The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/01/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That’s the first time I’ve ever been called moderator in my life.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: That’s why it won’t work out. There it is.
MADDOW: I have a feeling. Thank you, Keith. Thank you, Tina Brown. And thank you at home for staying with us for next hour. Obama announces economic advisory team-check. Obama unveils national security team-check. Year-long recession-check.
(voice over): Behold your new national security team. The president-elect announces Clinton at state, Gates staying on defense, retired Marine general, James Jones, as national security advisor. Obama’s close advisor, Susan Rice to the U.N. All part of an Obama team, he says, will bring a return to a bipartisan foreign policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: When it comes to keeping our nation and our people safe, we are not Republicans or Democrats, we are Americans. There’s no monopoly of power or wisdom in neither party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins us tonight to assess whether this team is enough of a break from the past eight years. Whether this team’s oodles of experience seems to you like an asset or a liability, our challenge is, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, need some smart new American leadership and fast. Pulitzer Prize-winning “New York Times” columnist, Nicholas Kristof on the hardest jobs in government right now. Recession: The stock market plunges 680 points after words that the U.S. economy has been in recession since last December. How is that bailout thing going? New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, former chairman of Goldman Sachs joins us live tonight after meeting with President-elect Obama. And, lame duck watch. As the Bush administration rushes to approve dozens of midnight regulations to leave their stamp on the country forever, can they be rolled back? We’ll ask the reporter who broke the story. Plus, what the young Tina Fey learned inside the voting booth?THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
(on camera): Last week, the economy seemed like it was trying to turn the corner, even in the face of bad economic data. Wall Street put on its bravest, very optimistic face. The stock market posted four straight days of gains, which hadn’t happen since April. It was a bright sun shiny way to head in to the Thanksgiving holiday. Well, what the market giveth, the market also taketh awayeth. Today, we saw the fourth worst daily drop in stock market history, 680 points. Last week’s relative economic good times coincided with President-elect Obama’s day by day rollout of his economic team. You might recall the coincidence of the Obama economy press conferences and the market going up. It led us to debut our official RACHEL MADDOW SHOW laughably, unscientific stock market predictor: Obama announces something and the Wall Street reacts positively. Well, Obama announced something today and the market tanked. Now, does that mean our predictor thing no longer works? No way. The other side of to our laughably, unscientific predictor was that just as Obama’s public pronouncements on the economy pushed the market up, President Bush or Treasury Secretary Paulson speaking about the economy pushed the market down. Well, guess who talked about the economy today? Yes, that would be Treasury Secretary Paulson. In fairness, the market was already collapsing before he spoke this afternoon, but it sure didn’t recover after he was done speaking.
You know, we should also note that Obama wasn’t talking about the economy today. Obama, today, in Chicago, instead unveiled his new national security team. In case you had not heard, Hillary Clinton has been nominated for secretary of state, General Jim Jones for national security advisor, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano for homeland security secretary, Robert Gates to stay on as defense secretary, Eric Holder for attorney general, and Susan Rice for U.N. ambassador. In some respects, Obama’s picks represent a clean break from the past eight years. Attorney General designate Holder-Eric Holder, he did not exactly mince words when talking about how the DOJ will operate going forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: It is incumbent upon those of us leaving the department to ensure not only that the nation is safe but also that our laws and traditions are respected. There is not a tension between those two. We can and we must make sure that the American people remain secure, and that the great constitutional guarantees that define us as a nation are truly valued.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that’s funny. I never really thought about how the phrase constitutional guarantees could be shot out of a rhetorical slingshot like that. I think he hit Alberto Gonzales right in the FISA court with that one. Another sign that Obama’s brave new world will be different from President Bush’s? Well, the position of United Nations ambassador will be restored to a cabinet level position. The person in that job has been forced to eat at the kids table, sort of, these past eight years. More to the point, Obama’s pick for U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, spoke today of the importance of the institution of the U.N. Whereas President Bush’s former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, or as I like to call him, John Bolton, because I like to pay tribute to his diplomatic temperament that way. Mr. Bolton once remarks that losing the top 10 floors of the United Nations building wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Bush named that guy to be ambassador to the institution housed in that building. Wow. So, in few practical and symbolic ways, Obama laid out a clean break from the past eight years. At least it’s a break; it may not entirely be a clean break. Take Robert Gates, for example, who is staying at the Defense Department. He has been a breath of fresh air after Donald Rumsfeld, and he seems to see eye to eye with Obama on some very important things. But that doesn’t erase the memory of that first Pentagon press conference he gave after he was confirmed as George W. Bush’s defense secretary, the one where he said opposing Bush’s Iraq policies, quote, “emboldens our enemies.” Remember that? Secretary Gates has also been singing the praises of nuclear weapons lately, which is something even Henry Kissinger doesn’t do anymore. Also, take General Jim Jones. His military career and credentials are beyond reproach. His recent focus on Afghanistan is particularly noteworthy for an administration that has that on a very hot front burner. Jones is also on the board of directors of a little company you might have heard of, known as Chevron, which given the connection between oil and American national security, might raise up the little hairs on the back of your neck.Still, though, President-elect Obama made a point of emphasizing today that he does not think of national security in Democratic with a capital “D” terms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And as we move forward, with respect for America’s tradition of a bipartisan national security policy and a commitment to national unity, we have to recall that when it comes to keeping our nation and our people safe, we are not Republicans or Democrats, we are Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which is neat. The problem is that we haven’t had a bipartisan national security policy for the past eight years. The Republican Party’s foreign policy was taken over by the neoconservatives: We’ll intervene everywhere, all over the world, all at once if we want to, to reshape the world as we see fit unilaterally. All other voices need not apply. Not welcomed. Can you really undo all of that by proceeding in a way that you wish your predecessor had? How about a capital “D” Democratic approach to foreign policy? The Democratic Party is not neoconservative, you know that. But are they something else? Or do they just represent not what the Republicans are? Joining us now is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She is the author of the new book, “Memo to the President-elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership.” She’s also a national security advisor for President-elect Obama. Madam Secretary, it is an honor to have you back on the show. Thanks for being here.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Great to be with you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: So, we have the big rollout of the president-elect’s new national security team today. And they all seem like very impressive and very intelligent people. But I have to say, after eight years of the most ideologically and practically disastrous foreign policy in a generation, should we expect a team that represents a more dramatic break with what we just gone through?
ALBRIGHT: Well, this is a pretty dramatic break. I mean, what you have are people that have thought a great deal about 21st century problems, who have views about the issues that are out there, that are very knowledgeable, that are prepared to give a variety of opinions to the president-elect. I think that’s what’s so interesting, instead of the kind of groupthink that we’ve had for the last eight years, and have the possibility of having really good discussions and then present ideas to a president who has enough confidence to listen to those ideas and then make the decision. And as he put it, take the responsibility with the buck stopping on his desk.
MADDOW: Do you worry that twice in recent history now, we’ve had Democratic presidents choose Republican defense secretaries. Do you wonder that that is a signal that Democrats are insecure about their own authority on military matters?
ALBRIGHT: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s really that it makes a lot of sense to have Bob Gates continue. We’re in the middle of a war. And he also, I think, I know Bob very well-I worked with him actually during the Carter administration. And he is a pragmatic person who is looking very carefully about how to get the troops out of Iraq, how to try to finish the war in Afghanistan, and then, has, I think, very good ideas about cooperating with the State Department. And so, I think that he is very much a part of the team, and I think it make as lot of sense, especially when we are in a war to have this transition. And there will be new people at the Defense Department working with him.
MADDOW: One of the very exciting things about the prospect of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state is that she is a real political superstar. When she talks, the world really listens. As such, she’s going to put a global spotlight back on diplomacy and on the State Department. Do you feel that after your tenure, the State Department sort of got demoted during the Bush years, didn’t get as much high profile attention that it ought to have?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I do think, unfortunately, that despite the fact Secretary Powell had some very strong ideas, clearly, what didn’t happen in that administration was kind of a sense that his voice would be heard. And I do want very much to see a focus again on diplomacy. President-elect Obama made that statement very clear. And I think now Secretary-designate Clinton is going to be somebody that really has the capability of restoring America’s leadership and reputation. I have traveled with her a lot. I know how highly leaders think about her and how highly-strongly she feels about diplomacy and making the State Department play an active role.
MADDOW: When you were secretary of state, I know that you held regular lunches with Hillary Clinton when she was then first lady, which I would love to-have been applying the role for (ph). What areas did she express interest in then? How do you see that impacting her role as secretary of state, going forward?
ALBRIGHT: Well, there’s thing about her. We actually got to be very good friends over any number of things. Traveling together, I took her to where I was born in Prague, and a lot of different things that we did together. In addition, we went to the same college. She’s 10 years younger than I am, but, at least, I know where she got her study habits. And I know what her interests are. I mean, she is somebody that has had a huge interest in what was going on internationally in terms of human rights, micro credit, empowering people, issues of health, and then also, issues to do with security. We talked about our troops in a variety of countries, the peacekeeping operations. She used to also come up and see me when I was ambassador of the U.N. So, she has a very wide-ranging interest in all national security issues. And then, as senator, you know, she was on the Armed Services Committee. So, she spent a great deal of time studying the needs of our troops and also how to help them when they come home. So, I think she has a very, very broad based interest in the position of the United States internationally, practicing diplomacy. And I think she’ll be a brilliant secretary of state.
MADDOW: Do you think that we’ll be in Afghanistan five years from now, 10 years from now?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I hope not. But, I also know that we can’t just kind of abandon countries, that Americans love to be able to make a list and check off that it’s done. And often, it takes work after the military have left. And I think that’s one of the things we have to look at, is how to rebuild or how to help the Afghans helped in rebuilding their infrastructure, develop institutions, develop their educational systems.
But we have to put much more effort into Afghanistan, because as has been now made evident, is that a lot of the center of the terrorist activity is taking place in that area of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. And that is going to take up a great deal of time of both the secretary of state and secretary of defense.
MADDOW: Madeleine Albright, the woman who started what’s turning out to be quite a trend of female secretaries of states in this country. She’s currently a national security advisor to the president-elect. Thank you so much for your time tonight.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
MADDOW: So now, President-elect Obama has answered the question of who will be implementing America’s new foreign policy. But with India and Pakistan facing off right now like two guys who both brought guns to the same knife fight, does that 3:00 a.m. phone call thing already happened? Does it seem to you like it seems to me sometimes that we need about 10 different phone lines for all the 3:00 a.m. calls that keep coming in these days? “New York Times” columnist Nicholas Kristof is here next. He is just back from Pakistan.
And the recession is now official, with the markets way down today. What ever happen to that bailout thing? New Jersey governor and former Goldman Sachs CEO, Jon Corzine, will be here shortly to brief us after he and other governors met with Obama tonight.
But first, one more thing about Obama’s newly appointed national security team. The pick of Janet Napolitano to head up homeland security had one teeny, teeny, tiny, little intended consequence. It opened up her seat as governor of Arizona. Now, in most states, the governor would be replaced by the lieutenant governor, which would be no big partisan deal. That person is often a member of the same party, right? But Arizona, they don’t have a lieutenant governor. And state law dictates that the outgoing governor is replaced by the secretary of state. In this case, that would be Arizona Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, a social conservative who, unlike Napolitano, opposes abortion rights and climate change regulation. So, sorry to stick you with the bill, Arizona. Maybe that gubernatorial succession debate that was so boring all those years, maybe it’s a little more interesting now.
MADDOW: Remember back when you were a kid playing hopscotch or kick ball with your friends, and if something went wrong, and you asked nicely, you could ask for a do-over and if your friends were also nice, they would say yes. But when you’re president, nobody says yes to the do-over request no matter how nice you are. In an interview today on ABC, President Bush talked about his regrets from his presidency and he talked about do-overs. Now, we don’t have the tape of this part yet, but here’s how it went. Are you ready? Bush says, quote, “I don’t know-the biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. And, you know, that’s not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.” Then, Charlie Gibson says, “If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq war?” And Bush says, “Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in. In other words, if he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely.”
“No, if you had known he didn’t.” And then Bush says, “Oh, I see what you’re saying. You know, that’s an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can’t do. It’s hard for me to speculate,” end quote. I’m sorry, Mr. Gibson, I was just trying to indicate the change in character with the glasses, I meant no offense. All right. The point here, though, is that even if Bush had known Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, Bush is saying he might still have started the war. He doesn’t want to speculate on that. You know, when you’re looking back, it’s not actually speculation, that’s retrospection. It’s hindsight when things are actually supposed to be more clear. I would hope that we would have some clarity of hindsight after the past eight years of foreign policy disaster upon disaster. As President-elect Obama today unveiled his national security team, the congressional commission in charge with investigating weapons of mass destruction published its report saying that terrorists are likely to attempt a WMD attack in the next five years. The report says, quote, “Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan.” In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, the 60-hour assault in India’s financial capital, that left at least 172 people dead, tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have risen. Indian officials summoned Pakistan’s ambassador tonight and told him that Pakistanis were responsible for the attacks and that Pakistan must be punished. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947. Pakistan reportedly came close to using their nukes against India in 1999 and the war again nearly broke out again in 2002 after the attack by Pakistani terrorists on India’s parliament.
America’s influence around the world is likely to rebound with Bush out of office. We do get a bit of a reset button. But, man, have they got a really steep uphill climb in some really, really dangerous parts of the world. I sorely need some talking down here. Joining us now is Pulitzer Prize-winning “New York Times” columnist, Nicholas Kristof, who has just returned from Pakistan.
Nick, thank you so much for coming by. It’s nice to see you.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES: My pleasure. Good to see you.
MADDOW: So, this is sort of your chance to Talk Me Down here.
KRISTOF: I’ll do my best.
MADDOW: Tell me that the Mumbai attacks don’t mean we’re going to have either an India-Pakistan war or a huge new round of terrorism.
KRISTOF: Well, you know-yes, don’t head to the lead just yet. One, I think the big risk is that India-India’s referring to this as their 9/11 and it is going to respond as we did after 9/11, which was in ways, it ended up feeling very satisfying emotionally, but ended up actually empowering our enemies. And I think there is a risk that India is going to put more pressure on Pakistan in all kinds of ways, including its military pressure in the border areas in Kashmir, in ways that will simply strengthen the Pakistani military, that will undermine moderates in Pakistan, it will mean less money going in Pakistan to literacy programs and more money going to the likes of F-16s. So, that’s, you know, that’s the risk. But, I guess the happiest thing (ph) is that in 2002, they really were much closer to war than they are now. And we have been doing things that I think have actually undermined our position in Pakistan. I think we’re going to get a much more sensible policy from now on in Pakistan. And, you know, there is, indeed, some hope that if we stop doing harm to our position, that Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India is a very smart guy. If he stays in office, I think he wants to rebuild relations with Pakistan. There is a chance to improve things as we go forward.
MADDOW: If the goal of terrorist attacks on civilian targets and financial capitals is to cause as much disruption as possible, so, you create as much political pressure as possible for a response, that essentially undermines the authority of government and real institutions in the country that is responding. What’s the other alternative of doing that? What model do governments have for responding constructively to terrorism in a way that weakens their enemies instead of strengthens them?
KRISTOF: Well, the first thing you have to do is no harm. And there are ways that, well, improving security, trying to work with Pakistan to go after this group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which appears to be or is widely believed to have been responsible. And that is ultimately going to be much more effective in reducing terrorist attacks in India. You know, my fear is that the opposite is happening, you’re getting Indian nationalists like the chief minister of Gujarat who is a very strong anti-Muslim campaigner who are going to Mumbai to get strength. And, no, I think that the upshot is going to be that Hindu nationalists are going to gain strength and that in turn is going to strengthen Pakistani Muslim nationalists. And each side is going to invest more in their armed forces and there’s just going to be more tension.
And the scariest things are the nuclear game, the war games that people engage in between Pakistan and India, because in most other places where you engage in war games, you know, eventually you talk down. In India and Pakistan, surprisingly often, you end up with these war games with each side sending off missiles to the other.
KRISTOF: I didn’t do a very good job talking you down, did I?
MADDOW: No, you’re not, nowhere near. You got one last chance here. The-when you think about the underlying concerns they got here, and I know you’ve been back and forth to Pakistan a number of times over a number of years, starting a long time ago when you were a student, you first traveling to Pakistan.
MADDOW: When you think about the prospects for, say, the United States trying to get constructively engaged in fixing one of the basic problems between India and Pakistan which is this fight over Kashmir.
MADDOW: Could we ever constructively help there?
KRISTOF: Yes, I think we can. Pakistan actually did make some constructive proposals for Kashmir. We did not put enough pressure on India to respond in kind. And more broadly, I think, you know, there are institutions within Pakistan that would be very helpful. There’s a lawyers movement which is the most hopeful single movement in Pakistan.
MADDOW: Right, yes.
KRISTOF: We cut it off at the knees. We did not support it. And, you know, there are ways we could, for example, by supporting those people, by supporting the chief justice of Pakistan that ultimately would end up supporting institutions and democracy in Pakistan. And that would be good for Kashmir and that would be undermined terrorists.
MADDOW: The way you have partially talked me down here is by making me believe that there are good policy options that are known, that the Obama administration could pursue if they wanted to. We just now have to see if they will.
KRISTOF: Yes. We spent $10 million in Pakistan since 9/11.
KRISTOF: If we invested that in things like supporting institutions and supporting literacy programs and Pakistan would be far better off today. It’s tough but there are-it’s not that the things are inevitably going to get worse.
MADDOW: It is the thinnest of silver linings but it is there. And for that, I thank you. Nick, it’s nice to see you.
KRISTOF: Take care.
MADDOW: Nicholas Kristof is “New York Times” op-ed columnist.
Later on, we’re going to present another edition of “lame duck watch” where we keep an eye on President Bush’s last days in office. The latest? Trying to make it harder for the government to regulate dangerous chemicals that could endanger workers’ health. But I’m sure the magic of the unshackled free market will fix all that somehow, eventually, from the hospital or the house in that truck, somehow (ph).
MADDOW: Breaking news from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
America is in recession. And judged by your chorus of “duh,” that you might have suspected that already. Yes. It turns out, today’s recession announcement is retroactive. We have been in a recession already for a year. The governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, will be here in a moment to talk about his meeting tonight with Barack Obama, and what the “R” word - recession - means to all of us. First, though, it’s time for a couple of under-reported “Holy mackerel” stories in today’s news. Today is the 20th annual observance of World AIDS Day. President Bush spent the day with Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church, because Warren bestowed upon the president the first-ever International Medal of Peace. Wait. International Medal of Peace? George W. Bush? I should be more precise here. Rick Warren gave President Bush the International Medal of P-E-A-C-E. It’s an acronym. It has nothing to do with the word “peace.” It’s an award from a religious coalition. The first “E” in the acronym, for example, stands for “equip servant leaders.”
Still, though, they don’t call it the International Medal of P-E-A-C-E. They just say “peace.” Which is weird when you’re giving your first award to this particular American president. As Ezra Klein noted at the “American Prospect” today, giving Bush the International Medal of Peace is like giving the Dalai Lama the International Medal of War. You can find a rationale, but it demonstrates a genuinely insufficient sensitivity to irony. Meanwhile, President-elect Obama urged the nation to recommit ourselves to addressing the AIDS crisis here at home in the U.S., starting with the communities hardest hit, and basing our strategies on the best available science - which is a strong point, and one that activist groups, like the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, online at champnetwork.org, they’re throwing back at him, urging him not to appoint a man whose name has been floated for drug czar in his administration. The Washington grapevine reports that Republican Minnesota congressman, James Ramstad, may be considered for the drug czar job. He does have some strong credentials, himself a recovering alcoholic, who has fought to expand drug treatment and addiction awareness. But he also doesn’t fit well into that stopping AIDS using the best available science thing. Despite all the evidence of its effectiveness, Ramstad has repeatedly voted against needle exchange, making sterile syringes more available to reduce the spread of HIV. Ramstad reportedly favors the ban on federal and, in the case of Washington, D.C., local funding for needle exchanges. Obama, in contrast, favors funding for needle exchange and has pledged to lift the ban. So, happy World AIDS Day, everybody. An appropriate way for all elected officials to mark this day is to find the place where the mouth is, and then to put the money there.
MADDOW: It may not seem like news to learn, as we did officially today, that the United States economy is in recession. For months now, things have seemed really quite recession-like, even to the non-economists among us.But the rules of economic prognostication dictate that only a select group of economics gurus can officially declare that a recession is underway. Today, that very special group - the National Bureau of Economic Research - made it official: America, you are in recession. And according to the experts, it started last December. Now, for most of us, this is not shocking information. Some folks, however, were a little bit behind the curve on this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I - we’re not in a recession. We’re in a slowdown.
JIM NUSSLE, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Growth is much better than a recession. So, I think we have avoided a recession, it appears.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There’s no one who could actually tell you if we - if we precisely are in a recession right now. And I think we should be careful about throwing around words like that until there’s actually some evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Yes, each of those statements came during what is now officially known from the mountains to the valleys as the current recession. But, as amusing as I-told-you-so’s are, let’s skip right to the more pressing matter of what’s being done now to fix this mess.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was out and about today, extolling the virtues of the various bailouts and rescue packages that have already been doled out, and promising more to come. But, of course, as he spoke, the giant red arrow pointing downward floated next to his face. The Dow was busy dropping nearly 700 points for the day - not a promising sign on the same day the recession is made official.
But President-elect Obama is meeting with governors tonight and tomorrow in Philadelphia. Forty-three of them are up against potential budget deficits, and they want the feds to help out, in part by funneling $136 billion into infrastructure projects across the country.
Oh, infrastructure! And they want to infuse some extra cash into social service programs. So, where is the bottom of this recession? And are the other economic plans being debated and begged for right now likely to seem more effective than Secretary Paulson’s excellent financial bailout adventure? Joining us now is New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who is also the former chairman of Goldman Sachs. Governor Corzine met with President-elect Obama earlier tonight.Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
GOV. JON CORZINE, D-NEW JERSEY: Good to be here, Rachel. Nice .
MADDOW: Sorry, go ahead.
CORZINE: That was a - I want to say, tonight’s meeting was strictly social, conversational. I think people who worked hard during the campaign wanted to share some of their experiences and sort of renew friendships.
MADDOW: But tomorrow it’s down to business, right?
CORZINE: Real business tomorrow.You know, those million-and-a-quarter Americans, I think, who have lost their job sort of knew we had a recession going on.
MADDOW: That’s exactly right. Well, when you speak with President-elect Obama tomorrow, and when he has a chance to speak to you, what are you hoping to hear from him? What are you going to suggest to him? What do governors need right now?
CORZINE: One of the great things about President-elect Obama is he actually listens. And so, I think we’re going to hear him asking questions about how we make this economy stronger. I heard you talk about infrastructure. He will hear whether - he’ll ask the kinds of questions of whether we can actually put money to work on long-term, successful projects in infrastructure. He’ll want to hear how you can help the states without making us dependents of the federal government. He’ll want to understand how we ought to address the housing market, so that we can get people back buying homes and stabilizing declining housing values. And I’ve been in some of these economic meetings with him before, and he is a great listener. He learns from these, and then puts that into his own thoughts, along with his economic advisers, to come up with what I hope will be a very, very large economic stimulus program that they’ll announce, hopefully, the day he is sworn in.
MADDOW: With all the talk about the hope for a large economic stimulus program, I wonder about the need for a political argument against conservatives - both conservative Democrats and conservative Republicans, who may be discovering their inner deficit hawks when they hear talk about a lot of big spending at a time when we’ve already got a lot of debt. Is there a political argument against them? Or are the economic arguments here self-evident?
CORZINE: Well, I think I hear economists on both the right and the left saying that we have to increase demand. We don’t see much going on with the consumer right now. We don’t see much going on with business investment. And since the dollar has strengthened dramatically, we probably won’t see much going on in exports. So, how are you going to get demand into the economy? How are you going to create the desire to purchase goods? And if the government doesn’t fill that hole, who is? Now, how you fill that hole, I think is the most important question. And we ought to be doing that by investing in things that will both create jobs and provide long-run returns to society - roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, a new air traffic control system - things that have lasting value, but put people to work today.
MADDOW: We have talked a lot on this show about how much taxpayer money has gone into the financial bailout, going into the big banks, the big financial institutions. You, of course, former chief at Goldman Sachs. Should non-financial companies - big important companies, big important industries like the auto industry - also get bailout help from the government? Do they also provide enough jobs, provide enough return to society that they should get some direct help?
CORZINE: Well, it depends on how you give the help, and whether you put strings along with the help that you offer. Yes, I believe we need an auto industry in the United States. I think we need the manufacturing base. I need we need the potential for the ability to protect the country by having the ability to produce military equipment, if necessary. So, it is - it doesn’t make any sense to close down the auto industry, but I wouldn’t give blank checks to people who have run a bad business strategy for 20 years, certainly the last 10 years. I’d make strings - I’d put strings that would mean that they have to convert to more energy-efficient cars, that they’d have to change their compensation structures. And I’d ask for real, fundamental change in the leadership of these organizations.
MADDOW: Do you think that the right strings were attached to the funding to the Wall Street firms? It seems that they had .
CORZINE: Well, you’re leading the witness here, Rachel.
MADDOW: They had some pretty bad business practices for the past few years. And the thing that I worry about is, it seems that people from within those industries are being tasked to administer that bailout right now.And to those of us outside the industry, it does feel like a - comparatively, at least - it feels like a blank check.
CORZINE: I think that there should have been more constraints put down on how the money was used. There aren’t - there hasn’t been a surge of lending, and there certainly hasn’t been an attempt to get into the mortgage market. The ground floor, the roots of our fundamental problem has been at the housing market on Main Street and Elm Street. And the failure to do that, I think is both the failure of how the program was put together - it’s focused at the asset level of the banks, as opposed to the asset levels of the public. And I think that needs to get corrected, and it needs to get corrected quickly. And that’s one of the messages that I will try to deliver tomorrow, if I get a chance to talk to the president about the economic package.
MADDOW: Well, coming from you, those words carry a lot of weight.
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.
CORZINE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: And good luck tomorrow.
CORZINE: Take care.
MADDOW: Coming up next, it’s time for lame duck watch.
Before he cuts and runs, President Bush has already passed 61 new regulations, some of which are about 180 degrees from what Obama wants - like the ones where the Labor Department is trying to make it harder for the government to regulate dangerous chemicals you could be exposed to at work. We never said that a duck that was lame wasn’t a duck that could be dangerous.
MADDOW: In the past month, the Bush administration has approved 61 new regulations, many of which benefit industries that have long had the administration’s ear - say, oil and gas companies. Remember when Bush ran that oil company called Arbusto, because he wanted to name something after the Spanish word for bush? Anyway, administration officials are working on industry-friendly measures, like a regulation that would inhibit the ability of Congress to stop logging and mining and oil and gas extraction on public lands - Utah’s Arches National Park seen here. Another rule would reduce the role of federal wildlife scientists in deciding whether dams, highways and other projects pose a threat to endangered species. With 49 days left of the Bush administration, it is time once again for THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW’s lame duck watch - because somebody’s got to do it. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office says the Labor Department - which ought to have quotes around it in this administration - they failed to properly investigate complaints by workers claiming employers stiffed them for overtime, or failed even to pay minimum wage. The department’s own inspector general reports that mine safety regulators didn’t conduct federally required inspections at more than 14 percent of the country’s coalmines last year, while the number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled. Wow. With a Labor Department like that, who needs management?
The Bush Labor Department is now racing to complete a new rule that would make it harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals that we could be exposed to at work. In September, then-Senator Barack Obama and four other senators introduced a bill that would prohibit the department from issuing a rule like that. He even signed a letter urging the department to scrap the proposal, saying it would create, quote, serious obstacles to protecting workers from health hazards on the job.
With seven weeks to go, the Bush administration may be a lame duck, but it’s a duck that is sticking its beak right up in President-elect Obama’s face. Joining me now is Juliet Eilperin, who is the national environmental reporter from the “Washington Post.” Juliet, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
JULIET EILPERIN, NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL REPORTER, “WASHINGTON POST”: No problem. My pleasure.
MADDOW: You write that the Bush administration, in a burst of activity, is trying to leave a lasting stamp on the federal government. What kind of regulations have they already approved? And is it a done deal that these are going to become law?
EILPERIN: Well, there’s a whole raft of regulations, several of which you named. They’re really doing a lot of things which have - environmental impact things like making it easier to extract oil from oil shale out West, certain things having to do with, for example, allowing trucking companies to ask their drivers to drive for 11 hours straight - you know, just a whole slew of proposals. And they were rushing to get a lot of these done by November 20th, because it takes 60 days to finalize many of these rules, because they have an impact of at least $100 million on the nation’s economy. So, these rules are now all in the pipeline, and conceivably, over time could be reversed by the Obama administration once it takes office. But it’s a very laborious process to do that.
MADDOW: It seems like there is a real deliberate effort to do stuff in a way that will make it hard to undo. And in the case of the hazardous materials that you could be exposed to at work, in the case of that regulation, all this talk of smooth transition aside, that’s going after something that Barack Obama is on record as directly opposing. Do you see a difference between the administration’s rhetoric and their actions in terms of what they’re doing with these regulations? Or have they always owned up to the fact that they were going to do this?
EILPERIN: They actually have been very straightforward about the fact that they wanted to get as much of their agenda into law before leaving office. And in fact, Josh Bolten sent out a memo months ago saying, look, we need you to finalize these rules 60 days before President Bush leaves office, because, in fact, they’ve learned their lesson from President Clinton, when Clinton did a lot of these last-minute rules, as well. But one of the interesting things is that, when Bush came into office, many of them were almost finalized but not complete. And he was able to stop several of them from taking law - taking effect. And so, I think part of it is, they’ve been very straightforward, saying, we’ve learned our lesson from our predecessor, and we want to make sure these things stick.
MADDOW: Do you have any sense that their math might be wrong on the number of days in which they’re counting back from the deadline?
EILPERIN: No, they were right on this. Although, what’s interesting is that there are a number of rules that still have yet to be finalized that are in the pipeline. And in fact, one thing I hear is that some rank-and-file agency employees are dragging their feet, and trying not to get the stats on time, so that, in fact, if these are delayed, they will be easier to reverse under the next administration.
MADDOW: This is politically fascinating, but such a stupid way to make policy. I almost can’t believe that this is the United States government. It’s just incredible. Juliet Eilperin, national environmental reporter for the “Washington Post,” thank you for your reporting on this, and thanks for joining us.
EILPERIN: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: Coming up, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. What was Tina Fey’s first voting experience like? The horrifying true story - next.
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. Well, among the MVPs of this year’s campaign season has to be Tina Fey, who makes with the patriotic cheesecake on the cover of the January “Vanity Fair.” In a profile by Maureen Dowd, the woman whose impression of Sarah Palin made millions of Americans laugh and think, and then shudder, and then vote for anyone but Sarah Palin, had this to say about her formative political experience. When I was 18 and registering to vote, my mom’s only instruction was ‘You just go in and pull the big Republican lever.’ That’s my welcome to adulthood. She’s like, ‘No, don’t even read it. Just pull the Republican lever.”
Paging Dr. Freud. That’s way more symbolism than anyone should carry around in their head. Next, Japan’s hard-partying, tax-deficient prime minister, Taro Aso, has again taken a pratfall over his own tongue. Check out Godzilla’s sensitive comments about the health of Japan’s senior citizens. “Going to class reunions at the age of 67 or 68, I see feeble old people who go to the doctor’s a lot. My medical expenses are a lot lower because I walk and so on. Why should I have to pay for those who just eat and drink and make no effort?” By the way, Aso’s approval rating is down to 31 percent - 17 points lower than last month. But then, you know how fickle feeble old people can be with all their crazy eating and drinking and going to the doctor all the time. Not. Finally, some sad news for gearheads. With the auto industry reeling, the “Detroit Free Press” reports that General Motors is studying possibly eliminating some of its brands, including Pontiac, Saab - and yes, the Hummer.
JONES: Talk about the end of an era. Can you imagine the world without the biggest, brawniest, vaguely dirty soundingest ego stroke on four wheels ever? I mean, what are guys overcompensating with now? What are they going to drive? A Kia? A Segway? Come on! I mean, I suppose you could weld four Priuses together and then pour some gas into the sewer. I mean, but it still won’t have that new Bush era smell. Ah! C’est bien!
MADDOW: Did I ever tell you about the time that Susan’s sister gave the family a ride in an H1 .
JONES: Oh, no.
MADDOW: . with a chauffeur in a fake military uniform for an Easter present?
JONES: That is a fantastic story.
MADDOW: That was the year before she gave us all background checks on all of our neighbors for Christmas.
JONES: Excellent. Excellent. The H1 is the big .
MADDOW: Yes, it’s the big one.
JONES: . you know, the mother.
MADDOW: And so, there was a chauffeur in a fake military - yes.
MADDOW: Anyway, thank you, Kent. And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Until then, you can e-mail us, firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>. And check our podcasts. Go to iTunes or rachel.msnbc.com. You can also hear me at 6 p.m. Eastern coast-to-coast on Air America Radio. COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.
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