'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
#ShowPlug 1: Illinois Primary, Santorum economy blowback w/ @DavidShuster @Craig_Crawford @SamSeder + The Ryan Budget Disaster
#ShowPlug 2: Trayvon Martin Case: DOJ-FBI, Grand Jury investigate, but why hasn't George Zimmerman been arrested though trail is mile wide?
#ShowPlug 3: Idaho St Senator claims rape & incest victims are lying just to get abortions. Women are the MAJORITY - how is this happening?
#ShowPlug Last: and what's wrong with THIS political picture? ("the day the wheels came off the campaign")
#5 'GOP Illinois Primary', David Shuster
#5 'GOP Illinois Primary', Craig Crawford
#4 'Ryan's Song', Brian Beutler
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Delayed Justice', Trymaine Lee
#2 'War On Women', Kaili Joy Gray
#1 GOP Illinois Primary, Sam Seder
printable PDF transcript
On the show: David Shuster, Trymaine Lee, Kaili Joy Gray, Sam Seder, Craig Crawford, Brian Beutler
KEITH OLBERMANN: Oops.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: I don't care what the unemployment rate's going to be - it doesn't matter to me.
OLBERMANN: Or -
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Of course I care about the unemployment rate. I want the unemployment rate to go down, but I'm saying my candidacy doesn't hinge on whether the unemployment rate goes up and down. Our candidacy is about something that transcends that - it's about freedom.
OLBERMANN: And, as the primary vote comes in from Illinois, Romney agrees with Santorum on the freedom thing.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: You've made it very clear that you're not in support of Planned Parenthood. But I'm just wondering where you would suggest that the millions of women who receive their health services, such as mammograms and HPV vaccines, go?
MITT ROMNEY: Well, they can go wherever they'd like to go. This is a free society.
OLBERMANN: And here is the dumbest idea ever from Newt Gingrich, just so you know he's still around:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: We ought to debate on pay-per-view and we ought to charge 10 bucks to watch the debate and it ought to go to a charity of our mutual choice.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, we're going to pay to listen to politicians talk - maybe Lincoln.
Full coverage from the primary in his land, with David Shuster in Chicago, Craig Crawford in Washington and Sam Seder in New York.
And - the Republicans hellbent to phase out Medicare and Medicaid in their new budget for mini-America.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL RYAN: The president's budget is putting us on a path of a debt crisis, of decline, and these are the deficits that are in store for America if we stay with the status quo.
OLBERMANN: The status quo including the debt-limits deal the Republicans agreed to last year, on which they are now reneging.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, you know, people have limits on credit cards. That doesn't mean that you're required to spend up to the limit.
OLBERMANN: The killing of Trayvon Martin by a wannabe-cop neighborhood watcher who ignored the 911 dispatcher's warnings to back off.
(Excerpt from audio clip) DISPATCHER: Are you following him?
(Excerpt from audio clip) GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Yes.
(Excerpt from audio clip) DISPATCHER: Okay, we don't need you to do that.
OLBERMANN: The Feds are finally investigating, but his killer is still not under arrest.
(Excerpt from video clip) BENJAMIN CRUMP: We have lived in this world long enough to know that the more time that goes by that he's not arrested, the less likely it is that he will ever be arrested.
OLBERMANN: The latest atrocity in the war on women - the Idaho state senator who believes rape and incest victims are lying so they can get abortions.
And - what's wrong with this campaign bus picture? (Shows picture of campaign bus with photo of women on the side, the bus wheels at her chest level.)
The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Nice set of wheels.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Tuesday, March 20th, 232 days until the 2012 presidential election.
The polls have just closed in the Illinois Republican primary. There are no results worth counting as of yet, but the exit polling as supplied by CNN's broadcast suggests a 45-35 margin for Romney over Santorum, with Gingrich at 12, and Paul at eight.
That would mean Rick Santorum could stop explaining why his campaign would mean more than something as transient and ephemeral as whether or not you have a job.
Fifth story on the "Countdown" - pre-election Illinois polls put Romney in the lead.
Dog owners nationally, though, having second thoughts about the former Massachusetts governor.
Illinois voters perhaps having second thoughts about their paper ballots. Many counties reporting their ballots were too wide for their scanning machines, and will have to be either trimmed down or counted by hand, meaning results should be delayed.
Romney, though, hoping to add to his lead in delegates over Santorum, Gingrich and Paul. These last polls showing he should do that with ease. Likely Republican voters favoring Romney over Santorum by 15 in a Public Policy Polling tally. Fourteen over Santorum in the American Research Group poll, Gingrich and Paul far back in both.
Mr. Santorum not doing himself any favors yesterday, telling an audience in Moline that his campaign is bigger than the issue that has defined the election.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I don't care what the unemployment rate's going to be - it doesn't matter to me. My campaign doesn't hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates. There's something more foundational that's going on here.
OLBERMANN: Gaffe king Romney springing on Santorum's error like a dog on a car roof.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: One of the people who's running also for the Republican nomination today said that he doesn't care about the unemployment rate. That doesn't bother him. I do care about the unemployment rate. It does bother me. I want to get people back to work.
OLBERMANN: After saying he wished he had a do-over, Santorum did it over.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Of course I care about the unemployment rate. I want the unemployment rate to go down, but I'm saying my candidacy doesn't hinge on whether the unemployment rate goes up and down. Our candidacy's about something that transcends that - it's about freedom.
OLBERMANN: Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley moaning that, "This is another example of the Romney campaign trying to deceive voters. Sadly, Mitt Romney thinks this country and this election should be reduced to math, money, and spreadsheets."
Santorum's wife Karen trying to make sure her husband's campaign is about more than women's rights.
(Excerpt from video clip) KAREN SANTORUM: Women have nothing to fear when it comes to contraceptives. He will do nothing on that issue.
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney doing nothing to reassure women on their access to health services, after saying he hoped to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: I'm just wondering where you would suggest that the millions of women who receive their health services, such as mammograms and HPV vaccines, go?
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Well, they can go wherever they'd like to go. This is a free society.
OLBERMANN: And in a free society, a president should be able to send his daughter to vacation anywhere, even Oaxaca in Mexico, even if "Lonesome Rhodes" Beck and Rick Santorum should disagree.
(Excerpt from video clip) GLENN BECK: Do you send your daughter, as president of the United States, to a place where the State Department - your own State Department - says, "Don't go on Spring Break, it's a danger?" At 13?
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: You should set an example. I think that's what presidents do. They set an example, and when the government is saying, "This is not safe," then you don't set the example by sending your kids down there.
OLBERMANN: Alas, that's not what the State Department said. Parts of Mexico are subject to State Department travel warnings. As for Malia Obama's destination, "Oaxaca, no warning is in effect." Mr. "Rhodes" Beck doesn't understand there are more than one part to Mexico.
Malia Obama and her travel group also reportedly unaffected by today's earthquake in Mexico.
And a warning for the president - Newt Gingrich has this idea he'd like to try with you.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: We ought to debate on pay-per-view and we ought to charge 10 bucks to watch the debate and it ought to go to a charity of our mutual choice.
OLBERMANN: Tiffany's? Hmm, $10 a viewer - so, they'd raise - $10?
Looking ahead to November, winning in a major Southern swing state not looking real good at $10 or more for the GOP tonight. Quinnipiac Polls showing President Obama winning Virginia over Mitt Romney by eight points, over Rick Santorum by nine, over Gingrich by 19.
Meantime, Vice President Biden also announcing in an email he's hit the campaign trail hard and "we've all got a dog in this fight."
Especially a dog name of Seamus - the late Irish setter Romney penned in a kennel on the family's station wagon in 1983 for the family drive to Canada.
Public Policy Polling asking voters, "Is it humane or inhumane to put your family dog in the kennel on the roof of your car for a long trip?" Fourteen percent called it humane, 68 percent insisted it was anything but. Thirty-five percent also saying it made them less likely to vote for Romney, and seven percent saying it made them more likely to - cat people, one assumes - and the majority agreed it didn't make a difference either way. But when asked who they thought would be a better president for dogs, President Obama with a commanding lead. Woof.
For more on tonight's Illinois primary, I'm joined by "Countdown" correspondent David Shuster, who's in Chicago for us tonight. Good evening, David.
DAVID SHUSTER: Keith, good evening to you.
OLBERMANN: Problems with paper ballots and the machines? We've now reached that sort of apex where both of these things can go wrong in a primary? Do we the know extent of the - areas affected, and how long of a delay this might mean before we get real numbers?
SHUSTER: Yeah, Keith. Election officials in Illinois say it affects as many as 24 different counties, that's almost a quarter of the state. The largest county being DuPage County, which, as you know, is west of Chicago. That includes Naperville, Wheaton, Downer's Grove.
Officials there said that maybe as many as 300 ballots, though from a couple of different locations, were affected. They do not believe it will delay things too much. It just means that the election officials will have to hand count these particular ballots because some of them, as you mentioned, couldn't go through the machines. And that'll be the case in some of these other precincts and the other counties around the state.
So, results from some precincts may take a little bit longer, but the polls have not been kept open any longer. They do expect to have results before too long.
OLBERMANN: All right, the only results we have right now, as I mentioned earlier, were these exit polls CNN promulgated - 45-35 Romney over Santorum. Between that and his big lead in the pre-vote polls of yesterday and earlier, where is the support coming from? Is it from Chicago and the upscale suburbs? Is there a different expectation downstate when you get into virtual Indiana?
SHUSTER: Absolutely right, Keith, and that is - if you look at north of Interstate 80, the northern part of Illinois, suburbs of Chicago, the exurbs, a little bit farther out, that - Romney should roll up the numbers there, but everything below Interstate 80, that is Santorum country. And southern Illinois, as you know, very different from the northern part of the state.
The key challenge for Santorum, of course, is - because delegates are awarded by congressional district - can he make up enough, in terms of the congressional districts in the southern part of the state, to somehow make it competitive in the delegate map with Romney, who is expected to sweep in the counties in and around Chicago.
OLBERMANN: But once again, he didn't get on the ballot in several counties. He didn't get his delegates on the ballot. He's not in four counties, which is at least ten delegates by itself. Can he possibly make up enough to come out - for this not to be a disastrous night for him? Because you've got 15 further delegates awarded at the state convention in June, but if you're already not eligible for ten of those, you're not going to do very well even if you were to take all 15 of those statewide awards.
SHUSTER: Yeah, that's right. I mean, the Santorum campaign thinks that a good night for them, in the delegate count - out of the total 69 - if they could get, totally, maybe 35, they would be - they would be thrilled. And again, they feel like, Keith, that they've got a plan for being able to go after the delegates that are awarded on the state convention basis.
But again, you know, you look at the number of delegates that Santorum has available. A total of 44 delegates available, if you take away, of course, the ten that he's not eligible for - of those 44, they realistically feel like they can compete - I don't know, maybe nine, ten of those areas - congressional districts - so, you're looking at maybe 27 right there. If they get lucky, maybe they swing a few more congressional districts and they're up to about 35, but out of a total, as you mentioned, of 69 that will ultimately be awarded - especially because those 15 delegates would typically go to who whoever wins the statewide plurality of the vote, that's where the state delegate votes go. And Santorum's looking at some tough math.
OLBERMANN: Santorum's tough math obviously applies to the subject of discussing unemployment. That unfortunate gaffe - and/or revelation - any expectation that that did anything in blue-collar Illinois to him, or was he essentially just bought out again by Romney's money?
SHUSTER: Well, two things - the gaffe on unemployment came pretty late - came yesterday, so at least the Santorum campaign felt there wasn't enough time for Romney to turn that into an attack ad as they probably would have.
And the fact of the matter is - the Romney campaign, Keith, has spent more money in Chicago and in Illinois than a lot of people have seen in this state in a long time, including in general elections for presidential election. And the amount of negative ads, I mean - the cycle, the frequency was just astounding to political observers here in Illinois.
And even the Santorum campaign says, "Look, there are certain things you just can't - you can't compete against. And if we're able to get 30-35 percent of the vote, if our turnout is not so depressed in the wake of all these ads, we'll be pretty happy.
And again, it gets right back to the Romney strategy of tearing down your opponents, and very much a reflection of the campaign manager for Mitt Romney, who used to run RNC opposition research for many years.
OLBERMANN: David Shuster, our "Countdown" correspondent in Chicago. Many thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Drilling a little deeper, as the kids say, into the GOP primary race - we are joined now by Craig Crawford, politics blogger at craigcrawford.com and, of course, the author of "The Politics of Life." Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: We got enough shovels to dig that deep.
OLBERMANN: In choosing our weapon here, our shovel of choice, what are the differences, demographically, between Illinois and what we saw in Alabama and Mississippi - just the demographics explanation for why those early numbers suggest that Romney should do 10 points or better than Santorum tonight?
CRAWFORD: Got to be a big part of it, Keith. I mean, we have half the percentage in these Republican Illinois primary voters - half the percentage - saying they are very conservative or evangelicals as you had in Alabama and Mississippi. I mean, the pattern we're seeing here is Santorum only wins in states that are as crazy as he is.
In the South, we're not - the rest of us aren't exactly proud of Alabama and Mississippi and their political past. It's often said by the rest of us, Alabama and Mississippi, they are too small to be nations and they're too large to be mental institutions.
OLBERMANN: Once said of every state in the South just before the Civil War, as I recall. Mr. Santorum has been the GOP leader when voters have been polled and asked who best understands average America's problems - or average Americans' problems. If he hasn't already, in terms of - because it happened so late, relative to the Illinois vote - will he poke a hole in that with that statement that unemployment, sort of implying that unemployment is not the most important thing, even for those who are unemployed.
CRAWFORD: Santorum's problem - and I think another reason that he's having trouble in Illinois, and probably will in future states now - is they're seeing this gaffe machine that he is. The poor guy - he takes one step back, and then back flips another three or four and is always explaining himself.
But, on the substance of this one, the argument he was trying to make - and it's a pretty good one if he'd been articulate about it - is, "Hey, Romney is a Johnny-one-note candidate, he's all about the economy. His whole resume is all about being the nominee in the fall with a bad economy."
And Santorum is trying to say he's a broader candidate, that he can speak to more issues than Romney. He didn't articulate it that way at all, and it came across like he didn't care about unemployed people. But I mean - this gaffe machine sweepstakes going on between he and Romney, he's making Romney look like his words are the Gettysburg Address by comparison.
OLBERMANN: Unless Santorum pulls an upset - both based on what we saw in the polls, and also what we're seeing on the exit polls - unless he does that, what time does the drum beat begin to raise tomorrow that he should drop out and Gingrich should drop out and everybody should just get out of Romney's way?
CRAWFORD: I'm beginning to think it doesn't matter anymore. I'm going to officially retire my tinfoil hat tonight, Keith. This race, I think, is winding down, because these opponents - Gingrich and Santorum - they just couldn't take advantage of what was right in front of them.
In particular, Santorum - in Ohio, in Michigan, now in Illinois - he had his opportunity to prove he had big, broad appeal in big states and could take Romney down and at least give him a run for his money or hold him to a number of delegates below the magic number, and I just don't see that happening anymore. These opponents are too weak.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, the dog polling. Thirty-five percent percent of voters say the story of Seamus makes them less likely to vote for Romney. And I say this every time this comes up - that the unconventional wisdom, or the conventional wisdom, on this has underestimated this story and woefully so. Let me hear your thoughts, once again, on Seamus' legacy.
CRAWFORD: I'm coming around to you, Keith. It's such a weird story. I just can't believe it makes a difference, but Democrats are certainly believing it.
OLBERMANN: Thirty-five percent is a big number to move people's opinions, even just a little bit.
CRAWFORD: I agree, I agree. I mean, after all, Lyndon Johnson had to forego re-election when he caused the stir holding his beagles up by the ears. I mean -
OLBERMANN: Well, I don't think any historian will say that is the only reason - might have had something to do with the disaster that was Vietnam.
CRAWFORD: Oh yeah, maybe that Vietnam dealio. The thing we've got to - the Seamus story, there is one piece of it that puzzles me - is, there's a contradiction between what his sons later told reporters about what happened to Seamus. They said when they got to Canada, the dog ran away. So, apparently, he sought asylum in Canada. But his wife - Romney's wife - has said the dog lived a long and fruitful life. I hope that comes up in a debate. We've got to get to the bottom of that.
OLBERMANN: The dog stayed in Canada as a draft dodger, as I think he'll be painted before the campaign is over, so he can explain why he had to be tied to the roof.
Craig Crawford, author of "The Politics of Life," now available without prescription. Thank you, Craig.
CRAWFORD: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: One campaign note that might make you feel a little better about this nonsense: if you think America's politicians miss the obvious, let's see what's happening in the local elections in Alberta Province in Canada, specifically, at the leader of the local Wildrose Party, Danielle Smith.
Uh-oh. That would be leader Smith's head and shoulder portrait. Her chest would be exactly where the double wheels and tires go.
Punch line? Wildrose is a conservative, libertarian party, some of whose members had criticized Ms. Smith for spending too much money, like, on that vehicle with her picture on it. This, perhaps, was where - for the Wildrose Party - the wheels fell off.
Happened a long time ago to the GOP in the House. It has now formally reneged on the debt-limit deal it made last summer, and produced a budget so draconian it could end Medicare and Medicaid virtually outright. Details next.
OLBERMANN: House Republicans, including putative fiscal whiz-kid Paul Ryan, agreed to a budget and a debt deal last August. So, why did they introduce their own budget today? Because they reneged last August's deal. Next.
OLBERMANN: We have the first exits broken down by area. Rural voters in Illinois - these are the CNN exit polls - Santorum 44, Romney 39. Suburban - Romney 45, Santorum 34. Urban - Romney 47, Santorum 32.
So, unless you have no idea of what's more or less, you can tell that the suburban and urban voters are going to give Mitt Romney a probable victory in Illinois, even though it is officially too early to call by dint of all major news organizations.
When Paul Ryan released his budget proposal last year, it became the national economic platform for Republicans. Any Republican who did not offer a full-throated support of the plan was ostracized.
In our fourth story - today, Congressman Ryan released his new budget proposal that Republicans will be forced to support, featuring tax cuts for the rich, cuts to Medicare - all while reneging on the spending limit agreed to by the Republicans last summer.
Capitol Hill was seemingly holding its collective breath for the release of Ryan's latest budget proposal, after his dramatic trailer for that proposal was released over the weekend. But before Ryan could make it on stage to receive his Oscar, Senator Kent Conrad beat him to the podium to question the need for the proposal, since the 2013 fiscal-year budget was already agreed to last summer in the Budget Control Act.
(Excerpt from video clip) KENT CONRAD: Those who say we do not have a budget have either failed to pay attention to what they voted on, or they are deliberately trying to mislead the public.
OLBERMANN: Cue Paul Ryan misleading the public.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL RYAN: We are here to offer Americans the chance to choose which future they want for themselves - the president's path of debt and decline or the path that we're proposing.
OLBERMANN: According to initial analysis of the CBO - by the CBO - Ryan's plan includes deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as well as "reduced access to health care and diminished quality of care," all the while increasing defense spending and providing two trillion dollars in tax cuts to wealthy Americans.
The proposal would also lower the discretionary spending cap that was agreed upon last summer in the aforementioned Budget Control Act.
The big change from last year's proposal is the inclusion of the so-called Wyden-Ryan agreement on Medicare, which would allow seniors a choice between traditional Medicare and a voucher for private insurance. But even with his name included on that proposal, Senator Wyden apparently cannot support Ryan's plan now.
(Excerpt from video clip) HARRY REID: I talked to Ron Wyden this morning. Of course he said that's not true, he doesn't like the budget that Ryan came up with.
OLBERMANN: Joining me now - Brian Beutler, senior congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo. Brian, thanks for your time tonight.
BRIAN BEUTLER: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The point you made today, that the budget might be - this budget proposal, anyway - might be the issue of the general election campaign. Is that because Republicans think they have a winner here, or because Democrats now have the proverbial bloody shirt to hold up and say, "Look, they reneged on this easy-to-understand deal?"
BEUTLER: Well, I think individual Republicans, particularly ones from vulnerable districts, are probably really nervous about this budget, particularly after what happened last year, but they're kind of hemmed in by a very - a well-oiled, well-moneyed conservative apparatus that really just expects them to support this, and I suppose they will.
The - I think, you know, obviously, if the economy continues to improve, that tends to overwhelm other domestic issues, and I think that the appropriate way to look at this, both last year and this year, is that - is that Republicans who've had this longstanding goal of rolling back - privatizing these federal safety-net programs, may have thought that the economy was just such a - the bad economy was such a winner for them that they could campaign on these very controversial policies, and then when they win on the strength of a poor economy, claim a mandate to both, you know, fix the economy but also, you know, undo the New Deal and the Great Society programs.
And here we are, just over a year since they took over the majority in the House, and they're about to do this all over again.
But, you know, the economic situation looks much different, and I think, you know, there's a decent chance that - five, six months down the line - they're going to be really wishing that they'd held their cards on these safety-net programs much more closely to their vest.
OLBERMANN: The reaction of the three leading presidential contenders from the Republican side - Gingrich, "Courageous." Romney, "Bold step towards putting our nation back on the track to fiscal sanity." Santorum, "It's headed in the right direction." - there are a couple of positive words in there. But, it doesn't sound like any of these guys are ready to embrace Ryan's proposal full-throatedly or wholeheartedly.
BEUTLER: You know - we saw this earlier in the campaign, with Gingrich and to some extent with Mitt Romney, about the previous incarnation of the same budget - they have to - they have to, for all intents and purposes endorse it, and I think, also all want to leave themselves enough space so that in the general election they can say, "Well, I disagreed with this or that part of it."
But I mean, really, you know, ultimately, the whole Republican party - the Democrats will see to this - is behind this basic vision.
All of their tax plans include massive reductions in the top income-tax rate for the wealthiest Americans. They all propose this privatized, subsidized version of Medicare and they all want to, you know, drastically roll back Medicaid and other programs while increasing defense spending. They can try to quibble with the details, but they own this, you know.
And whether Paul Ryan wants to try to give them an out later, I guess remains to be seen, but they're not going to be able to walk away from it, no matter how loosely they phrase their statements of support for it.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of walking away, Senator Wyden's position on this - he took a lot of heat, and I think justifiably so, with even negotiating with Paul Ryan about privatizing even part of Medicare - does he not have to disavow this thing, rather than have Senator Reid speak for him? And I mean loudly and kind of now-ish.
BEUTLER: Well, I think - I would I think there's no way that Senator Wyden won't, at some point, expressly say he doesn't support the whole budget. But remember, that budget includes things that Senator Wyden never supported. He never supported this sort of tax policy, he never supported block-granting Medicaid, he never supported slashing food stamps, et cetera, et cetera.
He did support a very similar Medicare proposal to the one that's in Ryan's new budget. There are some differences. So he could, in theory, walk away from that, but I don't think he can walk away from it, you know, all that easily, because the differences aren't that major and - you know,the little-known fact about Senator Wyden is that he is a little bit off-the-reservation with the White House. They have some issues going back about a year, and so, I don't feel like he thinks he needs to be on the same page as the rest of the Democratic party on this issue.
And so, it's conceivable that he can say that he supports Paul Ryan's new Medicare proposal without supporting the entirety of the rest of the budget.
OLBERMANN: The senior congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo, Brian Beutler. As always, Brian, great thanks for your time.
BEUTLER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The killing of Trayvon Martin - with 911 tapes indicating a wannabe cop convinced that the innocent kid was suspicious because he was black. Wasn't this murder? And why isn't George Zimmerman under arrest? Coming up.
OLBERMANN: The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the GOP presidential primary today in, at least, Chicago - and the city only - is on its way to becoming the lowest turnout ever for a presidential primary in Chicago, Illinois.
According to the city, at 2:00 p.m. Central Daylight Time, 15 percent had voted. The previous all-time low? The 32 percent that voted in the 1996 Republican primary.
So again, early indications of tremendously low turnout, at least in Chicago, in tonight's Illinois Republican primary count.
First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date, March 20th, Richard Nixon made the first of at least four private assurances to his chief of staff Bob Haldeman that the Vietnam War would be over within ten months.
Unfortunately, that was on March 20th, 1969. The peace settlement was not achieved until January 27th, 1973, though Haldeman said Nixon reiterated his conviction that Vietnam would shortly be over in October 1969, April 1970, and March 1971.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Rush the puppy tries to swim in dry bathtub.
I start with the TMO Adorable Clip of the Day, a little puppy named Rush. All he wants to do is go for a swim in the bathtub.
One problem - no water. Interestingly, this is the same way Michael Phelps learned how to swim.
A dog named Rush in a bathtub - somewhere Bill Hicks is smiling. Google it. No, no, don't Google it.
VIDEO: Nine-month-old twins perform synchronized swaying to their favorite song.
To the Internets, where we find these nine-month-old twins doing some synchronized dancing to their favorite song. It looks a little bit like a cult, but it's an adorable cult.
When the music stops, the twins try to figure out how to make it play again. "Maybe if I spin this wheel or maybe it was the other wheel? Something's got to work."
Eventually, they get some assistance and are back to their rhythmic movement, which we may generally call the push-pull dance.
VIDEO: Two Tesla coils play a rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama."
Finally, we end - as we always do - with two musical Tesla coils playing classic Seventies Southern rock. Just as Skynyrd always intended it to be played.
The crowd seemed to enjoy it, but they still demanded that the local utility company's transformer then play "Freebird."
"Time Marches On!"
Trayvon Martin - two federal investigations of his death, yet no arrest of his killer. Next.
OLBERMANN: Two headlines out of the Illinois primary. Fox News has become the first organization to call this one - to estimate that Romney will in fact defeat Santorum, as all the exit polls and pre-polling - pre-voting polls indicated. Also, there is a report from The Huffington Post that the exit polls indicate that 98 percent - 98 percent - of Republican voters in Illinois today were white.
On February 26th of this year, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American kid was walking home from a convenience store in a Florida gated community when he was shot and killed by a so-called neighborhood watch figure, who claimed he was acting in self defense.
The death has been followed by weeks of rallies, outrage and demands for justice growing in number and in volume and now, finally, investigations.
In our third story - the Civil Rights division of The Justice Department will join with the FBI to monitor the probe, the local Florida county grand jury will investigate and yet the shooter has not been arrested nor charged.
While walking home from that convenience store to the home of his father's girlfriend in a Sanford, Florida gated community, Trayvon Martin was spotted by volunteer neighborhood watch figure George Zimmerman. Zimmerman found Martin to be suspicious and he called the police.
(Excerpt from audio clip) ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's just walking around looking about.
(Excerpt from audio clip) DISPATCHER: Okay, and is guy - is he white, black, or Hispanic?
(Excerpt from audio clip) ZIMMERMAN: He looks black. These - they always get away.
OLBERMANN: Despite the dispatcher then advising him not to, Zimmerman pursued Martin.
(Excerpt from audio clip) DISPATCHER: Are you following him?
(Excerpt from audio clip) ZIMMERMAN: Yeah.
(Excerpt from audio clip) DISPATCHER: Okay, we don't need you to do that.
OLBERMANN: Moments later, Martin was shot in the chest. He died at the scene. Because of his claim of self defense, George Zimmerman has yet to be arrested or charged with any crime. A 16-year-old friend of Martin's, who was on the phone with him at the time of the incident provided further evidence that it was Martin who was being pursued.
(Excerpt from audio clip) WOMAN: Somebody said, "What you doing around here?" Somebody pushed Trayvon, cause the headset just fell.
OLBERMANN: Martin's family attorney Benjamin Crump today explained that the investigation is just the beginning.
(Excerpt from video clip) BENJAMIN CRUMP: Even though the Justice Department and the FBI have opened up an investigation, we will not stop, we will not rest until he is arrested.
OLBERMANN: Joined now by a senior reporter for The Huffington Post, Trymaine Lee. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
TRYMAINE LEE: Thank you, Keith. It's good to be here.
OLBERMANN: How is this man, Zimmerman, not under arrest or at least having been charged at this point?
LEE: I really think it depends on who you speak with. If you speak to Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, he says there is no evidence to refute Zimmerman's claims of self defense. But if you talk to the Martin family's lawyer and you talk to folks in Sanford, they say there's a long history here of distrust and the police being less than excited to arrest individuals and hold folks accountable when they need to be.
OLBERMANN: The Sanford police - we know the DOJ-FBI investigation and a grand jury would look at Zimmerman, obviously - are they also looking at the police department and why that one sat on this case and has for more than three weeks?
LEE: In talking to folks who have a really pretty good - pretty good understanding of how this thing will work and turn out, basically, the DOJ and the FBI come and will put a lot of pressure - hopefully they'll put a lot of pressure on - and that's exactly what the family had wanted. They have no faith in the Sanford police department. So, they're hoping that by having this third-party investigation, they put a little pressure. Clearly they'll be looking into bringing their muscle to the investigation. And you know, so much has yet to be seen.
OLBERMANN: You mentioned history and distrust. This Mr. Zimmerman has a history, too, doesn't he? Isn't he a constant, almost paranoid, presence in that community about outsiders and people he perceives as threats who turn out to be, you know, people just walking home?
LEE: Oh, most certainly. Since January, 2011, he's called 911 about 46 times. He has a history of following individuals in their vehicles. And he basically - he has, as the lawyers say - he had a cop complex. He wanted to be in law enforcement so bad, that he kind of had a habit of taking things into his own hands.
OLBERMANN: Florida has this "Stand Your Ground" law which does not require a threatened citizen to retreat in order to claim self defense if he acts, supposedly, in his own defense. In the aftermath of the Martin case, is it not obvious that that opens the door to exactly what happened here, including the fact that there hasn't been an arrest three weeks after the case?
LEE: Oh, most certainly. There have been a number of state legislators who want to take some time to review this law to see if it's just. And some have even called it, instead of the "Stand Your Ground" law, the "Make My Day" law, the "Dirty Harry" law.
And this - so much wiggle room here, that in a situation like this, where all you need to do is say that you felt in fear or imminent danger and that's all you need to be able to meet, you know, whatever person you're dealing with with deadly force. And that's exactly what has some folks concerned, because they're afraid that you might end up with a situation like this, when you have young man, unarmed, shot dead.
OLBERMANN: This stuff has been going on for so long that it's kind of hard to believe that even some white people don't recognize this.
Twenty years ago, a little more, I moved from an apartment in Los Angeles, just across the street into Beverly Hills. And Southern California - tremendously diverse, in terms of the community there - that doesn't mean anything.
I would go and shop, do my food shopping ,after work about midnight. I'd walk to the store, it was a block and a half away, and then walk home. The first few nights, first time I was living in Beverly Hills, I would cross the L.A. line into Beverly Hills, a police cruiser would come out of nowhere, put this blinding search light on me for a couple of seconds and then shut the thing off. And I didn't understand why.
It went on three or four nights, till this fifth or sixth night, there was a guy behind me, 20, 30 feet behind me. And they shined the light on me, and turned it off, and then shined the light on him, they didn't turn it off, and he was black. And they stopped him and they questioned him and I had chills that went from here down to my toes.
What is it going to take to save the next Trayvon Martin? Is every white person in this country going to have to be mistaken for being non-white by some authority or some idiot who thinks he is the authority before we realize how rampant this kind of racism still is?
LEE: I think, unfortunately, it might actually take a Trayvon Martin to save the next Trayvon Martin. I'm talking to folks black, white - at this point, it is not even a race issue. Some have said it's a morals and ethics issue. So often we have to deal with these layers and layers of stereotypes, and, as young black men, you want to raise these boys up to be strong and proud but also be wary. And unfortunately, in doing so, I think sometimes we can steal their innocence. So, honestly, I'm not sure what it will take, but I think if there's any good out of this at all, in talking to folks, it's that this Trayvon Martin issue - and the community galvanizing around it -is bringing attention to it.
No matter black, white, whatever your class is - it's hard not to be touched by this case.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, and very important - if you're not black, if you're not a member of a minority group - to just picture yourself in the situation that I described. Because, at that point, you suddenly realize, even if it was just for a second, what it's like to be suspected - not for what you've done, not for who you actually are in life, but just for what somebody mistakes you for thinking he thinks you look like at a distance - it's an extraordinary, and in my case, it was a cheap lesson. For everybody else, because of this poor man - this poor young man in Florida - it's a very expensive lesson.
In any event, Trymaine Lee, of The Huffington Post, great thanks for your insight tonight.
LEE: Thank you for having me, Keith.
All right, the update out of Illinois - CNN and NBC news have now joined Fox news in calling for Romney there. And, as we told you before - from The Chicago Tribune - record-low turnout predicted in Chicago and in the Illinois vote, 98 percent of Republican voters, just like in Mississippi - white. The latest from the Illinois primary with Sam Seder.
First, the Idaho state senator who thinks rape victims are lying just to get abortions, and he wants a law to deal with this. Next.
OLBERMANN: Add The Associated Press now to the list of news organizations that have called Illinois for Romney.
I don't know what people are like where you live, but this Idaho politician is convinced his state is full of women who falsely claim they have been raped or have been the victims of incest, just so they can get an abortion. He wants a law to make sure doctors ask. Why a minority group - men - think they can actually win a war on the majority, women. Next.
OLBERMANN: Each time we think we've seen the new high and low from local conservatives attacking women, it turns out there's another flight of stairs for civilization to yet fall down.
In our number two story on the "Countdown" - an Idaho state senator believes rape and incest victims are lying so they can get abortions. He wants a law to address this assumption.
Idaho's Republican-led Senate voted 23-12 in favor of Senate Bill 1387, which mandates the now en vogue Republican gesture, the invasive pre-abortion ultrasound. Seven Democrats and five Republicans opposed it, because no exceptions were made for victims of sexual violence or medical emergencies.
State Senator Chuck Winder, who had presented the bill on behalf of the state's Right to Life outfit, responded to these concerns by insinuating that women would use rape as an excuse to get an abortion: "I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about, perhaps, her marriage - was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by rape?"
The Idaho law would require any woman seeking an abortion to have the ultrasound first, then give them the opportunity to see their embryo or fetus and hear its heartbeat while the doctor describes it in detail. If she's in her first trimester, this means undergoing that invasive trans-vaginal procedure.
Idaho's Department of Health would maintain a list of crisis pregnancy centers where women could get free ultrasounds but, typically, these would be anti-abortion clinics - which were designed to dissuade women from ending their pregnancies. If they still wanted to terminate their pregnancy after all of this, the women would then have to submit for a second ultrasound.
I'm joined now, for more on this, by Kaili Joy Gray, associate editor at Daily Kos. Thanks for your time tonight.
KAILI JOY GRAY: Sure, thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: So, now doctors have to make sure that rape or incest victims are not lying? This Idaho senator won't rely on, you know, like, police records and reports?
GRAY: It's pretty appalling that he expects doctors to start investigating whether women are telling the truth when they go to their doctors seeking medical care, but it's part of a continuing trend that we've seen from Republicans waging their war on women, who question whether women are actually raped or whether they're just trying to exploit what they think is a rape loophole because, apparently, there are all kinds of fabulous gifts and prizes available for women who've been raped.
OLBERMANN: Of course. In the war on women, why has this ultrasound become the new weapon of choice?
GRAY: I think it's part of this idea that women are so stupid that they don't understand that they're pregnant and if they can just be forced to look at pictures or listen to heartbeats, then they'll understand that pregnancy means being pregnant and then they won't want to terminate their pregnancy anymore. It's just that they need to have it explained to them with pictures.
OLBERMANN: One overall fundamental fact, and maybe I'm getting a little meta here, but the latest U.S. population estimate, which came out last month, was - 153,200,000 men, 157,200,000 women. Men are the minority in this country. How are they getting away with this and how come women are not organized in self defense?
GRAY: Well, I think that women are starting to organize, but, you know, women have been very good soldiers and when they're told that their issues are pet issues that don't matter to the majority of the country, they've put it aside and said, "Well, okay. Then we won't worry about our own health care. We'll just do what's best for the country."
But, this war has gotten so ugly that women are starting to organize and fight back and say, "You know what? We are the majority and deserve our basic health-care rights."
OLBERMANN: Can you fathom the overall strategy here on the part of the conservatives who are doing this - that these state laws are getting more and more outlandish, rather than moderate and small incremental changes that they might be able to get away with?
GRAY: Well, sure. I think they're desperate. I think they're scared, because they realize that people are starting to pay attention and people are fighting back, and the more people fight back, the more desperate they become to try to stop women from having a role in the public sphere.
OLBERMANN: Kaili Joy Gray, associate editor at Daily Kos, great thanks for your time, Ms. Gray.
GRAY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Quick update on a connected story that we brought you last week. Today, the Violence Against Women Act gathered its sixtieth co-sponsor in the Senate, which would overcome a potential filibuster.
You'll recall that several female lawmakers had fought for the reauthorization of the Act from both parties. That has provided federal grants for domestic violence programs and law enforcement ever since its original bipartisan passage in 1994. The Senate majority leader Harry Reid says he wants a vote on the legislation soon.
I'll check the Illinois primary, which goes to Mitt Romney tonight, with Sam Seder. Next.
OLBERMANN: With 69 delegates at stake, the Illinois primary today a key contest in the Republican presidential race. And Romney and Santorum, especially, fought it out head-to-head, with Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich almost staying way out of the picture.
Our number one story - all the networks, The Associated Press, The New York Times - now projecting that Romney wins Illinois tonight. Projected numbers - Romney with 56 percent. Santorum, 27. Ron Paul, nine. And Newt Gingrich, kind of just watching, at seven percent.
Wrapping up our "Countdown" coverage of that primary with Sam Seder, the host of "The Majority Report" and "Ring of Fire." It's good to see you again, Sam.
SAM SEDER: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: All right, we have so many numbers to pick from. The economy was the number one issue, just as it seems to become a positive for the president.
OLBERMANN: That foretells bad omens, you would think, for the Republicans. But, what does it say about Romney's path to the nomination? Has he just accelerated it today?
SEDER: Well, I mean, I think - he didn't hurt himself. I mean, this is a pretty big win if those numbers stay true. But, he's going to probably have a tougher time in Louisiana. And over the course of the next couple of months - I mean, even if Romney was to win every single delegate, I think now until he would still - he still would not clinch it until the end of May, maybe the beginning of the June.
So this is just going to continue, and again - you know, what's the incentive for Santorum to get out of the race at this point? He's starting to think about 2016 - if he's actually given up on 2012, and I don't think he actually has given up on 2012 - but he's starting to think of 2016 and so, he is now, you know, becoming the pastor, he is cementing his favored status with the base, and so, then it gives him room to maybe maneuver four years from now.
OLBERMANN: I've got three other numbers that I really like tonight. Number one was the Chicago turnout data that indicated, in Chicago, this would be not just the record-low presidential primary, but by half - that it was at 15 percent at 2:00 this afternoon. So, it's just a matter of how much - could be as low as 50 percent of the next-lowest turnout, which was 32 percent in the Republicans in '96. Interpret that for me.
SEDER: Well, I think you're going to hear from Republicans it was really sunny, and people wanted to go out and enjoy the weather.
OLBERMANN: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Really? Sunny normally means more people turn out, Sam.
OLBERMANN: I might have started in sports, but I even got that one.
SEDER: Of course, but the argument - I'm telling you, the argument you're going to hear is people really wanted to spend the day outside hanging out and not voting.
I think what it shows is what we've known all along - the Republicans are really ambivalent, and not just about Romney, but also Santorum. And, you know, that's the problem that Romney has. He's not running on anything. You know, for all the grief that Santorum took with that line, like, "I'm not basing my campaign on the unemployment numbers," he had a point, which is that Romney is not running on anything other than hoping that it's a bad situation for the country and people will want a change at that point.
OLBERMANN: All right, so the turnout number we'll attribute to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in Chicago -
SEDER: Of course.
OLBERMANN: - singing Wayne Newton and they went to the Cubs game.
The number - and it has nothing to do with this, but it came out in the Public Policy vote - they actually asked dog owners about Seamus. Thirty-five percent said that his treatment of Seamus would make them less likely to vote for Mitt Romney. I'm telling you, I'm telling you - Michael Vick.
SEDER: And I'm wondering how many of those people knew the story?
OLBERMANN: Exactly, as the spreading of the story accelerates, it goes exponentially from here on in.
SEDER: Absolutely. I don't even think you need to be a dog owner. I think you just need to be -
OLBERMANN: I thought you were going to say, "You don't even need to be a dog."
SEDER: I don't think you need to be a dog or a dog owner. I mean, it's very strange behavior. I mean, you know, I've lived a fairly rich life, and I've never seen anything like that, and I've seen some very strange things in my life.
OLBERMANN: "Is that a dog on that guy's roof?" As you're driving past.
SEDER: Exactly. Never anything like that - I've never met anybody.
OLBERMANN: Is that dog landing on that guy's roof?
SEDER: This is something that's so far out of the bounds, it's very hard to sort of say like, "Well, you know, to each his own."
OLBERMANN: Early in the hour, I mentioned to Craig Crawford - he went, "You know, we need to get that back story completed, because we really don't know if he ran away when he got to Canada." So, suddenly, now there's going to be an investigation. There's going to be an investigation. He's going to wind up in jail.
Sam Seder, of "The Ring of Fire," and the "Majority Report." Always a pleasure, Sam. Thank you kindly.
SEDER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown." Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap.
Romney in Illinois. You're surprised?
I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.