'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, March 19th, 2012
Guest host: Eliot Spitzer
#5 'Monsters Of The Midway', David Shuster
#5 'Monsters Of The Midway', Ken Vogel
#4 'Budget Battle Round 2', Sahil Kapur
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Jobbed Act', Robert Kuttner
#2 'G-O-Prerogative', Gloria Feldt
#1 'Re-Occupation', Ydanis Rodriguez & Ryan Devereaux
printable PDF transcript
On the show: David Shuster, Eliot Spitzer, Gloria Feldt, Ryan Devereaux, Ydanis Rodriguez, Robert Kuttner, Ken Vogel, Sahil Kapur
ELIOT SPITZER: Now, on "Countdown" - piece of cake.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: These pancakes are something else, I'll tell ya. These pancakes are as large as my win in Puerto Rico last night.
SPITZER: Romney wins big in Puerto Rico and leads big in Illinois. So, it's time for Santorum and Gingrich to step aside, right?
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: We believe that we get to the convention, Charlie, that the convention will nominate a conservative. They will not nominate the establishment, moderate candidate.
SPITZER: And we all know who he means by that.
What a fraud. The House-approved JOBS Act heads to the Senate this week. But don't be fooled by the catchy acronym. It's just another GOP ploy to deregulate Wall Street again - because it worked out so well the first time.
The latest front in the war on women - a Tennessee bill that could force public identification of women who undergo an abortion and endanger the doctors who perform them.
And Occupy celebrates its six month anniversary, but police crash the party. New York City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez and reporter Ryan Devereaux on Occupy's spring awakening and the NYPD's brutal response.
SPITZER: Good evening, this is Monday, March 19th, 233 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm Eliot Spitzer, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.
Mitt Romney winning Sunday's primary in Puerto Rico, and looking for more in tomorrow night's Illinois primary. Our fifth story in the "Countdown" - Mitt Romney pulling a little farther ahead in the GOP presidential race, hoping to add more delegates.
Campaigning in Springfield Illinois today, here is what he said:
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Well, I need only one thing from you this morning - no, two. Number one, I need some pancakes and number two - number two, I need you to go vote tomorrow.
SPITZER: Romney with an overwhelming success in Sunday's Puerto Rico primary, winning more than 80 percent of the total and adding another 20 delegates to his count. Romney pivoted from attacking Santorum this afternoon to President Obama and his policies for the economy.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: If we continue along this path, our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards and commissions and czars. That path erodes freedom.
SPITZER: Romney also tried tying Santorum and the president together.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I don't think we're going to replace an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight.
SPITZER: On the stump in Illinois - Rick Santorum wouldn't buy it:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: I heard Governor Romney here call me an economic lightweight because I wasn't a Wall Street financier like he was. Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as a president of the United States?
SPITZER: Santorum also compared his effort this year to Ronald Reagan's, while speaking in Reagan's hometown, Dixon, Illinois:
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Reagan ran that insurgent campaign in 1976, and people were saying, "Why don't you get out of the race? You have no chance of winning." And he fought. He won 11 states in 1976."
SPITZER: Of course, Reagan also lost his fight for the nomination that year to incumbent President Gerald Ford.
For the latest from the GOP Illinois primary, let's go to Chicago and "Countdown" correspondent David Shuster. David, thanks for joining us.
DAVID SHUSTER: Eliot, good to be with you.
SPITZER: So, what's the latest? Tomorrow is Illinois, a big state, a swing state. Right now, what's the state of play?
SHUSTER: Well, the state of play is that the Romney campaign feels pretty confident about how things are going. One adviser said that he thinks that they're going to win as long as turnout doesn't fall off a cliff.
And it might, because there's been so much negative ads that have been running, mostly from the Romney campaign - the idea of portraying Rick Santorum as a lightweight. Romney, of course, is not only saying it at every stump speech now, over the last couple of days, but that ad that he's running is running in every media market. So, he's hammering Rick Santorum over the perception that Rich Santorum is not able to deal with the economy.
Mitt Romney is also on the defensive himself a little bit, though, from Rick Santorum. Santorum is now ratcheting up the attacks, saying that Romney is responsible, of course, for "Romneycare," which was the blueprint for President Obama's health-care initiative. So, Santorum is trying to turn it back on Mitt Romney.
But again, Santorum is being outspent perhaps six-to-one or seven-to-one, when you combine the campaigns and the super PACs.
And then - the other thing, of course, that you saw with that clip of Rick Santorum down in Dixon, Illinois, which is Ronald Reagan's boyhood home, is that Rick Santorum is trying to establish, particularly in the southern part of the state, a sort of bona fide conservative credentials.
He's trying to say, "Look, I'm the conservative in this race. The establishment candidate is the big-government, take-away-your-liberty type of Republican. That's not who we need against President Obama."
And again, Rick Santorum - in order for him to do well tomorrow he's got to do very well, sort of south of interstate 80, mostly the southern part of the state, at least certainly below Chicago. Mitt Romney's going to roll it up, of course, in Chicago and the suburbs. But again, it looks like - just because of the amount of money that Mitt Romney has been spending - that the numbers have been trending in his direction.
SPITZER: You know, David, the poll that I saw today suggested if you look at this in terms of three groups, Romney had an overall double-digit lead with the urban and suburban voters, he's way ahead, and he's holding his own in the rural vote. That kind of surprised a lot of people. Is Romney showing strength in the sort of most conservative pieces of the Republican party, at least in the state of Illinois?
SHUSTER: Well, I would be careful on the polls in terms of the rural area. It's just, in part, because the polling has been notoriously bad. And also, Rick Santorum tends to overperform on election day in rural areas compared to the polling.
But I think it's fair to say that Romney's still trying to make a play for some of these conservative voters, and again, the conservative voters in Illinois - a little bit of a different breed than those, say, in South Carolina or Georgia or Florida.
And Mitt Romney's message again had been, again, about the economy, and Rick Santorum has been trying to sort of distinguish, and say, "No, the economy is a symptom of big government and if you elect Mitt Romney - if you give Mitt Romney the nomination, we're headed towards the same economic calamities" - according to Santorum - "as we have under Barack Obama."
So, it's a tough message for Rick Santorum. And again, he's trying to say the economic stuff is just a symptom of big government taking away your -
SPITZER: You know, David, you're right. This has been very much focused on the economy, not as much on social issues, at least in Illinois. And Romney was pretty harsh in his critique of Santorum, saying he was an economic illiterate.
Let's take a listen to that SOT - that sound bite, because I want, then, to ask you a question about it.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Santorum's real weakness is the economy. He's never run a business or a state. His plan? Economic illiteracy, inexcusable - the worst done deal of any GOP candidate. Rick Santorum, another economic lightweight.
SPITZER: You know, the thing I don't quite understand is that Romney is calling Santorum an economic lightweight. And yet, if you look at the policies that the two are articulating, they're not really that very far apart. So - isn't he - in a way, almost perversely - calling himself a lightweight? What diverges? Where is the divergence, the gap between the two on economic policy right now?
SHUSTER: I mean, I suppose the only thing you could say is the difference in terms of the corporate tax rate. There is some significance there, but that doesn't matter for most, sort of, Main Street Americans.
And, I think you get to the interesting point, Eliot, and that is the former governor of Illinois, Bob Edgar, is a Republican. This is the first race where he has decided he's not going to endorse anybody in the Republican primary - Republican presidential primary. And that caught a lot of people by surprise here.
And he said one of the things that has him so concerned is that the race has become so negative that not only are Republicans here in Illinois very unenthusiastic about Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, but Republicans across the state are very nervous about what this means for the fall. That, because this has been such a brutal race - and again, you're seeing more negative ads for an Illinois Republican primary than you've seen in 30 years.
And the Republicans statewide, the officials, are very nervous about what that portends for the fall and essentially depressing Republican enthusiasm about a race where Republicans here believe they should be competitive with President Obama in November.
SPITZER: And, in fact, David, I'm correct - that Illinois is a swing state. I mean, it has gone back and forth in terms of its senators, its governors. It elects Democrats and Republicans. And, in fact, that's why there are probably a lot of Republican congressmen right now very worried that they will get caught up in this air of negativity, and if the Republican vote in November is lower than might have been predicted, Democrats could pick up some House seats along with some other critical Senate seats, et cetera. Is that part of the concern running through the Republican party?
SHUSTER: Yeah, I think that's fair. I mean, you look at Illinois' 10th Congressional district, for example. The Democrats have their own primary here on Tuesday. There's a hell of a battle between a sort of mainstream Democrat and a much younger progressive. But they're going after, of course, the incumbent Republican, in a seat that Democrats feel they can pick up.
And so, again - to the extent that Republicans are sort of angry or frustrated with the overall tone and the enthusiasm gap starts to go down for Republicans across the ticket - you have less Republicans who will show up in the fall, and then you open up those possibilities.
If Democrats are real excited about who they have running then, of course, a couple of pick-ups here in Illinois could mean the difference for Democrats trying to pick up the U.S. House.
SPITZER: That's right. In fact, there is chatter these days that maybe the House is in play. Of course, we'll have to wait a few more months to see.
All right, "Countdown" correspondent David Shuster, many thanks. From Chicago.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Eliot.
SPITZER: For more where the GOP race may be headed, I'm joined by Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter with Politico.
Ken, first question about, you know - Rick Santorum was in Puerto Rico for two days and got absolutely shellacked. Was he down there on vacation, knowing he was just taking two days off? Or was this just a massive strategic error - spending time in Puerto Rico when, perhaps, he should have been up in Illinois?
KEN VOGEL: Well, maybe it was a little bit of both, Governor. Let's not forget he got photographed sunbathing, which was kind of a regrettable experience for everyone who saw the photograph, as well as for Senator Santorum. But that was just one of many strategic blunders there, not the least of which was actually going down there and spending the time in the first place. Also, saying that - in order for Puerto Rico to achieve statehood - English would have to become the official language. Not really a winning message there.
SPITZER: Yeah, Ken, Ken - can I interrupt you for a second?
SPITZER: I saw that and I said, "I must be reading some sort of April Fool's edition of a newspaper." You go to Puerto Rico and insult all the voters by saying, "We won't even think of statehood for you until you learn English?" What sort of twisted political logic has him make that - bring that proposal to Puerto Rico? I don't get it.
VOGEL: Well, of course, it's consistent with his hawkish line on immigration and immigration-related issues. Clearly, that was not the appropriate forum to be making that case.
He and Romney both have sort of similarly hawkish positions on immigration, though Romney has evolved somewhat, and at one point was in favor of a guest-worker program. Nonetheless, neither of them are going to win huge amounts of the Hispanic vote.
But it was actually very significant for Mitt Romney to have such a big win in Puerto Rico, because that's one of the arguments that both his conservative opponents and Democrats have used against him, that he is not as viable of a general-election candidate as his campaign has made him out to be, because he is not going to be able to compete for Hispanic votes, like, say, a John McCain, or a George W. Bush did.
And the Puerto Rico win was certainly huge for him. It was a huge loss for Rick Santorum just because he made it into something where folks were watching because he went down there to campaign, which has to be considered a strategic blunder.
SPITZER: Look, obviously, there is the fun and games of parsing the substance of this, there's also the hard numbers, just the math. It's arithmetic - 1144, the magic number for Mitt Romney. He's creeping closer and arguing every day, "Nobody else is viable."
And Santorum is saying, "Hey, guys, we're heading towards a brokered convention." And Romney saying, "I have got more delegates than all the rest of you combined." Is this slipping away from Santorum every day in Illinois, if Romney has a big win? Is Santorum seen as just holding on by his fingernails, grasping at straws here?
VOGEL: Certainly, if Romney has a big win in Illinois, you could make that argument, because one of the - the sort of primary cases that Rick Santorum and his supporters have made is that he has the momentum and, increasingly, conservatives are gravitating towards him.
Well, if he's able to eke out a win in Illinois, certainly he would be able to continue to make that argument. But these increasing strategic missteps and the increasing evidence that the lack of organization that he has in these big states like Illinois, is really hurting him and taking a toll. I mean, in Illinois he failed to get the signatures necessary to get delegate slates on the ballot. He had to scramble just to get delegates to be, sort of, offered for election.
So, without a win in Illinois, you know, we'll sort of - we'll go into Louisiana and then there are a few other primaries, but then there is this long gap, and if Rick Santorum doesn't manage to put together some convincing wins, the drum beat is going to grow louder for him to get out of the race and really allow Republicans to coalesce, 'cause they're going to have - they have a lot of wounds to lick heading into the general with Mitt Romney as the nominee, or even if Santorum is the nominee. There's been a lot of blood let during this primary.
SPITZER: Of course, Ken, we can't forget that it's been - how many months, now? Every Tuesday, we say this is the Tuesday that Mitt Romney's inevitability finally manifests itself. Of course it's never happened, and Rick Santorum, a couple of months ago, was - who's that strange guy over there in a sweater vest? Somehow, he has led nine lives, and Mitt Romney just can't close the deal. So, this thing has been continuing.
Perhaps the only people happy about it are the folks on TV who talk about it. But, it has certainly been going on much, much longer. But as you point out, the primaries that are coming up in the next couple of weeks certainly are not good ones for Rick Santorum. You've got Maryland and Wisconsin, which - I've got to believe - are more demographically like Illinois and the states where Mitt Romney has been doing quite well.
VOGEL: Yeah, and they want to just get a win. They want to get a win in Louisiana. They would love to get a close finish in Illinois, and then they're looking way further down the road to Pennsylvania - of course, Rick Santorum's home state. And they think that, if he can demonstrate a win there, that would sort of put the lie to Romney's argument that he's able to win these big states because of his organizational superiority, his financial superiority.
Certainly, we see that playing out in - in the states that we have upcoming, where it's a chance for in Illinois, especially where it's a chance for Mitt Romney to really show that has the organization that Rick Santorum lacks. But, if Rick Santorum isn't successful in at least putting something up on the board before this long gap, I think it's going to be hard for him to continue to make the case that he has a viable chance of coming away with the nomination.
SPITZER: Yeah, and also, Ken, you've got to recognize the two biggest states are hanging out there, New York - and I guess Texas is there as well - but you've got New York and you've got California down the road. Those are more than likely to go for Mitt Romney.
And 1144 really isn't the number. As you get closer and closer to it, there's going to be a lot of pressure on people to jump on board what they see as the train that's leaving the station. And so Romney's negotiating position gets stronger. So, I'm still - I assume you are as well - in the camp that, "He's likely to get it at the end of the day." Real quick, 'cause time runs short here.
VOGEL: Yeah, it certainly appears to be the case, Eliot. Let's not forget that - you mentioned - that we, on TV, are the ones who enjoy this. The Democrats and President Obama are loving it as well.
SPITZER: That is true. I think President Obama goes home every night and watches the cable shows and says, "Keep going, guys." All right, Ken Vogel of Politico, thanks for your time tonight.
VOGEL: Thank you.
SPITZER: Is Republican congressman and Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan becoming President Obama's best political friend? After destroying Republican momentum last year with his radical budget, Ryan is doing it all over again. Coming up next.
SPITZER: Second time's a charm, right? I doubt it, but we'll find out. The GOP gambling on a carbon copy of last year's budget proposal.
The latest outrage in the war on women, a state measure that would publicly identify those women seeking abortions.
And Occupy Wall Street's spring awakening. The protesters are back. Unfortunately, so are the reports of violence and arrests.
SPITZER: Congress has not passed a budget since April 29, 2009 - nearly three years ago.
In our fourth story - despite the furor it caused for Republicans in 2011, once again, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is preparing to release another budget proposal, this time complete with a "Social Network"-style trailer.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL RYAN: This coming debt crisis is the most predictable crisis we've ever had in this country. And look what's happening. This is why we're acting. This is why we're leading. This is why we're proposing, and passing out of the House, a budget to fix this problem so we can save our country for ourselves and our children's future.
SPITZER: It is kind of like the lead-in to a horror movie.
Anyway, while most would think passing a budget would be a good thing, it did not turn out that way last year for Republicans. Ryan's budget and its proposed draconian cuts to Medicare provided Democrats valuable material to attack Republicans, pretty much ending the momentum they had going into election season. Meanwhile, tea party Republicans were angered, because even with all the talk of cuts, the Ryan plan left us with another decade of enormous deficits.
It even caused a headache for those not in office, with Newt Gingrich drawing significant criticism from Republicans for describing Ryan's plan as "right-wing social engineering."
Joining me now, Sahil Kapur, congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo. Thank you for your time tonight.
SAHIL KAPUR: Thanks for having me on.
SPITZER: Let me ask you this - what is different about this bill from last year? I mean, is there a fundamental shift, or are they simply giving us the same old plan?
KAPUR: The general template is going to be more or less the same. It's going to be massive tax cuts tilted to the rich, going to be massive cuts in domestic social programs for low- and middle-income people, a privatization of Medicare, and not really a whole lot done to the military. So, it's mostly the same thing, but with some shifts, tactical shifts.
SPITZER: You know, the tactical shifts are going to simply elude the general public that isn't paying that much attention, and certainly doesn't follow the charts and the graphs and the numbers the way you do. You know, you're a certified policy wonk. But, isn't it - you know, Einstein said, "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity." What is the politics behind what Paul Ryan is doing? Because it just about killed the Republican party last year. So, why are they doing it again?
KAPUR: Right, so to understand why conservatives and Republicans are taking such a big risk again, you have to understand the mindset - which is that they view this era as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hack away at the social programs and the social safety net that they've never liked.
You know, from the earliest days, they never liked Social Security, they've never liked Medicare, and they view this looming debt as a - you know, as a golden opportunity to start cutting away at those. So, the gamble they're taking is, "Even" - you know - "Even if we raise these issues, and it doesn't help us politically for now, if we do end up winning - if we do end up raising these, and we do end up winning the White House, it will give us a huge mandate to make drastic changes, to make drastic cuts in Medicare and to really cut government in a huge way."
That's the mindset, but it's really unclear if that's going to work. Because the vast majority of the public -
SPITZER: Well, look - at one level, you have to admire the politics of what he's doing, or the intellectual integrity behind what he's doing, because, listening to what you just said, he is saying, in a way, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. I don't care what the politics of this are, we believe that we've just got to hack away at these programs the public wants and, therefore, we're going to propose it."
On the other hand, the history is not on his side, going back, even recent history. President Bush, with privatizing Social Security. Last year, his own budget - clearly, the public has sent the message, has it not, that we would rather see tax increases for the rich - ask them to pay their fair share - as opposed to fundamental cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.
So, is Ryan simply mis-measuring the public atmosphere? And if he is, is he going to be able to corral the Republicans in the House to sort of sign onto a suicide pact again?
KAPUR: I think you're absolutely right about the - you know, you have your finger on the pulse of what the general public thinks. The conservative base, on the other hand, is far away from that. They don't - obviously don't agree with President Obama's vision, and they want to make these drastic cuts and the gamble of that, Ryan and House conservatives - House Republicans - are taking is that they can move in this direction, energize their base ahead of the election and possibly come out with a big mandate.
But the White House and the Democrats, at the same time, are salivating at this upcoming budget because they think it's going to be an amazing opportunity for them to draw contrast with the Republicans on an issue - on a number of issues, really, on Medicare and on taxes where the public is really on their side.
SPITZER: Look, the only change that I can see, in terms of the politics of the moment, is that Ron Wyden, a very prominent and popular Democratic senator, in a way has signed on with Paul Ryan to the health-care proposals, the Medicare proposals - does that sufficiently change the politics of the moment to sort of change the atmospherics and the way this can be argued to the public?
KAPUR: Not really. You know, there was a lot of question as to - you know, when Wyden and Ryan released their version - their Medicare privatization version - which, by the way, is a bit of gentler version of the original Ryan plan. When they came out with that, there was a lot of question as to whether more Democrats would sign on, which, you know, which would have made this problematic for the White House. It would have portrayed Republicans as united, and having picked off some Democrats.
But that hasn't happened.
To date, Ron Wyden is the only prominent Democrat - maybe the only Democrat at all - to have signed on to you know, converting Medicare into a voucher, premium-support program. So, at this point, there is no indication that teaming up with Widen is going to help Republicans much.
SPITZER: I think that's exactly right. If Senator Wyden expected there to be an outpouring - he would light a fuse, and then others would join with him. It certainly has not happened, and it's still pretty rigidly - Paul Ryan's plan is out there, standing on its own, without any Democratic support of any magnitude.
Sahil Kapur, congressional reporter for Talking Points Memo. Thank you for your time tonight.
KAPUR: Thanks for having me on, Governor.
SPITZER: My pleasure.
Publicly identifying the women who have abortions, and the doctors who provide them what could become - that could become a frightening reality in the state of Tennessee. That's ahead, on "Countdown."
SPITZER: Coming up, as Congress moves towards passing the so-called JOBS Act, maybe they should consider a name change - how about the "Return Fraud to Wall Street" Act.
But first, the "Sanity Break."
It was on this day in 1955 actor Bruce Willis was born in West Germany. He moved to the U.S. at age two, and would go on to achieve stardom, first in television and later as a major movie star.
But most important - and listen up, guys - he proved bald guys can look cool. That's why we love him.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Two-year-old girl sings Adele hit "Someone Like You."
We begin, as we always do, with a two-year-old girl singing Adele. And if this doesn't put a smile on your face, nothing ever will.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Never mind, I'll find someone like you/I wish nothing but the best to you, too.
SPITZER: Grammy bound. I'm not saying it's better than the original, but maybe just as good.
VIDEO: Man chops down tree, sends it into house.
And in forestry news - a man chopping down a tree directly next to his house. And, of course, somebody's filming it. Gee, I wonder what could go wrong?
He not only upset the people inside the house, but the Lorax probably isn't too happy about it either.
VIDEO: Tortoise can't quite get a mouth around tomato slice.
Finally, we end - as we always do - with a tortoise trying to eat a tomato.
It seems the poor guy's depth perception isn't quite up to par, or maybe he just likes the taste of the air around the tomato. Either way, he's having a bit of trouble enjoying his snack.
Interestingly, Senator Mitch McConnell has the exact same difficulty eating produce.
"Time Marches On!"
Occupy Wall Street returns in force. The future of the movement with New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Ryan Devereaux of The Guardian is ahead.
And - banking regulations? Who needs 'em? Why the JOBS Act must be killed, coming up next.
SPITZER: So far this year there have been over half a million jobs created, dropping the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent. While most seem to agree that we are moving in the right direction, there is still work to be done. That is why, in our third story, when Congress proposes a bill that is literally a "JOBS Act," it would seem to be a good idea.
But while the name indicates that actual jobs would be created, instead, this bill is a way to strip away bank regulations. The "Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups" - or JOBS - Act passed the House 390 to 23 and is poised to pass the Senate with minimal amendments. Maybe they didn't read it.
But some are concerned about the negative effect the bill would have on investors.
SEC Chairwoman Mary Shapiro sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Banking Committee expressing her concerns over the banking regulations the bill strips away: "Too often, investors are the target of fraudulent schemes disguised as investment opportunities. As you know, if the balance is tipped to the point where investors are not confident that there are appropriate protections, investors will lose confidence in our markets, and capital formation will ultimately be made more difficult and expensive."
Joining me now is Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect. Thank you for your time tonight.
Let me begin with this simple question - what is in this bill that's actually going to create jobs, if anything?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, nothing's in it that's going to create jobs. I mean, if you have a piece of special-interest legislation that strips away investor protections for any company of a billion dollars or less that wants to sell its shares to the public, it's clearly narrow-interest legislation sponsored by Wall Street. You have got to come up with a way of selling the lemon.
So, you come up with an acronym - Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups - and whoopee! It spells J-O-B-S - need to call it the JOBS Act. The scandal is that it passed the House, as you've said, 390-23 - which means that most Democrats, who should know better, voted for the thing, and President Obama has signaled that he would sign it.
Now, you do have a last-ditch effort in the Senate led by Senators Sandy Levin and Jack Reed and Mary Landrieu to try to derail it, but it is just a scandal that this thing - which is just an investor rip-off legislation - has gotten as far as it has.
SPITZER: Look, I you know, played a little bit of a role - back ten years ago when I was attorney general -
KUTTNER: Well, yeah.
SPITZER: We prosecuted all the investment banks on Wall Street because they were permitting their analysts to commit fraud. They were saying, "Go out -"
KUTTNER: And this -
SPITZER: And they were saying, "Go pump these stocks up because we're underwriting them, even though you know it's not true." This bill repeals all the things we forced Wall Street to do. Is anybody standing up and saying, "Stop, this is just giving permission to commit fraud?"
KUTTNER: Well, as I say, you've got three influential Democratic senators trying to slow the thing down. I'm really appalled that President Obama has signaled that he would sign this. I hope that the pressure that is increasing as people understand better just what is in this monstrosity will force Obama to take a second look.
I mean, Mary Shapiro of the SEC is not exactly a radical. She's the one who, you know, fended off a whistle blower pointing out that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. Let's hope we can slow this down.
Harry Reid has done a very clever thing, by the way, he's tied an extension of the Export-Import Bank to this bill, and Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, has a sweetheart thing going with Delta Airlines to try and derail that impact. So, they may be able to throw some sand in the gears and slow it down.
But it's just a disgrace that this thing has gotten as far as it's gotten.
SPITZER: You know, am I right in the belief that we tried once this before? We went through about a decade where the mantra from Wall Street and from Congress was, "Deregulate. Self regulation is the way to go. We can trust you" - the words that were uttered by both those on Wall Street and Congress about Wall Street. It led to the greatest cataclysm since the Great Depression. Have we forgotten history that quickly?
KUTTNER: Well, I think the question is, who is "we?" You haven't. I haven't. Twenty-six members of the House haven't. Carl Levin hasn't.
But you know, you have the Contract with America in '96, gutted investor protections. The repeal of Glass-Steagall in '99, the gutting of protections against derivative abuse in 2000. The - the only exception to this horrendous pattern was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which, you know, tried to remedy a lot of abuses that you caught Wall Street with, and now they're under the rubric of the so-called JOBS Act. They're going to gut Sarbanes-Oxley.
I think "JOBS," by the way, stands for "Just Offer B.S."
SPITZER: You know, I think that's the way they should refer to it from now on. That's clever. This past week, we have this op-ed - this resignation by Greg Smith resigning from Goldman Sachs - saying that the Wall Street environment, in particular at Goldman, was as toxic as it ever has been. The conflicts, the fraud, the pressure to violate fiduciary obligations just being paramount over any desire to pursue integrity - wasn't that the most powerful piece of testimony about this bill? How can Congress pass this bill in the face of that testimony from Greg Smith?
KUTTNER: Well, I hope that Senators Reed, Levin, and company will slow the thing down. I have to tell you, when I read that op-ed piece, and then I read the next day, you know, The New York Times puts this on the front page and then there were three stories inside about how shocked everybody was - where have these people been? It's not exactly a secret that Goldman Sachs bets against its own clients, and yet everybody treated this as if it were new news. We've known this for 10 or 15 years.
SPITZER: You know, Robert, that's exactly right. The only critique that I had of his op-ed was that he said things have gotten worse. They were just as bad before he got there.
And, amazingly, when we first charged the major banks with committing fraud, and the way the analysts were operating there, their first defense was, "But everybody knows we're lying about this." It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that was their first defense. It was an admission of proportions I had never seen in all my years as a prosecutor.
Anyway, co-editor of -
KUTTNER: You know -
SPITZER: Yes, sir.
KUTTNER: The one thing we have going for us is - there are disclosure laws, so that if investors have the wit to read the disclosures, they can protect themselves, and that's what this wretched piece of legislation would gut. Shame on anybody who votes for this.
SPITZER: All right, we're going to put you down there in Congress, and make sure you don't let them vote on this. All right, they should listen to you.
Co-editor of The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner. Thanks for your time tonight.
KUTTNER: Thanks, Governor.
SPITZER: My pleasure. Thank you, sir.
The right's continued effort to regulate the lives of women and, in doing so, obliterate any sence of privacy for those who have had an abortion. Next, on "Countdown."
SPITZER: The war on women reaches the state of Tennessee. Details on a proposed state bill that may publicly identify those women seeking abortions.
And, with the re-occupation of Wall Street this past weekend come new allegations of police misconduct - the scene from downtown New York. You're watching "Countdown."
SPITZER: At a time when most conservatives readily admit they'd be better off focusing on the economy, regulating the womb seems to be the GOP's chief priority.
In our second story on the "Countdown" - state lawmakers in Tennessee will debate a measure this week that would require that the state's Department of Health publicize the names of doctors performing abortions.
The so-called Life Defense Act also mandates that detailed patient information be released, including "the county and state in which the woman resides, the woman's age, race, and marital status, pre-existing medical conditions, and the number of prior pregnancies and prior abortions."
Critics argue that the measure puts a target on doctor's and women's backs. Democratic Rep. Gary Odom says the publicizing of the information, "would have serious consequences. We know what has happened to physicians who perform abortions, that there has been violence. This is a dangerous piece of legislation."
Joining me now for more is Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood and author of "No Excuses." Gloria, thank you for your time, and thank you for being here.
GLORIA FELDT: Pleasure to be here, Eliot.
SPITZER: Is this unprecedented, in terms of disclosure and the capacity - if this were to happen - to identify patients?
FELDT: Well, it does feel like "The Handmaid's Tale" is becoming real, not fiction.
FELDT: It's not that much worse, though, than bills we have seen in other states - some that have passed, some that have not passed. You have to understand that these bills have two purposes, really. One purpose is to intimidate doctors, and the other purpose is to shame women. And I guess a third purpose is really to vilify both the doctor and the woman.
SPITZER: Let's take the first issue that you're raising, which is to target doctors. What has happened in communities where doctors are performing these private procedures and then the entire world - where there are almost violent groups opposed to the provision of abortion services - have found out that these doctors are performing these services. What is happening to these doctors?
FELDT: That's why only, I think, about 13 percent of counties in the United States have abortion providers anymore because the - most places have just simply run the doctors out of town or they have gone underground or they have decided they're only going to practice in the large, urban areas where they feel more protected.
It's - there is a shortage of providers, but I think the real issue here is it's just a much bigger one than that. I'm not even sure that I think a bill like this is worth fighting, except to expose what it's all about. I think the real issue here is - the abortion issue itself has never been about abortion. It has always been the tip of a much larger ideological iceberg that is about the nature and purpose of human sexuality and the nature and purpose of women's place in the world.
SPITZER: I completely and totally agree with you. I think that is a larger conversation than we have time for right tonight, but I want the public, and those who are listening to us tonight and watching us, to understand - doctors who have been identified have been the subject of violence.
FELDT: Oh, absolutely.
SPITZER: They've been shot, murders - this is not kid stuff where we're talking about, simply somebody standing outside with a placard saying, "I disagree with what you're doing." There has been violence when these doctors' names have become public.
FELDT: Well, that's correct. I mean - I, myself, in my past have been targeted. I've been stalked, I've been - and I'm not even an abortion provider.
FELDT: I'm not a physician, not a medical person, but -
FELDT: So, it's not just the doctors. It's anybody who helps women get reproductive health care and actually, very often, they don't even distinguish between whether it's abortion or whether it's family planning and contraception and the whole other range of reproductive health-care services - because, again, it's not just about abortion.
SPITZER: Do you know of any other medical procedure where there has been a demand that this type of data be released so you could identify the patient?
FELDT: No, but I think it would a good idea if they're started being some bills that said the same thing about if a man wants a vasectomy, or if a man wants a prescription for Viagra.
SPITZER: You want fair play.
FELDT: Yes. Fair play, absolutely.
SPITZER: Oh, come on, Gloria. It's never going to happen.
FELDT: There needs to be fair play.
SPITZER: Now, your argument, of course is incredibly powerful. Imagine if those legislators who are voting for this suddenly found out that if they wanted a Viagra prescription, their names - it was going to be in the paper the next day. Do you think that would - they'd somehow see this through a different prism?
FELDT: I suspect that, if you can turn the world upside down any time and see the world through somebody else's eyes - or walk a mile in their moccasins, as Native Americans say - it looks very, very different. But, you know, the thing is that we're dealing with people who are zealots, who are ideological zealots. And so, it's very hard to get people like that to see something from another perspective. You know, you and I make a habit of that.
SPITZER: Well, we try. It's the only way to understand. You know, to do that for ten seconds, what is - are they making any type of medical argument? How do they -
FELDT: No, no.
SPITZER: Aggregate data about provision of services, fine. But, why individualize it to the patient and the doctor?
FELDT: No, all they're doing is - each additional restriction only makes abortion A) less accessible and B) less safe, because it delays a woman's ability to get the procedure, it often makes it take more time for her to be able to actually get an appointment, to be able to get the money, to be able to get to where, you know, she has to travel three hours to get to a provider. It delays then, the time in pregnancy when she may have the procedure, which is more risky.
SPITZER: And real quick, as time runs short - unfortunately, this is part and parcel of the larger agenda. I mean, the Virginia statute about invasive sonograms being required - I mean, it seems to have just burst out as some sort of crazed move on the far right's part recently.
FELDT: Well, yes. But the thing is - that I believe that women and that the men who are progressive in these views, also - it's time for us to realize we have the power in our hands. We have the power of the vote, we have the power of persuasion. We have not wanted to get out and really fight these issues. We need to be much more proactive about not only coming up with legislation that would say, "If you want Viagra, you have to be registered," but something much bigger and more audacious than that.
SPITZER: It can happen. And even in Virginia - the governor there, extremely conservative, was pushed back a little bit, in terms that they amended the bill before it still went through.
Anyway, Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood and author of "No Excuses," great thanks for your insights and being here with us tonight.
FELDT: Great to be here with you.
SPITZER: The re-occupation of Wall Street, and the allegations of police misconduct that go along with it, coming up.
SPITZER: This past weekend, Occupy Wall Street reconvened six months after its inception, in the same downtown New York City park where it was born.
And in our number one story - with its re-emergence come new allegations of unnecessary force and police brutality.
On Saturday, approximately one thousand protesters gathered in Zuccotti Park. Just after midnight, cops ordered them to evacuate. More than 73 people were arrested, including Cecily McMillan.
Video of the 23-year-old having a seizure in handcuffs outraged protesters - they claim cops fractured McMillan's ribs, cuffed her, and carried her onto an MTA bus where she started seizing. Police reportedly then dragged her off the bus and kept her in cuffs the whole time.
Cops say McMillan elbowed her arresting officer in the head. She was taken to the hospital and later arrested for assault on a police officer.
Another video of cops smashing a protester's head into a plate-glass window surfaced.
Today, several New York City council members spoke out against the alleged police brutality and what they claim is the NYPD's mishandling of the demonstrations.
(Excerpt from video clip) JUMAANE WILLIAMS: Occupy Wall Street movement are not terrorists, they are not enemies of the state. Why are the police treating them as such?
SPITZER: Joining me now is Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who you may remember was arrested at the demonstrations last November, and reporter Ryan Devereaux of The Guardian, who has covered Occupy since its inception.
Councilman, let me ask you first - what did you see? You were there. Describe the setting. Was there anything that you believe justified either the arrests or the way the police acted?
YDANIS RODRIGUEZ: I mean, by no way the arrests were justified. I believe that they - that the police, the NYPD, use excessive force on doing this arrest. I have a lot of respect for the men and women in uniform. I believe they keep us and our city safe. However, they have got to learn how to respect our constitutional rights. What happened - there was a brutal, excessive force by the NYPD, arresting more than 70 people in a way that is not acceptable.
SPITZER: Now, have you spoken to Police Commissioner Kelly or the mayor and said, "You know what? Look, we all want peace and order in our city. We also all want the right of the First Amendment to be protected, and people to exercise it." Have you sat down with the mayor and said, "Look, we need to reconsider the balance that you are striking on this issue?"
RODRIGUEZ: I believe that this mayor is not connected to our city. I believe that Commissioner Kelly, also - he was at the New York City Council hearing last week, two weeks ago. We have a lot of questions of Commissioner Kelly.
First of all, he should understand, he's not head of the CIA. He's not head of the FBI. He's the commissioner of a city to which he's accountable. He should report to the City Council. However, he denied to respond to questions about how they're mishandling protesters of Occupy - how being handled with the surveilling of the Muslim population. How being handled with this stubborn phase, so, I think that the NYPD should understand that we expect more than what they've been doing.
SPITZER: Let me ask you - the day after Goldman Sachs was criticized in an op-ed piece, the mayor went to Goldman to sort of buck them up and say, "Hey, guys, I love Goldman."
Has the mayor visited Occupy Wall Street to say, "Look, even though I disagree with you, I appreciate what you're saying? There are equity issues." Has he visited to sort of convey any of that?
RODRIGUEZ: I don't think he will. He has not and neither he will. I don't think that he understands how seriously is this movement. This movement has been created because the working class and middle class is so frustrated. We expected the one percent to increase their level of contribution to the finance - even the way how Mayor Bloomberg responded to the question today showed that he's not connected.
SPITZER: Ryan, let me ask you a question. You've been studying and watching Occupy since the very beginning. There was a hiatus. Everybody knew they would, in essence, go into hibernation during the cold months of the winter, and then spring has sprung. What is the agenda? What do you think the next chapter looks like, and what do you expect to see out of the leadership, if there is one, at Occupy Wall Street?
RYAN DEVEREAUX: Well, early on I realized that it's not a very good idea to make too many predictions about Occupy Wall Street, cause they tend to surprise you every chance they get. But while they weren't in the news as much - it's not quite accurate to say that they were in completely hibernation, because the sort of core group of organizers and activists that were involved there in the beginning were doing a lot of work over the winter, trying to plan for spring and there were a lot of, you know, big actions planned for the spring.
They are shooting for a general strike, as they're calling it, on May 1st.
SPITZER: Which would subsume who and what? What is the objective there?
DEVEREAUX: Their hope is to encourage people not to go to work, not to bank, not to shop, not to go to school for a day, to sort of show what impact the 99 percent has on the economy, and what a massive role, you know, that segment of the population plays.
SPITZER: Not to get too practical about this, but, if that's going to work, I assume they would need to have support of some of the major municipal unions, some of the primary voices for working men and women, which the AFL-CIO, private sector or government and municipal workers. Has that begun to happen? 'Cause otherwise, I think this might fizzle.
DEVEREAUX: Right. I mean, it would certainly be a momentous occasion if, you know, they managed something of this magnitude. I don't think that they necessarily expect for, you know, every single person in the United States to be involved in the general strike, but they are going to pretty extensive lengths to reach out to unions, from what I understand, and different groups to get a lot of people on board.
SPITZER: Well, one of the critiques that was not totally frivolous about Occupy Wall Street in the fall was, "What do you want? Give some coherent set of principles or two or three objectives." Quickly tell us, what is it that you think - have they agree agreed on anything and if not, is that going to continue to be a critique of them?
DEVEREAUX: I don't think they see it as a critique that is as salient at other people do. I don't think that they have put the sort of emphasis on having a goal met. They see a number of issues, and they want to find ways to address those issues. It's more about the process of how we're going to look at these issues than setting out a conclusion or a goal.
SPITZER: Well, look, let me be very clear. I've written about this, not as extensively as you have, but have certainly been a fan of Occupy Wall Street, because they - perhaps alone in the political firmament over the past year, multiple years - have managed to get us to focus on the issues of equality and justice, and the 99 versus one, which I think is hugely important as we think about our economics as we go forward.
All right, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Ryan Devereaux of The Guardian. Thank you so much for being here.
That's "Countdown." I'm Eliot Spitzer, filling in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching. Good night.