'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Twitter Report, Oddball, Worst Persons
Guests: Howard Fineman, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Lawrence Eagleburger, Jonathan Turley, Derrick Pitts
KEITH OLBERMANN, GUEST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Republican plan to raise taxes on the middle class. Democrats force a vote on continuing Bush tax cuts just for the middle class.
The incoming speaker of the House calls those cuts a political game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER-DESIGNATE: I'm trying to catch my breath to I don't refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Then, the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The yeas are 234. The nays are 188. The motion is adopted.
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OLBERMANN: One hundred and sixty-eight Republicans now on the record having voted for tax increases for the middle class, with Congressman Anthony Weiner, witness, and Howard Fineman.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Mr. Kyl of Arizona still demands to be bribed with tax cuts for the wealthy, or he will continue to hold up the START Treaty. Former Republican Secretaries of State Baker, Eagleburger, Kissinger, Powell, and Shultz reply - urging he stop playing politics with a vital missile agreement with the Russians. Mr. Eagleburger joins us.
Dick Cheney indicted. The KBR pipeline case in Nigeria. But WikiLeaks cables show President Obama helped conservatives stall indictments of the Bush six in Spain. Jonathan Turley explains.
And NASA's big universe-changing revelation. Microbes from a California lake can survive even when the phosphorous in their system is swapped out for arsenic. What if life exists based on another element?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if life exists based on another element?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Derrick Pitts on why chances of life in space just increased because of the story of arsenic and old lake.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you certain?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Positive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, December 2nd, 705 days until the 2012 presidential election, and the day Republicans actually voted for a middle class tax hike by voting against the extension of middle class tax cuts.
And in our fifth story: the GOP will hold that middle class tax cut hostage and hold unemployment insurance hostage, and hold the START Treaty hostage until they get tax breaks for the rich.
With the House vote on extension of middle class tax cuts passed today, 234 yeas, 231 Democrats, three Republicans - 188 nays, 168 Republicans and 20 Democrats. The bill will now go to the Senate to be ensnared by the GOP obstruction machine there. More on that in a moment.
House Republicans, led by incoming Speaker Boehner, called today's vote a political stunt, not to mention calling it animal excrement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I'm trying to catch my breath so I don't refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right? But this is nonsense! All right? The election was one month ago. We're 23 months from the next election, and the political games have already started, trying to set up the next election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Mr. Boehner seems to think that since there virtually no chance that the House-passed middle class tax cut will pass the Senate, it is a waste of time. So, we can then assume that when he takes over as speaker, Mr. Boehner will not be condoning any votes on repealing health care.
Actual Speaker Pelosi, meantime, is well aware of how Senate Republicans intend to hold the middle class tax cut hostage and unemployment insurance hostage in favor of tax cuts for the rich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: Yesterday in the Capitol, hundreds of people looking for work came to the Capitol of the United States. They knew that by the end of December, unless this Congress acts, 2 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance. What they heard was that the Republicans in the Senate had said, if you want unemployment insurance, it has to be paid for. But we want to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in America, to the tune of $700 billion, and that doesn't have to be paid for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Indeed, having issued their unified filibuster threat yesterday, Senate Republicans keep upping the ante. Senator Jon Kyl saying, quote, "If the taxes all can't be resolved and voted on and completed and spending for the government for the next 10 months completed by like next Monday, I don't know how there's enough time to complete START."
Senator Kyl, you will recall, is part of the working group negotiating a so-called compromise on the Bush tax cuts. The blowback he got from five Republican secretaries of state, one of whom will join us, ahead.
Late today, Senate Democrats on Republicans on Republican tentatively agreed to hold four test votes on the Bush tax cuts, including a vote as early Friday on the House-passed middle class tax cut. We'll ask Howard Fineman about that momentarily.
The president saying again that middle class tax cuts must be extended, as well as the unemployment insurance, and he alluded to passage of those jobless benefits as, quote, part of a broader package.
Meantime, Move On has placed a national ad, asking the president to stop letting himself get pushed around. And the Progressive Change Campaign Committee will run a similar ad, urging President Obama not to, quote, "cave."
Let's turn to Representative Anthony Weiner of New York's ninth district.
Congressman, good evening. Thanks for your time tonight.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Finally, a vote. Have we become so jaded by political machinations - particularly those in the Senate - but a clear-cut up-or-down vote comes not just a surprise but is painted by Republicans as a stunt?
WEINER: Well, not only that, and I know it's tough for Mr. Boehner to read the Constitution, but any tax bill has to be initiated by the House. You can't wait for someone else to do it. That's what we did today.
And let's remember something for those of us whose memories have faded. The only reason these tax cuts lapsed at the end of the year is because that's the way the Republicans wrote the law. And so, all we're doing is taking this hand that we were dealt, giving tax cuts to 97 percent of Americans, and now, every single Republican is on record being against it.
You know, if this is the way they're going to govern, this whole idea, if you don't give me every single thing I want, I'm not going to vote for anything, nothing on the Republican House or Senate is going to get done. Let's face it - I also thought there should be some changes in this. I'd like to see maybe a little bit higher than $250,000 because I'm in a high cost state.
But if they think they're going to govern by simply saying it's our way or the highway, the president and the Democrats are saying, we're going to keep fighting in things we believe in - which is fighting for the middle class and those who are struggling to make it there.
OLBERMANN: For policy reasons and indeed for political reasons, could this vote have been held before the election?
WEINER: Well, perhaps it could have been. I think maybe we could have done this a while ago. But let's remember something. You know, despite the rhetoric coming out from Mr. Boehner, this is actually an area where I thought, and the Republicans, frankly, said, we all agreed.
We might disagree about people over $250,000, but we all, I thought, agreed, that anyone south, which is overwhelming numbers of your viewers - we agreed on this. So, this idea that this is some kind of a stunt, this is called governing.
The Republicans seem so unprepared for the responsibility that they now have, which is to sit down, negotiate, and govern, that when you have a simple up-or-down vote on a simple premise of tax cutting, even then they're all no.
OLBERMANN: Let me read you the statement from the White House and read it to our viewers as well. "The president continues to believe that extending middle class tax cuts is the most important thing we can do for our economy right now and he applauds the House for passing a permanent extension. But because Republicans have made it clear that they won't pass a middle class extension without also extending tax cuts for the wealthy, the president has asked Director Lew and Secretary Geithner to work with Congress to find a way forward."
Is that a satisfactory statement in your opinion? Or did that - did it start well and kind of poop out at the end? Is there more leadership needed out of the White House on this?
WEINER: You know, I don't know, but it's kind of like saying, if you don't stop punching me in the nose in the next two hours, I'm going to be really upset.
I mean, look, the fact is - I think the president needs to understand what many of us on Capitol Hill have known for quite some time now. The Republicans are simply going to vote no on just about every single thing. It's the only thing that unifies them, the fact that they're against everything. So, even when you say tax cuts, I thought they were the party that liked tax cuts - they're unified as a no.
Look, the president is pursuing bipartisan, he should be commended for doing that. But just like a child looks for a unicorn, sooner or later, you go on with your life realizing you're not going to find one. I think that's the place that Democrats have to be right now.
OLBERMANN: Well, you can keep looking for them, but not around every corner, maybe one out of five.
OLBERMANN: If ultimately, Democrats accept a temporary extension of the full range of cuts, including those for the wealthy, is there - do you have a sense that at least there will be a deal that will include the extension of jobless benefits?
WEINER: Well, I do know what I believe and what we want to fight for. We believe that the jobless benefits have to be extended. The START Treaty is basically done. It just has to be signed of. And a lot of the accommodations for people like Senator Kyl are already baked into that deal. I know things like "don't ask, don't tell"; I know things like the immigration bill that would allow people who are in college get (INAUDIBLE).
But we, Democrats have this exaggerated fidelity to governance. We have to realize, any deal has to include someone to deal with. Show me a Republican in this town that's prepared to have any kind of an adult conversation about governing, and I will show you that they don't exist right now. Hopefully, Mr. Boehner will be that way, but he's not that way today.
OLBERMANN: "Congressman Unicorn" of unicornland might be available to you to negotiate. That might be the best one.
Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, who actually represents an actual district - thank you kindly, sir.
WEINER: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Let's turn to senior political editor of "The Huffington Post," MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Any unicorns in the studio with you?
FINEMAN: I don't see any.
OLBERMANN: What are the four test votes for in the Senate, what, and when, and do they involve unicorns?
FINEMAN: Not unicorns, but senators. And I just came from the Hill, where right at this minute, the Senate Democrats are meeting in caucus behind closed doors for the second time today. This is a rare evening session.
And what they're listening do is Harry Reid explain to them, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, what's probably going to happen tomorrow, which is a series of fake filibuster votes, test votes. And it's sort of like Harry Reid publicly revealing what's in his hand and showing the Democratic Caucus that they probably don't have the numbers to do anything other than accept that two- or three-year extension of tax cuts for the rich. I think that's sort of what's going on here.
There will be four votes tomorrow, at least as I understand it, as of this minute. First, though, vote in the Senate, in this test vote, a filibuster vote, which requires 60, on the House-passed bill, the one that Congressman Weiner voted for and so forth. That would cap the continuation of tax increases to families making $250,000 or less.
That's probably going to lose, as we've talked about here. The Democrats have 58 counting the two independents. But they need - they need 60 to overcome the theoretical filibuster, and they probably won't get that 60. So, that means that will be dead.
Then they'll vote on Senator Schumer's idea, which is to cap the continuation of the tax cuts at $1 million, at families making $1 million. And according to the senators I've been talking to, that's going to probably fail, too. That won't get the 60 votes.
Then they're going to vote on Senator McConnell's, Republican leader's proposal, to allow all the tax cuts to continue until the unicorns come home. And that will fail, because it won't be able to get the 60 votes either.
And then they'll come to the fourth and final one, which they're drafting at this moment, which Secretary Geithner and OMB Director Lew and the others are working on now, and that will probably call for a two, maybe even three-year extension of tax cuts for everyone. And that's the one that, we'll see, if there'll be 60 votes for.
Presumably, the Democrats who wouldn't want to vote for the others will vote for that. And presumably, a couple Republicans will too - in which case you'll show that that will be the thing that will pass eventually.
OLBERMANN: Whatever passes eventually, and it is terrifying to think that even if the threshold were $100 million, that there would be Republicans who voted against it - and I'm not exaggerating.
FINEMAN: And maybe even some Democrats, too.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Will it, as I asked Anthony Weiner, would it at least include the extension of the jobless benefits?
FINEMAN: Well, not necessarily. It depends on how strong or weak the Democrats' hand is here, and it's pretty weak. And in a way, this is going to be a demonstration of their weakness tomorrow, I think.
So, no, not necessarily. It could happen, but these test votes are sort of like seeing how many chips you have, you know, to play with. And it's not clear that it's going to show anything other than the Democrats' weakness.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it's not the chips that I'm concerned about. It's the fullness of the deck.
OLBERMANN: The vote today in the House - why didn't it happen in October? Were Democrats too scared or were they saving it for the lame duck, anticipating losing the House? In other words, did they prioritize having the political cudgel right now ahead of having a potentially meaningful vote in October?
FINEMAN: Well, Congressman Weiner didn't want to say this, but I bet you he thinks it. They were afraid to do it. They were just afraid in that environment of Republicans coming after them and saying, you know, these are the tax-raising Democrats. And the Democrats never framed it properly.
They've never even considered, for example, meeting the Republican argument about how there are all these small businesses that, you know, will be crushed by raising taxes on the rich. Craft an exemption for legitimate small businesses there. I mean, that's what the IRS exists to do. I haven't even heard the Democrats talk about that idea. It's just a very simple thing.
But they seem to be afraid of their own shadow when it comes to tax policy, and that's what we see the results of right now.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman, senior political editor and unicorn specialist of "The Huffington Post" - always a pleasure, Howard. Thank you.
FINEMAN: OK. Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Tracking loose nukes in Russia, still being mixed into this by Republican senator, outraging five former secretaries of state - one of them will join us next.
OLBERMANN: The Republican senator versus the five Republican secretaries of state. Lawrence Eagleburger joins us on the urgent necessity to ratify the START Treaty.
Indicted in Nigeria, nothing to do with those emails and (INAUDIBLE) transfers. Well, maybe the bank transfers.
The Texas Republican who stuns the Tea Party by admitting that if the state drops out of Medicaid, quote, "We will have to throw some people out in the street."
And NASA's big announcement about life in outer space. Well, when they say "life," they mean microbes. And when they say "outer space," they mean South Tufa, California. Derrick Pitts explains.
OLBERMANN: It's almost immediately after a Republican president was in office on September 11th, 2001, congressional Republicans have insisted that keeping us safe is their paramount goal. Senator John McCain running for president, briefly, on the slogan, "Country first."
But now, in our fourth story tonight, a remarkable new essay by five Republicans who have served the last five Republican presidents as secretary of state is calling out today's Republicans, diplomatically of course, for not putting country first.
What's at stake here? Whether terrorists might be able to get their hands on Russia's loose nukes. For the first time in decades, American inspectors are unavailable to verify the security of Russia's nuclear arsenal.
President Obama signed the treaty known as new START this spring. It would allow U.S. inspections, but Senate Republicans have dragged out and blocked the ratification process that would make it law, ever since it was passed.
Republican Whip Jon Kyl, also lead negotiator on this issue, has had virtually every objection of his satisfied by the Obama administration, including billions more in spending on America's nuclear arsenal. So, why the hold up still?
Kyl told "The Hill" newspaper yesterday the issue is now tax cuts. Quote, "If the taxes all can't be resolved and voted on and completed, and spending for the government for the next 10 months completed by like next Monday, I don't know how there's enough time to complete START."
This after every single Senate Republican already signed a letter saying they will block legislation until they get tax cuts for the rich. And treaties require more than just a majority, they require two-thirds support.
Yesterday, former Senate Republican Leader Howard Baker, also former Reagan chief of staff, wrote his own op-ed piece saying, quote, "It's beyond me how anyone could conclude that refusing to ratify this inspection treaty would somehow enhance American's security. Any senator thinking seriously about the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should also be ready to ratify the new START treaty."
Mr. Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, one of five on record today with an op-ed of their own in the same vein. Henry Kissinger, secretary of state for Mr. Nixon, who negotiated the first nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union. James Baker, secretary of state under the first President Bush. Lawrence Eagleburger, serving in that same capacity and standing by to join us momentarily.
And Colin Powell, who served all those presidents except Nixon, had also served as secretary of state under the second President Bush, explaining last night why all of these men have come forward to push for Senate action.
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COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We as a group of Republican former secretaries of state believe that this treaty is in the best interest of the United States of America. I fully support this treaty and I hope that the Senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible. And it's especially important, because at the end of last year, we lost the verification system that we had under START I. And this is the first time in all these years where we don't have these procedures in place. So we're not sure exactly what's going on within the Russian Federation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised now, we're joined by former secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger.
Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My pleasure, sir.
OLBERMANN: Not that we are not delighted to have you, but did you ever think you'd be appearing on this network, urging Republicans to do what's right for national security by getting on board with this administration?
EAGLEBURGER: No, I've spent - I've spent all day in nervousness, looking in the mirror to figure out whether, in fact, I'm in the wrong mode or something here. But here I am. And I'm ready to go to war.
OLBERMANN: This is not just Russia's nukes that are involved, correct? Can you explain how this impacts our progress relative to nuclear materials in Iran and North Korea and Afghanistan?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, it is about Russia's nukes in a way, and that's the point you've already made, which is the verification aspect. In the sense that when the START treaty ended last - a year ago, more or less, when it ran out of gas and we had to replace it, the fact of the matter was, all this time's been taken before we could get something, and the reason that the verification is so important is it's the one way we knew how many nukes the Russians had, where they had them, had them placed and so forth. We've gone by now almost a year without being able to tell that.
And in addition, you've now - we all are living in some terror, at least, that the terrorists, some terrorists, one place or another, is going end to up getting a nuclear weapon - not necessarily from Russia. But if they get one, we are all in terrible trouble, and that's another reason for doing everything we can to lock down as many of these weapons as we can.
And if we know where the Russians have theirs and how many they have, at least we can be confident that they're not ending up in the hands of a terrorist somewhere.
OLBERMANN: As you heard in that clip that we played, Secretary Powell urged ratification of the new START as soon as possible. And if it is as vital to our national security as he suggests, and as you suggest, is there any argument to be made that it should not be - this should not be ratified, in this current lame duck session? I mean, if it's urgent, isn't it urgent as in, this week?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, you're now asking one person who has a qualification to all of that. And I apologize to my colleagues who may have a more firm view than I. I don't want to - you'll notice in what we wrote, we said we weren't going to comment on when it should be done.
I don't believe we should be jamming this thing, if there are enough questions that are asked on the part of senators, and they're not certain of some of the aspects of this thing, I think it would be a mistake to jam this down the throats of people in this lame-duck session when they could look at it early next year with the new senators there as well, and answer some questions if they need to be answered.
I would prefer to see it done now, I guess, in an abstract way, but not if it's going to lead to getting the backs up of some senators.
OLBERMANN: One senator said something that perhaps you are uniquely qualified to address this week. Senator Collins of Maine suggested what would really help here would be if both Presidents Bush said, ratify this thing and ratify this thing as quickly as possible. It's probably fairly understandable why neither one of them would want to take a public stance on this.
But is there a way of them conveying support that would add to the Senate's sense of what to do here?
EAGLEBURGER: That's a very good question, and I can't answer it positively. I would suspect that - again, I may be wrong - but I should think that the first President Bush, at a minimum, ought to be willing to say thing. And I would assume that the second President Bush would as well, unless there's some reason that he, having just left power, he doesn't want to get involved this time.
But it does seem to me that it would help if, in fact, the two presidents could say something. But, again, I think, one of the things I think they will be careful about is this question of timing. I don't think they - I think they're going to be just as concerned as we were and I am about the question of pushing it too hard, too fast.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence Eagleburger -
EAGLEBURGER: But it is also - I have to make - I have to make the concession -
EAGLEBURGER: - that at the same time, it is important that it get done as soon as possible.
OLBERMANN: Amen. Lawrence Eagleburger, former secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush - again, great thanks for your time this evening. And for our previous interviews -
EAGLEBURGER: You're being very nice to this Republican. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I don't - that's not my first judgment. It's whether or not you're right, and you're absolutely right on this. Thank you kindly, sir.
EAGLEBURGER: OK. All right.
OLBERMANN: And there is international legal news tonight, deep in the WikiLeaks pile, evidence that this president helped to stop Spain from indicting the last president. But nobody could stop Nigeria from indicting the last vice president. Jonathan Turley ahead.
OLBERMANN: On a scoreboard, former Bush administration members dodging indictment abroad with President Obama's help - six. Former U.S. vice presidents indicted anyway - one.
First the sanity break and the tweet of the day from Barry Mayor. "Mitch McConnell is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life," Manchurian Candidate.
Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire? And if you don't know what that means go and get the original "Manchurian Candidate."
I'm United States Senator John Yerkis (ph) Iceland. Let's play oddball.
We begin in Canada. Sometimes the beat of the music just takes hold. And when Bachman-Turner Overdrive is blasting out, taking care of business, you just embrace it. Here we find Michele Bachmann's favorite fan rehearsing where its appearance at half time of the Great Cup, Canada's version of the Super Bowl.
A janitor seems very taken with the tune and lets loose, and that's
break dancing - down goes Frazier. And fell down. However, this does
seem a little staged. The dance moves are too good and the fall's a little
too dramatic. That doesn't mean we can't sit back and enjoy the show in
Staying in the world of dance, with the Internet these two get off to a rough start by hitting another guest - aw. Then they get into the full spin-a-roo, wee. And eventually they lose centrifugal force and come to a stop.
And down goes Dancing Queen. It is unclear if she fell over from dizziness or shock from the man in the back doing the jump split. As a matter of fact, if that wasn't her date, I don't know what it was but it's still pretty good. To avoid further accidents like this, the YMCA and the chicken dance are mandatory henceforth at every wedding.
Jonathan Turley on the indictment of Dick Cheney and the non-indictment of everybody else, next.
OLBERMANN: The easiest way for me to tell our third story is to simply read this e-mail that I received this afternoon.
"Lagos, Nigeria, attention, the president's CEO, "Dear sir, confidential business proposal. Having consulted with my colleagues and based on the information gathered from the Nigerian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, I have the privilege to request for your assistance to transfer the sum of 47,500,000 United States dollars into your accounts.
"The above sum resulted from an over-invoice contract executed, commissioned, and paid for about 15 - 15 years ago by a foreign contractor named Dick Cheney, who has since been indicted."
Wait, wait, the control room's telling me this is some sort of - no -
famous Internet scam? I don't know. It says right here it's confidential.
On the other hand, the part about the indictment is - it's legit. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporting that Nigeria will indeed lodge indictments against former Vice President Cheney and officials from five foreign companies in the next few days.
The allegations Halliburton Subsidiaries KBR along with other companies paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials. The bribes are paid over the course of a decade in order to secure a $6 billion natural gas contract.
Mister Cheney was CEO of Halliburton for five of those years, leaving the company to become then former President Bush's running mate. KBR pled guilty last year in the U.S. in relation to the bribery case. The company along with Halliburton agreed to pay the U.S. a $579 settlement.
While we will soon see the indictment of Mr. Cheney, a close examination of the State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that the Obama administration fought to keep other Bush administration officials from meeting a similar fate.
In March 2009, Spain's national court was considering a request from a human rights group to indict six former Bush officials for creating a legal framework of allegedly permitted torture. They were Attorney General Gonzalez, Cheney chief of staff and legal adviser, David Addington, Pentagon general council William Haynes, undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Fife, and Bush Office of Legal Counsel officials Jay Bybee and John Yoo.
Here is Press Secretary Gibbs on April 14th answering question from our friend David Corn, would the Obama administration cooperate with information request from Spanish prosecutors concerning the Bush six?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Do you think this is an appropriate action for another government to take?
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I'm - I don't want to get involved in hypotheticals. We may have some reaction based on what ultimately happens.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Well, what Mr. Gibbs did not divulge is that the Obama White House working with the GOP was pressuring the Spanish government to drop the investigation. As Corn reports, the WikiLeaks cables reveal that high-ranking American officials, like Senator Judd Gregg and former RNC chairman, former senator, Mel Martinez, were part of the U.S. effort to kill the torture probe.
The men alongside embassy officials cautioned Spanish leaders that criminal investigations of the Bush six would not be understood or accepted in the U.S. and would have an enormous impact on bilateral relationships.
Spanish ultimately dropped the investigation. How's that for bipartisanship?
I'm now to turn to George Washington University law professor, constitutional law expert, Jonathan Turley.
Jon, thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Spain first. Expected this behind-the-scenes, strong arming from the previous administration, I would think, but what, if any, are the legal implications here, and is it within the Obama administration's purview to try to influence a foreign criminal justice system?
TURLEY: Well, of course it's not. In fact, the Obama administration was trying to circumvent the independent judiciary of another country. They were actually told that by Spanish officials, that we actually do have an independent court system, but that didn't stop the Obama administration.
And what was really disgraceful is that the Obama administration, of course, is in violation of our own treaties. That President Obama has blocked any investigation or prosecution of war crimes and now they're trying to force other countries to adopt the same hypocritical position.
It's sort of like the coalition of the unwilling to make sure that other allies would not enforce key international values. I didn't think that this could get worse, but it really has. I mean, this is as bad as it gets, to put pressure on another country's courts, and say, if you enforce international law, we're going to come down on you, diplomatically. And you're going to have troubles as a nation.
OLBERMANN: The Nigeria/Cheney story, what is the U.S. obligation here? I mean is extradition - I mean that just sounds wild to even say it, or does the Obama White House pressure the Nigerian government in the same way that it did the Spanish government? Or what happens after this?
TURLEY: Well, it is a rather wild thought, isn't it? Of Dick Cheney being tried in Nigerian court. You have people scratching that one off their bucket lists, I suppose, around the country.
But the fact is that we have had an extradition treaty with Nigeria since 1931. And under the U.S. attorney's manual, these types of red notices are to be enforced. You are to confirm that there's a valid arrest warrant. There's a valid arrest warrant here. And that the country has an extradition treaty with the United States. That exists.
And so what does this mean? It means that the United States is going to be an awfully difficult position because they're supposed to help locate the subject. Well, this subject has a Secret Service detail with him at all times. So it won't be too hard to find him.
You just call up the detail, and wherever they are, he's there. So it's going to be a very awkward position for the United States. They will have to, effectively, refuse to cooperate with Interpol, refuse to cooperate with Nigeria.
Now, for Mr. Cheney, it means that he probably should get to love the United States very deeply in terms of any travel plans. If he goes outside the United States, he may not find another government so willing to turn away an Interpol red notice.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of the Interpol, that's an interesting juxtaposition, because the Nigerians want to go via Interpol for the arrest warrant for Vice President Cheney at exactly the same time that the conservatives here are demanding that we use Interpol to arrest the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
Is that anything but an irony?
TURLEY: It's a really crushing irony because it's clear that the United States is pressuring for his arrest and it would be rather odd for them to be pushing a red notice on Assange and then ignore one with Mr. Cheney.
Under the normal course of things, they would assist Interpol and Nigeria in extraditing this individual. The fact that he's a former vice president is really not supposed to matter. That's why we have that blindfold over justice. You're not supposed to peek. And this is a red notice and a valid case out of Nigeria, demanding his arrest.
OLBERMANN: And once again, we discuss - we're discussing unicorns without even knowing it.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.
Always a pleasure, Jon. Thank you.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The televangelist is back at it warning of cataclysms because of taxpayer funded artist exhibits. Except it's not taxpayer funded. He made that up.
And if you, like so many, in our audience, are part made up of phosphorus, but you've always wanted to switch to arsenic, good news, everyone. Derrick Pitts on NASA's new discovery and why it increases the chances of Neptulians (ph) or (INAUDIBLE).
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the view from inside the military and the right's effort to stall the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
OLBERMANN: The world's oldest thwarted 4-year-old child lashes out against the Defense secretary who never served in the military except he did serve in the military to which the world's oldest thwarting 4-year-old child said, I knew that.
And it's so much like a "Star Trek" episode that NASA even says it's like a "Star Trek" episode. Life based not on what we think are its components, life based on arsenic. Just arsenic. No old lace.
OLBERMANN: Microbes collected from Mono Lake in California can live with arsenic, replacing phosphorus in their biological makeup, which is big news if you want to go live in Mono Lake in California.
The extra terrestrial implications next with Derrick Pitts.
First, get out your pitchforks and torches. Time for today's nominees for the "Worst Persons in the World."
Surprise? The televangelist Glenn Beck upset about an exhibit at the Smithsonian which doesn't meet his high standards.
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GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: And then you have the tax dollars, funding this wonderful art display. It's Christmas at the Smithsonian. Here's this wonderful - oh, look, it's Jesus with ants on him. What? You got to be kidding me, right? What does this have to do with the birth of the baby Jesus?
And why is he now covered in ants? Whose values are these? And you wonder why there's the breakdown of the family.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: OK, two problems. First, genius, the exhibition at the Smithsonian is privately funded, $750,000 fish and all of it from foundations and companies and individuals. No tax dollars involved.
Beck just made that up.
Second, sonny, if you think that image of Jesus with ants is leading to the breakdown of the family, obviously the first thing you want to do is publicize the exhibition on national radio and television so more people will go see it.
The runner-up, Senator John McCain. Wow, he really doesn't like that military report supporting the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He says he's not listening to Admiral Mullen or Defense Secretary Gates.
"In all due respect, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is not directly in charge of the troops. The secretary of defense is a political appointee who's never been in the military."
Actually Robert Gates not only served as a second lieutenant in the Air Force, but he served concurrently with John McCain. A McCain spokesman pretended the whole thing never happened. He just misspoke.
"Obviously, Senator McCain is aware of Secretary Gates' many honorable years in service."
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, quickly fly the years.
But our winner, Texas State House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts. The state is throwing around the prospect of opting out of Medicaid. Its Tea Partiers all puffed up about showing them Democrats and northerners and minorities and socialists and big government and - who's boss.
Then Chairman Pitts told them the awful truth. Speaking at a meeting of the Ellis County Tea Party - that's Waxahachie - a member of the audience said he had a friend who was ill and who was on Medicaid. He asks, if the state bails out of Medicaid, what happens to my friend, does he get thrown out on the street?
And Pitts said, "If we did exactly what we're doing today, we wouldn't be throwing them on the street, but if we have any savings in getting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street."
What are you doing? You're not supposed to tell them that. How else the sheep going to follow you to the slaughter if you tell them that they're going to be slaughtered? You're supposed to tell them they can have their cake and eat it, too.
That's the State House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, speaking reality to people who don't believe in it. Today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: Quoting from the news release issued earlier in the week, NASA will hold a news conference at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, December 2nd to discus an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
To many fancible thinker on the inter-webs and elsewhere, that statement was reduced to NASA finding extraterrestrial life, holy crap. In other words, today would be the day NASA revealed its secret captive alien space creature, Donald Trump's hair.
Except in our number one story today, we didn't get anything like this.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have come to visit you in piece.
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OLBERMANN: Instead, we got this.
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FELISA WOLFE-SIMON, NASA ASTROBIOLOGIST: I'd like to introduce to you today the bacterium GSAJ-1. These are not little potatoes.
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OLBERMANN: No aliens, just alien-like potato-looking bacteria.
Derrick Pitts will explain why this is still a huge deal.
NASA astrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon today revealing that the results of her team's study on bacteria for Mono Lake in California took the name that the element phosphorus was the essential building block, or at least one of them, of all life.
Wolfe-Simon claims her team was able to extract the phosphorous out of the bacterium GFAG potato bacterium and replace it with the poison in arsenic while keeping the bacteria alive.
Hence, life as we don't know it. The extrapolation by Wolfe-Simon is that they can engineer life without phosphorus in a lab and it's certainly possible outside the lab, and thus, outside the planet.
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WOLFE-SIMON: The strain GSAJ-1 the bacterium is a different way to do business. It has solved the challenge of being alive in a very different way than we knew of. What other questions can we ask? This will inform us about life on our own planet and it will help inform us of life, we will find it, one day, elsewhere in the universe.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So what will that poisony arsenic life on other plants look like? The answer, according to NASA, might just be found in the season one episode 25 of the original "Star Trek".
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DR. MARY VOYTEK, NASA ASTROLOGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR: If you remember, I think it was a Dark Evil and the horta? So this is in our mind the equivalent of finding that horta which is a silicon-based life, substituting carbon, which is what we think all life forms are made of, with silica.
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OLBERMANN: I hate to correct NASA but in the episode it's called "The Devil in the Dark," and I have to warn you, scientists, the silicon-based horta is Phaser resistant.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm quite at a loss.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He was nay so much a man as a blancmange.
Joining me now as promised, Derrick Pitts, the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, because, Jim, I'm not a scientist.
Good evening to you, sir.
DERRICK PITTS, THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE: Thank you, Keith. How are you?
OLBERMANN: Well, I'm trying to get this straight. There's a Phaser resistant horta made out of arsenic in Mono Lake in California? Do I have this right?
PITTS: Yes, so far.
OLBERMANN: OK. What actually is this? Tell me why I should not be underwhelmed?
PITTS: Well, first of all, we have to invent the phase-shifting Phaser so that we can make it possible to shoot the right creatures with these.
OLBERMANN: Got it. Got it.
PITTS: But in any case, the story here, Keith, is that we've been able to determine that these six basic building blocks for life are not actually cast in stone. So the model that we set up for ourselves to look for life in other environments, say, on other planets and other things like that, really now can expand itself, and that, in turn, expands the possibilities for finding different kinds of life in different environments. So we've upped our chances of being able to discover life.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, not all the time, but frequently, science takes cues, or at least imagination takes cues from science fiction, but if Gene Roddenberry was writing about this idea in 1966 or '67, why are we just getting around to proving it can happen in 2010?
PITTS: Well, the thing is that we haven't been able to find anything like this anywhere. The assumption has always been that we need these six basic building blocks. And every life form we've looked at on this planet so far has shown us that these are the six basic building blocks.
What I really like about what this particular scientist did was she started out with an assumption that perhaps it could be possible to change out one of these building blocks and see what might happen. She chose the right one, the phosphorus, in this case, that really looks very much like arsenic when you analyze what the atom is like itself.
They're sort of interchange in a sense. And so by doing this, she determined that, hey, wait a minute, it is possible that we can change building blocks and still have metabolic processes go on as we know them. So that's the really big step forward here.
OLBERMANN: Is there any indication that this is the only one of the building blocks that might be swapped out, or could we find out some day that you could also replace one of them with, you know, Royal crown cola?
PITTS: It could be possible that we could find out that one of the other building blocks could be different, or that in a different environment, different building blocks could be used.
And you know we've always had this idea, Keith, you're right. If you look at science fiction, this has been around for decades, of course. But when we actually look at hard science, we need real solid facts to say that this is the case and then be able to jump off from there and do the proper kinds of exploration and data collecting from here to determine that this is, indeed, the case and maybe we find more examples here on this planet, but it prepares us to now go out into the solar system and the rest of the galaxy and maybe find others.
OLBERMANN: Any place we should be looking for the arsenic monster or the - as they're also known Arsenio people?
PITTS: I'd say something about government at this point, but I think I'll let that go by.
PITTS: I think the thing for a scientist to do now is to try to determine where else on earth we might be able to find these different kinds of - these microorganisms that might be able to interchange various basic building blocks, and see what other sort of changes to that basic formula for life we might be able to suggest and see what happens.
OLBERMANN: Derrick Pitts, the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute, and due to the lack of time, I can't ask you about unicorns, so you're lucky.
PITTS: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Derrick. Thank you much.
PITTS: Thank you. Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That's December 2nd. Before we go, two updates on the stories we've been following of Francisco Felix and Randall Shepherd, two men who need life-saving transplants, funding for which was promised to them by Arizona's state version of Medicaid, until the legislature under Republican control and the governor, Republican Jan Brewer, reneged and cut to save a few million dollars.
Your contributions via NTAFund.org as of Tuesday had reached $63,000 for Mr. Felix and $44,000 for Mr. Shepherd and they and their families thank you. And they will rejoin us tomorrow night.
And your attention is called now to the Web site of the "New York Times" which is just tonight prominently posted a story on Arizona's death panel and Mr. Felix and Mr. Shepherd including a remarkable phrase, "Death by Budget Cut."
So this infuriating and human story is going to get a lot more attention and starting right now.
We'll see them and you tomorrow night, I hope. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now to discuss today's Senate hearing and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," 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