The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/24/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. And thank you for the pie that you brought back to the office. It was lovely.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: By the way, the bourbon explains where you get your energy. I know they all want to know that home.
MADDOW: It’s just an important part of breakfast. Thank you, Keith.
And thank you for staying with us at home for the next hour. You know, $20 billion here, $750 billion there, before you know it, we’re going to be talking about some real money.
(voice over): The P.E., the president-elect, names his all-star economic team and rolls out part of the plan to drag us all out of this zillion dollar financial ditch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Any additional money that we put into the auto industry, any help that we provide is designed to assure a long term, sustainable auto industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: $25 billion public-dollar should come with strings attached. But if the auto industry gets strings attached, how come Citibank got what looked like a blank check over the weekend? Are there two different kinds of bailouts for blue-collar and white-collar America?
Google CEO Eric Schmidt joins us to talk about what a new, sustainable economy might look like. Does it involve American people actually making stuff?
The president-elect goes YouTube with his plan for a new “New Deal.” Infrastructure investment: the magic weapon. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on how well government-funded work works.
And, Obama’s political opposition stays unintentionally, hilariously helpless. President Bush praises the Iraq war, President Bush wears a poncho. Governor Huckabee rips Governor Palin. Senator Lieberman defies reality to its own fate. So, why then, is Barack Obama so conciliatory towards the disorganized right? Dahlia Lithwick on the threat of too much kumbaya.
And, lame duck watch continues. Tonight’s episode: Drill, ducky, drill. The Bush administration opened some of America’s most beautiful, pristine places to oil and gas drilling. Robert Redford is having none of it. He joins us live. Yes, the Robert Redford. Mom, get the camera.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): We still don’t know how President Barack Obama’s policies will affect the crumbled and crumbling American economy. But so far, President-elect Obama’s announcements about the economy and his economic team-they’re having an excellent effect. Two business days in a row have included news of Obama’s economic appointments, and both of those days have seen big booms in the stock market-green arrows with huge numbers next to them, all day on the TV machine. It’s like the ’90s.
Today, after Obama officially announced his treasury secretary, his economic council chair, and his economic advisers’ chair, the stock market soared almost 400 points, combined with Friday’s nearly 500-point gain on the leaks news that Timothy Geithner would be treasury secretary, that makes the biggest two-day percentage gain in the stock market since October of 1987.
I think we may have just solved this whole economic crisis thing. Every day Obama makes an economic appointment, market goes up. Maybe it’s possible to space these picks out. Maybe we could un-announce some the ones that have already been announced, like treasury secretary today, National Economic Council director tomorrow, domestic policy director next Thursday. Maybe they could just reappoint Timothy Geithner every Monday between now and the inauguration.
Obama is set to hold another press conference tomorrow. Could it mean, cross your fingers, a third straight day of the magic Obama-announced-something-Wall Street-reaction? We can hope.
Of course, aside from the theatricality of “he talks, markets rise,” that thing, the real reason that Wall Street boom today was undoubtedly that over the weekend, while nobody was looking, the government got back into that bailout game again. When we went to bed on Friday, the financial giant, Citigroup, was in trouble. Its stock had lost half its value. It was planning to layoff more than 50,000 people.
“Bloomberg News” had reported that maybe the government would have to rescue the banking giant. Then, literally, overnight, as far as we, taxpayers, knew, the Treasury Department coughed up $20 million to bail out Citi. Sort of overnight, no big public debate, no congressional hearings, basically, no questions asked.
Contrast that rescue to the weeks of hand-wringing over whether to offer roughly the same size bailout to the car industry and the millions of American workers who depend on that industry for their jobs. So far, the $25 billion the car companies say they need, it’s not coming until somebody shoots the locks off the wallets in Washington.
Today, President-elect Obama continued to talk tough about the Big Three.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can’t just write a blank check to the auto industry. Taxpayers can’t be expected to pony up more money for an auto industry that has been resistant to change. And I was surprised that they did not have a better thought-out proposal when they arrived in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That’s right, no blank checks except if you’re a Wall Street bank, then come on down, we’ve got $20 billion reasons to go to work on Monday.
Remember way back to the presidential primaries when John Edwards talked about the two Americas. Edwards was talking about class, of course. It turns out he might as well have been talking about American industry. One white-collar America whose businesses are deemed too big to fail, and another for, the other industry whose blue-collar workers are implicitly and explicitly blamed and attacked when their companies ask for help. Those darn blue collar workers and need for healthcare and safety. The steelworkers’ president said today that the people who take a shower before they go to work get bailed out and the people who must take a shower after work, they get thrown out.
President-elect Obama has consistently urged Congress to rescue the auto industry. Here’s what he told “60 Minutes” last Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My hope is, is that over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance, but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on the labor, management, suppliers, lenders-all the stakeholders coming together with a plan: What does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like so that we are creating a bridge loan to somewhere as opposed to a bridge loan to nowhere?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Does the new, sustainable U.S. economy have a middle class in it? Does it have unions? Do we get to still have a manufacturing base in this country? Will Americans still build stuff in the future? Or are we all hoping to someday just have jobs where we type stuff, instead?
Joining us now is Eric Schmidt. He’s the chairman and CEO of Google, a little company you might have heard of. He’s also a member of President-elect Obama’s transition economic advisory board.
Eric Schmidt, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ERIC SCHMIDT, GOOGLE CEO: And thanks for having me on, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, President-elect Obama was in consultation with the Bush administration over the weekend regarding this Citigroup bailout. But today, he had some very tough words for the auto industry, which is also looking for a bailout. Why do you think it is that Citigroup got more or leas a “no questions asked” bailout over the weekend, but the carmakers are really getting the tough terms and having to come back and ask again and again?
SCHMIDT: I think for a lot of reasons. You know, Citibank is the third try to get this right. When I look at the structure of the Citibank deal, it looks roughly correct. And I know that both President Bush and President-elect Obama and their teams worked on getting it right. It’s got the right set of incentives and it’s got the right set of ownership, the right guarantee. And they have to do it because of the contraction.
On the other hand, with the automobile manufacturers, they’ve not yet produced, and I’m sure they are working on, a plan that ultimately gets them to a profitable, growing state with the right products.
MADDOW: Are you worried that there’s a double standard for this sort of Main Street bailout and the Wall Street bailout? That the financial firms essentially have been able to pry a lot of money out of Washington in a short amount of time and those folks who are further down the economic chain whether it’s manufacturing industry or even individual homeowners are still sort of wondering what’s going to come their way?
SCHMIDT: I’m a little worried about it, but more from the standpoint of fear versus opportunity. What happened with the TARP bailout is that everybody had to act immediately and they didn’t really have a lot of information about what to do. There’s a normal role that the government plays in regulating banks. And, of course, Citibank has the word “bank” in it, so we know that they’re part of that.
And the fact of the matter is, that they had to do something. There’s no question. You have a confidence issue (ph), you have possibilities of bank runs, you have all these other global issues, government had to step in. With business, they should apply the same kind of due diligence. I think we should debate whether there are firms that are outside of banking that are too big to fail. In any case, I think, a government loan or bridge loan at a time when no other loans are available is credible proposal as long as it’s done with a winning plan.
MADDOW: A lot of the criticism about the auto industry bailout has been directed at labor, directed at the unions. As we go through this process of imagining, and to a certain extent, constructing the future of the American economy and American industry, I worry that we may be setting up a future that has less room in it for the middle-class. Especially because, I think, on the right, political right, we’re seeing this-an effort to really use this crisis as an effort to buff the unions, to blame the unions for things.
Do you expect that there will be a pushback on that from the incoming administration?
SCHMIDT: Well, I’m sure that there will be pushback on that because look at the legacy of that ideology and you can see the impact with the largest bailouts in history, the huge nationalization of large sector of our economy. I would rather ignore those arguments. I think they’re, obviously, have no leg to stand on.
To me, the question is: How do you create a new economy, one with a lot of jobs and a lot of invasion? And that is not going to occur in these large traditional industries. It’s going to occur in small companies with new regulations that allow them to enter markets.
One of the discussions that’s underway is, there’s, obviously, going to be a huge stimulus package, is make sure that that money also goes to, for example, green technology and green energy. Make it possible for people, for example, to interconnect with the grid, which is very difficult to do right now.
With a little bit of work, some smart regulations, I think we can create the situation with a lot of new and very, very interesting new jobs created in America. And that’s what we need.
MADDOW: But does a sustainable future American economy have a manufacturing base? Do we have a vibrant manufacturing sector or is that inherently and sort of-what you’re describing was sort of old traditional, old economy concept?
SCHMIDT: We absolutely have a manufacturing base and that manufacturing base is a lot of new products that are yet to be invented here. The fact of the matter is, it’s better when you’re inventing new things and also manufacture them next door, as you can change them very quickly and so forth and so on.
You’re using the term “old industry,” but the real growth is going to come from new industries and small businesses, which is where all the jobs are created in America anyway. So, we’re always focused on these big companies, but, in fact, the action should be elsewhere.
MADDOW: Google chairman and CEO, Eric Schmidt-thank you so much for your time tonight, sir.
SCHMIDT: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: President-elect Obama’s other big plan? He’s rolling out what amounts to a new “New Deal” to invest in infrastructure. Yes. I’ve wanted infrastructure to be a sexy political issue for so long now that when I say the word, I can almost hear wakachicka-wakachicka background music in my head-infrastructure.
But with an economic team that learned their craft from Bob Rubin, the Clinton secretary treasury who preached cutting the debts above all, how are we going to build all those new bridges and roads without swimming at a little bit of red ink? Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell will be joining us in just a moment.
And Obama’s opponents cannot get their act together, like their act is really, really, really far apart right now. So, why is he forgiving all their political sins? Does he feel sorry that some of them are getting caught in unfortunate photo-ops? Dahlia Lithwick explores the dangers of too much political kumbaya, coming up next.
But first, one more thing about bailouts, the companies that get them, and what they can and can’t do because of them. Citibank got its $20 billion over the weekend. And that means goody for Mets fans. The floundering superbank will go ahead and spend $400 million to name the new baseball park in Queens, Citi Field. This is clearly a fiscal priority. The National League East logo raised hangs on the balance. If you’re a car company, on the other hand, begging for help, General Motors today announced the big layoff among its non-union ranks. G.M. let go of Tiger Woods, who had been the spokes-golfer for Buick, to the tune of about $8 million a year. No word yet on whether G.M. asked Tiger for a bailout. Maybe a mulligan? A (INAUDIBLE)?
MADDOW: There is an ancient secular blessing in political science. May your political enemies be visibly incompetent, inadvertedly funny, and may they often have their photographs taken in awkward costumes. Judging from what the Republican Party looks like when it’s trying to get attack together post-election, President-elect Obama has been duly blessed.
Here, for example, is President Bush, visiting Peru over the weekend. He had to do that awkward APEC national costume thing, had to wear the poncho. Not a good look for the man. But not nearly as (INAUDIBLE) troubling as when he said this to a Japanese TV network while he was abroad, quote, “People have been able to take their troops out of Iraq because Iraq is becoming successful. I’m very pleased with what is taking place there now.”
The very pleasing success that is the Iraq war, where you’re signing up our troops for three more years in a big rush before you leave office, without even translating the agreement into English, let alone showing it to our Congress-that big success? If that’s what you’re very pleased by, I would hate to see the debacle that displeases you.
“Not pleased” could pretty well sum up the feelings of the rest of the Republican Party for each other. Former candidate Mike Huckabee just went after the party’s new rock star, Sarah Palin, in an interview with the “New Yorker” magazine, saying. quote, “She’s wonderful, but the only difference was she looks better in stilettos than I do, and she has better hair.” Thanks for putting that image of you in stilettos in my mind, governor.
Now, I need a lobotomy.
Take it together, the Republicans’ disarray and infighting present a huge political opportunity for a President Obama to press ahead without much regard for the opposition. But it doesn’t seem to be going that way. Today, the president-elect signaled he may let slide his campaign pledge to rollback the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Whether that’s done through repeal or whether that’s done because the Bush tax cuts are not renewed is something that my economic team will be providing me a recommendation on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And while Obama has repeated his stand to close the prison at Guantanamo and reassert American laws against torture, “Newsweek” and Salon.com both report that now, he may not push for prosecutions of Bush officials.
My question is: Why is the president-elect with strong majority in Congress and a Republican Party in utter hilarious disarray, acting already like he has to fear and accommodate the Republicans in order to get anything done?
Here to try to Talk Me Down is Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com. She also writes for “Newsweek.”
Hi, Dahlia. Nice to see you.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM: Hi, Rachel. I would never, never try to talk you down.
MADDOW: I know. You know me too well. Are you seeing too much kumbaya here? I mean, President-elect Obama, he seems to be making good on the “let’s all come together” part of his message but it seems like he is the one doing the compromising without much call for it. Do you see it that way?
LITHWICK: Well, you know, at least on the issues that I cover, Rachel, and, you know, you have been waiting to hear infrastructure get sexy again. I’ve been waiting to hear war crime tribunal to really get sexy.
LITHWICK: And so, for folks like me who have been covering Pedia (ph) and covering Musali (ph), covering Gitmo, covering waterboarding for years, we really were waiting for this moment to hear him say, as he said, days after being elected we heard that the Obama camp was saying, “We are closing Guantanamo,” right? That was one of the first things that the campaign said. And within hours of that statement coming out, they kind of pulled back on it and said, “Oh, actually, that was unauthorized, we don’t know who said that, it’s not entirely true, it’s complicated.”
Same thing now, we’re hearing this week, about prosecutions. We’re hearing an awful lot coming out of the campaign that’s saying, “Oh, we want to turn the page, we don’t want to look bloodthirsty and ruthless.” It’s that sense, I think, that, “Oh, you know, really, really, this isn’t something that we want to expend capital on.” And like, my feeling is, if you don’t want to expend capital on war crimes, what do you want to spend it on?
MADDOW: Yes. And at a time when actually, political capital is going to at a great exchange rate because the Republicans don’t even really exist as an organized political party to push back at this point. Strategically, thinking about things like war crimes and torture and potential misuse of the “rendition program” and things like that, don’t you sort of need prosecutions in order to draw a bright line under these things as American policy, just to make it clear and unambiguous that these things are illegal and will never be tolerated again?
LITHWICK: You know, you’d think so, Rachel. And, certainly, you know, you talked about the crack up within the GOP. There’s a similar crack up, I think, happening among Democrats who advised Obama. I think he’s getting two pieces of very irreconcilable advice. He’s got one camp telling him exactly what you’re saying, “We can’t close the door and turn the page. We need to make this right. We need to send a signal to the world and to our own citizens that this is not OK and people need to be held accountable.”
I think at the same time, he’s getting an awful lot of advice that says, “There’s no appetite in America for this. People are stressed about their pocketbooks. They’re worried about the war. They don’t want to see John Yoo and David Addington and Donald Rumsfeld trotted out for Nuremberg-style trials.”
And so, I think, there’s a very, very big schism within his own, he’s sort of campaign, or within the transition team about how to go forward. And I will say, and I think this is really an interesting problem, that there are legal questions.
LITHWICK: There are real, good legal questions about whether this can happen. But we’re not talking the legal questions; we’re talking about political questions.
MADDOW: And the legal concern, even for those of us who aren’t lawyers, is that, if you don’t prosecute things, by the fact that you let something stand as president, do you essentially allow that to infect American law going forward? Do you make it un-prosecutable in the future by letting it slide when you know that it’s happened?
Dahlia, one last quick question. You’ve been writing about the Justice Department and the challenges that are facing Obama’s reported pick, Eric Holder. Do you feel like what needs to be fixed at the Justice Department, particularly, politicization of justice and those things, is that going to require some form of confrontation there or is that a reform issue?
LITHWICK: I think there are some things that are going to be very easy. I think sorting out the voting rights division and the civil division. I think there are parts that are going to be easy. I think there were some parts that are going to be very hard, like fixing the Office of Legal Council, some things that are going to be very fraught politically.
But I do have a sense that Eric Holder is a guy who, you know, he’s been a lifer at Justice. He really cares about the department. I think it broke his heart what happened to the department under Alberto Gonzales. And I have a sense that he’s going to sort of fight the good fight, Rachel. I think it’s going to be very, very important to fight the easy battles and the hard battles just to restore some credibility to a department that’s just in shambles right now.
MADDOW: Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com. Thank you for your time tonight. Nice to see you.
LITHWICK: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Want to know the way to a good government geek’s heart? Infrastructure. I get Goosebumps just saying it. President-elect Obama definitely smooth-talked people like me today with plans to jumpstart the economy by building new bridges and roads and schools and wind farms and solar panels. Just ahead: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell will be here to talk about Obama’s new “New Deal.” Maybe I’ll get him to say that word, too.
MADDOW: In tonight’s edition of lame duck watch, President Bush is hoping no one will notice that he is trying to quietly start up drilling near the national parks in the west. Here to make some noise about it is a trustee of the National Resources Defense Council, a man named Robert Redford. Yes, that Robert Redford, trustee, actor, director, Academy Award winner, and I guess, lame duck watcher.
First, though, it’s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in the news today. Someday, the 2008 election will end and that will be a sad, sad, empty day for news geeks like me everywhere. But until then, Whoo-hoo, there’s still plenty to be decided, including the Georgia Senate runoff election a week from tomorrow between Republican incumbent, Saxby Chambliss, and Democratic challenger, Jim Martin.
In that race, today, we can report some Republican self-inflicted voter suppression. Thousands of Republican Party’s supplied absentee ballot request postcards were returned without signatures, which makes the request invalid. Why didn’t they have signatures? Well, the “Atlanta Journal Constitution” says the signature line on the RNC cards was easy to miss because it showed up at the bottom of the card in an unobtrusive spot. County election officials are contacting affected voters by mail, asking them to print and return new applications from county or state election Web sites.
The good news? Dekalb County election officials are accepting applications that are unsigned on the signature line if the voter wrote their name at the top of the ballot incursive. Votes count twice if you dot your “I” with a circle-or a tulip or something. I made that part up.
In the Minnesota Senate race-over the weekend,
FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver, America’s most widely-loved electoral projector, analyzed precinct-by-precinct returns and predicted that Al Franken will win the recount by a grand total of 27 votes. If Nate Silver turns out to be exactly right in this race, like he was in the presidential race, with this 27-vote margin prediction-if he’s right again, the whole country has to buy him a beer – 300 million beers for Nate Silver.
One farming family in Colorado is taking the free beers for Nate Silver idea and broadening it out a bit, tough economic times mean that food pantries and charities that help supplement stretch grocery budgets are really being pushed to the limit. In one neighborhood in Denver this weekend, the “Denver Post” reports that people lined up in the dark at 6:00 a.m. and stood for hours to collect donated Thanksgiving food boxes. The demand (ph) was the highest seen in 40 years.
Well, Joe and Chris Miller, who live about near about 45 minutes north of Denver in a town called Platteville, a farm about 600 acres there. Hearing reports of people stealing food from churches in their area, the Millers decided to invite anyone interested to come and harvest vegetables on their farm that have left over after the harvest. They expected people to come by over a few days time and pick over what was left in the field.
What they get were 40,000 people in cars backed up for more than two miles. Those 40,000 people, perhaps unsurprisingly, picked the 600-acre farm so clean that its potatoes and carrots and leeks that a second day of harvesting was cancelled. Asked for her reaction, Chris Miller told the “Denver Post,” quote, “overwhelmed is putting it mildly.”
For my own emotional health, I’m going to choose to see this story as a harbinger, not of economic doom, but as a good-deed-done-right story about the Millers and their leftover veggies. Wow.
Now, finally, to the holy mackerel story bigly (ph) sports-related story of the day? Florida’s favorite football team has a defensive back named Myron Rolle. He was the top college football recruit in the country. He started as a freshman and his season this year has been of all-American caliber.
In his spare time, he has finished his Bachelor’s Degree in two-and-a-half years with a 3.75 GPA in pre-med and he’s done independent cancer research. And he set up a health and fitness program for Native American kids. The only wrinkle, the only hitch in Mr. Rolle’s charmed life? His Rhodes scholarship final interview on Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama was scheduled for the same time as the big Florida state-Maryland game in Maryland.
Mr. Rolle and his coaches agreed that the scholarship opportunity was too good to pass up even if the ACC Atlantic title was potentially on the line. And he went to Birmingham for that interview instead of going to the game.
But wait, nothing is too complicated or difficult or coincidental in timing for this man. After acing the interview and winning the Rhodes scholarship in Birmingham, Mr. Rolle hopped on a plane, flew to Maryland, changed into his magical superhero football player outfit and was on the field and in the game before the end of the second quarter. And of course, I don’t even have to tell you his team won.
I wonder if maybe we can have Obama roll him out as an economic adviser or something, one day this week. They got a stock market reaction.
MADDOW: The good news is that Barack Obama has named his economic team. And it’s apparently the kind of list of name that is gets the markets very excited. Introducing, Timothy Geithner, our new secretary of the Treasury. Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, where you won’t have to face Senate confirmation at which someone would have been inevitably asked if he’s decided yet whether or not he thinks that girls can do math. Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council and Heather Higginbottom, deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council.
The bad news for this team? They are starting a game that we are already losing by about a trillion points. The weird, doesn’t make sense news about Obama’s economic appointees is that a disproportionate number of them are considered to be disciples of Robert Rubin, a Clinton era Treasury secretary. Which leaves us to our first-ever made-up noun of the day.
Today’s made-up noun? Rubinomics, named for Robert Rubin. “Rubinomics,” defined for purposes of this TV show today as, “The ardent embrace of balanced budget, zero deficits, deregulation and free trade as routes to prosperity.”
So, what’s the issue here? What’s weird about this? Well, here is Barack Obama on Saturday. He’s delivering his weekly Web address complete with semi-wilted leggy house plants and somebody needs to iron the flag in the backdrop - sort of a postmodern cheap FDR fireside chat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: We’ll put people to work, rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A new, new deal. A plan to not only create millions of jobs, but to do it by fixing a lot of really important stuff in the country that’s broken, like our roads and our bridges and our grid, hopefully, and our trains, too.
And it’s worked before. I could sing you a Tennessee Valley authority ballot, if it needed to. And naturally, Republicans quickly criticized this plan saying that Congress should just cut taxes more instead of spending on infrastructure.
Sen. Jim Demint who sits on the Joint Economic Committee says, quote, “If the president-elect wants to help the economy recover, he will work with us to reduce taxes and reform the government policies that have been punishing savings, investment and innovation for years.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner echoed Jim Demint’s response. He said, quote, “Democrats can’t seem to stop trying to outbid each other with the taxpayer’s money. We’re in tough economic times. Folks are hurting. But the American people know that more Washington spending is not the answer.”
Spending isn’t the answer? Really? And businesses are shutting down because there is a recession and a credit crunch, the likes of which gave us the first new deal.
The historical facts are not really on Congressman Boehner’s side here. But the rub for Barack Obama’s new team is that the facts are not on the side of Rubinomics either. Remember our made-up noun of the day?
You can really spend all that money and rebuild America, invest in our infrastructure and still expect to have a balanced budget. Is there going to be a unified front against the Republicans’ apparently unified opposition here?
Joining us now is Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
Governor Rendell, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D-PA): My pleasure.
MADDOW: In an interview in August, you said this, “We are in danger of becoming a second or third rate economic power if we don’t turn our attention to our infrastructure.” I’m guessing that that means you are happy with what President-elect Obama is proposing in terms of investing here at home.
RENDELL: No question. And what hypocrites demand (INAUDIBLE) are when you think they stood by and saw $700 million go to bail out financial institutions without one new job being produced. Here, Sen. Obama’s(sic) plan will spend less money and can produce 2 million, 2.5 million, I even think closer to 3 million jobs, doing something important for our country, for our economic competitiveness, for our quality of life, for our public safety.
What do they say to the people in New Orleans whose levies were in shambles or the people in Cedar Rapids, or those folks in Minnesota, the relatives to those folks who died because we don’t repair bridges quickly enough and keep them in proper shape? What do they to the people who sit every day on highways and spend 10, 20 hours a week idling and polluting our environment because our roads can’t support the traffic?
What do they say about the fact that we’re the only major developed country in the world that doesn’t have intercity high-speed rail transportation? Those things we desperately need as a country and at the same time, economists, conservative as well as liberal or moderate economists say $1 billion of infrastructure produces at least 40,000 good, new paying jobs that cannot be outsourced.
MADDOW: The people who live in your state of Pennsylvania, if this sort of an investment in infrastructure goes through, what would be the sorts of priorities invested in your state? What sort of practical impact would it have on people’s lives?
RENDELL: Well, first, bridge building. Pennsylvania has the highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the nation, Rachel, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve tripled the money we spend on bridge repair in my six years as governor.
We have bridges that average 75 years of age when the obsolescence time for bridges is about 40 years. We need to repair hundreds and hundreds, literally thousands of bridges. We’ve got 6,000 structurally deficient. Many of those bridges are ready to go, and all we lack is the money necessary to repair them.
And when you repair a bridge, you tear it down and you put a new steel, new asphalt, new concrete, new lumber. Just think of all the orders for Pennsylvania and other state’s business. That’s the way to create an economic recovery, create jobs, and orders for American businesses, orders for steel companies, concrete companies and the like.
MADDOW: On Election Day, voters in your state, Pennsylvania voters, approved a $400 million clean water bond referendum. You have political experience calling for more infrastructure spending despite the opposition inevitably from people saying, “How are you going to pay for it?” How do you solve these things politically? How do you make the case to voters that spending is the right thing to do even if it puts its way to red ink?
RENDELL: Because just like you don’t like the word “infrastructure” because it’s boring, I don’t like the word “spending.” I tell my constituents that we’re investing in our future as a state. When we borrow money to build our infrastructure, we are investing in making a better Pennsylvania for our children, and that is important.
There is, in a business out there - you know, Republicans are always saying, “Let’s do it more like business.” Well, there isn’t a business out there that grew successful that didn’t borrow money at some key time and invested in its own growth. No different.
We have to invest in our future. And our future investments mean everything from waste water and sewer, clean water systems, airports, ports, roads, you name it. There’s so much to be done, so much good to be done, and so much economic vitality will come from doing it. We’re excited.
And by the way, I don’t think President Obama is going to face the United Republican Fund against this. There are many Republican governors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, who as you know, is one of my co-chairs with Mayor Bloomberg in building America’s future who have called for infrastructure spending at even a greater level that’s going to be in the stimulus program.
MADDOW: Gov. Rendell, one last quick question. The Treasury Department came up with $20 billion-something to rescue Citigroup all of a sudden this weekend. Do you think they should be bailing out the auto industry as well?
RENDELL: Only if there are strict, strict conditions. And only if we do something that’s going to done on the job, deserving the job-creating. How about requiring the big three to come up and produce in a short period of time, 100,000 electric cars? Just think what that would do for the availability and the price of electric cars in this country.
Do something positive. Let’s have a plan. If we have a plan, it’s worthwhile bailing them out. But to give them money unrestricted makes no sense. And I think Republicans and Democrats are uniform in that belief.
MADDOW: I would be with you on that with the auto industry. But I’m starting to feel that way about those banks, too.
RENDELL: Well, I agree. I wouldn’t give the banks a dime unless they were required to take 60 or 70 or 75 percent of the money we give them and loan it out in credible loans in a relatively short period of time.
RENDELL: Let’s force them. Let’s force them to extend credit to Americans so we can get this economy moving again.
MADDOW: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir.
RENDELL: Thanks, Rachel. Infrastructure.
MADDOW: Infrastructure. I love the sound of it.
Coming , it is the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW’s patented “Lame Duck Watch.” If Bush has his way in the last days in office, your family trip in the country to see America’s natural beauty will include derricks. But not if Robert Redford has anything to say about it. Mr. Redford joins us live, next.
MADDOW: There is a silver ling to it being 57 days until the political cloud officially lifts in America. We have 57 days left of President Bush photo-ops and the caption contest that come with. Yesterday, as mentioned, the president posed in a poncho with APEC leaders in Peru. Caption? Obviously, “I went to Peru and all I got was this lousy poncho.”
But today, the president stood side-by-side with. Three Nobel laureates, two of whom discovered a way to turn a glowing green protein from jellyfish into a revolutionary way of watching how things work in cells. And the other of whom is Paul Krugman. Caption? “Is it okay if I start saying nuclear instead of nucular after I’m not president anymore?”
When he’s not providing stark material for his beleaguered countrymen, what is Bush up to?
Time for the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW “Lame Duck Watch,” now, with more quack.
Previously, on “Lame Duck Watch,” we examined the practice of burrowing when a lame duck president installs appointee appointees into civil service jobs where they stay after the administration has gone home.
Take the case of Todd Harding. According to “The Washington Post” today, Mr. Harding is a 30-year-old government major and former chair of the Kentucky Federation of College Republicans. He was a political appointee but he just got a permanent civil service job with NOAA, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that warns us about hurricanes and tsunamis.
In an E-mail to colleagues, Mr. Harding describes his brand-new job as, quote, “space-based science using satellites for geostationary and meteorological data.” A 30-year-old government major. Remember that next hurricane season.
Meanwhile, back at the White House, the Bush administration has decided to open up vast swathes of wilderness in eastern Utah for oil and gas extraction right next to the pristine natural beauty of places like Arches National Park. Remember this crowd?
(VIDEO OF A RALLY)
That crowd lost on November 4th. But on November 4th, on that exact day, on Election Day, the Bureau of Land Management proposed leasing almost 360,000 acres of land to oil and gas speculators, bypassing the National Park Service to do it. And they thing about defiling nature to drill. Once it’s done, it’s done. You don’t get pristine back.
Joining me now is Robert Redford, Academy Award-winning director, long-time actor-producer and environmentalist who has been blogging about this last-minute lease plan at “Huffington Post.” Mr. Redford, it’s a real pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you.
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR AND ENVIRONMENTALIST: Thank you. Nice to be on.
MADDOW: You’ve got a lot of experience in this field. You’ve been fighting on behalf of wilderness protection since the early ’70s. Do you think this last-minute lease plans are really serious? Do you think they’ll get away with it?
REDFORD: Well, I don’t know. I think they’re serious because they’ve been serious all along. I mean, the - look, Bush’s policies have been - environmental policies have been a disaster. But that’s no surprise when you look at the history of what he’s done since he came in.
So I think they’re totally serious. Whether it’s going to work or not, I think it’s going to depend whether the public wakes up to what’s really going on that’s going to affect their own personal interests. So here you have - if you look at the Bush administration’s cynicism - and it’s also been devious because whenever they couldn’t get a bill passed legitimately, they would go behind our backs.
And when you stop and think about 30 years, 30 years of hard work to get certain protections passed into law like clean water, clean air, the Environmental Policy Act, those were acts to protect the American public and the land that we claim we cherish.
Well, he’s tried in his eight years to undo just about every one of those laws. And when we stop and think, it all began with Cheney doing a behind -the-closed-doors energy policy design with energy companies. You could pretty well see where it was all going to go.
So it’s pretty cynical and it’s - in my opinion, it’s criminal in the sense that what are we going to have to give to our children and their children and theirs if we tear up everything for short-term gains tied to nonrenewable energy sources?
I mean, just do the math. You’ve got nonrenewable energy sources, which is oil and gas and coal. You have renewable energy sources which are now totally viable, safer, cleaner, better economically.
What are we going to invest in like Rendell? You know, Governor Rendell was talking about investing in the future. Well, what kind of an investment in our future is drilling, thinking we can drill ourselves out of this mess?
And the thing that really is awful - I mean really, really deeply awful, is what it’s doing behind the American public’s back. The cynicism of signing a plan like this, putting out oil leases, gas leases, coal leases and 360,000 acres that surround national parks and monuments and canyons and rivers is pretty devastating in terms of the pollution and the economics of it and so forth.
The fact that they would do that on Election Day when everybody was distracted by the election and set a date for December the 19th and the sister agency - this came through the BLM, OK? So the sister agency which is the National Parks Service wasn’t even told about it. They went behind their backs so they could jam it through.
So obviously there’s a plan as Bush goes out. And as he goes out the door, he’d like to give us one good kick in the tail on the way out. This, to me, is the most cynical, very dangerous and as you said, Rachel, once it’s done, it’s intractable.
And so I’m mad. The American people are mad. And we can stop this. I mean, President-elect Obama has a plan to go in a forward direction, not a backward direction like Bush is proclaiming. So just as the guy is coming into office, this guy tries to sneak one past us before the guy can even take office. Pretty cynical. And I hope it’s stopped. It should be stopped.
MADDOW: I know there’s a 30-day public protest period which ends the first week in December, which is coming up very shortly. Do you think that that public protest, that form of public official protest would help stop this lease sale?
REDFORD: Well, look, I’m just one voice in the wilderness. I mean, excuse the pun. I’m just one voice out there. But I’m glad to go on this show simply to say if we pull together, if the American people get up now and contact their local officials and say, “We don’t want this.” This is our land. It’s not his land. It’s our land. It’s our heritage. And you’re going to trash it for some short-term gain that’s going to destroy some of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth?
I think the American people will stop it and can stop it. But they’re going to have to act fast because these guys are trying to pull an end around.
MADDOW: Actor, director, and environmentalist Robert Redford, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I really appreciate having you here.
REDFORD: You’re welcome. Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up next, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. Guns ‘n Roses has a new record out. That might be more than enough.
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. The wait is over. Guns n’ Roses’ first album in 17 years. Chinese democracy hit stores yesterday. Take it away Axl.
(GUNS ‘N ROSES MUSIC VIDEO)
JONES: OK, then. Easy, now. The Chinese government, however, is not amused. I know, shocker. China’s communist party newspaper quoted some bloggers who claim that the album was part of a western plot to, quote, “grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn.”
Believe me, if we wanted to grasp and control the world, we would not be using Guns ‘N Roses. Did you hear that?
Next up, “Twilight” - “She’s mortal, he’s a vampire, but they’re in love so they’ll work it out” movie made thick $70.5 million at the box office over the weekend. Execs at Summit Entertainment say a sequel is already in the works, to be called “New Moon” which is also based on the novel of the same name by Stephanie Meyer.
Producers promise the next installment of the Gothy Bella-Edward romance will take fans of the “Twilight” books to a whole new level of not-sex. Expected to be extremely not-graphic.
And finally, with Thanksgiving coming up Thursday, I think there’s one person many us have forgotten to thank for all she’s done for us, Sarah Palin. Luckily, a political action committee called “Our Country Deserves Better” produced this ad which attempts to put into words how much we owe America’s hockey mom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Sarah Palin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thank you for fighting for everyday working families and preserving the American dream.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for the grace and dignity you showed even when some tried to smear and destroy you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you, Gov. Palin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You’ve inspired us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both young.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And not-so-young.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: thank you, Sarah Palin.
CROWD: Thank you, Sarah Palin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Isn’t that weird?
JONES: Yes, yes. You know, I would also like to offer my thanks speaking from the entire comedy writing community. Girl, we are going to miss you so much. The thing with the turkey last week, gold! How do you do it? Incredible.
MADDOW: Was that real?
JONES: That was real, by the way.
MADDOW: It was not sarcastic?
JONES: No. No. There was a noticeable lack of irony in the thanking of Sarah Palin.
MADDOW: Well, God bless them every one in their cotton socks.
All right. Thank you for watching tonight. We’ll see you tomorrow night. Until then, go to our Web site for videos and to check out what’s on our radar. That’s Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can hear my radio show 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast-to-coast on Air America. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.