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MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tries to defend his claim that the U.S. has prosecuted waterboarding before.

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HH: Welcoming back to the Hugh Hewitt Show MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell. Larry, welcome, it’s always a pleasure to have you.

LO’D: Good to be back, Hugh.

HH: Now Joe Sestak, Congressman, Democrat Congressman of Pennsylvania, reported by Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post, to be planning to run against Arlen Specter. Who should Democrats vote for in that one, Larry?

LO’D: I’m not a Pennsylvania Democrat. I won’t have to make the choice. You know, I think the Democrats will be in a strong position in the general election, so you know, I don’t think there’s a strategic vote that is better for Democrats in the primary there, who have, you know, with an eye on winning the general. I just don’t see it.

HH: But an old guard lefty like you, Larry, shouldn’t you be supporting a regular Democrat like Joe Sestak as opposed to a fence-jumper like Arlen?

LO’D: Oh, who I…if the question is who would I personally vote for?

HH: Yeah.

LO’D: Well, I never answer that question publicly, but I will for you, Hugh.

HH: Thank you.

LO’D: I would probably vote for the Admiral.

HH: Very good, thank you, Larry. That’s what I think Democrats are going to do, by the way. I think Arlen’s in big trouble if he gets in.

LO’D: Yeah, you know, I just…I mean, look, there’s a couple of problems with it just at a very…if you want to look at it, I mean, having worked in the Senate, I guess I do look at it strategically in a longer term. If Arlen wins, when he is sworn in for his next term, he’s going to be 81 years old. You know, that’s a pretty good time, normally, for a party to look to somebody younger who might be able to hold the seat for another 20 years.

HH: I agree. Democrats should dump him. Okay, Larry, let’s get to the big debate you had with Liz Cheney on waterboarding a few days back.

LO’D: Yeah.

HH: You said people have been prosecuted for exactly this. Did you mean for waterboarding?

LO’D: Yeah.

HH: Who?

LO’D: Well, we’ve done it, you know, this country has prosecuted that, that, torture method before.

HH: When?

LO’D: Um, I don’t know, what’s…I think it is was…umm, I don’t know. I…you know, I’ve…I know that we’ve done it, and I don’t have the research in front of me as to exactly when we’ve prosecuted who for it and which conflict.

HH: Because you told MSNBC, “This government has prosecuted people in the past for doing exactly this.”

LO’D: Yeah, let me, I’ll get the internet fired up. I’ll find it for you.

HH: And for waterboarding specifically?

LO’D: Sure.

HH: You’re sure about that?

LO’D: Well, let’s…come on, we’ve got all the time in the world here with the internet. We’ll find it.

HH: But if you’re wrong…

LO’D: Oh, if I’m wrong, then I’ll be corrected.

HH: Will you post that on the Huffington Post, we never prosecuted anyone for just waterboarding?

LO’D: I post, you know, a couple of times a year. I’m too lazy to post it.

HH: But I mean, this is a big deal. Everyone saw this debate, Larry. If you’re flat-out just Smokin’ Joe wrong, shouldn’t you publish something about that?

LO’D: Um, maybe. I’ll have to look at it.

HH: Now you’re a lawyer, aren’t you?

LO’D: No.

HH: Okay, you just played one on TV?

LO’D: I do play a lawyer on TV, yeah.

HH: Do you know what a specific intent crime is as opposed to a general intent crime?

LO’D: Yeah.

HH: Okay. Torture’s a specific intent crime, correct?

LO’D: Yes.

HH: Why do people who waterboard SEALs and pilots in our training not get prosecuted for torture?

LO’D: It’s the same reason boxers don’t get prosecuted for assault and battery.

HH: Which is?

LO’D: That’s there’s an agreement among the parties to do this, and so that obviates what would be normally assault and battery charges on the boxing match, for example.

HH: And so is there anything that a…do you think that the SEALs and the pilots have anything that cannot be done to them when they agree to go through the survival evasion resistance training?

LO’D: Sorry, I’m just going to Wikipedia on waterboarding.

HH: What did you find?

LO’D: Say it again? Do I think what?

HH: Yeah, is there anything we can’t do, the SEALs and the pilots, they sign up for this survival evasion…

LO’D: Oh, yeah. Sure, no, you will find there are prosecutions, and this I know about, because I know a lawyer who’s handling one. There are prosecutions in the military occasionally for a drill instructor, for example, severely beating…

HH: Sure, but when you sign up for the survival evasion resistance training, it gets pretty intense. Do they get a complete waiver no matter what our people do to them? Because I don’t think that’s really why they’re not prosecuted. It’s not the agreement. It’s the intent not to injure.

LO’D: No, there would be things that you would not be allowed to do.

HH: Right, and so, but why do you think, then, if they’re really putting, if waterboarding is so awful, how can we do it to our own troops?

LO’D: Well, Hugh, the reason we do it is to prepare them for torture. Because we believe waterboarding is torture, we put them through what they call torture training. That’s why they do it. And I know someone…

HH: Larry, I don’t believe as a matter of law…

LO’D: Hugh…

HH: I think you’re wrong.

LO’D: Hugh, I was speaking with someone who went through the program last week, went through it years ago, was a Navy SEAL. And he thinks it’s torture. He also thinks it’s a waste of time, because he doesn’t think it works, and he doesn’t think there is a preparation for torture.

HH: Now if I get five guys to call up and say whoever you were talking to is out of his mind, it’s not torture, and it does help them, does that make me right and you wrong, or vice versa?

LO’D: No, it just puts us in that anecdotal, unwinnable position.

HH: Right, as opposed to actually saying someone’s been prosecuted for it.

LO’D: Right.

HH: That’s not anecdotal. That’s a statement of fact.

LO’D: Yeah, that is. So I’ve got my back to the wall on that, Hugh. I’m speed-reading here through Wikipedia.

HH: Did you find anything yet?

LO’D: No, I haven’t.

HH: If I had the Jeopardy! music, I’d be playing it right now, Larry.

LO’D: You’re asking me too many questions. I haven’t gotten through the first paragraph of it yet.

HH: All right, now you also got all over Chris Matthews saying that Vice President Cheney had lied about this, lied about that, and you said he lied about the fact that closing Gitmo would cost taxpayer money. It would.

LO’D: No, Hugh, let’s go, let’s go…this is when I wish I wasn’t so lazy, and I had the Vice President’s quote in front of me, which you…

HH: I’ve got it.

LO’D: Go ahead, read exactly the sentence. Let’s do that.

HH: Oh, I’ve got to use this one. I outlined this one, because you said he didn’t say that we’d stop, you said he had said we stopped using the word terrorist? Here’s what he said. “You can sense the problem and the emergence of euphemism, it’s drive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy. Apparently, using the term war where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth, we’re advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as ‘overseas contingency operations.'”.

LO’D: Hugh, did Obama use the word war in his speech?

HH: Yeah, he did.

LO’D: Yeah. So was the Vice President lying about Obama on that?

HH: No, he didn’t say that. Apparently using…

LO’D: Oh, he didn’t use the word Obama.

HH: You wanted…exactly. You wanted me to quote the speech. That’s why I have it here.

LO’D: Oh, I get it. That’s why I called the Vice President’s speech sleazy.

HH: What do you think about the term overseas contingency operations, Larry?

LO’D: I don’t know what it means, but I know that the Vice President was trying, in his sleazy way, this is what I meant by sleazy, he was trying in a very sleazy way to ascribe all of these things to Barack Obama.

HH: Actually, he was not.

LO’D: Yes, he was.

HH: He does not.

LO’D: Well, we disagree on that, Hugh.

HH: In fact, he says…okay, here we go.

LO’D: Because he doesn’t use the word Obama in the sentence, you let him off the hook and I don’t.

HH: No, “in event of another terrorist attack on America,” I’m quoting here, “the Homeland Security Department assures us it will be ready for this, ‘manmade disaster.'” Do you think that’s an attempt to attribute manmade disaster to the President?

LO’D: Yeah, he is. He’s trying to do all that.

HH: But he quoted the Homeland Security Department, which actually said that, Larry.

LO’D: Have you quoted Obama’s speech to your audience at all?

HH: We played some of it.

LO’D: The parts where he uses all the language…

HH: But Larry, you just said the President…

LO’D: What about the parts where he uses all the language that Cheney says he doesn’t?

HH: Larry, that’s an evasion. You said the Vice President attempted to attribute this to Obama. In fact, he attributed manmade disaster by name to the Homeland Security Department.

LO’D: And you don’t think he wanted anyone in the audience to think that that’s Obama’s approach?

HH: Well, only a moron when he says the Homeland Security Department would think he meant President Obama.

LO’D: Geez. Okay.

HH: Are you going to stick around for the next segment?

LO’D: Oh, love it.

HH: Okay, read the whole Wikipedia thing and find a prosecution.

LO’D: Give me an extra couple of minutes during the break to find this thing on Wikipedia.

HH: You’ve got four minutes.

LO’D: Okay, I’m looking.

HH: Remember, a prosecution specifically for torture, Larry O’Donnell, a specific waterboarding only torture prosecution.

– – – –

HH: Larry, and I was looking over at Huffington Post for your latest post, and I see you’re in December, you said that Caroline Kennedy was the most qualified person for the job of United States Senator. What were you drinking that day?

LO’D: Well, what I said was she was the best choice for them to make under the circumstances. Let me just tell you what my Wikipedia report is, Hugh. In 1902, Major Edwin Glenn was court-martialed, an American soldier was court-martialed for waterboarding in the Philippines. There’s a World War II section here which I’ll have to read at the next commercial break. But I’ve got two so far, two prosecutions so far here just on Wikipedia in the Spanish-American War…

HH: Just for waterboarding?

LO’D: Yeah, just for waterboarding.

HH: Waterboarding alone?

LO’D: Yeah, just for waterboarding, and Teddy Roosevelt at the time called it mild, this is his quote, “mild torture,” is what he called it.

HH: All right, I’ll go look at the Wikipedia entry.

LO’D: So…but Hugh, let’s go back to what Liz said, what Liz Cheney said. Liz Cheney said I guess what, and I guess this is maybe what you’re trying to say, is when I said that we’ve prosecuted people for it, which according to this we have, she said we didn’t prosecute them just for that, meaning her response was well, we’ve prosecuted people who did waterboarding and other things.

HH: No, we’ve prosecuted for torture and prisoner of war conditions in Japan, vis-à-vis Japanese prisoners of war, but it was not exclusively waterboarding, and it’s usually mischaracterized by the left.

LO’D: Okay, but…so and you’re going to go do your own research on the Spanish-American War and reach your verdict on that. But…so your position with Liz is yeah, they waterboarded, that was one of the counts in the prosecution…

HH: Actually, Larry, my position is you were talking out of your rear end.

LO’D: No, look, it turns out I’m right.

HH: It turns out you went to Wikipedia and found a reference. You have no idea what that means.

LO’D: No, but look. A lot of people have said it, I’ve written it.

HH: Sure, a lot of people on the left say all sorts of things.

LO’D: Wait, wait, wait. I know they do.

HH: A lot of people say we didn’t go to the Moon.

LO’D: I know, that’s why I said to you, that’s why I said to you at the beginning, I cannot cite anything for you. I’m going to go look it up. Now if I didn’t find anything in the time you gave me, this would have been much more fun for both of us.

HH: Larry, I’m kind of out there. When I go on television and I say something, I think you should have a specific example at your fingertips.

LO’D: Well wait, well now I do.

HH: Well yeah, but when you were on MSNBC, you didn’t, and you still don’t know if this is true.

LO’D: But I was right. I was right.

HH: No, you’re not right, because we don’t know what that waterboarding was, or if that was only for waterboarding. You’re going on a Wikipedia citation.

LO’D: Oh, yeah, that’s awful.

HH: Yeah, it is, actually.

LO’D: Right.

HH: Let me go back. I want to go back to another exchange you had with Chris Matthews.

LO’D: Okay.

HH: You were upset that the Vice President claimed they dismantled the A.Q. Khan network. Did they dismantle the A.Q. Khan network?

LO’D: I don’t think that they can be given specific credit on fully dismantling the A.Q. Khan network. I think it’s a much more complex thing than that, that what happened. But you know, they were in power, it’s one of those things where they’re in power at the time that it happens, okay. My problem with them on A.Q. Khan is what did this administration, and specifically Dick Cheney, who says to America, my claim, my claim on my job performance, is that I kept America safe, except he didn’t, except they completely…

HH: Larry, you’re dodging here. I want to talk about A.Q. Khan. Have you…

LO’D: No, what I’m saying, and Hugh, my position is very simple. What did Dick Cheney do about A.Q. Kahn from the day he was sworn in until September 10th?

HH: And did you…

LO’D: What did he do? And the answer is nothing.

HH: Did you read The Nuclear Jihadist by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins?

LO’D: No.

HH: He’s John Kerry’s senior investigator on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Sound pretty reputable to you?

LO’D: Keep going.

HH: The A.Q. Khan network is gone, dismantled.

LO’D: I know they’re gone, and I know, and that’s a great thing. But let’s just get a couple of things straight. Cheney did nothing about it, not one meeting, from the day he was sworn in until September 10th. He did nothing about al Qaeda, nothing about the A.Q. Khan network, nothing.

HH: In the eight years of…

LO’D: The guy wants you to rate his job starting on September 12th. Do you want to start rating the Obama presidency on September 12th of 2009? Do you want to do it that way?

HH: Larry, that’s a specious argument, but I want to get one more piece of data out there. Have you read The Looming Tower yet?

LO’D: No.

HH: What was the last book you read about terrorism?

LO’D: The last…I don’t think I’ve read a book about terrorism.

HH: Ever?

LO’D: No.

HH: About al Qaeda?

LO’D: No.

HH: About…how about the mullahs in Iran?

LO’D: No.

HH: I’m just stunned.

LO’D: Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve read Bob Woodward’s books about the accounts inside the Bush administration from what they were doing from the day they got sworn in, okay?

HH: You’ve never read a book about terrorism?

LO’D: There is no, there is absolutely no evidence, and I defy you today, Hugh,

HH: Larry, you’ve never read a book about terrorism?

LO’D: I defy you to point to me, point to me a citation of one memo or one meeting that Dick Cheney was in where he says anything about al Qaeda.

HH: Larry, I’ve got to go lie down. I really do. Do you think you’re a well-informed MSNBC, by MSNBC standards, do you think you’re above the grade of people on that network?

LO’D: That’s a trick question, Hugh.

HH: You got me on that one. Larry O’Donnell, always a pleasure.

End of interview.


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