Guests: Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Rep. Ed Markey
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
General disarray: The president “unprepared,” the “wimps in the White House,” Biden, “Did you say: Bite me?” The national security adviser, a, quote, “clown.” “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke, I don‘t even want to open it.”
General Stanley McChrystal en route to the White House reportedly to offer his resignation after enough stupid quotes in “Rolling Stone” to finish a dozen generals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it‘s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor—showed poor judgment. And—but I also want to make sure I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The statement from the head of forces in Afghanistan, “I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team. I extend my sincerest apology. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve made a huge mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: McChrystal shatters. Is this military insubordination?
With Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. Is this the Douglas MacArthur of 2010?
With Jonathan Alter.
And the line of civilian authority that cannot be crossed and the necessity of the resignation of General McChrystal in tonight‘s “Special Comments.”
And the gusher plays on. Day 64, the New Orleans judge blocks the moratorium on new deepwater drilling, while the point is made by a heckler during a BP exec‘s speech in London. “We need to end the oil age.”
To the Gulf and the witness account of correspondent Kerry Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This area here—I mean, just about everywhere I look, there‘s oil on the surface, and you can smell it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And “Worsts,” guess who says he wants Lady Gaga to come to his office and drink and grab herself?
All the news and a “Special Comment” on General McChrystal—now on
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The U.S. military‘s chain of command since George Washington, has led to only one person, and since John Adams, it has led to only one place, the president and the White House.
In our fifth story: the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, traveling back to Washington at this hour, having been summoned for a meeting tomorrow with the president at the White House in the wake of a “Rolling Stone” interview in which the general was quoted as making what can only be described as derogatory comments about his commander-in-chief and others in the chain of command.
The president is saying earlier tonight he has not yet decided whether the general will be permitted to keep his job.
The president described as angry over General McChrystal‘s insubordinate remarks. How angry? Quote, “You would know it if you saw it.”
General McChrystal always having had a rocky relationship with the president sounding off on a newly published interview in “Rolling Stone” magazine, heavily assisted in his thrashing by top aides, describing his first encounter with President Obama which occurred a week after the president took office. Sources familiar with the meeting saying, quoting the magazine, “McChrystal thought Obama looked uncomfortable and intimidated by a roomful of military brass.”
About their first one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office, an adviser to McChrystal saying, quote, “Obama clearly didn‘t know anything about him, who he was. Here‘s the guy who‘s going to run his expletive war, but he didn‘t seem very engaged. The boss was pretty disappointed.”
At today‘s briefing, White House Press Secretary Gibbs responding with no small measure of snark that McChrystal will have the president‘s undivided attention tomorrow.
Back to the article, about the vice president, McChrystal having himself said with a laugh, quote, “Who‘s that?” The adviser then suggesting, quote, “Biden? Did you say: bite me?”
General McChrystal and his team also expressing contempt for the national security adviser, Jim Jones, the ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, the former ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. Only Secretary of State Clinton emerging unscathed that made the quotes.
General McChrystal today, meeting with Ambassador Eikenberry, Ambassador Holbrooke and Afghanistan‘s president, Karzai, in Kabul. But even before that meeting, the general having reached out to both ambassadors to, quote, “offer his apologies” for the article—according to the State Department‘s spokesperson, P.J. Crowley.
As for what could happen next, the most salient quote coming from the Uniform Code of Military Justice which states clearly, quote, “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense, the secretary of a military department, the secretary of transportation, or the governor of legislator of any state, territory, commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
NBC News reporting tonight that General McChrystal has not yet offered his resignation, but that he has informed his superiors he is prepared to do so.
One resignation to report thus far: Duncan Boothby, the Pentagon press officer apparently responsible for setting up the “Rolling Stone” interview today was asked to resign and did just that.
At the White House tonight, the president is saying he wants to talk with his Afghanistan commander before making the final decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: General McChrystal is on his way here. And I am going to meet with him. Secretary Gates will be meeting with him, as well. I think it‘s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared show a poor—showed poor judgment. And—but I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions. All right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
OBAMA: Let me—actually, let me make one last point about this. Even as General McChrystal is on his way here, I want everybody to keep in mind what our central focus is, and that is success in making sure that al Qaeda and its affiliates cannot attack the United States and its allies. And we‘ve got young men and women there who are making enormous sacrifices, families back home who are making enormous sacrifices.
And so, whatever decision that I make with respect to General McChrystal or any other aspect of Afghan policy is determined entirely on how I can make sure that we have a strategy that justifies the enormous courage and sacrifice that those men and women are making over there and that ultimately makes this country safer. I know Secretary Gates feels the exact same way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Lots to talk about tonight with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff at the State Department during Secretary Powell‘s tenure, currently the Pamela Harriman visiting professor at the College of William & Mary in Virginia—joining us tonight from Washington.
Colonel, good evening.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, RET., U.S. ARMY: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, it‘s insubordinate. But in military sense, does this qualify as insubordination?
WILKERSON: Keith, this reminds me of what Secretary Defense Marshall
George Marshall said after the firing of MacArthur by Truman. He said, “A military man may be made very easily to feel sorry for himself, particularly if he‘s in a disagreeable and dangerous situation in which he‘s exerted a maximum effort for a long time.”
That‘s a very good description of McChrystal, I think. Apparently, from this article, he feels beleaguered and besieged by not only our ambassador in Kabul, but the administration in Washington. I don‘t think under those circumstances he could perform very well.
Now, there‘s a bigger issue here, though. And this issue, which I think is much, much bigger than the insubordination issue, both the president and he are in sync—
WILKERSON: -- and that is that we should remain in Afghanistan.
That‘s the much bigger issue.
One of the things Secretary of Defense Marshall said about Truman‘s firing, too, is look or about Truman‘s firing of MacArthur, was look what it‘s done to the morale of the troops for Ridgway, the general who took over from MacArthur.
Look what it‘s done for the morale of troops in Afghanistan to have revealed this about McChrystal—he doesn‘t think that the leadership above him is competent. That can‘t be very reassuring to the troops, marines, soldiers, and others in Afghanistan.
OLBERMANN: Something else about the relationship as much in sync as they may seem. Let me read you another passage from this article. “‘Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp-up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. There‘s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here,‘ a senior military official said.”
Could this be at the heart of this—about McChrystal wanting to stay in Afghanistan beyond July 2011, which is the deadline for pulling out the surge troops? Is that—is that what‘s going on behind the scenes?
WILKERSON: I think that very well could be what is making him feel, quote, “very sorry for himself,” quote—because he doesn‘t see the American people being supportive of that and he doesn‘t see the administration being supportive of that.
I mean, we‘ve had 11 years now. It‘s time to get out of Afghanistan. This is no longer a go after al Qaeda whose remnants are mostly in Pakistan anyway. It‘s now an insurgency that we cannot possibly leave with any semblance of victory.
So, let‘s stop the bloodshed and let‘s stop the draining of the National Treasury and get out.
OLBERMANN: One thing about never really addressed today, what General McChrystal might have been thinking, there‘s actually a clue to this. This reporter was supposed to be there for two days and then was embedded for a month because of that Icelandic volcano, he couldn‘t fly out. Did the general just get too used to having a reporter around that he didn‘t watch himself?
WILKERSON: I can‘t imagine how this happened. I simply can‘t. I mean, I‘ve—I‘ve been guilty of the same thing with myself, April 2004 “GQ” issue, where I called our Cuba policy stupid. But I thought I was on deep background. I mean, I was fooled by the reporter in that respect. And I still believe our Cuba policy is stupid.
But this just—this is just an arrangement of errors, an arrangement of bad judgment, just as the president said. I can‘t imagine that this happened—and I hope the president gets some other reality out of McChrystal when he talks to him personally, because I just can‘t believe that this happened.
OLBERMANN: What if the president does not want him out?
WILKERSON: If that‘s the case, if he still trusts him, if he still has faith if him and believes he‘s the indispensable person for his mission in Afghanistan, then I‘d have him submit his resignation, then ponder over it and then refuse to accept it. I believe that‘s the only way the president can exhibit a little political courage, which he seems lately to be short of. And also, accomplish what he wants to accomplish.
OLBERMANN: Funny you should say that.
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff—as always, Colonel, it‘s a great insight that you provide, and we thank you kindly for it and for your time.
WILKERSON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: For more on the politics of this, let‘s turn to our own Jonathan Alter, also senior editor at “Newsweek” magazine, as well as the author of “The Promise: President Obama‘s First Year”—as we prepare for the sequel with more chapters on this.
You wrote, Jon, in this book that the stage for this conflict between the president and the general was set early in the administration. The general‘s wanted to—the general wanted to do his own assessment of where things stood in Afghanistan.
Is that the origin of all of this?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, General McChrystal has been to the woodshed before. So, that‘s one of the things we have to understand about this is that there‘s a very dramatic history that I try to unpack from 2009. And what happened was, I remember, McChrystal was out on “60 Minutes” and a magazine, saying we need an open-ended trillion dollar nation-building counterinsurgency commitment. And this was at a time when the president hadn‘t yet decided on a policy. So, he felt really boxed in.
And I asked the president in an interview in November, “Were you jammed by the Pentagon?” And he said and I quote, Keith, “I neither confirm nor deny that I was jammed by the Pentagon.” Now we all know what that means, right?
So then what happens is, they get—you know, they pass the word, “Stop boxing the president in.” McChrystal doesn‘t get the memo. He goes to London and in a Q&A afterward last fall, he‘s asked, “Could you support the Biden plan?” Which is very few troops, use the predator drones. And McChrystal says, “Not to be glib, but no.”
And the White House, they‘re livid over this. The commanding general is saying that the president sides with the vice president, he can‘t support the policy? That‘s insubordination. So, Obama meets with McChrystal on the tarmac at Copenhagen and he decides that McChrystal‘s been a little bit naive. That‘s what he‘s figure. He‘s a gung-ho soldier. He‘s going to stick with him. He doesn‘t want to fire him right after firing General McKiernan earlier in 2009.
He gets back in what was described to me as a cold fury. He dresses down Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and he makes it clear that he wants to know here and now that this conduct of boxing him in is going to end. Mullen assures him that it will.
So, for this to happen just about six months after all of that is mind-blowing. And then you also have other things in McChrystal‘s past. You know, Pat Tillman, the NFL star who was killed in Afghanistan.
OLBERMANN: Of course.
ALTER: His mother says that McChrystal was involved in a cover-up of her son‘s death, the circumstances of his death.
There were questions of detainee abuses that were on McChrystal‘s watch in Iraq.
So, he—there‘s a lot on his record. And if Obama goes ahead and dismisses him, it will be for cause.
OLBERMANN: What if he doesn‘t? What if he still doesn‘t want to do it? What if he sees value in not wanting to do it?
ALTER: Well, it might be that he concludes that in some ways the
braver, tougher thing for him to do is not to dismiss him. And the way he
would conclude that—and he made this clear in that sound bite you showed
is that if he actually believes it will hurt the mission—so he‘s going to get all of the emotion out of this.
You have to understand—and I know you do—the way Obama makes decisions. This is what I got fascinated with in “The Promise,” is what happens when the cameras are off. And what he does is he strips all the extraneous emotion, all the cable chatter, all of the demands of the media out of the equation, and he makes a very rational decision on whether this will help or hurt the mission. And the problem for McChrystal is he hasn‘t been performing well. And Obama‘s favorite president is Abraham Lincoln, who was happy to change generals when he needed to.
So, if Obama had a really good—excuse me, if McChrystal had been really delivering and getting it done in Afghanistan, this “Rolling Stone” article would roll off his back. But he‘s not and that‘s why I don‘t think his odds are very good.
OLBERMANN: Will he—will the president perceive the political landscape as well as the military landscape in making this decision, do you think?
ALTER: He does try to factor in the politics. And I think even—you know, even the fact that it was leaked to me that Obama pushed back hard against Mullen, which was described to me as this most—you know, direct confrontation between the president and the military since Truman fired MacArthur. The fact that they gave that to me, Keith, and detailed it for me and I‘m inside the Oval Office with this account suggests that they do want the idea out there that the president will push back hard to assert civilian control. And that‘s ultimately what this is about.
And our democracy and our system, we have civilian control. And he might need to make that very clear by relieving General McChrystal of his command.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter, author of “The Promise” and of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—as always, great thanks for your time tonight, Jon.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: But the parallel might not be MacArthur, it might not even been McClellan. Why President Obama tonight may want to look up a little story about the man with whom Abraham Lincoln replaced General McClellan and how outside-the-box thinking here might change everything. Tonight—a “Special Comment.”
OLBERMANN: As this New Orleans judge, heavily invested in energy stocks, declared the freeze on new deepwater drilling illegal. This cryptic headline just moving from the “Associated Press” at this hour, “U.S. Interior Secretary Salazar says he will order imposing oil drilling moratorium.”
She violently denied she was out to destroy Social Security or even privatize it. Now, she says she just wants to personalize it and that we need to transition out of it. Uh-huh?
And on the eve of General McChrystal‘s anticipated tendering of his resignation, why the story of this Civil War general may be the best indicator of what President Obama should do with the resignation. My “Special Comment”—tonight on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Can‘t truly call this breaking news because it‘s not clear what it means. But the “Associated Press” is reporting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he will issue an order imposing the Obama administration drilling moratorium on exploratory wells in the Gulf of Mexico. This following today‘s injunction against that moratorium by U.S. district court judge.
In our fourth story tonight: the extreme nature of that judge‘s ruling, his personal investment in the oil industry and the Obama administration‘s immediate appeal. Congressman Ed Markey joins me in a moment.
The facts here are paramount. There are 3,600 oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, 3,600. The Obama administration moratorium was to affect only 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf. In other words, the moratorium affected less than 1/100 of all production or exploratory wells—of exploratory wells in the Gulf.
And you will recall that the moratorium was imposed soon after this happened, the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon, which was—unless anybody forgets—an exploratory well. Eleven men died, and the initial one-month moratorium on exploratory wells issued by the Interior Department was then extended to six months so that experts could hurriedly determine the cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster before work on other exploratory wells continued.
However, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans, acting on the request of a company which ferries workers to and from those exploratory sites granted a preliminary injunction—an injunction is an extraordinary legal remedy.
But sounding much like an oil company executive himself, Judge Feldman explained, quoting, “The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster. And what seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us into a universal threat of irreparable harm.”
The judge has the authority to review the Interior Department‘s moratorium if the government action, is quote, “arbitrary, capricious and abuse of discretion, or not otherwise in accordance with the law.”
“An invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths over 500 feet,” continued the judge, “simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf Region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.”
The judge‘s ruling was—surprisingly enough—applauded by big oil.
And as Think Progress notes Judge Feldman, like many judges in the Gulf Region, happens to own a large number of stocks in the energy industry. In his 2008 filing, the judge‘s holdings were indicated as 17 different energy company stocks, including Transocean, which built the failed rig, Halliburton, which cemented the failed rig, plus two of BP‘s largest U.S. private shareholders, Blackrock, and JPMorgan Chase.
The Obama administration‘s reaction to Judge Feldman‘s ruling was swift.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will immediately appeal to the fifth circuit. The president strongly believes—as the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice argued yesterday—that continuing to drill at these depths without knowing what happened is—does not make any sense and puts the safety of those involved—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, as promised, Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee.
Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thanks for having me on.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to Judge Feldman‘s ruling, do you have any better idea than we do about this report out of the “A.P.” that Secretary Salazar is going to impose a moratorium on drilling?
MARKEY: I don‘t. I just heard about it. But I think it is a wise decision. If he‘s made it, just go right back at him. If there‘s another legal authority that makes it possible for him to impose moratoria on these 33 rigs before them and check for safety, then I think he‘s making just the right decision.
OLBERMANN: And Judge Feldman‘s decision today and especially in light of the investment portfolio that we were made aware of, what‘s your reaction to that?
MARKEY: Well, something has to explain Judge Feldman‘s decision. It‘s the worst decision since the referee in the USA-Slovenia soccer game last week, also inexplicable. If anyone was arbitrary and capricious, it was Judge Feldman in this case. It‘s clear that these rigs need to be checked for safety. It‘s clear that MMS fell down on the job. It‘s clear that the oil industry did not put into place proper safeguards.
And it would be reckless for these rigs to be allowed to operate in ultra-deepwater until there is a full safety inspection.
OLBERMANN: We have a further update right now from the “A.P.” and I‘ll get your reaction to this if I can. Mr. Salazar said in a statement this evening that the new order will contain additional information making clear why the six-month drilling pause was necessary in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. The judge in New Orleans who struck down the moratorium earlier in the day complained there was not enough justification for it and one additional paragraph here: “Salazar pointed to indications of inadequate safety precautions by industry on deepwater wells.” He said he would issue a new order in the coming days showing that a moratorium is needed.
Your reaction to that as we get a little more flesh on these bones.
MARKEY: Good. Well, what he clearly has done is fill out the record.
So, for example, Transocean—this rig which BP was using was a Transocean rig, which by the way was registered in the Marshall Islands. In the Marshall Islands, Transocean then was able to select the company which would then determine whether or not the rig was safe. Then, Transocean can move that rig, Marshall Island registered, into the Gulf of Mexico, into American waters, and they have complied with the safety regulations.
Now, it‘s one thing to drill offshore, it‘s another thing to offshore your safety regulations—which is what has been happening. And so, to go back to review, to see where the holes are in this safety process is something that I think is necessary. And if it‘s not fully and completely finished, could lead to irreparable harm because the one thing we don‘t need is two rigs at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
OLBERMANN: And it‘s superb to see the secretary of the interior doing something and doing something in a hurry in the wake of that ruling. Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, happening to be with us as we try to understand the breaking news—thank you for your insight and for helping us do so, sir.
MARKEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Fewer words, more pictures when we return to the Gulf and a report filed specifically for us by our correspondent Kerry Sanders who‘s literally in the Gulf. That report that the—what remains of the rig is tilting over more than the statue of—the Tower of Pisa is leaning over.
And also, tonight‘s “Special Comment”: McChrystal and resignation and the stories of Abizaid, Zine (ph), Fallon and John Pope.
OLBERMANN: Banking a little time for the upcoming Special Comment on McChrystal, do not Tweet, do not collect 200 followers. Let‘s play Oddball.
And oh, let us return to Cleveland County, North Carolina. Last week, we told you about the local man who spotted a 12-fingered Sasquatch, with nice hair, in his back yard. Luckily, Tim Peeler was able to rough talk Bigfoot and scare him away. Get, get, I said. As of this broadcast, Sasquatch still on the lose. However, Oddball has tracked down Tim Peeler‘s 911 call to police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cleveland County, 911.
TIM PEELER, SASQUATCH SIGHER: This is Tim Peeler.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-huh.
PEELER: Are—you probably have my address.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir. What‘s going on now?
PEELER: This beast has fangs. It looks like a giant ape with a man‘s face. And it made a whistling sound. Would I get in any trouble if I shot and killed this beast?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The operator would not answer the question, but gave Mr.
Peeler credit for asking first. And he had beautiful hair.
Arbing (ph) City, China, hello. This robot has a going problem. No, silly, it‘s the International Hero Olympic Games. Who needs Hussein Bolt when you can have the race of insane rusty bolts? In order to complete—compete, first time—the robots have to be in human form. That means a head, two arms, two legs and an agent. Nineteen teams from around the world built droids for 17 different disciplines, like sprinting, Kung Fu, boxing and dance. As you can see, some of the dancing robots could pop and lock, while others just locked. Everybody was Kung Fu roboting. Better luck next year. I know how he feels.
Finally to Witten, in England, where Snowy, the West Highland White Terrier had been sick recently. Also her family‘s prized possessions, ceramic kitten statues, had disappeared. No one could figure out—oh, a kitty. These are x-rays taken of Snowy‘s gullet taken by the veterinarian. As you see, one precious little kitty has tried to paw its way out. After a little surgery, the statuettes were removed. And here they are, now highly collectible, half digested kitten statues. Good luck to the highest bidder.
Back to the Gulf, and once again another foot in mouth announcement.
A BP exec describes how difficult it‘s been lately for BP.
OLBERMANN: He was supposed to give a keynote address on the global responsibilities of international oil companies, but Tony Hayward a no-show at an oil industry meeting in London. Our third story, day 64 as the BP gusher spews on. It is, however, business as usual for the world‘s oil execs tonight as they enjoy fine wine, exquisite food, and networking at the highest level at an awards dinner. We will be given the closest look yet at BP‘s broken well.
Our own Kerry Sanders will show us the on-going capture effort, and what lies just below the surface of the Gulf. But first, BP‘s chief of staff delivering Mr. Hayward‘s remarks earlier at the World National Oil Companies Congress. Steve Westwell apologizing for Mr. Hayward‘s absence, citing his busy schedule, days after Hayward reportedly attended a sailing competition. As Mr. Westwell told the audience, everyone here will recognize that the last two months have been extremely difficult for BP.
As he did that, protesters from Greenpeace heckled him, demanding an end to the oil age. This as the “Times Picayune” of New Orleans reports of another potential disaster looming in the Gulf. The broken wellhead is tilting over. Thad Allen confirming the riser package is tilting 10 to 12 degrees off perpendicular, twice the degree of the tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And, as BP reports, it has captured over a million gallons of oil in the past 24 hours. A new view of the on-going capture and burn off effort.
Our correspondent Kerry Sanders filed this report for you from a barge in the Gulf. Kerry?
KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Keith, this is a unique view of what was Deepwater Horizon. As we look out here, you‘re looking at a city that has been built on top of where that gusher in the Gulf is pumping 60,000 barrels a day up. I‘m going to give you sort of an explanation as we go from left to right.
First of all, that flare of flame that‘s coming out to the side, that‘s the Enterprise there. They‘re burning off the natural gas. They‘re also capturing some of that 60,000 barrels. They estimate maybe upwards of 15,000 barrels. And they capture that there.
But then we come over to the right there. And Keith, that‘s like a Mad Max movie, when I‘m looking at it. They‘ve got about 10,000 barrels a day that going into a ship called the Q-4000. And they‘re burning it right there. That‘s that black smoke coming off of the oil burning. The reason they‘re burning it is their goal is to eliminate it from getting to shore. And the belief is, if they burn it right here, then they don‘t have to worry about it making its way over into the shoreline about 50 or 80 miles from here.
Now, we‘ve got an underwater camera here. And what I‘m going to do is lower it down here. Again, we‘re about, say, 1.7 miles from the source of the 60,000 barrels coming ashore—or coming up into the water. And what we look at right here is well, there‘s a little bit of a sheen because the oil comes in waves. This is what it looked like earlier. See that dark brown oil? That is what they call the emulsified oil. It‘s mixed in with the water. Kind of like you take an oil and vinegar shaker and you shake it up.
The problem with that is that oil will not burn. And so they‘re unable to burn it at the source. They have to go out with the skimmers and the corrals and try to pick it up. That is not easy, as we‘ve seen.
Bob Cavnar‘s an expert. He‘s from the industry. You spent a good portion of your life in this industry. First of all, you spent the day out here. What if anything impresses you?
BOB CAVNAR, OIL INDUSTRY EXPERT: The most overwhelming thing for me is to see this gigantic effort. This has got to be the most intense effort in the offshore—in the history of offshore drilling.
SANDERS: And that effort is difficult. We did get some good news today.
SANDERS: Those two rigs out there, the one to the left and the one to the right.
CAVNAR: That‘s right.
SANDERS: They‘re the ones doing the relief wells. The Coast Guard boarded our vessel and told us—
CAVNAR: The Coast Guard told us that one well is 40 percent ahead of schedule. The other is 28 percent ahead of schedule.
SANDERS: So you‘re in the industry. You know that they say they‘re ahead of schedule. Do they start out by saying this date further into the future, so they could then say we‘re ahead of schedule? Is there a little bit of a game being played here?
CAVNAR: I think there‘s a lot of times—in communicating what the companies are going to do, they hold back some of the information. And BP has certainly done a lot of that. Here I think they were anticipating some hole trouble with the well drilling. And so far they‘ve been fairly fortunate that they haven‘t had a lot of trouble.
SANDERS: OK. So they have this going down. They‘re drilling, And then they have to make this hard turn. How does the bit make it there?
CAVNAR: They actually have tools that have magnetic censors that will seek that pike. And they can turn the drill stench (ph) string towards the well. And there‘s a good chance they can hit it in the first or second try.
SANDERS: You have a good sense that it‘s going to work?
CAVNAR: I feel like it‘s going to help.
SANDERS: A lot of people are hoping that that is the case, maybe in mid-August, maybe earlier.
But one last thing, Keith, I ought to mention is it stinks out here. The sun is hot. It‘s evaporating some of the oil. And at times, I‘ve gotten a little dizzy out here. And that‘s not from the motion of the ocean. It‘s just very noxious.
OLBERMANN: Kerry Sanders, with our friend Bob Cavnar, reporting to us from the Gulf. Great report.
The resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, and why tonight President Obama should be thinking of Lincoln‘s Civil War General John Pope.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she‘ll talk to Michael Hastings, the reporter at the center of the “Rolling Stone” interview with the general. And in worsts, The Sharron Angle. She denies she wants privatize Social Security. She just wants to personalize it, which means privatizing it.
OLBERMANN: The resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, an unexpected special comment, I believe, next.
But first, get out your pitch forks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
And the wheels fall off Fixed News. Back down to a 1.3 million last Friday, its lowest ratings ever.
The bronze to Bill-O, responds to the Lady Gaga Yankee clubhouse self-groping incident by inviting her on his show. “Does it really matter? The lady wants publicity and is getting plenty of it. We‘re now officially inviting her to come on “THE FACTOR” clubhouse. You can bring whiskey here. We have Dr. Pepper if you want it. We‘d love to see you.”
Bill-O just wants to see a woman grope herself in his office, again.
The runner-up, back from a long absence, Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and it makes Steele grow dumber. Here is on CNBC with Mark Haines this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: George Bush created a lot of jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: beg your pardon?
STEELE: I think there were jobs created in the eight years that George Bush was—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: we can pull up those numbers.
STEELE: I think that jobs were created. I‘m almost confident of that
I think the markets reflected that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the Lehman blow-up and all that, that didn‘t happen on Bush‘s—
STEELE: Now you switched—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you‘re talking about the markets.
STEELE: The end of the term now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I love Mark Haines. Per the “Wall Street Journal,” jobs created, in the eighty years that Bush was in office, the “Journal” wrote Bush had the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records, one million in eight years. President Clinton 23 million, President Carter 10.5 million in four years. President Obama, the projected number for this year is up to 1,730,000. One million in eight years for Bush. That‘s 343 nationwide per day.
But our winner, Nevada Tea Party Senate candidate Sharron Angle. After the protrusion of evidence that she was lying when she denied she wanted to gut and privatize Social Security, she has now changed her tune slightly. She did an interview with the “Human Events” site, the people who brought you that headline “Liberals Hate Sarah Palin Because She‘s Beautiful.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM NEVADA: We need to look at personalizing the Social Security and Medicare programs, so that we can keep the government out of the lock box, keep them from raiding our retirement and raiding our health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Personalizing Social Security does not mean selecting your own screen saver. It means privatizing. Make people invest their Social Security earnings into the stock market, where a chunk will automatically be skimmed off the top by brokers, and the rest could vanish in, you know, the next mortgage crisis or BP Gulf disaster. And if any of that is still unclear, Ms. Angle‘s website says, at this moment, that Social Security needs to be, quote, “transitioned out.”
So when she says she doesn‘t want to gut and privatize Social Security, she‘s lying. Sharron Angle, Tea Party and let‘s restore the 19th Century party candidate for the Senate from Nevada, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment on the self-destruction of General Stanley McChrystal.
“We have the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation. General McChrystal‘s comments, as reported in ‘Rolling Stone,‘ are inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military.”
Senators Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, and John McCain said that. They left out the far greater truth, that the comments are inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between military and civilian authority and are thus intolerable.
We can honor his service, the way we honor the service of General Curtis LeMay, or the way we honor the service of General Douglas MacArthur, forever blemished, forever compromised, forever instructive that however much credit each heroic soldier deserves, he and his comrades are not the masters of this country, but its employees.
It is the fundamental tenet on which this nation rests; it is what has kept us from any serious dalliance with a militaristic government in all our long history; it is the simple balanced poetry that has saved us from the threat of military overthrow and dictatorship for 234 years, while nearly all the other great nations of the world, from Germany to Japan, have succumbed to it, again and again.
And what happens next should be no surprise to anybody: General McChrystal will walk into the White House tomorrow and offer his resignation, not just from his leadership position in Afghanistan, but from military service itself.
And that, Mr. President, is when you should thank him for that service. And you should thank him for whatever admission he makes about the chain of command. And that is when, Sir, presuming he recognizes his rank stupidity and his erasure of that inviolable line between the military and the civilian, you should say you are heartened that he realizes the depth and breadth of his idiocy.
And that is when, Sir, you should take General McChrystal‘s resignation, and fold it up, and put it in your top drawer, and tell him that that is where it will remain, and that as of now you are not accepting it.
He tenders his resignation. You tell him to get the hell back to Afghanistan because he‘s not getting out of this morass he helped create, and tell him to make sure we get the surge troops withdrawn on time or faster if he can. And then, Sir, you sit back and watch the political world‘s collective jaw drop.
This would not be mere contrariness, nor even the satisfying destabilization of the entire political climate, although those would be fun, too. Consider the last Administration. Let‘s look at the list alphabetically.
General John Abizaid of CentCom expressed public skepticism about the Bush surge in Iraq, replaced. General George Casey, Iraq, expressed public skepticism about the Bush surge in Iraq, replaced. Admiral William Fallon, ex-head of CentCom, told “Esquire Magazine” we should not use force against Iran, retired by Mr. Bush.
Dr. Larry Lindsey, director of the National Economic Council, told Mr. Rumsfeld estimated that war in Iraq would cost 60 billion dollars. He said, no, 200 billion. Rumsfeld called that “baloney.” Lindsey was fired. It was “baloney.” It cost three trillion dollars.
General Eric Shinsecki, Army Chief of Staff, warned that the Rumsfeld troop estimates were disastrously low, hundreds of thousands would be needed for occupation, “vilified, then marginalized” by Bush.
General Anthony Zinni, Marines, Retired, Middle East Envoy, said that the President had far more pressing foreign policy priorities to face than Iraq, and that the trouble would start in Iraq after the war itself ended, not reappointed.
Remember, this from the previous President whose empty, but lovely-sounding catchphrase was ‘I listen to the commanders on the ground.‘ It was true. He did listen. And then he fired all the ones who dared to tell him the truth.
It cannot be argued that General McChrystal has said anything as controversial, as jarring, as upsetting to the status quo as any of the men Bush ignored, and in ignoring, led to the deaths of Americans, and to the wasting of money and our international goodwill.
McChrystal made, to be blunt about it, a fool out of himself. He called a lot of people names. He has previously been involved in the leak of his own complaints demanding more troops and faster decisions in Afghanistan.
And most heinously—and this is the toughest part of this pill to swallow—he was the facilitator in the cover-up of the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman. It is difficult to bypass an opportunity for retribution and humiliation against such a man. But more opportunities for that will come in time.
It is not McChrystal that matters right now. It is doubtful he is an
irreplaceable general officer. It is doubtful he will influence
Afghanistan much one way or the other. That mistake has been made already
by this military and this President.
But, Mr. President, consider the after-math of McChrystal‘s resignation or firing. If, in the America of 1951, the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur, a strutting peacock of a soldier with a corncob pipe prop and a messianic complex, could turn the politics of the time on its head because Harry Truman had had the temerity to fire him after he said we should use nukes against the Chinese and create an impassible radioactive zone in the Far East—if that happened then, what exactly will the ouster of General McChrystal provoke, no matter how justified, in our stupid, under-informed, constantly propagandized America of 2010? Who will be the first to identify McChrystal as a martyr to the evil Obama Administration? How many Americans, still looking for a rationalization to justify their rage at a Democratic president, or a black one, or an intelligent one, will have new fuel to feed their blind hatred?
Keep him, Mr. President. You will not merely neuter the political blowback, you will present a front of force and calm and intelligence and a willingness to, dare I use the phrase Sir—a willingness to listen to the Commanders on the ground, even when they shoot off their big brass-covered bazoos.
You can own this man, Mr. President, and own the political aftermath, which is now pregnant with opportunities for your critics. The General can be your voice to speed up the de-escalation. My goodness, he could be your mouthpiece if you suddenly saw the morass for what it is and decided to declare victory and get the hell out now. Who would fight with you on that, Sir?
You would be the President who defended General McChrystal after he humiliated himself. You would be the leader sensitive to the military, and its needs, and its failures, and its pressures.
President Obama has pushed the Abraham Lincoln thing from the day he declared his candidacy. It may serve him well tonight to consider the third of the eight generals Lincoln employed to run the Union Army during the Civil War. After the Antietam disaster, Mr. Lincoln cashiered General McClellan, the hugely popular “Young Napoleon,” promoted John Pope of Illinois. His advisors were horrified.
Pope, as Shelby Foote recalled in Ken Burns‘s documentary, was a liar and a braggart. Yes, said Lincoln, in fact I knew his family back in Illinois. All the Popes were liars and braggarts. I see no particular reason why a liar and a braggart shouldn‘t make a good general. Pope did not win the Civil War, but in appointing him, Lincoln made it plain that what he needed from his Generals was usefulness, not etiquette.
And which is more useful to this President and this nation right now? A martyred ex-General, around which an irresponsible and potentially dangerous opposition can coalesce? Or a spared and humbled General, surely no worse than any potential replacement, whose retention can recalculate the political formula, without a drop of blood, or a drop of tears, being shed?
Good night and good luck.
Now, it is my pleasure to once again introduce you to my very dear friend Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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