'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Special bonus podcast (MLB Network Hot Stove)
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'Make Mine Mitt', Nia-Malika Henderson
#5 'Race For The Cash', Joe Williams
#4 'House Party', Rep. Steve Israel
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Labor Pains', Tim Dickinson
#2 'Matzo Matter With Newt?'
#1 'Dangerous Cure Cuts', Lizz Winstead
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: David Shuster, Nia-Malika Henderson, Lizz Winstead, Steve Israel, Tim Dickinson, Joe Williams
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Romney wins big in Florida.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: My leadership will end the Obama era and begin a new era of American prosperity.
SHUSTER: So, that's a wrap? Right, Newt?
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: We are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August.
SHUSTER: So where does the circus go from here?
Pushing the pipeline. Republicans seek to divide Dems over Keystone and it appears to be working. Are Democrats cornered? Not really. Congressman Steve Israel will join us and explain.
War on workers. Governor Daniels signs GOP-backed "right to work" legislation in Indiana. Next up? Arizona, where - according to that state's Democratic minority leader - Republicans are planning an all-out assault on the right of workers to organize.
And - phoning it in. Gingrich's robot has no problem making calls.
(Excerpt from audio clip) MAN: Holocaust survivors who, for the first time, were forced to eat non-kosher because Romney thought five dollars was too much to pay for our grandparents to eat kosher.
SHUSTER: But Newt could not manage.
ROMNEY: He didn't call again last night. The other candidates all called. But I don't know, I guess Speaker Gingrich doesn't have our phone number.
SHUSTER: Either that or he doesn't know when to hang it up.
All that and more, now on "Countdown."
SHUSTER: Good evening, everybody. This is Wednesday, February the 1st, 280 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.
Mitt Romney has pulled ahead of Newt Gingrich in a national poll after flogging his rivals in Tuesday's Florida primary. Mitt is also leading his fellow Republicans, though not the president, in the race for campaign cash.
The fifth story in the "Countdown" - Mitt triumphed in Florida last night, but followed his win this morning with a classic gaffe.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there. We will hear from the Democrat party, "The plight of the poor." And there's no question, it's not good being poor.
SHUSTER: Spoken like a man who knows how good it is to be rich. So, which voting block concerns Mitt?
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: My campaign is focused on middle income Americans. My campaign - you can choose where to focus.
SHUSTER: I guess Mitt's focusing where the votes are. As for that unfortunate remark about the very poor, Mitt clarified it a little later:
ROMNEY: Of course I'm concerned abut all Americans. Poor, wealthy, middle class. But the focus of my effort will be on middle-income families.
SHUSTER: Mitt's focus returned to Florida after he was glitter-bombed at a Minnesota rally.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: We just won Florida. We're just going to win the White House next.
SHUSTER: Actually, there are a few more GOP primaries and caucuses before the general election, starting with Nevada this Saturday.
As for Florida, Romney led the finally tally with 46 percent of the vote, followed by Newt Gingrich with 32 percent, leaving Rich Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul trailing far behind. Romney also scored with Republicans in the latest national Gallup poll. He's pulled ahead of Gingrich with 31 percent, leaving Newt trailing five points behind. And Santorum and Paul, again, bringing up the rear.
Despite his defeat and ever-sliding polls, Gingrich insisted last night he still has a path to the Republican nomination.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: This will be a two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate. We are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August.
SHUSTER: Though Rick Santorum insisted Newt had already blown his chance.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: He said, "I'm going to be the conservative alternative, I'm going to be the anti-Mitt," and it didn't work. He became the issue. We can't allow our nominee to be the issue in the campaign.
SHUSTER: As for Ron Paul, his pitiful Florida numbers didn't seem to faze him at all as he looked forward to the next month's campaigning.
(Excerpt from video clip) RON PAUL: We will spend our time in the caucus states because if you have an irate, tireless minority, you do very well in the caucus state.
SHUSTER: Somebody should tell Congressman Paul it takes an irate, tireless majority, or at least a plurality, to win an election. That, and stacks of cash. A race where - according to the latest disclosure reports - President Obama is in the lead, having pulled in $140 million for his campaign last year.
But that advantage could soon be swamped, if it hasn't been all ready, by waves of GOP fundraising. Karl Rove's "American Crossroads" and "Crossroads GPS" super PACs, brought in $51 million in 2011.
Mitt Romney raised $57 million for his campaign, and while he spent millions already, he also has that fortune of his to spend on the rest of 2012, up to November.
And then there's the $30 million brought in by his "Restore Our Future" super PAC, much of it contributed by our wealthiest citizens. According to the latest Federal Election Commission filing, the Romney super PAC received a million from William Koch and Oxbow Carbon firm, three-quarters of a million from Romney's old pals at Bain Capital, half a million from Texas home builder Bob Perry, nearly $400,000 from executives at Goldman Sachs, $300,00 from construction executive Harlan Crow and $200,00 from the Walmart Walton family.
By comparison, Newt Gingrich has raised some $15 million so far, much of it already spent. And, while Newt's super PAC has raised $12 million, a lot of that was spent on ads in Florida. And nearly all of it came from one family - casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, his wife Miriam and her daughter Savin Ochshorn.
For more on the Republican race for president, after Romney's big win in Florida, we're going by Washington Post national political reporter and "Countdown" contributor Nia-Malika Henderson. Nia, thanks for being with us.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Hey, it's great to be here, David.
SHUSTER: They exit polling I looked at in Florida last night was a little bit contradictory. Any insights from the Romney campaign, as they sifted through the data today and tried to decided whether it was the carpet-bomb ad campaign, or Newt's poor debate performances that mattered most?
HENDERSON: Well, they are obviously feeling very, very good - almost cocky - about their victory, a strong victory down in Florida.
And they feel like this strategy of carpet-bombing Newt Gingrich and also baiting him, which is essentially what you saw Mitt Romney doing in those final days in Florida. He would be in the stump, talking about how angry Newt Gingrich was. And he felt like if he could bait him into this back and forth, then we would get the version of Newt that people don't really like - which is the very undisciplined, messy, angry, genuinely angry Newt Gingrich. And that's what we saw.
But, of course, I think those debate performances mattered a great deal to - a lot of opposition research went into those debate performances by Mitt Romney. He's got this brand-new coach who used to be Michele Bachmann's coach. So, he has had a very strong couple of days, was obviously very damaged coming out of South Carolina, but really turned things around in Florida and looked strong going into Nevada.
SHUSTER: And yet - here we are, the day after, and we have the that Romney gaffe, "I'm not concerned about the very poor." Newt is the candidate who is supposed to be undisciplined. Are you surprised that Romney keeps going off script, or is that really, perhaps, his script? He just doesn't understand the impact of what he's saying.
HENDERSON: You know, this is his script. He said a version of those comments a couple of times before.
I think what is surprising about this comment is A) it really makes no sense, and B) one of Mitt Romney's arguments is that it's Obama who is playing this game of class warfare. That he likes to divide folks into the poor, into middle class, into the very rich. And that's exactly what you saw Mitt Romney doing in that snippet. It seemed like, at some point, Soledad O'Brien in an interview was giving him a chance to clean that up and he really didn't.
And there was also no sense in his comments that the very poor A) are very hardworking folks. It's not like they're sitting around getting government checks, but also - there was no sense, from Mitt Romney, that he wanted to be a president that would help the poor actually gain access to the middle class and gain access to jobs that would allow them to be middle class.
So, that was odd. Also odd, because he's talking about all the government, essentially, helping the poor, and the poor just relying on the government, which isn't a very strong talking point for Republicans and tea party folks who actually think the government needs to scale back their role as kind of a nanny state in taking care of the very poor.
SHUSTER: This new Gallup poll which, of course, was done before the Romney gaffe, and all the media attention that that gaffe has generated. And yet, we're heading into a month with just one debate, a series of caucuses and primary elections that may not get as much attention as Florida and South Carolina. How concerned is the Gingrich campaign today?
HENDERSON: They are very concerned. I think they are looking forward to March - March 6th - when there are a bunch of Super Tuesday states, a lot Southern states: Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee. So, they are very much wishing that March would come pretty quickly.
As we know, Newt Gingrich isn't very well-organized in some of these states - be it Missouri and Minnesota that are coming up on Tuesday. Of course, Nevada - it's expected that Mitt Romney, who won about 51 percent of the vote there in 2008, that he'll come away with a strong victory there. About 25 percent of those folks who show up to the polls or to caucus on Saturday will be Mormon, so he'll do very well there.
But yeah, it's going to be a long, hard month for Newt Gingrich. There's not a debate until February 22nd, that's out in Arizona. He might do well there - that's a state that's obviously has had a lot of conversation around immigrants, around issues that are concerned to Hispanics and Latinos - so that might be a good showing for him.
But Arizona, Michigan - that's going to be a state that comes up on the 28th of February - and that should be a state where Mitt Romney, of course, won last time, and so he should probably have a strong showing there. So, they are waiting until March 6th.
SHUSTER: Washington Post national political reporter and "Countdown" contributor Nia-Malika Henderson. Nia, always great to have you on the program. Thank you.
HENDERSON: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: For more on the money chase, we're joined now by Joe Williams, White House reporter with Politico. Joe, good to have you on board.
The FEC reports that just came out - and they show the Obama campaign seems to have cleaned up in 2011. Is the Obama campaign happy with these numbers? How much more do they hope to raise before November?
JOE WILLIAMS: Well, they're very happy with these numbers and, keep in mind, this puts them on pace to get ahead of where they were in 2008. And a lot of those numbers came from small donors, more than $200 - or less than $200 - came from about 400 people. So, that's right in their keeping of trying to get small donors access to the campaign, trying to get a lot of their contributions from people who don't have the big, fat wallets to write majors checks and get them going.
SHUSTER: And, in fact, that was a huge part of the fundraising the Obama campaign did three, four years ago, essentially relying on those small donors. Is there any concern, though, that perhaps because of the weak polling that the president has across a lot of different groups, that the money is not going to come in the way it did four years ago?
WILLIAMS: Well, it will come in, but what their strategy is right now is - they expect a bigger push for money and a bigger rainfall, if you will, once the Republicans have settled on their nominee. Right now, you have a theoretical contest between President Obama and either Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul or Mitt Romney. You don't have a guy who you can point to and say, "Look, if we don't get money from you guys, this is what we're facing as an alternative." So, they are anticipating a bigger flow of money to come as the year gets on and as the Republicans get closer to making their choice for 2012.
SHUSTER: We've talked a lot about the super PACs with Romney and Gingrich. How important are the super PACs for President Obama - specifically, the one that Bill Burton, his former Press Secretary is running? Or "American's Bridge" that David Brock is running? How crucial are those two?
WILLIAMS: Well, they're quite important. They're not crucial at this point, because the administration has proven that they can raise money on their own. However, when you have an opponent who can drop $15 million in Florida alone - one primary state - and has got more to spare; when you have got Crossroads GPS out-raising American Priorities two to one - in some cases, three to one - that's a lot of reserve power that Mitt Romney can draw upon, should he become the presumptive nominee, or whoever the Republican is.
A lot of money equals a lot of advertising. A lot of advertising equals a chance to get your message out on a broader scale. So certainly, while the White House is not wriggling its hands, worrying about how they're going to match dollar for dollar, it is a concern that they are paying attention to.
SHUSTER: Back to the Republicans and Newt Gingrich and his super PAC. If the Adelson family decided that they've spent enough on Newt, does the Gingrich campaign, in effect, go broke because he doesn't have a lot of money in his own campaign and then he's up, of course, against the supporters of Mitt Romney, who continue to fuel the Romney super PAC?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, they feel the Romney all right. And that's - you see the tumbleweeds rolling down the Gingrich campaign. Because when the money dries up, so does his juice. One doesn't go without the other. Already, you mentioned his campaign has raised in the teens, but they are in debt by almost as much, and that's only after one primary.
They're anticipating, as Nia said, the turn towards the South. Once the primaries start hitting the Southern states where Gingrich lives, where his populist message resonates a lot more, then you'll be able to see him pick up on some more money and he'll probably come into some cash around there.
Until then, it's up to Sheldon Adelson to decide whether or not Gingrich goes forward and if Gingrich can tread water long enough to convince Adelson to cut him a couple of checks.
SHUSTER: Looking ahead, any lessons that the political establishment down in Washington, that you've been tapped into today, that they've learned from the annihilation of Gingrich using these super PACs and what that portends for the general election?
WILLIAMS: Well, they do. It's sort of like if this is were an old Warner Brothers cartoon. Newt Gingrich had an anvil dropped on him from a cliff and it just squashed him flat. So, that is a lesson that everybody knows.
Politics equals money equals power. The more money you have, the more power you have to get out your message. Not lost on anybody, particularly President Obama.
But what you also have to keep in mind - and this is something that always makes me very, very, curious - is about how money got dropped on one primary. We're talking $15 million, and that's enough - if you or I had $15 million and were civic-minded, that would buy one middle school. It would pay for 375 teachers. It would buy 51 underwater homes. Fund a years worth of unemployment insurance for 891 people and buy 437,000 tanks of gas. That's a lot of money on one primary and the way Mitt Romney is spending it and the way he's raising, there's more of that out that. For President Obama -
SHUSTER: Joe - I was going to say, Joe - we're out of time, but I was going to say - if this sort of continues, you and I ought to go into the television-station-ownership business, because they're the ones who are getting all this cash.
SHUSTER: Joe Williams, of Politico. Joe, thanks as always. We appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Sure, my pleasure.
SHUSTER: Coming up, does political etiquette require an election-night phone call to the winner? Newt Gingrich doesn't think so, but that is not kosher, as I'll explain.
And the politics have become even more intriguing over the proposed Keystone Oil pipeline.
You're watching "Countdown."
SHUSTER: Lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate have now taken up legislation that would bypass the Obama administration's rejection of the Keystone Oil pipeline. Republicans think they have Democrats cornered. We will talk about that with Democratic Congressman Steve Israel.
Today, Indiana became the first Rust Belt state to pass "right to work" legislation. Meanwhile, a union-busting effort in Arizona is now targeting police and firefighters.
Planned Parenthood is now fighting back after a key donor, involved in Republican politics, convinced a national cancer research organization to stop funding the group.
And in Florida this week, Newt Gingrich threw everything at Romney, including the kosher sink, but on election night became clear that Newt is no Talmudic scholar. I'll explain.
SHUSTER: It was just 15 months ago - November 2010 - when House Democrats suffered a crushing a defeat, losing 63 seats and handing control of the chamber to the GOP. Looking ahead, the Democrats will need to gain 25 seats to take back the House and regain control of the legislative agenda.
In our fourth story in the "Countdown" - there's some new polling that is giving Democrats high hopes for taking back the house this November. And that is fueling some drama in the political fight over a proposed oil pipeline that would run down the middle of the United States.
A recent poll shows more voters believe Republicans in Congress have brought the wrong kind of change to the country than the right kind, 31 to 12 percent and that's a stark contrast to what voters thought would happen soon after Republicans took control. After the last congressional elections, 25 percent thought Republicans would bring the right kind of change, versus 20 percent who thought they would bring the wrong kind.
And it gets worse for the GOP. In a recent poll by voters, by an 11 point margin, voters say they prefer Democrats to take control of the House, rather than see Republicans maintain control. To that end, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has unveiled its first list of candidates for the 2012 edition of the "Red to Blue" program, which is an effort to offer assistance to what they've identified as the most competitive Democratic campaigns in their "Drive to 25."
One issue that will certainly be at the forefront of many of these fights - the Keystone XL oil pipeline. President Obama rejected the proposal to build a pipeline through the United States, linking Alberta's oil sands with the Gulf of Mexico. But on Sunday, with polls showing a strong majority of American's supporting the pipeline, House Speaker John Boehner said his party is going to continue its push through bills that would get around the administration's rejection.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: If it's not enacted before we take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs act, it will be part of it.
SHUSTER: As the political maneuvering continues today, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox, director of the anti-drilling documentary "Gasland," was arrested while trying to film a congressional hearing on the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Republicans on the committee objected to filming, and instructed Capitol Hill police to arrest Fox when he refused to leave. Fox did not have proper credentials, but an ABC News crew - which did - they were also denied access.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who has served in the House for two decades called the arrest an outrage. Saying in a statement, "It is a matter of routine that all sorts of people photograph and record our proceedings. Most of them are not accredited. I cannot recall anyone questioning their right to be there. I cannot understand why any chairman, for any reason, would order the arrest of a noted filmmaker who was only recording the hearing and not in any way disrupting it."
Joining us now, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair, Congressman Steve Israel. Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.
STEVE ISRAEL: Great to be with you.
SHUSTER: First, on the pipeline. A poll just conducted by the National Journal found that 64 percent of Americans support the pipeline, 22 percent oppose, 13 percent undecided. And among self-identified Democrats, 51 percent support the pipeline, just 33 percent oppose it. I appreciate the environmental concerns, but is it wise, politically, for Democrats to fight this thing? Don't the Republicans have you cornered?
ISRAEL: No, they don't have us cornered. In fact, I would imagine that if you polled the American people before the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the majority of the American people might have supported that, and then - when the well erupted - the vast majority of the American people said, "Wait a minute, maybe we shouldn't go that fast. Maybe we understand that before you can approve something you have to prove that it is safe." That's my first point.
Let me give you my second point. These Republicans, this is why they are so - they are sliding down this hill. This is why the bottom is dropping out of them, because they are hypocrites. When in the history of tax cuts did the Republican party ever condition a tax cut on an oil pipeline or on anything else?
SHUSTER: Right, but now they're backing away from - they're now backing away from attaching it to the whole issue of tax cuts. Boehner's now saying, "Well, we'll just attach it to the energy bill," and get around the president that way.
ISRAEL: This is why the American people no longer trust them and this is why there's this buyers remorse. This is not an issue. This is not how you expand an economy. This is how you try and arrest your free fall in the polls. This has nothing to do with jobs, it has nothing to do with the economy. This is a political stunt by the Republicans. They started, specifically by saying, "We'll only do a tax cut for the middle class if we get this oil pipeline." Then they got burned on that. They've got to begin working with Democrats to expand our economy and not to continue to - to increase the political stunts that they've been doing for the past year.
SHUSTER: Given the stunts, though, that - obviously - they're going to try to pull - your "Drive for 25," what are the issues you want those competitive lawmakers to try and campaign on?
ISRAEL: Well, job creation and reinvesting in the middle class. We are in the business of reigniting the American dream and we have work to do.
The Republican party has proven - time and time again, since they took the majority of the House of Representatives, just over years ago - that every time they have a choice between the privileged and the private sector, the privileged and the middle class, they choose the privileged.
They have made choices, every step of the way, to end Medicare; to shut down the federal government over a woman's right to get health care from Planned Parenthood; to take Medicare away from seniors in order to fund tax breaks for big oil companies. So, our candidates around the country are focusing on - how do you reignite the American dream, rebuild the middle class and restore economic strength?
SHUSTER: Are they particular districts, though, where you are concentrating your efforts in? And what kind of candidates are you hoping for in those races?
ISRAEL: Look, we need 25 seats to take the House back and this House is in play. Now, I'm not saying we're going to win the majority, but it is going to be razor close. And why will it be razor close? Because of the quality of candidate that is running. We have seats in play all over the country and our candidates are problem solvers. They are mayors. They are police chiefs.
We have a guy named Jose Hernandez running in California. He is a NASA astronaut. He's the son of migrant workers, didn't speak English as a child. Applied to NASA, got rejected, kept applying and finally became an astronaut and served on the International Space Station.
We have Val Demings, who is the first African American woman police chief in Orlando, who managed a 40 percent reduction in crime. These are people who aren't about left or right. They are about moving forward, reigniting the American dream, rebuilding the middle class and solving people's problems.
SHUSTER: Let's assume that the Democrats - the strategy, the "Drive for 25" works - and you do take control back of the House and the Democrats hold the Senate and also the White House. What do you think should be the top legislative agenda a year from now?
ISRAEL: Rebuilding the middle class and reducing debt. Here's the formula - it's very simple - you cannot reduce debt without growth, you cannot have growth without jobs, you cannot have jobs without investment.
And so, as opposed to Republicans - who believe that an economic strategy is taking Medicare away from seniors - our economic strategy will be a growth strategy. Making investments to make it easier for young people to go to college, for people to get retrained in their careers, putting people back to work, rebuilding the infrastructure of this nation and reducing our deficit.
SHUSTER: Congressman, there are a lot of lawmakers out there who would not want the job of the DCCC, given some of the approval ratings that President Obama has had to contend with and, sort of, the difficult election landscape. How's it going? Any regrets that you have?
ISRAEL: Well, have you watched the Republican debates? Every time the Republicans debate each other, not only does the President do better - because the American people are now paying attention to the alternatives to the president - but House Democrats do better.
Also - look, our battle space, in our "Drive for 25" - in some cases, it overlaps with the president, in other cases we're going to run our own campaign.
Bottom line is this: when faced with a candidate - a House Republican candidate - who was willing to take somebody's Medicare away from them in order to fund tax breaks for big oil companies, in those districts, people are going to vote for somebody who is going to protect Medicare and rebuild the middle class. They're not going to vote a tea party Republican who consistently made the wrong choices.
SHUSTER: Democratic Congressman Steve Israel. He runs the DCCC, the organization responsible for the Democrats trying to take back control of the House. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us, we appreciate it.
ISRAEL: Thank you.
SHUSTER: You're welcome.
Coming up, if you think the union busting has been bad in Wisconsin, just wait until you hear what the Republican governor and legislature in Arizona are planning.
But up next, the bulldog in the box that wouldn't fit. The scene was "wruff." Get it? You will, in "Time Marches On!"
SHUSTER: Coming up, the war on labor declares a victory in Indiana. Next stop? Arizona, where state Republicans are planning an all-out assault.
But first, the "Sanity Break," and it was on this day in 1968 Lisa Marie Presley was born in Memphis, Tennessee. The only child of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie went on to have a recording career of her own.
Briefly married to Michael Jackson in 1994 and to Nicholas Cage in 2002, Lisa Marie was clearly interested in talented, troubled geniuses - and Nick Cage.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Dormant dormouse snores in the palm of a hand.
We begin, as we always do, with a dormant dormouse in our TMO Adorable Clip of the Day.
This sleeping mouse sounds pretty relaxed.
Sort of sounds like Rush Limbaugh walking up a flight of stairs.
VIDEO: Bo the bullog breaks box he's using as a seat.
And, for those of us that do not fit into someone's hand, we need to find slightly larger quarters to take a load off. In Bo the bulldog's case, he might need to find a bigger place to sit than that.
That box would be better for a smaller dog, like maybe a boxer. Get it, boxer? But Bo is just too big for the box. He looks like, I don't know - Rush Limbaugh trying to fit onto a queen-size bed.
VIDEO: Dog exhausted by trying to follow a table tennis match.
Finally, we stay with our animal theme and join a table tennis match already in progress.
Some people say table tennis is not a great form of exercise. That is, unless you're a dog watching a table tennis match.
Tussie there is getting quite the workout trying to stay with the action. Sort of like how Rush Limbaugh - no, sorry, don't have a Rush joke for this one.
"Time Marches On!"
Just ahead, this has not been a very good day for Planned Parenthood and the disadvantaged women served by that organization.
But up next, the GOP union-busting effort continues across the country and now Republicans in Arizona are targeting police and firefighters. Seriously?
SHUSTER: We bring you "Countdown" live each night at 8:00PM Eastern. Primary replays at 11:00PM and 2:00AM Eastern.
The Republican war on organized labor has slowly moved across the country, with union-killing bills passing last year in Wisconsin and Ohio.
In our third story today - Indiana today became the 23rd "right to work" state, the first to become a "right to work" state in over a decade. Still, the actions today by Hoosier Republicans may end up paling in comparison to what GOP lawmakers are currently considering in Arizona.
First to Indiana, where the state Senate today passed a bill making it a "right to work" state, the first in the Rust Belt. The vote was 28-22 when the tally came, as protesters in the galleries and jammed outside the Statehouse chanted "shame." After the vote, the protesters marched to Lucas Oil stadium, home of Sunday's Super Bowl. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, a few hours later, signed the bill behind closed doors.
In a statement, Daniels referred to the effort to roll back union power saying, "This law won't be a magic answer, but we'll be far better off with it." Although the thousands of Hoosiers who marched in protest, of course, disagree.
But being a "right to work" state is apparently not enough for some state Republican lawmakers, particularly those in Arizona. That state government still engages in collective bargaining with public-service employees, including those in schools and local governments. But new bills introduced by Republican legislators would ban all collective bargaining in Arizona, including with police and fire fighters. And, to put that in context - even Wisconsin, the ugly symbol of union busting hasn't tried to target those groups.
Furthermore, the proposed Arizona bill would prohibit automatic payroll deductions for union dues and ban compensation of public employees for union work. All of this comes after Republican Governor Jan Brewer, earlier this month, offered state employees their first pay raise in years, in exchange for giving up certain protections, such as protection from termination without cause.
One of the groups that's been instrumental in crafting Arizona's anti-union bills is a conservative think tank called the Goldwater Institute, which just so happens to be a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC. ALEC. ALEC, A-L-E-C, has also played a role in union-busting bills passed in Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Joining us now is Tim Dickinson, contributing editor with Rolling Stone. Tim, thanks for your time tonight.
TIM DICKINSON: Good to be with you.
SHUSTER: Are the fact that police and firefighters included in these Arizona bills, is that going to have any effect, or is the Republican control over the legislature just going to bulldoze these bills through anyway?
DICKINSON: Well, the Republicans have a really dominating majority in the legislature in Arizona. So, it's hard to see exactly how this gets stopped. But going after police and fighters and teachers - they are going to have a lot of foot solders on the ground that are going to be raising a holy stink about this.
So, I think this is going to be a flashpoint. It will be interesting in how it plays out. But it's hard to see that the - just playing the numbers, how this is going to get stopped in the legislature.
SHUSTER: And, how does that effect the general election? I mean, if unions focus a lot of money and energy fighting these bills in Arizona - I suppose, could that help President Obama in the sense that he's - well, he's just defending, and the Democrats are just defending, collective bargaining for firefighters and police and it's hard to see how a majority of Americans would be against that.
DICKINSON: Well, this certainly plays into their national narrative. And it also is unveiling - happening in a state in Arizona that - Obama is wanting to put Republicans on the defensive there, even if he's not able to pick it up exactly, he's hoping to make them spend money to keep that a red state. So this - you know, I think is going to be a bad development for firefighters in Phoenix, but, perhaps, a good development for the Obama campaign nationally.
SHUSTER: After seeing the reaction Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker got for his union busting in Madison - the protests, and ultimately the recall, of course, which are underway - why have more governors chosen to essentially pick this fight, given the reaction that Scott Walker got?
DICKINSON: Well, we're seeing sort of a delayed consequence of the 2010 election where Democrats just got shellacked - not only at the national level, but also in the state legislatures. And so, Republican governors have a sort of a narrow window, I think they're seeing, to push their advantage before 2012 comes along and the environment changes quite a bit. And so, I think they're seeing this window closing and deciding, "Well, if we're going to do this, this is the time to move."
SHUSTER: Tell us a little more about the Goldwater Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been behind some of these anti-union efforts in several states.
DICKINSON: Well, you know, ALEC is - this is all part of a sort of top-to-bottom Republican agenda to bust unions and that does two things. If you bust public-employee unions, you're diminishing the Democratic base - these groups tend to give heavily to Democrats. Plus, you're making it easier to corporations to pay lower wages and extract more from their workers. So, it's sort of a twofer for Republicans, to make Democrats weaker and reward corporate contributors. And so, this has been - with the help of ALEC and Karl Rove's "Crossroads" group - this has been part of their national agenda that's just playing out in the state legislatures.
SHUSTER: And with Indiana being the 23rd "right to work" state and these Republican think tanks pushing this anti-union agenda across the country, is it only a matter of time before this essentially becomes a nationwide issue?
DICKINSON: Well, you know, I think this is going to be a nationwide issue in 2012.
You know, I think we should back up when we talk about "right to work." It sounds so innocuous, but Dr. King called it "one of the great frauds that had been perpetrated on the American people," really an assault on the freedom of collective bargaining.
And so, I think this plays into the larger national narrative that the Democrats are actually trying to push, which is that, you know, Republicans are handmaidens of the wealthy and corporate power, and that we're fighting for - the Democrats are fighting for - the middle class, the rights of firefighters and folks. And so, I think this is going to be part of the national campaign, the national narrative that we're going to see play out over the next months.
SHUSTER: Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson. Tim, thanks as always, we appreciate it.
SHUSTER: Up next, the Gingrich campaign made thousands of calls this week to Jewish voters in Florida saying that Mitt Romney was insensitive to dietary traditions. But Gingrich refused to call Romney on election night. Newt, that's not kosher.
And later, the GOP war on Planned Parenthood.
This is "Countdown."
SHUSTER: The Susan G. Komen foundation is supposed to help women fight breast cancer, but now the group is cutting its funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that conducts health screenings. The anti-choice lobby strikes again.
And Newt Gingrich still hasn't called Mitt Romney to congratulate him on Florida. Given Newt's recent interest in Jewish Talmudic traditions, it's time for a sermon from Rabbi Shuster.
SHUSTER: As that old saying goes, "politics isn't beanbag." It's a rough business, filled with personal, and often unfair, attacks. On election night, however, and after a winner is declared, political opponents usually put the nastiness aside at least for a few minutes. That, however, didn't happen last night in Florida.
After a bruising primary battle that gave Mitt Romney a double digit victory in the sunshine state, Newt Gingrich did not concede a thing. First, in his speech, Gingrich refused to even mention Romney by name.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate. The voters of Florida really made that clear.
SHUSTER: And it's clear, Newt, that you were steamed at Romney. I get it. According to an independent analysis, Romney and his supporters ran thirteen thousand attack ads against you. They lied about your record. And yes, you could make a strong argument that Romney's team essentially bought the Florida election.
So it's understandable that you would be infuriated and not want to mention the guy's name in public. But you refused to even make a phone call to Romney. You know, the call that's just between the two of you where you acknowledge the voters had spoken?
Last night and this morning, Romney was rightfully a bewildered. And he pointed out that you've been stiffing the etiquette thing all along:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Newt didn't call after Iowa or New Hampshire. I called him after South Carolina, his win there. But he didn't call again last night. The other candidates all called. But, I don't know, I guess Speaker Gingrich doesn't have our phone number.
SHUSTER: The irony, Newt, is that your campaign had the numbers for hundreds of thousands of Florida voters. That's right. You couldn't be bothered to call Romney. And yet, in the days leading up to the Florida primary election, your campaign bothered many voters, particularly those in Jewish communities, by calling them and delivering this pre-recorded message:
(Excerpt from audio clip) MAN: As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney vetoed a bill paying for kosher food for our seniors in nursing homes - Holocaust survivors, who for the first time were forced to eat non-kosher because Romney thought five dollars was too much to pay for our grandparents to eat kosher. Where is Mitt Romney's compassion for our seniors? Tuesday you can end Mitt Romney's hypocrisy on religious freedom, with a vote for Newt Gingrich. Paid for by Newt 2012.
SHUSTER: "Where is Mitt Romney's compassion for our seniors, particularly those who keep Kosher?" Oy vey. You see, that claim about seniors having to eat non-kosher is a bit misleading. The funding for kosher kitchens in Massachusetts was never actually eliminated.
Nonetheless, Newt, I get your point. Perhaps Romney, in his effort back in Massachusetts, showed he is insensitive to certain religious traditions. Given the phone calls your campaign made to voters, and the call you didn't want to place to Mitt Romney after his victory, I have a solution that will please everybody. In other words, I'm about to give you an opportunity to satisfy the political-etiquette thing, and also reinforce your concern for religious Jewish voters.
You ready? Here goes.
Call Romney. Tell him, "Shalom, Mitt. This is Newt. How's your health? What's happening with the grandchildren? Mine are studying to be doctors. Anyway, I wanted to call about Florida and say tro gesundheit. Congratulations. Good luck in Nevada. God willing, the rabbis in Vegas won't talk as much as that one in Miami. Oy, his sermon was long."
Seriously, Newt, if you are going to pander, at least be consistent. When you want to appeal to religious Jewish voters, or appeal to religious voters of any kind, remember their tenets - modesty in victory and graciousness in defeat.
Trust me, that's what really matters.
SHUSTER: Women's health has now become the latest casualty in the right's war against Planned Parenthood.
In our number-one story in the "Countdown" - National breast-cancer organization Susan G. Komen For the Cure announced yesterday that it's breaking off its partnership with reproductive-health center Planned Parenthood. The move will eliminate financial grants for breast-cancer screenings and education programs that hundreds of thousands of low-income and uninsured women rely on at Planned Parenthood health centers around the country.
Komen insists the cut in funding is not political, saying it is merely following a new policy against funding groups under investigation. A congressional audit of Planned Parenthood was launched last September by Republican Representative Cliff Stearns of Florida, to determine whether public money was spent on abortions over the past decade.
Conveniently, the halt of grants to Planned Parenthood comes less than a year after Komen hired its new vice president, Karen Handel. In 2010, Handel launched an aggressively anti-abortion platform in her failed bid for Georgia governor, writing in a campaign blog posted at the time, "Let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."
Many in the right demonize Planned Parenthood, painting it strictly as a abortion provider to incite anger among pro-life constituents and gain support for federal aid cuts, even though abortions are funded largely through the Title X and the Title 10 and Medicaid programs. Furthermore, according to independent analysis, 90 percent of the services at Planned Parenthood are unrelated to abortion.
Komen's actions spurred fierce responses from some Democrats on the Hill yesterday, with Senator Patty Murray writing in a press release, "At the heart of this issue is the shameful 'investigation' of Planned Parenthood by House Republicans trying to score political points and appease their extreme right-wing base."
Patrick Hurd, CEO of the Planned Parenthood in Southeastern Virginia that receives a Komen grant, and husband of Betsy Hurd, a breast cancer patient, told the AP, "Cancer doesn't care if you're pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people's politics."
Let's bring in Lizz Winstead, comedienne, co-creator of "The Daly Show" and author of "Lizz Free or Die" essays. Lizz, we appreciate your time tonight.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Thanks, David.
SHUSTER: So, many in the right wing are - in the media - the right-wing media are applauding the Komen foundation, included Erick Erickson, CNN contributor and blogger at "Red State."
He wrote yesterday, "As a result of this announcement, the left has gone on the attack," urging readers to send their donation to Komen for cutting off Planned Parenthood funding. What kind of message is the right sending with this sort of reaction?
WINSTEAD: Well, I think she said it herself when she was running for governor when she said, "I don't support the mission of Planned Parenthood." And the mission of Planned Parenthood is to provide affordable heath care for low-income women. And, if you don't support that mission, I really don't know how you can call yourself pro-life in the least.
And I think it's very suspect that, within the last year, this woman who was running for governor - who got Sarah Palin's endorsement, she was so conservative that she got the endorsement of Palin, - ran for Governor of Georgia the same year this legislation comes to be in Congress. And Susan Komen's new edict is "we can't support any organization that has legislation before Congress that's investigative."
Where are those dots? How do those connect? It does seem like - conservative person needed to put a piece of legislation in place so that Susan Komen could conveniently withhold their funding. It might sound tinfoil-hat-y. But I would like to, at least, know that there is not connection, or, if there is, I'd like to know that too.
SHUSTER: Well, and we're not talking about a Justice Department criminal investigation.
WINSTEAD: That's right.
SHUSTER: - civil investigation. It's one Republican in Congress. It's not that difficult to launch an investigation if you're a member of Congress.
WINSTEAD: Well, and the thing is, David, Planned Parenthood - we've seen the assault on Planned Parenthood. They have to submit so much stuff every year. Every year they submit their tax records.
So, basically, what this congressman is doing is forcing Planned Parenthood to re-submit this stuff at the cost of Planned Parenthood and the American taxpayer and that's what's really awful.
SHUSTER: Because of this decision by Komen, their Connecticut affiliate has withdrawn from the national organization. Obviously, yeah, Planned Parenthood is going to recoup. Will Komen recover?
WINSTEAD: I'm not so concerned about Komen. If Komen is making this decision, I really feel like - I'm for Planned Parenthood. I'm pro-Planned Parenthood and what they do. If Komen wants to shoot themselves in the foot -
As a - right before I went on, one of your producers came up to me and said, "Planned Parenthood's raised $650,000 in a 24-hour period." I believe that the Komen grant, last year, was about $680,000 - between $650,000 and $680,000 - I don't know the exact number.
What we need to do now is - I'm tired of waking up every day and having this assault on women's heath care and wondering who we're going to pull the rug out from under today. So, I think this is a wake-up call to all women that supporting women's health care, and affordable women's heath care, is something that we have to do every day. You know, like, wipe our butts and go to the gym.
SHUSTER: Planned Parenthood, as you mentioned - $680,000 last year from Komen, $580,000 the year before. As you just mentioned, they've raised, already, more than that. A lot of folks, though, don't realize that the Komen foundation, in 2010, they raised in over 400 million dollars.
WINSTEAD: $400 million.
SHUSTER: So, in other words, they're cutting off such a small - such a small part of that just to make a political point.
WINSTEAD: Well, the small part is .016, .016 is what they were giving to Planned Parenthood, they cut off to make a political point. I don't know how you can look at this as any other thing but a political point.
You know, this is about breast cancer, this is about making sure that women can be well. How do you say you're pro-life if you are taking away money to help women be well? One hundred and seventy thousand women got breast cancer exams because of the Komen money. Now more will, but it's because women have stepped up and said, "Whoa."
And what's interesting is, I don't make any bones about how I feel politically about things, and I have been very vocal on Twitter, all through the night, actually. I have not gotten one person in my twitter stream - and I always get haters - not one person came in and said, "How dare you, how dare you take on these people?" Because people know.
And, in fact, this documentary, oddly enough, launching tomorrow, that's called, "Pink Ribbon Inc." And it's about looking at corporatization of charity and they have really looked into the Komen foundation and others to see what this is about.
SHUSTER: There are so many women who participate in the Race for the Cure - the march where they put on the pink and we saw the pictures right there. Do you think, perhaps, this an opportunity for Planned Parenthood to remind everybody who participates in this race who says, "Yes, we need more screening, we need more preventative tests," that - well, that's what Planned Parenthood was doing.
WINSTEAD: That's what Planned Parenthood was doing. And they have the facilities to do it, they have the infrastructure to do it. They are already in your neighborhoods and your towns providing it in strategic locations that are accessible to people.
So, to pull it out, where is that money going to go? To more pink toasters? To more awareness campaigns? Guess what? We're aware there's breast cancer, and now we're aware that Susan Komen really doesn't care about finding a cure, they care about finding corporate sponsors to slap that stupid ribbon on.
SHUSTER: Lizz Winstead. Lizz, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
WINSTEAD: Thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Lizz's radio program can be heard on weactradio.com and NDC at 1480AM.
And that does it for our show tonight. I'm David Shuster. For all of us here at "Countdown," thanks for watching. Have a great evening. We'll have more "Countdown," of course, tomorrow. You're watching Current TV.