IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, May 11, 2009

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest: Jonathan Turley, Eugene Robinson, Richard Wolffe


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

Cheney, Bush, torture, bus—mind standing closer to the curb, Mr.



RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  He did basically authorize it.  I mean, this was a presidential-level decision.  And the decision went to the president and he signed off on it.


OLBERMANN:  He did it.  The former vice president with the most mixed of all messages, he‘d be happy to talk to Congress about enhanced interrogation.  And if he‘s going down, he‘s taking George W. Bush with him.


CHENEY:  He knew a great deal about the program.


OLBERMANN:  And Cheney damns with faint praise the current GOP, “If I don‘t speak out, then where do we find ourselves?  Then the critics have free run and there isn‘t anybody there on the other side to tell the truth.”  He again swears allegiance to Boss Limbaugh.

Historical Nazi appeasers: FOX again takes the German side on the war crimes of World War II just to dispute Obama‘s accurate claim that Winston Churchill refused to torture even the Nazis during the “London Blitz.”


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS:  Churchill actually wanted to use poison gas on the Germans in violation of the Geneva Conventions but was stopped by the British war cabinet.


OLBERMANN:  We will take those lies apart one by one.

And, the White House Correspondents dinner as assessed by two survivors.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful I will be able to complete them in 72 days.


OBAMA:  And on the 73rd day, I will rest.



OLBERMANN:  However .


WANDA SYKES, COMEDIENNE:  I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight.


SKYES:  Too much?


OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Sorry.

All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.


SKYES:  But you‘re laughing inside, I know you‘re laughing.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

As if to disprove his own claim that only enhanced interrogations brought produced the truth, former Vice President Cheney continues to tell the truth about torture under the gentlest of interrogations.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The Dick Cheney confession tour continues with the subject offering up new intelligence, even ratting out one of his own masterminds.  Well, Mr. Bush.  Mr. Cheney, in fact, not only still calling for further declassification of CIA documents, but during much of the Democratic left, in demanding a full accounting for what intelligence torture produced and how.

The White House now, according to “The Washington Post” prepared to release a 2004 CIA inspector general‘s report on torture, that congressional sources told “The Plum Line” blog constitutes the “holy grail” of torture information.  It will address Mr. Cheney‘s claim, which he says the CIA torture saved lives.

But some of that 2004 I.G. report is already out.  And while most of it remains redacted, parts were summarized by Justice Department lawyers elsewhere, parts relevant to Mr. Cheney‘s claim that tortured worked, quote, “As the I.G. report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks.”

Asked whether he would cooperate with the congressional investigation, Mr. Cheney said in essence, why not?  Admitting overtly that no one else is out there defending him.


BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS HOST:  There are all kind of people talking about various kinds of investigations.  Would you go back and talk to the Congress?

CHENEY:  Certainly.  I‘ve made—I‘ve made it very clear that I feel very strongly that what we did here was exactly the right thing to do.  And if I don‘t speak out, then where do we find ourselves, Bob?  Then the critics have free run and there isn‘t anybody there on the other side to tell the truth.

So, it‘s important—it‘s important that we .

SCHIEFFER:  Senator Leahy, the chairman of the judiciary committee, was on this broadcast recently, and I said, “Do you intend to ask the former vice president to come up,” then he said, “If he will testify under oath.”  Would you be willing to testify under oath?

CHENEY:  Now, I‘ll have to see what the circumstances are and what kind of precedent we were setting.  But certainly, I wouldn‘t be out here today if I didn‘t feel comfortable talking about what we‘re doing publicly.  I think—I think it‘s very, very important we have a clear understanding that what happened here was honorable approach to defending the nation, that there was nothing devious or deceitful or dishonest or illegal about what was done.


OLBERMANN:  An honorable approach to defending the nation—again from that so-called “holy grail.”  Quote, “According to the CIA‘s I.G.  report, the CIA, at least initially, could not always distinguish detainees who had information but were successfully resisting interrogation from those who did not actually have the information.  On at least one occasion, this may have resulted in what might be deemed in retrospect to have been the unnecessary use of enhanced techniques.

On that occasion, although the on-scene interrogation team judged Zubaydah to be compliant, elements within CIA headquarters still believed he was withholding information.  At the direction of CIA headquarters, interrogators therefore used the waterboard one more time on Zubaydah.”

Even though even Mr. Cheney gave up his own co-conspirators without waterboarding.


SCHIEFFER:  Did President Bush know everything you knew?

CHENEY:  I certainly—yes, I have every reason to believe he knew—he knew a great deal about the program.  He basically authorized it.  I mean, this was a presidential-level decision.  And the decision went to the president and he signed off on it.


OLBERMANN:  As the buck gets passed, let‘s turn to Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

Thanks for your time tonight, Jon.


OLBERMANN:  First, your read on that and Mr. Cheney implicating Mr.  Bush.  Is he betraying him or is he sort of dragging him in as a human shield?  What‘s going on there?


TURLEY:  Well, you can almost hear the Bush lawyers scratching off a line on the page saying, well, there goes that defense.  I mean, he‘s really almost becoming the Martha Mitchell of this administration, going out—and every time he‘s on TV, you know, flailing about, he‘s making the legal case all the stronger for a criminal investigation and prosecution.  And whatever his motives were, he most certainly just supplied a critical block that would have been the subject of an investigation.

We now almost have the entire puzzle.  You now have Dick Cheney saying, “Yes, the guy who approved this, the guy who knew about it was my immediate boss, George W. Bush.  And he knew a lot about the torture program.”

OLBERMANN:  Well, it‘s very nice.  But Mr. Schieffer did not read his rights to Mr. Cheney before that interview.  Can anything he said be used in any way against him in a court of law, international, domestic or extraterrestrial?


TURLEY:  Everything can be used.  That‘s the reason why, as a criminal defense lawyer, many of us will be, you know, holding on to our clients before they get in front of a camera, because everything they say can indeed be used against them.  They do not get Miranda from private parties or from the media, and what‘s fascinating about this, is you just have a majority leader, Harry Reid, give an interview, saying that he just doesn‘t know what the facts are or whether there‘s enough facts to have a criminal investigation.

And only a few days after that rather implausible—or might say—laughable interview, you‘ve got Dick Cheney saying, “Yes, here‘s how it went.  You know, the president knew about it, authorized it, I was all in favor of it.  We did it.  We‘re glad we did it.  We have no regrets, we‘d do it again.”

And so, the question for people like Reid again is, what are you exactly waiting for?  I mean, if he says videos, the fact is, the CIA destroyed those videos, because they said that they were afraid they‘d be used against them.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I mean, the only thing left for Dick Cheney to say is, “Oh, I know they destroyed the videos, but I have a CD—a DVD collection in my house which I can give you.”


OLBERMANN:  That‘s about all that‘s missing from this.  But now, is this too far from the legal path?  Does defending his involvement in the torture program now in any way constitute an addition to the conspiracy to get away with torture?  Is any of this illegal right now?

TURLEY:  Well, what it does do in terms of evidence against him is it shows that this whole focus on whether torture works is expressly prohibited as a defense under these various laws.  And so, even after he has been accused by the Red Cross, by Bush officials, by Bush interrogators, by this wide array of NGOs and experts of this torture program, his primary defense is still: it worked.

And that defense is considered the worst thing you could possibly say about a torture program.  It doesn‘t matter if it works or does not work.  You‘re not allowed to do it.

It‘s like saying I robbed a bank but I got away with it, or I used the money in a good way.  It doesn‘t matter.  What did you was a crime.

And so, yes, in the trial, these interviews could be used against him.  They‘d be a very powerful tool in front of a jury, to show how craven this administration was and how craven these officials remain.

OLBERMANN:  Does he have as powerful a tool in his defense as he thinks he has in these DOJ Office of Legal Counsel memos?  Do we have any idea if those are the magic shield he‘s portraying them as?

TURLEY:  No.  You know, we deal with this all the time in the law.  First of all, as you know, as we talked about earlier, we rejected this as the United States of America in World War II when Nazi judges and Nazi lawyers said, “We were applying the laws as best as we though it should be applied.”  We rejected that and said this was a transparent application of violations of human rights, of violations of international law, of war crimes.  So, we set that precedent.

But more importantly, this torture program began before these memos were written.


TURLEY:  The memos themselves were laughable and transparent.  You can‘t rely on these types of memos for a war crime.  Otherwise, you could get any mouthpiece, any sycophant to write a memo and commit war crimes.  People in Serbia, in Germany, in all these other countries, they had plenty of lawyers that said they could do what they did, and we rejected those as a defense as we have to.  Otherwise, you just hire one lawyer .


TURLEY:  . and commit any war crime.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they may have hired a few.  But here, becomes the final question of this.  If the sycophant in the equation is actually working directly under Dick Cheney‘s instruction, if that‘s what‘s also contained in these remaining unreleased memos, how would that change the legal contour here—if he is, in fact, the one who had these memos written that would essentially also rob interrogators of their legal rights to say, “No, this is illegal, I‘m not doing it,” when somebody can hold a piece of paper up and say, “Well, look, it says your—according to Dick Cheney‘s lawyer, it says this is legal and you have to do it”?

TURLEY:  Well, I think that‘s the issue, that what we have here is a very clear conspiracy to commit a war crime.  That these people are not stupid, they just had no morals.  And so, what they set about to do is to usurp the democratic leadership, rein them in, get lawyers to say it was OK.

It was a broad conspiracy to commit a war crime, which remains a crime, and the people who committed it remain criminals.  It‘s just that no one is investigating them.

OLBERMANN:  Well, there‘s two—one channel seems to be begging for an investigation, those are the people who did, and the other channel does not seem to want it at all investigated, and those are the ones in power now.  We‘ll see if that—if that incredible, through the looking glass, quality continues.  And when it does or doesn‘t, we will return again to George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley.

As always, Jon, great thanks.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The Bush administration exists only in memory and apparently only in self-defense.  How important this is to them can be underscored by this startling fact, to defend Bush and torture, FOX News Channel is again willing to appear retroactively sympathetic to Nazi Germany.  President Obama correctly insisted Winston Churchill would not torture, not even Nazis, not even during the London Blitz, thus it became FOX‘s purpose to undermine those truths by regurgitating the propaganda of Nazis and Germany apologists from the war crimes trials Jon just talked about.  We‘ll dissect that propaganda.

And there‘s yet more from Mr. Cheney.  He is now paying homage again to “the prince of propaganda,” Boss Limbaugh, whom later tonight I will—defend?


OLBERMANN:  Offered a choice between Colin Powell and Boss Limbaugh, Dick Cheney chooses Boss Limbaugh.  Offered a choice between Wanda Sykes and Boss Limbaugh, I choose, well, not Limbaugh, but what you shouldn‘t wish on your worst enemy.

And the latest bid to rewrite history in defense of torture and take chunk out of the president on the way down, we debunk the claim that Winston Churchill actually did what Obama said he didn‘t.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.



OLBERMANN:  When former Vice President Cheney was offered a choice, Boss Limbaugh or the decorated general, rather, with whom Cheney has served two administrations and three wars—in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN:

Cheney chose Limbaugh.  The question to Mr. Cheney, did he agree with Limbaugh that the party would be better off if the former secretary of state, General Colin Powell left it and became a Democrat, or was General Powell right in saying that Republicans will be better off if they did not have Limbaugh speaking for them?


CHENEY:  Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I‘d go with Rush Limbaugh, I think.  My take on it was Colin had already left the party.  I didn‘t know he was still a Republican.

SCHIEFFER:  So, you think that he‘s not a Republican?

CHENEY:  I just noted that he endorsed the Democratic candidate for president this time, Barack Obama, and I assume that that‘s some indication of his loyalty and his interest.

SCHIEFFER:  And you said you‘d take Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell.

CHENEY:  I would.

SCHIEFFER:  All right.

CHENEY:  Politically.


OLBERMANN:  And Boss Limbaugh returned that favor today, saying that Cheney‘s only motivation to speak out about torture is love of country.  And then this, quoting, “Dick Cheney knows the people in the middle of the road get run over.  Dick Cheney knows that there really is no such thing as the centrist.  Dick Cheney knows that there‘s really no such thing as a moderate.  Dick Cheney is one lone voice in the Republican Party.”

As the GOP‘s new scarlet letter, M for moderate, Senator John McCain basically said that there was room for moderates in the GOP, as long as the party does not moderate.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA:  I don‘t want to moderate either.  I think our policies, the principles of our party are as viable today as they have been in the past.  In all due respect, the previous administration—by letting spending get completely out of control, by betraying some of those principles of our party—cost us a couple of elections.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist “The Washington Post,” MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson.

Good evening, Gene.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Cheney could have finessed the question that he got about Limbaugh and Powell.  But he made his pick, and he went further.  He expressed this mock surprise that General Powell was even still in the Republican Party.  Could he have made that any more clear?

ROBINSON:  He could not have made it clearer.  I just thought it was bizarre.  This is a—this is a man with whom Dick Cheney has served at a very high level in two administrations—a man, Colin Powell, who has given the nation a lifetime of exemplary public service.  We can disagree over the run-up to the Iraq war or disagree on specific policies, but I don‘t know anyone who doesn‘t think he‘s not an honorable man who has served his country well.

On the other hand, you have Rush Limbaugh, who goes to conferences and brags about how much money he makes through bluster on the radio.

And so, who are you going to choose to exemplify your party?  It is just bizarre that Dick Cheney would go with Limbaugh in this situation.  But as you said, he doubled down.  He went further than he should have.

OLBERMANN:  And the quid pro quo came back on the—what motivates Dick Cheney from Limbaugh today, which he said, “He does not need the money.  He has no further political ambitions.  He is not hot for interns.  He is not a torture freak.  Is it possible that Dick Cheney is motivated by love of and for his country?”

There was no mention in there that he might be trying to avoid, say, going to prison, possibly, in—I don‘t know—Guatemala or somewhere, or that Cheney might be working on a virtual if not a literal jury pool here.

ROBINSON:  There was no mention of those possibilities.  There‘s also no mention of the possibility that nobody quite knows what Dick Cheney is up to.  This is—you know, there are a lot of Republicans who are scratching their heads as well.

Perhaps Dick Cheney might want to go back to Wyoming, be more comfortable home on the range where there‘s always kind of room for another colorful old guy at the general store who wants to tell outlandish stories.  But that‘s kind of what he‘s acting like.  It‘s a really, really odd spectacle.  And he seems to want to give us more every Sunday.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  But they have one of those in every prison movie, too.


OLBERMANN:  There was the guy with crazy stories in “Shawshank Redemption,” you know, in “Birdman of Alcatraz.”

ROBINSON:  That‘s true.

OLBERMANN:  He easily could do a remake of “Birdman.”

Cheney got anointed with this phrase, “one lone voice.”  There seems to be something extremely telling in Boss Limbaugh elevating Dick Cheney as the one lone voice of the Republican Party.  I mean, it‘s—they‘re ready and raring to go backwards.

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  Now, the Republican Party, from its recent behavior, you might conclude that the Republican Party is feeling fairly suicidal.  But even as today‘s Republican Party going to fall in line behind the one lone voice of vice president who left office with literally subterranean approval ratings, whose philosophy has been—and attitude and actions have been roundly rejected by the country.

That—I don‘t even think today‘s Republicans are going to—are going to go for that.  Of course, I‘ve been wrong before, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  But Senator McCain, who, theoretically, after what he went through last year, should feel free to say anything he wants, again goes with the idea that Republicans did not act truly conservative enough during the Bush years and modestly new ideas even from his own daughter are not the way to go.

And I sit here and wonder, do they all think that the next election will be in 1952?

ROBINSON:  Maybe not 1952, maybe 1928.  I mean, you kind of pick your year, but not—not this year or not 2012.  It‘s—this is—this is a party, as I‘ve said before, that was founded on sound principles.  I don‘t agree with all of them, but they make sense.  There‘s something to work with.

It would be good to have a strong Republican Party, a loyal opposition that contributed to the debate.  But they seem determined not to try to bring forward their ideas to today‘s reality.  This is—this is a different world, and they are not in it.

OLBERMANN:  Homogeneity and steadfastness and seeing the world as it was when they were kids.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post”—thank you kindly, sir.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, you‘ve built a car that can run on chocolate.  Great. 

Now we‘re all going to be at the mercy of the Swiss!

And one of the all-time great stupid remarks.  You may want to get yourself a tattoo of this line actually said on television.

And, “Galileo would have died eventually anyway.”  Who said that and in what context—ahead in Worst Persons.


OLBERMANN:  Bests in a moment, and you‘re still Miss California for now.  But don‘t get the sash dirty.

First, this is May 11th, thus 19 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for a military families charity, thus 18 days since I offered to donate $1,000 per second that he lasted, and thus, 17 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on that promise.  But the tide of momentum appears to be changing.


SYKES:  Sean Hannity—Sean Hannity said he was going to get waterboarded for charity for our armed forces.  He hasn‘t done it yet, I see.  You know talking about he can take a waterboarding.  Please.  Hey, OK, yes, you might want to get waterboard by someone you know or trust, but, you know, let somebody from Pakistan waterboard him or—Keith Olbermann, let Keith Olbermann waterboard him.


OLBERMANN:  I won‘t do, I handle the charity part.  But this is all academic because Hannity is not man enough to live up to his word.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin at Citi Field in New York.  The advice for those who are throwing out ceremonial first pitches, get the baseball earlier pick at the stitches with your fingers for as many minutes as you can then aim at the catcher‘s head.  The ball should drop dramatically into his glove.  Gary Dell‘Abate, Howard Stern‘s producer, did not get that advice.  Yikes.

Kevin Burkhart is the reporter from the Mets network, SNY.


KEVIN BURKHART, SNY REPORTER:  See if you can take a look at the beauty of this first pitch.  And here we go.  What are you thinking right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wow!  Wow!  I was really hoping that that would not end up on television.  I‘m so embarrassed.



OLBERMANN:  If you listen to Stern, you will know Dell‘Abate was practicing for that moment all week.  The famous “Bubba buoy” was there to raise money awareness for autism research and turned out he was raising awareness for wearing batting helmets during ceremonial first pitches.  Just to be outside (ph).

To the University of Warwick in England where researchers have built a car that runs on liquid chocolate, giving a welcome new meaning to the term “Hershey highway.”  The Formula Three racing car has a bio-diesel engine which burns chocolate waste and vegetable oil.  And if you stick a banana in the tailpipe, you get a fudge banana split.  Inventor, Doctor Emmet Brown (ph) said, “I want to prove that race cars can be green.”

Besides the chocolate sauce, other understandable elements of the car include a steering wheel made of carrots, potato fiber fenders and a marshmallow driver side air bag.

Also, those make up the contents of the latest attempt by FOX to call the President Obama a liar, a long-labored Nazi-leaning view of Churchill and torture during World War II.  We will cut it to ribbons—next.

And then, some of us attended the White House Correspondents dinner so you didn‘t have to.  And yes, some of it went too far.  These stories ahead.

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

Number three: Best cliffhanger.  Miss California pageant folks announcing that their 2009 winner, Carrie Prejean, is in breach of contract, entered the contest under false pretenses, violated rules by posing semi-nude without telling them, violated rules by joining political organizations after she won, and has not been showing up for contractually-obligated appearances, but they did not take away her title.  They said Miss USA pageant owner, Donald Trump, will decide her fate.  Keep her, fire her, or worst of all, force her to wear her hair like he wears his for a month.

Number two: Best dumb criminal.  Albert Vincent Perkins of Kansas City accused of robbing the First Federal Bank branch there.  Police say suspicion fell on Mr. Perkins after he took $3,100 of the bank‘s money but left his own wallet sitting on the teller‘s counter.

And number one: Best escape.  Karta the orangutan at the Adelaide Zoo in Australia piled up debris next to the wall of her enclosure, then jammed sticks into the wire that connected the alarm system on the wall, then climbed up the wall and out.  They said Karta sat atop the wall for a half an hour, apparently struck by her conscience.  She knew she wasn‘t supposed to do that so she climbed back down.

Or maybe she‘s even smarter than that.  And she did it just so the idiot humans would know that she could.



OLBERMANN:  “Who controls the past controls the future.  Who controls the present controls the past.”  Not just a quote from Orwell‘s “1984,” but that which he chose as the slogan of its all-controlling party.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, therein lies the sudden panic on the right to rationalize the torture by the Bush administration by claiming it was merely another instance in the history of the just, the righteous, the exceptional push to the wall, and fighting back with utter distaste, in the most controlled responses, with the only weapons left. 

To establish precedent, they will try to blame it on Bill Clinton.  They will try to equate it with other acts of wars past.  They will defame great men to justify pathetic ones, and do so with the most infantile of rationalizations; they did it first. 

And their mouth pieces will call the current president a liar when he observes that throughout history in circumstances far more dire, the just, the righteous, the exceptional push to the wall still did not torture. 


OBAMA:  Churchill said we don‘t torture when the entire British—all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.  And the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts, and, over time, that corrodes what‘s best in a people.  It corrodes the character of a country. 


OLBERMANN:  Well, the right cannot let those facts go by unchallenged by lies.  Winston Churchill is one of its appropriated heroes.  If Donald Rumsfeld called his administration critics the equivalent of Nazi appeasers, Churchill is the good guy in that equation, the man who fought not just the real Nazis, but first had to fight the real Nazi appeasers. 

At all cost, they cannot let Churchill be anti-torture.  It ruins the whole Bush/Cheney right-wing lie that even great men turn to torture when necessary.  So they turn to an eminently not so great man, a man whose knowledge of history seems have to been drawn in equal parts from comic books and the German apologists after the Second World War. 


BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Churchill actually wanted to use poison gas on the Germans, in violation of the Geneva Convention, but was stopped by the British war cabinet.  The Royal Air Force killed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of civilians by targeting non-military sites.  And the British operated a number of interrogation centers during and after World War II, including one called the London Cage, where German prisoners were beaten, deprived of sleep, and threatened with death.

Another center was opened in Bad Nenndorf, on German soil, after Churchill left power.  It was almost like a concentration camp. 

President Obama‘s British example was wrong.


OLBERMANN:  Nope.  Sorry.  If that were a high school history paper, it would have earned its author a nice round F.  It makes Michele Bachmann‘s Hoot Smalley spooner-ism from last week look good. 

Point by point, first, that was not Obama‘s British example.  The president cited Winston Churchill, specifically. 

Second, quote, “Churchill actually wanted to use poison gas on the Germans, in violation of the Geneva Convention, but was stopped by the British war cabinet.”

The most obvious answer to that is, maybe, but he didn‘t.  However, if you want to analyze what he may or may not have wanted to do, there are copious notes.  Churchill‘s secret memo to his military chiefs, July, 1944, the British prime minister asks them to analyze seriously using gas against German military industrial centers. 

But poisoned gas?  From Churchill‘s memo, item six, “if the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets, with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centers of our government and labor, I should be prepared to do anything that would hit the enemy in a murderous place.  I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas.  We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany, in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention.” 

Wait, constant medical attention?  Not just thousands of dead civilians, Saddam Hussein style?  From Churchill‘s item number five, “poison gas attacks, from which nearly everyone recovers.”

So now we know Churchill‘s mind.  He did contemplate retaliating with poisonous, non-lethal gas, if the Germans resumed full scale bombardment of London, became only if the bombardment became a serious nuisance.  And apparently the appalling London air raids of 1940 and 1941 did not meet Churchill‘s criteria for resorting to those non-lethal gas attacks; 1940 and 1941 was the period President Obama was talking about. 

And non-lethal gas is not the same as water boarding or torturing prisoners.  And ultimately, regardless of those facts, Churchill did not do it. 

The Fox commentator also leaves out the fact that simultaneously in this country the military pleaded to initiate gas warfare against Japan.  And as late at 1945, the future Nobel Peace Prize winner, General George Marshall, urged that we use it.  And we as a nation, like Churchill, still chose the right path. 

Allegation three, “the royal Air Force killed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of civilians by targeting non-military sites.” 

This sounds very damning.  However, A, it also has nothing to do with what Obama said about Churchill.  B, it‘s inclusion in a they did it first defense of Bush seems to conflict with the fact that in Churchill‘s case, the Germans actually did do it first, bombing London residential neighborhoods years before the allies retaliated. 

C, virtually every nation in every war in the last 100 years has targeted non-military sites.  We just did it in Afghanistan.  And D, in Churchill‘s case, he actually tried to stop it.  After the horrific bombing of Dresden in German, in February, 1945, Churchill, who never stopped producing historical source documents, wrote another memo so extraordinary that he was prevailed upon to withdraw it and replace it with something more tepid. 

He wrote, “it seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretext, should be reviewed.  I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives, such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive.”

Here, again, vital context ignored.  The British bombing of German non-military targets is used to discredit Obama‘s citing Churchill as somebody who would not torture. 

But even off on this tangent, Churchill looks nobler and nobler.  He questioned the bombing. 

Point number four, “the British operated a number of interrogation centers during and after World War II, including one in Bad Nenndorf, on German soil, after Churchill left power.” 

So Obama saying Churchill wouldn‘t torture Germany and Germans is disproved because England opened an interrogation center at Bad Nenndorf after Churchill left power?  This is as nonsensical as if your TV show won a Polk Award after you left it, and then you claimed it was your own.  Oh, that‘s right.  It did and you did. 

By the way, British torture of German prisoners at Bad Nenndorf post-Churchill, it led to the court martial in July 1948 of a British captain on five counts of neglect.  The British investigated whether or not they had tortured.  They investigated at Bad Nenndorf and at another detention center in England.

“One called the London Cage, where German prisoners were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with death.”  There are boxes of documents from the London Cage Detention Center.  They were scoured right after the war and an investigative journalism six decades later.  Only one credited accusation of torture there has ever been raised.  A Nazi Captain named Fritz Nockline (ph) said he was deprived of sleep, left dressed only pajamas, and kicked.  Two separate inquiries found nothing in Nockline‘s claims, except the record of the staff at this London Cage place, bringing in the local London police to help calm down a prisoner who‘d become hysterical, Fritz Nockline.  The cops found Nockline screaming but unhurt and in good health.  Nockline‘s testimony did not hold up to scrutiny in 1946, and it does not now. 

Yet Fox News takes it, the only claim of torture under Churchill‘s premiership, and presents that allegation as fact.  The allegation of a convicted Nazi war criminal, the allegation of a man executed for having murdered 92 British prisoners of war. 

This is the second time Fox News Channel and its commenter have taken propaganda from the putrid and long-dead Nazi regime, blaming the allies for Nazi war crimes, and claimed it was true and that American or British versions, supported by neutral witnesses and investigations, that those were the lies. 

Talk about the modern day equivalent of Nazi appeasers.  Mr. Murdoch, you have a retroactive Nazi appeaser on your network every night.  “President Obama‘s British example was wrong.”  Fortunately, it was not.  Unfortunately, nor was George Orwell‘s.  Who controls the past indeed controls the future.  Who controls the present surely controls the past. 

Fortunately, those who would usurp that control from the auspices of the facts, and give it to that of the falsehoods, the commentators at Fox News, are, at best, mediocre at perverting history.  Obama, more correctly history, was right.  Churchill did not torturer.  Alas, if only we could say the same of Bush. 

Nobody‘s calling Obama a liar for his self-deprecating stand-up act at the White House correspondents‘ dinner.  But yes, Wanda Sykes did go too far.

Not as far as New Gingrich, mind you.  Facts two, Gingrich in worsts.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the latest attack on any attempt at health care reform, courtesy—you won‘t believe who this is from, the Swift Boaters.


OLBERMANN:  The White House correspondents‘ dinner; in a surprising claim, Wanda Sykes did go too far on Limbaugh.  That claim is from me. 

That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.  The bronze to Richard Johnson, gossip editor of the circulation down 21 percent in on year “New York Post,” whoring himself out, as usual, to his Murdochian masters so Fox can take another swipe at NBC.  The innocent bystander this time is Luke Russert, identified by a quote, unquote, insider as having been, quote, “MIA for a while.  He hasn‘t even updated his blog, which he‘s paid a lot to do.” 

As usual, Post insiders turn out to usually be voices Mr. Johnson or Mr. Murdoch hear during their less rational moments.  Russert was on this network most of one day last week.  And he‘s not paid to write a blog.  You know what happens, Mr. Johnson, when a newspaper‘s circulation starts dropping 20 percent every year?  They start firing people.  See you, Dick. 

Mark this, they will have gone after me again by Friday. 

The runner up, Newt Gingrich, the new leader the Republican party needs as it strides so fiercely into the 15 century.  Went on the Fox News program “Meet the Press” release and said “letting terrorists free in America and putting them on welfare is insane,” which I think would be true if anybody ever suggested that.  He then whined about the Bush investigations.  This is the guy who fueled the Clinton investigations.

But his wackiest, torture is the Democrats‘ fault.  “They have had control since January 2007.  They haven‘t passed a law making water boarding illegal.  They haven‘t gone into any of these things and changed law.”

Yes.  See, torture is already illegal under our laws and our international treaties.  While you were out, Newt, the Democrats in the Senate passed the Intelligence Authorization Bill, which specifically listed water boarding as illegal.  Mr. Bush then vetoed it.  Newt, can you just, you know, pay attention? 

But our winner, for the greatest rationalization probably in cable news history, Brian Kilmeade, the rocket scientist with Fixed News.  He had an exchange with the ever-dyspeptic buffoon William Donohue about the movie “Angels and Demons” and the producer‘s reference to Galileo.  You remember, Galileo wrote that the Earth went around the sun.  The Bible said it was the other way.  The Catholic Church tried Galileo for heresy and put him under house arrest and he died nine years later.

And as you‘ll hear from Kilmeade, it wasn‘t a big deal. 


WILLIAM DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  They have to trot out their favorite victim, Galileo, who died about a century and a half before the Illuminati were founded.  They are trying to say the Catholic church is anti-reason and anti-science.  There wouldn‘t have been a scientific revolution without the Catholic church.  So that is the part to me that is very disturbing. 

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  And Galileo would have died eventually anyway. 


OLBERMANN:  He would have died eventually anyway.  No, he was immortal.  Brian Kilmeade, super-genius, he would have died anyway, eventually, today‘s worst person in the world. 


OLBERMANN:  Trial lawyers, stand up comedians and masochists know the truth; if you start out by making fun of yourself, you can later get away with making fun of almost everybody else. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, Barack Obama‘s comedy debut as president, dancing along a line far enough out there that any political comic would have been proud, while regrettably a seasoned pro went well beyond the line.  I‘ll be joined presently by one of my fellow attendees at the White House Correspondents‘ dinner, Richard Wolffe.

But first, in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton, with a comparative handful of actual journalists mixed in among the Hollywood imports and Capital Hill power brokers, all with the same question: can this president be funny?  After delivering a series of bipartisan one liners, and lampooning himself with the aid of a prop teleprompter, the noise from which scared the hell out of a lot of us, Mr. Obama proved, yes, he can. 


OBAMA:  I am Barack Obama.  Most of you covered me.  All of you voted for me. 

Michael Steele is in the house tonight.  Or as he would say, in the heezy.  Michael, for the last time, the Republican party does not qualify for a bailout. 

Now, Sasha and Malia aren‘t here tonight because they‘re grounded.  You can‘t just take Air Force One on a joyride to Manhattan.  I don‘t care whose kids you are. 

My next 100 days will be so successful, I‘ll be able to complete them in 72 daze.  And on the 73rd I will rest. 


OLBERMANN:  Trying to follow up Mr. Obama‘s monologue was the task of Wanda Sykes.  Ninety nine percent of the time staying within the bounds of good taste and within the bounds of the funny, she even said Obama was the first black president, only until he screwed up and then she‘d be asking, what‘s up with the half white guy?  Who voted for the mulatto? 

But the other one percent? 


WANDA SYKES, COMEDIAN:  You might want to look into this, sir, because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight. 

Too much?  OK. 

Rush Limbaugh.  I hope the country fails.  I hope his kidneys fail. 

How about that? 


OLBERMANN:  Oh, no, not good.  Not about him, not when you mix in 9/11, not about anybody.  Press Secretary Robert Gibbs attempting to distance the White House from Ms. Sykes‘ comments today. 


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy.  I think there‘s no doubt that 9/11 is part of that. 


OLBERMANN:  As promised, joining me now MSNBC political analyst and fellow dinner survivor Richard Wolffe. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good to see you in your overalls, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, kindly.  I hate to say this, because I think comedians should get more latitude than the rest of us.  And I‘m grateful to her.  She sort of authenticated me by making me part of her routine.  And I know the right spews serious death wishes all the time, and that would eclipse either of those jokes.  Think of Michael Savage for a moment. 

But weren‘t those the wrong jokes in the wrong venue about anybody? 

WOLFFE:  Well, yes is the answer.  I‘m tempted to say that Rush Limbaugh will die some day and somehow, but he‘s not Galileo.  You have to have a gargantuan sense of empathy if you feel bad for a guy who thinks “Barack the Magic Negro” is funny. 

So put that all aside, because there is a matter of principle here. 

In general, jokes about 9/11 and kidney failure, not tasteful, not funny. 

Pictures of a large man bouncing up and down, not tasteful and funny. 

OLBERMANN:  The White House with the comment today and distancing itself, but the president laughed, presumably, at the hyperbole of those jokes, as they happened.  Does more need to be done about this?  Does Wanda Sykes need to say something or will this pass away? 

WOLFFE:  I‘m sure people on the right will want to maintain this as much as they can.  It‘s not clear why someone smiles on stage.  There is always deniability there.  It was the right thing to do for Gibbs to go out there and apologize. 

Wanda Sykes, though, look, as an out-going member of the White House Correspondents Association Board, we knew what we were getting into.  She is an edgy comedian.  That‘s what she does.  When people are edgy, they sometimes go over the edge, and then they climb back inside.  That‘s what she did.  That‘s the not the right thing to do.  But she‘s not a politician, and the political people said it was wrong.  So I think that‘s the end of the story. 

OLBERMANN:  And by the way, of the two comedians that night who came closest to using a four-letter word or implying one, or actually many more than four-letter word, the president got closer to it and Ms. Sykes did not.  So she gave you clean at least.  There wasn‘t one dud in the president‘s routine, I thought.  And he got away with that joke about Rahm Emanuel and the popular Anglo-Saxon compound curse word.  And half the jokes were internally directed, which I have always thought not only gives someone great latitude, but is it politically sharp, because he takes all the conservative portrayals of him, needs a teleprompter, has a messiah complex, mentions the New York City Air Force One fly over, and he turns them into jokes, thereby kind of turning that portrayal into something of a joke? 

WOLFFE:  Well, let me do this two ways.  First of all, presidents often use humor and, because they‘re powerful people, everyone in the room kind of laughs.  What‘s interesting is the comparison with Reagan and Bush here.  When Reagan made jokes, he generally made jokes about people outside the room.  Everyone had a good laugh about them, someone they all knew, but someone outside.  When Bush made jokes, it tended to be someone in the room that he was, frankly, being mean to, and everyone laughed because he was the president. 

Here, the humor is turned on Obama.  It‘s good personally.  It makes him look human.  It obviously punctures the—let‘s call it the modesty issue around this president.  And, of course, it helps politically, because, as you point out, it makes everything look ridiculous, the whole idea that he is the messiah.  If even he is making jokes about it, how serious can it be? 

OLBERMANN:  My favorite moment, we played some of the joke about Michael Steele and the Republicans not being available for a bailout.  But you couldn‘t see this unless you were seated near him, which I was.  But Obama has already moved on to the next joke, and Steele finally gets to his feet and starts waving.  He‘s 30 seconds too late.  It made my night.

Did you have a favorite moment? 

WOLFFE:  I liked the Steele jokes.  You know what I liked about it?  It was the ease with which this president could joke about racial issues, I thought was a very healthy thing.  My personal favorite—maybe I‘m getting old here.  But the joke about the first lady having the right to bear arms, what can I say?  I‘m a sucker. 

OLBERMANN:  The appropriateness—we‘ll give you 15 seconds to address the appropriateness of the White House Correspondents, as few as they might have been in an actual event, mixing in a social setting with the people they‘re supposed to cover. 

WOLFFE:  Journalists mixed with their contacts all the time at bars, at restaurants.  This is not the place where people are given scoops, scoops about weapons of mass destruction. 

OLBERMANN:  Plus, it‘s all on tape.  This can be used as evidence against everybody involved.  MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, as always, great thanks.  Good to see you. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,202nd day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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.>