Guests: Stan Greenberg, Jon Soltz, Kenneth Voge
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
White House 180: Now, the Bush tax cuts for the rich are OK temporarily. “There is not one bit of news here,” says David Axelrod. “We need to extend the tax cuts for the middle class but we can‘t afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Is that from November 2010 what this from September 2007 sounded like?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPT. 18, 2007)
THEN-SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: We will also turn the page on an approach that gives repeated tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, even though they don‘t need them and did not ask for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We‘ve always been at war with East Asia.
Tax troubles at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the pollster who briefs congressional Democrats, Stan Greenberg, and Chris Hayes.
Oh, too bad. Not one congressional chief of staff will favor hanging undocumented workers now that she has dropped out.
Tea for two faces. Senator DeMint, “I have 13 cosponsors for a ban on earmarks.” Senator Inhofe, he could pass it and it wouldn‘t make any difference.
Happy Veterans Day, Jon Soltz! The head of Vote Vets is redeployed to Iraq. He joins us.
Time to impeach. Supreme Court Justice Alito‘s jaw dropper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice Alito!
SAMUEL ALITO, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Jerk, you keep following me, you‘re going to get arrested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The justice complaining about too much politics in the State of the Union headlines a fundraiser for a conservative magazine flanked by Michael Steele.
Is this man starting his own progressive super 527 to answer the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce?
And talk about striking back, you heard her impression of the half governor?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TINA FEY, ACTRESS: I can see Russia from my house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Tonight, her impressions of the half governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEY: Politics aside, the success of Sarah Palin and women like her is good for all women—except, of course, those who will end up paying for their own rape kits and stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEY: For everybody else, it‘s a win-win!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, November 11th, 726 days until the 2012 presidential elections.
And in the showdown between President Obama and the Republican Party over whether to keep giving millionaires and billionaires the tax breaks President Bush gave them, the White House just blinked. It is a blink that could cost the U.S. $400 billion next year alone, $700 billion over the next decade if the millionaire tax cuts were to eventually become permanent -- plus interest, minus the jobs for working class Americans that would be sacrificed by spending the money this way instead of on actual job creation.
Our fifth story tonight: after Republicans announced they will not compromise on the Bush tax cuts, the White House confirms it might. The trillion dollar cuts which the president has pledged to make permanent on household income of less than a quarter million dollars and to repeal on income above that figure.
Last night, top White House advisor David Axelrod told “The Huffington Post” that Mr. Obama might agree to extend all of the cuts temporarily, which would make it easier for Republicans later to make them all permanent, including those for the rich. Congressional Republicans have already announced they would vote against any plan that made the middle class cuts permanent without doing the same for the rich, precisely because voting later to renew just the tax cuts for the rich would prove politically unpopular, surprisingly enough.
In pushback on the Axelrod story today, the White House was no longer using the word permanent to describe the middle class tax cuts. Quote, “The president has been clear that extending tax cuts for middle class families is his top priority and he is open to compromise to get that done.”
As a candidate, Mr. Obama did not endorse such compromise—campaigning on ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, period.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Instead of working to find ways to relieve the burden on working people and the middle class, we‘ve developed creative ways to remove the burden from the well-off. This isn‘t the invisible hand of the market at work. It‘s the successful work of special interests.
For decades, we‘ve seen successful strategies to ride anti-tax sentiment in this country towards tax cuts that favor wealth not work. The numbers don‘t lie. At a time when incoming inequality is growing sharper, the Bush tax cuts gave the wealthiest 1 percent Americans a tax cut that was twice as large as the middle class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That was before the recession. But as recently as two days before the election, President Obama described extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich as part of a notion that gave the nation record deficits. And he pledged not to repeat it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If they win this election, the chair of a Republican campaign committee promised to pursue the exact same agenda as they did before I came in office.
Now, think about that. We know what that agenda is. It does have the virtue of simplicity. You can describe it very quickly.
You basically cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires. This is an idea—this notion of theirs that turned a record surplus into record deficits.
Now, I bring this up not to reargue the past. I bring it up because I don‘t want to relive the past. We‘ve been there before. We‘ve tried what they‘re selling. And we are not going back. We are not going back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And going back would not make the deficit the only loser. Even if Mr. Obama were on to put the U.S. into debt for another $40 billion in the name of job creation, the Bush tax cuts for the rich have been found to be the single least effective way to create jobs.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, $40 billion in aid to the states would create two to three times as many jobs as the cuts. Forty billion in unemployment benefits, at least three times as many jobs. Forty billion in tax credits for every person companies hire, at least four times as many jobs.
Let‘s turn first to Democratic pollster, Stan Greenberg, who has the public temperature on this issue as chairman and CEO of Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner.
Mr. Greenberg, thank you for some of your time again tonight.
STAN GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Thank you. Delighted to be here. Glad to be back.
OLBERMANN: You briefed the congressional Democrats about this very issue—
GREENBERG: I did. I did.
OLBERMANN: -- when they were debating whether or not to take it up
before the re-elections. Recap what you told them then, if you would
GREENBERG: Well, what I told them was this was actually an issue in which you can run, that actually showing who you‘re battling for for the middle class. We actually have a mandate on this issue. We have a history on this issue. The president‘s drawn the line at $250,000.
And elections matter, both the election that put him there, you know, we had a debate on this issue and we had it on election now. Even in the polls we did right after this election, which we did joint polls with the Republican, Resurgent Republic, the conservative polling organization that parallels Democracy Corps of Carville and Greenberg.
In that debate, you know, we‘re basically an even argument on that debate. You know, there is no reason in terms of the public—I can‘t speak for the Democrats in the Congress. I can‘t speak for the Congress. But I can speak for the public.
You know, the public—you know, the public is supportive of this principle. They don‘t want the rich paying—they don‘t want to be subsidizing them if they‘re borrowing it from the Chinese.
This is something people understand. They understand the economic impact of it. They understand it‘s trickle down. They understand that debt threatens Social Security.
So, they say—you know, they‘re with the president. They‘re with him when—you know, when he ran. They‘re with him what he said, you know, before the election.
You know, again, I—you know, I‘m not battling for how you get this done in the Congress. But as a public opinion question, you know, the country is with us on this issue. Wherever possible, Democrats and progressives ought to show where they stand on these questions. That‘s why they put us in office.
OLBERMANN: Is it that clear on the all-or-nothing equation, that if it‘s tax cuts for everybody or tax cuts for nobody, is the public polling still that distinct?
GREENBERG: Well, the country wants the tax cuts—wants middle class tax cuts. And that‘s the most important piece of this. It‘s probably the most important economically. So, I can‘t deal with, you know, the trade-off.
What I do know is that, you know, we are—we can win an argument that, you know, with the country, that‘s very clear. Middle class tax cuts, both on equity and economic grounds. The wealthy paying their—you know, their share because that‘s how we finance getting the debt down. And that‘s how we get back on track to deal with needs.
I mean, we—you know, we just did a poll in which we—you know, with Republicans and said, do you want to do deficit—debt—you want to reduce the debt, cut taxes or do you want to both reduce the deficit but also invest in creating jobs? People want growth, you know, as well as deficit reduction. You know, they have not won this argument. And we should have more confidence, you know, going into this debate.
OLBERMANN: So, if the president does compromise, extends all the tax cuts temporarily, opens the door for them permanently—does he gain anything? Or do Republicans simply take credit for the cuts and then hammer the Democrats for raising deficits?
GREENBERG: Right. I mean, he‘s got to do, you know, what he has to do for the economy. And I—you know, so, again, I can‘t get in the middle of that—in the middle of that choice. You know, I just know that his policy position, his principled position, and the mandate he has gives him the framework in which to join this debate. And he ought to hold—he ought to hold as strong as possible to a position that is consistent with where he ran in—you know, in 2008.
OLBERMANN: As he said in that clip from 2007, the numbers don‘t lie.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg of Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner, thanks again for your time.
GREENBERG: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: All right. Let‘s go now to Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine. Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Well, that‘s disturbing. What—where—why—just refresh my—why did the White House—why did the Democrats wait until after the election? And why is there any vagary about this now you?
HAYES: I don‘t know. I mean, God, this is a pattern. First of all, this has been the negotiating posture of the White House and everything, which is to signal ahead of time that you will cave, and then, of course, cave. And we‘ve seen this before where they sort of said something, they walked it back. Kathleen Sebelius said the public option is not, quote, I forget what it was, vital to health care or whatever.
I mean, to me, this is—this is—you know, they‘re just going to say, you know what, that $700 billion for the rich, you know, we‘ll take it to get this middle class tax cut. I mean, this could mean—what happened today is everything that is totally dysfunctional and corrupt about Washington, D.C. at this moment. I mean, you just had this election in which the supposed mandate was to attack the deficit. And the first thing that everyone wants to do is turn around and spend $700 billion on the top 2 percent of income earners—the people who 30 years of economic political economy changes and financialization of the American economy have conferred absolutely outsized benefits on.
HAYES: And that‘s what we‘re going to do. While everyone talks about the deficit, it is shocking to watch this happen.
OLBERMANN: Why—in the process though, why are Democrats letting the Bush tax cuts define this conversation? Why not just bring a middle class or job-specific tax cut to the floor in the lame duck Congress while there‘s still one hand on the steering wheel or actually both hands still on the steering wheel before one of them gets cut off?
HAYES: That‘s a very good question. And I would—I would give people a little history reminder about the powers of lame duck congresses. If I am not mistaken, in 1998, a lame duck Congress impeached the president of the United States, OK?
HAYES: After being drubbed at the polls, right, after they lost seats, after poll offer poll showed the American people hey did not want the president impeached, they impeached the president of the United States in a lame duck session. Surely—surely, you can bring a middle class tax cut in a lame duck session and be perfectly within the bounds of democratic norms.
OLBERMANN: 1998, I have no recollection of that at all.
All right. So, Republicans voted against the Obama tax cut and then they campaigned against the Democrats and called them tax and spend. Why shouldn‘t politically Harry Reid or President Obama simply reject any tax cut for the rich that Republicans pass?
HAYES: They should. I mean, they should. Look, what I want—what has to happen is the cultural mentality of Democrats in power in the White House and everywhere, they have to understand the new terrain. And the new terrain has to be a willingness to go to the brink, to sort of engage in brinkmanship, because you are now against and you have been against for a long time, but you‘re now against a newly empowered, implacable opposition.
And this is an issue, as Stan was pointing out, the public is with you on. It‘s also money that everybody has been talking about how we cannot spend it. I mean, it is just bizarre we‘re having these two simultaneous conversations. On the one hand about, quote-unquote, “how America is apparently going bankrupt and broke,” and on the other hand, how we need to spend $700 billion on millionaires and billionaires.
Those two things have to sort of interact with one another at some level. If you can‘t win this argument, I don‘t know what you can. This is sort of fringe that you got it. I mean, this is like core, core stuff.
OLBERMANN: And what is the expectation, do you suppose? Is there any indication of the expectation is in the White House, that if they proceed along this path, they will be awarded by what electorate, Canada?
HAYES: Well, look, the fact of the matter is, and I think one of the things we‘ve learned from this last midterm and we‘re going to see in 2012, is that it doesn‘t actually matter one way or the other in terms of whether people are going to remember this, right, in 2012. I mean, the debt and deficit are registering in people‘s mind both because of a very concerted effort by economic interests that want to essentially benefit off it, right?
By doing that, they‘re trying to get this in people‘s mind. But it‘s fundamentally an expression of people‘s economic anxiety. If that goes away in 2012, no one is going to remember one way or the other.
OLBERMANN: Well, then we have to make them remember.
OLBERMANN: That‘s what we‘re here for. Chris Hayes—
HAYES: Or we have to do the right thing in the short term.
OLBERMANN: Well, yes, that‘d be nice, too. But if it doesn‘t happen, that‘s when we come into play.
Chris Hayes of “The Nation,” I‘ll see you in 2012. Great thanks.
HAYES: All right, Keith. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, the Republicans‘ circular firing squad has reassembled for your dining and dancing pleasure. The battle over earmarks between Mr. DeMint ® South Carolina, and Mr. Inhofe ® Oklahoma, arrr!
Oh, and the Floridian who wants to hang illegal immigrants and then ship their bodies home COD. She will the not be going on the congressional payroll. Next.
OLBERMANN: Sad news. Washington just got one fraction of 1 percent less crazy. This congressman-elect‘s would-be chief of staff quits. The Capitol loses what would have been it‘s tough advocate of hanging the undocumented workers.
The leading progressive among vets of Iraq and Afghanistan deployed back to Iraq. He joins us.
He thinks the State of the Union is too political to be appropriate for Supreme Court justices like himself to attend. So, what the hell was he doing at a fundraiser for a magazine that claims the impeachment of President Clinton as one of its greatest accomplishments?
And the actress‘ impression of the politician, not her impersonation, what she thinks of her politics, how she blames herself from 2004.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It will not be conducted or rather will be conducted by secret ballot. It will not affect Democrats and it‘s non-binding. So, no matter how they vote, they will not have to stick to it.
Our fourth story: as veteran anti-earmark Washington insider, Republican Jim DeMint gets a few more to sign up for his Tea Party-inspired ban on earmarks, veteran pro-earmark Washington Insider, Republican Jim Inhofe, helpfully points out it doesn‘t really matter.
Mr. Inhofe continuing his very public crusade rallying or against DeMint‘s proposed ban set for a vote next week. He tells the “Tulsa World,” “It is all for show. He could pass it, and it won‘t make any difference.”
Slamming supporters for the ban for their lack of regard for the Constitution.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, INHOFE: These guys will come in and the first vote they‘ll cast is to trash the Constitution and reject their oath of office.
(END AUIDO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Inhofe vows to deliver a, quote, “pretty strong statement” against the ban on the Senate floor Monday, because as you know, it says, on the Constitution, earmark—intending to call out DeMint before being for earmarks before he was against them.
DeMint tweeting that 13 senators and senators-elect are now firmly in his corner. “Politico” reports 13 senators siding with minority leader, McConnell against the ban, 24 supported the ban in March, but now, many of those lawmakers are hedging on whether they will vote for it this time around.
Meanwhile, over in the House, John Boehner and Eric Cantor getting creative in ways to placate Tea Partiers like inventing an entirely new House GOP leadership position, specifically intended to be awarded to a freshman member of Congress. No title, no job description as of yet, but the GOP is floating Kristi Noem of South Dakota as a possible frontrunner. Yes, the incoming congressperson who looks the most like Michele Bachmann, or token Tea Party rookie of the year award.
Just last week, Ms. Noem would not commit to supporting Mr. Boehner for speaker, which maybe the real criteria on this election.
Congressman Allen West has a job opening after his chief of staff bails out just days after he hired her. Right wing radio host Joyce Kaufman, who previously suggested if ballots don‘t work, bullets will, who once proposed hanging illegal immigrants, is blaming the media for her sudden departure.
It seems that she has something of an obsession with hanging. The quote, “I will not be used in an electronic lynching by proxy. You guys can do all the things you want to me, but I will not participate in you trying to destroy him.”
Her resignation comes just one day after a threat put 300 south Florida schools on lockdown. As WSVN reports, Kaufman was the inspiration behind the threat. Nevertheless, Mr. West vowing he will continue to seek her counsel.
Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst, “Washington Post” associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, and the author of “Disintegration: Splintering of Black America,” Eugene Robinson.
Gene, good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s start with earmarks. In this battle here, it seems like McConnell has an advantage. But I have to ask this, am I dreaming this? Is it a false memory put in somewhere? Wasn‘t one of the cornerstones of the Republican national platform two years ago: no more earmarks?
ROBINSON: It wasn‘t just a dream, Keith.
OLBERMANN: OK. Thank you.
ROBINSON: Earmarks, as you recall, were at one point for Republicans, they were the spawn of Satan. You know, this was the most awful thing. And the evil Democrats were guilty of larding every spending bill with all these terrible earmarks.
Now, meanwhile, they were larding these bills with earmarks. But they were invading (ph) against the practice. And so, now, you know, push comes to shove and in come some senators to back up Jim DeMint, who sounds like he‘s serious about this this time and getting them all to take the pledge.
And with the Tea Party, the national Tea Party looking over their shoulders, this is a great kind of spectator event to watch from the outside.
OLBERMANN: To say nothing of the reinterpretation of the Constitution provided by Mr. Inhofe that they‘re in there somewhere.
ROBINSON: It‘s right there in article—
OLBERMANN: A hundred and ninety-seven point six, two three four hyphen H.
OLBERMANN: Many of these signatories to the DeMint plant have, of course, accepted earmarks, pulled for them. Does this prove at all problem, this inconsistency—or is this part of the whole Tea Party deal that everything is forgiven if you convert/submit?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, they‘re going to try to make it go away. I think, you know, clearly, number one, the Republicans have come up with some sort of amnesia pixie dust because they made everybody forget the George Bush years.
ROBINSON: Maybe they can make everybody forget that the senators who are now against earmarks were once for them and in fact used them. But it does kind of fit into this sort of, you know, Christian redemption theme. You know, if you admit your sins, you can—you can be forgiven and be admitted through the gates of the Tea Party, I guess.
OLBERMANN: And speaking to forgiveness, to treat a freshly-elected, soon-to-be freshman representative who said she wasn‘t sure she‘d support John Boehner for speaker of the House, sort of say, well, OK, what if we gave you a title in it management here, this is the darnedest thing I‘ve ever heard. What‘s the—what is the premise here? That is it that kind of naked bribe, or is it, in fact, that she has the Michele Bachmann hair helmet? Or what—
ROBINSON: I think all of that plays into it. You know, the kind of naked bribe aspect of it is almost a bonus because the real intent here is to make a gesture to the incoming Tea Party freshmen to say—you know, from Boehner and Cantor message, we care. We don‘t want to be at war with you Tea Party people. We want you to—we want to co-opt you, in fact.
And so, we‘d like to find one of you who happens to look like Michele Bachmann, and bring her into the leadership group. You know, duties unspecified but she gets to come to the meetings. And that, I think, is supposed to represent inclusion.
And we‘ll see how that ultimately plays because the real battle is going to be over policy, and, you know, the vote to raise the debt ceiling and things like that. But it‘s a gesture, really.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Congressman West and Joyce Kaufman and this threat to the Florida—what in the world is going on here?
ROBINSON: I don‘t know. I mean, it‘s—it‘s just plain crazy. And, you know, I guess it is, you know, a good thing for the nation that we will not have this clearly—frankly unbalanced person operating as chief of staff to a member of Congress. But then again, if you recall some of the things that Mr. West said during his campaign—
ROBINSON: -- you know, I‘m not sure we‘ve gone far enough.
OLBERMANN: It was a coin—it was a coin toss between them for crazier.
ROBINSON: Exactly. He‘s going to be an interesting member of Congress with some interesting new colleagues. And it‘s going to be bizarre and interesting to watch.
OLBERMANN: Fabulous. Gene Robinson of “The Washington Post”—it‘s always a pleasure, Gene. Thank you.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Tina Fey makes fun of Sarah Palin as Tina Fey and also tells a story of an event involving herself from six years ago that might be the reason they stuck the rest of us with Palin. Ahead.
OLBERMANN: Disorder in the court: a Supreme Court justice at a blatantly political conservative fundraising for the second time in three years?
First, the tweet of the day. It‘s from a ringer. It‘s about news. I guess it‘s fair game. It‘s from a Mr. Conan O‘Brien, is it? Yes. “My kids are demanding I take them on that cruise that only serves pop tarts.” Just to remind them of the other item on the emergency menu on that stranded cruise ship. That‘ll hush them up. Spam.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Dubai. You say hello and I say Dubai. If you think gold jewelry lasts too long, we have the perfect product for you. It‘s a temporary tattoo made of pure gold. Is beg selling these? Great investments. Complete with optional Swarovski crystals, this washable body art has become all the rage for people who love the Cracker Jack tattoo but hate the taste. The rub-on body part will last about a week. Prices begin at 50 bucks. It‘s biggest rip off since Goldline. Who am I kidding? Goldline is a much bigger rip off.
Internet; how many times have we seen it, kids watching something on TV, think they can do it in real life? This little guy has been watching too much Rocky and Bullwinkle. And—wait for it. Down goes squirrely. He wasn‘t even close. He face-planted. People have always said his dream of being the first park house squirrel was a little nuts.
I‘d like to say he was all right, but I don‘t think so.
Finally, in Chandler, Arizona, the brand new 73 million dollar city hall complex designed to be state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly. It employs several green initiatives. The walls are made of bamboo. All the rooms are equipped with light sensors. Lights go on and off depending on the amount of sun light in the room. The water in the toilets is recycled. It‘s gray water reused from the cooling system.
Which led the makers of the building to feel the need to post this sign. Urinals and Toilets—you may be asking why do they need to tell people not to drink from a toilet? Apart from the fact that some of these people voted for Arizona SB 10-70. Well, you haven‘t seen the Chandler City Council, have you? No, bad council Wenninger. Bad, councilman!
Time marches on.
Back to Iraq for Jon Soltz—with Jon Soltz.
And can the left get back in the mega millions fund-raising game? Is there a progressive version coming of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, only honest? One man appears to be trying, ahead.
OLBERMANN: Obviously today has been Veterans Day. And the founder of the leading veterans group opposed to the war in Iraq is stepping down from his position, because, in our third story tonight, he‘s just been called to duty again, in Iraq for a year. Jon Soltz joins us presently.
U.S. troops are, of course, still in Iraq. Some 50,000 following the official end of combat operations there. Two died last month. Last month also saw a devastating attack on Iraq‘s Christian community, a cathedral bombing which claimed more than 50 lives in Baghdad.
While editorial pages around the nation today urged Americans to thank our troops for their service, the “Louisville Courier Journal” added another note about Iraq and the politics of the war, referring to the, quote, “contemptible hypocrisy and obsessive partisanship of Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell,” now the Republican Senate leader.
Revealed in former President Bush‘s new book, he was said to have asked privately, according to the president, for a draw down in Iraq before the 2006 elections, at the same time he publicly said Democrats calling for the same thing were calling for retreat.
As promised now, let‘s bring in Vote Vets Chairman Jon Soltz, who will deploy to Iraq after the holidays, serving as a major in the Army Reserves. Jon, good evening?
JON SOLTZ, VOTE VETS CHAIRMAN: How are you, Keith?
OLBERMANN: Concerned. How are you?
SOLTZ: You know, I think I‘m better than a lot of people think. It‘s to be expected. So—
OLBERMANN: You‘re fighting a war in two senses. How do you reconcile
especially on Veterans Day—fighting a war that you are opposed to, that you have fought diligently and effectively against?
SOLTZ: Well, I think, first off, you‘ve always separated—or I‘ve always separated my time that I‘m spent in the Army and my time as a political activist. As soon as I put on the uniform of the country, which I‘ll do probably in about six weeks, the politics goes out the window. When we serve, we serve because we believe in our Constitution. We believe that, as people have told me when I first got back from Iraq inside the Army, when I was really hurt by my experience there, that the Army‘s been through bad leaders before.
You‘ve got to look at the Army and the service to our country as something over the history since 1776, and not just the service in this war. I‘ve done everything that I could as the chairman of Vote Vets to bring the Iraq war to an end, to ask the questions about Afghanistan and whether a counterinsurgency is the right method there.
But we‘ve always separated our service and our political activism. It‘s always an honor to be called to serve your country and certainly to help end this war.
OLBERMANN: Well, then I suppose that extends to this idea that you might be among that last group that leaves there, since we‘re due out in December of next year? Does that impact your thinking as you look forward -- or not look forward but look towards this?
SOLTZ: I look forward to that deadline. I think no matter if you‘re for this war or against this war, anyone who is called to serve to be the last troops in Iraq—I think anyone in that position would find that honorable. I do feel, based on—I know the mission that I have—that I will be one of the last troops out of Iraq.
I look at that as fortunate. I‘ve spent my entire life—my adult life in regards to the Iraq war ,working on it, trying to end it, serving in it. But, in the end, I‘m going because, basically, a Guard and Reservist gets mobilized once every five years to deeply. It‘s simply just my turn. That‘s why I‘ll go. If I don‘t, someone else will.
OLBERMANN: Those who are lost fighting a war they believe in consider their death to have meaning, in service to a cause. Obviously, I don‘t want to be morbid about this. But I know you‘ve considered this or I wouldn‘t ask. But, in this case, if you are in that phrase that John Kerry used about Vietnam, one of the last men to die for a mistake, what does it mean?
SOLTZ: You know, I think that‘s a political question. I think when you‘re on the ground in a war—you know, when I was Iraq in 2003 and I deployed in Kosovo in 2000, we never actually had these kind of political conversations on the ground. I understand why he said that. I think that was an appropriate statement for him to make at that time.
But when you‘re in charge of troops on the ground, you‘re kind of worried about how you‘re going to get out of Iraq, or can you keep everybody there alive, or what does it mean for their families. How do you best keep your people safe? You‘re very much worried about the tactical issues. And you‘re worried about, well, it‘s my turn to go, so I‘m going to go or this is how I keep my troops safe. And you‘re very much worried about survival rather than the politics of it.
OLBERMANN: Jon Soltz of Vote Vets, great thanks for your service, past, present and now future.
SOLTZ: Thank you, Keith. I just want to thank you for having Vote Vets on for all these years. And your viewers are our supporters. And I just want to thank all of them as well.
OLBERMANN: I accept those with great gratitude. And we‘ll continue to do this. Thanks, Jon.
SOLTZ: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The Alito hypocrisy. The president is too partisan for him. But a Supreme Court justice can headline a conservative fund-raiser and threaten a reporter with arrest for asking about why he‘s there.
Tina Fey not as but about Sarah Palin and how it may be all her fault from six years ago.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Jon Stewart. I am reliably informed that he will say nice things about me?
OLBERMANN: If you thought the Supreme Court had hit a new low when the wife of Justice Thomas began to fund raise for Tea Partiers and opened up her own website full of their one size fits all paranoia conspiracies and slanders, you‘re out of order. The whole trial is out of order. They‘re out of order.
In our number two story, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is not hiding behind his wife. He‘s doing the fund-raising himself. The annual fundraiser for the “American Spectator” magazine, headlined by Fred Barnes of Fox News, Michele Bachmann, the ultra right wing publisher Al Regnery, Michael Steele, T. Boone Pickens and Justice Alito. From seats to sponsorship, prices ranged from 250 bucks to 25 grand.
This isn‘t just some magazine trying to make up for a bad year of ad sales. “American Spectator” was involved in the Arkansas Project which mined and in some cases fabricated stories with which to hunt President Bill Clinton.
Justice Alito has made no effort to even pose as nonpartisan. Two years ago at the same “American Spectator” dinner, he reportedly devoted his speech to calling then Vice President-Elect Biden a serial plagiarizer. At the State of the Union Address, he was seen mouthing that‘s not true as President Obama correctly forecast the impact of the court‘s Citizens United decision.
More startling yet, Justice Alito has since said he could no longer attend State of the Union Addresses because they were becoming too political and partisan. Among the five canons of the codes of conduct for United States judges, to which justices are said to look for guidance, number two, “a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. Number five, a judge should refrain from political activity.
Lee Fong of Think Progress reports he was able to ask Alito about his violations of Canons Two and Five, and says Alito replied, it‘s not important that I‘m here. And then added, it‘s not important.
Afterwards, Mr. Fong tried again and was threatened with arrest by somebody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE FONG, THINK PROGRESS: Justice Alito, do you have a moment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn‘t have a moment. He‘s leaving soon.
FONG: Justice Alito!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, if you keep following me, you‘re going to get arrested.
FONG: I‘m not following you. I‘d just like to ask the justice a question. Is it legal for him to attend political fund-raisers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: When, as Churchill put it, politics are foul, so foul that at least two justices of the Supreme Court are in the political pocket of the Republican party, the question of correction might take a back seat to that of escalation.
In 2008, David Brock of Media Matters attempted to start up a 527 group dedicated to doing to John McCain what conservative 527s were doing to Barack Obama. The future president then issued a request to those sympathetic to him, don‘t.
Brock is trying again, reportedly. The White House is reportedly now not saying don‘t. Greg Sergeant reported in his “Washington Post” blog Plum Line that this time the goal is a big-league 527 to try to push back against the Karl Rove money tree and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Except his, Mr. Brock‘s that is, would observe at least partial donor transparency. Sergeant quotes a sources thusly: “David is on the road right now talking to donors and strategists who would be interested in this. He‘s out pitching it right now.”
We tried to get David Brock to join us tonight, but we were told he was out on the road right now. Seriously, on a plane. He‘ll join us tomorrow.
In the interim, let‘s bring in “Politico‘s” senior reporter Kenneth Vogel. Ken, good evening.
KENNETH VOGEL, “POLITICO”: Hey, great to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To your knowledge, is Sergeant‘s report accurate?
VOGEL: It is. My sources have confirmed similar things to what Greg reported. And what‘s really interesting about this is you have David Brock, who has found great success with his media watchdog group, Media Matters, in raising money from some of the very donors who are kind of turned off to the political process and to giving to these outside groups that really weighed in heavily with television ads and voter mobilization efforts in 2004. I‘m talking about George Soros and members of the Democracy Alliance, this groups of liberal donors who are meeting next week in Washington.
Well, they‘ve been a little bit turned off from giving to these types of efforts, both because they were unsuccessful in 2004 -- George Bush beat John Kerry—but also because of President Obama, then candidate Obama, urging them not to get involved and his subsequent attacks on this type of outside spending.
So the fact that David Brock, a Democrat who has access to this type of funding, is getting involved here with potentially a White House green light is significant, I think, going forward.
OLBERMANN: What—not even referring to Brock. To what degree is there a White House green light?
VOGEL: Well, the White House has been very careful here, and they have to, because, of course, President Obama ran on the idea of changing the way that politics worked. Part of that was changing the influence of special interest money in the political system. And for him to be seen as dialing that back, when he has already been criticized on that front for opting out of the public financing system during his 2008 campaign, and has attacked so aggressively the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some of the Republican-allied interest groups that aired just these types of ads in the 2010 midterms—he can‘t be seen as reversing himself.
So what I think we‘re going to see here are subtle signals that it‘s OK to give again. Perhaps we‘ll see some of the donors who were very support of him in his 2008 campaign giving to one or more of these types of groups.
OLBERMANN: The Devil‘s Advocate question, partial donor disclosure rules, is that a fig leaf? Couldn‘t this just be just as bad, in its own way, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Rove groups?
VOGEL: Well, certainly, that‘s a line that the White House has drawn. They‘ve said—they‘ve tried to say that if this is going to occur, they‘re not going to fight it, but they would really like to see disclosure. I think if you talk to advocates for clean elections and advocates for reducing the role of money in politics, that‘s basically what they‘re left with. That‘s the last sort of pillar of the modern campaign finance regime, they say.
There is going to be a ton of money that is going to flood into the system. We are not going to be able to stop it. But we want to make sure that these donors disclose where the money is coming from, so that voters can see who is funding the campaign supporting or opposing specific candidates.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Ken, I can‘t let you go without harping back to Justice Alito. The House once entertained a bill to impeach Justice William O. Douglas because he put out a temporary stay on the execution of the Rosenbergs. How is what he is doing here at political events not grounds for impeachment for Justice Alito?
VOGEL: Setting aside the impeachment question, which I think is a very tactically and politically difficult question to address, you know, he told Lee at Think Progress that it‘s not important that he was there. I think it is important to some extent. It‘s important for the public perception of the Judiciary, particularly the United States Supreme Court, of being separate and above from partisan politics. And that‘s eroded somewhat over the years, both because of judicial elections in the states, and because of the very contentious partisan confirmation hearings that we‘ve seen for the U.S. Supreme Court justices in the United States Senate.
Certainly, Justice Alito has become sort of a poster child for this, both with his confirmation hearing, in which President Obama voted against, and then with his Supreme Court—I‘m sorry, with his State of the Union challenging of President Obama.
OLBERMANN: The senior reporter of “Politico,” Ken Vogel. Always a pleasure, Ken, thank you.
VOGEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In the past, this was where Worst Persons in the World used to be. When I suspended it, I promised you would get input as to whether or not we would ever bring it back. Well, here‘s your input time. Our online poll has begun at Countdown.MSNBC. You can vote on whether it should be restored as it was, or restored in a new form or killed, or your choice D is pie or Murkowski perhaps. Vote now. Countdown.MSNBC.com.
You‘ve already seen Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. She helped to decide the 2008 election. Have you ever seen Tina Fey assess Sarah Palin or take blame for her? Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Until the second world war, it was considered inappropriate to broadcast or present on film an impersonation of the president of the United States or other major political leaders, let alone a satirical impersonation. That‘s one of the reasons why Ray Goulding version of Senator Joe McCarthy in 1954 was so ground breaking. It was still dicey business in 1962 when a blue grass singer and piano player named Vaughn Meader (ph) became instantly famous with his pitch perfect impression of President Kennedy. One year of unrelenting fame and then complete unemployment.
Rich Little was good. David Frye was better, flawless in fact. But, in our number story tonight, perhaps of all political impersonations ever, none has ever matched, both for artistic success and actual political impact, the confluence of Tina Fey and Sarah Palin. Now the former has sized up the latter. Not an impression, but some impressions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: I want to thank everyone involved with the Kennedy Center or as it will soon be known, the Tea Party Bowling Alley and Rifle Range.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: She has become the 13th recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a lifetime achievement award. It might be time to tell you something. Ms. Fey said she thought she might be better qualified for the Harper Lee Prize for Small Bodies of Work. The entire ceremony will be televised by PBS on Sunday. But they were gracious to let out some snip-its. One pertains to the unlikely individual with whom she shared a magazine cover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEY: The last time that I was in Washington was in 2004 to take this “Life Magazine” cover photo with John McCain. And Senator McCain gave my husband and me a tour of the Senate. We all spent a lovely, busy afternoon together. I have it on good authority that this picture of Senator McCain and myself has been hanging in his office, by his desk, since 2004. And he‘s been looking at it every day since 2004 getting ideas. So I guess what I‘m saying is this whole thing might be my fault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wow. Does that give an entirely different context to this sketch, co-starring Fey and McCain from November 1st, 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEY: Why not do your holiday shopping with us?
OK, listen up, everybody, I‘m going rogue right now, so keep your voices down. Available now, we‘ve got a bunch of these Palin 2012 t-shirts.
Just try and wait until after Tuesday to wear them, OK? Because I am not going anywhere. And I‘m certainly not going back to Alaska. If I‘m not going to the White House, I‘m either running in four years or I‘m going to be a white Oprah. So, you know, I‘m good either way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or both. There was one more piece of piercing political analysis from Fey, which will probably end a remaining pose of good humor on the part of Mrs. Palin. That in a moment.
But if the need for such analysis really is her fault, she may have to make more return cameos on SNL in the next 24 months. Or maybe she‘ll have to go door-to-door.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY POEHLER, COMEDIAN: I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.
FEY: And I can see Russia from my house.
POEHLER: Not to belabor the point, one specific thing.
FEY: Katie, I‘d like to use one of my life lines.
Now I‘d like to entertain everybody with some fancy pageant walking.
QUEEN LATIFA, SINGER: I would now like to give each of you a chance to make a closing statement.
FEY: Are we not doing the talent portion?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Back to the Kennedy Center, and for a moment the intertwining of Palin and Fey ceased, and along with it the political satirist default setting of letting her character do all the editorializing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEY: I would be a liar and an idiot if I didn‘t thank Sarah Palin for helping get me here tonight. My partial resemblance and her crazy voice are the two luckiest things that have ever happened to me. Politics aside, the success of Sarah Palin and women like her is good for all women, except, of course, those who will end up paying for their own rape kit and stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Vegas has not yet opened the betting line on exactly when Ms. Palin will declare Ms. Fey part of the lame stream media.
That‘s November 11th, nine days since Republicans took control of the House. Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs? I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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