On his Countdown show Tuesday, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann hyped an article posted on the Vanity Fair Web site, by Washington Post and Time magazine veteran Carl Bernstein, which called for congressional hearings into, as described by Olbermann, "the entirety of the Bush administration." Olbermann referred to the crusading journalist of Watergate fame as an "eminent voice" calling for Congress to find out if the Bush White House is "worse than Watergate." He then brought aboard Bernstein for what the Countdown host touted as an "exclusive interview," to discuss the article, during which Bernstein referred to the "distressing, terrible situation" of having a Bush administration that "has not been very truthful" when it comes to "almost everything important that we have been told by this President." Bernstein also described the controversial NSA surveillance program as a "totally illegal...usurpation of power...under the guise of national security," equating it to the illegal wiretapping by the Nixon administration. Bernstein recalled how "there was an article of impeachment against Nixon for wiretapping." (Transcript follows)
Olbermann teased Tuesday's show touting his "exclusive interview" with Bernstein: "And could this ever happen? A congressional inquiry into not Plamegate, not Iraq, not Abramoff, but the entirety of the Bush administration? Carl Bernstein has just proposed exactly that. He will join us in an exclusive interview."
After covering the news of Donald Rumsfeld refusing to resign in response to criticism by retired generals, Olbermann introduced his interview with Bernstein: "Not just who is running the conflict in Iraq but also the road to war, especially the information or misinformation the administration used in selling the invasion. All parts of an equation that has another eminent voice raising the question of whether the Bush presidency is, in fact, worse than Watergate."
As Bernstein summarized his article calling for congressional hearings, he implied there was a need to "deal with" President Bush, as he said the hearings would "determine the next step that is taken to deal with Iraq, to deal with Iran, to deal with George W. Bush."
Reciting the "What did he know and when did he know it?" cliche, Bernstein proclaimed that "we need to have a real investigation about what did this president know, what did this vice president know, what did this national security advisor, what did this secretary of state know, and when did they know it?"
As he concluded his appearance with Olbermann, Bernstein again referred to a "terrible situation," which he claimed was "created by some people who maybe were in over their heads, who simply were unable to be truthful." He called the controversial NSA surveillance program a "totally illegal, it would seem, usurpation of power by the President under the guise of national security, the kind of thing Nixon, there was an article of impeachment against Nixon for wiretapping." After acknowledging that, unlike with the Nixon administration, the current wiretapping involves the war on terrorism, Bernstein still charged that "an awful lot of this would appear to be for political advantage."
Below is a complete transcript of relevant portions of the April 18 Countdown show, including the entire interview with Bernstein:
Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "And could this ever happen? A congressional inquiry into not Plamegate, not Iraq, not Abramoff, but the entirety of the Bush administration? Carl Bernstein has just proposed exactly that. He will join us in an exclusive interview."
Olbermann later introduced the segment with Bernstein: "Not just who is running the conflict in Iraq but also the road to war, especially the information or misinformation the administration used in selling the invasion. All parts of an equation that has another eminent voice raising the question of whether the Bush presidency is, in fact, worse than Watergate. That voice belonging to none other than Carl Bernstein, without whose reporting Watergate would have remained just a hotel, apartment and office complex. Now a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, he's taken a closer look at the Bush presidency in an article on the magazine's Web site. The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter joins us now. Carl, good evening. Thanks for your time tonight."
Carl Bernstein: "Good to be here."
Olbermann: "I appreciate I'm asking you to summarize what you wrote 5,900 words on in Vanity Fair, but what are you proposing here exactly?"
Bernstein: "That the disinformation and misinformation and unknown quantities of information are so great in this presidency, that we need to have the kind of investigation by a distinguished committee of the Senate, such as we did in Watergate, of President Nixon, so that we can learn what has happened in the presidency of George W. Bush. We don't know. What we do know primarily from people who have left the administration and from journalists and from the special prosecutor and others is that almost everything important that we have been told by this president and by the men and women around him has not been very truthful and more often than not, if it's of importance, it has not been the truth period. That is a very distressing, terrible situation to be in, especially when you're at war and you're going to war."
Olbermann: "Obviously Watergate was a machete fight for most of its life. But when we got into the role of the Senate investigation, and then the House impeachment investigation, it was less so. Is the kind of extensive partisan rancor-free investigation you're talking about even possible with same-party control of Congress or are we realistically talking in the land of the hypothetical here?"
Bernstein: "I think it's a long shot, but I think it's possible because I think that many Republicans have lost confidence in George Bush. They doubt his truthfulness. They doubt his competence. They're the ones who are talking to each other about what can be done about this presidency, about saving themselves in an election that increasingly looks like it might go to the Democrats. So what I've proposed in this article is that this might be, in this aberrant presidency, a great opportunity to rise above the culture wars, vote before the elections for an election, for an investigation that would be chaired by a Republican, like the Watergate committee, which was chaired by a Democrat, and let's finally find out the facts in such a way that that light shown on what has happened in this presidency will determine the next step that is taken to deal with Iraq, to deal with Iran, to deal with George W. Bush. The question is not Donald Rumsfeld and his terminal disingenuousness talking about two or three people who might have criticized him as opposed to the biggest revolt of generals in the nation's history. Six people, three of whom served directly under him, all of whom were concerned with the war in Iraq. We've never seen anything like this. We're in a war in the wrong country. You know, it was Donald Rumsfeld that, the 24 hours after 9/11, said should we also hit Saddam Hussein now that we're going after bin Laden? He wanted to go after him right away. We're in a war in the wrong country. We've made a fundamental, you know, mistake. And now somehow Republicans know this, too, we've got to come out of this as best as possible. And until we know the facts, from these people who have never been willing to be honest with Congress, who have claimed executive privilege and national security stuff, authorized torture, denied they authorized torture when it's right there on a piece of paper drawn up by the President's council, we need to have a real investigation about what did this president know, what did this vice president know, what did this national security advisor, what did this secretary of state know, and when did they know it?"
Olbermann: "I would assume that almost everyone, no matter their political point of view, hearing you speak this way, or reading the piece in Vanity Fair on the Web site, would say, 'Be realistic about this, there is a Republican, you're proposing a Republican Senate investigate a Republican president.' Are you suggesting that there is enough going on under the surface of the glacier that if one or two Republicans were to come out in support of something like this, that there would be a quick enough changing in public positions of all the others that something like this could occur before the mid-term elections in November?"
Bernstein: "Two things to keep in mind. One, it was Republicans that really cast the decisive votes for articles of impeachment that dispatched Richard Nixon. It was Barry Goldwater, the great conservative, who went to the White House and told Nixon he had to go, he was going to be convicted in the Senate. It was the Republicans who rose above partisanship, that made the system work in Watergate. And we have that opportunity now. It would take 12 or 13 Republican votes, maybe 14, to vote for an investigation, and this thing would pass. If they don't, and the Democrats win a majority of the Senate, then I would think there will certainly be an investigation. And if the Democrats win the House, I think there will be an impeachment investigation that can be, you know, back into the kind of ugly partisanship that we saw in the Clinton impeachment. We need a dispassionate look at a terrible situation created by some people who maybe were in over their heads, who simply were unable to be truthful. Maybe they got caught in situations that they didn't foresee. There might be some very human reasons. There might be some Freudian reasons. But we have to find out who did what and what the policies are. For instance, we didn't even know about this NSA illegal wiretapping until the guest that was just on Chris Matthews' show. James Risen of the New York Times came up with the stories, who's now won a Pulitzer, about a totally illegal, it would seem, usurpation of power by the President under the guise of national security, the kind of thing Nixon, there was an article of impeachment against Nixon for wiretapping. You know, we're talking serious business here. Now, there might be reasons because that we're fighting a war on terror that some things have to be done differently. But an awful lot of this would appear to be for political advantage, etc."
Olbermann: "The author and journalist, Carl Bernstein, whose article calling for Senate hearings on the Bush presidency can be found now on the Vanity Fair Web site, and it's an extraordinary read. Carl, we appreciate your time and obviously your perspective, sir."
Bernstein: "Good to be here, thank you so much."
Olbermann: "Thank you."