'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 3
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Five Years in Five Minutes
Guests: Jonathan Turley, Richard Wolffe
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Obama 49, Clinton 46: The poll numbers. Obama 40, Clinton 20: The money numbers. How many they raised in millions in March?
Making a speech on the economy, McCain has no plan and Obama is timid, ironic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am continuing to sound the alarm. I feel like, you know, Paulette Revere - the recession is coming, the recession is coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the realists may be on their heels.
Clinton superdelegate Jack Murtha: "She has to win Pennsylvania. She has to be ahead in the popular vote to have any chance at all of getting this nomination."
Clinton superdelegate John Corzine: "I reserve the right to switch to Obama if she doesn't have the popular vote."
"He can't win. He can't win." Did Senator Clinton say that to Governor Richardson? Or did Governor Richardson say that to Senator Clinton, changing his mind after the race speech?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I don't talk about private conversations but I have consistently made the case that I can win, because I believe I can win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: John McCain believes he can win on a war platform. His bio tour is a trip down memory lane of violence. So, why won't he endorse the new G.I. Bill?
Torture: The paper trail goes straight to the top. The new John Yoo memo found. Laws against assault, maiming, torture, meant nothing if the president said they meant nothing.
Political suicide: Congressman Darrell Issa of California's says, 9/11 was just an aircraft. No dirty bomb, no chemical munitions, so the federal government should not pay for any treatment of anybody injured or killed at the World Trade Center. Issa doesn't want to have to spend federal money, quote, "every single time a similar situation happens."
And: Countdown anniversary week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Keith Olbermann, thanks very much for being on the show.
OLBERMANN: Thank you for being having me.
Right in the middle of the interview outside of Earlman (ph), Wisconsin, oh, you better take care of her. It never stops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All that and more: Now on Countdown.
That's a nice color on you.
(on camera): Good evening, this is Thursday, April 3rd, 215 days until the 2008 presidential election.
When they came forward publicly and said we support her. We will cast our votes for her as Democratic Party superdelegates, Senator Hillary Clinton vocally let their views be known, explain why their views should hold sway.
But in our fifth story tonight: New comments from these two superdelegates most likely not welcome by the Clinton campaign, not to be found in the headlines of their media releases. The gist: We are behind you all the way. This offer may be withdrawn at any time.
New Jersey Governor John Corzine saying he thinks Senator Clinton will win the popular vote in the primaries counting Florida and Michigan. But then, if she does not, he reserves the right to switch his vote from Clinton to Obama.
Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha is going a step further. Her most recent name endorsement saying that, in that event, the event that she is trailing Obama in total primary and caucus votes, Clinton cannot be the nominee.
Another superdelegate today, former President Jimmy Carter indicating, hinting who will his vote, saying, quote, "My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama. As a superdelegate I will not disclose who I am rooting for but I leave you to make that guess." Um, Gary Hart.
Superdelegates aside, the latest Gallup Poll is showing, Clinton is still struggling to close the gap among all those other Democrats. Democratic voters are favoring Obama still by 49 to 46, 46 percent the stubborn ceiling for Clinton in the last two weeks in that tracking poll. Nor is the senator heading into the Pennsylvania primary on April 22nd with any kind of financial edge to help her break that ceiling.
The Clinton campaign sources telling NBC News, she raised $20 million last month but we do not know how much of that is off-limits until the general election. We do know that Obama raised twice as much last month, $40 million, adding almost to 250,000 new donors to his fundraising list and helping (ph) pay for a new ad in Pennsylvania addressing working class economic issues at the fore (ph) in that state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll fix our trade laws, end tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas, and give them those who create jobs here in America. That's why I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton today is saying, McCain has no plan for the economy and notwithstanding Obama's recent call for radical regulatory reform, she called Obama timid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Senator Obama has been very timid and unenthusiastic about doing anything with the economy. And I have consistently, you know, said what I thought needed to be done since, you know, since last March.
And I am continuing to sound the alarm. I feel like, you know, Paulette Revere - the recession is coming, the recession is coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We turn now MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also, of course, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine. Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. Read between the lines for me on Corzine and Murtha to start off with. I mean, Corzine in that interview which was CNBC sounded positively tortured just trying to say: is there a fire escape on this floor?
WOLFFE: Yes. You know, I never knew that hedging your bets carried an audible sound. Here you have surrogates who are doing a better job of undermining the Clinton case than anything coming out of the "war room" from the Obama campaign. And, yes, I guess, look, there is a personal side to it.
They want to be on the right side of however this turns out but they have unilaterally taken away at least two major arguments for the Clinton campaign. One, about the big states. If you don't win the big states, then, where are you? And two, the idea that this guy called Obama is a flake and he's going to be a blowout loser in the general election. Those two arguments they just unilaterally took off the table again, setting expectations far too high for the Clinton campaign.
OLBERMANN: Do these people, Corzine and Murtha and people like Chuck Schumer who on Sunday, hey, said this will be over by June which can also be read as: This is better be over by June, senator. Are they the ones who'd be eventually the names that we hear leading Senator Clinton away from the campaign if it comes to that?
WOLFFE: I think they are really important voices. Yes, because loyalty is important. These people are out there more often than not doing a better job than this instead (ph) of being surrogates. And the loyalty factor is important for the Clintons.
So, these party elders, if anyone can have a voice along with the New York delegation, as they'd discussed before, I think, they are the ones to deliver the tough message. But we're obviously not there yet. It's premature but the "yet" part is what is so evident in those hedging, hemming, horring (ph) remarks we just heard.
OLBERMANN: All right. What are fundraising numbers mean? Because if you raise $20 million while you're running for president in a month at anytime to our history, that would ordinarily be an extraordinary triumph for any candidate of any party. $40 million would be a marvel.
But of course, Obama raised $55 million in February. So, I mean, are these numbers bad for both candidates just because of that context?
WOLFFE: Well, February was a really intense month for this campaign and both candidates are down by $15 million. But they are down from record numbers. $55 million is just an astonishing number.
What's really important is looking how much money they have in their pockets. Because when you look at the end of February, you saw Hillary Clinton with really $3 million or so left after you take out debts and everything else. Barack Obama was left with a $20 million, $30 million average in February. He's extended that now and that money advantage is crucial moving forward because he's outspending her on the air right now in Pennsylvania.
OLBERMANN: All right. How are any or all of these factors today that we're talking about changing that expectation game for April 22nd in Pennsylvania? In other words, what threshold does she have to hit to prevent a deluge of Obama superdelegates or even her own people to pressure her to call it quits after Pennsylvania?
WOLFFE: Well, I think it's better than the running average right now, in RealClearPolitics, it's about five points. She really needs to make a very big statement out of Pennsylvania, Partly because they said, it's such a big state. We have to win these big states. And so we can win them.
But she also she needs to say in order to get the superdelegates to overturn the pledged delegates, this is a compelling reason why Obama cannot win. So, five points, 10 points is probably is not going to be enough. It has to be a good double-digit victory for her right now in Pennsylvania.
OLBERMANN: The latest reliable polling, 9 percent. We'll see what happens. Our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek." As always, great thanks for your time and for your tiara.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: One key issue for superdelegates, if only in the minds of Senator Clinton's team, the question: is Obama electable? Today conflicting reports of the behind the scenes conflict over that question. A debate between former candidate and now Obama-backer, Bill Richardson and both of the Clintons: Bill and Hillary.
ABC's George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton aide, reporting last night that she told Richardson before his endorsement of Obama, quote, "He cannot win, Bill. He cannot win." Reporting that Richardson disagreed, but today, unnamed sources in the Clinton camp claim that Richardson told the Clintons before Super Tuesday that he would not endorse Obama precisely because he thought Obama could not win - cannot win.
Today, Clinton was asked about her part in this, whether she told Richardson Obama could not win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I don't talk about private conferences but I have consistently made the case that I can win, because I believe I can win. And, you know, sometimes people draw the conclusion I'm saying somebody else can't win.
I can win. I know I can win. That's why I do this every day. And that's what my campaign is about. I'm in it to win it. And I intend to do just that. It's a no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Why does anyone care? Well, if Richardson did doubt Obama's electability, it could help fuel doubts among other superdelegates about Obama's electability.
And if Clinton thought Obama unelectable, it helps fuel superdelegates doubts her loyalty to the party unless, of course, the timeline of Richardson's conversion supposedly, from he's unelectable to he's convinced me he is electable, is exactly the point Obama's campaign is making about reaction of Americans to increase exposure to their candidate.
At this point, let's bring in MSNBC political analyst, Dana Milbank, also, of course, national political reporter from the "Washington Post." Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is that how the Obama campaign would want to spin this that is it perhaps, a bad idea for the Clintonite to argue, see, Big Obama-backer, Richardson, he used to be with us, he didn't think Obama could win but, oh, yes, now he does?
MILBANK: Right, well, they could spin it that way. I mean, we have the virtue of being true. It does seem that Richardson has made sort of a self-interested calculation here. The fact of the matter is, they don't need to spin it at all because what's happened here is the Clintons have managed to take a relatively minor endorsement. You know, I'd say much more of Mike Gravel than Oprah.
And they've blown it up into this big reverberating issue over and over again and it's related to Bill Clinton sort of flushed face finger-wagging temper and it's managed to cause another distraction for the Clinton campaign at this point. And you know, certainly, Bill Clinton knows there's no such thing as loyalty in politics. If you want a friend here, you get a dog.
OLBERMANN: Right. But to try to figure out which of these versions, and if they're obviously, exactly opposite versions happened here, is that Richardson said it to her option backed up by what Richardson told us that night that he was indeed close to endorsing Senator Clinton right after the Super Bowl and President Clinton came and visited with him in New Mexico.
And then, something made him hesitate and he stayed on the sidelines until the Obama speech on race and he said he still couldn't put his finger on it at that time but to him this was now the guy. That would seem to support he had gone from "no, I don't think he's electable" to "I'm endorsing him"?
MILBANK: Right. And it's certainly consistent with what Richardson said. And it's also consistent with the overall mission of Richardson. I think it's been fairly noted a long time ago that he was basically not running for president, he's running for vice president, maybe for secretary of state.
So, he wanted to go with the winning horse here. And it is possible back then he was making a calculation that Obama couldn't win. Once he has decided that it's more likely that Obama is going to win, he wants to get on that train so that he is in line for the vice presidency or secretary of state. That's his self-interest but guess what? That's how superdelegates make decisions, too. They want to go with the perceived winner.
OLBERMANN: And then, what is the reason for sources in the Clinton campaign speaking about this to anybody, to us or George Stephanopoulos or whoever? Is there subtext? Are they thinking they got the message across that, you know, if you break for Obama, superdelegates we come after you?
MILBANK: I guess that's about the best you can come up with. If I were them I'd be leaking more images of Obama bowling. But there's no tremendously great advantage of having it out here. Yes, there will be payback if a superdelegate goes against them. But there's only going to be the opportunity for payback if they actually wind up winning.
OLBERMANN: A quick point on issue we haven't mentioned. This expectation that the Clinton tax filings are going to be released in 24 hours - within the next 24 hours and there was a "USA Today" editorial suggesting that Bill Clinton should also reveal the funding sources behind his library and foundation, that's been a point that's been echoed lots of her critics to this point.
Are the Clintons post-presidential finances on their way towards becoming an issue in this campaign or is this just really inside the Democratic cat fight?
MILBANK: Well, the good news for her is it will probably take the Richardson story out of the headlines for a moment. But, you know there are going to be all kinds of things to pick through in the tax returns. So, that's going to be another few days distraction here.
I would expect a whole bunch of pushback on giving out the donors to the library and the foundation. They're not really required to do that. And there's going to be a whole lot of inevitably, whoever's library and foundation it is, there's going to be a whole lot of seedy and shady money in there. So, I'd expect a big fight on that one.
OLBERMANN: In fact, there's a whole of seedy and shady money in all presidential library. Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC. Thank you, Dana.
MILBANK: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If he is running as a warrior in favor of the war in Iraq, in favor of the war in Iran, romanticizing the words of his and his family's past, why is John McCain not joining the bipartisan support for the new G.I. Bill?
And the John Yoo memo is already infamous in the annals of American torture. Now, it turns out there is a second John Yoo memo, it is much worse and for President Bush, it could be the smoking gun.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Half the U.S. senators, Democrats and Republicans alike have already endorsed the new G.I. Bill but the White House opposes it. So, naturally, John McCain is avoiding it.
And: the California congressman who just dismissed 9/11 as a plane hitting a building, requiring no more federal funding. Him against the CNN commentator who just called his CNN leagues, quote, "terrorists." The Worst Persons derby is rich and fulfilling.
Ahead tonight on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 on the slogan: "He kept us out of war." Knowing all the time that probably before his second inaugural, we would be in one.
Dwight Eisenhower ran on a premise that only a warrior could know the true value of peace and devote his farewell speech to warnings about the military industrial complex, yet, spent his presidency escalating the cold war to immeasurable heights.
Our fourth story on the Countdown: Beware of the man who tells you, he hates war while he takes you on a guided tour of all the war-related places in his personal history, especially if at the very same time, the one place he will not go, is the place where 50 of his Senate colleagues of both parties are supporting the new G.I. Bill.
That bill is described as a no-brainer by one of its co-authors, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, save your puns (ph) about why Senator John McCain would not have yet endorsed it then.
The presumptive Republican nominee saying, quote, "I have not yet had the chance to examine it carefully. It seems to me that it is a good thing to do. But I haven't examined it with the care it needs. But we obviously need to do something along those lines."
But the bill's co-authors: Senator Webb and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel have been actively pushing the bill for months. McCain's lack of leadership confounding, unless, as noted by Sam Stein of "Huffington Post": It is compared to the resistance of the Bush administration. White House officials said the bill gives soldiers too strong an incentive to leave the Armed Forces and thus would produce low retention rates.
But in a statement, Senator Webb says, quote, "This is about providing a fair deserved benefit to our troops. Based on his own military history and how strongly he, McCain speaks about the positive contributions of the people who served. I hope that he will get onboard."
Joining me now, Air America Radio host and MSNBC political analyst:
Rachel Maddow. Good evening.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: McCain basically selling himself as the would-be war president, and he hasn't looked at the G.I. Bill, yet.
MADDOW: Beggar's belief. The John McCain biography tour is essentially a tour of how the military has given him his world view. It's his experience as a veteran, the importance of the military to his maturation and to his world view, to his overall (ph) values. This is the way he is choosing to redefine himself for voters ahead of the campaign.
If you think about it, this biography tour ends when he comes home from being a prisoner of war. There isn't more of the biography tour about his time as a politician. He's choosing this as his brunt on which he is going to take his candidacy to the voters.
But if you are asking the American people to extrapolate from our respect for men and women in uniform and our respect for military service to his political future. It's beggar's belief that you would be somehow unaware of the biggest change in our nation's pledge to our veterans in 50 years.
OLBERMANN: And, what on earth would you be doing standing anywhere near, a basic argument from the Bush administration, we can't make things too good for our soldiers when they get home.
MADDOW: Right, exactly. I've interviewed a lot of Iraq veterans about the G.I. Bill, talking about what are the prospects for its passage? How are we going to get this passed? Who's going to sign on to it?
Where's the resistance coming from?
And that's the question I asked everybody who I talked to who's worked on this bill. What's the argument against it? What's the resistance? I'd love to hear it because I'd like to help come up with the arguments against it, against that resistance.
I think this is so important in terms of our moral commitment to the people who had been fighting these wars. And the only argument against it is this argument from the White House that we can't possibly make things too good for the veterans, because it's better for the country somehow and better for them if we leave them miserable and resourceless so that they have no choice but continued military service.
OLBERMANN: But the extrapolation of that and everything else and the Stop-Loss programs and everything else that they've done and McCain is going to have this fall on him at some point on this campaign, is to say, basically we want to keep sending these soldiers back into conflict until they get killed, so we don't have to care for them.
How on earth can you be a veteran and not, you know, raise the middle finger to that, even if it is the president from your own party?
MADDOW: Let alone put forth those policies and put forth that record and then say, USA, USA! As it's a patriotic take on it.
You know, Keith, we have something that's about to happen next week in terms of the outrage of using veterans and military service and using the armed forces as a political prop. As you know, Michael Monsoor is going to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Navy SEAL, he's going to be awarded that because - he's going to be awarded posthumously because he threw himself on a grenade.
OLBERMANN: Yes, one of like 15 acts in his brief life that deserved that award. Yes.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. And his family is scheduled to be given his Medal of Honor. And the White House has scheduled that ceremony for Tuesday. They scheduled that ceremony as the kickoff event for General Petraeus' congressional testimony on why troops have to stay in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: And that ties back into this idea that this McCain tour and the entire - the Bush administration handling of veterans and the war is the romantic "don't think too deeply about this, you know, the dead are happier dead," if you want to go to that point, this irrational romanticizing of war. War is a brand name.
MADDOW: Yes. War is a brand name. I mean, John McCain has said, I'm sorry to tell you this, there's going to be more wars, there's going to be more wars. He's put the idea of the next war about bombing Iran to the tune of - to Beach Boys' tune.
He's described his own political biography as encapsulated completely by his pre-political life as not only somebody who served honorably in wartime but he was supposed the son of a four-star admiral, the grandson of a four-star admiral. His entire story about America and his role in it is about war and it's not about the mechanics of taking care of people or fighting it.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. So, Mr. McCain, this administration and the one you're proposing would have left you in the Hanoi Hilton. That's what it boils down to.
All right, are you ready for tomorrow night?
MADDOW: Yes, I am.
OLBERMANN: I can't say what it is. But if you remember, tune in tomorrow night, something with Rachel. Rachel Maddow of Air America and MSNBC, see you later, thanks.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If you remember the good old days when people still tried to make a lip sync look legit. I mean, this guy, he's singing, he's not even moving his lips.
And: What does Glenn Beck of CNN do now? He just called reporter Randi Kaye, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, host Anderson Cooper and everybody else at CNN, quote, "terrorists."
Worse Persons ahead.
But first: The headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandal - Bushed.
Number three: Gonzo-gate. It keeps on ruining lives and neutering the Justice Department. Its inspector general is now investigating why last year, Justice did not renew the contract of its own liaison to the U.S. attorneys committee on Native American issues. Leslie Hagen had gotten the highest possible scores on her official job evaluation, the guy would hired her and described as the best qualified person in the nation and Ms. Hagen got fired.
Why? The inspector general is investigating evidence that Monica Goodling, Alberto Gonzales' senior counsel, that woman with that law degree she got in by sending 100 box stuff to religious lunatic university. Goodling heard a rumor that Ms. Hagen was a lesbian. And of course, she limited her duties and then, fired her.
Goodling never heard that department's name quite right. Justice.
Not injustice, lady. Justice.
Number two: Support the troops-gate. Five years after we sent our friends and relatives to fight in Iraq and it appears, some of them might still as well be wearing a catcher's chest protector and colander as body armor. The Army's inspector general can't be sure that at least half the body armor that the Army provided between 2004 and 2006 met the safety standards because it never conducted the required tests on it.
And number one: Iran-gate. The administration happily wrings its hands when some announcement out of al Qaeda confirms its worse fears, and by that I mean, what it wants you to fear the worse. When the terrorists say something that contradicts the Bush-McCain world view, it is silence and crickets.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, still the number jackass in al Qaeda, with a statement on the prospect of a conflict between the U.S. and Iran, quote, "The situation will be in the interest of the mujahedeen if the war saps both of them. If however, one of them emerges victorious, its influence will intensify and fierce battles will begin between it and the mujahedeen."
Translation: Al Qaeda hates Iran. Zawahiri has also said that Iran has stabbed the Muslim nation in the back. Al Qaeda thinks we would be doing them a favor if we attacked Iran. And if Iran somehow did well in that fight with us, then, al Qaeda would target Iran.
In other words the drum beat against Iran which General Petraeus will again start next week, the one McCain started again last month is 100 percent crap.
If you'd like this country to go into business with al Qaeda, George Bush and John McCain, they're your guys.
OLBERMANN: Kind of a big moment in history on this date in the year 33. You would think there would be a lot more coverage of it. Assuming the man existed, and he met his end the way we are told he did, and that a mid-day lunar eclipse followed his execution, astronomers have calculated that on this date, 1975 years ago, Jesus Christ was crucified at Jerusalem.
Let's play Oddball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin at Balapada Chuba (ph), India, where Mala Medi (ph) has spent 15 years honing his own unique talent. He claims he can sing without ever opening his mouth like this here.
OLBERMANN: Wow. Britney Spears has just lost it. Apparently, no one has informed Mr Medi that he has trained 15 years to do what he hopes will get him in the Guinness Book of Record, what is actually known as humming.
Brigham City, Utah, where this terrifying creature surfaced in a parking lot next to a pond. Local officials reacting with the kind of aplomb you would expect under such circumstances.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we first saw that fish, we thought what in the crap is this thing?
OLBERMANN: Your tax dollars in action. They still haven't figured it out. One aquatic expert thinks it is just a desiccated lake trout. Considering the carcass had already been chewed up by a dog and ran over by a car before it was discovered, and therefore is unrecognizable, we might never find out what the crap is this thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The paper trail has never been more clear, however, about this: we tortured detainees on the authority of President George W. Bush.
And from blowing up infamous baseballs to infecting other more famous shows with our Countdown-iness, five years in five minutes ahead. But first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best scene from the "World According to Garth" brought to life, Army Rice of Minneapolis. Her dog, a lab retriever named Ella, was suddenly under attack by a pit bull, which had leaped Rice's back yard fence. So Miss Rice jumped into the fray, and while trying to save her own dog, she somehow bit the pit bull in the nose. The attacking dog fled.
We do not know if Miss Rice quoted Glen Close from the movie, but she could have said, "Garp bit Bonky."
Number two, best bad use of good luck, Jill Foreman of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her car was stolen. The cops found it and called the owner, Miss Foreman, and left a message for her. She apparently was confused at just who had phoned and left the message, because when she called the officers back, they say, she thought they were crack dealers and she asked to buy 150 dollars worth off of them. She is under arrest now, but the car is safe.
Number one, best dumb criminal, Mr. Cash Burch of Waterloo, Iowa, arrested there for having tried to steal a Ford Explorer. The evidence is pretty overwhelming. Mr. Burch allegedly broke into the car, but did such a bad job starting it that he wore down the battery. When the battery wears down in these Explorers, the anti-theft defense system kicks. And when the anti-theft defense system kicks in the doors lock.
That is how they found Mr. Cash Burch, who had managed only to lock himself into a car he was trying to steal.
OLBERMANN: The president's war-time authority trumps U.S. laws against torture. Torture is only torture if it results in death or near death. Our third story on the Countdown, a new paper trail documenting the Bush administration's impetus to torture, and just who provided it and just which Keifer Sutherland character helped inspire it. I'm not kidding.
Under a judge's order, the Pentagon has released a hitherto classified torture memo, penned in March 2003, written by the same Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, who had drafted a less explicit torture memo in 2002, which until today we thought was pretty damn bad. In the 2003 opinion, he appears to argue that when it comes to interrogating and detaining and even torturing so called enemy combatants, executive authority is absolute.
Quote, "we do not believe that Congress enacted general criminal provisions, such as the prohibitions against assault, maiming, interstate stalking and torture, pursuant to any express authority that would allow it to infringe on the president's constitutional control over the operation of the armed forces in war time."
As to what that torture, in accordance with its definition in various U.S. laws as severe pain, the memo concludes that, quote, " to constitute torture severe pain must rise to a similarly high level, the level that would ordinarily be associated with a physical condition or injury sufficiently serious that it would result in death, organ failure or serious impairment of body functions."
As far as what might not cause death, organ failure or serious impairment, "Vanity Fair Magazine" reporting that in September 2002, when officials at Guantanamo Bay were debating which interrogation techniques to use, one man, quote, gave people lots of ideas, Jack Bauer of the fictional series "24." It was in its second season on Fox Television.
We are joined now by Jonathan Turley, the constitutional law professor and scholar at George Washington University. John, thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's start with this Yoo memo, the torture memo. It was written for the Pentagon the month the U.S. invaded Iraq. A year after the kind of torture that the memo authorizes comes to light in Iraq. Does that chain of sequence blow the administration's it was a few bad apples at Abu Ghraib argument out of the water?
TURLEY: It does. I know John Yoo. It is very personally disappointing to see his name on these memos. Of course, it is nothing new. It destroys the idea that these were just hicks with sticks. They blamed a West Virginia military unit and basically portrayed them as a bunch of thugs. What they were doing is strangely similar to what is laid out carefully in these memos.
So the administration was able to force all of the attention on the low-lying fruit and to protect themselves. That took a lot of effort. It took a lot of lawyers. And I think that in the end of this terrible legacy, I think many lawyers will be ashamed of the role that we played, even those of us who opposed it. The fact that lawyers facilitated these acts is a very, very dark chapter for the American Bar.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it reads parallel to the entire lay out of the plot of the movie "Judgment at Nuremberg," how you twist a legal system to just provide excuses for a government. To that point, this memo has a bunch of rationales in it, as you suggested, not just to protect the president, but the individual interrogators, from future prosecution. It argues that you could hurt a prisoner and you can perhaps deem it as self-defense against al Qaeda.
How far of a legal stretch is that? How on Earth do you back that up?
TURLEY: It is not even a legal stretch. There is nothing to it. It is an effort to spin, to give some type of cover. The president and his aides were very, very careful to go to the lawyers first, so that they could make a claim that they were acting under some assumption of actual authority. But there really is none.
Part of the problem, I think for all of us who have JDs, is that most of us believe we have a sacred duty, at some point, to stand with the law and against those who would break it. While everyone keeps on pointing to when these memos were written, our job is to be dispassionate. It's not to go with the passions of the moment. When you read this memo, it tries so hard to give the president what he wants, and that is the right to do anything that he wants.
OLBERMANN: And it also tries to pick it, as you suggest, and leave it for posterity as something that went up the chain rather than down. Yet, in the "Vanity Fair" thing, there's a story about September 2002; there are three visitors to Gitmo, Cheney's counsel, David Adington, Rumsfeld's counsel, Jim Haines, Alberto Gonzales, who at that point was still Bush's counsel. They discussed the interrogation techniques, then they watched them being employed, and one of the attorneys in Gitmo, Diane Beaver (ph) said, they left this clear to do - here's the quote - "whatever needed to be done." That was a green light from the top."
That's it, a green light from the very top.
TURLEY: Right. It is really amazing, because Congress, including the Democrats, have avoided any type of investigation into torture, because they do not want to deal with the fact that the president ordered war crimes. But evidence keeps on coming out. The only thing we don't have is a group picture with a detainee attached to electrical wires. Every time we see more evidence; we have more and more high ranking people at the scene of this crime.
What you get from this is that this was a premeditated and carefully orchestrated torture program. Not torture, but a torture program.
OLBERMANN: And the only person who will ever actually be blamed for this will be Jack Bauer, correct?
TURLEY: Well, that explains why torture supposedly stopped. They are off season. I guess they are just waiting.
OLBERMANN: Thank goodness there was something good to that TV writer's strike. Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, as always, sir, greatest thanks.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We hope we are not overdoing this fifth anniversary stuff. We would not want to offend Ron Burgundy, and we would certainly not want to offend William Hung.
That boat, of course, has sailed for Congressman Darrell Issa of California, after trivializing 9/11 and what the first responders did, does he resign from the House or do we throw him out? Worst persons ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Were you there when our special guest was the famed San Diego anchorman Ron Burgundy? Were you watching when our special guest fell over backwards in her little plastic chair in Wisconsin? How about the night we all signed Bill-O's petition to get our own show canceled. Five years of Countdown distilled into five minutes. That's next. First, time for our number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Rupert Murdoch, speaking at Georgetown University;
"People laugh at us because we call ourselves fair and balanced." True. "The fact is CNN has always been extremely liberal, never had a Republican or conservative voice. The only difference is we have equal voices on both sides." Sure, you have fascists and conservatives.
Seriously, the Washington Generals of liberals, Alan Colmes and who?
And CNN never had a conservative? Lou Dobbs would scare Atilla the Hun. Pat Buchanan was the original co-host of "Crossfire." Robert Novack was on there from 1980 through 2005. Rupert, I always thought you were smarter than this. You believe your own crap?
The runner up, Glenn Beck of CNN, takes a brace stance on the Wal-Mart suit against Debbie Shank, the one in which even Wal-Mart figured out that legally right is not the same as morally right and dropped its own suit to reclaim medical expense money from its former employee. Calling the media attention to the story blackmail and the reporters who covered it terrorists, and claiming Wal-Mart folded before the terrorists.
Firstly, this man has children. Secondly, I hate to break it to you Glenny, but the network on which the legal analysts and the correspondent high fived over Wal-Mart's admiral reversal, the network which claimed sole credit for getting Wal-Mart to make that reversal was CNN. You're beginning to hear that Glenn may have to start looking for a new place to TV.
Our winner and straight into the Worst Hall of Fame, Congressman Darrell Issa of California, who has four times run on the radical right wing platform of fear on terrorists, imminence of attack, the whole smear. At hearings about getting some federal funding for 9/11 first responders who have become gravely ill, who may become the last fatalities of the attack on the World Trade Center, Issa ended his political career.
Quoting, "I have to ask why the fire fighters who went there and everyone in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government. It's very simple. I can't vote for additional money for New York if I can't see why it would be appropriate to do this every single time a similar situation happens, which, quite frankly, includes any urban terrorists. It doesn't have to be somebody from al Qaeda. It can be someone who decides that they don't like animal testing at one of our pharmaceutical facilities.
"It simply was an aircraft, residue of two aircraft and residue from the materials used to build this building, that had no dirty bomb in it. It had no chemical munitions in it."
Congressman Issa, it was just an aircraft? Resign. Resign quickly while you still have some control of this situation. Congressman Darrell Issa of California, fiend, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: This is the literal truth: after three years away from this company, I was re-hired by NBC in October 2002 to work on the broadcast of the 2004 Olympics. Almost by accident, I was asked to fill in for three days, guest hosting the 5:00 p.m. Eastern time show of the late Jerry Nackman here on MSNBC. Next thing I know, it is five years later, at least 1,200 editions of Countdown later. And on Monday, this was the third highest rated program in cable news. Last night it was second.
Our number one story tonight, five years condensed to five minutes and 18 seconds, because - because - well, actually, it beats the hell out of me why. Just play the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Which of these stories will make the
It began with a simple premise -
(on camera): The first full edition of Countdown, a newscast in which our top five stories of the day are presented in ascending order.
(voice-over): News with numbers, serious mixed with silly.
(on camera): Don't say I didn't warn you. Who does he think he is F-ing kidding.
Oh, a kitty.
That's Countdown. Thanks for being part of it.
(voice-over): And in the early days, as the cliche goes, I might as well have been talking to myself.
(on camera): You never have the same opinion two days in a row.
Like the stuff in your head.
Who cares about sports any way, you cheese eating surrender monkey.
(voice-over): We did, however, have reason to believe the show would succeed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You look pretty good. I think you look OK already.
OLBERMANN: (on camera): Jacqueline Stallone of JacquelineStallone.com, many thanks for the forecast. We appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'll be OK. Don't worry. You can say, that's not for the public to know.
OLBERMANN: Yes, indeed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now what kind of questions are you going to ask me?
OLBERMANN: Time to fulfill our promise and introduce you to the candidate of the night.
(voice-over): Even though some guests were more difficult than others.
(on camera): We have the number one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can put it up anywhere you like.
OLBERMANN: I didn't know where you were going with that remark.
Did you bring me a pony?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than a pony. I'll tell you that.
OLBERMANN: Thank you very much.
(voice-over): We certainly had some choice guest bookings, like the monkey pox family, with the infected rodent and the gravity challenged daughter.
(on camera): Cheyenne pulled up a chair and joined us right in the middle of the interview outside their home in Wisconsin. Oh, you better take care of her. It never stops. Thanks for your time.
(voice-over): The girl was fine. How could the show ever get any better.
WILLIAM HUNG, FORMER "AMERICAN IDOL" CONTESTANT: Young man, there is no need to feel down. I say, young man, take yourself off the ground.
OLBERMANN: And pick ourselves up, we did. Nobody freaked out.
(on camera): You've got to get mad. You've got to say, I'm a human being, damn it.
(voice-over): As we carried on, certain truths began to present themselves. Some of the worst people in the world came out of the woodwork.
(on camera): Bill O'Reilly, today's worst person in the world.
Today's worst person in the world.
Today's worst person in the - you know the rest.
(voice over): Despite our sounding the alarm, the Constitution began to get flushed down the toilet.
(on camera): As you can see, even without Habeas Corpus, at least 1/10 of the Bill of Rights - I guess that's the bill of right now.
(voice-over): And Bush administration double speak took on epic proportions.
ALBERTO GONZALES, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think we agree on what would be improper.
I think we also agree on what would be improper.
It would be improper to remove a U.S. attorney and interfere with or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain.
OLBERMANN: Eventually, other networks began to hurt, because Countdown was, well, busting off.
It's over. It's all over.
Elements at Fox News tried to have this show taken off the air by a petition. So we all signed it.
(on camera): Let's see, put in the e-mail address.
(voice-over): I guess I figured I could catch on with some other show.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keith Olbermann.
OLBERMANN: That's right, content burglar Marge Simpson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I ask in return is that you let my company do just a little bit of dumping in your lake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy don't sit right with me, Lois. He don't sit right with me.
OLBERMANN: But we all weathered the storm and the staff and I learned a lot along the way. For one thing, we learned Sulu from "Star Trek" has a crush on me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George, who is the hottest reporter here? If you would point him out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unquestionably Keith Olbermann.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George likes Keith.
OLBERMANN: We learned also that all of my producers are terrible actors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. This is Keith Olbermann we are talking about. Hello, the ego has landed. I wouldn't say any of the stuff to his safe, but the man is -
OLBERMANN: And we learned our executive producer and I met 21 years before we thought we had met, when I was a CNN reporter and I asked her why Reggie Jackson got cheered at Yankee Stadium as a California Angel, and she answered -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good question. Why didn't these people cheer him when he was here.
OLBERMANN: Good question, much better answer. Maybe the only better question, after five amazing years with you, how long can the Countdown last?
My best guest is, a, as long as we don't lose this tape.
The interview outside Wisconsin. Oh, you better take care of her.
And, B, as long as we keep sharing the love.
HUNG: And can you feel the love tonight?
OLBERMANN: Come on!
OLBERMANN: The Count. That's Countdown for this the 1,799th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. By the way, this crappy fountain behind me here, they are going to take this away tomorrow. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END