Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, February 23, 2010
video podcast

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.



political support in the majority to get this through.


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?


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?


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:


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is a civil rights bill,

this is reparations-whatever you want to call it.


OLBERMANN: Yes, health care protest. No undercurrent of racism here,


All the news and commentary-now on Countdown.


LIMBAUGH: That's kind of frightening.



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.


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

Washington, D.C.


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

get sick.

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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

that's unpopular.

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

option more.

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

actually is.

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

around legislation.

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 Corn.

David, good evening.


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 Republicans.

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

in Germany.

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.


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.


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.


you, Keith.

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?

WILKERSON: Precisely.

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

Earthly clue?

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

concerning abortion.


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

six months.

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.


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

stuck again.


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.


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

translation, correct?

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

or not.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton, always a pleasure. Thanks for

coming in.


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.