Thursday, March 1, 2012

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, March 1st, 2012
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug 1: Senate defeats Blunt Amendment, denying Romney chance to voice 3rd different position on it. @RyanGrim on bill, politics

#ShowPlug 2: Michigan awards both at-large delegates to Romney; Santorum cries fix. Joe @jdub321 Williams on GOP campaign

#ShowPlug 3: GOP tries to pin price of gas on POTUS as President Clinton preposterously endorses Keystone XL Pipeline. W/ @BrianBeutler

#ShowPlug 4: NewsCorp shareholders push to push James Murdoch out; Rupert to testify to Leveson Inquiry. w/Guardian's @EdPilkington

#ShowPlug 5: Comical Sheriff Arpaio goes full birther in bizarre news conference. @ChristFinnegan gives him the serious analysis he merits

#ShowPlug Last: As bomb squad examines package at his home, did Rush Limbaugh mean to call own wife & 40 million US women, "sluts"?


#5 'Campaigns & Contraception', Ryan Grim

#5 'Campaigns & Contraception', Joe Williams

#4 'Clog In The Pipeline', Brian Beutler

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Family Ties', Ed Pilkington (excerpt)

#2 Worst Persons: Richard Cebull, George Cleveland (R-NC), Rush Limbaugh

#1 'Inane Clown Posse', Christian Finnegan (excerpt)

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , ,

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

The Blunt amendment - allowing employers to deny any health coverage, especially contraception, for any personal reason - is defeated in the Senate, just in time to save Mitt Romney from voicing a third conflicting opinion on it.

(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I'm not for the bill. But look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, a husband and wife, I'm not going there.

(Excerpt from audio clip) ROMNEY: I didn't understand his question. Of course I support the Blunt amendment.

OLBERMANN: What's all this got to do with the price of gas?

(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: If there is one thing I know about New Hampshire, is that your political bull detector is pretty keen, is pretty sharp. You know that we can't just drill our way to lower gas prices.

OLBERMANN: Newt Gingrich is not from New Hampshire, and he's pulling that "elitist subway riders" card again.

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: In the present, the American people drive cars and trucks. I know this is a shock to the president. Apparently, it doesn't fit with what they taught him in those classes with Saul Alinsky.

OLBERMANN: Nice try, Sparky. Saul Alinsky died when President Obama was 10.

Worse yet, he is speaking about the Keystone XL pipeline?

(Excerpt from video clip) BILL CLINTON: So, I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work.


More on Murdochs. The British parliamentary inquiry to Rupert, "Come talk to us." Shareholders to James, "Get out."

National embarrassment, Arizona's simple "showbiz" sheriff goes from dressing prisoners in pink to selling birther-ism.

(Excerpt from video clip) JOE ARPAIO: We believe probable cause exists indicating that forgery and fraud may have been committed.

OLBERMANN: And Limbaugh doubles down. The law student who wants her Catholic school insurance to cover part of her prescription birth control?

(Excerpt from video clip) RUSH LIMBAUGH: What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

OLBERMANN: So, all women who don't pay 100 percent of their birth control costs are prostitutes, when at least 40 million women in this country use contraception? And that doesn't even count the ones using aspirin!

All that and more, now on "Countdown."

(Excerpt from video clip) LIMBAUGH: We're the pimps.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, March 1st, 251 days until the 2012 presidential election.

The president's policy, requiring insurance companies to provide contraceptives to women, gets reaffirmed by the Senate on a mostly part - party-line vote. While Mr. Obama's campaign is already outspending the Republican challenger with the deepest pockets, Mitt Romney.

The fifth story on the "Countdown" - Republicans hope to embarrass the White House and Senate Democrats with the Blunt-Rubio Amendment challenging the president's plan. Co-sponsor Roy Blunt of Missouri saying on the floor that employers and insurance companies should not be forced to pay for medical services they find immoral:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROY BLUNT: If you are of a faith that believes that something is absolutely wrong - as an employer, why would you want to pay for that?

OLBERMANN: Perhaps because they could then decide their faith states they shouldn't pay any insurance to anybody named Blunt.

California Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer making the same point, that the amendment would have given health-care providers an out on services well beyond contraception:

(Excerpt from video clip) BARBARA BOXER: Mr. Blunt is giving insurance companies a way to say, "Oh, we really feel sorry that you have cancer. We're really sad that you have diabetes. We're really torn apart that you might have a stroke, but you know what? We have a moral objection."

OLBERMANN: The objections won today, Blunts-Rubio losing 51-48. Voting with the Democratic majority? Retiring Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. With the Republican minority? Democratic senators Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Nebraska's Ben Nelson.

Democratic senators Patty Murray of Washington and Chuck Schumer of New York, explaining what the majority did and what should concern women in the fall election.

(Excerpt from video clip) PATTY MURRAY: We defeated an amendment that would have historically taken away something that women in this country have counted on for decades and that's the ability to make their own health-care choices in the privacy of their homes.

(Excerpt from video clip) CHARLES SCHUMER: The closeness of this vote shows how high the stakes are for women this year. A Republican-led Senate might pass this bill. A Republican president like Mitt Romney would definitely sign it.

OLBERMANN: Definitely, maybe.

Romney, having trouble finding his bearings about this at an appearance in Fargo, North Dakota today:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm glad you can remember. You remember what I said? I don't remember what I said.

OLBERMANN: Romney foundering much more seriously last night with a question from correspondent Jim Heath of Ohio Network News.

(Excerpt from video clip) JIM HEATH: Blunt-Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week. That deals with banning - or allowing employers to ban - providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on this?

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm not for the bill. But look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and woman, a husband and wife - I'm not going there.

OLBERMANN: But he went there, later last night, with an explanation.

(Excerpt from audio clip) ROMNEY: I didn't understand his question. Of course I support the Blunt Amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception, so I was simply - I misunderstood the question.

OLBERMANN: He misunderstood a question specifically about Blunt-Rubio? Even Rick Santorum wasn't buying that.

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: When Governor Romney was asked that question, his knee-jerk reaction was, "No, I can't be for that." Well then, after his consultants talked to him, and then he came back and said, "Oh, I didn't understand the question." Well, maybe he did, maybe he didn't.

OLBERMANN: Maybe he didn't want to. It's not a very popular position.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll finding that 63 percent of American adults approve of President Obama's policy on this, including majorities of women and men and Catholics and Protestant evangelicals. The largest groups opposing the plan? A minority of Republican women and men.

Romney also struggling with his tendency to place foot firmly in mouth in lesser and trivial areas, including telling fans of the Daytona 500 stock car race on Sunday they must have spent "big bucks" on the plastic raincoats they wore.

Romney, then making that worse on Fox News:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I've worn a garbage bag for rain gear myself, and we're out there in the rain. The rain was getting us soaked. I didn't have a raincoat myself. I would have liked one of those.

OLBERMANN: Garbage in, garbage out.

Also out? Two Michigan delegates that had been in Rick Santorum's column. The Michigan GOP awarding them today to Romney, explaining that two at-large delegates were always supposed to go to the winner in the overall vote count and that a memo claiming otherwise was sent out "incorrectly."

Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley responding, "We never thought the Romney campaign would try to rig the outcome of an election by changing the rules after the vote. This kind of backroom dealing, political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America."

Michigan Republican committeeman Saul Anuzis shrugging that off with, "This is much to do about nothing." Much ado, sir.

Much to do about something - the $5 million-plus the president is expected to raise in a series of New York City fundraisers tonight. According to Bloomberg News, the Obama campaign has already spent $10 million more than has the Romney campaign, including $17 million of payroll and $14 million for advertising. We'll follow that money in a moment.

First, for more now on the politics of today's vote and the GOP candidates' responses - three responses, two candidates - I'm joined by Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief of The Huffington Post. Ryan, good evening.

RYAN GRIM: Hey, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: Our pleasure. The party-line vote in the Senate - did Republicans get what they wanted anyway? And, given those number from the polling by Kaiser - it showed the 63 percent support for the president's policy on contraception and insurance. What, exactly, did the Republicans want here?

GRIM: Well, they got this over with for now, and that's probably one of the things they wanted - because they're torn here, between a base that is pushing them in one direction and the rest of the country, which wonders why we're having a national conversation about birth control pills. It doesn't make any - it doesn't make any sense.

So, to the extent that they can move past that, they're probably happy, but if they think that they can move past it long-term, you know, they've got another thing coming.

OLBERMANN: And there has been blowback - material blowback - that ties our two lead stories together here. The Democrats in the House say they've raised more than a million dollars in the past week, all from the fallout from this one Blunt-Rubio - or Blunt Amendment. Are they - is the GOP likely to think this - think this through and not do it again before the election, because it seems not to be - not just a political winner, but a financial snowfall for the Democrats.

GRIM: I don't think that they can necessarily help themselves, because as soon as this issue becomes one that people are talking about - then you have people like Santorum, who just jump out there, and they drive the conversation forward.

And you're right. It's a disaster for them with women. You know, a number of women that I know that aren't that political have watched this over the last couple of months and just wondered what the heck is going on, and all of the sudden they're passionate about politics, and it would have been much better off for Republicans if they had just stayed apolitical.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. As I keep saying here, there was a tipping point over the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood thing that has gotten people paying attention - men and women who were not paying attention fully before.

GRIM: Sure.

OLBERMANN: About Romney and Blunt-Rubio - another rake that he has found to step on and hit himself in the forehead with - are we supposed to take his explanation seriously? I mean, the correspondent started the question by saying "Blunt-Rubio" and the explanation now is he thought it was some sort of local law?

GRIM: All right. What it does tell you is that Mitt Romney just isn't that into social issues, and that's something that you can tell just by following him on the campaign trail. So, this is just one more indication of that. Santorum, you can tell, this stuff riles him up. Santorum really cares about what other people do. Romney, not so much.

OLBERMANN: But, can Santorum make enough out of this to have an impact on Super Tuesday? Can he win on the issue of taking everybody's contraception away?

GRIM: Oh, sure, because this drives exactly at Mitt's weakest spot - which is that he has no conviction and that he is a flip-flopper. And to flip and then flop in a matter of - what was it, five or eight minutes or so? - is just - it gives you whiplash, and so, not only did he take the wrong position because - for half of the voters he took the wrong position because he took both positions.


GRIM: He also showed himself not to have any conviction or not to know that Blunt and Rubio are senators. So one way or another, it doesn't work out for him, and you have a bunch of southern states coming up on Super Tuesday. Santorum, you know, feels like he has a chance. So, you know, he certainly isn't helping himself.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. You can always ask the reporter again to clarify the question. That's a trick that we learned.

GRIM: Sure. "I'm not for the bill" - I mean, that's pretty clear statement that he made.

OLBERMANN: Lastly, do you know anything about the Michigan GOP and these two at-large delegates because that's a - even for a primary campaign with this much bitterness in it, for Santorum's people to say that the Romney campaign "would try to rig the outcome of an election by changing the rules after the vote," is a pretty strong statement.

GRIM: Yeah, I don't know what happened in the back room, but it doesn't look good. I mean, the state chairman said, "We are going to do this proportionately," and then, last night, the party voted to give the two delegates to Romney instead, and they said they sent the memo out by accident and the state party person that they have talking is a Romney supporter.

So, you know, maybe there is nothing here, but it certainly doesn't look good, and the perception that the establishment is trying to rig this for Romney is extremely dangerous to Republicans, even if they're not doing it, just the very perception - and as we know, the tea party doesn't always need evidence before it moves forward with a conclusion. So, if it decides that the establishment is rigging this for Romney - then that's big trouble for him if he winds up being the general election candidate.

OLBERMANN: Big Romney lawn, big supply of Romney rakes.

Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief of The Huffington Post, again, great thanks for your time tonight.

GRIM: All right. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Now, for more on the money chase and President Obama's seeming dominant position there, I'm joined by Joe Williams, the White House reporter from Politico. Good evening, Joe.

JOE WILLIAMS: Hi, good to be here.

OLBERMANN: Obama has spent $10 million more than Mitt Romney in the primaries, running unopposed. Is that purely the power of incumbency, or - what explains that number?

WILLIAMS: Well, there are two things at work here, and the first overall explanation, the big picture is - it takes a lot of money to fight a culture war. But certainly, you've got a president here who is trying to plant his stake in the ground, answer some of these attacks that have been going unanswered until now and hold his base together.

You saw that rally in D.C. with the auto workers, that was another big one, but he is doing this to define himself - again, before the Republicans are managing to define him for him.

But also, another thing its does, two things it does - it puts pressure on Mitt Romney, because we've had a reporting that shows his burn rate is pretty astronomical for this far along in the process, and it forces him to raise more money - which you saw at the end of his victory speech the other night, where he is starting to talk about courting small donors.

So, it's sort of a three-prong strategy: get out in front of the issues, get out in front of your opponents, force them to raise even more money and show, also, that you are the big dog on the block still, that you really have got a lot of cards to play with.

OLBERMANN: The burn rate that you just mentioned - it's a very important point. Is he nearing any kind of financial problem if he gets out of the primary and into the general election, or is money never an issue if you are a double-centi-millionaire and happen to be running and you have your wallet with you?

WILLIAMS: Well, to piggyback on what Ryan Grim said - certainly, this is a problem for Romney, in perception if nothing else. He's got a lot of resources at his disposal. Remember, we haven't even started talking about the super PAC money yet, that he's got at his fingertips, virtually.

But, to look at the fact that he has had to spend so much money to get a virtual handful of delegates, and we've still got a three- or four-month process to go? It doesn't bespeak winner. It doesn't bespeak front-runner who is clearly establishing himself and that the people are rallying around and love.

OLBERMANN: I mentioned his own wallet. In 2008, he lent millions from his own fortune to his own campaign. Is there any indication that he's had to do that or is considering doing it now?

WILLIAMS: Well, if he does, he might use it to clean up the rakes on his lawn.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, exactly.

WILLIAMS: As you mentioned before. I mean, if he needs to go there, he will. We probably won't hear about that for a while. Certainly, there's no indication that he needs to just yet, because he is still flush for the moment and - if not with his own campaign, with a lot of the "American Crossroads GPS" money, with the "Winning Our Future" money, or - I'm sorry, that's Gingrich's PAC - but with his own super PAC money, it's still out there. It's still a card that he can play coming up pretty soon.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, that's the "Help Romney Avoid Rakes" super PAC, is his own.

WILLIAMS: I just have this image of Sideshow Bob from "The Simpsons."

OLBERMANN: That's where I stole it from. You have got to know who to steal from, Joe.

Let me take you back to the president and the seeming strange juxtaposition between these large amounts of money in 2012 and what was one of the signatures - if not the decisive signature - of his fundraising in 2008, which was the small donors. This was part of "the thing." This was part of "the change." Are they showing up this year, or are they irrelevant to the equation?

WILLIAMS: Well, early on - in April, May - weren't showing up so much, but as we get into this culture war stuff - or April, May of 2011 - as we get into the culture war stuff, as we're turning the corner towards the general election and as the Democratic base sees what's out there, the money is starting to come in.

The Obama machine is saying that they are up to 45 percent, give or take, of their haul - so far right around $70 million, $80 million is from donors, $250 or less. That's what they like to highlight.

Now, still mighty. They still have a lot of bundlers out there who are raising $500 million, $600 million at a time, and he's got a super-duper fundraising coming up in New York City as we speak, and he's made frequent trips to California and New York - ATMs, virtually for Democratic candidates.

And again, he still has a disadvantage in super PAC money, so there are still a lot of chess pieces out there, still a lot of moving parts, but so far it's looking pretty good, small donor-wise, for the Obama campaign.

OLBERMANN: The White House reporter of Politico, Joe Williams. As always, Joe, great thanks for some of your time tonight.

WILLIAMS: Good to see you again.

OLBERMANN: Thank you.

The president, the presidential race and the price of gas. As the right spreads more exaggerations about what the XL pipeline would do at the pump and about jobs, who would have expected President Clinton to help them spread that? Next.


OLBERMANN: The Keystone XL pipeline - dead in all but the minds of right wingers pretending 2500 temp jobs are a quarter million real ones, so today Bill Clinton embraces it.

Rupert Murdoch will now testify to the special enquiry into his company's scandals in the U.K., while stockholders are going to try to push his son out of the company entirely.

Arizona's embarrassment becomes the nation's. The grandstander of all grandstanders, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and his news conference today selling what is crack to the birthers.

And amid local reports that the bomb squad is examining a suspicious package at his Palm Beach home, Rush Limbaugh doubles down. First, the student who wanted her Georgetown insurance to cover her birth control was a "slut." Today, he says she must post videos of herself having sex online. "Worst Persons," ahead.


OLBERMANN: Highest average price for a gallon of gas in this country in the last six years? Mid-June 2008, $4.12. Whose fault was it? The Republicans said, "Candidate Barack Obama," because he would not commit to wholesale drilling. But, by the day of his inauguration, the price had dropped to $1.61 a gallon.

Now, the average is back up to $3.62, and whose fault is it? The Republicans say, "President Barack Obama."

In our fourth story today - while the president spent time rebutting the Republican talking points on gas and oil, former President Clinton was buying right into them.

At a speech in New Hampshire, this president called out Republicans on their attempt to play politics with gas, once again debunking the myth that more oil drilling in America would lower prices in America:

(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Under my administration America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That is a fact. That's a fact. Under my administration, we have a near-record number of oil rigs operating right now, more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined. Anybody who tells you that we can just drill our way out of this problem does not know what they're talking about or they're not telling you the truth.

OLBERMANN: Cue the candidates begging for the Keystone XL pipeline.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: When someone says, "Do you want to bring in a pipeline that's going to create tens of thousands of jobs to bring oil in from Canada," how in the world could you say no?

OLBERMANN: Only one independent study has been made to those tens of thousands of jobs. It indicates the correct number is perhaps 2,500, and they're temporary jobs at that.

Besides that, and the environmental impact - a new report from Bloomberg today points out that the pipeline would not lower the price of gas. It would actually raise it.

The purpose of the $7.6 billion Keystone is to move 830,000 barrels of oil a day from landlocked Alberta to the Texas gulf coast, obtaining new costumers and a higher price for heavy Canadian crude. Despite that fact, former President Clinton still thinks President Obama should support the XL. Speaking last night at the Department of Energy's Innovation Summit, the former president spoke as if the pipeline's creation was inevitable.

(Excerpt from video clip) CLINTON: The extra cost of running it is infinitesimal compared to the revenues that would be generated over a long period of time. So, I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work.

OLBERMANN: Joining me now - Brian Beutler, reporter for Talking Points Memo. Brian, thanks for your time tonight.

BRIAN BEUTLER: Evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Starting, not with this president but number 42 - any idea where Bill Clinton is coming from on the Keystone XL?

BEUTLER: I mean, there is the political question and the policy question.


BEUTLER: The dirty secret about the Democratic party is that - even though there's this big partisan political fight about Keystone - there's really only a, you know - a segment of the Democratic party that is really, truly opposed to developing Keystone.

But the Obama administration, before it became a major issue among environmentalists, thought this was going to sail through. They'd approved a number of pipelines before this. They were basically set to do the same thing, and then it turned into a big issue among environmentalists, and so they found, you know, a good cause to at least delay it, but - you know, only delay it by a few months. So, this puts Bill Clinton on, basically, the side of Barack Obama's mind and not his immediate actions.

But - but just the other day, President Obama himself learning that TransCanada might start a U.S.-only segment of the Keystone XL pipeline that doesn't have to cross the Canadian border. He said, "Great, more power to them," and that is sort of consistent with his broader policy on energy which has, as he said in that clip you played, has resulted in the production of more oil than we've seen in this country for eight years.

OLBERMANN: Why are people still behind Keystone XL? I mean, obviously, you point out correctly that they are, but the amount of jobs' number has been knocked down so many times that even the companies behind the project have lowered their estimates by 70 percent or 80 percent - just their estimates, let alone what we actually know will be the final number. There was a scandal over the approval process in Canada and in the U.S. Now, this Bloomberg report, saying it would raise the price of the oil by as much as 20 cents in some places. Why are there still people behind it? Let me guess, it has something to do with the money they would get out of it?

BEUTLER: That's a big part of it, obviously. That's always going to be a big part of it. You know, putting new oil on - increasing supply, basically - can trivially, perhaps, reduce global fuel prices. So there's that, too, and you know there's this sort of hazy sense - and this is why the politics in this is so rich for the Republicans - that drilling and pipeline-building somehow magically equal lower prices at the fuel pump. That, you know, to the extent that that's true at all - and as I said, it's trivial - it's a sort of process that takes years and years.

I mean, you have to build the pipeline. Then, you have to refine the oil and you have send it - you know, around the world to, you know - to massive markets in India and China, and it's not like we get all that - all of that oil and all that gasoline.

So, you know, for Republicans, they can sort of make this connection that if only Obama did this one thing that involves sucking more fossil fuels out of the ground, your gas prices would be lower. It resonates, but it's just factually not true.

OLBERMANN: The actual economists and, particularly, the specialists in the price and the distribution of gas and oil, point to the fact that speculators are the ones who force the price up. In the absence of an actual Middle Eastern crisis, it's speculators who do this. Speculators are part of the one percent. That's not that difficult to follow that - one, two. Why is that point not being pounded by the president, even if he's not completely behind it? Politically, it would seem to go a long way, right at the moment.

BEUTLER: The president - I think the president is trying to hew to the view that there's basically nothing that he, as president, or that the U.S. government can do to lower fuel prices in the United States or - you know, this is - fuel prices are going up all around the world. He can't do anything about that either. So, I think, that that's the tact that he's taking.

Democratic members of Congress, on the other hand, are - you know, hammering away at oil speculators here in the U.S., but you know the energy experts that I talk to about this, you know, point to a couple things.

One is that - to the extent that we have control over oil speculators, you know, legislatively or by statute - it's to those speculators in the United States.

And the other thing is that - the fact that these speculators, you know, may be envisioning a flare up in Iran, can drive up the cost of oil, is a symptom of the constraint of supply that isn't going to go away with Keystone and isn't going - you know, the Saudis and our - you know, our own oil production hasn't been able to overcome.

So, there's a fundamental problem that, even if the oil prices are higher now than they should be, there's very little the market can do to respond to that to drive them back down.

And whether it makes political sense for Barack Obama to hammer away at them - yeah, I can see a case for that, but I think that he wants to take a, sort of - more high-minded view that anything anybody says about government actors being able to solve this problem are just selling, basically, snake oil as opposed to crude oil.

OLBERMANN: Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo, playing a little hurt for us tonight. We appreciate it greatly, and, as always, thank you, sir.

BEUTLER: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Something hidden inside Rush Limbaugh's sadistic attack on a young woman asking that her birth control expenses be partially covered by her insurance, like Limbaugh's Viagra is - did he really intend to call up to 40 million American women prostitutes? Coming up.


OLBERMANN: More walls close in on more Murdochs.

First the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1924 was born Donald "Deke" Slayton.

He was one of the original Mercury astronauts, the one almost nobody knew about because - right after the announcement - he was discovered to have had a heart murmur, and doctors said he could never go into space. Slayton was reassigned to flight crew selection, watching from the ground as the other original astronauts became world famous.

And then, in 1972, another medical exam showed years of rehab had eliminated the murmur.

In 1975, at the age of 51, Deke Slayton became the youngest rookie astronaut, piloting the docking module in the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission.

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: La Quinta employees in New Orleans set world human dominoes' record.

We begin, as we always do, with human dominoes.

And down goes this one, that one, that one -

Eight hundred and fifty people in New Orleans, all employees of La Quinta Inn for some reason, are attempting to break the record of 550 human dominoes, set last year in Belgium during the human-dominoes' Olympics.

The human-domino effect went on for a few minutes until, finally - down goes 850!

The mattresses were donated by Simmons. Like I've always said, if you're going to be attempting a human dominoes record, Simmons is - oh, now they're going for the bouncing-on-the-mattress record! Geez, one at a time!

VIDEO: Liverpudlian attempts world record for jumping over Domino's pizza-delivery boxes.

We stay in the world of record breaking, and if you don't have 849 friends, you have to come up with your own Domino's record.

Here, we have Liverpool's Paul Melia attempting the record for most Domino's pizza boxes jumped over.

I can only assume jumping over one would set the record. However, Paul starts with 10, finds that to be a little too easy and works his way up to 20, which I assume stands as the record until he tries 21.

Just imagine how great this would be if he lost the stupid hat.


Finally, it seems to come earlier every year. It's World Sword Swallower's Day in Los Angeles.

Sword swallowers, not only in LA, but the world over, spent this day - this can't be right - shoving swords down their throats?

Apparently, there was one odd moment when one got stuck and King Arthur had to be called in to remove it.

Everybody had a great time, except for the subsequent epidemic of sore throats.

"Time Marches On!"

Don't try that at home.

Stockholders try to push James Murdoch out of News Corp altogether. The British parliamentary inquiry summons Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch-gate gathers steam, next.


OLBERMANN: Rupert Murdoch will apparently have to testify, again, in the U.K. Corporate stockholders are pushing to exile James Murdoch from the company in its entirety, and police there have arrested another senior Murdoch staffer.

In our third story on the "Countdown" - Rupert Murdoch excelled at keeping the lid on his scandal all this winter, all last fall, much of last summer, but his grip on things continues to loosen.

James Murdoch's announcement, yesterday, that he was stepping down as executive chairman of News International may not be the end of things, at least according to some News Corp. shareholders.

(Excerpt from audio clip) SEAMUS FINN: There are just too many - too many family members, or people with other conflicts, on the board and that doesn't instill great amounts of confidence in anybody, as an investor who is looking at it from the outside.

OLBERMANN: At last year's annual meeting, 35 percent of shareholders voted against James Murdoch's election to the board. They expect to surpass that number at a meeting come October.

According to one senior News Corp. executive, the younger Murdoch's days may be limited: "There's too much trouble hanging over his head. All this newspaper stuff just seems to get worse by the day. How can anyone expect him to fully commit to anything else? And anyone who works with him is going to be wondering how long he's going to be around. It would have been easier to let him go. Looks like Rupert is getting sentimental."

All of this comes as Reuters reports today that Rupert Murdoch will be called to once again publicly testify, this time at Britain's Leveson Inquiry, in late April or early May.

Joining me now to assess the latest play in the Murdoch-gate scandal - Ed Pilkington, the American correspondent for The Guardian. It's good to see you again, sir.


OLBERMANN: James Murdoch first. As I recall, when they had that vote by the shareholders - about whether or not to elect him to the board - it was thought that if they got 10 percent against him, or thereabouts, that this would be a major statement of opposition to his continuing evolvement in the company, and they got 35 percent. Is that an indication? Are the recent developments indications that he might actually be ousted from the inside?

PILKINGTON: It's far worse than 35 percent. If you strip out the Murdoch vote, it gets up to nearly 70 percent of independent shareholders voted against James Murdoch.

The problem is, of course, that there's this dual-voting system. The Murdoch family controls the company. So, the actual likelihood of shareholders ousting James Murdoch through a vote is very limited, but it's a sign of something much more important, which is a growing mood within the company and the people around it and, of course, the shareholders - the most important of those people - getting more and more anxious and, you know, angry, really, about what's happening.

OLBERMANN: Do they have the ear of Chase Carey and the others who are running the organization, at least domestically? Is it possible that there would be, essentially, a purge of Murdochs from within - if not by the shareholders, then by the executives?

PILKINGTON: Well, it's going to be difficult, because of that voting structure which gives the Murdoch family the control, but I think what's happening is that we're starting to see the development of a new generation of potential leaders for the company, of which Chase Carey is the most important. ANd followed, around him, by this inner core of legal experts and advisers who - like Klein, Joel Klein, I think, is becoming increasingly important.

This is a new generation of non-Murdoch family people who want to see the company run like a modern corporation, done by the book, rather than as a family business with all the favoritism, all the - you know, turning a blind eye to stuff that's going on - that we've seen has now got the company into a lot of trouble.

OLBERMANN: The Leveson Inquiry, the meaning of Murdoch testifying to it, Rupert Murdoch testifying to it - beyond the fact that they'd actually be asking questions again, and as we saw in the parliamentary hearing last summer, almost anything can happen when he actually sits down and tries to answer these detailed questions - is there specific meaning and import to this inquiry that was not there in the parliamentary one?

PILKINGTON: Yes. I mean, the phrase that they're using for Leveson Inquiry is, "Who guards the guardians?" A phrase we like at The Guardian - it's a good one - and it goes to the heart of what the story's all about.

I mean, it's not about phone hacking. It's not about computer technology. It's not about celebrities. It's about power and who wields the power and the feeling that Rupert Murdoch has come into the country in the last 30 years and has ascribed to himself and the family around him far too much power and that he's telling politicians what to do. He's telling the public what to do, and that's what the Leveson Inquiry is edging its way towards uncovering.

And the next phase of the Leveson Inquiry is going to be looking at the relationship between the press and politicians, and that's when things get really interesting.

OLBERMANN: And to the local question that is always in the back of the mind here - did anything this week increase, materially, the chances that this scandal stands up on its own feet and announces itself in this country?

PILKINGTON: Absolutely. We heard from, this week, the police at the Leveson Inquiry, who told us about a network of corrupted officials. In Britain, we've found now, 11 arrests of Sun journalists involved in its alleged bribing police officers, military officials, defense officials.

This is very serious.

It goes to the idea of bribery and corruption which the American law - the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - is all there to design - to stop, and it brings the crisis home to America in a very serious way, and that's when the company's going to get really worried. You know, the British newspapers are peanuts, let's be honest. They're less than one percent of the financial interest of News Corporation. What matters here is the TV operations and the operation in America itself. FCPA is a real threat to that.

OLBERMANN: Ed Pilkington, American correspondent for The Guardian, again great thanks for coming in and for sharing your perspective on this. We appreciate it.

PILKINGTON: Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.

Did Rush Limbaugh just call his wife, his ex-wives, and his mother, "prostitutes?" "Worst Persons" coming up.


OLBERMANN: Before today, he was just foolish and embarrassing and racist towards Latinos. Today, he became a full-fledged birther crackpot. The Joe Arpaio saga.

First, the "Worsts." And after an email about the president featuring both racism and bestiality, a federal judge in Montana will undergo a judicial impropriety review. Coming up next.


OLBERMANN: Did you know that Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona is actually paid to enforce laws and stuff? That he's not just a performance artist performing stunts like the one he did today, which may now unveil taxpayer money? That breaking story in a moment.

First - because these, too, are performing, although the term "artists" would be considerable exaggerations - here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze? To Chief U.S. District Judge for the district of Montana, Richard Cebull. The Bush nominee will now be reviewed by a judicial misconduct board.

He has admitted that he forwarded an email last month from his judicial address that included the following quote, "A little boy said to his mother, 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?' His mother replied, 'Don't even go there, Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'"

Cebull has apologized, said he sent it because he was opposed to President Obama, not because it was racist, but he admitted it was racist, but insists he is not racist.

Quoting the judge, "Nobody has ever even implied it." You just did.

The runner-up is Republican State Representative George Cleveland of North Carolina.

At a hearing on legislation that would shred early childhood education in his state, Representative Cleveland announced, "We have nobody in the state of North Carolina living in extreme poverty."

Extreme poverty is the income level below half of the poverty line.

When he was then told that 729,000 North Carolinians lived in extreme poverty, Cleveland said that this was just the result of "a government agency perpetuating a poverty class."

Extreme poverty in this country is measured thusly: an individual making an annual income of $5,570 or less or a family of four with an income of $11,157 or less. Those are weekly incomes of 107 bucks for one individual, 215 bucks for a family of four.

But our winner? Comedian Rush Limbaugh.

We know the shtick by now - it's being an on-air sadist, particularly against and towards women, who pleasures men who like to listen to acts of sadism. But his attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke have crossed some kind of line, particularly when it comes to revealing his own sexual desires and preferences.

Taking time out from continual references to men bending over and grabbing their ankles, Mr. Limbaugh today repeated his assault on Ms. Fluke, who was refused the right to testify at Congressman Issa's birth control hearing last month because she represented a case in which her group insurance plan did not include birth control because it was run by a Catholic institution, Georgetown. Thus, Ms. Fluke explained, she and other students had to pay about a thousand dollars a year out of their own pocket for birth control.

So, Limbaugh first called her "a slut."

(Excerpt from video clip) LIMBAUGH: What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception.

OLBERMANN: Today, Limbaugh went further. He believes, because Ms. Fluke wants insurance to cover some of her birth control prescriptions, he is somehow entitled to therefore watch her have sex.

(Excerpt from audio clip) LIMBAUGH: So, Miss Fluke - and the rest of you femi-Nazis - here's the deal: if we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is - we want you post the videos online so we can all watch.

OLBERMANN: Thanks for sharing your fantasies with us, Mr. Limbaugh, but - to get back to calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute" because she wants part of her birth control covered by insurance.

By that definition, Mr. Limbaugh, if your wife Kathryn has ever used birth control and did not pay for it 100 percent out of her own pocket, or if your previous wife Marta had ever used birth control and did not pay for it 100 percent out of her own pocket, or if your second wife Michelle had ever used birth control and did not pay for it 100 percent out of her own pocket, or if your first wife Roxy had ever used birth control and did not pay for it 100 percent out of her own pocket, or if your mother Millie ever used birth control and did not pay for it 100 percent out of her own pocket - by your own definition, Mr. Limbaugh, what does that make them?

Rush Limbaugh, who may have called his own mother that name, today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: While the GOP candidate is still yet to be decided, it's always been assumed that President Obama would be the nominee for the Democrats in the fall. That is, unless the Arizona sheriff currently under investigation for allegedly ignoring 400 sex-crimes cases involving Latinos, can lead his league of retired superheroes to stop the president.

In our number-one story - Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio today released the preliminary findings of his so-called "Cold Case Posse," a group of five former law enforcement officials and retired attorneys, who are seeking to prove that President Obama was not actually born in this country and is thus not eligible to be - you know the story.

(Excerpt from video clip) ARPAIO: Upon close examination of the evidence, we are prepared, today, to say we believe probable cause exists indicating that forgery and fraud may have been committed.

OLBERMANN: His team then went on to present their evidence, using a very loose interpretation of the word.

Arpaio has now, this evening, told a local radio station in Phoenix that he may assign some of his own detectives to work this case, which would be using taxpayer money for birther-ism.

The investigation began last August - and, by the way, Arpaio continually pointed out that no taxpayer money was involved - it was presented by - a petition was presented to Arpaio, signed by more than 250 members by the - surprise, Arizona tea party. Surprise! You're idiots.

Some say Arpaio's latest publicity stunt is to divert attention from his own legal troubles, including a federal grand jury investigation over alleged abuse of power as well as the Justice Department investigation into his racial profiling of Latinos and those Latino-victim sex cases.

When Univision's newscaster Jorge Ramos interviewed Arpaio this week, he broke the bad news to him:

(Excerpt from video clip) JORGE RAMOS: To many Latinos, Sheriff Arpaio, you are the face of racism and discrimination.

(Excerpt from video clip) ARPAIO: I've never had any problems with a Latino. They love me. So it's just because I am enforcing the state laws they don't like -

(Excerpt from video clip) RAMOS: They don't - they don't - you're making fun of this, but they don't love you. I've spoken to many undocumented immigrants, and they are simply telling me this, that for them, you are -

(Excerpt from video clip) ARPAIO: Well, what polls?

(Excerpt from video clip) RAMOS: - the worst of America, the face of racism and discrimination.

(Excerpt from video clip) ARPAIO: I've got my own polls.

OLBERMANN: We're bringing now comedian Christian Finnegan into this equation. It's good to see you, my friend.

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN: Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: Joe Arpaio as "the worst of America, the face of racism and discrimination." He's the right man to front the birthers then, isn't he?

FINNEGAN: Absolutely. The toughest sheriff in America or the easiest media get in America?

I think - I love the part - at one point in the press conference, he said, you know, "I just cannot, in good conscience, absolve Obama." You know, like he's - like, I really wanted to believe him. It's just, you know - a statement that was undercut by his visible erection during the speech. I'm joking, of course, he can't achieve an erection.

OLBERMANN: And you couldn't see them from where you were standing in the - this - this is an interesting point, of course. He's investigating Obama while Obama's Justice Department is investigating him. Did he think, Sheriff Arpaio - did he think that people would not notice this extraordinary coincidence?

FINNEGAN: You know, listen - the way I think about it is that, you know, my father is around that age. You know - retirees needs a hobby, is the way I think about it. You know, collect stamps, get into the bird watching or try to take down the government because you're aware of some conspiracy that billions of dollars haven't proved yet. You know, just get out there and mingle. So, if it keeps him busy, that's what I think is important.

OLBERMANN: Well - as this thing has evolved, I've been thinking it's somewhat entertaining because this man - from the pink uniforms for the convicts to the various other lunacies, he's kind of been something you point at as amusing in Arizona, like peopling walking outside when it's 120 degrees - "Look at them. They're going to melt. Look at them. They've got an idiot sheriff."

But now, if you go to the point where he said tonight he's going to use tax - essentially use taxpayer money to do this, then this becomes whatever the equivalent of an impeachable offense is for an elected sheriff.

FINNEGAN: I suppose. I mean, I guess up until now he has kind of been like the Naked Cowboy of Arizona.

OLBERMANN: Great. Excellent.

FINNEGAN: Just sort of making a figure. But, yeah, it does seem a little strange. Like, how much money are we talking about here? Are we just talking about the Depends that it takes for the retirees that he hires to form this posse or, you know, is there going to be cookies involved? Is there catering? I want to see, you know, an itemized bill.

OLBERMANN: Polling, I would think is where he'd be spending the money because he claimed that polls show over half the country is demanding that Congress look into the birther issue. My understanding is that that half consists of Arpaio, Donald Trump, and Orly Taitz. Is there anybody else you know of?

FINNEGAN: Well, I think it makes sense if you consider what a narrow view he has of what constitutes an American. You know, considering -

OLBERMANN: Oh, of course.

FINNEGAN: Yes. I mean, considering that this poll was taken probably taken during the Early Bird at a Scottsdale Cracker Barrel, I'm surprised that number wasn't higher.

OLBERMANN: We'll recall some of the great events of his career. Last year, he invited Steven Seagal along with him to break up a cockfighting ring, and they managed to - in the middle of this - they killed a puppy and 100 roosters. So, I don't know how successful - this was not exactly the, you know - the raid at Entebbe. They didn't get the hostages out.

FINNEGAN: I, you know - the scourge of these runaway roosters, I'm glad somebody has handled that.

I love how they act like he's going out on busts, too. Do you know what I mean? Like, "All right, we got a dangerous mission. We got eight guys with guns, and let's take that old dude out with us."

I think - also, I think if you're going to be seen with Steven Seagal that is a disqualify for anything in any way. He can't even get on "Celebrity Apprentice."


FINNEGAN: That's sad.

OLBERMANN: And this other thing, about those pink underwear outfits for the inmates. He's now selling autographed replicas of them? "America's Toughest Sheriff" sells underwear replicas? In pink?

FINNEGAN: You know, I will say most of the time when you hear about a conservative who is into pink underwear, they're of a more form-fitting sort, usually a t-back - whale-tail action going on.

I will say, I can slam - you can slam the guy all you want, those underwear are very comfortable. I'm wearing them right now.

OLBERMANN: Christian Finnegan, telling us much more than we need to know about this subject. Good to see you otherwise.


OLBERMANN: Now we know what he saw during the press conference. Okay, that's about it.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.