'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, April 16 2009
Future of U.S. depends on torture accountability
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer
Guest: John Dean, James Risen, Jeanine Garofalo, Howard Fineman, Dick Ebersol, Howard Fineman
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Beating, kicking, interrogators slamming detainees' heads into walls, exposure to extreme cold, shackling, deprivation of sleep, deprivation of solid food, waterboarding for 20 minutes. President Obama with the extraordinary step of releasing the remaining Bush torture rationalization memos with extraordinary step of formal revocation of every legal opinion on interrogation from the previous administration - but also, with the extraordinarily incomprehensible step of refusing to prosecute any CIA operative who was just following orders.
Tonight, Howard Fineman on the political fallout; John Dean on what looks like immunity for those who tortured in your name and mine.
And a Special Comment, as Senator Leahy says, "The techniques are chilling, we cannot look the other way." What the president risks by looking that other way, what our history tells us about the disaster that is not correcting the record.
And more chilling details: NSA spying - confirmation it was domestic, between Americans, in America, and - contemplated if not enacted - spying on a member of Congress. James Risen of "The New York Times," who broke the story, joins us.
The truth about the tea bags.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheer if you make less than $250,000 a year. Just cheer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your taxes are going to be cut under the current budget. Congratulations!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the big shock from television. John Madden retires from "NBC Sunday Night Football."
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN MADDEN, SPORTS ANCHOR: I decided to retire. Heck, I can't even say it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: My special guest tonight, NBC Sports chairman, Dick Ebersol.
All of that, the new torture memo nightmare, and the unconscionable decision by this president to look the other way - now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
For years, we have known much of what America's government did in the name of American values - beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding. Tonight, in our fifth story on the Countdown: We now know what the previous president and his Department of Justice specifically authorized in four newly-released memos that constitute a clinically, carefully worded torture manual.
But perhaps, worst of all, as I'll address in a Special Comment later this evening, we note, too, that the new president - the one who has promised change - has now decided, much as Nixon declared that when the president does it that mean it's is not illegal, that in effect when the CIA gets permission from the Justice Department, that also means it is not illegal. President Obama and his attorney general today are announcing immunity for the hands on torturers, careful to limit this immunity only to those torturers, they say, interrogators, who followed the rules - the rules of torture.
The key problem as we will outline is that those rules were written by, of and for the people of the Bush administration who wanted to torture, who wanted any rationale available to expand presidential power. Six of those officials are now under investigation in Spain.
But as he did with the torturers himself, today, Mr. Obama declared no interest in pursuing those who wrote the rules, the rules of torture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: You know, obviously, I've been very clear that Guantanamo is to be closed, that some of the practices of enhanced interrogation techniques I think ran counter to American values and American traditions. So I've put an end to these policies.
I'm a strong believer that it's important to look forward and not backwards. And to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there. So, you know, I have not had direct conversations with the Spanish government about these issues. My team has been in communications with them.
I think that we are moving a process forward here in the United States to understand what happened, but also to focus on how we make sure that the manner in which we operate currently is consistent with our values and our traditions. And so, my sense is, is that this will be worked out over time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The four memos out today constitute the Dead Sea scrolls, the Rosetta stones of the Bush/Cheney legal rationale, their fig leaf of legalese to silence honorable dissenters even in their own administration, to justify the same precise actions previous executives prosecuted. One memo from Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to the CIA, three from Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Office of Legal Counsel, also to the CIA, in May of 2005.
Quoting Bybee, August 1st, 2002, responding to a CIA question about techniques for interrogating Abu Zubaydah, "A variety of stress positions may be used. Sleep deprivation may be used. You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than 11 days at a time. You would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects."
And then the torturers' trademark. "Finally, you would like to use a technique called the waterboard. In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner."
"As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual's blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort, plus the cloth, produces the perception of suffocation and incipient panic, i.e., the perception of drowning."
To continue, "It is likely that this procedure would not last more than 20 minutes, in any one application."
Even the Bush Department of Justice concluding, quote, "We are unsure whether these acts may constitute a threat of severe physical pain or suffering, the textbook definition of torture." So why authorize it? To violate the statute an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering, which the CIA told justice, it did not intend.
Let's turn to MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Two administrations to discuss here tonight. We'll start with Mr. Bush's. They claim they had legal authorization. These are the memos that justified that claim. As of today did, they not just succeed?
FINEMAN: Well, Keith, I read most of the material and I would - I would encourage any viewer to go on any one number of Web sites, including the ACLU's. Read these memos. It say window into a heart of darkness that shouldn't exist, and I wish we didn't have to see, but it's good that we are seeing.
The shear, dull mechanics of this is almost to a lunatic degree. They get so specific as to try to, I think, mislead themselves away from what the obvious truth is, which is that some of these techniques, alone or in combination - by the way, they were concerned about the combination of techniques, do amount to a violation of federal law.
Our federal law says that we are not allowed as a country to inflict severe physical suffering or severe mental pain or suffering - I believe those are the exact words of the statute. And if you read these memos and take them as a whole, you can see that's precisely what we were out to do.
Eric Holder, by the way, the attorney general, has said that waterboarding itself did amount to torture. The president has, as he said, banned some of these procedures. So, it's all right there in boring legalese and bureaucratese.
OLBERMANN: It is the projection that Terry Gilliam made in his movie, "Brazil," about the institutionalization of torture, where the guy comes in in his three-piece suit, and then gets out his tools, and as long as he's following the textbook, he can send you a bill for what he does at the end of it.
OLBERMANN: To continue on about the Bush administration for a second, what did these memos now do for that legacy that has been so concerned, that the former members of this administration have been so concerned about, especially lately? What does it mean when you have your Justice Department explaining in great detail and now, for all time, how you will torture people?
FINEMAN: Well, you know, when Barack Obama was in Iraq in a surprise visit the other week, he congratulated the troops for bringing democracy to Iraq, which is a little noticed (ph) statement by which he, to some extent, validated the Bush theory over the world.
But these memos will forever be associated with the image of the president because there's so much that's vivid here, however legalistic it seems, that I think any serious student of history will look at the president and they will see these scenes in their mind at the same time.
OLBERMANN: To Mr. Obama, to his attorney general, Mr. Holder, are they closing the door utterly on prosecutions or are they laying a ground work for targeting those who somehow went beyond these admittedly bogus Bush rules? And is that a distinction they should be making?
FINEMAN: Well, not if you believe that waterboarding amounted to a violation of the federal law and was torture. But, sure, they're splitting a hair here, in case there happened to be some people who went beyond even these rules.
But I don't - I don't - I don't think that was their main objective here. I think their main objective was to try to make peace with the CIA and with the intelligence community, as well as with critics of these policies, by getting these memos out - and there was a big argument within the administration about doing that - getting the memos out, to end the mystery about those, while at the same time saying, "We're not going to prosecute anybody."
OLBERMANN: Who made this decision? Was it the president or was it the attorney general? And whose decision was it to make?
FINEMAN: Well, I asked that of the White House a few minutes ago and they confirmed what Brian Williams on NBC, which is that it was the president himself. The president himself made all of these decisions. He reviewed them all.
Interestingly, Eric Holder might have been willing, if he'd wanted to, to suggest prosecution. Eric Holder did not put the president in that position. The president made the decision both to release the memos, which as I say was controversial inside the administration, and to draw the line of no prosecutions.
The result of this is going to be - increased pressure for there to be congressional hearings, but as Patrick Leahy, the chairman of a committee - judiciary committee, told me, the last time we talked about this a few days ago, unless Republicans are willing to go along, it's going to be very hard to hold those hearings. So, let's see if any Republicans are willing to step forward.
OLBERMANN: I'm not holding my breath. Not to use an analogy that's unfortunate for the topic, but there it is.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of "Newsweek" and MSNBC - as always, great thanks, Howard.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Joining us now with his legal expertise and his experience in the Nixon administration as its White House counsel, John Dean, author of "Worse than Watergate" and "Broken Government."
John, thanks for your time tonight.
JOHN DEAN, AUTHOR, "BROKEN GOVERNMENT": A pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANNN: Am I mistaken or are these newly-released memos a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy? And saying we can't prosecute people who followed these memos, is that not another kind of self-fulfilling prophecy?
DEAN: It is in some regards, yes. These memos are so embarrassing, Keith. They're embarrassing morally, they're embarrassing legally. The lawyers are going to have a lot of fun pulling this stuff apart and showing the flaws in it. This was not good law. It will never be good moral judgment.
But I must say that Obama does get credit for releasing this material. And that, to me, shows that he's not going to try to repeat the news, this kind of procedure. Otherwise, he wouldn't have put it out there.
OLBERMANN: It doesn't say anything about who's after Obama, unfortunately.
The devil's advocate position in these memos, per se, as they existed during the Bush administration - if the CIA cannot go to the Justice Department and can't get an honest answer; if they can't be told, stop, this is illegal, it is always illegal, a memo from us is not going to change that - who are they supposed to turn to? In other words, are they, to some degree, put into a box, even if it is at their own creation, once they ask a corrupt Justice Department for a ruling?
DEAN: Well, that's obviously why they went to the Justice Department, corrupt or not corrupt, collusive or non-collusive. They wanted this legal opinion because it gave them the cover they needed. You really can't ask an agent in the CIA he'd have to hire a lawyer to see if his decision to do what his boss tells him is right or wrong.
So, there is - in fact, there's a long history in the law. During Watergate, Keith, two of the burglars who broke into Dan Ellsberg's office had their case dismissed because they relied on Howard Hunt's word this was a national security operation and the court of appeals said, yes, that defense should have been presented and it was never prosecuted because they've been given that word. So, there is an area of law where there is authority to undertake, really, misconduct.
OLBERMANN: But in that - in that precedent that you just cited, and in this, is the real terror not in the past but in the future, that President Obama honors the Bush legal fig leaves, if we can use that analogy, again - is he not authorizing his successors maybe even himself, to say, "Look, if I can pack my Justice Department with enough cronies or enough sadists, or enough crack pots to write memos saying I can do whatever I want, then I can do whatever I want"?
DEAN: Well, the problem is in the process and the practice. Indeed, a president can do this. In fact, it's been very common since the Reagan years to indeed stack your Justice Department with people who give you the kinds of opinions you want when you want them. That wasn't always the case. To a degree, the Clinton administration didn't do that and the Obama administration is not doing that. The Carter administration didn't do that.
So, it's become something of a Republican thing to stack the Justice Department to get the kind of opinions they want. And it's a very, very troublesome practice, because those precedents lay on the books, in the department - unless an attorney general comes in and reverses them, and that's one of the things that Obama's talked about doing.
OLBERMANN: If federal statute, as Howard Fineman mentioned, says the nation can't torture. And it gets very specific in these terms. But there are some flimsy legal memos written, saying, "Well, maybe, maybe we can." On what basis does an attorney general or president have the right to say, "I'm going to act, based on what the flimsy memos say and not on what the law says"?
DEAN: Well, as I read this, what Obama has given a pass to are those who implemented the policy. I don't think he's given a necessary pass to those who created the policy, although he's always said if it's just a matter of policy and a bad practice, he wouldn't - he'd look forward, rather than backward.
This is still pretty fuzzy. He still, I think, has left a door open, that if something occurs that prompts him to feel he really needs to take action - for example, like this thing that's going on in Spain, which has now been turned down by the attorney general in that country but it hasn't been refused by the court. And there are also other countries of potential jurisdiction that could indeed force the United States to take some action here or really embarrass itself more severely.
So, the story isn't over. It's still ongoing. This is just another embarrassment for the Bush administration, and their conduct, because now, we all can see it. Buts as I say, I think Obama gets credit for putting it out there.
OLBERMANN: I agree with you, unfortunately, I think that door was wider open before he put this out than it is right now. John Dean .
DEAN: Yes, that's true.
OLBERMANN: . the author of "Worst than Watergate" and "Broken Government" - as always, John, thanks for your time.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: President Obama, for whom I personally retain great hope, for whom I feel gratitude, as John just mentioned, for releasing and not hiding these nightmarish memos is, on the subject of what to do next, sadly, completely and dangerously wrong. My Special Comment is next.
OLBERMANN: The president's epic failure to offer safe harbor to anyone who followed the cookbooked memos of a corrupt Justice Department and torture though they had been told torture was wrong and illegal. Or it has been said by a thousand of history's felons, "I was only following orders." My Special Comment - next.
Later, Janeane Garofalo on the truth about the teabaggers who seemed less interested in understanding who screwed them on taxes and more interested in bashing Democrats.
And Dick Ebersol on the retirement of the football broadcasting legend and my NBC Sports colleague, John Madden.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: As promised, a Special Comment on the president's revelation on the remainder of this nightmare of Bush administration torture memos. This president has gone where a few before him dared. The dirty laundry, illegal, un-American, self-defeating, self-destructive is out for all to see.
Mr. Obama deserves our praise and our thanks for that. And yet he has gone but halfway, and in this case, in far too many respects, half the distance is worse than standing still.
Today, Mr. President, in acknowledging the science fiction-like documents, you said that "this was a time for reflection not retribution. I respect the strong views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."
Mr. President, you're wrong. What you describe would be not spent energy, but catharsis; not blame laid, but responsibility ascribed.
You continued. "Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future."
Indeed we must, Mr. President. In the forces of which you speak are the ones lingering with pervasive stench from the previous administration. Far more than a criminal stench, sir, an immoral one - one we cannot let be recreated in this nation. One, President Obama, it is your responsibility to make sure cannot be recreated.
Forgive me for quoting from a comment I offered the night before the inauguration, but this goes to the core of the president's commendable but wholly naive intention here. This country has never moved forward with confidence without first cleansing itself of its mistaken past. In point of fact, every effort to merely draw a line in the sand and declare the past dead has served only to keep the past alive and often too strengthen it.
We moved forward with slavery in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And four score and nine years later, we had buried 600,000 of our sons and brothers in a civil war. After that war has ended, we moved forward without the social restructuring and without the protection of the rights of minorities in the south. And a century later, we had not only not resolved anything, but black leaders were still being assassinated in our southern cities.
We moved forward with Germany in the reconstruction of Europe after the First World War. Nobody even arrested the German Kaiser, let alone conducted war crimes trials then. And 19 years later, there was an indescribably more evil Germany and a more heartrending Second World War.
We moved forward with the trusts of the early 1900s, and today, we are at the mercy of corporations which are too big to fail. We moved forward with the Palmer Raids and got McCarthyism. And we moved forward with McCarthyism and got Watergate. We moved forward with Watergate and junior members of the Ford administration realized how little was ultimately at risk. They grew up to be Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld - and Dick Cheney.
But, Mr. President, when you say we must come together on behalf of our common future, you are entirely correct. We must focus on getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past. That means prosecuting all those involved in the Bush administration's torture of prisoners, even if the results are nominal (ph) punishments or merely new laws.
Your only other option is to let this sit and fester indefinitely - because, sir, someday, there will be another Republican president, or even a Democrat just as blind as Mr. Bush, to ethics and this country's moral force. And he will look back to what you did about Mr. Bush, or what you did not do. And he will see precedent, or as Mr. Cheney saw, he will see as how not to get caught the next time.
Prosecute, Mr. President. Even if you get not one conviction, you will still have accomplished good for generations unborn. Merely by acting, you will deny a further wrong that this construction will enter the history books: Torture was legal. It worked. It saved the country, the end.
This must not be.
"It is our intention," you said today, "to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."
Mr. President, you are making history's easiest, most often made, most dangerous mistake. You are accepting the defense that somebody was just following orders.
At the end of his first year in office, Mr. Lincoln tried to contextualize the Civil War for those who still wanted to compromise with the evils of secession and slavery. "The struggle of today," Lincoln wrote, "it's not altogether for today - it is for a vast future also."
Mr. President, you have now been handed the beginning of that vast future. Use it to protect our children and our distant descendants from anything like this ever happening again, by showing them that those who did this were neither unfairly scapegoated, nor absolved. It is good to say we won't do it again. It is not, however, enough.
James Risen of "The New York Times" and confirmation of NSA domestic spying - next.
OLBERMANN: Brand-new evidence that the warrantless wiretapping of Americans was even more egregious than we thought - including an attempt to wiretap a member of Congress. While the current wiretapping program of the National Security Agency, the one granted by congressional seal of approval, has systematically exceeded that law.
In our third story on the Countdown: James Risen of "The New York Times," who co-authored the latest investigation into the NSA program, will join us in a moment. The quote-unquote, "overcollection" of domestic communications has been significant and systemic, occurring over recent months. This, according to unnamed intelligence officials and lawyers with knowledge of the matter, speaking to "The New York Times."
One official described the excessive surveillance as unintentional, and the problem maybe the agency's inability to distinguish between overseas and domestic communications as it sweeps up vast amounts of electronic data, including phone calls and e-mails.
The Justice Department acknowledged to "The Times" that it had, quote, "detected issues that raised concerns and took comprehensive steps to correct the program and bring the program into compliance." It said that Attorney General Eric Holder went to the national security court to seek renewal of the surveillance program pursuant to new safeguards.
But a Justice Department investigation of parts of the NSA wiretap program over the past two years has revealed accusations of, quote, "significant misconduct," according to the inspector general, like an attempt to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant. And other instances of making Americans targets based on insufficient evidence. Joining me now, as promised, investigative reporter for the "New York Times," author of "State of War, the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," James Risen. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
JAMES RISEN, AUTHOR, "STATE OF WAR": Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Focusing first on this current problem of the supposedly legal version of the NSA wiretapping program; what is the crux of it and how vast is it?
RISEN: We're still trying to figure that out. But what we do know is that over the last few months there has been increasing concern both at the Justice Department and in Congress over what appears to be just an inability of the NSA to stay within the legal limits that were established by the new FISA bill last summer. They are collecting far more domestic e-mail and telephone traffic than they're supposed to under the - even the very broad and relaxed regulations that were imposed last year.
It makes it - it appears to be a problem of the inability of the NSA to distinguish between foreign and domestic communications. The technical details we're still trying to determine.
OLBERMANN: Some of this did come to light because of the new FISA law that was passed last July, which is the same law that took so much of this mammoth surveillance program and tried to make it legal. But the safeguards in here, can we even know if they're really working, even if - if problems could even be resolved? How would we ever know for certain that it's working or not working?
RISEN: That's one of the real problems here, is getting some independent oversight over this program. A lot of the oversight is really still being done by the NSA. And the NSA, working with the Justice Department, goes to the secret FISA court and certifies they are doing it right. And then they tell Congress whether they're doing it right. So it really requires the NSA to kind of admit that they've got a problem. Because the Justice Department really doesn't have the technical expertise in a lot of ways to do this on their own.
So, it's one of the real problems, having real independent oversight over this. It doesn't really exist at this point.
OLBERMANN: This lightning bolt in the middle of your story, the attempted warrantless wiretapping of a member of Congress, when, why, what do you know about it?
RISEN: That's one of the problems, we don't know a lot of details about it. But a very senior U.S. intelligence officials with direct knowledge of this, a person I can't identify, gave us this information and we - unfortunately, we haven't been able to identify the Congressman yet. But we do know that it occurred overseas and that the NSA had already begun to eavesdrop on someone else who was traveling with the Congressman, and then wanted to go up and eavesdrop directly on the Congressman, and was blocked at the last minute.
OLBERMANN: As for the past warrantless wiretapping, there was the former NSA analyst, Russell Tice, who told us over the winter on this program that groups of Americans had been targeted on a 24/7 basis, including people in news organizations, reporters. You have told us that you're fairly certain were you a target. Does the other information alluded to in your story today shed more light on any of that? Or is this simply additional evidence that Americans were frequently the targets of a system that was supposed to intercept overseas communications that were supposedly involving suspected terrorists?
RISEN: I think what it shows is that, as you may remember, President Bush and other members of his administration kept saying, basically, trust us. We have very tight controls over this program. I think what this shows is that the controls are much more lax than they ever wanted to admit and that the spying on Americans may have gone far beyond anything we realized before.
OLBERMANN: James Risen, investigative reporter of the "New York Times," author of "State of War." Great thanks for the story and great thanks for your time tonight.
RISEN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The final results in for the day of the teabaggers. Small crowds who seemed to hate Democrats more than they hate taxes. Jeanine Garofalo joins me.
And the big shake-up in sports tonight; after 30 years as football's top announcer, John Madden retires. NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol joins me.
OLBERMANN: Well, the tea bagging is all over, except for the clean-up. That will be my last intentional double entendre on this one, at least until the end of the segment. The number two story tonight, the sad reality behind the corporate sponsored tea parties, visual proof that this is not about spending deficits or taxes, but about some Americans getting riled up now about these things, riled up by the people who caused these things, and finally about some Americans who just hate the president of the United States.
According to both the conservative organs the "New York Post" and "Washington Times" - see, there was another double entendre coming - the protests only drew, quote, "tens of thousands nationwide," despite relentless 23/7 promotion on Fox News, including live telecasts from several locations, like Fox's Neil Cavuto, caught yesterday off-air estimating his crowd in California's capital of 5,000 and then on air claiming it might have been 10,000 or 15,000.
Despite Cavuto's live show with radio talker Michael Reagan there, Sacramento Police put the crowd at just over 5,000. Quote, "I wouldn't say it was among the largest we've seen here, but 5,000 is pretty large for the West Steps."
Then there were the protest messages, seething with hate. Cavuto calling that hate bipartisan, quote, "they hate Republicans who waste money. They hate Democrats who waste money that."
Claim put to the test in Pensacola, when an unemployed blogger named Jeff accepted an invitation to speak to Florida.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to start, also by honoring the service of our veterans, our current service members. Thank you so much for all you've done for this country.
I also want to say - a little history lesson here, back in 2000, there was a bunch of surplus in the country. And then in the next eight years, it was destroyed by the spending of the Bush administration. So here we are today - here we are today in a situation - here we are today. Here, if you make less than 250,000 dollars a year, just cheer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your taxes are going to be cut under the current budget. Congratulations. I was laid off in September because my employer had to make budget cuts. That's before the election, OK. So let's remember that if you're going to argue about lower taxes and less spending, to place the blame where the blame belongs, and that's squarely in the hands of the Republican -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Congratulations Pensacola teabaggers, you got spunk. Despite the hatred on display, a few of you actually violated the penal code, but teabagging has now petered out. It isn't what it used to be. When you co-opt the next holiday, Fourth of July, try to invoke a holiday food that does not invite double entendres, like, you know, franks and beans.
On a more serious note, we're now joined by actor and activist Jeanine Garofalo. Good to see you.
JANEANE GAROFALO, ACTOR: Thank you. You know, there is nothing more interesting than seeing a bunch of racists become confused and angry at a speech they're not quite certain what he thinks. It sounds right to them, and then it doesn't make sense.
Let's be very honest about what this is about. It's not about bashing Democrats. It's not about taxes. They have no idea what the Boston Tea party was about.
OLBERMANN: That's right.
GAROFALO: They don't know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea bagging rednecks. And there is no way around that. And, you know, you can tell these type of right-wingers anything and they'll believe it, except the truth. You tell them the truth and they become - it's like showing Frankenstein's monster fire. They become confused, angry, highly volatile.
That guy caused in them feelings they don't know because of their limbic brain - we've discussed before, the limbic brain inside a right-winger or Republican or conservative or your average white power activist - - the limbic brain is much larger in their head space than in a reasonable person. And it is pushing against the frontal lobe. So their synapses are misfiring.
Is Bernie Goldberg listening? Bernie might not have heard this when I said this the first time. So, Bernie, this is for you. It is a neurological problem that we're dealing with.
OLBERMANN: Well, what do you do about it, though? I mean, our friend in Pensacola there, who played them like a three dollar fiddle.
OLBERMANN: And led them right down the garden path with nothing but facts, and then they went, wait a minute, that doesn't sound like Rush Limbaugh. If you can't -
OLBERMANN: If you can't get them to make that last leap to what are we all doing here, Howard Johnson is wrong.
OLBERMANN: How do you break through that?
GAROFALO: I don't think you do, for most of them. This is a pathological - it's almost pathological or elevated to a philosophy or lifestyle. Again, this is about racism. It could be any issue, any port in a storm. These guys hate that a black guy is in the White House, but they - they immigrant bash. They pretend taxes and tea bags - like I said, most of them probably couldn't tell you thing one about taxation without representation, the Boston Tea Party, British imperialism, whatever the history lesson has to be.
But these people always - unless there's some people with Stockholm Syndrome.
OLBERMANN: I didn't see them. They were in the back. They weren't near the cameras, which is bad strategy on the part of the people staging this at Fox.
GAROFALO: True. And Fox News loves to foment this anti-intellectualism. That is their bread and butter. If you have a cerebral electorate, Fox News goes down the toilet very, very fast. It is sick and sad to see Neil Cavuto doing this. They're been doing this for years. That's why Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch started this venture, is to disinform and to coarsen and dumb-down a certain segment of the electorate.
But what is really - I didn't know there were so many racists left. I didn't know that. As I said, the Republican hype in the conservative movement has now crystallized into the white power movement.
OLBERMANN: Is that not a bad long-term strategy. Even though - your point is terrifying there are that many racists left.
OLBERMANN: The flip side of it is there aren't that many racists left.
GAROFALO: You're the minority, literally tens of people showed up to this thing across the country.
OLBERMANN: But if you spear your television network or your political party towards a bunch of guys who are just looking for a reason to yell at the black president, eventually you will marginalize yourself out of market, won't you?
GAROFALO: No. Here's what the right-wing has - there are no shortages of the natural resources of ignorance, apathy, hate sphere. As long as those things are in the collective conscious and unconscious, the Republicans will have some votes, and Fox News will have viewers. What else have they got. If they didn't do that, who's going to watch?
I mean, they have tackled that elusive clam - I said clam - you know, the clam demo, the 18 to 35 clam demo. Klan, with a K, demo. Who else is Fox talking? What is it, urban older white guys, and the girlfriend - you know, the women who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome again. There's a lot of Stockholm Syndrome, is what I'm saying, ultimately.
What else you got? What do you want to know?
OLBERMANN: What if somebody was at one of these things hurts somebody.
GAROFALO: That is an unfortunate byproduct, since the dawn of time, of a volatile group like this of the limbic brain. Violence, unfortunately, may or may not ensue. It depends on immigrant bashing and hating the black guy in the White House. Will people act on that? It's not new. But, you know, Fox doesn't mind fomenting it. Michelle Bachmann doesn't mind fomenting it. Glenn Beck doesn't mine fomenting it.
OLBERMANN: Lou Dobbs.
GAROFALO: Lou Dobbs. Oh, man. But what have they got if they don't have this? You know what I mean? It's like identity politics of the worst kind.
OLBERMANN: Peace in our time -
GAROFALO: Is Bernie still listening.
OLBERMANN: He doesn't listen.
GAROFALO: Bernie G.
OLBERMANN: Bernie listens for about two minutes last week.
GAROFALO: He doesn't watch your show?
OLBERMANN: No, no, no, no. I meant in general. That was his year's contribution to the actual political -
GAROFALO: I can move up the rung from five to three.
OLBERMANN: Jeanine Garofalo, number five, comedian, actress, political activist, and the expert on the limbic brain, great thanks as always.
GAROFALO: Very much. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: My pleasure.
After 31 seasons, John Madden is retiring. How he changed football on TV and sports on TV with Dick Ebersol. And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the governor of Texas flirting with secession, but eight state legislatures have actually introduced resolutions declaring sovereignty. Is this political gamesmanship or potential disaster?
OLBERMANN: There are two affects in the history of television sports, the time BJM and the time AJM. JM being John Madden. After an unparalleled football coaching career, he then began one in television sports broadcasting. That transcended four decades. And that has today ended.
In a moment, the man who had to accept John Madden's retirement, Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC sports. You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: John Madden outlasted the league in which he became a head coach. John Madden outlasted the network which first put him in the TV football booth. John Madden outlasted the phenomenon of the broadcast version of Monday Night Football. Those milestone and a thousand others are apparently enough. In our number one story, the man who hired him to christen Sunday Night Football, Dick Ebersol, was the first to get the news that TV's iconic sports figure is retiring. Dick joins me in a moment.
The revelation came this morning on the "Coaches Spot" with Stan Bunger on KCBS Radio in San Francisco.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's new?
JOHN MADDEN, NBC SPORTS: Uhh, big day, big day. Yesterday, I guess was the big day. But, you know, I decided - I decided to retire. Heck, I can't even say it. But I decided to retire. And, you know, it's tough, because - not because I'm not sure it's the right time. I mean, I really feel strongly that this is the right time. But I'm just going to miss everything about it, because, you know, I enjoyed it so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: John had three years remaining on his NBC contract, but cited his desire to spend time with his family is the reason for his decision. He is not just a legendary broadcaster, but also a Hall of Fame head coach. For ten years, he lead the Oakland Raiders. He won better than 75 percent of his regular games. And he beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach in 2006. Four years earlier, he had received the Pete Rozelle Radio and TV Award from the Hall of Fame.
He began his broadcasting career in 1979, calling games first with Vin Skully, and shortly thereafter moving into a famous partnership with Pat Sommeral. He would eventually team also with the legendary Al Michaels in 2002 to do ABC's Monday Night Football. Then enter Dick Ebersol, who two years ago wooed the Madden/Michaels tandem over here to headline our Sunday Night coverage on NBC.
And Dick Ebersol, my boss, chairman of NBC universal sports, joins me.
DICK EBERSOL, CHAIRMAN, NBC UNIVERSAL SPORTS: How are you?
OLBERMANN: Long day?
EBERSOL: Yes, it was. I returned from trying to talk John out of it at 6:00 this morning, and came in the same gate at the airport that I had left from at 6:00 am the morning before.
OLBERMANN: How did this all unfold, and what he said on the radio, is that about it?
EBERSOL: Yes, in a nutshell. He called me a week ago actually. He was - within minutes of the time I walked into my apartment after being at your mom's funeral, to say that he had decided to retire. And for a split second, because John has been known to kid me a lot, I wondered. And, in fact, there's a very famous incident at least in Saturday night lore, when he came to host some 27 years ago, with ten minutes left to go in the dress rehearsal, two hours before the show went on the air, he was standing on the home base just about to start a monologue, and he called out my name, Ebersol.
I didn't reply. Ebersol. So I walked out from under the stands where the producer's seat was, out in full view of all the audience and he said, I just want you to know that this has not been a pleasant experience and I intend to go home when this dress rehearsal's over, because I won't deny these good people the rest of my show tonight. But you'll need to find another host.
Well, for what now seems like it was a minute, but it was probably more like four or five seconds, with his eyes like, you know, the mad John on the sideline as a Raider. Then suddenly the little smile started at the corner of his mouth. So for a split second last Wednesday night, I thought he was kidding. But it became apparent that he wasn't.
He had good reasons. He just said, I'm 73. I've been married almost 50 years. I've missed about two dozen of my last 30 anniversary and I have five grandchildren that are now all at an age that they know I'm not there and they express their unhappiness with it.
OLBERMANN: Each year, we skip a Sunday night game during the World Series, for reason that would be obvious to anybody that can add. You gave him the preceding week off this year. He had a two-week mid season vacation. Was that a tip-off that this was a possibility?
EBERSOL: No. It was the fact that the year before, after that one-week break -
EBERSOL: - He'd come all the way east to do a game, and then flex schedule rose up for the first time and the following game ended up being in California. And the week that in Buffalo. And at that point, he's 71 years old. I mean, a trip across country, I don't care how nice the bed was on the bus, it's still you are traveling on a bus. And sometimes I thought it was a meat locker, because John always kept the bus at about 55 degrees, which, quite frankly, I like cold temperatures.
But I decided that I - that last Wednesday night that I'd ask him if he would think about it for one more week and think about it in terms of what if I gave you a much different kind of schedule, because your heir apparent that you love so much and I do, Mr. Collinsworth, he's got some - has a heck of a young son football player, and he wouldn't mind you staying and working for a couple more years, so he can enjoy his Friday night games.
And he said he would. And I flew out Wednesday morning and I presented to him a plan that he would do the first month of the season and some of his favorite places, Pittsburgh, Dallas, the new stadium, Green Bay, and then go home for October, and then come back for November and do Dallas at Philly, New England at Indy and Philly at New York. And then call it a day and go home for the year.
And I thought, you know, that would really be appealing to him and, you know, for a few minutes we talked about it. But I could see in his eyes. He said it very clearly, I learned a long, long time ago, that when you decide something in life, you don't do it half measures. You do it in a full measure and it's time for me to go away. It's funny, when I told the commissioner, Roger Goodell, early this morning about this decision on his part, on John's part, he said, you know, we never stopped learning from this man.
EBERSOL: You know, it's only 30 years ago that he walked away as the best known coach in the game, as you alluded to earlier. And now here he is at the height of all his power, just had a great season, it's - in his mind, it's time and so he's gone.
OLBERMANN: And just briefly, my non-identical twin brother Mr. Collinsworth will assume his mantle.
EBERSOL: He will. It was always intended to this be way. I think both Chris and I feel the same. John is someone we shall never see again. I mean, 40 years of dominating the American sports landscape as a coach and a - that won't happen again.
OLBERMANN: It won't. Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, especially given how long the day was, thanks for coming in, boss.
EBERSOL: You're more than welcome.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,168th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. 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