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MSNBC's O'Donnell Hails Obama's 'Cajones' in Bashing Limbaugh --1/27/2009


1. MSNBC's O'Donnell Hails Obama's 'Cojones' in Bashing Limbaugh
On Monday afternoon, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell wondered: "Does President Barack Obama finally have the cojones, that some Democrats haven't had in the past, in saying to other Republicans 'you don't have to listen to Rush Limbaugh?'" Democratic strategist Penny Lee agreed with O'Donnell and replied: "Enough with this politics of personal destruction. Let us get back to business and you don't have to listen to the extremes on either side." O'Donnell also spoke with Republican strategist Phil Musser and asked: "What out does it give the Republican Party to have Rush Limbaugh out there saying, who is the voice of many conservatives, that he hopes the President fails. I mean, that's kind of lame, isn't it?"

2. NBC's Mitchell Calls Smearing of Caroline Kennedy 'Inexcusable'
Acting like Caroline Kennedy's PR flack, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, on Monday's Today show, first delivered the news that the Kennedy family was "furious," at the way her Senate bid was treated by New York Governor David Paterson, but then she quickly merged her own personal opinion into the story, calling the smearing of the former First Daughter "inexcusable." Curiously Mitchell never revealed to viewers what specifically Paterson or those close to Paterson had said of Kennedy, only vaguely mentioning "they went after her on personal issues."

3. In 17 Minutes of Blago Coverage, ABC Skips Fact He's a Democrat
On Monday's Good Morning America, the ABC morning show featured four segments on scandal-ridden Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. And over the course of 17 minutes and 38 seconds, not one host or reporter mentioned his party affiliation. Co-host Diane Sawyer interviewed Blagojevich for two segments and simply referred to him as the Governor or Governor Blagojevich. The Illinois politician, who is accused of attempting to sell the former Senate seat of now-President Barack Obama, was identified in an onscreen graphic only. It read "(D) Illinois." (A more effusive graphic, which appeared during the show's opening tease, screamed, "Illinois Governor, Live!") But neither Sawyer, nor reporter Chris Bury (who filed two additional segments on the topic), actually used the word Democrat. In fact, the only time it came up was during the second interview when Blagojevich himself referred to "my fellow Democrats."

4. ABC vs. ABC: Excited Over Obama Inaugural; Not So Much With Bush
Proving that four years can make quite a difference, ABC's Good Morning America featured an excited, hyperbolic open for the show's special edition on the inauguration of Barack Obama. As the program began last Tuesday, an ABC announcer trumpeted: "This morning, a new dawn: Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. A new face from a new generation. Driven by an audacity to hope." So, how did ABC begin Good Morning America on January 20, 2005, the day George W. Bush was sworn in for a second term? A voice simply announced: "This is a special edition of 'Good Morning America.' The second inauguration of George W. Bush." That's it. In contrast, the Obama open heaped generous praise on the new Democratic President: "The nation's capital, filled to capacity. A journey of millions, fueled by hope and the shared dreams of a renewed America," the unidentified person exclaimed.

5. CNN's Sanchez 'Making News' on Torture Case Against Rumsfeld?
During the 3 PM EST hour on Monday, anchor Rick Sanchez trumpeted a United Nations investigator's apparent finding against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld concerning torture: "[W]e're making news here, because I just heard you on the record say that there does seem to be enough evidence to be able to make a case against Donald Rumsfeld specifically." He also asked why Rumsfeld had been "singled out [and] not Cheney [or] Alberto Gonzalez?" Sanchez had Manfred Nowak, the United Nations special investigator on torture, as a guest beginning at the bottom half of the 3 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program. He introduced Nowak by reading a quote by the investigator himself: "The government of the United States is required to take all necessary steps to bring George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld before a court." Sanchez highlighted how the statement "isn't being said by just anyone. This is being said, again, by Mr. Nowak, who is the United Nations special investigator on torture -- specific enough and important enough for us to have him on to talk about this now."

6. Olbermann: Gitmo Inspired Innocent Ex-Detainee to Go Terrorist
If we are to believe Keith Olbermann's latest wild theory espoused Thursday and Friday nights, an innocent, mild mannered furniture salesman and humanitarian from Riyadh may have been inspired to become an al-Qaeda leader because he was falsely imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, courtesy of Olbermann's favorite target, the Bush administration, who "created [his] reason for hating us." In light of reports that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Said Ali al-Shihri, who was released in 2007 and has now become an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen believed responsible for a September embassy bombing, Olbermann seemed to seriously suggest that al-Shihri may have been an innocent man when he was first jailed at Gitmo, and then became a terrorist leader as a result of his imprisonment. The Countdown host plugged the story before a commercial break: "But perhaps the real question is: Since we never tried him, never found him guilty, and the Bush administration set him free, what if he wasn't a terrorist in the first place but we turned him into one by sending him to Gitmo?" But Olbermann was disputing a take on Shihri's terrorist activities that is at odds with his own network's reporting on the story from NBC Nightly News, in a report filed by Jim Miklaszewski, who treated concerns about closing Gitmo with credibility.


MSNBC's O'Donnell Hails Obama's 'Cojones'
in Bashing Limbaugh

On Monday afternoon, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell wondered: "Does President Barack Obama finally have the cojones, that some Democrats haven't had in the past, in saying to other Republicans 'you don't have to listen to Rush Limbaugh?'" Democratic strategist Penny Lee agreed with O'Donnell and replied: "Enough with this politics of personal destruction. Let us get back to business and you don't have to listen to the extremes on either side."

O'Donnell also spoke with Republican strategist Phil Musser and asked: "What out does it give the Republican Party to have Rush Limbaugh out there saying, who is the voice of many conservatives, that he hopes the President fails. I mean, that's kind of lame, isn't it?" Musser responded: "He is raising some legitimate issues in the context of what some would characterize as maybe impolitic language, but that's his business." However, he later attacked Limbaugh: "...the Republican Party is now the minority party and in a lot of ways, we're back to throwing the bombs from the sidelines... And that's one of the things that I think Rush Limbaugh is stepping up to try to capitalize on."

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Later in the 3:00 PM EST hour segment, O'Donnell attempted to portray Obama's comments about Limbaugh as political savvy: "But isn't this exactly the kind of fight that Obama wants to have? Don't fight with the Republicans in the House, don't fight with the Republicans in the Senate, because you have to work with them. But find somebody like a Rush Limbaugh, who they can argue is on the fringe, and fight with him, score points with your base and not lose out with the Republicans that you need?" Lee replied: "Absolutely. I mean, Rush Limbaugh is on the extreme. He is, again, he takes the -- and I'm sure he will ratchet up his vitriolic -- you know, to get all of his supporters on board and rally around all things. They need to ignore. If they really want to do and get this country back on the right track, they will ignore Rush Limbaugh and all of the crazies that go along with him on all the radios, and diddoheads, and everybody else that is out there. They will stop listening to him and actually get back to the will of the American people." Musser then added: "68% today, going to 58% in two weeks if we keep fighting with Rush Limbaugh. I'd ignore."

Here is the full transcript of the January 26 segment:

3:00PM TEASE:
NORAH O'DONNELL: President Obama takes on Rush Limbaugh. The president says Republicans should tune out the right-wing radio show host, and today, Limbaugh is fighting back. We're going to have it for you.

3:20PM TEASE:
O'DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama's message to Republicans: 'You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.' Well, now today, Rush Limbaugh has some choice words for the president, we're going to bring them to you.

3:43PM TEASE:
O'DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama has his hands full dealing with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. So why is he taking on conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh? Well, we've got for you what Rush Limbaugh said today. He fired back.

3:47PM SEGMENT:
NORAH O'DONNELL: And another controversy now between President Obama and conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh started it all when he recently said he hoped the president would fail. Well, on Friday, the president reportedly told GOP lawmakers that quote, 'you can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.' Well, Limbaugh isn't letting that comment sit. On his radio show today, Limbaugh said, referring to the president, quote, 'he's obviously more frightened of me than he is of Mitch McConnell. He's more frightened of me than he is of, say, John Boehner, which doesn't say much about our party.' Well, Penny Lee is a Democratic strategist and former senior advisor to Senator Harry Reid, she now works for lobbying group Venn Strategies. And Phil Musser is a Republican strategist and former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. Boys and girls, we got a fight on our hands now between Rush Limbaugh and the president, Barack Obama. We've -- listening to Limbaugh today and here's what Limbaugh said in his latest salvo against President Bush [Meaning Obama]. Let's listen.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Folks we're on day three. It appears that the president I support, I just don't support his policies. It appears he doesn't know what he's doing. He hasn't run anything in a long time. He's never really accomplished much.
O'DONNELL: What about that, Phil? I'll turn to you as the Republican. He says that 'Obama's more frightened of me,' meaning Limbaugh, 'than Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, which doesn't say much for our party.' Is Rush Limbaugh now the spokesman for the Republican Party?
PHIL MUSSER: Look, I think this all stems back to the fact that about, you know, Norah, about a week ago you challenged the Republican Party's cojones on the issue of whether or not we were going to stand-up to President Obama and Rush clearly heard you as a woman of power and has responded.
[LAUGHTER]
MUSSER: So, I'd really put the blame for this squarely at Norah O'Donnell's feet. But looking beyond that, look, Rush has got a -- Rush has got a constituency. This is a fight that he's thrilled to pick with President-elect -- excuse me -- President Obama, and you know, Rush does not speak for the Republican Party.
O'DONNELL: Yeah, but what out does it give the Republican Party to have Rush Limbaugh out there saying, who is the voice of many conservatives, that he hopes the president fails. I mean, that's kind of lame, isn't it?
MUSSER: Not my choice of language, to be totally honest with you as someone who also speaks out in the Republican Party. But Rush has got a 20-million-person following in this country. He is raising some legitimate issues in the context of what some would characterize as maybe impolitic language, but that's his business. And-
O'DONNELL: Let me just -- let me just continue this. You brought up cajones. So Penny, let me turn to you about cajones. Does President Barack Obama finally have the cajones, that some Democrats haven't had in the past, in saying to other Republicans 'you don't have to listen to Rush Limbaugh?'
PENNY LEE: I think you just heard exactly what he said. He said exactly that on Friday. And he -- what he is saying, and what he is trying to say, is open the dialogue for everybody. And he's just saying enough. Enough with this politics of personal destruction. Let us get back to business and you don't have to listen to the extremes on either side. Let us get together, let us get in the room together and let's work together.
O'DONNELL: Yeah, but how many Republicans, especially in the House, are worried about, and listen to what Rush says when it comes to a big spending bill like the one that's about to go through Congress?
LEE: Well, I want to say, I mean, if they want to listen to Rush Limbaugh, they are going down the wrong track. 60% of the American public are in favor of, actually, the goals of which Barack Obama has put in place for this recovery package. So, if they want to go on the ways of Rush Limbaugh, more power to them, but they are going against the will of the American people.
MUSSER: But it does show, Norah, that the fundamental change that's occurred, that the Republican Party is now the minority party and in a lot of ways, we're back to throwing the bombs from the sidelines as opposed to driving the agenda for our country that we had under President Bush. That's a fundamental paradigm shift in the way the balance of power has worked. And that's one of the things that I think Rush Limbaugh is stepping up to try to capitalize on and whether the Republican Congress pays attention to that is to be determined.
O'DONNELL: But isn't this exactly the kind of fight that Obama wants to have? Don't fight with the Republicans in the House, don't fight with the Republicans in the Senate, because you have to work with them. But find somebody like a Rush Limbaugh, who they can argue is on the fringe, and fight with him, score points with your base and not lose out with the Republicans that you need?
LEE: Absolutely. I mean, Rush Limbaugh is on the extreme. He is, again, he takes the -- and I'm sure he will ratchet up his vitriolic -- you know, to get all of his supporters on board and rally around all things. They need to ignore. If they really want to do and get this country back on the right track, they will ignore Rush Limbaugh and all of the crazies that go along with him on all the radios, and diddoheads, and everybody else that is out there. They will stop listening to him and actually get back to the will of the American people.
MUSSER: 68% today, going to 58% in two weeks if we keep fighting with Rush Limbaugh. I'd ignore.
O'DONNELL: Alright, Phil Musser, Penny Lee, hot conversation. Spicy. Alright.

NBC's Mitchell Calls Smearing of Caroline
Kennedy 'Inexcusable'

Acting like Caroline Kennedy's PR flack, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, on Monday's Today show, first delivered the news that the Kennedy family was "furious," at the way her Senate bid was treated by New York Governor David Paterson, but then she quickly merged her own personal opinion into the story, calling the smearing of the former First Daughter "inexcusable." Curiously Mitchell never revealed to viewers what specifically Paterson or those close to Paterson had said of Kennedy, only vaguely mentioning "they went after her on personal issues."

[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Monday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following exchange occurred on the January 26 edition of the Today show:

MATT LAUER: While Caroline Kennedy's Senate bid crashed and burned some Democrats are burning at the way New York's governor handled the whole affair. NBC's Andrea Mitchell is in Washington. Andrea, good morning to you.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning.
LAUER: And we're basically talking about three dynasties here. And let's start with the first one. The Kennedys. How did they come out of this whole thing?
MITCHELL: They are furious, Matt. They are furious because basically people close to the governor are believed to have trashed Caroline Kennedy's reputation, even after she withdrew. And there's no excuse for that at all. There's no excuse in any case. But the fact that they went after her on personal issues and put it all out there for the tabloid press after she had withdrawn - inexcusable.

In 17 Minutes of Blago Coverage, ABC
Skips Fact He's a Democrat

On Monday's Good Morning America, the ABC morning show featured four segments on scandal-ridden Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. And over the course of 17 minutes and 38 seconds, not one host or reporter mentioned his party affiliation. Co-host Diane Sawyer interviewed Blagojevich for two segments and simply referred to him as the Governor or Governor Blagojevich.

The Illinois politician, who is accused of attempting to sell the former Senate seat of now-President Barack Obama, was identified in an onscreen graphic only. It read "(D) Illinois." (A more effusive graphic, which appeared during the show's opening tease, screamed, "Illinois Governor, Live!") But neither Sawyer, nor reporter Chris Bury (who filed two additional segments on the topic), actually used the word Democrat. In fact, the only time it came up was during the second interview when Blagojevich himself referred to "my fellow Democrats."

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Additionally, Sawyer, through almost 14 minutes of interviews with the governor, never asked what one would assume to be a logical question: Did you ever talk to Barack Obama about the Senate seat? And, while she did press Blagojevich on the issues of corruption and selling the seat, she tossed in a few softballs at the end, such as this query: "And your children, Amy, 10, Annie, 4, what have you said to them? How are they doing?"

A transcript of the first Blagojevich interview, which aired at 7:11am, follows:

7am tease
DIANE SAWYER: [ABC graphic: Illinois Governor, Live!]: This morning, the embattled governor of Illinois, his impeachment trial starts today. Did he try to sell the President's Senate seat? He answers on GMA live this morning.

7:11
SAWYER: And now, as we said, on this morning when the Illinois senate is convening possibly to vote him out of office, Governor Rod Blagojevich here live. Good morning, governor.
GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D-Illinois): Good morning. Thanks for having me.
ABC GRAPHIC: Illinois Impeachment Trial: Historic Trial Opens Today
SAWYER: I know you have been railing against the process all weekend. I heard that. But, this morning can we just address the charges against you? Specifically, the U.S. attorney has said, and this is a quote from him, that you tried to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat like a sports agent shopping the highest bidder." Did you?
BLAGOJEVICH: Absolutely not. And I'll have a chance in a criminal case to show my innocence and bring witnesses. And this impeachment trial actually gives me an opportunity, if it was fair, if it allowed me to actually bring witnesses, to be able to prove that those allegations are not true. But as the impeachment process exists, they won't allow me to bring witnesses, like Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff, who has said most recently, publicly, that I've done nothing wrong in his relationship with me.
SAWYER: Well, again, I want to talk about the process of that later, but let's address again what is out there in the public record right now. What the people of Illinois have already seen and, specifically, the tapes as they've been quoted by the U.S. attorney who says, by the way, they're not a paraphrase they are specific quotes. Here's this: "I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden And I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing. I'm not going to do it and can always use it. I can parachute me in there." And you go on to say, "Therefore, I can drive a hard bargain. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself. It's a bleeping valuable thing. You just don't give it away for nothing." Did you say this?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I can't get into the specifics of the case, but I could say this: There's a process, a lot of discussions and ideas and there was an underlying effort to end up in a place that did the most for the people of Illinois. The ultimate-
SAWYER: Did the most for the people of Illinois? But the U.S. attorney said this was not about politics as usual. This was not- this was not political horse trading. This was personal gain and he goes on at one point here to talk about an occasion, apparently, when you talk about Mrs. Blagojevich getting appointed to some corporate boards so you could pick up another $150, 000 grand a year, or whatever, to help you as governor.
BLAGOJEVICH: Again, they took snippets of conversations completely out of context. Did not provide all the tapes that tell the whole story and when the whole story comes out you'll see that the effort was to work to have a senator who can best represent Illinois and one that can help us create jobs and provide health care.
SAWYER: Help me with context. Help me with the context that explains "I've got this thing, it's bleeping golden. I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing."
BLAGOJEVICH: Again, I can't go into the details of that case and I wish they would allow me at this impeachment trial to be able to bring the evidence, to show exactly what those conversations were. And the place that I ended up, which was part of a political process to leverage, to be able pass a public works program, expand health care and get a deal where we don't raise taxes on people, the whole story will come out.
SAWYER: But, again, you say it's a political process. But, the House, the Illinois House voted to impeach you 117-1. I think the one was your sister-in-law. The President has said you should resign and the mayor of Chicago said you're cuckoo. Have you lost your political base? Is it gone?
BLAGOJEVICH: Here's a question I have to you, to Mayor Daley and everyone else, whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? How is it that you can make a couple of allegation, take some conversations completely out of context, the whole story is not told and then force somebody to admit to something he didn't do and then deny that person, who is a sitting governor, a chance to have due process to bring witnesses and to defend himself? This impeachment trial gives me an opportunity to be able to disprove those allegations, show my innocence and I can do it sooner rather than later if the Senate allows me to bring witnesses in to prove my innocence.
SAWYER: Well, but as you know, they have said you passed up all the deadlines to protest against the rules. And in fact, in order to list other witnesses you might bring. But, rather than debate that, you said one of the things that you would introduce in order to establish that you were talking about lots of people to become senator is that you had other names on the list and you were really thinking about somebody else. Who were you thinking about?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, there's a whole series of people we talked about in those conversations and ultimately again there was a political process trying to be able to leverage a result that would pass a public works program, expand health care and hold the line on taxes.
SAWYER: But who were you thinking of?
BLAGOJEVICH: Several people and I'll tell you about that. But I have to emphasize again this impeachment trial is unconstitutional. It denies me the right to call witnesses to defend myself and prove my innocence.
SAWYER: Why aren't you in Illinois saying why aren't you saying this to members of your own legislators instead of here?
BLAGOJEVICH: Because those senators are politicians who make the rules and won't allow us a chance to be able to get them to change the rules. So, I'm here, talking to Americans to let them know what's happening in the land of Lincoln. If they can do this to a sitting governor, deny me the right to bring witnesses in to prove my innocence- And the witness I'd like to call, the President Rahm Emanuel, top staffer Valerie Jarrett, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. And a host of others. They won't allow me to bring them in to show my innocence. And, with that it's a scary thing. If they can do it to a governor, they can do that to you.
SAWYER: Let me ask you a personal question. I want to get back- Who were you thinking of for Senate who wasn't in any of these telephone calls?
BLAGOJEVICH: There were a lot of different candidates that I explored. And, again, the full story will come out at the appropriate time. Do you have any suggestions on who I might have been thinking about? What have heard?
SAWYER: I've heard Oprah.
BLAGOJEVICH: That is true.
SAWYER: Did you call Oprah? Were you talking to her? Was this something you were just thinking?
BLAGOJEVICH: No, the idea came to me from a friend and then among the considerations we discussed, whether or not is it made any sense. She seemed to be someone who had helped Barack Obama in a significant way become president. She was obviously someone with a much broader bully pulpit than other senators. She probably wouldn't take it and then we talked about it, if you offered to her how would you do it in a way it wasn't a gimmick and embarrass her?
SAWYER: These tapes, another way, when you look at them, is there anything in them that I guess horrifies you that the people of Illinois deserve something better than hearing this from their governor on tape?
BLAGOJEVICH: No, I think they should hear the whole story and they will see a governor who was trying to position and maneuver to create jobs, expand create health care and help people to make the right decision. And the decision was a selfless decision. Go ahead. I'm sorry.
SAWYER: If they do vote to impeach-
BLAGOJEVICH: They will. The fix is in.
SAWYER: And they have- If they vote, are you gone?
BLAGOJEVICH: Yes.
SAWYER: You will not be governor on Monday?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it depends on what their timetable is. But I'll suspect it'll be relatively soon. The fix is in. They've decided on a process that, again, denies me the opportunity to bring witnesses in like the president's chief of staff, U.S. senators and others who I discussed the senate seat with to prove my innocence.
SAWYER: What about the criminal case? Do you actually fear prison?
BLAGOJEVICH: I know what the truth is and I believe the truth will ultimately prevail here. Unfortunately, it's gotten lost in the frenzy and, unfortunately, in America today the media and everyone else seems to just rush to judgment and have denied me the presumption of innocence and what they've done is denied the people of Illinois that twice elected me governor the opportunity to have their governor make his case and defend himself because they chose me. These lawmakers did not.
SAWYER: As you know, Mrs. Blagojevich is also on these tapes and some people in the columns have said she's like Lady Macbeth in the background urging you on particularly in an instance with the Chicago Tribune to allegedly fire some on the Chicago Tribune in exchange for giving them some assistance for what they want to do with Wrigley Field. I just want to ask in personal terms, how is Mrs. Blagojevich? What is her role in this? How is she this morning?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, she's caring for our children. She is unfortunately depicted, you know, in a light that is obviously not her. You know, there's a phrase from a poem from Rudger Kipling that says, "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools. Or see the things you've given your life to broken and stoop and build them up with worn out tools." Again, you take a private conversation with calls from your home that are being secretly taped and you take something like that out of context, you can twist it and make somebody look like someone you're not and my wife is a loving wife who cares for our children. She's a- the best person I know. A person of great character and integrity.
SAWYER: And your children, Amy, 10, Annie, 4, what have you said to them? How are they doing?
BLAGOJEVICH: Amy 12 and Annie 5.
SAWYER: Sorry.
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it's a very difficult time for our family, as you can imagine. Among the many reasons why I won't allow them to run me out without a fight and I won't allow the politicians to take things out of context and accept things that aren't true is because I respect my children.
SAWYER: What do you say to your girls?
BLAGOJEVICH: Well, what I say to them is I- is how I act. And that I have done nothing wrong. I've done virtually everything right on behalf of the people and fighting to the very end for something much larger than me and the most important part is they should know their father is not the person that they're trying to say that he is. And among the reasons why I won't bow to these politicians who want me to quit for their own purposes and I must tell you when this all happened the pressure was immense to get out and leave the office so that some of those others can make a decision on who the next senator is.
SAWYER: I want you to know we'll get cut off by a computer. But we have standing by in Chicago in our bureau there we have Matt Murphy standing by. He's one of the state senators who helped draft the rules. Will you stay and respond to him as he responds to you and the charges? Will you stay?
BLAGOJEVICH: Sure.

ABC vs. ABC: Excited Over Obama Inaugural;
Not So Much With Bush

Proving that four years can make quite a difference, ABC's Good Morning America featured an excited, hyperbolic open for the show's special edition on the inauguration of Barack Obama. As the program began last Tuesday, an ABC announcer trumpeted: "This morning, a new dawn: Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. A new face from a new generation. Driven by an audacity to hope."

So, how did ABC begin Good Morning America on January 20, 2005, the day George W. Bush was sworn in for a second term? A voice simply announced: "This is a special edition of 'Good Morning America.' The second inauguration of George W. Bush." That's it. In contrast, the Obama open heaped generous praise on the new Democratic President: "The nation's capital, filled to capacity. A journey of millions, fueled by hope and the shared dreams of a renewed America," the unidentified person exclaimed.

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Cutting in clips of Obama speeches, the announcer continued, "And a call to overcome challenges not seen in generations...Now, live, a special edition of 'Good Morning America' from Washington D.C., the inauguration of Barack Obama." The best thing that can be said about the brief 2005 open is this: GMA followed the old admonition that many mothers give their children. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

For more on the January 20 GMA open, see a January 21 CyberAlert posting, with video: www.mrc.org

A transcript of the two contrasting show opens follows:

January 20, 2005:
ABC ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of 'Good Morning America.' The second inauguration of George W. Bush. Live from the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C., Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and Peter Jennings.

January 20, 2009:
ABC ANNOUNCER: This morning, a new dawn: Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. A new face from a new generation. Driven by an audacity to hope. PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: They said this day would never come.
ANNOUNCER: It has. It's here.
OBAMA: Change has come to America.
ANNOUNCER: The nation's capital, filled to capacity. A journey of millions, fueled by hope and the shared dreams of a renewed America.
OBAMA: Yes we can.
ANNOUNCER: And a call to overcome challenges not seen in generations.
OBAMA: I stand here as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure. That the dreams of our founders will live on in our time.
ANNOUNCER: Now, live, a special edition of "Good Morning America" from Washington D.C., the inauguration of Barack Obama.

CNN's Sanchez 'Making News' on Torture
Case Against Rumsfeld?

During the 3 PM EST hour on Monday, anchor Rick Sanchez trumpeted a United Nations investigator's apparent finding against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld concerning torture: "[W]e're making news here, because I just heard you on the record say that there does seem to be enough evidence to be able to make a case against Donald Rumsfeld specifically." He also asked why Rumsfeld had been "singled out [and] not Cheney [or] Alberto Gonzalez?"

Sanchez had Manfred Nowak, the United Nations special investigator on torture, as a guest beginning at the bottom half of the 3 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program. He introduced Nowak by reading a quote by the investigator himself: "The government of the United States is required to take all necessary steps to bring George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld before a court." Sanchez highlighted how the statement "isn't being said by just anyone. This is being said, again, by Mr. Nowak, who is the United Nations special investigator on torture -- specific enough and important enough for us to have him on to talk about this now."

[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Monday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

During the initial segment, there were audio difficulties with the feed from Nowak, who appeared via video phone. Sanchez stopped the interview after the second question and again underlined the apparent importance of Nowak's finding: "We're going to try and reschedule this and see if we can just get you on a better contact, if we can. If we can do it before the end of this newscast, we will. If not, we'll try to reschedule this for tomorrow, because it's an important conversation that obviously needs to be heard by a whole lot of people. My thanks again to Manfred Nowak for the valiant effort."

The audio issues were apparently resolved quickly, as Nowak was back during the following segment. Sanchez asked the U.N. investigator, "So what happens if the Obama administration says...we've got bigger problems in this country than to deal with whatever my -- the past administration did, we're not going to do it, we're not going to get involved in that, we're going to leave it alone. Is he violating any laws, any principles? What would happen then?" Nowak replied, "I would say the first obligation is to really investigate -- have an independent investigation about what happened during this eight years of the so-called war against terror."

The CNN anchor then reworded his question: "If there were requirements and obligations and they are ignored by the Obama administration -- you as the investigator of torture around the world, as one of the foremost authorities on torture around the world -- what will you do? Where will you take this?" Nowak invoked one of President Obama's buzz words in his answer: "I will remind the United States of America of its obligations and I will try to convince them that they should live up to these obligations, and President Obama has made it very clear that he wants change, and that means also that he wishes to comply with international human rights obligations."

Sanchez concluded his interview of Nowak by asking if torture charges could be brought up against other Bush administration officials: "One final question, sir: why [are] President Bush and Rumsfeld singled out? Why not Cheney? Why not Alberto Gonzalez?" The U.N. investigator denied singling out Bush, despite Sanchez's earlier quote, which Harper's magazine also had picked up on:

NOWAK: I have not singled out President Bush. I only have said the U.S. has an obligation to investigate....[I]n our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods, and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the leading counsel of the Navy -- Mr. Secretary, what you are actually ordering here amounts to torture. So there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing, but nevertheless, he ordered torture, and that's why there is strong evidence. I have not said anything about President Bush, and others...."

For Harper's report on Nowak's findings against Bush and Rumsfeld, see Scott Horton's January 21, 2009 item, "UN Rapporteur: Initiate criminal proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld now," at: harpers.org

The transcript of the second segment of Rick Sanchez's interview of Manfred Nowak, which began 37 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour of Monday's Newsroom program:

SANCHEZ: So what happens if the Obama administration says look, we've got too many -- much bigger fish to fry, we've got bigger problems in this country than to deal with whatever my -- the past administration did, we're not going to do it, we're not going to get involved in that, we're going to leave it alone. Is he violating any laws, any principles? What would happen then?
NOWAK: I mean -- I would say the first obligation is to really investigate -- have an independent investigation about what happened during this eight years of the so-called war against terror. Then-
SANCHEZ: Who? The United States? But who would have that investigation -- the United States, its Congress, or would it be an international board?
NOWAK: It is the United States of America. How they do it is up to them -- it can be a congressional investigation. It can be a special investigator. There are various ways and means to find out the truth. And the next step is then to see what kind of consequences. One is, for instance, that the victims of torture have a right to reparation. That is as important as -- then look into the individual perpetrators and to bring them to justice. But all this are requirements [sic], obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
SANCHEZ: You keep coming back to the word [sic] requirements and obligations. If there were requirements and obligations and they are ignored by the Obama administration -- you as the investigator of torture around the world, as one of the foremost authorities on torture around the world -- what will you do? Where will you take this?
NOWAK: I will remind the United States of America of its obligations and I will try to convince them that they should live up to these obligations, and President Obama has made it very clear that he wants change, and that means also that he wishes to comply with international human rights obligations.
SANCHEZ: If what you are saying is true, by the way, does the United -- does the United Nations war crimes tribunal not also have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute U.S. officials?
NOWAK: No, because the United States has not ratified the Statute of the International Criminal Court, and that's why the International Criminal Court is not competent unless U.S. citizens are found to have tortured or committed other -- and these are really serious crimes against humanity or war crimes in another country that has ratified the Statute of the ICC. So in this case, when we are talking about Guantanamo Bay, this is under United States jurisdiction, and the ICC is not competent. It is up to the domestic authorities to investigate, and if they find enough evidence of torture, to also prosecute.
SANCHEZ: Once again, this is an exclusive interview with Manfred Nowak, one of the foremost experts on torture around the world. One final question, sir: why [are] President Bush and Rumsfeld singled out? Why not Cheney? Why not Alberto Gonzalez?
NOWAK: No, no-
SANCHEZ: Go ahead.
NOWAK: I have not singled out President Bush. I only have said the U.S. has an obligation to investigate. I think, first and foremost, to look at the individuals who have tortured -- where you have evidence -- but then you have to look into who ordered this. And we have clear evidence, and in our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods, and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the leading counsel of the Navy -- Mr. Secretary, what you are actually ordering here amounts to torture. So there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing, but nevertheless, he ordered torture, and that's why there is strong evidence. I have not said anything about President Bush, and others. Of course, Alberto Gonzalez also condoned it by -- because from his department, there were various memoranda which actually undermined the absolute prohibition of torture by defining torture in a very, very narrow sense, which was not in accordance with the definition of torture within the United Nations convention. So there [is] more, but that is up to the United States prosecution -- investigation authorities, and finally, the U.S. courts, to find out to what extent they have enough evidence to actually convict any direct torturer or those who ordered or condoned torture.
SANCHEZ: Well -- but we're making news here, because I just heard you on the record say that there does seem to be enough evidence to be able to make a case against Donald Rumsfeld specifically. Manfred Nowak, U.N. special investigator -- foremost expert on torture around the word -- my thanks to you, sir, for taking time to talk to us.
NOVAK: Thanks very much. Have a nice day.

Olbermann: Gitmo Inspired Innocent Ex-Detainee
to Go Terrorist

If we are to believe Keith Olbermann's latest wild theory espoused Thursday and Friday nights, an innocent, mild mannered furniture salesman and humanitarian from Riyadh may have been inspired to become an al-Qaeda leader because he was falsely imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, courtesy of Olbermann's favorite target, the Bush administration, who "created [his] reason for hating us."

In light of reports that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Said Ali al-Shihri, who was released in 2007 and has now become an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen believed responsible for a September embassy bombing, Olbermann seemed to seriously suggest that al-Shihri may have been an innocent man when he was first jailed at Gitmo, and then became a terrorist leader as a result of his imprisonment. The Countdown host plugged the story before a commercial break: "But perhaps the real question is: Since we never tried him, never found him guilty, and the Bush administration set him free, what if he wasn't a terrorist in the first place but we turned him into one by sending him to Gitmo?"

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

During the show's regular "Still Bushed" segment that derides George W. Bush, renamed from "Bushed" since President Bush left office, Olbermann contended that the conservative "knee-jerk" reaction was to argue that Shihri's terrorist activity after release from Guantanamo was evidence that Gitmo should not be closed as President Obama plans. The Countdown host then pushed a counterintuitive theory to explain the connection between being a prisoner at Gitmo and engaging in terrorist acts. Olbermann began: "It would seem the commentary on this is bass ackwards." After listing the original charges against Shihri, the MSNBC host continued:
"Shihri said he had gone to Afghanistan to do relief work, and his trip to Iran, that was to buy carpets for his family's furniture store in Riyad. So the ultimate question here is not: Doesn't this prove we can never ever ever never close Gitmo? But rather, if he really was traveling tourists of terrorism and not a guy buying rugs, why did the Bush people let him go? Or, why was he never put on trial? Or, why did the permanent solution to terrorism the Bushies claim Gitmo was fail so utterly here? And, perhaps worst of all, if Shihri was once just a guy trying to get a deal on some carpets, which is suggested by the fact that Bush's people let him go, did his detention at Gitmo in fact turn him into a terrorist? Did we perhaps create in Said al-Shihri his reason for hating us?"

But Olbermann was disputing a take on Shihri's terrorist activities that is at odds with his own network's reporting on the story from the same day's NBC Nightly News, in a report filed by Jim Miklaszewski, who treated concerns about closing Gitmo with credibility. The NBC correspondent began his report: "You know, today we got a grim reminder of one of the real dangers in closing the Guantanamo prison, that once detainees are released, there's a good chance the U.S. will have to fight them all over again. ... Said al-Shihri is not just any terrorist. He's al-Qaeda's deputy commander in Yemen. But perhaps more troubling, he's a former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. After three years in custody, al-Shihri was considered to no longer be a threat, and in 2007 was released to Saudi Arabia."

After recounting that Shihri is believed to be responsible for the September embassy bombing, Miklaszewki brought up other cases of former Gitmo detainees taking part in terrorist activities after their release: "Salim al-Ajmi was also released from Guantanamo, but last March in this al-Qaeda video carried out a suicide bombing against Iraqi police in Mosul....Of the 525 detainees released from Guantanamo, the Pentagon claims 61 of those, nearly 12 percent, are believed to have rejoined al-Qaeda in the fight against the U.S. Some in Congress fear that President Obama 's order to close Guantanamo in a year will only provide al-Qaeda with more reinforcements."

Notably, just the night before, also during the "Still Bushed" segment, Olbermann had theorized that the Bush administration had routinely lied about the number of former Gitmo detainees who returned to terrorism because the Pentagon had allegedly cited conflicting numbers, and suggested that one former detainee sue President Bush personally for a very high number of dollars. After relaying the story of former Gitmo detainee Sayad Iqbal, who is trying to sue the U.S. government, Olbermann recounted the story of Seton Hall Professor Mark Denbeaux, who appeared on the January 16 Rachel Maddow Show and contended that there were inconsistencies in the numbers cited by the Pentagon. Olbermann suggested: "So here's a wild guess: the administration just made the numbers up, like Joe McCarthy used to. Which is what Mr. Iqbal should do. Make up a really high number and sue us for that. And then make up a higher number and sue George Bush personally for that."

Also of note, on the Thursday, August 7, Countdown, one night after accusing President Bush of not doing enough to protect America from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization before the September 11th attacks, Olbermann seemed sympathetic to the plight of bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, and expressed outrage that the Pentagon might keep him imprisoned beyond the time of his sentence. Olbermann: "So, besides urinating on the Constitution and the rights and freedoms every American soldier has ever fought to win and protect, the Bush administration has now decided that when its victims have actually served their sentences, doled out under its own medieval, quote, 'justice,' unquote, system, it still might not choose to set them free, thereby giving that Constitution and our country a second pass on the way out."

The August 8, 2008, CyberAlert, recounting Olbermann's defense of bin Laden's driver: www.mrc.org

Below is a transcript of the relevant portions of the Thursday, January 22, Countdown show on MSNBC; and the Friday, January 23, Countdown; followed by a complete transcript of Miklaszewski's story from the Friday, January 23, NBC Nightly News:

# From the Thursday, January 22, Countdown show on MSNBC:

KEITH OLBERMANN, DURING THE SHOW'S "STILL BUSHED" SEGMENT: Number one, the other aspect of torture-gate. This has probably been in the back of your head all this time that we were detaining foreign nationals at Gitmo and in Gulags in Eastern Europe, never charging them, denying them counsel or appeal or habeas corpus. After they were finally liberated, wouldn't at least one of them sue us? Mohammad Sayad Iqbal of Pakistan was seized nearly seven years ago. Our people claimed he had talked about building a shoe bomb and had gone to Afghanistan. We stuck him in Gitmo. We left him there. No charges. We just sent him home. His attorney here is now suing the U.S. government. No figures yet mentioned. No, the only figures are the kinds of figures you`ll hear are the propaganda numbers still being broadcast on places like CNN, that 61 released detainees have now been linked to some kind of terror activity.
Professor Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall told Rachel last week that he's been studying these released Gitmo statistics for a while. The Bush administration, he says, made at least 43 attempts to quantify the number of recidivist ex-detainees. And the professor said, quote, their numbers have changed from 20 to 12, to seven, to more than five, to two, to a couple, to a few, 25, 29, 12, and then 24. Every time the number has been different. In fact, every time they give a number, they don't identify a date, a place, a time, a name or an incident to support their claim.
So here's a wild guess: the administration just made the numbers up, like Joe McCarthy used to. Which is what Mr. Iqbal should do. Make up a really high number and sue us for that. And then make up a higher number and sue George Bush personally for that.



# From the Friday, January 23, Countdown show on MSNBC:

KEITH OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:14 P.M.: There is another riddle inside a second enigma tonight. A detainee released from Guantanamo Bay is now found to be leading al-Qaeda operations in Yemen. The knee-jerk questions: Since the guy went back to his terrorist ways, does that not mean we can never close Gitmo? But perhaps the real question is: Since we never tried him, never found him guilty, and the Bush administration set him free, what if he wasn't a terrorist in the first place but we turned him into one by sending him to Gitmo?

...

OLBERMANN, BEFORE INTRODUCING THE SHOW'S ODDBALL SEGMENT AT 8:28 P.M.: "Still Bushed" in a moment, and what if the head of al-Qaeda in Yemen was not a terrorist before we sent him to Gitmo?

...

OLBERMANN: But first, because they may be gone, but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration's 50 running scandals, "Still Bushed." Number three, "Wicked Witch of the West-Gate": We're beginning to understand the context of the uproarious welcome at State yesterday for new Secretary Clinton. The careerists over there really didn't like the old Secretary. Harper's reported that one of them had said she was looking forward to the "Glenda party." That was yesterday's arrival of Secretary Clinton. Scott Horton writes that he asked the employee if Hillary is Glenda, the Good Witch of the South from the Wizard of Oz, did that make Condoleezza Rice the Wicked Witch of the West? The answer he got was, "You're on to it." Another 20-year vet at State said that upon Rice's confirmation as Secretary, the tone of internal department publications had changed. They began to praise and glorify Rice. No prior Secretary did anything like this."

...

And number one, terrorist-gate, the New York Times, of all outfits, reporting that a guy we released from Guantanamo Bay a year ago, is now the deputy leader of al-Qaeda's group in the nation of Yemen. Said Ali al-Shihri was sent home to Saudi Arabia in 2007, went through this Saudi rehab program, supposedly went to work in the family business, but he is now a suspect in the bombing of our embassy in Yemen last September. The Times wrote that this, quote, "has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center" " that would be Gitmo" "be shut down within a year." Conservative politicians have gone nuts, saying this shows you can't close Gitmo ever, and you certainly can't release anybody from Gitmo and they were right and they told you so. Bill O'Reilly tonight led his newscast with this as a warning to President Obama.
All this is based on one really big assumption. In fact, it would seem the commentary on this is bass ackwards. The Bush administration detained this man and claimed he'd gone to an urban warfare tactics training camp in Kabul, had been injured in an air raid just after we went into Afghanistan in 2001, had met with extremists in Iran and smuggled some of them into Afghanistan, and had tried to carry out a fatwah on a writer. But before he was freed from Gitmo '€" and please remember, he was not freed as part of the panicky flushing of the innocent of the last months of the administration. The Bushies let him go in 2007. Shihri said he had gone to Afghanistan to do relief work, and his trip to Iran, that was to buy carpets for his family's furniture store in Riyad. So the ultimate question here is not: Doesn't this prove we can never ever ever never close Gitmo? But rather, if he really was traveling tourists of terrorism and not a guy buying rugs, why did the Bush people let him go? Or, why was he never put on trial? Or, why did the permanent solution to terrorism the Bushies claim Gitmo was fail so utterly here? And, perhaps worst of all, if Shihri was once just a guy trying to get a deal on some carpets, which is suggested by the fact that Bush's people let him go, did his detention at Gitmo in fact turn him into a terrorist? Did we perhaps create in Said al-Shihri his reason for hating us?



# From the Friday, January 23, NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: On the other major front the President is dealing with, how we deal with our enemies. That, as of today, includes the closing of Guantanamo Bay, Gitmo, in Cuba, and the first military strike of the Obama presidency just today. More on both of those fronts from our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Jim, good evening.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI: Good evening, Brian. You know, today we got a grim reminder of one of the real dangers in closing the Guantanamo prison, that once detainees are released, there's a good chance the U.S. will have to fight them all over again. Seen here in this recent al-Qaeda video, Said al-Shihri is not just any terrorist. He's al-Qaeda's deputy commander in Yemen. But perhaps more troubling, he's a former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. After three years in custody, al-Shihrih was considered to no longer be a threat, and in 2007 was released to Saudi Arabia. NBC News visited the same program where the Saudis tried to break al-Shihrih of his terrorist connections, but last year rejoined al-Qaeda in Yemen, where he's believed responsible for last September's bombing of the U.S. Embassy. Salim al-Ajmi was also released from Guantanamo, but last March in this al-Qaeda video carried out a suicide bombing against Iraqi police in Mosul. The time that these two spent at Guantanamo elevates them to hero status with al-Qaeda.
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: These people are perceived as really having sacrificed and really have gone through the fire on behalf of al-Qaeda for their commitment to al-Qaeda. It's a badge of honor.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Of the 525 detainees released from Guantanamo, the Pentagon claims 61 of those, nearly 12 percent, are believed to have rejoined al-Qaeda in the fight against the U.S. Some in Congress fear that President Obama 's order to close Guantanamo in a year will only provide al-Qaeda with more reinforcements.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think we, the first thing we have to remember is we're talking about terrorists here, and do we release them to get back and rejoin this fight?
MIKLASZEWSKI: And the fight against al-Qaeda heated up today in Pakistan. CIA Predator drones attacked two separate targets in western Pakistan, reportedly killing 14 people, including five al-Qaeda militants, the first U.S. attack on al-Qaeda on President Obama's watch. And NBC News has learned that today's missile strikes were carried out under authorities already in place. And while it wasn't necessary for President Obama to personally give the order, he was thoroughly briefed on the mission.

-- Brent Baker