The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/14/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you. And thank you at home for watching this hour. All of a sudden, the Obama transition is really, really, really interesting. (voice over): So much for “No Drama Obama,” the president-elect did meet with Hillary Clinton in Chicago. She is the secretary of state candidate. Did he offer her the job? Will she take it? Obama is also meeting with John McCain on Monday. Could McCain join an Obama administration? Is he that much of a maverick? Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley helps us sort out as Obama world turns. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is looking more like “High School Musical 3,” sniping an anonymous catty insults thrown at the popular new kid in class. Speaking of catty, new gossipy reports from the McCain camp about Sarah Palin‘s mis-underestimating of a certain news anchor for a certain interview.
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KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: I‘m going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point—specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulations. GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA: I‘ll try to find you some and I‘ll bring them to you.
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MADDOW: And, who left the yearbook committee in-charge of planning graduation. This is why the RNC says it‘s good to be in the GOP. Those yearbook kids are always looking backwards. Arianna Huffington joins us with the look at the totally dysfunctional party on way out. Plus, lame duck watch continues. Tonight, as the world‘s economy melts further down, President Bush hosts the richest countries on earth for a White House dinner beginning with fruitwood-smoked quail with quince gastrique. Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE), how about burgers and potato salad, sir, maybe PB&J? THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. (on camera): Admit it campaign addicts. Two great years of intrigue finished with an emotional crescendo 10 days ago. And since then, be honest—who‘s going to win with a lot more compelling than when is he going to name his cabinet? Until now, that is. We have action. Or at least, reports about potential action, and compelling, at least, that feeling is back.Tonight, we have more reporting about Hillary Clinton and the secretary of state appointment and Obama‘s Monday meeting with a guy you might have heard of named John McCain. All of that in a minute. But first, we have some new news to report—election news, which means, I love this part. Roll the animation.
MADDOW: Tonight, we can report that President-elect Barack Obama has picked up one more electoral vote in the state of Nebraska, which is one of two states in the union that splits its electoral votes, the other being Maine. The last time a Democrat got any electoral votes out of Nebraska, that was Lyndon Johnson, who won the state in 1964. Democrats have been on a 0-for-10 streak since then, until now. The additional vote gives Obama 365 total electoral votes to 173 for John McCain. And I think that does it, right? Three hundred sixty-five plus 173 equals, carry the one – 538. Yes, we‘re done. Congratulations, everybody. And on Monday, Obama versus McCain will become Obama hosts McCain. The president-elect has invited Senator John McCain to Chicago to discuss how they can work together moving forward. Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter says, quote, “They share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality.” Me would be the first to suggest—pork czar, secretary of maverickiness? McCain and Obama won‘t be meeting alone on Monday, they‘re both bringing in some muscle in with them. Obama will be joined by his future chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, and McCain is bringing South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Of course, he is. Does he go anywhere without Lindsey Graham at this point? Prospects for the Obama-McCain meeting, well, consider the Arizona senator‘s disposition before answering. First, he is apparently in no mood to take shots at President-elect Obama. During his 12-minute speech yesterday in Georgia, on behalf of GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss, McCain didn‘t use the big, obvious, easy to pronounce word “Obama,” even once. Chambliss, in contrast, said “Obama” a lot. It was obvious because every time he did, the crowd booed like a bullies of Red Sox fans spotting Johnny Damon in a crowd. We will talk about this more over the course of tonight‘s show. But if ever there were a vanquished Republican who might be really considering teaming up with a Democrat who‘d beat him, a case could be made that that is John McCain. The Hillary Clinton for secretary of state‘s speculation began with Andrea Mitchell‘s reporting last night and has official reached a level of frenzy. Generally seen when the door is open at Wal-Mart the morning after Thanksgiving. Has Obama offered the job to Senator Clinton? Did she accept? Would she even want it? Who would replace her in the Senate? The breathless speculation has only been furthered by the non-denial denial offered up today by Senator Clinton in Albany.
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SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: Let me just say that I‘m not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect‘s incoming administration. And I‘m going to respect his process and any inquiries should be directed to his transition team.
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MADDOW: Looking for evidence that this thing has possibly turned into an uncontrollable political celebrity drama? Well, it was only a matter of time and not much time before someone reported that Obama has officially, actually offered her the job. Enter a pair of quote, “senior Democratic officials” who talked to the “Huffington Post‘s” Nico Pitney. He reports today, quote, “President-elect Barack Obama offered Senator Hillary Clinton the position of secretary of state during their meeting Thursday in Chicago according to two senior Democratic officials. She requested time to consider the offer, the official said.” All right, all right, all right. Our own Andrea Mitchell who broke this story last night reports tonight that if Obama makes a firm offer to Clinton, yesterday‘s meeting in Chicago was only the first of several meetings that would have to occur. Further more, NBC political director Chuck Todd confirms tonight that Obama also met with Bill Richardson today to discuss the secretary of state post. So, let‘s breathe deeply here and consider something about the prospect of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama‘s secretary of state. I understand the whole team of rivals idea that everybody is talking about today and that I‘m talking about, too. But I wonder if it‘s not being misconstrued here. Senator Clinton called Democratic presidential candidate Obama‘s approach to foreign policy, she called his approach to diplomacy naive and dangerous. She argued that he hasn‘t passed the commander-in-chief test. Now, it‘s true. That was during the campaign. But the words were spoken. And I tend to believe what American political leaders say even on the campaign trail unless I‘m given reason to believe otherwise. And Senator Clinton has well-established foreign policy views that are different from President-elect Obamas. So, I wonder, while a team of rivals makes good sense politically and symbolically, is it practical in terms of policy and in terms of governing? Joining us now is presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. He‘s a professor of history at Rice University. Doctor Brinkley, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, POLITICAL HISTORIAN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: With all this speculation about Hillary Clinton being considered for a cabinet post and this upcoming meeting with John McCain, the talk has turned to comparisons with Abraham Lincoln‘s team of rivals. Does this seem comparison seem apt to you?
BRINKLEY: Well, first up, you have to congratulate Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her book is selling off the shelves again and then she‘s really entered our lexicon with this “Team of Rivals” and it‘s a tremendous book. But I think it‘s overdrawn in the sense that we should be going back to 1860 – I mean, when Lincoln won the presidency, he only had about 38 percent of the popular vote. He then had to do deal with Fort Sumter and the rise of the confederacy. He had to whatever he could to bring unionists behind him. And he ended, of course, upbringing in his dreaded adversary William Seward to be secretary of state. And it didn‘t particularly turn out very well for Lincoln. They feuded a lot. But it‘s interesting. I think more apt is what John F. Kennedy tried to do in 1960. He brought in people like Douglas Dillon, Eisenhower, a finance guy to be his secretary of the treasury. He brought in McGeorge Bundy, a Republican, to be his national security advisor. But I‘m not sure this team of rival idea‘s really worked. In my view, Obama had a mandate here that progressives have been waiting on the wings for a long time to influence policy, and the people that stood with him early, the loyalists to Obama are the ones who should be getting these posts. Give or take, maybe one or two Republicans.
MADDOW: Historically, what has happened in these meeting that happened between the victor and vanquish after a presidential race? We know that these meetings do happen, but are they usually just sort of a show of unity or does anything in substance have usually happen?
BRINKLEY: That‘s a good question. I mean, they‘re mainly a show of unity. You have moments where, I think, it‘s profound on the national scene. If you recall, when Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford, and at his inaugural, he turned and looked at Gerald Ford and said, “Thank you for healing our nation,” a very powerful moment. And the idea that Carter and Ford were trying to do is heal America from the wounds of Watergate and Vietnam and tumultuous ‘60s. So, I think, it‘s good that Obama is meeting McCain and they have some places of common ground, perhaps McCain will be important when the debate on torture gets brought back up - meaning, whether we should close Gitmo or not. He could help on global warming issues. And he is a—he has had a time, as you know, in the Senate where he‘s crossed the aisle and so, he could be an influential Republican senator. So, why not take the high road? Obama is taking the high road always in vogue. I mean, it‘s gracious, it‘s good manners. So, I say, meet with McCain and then move on.
MADDOW: Can you imagine the scenario in which John McCain actually does take a position in the administration? I mean, obviously, he would probably be replaced by a Democratic senator in Arizona if he did it anytime soon. But we have seen from John McCain in the past when he has been angry at his party or when he feels like his party has thrown under the bus at all, he has been willing to buck them. That‘s where he earned his mavericky reputation. Can you imagine him taking a job with Obama?
BRINKLEY: Boy, I hope not. And I don‘t foresee it. I mean, his foreign policy views are just the opposite of what Obama stands for. And if you‘re going to have a Republican, Secretary Gates has done a good, steady job. Remember how terrible things were when Rumsfeld was secretary of defense. Gates has kept things running very well. So, if you want to keep a Republican, I keep Gates. McCain, what would you do? Veterans Affairs, if you‘re going to do that—to give it to a Vietnam vet, I would go with Max Cleland, the triple amputee and the former great senator of Georgia.
MADDOW: Or, at least, somebody who enthusiastically supported the new G.I. Bill, which is the biggest change in veterans‘ benefits for the generation.
BRINKLEY: Exactly. Very good, good point.
MADDOW: Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian, Rice University history professor. Thanks for sparing time for us on a Friday night. I appreciate it.
BRINKLEY: No problem. Thank you.
MADDOW: On Monday, John McCain meets with President-elect Obama. But his fellow Republicans are acting a little junior high schooly. By which, I mean, no offense to junior high schoolers, I just mean that they are squabbling in a somewhat immature fashion over who should be the next student council president. I mean, Republican Party Leader. Can the 8th grade graduation dance be saved? Recovering Republican—Arianna Huffington will be joining us next to talk about that. And Joe Lieberman‘s chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee took another hit today as senators, Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders, both called for him to lose his gavel. The Joementum is going in the wrong way for the senator. We‘ll have more on that in a moment as well. But first, just one more thing about a famous senator or an infamous one, America‘s highest ranking convicted felon, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, he was not above running for re-election to the Senate while wearing seven felony counts of guilty around his neck. And today, we learn that he is not above begging his fellow Republican senators not to expel him because of it. At latest count, Stevens trails Democrat Mark Begich by 1,061 votes. But the 84-year-old Stevens has been working the phones, pleading with GOP leaders and other colleagues to, quote, “give him a chance.” He‘s begging his fellow Republican senators not to kick him out of Congress until his appeals process is over. Come on, Republicans. Give him another chance to show what he‘s made of. He‘s just learning the ropes. He‘s only been around for like what – 40 years?
MADDOW: The McCain-Palin campaign was not afraid to allege sexism during this campaign. Reporters who asked the self-proclaimed hockey mom how she balance raising a family and governing Alaska—sexist. Opponents who questioned her experience and knowledge—sexist. Anybody who questioned the expenditure of campaign funds on clothing and stylist, stay it with me now—sexist. So, what do you call Republican campaign manager Rick Davis who told the “National Review” today that Palin thought her interview with Katie Couric would be softer, easier because Couric is a woman? Quoting from the “National Review,” quote, “On the Couric interview, which Davis says Palin thought would be softer because she was being interviewed by a woman,” quote, “She was under the impression the Couric thing was going to be easier than it was. Everyone‘s guard was down for the Couric interview.” Because you thought Katie Couric got to the top of the news by asking lots of soft-girly questions?
MADDOW: Imagine the spectrum here from ruling party of serious adults wielding enormous power over here to weakest high school representative of the model U.N. over here. On that spectrum, the Republican Party, circle right at second, is somewhere in the middle but trending toward the model U.N. side. Between the Republican Governors Association meeting and the Republican Party itself, it is looking more like a Saturday night party in somebody‘s parent‘s house than the party of Lincoln or Reagan or, dare I say it, George Bush. At this weeks governor‘s association meeting in Miami, the governors press conference saw a stage filled of lots governors, but Sarah Palin getting every last bit of the attention. Now, think high school and predict what happened next. Yes, of course, CNN quoting one anonymous jealous Republican governor saying, quote, “It unfortunately sent a message that she was the de facto leader of the party.” Unfortunately—others were glad to see Palin acting as if the 2012 door were open for plowing through. Marc Ambinder at “The Atlantic” reports that a strategist for a potential Republican presidential rival of Palin‘s said, quote, “Fine with us. Let her be the sacrificial lamb for 2012.” And when it came time for the governors to vote on each other to stay say by action what they really think of each other, the assumed popular Sarah Palin, she did not make the cut. The Republican Governors Association leadership positions went to Mark Sanford, and Rick Perry, and Haley Barbour, and Sonny Perdue, even Charlie Crist got signed up to chair their annual gala celebration. But Sarah Palin didn‘t get anything. She‘s not even on the executive committee. And it‘s not like there are tons and tons of Republican governors. Meanwhile, more uncomfortable post-mortem details of the Palin as vice presidential nominee experiment emerged, Rick Davis, John McCain‘s campaign manager, spoke to the “National Review” about Palin‘s clothing—oh, that shopping spree again. Davis said this, quote, “We got her a gal from New York and we thought, ‘Let‘s get her some clothes for her and the family.‘ It was a failure of management not to get better control and track of that. The right hand didn‘t know what the left hand was going, what it was worth or where it was going.” How wonder who the gal from New York is? How do you get somebody -a gal from New York? Anyway, the RNC is meanwhile stepping over John McCain‘s still warm political body to file lawsuits to overturn the major legislative legacy of John McCain‘s career in Washington—the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Yes, the Republican Party is suing just 10 days after McCain lost the presidency to erase the biggest political legacy of their nominee for president. That‘s beyond high school cruelty. That‘s like Hollywood-level cruelty. Speaking of showbiz, the RNC put together a spooky (ph) new video touting the bright future of the Republican Party, the future of the party, it stars Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and the current President Bush.
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PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
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MADDOW: Remember—that‘s the video celebrating the future of the Republican Party. That is awkward for so many reasons. Joining us now is Arianna Huffington. She‘s the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the “Huffington Post.” Arianna, thanks for being with us tonight. Nice to see you.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you, Rachel, and good to be with you.
MADDOW: Arianna, you, famously, were once a Republican. Are your heart strings being tugged a little bit to see them in the state like this?
HUFFINGTON: No. But you know? What I‘m worried about, that we really do believe in the two-party system. And we have to do all of us, Democrats, progressive, who have to do something to save the Republican Party, because look what‘s happening. At the moment, it‘s happening from an advance phrase of schizophrenia. The (INAUDIBLE) kind of accepted into different degrees that that last 7 ½ years have been a failure. Newt Gingrich, more than anyone, has told us that again and again, that we have to own (ph) up to the failures. But, they are not willing to look at the central governmental principal that‘s been behind all the failures, which is their belief that as Ronald Reagan famously said in his first inaugural address, “Government is the problem, not the solution.” If they are not willing to address that and let us know whether they still agree with Ronald Reagan or not, then they will remain in that limbo state of complete schizophrenia because while they are demonizing government and continue to do, including in Miami out there, the Republican Governors Association, they also looking to bailout Wall Street, to bailout AIG and basically to save us.
MADDOW: When you think about the survival of the two-party system, when you think about the risks, even two people who don‘t consider themselves alive with the Republican Party at all, the risks of the Republican Party being really in the wilderness for a very long time - are you suggesting that there ought to be sort of a political marshall plan for the Republican Party, that a defeated country is dangerous and inhumane, and a defeated party is dangerous, too?
HUFFINGTON: Yes. And I think, actually, you and I should co-chair it because we are women and we are therefore more compassionate than men. We should co-chair this salvaging the Republican Party marshall plan on the grounds that we do need the two-party system. Otherwise, we‘re going to leave it in the hands of Sarah Palin, who was waiting for God to open the door, or in the hands of Grover Norquist, the spiritual guru of leave-us-alone coalition. Remember, that is the central philosophy of the Republican Party. Grover Norquist also famously said we must drown government like a baby. So, these people basically have no credibility anymore and yet they continue to be ideological roots of the Republican Party.
MADDOW: He said he wanted to get government down to the size where he could drown it in a bathtub.
MADDOW: Which made you imagine a baby. It made me imagine some sort of rogue squirrel that you trapped in the attic. That means that we‘re very different people. Arianna, one last question actually about Sarah Palin. Why do you think there is a continued sniping over Sarah Palin? I mean, from a Republican Party perspective, she did really energize their base, the media can‘t get enough of her—why are they all trying to get a piece of her?
HUFFINGTON: Well, because, really, although she did energize the base, she‘s an embarrassment. Let‘s face it. She could not give a speech that was anything beyond the sound bites of the election campaign. She basically cannot update what she‘s saying. It seems as though she has no particular views on anything except, you know, antediluvian views on creationism. She believes in it. On the fact that she‘s against stem cell research. So, basically, Sarah Palin represents the worst embarrassment for the Republican Party. It‘s not just the clothes. It‘s the religious right. It‘s the anti-science perspective and it‘s the fact that she doesn‘t seem to be updating what she believed. Joe the Plumber even made an appearance at her press conference.
MADDOW: Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the “Huffington Post,” the woman America owes for making Matt Drudge obsolete. Thank you very much for coming on this show tonight, Arianna. It‘s great to see you.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up: Lame duck watch, quack-itude continues. During the worst economic crisis in decades, President Bush has invited world leaders to the White House for a swanky black tie dinner. Serving thyme-roasted Rock of Lamb and Baked Vermont Brie with Walnut Crostini. Not on the menu, what world leaders actually want which is the chance to talk to Barack Obama. We‘ll have more on that, in a moment.
MADDOW: Coming up: on lame duck watch, President Bush hosts a black tie soiree at the White House for the visiting G-20 leaders. In light of the deepening economic crisis, I‘m sure it was handled in a totally non-elitist real America kind of way. Also, the moon is made of green cheese. We‘ll have more on that, later. First, though, it‘s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in the news today. You may have seen the commercials warning that analog TV signals will disappear in mid-February, right? I‘m no TV expert, but I think that means if your TV watching experience involves bunny ears antennae, you need to upgrade soon. The Bush-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC, Kevin Martin, he decided, the best way to let people know about the change would be to spend $350,000 sponsoring a NASCAR driver for three races. It‘s a Ford Fusion, number 38, the money buys sponsorship for three races with the digital TV transition message painted on a car driven David Gilliland. Now, the first race in which the FCC sponsored the car, the car crashed into a wall on the 485th lap at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. Martinsville, Kevin Martin, get it? After the crash, little publicly sponsored car 38 was not able to finish the race. But two more races to go, right? The car was back on the track last weekend, and—another wreck. This time, digital TV transition car 38 caught fire at the Phoenix International Raceway. It car did not finish that race, either. Asked if he was maybe reconsidering the wisdom of putting in the FCC sponsorship on the car that keeps crashing and catching on fire, Kevin Martin was a lining so silver, he eclipsed his own cloud. Quote, “Except for the cars that win the races, the cars that are in wrecks get a lot of attention.” OK, then. The last race for the digital TV transition car is this weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway. Good luck, I think. Finally, to the saga of my single favorite senator from the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, Senator Joe Lieberman is currently chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. But Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy today called for Lieberman to lose that gavel. To lose that chairmanship. He did so in an appearance on public radio.
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SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VT: I‘m one who does not feel that somebody should be rewarded with a major chairmanship after doing what he did. I felt that some of the attacks that he was involved in against Senator Obama went way beyond the pale.
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MADDOW: Leahy was quickly followed today by the other independent in the United States Senate, Vermont‘s Bernie Sanders. He also issued a statement against Lieberman keeping his gavel. He said, quote, “To reward Senator Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country. Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not change we can believe in.” Senator Evan Bayh suggested on this program earlier this week that Lieberman could keep his chairmanship under the threat that the Democrats might revoke if he used that chairmanship to continue the crusade against President-Elect Obama. The crusade he helped lead during the campaign. That call was echoed last night on this program by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Reporter Seth Colter-Walls (ph) at Huffington Post today reports that a chairmanship revocation like that would actually be subject to a filibuster. Could be subject to a filibuster, at least. That would mean that the Republicans could block any Democratic effort to remove Lieberman as chair of that committee. Staffers for Senator Lieberman contacted our program today upset with my characterization of what Senator Lieberman did not do as committee chair to investigate the government‘s response to Hurricane Katrina. They point out that the committee did investigating when it was under Republican control and that Senator Lieberman as chairman didn‘t want to go back and cover old ground. I admittedly was a little distracted when I received the news. There was this really loud clanging of my American conscience after I read that FEMA‘s toxic Katrina trailers are now being sold for scrap because they are and were uninhabitable. Senator Lieberman, we have issued the invitation several times now through staff. I just want to personally invite you to join me here for a civil discussion and a fair interview. I‘m going to keep talking about your chairmanship and would love to do it with you here. I think your communications director has my number.
MADDOW: How lame a lame duck is President Bush? Today, it was reported that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told France‘s Nicolas Sarkozy in August that he, Putin, wanted to hang Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili in the most painful imaginable way, from his most sensitive parts. After all, Putin said, the Americans hanged Saddam Hussein. Sarkozy reported responded, quote, “You want to end up like Bush?” To which Putin replied, “Ah, there you have a point.” International leaders, in other words, are using our president as an example of what not to do. Quel horreur. Bush, of course, is still in charge and we therefore still must keep a watchful eye on him. It‘s time for tonight‘s installment of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW “Lame Duck Watch.” Quackadoo (ph). The most notable action at the White House today. An inadvertent billboard for economic insensitivity. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost five percent of the its value this week. More than 600,000 Americans lost their jobs last month alone. And retail sales dropped 2.8 percent in October. That‘s a bigger decline than we saw even following 9/11. So, President Bush called a summit, naturally, certainly can‘t hurt. And this a global economic crisis. So a G-7 or a G-8 just won‘t do. He‘s hosting the G-20 economic summit starting tonight. President Bush called in so many leaders that 90 percent of global gross domestic product is represented by leaders in Washington. President Bush made sure to manage expectations ahead of the meeting.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: The issues are too complex. The problem is too significant to try to solve or to come up with reasonable recommendations in just one meeting.
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MADDOW: One of President Bush‘s obstacles this weekend is that most of the G-20 leaders would probably rather be talking to the president-elect rather than the current president at this point. You think they‘re not on lame duck watch as well? So here is your public relations stumble. It‘s tonight‘s kick off dinner. Fruitwood smoked quail with quince gastrique, quinoa risotto, thyme roasted rack of lamb, tomato, fennel and eggplant fondue. The wine list includes Landmark Chardonnay, the Damaris Reserve, Hillside Slect Shafer Cabernet and Chandon Etoile Rose. That‘s bubbly. That‘s what‘s for dinner while we are discussing the worst thing since the Great Depression. Did you guys really have to publish the menu this time? The only part that isn‘t annoying is the pear torte with huckleberry sauce dessert. And that‘s only because the word huckleberry just vaguely sounds populist. Fortunately, not everyone in the white house is limping out of Washington. First Lady Laura Bush has come out with an important foreign policy statement. And I mean this in all seriousness. This week, as we reported, Afghan schoolgirls were attacked with acid on their way to school. The next day, none of the 1500 students at that girls‘ school showed up. Mrs. Bush‘s response was swift and strong. She said quote, “My heart goes out to the victims and their families as they recover from this cruel attack. The Taliban‘s continued terror attacks and threaten the progress that has been made in Afghanistan. These cowardly and shameful acts are condemned by honorable people in the United States and around the world.” Good for Laura Bush for taking a stand on this issue and making a rare public policy statement on something like that on something as scary and awful as this. But the problem remains. Barack Obama is being handed a list of calamities that seems to be getting worse every day. Things that have gotten measurably worse even just since Election Day less than two weeks ago. What happens if our economic and foreign policy crises pick up speed in the downward spiraling trajectory they are currently following? How bad can it get between now and January 20? Will President Obama be able to fix it? Joining us now is Andrew Bacevich, who is a professor of international relations and history at Boston University. He is author of the excellent new book, “Limits of Power: the End of American Exceptionalism.” Professor Bacevich, thank you so much for joining us on tonight‘s show.
PROF. ANDREW BACEVICH, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me on the program.
MADDOW: The attack on girls trying to go to school in Kandahar is the worst kind of reminder of how bad things are still in Afghanistan. President-Elect Obama has said he wants to bring the focus back to Afghanistan mostly by sending more troops in. Do you think in the current climate with what‘s happened in Afghanistan and how long we‘ve been there that a troop increase is the right way for it? Do you think it could work?
BACEVICH: I doubt it. I mean, problem number one, where are you going to get the troops? It‘s not as if we have a lot sitting around twiddling their thumbs. The Army and the Marine Corps are already over committed. We have been working the Afghan problem for over seven years now. As you suggested, things are actually getting worse, not better. We‘re probably at the point where simply suggesting try harder is not the right answer.
MADDOW: You have written in my mind convincingly about the national security implications, the national security costs to us of relying too much on military power to get what we want as a country. Do you see mission creep in Afghanistan and Iraq? Do you see an inappropriate flexing of American military muscle where other kinds of American power might be better used?
BACEVICH: Yeah, I see a lesson that screams out at us, that seven years into this so-called global war on terror we‘ve learned, we ought to have learned our military power is not nearly all that it was stacked up to be. It‘s limited and we ought to have learned that invading and occupying countries with the expectation that we can rapidly transform them is a fool‘s errand. We need to think of Afghanistan and Iraq as components of what is supposed to be a larger so-called global war on terror. These combined operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are supposed to be contributing to some larger project of reducing the threat posed by violent Islamic radicalism. What we have done in these two wars has if anything, exacerbated the problem by increasing anti-Americanism while squandering our power and undercutting our own prosperity. We‘re going down the wrong path.
MADDOW: And yet, we have got more than 180,000 Americans abroad in uniform right now heading into this next administration. It does seem like the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the non-war in Pakistan, they are all heading toward a less stable situation, a situation that might lead to a greater risk of Islamic terrorism being directed at the West. What should the new administration be prioritizing in terms of turning these things around and in terms of focusing on the real problem at hand?
BACEVICH: I think—I‘m hopeful that the new president is going to ask the right questions rather than to continue to chew on the wrong questions. In some senses it seems to me the right question is gosh, what do we need to do now to turn Afghanistan around? What do we need to do now to shore up the growing instability in Pakistan? We need to step back a little bit, reassess the threat and think our way through what is the logical prudent, realistic and sustainable response to the threat. The threat is not nearly as great as we imagined in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Al Qaeda, similar organizations, it‘s an international criminal conspiracy. They are thugs. The response to a criminal conspiracy is a police effort, multilateral, intensive, well resourced and ruthless. The proper response is not the Bush response, which, again, has been to invade and occupy countries with the expectation of remaking them in America‘s image. So I hope the new president will ask questions about grand strategy and not get too bogged down immediately in operational questions.
MADDOW: Andrew Bacevich, Boston University professor of international relations and history after a long career in military yourself. New book is called “Limits of Power.” Thank you so much for coming on the show tonight, sir.
BACEVICH: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: Next week marks the 30th anniversary of what came to be called the Jonestown Massacre. A new documentary tells the horrific story of more than 900 Americans who were led to death by the Reverend Jim Jones in a mass murder and suicide pact. Former NBC correspondent Fred Francis was there in the aftermath of the tragedy. He will join us next to give us his views on this incredible and terrible chapter in American history.
MADDOW: Now, for a story that is off our normally trod track of politics and international news. It is a story that I personally remember from my early childhood days growing up in Northern California. And it‘s one worth telling for all its macabre reminders of a surreal era really not that long ago. Next week marks the 30th anniversary of the massacre of Jonestown in Guyana on South America‘s northern coast. Over 900 Americans died there. Jonestown was a community formed by the Reverend Jim Jones of the People‘s Temple. He was a minister from a small town in Indiana. He first led his flock of loyal followers from the Midwest to California where he hoped to avoid fall out from a possible nuclear war. He then moved his people to Guyana when he and his church received criticism for beatings and for financial abuses. Ultimately, ironically, Jim Jones was a survivalist. As strange stories of life at Jonestown started surfacing California Congressman Leo Ryan and a group of journalists headed for the jungles of Guyana for a look inside Jonestown. The trip began as an investigation. There were complaints by Ryan‘s constituents who were family members of Jonestown followers about what was happening there. The trip ended in massacre. As the group readied to fly back to the states with defectors from Jonestown, they were ambushed on an airstrip. Five people were killed including Congressman Ryan. He is the first and only member of Congress to have been killed in the line of duty in the history of the United States. Days later, NBC senior correspondent Fred Francis who will be joining us live shortly, he discovered the Jonestown massacre five miles away. Here is part of MSNBC‘s new documentary, “Witness to Jonestown.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the plane first banked over Jonestown, it looked like a quilt. And we didn‘t know what we were seeing until someone in the cockpit said those are bodies.
REV. JIM JONES, LEADER OF “THE PEOPLE‘S TEMPLE”: Die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Don‘t lay down with tears and agony.
UNIDENTFIIED MALE: You could actually smell the death in the airplane. A side vent window was open and we could actually smell it.
ANNOUNCER: They had come to create a utopian community called Jonestown until they drank the proverbial Kool-Aid.
JONES: We didn‘t commit suicide. We committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world.
ANNOUNCER: As if lining up for communion, they took cyanide laced fruit punch from their spiritual father, Reverend Jim Jones.
TIM REITERMAN, “SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER”: We wanted to see for ourselves because we had been receiving conflicting accounts of what life was like in Jonestown.
ANNOUNCER: California Congressman Leo Ryan was one of those following the story with an intense personal interest.
JACKIE SPEIER, AIDE TO CONGRESSMAN RYAN: A lot of constituents came to Congressman Ryan, legitimately outraged and anguished and wanted something to be done. We don‘t know then that people wanted to leave. But we did know it wasn‘t adding up and John Harris was smoking a cigarette and walking around the perimeter of the pavilion. And two members of the People‘s Temple independently slipped him notes basically saying I want to get out of here. So many more people wanted to leave, that we didn‘t have enough planes. So it was agreed to that I would escort the first airlift out.
CHARLES KRAUSE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: All of a sudden, this tractor trailer appeared at the end of the runway. The tractor trailer started moving down the runway, toward the planes and I heard pop, pop, pop, and they were coming at us. And they were shooting people. Someone shot the congressman pointblank to make sure he was dead. Then went around and I think shot Don Harris to make sure that he was dead. And as I recall, one more bullet was fired in that—in those moments.
REITERMAN: I saw that the photographer with me, Greg Robinson, Congressman Ryan, Bob Brown, Don Harris, of NBC and Patricia Parks who was one of the defectors were all dead.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Fred Francis, former NBC News senior correspondent, the first reporter to discover the Jonestown massacre. Mr. Frances, thank you for coming on the show tonight.
FRED FRANCIS, FORMER NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It‘s a pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: I was watching you on the monitor here watching that footage, you were supposed to be on that trip to Guyana with Congressman Ryan. I imagine that sticks with you your whole life?
FRANCIS: For the last 30 years. I had spent two months covering the war in Nicaragua, I was based in Miami, Latin America, Central America was my beat for NBC News. About 10 days before this happened, the NBC desk in New York asked me to go in and do this story and I begged off because I was so exhausted from covering a civil war in Nicaragua and they sent Don instead, a good friend.
MADDOW: What did you expect to find when you traveled down there?
FRANCIS: When I got the call, I just knew that don had been killed, Don Harris and Bob Brown had been killed and Steve Sung (ph), our soundman had been badly wounded and Bob Flick, at that point, our producer was missing. And that‘s the first call I get. So I chartered a Learjet with someone else from NBC and when I went into Guyana, I wanted to get the bodies of my colleagues out and I wanted to find Bob Flick and when I got there, they had already been identified. We got Flick out to San Juan and did a broadcast. And then I went back in. And at that time, we just thought that dozens had died. We had no idea that it was hundreds, no idea at all.
MADDOW: What was your emotional reaction when you did get there, when you did realize sort of the enormity of what you were seeing?
FRANCIS: We were all overwhelmed. I had a camera team with me and a photographer from one of the news magazines and when we saw the bodies, when we flew over Jonestown from Port Kaitum (ph) we didn‘t know what we were seeing. We saw this unbelievable quilt of what turned out to be people and the pilot, who was the same pilot who had gotten shot at in taking—trying to get Congressman Ryan out. He said those are the dead, those are the dead. And we just couldn‘t believe it until we actually got on the ground some hours later and did the first body count. And it was just overwhelming. And something that stayed with me for the last 30 years.
MADDOW: Fred Francis, former NBC News senior correspondent. Thank you for joining us, thank you for taking part in the documentary as well. A lot of people are going to learn about this who wouldn‘t otherwise know. Thank you.
FRANCIS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: “Witness to Jonestown” airs tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern and again Sunday at noon at 7:00 p.m. Coming up next, “Just Enough” with Kent Jones.
MADDOW: Now it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones. Hi, Kent. Happy Friday. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. One of the big reasons Barack Obama won is that he really understands the Internet. So it‘s cool that he just announced that his weekly presidential address won‘t just be on the radio anymore, it will also be a video that will go up on YouTube. Still can you imagine President Obama‘s message having to compete with this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave Britney spears alone right now! I mean it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: You know, if she did Obama‘s weekly video address, that would be change a lot of people could believe in. And finally from right outside our building here at Rockefeller Center in New York City, the annual holiday tree, a 72-foot tall eight-ton spruce was lifted off a truck this morning and placed right next to our famous skating rink. They‘ll light it on December 3. The tree was donated by 74-year-old twin brothers Bill and Bob Verniac (ph) whose mother and father first planted the tree in their yard in 1931. During that year America was mired in a global economic crisis, unemployment was frighteningly high, the auto industry was in a severe turndown and Americans were suffering through the latter stages of an out of touch, shortsighted and deeply unpopular president. Anyway, nice tree. Love it. Love that tree.
MADDOW: Thank you, Ken. It is a nice tree. Thanks for watching tonight at home. Have a wonderful weekend, it‘s called. COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN starts right now. Good night.
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