05/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lawrence O'Donnell Rips Into GOP Strategist Over Torture (VIDEO)

Via Media Monitor LaRay B., comes video of a segment between Phil Musser and Lawrence O'Donnell, hosted by Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC. The discussion centered on the torture memos, with Lawrence O'Donnell explaining how the pursuit of al Qaeda-Iraq links is a classic example of the sorts of fallacies that underpin the logic of those who think torture is effective. Musser, for his part, defended the leadership and judgment of Dick Cheney. And then, Musser's line of thought veered very sharply into the scarily phrenological.

MUSSER: The bottom line is he's a guy that I watched up close in action and I have great respect for his judgment and wisdom in this regard. And having seen the face of terror, you know I've walked through Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay when I was serving in the government, and it changes your nature of the threat to look at the people an the other sides of those fences. And the bottom line is --

And that's when all the O'Donnells within the sound of Musser's voice, quite rightly, started to bug out.

NORAH O'DONNELL: So just by looking at them, Phil, you can tell they were guilty?

MUSSER: You know, I could tell, I could tell that basically that they --

NORAH O'DONNELL: And that they deserved waterboarding?

MUSSER: Norah, I'm not making any particular allegations against individual people, but what I'm saying is that the nature of this threat is very, very different and the record of the Bush/Cheney administration post-9/11 is to keep people safe. And I think most Republicans - you ask people in Newton, Iowa, they're probably happy our country is doing everything possible to keep our country safe.

Obviously, I cannot speak to whatever anomaly has occurred to make Newton, Iowa some sort of stronghold -- resistant to the very mainstream American opposition to torture and the very mainstream support, which I cited just yesterday, for investigations into the use of torture on terror suspects. But, seriously? This guy wants to assert he can tell a man's guilt by looking at them?

Lawrence O'Donnell wasn't having any of this, either.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: I think we just got a real window into the Bush administration's view of how to approach these problems. Just by walking through Guantanamo bay and looking at prisoners, I could tell! And we didn't get a full answer to what you could tell. But that is very similar to President Bush saying I looked into Putin's eyes and I saw an honest man that I could deal with.

MUSSER: Come on, Lawrence. That's not fair.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: No, no, no. This is a very serious thing. Was a trip on your part. I don't think you're going to do it again because what you just confessed to is the most simple minded possible approach to governing affairs and serious evaluations of where the truth lies and where the United States should commit its resources, commit its moral imperatives. And for you to be able to say just by looking at those people in Guantanamo, I knew something about them, is a very, very wrong headed and very, very dangerous approach to both jurisprudence and national security.

MUSSER: I'm going to defend myself on this. I'm not pretending to say I was a national security official nor was I charged in any of the particular responsibility. I happen to -- it was a completely unrelated issue. I'm saying none of us here on this teevee show have access to the kind of compartmentalized sensitive, top-secret information that you need to make judgments about these things. So I was saying --

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: We do now. we do now. Open The New York Times. It's on page one of the The New York Times today. We do now. What I am saying is that what you reflected was the spirit of the Bush administration that you can tell by looking at people what the danger level is and what the trust level is and what we should do as a government about those people. That is amateurish, wrong-headed and very, very dangerous.

My question is this: while Phil Musser was wandering around Camp Zero, just gazing at folks with his super-powered Eyeballs of Guilt Discernment, why didn't he stand up, right then and there, and demand that the five prisoners of Uighur descent, who the Pentagon says are a threat to no one, be released? Why couldn't he have trained his all-knowing Peepers of Justice on Abassin Roshan, who was mistakenly placed into U.S. custody in Afghanstan, and insist that he be let go? CBS News even reports that there is a ninety year old man imprisoned there! I don't need Musser's magical goddamn powers to know that is plainly ridiculous.


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