'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Oddball, Quick Comment, Worst Persons
Via YouTube: Quick Comment
The toss: Howl
Guests: Markos Moulitsas, David Corn, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Melissa Harris-Lacewell
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you
be talking about tomorrow?
Inouye signs, Carper expects to, and the White House declares public
option by reconciliation-is dead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There isn't enough
political support in the majority to get this through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But no matter how dark the Democratic cloud, the
Republicans always can find a tornado. John Boehner complains the White
House health care reform plan is too short-this after complaining last
year that it was too long. Guess how long his is?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: This bill is a nonstarter. I'm
hoping that the president will answer the question: why does he want to
continue to push the bill that the American people have rejected?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: One page-Mr. Cantor has a one-page bill to bring to the
summit while 11 pages from the Obama plan is too short for Mr. Boehner.
The Palin primary plan: the 55 House races where organizers feel she
can do the most good. Not Republican organizers, not tea party organizers
the 55 House races the Democrats are praying she will involve herself
Dick Cheney's proof. The memo that he claimed confirms torture
worked, but then reality showed the dirty bomb suspect identified under
torture have been arrested three months before the torture. Secretary of
State Powell's chief of staff is disgusted. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson,
our special guest.
And taking off his cloak and putting on his sheet. Rush Limbaugh on
health care reform:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is a civil rights bill,
this is reparations-whatever you want to call it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, health care protest. No undercurrent of racism here,
All the news and commentary-now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: That's kind of frightening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Today's Republican pre-spin in advance of Thursday's health care
reform summit conveniently presenting itself as a nursery rhyme: The story
of Obama and the three little Boehners.
First little Boehner found the health care reform bill too long, the
second little Boehner found the health care reform bill too short, the
third little Boehner found no health care reform just right for the
corporate interests he apparently serves.
House Minority Leader "Goldilocks" today dismissing President Obama's
newly updated health care plan for being too short, only 11 pages. His
spokesman emailing reporters, quote, "They want to reorganize one-sixth of
the United States' economy with a document shorter than a comic book, and
they're complaining that they can't find our plan on their own Web site?
The Republican plan on its Web site is only one page long-more on
that in a moment.
More immediately relevant: in October, Mr. Boehner having objected to
the bill passed by the Democrats in the House for being too long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: The best way to get a
sense of what Speaker Pelosi's takeover of health care looks like, is to
actually look at it. Just shy of 2000 pages, it runs more than 620 pages
longer than the government-run plan Hillary Clinton proposed in 1993. This
1,990 pages of bureaucracy will centralize health care decision making in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As for the Republican plan, Boehner's whip, Eric Cantor,
stressing today that the GOP actually has one, an entire page worth. Some
of it, subheadings: "Lowering health care premiums"- without saying how
they would actually lower premiums. Kind of like declaring you're going to
be curing cancer and then stopping at that point.
More: "Ending junk lawsuits"- as in tort reform.
President Obama having said he'd be willing to consider any ideas
about how limiting caps on medical malpractice damages would actually work
in terms of reducing costs and improving the quality of health care. Such
ideas cannot be found in this document.
Next: "Allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines."
That's so insurance companies can all flood the states with the fewest
regulations. As an example, there is a reason most credit card companies
are now headquartered in Delaware.
And, "Promoting healthier lifestyles"- I believe what Democrat Alan
Grayson was referring to when he summarized the Republican plan as: don't
This morning, Mr. Cantor declaring no chance for bipartisanship at
Thursday's summit unless Democrats do things the Republican way-in other
words: do nothing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: This bill is a nonstarter. I'm hoping that the president
will answer the question: why does he want to continue to push a bill that
the American people have rejected?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At the White House, the press secretary, Mr. Gibbs, is
indicating that the public option does not have enough votes in the Senate
and that the president is just fine with that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBS: There isn't enough political support in the majority to get
this through. The president wanted to find-took the Senate bill as the
base, and looks forward to discussing consensus ideas on Thursday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: However, the number of Democrats to sign the letter urging
the majority leader to pursue the public option by reconciliation is still
climbing, however, slowly. Senator Inouye of Hawaii-the 23rd to add his
Senator Carper of Delaware telling "Talking Points Memo," quote, "I
expect I will sign." That still has not happened as of this hour.
Senator Levin of Michigan telling the same blog he's all for it but he
wants to check the wording of the letter first. There's no hurry, only
14,000 Americans lose their health care coverage everyday.
Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, the author of "Renegade:
The Making of a President."
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I-the "Goldilocks" analogy, it came to me in a flash.
I find, of course, Nate Silver used it last July. But to the point here,
Minority Whip Boehner really expects us to believe that the first Democrats
health plan was too long, now it's too short. But that one pager that he's
got and Cantor's got is somehow just right.
I mean, didn't Mom Boehner read him that nursery rhyme when he was a
kid, you know, snuggle up, ready to go to sleep in his bed-his tanning
WOLFFE: That's an image I'd rather think of. I'm not sure insurance
will cover me for that kind of treatment.
Here's the thing, Republicans have proved actually very effective at
this kind of tactical game-playing. It's worked very well. It gets them
good press conference and headlines in "Politico" and elsewhere. But at
this moment, they are really looking at substantial gains and maybe even
becoming the majority party in Congress in the fall.
And at this point, they have to be thinking much more strategically
about what they're trying to do here. If they are going to have the
gimmicky kind of politics, where they're arguing about the length of the
bills and pages here and there, that either they don't have enough time to
read or they want something more to read-in the end, the White House is
going to find this very easy to back down. It's the kind of politics that
played very easily into the Obama campaign's hands through the presidential
Gimmicky style politics is not what voters want. That's what Scott
Brown understands. They are independent-minded voters who want to see some
pragmatism being played out here, not this kind of political back-and-
OLBERMANN: But hasn't the White House sort of handed something to the
Republicans by declaring the public option dead in the Senate, when the
number still seems to be rising, at least giving it a fighting chance? Why
take that stance now on Tuesday?
WOLFFE: They just don't have the leeway right now. They don't have
the time. It's inching up, it's true. But 25 are the good count is still
25, 26 short of where they need to be.
And this is about survival at this point-survival for the
Democrats, survival for what is there, in terms of health care reform, and
extending coverage and lowering costs. If you have a rehash of the public
option debate, no matter how unsatisfying for some, or satisfying for
others, it's going to delay time, and they just don't have the time. If
this goes on for another month or two, it's over for everyone.
OLBERMANN: Which raises the question of why Majority Leader Reid has
responded now rather than earlier to this GOP complain about possibly using
reconciliation, whether for the public option or otherwise, by saying
they're the ones who used it more than anyone else. Isn't that fact-
hasn't it gotten lost in this debate? And why is it waiting until now to
WOLFFE: It has gotten lost. And I think one of the reasons it has
gotten lost is because the Democrats have not been good about calling out
the other side. It's a fairly recent position that the White House and
Democrats are taking. And I guess the other side of it is that Democrats
didn't want to be in the position where they'd need reconciliation. They
thought they could have the votes that don't have the numbers now.
But it is important to educate the American people that the Bush tax
cuts went through on reconciliation among many other things. So, it's not
that unusual. It's just not desirable for the Democrats to have to be in
this position in the first place.
OLBERMANN: Something slightly off-topic in the wake of the vote
yesterday in the jobs bill, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown came under
fire from the right. He voted yes, send the bill to the floor for the up
or down vote, angry messages on his pages on social media. One called him
"Benedict Brown." Michelle Malkin gave out the number to his D.C. office.
Did he not telegraph he might do this? Where is all this surprise
coming from from the right?
WOLFFE: The surprise from the right is that they think the tea party
and independent voters who fuelled Scott Brown are really Republicans.
They're not. They're looking for some other kind of politics, and Scott
Brown is showing that he does have political skills. He knows he's
representing a state that voted for President Obama and he's got to prove
that he's an independent, too.
If he just sticks with the Republicans, if he takes the Boehner line,
then he's not going to get re-elected. So, you know, this is the new kind
of politics, independents want an independent people in Congress.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe-as always,
Richard, great thanks. Have a good evening.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Democrats are still signing that public option by
reconciliation letter due entirely to public pressure.
Greg Sargent of "The Plum Line" blog reporting that Senator Johnson of
South Dakota signed the letter only after his staff was shown polling from
the neighboring state of Iowa showing strong majority support for the
public option. Specifically, the Research 2000 poll, it showed that in the
Hawkeye State, only 35 percent supported the Senate bill which has no
public plan in it, but 62 percent supported the public option.
Similar numbers out of Virginia, only 36 supporting the Senate bill,
61 percent the option. Those numbers now are being used to apply pressure
on the Democrats representing that state, Senators Webb and Warner, as well
as additional numbers from the Research 2000 poll, indicating that Mr.
Webb's job performance on health care currently rates at only 40 percent.
The majority is disapproving. Mr. Warner's numbers barely higher, 41
percent; half disapproving.
Let's bring in founder and publisher of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas,
also, of course, the author of "Taking the System."
Markos, good evening.
MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILYKOS.COM: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right. After seeing these numbers, shouldn't every
Democrat sign that public option letter, shouldn't they be crawling all
over each other to get higher up on there earlier on the list. There seems
to be no gray area interpreting what those numbers mean?
MOULISTAS: Yes. I don't think there's a group in the world that is
more afraid of doing the popular thing than the Democrats in the Senate. I
mean, this is obviously a no-brainer. They have a tough election coming up
in November. And you'd think-we're not asking them to do the right
thing, we're asking them to do the right thing that is also wildly popular.
What they are-they seem intent on doing the wrong thing, the thing
So, it seems that at least 25 of them have got it through their heads
that doing the right thing is also the popular thing. It will help them
get re-elected. But we still got some ways to go.
OLBERMANN: All the talk in the last six months about a broken Senate,
in particular, if not a broken Washington, and some lawmakers in the White
House still don't seem to want to or can't look beyond the art of the deal
when it comes to this subject and other ones-but particularly to health
care reform. What happened to this president campaigning on changing the
way the system works. Where is his leadership on just some independent
MOULITSAS: Yes. Now, I think that the Obama administration is really
obsessed with the notion that process matters to people. The way
legislation gets done actually has an impact on elections.
It doesn't. People don't care. When they cash their Social Security
check, they don't care if it was passed by bipartisan fashion. All they
know is that it's a good government program.
So, I think Democrats need to focus more, obviously, on good
government and less on procedure-because at the end of the day, nobody's
going to give them any brownie points for doing the bipartisan thing.
They're going to give them brownie points for doing the popular, bright,
good policy thing.
OLBERMANN: And to the degree that there would be brownie points in a
stance at this hour, wouldn't there be huge brownie points with the
progressive base if the White House and the Democratic leaders in both
houses went into Thursday's summit and said, "Look, the public option is
something we strongly support," even if it winds up being a symbolic
gesture? I mean, it's not as if the Republicans are giving them any points
for not supporting it.
MOULITSAS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is an administration and a
party that seems intent on negotiating against itself. I mean, we should
have gone into the debate talking about single-payer, negotiated down from
that-of course, they didn't. We should have been talking about public
I mean, Obama's plan should have included the public option. It's an
easy thing to negotiate away if you need to. But at least walk in thinking
or trying to look and trying to do the right thing.
They don't want to do that. I don't understand it, of course.
OLBERMANN: Last night, Howard Dean was here, and said two things: A,
he had given up on the White House pushing the public option. And B, he
was convinced the House would yet force it in in some fashion. What are
your reactions to A and B?
MOULITSAS: Well, you know, clearly, the White House has been running
away from this thing for a long time. They gave some lip service to it
early in the process. But they've done nothing at all to try to actually
make it a reality.
And the only reason that the public option has survived as long as it
has is because it's popular, because-God knows the Senate doesn't want
anything to do with it, the White House doesn't want anything to do with
it, nobody's fighting for it, and yet, it seems to linger on. And I think
that's a testament of just how powerful of a strong policy proposal it
People want cost controls on insurance. Nothing in the current plan
really accomplishes that in a major way. The public option is going to
make sure that companies like WellPoint aren't going to provide, aren't
going to do 40 percent premium increases if they know that they can lose
people to a government option.
OLBERMANN: Do you, lastly, put any weight, any hope in the control
board that is included in the Obama proposal? The thing that would require
rate hikes be passed by-as if it were some sort of electric bill?
MOULITSAS: Yes, you know, I'd like to think it would work. I've
seen, though, that in California at least, the insurance companies have
been able to work around legislative limits on how much they can do
rescissions, for example. I mean, they got armies of lawyers to try to get
So, I don't trust them. I think the only way to keep them honest is
to give them real competition, something that they now mostly lack.
OLBERMANN: Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos-great thanks as
MOULITSAS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: A quick programming note: we'll have a very special
edition of well, we'll see special edition of Countdown this Thursday, our
second installment of "President's Question Time," a two-hour special from
9:00 to 11:00 p.m., bringing you comprehensive coverage of the meeting
between the president and the congressional leaders of both parties as they
examine or perhaps try to hammer out a health care agreement or try to
prevent one. I'll be joined by my colleague Chris Matthews. Again, note
the time, 9:00 p.m. Eastern right after the game that will decide the
medals for women's hockey in Vancouver.
Many of the Republicans going to the summit firmly believe Sarah Palin
will be a tool to get them reelected in the fall. Many tea partiers
believe Sarah Palin will be a tool to unseat impure Republicans and
Democrats and usher in the rapture or something.
But now, it turns out, many Democrats believe Sarah Palin could be a
tool that throws as many as 55 House seats their way. Do I need to point
out what everybody seems to agree on about her?
David Corn and tool time-next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Sarah Palin is the difference maker in 55 House races this
November-not against Democrats but for them. David Corn joins me.
The Cheney "torture was justified" memo, disgusted it turned out to be
a fraud. Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of
State Powell is more disgusted. He joins me as well.
And no longer even trying to pretend, Rush Limbaugh claims health care
reform is reparations meant for black people.
And-I got an invitation to a tea party.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It has been one of the givens of this year's midterms-
the impact of former half-Governor, Sarah Palin, particularly on the boots
on the ground House races. The party estimates she could be decisive in as
many as 55 of them-the Democratic Party. Leaders have even coined a
phrase for the Republican intramural wars in which they hope Palin will get
involved, the Palin primaries.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a strategic move,
it's cheeky statement reading in part, quote, "Undeterred by the
embarrassing loss she helped bring to the House Republicans in last fall's
special election in Upstate New York, Sarah Palin announced she wants to
get involved in more Republican primary races this year, so we're more than
happy to help her out. So she doesn't have to scribble notes on her hand,
the DCCC is unveiling 'Palin's Primaries' that will highlight the most
divisive and messiest House Republican primaries in the country."
The reference, of course, there, the Palin-endorsed conservative
candidate in the New York 23rd, Doug Hoffman, who was so championed by the
right that the moderate Republican candidate withdrew from the race just
before the election and endorsed the Democrat for the first time in over a
century in that district. The Democrat won.
Thus, the guide the Democrats are providing Palin includes 55
competitive House Republican primaries. Some of these races boast half a
dozen different Republican contenders. Many races include tea party
candidates, the late motif Republicans trying to outdo one another in terms
of their conservative bona fides.
Let's turn to Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine,
David, good evening.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Democratic strategists are probably correct in thinking
that Palin could help, if not sow the division then complete the rupture
during these primary stages of these races. But is there any broader
calculation here? Is there an effective Palin endorsement on the General
Electric-General Electric, how about that for a Freudian slip? Any
effect on General Electric never mind everything else-any effect on the
general electorate, including the independents and the actual vote?
CORN: On the general election. Well, I think what we're seeing here
I mean, this is a stunt. They have us talking about it.
CORN: They're getting attention. But I think this is sort of a warm-
up, before you bring the show to Broadway. And what is that show going to
be? It's going to be a horror flick in November 2010 starring Sarah Palin.
The-right now, the atmospherics are looking pretty good for House
Republicans in the coming elections in November. Unemployment is high, if
it stays high, independent voters and others will be looking at incumbents
and feeling rather ticked off. There are more Democratic incumbents out
there than there are Republicans, so Democrats have a lot to fear.
Now, what the Democrats, of course, want to do is make the election a
choice between us and President Obama and the Republicans-not a
referendum on the Democrats and Obama, but a choice between the Democrats
And what is the best way to tar the Republicans all at once? Well,
find a few leading Republicans that are just really pretty unpopular. And
Sarah Palin, in the latest polls, 71 percent of the public said she's not
qualified to be president, her unfavorable to favorable rating was 55 to 37
So, to any degree that the Democrats can tie local Republican
candidates to Sarah Palin, it probably will help them in many districts.
Not in every district, but probably in enough.
OLBERMANN: Is there any sense in these other 55 cases that we could
see something as dramatic as the New York 23rd, where it went so badly that
there was the-as they used to say on "Monty Python," there was the silly
candidate and then the very silly candidate, the conservative and then a
Republican to split that part of the vote?
CORN: Or will we see something completely different.
I think it really depends on the districts. The DCCC, the Democratic
Campaign Committee, has picked 55 Republican House primary campaigns. And
they're all very different districts. In some districts, they have sort of
the same dynamic that we saw in New York-in New York 23. But in some of
those districts even, there's a Democrat who's now the incumbent-
meaning, it's a Democratic district.
So, if you have, you know, a Republican running a state senator such
as, I think, in the Mississippi one, against an incumbent Democrat, and
then you have a conservative tea party type-as you have down there, a
former lobbyist for FOX News, Angela McGlowan, who was also an analyst on
the network, you know, coming in as a tea party candidate, it's kind of
similar. She has a little more dynamism than Doug Hoffman did, but if
Sarah Palin comes in and picks over the state senator who is a Republican -
and you got to figure a state senator in Mississippi is not a flaming
liberal if you're a Republican, right? I mean, that could cause a civil
war that could damage either Republican candidate in the general election.
And that's what the DCCC is hoping happens in at least a handful of
district if Sarah Palin sticks her nose into them.
OLBERMANN: If-as the White House has indicated it plans to try to
present the midterm elections as a nationalized referendum, as much as
possible, with Obama obviously in the forefront. This dovetails with what
the Democrats here are trying to create here, this party of Palin, at least
in these 55 districts, does it not?
CORN: Yes. Often in an (INAUDIBLE) election, particularly when
unemployment is high, it does become a referendum on the people in power.
That would be the Democrats and President Obama. The Democrats and the
White House obviously want to know if they can make it a referendum on the
Republicans-great. But they want to make it a choice, they want to
portray the Republicans as the "party of no," the party of not doing
anything on jobs, by opposing the bills that we see them opposing at the
moment. And if they can make it the party of Palin-so much the better.
This is what they're going to be trying to do in the next few months
to try-they're fighting an historic, you know, tie, actually, trend.
Usually, in this type of elections, the voters who are upset are looking to
throw people out. They're not looking to make a contrast and a comparison
between each side. And so, the Democrats are going to have to try very hard
to change that dynamic, and if they can't do it across the board
nationally, pick a few districts, you know, 10,20, 30 districts where they
have a chance of scoring with that type of strategy.
OLBERMANN: What does it mean for General Electric?
David Corn of "Mother Jones"- great thanks, David.
CORN: Good to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson on the lie that sits at the
center of the document Dick Cheney claimed proved torture worked.
First, our break, topless downhill sledding. Huh?
OLBERMANN: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson on Dick Cheney and the torture
proof memo that proved only that Cheney was a liar.
First, 10 years ago today, British soccer great, Sir Stanley Matthews,
died just 35 years after he played his last game. He was 85. That's
right. He played for Blackpool and Stokes until he was 50 years old. He
played for 34 seasons. And at age 47, he was voted Player of the Year.
Sir Stanley had one regret: "I retired too early."
Let's play "Oddball."
Oh, man, more Olympics? Where's the friggin' hockey? Sorry. We
begin in the Hearts Mountains near Brownledge (ph), Germany. Hearts
Mountain like the bird seed? This is non-Olympic, topless, downhill
schedule. We've used the entire 2010 blurring budget to bring you this
video; 15 Men, 15 women wearing only shoes, a hat, tighty whiteys riding
sleds down the snowy mountain this weekend. This is the second annual
topless tabogan race. Fourteen thousand spectators turned out to see this
event live. They were expecting like 200.
As for the results, spoiler alert-cover your ears, but keep
watching-a guy named Christian won first prize and took home the novelty
check. This well-fed older gentleman with a ridiculous mustache to match
his ridiculous hat finished out of the money.
To a restaurant in downtown Sao Paolo, Brazil, where today's special
is brick oven pizza topped with dirty burglar's feet. Mmmm, dirty
burglar's feet. This unnamed 19-year-old man was attempting to enter the
store during non-business hours when he became wedged in the chimney of the
restaurant's brick oven. The would be robber was heard moaning by
neighbors who called the police. He should thank his lucky stars they
didn't call the tickle monster. Attempts to yank the man out of the oven
failed. So police had to bust him out. Here come the sledge hammers.
The half naked perp-owe, owe-the half naked perp was arrested on
attempted breaking and entering charges and banned from topless sled racing
Finally, it's a shirtless trifecta. The man in the hood is trying to
stick up Clem's Gas Station in Manchester, New Hampshire. The crook asked
for all the money in the register. What he didn't bargain for was some
heroics from a cashier named Cashman, Bill Cashman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CASHMAN, STOPPED BURGLAR: My response was to try to pin him
until the cops got there. I grabbed him and pulled him towards me. He
managed to wiggle out of his shirt and get away from me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He was wearing a shirt, a black shirt. When his yellow
bellow exposed, the perp slinked out the door with 45 dollars and m&m's.
Cashier Cashman had the perp's sweatshirt, his cell phone and, of course,
his sacred pride.
Larry Wilkerson on Dick Cheney. And Rush Limbaugh drops any remaining
pretense that the opposition to health care reform is not flat out racism,
OLBERMANN: Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News last year
that he had proof that torture works. His call to declassify certain CIA
memos would give the American people, he said, "a chance to see what we
obtained and what we learned, and how good a help the intelligence was."
As we have already seen, that proof proven false by a Justice
Department report. The reaction of Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief
of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, is probably more worthy of
acknowledgment than that of anyone we're likely to hear in public. He is,
a day after the revelation, still disgusted. He joins us presently.
You will recall that a review from the DOJ's Office of Professional
Responsibility disproving Mr. Cheney's assertion that the torture of high
level detainees had helped prevent terror attacks and save lives. The
classified CIA memo that Mr. Cheney insisted would affirm he and President
Bush were right to torture turned out to be wrong.
According to the report, that CIA memo cited by Cheney contained
"plainly inaccurate information." Specifically, a significantly misstated
time-line of events pertaining to the torture of al Qaeda operative Abu
Zubaydah. The CIA memo had claimed that information interrogated out of
Zubaydah led to the arrest of dirty bomb plotter Jose Padilla nine months
later. But the memo got the date of Padilla's arrest wrong. It took place
nine months after the torture, but three months before the torture.
As Greg Sargent's blog "The Plum Line" also points out, the OPR report
substantiates claims made by former FBI interrogator Ali Sufan (ph). Sufan
has stated he acquired critical information from Zubaydah through non-
enhanced interrogations methods.
"Newsweek's" Michael Isikoff reporting the memo also left out
references to another CIA detainee, ibn al Shaikh al Libbi. The OPR report
saying al Libbi provided false information about al Qaeda's supposed, but
non-existent, ties to Iraq, to stop his interrogators from abusing him any
As promised, here is Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, currently the Pamela
Harrimon visiting professor at the College of William & Mary, and formerly
the chief of staff to then Secretary of State Powell. Much thanks for your
time tonight, sir.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thank
OLBERMANN: By way of foreshadowing, I described your reaction to the
inaccuracy of that memo as disgusted. Forgive my presumptuousness in doing
so. But is that a fair assessment?
WILKERSON: That's a fair assessment. Let me also say, Keith, that if
your listeners want to tune in, by Google or whatever, to the most powerful
refutation of Vice President Dick Cheney's comments with regard to the
Obama administration, or comments about torture, water boarding,
Guantanamo, tune in to the Colin Powell interview on "Face the Nation" on
Sunday, and then to David Petraeus on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Those two individuals, both general officers, one a former secretary
of state, refute everything Dick Cheney has been saying with regard to
Obama's administration being less powerful with regard to terrorism, and
with regard to all these heinous methods of enhanced interrogation actually
OLBERMANN: Give me context for this because you were there; what
Cheney meant to the whole concept of enhanced interrogation, as they
phrased it, and what this erroneous memo meant to Cheney's role in that.
WILKERSON: I'm convinced that David Addington in Cheney's office was
the brainchild of what John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, Jim Haines over
at Defense OSD, general counsel, all wound up producing. Here's what you
discovered, what the memo I think corroborates-what I suspected all
along was that they were doing this sort of thing, this enhanced
interrogation, this torture, to people long before the legal opinion was
ever asked for, and thus rendered Bybee and Yoo and by others at OCL and
the Department of Justice.
So I think this corroborates that as early as May, possibly, in 2002,
they were using these techniques, and then they went to Justice and said,
we have cold feet; how about giving us legal justification. Which makes
what Yoo and Bybee and others did even more heinous, in my view.
OLBERMANN: Certainly, that's an option, at minimum, because Mr.
Cheney never said this will prove that the torture that we did legally
worked. He just said enhanced interrogation. There were no legal niceties
in his explanation, were there?
OLBERMANN: How does this memo story explain or affect Mr. Cheney's
spokesman-status as essentially spokesman for those people who, as you
referred to earlier, insist the current administration is not doing a good
enough job protecting America as the previous one did?
WILKERSON: I tell you, Keith. I listen to social anthropologists,
political anthropologists, others, who tell me there are 11 million,
roughly, kooks in America. It's not going to do anything for them.
But I do hope the people who may be reasonably sane citizens, who are
teetering on the line between believing that torture works, Jack Bauer in
"24" is a realistic representation, for example, and the fact that
America's values simply don't support this, even if it did work-I'll be
one to tell you that it doesn't work - I hope they teeter the other way.
I looked at some polls today that said 53 percent of the American
people actually still believe that torture, in some circumstances, is
justified. It is never justified. It is debilitating. It is injurious.
It damages our reputation. It damages our very soul. We should not be
torturing people. And I'm happy this administration has banned it
OLBERMANN: Lastly, back to the previous administration, does this one
little memo earn a place alongside, say, the madness of Curveball or the 16
words in the State of the Union as that small collection of the pivotal
lies from years 2001 to 2008?
WILKERSON: When you were leading into this, I couldn't help but think
about that, Keith, because I thought about my time at the CIA when
Secretary Powell was getting ready to throw everything out of his UN
presentation about terrorists and about contacts with terrorists in
Baghdad. And all of a sudden, Mr. Tenet, the director of the CIA,
identified Sheik al Libbi as a high al Qaeda operative who Powell later
cited in his testimony. And that swayed Powell to continue to insist in
that presentation that there were terrorist contacts between Saddam Hussein
and al Qaeda. And there were not.
OLBERMANN: One of the more significant events of that time, sadly.
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff, as
always, colonel, great thanks for your time.
WILKERSON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A quick update on the former vice president's health now.
Mr. Cheney will spend another night at George Washington University in DC.
Further testing revealing that chest pains he experienced yesterday were,
quote, "evidence of a mild heart attack," according to a spokesman. This
is Mr. Cheney's fifth. The 69 year old under-going a stress test and heart
cathertization. An aide to Mr. Cheney says the former vice president is
feeling good and is expected to be discharged in the next day or two.
Of course, the health care reform summit is really about a new civil
rights bill to bring reparations to black people, if you listen to Rush
Limbaugh. And well you should, consider right there he just dropped any
guise of non-racism.
From the worsts pile, this person says because five lawyers who
defended Gitmo detainees now work at the Department of Justice, the
Department of Justice is, thus, relatively stocked with terrorist
sympathizers. Skip terrorists sympathizers for a moment. You know how
many lawyers work at the Department of Justice? You want to bet she has no
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the other big
roadblock to health care reform; Democrat Bart Stupak again threatening to
derail reform efforts over what language the president's plan uses
OLBERMANN: Worst persons and the conclusion that if you were once a
lawyer for a Guantanamo Bay detainee, you are probably a terrorist
First, tonight's quick comment and invitation to tea. In response to
my comment last week noting the near total segregation of Tea Party events,
the Dallas, Texas group has invited me to their shin-dig on Saturday. I
appreciate their invitation. But with my dad still in intensive care all
this time, I've only been allowed to leave New York one night in the last
We should have been able to leave it at that. But, unfortunately, the
Dallas Tea Party group also put out a video, which, as one gullible website
Media-ite put it, "highlights the remarkable lack of diversity on MSNBC's
lineup. Judge not, lest ye be judged."
As to people of color, while the Dallas Tea Party video shows pictures
of only the white anchors here, "the narrator claims we see a whole lot
more at our events than we see on MSNBC. In fact, we have more diversity
on our three-person steering committee than your entire TV network lineup."
While I'm not exactly in charge of this, and I'm not going to drag
people into this by name when they were not the ones attacked, that will
probably be a surprise to one of our regular daytime news anchors and one
of our night time newscasters, and the two part time newscasters, and the
dozen minority anchors and reporters who often join us from the broadcast
NBC network, and the seven salaried contributors to MSNBC, to say nothing
of the regular guests.
So the Dallas Tea Party has one representative of diversity on its
steering committee, and there appears to be six minority people besides
her, speaking or shown in its own video. A diarist at Daily Kos examined
photos of the Dallas Tea Parties and identified three others. This, mind
you, is out of the hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands the Dallas
group claims to represent.
So, once again, this time represented to the Dallas group, where are
the people of color? Instead of worrying about inviting me, shouldn't you
be inviting them?
OLBERMANN: Well, Rush Limbaugh throws the cloak of deniable racism to
the winds. Health care reform is a, quote, "civil rights bill about
That's next, but first tonight's worst persons in the world.
The bronze to fired ex-Albany, New York hate radio host Mark Williams,
now a Tea Party Express spokesperson. TPM Muckraker says it has obtained
an e-mail Williams sent last November to other members of Tea Party
Express, in which he's evidently trying to defend himself against charges
of racism. "I will defend my record on race to no one under any
circumstances, and I will call out any racist any time, without regard to
who they are, and that includes our half white racist president." Nice
Freudian slip in there. And by the way, Tea Party Express? I'll have a
large bigotry, and some racism with secret sauce, and a white power shake.
The runner up, Elena Scordelli (ph). She was a news anchor at Sigma
Television in Greece. Then she got fired. Tomorrow, she'll be on the news
again there as a murder defendant. Ms. Scordelli, her brother and a third
man have been accused of murdering Andy Hojocostas (ph), the network
president who fired her from her job doing lifestyle reporting and
anchoring the mid-day news.
But this gets worse. Her family owned 20 percent of the network, and
this was allegedly just stage one of her plan, murder her fired boss and
take over his job in management. Well, I knew this was going to happen
eventually in television. But honestly, I thought it was going to be one
of about 143 people I used to work with.
But our winner, Monica Crowley, who went insane this afternoon on
Fixed News, because it was revealed five lawyers working for the Justice
Department once defended Gitmo detainees, and four others that participated
in arguments that were favorable to the detainees now work at DOJ. She
said, "it seems that we have a DOJ that is relatively stocked with what
could be assumed to be terrorist sympathizers. Because if you think enough
of those Guantanamo Bay detainees to represent them, what does that tell
you about where these people are coming from?"
Well, it tells me they believe in, you know, the rule of law. Also,
that's nine attorneys out of at least 10,000 at the Department of Justice.
So relatively stocked is like saying Monica Crowley is relatively
intelligent. You know, for nine months in 2005, this person co-hosted a
show on this network, and to exude this deep and abiding shallowness,
apparently we actually paid her money. And we want it back. Monica
Crowley, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: There's no mystery as to why President Obama has been
accused more than any other recent Democratic president of being socialist,
fascist, communist, take your pick. The ugliest surviving stain and strain
in American politics is still race-baiting. But it's particularly
offensive when it surfaces so blatantly.
Maybe it is better this way, though. Rush Limbaugh has declared that
the president's health care reform package is a civil rights bill and
constitutes reparations. Describing the first seven pages of the
president's plan as a "Robin Hood monstrosity," Limbaugh called it
unconstitutional, and when discussing the president's plan with a caller,
he added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It means the rich are going to
stop getting all the good stuff. We're going to take from this as income
redistribution. This is returning the nation's wealth to its, quote,
unquote, rightful owners. This is a civil rights bill. This is
reparations, whatever you want to call it.
This is not about health care, Stacy. It's about income
redistribution and class envy and getting people who can't read this to
think it's going to be good for them, because rich people are going to get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Civil rights bill, reparations, people who can't read
this, no one could hardly be more overt. He has used reparations in
conjunction with the president's agenda previously, notably in May of last
year, saying that Obama's objective was more unemployment, more food
stamps, more unemployment benefits, so as to expand the welfare state. The
quote then was, "think reparations. Think forced reparations here, if you
want to understand what actually is going on."
Let's turn to associate professor of politics and African-American
studies at Princeton University, contributor to "The Nation," Melissa
Harris-Lacewell. Good to see you.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Good to see you. I'm
glad I can be black on set for you tonight, for proof.
OLBERMANN: That's the silliest damn thing I've ever seen. But thanks
for being a good sport about that. The word, though, "reparations" is a
particularly loaded one, in describing-it's a loaded one under any
circumstances prior to 2008.
OLBERMANN: In describing the actions or the plans of an African-
American president, though, it sort of triples in importance, doesn't it?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Right. I think there's a couple things about that
Limbaugh statement that's stunning. First of all, since when has civil
rights become a slur. Right, the idea of it's a civil rights bill and
therefore it's something we should oppose.
One of the most stunning things about American public opinion over the
course of the past 50 years is that we went from a time where people would
openly expressed racist sentiment to a point where even if they harbored
racist sentiment in their heart, everyone had a sort of consensus around
the righteousness of civil rights. So for it to be deployed this way, as a
slur, is really a desire to move back to a very old and ugly time in our
I think the other thing is, when he talks about redistribution, let's
be honest, we saw a massive redistribution of income and wealth, and it was
under George W. Bush. It was a redistribution from poor working class and
middle class people to the uber wealthy. So if there is a redistribution
here going on, it is only a correcting of what we saw over the last decade.
OLBERMANN: That work reparations, that doesn't mean correcting. That
doesn't mean-in context, that means you white people out here are having
your money stolen from you for things that happened in 1865. That's the
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Absolutely. Look, as someone who teaches race, I
tend to not like to use the word racist unless I really mean it. It's not
a useful word to just deploy in public conversation. It ends up shutting
down folks who want to have real conversation. But that was a racist
comment. It was a comment meant specifically for one person, and that is
to stoke racial anxiety among those who have an economic interest in the
health care bill.
In other words, poor, working class and middle class white Americans
have an economic interest in this health care bill passing. In order to
deter them or confuse them, he uses the word reparations in order to
suggest that there is a racial anxiety, and in order to produce a racist
outcome. I don't know whether or not Limbaugh is racist. I do know that
statement and the goals behind it were racist.
OLBERMANN: These things and the euphemisms behind it, in particular,
are nothing new in American politics or American society, obviously. But
is the same old stuff? Is this Lester Maddox and his restaurant? Or is
this new stuff and somehow more or less dangerous?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: It's a little bit of both. Part of how racism is
showing up in this particular cycle of the American narrative is different.
I mean, there's this sort of Obama health care, where they have Obama
represented as a witch doctor. That's a new kind of racism. That's a
racism that's indicating sort of President Obama as his African heritage,
not just his black American heritage.
But other parts of it feel very old, very sort of Confederate versions
of racism. But I think the real point is what race has always done in
America is to divide Americans so that they can't understand what their
common interests here are. The point isn't that we need white Americans to
love black folks. It would be nice, but that's not really the point. The
point is that we need white Americans to love themselves enough to
recognize their own economic interests here.
OLBERMANN: The-is there any measure, any predictability about the
effectiveness of something like this, when Limbaugh does it?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: You know, there's a part of me that says we ought to
stop talking about Limbaugh. You know, that there's a way that he's sort
of-that little bouncing version of him that you had for a while, that is
just sort of, you know, who he is, and that in a certain way, even giving
credibility to his comments by talking to him just provides him more space
than he deserves.
On the other hand, we know that people really do have anxieties in the
context of an economic decline. So this kind of ethnic balkanization is
very normal in context of economic decline. So he has the ability to get
in there and divide people on their interests.
OLBERMANN: And it makes it somewhat mainstream, at least. That's
where the decision has to come down, I think. I don't know if we're right
Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton, always a pleasure. Thanks for
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 2,490th day since the
previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith
Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED. END