Score another home run for Olbermann. On Friday's Countdown, he had both Newsweek's Howard Fineman and Georgetown Law Professor Jonathan Turley on to discuss Bush's press conference and the rush to pass legislation legalizing torture.
I tried to get as much down as possible, so the wording may not be exact, but the general discussion is below. And it is a doozy.
Olbermann starts by saying that Bush is now "pretty much playing chicken with Congress - threatening to abandon all US efforts to question terror suspects unless the Senate sees fit to rewrite Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions -you know the one that prohibits the cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees" and is "rebuking former Sec'y of State for not believing what he wants him to believe."
And that was just his intro. The discussion with Fineman is below:
KO: Can the leader of the free world ever begin a sentence with "its unacceptable to think"
HF: Whether the president likes or not, there are millions of people on the planet who agree with what Colin Powell has to say, regardless of whether the President likes it or not"
KO: The President was threatening on a domestic level to "pack up his things" if things don't go exactly his way. What happens if the Senate says OK, we're calling your bluff"
HF: President will likely take it to the country that Democrats and even Republican critics are weak in the face of terrorism, but his critics will say that there are other ways that you can do it....I think there will be a deal, but it will be fuzzier than the President wants"
If it doesn't pass, and the CIA officers who are afraid of being sued don't do the interrogations of the detainees, then someone with further immunity - someone like the Vice President could.
KO: He could bring his hunting materials with him....If you are the Dems, what take do you position yourself in - do you stand aside for this?
HF: I think you stand aside for the most part. Not just Graham and McCain. Not just Powell. The key guy here is John Warner (R-VA). He is the establishment man. Defense, intelligence establishment. And if he is taking the side of the "rebels" here, then the Democrats should just sit back and watch.
KO: Last question - does the President do himself a favor when he appears as angry as he did during that news conference?
HF: Not really but he is not speaking to the people. I think he is speaking to history and he is speaking to himself. He may be a martyr to the political cause. He may lose this election but he is going to do it the way he wants to do it.
But that is just the warmup to the main event. Afterwards, Olbermann had Georgetown University Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley on to discuss what Olbermann called Bush's "covering his own backside".
Some of the exchange is below:
KO (intro): 194 countries agreed to uphold the laws laid out in the Geneva Conventions. Now the president of the United States wants to essentially reinterpret those international codes to an "American Law".
At issue general article three of the Geneva Convention which states that people in detention shall"in all circumstances be treated humanely." It goes on to ban "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading punishment".
But the administration argues that all this is covered under an American law - the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act which states thatNo individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Olbermann then asks Turley point blank if this is to make it ok retroactively to treat detainees the way that the US has been treating them.
KO: The president's rush - fury to get this done in only his way is not about getting new information, not about new threats but about somehow making the way we have been treating detainees retroactively ok? Is he covering his own backside with this?
Turley: Quite frankly, there is evidence that he is.
They go on to discuss the fourteen people who will be interviewed by the Red Cross, and how they will reveal that they were subject to waterboarding, which Turley says is "undeniably torture under the international standards." Turley then goes on to say that the United States, and "specifically the President will be accused of a very serious violation of international law."
Turley feels that the administration is trying to get legislation passes as soon as possible because there is "a lot of trouble coming down this mountain".
The close with the following question from Olbermann - "if the President gets his way" (meaning that waterboarding and other torture is ok under US law) "have we just become exactly what the terrorists want us to become" to which Turley agreed and that we would redefine ourselves as a country. Turley closes by saying that if we are to celebrate Constitution day this week by giving the ok for torture is the most bizarre combination he has ever seen.
Bizarre? Yes. Horrific? Yes. Unconscionable? Absolutely. Par for the course with these criminals? Sadly, also yes.
And during the week of Constitution Day. How ironically disgusting, yet fitting for a president who sees the Constitution as a mere inconvenience.