updated 1/13/2009 4:09:53 PM ET 2009-01-13T21:09:53

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The damnedest news conference he has ever given.

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PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  This is the ultimate exit interview.

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OLBERMANN:  Momentary clarity: The “mission accomplished” banner, a, quote, “mistake.” not finding WMD just a disappointment, and “heck of a job, Brownie,” not a mistake.

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BUSH:  Don‘t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.

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OLBERMANN:  And turns angry, nostalgic, infuriating and self-mocking.

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BUSH:  Sometimes, you misunderestimated me.

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OLBERMANN:  The Bush news conference at length and as analyzed by Richard Wolffe.

The president admits his role in torture, says he personally asked what tools were available to use on Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and he sought legal approval to use those tools.

Gitmo, closed—Obama‘s order to do so, reportedly, to come next week. But with Bush‘s admission, what about prosecuting the president or those who tortured on his orders?

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BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT:  I don‘t believe that anybody is above the law.  On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.

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OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley on culpability.

Worsts: Joe the Plumber goes to Israel to report on the war and insists the media should not be allowed to report on wars.

And, hot seat.  Their special guest—that guy on the right.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You started supporting Bill O‘Reilly.  You say good things about him.

OLBERMANN:  I think the things I‘ve said have been good things.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  I think the things I‘ve said have been the best possible things about him.

(APPLAUSE)

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OLBERMANN:  All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Well, that went well.

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OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening.  This is Monday, January 12th, eight days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

He ranged from reminding the viewers of the angriest of Richard Nixon‘s news conferences to recalling Hillary Clinton choking up with the motion at a diner in New Hampshire, to finally, ultimately sounding like the buzzed guy at the bar running the gamut of emotions from regret to buying a round for the place, to challenging everybody there to a fight.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: At least there was this to say about the final news conference today of George W. Bush as president—nobody threw a shoe at him this time.

To paraphrase the angry Nixon of California‘s election night 1962: you won‘t have Bush to kick around anymore because gentlemen, this is his last news conference.  But this one might suffice.  The response to a question from ABC‘s Jake Tapper about the president‘s failure to execute many of his policies successfully, Mr. Bush is responding that hard things don‘t happen overnight nor apparently do they happen after two full terms in the Oval Office.

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BUSH:  First of all, hard things don‘t happen overnight, Jake.  And when the history of Iraq is written, historians will analyze, for example, the decision on the surge.  The situation was—looked like it was going fine and then violence for a period of time began to throw—throw the progress of Iraq into doubt.  And rather than accepting the status quo and saying, “Oh, it‘s not worth it,” or the politics makes it difficult or, you know, the party may end up being, you know, not doing well in the elections because of the violence in Iraq, I decided to do something about it and sent 30,000 troops in as opposed to withdrawing.

And so, that part of history is certain and the situation did change.  Now, the question is, in the long run, will this democracy survive?  And that‘s going to be the challenge for future presidents.  In terms of the economy—look, I inherited a recession; I‘m ending on a recession.  In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth.

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OLBERMANN:  No, he didn‘t inherit it.  It started in March 2001.  But the president, again, defined parameters as to what we could judge him on and what we could not.  On security, only events after 9/11 counted; on Iraq, look only at the surge, not say, intel, reconstruction, lies nor coffins; as to the economy, focus only on the job growth in the middle, never mind the 2,600,000 jobs lost last year, the most in a year since World War II.

And if the proscribed timeline approach does not work, there is the ever popular “blame your predecessor” approach.

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BUSH:  Now, obviously, these are very difficult economic times.  It‘s a—when people analyze the situation there will be a—this problem started before my presidency, obviously took place during my presidency.  The question facing a president is not when the problem started but what did you do about it when you recognized the problem?  And I readily concede I chunked aside some of my free market principles when I was told by chief economic advisers that the situation we were facing could be worse than the Great Depression.

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OLBERMANN:  Not when the problem started, although he made certain to falsify when his first recession started.  But should he want to compare job growth between his administration and that of President Clinton‘s, the U.S. economy has cranked out a net total of 3 million jobs on President Bush‘s during the two terms of his predecessor, Mr. Clinton, the number of jobs created was roughly 21 million.

As for mistakes, Mr. Bush, like Frank Sinatra before him, admitting he‘s made a few, but apparently not any serious ones nor any for which he bears responsibility.

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BUSH:  Clearly, putting “mission accomplished” on an aircraft carrier was a mistake.  It sent the wrong message.  We were trying to say something differently.  But, nevertheless, it conveyed a different message.

Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake.  I thought long and hard about Katrina.  You know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.  The problem with that and—is that law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission and then your questions, I suspect, would have been: how could you possibly have flown Air Force One into Baton Rouge and police officers that were needed to expedite traffic out of New Orleans were taken off the task to look after you?

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OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  You heard it.  His response to the Katrina response, bar none, the most obvious domestic failure of his presidency, is that he has been unfairly criticized for that fly-over.  The rest of the federal response, well, you are not only wrong about that, Mr. Bush is mad at you, too.

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BUSH:  People have said the federal response was slow—don‘t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.  You know, I remember going to see those helicopter drivers, Coast Guard drivers, to thank them for their courageous efforts to rescue people off roofs -- 30,000 people were pulling off roofs right after the storm moved through.  It‘s a pretty quick response.

Could things have been done better?  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  But when I hear people say the federal response was slow—what are they going to say to those chopper drivers or the 30,000 that got pulled off the roofs?

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OLBERMANN:  They are called pilots, Mr. President.  But semantics aside, they were Coast Guard, and they were acting under preexisting orders that had nothing to do with you.  And no less than House Republicans did tell you that the federal response was slow.  This was in a 2006 report that concluded the federal government‘s, quote, “blinding lack of situational awareness and disjointed decision-making needlessly compounded and prolonged Katrina‘s horror.”

The National Guard did not arrive in the area until two full days after the levees broke.  FEMA Director Mike “Heck of a job Brownie” did not know about the more than 3,000 evacuees stranded at the convention center until Thursday, more than two days after many of them had arrived.  It took six days for FEMA to make its requests for evacuation busses to go to the Superdome.  The 30,000 people there were not evacuated until a week after the storm.

As for that plane trip Mr. Bush was so defensive about, it happened on Wednesday.  The president failing to leave his vacation home until two days after the disaster struck.  That was then.

This is now: 9,000 Louisiana families still living in trailers as of this past September.  More than 30,000 residents of Gulf States are still requiring disaster housing assistance.  Five of the 23 hospitals in the New Orleans area still closed.  The entire neighborhood is still largely vacant.

Other things for President Bush, not even mistakes, only relegated to the range of mild disappointments like not finding WMD in Iraq.

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BUSH:  There have been disappointments.  Abu Ghraib, obviously, was a huge disappointment during the presidency.  Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment.  I don‘t know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but there were—things didn‘t go according to plan, let‘s put it that way.

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OLBERMANN:  What about the fact the president cherry-picked or embellished intelligence and used it as an excuse to invade Iraq in the first place?  How about being disappointed about that?

Mr. Bush, perhaps, is most angry, most defiant, though, when he was asked about the need to now restore America‘s moral standing in the world.

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BUSH:  I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged.  It may be damaged amongst some of the elite, but people still understand America stands for freedom.  That America is a—is a country that provides such great hope.  You go to Africa, you ask Africans about Americans‘ generosity and compassion.  Go to India and ask about, you know, America‘s—their view of America.  Go to China and ask.

Now, no question, parts of Europe have said that we shouldn‘t have gone to war in Iraq without a mandate, but those are a few countries.  And I understand that Gitmo has created controversies.  But when it came time for those countries that were criticizing America to take some of those—some of those detainees, they weren‘t willing to help out.  And so, you know, I just disagree with the assessment, Mike.

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OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Because it was only the facility they had a problem with, not the detaining people without offering them due process.  But never mind habeas corpus and all that, cue the 9/11 references.

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BUSH:  I wouldn‘t worry about popularity.  What I would worry about is the Constitution of the United States and putting plans in place that makes it easier to find out what the enemy is thinking.  Because all these debates will matter not if there is another attack on the homeland.  The question won‘t be, you know, “Were you critical of this plan or not?”  The question is, “Why didn‘t you do something?”

Do you remember what it was like right after September the 11th around here?  In press conferences and opinion pieces and in stories that sometimes were news stories and sometimes opinion pieces, people were saying, “How come they didn‘t see it?  How come they didn‘t connect the dots?”  Do you remember what the environment was like in Washington?  I do.

When people were hauled up in front of Congress and members of Congress were asking questions of, “How come you didn‘t know this that or the other?”  Then we start putting, you know, policy in place—legal policy in place, to connect the dots, and all of a sudden, people were saying, “How come you are connecting the dots?”

My view is, is that most people around the world they respect America.  And some of them doesn‘t like me, I understand that—some of the writers and the, you know, opiners and all that.  That‘s fine, that‘s part of the deal.  But I‘m more concerned about the country and our—how people view the United States of America.  They view us as strong, compassionate people who care deeply about the universality of freedom.

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OLBERMANN:  So, your response was to haul people to Gitmo.

As you might have guessed by now, Bush 43 is not losing any sleep nights.

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BUSH:  I believe the phrase “burdens of the office” is overstated.  You know, it‘s kind of like, why me?  Oh, the burdens, you know.  Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch?  It is just pathetic, isn‘t it, self-pity.

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OLBERMANN:  Well, no pain no gain; and no brain, no pain.  What would truly be pathetic is the lack of any pity for the victims of Hurricane Katrina or 2.6 millions in this country who lost their jobs last year, or the families of the 4,226 Americans in uniform thus killed—thus far killed in Iraq.  Self-pity—embarrassing to the nation to even hear it said aloud.

And worst it gets, “I‘m in the Oval Office and I‘m told that we have captured Khalid Sheik Mohammad and the professionals believed he has information necessary to secure the country.  So, I ask what tools are available for us to find the information from him, and they give me a list of tools and I said, ‘Are these tools deemed to be legal?‘  And so, we got legal opinions before any decision was made,” end quote.

A quote which would seemingly put George W. Bush at risk for admitting to violating countless statutes and violating his oath of office and violating provisions of the Geneva Conventions, at risk of winding up in prison.

And still, the president-elect hedges on his intentions.

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OLBERMANN:  George Bush‘s extraordinarily farewell news conference and he‘s just as bizarre on-camera confession that he had firsthand knowledge of the torturing of at least one detainee at Gitmo.  Richard Wolffe on today‘s presidential drama, one that Aaron Sorkin would have been proud to have written.  Jonathan Turley on the whole new ball game of prosecutions for torture after Mr. Bush‘s statement on this subject.

And in Bushed, the caption to Mr. Bush‘s portrait at Smithsonian will not say that 9/11 led to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after all.

All ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Forty-seven minutes of defiance, deception and disappointment.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The 47th and final solo news conference of President George W. Bush.

We are joined now by our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You have been covering this president and presidency for eight years.  What did you—what foremost stuck in your mind going out of that interview?

WOLFFE:  Well, I suppose what really struck me was the lack of awareness that he displayed throughout, the lack of self-awareness, the lack of understanding about the impacts of his policy, his position in the world, but even just about himself.  I mean, it‘s very striking when you compare him to the incoming president who has this extraordinary capacity to look at himself and his surroundings.

But when you look at what he said, for instance, about 9/11.  He is obviously traumatized, understandably, by the events of 9/11.  But then he goes on to say, “Look at all the criticism I had.  The people asking how could you not connect the dots?”  And that‘s fine.

But then, in the same breath, the same answer, he goes on and says, “But, I don‘t listen to the press.  I don‘t listen to my critics.”

On the one hand he is traumatized by their response; and on the other hand, he shuts it out completely.  And after eight years in this office, after reading all those presidential biographies, there is still just a core contradiction at the heart of this man.

OLBERMANN:  What a great point.  His defiance over, of all things, two in particular—the loss of America moral standing in the world, the mishandling of Katrina.  Is he not out there almost literally on his own on both two points?  I mean, aren‘t those the two parts of his legacy, the ones that might be pretty much historically indisputable?

WOLFFE:  Well, you can talk to any number of former administration officials who would agree that they are indisputable.  But what interests me here is how he disputed them.  The whole point about Katrina, saying that, while they rescued all those people from the roof tops, as if the lack of law and order, the complete collapse of law and order, the failure to deliver basic supplies, water, food, communications, transport—all those things either not learned since and certainly not learned at the time, and no flicker of recognition from them.  Again, an extraordinary performance.

OLBERMANN:  Beyond exaggerations or putting the cart before the horse in the examples that you just gave, I mean, the president also said he inherited a recession when it actually started after he‘d been in office for two months.  He said he‘d worked hard for peace in the Middle East.  Really, he put it on the backburner until after the death of Arafat in 2004.  And those 30,000 evacuations in New Orleans were presented as if he had ordered them or somehow arranged them, when that was the Coast Guard that was acting on its own authority.

What in the context of that disconnect that you‘re mentioning between the president and the reality surrounding him?  What should we call statements like those?

WOLFFE:  Sad, actually.  I think they are sad that—in the middle of all of this—that he couldn‘t come up with, really, a substantive point about Iraq, which is the biggest failure of all.  I mean, in one sense he is right, he said, “What matters about a president is how you respond to a problem not when the problem started.”  But about Iraq, well, he started the problem.

And, again, this almost delusional problem with being aware of what happened in his own term and what he was responsible for, it really is striking.

OLBERMANN:  So, did we get, ultimately, any admission, any real last-minute copping to his sins as in, you know, always in the denouement and the Shakespearean tragedies besides that one about “mission accomplishment” banner?

WOLFFE:  No.  I think, it‘s the Shakespearean.  He was more like Macbeth after Lady Macbeth dies.  You know, the line about “Life‘s but a working shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.”  You know, this was a president who came in believing that the presidency was about a performance and we saw the final act today.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—the final act, at least, until the farewell speech on Thursday night, he‘s just announced it as well.  Thank you, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What the president admitted about his own role in torture and what Jonathan Turley thinks that does to the landscape of possible prosecution—ahead.

First, one of Washington‘s biggest controversies appears to have ended with a whimper and not a bang.  You may now call him Senator-designate Roland Burris.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, Illinois‘ only actual senator at the moment, Dick Durbin, this afternoon, issuing a joint statement that read in part, “The secretary of the Senate has determined that the new credentials presented today on behalf of Mr. Burris now satisfies Senate rules and validate his appointment to the vacant Illinois Senate seat.

In addition, as requested, Mr. Burris has provided sworn testimony before the Illinois House Committee on Impeachment regarding the circumstances of his appointment.  Accordingly, barring objections from Senate Republicans, we expect Senator-designee Burris to be sworn in and formally seated later this week.”

Senate Democrats apparently, coming to the only possible conclusion and saving some face in the process, Senator-designee Burris will be Rachel Maddow‘s guest when she joins you at the top of the hour.

OK, this is inevitable.  Here it goes—hey, Rocky, I can see my house from here.

No, they are not bringing back “MASH” with an all moose cast.

And, Billo the Clown says Sarah Palin is right, the media is prejudice against politicians who were not from privileged upbringings like, you know, Biden, Obama, Clinton, Lincoln.

The Worst Persons in the World is ahead.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and the whole idea of being a bank robber is that you don‘t have to stand in the line.

First, it‘s not only the birthday of Howard Stern but also the birthday of comedian Rush Limbaugh—reminding you that those horoscopes you see on the newspaper are, like comedian, are absolutely worthless.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Tempe, Arizona, with train camp footage from what was the first full week of Tempe‘s new light rail train service.  And there‘s still a few kinks to work out—like this one.  Raise the gates after the train passes.  Faulty sensor caused the gates to go up, the driver did not see the train coming, and boom went the dynamite.  Tempe police say nobody was hurt, but the lawyer representing the couple in the truck‘s cab now says her clients are dinged up and they‘re also still out one Ikea bed set.

To western Colorado, where in a controversial new program “Moose” have begun to hunt wolves from helicopters.  When will people stop taking Sarah Palin out of context?  It‘s simple really.  Utah had too many moose;

Colorado did not have enough moose.  So, the states hatched this crazy plan to hoist the half-ton beasts out of Utah and into Colorado where they will help restock the moose population until hunters get to them first, Rocky.  In exchange for the moose, Colorado will return the helicopters with hoisting two Colorado Rockies infielders to be named later.

Finally, to Normal, Illinois, where on Friday, Paul and Caragh Brooks were joined in holy matrimony at a Taco Bell.  That is so outside the bun, dude.  The restaurant was happy to host the two Taco fans with the ceremony that featured romantic hot sauce packets and fancy balloons.  The couple exchanged “I dos” sometimes between the third and fourth meal.  And because half of all Taco Bell marriages don‘t work out, we hope they‘ll save room for the divorcee special.

The president admits his role in torture.  The president-elect finally to close Gitmo, but will the president-elect do anything about the president?  And watch cables turn as I get grilled.

This first stories ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.

Number three: Best vote, Baseball Writers Association.  In addition to Rickey Henderson, it today finally elected Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice to the Hall of Fame in his last year of eligibility, while, of course, continuing to just screw such should be members as Tommy John and Bert Blyleven.

Number two: Best stimulus package.  Bobbi Davis, proprietress of the Shady Lady Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada, is now offering its customers free $50 prepaid discover gift cards.  She says, with a straight face, “Basically, we are just trying to give a little something back.”

And number one: Best dumb criminal.  Feliks Goldshtein of Highland Heights, Ohio, who tried to hold up a bank in the nearby town of Stow, he may have tipped off bank security in advance because he came into the bank wearing a ski mask over his face already and then politely got into the line to see the teller.  He was arrested shortly thereafter.

Honestly, I‘m not asking America‘s bank robbers to be fully up to speed on American satire of 20th century, but Charles Adams drew this exact scenario, in a cartoon, in the “New Yorker,” in 1947.

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OLBERMANN:  Possibly as early as a week from tomorrow, President Barack Obama will issue an executive order to close the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  That news still unconfirmed from the Associated Press tonight.  MSNBC and NBC News reporting that the shutdown itself could take more than a year.  Our third story tonight, at least two executive orders, the one on Gitmo and another on torture, reportedly expected in the first week of the Obama administration. 

In the wake of the current president‘s startling admission about what did he know and when did he know it, what neither order will do is determine the fate of the 200 plus detainees, most of whom have never been charged with a crime.  Instead, the order will ask for a solution to that question.  Obama speaking yesterday about, quote, creating a process that would prevent dangerous detainees from being released, even if the evidence against is inadmissible, because it was obtained by torture.

The issue of torture, water boarding in specific, also creating a problem for  President Obama, many of whose supporters have called for him to investigate Bush-era torture, and apply the law to those responsible.  That task rendered even more politically explosive after this weekend‘s remarkable admission from President Bush that he was informed about torture methods before they were used and he signed off on them. 

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BUSH:  The techniques were necessary and are necessary to be used on a rare occasion to get information necessary to protect the American people.  One such person who gave us information was Khalid Sheik Mohammad.  He was the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on our soil.  And I‘m in the oval office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheik Mohammad and the professionals believe he has necessary to secure the country. 

So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him, and they gave me a list of tools.  I said, are these tools deemed to be legal?  So we got legal opinions before any decision was made. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We already know Mohammad gave no such information.  A former Pentagon analyst told “Vanity Fair” last month that Mohammad, quote, “produced no actionable intelligence.  He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

FBI chief Robert Mueller said he was not aware of any attacks prevented through torture.  At least now, we finally have trickle up culpability for trickle down torture.  Now, we know it was not just the CIA, nor Cheney.  It was George W. Bush authorizing this crime, the crime of torture. 

So what will the Obama administration do about this admission? 

Attorney General designate Eric Holder‘s confirmation hearings Thursday.  He has been a public opponent of torture.  Speaking yesterday, Mr. Obama showed little appetite, seemingly, for providing either a public reckoning or the kind of accountability that might redeem America‘s reputation. 

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OBAMA:  We are still evaluating how we are going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions and so forth.  And obviously, we are going to be looking at past practices.  And I don‘t believe that anybody is above the law. 

On the other hand, I also have a belief we need to look forward, as opposed to looking backwards.  And part of my job is to make sure that, for example, at the CIA, you have extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe.  I don‘t want them to suddenly feel like they have to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR:  No 9/11 commission with independent subpoena power? 

OBAMA:  We have not made final decisions.  My instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A pleasure, as always, to be joined by Jonathan Turley, scholar of Constitutional law at George Washington University.  John, thanks for your time tonight. 

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Maybe Obama does not want to inflame the Holder hearings later in this week, but is not this cry for looking forward rather than backwards a little too Bushian for what may be needed in these circumstances? 

TURLEY:  I certainly would like to try that next time I bring a criminal defendant into court.  Have them tell the court, you know, judge, I committed a crime.  Let‘s not look in the past.  Let‘s look forward.  We would be laughed out of court.  The problem for Eric Holder is simple deductive reasoning.  If water boarding is torture, and Barack Obama has said that it is torture, and torture is a war crime, then the president has committed a war crime, if he did order water boarding. 

Now, you have to do some heavy lifting to avoid the simplicity of that logic. 

OLBERMANN:  How much clearer is Mr. Bush‘s guilt in this?  Obviously not legally, because that interview certainly on Fox was not under oath.  But, I mean, did he just clarify, if you will, the chain of guilt in this whole process? 

TURLEY:  That‘s what‘s so difficult for Barack Obama, is that not only is this a presumptive war crime, but you have the actors coming forward and speaking quite candidly about it.  When we were looking at Augusto Pinochet, he wasn‘t going on interviews and laying out how he ordered certain devices.  While we didn‘t have a torture program that was anywhere near the Pinochet program, war crimes don‘t really differ depending if you did it three times, four times or 400.  You are not allowed to do them at all. 

OLBERMANN:  Some of the specifics contained in what we heard here and Obama‘s response to it, about the CIA agents and where the legal line is; don‘t you want them worried about it, or at least don‘t you want them clear about where that line is?  If you are worried about upholding agency morale and honor, don‘t you have to, in some way, reward the agents who objected to the torture, if only by prosecuting those who didn‘t object? 

TURLEY:  I thought that was a particularly curious statement.  We‘re talking about talented people at the CIA.  In this context, we are talking about talented torturers.  I‘m not that sympathetic with the people who committed torture.  I don‘t view them as good people doing a nasty job.  Torture was well known to be a war crime.  These people decided to do it, while others objected. 

Now I don‘t think they‘re going to be prosecuted.  There is a defense that they can cite that they were told that what they did was lawful.  I can‘t believe they believed that personally.  But the real question really revolves around the people that ordered the torture program.  We now have President Bush speaking quite candidly that he was in the loop.  We had Dick Cheney who almost bragged about it. 

The question for Barack Obama is whether he wants to own part of this by looking the other way, and saying that a war crime of a prior president is some type of idiosyncratic moment and we really need to move beyond it.  Well, we have a bunch of treaties that say you are not supposed to move beyond it.  No one is above the law.  You can‘t say that, unless you enforce the law.  Otherwise, it is just so much verbiage. 

OLBERMANN:  Does it not add a dimension, the astople (ph) that you referenced in there—do we not have an extra dimension to this, because it is now George Bush who is saying we were told it was legal, that this almost prophylactic attempt to get a legal ruling that said, it may be torture, but we are redefining it as non-torture legally.  They‘ve already followed that same defense that the actual torturers will use.  How do you beat that system, if there is not going be a prosecution? 

TURLEY:  There has been a real push in the last few weeks for people to claim this astople defense.  As long as lawyers said you could do it, it is therefore legal, even if it isn‘t.  The problem with the astople defense is it only works if you can reasonably rely on the advice.  It generally does not protect people like Bush.  Otherwise you have this Nuremberg defense, that I was just following orders.  For George Bush, it means you really can‘t go out and get radical or extreme lawyers, like John Yoo and Viet Dinh, get them to enable you to do things that you know is a war crime.  Otherwise these treaties mean nothing. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point, John, when Mr. Obama takes the oath of office next Tuesday, is there anything that compels him to follow up this case, to urge his attorney general to follow up this case? 

TURLEY:  Well, you know, when he puts his hand on that Bible and says he is going to uphold our laws, he can‘t do that by having one of his first acts to be ignore them.  There is no real question that crimes were committed here by his predecessor.  He can either begin his administration as a man of principle and allow the law may take us wherever it may lead, or he will inherit the same type of moral relativism that corrupted the previous administration.  I‘m going to say a silent prayer for principle and I hope that it takes hold. 

OLBERMANN:  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, great thanks as always, John.  Well said.   

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This unlikely image merits an explanation.  We will give it to you.  Joe the Plumber, speaking of unlikely images, goes to Israel to cover the war as a correspondent, and announces we should not let anyone go to cover a war as a correspondent.  But first, because they‘re not going away soon enough, the headlines breaking in the administration‘s 50 running scandals, Bushed!

Number three, bailout-gate.  It is very nice that the president has accepted the president-elect‘s request that he ask Congress to free up the second half of the bailout money for the banks.  This time, there is going to be a catch.  Senator Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, says today, in effect, you can get three presidents in on this if you want to, or 30, but you are not seeing a dime of that back 350 billion, unless there are limits on bonuses and compensation given to company executives, and unless there are oversight provisions, and unless there are limits on mergers and acquisitions, and unless at least some of the money is spent to save the home owners getting screwed into the ground by their mortgages. 

Like we keep saying, today we call this the bailout.  Tomorrow, we will call it why daddy went to prison. 

Number two, rewriting history-gate.  Here goes that vice president again.  Interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Cheney says of the financial mess, quote, “I don‘t think anybody saw it coming,” and compared it to other highlights of the administration.  “I wouldn‘t have predicted 9/11, the global war on terror, the need to simultaneously run military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.” 

Skip the obvious stuff about 9/11 and the Project for the New American Century for a moment.  Just given the fact that Mr. Cheney was advocating war in Iraq for a decade before 9/11; on that score, this is a big flaming pile of bull crap here.  Happily, the Associate Press reporter managed to school the vice president on the minor issue of civics. 

Of the economic meltdown, Cheney then asked her, rhetorically, I‘m sure he thought, “did you see it coming.”  Deb Reichmann‘s (ph) perfect pitch response, “I wasn‘t responsible for seeing it coming.” 

Number one, repainting history-gate.  The Smithsonian has hung its portrait of the president.  The caption beneath reads, in part, that Mr.  Bush‘s term featured, quote, “the attacks of September 2001, that led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”  This is, of course, the logical fallacy in action, to say nothing of the Bush fallacy, and it‘s in the official museum of this nation. 

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called BS.  He wrote to the director of the National Portrait Gallery, in part, quote, “the notion that 9/11 and Iraq were linked or that one led to the other has been widely and authoritatively debunked.” 

Tonight, director Martin Sullivan has agreed with the senator.  His

reply, “our intention was to remind viewers of the portrait that the listed

events were defining moments in the Bush presidency within the limited

space of an object label.  I appreciate your concern, however, about the

words ‘led to.‘  We will revise the label and delete the words ‘led to.‘ 

Well done, Mr. Sullivan.  Well done, Senator Sanders.  There is still, however, a dubious assumption, not one that we can probably correct, that President Bush‘s supporters who might come to see his portrait, now or in the future, know how to read. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In a public forum, in front of paying and, I might add, enthusiastic guests, the editorial page editor of the “New York Times” interviewing me.  Bill-O‘s head rotated 360 degrees, I understand.  That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Brit Hume, conducting what a critic of another broadcaster once called a flatulent, lap-sitting interview with the Presidents Bush.  Asked 41 if he was pleased with the Obama transition, 41 said, totally.  If I didn‘t, I wouldn‘t tell you.

Hume fawningly replied, this is very like you.  Like you, as well, referring from Bush 43, to refrain from comment on other political figures, the incoming president and so on.  Except it isn‘t.  Bush 41 ripped other political figures all the time, as was reported by no less of an authority than Brit Hume. 

On September 19th, 2005, Hume said George H.W. Bush did not criticize the sitting president, his successor and his administration.  Two nights later, Mr. Hume had to issue a retraction.  That was incorrect, he said.  While the first President Bush did so rarely, he did criticize President Clinton and his administration several times, including on his Haiti and Somali policies.  We stand corrected an regret the error, an error which Mr. Hume repeated yesterday. 

The runner up tonight, Bill-O the Clown, defending Sarah Palin‘s interview last week, particularly her remarks about Caroline Kennedy and social class, the very ones Governor Palin backed away from and claimed were taken out of context.  “That was very perceptive analysis by Governor Palin.  The fact that she does come from a working class background certainly alienated some snobby media types.  The governor is also outraged by her treatment on the Internet, especially involving her newborn son Trigg.” 

Two points here, after the first weekend of initial and unfair online speculation about the governor‘s youngest child, the topic basically vanished from left wing websites.  It has been kept alive by Governor Palin and the right wing websites who keep bringing it up. 

Also, for Bill-O and the governor and their individual class paranoia, it is notable that neither of their upbringings were any more working class than, say, Vice President Elect Biden or President Elect Obama.  And there didn‘t seem to be any class snobbery towards them, by a media who includes guys like me, the first member of my family in about a century to have gotten to go to college. 

But our winner, Joe Wurzelbacher.  In a desperate effort to regain the spotlight, the plumber went to Israel to cover the Gaza war as a reporter for a conservative website, with a microphone and everything.  His findings, “I don‘t think journalists should be allowed anywhere near war.  I mean, you guys report where our troops are at.  You report what‘s happening day to day.  You make a big deal out of it.  I think it is asinine.  You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II, when you would go to the theater and you would see your troops on the screen and everyone would be really excited and happy for them.  I think media should be abolished from, you know, reporting.” 

I know this is complicated for you, Sparky, but, A, the American media has been amazingly responsible about not putting out troop locations in Iraq, in Vietnam, in Korea, except for Geraldo Rivera.  B, remember that sitting in the movie theater cheering your troops in World Wars I and II, that was not limited to the good guys.  And this helped misled people like the Germans into thinking they were the good guys. 

C, I hate to break this to you, right now you are in the media reporting.  So you have just called for your own self-abolition.  We can agree on that.  Joe, the self-hating war correspondent, Wurzelbacher, today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the only thing worse than not talking about oneself is missing a chance to talk about oneself.  Our utterly self-conscious number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the “New York Times” holding its annual arts and leisure weekend, in which luminaries like Sir. Salman Rushdie, Glenn Close, Tavis Smiley, Lewis Black, Whoopie Goldberg and Barbara Walters were interviewed live on stage.  And there was apparently a cancellation in the slot for Saturday at 4:00 and they televised it on C-Span or they are going to or something.  I don‘t know. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY ROSENTHAL, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  How exactly do you come to tell the president of the United States to shut the hell up, not that anyone here is arguing? 

OLBERMANN:  I was going to say, number one, someone had to. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  My interviewer was no less august figure than Andy Rosenthal, the editorial page editor of the Times.  He suffered me my self-absorptions, including on the future of the Bushed segment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I am trying to figure out exactly how, but I think we need to continue it, because clearly all the effect of this presidency is not going to go away on the 20th

ROSENTHAL:  Obama is going to spend his entire presidency undoing the damage Bush did to the environment. 

OLBERMANN:  I think the 50th president will still be working on this issue. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Among the other topics, journalistic credos, Governor Palin and this impression that I somehow question authority.  I don‘t know where it comes from. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I had a teacher who passed away last year.  We had the memorial service for him in October.  He taught me whatever little I understand about American politics.  His name was Walter Schneller.  One of the things he kept saying was, you know, people will tend to over-simplify history, but they will—we should agree that there are certain things to look for that can corrupt any society and can potentially destroy even this one.  He mentioned things like, you know, the mixture of the government and any religion in any significant form, whether there is any kind of touch of theocracy, meaningless invasions of countries, suppression of the media, the portraying as evil dissent, all these little things. 

By the way, I‘m beginning my national that guy‘s evil tour. 

The validation that Sarah Palin provided me. 

ROSENTHAL:  It was a great thing. 

OLBERMANN:  It was a wonderful thing.  I had this horrible fear when she said yesterday that she had been taken out of context.  I thought, oh, no, she doesn‘t think I‘m evil.  When did we start accepting blogs as hard news sources. 

I was 17 years old and I was the sports director of this college radio station.  Your contribution, my contribution to this was what order do I put my 11 stories for my five minutes?  Oh, no, that is the number two story.  No, I‘m really good at this. 

ROSENTHAL:  That is called editorial judgment. 

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  No writing, no nothing at all, no contribution other than that and the reading part.  I have my script already chosen.  It is a fairly dull night.  And this guy comes on the station, WTKL and he has a lisp.  And other than that, it turned he had exactly the same sport cast, the same wire machine, the same stories he had selected, and he put them in the same order.  The light bulb and the sun appeared at 11:00 and it said, just because you don‘t have a lisp does not mean you‘re going to be a success in this business, or that you‘re actually contributing anything.  Go and write it yourself and put something of yourself in it.  And that is my journalist philosophy and the one I believe needs to be applied. 

ROSENTHAL:  That is a good one. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That WTKO sports caster‘s name is Bill O‘Reilly.  No, although Mr. Rosenthal was nice enough to bring him and Rupert Murdoch into the conversation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSENTHAL:  Famously said, you get rid of Olbermann and I‘ll stop attacking you.   

OLBERMANN:  Or at least shut me down. 

ROSENTHAL:  Shut me down. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t know that he necessarily wants to get rid of me.

ROSENTHAL:  If you started supporting Bill O‘Reilly and saying good things about him. 

OLBERMANN:  I think the things I have said have been good things.  I think the things I have said have been the best possible things. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 2,074th day since what George Bush today finally got around to declaring was the mistake of declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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