The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/26/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Happy Thanksgiving to you, Keith. And thanks. And thank you at home for staying with us for this next hour. (voice over): Coordinated terrorist attacks in India. Dozens of people killed. Landmarks engulfed. Hostages held.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These bloodstains are witness of the gory gun battle that is going on in Mumbai.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. You heard a blast outside right now, inside the Taj Hotel.
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MADDOW: Tonight, the latest on the Mumbai attacks, the response from the White House and the president-elect. The analysis of what it means from NBC chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. On the economy, Barack Obama holds his third press conference in three days. And again, the markets eat it up, shrugging off more terrible economic data in favor of hope for Obamanomics.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: People should understand that help is on the way.
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MADDOW: What kind of help? And has he reassured the worriers to his left? Ana Marie Cox joins us. As Not-Quite-The-President Barack Obama reassures the country about the economy today, still the president, George W. Bush, pardoned turkeys. Oh, and his administration works to allow more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Seriously, the lame duck watch continues. And to this the night before Thanksgiving, and even now, we have many blessings to count. Among them, watching the backend of the Bush administration heading down the highway on its way out of town: a criminal retrospective-tonight.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. (on camera): Good evening. We begin with breaking news tonight. Coordinated terrorist attacks have rocked the Indian city of Mumbai today. Mumbai used to be called Bombay. It is a very cosmopolitan city. It’s the financial capital of India. At least 80 people have, reportedly, been killed and at least 900 people have been reported wounded. A partner network in India, MDTV is reporting that more than 100 people are reportedly being held hostage at this hour. Terrorists armed with bombs, grenades, and machine guns reportedly struck, possibly 10 different locations across the city: Two luxury hotels, hospitals, a housing complex, a crowded train station, and the police station. There is video of one of the attacks. You can see a van here, I think, approached a crowded sidewalk before gunmen begin firing. People ducked for cover, some people are hit as the van drives away. I think we got that video coming. In one other strike, armed attackers entered a Mumbai landmark. The Taj Mahal Hotel and started firing, sending guests scurrying, an unknown number of others were taken hostage. There have been numerous reports of armed gunmen specifically seeking out American and British guests at the hotel. I thought we had OK-So, I thought we had sound there. Sorry (INAUDIBLE).
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to-they wanted anyone with British or American passports. Is there anyone who had a British or American passport, they wanted to know.
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MADDOW: At least one explosion ricocheted through the Taj Hotel. A fire broke out in the upper floors. Flames shooting from the windows. Indian security forces later stormed the hotel. At this hour, officials have now apparently gotten the fires at least partially under control in, at least one of those hotels in which there were fires. At least four suspects have been killed. Another 10 have been arrested. But a local Indian official says the situation is still not under control as forces continue to battle the terrorist. Some of whom are holding out inside. We’ve got some images from closed circuit TV cameras of armed gunmen that were taken a little bit earlier tonight. These are some of those images, still images from the closed circuit TV cameras. A little known group called the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for these attacks. But nobody seems to know who they are or if their claim of responsibility should be taken seriously. Right now, at this hour, it is morning in Mumbai, it’s daylight. And just minutes ago, we’ve heard that more gunfire broke out close to the Taj Hotel. Do we have new video of that that we’ve got to roll? Yes, we do.
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MADDOW: As you can see, those images taken in daylight. Those are very recent images and recent sound from Mumbai. Joining us right now is Richard Engel, who is NBC News chief foreign correspondent. Richard, thank you very much for joining us.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It’s my pleasure. We’ve been in touch with people who are in the hotel, with journalists on the ground. And it is still an ongoing situation. There are at least three places in Mumbai where there are hostages being held. They are in the hospital and in these two five-star luxury hotels. In the Taj Hotel, in particular, it’s estimated that there are a handful of gunman. It’s unclear how many, it could be five, according to some local authorities. It could be a number higher than that, and then between 100 to 150 members of the hotel staff and foreigners. Where they are exactly in the hotel is also unclear. Initially, they had been taken to the upper floors. The gunmen have been herding them to the suites, trying to get to the roof. Then some security forces-Indian security forces enters the lobby of the hotel and there have been some gunfights in the hotel. So, it’s not clear if the gunmen are in control of the guests in the hotel or if the guests are just trapped in an ongoing situation.
MADDOW: We know that there was a number of different attacks across the city, as many as 10, as we said. Does it seem like the same sort of tactics were used in all of the different assaults, that we’re seeing a pattern of activity that would imply some sort of coordinated training for these things?
ENGEL: This was certainly a coordinated attack. And it was very well carried out according to counterterrorism officials. They described it as a very professional and highly coordinated attack. And it started around dinner time. And small teams fanned out across the city and simultaneously attacked restaurants, took these hotels under siege. And in each case, they had a very similar strategy. When the gunmen entered the two luxury hotels, they started looking for foreigners and looking specifically for holders of British and American passports. And this is what’s been told by people who have released from the hotel or managed to escape. Once they found a group that they were looking for, they brought them up to the upper floors and prepared for a standoff and that’s what we’re in right now.
MADDOW: And in terms of the standoff, we haven’t yet heard that they’ve made specific demands or that they have made some-that they proclaimed any sort of ideology or goals in doing these attacks, have we?
ENGEL: We have not heard that. At least nine of the militants according to Indian officials have been arrested. And undoubtedly, they are being interrogated. But there had been no public demands and there’s only been one public claim of responsibility by a group that was previously unknown.
MADDOW: Do we know anything about the nationality or anything else about the people who have been taken hostage? You said that people were being herded to the upper floors in some of these hotels. Do we - have we heard from multiple sources these claims that they were trying to single out, for example, British and American people?
ENGEL: Yes, that gentleman who you played the clip from earlier who had smoke on his face is a perfect example. He’s one of the sources. He was a hostage himself and was in the room when people were trying to negotiate, if you will, with these hostage-takers. There was a group of Italians who were saying, “We’re not Americans, we’re Italians.” And they said, “Go, go.” And he managed in the chaos to escape. He himself was a British national of Indian origin but a British passport holder.
MADDOW: Richard, obviously, this is an ongoing situation that we don’t want to get too far from the immediate events and start speculating about their larger implications while things are still going on and while there are still active military and policing operations here under way to try to get this under control and to rescue those hostages and people who maybe trapped. However, everybody is wondering, who are these people and why are they doing it? And, is it a familiar group? Is there anything about the tactics, the fact that this doesn’t seem to be the work of suicide bombers, suicide attackers, for example? Is there anything about the way this has been carried out that tells you anything about who this might be?
ENGEL: It’s hard to tell at this early stage. But it does have all of the indications of a radical fringe group that potentially motivated by the events in Kashmir, the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. But, the way they are operating does indicate, I guess, I would call an al Qaeda franchise. They chose a financial center, simultaneous attacks on civilians with the idea of gathering a lot of media attention. But until they make any kind of demands or results of interrogations are known, it’s unclear. There’s been a lot of speculation. People have talked about Lashkar-e-Taiba. It’s one of the groups that has been mentioned again with associations to Kashmir but it would be speculation at this stage to name a group.
MADDOW: And, of course, when you described all those elements that mark this as a sort of al Qaeda franchise attack, the other thing that we all think when we draw these parallels to 9/11, as you list those criteria that this is the sort of thing that wouldn’t take billions of dollars to pull off. This is a relatively low tech, low cost operation, right?
ENGEL: That’s the problem. And that is, what I think is the big takeaway from this, is that a very small group of people, maybe we’re talking in total, 20-30 gunmen who spread out across the city with some weapons, but nothing that would be difficult to find. Some hand grenades, there was reports of at least, a car bomb that had been placed near one of the locations, some AK-47s, nothing that would be very difficult to find. And, with a lot of discipline and a plan, they were able to shutdown one of the world’s great financial centers. And that is the concern, that it could become a model for other terrorist groups the same way London on 7/7 became a model, Madrid became a model, 9/11 became a model. This has, for an urban attack.
ENGEL: It was a very cheap and very effective way of causing a lot of damage.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I know you’ve been reporting all day long. Good luck with the continuing reporting tonight.
ENGEL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Coming up here on MSNBC, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, there will be a special hour-long report on the attacks in Mumbai live, with more live reports from Mumbai, itself. Now, here at home, President-elect Obama gave his third press conference about the economy in as many days, promising help is on the way. And once again, the markets loved what they heard. It sounded exactly as if someone was in charge. Next: Ana Marie Cox will be joining us to talk about just what kind of help Obama can really bring. We will also take a Thanksgiving look back at some of the things that have landed administration officials in prison over the past eight years. Heartwarming, you know.
MADDOW: Are you wondering just where those bailout billions are actually going? Well, Citigroup got its $20 billion over the weekend and the bank apparently still intends to pay $400 million over 20 years to have the New York Mets ballpark be called Citi Field. Wouldn’t want to use the money for, say, loans or something? Two New York City council members have the better idea. Vincent Ignizo and James Oddo of Staten Island suggest the stadium be called Citi Taxpayer Field. No comment from the Mets or from Citigroup. But here’s one comment-why not just call it “Taxpayer Field” or just choose from random taxpayer? Marian Goldblatt (ph) Field, Richard Engel Field, Joni Terwillinger (ph) Field, but not Citi Field. That’s not really their $400 million, is it?
MADDOW: This week, for the first time in a long time, the 4:00 p.m. stock market closing was not cause to shield your eyes and bar the door, and pull yourself a big whiskey meat. To whom do we owe thanks? A man who currently has absolutely no authority over any part of the American economy, other than to promise publicly that help is on the way. Today marked the fourth consecutive test of our official RACHEL MADDOW SHOW laughably, unscientific stock market predictor: “Obama announces something and Wall Street reacts positively.” Yeheey. The theory here is that anytime President Bush or Treasury Secretary Paulson announces something about the financial crisis, markets tank. Anytime President-elect Obama announces something related to the economy, markets go up. Now, a reminder here, we are not experts and this is just something we totally made up. But still, it works. Today, despite the release of all kinds of really bad economic data, the “Obama announces something” predictor worked again. President-elect Obama held his third economic press conference in as many days today, this one to announce his new economic recovery advisory board, or as I like to call it, ERAB. It’s being headed up by former Fed Chairman Paul Volker, a man very familiar to the Wall Street crowd. That crowd’s reaction: more green arrows next to the market numbers on the TV machine. The stock market shot up 247 points today. It’s the fourth consecutive day of gains in the market which, that hasn’t happened since April. Back in April, words like “depression” appeared mostly in history books and ads for pharmaceuticals not in the business pages. Now, the four day possibly Obama-related cumulative stock market gain adds up to nearly 1,200 point in four days. Among the things Obama is doing, which appeared to be having this effect, is surrounding himself with Washington veterans like Paul Volker. Today, Obama defended himself against the pushback, the charge that him loading up on Washington veterans doesn’t feel much like change.
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OBAMA: Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost. It comes from me. That’s my job, is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing it.
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MADDOW: So, the theory is, that these Washington veterans will be skilled implementers of Obama’s ideas. Not that they will just implement their own ideas, which wouldn’t be very changy at all, unless you’re setting the bar so low that not Bush is all the change you want. If we accept that theory, that it’s all about Obama’s vision, no matter who is carrying it out, and he just wants people who are good at carrying things out, then we really need to know what is that vision. What does Obama want to do? Today, we heard Obama call for sacrifice, which was, frankly, a nice contrast to George Bush’s call for people to go shopping after 9/11. Specifically, Obama talked to ABC’s Barbara Walters about sacrifice from tone-deaf Wall Street executives who have been taking home big bonuses while their companies crumble.
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OBAMA: When people are pulling down $100 million bonuses on Wall Street and taking enormous risks with other people’s money, that indicates a sense that you don’t have any perspective on what’s happening to ordinary Americans.
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: Should bank executives, it’s almost Christmas time, forego their bonuses?
OBAMA: I think they should. That’s an example of taking responsibility. I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars and you are having to layoff workers, the least you can do is say I’m willing to make some sacrifice as well.
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MADDOW: The feeling that Obama is stirring up here is homegrown, darn good (ph), all-American populist outrage, which feels good because it puts some meaning on how miserably mad we all get when we read, say, about bailed out AIG executives getting company-paid spa treatments at luxury resort retreats. When you read in today’s “New York Post,” for example, that recently bailed out Citigroup is going ahead with the expense re-modeling of its top official offices, not to mention the executives’ elaborate breakfast buffet and steak lunches-your tax dollars at work. Can’t you guys at least pretend to be a little contrite? It feels as politics to rail against this stuff. But will Obama’s populist outrage translate to policies that actually punish that sort of behavior? Will he implement programs that benefit the bottom of the pyramid rather than the top? Like, say, the Food Stamps Program. Today, we learned that this month, the number of Americans on food stamps? You’re not going to believe this-it’s expected to exceed 30 million. One in 10 Americans, this month, will be on food stamps. Congress will be debating whether to inject more money into the Food Stamps Program. And as oppose to, say, the bank bailout, where we just hope that that money helps, the money we pump into food stamps is proven to help. Every $1 spent on food stamps benefits generates $1.73 of economic activity. It’s kind of nice when government programs work, isn’t it? But will Obama channel his enunciated populist inclination in that direction, helping the real economy, helping people who most need the money instead of just fat cats who assure us that they are too big to fail. Joining us now is “Time” magazine contributor, Ana Marie Cox. She’s also a contributor to the “Daily Beast.” Ana Marie, thanks for joining us the night before Thanksgiving.
ANA MARIE COX, TIME MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: It’s good to be here. I’m thankful to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Oh, thank you.
MADDOW: I’m sorry, that was really cheesy. It is easy to talk about to talk tough about Wall Street executives and demand that they forego their bonuses, but do we actually have any indication about whether that sort of populist talk is going to find its way into populist Obama economic policies?
COX: I think the short answer is no. No, we don’t have any real evidence of that. I mean, I think, progressives are looking for good news in the Obama administration, the future Obama administration have been really kind of clinging even like, one might say, bitterly clinging to any kind of talk like that and such as what he said about those CEO bonuses and also the loan progressives that he’s put into the White House-Melody Barnes who’s going to be his-going to run his domestic policy shop. Otherwise, I think they were looking at a lot of familiar faces, not necessarily a bad thing, like you said or like he said. But I don’t think we have any clear indications of what his exact policies would be. And, as you pointed, populist rhetoric is actually really easy and also knows no party and knows no real political view. I remember being at McCain rallies when he would talk about CEOs and he actually had a crowd once chanting, “Give it back, give it back”-which is the kind of thing, you know, when we saw people doing that in front of Sarah Palin and John McCain, we thought of that as pitchfork waving and that was angry populism. So, I just want to point out that it’s was nice to watch and hear him talk that way. It doesn’t really mean anything meaningful about his policies.
MADDOW: There are plenty of populist economic policies out there for him to choose from. We just don’t know if he’s going to go there, right? That’s-I mean, the idea that policy is personnel, that who you put in all the various important government jobs, that you get to staff up, that that is the policy and that is your legacy. That has been the conservatives’ mantra for a very long time. That’s in part why we got Heritage Foundation reject interns running the Baghdad stock market, right? You are who you appoint.
COX: That’s right.
MADDOW: And Obama says, “That’s not me. That isn’t true.” He sets the vision his team will only implement it. I mean, is it possible that he’s right?
COX: It is possible. But I have to say that the stock market going up like it did, I don’t think it had to do with Obama’s mantra of change or Obama, it had to do with the comfort they saw in those familiar faces behind him, with the idea that there are going to be some grown-ups in charge. And now, Obama will be the one fully in-charge. I do think, I do believe him when he says that the change starts with him, that he’s the one who has the vision and who make the plans and these people will be implementing it. But I just want to point out-we don’t know what he’s going to do yet. He’s yet to enunciate any specific policy that’s seen as particularly progressive or particularly populist. If you look at him as a candidate, his policies being enunciated then weren’t especially progressive. In fact, he had one of the most conservative healthcare plans. It was just not what we were talking about right now, but as indicator, if you look at if you compare him to Hillary Clinton and even John Edwards, on that scale, he was pretty centrist.
MADDOW: Are you seeing anybody other than Melody Barnes who is going to make progressives particularly thankful tomorrow?
COX: There’s 300,000 people applying over Change.gov. I bet a lot of them are pretty progressive but I don’t know anybody who’s gotten a callback yet.
MADDOW: Fair enough, substantially put. Ana Marie Cox, contributor of the “Time” magazine, and “The Daily Beast,” Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for you time tonight.
COX: Happy Thanksgiving to you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Time for another edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW’s lame duck watch. We are keeping on eye on President Bush during his last days in office so you don’t have to because we know you really don’t want to. His latest under-the-radar maneuver? Freaking out local governments with an e-mail about global warming. The environmentalists are coming. The environmentalists are coming. Quack-itude to come.
MADDOW: It is Thanksgiving Eve. What am I thankful for this year? I have an unusual list. It starts with the sorted myth of the (INAUDIBLE) scandal in the Department of Interior this year. And it gets more sorted from there. We’ll have more on that later. First, though, it’s time for a couple of underreported holy mackerel stories in today’s news. Iraq’s parliament is planning to decide when, how, and whether to kick U.S. troops out of their country tomorrow. I think the vote is scheduled for about 2:00 a.m. Eastern, our time. That said, they were supposed to vote twice already this week and they kept delaying it. So, take that with a grain of salt. The legal basis for U.S. troops being in Iraq right now is the United Nations mandate. That mandate expires at the end of the year. So, the Bush administration has been quietly, quietly trying to negotiate a new country-to-country agreement between us and the Iraqis, to replace that U.N. agreement. Now, I say between us and the Iraqis, and I probably shouldn’t because this agreement isn’t really anything that we get a say in, not even Congress gets a say in it. The White House is trying to get this agreement on its own with no role for Congress. And apparently, as little as possible, public debate about it. Now, while we got a new president coming in who we’d like to think will take a whole new approach to issues like Iraq, our lame duck president is negotiating a binding agreement for what happens there. The drafts that we are seeing so far indicate that he’s signing us up for three more years under potentially some pretty controversial, onerous conditions for our troops. One reason we don’t know exactly what those conditions are is because the White House hasn’t released the official text of the agreement here in English. There’s an official Arabic version, but no official English version, at least not one that has been made public. Now, this is incredible. An anonymous U.S. official has told “McClatchy News Service” today, that the reason the official English language text of the agreement has not been released yet, even as the Iraqis vote on it and make it binding us potentially, is because, quote, “The administration fears that any discussion may inadvertently throw this thing off the rails.” Yes, heaven forbid, we read the thing, and then we decide we don’t like the terms after it’s been signed on to. Even more disturbing than the anonymous official’s quote to “McClatchy” today about keeping us in the dark about what’s in the agreement, is the official statement from a named official at the White House. The National Security Council spokesman, Gordon Johndroe - he explained that the White House is not releasing an official English language version of this agreement because, quote, “We are waiting for the Iraqi political process to move further down the road.” So the official explanation for why they are not releasing an English language version of this deal is because we want the Iraqis to vote on it first before we tip our hand about what we think it means. McClatchy reports that the White House and the Iraqi government do not have the same understanding of what the language in the agreement means about stuff like how much authority Iraqi officials have over our troops and what they can do, how much authority the Iraqi legal system has over our troops and foreign contractors, and whether we really are banned from launching attacks on other countries from Iraqi soil. So the plan here, roughly, is to have the Iraqis sign off on a binding contract that keeps our troops there while deliberately not committing publicly to what the contract means and without telling us, the American people, at all what it is they are signing us up for. No wonder they want to keep this thing quiet. Also tonight, Adolph Hitler’s sold gold bookmark has been found outside a Starbucks in Bellevue, Washington. And the historical artifact was stolen six years ago from a Spanish auction house. Federal authorities arrested a Romanian guy this afternoon in Bellevue as he was arriving from a meeting with an undercover agent to whom he thought he would sell it for $100,000. Now, if you are in need more reasons to hate Hitler. Consider that his mistress, Eva Braun, was apparently in the habit of giving him solid gold bookmarks engrave with his portrait with an imperial eagle and a swastika and an inscription. She apparently gave him this particular bookmark to make him feel better for having lost the battle of Stalingrad. “Oh, mein” Adolph, it says, “Don’t worry.” Actually, in retrospect, Adolph, worry.
MADDOW: Let’s do a little presidential schedule compare and contrast, shall we? On the docket for President-elect Obama today - trying to stabilize the stock market and restore confidence by looking leaderl-y. A third press conference on the economy in three days this week, promising us that help is on the way, appointing another board of economic experts. That was around 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time today.
Just a few minutes later, the man who is still the president, President Bush, took care of his duties.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I will be pardoning a second bird. In the unlikely event the main act chickens out.
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MADDOW: All right, you can’t really blame President Bush. This turkey thing happens every year. But maybe in the middle of the economic meltdown with somebody else looking way more like President than you could have been - I don’t know. Pardon the turkey, raise the food stamps allotment day. Pardon the turkey, national day to feed the homeless day or something. Instead of just - oh, never mind. Fifty-five days left. It’s time for the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW “Lame Duck Watch” because somebody has to do it. President Bush, of course, is still responsible for far more than holiday make the meat eaters feel better ceremonies. If that’s all he was doing, I would not feel compelled to watch him as a lame duck. In fact, the Bush administration is about to issue its ruling on regulating greenhouse gases. It’s kind of a big deal. The Supreme Court ruling last year says that they have to issue this ruling on regulating greenhouse gases in conjunction with the Clean Air Act. But of course, because they are the Bush administration, they really don’t want to do this. They really don’t want to limit greenhouse gases, and they really don’t want to issue this ruling, but they’ve got to. Last week, the White House sent an E-mail to mayors across the country urging them to make public comments against the rules, urging mayors to complain about how awful it would be if the government regulated greenhouse gases. “The Washington Post” managed to intercept the E-mail which says, quote, “President Bush warned that this was the wrong way to regulate emissions.” According to “The Post,” the E-mail goes on to link - hyperlink to a business groups blog that argues against the rules. And no, it’s underlined in bold that the public comment period for the rule ends November 28. Translation: Make sure to register your opposition to this environmental proposal by Friday so we can kill it and say you made us do it. However, now, on the other side, on the subject of environmental lame duckitude, there is a little bit of good news to report. You may recall on Monday’s edition of “Lame Duck Watch,” we spoke with Robert Redford about the Bush administration’s sneaky Election Day move to auction off huge portions of pristine, Utah wilderness to oil and gas speculators. The very next day, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it would no longer be selling off more than 30 of those pieces of land, a land on or near the border of Arches National Park. Victory or semi-victory or at least not total futility. That is one point for the “Lame Duck Watch” so far. Or you know, one point for the National Park Service for winning back a little more than a third of the parcels that they did not want to lose to oil drilling. But even if we all watch President Bush very closely for the next 55 days, can anybody really stop him from turning environmental regulations into waste paper on his way out the door? Joining us now to assess the day’s “Lame Duck Quackitude” is Sam Stein, political reporter for “The Huffington Post.: Hi, Sam. Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for coming on the show.
SAM STEIN, POLITICAL REPORTER, HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you, Rachel. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.
MADDOW: There are two competing images of President Bush right now. There’s the do-nothing lame duck who doesn’t seem to be around much. He’s like in Peru in a poncho and pardoning turkeys. And then there’s the guy who is quietly gathering support for his last-ditch environmental antagonism. Is just one of these portraits accurate or are they both accurate? Is there sort of a lame duck plan being quietly executed right now.
STEIN: I think there are elements of both that are accurate. The consensus is that Bush himself has checked out more or less from this process. But there are interests within the White House who are clearly trying to set an agenda that will carry over into the Obama administration. You know, there is a narrative out there that Bush and President-elect Obama have been working closely on this transition. But we have to keep in mind that there are compelling interests, ideological interests, within this current White House that are very much different than what Obama brings to the office. So what you have are these midnight regulations that are going to possibly impede a lot of Obama’s agenda specifically on the environmental front.
MADDOW: Is there a realistic chance of putting up successful opposition, I mean, these last-minute lame duck policy moves? I mean, part of the way that you succeed with these things is by doing them very quietly. I’m trying to make a lot of noise about them in the hopes of counteracting that. Or do you think most of these is going to be just up to the Obama administration to try to reverse them after the fact?
STEIN: Either the Obama administration or you, Rachel.
MADDOW: That’s dangerous.
STEIN: Exactly. There are ways do this. And press reports suggest the Obama transition team is very much aware of what’s going on. And people on the hill are aware of what’s going on.
There is a Congressional Review Act which allows members of Congress to overturn (UNINTELLIGIBLE) regulations on a vote that doesn’t - can’t be filibustered. So it’s just a straight up-and-down vote. This hasn’t been utilized much. It came into being in 1996. Oddly enough, Newt Gingrich implemented it because he was worried about Bill Clinton (UNINTELLIGIBLE) those regulations. So there is a way to do this. And certainly, public interest groups can bring this to the legal world and challenge some of the midnight regulations if they deem them unconstitutional. But there is also the realization that this could set the agenda for Obama or at least push him back a year or two, fighting these midnight regulations. Because we don’t know the extent of all of them, yet.
MADDOW: Because of what you just described there, because of the Newt Gingrich efforts to stop President Clinton’s last-minute regulations and we know President Bush’s efforts to reverse a lot of Clinton’s lame duck regulations, did they actually learn to do that well enough that they are protecting themselves here and they are passing the regulations in a way that will harder for Obama to overturn than it was for Bush to overturn Clinton’s?
STEIN: Yes, they did. Now, not to get too much into the weeds here but when Clinton did this upon leaving the White House, he issued a lot of these regulations 60 days before the next president took office. This gave President Bush a chance to review or call for review of the regulation which, in essence, held it up. The Bush team actually started the process many, many months ago with an eye towards the fact they had to get it done 60 days before the next president took office. So a lot of what’s already - a lot of the midnight regulations are already in place. And it’s going to require someone other than the Obama administration to reverse them.
MADDOW: Although we have seen some reporting that we’ve talked about on the show that maybe their math was wrong, which is very exciting - that they might have counted wrong and that might be something that’s decided ultimately in the courts or in the backrooms …
MADDOW: … of congressional figuring. We don’t know that.
STEIN: Well, yes. And the other thing to look out for is executive orders. Obama’s looking at them. But yes, it’s going to be a battle, and especially on the environmental front. It’s not - we can’t understate this. The Bush team is really pushing an agenda that is ideologically disparate than what Obama wants to do. We’re talking about drilling near national parks. Coal companies are being able to dump debris close to the streams, loosening the Endangered Species Act. All of these are elements that are totally at odds of what Obama wants to do. And it would be a shame if he got derailed or his agenda got derailed early in office because he has to spend his time undoing these end-of-the-game regulations that the Bush team is pushing.
MADDOW: Sam Stein, political reporter for “The Huffington Post,” thank you so much for joining us tonight.
STEIN: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.
MADDOW: Thank you. Because it is Thanksgiving-y, I thought it would be nice to take some time to reflect on what I am thankful for this year. If you remember, snorting meth off the toaster oven at the Department of the Interior. I mean, not you personally. But I am remarkably thankful to say bye-bye to this particular Department of the Interior.
MADDOW: The Thanksgiving holiday is a lot of heartwarming things. Thankfulness, the first Americans traveling to be with family, a big meal early in the day that sometimes calls for a nap before waking up to eat more. It’s heartwarming. Thanksgiving is also a great time to resign, get indicted, promote someone controversial or release a report you don’t want anyone to read. After all, who is paying attention to the small print in the paper when there are turkeys to stuff and football to be watched? Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that in today’s news, there is word of, not one, but two Bush administration criminal indictments. A former special assistant to the president named Felipe Sixto - he’s just been charged with stealing from a Cuba-related nonprofit while he worked there and after when he worked at the White House. And news of yet another criminal indictment in the Department of the Interior, a guy names Edgar Johnson, charged with taking bribes. If the Department of the Interior is ringing a bell for you, it might be because you committed the phrase, “snorting meth off a toaster oven” to memory the last time we talked about them. The Department of the Interior is the department with the already pornographic-sounding name where the inspector general said department staffers were doing drugs with, taking gifts from and having sex with people from the oil and gas industry they were supposed to be working with, or regulating or - in any case, they were not supposed to be shtupping them. Hearing today, about yet another Interior Department employee maybe going to the pokey, it got me in kind of a Thanksgiving-y mood, just in a sense that I’m really thankful - I’m really thankful that the Bush administration is going to be over soon. It’s important to look forward, I know. It’s important to think about progress and change and things getting better. I know that. But it is also important to be thankful, when the occasion permits, for bad things being left behind. And sometimes, it is therefore important, maybe historically important, to remember in a lot of detail, just how bad the bad old times have been. In the hopefully heartwarming spirit of Thanksgiving then, let us consider just what it is about the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that makes a lot of people so thankful to see the southbound end of this northbound horse on its way out of town. Starting at the “my boss snorted meth off my toaster oven” Department of the Interior, and keeping just two resignations and indictments here, there is Julie A. McDonald, deputy assistant secretary at the department. She resigned after an internal investigation found that hooked up lobbyists with government documents they weren’t supposed to have. There’s Steven Griles, the number two in the whole department who got sentenced to 10 month in prison in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Abramoff also took down the Interior Department’s Roger Stillwell from the Office of Insular Affairs. Robert Coughlin, chief of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department as well as David Safavian who was chief-of-staff in the General Services Administration. Now, over at the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, there was Lester Crawford, commissioner of the FDA. He abruptly resigned and then pled guilty to conflict of interest charges because he held stock in the companies he was in charge of regulating. Then remember Claude Allen, assistant to the president for domestic policy? Remember him? He also resigned really abruptly when he got busted for a bizarre scheme of ripping off Target stores using their return policy. How about Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary for Homeland Security? He went to prison for a long time. That was that horrible child porn thing, remember? Then there was also that other senior Homeland Security guy, Frank Figueroa. He had been the head of Operation Predator and he ended up getting done for exposing himself to a girl in a mall. John Korsmo, chairman of the Federal Housing Board? He pled guilty to lying about inviting banks he regulated to a fundraiser for a congressional candidate that cost his wife her job, too. She was deputy chief-of-staff at the Labor Department. They had a Labor Department in the Bush administration - we sometimes forget that. Then there was Carl Truscott, head of the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He resigned after he ordered employees of the ATF to help his nephew with a high school video project. Ken Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - he resigned when it was learned that he was running a horseracing operation out of his office. Dusty Fogo, executive director of the CIA - he pled guilty in the Duke Cunningham congressional bribery scandal. Oh, and Janet Rehnquist - remember her? She’s the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s daughter. She resigned as inspector general at Health and Human Services after allegations that she delayed an audit of Florida’s pension fund because presidential brother Jeb Bush asked her to. She said she wanted to spend more time with her family. The Boeing tanker scandal over at the Air Force - that put a senior contracting officer in jail, cost her boss his job and forced the actual secretary of the Air Force to resign. And then David Smith - remember that? He was the deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He resigned after killing a buffalo and then accepting the corpse as an illegal gift. Wow, originality on that one. A President Palin would have totally pardoned him for that. Don’t you think? You betcha. Philip Cooney, the chief-of-staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality - he had to resign after we found out that he revised the scientific reports on global warming to say everything’s fine. Exxon took him in after he resigned. Poor guy. George Deustch, he resigned amid allegations that he took it upon himself to keep the government’s top climate scientist from talking about that dastardly liberal climate. Thomas Scully, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - he had to resign after allegations that he pressured the number crunchers to say that the Medicare Drug Bill would cost less than it was expected to. That was the same department where the chief medical officer, Sean Tunis, was found to have faked the documentation for his medical education. They actually kept him on for months after that, even without a medical license, their chief medical officer. Bernie Kerick - remember when he was going to be the next Homeland Security secretary? That was before the indictment and the guilty plea for the gifts and stuff. And, of course, Scooter Libby, the vice president’s chief-of-staff, convicted of four felony counts in the Valerie Plame scandal. His sentence was commuted by George W. Bush. And lastly, who can forget the president’s pal, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the torture guy. He resigned amid accusations that he lied to Congress about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. This is all just the one administration. I didn’t even get to Congress. there is a lot to be thankful in this world. Even in this economy, even with this seriously sick, scary stuff going on around the world. Saying goodbye to a federal government with a rogues’ gallery this crowded? Call me sappy, but I’m thankful.
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. Finally, we’re getting some clarity on this whole White House dog situation. In an interview tonight that airs later, Obama sat down with Barbara Walters who lobbied the first couple to get a little-bitty Havanese dog like hers which is named Cha Cha Cha. Really?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: Looks like a really yappy dog.
BARBARA WALTERS, TV HOST: Yes, you don’t want -
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: Don’t criticize. It’s a small dog.
B. OBAMA: It like, sits on your laps and thinks -
M. OBAMA: He is - it’s a cute dog.
B. OBAMA: It sounds kind of like a girlie dog.
M. OBAMA: We’re girls. We have a house full of girls.
WALTERS: We know. What about -
B. OBAMA: We’re going to have a big, rambunctious dog of some sort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So to recap, no girlie dog. Yes to big, rambunctious dog. This has been Obama canine crisis, day 20. Cha cha cha. Next, you know, earlier, you mentioned some things you’re thankful for. Not on that list for many football fans the annual Thanksgiving appearance of the Detroit Lions on the TV machine. The luckless Lions are 0 and 11 this season. Here, they are getting spanked by Tampa Bay last week, and they have lost 18 of their last 19 games. And even though the Lions have played every year on turkey day since 1934, some people are getting a little tired of the side order of suckitude. Like former coach and analyst Mike Ditka who said, quote, “We need to put two teams on every Thanksgiving that are competitive. We all stuff a turkey on Thanksgiving. That doesn’t mean you have to stuff that turkey down our throats.” You know, on the plus side, the Lions and the tryptophan, the napping is awesome - all afternoon. And finally, this Thanksgiving, take a moment and think about the plumbers. The “McClatchy Newspaper” reports that this is the busiest time of the year for plumbers, with all the broth draining and shower-taking and toilet-flushing, and what have you. Said a spokesman for Roto Router(ph), quote, “Often, a house already has partially clogged drain pipes that aren’t noticeable until holiday guests arrive and overwhelm the system.” Now, if that sounds like a metaphor for your family relations during the holidays, maybe it is. Just remember, you can’t flush everything. Rachel?
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Kent, did you see that the White House sent out their Hanukkah card this year?
JONES: Oh, they did?
MADDOW: They sent out their Hanukkah card this year and we’ve been talking about whether or not the Bush administration really is AWOL or whether they’re working really hard …
MADDOW: … behind the scenes to get this ambitious lame duck agenda passed.
MADDOW: I think that they might be AWOL. This is their Hanukkah card.
Look at it.
MADDOW: What is that in the lower right-hand corner?
JONES: Oh, that was like a Christmas tree.
MADDOW: That would be a Christmas tree.
MADDOW: One thing that makes for a bad Hanukkah card is a Christmas tree on it.
JONES: Oy. Look at that.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. God bless them. All right. Well, thank you, Kent.
JONES: And you.
MADDOW: And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here on Monday. Until then, you can E-mail us at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>. You can check out our podcast at iTunes or Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can also hear my radio show, 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast on Air America Radio. Have a great Thanksgiving.
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