Guest host: Lawrence O’Donnell
Guests: Clarence Dupnik, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Hugh Kaufman, Rep. Elijah
Cummings, Greg Sargent
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Arizona‘s “papers, please” law is gutted. A day before S.B. 1070 goes into effect, a federal judge says it is illegal to require Arizona residents detained by police to prove their citizenship.
The governor disagrees.
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GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA: It‘s a little bump in the road, I believe.
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O‘DONNELL: And Congressman Grijalva lifts his call for an Arizona boycott.
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REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: I‘ve called for economic sanctions.
With this ruling, I feel that that is off the table now.
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O‘DONNELL: Tonight, the decision, the appeal, and the fallout with Pima County sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, and Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
Deepwater Horizon, day 100: The oil has stopped flowing, the dispersants remain.
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HUGH KAUFMAN, EPA: The sole purpose in the Gulf for dispersants is to keep a cover-up going for BP.
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O‘DONNELL: Tonight, senior policy analyst Hugh Kaufman of the EPA blows the whistle on the EPA for allowing BP to poison the Gulf and the workers who are trying to clean it up.
One and the same: The DNC unites the fringe ideas of Tea Party candidates to the fringe ideas of mainstream Republicans in a new campaign ad. Before the GOP can issue a new “Contract for America,” Democrats do it for them with a Republican Tea Party contract on America.
New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, continues to tie the cast of MTV‘s “Jersey Shore” to the Empire State.
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GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: Eleven-billion-dollar deficit, I‘ve got to take Snooki and “The Situation” also? Come on.
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O‘DONNELL: And the legend of Sarah Palin.
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SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: You don‘t want to mess with the mama grizzlies.
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O‘DONNELL: Greg Sargent of “The Washington Post” with empirical data showing why an endorsement from the mama grizzly isn‘t worth what the pundits think it is.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
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PALIN: Missed me yet?
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O‘DONNELL: Good evening. From San Diego, I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
Only hours from now, the state of Arizona had been planning to—among other things—force immigrants to carry their papers with them at all times, require police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop, and allow officers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without obtaining warrants.
Our fifth story—that‘s no longer going to happen, now that a federal judge has put most of Arizona‘s immigration law on hold. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik joins us in a moment.
But we begin with the latest details. The Arizona law will still take effect at midnight, at least what‘s left of it, but U.S. district judge, Susan Bolton, today blocked the state from enacting the most controversial sections until the courts can sort out what‘s legal and what‘s not. Judge Bolton, who was appointed by President Clinton on the recommendation of Republican Senator Jon Kyl, argued that checking the status of every person arrested not only “burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted,” but she also found that the verification requirement will divert resources from the federal government‘s other responsibilities and priorities.
In Mexico City, word of the ruling was greeted with cheers from about 100 protesters who had gathered in front of the U.S. embassy. One protester worried about what might happen to his granddaughter in Arizona if her parents were ever stopped, told the “Associated Press,” “I knew the judge would say that part of the law was just not right.”
The Mexican government, meanwhile, called the decision a step in the right direction.
Back in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer, who signed the law in April and is now running for re-election, called today‘s setback, merely temporary.
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BREWER: Obviously, it‘s a little bump in the road, I believe, and that, you know, until I get my whole arms around it, we don‘t really exactly know where we‘re going to go. We knew, regardless of what happened today, of course, that one side or the other side was going to appeal.
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O‘DONNELL: On the other side of the issue, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, who called for a boycott on his state here on COUNTDOWN back in April, said on this network this afternoon that the boycott should be lifted.
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GRIJALVA: I‘ve called for economic sanctions, no conventions and no conferences coming to Arizona. With this ruling, I feel that that is off the table now and I say that so all sides have something off the table, so that the idea of the boycott does not become the reason we don‘t deal with comprehensive reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: As promised, we are joined now by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who has served as the sheriff of Pima County, Arizona, for over 30 years.
Sheriff, the last time you joined us on COUNTDOWN back in April, you pointed out that even before this law was passed, officers in your state had the authority—already had the authority—to stop and detain people who they believe are illegal immigrants and turn them over to the Border Patrol. As of midnight tonight, with what‘s left of this law, what changes for your deputy sheriffs when we get to 12:01 a.m.?
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Nothing is going to change. As a matter of fact, for the last couple of months, scores of lawyers have been poring over this piece of legislation and just a few days ago told us that even if the law was implemented, that we don‘t have to enforce it if we enforce the federal law. The state law doesn‘t give officers anymore authority than the federal law.
And we have been enforcing the federal law in greater volume than any other law enforcement agency in this state, without having the subject the local system to being overwhelmed, throwing them into a crisis, and sending the taxpayers a huge bill and then turning them over to the Border Patrol or ICE. You know, what sense did that make? You have to wonder, what motivated this law?
O‘DONNELL: Judge Susan Bolton said the law would require police officers to do many more checks, and not only increasing your burden, but very specifically—adding to the burden and budget priorities of the federal government. Was she right about that?
DUPNIK: She‘s absolutely right about that.
O‘DONNELL: And is that one of the grounds on which she struck this? That the state of Arizona cannot impose burdens on the federal government and reorder their budget priorities and their enforcement priorities?
DUPNIK: I think so. I think the primary issue here was the United States Constitution. And I think President Obama or any other president of the country has a responsibility to protect the U.S. Constitution. If he hadn‘t stepped in and this hadn‘t happened, we would have had 50 immigration policies in this country, probably before the year is out.
O‘DONNELL: Is there anything that you would suggest be written into Arizona law in this territory?
DUPNIK: Not at all. The feds have a perfectly good law. The problem is, is that there‘s not enough resources allocated to the problem to implement it the way it ought to be implemented.
You know, we hear politicians, especially in Arizona, saying that Arizona had to implement this new tough law—which isn‘t tough at all, it was mirroring the federal law—because the U.S. government wasn‘t doing enough about border security. First of all, this law has nothing to do with border security at all. So that‘s nonsense.
The second part of this is that the United States government does more today than they did last year, the year before, or any year in the past. The fact of the matter is, border security is a very, very serious problem and I don‘t think that we‘re ever going to have the border secured to anybody‘s satisfaction.
I think the first debate needs to be done, what constitutes border security? Because we‘re not going to get there, we‘re not going to be able to deal with the border reformation, which we need badly, until we agree on what constitutes a secure border.
O‘DONNELL: Now, your governor, in running for re-election, has already put out a fund-raising plea based on the court‘s reversal of this law.
You‘re out there dealing with the citizens and voters of Arizona on the street level. What is your feeling among the voters of Arizona about their perception of this issue? Do they see it as something that need to be done for law enforcement reasons or something that is more of a political football and a re-election maneuver on the governor‘s part?
DUPNIK: Well, based on the people that I talked to that are angry with me, because of the statements that I‘ve made about the law, don‘t understand the law. And I think the country in its entirety simply doesn‘t understand why this law is totally unnecessary and would have just been burdensome and expensive.
First of all, officers, not only in our state, but in every other state in the union, have the authority to detain illegal immigrants and turn them over to ICE or the Border Patrol.
O‘DONNELL: Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona—many thanks for your time tonight, Sheriff.
DUPNIK: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Let‘s turn now to Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, who joins us now from Washington.
Congressman, you also called in the call for the boycott of Arizona.
Do you agree that that boycott can now be lifted?
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: I agree totally with my friend, Raul Grijalva, the congressman from Arizona. I think we should set aside that issue. And now, since the lawyers for the attorney general, the federal government, went in to see a federal judge and said Supremacy Clause of the Constitution says we are in charge of enacting, developing all immigration law and the judge says, yes, you are, federal government.
And since we know we have a broken system, instead of simply now saying, now that we can set aside the law, until the courts continue to review it, so let‘s begin to listen to what brought about the law in the first place. And that‘s our broken immigration system.
So, I would like now to see the same federal government that says we‘re in charge of the federal law, that has said that it‘s a broken system, to fix it. I hope tomorrow—I mean this very seriously, the president of the United States can call the Senate, the House leadership, set up a team of people to say, I‘m going to fix this once and for all, and fix it with comprehensive immigration reform—which, really, Lawrence, is what people really want in this country. They want the federal government to assume its responsibility, to enforce and to create a system of laws that are enforceable within our immigration system. I certainly want one.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman, this subject seems to dwell on enforcement and border enforcement, and—as if there‘s no other part of this story to be told.
O‘DONNELL: In Arizona, for example, we know that immigrants have contributed $776 million in tax revenue. They‘ve provided 66,000 jobs in the state of Arizona. That context is not delivered, it seems to me, in this public dialogue, and it seems that it should be being delivered by your side of this discussion.
What do you have to do to get the message out there that this is bigger than border security?
GUTIERREZ: I agree with you totally.
Look, we have 12 million undocumented workers in this country. We know that 5 million of them came to the country legally. They came as students, they came as tourists, they came as temporary workers, overstayed their visas and now they‘re undocumented workers—nothing to do with that border. So, in order—so it‘s a false argument that we‘re going to—but we need to fix the complete system.
Look, immigrants contribute billions of dollars. I want them to contribute even more. We know that there are 12 million—an estimate of 12 million undocumented workers. Don‘t we want them paying all of the taxes required to the federal government, that that work—is derived from that work? I certainly do.
So what I want to do is, I want to say, look, let‘s settle this. I‘m for an I.D. card, right—a Social Security card, that has a strip, a biometric, that you can swipe to make sure that everybody has them before you can get a job. I think that‘s a good idea.
I‘m for putting employers in jail that hire illegal workers. I‘m for enforcing the border and putting the kind of resources that are there.
So, we understand that enforcement, enforcement, enforcement are the important part. But, look, I‘m also for a humane immigration system.
And I don‘t believe in this fantasy that 12 million undocumented workers, most of whom have been here 10 years or more, 4 million American children—that‘s the parents, that‘s 12 million undocumented workers, have 4 million American citizen children—that they‘re simply going to vanish or disappear. So, I‘m also for registering them with the federal government, taking their fingerprints, teaching them English, and making them the best American citizens that we can make them.
And I think that‘s what America really wants, because you want to know something—going back to your original premise—they contribute greatly to the prosperity of this great nation. So we‘re ready to challenge.
And I just want to say—look, there are Republicans, Jed Bush, former governor, the congressman from Florida, from Texas, the governor, there are many people, Republicans, that have said, we need comprehensive immigration reform.
So, look, this is a wonderful—I think, Lawrence, a wonderful opportunity to segue, right, from 1070 in Arizona and say, let‘s do comprehensive immigration reform so that we don‘t need every state trying to create an immigration system. We can have one that works for everyone all of the time.
O‘DONNELL: Before we leave 1070, Congressman, the law will go—what‘s left of it—will go into effect at midnight tonight. Do you see problems with what remains in that law?
GUTIERREZ: You know, the most onerous parts of that law, the parts that I certainly spoke to you and others about, have certainly been responded to. And I think we have a wonderful opportunity now to gather all of our forces, because I just want to reiterate this, Lawrence—look, we went to court and, it‘s the responsibility of the federal government. We‘re kind of saying, “Don‘t stick your nose in our business.” That‘s what the federal government said to Arizona.
Well, you know something, we also have to take responsibility and take, you know, the helm and take responsibility for our immigration and our broken system. Let‘s fix it, so that we don‘t need anymore 1070s. Until we deal with that, you know, 1070 is going to pop up its ugly head some way or another somewhere again.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Gutierrez—thanks for joining us once again on this subject.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
Coming up: a COUNTDOWN exclusive—the cover-up in the Gulf. An EPA whistleblower says the government is lying to residents and cleanup workers about how unsafe the dispersants are. We‘ll talk to the whistleblower—next.
And later: the marriage of the Tea Party and the GOP. Democrats come out swinging in the 2010 midterm campaign, unveiling the contract on America, brought to you by the Republican Tea Party.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: The real story about the dispersants in the Gulf. One man in the EPA says the government isn‘t telling the truth about its toxicity because it thinks the residents can‘t handle the truth. A COUNTDOWN exclusive—next.
And later: Sarah Palin has been dubbed queen endorser by the D.C. chattering class, but actual evidence shows the coronation is way too early. That‘s next.
This is COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: Today is day 100 of the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, and a whistle-blower has come forth from the Environmental Protection Agency, charging the EPA with helping BP to downplay the environmental impact of its supposed cleanup efforts. You will meet him in a moment.
But if the cleanup has been compared to letting the criminal clean up the crime scene—we begin our fourth story tonight with news about the cops.
“The Washington Post” reports that federal agents who call themselves the BP squad are investigating whether BP, Transocean, or Halliburton, even before the blowout, lied to regulators, obstructed justice, or faked the test results for their equipment—including the blowout preventer that, needless to say, failed to prevent a blowout. Specifically, sources told “The Post,” investigators are asking whether inspectors at the Minerals Management Agency went easy on the rig and why.
BP, yesterday, revealed that it is now the subject of an investigation by the SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission, into something—no word yet on exactly whether that is related to the spill.
And while Jane Lubchenco, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the oil is becoming harder to find, the Natural Resources Defense Council‘s annual report on beaches found no downturn in the number of beach closures or advisories since the spill was capped. The NRDC reports that the number of beach closures and advisories this year, 2,200, is roughly 10 times more than last year. And it predicts that the impact will last for years.
And in a cable news exclusive, that whistle-blower we mentioned joins us now. EPA senior policy analyst, Hugh Kaufman, is a veteran and legend of the agency, having had a hand in Love Canal and the creation of the Superfund and helped expose the EPA cover-up of air quality at ground zero.
Mr. Kaufman, what should we know about the dispersants used in the Gulf that the EPA isn‘t telling us?
KAUFMAN: Well, first of all, the dispersants mixed with the oil and the water is extremely toxic. Sweden has done studies on this. Israel has done studies on this.
And the only real purpose of using so many dispersants with the oil was to cover up the volume of oil that was released from that well. So, that and lying about how much is coming out was a mechanism to help BP save billions of dollars in fines.
O‘DONNELL: Should they have not used dispersants at all?
KAUFMAN: That‘s correct. If they did not use dispersants, they would have been able to get most of that oil off of the surface and would not have endangered all of the fish and ecosystem underneath the water that now will be affected for decades on down the line.
I was listening to some of the, quote, “experts” who are being paid by BP at universities who are saying that the oil has disappeared. It hasn‘t disappeared. It‘s throughout thousands of square miles in the Gulf, mixed with dispersants, and because the temperatures down there are so cold, they‘re going to be around for decades.
O‘DONNELL: Now, were you and others at the EPA making this case within the system, that—arguing that we shouldn‘t be using dispersants there? And what was the response?
KAUFMAN: Well, the working level troops in research, some of the toxicologists who have experience and education, were trying to get management to pay attention to the data that EPA had and has had for decades, but to no avail. There was a political decision made to let BP take the lead as opposed to the government being proactive, as we used to be.
O‘DONNELL: Now, when you say a political decision, are you saying that that decision was made by EPA administer, Lisa Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee? Or was it made outside of the EPA?
KAUFMAN: The decision was made outside of the EPA, by political appointees. But I don‘t have the vision to see how high up that was made. My vision is limited, because I‘m in the middle of the bureaucracy.
O‘DONNELL: And what evidence is there that the dispersants are doing the kind of damage that you‘re talking about?
KAUFMAN: Well, we‘ve seen anecdotal information of mammals in the water, like dolphins, bleeding from their orifices; some of the workers who have done the spill cleanup are having the same problem. The dispersant and oil mixtures are supposed to atomize materials like oil. Well, if that gets into your system, that atomizes your cells, and that‘s why there‘s hemorrhaging.
So, there‘s anecdotal information both down there in the Gulf, similar to the anecdotal information at the Exxon Valdez case almost 20 years ago.
O‘DONNELL: What is the best scientific approach from this point forward?
KAUFMAN: Well, right now, we‘re very limited. We‘ve got hundreds of millions of gallons of oil spread out, mixed with 2 million gallons of dispersant. And so, what we have to do is accurately monitor the air and water and be very careful with the seafood. But we‘ve now poisoned thousands of square miles of the Gulf and we have to recognize that and take precautions so that we minimize the damage that we have done.
O‘DONNELL: Hugh Kaufman, senior policy analyst for the EPA—thank for your insights on this tonight.
KAUFMAN: Thank you, sir.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: a reminder of the heroism in the early hours of the oil explosion—the story of a man who risked his life to rescue injured rig workers in the hours after the horrific end of Deepwater Horizon.
And later, the end to the pundit Palin spin. It turns out she doesn‘t have the Midas touch when it comes to endorsing candidates.
O‘DONNELL: One hundred days ago, it began as an emergency call, an explosion on an oil rig. Before we knew the extent of the damage to the Gulf, we knew the human cost: 11 dead, 17 seriously hurt. And as we mark the 100th day, a moment to honor those who rushed to the scene to help.
NBC‘s Janet Shamlian introduces us to one of the first rescuers to respond to the death trap that was the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is what these teams train for, what they do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cutter Venture, it‘s Cutter Titon, position as follows.
SHAMLIAN: But little could have prepared anyone for the call that came 100 days ago.
KIRK PETERSON, U.S. COAST GUARD: I just thought it was surreal. It‘s something you don‘t ever expect to see.
SHAMLIAN: rescue swimmer Kirk Peterson was aboard the first Coast Guard helicopter sent to the scene. And on the way, reports grew more dire by the minute.
PETERSON: Started progressing to a rig explosion, a rig on fire, 160 People in the water with injuries. It just kept growing and growing and growing.
SHAMLIAN: As they circled the blazing Deepwater Horizon, it was immediately apparent, Peterson says, they were flying into a full-blown catastrophe.
With the chopper running low on fuel, the 39-year-old father of two was hoisted down on to the nearby supply ship that had now become, by necessity, a hospital.
(on camera): Hundreds of people were treated out here that night, in the dark, in what became a makeshift triage. Some of the injuries were critical.
(voice-over): Seventeen rig workers needed urgent care. In the black of night, lit only by the burning rig beside them, Peterson loaded survivors into rescue baskets that were then hoisted into choppers and headed to hospitals.
PETERSON: This is the first time I‘ve been out here since that night.
SHAMLIAN: He remembers working through the night, treating dozens more who were less seriously injured.
PETERSON: I‘ve got a job to do, I mean. The whole crew, without them, I couldn‘t have done any of this. So to single me out I don‘t agree with.
SHAMLIAN: Kirk Peterson doesn‘t want the credit, says he didn‘t do it alone. But the fact remains, he was a life-saving link in the aftermath of tragedy.
PETERSON: It‘s a Katrina-kind of moment, where it‘s always going to be with me forever and forever.
SHAMLIAN: As it will be with the souls he saved.
Janet Shamlian, NBC News aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive in the Gulf of Mexico.
O‘DONNELL: NBC‘s Janet Shamlian reporting for us. And again, we want to offer a brief reminder tonight about two upcoming health clinics made possible by the generous donations from you, our COUNTDOWN viewers. On August 4th in Washington, D.C., you can register to be seen by going to FreeClinics.us. Or to donate your services and time, medical or otherwise, please do so as well.
The other clinic that we are still raising money for is a two-day clinic in New Orleans coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, taking place on August 31st and September 1st. As always, we appreciate all the efforts, time, and money that you have provided to give health care to those in need. Once again, that‘s FreeClinics.us.
Coming up, will the Tea Party end up being the GOP‘s albatross this November? The Democrats launch a campaign to show a vote for a Republican is a vote for the Tea Party.
When it comes to endorsements, Sarah Palin is no Paul the Octopus, far from it. The polls are in and the power of Palin isn‘t quite what the pundits would like you to believe.
And the campaign, Don‘t Vote For my Dad; the votes are in tonight.
Did the family feud keep voters from pick Judge Mantooth?
O‘DONNELL: The Republican party may not have figured out exactly how to finesse their connection to the Tea Party movement, particularly since it is such a powerfully polarizing force. But in our third story, Democrats are more than willing to make the obvious link. They are equating the GOP to the Tea Party with all that implies.
Today, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and several Democratic House members unveiled this piece of their midterm strategy. The point is to demonstrate the dangers of a Republican party back in power. Kaine saying, quote, “these are all positions that have been taken by Republican leaders, multiple Republican leaders, their leading candidates, the Tea Party faithful, which Republicans have bent over to attract.”
And with Republicans reluctant to commit to another 1994-style Contract With America, Democrats are ready to fill in the blanks for them. But they are calling it the Republican Tea Party Contract on America. This web ad is just the beginning.
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(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: The Republican National Committee, of course, dismissed the DNC‘s strategy, saying that Democrats were clearly out of touch with voters‘ frustrations. Let‘s bring in Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland‘s Seventh District. He‘s also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Progressive Caucus.
Thanks for your time tonight, congressman. You were one of the lawmakers at this rollout event today.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Yes.
O‘DONNELL: Is this an honest strategy?
CUMMINGS: It is not—
O‘DONNELL: Let me just make this point, though, that most Republican members of Congress have refused—they‘ve specifically refused to join Michele Bachmann‘s Tea Party Caucus. So how can you fairly link all Republicans to the Tea Party?
CUMMINGS: Well, the fact is that 136 people who are running for the Congress have associated themselves with that caucus. And the fact is that when you look at the policies that the Republicans have espoused in the past, they link very closely with what the Tea Party is all about.
Keep in mind that Republicans and the Tea Parties are talking about taking us back. Social Security, for example, turning it over to Wall Street, repealing what we have done with regard to health care, so that people who have pre-existing conditions will not be able to get insurance. And I could go on and on. And even the Wall Street reform, Lawrence—I mean, keep in mind, Americans have lost 17 trillion—not billion, not million—trillion dollars in retirement savings and 6.6 foreclosures, eight million people have lost their jobs.
And yet and still, when it comes to reform of the system that has basically done so much harm to our economic system here in our country, the Republicans are saying we want to go backwards. So, I mean, come on. The fact is is that it is a—they‘ve bent over backwards trying to appeal more and more to the far right. And that‘s just not where America is. It‘s a shame. It really is.
O‘DONNELL: Can you really make a national campaign strategy work in congressional elections? The most famous line ever said about life in Congress is that all politics is local, said by Tip O‘Neill when he was speaker. With that in mind, aren‘t you really running individual races in each one of these districts. And any Republican who needs to disown the Tea Party can. And any Republican who needs to embrace the Tea Party in a really conservative district can. How do you counter that with a national strategy?
CUMMINGS: Well, it‘s very simple. When you look at votes, for example, in the Recovery Act, and the votes for health care, we didn‘t get any Republican votes. I mean, you‘ve got people, say, for example, in South Carolina, where you‘ve got 20 percent of the people without health insurance and you‘ve got folks—Republicans voting against health insurance for their very people so they can stay alive. Come on, now.
And then you‘ve got situations, as I said, where you‘ve got an economic situation where people have basically lost everything they have. So, basically, all someone‘s got to do is look at the votes and say, OK, why are you saying no to everything. Why are you blocking everything? And why are you joining with the Tea Partiers to stand in the way of this president, who has actually done a lot to lift Americans up.
And so all we get is spitballs from the sidelines, complaints from the sidelines. And I think, basically, what the Republicans are doing is what I call rope-a-doping. They‘re just hoping that—they‘re worried about scoring political points. We are about making life better for the American people.
O‘DONNELL: How long do we have to wait for your health care commercial, congressman? Last year when you were trying to pass health care, all the Democrats were saying, we‘re going to run on this and win when we pass this bill. Back in February and March, when you were trying to squeeze out those final votes, the chant was, you know, we‘re going to win on this in November. The party seems to be silent about it now.
CUMMINGS: No, we‘re not silent about it. We‘ve done so many things to help the American people. And Lawrence, if you‘ll recall, you were the one—and I‘ll never forget it, as long as I live—who told me, we‘d never get it done. You said that on camera.
O‘DONNELL: I didn‘t say you‘ll never get it. I said—congressman, I said, I didn‘t know how. It‘s a different thing. It was a modest statement on my part.
CUMMINGS: I‘ve never forgot it. And we got it done. I think, basically, the American people—you know, I respect the American people. They‘ll see through this. And we will do the fine in the election. I know all the pundits are saying we‘re not going to do well. We will have the House come next session.
And so I think the American people will see through this. They see that the American—the Democratic party is trying to take us forward and the Republican party is either staying silent and basically wants to take us backwards. We cannot have that.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Elijah Cummings, who always knew passing health care was going to be easy and he was right, thanks for joining us tonight, congressman.
CUMMINGS: Good being with you.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has a message for New York: here‘s the Situation and Snooki. Take them back, please.
And candidates might not to have Sarah Palin take back those endorsements. Turns out she may do more harm than good.
O‘DONNELL: An update to a story we brought you on COUNTDOWN last night. The woman asking people, do not vote for my dad did not get her wish, yet. John Mantooth of McClain County, Oklahoma, placed second and is in a runoff for the District 21 judgeship. His daughter had placed an ad in the local newspaper and started the website, DontVoteForMyDad.com in an effort to sway voters.
Coming up, Sarah Palin‘s endorsement may sway voters in the other direction.
O‘DONNELL: The governor of New Jersey has a Snooki problem. In our number two story, Chris Christie, governor of cash-strapped New Jersey, actually wants the cast of MTV‘s “Jersey Shore” and all the tax revenue they generate in New Jersey to leave his state. Here‘s the crew presenting a brave face yesterday in New York. Snooki, also known as Snickers, J-Wow, the Situation, DJ Pauley D. and the gang fist pumping at the ringing of the morning bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Obviously, they were just barely holding it together after Christie‘s original salvo was fired their way on Sunday. Asked about the “Shore” kids on ABC‘s “This Week,” Christie said the money they generate for New Jersey isn‘t worth the negative publicity.
This morning on “The Today Show,” Matt Lauer again grilled Christie about “Jersey Shore.” This time the governor all but offered a police escort through the Lincoln Tunnel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, “THE TODAY SHOW”: You took on the “Jersey Shore,” not the geographic location, but the television show. You said that the show is negative for New Jersey. Now, I get the whole governor wrecking ball thing and taking on teachers is one thing. Taking on Snooki and the Situation?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: Well, listen, Snooki and the Situation are New Yorkers, you know, as you know. So the fact of the matter is they parachute all these people from New York on to the Jersey Shore and then they say, this is New Jersey. It‘s not New Jersey. And if you want to come to the Jersey Shore, six, seven weeks left in the summer. Let‘s go. I‘ll show you the real Jersey shore.
LAUER: Some people are saying they‘re good for the economy in the towns along the Jersey Shore, that they‘ve increased tourism. You‘re a guy who needs money in your state.
CHRISTIE: Listen, we‘ll find other ways to increase tourism. We‘ll take Snooki and the Situation, you can have them back. I‘ll do something else.
LAUER: All of a sudden, you‘re dumping them on me?
CHRISTIE: Listen, they‘re yours to begin, Matt. I have enough problems here. Eleven billion deficit, I have to take Snooki and the Situation also? Come on. There‘s only so much a man can take, Matt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, why that Mama Grizzly blessing is a curse in some voters‘ eyes. The Palin myth debunked, next on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: While true believers remain as devoted as ever, recent polling suggests that the rest of America isn‘t praising the church of Sister Sarah. Our number one story, debunking the Palin myth. Greg Sargent of “the Washington Post” lays out the evidence. In a moment, he will join me.
As Sargent points out in the PlumLine blog, a Sarah Palin endorsement isn‘t the political gold that many pundits think it is. Take the case of Republican senatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte. Palin recently bestowing the Mama Grizzly title on former New Hampshire attorney general. But Ms. Ayotte, who hopes to fill the seat of the retiring Senator Judd Gregg, may want to reconsider touting the Palin endorsement on her website.
The latest from an admittedly Democratic-leaning polling organization using robo calls finds that 51 percent of Granite State voters say they‘re less likely to back a Palin-endorsed candidate. Meanwhile, New Hampshire‘s largest newspaper, the conservative-leaning “Union Leader,” dismissed the endorsement in an editorial. “New Hampshire voters are rarely impressed by what outsider have to say. Former Governor Palin isn‘t making these endorsements because, as she claims, she has spent time in New Hampshire.”
And while a recent Gallup poll shows Palin still has high favorability among Republicans, the majority of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of her. In fact, a recent NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll showing the majority of those surveyed view a candidate backed by Palin negatively, with 37 percent, quote, very uncomfortable with this attribute.
The only thing worse than a hypothetical Palin endorsement, if the candidate supports the elimination of some federal agencies or Social Security or previously backed President Bush‘s economic policies.
Joining me now, as promised, is the writer of “the Washington Post” blog, the PlumLine, Greg Sargent. Greg, thanks for your time tonight. What is the overall picture of the Sarah Palin endorsement record?
GREG SARGENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I mean, you can‘t really quibble with the fact that she‘s an enormous draw in Republican primaries. No one is contesting that. But when you look at the broader picture, the evidence is just mounting. It‘s becoming overwhelmingly obvious that she‘s completely toxic to everybody outside her base. I mean, as you mentioned, that Gallup poll there showed that while she‘s overwhelmingly the—far away the most favorite among the Republican 2012 hopefuls among Republicans, the picture gets flipped as soon as you start asking the same question of the broader electorate.
She‘s overwhelmingly the most unfavored among the broader electorate of the 2012 hopefuls. So it‘s becoming clearer and clearer that as she tightens her grip on Palin nation and the hordes that support her sort of unthinkingly, the rest of the world just sours on her.
O‘DONNELL: She was also the favorite Net Roots Nation last weekend in Las Vegas, when they voted on who they hoped the Republicans would nominate to run against President Obama and lose. And their choice was Sarah Palin based on what you‘re talking about. They can see how negatively she polls when you bring it out into the general election territory. Is there anything in what you see in the Palin polling information to indicate that she might be able to repair the damage she‘s already done to her own image?
SARGENT: Well, I mean, I think what you‘re going to see—you know, I don‘t know if you can see that in the data itself. But I think what you‘re going to see is sort of a very concerted effort to soften her up over time. We‘re already seeing that. We saw the Mama Grizzly video, right, which had a lot of slow motion and soft pictures and all the rest of it. And that was clearly al about, you know, softening her image, right?
The whole idea behind Mama Grizzly is, OK, she‘s got a hard edge; she‘s got a bit of a snarl; but, you know, she‘s snarling because she‘s defending her cubs, right? It‘s a bit of a far cry from just the pit bull. We didn‘t have a mama pit bull, but now we have Mama Grizzly. So you‘re going to see some very tough—I mean, presuming she runs, which I don‘t even think she will. but if she does, you‘re going to see some of the most high-priced Republican consulting talents in the game come around and start softening her up and softening her image up.
We‘re seeing it already with that video, which was a very professional piece of work.
O‘DONNELL: Now, I share your bet that she won‘t run. But if she does, it presents a certain problem for Mitt Romney and the boys, not wanting to seem to be too tough on the woman running, and not wanting to hit her too hard. So would their strategy be to just let her trip over herself as a candidate?
SARGENT: You know, I wouldn‘t even want to figure out what you‘d have to do to run against her. I guess you‘d just have to sort of hope that her handlers let her get into the cross fire of real media interviews, which they may not do. Right? I mean, we don‘t ever know if she‘ll ever be subjected to any kind of real media scrutiny at this point or real media cross-examination.
I mean, all they can do is hope that the press will force her to answer some tough questions and that she‘ll trip up that way.
O‘DONNELL: What should Kelly Ayotte do running in New Hampshire with a Palin endorsement that isn‘t doing her much good? Should she start running away from that?
SARGENT: I mean, you know, it‘s funny, I got some pushback from operatives on the Republican and the Democratic side, who said, you know, caution, caution, don‘t read too much into this. You know, a local race like this isn‘t going to be decided by an endorsement. But the fact is that that data—yes, it‘s admittedly a Dem firm and all the rest of it.
But they directly polled on, you know, how would you react to a Sarah Palin-endorsed candidate and a majority looked at it unfavorably. So, you know, you‘ve got to—it‘s hard to see how it helps in a general.
O‘DONNELL: Greg Sargent of “the Washington Post,” thanks for actually looking at the data to make your calculation of how useful the Palin endorsements actually are.
SARGENT: You‘re welcome.
O‘DONNELL: That will do it for this Wednesday edition of COUNTDOWN.
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