'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Quick Comment (Brown), Quick Comment (homeland security), Worst Persons
Via YouTube: Quick Comment (Brown), Quick Comment (Lieberman)
Guests: Lawrence O'Donnell, Robert Gibbs, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Mark Denbeaux, Chris Hayes
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Now what? The president this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Senate shouldn't - certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. The people of Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yet, the press secretary earlier this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One of the options that is certainly on the table is having what's already passed the Senate go through the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Wouldn't that exclude the senator-elect?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR-ELECT SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: I was asked many times what kind of Republican I would be. And I really didn't know how to answer that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Better figure something out. Scott Brown's daunting new reality: re-election in less than 34 months. Can he even be moderate in a liberal state without offending his teabag base?
And the right again calls all criticism of the dubious new senator, quote, "lies," without offering a simple reputation. So, I'll provide the evidence, it's all true, in tonight's comment.
Aftershock: A 5.9 postscript in Haiti. Two more recovered alive, but still, the relief bottleneck.
The Gitmo, quote, "suicides," unquote, as Amnesty International calls for an investigation, our guest, the Seaton Hall professor who began the unmasking of the cover-up.
On the beginning of his second year in office, the president so-called "slump," his approval rating, 56 percent - it's dramatic decline from last month when it was 56 percent? So there really isn't a slump?
And back to Senator-elect Brown, after the embarrassments with his daughters last night, which commentator today said, "I want a chastity belt on this man. I want his every move watched in Washington. I don't trust this guy. This one could end with a dead intern," unquote? Hints: the commentator wasn't a liberal and the Republicans are not criticizing him.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Only kidding. Only kidding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
If the Democrats run for cover, if we become pale carbon copies of the opposition, we will lose and deserve to lose. The last thing this country needs is two Republican parties. Those words of warning from Senator Ted Kennedy in 1980, having cautioned fellow Democrats against letting electoral setbacks weaken their commitment to liberal causes.
Tonight, in the wake of his party's loss of the Senate seat he held for 47 years, Democrats now appearing to lose their resolve on health care reform. The late senator, who made health care reform his life-long crusade, is not around to offer that very same warning.
Presently, my interview with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, but we begin with the latest details. Democrats in Congress reacting to Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts, as if that victory had given the Republicans a 41-seat majority in the Senate. Today, distributing talking points memos to members reading, in part, "It is mathematically impossible for Democrats to pass legislation on our own. Senate Republicans to come to the table with ideas for improving our nation and to the obstructionist tactics."
Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt, among those now advocating that the health care bill be broken up into a series of smaller pieces of legislation and passed on an incremental basis, issue by issue, over the next several months.
Fellow Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank declaring the health care bill dead, adding that lawmakers should return to square one and start all over again. Yet, a poll taken last night of Massachusetts protest voters revealing that what the dissatisfied really want is more progressive action from their lawmakers on health care, not less.
In a Research 2000 Poll taken for MoveOn.org, nearly half of Obama voters who voted for Scott Brown, but also voted for Obama in 2008, 49 percent of them, believing that the Senate health care bill does not go far enough. Only 11 percent thought the legislation goes too far.
Jobs and the economy also cited as important - 95 percent of all voters say that the economy was important or very important when it came to deciding their vote; 53 percent of Brown voters, as well as 56 percent of Obama voters who sat out yesterday's special election, saying that Democrats enacting tighter restrictions on Wall Street would make them more likely to vote for a Democrat in this autumn's midterm elections.
White House senior adviser David Axelrod today saying passing some form of health care reform is better than passing nothing at all, stressing that jobs and the economy are a key part of the new way forward. Quoting him: "We need to move forward aggressively, continuing on job creation, and on financial regulatory reform," Axelrod told the "Huffington Post." "But we should finish health care because the caricature of that bill is there and everyone who voted for it will have to live with that. The way to deal with that is to pass the bill and let people see the value of it."
The president himself in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News today, all but declaring interim Massachusetts Senator Paul Kirk a lame duck. He and Senate Majority Leader Reid agreeing that health care reform not proceed until Senator-elect Brown has been seated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they're frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: What is the strategy on health care going forward?
OBAMA: Here's one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table: The Senate shouldn't - certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. People in Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised, earlier this evening, on this, the one-year anniversary of President Obama's inauguration, I spoke with the president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs.
OLBERMANN: To use Chevy Chase's old joke, I was told there'd be no math, but you didn't pass health care with 60 votes in the Senate. The Republicans basically got everything they wanted when they had 50. And somehow, now, after Mr. Brown's election, 41 votes is as important as 59. I'm losing something here. What is it?
GIBBS: Well, I was told that math wouldn't be involved in this interview. Look, Keith, I don't think that the Republicans got everything they wanted when we had 60 votes. I think what the American people are on the verge of getting is real health care reform that lowers their cost, that provides them valuable insurance protections and helps our budgets going forward in dealing with the crushing costs of health care. I think we're on the verge of that a few days ago. I continue to think we're going to get something done soon this year.
OLBERMANN: As the president said to George Stephanopoulos this afternoon, the Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. Does that mean that things have to be compromised further in the Senate to get his vote, or how is the passage of this going to be accomplished?
GIBBS: Well, look, what the president said is - as some have suggested, some had suggested that we try to jam something through the Senate before somebody is seated in Massachusetts. The president doesn't agree with that.
What the president - one of the options that is certainly on the table is having what's already passed the Senate go through the House. There are other options that are being discussed here and on Capitol Hill. But, again, I think we're close to getting something that will measure up as real reform for the American people.
OLBERMANN: But is, if the - if what's been passed in the Senate already, before Mr. Brown was seated, is passed then through the House, is that not, in effect, contradicting the president's words about not trying to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated?
GIBBS: No. Because, as you know, Keith, the bill's passed the House. We've got it - we've got each bill halfway. We just have to get the other bill the other half of the way. What's passed the Senate is still good to go and that could certainly pass the House.
OLBERMANN: Voters after the polling yesterday in Massachusetts said, the anti-Coakley/pro-Obama voters, said they opposed the health care bill because they didn't think it was going far enough, rather than opposing it because they believed it had gone too far. Why do anything that risks, potentially, weakening that bill even further?
GIBBS: Well, again, I think what we're on the verge of getting, Keith, is something that is concrete, real reform for the American people. I'm not sure what would motivate somebody, in all honesty, to be a pro-Obama/anti-Coakley voter on behalf of health care.
The president has moved this issue farther than anybody else ever has. We're on the verge of getting something that will cut costs for the American people, provide protections from insurance companies. We're on the verge of some real important reforms here, Keith. And I think if we work together, we can get them done.
OLBERMANN: To the point of that, though, and that vote yesterday, Mr. Axelrod said, of the Coakley campaign: "The White House did everything we were asked to do. I think if we had been asked earlier, we would have responded earlier."
What is the explanation within the White House today of what happened in Massachusetts yesterday?
GIBBS: Well, look, I think a number of factors went to the ultimate result of yesterday, and the White House here takes responsibility for their part of it. I don't think there's any doubt that flares went up from the Coakley campaign. Those flares likely went up too late.
Do we bear some responsibility? Do others in this town bear responsibility for not seeing that earlier? Sure. We understand that. We take that responsibility.
But, look, finger-pointing doesn't make a whole lot of difference the day after either a political race or a sporting event. We're looking toward the future and looking toward getting health care done.
OLBERMANN: Last question and it's a process question - a political process question. Do you think this is a fair criticism of the president's first year? That he assumed that deference would be paid to the office of the president when, in fact, it seems like - these days, anyway - deference in Washington is, in fact, given to people who - however they do it, metaphorically - hit other people over the head hard enough with sash weights?
GIBBS: Look, I think that this president has accomplished an enormous
amount. Keith, he would tell you what has been done to change the way
Washington works, doesn't yet measure up to what he wanted to do. He
understands that we have got a lot to do and we have a process that has to
you have to go through in order to get that done.
There are a lot of things that we have yet to change that we'll
continue working on in the second, the third, and the fourth years, to make
to make that reform possible for the American people.
OLBERMANN: The president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs - great thanks. Happy anniversary.
GIBBS: Keith, I hope you got me some paper.
OLBERMANN: For more on where health care reform now stands in Congress, let's turn to Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Congresswoman, thanks for your time tonight.
REP. LYNN WOOLSEY (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I won't ask you to try to explain how Senator-elect Brown can be involved in this process while the idea is still on the table of having the bill that's already largely passed the Senate get jammed through the House. But as Mr. Gibbs just indicated, apparently that is still in the White House considerations as a means to get through the health care issue.
Is that a viable option in the point of view from yours and your caucus' point of view?
WOOLSEY: Well, actually, I don't think very many of the Democrats in the House would vote for the Senate bill straight up. So, they can try it, but I don't think it's - I feel certain it won't pass.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Barney Frank has walked back to some degree. His statement earlier that health care reform is dead, or at least this form of it is. He said that if he's reassured the bill will be fixed down the line, the old pass what you've got now, and then pass fixes for it maneuver, he would vote for that health care bill from the Senate.
Is there anything that you and the members of your caucus could get in order to follow that process?
WOOLSEY: Well, what we would - what we want is the House bill to be integrated into the Senate bill and we probably can only do it by having a separate vote. And we want that before we vote on the Senate bill. So that we can incorporate some - much of the good parts of the House bill and take out parts of the Senate bill that we just don't agree with.
OLBERMANN: It's been reported that House leadership postponed what was to be a full caucus meeting this afternoon to meet with members individually. Have you met with the speaker yet? And what would you need to hear if you haven't?
WOOLSEY: Well, I've actually met with the speaker twice, as the co-chair of the progressive caucus, and for about an hour. And then I met with her with the California Democratic delegation at lunch.
OLBERMANN: And where - where does it - where does she stand on this? Because it seems there's almost no - there's no place to hold on to in this entire understanding of where health care stands in not only the wake of what the Senate had done to it in the last two months. But in the wake of the Brown victory last night, where does she think it stands?
WOOLSEY: Well, I can't speak for her, but I can for Lynn Woolsey and where I think the progressives are. And I don't think we're too out of - out of step at all with most of the Democrats in the House.
We want to see health care benefit the public and those who are going to be insured. And we want those who are going to be the insurers, the health insurance companies, not to be the only ones that benefit. So, we're looking for a national health care system.
The progressives would still like to have the public option, because we want competition to the private insurers. And, you know, that saves $110 billion right off the top. So, we are still going to start, you know, talk about that. If we don't get it in fixed to the Senate bill, we're going to certainly have our own bill once we've gotten this through the House.
OLBERMANN: Last point - the lesson that many seem to be trying to impose - I think is a good word to use - in the wake of the Brown victory, is that Democrats have been doing too much in the last year, particularly on health care. Is that not the wrong conclusion to make? I mean, the public - the public option was favored by a large number of voters for Scott Brown, intriguingly enough, last night.
Aren't progressive voters frustrated that - in fact, or average Americans, perhaps - frustrated that Democrats and the rest of their elected officials in both houses have not done enough, not done too much?
WOOLSEY: Well, actually, I think, part of the election last night was due to frustration from the voters, not on health care, but on the fact that jobs, they are worried sick that they're going to either lose their job or not be able to find one when they've already lost their job. And we inherited - the White House inherited such a mess.
And the country is frustrated. They wanted that change much quicker than is possible. And so, they needed to see some really bold steps. And I think we could have been much bolder on health care.
OLBERMANN: Representative Lynn Woolsey - I guess there's still a chance - with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of course. Great thanks again for your time.
WOOLSEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: On the subject of health care, a reminder that the next free health care clinic funded by you, our Countdown viewers, February 3rd in Hartford, Connecticut. We are told there is a particular need for volunteer doctors to volunteer or to make an appointment as a patient, please go to FreeClinics.us, or Countdown.MSNBC.com.
The Republican 11th commandment is attributed to Ronald Reagan and actually tracks back to the GOP's California state leader of 45 years ago, Gaylord Parkinson: "Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
The modern GOP's 12th commandment always comes back to the floor with the slightest of conservative successes: "No one shall speak ill of any Republican." The criticism continues, but the facts just aren't there. What I have said here for two nights about Senator-elect Brown, dismissed again as lies by right-wing columnists who offer no further comment. Not only are they not lies; they are provable truths - and I will prove them.
Tonight's "Quick Comment" - next.
OLBERMANN: We stay with the Massachusetts special Senate election for tonight's first "Quick Comment."
Here's the real takeaway from the election of Scott Brown. If the far right disagrees with it, it's a lie. The latest is from an assistant editorial page editor at "The Dallas Morning News" named Michael Landauer who writes that I, quote, "smeared Brown all night, sort of correcting the record in one rant, dismissing the responses to lies he had told earlier and coming back with more name-calling."
Mr. Landauer is writing on the Internet, and thus, in theory, has an infinite amount of space and time to fill, that was it. No refutations, no specifics, just the word "lies" - as if designating them were Mr. Landauer's exclusive right.
I said Mr. Brown was irresponsible. Specifically, he swore at a hall full of high school students in 2007. Last night, he paraded his daughters out and told the nation they were quote, "available."
I said Mr. Brown was homophobic. Specifically, in 2001, he said that two women having a baby together was, quote, "not normal." And in 2007, he voted for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
I said Mr. Brown was racist. Specifically, in September 2008, a fellow guest in a TV interview noted Barack Obama's mother was married when he was born. Mr. Brown returned to the oldest racial stereotype of them all when he said, quote, "Well, I don't know about that, ha-ha."
I said Mr. Brown was reactionary. Specifically, that is defined as extreme conservatism opposing political or social change.
I said Mr. Brown was an ex-nude model. Specifically, in the June 1982 issue of "Cosmopolitan" magazine.
I said Mr. Brown was sexist. Specifically, nine years ago, he said a woman Massachusetts state senator had, quote, "alleged family responsibilities."
I said Mr. Brown was teabagging. Specifically, as recently as recently as the second of this month, Mr. Brown was the star of a fundraiser with the Greater Boston Tea Party group at Westborough Mass.
Then I said Mr. Brown was a supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees. Specifically, this past Sunday, when a man at a Brown rally shouted they should, quote, "shove a curling iron up Martha Coakley's butt," Brown responded by answering, "We can do this." Or, if that remark was unconnected to the shout, he never refuted, condemned, nor disassociated himself to the call for violence and even sexual assault.
Scott Brown is an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, sexist, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees. And all the rabid right-wing howling about that only helps prove it. The response to lies is to offer the truth. The respond to truths you don't like is to simply call them lies.
OLBERMANN: Here's the least original question asked since the election of Scott Brown as senator for Massachusetts: What do Democrats do now?
Here is the perhaps most original question asked since the election of Scott Brown as senator from Massachusetts: What does Brown do now? How does an arch conservative who thinks he's an independent who is elected from a base of hostility maintain a chance of re-election in just 34 months from now without being too moderate and to alienate his tea party supporters in what is still a liberal state?
The Dems, first. Even the senator-elect resisted the temptation to characterize his big win as a referendum on President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Really, the number one thing I've heard is that people are tired of the business as usual. And what does that mean? That means the behind-the-scenes deals, the Nebraska, you know, subsidizing of Medicaid forever - things like that just drive people crazy. They want to make sure that their elected officials are doing things in a transparent manner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Martha Coakley's poorly executed campaign does not, of course, mean that this election was merely a local anomaly, but Democrats should be careful in judging what lessons, exactly, they should draw from her loss.
The poll referred to earlier in this news hour shows that Obama voters who either voted for Brown or stayed home had hardly become centrists. Most of them felt that the president had not done enough to rein in Wall Street. Most of them either supported the Senate's health care bill or thought it did not go far enough and they overwhelmingly supported the public option.
The poll even revealed this apparent contradiction, again, out of those who voted both for President Obama in 2008 and Senator-elect Brown last night, 37 percent thought Democrats in Congress had not fought hard enough to challenge the Republican policies of the Bush years. Only 15 percent thought that Democrats had fought too hard.
Of the Obama voter who is stayed home last night, 39 percent thought that Democrats had not fought hard enough and the stay-at-home Democrat was a huge factor last night, since overall turnout exceeded that of the 2006 midterm elections in Massachusetts, but was not nearly as high in Democratic strongholds as in those areas that voted in favor of Mr. Brown.
Let's turn now to MSNBC political analyst, "Huffington Post" contributor, Lawrence O'Donnell.
Lawrence, good evening.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to the Democrats, what happens to the one and only known so-called Scott Brown Republican? If he's even moderate, doesn't that guarantee that any tea party that might still exist in 2012 would want to run somebody against him because he won't be conservative enough?
O'DONNELL: Well, it does mean that according to what the tea party principles now are. But he may have become, overnight, such a great folk hero that they're going to give him a pass and let him play more toward the center in Massachusetts. But, listen, he is pro-choice, pro-Rowe versus Wade, against partial birth abortion. That, by the way, right there, eliminates - you can stop the "Scott Brown for president" Republican candidacy. That rules him out in the Republican Party.
But we've never had a right-wing Republican senator in Massachusetts. The last Republican senator was Ed Brooke. He was the first African-American elected senator in the United States. And he was a liberal Republican, I would say.
Before him, we had Leverett Saltonstall, we had Henry Cabot Lodge, this old-line Boston Yankee type of Republican, and they were always moderate Republicans.
And so, there's absolutely no model for a conservative Republican being elected statewide in Massachusetts until last night. And that is, if Scott Brown turns out to be a conservative. He is now - as a senator, in Washington - a blank enough slate to make this up as he goes along.
OLBERMANN: As for the Democrats, with 24 hours to think about this, are the lessons, if any, about why independent voters favored the Republican on this occasion and why some Democrats stayed home? Are they - - are the explanations at odds or they do connect somehow?
O'DONNELL: I don't think the ink is dried yet, Keith, for analysis in Washington. There's the polls that you just cited there. There are other polls that indicate other things, depending on how the questions are asked.
And so, what you have right now is real confusion in Washington about what this means. And with elected officials, confusion turns to panic, pretty much instantaneously, with election results like this.
OLBERMANN: Do you not think, though, that what we've heard from the White House today and what we saw in those polls and the sort of - as the furniture goes bobbing up in the water after the Titanic, this particular Titanic" breaks up and people cling to it - the thing they seem to be clinging to is the idea that he who legislates Wall Street into the ground between now and November will be rewarded with the earth?
O'DONNELL: Yes. Well, that's the (INAUDIBLE) - I mean, I think what they have to come up with is something new, something that hasn't been on their agenda yet. And I can report to you, Keith, that Nancy Pelosi had a meeting with House chairmen today about where do we go from here.
O'DONNELL: And the speaker's position is: we go full steam ahead on health care. That met with some resistance in the room. And in fact, there was one chairman in the room with a very close - who has a very close reading of Massachusetts voters, who said, "Forget about it. You can't get anything at this point."
And so, we're going to continue to see how the public statements vary with what they're saying inside for a while here. But the chairmen and the House now, enough of them don't believe it's possible to go forward with health care, that - that it's a mystery to them what's going to happen next in the House. And so.
OLBERMANN: I'm sorry, go ahead.
O'DONNELL: Yes. So, this is what I mean by these - this thing becoming kid of a panic situation. And Nancy Pelosi is bravely trying to hold, at least, a kind of spiritual cohesion right now, while they try to figure out the specifics underneath.
OLBERMANN: Is this risk of panic resulting in a major misreading? How real is that? And I was reading something on the Web the other - just a few moments ago that fascinated me. The 1998 midterms went, the Republicans got thumped by the Democrats, and instead of rolling up their crazy ideas, they just - they wrote them louder and impeached the president. I'm not suggesting that is a good idea for the Democrats, but the kind of big thinking that that represents, is that perhaps of some value in this particular situation?
O'DONNELL: Yes. They've got to think in new ways. I mean, I would suggest to them: try something that no one sees coming. Try a payroll tax cut. A tax cut is not something that Republicans can get in the way of. It is stimulative.
The payroll tax is the most regressive portion of our tax bill. Most people pay more in payroll tax than they do in income taxes, because you can put money in people's pockets right away. Make it cheaper to hire employees. But, mainly, change the subject into something that is dynamic and that has to do with the economy today.
OLBERMANN: If you could pay for that by a tax on Wall Street, you're in.
O'DONNELL: Don't worry about paying for it. Take the page out of the Republican playbook and do not worry about paying for it.
OLBERMANN: And a retroactive impeachment of George Bush and some ice cream for everyone.
Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC and the "Huffington Post" - always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.
O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And you will not believe the analysis by one ultraconservative commentator about the Brown election. This could end with a dead intern. Seriously.
First, aftershock in Haiti - next.
OLBERMANN: It struck just after 6:00 this morning, a 5.9 aftershock rattling the streets of Port-au-Prince. Tent city survivors and the U.S. soldiers charged with helping them scrambling for open ground. Several buildings toppled in a town nearby, making it difficult to tell the new damage from that which was a week old, complicating relief efforts already plagued with logistical problems.
American general on the ground, Ken Keen admitting, the relief operation is not keeping up with the extraordinary need, with aid slow to reach those in cities and towns outside the capital. The Associated Press reporting from Haiti that aid is still being turned away from Port-au-Prince's single runway airport in favor of military vehicles.
Help for the injured, however, came today in the form of a floating hospital, the aptly named "USNS Comfort". Meanwhile, the U.S. military increasing its efforts, more than 4,000 troops being rerouted to Haiti from the Middle East; 16,000 soldiers will be on hand by week's end.
The streets, for the most part, have remained peaceful, but there is still very little government to turn to and that has been complicated by century's old tensions with Haiti's neighbor with which they share the island, the Dominican Republic. The Haitian government turning down the DR's offer of military support which forces, in turn, the U.N. to look elsewhere for peacekeepers.
And at this hour, few images offering hope. Last night, an 8-year-old boy and his sister were pulled from the rubble by a New York rescue squad, but tonight, many rescue teams are returning home, their work in Haiti most likely finished.
The Department of Justice insists there is no evidence of any wrongdoing in the 2006 alleged suicides of three detainees at Gitmo. Even though given the way the men died, it was physically impossible for them to have killed themselves. The latest from the Seton Hall professor whose work first revealed the cover-up, next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: The Obama Justice Department has made it clear to this program that they were not happy with our coverage on Monday of the "Harper's" magazine revelations that four guards at Guantanamo Bay are challenging the official account of how three detainees died there in 2006.
The DOJ spokesperson called our report, quote, "sloppy and lopsided". But today it is the DOJ that two international watchdog; including Amnesty International, want answers from. At issue, how three men died almost simultaneously in nonadjacent cells at Gitmo, all of them, Navy investigators concluding, eluding detection by both surveillance camera and physical inspection every ten minutes, in order to fashion fake mannequins in their beds, blocked the cameras, the tying nooses atop of their wire meshed walls, stuff rags down their own throats and some cases put masks on, tie their own hands and even feet together, and then climb up on their sinks, get the nooses on and somehow tighten them before jumping to their deaths.
Yasser al Zarani (ph) having just written home to say he expect to get out soon. Army Sergeant Joe Hickman told the DOJ he was in Tower One at the camp with another guard at Tower Four and neither saw any bodies brought from the camp to the clinic at the time of the deaths. Instead, as Hickman revealed to "Harper's" magazine, he saw Navy officers take three prisoners from the camp to a secret site known as Camp No, a suspected interrogation compound and then transport something from Camp No to the clinic. Suggesting, implying, that the prisoners died not of hanging in their cells at Camp One but of torture at Camp No.
The DOJ saying, quote, "The Justice Department took this matter very seriously. A number of experienced department attorneys and agents extensively and thoroughly reviewed the allegations and found no evidence of wrongdoing." The Justice Department declining to say which attorneys and agents found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Today, the editorial board of the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" writes, "Enough is enough. Prisoner abuse and botched investigations undermine national security. Mr. Obama should appoint an unrelenting career prosecutor to the case to dig deeper."
With us tonight is Professor Mark Denbeaux, Director of the Center for Policy for Research at Seton Hall University School of Law. His team was that which first called the NCIS report into question. His son now represents Sergeant Hickman.
Professor Denbeaux, good evening.
PROF. MARK DENBEAUX, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: The Obama Justice Department says this is not a cover-up, even though we have no idea how the men died, even though we have no idea who found the bodies, even though we have no idea who at Justice determined it's not a cover-up. So this is case closed, right?
DENBEAUX: Well, its case closed if they had determined what the solution to the case was. No one knows how they died, where they died, or under what circumstances. So it's hard to close that case.
OLBERMANN: And yet they seem prepared to do so. Do you have a theory as to why they are?
DENBEAUX: Well, the only theory that I've been able to come up with is that there's some reason why they don't wish to investigate this matter thoroughly.
And after all, you do have the gory situation of three people gagging themselves to death, so much so that in some cases, the medics had to pry their jaws open with metal implements, breaking teeth in order to pull out the rags.
Their doc - the medical and the Army's own autopsies found they'd been dead for hours at the time they were discovered. And you can't have that be the case if the guards had been doing what they're supposed to do, which is walking up and down the rows. Seven guards guarding two dozen people. One, at least, walking the floors constantly, often two, while, as you said, under a video.
And we ought to add the fact that perhaps, as with Sherlock Holmes, the dog that didn't bark, not a single one of the guards was charged with any dereliction of duty. Even though on their watch, three people died and it was their responsibility to prevent it.
OLBERMANN: Did the Justice Department, in your assessment, conduct a full investigation of Joe Hickman's story?
DENBEAUX: Well, we went to the Justice Department on February 2nd. We also went to Congress. They asked us, we told them the story and they asked us why we had gone to Congress as well as to them. We told them no one owned this story. We just wanted to get the truth out.
Within four days, they had sent four senior officials, FBI and DOJ, to Seton Hall Law School to interview and determine what the facts were. For that week, there was a great deal of effort.
Nothing happened that we knew of until late April when I was asked for the names of the corroborative witnesses, all of whom are military intelligence experts. I gave them to them again.
In June, they interviewed one person briefly. And as a military intelligence interrogator, he was not impressed. Nothing happened thereafter. They played telephone tag with one person in August, never spoke to him. And then in late October, I received a call for asking me why it was that we were going to Congress, complaining about it and why we were going to the press.
And I said, well, you've done nothing. And they said, well, there really was nothing going on, nothing to find. I pointed out that they had never once spoken to three of the four witnesses we'd given, that ABC had found more witnesses than that.
And when I pointed that out, the conversation ended and the next morning at 8:30 in the morning in south Baltimore, four people showed up at the house of one of the witnesses, took him to Denny's, asked him a few questions. And on Monday I got a phone call saying that they had now determined that they could not confirm the facts that we had brought to their attention.
But they didn't say the investigation was closed. They refused to say whether it was closed or not. And I might add, we have many witnesses to these conversations, as well as to the other events that took place. And it just stopped.
So as far as we can tell, the investigation began on February 2nd, the intense investigation ended on February 6th and we know of nothing that happened after that.
OLBERMANN: Other than a visit to Denny's. Mark Denbeaux, of Seton Hall University who's report helped blow the lid off this story, who is the man behind the project that tracks the varying numbers of released Gitmo detainees who are supposedly back in the terrorism business and how that number changes with apparently no connection to reality.
Great thanks for all of your efforts and great thanks for your time tonight.
DENBEAUX: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: So to hear the right wing tell it, on the first anniversary of that inauguration thingy, he just might as well, like, you know, like quit. This cringe-worthy moment last night - not that - this, the "take my daughters, please" part; it was over the top, but it was not as over the top as a right-wing commentator's reaction to it today.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour: why Brown's win last night in Massachusetts might be bad for politics, but good for crafting policy. Her guest is Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
OLBERMANN: "Worst" in a moment. And who could have said this about Senator-Elect Brown; "I don't trust this guy and this one could end with a dead intern."
First, sticking with the terror that is excessive counterterrorism in the second of tonight's quick comments.
You think there's been finger-pointing about Massachusetts.
This afternoon, the Senate Homeland Security Committee staged a dog-and-pony show over the would-be heat my shorts bomber. The committee chairman decided that the, quote, "Systemic failures and human errors mean that some of those responsible," quote, "should be disciplined or removed". Thus, by definition, the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee utterly failed in his oversight function for those who made the human errors who should be disciplined or removed. So let's start with him.
With a maximum of only 59 votes in the Senate, Chairman Joe Lieberman is now a useless political luxury for the Democrats and obviously he's lousy at homeland security. So the first man guilty of human errors who should be removed is Joe Lieberman.
OLBERMANN: First anniversary of the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. The poll numbers are better than you think, so why are the results less than you wanted it? That's next. The first time for tonight's "Worse," first, a bronze to Congressman Peter King of New York, catching Sean Hannity disease. The election of Scott Brown, he says, "A political earthquake."
Oh, come on. Just for the first week in Haiti, just spare me the callous tone-deaf, brain-dead earthquake analogy just for the week. Then Congressman you can resume your button-headed waves with my blessing.
Our runner-up: Gretchen Carlson of "Cluster-Fox and friends." Yesterday, she announced that her viewers should "Make a call to Massachusetts to try to encourage a Brown victory." That's because our next guest, a friend, Stuart Varney of the Fox out of business channel, says that your portfolio could look much better if Scott Brown wins."
In the Countdown stock report, the Dow closed down 122 points today, the NASDAQ dropped 29 points and the S&P 500 lost 12. And the top ten most widely held health stocks lost just under one percent of their value. And something else Fox News knows crap about.
But our winner: Lonesome Rhodes Beck. He began his segment on the extraordinary moment in Mr. Brown's news conference where he appeared to offer up his 20-something daughters by saying, "I mean this sincerely," so don't dismiss this thing as some kind of joke.
Beck is deliberately evoking the Gary Condit story here. "I want a chastity belt on this man." Brown. "I want his every move watched in Washington. I don't trust this guy. This one could end up with a dead intern. I'm just saying, it could end up with a dead intern."
Later, a lackey asked, "I'm saying, though, isn't that, though, just dad trying to be cutesy with a little joke about his daughters?" Beck's emphatic reply, "No."
Beck is hyperbolizing, I guess, that Scott Brown's election could quote, "End up with a dead intern, joking about Chandra Levy." Seriously? And the lunatic fringe is bitching about how I refer to Brown? Compared to Beck I'm Brown's best friend.
Lonesome roads Beck, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: One year to the day since President Obama took Office and the Associated Press has his approval rating cratering all the way down to 56 percent; down from last month when he was at 56 percent. The number is twice the approval rating of George W. Bush in his second term. It is higher than Ronald Reagan's approval rating at this point in his presidency.
Yet with 60, now 59 Democratic caucus votes in the senate, health care reform remains in real jeopardy. Even though as I've said to Robert Gibbs earlier in the past, Republicans with 50 votes got pretty much everything they wanted.
Along with job approval figures the president personally remains extremely popular. Nearly nine in ten telling the Associated Press they like Barack Obama. But even with that sustained popularity, the president is yet to convert any of his political capital into the major legislative priorities he campaigned on and apparently also on a new head for the TSA.
Today, Erroll Southers, the Obama nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name from consideration. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina had been blocking that nomination because his politics were more important than the nation's air security.
On health care, there's been a handful of Republicans, Democrats and an independent in the senate who helped water down and potentially sinks the bill. The president allowing Congress though, to drive the bus, even though its approval numbers are circling the drain.
Let's turn now to Chris Hayes of "The Nation" magazine. Chris, good evening.
CHRIS HAYES, "THE NATION" MAGAZINE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, so we're a year into the presidency, he's still very popular, people like the job he's doing, although the numbers in approval have dropped, as they almost invariably do for any president under any circumstances. They haven't dropped in the last month that has supposedly been the height of his crises. And he couldn't get health care reform through Congress. Why?
HAYES: Oh, God. Well, we could talk about that all night. I mean, first of all, there's the filibuster, which absolutely has evolved into a serious, serious structural impediment in this country. And what we're seeing is a kind of California at a federal level in which you have this de facto supermajority requirement combined with a very coherent and oppositional Republican Party. And so you have, essentially, rule by the minority, right? So that's the first problem.
The second problem is that the nation's governing institutions, Congress particularly, are very broken. I mean, Congress is broken right now. And it's broken not just because of the filibuster, but because of the amount of money that is poured in there by special interests and entrenched interests that either seek to destroy legislation that will take their power away, or co-opted it, as we saw the strategy of (INAUDIBLE) in the case of health insurance reform to try to use the power of their lobbyists to sort of use the power of the state to enrich themselves.
When you combine that, you have a structural system that is producing repeated failure.
OLBERMANN: When you see nothing happening in an organization for that length of time, it's no longer an accident, it's no longer tradition. The effort to make nothing happen is extraordinary and costly and I think you made a great point there.
Let me ask you something else based on one of the quotes from the president to that George Stephanopoulos interview today. "The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and frustrated."
It is a little different, though, now, isn't it? I mean, part of the frustration after a year is necessarily aimed at this president, as neatly as he has tied last night's result to his campaign of 2008.
HAYES: Yes. Although, I think the president is fairly on point on this For a few reasons. One is that, there is just a general - at the political level - a general anti-incumbent mood. And it's an absolute law of political gravity, in any democracy, that when the economy is bad and this economy is terrible.
I mean, we've been talking about sort of the light at the end of the tunnel and we're not losing jobs as quickly, but 10 percent unemployment we haven't seen in almost 30 years. It hurts, a lot.
I mean, people feel it on a daily level. We have a record of personal bankruptcies. We have people under water in their mortgages. We have people being foreclosed on.
The economy is really terrible. And when the economy is terrible, people blame the people in power. It's particularly true and this is, I think, the second part of this. They blame the people in power and they blame the Democratic Party in Congress, if you don't give them someone else to blame.
And that's been part of the problem, I think, in this first year, is that we're never told, there's no coherent story being told by the White House and by the Democratic Party about, if it's not their fault that things are so bad, then whose fault is it?
And people are going to take it out on whoever they have in front of them. In this case, that was Martha Coakley and in the fall, it's going to be Democratic incumbents unless they're given someone else who they can plausibly take it out on.
OLBERMANN: Does the term Wall Street titans mean anything to you on that? Was that the takeaway from last night, those are the next targets?
HAYES: Yes. And you look, I mean, the thing about Wall Street titans, is that it's both good politics and also has the virtue of being substantive correct.
HAYES: I mean, it is unbelievable that you have a group of people that managed to bring not just the U.S. economy but the world economy to a brink and they have skated away without any accountability.
OLBERMANN: And you've left out the third factor. It would be great fun to watch.
Chris Hayes of "The Nation," as always, great fun to watch.
Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this, the 2,456th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.
I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss what could be the positive aspect of the Democrats losing the supermajority in the senate with Senator Stabenow of Michigan. Ladies and gentlemen here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END