'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, March 12th, 2012
#5 'Southern Discomfort', Ken Vogel
#5 'Southern Discomfort', Craig Crawford
#4 'Pumped Up Numbers', Joe Williams
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Nightmare In Afghanistan', Ethan Casey
#2 'Dixie Derangement', Markos Moulitsas
#1 'Game Over?', Maysoon Zayid
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Markos Moulitsas, Maysoon Zayid, Ethan Casey, Ken Vogel, Craig Crawford, Joe Williams
KEITH OLBERMANN: Now, on "Countdown" - Photo finish: Mississippi - Gingrich, 33. Romney, 31. Santorum, 27. Alabama - Romney, 31. Gingrich, 30. Santorum, 29.
(Excerpt from video clip) LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mathematically, this thing is about over, but emotionally, it's not.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: The math is not the issue. The issue is vision. The issue is that Governor Romney, having outspent me 10-to-one, is still not able to close the deal.
OLBERMANN: Plus, there's the weekly Mitt-igating moment.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I'm learning to say, "y'all" and I like grits. And things are - strange things are happening to me.
OLBERMANN: Like this -
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: The fact is, Romney is probably the weakest Republican front-runner since Leonard Wood in 1920.
OLBERMANN: Leonard Wood: general, doctor, commander of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American - never mind.
Of course, Romney does make a good point about what Gingrich just said:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: If I'm a weak front-runner, what does that make Newt Gingrich? Because I'm well ahead of him.
OLBERMANN: More gas from the GOP. Sixty-five percent of those polled disapprove of the way the president is handling gasoline prices. The Republicans try to drill home the apocryphal connection.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL RYAN: I can't even fill up my truck anymore because of gas prices.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: I would sign the Keystone pipeline immediately.
OLBERMANN: Okay, let me let Fox remind you again.
(Excerpt from video clip) CHERYL CASONE: With oil prices and supply and demand and gasoline, it really is out of this president's hand.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: Next time you hear a politician say he or she will bring down oil prices, understand it's complete b.s.
OLBERMANN: Of course, it's different because this president is a Muslim.
Of the Republicans who will go to the polls tomorrow, 45 percent in Alabama and 52 percent in Mississippi believe he is a Muslim. And about 40 percent more in each state are not sure.
Nightmare in Afghanistan - an American sniper, with a reported past brain injury, wantonly kills at least 16 civilians, 11 of them from one family.
Almost every politician stops themselves from trying to make any hay. Almost.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: We're not prepared to be ruthless enough to force them to change, and yet we're clearly an alien presence.
OLBERMANN: And the "Game Change" game. Is it true? Steve Schmidt as Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt?
(Excerpt from video clip) STEVE SCHMIDT: It was very accurate. I think, for all of us who were in the campaign, it really rang true.
OLBERMANN: So you mean this really happened?
(Excerpt from video clip) ED HARRIS (as Sen. John McCain): Did you hear what Olbermann said about me last night?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOODY HARRELSON (as Steve Schmidt): Sir, you've got to stop watching Keith Olbermann.
OLBERMANN: Wise words indeed, Senator. Wise words indeed!
(Excerpt from video clip) JULIANNE MOORE (as Sarah Palin): I so do not want to go back to Alaska.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Monday, March 12th, 240 days until the 2012 presidential election.
Alabama and Mississippi vote tomorrow. Grits and gravy thus introduced into the GOP primary.
Our fifth story on the "Countdown" - grit rhymes with Mitt. But, of course, gravy makes you think of Gingrich. And poll numbers show many Republicans and their fellow travelers still pining for a front-runner other than Mr. Romney.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: It's a happy birthday on the road, and I'm hoping for a real big present tomorrow from Alabama and Mississippi.
OLBERMANN: Governor Romney already presenting the nation with a gift on his 65th birthday - the double centi-millionaire choosing not to enroll in Medicare.
Thus, with the latest Public Policy survey showing likely Republican voters in Mississippi favoring Gingrich over Romney by two, with Santorum close behind, and an even closer race in Alabama - one point separating Romney from Gingrich, two from Santorum - Romney seeming sanguine as he surveyed that field.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: This is all about delegates. And at this stage, we're putting together as many delegates as we can. We've got a good, solid lead.
OLBERMANN: And padding that lead over the weekend, Romney grabbing seven delegates in the Wyoming caucus - three for Santorum, one for Ron Paul, and another uncommitted.
Santorum thrashing Romney, in turn, in the Kansas caucus with 33 delegates to seven, but Romney cleaning up in the U.S. overseas territories - scoring nine delegates in the Guam caucus, and another nine - Saipan, hello - in the North Marianas caucus. Overall totals: Romney, 454 delegates. Santorum, 217. Gingrich, 107. Ron Paul, 47.
Rick Santorum, insisting that counting the total delegates not counting as much as it seems:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: The math is not the issue. The issue is vision. The issue is that Governor Romney, having outspent me 10-to-one, is still not able to close the deal, and is not on a path himself to get to this.
OLBERMANN: Romney is not having any of that.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: As you know, delegates are awarded proportionately. So that lengthens the process. But we're winning this and I expect that we're going to get the nomination.
OLBERMANN: Newt Gingrich doing what he can to put Romney's performance in the worst possible light:
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: The fact is, Romney is probably the weakest Republican front-runner since Leonard Wood in 1920. Yes, he's the front-runner. He's not a very strong front-runner. Almost all conservatives are opposed to him, which is the base of the party.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: For the record, Major General Wood won the New Hampshire primary, but he was a complete political novice. He never actually ran for office in his life. Governor Warren Gamaliel Harding of Ohio got the nation - the nomination.
Still, Gingrich might have had a point. The latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll showing 74 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents thinking Romney will win the GOP presidential nomination, though well under half of that total would actually like to see Romney win the nomination.
Romney with an answer for them and for the former speaker of the House:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: If I'm a weak front-runner, what does that make Newt Gingrich? Because I'm well ahead of him.
OLBERMANN: He has a point. Rick Santorum, wishing it were otherwise, and while insisting that - while he would not ask other candidates, specifically Gingrich, to actually get out of the race -
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I'd like everybody to get out. I mean, that'd be great, if they could just clear the field.
OLBERMANN: Clearing the field apparently not the intention of former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele.
Steele telling Mother Jones magazine that, when he helped change GOP rules that extended the primary season, "I wanted a brokered convention. That was one of my goals."
Steele, then doing an about-face on this, telling The Huffington Post that that was his personal view, "Not something that the Committee set out to design."
Santorum insisting that, designed or not, a brokered Republican convention would be good for his candidacy.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: They are not going to nominate a moderate. We're going to be the nominee. We're going to be the one that provides the best vision and the best contrast to President Obama - has the best chance of winning. Governor Romney will not make it.
OLBERMANN: Not, perhaps, so long as he insists on treating southern Republicans to awkward down-home displays.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm learning to say "y'all" and I like grits. And things are - strange things are happening to me.
OLBERMANN: Or tries relating to voters - as Huffington Post's Sam Stein tweeted today - with another comment about how much his friends own stuff.
Now, on the just-started bidding for the free-agent football quarterback Peyton Manning, "I don't want to see him at Miami or the Jets. Both owners are friends of mine."
Romney campaign on Twitter - #humblebrag.
We'll look at Mitt Romney's Southern and humble-brag strategies in a minute.
First, about the overall GOP race, I'm joined now by Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter with Politico. Good evening, Ken.
KEN VOGEL: Hey, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Gingrich really kind of stepped on a rake there. I mean, if Romney is the weakest front-runner since Leonard Wood lost to Harding in 1920, how come Gingrich isn't beating him?
VOGEL: Right, and then, where is Gingrich in that analogy? Certainly, he could see himself as Harding, or maybe Santorum as Harding. And then, let's not forget Illinois governor Frank Lowden, who actually reached sort of a deadlock during the 1920 Republican convention with Wood before Harding was sort of the dark horse that came away with it.
So, the sort of awkward historical analogy doesn't even end there, because Romney then answered this criticism by saying, "Hey, let's not forget, in 2008 the eventual nominee ended up losing 19 states. So, I'm certainly stronger than him." Well, that guy - John McCain - is now one of Mitt Romney's top endorsers.
OLBERMANN: Wow, that just rakes all over that lawn. And I stepped on one, too. I called him Governor Harding. Of course, he was the senator from Ohio. He'd been lieutenant governor of Ohio early in his career.
About the Romney delegate lead overall, Ken - Gingrich and Santorum are both acting as if, at least at this stage - oh, that - that lead doesn't really count for much in - the delegate count doesn't count for much. Are they both delusional, or do they have to say this or lose all credibility?
VOGEL: They have to say it, but it is somewhat delusional, particularly when they are publicly stating that their goal is a brokered convention. Well, if Mitt Romney comes into the convention with a commanding delegate lead, there's really no hope for that.
So, you look at it at this stage - Mitt Romney needs to win the 50 percent of the remaining unallotted delegates. Santorum has to win 65 percent. Newt Gingrich has to win 70 percent.
And you look at the schedule going on here on and it really sort of plays out in Mitt Romney's favor, at least to the extent that the remaining contests - the remaining - the next several contests are primaries, where Mitt Romney has tended to do better, and where organization and money is rewarded. Unlike caucuses, where, sort of, the ground game and grassroots enthusiasm can sometimes overcome the type of organization that Mitt Romney has a huge advantage in, over both Gingrich and Santorum.
And things seem to be looking Mitt Romney's way even, if it's not a pretty process.
OLBERMANN: The vision quest aspect of this - suddenly, vision is brought up as this magic and almost - as important as delegates - ingredient.
There was another sort of ersatz patrician candidate -George H.W. Bush - who mocked that, though its lack of the presence in his campaign probably contributed to his undoing, at least his re-election bid. Are Gingrich and Santorum correct when they criticize Romney for not having it? Does Romney really need it to win? Is it quantifiable in any way?
VOGEL: Well, it's sort of part of the narrative. It fits into the knock that's been developed on Romney, both in 2008 through today -not just by conservatives and his rivals for the nomination, but by Democrats as well. And frankly, by the base of the Republican Party - this idea that Mitt Romney has no ideological mooring, that he is sticking his finger to the wind to decide which issues - which stance to take on, when really - what are regarded as litmus tests in the issues within the Republican Party.
That said, George H.W. Bush did win the presidency in '88 before losing to Clinton, obviously, and there are a lot of similarities. He, too, was kind of - generated a lukewarm reaction from the base, but nonetheless was regarded as the viable, electable candidate. And so, Mitt Romney could only wish for a result like that.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, he also had Ronald Reagan as his predecessor, and was seen as something of an extension of -
VOGEL: Certainly helps.
OLBERMANN: - those eight years.
Last point - and there's some polling today -although it's all over the place, in terms of Obama versus the Republican - the national polls that show Republican and Republican-leaning voters overwhelmingly thinking that Romney will end up with this thing. And then, about half of that saying that that's a good thing.
That's - is that in any way possible to overcome that, no matter how good these individual candidates might be appearing in the polls directly against Obama right now? Is that not something fatal to a Romney candidacy?
VOGEL: Well, if he can get through the nomination, again.
And it helps him to have both Gingrich and Santorum continuing to put forth this line that the delegate math doesn't matter, and they're in it till the convention.
Well, Mitt Romney is thinking to himself, "Hey, great. You guys can continue to divide up the delegates, and even if people feel this way about me" - where, you know, half, or less than half according to some polls, want to see him come away with the nomination - it's going to go redound to his benefit to continue to have this ugly fight.
And the more he can stay above it - and he hasn't always done a good job of that - but the more he can stay above it and avoid having to tack to the right, the more helpful it's going to be for him in the general election.
So again, this status quo - seeing this sort of protracted fight where the second-tier candidates are taking shots at Mitt Romney and at each other - doesn't look good in the moment. But, I think in the long run, it probably will redound to Mitt Romney's benefit.
OLBERMANN: We'll see. Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter of Politico. As always, Ken, thanks for some of your time tonight.
VOGEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Bearing down on the heart of Dixie and the primary votes tomorrow, I'm join by Craig Crawford, political blogger at craigcrawford.com and, of course, the author of "The Politics of Life." Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: How're y'all doing?
OLBERMANN: Oh, goood, now we're going to get it from you. At least you have chops when you do this.
Let's start with that point. When you hear a Northerner or a Westerner, somebody who is not a Southerner, trying to speak Southern - I was always under the assumption this was somewhat off-putting, rather than feeling like an embrace from somebody who wants to get to know you.
And in addition to this, we have the controversy over the catfish - I don't know if you're aware of this. In January, in South Carolina at a barbecue place, Mr. Romney said he was not a catfish man, not a fish man so much. In Mobile, he has just announced, "I had catfish for the second time. It was delicious, just like the first time." Anybody feel patronized?
CRAWFORD: I'd suppose some Southerners might respond, "Kiss my grits," like the old TV show. But you know, he does it with enough self-deprecation, Keith, that he might get away with. He laughs at himself a little bit. I mean, today he said that he didn't really know which end of the gun to point - if he went hunting.
And I - but I think back to the 1988 campaign - you've never seen awkward appeals to the South like Michael Dukakis. He made some really pitiful efforts.
In the end, people know he's not from the South. I don't think he has to keep reminding them. That's the problem with a lot of what he's doing.
OLBERMANN: Essentially a three-way, too-close-to-call race in both Mississippi and Alabama tomorrow. What do - what do you make of it?
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, this is like student-council-election math anymore. I mean, you get two, you know, you get two popular jocks in a campaign against the nerd - the nerd can win. I mean, this is just basic arithmetic here.
You've got these two candidates, in Santorum and Gingrich, splitting up the same vote. Add their numbers together in those polls you showed - I think in Mississippi, they're almost twice Romney's number. So, that's what's going on here. And that's why Romney's campaign does not want them to get out, not now anyway. They need to get through the next week or two of this dynamic. They want them out eventually, but the only way they can hurt Romney now, seems to me, is that they each start, together, piling up so many delegates that Romney doesn't get the majority in the end.
OLBERMANN: So, is Mitt Romney financing Foster Friess and Sheldon Adelson? Is that what -
CRAWFORD: You got it. I think I might have tweeted you that.
OLBERMANN: Something about that, yeah.
CRAWFORD: I was talking to a real smart operative on the Democratic side who just observed over dinner - I wonder if they're actually working for Romney, because this is helping him so much, with their money. And it's only their money that is keeping Santorum and Gingrich in. In the end, it's helping Romney.
That's the irony for Gingrich. Staying in the race is helping the guy he apparently hates so much.
All right, this is not just pertinent to the South, nor to tomorrow, but we're having, apparently, Romney and ownership issues. And this is - this seems like trivia, but it seems almost symbolic of the man's life, to let alone this campaign, and the 99 percent versus the one percent, and all the rest of that.
I think people will recall that he said he was not a NASCAR fan, but he knew a lot of the owners of the NASCAR teams. Now, this remark about Peyton Manning -who has just become the premier free agent in sports - "I don't want to see Manning at Miami or the Jets. Both owners are friends of mine."
You know, way to tailgate.
Does anybody say to him, "Just don't mention owners again?" It doesn't even work for Republicans and conservatives. Does it?
CRAWFORD: It's who he is. At least he's not hiding it, I suppose. I mean, I keep hearing from people that he is most comfortable, and actually comes alive, when they go to Wall Street and fundraise in corporate boardrooms. That's where he just has the most fun of all. And that's the person that we're seeing.
I really think this is the narrative that the Democrats need to seize on, and certainly will. I'm not telling them anything that they don't know. But this idea that he's a leveraged buyout artist who enjoyed laying off people and wants to cut his own taxes - I mean, that narrative is going to hurt him if they just pound it and don't get away from it and stay on it all the time.
OLBERMANN: All my friends own stuff - Robert Kraft, Woody Johnson, the NASCAR team owners. Yeah. I think It's a simple and an easy-to-understand point, and it might be the year to understand it, too.
Craig Crawford, of course, the author of "Politics of Life," and the blogger at craigcrawford.com.
CRAWFORD: Quick full disclosure - I'm a lousy Southerner. I actually hate grits.
OLBERMANN: All right. Good. Well, if you know what's in it, you know why you might have that opinion.
CRAWFORD: It comes from grit trees.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. Thank you very much, Craig.
The price of a gallon of gas. Here we go. The same politicians and commentators who explained that the spike of 2008 was not President Bush's fault, or the Republicans' fault, are now explaining that the spike of 2012 is President Obama's fault - next.
OLBERMANN: So, were you not mentioned in the new HBO film about the McCain-Palin ticket, "Game Change?" Oh, you were the one they left out. What was true, what was false, and what did we learn?
I learned that John McCain actually watched this show. I did not learn why. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Over the last few weeks, Republicans have been hammering the president over the price of gas. So, when a new poll came out today showing a drop in the president's approval ratings and a high disapproval of his handling of gas prices, they seemingly jumped for joy.
But in our fourth story - the reality is that the two appear to have very little to do with one another. Because everyone knows a president can do very little about the price of gas. Isn't that right, 2008 Fox News?
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: And the facts are, as you suggested - no president has the power to increase or to lower gas prices. Those are market forces.
(Excerpt from video clip) O'REILLY: Yesterday, oil hit a record high, and politicians cannot do a thing about it.
(Excerpt from video clip) CASONE: It really is tough for this president, I have to be honest with you. Because he really does not have any control of 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 hand.
(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 is honest, smart, courageous and willing to explain dubious associations.
OLBERMANN: It's complete b.s.
But despite those ardent defenses four years ago - when the new poll showed a new drop in the president's approval rating, many conservatives quickly pointed to one aspect of it: 65 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the way that the president was handing the price of gas.
As any statistician will tell you, correlation does not equal causation. Even Rupert Murdoch's own Wall Street Journal this weekend tried to pivot away from the gas-prices attack against the president, writing, "U.S. gasoline prices are determined by global market forces. It is hard to see how Mr. Obama's policies can be blamed."
But some Republicans still see gas prices as a winning message, pointing to the financial burden they create, not the small business with increased costs, but the guy who can't fill up his monster truck.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL RYAN: Heck, I just took my kids to northern Wisconsin skiing yesterday. And the gas pump just clicked before I was full because it hit the limit on what the gas station would sell me. So, I can't even fill up my truck anymore because of gas prices.
OLBERMANN: Sorry your ski vacation was blighted, Mr. Man of the People. But according to the same poll, people felt that the financial hardship created by gas prices is the same as it was eight years ago, when some guy named George W. Bush won a re-election bid regardless.
Joining me now, White House reporter for Politico, Joe Williams - Joe, thanks for your time tonight.
JOE WILLIAMS: Hi, good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Whether or not any president deserves it, every president gets it - blame. What is this White House trying to do about it? Or do they think it will go away?
WILLIAMS: Well, they're not going skiing in SUVs up to Colorado with their four kids.
Basically, the White House is trying to do what Bill O'Reilly said needs to get done - is be strong, courageous and bold and talk about, in real terms, how they are disconnected, how market forces and economic policy and gas policy can't be the same thing to drive the prices down. Global demand is a factor. China is using more of it and more of it. So is India. So, there really isn't much that they can do besides try to explain it and also push for renewables as the way to get these prices and this pain at the pump to go away for good.
OLBERMANN: Since the Keystone XL pipeline, Joe, is so easy to misunderstand, and it's such a seemingly simple talking point - when in fact, it's a rather complicated issue - and Newt Gingrich said again, if he were president, the first day he'd sign the Keystone project.
Is the White House pushing back enough on just that one idea about - you know, agreeing to build this pipeline to send heated sludge through the country to be shipped out of the country - is not, in fact going to reduce the cost of gas. There is some indication now that it's going to push gas prices up in the Midwest. Is the White House doing enough with what Keystone XL could give them?
WILLIAMS: They're letting the surrogates do a lot of heavy lifting on that. Austan Goolsbee was out today, talking about how Keystone XL is not a magic bullet. And the president himself has said there is no magic bullet. It's not a magic bullet to get gas prices lower, for openers. It's not going to be built, or even pump its first drop, for several years.
The number of jobs - that argument really is kind of specious, in that that it's not going to create nearly as many jobs - and independent studies have confirmed that it would not create the 20,000 jobs the Republicans say it would. So, the president and the - and the surrogates for the White House are getting that message out in different ways.
The White House is also promoting a fact sheet on whitehouse.gov that talks about how domestic drilling has actually increased during the Obama presidency, and the market forces still won't pull the prices down in the United States.
OLBERMANN: The explanation was, clearly - in 2008 - market forces, speculators, which happens to be the case, because that's the way it is, and it's the case now.
Is the White House doing enough with that? Because, once again, it would seem like the time is ripe for people to be willing to listen to the argument that there are, you know, big companies and big investors - and other people who might be called the one percent - who are, in fact driving the price of the gallon of gas at their local station.
WILLIAMS: I would look for them to do even more. Again, you've got the president, who has talked about speculation. There's a task force set up to look at this. The - I don't know if it's the Security Exchange Commission, but I think it's the Commodity Trades Council - that's what it is. They're looking into speculation on Wall Street, what effect that has on gas prices. So, certainly, there is some information that's leaking out. But it's not been said in a broad scale.
I think the president, as long as this will go on, will start talking about this more and more. There are already experts who are backing him up on this - you know, Fox tapes not withstanding - talking about how this is a normal kind of ebb and flow, if you will, for what the oil market has become today.
And remember, we also were here before - last year, as gas prices edged up towards four dollars a gallon. The panic subsided, and everybody went back to their normal habits, and things continued apace, like they're probably expected to do now.
OLBERMANN: Right, and the lowest price in the last six years was on inauguration date in 2009. So, if you're going to say something is Obama's fault, then you have to give him credit for it, even though neither of them happens to be the case.
Last point - how far can the Republicans go with this attack, given that, you know, as you just referenced - and as we keep showing every time - that most of them are on tape in 2008 saying exactly the opposite thing about presidential responsibility for gas prices?
WILLIAMS: They'll go as far as they - they'll go as far as they can. I mean, you already hear Newt Gingrich - somewhat irresponsibly, many experts say - already claiming that he will bring prices down to under three dollars a gallon - you know, right around two dollars a gallon, give or take.
Not going to happen. I mean, not unless he knows something that we don't know.
Keystone XL, the biggest single argument for it - besides the fact that that it's going to take longer, and the fact that you're sending gas through the heartland of America - point to the Gulf Coast disaster last year. Oil production is up domestically. There are leases that are not being used domestically.
Deep-water drilling around the world is taking place. We don't know what's going to happen because some of these super-drilling rigs have not been tested, have not been held to safety standards and are going, in some cases, two and three miles below the ground.
So, the final thing to say about this is every president since Carter has talked about the need to wean or cut back on oil. Still hasn't happened yet. A lot of these policies are unpopular. If we had kept some of things that Carter had talked about - and even a 55-mile speed limit - we would be in a lot more control of our destiny than we are right now.
OLBERMANN: Surprisingly, we did not. White House reporter for Politico, Joe Williams. Always a pleasure, Joe. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: The disturbing new information that the alleged shooter in Afghanistan was not just a U.S. marksman, but one who had suffered a traumatic brain injury, yet had been returned to service for at least four tours. Details coming up.
OLBERMANN: Roughly eight out of ten voters heading into the Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi tomorrow are convinced the President is a Muslim, or they aren't certain that he is not.
Never mind voter i.d. laws. We need voter IQ laws.
KEITH OLBERMANN: First the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1922 was born Jack Kerouac, the Beat writer, author of "On the Road" and - tabletop baseball-game fanatic.
Kerouac created his own way to simulate baseball games with dice, invented his own players, team, leagues, histories and kept meticulous records from about 1935 until around 1967.
And we haven't even mentioned his tabletop horse-racing game.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Snowboarding possum Ratatouille hits the slopes of Pennsylvania.
We begin, as we always so, with a snowboarding possum. Just let that settle in for a second.
That's Ratatouille, quite possibly the world's only snowboarding possum - we can hope. I'm going to go out on a limb here - I'm going to say he's the only sweater-wearing possum. Is that a sleeveless one? Yeah, I guess it is.
Ratatouille says he very much enjoys the sport, but he's not into the whole snowboarding culture.
VIDEO: Chicago high-school basketball announcer Brian Snow loses his mind - and his voice.
Finally, we'll check in with high-school sports, and Chicago's Marist High School, here in the 4A Regional Final a week ago.
Marist Redhawk's Lexus Williams drives out and hits a last-second three.
Fair warning - maybe go ahead and lower the volume on your TV right now. Here's play-by-play announcer Brian Snow with the call:
(Excerpt from video clip) BRIAN SNOW: Three, Williams! YESSSSSSSSSSSS! An unbelievable shot by Hot Rod Williams. Hawks win! Hawks win! Hawks win!
What was that in "High Anxiety"? It became - the great director or something breaks into this high-pitched falsetto?
I believe the Hawks won.
Unfortunately for Mr. Snow's voice, Marist had another come-from-behind win in the regional semi last Wednesday night.
Down by five with 20 seconds remaining. Brian Snow once again with the call:
(Excerpt from video clip) SNOW: They gotta get something going. Three for McIntosh - yes! If they wanna jump back -- Stole it! Oh no! - swisher! We're in a tie! We're in a tie! I don't believe this! Marist strikes again. Davis strikes again. It ain't midnight yet, y'all.
Can't remember his name, from Baltimore.
Marist ultimately lost to number-one seed Simeon in the championship game this weekend, and I've got a good E.N.T. doctor that Brian Snow can go see in the off-season.
"Time Marches On."
The darkening picture from Afghanistan, as we learn more about the American soldier who - unprovoked - killed at least 16 civilians there.
OLBERMANN: New details emerging today about the U.S. soldier who, without provocation, killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan, Sunday morning local time.
Our third story on the "Countdown" - military sources telling seemingly all news organizations today that the suspect was not just an American sniper, but that two years ago the man had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury during one of his three tours of Iraq - not only had he, nevertheless, been found fit for duty, but he was reportedly from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, which has itself been a plagued by high rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It was from Lewis-McChord, in January, that a 24-year-old Iraq vet allegedly murdered a park ranger at Mount Rainier in Washington state. It is also the home of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, one of the so-called "kill team," a rogue unit of American soldiers convicted in the 2010 thrill killings of three Afghan civilians.
The married father of two - the suspect in this case - allegedly left his base in southern Kandahar province in the middle of the night and gunned down 16 people, most of them as they slept. Among the dead - nine children and three women. Eleven of the victims were from one family. Officials say after the killings, the soldier returned to his base and turned himself in.
The president expressed condolences but maintained that the tragedy will not speed up the timetable for pulling U.S. troops out by the end of 2014:
(Excerpt from video clip) PRESIDENT OBAMA: But what we don't want to do is to do it in a way that is just a rush for the exit. Yeah, we've got hundreds - we've got hundreds of advisers in the civilians areas well. We've got huge amounts of equipment that have to be moved out. We've got to make sure that the Afghans can protect their borders and prevent Al-Qaida from coming back in. So, we're going to do it in a responsible way.
OLBERMANN: I'm joined by now by Huffington Post contributor - the author of "Overtaken by Events: a Pakistan Road Trip," Ethan Casey. Mr. Casey, thank you for your time tonight.
ETHAN CASEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Is there potentially anything positive in here? Is there any sudden awareness to recognize that we've been sending troops back too soon and too damaged and too often?
CASEY: Well, I certainly hope there is some - some sudden awareness, but this is a society that's is in denial about many things. And this is only one of the many things that American society is in denial about.
What I found myself thinking about a lot - not just in the last day or two, but really, in recent weeks, ever since the incident where the four marines urinated on the dead Taliban back in January - is the great novel by Joe Haldeman, who was a Vietnam vet - a great science fiction novel called "The Forever War."
And this guy keeps getting zapped into the future and sent to further- and further-away planets. And every time he comes back to earth, he thinks he's going to rejoin civilian life, he gets drafted again and sent back. It's an extremely haunting book, and it tells the story of what we're living through now, I think.
OLBERMANN: Is there any push, is there any grouping in the military, in the Pentagon, even in the civilians who are responsible in the Defense Department, to act like now, you know, this is just the first ultimately disastrous time bomb of a series of them that are likely to go off in places like Afghanistan?
CASEY: You know, the thing is, Keith, this isn't the first time bomb. This is only the latest one. We've had three or four in just the last couple of months. The urination incident - which was appalling and shocking - and then the Quran-burning thing, and now this.
And, you know, as somebody who has spent a lot of time in Pakistan, going back to 1995, I know only too well how this is playing over there, and it's not playing well. I certainly hope that people in the Pentagon are sitting up and taking notice.
OLBERMANN: And we thought we had problems in Afghanistan after the urination case and after the burning of the Qurans. What does this do, not just to our credibility in Afghanistan, but to our tenability there? And at what point are we at the risk of being, you know, driven out rather than choosing some time and some sort of advanced, orderly withdrawal?
CASEY: Yeah, you know, I just heard what - you played the president and his words about the advanced - the orderly withdrawal. The image that keeps coming to my mind is the helicopters on the roof of the embassy in Saigon. I really, really, really I hope it doesn't come to that in this case.
But, yeah, our credibility at this point is severely damaged, and our tenability certainly is as well. And I don't say that with any pleasure. I'm a patriotic American. I love my country. I want to be proud of my country, not ashamed of my country, and I also want my country to - you know, not to be further damaged. And we're doing a lot of damage, not only to Afghanistan by our presence there - and by things like this incident - but a lot of damage to our own society as well.
OLBERMANN: The damage here, I imagine we can survive but I think that, you know, that we're sort of hanging by a thread, collectively, in terms of Afghanistan, and that country is always hanging by a thread. The president well knows that.
OLBERMANN: He has known that since the day he stepped into office. He's often characterized his options in Afghanistan as "looking to find the least worst outcome."
But in the immediate future, relative to this horrible event, is there any way to repair any of the damage there, just relative to this thing?
CASEY: You know, the really important thing is - you know, in my article that was on Huffington Post, I quoted a guy named Todd Shea, who's a remarkable, great American who does life-saving work in Pakistan and in Haiti and Japan - many other places. A wonderful guy - high school dropout, who - who got kicked out of the Marines at age 19. So, in some ways, really a screw-up, but a guy who knows - or he was a screw-up - but a guy who knows what's what, and certainly knows what's what in that part of the world.
And what he said, and the quote in my article was, "If only 20 years ago we had acknowledged - treated people in Pakistan and Afghanistan as important in a human way."
That's a really important phrase, "important in a human way." You know, do we acknowledge our shared humanity with Pakistanis, with Afghans, with Muslims - with the Taliban, for that matter? Because that's really where it has to begin. People in the Muslim world - in this case - but people all over the world need to believe, genuinely, that Americans know them to be human beings. And I really don't think a lot of people in the world are confident of that at this point.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, try to get that past the Pentagon, even right now.
Ethan Casey, author and contributor to the Huffington Post. Great thanks for your insight. You've contributed much to our discussion of this tonight. Thank you.
CASEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The number of Republican voters in the primaries in Alabama and Mississippi tomorrow who are convinced the president of the United States is not a Muslim is about 13 percent - 13 percent. Markos Moulitsas joins me next.
OLBERMANN: Ed Harris as John McCain - "Did you hear what Olbermann said about me last night?" Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt - "Sir, you've got to stop watching Keith Olbermann." Keith Olbermann as Keith Olbermann - "Look, Senator, I'm not the one who canceled on Letterman. I'm the guy they had to get to fill in when you did."
Oddly, that last line was not in the movie "Game Change." Maysoon Zayid joins me, coming up.
OLBERMANN: The GOP contenders have less than 24 hours to make their final pitches as tomorrow's primary in Mississippi and Alabama approach. But, for Republican voters going to the polls there, they can question whether the president is one of "us" from here to eternity.
In our number-two story on the "Countdown" - vast swaths of GOP voters in both Southern states say that President Obama is not Christian, or they're not certain he's not a Muslim.
According to new Public Policy polling - asked whether Obama is Christian or Muslim, a majority of Mississippi Republicans, 52 percent, said he was Muslim, 12 percent said he was Christian, 36 percent undecided.
In Alabama, 45 percent of respondents pegged the president as Muslim, 41 percent unsure. Fourteen were correct.
And other polls' results don't paint a pretty picture, either.
Sixty-six percent of Mississippi Republicans do not believe in evolution. You put your joke here. And a majority - 53 percent - of likely voters in Alabama admitted they have a favorable opinion of Rush Limbaugh.
On that point, let's bring in Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of Daily Kos. Also, of course, a "Countdown" contributor. Markos, good evening.
MARKOS MOULITSAS: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This is still an issue. Is this a vestige of past campaigns or is this nonsense still being actively pushed?
MOULITSAS: Oh no, it's still being actively pushed.
I mean, just last week, we had Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona have kind of a show trial - he had an investigation into Obama's birth certificate, and he declared, unsurprisingly, that it was a fake. So, he's pursuing that doggedly, you can be assured.
And today we had a congressman - a Republican congressman - question Obama's birth certificate.
So, this has not quieted down. They're keeping this up, full deep.
OLBERMANN: The Director of Public Policy Polling, Tom Jensen, was speaking to Politico, and said he was not surprised by the numbers, given the prominence of folks like you've mentioned in Arpaio and this congressman.
Here's a quote from Mr. Jensen: "With both the religion thing and the birther thing, I'm not totally sure all these voters really think that Obama is a Muslim or that he was born in Kenya or Indonesia or wherever. I think it may be more a function of people who hate Obama expressing that negativity in any way they can, to the point of making these odd claims about his personal identity."
I guess that takes us back to a place we've been talking about for four years. When you fill in the blank of some sort of ridiculous criticism of the president of the United States, Barack Obama, is it in fact, fill in the black - fill in the blank - there's a Freudian slip - a fill in the blank for, "I can't say I hate him because he's black, so I have to come up with something else, and it's fill in the blank?"
MOULITSAS: Yeah, those are the two options, really.
I mean, either you take them at their word, and they're stupid enough to think that Obama's birth certificate isn't real, and that the birth announcements in two Hawaii newspapers were faked - what, 50 years in advance? - to cover up for this Manchurian candidate.
Or, the other option is that they've decided that Obama's different, and we can all really sort of assume why they think he is so different than they are, and that they need to come up with any justification that isn't, "He's black." So somebody comes out and says, "He's Indonesian," they're like, "Yeah, good enough for us. We'll roll with that one."
Those are the two options. Neither one makes him look that good, so I don't even know if it matters.
OLBERMANN: I've said this before, and I said it tonight, half in jest - you know, never mind voter ID laws. We need voter IQ laws. And obviously, everybody in this country has probably thought that, since 1800 - of every political persuasion, in every crisis, at every time - and we could never do it. I mean, you just couldn't do it. It would be so dangerous and so risky. But what do we do about an infrastructure of deliberate public misinformation that has been so well-financed and so well-built?
MOULITSAS: Yeah, I mean - my approach is to make fun of them, which is probably not the most constructive way to approach it.
I mean, you're right, though. This is by design. I mean, there's an entire wing-nut infrastructure designed to misinform its people. And every year, they get more safely ensconced in that bubble. So, they believe crazier and crazier things.
So, what do you do about it? You keep fighting to get the word out, to tell the truth, to try to combat those lies, to combat that misinformation and make sure that they remain about 35 percent of the American public, because as long as they're about 35 percent, they can be managed.
And yeah, the Republicans have that entire vote. But I think, by extension, they're damaging their brands, they're making themselves look very extreme, and that doesn't bode ill for Democrats. I think it will actually help them in 2012, and beyond.
And as long as there are just that many - what can we do? I mean, they are stupid people, we live with them. Let them be off in Fox land and hopefully that's where they stay. If they're able to have a bigger impact, influence more people, then it becomes a bigger problem. But, so far, I think it's about 30-35 percent, and hopefully it stays there.
OLBERMANN: If we could, somehow, convince them that voting costs them money, or access to food. Maybe we could do that, and then they'd stay home.
MOULITSAS: Osama bin Laden wants nothing more than for you to vote.
OLBERMANN: That's - good, good. Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos, a "Countdown" contributor, and all-around conspiracy guy. Great thanks. Good to talk to you, sir.
MOULITSAS: Great. Thanks so much.
OLBERMANN: Julianne Moore nails it as Sarah Palin in "Game Change." Leaving the question - can a sympathetic portrait still kill your political credibility? Next.
OLBERMANN: So, can a movie present a sympathetic portrait of a controversial politician and still destroy whatever remaining credibility she had? Glad I'm burying the lede here.
In our number-one story - HBO's "Game Change" premiered Saturday and contained one revelation so shocking, so surprising that I'm surprised the electricity was working today.
(Excerpt from video clip) HARRIS (as Sen. John McCain): Did you hear what Olbermann said about me last night?
(Excerpt from video clip) HARRELSON (as Steve Schmidt): Sir, you've got to stop watching Keith Olbermann.
OLBERMANN: What? John McCain watched "Countdown" during the 2008 campaign?
That was Ed Harris's John McCain, complaining to campaign manager Steve Schmidt - played by Woody Harrelson - about something that I said on the air.
I have no idea what could have made the senator so upset, besides my constant comparisons of him to Grandpa Simpson. Or the fact that - when he lied to David Letterman about canceling his appearance on "The Late Show" so he could rush back to Washington because the economy was cratering - he, in fact, rushed over to West 57th street to do a different interview on the same network and Letterman got me to substitute as the guest.
Mr. McCain says he didn't watch the movie, that it was inaccurate. Sarah Palin said the same thing. The real Steve Schmidt said, "Nah, it was pretty much a documentary with better lighting."
(Excerpt from video clip) STEVE SCHMIDT: It was very accurate. I think, for all of us who were in the campaign, it really rang true.
OLBERMANN: Same for Nicole Wallace, the senior adviser to the campaign who was assigned to work with Palin. In the movie, she tearfully admits, on election night, that she could not bring herself to vote.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Well, the Palin campaign didn't make it. How true to life?
(Excerpt from video clip) NICOLE WALLACE: Well true enough to make me squirm.
OLBERMANN: Let's bring in comedienne and "Countdown" contributor Maysoon Zayid. Thanks for being here.
So, we all squirmed and watched that on Saturday night.
First off - obviously unanimous opinion - Julianne Moore nailed it, gets an Emmy, maybe gets six Emmys for that - nailing Palin, to borrow a phrase from some other context.
But the emotions that she evoked - you see Palin as sincere, but totally unprepared, at the beginning. Then, she's absolutely the victim of other people's bad decisions with her own ambition sort of mixed in. Then, she's catatonic. Then, she's vindictive and possibly the most selfish person in the history of humanity. So, most of it was a sympathetic performance, but she's still done as a candidate, right? After that, there's no way you can be taken seriously by, other than your most ardent supporters.
MAYSOON ZAYID: Um, we still are talking about the GOP, so believe it or not, unfortunately - very sadly - there is still hope. I'm a huge, huge Julianne Moore fan, since she played evil twins on "As the World Turns."
OLBERMANN: I remember that.
ZAYID: And I thought she did a great Sarah Palin. I thought that, also, I believed that the movie was accurate. I do, because it's exactly how I imagined it.
When they were training her for the debates, and she was talking about Islamaphobia and Sudan and Saddam, and she didn't know the difference - it was exactly how I pictured it, and I always wanted to be a fly on the wall to see who came up with the idea of using the baby to cover the baby bump.
OLBERMANN: Yes. All right - so, she responded to the movie originally by saying there was nothing - that she was not going to watch it, there was nothing in there, it was false.
Now, she says, "I believe my family has the right priorities and knows what really matters." That is something of a difference of opinion from herself before the movie aired. What happened?
ZAYID: I bet you anything that her egomaniacal self saw how beautiful she looked like as Julianne Moore and was like, "I'm in."
But also, I think that she has a real problem differentiating reality and truth, and I bet she could watch that movie and see it as a positive thing, see talking about how embarrassed she was about her own daughter as a positive thing. So, I think it's just an extension of her delusion.
OLBERMANN: Right, I have to play another clip. John McCain claims he didn't watch the movie. He also used to tell me - and tell people at MSNBC - he never watched "Countdown." So, I want to play this clip and then get your thought.
OLBERMANN: Play it again.
(Excerpt from video clip) HARRIS (as Sen. John McCain): Did you hear what Olbermann said about me last night?
(Excerpt from video clip) HARRELSON (as Steve Schmidt): Sir, you've got to stop watching Keith Olbermann.
OLBERMANN: So, he didn't watch me then, and he didn't watch this over the weekend. So, we know the first one isn't true. Do you think he watched?
ZAYID: I think that he watched, and I also - I watched. And in that moment when Woody Harrelson said what he said about "Countdown," I just wanted John McCain to turn around and say "I can't quit him. I can't quit him," because the way that Woody Harrelson said, "Stop watching Keith Olbermann," was exactly like he said, "Stop watching porn."
OLBERMANN: Oh boy, that would have been wonderful. It was good enough as it was.
Now, we didn't even get to address the real revelation in this, which is that Sarah Palin owns more hockey jerseys than the Hockey Hall of Fame.
ZAYID: People in glass houses shouldn't throw baseballs, my friend.
OLBERMANN: Something like that. All right - yeah, guilty.
"Countdown" contributor Maysoon Zayid. Always a pleasure to see you. Thanks for coming in.
ZAYID: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown." Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap. Remember what John McCain says - "Stop watching Keith Olbermann."
Good night and good luck.