Wednesday, March 7, 2012

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug Answering the false equivalency between Limbaugh and me, plus a special announcement about Worst Persons


#5 'Ready For More', Joe Williams

#5 'Ready For More', Andy Sullivan

#4 'Super Spending Spree', Bill Burton (excerpt)

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Full Of Gas', Sen. Bernie Sanders

#2 'Follow The Money', Wayne Barrett

#1 A note on false equivalency

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , ,

KEITH OLBERMANN: Now on "Countdown," for what does it profit a man to gain the whole Ohio and forfeit his inevitability?

(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: One thing I can tell you for sure is — there's not going to be a brokered convention where some new person comes in and becomes the nominee. It's going to be one of the four people that are still running.

OLBERMANN: Santorum suggests to Gingrich it should be one of three, not one of four.

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: I would say — with all respect to my friend from Pennsylvania, Senator Santorum — there is a big difference between being a good team member and changing the game.

OLBERMANN: But there are still mama grizzlies lurking in the grass.

(Excerpt from video clip) SARAH PALIN: As I say, anything is possible, and I don't — I don't close any doors that, perhaps, would be open out there.

OLBERMANN: Super money — 2012 super PAC spending so far? Sixty-six million dollars. If a super PAC gets an anti-Super PAC president re-elected, will he really even be able to eliminate super PACs? We'll ask the super PAC man on the president's side, Bill Burton.

(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: As much as were doing to increase oil production, we're not going to be able to just drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices.

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: And then he offered his practical solution. Anybody here remember what it was?

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Algae!

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Algae. Algae. Would you like to try to put this in your gas tank?

OLBERMANN: Hey, Wile E. Coyote, any idea what oil is made out of? Our guest, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Fluke you, Rush Limbaugh. As the sponsor exodus hits 45, he goes after another woman. An "over-educated authorette" threatening his right to eat bad food.

(Excerpt from video clip) RUSH LIMBAUGH: By the way, what is the exit strategy for the war on women?

OLBERMANN: Hey, that would appear to be your problem.

But since people seem to think this is the same as that:

(Excerpt from video clip) OLBERMANN: "The total, mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred, without which Michelle Malkin would just be a big, mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it."

Let me show you what it actually referred to:

(Excerpt from video clip) MARCUS SHANK: Yeah, it's him. Hell no, he looks like [bleep]. He looks like a big bag full of mashed-up -

OLBERMANN: And let me make a special announcement about political discourse and "Worst Persons."

Now, on "Countdown."

(Excerpt from video clip) KENNY POWERS: I'm Kenny Powers!


OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Wednesday, March 7th, 245 days until the 2012 presidential election.

On the theory that a one-point victory looks the same as a 21-point victory, Mitt Romney crows about Ohio, while Rick Santorum crows that the crowing Newt Gingrich should get out.

Our fifth story on the "Countdown" - the three top Republican candidates, all with something to crow about on the morning after.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I must admit that, after last night, I feel pretty darn good.

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: I feel very, very good about last night.

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: We were thrilled, last night in Georgia, to have a great victory.

OLBERMANN: Not winning his home state would have been a major disaster for Gingrich.

Romney, without that problem, winning Michigan just over a week ago, adding Ohio, Virginia, Vermont, his other home state - Massachusetts, Idaho and Alaska last night.

Santorum taking Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Dakota.

Gingrich, again, scoring in Georgia. Everything else - no good.

As for Ron Paul? Everything no good. The Texas congressman losing every Super Tuesday state, including the caucuses, but claiming, in a statement, that "while other candidates are focused solely on the beauty contests to get the headlines, we're undertaking a comprehensive strategy that I am confident can lead to the nomination."

He may be the only one confident in that way. Wrapping some of the numbers that came in after our coverage went off the air last — Romney edging Santorum by a point in Ohio. One point. Gingrich and Paul just watching. Romney also winning in Alaska, Santorum a close second, again with Paul and Gingrich trailing.

The Associated Press putting the delegate count - including endorsements from the Republican National Committee members attending the convention - at Romney, 419. Santorum, 178. Gingrich, 107. Ron Paul, 47.

House Majority Leader Cantor telling CBS News that Romney has the nomination wrapped up:

(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC CANTOR: He has outperformed all the other candidates, and he will be our nominee.

OLBERMANN: President Obama's team considerably less impressed with Governor Romney's performance.

Campaign Manager Jim Messina telling reporters: "He's not winning these states. He's limping across the finish line."

Senior campaign adviser David Axelrod adding: "He's continuing to grind out a kind of tactical victory in a death march."

Romney, however, insisting he expects to get to the convention with enough votes to become the nominee:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: One thing I can tell you for sure is - there's not going to be a brokered convention where some new person comes in and becomes the nominee. It's going to be one of the four people that are still running.

OLBERMANN: As for two of those four, Rick Santorum positioning himself rhetorically as a sort of left flank of the GOP's far-right wing:

(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: We have a great opportunity - in the next few weeks and this primary season - to stand up to the establishment and have an insurgent candidate, a candidate who speaks for the people.

OLBERMANN: And Newt Gingrich laying out his rationale for continuing his campaign:

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: We are staying in this race because I believe that it's going to be impossible for a moderate to win the general election. And I would say - with all respect to my friend from Pennsylvania, Senator Santorum - there is a big difference between being a good team member and changing the game.

OLBERMANN: "Game Change" premieres Saturday on HBO.

Gingrich added, on "The Bill Bennett Show," "If I thought he was a slam dunk to beat Romney and to beat Obama, I would really consider getting out." Referring, obviously, to Santorum. "I don't."

The Santorum campaign signed that things would be better if Gingrich and Ron Paul would get out, regardless.

Spokesman Hogan Gidley saying, "Look at the numbers. We'd be winning these states by ten points. You're talking about the anti-Romney vote being split three ways."

Think of what the numbers would look like if Romney dropped out.

And, just in case Romney's wrong and the convention starts without a clear winner, an understudy says she'll be waiting in the wings:

(Excerpt from video clip) PALIN: As I say, anything is possible, and I don't - I don't close any doors that, perhaps, would be open out there.

OLBERMANN: Another reason why David Axelrod can say, "We're using this time to build, while they're destroying each other."

For more on the aftermath of Super Tuesday, I'm joined by Joe Williams, White House reporter for Politico. Joe, good evening.

JOE WILLIAMS: Hi, good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Who is actually buying the Romney argument that he won last night, rather than he got beaten up and his inevitability factor just took another major hit?

WILLIAMS: That would be Mitt Romney and possibly Eric Cantor. Certainly, math-wise - yes, he won. That much is clear. He got more delegates than the other guys. He won more seats than the other guys, but the fashion in which he did it is still causing major heartburn for the majordomos of the party.

Part of the problem that he's got is the enthusiasm gap. Exit polls in Ohio - four in ten said they were really excited, thumbs up, about this primary field, and then the other six are just sort of like, "Meh, you know, I guess we'll go with this guy." A lot of people still want the person who could beat Barack Obama. They'll shuffle behind Mitt Romney because they have to.

But more than convincing the electorate and his surrogates, Romney has to convince donors - those big money guys who've been fueling him all along. Right now, that explains why he's pivoted, almost sharply, to try to recruit small donors and get the message out that way.

OLBERMANN: Donors and voters run in herds - Democrats or Republicans, but particularly Republicans - the primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi next week and caucuses in Hawaii and Missouri. Primaries the week after in Illinois and Louisiana. The immediate calendar - does that favor Romney? Is that in his corner?

WILLIAMS: Well, you - no. The short answer is no. Basically, because the primary results last night - if they're any indication - Romney still has a Southern problem. He was losing to Gingrich in Georgia at one point by 16. He finished well out of the money in Oklahoma, another evangelical state that Santorum was expected to capture. Lot of suspicions still, because those voters south of the Mason-Dixon Line tend to deal with their heart and their gut, rather than their head, which is what Romney wants them to do.

The Northern folks, he can get on his side. Southerners, he still has a problem. That's going to show up again and cause more unfortunate headlines for Romney, even though he tries to bill himself as the presumptive nominee.

OLBERMANN: Joe, you mentioned Mr. Cantor. I mentioned Mr. Cantor as well. The AP puts Romney's delegate total at 419. You need 1,144 to win. Is Cantor right when he says he's going to be our nominee, or is this just an attempt to push a mindset that says, "Well, 419 now is the equivalent of 1,144 at the convention."

WILLIAMS: That's the new math, I guess.


WILLIAMS: Chisanbop, I guess - the kind of stuff we learned in elementary school. But basically, it's like a guy who has a 20-yard head start in a 100-meter dash. Yes, he's got the lead, but the race still has to finish out, and it's all part of this attempt to build the air of inevitability.

Last night, one of the things Romney wanted to do was announce that he was intending to be big about this thing - call for unity with the party - but the results, obviously, presaged him from doing that. Such a narrow win in Ohio, which - if he had won convincingly - would have been the huge, huge prize.

But rallying cries are not ready to be sung, yet. And Cantor and Romney both know the math isn't - is on their side. A brokered convention - not out of the question. Possible Romney could finish the summer without the 1,144 he needs to get to the convention, and then that's going to be really, really interesting.

OLBERMANN: Well, obviously, Romney would have to say what he did about a brokered convention. He couldn't come out after the Ohio victory and go, "Yeah, there is still a chance we might wind up with a brokered convention." But when he says that, does that sound bite have the prospect of becoming the epitaph for his campaign?

WILLIAMS: Well, it could be. I mean, and - you're right, you're absolutely right. He can't come out and say, "Yeah, I'm all for a brokered convention." But given the way he wins, his actions almost scream the fact that the brokered convention is still looming out there on the horizon.

I mean, winning narrowly in a state that his opponent had lead by, you know, as many as 10 or 15 - the big electoral prize. Couldn't seal the deal until the last minute, and this is without Santorum qualifying for additional delegates because he didn't get all the paperwork done. He could have won more delegates in Ohio, possibly taken the state. So, this is a campaign that doesn't have the kind of lush - kind of polished sheen that a well-oiled machine would have that's going to race down the track and beat all comers. It just doesn't look that way.

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

WILLIAMS: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Let's look specifically at Gingrich and Santorum and the struggle they're in. And for that I'm joined by Reuters political correspondent Andy Sullivan. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

ANDY SULLIVAN: My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The Santorum aides - the phrase was, "Sighing how great their position would be if only a certain former speaker would drop his quest for the White House." Is that actually aimed at Gingrich and the Gingrich campaign, or is it aimed at the voters in an attempt to sort of sabotage Gingrich's minimal support?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think it's both. I mean, they're trying to get inside Gingrich's head but they're also saying to voters, "Look, this guy is not winning. He's a loser. If you care about this stuff, vote for me."

And I think Gingrich has sort of a pretty limited universe in which to operate at this point. He said all along that he's got to have a Southern strategy. And he won Georgia last night, but he did not win Tennessee. His campaign, today, said that they have to win Alabama and Mississippi, or at least one of those, in order to remain viable. So, they could be out a week from now.

OLBERMANN: To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, on an even more complicated topic, what does Newt Gingrich want? I mean - should he be trying to make a deal, and is there one? Or is it the presidency or nothing for him?

SULLIVAN: Well, no. I think he'd be pretty happy as director of NASA.

OLBERMANN: That's right.

SULLIVAN: But I mean, I think - he said - you know, we'll know in a week. Either he'll either have won one of those states, and he'll be able to say, "I'm a viable candidate," or he'll be able to read the writing on the wall and say, "Look, I didn't win the South. Time for me to step out."

OLBERMANN: The Santorum surrogate Mike DeWine, who has been everywhere - the Ohio attorney general, used to be the senator there, who had backed Romney - said today that he "couldn't tell Gingrich to get out, but if [he] did, most of Gingrich's supporters and subsequent presumed votes would go to Santorum." Is he, in fact, right about that? And if he is right about that, what does that say about Romney's ability to bring the social conservatives into his tent at any point, let alone right now?

SULLIVAN: You know, I think he's got a case to make in Ohio. I mean, Romney only won by one percentage point and Gingrich got 15 percentage points. So that's a pretty big chunk of votes, and I think it's safe to assume that more of them would have broken for Gingrich than Romney.

I mean, what you saw in Ohio is what you've been seeing all along. Romney's able to win the most affluent voters and the moderates and the people who say that electability is the most important issue. But the real, true believers - the social conservatives, the more working-class voters and people who describe themselves as very conservative - they've either been going for Gingrich or Santorum all along. Romney has not been able to close the deal with those folks.

OLBERMANN: Gingrich voiced, today, what a lot of us have asked as a kind of rhetorical question - that this campaign, for the Republicans, is not measurably worse than the 2008 Democratic primaries between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and it didn't stop Obama from winning. Is there, in fact, a measurable difference? Is there something - I've asked this probably eight dozen times and got a lot of useful information. But, in your opinion, what separates this Republican campaign from that Democratic campaign?

SULLIVAN: Well, in - after the 2008 race, the Republican party officials decided that they wanted to stretch out their contest this year to sort of emulate that. They saw how the extended contest between Obama and Clinton sort of strengthened the party and built enthusiasm and commandeered headlines for - up until June.

It's not really playing out this time.

There's a lot of polls out there that show that voters' opinions of the Republican candidates have actually gotten worse since voting started. Another dynamic which hurts Romney is - the longer this goes, the more that Romney has to sort of deal with conservative issues like immigration and birth control, when he'd rather be talking about the economy.

I mean, you didn't have Obama and Hillary battling over the Dennis Kucinich vote. You know, they weren't really saying, "Yes, I will support a Department of Peace."

OLBERMANN: Andy Sullivan, political correspondent with Reuters News. Great thanks for your time tonight.

SULLIVAN: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: If you had a device that could erase all the evils in the country, but it could also be used by some bad guy in the future to do bad things - after you used it to erase all the evils in the country, would you destroy such a device or would you keep it around just in case?

It's not perfect, but it's not a bad analogy to the idea that President Obama has dropped his opposition to super PACs operating on his behalf so that he can get re-elected and presumably work to eliminate super PACs. Or would he keep them around, just in case? Next.


OLBERMANN: Oldest conundrum in the book - can a man gain, using the same unfair weapons as his opponent, then make sure those weapons are never used again? We'll ask Bill Burton, the head of the super PAC supporting President Obama, the president who wants to end super PACs. Next, on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: While last night may have been a de facto win for Mitt Romney, the real winner appears to be big money. Super PAC spending in the Republican primary has already eclipsed the total spent by the Republican National Committee during the entirety of the 2008 election.

In our fourth story - as super PACs play an ever-increasing role in the Republican primary, it becomes clear that President Obama will need the help of his super PAC - or the one associated with him, Priorities USA Action - to win re-election. And what happens after that?

Bill Burton, co-founder of Priorities USA, joins me presently.

Romney's nail biting victory in Ohio last night was seen by some as a victory bought with super PAC money, and great amounts of it. One of those people was Rick Santorum, who - on a call with reporters - claimed he was outspent by Romney in Ohio 12-1, although more reliable estimates put it at 5-1.

But Romney is far from the only Republican utilizing the super PAC money. In total - super PACs supporting Republican candidates - they have spent $66 million, already surpassing the amount spent in the 2010 elections, as well as the total spent by the RNC in 2008.

But some states are trying to avoid having their elections bought or auctioned off to one or two billionaires. In addition to voting in the Republican primary, voters in 53 Vermont towns passed anti-Citizens United resolutions, supporting amending the Constitution so that corporations do not have the same First Amendment rights as people, and therefore cannot donate unlimited funds to super PACs.

Although the resolution was non-binding, Senator Bernie Sanders saw the vote as a step towards getting similar legislation passed on the national level. He said, "I hope the message coming out of the town meetings in Vermont will spark a grassroots movement all across the United States that a constitutional amendment is needed to overturn the ruling."

We'll ask Senator Sanders about that in a little bit, but joining me now - co-founder of Priorities USA Action, the former deputy White House press secretary - Bill Burton. Good to talk to you, Bill.

BILL BURTON: Keith, thanks for having me on.

OLBERMANN: Our pleasure. Let me start with a question I've already asked a couple of times rhetorically. If a super PAC helps get an anti-super PAC president re-elected, will he really even want to eliminate super PACs, let alone be able to eliminate super PACs?



BURTON: First of all, the president doesn't have any more elections left in him, so it's not like he has any self-interest in making sure that this same broken system keeps on going.

Secondly, Democrats have demonstrated that they're for reform. Chris Van Hollen has a great bill, the DISCLOSE Act, that - if passed and signed into law by the president - would have a big impact on how this is all - how these all operate.

And third, you know, the big difference in this election is that, on the Republican side, they look at the system, and they say, "Yeah, that's how campaign finance ought to operate." On the Democratic side there is actual legislation in the works. There are actual leaders who are fighting against this, and there are actual - the president of the United States is for reform where, you know, individuals can't have this kind of - the kind of outsized impact that you've seen them have in this race.

OLBERMANN: So there's nobody, to your knowledge, who might want to succeed this president - presuming re-election - in the year 2016 who goes to him and says, "Wait a minute, you found the universal solvent and the unbeatable weapon here. Don't destroy it. I need it in 2016."

BURTON: Well, for starters, I don't - I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know who's going to run and win in 2016.

But secondly, I think that the president's commitment to reform has been made pretty clear, and he's pushed for campaign-finance reform. He's going to continue to push for campaign-finance reform. If we get a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate with the president's re-election, we'll have some real campaign-finance reform.

OLBERMANN: Do you look at the anxiety about this, even just on that - on that non-practical level, by some of the president's supporters, with understanding, and is there a way for the president himself to make this easier on them by campaigning, on the record, for the anti-super PAC measures, or the anti-Citizens United constitutional amendment or any other thing that would make this - to borrow another president's line - crystal clear?

BURTON: Well, look. You know, I don't think anybody doubts that Bernie Sanders and Russ Feingold have very strong, deeply-held feelings about this. And we're all Democrats, and we're used to disagreeing with each other, from time to time, on whether or not we ought to play by the rules as they are or try to set up a different set standard for Democrats.

But at the end of the day, you know, we don't have a choice about what the rules are right now. The Supreme Court made its decision. Mitt Romney has made crystal clear how important super PACs are to him.

I will say - just to look at this race right now - conventional wisdom on this is all wrong.

People think that Santorum and Gingrich's campaigns wouldn't have survived up until this point without super PACs. But the truth is, Mitt Romney wouldn't even still be in this race if it weren't for his super PAC. If 20,000 votes had gone another way in Michigan and in Ohio, Rick Santorum would be the presumptive nominee right now, and he can complain about the fact that Romney outspent him 12-1, 5-1, whatever it was.

Santorum should have had the sense to put a little more money into Ohio and get the 12,000 votes that he needed to actually win that state, but instead - because of the feckless campaign that he's been running - he isn't able to beat Mitt Romney.

So, at the end of the day, we know what campaign finance reform would look like under President Romney. President Romney likes the system as it is. It's helped him to become - to get on the path to be the nominee.

President Obama's for reform, and if he's elected to another term - if he has the leaders in the House and the Senate to help him next time around - he's going to keep fighting for reform. He's going to get it.

OLBERMANN: All right, here's the devil's advocate question - I know you probably think that this has been nothing but devil's advocate questions - but if the Republicans are going to use the super PACs the way they have so far in the primary into the general election, is there no other way for the president to get re-elected than to have a super PAC supporting him?

BURTON: We know the consequences if unilateral disarmament. If you look in 2010, Republicans outspend Democrats and outside groups 2-1. They outspent us by $100 million, and the result was a devastating 63 lost seats in the House, six lost seats in the Senate. And the president's agenda completely derailed. Our country almost went bankrupt. Planned Parenthood was defunded in the House. The EPA was defunded in the House.

We know the results of what happens when you don't put a team on the field to engage here, and we just thought, you know - "Look, we can stand on the sidelines. We can let this all happen like it's happened before and - you know, and not play by the same set of rules that they're playing by." But we chose to - you know, to fight back, to stand up and say, "Karl Rove, you don't get a different set of rules to play by, because we're going to be out there doing our best to make sure the president's defended."

OLBERMANN: Bill Burton, the co-founder of Priorities USA Action. Always a pleasure, Bill. Thanks for your time tonight.

BURTON: Thanks, Keith. Good to talk to you.

OLBERMANN: Take care.

As the president pushes new forms of new energy, like algae-based fuel, Newt Gingrich tries to mock him over it. Unfortunately, Mr. Gingrich apparently cannot answer this question - think about this over the next few minutes - what is crude oil, in the ground, made of?

The answer is not dinosaurs.

Senator Bernie Sanders joins me, ahead on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Senator Bernie Sanders and how Newt Gingrich doesn't seem to know what gasoline is made out of.

First the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1942 was born Michael Eisner, former CEO of Paramount Pictures and the Disney Corporation, and - since 2007, through his investment firm - the owner of the Topps Company.

Since I consult for them on their baseball card issues, he's kind of my boss. Of course, he pays me in baseball cards.

Nevertheless - happy birthday, Michael Eisner!

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO:Rare, two-headed tortoise on display at Ukraine zoo.

We begin with our continuing coverage of Super Tuesday. I'm sorry, that's Super Tortoise Day. I got confused when I saw Mitch McConnell.

In very rare footage here, the minority leader is walking around with not one but two heads.

Very bizarre behavior for the senator from Kentucky. Well, two heads are better than one.

VIDEO: Houston rodeo features mutton bustin', also known as small kids riding big sheep.

Houston, hello. It's the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where one of the more popular events for the kids is sheep riding.

The event is known as Mutton Bustin' because - well, something's gotta be known as Mutton Bustin'.

It also seems to be a game for the sheep. However, they call it Kid Smashing, where apparently they run into their friends with a kid on their back.

Whatever. It's a good, clean way to get some sheep thrills.


Finally, we end with a number.

Say what you will, I think this is Elton John's strangest outfit yet, weirder than the Donald Duck hat. I'm sorry. I'm - do we have to pay BMI on this?

That's a dog named Runty playing the piano. And what's even more impressive, both the original howls and the music were written by Runty himself.

Let's just run this the rest of the half hour. How long does he go?

"Time Marches On!"

Senator Bernie Sanders. And then Limbaugh's latest attack, and what I want to do about raising the bar against gratuitous verbal public abuse towards women and men.


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 consider Fox - "news."

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich staking his campaign on linking the Obama administration's energy policy to the high cost of gasoline.

In our third story on the "Countdown" - Gingrich uses his Super Tuesday victory speech to mince the president's words and fabricate his own version of what President Obama said.

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: I thought, today - in one of the most shallow and self-serving comments by a president I've heard in a long time - he was candid in his press conference. He said, "You know, I'm really worried about higher gas prices because it will make it harder for me to get re-elected." I did not make this up.

OLBERMANN: Actually, you did. Must have been during Gingrich's nap at APAC.

Here's what President Obama actually said when asked the loaded question by Fox News' Ed Henry:

(Excerpt from video clip) ED HENRY: Your critics will say, on Capitol Hill, that you want gas prices to go higher because - you have said before - that will wean the American people off fossil fuels, onto renewable fuels. How do you respond to that?

(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Ed, just from a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States, going into re-election, wants gas prices to go up higher? Is that - is that - is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?

OLBERMANN: Gingrich also used his speech to invent and poke fun at the Obama administration's refusal to merely try to drill away to satiate country's energy needs.

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: The president said we have to be practical. Drilling won't solve it. And then he offered his practical solution. Anybody here remember what it was?

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Algae!

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Algae. Algae.

OLBERMANN: This just in, Mr. Science: the oil - what is in that ground, under all them rocks and stuff - that's made up of decomposed animal and plant material compressed over millions of years. The decomposed material is, in fact, mostly plankton and algae.

Today, at a truck plant in North Carolina, the president announced a billion-dollar plan of incentives and tax credits to help develop a new generation of electric cars and accused Gingrich of being full of gas:

(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: The next time you hear some politician trotting out some three-point plan for two-dollar gas, you let them know we know better. Tell them we're tired of hearing phony election-year promises that never come about.

OLBERMANN: Let's bring in Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent of Vermont and, of course, member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Senator, good to talk to you as always, sir.

BERNIE SANDERS: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Gingrich is only in the forefront of the Republicans who are blaming the president for the price of gas, but I wanted to start by playing a little montage from 2008, when gas also spiked during an election - in fact, its highest price in the last six years. This is drawn from an unusual source for me, but I want to play it, and see if you agree with me. Here's the tape:

(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: And the facts are as you suggested - no president has the power to increase or to lower gas prices. Those are market forces. Yesterday, oil hit a record high and politicians cannot do a thing about it.

(Excerpt from video clip) CHERYL CASONE: It really is tough for this president, I have to be honest with you, because he really does not have any control what's going to happen with the markets and with the economy and with oil prices and supply and demand and gasoline. It really is out of this president's hands.

(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: Next time you hear a politician say he or she will bring down oil prices, understand it's complete b.s. That's what the candidates should be saying. We need a strong leader who's honest, smart, courageous, and willing to explain dubious associations.

OLBERMANN: So, Senator - Bill O'Reilly is right.

SANDERS: Well, I guess that's true for George W. Bush, huh?

OLBERMANN: Yeah, yeah.

SANDERS: Go ahead.

OLBERMANN: It does sort of underscore a point that the - that whether or not you can blame a president for the price of gas depends on which party you're speaking from and about.

SANDERS: Right. Well, this is what I do think. I think, Keith, we should understand that one of the reasons that oil prices are spiking right now has a lot to do with speculation. And what we know is that about 80 percent of the oil-futures market is controlled - not by people who actually use oil, airlines or truck dealers, et cetera - but by Wall Street speculators.

And one way that I think the president could play a role - it's not going to solve all of the problems - is to demand that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission act decisively to do what they were supposed to do a year ago, and that is - end excessive oil speculation. And I think if we do that, oil prices will drop to some degree.

OLBERMANN: You addressed that at the House subcommittee hearing that you attended today. How is it done, other than the good will of the president? How do you make that happen?

SANDERS: Well, here's the story, and I think people don't know this. As part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, language was put in that legislation telling the appropriate agency - which is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission - that they have to end excessive speculation in commodities. They were supposed to have done that a year ago January. They haven't done it yet.

So, the law is there. They haven't acted, and I believe - and I've got 25 signatures from senators on a letter telling the chairman to start obeying the law, to start ending excessive speculation on the oil futures market. I think it would be a great idea if the president gave the chairman a ring and told him to get moving on that.

OLBERMANN: I have a limited amount time, and I want to hearken back to my segment with Bill Burton - because I know it's vitally important to you - about the constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Do you trust the president to use the super PACs to get re-elected and then do his best to kill super PACs?

SANDERS: You know, I think the president - as Mr. Burton indicated - is in a tough position. Look, if you were standing there, understanding that you've got billionaires and large corporations that are prepared to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in ugly TV ads and radio ads, what do you do?

I hope very much that the president will come out and say what many of us want him to say, is that we need a constitutional amendment - I've offered one, Senator Udall has offered one - to overturn Citizens United which, Keith, is the worst Supreme Court decision that we have seen in this country for a very, very long time, opening the floodgates to cooperate money, to billionaire money.

And it is having an absolute disastrous impact on the political process.

What I'm very proud to tell you is that - in my state of Vermont, just yesterday - 60 separate towns voted to urge the Congress to overturn Citizens United. I hope the rest of the country joins us, and we can do that.

OLBERMANN: The Independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. As always, fighting the good fight. Always a pleasure, sir. And always, thank you for your time.

SANDERS: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: Rather startling realization that Mitt Romney is, or at least was, Rush Limbaugh's boss. Coming up.


OLBERMANN: Limbaugh goes over another woman, another innocent bystander. And I'll explain what TV's Kenny Powers has to do with Michelle Malkin. Next.


OLBERMANN: Rush Limbaugh finds another woman to pick on. Advertisers continue their mass exodus and - as Deep Throat whispers, apocryphally, in "All the President's Men" - "Just follow the money."

In our number-two story on the "Countdown" - Rush Limbaugh's public mea culpa about only the words he used in describing Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, hasn't stopped his radio show from hemorrhaging ad dollars, with now 45 companies withdrawing their support as of today.

GOP contender Mitt Romney came under fire for dismissing Limbaugh's remarks as "not the language [he] would have used." The front-runner's tepid response coinciding, perhaps, with his vested interest in the media giant that hosts "The Rush Limbaugh Show," Clear Channel Communications.

In 2008 Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney ran in the late '90s, acquired Clear Channel for $24 billion in a buyout, and records show 14 of the company's directors have contributed more than $700,000 to Romney's campaigns. Romney left the firm in 1999, but still rakes in millions from his sizable share of Bain investments and pays 15 percent tax.

While both remain mum, Limbaugh attempted to prove that the right wasn't waging war on women on his show yesterday:

(Excerpt from video clip) LIMBAUGH: I can't think of a single, red-blooded American male who wouldn't surrender to any woman in a war. "Here, take me prisoner. I'm all yours." This whole notion of a war on women, it's so contrived.

OLBERMANN: Not just sexist, but stupid. Just keep digging that hole.

Limbaugh went on to discuss journalist Tracie McMillan's new book, "The American Way of Eating," but was distracted by her gender, deeming McMillan a "babe" and an "authorette" instead.

(Excerpt from video clip) LIMBAUGH: What is it with all of these young, single, white women? "Overeducated" doesn't mean "intelligent."

OLBERMANN: And Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says tonight he'd like to see "The Rush Limbaugh Show" dropped from radio and TV programming offered to American service members around the globe saying, "I would hope that the people that run it would see how just how offensive this is and drop it of their own volition."

I'm joined now by Wayne Barrett, investigative reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Good to see you. Thanks for you time.

WAYNE BARRETT: Hey, good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let me start first with his newest victim, Ms. McMillan - the "authorette." You know her fairly well?

BARRETT: Yes, yes. I was just unbelievably struck by this yesterday. She was my intern in 1998. Just the most outstanding, courageous woman. When she was my intern - first of all, she put herself through NYU. She had no other sources of support. So she would work for me in a free internship all day long, at least a few days a week, and then she would tutor the children of a millionaire, who used to be a high-level official in the Lindsay administration - would tutor those kids every night to make her money to keep herself, you know, eating at all in the American way.

And, you know, I've known her over the years. I just saw her a couple of months ago, because her book just came out. She is just the most remarkable person, and to see these kinds of attacks on her - everybody who has ever known Tracie McMillan has known what an unbelievably courageous woman she is.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. You know the red letter that they used to give in the - the "adultery" letter? I think being insulted by Limbaugh is an "A+" rather than just an "A."

BARRETT: Yes, yes.

OLBERMANN: Now, about Romney and Limbaugh, we know that there would have been a straight line between them through Bain Capital in 1998. But to what degree is that still true now?

BARRETT: Well, look - this merger is the biggest merger that Bain has done, maybe ever. It's a gigantic - that Bain has an enormous investment in it. But I think the point of my piece is that this is really his network. This is - I mean, the people who were giving to Romney, that were involved - are directors of this company.

But these are people who started giving to him in 1994. This is a crew - this is a group of people - this is a social and economic network that is surrounding Clear Channel that is deeply involved in Clear Channel. These are his friends and allies, going back to the very beginning of his political career, and they have an investment. He, indirectly - because of his continuing relationship with Bain, - but they have the most direct investment, and this is one of their largest, if not their largest investment.

OLBERMANN: So is it, then, a surprise that Romney said anything critical? Because it would seem like he would be in a huge position to hurt himself by saying something that is seriously critical of Limbaugh.

BARRETT: Who knows what he meant by "this isn't the language I would have used." I would have called her a whore? What does this mean?

OLBERMANN: I would have spoken in Latin.


OLBERMANN: Does it - does the connection matter to Republican voters, do you suppose?

BARRETT: I don't think it matters to Republican voters. I think it going matter to the general American electorate.


BARRETT: What seems to matter is that - you know, in the long haul, what matters is that this is a moment of abject cowardice on his part. Whether the motive has something to do with what I wrote about - all this money, $700,000 coming into his campaign from directors. Even the lawyers who did this deal - all the lawyers who did this deal are from his law firm that oversees his blind trust, and then all gave - five of them gave to him that were all involved in doing this merger.

So, this is a social and economic family that is involved with Clear Channel - it is a gigantic deal - and whether or not that explains the language that came out of his mouth about this - who can say what the motive is?

But the cowardice, the abject cowardice of this is clear to everybody who is watching. And maybe that doesn't matter to someone in the suburbs of Cleveland who votes in a Republican primary, but I think, certainly, it's going to wound him in the long haul.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, especially, perhaps, to Democrats mentioned between now and then.

Wayne Barrett, of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. It's a good piece, and everybody should read it. Thank you for coming in, Wayne.

BARRETT: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The right's response to the Limbaugh embarrassment is - Bill Maher, Ed Shultz, and some other guy have said bad things, too. The "some other guy" responds, next.


OLBERMANN: Lastly, as promised, a note tonight about the continuing Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke controversy and some pretty desperate false equivalency.

Some of it's been directed at me, and I think it deserves a hearing here.

The false equivalency has been fronted by one of the House-tamed liberals on Fox News, a supposed Democratic strategist who hasn't been able to get a job as a Democrat since 2004.

As Limbaugh himself now claims he was "thinking like a Democrat," the argument reverberating around the right-wing echo chamber is its standard defense for anything - somebody else on the other side once did fill-in-the-blank, too, and did it worse. So when our guy did it, it was less heinous.

For instance, I have literally read modern-day conservatives claim that they should never be criticized on racial issues because the Ku Klux Klan was founded by a Democrat. The answer to that, incidentally, is that the Klan was formed in 1865 by some Southern traitors, and if we're going to treat that kind of distant history as relevant, perhaps we should note, also, that not one of the founding fathers was a member of the Republican party, nor did any Republicans fight in the Revolutionary War. Obviously, that's because the Republican party wasn't founded until 1854, but I digress.

In the desperate spin on Limbaugh's behalf, I've been accused of using similar language regarding conservative bloggers Michelle Malkin and S.E. Cupp. Firstly, there is an overall quality of apples to oranges here. Both of those people were veterans of this country's political dialogue, about whom I made one comment, each. They were not private citizens intending a brief dip of the toe into the cultural pool, only to find themselves dragged in to the deep end by day after day of searing, deliberate, personal, and indefensible attacks by Rush Limbaugh.

In the case of Ms. Cupp - nearly a year ago, she was ranting about the evils of Planned Parenthood in what few of us recognized was part of the start of the assault on that organization. I tweeted, "On so many levels she's a perfect demonstration of the necessity of the work Planned Parenthood does."

The Fox token non-conservative, Kirsten Powers, transformed this into, quoting her, "Keith Olbermann has said that conservative commentator S.E. Cupp should have been aborted by her parents," which is a bald-faced lie on her part.

In fact, as I wrote in a subsequent tweet, "I never mentioned abortion. I said her parents could have used counseling by PP" - Planned Parenthood - "rather than get the results they did."

My point was that 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is health care, family planning, birth control, counseling and the like, and that Ms. Cupp's parents obviously could have used somebody's help in determining how they could improve their chances of raising a well-adjusted child, or whether they should have had children at all. Was it a nice thing to say? No. Was it sexist? Hardly.

Because of that initials thing, for a long time I had no idea S.E. Cupp was a woman, and the suggestion that parents shouldn't have been parents, or that they did a lousy job raising a child - that's not gender specific. I would have said the same thing about a man.

But my favorite allegation against me is the claim that I am a misogynist because I once called Michelle Malkin "a mashed-up bag of meat." I actually had to laugh the other day when I read on Twitter, and not for the first time, that I had called Michelle Bachmann "a mashed-up bag of meat." I didn't call either of them "a mashed-up bag of meat."

In October, 2009, Ms. Malkin attacked an author named Charisse Carney-Nunes, implying she was responsible for elementary kids singing a song about President Obama in New Jersey, something Malkin called, as if this were fact, "indoctrination."

Within hours, Ms. Carney-Nunes, who - in fact - had nothing to do with the singing, was receiving hate-filled voicemails and death threats.

I said Ms. Malkin was animated by, "mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred, without which Michelle Malkin would just be a big, mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it." That doesn't imply violence against women. It implies, rather clearly, that there's no human being inside Michelle Malkin any more, just meat.

It also isn't my line, exactly. One mistake I make as a broadcaster is that I often assume viewers know the same cultural references that I do, no matter how obscure they might be. The reference to a "big, mashed-up bag" of something is from the brilliant HBO series "Eastbound and Down.

Here is the exact scene:

(Excerpt from video clip) SHANK: Hey. You're never going to believe who's sitting in front of me. Kenny f---ing Powers. No s---. Yeah, it's him. Hell no, he looks like [bleep]. He looks like a big bag full of mashed-up -

OLBERMANN: The last bleep covers a reference to an orifice. "A big bag of mashed-up" orifice. For the record, in the next scene, the Kenny Powers character socks the guy who called him that.

By the time I said that, if it weren't for hatred, Michelle Malkin "would just be a "big mashed-up bag of meat," I had used that line on NBC's "Football Night in America" at least six times, and would use it at least six times more. We would show highlights of an NFL player after a sack or a big hit - a guy in a world of hurt - and I'd say, "He looks like a big, mashed-up bag of Tom Brady."

You can argue that saying that somebody would be "a big, mashed-up bag" of something is uncouth, but it doesn't imply violence, and if you say it about twelve guys and one woman, it isn't misogynistic.

But this brings me to a larger point.

I think Rush Limbaugh actually has done some good work here. I think the previous standard for offensive remarks about women has proven too low, so low that it took a week, two station cancellations, and 45 sponsor bailouts before Limbaugh even realized he was near it, let alone that he had crossed it by 45 miles.

So, I want to raise that standard. I think, from now on, we all need to be extra vigilant and dial the filter up a few more notches.

So, in neither case were my remarks misogynistic, nor were they things I did not say or could not have said about men. Nevertheless, they have apparently distressed Ms. Cupp and Ms. Malkin and I apologize to them both.

As I did after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot last year - about refraining from using any kind of language that was or seemed violent - I am going to try to raise my standard about not using gratuitously abusive remarks about women and men.

In fact, I'm going to suspend the "Worst Persons" segment again, possibly permanently. I challenge all political and cultural commentators to raise their standards, too. And no, I'm not holding my breath on that.

Good night and good luck.