The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/11/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Very impressive. And I bet he‘s not union either.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Yes. There you go.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith. Appreciate it.
And thank you for sticking with us and happening for this next hour, what to make of Sarah Palin‘s media tour. Plus, Barack Obama on Veterans Day. It all starts right now.
(voice over): On Veterans Day in America, the next commander-in-chief promises that our country will serve our veterans as well as they have served our country. He lays a wreath at the Soldiers Memorial in Chicago, alongside the woman veteran who may replace him as the junior senator from Illinois.
Meanwhile, the current vice president gives his own national security legacy, the benefit of the doubt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: After seven years, the war goes on. But never, again, has the battle returned to American soil. We are safer than we were on September 11th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What‘s that you said about getting bin Laden, Mr. Vice President? Oh, you‘re leaving that to the next president? We‘re joined by Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq veteran, on strategy and security in Washington.
Speaking of security, want to know a place that‘s not safe lately? Anywhere between Sarah Palin and the TV camera, or just between Sarah Palin and where she wants to go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA: God, if there‘s an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I‘m like, don‘t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it‘s cracked up a little bit, maybe I‘ll plow right on through that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Why Sarah Palin is much more than a national TV curiosity at this point. With Shannyn Moore, Alaskan commentator and someone who knows Governor Palin better than we do. The election still isn‘t over. In Alaska, where Sarah Palin is still in the mix. In Minnesota, where Al Franken is getting closer. And in Georgia, where all the president-elect‘s men and John McCain, his own self, are on the ground getting ready for a runoff. Ana Marie Cox on Decision ‘08/‘09. Will it ever end? And fear not or fear lots. Lame duck watch continues. If you think the Patriot Act stomps on the Fourth Amendment, if you think deregulation is dangerous, wait until you hear the Bush plan to deregulate violations of the Fourth Amendment. Quackitty, quack, quack.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. (on camera): Welcome to the one week anniversary of the 2008 election sort of—because it‘s still sort of not over. Which means, yes, we can wallow in the emotional flashbacks created by this theme music and all the pretty columns and everything.
MADDOW: Oh, it takes me back. Doesn‘t it take you back? Chuck Todd is busy trying to have a life post-election, so it‘s all on me tonight to tell you about what is still undecided and how this stuff so matters to the incoming Barack Obama administration. Here we go. First stop, Georgia, where it is as if last Tuesday never ever happened. The race between incumbent Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin, still has not been won or loss. It has morphed into a runoff because it looks like neither candidate got the majority of the vote on election night. That‘s 50 percent you see there for Senator Chambliss, that‘s a rounding thing. It‘s actually 49.8 percent. And in Georgia, only an actual majority, an actual plurality, I guess, rules. It‘s the law. If you don‘t get 50 percent, try again. So forget about November 4th in Georgia. That was just practice. Do-over Election Day there is December 2nd, which means a whole new campaign is underway, complete with ads and stump speeches and rallies and everything. Now, not only is there a critical Senate seat up for grabs here, but a post-election election campaign has a funny way of bringing to light who‘s in charge or who wants to be in charge of each national party and which direction the parties are going. On the Democratic side, it‘s sort of easy. We all know what the leadership looks like and sounds like there for, at least, the next four years. And sure enough, the president-elect has dispatched some of his own aides to help out with Democrat Jim Martin‘s campaign. On the Republican side, the post-election election characters and tactics? They‘re looking sort of familiar. Here‘s what the all-star GOP lineup looks likes. Presidential runner-up, Senator John McCain is headed to Georgia on Thursday. Also, Republican and TV star, Mike Huckabee, will be parachuting in this weekend. And deals are reportedly in the works for appearances by former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. It is a Republican primary do-over, in other words. Sarah Palin would be there except according to the “Atlanta Journal Constitution,” she is talking to the country‘s Republican governors and also, to Wolf Blitzer in Florida this week, and skipping Georgia. We‘ll have more on Palin just a little bit later on. Now, the rest of the Georgia race? It‘s sort of deja vu. Here‘s the new Saxby Chambliss attack ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, complete with the Republicans patented “Be afraid of Barack Obama” rants.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Barack Obama has been elected president.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: We‘re going to be increasing our majorities in the House and in the United States Senate.
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Martin wins, that gets the Democrats that much closer to 60 in the Senate, and at 60, they can do just about anything they want.
CHYRON: Don‘t give Obama a rubberstamp Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How about that? Gotham City is in trouble, Batman music is playing in the background. Does the Republican Party really think that Barack Obama, as a looming evil specter, is the message that the country is prepped and excited to hear right now? Apparently, Georgia Republicans think that is their best strategy. Georgia Congressman Paul Brown told the “Associated Press” that he is afraid President-elect Obama is possibly, both a Nazi and a communist dictator, sort of. Describing Obama‘s plans to expand the Foreign Service, Brown said, quote, “That‘s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it‘s exactly what the Soviet Union did. We can‘t be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a Democratic Germany. I‘m not comparing him to Adolf Hitler, what I‘m saying is there is the potential of going down that road,” end quote. You know that road, Barack-Adolf/Obama-Hitler road. You know that road? Congressman Brown has since apologized—kind of. He told a Georgia radio station, quote, “I regret putting it that way. I apologize to anyone who has taken offense at that.” Putting it that way is what you regret? Really? In Minnesota, there is also an undecided Senate race. As of right now, incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman is 206 votes ahead of Democrat Al Franken. There‘s no more campaigning to do in Minnesota, so you won‘t see the GOP all star team stumping there, but the battle is not over there yet either. Instead of wielding negative ads and celebrity coattails, the weapon of choice in a recount? Is, of course, lawyers—lawyer who do things like ask judges to stop the recounting. That was Norm Coleman‘s lawyer‘s strategy over the weekend. So, even amid the GOP‘s identity crisis, the rules of the game still involve working the ref during a tight race. It sounds like—trying to remember—trying to remember—Florida 2000? This is the environment in which the GOP is trying to reinvent itself, and just maybe, to figure out how to win again. How will election night or election month or whatever this winds up being turn out? And what‘s at stake for both parties? Joining us now is “Time” magazine contributor, Ana Marie Cox. Ana Marie, it‘s very nice for you to be here in person, thanks for coming by.
ANA MARIE COX, TIME MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: It is great to be here. I love your little opening skit, I have to say.
MADDOW: Oh, thank you very much.
COX: Yes. So, they‘re not called that, sorry.
MADDOW: I think of it that way sometimes.
MADDOW: I just have to make corrections when I‘m wrong, it‘s the only difference. I first have to ask you, looking at the “Be afraid of Barack Obama” ad with Saxby Chambliss, what do you think about the fact that they showed Saxby Chambliss, they showed the guy—the Democrat who‘s running against Saxby Chambliss holding a “Women for Obama” sign. Do you think that was the real message of that ad?
COX: You noticed that, too, huh?
COX: And you wonder if that might suppose to be resonating with any historical problem they have in the south, with how they view women and—say, black men.
COX: I don‘t know. I do think that the GOP in the south is a little bit cocky right now. I think—but I also think that‘s the way that certain people in the McCain campaign felt at the time was, hey, you were running against the liberal, you‘re running against the guy backed by the black guy, it shouldn‘t be a problem for us. But it turned out it was and they had enormous turnout with African-Americans and now the main challenge for Martin is to get those people to come back to the polls. And in that sense, that‘s what people say when they say it‘s the next race of—well, it‘s the race of 2010. It‘s—can Barack Obama get the support that he gathered when he was on the ticket for the people further down the ticket when he‘s not there.
MADDOW: Well, deciding to go with the Barack Obama is the scary guy mean, and granted, what we played there was a Web ad, it‘s nothing that‘s being broadcast, and so, it‘s a sort of thing that you‘d have to seek it out of something that Saxby Chambliss‘ supporters are more likely to see than the general public. But it does seem like sort of mistaking temperature, I guess, for how the public feels about Barack Obama right now. He may have seemed scary when McCain was campaigning against him.
COX: Most actively trying to make him seem scary.
MADDOW: But now, he seems like the president-elect. And now, when we think of Barack Obama, the most recent thing we think of is him walking down the colonnade with President Bush. Was it smart for them to carry over that mean? Do you think that when they‘re talking to their supporters, trying to energize their supporters, it still resonates?
COX: I think they really are trying to work the fear angle and I think, this race could get very, very ugly in the coming weeks and days. I think, however, that one thing we saw with the general election was that Americans are tired of that ugliness. And I also think that—to the sense that they have a plan, this is it, right? Scary Barack Obama. Because, when you put out that array of Republicans that are going down to help out Chambliss, it‘s a smorgasbord of Republicanism.
COX: You know, there‘s no coherent, you know, thing bringing all these people together. You know, even McCain and Palin weren‘t on the same page all the time. But, to get Mitt Romney and Giuliani, these are—and Huckabee and McCain, the only thing they have in common is that “R” next to their names, and I think that that is a problem for the GOP right now.
MADDOW: I think it‘s a surprise for Saxby Chambliss, too. I mean, to have just said, “I‘ll take what ever I can get, give me everybody who is remotely Republican,” it sort of seems to me like the way that Republicans sell themselves to the public right now is to sell themselves as the time future of the party, to sell themselves as representing the true Republicanism against the failed old Republicanism. He doesn‘t seem to be doing that.
COX: That would be, I think, the smart thing to do and that‘s why although Chambliss has said that this is the first race of 2010, it actually looks to me more like the last race of 2004 or 2006, when the really failed strategies coming forward. And—I have to say, also, that, you know, it‘s going to be—even if they are close, this is a win in some ways for the Democrats. I mean, when you think, Martin, this is his fourth time on the ballot.
COX: There is already a runoff in the Democratic primary. So, for the Democrats to have this strong a showing, we‘re looking forward to there actually being a structure for the Democrats to build on in Georgia, which in and of itself is news.
MADDOW: If you had to bet on a leader to be the new Republican standard-bearer—and I guess, I don‘t specifically mean who‘s going to be RNC chair, who‘s going to be the roster of ‘012 - is that we call it—
‘012, 2012 candidates? But if you had to pick somebody who‘s going to really emerge the best from this current scrum for leadership, who would you bet on?
COX: Well, I would—the person I bet on is not someone who I would pick I were a Republican because I‘m not a Republican, but I think that Mitt Romney is going to put on a really good show for everyone. I think that he is, if nothing else, a fast-learner. He‘s an incredible entrepreneur and that‘s what the party is where it‘s looking right now, someone who can bring in new ideas, someone who‘s disciplined. And also, he has a credible case to make that he‘s not an old-fashioned Republican. If that‘s only the case he would have made in the primaries, that he‘s a problem-solver, that he‘s modern on social issues, that he‘s willing to reach across the aisle, and solve problems just as they need to be solved, which is what he did with healthcare in Massachusetts. If he can make that argument and say, oh, that‘s social conservative, you thought, I was, it was something I ate, you know.
COX: Especially if he can win over somebody like Schwarzenegger, for instance, who already has that, but can‘t be a party leader for lots of different reasons including the fact that he‘s not an American citizen or I‘m sorry, wasn‘t born in America. I think that Mitt Romney really could do well. He also, he memorized his scripts very well as well.
MADDOW: And, you know, he has taken the first steps towards real serious candidacy, I think, by saying he doesn‘t want to run for office again.
MADDOW: Which, of course, is the first sign of seriousness that you want to run.
COX: That‘s right.
MADDOW: Ana Marie Cox, “Time” magazine contributor—nice to see you, thanks for being here.
COX: Wonderful to be here.
MADDOW: Whoever thought a Senate rate race in Alaska could have so much impact on Washington‘s incoming Democrats? Well, whoever thought a convicted felon could hold on to his Senate seat? Whoever thought a little known hockey mom from Wasilla could upend to the balance of power in the mighty Republican Party? Coming up: It‘s election overtime—the frontier edition. But first, one more thing: If your TV machine works, you know that in the past few days, Governor Sarah Palin has been consuming TV time like it was oxygen and she‘s halfway up Mount Everest. Ironically, the media is also her biggest target. Here‘s what Palin told Greta Van Susteren.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ON THE RECORD”/FNC)
PALIN: Early on, there are a tremendous number of examples that we can give regarding my record and things that could have, should have been so easily corrected if the media would have taken one step further and investigated a little bit, and not just gone on some blogger probably sitting there in their parents‘ basement, wearing their pajamas, blogging some kind of gossip or a lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, what is this myth about being able to tell the real media from the bloggers—because the media is in suits and the bloggers are in pajamas? Where did that come from, anyway?
MADDOW: Vacuums are amazing things. If you stick an empty balloon in a vacuum, it inflates all by itself. I wish I remembered more things like that from science class in junior high. You know, there is a metaphorical vacuum right now in American politics. The space previously occupied by and pressurized by the Republican Party. Conservative columnist, David Brooks says, quote, “It‘s just a circular firing squad with everybody attacking each other and no coherent belief system, no leaders.” Newt Gingrich told a crowd in Indianapolis, quote, “I think the Republican Party is struggling to get beyond incompetence.” Ouch. In other words, the Republicans are a party defined more by the absence of stuff right now, the absence of voter turnout, the absence of enthusiasm, the absence of electoral hopes, the absence of obvious leadership, the absence of a sense of direction. So, what will inflate in this depressurized empty atmosphere? There aren‘t all that many viable balloons when you think about it. John Boehner? Mitch McConnell? Tim Pawlenty? Who‘s going to blow up big and strong and become the face and the voice and the leader of this party? Maybe that‘s the central question that Governor Sarah Palin is really trying to answer with the world tour of TV cameras that landed in Alaska this week. In an interview with FOX News‘ Greta Van Susteren, Governor Palin admitted that, OK, maybe she wasn‘t totally ready for the national spotlight in 2008, but she‘s not ruling out divine inspiration to run again in the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ON THE RECORD WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS)
PALIN: You know, I have—faith is a very big part of my life, and putting my life in my creator‘s hands, this is what I always do. I‘m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I‘m like, don‘t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it‘s cracked up a little bit, maybe I‘ll plow right on through that, and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don‘t let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in 12 or four years later, and is it something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I‘ll plow through that door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: She‘ll plow through that door. And the question in today‘s news, of course, is whether God or anybody else, is about to open a door to a potential seat in the United States Senate that could be plowed through, sometime soon? Tomorrow, more than half of the 90,000 uncounted votes for Alaska‘s Senate seat will be tallied. Convicted felon and incumbent Republican senator, Ted Stevens, and Anchorage mayor, Democrat Mark Begich are only separated by about 3,000 votes. If Stevens is elected, then if he gets kicked out of the Senate, to be replaced by a special election, could that be Sarah Palin‘s ticket back to Washington—very quickly? And is that the trial balloon that the Republican Party has been waiting for?
Joining us now from Alaska is Shannyn Moore. She‘s a blogger and a radio journalist in Alaska.
Shannyn, many thanks for joining us today.
SHANNYN MOORE, ALASKA RADIO JOURNALIST: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Shannyn, we are still trying to figure out what happens with the Alaska election this year. Lots of additional ballots finally are getting tallied. But the turnout numbers aren‘t turning out to be as disastrously low as we thought they were before, but they are still below
Are we looking at strange voter behavior in Alaska this year? Or are we just looking at weird numbers about voter behavior? Are you suspicious?
MOORE: Well, it‘s either that, it‘s either suspicious or we‘re mavericky voters. That‘s kind of what I‘m going for. Maybe we‘re just sort of mavericky with our voting.
No, it‘s absolutely inconsistent with everything we‘ve seen. And I guess, the reason that I was watching it so closely is that the 2004 election, the Democratic Party in Alaska, very brave souls, went and sued to find out what had really happened with that vote. And you know, once they—you know,16 months later, they were able to get those tabulator files and found out they had been tampered with right after the judge said they had to pass them over. So, we‘re used to having some sort of shenanigans going on even though we‘re not able to go back and really find out who did it. So, I was watching it really closely when it came through this time.
MADDOW: Should the parties, should the country be worried about the vote counting in Alaska right now? Are you worried about, you know, the same kind of shenanigans that we‘ve seen before or all new shenanigans happening as we speak?
MOORE: I think that there‘s a lot to look at here. I‘m not screaming stolen but I‘m screaming stinky. We had a 117 percent turn out at our Democratic caucus. We had, you know, record numbers of people showing up to even register to vote. Between 2000 and 2004, we had 1,100 people registered to vote. Between 2004 and 2008, we had almost 21,000.
So, you know, did they just all decide to stay home once they bothered to register? And even though we‘re almost to the same numbers that we had in 2004, we expected much greater things from this election, this ticket, particularly with Sarah Palin on the ticket, motivating a lot of Alaskan Republicans and Barack Obama, very inspirational to many Alaska Democrats.
MADDOW: Shannyn, Republican senator, Jim DeMint is reportedly going to call on his colleagues next week to vote on taking Ted Stevens out of the Republican caucus. So, there‘s the prospect of him getting kicked out of the Republican caucus. There‘s, of course, the prospect of him getting expelled from the whole Senate. If Stevens does get reelected and he does get booted out of that seat, do you think this is an opportunity that Sarah Palin would take?
MOORE: Well, there‘s a prospect of him going to prison, too. I just don‘t think he‘s aware of that, yet. Do I think Sarah Palin would take that? Well, it was interesting you played the clip of her saying that she would go through any door cracked for her by God. She just blazed right through it. I would be careful if I was on the other side of the door if I were anyone. You know, she‘s really surprised me. The Sarah Palin I watched campaigning for governor was very different than the one campaigning for president when it came to race-baiting, when it came to really, really sort of a different aggression towards her opponents. And so, it wouldn‘t surprise me at all. I think she‘d be on it in—well, in New York second, not an Alaskan one.
MADDOW: Shannyn, briefly, if she did run in a special election for Ted Stevens‘ seat, if she‘d grab that opportunity, do you think she‘d win?
MOORE: Rachel, I didn‘t think Ted Stevens would be sitting where he‘s at right now. I didn‘t think Alaskans would vote in Don Young. That‘s a huge switch there. So, you know, the only thing wilder in Alaska than our animals is our politics. So, it‘s hard to tell what would happen.
MADDOW: Shannyn Moore, Alaskan radio journalist, thanks you so much for your time tonight. It‘s great to have you on the show.
MOORE: My pleasure. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Tonight, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW presents another edition of Lame Duck Watch. We are watching what President Bush does in his remaining days in office because he can still do a whole lot of stuff while nobody‘s really watching. Plenty to quack about today because before he goes, Bush is looking to finalize more than 90 new federal regulations. Does the president‘s 90 regulation-long to-do list scare you as much as it does me? I don‘t mean to be pushy or anything, but you kind of sort of, really, really, really need to stick around to hear this.
MADDOW: It is Veterans Day in America, and for the eighth straight year, American soldiers are at wars far away. Back home, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech which, in part, proclaimed the Bush administration‘s national security successes. Paul Rieckhoff will be joining us to talk about how things are about to change for America‘s veterans and our men and women in uniform. First, though, it‘s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in the news today. First up—heads up, loose nukes. The Pentagon is not commenting that the BBC has filed some Freedom of the Information Act Request and done an investigation, and they say, “We kind of, sort of, lost a nuclear bomb in Greenland 40 years ago.” And maybe it‘s still there. Back in the 1960s, the Pentagon believed that in the event of a nuclear war, the Soviet Union would first take out the Thule Air Base in Northern Greenland, essentially at the top of the world, because that base was used to scan for nuclear missiles coming over the North Pole from the Soviet Union. So the U.S. began flying what they called the Chrome Dome Mission, nuclear armed B-52‘s circling over the base continuously, ready to head toward Moscow if they saw the base in Greenland get blown up. That‘s about as cold as the Cold War gets, right? Well, in January, 1968, one of those Chrome Dome B-52 missions went wrong and one of the nuclear-armed bombers crashed to the ice. There were four nuclear armed missiles on board the plane that crashed. The missiles were not technically armed. They weren‘t prepped for a nuclear blast. But the high explosives surrounding the nukes went off. Three out of four bombs from the plane ended up shattering on the ice. The pieces were recovered. The fourth one, though? Allegedly melted through the ice and sank into the bay. Four months later, a U.S. submarine was sent to look for the lost nuclear bomb, but after some technical issues and with winter creeping in, freezing the bay, the U.S. abandoned the search. The logic behind abandoning the search for the lost nuclear weapon? I‘m quoting the BBC here, quoting the guy who ran the Los Alamos team that dealt with accidents like this. And he said this, quote, “It would be very difficult for anyone else to recover the classified pieces if we couldn‘t find them.” I guess. And what about the radioactive uranium and plutonium under the ice? Apparently, they figured it would eventually dissolve in the ocean. No problem. And much, much, much, much less whack news, we‘ve got a Wally Cleaver story for you today. The actor who played the Beaver‘s big brother, Tony Dow, is about to have one of his sculptures put on display in the Louvre - you know, the Louvre in France? Dow‘s sculpture is titled “Unarmed Warrior.” It is a bronze figure of a woman holding a shield. It will be shown there at the Louvre, at the art museum in Paris in December. Who knew? I can hear it now. Boy, Wally, wait until the guys find out you‘ve got art at the Louvre. They‘ll really give you the business, until that Eddie Haskell(ph) gets there first and messes it all up somehow.
MADDOW: Ninety years ago today, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I ended in armistice. 11/11 is Armistice Day as it came to be known in Europe, or Veterans Day, as we‘ve called it since the mid-century here in the United States. It‘s a day when we pause, reflect and honor the millions of our fellow citizens who have carried out the difficult, dangerous and essential duties ordered by our commanders-in-chief. Today, for the eighth consecutive Veteran‘s Day, American troops find themselves embroiled in military combat overseas. And this particular Veterans Day provides a crossroads of sorts for the American military. One outgoing commander-in-chief prepares to handoff power to the incoming president-elect, an unprecedented handover of two major wars already in progress, neither of which has a clear exit strategy. As for the incumbent civilian military leadership? Well, President Bush marked he day today by honoring veterans aboard the USS/Intrepid in New York City Harbor. Vice President Cheney, who, by the way, asked for and received five deferments during the Vietnam War from the draft - he spoke at Arlington National Cemetery and maintained the administration‘s years-old public position.
DICK CHENEY, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: Veterans Day finds us once again as a nation at war. The conflict began with a direct attack on the United States. After seven years, the war goes on. But never again has the battle returned to American soil. We are safer than we were on September 11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For his part, President-elect Barack Obama joined Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth who lost both of her legs in service to her country in Iraq. They laid a wreath at Soldier Field in Chicago. And for the second time in as many days, Obama‘s advisers offered up a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration and its legacy. Yesterday, Obama‘s team, you will recall, suggested that the new president-elect will work fast to shut down the lawless prison at Guantanamo. Today, it was a promise to breathe new life into the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The “Washington Post” reporting on its front page, quote, “Obama intends to renew the U.S. commitment to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. ‘This is our enemy,‘ one adviser said of Bin Laden, ‘and he should be our principal target.‘” “The Post” reports that Obama‘s new approach to Afghanistan will involve a more regional strategy that is currently in place. That could include talks with Iran and reconcilable elements of the Taliban as is reportedly favored by Gen. David Petraeus at (UNINTELLIGIBLE). One big national security decision facing President-elect Obama? Who to lead the effort in the Defense Department? According to the “Wall Street Journal,” Obama is leaning toward keeping the man already at the helm, current Defense Secretary Bob Gates. “The Journal” reports that Robert Gates would likely accept the offer. He happens to carry a countdown clock to the end of the Bush administration, which in all truth corresponds to Gates‘ planned retirement. I carry one of those, too, but it‘s not about Gates retiring. It‘s about something else - 69 days to go. Joining us now is Paul Rieckhoff. He‘s the executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Paul, thank you so much for coming on the show. Happy Veterans Day.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FOUNDER, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
VETERANS OF AMERICA: Thank you very much, Rachel. Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Were at the Intrepid(ph) today?
RIECKHOFF: I was. I was.
MADDOW: How was the ceremony involving the president there?
RIECKHOFF: It was a moving ceremony. You have veterans of all generations coming together here in New York City to welcome back the Intrepid, which is a really amazing museum and historic piece. So it was a good day to bring everyone together.
MADDOW: Vice President Cheney spoke at Arlington today. He proclaimed that we are safer than we were on 9/11. What do you think about that assessment? First of all, do you share that assessment? And do you think that he ought to be speechifying about that.
RIECKHOFF: No. I don‘t think Veterans Day is the appropriate time. I think we‘ve got to move past Vietnam and separate the war from the warriors. We‘ve got to separate the people from the policy. And Veterans Day is not a good time to stand up and talk about foreign policy. It‘s a day to remember and honor generations of veterans, the 25 million veterans who served over the course of the American involvement. So it‘s not really an appropriate time. But we don‘t know if we‘re safer. I mean, we haven‘t been hit here, that‘s true. But Afghanistan is spiraling in violence. Our military is overextending. Their international credibility is pretty much shot. So I think it‘s a very narrow perspective to look at just that piece and say we‘re safer.
MADDOW: President-elect Obama‘s advisers are laying out a new strategy for Afghanistan and talking about a regional strategy. They‘re talking about talking to all the neighboring countries including the ones which are very politically sensitive to talk about talking to them. How important is it to have a new - essentially new political leadership there? A new approach overall to that conflict? And should the fight for Bin Laden be thought of as part of the fight in Afghanistan. Or should it be thought of as a separate thing?
RIECKHOFF: It‘s critical that we focus in Afghanistan. I think we should start with that. I think we‘ve taken our eye off the ball because of our involvement in Iraq. But we‘ve really been narrow-minded in our approach to Afghanistan. We haven‘t been extremely creative. We haven‘t been willing to negotiate with Iran. We haven‘t been willing to talk to the Taliban. We‘ve kind of handcuffed our troops who can‘t pursue across the border into Pakistan. And you‘ve got NATO troops who make up about 50 percent of the force there, who have been restricted sometimes. And really, our forces are carrying the heavy lifting. So we haven‘t been innovative. We haven‘t been creative, and we do need to focus on Afghanistan. Killing Bin Laden and capturing Bin Laden would be a huge victory. But we also have to understand that it‘s much bigger than that now. There are thousands of other Bin Ladens. We need a comprehensive solution of fighting terrorists.
MADDOW: Yes. It‘s hard to think about the conflict in Afghanistan as a 35,000-strong manhunt for one guy, you know.
MADDOW: Barack Obama spent part of his day today with Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth. She ran for Congress in 2006 and wasn‘t successful. She‘s now the Veterans Affair‘s director in Illinois state government. You mentioned her as somebody who should be considered, possibly, for replacing Obama in the Senate, maybe as Veterans Affairs secretary. Do you see either of those as a likely outcome? And are you going to try to make a national case for her as a national leader?
RIECKHOFF: We‘re going to make a national case that he consider her, you know, in the Senate seat. I can‘t read tea leaves there but I think she should be a top contender if Obama chooses to replace Sec. Peake as the head of VA. She‘s an amazing hero. She‘s an innovator. She‘s courageous. And she‘s really a role model for a new generation of veterans. She was shot down in Iraq, lost both of her legs, and has been doing some incredibly creative work as the state director in Illinois. So she could our generation‘s Max Cleland(ph). She should be on the shortlist and I hope she‘s advising Obama no matter what he chooses to do.
MADDOW: I have to say, as a communicator, as an orator, as a politician, literally, I have to say I‘ve been very impressed by her when I‘ve seen her speech. She has a very commanding presence.
MADDOW: Paul, finally, your organization, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has just released a PSA about a new project that you‘re involved in, “CommunityOfVeterans.org.” Do you mind if we check out the PSA?
RIECKHOFF: No. Please.
MADDOW: Right here. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home, man.
(CAPTION READS: If you‘re a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan, you‘re not alone. We know where you‘re coming from. CommunityOfVeterans.org”)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How did you clear out a terminal at JFK? Is that La Guardia or is that JFK?
RIECKHOFF: It‘s JFK, and it‘s the - the longer version has a seven-train subway cleared in huge parts of Manhattan. And we got tremendous support from the City of New York. And I think it shows what we can do if we all commit to making veterans issues a priority. Today is a day when I think we can turn the page on Vietnam and move forward. President-elect Obama has a tremendous opportunity to make veterans‘ issues a priority. This campaign is about welcoming veterans home and giving them a safe place. They feel alone. This ad is called “Alone.” So “CommunityOfVeterans.org” is a veterans‘ hall for the next generation. It‘s kind of a Facebook or MySpace for vets only. And they can get resources, meet friends, share stories and connect with the new GI Bill benefits and mental health resources and a variety of other resources that they need and they deserve.
MADDOW: It‘s a great plan. Great idea. Nice to see you, Paul.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff is the executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. If you want more information about IAVA‘s new project, This Community Veterans, at “CommunityOfVeterans.org,” we‘ve got links to it and information at our Web site at Rachel.MSNBC.com. Now, coming up next, we continue our public service segment which we call Lame Duck Watch - quackitude, because somebody‘s got to do it. If you were hoping President Bush would authorize even more domestic spying before he goes, I‘ve got great news for you. For everybody else, that burly kid in the uniform looking at you, is he taking notes?
MADDOW: For the 76 percent of Americans who told the most recent CNN poll that they currently disapprove of President Bush, spring semester of senior year has arrived, big time. So how much time is left? Let me check my count down to Secretary of Defense Robert Gate‘s planned retirement model key chain. Oh, so sorry. Still 69 days to go. Well, a lot can happen in 69 days while nobody is watching. Sixty-nine days ago, Sarah Palin accepted the vice presidential nomination, for example. So as a public service, we now continue the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW “Lame Duck Watch” - quackitude, because somebody has to do it. Before President Bush rides back to his ranch in Texas, he hopes to finalize over 90 new federal regulations. Now, in truth, finalizing regulations at the last minute is common practice among outgoing presidents, but the Bush administration is hoping to expand it and making their final regulation adjustments more permanent. Why stop now, after all? The president has accelerated the process to try to ensure that the changes he wants will be finalized by November 22nd, that‘s 60 days before the Obama administration takes control. That‘s a dubiously convenient timing because most federal rules take affect 60 days after they have been finalized, so then, they are harder to turn back. Here you go, President Obama. Good luck on doing this stuff. Get in the chopper everybody, quick! So what do we have to look forward to from the Bush last days in the White House? You want one that will kick opponents of the Patriot Act right in the teeth? How about law enforcement officials spying on us, all of us, everyone, even if non-criminals not engaging in criminal activities are among us? Aunt Edna, you, too. In July, the Justice Department proposed a regulation that would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to collect intelligence on individuals and organizations even if the information is unrelated to any criminal matter. Think about that for a minute. Sure, go ahead, collect the intelligence, doesn‘t have to have anything to do with the criminal investigation. President Bush, according to the “Washington Independent” is keen on the idea. Even if they weren‘t already watching you, they soon could be really easily. Joining us now, my friend, the sportswriter Dave Zirin. He‘s a sports correspondent with “The Nation” magazine. He‘s got a little taste of this from the government earlier this year. Mr. Zirin, thanks for coming on.
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATION”: Great to be here, Rachel. But I‘ve got to say, if your unpopularity is over 76 percent, you shouldn‘t be allowed to use the White House remote control at that point.
MADDOW: Let alone dramatically change the justice orientation of the country.
ZIRIN: Hemorrhoids are more popular than this man. Why is he making laws?
I‘m very angry.
MADDOW: Well, he‘s doing it in a way that will make them hard to reverse.
ZIRIN: That‘s right.
MADDOW: Now, David, I wanted you to be on the show tonight because you went through an experience like this, what Bush is proposing for the whole country in Tacoma, Maryland. Now, what did you go through?
ZIRIN: Well, the Maryland State Police sent people to infiltrate meetings I was in, a very seditious organization called, “The Campaign to End the Death Penalty,” where we plan such horrifying acts like tabling at the local farmers‘ market, or planning rallies - I mean, constitutionally protected activities. The most basic kinds of things that I think sometimes we take for granted, and the horrible thing is that, not only did they send people in to spy on us, to take notes on what we were doing, notes on what we were saying. But also, according to their own documents, they would come back in even after they determined that we weren‘t doing anything wrong. They were sent back in to spy on us. And why were they spying on us? Because the governor at the time, Bob Ehrlich, the right-wing Republican who makes Sarah Palin look like Emma Goldman - I mean, he is somebody who saw us as political opponents. He was for the death penalty. We were against the death penalty. Therefore, in his mind we deserved to be spied upon.
MADDOW: And so, he essentially used Homeland Security powers of the state government to go after you guys.
ZIRIN: Yes. We were entered into a database, the heading of which was “terrorist/anti-government.” And anti-war activists were entered in the database that was called “terrorists/anti-war.” And then the person who organized all this, the head of the Maryland State Police, a man by the name of Tim Hutchins, who was once named by your friend Keith one of the worst people in the world. Tim Hutchins - he called us fringe people in the hearings. He said we deserve it because we were fringe people. So one of the things I want to ask is who is the real fringe person here?
ZIRIN: People who actually believe in the Constitution or people like Tim Hutchins who use it like Kleenex?
MADDOW: Did any of the politician, any of the people who were involved in this get in trouble for doing what they did? It was all exposed, ultimately.
ZIRIN: It was all exposed, but here‘s the problem. To use a sports metaphor, the expose by former Attorney General Steve Zachs was the equivalent of driving 99 yards for a touchdown and then taking a knee. I mean, the report revealed every last bit of anti-constitutional behavior by the Maryland State Police. But then, all the recommendations were looking forward about future laws, future safeguards. And we believe people really need to be held into account for this. Bob Ehrlich, Tim Hutchins - I mean we either have a constitution or we don‘t. Either our rights were violated or they weren‘t. And I mean they‘re spying on sportswriters here, Rachel. I mean, I‘m not Aunt Edna here, you know. I‘ve got my politics. But this is ridiculous.
MADDOW: Well, the prospect of this being expanded nationwide, essentially giving a Justice Department Federal Government green light to local and state law enforcement agencies to collect intelligence on anybody regardless of criminal suspicion, which is what you went through. They‘re talking about expanding this nationwide and what they will say in order to argue for it is, “Oh, what‘s the harm done to Dave Zirin? What‘s the harm done?”
ZIRIN: Here‘s the harm, because - I‘ll quote Sen. Ben Cartland from Maryland because it has a chilling effect on the Constitution. It has a chilling effect on our ability to assemble. I mean, we have to remember that we‘re living in a time where 85 percent of the country thinks it‘s moving in the wrong direction. I mean, this is a time where we need to be welcoming new people into community activism, welcoming new people into struggle. And what you have instead is people looking at each other in Maryland as if, is that person an enemy? Is this person a plant? And it has a horrible effect right at the time where, in the wake of the Obama victory, we should be talking about solidarity. We should be talking about expanding our forces. We should be talking about fighting for the change that we all waited on line to vote for. And instead, you have people looking over each other‘s shoulders. I mean, that‘s very problematic. It‘s unconstitutional and there needs to be some form of justice for it.
MADDOW: Dave Zirin, sports correspondent with “The Nation” magazine, thanks for being here.
ZIRIN: My privilege. Thanks.
MADDOW: Nice to see you. Coming up, I‘m going to get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. “Hannah Montana”-Obama, anybody?
MADDOW: Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. What must life be like for Michelle Obama right now? Her husband just got a new job. She has to move her family to Washington. And every time she gets dressed, it‘s things. And then yesterday, she got a tour of the White House where she‘ll be living from Laura Bush, the wife of a Republican president her husband just spent two years running against. Hi. How is it going? Said a spokesperson, quote, “They discussed raising daughters in the White House as Jenna and Barbara Bush were similar in age to Malia and Sasha Obama when they visited their grandfather President George H.W. Bush during his presidency. So Michelle Obama, Princeton, Harvard Law, associate dean of the University of Chicago. Now, this - it‘s weird at the top. Then there‘s this whole “Hannah Montana” situation. Yesterday, Billy Ray Cyrus gave an interview implying that the Obama girls were invited to appear on his daughter Miley Cryus‘ insanely popular Disney show, “Hannah Montana” to which Michelle Obama‘s rep replied, “We have received no such inquiry for the girls.” To which Disney replied, “We‘re pleased that Malia and Sasha are fans. And as long as their parents say it‘s OK, they are invited to the set of Hannah Montana and all the Disney Channel shows for a guest role or a visit any time.” So all of a sudden - here‘s the deal for Michelle. It‘s not, “Mom, can we watch ‘Hannah Montana?‘” It‘s, “Mom, can we be on ‘Hannah Montana.‘” Slippery slope. And finally, I mentioned Laura Bush earlier as I like to think of her the literally Bush. According to the “New York Post,” the first lady is interviewing publishers at the White House who are bidding on her memoirs which could lead to a multimillion-dollar deal. As for Laura‘s husband, a top publishing insider said, quote, “‘W‘ is going to have to wait about five years. He‘s so unpopular at this point, there‘s no market for any book by him.” Well, I don‘t know. I bet he could find an audience if he came out with something like this (Graphic of a book entitled, “My Bad: An Apology to the Planet.” I would totally buy that. Shocking stuff. Give me two.
MADDOW: I wonder - I just had a thought. Maybe we should write that book.
JONES: That‘s a possibility.
MADDOW: I suppose we‘d be sued if we said that we were jerks.
JONES: Could be.
MADDOW: I did the show today partly in pajamas in solidarity with the bloggers in jammies that Sarah Palin is going after.
JONES: Good for you.
MADDOW: I think of myself as a blogger on TV.
JONES: May I?
MADDOW: Yes, you may.
JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: They‘re from American girl. We have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the bathrobe. I don‘t really wear fuzzy slippers.
JONES: OK. I‘m taking it. I‘m taking it.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you for watching tonight. We‘ll see you here tomorrow night. Until then, E-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our podcast at iTunes or Rachel.MSNBC.com. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.
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