'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, March 26th, 2012
#ShowPlug 1: The #Trayvon Blowback: Blame the victim, blame POTUS for "introducing" race. Jesse @RevJJackson joins me
#Showplug 2: SCOTUS and Health Care Reform. Perhaps not the foregone GOP conclusion. @JonathanTurley explains latest
#ShowPlug 3: Santorum's Stunt: The blow-up at the NYTimes; Open Mike Night for POTUS, w/old friend @DavidCornDC
#ShowPlug Last: And farewell to my first true employer: Bert Randolph Sugar, in memoriam.
#5 'Shooter Strikes Back', Allison Samuels
#5 'Shooter Strikes Back', Rev. Jesse Jackson
#4 'A Supreme Case', Jonathan Turley
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Tantorum', David Corn
#2 'Horror Ads', Craig Crawford
#1 'Bert Sugar 1937 - 2012'
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Jonathan Turley, Craig Crawford, David Corn, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Allison Samuels
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Trayvon Martin - and the simmering pushback.
(Excerpt from video clip) CRAIG SONNER: Mr. Zimmerman was acting in self defense.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOE OLIVER: None of this would have happened if Trayvon had just said, "I'm staying with my parents." This is a horrible, horrible happening where someone who thought he was doing the right thing has virtually lost his life now.
(Excerpt from video clip) SYBRINA FULTON: They've killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation.
(Excerpt from video clip) TRACY MARTIN: Even in death they are still disrespecting my son.
OLBERMANN: And the sad exploitation of this, for politics:
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be okay because it didn't look like him? Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.
OLBERMANN: The Supreme Court and healthcare reform.
(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Care for you, care for me, care for every family!
OLBERMANN: Look, we all know how this is going to turn out, Justice Alito - you're five Republicans running the Supreme Court on behalf of the Republican party. Just get it over with.
(Excerpt from audio clip) SAMUEL ALITO: Today you're arguing that the penalty is not a tax. Tomorrow you're going to be and back and you'll be arguing that the penalty is a tax.
OLBERMANN: Breaking point - Rick Santorum snaps at Mitt Romney.
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.
OLBERMANN: "Hold me back! Hold me back!" Rick Santorum fake snaps at The New York Times for reporting that he said - what he said.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it's bull----. C'mon, man, what are you doing? ... If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican is the way I look at it.
OLBERMANN: Open mic night.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: After my election I have more flexibility.
OLBERMANN: The president has to explain why he said that - off the record, he thought - to the president of Russia.
Of course, somebody can still have a laugh.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: I was born in Kapi'olani hospital.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Were you?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Yes.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: You're a Hawaiian?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Yes.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: You and me?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Yes.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Do you have your birth certificate?
OLBERMANN: And - one of a kind. The death of Bert Randolph Sugar - boxing expert, advertising legend, and my first boss.
All that and more, now on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Good evening. This is Monday, March 26th, 226 days until the 2012 presidential election.
A concerted, sometimes fantastical, effort under way now, to rehabilitate the reputation of the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman - as demonstrations continue across the country demanding justice for Martin.
Our fifth story on the "Countdown" - the Zimmerman friend insisting the former neighborhood watch captain is not a racist and is very, very sorry for the shooting. His attorney insists so-far-undisclosed evidence will clear Mr. Zimmerman of any possible charges, to say nothing of wrongdoing.
This, while thousands of protesters continue to march in Sanford, Florida - where the shooting took place - and other cities around the country. Those protesters demanding that George Zimmerman be arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin on the night of February 26th, one month ago.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson providing some clarity:
(Excerpt from video clip) JESSE JACKSON: We know that Mr. Zimmerman should not have pursued him. He did. He should not have killed him, and he did. The blood of this martyr has illuminated the darkness, and we shall maintain our vigilance and our action until justice is done.
OLBERMANN: Vigilance and action on display Sunday, with more protests honoring Martin and demanding justice for his chiller - killer. The 17-year-old, who was found to be carrying nothing more threatening than an iced tea and a bag of Skittles the night he was killed after walking through a gated community.
George Zimmerman's attorney Craig Sonner insisting that the public does not really know yet what happened that night:
(Excerpt from video clip) CRAIG SONNER: There are other - 911 tapes that haven't been disclosed. We don't have the complete story yet. And I believe once that complete story comes out, it's going to show that George Zimmerman acted in self defense that night, that he was attacked. He did have a right to defend himself.
OLBERMANN: A different sort of defense appearing in the pages of The Orlando Sentinel newspaper. The paper reporting, in an exclusive, that authorities claim some witnesses have backed up Zimmerman's account of what happened that night.
According to the shooter, Zimmerman followed Martin - first in his SUV, then on foot - and then was approached by Martin. Zimmerman claimed Martin asked him if he had a problem, and then told him he did. Martin, then allegedly knocked Zimmerman to the ground with a punch to the nose. He then got on top of Zimmerman and banged Zimmerman's head against the sidewalk. A playback of the one 911 tape available from that night has the sound of someone crying.
(Excerpt from audio clip) DISPATCHER: So you think he's yelling help?
(Excerpt from audio clip) WOMAN: Yes.
OLBERMANN: Eyewitness Mary Cutcher telling NBC news that sounded like Trayvon Martin.
(Excerpt from video clip) MARY CUTCHER: It sounded young, it didn't sound like a grown man. And when the gunshot went off, the crying stopped, and if it was Zimmerman that was crying, or whining or whatever, because he was hurt or - I think it would have continued.
OLBERMANN: But Zimmerman friend Joe Oliver claiming the whole incident could have been easily avoided.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLIVER: If what George claims is true, none of this would have happened if Trayvon had just said, "I'm staying with my parents." This is a horrible, horrible happening where someone who thought he was doing the right thing has virtually lost his life now.
OLBERMANN: Again, the word operative there is virtually. Zimmerman also in hiding now, after a group calling itself the New Black Panthers - repudiated by the actual Black Panthers, and apparently consisting of exactly that many guys that you see in this picture - offered a ten thousand dollar reward for the "capture of the shooter."
Whatever the Sanford police and Florida courts finally decide, George Zimmerman already losing in the court of public opinion. Seventy-three percent of U.S. adults telling a CNN poll Zimmerman should be arrested, just 11 percent saying he should not.
Anonymous stories, perhaps trying to move public opinion as well - one source telling ABC News Martin had been suspended from school after a bag with marijuana residue had been found in his book bag. Martin's parents responded to that in anger.
(Excerpt from video clip) MARTIN: Even in death they are still disrespecting my son.
(Excerpt from video clip) FULTON: They've killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation.
OLBERMANN: And Newt Gingrich, trying to besmirch President Obama's reputation after he made a moving comment about Trayvon Martin:
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
OLBERMANN: And after that, Gingrich spoke to Sean Hannity.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful. Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be okay because it wouldn't look like him? Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.
OLBERMANN: For the latest on the Trayvon Martin story, I'm joined by Allison Samuels, senior writer for Newsweek, who's been covering it. Thank you for your time tonight, Miss Samuels.
ALLISON SAMUELS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The Orlando Sentinel story today presenting this alternative timeline that's favorable to George Zimmerman - is that the sort of information that would only be accessible by, or to, the Sanford police? I mean, the city manager is saying that Internal Affairs is going to investigate whether the leak came from them.
SAMUELS: Yeah, I think that's something that the police would have had to have given the paper. The police, as well as George Zimmerman's defense - I think they're in total defense mode in every way.
The last two weeks have been horrible for George Zimmerman.
I mean, and at the end of the day, you have to look at all the social media - Reverend Al Sharpton, all these people who have continuous ways of getting this story out. And they're not going to stop. They're going to continue to sort of put this Trayvon Martin situation, what happened to him - this poor kid that was killed with Skittles and tea - we're going to hear about that, and we have heard about this for the last two weeks, and I think Zimmerman's people have decided, "We've got to fight back. We've got to tell our version, as it is, of this story."
And I think the police, who've also been crushed for handling this so poorly, I think they feel like they're on the defensive, and they have to explain what actually happened and why they didn't do a proper investigation. And I think that's what we see happening now.
OLBERMANN: And, clearly, you're right on both respects. In this sense, though, is there anything to these alternative timelines that they're presenting? Because this Zimmerman friend - Joe Oliver - on ABC said he didn't know who pulled the trigger, and The Orlando Sentinel story reported Zimmerman claiming that Martin had tried to take his gun. Is there any evidence coming from sources other than those two sources that supports those obviously vital elements to this case?
SAMUELS: Well, in talking to Trayvon Martin - the family lawyer, Benjamin, he said that Trayvon was on the phone the entire time. So, I find it hard to believe that he could fight this George Zimmerman and stay on the phone with his girlfriend, who reports that he was on the phone with her until about a minute - you know, until he was actually shot, right before he was shot. So that, in itself, sort of disputes the point that he would have attacked him.
Also, given the fact that this guy was following him, wouldn't anyone turn around and say, "What are you following me for?" And wouldn't they also try to defend themselves? I'm sure that this little kid - I mean, he wasn't a little kid, but he was a young man, I'm sure he was afraid for his life, thinking, "Why is this guy following me?" And to hear - two people have said, "If he has just told him who he was."
SAMUELS: Is this slavery day, where we have to show our papers and say, "Hey, look, I'm allowed to be here. I'm free?" That's ridiculous. You don't have to explain who you are or why you're here to someone who does not have a badge, who is not in a uniform.
I am sure this young man's attitude was, "What are you following me for, what are you doing?" And I don't know why they would try to flip the script on that, and make that seem that that's inappropriate, when he had every right to be there, and didn't have to explain that to anyone.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, to whom does the "Stand Your Ground" law, perhaps, more correctly apply in this case? If you have a mortal fear that perhaps there's a lunatic standing next to you who has a gun and is ready to use it, whatever the provocation - which turned out to be exactly the correct description of George Zimmerman. He had a gun and was ready to use it, whether or not he had any justification in doing so.
SAMUELS: And he was told by the police not to follow this young man. That - when people say it could have been solved by him just telling who he was, it could have been solved by George Zimmerman just staying in the car and not following him. That's how it could have been solved, and I think that's the problem that the defense will continue to have with this case. They have him on tape being told to stay in his vehicle.
Trayvon Martin had no idea what was happening. He had no idea why this guy was behind him. And the young girl, the girlfriend, I think is going to be very important when she is able to testify, to say he was saying, "This guy's following me." She's telling him to run. Trayvon was very scared for his life, and I think there's no way that they can sort of change the way that that went down, no matter what they release.
OLBERMANN: And here we have the one woman who has been bold and brave in speaking out against what might be the community sentiment or part - a small part - of the community sentiment in Sanford, Florida, certainly within that gated community.
This woman Mary Cutcher, who, again, says everything that she heard, says that this was not a case of self defense, and if it was - if it was Zimmerman crying on the tape, why did the crying stop when the gunshot sounds? She heard things, she saw things, we have names attached to these witnesses. We have them coming forth on the record.
Have there been - I mean, Joe Oliver, friend of George Zimmerman, the attorney for George Zimmerman - do we have any witnesses who have said - actually said anything that we know of that corroborate any part of George Zimmerman's version of this story?
SAMUELS: No, and I was in Sanford, Florida for a couple of days. I went around the community, I talked to a number of people. No one that I spoke to there could sort of defend what George Zimmerman had done, no one was in agreement with what he had done, and no one had seen what he had done. The women that you've seen - who admitted, who came forth - they went to the police, they went to the police station, and they talked to the media, they talked about what they saw. I even talked to a little kid who had seen sort of the end of it.
But I talked to no one who had actually witnessed the other part of this story that Zimmerman is putting forth. So, it's all very suspect. It is also very convenient for it to come out now, when he - Zimmerman - and the police department is taking such a beating.
OLBERMANN: Last point - it's really procedural. The grand jury is April 10th. Any idea what sort of process there's going to be or how long that might take?
SAMUELS: It's going to take a while, just from talking to a lot of people in the area. They're still, again, investigating all the different areas of - sort of events. They're talking to more and more people - you have all these rallies going on, you have all these sort of people coming in to town, which I think is also sort of making the - putting the pressure on. So, I think they're a little nervous and they're going to take their time to try to make sure that they don't miss anything.
So, I think we're going to see a long, drawn-out process, but unfortunately, I think what they're worried about - which is probably fair - is that they don't want there to be any unrest. I think the longer we go without there being any movement, without there being any arrest, you do have to concern - you have that concern of, "Are people going to take to the streets?" Because people are furious about this, and I don't think that's going to die down anytime soon.
OLBERMANN: No, and I believe that it is fair to say - other than the four guys who decided that they're the Black Panthers, or the New Black Panthers - everybody has been, I think, extraordinarily patient and respectful to the law and the process in this country so far. And as I echo your points - and, obviously, their concerns also - in Florida.
Allison Samuels, senior writer for Newsweek, great thanks for some of your time tonight.
SAMUELS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: For more on the ongoing effort to seek justice for Trayvon Martin and the moral dimensions of the tragedy, we're now joined by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader, of course, activist, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Reverend Jackson, thanks for a little of your time tonight.
JESSE JACKSON: Well, Keith, thank you. You guys have a real grip on this matter.
I'm astonished that, somehow, this guy has such a relationship with the police department. I'm told they refuse to move on him. Everything about this really is kind of irrational.
One, he was told not to pursue Mr. Martin, and he pursued him. He killed him, the police got there, and he was over him with the gun. They drug tested Mr. Martin, the kid, and did they did not drug test or alcohol test Mr. Zimmerman, but he's still free. And so, it just compounds the injury with his attitude.
OLBERMANN: Yeah. But - you said, earlier today, that the central issue in this case was racial profiling -
JACKSON: I said a little bit about it.
OLBERMANN: But Zimmerman's defenders say in his defense, "Well, he's a Latino, he has friends of all races, he's not a racist himself." Is that relevant to this, or is that just muddying the fact?
JACKSON: It is irrelevant. We are convinced that if this had been a white person - a black person shooting a white person - you are clear this would not be the outcome.
This department has a reputation. Not long ago, Keith, an African American homeless man was beaten nearly to death, and the beater walked away. He was a son of a police officer, one of an official - who has right now, if you will, right now a part of the investigation. So, you have a whole level of corruption here that is unbelievable.
I think that as long as the particulars of this case - the lawyers will argue this case, but also, the law itself. It incentivizes this kind of a hooliganism that we see where individuals are - and it's like having authority only police should have.
OLBERMANN: That was my last question. The importance of this case, in racial terms, is undeniable, and I think it's acknowledged as such - even by people who are putting up the defense for George Zimmerman - but there's a second issue, pertaining to the law, and the larger thing that's involved here. Adults can shoot unarmed teenaged boys with impunity no matter the identities of the shooter or the victim. Is there a danger that that can get lost in here? 'Cause that, obviously, matters as well.
JACKSON: Well, it is. And what was 15 altercations a year became 35 altercations a year, and real fast. So, the map shown today by the lawyers shows how rapidly the increase in killings have occurred since the law was passed. The thing that I'm concerned- that not only we change this law, but this is the time to revive the ban on assault weapons. There's just too many people being killed. We lost less than 6,000 Americans in Iraq in ten years. We're losing 30,000 here at home now.
It's time for President Barack to convene his White House, revive the Civil Rights Commission, which is all but dead now, and a new current report. We need a more objective state of the nation on race relations for purposes of healing. Unless we know with whom we're dealing, we're not going to have plan to remedy the ills.
OLBERMANN: The Reverend Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader, activist and founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. It's always a pleasure, sir. Thanks for your time under these circumstances.
JACKSON: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: The Supreme Court and health care, also tonight. Day One: a surprising - encouraging, perhaps - poll of the former clerks to these justices. The analysis of Jonathan Turley, next.
OLBERMANN: The surprising conclusion by many of their former clerks that the Supreme Court Justices may uphold the insurance mandate - and thus, uphold health-care reform anyway.
And he passed the bar - the only one, he said, he ever did pass - but it was boxing expert, friend, and mentor, as those roles that I'll remember the late Bert Sugar in - coming up.
OLBERMANN: Both sides have spent months preparing for a three-day debate over the crown jewel of the president's legislative agenda, and that's speaking only of outside the U.S. Supreme Court building.
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - lawyers for the Obama administration and 26 Republican states challenging the Affordable Care Act agreed today that a 19th century tax law should not disqualify the high court from ruling on the law's constitutionality this year. The justices doubted the decades-old statute - which forbids litigation before a tax is actually paid - even applies to the health-care law's provision requiring people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
Justice Stephen Breyer noted the bill's language invites a challenge: "Congress has nowhere used the word tax. What it says is penalty."
While health-care advocates and opponents gathered outside the Supreme Court building to voice their views, Republican Senator Roy Blunt chimed in on what he calls "bad policy."
(Excerpt from video clip) ROY BLUNT: Whether it is constitutional or not, I'm still equally and adamantly opposed to moving forward with this view of health care, where government makes too many decisions, runs health care in too dramatic a way and, I think most of the American people - as they look at this - agree.
OLBERMANN: Or - a New York Times/CBS poll finds that a majority - 47 percent - of Americans do, indeed, disapprove of the Affordable Care Act. But a majority of former Supreme Court clerks doubt the court will strike down the law, according to a new survey. They say the odds of the court ruling the individual mandate unconstitutional is only 35 percent.
Joining me now, in the wake of all this, Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor, constitutional law expert, and of course, "Countdown" contributor. Jon, thanks again for your time tonight.
JONATHAN TURLEY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Cut to the chase - what did you see, today, if anything, that tells you how this will turn out?
TURLEY: Well, I mean, first of all, on the issue of whether something - whether this is a tax or penalty - the justices seemed very skeptical, as you've noted, that there is this threshold barrier that would prevent them from ruling.
The fascinating thing about this is that all of the parties in the case basically pleaded with the court not to apply the Anti-Injunction Act, and yet the court went out and got an independent lawyer and said, "We want you to argue this issue. And we're going to give you all this time."
But, when he finally got up there, they gave him a pretty hard time and said, "What are you talking about? This doesn't look like a tax to us."
OLBERMANN: Is that what the lawyer representing the 26 states opposing this law - Paul Clement - said were a kind of practical joke that the court is playing on the public? Is that what he was talking about?
TURLEY: Well, I was really surprised, you know, it's not a good idea when you're going in front of the court to say that they gave the nation a wet willy as a joke. You know, he's going to have to appear in front of these people, and that's not going to be a subject of amusement. I don't think it was a practical joke. I think that the court is showing the gravity of this. They have three days here.
You know, in my Supreme Court class, we've set aside two weeks to deal with these briefs. They suck the oxygen out of the room. These questions are really tough. Some of them are very technical, including today's. But I don't think this was a practical joke. But I would not have put it that way if I was going to see these people in a matter of hours.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, they may hear that quote as well.
TURLEY: Yeah, yeah.
OLBERMANN: The opinion - an opinion poll is an opinion poll. Does it have any merit, that this group of former clerks who lean, in fact, more towards the right-wing members of the court think that they're actually going to rule in favor of keeping the status quo, keeping health-care reform as it is?
TURLEY: Well, today my class voted on the first issue of whether this was a - the mandate was constitutional. They actually ruled that it was, overwhelmingly, and they predicted that the court would as well. But, I think that the cases do generally support the administration. But it is not a lead pipe cinch. There are strong arguments on both sides.
I think there are really compelling federalism arguments that can be made. But the cases, as they exist, they certainly favor the administration. I've always said that. But it's - it's hard to tell. I think this is a court of two, really. Kennedy, who's a swing voter, but I think most conservatives don't realize Scalia is very much in play. He handed down - he made statements. in a case called Gonzales versus Raich, that seemed to come right out of the administration's brief, that's very forgiving of federal jurisdiction.
And then there's Roberts, who may also be in play.
So, all of the unknowns tend to be on the right side of the court.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley, George Washington University law professor, constitutional law expert, and - as we mentioned - as always, "Countdown" contributor. Always, our best thanks.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Funny how Rick Santorum happened to swear at the guy from The New York Times while all the cameras and microphones were on, and then told Fox News, "If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican." Hey - staged. Next.
OLBERMANN: The passing of Bert Randolph Sugar. First, the "Sanity Break" -
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Obama asks woman, also born in Hawaii, for birth certificate on campaign trail.
We begin with politics, 'cause we don't normally cover it.
President Obama out campaigning in Oklahoma last week, but it's still worth it. A woman mentions that she was born in the same hospital in Hawaii where he was born.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: I was born in Kapi'olani hospital.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Were you?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Yes.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: You're a Hawaiian?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Yes.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: You and me?
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Yes.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: Do you have your birth certificate?
OLBERMANN: Sad part is - Donald Trump has now opened a full investigation into this woman's place of birth. Also, that idiot sheriff in Arizona.
VIDEO: Canadian soprano turns singing of national anthem into interactive performance.
We check in with our continuing coverage of "O, Canada" performance fails. It's their turn. Tonight's contestant - opera singer and judge of "Canada's Got Talent" Measha Brueggergosman performing a long version of the anthem before the match between, once again, the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
(Excerpt from video clip) MEASHA BRUEGGERGOSMAN: Let me hear you!/God, keep our land, glorious and free/O, Canada
OLBERMANN: "Freebird!" Let me hear 'ya.
I guess that was "O, Canada." But at least she remembered the words, which is more than I can say for our last contestant. You know what, they just need to drop this - the Ottawa Senators do - and just get a recording.
Who was that guy in Montreal who did it all those - I'll get the name tomorrow.
I'm sure the performance at the next Ottawa match will be much better. Let's see, it's being sung by - Carl Lewis. Oh boy.
VIDEO: Philippine Basketball League player collapses after being hit on the forehead, with a time delay.
Finally, also in sports - there are flops, there are bad flops, and then there's this Philippine Basketball Association game.
The big man, Mick Pennisi, the one who looks like John Candy in "Who's Harry Crumb?" is hit with a ball thrown by Will McDonald. And - down goes Pennisi!
A few seconds later - oh, he got hit by air! The wind is really strong there.
Experts are saying they haven't seen anybody flop like this since "John Carter," or "Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
"Time Marches On!"
Speaking of flopping, Rick Santorum pulls a "Hold me back! Hold me back!" on a reporter from The New York Times. Next.
OLBERMANN: After an emotional reaction preceded her victory in the 2008 New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton said she had found her voice. Of course, finding her voice did not lead to winning the nomination.
But in our third story - after a victory in Louisiana over the weekend, Rick Santorum appears to have found his voice. Unfortunately, it appears to be something entirely different - the voice of a petulant child.
On Saturday, Santorum won the Louisiana primary by nearly 23 percent. But he overshadowed his own victory when the former senator once again made the argument that Mitt Romney is not really a Republican.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Why would we put someone up who is uniquely - pick any other Republican in the country - he is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.
OLBERMANN: Santorum, of course, was talking about - uh, what was he talking about?
(Excerpt from video clip) JEFF ZELENY: You said that Mitt Romney was the worst Republican in the country. Is that true?
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: What speech did you listen to?
(Excerpt from video clip) ZELENY: Right here. Right here it says -
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM:Stop lying. I said he was the worst Republican to run on the issue of Obamacare, and that's what I was talking about. Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it's bull----. C'mon, man. What are you doing?
OLBERMANN: Oh, using exact quotes.
Now, if you had suspicions that the abuse of Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times in front of rolling cameras with lights on them was a "Hold me back! Hold me back!" stunt moment, what Santorum did and said next might have confirmed your opinion.
(Excerpt from video clip) SANTORUM: Yeah, you know, if you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican, is the way I look at it.
OLBERMANN: Mitt Romney saw that outburst a little differently.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I'm not going to worry too much about what Rick is saying these days. I know that when you fall further and further behind, you get a little more animated.
OLBERMANN: But luckily for Santorum, the classic open-mic gaffe by the president deflected some attention on this topic, when - after he thought the mics were off - he asked the current Russian President Dimitry Medvedev to delay missile discussions until after the presidential election here.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.
(Excerpt from video clip) DIMITRY MEDVEDEV: I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir. And I stand with you.
OLBERMANN: For more, let's turn to David Corn, Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine, also author of the new book "Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor and the Tea Party." Well, well. Hello, stranger.
DAVID CORN: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Good to see you, David. We'll get to the Republicans in a moment, but the open mic event - with the president obviously getting ripped over this comment by the chicken hawks on the right - is there any way he can adjust this? Or does he have to just sit back and sort of agree that this is the sort of stuff that, whereas it may not be appropriate, it's probably not appropriate for it to be broadcast.
CORN: Well, you're going to find this hard to believe, but my advice to the president is read my book, because - but, there's a true point here, because the book is a behind-the-scenes narrative of the White House after the midterm elections, and there's a chapter on the ratification of the START treaty, the nuclear treaty with Russia that was - that the president achieved ratification of in the lame-duck session. Remember all the fuss the Republicans put up - Jon Kyl, John McCain and others - trying to block this treaty, which was basically continuing a process that began with Ronald Reagan.
And so, when the president says to the Russian president, "I can have more flexibility to deal with these arms-control issues after the next election," he is just really talking about what happened during the START ratification business. And it's, you know, actually, a pretty true and accurate remark.
So, he can just say, "Go read that book and David Corn's book," and I think people will give him a pass.
OLBERMANN: And, of course dovetailing with that is Reagan's second term with Gorbachev and Reykjavik and all the rest of that.
OLBERMANN: The Santorum outburst - do we suspect that this was a good - like we showed earlier in "Time Marches On!" - this was a well-timed basketball flop by Mr. Santorum? You find a reporter, attack him, and then claim media bias on Fox? And I mean, once again, tying into "Showdown," you've had something of a back-and-forth with Fox over your book. What do you think of their role in this one?
CORN: Well, you know, Fox is like, you know, the safe space for Santorum. If he needs a timeout, he can get it at Fox. I actually think that, when he first started answering the question, which was asked after several reporters had asked a similar question, and I think the way Jeff - and I like Jeff, he's a good reporter - put it, "Do you think he's the worst Republican?" You know, there was a little - Rick Santorum had a reason to sort of give that sort of reply.
But, I can almost see the gears in his brain whirring as he starts down this road and says "Yeah, New York Times, yeah, bashing the media - yeah, worked for Newt." And he just keeps going on and on on this point and I think he tries to take the moment and turn it towards his advantage, and then he certainly does it with a victory lap on Fox News this morning. So, I don't think it was calculated at the beginning.
CORN: But, I think he certainly, you know, the calculation came in pretty early. But again, let's be fair about this. Let's be honest, let's be balanced. Fair and balanced - it's not going to make a difference.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, but it was some good opportunism, given, you know, the reflexes begin to slide as you move towards the end of a primary campaign.
CORN: The end of a - sort of a boxing match, you know?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, seriously.
CORN: They sort of just start flailing and whaling away.
OLBERMANN: All right, now this is the second time that Santorum has at least approached "Don't vote for Romney, even in the general election." Last week, the one - exact one was, "We might as well stick with what we have instead of taking a risk on what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future." Is there any possibility that those terms would have legs in the election, long after Rick Santorum doesn't have any?
CORN: You know, I don't think so. I think it's sort of a bank shot, the effect that - the Santorum effect here. It's not that people are going to care or remember that he attacked Mitt Romney for being too conservative months before the election. What's happening here, though, is, because of the whole contours of the Republican race - Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and others earlier attacking Romney from the right - he's moved to the right to pander to the conservative part of the GOP base, and that's leaving an impression with those independent voters who are watching and paying attention.
Most don't - or many, I should say, are not, and won't - pay attention until we get closer to November. But, if you look at Mitt Romney's standing amongst independent voters, it has plummeted from last fall until now, because he's just veered so far to the right to compete with Santorum. So, that's what people might remember - these little remarks that Santorum is making now to play to the base won't hurt Romney as much as his own flip-flops in statements.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, David, can I or a viewer enjoy the rest of the 2012 presidential campaign while reading your new book "Showdown?"
CORN: I'm glad you asked. Actually, the book - the book is actually a pre-campaign book. It talks about how Obama set up the last year and the lame-duck session and all those budget and debt-ceiling fights to create a vision and a values contrast with Republicans - ready-made for the November 2010 election. So I think, you know, if you want to know what - how Obama is looking at this year, that book - I think my book gives you pretty good insight into that.
OLBERMANN: David Corn of Mother Jones and "Showdown" and other television networks in your neighborhood. Great thanks. A pleasure to talk to you, my old friend.
CORN: It's great seeing you again, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take care, David.
More from Indecision 2012 - a Santorum ad that uses some of the same video as a commercial for a novel of apocalyptic horror. You mean the Herman Cain campaign? Next.
OLBERMANN: A fond farewell to one of the world's most larger-than-life humans - Bert Randolph Sugar, the least of whose accomplishments was - he was my first boss, when I was 15.Coming up.
OLBERMANN: Buildings boarded up along empty streets, children in danger. But at least the scary music soundtrack industry will still be alive and well.
In our number two story on the "Countdown" - the future is grim. Be afraid, be very afraid - that's the message Republicans are going for in two recently-released, advertising-type videos.
The first? Rick Santorum's "Welcome to Obamaville."
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Small businesses are struggling and families are worried about their jobs and their future. The wait to see a doctor is ever-increasing. Gas prices? Through the roof.
OLBERMANN: Birds cawing maniacally, reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock classic - it's the end of the world. A fuzzy connection is illustrated between the president and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Santorum's strategist says the goal is to show the constant back-and-forth between America and Iran if Obama is re-elected.
Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain also released his latest "Cain Solutions" video.
(Excerpt from video clip) GIRL: This is small business. This is small business under the current tax code.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Pull.
(Excerpt from video clip) GIRL: Any questions? Any questions?
OLBERMANN: Oh, a bunny. Cain says no rabbits were harmed in the filming. In an earlier video, that same little girl suffocated a goldfish. The animal advocacy group PETA is not happy. It says Cain's latest video is "no better than strapping a dog to the roof of your car." Oh, snap.
Let's bring in political blogger and "Politics of Life" author Craig Crawford. Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD: When I saw that PETA statement, I thought, "Now, Keith's going to catch that" - about the dog on the car.
OLBERMANN: Ah, yes. It's PETA vs. non-PETA in the presidential election. There are no facts in Santorum's video, per se. You've got, you know, these visual tricks and horror-movie tactics, and it looks like "Saw" or "Saw II," or "Saw 37." But, some of this video is from this ad from a 2010 novel of apocalyptic horror called "The Infection." Is there a point at which these videos begin to hurt their candidate?
CRAWFORD: Well, I think we've got to remember nobody's really going to see this ad, except on YouTube, because his campaign - Santorum's campaign - doesn't have the money to run it anywhere serious. And so, it really is just a trailer for a slasher movie, and such a good one, I'd actually want to see the whole film.
OLBERMANN: What about the Obama/Ahmadinejad connection in the video? Is that a plot point that doesn't quite work?
CRAWFORD: Well, that's the old flash-cuts in political ads that often get campaigns in trouble. I think about - George Bush in 2000, did the rats, when they had - when they were going to but bureaucrats on the scene, they very quickly cut - in huge letters, rats. They actually ended up pulling that ad, but always denied it was on purpose.
And, you go back even further in time, there was a Nixon ad against George McGovern where they flash cut him and tied him to Ho Chi Minh. And even further back, the one with Wendell Willkie where they made it - they cut in Adolf Hitler. So, it's sort of a time-honored tradition, I suppose, but a pretty lousy one.
OLBERMANN: Still, it was a better plot line than "Jeff, Who Lives at Home." Santorum - you can see what I saw over the weekend. Santorum's strategists admitted this thing was made, in fact, to draw people to the presidential hopeful's website. Will it do that? I mean, is there - you know, is there a great market for slasher presidential videos?
CRAWFORD: Well, here's the thing about this ad. This ad is not targeting what the political pros call "persuade-ables" out there who are still thinking about what they think about Obama. This is for people who already believe he's some sort of socialist dictator who's going to destroy the world and capitalism and life as we know it and Armageddon and everything else. So, they're pitching to people who already believe these things, getting them stirred up.
I suppose they might get some contributions, but he's so far in the hole on money, I can't imagine the YouTube ad bringing in enough money, except to make more YouTube ads.
OLBERMANN: I guess. Well, that then begs another issue here, which is - what the hell is Herman Cain doing? And - is there not child abuse involved with this little girl and the flying rabbits and catapults and all the rest? Or is that a trebuchet? I can't tell if that was a - yeah.
CRAWFORD: Every time they use her at the end of those ads saying, "Any questions?" I want to say, "Yeah, I've got lots of questions. What the heck was that?"
But, what he also is doing, I think, is - again - pitching to people who want to hear what they want to hear and believe that the stimulus program is destroying the country and rabbits and goldfish and everything else, again, to get money for his website.
You've got to remember also, a lot of these candidates - once they go away, their campaigns don't go away. But more importantly, their debt doesn't go away. And so, they keep raising money long after they've gotten out of races, and I think that's a lot of what Cain's up to here.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, except the Dead Rabbits Society in New York has been out of business for 150 years. I don't think he's going to get any money out of them.
The political blogger, "Politics of Life" author, Craig Crawford. Always a pleasure, Craig. Thank you.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: In memory of the man who gave me my first true, professional break at the age of 15. Burt Randolph Sugar - next.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, this is the story - the number one story, the story as I heard it, anyway - as Bert Sugar might have told it to you.
So it goes like this: there's this young advertising executive. He's already climbing his way up the ladder. The 1960's, this is. He works longer than anybody else. He's at every social event. He's a lawyer - never practiced, passed the bar - and Lord knows it was the only bar he did pass. So this is the kind of palooka who can convince you to give him the buttons off your fly. And he's that kind of larger-than-life character who can not only sell the advertisers anything, he's also in creative, he's also selling the customers - the hoi polloi out in the cheap seats.
Remember the "N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles Makes the Very Best" jingle? That was one of his. Samuel Taylor Coleridge this was not, this "N-E-S-T-L-E-S" - but it did a lot of business.
And our hero is the rising star on Madison Avenue and let me confide you in, my friend, that what you see on "Mad Men" is like a Sunday church ice cream social. The motto in the real world then was, "I'd rather be a good liver than have one," if you catch my drift.
Well, there's an office party, and maybe it's at J. Walter Thompson and maybe it's at McCann Erickson. Doesn't matter. Maybe it's Tinker, Evers and Steinfeldt - and Steinfeldt was the third baseman with Tinker and Evers and Chance, if you've already forgotten, Junior.
Anyway, our young hero has a boss who doesn't like him, rides him every chance, sings N-E-S-T-L-E-S at him. Never lets up. Never promotes him. And finally comes the party and there has been more liquor consumed than after Jack Johnson beat James J. Jeffries in Havana on the 4th of July. And, unfortunately for the boss, in this equation he's Jeffries and our kid is Johnson. And the wrong word is said, our kid takes his cigar out of his mouth, shoves his boss up against the office window.
Now, there are two versions of what happens next - A) Boss bounces off the window, glass is cracked, boy wonder's career is over, or B) - this is the one you don't hear a lot - boss bounces through the window onto the balcony of the high-rise office building, boy wonder's career is over, and they don't call the police only because the boss is more humiliated than hurt.
Great story so far, right? That's not even the punch line. The punch line is, boy wonder takes his money, says, "Screw advertising, screw the law degree, I'm going to buy a boxing magazine."
And before it's all over - after Cosell declines, anyway - he's the best-known media guy in boxing, even gets into the Boxing Hall of Fame - and not once did he ever sign a contract with any of the big networks or the big newspapers.
He not only knocks the boss into the window, but then he spends the rest of his life doing what he loved, and until the day he dies - he's his own boss!
You got time for another story?
The real punch line was, of course, that the ad exec who pushed his boss into the plate glass window was him. Obviously, it made Bert Randolph Sugar my hero. Actually, it made him more of my hero.
Because when Bert Sugar - who died yesterday at the age of 75 - left advertising, and was struggling along with that Boxing Illustrated magazine, he had to do outside projects. And one of them stemmed from his perception, in the early 1970's, that the next big thing was the collecting of old baseball cards.
In retrospect, it's obvious. But then, the multi-million-dollar Honus Wagner card cost $11 thousand and the family of the guy who'd spent the $11 thousand tried to have him committed. But Bert saw something the rest of us did not. So he decided to create a book that identified what the cards were and how much they were worth. It would turn out to be the single biggest thing that launched a billion-dollar industry. But, to compile it, he needed help, cheap help.
His baseball card contact was a great man named Mike Aronstein, and Mike said "Bert, I got just the kid for you," which is how I met Bert Randolph Sugar in 1974, when I was fifteen years old. And how, sizing me up in my parents' living room, smoking his ever-present cigar and talking to me like I was not only another adult but another Damon Runyon character, just like he was, he decided I could do it.
"The Sports Collector's Bible" - I did the grunt work, I organized the checklists, I threw in a note here and there. He gave me a title - Associate Editor. He gave me $250, I think - might've been less, actually. He gave me credibility. I'd worked on an actual book, while I was in high school. And a hit, one that was so popular he put out three volumes of this.
Bert moved on. Baseball trivia books, boxing books, a Harry Houdini book. He moved up. He swapped Boxing Illustrated for the far-more-famous Ring Magazine and then when the idiots over there squeezed him out, he went back and took over Boxing Illustrated again. Just last year he had bought Ring again.
But in the years after he gave me my first paying job, Bert Sugar primarily devoted himself to the business of creating Bert Sugar - same technique as in advertising. To the ever-present cigar, he added the ever-present hat, and the wardrobe, which he described as, "The Salvation Army threw up on me."
And, mostly, he added the being there. Every big boxing match, every baseball Hall of Fame induction, every sports news conference, every sports premiere, every sports confirmation, children's party, or bris - everybody knew him, everybody. He became the boxing expert, and that was almost a shame, really, because boxing represented only about a fifth of his interests and only about a tenth of his stories.
Remind me to tell you of the day he ordered one case of sets of Kellogg's Corn Flakes 3-D football cards and something went horribly wrong and the cases started arriving at his house like - as he put it - the enchanted mops and buckets in Fantasia - and he wound up with at least a thousand of them, filling his garage and his basement, and he used to hand the sets out instead of candy at Halloween. And he gave me five cases each time he'd come over, just to get rid of them - and when, years later, they wound up being worth 250 bucks a set, he howled in laughter and shouted at me, "Of course they did! Of course they did! If I'd have held on to them they wouldn't have been worth ten cents!"
I think I saw Bert at least once, often dozens of times, in each of the last 38 years, and it was always the same. He would accept none of my gratitude, but if there was anybody nearby, he would express all of his pride.
Twenty-seven years ago I was unemployed. "When you're in the city, meet me at Zum Zum's in Grand Central. It's my office between twelve and three. At least you'll get a nice lunch. And you'll worry less."
I asked him what he was doing with a kind of German fast-food restaurant as his office. "I'm plotting there." Turned out he was plotting to take over Boxing Illustrated for the second time, which he did.
"You'll be fine, kid," he assured me. "Just remember me when you make it big."
I always have, Bert, and I always will, because I have never met anybody else like Bert Randolph Sugar. And frankly, I don't need to. I was fortunate enough and privileged enough to get to know the original.
Good night, Bert, and good luck.