Guests: Eugene Robinson, Chris Hayes, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Dave Weigel, Jim Moore
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Tax deal blowback, day two.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Is it going to pass?
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I‘m afraid that it is. Yes.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I recall that we‘re going to zero to a compromise in about 3.5 seconds.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is inaccurate to characterize Democrats writ large as feeling, quote-unquote, “betrayed.”
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: The White House now massaging the numbers. The Gallup polls showing support for the deal—this poll is an either/or, do you support tax cuts for everybody or no tax cuts. The last poll also asked: do you support tax cuts for the wealthy? And we didn‘t.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think it‘s worth noting that the majority of economists have upwardly revised their forecasts for economic growth and noted that as a consequence of this agreement, we could expect to see more job growth in 2011 and 2012 than they originally anticipated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: They also estimate the tax bills for people making $20,000 a year or families making $40,000 a year will now go up.
And the deal may delay any voting on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and the DREAM Act. Chris Hayes explains.
The new sheriff is in town. The GOP selects its House committee chairman. Meet the new chair of appropriations, the king of pork, half a billion under his belt, Mr. Rogers of Kentucky.
Can you say earmarks? I knew you could.
The Internet in defense of Julian Assange—operation payback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not forgive Internet censorship and we do not forget free speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As MasterCard stops handling donations to WikiLeaks, MasterCard‘s Web site is crashed. Visa‘s, too.
Freedom of expression? Priceless. For everything else, there‘s MasterCard.
Everybody now knows the name—well, not everybody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CANDICE MILLER ®, MICHIGAN: I believe that the actions of Wikilinks—others have argued that Wikilinks—that the founder of Wikilinks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLER: It‘s absolutely baffling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Wednesday, December 8th, 699 cases until the 2012 presidential elections—and at the same time the White House is blaming Democrats in Congress for how bad the president‘s tax cut deal is.
The White House also seems to be having trouble winning support for the deal from Democrats in Congress. This as “The New York Times” runs the numbers from the deal and identifies one group and only one whose taxes will actually go up under the plan—any family making less than $40,000 a year, $40,000 a year being considerably less than what the rich will get from these tax cuts.
Our fifth story: as the president shuts out progressives, it turns progressives are finding new allies in this fight that the president might actually listen to—the Tea Party.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist, and our guest in just a moment, was the first to say he would block a vote on these cuts in the Senate. Who followed in his footsteps? Tea Party patron saint, Senator Jim DeMint, not a socialist. His opposition leading him to promise not only to vote against this tax cut deal but to filibuster against it. Why? Not because none of the $900 billion package is paid for, but because it contains 13 months of extended unemployment insurance, the single most stimulative tool the government has.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Most of us who ran this last election said we were not going to vote for anything that increased the deficit. This does. It raises taxes. It raises the death tax. I don‘t think we needed to negotiate that aspect of this thing away. I don‘t think we need to, you know, extend unemployment any further without paying for it, and without making some modifications such as turning it into a loan at some point. It then encourages people to go back to work.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Plus, Mr. DeMint is pro-unemployment.
For a little perspective on the strange extremities posing this deal from the political body, Ralph Nader wrote a letter to the president. Doing so, Sarah Palin did it in a tweet.
Vice President Biden dispatched to the Hill today with hopes that he could convince House Democrats of the deal‘s worth. More members are reportedly unhappy with the deal, Biden advising them not to expect big changes to it. It‘s, quote, “take it or leave it.”
After his two-hour meeting, the Congressional Black Caucus in a statement reporting its overwhelming opposition to the deal. Mr. Biden faring no better than he did with Senate Democrats yesterday—“The New York Times” reporting only about a dozen Democratic supporters in the Senate with 30 firmly opposed.
If there were a political “Book of Revelation,” one sign of the apocalypse would surely be these words from the notoriously camera-friendly Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer after the meeting with Biden. Quote, “I‘m not talking.”
Even if the president got unanimous support from Republicans to beat a filibuster, he will need to pick up all 16 undecided Democratic senators and swing two of those currently opposing.
This as aides to the president appear to have gone on the attack against congressional Democrats. Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer blaming Democrats for failing to pass tax cuts before the election, quote, “They didn‘t do that in part because there‘s not unanimity in the Democratic Caucus on this.”
Anonymous others less restrained—one telling “Politico” that differentiating the president from congressional Democrats was, quote, “a positive byproduct of this fight. Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic.”
Congressional Democrats are not shying from this battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: The president himself likened this to the fight over the public option. I agree with him. If he would have made a tougher fight on that, we would have had that in today‘s law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And what about the man Mr. Obama thought mature and pragmatic enough to co-chair his debt panel? Former Clinton chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, reportedly objecting strongly to the tax cuts and planning to say so face-to-face with the Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner tomorrow.
And if distributing endorsements of the deal from obscure members of Congress and a handful of mayors did not sufficiently illustrate Mr. Obama‘s isolation on his deal—“The Huffington Post” reporting the White House set congressional Democrats a Gallup poll indicating the public supports this deal.
Let‘s look at that poll. Sixty-six percent of the country support extending all the Bush tax cuts for two years.
How many in that Gallup poll support extending just the Bush tax cuts on family income below a quarter million? No idea. Gallup didn‘t ask that. But Gallup did ask that just last month when a combined 57 percent favored either limiting or killing the cuts for the rich.
Well, a combined 61 percent told the “Bloomberg” poll the same thing. The numbers saying all the cuts should expire, tracking around 15 percent in earlier polls is now at 27 percent.
Joining us now, as promised, Senator Bernie Sanders, member of the budget committee, independent of Vermont.
Great thanks for your time tonight, Senator.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, it‘s you and Jim DeMint against the world?
SANDERS: Well, hopefully we‘re going to have a lot more progressive support than just Mr. DeMint.
OLBERMANN: How accurate do those “New York Times” numbers sound on the Senate whip count for this? Twelve Democrats firmly, 12. Is that roughly what you think?
SANDERS: I think you got a very fluid situation. I can tell you this, Keith—in the last two days, and I represent a small state, we have gotten 2,000 telephone calls to my offices in Vermont and here in Washington, 99 percent of the people opposing this agreement.
I think you‘re seeing that all over the country. The issue here that people are outraged at is that a time when we have a huge national debt and the richest people in this country are becoming much richer, who thinks it made sense to grow the national debt, ask our kids to pay more in taxes, so that billionaires can have giant tax breaks? Very few people I know think that makes sense.
OLBERMANN: How do you respond to the White House today in essence both on the record and off blaming congressional Democrats and considering the idea of blaming congressional Democrats good politics?
SANDERS: I think that‘s absurd. I think what we need to do right now is take the case to the American people. You know, this may sound very radical, but it‘s not just the Tea Party that can do demonstrations. Not just right wing people that can call up United States senators.
What we need now is a massive grassroots effort all over this country to tell the United States senators how come you voted against a $250 check for disabled veterans and seniors were not getting a call? You can‘t fund that, but you‘re prepared to give millions of dollars in tax breaks to the richest people in the country? We can put these people on the defensive if we are mobilizing at the grassroots effort.
OLBERMANN: What happens if there is no deal on this before the recess? I mean, Mr. Schumer‘s no comment would sort of suggest the end of the world must be near.
SANDERS: I don‘t want to speculate because I don‘t know. But this is what I do know—if we concede this issue, if the word gets out, well, the Democrats are very wobbly, the Republicans are intransigent—what do you think is going to happen the day after? They‘re going to come back for more and more.
Mark my words. They‘re going to come back and say, well, yes, it‘s true, we drove up the national debt because we gave tax breaks to billionaires. You know what we have to do now? We have to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, that‘s what we have to do, and we are intransigent. So, we expect you, Mr. President, to compromise with us and Democrats to compromise.
Our job now is to get them to compromise. I know that‘s a radical idea. But that‘s what we‘ve got to do.
OLBERMANN: Debate on this could start as early as tomorrow, as you know. You mentioned filibuster before. Could you successfully filibuster this thing?
SANDERS: Well, we will do everything that we can, including a filibuster, to slow this thing down so that the American people can be mobilized to say that when the richest people are becoming richer, they do not need huge tax breaks.
OLBERMANN: What happened here, Senator? Do you have any idea why the president wound up taking this position and creating this kind of firestorm from both sides?
SANDERS: Keith, I honestly don‘t. I mean, obviously the president‘s heart tells him, and we will agree with him. We must extend unemployment for the 2 million workers who are about to lose their unemployment benefits. It goes without saying.
Second of all, of course, when the middle class is collapsing, it‘s absolutely imperative that the middle class—the 98 percent of the Americans—continue to get their tax breaks. And the president wants that to happen. So do I. I think that we can do that without giving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 percent.
But in order to bring that about, the president needs to lead and all of us need to be active at the grassroots level. We need to call up our Republican senators. We need demonstrations. We need to put pressure on these people because the position that the Republicans have, driving up the debt to give tax breaks to billionaires is a position in my view that the vast majority of the American people reject.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it is a breaking point. It is the proverbial straw.
It‘s all of the above.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent of Vermont—thank you for your forthrightness on this issue and good luck.
SANDERS: Thank you very much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Now, let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, associate editor of “The Washington Post,” and author of “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America.”
Good evening, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president‘s claim—here his critics are playing politics. Correct me if I‘m wrong, that appears to be an attempt to play politics. How is it going for him on this second day of the blowback?
ROBINSON: Well, I‘m not sure that day two was all that great for the president. You know, in the sense—I mean, you could—you could stand way back from the whole situation and say that, well, in the larger sense, the—you could argue that it‘s good for the president to be seen as being attacked from the left as well as from the right, and in positioning himself that way.
However, I don‘t think you could say it‘s terribly—it‘s a terribly great idea to have aroused such ire among congressional Democrats and essentially blaming them, you know, and pointing the finger overtly at them and saying it‘s all their fault, when they‘re, in fact, the people who you now expect to vote in support of the deal you just made.
ROBINSON: So, I think that‘s the—that‘s not going all that well.
OLBERMANN: And, by the way, asked most of them to reverse position to make that deal, too. It‘s really sort of a three-level thing.
OLBERMANN: How does—you know, the president uses this term. You hear it, and then the next day, go back to you and go, oh, my goodness, why did he say hostage situation? That by itself is going to echo back on him for a long time. And in particular, how does this particular ransom discourage the Republicans? Does the president even have an idea of how this discourages the Republicans from, you know, well, gee, hostage-taking seems to have worked, we‘ll do it for the next two years nonstop?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, appeasing the hostage-takers never discourages them. So, I think we should expect more attempts at hostage-taking over the next couple of years, and what the president will have to do and I presume will have to say is that, yes, we gave into the hostage-takers this time because it was an extraordinary situation and we had to do it before the stroke of midnight on December 31st or else people would have lost all this money. But, you know, next time we‘re drawing—let‘s not call it a line in the sand because lines in the sand have been transversed. So, maybe, you know, a chalk line on the sidewalk or something. But next time, we won‘t do it. That‘s what he is going to have to say.
OLBERMANN: Senator Sanders says this is a very fluid situation. That “New York Times” whip count, unofficial whip count, 12 Democratic senators in favor and 30 firmly opposed, what kind of world will it be—or what kind of country will it be anyway if the president extends the Bush tax cuts via almost a party line vote from Republicans with maybe a dozen Democrats joining the Republicans?
ROBINSON: Well, that would be a very strange world. However, I‘m not
you know, I‘m—it is a fluid situation. I personally don‘t think that‘s the way it‘s going to come out. I think more Democrats reluctantly holding their nose, whatever, will eventually vote for the thing.
I think what‘s interesting it will be to watch if any Republicans jump on Jim DeMint bandwagon because those numbers could really shift this thing and then it could become more interesting. But I think this is—you know, basically, Keith, a lot of ado about closing the barn door when I think the horse has galloped into the next county.
OLBERMANN: Is there any explanation for why the White House would be beating up the House and Senate Democrats now rather than beating them up last summer when beating them up and forcing them to vote last summer or sometime in the fall before the elections might have produced a good deal of some kind?
ROBINSON: Well, you talk to the folks at the White House, and they will say we tried. We kept saying, you know, this is—let‘s go ahead. Let‘s do the tax bill rather than wait until the—after the election, and see, we were right. That‘s what they‘ll say at the White House.
Did they try hard enough? You know, I‘m not quite sure.
OLBERMANN: Did anybody—did anybody get dressed down in public by the White House?
ROBINSON: No, no.
OLBERMANN: They were all progressives, and every damn senator who is standing up on principle right now and even the ones who are taking advantage are getting read the Riot Act, or did anybody say—did anybody from the White House go, you know, we do have connections to the various funding committees and you will get a dime to get re-elected if you don‘t have this vote, Ben Nelson, or anything at all? Not Ben Nelson, but anybody? Did any of that happen?
ROBINSON: I think not, Keith. There‘s no evidence that any of that happened, and that‘s a good point. And that‘s one reason why they‘re so mad on Capitol Hill now because they‘re being publicly dressed down. And so, you know, if you felt so strongly about this and you knew that disaster was looming, then why didn‘t you, you know—why didn‘t you make a bigger stink about it before?
OLBERMANN: Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Gene Robinson of “The Washington Post”—I‘m sorry I interrupted. I don‘t like to do that. Thank you, Gene.
No, seriously, I don‘t like to this. Thanks.
ROBINSON: I know you don‘t.
OLBERMANN: One of the assumptions about a tax deal was that it could hasten the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” the vote on it, or the DREAM Act or the START missile treaty. Instead, it looks like at least two of these will be delayed, maybe postponed until the new Congress—with Chris Hayes, next.
OLBERMANN: He says the votes are there in the Senate to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” But now, the alarming prospect that the tax deal might postpone any vote on it or on the DREAM Act.
The new chairman of House Appropriations, under his belt, $500 million in earmarks. And he told the Tea Party about this?
The party trying to unseat this Republican speaker of the Texas House because he is Jewish. It‘s not what you think. The Tea Partier says, quote, “They‘re some of my best friends,” quote.
And remember when attacking an Internet hero as these credit card companies who stop handling donations to Julian Assange today learned, the Internet can screw with you far more seriously than you can screw with the Internet.
OLBERMANN: There are just two obstacles—in our fourth story—to the Senate beginning debate on the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” The fate of the DREAM Act is more uncertain still. Both roadblocks courtesy of the Republicans and to some degree the tax deal. It‘s also the matter of the Christmas tie of Senator Ben Nelson.
The procedural vote in the Senate to begin debate on the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and the defense authorization bill to which it is attached was delayed today, but there may be enough support for actual repeal. There are five GOP senators who support or conditionally support the repeal of DADT: Senator Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Senator Scott Brown, Senator Murkowski and Senator George Voinovich. Senator Collins was holding out for a certain amount of debate time and an allowance for amendments.
An agreement with Senate Majority Leader Reid has not yet been reached but even after that hurdle, Reid still has to worry about whether all GOP senators will stand to their earlier threat to block everything until the Bush tax cuts and government spending bills are passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Throwing up these artificial roadblocks is just foolishness. I mean, what in the world do they accomplish by saying we‘re not going to allow you to do the START Treaty, the defense authorization bill, until the tax bill is completed, and spending is done. We know that before we leave here this year, we‘re going to have to do something to finance the government for the next year, and the odds are we‘re going to do something on taxes. For them to have these, I repeat, artificial roadblocks is foolishness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And not all Democrats seem willing to keep the Senate in session past the scheduled adjournment date of December 17th, which was suggested by Senator Joe Lieberman.
From “Senator Stimpy,” Mr. Nelson of Nebraska, quote, “Last year, I never got to wear a Christmas tie. I‘m wearing a Christmas tie today. So, that may answer the question. I‘m ready to go home for Christmas. I think we can get things done that need to be done.”
Perhaps there was a joke in there somewhere or he is being deliberately vague about what he considers a priority or he‘s just prioritizing his tie.
Then there is the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for minors brought to this country illegally if they serve in the military or complete certain educational requirements. It may be in far bigger trouble.
Let‘s turn now to the Washington editor of “The Nation,” MSNBC contributor, Chris Hayes.
Chris, good evening.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How pathetic has this become, particularly if Senator Lieberman is right in saying that there are 60 votes or more to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”? Once it finally gets to the Senate floor, it might not get to the Senate floor?
HAYES: Yes. I mean, once again, we‘re seeing, and this is—I know I say this ad nauseam here and other places, but the absolute procedural dysfunction of the Senate where you can have not just a majority—forget the fact that often things fail with a majority of senators, which in and of itself is absurd. But now, you have—you have met the threshold of the 61, 62, 63, but because you can filibuster the procedural votes before you even get to the substantive vote, you can have a filibuster of the procedural vote on the motion to proceed so that you never get to the vote even though 62 people in a body of 100 people support it.
It is destroying the democratic fabric of the United States Congress to be able to, without accountability or transparency, destroy a piece of legislation that 62 percent of sitting senators favor.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s be something that the senators are not, practical. If this does not get dealt with before the end of this year and it is postponed into the new session, what happens to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and the defense authorization bill for that matter, and everything else?
HAYES: Well, I mean, I don‘t think—it really feels like there is a very narrow window for “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal, and the reason is that you‘re going to have, what, five or six new Republican senators coming into the United States Senate.
And more than that, it‘s very hard—I mean, the House has passed “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal. That will lapse once the new Congress starts. It‘s extremely difficult for me to foresee a universe in which John Boehner brings to the House floor a vote on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal. So, it really feels like if not now or never, now or two years from now at the earliest.
OLBERMANN: The DREAM Act, you can pretty much kiss that one good-bye right now?
HAYES: Look, the DREAM Act is in a different situation than “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal is, because it does not right now have the whip votes to get over 60. It‘s still, I will stress, even though this—I stress it all the time, it still has 52 or 53 votes, which is still a majority, which in the sane and ordered world would be enough to pass a piece of legislation. But because it does not pass the filibuster, it does not even just—it does not have the whip votes at the moment.
Now, it‘s a dynamic situation. But I think it‘s in a different situation than “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” which looks like it‘s cleared—it‘s cleared that 60 hurdle.
OLBERMANN: And the assumption that has been in place for so long that if there were to be a tax deal, that part of that or the result of that would be that things like, particularly the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” would get—the space would be cleared for it to be addressed? I guess that was a fiction. Was it an accidental fiction? Was it a deliberate fiction?
HAYES: Well, I think there was some deliberate ambiguity in the letter that was sent by the 42 senators and delivered by McConnell, in which I think they said something like “deal with,” right? So, what counts as deal with? Do you have to actually vote on it?
But, of course, they want to throw roadblocks up and run out the clock on voting it. I mean, I don‘t think people understand when you—when Reid has to bring something to the floor, he‘s looking at 30 to 60 hours just to get it to the point where it can get a vote. When you are dealing with such a contracted time frame, they really are—I mean, this is basketball before the shot clock era with the four corners offense. They are just running out the clock right now.
They‘ve been doing it since day one, right? They‘ve been doing it since the first day of this Congress, but we‘re seeing it in its most sort of extreme form right now. Can I say one more thing about that Ben Nelson quote?
OLBERMANN: Yes. Go ahead. About Senator Stimpy? Go ahead.
HAYES: Sometimes, I want to run around Washington and just grab anyone I can in Capitol Hill in a suit by the lapels and say, do you understand that the country is burning right now? I mean, the remove, the distance, the social distance, and psychological and emotional distance from what is going on right here and right now in Washington and what is going on in a country with record personal bankruptcies, foreclosures, and 10 percent unemployment is galling.
OLBERMANN: Well said, sir. We call him Senator Stimpy, not just because he looks like Stimpy.
Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—great thanks, as always, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What will the Tea Party do when it finds out that the new Republican chairman of the House Appropriations put in for an earmark for funds from the Obama health care reform?
OLBERMANN: On this day in 1894, a Midwestern clerk and politician and his wife, an inveterate practical joker, had their second child. They named him James. At age seven, he recalled he wrote his first poem entitled “My Aunt Marjorie Albright‘s Garden at 185 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio.” It was one of his last literary efforts that did not succeed. A happy 116th birthday salute to all my fellow admirers of James Thurber.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Woolong (ph), China. Of course, we find newborn pandas. So cute. But as with any wild animal, the fear of becoming too accustomed to humans is a concern. So these scientists have come up with what they think is a perfect solution, panda costumes. Oh, boy, furries. Hmm. Whenever they need to provide medicine or just check on the panda‘s general health, the scientists don the fluffy disguise and clomp their way into the enclosure. Plus, they like dressing like this.
So far, the costumes are seen as a success. As yet, the baby pandas have not found the zipper. On these same lines, “Sesame Street” has loaned out Snuffaluffagus to Thailand to help care for newborn elephants there.
Warning, this next Oddball may be disturbing to the younger cartoon reindeer fans. Off the Internet, what appears to be some sort of holiday parade, Gretchen. But whoever picked the parade route should have considered how high the balloons actually go. There‘s a traffic light there. The balloon holders attempted to do the only thing they could, holiday limbo.
Unfortunately, they could not go low enough. Down goes Rudolph. Quick somebody get Hermie (ph). Wants to be a dentist. The stoplight pokes a hole right in the face of the red-nosed reindeer.
Yes, you are indeed looking at the pilot for Sarah Palin‘s America.
Finally, we travel to Gillette Stadium for Monday night‘s destruction of the J-E-T-S-, Jets, Jets, Jets, by the New England Patriots. The outcome of the game itself almost Oddball worthy. But the biggest blowout was in the stands.
Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Donald Trump, presumably there hoping to see his New Jersey Generals make a comeback. Suddenly, a powerful gust of wind blows back his 100% real hair. Going, going—and at the last moment, the glue holds. What? Hairspray, we call it glue. Finally, we found something more boisterous and blusterous than the Donald himself.
Time marches on.
“Mr. Roger‘s Neighborhood,” the Republicans select as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee a congressman who has submitted half a billion dollars in earmarks. Whatever will the Tea Party say?
OLBERMANN: The House Republicans picked their guy to stop the pork barrel spending. For those of you unfamiliar with Hal Rogers and his Congressional record, allow his various nicknames to fill in the blanks for you: the Pork King, Prince of Pork, Porker of the Month. Hmm, Pork.
Our third story, so that GOP earmark ban, it may have some wiggle room. Don‘t worry, the Tea Party freshmen are still determined to change business as usual in Washington, as soon as a few guys from K Street give them the go ahead.
Hal Rogers of Kentucky will be the new House Appropriations chair. The 16-term congressman has requested a half billion dollars worth of earmarks, but that was the old Hal Rogers. The new Hal Rogers tells ABC News no more earmarks. In fact, he‘ll be the GOP‘s moratorium enforcer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘ve been known as the Prince of Pork. Have you changed your ways?
REP. HAL ROGERS ®, KENTUCKY: Well, sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A clear and convincing argument. Conservative blog Red State equally sold, lamenting the GOP selection of a Chairman Rogers. “Did you show up at the polls on November 2nd for nothing? It seems that way.” Sure does.
Tea Party maker Senator Jim DeMint also expressing his disapproval.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Frankly, the thing that killed the ‘94 revolution was you got a lot of new people came in, but the guys who had been there forever took over the chairmanships of committees, and we went downhill from there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But there is a silver lining for Tea Partiers. Rogers is anti-health care reform, calling it a monstrosity and socialistic. Appropriations can decide to deprive the legislation of funds perhaps, and Rogers has vowed to do just that.
Oops. Earlier this year, Mr. Rogers requested 1.5 million dollars in health clinic grants made possible by the president‘s health care reform legislation. Think Progress obtaining a letter in which Mr. Rogers writes, “with this funding, Frontier Nursing Service will be able to continue operations for the next three years, and continue to provide critical care in an area in extreme need of access to adequate health care.”
His request, a kind of Obama care earmark, was turned down. In the meantime, Congressional Republicans are making plans to keep lobbyists where they belong on Capitol Hill. “Roll Call” reporting back in October that the Republican leadership, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, circulated lists of experienced Washington hands that could fill top staff positions of soon to be elected outsiders.
Today, “The Hill” confirming that nine federally registered lobbyists have accepted offers to become chiefs of staff to freshmen members of Congress. They will serve in the offices of such Tea Party favorites as Representative-elect Raul Labrador of Idaho, Senator-elect Mike Lee of Utah, and Senator-elect Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Time now to call in MSNBC contributor-elect and political reporter for Slate.com, David Weigel. Dave, good evening.
DAVID WEIGEL, SLATE.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So it turns out the Tea Partiers have a job creation program after all. How does Ron Johnson or any of the others explain these personnel decisions to the base?
WEIGEL: Well, so far it kind of reminds me of the James Cameron speech from when he won the Oscar. You know, there‘s not a whole lot of explaining. There‘s a lot of strutting and a lot of having it done their way. In the case of guys who are appointing lobbyists to chief of staff, you know, I have been writing about that, but no one really seems to care yet.
And are you starting to see some of the contours of how much Tea Partiers really were demanding from these members, how much they‘re going to pay attention? I think you are. I mean, they‘re granting a lot of waivers to most of these people. I mean, you‘re going to talk about some other people who they‘re not so happy with right now.
But I think—I‘ll point out that these guys have hired experienced hands. You know, Pat Toomey is hiring Judd Gregg‘s old chief of staff. The incoming guys, who were supposed to change Washington, aren‘t changing it much. So far, they‘re not really complaining about that.
OLBERMANN: The committee chairmanships, I imagine, they are. I mean, appropriations is the headline here. But Tea Party-backed members of Congress all lost out to the establishment picks on Energy and Commerce, the Republicans Study Committee and the Conference Committee. Is that something that is reverberating in Tea Party land?
WEIGEL: It is. They‘re trying to be nice about it, except in the case of Red State. I mean, Americans Prosperity was pushing really hard to stop some of these guys from winning these positions. And after they won, they said, well, we‘re going to work with them. We‘re going to pressure them from the outside.
But these are big losses. I think these are the first really big losses for the Tea Party in this new majority. Now, they‘ve gotten a lot of promises. That wasn‘t unexpected. To lose out to Hal Rogers and Fred Upton, people they campaigned against, that reverberates.
You know, Jeff Flake I was talking to on Tuesday, got a position on the Appropriations Committee. And it was seen widely as just a bone thrown to Tea Partiers because he is anti-earmark. Rogers is going to be pro-earmark.
Flake was confident that if he got on the committee, he could do what he wanted in terms of creating a new subcommittee for more oversight. And he is not going to get that.
OLBERMANN: And about the health care reform application that Mr. Rogers made and the term I sort of made up there, kind of Obama Care earmark. Could anything be more of a red flag—anything be more anathema to the Tea Party? I mean, is there—are you surprised there is not a protest outside his office just on that right now?
WEIGEL: Well, there are so many more things to protest. The knock on him before that was that he seemed to have a hobby of steering earmarks to companies that his children worked for. This happened—the reason that Citizens Against Government Waste called him the Pork King of the month, the Porker of the Month—there was some very funny accolades—
OLBERMANN: Porker of the month, yes.
WEIGEL: Porker of the month they used for him—was because his daughter was going to benefit from a grant for several organizations to work on saving cheetahs around the world. And that just—that is just anathema if you‘re a Tea Partier. That really is everything you worked against.
Health care, you might believe that these guys are going to come around on that. But they‘re really worried about his instincts. And again, I would reiterate, in this case and in the case of Energy, these guys—these guys have so far thwarted the stuff they really wanted, the big reforms they really wanted. They think it makes it harder for them to attack Obama and the big government spending in general.
OLBERMANN: Cheetahs, no, and pro-Tea Party hero Glenn Beck, Cheetos, all right. MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel, thank you, Dave.
WEIGEL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: One of the all-time great Luddite bloopers on the floor of the House, and she says it four times, and she posts it proudly on her website.
To borrow a phrase, you can‘t stop Julian Assange. You can only hope to contain him.
The Internet strikes back against those that are trying to stop Wikileaks.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she‘ll talk about the president‘s el-foldo on tax cuts with Frank Rich of the “New York Times.”
OLBERMANN: Wikileaks and Operation Payback, because now it‘s Visa. It‘s everywhere you don‘t want to be. First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for today‘s nominees for the Worst Persons in the World.
The bronze to Larry Falter—that‘s right Falter, the owner of LTD Jewelers in Superior, Wisconsin. He has flooded the market with TV commercials for a kind of going out of business sale. LTD jewelers is not going out of business. The world is. Mr. Falter is a member of a messianic congregation. And after a trip to Jerusalem, he has become convinced that the day of judgment is soon.
So everything is 50 percent off, the special return of Jesus discount. Best reaction from one customer: if Jesus really is coming back, why would I want diamonds?
The runner up, John Cook, member of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee. He is one of the state‘s Tea Party leaders seeking to oust the Republican speaker of the Texas House, Joe Strauss, because Joe Strauss is Jewish. Quote, “we elected a House with Christian conservative values,” wrote Mr. Cook. “We now want a true Christian conservative running it.”
He later explained to a reporter that when he got into politics, he told people, quote, “I got people into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They‘re the people that do the best jobs overall.”
Finally, Mr. Cook explained that he is not an anti-Semite because some of his best friends are Jewish, literally. Quote, “they‘re some of my best friends. My favorite person that‘s ever been on this Earth is a Jew. How can they possibly think that if Jesus Christ is a Jew, and he‘s my favorite person that‘s ever been on this Earth?”
Seriously? Has ever everybody who has ever been hit by lightning in the state of Texas gone into government there?
Our winner, Congresswoman Candice Miller, the Republican representing the Michigan tenth. That‘s Port Huron. I‘m going to let Congresswoman Miller speak for herself. This clip of her on the House floor, after all, is proudly posted right under the masthead at her website. But, please, if you have any beverage or food in your mouth, get rid of it now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CANDICE MILLER ®, MICHIGAN: Mr. Speaker, since Wikilinks (sic) has begun releasing American top secret information that it obtained illegally, there has been a debate about how our nation should respond to this. I believe that the actions of Wikilinks (sic) provide material support to our terrorist enemies, so it should be treated as a terrorist organization.
Others have argued that Wikilinks (sic) is simply a media organization and, therefore, it is protected under the First Amendment. Well, consider for a moment the most recent statements by Julian Assage (sic), the founder of Wikilinks (sic), which I believe show exactly what he is, a terrorist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: OK. It‘s not Assage. It‘s Assange. It‘s not terraced, as in his rock garden was beautiful terraced. It‘s terrorist. And it‘s not Wikilinks. It‘s Winkidink.
Congressman woman Candice “Winkilinks” Miller, today‘s worst—where the hell do we find these people—person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Tonight, as Julian Assange spends his second day behind bars, wanted in Sweden for questioning in relation to alleged sex crimes, his allies on the Internet have declared all-out war on the money movers undercutting Wikileaks‘ ability to do business. Number one story, Mastercard announced Monday it would no longer process payments to Wikileaks. This morning, Internet activists crashed its website.
This afternoon, Visa.com crashed. Tonight, Twitter might be next. It suspended an Operation Payback Account. The group calling itself Anonymous has been waging Operation Payback for a few months now. The group says it is dedicated to a, quote, anonymous decentralized movement that fights against censorship and copy-wrong. That would be a pun on copyright.
In October, Anonymous released the following V for Vendetta tinged video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are legion and divided by zero. We do not forgive Internet censorship. And we do not forget free speech. We are over 9,000 --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Anonymous has now turned its attention to the Wikileaks case. The group issuing—or using a DOS, Denial of Service, attack to crash the website for the Swedish prosecutors who had issued the warrant for Mr. Assange. Then Anonymous crashed the website of a Swiss Bank that closed a Wikileaks bank account.
This morning, it attacked Mastercard.com, crashing the website in retaliation for Mastercard Worldwide‘s stated intent to deny transaction with Wikileaks. Anonymous tweeting today, quote, “there are some things Wikileaks can‘t do. For everything else, there‘s Operation Payback.”
Mastercard says its customers‘ transactions were not affected. Visa Europe this week began suspending payments to Wikileaks pending an investigation into, quote, whether they contravene Visa operating rules.
This afternoon on Twitter, Anonymous turned its guns on Visa. We are attacking www.Visa.com in an hour. Get your weapons ready. An hour later, fire, fire, fire weapons. Both Mastercard and Visa‘s websites back up now.
The Operation Payback Twitter feed and Facebook account have since been suspended. This afternoon, Wikileaks released a cable that may or may not be related to all this. According to “The Guardian,” citing State Department cables, quote, “the U.S. lobbied Russia this year on behalf of Visa and Mastercard to try to insure the payment card companies were not adversely affected by new legislation, according to American diplomats in Moscow.”
Then there is Paypal, the online banking site which suspended its account with Wikileaks, which survived its own DOS attack on Monday. Today, in Paris, at a technology conference, Paypal‘s vice president, Osama Bedier, was asked to explain his company‘s decision to suspend that Wikileaks account. The reason, he said, a State Department letter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSAMA BEDIER, PAYPAL VICE PRESIDENT: What happened here is on November 27th, the State Department—the U.S. government basically wrote a letter saying that the Wikileaks activity were deemed illegal in the United States. And as a result, our policy group had to make the decision of suspending the account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, Jim Moore, author of MoreThink.com, also contributor to “the Huffington Post.” His column today was titled “I Am Julian Assange.”
Good evening, Jim.
JIM MOORE, MORETHINK.COM: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The State Department alleges that what Wikileaks did blatantly illegal and then companies like Paypal pull the plug on Wikileaks‘ accounts. How many things are wrong with that, in your opinion?
MOORE: Well, if it‘s illegal, he hasn‘t been charged. The leaking of the information and the information that‘s been published has been published in newspapers, carefully redacted to protect people. And then perhaps they should charge newspapers if they‘re going to charge him with leaking the information.
What happened to Mastercard and to everybody else who has been—
Paypal included, who has been trying to stop this from happening is an indication that the Internet is bigger than corporate America and bigger than global business, and that people are tired of being run around, that people are saying we‘re going to fight back.
And so what you have is an instrument for people to finally have a sense of power. And they‘ve decided to take advantage of it and use it. Whether it‘s this particular operation or an individual, people are not going to sit still for this apparently.
OLBERMANN: The one argument against this, though, that resonates is that this was not purpose-driven like, say, the Pentagon Papers. Today, these—Anonymous here, whoever that is, leaked 10,000 Mastercard card numbers. Is there a dividing line between whistle blowing sort of techno reporting and computer hacking? Or do we have to take the good with the bad?
MOORE: Well, I think that probably a line was crossed there. But it‘s also a kind of bow shot to say, look, we have the ability to do things that you aren‘t giving us credit for. And we are going to take advantage of our skills. If you‘re going to try to control information that we receive, we‘re going to affect your business. I think they‘re very much trying to send a message.
Should they make public Mastercard records and numbers, of course not. But I think they‘re clearly trying to say, watch out, we can do more than we‘re already doing.
OLBERMANN: Daniel Ellsberg, who was obviously the force behind the Pentagon Papers, using the new technology with a Tweet today that read, “every attack now made on Assange and Wikileaks was made against me and release of the Pentagon Papers.” From your recollection of that case, is Ellsberg right? Is this just an updated 21st century technologically improved version of the attack on Ellsberg?
MOORE: Yes, well, I was a long haired hippy walking in the streets of Washington protesting the war back then. And I remember when this happened. Everybody was saying who is Ellsberg, and why would the government say this? Everything that has been said about Julian Assange is precisely the things that were said about Daniel Ellsberg.
And ultimately Ellsberg‘s information was proved right. The information was valuable. It helped guide public opinion. And the same thing is happening with what Wikileaks is putting out. It‘s guiding public opinion.
They‘re trying to vilify the individual in order to shut down the process. And it‘s the process that‘s critical. It‘s the Internet that is now the tool. This is no longer about Julian Assange. This is about the empowerment of individuals and the power of information.
OLBERMANN: Let me just fill that out for a second. Ellsberg, they went—they broke into his psychiatrist‘s office in hopes of finding information they could use against him and spread a rumor that he had sex with his wife in front of his own children, and that everything they possibly could put out they did about him. So everything old is new again.
Jim Moore, the author of “Bush‘s Brain” and the contributor to the “Huffington Post.” Great thanks, Jim.
MOORE: You bet, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s December 8th, 36 days since Republicans took control of the House. Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs? I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now to discuss the compromise with Frank Rich, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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