On Wednesday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann led with the current controversy about President Bush and other administration officials claiming they had found biological weapons labs in Iraq even after a report had concluded that this was not the case.
Forget the lack of evidence, we have our story of presidential duplicity and we're sticking with it. Picking up on a front page Washington Post story about how back in May of 2003 President Bush had cited trailers found in Iraq as proof of WMD, when a secret field report filed two days earlier had concluded the trailers had nothing to do with bio-weapons, on Wednesday morning ABC's Charles Gibson trumpeted how Bush made a statement he "knew at the time that was not true" and so it's “another embarrassment for the White House.” Reporter Martha Raddatz agreed “it certainly is.” But though as reported by FNC's Carl Cameron, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan pointed out at the Wednesday briefing that the day before Bush's 2003 comments a joint CIA/DIA report had concluded the trailers were bio-weapons labs, ABC's World News Tonight plowed ahead Wednesday night, ignoring the more substantial report which had much-wider distribution -- and CNN's Jack Cafferty (“ABC News has even reported that President Bush knew what he was saying about those trailers was false”), as well as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (“The President knew they weren't mobile weapons labs from the very start. How Nixonian is this? We will ask John Dean"), piled on.
Cameron relayed on Special Report with Brit Hume: “Defense Intelligence Agency command issued a joint report with the CIA that said they were weapons labs. The six-page document titled 'Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants' concluded that there could be no other purpose for the trailers beyond biological weapons....Waving that report, the White House spokesman said it was the basis of the President's remarks.” Raddatz acknowledged in her Wednesday World News Tonight story that “the White House said today the President, at the time, believed his statement to be true," but skipped the powerful evidence of how the White House had received an official intelligence report backing up the WMD discovery. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the Raddatz piece: “Tonight, questions about claims the President and members of his administration made in 2003. They said two trailers in Iraq were mobile weapons labs, proof Saddam Hussein had been developing weapons of mass destruction. The problem was, a Pentagon team had already determined the trailers had nothing to do with WMD.” (More and transcripts follow)
Citing liberal Republican Senator Arlen Specter as his authority on whether President Bush's actions were “illegal,” and with “Invoking the 'I' Word” on screen beneath a picture of Bush, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann opened his Monday night Countdown program: “So if the Republican Chairman of the Senate committee investigating the wiretaps says the wiretaps were illegal, and the President says he personally authorized the wiretaps, doesn't that mean the President should be impeached?"
Olbermann proceeded to fondly recall, without any notion that those hearings led to impairing intelligence agencies, how back in the 1970s, “Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho and other lawmakers became the first to lift the veil on the super-secret world of the National Security Agency. Our fifth story on the Countdown: Deja vu all over again. New President, new technology, same danger, perhaps. Today's re-make of the cautionary drama beginning with promise, Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, repeating, in milder form, his Sunday talk show conclusions that the present-day spying program is or could be illegal." Olbermann soon cued up his guest, John Dean: “Not to put too fine a point on this, but if the authorization of wiretaps without warrants is indeed illegal, as its critics say it is, has the President committed an impeachable offense?” Dean agreed: “Well he certainly has.” (Transcript follows.)
On MSNBC's Countdown show Tuesday night, Keith Olbermann devoted the first segment of his show to more discussion about President Bush's impeachability over the NSA wiretapping controversy. On the December 20 show, as detailed in an earlier Newsbusters posting, substitute host Alison Stewart discussed the issue with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer without any conservative guest to provide balance. Similarly, this time Olbermann interviewed, without rebuttal from any Bush supporter, former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, a longtime critic of the Bush administration, who notably helped inspire Boxer's inquiries into impeachment by proclaiming to her that Bush was "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense."
While introducing an interview with former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean on his Countdown show Friday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann implied that Plamegate is worse than past White House scandals because, in contrast to scandals from the Nixon, Reagan, and Harding administrations, a sitting White House staff member has been indicted. Referring to Bush supporters who were offended by the title of Dean's book, Worse than Watergate, Olbermann quipped that because of Libby's indictment, "the protests about John Dean's title might instead be coming from the fans of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Harding."