Wednesday, May 13, 2009

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, May 13, 2009
video podcast

Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: WTF Moment (Democrat Socialist Party)

Guest: Richard Wolffe, Sheldon Whitehouse, Shannyn Moore


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The Senate torture hearing: Conventional interrogation of Abu Zubaydah gave us everything we needed from him, switching to torture gave us nothing - so says Zubaydah's interrogator under oath.


ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI INTERROGATOR: These techniques from an operational perspective are slow, ineffective, unreliable, and harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda.


OLBERMANN: Our special guest: The chairman of today's inquiry, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Photographic proof of more abuse at Abu Ghraib, elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan - the president changes course, he now opposes the release of the images.

Sarah Palin's consolation prize: She isn't vice president, she may not even still be governor, but she gets a big book deal from Rupert Murdoch.

Off the hook: The White House news conference interrupted because somebody had too many bars.




GIBBS: All right. This is - come here. Let me see this.



OLBERMANN: Worsts: The network of the ambush interview, one of whose stars just decried the ambush, makes the ambush interview worse still.

Now, they are no longer telling the victims that they're being interviewed

by fixed news.


JANEANE GAROFALO, ACTRESS/POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Where are you guys from? What's your - what's your dig? What are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just a blogger who reads blogs.


OLBERMANN: And what the - "Resolved, that we the members of the Republican National Committee call on the Democratic Party to be truthful and honest with the American people by acknowledging that they evolved from a party of tax-and-spend to a party of tax-and-nationalize and therefore should agree to rename themselves the Democratic Socialist Party."

Seriously, what - are you running for secretary or treasurer of the student government? Or is there an evil, evil plan of biblical complexity and proportion unfolding before our unseeing eyes? Tonight's WTF Moment.

All that and more - now on Countdown.



OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.

Two steps forward, one step back - possibly even a zero sum equation when it comes to the process of shining a bright light into the many dark corners of the Bush administration torture program. Our fifth story on the Countdown: A Senate Judiciary subcommittee holding its first hearing on the euphemist extreme interrogation methods employed by the previous administration. The chairman of today's proceedings: Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island, to join us presently.

The current president, meanwhile, is announcing that he will now fight the release of hundreds of photographs documenting the abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody. Mr. Obama today ordering the Justice Department to try to block the release of hundreds of photos like those from Abu Ghraib, that show abuse by military captors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon having gathered the pictures while investigating the allegations of abuse, the ACLU having sued to get them.

Last month, the president having agreed to their release after the federal courts ordered that they be made public. This afternoon, Mr. Obama announcing the reversal of that decision with the variation of the "few bad apples" defense.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: The individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken. It's therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.


OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, dramatic testimony about the questioning of Abu Zubaydah - you recall, a top al Qaeda figure who was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and who gave up valuable information. More on how it was elicited in a moment.

The former top lawyer at the State Department, Philip Zelikow, who raised objections about the supposed legality of the Bush administration torture program and having had those objections ignored, today hinting at what could be the next bombshell memo to be declassified - his own.


PHILIP ZELIKOW, FMR. STATE DEPARTMENT LAWYER: My view was that I could not imagine any federal court in America agreeing that the entire CIA program could be conducted and it would not violate the American Constitution. So, I distributed my memo analyzing these legal issues to other deputies at one of our meetings in February 2006. I, then, took off to the Middle East on other work.

When I came back, I heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion, and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed. That particular request passed along informally did not seem proper and I ignored it. This particular memo has evidently been located in State's files and is being reviewed for declassification.


OLBERMANN: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the ranking Republican on this committee, calling the hearing a political stunt and all but treating witnesses who disagreed with him as hostile. Of course, when one of those witnesses interrogates suspected terrorist for a living, he probably knows how to deal with the likes of a senator.



mean, one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.

SOUFAN: Because, sir, there's a lot of people who don't know how to interrogate .

GRAHAM: Right.

SOUFAN: . and it's easy to hit somebody than outsmart them.


OLBERMANN: That voice belonging to former FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan - not shown in your picture - testifying behind that screen to protect his identity. During questioning by Senator Whitehouse, Mr. Soufan describing how the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah through legal, non-torturous means obtained valuable intelligence within minutes - minutes.



OVERSIGHT: Your testimony indicates that within the first hour of your interrogation of him you had gained important, actionable intelligence. Is that correct?

SOUFAN: Yes, sir.


OLBERMANN: Including the previously unknown information to that point, anyway, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks - all elicited before private contractors came in and started torturing Mr. Zubaydah.


WHITEHOUSE: And all this happened before the CIA/CTC team and the private contractors arrived, correct?

SOUFAN: Yes, sir.

WHITEHOUSE: And then they arrived, and immediately you say, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced, which did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking, correct?

SOUFAN: Correct, sir.


OLBERMANN: Senator Whitehouse joins us now.

Thank you for coming in. Thanks for your time tonight.

WHITEHOUSE: I'm very happy to be with you. Thank you for the invitation.

OLBERMANN: Today, you spoke of the Bush administration's lies. You spoke of its near avalanche of falsehood about torture working. This point has been made a lot recently.

Does this kind of undermine the larger point, perhaps, that it doesn't matter whether or not it works? That it is illegal?

WHITEHOUSE: There are so many points here, Keith, that it's hard to pick them all apart. There's the point that it's wrong. There's the point that it's ineffective. There's the point that it's illegal.

There's the point that in order to get there, they had to disrupt and wreck a lot of American democratic process in order to get there. And then there's the final part, which is the focus of my - focus on the lying, which is that there's a huge sales-and-spin campaign going on to misrepresent what took place.

OLBERMANN: Based on the testimony of the man behind the screen, Mr. Soufan, we were getting the truth out of detainees using conventional questioning. In that - if then and A, B kind of sequence, has the second part of the nightmare of that been proved that detainees were then tortured not to get the truth out of them - the truth was already coming out of them - but it was deliberately done to get lies out of them? That this was to backfill this nonsensical connection between al Qaeda and Iraq?

WHITEHOUSE: That can't be shown yet. All that we were able to show today was that the significant information came out. The first information is so significant that they scrambled private doctors from America to go and treat him because the first information was so good they wanted more.

The second was the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which was probably one of the biggest nuggets of information we've ever found.


WHITEHOUSE: And the third was the identification of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomb plotter," which was such a big deal at that time that you'll recall the Attorney General Ashcroft had a press conference in Moscow about it.


WHITEHOUSE: They were so excited.

All of this found came out using traditional tactics. Every time they reverted to the harsh tactics, he shut down and they got nothing. And they went back and forth like a seesaw. And until, finally, he was so compromised by the harsh tactics that it no longer worked to deal with him through responsible tactics.

OLBERMANN: To Mr. Zelikow's memo that he referred to, the one that was ordered destroyed, he'll be on with Rachel Maddow in about an hour, and obviously, will address that with her. But a State Department's spokesman confirmed today that memo has - as he suspected - been found. Do you .

WHITEHOUSE: I've seen it.

OLBERMANN: You've seen it?


OLBERMANN: Is there anything you can share about it?

WHITEHOUSE: No, it's still classified, but they're working towards declassifying it and I hope that they'll be able to accomplish that.

OLBERMANN: Is it likely - is it likely to happen quickly?

WHITEHOUSE: I couldn't guess. I would - I mean, I couldn't guess. I would expect - it's not a very long memo, and it doesn't have a lot of stuff in it that I think requires classification. So concluding that from that, I would say yes, but I don't want to light a fire under the State Department on this. They're being cooperative and I'll give them their time to do their process.

OLBERMANN: And I will avoid asking whether or not Mr. Zelikow is correct in his reminiscences about the memo, so to save you having to not answer that question.

You said last night you're hoping to lay this foundation for an investigation. Are you satisfied that that part of your goal was accomplished today?

WHITEHOUSE: We accomplished three things today. We showed that the factual predicates in the OLC memos about what had happened were false. We showed that administration lawyers who got a look at the OLC opinions were horrified and tried to push back, and instead of engaging in a debate to see if they were right or wrong, they were just squelched and shut down. And we showed that by the standards against which attorneys should be judged for malfeasance, experts agree that the OLC opinions don't cut the mustard and that they qualify for sanction.

So, there were three very good pieces of the case put in today.

OLBERMANN: Where does this investigation go from here? Do have you more hearings scheduled? Do you anticipate a lengthy process? What are you planning to do?

WHITEHOUSE: The next step, I expect, is the Office of Professional Responsibility report coming out on the Office of Legal Counsel. When that happens, I strongly suspect that my chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is spectacularly good and interested in this subject .

OLBERMANN: Indeed, he is.

WHITEHOUSE: . will hold hearings at the chairman level, which is where they belong for an issue of that magnitude. And then after that hearing takes place, I'll ask for a second hearing to look at other elements of this and continue going forward. So, this is the beginning of an ongoing process.

OLBERMANN: It is a vital one. And I'm obviously not telling you anything, but just - I hope that your efforts on this are met with nothing but success, and that we do see that memo that you've already gotten to see. Thank you kindly.

The chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island - again, thanks for coming in.

WHITEHOUSE: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: For more now on the politics of this, let me turn to our political analyst, Richard Wolffe.

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN: How many times does Dick Cheney have to go on TV now to refute one day of testimony from a man like Ali Soufan?

WOLFFE: Well, the rational answer is not enough. Unfortunately, the irrational answer is also not enough, judging by the way Dick Cheney has been conducting himself.

And look - in any court of law, and this is obviously the court of public opinion, you have the word of someone who was vice president, but has questionable credibility - to say the least - and was managing this process from several thousand miles away against someone who's testifying under oath and who had direct experience, first-hand experience of what went on. So, the two pieces of testimony don't stack up against each other.

And in any case, Dick Cheney isn't giving any testimony. Where he should be making his case is not on TV, but under oath, in front of an independent commission - as Zelikow has also now called for - because what we need to see here is the truth, not a political campaign to put Dick Cheney at the top of the Republican Party.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of political campaigns, Senator Graham used the phrase "political stunt" on those hearings today that Senator Whitehouse chaired. But more importantly, he was - he was citing sort of out-of-date material, debunked testimony, in particular, the ABC News report that was since retracted by its principal, the former CIA interrogator who had falsely claimed that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques broke Abu Zubaydah within, literally, seconds.

I have a question about this. Let me play the part first of the testimony today between Senator Graham and Ali Soufan.


GRAHAM: He said that they waterboarded the guy and he broke within 35 seconds.

SOUFAN: Is this a question for me, sir?


SOUFAN: Well, last week, he retracted that and he said he was misinformed and actually he was not at the Abu Zubaydah location.

GRAHAM: OK. So, he just got mixed up?

SOUFAN: He retracted that. Yes, sir. That's one of the things that was mentioned before.

GRAHAM: Right. Right.

SOUFAN: And now, we know it's 83 times, not 35 seconds.


OLBERMANN: Richard, even assuming Senator Graham somehow did not know that the report had been debunked by the principal source in the report, is his goal the same as Senator Whitehouse's? I mean, does he and the Republicans - do they have the same desire to get at the truth of Bush administration torture?



WOLFFE: I mean, the goal here is a pretty clear attempt to discredit this whole process by saying that it's a partisan political food fight. Of course, that itself is trying to turn the whole process into a partisan political food fight.

The problem here is that these issues are too serious - and Republicans need to understand that they should get on the right side of this. The right side of this is not about the punishment. We're not there yet. What this is about is fact-finding. And that's why an independent commission is actually the right venue for this kind of questioning.

You know, Senator Graham is a former prosecutor, he should know that he shouldn't ask a question unless he knows the answer. I suspect the question was designed to undermine the credibility of the witness. It was a political stunt in and of itself.

OLBERMANN: Well, it was designed to throw back onto the pile with discredited information and let people who want to believe it believe it as opposed to the facts.

And turning away from these hearings and to President Obama, and talking about being on the right side of the equation. The now - his position on not releasing these torture photographs, why did he change course? Is this some sort of hope that the onus of the decision would then fall on the Supreme Court? What's the game here?

WOLFFE: Well, no, I don't think it is. I hope to leave it up to the Supreme Court. This is a case where the administration took a lot of heat for taking on the CIA, taking on the Joint Chiefs at a time when Afghanistan and Pakistan are both on the brink. It's just too many fights to front on - too many fronts to fight on, even.

And, you know, you can understand the principle behind the initial decision to release the torture memos. In the end, this president is a pragmatic guy at heart. And in this case, pragmatism triumphs over principle because the stakes in Pakistan and Afghanistan are too high.

OLBERMANN: But didn't he, in a sense, maybe inadvertently buy into the Cheney notion that this was bad apples - the problem here is the release of the photos, rather than what happened in the photos?

WOLFFE: No, I think his problem is that the photos are going to be very powerful, not as powerful as Abu Ghraib but they're still going to have an immediacy that makes it seemed like the events were very near instead of distant, that they may be get associated with this administration and its policies and not the old one. A possibility of confusion and the risks were too great. But those photos will come out - and if they don't come out now in Congress, they're going to come out with an independent commission.

OLBERMANN: MSNBC's Richard Wolffe - as always, Richard, thanks.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Fascinating that the White House press briefing was interrupted just as they started grilling Robert Gibbs about those "about faces" on the photos by a series of un-muted cell phone rings. Well, that's luck, huh?

Like the luck of Sarah Palin - her presidential nomination, in retrospect, a bizarre aberration of history; her political future, if the polls on her own state are any indicator, a dicey proposition. How convenient that out of nowhere, somebody is willing to pay hundreds of thousands, maybe even $1 million for a book by her about her? The willing somebody just happens to be named Rupert Murdoch. Now, that's a coincidence.


OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin's new book deal with Rupert Murdoch. No, no, to write one.

Worsts: When the victim was Governor Palin's husband, FOX's Greta Van Susteren condemns the ambush interview. When the victim is Janeane Garofalo, FOX just made the ambush interview worse.

And tonight's WTF Moment: The Republican National Committee's plan to adopt a motion insisting the Democratic Party be renamed the Democrat Socialist Party. Nobody could be this tone-deaf in these many different ways for this long to this degree of self-destruction.

There is something nefarious going on here - the Democrat Socialist Party. What the .


OLBERMANN: Governor Sarah Palin has landed a book deal, her long-sought memoir will be published, with every reason to believe in a multimillion dollar transaction and there wasn't even a bidding war. Her personal story so alluring it was snapped up by Harper Collins before any other publisher could get its foot in the door. Oh, yes, wait, Harper Collins is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Our fourth story on the Countdown: Murdoch paying Governor Palin to write something. The memoir is due just a year from now, spring of 2010, just coincidentally the same time that the Alaska governor's re-election campaign will be sparking up. "There has been so much written about and spoken about in the mainstream media and the unanimous blogosphere world, Palin said, "that this will be a wonderful, refreshing chance for me to get to tell my story, that a lot of people have asked about, unfiltered."

Palin's attorney, Robert Barnett, and Harper publisher, Jonathan Burnham offered few details about the as-yet untitled book. But Palin's lawyer said she had formed an outline in her mind. And while there will be a collaborator - not yet chosen - every word in the book will be hers, again according to the lawyer. The publisher is insisting that Palin will be, quote, "engaged in the whole process of the book."

The governor claims to have been keeping personal journals, especially over the past year, she's eager to draw on her deep well of experience, quoting, "I'm excited to put my journalism degree to work and tell my story as it relates to my family."

OK. Titles - we've got "Palin Comparison." We've got, "I swear I really was nominated for vice president." I've got, "One time in politics camp," there's, "Shrill, baby, shrill." "I have my answer now, Katie," and, of course, "The Tina Fey story."

Let's bring in radio host from KBYR in Alaska: Shannyn Moore.

Good evening, Shannyn.


OLBERMANN: Wait a minute here. Murdoch pays Palin after the way fixed news covered Palin running for vice president. Should she not actually be paying them?

MOORE: Well, I think a couple of bowls of moose stew went a long way with Greta Van Susteren, a couple of snowmachine rides. Yes, I actually think that we should probably thank Sarah Palin, though, for having FOX News, fixed news, discover sexism all of a sudden. So, yes, she should be. It's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

OLBERMANN: And - I'm fascinated here about this one little note here, that the governor has been keeping personal journals, especially over the past year. Don't - the number of investigations that have sort of simmered up about her and her conduct, and ethics questions and legal questions - aren't personal journals actually a very dangerous thing for a governor to admit she has, especially if there have been investigations and may yet be?

MOORE: Well, there have been a lot of investigations and there have been a lot of ethics complaints. And right now, you know, she's touting the fact that they've mainly been thrown out. She's even put her own ethics complaint in against herself trying to trump the troopergate investigation.

So, yes, I think it is pretty dangerous in a certain way, and she has had her e-mails hacked. She's had other - you know, a lot of her communications have been requested through the Freedom of Information Act. So, I don't know if those journals are - you know, anyone can get their hands on, but it will be interesting. I guess Rupert Murdoch has his hands on them now.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of Murdoch, is this another window into why there were - any (ph) laws against one man owning too many media outlets in one market or in one country? I mean, Murdoch can move seamlessly from Palin, the book, from Palin, the vice presidential candidate, to Palin, the vice presidential possibility, as if there weren't any lines being crossed, as if there was no incestuousness politically, no conflict of interest here?

MOORE: Well, what is it - the best president money can buy? Rupert Murdoch is an investor. And he - that's what he does. And whatever he can buy to further his, you know, empire, he's going to do. That's business. That's their idea of capitalism and it's worked for him so far.

OLBERMANN: One of the Katie Couric interviews, the greatest part of that clearly, the subject of what the governor reads, and this still fascinates since she said basically she read everything in the world - which was sort of a contrast from two years ago. She did the interview with Charlie Rose before she was nationally known in which she said her favorite writers were C.S. Lewis and a columnist for "Runner's World" magazine.

Yesterday, she once again called herself a voracious reader. She said she recently read Katharine Graham's memoir, the publisher of "The Washington Post," cited the memoirs of President Obama, of Senator McCain; said she recently read "My Life" by Bill Clinton.

Is - are we seeing sort of the revisionism we might expect in the memoir, those inconvenient moments of seemingly flat lining and interviews will just be paved over with, "No, that wasn't true, I'm a voracious reader"?

MOORE: Well, you know, she is the queen of revisionism. We've seen her do it many times, whether it was the "bridge to nowhere," whether it was putting the jet on eBay, whether it was, "No, I didn't abuse my power," when clearly the Branchflower Report said that she did. There has been a great deal of revisionism going on with her.

And so, I expect nothing else from this book. I'm wondering if I'll get a call for a book report, or if you're going to do the dirty work yourself, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Probably, there'd be room for both of us. We have a year to work on this. Do you have any last suggestions for the title?

MOORE: Well, I was just talking to my friend, Mudflats earlier, we were arguing about some of the better suggestions. She had come up with the "audacity of hype."


MOORE: And I thought with the - with the C.S. Lewis reference, being one of her favorite author, she could just stick with "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

OLBERMANN: Beautiful. Shannyn Moore, radio host, contributor to "Huffington Post" - great thanks for your time.

MOORE: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: So, it's a brassiere that hunts husbands. Yes, I don't think there's a single joke I can make without getting into real trouble here.

Speaking of which, attempting to prove it's (ph) crass and inappropriate, fixed news gets crasser and more inappropriate still in a new mutation of its ambush interview-style. Worst Persons is ahead.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment, and car chase ends in drive-thru lane. First, this is May 13th, thus 21 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be water boarded for a military families charity. Thus 20 days since I offered to donate 1,000 per second that he lasted. Thus 19 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise. Here, kitty, kitty, kitty. Let's play Oddball.

Yes, I called him a kitty. What do you want to do about it?

We begin with Tokyo, with the latest in lingerie for all the single ladies. Behold, the husband hunting bra. Finally, there's a way to tell that dead beat boyfriend of yours, if you like it, you should have put a ring on it.

The bra comes equipped with your own biological clock. Tick, tick, tick, girls. First, decide your marriage deadline. The clock will begin counting down. Next, find your life partner, get him to propose, insert your engagement ring into the bra and the clock stops. The bra will then play a lovely electronic rendition of the wedding march and a special pen side pocket is provided for all important prenup. Or once he finds out you snared him with the help of a diabolical bra. Divorce papers are in there too.

To Tel-Aviv, where if you successfully used your husband hunting bra, you get hitched, to a large truck. Actually, these women are the first females to participate in Israel's annual truck pull. The ladies finished in record time, said they felt great afterwards, possibly because they got to pull empty trucks, but the ones the guys yanked were full of people. Damned Title IX.

Finally, to Bucharest, in Romania, covering 223 square feet and requiring four hours of cooking, it's the world's largest omelet. You think this is big, you should have seen the chicken. It's all part of the International Championship of Open Air Cooking. The omelet comprised of 30,000 eggs, 1,500 kilograms of potatoes, was heartily consumed. Over there on stage two, the world's largest known Lipitor pill.

Well, young man, you can get it back after class. The press briefing interrupted at an incredibly convenient time by cell phones. And it worked so well. Calling candidate Obama a socialist, now the Republicans want to rebrand the Democratic party the Democrats Socialists. And the secret, subtle plan I think is behind what only looks like a panicky, desperate mistake.

These storied ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best reason to clean the office fridge, the AT&T Building in San Jose, evacuated by firefighters, Hazmat summoned to the scene. Dozens of workers sick to their stomachs. What happened? Food left in an office refrigerator. The refrigerator had been unplugged. A worker decided to empty it and scrub it down with cleaning chemicals. The combination of those smells overwhelmed 28 people. But not the woman who was doing the cleaning, because she has allergies that rob her of her sense of smell.

Number two, best dumb criminal who got away with it, whoever dropped the proverbial dime on Craig Williams of Holly Hill, Florida; 911 in Volusia County got a phone call from a man who said I was just held at gun point trying to buy drugs. Police raided Mr. William's home and arrested him. The caller, who failed to buy the 20 pounds of marijuana he was seeking, was apparently not charged.

And number one, best dumb criminal who did not get away with it, Jermaine Cooper of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The accused drug deal was apparently in the middle of leading police on a 90-mile-an-hour car chase when Cooper suddenly stopped it. He pulled into the parking lot of a Taco Bell.

Police say Mr. Cooper told them later he knew he was going to jail for a while and he just wanted to get one last burrito.


OLBERMANN: The subject was the detainee abuse photo controversy. Press Secretary Gibbs getting a grilling on the administration's new decision to advocate against the release of the images; when suddenly there comes the unmistakable sound of salsa. Our third story on the Countdown, a press briefing interrupted; the White House press corps getting distracted by shiny objects this afternoon. Mr. Gibbs fielding questions from ABC's Jake Tapper when calamity strikes, courtesy of John Gizzy (ph) of the website "Human Events."

The briefing room then erupted into comedic routines, not the ones of who is on first, but can you hear me? Can you hear me now?


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those determinations are indeed made by this president and - and are being made.

Just put it on vibrate, man. We did this before.


GIBBS: That's all right. It's all right. Third, actually. It happened twice that day.

JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS: What is this new argument that the president wants his team to present?

GIBBS: Not seeking an exception for law enforcement -

Give me the phone. All right? This is - come here. Let me see this thing.


GIBBS: I'll be right back. No, somebody caught it. Don't worry.

Somebody caught it.

I made the determination that the illumination of the sound was distracting to the briefing, as the press secretary to the president of the United States.

You too? Do you want to do this too? Here. Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gibbs wants to take my phone but I don't think it's a good idea.

No favoritism.

I'll explain later.

GIBBS: I assume it's your banker with a suit like that.


OLBERMANN: I asked Bill Plante if it was a good time to talk, and he said yes.

The latest Republican brain storm, try to rebrand the Democrats as the Democrat Socialist Party. No, seriously, that is their plan. I'm beginning to smell a rat. This is too good to be true. Analysis ahead in tonight's WTF Moment.

And the tea bag gang, round two; why is a grassroots effort being led by two governors? Worst persons ahead.

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Philip Zelikow, after his testimony today in the torture hearings.

But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration's 50 running scandals, still Bushed.

Number three, sleep gate. After water boarding, what was the CIA inspector general's second biggest complaint about interrogation techniques when he first blew the whistle on torture in 2004? Sleep deprivation. So reports the "LA Times," saying interrogators thought you could keep a man awake for 180 hours without injuring him. The prisoners had their feet shackled to the floor and their hands cuffed close to their chins, according to the Justice Department memos. A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains.

Apart from scars, there was psychological damage. But the Justice Department, of course, issued a memo in 2005 saying there were no lasting after effects to sleep deprivation. When the Obama administration banned sleep deprivation, it got a frantic call from Mr. Bush's last CIA chief, Michael Hayden, who was still pumping the party line that sleep deprivation was not serious. "Are you telling me that under all conditions of threat, you will never interfere with the sleep cycle of detainees," Hayden asked.

Number two, shut up gate. Dick Cheney should heed this development between his self-rationalizations Sunday and yesterday. A U.S. senator decided he had had enough. Quote, "no, we're not less safe. I suppose that's the short answer and probably as good as I can give. I disagree with some of the things the administration has done. Even in the closing of Guantanamo, they're being very methodical at this point. Our guard is up. On balance, we remain as safe as we can possibly be in a world in which there is Islamic extremists who want to attack us."

Who has gotten offer the Dick Cheney team? Who did the ex-vice president yak, yak, yak back to reality? Senator Joseph Lieberman.

But number one, water-gate. Channel 11 in Houston reporting from Iraq that our soldiers there are not getting enough water, in Iraq, where temperatures can hit 130 degrees. "We were rationed two bottles of water a day," the station quoted Army Staff Sergeant Dustin Roby (ph), now back from his tour. That would be three liters in a climate where you can lose 15 liters a day just walking around. Sometimes the water, most of it supposed to be supplied by the Halliburton spin off KBR, was over-treated with chemicals. So Roby and his men would get nauseous. So they stopped drinking it.

So then Roby and his men would get kidney stones. So they would instead drink the local water. That's when they got dysentery. Sergeant Roby says he now takes 26 different kinds of pills per day. He's been forced to retire at a fraction of his pay because of all that insufficient water supply has done to him. His family is now facing foreclosure.

Private Brian Hannah (ph) recalled to the TV station that two years ago his platoon ran out of water, ran out. The sergeant then said, go find some, which meant going to the civilian contracting facility and stealing water. This is how the Bush administration cared for the troops. Send them to Iraq without water. This, not what Dick Cheney says, not what Mr. Bush tries to get recorded in his library - this is his legacy.


OLBERMANN: The Democratic Socialist Party, the latest Republican brainstorm designed to - designed to what? We reveal the horrible truth, the scheme of evil genius behind the continuing GOP path of gaffes, fumbles and self-foot shootings in tonight's WTF Moment.

That's next, but first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Gary Bauer, the former Christian right residential want to be, quoted now in a story by the Associated Press on the philosophical implications of torture, insists the discussion would not come down to would Jesus torture. Quote, "the more appropriate question is what is a follower of Jesus permitted to do? I think if believe the person we have can give us information to stop thousands of Americans from being killed, it would be morally suspect to not use harsh tactics to get that information."

"Morally suspect to not use harsh tactics to get that information." Apart from whether or not Mr. Bauer still counts as a follower of Jesus after that asinine remark, do you think the irony even grazed him on its way by, that the universal symbol of Jesus' death, the international understand icon of man's inhumanity, which man, of his stupidity, in killing the supposed son of god, is the Crucifix, itself a depiction of Jesus being tortured to death?

Runner up, Griff Jenkins, one of Fixed News' stalkers producers, bringing a new high in low by staking out Janeane Garofalo to interview her after her appearance at the Alternate Comedy Festival in Sumaville (ph), Mass, just out of Boston, you know, the appearance the far right promised to interrupt after her remarks about the tea bag squad. No interruptions. There wasn't even a protest outside.

Anyway, at one point, as he interviews her without her consent, in violation of the new Greta Van Susteren rules about when you can and can't interview somebody, Janeane asks Jenkins who he is. He responds, "I'm just a blogger who reads blogs." He would not say he was from Fox News. Presumably, he's ashamed of it, or he was lying about it, or, if you've ever seen this guy on the air, there's an excellent chance he forgot.

But our winners, speaking of the tea bags, Republican Governors Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who have announced themselves as the host of a conference call tomorrow to arrange, organize and launch Tea Party 2.0. Governor Sanford and Governor Perry, the big-time organizers, the spiritual hosts.

But wait, isn't the premise of the tea bag festivals that it's just ordinary Americans, unaffiliated with any party, certainly not the tools of some big government governors, right? Boys? Better talk to your hair dressers, you're not so grass roots are showing. Governors Perry and Sanford, today's worst persons in the world.


OLBERMANN: Now, as promised, continuing our new feature and our number one story, here is tonight's WTF Moment. The Republican National Committee, at a special committee next week, is, reports Roger Simon today of, expected to adopt a resolution requiring its membership to refer to the other guys as the, quote, Democrat Socialist Party. This on the heels of their brilliant success trying to rebrand the Democratic party as the Democrat party in 2001, which not only did not keep the Democrats out of the White House, but which still hasn't achieved 100 percent success inside the Republican party.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I guess the Democratic party.

JOHN BOLTON, FMR. UN AMBASSADOR: Committed to satisfying the left of the Democratic party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic party has consistently tried to redistribute income.

CHENEY: This is being done essentially to appease a certainly element of the Democratic party.


OLBERMANN: Those are all since my birthday this year. The Democrat Socialist Party; since the election, the Republicans seem to be doing whatever has just popped into one of their leaders' heads. The idea generating talent of Donald Trump, say, combined with the thorough planning and foresight of the Octomom.

The Democratic Socialist Party; there are apparently 55 countries right now with parties with names that are some combination of Democrat, Democratic, social and socialist. From Afghanistan to Azerbaijan, from Great Britain to Gibraltar. From the Hong Kong League of Social Democrats to the Party of Bulgarian Social Democrats.

And all 55, in English, or in their English translations, are known in that order, social Democrats. The RNC does not want that built in advantage of familiarity. They want Democrat Socialists. Genius, I tells you, genius.

And this just gets better and better. A Pew Research survey last month indicated a dramatic increase in the number of people for whom that word socialist is sticking to President Obama. Last September, it was six. In February, it was 13. Last month, it was 20; 20 percent of Americans are using the word socialist to describe Obama? No wonder the Republicans are doing this. It's genius. Genius, I tells you.

No, not percent, 20 people. Let's look at the survey again. How often people describe Obama with the word socialist. Last September, it was six people out of 629 polled. In February, it was 13 out of 620. Last month, it was 20 people out of 742, 20 people, 2.7 percent. Brilliant.

The Democrat Socialist Party; the choice of nearly three out of every 100 Americans.

Wait, it gets worse still. Rasmussen, polling done by the people who founded then bailed out early on ESPN, Rasmussen polling, now done generally for and shaped by Rupert Murdoch, Rasmussen, actually asked Americans early last month what they thought of socialism. Oh, for god sake, only 53 percent say capitalism is better than socialism; 20 percent prefer socialism; 27 percent aren't sure which.

And the younger voters, adults under 30, favor capitalism, but only by 37 percent to 33 percent, 30 percent undecided.

A question for Michael Steele or Shelby Steele or Steely Dan or whoever is running the GOP this week, do you guys read these polls? I mean, we got them off the Internet for free. The word socialist is not sticking. And even when it does, extraordinarily large numbers of Americans think it's a compliment.

Younger voters, including the people who may still be voting in the presidential election of 2072, think it's a toss up. So of course, try to portray your opponents as the Democrat Socialist Party.

Well, this is what this is about, of course. The Hugo Chavez handshake. The effort to portray Obama as foreign, un-American, sympathetic to strange cultures and ideas, the one the Republicans rolled out during the campaign, the reason that at this moment John McCain is the president of the - oops.

Anyway, you've seen the Chavez poll numbers, right? CNN polling end of last month, Republican Party, 39 percent favorability in this country. The unfavorable score for the Republicans in this country, 55.

CNN polling, beginning of last month, Venezuela, 42 percent favorability in this country. Their unfavorable score is 54. Venezuela, home of an actual socialist strong man, is more popular in the United States than the opposition party in the United States is popular in the United States.

The Democrat Socialist Party. I am beginning to think I understand what's happening here. It is a story of political intrigue, even scandal, that is unmatched, if it's correct, in our nation's long history. The Republicans have now gotten so turned around that Pete Hoekstra and Lamar Alexander, they are now trying to bait the Democrats into full scale investigation of torture, the kind the Democrats wouldn't dare do without Republicans support.

The Republicans blast Obama's stimulus plan. John Boehner presents their own version. There are no numbers in it. Arlen Specter bailed out of the GOP. Joe Plumber bailed out of the GOP. Their last vice presidential candidate couldn't define the Bush doctrine. And her daughter, an unmarried teenage mother, who, after giving birth and splitting with the father, is now trying to convince people that abstinence works, even though it appears in her case to desperately not have worked.

There's a Congresswoman who can't stop talking, who called the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act the Hoot Smalley Tariff Act. There's a nut bag on TV who uses a teleprompter, who ripped the president for using a teleprompter, apparently unaware of the irony therein that that means they both use teleprompters.

The chairman of the party had to grovel for forgiveness from a radio announcer. A Congressman from Georgia had to grovel for forgiveness from a radio announcer while on the radio announcer's show. The radio announcer is trying to expel John McCain, John McCain's daughter, Colin Powell, and countless others from the party. And the Republican governor of Texas and Republicans in dozens of other states are actually proposing secession as a rallying point for the party.

In other words, the GOP could take back America by leaving it.

And now they want to rename the Democrats the Democrat Socialists. It's genius. Genius, I tells you. This mass madness, this cascade of rookie mistakes, this seemingly deliberate narrowing of the Republicans to a third party, this can all have only one possible explanation: they're all Democratic agents.

You heard me. Cheney, a Democrat. Boehner, Democrat. Palin, Democrat. Steele, Democrat. Bachmann, Democrat. Limbaugh, big fat Democrat.

You got another explanation? Steele said even when he seems to be making a gaffe, there's a secret strategy behind it. Of course there is.

I mean, maybe they're not Democrats. Maybe they think they can simply get the Republican party absorbed by the Democrats in a kind of Trojan Horse deal, and then take over from the inside. But even that would be too complicated. Compared to their recent uninterrupted sequence of bone headed brain storms, it would be too good.

They're moles, turncoats, spies, sellouts, political traitors. They have to be. They can't be that stupid. The Democrat Socialist Party. What the -

That's Countdown for this the 2,204th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.