Guests: Richard Wolffe, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Erich Muller
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking tomorrow?
Enough: Even Republican Senator John Cornyn has had it with the attacks on Sonia Sotomayor from Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.
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SEN. JOHN CORNYN, ® TEXAS: Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials. I just don‘t think it‘s appropriate. I certainly don‘t endorse it. I think it‘s wrong.
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OLBERMANN: Naturally, when actual Republicans tell “Mr. Bouncy Bouncy” to shut up, he responds by yelling louder—today, comparing Judge Sotomayor to a disgraced ex-KKK leader.
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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That‘s what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke.
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OLBERMANN: But why? Why get vicious and racial?
“National Review‘s” John Derbyshire explains his story of disadvantaged youth didn‘t get him nominated to the Supreme Court. Well, maybe if you‘d wound up a lawyer instead of a blogger.
Call my bluff: Dick Cheney still insists there are classified memos proving torture saved lives. Senator Carl Levin now says he has seen those memos and they “say nothing about number of lives saved, nor do they connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques.”
“So,” Levin concludes, “let‘s declassify those memos, Dick.”
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NARRATOR: Call your senator to say “no” to same-sex marriage.
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OLBERMANN: You kind of misspelled marriage there, thus redefining it.
And the great Mancow-Olbermann conspiracy: A not too bright gossip site notes, “This was not textbook waterboarding. Therefore it was all a scam.”
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ERICH “MANCOW” MULLER, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: I don‘t want to say this. I do not want to say this. Absolutely torture. Absolutely. I mean, that‘s drowning.
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OLBERMANN: A conspiracy, so Mancow could get to deny his own beliefs, throw his friend Hannity under the bus, face the blowback from the right, and get less publicity that he would have gotten if he‘d said it was torture? Wow! Great conspiracy theory.
Joining us again tonight: Erich “Mancow” Muller.
All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
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MULLER: I would have said anything to make it stop.
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OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Quoting one GOP operative careful scrutiny, “Yes, a holy war against her, Judge Sotomayor, not unless your name is Rush, Rove or Huckabee, none of whom votes in the United States Senate.”
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: The GOP smear campaign against the Supreme Court judge nominee morphing into an intra-party war, Republican versus Republican. Two-thirds of party insiders, including Senator Cornyn, RNC Chair Steele and columnists Charles Krauthammer and Peggy Noonan—all saying, “Enough is enough.” The rest is responding, it‘s our party and we‘ll hate if we want to.
Day four to the Sotomayor nomination story, the day the Republican Party started to implode—again. Sixty-four percent of those Republican political insiders surveyed by “The National Journal” are saying, “Don‘t fight the Sotomayor nomination, it is not politically smart.”
Senator Cornyn of Texas, a member of the judiciary committee, telling National Public Radio that it is time for Republicans who are not elected official, like, say, Limbaugh and Gingrich, to butt-out.
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CORNYN: I think it‘s terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent. Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials. I just don‘t think it‘s appropriate. I certainly don‘t endorse it. I think it‘s wrong.
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OLBERMANN: Republican Party chair, Michael Steele, guest-hosting Bill Bennett‘s radio show this morning and repeatedly saying the Republicans should be hailing the historic nature of President Obama‘s pick for the Supreme Court, adding that the GOP needs to stop slamming and ramming on Judge Sotomayor.
“Washington Post” columnist Krauthammer warning his fellow right-wingers to stop their conservative attacks, quote, “What should a principled conservative do? Use the upcoming hearings not to deny her the seat, but to illuminate her views. The argument should be elevated, respectful and entirely about judicial philosophy.”
Peggy Noonan adding that it‘s time to leave child‘s play behind, or at
least pretend to, quote, “Let‘s play grown-up. When I was a child, that‘s
what we said when we ran out of things to do like playing potsie or
throwing rocks in the vacant lot. You‘d go in and take your father‘s hat
and your mother‘s purse and walk around saying, ‘Would you like tea?‘
In retrospect, we weren‘t imitating parents but parents on TV who wore pearls and suits. But the point is, we amused ourselves trying to be little adults. And that‘s what the GOP should do right now: play grown-up.”
Close up enough for most, unattainable for some. We join megalomania today already in progress.
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LIMBAUGH: I don‘t need lectures from any columnist or any commentator on TV about decorum. The real question here that needs to be asked and nobody on our side—from a columnist to a TV commentator or anybody in our party—has the guts to ask: How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That‘s what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.
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OLBERMANN: “Mr. Bouncy Bouncy,” believing Judge Sotomayor is comparable to the former chief of the Ku Klux Klan for her comments about race and gender—presumably also branding Justice Sandra Day O‘Connor as the equivalent of a KKK leader; she said something similar to what Sotomayor did. She said it in 1981.
In an interview then with “The Ladies Home Journal” soon after she was appointed, Justice O‘Connor having said, quote, “I bring to the court the perspective of a woman primarily in the sense that I am female, just as I am white, a college graduate, et cetera. Yes, I will bring the understanding of a woman to court. But I doubt that that alone will affect my decisions.”
Oddly, the only real hits on Judge Sotomayor today on this issue, is coming from the White House itself, which seemed to be behind the curve. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs—possibly not having read the entirety of Sotomayor‘s remarks in 2001 -- saying this afternoon that the judge used a poor choice of words when she suggested a Latina might reach a better conclusion than a white male in a given case. He would not elaborate.
In an interview with Brian Williams, his boss, the president, did elaborate, making it clear he has read the entire speech.
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PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I‘m sure she would have restated it, but if you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what‘s clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through, that will make her a good judge.
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OLBERMANN: The president‘s comments coming at the end of a week of nonstop, albeit baseless attacks on the nominee, Judge Sotomayor, attacks from all—mostly white, mostly male—comers.
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GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK HOST: They‘re just like, “Hey, Hispanic chick lady, you‘re empathetic? She says, “Yup!” They say, “You‘re in!”
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Is she the most activist nominee in the history of the court? This president who promised to unite the country during the campaign has selected the most divisive nominee possible.
ANNOUNCER: As racial allegations surface and controversy spreads over her reputation, what‘s the truth about Obama‘s nominee?
BECK: She is a Marxist. The quote in the—in her yearbook at Princeton is from a socialist.
KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH SR. ADVISOR: I‘m not really certain how intellectually strong she will be. You know, people familiar who are familiar with the workings in the court said that she is combative, opinionated, argumentative.
She‘s not going to be somebody who‘s going to bring broad intellectual powers.
FRED BARNES, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you can make the case that she‘s one of those who has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously.
BILL BENNETT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Maybe so. Did she get into Princeton on affirmative action, one wonders.
BARNES: One wonders.
BECK: I don‘t know if this is true or not. This is one piece of analysis that I heard today. She‘s not that intellectually bright and she‘s almost a bully, she just loves to hear herself talk.
WENDY LONG, JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION NETWORK: As a Latina woman, she said, “I think as a Latina woman, I‘d make better decisions than a white man.” It‘s offensive. It‘s racist. It‘s sexist.
ANN COULTER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It is a racist statement.
LOU DOBBS, THE LOU DOBBS SHOW: That‘s racist.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: That‘s a racist statement.
BECK: I don‘t like the charges of, “Oh, you‘re a racist, they‘re racists. Very few people are racists. There are racists and they‘re bad people, but most Americans are good, just decent people and I hate the charges and cries of racism. I think the woman is a racist. She sure sounds like a racist. I think she‘s racist.
FMR. REP. TOM TANCREDO, ® COLORADO: If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is from my point of view any way just nothing more than a Latino—it‘s a counterpart, it‘s a Latino KKK without the hoods and—or the nooses. If you belong to something like that, you have to explain that in a way that‘s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it‘s got nothing to do with race.
LIMBAUGH: Here you have a racist. She‘s an angry woman. She‘s got -
she‘s a bigot. She‘s a racist. A woman as a judge makes a blatantly racist bigoted comment; she is rewarded with a promotion to the Supreme Court. How do you get promoted in the Barack Obama administration? By hating white people.
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OLBERMANN: Glenn Beck questioning somebody‘s intellect.
Time now to call in our own political analyst, Richard Wolffe.
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I hate to make you follow that, but let‘s switch off here now to the White House reaction here today. The press office is now saying the judge used a poor choice of words in her being a Latina and the judge‘s comments. If the president is saying she would have restated her remarks if given another opportunity, do we expect the judge to speak to this herself now? And in doing this, did the White House not just put her on the spot for no particular reason?
WOLFFE: Well, let‘s just separate what is a normal, rational conversation and debate from what we‘ve just heard. You know, it‘s always wonderful hearing people being outraged about race when they think—oh, I don‘t know, Barack the magic negro is funny, for instance.
WOLFFE: So, let‘s just set the freak show to one side for a minute and say, “Look, there is no question that, given another opportunity, Judge Sotomayor would not be saying the kinds of provocative things she just said and apologizing for them or saying that they were a poor choice of words.” These are very small thing to give up here.
This isn‘t a legislative negotiation. This is someone who will be confirmed. Barring something really unexpected in her personal life story, this is someone who is going to sail through.
So, looking reasonable here and setting the freak show out even more to an extreme is ultimately helpful. But it‘s not about caving, it‘s about being normal, I think.
OLBERMANN: But, having said that, Justice O‘Connor said something between them, certainly Justice O‘Connor and Justice Alito and even Justice Scalia have said things very similar, certainly among them they create a quote or series of quotes very similar to what Sotomayor said in 2001.
Hasn‘t the White House—if the White House hasn‘t caved on this important point, they‘re not—they‘re not fighting the battle on it? Is that—is that the issue here?
WOLFFE: Right. Yes, and I don‘t think they need to fight a battle or want to fight a battle when it comes down to these fake charges of racism. If you look at what she actually said, one piece of it is absolutely reasonable and anyone would say the same thing—which is that a judge is a human being and they bring their life experiences to everything they do. There‘s no sort of “Star Trek” brain in a bottle somewhere that‘s making these judicial judgments.
Where her problem comes in is that she compared her judgment to a white male, and really, you just want to take cultural politics off the table. Frankly, it didn‘t work in the early ‘90s. It‘s not going to work now. But why create additional problems when, really, she‘s going to sail through.
OLBERMANN: I think we had a Captain Pike reference in there.
Republican against Republican on this—about a nomination that, as you point out, almost everyone agrees in both parties going to succeed any way. The more reasonable conservatives are saying, make this speech—I borrow a certain phrase—a teachable moment. Might the White House politically, in terms of letting the other side create its own cave-in, would they have been better served to let the fight go on a little longer?
WOLFFE: Well, I think the fight is going to carry on any way because the tone is so outrageous. I mean, never mind Glenn Beck and everyone else, but the idea that Karl Rove is saying, he doesn‘t like people who are bullies? Excuse me. Did I miss the last eight years?
Let that play out. That‘s the teachable moment and it will any way. The question here is: What‘s the definition of activist? Apparently, you‘re only an activist if you have an opinion on the other side of the political divide. I think that‘s another teachable moment that will be fascinating to watch.
OLBERMANN: And don‘t forget, you‘re a socialist if you quoted Norman Thomas, who said, “I am not a champion of lost causes but of causes not yet won,” which is just this side of “burn, baby, burn,” I suppose.
WOLFFE: You‘re right. Exactly.
OLBERMANN: Your new book, “Renegade: The Making of a President” hits bookstore shelves—I was going to say bookshelves—on Monday. I guess that‘s also true. What kind of sneak preview can you give us of this and who suggested you should write this book?
WOLFFE: Well I‘d love to say it was a genius idea on my part. But, actually, there was this guy on the plane I was traveling with, who liked the Teddy White books and said, “Maybe, I should do something similar.” I told him he was wrong and he turned out to win the election. His name is Barack Obama.
So, it was his idea and, you know, I‘ll be talking a lot more about it, lots of news in it on “The Today Show” on Monday. But, it‘s a story about who he is and what he represents. It‘s his campaign and his biography. So, it‘s really a guide book to the kind of person who ended up being the 44th president of the United States.
OLBERMANN: I cut my teeth on the Teddy White books. I hope you get half of what he got accomplished. It‘d be a lot.
Richard Wolffe, the book is “Renegade,” we, of course, wish you the best of luck with the it and we‘ll have you back on Monday to talk more extensively about it. Have a good weekend.
WOLFFE: Yes, please. Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A cursory look at the nominees for the high court over the years suggests the last one who was not personally attacked might have been Harlan Fisk Stone in 1925. So, the attacks on Sotomayor are not a surprise. Their tone, they‘re seemingly self-destructive nature for those who make them is, though.
The latest and the latest hint to what this is really about, a right-wing writer, a white male, who says he, too, grew up in a projects, his mother worked extra hours as a nurse. So, why isn‘t anybody sympathetically listening to his story? I‘m just guessing here, maybe the fact that in his entire life, the amount of racism to which he‘d been subjected is still, in total, probably less than Sonia Sotomayor experienced today.
OLBERMANN: Is there an endgame for the far-right‘s far-out racial and gender-based venom against Judge Sotomayor or is it just white male rage? Lawrence O‘Donnell next.
Then Cheney‘s proof documents, ones he says must be declassified because they show torture stopped terrorism. Senator Carl Levin says he has seen them and they say no such thing.
Worsts: He‘s the mayor, he‘s irreplaceable—don‘t you dare ask him if maybe he‘s not.
And the phony charge of the conspiracy to hoax in the waterboarding of Mancow, which actually hides a real conspiracy to dilute the impact of what he said when he was waterboarded. He‘ll join us.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Their attacks are personal, often times amazingly juvenile. In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: The poor-me conservative flank also seems to be exceedingly angry about Judge Sonia Sotomayor‘s nomination to the Supreme Court regarding her life story.
For instance, John Derbyshire of “National Review Online” responding to a reader, making a similar gripe, writes this, “I get might annoyed by the outspoken implication in a lot of commentary that anyone not a member of a protected minority must have grown up in a 12-bedrom lakeside mansion and been chauffeured off to prep school with a silver soon in his mouth. Judge Sotomayor was raised in public housing? So was I. Her mother was a nurse working late shifts? So was mine.
When did white working poor people disappear off the face of the earth? Where are the eager listeners to their compelling stories?”
Well, maybe, if you‘d faced racism and taunting and you‘d become a lawyer and a judge, and been nominated to the Supreme Court, they‘d be listening. Instead, you overcame semi-adversity to become a blogger.
Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst, “Huffington Post” contributor, Lawrence O‘Donnell.
Lawrence, good evening.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you Keith.
OLBERMANN: The opposition is not tough to figure. It‘s not even inappropriate in this case. But it‘s this personal venom, those who are using it—do we have any idea what they see as the best possible result of using it?
O‘DONNELL: Well, so far, none of them have votes on the judiciary committee. And so, this is really—in Rush‘s case—obviously, it‘s about audience maintenance and audience building in a period that‘s difficult for him. You know, so, his approach has nothing to do with actually trying to be effective. Newt Gingrich is trying to position himself as the heir to the right-wing base in the Republican Party for a presidential run—which already seems ill-fated right from the start.
So, there‘s—what you don‘t find in the noisy screaming opposition at this point is anyone who has any serious input as to what the outcome is going to be. And by the way, Rush‘s own prediction every day about what the outcome is going to be .
O‘DONNELL: . is that she is effortlessly going to be confirmed.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Does playing this kind of race card, gender card help Republicans next year by painting Obama as sort of a clearinghouse for minorities and a minority-favoring president, setting some sort of stage for what maybe they hope for a lot of scared white people, to put it bluntly, in 2010, in 2012?
O‘DONNELL: Well, scared white people, which was code-worded as the “Southern strategy” in the Republican Party invented by Richard Nixon and pushed by Pat Buchanan and the Nixon crowd, is something that they firmly believed worked for them at that time and worked for them going through the ‘70s and ‘80s into the Reagan election.
They have now come up against—if they‘re going to try to continue to use this strategy—they‘ve come up against the greatest politician in the television age. Barack Obama is the best politician we have seen since the invention of television.
The notion that you could make that old-fashioned strategy work against someone like him, who‘s about 10 times smarter than all the strategists combined who have worked on that “Southern strategy,” is absolutely ridiculous. He‘s not going to stand there in one position waiting to get hit with these labels by those people.
OLBERMANN: When we‘ll watch the confirmation hearings, you‘ll see the Republicans obviously, will be the picture of propriety, we heard some of that from John Cornyn today, who seemingly, sincerely attacked Gingrich and Limbaugh. But is the plan—let the non-elected people talk about the race and the divisiveness so the senators can say, “Oh, no, we didn‘t do anything, we tried to stop this”?
O‘DONNELL: I really think Cornyn has a problem. I don‘t think he likes the idea that these people are out there doing this. He has to raise money for Republican candidates. He has to get Republican candidates elected. Anyone who‘s in the business of getting Republican candidates elected does not like the noise that‘s being made against this nominee.
What we‘re going to see in the hearings, Keith, in a certain way is the invisible hand of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who chose Judge Sotomayor in the first place. In 1992, I was working for Senator Moynihan at that time when she came in to the office and he met her for the very first time.
And what he saw then was someone he could actually get confirmed and approved by a Republican president in the middle of the Republican president‘s re-election campaign because she was so powerful a candidate and because she was going to hold her own so well in the confirmation process—which she has now done twice. She will deliver a stellar performance in that hearing room, and the criticism will fall apart.
OLBERMANN: So party moderates are trying to expand this party, Limbaugh and others yell louder. What is the future of the Republican Party if everybody wakes up on Monday and it did not—it wasn‘t some sort of great cosmic interruption of the time space continuum and it is not, on Monday morning, the year 1952 again?
O‘DONNELL: They‘re lost, Keith. Every once in a while, these parties get lost. The Democrats got lost and wiped out in 1994 in the congressional elections—and believe me, I was working in the Senate at that time, and we kind of looked up and didn‘t know where we were. What happened was impossible.
The election of Barack Obama was impossible—according to all Republican calculations involving any kind of electoral politics that they understood. They do not know where to go from here, and he is continuing to deliver things that they can‘t figure out how to counter.
The Sotomayor nomination is perhaps the most perfect thing he has set up for them to destroy themselves over, if they want to continue to make the kinds of noises, ugly noises, that people in their party have been allowed to make about this.
OLBERMANN: Lawrence O‘Donnell of MSNBC and “The Huffington Post”—thank you, sir. Have a good weekend.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As the guy at the bar said in Hitchcock‘s movie, “The Birds,” it‘s the end of the world. Duck.
And, race and gender and reverse racism are not enough for G. Gordon Liddy. He goes after Judge Sotomayor for her menstruation cycle.
Worst Persons is ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment. If you ever wanted to join Cal Thomas on a slow boat to China, here‘s your chance.
First, on this day in 1917 was born John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Before you suggest we need to stop thinking he would have been such-and-such years old, remember his mother, Rose, lived to be 104 ½. President Kennedy would have been 92 today.
Let‘s play Oddball.”
And we take you now to London, where city planners are evidently grappling with a great deal of rubbish. They come up with a brilliant incentive for people to throw away their trash, bunnies. That‘s right. Nearly human-sized plastic rabbits—that‘s not one of them, that‘s the designer. The monstrosity right there, its ears light up when litter is thrown in to its basket.
The bunnies will be placed all around London‘s Covent Garden and Holland Park for a four-month trial period. Those special receptacles were created by Paul Smith, the fashion designer. Because nothing speaks fashion like big, green trash cans full of bunnies and trash with glowing orange ears.
In Dallas Police Headquarters, where officials are under siege from airborne culprit, the birds! From a Hitchcock nightmare—no, these suspects are two mockingbirds. Their nest is just yards from where the men in blue enter and while 30 officers have been pecked, so far, the worst—that seems to have been reserved for one intrepid reporter.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Holy—geez!
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OLBERMANN: Homer Viafranca (ph) just trying his best to cover a story without peck or pooh.
Carl Levin called Dick Cheney‘s bluff. The senator says he‘s seen the memos the ex-V.P. thinks justify torture and they don‘t.
And, why is somebody trying to discredit the Chicago radio personality who decided to test his belief that waterboarding wasn‘t torture and had the guts to say he was wrong? These stories ahead.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s Top Three Best Persons in the World.
Number three: Best thief. The individual who stole a passport from the travel bag of a Scottish tourist in Milford Sound, New Zealand and raced off with it into the dense Fiordland rainforest. The individual was a parrot.
The victim had the presence of mind to say, “My passport is some where out there in Fiordland, the parrot is probably using it for fraudulent claims or something.” A parrot with a passport, pining for Fiordland.
Number two: Best unintentional joke. Actor Craig T. Nelson appearing yesterday with Howard Hill—I‘m sorry, Glenn Beck, insisting the auto manufacturers should have been bailed out by the government, they should have been allowed to go bankrupt, quote, “I go into business, I don‘t make it, I go bankrupt. They‘re not going to bail me out. I‘ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No. No.”
What do you think the food stamps and the welfare were, if not help from the government? You think those things fell from the sky, buddy?
But our winner, best real life version of the S.S. Minnow, another specialty cruise has been announced, the Holland America Noordam, sailing the Mediterranean and the Adriatic. And you better keep a simple tongue in your head when talking to the good captain. Guests who pay between 2,500 and 7,000 bucks per person to sail away with Karl Rove, Dick Morris, Tony Blankley, Cal Thomas, Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Kato Beirne and Rich Lowry and other conservatives.
The advertisement reads, “It‘s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, why not experience it yourself?” Just like the passengers on Titanic experienced it.
Can‘t you just stay on land and listen to these guys without paying 2,500 bucks? Wouldn‘t you get just as nauseous? By the way, that last special guest, Rich Lowry, he‘s the one who got all hot and bothered when he thought Sarah Palin had winked at him during the vice presidential debate last year. She might want to stay away from his cabin.
OLBERMANN: Four months after leaving office, former President Bush has joined his former vice president campaign to defend their torture of people held in U.S. custody. His exact words presently—our third story tonight—Mr. Bush‘s defense predicated on the claim that torture worked, that torture yielded life-saving information unattainable any other way. This excuse which is explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, which General Petraeus said today the U.S. violated. This excuse is not only morally bankrupt, but as we understand more fully today—flatly untrue.
Mr. Bush speaking last night in Michigan, speaking the night before publication of a remarkable anecdotal account of American interrogation methods about which more in a moment. And speaking almost simultaneously with another speaker, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, the armed services chairman, revealing that he, too, like former Vice President Cheney knows what is in the two top secret CIA document that Mr. Cheney assures us will prove his claim and Mr. Bush‘s claim that torture, necessary torture saved American lives.
Senator Levin asserting in no uncertain terms the CIA documents say no such thing, such as secret info could not back up the Bush-Cheney lie about Iraqi WMD, just as secret info could not back up the Bush-Cheney lie about Iraq ties to al Qaeda, so too clearly secret info will not back up the Bush-Cheney lie that torture worked.
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SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) MICHIGAN: Mr. Cheney had said that the use of abusive techniques, quote, “prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of innocent lives,” closed quote. Mr. Cheney‘s claims are directly contrary to the judgment of our FBI director, Robert Mueller, that no attacks on America were disrupted due to intelligence obtained through the use of those techniques. Mr. Cheney has also claimed that the release of classified documents would prove his view that the techniques worked.
But those classified documents say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified so that people can judge for themselves what is fact and what is fiction.
(END VIDEO CLIP0
OLBERMANN: Of course, we already know fact from fiction about torture and a remarkable new article by Bobby Ghosh for “Time” magazine, posted online less than 24 hours after last night two speeches, offers heart-rending evidence directly in the face of the Bush-Cheney claim that torture was needed to obtain actionable intelligence.
At first, Bush and Cheney told us that Abu Zubaydah only started talking after waterboarding—a lie, he stopped talking after waterboarding. Before he was waterboarded, Zubaydah responded to traditional legal interrogations, by giving up not only so-called dirty bomber Jose Padilla but also Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
And how they get Zubaydah? As we learned last night from the preview of Ghosh‘s report, FBI agent Ali Soufan went to Yemen a week after 9/11 to interrogate bin Laden bodyguard Abu Jandal, already in prison there. The turning point for getting him to talk was giving the diabetic prisoner sugar-free cookie cookies.
Jandal also identified Mohammed Atta and six other 9/11 hijackers as members of al Qaeda, because the FBI had not told him that al Qaeda was behind 9/11. And when they told him that, when he believed al Qaeda had killed 200 of his countrymen working in the World Trade Center, he was—in Soufan‘s words—completely shattered.
Matthew Alexander is the pseudonym of a military interrogator who questioned more than 300 people in Iraq, including a militant Sunni imam tied to al Qaeda in Iraq. The first thing the imam said, to Alexander was, quote, “If I had a knife right now, I‘d slit your throat.” Alexander then got him to the reveal the location of a safe house for suicide bombers where they found another al Qaeda operative who in turn gave up Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.
How did Alexander get that intel that landed the biggest terrorist in Iraq? He asked the imam why he wanted to slit his throat. The imam said the U.S. invasion had empowered local Shiites who then forced his family from their home.
Here‘s what Alexander did next, quote, “I said, ‘Look, I‘m an American. I don‘t want to say how sorry I am that we made so many mistakes in your country.‘” The American apologized to the terrorist. From Ghosh‘s article, the imam‘s response, quote, “The imam, Alexander says, broke down in tears.”
Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Jose Padilla, Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi all captured or killed, thanks to traditional, legal, smart interrogation. Ibn al-Sheik al-Libi on the other hand, was tortured after the CIA shipped him up to Egypt. His story of Iraq/al Qaeda ties was then used by Bush and Cheney to sell their war until al-Libi recanted and said he lied just to stop the torture.
This what Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told the Red Cross about this waterboarding, quote, “During the harshest period of my interrogation, I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill treatment stop. I later told the interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I‘m sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make the ill treatment stop wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red alerts being placed in the U.S.”
As promised, Mr. Bush‘s exact word last night describing his response to the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, March 2003, quote, “The first thing you do is ask what‘s legal? What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, ‘I‘ve done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.‘ I can tell you that the information we got saved lives.”
Except you only ask what‘s legal and what‘s possible if you start with the premise that what you should do might not be. If you begged a real question that a real commander in chief would ask, the question any American would ask, truly concerned about America‘s safety that day—what you do, Mr. President, is you ask, “What works?”
For the most valuable sidelights on torture, the waterboarding of an ordinary Chicago radio personality now being dismissed by Internet gossips because the publicist used the word “hoax” to describe it. I don‘t know, it looked like real water to me. Mancow joins us.
Worsts: I‘d have just enough out of this guy and just enough out of him abusing reporters, to saying nothing of abusing the will of the voters.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, are you smarter than an eighth grader? Rachel Maddow versus the National Spelling Bee champion.
OLBERMANN: New York‘s mayor attacks another reporter then apologizes, not personally, of course, he had staffer do it. Carrie Prejean‘s anti-same-sex marriage group rolls out a commercial and misspells marriage. And Gordon Liddy starts talking about the menstrual cycle of a Supreme Court nominee. Worsts Persons ahead.
And then, it‘s all got all the elements of a conspiracy except motive, evidence, logic and outcome—in defense of Mancow. Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The great Mancow conspiracy, the Sherlock Holmes of gossip Web site concludes that because it was not a textbook waterboarding, it must have been a scam. Even though the result of the supposed scam was he had to admit his opinion on waterboarding was incorrect. Mancow joins us next.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story—tonight‘s Worst Persons in the World.
The bronze: Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City made a deal with city council to overturn not one but two votes by city residents so he could run for a third term, in spite of term limits, on the premise that the city could not afford to have his financial expertise right now.
Yesterday, the mayor announced he was now very optimistic about New York‘s economic recovery, so a reporter from “The New York Observer” asked him the logical follow-up question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If the economy is turning around, as you said, does that mean that the rationale for extending term limits, which is the fiscal challenge—
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: I don‘t know why, if we have just get to the serious questions here.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No, but the question is—
BLOOMBERG: The rationale for extending term limits is the city council voted it and the public is going to have a chance on November 3rd to say what they want. And I don‘t think we have to keep coming back to that. When you have a serious question about the economy, I‘ll be happy to answer it.
Anything else? Thank you very much. Nothing else?
OLBERMANN: That‘s a mayor who overrode two public votes so he could run for a third term calling somebody else a disgrace. Later, the mayor had a staffer apologized to this, the third reporter with whom he‘s had a run in this year, he didn‘t had any staffer apologized.
Once again, a New York City mayor with a messiah complex who thinks we cannot survive without him.
The runners-up: The National Organization for Marriage running a hate ad around the country that ends thusly—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Call your senator to say “no” to same-sex marriage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Talk about redefining traditional marriage, you bozos misspelled the word “marriage.” By the way, this is the outfit that hooked up with Carrie Prejean. Apparently, she IS proofreading their ads for them. Sorry.
But our winner: G. Gordon Liddy, a few months from entering his sixth decade of degrading our society, saying on his radio show, “I understand that they found out today that Miss Sotomayor is a member of La Raza, which means in illegal alien, ‘the race.‘ That should not surprise anyone because she‘s already on record with a number of racist comments. Let‘s hope that the key conferences are not when she‘s menstruating or something, or just before she‘s going to menstruate. That would be really bad. The Lord knows what we would give then.”
Well, granting Mr. Liddy that his psychosis is actually reality, obviously, under those circumstances we would get G. Gordon Liddy—today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: If you believe waterboarding was not torture and you wanted to run some scam or hoax to sell your point of view, wouldn‘t you fake being waterboarded yourself, rig something up so it would look like you were nearly drowning when in reality, you were not taking in water at all? Wouldn‘t you then announce waterboarding is not torture? I mean, the publicity yield would be enormous and you‘d probably get a kiss from Dick Cheney.
But in our number one story tonight: There is a bizarre conspiracy theory out there tonight about the waterboarding of Erich “Mancow” Muller, on which we first showed you a week ago. Yet its premise is that there was some kind of conspiracy to keep Mancow from really being waterboarded, a conspiracy that also demanded he would have to admit he was wrong and waterboarding was indeed torture. He joins us in a moment.
This is being pitched by an anonymous e-mailer at a gossip Web site called Gawker, and the premise is that because the Chicago radio personality, Mancow, was not tilted at the precise prescribed angle of waterboarding and the ex-marine doing the waterboarding admits he never waterboarded anybody before, that, right there, is not waterboarding. And thus, quote, “Mancow‘s waterboarding was completely fake,” unquote, even though that is 12 ounces of water going up his nose and his mouth and into his throat and lungs in six seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERICH “MANCOW” MULLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don‘t want to say this. I don‘t want to say this. Absolutely torture. Absolutely. I mean, that‘s drowning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Hours before we were to interview Mancow, in Tuesday of this week, we were forward anonymously an e-mail chain originating with his publicist, who was apparently desperately trying to find somebody to perform the waterboarding.
When somebody offered a name, she wrote and replied, “You are a rock star. It is going to have to look ‘real‘ but, of course, would be simulated with Mancow acting like he is drowning. It will be a hoax but have to look real. Would be great if they could dress in fatigues and bring whatever is needed. We will supply the water.”
There it is. The only actual evidence that this was somehow not legit, one use of the word “hoax” in an e-mail. Nevertheless, when our staff got those emails, we did all the due diligence and then some. We contacted the publicist. She repeatedly and profoundly assured us that was just a bad choice of words and he‘d trying to find somebody at the last minute to participate.
We contacted the waterboarder, we left him messages, we verified his charity and his military record, independently. We spoke to Mancow himself. We reviewed the waterboarding tape repeatedly for any sign of fraud, and we concluded that the people involved here would not have pulled a stunt that would have besmirched a charity for the families of soldiers called Valor for Veterans.
If our perspective here had been political or sloppy, we wouldn‘t have checked anything—you know, the way the Web site did it. After we had Mancow on the air and he was gracious. And he admitted again, waterboarding was torture and then he now didn‘t know whether or not you could trust answers produced by it and he was legit, those e-mails were then sent to the Web site Gawker, which immediately printed them, branded the whole thing a hoax and whose investigative writer, John Cook, took time out from the site‘s normal topics, “Which ‘80s Queen Used to Cruise the Lower East Side for Young Latino Boy Flesh?” to e-mail me and ask, “Do you have any comment regarding the fact that your program promoted what turns out to have been a fake waterboarding?”
Yes, yes, I do. I have three comments. One, there was no faking. Two, it did occur to you right that the person who sent you the e-mails probably wanted to see Mancow‘s conversion discredited because the far-right can‘t have somebody it considered its own dramatically saying it was wrong. And so, somebody played your Web site like a $3 banjo for political purposes?
And three, if you‘re actually the investigative writer for Gawker, I‘d recommend telling as few people as possible.
Joining us again from Chicago, the host of his own morning radio show on WLS there: Mancow.
MULLER: Well, you and I are odd bedfellows. We don‘t want to be—we don‘t want to be in this situation, trust me, folks.
OLBERMANN: It is rather remarkable.
MULLER: You know, it is so insane. This guy called me and no matter what I said, he wouldn‘t listen. He had an agenda. That‘s it.
And I lose, Keith. I lose and I lose and I lose on this. The far right is mad at me because I said it was torture. The left is mad at me because—well, I don‘t know they‘re always mad at me. So, I can‘t—I can‘t win here.
But what about the truth? It doesn‘t matter. It doesn‘t—the truth has been lost here.
Let me tell you, the CIA is very specific. Head back, water in the nose and mouth. Did you have a cover? What kind of clothes were you wearing, were your hands chained? You weren‘t in prison. Was this an official interrogator? I admit it. It was a stupid radio stunt.
But waterboarding, all it is water in your nose and mouth with your head back. Look at the video. I‘m not David Copperfield. We had 50 news cameras there for goodness sake. This is—yes, go ahead.
OLBERMANN: Explain—the one thing in here that has apparently led to all this .
OLBERMANN: . is the use of the word “hoax” in your publicist‘s e-mail.
MULLER: Right. Well .
OLBERMANN: Explain that.
MULLER: Well, here‘s the deal. It‘s selective. You have to understand something. Citadel, my parent company, ABC, Talk Radio Network, building security, the Chicago cops came and said, “You can‘t waterboard. You cannot do this.” Oh, we‘re not, we‘re not.”
They—and also the word stunt, it is a radio stunt—hoax, stunt. And this thing took on a life of its own. I didn‘t think it was any big deal. She didn‘t think it was any big deal. We were going to prove that it was nothing. You see what happened.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I know.
MULLER: They‘re picking—they‘re picking and choosing. You know, you know, I‘ll tell you how sick this is. This is an awful analogy but it‘s all I can come up with. It‘s like saying that Mike Tyson‘s daughter really didn‘t hang herself because she wasn‘t in the gallows, she didn‘t have the official rope, it wasn‘t official.
I don‘t, I mean, I don‘t—
MULLER: This was a marine that had two purple hearts who leaned me back and waterboarded me.
OLBERMANN: And, by the way, and has a charity whose reputation he has to preserve and protect, by the way.
MULLER: But the agenda, there‘s dark forces behind us. I really believe this. Forget the truth. A lot of people, Democrat and Republican alike, have banked on this not being torture.
Now look, as I‘ve said, and you and I disagree on this—you know, I‘ve got my daughters—I‘ve got my daughters wandering around here. Would I waterboard somebody, pulled off the battlefield, some enemy combatant to save a life? Yes. Were these marines doing this for their jollies, Keith Olbermann, I don‘t believe so.
OLBERMANN: No, I don‘t believe so, either.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t think anybody was doing it for jollies. I think they were told it was going to work and it didn‘t.
But that‘s—let me get back to this so we can knock down this conspiracy theory.
OLBERMANN: I‘m trying to figure what—do you have any idea what your motive would have been to set up a conspiracy which resulted in you saying, “I was wrong about this”? I mean, it seems like a really bad conspiracy.
MULLER: Keith, it‘s Scott McClellan, it‘s anyone that doesn‘t go party line and I am so sick of this in America. And I‘ll tell you what, I think America‘s with me on this. I‘m left, I‘m right, I‘m left, I‘m the king of all media. I got (INAUDIBLE) alone from God.
I‘m this—what about the truth? What happened? What happened to Americans able to debate? This issue is huge.
I wanted to get inside it for me. I wasn‘t trying to say that this was the end all of everything. I wasn‘t trying to recreate Guantanamo Bay and what our fine military men do. This was me on the radio trying to see what it was about so that I could argue that it was not torture.
MULLER: I failed, and now everyone‘s mad at me. I‘m sorry, I can‘t go party line.
OLBERMANN: And you have—you have taken heat for saying waterboarding is torture?
MULLER: Oh, come on. Land of the free, I give you the land of the lemmings. You say whatever your party tells you to say. Left-wing radio says what they‘re supposed to say, right-wing radio follows their talking points, and frankly, I‘m sick of it. How about the truth for God sake‘s, man?
OLBERMANN: I know you conceive this as just—as a radio event, as a stunt. But, you know, you mentioned truth. Sometimes, great ones come out when you least expect them.
OLBERMANN: And I‘m thinking maybe there‘s a bigger one in here that even—the original topic of waterboarding, that telling the truth even accidentally, even in a sort of small way can be very, very dangerous stuff.
MULLER: Well, they can‘t—they can‘t have me doing this, I suppose. I guess they can‘t allow this to be out there. And I‘m sorry; I always thought that‘s what it was about. I didn‘t think it was about—I mean, I bleed red, white and blue. I don‘t care about any—your political parties.
We‘ve got tough times right now. I‘m trying to help this country. I was trying to get inside the story.
Look, I do a radio show that is a diversion. OK? That‘s it. It‘s to make people laugh on their way to work. I‘m not trying to change the world here. I was trying to get inside this story and it became all this. But to say it was a hoax or that it didn‘t really happen, how do you fake that?
MULLER: I mean, honestly, how do you fake that?
MULLER: I mean, this is the lion‘s den. I hope—I hope you knew that before you tuned in, folks. This is where the angels and devils fight. But, here we go.
OLBERMANN: I would think knowing you briefly that if it were a hoax, it would have been a much better one than this one.
Mancow, Chicago‘s WLS, once again, in bizarre circumstances.
MULLER: I play—I play pranks—I play pranks all the time.
OLBERMANN: I know.
MULLER: That‘s the irony here.
OLBERMANN: And this isn‘t one of them.
OLBERMANN: All right. We find common ground again.
MULLER: This was real. OK.
OLBERMANN: All right. And say hi to your wife and daughters.
MULLER: Thank you. Wow.
MULLER: This has got to be in the Book of Revelations, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take care. Have a good weekend.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 2,220th day since the previous president declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
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