'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'For Richer Or Poorer', David Drucker
#5 'Path To Victory', Andy Sullivan
#4 'Level The Paying Field', Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Muddying The Ribbon', Trevor Neilson
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#2 'Hissed Off'
#1 'G-Oh-P', Michael Musto
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: David Shuster, Trevor Neilson, Michael Musto, Sheldon Whitehouse, Andy Sullivan
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
As President Obama embraces the poor -
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: If I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense.
SHUSTER: Romney is embraced by the rich -
(Excerpt from video clip) DONALD TRUMP: It is my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney.
SHUSTER: But is it a privilege Romney can afford? Last year, Trump called him a loser. Fairness in the U.S. tax code.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Tax reform should follow the "Buffett rule": if you make more than a million dollars a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.
SHUSTER: Today, Sheldon Whitehouse introduced the "Buffett rule" in the U.S. Senate and will join us.
Hypocrisy in pink.
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY BRINKER: We will never bow to political pressure.
SHUSTER: Except they did. The fallout continues after the Komen foundation cuts funding to Planned Parenthood.
And, G "Oh" P indeed.
(Excerpt from video clip) MEG RYAN: Yes, yes, yes!
SHUSTER: A new survey reveals Republicans have less sex, but more orgasms. The one and only Michael Musto is here to explain why.
All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: I'll have what she's having.
SHUSTER: Good evening. This is Thursday, February 2nd, 279 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olberman.
Mitt Romney celebrates the latest Nevada poll with a celebrity endorsement, while President Obama finds a biblical endorsement for his plan to restore the economy.
Our fifth story in the "Countdown" - Romney is riding high in Nevada while the president is calling for fairness in Washington.
This morning, President Obama reminded the three thousand attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast that it is sound theology, as well as good policy, to ask the wealthy to give.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: If I'm willing to give something up, as somebody who has been extraordinarily blessed and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense. But, for me - as a Christian - it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that "For unto whom much is given, much shall be required."
SHUSTER: As for Mitt Romney, Nevada Republicans seen ready to give him what he requires - a big win in Saturday's caucuses. The latest Nevada poll shows Romney leading Newt Gingrich by 20 points, with Rick Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul bringing up the rear. And if that wasn't blessing enough, Romney received an endorsement from one-time GOP favorite Donald Trump, and then gave one right back.
(Excerpt from video clip) TRUMP: Mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp, he's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: There are some things that you just can't imagine happening in your life. This is one of them.
SHUSTER: Perhaps because the Donald told The Daily Beast last spring, "He's going to lose. He doesn't resonate, you know? Or he would have won last time."
When it comes to the actual value of Trump's endorsement, 13 percent of likely Republican voters said it made them "more likely" to support a candidate, while 20 percent insisted it made their support "less likely." And better than 60 percent said it would make "no difference to them at all."
Still, Texas Governor Rick Perry sought the Donald's favor when he was in the running. And Newt Gingrich, too, went to Trump Tower to kiss the Donald's ring. So, is President Obama missing out? Should he have pursued Trump's endorsement? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave it a pass.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: You know I - I I'm not going to combover that question.
SHUSTER: Meanwhile, Romney is still trying to recover from Wednesday's gaffe.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there.
SHUSTER: Romney himself admitted ruefully that he wished he'd phrased that a little differently.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Sometimes things don't come out exactly the way you'd like them too. That's not exactly what I meant to say.
SHUSTER: However, Newt Gingrich wasn't about to let Romney get away with that.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: I really believe that we should care about the very poor, unlike Governor Romney.
SHUSTER: And the Democratic National Committee today followed up with a web ad puncturing Romney's claim that he would focus on the middle class.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: A recent study showed that a family making $75,000 a year, in terms of what they would receive by eliminating capital gains and dividends - $167 dollars, sir.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Well, first of all, $167 is not zero.
SHUSTER: No, and it's not much help for a struggling middle-class family either.
And if you thought the GOP Florida primary was so last Tuesday, Newt Gingrich announced today he would petition the state party to amend "a winner take all" election and award delegates on a proportional basis instead.
Unfortunately for Newt, party Chairmen Lenny Curry replied, "Florida was 'winner take all' before election day, we were 'winner take all' on election day, we will remain 'winner take all.'"
Rick Santorum was a winner of a different sort today. While he campaigned in Colorado, Santorum got the endorsement of Nevada tea party favorite, and failed senatorial candidate, Sharron Angle.
While Santorum - and Newt Gingrich for that matter - are campaigning without a clear path to the nomination, much less to the White House, a serious of Gallup polls seems to lay out what President Obama will have to do if he is to win a second term.
According to the poll, the president has a great chance of winning states with a total of 159 electoral-college votes, where he polled better than 50 percent last year, including New York, Illinois and California. But Gallup gives the president little chance of winning over voters in states where he's pulling under 40 percent - like Utah, Kentucky and Arkansas, with another 153 electoral college votes. That leaves a rich crop of swing states to fight over, that account for 226 electoral college votes, including the traditional major players, like the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
For more on the GOP race, we're joined by David Drucker, staff writer with Roll Call. David, good to see you tonight.
DAVID DRUCKER: Hey, good to see you.
SHUSTER: The president's comments at the National Prayer Breakfast - was he calling out Mitt Romney and the House GOP as selfish, while making the point to religious voters that his policies may be more justified than his opponents?
DRUCKER: Well, I don't know if he was calling them out specifically, but in a political season you can never discount that that's - might have been what he was doing. I think he was simply making the case for his policies in a particular setting. It was a prayer breakfast and he was trying to make his pitch in a way that would resonate there. And so, you could take it either way. It was probably a little bit of both.
SHUSTER: The Nevada poll, is that race - is that caucus essentially over? Could Gingrich be campaigning there just to try and get some attention for his barbs?
DRUCKER: Well, I never think it's a good idea for a candidate to skip a state on the schedule, even if he's not really going to do well there. Having said that, talking to my sources in Nevada today, this race probably is Romney's to lose and by a lot. Meaning, he should sew it up Saturday night.
Nobody else can really match him in organization or stature there. Ron Paul comes in at close second, if we're going to measure on organization ability and his ability to woo votes. But it really should be Romney's.
SHUSTER: The Trump endorsement of Romney today - exactly what value does that have for Mitt Romney? I mean, polls show that Donald doesn't exactly command the voters' affection, so what was the point of that circus today?
DRUCKER: You know, I'm really not sure, but here's what I think - it's always a good idea - if you can get an endorsement - to take it, because it takes it away from your opponents and it takes away their ability to possibly push a news cycle and have something positive to say.
And, I'm wondering if the Romney campaign took the Trump endorsement simply so nobody else could have it. And it takes him off the table for any of his opponents. The primary is not sewn up yet. Beyond that, it doesn't really matter because endorsements, particularly this cycle, haven't mattered at all. Voters aren't really interested in what establishment players have to say. Now, Trump isn't necessarily establishment, but he doesn't have really a true following within Republican circles. And so, I think it was really about taking it away from Newt Gingrich more than it was about having it for Mitt Romney.
SHUSTER: And, to that point about endorsements not mattering, the last major Romney endorsement - correct me if I'm wrong - was Nikki Haley in South Carolina, and Romney got thumped there.
DRUCKER: He did, although I will say this - when Romney was endorsed by Nikki Haley, who was elected sort of as a tea party Republican, came out of now where in her primary in South Carolina - this is when Newt Gingrich was rising the first time, if you recall. He had gotten that endorsement by the New Hampshire paper, he was rising. And I thought, at the time, it didn't mean it would win South Carolina but it helped take away something that might have been helpful for Newt Gingrich, because Romney was fighting to be still a conservative player with Newt rising.
So, I think that's how you look at endorsements, David. It's not so much that they help you win, but they can take away some fuel from your opponents.
SHUSTER: Great point. Romney's gaffe about not being concerned about he very poor - Gingrich is the GOP candidate who's got the reputation for being undisciplined and shooting his mouth off. Did anyone expect Romney to top him with what's been a whole series of gaffes where he portrays himself as a sort of caricature of the unfeeling rich?
DRUCKER: Well, I think you have to look at it this way - first of all, Romney is the clear front-runner coming out of Florida, and so any gaffe that he makes is going to have a lot more attention on it.
Second of all, there's - not excusing this, by the way, because it's a bad gaffe and he's had a couple of them - but there's a difference between misspeaking and saying things uneloquently, as opposed to making yourself the issue and being - you know, in many polling - in much polling we've seen - completely unlikable, having problems with female voters and independent voters.
And I think Romney is - look, he's got a problem in that he's not the best communicator of all time, he's not always a very good politician in the professional sense of the word. But I think it's different - although still a problem for him - but it's different than Newt Gingrich, who is an entrenched Washington figure who has never been well-liked and doesn't know, in a campaign, how to make the race about the other guy.
And whether we're going to have New Gingrich as the nominee, meaning the Republicans, or whether it's going to be Mitt Romney, or whether it's going to be Rick Santorum, the only way they have a chance of winning is to turn this race into a referendum on President Obama. If it's a choice, they're in trouble.
And so, Romney's gaffes are an issue - and they could be a huge issue down the stretch. Gingrich has always had the problem that it's always about him and not the other guy.
SHUSTER: For Romney -
DRUCKER: And I think it's a difference we need to understand.
SHUSTER: For Romney - in this particular case, though - is part of the issue also how he's handled damage control? I mean, the Associated Press just filed a story that said Romney is now saying that he misspoke in his comment yesterday. This is 36 hours later. He could have made this correction any time yesterday. The fact that, essentially, this ate up two days - is that a problems?
DRUCKER: Well, it's a problem. I'll say this, he did correct it yesterday and that he - on his press plane, he went out to the reporters that were on the plane and said, "I didn't mean what I said. Here's what I meant, I misspoke." It's just that this is the first television interview he's given. So, yes, it's a problem that this is a two- or three-day story.
I would say, he probably gets slightly higher marks on how he dealt with the tax-return issue, where he didn't do anything for an entire week - it took his campaign to sort of get their heads screwed on straight and fix it. So, he's trying to fix it here, it's just going to take a couple days.
SHUSTER: Roll Call staff writer David Drucker. David, great stuff and thanks for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
DRUCKER: Any time, thank you.
SHUSTER: For more on President Obama's rocky path to a potential second term, we're not joined by Reuters political correspondent Andy Sullivan. Andy, great to see you.
ANDY SULLIVAN: Hey, David, how you been?
SHUSTER: Good. The president's call for fairness at the National Prayer Breakfast today and making a point of his own Christian faith - any chance of an impact on his opponents? Or is he just preaching to the converted?
SULLIVAN: Well, David, I think presidents are expected to make religion a part of their routine. I think two thirds of all voters say they expect the president to have strong - sorry - strong religious beliefs. So, that's something that he's supposed to check off.
I thought it was interesting that a lot of the Republican candidate have been increasingly speaking about religion on the trail, talking about a war on religion and the Obama administration going after them. And so, here's Obama using religion to bolster his case. You know, he could really have gone a lot farther. I believe the Gospel of Matthew says - I think Jesus says in there that "It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven." So, he didn't use that.
SHUSTER: The Gallup polls, laying out President Obama's electoral challenge. If their numbers hold, he would start out with 159 votes in the electoral college. Is that the sort of start he needs to win in November?
SULLIVAN: Yeah, well - those states that the Gallup poll was referring to are places like New York and California. So if he doesn't win those, he's in deep trouble.
SHUSTER: As far as the battle about swing states, has their composition - Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania - has the composition there changed much in four years?
SULLIVAN: I think this time around the battleground's going to be pretty similar. I think the Obama campaign does not expect to compete in Indiana, which they won last time. They are looking at Arizona, however, which was not in play last time.
SHUSTER: And what about, for example - Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, as you just said - if unemployment stays, more or less where is it, should we expect any or all of them to fall into Romney's column?
SULLIVAN: Well, unemployment has actually gone down quite a bit over the past year in those three states. And what people say is - it's not necessarily the number but voters' perception of whether things are getting better. So, if unemployment continues to fall in those three states, that would help Obama. However, you've got to look at Europe, things could fall apart there. Economic analysts say that we could easily enter a recession this year and that would certainly make things harder for Obama.
SHUSTER: In addition to carrying Florida, President Obama also carried southern states of Virginia and North Carolina. If former Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich falls to Mitt Romney as expected, does that put some of these southern states in play for the president? Perhaps because there's an enthusiasm gap on the right in the south?
SULLIVAN: I know the Obama campaign is again targeting those states. You'll know for sure that the Democrats are holding their convention this year in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is a sign that they really intend to complete there.
SHUSTER: And as far as the overall electoral strategy, I mean, everyone has talked about how the president needs to essentially not make this a referendum, but make this a choice. Draw a contrast between him and, presumably, Mitt Romney. Whereas, if voters go into election day thinking, "Well, do I like the last four years or not?" then the president's in some trouble. How is that playing out as far as what you've seen?
SULLIVAN: Well, I think Romney is giving the Democrats plenty of material to work with. I think they've had a briefing book that they have had ready to go, but this primary has shown a lot of vulnerabilities, whether his records with Bain Capitol or his comments about how "I like firing people," that's all stuff that I'm sure we will see resurfacing again in the fall.
SHUSTER: Any indication that the strategy of Obama - essentially, just waiting. In other words, he's not going sort of full-throated at Romney yet, the Democrats sort of feel like, as long as Romney's in a battle with Gingrich, where he's being harmed by Gingrich, then there's no reason for them to spend any money. But there's also been some backlash by some Democrats who say, "You know what? Maybe you shouldn't be waiting.
SULLIVAN: Yeah, but I think the headlines right now are being grabbed by the Republicans and you've got this back-and-forth between Gingrich and Romney, which has gotten increasingly nasty over the last few weeks. I think the Obama campaign is probably saying, "Why do we need to get in the middle of this?"
SHUSTER: Andy Sullivan, correspondent for Reuters. Andy, thanks so much. We appreciate it.
SULLIVAN: Thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Up next, a key debate in this election is going to revolve around the issue of tax fairness. We will talk with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who has now introduced legislation that includes the so-called "Buffett rule."
And later, forget about the groundhogs in Pennsylvania, all of us today need to focus more on the pythons in Florida. I'll explain.
This is "Countdown."
SHUSTER: Today, the U.S. Senate formally took up legislation that would enshrine the so-called "Buffett rule" in U.S. tax code. The author of that bill, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, will join us.
There's evidence now of a collusion between a Republican congressman who began an investigation of Planned Parenthood and the Komen foundation, which was looking for an excuse to pull funding from the group.
Speaking of snakes - in the Everglades, the Burmese python population is exploding. They're even strangling and eating alligators in an ecosystem that's going haywire.
And in the world of human behavior, a new Match.com survey shows that Republicans have more orgasms. So now we know that Republicans also lie about sex.
SHUSTER: Billionaire Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett says he pays a tax rate of 17.4 percent. His secretary? She pays 35.8 percent. He doesn't think that's fair. And neither does President Obama or a group of Democratic senators who are now trying to do something about it.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - new legislation has been introduced in the Senate based on President Obama's proposed "Buffett rule." The bill would require the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share at a tax rate of at least 30 percent. During his State of the Union address last week, President Obama noted that the "Buffett rule" was key to tax reform.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: We need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. You can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.
SHUSTER: The Senate bill, formally called the "Paying a Fair Share Act," was introduced on the chamber floor Wednesday by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
(Excerpt from video clip) SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: This bill would do a lot of good things. It would simplify taxes. There is no point chasing loopholes if you know you're going to have to pay the 30 percent minimum. With all the advantages that do come with enormous income, paying a lower tax rate than regular, working families should not be one of those advantages.
SHUSTER: The plan would ensure that anyone earning more than one million dollars in income each year, including capital gains, would pay a minimum 30 percent federal tax rate.
But not all millionaires would be subjected to that rate immediately. It would be gradually phased in for those earning between one and two million dollars a year. The Congressional Research Service estimates that about a quarter of all millionaires - 94,500 taxpayers - currently pay a rate lower than most middle-income earners.
The liberal policy group Citizens for Tax Justice says the bill would bring in about $50 billion a year while the Bush tax cuts are still in effect, $25 billion annually once those cuts expire, as they are scheduled to do in 2012. Congressional Republicans have argued that raising taxes on the wealthy could hurt small business owners, who report their profits on their individual tax returns.
Joining us now to discuss his proposed legislation, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Senator, thanks for your time tonight.
WHITEHOUSE: Good to be with you, David. Thank you.
SHUSTER: Fair to say this is largely an issue about fairness, given that the revenue that comes in - $50 billion - won't have a huge impact on the overall deficit?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, we've certainly fought in the Senate over numbers that are a lot smaller than that and when you go to the budget debate - which is usually done in 10-year increments - and you multiply by 10, you're close to half a trillion dollars if your number is $50 billion. So, it's pretty real money actually.
It's not going to solve the budget problem on its own, but it's significant.
SHUSTER: What about the argument from Republicans that raising the capital-gains rate may hurt, for example, home sales at a time when the industry is already reeling?
WHITEHOUSE: I don't see any connection whatsoever. We have had a number of people look at this and see what the offsets would be, in terms of depression of the economy, against the revenues that it would create and there's really very little.
It's basically people who aren't paying their taxes, who are paying a rate far lower than what everybody expects that they pay - the nominal rate is 35 percent and these are people paying 18 percent, 14 percent, in some cases 11 percent - where regular, working families are paying, you know, in the 20s. So, it's just a loophole. It needs to be closed and we intend to do it.
SHUSTER: Mitt Romney argues that the 15-percent rate on capital gains and carried interest is misleading because, he says, corporations pay taxes on those profits as well. Your response?
WHITEHOUSE: You know, if you want to tax a dollar and then say that that dollar never gets taxes again, there are lots of different ways to do it. It's true when you spend it in the hardware store, and the hardware store guy takes it in and then he spends it in the diner down street, and then the diner takes it in and - that's just not the way we work. We pay what the - we tax the transaction.
SHUSTER: Reuters wrote yesterday that the "Paying the Fair Share Act of 2012" has almost no chance of passage this year, as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has sworn off tax increases. What are the odds that you see?
WHITEHOUSE: I think the odds are good. I think they depend, first of all, on how engaged the American public becomes in this. There are things like Buffettrulebill.com, where Americans can go and register their support for this bill. If people stand up and make their voices heard, Congress will listen. Heck, we had Arabs Spring across a bunch of tyrannical countries. We can certainly have "Buffett Rules Spring" here in the United States.
SHUSTER: And back to the issue of Mitt Romney. I wonder, given the fact that he released his tax returns, a lot of Americans, thanks to the publicity about him, are realizing that a lot of millionaires pay a 15-percent rate on capital gains and that, in fact, he - two years ago - paid 13.9 percent. How has that impacted the overall debate and, perhaps, even the understanding that people have of this issue?
WHITEHOUSE: I think it's expanded people's understanding. You have Warren Buffett out there. I've given frequent Senate floor speeches on the Helmsley building, where the occupants pay a 14.7 percent rate compared to the doormen who pay a 24 percent rate. The highest 400 income earners in the country are reported by the IRS, they pay less than average families do.
So, it's a widespread phenomenon, but I think the presidential campaign has put a spotlight on it. Certainly, when I go around Rhode Island, it's an issue that people are aware of and virtually nobody defends it. I mean, it's really indefensible.
SHUSTER: The spotlight has also come on this issue, in part, though, because of social media - Facebook and Twitter and all the attention that that has been driving. What are your plans, as you try to essentially build up support for this legislation in terms of both traditional interviews like this one but also, for example, using Twitter to try to explain what your legislation would do?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, I think that's important. We want to reach out across new media, it's one of the reasons we set up Buffettrulebill.com, to be able to capture people who believe in this and want to go on record as arguing for a change here. So, I think there's a lot of be done.
In addition to trying to get direct support for the bill, to try to get it to pass on its own, we also are coming up to some very significant decisions at the end of the year as we face the end of the Bush tax cuts and the so-called sequester, and I think if we continue to put pressure on to get this solved - in that context, at the end of the year is a second bite at the apple and we should take both bites. And I think we'll be successful if we are strong.
SHUSTER: And, Senator, have you heard anything from your Republican colleagues? Those across the aisle who - maybe they agree in principle, but they talk about the politics in an election year and what sort of vote this may be for them?
WHITEHOUSE: I don't want to out anybody or name names, but there are number of offices that have expressed considerable interest in the bill. I think they're running into intense leadership pressure not to break from the caucus position but, once again - if the American public stands up and they let their senators know that they care about this - people ultimately, I think, will do the right thing by their voters. But the voters have to be willing to stand up and be heard.
SHUSTER: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Senator, thanks so much for joining us, we appreciate it.
WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, David. I appreciate it.
SHUSTER: You're welcome.
Coming up, the growing python problem in Florida. The snakes are eating everything in site, reproducing like crazy and they now pose a big threat to the southern U.S. ecosystem.
But up next, the subversive threat posed by piñatas? In "Time Marches On!"
SHUSTER: Coming up, supporters of Planned Parenthood fight back against the Susan G. Komen Foundation by donating $650,000 to Planned Parenthood in 24 hours.
But first, the "Sanity Break," and - if you don't live in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania or have your own groundhog, you might not know it - but today is Groundhog Day.
It started as a Pennsylvania German tradition in the 18th century. Each year on February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog, comes out of his burrow and either sees his shadow or does not. And when he does see his shadow, as he did this year, it means six more weeks of winter.
The most famous "Groundhog Day," however, actually took place in 1993 when actor Bill Murray was forced to relive the day over and over again until he was able to make it the perfect day.
I believe they later made a movie about it.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Right-wing "gotcha" activist James O'Keefe performs in his 2002 high school musical.
We begin, as always, with footage of James O'Keefe in 2002 performing in a high school musical.
I'm sorry, I'm now being told we don't usually start with this. Well, we should.
I'm not sure if O'Keefe is still performing musical theatre, but he has being acting like a journalist for the last few years. Not a very good actor.
VIDEO: Kitten learns to box by watching the fights on television.
To the "Internets," and the TMO Adorable Clip of the Day.
That's right, it's a kitty learning the sweet science by watching a fight on TV. Keep your paws up, keep your paws up! He looks good.
But I think Floppy, may he rest in peace, would have taken him.
Unfortunately, the kitty later watched a Mike Tyson match and ended up biting his owner's ear.
VIDEO: Thrown piñata leads to thrown baseball bat - to the face.
Finally, we check in on the dangers of piñatas.
A good rule for piñatas is - if you don't have a tree to hang the piñata from, maybe skip the whole thing.
These folks thought it would be a good idea to have someone throw the piñata.
So, let's see how that turns out. Ready? Here we go. And there's the pitch and - Oh! Ouch!
Unfortunately, you don't get any candy for hitting someone in the face. But you do get a very funny viral video.
"Time Marches On!"
Just ahead, a new survey by Match.com reveals that self-described "conservative Republicans" are more likely to climax during sex than liberal Democrats. We will look at the science.
But up next, there are no fun and games in the emerging scandal over the Komen foundation.
You're watching "Countdown."
SHUSTER: We bring you "Countdown" live each night at 8:00p.m Eastern. Primary replays at 11:00p.m and 2:00a.m Eastern.
The battle over abortion rights continues to muddy an organization known for pink ribbons.
In our third story on the "Countdown" - there is new evidence tonight that the Susan G. Komen Foundation manufactured rules to justify pulling the plug on funding for breast-cancer screenings at reproductive-health center Planned Parenthood. And this comes as Komen officials continue to reject claims their decision was motivated by political pressure.
A source directly involved with the foundation's management activities tells The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that the recent rule, barring grants to groups under congressional investigation, was created as an excuse to stop Planned Parenthood funding. "It was completely arbitrary. If they hadn't come up with this particular rule, they would have come up with something else in order to separate themselves from Planned Parenthood."
As we reported yesterday, pro-life GOP Representative Cliff Stearns opened an investigation into Planned Parenthood's use of federal Medicaid funds last September. According to sources, the "no-investigation rule," adopted in December after Stearn's request, was largely driven by the organization's vice president, Karen Handel and led the charity's top health official, Mollie Williams, to resign in protest.
In 2010, Handel launched an aggressively anti-abortion platform, crusading to defund Planned Parenthood in her failed bid for Georgia governor. Komen's vice president had mostly kept quiet on the issue until last night, when she re-tweeted - and then scrubbed - a comment that read, "Just like pro-abortion group to turn cancer orgs decision into a political bomb throw. Cry me a freaking river."
Now, 26 Democratic senators have signed on to a letter urging Komen president, Nancy Brinker, to reverse the decision. "It would be tragic if any woman, let alone thousands of women, lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically-motivated attack. We earnestly hope that you will put women's health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision for the sake of the women who depend on both your organizations for access to the health care they need."
Trevor Neilson is the president of the Global Philanthropy Group and has been an adviser to Bill Gates, President Bill Clinton, Bono and Madonna on philanthropy interests that focus on heath. He joins us now from Los Angeles. Thanks for your time tonight, Trevor. We appreciate it.
TREVOR NEILSON: Thanks so much for having me.
SHUSTER: Komen's president, Nancy Brinker, insists that grant standards are often under review and that this "strategic shift" is nothing unusual. You are quite familiar with the philanthropic world. What do you make of her defense?
NEILSON: Give me a break. There's no chance that that's true. Very clearly, this is a failed Republican gubernatorial candidate finally exacting her revenge on the people that she feels are her political enemies. This - this silliness about the rule, it just doesn't even pass the laugh test and foundations like Komen don't just pick up rules like this at the last minute at the end of December and put them forward. This is an excuse.
Very clearly, there is a conspiracy afoot between this Republican member of Congress and this failed right-wing gubernatorial candidate. And a great institution, one that's done a lot of good in the world is going to suffer and suffer in a very, very significant way.
SHUSTER: And isn't there a danger, here that if these anti-abortion interest groups prevail upon Komen, they will essentially win the ability to make health policy and how dangerous does that become in the world of charitable giving and philanthropy?
NEILSON: Well, I think you're going to see an enormous amount of Komen's donations dry up over this. And they're gong to dry up - not just from people who care about the abortion issue - they're going to dry up from people what think, "Geez, if I give money to Komen, and if some radical interest group out there tells Komen to change the way they do business, what's that going to mean?"
The craziest part of all of this is that someone sitting in the Komen offices in Washington D.C decided that it would be useful to stop poor women from getting mammograms. In other words, help poor women get breast cancer in an effort to stop abortion. The two things are completely dis-linked. And the idea that somebody came up with this is both laughable, but also - just really sad.
SHUSTER: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi even weighed in on this point today. I want to get your reaction to this. Watch.
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY PELOSI: So, if the basic premise is that they can't be associated with anybody who is being investigated, it would be interesting to see who else they are associated with and whether they are investigated, too. And that would be everybody from the NIH to - you know, down the line. So, if that is the standard then I think they have to be consistent.
SHUSTER: And if they're going to be consistent, shouldn't they - shouldn't Komen pull funding from Penn State? Because that institution in under investigation.
NEILSON: Well, of course, but that goes back to the silliness of this purported rule. Any member of Congress can launch an investigation at any time. It's essentially meaningless and it's an excuse. I think we're going to have to see mass resignations from the leadership of Komen. I think that this women that was behind this plot - the failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate - has to be the first to resign. But, I think, unfortunately, Komen's leadership is going to have to step down in order to save the organization.
SHUSTER: Is that the advice that you would give them? In other words, if you were involved with advising Komen, is that the advice you would tell them? "You need to fire this woman and have the entire leadership leave."
NEILSON: Unequivocally. The board of directors of the Komen foundation, in order to save the organization - in order to preserve its longstanding reputation as a, you know, as a real force in the fight against breast cancer - is going to have to replace the leadership team and they're going to have to bring people in that don't have a political agenda that is not even related to Komen's mission.
SHUSTER: And it seems that things couldn't get much worse for Komen, and then this happens: scandal-plagued "family values" Senator David Vitter, who was caught hiring prostitutes - he lauded Komen's actions, essentially taking credit for their move.
Vitter said, "This is a welcome, long-overdue decision that will make Komen more effective in the fight against breast cancer, which is why I wrote a letter to Komen's founder and CEO last May urging her to take the step. It was clear that their association with Planned Parenthood was unnecessary to advance that core mission."
Are we going to let political campaigns drive public-health decisions?
NEILSON: Well, I think you have to look at who the people are that are cheering on this decision. And look at who the people are who are opposing this decision.
You have Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, a Republican who stepped forward and said that he personally will make a donation to Komen to help rally support for the organization at time like this.
Moderate, sensible people understand that Planned Parenthood is essentially the only health-care provider in a lot of poor neighborhood around the country. Regardless of what your position is on abortion - abortion is a tiny fraction of what Planned Parenthood does. If you want poor women and their families to have health care, deciding that they shouldn't get mammograms at Planned Parenthood is a really irresponsible and mean-spirited decision.
SHUSTER: Trevor Neilson. Trevor, thanks so much for coming on and offering your insights. We appreciate it.
NEILSON: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, the scientific data that may help explain why many conservatives are misguided. Yes, it has to do with IQ.
And the morons who dumped their imported pet pythons in the Everglades? Congratulations. Now Florida is looking at an ecosystem apocalypse. That's next, this is "Countdown."
SHUSTER: If you think your misguided conservative friends and neighbors are prematurely excitable, you may be on to something. A new survey has some remarkable results about Republicans and their ability to climax.
But up next, instead of getting all excited over Groundhog Day, it's time for all of us to pay more attention to the Burmese python. In the Everglades, the snakes are now eating alligators and eliminating entire species of other animals.
SHUSTER: One of my favorite movie lines comes from the film "Snakes on a Plane."
The plot is simple: Snakes are left on a jumbo jet, reproduce like crazy, eat some of the passengers, and terrorize everybody. Thankfully, an FBI agent, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is also on board.
(Excerpt from video clip) SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Enough is enough. I've had it with these motherf------ snakes on this motherf------ plane. Everybody strap in. I'm about to open some f------ windows."
I love that line.
Now you may be wondering, "Shuster, why are you focused today on snakes, Samuel Jackson, and the F-word?" Well, I'm doing this because the snake problem in the United States is getting worse and has been under-reported. Instead, too many Americans are focused today on this:
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD:
SHUSTER: That's right. This is Groundhog Day, celebrated most famously in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Phil proclaimed, as I look at the crowd on Gobbler's Knob, many shadows do I see. Six more weeks of winter it must be!
SHUSTER: Who cares!? And if you do care - you want your guidance from a groundhog? Good grief.
Here's what we should be talking about. Take a look at this picture from the Florida Everglades. (STILL PHOTO OF MEN HOLDING A LARGE PYTHON) Researchers are holding a Burmese python. The snake weighs 162 pounds and is more than 15 feet long. This particular python had eaten a six-foot-long alligator.
Here's another python, captured by Florida water management workers. (STILL PHOTO OF WATER-MANAGEMENT WORKERS IN AN AIR BOAT, HOLDING A LARGE PYTHON) This snake had just eaten a 76-pound deer. Frightening, right?
Well, get used to it. The Burmese python reproduces like crazy. And the population in the Everglades has been exploding for about 30 years now, ever since knuckle-headed pet owners bought the snakes imported from Asia and then dumped them in the wild, perhaps after realizing that this type of python doesn't play well with family dogs, cats, or children.
Oh, and when it comes to gators - here's what the scene looks like when a python prepares to strangle and feast on one. (STILL PHOTO OF A PYTHON STRANGLING A LARGE ALLIGATOR)
Scientists now report that the Burmese python is wiping out several mammal species in the Everglades. According to a new report by the National Academy of Sciences, in areas where pythons have established themselves, the raccoon population has dropped by 99.3 percent. Opossums by 98.9 percent, and the white-tailed deer, 94.1 percent.
In addition to wreaking havoc in the Everglades ecosystem, the pythons are also slithering out and causing trouble in residential areas. (EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP) This video was taken recently by a family in South Florida that found, of course, a python in their backyard pool.
And if you think this is just a problem for Florida, think again. The U.S. Geological Survey has declared that the Burmese python is capable of spreading and surviving across the entire southern United States. Travel much?
Now, I don't mean to alarm you - and I have nothing against the folks who celebrate Punxsutawney Phil - I'm just saying, in addition to Groundhog Day, how about Python Eradication Day? That's the focus we need.
And as an added benefit, Samuel L. Jackson would be an awesome master of ceremonies.
SHUSTER: The most frustrating aspect of covering politics is watching progressive use facts and data to prove a point, only to have conservatives rebut that with yelling and fear.
In our number-one story - science today has confirmed what many of us have long suspected. Conservatives are stupid. But there is a silver lining for our conservative friends out there, for it seems that what they lack between the ears they make up between the sheets.
In a recent study published in Psychological Science, researchers administered IQ tests to children in the 1960s and '70s. Researchers then periodically checked in on the subjects as they aged into adulthood. The results showed that those who had lower IQs as children where more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and be socially conservative. Shocking. The party that doesn't believe in science has a lower IQ than those who do.
But it's not all bad news for conservatives. While they may be lacking in intelligence, they are leading the way in, shall we say, caucusing?
According to a survey of 5,000 people conducted by Match.com, those who classified themselves as single conservatives are more likely to achieve orgasm during sex than any political party. Single, liberal Democrats came in as the least likely.
Conservative Republicans also clocked in as most sexually satisfied among married individuals.
But with conservatives' well-known tendency to lie and exaggerate about, well, everything, those numbers may not be 100 percent accurate.
With a story like this, we have to bring in the one and only Michael Musto, Village Voice columnist and author of "Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back." Michael, thanks for your time tonight.
MICHAEL MUSTO: Hi, David.
SHUSTER: We will get to the sexual satisfaction question in a moment, but should we be surprised that conservatives have a lower IQ than progressives?
MUSTO: No, I'm not surprised. I mean, these are the people that have to get naked to count to 21. They trip over cordless phones. They steal free samples. They think that "Glee" is promoting a gay agenda. Actually, there they have a point.
SHUSTER: Does this explain why conservatives don't believe in science in general? It just goes over their head.
MUSTO: Yeah, it's way too hard. I mean, to them, Chemistry is what happens between a married politician and some jail bait. I don't know - a Biology exam to them is like, "Oh, quick, let me check out your hoo-ha before my wife comes home." They don't get science at all. And let's not even get into physics.
SHUSTER: Turning to the sexual satisfaction survey. Fifty-three percent of conservative Republicans achieved orgasm during sex, versus 40 percent for Democrats. What are conservatives doing that Democrats are not doing?
MUSTO: They're cheating. The idea of having sex with a side dish and breaking all the rules of the Bible is so delicious to these conservatives. I mean, sinning is a giant aphrodisiac. And the idea of maybe getting caught and ruining your career is hotter than Spanish Fly. They do it all day long, it's very stimulating.
SHUSTER: Conservatives also reported having the least amount of sex in the last year. So, in other words, great quality, but not-so-amazing quantity.
MUSTO: No, no, no, we're going back to the IQ thing here. They actually have tons of sex, but they're bad at math. They can't count all the orgasms, they're so busy having them. And also, popping Viagra and ordering pizza from Herman Cain and he's having the orgasm. Yuck, bring in the air freshener.
SHUSTER: Republicans also, apparently, look for partners a bit differently. Democrats, apparently, look for a partner with a sense of humor and someone whom they consider an equal, whereas Republicans look for someone with the same background and same political party. Is that the key to their sexual satisfaction, to find someone exactly like themselves?
MUSTO: Yeah, they're like gay men - they look for mirror images of themselves. And they're basically shtupping themselves. And that's what brings about the quick, narcissistic release. And they're too stupid, obviously, to know about the ultimate onanistic experience, which is masturbation. Or, maybe they're just afraid that's sex between a man and a man. So dumb.
SHUSTER: Surprisingly, in this study, infidelity by a partner was deemed more acceptable than infidelity by a political candidate. Does that explain Newt Gingrich's drop in popularity?
MUSTO: Yeah, because when a politician cheats, you feel like they're cheating on you.
And frankly, I have an admission here. I was in love with Newt Gingrich and with his views that pagans bring down the fundamentals of our society. But then he betrayed me, and betrayed me, and betrayed me and frankly, with all those orgasms, I can't see him in the White House, except maybe as an intern.
SHUSTER: How would this current crop of Republican presidential candidates fare in this survey?
MUSTO: They're doing very well. I mean, when Romney heard that Trump might back Gingrich, he orgasmed. Then Gingrich heard - oh, no, no, Trump is backing Romney, he double orgasmed. And Gingrich is so dumb he called Callista and he's like "I just orgasmed, can we have an open marriage?"
SHUSTER: Obviously, not all conservatives aren't stupid, maybe just the majority of them. So let me pose a hypothetical question to you. A dumb conservative, a racist conservative and a smart conservative all walk into a bar. Who climaxes first?
MUSTO: That is so easy - Ashton Kutcher. But you know what? A smart conservative would never be in a trashy bar like that. This is all moot.
SHUSTER: What did you make of David Vitter weighing in - and he got some questioning this week on another channel about - about his use of prostitutes, and seemed somewhat defensive that somebody would actually ask him about his sexual past. As he's weighing in.
MUSTO: I don't watch other channels. But for somebody to admit that they use prostitutes, I - actually, if I saw that, I would have switched over to the Weather Channel to see if hell froze over because nobody ever admits that kind of thing.
SHUSTER: And as far as the IQ test, again. I mean, this idea that - okay, people with lower IQs develop into sort having - I don't know, maybe this sort of pathology of being more sort of racist and judgmental, and not as open to the idea of judging facts.
MUSTO: They're dumb. They're narrow-minded. They think an innuendo is an Italian suppository. These people are so stuck in the past, and with keeping the status quo with their biblical mumbo jumbo. "A marriage is between a man and a woman." I mean, why? Cooking used to be on, like, a rock in a cave, but now we have the Foreman Grill. Move forward, people.
SHUSTER: And what will it take for them to move forward? Does it take - I don't know, breeding an entire generation of smarter kids with higher IQs? Is that what it will take?
MUSTO: Yeah, but they inbreed and they create people with eyes that are too close together and ears on the back of their head.
It's never going to happen. Each generation is dumber and dumber and uses more and more prostitutes and their credit cards bounce. I don't know where this world is spiraling.
SHUSTER: Thank you, Michael Musto. Michael, thanks as always. We appreciate it.
One programming note, if you want to help your friends or family find Current TV, send them to our channel finder on the web at current.com. The website - it's hot and it's easy for anybody to use.
And that is our show for tonight. I'm David Shuster. On behalf of all of us at "Countdown," thanks for watching, everybody. Remember, another version of "Countdown" tomorrow night, right here on Current TV. In the meantime, have a great evening.