'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Sept. 22
Guests: Larry Wilkerson, Jonathan Turley, Bill Clinton
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
In the hours and days after 9/11, did this country really threaten to bomb Pakistan if it did not cooperate in the fight against terror? So claims President Musharraf in a yet-to-be-broadcast interview and in his new book.
As for everybody else...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: I'm launching my book on the 25th, and I am honor bound to Simon and Shuster not to comment on the book before that day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The man he claims delivered that message is former deputy secretary of state Armitage, and he isn't ready to put any of that in the books.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ARMITAGE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Those words were not uttered by me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The deal on detainees. What words have been agreed to? We still don't really know. Professor Jonathan Turley joins us to analyze what little we have so far.
And our special guest, as his Global Initiative Summit concludes with $7.3 billion in pledges, President Bill Clinton on the interrogation deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRES. BILL CLINTON: All it does is make our soldiers vulnerable to torture, and make us more likely to get bad, not good, information. And every time we get some minor victory out of it, we'll make 100 more enemies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: On a political climate that discourages dissent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: The great disservice is the creation of the idea that if you disagree with the people that are in, you're somehow - you don't love your country and you can't be trusted to defend it..
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And on the most farfetched political hypothetical imaginable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The phone rings tomorrow, and it's the current president,
and he says, Things aren't going as well as they might, either for me or
the country. I need a piece of advice, and I'm asking you sincerely for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President Clinton, and more, now on Countdown.
Good evening from New York. This is Friday, September 22, 46 days until the 2006 midterm elections.
The Bush administration's actions in the war on terror once again center stage, but though today's news may have filled the diversionary bill as far as the White House was concerned, it is safe to say that the charge being made was definitely not on its wish list.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, the president of Pakistan claiming that his cooperation in the war on terror was secured at the point of a threat by a top American diplomat to bomb his country, quote, "back into the stone age," the charge complicating the visit of President Pervez Musharraf to the White House, to say the least. More on that in just a moment.
As for the charge itself, President Musharraf claiming on an interview to be broadcast on "60 Minutes" this Sunday that right after the 9/11 attacks, former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage told a Pakistani intelligence officer named General Mahmoud that the U.S. would attack if Pakistan did not cooperate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES," CBS)
MUSHARRAF: The director of intelligence told me that he said, Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the stone age.
STEVE KROFT, CBS NEWS: Richard Armitage said, You should be prepared to be bombed back to the stone age.
KROFT: What was your reaction?
MUSHARRAF: One has to react, one has to think and take action in the interest of the nation, and that's what I did.
KROFT: Were you insulted?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, I thought it was a very rude remark.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, more significant than the fact that the remarks are advancing Mr. Musharraf's appearance on CBS this Sunday, the fact that they are also coinciding with the Pakistani president's visit to the White House, put on the spot during Q&A at an East Room news conference this morning, Mr. Musharraf deflecting the question to promote his forthcoming book, President Bush claiming surprise before diverting the dustup right into former secretary of state Colin Powell's inbox.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I can tell you is, is that shortly after 9/11, Secretary Colin Powell came in and said, President Musharraf understands the stakes, and he wants to join and help rout out an enemy that has come and killed 3,000 of our citizens.
Matter of fact, my recollection was that one of the first leaders to step up and say that the stakes had changed, that attack on America that killed 3,000 of the citizens needs to be dealt with firmly, was the president.
And if I'm not mistaken, Colin told us that, if not the night of September the 11th, shortly thereafter. Now, I need to make sure I get my facts straight but (INAUDIBLE). I don't know of any conversation that was reported in the newspaper like that. Just don't know about it.
MUSHARRAF: I would like to - I'm launching my book on the 25th, and I'm honor bound to Simon and Shuster not to comment on the book before that day. So...
BUSH: In other words, buy the book, is what he's saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or you can wait for the movie, or the trials.
This afternoon, the Pakistani president, after making another plug for his book at George Washington University, not exactly clearing up the controversy when he added that any actions his nation has taken in the war on terror were actually taken in self-interest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUSHARRAF: We joined the war on terror not really for the world, as much as for ourselves. That's what I believe. And I sincerely believe that. Pakistan has been - is a moderate, progressive society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Armitage himself saying today that he, like President Bush, was taken aback by President Musharraf's claim, the former deputy secretary of state adding that he spent 40 minutes talking with the Pakistan leader at Blair House in Washington just yesterday, assuring him directly that he had never made such a threat, an assurance he also made to one of our NBC News producers this afternoon, elaborating on what he did say, what he did not say, and what role his then-boss, then Secretary of State Powell, had in the negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ARMITAGE, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: I wouldn't threaten the use of military force unless I could come through it myself, and, of course, I didn't and couldn't. And those words were not uttered by me.
Secretary Powell and I discussed this meeting prior to General Mahmoud seeing me, and I told General Mahmoud that this was a time that Pakistan would either be with us or against us, that, you know, this for Americans was seen as black or white, therefore he would be with us or against us, that history began today.
He started to explain to me the history of Pakistan-U.S. relationships and Pakistan-Afghanistan relationships, and I stopped him, and said, History begins today.
But I would never issue a threat that I couldn't deliver on. And I - there's no way I could deliver on such a threat. So I'm absolutely confident I never uttered it. And others who were in the room with me will say the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time now to call in retired U.S. Army colonel Larry Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell.
Good evening, Colonel. Thank you for your time tonight.
COL. LARRY WILKERSON (RET.), FORMER POWELL CHIEF OF STAFF: Keith, good to be here.
OLBERMANN: We originally invited you to join us tonight before President Musharraf's comments were made public, to discuss the deal that's been reached between the White House and the Senate on the treatment and the interrogation of the detainees. And we will discuss that in a moment.
But given the role you played at the State Department in the time after 9/11, I need to begin by asking you for your reaction to the claim by President Musharraf.
WILKERSON: Well, first of all, I'm amused that the State Department, usually accused of being colossal wimps, is suddenly accused of being absolutely macho. It's amusing to me because I've suffered through the wimp accusation so many times.
In this case, it's absolutely preposterous. I read the cable reporting on Rich's meeting, Mr. Armitage's meeting with the head of ISI, Interservices Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence service, and the Pakistani ambassador. And Rich was very firm, in that he meant Pakistan was either in with us or without us. And he was very firm that history begins today, as he indicated on the clip you just played, because the general wanted to talk about the past relations and the turbulence in those relations.
And he was very firm. And Secretary Powell was very firm later with, These requirements we're asking of you are not negotiable. You have to do these things. And I'd just like to say that I wish the administration were as firm with President Musharraf now as it was in 2001.
As you may know, Musharraf has allowed his troops, or is allowing his troops, to be withdrawn from the tribal areas, and the tribal areas will quickly revert to an even more welcoming sanctuary for Taliban and al Qaeda, where they can refit, rest, and go back into Afghanistan and cause trouble and casualties with NATO and with U.S. forces.
And we should not be doing this. And I'll also add, Musharraf probably wanted to send a blow our way after our nuclear cooperation agreement with India, which he feels was a slight to Pakistan, because we don't have such a relationship with Pakistan.
So one has to measure all these things in the context of the circumstances in which they happened.
OLBERMANN: Also on this topic, and this will serve to segue us into the debate on torture, the president seemed fairly quick to draw General Powell's name into the discussion when responding to Mr. Musharraf's remarks. Knowing what you know about their relationship, the one between the president and his former secretary of state, is that - did Mr. Bush invoke his name immediately in way of answer to the letter that Secretary Powell wrote to Senator McCain regarding the Geneva Conventions? Is there any kind of retaliatory element to this?
WILKERSON: Well, I certainly hope not. The secretary of state, former secretary of state Powell, in that event, was trying to register his feelings with regard to Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions and the other matters being discussed, and was in his perfect right to do so. And I would hate to think that the president of the United States would use a press conference with another head of state to try and retaliate against his secretary of state or former secretary of state.
OLBERMANN: We're going to talk more about the legal implications of the detainee deal with Jonathan Turley presently. But are you pleased with the compromise that seems to have been reached between the Senate and the White House? Does it meet your smell test?
WILKERSON: Well, normally, I would have been involved in a couple of conference calls today to find out exactly what those details are. Unfortunately, I was tied up in other things today. And so probably won't find out until later tonight or tomorrow.
I'm not quite sure what the details are. But I can say that reading the editorials in "The Washington Post" this morning, the one on the left side, unsigned, of course, and the one on the right by David Ignatius, referring to the CIA and why this all happened and why it didn't really have to happen, it happened because of the administration's ineptitude, does not give me a lot of confidence.
I think probably "The Washington Post" may be right here, that what we're going to do is, we're going to hold our nose and let the president do it, but we're not going to violate Common Article Three or send a signal to the world that we're intending to do so.
In other words, we're going to continue to do the kinds of things that we were doing. I hesitate to say whether or not, if I were in the CIA, and I were involved in this, and I anticipated a new president in two years, if I would be very comfortable with continuing these kinds of things, even with that kind of tacit blessing for them.
OLBERMANN: And the other aspect that we ask anyone who is familiar with this process, whenever we get the opportunity to, the other aspect of this, what is the hell-bent nature of the administration regarding coercive techniques to interrogate terror detainees, when interrogation, at best, does not produce consistently reliable information?
WILKERSON: You could probably better answer that question than I, Keith. I cannot make heads or tails out of this, other than, we have a vice president with unprecedented power, and people around the vice president, who are absolutely adamant about not surrendering one ounce of executive power, of presidential power.
And every time there is a threat to that power, no matter how minuscule, or how much, as in this case, that threat might be damaging our reputation around the world, or what it's against might be damaging our reputation around the world, the White House just suddenly closes ranks and becomes like a stone.
OLBERMANN: Former chief of staff for secretary of state Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. As always, sir, great thanks for your honesty, your frankness, great thanks for your time.
WILKERSON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Earlier today, at the conclusion of the Clinton Global Initiative here in New York, I interviewed the former president. We ran the table of issues, from the charitable, as represented by his gathering, to the anything-but-charitable attitude of the current administration towards criticism.
And, of course, I asked him what he thought of the allegations by the president of Pakistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President Musharraf was here, said something extraordinary, I thought, on Wednesday, that you can't fight extremists with - or extremism with weapons. You fight terrorists with weapons, but the extremism must be fought in a battle of hearts and minds.
And now we have this story quoting him in a book that he was pushed, bullied, threatened, verbally spanked in the days after 9/11, to cooperate or else. The White House has denied that, Mr. Armitage has denied that. Is it possible that we were in a position where we had to verbally coerce people into helping us under those circumstances, do you think?
CLINTON: Well, for one thing, I think we have to take the White House and Mr. Armitage at their word, especially if President Musharraf is more or less saying the same thing. There's no question that he was asked, in the strongest possible terms, to support us after 9/11, or that we needed him.
There's no question that his support for the West in the fight against terror, including what went on in Afghanistan, has cost him dearly with some elements of Pakistan. He actually had to survived two assassination attempts.
You do have the Taliban hanging around in Waziristan, over the Afghan border, and then trying to get back in Afghanistan.
We do have, far as we know, Mr. BIN Laden and Dr. al-Zawahiri hiding in the caves over there. So we - it wouldn't surprise me if there were some strong words, and it wouldn't surprise me if the book hadn't overwritten (ph) them.
But the main thing is, I think President Musharraf has now made a choice to help us, but the question is, can we find a formula by which we can save Afghanistan, not let the Taliban make these inroads, stop this increase in poppy production, increase the hunt for bin Laden, all the things that the war on terror needs, and do it in a way that strengthens Musharraf's hands in Pakistan instead of undermines him.
It's a difficult thing. So, but I - you know, it sounded a little raw, that - the stuff in that book. I just - I don't know. But I think that we should be glad that he has been with us, more or less, in the war on terror. But we should recognize that he has - it's much harder for him than it is for us to be uncompromising against the Taliban, uncompromising against bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.
And we ought to just keep working for the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If Mr. Musharraf helps, does torture actually hurt our fight against terror? What of the demonizing of dissent? What of the Democratic candidate in 2008? The rest of my interview with Bill Clinton later on in this newscast, including the advice he would give President Bush..
Also tonight, the legal details in the detainee compromise, worked out between the White House and Senate Republicans. Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley joins me next to read the fine print.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It was hailed as a compromise, albeit the kind that occurs between a Republican president and Republican senators. But the deal to ban torture, struck by a supposedly straight-talking president and a presidential hopeful who campaigned on the Straight Talk Express, is clearly a deal of tortured language.
Our fourth story on tonight's Countdown, what we know and what we don't know. Although Senator John McCain and other senators publicly resisted Mr. Bush's demand that they redefine the Geneva Conventions, the final agreement says, quote, "The president has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."
In other words, the central question of what CIA interrogators may do to suspects who might be innocent would be determined not by law but by Mr. Bush, in executive orders that he would have to release publicly when he issues them. The deal's definition of torture as inflicting "severe physical or mental pain and suffering" does not appear to close the door on alternative interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University joins us once again on this topic tonight.
Jonathan, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON
UNIVERSITY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You have scoured this thing backwards and forwards for us. Does the deal prohibit torture, or does it not? Where is the boundary for extreme interrogation?
TURLEY: It does not prohibit torture. I mean, it's an example of why politics and principle are poor bedfellows. And here what you have is something that's being called a compromise. But it seems to me to rewrite the Geneva Convention in practice.
Under this agreement, the administration could do a great deal. It's sort of like telling a teenager that I don't want you driving at 90 miles an hour. And he thinks, Gosh, I can live with that, I'd go to 89. And that's exactly what this does.
Under this language, presumably, you could beat a detainee, you could cut a detainee, you could impair a detainee's organs, as long as it's not significant or permanent. It allows a great deal. And I think that the administration could read this and say, This gives us the green light.
OLBERMANN: When the president issues these executive orders, in essence, defining what he, not a lawyer, not a combat veteran, not a former POW, considers acceptable under the Geneva Conventions, is there any mechanism created here for opposing him, what the old-timers among us used to call checks and balances?
TURLEY: Well, the president always has the authority to interpret treaties. But that doesn't mean the world will accept it. What this does, though, is, it seems to give legitimacy to the earlier torture memo that was recently - or not that recently, rejected by the administration. Under that torture memo, Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general, argued that they could do anything short of organ failure or death.
Much of that approach seems captured in this language, that, you know, you might not be able to go early medieval, but you go late medieval. I mean, it's a very poor document when it comes to human rights.
They do reinterpret what they mean. Earlier, we simply criminalized violations of Geneva Convention, like all civilized societies do. Here, we limit it to grave violations, which allow a great deal. It allows the type of flexibility that Alberto Gonzales and the White House seemed to want in that infamous torture memo.
OLBERMANN: So we discussed last week, we discussed earlier this week, the prospect that perhaps the president's anxiety about this had something to do with the possibility that he might be, or members of his administration might be, liable were some of these detainees, now at Guantanamo Bay, formerly in the CIA prisons, to suddenly go to the Red Cross, when they meet with them starting next week, and say, We were waterboarded, we were this-ed, we were that-ed.
(INAUDIBLE) have they covered, have they covered themselves? Do they think they have covered their, their, their international liability, or even their, their domestic liability?
TURLEY: Well, I think this is more about domestic politics, because the world is not going to accept this document, because it's ludicrous. And on Monday, most of us expect that these detainees are going to say that they were waterboarded.
And I don't think the administration's actually going to deny that fact. And the world will have an outcry that we have invented a troubling new term, American torturer, that the president ordered American personnel to engage in acts of torture under international law.
It will be an incredibly shameful moment. And that's why they're pushing this legislation before that occurs.
But this document has even worse things in the fine detail. Under this document, the Geneva Convention cannot be cited in a federal case. They are barring people from relying on the Geneva Convention in federal cases and trials.
So we have this wonderful system, you just can't use it. You can look at it. We can say that we are cloaking ourselves in Geneva Convention. You just can't apply it.
Not only that, it says that you can't apply international sources in foreign cases, that U.S. courts can't cite them.
By the way, the only time you can cite the Geneva Convention is if you're accusing another country of violating it. So as long as you don't accuse us, we'd be happy to have the Geneva Convention cited in our courts.
OLBERMANN: And if we saw another country behaving this way, and establishing the rights for a head of state to seize a foreigner and interrogate them and imprison them forever, no trial, no hearing, no hope, we would call them a rogue state?
TURLEY: That's right. And when people wonder why two yahoos like the president of Venezuela and Iran are given such a warm reception, and our president is not, you have to look at how we appear to the world when we try to take on something as inviolate as the Geneva Convention.
We just don't look like hypocrites, we look like the enemy of the world, of the rule of law.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University. It's a grim topic, but thank you for illuminating it for us.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Ahead, what this all looks like to President Clinton. Our wide-ranging interview on rewriting the Geneva Conventions, on demonizing dissent, on the overwhelming response to the second Clinton Global Initiative.
And a brief pause from a very serious news day. I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking, lady, that the engine has completely iced over.
Small dose of Oddball caps off the week on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: On September 22, 1975, goes the plot line of the movie "Network," the fictional UBS Television decided to fire its news anchorman, and thus were launched a million Howard Beale references, and most of the modern TV news industry as we know it today. "I must make my witness."
Let's play "Oddball."
And we begin in Chicago where the weather is already so cold, this is what your SUV will look like if you leave it out overnight. I'm just joshing about. No need to panic, it's just a clever promotional gimmick from the folks at Nissan who've encased this brand new truck in a 30,000 pound block of ice. Five teams of two each racing to melt the ice and win the truck. The teams were given hot water sprayers, but were allowed to use other methods such as body heat. After three and a half hours, a father-daughter team became the first to break through the crunchy shell to the creamy-trucky-goodness inside. They actually win a different model of this same truck since this one is clearly ruined for ever.
To Pennsylvania where this isn't very disturbing, it's a four-legged chicken. Uh oh. Say hello to "Henrietta," an egg-laying hen at Brendle Farms in Somerset. Farmer Mike Brendle says she's a as healthy as the girls, she just spends twice as much on shoes. "Henrietta" stands on her front two legs most of the time and she can move around just fine, but you should see how fast she can cross the road. Ha, ha, ha. Huh? Sure.
It was front page news around the world when Richard Branson pledges $3 billion at the Clinton Global Initiative and still that turns out to be far less than half of what the former president's gathering secured to help change the world for the better. I'll talk with him about that and about his perspective on the current debates over torture and about debate and what he would say if somehow President Bush asked his advice on fixing the troubled nation. My interview with the 42nd president ahead.
First time for Countdown "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day. No. 3, Boston City Councilor Jerry McDermott who this week has suggested that the city protest Hugo Chavez's remarks at the U.N. by tearing down Boston's famous landmark Citgo sign across from the ballpark, Fenway. Citgo is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state oil company. The company actually left Boston 20 years ago, but the city loved the sign so much it fought to keep it and operate it with city funds, so good luck with that councilor and your re-election.
No. 2, 31-year-old Lisa Green of Syracuse, she's been arrested on multiple charges after police say she, a prostitute, got into a car with a man and she pretended to be an undercover cop. The only problem was, the man in the car was an undercover cop pretending to be a john. Many riotous laughs of confusion followed, and then there was an arrest.
And No. 1, the unnamed former pilot of the Turkish airline Onur Air, he apparently has been having troubles management so he decided to quit this week just after as flight with more than 180 passengers onboard was set to take off. Some of them say the pilot come on the P.A. system and said, "I'm resigning from my job, do not fly with this plane. It is not safe." Then he got up and walked out. Panicked passengers were moved to another plane and charged extra, no doubt.
OLBERMANN: The second Clinton Global Initiative ended this afternoon after three days here in New York only those made out of stone could have gone home unchanged or unmoved. The headline might have been the pledge from British mogul Sir Richard Branson, $3 billion for the fight against global warming. But the final money figure was more astounding still, $7.3 billion, much of it achieved in far smaller denominations.
Our third story on the Countdown, after the session closed, I got to sit down with the 42nd president of the United States and ask him not only about the initiative, but also about his opinion on the policies of the current White House.
Thank you for some of your time today, sir. This was an extraordinary success. This was transcended, these last three days, not news money-wise but the number of people that you reached here and the convictions and the generosity. Here's eight more schools in Kenya from me.
BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Oh, thank you.
CLINTON: Oh, thank you.
OLBERMANN: My point being, you got all of these people here who were predisposed, in some degree, who already got it and were just looking for the opportunity. How do you get everybody else?
CLINTON: Well, I think you get everybody else partly through the good offices of people like you. That is the more publicity we get for what was done here and for the idea that you actually can get a very high rate of return for charitable giving directly toward helping people work themselves out of poverty, or overcoming health problems or fighting climate change, all these things, I think the more we'll get people who are interested. That's the thing that struck me as we have more people coming every year saying, I would like to do something, but I don't want to waste my money. I want to know if I do it, it will have an impact.
CLINTON: And we try to show them how to do it. I mean, like this, these villages in Kenya, you know, having schools and water - clean water or being able to go into these farming plots in Afghanistan and take down the poppy and put up the orchards and the wood lots and knowing that these families are going to have a higher income not a lower one than they would, these are the kinds of practical things we try to do.
OLBERMANN: So, that's involvement on a global scale on life and death issues on the essential quality of life issues. Here in this country at the moment, there seems to be a lot of us who think that there are - we are having trouble getting people involved in defending essential ingredients of our country and our heritage.
We've heard a lot about anyone who disagrees with the current administration's policy in Iraq or in the "War on Terror" or even disputes their facts or questions them, would be suffering from moral or intellectual confusion.
We heard the president talk about how in the world you could disagree with him and it's unacceptable to think that we could be ever doing anything in any interrogation process that might be similar to what the terrorists do.
When those of us worry about the future of the country and the past of the country, worry about our heritage, what we stand for, are we overreacting? Are we nuts? Are we exaggerating? Or do you feel the same threat?
CLINTON: No. No, let me say, first of all, you know, on a lot of these issues, I'm more close to where you are. I think what's - the great disservice though that's been done here in the last few years is not that, let's say the administration disagrees with you or me on whether there should be an Abu Ghraib or a Guantanamo or whether - or what the economic or social policies of America should be. The great disservice is the creation of the idea that if you disagree with the people that are in, you're somehow, you don't love your country and can't be trusted to defend it.
What we have to do is get back to a - to thinking in America and promoting an honest debate and honest differences, so that like if you asked - and I would urge you to do this. If you interview somebody in the administration, no matter how much you disagree with them, don't be snide, give them a straight up chance to say how they disagree with you.
I think that one of the things that I've tried to do with this Global Initiative is not only to find common ground for dispirit people, but also to have people calm down enough to actually air their differences of opinion.
Like you take this interrogation deal, we might all say the same thing, if, let's say, Osama bin Laden's No. 3 guy were captured and we knew a big bomb was going off in America in three days. Turns out, right now, there's an exception for those kinds of circumstances in an immediate emergency that's proven in the military ranks. But that's not the same thing as saying, we want to abolish the Geneva Conventions and practice torture as a matter of course. All it does is make soldiers vulnerable to torture and make us more likely to get bad not good information.
And every time we get some minor victory out of it, we'll make 100 more enemies. So, I think these things - I really think we need to think through all of this and debate more. So no, I think it's wrong for you to be portrayed as not patriotic. I think that's wrong. But I think that those of us who are on the kind of the progressive side of the ledger, we ought to find a way to say what our differences are in a way that even our adversaries can hear.
I've gotten a lot of big crowds this year of people on are unusually quiet because they just want to think. They're tired of this labeling and name calling and we're not patriotic and all that. They know that's all a bunch of bull and they just want to think it through. That's why I think CGI was so phenomenally successful this year, people say OK here's something I can do that is profoundly good and positive. No one's going to question my motives and I'll either succeed or fail based on the results.
OLBERMANN: And you transcended party lines, political orientations, left and right.
CLINTON: We did that too, yes. Mrs. Bush came, Rupert Murdoch came, I've invited lots of other people - a lot of the business leaders of big Republicans. And my view is not that - I still think the legislation, I agree with Al Gore, the legislation on climate change is important. The legislation, you know, what our tax policies important, how big is the deficit is important - all these things are important. But it is unrealistic to think that there are no areas on which we have common ground. And when we do things together, it changes the whole way we relate to one another and the level of respect we have for one another.
OLBERMANN: The Voltaire quote about essentially translated as I will disagree with your or - writing, politics with thought, but I will defend to the death your right to say them.
OLBERMANN: An essence of education in this country, true? I mean is
this not what we're supposed to be about? And when we talk about rewriting
the Geneva Conventions or talk about demonizing dissent or even putting a -
just bad face on dissent in this country, are we not getting closer to what the terrorists want us to change anyway?
CLINTON: Well, I think - let me put it in positive terms. I think that the terrorists have an ideology, right, with an ideology that you know the answer anyway. All right? You have a dictated result. Therefore, evidence, argument, old fashioned standards of fact, all irrelevant. You know where you want to go. And if somebody disagrees with you, they are less human than you are and deserve to be a terrorist target.
Now, the way we play the game at our best moments, is that we don't have an ideology with a predetermined outcome. We have philosophies, dominantly we have a conservative philosophy and progressive philosophy and it sort of tells kind of where we're likely to be, but we're interested in evidence and argument and learning.
And the great test of America has always been, does it work? Are people better off if we do it or not? And we just keep growing and learning in that climate, always with one dominant conservative stream, one dominant progressive and the debate and the tension and the learning's been great for us. So what we don't want to do is, no matter how scared we get, and it's OK to be frightened by the prospect of horrible things happening, we don't want to respond to this terror threat in a way that fundamentally alters the character of our country or compromises the future of our children because that's what makes it great being an American and the evidence is that a Democratic society that is constantly relentlessly learning and searching is the best anecdote to the terrorist model.
These guys are real good at tearing down, they're not particularly good at building up. And there's no reason we should help them by making the case for them by something we do.
OLBERMANN: The start of my conversation, this afternoon, here in New York, with former President Clinton. Ahead, if his successor asked for advice to help the country right now, to help himself, right now, how would Mr. Clinton answer?
And from the current president to the next one, the question is unavoidable; we will at least get a laugh from Mr. Clinton in asking it? All that ahead on this special edition of Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Ahead on Countdown from New York, more of my interview with former President Bill Clinton. Two things, if asked, that Mr. Clinton would advise President Bush to do to turn things around. I'll ask about a new president for 2008. That's next, this is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Presidents often offer their successors advice, usually indirectly. Successors, especially successors of different political parties, usually ignore it. "But where the military industrial complex," said President Eisenhower in his farewell address before the Kennedy inaugural, "America cannot and must not disentangle itself from the world."
Bill Clinton argued in the week George W. Bush prepared to move into the White House, "If we want the world to embody our shared values then we must assume a shared responsibility."
Our No. 2 story in the Countdown, more from Mr. Clinton for Mr. Bush to ponder or not.
Let me throw the craziest, unrealistic political hypothetical to you, in our current environment. The phone rings tomorrow and it's the current president and he says things aren't going as well as they might, either for me or the country. I need a piece of advice and I'm asking you sincerely for it for one thing that I can do tomorrow that will improve things. You're the genie now in the political realm again, as you were in this building, these last three days. What would you say to him if that request came through?
CLINTON: I would give him actually two pieces of advice. I would say first of all, I think if you can find some way consistent with our commitment to Israel's security to resume the Palestinian/Israeli peace process and move fairly quickly to a Palestinian state, I think that would do more to change the image of the United States, and more than anything else I think there are so many Arab Muslim countries that are frightened by this instability and all this violence.
I think you would find that Israel would actually get more credit and a more positive response from other Arab nations by doing this than ever before. And I think we would have a chance then to stabilize a lot of other problems in the Middle East. That's the first thing.
Second thing I'd say is no American president can possibly please people all over the world all the time. If you have an unusual political, military and economic position, you're always going to do things that some people won't like. But there are two things that are important. You should look like we prefer cooperation over unilateralism and act alone only when we feel we have to.
And you should let people know that we have no anger or anonymity and we wish them the best. I'll give you an example. I think the president did quite a good thing by going to the U.N. and trying to have a personal outreach to the people of Iran and while he plainly disagreed with President Ahmadinejad, he resisted the temptation to overly demonize him.
That's the kind of thing I think we need to do more of. People don't really want to be mad at America. They get mad when they disagree with our policies, but they also get mad when then think we're too unilateral. When they think it's not just Iraq, it's the Test Ban Treaty and the criminal (ph) accord and the Kyoto Climate Change Accord and all that. So, I think, I see in the last couple of months that this administration is trying to rely more on diplomacy, more on multilateralism and I would advise that.
But if I give two pieces of advice, it'd be make more friend, tell people you care about them, make them think you're pulling for them and if we can do it consistent with Israel security let's get back to work on this Palestinian/Israeli peace process, because that's half the juice that's feeding terror all over the world.
OLBERMANN: President Clinton's advice to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And then there matter of the many who will call George Bush "predecessor" - or the woman. We continue with Bill Clinton when Countdown continues after this.
OLBERMANN: Finally, our No. 1 story in the Countdown tonight. We have already heard President Clinton's advice for the current resident of the Oval Office. Now the inevitable question about the next resident.
Two years and six weeks or so from now, we have a presidential election, 2008. You got anybody in that race, anybody you like? Anybody at all?
CLINTON: Not yet. I don't - you know, Hillary's running for re-election and everybody is saying oh, well she's way ahead in the polls, but in our family we've always followed the rule that you don't look past the next election or you might not get past it. And I would not - I think if she had decided to do or not to do I would know and I don't. And I really don't - I'm having a good time, I went to the New York State Fair with here last weekend, I was sort of the - they dragged me out as the token redneck (INAUDIBLE).
But, I don't know if she'll run. I do believe that she would be great in any position of public service, but I have no idea what she's going to do. I just want her to get reelected and have her services, as a senator from New York ratified. She's been unusually effective all over the state and all kinds of ways and creative economic ways that are totally almost unheard for a senator, you know, creating these new economic lines and some things she's done; and speaking out in great detail about climate change, about health care, about all these new challenges the country faces - working on the Armed Services Committee. I'm proud of her, but what she's going to do, I don't know. And I think I would know. I think I would.
OLBERMANN: You probably would have heard by now. President Clinton what a pleasure.
CLINTON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you so much, sir.
CLINTON: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: My pleasure.
CLINTON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And you can watch the entire interview with President Bill Clinton on our website, countdown .msnbc.com. And this programming note, President Clinton will also be a guest of Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" this Sunday. Check your local listings for the exact time, 1:00 p.m. Eastern - 1:00 p.m. in many areas of the country.
And our compliments to President Clinton for having today staved off a reprehensible sandbagging by Chris Wallace at what is jokingly referred to as FOX "news."
That's Countdown for this, the 1,238th day of since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.
Also this reminder join us again at Midnight Eastern, tonight, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific, for the late edition of Countdown.
Until then, a special presentation of MSNBC INVESTIGATES, "The Ultimate Betrayal" is up next.
And it's not about FOX News.
I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END