Guests: Richard Wolffe, C. Welton Gaddy, E.J. Dionne, Jonathan Landay
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Sunday, September 16th, 2001, this—we learned today—was no mere blooper.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.
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OLBERMANN: Biblical vengeance quotes, some from the actual Crusades, on the cover sheets of the secret intelligence briefings from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to President Bush: “It is God‘s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men”—over an image of Saddam Hussein. “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith”—as tanks are shown entering Saddam‘s parade ground.
Just trying to pitch a born-again president or a step towards an American theocracy?
So too at Notre Dame: Protesters, not the president, booed. They shout about abortion, he suggests .
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PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Each side will continue to make its case to the public, with passion and conviction, but surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.
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OLBERMANN: Speak for yourself: Liz Cheney won‘t sit around and act rationally when the situation calls for caricature.
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ELIZABETH CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY‘S DAUGHTER: He comes in and he says, “Listen, we‘re going to prosecute, potentially, people who work in the Bush administration, who worked very hard to keep the nation safe.” Now, in my view, that‘s un-American.
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OLBERMANN: The president is un-American. That fruit didn‘t fall far from that tree.
Worsts: Hypocrisy on the grandest of scales.
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BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: The reason I keep doing this privacy
stuff is I‘m trying to protect you. Somewhere along the line in your life
believe me, it‘s happened to me—somebody is going to come up and start snapping pictures of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m from “The O‘Reilly Factor,” I wanted to ask you a couple questions about the Web site.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And, Michael Steele says he can broaden the Republican base by painting same-sex marriage as a crippling cost to small business—even though small businesses made $16 billion a year from weddings. What the .
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
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MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIR: I just want to say, what‘s up?
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
At a meeting with Palestinian leaders in June 2003, then-President Bush reportedly having claimed that God told him to go to war. Mr. Bush reported as having said, quote, “God would tell me, ‘George go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan,‘ and I did. And then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq‘ and I did.”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: It turns out that God received a rather hefty assist from Donald Rumsfeld. Newly released memos showing that Mr. Bush‘s defense secretary, having placed on the cover of his daily reports to the president, biblical passages and corresponding war imagery that carefully framed the mission in Iraq as nothing less than a Christian Crusade—what another faith might call a jihad.
Mr. Rumsfeld, apparently having left nothing to chance, not only often having hand delivered to the White House his daily top secret briefings for President Bush, but also having spiffed them up with cover pages that matched photos from the previous day‘s war efforts, with scripture from the Bible. Among the examples, March 17th, 2003, two days before the invasion, servicemen praying, their heads bowed their rifles, quote, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us? Here I am, Lord, send me,” Isaiah six, verse eight.
April 7th, 2003, as U.S. forces launched their assault on Baghdad, a screen grab of Saddam Hussein on Iraqi TV, quote, “It is God‘s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men,” First Peter two, verse 15.
April 8th, 2003, one day before the fall of Iraq‘s capital city, an American tank passing beneath Baghdad‘s Hands of Victory monument and what is now part of the U.S. enclave called the Green Zone, quote, “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith,” Isaiah 26, verse two.
“GQ‘s” Robert Draper reporting that at least one Muslim analyst at the Pentagon, having greatly offended by the cover pages, others having been privately concerned from what the fallout might have if those images have been leaked during a war against an Islamic nation. When some actually took the trouble to complain, no small thing in the Bush administration, they were told that the practice would continue because Rumsfeld, President Bush and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Richard Myers, all appreciated the cover pages.
“GQ” also reporting that the cover pages were not Rumsfeld‘s direct invention, instead they were the brain child of the Pentagon‘s director of intelligence, Major General Glen Shaffer. Nor were they even the defense secretary‘s style, Mr. Rumsfeld not being one to float his own religious views. It was, however, President Bush‘s style, Mr. Rumsfeld writes Draper, likely having viewed this scripture as a way to make a personal connection with his president.
Time now to call in our own political analyst Richard Wolffe.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I‘ve seen a lot of interpretation of this as proselytizing, as—I used that term earlier about kind of combining in an unacceptable fashion religion and government. But it‘s actually a little more cynical than that. Is it—I mean, whatever you think of Bush‘s faith or its relevance to governance or war, wasn‘t Rumsfeld basically exploiting it?
WOLFFE: Yes. Well, first of all, we have to salute Robert Draper and “GQ” magazine, because they really filled a very important piece that‘s been missing in the puzzle all along. Why invade Iraq, why stick with a war that was going disastrously wrong, religious faith and this cynical manipulative appeal to religious faith is clearly a big part of it. And, yes, it‘s exploited it.
We knew at that time, those of us covering the White House, that one of the tactics Rumsfeld used to use was to portray his policy proposals to the president as being bold on the idea that anything that was bold the president would sign up to. Well, here, we have something frankly more shocking and troubling, this idea that there was this religious infusion. Now, we know Rumsfeld didn‘t feel it, but he was clearly exploiting the faith aspect of this president.
And one thing to be—to remind ourselves of, the president had the opportunity to say no to any of this. And he wasn‘t just being manipulated by Rumsfeld. He was also being manipulated by Cheney, who, of course, was the one-time protege and then mentor of one Don Rumsfeld.
OLBERMANN: But this wasn‘t—do we think these cover letters had a practical impact on this, on the war, on the conduct, on the policy? I mean, Mr. Bush could not have thought that those cover letters themselves were the work of God. I mean, he had to have known they were the hand of Rumsfeld, right?
WOLFFE: Yes, absolutely. But there is a subtle sort of gray area about a president who sees himself or saw him self-as an instrument of God‘s will and being willingly, I think, manipulated here along these lines.
Remember that there was an essential leap of faith here, not just about the intelligence, but the purpose of the war, the reason for sticking with it, and the president was kind of explicit about this. He said his faith was his comfort that led him to stick with the war and with the troops when everyone else said things were going so horribly wrong.
So, I don‘t think this is a minor thing, but yes, he didn‘t think this was God‘s hand, but he thought he was operating on some sort of divine mission.
OLBERMANN: And amazingly, the cover pages may not be the worst of what is contained within the article. Secretary Rumsfeld, we have now learned in this article, held up the deployment of active duty forces to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, including the entire fleet of the search-and-rescue helicopters because he didn‘t believe in using active duty military personnel on principle. That‘s—it‘s almost too bad these are in the same article, because that‘s not going to get the attention it deserves, is it?
WOLFFE: No, it‘s not, although he was not the only person who is tied up in this stupid legalese and, allegedly, principle. Really, none of them wanted to respond until it was too late. Blame Rumsfeld all you like, but there was a collective failure there, and that goes all the way to the top of that old administration.
OLBERMANN: Last point, quickly, are we worried still about the reaction in the Arab world about those cover pages even now?
WOLFFE: Absolutely. You know, you think that the debate last week about those photos, the Obama administration said they didn‘t want to release, they were worried about the reaction—this is way more damaging than another round of photos, because it casts doubt on the mission because there are troops in the field right now who are going to have their motives questioned because of this.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe—as always, thank you for your insight, sir. Have a good evening.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Bible might be the most quoted, least clearly understood book of this time.
For little perspective, a little informed analysis on what is actually in there on these subjects, war and divine guidance—let me welcome the Reverend Doctor Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister from Louisiana and president of the Interfaith Alliance.
Reverend, thank you for your time tonight and your insight.
REV. C. WELTON GADDY, BAPTIST MINISTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: First question here, in some, if you can do that and I know that‘s always a dangerous phrase to use, but what is—what is the Bible actually say about war and about Jesus‘ words on that subject?
GADDY: It says different things at different times. The Bible spans thousands of years. It has different kinds of literature. And so, you can go in the Bible and find pretty much what you want to be said on any subject.
I think what you have to do is look at the whole sweep of the Bible‘s message, and what you find is instruction to treat God as God, to treat government as government, and to treat other people with dignity and respect.
Those scripture passages on those memos were not efforts to explore biblical truth, they were efforts to use that which is holy, to endow with sanctity a political decision that was questionable at best, and an invasion into a nation that was based on lies. If you want to be religious, you go not just to quoting scripture, you act like the scripture tells you to act.
OLBERMANN: Well, let me ask you of an interpretation of one of those
one of those quotations that was used on the cover letter, “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith,” as a caption for this illustration of a tank entering what is, in essence, Saddam Hussein‘s parade ground. Is the quotation misused or as you say, can you find anything you want in there?
GADDY: Keith, I think it‘s a prostitution of religion.
If you look at the images and the scriptures that are associated with each one of them, you see a studied effort to identify the United States as the righteous nation, the military strategy of invasion as an act of God. And what that does is it says, “If you question me, you‘re questioning God.
And if you oppose this war, then you have to be evil, because I‘m good.”
There is a theocratic tendency to this, and as you well know, most people who support a theocracy want to be theos.
OLBERMANN: Whenever I hear anybody say God told them to do something, in this case, the quotes that were attributed to president Bush in 2003, I‘m reminded of something that a very religious friend of mine told me that when somebody swears and the answer is, “Do not take the name of the Lord in vain,” he says that‘s not what that means, it‘s not about swearing, that that actually means do not say, “I did it because God told me to.” Is that a correct interpretation?
GADDY: That‘s a very correct interpretation. It is saying, “Don‘t associate the name of God with behavior that is in some way the opposite of God, blasphemy to God.” And what you do in being true to faith is allowing faith to critique you as well as affirm you, and this was a studied effort to use faith to endow one particular strategy that was bad politically, bad internationally, and, Keith, even extremely dangerous for our military.
And it was not an isolated incident; it was a strategy or propaganda for that war. And, unfortunately, it is still going on in the American military—a use of religion for very political purposes.
OLBERMANN: Last question, sir. Is there anything in scripture about what Mr. Rumsfeld apparently did, to take somebody‘s faith and use biblical passages to kind of activate it for your own purposes?
GADDY: You know, the great words about faith in scripture are not really religious words—they are words about humility, about openness, about inclusion, about honesty. And if you want to know how religious a person is, you don‘t use the terminology of religion, you use the practicality of religion and see whether or not it‘s building up or tearing down honest or dishonest.
OLBERMANN: Reverend Welton Gaddy, the president of the Interfaith Alliance—great thanks for your insight and great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
GADDY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The same place where a president who advocated preemptive war and the death penalty drew not a protest from the religious, a president already calling for dialogue on abortion was protested by those calling themselves religious. Interestingly, that president wound up hearing booing—booing of, not by, the protesters.
And in the same vein, when Liz Cheney and her father were in the government, their colleagues called their critics morally or ethically confused and the equivalent of Nazi appeasers. Yet, Ms. Cheney has now felt free to actions of the new president un-American. If only she had the capacity to understand how much of a hypocrite she is.
OLBERMANN: The negotiating Irish of Notre Dame, the anti-abortion protest fizzles as the president once again trumps dogma with suggestions of compromise and perhaps gives a hint about his Supreme Court nominee.
Does being the daughter of a crack pot ex-vice president give you the right to call the new president un-American?
In Worsts: Big league hypocrisy as the TV stalker pleads for the rights of privacy.
And tonight‘s WTF Moment: It‘s worth $70 billion a year in this country, mostly for small businesses. So, naturally, RNC Chairman Steele wants to portray it as bad for small businesses.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Facing the threat of protest, President Obama gave the commencement speech at Notre Dame yesterday. He acknowledged irreconcilable views between the two camps on abortion rights—but on fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: He also sought common ground. He may have delivered his mantra for future battles, including the one bound to be waged over his first pick for the Supreme Court.
After weeks of buildup, there was a large group of anti-choice protesters at the front of the gates of Notre Dame yesterday. But inside the Joyce Center Arena, the 12,000 in attendance interrupted the president 25 times with applause and/or cheers.
Mr. Obama had to stop his speech just once for a scattered protest, and after the protesters were loudly booed, the president quickly incorporated the shared discomfort.
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OBAMA: We‘re not going to shy away from things that are uncomfortable sometimes.
OBAMA: Now, since .
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OLBERMANN: Now, President Obama devoted one forthright portion of his speech to the issue that it caused some critics to demand that he not be allowed to speak at Notre Dame.
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OBAMA: That‘s when we begin to say, “Maybe we won‘t agree on abortion but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.” So, let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let‘s reduce unintended pregnancies.
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OLBERMANN: The president adding that adoption should be more available and that health care policy should include a, quote, “sensible conscience clause.” More on that presently. The president was also at times blunt, quoting a fact that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. But in addressing the sharp rhetoric surrounding abortion, Mr. Obama not only pleaded again for common ground but also laid out what might be a mantra for future battles.
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OBAMA: But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature. Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.
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OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to “Washington Post” columnist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, E.J. Dionne.
Good evening, E.J.
E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening. It‘s good to be here to seek common ground with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We often find it.
The president has, by now, established something of a pattern of dealing head-on with the uncomfortable topics that fall off the truck in front of him, or some times that he pulls off the truck. How did he fare this time, do you think?
DIONNE: I think this is one of the best speeches he‘s given in his presidency. I think—it was not guaranteed that he was going to take this head on. The other way to do it would have been to give a standard kind of speech on some other topic. I think he was under a lot of pressure, particularly from moderate and liberal Catholics who supported him, supported President Jenkins of Notre Dame in inviting him.
And I think it was a remarkable speech. It‘s really the first time, I think, Obama managed to speak fluent Catholic. A lot of his language came out of Catholic social justice thought. He did talk about reducing the number of abortions. He talked about the conscience clause. He cited some important Catholic heroes, particularly the progressives, people like former President Hesburgh of Notre Dame, Cardinal Bernadin.
And I think that the right-wing, if you will, of the church put a big bet on this and they lost. They really helped Obama by heightening the attention given to this, and I think at the bishops meeting next month, there are some bishops who are going to speak out, who were silent here, but didn‘t condemn Notre Dame. They had quietly supported Notre Dame. I think you‘re going to hear from them. Up until now, you‘ve heard only from the more conservative bishops.
OLBERMANN: The sensible conscience clause. The president said we should honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion and draft a sensible conscience clause. That kind of legislation, the idea of it has been hugely controversial to the degree that it would allow certain health care workers to refuse to participate in what would be legal abortions.
Was the president making news here or was it an attempt at a concession? What was that in there for, apart from the reasons you already outlined?
DIONNE: I think it was simply a clarification. There are three laws on the books already that give doctors and nurses who have a moral objection to abortion the right not to participate in abortions, and I think it would be hideous to force them to. I think people who are civil libertarians have to recognize their right to not participate in abortions.
The controversy is over a conscience clause written by President Bush that was so broad that some people think it might even give pharmacists the right to not prescribe—not to deliver birth control pills. So, I think what he did here is he clarified that he‘s narrowing Bush‘s conscience role, but he‘s not going to eliminate it where providers, when it comes to protecting the religious rights of providers on abortion.
OLBERMANN: Many analyses of this speech yesterday, E.J., suggested that we got a hint about the Supreme Court nominee in there. Did we?
DIONNE: I‘m not sure. I think that—you know, there‘s a reason—
I think what Obama would like to do is appoint somebody who is broadly liberal or progressive but is respected by conservatives and would have the capacity to build majorities on the court, not someone who is perceived as far out, and therefore couldn‘t win allies, but someone who‘s genuinely progressive, could win over allies, and also temper conservative majorities on the court.
That‘s my hunch of whom he will pick and I think that‘s the kind of
person he should pick because I think that would advance progressive causes
more than somebody who couldn‘t persuade his or her—it‘s going to be her
OLBERMANN: Well—or that gave us a hint right there, too.
E.J. Dionne of “The Washington Post” and the Brookings Institution—it‘s always a pleasure, sir. Thanks for your time.
DIONNE: Great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: I will now sing, but only briefly. I don‘t care if it rains or freezes, as long as I‘ve got my Cheeto Jesus discovered in the place I fuel my car—car, car.
Then the man who ordered 40 hits (ph) by fixed news on innocent bystanders seeking only their privacy claims, he is seeking only to protect your privacy.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. And the newest sportscaster who said he does not watch his channel, doesn‘t believe half the people on it, and doesn‘t think it‘s professional.
First, this is May 18th, which is 26 days since Sean Hannity volunteered to be waterboarded for a military families charity, thus 25 days since I offered to donate $1,000 per second he lasted, thus 24 days during which Sean Hannity has reneged on his promise.
This development today: Hannity called out in a newspaper column yesterday, “Hannity has grown suddenly silent on the issue. Speak, Hannity! Do not hold back. Use that First Amendment. Tell us when and where you will be waterboarded and millions of Americans will cheer you on.” Not a big deal except that was in the pages of the arch right-wing paper, “The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.”
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in the Lone Star State, from KTVT by way of the Internets, where the Lord works in mysterious ways and apparently lives inside a bag of Cheetos. Sarah Bell was enjoying an afternoon snack at a Houston gas station, naturally, when she noticed that one of her orange cheese curls resembled a robed figure praying.
Husband Dan went on further, the snack food was not just any robed figure praying, it was Cheesus of Nazareth. Cheesus is two inches tall and does not have a right arm. But Mrs. Bell says this Cheeto Christ is a reminder of everyday blessings.
What would Cheesus do? Put himself on eBay. The problem here is the Bells haven‘t quite figured out the asking price just yet.
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DAN BELL, FOUND JESUS-SHAPED CHEETO: It could be 25 cents, it could be $25. The thing is, if it‘s only 25 cents, we‘re probably just going to eat it.
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OLBERMANN: Be sure to say grace beforehand.
To Gubbio in Italy, where if a Cheeto Jesus is not inspiring enough, how about sprinting saints? It‘s the town‘s annual candle race, a tradition for the last 800 years involving the statutes of Saint Ubaldo, Giorgio and Anthony. The statues taken out of the church, carried into the town square, the trio then mounted on individual wooden pillars and down the stretch they come—carried on the shoulders of teams of runners. And they‘re off.
But before you wish the competitors good luck and Godspeed, one minor caveat on the betting, the race is fixed. The town‘s patron saint, Ubaldo, always wins, to which Giorgio and Anthony respond, “If that‘s the way it‘s going to be next year, we‘ll go marching in.”
And finally, to Incheon, South Korea, you know, billiard champ Cho Moon-hwan had it so tough growing up that he was never able to afford a pool cue.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Cho has mastered more than 50 billiard shots using only his hand, honing the technique over the course of 20 years. Mr. Cho‘s one regret in taking up this sport, nobody else has.
See, he had it tough. You‘ve tried telling these kids that. They won‘t believe you.
Who could top Dick Cheney for inappropriate comments about the president? How about Dick Cheney‘s daughter?
And tonight‘s WTF Moment: Michael Steele wants to rebrand Republican opposition to same-sex marriage as a drain on small business. These stories ahead.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.
Number three: Best desperation hire. Patti Blagojevich, after a judge ruled that duh, indicted ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich could not dropped in the Costa Rican jungle as part of the NBC reality show, “I‘m a Celebrity,” watch me jump bail—no, “Get Me Out of Here,” Blagojevich‘s wife will apparently take his spot on the program. The spokesman says that while the missus is in Costa Rica swearing like a (inaudible), the former gov will be a stay-at-home day, raising their three children, the two daughters, and, of course, his hair, Cousin It.
Number two, best response to steroid testing, the 20 competitors in Belgium‘s National Body Championship. Steroids and doping tester Hanz Coumin (ph) went to the body builders‘ ready room to take samples before the competition, which is when 20 of the body builders ran away. There will be no tournament and there will no refunds.
And number one, best bygones be bygones, new employee, Former Tampa Bay Bucs football coach Jon Gruden, who is now going to be—well, first, on August 30th of 2007, after the cable network ESPN reported that the name of one of the Tampa Bay players had come up in a federal investigation of crooked college games, the coach they called Chuckie said this, quote, “I don‘t watch ESPN. I don‘t believe half the” expletive “people on the channel, personally, no disrespect. I hope ESPN 3 or 4 has real sources behind this story, because it has nothing to do with the kid. This is very uncharacteristic, in my opinion, of professional journalism.”
Coach Jon Gruden who today joined the broadcast team for “Monday Night Football” on ESPN.
OLBERMANN: On national television yesterday, Dick Cheney‘s daughter was asked whether her father, as vice president, had U.S. officers torture prisoners to make them support his lie that Iraq had ties to al Qaeda. Our third story tonight, she did not answer it. She did not deny it. Liz Cheney, a veteran of the Bush State Department herself, was asked about last week‘s report that in 2003 her father, Vice President Cheney, suggested that American interrogators water board a detainee in Iraq specifically about Mr. Cheney‘s fondest hope, to tie Iraq somehow to 9/11. As you will hear, his daughter does not deny this.
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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR: The report, though, that the vice president‘s office did ask, specifically, to have information about Iraq/al Qaeda connections presented to this detainee, do you deny that?
LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I think it is important for us to have all the facts out.
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OLBERMANN: She did not go on to deny it. Evidence continues to mount that Mr. Cheney did, in fact, use torture to twist detainees into mouthing his lie, perhaps even chose torture because it makes captives lie. “McClatchy Newspaper” today, quoting a retired Army colonel, who oversaw Guantanamo‘s criminal investigation task force from 2002 up to 2005, as confirming that in late 2002 and early 2003, intelligence operatives there had been charged with finding links between al Qaeda and Iraq.
An unnamed former US intelligence officer tell McClatchy it was Cheney‘s office and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld‘s demanding that information in that time frame, when they were trying to build public support for invading Iraq.
McClatchy also reporting that in early 2004, Mr. Cheney himself said, quote, the links go back. We know, for example, from interrogating detainees in Guantanamo that al Qaeda sent individuals to Baghdad to be trained.”
After five years without a shred of evidence to support that claim, a Cheney spokesperson now says the former vice president will clarify those remarks later this week. But his daughter was not done. President Obama has not yet granted blanket sweeping immunity to her father and other Bush officials for something she, herself, cannot deny. Ms. Cheney attacked the president for daring to keep open the possibility of the rule of law.
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CHENEY: He comes in and he says, listen, we‘re going to prosecute, potentially, people who worked in the Bush administration who worked very hard to keep the nation safe. Now, in my view, that‘s un-American.
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OLBERMANN: Joining us tonight, Jonathan Landay, the McClatchy national security and intelligence correspondent behind the story we have just cited. Thanks again for your time, sir.
JONATHAN LANDAY, MCCLATCHY CORRESPONDENT: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: The picture that seems to be emerging with greater frequency the details are coming now, that Bush officials and Cheney and Rumsfeld used torture to help try to manufacture this link between Iraq and al Qaeda. How sharp is the focus on that picture right now?
LANDAY: Look, we don‘t know—we‘re missing a piece here. But what we do know is that there was pressure on interrogators at Guantanamo to come up with that information. We know that two of the detainees in CIA custody were asked those questions. And both, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said there was no connection. And we also know that a third detainee, who was turned over to the Egyptians for allegedly torture, manufactured that connection.
We also know, as you pointed out, that Mr. Cheney himself, in an interview in 2004, said they were getting information from detainees at Guantanamo about this alleged biological weapons and chemical weapons training that al Qaeda operatives received from Iraq.
So, you‘ve got to put the two sides together; pressure to obtain this information coming at a time when these interrogation techniques were being authorized. There‘s some pieces missing, but it‘s looking awfully close.
OLBERMANN: What does it say, do you think, that Liz Cheney, in that interview, did not simply reply: of course my father never used any kind of interrogation to get anyone to say anything that wasn‘t true?
LANDAY: Well, here‘s the thing, they were talking specifically about water boarding. Let‘s not forget, there was an entire menu of these kind of interrogation techniques that were being—had been authorized by the president of the United States. The worst, of course, it seems being water boarding.
But, there were other techniques, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, forced grooming, other kinds of stress, long-term stress positions. So, we don‘t know what—which one of these techniques were used, whether they were or not, on these detainees who were asked about this. But, as we‘ve heard, water boarding came out over the weekend. Water boarding was not. OK. But we don‘t know what was.
OLBERMANN: Do we know, looking ahead, this statement from the Cheney spokesperson that he‘s going to clarify that one remark in particular later in the week that we know, for example, from interrogating detainees in Guantanamo that al Qaeda sent individuals to Baghdad to be trained? Is he speaking out yet again on this subject?
LANDAY: It will be very interesting, Keith, to find out. He is giving a speech, I believe, on Thursday afternoon—Thursday morning at the American Enterprise Institute, where a lot of the original push for the invasion of Iraq came from. And it‘ll be very interesting to hear what the former vice president has to say.
Another really interesting aspect of all of this is that here you have the vice president, the former vice president, pushing this idea that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq link, when the CIA was telling him repeatedly that there wasn‘t. And, yet, this administration was willing to—the former administration was willing to accept the CIA when it came to weapons of mass destruction.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I suspect that speech—the title might be Mr. Cheney will be speaking on prophecy self-fulfillment. But let me switch topics here; the ease with which the daughter of the previous vice president can go on national television and call the actions of the current president un-American—it is kind of remarkable that as late as two and a half years ago, anybody who criticized or even disagreed with the actions of the then president were described as the modern day equivalents of Nazi appeasers, and suffering from morale or ethical confusion.
There is some—I may be over-stating this, but there seems to be some double standard between what was acceptable about the previous administration and what‘s acceptable, in terms of criticism, about this one.
LANDAY: Yes. I don‘t know what was going on, what possessed Liz Cheney to say that. I‘m not inside her head and I don‘t want to be there, obviously. But I think this idea of calling people un-American is simply political grandstanding.
You know, let‘s get the facts out. The fact is the idea of getting facts out, the idea accountability, the idea of holding people accountable for actions that may have been illegal, I can‘t think of anything more American.
OLBERMANN: And to that point, Nancy Pelosi still under wide fire from Republicans who claim that she knew all along about something they insist was OK. How is the effort going on their behalf to prioritize that side show at the expense of the issue of finding out who authorized the thing Miss Pelosi is accused of knowing about?
LANDAY: Well, for me as a journalist, I keep asking, why are they continuing to bang this drum as hard as they are banging it? I want to know, is there something else here? Are they—in fact, is this a deliberate effort to try and divert the nation‘s attention away from these very pertinent questions, the need to get to the very bottom of what happened. Why is this drum continuing to be beaten? I can‘t answer that, but I would like to know.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Landay with “McClatchy Newspapers,” drawing the line at an appropriate spot, I suppose, there. Thank you kindly for your time, sir.
LANDAY: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Just call him Michael I just thought of this Steele. He wants to portray same-sex marriage as an unfair cost to small businesses. Another of life‘s WTF moments tonight.
And the man who gave Bush‘s torture rationalizer his own newspaper column blames the resulting outrage on a blogger. Worsts ahead.
So too more on the Rumsfeld Biblical verse story with the man who wrote it, Robert Draper of “GQ Magazine,” Rachel‘s special guest when she joins you at the top of the hour.
OLBERMANN: So Michael Steele thinks he can broaden the appeal of the Republican party by saying that same-sex marriage hurts small business, even though the American wedding industry is worth 70 billion dollars a year, most of it going to small businesses. What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world. Would have been me if I missed that.
The bronze to Harold Jackson, the editorial page editor of the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” now trying to pass off his paper‘s inexplicable hiring of Bush administration legal fig leaf creator John Yoo to write self-fig leafing columns for the newspaper on a blogger. “Unfortunately, most critics of the critics of our contract with Yoo have their facts wrong, but that happens when your information comes from those bloggers who never let the facts get in the way when they‘re trying to whip people into a frenzy to boost website hits.”
Except Jackson doesn‘t cite any wrong facts about Yoo‘s stealth hiring. There was no press release, no article in the paper, just one sentence at the end of a column saying, he would appear regularly. Yoo is there to justify and rationalize torture, which is illegal. Why doesn‘t the Enquirer also hire a Mafia attorney so he can write columns rationalizing that it is OK to entomb people in cement and make sure they are sleeping with the fishes?
Runner-up, Sean Hannity, coward; apparently missed another memo from recent American history. Attorney General Eric Holder announced there would be the turn over of US attorneys typical to the start of the new presidency. Hannity, parenthesis, coward, replied, “remember how outraged Democrats were when President Bush replaced a handful of his own US attorneys? Now liberals claim that the prosecutors were unjustly removed for political reasons and argued that President Bush had no right to replace his appointees. Elections matter, that‘s your reason? Correctly if I‘m wrong, but isn‘t that considered political motivated?”
Seriously, Sean, it‘s no longer necessary to say correct me if I‘m wrong. You‘re always wrong! Of the 93 U.S. attorneys Ronald Reagan inherited, he replaced 89 of them in the first two years. Clinton replaced 89 himself. Bush 88. The start of term stuff is tradition. When you fire nine guys for refusing to corrupt our system of justice and to try to send people to prison because they are in the opposition party and do it on phony charges of voter fraud that never happened, that‘s politically motivated and it‘s illegal.
But our winner is Skeesics (ph). Sit back, please, because this may be the world record for short-distance hypocrisy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Policing the net now. The reason I keep doing this privacy stuff is I‘m trying to protect you. Somewhere along the line in your life—believe me, it‘s happened to me—somebody‘s going to come up and start snipping pictures of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re with Fox News. I want to ask you a few question says.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From “The O‘Reilly Factor,” wanted to ask you a couple questions about the website.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fox News, how are you?
O‘REILLY: You know, if you can, avoid them. You know, nothing good in this high-tech age comes out of anybody intruding on you in that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want to comment on that?
O‘REILLY: You might be able to go after people that took the picture, posted it. it‘s A long slog and ain‘t gonna diminish the embarrassment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you leave me alone for just a second.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s truly disgraceful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I beg your pardon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disgraceful.
O‘REILLY: So I want everybody to know, privacy in America, done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I‘ll ask you to leave my private property or I will call the police.
Please leave my premises.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are done.
O‘REILLY: Technology means we don‘t have any privacy at all. It‘s a shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And it‘s your fault. According to Think Progress.com, he has now sent his stalker producers out there to ambush 40 different people while trying to protect your privacy. But revenge often comes swiftly and from odd places. “Somewhere along the line in your life—believe me, it‘s happened to me—somebody is going to come up and start snipping pictures of you.”
Friday night at Yankee Stadium in New York on the 100-foot wide high definition screen on the scoreboard, a shot of Donald Trump sitting in the crowd. He got some mild booing. Then they showed the guy next to, Him Skeesics, wild sustained booing. Appropriate for today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, Chairman Michael Steele of the Republican National Committee says his party can re-tool its message and sell it to a broader base by recasting its culture war issues as lessons in pocketbook economy. For instance, he now says if it paints gay marriage as an attack on small business, because they have to pay more health care, because all those gay partners would suddenly be gay husbands and gay wives, and legally designated gay beneficiaries.
Our number one story, what the—“now, all of a sudden,” Steele warns, “I‘ve got someone who wasn‘t a spouse before that I had no responsibility for, who‘s now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for. So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.”
You want to sell opposition to gay marriage on economic grounds as a kind of drag on small business? Um, Mr. Steele, in this country, weddings are a 70 billion dollar a year industry, B billion, as in Bridezilla, 70 billion. Most of it spread among local florists, local jewelers, local caterers, local photographers, local hotels, local restaurants, local bridal stores.
,Admittedly the number of wedding gowns order when two men get married is usually zero. But think of the all-women weddings, with two gowns and two sets of bridesmaids.
Seriously, legalizing gay marriage is, in fact, a really simple-to-understand gold mine, especially in terms of jump-starting a lousy economy like, say, the one you Republicans gave us, the one that is doing a lot of more harm to the small businessman right now than would a minor increase in spousal benefits.
There is a reason that a lot of conservatives in California opposed Prop 8 last year. Before the rights of same-sex couples were repealed there, UCLA had published a study calculating that just in California the wedding business in the state was going to explode by 684 million dollars over three years. Same-sex marriage would have created 2,200 jobs just in California. Same-sex marriage would have created 64 million bucks in additional state tax revenues just in California.
Same-sex marriage would have created nine million just in lousy county marriage license fees just in California.
Five years ago, Forbes did an amazing set of extrapolations as to what nationwide same-sex marriages would mean to the economy, based on the calculation there would be 464,000 additional hitchings. Reception, catering and wedding planning up 4.7 billion dollars, 153 million of that just to the wedding planners. Wedding gift purchases, 3.94 billion; honeymoons, 1.7 billion; engagement rings, 1.66 billion; wedding gowns and other apparel, 1.3 billion; photography and video, an even billion; flora and decor, another 816 million; music and entertainment, 659 million; wedding bands, 604 million; invitations and stationary, 217 million; cakes, 197 million.
Total increase in our gross national wedding product, 16 billion 800 million dollars, 16.8 billion dollars. My god, Steele, it‘s a stimulus package.
Not only am I surprised you are trying to kill it as a drain on small businesses. But at these rates, I‘m shocked you Republicans didn‘t try to make it mandatory.
As usual, he is Michael, hey I just thought of this, Steele. And he is so wrong as to be laughable.
The stationers of America, as we move further and further away from the printed page, they are dropping like flies. You‘re going to sell them on the new revitalized GOP by explaining to them how great banning same sex marriage is for small business. By the way, they can‘t have the 217 million dollars more a year that same-sex weddings would bring them?
It‘s genius, genius, I tells ya.
In fact, there is such a fabulous brain pulsing under that notable Steele skull I‘m sure this is just the start of social issues which he can camouflage as economics without thinking the whole thing 100 percent of the way. Well, thinking it through 75 percent -- 50 -- at all.
For instance, we in the Republican party should oppose increased spending on education because if you have a better educated American kid, think how much more hiring him will cost America‘s small business man in the future. We in the GOP say, keep them stupid. They cost less that way. I mean, McDonald‘s must be doing something right.
We cannot engage Iran or these other evil-doers, of course. My goodness, don‘t you understand, without war there are no military procurement contracts. How then do you expect small business to thrive in this country if the small businessmen cannot dream of become somebody like the next Halliburton or Blackwater USA guy?
Think of the savings if we just eliminated government altogether, no taxes, no fees of any kind. Ehhh, maybe a parking permit, a little tag you could wear on your trunks for the municipal swimming pool. Imagine if everybody got to keep 99.9 percent of their income. Now, admittedly, the power grid would collapse within hours, and crime would quadruple by midnight. And we‘d be invaded by every nation up to and including Liechtenstein before Friday.
You don‘t think there would be a zero tolerance policy on government would do the Republicans wonders at the polls?
Lastly, of course, there is the one specious argument Mr. Steele seems to be making without trying, why bother to spend money searching for thoughtful leaders or candidates for the Republican party? I mean, sure, there are disadvantages to shrinking the GOP to the dimensions and the geographic scope of the American Independent Party that George Wallace led 40 years ago. But think of the savings.
This wouldn‘t be one of those silly Karl Rove permanent Republican majority promises, ludicrous and never to be fulfilled. The Michael Steele permanent Republican minority, all you need for that is to get rid of all those expensive real Republican leaders and get some egomaniacal clowns who would do it for peanuts, just for the publicity, to lead the way like, you know, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Michael Steele.
Oh, yes, you‘re doing that already. They‘d be worth 16.8 billion dollars a year to the economy. But same-sex marriage would hurt small business. What the --
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,209th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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