Guests: E.J. Dionne, Jeremy Scahill, Michael Shermer
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The plot to buy America: Boehner and Cantor running, campaigning against, demonizing the TARP bailout. The top two recipients of contributions from the companies that got TARP funds? Boehner, $200,000;
Mitch McConnell‘s accidental truth emission. “The single most important thing we want to achieve,” he tells “National Journal, “is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” The real Republican platform revealed with Gene Robinson.
WikiLeaks: Iraqi security forces were torturing and killing Iraqi civilians - and the Bush administration knew it and lied.
Defense Department contractors were killing Iraqi civilians—and the Bush administration knew it and lied.
The bombing of the shrine in Samara in February, 2006, led to the death of 1,300 Iraqi civilians. Rumsfeld had denied the figure, stuck to a number around 350, slammed the media for reporting what he knew was the truth. Rumsfeld lied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: A steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: BP‘s new CEO knows who‘s at fault for the fear and depression in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster—the media.
And Karl Rove versus Tokyo Rose Limbaugh. Rove says the Tea Party isn‘t sophisticated. Limbaugh accuses Rove of elitism.
Huckabee thinks Rove thinks of the Tea Partiers thusly.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don‘t really want them dining with us in the main dining room.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The mind-numbing implications of when the guy nick named “Turd Blossom” is the elitist.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH AIDE: It is what it is.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Monday, October 25th, eight days until the 2010 midterm elections.
And in our fifth story: the right wing secret money machine prepares a surge in its already outsized campaign spending, while the godfather of their effort, Karl Rove, defends secret donations now that it has become clear that his group was not raising enough money through disclosed donations.
Meantime, corporations that benefited from TARP are openly giving to GOP candidates who try to smear their Democratic opponents for having supported TARP and its successful program.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, the top recipient of money from companies that have received TARP bailout money, according to “The Washington Post,” $200,000 to Mr. Boehner from those corporations‘ political action committees.
The House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, the number two recipient of such campaign contributions, $187,000. The third and fourth top recipients are ranking Republicans on the finance and tax writing committees.
And while TARP companies like JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup and General Motors also gave PAC money to Democrats, it is, of course, the Republicans who are trying to have it both ways—and not just the GOP leaders. For instance, in the Indiana Senate race, the Democratic nominee Brad Ellsworth has been attacked in a political ad for supporting, quote, “the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda,” including the disastrous bank bailout. But the Republican nominee responsible for the ad, Dan Coates, received more than $30,000 from companies that took the disastrous TARP money, according to “The Washington Post.” And that is a snap shot of the disclosed side of the year‘s political gravy train.
The super PAC, secret money, is far broader of a side, with the largest outside conservative groups planning a coordinated final week attack, that according to “The New York Times.” “We carpet-bombed for two months in 82 races. Now, it‘s sniper time,” said Rob Collins, president of American Action Network—using imagery unfortunately fitting to his side of the cause.
That group shares office space a few blocks from the White House with Rove‘s American Crossroads and American Crossroads GPS.
A reminder that super PACs are prohibited by law from coordinating their political activity with candidates or parties but the super PACs certainly coordinate with each other. Weekly strategy sessions include about 25 representatives from pro-Republican groups and “The Times” obtained one of their color-coded master spreadsheets, which helps decide where to spend their money.
One example, central Florida where the Democratic incumbent, Congresswoman Susan Kosmas, once held a four to one fundraising advantage over the Republican challenger Sandy Adams. In fact, Adams did not run her first ad until today, but she hardly needed to. Attack ads against Congresswoman Kosmas from those outside groups have made up the difference, including $770,000 in spending from the 60-Plus Foundation and a quarter million more from the Chamber of Commerce, according to the congresswoman.
At the degree to which money from these outside groups favoring Republicans becomes more clear with each day, pro-Republican groups that do not disclose have clobbered their pro-Democratic counterparts, $121 million to $50 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Among all outside groups, including those that disclose, pro-GOP groups win out as well, $166 million to $71 million.
And you might just recall that Karl Rove was against non-disclosed money back in 2004. Bob Schieffer of CBS wondered why he was now for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROVE: I‘m against it, all the 527 ads and activities. I don‘t think they‘re fair. I don‘t think it‘s appropriate. They‘re misusing the law. They all ought to stop.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: So why is it if they were that bad back then, they‘re so wholesome now?
ROVE: I‘m not suggesting—it is what it is, and the choice is whether you fight the battle with one armed tied behind your back or not. As I say, I wish we had a different system but we got the system we got.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Other key players in Rove‘s American Crossroads claimed to be for disclosure as recently as this past May in a panel discussion. As reported by “Politico,” American Crossroads board member Mike Duncan said, quote, “I‘m a proponent of lots of money in politics and full disclosure in politics.”
But less than one month after that panel discussion with American Crossroads struggling to raise enough money, American Crossroads GPS was born. Three groups that don‘t disclose their funding have aired nearly 47,000 ads over 11 weeks, according to “Media Matters,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads GPS, the top two.
Let‘s turn first to “The Washington Post” staff writer, “Newsweek” columnist, MSNBC contributor, Ezra Klein.
Ezra, good evening.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This extraordinary amount of secret money that we tried to put it in some kind of perspective for weeks now—at this point, eight days, how would you characterize it?
KLEIN: It‘s an extraordinary amount of secret money.
You know, I‘m struck by Karl Rove because, as I remember, he was part of—I think it‘s called a presidential administration that happened also to control the House and the Senate for a period and they did nothing serious on campaign finance reform. And so, now, they‘re playing this game. In a couple years, it will be the Democrats. And the system legitimately keeps getting more broken.
And this is what I can‘t figure out when I try to characterize it. Why do they, the politicians, want to keep playing this game? It favors them one year. It goes against them the other year. They spend all their time on the phone. The people in this country think they are completely discredited and corrupt.
Why don‘t they change it? What is in this for them over the long run?
That‘s what I can‘t figure about all of this.
OLBERMANN: Does the answer to that lie in the simple fact that incumbency is incumbency, and staying in office becomes, at some point, for the lesser-minded of the politicians of both parties the only thing?
KLEIN: I believe that‘s right. The only thing—the only convincing answer I‘ve ever heard is that as much as you hate as an incumbent spending every day dialing for dollars and calling these fundraisers and sitting down with lobbyists, at least you know you‘ve got that network and your challenger probably doesn‘t.
But at the same time these 527s, when you say those numbers—one thing I think people need to put into perspective are these companies, a lot of them, a lot of that money could go the normal route. It could just go through disclosure. It could just go to individual candidates and they don‘t want to do it. It‘s a strategy. They made a decision.
And this is now going to come and bite all of these guys the next round. The money goes back and forth, depending who looks like they‘re going to win, and everybody was benefiting from massive, anonymous donations now is going to be on the wrong side of them the next time. It will always come back to haunt them.
OLBERMANN: The idea that these groups cannot interact with actual campaigns—there is no doubt what a strategic force the groups are collectively despite the requirement they can‘t coordinate their efforts directly with candidates, right? It just allows them to coordinate in a different direction.
KLEIN: Right. And at this point, we have such sophisticated data modeling tools, such incredible information about voters that these things are much more like national campaigns than they are like small groups. The idea that these are not according with campaigns, I mean, that‘s true, but it‘s a wall that is completely meaningless, there‘s nothing about this that are different in campaigns and frankly, these are probably much, much more sophisticated than the campaigns themselves.
OLBERMANN: The big draw, Ezra, for all the secret giving, obviously, would be the secrecy, as opposed to some sort of altruism, or even political concern, and the end result in most cases at least this time around has been attack ads against Democrats.
Does anything in recent election cycles compare to the dynamic we‘re experiencing right now?
KLEIN: It feels like in every election cycle we‘re looking at things we saw before but worse. So, now, we have Citizens United and nondisclosure is easier. But we did have 527s before.
One thing that I keep trying to point out about Citizens United, nobody would have said to you four years ago, eight years ago, that our campaign finance system was working. It was broken then, it is broken now, it gets more broken by the year.
So, yes, it‘s different but it‘s different in the way it‘s always different. It keeps getting worse and it will get worse until these guys get pressured into changing it or they decide because they‘re tired of the people looking at them ashcan and they‘re tired of going through this year after year to change it on their own.
OLBERMANN: In the Democratic or at least the liberal pushback here, organizations like labor unions trying to counter the spending, but the money continues to pour in for the other side—and is it true that unions are essentially reaching their upper limits right now?
KLEIN: Very much. And, remember, unions keep shrinking. They are not what they once were.
There is simply—if Democrats don‘t want to turn and become a much more pro-business party, there is nothing on the other side that has this sort of money. When you see the hedge fund sitting with the energy companies, sitting with the Chamber of Commerce, that‘s where the money is in this country. It ain‘t on the union side.
OLBERMANN: Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post”—great thanks as always, Ezra.
KLEIN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s bring in Ezra‘s colleague, “Washington Post” columnist E.J. Dionne, also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and it was included in Bill O‘Reilly‘s opening segment this evening, big picture of you, sir. Congratulations. You did something really nasty apparently.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: I feel good about that. I didn‘t know.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, watch it later on. Or actually have somebody you don‘t like watch it and then tell you about it.
It‘s similar to what I asked Ezra about this, E.J. In its full political context, what are we seeing here?
DIONNE: What we‘re seeing here is suspending of secret political money on a scale that we haven‘t seen since Watergate. What we‘re seeing are attack ads for which no one is being held accountable and that‘s particularly a problem when many of the ads are saying things that aren‘t true. What we‘re seeing wealthy individuals give huge sums and have power in this game that they haven‘t had since the Gilded Age.
Eliza Newlin Carney is a columnist for “The National Journal.” She‘s very level-headed. She doesn‘t sound a fire bell unless there‘s a fire and she wrote this week that big money and unprecedented secrecy are tailor-made for scandal. I think that‘s what we‘re going to see when this is all over.
OLBERMANN: Well, if we don‘t get scandal, whether or not we do later, we have distortions right now, and as you point out, there‘s nobody held accountable let alone for the ads. Never mind the contents of it.
And here‘s an example: we mentioned this American Action Network. There‘s an ad attacking the Democratic incumbent in Connecticut, Congressman Chris Murphy, and it says that the health care bill means, quote, “Jail time for anyone without coverage,” which is we know what word it is. It begins with “bull” and ends with “it.”
This is the very thing that Democrats are fighting across the country.
This is one ad out of, you know, nearly 600.
DIONNE: Right. And the problem is, if your opponent goes up with an ad that makes a false accusation—first of all, he‘s got to pay for it or she‘s got to pay for it with money under the cap. It‘s not secret money. And, secondly, you can go right back at the opponent and say, your opponent lied.
But here, you‘ve got your opponents out in the ether. They‘re not—you know, there‘s no one in particular. There are these sorts of shadowy interests. So, what do you do with that?
And so, they have a kind of impunity to say whatever they want in a way no candidate on either side has. That‘s a real problem.
OLBERMANN: The fortunate thing about this is that the polling has suggested that the public actually cares and seriously cares about this when attention is focused on it. It is not, as the Republicans have been saying, a processed story or sour grapes story on the part of the Democrats.
But is the collective national revelation under way too late to prevent this from working exactly as the GOP wants it to work a week from tomorrow?
DIONNE: Well, you know, first of all, I think Democrats got pushed off this a little bit. You know, the Republicans hit them and sometimes, Democrats when they get hit, sort of pull back a little bit. So, I think that‘s a problem.
There have been some press stories that treat it more like a political story than I think like the nonpartisan political problem that it is. Both parties should care about this.
But I think these ads begin to have a negative effect. I mean, there were more of these negative ads in some markets than there are beer and Viagra ads during football games. And I think, when people sort of see these strange groups, they begin to ask themselves questions. So, I think there is a dawning that there is something really, really wrong here.
OLBERMANN: Well, to that point, you wrote today that the media has treated this as if it were a normal political story. Do you have an idea of why that is? Because that‘s apparent to me, too, that they just look at it like it‘s any other election and that there‘s no—it‘s not a Democrat versus Republican side, it is a responsive politics versus anonymous politics side, isn‘t it?
DIONNE: Well, yes. My view is that when you—what do journalists care about? They care about revealing secrets. They try to tell the public, you know, these folks are trying to hide something from you. And I think this is tailor-made for the new Woodward or the new Bernstein.
Fortunately, there are some journalists who‘ve been really serious about this. Eliza is one of them. Jill Abramson in the “New York Times” and Mike Isikoff, both made the Watergate analogy and said this is something all of us have to worry about.
And Charlie Cobb, former Reagan administration official, president of the Committee for Economic Development, which is a business group, he said that, you know, candidates are not commodities. They‘re not supposed to be bought and sold.
And so, there are Republicans out there who are starting to look at this and saying this is really wrong. I hope that begins to have an effect.
OLBERMANN: E.J. Dionne of “The Washington Post”—as always, good to talk to you. Thank you, E.J.
DIONNE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: This programming advisory: the madness of the Tea Party, names and crazy plans and enough hate to launch a thousand campaigns. A full length special comment Wednesday night here on COUNTDOWN.
Mitch McConnell may have given away the true plans of the Tea Party Republican conservative stew. Its primary goal, he says, to make this president a one-termer.
OLBERMANN: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” his startling admission and then his laughable walk-back.
The mortal lies of Iraq. What WikiLeaks confirmed he knew and lied about, about the civilian deaths there, and its revelations that the surge was an illusion.
The new chairman of BP already making things worse. The fear and depression after his company poisoned the Gulf—media fault.
And thrown under so many buses by now, he must see their chassis in his dreams. Now, he‘s too elitist for the Tea Party. The saga of Sir Karl Rove—ahead on COUNTDOWN. Quite.
OLBERMANN: Asked in August by “Bloomberg News” what the Republicans would do in power should they return in this election cycle, Mitch McConnell refused to answer. He said he didn‘t want to scoop himself.
In our fourth story: A week and a day before the Americans vote in the midterm elections, Leader McConnell has finally laid out his party‘s blueprint for the next years. The plan for 2011 and 2012 is to make sure President Obama doesn‘t win a second term starting in 2013. And that‘s it.
The president and McConnell were each interviewed for the latest edition of “National Journal.”
President Obama telling the magazine that he is hopeful for bipartisan efforts on things like education and infrastructure in the upcoming term but isn‘t banking on it—quoting, “It is going to be important for Democrats to have a proper and appropriate sense of humility about what we can accomplish in the absence of Republican cooperation.”
McConnell, in his interview, pretty much assured there would be no such cooperation to worry about. “The National Journal‘s” Major Garrett writing that McConnell was intent on not repeating mistakes of the Gingrich/Dole Congress following Republican gains in 1994. McConnell saying Republican overpromising and the government shut down led to Bill Clinton‘s second term.
The Kentucky senator‘s plan beyond next Tuesday, quote, “We need to be honest with the public.” Am I reading that right? “We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.”
But what is the job? Adding jobs, entitlement reform, extending Bush tax cuts?
Try none of the above, according to McConnell, for the next two years
quote, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Again, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
McConnell‘s office today tried to walk that quote back, saying that defeating the president is their top political goal, even though McConnell had also told “The National Journal,” quote, “Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.”
Bottom line for the next two years: the Republican leader has admitted that the bar for support on legislation is set at—will it hurt President Obama and might it help the Republican presidential nominee in 2012? Snooki.
Let‘s bring in Gene Robinson, associate editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post,” MSNBC political analyst and now author of “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America.”
Good evening, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Again, one more time, you can‘t hear this too often. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. “ He‘s talking about something else as his political primary goal.
Is the only problem with this honesty here that it‘s been the Republicans‘ goal since November, 2008, and it extended to delegitimizing a sitting president when that is an either/or with helping the country?
ROBINSON: Well, I don‘t know if that‘s the only problem, Keith, because, after all, we have massive unemployment. We‘re in two wars. We need to fix our education system, our infrastructure. We need to figure out what kind of economy we‘re going to have going forward and, you know, Social Security, entitlements—there are a few things on our plate.
So, it is a problem that this is the stated goal of the Republican Caucus and perhaps the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
But the honesty is refreshing, and as much as they try to walk it back, I think a record of the past 21 months speaks for itself.
OLBERMANN: The two step plan here, which is promise nothing, then do nothing for two years, and the other half of it being handed off to a GOP presidential nominee and, you know, good luck out there because the country is in ruins presumably by then—are the nearly 10 percent of Americans not working right now going to vote for that kind of short-term, two-year plan of, you know, just a silent, little, nonmoving blip line across the screen?
ROBINSON: Oh, I really doubt it. And I think smart Republicans doubt it.
Look at the past several elections. We‘ve had wave elections in 2006. The Republicans were basically swept out of Congress in 2008 -- the rest of them were swept out. Now, in 2010, it looks like they may be swept back in.
But that is no guarantee that the wave isn‘t going to slosh the other way and in a hurry—and I think perhaps the worst thing the Republicans could do would be look like a bunch of small minded, short-term politicians who only want to win an election and who don‘t really care about the problems that people say they want solved.
OLBERMANN: Well, yes. But that is suggesting they should change from that is rather like the other quote from Mr. McConnell on this which is, “I don‘t want the president to fail. I want him to change.” What is he expecting him to change into—Ronald Reagan?
ROBINSON: Well, that‘s—again, that has been the Republican stance.
ROBINSON: You know, we‘re willing to cooperate with President Obama as long as he does everything we tell him and everything our way and he doesn‘t—even though he‘s a Democrat—he doesn‘t do anything that‘s like in the Democratic Party platform, for example.
So, you know, if there was more than a contradiction there, it‘s a recipe for kind of gridlock that I really don‘t think the American public is going to take well to and that, frankly, the president‘s ought to be able to exploit politically, if it comes to that, to his advantage.
OLBERMANN: Buried in all this, another contradiction—about the hesitancy to repeat the government shut down mistake. But it was, you know, just a couple weeks ago now that the Republican Tea Party Senate candidate in Alaska, Mr. Miller, claimed that Mitch McConnell and other Republicans were keeping the idea of the government shutdown on the table.
Have they found that you do not need to do a shutdown to stop government from functioning, or are they just not going to tell anybody this until after the election?
ROBINSON: Well, they‘ve come pretty close to shutting down certainly a lot of presidential initiatives without an actual shutdown. This is going to be really interesting, though, because—let‘s suppose that there are a lot of Joe Miller type Tea Partiers who come to Washington and who don‘t necessarily think that a government shutdown is such a bad idea, given that the Republican Caucus is so full of arch-conservatives already. The leadership may have trouble controlling that sort of impulse, which I think would—you know, politically would be the White House‘s kind of wet dream of what might happen.
But they‘re certainly going to try not to do that. They saw what happened the last time.
OLBERMANN: Fascinating if there is in fact a fissure between the Republican Party and Tea Party candidates if they were to gain a majority in either House.
MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson—as always, great thanks, Gene.
ROBINSON: Good to talk to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Inside the WikiLeaks documents, in black and white, the Bush administration knew the so-called success of the surge was a coincidence of timing and not a result, and they lied about that—ahead.
OLBERMANN: The truth of WikiLeaks proving the fully intentional lies of the Bush administration about Iraq; Jeremy Scahill ahead.
First, the sanity break, and we table the Tweet of the Day to instead give a shout out to my friend Norman Lloyd. The actor, producer, bon vivant, witness to the 1928 World Series, adjutant to Alfred Hitchcock and formerly the regular tennis opponent of Charlie Chaplain. Norman is 95 and eleven twelfths, and is bouncing back from an accident, not like the kind he had at the end of the movie “Saboteur,” but bad enough. We wish him well as he continues to recover.
Let‘s play Oddball.
OK. We begin in Athens, a place usually known for its preservation of ancient buildings. Today, not so much. Building go boom. Smoke took a few hours to clear. It will take a few days to clear all the rubble it created. The building had been abandoned since the 1980s and they blowed it up good. They blowed it up real good in order to make room for a new park. This came as a relief to many who thought the sound was Hades releasing the cracken.
Cleveland, Georgia, hello. What the heck is this? It‘s a bison in a swimming pool. What does it look like, a furry fish? Apparently this animal had escaped from a neighbor two weeks ago and was on the lam. I don‘t see any lam there. He was hot and with all that fur, who wouldn‘t be, so he went for a dip. You‘ve got a very large, possibly angry animal in your pool. How do you get him out? Who are you going to call? If you guessed throw a lasso around his neck and pull, you are correct. After a lot of pulling, they finally yanked the animal free and then everybody ran away fast.
In case you‘re wondering, these guys are available to life guard your next party.
Finally, to the Russian Internet, where “Jack-Ass 3D” was simply not three dimensional enough. Sometimes morons just need to try a stunt themselves. This group of men decided to see how well fireworks work in a bath tub. Looks like they work damned well, in fact. I‘m not sure what these menacers expected to have happen, but it is still only the second most embarrassing picture known of a shirtless Russian.
Time marches on.
WikiLeaks giving new meaning to Donald Rumsfeld‘s ruminations about unknown unknowns, as in it is unknown why this country tolerated a complete and deliberate liar as secretary of defense for six years. Next.
OLBERMANN: Thousands of American lives lost, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost, trillions of dollars down the drain. We were led to war in Iraq based on lies. And as the largest classified military leak in American history proves, the falsehoods did not end there. Our third story, the Bush administration knew exactly how bad the situation was in Iraq and repeatedly lied about it.
The website WikiLeaks releasing nearly 400,000 documents detailing the war and occupation of Iraq as reported by American soldiers, putting the amount of Iraqi civilians killed at 66,000, even though many of those deaths went unreported by the U.S. military. Such as in the aftermath of the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samara in February, 2006, “the Washington Post” reported 1,300 dead based on counts on the ground, in the morgues, while the Pentagon put its estimate at about 350 people.
But as the documents from WikiLeaks show, the Pentagon knew the number of deaths was much higher than that. And so Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld chose a different tack: lie and blame the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side. It isn‘t as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of the issues. On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be in—of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In fact, he was claiming there had not been any lying done by the American media. For his part, General Casey claimed that the country was not awash in sectarian violence. In fact—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: We look at this very closely, and I do not believe, one, that we are in a civil war right now. Two, nor do I believe that a civil war is imminent or necessarily inevitable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Which brings us, then, to the highly regarded surge. The Bush administration crediting the strategy with essentially ending the war. Its apologists still do. But again, the documents show otherwise. While additional troops did provide increased security, sectarian violence was already dropping before the surge was in place, thanks to internal dynamics already in play.
The documents also showed that the Pentagon knew Iraqi security forces were killing and torturing detainees. The “New York Times” summarizing that part: “the six years of reports include references to the deaths of at least six prisoners in Iraqi custody, most of them in recent years. Beatings, burnings and lashings surfaced in hundreds of reports, giving the impression that such treatment was not an exception.”
However, such torture was merely noted, thanks to an operational order called Frago-242. Only alleged detainee abuse involving coalition forces would be investigated. The Pentagon also knew that security contractors, working on behalf of the United States, like the mercenary group Blackwater, were killing civilians. The contractors adding to the chaos on the ground, shooting first, asking questions later.
And even so, the U.S. government continues to back them, like in Afghanistan. Today there are more contractors there than there are members of the American military.
Joining me now from Kabul in Afghanistan, the national security reporter of “The Nation,” author of “Blackwater, the Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” Jeremy Scahill. Jeremy, let me start with President Karzai of Afghanistan. He wants these contractors gone. The U.S. continues to support them. Why are these lessons, so freshly underscored from the WikiLeaks from Iraq, not going to be applied in Afghanistan?
JEREMY SCAHILL, “THE NATION”: Well, Keith, greetings from Kabul, Afghanistan, where the U.S. Ambassador Carl Eikenberry at this very moment is being guarded by Blackwater, the mercenary firm that became infamous for killing civilians in Iraq. So if there is a lesson to be learned here, it‘s actually for the Obama administration—or more a question: why continue to use a firm with such a criminal track record, a record of shooting civilians? Why use them now in Afghanistan when the U.S. says it is trying to win hearts and minds?
I mean, the reality is that what the WikiLeaks documents show about Blackwater is that the State Department knew that Blackwater was killing civilians while guarding U.S. government personnel, and actually didn‘t do anything to discipline them or punish them because, according to an internal document, the State Department believed that it would hurt morale of Blackwater.
What about hurting morale of the Iraqi people that were being targeted by these people? So Hamid Karzai is under the misimpression that he is in charge here. The U.S. is calling the shots and that means that Blackwater stays.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s work backwards on some of this. Based on the reporting at the time, many of us believe that the Bush administration was lying about the situation on the ground in Iraq daily, repeatedly, in manifold ways. Is there criminality involved in what we know about this, what‘s been confirmed about this so far?
SCAHILL: Well, first of all, the entirely operation was a criminal enterprise because it was a war based on lies. There were scores of war crimes that have gone unprosecuted. But it goes much further than just lying or misleading. Donald Rumsfeld, when he was secretary of defense, beginning in 2005, implemented a policy in Iraq known as the Salvador Option, named after the dirty wars in El Salvador that the U.S. fueled in the 1980s. And What Rumsfeld and his cohorts were doing was supporting what were effectively Shiite death squads, known by the names Wolf Brigade, Scorpion Brigade.
What they did was ethnically cleanse Baghdad. They targeted the Sunnis. So when they talk about the surge being a success, what actually happened is that Rumsfeld and his cronies had supported death squad activity that essentially Balkanized Baghdad. And so when the surge troops came in, they didn‘t even go to Anbar Province, which was the heart of the violence. They went to Baghdad.
The entire thing is a lie, but the criminality here is that the U.S., under Rumsfeld, was supporting and creating death squads, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To Frago-242 and I guess the Iraqi death squads; even though this bizarre thing allowed torturing and murdering of Iraqis by Iraqis and those would simply be noted and not investigated because they did not involve coalition troops directly—did anyone have a legal duty to stop those that were noted abusing detainees?
SCAHILL: Of course they had a responsibility, especially if they were aware of it or they witnessed it. But let‘s remember that the Bush administration policy was to outsource torture across the globe with its extraordinary rendition program. But I think what‘s important to remember here as we talk about Iraqi forces abusing detainees is that U.S. forces were systematically abusing and torturing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, at the JSOC facility—that was the Joint Special Operations Command Facility called Camp Nama, which was a classified facility where prisoners were being tortured.
So the whole operation was one of shielding this torture that was going on by the Iraqi forces, while at the same time U.S. forces were torturing themselves. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has intervened to stop lawsuits against Donald Rumsfeld and the command authority who actually gave the orders to torture these detainees.
OLBERMANN: Last point; give me your headline out of everything in this latest WikiLeaks thing. Is it the destruction of the myth of the success of the surge or something else?
SCAHILL: Well, I think that‘s a big part of it. The fact that they were systematically lying, that they were supporting death squads, that they were turning a blind eye to torture and torturing at the same time. But really I think the headline here is that those people who were against this war from the beginning, said it was a war based on lies, who said that civilians were paying the heaviest price, they‘ve been vindicated here, Keith.
There are serious war crimes. They need to be held accountable by the Obama administration. And that is I think where Congress needs to really put the pressure on this administration.
OLBERMANN: Jeremy Scahill, national security reporter for “The Nation,” thanks greatly for getting up pre-dawn for us in Kabul.
SCAHILL: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What does it mean when conservatives paint Karl Rove as elitist? When Turd Blossoms are to fancy pants for the Tea Party?
Meet the new BP boss, worse than the old boss. The panic and depression after the oil disaster? He blamed it on the media. This will be in our show.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special report on the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.
OLBERMANN: The mad scramble to placate the Tea Party; Republicans throwing Karl Rove under a bus for being to sophisticated. I guess in a way the aristocrats were too sophisticated in the joke the aristocrats. That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Christine Flynn (ph), an inmate at the Taycheeda (ph) Correctional Institute in Wisconsin. She tried to forge—goodness, stop looking at me like that, lady. She tried to forge court documents to steal money from another prisoner. That‘s bad enough. She pleaded guilty. It‘ll cost her up to 22 more years.
But worse, on the forged documents, she signed the judge‘s name and misspelled it, badly misspelled it. The judge was Steven Wenke. She spelled it W-I-N-K-E. Judge Steven Winke. How could my plan miss?
The runner-up, Governor Butch Otter of Idaho. He and his campaign tour appeared at the public library in Jerome, Idaho on Saturday afternoon for a town hall, much to the surprise of one of f the librarians who noted “a bus load of people showed up and just invaded the library. It was chaotic because the library staff was not forewarned.”
Nor were the people who had reserved the library three weeks earlier for a wedding reception. Twenty guests suddenly appeared to cut the cake, only to find Governor Otter answering a question about wolves. Otter and his followers eventually left. To their great credit, a state representative and a county commission candidate stayed to clear the folding chairs and the debris from the room.
But the winner, Bob Dudley, the former U.S. head of BP and now chairman of the entire outfit. He doesn‘t need to wait until that now delayed investigation report into his company‘s disaster at Deepwater Horizon to know who was really at fault. Mr. Dudley knows it was the media.
Addressing a British lobbying group he said there had been, quote, “a great rush to judgment by a fair number of observers before the full facts could possibly be known, even from some in our industry. The public fear was everywhere.”
Shortly after Mr. Dudley‘s poorly planned, poorly built, and poorly maintained piece of crap well exploded, killing 11 men, and started to spew oil into the Gulf, unchecked for what proved to be 87 days, a group of scientists estimated the flow rate was 70,000 barrels a day. Mr. Dudley called that quote scare mongering. He insisted the best estimate of flow rate was 5,000 barrels a day.
A government panel later calculated the flow rate at 62,000 barrels a day. Mr. Dudley was full of crap and remains such. Remember that chorus Jon Stewart got together in April to instruct the people at Fox how they should go, you know, Rupert themselves? We need a new one for Bob Dudley, CEO of BP and damned six-cylinder, high-octane liar, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Karl Rove is now in hot water with the man of the people Mike Huckabee, after having already gotten into hot water with the mouth of the people, Rush Limbaugh. We could keep moving through the body but I‘ll stop there. Our number one story tonight, after calling the Tea Party not sophisticated, now it turns out that Rove, himself is a member of the nation‘s elite.
Mr. Rove was yesterday asked about Limbaugh‘s criticism and said the following.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: What he took out of context was a comment I made in an interview with a bunch of hostile German reporters, in which I said the Tea Party is not sophisticated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course, if we were unsophisticated in our journalism, we might report it this way. Yesterday, Rove repeated his slam of the Tea Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROVE:: The Tea Party‘s not sophisticated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But it was former and maybe future Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who really let Rove have it yesterday, naming Rove as one of the Washington elites.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I was very disappointed in some of the, -- particularly Karl and others, who were so dismissive of Christine O‘Donnell. And I‘ve been on the receiving end of some of that when running for president. A lot of the establishment types were very contemptuous toward me and treated me like some back water. And that‘s one of the things that happens when you didn‘t go to the right school and you‘re not a regular attender at the proper cocktail parties in the D.C. social circuit..
But, unfortunately, there is an elitism within the Republican establishment, because a lot of people know that it‘s not so much about the principles of really controlling government and having responsible people in office. It‘s about making sure that the right people get into the game to play. It‘s almost, again, to be blunt, the kind of country club attitude that we‘re not sure there are certain people we really want as members of the club. We‘re not going to vote them in. We don‘t mind showing up to events putting up signs and making phone calls and going door to door making those pesky little trips that we don‘t like to do, but we really don‘t want them dining with us in the main dining room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But is that really Karl Rove? Here is the reality.
Karlton (ph) Christian Rove I arrived in the world in the most rarified atmosphere, literally, and into the fortune of the Denver, Colorado Roves. Like so many of the finest men in his generation, he kept his hands clean of filthy communist blood, avoiding stepping one dainty toe in that nasty French colonial quagmire known as Vietnam by obtaining a deferment to pursue his love of academia.
Young Mr. Rove first cracked the books behind the Ivy covered walls of the University of Utah, the Harvard of Utah, and then the University of Maryland, the Princeton of Maryland, as well as the University of Texas at Austin, the Yale of the Harvard of Texas.
Without ever sullying himself with anything so base as actual diploma, Karlton founded a white shoe direct mailing firm. Soon after his involvement in Watergate, the most hoity toity (ph) of political scandals, Karlton met a young man who made Karlton swoon so that he later enshrined their meeting in verse. Huge amounts of charisma, swagger, cowboy boots, flight jacket, wonderful smile. Just charisma, you know, wow.
The homage to Dickinson is manifest. Rove‘s later endeavors in the most prestigious White House of the modern era have become legendary. Who can forget the boyish joie de vive behind such Tom Foolery as revealing the identity of a CIA operative Valerie Plame and playfully tricking White House spokesman Scott McClellan into denying it. Oscar Wilde, eat your decadent heart out.
Then, finally, of course, the elegant, sophisticated honorific was bestowed upon Mr. Rove by the president of the United States himself, Turd Blossom. Blossomed to open onto a flowering bloom. Turd from the middle Dutch, a piece of excrement.
On that note, before James Mason‘s ghost comes after me, let‘s turn to Michael Shermer, the publisher of “Skeptic Magazine,” author of “Why Do People Believe Weird Things” and columnist for “Scientific America.” Mr. Shermer, good evening.
MICHAEL SHERMER, “SKEPTIC MAGAZINE”: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: We see this with Republican attacks on almost every Democrat. But it seems that the worst thing a Republican can say about you is, you‘re a reader and you appreciate, you know, like good food and insist on using reason instead of gut instinct. Why do they hate those things?
SHERMER: Right. Well, for the mind of the Republican, those things are proxies for something else, for their characterization of liberals as tree hugging, whale saving, wishy washy, namby pamby, flip-flopping, bed wetters who think they can reason with the Taliban and sit down with Osama bin Laden and read John Stewart Mill‘s “On Liberty” and sing Kumbaya and somehow come to a peaceful resolution.
What Republicans think is that really we need to just do what Jack Nicholson said we should do in “A Few Good Men.” That is, we live in a world with walls and on those walls are men with guns, and that‘s the kind of world that‘s simple, straight forward, black and white. And so all of this talk of books and college and reason and logic and critical thinking, they think, does not wash with people who just want to kill us.
OLBERMANN: Explain how and why the right‘s sort of signals for authenticity strike a cord among their voters.
SHERMER: Well, so authenticity is then representing something sort of straight forward and honest, like we believe in certain core values that shouldn‘t change. So if, for example, you change your mind in response to new evidence, which we should—I mean, what else should you do? But for the mind of the conservative, that could mean you‘re actually a flip flopper. You just change your mind any old time.
And so we have to remember that we evolved in the small bands of hunter gathers of a few dozen to a few hundred people over the last several hundred thousand years, and where you know everybody. So we can pretty much judge people‘s character on our instincts, based on our experience with them. And so that—in that sense, the authenticity of our instincts does make sense.
But in the modern world, it doesn‘t. And so our brains are kind of tricked into thinking we should go for the simple black and white world view. And it takes an additional cognitive step to step out of that and say, wait a minute; maybe we should use reason and critical thinking.
OLBERMANN: Michael Shermer, the founding publisher of “Skeptics magazine,” my apology for the brevity. It is from an over written introduction. Great thanks for your time tonight.
SHERMER: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: I‘m Keith Olbermann. That‘s October 25th. Good night and good luck.
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