Olbermann Focuses on Whether Dem Congress Will Protect Habeas Corpus

On Wednesday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, while interviewing E.J. Dionne of the Washinton Post, seemed to fret about whether Democrats would sufficiently investigate and rein in the Bush administration on issues such as habeas corpus and the Military Commissions Act. After wondering if Democrats "ignore at their peril the wing of their party that donated and campaigned on the promise of intensive oversight, of hearing subpoenas," Olbermann moved on to his concerns about habeas corpus as he wondered if Democrats would either "dismantle" the Military Commisions Act or if they would otherwise be able to "keep that monster under the bed." Olbermann: "Of particular concern here in terms of what the Democrats will do unto the Senators recoiled in horror at its passage and anybody who remembers good old habeas corpus. The Military Commissions Act, do the Democrats have a plan to dismantle that or is their presence in power enough by itself to keep that monster under the bed?" (Transcript follows)

At one point, Dionne compared Congressional Republicans who investigated the Clinton administration to an "Inspector Clousseau" who was "investigating paper clips stolen from the White House." Dionne: "I think the Democrats are going to try to figure out a way to have serious oversight which really didn't happen much under the Republican Congress with Bush, without looking like they're Inspector Clousseau or something investigating paper clips stolen from the White House, which is what the Republicans used to do with Bill Clinton."

Below is a trancript of relevant portions of the interview with E.J. Dionne from the November 8 Countdown:

Keith Olbermann: "It's hard to imagine that Americans voted a Republican Congress out purely out of a hunger to have a different party that will still agree with the President. Do the Democrats ignore at their peril the wing of their party that donated and campaigned on the promise of intensive oversight, of hearing subpoenas, at least some oversight idea?"

E.J. Dionne, Washington Post: "You can do a lot of things at the same time. I mean, I think, on the one hand, to say that if the President's willing to move toward a better policy in Iraq, there's no reason not to encourage him. At the same time, I am sure there are going to be lots of hearings on all sorts of things from Halliburton to the drug companies to how we got into the war. And I think the Democrats are going to try to figure out a way to have serious oversight which really didn't happen much under the Republican Congress with Bush, without looking like they're Inspector Clousseau or something investigating paper clips stolen from the White House, which is what the Republicans used to do with Bill Clinton."

Olbermann: "Of particular concern here in terms of what the Democrats will do unto the Senators recoiled in horror at its passage and anybody who remembers good old habeas corpus. The Military Commissions Act, do the Democrats have a plan to dismantle that or is their presence in power enough by itself to keep that monster under the bed?"

Dionne: "You know, I don't think they have a plan to dismantle it. I think that one of the most underused mechanisms Congress has, one of the most underused in recent years, is the hearing and discussions that say, 'Wait a minute, we think there's a problem. Let us demonstrate to you that this is a problem and that we got to move in another direction.' And I think this is an issue where, with some serious work overtime, they could persuade a lot of Americans that this is not a good idea and that we should move in a different direction, and I think on some issues you can act quickly, like the minimum wage. On other issues, you can use the power you now have to move the country in your direction, and I think this is one of those where they could do that."

Olbermann: "Maybe keeping the subpoenas under the bed might be the easiest way to get a little juice going on those things."

Dionne: "Yeah, well, you need some, yes. Well, subpoenas, I think we're going to see a lot more of those issued under the Democrats than we did in the last few years. They'll make a nice chart on your show."

Olbermann: "Yeah, I can't wait. E.J. Dionne, the Washington Post columnist, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, great thanks as always for your time."