'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, March 8th, 2012
#5 'Desperate Candidates', David Catanese
#5 'Numbers Game', Ryan Grim
#4 'The Party Divide', Benjy Sarlin
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Hate On The Rise', Mark Potok
#2 'Fight To Vote', Lincoln Davis
#1 'Genderal Affairs', Maysoon Zayid
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Maysoon Zayid, Ryan Grim, Lincoln Davis, Mark Potok, David Catanese, Benjy Sarlin
KEITH OLBERMANN: Now, on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: I'm not saying I don't want him to get out. If he wants to get out, I'm all for him getting out.
OLBERMANN: Him? Him? Him?
As Romney calls Mississippi "a road game" for him, an aide still says, for the other contenders, "It's going to take some sort of act of God to get to where they need to be on the nomination front."
Santorum turns that into -
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: If the governor thinks he's, you know - he's now ordained by God to win, then let's just have it out.
OLBERMANN: Super Friday? The Labor Department data dump tomorrow, and the president's re-election chances. The analysts' estimate? Unemployment does not go up, and the economy added 200,000 jobs last month.
(Excerpt from video clip) TOM HANKS: How do we understand this president and his time in office?
OLBERMANN: Apparently, via an Obama movie. Seriously, a movie?
(Excerpt from video clip) JULIANNE MOORE: This is Sarah.
OLBERMANN: No, not your movie.
Republicans renege. The GOP abrogates its end of the August dealing on the debt ceiling. More cuts than they promised in their budget proposal, and they have a jobs bill.
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY PELOSI: Trumpet, ta-ta-ta-ta, here comes the little king.
OLBERMANN: A record 1,018 hate groups in 2011 recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Our guest, the Center's Mark Potok.
Purging the rolls hits home. Congressman Lincoln Davis, who represented the Tennessee 4th until a year ago, turned away at the polls on Tuesday: "They told me I was not a registered voter." He joins us.
And Happy International Women's Day. We celebrate with Maysoon Zayid.
Virginia's governor celebrates by signing the invasive ultrasound law.
Limbaugh celebrates by reverting to his pre-controversy misogyny against a woman reporter from The Washington Post.
(Excerpt from video clip) RUSH LIMBAUGH: You might want to double-check here because you've written something that's patently false. It's an out-and-out lie, complete with your b-i-itchy opinion in it.
OLBERMANN: Once again: Fluke you, Rush Limbaugh.
(Excerpt from video clip) LIMBAUGH: We are not running commercials!
OLBERMANN: Good evening, this is Thursday, March 8th, 244 days until the 2012 presidential election.
The president's approval numbers flat tonight, but possibly on the rise tomorrow, because of the latest jobs numbers.
While the Republican candidates for his job battle over God - and Blom.
The fifth story on the "Countdown" - Santorum, Gingrich and Romney sparring over a nomination that Romney's campaign insists is already theirs.
Mr. Obama, perhaps contemplating keeping his job longer than that. The president meeting with the president of Ghana at the White House today, with Gallup reporting his job-approval number for February stuck at 45 percent, unchanged in their poll from January.
But, we may see a spike in all numbers with the Labor Department releasing the February employment report tomorrow. Payroll processor ADP reporting that private companies added 216,000 jobs last month, by their count. The figure was 173,000 in January. Tomorrow's Labor Department numbers might be even better than that, which might make Rick Santorum think twice about making more comments like the one he made today:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: This president doesn't understand. We need private-sector growth not public-sector growth.
OLBERMANN: The president's campaign touting his economic record with a trailer for a new campaign video, "The Road We've Traveled."
(Excerpt from video clip) HANKS: How do we understand this president and his time in office? Do we look at the day's headlines or do we remember what we, as a country, have been through?
(Excerpt from video clip) AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: The president elect is here in Chicago, and he's named the members of the economic team, and they all fly in for the first big briefing on the economy.
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID AXELROD: What was described in that meeting was an economic crisis beyond anything anybody had imagined.
OLBERMANN: Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich may have enough trouble imagining the road forward through the next round of election contests - including caucuses Saturday in Kansas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. Primaries on March 13th in Alabama and Mississippi and caucuses the same day in Hawaii, American Samoa, and - on March 17th, of course - the big one of this group, in Missouri.
Mitt Romney taking Guam's nine delegates seriously enough to send his eldest son Matt out to speak with island Republicans on Saturday.
As for Mr. Gingrich - instead of heading to Guam, he could be facing oblivion if he doesn't clean up in the Southern primaries.
Campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond now saying, "Everything between Spartanburg all the way to Texas, those all need to go for Gingrich."
Gingrich campaigning today in Jackson, Mississippi and pleading:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: I believe, with your help, I can become the nominee. I believe that Mississippi really matters next Tuesday.
OLBERMANN: Rick Santorum's seeing it a little differently, in front of his supporters in Jackson:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: If we win Mississippi, this will be a two-person race.
OLBERMANN: As for Alabama, an Alabama State University poll of likely Republican voters showing "undecided" leads the pack, followed by Santorum, Romney, Gingrich. Pollsters not asking voters if they cared to support Ron Paul, not in Alabama.
Gingrich not happy with calls from Santorum's super PAC that he'd drop out. Santorum saying that was his supporters' call, not his. Well, sort of.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I'm not saying I don't want him to be out. If he wants to get out, I'm all for him getting out.
OLBERMANN: Santorum super PAC financier Foster Friess, trying to get Gingrich and Romney a push with a new ad he bought for his guy.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: How can Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich beat Barack Obama when, on the vital decisions, they're not much different. Like Obama, Gingrich supported individual health insurance mandates and lobbied for Freddie Mac. Mitt created Romneycare, the blueprint for Obamacare, and just like Obama, Romney left Massachusetts one billion dollars in debt.
OLBERMANN: An anonymous Romney campaign official wanting both Gingrich and Santorum to look at the delegate count and leave, saying, "For those guys, it's going to take some sort of act of God to get where they need to be on the nomination front."
Santorum will see that anonymous, semi-reference to a deity and raise it to a full-fledged, Almighty endorsement.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: If the governor thinks he's getting - you know, he's now ordained by God to win then, let's just have it out.
OLBERMANN: We'll look at the president's poll on unemployment numbers in a moment.
First, for more on the struggle for the GOP presidential nomination - which seems to be more of a struggle every day - I'm joined by David Catanese, national political reporter with Politico. David, thanks for your time tonight.
DAVID CATANESE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Do I really see Rick Santorum arguing with the Romney camp over which one of the guys God likes better?
CATANESE: Well, if I'm Mitt Romney, I probably don't want to get in an argument about God with Rick Santorum, especially going into the evangelical South, with Mississippi and Alabama coming up.
That being said, there's sort of a lot of bravado - to the most holy levels, I guess you might say - with the delegate count and who can really win this nomination. Bottom line is that the Romney folks believe, no matter what happens - they can lose a bunch of states, if they still have an insurmountable lead in the end.
Santorum's camp is pushing back and saying, "Look, you're not going to have the 1,100 needed, even if you win all these states."
So it's a bit of, you know, playing with hairs and math here, but Romney does have the delegate lead. If you go back - I mean, he's got a very big delegate lead, but just not enough to clinch.
OLBERMANN: But there is - I mean, you raise an important point here, that raises another one in turn, which is - that there's a big disconnect here, with Romney's people are, in fact, hitting people over the head with the math that you referred to, and their argument is he's going to get the delegates. But they're also dispatching the eldest Romney son to go to Guam to try to sew up nine delegates in Guam, which is something like 700 miles per delegate. Am I not hearing two different things from the Romney camp here?
CATANESE: You know, I think what this means - in a bigger picture sense - is if you've got the man power, send them.
And what this says - that Mitt Romney's able to go to Guam or send his son there - it just shows how he's got the organization that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich doesn't have.
And I think the great story about this campaign, that's going to be written about this Republican primary campaign, is that if Santorum or Gingrich ever have the organization to get on the ballot in Virginia, let's say, to get on all the - all the congressional signatures to be on all the ballots in Ohio. That would have made a huge difference in this primary race, but they simply don't have the infrastructure to compete. They don't have the money. They don't have the manpower on the ground. So they can't send someone to Guam. Romney can.
OLBERMANN: Every delegate is sacred. Who is asking who to drop out and is any of them listening?
CATANESE: Well, Romney either wants both Gingrich and Santorum out or neither of them, really. You know, Rich Beeson, one of the Romney advisers, put out a memo basically saying that Santorum and Gingrich are prolonging this process. You know, the act of God quote - "it would take an act of God for either of them to win. We only need to win 48 percent of the delegates. They have to win 65, 70 percent. That's the difference here."
But Santorum, I think, showed some humanity and said, "I want everybody out. I want to be president." I mean, none of these guys want a primary. That's the truth in the matter, but for Mitt Romney, he'd rather have Gingrich and Santorum in together - to buy him that conservative vote - than having one of them get out and then the conservatives coalesce. That's a problem for him.
OLBERMANN: Gingrich and the South - he trails badly in Alabama. Is he going to drop out or is the Adelson money going to keep him going, no matter what happens in Alabama and in Mississippi?
CATANESE: Well, his team has said Alabama and Mississippi are must-wins. They said Georgia was a must-win. He did deliver, although, you know, not the big-enough number that I think he should have, being that was his home state. I do think that Mississippi and Alabama are must-wins for Gingrich. This is the Deep South. This is his base, but if he cannot win - and I mean, who's to say - who's going to tell Newt Gingrich to get out of this race?
All the establishments in the Republican party in Washington's against him. We know he sometimes gets angry when he's told - you know, he's just sort of an outlier in this race. So, I wouldn't be able to predict what Gingrich is going to do. You know, he has incentive to stay and, because he can talk about his issues, he's going to get coverage, no matter what, as long as he's in the race.
But I would imagine, at some point if he loses, the Santorum folks have to go to him and say, "Look, maybe I can offer you something here. If you unite behind me, that's our only chance to beat Romney."
OLBERMANN: A national political reporter with Politico, David Catanese. Again, great thanks for your time tonight, David.
CATANESE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now, about the president's job numbers and tomorrow's employment numbers, I'm joined by Huffington Post Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim. Good evening, Ryan.
RYAN GRIM: Hi. Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Gallup approval numbers, first for the president - the average for the month of February was 45. The new three-day Gallup number in March is 48, with just 44 disapproval. The Washington Post poll - the latest one, which was just about a month ago - was 50 percent approval. Even Rasmussen - the Rasmussen poll, which is the conservative one, which is run by the guys who founded ESPN and then sold it a little bit early, that gave him 49 percent approval. Which numbers am I supposed to believe?
GRIM: Well, that's the beauty of polling, is that you can kind of pick the numbers that you want. At this exact moment, I would pick the numbers that are kind of on the higher end, and that's because of the direction of the economy.
You know, people's - people's satisfaction with their current economic state is always relative. It has to do with - they look around themselves. They see, "How are other people doing? How am I doing relative to them? How am I doing relative to the past, and what's my outlook for the future?"
So, Obama has the future going for him right now because there's a little bit of - there's good news in the economy. Tomorrow, we're probably going to have decent job numbers.
You know, what he doesn't have going for him is the past because, in the past, a lot of people were - were making more money. You know, people focus on unemployment - the unemployment number - but a lot of people are working more and making less, and that doesn't make - that doesn't make people happy. So that's something that he needs to be concerned about, too.
OLBERMANN: What is an economic win for the president tomorrow? Because the analysts who were suggesting that unemployment holds at 8.3. There are other ones - whose jobs are to calculate this data in advance of the Department of Labor - who say it could drop to 8.2. Does it matter, as long as it isn't 8.5 or 8.6 or 8.7?
GRIM: The only thing that really matters is that it's - the media talks about it in a favorable way. People - people want - people what to be told good news about the economy, and if they hear good news, then - even if they're unemployed, then they think, "Okay, there's a better chance that I'm going to be employed next week or the week after."
If they hear bad news, then it just - it just crushes the soul. You know - you know, there's nothing - there's nothing worse - there's things that are worse, but being unemployed is just a horrible experience. And when you're unemployed and the economy is just getting worse and worse, you just kind of go into a tailspin, you know, emotionally, psychically, professionally.
But, if you're hearing good numbers, if you're hearing NPR, in the morning, say "The economy added 310,000 jobs. Economists are bullish. The Dow is up." Even if that's not a job offer to you, that means, "Hey, things could be looking up for me."
OLBERMANN: And the other end of the campaign, people usually talk about the impact of these numbers on a sitting president, what about the - on those who would replace him? The hard numbers, for instance - the payroll data number that I quoted says, by their calculations - 216,000 new jobs in February, many more than in January. Other analysts looking through these numbers are a little bit more conservative. They say it might be 200,000 new ones, a little more, a little less.
Just this week, the last 10 days, Mitt Romney had finally seemed to lock in to the economy and the issue of who's got jobs and who does not have jobs as his issue this week. Did he - did he just place that bet at the wrong time?
GRIM: Well, yeah. I mean, Romney can't seem to do anything right on the campaign trail.
But he's staking everything on the economy, one way or another, and you can actually see his sense of optimism about winning the White House when it looked like Europe might blow up and take the U.S. economy down with it. He seemed much more optimistic, that he thought he was really going to be president.
Now, he's out there trying to convince people that he's going to win the nomination. He's not even talking about - he didn't even talk about the White House in his speech in Massachusetts recently.
OLBERMANN: Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post. Always a pleasure, sir, thank you kindly.
GRIM: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Late news tonight. The justice - he celebrates International Women's Day by abusing another woman. Rush Limbaugh has scrubbed from his website the record of his attack on Sandra Fluke.
And Bill O'Reilly has, tonight, actually insisted that Ms. Fluke has a "powerful presence behind her," and intimates that this whole has been a publicity scheme to benefit the president. What's O'Reilly's evidence? That she won't appear on his show. So, it must be a conspiracy. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Frankly, it looks like it is all getting to Rush Limbaugh. Today he verbally attacks another woman and criticizes her reporting. Except she's not a reporter, she's a humor-and-satire columnist. This, the same day Limbaugh has scrubbed his website of all of his insults towards Sandra Fluke.
OLBERMANN: Congress has had an overall approval rating of historically low levels for the last two years. Coincidentally, this dates to the same time John Boehner became speaker of the House.
In our fourth story - while the public seems to disapprove of Congress as a whole, it's beginning to appear that Congress itself disapproves of one man in particular, John Boehner.
Today the Senate rejected an amendment to speed up the building of the Keystone pipeline, after failing to receive the necessary 60 votes - an amendment that Speaker Boehner had lobbied for as late as this morning - after deriding the president for opposing the measure.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: By personally lobbying against the Keystone pipeline, it means the president of the United States is lobbying for sending North American energy to China and lobbying against American jobs.
OLBERMANN: The Keystone vote seems to be part of a growing trend on Capitol Hill. Anything the speaker likes will not pass.
Over the last few weeks, Mr. Boehner has been pushing a five-year, $260 billion highway bill - which he claimed was paramount in his plan to create jobs - a bill the speaker was forced to scrap today after having failed to convince members of his own party to support it.
Failing to rally support around a pet bill may end up being small potatoes, compared to trying to prevent a government shutdown again. Republican members of the House Budget Committee are moving towards proposing a budget that would cap appropriations at a level of one trillion, 28 billion dollars, nearly $20 billion below what Boehner had agreed to as part of last summer's debt-ceiling deal.
Joining me now, political reporter from Talking Points Memo Benjy Sarlin. Benjy, thanks for some of your time tonight.
BENJY SARLIN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Is Boehner actually a kiss of death at the moment, or are these failures of these measures just coincidental?
SARLIN: I think it's coincidental, in the sense that I don't think it's just Boehner. I think anyone in Boehner's position would be in trouble right now, no matter who they were, no matter how skilled they are. The problem is - he just does not have control over his own party the way he would like, and the Democratic Senate is just not going along with whatever he wants. So he's just trapped from both sides, really.
OLBERMANN: Is somebody else going to get control of his party, particularly in the House? Because there are these reports out today that Mr. Cantor and the president are beginning to be almost friendly, if not friendly per se. Is the majority leader trying to circumvent the speaker or even put himself in a position to replace him?
SARLIN: Well, it's funny, because there's always been reports of a rivalry between Boehner and Cantor, and usually a lot doesn't get out in the open. But usually, the idea is that Cantor is waiting to strike from his right flank. So it's a little unusual to hear these reports that suddenly Cantor is leading this new warming of relations with the president.
I think the more likely thing is that they can simply read a poll, and the polls say they got wrecked when they tried to oppose the president on a payroll-tax extension. So this time, there is another bill coming up that was very small potatoes, but still a jobs bill of sorts, and they just felt the need to go along with it and, in so doing, make a deal with the president because they just looked too bad to oppose.
OLBERMANN: Is this the "Jumpstart Our Business Start Ups" things from today? Because that was seemingly this minor victory for Boehner. The House passed this J-O-B-S Act with very little opposition, And then, Republican leaders went out in the afternoon and said, off the record, they were doubtful it was going to create any jobs at all. Was it just the - they wanted to show everybody they could still pass something, even if it had no meaning to it?
SARLIN: It's exactly that. They figured out that this idea of saying "no" to everything that has the name "jobs" attached to it was starting to seriously hurt their image. People really liked a lot of these bills. The president and Democrats were starting the new and effective job of selling them to the public outside of the House, going and really making the case for them to the American people. So, they really didn't want to be caught on the wrong side of this.
There's also the factor that the economy is starting to improve, starting to get a little better. If it really takes off and Republicans have said "no" to every possible jobs bill, it's not going to look good. They're not going to be able to take any credit for it.
OLBERMANN: The other news of this day from the Senate - even though Boehner had played such a strong hand from his position as speaker of the House, the Senate did not bite on the Keystone pipeline amendment. Does this obviate the need for the president to ever address it after the election, the way he had tabled it until then? I mean, is the Keystone pipeline officially dead?
SARLIN: It's not officially dead. It's sort of in this stasis period. You can always revisit it, as you said, after the election. This just was an issue to make it go faster, to sort of force his hand once again - and override him. But it can certainly come back, and Republicans can find ways - which I'm sure they will - to attach similar amendments to bills in the future.
I mean, it's - they always are going to take the opportunity because they think this particular pipeline is very popular. Polls show majorities usually do favor it. They're going to take any opportunity to put their opponents on the record opposing it. So, you can expect to see votes like this in the future, I think.
OLBERMANN: Political reporter for Talking Points Memo, Benjy Sarlin, in Washington for us tonight. Thank you again for your time tonight, Benjy.
SARLIN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: The new poster boy for voter suppression, the man a Tennessee town turned away from its polls on Super Tuesday. Its former Little League coach, its former mayor, its former congressman. He'll join us, coming up.
OLBERMANN: Apparently, you can't have too many hate groups and, unfortunately, I mean that literally. The number has now crossed into four digits.
First the "Sanity Break," and two of the most important baseball players of the 1960's were born on this date.
In 1939, it was Jim Bouton, a 20-game winner for the New York Yankees, and then the first person - player or reporter - ever to tell the true, hilarious, R-rated story of the life of big league players in the greatest book ever written about the game, "Ball Four."
And in 1942, it was Dick Allen, who - apart from being, perhaps, the best pure hitter not in the game's Hall of Fame - survived racism in Philadelphia and the world before free agency to twice force his teams to trade him when he wanted to play elsewhere.
He was also the first athlete to force everybody else to call him what he called himself - Dick Allen - instead of what they wanted to call him - Richie Allen. And if it seems to you that that could not have been a big deal then, unfortunately, you'd be mistaken.
Happy Birthday to Jim Bouton and Dick Allen!
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Baby monkey wrestles with a kitten.
We begin by checking in on the GOP primary again.
Rick Santorum still chasing Romney and they fight it out like a monkey wrestling a cat. I'm sorry, I'm being told this actually is a monkey wrestling a cat. Sorry, no analogy here.
You can tell Mitt Romney's not involved since that dog is free to hang out on the ground and is not tied to the top of a car.
VIDEO: Model Pauline Hoarau falls repeatedly at Paris Fashion Week.
In Paris, we're in Fashion Week. It's the Anthony Vaccarello Fall 2012 collection.
Unfortunately, model Pauline Hoarau takes the whole fall part a bit too literally.
And - down goes Frazier!
She's helped back up and seems fine, and then, a few seconds again - boom goes the dynamite! Almost.
This is, approximately, the 300th model to fall on the catwalk - on the catwalk - in the last five years. They need our help. Save our models!
VIDEO: Apple Daily turns News Orleans Saints "bounty" scandal into a bloody gladiator graphic.
In sports, a story broke this week about the New Orleans Saints being involved in a bounty program where players were paid bonuses to injure opposing players. It's a complex story, somewhat.
Fortunately, the fine folks at Apple Daily have simplified it for us.
You would have thought Brett Favre being in two pieces would have gotten more coverage. Oh, unless that's the same story as those cell-phone photos he took of his -
"Time Marches On!"
Clearly, Rush Limbaugh has learned his lesson. You cannot call a private, woman citizen a "slut," even on his show. But, you can call the attitude of another one "bitchy."
OLBERMANN: No matter what time you're watching this, "Countdown" is live each night at 8:00 Eastern. The primary replay is at 8:00 Pacific, the longest continuously-running 8:00 p.m. news hour on cable, unless you consider Fox - "news."
Enraged by bank and auto bailouts; economic castration over losing their homes; fury about the changing racial makeup of our country, and what is their kind of baseline hatred of life at the moment, that there is an African-American president - there is a staggering number of Americans joining hate groups.
In our third story on the "Countdown" - the radical right is growing in America. More alarming than the number of the groups, are anti-governmental and extremist outfits also rising over the past decade and reaching a record high last year.
Investigations by the Southern Poverty Law Center find the number of groups whose ideology is centered around hatred of people based on race, religion, or gender has surged in the past decade - 602 groups in 2000 up to 1,018 of them last year. The numbers are the highest since the SPLC started keeping track of these numbers some 30 years ago.
The SPLC says it's most concerned about the disturbing expansion of the so-called "Patriot Movement," or the growing number of militia groups whose philosophies are centered around a deep distrust of the federal government. These anti-government groups, categorized separately from the hate groups, grew a staggering 55 percent in just one year. The SPLC tracked 824 in 2010, and that number ballooned to 1,274 last year.
The Patriot Movement gained momentum during the Clinton administration's push for stricter gun control laws. It peaked in 1996, the year after militia-movement sympathizer Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people by blowing up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Then the movement started to fade until - not surprisingly - late 2008, when the economy tanked and an African-American presidential candidate did not tank.
Joining me now, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Potok. Mark, thanks for your time tonight.
MARK POTOK: Well, thanks for having me, Keith. I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Always a pleasure. Can we talk, first, about the factors that you've been able to identify that caused the Patriot and the militia movements to grow so much in the last couple of years?
POTOK: Well, as you said, it's a number of things coming together, and they come together with a force in late 2008, early 2009.
They are not only Obama, the first black president, but what President Obama represents. And that, of course, is the changing racial demographics of our country. The census bureau has predicted whites will lose their majority in the year 2050. So that, plus fairly high levels of non-white immigration, and then - all of that kind of represented in the person of Barack Obama, is a real key part of what's driving this.
As you pointed out in the intro, at the very same time - just as people were beginning to understand that Obama was quite likely to win the election - we saw the subprime collapse and all that followed. And now, at this point, I think things are getting really even worse, in the sense that we're in the middle of an incredibly vitriolic campaign season - much of that vitriol directed at the president - and so, you know, we're seeing this kind of stew out of which has grown an enormous expansion of - especially, as you said - the anti-government patriot groups.
OLBERMANN: How much -
POTOK: I mean, all that growth - we went from 149 groups to 1,274 groups in three years, and those are precisely the first three years of Barack Obama's presidency.
OLBERMANN: So, how much do you think the presidential campaign, and thus the media personalities who were fueling some of the particular acid qualities to it on the right - the Lou Dobbses in the media or the Michael Savages or Newt Gingriches - how are - are individual personalities in the media and politicians fueling this fire, or are they considered by these groups to be just - you know, sort of tokens within the mainstream firmament that they're opposed to?
POTOK: No, I think they're very important because they serve, essentially, as transmitters - you know, from the real fringe of the fringe. They help to bring conspiracy theories and demonizing propaganda right into the mainstream.
So, you know, what we get is ideas like - Mexico is secretly planning to invade and re-conquer the American Southwest, or gay people - you know, what they're all about is molesting children, and a whole series of other kinds of things. You know, the rash of anti-Muslim hatred that we've seen since 2010, I think was very largely ginned up by public figures.
So, those people - this kind of mainstreaming of hate and of conspiracy theories - I think is really the third driver, along with the change in racial demographics and the economy of this just exponential growth in groups.
OLBERMANN: Tell me about the hatred towards the Muslim community - which historians will look back and go, "You mean it didn't really peak in 2001, 2002 when there was this sort of visceral misunderstanding of what had happened on 9/11, but it peaked closer to 2010?" Was it really about that - that inanity about the so-called Ground Zero mosque that you couldn't even see the World Trade Center site from? Is it that? Was it - why did it - why did it happen in 2010?
POTOK: Well, let me start answering that question by saying, in 2001 - no surprise to anyone - anti-Muslim hate crimes went from almost nothing, up 1,600 percent.
POTOK: The remarkable thing was that the very next year, in 2002, they fell back by some two thirds, and I think that was very largely due to some things that President Bush did - namely, saying repeatedly in speeches, "Muslims are not our enemy. Arabs our not our enemy, our enemy is a very specific terrorist network called al-Qaeda."
What happened in 2010 was there was no visible, external reason for a very sudden uptick in anti-Muslim hatred. In fact, in that year, anti-Muslim hate crimes went up 50 percent.
So yes, I think it was absolutely things like the big controversy, largely ginned up by politicians and activists - ideologues - about the so-called Ground Zero mosque, which, of course, was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. And, you know, if you think to some of the things that followed that - the next thing that came along was the Peter King hearings, which were really, essentially, kind of McCarthyite, "what's-wrong-with-Muslims" hearings.
And then, we saw the rash - we saw the thing - descend at the state level, and a lot of state legislatures, like Oklahoma, for instance, take up this anti-sharia-law crusade. Which, of course, is absurd. Sharia law cannot be imposed in this country under the Constitution, but we've got a lot of people, and especially at the state level - a lot of politicians making this claim, "There's a plot against us by Muslims. We've got to pass these laws."
POTOK: So, I think that is really what's behind the anti-Muslim wave we've seen.
OLBERMANN: It's important to remember that just because it's absurd to us, and goes away when people of some intelligence say it's absurd, that doesn't mean it's absurd to the, you know - the 1,018 hate groups and the 1,274 anti-government groups.
Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, it's always an education. Chilling, but worth our time. Thank you, Mark.
POTOK: And thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: Efforts to cage and excise voters claim an unlikely target - a Tennessee, former congressman who went to school about 20 yards away from the polling place where he was denied a ballot on Super Tuesday. He joins us next.
OLBERMANN: On International Women's Day, Rush Limbaugh celebrates by attacking a third woman in one week and trying to scrub all the evidence of the first and worst of his attacks from his website. Maysoon Zayid joins me.
OLBERMANN: On August 24, 1920, Tennessee became the final state to ratify the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. It would take another 30 years for that state to repeal its Jim Crow "poll tax" laws. While voter disenfranchisement was thought to be an ugly part of the past, in our number-two story - while not as draconian as the laws of the past, Tennessee's new voter I.D. law appears to suggest otherwise.
On Tuesday, voters there went to the polls as part of the statewide primary, as part of Super Tuesday. But, due to a new law passed last year, voters now needed to present a state-issued photo I.D. in order to cast a ballot. The Republican-led act of voter suppression perfectly put into perspective by a former marine who refused to show his I.D., saying, "We have just fought a war to bring democracy to Iraq. Now, we're passing laws that restrict and bring conditions to our right to vote."
But it was not simply former members of the military who were suppressed. A former elected national official was also denied his right to vote.
Lincoln Davis, former two-term congressman from Tennessee, was turned away from the local polling station after being told he was not registered - not registered in an area in which he'd been voting for nearly 20 years.
"I'm a former member of Congress, state senator, House member, mayor and all my life," he said, "I've been involved in the community - coaching Little League, participating in Boy Scouts and serving on boards here, and I'm denied the right to vote. It just doesn't make sense."
Apparently, the Pickett County administrator of elections agreed, at least in retrospect, today issuing a very short statement saying, in short, "We just messed up."
Joining me now, the aforementioned Lincoln Davis, former congressman from Tennessee's 4th district. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
LINCOLN DAVIS: Hey, Keith. Thanks for having me on tonight.
OLBERMANN: Are you satisfied with the apology from the administrator of elections?
DAVIS: Haven't received one yet. The only apology I got, and thankful for that, is a young lady who works as deputy coordinator for Pickett County - which is the adjoining county, where they transferred me to without my knowledge - Elainea Conner. I deeply appreciate her apology, but the state has not called me and talked to me, nor have they apologized since election night about what had happened.
OLBERMANN: So this -
DAVIS: And neither has my local - and neither has the local election coordinator, or folks on the commission, made a comment about it at all.
OLBERMANN: This kind of - this kind of underscores what's going on throughout the country, doesn't it? I mean, whether or not there's a particular reason to mess with a group of voters or individual voters, people are being - their voting rights are being jeopardized by some of these new laws. Is that your assessment of what happened to you on Tuesday?
DAVIS: Listen, there's no question. I think there's - I think there's an intentional strategy to suppress votes. For instance, in my situation - 1964 is the first time I got to vote. I was 21 in September of that year, I drove from Tennessee Tech - where I was a student - and voted for a congressman named Joelle Evans. I voted for two United States senators, because Estes Kefauver had passed away and so I voted for Ross Bass. I voted for Albert Gore Sr. - who lost in 1970, but he won in 1964 - and for Lyndon B. Johnson. So I've been voting there for years.
The first time I cast my vote was at this precinct, and the last time I went to vote, I was denied that, saying that, "You no longer are registered here." And there is no way they, legally, that they take me off of voter registration unless I'm dead or unless I'm a - unless I'm a felon. There are no other justifications in Tennessee. They just removed me on their own, without even notifying me, - saying, or writing me - saying, "You cannot vote there," both my wife and I.
OLBERMANN: And -
DAVIS: And when I went to the polls - and when I went to the polls that night to vote, I got there a little after 6:00 o'clock. The polls close at 7:00. I presented them with my I.D. She came in about two, three minutes later and presented hers. They kept looking for our voter registration, our addresses, said, "We can't find it."
The young man who called himself the judge of that precinct made four, five phone calls and said, "Look, you're not registered anymore in Fentress County."
You got to be kidding me. You know, I went to school just across - just on the other side of this building. My first vote was cast just on the other side of this building, within 20, 25 yards, and you're telling me that you have taken me off the voter registration list in this county.
I may have lost the election, after serving four terms in the U.S. House for Fentress County, but I didn't lose my right to vote.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, I think you're - I mean, you're maybe one historical event short of having a plaque on the wall saying that this is where Congressman Davis voted, and they wouldn't let you vote there.
What do we need to do that takes this - this kind of stuff, whether it's suppression of groups of voters or the losing of people's rights to vote, seemingly by accident or by bureaucracy or whatever the cause is - what do we need to take it out of the hands of the people who can now just issue statements that read, "We just messed up."
What do we have to do nationally? Does the Congress have to do something? Does the president have to do something? Who has to do something?
DAVIS: I think - I think Congress does have to do something. In my situation, for instance, what I intend to do - I've never filed a lawsuit against anyone in my life, and I would never file a lawsuit to ask for monetary advantage from any situation that was involving me, unless I'd been harmed physically and needed that. So, in essence, I have talked to an attorney in Nashville, and we're - they're in the process, now, of filing a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee, the election coordinator, requiring them to put everyone else - everyone that they have purged from the rolls - except for those that would be obviously deceased or convicted felons - to put those back on the rolls, as they're supposed to do, and follow the law.
For instance, in Tennessee, you cannot purge a voter unless those two exceptions - unless you notify them, and then it takes two or three election cycles before you actually take them off the ballot. You are allowed to have a provisional vote in that circumstance.
When I left my voting precinct, no one suggested to me, and I was quite frankly stunned and almost numb when I left from there, thinking the former member of Congress - I know these people. I saw them grow up. They were as stunned as I was, and so - in essence, when I left from there, the judge who said, "You cannot vote, neither can your wife," and we left and went home. I got on the phone and started dialing folks and finally got hold of the election coordinator who said, "Your voting rights have been transferred to another county."
Now, the problem with that is that I was mayor of Byrdstown. We are property owners in Byrdstown. If you live in New York City and own property in Byrdstown you can vote there. If you live in Nashville, Tennessee, you can vote in Byrdstown. So I was voting as a property owner, not in any of the general elections.
My general election was being voted in Fentress County. These folks knew this. I mean, everyone there - the election coordinator from Fentress County - his family farm and the family farm I live on adjoin each other. I see him from time to time as I drive from my house out to the main highway or when I'm coming back home. I see him feeding his cows. I mean, he could have at least stopped me and said "Look, you know - we think you - we've transferred your voting privileges to another county."
OLBERMANN: Yeah, and the idea -
DAVIS: This absolutely is just - so what I'm doing is asking for a lawsuit to be filed, and it will be. George Barrett from Tennessee is actually filing this lawsuit to require, hopefully - and hopefully the courts will listen - to require everyone who's been removed from the voting - voting privileges - by this election coordinator in Tennessee, to be placed back on. And then, go through the normal process.
The reason I couldn't do a provisional ballot is that I was not registered. When they removed me from registration, you have - you are not entitled to, by state law, having a provisional ballot.
DAVIS: And so, I couldn't have voted with one if they had offered it to me when I left. Later on that night - somewhere around 7:30, maybe 7:40, after I'd gone home - the election coordinator called and said, "If you'll go back and register to vote - you and your wife, tonight - then you can vote a provisional ballot."
Well, you know, quite frankly, you have to be registered 30 days - 30 days before the election - or you can't vote.
OLBERMANN: How extraordinary. We want to check in with you on how the suit unfolds.
Former congressman from Tennessee, Lincoln Davis, thanks for this extraordinary story and all the best with it.
DAVIS: Thanks so much.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
DAVIS: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: How'd they celebrate International Women's Day in Virginia? The governor signed the new invasive ultrasound law for women, international or otherwise, who want an abortion. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: The right has an odd way of celebrating International Women's Day.
Our number-one story on the "Countdown" - the GOP passion for regulating ladies' private parts intensifies, while Rush Limbaugh continues his line of sexist attacks.
Starting this July, women seeking abortions in Virginia must undergo - and pay out-of-pocket for - a medically unnecessary abdominal ultrasound, courtesy of a bill signed into a law by that guy, the governor.
And in Georgia, eight female Democratic state senators walked out in protest, as two bills restricting employees' access to abortion and contraception were passed by a Republican majority there.
But, by all accounts, state legislators on the left are mobilizing - from proposing measures banning vasectomies and mandating rectal exams for men seeking Viagra, to tacking on amendments as Oklahoma State senior - Senator Constance Johnson did to a "Personhood" bill, which stipulates, "any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman's vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child." Oh.
But all of that hasn't stopped Rush Limbaugh's 50th advertiser from fleeing his program. Even though his website scrubbed his insulting comments on Sandra Fluke from its transcript archives, they're not entirely forgotten.
And Limbaugh continued his personal attacks today.
This time he went over, not just Washington Post opinion blogger Alexandra Petri's gender, but also falsely pretended that her satirical piece titled "Rush Limbaugh's Show Targets Jerks, Judging from the Latest Ads" was objective reporting and not a fully-branded satirical opinion piece.
(Excerpt from video clip) LIMBAUGH: This is a so-called reporter, Alexandra Petri, who simply accepts false information from a site - probably Media Matters, who knows? But you might - you might want to double check here because you've written something that is patently false. It's an out-and-out lie completely with your b-i-itchy opinion in it.
OLBERMANN: Ooh, "b-i-itchy." So, he is being politically correct now.
Joining me now - Maysoon Zayid, comedienne and "Countdown" contributor. Good to see you.
MAYSOON ZAYID: Good to see you, too.
OLBERMANN: Limbaugh's cracking up, isn't he?
ZAYID: Um, he's way beyond cracked. Yeah.
OLBERMANN: But I mean just recently - last week, this really has -
OLBERMANN: I mean, he didn't recognize that that was a satirical piece, the way he claims everything he said about Sandra Fluke was satirical.
ZAYID: He's cracking up, but he's also missing really important warning signs. And I think that the Susan G. Komen debacle was a cautionary tale, and the cautionary tale is - you may think that it's okay to go after minority groups, and women are the biggest minority - but when you screw with us, we come back at you. And it's like he learned nothing -
ZAYID: - from what happened with Komen. It's like, "We brought you into this world. We will take you out."
OLBERMANN: Now, Bill O'Reilly has just joined this - I don't know if you're aware of this. He, tonight, argued that somebody - his question was, who is running Sandra Fluke? That there's a conspiracy to benefit President Obama because "there is a powerful presence behind Sandra Fluke," and his argument is that there must be a conspiracy, and it must be a publicity stunt because she won't appear on his show, so now we have the two greatest egos and delusional neurotics of our time focused in on this woman. Do you think women can still defeat these lunatics?
ZAYID: I think they can, and one of the first steps is refusing to go on their shows, definitely.
But I also think that, like, what he's saying with this girl and with this entire issue is missing the point of what's really going on. And what's really going on is - we're having a discussion about birth control with the economy shot, with the public school systems an utter mess, with the GOP having absolutely no candidate to run.
If this is a conspiracy, it's a GOP conspiracy to make women flee to President Obama because - while independents are running away from them like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining," they're running towards POTUS, who's singing Al Green, killing them softly, making them want to toss those pills and have this baby.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. Now, on that subject, this is one quote - we don't have a lot of time left - "But I don't understand why men are acting against their own self-interest here, because isn't the idea of a man, in terms of sex, to be irresponsible? The woman's willing to take responsibility for birth control, we're supposed to go like this, right? Isn't that the end of it?"
ZAYID: It's because they have lost their minds. They have utterly lost their minds, and no one benefits more from birth control than these philandering men, and yet here we are, back again explaining to my dad that I'm not a slut because I'm on birth control. I'm taking it so I don't die.
OLBERMANN: Maysoon Zayid, comedienne and "Countdown" contributor and we hope that last statement proves true for many decades to come.
OLBERMANN: Great thanks, as always.
ZAYID: Thank you. Happy Women's Day.
OLBERMANN: Indeed, and we'll celebrate it with Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia. You can't spell another word without Virginia.
That's "Countdown." I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.