'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, January 16th, 2012
#ShowPlug 1: Huntsman out, endorses man he called "unelectable" a week ago. @Niawapo Nia-Malika Henderson on Romney's 98% nomination chance
#ShowPlug 2: Remaining turn to tax returns in desperate Stop-Mitt action ahead of SoCarolina. HuffPo's @RyanGrim joins me
#ShowPlug 3: Rick Perry says "over the top" to call Taliban corpse desecration criminal. In fact, it's a war crime W/ @JonSoltz of @VoteVets
#ShowPlug 4: Occupy on Martin Luther King Day w/ @UncleRUSH Russell Simmons; Occupy vs TWO Greyhound Bus Drivers in Worsts
#ShowPlugLast: And latest Jimmy O'Keefe sting - getting ballot for "dead" voter - fizzles b/c voter ISN'T DEAD. NOT DEAD voter joins us
watch whole playlist
#5 'End of the Hunt', Nia-Malika Henderson
#5 'Four To Go', Ryan Grim
#4 '"Reprehensible And Unacceptable"', Jon Soltz
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Occupy The Dream', Russell Simmons
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#2 Worst Persons: Mike O'Neal (R-KS), Mitt Romney, Donald Ainsworth
#1 '"Dead" Voter Walking?', Robert William Beaulieu
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Nia-Malika Henderson, Russell Simmons, Robert Beaulieu, Ryan Grim, Jon Soltz
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Romney 37, Gingrich 14, Santorum 14, Paul 12, nationally. Romney 32, Gingrich 21, Paul 14, Santorum 13 in South Carolina. By one calculation, percentage chance Romney becomes the nominee if he wins South Carolina? Ninety-eight. But what about Jon Huntsman? Zeros, lots of zeros.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN HUNTSMAN: Today, I am suspending my campaign for the presidency.
OLBERMANN: And he endorses Romney, seven days after slamming him.
(Excerpt from video clip) HUNTSMAN: Governor Romney enjoys firing people, I enjoy creating jobs.
OLBERMANN: The desecration of Taliban corpses in Afghanistan. A fading candidate tries to use it politically against the president.
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: These kids made a mistake, there's not any doubt about it, shouldn't of done it, it's bad. But to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, except desecration of corpses is a war crime.
(Excerpt from video clip) DANA LOESCH: I'd drop trou and do it too. That's me, though. I want a million cool points for these guys."
OLBERMANN: And CNN still has not fired its contributor who said that.
Occupy and Martin Luther King.
(Excerpt from video clip) OCCUPY PROTESTERS: This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
OLBERMANN: Our guest, Russell Simmons.
Occupy and - not one, but two - Greyhound bus drivers. One who insults 13 of them, headed for Occupy Congress. Another, who kicks them all off the bus.
And the self-destruction of James O'Keefe, again.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER: First name?
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Robert.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER: Robert William?
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Yup, Robert Beaulieu.
OLBERMANN: If you are trying to get an absentee ballot for a dead man, make sure he's dead. And make sure you're pronouncing his name right. Robert Beaulieu is not only not dead, he's our guest - now, on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Good evening, this is Monday, January 16th, 295 days until the 2012 presidential election.
As the Republicans head towards premature jocularity in South Carolina on Saturday with their umpteenth debate tonight - man down.
On our fifth story on the "Countdown" - as he told his staff last night he would, Jon Huntsman has today dropped out and endorsed Mitt Romney. And Huntsman's endorsement of Romney is likely to matter exactly as much as to Romney's chances as Huntsman's endorsement of himself mattered to his own chances. About as much as this plea for Republican unity matters to the four candidates still trying to slow Romney's march to the nomination:
(Excerpt from video clip) HUNTSMAN: I believe it is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences, and the space between us on some of the issues, I believe that candidate is Governor Mitt Romney.
OLBERMANN: Huntsman also calling for civility, as well as unity, from the remaining candidates.
(Excerpt from video clip) HUNTSMAN: This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people, and not worthy of this critical time in our nation's history.
OLBERMANN: No kidding, Sherlock. Huntsman, underestimating the quality of his own political attacks. Among the GOP presidential candidates, none did a better job of feasting off of Mitt Romney's gaffes and stumbles.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people that provide services to me.
OLBERMANN: When Mitt Romney said that, Jon Huntsman replied, and was the first to the post to pants him.
(Excerpt from video clip) HUNTSMAN: You've got to get elected to office, for heaven's sake, and making statements like that you render yourself completely unelectable.
OLBERMANN: He just endorsed a man who he called "unelectable" last week. When Romney criticized Huntsman for serving as President Obama's ambassador to China, Huntsman did not hold back.
(Excerpt from video clip) HUNTSMAN: I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first, for serving my country in China - yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They are not asking what political affiliation the president is.
OLBERMANN: And when it came time to attack Romney on the issues, Huntsman attacked both with commentary and advertisements.
(Excerpt from video clip) HUNTSMAN: I think there is an issue on the flip-flops as it relates to trust. I mean, when there is a question about whether you are running for the White House or the Waffle House you have a real problem with the American people.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country... That I have been consistently pro-life... When he took office, the economy was in recession and he made it worse... I didn't say that things were worse... Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush. I'm not trying to return to Regan/Bush... is to pursue the strategy which Ronald Reagan pursued.
OLBERMANN: However, according to the polls, Governor Romney can afford to laugh off those reality attacks. In South Carolina, an Insider Advantage Poll shows Romney leading the GOP field with 32 percent, Gingrich 21, Paul 14, Santorum 13, Huntsman at six - yeah, big deal now - Rick Perry at five. Nationally, Gallop has Romney at 37 percent of Republicans, Newt Gingrich tied with Santorum at 14, Paul trailing with 12.
Two angles on this. First, for more on Jon Huntsman's departure and Romney's ongoing ascension, we're joined by Nia-Malika Henderson, the national political reporter of The Washington Post and a "Countdown" contributor. Nia, good evening.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Hey, good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What route left, if any, slows Romney down, let alone stops him?
HENDERSON: It's hard to imagine, at this point, any route that blocks him from getting this nomination. He is looking really good in South Carolina.
Newt Gingrich and Santorum are obviously trying to get this conservative base here to coalesce around either of those guys, but it looks like they may actually split. And, of course, that would help Mitt Romney.
And South Carolina is in this position, as it has always been - at least during the last 30 years - and that is picking the president. They have, for the last 30 years, picked the person who was the eventual nominee, and I think - when these folks go to the polls on Saturday - they are really going to be looking at picking a president and not picking a pastor.
So, I think as much as evangelicals, in these last days, are calling on fellow evangelicals - evangelical leaders are calling on folks to really coalesce around Sanatorium, I think you're looking at a situation where this thing is going to be split. And Romney is going to continue to gain momentum going into Florida and likely win this thing. And folks are predicting that it will likely be all wrapped up by the end of January, after Florida.
OLBERMANN: Nate Silver, in fact, had some fascinating stuff in The New York Times about it really being 40 years in South Carolina. Let me read you what he wrote, "In 13 of the 16 cases, the candidate leading in national polls after New Hampshire won his party's nomination. In another case, in 1984 in the Democratic race, two candidates - Walter Mondale and Gary Hart - were tied in the national surveys at this point in the race and Mr. Mondale emerged victorious." The other two examples he had - Hillary Clinton, in 2008 was - that's an a little bit of an outlier, I suppose. But is this thing, in fact - barring the most bizarre set of circumstances - sewn up for Romney already?
HENDERSON: I - I think it is. And they are certainly feeling pretty good. If you look at the different campaigns - I have seen all of these guys out on the campaign trial over these last days - Mitt Romney, a well-oiled machine. He was out in Aiken on Friday, campaigning with Nikki Haley, and he has John McCain out on the stump, also campaigning for him. The military vote very important here. Obviously, tea party support would come, perhaps, with Nickki Haley's blessing. So, he is firing on all cylinders.
And if you look at someone like Newt Gingrich - I've seen him several times, too - it's almost like he is starting his campaign over every single day. Going from attacking Bain, and then backing off from attacking Bain. Going one day talking about - he's going to be the guy who is really supporting freedom of religion, protecting the freedom of religion and the right of Christians to practice in schools and such, and another day he'll talk about he's really the gun-rights candidate. So, he's been all over the place.
Rick Santorum, of course, is now talking about himself as the candidate of conservatives, but again - I think in some ways this last ditch, "Come to Jesus" meeting that happened over the weekend - I think, in some ways, was a telling sign of how weakened the evangelical base here has become here over these last many years.
That here is a candidate, in Rick Santorum, that they finally come to rally around, but the money isn't there, the air time isn't here, in terms of putting ads on the air - so it's a real weak, I think, last-minute pitch to really rally around Rick Santorum.
OLBERMANN: Does the Huntsman endorsement have any value, given that seven days ago he was calling Romney unelectable?
HENDERSON: No, it has none. It has none. And that's part of the reason why Mitt Romney didn't even show up.
He gave this, you know, resignation speech - or, the speech that said he was quitting - and then endorsing Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney didn't even bother to show up. There was no, you know, hand-in-hand victory lap on the stage there, and I think he basically sent out a Twitter or note saying, "Oh, great. Thanks, Jon Huntsman." But it really isn't going to do him any good.
And as you showed there, Jon Huntsman was a pretty effective critic of Mitt Romney. He had this whole "Scared Mitt-less" campaign that his adviser would send out, talking about Mitt Romney and why he wasn't a real conservative, and why he wouldn't do so great, in terms of winning the election, or winning the nomination.
So maybe - I don't think it does - it does Mitt Romney any good. I think, in some ways, it does Jon Huntsman some good, setting him up for 2016. And rehabilitating where he was. Because he was starting to be a bit of an outlier here in his own party, and I think now he is coming out as this unity candidate, as kind of diplomat. And so I think - he's more thinking about himself for 2016 rather than Mitt Romney, at this point.
OLBERMANN: We can rule him out for the vice presidency, because they are not going to run two Mormon governors on one ticket, that's for sure.
HENDERSON: That's right.
OLBERMANN: Nia-Malika Henderson, the national political reporter of The Washington Post, "Countdown" contributor. Always a pleasure. Thank you, Nia.
HENDERSON: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And then there were four. Rick Santorum, leading whatever charge against Mitt Romney, urging the front-runner to do something he said probably won't - release his tax return.
(Excerpt from audio clip) SANTORUM: I think it's appropriate, if you're going to run for federal office, that you let folks know - particularly someone with the enormity of wealth - let's see how he manages his own economy.
OLBERMANN: Newt Gingrich saying he will release his returns, and he seconded Santorum's call.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Governor Romney, if he plans to stay in the race, ought to plan to release his records, because he'll never get through the fall without releasing his records. And it's better to do it in the primary season, so the country understand what's going on.
OLBERMANN: Listen to me carefully: Newt Gingrich is right. Sanatorium thinks he understands something more about what is going on with Mitt Romney.
(Excerpt from audio clip) SANTORUM: Has he perpetrated lies? Yes, he has. You know, I'm not going to judge his as a person, I'm going to judge what his actions are, and his actions were not truthful.
OLBERMANN: Sanatorium was on the Laura Ingraham show, furious at Romney's super PAC "Restore Our Future" for releasing an attack ad in Florida.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Sanatorium voted to raise the debt limit five times, increasing spending and debt by three trillion dollars, and he even voted to let convicted felons vote. So, how will Santorum beat Obama?
OLBERMANN: Well, he won't, despite the support this weekend from a group of conservative leaders who threw their support overwhelmingly behind Santorum.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I don't know that that ever happens with a group of Christian leaders, but they were able to miraculously come together and stand in support of my candidacy.
OLBERMANN: Not as much of a miracle as Rick Perry comparing himself - with a straight face - to Moses. Not Moses Gunn or Moses Malone or Robert Moses or Grandma Moses. Moses. Moses, Moses.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: Moses, he tried to talk God out of making him go lead the people. He wasn't a good public speaker. From time to time, I can relate to that. God used him anyway.
OLBERMANN: Let's read the tablets about Mitt Romney going into tonight's debate with Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post. Good evening, Ryan.
RYAN GRIM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, so calling on him to release the tax reports - is there any chance that's going to happen?
GRIM: Not in the primary. Because it's clear that Romney has a very specific primary strategy and that is just to not do anything that brings too much attention to him. And to put the attention on the rest of the - on the rest of the folks in the race, and let them, one by one, explode - or implode. And that has worked famously for him so far.
So, there would be no real reason for him to deviate at this point. He wants to just get out of the woods here, be done with it, be the nominee for the Republican Party, and then he figures, "Well, I'll deal with the problem then."
OLBERMANN: What are the mechanics of the problem then, because, if he doesn't release the report - or has no intention of releasing his returns at any point - he underlines this concept that is he is Mr. Rich Guy, Big Business, Bain Capital job killer, all of the rest of that. And if he tries to pick his spot, as in any time later than now, does that not become part of the general election campaign, whether he releases them or he doesn't?
GRIM: For sure, this will be something we keep talking about. But here is his problem, he can look like one of two bad things. He can look like a secretive rich guy, or he can look like a rich guy who only paid something like a nine, 10, 11 percent tax rate, whatever crazy-low tax rate his lawyers figured out for him to pay.
Because we know a few facts. We know that he was getting almost all of his income through long-term capital gains, which are only taxed at about 15 percent. We also know that he was able to move a lot of money offshore, which could take him even below 15 percent. So thinking is, "People already see me as a Bain corporate raider, rich guy, so if we throw secretive on top of that, that's not that out of whack with that type of person. So if we throw on top of that that I'm paying a nine, 10, 11 percent tax rate, that will be in every ad from that moment until election day," and he - I - I don't know what I would do if I were him. I would probably bask in the couple of hundred million dollars, but after that, it's a tough call. I would probably go with secretive. I don't know.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of secretive, the social-conservative leadership meeting last week in Texas that was suppose to coalesce behind Santorum or, conceivably, somebody else and roll out all the money. Nia is saying there is no money and no real evangelical candidate - is that the way it is shaping up now? Is there really a possibility of a challenge from that side of it, either in the remainder of the Republican primary or, perhaps, as a third-party candidate?
GRIM: And there might not even be consensus coming from that meeting. It was originally reported that Santorum - everybody miraculously rallied behind him. But now you have Newt Gingrich and other opponents of his talking to the press. John Ward is reporting on our site right now, that they are saying that the balloting was unfair and there wasn't consensus and those 150 leaders were divided.
And it's just symbolic of the overall division on the social-conservative side, you know, which is just to Mitt Romney's benefit. He is just sitting there loving it.
OLBERMANN: One negative, conceivably, to Romney, probably, according to, as I said, Nate Silver - 98 percent is the statistical probability that he is going to wrap this up if he wins South Carolina. And he's at least 10 points ahead in South Carolina - one of the things that Craig Crawford pointed out is that there is a real dark cloud to that silver lining, which is that everybody else might just drop out, and Ron Paul might stick in and might go to the convention with somewhere north of 25 percent of the delegates, which gets him a spot at the podium, at the very least, and could launch - on the Republican dime - could launch a third-party candidacy.
GRIM: Sure, and he has every incentive to do that. The reason that candidates usually drop out is they are thinking about their future within the Republican Party, or their future career, somehow. Ron Paul is retiring at the end of this year, and his goal is to start a Libertarian movement. Well, he already started a Libertarian movement, it's to get it moving even further. Now, the only thing that might hold him back is that his son has expressed interest in running for president. He talked about even doing it this time.
OLBERMANN: Oh, that's made my day.
GRIM: It would make our site's day, too. Maybe he doesn't want to blow it for his son, but just - just - just Ron Paul and his movement, they have every reason to keep their message on the airways. He can keep holding rallies and keep raising money, and he can keep getting the Libertarian message out there, which is really what he wants to do. And you are right, he could take it all the way to the convention if he wanted to.
OLBERMANN: The sins of the father will not be visited upon the son. So, we opened with Moses and end with me quoting the Bible. The Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post, Ryan Grimm. I'd write that fact up. That's a good story by itself. Thank you sir.
GRIM: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Please join us Saturday night here for a special edition - "Countdown: South Carolina," our expanded coverage of the South Carolina Republican primary, which statistics and history say is probably decisive for the nomination in either party. We'll join you live at 6:30 Eastern, 3:30 Pacific. "Countdown: South Carolina," this Saturday.
Rick Perry has tried to introduce the scandal of urination on Taliban corpses into the campaign. Attacking the president and defending, at least in part, a war crime. The latest with Jon Soltz of VoteVets, next.
OLBERMANN: The case of the video showing Marines urinating on dead Taliban reignites when Rick Perry blames the President for overreacting, even though desecrating a corpse is a war crime.
The connection between Occupy and Martin Luther King. Russell Simmons joins me.
Mitt Romney assumes the monkey's butt position, and we're seeing something ugly - how he treated a muscular dystrophy patient, four years ago.
First, the "To Catch a Journalist" sting blows up in his face. Now, James O'Keefe's "dead voter" sting does the same, when it turns out the dead voter he tries to get a ballot for ain't dead and he'll be our guest. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: The military investigation into the video of marines urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban is accelerating. It is, after all, a war crime which puts mankind in the seemingly incongruous position of punishing people for doing something to dead bodies, but not punishing them for doing something to make them dead bodies.
In our fourth story in the "Countdown" - here, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is defending the accused Marines, and turning the incident into something with which to hit President Obama. Saying that calling it a criminal act is "over the top," even though - as mentioned - desecration of a body is a war crime.
That also leaves Perry open to the question of what - when his campaign dies - the remaining campaigns are entitled to do to its carcass.
The 39-second video in question appeared originally on the Internet last Wednesday. Marines involved identified by the military, but their names have not yet been made public. They are thought to be snipers from the 3rd Battalion, Second Marine Regiment based at Camp Lejeune, who were serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan when the video was recorded. All four said now to be back in the U.S.
Key members of the administration have condemned the video. The defense secretary, Mr. Panetta, saying in a statement, "I have seen the footage and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms."
A statement echoed by the press secretary:
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: We have seen the video, and what it - it depicts is - or what it apparently depicts - is deplorable, reprehensible and unacceptable.
OLBERMANN: The secretary of state referenced the fact that desecration of enemy dead is, by Geneva Convention and other agreements this country has signed, a war crime.
(Excerpt from video clip) HILLARY CLINTON: Anyone, anyone found to have participated or known about it, having engaged in such conduct, must be held fully accountable.
OLBERMANN: But yesterday, Rick Perry - former Air Force pilot - accused the Obama administration of overreacting.
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: What was really disturbing to me is the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military, it appears. Whether it's the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense. I mean, these kids made a mistake, there's no doubt about it. Shouldn't have done it, it's bad, but to call it a criminal act, I - I think is over the top.
OLBERMANN: Those comments made on CNN, the same channel which employs Dana Loesch as a contributor.
(Excerpt from audio clip) DANA LOESCH: Can someone explain to me if there is suppose to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter - someone who was - is - is part of an organization murdered over 3,000 Americans. I'd drop trou and do it too. That's me, though. I want a million cool points for these guys.
OLBERMANN: Joining me now - Jon Soltz, chairman of Votevets.org and a two-tour veteran of the Iraq war. It's good to talk to you, Jon.
JON SOLTZ: It's good to be home, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Indeed, I'm sure it is. Let's clear this up at the start - whether or not a governor or commentator would emulate it, or think it's being over-reacted to, it is a war crime, right?
SOLTZ: Yeah, that's pretty much a done deal. I mean, it's even worse than a war crime. In this part of the world, when you are dealing with Muslim communities, or Islam across the world, what happens to the dead is very important. The body goes in the ground within 24 hours and so forth, and so - those images are not just illegal, but they are devastating to the security and protection of our troops who serving, not just in Afghanistan but throughout the Middle East anywhere. It is something that would incite violence against them throughout the entire region. And it's - it's reprehensible and it is something we have been trained on over and over again in the military.
OLBERMANN: And that's one point I wanted to make, specifically with you. How trained are you? Because the Geneva documents refer to "pillaging" - which is the robbing of dead bodies - to "despoiliation" - which is despoiling, stripping the bodies naked - and another sort of catch-all, called "committing outrages upon personal dignity." Is that specific enough? Are today's soldiers warned against urinating, not to put too fine a point on it, but are they warned against urinating on dead bodies?
SOLTZ: I guess you could never say that there has been a scenario that has happened to me in training where myself or people I serve with in Iraq were given a specific scenario like this. I will promise you, it will be going forward.
But before I went to Iraq this last time, when I was with the Iraqi army from March to December, I spent two and a half months at Fort Polk, Louisiana at the Combat Advisor School. I had to learn to speak Arabic. We went through Islam training. The entire COIN academy is there, the counter-insurgency class. I mean, they teach us, "Shoot less, not more." These are the tactics we have learned over the last eight and a half years.
There is absolutely no way that I could possibly believe - as someone who just came home from Iraq - that this unit was not trained properly, an active-component Marine regiment and battalion was not - did not receive proper counter-insurgency training prior to their deployment.
With that said, when we have this investigation it's going to be a lot deeper than these marines. To tell you how far off the conservative right is - and Rick Perry, so how far out of touch he is - these four soldiers - or marines - are not going to be the only people held accountable. The platoon leader, the platoon commander, the company commander, the battalion commander - I mean, is there an environment in this unit where they went against, maybe, the doctrine from what the Army or Marine Corps was promoting?
So, this is going to be a very, very deep investigation because it is so detrimental to our mission on the ground.
OLBERMANN: One of the other defenses of this, Jon, has been that desecration of the enemy dead is as old as warfare itself. That it probably happened the first time that a man killed another man on behalf of an organization or unit of some kind. But that misses a vital point to this. Those things were not - the premise of it being videotaped is the new element in it. And they say, "Well, that's just - that's the only reason we know about this, why we are making a big deal about this." As opposed to any other past instance.
But the videotaping is part of the desecration, isn't it? This isn't some sort of accident. This was done so that people who were not on the battlefield, and were not in the heat of the moment, could see this happen. This is intended to be desecration of - that is transmitted to the survivors, and to the adherents and other people generally, isn't it?
SOLTZ: This is why it's so bad. I was having a conversation just before I came over here about this specific issue. Look, in Bagdad in 2003, you know, I would send convoys out and there was an incident one time where a 50-cal shot at a building. Our guys were getting shot at, the building came down.
The American public has a lot of sympathy for soldiers that are in a fire fight, or marines that are in a fire fight, and maybe the wrong person gets hurt. But to have enough time - you know, people say, "What is combat like?" - well, you certainly weren't taking pictures, you certainly weren't talking on your cell phone.
So, to have enough time to take a video or a YouTube and send that around - I mean, I think that's part of what makes this worse, is that these guys had a decision to make. This wasn't where they accidentally shot the wrong person. This wasn't where we called in the air strike and, perhaps, there was an error and civilians were killed. This was a deliberate - something happened deliberately after the killing of the enemy occurred. And I think that's what makes it so difficult for the public to understand.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. John Soltz, chairman of Votevets.org, just back from his second trip to Iraq. Again, we're glad to see you home safe, sir.
SOLTZ: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take care.
Occupy and Martin Luther King Day with Russell Simmons. Occupy and the Greyhound bus company in "Worst Persons" ahead.
OLBERMANN: Of Occupy, and - on Martin Luther King Day - Martin Luther King. Russell Simmons joins me.
First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1907 was born the native Canadian, adopted Brit actor Alexander Knox.
At the age of 37, he got an Academy Award nomination for portraying President Woodrow Wilson at the age of 60. At the other end of his 50-year career on film he appeared in "Gorky Park."
And, perhaps most enduringly - in the role just reprised by John Hurt - as "Control" in the original version of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Cat defies gravity, even more than usual.
We begin, as we always do, with a cat that defies gravity.
Hey, buddy, I think you left your brights on. That's a devil cat.
After listening to Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling", Mittens here has found a new way to travel. Unfortunately, his friend doesn't seem to be getting on board.
Reached for comment, the exorcist kitty said, "The floor is totally 2011, man. Welcome to the future."
VIDEO: Underwater checkers tournament in Estonia.
And we close by traveling to Estonia to check in on a new innovation in the game of checkers.
I know what you're thinking, "But checkers is already as exciting as it gets." Or so you thought.
We introduce to you - underwater checkers.
The game was created as a way for divers to have some fun during the cold winter months when the water reservoirs in Estonia are covered in ice. Participants say the game is just like regular checkers, except for the flooding.
One year ago, these same divers broke the world record for the most people playing checkers underwater at the same time. The record is yet to be broken. And Pat owns a nice, Republican cloth coat.
"Time Marches On!"
Occupy Greyhound Bus Lines. It turns out a second driver abused thirteen Occupiers trying to get to DC for Occupy Congress tomorrow, besides the one who left them stranded in Amarillo in the middle of the night. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: "This is America's opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will."
In our third story - those are - those words are not from an Occupy rally, although they very well could be. Those are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., four days before his assassination.
In what he called the "second phase" of the civil rights movement, Dr. King started the "Poor People's Campaign" in November of 1967. His goal was to confront Congress about what he saw as its "hostility to the poor," while at the same time lobbying for an "Economic Bill of Rights," a way for the federal government to help fix the growing problems of poverty and income inequality in this country. Seemingly an identical goal to that of the Occupy Movement.
Today, as Dr. King's birthday was commemorated, the Occupy movement took the time to honor him. Camps all over the country taking part in today's observations, marching as part of annual parades, or staging their own. Last night, Occupy Wall Street held a candlelight march to Riverside Church, where Dr. King himself spoke at in 1967. Inside, several hundred Occupiers held a vigil, which included speeches and performances by supporters of Occupy, culminating with powerful words from the great Patti Smith.
(Excerpt from video clip) PATTI SMITH: That the people have the power, to redeem the work of fools. Upon the meek the grace is showered, it's decreed, "The people rule."
OLBERMANN: Joining us now is the founder of Globalgrind.com, speaker at the aforementioned vigil at Riverside Church, Russell Simmons. Good to see you, sir. Thanks for coming in.
RUSSELL SIMMONS: Nice to see you.
OLBERMANN: Do you - is it an overstating it to say that, to some degree, Occupy is an extension of what Dr. King was standing for?
SIMMONS: Well, we founded Occupy the Dream just on that premise - that it was Dr. King's dream that the unions and civil rights leaders, which is the black clergy, and is still the black clergy - so we have, unifying the black clergy and the unions and the young creative spirit of Occupy, and we're going to occupy the dream, right? Most likely, we'll end up in Washington on his death day. We announced it on his birthday, today.
Today, the Occupy the Dream movement - which is a splinter group, right - occupied all of the Federal Reserve banks, and the purpose, again, is simple - to go get the money out of Washington. As you know, I've always said that was the main goal. I believe they occupied Wall Street because Wall Street controlled their future, and so that's the one thing, I think, would be first, if I had to figure out how can I attack economic inequality.
Today, I wrote a blog about the prison-industrial complex, and, you know, the fact that nine out of ten people in prison for drugs are African Americans and three out of four of those are non-violent users and not pushers or anything like that. And that's part of the funding of politicians - to keep those books on law.
We know for sure that war on drugs is a failure. But, if there's too much money funding it, and the politicians can't afford to get the money they are addicted to then, of course, that law will continue and will continue to poison communities by feeding them back to them as criminals.
But there are many things - the jobs overseas, the health-care issue - these are things that will never happen so long as politicians are being paid for. So Occupy the Dream is founded on King's memory and legacy. But the number-one goal is to get the money out of politics and promote a Constitutional amendment.
OLBERMANN: One thing that you wrote on the piece for the Huffington Post today, let me read it exactly, "Today, the march for civil rights isn't about convincing Americans that racism is wrong. It is about getting the money out of politics, so that the profit from institutional racism is eliminated." Is that, indeed, what Dr. King was moving towards, if not had already reached, in the last months of his life?
SIMMONS: Well, the Poor People's Movement that he founded was meant to be integrated, in a way that people who had the same economic issues could come together and fight for what is right.
In fact, this Occupy the Dream movement, although it is founded by myself and black clergy, and some of the Occupy members and the unions - and really, the black clergy and myself, that was input - but we don't want it to be about black clergy.
Someone said, "Oh, it's the Obama people." I want the tea party members who, I know, believe it would be nice if they elected a politician who worked for them. And I want the Republicans who believe the same, and I want - this is a 90-10 issue. Nine out of ten Americans believe that corporations and special interest have too much control over our government.
This public-funding idea, which is what the Constitutional amendment proposes, this public-funding idea would give us a true democracy. It's an American revolution, it's not an easy thing. If you tell any politician, they will say ," Oh, it's a good idea, but it will never happen." Because they are seated politicians and 96 percent of the people who have the money get re-elected. So that's, obviously, their spot, the most money, right?
So, it needs - we have to watch our politicians make this change, watch our Supreme Court make the change. All of America wants it. And now the time has come. It's because of Occupy Wall Street that we have this opportunity.
OLBERMANN: It is good, is it important to invoke - not just Martin Luther King - but the man whose name he carried, Martin Luther, who, after all, when he nailed those 95 thesis to the wall of the church in Germany - that was all about income inequality and the corruption of an organization, in that case, the church - by money. What he wrote about could also - I mean if you looked at it and took a few details out, that looks like something that was written at Occupy Wall Street.
SIMMONS: I never thought about that, but absolutely. You could invoke his name as well.
OLBERMANN: I mean, bring everybody into it, because you don't want to make it seem stratified.
SIMMONS: Everybody - it is not limited to race inequity. The article was about the institutional racism that occurs when - imagine, you took all of these diseased people out of the war on drugs. You took them out of the community and put them in jail for ten years for little bits of drugs, or eight years, whatever.
They went back home hardened criminals and they created what was kind of a jail culture in some of the streets in our communities. That was a terrible thing, and we have to stop that. We are spending a fortune, we're educating people in criminal behavior and we're destroying not only the black community, but everywhere.
Although it is - nine out of ten people, and the whites and blacks use and sell drugs at the same rate, but nine out of ten people incarcerated today for drugs are African-Americans, and that is - so the issue is the mathematics of modern-day racism.
But the - it's a much bigger issue, that all of what promotes equality - economic inequality - is the money in Washington. And it's criminal. It's legal bribery. Congressman goes to work, he has two years to start ho'ing, I mean borrowing - to start selling influence - did I say 'ho'ing?'
OLBERMANN: No, you were right the first time.
SIMMONS: He immediately goes to work to do that, to figure out how he can shore up his money and who he can do favors for. I fought with the drug lords, I had the big issue with the Rockefeller drug lords, we won something. We didn't win what we deserved, but we won something, there were a hundred thousand people downtown protesting. And the governor made a change and the following governor made another change.
But the number-one impediment to making the change were not the people talking about "soft on crime," not all of these conservatives who may not understand the drug law - the drug war and its effect on communities, it was the lobbyists. The people that kept us from getting the deal done were the lobbyists, that paid the politicians and were obvious everywhere. And their influence was everywhere and people worked for them. And we want the politicians to work for us, not them.
OLBERMANN: Russell Simmons, it's always a pleasure to see you. I always learn something else.
SIMMONS: I didn't let you talk too much. But I liked what you said about Martin Luther.
OLBERMANN: Bring him into it, too. Bring everybody in that stood for some sort of justice in the world. Thank you, sir.
At some point, you would think the message would get across to stay down.
After his "Catch A Journalist" sting ended with him running away from an actual journalist, wouldn't you think he would have made sure the dead voter in his "dead voter" sting was actually dead? The dead voter joins us, ahead.
OLBERMANN: Oops. Another Jimmy O'Keefe sting goes wrong. First, his operatives may be charged with voter fraud. Then, the "dead voter" for whom they sought a New Hampshire ballot turns out not to be dead. In fact that voter is our guest, next.
First, the "Worst," and it wasn't just this one Greyhound driver who made life miserable for 13 Occupiers trying to get from California to DC. Turns out there were harassed by another one. Next.
OLBERMANN: The self-defenestration of little Jimmy O'Keefe accelerates. The "dead voter" sting, where they tried to get a ballot in the name of a New Hampshire man who was dead - he wasn't dead. He's our guest, next.
First, because these guys are dead from the neck up, here are "Countdown's" nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze? To Mike O'Neal, the Republican speaker of the Kansas State House. First, Speaker O'Neal found himself apologizing to the first lady for having sent an email to fellow lawmakers which had compared her to the "Grinch" and called her, "Mrs. Yo-Mama."
Now, Speaker O'Neal has emailed far worse. It's Psalm 109, which reads, "Let his days be few, and let another take his office. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars, may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has, may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children."
Appended to that was O'Neal's personal message, "At last, I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president!"
The Kansas Speaker's office says he will not apologize, and insists that - despite the part about the widow and the two references to fatherless children - O'Neal isn't praying for President Obama's death.
I have a prayer for you, Mr. O'Neal - may you someday become familiar with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The runner-up? Mitt Romney, now, of course, the Republican front-runner for President. And thus, the focus of the attention paid to - in David Axelrod's memorable phrase - "the monkey's butt."
A moment of inhumanity and robotic insensitivity to an 80-pound man suffering from muscular dystrophy is temporary, but a YouTube video of it is forever. From October, 2007:
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: I suffer from an extremely rare type of muscular dystrophy. And I have to take medication or I'll die. Right now, I weigh less than 80 pounds. I have all my life. I have support of five of my doctors saying that I am living proof that medical marijuana works. I am completely against legalizing it for everyone, but there is medical purposes for it.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: And you have synthetic medical marijuana that's available -
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: It makes me sick. I have tried it and it makes me throw up. I have tried all the medications there are and all the forms that come in - appetite stimulators or steroids. I have muscular dystrophy, that's completely against my DNA. My question for you is, "Will you arrest me and my doctors if I get medical marijuana?"
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I'm not in favor of medical marijuana being legal.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN 2: Are you not going to answer his question, Governor?
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I think I have.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN 2: No, he asked if you were going to arrest him? If you were going to arrest patients like him, Governor? You're just going to ignore a person in a wheelchair?
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I spoke with him.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN 2: But you didn't answer his question.
OLBERMANN: Expect to see a lot more of that video, and Lord knows how many others, in the weeks and months to come.
But our winner? Greyhound Bus Lines. Specifically, its driver Donald Ainsworth.
Thirteen members of various California Occupy groups were traveling by bus from San Diego to Washington for tomorrow's Occupy Congress protest.
According to one of them, Michael Ponsler, the troubles began on the part of the trip beginning in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The driver of that bus, identified as "J. Garcia," allegedly asked them, "Are you all with those Occupy people? How did you pay for your trip? Did Obama pay for it?"
But that was just the warm-up act.
In Amarillo, Texas, on Saturday night, they were transferred to Mr. Ainsworth's bus. Witnesses say that driver was a little testy, demanded his passengers get in single file and shouted at them that they had to sit down immediately or he wouldn't drive.
Ponsler asked why he was being so rude, at which point the driver ordered Ponsler off the bus. Ponsler explained he was part of a group traveling together. He says Ainsworth rather unexpectedly yelled, "All of you Occupy people, off my bus."
How did he know they were Occupy?
Another protester said the driver insisted, "You are not welcome in Washington or anywhere else" and asked other passengers "Anyone else support Occupy? You can get off too."
In Amarillo, Ainsworth made it to the Greyhound terminal, locked the bus with all passengers inside, met with bus-line officials and police for about an hour, and eventually had the luggage of the thirteen passengers removed. The Occupy account has a police officer accompanying the driver, removing the members, with the policeman telling them that he knew Ainsworth's "attitude was poor" but, by law, he had the right to remove passengers if he deemed them inebriated or threatening in some way.
The thirteen got another bus on Sunday morning.
Forty-eight hours later, Greyhound's only response to this remarkable set of developments was a single tweet, sent yesterday, reading, "Hi All, we are aware of the Occupy Congress situation. We have notified executive management. We appreciate your patience."
Not only is that the company's only comment, but it hasn't even tweeted anything about anything else since.
For kicking off thirteen Occupiers for being RWBO, Riding While Being in Occupy, driver Donald Ainsworth and Greyhound Bus Lines - today's "Worst Persons in the World."
OLBERMANN: The Return of the Living Dead New Hampshire voter is back, in the flesh, to haunt little Jimmy O'Keefe.
In our number-one story on the "Countdown" - we told you last week about the latest hoax orchestrated by conservative filmmaker and "master of disguise" O'Keefe. His Project Veritas minions tried to impersonate recently-deceased residents at primary polling locations in New Hampshire on Tuesday. One of the dead voters an O'Keefe associate attempted to impersonate - Robert William Beaulieu - is a 23-year-old registered Democrat of Nashua, who is very much alive.
We brought you undercover video showing an O'Keefe activist trying to get a ballot on behalf of Beaulieu, who lives on Cassandra Lane, butchering the pronunciation of his last name in the process.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER: First name?
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Robert.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER: Robert Williams?
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Yeah. Robert Beaulieu.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER: Now, we've got the right one, Robert?
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Cassandra.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER: Now, 'cause I have another William.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Right, it's Robert.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER 2: And you've got a Democratic ballot. Here you go, mister.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Now, I'll tell you what - I've left my I.D. in the car, my identification.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER 2: You don't need it. It's not required.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: I don't need it? I'll go get it anyway, if you don't mind. I prefer to. I don't need identification?
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER: Nope. No, you don't.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Oh, boy.
(Excerpt from video clip) POLLSTER 2: As long as you're on our registered poll list, you're allowed to vote.
OLBERMANN: Ah, it turns out they used the name of the wrong guy. Robert P. Beaulieu - no relation to the Beaulieu of Cassandra Lane - passed away this past October at the age 84. Robert W. Beaulieu - again, most definitely not a zombie - told Talking Points Memo on Friday, "I found out they were actually talking about me and not the man who passed away in October. The funny thing is, if they'd done any research, they would have found out the guy's middle name is Paul."
The Project Veritas sting is being reviewed by that state's attorney general for a possible violation of federal election law, as well as for breaching a state law against hidden recording devices. Also, they actually did not succeed in getting a ballot for a dead guy.
The only place they proved voter fraud was possible was during a Republican primary. And the only people they suggested are likely to try to commit that were conservative operatives.
So, now let's bring in Robert William Beaulieu, who can truly relate to Mark Twain about "the report of his death being an exaggeration." Good evening.
ROBERT BEAULIEU: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, can you confirm for me that you are, in fact, not dead?
BEAULIEU: I am alive and well in the flesh.
OLBERMANN: How long have you not been dead?
BEAULIEU: A full 23 years.
OLBERMANN: All right, so how did you find out about them involving you in this, sort of inadvertently?
BEAULIEU: My brother Tim is the one that showed me the video, after he saw a clip of your show last week. So, when he started seeing it all, you see him start to get the information of Robert William, and he gives my address, so we're like, "We've got to look into this. Go to their website and they show the unedited version, and there it is - they have my full address, my name and everything. These guys - just clowns. Just clowns, man.
OLBERMANN: I was going to ask what your reaction was. But it sounds like that was your reaction.
BEAULIEU: Yeah, I mean, I had a little anger at first. But it's too funny at this point. You know, I'm getting texts from my friends. My friend Dan texted me, saying, "Oh, we barely knew ye." And, you know, everyone's telling me, "I didn't know you died, man." And I'm like, "Ah, I'm not dead, you guys, come on."
OLBERMANN: Suddenly, you are doing a bit from a Monty Python movie - "I'm not quite dead. I'll be better in a moment." Are you - are you political? Had you heard of this guy O'Keefe before?
BEAULIEU: I have heard little things about him. But, you know, I don't find him a very serious person. I don't tend to follow very serious people. So, like, I didn't know very much about him until after I saw that he'd actually, you know, copied me and stole my name.
OLBERMANN: Do you find it a little ironic that a bunch of guys who were trying to prove that the system against voter fraud was broken, wound up proving it isn't broken - that the middle name actually matters precisely, you've got to be exactly right - and wound up possibly getting charged, themselves, for voter fraud.
BEAULIEU: I find that just - they must not be very smart people. I mean, you have got to do your research. If you are going to do something like that, make sure you are not getting a live person.
OLBERMANN: Plus, it's not like, you know, they had to get - which hospital you were born in or your academic records or something. All they had to do, conceivably, to pull this stunt off was to know what the middle name was of the person they were trying to get the vote for, right?
BEAULIEU: Exactly. That's all it needed. If you're going in and you know the guy's deceased and you know that his name begins with a "P," don't go with a "W." I mean, that's just common sense.
OLBERMANN: Do you - is this your closest brush with fame in your life?
BEAULIEU: I guess you could say that. I don't really call it fame. I call it someone being stupid, and me calling them out on it.
OLBERMANN: Do you like the attention, or is this just one more annoyance in the day-to-day existence of life?
BEAULIEU: I mean, it's not that annoying. It could be worse. You know, I just think if they are going around saying they have dead voters, they should make sure the voter is dead, and if a living person can prove that they are wrong, you have got to say something. You can't just let that go.
OLBERMANN: So, one more time for Mr. O'Keefe's benefit. You are not dead?
BEAULIEU: Let me check. No, I'm alive.
OLBERMANN: Try the pulse for me, just once.
BEAULIEU: Yes, we're good. We're good.
OLBERMANN: Robert William Beaulieu of New Hampshire, who is not dead. Many thanks, and may you continue to be not dead for many decades, sir.
BEAULIEU: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 376th day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the house. Thus, 376 days in which the Republicans have failed to pass a jobs bill of any kind.
I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.