Oklahoma's anti-methamphetamine law, one that would've raised it to the level of the one in Kentucky.

And it turns out that for his last campaign, Representative Schwartz received $1,500 from drug maker Eli Lilly, $500 apiece from GlaxoSmithKline, Hoffman-La Roche, and Johnson & Johnson and $400 more from Pfizer.

This year's lobbying numbers are not out yet, but Pfizer, which makes Sudafed - frequently used in the synthesis of meth - took Schwartz out to dinner last August.

And just to top it off, before going into the Oklahoma legislature, Schwartz was a sales rep in the pharmaceuticals industry. An industry lobbying group spent just under $200,000 last month alone to fight stricter regulations on its cold medicines, which can be used to produce meth.

And - to be fair - they don't hook just Republicans. Oklahoma Democrats Ed Cannaday and Al McAffrey also voted against it and also got donations from Big Pharma.

Most importantly, one Oklahoma rep said he didn't know how he would be able to look social workers, or cops or prosecutors in the eye and tell them that the Oklahoma legislature was still working for the public good after the vote.

He said, "This is blood money for the pharmaceutical industry." And that was Doug Cox, a Republican, and he deserves applause for telling it like it is.

But his colleague Colby Schwartz? Willing to go pro-meth for $3,400? No. He's tonight's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: Let's recap what we know and what we don't know as the polls close in

Michigan and Arizona.

In our number-one story - the GOP primary race. Specifically, the battle between Romney and Santorum, widely described this week as a knife fight. One might add that it might have been a knife fight with each guy holding the blade and not the handle.

Rick Santorum, this week, continues to fight a culture war - taking issue not only with all forms of higher education, but also with the 1960 John F. Kennedy speech about the separation between church and state, which Santorum claims made him almost throw up, off which he tried to back today.

Mitt Romney, however, has not been so quick to engage in that fight, refusing to even question Santorum on those comments. Instead, the former governor of Massachusetts, in between false eyewitness memories of events that either didn't happen - like the day he voted against Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Tip O'Neill - or happened before he was born - like the Detroit Auto Jubilee he thinks he attended nine months before his own birth - he has worked to redirect the conversation to the economy, which he considers his strength.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm going to go to work to get our economy going again with good jobs and rising income. That's what this is about.

OLBERMANN: Joining me now, the host of the nationally-syndicated radio show "Ring of Fire" as well as the web-radio program "The Majority Report," Sam Seder. Good to see you, Sam.

SAM SEDER: Nice to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: We were talking before we started here about what constitutes a win for Romney - and we'll get how the exit polls affect that - but just on the basic of it, what do you think - what is a win and what is a non-win win for Romney?

SEDER: You know, I think it's really hard for him to win now, even if he wins. I mean, I think he has to win at least - Steve Kornacki said five or six points - I think maybe even a little bit more because, you have got to remember, Santorum is up in Ohio in the polls. He is beating Romney, at least, in Georgia, a second to Newt Gingrich. He's up in Tennessee. I mean, these are the biggest electoral states coming up, so - and Romney should be - basically, there should have been no contest in Michigan, and there is obviously a contest.

OLBERMANN: As we look at some of those exit polls - and obviously, the accuracy of these is always slightly questioned - but they give you good feel of direction at least. It doesn't seem like this was a really extremist, one way or another, voting group in Michigan because if you have - you really have nearly 40 percent evangelicals. You also had 30 percent people independents and 10 percent who identified as Democrats, and then, at the extremes, one in seven said they wanted the true conservative and one-third considered electability as the primary number. That's a huge middle ground of people who were just, I guess, assessing the two candidates.

SEDER: Well, I mean, it is sort of hard to say who is the true conservative in this, and it's really hard to say which one of them could win at this point.

I mean, there was a time where people thought Romney was the guy who was going to beat Obama. Nobody seems to believe that anymore, and Santorum was never considered one of those hardcore, true conservatives. He's always been more of, like, a social-movement conservative guy but a big spender, sort of a George Bush conservative.

So that's the problem. There is no constituency. Neither one of those guys represents either one of those constituencies.

OLBERMANN: However, when they asked the voters in the exit poll who was, in fact, more electable, nearly 50 - a little over 50 percent - said Romney was the electability choice over Obama, and about 25 percent said Santorum. So again, the closer this gets, the more it says that on these core points about Romney, Michigan isn't buying them, any of them.

SEDER: Well, that's one of the biggest problems, I think, that Romney has now - is that, originally, his big sales pitch is "that I can beat Obama," and there's less and less Republicans who are starting to believe that, and, you know, he's got to walk this tightrope because, on one hand, he's got to convince the conservative base of the Republican party, which don't buy into him.

On the other hand, he has to maintain his integrity in the general election, which he's had a hard time doing. He's lost 10, 12 points with independents over the past six weeks, and so he's got to sort of stop that hemorrhaging, but at the same time protect his right flank, and that's - he's walking a tightrope, and he's not doing very well.

OLBERMANN: How much - we hear so much - and obviously, those of us on the left have been watching this and just laughing our backsides off -


OLBERMANN: But how much of this presumed damage to the eventual nominee is legit? Ed Rollins says, "It's a an effing mess." Haley Barbour says, "It's taking attention away from fighting Obama." The governor of Maine, Paul LePage, said, "Let's pick a fresh face at the convention." Possibly Doug E. Fresh or "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," but weren't we all saying exactly these things about the Democratic race in 2008, four years ago this day probably?

SEDER: You know what, I don't think so. I don't think so because I think there was - I think the concern four years ago was that there was going to be such acrimony between the people who supported Obama and the people who supported Clinton that they'd never come together. That is usually a surmountable problem.

The problem I think that Romney has, if he's the eventual nominee, is that he's actually been, like, hurt empirically with independents because he's had to change his positions and move so far to the right on things like immigration, on things like the economy, on taxes, and so I think he's actually damaged goods for the general election, and I think you're seeing that reflected within the Republican base.

They're looking at him and don't see him as the guy who could definitely beat Obama like they did six months ago.

OLBERMANN: Going into this, Gingrich and the other fellow - what was his name again? - Ron Paul, at 23 percent in the polling and had - in the first 13 percent, 14 percent of vote tonight - had, between them, 18 percent.

Sounds like they're irrelevant and trivia, but with something this tight, they're vital. Do you see either of them dropping out? I mean, Gingrich just got another $10 million from Sheldon Adelson, and Ron Paul might as well be wearing an 11th-century visor over his head, saying "I'm on a crusade." What happens if they stay in and don't get out - at what point is their endorsement irrelevant?

SEDER: Well, I think Paul will make it all the way to the convention, and I think because he has a very sort of - maybe a little bit static, but he has a base of support. He is going to go in there with some very enthusiastic supporters, and I think he's looking for a good speech - speaking spot or maybe something for Rand, but Gingrich is another - he's got good numbers in Georgia. He's got a lot of books to sell. He's got some problems right now with the election commission in terms of how he's been spending his money.


SEDER: I mean, he's basically been - this has been his, sort of like, his job, in a way, and it's been his way of selling some books, and I think he'll stay in as long as he still has books that are in the boxes in his garage.

OLBERMANN: Well, they're still in there tonight. Sam Seder, of "The Majority Report," thank you for coming in. Good to see you, sir.

SEDER: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: All right, that's "Countdown." I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.