Olbermann on Rumsfeld, the transcript

Stolen from Thomas Paine’s Corner (hat tip to jaq for the pointer to an immediately blogroll-worthy site).

Video, for those who can’t read without moving their lips, here. For those who can’t watch video without using their lips, there’s always Fox.

Commentary by Keith Olbermann(in the spirit of Edward R. Murrow)

8/30/06

MSNBC

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence — indeed, the loyalty — of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land.

Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants — our employees — with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s — questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience — needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening.

We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute — and exclusive — in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count — not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emperor’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we — as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.
But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note — with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”
As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that — though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism – indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.”
Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.

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12 thoughts on “Olbermann on Rumsfeld, the transcript

  1. You don’t like Mr Rumsfeld very much do you raincoaster? I find him a straight talking kinda guy myself.

  2. Steven, you’ve said some interesting things here from time to time, but I think you just not only took the cake, you made off with the entire buffet.

    Rumsfeld presided over Abu Ghraib–I don’t recall a lot of “straight-talking” on that one. That alone should be enough to command the end of his laughable career as Defense Secretary. The Economist (that organ of the loony left) has been calling for his resignation for at least two years. The man couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery with a credit card.

    More “straight-talking”–recall this famous quote?

    “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

    If there’s one person as ill-suited for his job as Dubya is for the presidency, it’s Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

  3. From Vanity Fair.com’s article Worse Than Watergate (by Carl Bernstein, who knows from Watergate) http://www.vanityfair.com/features/general/articles/060417fege08

    The first fundamental question that needs to be answered by and about the president, the vice president, and their political and national-security aides, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, to Karl Rove, to Michael Chertoff, to Colin Powell, to George Tenet, to Paul Wolfowitz, to Andrew Card (and a dozen others), is whether lying, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation of information have been a basic matter of policy—used to overwhelm dissent; to hide troublesome truths and inconvenient data from the press, public, and Congress; and to defend the president and his actions when he and they have gone awry or utterly failed.

    Most of what we have learned about the reality of this administration—and the disconcerting mind-set and decision-making process of President Bush himself—has come not from the White House or the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security or the Treasury Department, but from insider accounts by disaffected members of the administration after their departure, and from distinguished journalists, and, in the case of a skeletal but hugely significant body of information, from a special prosecutor. And also, of late, from an aide-de-camp to the British prime minister. Almost invariably, their accounts have revealed what the president and those serving him have deliberately concealed—torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, and its apparent authorization by presidential fiat; wholesale N.S.A. domestic wiretapping in contravention of specific prohibitive law; brutal interrogations of prisoners shipped secretly by the C.I.A. and U.S. military to Third World gulags; the nonexistence of W.M.D. in Iraq; the role of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney’s chief of staff in divulging the name of an undercover C.I.A. employee; the non-role of Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the events of 9/11; the death by friendly fire of Pat Tillman (whose mother, Mary Tillman, told journalist Robert Scheer, “The administration tried to attach themselves to his virtue and then they wiped their feet with him”); the lack of a coherent post-invasion strategy for Iraq, with all its consequent tragedy and loss and destabilizing global implications; the failure to coordinate economic policies for America’s long-term financial health (including the misguided tax cuts) with funding a war that will drive the national debt above a trillion dollars; the assurance of Wolfowitz (since rewarded by Bush with the presidency of the World Bank) that Iraq’s oil reserves would pay for the war within two to three years after the invasion; and Bush’s like-minded confidence, expressed to Blair, that serious internecine strife in Iraq would be unlikely after the invasion.

    But most grievous and momentous is the willingness—even enthusiasm, confirmed by the so-called Downing Street Memo and the contemporaneous notes of the chief foreign-policy adviser to British prime minister Tony Blair—to invent almost any justification for going to war in Iraq (including sending up an American U-2 plane painted with U.N. markings to be deliberately shot down by Saddam Hussein’s air force, a plan hatched while the president, the vice president, and Blair insisted to the world that war would be initiated “only as a last resort”). Attending the meeting between Bush and Blair where such duplicity was discussed unabashedly (“intelligence and facts” would be jiggered as necessary and “fixed around the policy,” wrote the dutiful aide to the prime minister) were Ms. Rice, then national-security adviser to the president, and Andrew Card, the recently departed White House chief of staff.

  4. Pingback: Olbermann lays the smackdown on Rumsfeld « raincoaster

  5. And once you’re finished reading that, Steven, there’s this, from the lovely and talented James Woolcot:
    http://jameswolcott.com/archives/2005/06/oneman_wrecking.php

    James Wolcott is a VANITY FAIR contributing editor

    One-Man Wrecking Crew
    Posted by James Wolcott
    Donald Rumsfeld, whose Steely Resolve more and more resembles aluminum siding, is a man unafraid of confronting the full spectrum of America’s enemies from Al Qaeda to Amnesty International. Some say he is too zealous in defending our freedom. Too candid. Too cocksure. Too unwilling to accept counsel and criticism. Too wedded to his overriding vision of military transformation.

    Those some sayers are right.

    His retirement as Secretary of Defence will leave a trail of ruination as its legacy that will stretch forward into the indeterminate future.

    William Lind takes sneak-preview inventory.

    “When Rumsfeld leaves office, what will his successor inherit?

    “A volunteer military without volunteers. The Army missed its active-duty recruiting goal in April by almost half. Guard and Reserve recruiting are collapsing. Retention will do the same as “stop loss” orders are lifted. The reason, obviously, is the war in Iraq. Parents don’t want to be the first one on their block to have their kid come home in a box.

    “The world’s largest pile of wrecked and worn-out military equipment (maybe second-largest if we remember the old Soviet Navy). I’m talking about basic stuff here: trucks, Humvees, personnel carriers, crew-served weapons, etc. This is gear the Rumsfeld Pentagon hates to spend money on, because it does not represent ‘transformation’ to the hi-tech, video-game warfare it wrongly sees as the future. So far, deploying units have made up their deficiencies by robbing units that are not deploying, often National Guard outfits. But that stock has about run out, and some of the stripped units are now facing deployment themselves, minus their gear.

    “A military tied down in a strategically meaningless backwater, Iraq, to the point where it can’t do much else…”

    “Commitments to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of future weapons programs that are militarily as useful as Zeppelins but less fun to watch…”

    “A world wary of U.S. intentions and skeptical of any American claims about anything. In business, good will is considered a tangible asset. In true ‘wreck it and run’ fashion, Rumsfeld & Co. have reduced the value of that asset to near zero. A recent survey of the German public found Russia was considered a better friend than the United States.

    “Finally, the equivalent of an unfavorable ruling by a bankruptcy judge in the form of a lost war. We will be lucky if we can get out of Iraq with anything less than a total loss.”

    Yeah, I’d say that about covers it.

  6. “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

    Makes sense to me.

  7. Look, raincoaster I watched the youtube video of that rant you evidently think is so wonderful. It is the biggest pile of autocued American nonsense I have ever heard. The guy says he is going to analyse Rumsfelds speech then just goes off on a rant, insulting the poor man, who I might add is not there to defend himself against the onslaught.

    I could go off on one telling you that there were giant Stilton factories on the dark side of Mars, as long as I ended by saying ‘Oh and by the way George W Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are terrible terrible men and should be tried in the Hague, you’re eyes would light up and you’d whack it on your blog.

  8. Or you could just check the fucking facts. Olbermann is right, Rumsfeld is wrong. He has been proven wrong innumerable times. Do the research.

    You admire Rumsfeld for his style. But you make the very junior-school error of mistaking that for substance. Because he says things gruffly does not make any of them true, and the fact is that a huge number of the critical things he’s said to the American people have been bald lies.

    But here, don’t say I never did nuthin’ for ya. Why don’t you ask the Pentagon for a Rumsfeld Flat Daddy? That way you’d never have to fight the terrorists; he’d protect you!

  9. Steven

    If you wish to see autocued American nonsense, may I direct you to any speech made by a White House cabinet member since the “end of major combat operations”? You can actually see their eyes saying “I don’t believe I’m saying this shit!” Even Condi.

    It’s like reality TV–all TV and no bloody reality.

    As for Rumsfeld–would you say he’s been a particularly successful defence secretary, having theoretically masterminded the quagmire that is Iraq? Having allowed his commander-in-chief to ignore important fronts in “the war against terror” in order to pursue an unrelated war in Iraq? Having … allowed the establishment of Gitmo, overseen the torture program … let his commander in chief violate treaties left right and center with friendly nations while allowing him to forge alliances with the vilest of US enemies …

    ICGOAOFFE*

    Is the defense secretary’s job not in fact just as much about telling the supreme leader when going to war is a lousy damn idea?

    *I Could Go On And On For F—-in’ Ever

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