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

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, August 25, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest Host: Chris Hayes
Guests: Mark Potter, Adam Berg, John Timoney, Glenn Greenwald, Joe Burns, Bill McKibben

CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Signs of the apocalypse in Washington this week -
- an earthquake, a hurricane, and Dick Cheney on a publicity tour.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re now at the height of hurricane Irene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re looking at a significant impact.

HAYES (voice-over): Forget politics. The East Coast is worried
about Irene.

MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: From the Carolinas to New York City.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Up and down the East Coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right through New England.

CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: The outer banks of North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where you`re going?

MITCHELL: Causing billions in damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be a billion dollar disaster.

MITCHELL: President Obama, of course, on top of this and concerned
spoke with the head of FEMA this morning.

Governor Bev Purdue has declared a state of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putting their shutters up.

MITCHELL: Lose it to Irene, let me tell you.

HAYES: And the last time a hurricane took this track --

ANNOUNCER: "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw."

TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: The North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of New York`s biggest skyscrapers never
opened for business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: High tide was at 11:00 this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be a long time forgetting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) said this morning he hoped the
weather for the Geneva Summit will be better.

HAYES: The other storm in Washington, Dick Cheney`s new book.

MITCHELL: Cheney`s memoir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheney promises there will be, quote, "heads

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He basically goes after Colin Powell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most devastating criticism is about former
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, words like train wreck, naive, utterly

HAYES: And if you thought Cheney was a moral monster before, this
book won`t help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What has to be one of the most disloyal vice

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During September 11th, President Bush on that
day, anyway, at least, was a peripheral player.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the better title for the book would be
"In My Defense."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did what I did and I`m proud of that record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dick Cheney was running the show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no regrets. I make no apologies.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes, in for Lawrence

If you are watching this show on the East Coast, there is a good
chance you are in the path of Hurricane Irene. Fifty-five million
Americans, one in six, could feel the effects of Irene`s wrath.

At this moment, Irene is pounding the Bahamas heading north. She is
currently a category 3 storm with 125 mile an hour winds. Want to see what
125 mile an hour winds looks like?

NBC`s Lilia Luciano is there.


LILIA LUCIANO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We are here at the height of
hurricane Irene in Nassau. This is the most severe wind so far. We are
getting heavy rain and sleet as well that`s starting to hit us as we speak
right now.

Objects are falling and flying through the air. We`ve got some
street signs that have been coming off their posts as the wind changed
direction. A couple of trees have fallen right in front of us. We are
trying to keep grounded here. But the storm is getting worse.


HAYES: Storm could hit American shores Saturday, possibly brushing
up against the outer banks of North Carolina. From there, it`s a straight
line through the East Coast cities. Norfolk, Virginia, Philadelphia,
Atlantic City, New York City, Boston, and Portland, Maine. Governors in
North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have already
declared states of emergency. Airlines have started canceling flights.
Sorry, vacationers.

These amazing satellite photos from NASA show just how big Irene is.
Forecasters say Irene is unusually large and has an unusually broad reach
with the tropical storm force winds extending more than 250 miles in every
direction. To put that in perspective, 250 miles is further than the
distance from New York to Washington, D.C. A distance that takes four
hours to drive -- nine if you`re on 985 on a Sunday.

Joining me now in Asbury Park, New Jersey, is Weather Channel
meteorologist Adam Berg.

Adam, thanks a lot.

ADAM BERG, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: Yes, absolutely. It`s going to be
crazy here. People are wondering, hey, why is the Weather Channel here?
But most people know why. We have hurricane Irene right now pushing out of
the Bahamas.

And over the next couple of days, the system will be moving up the
Eastern Seaboard. You can see the satellite shot now showing that it`s
still south of North Carolina. But we do expect conditions to start
deteriorating for North Carolina as we go into the Friday, Saturday time
frame. And then even in places like New Jersey, coastal New Jersey here,
already hurricane watches. We expect conditions to deteriorate big time
here once we go Saturday into Sunday.

And then Sunday into Monday, the system is likely to move right up
the East Coast, potentially even making landfall anywhere across the mid-
Atlantic, maybe Long Island, maybe Connecticut, somewhere through southern
New England.

So, let`s show you what all the models are saying. This is where we
g a l of our information from. You look at the models. This is what we
call consensus here. A lot of agreement is taking this track of Irene
right up the East Coast, almost paralleling the coast line.

But the exact track is crucial -- if it tracks a little further to
the west and goes inland, the system could actually fall apart a little
faster. Still, as always, with any tropical system, a huge heavy rain
threat. If it happens to stay out over open waters longer, then it can
maintain its strength.

But one thing -- when you look at the official forecast here, and we
go through Saturday into Sunday, Sunday into Monday, you notice that it
does make landfall somewhere, maybe even places like Philadelphia, maybe
where I am here, northeastern coastal New Jersey, potentially Long Island,
southern New England, and then it pushes right into northern New England.
One thing is for sure, there`s not a lot to slow the system down as far as

Right now, it`s a major hurricane, and we`re fearing we could be
looking at extremely heavy rainfall. We have seen a lot of heavy rain
already this month in the Northeast. Philadelphia, over a foot of rain

Any additional rain is going to be a huge problem, Chris. And then
you factor in the winds, it`s definitely something we have to watch. We
could be looking at mandatory evacuations all along the East Coast.

HAYES: Adam Berg of the Weather Channel, thank you so much for that

Let`s go live to Nags Head, North Carolina, on the outer banks.
That`s where NBC`s Mark Potter is.

Mark Potter, what are conditions like there, and when do officials
expect the worst to hit?

MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It`s actually pretty nice here
right now, Chris. We`re getting a bit of a freshening breeze. We`re
getting the waves are kicking up a little bit. But that`s going to change
dramatically soon.

By tomorrow, we`re expecting rain bands to start coming in. The
worst of the storm is expected to hit here on Saturday. The big question
here is where does this storm go? As your previous guest was talking
about, that is critical here.

The western most track that he`s talking about that might be good for
other parts of the country would be very bad here. This is a strip of
land, sort of like a spaghetti strip in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
On one side is the Pamlico Sound, over here is the Atlantic.

If that storm goes to the west, it`s going to be pushing water
because of the clockwise flow of the hurricane from the Atlantic and also
from the sound right here, taking out roads, flooding homes. That could be
a disastrous situation potentially. And that`s what the county manager
fears most because that`s where he says the current track has it going.
That is a lose-lose situation for this area. And that is why they are
urging everyone to leave the area.

The tourists left today. They were ordered to that. The residents
are expected to leave tomorrow, a mandatory evacuation. Some say they are
going to stay. But they are being told if you do that, you get in trouble,
emergency managers, ambulance drivers and all that, are not going to be
able to go out to help you. You`re on your own.

HAYES: Yes. Do you get a sense of how -- what the percentages look
like in terms of permanent residents there leaving as opposed to choosing
to stay, and how officials are urging them to get out?

POTTER: To answer the question a little more broadly, most of the
tourists are going. So, it looks like they are cooperating. As for the
residents, we don`t know yet how many are going to go. But we do know that
a lot of them, especially the ones who have been around a while, are taking
this seriously. They are most worried about the storm surge, the
possibility of high water coming in here, taking out roads and bridges,
flooding their homes and trapping them here.

Many people that we talked to said that they are boarding up and they
will be going. One older man, actually 88 years old, said, you`d be crazy
to stay if the water starts rising. But a lot of people say they are going
to stay, and that`s the ones that the emergency managers are most worried
about, Chris.

HAYES: NBC`s Mark Potter in Nags Head, North Carolina, thanks so

As we said earlier, Irene has 55 million people in its path,
including the 20 million right here in the greater New York area. By far,
the most densely populated area in the United States. Eight million people
live in New York City proper, 2 million of those people on the island of
Manhattan or Staten Island.

Just a short time ago, Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced mandatory
evacuations for the most vulnerable citizens, a move he said was pushed in
part by his health commissioner, who is a veteran of Hurricane Katrina.


other hospitals in the Zone A low-lying areas, as well as nursing homes and
senior homes in these low-lying Zone A areas that they must -- I repeat the
word must -- evacuate beginning tomorrow and complete the process by 8:00
p.m. tomorrow night. Unless -- unless -- they get permission to stay in
place, based on the ability of the particular facility to keep operating
during hurricane conditions.


HAYES: Mayor Bloomberg said a decision will be made by 8:00 a.m.
Saturday about ordering a large-scale evacuation.

But he urged residents in low-lying areas to leave tomorrow before
the weather turns, because New York`s Transit Authority, which oversees
subways, buses, and commuter rails, could be partially or fully shut down.
Many people in New York don`t have cars, and public transportation is their
only means of getting around.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg said earlier today, the city is preparing for
the worst-case scenario, and readying evacuation boats.


BLOOMBERG: If the worst scenario is going to happen this weekend, we
will activate other elements of our coastal storm plan, including the
possibility of evacuating New Yorkers who live in low-lying areas.

The police department is positioning, for example, 50 small boats at
station houses and low-lying areas. The NYPD Special Operations Division
also has several helicopters and 33 police boats at the ready.


HAYES: One of the low-lying areas is the World Trade Center site
which sits right on the Hudson River.

There`s another concern about Ground Zero tonight -- whether the
construction cranes at the site would be able to hold up against hurricane
force winds.

Joining me now is John Timoney, former deputy commissioner of the
NYPD. He`s also the former chief of police in Miami, a city that is no
stranger to hurricanes.

John, thanks so much.

From your experience, what would be your biggest concern and your top
priority right now?

Bloomberg said. The low-lying areas -- I was also the police commissioner
of Philadelphia about 10 years ago, when a nor`easter came up to Philly.
And southwest Philadelphia down by the airport, tens of thousands of people
were driven from their homes. We had to do boat rescues in 10, 12 feet of
water. Similarly, the Schuylkill River, eight feet, at least eight feet
over the banks.

Years ago, in Brooklyn, a nor`easter where the seawalls caved in.
Huge flooding zones in Brooklyn, the Rockaways.

And so, the main concern really is that people don`t self-evacuate,
is getting to them.

Now, fortunately, the NYPD, unlike other police departments, really
does have a lot of boats and it has the helicopters. And so, if any
department is prepared to help in an evacuation it`s the NYPD. But there`s
only so much you can do, as you mentioned earlier in the opening. New York
City, 8 million people -- 2 million, you know, just along the shoreline of
Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens. And that`s a lot of people.

HAYES: Is your biggest concern the people actually? It sounds like
they are going to make a decision tomorrow about whether there`s a
mandatory evacuation or not. Is the biggest concern that people do not
heed that?

TIMONEY: Yes. There`s a certain amount. I went out personally in
Miami, mandatory evacuations. You can`t drag people out of their homes.

HAYES: Right.

TIMONEY: You alert them. And it`s up to them.

But what happens, if they get flooded in, and there`s no guarantee of
emergency service personnel, police, or fire coming to their rescue.
That`s the deal. If not to stay in your shelter, there`s probably no help
coming for at least 24 hours.

HAYES: It seems to me like there`s sort of a before and after in
terms of how we think about disasters, before Katrina and after Katrina.


HAYES: What lessons -- what are the main lessons that we have
learned from that tragedy, as you prepare a major metropolitan area for
something like this?

TIMONEY: Well, most people forget about Katrina. When that was
over, when the hurricane passed through, people were celebrating, said it
was no big deal.

HAYES: Right.

TIMONEY: It was only when the waters rose and the levees gave in
that the disaster struck. And so people -- once the hurricane passes, that
doesn`t mean you`re out of danger. You know, there`s a few hours where the
flooding starts to take effect, and depending how high it goes -- and I`ve
seen it in Philadelphia as high as 10 feet. That can cause huge problems.
You know, and the only way to evacuate at that point is by boat.

HAYES: John Timoney, former Miami police chief and former NYPD first
deputy commissioner -- thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

TIMONEY: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up: Dick Cheney`s new book emerges from the bunker,
complete with double-downs on torture and no apologies. Just in time to
profit from it on the 10th anniversary of September 11th. Crime and no
punishment. Glenn Greenwald joins me.

And what may be the single creepiest thing discovered inside a
dictator`s lair, creepier than stuffed animals or golden statues?
Gadhafi`s apparent obsession.


HAYES: Coming up: Verizon workers back on the job because the strike
looked like it might threaten Verizon`s bottom line. That`s coming up.

And the American book tour -- the perfect opportunity to rewrite
history. Dick Cheney`s book is about to hit book shelves. Glenn Greenwald
is about to hit the ceiling. He joins me next.


HAYES: "New York Times" got an advance copy of former Vice President
Dick Cheney`s memoir, an assignment which I hope included a hardship pay
bonus. According to "The Times`" write up in the book, Cheney gives reader
a vision of the world in which he was a lone, courageous visionary,
surrounded by cowards and imbeciles. He said CIA Director George Tenet`s
decision to resign when, quote, "the going got tough," was unfair to the

He takes credit for helping to push out Secretary of State Colin
Powell after the 2004 election. And he throws Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice under the bus for trying to get a nuclear weapons
agreement with North Korea -- even throws in a condescending line about how
she, quote, "came into my office, sat down in the chair next to my desk,
and tearfully admitted I had been right."

Cheney also defends torture, or what he calls tough interrogations.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In you`re view, we should still be using
enhanced interrogation?



CHENEY: No regrets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should we still be waterboarding terror

CHENEY: I would strongly support using it again if circumstances
arose where we had a high value detainee, and that was the only way we
could get him to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though so many people have condemned it,
people call it torture, you think it should still be a tool?



HAYES: When I saw the article yesterday about Cheney`s book, I
dashed off an email in a fit of pique to friends who worked in publishing,
saying basically, everyone at Simon and Schuster, which is publishing the
book, should be ashamed of themselves.

Now, upon further consideration, I think that`s too harsh. The
entire Simon & Schuster company isn`t responsible for one division
publishing one book. But I think the reason I got so angry, what`s so
troubling about this Cheney publicity lab, is the fact that he has managed
to escape not only legal sanction for advocating and overseeing the
implementation of the war crime that is torture, but that he also has
appeared to manage to escape social sanction as well.

Everyone is now going to treat him as just another memoirist with a
book to sell, and have his book party and give his interviews and cash his
checks as if he were Keith Richards.

What would someone in power have to do to put themselves outside the
bounds of polite society? When powerful people are not held to account
when they have no worry about their reputations, it creates a moral hazard.
Not unlike what`s happened with the banks. Anti-social behavior is
rewarded. Failure is also rewarded. And we are trapped inside a system of
perverse incentives.

So, Dick Cheney can openly defend and advocate torture and profit off
of it just in time for the 10th anniversary of September 11th.

Joining me now is Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for

Glenn, thanks so much for coming on.

GLENN GREENWALD, SALON.COM: Good to be here, Chris.

HAYES: Cheney gave an interview to NBC about the book. I`m going to
play you this sound.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This book is going to make a lot of people

CHENEY: There are going to be heads exploding all over Washington,




HAYES: I feel like this sort of notion that heads are exploding sort
of reduces the complaint against Cheney to some sort of standard partisan
invective. What do you think?

GREENWALD: I mean, that`s the critical issue, Chris. Let`s just be
clear about what it is that Dick Cheney did. He directly participated by
his own boastful account in the implementation of a domestic spying program
that subjected thousands of Americans on U.S. soil to have their emails
read and telephone calls listened to by government agents, without the
warrants required by the criminal law.

The institution of the worldwide torture is he went way beyond
waterboarding. It included a whole variety of techniques that the U.S. has
constantly prosecuted other people and other nations for using. And
according to General Barry McCaffrey, it was one whereby we, quote,
"murdered dozens of people in our custody."

And then he was the driving force behind a war of aggression -- an
attack on Iraq -- that ended the lives of at least 100,000 innocent human
beings, and far more.

And what is so troublesome is exactly what you just said, which is we
decided now to treat those like simple policy disputes, like mistakes that
he made, rather than what they are, which is among the most serious and
egregious crimes committed over the last decade, if not in this generation.
I mean, there`s a statute in place that said if you eavesdrop on Americans
without warrants, you go to prison for five years, for each offense. We
have a treaty that requires that we will prosecute all people who order

General Taguba, who was tasked with investigating this, says that
there`s no doubt that high Bush officials committed war crimes. The only
question is whether they will be held to account. In the Nuremberg trials
after World War II, the U.S. prosecutor in charge of that tribunal said the
worst side is not genocide or bombing hospitals or anything else, it is a
war of aggression. That is the kingpin crime.

And yet Dick Cheney is in the middle, by his own proud admission, of
all of those crimes and yet we don`t treat him like a criminal. We instead
immunized him from his crimes and treat him like a celebrity and reward him
for it.

HAYES: How much do you think -- and you wrote about this today on where your blog is. You write about this look forward, not
backward mantra, which has generally been the posture of the Obama
administration -- although I think that wasn`t necessarily the posture in
the beginning and it has certainly become the posture.

How much do you think that contributes to this sort of -- this kind
of normalizing of what Cheney has done and continues to defend?

GREENWALD: It`s easily the biggest factor. I mean, if you look at
theories of criminal law, imagine if, for example, we decided to announce
tomorrow that we were no longer going to prosecute murder, or rape, or
child abductions because we didn`t want to keep looking backward, we wanted
only to look forward. What would you think would happen?

Obviously, there would be a lot more people engaging in murder, rape,
and child abduction because the deterrence against doing that has been
removed. We decided we`re not going to prosecute that.

What we`ve done in American political culture ever since Gerald Ford
pardoned Richard Nixon to the cheers of most media figures is decided that
our highest political officials are free to break the law without
consequences. We saw that with Iran Contra as well, and a whole other
variety of instances.

And so, when Barack Obama got into office and essentially began
pressuring the Justice Department through all kinds of means not to
prosecute Bush officials for all of the crimes and they began by
describing, he has continued this evisceration of the rule of law for
political elites -- at the same time that ordinary Americans are imprisoned
by the same government, the same state, at rates greater than any country
in the entire world.

And so, political elites like Dick Cheney know that they will not --
they can commit crimes and with total impunity and that`s why he goes
around proudly boasting about the crimes he`s committed because President
Obama has made clear that neither he nor anyone else in the administration
will be prosecuted for those very serious breaches of the criminal law.

HAYES: I guess my final question is, given that state of affairs,
given the sort of consensus of normality that has seen sort of now settled
in over the policy disputes of torture and illegal wiretapping, et cetera,
how do you begin to culturally counteract that, if that`s not too broad a
question? Because this notion of how you kind of mark off what is over
some line in polite society is a really tricky one, but I feel like there
has to be some sort of concerted effort at least among critics and
intellectuals and other people paying attention that does that.

GREENWALD: Well, the law is supposed to be, of course, the principal
way to say --


GREENWALD: -- they are certain lines that you cannot cross, right?
I mean, there are things that are impolite that might result in social
stigma. But there are certain things that you can`t do that are far worse
than impolite. They are criminal, and you`re supposed to go to prison for

And we have erased those lines. But as you`ve suggested, we`ve
erased even a more disturbing line, which is even the idea of a social
stigma. We love in American politics and American political discourse to
talk about other countries` leaders and horrible crimes they`ve committed
and look what these dictators are doing and these awful people and that
other country are doing. And yet we have political leaders -- a class of
leaders who have committed what we`ve always said -- what we Americans have
always said for decades are among the worst and most egregious crimes.

And independent of the legal immunity, you`re absolutely right. You
won`t see barely any media figures treating Dick Cheney with even the
smallest degree of hostility or animosity. He will be treated like any
elder statesman who might have some political controversy or positions but
he won`t be shunned by anyone. And what that guarantees is that that
behavior becomes normalized. Both parties have accepted it by not
prosecuting it. And I think that`s a very dangerous thing to do.

HAYES: Glenn Greenwald of "Salon" has a book coming out very soon,
which you are going to want to read. Thanks for joining me tonight. I
really appreciate it.

GREENWALD: Great to be with you, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, the governor of Florida believes people on welfare
are more likely to use drugs, so he`s testing them. And he`s not getting
the answer he wants. You are going to be stunned by these numbers.

And rebels found a really amazing stash of stuff in Gadhafi`s
compound, including a very personal photo album full of pictures of his
favorite former diplomat. Seriously. That`s next.


HAYES: Tomorrow we`ll be playing "Friday I`m in Love." Libyan rebels
overrun Moammar Gadhafi`s compound, discovering a treasure trove of your
standard petro-dictator booty, gold-plated guns, stuffed animals, an entire
scrapbook full of Condoleezza Rice photos -- wait, what?

Yes, yes. Those are rebels. And, yes, that`s an album full,
entirely, of photos of the former Secretary of state found in Gadhafi`s
lair. I suppose we shouldn`t be surprised. He has often waxed poetic
about Condoleezza Rice.

"The Washington Post" pointed it out back in 2008. Quote, "I support
my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she
leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders," Gadhafi said in the March
27th, 2007, interview.

"She beckons to the Arab foreign ministers and they come to her,
either in groups or individually. Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. I love her very
much. I admire her, and I`m proud of her, because she is a black woman of
African origin."

During 2008 visit, Gadhafi gave Condoleezza Rice -- I had forgotten
this. Gadhafi gave Condoleezza Rice a diamond ring, a lute, and a locket
with his engraved image inside, also his Green Book, which is his political

No confirmation on whether he mouthed "call me" as he departed. U.S.
officials aren`t allowed to keep gifts from foreign leaders, so they are
probably in a warehouse somewhere. I`m wondering if Jack Donahue (ph) is
kicking himself.

Coming up, Florida Governor Rick Scott had a bright idea, test welfare
recipients for drug use, and kick all of those users off welfare. That
will save millions because welfare people obviously use more drugs, right?
Test results are in, and Rick Scott has failed. >

And it took just one word to bring Verizon back to the table and stop
a strike. We`ll tell you what it is. That`s ahead.

Hey, can we just see that photo album again? Thanks.



GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I know it`s not right for taxpayer
money to be paying for somebody`s drug addiction. On top of that, this is
going to increase personal responsibility and accountability. We shouldn`t
be subsidizing people`s drug addiction.

And you have to remember, welfare is for the benefit of our children.
And they shouldn`t be -- the money should be going to take care of them,
not for somebody with addiction. Our taxpayers are not interested in
subsidizing drug addiction.


HAYES: "Our taxpayers are not interested in subsidizing drug
addiction." That was Florida Governor Rick Scott back in June, just five
days after he signed a law requiring adults in his state applying for
welfare assistance to undergo drug screening.

What evidence did Governor Scott have at the time that Floridians were
actually subsidizing drug addiction? Well, none, actually.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that a great number, significant
number, of welfare recipients in your state are drug users?

SCOTT: You know, T.J., I don`t know.