'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, August 24, 2009
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Worst Persons
Guests: Lawrence O'Donnell, Jane Mayer, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Eugene Robinson, Gerald
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The report is out. Bush interrogators threatened Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, "We're going to kill your children." Bush interrogators threatened Abd al-Nashiri, "We're going to use this power drill on your head." Bush interrogators threatened to rape mothers, to assault family, as detainees were forced to watch.
And concurrent with the inspector general's nauseating, beyond belief findings, more records which Dick Cheney thinks prove torture worked.
There will be a special prosecutor. His name is John Durham. Jane Mayer on the details; Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson on who should be held responsible and who probably will be.
The Republicans and shouting fire in a non-fiery theater. Senators McCain and Hatch actually suggest the debate would have been different if Senator Kennedy had been there - like it was his fault. And Senator Grassley on having said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: You have every right to fear. We should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on grandma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That Grassley says now, it was the president's fault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRASSLEY: The specific language I used was language that the president had used at Portsmouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And the newest crazy scare tactic. First, they had a death panel. Now, there's a death book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Usually we discuss the news, but today, we're going to tell you about something you may never have heard about - what critics are calling "the death book."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, the death book Chris is holding is actually a Veterans Administration manual, a minor update of the one used in 2007 under President Bush - or to translate this into Republican: George Bush had a death book.
And, told you so. What or who killed Michael Jackson? Police confirm no murder investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, Countdown, 6/26/09)
OLBERMANN: The coroner's office said this afternoon no foul play.
Are the police out of this necessarily?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This doctor is pivotal to this investigation and, boy, I hope he's got a lawyer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The L.A. County Coroner's Office reportedly rules Jackson's death a homicide.
All that and more - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it. I mean, this is really it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The U.S. Department of Justice will investigate incidents of torture committed by U.S. officials and contractors during the Bush administration, including threatening people with guns and power drills, with raping their mothers, with killing their children.
Our fifth story on the Countdown: The White House today flooding the zone on the same day a federal judge ordered the release of the CIA documents that read like something out of the Spanish Inquisition - specifically, federal prosecutor John Durham expanding his existing investigation into CIA destruction of interrogation videotapes to include those interrogations themselves.
One administration official is telling NBC news tonight Durham will investigate about 10 cases detailed in this new CIA report, such as one in which one person was forced to breathe in cigarette smoke until they had to, quote, "purge." Like taking the USS Cole bombing mastermind, Abd Rahim al-Nashiri, and stripping him naked except for a hood on his head, racking a pistol close to his head, revving a power drill - in violation of U.S. law against threatening to kill detainees - like telling him, quote, "We can bring your family in here, we could get your mother in here" to rape them in front of him.
Like telling the accused 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, quote, "We're going to kill your children," like mock executions, firing a gun in a cell and letting a detainee next door see a hooded body lying apparently dead on the floor.
As well as incidents in the report that remain secret - incidents the administration official said, quote, "raise allegations of abuse that are much worse," presumably including ones that killed people.
As for waterboarding, the report says officials went beyond DOJ guidelines but had, quote, "oral concurrence to do so." Quote, "The attorney general acknowledged he is fully aware of the repetitive use of the waterboard."
And despite former Vice President Cheney's claim that two CIA reports from 2004 and 2005 will vindicate his use of torture those reports also released with redactions today, say only that detainees provided information, not that torture was necessary to get it. Mr. Cheney unavailable for comment today, said to be on a boat.
But if you think he's up river or heading for international waters, our chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams, reports that Holder has all but concluded he will not recommend Mr. Durham investigate the Bush officials who conceived of and authorized CIA torture, even though top Bush Justice Department official Jay Bybee greenlighted death threats shortly before someone pointed a power drill at Mr. al-Nashiri's head.
Instead, Mr. Obama today announced a creation of a new task force answering directly to the White House to coordinate and centralize U.S. interrogations of high-value terrorist suspects. Mr. Obama appointing this man to oversee those interrogations, John Brennan, to make sure detainees are not tortured, nor renditioned to states that torture. This despite the fact that Brennan ran the Bush CIA Counterterrorism Center while the center developed its torture and rendition regimes, regimes which Brennan later defended.
Let's turn to Jane Mayer, the staff writer at "The New Yorker," author of "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals."
Great thanks for your time tonight.
JANE MAYER, "THE NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: Great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: What did I miss just now?
MAYER: Well, that was a pretty good rundown on what sounds like really a medieval program. You know, one of the things that the inspector general's report says that I think is important is he told the CIA back in 2004 when his report was given to them that they were in deep legal trouble. And so, they were very much forewarned.
And I think there were some other documents put out by the Justice Department today that showed that they continued to justify this program on through 2007. That is three years later. They were still doing many of the same things or justifying them anyway.
So, basically they were warned. They were in legal trouble. And you could see that in this report because it reads like a crime scene basically.
OLBERMANN: Yes. And there was.
OLBERMANN: There was the one quote in there in which someone was saying, you know, we're going to have to answer for this in 10 years. They got everything right but the date.
But what about who's answering - who's answering here? Because every single passage that might lead higher up, identify the source of a torture technique, that has been blacked out, redacted. Do we get that information from Durham's investigation or do we get that information never?
MAYER: Well, my guess is that if they actually open some kind of serious investigation, and Durham is said to be a very serious prosecutor, that even if they start at the very bottom, it's going to keep leading up and up through the chain of command. Because if nothing else if they actually bring charges against anybody at the CIA who was at the bottom of the food chain, the first thing that person is going to do is say, "I was authorized. Let me tell you what my orders were."
So, they've begun a process that could lead to the top.
OLBERMANN: Well, if it works along the Archibald Cox lines as I analogized last week, where they supposedly circumscribed it, but as you say, people want to get out from being the scapegoats for the whole operation. I think your assessment is correct.
What about Mr. Cheney's assessment that there would be documents that prove the torture worked where traditional and legal interrogation did not or would not? Is there anything in those documents that were released today that supports that contention?
MAYER: Well, the documents that I've seen - and maybe I'm missing something - but so far, I am amazed at how little support there is for the things that Vice President Cheney has been saying. There is nothing but a mass of claims that they got information from this individual and that individual, many from KSM who apparently has been the greatest font of information for them.
But there's absolutely nothing saying they had to beat them to get this information. In fact, as anybody knows, who knows anything about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was dying to tell the world when he was interviewed by al Jazeera before he was in U.S. custody, about everything he knew and everything he did, he was proud of his role as the mastermind of 9/11. And he loves to talk about it.
So, there's - there is no evidence that I see in this that these things were necessary. I spoke to someone at the CIA who was an advisor to them who conceded to me that we could have gotten the same information with tea and crumpets. So.
OLBERMANN: Or buying a copy of the al Jazeera interview.
OLBERMANN: Last note about this appointment of John Brennan or intention to put him in charge of interrogation. Is the lesson of the Bush years ultimately that interrogators should answer directly to the White House via this man John Brennan?
MAYER: Well, I mean, it's an irony that John Brennan seems to be at the apex of the interrogation policy in the Obama administration, because many people remember - including me, I interviewed him two years ago. He was defending the Bush program. I think he was an internal critic of waterboarding, but beyond that, he told me we've got to do these things. So it's - the intense interrogation techniques were necessary.
Now that he's advising Obama he may have changed his mind. Certainly the task force has taken a position that abuse has to be in the past. We don't need these things. And I guess John Brennan very much is taking that position now, too.
OLBERMANN: Well, hopefully, there's no zealot like a convert. Jane Mayer of "The New Yorker" and also author of "The Dark Side" - much thanks as always for your time on this.
MAYER: Glad to be with you.
OLBERMANN: And here tonight with an insider's perspective, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
And thank you for your time tonight, sir.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: First off, your response to the CIA report and particularly what are being called the Cheney documents.
WILKERSON: Well, of course, I had known a lot about this before the documents came out. I did my own investigation for Secretary Powell and then later my own for myself. And I read Carl Levin's fine report from the Senate Armed Services Committee and frankly, on the basis of that report alone, I think there should be some accountability and some proceedings. So, this didn't shock me that much except perhaps as usual to see all the redacted material.
As for the two Cheney reports that I looked at online just a few hours ago, the one about Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and then the more comprehensive one, I agree with Jane Mayer, that there is absolutely nothing in there that supports a direct cause-and-effect relationship between these sorts of heinous methods and the information gained. In fact, quite the contrary from what I've heard from FBI interrogators, military interrogators, and others.
OLBERMANN: Back to the main report, we've heard a lot and the rationalization inside the Obama administration for not prosecuting the people who developed these techniques or authorized them or even those who followed the actual - as crazy as the authorizations were, followed the authorizations - is that it would demoralize the CIA and so forth. But this report has a lot in it and speaks powerfully to the idea there were many people who did good work inside the CIA, inside the rules, and repeatedly, perpetually and to - sometimes at great peril - objected to these other methods.
Is there - is there no reason to worry about demoralizing those people who played by the rules?
WILKERSON: Absolutely, Keith. I found the same thing with regard to Abu Ghraib and other more visible examples of the way the armed forces were involved in this when I encountered lieutenants and captains and majors and NCOs, noncommissioned officers, who had objected and who had not participated in these sorts of things. It's the same thing in the CIA. You've got a lot of outstanding people in the federal bureaucracy, DIA, CIA, armed forces, and so forth and you demoralize these people when you allow the few who do this sort of thing to get away. And I'm - let me emphasize that.
This was not very many people. This was a very select group of contractors and CIA personnel, starting with George Tenet, running down through McLaughlin and Rodriguez and down to the people who actually did it, contractor and CIA, very small group. I'd say it was probably less than 1 percent of the people in the agency.
OLBERMANN: Great chunks of this report, Colonel, remain secret as you said. It's startling to go through it and say this is what has been released publicly and it's a series of black boxes. What do we still need to know that might be in there under those under - that black ink?
WILKERSON: I think John Durham is going to have to find out what's under that black ink and almost all of these reports. I think there are indications in Carl Levin's report - some 200 pages or so of it - that there are some fairly heinous things under that black ink.
And probably, more important to people like Dick Cheney and David Addington and Bill Haynes and a whole bunch of others - Jim Haynes - is the fact there may be links - links all the way up to the vice president's office because that's where it all started. It started with David Addington and Vice President Richard Cheney, and their gross fears that led them to do things that I probably never thought an American would do.
OLBERMANN: It reads - as I said earlier - like parts of the Spanish Inquisition. It's amazing that it happened in our time, and I guess we all have to assume responsibility for some degree to it.
WILKERSON: I think Jane's use of the word "medieval" is right on the mark.
OLBERMANN: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff under Colin Powell - again, great thanks for your time and great thanks for your explanation on this.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: That the Republicans began in 2001 to sell fear of death as their principle political commodity - has been solidly proven earlier than today. It continues also in the response tonight to Tom Ridge's revelations about playing politics with counterterrorism.
And the latest bogeyman to be introduced by the GOP into the health care debate: the death book. The problem arises, of course, when it turns out - with a little more research - that the death book did not originate with President Obama, but reached its widely used status under President Bush. Surprise!
OLBERMANN: Senator Grassley says he lied to his constituents and told them they had reason to fear the government pulling the plug on grandma because President Obama had used that wording first. And the Democrats, the scales removed from their eyes now seem ready to go health care alone, but not before the GOP gives it one last try - death books, and calling self-proclaimed proud, right-wing terrorists called "great Americans."
This is Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: If many Republican lawmakers were forced to listen to their own comments about health care, they could not genuinely expect to be taken seriously by anybody - much less Democrats.
And in our fourth story on the Countdown: There are new hints now, that finally seeing the madness of the Republican context that surrounds them, Democrats will be prepared to go this alone.
A new smorgasbord of GOP excuses on hamana-hamanas on health care none more ludicrous than the circular logic of Senator Chuck Grassley. Asked why he said, quote, "We should not have a government plan that will pull the plug on grandma."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRASSLEY: I said that because - two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents and the language - the specific language I used was language that the president had used at Portsmouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course, the president had used that language to rebut those, like Grassley and Palin, who had made such an outrageous claim in the first place. Grassley basically admitted that he was enabling the fear of his constituents instead of puncturing the misconception with facts. When asked again if the House legislation would pull the plug on grandma, he said, quote, "It won't do that."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRASSLEY: I know the Pelosi bill doesn't intend to do that, but that's where it leads people to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator John McCain meantime defended Sarah Palin's claim that Obama's bill would create death panels, quoting, "Look, I don't think they were, quote, 'death panels.' Don't get me wrong. But on the best treatment procedures part of the bill, it does open it up to decisions being made as far - that should be left - those choices left to the patient and the individual."
Both McCain and Senator Orrin Hatch separately suggested that bipartisanship would be in full flower if Senator Ted Kennedy had not been absent from the debate.
Then there was Senator Joe Lieberman, raising the moral imperative here just to shoot the thing down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Morally, every one of us would like to cover every American with health insurance but that's where you spend most of the trillion dollars-plus and I am afraid we've got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy is out of recession. There is no reason we have to do it all now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Who will think of the bankers? Won't somebody think of the bankers?
With the insanity all of this just beginning to sink in, Senator Chuck Schumer claims the Democrats do have 60 Senate votes for a health care plan that includes the public option and that if not, his party is now prepared to use the filibuster-proof reconciliation process to get a bill to the president.
Let's turn now to "Huffington Post" contributor, MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell.
Good evening, sir.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Have Democrats finally figured out they're negotiating with and arguing against mad men? Have we seen something of a sea change as of tonight?
O'DONNELL: Well, Keith, we like to call that shadow boxing in the Senate. We don't use that - that phrase "negotiating with mad men" never comes up. But you do at a certain point in these proceedings realize you've been shadow boxing - which is to say there's really no one there on the other side and you've really been negotiating with yourself. That's apparently what's ended up here.
When I used to be part of these negotiations on the finance committee when I worked there, you could watch Republicans slip away from us over time. That's what's happening here. Even Republicans of good will who tried to be with you in the beginning, the party pressure, they start to feel it - especially on recesses as you saw with Chuck Grassley - and they drift away. And it's very clear to Democrats now that that is what has happened.
OLBERMANN: Senator Schumer suggested a reconciliation if the Democrats don't have the 60 Senate votes, various administration officials indicated that the president's patience with Republicans is not endless, might only last a couple more millennia. Is there a cogent strategy right now to do this without Republicans or not?
O'DONNELL: In a word, no.
OLBERMANN: If there had been a strategy to do this without Republicans, they would have done it in July. That was their schedule. They couldn't.
They let Max Baucus continue his negotiations with Republicans because they knew they didn't have enough Democratic votes. They knew they did not have 50 Democratic votes for the public option at that time. Never mind the 60 they would need - even within the reconciliation process - in order to override certain Senate rules to keep elements of the bill within reconciliation.
So, they don't have that. They know they don't have that. And that's why the negotiations have continued.
OLBERMANN: We've heard everything so far. We've heard Grassley contradicting Grassley and blaming Obama for it. We've heard about death panels. We'll get to the introduction of the death book later on. Probably death spam somewhere being introduced by the Republicans.
But for sheer egregiousness, the two senators invoking Ted Kennedy's name into this, I'd like your reaction to that.
O'DONNELL: Well, this is kind of shocking. Orrin Hatch and John McCain both saying that if Ted Kennedy were here, we would have a deal, they would be able to work out a deal with him. This strikes me as them both just trying to portray themselves as reasonable men who could do business with another reasonable man.
They both voted against - they've already voted on this - they voted against the Kennedy bill in the Kennedy committee, in the health, education, labor, and pensions committee. They've had a bill, they voted against it.
That bill was conceived of by Chairman Kennedy. He wasn't there at the time of the votes. Chris Dodd was there getting it through the committee for Chairman Kennedy. The chairman made his wishes known very clearly.
John McCain, a member of the committee, Orrin Hatch a member of the committee could have tried to work with Senator Kennedy at the beginning and they rejected that possibility.
Fifteen years ago, Orrin hatch was also on both the Kennedy committee and the Senate Finance Committee where I was working. He voted against the Kennedy bill that came through the Kennedy committee then. He then personally complained to me about how ugly and partisan the process was, run by Senator Kennedy, in Senator Kennedy's committee. And he was hoping that we would do a more bipartisan process in the finance committee, which we did do.
But Orrin Hatch was not part of anything Ted Kennedy tried to do on this, 15 years ago, and nothing that he tried to do this year. Same thing with John McCain. I don't know why they said that. They know that they didn't at any moment engage in real negotiations with Senator Kennedy this year.
OLBERMANN: It's flack I think they call it when the submariners use it and it's also tasteless but, you know, if you want to invoke Senator Kennedy and live up to his standards, then, you know, act like a senator.
Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC and "Huffington Post" - as always, great thanks, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And meet Berlino. Berlino is the mascot at the Berlin games which makes the thing he just ran into the "Berlino wall."
And what did the U.S. congressman say when the idiot in the crowd announced "I am proud right wing terrorist"? Unfortunately, it's not a knock-knock joke. Find out in "Worst Persons" - ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: "Bests" in a moment, and I think one of the Bushies just complained that Tom Ridge did not attack Bush hard enough.
First, on this date in 1980, while leaving Shea Stadium in New York, already late for work, I leaped head first into the overhead of the doorway of a New York City subway car. One and one-half stitches, one concussion, 414 bouts of nausea, some temporary amnesia and some permanent inner ear damage. Later, I got better. And thus was born the cliche "Never run for a train, there will always be another one."
Let's play "Oddball."
Actually, I know who actually started that but I have forgotten. We begin at the Track and Field World Championships in Berlin where mascot Berlino the bear attempts to steal the spotlight from the actual athletes ended in tragedy. First, he was hamming it up with Usain Bolt after the sprinter set the world record in the 200. Then the bear got into the act after Bolt's fellow Jamaican Melanie Walker won the title in the 400-meter hurdle.
Berlino couched the champion into a piggyback ride and clearly, oh, my
Berlino has no future in hurdling. Oh. So, after this display, Berlino may not be able to have a family. Thus was born the cliche, "Never run for a hurdler, there will always be another one."
In Pettling in Germany, where two young people are just out there doing some heavy pettling in the field. No, no. They're just smooching and why not? Because they just got engaged, because Marcus Schmidt there is the son of a farmer who wanted to propose in this special way.
When the time was right in a move that would make Dwight Schrute from "The Office" proud - he stacked 150 bales of hay reading in German, (INAUDIBLE) translation, either will you marry me, or more colloquially speaking, I am a jelly doughnut. His girlfriend said yes and the couple then went on this stroll through proposal henge.
The latest right-wing scare tactic: death books. Surprise, Chris Wallace, guess which president issued the death book?
And the day after we asked, they said no. Now, the answer is apparently yes. Michael Jackson has been reportedly classified as a homicide.
These stories ahead.
But first, time for Countdown's "Top Three Best Persons in the World."
Dateline: Preesall, Lancashire, England. Number three: Best bad politician, Mayor Ian Stafford is also the small town's handyman and its gardener and apparently, also its perv. After a spate of local women reported break-ins in which only their underwear was stolen, one installed a hidden camera and discovered the half-naked mayor donning her panties and then having some fun. Mayor Stafford has resigned - although I'm thinking he's a natural for Senator Ensign's brain trust.
Dateline: Washington. Number two: Best bizarre political complaint. Nicolle Wallace, former Bush adviser, recoiling at Tom Ridge's revelation that politics played a part in at least one decision about raising the Homeland Security color coded terror alert. Quote, "that is quite different from what he very, I think in a kind of wussy way, alleges. I mean, this is not a very precise attack. This is, he pondered and wondered if perhaps politics went into it. You know, it's very fishy to me."
In other words, she is not complaining that Tom Ridge is factually incorrect or wrong, she's upset that he left room for the possibility that he might not know everything. What in Bush land is called being, quote, wussy. All right, Ms. Wallace, if Ridge is too circumspect for you, let me translate. He caught you bastards playing politics with terrorism by raising the threat level to counteract bad news for the Republicans or good news for the Democrats. He caught you conducting the kind of terrorism that includes not violence, but just fear of violence. Is that non-wussy enough for you, Nicole?
And dateline Washington, number one, best political statement, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. After Alec Baldwin told "Playboy Magazine" he had no use for Lieberman and thought maybe he'd move to Connecticut to run against him, Lieberman replied, "make my day. I respect Alec Baldwin as an actor and as a comedian. And if he wants to run, that's his right." Funny, senator. That's how the rest of us feel about you. We respect you as an actor and a comedian.
OLBERMANN: As if the hysteria over Sarah Palin's death panels had not been infuriating and embarrassing enough, in our third story on the Countdown, now we have the companion item, the death book. Can tartar control death toothpaste be far in the offing? The problem is the death book is a document produced by the VA that was also used and updated by the Bush White House. The claim, a pamphlet distributed by the Department of Veterans Affairs encourages euthanasia and assisted suicide for soldiers. The premise first invented in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed by the former director of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives under President Bush, Jim Towey, promptly promoted on, who else, Sarah Palin's Facebook page. That's her new job. She has a Facebook page. Then paraded out as truth, with an assist from the endlessly clueless and partisan Chris Wallace, on Fixed News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM TOWEY, FMR. BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Here you have the government that has a financial stake in the answers that they give. And I think a lot of people are afraid that somehow they're going to be steered toward a denial of care. So whether there's death panel written in a law or not, the real issue is why would the VA be promoting a document written by an assisted suicide advocate, that has such a kind of obsession with death, and with pushing people I think in a direction to deny care?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The document is actually called "Your Life, Your Choices." It is actually a 52-page optional guidebook for veterans. It is about living wills and end of life care. It has been in use since 1997, with the Bush administration being the one that had its VA issue a directive in 2007 to list the book as an example of the type of document doctors should give their patients if requested.
The directive was updated in July by the Obama administration. As "Huffington Post" reports, "Your Life, Your Choices" has the same advanced care planning required of all health care organizations under federal law. And it was developed with guidance from interfaith ministers.
In response to the lies spread by Mr. Towey and then promoted by Mr. Wallace, the group VoteVets.org posted this: "really, if the document was really trying to get veterans to pull the plug on themselves, then first suggesting to them that their life should be prolonged at all costs is a pretty stupid way to do it."
Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the "Washington Post," Eugene Robinson. Good evening.
EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Death panels, the death book; what is next, the death home game, poly-unsaturated death, or, my favorite, the new Cash for Death program at your Ford dealer?
ROBINSON: You know, I think you're being far too kind. I think they swing for the fences and go straight for death by Democrat. Vote for the Democrats and you die. You die an awful death. Vote for Republicans, you'll live forever. I mean, that seems to be the next logical step.
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, they're pro choice. They're going to protest at graveyards hence forth. Mr. Towey went on and on about why is the government spending money on this? He has a nonprofit group that's called Aging With Dignity. Again, this is from the "Huffington Post." He attempted, in the past, to get the VA to distribute his own book on this subject, instead of this one that has been in use under three presidents.
And nobody is bothered by this blatant commercial interest, this kind of mendacious conflict of interest by this guy pushing the story on Fox.
ROBINSON: I'm kind of bothered by it, Keith. You know, I hope we can get past Mr. Towey and his hooey about - you know, he does have his own pamphlet that he'd like to put out there. But consider the context. I mean, are we arguing that veterans should not be given information about their end of life choices? Does that make any sense? It's - it's - this argument has become insane. It's become a fact free zone.
OLBERMANN: It's like an impression. It's an impression of what would scare people the most, what could we take that has a sliver of truth and possible credibility to it, and let's exaggerate it into making it look like somebody is going to come and decide for you when to end your life. And is - can we measure the degree of irresponsibility and danger to not only mischaracterize a policy that the Bush administration actually is sort of authenticating here, but to tell our troops that a Democratic administration is encouraging them to pull the plug?
ROBINSON: You could call it politically irresponsible and dangerous. But just on a human level, it's cruel. It's ridiculous. It's denying or seeking to deny to people who are aging a full set of options that they can sort through as they decide how to live their final years and their final days.
I mean, this is - look, we're all going to be there. And we're all going to have decisions to make. And our families are going to have decisions to make. And you need information.
OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin has linked the Towey death book op-ed to her Facebook page. One observation and one question; apparently having a Facebook page is for people who are too lazy to have their own blog. Two, wasn't she the same person who said in her great farewell address, in the name of the American soldier, quit making stuff up?
ROBINSON: Yes, but she is also the person who said there was a Department of Law in the White House. And so we have to keep the context. Here's the one take away from this - this whole discussion, though. You know, all of those countries that have socialized medicine and rationed care and, you know, the Norways and the UKs and Canada and France and Switzerland and those places we're supposed to be afraid of that they're going to have death panels or something like that or death books, they all have greater life expectancy than the United States.
We're not number one. We're not even number ten. We're number 35, according to the CIA Fact Book. So clearly they're not the ones who are sending people to an early grave. It's our health system that is sending Americans to an early grave. But that, again, fact gets lost in the discussion.
OLBERMANN: That's like saying oh, this'll impose rationing. Well, we have rationing now. It's called rationing for rich people and poor people don't get any of the treatment that would be rationed out, supposedly, in the worst fears of the Republicans in the new system. Gene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the "Washington Post," also of MSNBC, great thanks, and I'll see you at the meeting of the death panel.
ROBINSON: I'll see you there, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Same topic, different money grubbers. Tomorrow on this news hour, a closer look at the health care giant no longer even bothering to use a proxy, as it is still directly urging its employees to fight against the public option. We'll introduce you to the people and practices of United Health Group, who have driven reimbursement rates - or have driven the reimbursement rates of its own company to some of the nation's lowest, and executive compensation to some of the stratospheric highest.
All that before Congress even delivers a bill, early versions of which have been described as a bonanza for the industry. Reaction summed up by a former industry executive in a single word, hallelujah.
Told you so. The L.A. Coroner's Office has reportedly classified Michael Jackson's death as a homicide. And Glenn Beck is back from suspension and back to busily killing the truth. Do not cower in fear. The worst you could do is die without honor. And we're truly responsible for the freedom of this country. Oh, how could anybody ever think that was an incitement to violence?
Coming up at the top of the hour on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" Michael Steele launches a patients' bill of rights which defends pretty much everything President Obama is aiming for.
OLBERMANN: Gerald Posner on the reported classification by the L.A. Coroner's Office that Michael Jackson's death was a homicide, next. But first time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's worst person in the world.
The bronze to Bill-O the clown. It's not the sophistry of this simpleton's world view that infuriates people. It's the refusal to use any intellectual energy in arriving arrive at it. We do a brief translation:
"President Obama's health care vision is confusing. It may also bankrupt the nation. That does not sound smart to me. The American people do not want to invest trillions of dollars in a big government program that's confusing. That would be insane."
In other words, Bill-O doesn't like reading anything longer than five paragraphs unless there are pictures of it, of puppies or girls. And who said it may also bankrupt the nation? What authority are you quoting? Did you pose that possibility about, say, the pointless war in Iraq?
"The far left doesn't want to hear it because those loans want income distribution and see government run health care as a way to do that." What Bill-O here is, if you take taxpayer money and give it by the billions to Blackwater and Halliburton and KBR and Lockhead, through the advent of convenient, that's patriotism. If you take the same amount of money out of corporate profits and give it back to the people, that's income redistribution.
"But clear thinking Americans understand this whole deal is screwed up. The country needs a fresh start on health care." Billy goes insane any time anybody accuses him of reading or simply regurgitating Republican talking points, yet there it is. "The country needs a fresh start on health care." A virtual word for word repeat of the talking points from last week, as presented by Republican Senator Jon Kyl.
Our runner-up tonight, Glenn Beck. The Lonesome Roads of 2009 now with 33 sponsor cancellations, including a Fox News wide one from UPS. Back from suspension today with his tin foil hat all polished and freshly recrinkled. "You can be rich. You can be poor. But these czars are pushing people around, this system of government that is going on right now. We are building, at best, a thug-ocracy. We are dealing with massive unions. WE are dealing with - as I just you in Know your Czars - radicals, revolutionaries. They don't care. They've gone in this cloak of credibility. If you're afraid now, you will cower in fear for the rest of your life. Your children will also cower in fear. And they will serve masters.
"Do not cower in fear. The worst thing you can do is die without honor. And we are truly responsible for the freedom in this country. We are truly responsible. We will be held responsible, not only by god, but also the founders, when we cross the other side. And they will say, what was more important than your children's freedom? The answer is nothing."
There he is fomenting more violence against the government. Glenn, you do realize when you go off on those paranoid, comical rants, you begin to sound like one of the mullahs, right? Mullah Glenn Beck. Is that better than Lonesome Roads or is it too offensive to Mullahs?
But our winner, Republican Congressman Wally Herger of California. In front of 2,000 people in Redding, scared into believing their own crap insurance and health care are better than having a choice between and ones that are cheaper and better, Herger not only said, quote, "our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today." But then some idiot in the crowd stood up and said "I am a proud right wing terrorist."
Congressman Herger replied, "Amen. God bless you. There is a great American."
No, sir. That is not a great American. That is a man calling himself a right wing terrorist. Even if he was being allegorical or hyperbolic, you're a U.S. Congressman, damn it. You're bound by oath to uphold the Constitution. And if some buffoon in your audience describes himself with the word terrorist, you are, at minimum, required to remind him what that means and how many Americans have died at the hands of terrorists. And you have to tell him to shut the hell up until he can come close to living up to what you told everybody in that crowd when your little fascist rally started, they have to respect each other's opinions.
If you can't, Congressman Herger, you're not entitled to serve as Redding's dog catcher, let alone be in the House of Representatives. Congressman Wally "a right wing terrorist is a great American" Herger, of the California Second, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Michael Jackson's death has been ruled a homicide. In our number one story on the Countdown, police are investigating his doctor for manslaughter. This a little more than eight weeks after Jackson's death. When we had asked, who or what killed Michael Jackson, while officials were still insisting there would be no criminal investigation.
The Los Angeles County Coroner has ruled Jackson's death a homicide, according to law enforcement officials. A search warrant for the office of Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, more detailed. Quote, "the Los Angeles chief medical examiner coroner indicated that he had reviewed the preliminary toxicology results, and his preliminary assessment of Jackson's cause of death was due to lethal levels of Propofol, Diprivan."
In the affidavit seeking the warrant, Houston police officer E.G. Chance said that agents had gathered, quote, "items constituting evidence of the offense of manslaughter that tend to show that Dr. Conrad Murray committed that said criminal offense."
Further details from court documents; Dr. Murray told investigators he had been treating Jackson for insomnia for six weeks, giving him 50 milligrams of the drug Propofol every night intravenously. On the morning Jackson died, Dr. Murray tried to induce sleep with three other prescription drugs before administering 25 mg of Propofol.
Jackson went to sleep and then later died. Eight weeks ago, I asked investigative reporter Diane Diamond about the implications for a personal doctor in such a case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: If have you a live-in doctor, what does that mean?
DIANE DIAMOND, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: If you're a celebrity and have a live-in doctor - I lived in Hollywood. You lived there, too. It means you have your in-house drug pusher, is really what you really have. I need an Oxycontin please. I need a little Demerol. I need - and they're on hand to do that for you. This doctor is pivotal to this investigation and, boy, I hope he's got a lawyer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let's bring in the chief investigative reporter of the "Daily Beast" and the noted author, Gerald Posner. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
GERALD POSNER, "THE DAILY BEAST": Sure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We have a slew of information from various sources today.
What are we seeing in the Jackson case?
POSNER: Well, we're seeing the inevitable. Look, they're going to get an indictment in this case. Everybody is clamoring for somebody to be charged. It is going to be - as Dr. Murray said - I interviewed him last Tuesday, the first journalist to do so. He said, I'm afraid of being made the scapegoat. I don't think he has a choice. He's going to get a criminal indictment on this, probably for manslaughter.
OLBERMANN: It appears, though, he has cooperated with the police. He described what he administered. He reportedly said that he went to the restroom after he gave Jackson the Propofol the final time. Is he trying to turn some sort of a deal here or did he set a trap for himself? Because once it's been determined that Jackson died from Propofol, as you suggest, it's only a matter of time before Murray gets arrested, isn't it?
POSNER: Well, I tell you, it's only a matter of time until he gets arrested. But the interesting thing is, Keith, he's got six hours of conversations, interrogations with the L.A. Police. And according to his lawyers and to Murray - they told me last week he hasn't changed an iota of that testimony. I just talked to the lawyers an hour ago and they said the affidavit we're reading today has the timeline wrong. It's made it up about Murray leaving the room. And there is other information in it that's just incorrect.
So what's interesting is we're taking the police affidavit as though it's fact. But let me tell you, I know this defense team is about to contest this. This isn't going to go down as a slam dunk for the prosecution.
OLBERMANN: What is the role of the timing, Gerald, between that video that Dr. Murray created and put on Youtube last week, or whenever it was, and all this coming out? Are those two things just concurrent or are they connected?
POSNER: No. It's connected. Let me tell you, Dr. Murray, he has been cut apart by a thousand pieces very effectively by one of the best leaking departments in the United States, the L.A. Police Department. They know hot to leak and when to leak. I've seen them do it before. They did it very well on Simpson, although that didn't succeed in the trial eventually. But they've done it here as well.
The defense has pretty much held back. I do think what we've seen so far is the indictment and conviction in the paper. Look, the key here is they can't find any evidence that Murray ever ordered Propofol. Jackson was being treated for Propofol before-hand. That's how he dealt with his insomnia.
Now you have a doctor coming in, Murray, who says, hey, I think you're an addict. I'm going to slowly take you off this, and wean you off. And AIG, the concert promoter, says, by the way, don't do it in a clinic or in a hospital. Make sure it's done at home, so nobody knows he is getting ready for his London tours. There is a lot of liability here I think is still to come out.
OLBERMANN: As you point out, the suggestion here is that Dr. Murray did not obtain Propofol under his own license, which suggests somebody else did. Do they become culpable in some way? Is there someone for him to redirect that beam of prosecution onto them?
POSNER: I don't think he can redirect the beam it onto them. What he's done is he is going to share the responsibility for. And the real question for Dr. Murray is - there are two standards; is what he's done at that house that night considered possibly medical malpractice, because of the fact it wasn't done in a clinic? Does it cross the line into criminal behavior?
But the key is you have the first doctor stepping forward in a long time who says, by the way, I'm going to cut you back and get you off of this. In the course of doing that, Jackson dies on your watch, or, as Murray tells me, I'm the last man standing. Unfortunately for him, because he is in that position, that's where I think law enforcement is going to come down on top of him.
OLBERMANN: It's interesting, because Deepak Chopra was on the program the night after Jackson died. And he said, every time he could, he tried to get an intervention started with Jackson about his use these medicines, but that the system was essentially stacked against that, and it protected the doctors that Chopra called enablers and pushers. Ultimately, could that case break the system that Chopra described?
POSNER: You know, Deepak is absolutely right. And unfortunately I think it could dent it but not break it. Years ago, in fact, in 1977, if we were talking about Elvis's death; George Nichopoulos, Dr. Nick, his doctor, had given 10,000 prescriptions in the final month of Elvis's life, 10,000 pills in Elvis's name. Everyone thought that would be the end of the prescribing and enabling doctors.
Here we are 32 years later talking about it in light of Michael Jackson's death. So it's going to keep going on.
OLBERMANN: Unfortunately, I think you're right, especially in that context. Gerald Posner, the chief investigative reporter for the "Daily Beast" and author of many fine investigative books. Great thanks, as always, for your time, sir.
POSNER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this the 2,307th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann and, as John Charles Daly used to sign off, "good night and a good tomorrow."
Now to analyze the GOP's new Patients Bill of Rights that defends the kind of health care the president is proposing, ladies and gentlemen, sitting in for Rachel Maddow, here is Allison Stewart.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END