'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
#ShowPlug 1: Romney flailing in Michigan. More bad polls + he attacks saving Detroit. W/ @Craig_Crawford, Nate @fivethirtyeight Silver
#ShowPlug 2: Consumer Confidence Index rises again. Polling: 96% of Americans say poor or middle class hardest hit #SorryOnePercent
#ShowPlug 3: Apple to self-inspect foreign factories as consumers suddenly demand responsibility. But is the inspection just toothless PR?
#ShowPlug 4: Valntine's Day, Conservative Style: Gingrich's big plans, plus his push to ban porn. @MikeyMusto swings at them
#ShowPlug 5: & bluntly, Epic edition of Worsts. O'Reilly says Whitney Houston wanted to kill herself; Ohio Tea Partier trades coke for sex
#ShowPlug Last: & debut of new series: mashing-up @AndrewBreitbart self-destruction w/other meltdowns. 1st: Charlton Heston, Andrew Keir
#5 'Michigan Maulers', Craig Crawford
#5 'Michigan Maulers', Nate Silver
#4 'Widening The Net', Jeffrey Sachs
# Time Marches On!
#3 'The Dark Side', Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman
#2 Worst Persons: Bill O'Reilly, Archie Wilson, Andrew Breitbart
#1 'Take My Wife', Michael Musto
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Nate Silver, Michael Musto, Jeffrey Sachs, Craig Crawford
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Mitt and the Pendulum. His dire problem in Michigan.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I want to make Michigan stronger and better. Michigan's been my home and this is personal.
OLBERMANN: So naturally, he today called the revival of the Detroit auto industry "crony capitalism on a grand scale."
The numbers never lie. What the Michigan polls say about Santorum and Romney and the nomination, with Nate Silver of the New York Times.
The 96 percent. The new polling. Forty-five percent say the economy has hurt the poor the most. Fifty-one percent say it's hurt the middle class the most. The economic mood of the nation, as the president again pushes his budget and the payroll-tax-cut extension.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: When a plane is finally lifting off the ground, you don't ease up on the throttle.
OLBERMANN: Apple's introspection. Why human rights advocates are slamming its decision to investigate working conditions in all its factories.
Valentine's Day. Newt Gingrich's plans with his wife. You know his wife. Uh, uh - Mrs. Gingrich, that's it. Mrs. Gingrich.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: We're gonna have a private dinner, hopefully exchange gifts, and re-connect a little bit.
OLBERMANN: Valentine's Day, and the one thing on which Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich agree? They want to ban pornography. With Michael Musto.
And, Worsts. Tonight, Mega Worsts.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: Whitney Houston wanted to kill herself.
OLBERMANN: Oh, boy.
And Breitbart thinks this was him winning. So, it's mash-up time.
(Excerpt from video clip) ANDREW BREITBART: You're freaks and animals.
(Excerpt from video clip) ANDREW KEIR: Listen! I'm advising you all to leave, there may be grave danger!
OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) KEIR: It was what I was afraid of.
OLBERMANN: Good evening, this is Tuesday, February 14, 267 days until the 2012 presidential election.
Mitt Romney losing ground to Rick Santorum with Republican voters in his primal home state of Michigan, and with conservative and independent voters nationwide.
The fifth story on the "Countdown" - the once and perhaps future Republican front-runner running behind in a state, frankly, he should own. And continuing his national slide in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll as he did in the Pew and Gallup polls reported on this news hour last night.
Romney trailing Santorum by three percent in the CBS/Times poll, essentially a tie. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear. Romney also slumping badly with GOP conservatives. Santorum with a 14-point edge in that category over the former Massachusetts governor. Gingrich and Paul not much of a factor.
With his numbers fading, Romney touting his conservative credentials on a campaign stop in Mesa, Arizona last night:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: My conservatism did not come so much from reading the writings of great conservative scholars, as it did come from my - my living my life.
OLBERMANN: Romney began that life in Michigan, the youngest son of former governor and American Motors chairman George Romney.
Mitt, revisiting his roots in his latest campaign ad:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Now, I grew up in Michigan. It was exciting to be here. I remember going to the Detroit Auto Show with my dad. That was a big deal. How in the world did an industry and its leaders and its unions get in such a fix that they lost jobs, that they lost their future?
OLBERMANN: Perhaps because they listened to someone like you, Governor.
As when you opined on the proposed GM and Chrysler bailouts in an 2008 New York Times op-ed: "If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won't go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed."
Got that wrong, Gov.
GM earned an $8 billion profit last year, Chrysler $225 million profit in its fourth quarter, which did not stop Mr. "Businessman" Romney from doubling down on his critique of the saving of Detroit in an op-ed today in the Detroit News, in which he accused the president of using the bailout to pay off contributors from the United Auto Workers.
"A labor union that had contributed million of Democrats - millions to Democrats and Obama's election campaign was granted an ownership share of Chrysler and a major stake of GM. Crony capitalism on a grand scale. The president tells us that without the intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better."
Michigan voters do not agree with him on that or much else. According to the latest American Research Group polls, Romney is now trailing Santorum by six percent in the state where he was born and which his father was governor. And where his biggest problem may be Republicans, likely GOP primary voters in Michigan, favoring Santorum by 18 points. And while Romney has a substantial lead over the field when it comes to Michigan independents, they make up less than a third of the state's likely primary voters.
Romney had been doing well with independent voters nationally. Not anymore. A Pew Research poll showing independent voters now favoring President Obama over Romney by nine points. Independents had favored Romney over Obama by a 10-point bulge just one month ago.
Independents and Republicans might be getting turned off by the onslaught of negative ads directed by the Romney super PAC and the Romney campaign.
Oakland County, Michigan GOP Chairman Jim Thienel saying, "People enjoy that Santorum's not going negative."
Though Santorum fans might have appreciated his going negative last night, when three Occupy Tacoma protesters were arrested at the former senator's rally, applauding when Santorum berated the Occupiers.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: Instead of standing here, unemployed, yelling at somebody, to go out and get a job and work for a living.
OLBERMANN: They'd like to.
As for Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House in California, trying to raise money for his flagging campaign and trying to sound hopeful in the face of the Santorum frothy surge.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: I have a message for him. I'm still here, and we're going to come back again.
OLBERMANN: For more on the rise of Santorum and the slide of Romney, particularly in Michigan, I'm joined by Craig Crawford, politics blogger at craigcrawford.com and, of course, the author of "The Politics of Life." Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: Hello. President Santorum. You see what happens when you take a few days sick leave, Keith? The campaign goes crazy.
OLBERMANN: It's no funnier sounding than President Cain or President Trump or President fill-in-the-blank. And back to - and this brings us to the perfect starting point, that great line from David Axelrod, which I guess dates to the collapse of Herman Cain, is Santorum just the newest monkey's butt up the GOP tree? I mean, does he have an organization or cash to actually make a run at Romney or is he going to fall past Romney like everybody else has?
CRAWFORD: Well there's some advantage - he might be the last monkey up the pole, so there's no other to tear him down.
And as far as organization, he's got a couple of things going for him, Keith, that might overcome that. And that is - his deep support among these cultural conservatives. And what's fired that up - I think, what's caused a lot of this Santorum boost - is some of these events lately that have fired him up: gay marriage in California, you have the contraception debate, the women in the military and combat, the Planned Parenthood debate. That has awoke from the dead - zombie reference intended, I suppose - that part of the electorate that he leads. And that is going to sustain him even without official Fortune 500-type organizations.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, barring a great reversal in Michigan, Romney is, at least, going to do no better than a squeak victory there. Is that going to further put a dent - and perhaps neuter for all time - the premise of Romney's campaign, which is, "You may look at other people, but it will eventually come around to me." The old inevitability argument?
CRAWFORD: It's going to become a Groundhog Day primary if he sees his shadow, but this business of him doing this ad that I just saw today - a very positive ad, finally, from Romney - talking about his biography - you mentioned it earlier - growing up in Michigan. What I find interesting about that is, if you had refreshed your roots all these years in Michigan, would you really have to do an ad reminding them that you're from there? Of course, it doesn't mention that he has homes in four states and Michigan's not one of them.
OLBERMANN: About Romney and the ads - the previous ads and the super PAC and how he crushed Gingrich in Florida with the negative ads - that's the perception. Is it true, or do we see, in retrospect, that maybe Gingrich just flatlined like the other ones have flatlined?
Because Joe Williams from Politico called it the Romney "Death Star" last night, but we agreed that, so far, it's only hit one target - it's hit Romney. It hasn't actually knocked anybody else out. They've all sort of fallen by the wayside by their own.
Is it the negative ads or has there just not been real competition for it?
CRAWFORD: Well, they hit their target, but some of it came right back at them. If you look at the number among independents, the fall of Romney among independents - largely, I think, because of this negativity.
In Florida, it worked with Gingrich. I think that might have been unique, because they basically conducted psychological warfare on Newt Gingrich to make him melt down, and he obliged. I think Santorum is a better temperament, has a calmer temperament - been through a lot of battles where we've seen that and I don't believe he'll react as crazily as Gingrich did. Also, I think, again because of his deep support, enthusiastic support - that's something else we're seeing in polls, much higher enthusiasm among Santorum's supporters for him - that will really anger them. I don't think Gingrich had that as much, his support was more "a mile wide and an inch deep."
OLBERMANN: About - one other thing about Romney and crazy things - does writing that op-ed in the Detroit News, in the wake of what virtually everybody in Michigan accepts as an extraordinary success in saving the principle industry of a state and, in fact, a region, does writing that op-ed make any sense whatsoever unless Mitt Romney is being blackmailed by people who have stock that is less - worth less in the auto companies than it was four years ago or five years ago?
CRAWFORD: It doesn't make sense to me on a couple levels. In this primary, I don't think Santorum was going to be attacking him for opposing that bailout. So, I don't know why he needed to do it now. And I guess they think they're shoring up that debate for the fall.
But here's the problem with Republicans, Keith - they look like they're angry that GM and these companies are succeeding. And I don't think that's going to help them a bit in these manufacturing states.
OLBERMANN: You would think so. Obviously, they view it in some other way that we just can't comprehend.
Craig Crawford, politics blogger, craigcrawford.com, author of "The Politics of Life." Always a pleasure to talk to you, sir.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: More, now, on the extraordinary numbers coming out of the GOP primary. I'm joined by Mr. Extraordinary Numbers himself, Nate Silver. Mr. "FiveThirtyEight" himself and writes under that title blog for The New York Times. Good to see you, Nate.
NATE SILVER: Yeah, thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The three national polls basically show - if you add them together and divide by three - a tie between Romney and Santorum, who was seen as, perhaps, a sort of conservative - ultra-conservative stalking horse, something else. How did we get to where they're tied and is it a passing fancy?
SILVER: Well, every time there's been a shift in momentum - whether toward Romney or away from him - you've seen some reversal a few days later. My view, though, is that Santorum has more going for him than Newt, for instance, in terms of "what you see is what you get." He wears his politics on his sleeve.
OLBERMANN: On his sweater vest.
SILVER: Sweater vest, yeah. Lets you take it or leave it. But, you know, Republicans are learning more about the candidates. He was the one that was less well-known beforehand. And also the fact that Romney - as more candidates are dropping out, and now Newt's maybe on his last legs - he's not really picking up any support. So the whole "anybody but Romney" theory that looked like it was foolish after New Hampshire seems to have made a comeback.
OLBERMANN: So, every other Republican challenger to the Romney supposed "inevitability" issue has lost ground when exposed to the light.
OLBERMANN: You're suggesting that Santorum has gained ground when exposed to the "monkey's butt" spotlight?
SILVER: Well, there's an issue - no matter what theory you've had about this primary, you're kind of banging your head against the wall and you're proven right every week and wrong the next week, potentially.
I think, partly because it is a later stage of the race, and partly because you're seeing - it's one thing to have the polls tied among registered voters, which is usually what they will show. But among likely voters, the enthusiasm gap - Romney might be at a deficit by six or seven points right now in the average state. It could change next week, but not having the enthusiasm, not having the turnout operation that Obama or Hillary did in '08, is a minus for him.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of the polls, even if these are just temporary blips for him on the way to the nomination, this swing in independent voters has got to be - is it epic, historically? Because as I said, we were - a month ago we were plus-10 Romney over Obama and now we're plus-nine Obama over Romney. Nineteen-point swing in a month is extraordinary, isn't it?
SILVER: Remember, there are two things pushing on this. And one of them is the economy, where you have 225,000 jobs being created, that probably accounts for half of it. But there's no doubt that - when you're playing to win your base, and the Republican Party is very conservative right now - and Romney is not the most deft politician.
Obama in '08 was playing to his base and the center and did very well. It turned out, when he got in the White House, that he had made too many promises and that created some of his problems, but as a campaign strategy he had the skill to pull it off.
Romney, with, like, this Detroit op-ed, seems to get the worst of it, really, where you're not quite pandering the right way to the conservatives, and yet you're definitely alienating independent voters at the same time. I think they run a good campaign, but you can have a good campaign that has a bad candidate. Hillary was the opposite. She was a great candidate who had a bad campaign.
OLBERMANN: You figure with that Detroit news op-ed there were twelve people sitting there lighting their cigars with thousand dollar bills going, "I like this guy." But everybody else, perhaps - no, and that brings to the point you just raised about the base and the blog posting that you wrote today, "Down in Michigan polls, Romney needs to find his base." What is his base?
SILVER: Well, you know, you would say maybe it's kind of country-club Republicans.
SILVER: Really, but it doesn't reach very far. One stat about Romney that is kind of shocking is that he's only raised $4 billion - $4 million, excuse me, in donations -
OLBERMANN: Someday we'll be saying "only $4 billion," sadly.
SILVER: From small donors, which is less than Hillary Clinton, Hillary - excuse me, Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich have raised, about the same as Michele Bachmann. So, in terms of reaching out and having a network in each state - we see the caucus states too, they were thought to be a strength of his but they haven't been, really. If you are getting only the most 5,000 enthusiastic people in your state, they are probably going to be Santorum or Ron Paul supporters and not Mitt Romney fans.
OLBERMANN: Is this why he seems not to have gone so negative in Michigan as he has elsewhere? Or is there some reason he shouldn't try to destroy Santorum now?
SILVER: Well, at some point, you look like you're just destroying any conservative rival, period. I mean, the campaign got pretty negative pretty fast. I think, in the long run, Romney doesn't just want to win but wants to win and unite most of his party behind him. If you get a win on the delegate count in the end, then that might cause you to pay some price if it's an ugly win.
So, I think this is his last chance to win the race cleanly, by winning Michigan and Arizona, by carrying most states on Super Tuesday, then he's still on a nomination trajectory.
But the downside's very big and the downside is worse. If you deploy all your ammunition on Santorum in Michigan, your home state, and it doesn't work - then, I think - you would be the underdog, them, to win it at that point. If you were to lose Michigan in a negative way, right? Where if you run the honorable campaign, maybe it's - "Oh, he's trying to do things the right way and he's had a tough time, but he won Arizona, and he can win Ohio," right?
So, I think you make yourself more sympathetic if you're trying to tell your story and you're telling cheesy anecdotes about going to Tiger Stadium and so forth. I mean, that's - you know, Romney has needed to do more of that throughout this campaign and it's probably the step in the right direction for him.
OLBERMANN: Just to remind him to say "al-kay-line," not "al-ka-line." Thanks for telling that story.
Nate Silver, Mr. "FiveThirtyEight" of The New York Times. Always a pleasure to see you, sir.
SILVER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Good to see you.
In a new national poll of another kind, 51 percent believe the economy's primary victims have been the middle class, 45 percent say the poor. That is a serious debate by itself, but it masks a nearly-universal agreement that seriously undermines the Republicans' "protect the rich" argument.
Professor Jeffery Sachs, next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: For the defenders of the rich, harrowing polling data. They split over who has been hit hardest by the economy, the poor or the middle class. But 96 percent agree, it ain't the well off.
So, was my iPhone made by slave labor somewhere? Apple agrees to check, while human rights advocates say that might not be that good of an idea.
Another tea party, "family values," Biblethumper is caught trading cocaine for sex.
And the Breitbart meltdown, day two. The first in our series of remixed mash-ups, as Jimmy O'Keefe's favorite flunky gets to meet Charlton Heston from "Planet of the Apes."
OLBERMANN: The New York Times is reporting that there is now a deal between House Republicans and House Democrats on the extension of the payroll-tax cut. As we reported to you last night, the Republicans would cave in on that. But tagged in with this deal, according to the Times, unemployment benefits will be extended as planned and there will not be major cuts in reimbursements to doctors who accept Medicare.
So again, The New York Times reporting at this hour a deal to extend the payroll-tax cut without separating it out from the unemployment benefits and Medicare-cut issues and those two issues falling favorably in the area of the beneficiaries of each.
Meantime, no quote has summed up the Republican mindset when it comes to helping those in need as well as Mitt Romney's "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there."
In our fourth story - according to new polling, a majority of respondents don't think it is the poor in most need of the safety net, it's actually the middle class.
The president released his budget plans yesterday, in which he called for a reduction of the deficit by four trillion over ten years. That was not enough for Republicans, who are still calling for the president to gut the entitlement programs. Programs which - as Governor Romney put it - provide a safety net for those in need.
But in the new polling out today, it appears that it is not only the poor in need of help during these difficult times. In fact, 51 percent of respondents said that it was actually the middle class suffering the most during the downturn. Forty-five percent saying it was the poor who were hit the hardest.
The results appearing to fall along class lines. Sixty-two percent of those who earn less than 30 thousand dollars a year saying the poor had been hardest hit. Sixty-two percent of those earning at least 75 thousand a year indicating it was the middle class.
Regardless of which group was the hardest hit, the economic mood of the country is apparently now one of optimism. Gallup's measure of the U.S. economic confidence has hit its highest point since this time last year, thanks to a 34-point positive gain in just the last five months.
Joining me now is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, author of "The Price of Civilization," Professor Jeffery Sachs. Professor, thanks for your time tonight.
JEFFERY SACHS: Good evening, how are you?
OLBERMANN: Read that last optimism number for me. Are there components, besides the recent incremental improvement in unemployment, that should be considered as explaining this?
SACHS: I hope that the optimism is justified. We've had some false springs before. The economy is doing a bit better and, as you say, the job numbers look a bit better. Maybe Europe, which was teetering to disaster, is somehow finding its way out of that. And I think in the U.S., we see, for instance, in these congressional moves in the last couple of days, at least a desire on both sides not to go to the brink once again So, the mood is brightening a bit.
I doubt there is going to be a spectacular boom coming in this country coming any time soon, but it's better than it was a couple of months ago.
OLBERMANN: In the "who got hurt most" polling, is there a headline sort of buried in that stark disagreement of who has been hurt more, that the reality is - 96 percent of Americans agree that people who were not hurt the most are the rich. That this whole argument about defending the very wealthy and making sure they get their tax cuts because they are job creators is bought by literally less than four percent of the American public?
SACHS: I think that probably the most dramatic number we've seen in recent months is the census bureau data that shows that one to two Americans now is in a low-income household. That means income that is below two times the poverty level. This is dramatic. What used to be a middle-class society is now a society with a lot of people that are really struggling and, of course, the super rich.
OLBERMANN: There was another number in that National Journal poll. Fifty-three percent of respondents still say the government taxes too much to fund programs for people who can get by without help. Especially in light of the number you just quoted, is there a misconception of who actually is receiving help from the government and how broadly - certainly, in terms of the overall picture, that the mean, perhaps - how broadly the standard of living in the country has dropped in the last 10, 20, 30 years?
SACHS: First of all, a lot of people desperately need help from government just to eat properly right now. So, there is a lot of base-level suffering.
But what alarms me, also, is the fact that core functions of government - in education, in job training, in building infrastructure - those are also being squeezed. As per the agreement reached in the middle of last year by the White House and Congress, to put us on a path in which what we call the discretionary budget - those are the government investments for the future - those are on a quite stark path of decline right now and President Obama's new budget doesn't change that in any way.
What it really shows is that these caps on discretionary programs are going to squeeze government to the core. I'm very worried about that, because how are we going to "invest in the future," as the president says, if we're cutting back sharply in precisely those areas?
OLBERMANN: To quote you on that, you wrote, "In the budget is actually more grim news for America's poor and working class. The poorer half of the population does not interest the Washington status quo." What, specifically, is or is not in the budget that backstops your conclusion?
SACHS: The problem is that we're on a path now where the so-called caps that were agreed - that are going to limit spending in areas like education, job training, basic infrastructure - are putting us on a trajectory where these programs are going to be increasingly squeezed. Safe water for communities, the Army Corps of Engineers, environment, energy, infrastructure - all of this is shrinking as a share of the national economy. Dramatically, if we keep on the path that has been agreed and part of the president's budget, as well.
I like certain parts of this budget. Obviously, what the president is recommending is vastly superior to what the Republican opposition is doing, which would absolutely gut core functions of government and gut core support for the poor. The president's on the right side of this, but not enough to turn around the reality for so many tens of millions of suffering Americans.
OLBERMANN: Professor Jeffery Sachs of Columbia, the author of "The Price of Civilization," we thank you greatly for your time tonight, sir.
SACHS: My pleasure. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: It is easily the best lead sentence of any newspaper story thus far this year: "Bible-toting Clermont County politician Archie Wilson surfaced from drug treatment Tuesday to answer charges he traded drugs for sex at a bedbug-infested motel." Details ahead, on "Worst Persons."
OLBERMANN: Why Apple's sudden willingness to investigate working conditions at its suppliers' plants is not enough for some human-rights advocates. Next on "Countdown."
First the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1876, Elisha Gray of Oberlin College filed a preliminary application with the U.S. Patent Office for a thing he called "the telephone." The same day, an attorney for Alexander Graham Bell hand delivered - to the same Patent Office - a preliminary application for something Mr. Bell called - "the telephone."
Don't cry too much for Mr. Gray. He also co-founded Western Electric and Graybar Electric and he sold Western Union most of its telegraphic equipment.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Olympic swimmer proposers to his girlfriend on poolside medal stand.
On Valentine's Day, we begin with some romance. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers was looking for a creative way to propose to girlfriend, fellow national team swimmer Annie Chandler.
After winning the 100-meter backstroke at the Missouri Grand Prix this weekend, he arranged for Chandler to award the medals. She presented him with his gold, and he presented her with a diamond.
That's right, women swimmers just lap that kind of thing up.
VIDEO: Norwegian newscasts accidentally uses obscene graphic to illustrate eye-chart story.
In local Norwegian news, while doing a story on eye charts, these anchors unknowingly had a graphic from a novelty t-shirt up behind them. OMG, W - huh?
When they found out what happened, the anchors reportedly said, "Oh my God. What the eff? Shut the eff up."
VIDEO: Little girl attempts to explain where belly buttons come from.
Finally, we end - as we always do - with a little girl explaining why we have belly buttons. While attempting to explain where babies come from, Leia here went off on a tangent about why people have belly buttons.
(Excerpt from video clip) LEIA: You know why you have a belly button? Because they, um, the doctors knot it, when - when - when, um, when you're gonna have your baby, when you're done getting your baby.
OLBERMANN: In Leia's defense, that was Sarah Palin's explanation. Forty-one percent of her supporters believe it's true, which is 82 people.
"Time Marches On!"
An epic edition of "Worsts" tonight, as Bill O'Reilly gives a bear hug to the third rail that is the death of singer Whitney Houston. And the first of our mash-ups - Andrew Breitbart's flameout meets the actors Charlton Heston and Andrew Keir. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: No matter what time you're watching this, "Countdown" is live each night at 8:00 Eastern with the primary replay at 8:00 Pacific. The longest continuously-running 8:00 p.m. news hour on cable. Unless you somehow consider Fox - "news."
A company can and should be judged by how it treats even its least influential employees.
In our third story on the "Countdown" - under scrutiny for brutal working conditions at its factories in China, Apple has announced it would grant the Fair Labor Association, the F.L.A. - an industry-funded, labor-monitoring organization - unrestricted accent - access, rather- to inspect the company's suppliers.
F.L.A. inspectors are already on the ground in China. They began at the Foxconn City plant in Shenzhen yesterday, where iPhones and iPads are produced. The first findings expected sometime next month.
But some remain skeptical of whether the F.L.A. - which is a non-profit that is partly bankrolled by companies including and like Apple - can effectively conduct a full review.
Scott Nova, executive director of factory-monitoring group Workers Rights Consortium says, "The F.L.A. does some good work, but we don't think it's appropriate for them to call themselves independent investigators because they're, in part, funded by companies. Independent monitoring means you're generally independent of the companies."
In 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs - the late Steve Jobs - described the conditions he found at Foxconn facilities:
(Excerpt from video clip) STEVE JOBS: They've got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools. And I mean, it's a - it's a - for a factory, it's a pretty nice factory.
OLBERMANN: However, according to the company's own Supplier Responsibility Report for 2010, of the 127 factories Apple inspected, included were "10 facilities where underage workers had been hired, two instances of worker endangerment, four facilities where records were falsified, one case of bribery." Also found "76 facilities had records that indicated workers had exceeded weekly working-hour limits more than 50 percent of the time." Conditions worsened the following year, according to the company's own reports.
Joining me now is Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the executive director and president of the consumer advocacy group, SumOfUs. Great thanks for your time tonight.
TAREN STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Thanks so much for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Does Apple even have to do anything based on these F.L.A. reports?
STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Well, let's be clear - the working conditions at these factories are abysmal. Workers are working, you know, 30-hour shifts straight and dying of exhaustion. They are losing the use of their hands after repetitive-stress injuries from polishing the glass for 15 hours a day for years on end.
And this is a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse. The F.L.A. is funded and controlled by the very corporations that it's monitoring. So, while Apple may learn something from these investigations, there's no reason to think that these investigations are actually going to improve the lot of any of these workers suffering from these horrible conditions.
Apple has no obligation to do anything the F.L.A. asks it to do, and, in fact, is most likely to control the recommendations of the F.L.A.
OLBERMANN: Did something just change on this entire front, where suddenly a measurable amount of American consumers are taking some responsibility for what happens to the people who make their stuff and, in that context, is Apple kind of put itself out for the most criticism here, because they're the one we know about that's even bothered to have a semi-questionable study done of their own plants?
STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Well, you know, I think there has been a sea change over these last few weeks. The New York Times report - investigative article about the conditions - NPR had one of its most-viewed segments ever about these working conditions, and Americans really are beginning to pay attention, as are consumers all around the world.
But Apple is the 800-pound gorilla here. A lot of these companies have these problems in their supply chains. But Apple is the largest. It's the most profitable company in the world, that has $100 billion in cash sitting in the bank. It would be easy for Apple to solve these problems if they wanted to and if they were serious about it.
OLBERMANN: Have they managed to - at the worst possible time - turn what could have been a real public relations' bonanza - based on the fact that they were actually doing something about this - into something that looks more, at least at its outset, like a PR stunt?
STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Well, we're waiting for them to actually take action. We know what they have to do here to solve these problems. They are systemic problems in the supply chain that Apple can solve. And we -
You know, I'm an iPhone user myself, I'm an Apple consumer. I love their products. I want to be able to buy their products with pride and not feel like I'm complicit in these abuses that are taking place. And I think that Apple can still turn this around. They can fix - what we are calling for is for them to fix these problems in their supply chain in time to make the next iPhone their first ethically-made product. And they still have time to do that.
OLBERMANN: Is there - you mentioned, obviously, in terms of volume, there's no comparison between Apple and the other manufacturers, even if we just restrict ourselves to American consumer electronics - but are any of them, without that element of volume considered, are any of them better than any other, or does the same tarp fit all of them underneath it?
STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Well, you know, it can be very hard to tell, because we don't have access. NGOs - Non-profits and independent groups don't have access to the factories. So, it's hard to know.
But the other thing that Apple has - that sticks out - that stands out about Apple - is the fact that Apple has marketed itself to exactly the kinds of consumers who care about these issues. Apple's consumer base is an ethical consumer base. So this is a really big, long-term brand risk for Apple in particular.
OLBERMANN: I'm assuming, briefly, that one of your models - in terms of trying to get this changed - would have been divestment in South Africa in the 1970's, which seemed to work pretty well, pretty fast.
STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Yeah. You know, we want to engage ethical investors around this issue. In order to solve it we're going to need communities to come together. We want Apple employees who care about this issue to be working on it from within the company. And we know that many of them do care.
And we also - you know, it's going to take a mass uprising of consumers to convince companies like Apple that this is just simply not appropriate behavior and, you know, we know that they can fix this and that they really need to.
OLBERMANN: Looks like you might be at the start of it.
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the executive director and president of the consumer advocacy group SumOfUs. Great thanks for your perspective tonight and your time.
STINEBRICKNER-KAUFFMAN: Thanks so much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Bluntly, it is one of the best or worst editions of "Worst Persons" ever. Not merely O'Reilly and Breitbart, but a 60-year-old Ohio tea partier who claimed his campaign opponent had been cheating on his own wife. He's caught trading cocaine for sex. That's next. This is "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: The conservative version of Valentine's Day. Mr. "Open Marriage"'s attempt to ban porn, and his attempt to remember the name of the latest Missus. Michael Musto joins me.
And, "Damn you all to hell!" When your bizarre outburst makes you the laughingstock of the internet, it's probably not a good idea to claim it represents a victory. "Worsts," next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Happy Valentine's Day. Newt Gingrich's special plans for the special day with his wife - the current one.
First, because these would be the people who put the "V.D." in Valentine's Day, here are Countdown's top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze? to Billo the Clown. I have no idea why political networks would be covering the death of Whitney Houston - although I guess on the first weekday after the sad news that shocked so many people, it is understandable.
This? Not so understandable.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: Whitney Houston wanted to kill herself. Nobody takes drugs for that long if they want to stay on the planet. She follows in the footsteps of Elvis, Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson, and scores of other entertainment figures. The hard truth is that some people will always want to destroy themselves, and there's nothing society can do about it.
OLBERMANN: You're an effing idiot. On the other hand, if your thesis about substance abuse is correct, I'll just say goodbye to you now, Bill.
The runner-up? Archie Wilson, the former Commissioner of Clermont County, Ohio, and tea party mogul in the area.
During the 2010 race, in which he won that office, Wilson falsely accused his Democratic opponent of cheating his wife. Then, twelve days ago, Wilson mysteriously resigned from the county commission with no explanation. Ah, now there's an explanation.
From the early front-runner for News-Story Opening Sentence of the Year, from Jim Hannah of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "Bible-toting Clermont County politician Archie Wilson surfaced from drug treatment Tuesday to answer charges he traded drugs for sex at a bedbug-infested motel."
A female inmate in the Clermont County jail saw Wilson's photo and told detectives that - over a span of several weeks - Mr. Wilson of the tea party had traded cocaine and pills to her and a lady friend for sex. He now faces a year in jail.
The inmate's name? Amanda Lay.
"Tea partier trades drugs for sex with prostitute named Amanda Lay." Put that on your Gadsden Flag.
But our winner? Right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart. Still at large, and still unmedicated.
Last night, we discussed his implosion over the weekend at the Occupy protests at CPAC, with his Tourette's-like repetition of the word "raping." It got a lot of play on Twitter. Or, should I say, Breitbart got played on Twitter.
Emily Crockett from Campus Progress tweeted at Breitbart, "Occupy hasn't raped. A few people in camps raped. Occupiers held anti-rape rallies and women's support groups in response."
Breitbart responded, "It takes a few broken vulvas to make an omelet. Is that what #Occupy is trying to say, feminist progressive reporter Emily Crockett?" Breitbart later tweeted, "Your goal was to take that viral video, grant it 'selectively edited' progressive perspective. Then you tried to milk it. @emilycrockett."
Wow. Project much? Are we going to find you with a prostitute named Amanda Lay?
Later, from Breitbart to Crockett: "The scurrilous wench at Campus Progress is overplaying her hand in grotesquely unprofessional ways." Scurrilous wench, rrrr, Jimboy, rrr, I be a Pirate.
One more, "But then you discovered unlike most nice conservatives @GOP, I fight back. And I like it. A lot. And I always win." "And I Always Win."
This is Breitbart, the losing enabler of the discredited James O'Keefe and his doctored videos. This is Breitbart, now - after his breakdown - the laughingstock of the Internet.
This is - actually, this is just an excuse to debut a new series of mash-ups showing Breitbart losing his mind again and again. Oh, and to selectively edit the video:
(Excerpt from video clip) ANDREW BREITBART: Behave yourself! Behave yourself! Behave yourself! Behave yourself!
(Excerpt from video clip) CHARLTON HESTON: Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape.
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: You're freaks and animals! You're freaks and animals!
(Excerpt from video clip) HESTON: You maniacs! You blew it up!
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: Stop raping the people. You freaks. You filthy freaks!
(Excerpt from video clip) HESTON: Oh damn you, God damn you all to hell!
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: Stop raping people! Stop raping people!
(Excerpt from video clip) KEIR: The thing got a huge intake of energy, the very substance of it seemed to be coming alive and then, then you can't see this world any longer.
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: Behave yourselves! Behave yourselves! You are freaks and animals!
(Excerpt from video clip) KEIR: I'm advising you all to leave, there may be grave danger!
(Excerpt from video clip) BREITBART: Filthy, filthy, filthy, raping, murdering freaks!
(Excerpt from video clip) KEIR: I'm telling you, this could be dangerous! Get back! Get back!"
OLBERMANN: Sorry to have done that to a fine actor like Andrew Keir in a sci-fi classic like "Quatermass and the Pit" - a Hammer Film production - but you get the point.
And you'll get the point every night for the foreseeable future. We have about 12 more of these left to go.
Andrew "And You Can't See This World Any Longer" Breitbart, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: Today is Valentine's Day, a day when people from all walks of life, all political persuasions, come together to celebrate love and romance. Or Amanda Lay.
In our number-one story - the Republican presidential possibilities are so romantic, among the three of them they've had five wives.
Casanova himself, Newt Gingrich, fundraising in California this week. If you wanted to celebrate Valentine's Day with him you'd have to pay for a $500 donation. Supporters were able to attend a breakfast this morning in a country club outside San Diego. For an extra thousand dollars, Gingrich would even pose with you for a photograph. This evening, he held a cocktail party in Fresno, where the $2,500 ticket price included champagne and, yes, another photo op.
But it seems Gingrich also has some private Valentine's Day plans in store with his third and current wife, Callista:
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: All I can promise you is that I believe she will be quite happy. I think, for the first time in a while, we'll have a private dinner and just hopefully exchange gifts and, you know, reconnect a little bit. No more details!
OLBERMANN: Oh, thank God, the first thing I've ever agreed with him about. Doesn't want to give too much away. And if there's one thing you can say about Gingrich, he is good at hiding details from his wives.
But he's no longer keeping his wife as hidden away as he once did. Callista Gingrich's presence on the campaign trail has been on the rise, including introducing him at last week's CPAC Conference in Washington. Hair never moves.
Can't be exactly sure what sort of romance any of the GOP candidates have planned for tonight, thank God. One thing is for sure, it is not likely to involve pornography. Santorum, Romney and Gingrich all recently pledged to vigorously prosecute obscene pornography if elected. I'm guessing, especially if Santorum is mentioned.
Let's bring in Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, the author of "Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back." Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO: Hello, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's start with pornography. The pledge is to get rid of "hardcore, obscene pornography on the Internet." So, they're proposing getting rid of the Internet, are they?
MUSTO: They should, because that's the only thing people use it for, excerpt for Angry Birds. And, to me, that is vaguely pornographic too. All that rage is so sexy. Yeah, let's get rid of the whole Internet, because the thought of being left with tasteful, softcore porn is horrible. You'll turn on your computer and there will be a Sharon Stone retrospective and pictures of Michelangelo's David. I don't have the imagination for that.
OLBERMANN: Just drop the Sharon Stone reference for a second, I think -
MUSTO: By the way, Callista needs Amanda Lay.
OLBERMANN: The pledge also targets the pornography that is available in hotels and motels. Which, again, would suggest a serious attack on the motel and hotel industry, would it not?
MUSTO: And on themselves. This is so self-defeating. Republicans are going to have to shack up with their mistress in the Comfort Inn and there will be no porn to turn them on. They'll have to rely on the whole wrongness of the situation thing to get aroused by. And that wears thin after the 72nd time. They can always, like, steal the Bible and read about Sodom and Gomorrah, but let's face it, they know all of that by heart. They've acted it out in community theater.
This is crazy. A hotel without porn is like a prostitute with crabs. You can still stay there, but what's the point?
OLBERMANN: The other thing that somebody told me, and I don't have the data on this, but supposedly, the Bible Belt is the leading geographical area for the purchase of pornography in this country. It's not Southern California. It's not New York. It's not your house. It's not my house. It's the Bible Belt. Does this tell you something about what these Republican candidates are trying to do?
MUSTO: Hypocrisy, anybody? Most people with a Bible Belt tend to unhook it and drop their drawers and go for Amanda Lay.
OLBERMANN: About some of the individuals as we think about them in a Valentine's Day context - Callista Gingrich, new presence on the campaign trail, is it a positive thing for her husband? Does it not remind voters that she's, you know, younger than him and plus, she reminds me - she reminds me always of the old line about baseball managers, that the day they're hired, they're hired to be fired.
MUSTO: Anything but Newt is a positive on the campaign trail. In fact, I hear they're going to turn it into a musical extravaganza and bring in Amy Winehouse tributes, he's going wheel in the Beach Boys to sing "Good Vibrations," maybe even his last wife could do a duet with Tony Bennett.
Look, Callista is a really good guest star in this musical review. Yes, she has a number three sign around her neck, along with a cow bell. Yes, she's wearing a T-shirt that says "I'm his current wife," but she's better than Newt. And bring in Glen Campbell and Nikki Manaj - the whole gang.
OLBERMANN: All right. So, on Valentine's Day, do you think that he - Mr. Gingrich - would have the chutzpah bring up the open-marriage idea that he floated past number one?
MUSTO: I actually think when he does call you and say, "Let's have a private Valentine's Day dinner," it's to bring up the open-marriage thing. I mean, a Newt wife gets a call saying,'Let's have dinner," and she runs for her attorney.
But Newt is actually meant for Valentine's Day. Much more than Election Day, let's face it. I mean, he knows from hearts. I think he left his first wife after surgery, didn't he? He knows from chocolates. In fact, I wish Marlene Dietrich was still around to tell him what she told Orson Welles, "Lay off the candy bars."
OLBERMANN: Lastly - and I may be taking my life in my hands with this question - but we'll travel back in time to the Michele Bachmann candidacy. What do you think Michelle and the husband are doing for Valentine's Day?
MUSTO: I hear they've had a lovely evening so far. They started at a Thai noodle restaurant - Marcus adores noodles - then they went to a Village People concert and an Ikea store, and they'll end up at a piano bar. They're going to sing the score from Wicked. Typical heterosexual stuff. Boring, but really sweet. And the Cains are going to join them, but they're going to get a receipt for their taxes.
OLBERMANN: All right, good. We got away with it. Village Voice columnist Michael Musto.
MUSTO: Amanda Lay, where are you? I need you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very, very much. Thanks, Michael.
MUSTO: Any man to lay.
OLBERMANN: We have a new hero.
The "Countdown" for the 405th day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House is over. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.