Political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell is known for his strong opinions and occasional passionate outbursts. In 2004, he repeatedly shouted down Swift Boat Veterans spokesman John O'Neill with cries of "liar," leading conservative blogger Michelle Malkin to describe him as "unhinged."
Now O'Donnell has repeated the performance by confronting Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, staunch defender of "enhanced interrogation," and author of Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack.
During an appearance Friday on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Thiessen began by telling host Joe Scarborough, "Barack Obama has eliminated the CIA's interrogation program, which is the single most successful and important intelligence program in the war on terror and possibly in the history of the CIA. ... You've got to think back to the period after 9/11. We didn't even know who hit us. ... This program is why we did not have another 9/11."
O'Donnell wasn't buying it, however. He told Thiessen, "You actually published a book that says that the president of the United States ... 'is inviting the next attack.' Isn't it true that the president you worked for invited the first attack by having no idea what was going on with al Qaeda?"
By this point, Scarborough had already begun attempting to cut O'Donnell off, repeatedly saying, "Lawrence, that's ridiculous," but O'Donnell continued inexorably.
"You just admitted that when you were hit on 9/11, you just said, 'We didn't know who hit us,'" O'Donnell stated. "You were told who was going to hit you before we were hit on 9/11, and your administration invited the first attack -- for which you should live in shame!"
As Thiessen attempted to respond by counting up the number of terrorist incidents under the Clinton administration and O'Donnell continued to talk over him, Scarborough finally jumped in to say, "We're going to break, right now ... and I'm going to be interviewing Marc by myself."
When the show resumed, Scarborough could be heard saying to Mika Brzezinski, "...if you don't balance the meds just right, crazy Lawrence..."
This time Thiessen was allowed to make his argument that we were "caught blind" by the Christmas bomber because we no longer have the ability to torture terrorists. "The Obama administration has thrown that out and gone back to the pre-9/11 approach," he concluded.
Given just 30 seconds to respond, O'Donnell asked Thiessen, "I'm wondering about your own personal experience with torture. I know you grew up in the richest zip code in America, on the Upper East Side. You went to the only boarding school in Connecticut that I know of that has a golf course ... and, of course, like all the torture-mongers in the White House, the Cheney family included, you never served a day in the military. ... With that background, what is it that gives you an expertise in torture? What makes you love it so much?"
"I actually met with the actual interrogators," Thiessen replied. "That's my expertise."
This video is from MSNBC's Morning Joe, broadcast Feb. 12, 2010.