updated 5/26/2009 4:46:05 PM ET 2009-05-26T20:46:05

Guests: Lawrence Wilkerson, Howard Fineman

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Torture and detention and two presidencies—the president of the United States and the increasingly bitter former vice president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  As commander-in-chief, I see the intelligence.  I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation.

(APPLAUSE)

RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts had failed.  They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight, Howard Fineman on the political interplay between Obama‘s speech and the Senate‘s cringing vote yesterday to hold up closing Gitmo.

And Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, vetting Cheney‘s speech—still trying to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11, still trying to say the illegal torture was neither illegal nor torture, now quoting George Tenet as a truthful source.

Worsts: Skeezix claims he‘s middle-class.  That $10 million salary is just a salary.

And Glenn Beck demands an apology from “The View,” and now denies the lies he confessed to lying yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  You‘re accusing me of lying.  Let me tell you what .

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW” CO-HOST:  You did lie!  What do you mean I‘m accusing you?

BECK:  I‘m sorry.

GOLDBERG:  You sat there and you were a lying sack of dog mess.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And thanks for giving us the excuse to run that again.

And tonight, a Special Comment: The rationalizations, the sophistry, the insanity of Dick Cheney—including the charade of them all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  President Obama has used his declassification authority to reveal what happens in the interrogation of terrorists.  Now, let him use that same power to show Americans what did not happen—thanks to the good work of our intelligence officials.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Why didn‘t you just leak it?  Why don‘t you just blurt out the plots you interrupted if they exist anywhere but inside your mind?  You leaked everything else.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Former Vice President Cheney today accusing anyone, like President Obama, who dares to call the Bush administration‘s torture program “a torture program of libel.”

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: To alter a cliche—a noun, a verb, a lie, and 9/11 -- Mr. Cheney invoking the September 11th attacks 25 times in his torture justification speech before an audience of neocons, and even the neocons only applauded twice.

Across town, the president—having argued that eight years of decision-making by Cheney and Bush made the U.S. less safe and not more so -- President Obama detailing his approach to national security at the National Archives this morning, including the defense of his decision to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The White House is saying it had been aware that Mr. Cheney already had a speech scheduled at the American Enterprise Institute when it planned Mr. Obama‘s, but that the date was chosen because it fit the president‘s schedule—not so that he could go head-to-head with the former vice president.

But the former administration would come up in Mr. Obama‘s speech inevitable, the president is pointing out that when it comes to Gitmo, he is merely mopping up the aftermath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  In dealing with this situation, we don‘t have the luxury of starting from scratch.  We are cleaning up something that is, quite simply, a mess—a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my administration is forced to deal with on a constant, almost daily basis.

The problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility, the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president pointing out the natural consequences of such a decision, that Gitmo served as a virtual recruiting station for terrorists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause.  Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Obama was speaking in the wake of—but did not refer to—a newly-leaked Pentagon study, including the 43rd different statistic the Pentagon has made up on this subject, now claiming that one in seven released detainees has returned to terrorism.  Never mind the echoes of Joe McCarthy‘s ever-changing count of State Department communist half a century ago, the president confining himself to the reality that he wasn‘t the one who released those detainees in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts of prosecution met setback after setback.  Cases lingered on.  And in 2006, the Supreme Court invalidated the entire system.

Meanwhile, over 525 detainees were released from Guantanamo under, not my administration, under the previous administration.  Let me repeat that.  Two-thirds of the detainees were released before I took office and ordered the closure of Guantanamo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president even poked holes in the flavor of the month, in the world of the politics of fear—the canard that bringing Gitmo detainees to American prisons would be analogous somehow to releasing them to roam the streets of America‘s cities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.  Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders—namely highly-secure prisons that ensure the public safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  In his defense of sending detainees to those highly-secure prisons, Mr. Obama citing a JAG attorney who serves in the Air Force Reserves, a Republican, a senator, Lindsey Graham.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal “supermax” prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists.  As Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, “The idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If rational thinking on Capitol Hill is so hard to find just at the moment, in the blender filled with, “closing Gitmo, not in my backyard, detainees run amok,” just imagine how hard it must have been to find in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  All too often, our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, that all too often, our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.  Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often, we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford.  And during this season of fear, too many of us—Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists and citizens—fell silent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president rejecting that notion, that torture is a means of securing safety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe.  I could not disagree more.  As commander-in-chief, I see the intelligence.  I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president citing values as this nation‘s best national security asset.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run, we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values.  We uphold our most cherished values, not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe.  Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Not if you‘re Dick Cheney.  In his speech today, the former vice president telling the president exactly what he can do with his precious values.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.  I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Cheney barely having started in his disparagement of

all who vary even slightly from his adamantine position—as we mentioned

also accusing anyone who uses the word torture of libel.

               

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  To call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives, and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now, if you‘re looking for one, that is what you would call the textbook definition of a straw man argument.  Exactly who has been arguing that any of the detainees are just innocent victims?  The argument is that the detainees cannot and should not be held indefinitely without being proved to be the terrorists and murderers—Mr. Cheney has already convicted them of being without some sort of due process of law.

And in his excuse for continuing his less than true confessions tour, the self-described “Dark Lord” accuses the president of false misrepresentation?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  When President Obama makes wise decisions, as I believe he has done in some respects on Afghanistan and in reversing his plan to release incendiary photos, he deserves our support.  And when he faults or mischaracterizes the national security decisions we made in the Bush years, he deserves an answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Except that Mr. Cheney was not confining his abuse to Obama‘s alleged false statements about the Bush administration national security record—at the start of his remarks, the former vice president also trashing the current president for the length of his speech which was held immediately prior, forcing Cheney to briefly delay the start of his speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Good morning—or perhaps good afternoon.

(LAUGHTER)

CHENEY:  It‘s pretty clear the president served in the Senate and not in the House of Representatives, because, of course, in the House, we have the five-minute rule.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No offense, sir, but you are merely a private citizen now.  An elected president does have some rights of priority, even if he is guilty of that greatest of Cheney in offenses—building bridging with allies overseas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  The administration has found that it‘s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo.  But it‘s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interest of justice and America‘s national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Apparently not so tricky for Mr. Cheney, however, distorting the truth about why the Bush administration turned to torture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  It is a fact that only detainees of the highest intelligence value were ever subjected to enhanced interrogation.  You‘ve heard endlessly about waterboarding.  It happened to three terrorists.  One of them was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, who has also boasted about his beheading of Daniel Pearl.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Nobody is disputing that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is an evil man.  Nobody is disputing that he is a terrorist.  Only that still does not mean we, as Americans, should torture him.  Trial, imprisonment, even execution worked for the commandant at Andersonville during the Civil War, it worked for the Nazis.

Interesting that Cheney failed to mention—having failed to mention that one of the other three men the Bush administration tortured, Abu Zubaydah is the only reason the U.S. ever learned about or captured Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and he, Zubaydah, gave up that information in the very first hour of his questioning by his FBI interrogator who was using traditional, non-torture means.

However, Mr. Cheney found the time to perpetuate the dirty little secret—no longer a secret truly—of why his office advocated for torture in the first place, the myth of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Everyone expected a follow-on attack and it was our job to stop it.  We didn‘t know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad.  This was the world in which al Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A.Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market.  We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source.  We had the training camps in Afghanistan and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mideast terrorists could be anybody really, but the implication of an al Qaeda link remains clear.  The implication of those 25 times Cheney mentioned the 9/11 attacks that you‘re either for him or against him—forget that us business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever.  Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event—coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained war time effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or, of course, the 45 or so individual nuanced points in between those two extreme choices.

Speaking of sustained efforts, though, a point that made the rounds today and must have been on Republican talking points memos all day long, this absurd notion that when and only when the Obama administration bring some Gitmo detainees to U.S. prisons, American taxpayers will suffer for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  Attorney General Holder and others have admitted that the United States will be compelled to accept terrorists here, in the homeland, and it has even been suggested U.S. taxpayer dollars will be used to support them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The detainees.  The people we‘re detaining.  They didn‘t book their flights to Gitmo through Expedia.  They‘re not staying at the “Guantanamo-Hilton,” Mr. Vice President.  U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used this second to support them.

Mr. Cheney, of course, is now free from the shackles of being in the government and thus upholding that high bar of honesty and truth that defined the Bush administration.  Former Secretary of State Powell‘s ex-chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, checks in on its truth content.

And tonight, a Special Comment, including the ill logic behind Cheney‘s newest argument, that there are secret memos proving torture saved lives.  And he didn‘t leak them like he leaked everything else?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The president standing symbolically with the Constitution behind him, taking on both an ex-vice president of dubious ethics and Democratic senators of dubious guts.  The politics of all this with Howard Fineman; and the truth of Cheney‘s remarks—if any—with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.

And the continuing aid and comfort Mr. Cheney gives to those who want to see freedom and rule of law in this country impinged and shackled—and in effect waterboarded.  Special Comment tonight on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The morning‘s back-to-back speeches in Washington by President Obama and former Vice President Cheney having been billed both before and after the fact as an opportunity to weigh the competing arguments of the current administration and the former on national security.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: That did not seem to be possible because it seemed as if Mr. Cheney was fighting a different fight.  Stop number infinity on the less-than-true confessions tour, battling the same old straw men with the same half-truths, some outright lies and some distortions—the ones that have earned him his place in history.

Let‘s turn now to retired U.S. Army colonel, Lawrence Wilkerson, also chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.

Colonel, thanks for your time tonight.

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET.), COLIN POWELL‘S FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF: 

Thanks for having me here.

OLBERMANN:  Did we hear anything new from Vice President Cheney that would have justified the use of—even to use his term—enhanced interrogation by that administration?

WILKERSON:  No, I don‘t think so.  I listened to the president‘s speech and I have to say that I was—I was impressed.  President Obama returned us to the time of Truman and Eisenhower and every president who, throughout the Cold War, wrestled with this extraordinary tension between our security and the needs thereof, and the need to protect also our traditional political and cultural values—indeed our civil liberties and our Constitution.  And President Obama expressed it as eloquently as Dwight Eisenhower did.

We wrestled through Joe McCarthy and Jenner.  We wrestled through the times of JFK and the Bay of Pigs and CIA‘s nefarious operations.  We wrestled through a number of coups that the CIA perpetrated.  We wrestled through the discovery of Gary Powers overflying the Soviet Union.  These presidents always tried to reconcile this tension.

Dick Cheney repudiated that tension.  And I think the speech he gave today indicated clearly to me who was the president of the United States from 2001 to 2005.

OLBERMANN:  Good point.  Mr. Cheney‘s use of the term “Mideast terrorists” in connection to Saddam Hussein—did he just try to finesse his favorite point of the last seven or eight years?  Was he trying to make that Iraq/al Qaeda link again—only do it a little bit more softly?  And if so, why?

WILKERSON:  Oh, I think he was.  Of course, there‘s some validity there.  Saddam Hussein was said to be paying $25,000 to the families of terrorists who attacked in Israel and died.  I‘m sure that‘s what he would claim.

But I think Vice President Cheney—former Vice President Cheney still believes that there was a significant connection between al Qaeda and Baghdad, which, of course, has been disproven by almost everyone, including our own intelligence agency.

OLBERMANN:  The—to that point, though, the chain is beginning to look pretty solid here.  We turned to torture—and in one case, at least we turned to torture, because Mr. Cheney suggested it be used on a particular man, to try to get some evidence of an Iraq/al Qaeda link, to get lies out of detainees, if necessary.

Is it curious that he never even got close enough to that today to deny it, but he did go and say this extraordinary thing that enhanced interrogation was not about revenge?

WILKERSON:  I think he‘s got to be very careful.  It‘s clear that he‘s frightened.  It‘s clear that he‘s using Orwellian tactics.

Look at the phrases he used, like—little—no plan—no deliberation with regard to the decision to close Guantanamo.  Well, that‘s a perfect description of the decision to open Guantanamo.  Or his statement about recklessness cloaked in righteousness.

That‘s the perfect description of the church of Cheney, where Cheney is our “lord and savior” and Rush Limbaugh is his first disciple.  I mean, this is a church of darkness.

So, he‘s frightened and he‘s trying these very Orwellian tactics of using his own techniques and his own results, and accusing his opponents of having perpetrated these techniques and results.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WILKERSON:  It‘s insanity.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Some psychologist could probably have a field day with the fact that .

WILKERSON:  Oh, a field day.

OLBERMANN:  . when he was talking about waterboarding, he suddenly had a coughing fit as if water had gone down the wrong way.

WILKERSON:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Is it possible—how would you think, having been exposed to this man firsthand—how is it possible to sit there with a straight face and say that you‘ve kept America safe when there were anthrax attacks after 9/11, when a preemptive war of choice, based on faulty or manipulated intelligence, has resulted in the death of more than 4,000 Americans and wounded tens of thousands more?  How can you—how can you—how can somebody do it?

WILKERSON:  Actually, the way we‘ve stopped al Qaeda is with 200,000 American troops, 5,000 of whom almost have died.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WILKERSON:  That‘s the way we‘ve stopped al Qaeda.  And Dick Cheney doesn‘t seem to have any appreciation.  He‘s got all kinds of appreciation for 3,000 Americans who died in the Trade Center and elsewhere, but he‘s got no appreciation apparently for these 5,000 troops who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many more, probably, are going to die before this is over with.  I find that appalling.

But I do want to say one thing, I think what a student of mine, who‘s now a Fulbright scholar in Southeast Asia sent me an e-mail the other day, is absolutely true.  This is cynical but smart what Cheney is doing.  He knows there‘s a high probability of another terrorist attack, and a high probability it will happen on Obama‘s watch.  He also knows that this economic and financial crisis—which his administration had a lot to do in expediting—is also profound.

And so, he‘s predicting there will be another crisis and it will be terrorists and it will be economic and financial, and therefore, that will raise the Republican Party immediately because Obama will get blamed for it.  This is very cynical.  It borders on being treasonous in my view.  But nonetheless, it is a smart strategy if you‘re Machiavellian.

OLBERMANN:  Is that why he would have mentioned the attacks 25 times in a 35-minute speech .

WILKERSON:  Absolutely.

OLBERMANN:  . given how easily it can be determined from last year‘s election that the public had repudiated the proverbial politics of fear?

WILKERSON:  I think that‘s always his best defense .

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

WILKERSON:  . in any court he might be dragged into.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Sum this up for me, Colonel.  I mean, I know what this speech was about.  I think you do and I think you‘ve expressed it eloquently.  But what was it for?  Why is he doing this now?  Why is this man who rarely spoke speaking again and again and digging that hole a little bit deeper each time?  Because if he‘s gambling really on another attack and it doesn‘t come true, he‘s going to be in a bigger world of hurt than he is already?

WILKERSON:  I agree with you.  That‘s an excellent question.  But I quit some time ago trying to figure out the depth of the holes that Dick Cheney likes to dig and why he doesn‘t stop.  There‘s—you know, there‘s a lawyer in Spain that may be building a pretty good case, Garzon, and I‘d be frightened if I were these people.

OLBERMANN:  Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff under Colin Powell, and no doubt adding years to his life by stopping trying to figure out Dick Cheney.  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.  We appreciate it.

WILKERSON:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The former vice president may have set the record for dissembling and buck-passing might be obvious, but his unintentional confession that he did not take a, quote, “serious look at the terror threat before 9/11,” that may tell you all you need to know about this speech.  My Special Comment is ahead.

And the Obama speech and its context, what was he saying to those 50 Democratic senators who voted yesterday against closing Gitmo?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  An epic day that underscored the fundamental difference between the last two administrations: The president‘s speech in the context of the Senate vote yesterday stalling the closing of Gitmo, and the vice president‘s speech in the context of the reality that only about 10 percent of it was even true.

Tonight—a Special Comment on Dick Cheney, his lies, his culpability for Iraq, his culpability for 9/11.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Most presidents who picked up just six votes from their own party on a key vote the day before might approach a key speech on the same subject with a measure of trepidation or at least concession.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, love him or hate him, this one is clearly not most presidents. 

The Obama speech in the wake of the Gitmo vote, four months to the date that he signed the executive order to close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, surrounded on three sides by the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.  President Obama rejecting the idea that torture is either effective or necessary, and even quoting Republican Senators McCain and Graham to support his points. 

Mr. McCain responding, good speech, but, quote, “the administration does not have specific plans to resolve major issues concerning the detainees.  Consulting with Congress is a good start but not a substitute for a comprehensive plan.” 

Mr. Obama firmly stating that this country will not release anyone that would endanger national security, as you heard before, and that detainees will be put into the federal super max prison system.  That was enough for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to switch, apparently, from lacks focus to I‘m now open to discussion. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA:  Many Americans have had concerns with terrorists coming into our communities.  We‘ve received today a broad vision from President Obama, and that‘s important that he did that.  We‘re all awaiting the details of this plan, and he‘s going to come up with them.  So we‘re wanting and willing to work with him to come up with a responsible solution. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The president telling the public and perhaps hinting to his former Senate colleagues that the Bush/Cheney season of fear was over, adding, quote, “I have the confidence that the American people are more interested in doing what is right to protect this country than political posturing.” 

I‘m joined now by the senior correspondent for “Newsweek Magazine” and MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman.  Howard, good evening. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What part of this today was a message to the Senate, and if so, what was the message? 

FINEMAN:  A lot of it was to the Senate and it was to calm down.  The details aren‘t fully ironed out yet, but they will be soon, certainly sooner than the judicial processes that are going to take a long time, in any case. 

The president was also putting this in a larger context, as he‘s so good at doing.  Remember back to the campaign, Keith, when he was in the middle of that crisis about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright; he turned in one of the most brilliant speeches on race ever.  Here, he was putting this all in context.  He was saying specifically to Harry Reid and others, look, you‘ve got to look at this in the big framework and I am going to have a specific plan.  People are not going to be less loose.  There is super max, and only a certain number, maybe 40 or 50 prisoners, that we‘re not going to try or release.  We‘re going to be able to deal with them. 

OLBERMANN:  Harry Reid has lost me.  I mean in just the sort of geographical sense.  I don‘t know where he is on this.  After that sound bite that we heard, his press secretary came back and said, no, he wasn‘t talking about closing Gitmo; he was talking about the entire supplemental bill without Gitmo.  Do we know where he is? 

FINEMAN:  Well, maybe he was disconcerted by the thought that all of the detainees would end up in the Salt Domes in Nevada.  I don‘t really know.  But here‘s the thing, I checked with them just a few hours ago.  I think this is Reid‘s position: he still is not willing to say flat out that detainees can be housed in the United States, in American prisons.  He hasn‘t said that yet. 

But he‘s backed off this reflexive opposition he had the other day.  And to that extent, Barack Obama‘s work, both in public and I think in private, has helped.  Harry Reid is saying what a lot of other people are saying.  And indeed what Barack Obama is saying is, yes, we need a plan.  A plan is in the works.  Here are the outlines of the plan.  We will get the details pronto.  And you will be happy with the details when we do. 

OLBERMANN:  Does anyone take seriously a statement made like by—by the financial managers of this poor place, Hardin, Montana, we had on last night, who were talking about the fact that they were left with this 400 some odd bed detention facility that was abandoned, essentially, by the state after it was built.  The economy of the town is in ruins.  And having already explored the possibility of becoming a center for sexual offenders, they decided that was too dangerous.  They‘d rather have relocated terror suspects from Gitmo. 

They‘re quite serious about this.  They view this as life or death for their community.  Why is there an assumption here that, blanket-wise, every state in the union and every city in the union would say no, we can‘t possibly have any of these people on American soil, when, as the president pointed out today, nobody‘s ever gotten out of a super max prison? 

FINEMAN:  Well, the thing is—and I was over at the White House today.  In talking to people there, I think they‘re a little bit surprised and frustrated perhaps that the politics did get out ahead of the legal planning and the logistical planning on this. 

As President Obama said, he inherited a mess.  Gitmo, legally, procedurally, administratively is a complete mess.  It takes a while to untangle it.  It has to be done properly, in terms of the law, both American and international law.  They‘re working on it.  They hope to have the plan and all of its details finished soon.  The politics got out ahead of him. 

And if you put out a bunch of headlines saying, terrorists running loose across the landscape, people are going to get scared.  That‘s exactly what happened.  The Congress reacted that way.  They will have another reaction when they see the details, which may include in fact prisons like the one in Montana you‘re talking about. 

OLBERMANN:  The head of the Economic Recovery Agency there made an extraordinarily simple and direct point that does seem to contradict what is going on around Washington; if we, in fact, released any—or transferred any detainees into the United States, as the guy pointed out, they‘d be here inside the prison and not roaming around on the streets.  Isn‘t that the premise?  Why isn‘t that—it seems like a relatively simple answer.  Has nobody in the Senate thought of it?  Which wouldn‘t surprise me, by the way. 

FINEMAN:  They often behave, you know, with a—like a stampeding herd.  And they got stamped by headlines and sound bites that made it sound like we‘re going to bring the Gitmo people here and sort of let them loose along the land or put them in, you know, the local county jail.  I mean, there are super max prisons in the United States from which no one has escaped.  These people would be kept presumably in solitary confinement most of the time, or certainly kept away from the other prisoners. 

Many would end up being tried in the United States, in the United States courts, which have had some success in trying terrorists in the past. 

The only question is, and the president made this very clear, as he carefully laid out his five-step series of detainees, there are going to be some people who can‘t be tried, but who can‘t be released.  Where do they go?  They don‘t necessarily have to go to Gitmo.  There are places in the United States; we can handle them, I think.  And I think the president will have a plan that will satisfy most fair-minded people in the United States, keeping in mind that politically Gitmo is only a small part of the whole big panorama for Barack Obama on this topic of national security and defense. 

The fact is he‘s got terrific numbers, better than any Democratic president since the Vietnam War on national defense and security.  People overall are impressed with his probity and his caution and the middle of the road positions he‘s taking, which, by the way, in many cases are offending the left wing of his own party. 

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.  Indeed they are.  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, thanks as always. 

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  No man could probably count the number of lies in the Cheney speech.  I‘ll give it a shot, including the biggest of them all, that there is a memo or series of memos that prove that torture works, saved lives.  Special comment tonight. 

And as they try to pillory Pelosi, no less of an authority than John Boehner claims the CIA‘s inspector general agreed that the CIA lied to Congress not two years ago.  Worst persons ahead. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her guest, Ari Shapiro of NPR.  He is the one who broke the story that Alberto Gonzales, as White House counsel, authorized some torture techniques before the legal authorization to do so came in from the Department of Justice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Dick Cheney again tries to link Saddam Hussein, WMD and 9/11.  He insists he kept us safe when 7,000 Americans died on his watch and he is culpable for their deaths. 

And the logical disconnect about the unreleased secret documents that prove torture worked.  If they prove that, why didn‘t Cheney leak them the way he leaked everything else? 

Next a Special Comment.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, a break in the action, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze, to Skeezix (ph), a couple of beauts.  “Look, I consider myself a middle class guy, even though I make a lot of money.  My sensibility is there.”  Ten million a year.  That‘s not middle anything.  Plus, where is the class of the middle class?  And where is the sensibility? 

And on a different topic, the random stopping, often frisking of people in New York City by the police here, “the ACLU filed a complaint against the police, charging they were stopping black people more than white people for questioning.  The ACLU says this is bias, their usual charge.  But a study by the Rand Corporation shows that 69 percent of New York City violent crime victims describe their assailant as black.  Five percent are described by victims as white.  So, if you are investigating or trying to stop crimes, to whom would you be talking?”  

First, the police aren‘t stopping suspects.  The ACLU is not saying stop stopping suspects.  This is the at-random stopping of people, white or black, not even suspected of a crime.  To whom would I be talking?  I‘d focus on people from the Rand Corporation.  Or anybody claiming to be middle class when he makes 10 million dollars a year. 

The runner up, Minority Leader John Boehner from the House, who just agreed with Congressman Pete Hoekstra that the CIA lied to Congress and claims the CIA agreed.  “The inspector general did, in fact, do an investigation, produced a report, and, frankly, supported, I think, Pete‘s Claims.”

So shame on Democrat Pelosi for suggesting the CIA lies, even though Republican Hoekstra, Republican Boehner and the CIA‘s own inspector general all say it lied. 

But our winner, Harold Hill—I‘m sorry, Glenn Beck.  Beck had claimed that on a train trip to Washington he had met Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg from “The View” on board, and Walters had approached him and snottily discussed his upcoming appearance on “The View.”  Of course, the truth was, Beck approached Walters. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY BEHAR, “THE VIEW”:  Why did you lie about that? 

GLENN BECK, “THE VIEW”:  Why did I lie about that?

BEHAR:  Yes, why did you say she came over? 

BECK:  I don‘t know.  I came over. 

BEHAR:  You just had a brain fart or what? 

BEHAR:  I guess so, yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That was yesterday.  This is today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  I was not lying.  Period.  The story happened exactly the way I said it did.  Stu clarified this morning that I never said I approached them.  Barbara Walters—the only thing in that story that did not happen was Barbara Walters did not say my name first.  I believe that “The View” owes me a damn apology.  I didn‘t lie.  Why don‘t you apologize and explain yourself? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But of course beck left out half the lies they caught him on.  He claimed Walters and Goldberg and, for some reason, poor Steve Kroft of CBS, had illegally reserved seats, no doubt because they were liberals, on the train.  In fact, as Walters pointed out, the seats were so unreserved, Kroft had to sit separately from his own wife. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, “THE VIEW”:  I wanted to make sure before I brought this up to you; we didn‘t reserve seats.  I don‘t know—let me just—wait a minute. 

BECK:  You‘re accusing me of lying.  Let me telling you what—

GOLDBERG:  What do you mean, I‘m accusing you?  You sat there and you were a lying sack of dog mess. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Like Brigadoon, slightly honest Glenn Beck mysteriously appears only once a century and then disappears.  And then all that is left behind is his title as the worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment about Mr.  Cheney‘s speech.  Neurotic, paranoid, false to fact and false to reason, forever self-rationalizing his inner rage at his own impotence, and failure dripping from every word, and as irrational, as separated from the real world, as dishonest, as insane as any terrorist; the former vice president has today humiliated himself beyond redemption. 

The delusional claims he has made this day could be proved by documentation and firsthand testimony to be the literal and absolute truth, and he still, himself, would be wrong because the America he sought to impose upon the world and upon its own citizens, the dark, hateful place of Dick Cheney‘s own soul, the place he to this hour defends, and to this day prefers, is a repudiation of all that our ancestors, all that for which our brave troops of two years ago and two minutes ago, have sacrificed and fought. 

I do have to congratulate you, sir.  No man, living or dead, could have passed the buck more often that than you did in 35 minutes this morning.  It‘s not your fault that we water boarded people, you said.  It isn‘t torture, you said, even though it is, based on 111 years of American military prosecutions. 

It was in the Constitution that you could do it, even if our laws told you you could not.  It was in the language of the 2001 Military Authorization you force-fed the Congress that you could do it.  Even if our international treaties told you you could not. 

It produced valuable information, you said.  Even though the first hand witnesses, the interrogators of these beasts, they said the information preceded the torture and ended when it began. 

It was authorized, you said, by careful legal opinion, even though the legal opinions were dictated by and you your cronies.  And, oh, by the way, the torture began before the legal opinions were even written. 

It was authorized, you said.  And you imply that even if it really wasn‘t, it was done only to detainees of the highest intelligence value.  It was more necessary, you said, because of the revelation of another program by the real villains of our time: the “New York Times.”  Even though that revelation was possible because the program was detailed on the front page of the website of a Defense Department subcontractor. 

It was all the fault of your predecessor, you said, who tried to treat terror as a law enforcement problem before you came to the office and rode to the rescue, after you totally ignored terrorism for the first 20 percent of your first term and the worst attack on this nation in its history unfolded on your watch. 

“9/11 caused everyone to take a serious second look at threats that had been gathering for a while,” you said today, “and enemies whose plans were getting bolder and more sophisticated.” 

Gee, thanks for being motivated by the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans to go so far as to take a serious second look.  And thank you, sir, for admitting, obviously inadvertently, that you did not take a serious first look in the seven months and 23 days between your inauguration and 9/11. 

For that attack, sir, you are culpable, morally, ethically.  At best, you are guilty of malfeasance and eternally lasting stupidity.  At worst, sir, in the deaths of 9/11, you are negligent. 

The circular logic and the self-righteous sophistry falls from a copy of Mr. Cheney‘s speech like bugs from a book on a moldy shelf.  He still believes in “dictators like Saddam Hussein with ties to Middle East terrorists.”  He still assumes everyone we capture is guilty without charge or trial, but that to prosecute law breaking by government officials is, quote, “to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors.” 

And most sleazy of all, while calling the CIA‘s torturers honorable, he insists the grunts at Abu Ghraib were “a sadistic prison guards who abused inmates in violation of law, military regulations and simple decency.”  Even though, and maybe he does not know we know though this—even though there is documentary proof now that those guards were acting on the orders originating in the office of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. 

It is, in short, madness.  Madness, sir, Mr. Cheney, your speech was almost entirely about you.  There are only five or six other people even mentioned.  And only two quoted at any length.  And why would you have quoted, as you did, the man who said this, “I know that this program saved lives.  I know we‘ve disrupted plots.  I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” 

As you know, sir, you were quoting former CIA Director George Tenet.  That would be the George Tenet who told Congress on February 11th, 2003, quote, “Iraq is harboring senior members of a terrorist network led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a close associate of al Qaeda.” 

Mr. Tenet, sir, then went into elaborate detail about the Iraq/al Qaeda connection.  None of it was true.  This is your source, as he was your boss‘s source.  “George, how confident are you,” President Bush asked Tenet about Saddam Hussein‘s weapons of mass destruction, just before the Iraq war, according to Bob Woodward‘s book “Plan of Attack.”

“Don‘t worry,” Tenet answers.  “It‘s a slam dunk.” 

That is your independent authority on how well torture worked.  Next time you see him, Mr. Cheney, you might as well ask Mr. Tenet if he thinks he is Napoleon.  I don‘t want to know who you think you are. 

“Those are the basic facts on enhanced interrogations,” you concluded.  “And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who saved American lives, and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims.” 

You saved no one, sir.  If the classified documents you seek released really did detail plots other than those manufactured by drowning men in order to get it to stop, or if they truly did know plans beyond the laughable ones you and President Bush have already revealed, hijackers without passports, targeting a building whose name Mr. Bush could not remember, clowns who thought they could destroy airports by dropping matches in fuel pipelines 30 miles away, men who planned to attack a military base dressed as pizza delivery boys, forgetting that every man there was armed, and today, the four would-be synagogue bombers, one of whom turns out to keep bottles of urine in his apartment, and is on schizophrenia medicine.

If those documents contain anything of value, you would have leaked those already, as you leaked those revenge fantasies of the Library Tower and the JFK Bomber and the Ft. Dix Six. 

“When they,” terrorists, “see the American government caught up in arguments about interrogations, or whether foreign terrorists have Constitutional rights, they don‘t stand back in awe of our legal system and wonder whether they had misjudged us all along,” you said.  “Instead, the terrorists see just what they were hoping for, our unity gone, our resolve shaken, our leaders distracted.  In short, they see weakness and opportunity.” 

The weakness the terrorists see, sir, is the weakness of blind rage replacing essential cold logic.  The weakness the terrorists see, sir, is the weakness of judgment suspended in favor of self-fulfilling prophecy.  The weakness the terrorists see, sir, is the weakness of moral force supplanted by violence and revenge fantasies. 

The weakness the terrorists see, sir, is the weakness of Dick Cheney. 

And yet still, ceaselessly, indefatigably, you moralize and lie to us. 

“I might add,” someone said today, “that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about values.”  Very apt.  The quote, of course, is from your speech.  Your speech which was at essence about your fantasy that you and Mr. Bush were not negligent.  Not your pig-headed certainty, but first these attacks were impossible; then they were a good excuse for a war you already planned in Iraq; and finally that they were to be imminently repeated and only you knew when the next threat would come. 

You saved no one, Mr. Cheney.  All you did was help kill Americans.  You were negligent before 9/11.  Your response to your complicity by omission on 9/11 was panic and shame and insanity, and lying this country into a war that did nothing but kill 4,299 more of us. 

We will take no further instructions from you, sir.  And let me again quote Oliver Cromwell to you, Mr. Cheney.  “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately.  Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.  In the name of god, go.” 

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 2,212th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,