It’s not even April 1 yet, and Keith Olbermann is already expressing fears that President Obama "is acting disturbingly like President Bush," because of a number of recent decisions by the Obama administration to continue policies similar to those of President Bush, which Olbermann recounted on Monday's Countdown while the words "Four More Years?" displayed at the bottom of the screen. The MSNBC host then introduced his guest for further discussion: "Here to help us tell the two men apart, Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post."
Responding to Huffington’s hope that Obama’s decisions would only be temporary, Olbermann queried that if, "after one of these six-month reviews – renditioning, for instance – continues on or other detentions without legal rights? What happens then?" prompting Huffington to convey her willingness to oppose Obama: "Well, everybody who cares about what are the fundamental American values of fairness and justice and due process needs to vociferously and unambiguously oppose the Obama administration. I don`t think there is any alternative to that."
The premise of Olbermann’s last question was based on the left-wing theory that President Bush had "bad reasons" for implementing some of the policies liberals disagree with, and Huffington became the slightly more balanced member of the duo as she did not join in Olbermann’s apparent view that Bush had malicious intent. Huffington: "I never thought that the argument against Bush was bad reasons. They were bad policies, whatever the reasons."
Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Monday, February 23, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN, DURING COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:16 P.M.: On detainees, on missing e-mails, even on a tax cut, President Obama is acting disturbingly like President Bush. Arianna Huffington joins us. The New York Post`s Obama chimp cartoon is now resonating nationally. A boycott threatened by the NAACP. Its chairman, Julian Bond, joins me.
OLBERMANN: Two days into his term, President Obama signed an executive order to shut down Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. is holding 245 people of dubious guilt in dubious conditions. Our fourth story tonight: On Friday night, in a brief statement filed by Mr. Obama`s Justice Department, the news that he will continue to deny legal rights to the 600 detainees the U.S. is holding at Bagram, Afghanistan, just as Mr. Bush did.
[THE WORDS "FOUR MORE YEARS?" ARE SHOWN ON BOTTOM OF SCREEN]
Four detainees filed legal challenges to their detention program at Bagram, the notorious facility outside Kabul. The Bush administration had argued in court they had no right to challenge their own detention. After Mr. Obama`s Gitmo order, the judge said, in essence, "So you want to change Bush policy on Bagram, too?" The Obama administration answer was no.
Likewise, another Obama filing Friday, after Bush cried state secrets to fight a court order for the release of documents about his spying against an Islamic charity. Is Obama changing Bush policy? Not in that case either. Nor are these isolated cases. British judges saying that records on the torture of a freed Gitmo detainee cannot be released because first Bush, now Obama, threatened to withhold intel cooperation. And the new CIA chief, Leon Panetta, saying Obama will continue Bush`s renditioning of detainees to other countries. Attorney General Eric Holder asking a court to dismiss lawsuits seeking the release of missing Bush e-mails. President Obama continuing both Bush`s Office of Faith-based Initiatives and Bush`s tax cuts until their expiration next year. Here to help us tell the two men apart, Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post. Much thanks for your time tonight, Arianna
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Clearly, these are two different presidencies and two different presidents, but why this seeming growing convergence on what we could loosely called "national security issues"?
HUFFINGTON: Well, there’s convergence and there is divergence. So all the incidents that you mentioned are troubling, especially the Friday ruling on Bagram. But I think we need to make a clear distinction between rulings like the Bagram ruling, which was wrong and disturbing, and what different nominees say, like Leon Panetta, or what may happen but has not yet happened. And we need to make that distinction very clear because unless something becomes a ruling, then it`s not a convergence. But there`s no question that everyone who cares about civil liberties and who thought that Barack Obama would be a clear divergence has to be watching very carefully.
OLBERMANN: To the question of what may yet happen or not, the New York Times asked whether current agreement between these two administrations is hard and fast policy or if it`s temporary holding patterns. I think I know the answer to this. But do you generally come down on the idea that most of these opinions from the Obama administration are holding patterns, investigations or could they be unfortunately permanent?
HUFFINGTON: Well, in some cases, they`ve said that they are having a review process like Guantanamo. In some cases, they`ve made rulings that are very good like ending CIA "black sites," allowing the International Red Cross to visit detainees, and limiting interrogation techniques. All that has been good. But there is nothing said about the Bagram ruling that made it temporary. There was nothing said that made us believe that there is a review under way.
OLBERMANN: What happens if that continues to be the case or if, after one of these six-month reviews – renditioning, for instance – continues on or other detentions without legal rights? What happens then?
HUFFINGTON: Well, everybody who cares about what are the fundamental American values of fairness and justice and due process needs to vociferously and unambiguously oppose the Obama administration. I don`t think there is any alternative to that. I just, at the same time, wanted to make sure that that happens when there are clear and unequivocal rulings, because, you know, there was a Greek philosopher, Diogenes, Keith, who used to go around and begging from statues. And they asked him why he did that, and he said he was practicing disappointment. So we don`t need to be practicing disappointment. We can wait and when there is reason to be disappointed, we need to express and we need to call on Congress to exercise checks and balances. And there are many in Congress, including Jane Harman, who have made it clear that they are planning to exercise checks and balances.
OLBERMANN: What happens, however, if the left does have to protest? And is inherent in a protest against the Democratic President, is there some loss of the argument that Bush had done this stuff for bad reasons?
HUFFINGTON: Well, you know, Keith, I never thought that the argument against Bush was bad reasons. They were bad policies, whatever the reasons. And they were bad policies in terms of America`s safety. In the new book by Tom Ricks, General Petraeus and his colleagues in Iraq were quoted saying that these policies made America and our troops less safe, that they provoked a lot of the worse attacks on American troops. So that`s really what, and it`s not a right versus left case. It`s a right versus wrong case.
OLBERMANN: Arianna Huffington, founder and publisher of Huffington Post, it`s always a pleasure, Arianna. Thanks again for your time tonight.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Keith.