'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
NOW on Countdown: Gingrich's overture to Santorum while Santorum's camp plays the Seamus The Romney Dog Card. Two Words: Michael Vick
#5 'Double Team', Andy Kroll
#5 'Double Team', Craig Crawford
#4 'War On Women', Sara Libby
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Goodbye Goldman', Dan Gross
#2 'Uncovered', Jonathan Cohn
#1 'The King's Breach', Jamie Kilstein
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Dan Gross, Craig Crawford, Jonathan Cohn, Andy Kroll, Sarah Libby, Jamie Kilstein
KEITH OLBERMANN: Now on "Countdown" - a Santorum-Gingrich combination? A Gingrich senior adviser reportedly floats the idea, without specifying who'd be the presidential nominee and who would not.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: The time is now for conservatives to pull together.
OLBERMANN: Gingrich insists he feels no pressure to get out.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: Let's see where we are in a few more weeks. There's no - there's no urgency. The one person who has a challenge is Romney, because if he doesn't actually gain this by sheer numbers, he won't be the nominee.
OLBERMANN: But Romney is always ready to hit people with his wallet. Time for the latest daily Mitt-tastrophe today.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: Megyn, guess what? I've made a lot of money. I've been very successful. I'm not going to apologize for that.
OLBERMANN: Seamus, the late Romney dog, come on down. You are finally an official campaign issue. This is the chief strategist for Rick Santorum -
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BRABENDER: Quite frankly, I'm not sure I'm going to listen to the value judgment of a guy who strapped his own dog on the top of the roof of his car and went hurling down the highway.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of hurling -
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that.
OLBERMANN: As predicted - Romney backs down, his opponents pounce. As do his (shows footage of RUSH LIMBAUGH).
The Army pulls its advertising, and 53 percent of the country thinks he should be fired. If only he could understand what's happening to him.
(Excerpt from video clip) RUSH LIMBAUGH : How can I be anti-woman? I even judged the Miss America Pageant.
OLBERMANN: Hoist with his own ride-along, Mr. "Don't Interfere With Law Enforcement," Congressman Peter King now under investigation for illegally recording arrests and posting them to YouTube.
(Excerpt from video clip) PETER KING: I'm off now with Lenny DePaul and the other guys, who you may have seen on television in "Manhunters."
OLBERMANN: Oops, Congressman. You need some help picking up those names you just dropped?
And - from op-ed hero to farce. He quits Goldman Sachs by writing a commentary about it in The New York Times, having apparently just discovered - after twelve years - that Wall Street could be ethically corrupt and purely profit-driven.
(Excerpt from video clip) CLAUDE RAINS: I'm shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!
(Excerpt from video clip) DALIO: Your winnings, sir.
(Excerpt from video clip) CLAUDE RAINS: Oh, thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Wednesday, March 14, 238 days until the 2012 presidential election.
Rick Santorum winning the Alabama and Mississippi GOP primaries in a nightmare of a road game for Mitt Romney, with Newt Gingrich 's people reportedly raising - for the first time - the idea of combining forces in some way with Santorum.
Our fifth story on the "Countdown" - Romney still leading overwhelmingly in delegates, Santorum in confidence and momentum.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: We will compete everywhere. The time is now for conservatives to pull together.
OLBERMANN: Newt Gingrich, not leading in anything except well-placed barbs:
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: If you're the front-runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a front-runner.
OLBERMANN: That jab after erstwhile front-runner Romney had mixed hubris and humility with a pre-election day plea on Monday.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: We're going to win tomorrow. We need your help, though.
OLBERMANN: Evidently, that was news to Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, who said last night: "I don't think anybody expected Mitt to win Alabama or Mississippi. As Mitt said, this was an away game for him, and I think that's absolutely true."
The scores from last night's away games - Santorum winning Mississippi by two points over Gingrich and three over Romney. The former Pennsylvania senator scoring again in Alabama - a six-point lead over Gingrich and Romney.
Hawaii apparently a home game for Romney, beating Santorum by 20 points, and Ron Paul by 27 and Gingrich by 34. The Toa Bar in American Samoa is also Romney turf. The governor won all six delegates from the 70 or so Republicans who caucused there last night.
Elsewhere in delegate math, these numbers - some approximates from The Associated Press - Mississippi, Santorum wins 13, Gingrich and Romney 12 each. In Alabama, Santorum with 18, Gingrich 12, and Romney 11. And in Hawaii, Romney nine, Santorum five, and Gingrich and Paul three apiece.
With 1,144 needed to win, Romney now has 495 - which is still 64 more than Santorum and Gingrich and Paul combined. Romney campaign political director Rich Beeson seeming pleased with the tallies, saying Tuesday's results actually increased Governor Romney's delegate lead, while his opponents only moved closer to their date of mathematical elimination.
Eliminating Romney by teaming as Santorum's junior partner - the suggestion of a Gingrich campaign anonymous senior adviser, who reportedly told the Huffington Post, "Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would make a powerful team against Barack Obama. They have the capability to deny Governor Romney the nomination."
Gingrich also insisting that - despite his third-place showing in states his campaign had said he had to win - there was no pressure that could force him out of the race.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Well, the pressures are going to be that the Romney people want me to get out, that the Washington establishment wants me to get out, that the lobbyists who donated to Romney want me to get out, the Wall Street millionaires who have given to Romney want me to get out.
OLBERMANN: Former Gingrich aide Rick Tyler, now running his "Winning our Future" super PAC, suggesting Newt Gingrich could even still win the nomination in a brokered convention.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK TYLER: My guess is, after the first ballot - which Mitt Romney will fail - then it's a better-than-even chance that Newt Gingrich could win a nomination on the second ballot.
OLBERMANN: As for Mitt Romney - with three private fundraisers scheduled today in Stanford, Connecticut and New York City, Occupy Wall Street protesters turning up to greet him at the Waldorf Astoria hotel - Romney also defending himself and his flurry of gaffes about his wealth on Fox News.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Guess what? I made a lot of money. I've been very successful. I'm not going to apologize for that.
OLBERMANN: Hit them with your wallet, Mitt!
More trouble for Mr. Romney on another front, and it may seem trivial, but think long and hard about this - the Seamus card is in play.
Seamus, the family dog, which Ramney - or Romney had and took to Canada in a carrier strapped to Romney's car roof in 1983, a matter that should worry dog lovers everywhere. He has now been employed, in memoriam, by Santorum campaign senior strategist John Brabender, after Romney called Santorum's campaign desperate.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BRABENDER: Quite frankly, I'm not sure I'm going to listen to the value judgment of a guy who strapped his own dog on the top of the roof of his car and went hurling down the highway.
OLBERMANN: Woof. Don't think it matters? Two words - Michael. Vick.
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is visiting Puerto Rico, which has 23 delegates in play in a primary Sunday.
Santorum telling a local paper that he "supported Puerto Rico's right to self-determination." As for islanders yearning for statehood, he said, "Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law, and that is that English has to be the principal language. To be a state of the United States, English has to be the principle language."
Contrary to Santorum, who may have dreamt that, there is no language requirement in the U.S. Constitution. Or an official American language, at least not yet.
For more on Santorum's Southern victories and Mitt Romney's delegate math, I'm joined by Andy Kroll, staff writer with Mother Jones. Andy, thanks for your time tonight.
ANDY KROLL: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: We've heard what Romney and Santorum and Gingrich have said that last night meant for Romney. What did it really mean for Romney?
KROLL: Well, on paper, it meant that Mitt Romney widened his delegate lead by about a half dozen delegates. So, mathematically - as his advisers say - his lead is growing.
However, if you're talking about the narrative, if you're talking about momentum, if you're talking about popular support, Rick Santorum had a better night, and Mitt Romney, again, showed that he just can't find that spark, and he just can't get conservatives - especially those in the South, the hardliners - to rally behind his campaign. He's still muddling along, picking up delegates, but still failing to catch fire.
OLBERMANN: The Romney argument - inevitability and this wonderful "mathematical elimination," which does not really have a campaign lilt to it - it's kind of antiseptic and businesslike. I mean, it's not Romney and Tippecanoe and Mathematical Elimination, too.
How do you sell this? How do you build enthusiasm, rather than lose enthusiasm, if the best you can come up with is - "Well, you know, according to addition and subtraction, we will win eventually."
KROLL: Well, you don't build support around mathematical elimination or the slow march to 1,144 delegates. I woke up this morning and read the Romney campaign's email and then wanted to crawl back in bed and go back to sleep because it was so depressing and boring.
At this point, you know, they're really looking to wealthy donors, just like we saw today - fundraisers in New York and Connecticut that surpassed expectations - they're looking to wealthy donors to continue his campaign and to keep it going because, frankly, you're not going to rouse the base like President Obama did in 2008 by talking about addition and subtraction and delegates and how we're going to get to 1,144, you know, before the last primary in Utah in June.
OLBERMANN: The upcoming states: Missouri and Puerto Rico on Saturday and Sunday - Puerto Rico, which would not, if it is a state, would not have laws that Rick Santorum just invented - and Illinois next Tuesday. What does the delegate math look like in those three? Is this a series of easy pickings for Romney, or does Santorum have a shot to register and keep his momentum going in the immediate future?
KROLL: You've got about 150 delegates at play here, and they're all up for grabs. The polls are pretty much a dead heat in Illinois between Santorum and Romney.
The latest poll that we saw from Missouri showed Newt Gingrich in front, and while I don't trust that - it's from January - while I don't trust that, my guess is that this race, which is, you know, very much is a two-man race at this point - Newt Gingrich is out of the race, though he doesn't admit it yet - these are going to be contested primaries coming up in the next week, just as the next week or two are going to be contested.
And I don't think that Mitt Romney has any advantage going in, and his advisers are going to be sweating bullets heading into Illinois and Missouri, for sure.
OLBERMANN: And nobody has really done this, and now Santorum's adviser Mr. Brabender has done this - introducing the saga, the infamous saga, of Seamus the dog - you know, "Piddler on the Roof," as it was.
I know it sounds like trivia, and it's the stuff of late-night comedy, but, isn't this the kind of thing that really translates viscerally in a country where the majority of the electorate, whether they go to the polls or not really, aren't - they don't pay attention to the stuff that should matter to them? They recognize that they are crazy about dogs, and if you do not hit people over the head with the saga of Seamus, and try to, you know, use this dog's memory blatantly politically. If you position it correctly, could it not cost Romney the nomination or the election?
KROLL: It's a visceral issue. It tugs at the heartstrings, and I don't think it's set in yet. I don't think - I mean, we have a dogsagainstromney.com website. There are campaigns around this. People hold Seamus signs at events.
You know, Gail Collins of The New York Times has written more columns about this than anything else that I can imagine. But, I still don't think that this has actually taken root. And I don't know if Rick Santorum is the compassionate, heartfelt guy who will really bring this image home. I would look for the Obama folks to throw this in an ad, or bring this out in a debate or use it in the same way that Brabender did.
But I think it is. It does punch people in the gut more than mathematical elimination or, you know, talk about tax breaks or Bain Capital.
OLBERMANN: And, of course, Santorum has previously expressed his interest in what happens to dogs. Anyway, so - maybe he is the man. We'll find out.
Andy Kroll, staff writer at Mother Jones, great thanks - again - for your time tonight.
KROLL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: About where the size of the field will look this time next week, I'm joined by Craig Crawford, of course of craigcrawford.com, and the author of "The Politics of Life." Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: Hello there.
OLBERMANN: That little hint, anonymously dropped out of the supposed senior adviser from the Gingrich campaign that, you know, they could be unbeatable together and stop Romney from getting the nomination - I noticed it was very carefully phrased and the article around it was very carefully phrased. Who do the Gingrich people think is the presidential nominee in that equation - Gingrich?
CRAWFORD: I don't know, I think he needs to be Baker Acted at this point. I mean, he's throwing out so many different scenarios.
And this "Survivor"-type scenario where there's an alliance between he and Santorum - I mean, the Santorum people, they want no part of that. They'd like him out of the race. That's their best shot of taking on Romney. But I mean, in this man's mind, I mean, I'm sure any alliance that he would talk about in his mind, he's thinking he would be the nominee - with 12 percent of the delegates.
OLBERMANN: But he says that there's no urgency for him to make a decision about getting out of the campaign, that he can wait a few more weeks. So, do we - does that mean, based on how this campaign has gone so far, if he's saying it will be a few more weeks, that somehow we'll have a dramatic announcement next Monday that he's dropped out and endorsed Santorum? 'Cause nothing's gone the way we thought it's going to go.
CRAWFORD: No, and he keeps dropping these hints that, you know, "If I don't win Georgia, I'm not credible. If I don't win South Carolina, Alabama, I'm not credible." He keeps laying these things out. Ultimately, he's going to get down to a cell phone and a rental car and - with his ego - that may be enough.
CRAWFORD: What I've been hearing, and seen elsewhere, is that Sheldon Adelson may not be writing any more checks. And when you look at Gingrich's spending - as of the last I looked today, he hadn't put an ad up yet in Illinois and very, very low numbers on spending in Alabama and Mississippi. It looks to me like the Adelson money has gone away, and Calista will have to find somebody else to cover her Tiffany bills.
OLBERMANN: Yes, so this would be the optimum time for him to get out and, obviously, the pressure is beginning to mount around people who think, "Well, we don't know if we can get Santorum elected, but we're pretty sure we could, in fact, get Santorum - with Gingrich's support - to at least take the thing to the convention, if not to defeat him outright."
Now, I've got Richard Viguerie tweeting today that he wants everybody on the Gingrich side to sway their support to Santorum. Is this the optimum time for Gingrich, and does anybody think he knows that?
CRAWFORD: You know, the trouble with a lot of this pressure being put on Gingrich - I mean, here is a man - if I can suspend disbelief a moment and give him some credit. Going back to the mid-60s, in middle Georgia, he pioneered Republicanism in Georgia. He was instrumental, if not the leader, in taking over the House in 1994. There aren't a lot of people alive today over the last 30 years as big a deal, as big of an icon, to Republican grassroots and Republican - a lot of people in elected office responsible - he's responsible for that.
So, you know, they got to be careful at trying to push him too hard. But, at the same time, it is time for him to get out and have some dignity left.
OLBERMANN: If he gets out now, though, in the construction - in theoretical construction - he'd be going out and assuming a kind of Dick Cheney position. I mean, wouldn't - Santorum would offer him the vice presidential nomination to get him to get out now, wouldn't he?
CRAWFORD: I don't know. You know, Gingrich is such a loose canon. I tell you this, anybody who made Gingrich vice president - their food taster would need a food taster.
OLBERMANN: All right, the other point today - Time magazine reported that Ron Paul's people have sent signals to Romney's people about throwing their support to the governor, which is interesting, certainly. But, does Ron Paul matter anymore, in terms of the delegate count?
CRAWFORD: That has been a big surprise to me in this campaign. I really thought he had the grassroots support and the access to individual donors to keep going. He's won one state, I think - what? The Virgin Islands, I think?
All along, one of the most interesting things to watch is sort of this quiet - not alliance - but non-aggression pact between Romney and Ron Paul.
I mean - for example, in Virginia, Keith, where only Ron Paul and Romney were on the ballot, Ron Paul got 41 percent, but he didn't campaign there. I thought that was instructive of - there he had an opportunity to go one-on-one with Romney, and he had a base of support, obviously, and he got 41 percent without campaigning. So, that suggests to me that I do kind of buy the potential - but, if Ron Paul did that, if he made some sort of deal with Romney to get out of the race, I mean, his supporters would take up pitchforks against him.
OLBERMANN: Right, you might get Santorum nominated that way. Craig Crawford, of craigcrawford.com, author of "The Politics of Life," and the upcoming book, "Even his Food Taster would Need a Food Taster." Great thanks, Craig.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: And, as we told you 24 hours ago - before anybody else was paying attention to it - a seemingly simple answer to a local reporter's question had Mitt Romney backtracking, getting slammed by the Democrats and getting slammed by women today.
"No, he will not try to get rid of Planned Parenthood," his spokesman says.
But again, tonight, it looks even more likely that his bosses might - just might - try to get rid of Rush Limbaugh. That's next, this is "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Told you so. Romney slammed on all sides for the "Planned Parenthood, we'll get rid of that" stumble.
While the career death of Rush Limbaugh continues to seemingly play out at slow speed, the Army now pulls its advertising. And in a new poll, 53 percent say that - for his remarks about Sandra Fluke - Limbaugh should be fired. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: When this line is said about actual despots, it usually means the ball game - the Army has dropped its support.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - the U.S. military will not advertise on Rush Limbaugh's show anymore and more than half of the country, in a poll, says it wants to see him fired. This, while Mitt Romney had to repair his wounds - self-inflicted - in his battle in the right's war against women.
Limbaugh first. Counting the Army, 141 advertisers have now dropped their support. Still other companies are asking radio stations to submit programming grids, sans Limbaugh.
No "sans Limbaugh" from him. He continues to defend himself:
(Excerpt from video clip) LIMBAUGH : How can I be anti-woman? I even judged the Miss America Pageant.
OLBERMANN: Uh huh.
A new Bloomberg poll finds a majority of Americans judging agree with those ex-advertisers. Fifty-three percent say he should be fired, only 42 percent say no.
As to Governor Romney - as we told you first last night, he had sloppily answered a question about budget cuts. While he referenced subsidies for Amtrak being cut, he didn't say anything about subsidies for another outfit. He just seemed to declare war on it.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: But there are others. Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that.
OLBERMANN: Romney advisers attempted to control the damage, Democrats went on the offensive. They used that pronouncement as a fundraising opportunity.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: We're going to get rid of that.
OLBERMANN: Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe birth control should play no part in the national political debate. That according to a new poll, also Bloomberg - 62 percent say the contraception battle is a matter of women's health and access to birth control - 33 percent say it's about religious liberty.
I would like to now bring in Sarah Libby, reporter at Talking Points Memo, for more on both of these stories. Thanks for your time tonight.
SARAH LIBBY: Hi.
OLBERMANN: The Limbaugh story drips a little more each day. I know 53 percent want him fired in the Bloomberg poll. It sounds like a lot, but it still leaves him, potentially, an audience of 150 million listeners or so. His job isn't actually in jeopardy, is it?
LIBBY: I don't think it's ultimately in jeopardy. He still has millions and millions of viewers. What is in jeopardy is his role as kind of the mouthpiece of the Republican party.
I think you see a lot of lawmakers - prominent lawmakers like Scott Brown - not afraid, this time around, to disavow his comments completely. I think last time he was in the news and being really gone after by the public was when he said he wanted Obama to fail. And, at that point, you had a lot of Republicans kind of tepidly disavowing that, and then ultimately apologizing to him. And this time he doesn't have them wrapped around his finger anymore. They're not afraid to say, "We don't agree with you. These comments were vile," and, you know, leave it at that.
OLBERMANN: About Governor Romney, as I said last night when we broke that story, he was going to get it from as many different sides as there were. And first he had to backtrack.
Let me read what the spokesman said: "The governor singled out some areas of the budget he would eliminate or curtail, all in the name of achieving a balanced budget. It would not be getting rid of the organization. They," meaning Planned Parenthood, "have other sources of funding besides government operations. But, in order to achieve balance, we have to make some tough decisions about spending."
Even in doing that - whereas he might have clarified what he probably intended to say last night in St. Louis, or in Kirkwood, Missouri - didn't Romney also tick off some of the fanatics who we'll hear only - in that, "What do you mean, you're saying you don't want to eliminate Planned Parenthood?"
LIBBY: It wasn't just the fanatics that he ticked off. I mean, you have very prominent Democratic lawmakers stepping forward to say, "Enough with bringing up Planned Parenthood."
We sort of thought this was put to rest for a while after the Komen debacle. And you just had people coming out of the woodwork to defend Planned Parenthood and the services that it provides. And, you know, you had a video from the DNC today and a lot of female lawmakers coming forward with statements that pounced on Romney's attack on Planned Parenthood. And it's certainly not just the fanatics who were upset by it. It's a lot of very prominent Democrats.
And I think that, you know - you saw the survey. The public agrees. They are sick of dealing with this issue. And every time that you think that it's put to rest, it comes up again.
OLBERMANN: Of course I didn't - I didn't mean fanatics being pro-Planned Parenthood. I meant the fanatics on the Republican side who would then respond to Romney's backtrack by saying, "What do you mean you don't want to get rid of Planned Parenthood?" You've got to face that, too, because there are people who - I mean, are we convinced that this was not a dog whistle, and that it was just a mistake in phrasing, given how many mistakes in phrasing Romney is likely to produce in a week's time?
LIBBY: I mean, it very well could have been sort of a slight wink and a nod to the people who are really excited by the kind of red-meat issues like de-funding Planned Parenthood. But I think, ultimately, it probably was just a misstep.
But it's certainly symbolic of the fact that Romney has not been able to articulate his message clearly, and that's why he's floundering with the base and with voters in all of these states that are picking, you know, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich over him, as they did last night in Alabama and Mississippi.
OLBERMANN: Sara Libby of Talking Points Memo, great thanks for your time tonight.
LIBBY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The guy who quit Goldman Sachs via an op-ed in The New York Times - you've worked there twelve years, and only now you've figured out they were money-grubbing bastards? Coming up.
OLBERMANN: At the start of the day, he was a man nobly and publicly quitting a ruthless investment firm. He ends the day as the butt of jokes and satire.
First, the "Sanity Break," and a huge day for birthdays - Einstein in 1879, astronaut Frank Borman in 1928, Michael Caine and Quincy Jones in 1933, and in 1966, the former hockey goalie Darcy Wakaluk. Wakaluk.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: MVSU ball player taunts President Obama in opening game of NCAA tournament.
Not hockey, but March Madness begins. President Obama on hand for the opening game of the NCAA tournament, Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State, along with David Cameron, the P.M. of Britain.
During the halftime interview, the hoopster Commander-in-Chief was a bit critical of the lackluster shooting. Mississippi Valley State's Kevin Burwell took the criticism to heart.
From the corner, way downtown - bang. And right in front of the president, and makes sure to stare him down.
(Excerpt from video clip) KEVIN BURWELL: In the heat of the moment, I just pointed at him a couple times, that's it.
OLBERMANN: Usually, to trash talk the president like that you need to be running for the GOP nomination. Or have a show on Fox.
VIDEO: Two Birmingham Southern College students attempt a pole-vaulting Frisbee catch.
We stay in the wide world of sports, and a wide world it is.
Birmingham Southern College students Hank Ballard and Colin Perry here attempting a pole-vaulting Frisbee catch.
Vaulter Bally takes off, Perry with the toss - Whee! He's over the crossbar, and sticks it.
For their next trick, they'll attempt to combine hacky sack and the hammer throw.
VIDEO: Competitive-eating champ Kobayashi attempts grilled-cheese record at Austin's SXSW.
Finally, we end - as we always do - by checking in with competitive-eating legend Takeru Kobayashi.
Here, we find the hot-dog-eating champ in Austin, where he's attempting to eat the most grilled cheese sandwiches in one minute. Sandwiches are lined up, and they're running.
Mmm - grilled cheese. Mmm - grilled cheese. Mmm - grilled cheese.
Ultimately, he finished 13 of them in a minute.
Kobayashi's birthday is tomorrow, incidentally. And, if you're looking for a last minute gift, my sources insist he loves grilled cheese.
"Time Marches On!"
The New York congressman who sees terrorists under every bed and believes law enforcement is always right is accused of interfering with law enforcement. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Shocking and disturbing news from The New York Times - there is corruption and greed on Wall Street.
In our third story - a departing employee of Goldman Sachs wrote an op-ed today claiming that the culture at Goldman is focused on making money, even if it sometimes comes as a disservice to their clients. And?
In a piece titled "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs," Greg Smith claims that, after 12 years, he has just discovered that the culture has changed. He claims it used to be about helping clients - maybe in the 1840s - but now: "It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months, I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as 'Muppets,' sometimes over internal email."
And he knows exactly who to blame: "When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm's culture on their watch."
What was not in Mr. Smith's piece was any indication of what actually changed at Goldman from his earlier experiences. A lot of what he describes, such as pushing stocks that have little potential for profit - called "axes" - onto clients, were similarly described in a Senate report following the financial collapse of 2008.
Nor was there any indication as to whether Mr. Smith participated in these actions during his time at Goldman.
But we did learn one thing about him: "My proudest moments in life - getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabi Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics." Glad you mentioned it.
Joining me now - Dan Gross, economics editor at Yahoo!Finance. Dan, good evening.
DAN GROSS: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Wow, it only took him 12 years to figure this out. I'm gathering Wall Street feels like it has lost one of its best and its brightest tonight.
GROSS: Right. Well, actually - you know what, Keith? I think two of those Muppets - you know, the old guys in the balcony - I think they actually were Goldman Sachs clients.
You know, it strikes me - you said he'd been there for 12 years. You know, what kept him there all those years? An average Goldman worker gets, I think four to five hundred thousand dollars a year. So, you average that out to 12 years - assuming he was just average, which, he was clearly above average from what he tells us - he probably made $5 million or $6 million, you know, over the course of his 12 years in the company. So, he has enough to kind of keep him padded, you know, now that he's leaving.
OLBERMANN: What I - I can understand why people think this was some sort of great revelation. But - why, after a few hours, I think it became clear that anybody who was sort of, you know, "Well, this is a daring gesture by this young man," might have given way to looking at it going, "Yeah, he talks about his success playing ping-pong as well."
So, I think that the bloom went off the rose quickly on this, and yet, this was still being taken seriously on the network nightly news broadcasts tonight, why?
GROSS: Well, not just there. I would say this is, you know, a profile in non-courage.
GROSS: We're in March. People get their bonuses in January and February. So, if you're really courageous and wanted to put it on the line you might do this in November/December before getting that last check.
I was at a meeting with my publisher - I have a book coming out in a couple of months - and they said every publisher in town is calling every agent in town to try to sign this guy up to do a book deal. So, I don't think we've quite heard the last.
But I think, you know, what it is is - Goldman still has this mystique, the way the Yankees have mystique, the way McKinsey, in some realms, has mystique. And, you know, nobody leaves these places voluntarily. So, the prospect of some insider telling all, even if they were, you know, not an all-star but perhaps a utility infielder - that gets people excited. If this guy had worked at Morgan Stanley or Citigroup, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
OLBERMANN: I guess. And maybe we should wait for the Enrique Wilson story for the Yankees.
It's already been spoofed. The Daily Mash had one - and I hope I don't do this injustice - let me read a little bit: "Today is my last day at the Empire after almost 12 years - first as a summer intern, then in the Death Star and now in London. I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people, and its massive genocidal space machines. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined - right out of Yoda College - that I can no longer, in good conscience, point menacingly and say that I identify with what it stands for."
What is the actual reaction on Wall Street - not to de-Vader the spoof here - but to Mr. Smith?
GROSS: Well, I think that Wall Street is very upset that Darth Vader is thinking of resigning from the Death Star.
OLBERMANN: Of course - their role model.
GROSS: I think, you know, this is easily shrugged off. You know, this is not somebody who is a household name. You know, if somebody at the very top levels of Goldman had resigned, it would be in The Wall Street Journal - they wouldn't have to write an op-ed in The New York Times to call attention to the fact. There was an internal email that went out under Lloyd Blankfein's - the CEO's - name and said, you know, "This guy was a vice president, a title which 12,000 of our 30,000 people have." So, they were sort of making it clear that this guy was not some big player.
Of course, he was sort of important in what he did, he probably had some people who worked for him, but he was not someone who was a known quantity in the markets, probably not particularly known to people in the firm, and certainly not known on Wall Street. So, the only way this guy was going to get any attention for leaving was by cloaking it in, you know, some large public gesture.
OLBERMANN: The economic editor for Yahoo!finance, Dan Gross, who does not list on his resume playing ping-pong at Cornell.
GROSS: I was an alternate. I was an alternate.
OLBERMANN: They wouldn't let me in the room. Thank you, Dan.
GROSS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Give a congressman like Pete King a budget, and he'll start a McCarthy-esque witchhunt of Muslims. Give him a camera, and he'll start acting like he's host of the TV show "Cops." Nobody told him it's illegal to videotape an arrest in the perp's home without the perp's consent. Book 'em, Danno.
OLBERMANN: The president's healthcare reform - two years in, nearly. It's going to cost less. It's also going to cover less. And, weirdest of all, 14 percent of the Americans polled about it think it has already been overturned by the Supreme Court. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: In less than two weeks, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about key provisions of the healthcare reform: the individual mandate to buy insurance, the claim that states are being forced to expand Medicaid.
In our number two story - as that looms, the Congressional Budget Office today generated projections that showed the Affordable Care Act will cost less and cover less than it had predicted previously.
The CBO saying about two million fewer Americans will have coverage by 2016 under reform than previously estimated. Originally, it had predicted 32 million Americans, who otherwise would not have had coverage, would be insured. The estimate is now 30 million. The impact of the reform is also expected to cost $50 billion less than the CBO anticipated just last year.
Public reaction to reform is understandably muddled. Kaiser Family Foundation has done a poll that shows 14 percent of Americans think the Supreme Court already ruled against the Affordable Care Act.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Americans are, in fact, evenly divided over the passage of comprehensive healthcare reform. What's at issue, and at the heart of the Supreme Court case, is the individual mandate section of the bill which requires all Americans to purchase health care by 2014 or face some financial penalty. The Kaiser survey finds more than half of Americans - 51 percent - think the government is overstepping its bounds with the health-insurance mandate. Twenty-eight percent think it's constitutional, the rest undecided, even though a huge majority of those surveyed currently live under a mandate to buy auto insurance.
Joining me now - Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at The New Republic and author of "Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis and the People Who Pay the Price." It's good to talk to you again, sir.
JONATHAN COHN: Thanks for having me on the show.
OLBERMANN: So, the CBO altered these forecasts downward in terms of expense and coverage. What does that mean as a practical matter?
COHN: You know, as a practical matter, it actually doesn't really mean that much. CBO every year goes back through its projections of what the health-care bill is going to cost. And it says, "All right, you know, we know a little bit more now about how the economy is going to look. We want to change our mathematical formulas a little bit."
And so, the numbers, you know, they dance around a little bit from year to year. And as you've just described, we are now - they are now projecting that it will reach slightly fewer people but it will cost slightly less money.
But you know, the bottom line is the same as its always been. This bill - because of this law, 30 million people who wouldn't have had health insurance are going to get health insurance. Most people with health insurance won't lose it. The bill is going to pay for itself and, over time, it's going to actually reduce the deficit. That's what the CBO said when the law passed, and that's what the CBO said today.
OLBERMANN: Of course, we know what statistics have been used for in this entire public-relations war since health-care reform was proposed after the president took office. Is there anything in here that you see could be particularly stretched out of shape and used, particularly by the opponents of health-care reform?
COHN: Yeah, actually, there was something used just that way today. You know, right after the CBO report came out, I got flooded with press releases from Republican offices on Capitol Hill saying that, "Oh my god, the CBO had discovered that health-care reform was this huge expensive boondoggle, and the critics, you know, they were right all along."
Well, it turns out what they did - and I'm being literal here - is they went through the projection tables, they found the single largest number in the tally, and they said, "Aha, this is what the bill is going to cost."
But you know, it was just one of the numbers that the CBO was using to find certain - you know, what the bill will do. In fact, like I said, the bottom line is what it's always been - the CBO thinks that this law will save money. The Republicans don't like that, but that's what the CBO is saying.
OLBERMANN: I thought maybe the most interesting number here - in terms of putting a face on something that you and I have talked about, and everybody has talked about, previously - is that 14 percent number, that 14 percent already thought the Supreme Court had overturned this. Is this a kind of tangible indicator, a measure of how much a multi-billion-dollar industry can mess with the nation's collective head?
COHN: Yeah, I think it is. I mean - look, the health-care law has already started to help some people. You know, we have young adults getting on their parents' policies. Seniors are seeing their drug costs come down. But most of the big changes in the law don't happen until 2014.
And meanwhile, you have this industry out there, and you have the Republicans out there, hammering away, day after day: "It's expensive. It's going to destroy your liberty. It's going to create death panels." You know, that's going to have an effect. People are going to get confused, and it's going to start to sink in.
OLBERMANN: The opinion poll on the mandate that it's unconstitutional - obviously, legally, this makes a huge difference, that the car-insurance mandate is state-by-state and it varies, depending on the age of the automobile and all this and that, and the health-insurance mandate is nationally. Practically speaking, it makes virtually no difference. What does it say that, still, 51 percent of Americans think it is some sort of intrusion, whereas presumably car insurance - mandatory car insurance - is not some kind of intrusion.
COHN: Right, right. Well, again, I think this is the effect of this propaganda campaign. And you know, it is just like car insurance. You know, it's also really like Social Security, if you think about it, right? I mean, Social Security is basically the government saying, "Look at some point you're going to get old, so we're going to have you pay as you go, and pay into a system, so that when you get old you'll have a pension."
Well, that's what we're doing here. We're saying, "Look, at some point you're going to get sick. So, as you go and as you can, we're going to have you pay something towards the cost of your future health care." It's really, in principle, the same thing. The only difference is that, this time, not everyone is getting a check straight from the government. A lot of people are going to end up getting their insurance from a private insurance company. But the transaction - the obligation - you know, it's really the same thing.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at The New Republic and the author of "Sick." Once again, great thanks for being on the program.
COHN: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Did you know it's illegal to record somebody getting arrested in their home and then use that video for private purposes without that person's consent?
The producers of "Cops" know that. Congressman Peter King apparently doesn't. How "Mr. Law Enforcement" got in trouble with law enforcement. Next.
OLBERMANN: At its heart, New York Representative Peter King's McCarthy-esque grilling of Muslims had the politician's oldest bromide behind it - law and order!
In our number one story - it turns out Congressman King's in hot water, not because of the TV show "Law and Order," but because of another cops-and-robbers thing on A&E called "Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force."
Congressman King posted a video to YouTube in which he showed himself participating in a ride-along with U.S. marshals on that A&E program. The congressman's actions are now also under investigation for potentially violating a federal policy that prohibits anybody other than a U.S. marshal from filming inside a private residence.
Right now, it's pictures of a crowd.
King, who's the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, initially posted a link to the video on Twitter, but when his office was contacted by Talking Points Memo, the video was quickly labeled private, and later it was removed from YouTube entirely.
A new, edited version of the video was posted about three hours later, where it still clearly appears to have been filmed in private residences. However, other sections of the video were removed, including one wherein King brags about his own heroics.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Good show?
(Excerpt from video clip) PETER KING: I got him.
OLBERMANN: And that hat.
King's office, however, still claims the congressman did nothing wrong, telling The Wall Street Journal, "Congressman King was invited by the U.S. marshals to accompany them in a series of raids and everything was done in compliance with their procedures."
I'm from the Bronx, I can talk like that.
If that's the case, it makes you wonder why King has now removed both versions of the video from his YouTube page.
Joining me now for comment - comedian, host of "Citizen Radio," Jamie Kilstein. Good to see you, Jamie.
JAMIE KILSTEIN: Good to see you. Thanks for having me again. I love that video.
OLBERMANN: Seems to me, we need congressional hearings into how law enforcement is being impeded by congressmen. What do you say?
KILSTEIN: I think we should. I think that if Republicans get to have a bunch of old white men and religious fanatics talk about - or hypothesize - how they think vaginas work, I think we should get to have panels on Pete King playing dress up.
OLBERMANN: And how he works.
OLBERMANN: And I won't make the comparison between the other subject that you raised. I - maybe I'm naive - feel free to use that word if you think this is the case - but I like to think that the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security in the United States Congress - maybe not a state Homeland Security guy, regional one, something like that - but I would think the chairman in the House would know what the laws are, relative to the U.S. marshals, especially it he's going to freaking go ride with them.
KILSTEIN: I know.
OLBERMANN: Am I naive in this?
KILSTEIN: No. We always forget, though, that that man happens to be Pete King, who, instead of fussing around - you know, there is no time for law, when you're sitting at home touching yourself watching reruns of "24," right? Like, he has to run around his apartment or his house, pretending that he's Jack Bauer - not like creepy, Muslim torture Jack Bauer, but cool, Season One Jack Bauer.
KILSTEIN: And there's no time for law or facts.
OLBERMANN: I'm trying to remember, and I don't want to - I don't want to impugn him because he does so much to impugn himself - but I recall there was a congressman who actually talked about the dangers to this country and said, "Don't you watch '24?'" And used it, cited it, as if it were, you know, as reliable as Wikipedia.
KILSTEIN: There were a bunch. There were a bunch of them.
OLBERMANN: I just think it might have been him, but I don't want to stick to that.
KILSTEIN: I did the same thing, where - before I came here - I called my wife to ask her, and I'm like, "I think I'm profiling white dudes."
OLBERMANN: Yeah, exactly - very good. We're doing exactly what we're accusing him of doing. So, back to what we know.
OLBERMANN: Or think we know. Why did he do this, going along? What did he do a ride-along for? This is a - stunts for, you know, news reporters and anchors and people like me - not, like, people we've elected to Congress.
KILSTEIN: I know, but isn't it like the perfect prototype for - these tough-guy Republicans, right? Cause what do they do? They advocate for wars, for torture, for spying, but when they need to go do something "brave," they have to be surrounded by a team of armed marshals, right? Like, I wouldn't be surprised if they had to give him, like, a plastic gun and, like, a danger whistle, like, to stop him from hyperventilating, you know what I mean? Like, this is the only time he can pretend to be brave.
OLBERMANN: And we see him in the police jacket and they gave him a hat so he's official. He's got a baseball cap.
KILSTEIN: It's very cute.
OLBERMANN: At that point, if you're the perp in this, could you not say, "Wait a minute. I was arrested by, like, 23 Marshals and a cop and a guy impersonating a marshal."
KILSTEIN: Totally. I mean, I'm expecting him to go down and find, like, an Occupy Wall Street protester and just pepper spray her and be like, "No, it was - I'm the NYPD."
OLBERMANN: Don't give him any ideas.
KILSTEIN: I know.
OLBERMANN: He could also be impersonating a congressman. They could also get him on that one, I think.
OLBERMANN: The part they cut out was a line about - that we played, about how he got the suspect.
OLBERMANN: What is the implication there - was it that he clotheslined some guy? They didn't want to show that because it was too brutal or something? Or - he didn't clothesline a guy?
KILSTEIN: I mean, I think that's probably the implication that he wanted us to have. But it's like you watch it and it's almost sad, right? You can see, like, the childhood bullying in his eyes when he's talking about getting the bad guys and he had the little pretend police hat and his little badge so he can pretend he's a big boy. And, it was more - I don't know. You almost have to empathize with him, right? Because it's like -
KILSTEIN: Maybe you don't.
KILSTEIN: Here's where I can relate, then. Not empathize. Here's where I can relate. You know, all these hacky comics always talk about, like, "Guys always think about sex." But in reality, guys - at least twice a day - will be in a bank or restaurant and think about what would happen if, like, a robber came in and how we would defeat them with ninja skills we don't possess. And that's really what Pete King was doing. He just took it one step further.
OLBERMANN: Like he does anytime he sees somebody in a turban or somebody who identifies as a Muslim - or somebody - what do I do if this guy turns out to be the terrorist?
KILSTEIN: Just picture slowly chloroforming them and, like, dragging them down, yeah.
OLBERMANN: Well, I thought he'd just hand them a subpoena.
KILSTEIN: That's true.
OLBERMANN: Or, do we assume that he went on this ride-along because they were, you know, busting into some mosque or a prayer center, or you know, and Islamic center with 23 people who hand out booklets and go, "Have a nice day."
KILSTEIN: I know - now that you just said that, I'm just picturing as they're going for the actual bad guy, every time in the car he sees a Muslim - like, "There he is." "Nope." "There he is." "Nope." "There he is." "Nope."
OLBERMANN: There's a very unfortunate "Twilight Zone" episode that's based on exactly that premise, and we all know how that turns out. Well, there is one good thing to be said for Congressman King, which is that he does provide us both with incredible amounts of material.
KILSTEIN: Oh, he does. It's incredibly sad. I wish we didn't have to do it. I wish, you know, the next time I come here we can be like, "Hey, remember when everything worked out?" While he's around - I don't know if that will happen.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, when's that going to happen? Let me know, because I think we're so far in the current cycle of calendars, I think we're in our 2,012th year of that not happening.
KILSTEIN: I believe so.
OLBERMANN: I think that's correct. Host of "Citizen Radio," Jamie Kilstein - again, thanks for coming in. Good to talk to you.
KILSTEIN: Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown." Congratulations on getting through yet another day of this crap. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.