'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, March 15th, 2012
Coming up on Countdown: Seamus, Day 2 + the erroneous report about tapping the Strategic Oil Reserve - was that a shot across Wall St's bow?
Also the GOP war on women escalates, and President Obama gets an F in History: In Defense of Pres. Hayes and the telephone.
#5 'Road To 2012', Joe Williams
#5 'Road To 2012', Ben White
#4 'Gassed Up', Sam Seder
# Time Marches On!
#3 'War On Women', Molly Ball
#2 'Open Your Eyes', Patrick Murphy
#1 'Hayesy History', Christian Finnegan
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Sam Seder, Molly Ball, Patrick Murphy, Joe Williams, Ben White, Christian Finnegan
KEITH OLBERMANN: Now, on "Countdown" - Seamus lives.
And the Santorum operative is defending invoking the late Romney dog.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BRABENDER: I'll be honest with you, the question - I sit there like every other American and say, "What the heck was he thinking, putting the dog on the top of the roof?"
OLBERMANN: Two words - Michael. Vick.
The Planned Parenthood sound bite lives as well.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: Planned Parenthood. We're going to get rid of that.
OLBERMANN: Another walkback today. "Planned Parenthood is a private organization. What I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood."
The president and cars and gas that goes in those cars.
Biden on the bailout:
(Excerpt from video clip) JOE BIDEN: The president and I made a bet, a simple bet. We bet on you.
OLBERMANN: Carney on the rumors of a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve:
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: That report is false.
OLBERMANN: But the oil futures market's reaction to that report tells you all you need to know, unless you're Mitt Romney.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL HEMMER: Gas prices, they're ridiculous, as you know. Up more than 30 cents in the past month and everyday Americans are paying a price for this. Do you hold President Obama responsible?
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: Absolutely.
OLBERMANN: Bill, can you give the governor your reminder again?
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL O'REILLY: The next time you hear a politician say he or she will bring down oil prices, understand it's complete b.s.
OLBERMANN: The war on women, almost literally. The 2012 Republican bid to kill the 1994 bipartisan Violence Against Women Act.
And the Republican governor of Pennsylvania's incredible quote about the incredibly invasive pre-abortion ultrasound he wants in his state:
(Excerpt from video clip) TOM CORBETT: I'm not making anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes.
OLBERMANN: And history day - the Ides of March. Julius Caesar really was assassinated on March 15th. But he did not say, "Et tu, Brute?"
And this president owes that president an apology.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, "It's a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?" Well, that's why he's not on Mt. Rushmore."
OLBERMANN: Uh - no. Never happened.
(Excerpt from audio clip) OBAMA: Sorry, my bad.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Thursday, March 15th, 237 days until the 2012 presidential election.
Rick Santorum campaigning for the Latino vote, which Mitt Romney may have already lost for the Republicans.
President Obama and Vice President Biden making sweet music to Big Labor's ears on the campaign trail, while LGBT supporters may be wondering - what about them?
Starting with GOP. Mitt Romney coming off three fundraisers Wednesday, starting the morning in another, most comfortable venue - Fox News.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I feel relaxed. I'm here with you.
OLBERMANN: Romney still trying to recover from his comments Tuesday about killing off Planned Parenthood as part of his budget cut plans.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Get rid of Obamacare. That's the easy one. But there are others. Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that.
OLBERMANN: The former Massachusetts governor now telling The Chicago Sun Times in a second day of walking it back, "Planned Parenthood is a private organization. What I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood."
If you saw the Huffington Post piece saying that federal funding consists of 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's annual operating expenses, that is wildly incorrect. It was a misinterpretation of how much the cost of women's healthcare in Texas comes from federal sources - about 90 percent. Actually, only a third of the national funding comes from all public funding combined, and all that money goes to Planned Parenthood's non-abortion services.
On lighter subjects, Romney also weighing in on a choice of his favorite Chicago foods. Which is his favorite - ribs, Chicago-style hot dogs or deep-dish pizza? He chose pizza.
He's had too many problems already with dogs, especially Seamus, the family setter who spent 12 hours riding on the roof of the family station wagon in 1983. The Washington Post reporting Mitt Romney's dog-on-the-car-roof story still proves to be his critic's best friend.
Santorum's senior campaign strategist John Brabender doubling down on his remarks on Seamus on the ride yesterday:
(Excerpt from video clip) BRABENDER: Look, I'll be honest with you. The question - I sit there like every other American and say, "What the heck was he thinking, putting the dog on the top of the roof?" With that said, you know, that is not going to become the center, core issue of this campaign, nor should it.
OLBERMANN: Not center, but clearly far from peripheral. Romney 2008 Iowa campaign chair Douglas Gross noting, "It's another one of those things about Mitt that seems otherworldly, it seems abnormal and raises questions about who he is and whether he's one of us."
And an anonymous Romney adviser telling The Washington Post, Seamus is "a pure negative," though he added, "For crying out loud - with 8.3 percent unemployment, if the dog defeats you, you deserve to be defeated."
His boss agreeing with that as well:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: It's going to come down to a question of whether the president understands how to get more jobs in our economy.
OLBERMANN: The answer to that may be coming shortly. The Labor Department reporting unemployment insurance applications for the latest period dropping by 14,000, while Newt Gingrich came up with a novel explanation for why he's not dropping out of the race:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: I'm staying in the race because I want to see if I can't - I want to see if we can't reset this whole race around the idea of really big ideas and really big solutions.
OLBERMANN: Gingrich also explaining why his call for an idea-driven campaign is not working.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Candidly, my opponents can't comprehend it.
OLBERMANN: Rick Santorum, apparently having problems comprehending the U.S. Constitution after calling for Puerto Rico to declare English its principal language before it could apply for statehood, and saying that that was required by federal law. Not even close.
Santorum, campaigning in Puerto Rico today before Sunday's primary there. And Puerto Rico's representative at the U.S. Congress, the honorable Pedro Pierluisi not impressed with Santorum's perspective:
(Excerpt from video clip) PEDRO PIERLUISI: Santorum's view is a narrow and limiting view of what America is all about.
OLBERMANN: Of course, Mr. Romney has his own problem with the Latino Hispanic vote - a recent Fox News poll showing President Obama leading Romney among Latino voters by just 56 points - Romney campaigning in Puerto Rico with a Spanish-language radio ad voiced by his son Craig.
(Excerpt from audio clip) CRAIG ROMNEY:(speaking Spanish) He has a plan to create jobs. And, together with the leaders of Puerto Rico, will fight to get the economy of the "Island of Enchantment" going again.
But, with Romney's call for illegal immigrants to practice self-deportation, GOP operative Ana Navarro saying, "In 2008, John McCain paid the price with Latinos for what other Republicans had said and done. Romney could very well pay an even higher price with Latinos, but it will be for things he's said and done.
Also saying and doing, President Obama on the campaign trail in Largo, Maryland and hearing an echo of 2008 as he touted his record on restoring the auto industry.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Those are the cars we need to keep building here in the United States.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Yes, we can!
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Yes, we can do that!
OLBERMANN: Vice President Biden also campaigning and laying out the ticket's philosophy for the United Auto Workers in Toledo.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOE BIDEN: Ours is one that values the workers and the success of a business. It values the middle class and the success of our economy. Simply stated, we're about promoting the private sector. They're about protecting the privileged sector.
OLBERMANN: All of this after the AFL-CIO formally announced it was endorsing the president. The quote: "We affirm our faith in him and pledge to work with him through the election and his second term to restore fairness, security, and share prosperity."
Talk about the economy and the unions in a bit.
First, for more on the GOP race - and its problems with the Latino vote and the vote of dog lovers everywhere - I'm joined again by Joe Williams, the White House reporter from Politico. Good evening, Joe.
JOE WILLIAMS: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Rick Santorum first. He needs those 23 delegates in Puerto Rico. They vote on Sunday, yet he goes there and says the law requires Puerto Rico make English its principal language before the island could be admitted as a state, which must have been a dream that he had, because it has no bearing on the Constitution or any federal law or any previous history of statehood in this country. Was it ignorance, or am I being too Machiavellian and wondering if it was some sort of shout out to arch conservatives on the mainland with the old, you know, one-language contention?
WILLIAMS: Well, I would vote the latter, and the charitable way that I view this part of the day's events on the GOP trail is that he might have been thinking about citizenship tests. Who knows, I mean it's hard to get inside of his head, but certainly, the political aspect of what he's saying - he's not talking to Latinos. He's talking to the base he is still trying to prove his authenticity even though that's been proven time and time again, but he's trying to get past the hump. He's trying to get over Mitt Romney and get by him and do whatever he needs to do and say.
However, this on top of a fall - a winter of Latino discontent with the Republican party is not going to help matters very much with that part of the GOP electorate. What it does do, if you're in the White House, is create another opening for you to go back and woo the Latino vote to try to get past some of the harsh things that they've said about the Obama administration in the last couple of years, make amends, mend fences.
OLBERMANN: But, if this Fox News Latino poll is correct - and it's Fox News Latino, not poll of Latinos - there's no - I mean the only wooing left is to try to get a unanimous vote in the president's favor. I mean, in this poll, Romney versus Obama, it's 70 percent Obama, 14 percent Romney. And one Republican operative told your organization that that needs - that number needs to be down just a little bit, closer to 33 from 70 -
WILLIAMS: Ever so slightly.
OLBERMANN: - for Romney to have a chance of winning the election. How could he possibly close that gap, and what happens to him if he doesn't?
WILLIAMS: Well, short of something drastic like saying he's going to refund the California purchase and give California back to Mexico, it's going to be really hard to do. Part of what his issue is is the reflected glory - I don't know if you can call it that - of what the GOP has done. We've talked about that a little bit.
But also one of the things that they see as an ace in the hole is Marco Rubio. A lot of chatter has been around about him being the possible veep pick - it would actually give the Romney campaign an injection of personality. And, it would also go a ways towards making amends with the Latino vote. But, he's got to get the nomination first.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, and he's also got a problem with Rubio, which we don't have time to get into now, but Rubio's whole story about his family coming over turns out to be - charitably - inaccurate, and - might be argued - padded to make himself look like he, you know, swam here when his parents came over here well before the Castro purging on that imprisoned island.
But I've got to ask about something else from today. And everybody - I bring this up, and everybody thinks I'm overdoing it. I just think that, if Mitt Romney is the nominee - just from seeing what Dave Letterman has done to him - relative to poor, old -the late, lamented memory of Seamus.
WILLIAMS: Ah, Seamus. We barely knew ye.
OLBERMANN: His own Iowa campaign chair from 2008 saying, "It makes him seem abnormal and otherworldly." What on Earth, short of bringing the dog back to life, can Romney do to deal with this problem of Seamus?
WILLIAMS: Paging Stephen King and "Pet Semetary."
WILLIAMS: I was part of - I was working for The Boston Globe when this story came up when Romney was making his run in 2008. Basically, that's exactly how it was functioning, and that's exactly how it's been functioning ever since - was to show that Romney is a very clinical guy, a very problem-solution-oriented person without a lot of sentimentality. And that's exactly the point of the story. What's missing from the headline on that story, however is the fact that Seamus had some, shall we say, "intestinal discomfort."
WILLIAMS: Got taken down from the car, hosed off by the - Mitt Romney, put back on the car, and then had to endure another six hours up the road.
So, there's very little that he can do to overcome this, short of adopting a pet, or maybe getting a personality transplant, which I don't think is legal in the states yet - the FDA hasn't approved it. But, he's got a ways to go to make up for this.
OLBERMANN: Or, he gets into a car driven by a dog, and they strap him to the roof and they go from Boston to Toronto.
OLBERMANN: And I always say - I say there's two words to remember, in terms of Mitt Romney - Michael Vick. I'm not saying it's akin to what Michael Vick did, with dog fighting and killing dogs in the fighting preparations. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying the way dogs - and the mistreatment of dogs - stick to people, this could be extraordinarily important.
WILLIAMS: It's very, very callous. And again, it speaks to the fact that he's had trouble connecting anyway. And one thing that might help him get past this is if he had a coherent message, because we still don't know exactly why Mitt Romney is running for president, what he's going to do when he gets in office, and why we should be excited about it.
OLBERMANN: And are our dogs safe?
Joe Williams, White House Politico reporter - political reporter covering the White House for Politico. Thanks, Joe.
WILLIAMS: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: For more on some of the hurdles the president is going to have to overcome in the election campaign, I'm joined by Ben White, the economy and morning money reporter with Politico. Good to talk to you, sir.
BEN WHITE: Keith, thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: The news of the day here about unemployment insurance applications - the period ended March 10, they're down by 14 grand - is that another indication that unemployment is less of a knife pointed at the president and maybe a neutral thing as time goes forward?
WHITE: I don't know if I'd go that far. It's maybe a slightly blunter knife at this point. I mean, it's still - unemployment is still quite high, but the trend is very good and oftentimes it's the trend that matters for an incumbent. You know, if people think that the job market is improving, and their prospects are improving, they tend to be more supportive of the person in office.
But you're right on unemployment-claims number - down to 351 thousand. That's a good number, and the fact that it keeps going down is good, it means that employers are hiring, you know, less people are you know, looking for jobless benefits. And it indicates it will probably get another 200,000-plus job growth in the month of March, which puts you on a path to get, you know - not only below eight percent unemployment by election day, but perhaps closer to seven.
So, the conventional wisdom was - does Obama get to eight percent, which is sort of a magic number? No incumbent wins above eight percent. I think he's probably going to do that, unless we have some kind of crisis, you know, that is unforeseen. The question now is - can he get to seven? And if he gets there, or close to it, you know, that's a good trend, and that's helpful.
OLBERMANN: Suddenly, the economy looks very much like a big - a big favor, a big plus in his favor if it's seven, my goodness.
The president and vice president were doing two things today, one of which was to try to take the bailout and sell that and sell the resuscitation of the auto industry. Not something new, but they really both hit this very hard. Can they succeed - 'cause this thing has been so demonized over the years - can they succeed in turning that into a campaign plus?
WHITE: I think they can in critical swing states. I mean, you saw Joe Biden in Ohio talking to a union audience about the success of that bailout - that, obviously, Mitt Romney is on record in opposition to it and allowing the auto companies to go into bankruptcy without any government help to get there. The result of that probably would have been some sort of liquidation, loss of a lot of jobs.
I think this is going to be a helpful issue for them, certainly in Michigan, which he probably wins. Ohio, obviously, is going to be much more difficult. But, this is a plus for them. If they didn't think it was a plus, they wouldn't be hammering it like they are, and ultimately, you know, even for independent voters in Ohio, or for folks who lean right - if they got their job saved by this bailout and, you know, that Jeep plant didn't close in Ohio because of it, that's a net positive.
And I think it's a real problem for Romney, in the fall, to try to explain to people why it is that he doesn't think that the auto companies shouldn't have gotten a little leg up going into a bankruptcy and then coming out and thriving as they are now.
OLBERMANN: And coming out of this also today, would clearly - they're taking the AFL-CIO endorsement, which was hardly a surprise - and running with that for much more than one would have thought, say 18 months ago, when they would have went, "Yeah, the AFL-CIO endorsed us. Next question."
That quote from Biden. Simply stated, "We're about promoting the private sector. They're about protecting the privileged sector." Is that the hook? Is that they way they take the union endorsement and all the rest of it?
WHITE: Yeah, I think that's the way they want to do it, so as not to, you know, scare off independents or, you know, be vulnerable to this, you know, "They're in the pocket of union bosses" kind of argument. What they want to say is, "Look - you know, we're for a fair deal for people. Unions often help provide that. We're happy to have union endorsement. We're going to, you know, need their support and their money going forward. We're not embarrassed by any of that."
And it fits into the narrative, which is "Mitt Romney is a candidate for Wall Street, for the one percent, for capital in general. We're for the broader electorate, for the people, for folks, you know, whose jobs were saved in this instance and who often depend on unions for, you know, a lot of support and to keep their jobs safe." I think they're not really afraid of that, at this point.
Maybe you could have made the argument earlier - that you don't want to, you know, be too obviously in bed with unions. I don't think they care about that anymore. I think it will be - they think it will be a help to them.
OLBERMANN: Ben White, economy and morning money reporter from Politico. Thank you, Ben.
WHITE: Pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If you want to know whether blaming Wall Street speculators for the spiraling cost of gas is correct or just a facile excuse - when a report broke today that the president and the British prime minister had made some kind of deal to release part of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve into the open market, crude oil futures dropped two dollars a barrel here, and four dollars a barrel in the U.K.
The rumor wasn't true, but the lesson was truth. And why did the report happen? Did somebody just warn Wall Street, "Drop that price, or else?" Sam Seder joins me next.
OLBERMANN: His likeliest opponent comes right out and blames the president for the price of gas. Even as a rumor about increased supply sends crude oil futures down by as much as four dollars a barrel. Even when the rumor is denied, the price still ended up dropping 32 cents a barrel. The president and gas.
And then - the president insults one of his predecessors by believing mythology instead of history. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Today, the average price of gasoline was $3.82 a gallon - 30 cents below the highest price in the last six years, which was in the summer of 2008, in the waning months of the Bush presidency.
But in our fourth story - today also saw another round of attacks against the president over gas prices, one from a news article puppeting Republican talking points, and another by a candidate who only seems to speak in talking points.
The organizations met today. Mitt Romney was lobbed a softball at the political whorehouse that is Fox News, and he drove with it, in one of his four cars.
(Excerpt from video clip) BILL HEMMER: Gas prices, they're ridiculous, as you know. Up more than 30 cents in the past month and everyday Americans are paying a price for this. Do you hold President Obama responsible?
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Absolutely.
OLBERMANN: Sigh. Interviewer Bill Hemmer cannot claim ignorance of what was on on his channel in the summer 2008. He left the news business to join Fox in August 2005, so would have heard all these comments made on Fox in 2008 about the president and the price of gas.
(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) CHERYL 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: Gabby O'Reilly is right.
Today, this president shot back at the gas policy of "Drill, baby, drill" as been there and done that.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: If you start hearing this, "Drill, baby, drill. Drill, drill, drill" - if you start hearing that again, just remember you've got the facts - we're doing that. Tell me something new.
OLBERMANN: That something new happened at midday. That's when Reuters News Service suggested the gas supply would unexpectedly grow. And those manipulating the market panicked.
Press Secretary Jay Carney was forced to respond to the Reuters report suggesting that president and the British prime minister, Mr. Cameron, had reached an agreement for each country to release a portion of its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an idea derived almost directly from Republican talking points.
(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: I can say, very clearly, that the report suggesting that any kind of agreement was reached on a course of action with regard to those energy issues, that any agreement was reached with a timetable associated with it - that report is false. It is not accurate.
OLBERMANN: Let's talk gas with Sam Seder, the radio host of "The Ring of Fire" and "The Majority Report." Good evening, Sam.
SAM SEDER: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: When the Reuters article came out, as I mentioned, the crude oil futures dropped by as much as four dollars on the British market, two dollars a barrel on the U.S. market. Even when the rumor was denied, crude oil ended at 32 cents lower than it was before. Does this tell us all we need to know about why gas prices are where they are in this country today?
SEDER: I think it comes pretty close. I mean, we know over the past 10-15 years, the amount - the relationship between speculators and those people who are actually using the commodity of oil - it's your airlines, or whatnot - has basically flipped. It used to be 30 percent speculators, 70 percent people who are actually going to use gas in the future. And now it's flipped. We have 70 percent speculators in the market and 30 percent who are going to be using it.
So, when the price gets on a run like this, you see the speculators come in. And this is exactly what's happening. I mean, I think there is some genuine crunches on supply, there's been about 700 billion - million barrels that have come off line because of refineries, but I think there's got to be a big percentage and I think we reflected it today in speculators.
OLBERMANN: So, If you're the president of the United States, and you're getting hammered over this, and will continue to be hammered, and clearly your approval rating has been hit, to some degree, by this, and you're going to be hit by Republican candidates who ignore that little collection of tape we have from Fox News in 2008 - why not release something from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and destroy the speculators and drive the price down and destroy the GOP talking point?
SEDER: Well, I mean - technically, the reserve is supposed to be for emergencies. But, there's been plenty of precedents where the emergency was, "Basically, it's getting a little bit expensive." And right now, we're near capacity in the reserves, so releasing some to depress the price - it's not unprecedented and it probably wouldn't hurt, but at least the threat that that could happen definitely helps.
And look, you know, at the end of the day, this is actually not just political. I mean, this could really hurt the economy. We're still sort of, like, on a slow trajectory - hopefully getting better - and something like this, a sustained period of gas prices at this point, could really hurt the economy.
OLBERMANN: Let me get conspiratorial here and put on my tinfoil Texaco hat. Reuters used to have a reputation for being a little quick on the draw with stories - with news stories, source stories - but not so much anymore, not compared to The Associated Press, not compared to the other international news organizations. They've re-earned their trust. So, a story like this - where they report this, and it comes out of nowhere and then it goes away - suggests somebody is tampering with that market.
Is it possible that this was a shot across the bow of Wall Street to say, "Oh, you're going to continue to drive the price up by speculation? Let's remind you what happens if we tapped into the reserve - your speculations would be wiped out in minutes, and the price would suddenly drop four dollars a barrel crude."
SEDER: Right, I mean - listen, I don't think that's out of bounds in terms of - you know, I don't think you're in tin hat territory.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
SEDER: I mean, I think - and to a certain extent, look, it makes sense. I mean, why not remind the markets that this is something that we may resort to? I mean, and it had that effect. I mean, it not only was a warning shot, but it actually sort of depressed the prices at least, you know, very slightly, anyways. And so, you know, it's the functional equivalent of driving down the highway and someone's tailgating you and you turn on your lights to pretend that you got the brakes on, so they back off - and maybe there's some of that.
OLBERMANN: Is it enough - because they've never experienced a government that actually stood up to them - to scare the speculators, to just throw this sort of false flag out there?
SEDER: Look, I think there's actually - you could actually institute reforms on the commodities market now. That seems to be that - that's when you start getting in to tin hat territory.
OLBERMANN: You let us keep the money that we've already made improperly and just don't - yeah, we'll be happy to regulate the future money we won't make.
SEDER: Right, I mean - that would be something that nobody seems to be speaking about in any sort of polite quarters, I guess. But, you know, the idea that some of that reserve could be released and you could lose your shirt, maybe that's enough of a warning.
OLBERMANN: Har har. Sam Seder, the host of "The Ring of Fire" and "The Majority Report." We are the men of Texaco. We serve from Maine to Mexico. It's always a pleasure, sir. Thank you.
SEDER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The right's war on women expanding tonight - intrusive scanning before abortions headed for Pennsylvania, with a misogynistic twist from the governor of that state.
And the bid to scuttle the 18-year-old federal act defining, and penalizing, violence against women. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: The 44th president of the United States owes the 19th president of the United States an apology, or at least a phone call.
First, the "Sanity Break" - although not really, it's about political assassination. But yes, on this date in 44 B.C., a group of as many as 60 aristocrats plotted to kill the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. He was stabbed at least 23 times.
His last words were not "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar" - Shakespeare wrote that ― though witnesses said when Caesar recognized his protégé Brutus among the crowd of assassins, he pulled his toga over his head so he wouldn't have to see him.
The last thing we know Caesar said came after the first of the 23 stabs, inflicted by Servilius Casca, and it translated as, "Casca, you villain! What are you doing?"
Yes, the Romans did call March 15th the "Ides of March," but "Ides of March" means nothing more than "the midpoint."
And while it was Caesar himself who instituted the modern calendar, with various alterations over the years, it is pretty clear that when - what was March 15 2,056 years ago would probably be March 14th today.
So, this whole anniversary I am talking about was yesterday.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Penguin bites another penguin, pushes it from rock.
We begin, as we always do, with penguins.
A few buddies hanging out on a rock wearing their Lance Armstrong "Live Strong" bracelets, when one penguin decides the rock is only big enough for two penguins.
A little bite on the tail and - down goes Chilly Willy.
Somewhere, Burgess Meredith is proud. That's the way it is, Tuesday -
VIDEO: Cat thinks it is a dog - plays fetch, pants.
We move from penguins to cats, just as Darwin theorized. I haven't seen a cat this happy since "Alice in Wonderland."
After watching some dogs on TV, the cat decided she would try out the whole fetch thing.
Not only does she fetch, she also picked up the whole panting thing.
It's cute but, you know - if she starts barking, you might want to get her checked out.
"Time Marches On!"
The war on women - literally. Eighteen years ago Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act bipartisanly. Today, as it comes up for its fourth renewal, the right is trying to stop it. Next.
OLBERMANN: Those behind the conservative war against women must actually think they have been, on occasion, subtle.
In our third story on the "Countdown," however - even they cannot consider opposition to the Senate's Violence Against Women Act - passed with bipartisan support in 1994, reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 - subtle.
Women lawmakers stepped to the front today in defense of reauthorization. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski joined six Democratic women senators urging swift passage of the bill. Why is she almost alone on the right?
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions raises the possibility, "You think they might have put things in there we couldn't support, that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?" The senator from Keebler's elf tree went on, "What could those things be? The bill would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence."
Conservative activists like Janice Shaw Crouse, of a group calling itself "Concerned Women for America," are pushing lawmakers to oppose this bill and its reauthorization, calling it "a boondoggle that creates an ideology that all men are guilty and all women are victims."
And for all those unconcerned women of America, Wisconsin State Representative Donald Pridemore, co-sponsor of a bill there citing single parenthood as a cause of child abuse, says, "Regardless of domestic violence, couples should study their relationship before parting ways."
(Excerpt from audio clip) DONALD PRIDEMORE: If they can re-find those reasons, and get back to why they got married in the first place, it might help.
OLBERMANN: Joining me now - Molly Ball, political correspondent for The Atlantic. Thanks for your time tonight.
MOLLY BALL: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything in this version of the Violence Against Women Act that was not there - in 2005, 2000, 1994 - that allows for this kind of backlash from the right?
BALL: There actually are. There are, as you said, several new provisions in here. There are new funding mechanisms that make it, in the minds of some conservatives, an expansion of government. There are protections for same-sex couples, there are protections for illegal immigrants. And all of these are things that, I think, conservatives legitimately feel they can't support.
But they are worried, like you say, of being accused of being against being against violence to women. And that's a really tough spot for them to be in especially, considering all of the other things we've had recently about contraception, about abortion. They're worried that they're heading down this road where women will have a really hard time identifying with the Republican party.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. What is the election strategy behind their various positions on the issues that you just raised? I mean, how do Republicans not lose - in ratio form, at least - one women's vote for every member of their base they get going to the polls by being like this?
BALL: I don't know that it is strategic. I think, if anything, the strategy is that they're freaking out a little bit behind the scenes about how bad this looks, because this is not what they want the election to be about.
You know, with my Republican sources - inside the campaigns, and inside the, sort of, party brain trust - they don't want to be having this conversation. They don't want to re-litigate the culture wars. They certainly don't want to re-litigate the 19th century. They'd like to be talking about the economy, whether it's gas prices or whatever else.
And so, there is, among some Republicans, a very real concern that - even if they are to act on their sort of sincerely-held beliefs that this law is some kind of overreach, or expansion of the federal government - they can't do that without being painted into this corner where they look like they're anti-woman.
OLBERMANN: Now, obviously, Senator Sessions and the Republican National Committee have nothing to do with the Wisconsin proposed law. But this - it's as if many of these state legislators are hearing these crazy ultrasound tests and all of the rest of that - which, we're going to get in to what happened in Pennsylvania in the last couple of days in our next segment - but it's as if they hear this, and they go, "Okay, now I'm going to propose my crazy-ass idea."
Why go halfway? I mean, why not go back to the definition of women as property, or say, you know, "We really need to repeal that 19th Amendment, because things would be a lot easier if only men got to vote."
BALL: Well, this is the problem that Republicans have been worried about. Really - since 2010, since the rise of the tea party - they've been worried about being dragged in by this extreme fringe into, again, into issues they don't want to talk about, into a far-right-wing re-litigation of the culture war that makes them look unreasonable, makes them look like a party of old white men, and that's really not the election that they want to have, because that is not a winning message for a party in 2012.
OLBERMANN: How do you back out of - just take one part of it - how do you back out of the ultrasound thing at this late state in this game?
BALL: Well, I think we did see, for example, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell back out of it and say, "Wait, this is too far, I don't want to go that far."
And there is an opportunity for some Republicans to look reasonable, to look moderate, to look mainstream by repudiating these segments of the party. We're not seeing that many Republicans doing it. You know, I've talked to a lot of Republicans within Mitt Romney's campaign, or supporters of Mitt Romney, who wish he would have stood up to Rush Limbaugh, for example, and instead sort of took a pass on that issue.
OLBERMANN: Maybe somebody will figure that out as a good answer to all the problems they've been having. It may yet happen. Molly Ball, political correspondent of The Atlantic. Great thanks for your time and your insight tonight.
BALL: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: As always, the forces of goodness in this country prevail, not because they're right nor smart - as much as they do - but because the evil forces are, at their core, morons.
The governor of Pennsylvania, seeking the same kind of shaming and humiliation for women seeking abortions that passed in Virginia, now tells those women who would be his victims something so insensitive and misogynistic that if you, gentlemen of the audience, or I had said it, it would have gotten us kicked in the groin - and rightfully so. Coming up.
OLBERMANN: The governor of Pennsylvania says if women don't like the new invasive examinations he wants before they can have an abortion, they can just close their eyes. Yes, he really said that. And hours later, incredibly enough, he's still in office. Next.
OLBERMANN: We've already had two decades of the remarkably named "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rules of the military. Now, the fight against women has something even more linguistically startling.
In our number two story on the "Countdown" - a state governor going so far as to offer his advice to women who would be forced to undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure before terminating pregnancy - "Don't look."
Pennsylvania, one of ten states pushing for legislation requiring women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion, so the woman can see the fetus's heartbeat. Opponents of the bill, named the Women's Right to Know Act - apparently ironically - say their measure is an effort to deter and shame women from going through with an already-traumatic experience. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett supports this, and he supported it publicly.
And then, publicly, he shot himself in the foot with the following remark:
(Excerpt from video clip) TOM CORBETT: I'm not making anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes. But as long as it's on the exterior, and not interior -
OLBERMANN: Corbett's remarks raised questions about his knowledge of the bill. Its wording strongly encourages doctors to make sure women view and listen to the mandated ultrasound and take home personalized copies of the results.
Meantime, in Arizona, there are two more amazing bits of proposed legislation.
A state representative - Nancy Barto - playing with the lives of everybody involved. Her measure would shield doctors from being sued if they withhold information from pregnant women about potential birth defects. The medical community voicing its criticism, concerned that potentially threatens the life of both the mother and child.
And, as we mentioned the other night, there is state Senator Debbie Lesko's bill, which has now gotten through the state Senate Judiciary Committee in Arizona, which would force women to show proof to their employers that - if they are using birth control, and the birth control is covered by the employer's insurance plan - that they are using it for health reasons and not just contraception. If passed, employers would have the right to deny birth control coverage on the basis of religious objection or, conceivably, fire a woman who cannot prove her use of birth control is for an additional medical purpose.
Joining me now, former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy - currently the Democratic candidate in that state for state attorney general. Congressman, good to talk to you again.
PATRICK MURPHY: Great to be with you, Keith, thank you.
OLBERMANN: I have to tell you, I can't recall hearing anything quite as amazing as what Governor Corbett said the other day. I would think Rush Limbaugh would have been embarrassed by that.
MURPHY: Yeah, It's pretty tough to make Rush Limbaugh blush, Keith. But our governor succeeded there.
I mean, let's be very clear, Keith. As you mentioned in the program, this is another outrageous assault on women. There is a war on women across the country and, unfortunately, here in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
I mean, here you have, basically - mandating women, who are just going through a legal procedure - making them get, basically, an invasive and unnecessary procedure just to get a government permission slip to do what they're legally able to do. It's wrong. I'm demanding that Governor Corbett, our governor, apologize to every woman in Pennsylvania. That's how egregious this is.
OLBERMANN: And even more insulting, maybe, than the phrasing - does this not suggest he doesn't really know what's in the bill? I mean, how could a woman just close her eyes - unless, you know, she just closes them and keeps closed for the rest of his term in office - when the bill specifically calls for the woman to view and listen to this already-invasive ultrasound and then to take home a print and a copy of the results?
MURPHY: Right, I mean - as you say, Keith, the bill mandates that the women have to face - the field of vision - that the screen has to be in their field of vision. I mean, Keith, what could be more demeaning to women, to force them to do this? This is the United States of America.
Keith, you know my background. I taught constitutional law at West Point. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution as an Army officer, as U.S. congressman, and it will be my job as attorney general to make sure that we enforce the U.S. and the Pennsylvania constitution against these types of challenges. I mean, this bill is so unconstitutional on its face, I couldn't defend it. And I won't defend it.
OLBERMANN: It's extraordinary, isn't it, that you know - women who go through this procedure, it's traumatic as it is and many - most, probably - of the women who have this, I mean, the conservatives are people who are against this choice - always sort of present the women as just these people who just don't care about life and they just do this so offhandedly, and how could they destroy - this stays with people - women who are even comfortable with the process - this stays with them for the rest of their life, and to add these other shaming elements to it really translates from simply some sort of attempt to push back against what they see as raging liberalism, or whatever - it's borderline abuse of 51 percent of the population.
How is it possible that this has gotten so much traction in this country at this late date?
MURPHY: Keith, it is an abuse of power and it is really a right-wing agenda across this country and here in our great state of Pennsylvania. And we need to fight like hell to make sure this bill does not become law.
And that's why, you know, on my website, murphyforpa.com, I'm asking people to sign a petition to make sure that their voices are heard across this country, because we need to make sure that the people in Harrisburg - including our governor - get it, because they clearly don't get it right now.
They have a right-wing agenda, and they have declared war on women. And it is just absolutely wrong.
These are intimate and very, very personal decisions that women have to make. There is no place for the government to be involved in them, especially - not just to be involved, but then to ask them to go through all these unnecessary and completely invasive and demeaning procedures. It's unbelievable.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, on the premise of religious freedom. How about if you want the religious freedom to not be involved in the process of abortion? Maybe the advice to those people is close your eyes.
The former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania's state attorney general. Great thanks for your time, sir. Good to talk to you.
MURPHY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Sure he got into office with the ultimate backroom deal that would sentence Southern blacks to 90 years of Jim Crow, but President Hayes did not deserve what he received today from President Obama. Rutherford B. and the telephone, next.
OLBERMANN: As with everything this president has ever said, somebody has taken issue with his remarks today in Maryland about energy policy. But this time, they're right and he's wrong.
In our number one story - while this a far cry from Sarah Palin's explanation of Paul Revere's midnight ride, historians today are calling out President Obama on two things, including the dissing of one of his long-ago predecessors.
While discussing those politicians who are running for a certain office, the president poked fun at the ignorance of one former Republican president, and not the one you might be thinking.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, "It's a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?"
OLBERMANN: Well, it's funny, but it's not accurate.
According to Nan Card, curator of manuscripts at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio, this is a line that is often mis-attributed to Hayes.
In fact, Ms. Card notes that Hayes was the first president to have a telephone in the White House and, in fact, he was one of the first Americans to use the telephone and he is on record having commented that he thought the telephone was "wonderful."
The president, unfortunately, was not done. In an attempt to further emphasize his point, the president compared these same backwards-thinking politicians of today to the folks in Christopher Columbus's time who were convinced the world was flat.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail - they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. They would not have believed that the world was round.
OLBERMANN: That statement, too, drew the ire, not of the GOP, but of history buffs. Some were quick to cite the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who once wrote, "Greek knowledge of sphericity" - that's the fact that the earth is round - "never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth's roundness as an established fact of cosmology."
Joining me now, one of Professor Gould's former colleagues, comedian Christian Finnegan who is performing at the American Comedy Company in San Diego tonight through Sunday. Christian, good evening.
CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN: Keith, always a pleasure.
OLBERMANN: You're wearing a bowtie, you must be smart. Sarah Palin on Paul Revere and Michelle Bachmann about John Wayne's birthplace - these are far larger gaffes, and they're hilarious ones. But those people are idiots.
This is a president and a former college professor and he just dumped all over Rutherford B. Hayes for no reason.
FINNEGAN: Maybe, or just maybe he was throwing a bone to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, okay? I mean, you have got to imagine that this was like Christmas, New Year's Eve, and the Super Bowl Sunday all rolled up in one. It's was probably like that scene in "Ghostbusters," you know what I mean? Like, "We got one!" And Annie Potts hits a siren, and ragtime piano starts playing. And by the way, I don't mean to impugn the integrity of Miss Nan Card -
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
FINNEGAN: But - is she really the right arbiter here? I mean, I have to imagine that the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is probably in the bag for Rutherford B. Hayes. I don't imagine she's picking up the phone being like, "Oh yeah, President Hayes? Yeah, total moron. I don't know why I work here either, yeah. I just hate myself, I guess."
OLBERMANN: Yeah, but look - but look, if you want to go after Rutherford B. Hayes, there's plenty to go after Rutherford B. Hayes about. I mean, he was the beneficiary in the most corrupted election in our history - which was 1876 - and certainly he was the beneficiary of the deal following that election. The Republicans got the White House, the Democrats got troops taken out of the South, and that lead to 90 years of Jim Crow in the South.
And, you know, there's a lot to talk about here if you want to bash Rutherford B. Hayes. You don't dump on him for something he did not say about the phone. I mean, I just don't buy it.
FINNEGAN: Yeah, the thing that I was bothered by the most about what President Obama said is that's the reason he's not on Mount Rushmore.
FINNEGAN: Who knew it was that simple? Imagine how kindly history would have treated President Hayes if he had shown the vision to, like, call his local apothecary and ask if they had Prince Albert in a can or something.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, well, given that Lyndon Johnson - we have all those phone tapes of Lyndon Johnson calling his tailor and talking about, you know, "Cut my pants a little looser around my" - and then, he has some rather colorful language. Maybe Lyndon Johnson deserves to be up there for using the phone.
So, between this - the flat Earth stuff, I'm not saying the president doesn't know this, he doesn't write everything that he says, but - is the White House getting its history off Wikipedia?
FINNEGAN: Honestly, I would be thrilled if they were using Wikipedia. I'm impressed these days when anyone gets any information that doesn't come via hash tag.
In the president's defense, he wasn't saying that people in Columbus's day all believed the Earth was flat. He's saying that if these politicians lived then, they would have thought the Earth was flat. And I think you could probably ague that they still might. I mean, has Rick Santorum come out publicly on where he stands on sphericity? I mean, you know, the Earth, with its slutty curves and all that.
OLBERMANN: You know, something just occurred to me - maybe I shouldn't say this out loud, because the Republicans may pick this ball up and run with it - but Christopher Columbus brought several ships full of undocumented immigrants to this country in 1492. And I think that's something that the Republicans could really roll with and try to - you know, just pin this one on Obama as well, so perhaps that's -
FINNEGAN: Have we seen the birth certificates from the Daughters of the American Revolution? I don't think so.
OLBERMANN: Or for Columbus. I mean, he wasn't - he wasn't Spanish, okay.
The comedian and actor Christian Finnegan, appearing tonight in San Diego. And, as always, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
FINNEGAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown." Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap.
And Rutherford B. Hayes was right. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and - what happened to the music? - good luck.