The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/11/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: There’s quite a bit about the governor of Illinois in our program tonight, Keith. Including, we have a guest coming up tonight who is the guy who is sort of in charge of impeaching Blagojevich. So, that’s going to be very exciting.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Does he hold any kind of world record for getting this stuff done quickly?
MADDOW: He’s bragging that he can get it done in a matter of weeks as opposed to the other ways to fire Blagojevich which might take months. And at this point, that’s sort of the juiciest thing I think you can offer about Blagojevich.
OLBERMANN: Absolutely. And on top of everything else, get the “Guinness Book of World Record” people on this.
MADDOW: Yes, it’s a good point. Thank you, Keith.
We begin tonight actually with a little bit of breaking news. The “Associated Press” is reporting that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators has reached a tentative deal on the $14 billion plan to help the auto industry. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the “Associated Press,” quote, “We are ready to go.”
The deal is not quite final though. NBC News reports that Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the banking committee, has just spoken on Capitol Hill and he said, quote, “We agree on some things, but not on all.”
What no one knows, at this hour, are the details of the agreement or if Republican senators are going to go along with it. It’s those Republican senators who spent much of today threatening to kill the plan that passed the House last night; they have been pushing a plan of their own that would reduce wages and benefits for U.S. autoworkers so they would be closer to those for U.S. workers at Japanese carmakers. Now, it’s not clear how much of the Republican proposal is in the tentative deal. Apparently, it may be reached tonight.
Now, why is this such an exciting cause for Republican senators-reducing American wages? Why are they unifying around the “kill the workers” plan? What’s the principle they are fighting to uphold here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DAVID VITTER, ® LOUSIANA: Let me be clear. I’m not trying to block this package in spite of job losses that would occur if these companies went down. I’m trying to block this package because of that.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, ® KENTUCKY: It is delusional to think that a company which spends $71 per labor hour could compete with a company in the same industry that spends $49 per labor hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They are rallying around the idea of the extinction of American autoworker. You snow, Senator, show me the paycheck that shows the American autoworker taking home $71 an hour and I’ll show you my national healthcare plan I.D. card. Neither of those things exists.
Well, let me get this straight. Senate Republicans have found, at last, an organizing principle, a reason for living, after just getting their hats handed to them in the past two elections, and that reason for living is to reduce American wages. Unilaterally, from Washington, by fiat, because it’s a little known free-market conservative principle, I guess, that politicians should run companies from Washington, purely for the purpose of cutting the income of the Americans who get paychecks from those companies. Wow.
Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina says this about the car companies. He says, quote, “I’m not trying to get rid of thee unions, but I am saying that they appear to be an antiquated concept in today’s economy.”
Anybody else looking forward to the day when being a union-busting southern senator who crusades against good wages for American workers on principle is itself an integrated concept? Well, Jim DeMint is also looking deeply into his principles about the American economy and Americans who have to work for a living and there he has found riots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: We’re going to have riots. There are already people rioting because they’re losing their jobs when somebody else is being bailed out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He says, “We’re going to have riots. There are already people rioting because they’re losing their jobs and somebody else is being bailed out.” Violence, he says, because, I guess, workers will be angry the American auto industry doesn’t slide into ruin?
The point here is that Americans are worried about jobs, good jobs, being able to stay employed and make a living. There are millions of American jobs connected to the auto industry. But query this, query why those southern Republican senators don’t seem to have those same worries that Americans do at large? Or if they do have those same worries, why aren’t they acting on them?
If you query that, you end up finding two things. Number one, you find an ideological hatred of unions. And if you have a minute, google “textile strike 1934,” if you want to unspool that history. You’ll find this ideological hatred union, right?
And you’ll also find what’s euphemistically called “parochial interests.” In this case, it’s a foreign, non-union car companies in the southern senators’ home states. South Carolina, home to Senator DeMint and Lindsey Graham is home to two BMW plants. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, it’s also home to Toyota’s largest plant outside of Japan.
Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the banking committee, he has foreign automakers, Honda and Hyundai and Mercedes in his home state of Alabama. And Senator Bob Corker, who presented the Republican plan that may be moving ahead today, he’s from Tennessee, home of a Nissan plant. All foreign plants, all non-union.
The latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows that more Americans support the auto bailout plan than they do the already approved $700 billion Wall Street bailout.
Today, President-elect Obama expressed his concern about the end of the American auto industry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: We cannot simply stand by and watch this industry collapse. Doing so would lead to a devastating ripple effect throughout our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That’s what most Americans are worried about with this issue. What are the Republican senators worried about who say they don’t want the deal unless they can break the unions in its way? Besides their friends in Japan, I guess, who have state-subsidized plants in their home states, we can tell that Senator Corker’s plan requires even further cuts from union workers and stakeholders in the companies than already have been offered.
“Blame the workers,” especially, blame the United Auto Workers, that’s what we’re hearing from Senate Republicans as our auto industry skids toward the brink of extinction. And they’re saying, if you do save the industry, they want to do it with conditions that break the unions while the industry is being saved.
It appears to me that Senate Republicans are on an ideologically driven, union-busting adventure here that happens to have the prospects of increasing the market share of the foreign-owned companies who work in their states. American-owned companies and the American economy as a whole be darned. Those foreign-owned companies that serve the individual states of these senators who are objecting to this bailout, they are the ones who are getting served.
Why aren’t Democrats making them filibuster this? Making them stand up and defend this, if this is really what they want the country to know they are doing?
Joining us now is Robert Reich. He’s the former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton and a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.
Professor Reich, Mr. Secretary, it’s nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON SECRETARY OF LABOR: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: What do you make of Republican Senator Bob Corker’s plan which may be moving ahead tonight in the Senate? It focuses on getting concessions in Washington from workers.
REICH: Well, the plan, as I understand it, and I do think it is forming the basis of some consensus in the Senate right now. It would require the UAW to give concessions that ultimately match the wages of southern autoworkers for Nissan and Toyota, and all of the other foreign workers who are not unionized. This is a way of saying to the UAW and to all the UAW workers, “You are essentially irrelevant.” Every worker in America should get the same as a non-union worker.
The other thing, Rachel, I want to say is that, I think it’s very interesting that Bob Corker and indeed none of the other Republicans, when it came to the big $700 billion bailout of Wall Street demanded that there be wage and benefit cuts for Wall Street employees.
MADDOW: So, they feel like, you know, if you’re wearing a blue collar and your company needs a bailout, you obviously are the problem. But if you’re wearing a white collar and your company needs a bailout, well, let’s just talk about the company.
REICH: I think there’s something to that. I think there’s also, as you alluded to, a little bit of a war between the states going on. Because, not only are the foreign automakers in the south and they by and large non-unionized, but 18, count them, 18 Japanese and Korean and German companies have-they have announced 18 new plants in the south. Foreign automobile companies are actually building 18 new automobile plants in the south, and they will all be non-unionized.
MADDOW: When-when those states in the south have wooed these companies, wooed these factories to come and relocate there, obviously, they are promising them, “Don’t worry, it’s the south, you won’t have any trouble with unions. Our workers won’t pressure you to give them too good a deal.” But they’ve also given them big subsidies, haven’t they?
REICH: Yes, indeed. In fact, the governors of the southern states that have wooed all of these foreign companies have provided tremendous taxpayer subsidies and every one of these companies comes with a big, big price tag for Americans. Now, granted they are creating jobs in America, they are just creating jobs that are much lower paid than UAW autoworkers are getting or have been getting in northern states.
MADDOW: Does it matter for the American economy that those companies are not owned by Americans, that those are foreign-owned companies? It would seem that we would want foreign-owned industry, wouldn’t we?
REICH: Well, you know, I think the big difference, Rachel, honestly, is in terms of pay-the number of jobs and the pay that we are providing. I mean, we want good jobs. We want good pay. Whether it’s officially an American headquartered or not American headquartered, is becoming less and less relevant, because after all, capital is coming from all over the world. But whether the jobs actually are unionized and pay well is a big, big difference. And these foreign companies are almost all non-unionized.
MADDOW: The “Wall Street Journal” is reporting that General Motors has hired a bankruptcy lawyer to consider whether or not it should file for bankruptcy protection. Chrysler executives say they will run short on cash in January. How high are the stakes here and how devastating would bankruptcy be?
REICH: Well, the stakes are very, very high. I mean, even if this bill gets through the Senate tonight and if it does, that’s only $14 billion, it sounds like a big figure, it’s $14 billion, it would be kind of a bridge loan for the auto companies.
But then, next week, the House would have to reconvene and pass it, but that’s only through March. The auto companies say, the Big Three say they need much more money than that. And if they go down, if they go under, if they liquidate, we’re talking about not just directly 500,000 jobs, but we’re talking indirectly about 3 million jobs if you count in all the dealers and also all the auto parts manufacturers spread throughout the Midwest.
At a time when we’re losing jobs left and right, we’re hemorrhaging jobs-this probably is not the best time to let the Big Three go down.
MADDOW: Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, professor of public policy at U.C. Berkeley, thank you for being on the show tonight. I always feel like if I need to understand how big a barrel we are over, you can always accurately the size of the barrel. Thanks, sir.
REICH: It’s a big one.
REICH: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We have all read and heard and impersonated the evidence that Rod Blagojevich is guilty of corruption. Now, the evidence that his life and career are getting rapidly more miserable. Blagojevich’s approval rating today-near freezing on the Celsius scale. Blagojevich’s reported legal bills pre-Patrick Fitzgerald were already cool $500,000 and the governor’s colleagues in Illinois have basically formed a mob which is battling itself for the right to get rid of him if he doesn’t resign.
The state representative who is busy working on impeachment articles will be with us very, very shortly.
But first, one more thing-as the rest of the world is bailing out banks and car companies, Italy is helping out another essential but struggling industry, the parmesan cheese industry. The Italian government is propping out its cheese industry by buying 100,000 wheels of delicious Parmigiano Reggiano and donating them to charity, paying for it with a special European Union fund meant to help feed needy people. In other words, best government cheese ever.
MADDOW: In just a few minutes tonight, we’ll be joined by the man whose job, should he choose to accept it, is to impeach Rod Blagojevich. But before we hear about how he plans to do that, how exactly did we get to where we are now? How did “Governor F-word” get here, and how riotously calamitous has his downfall become?
Put it this way, the speaker of the House in Illinois and attorney general of Illinois are father and daughter. And that bit of twisted political intrigue among the people charged with cleaning up the Blagojevich mess is nothing, nothing in terms of drama and complicated compared to the drama surrounding the governor himself.
You could think of this as “as of (ph) Blagojevich turns” because the melodrama and scandal is so over the top, but I’ve started to think of this as the infinite sadness of Rod Blagojevich, because the melodrama and the scandal is so over the top that it sucks the emotional lifeblood out of me and leaves me feeling like I’ve been up all night, and maybe this once seemed like fun, but now, it’s dawn and it’s cold, and my head hurts, and I wished I just stayed home last night reading comic books instead. Maybe that’s just me.
But join me here. Join me now for the highs and lows, what you need to know to understand the infinite sadness of Rod Blagojevich. First, there’s the fundamental question of how a guy like him got elected. Even before the scandal broke the “Chicago Tribune” put his approval rating at 13 percent, that’s below Cheney’s approval ratings. Yes, Dick Cheney. Rasmussen in October polled Illinois residents and found that 4 percent of them would describe their governor as doing a good job – 4 percent, that was pre-getting arrested.
So, how does he get elected not that long ago if he is that widely hated in his state? Well, most Illinois political observers attribute Blagojevich’s political success, not to the hair, although that is impressive, not to the grin, though it does haunt my dreams, but rather to his wedding. He married a woman named Patti Mell, now famous for this cameo in the wiretap transcripts from the criminal complaint filed against her husband.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PATRICIA BLAGOJEVICH, GOV. BLAGOJEVICH’S WIFE: To hold up that (BLEEP)
Cubs’ (BLEEP) them.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I know it’s a little hard to suss out there from the historically enhanced reenactment. What she’s doing there is she’s yelling in the background of one of her husband’s alleged conversations about how he could use tens of millions of dollars in Wrigley Field-related tax benefits for the Tribune Company as extortion against “The Trib,” to get them to fire editorial writers he didn’t like. What Patti Mell is allegedly yelling in the background there is hold up that bleeping Cubs bleep, bleep them. Nice.
Before she was famous for that, she was famous for being the daughter of a powerful Chicago alderman Dick Mell, who threw his considerable political weight behind the early career of a young Rod Blagojevich when he was just starting out. Now, things in the Mell/Blagojevich family went downhill from there, when the governor closed a landfill that was run by a Mell family relation.
Dick Mell, the father-in-law, blew up in public against the governor, and told reporters that the Gov, his son-in-law, was selling state appointments for $50,000 a pop. He told the “Chicago Sun-Times” in 2005, quote, “He uses people, and he used me. He uses everybody and when there’s no more use, he discards them.”
And of his daughter, the first lady of Illinois? He said, quote, “She’s got blinders on. Patti will wake up one day.” Happy Thanksgiving? Pass the yams?
With this current scandal, Dick Mell has decided to stick up for his daughter, gathering his other kids with him in Chicago today to talk to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MELL, FORMER CHICAGO ALDERMAN: Today is the first time in quite a while that I had the opportunity to talk to her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that family feud about the dump was three years ago. And I bet it has been pretty frosty since then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELL: And she said she’s going through a rough time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rough time, understatement. Papa Mell did, though, stick up for his girl against an entire country of accusers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELL: I saw that Barbara Walters called her a “potty mouth.” I wonder what Barbara Walters sometimes says in a heated moment. If sometimes, something, comes out of their mouth like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It’s nice to see the Mell family mending their very public, very Chicago political family feud over the dump, the landfill, and the daughter’s bad husband choice. But, you know, the infinite complicated connection, sadness of the Blagojevich scandal, means that even his wife’s family side of this thing is not easy. His sister-in-law, who was a new member of the Illinois state legislature, is probably going to have to vote real soon on her brother-in-law’s impeachment. She says she’s not even sure how she will vote on his impeachment. Blog away.
Further infinite sadness? There’s a video obtained by ABC News just this day which ought to rip your guts out if you were ever a son, a daughter, or a parent. It’s the Gov himself speaking two years ago to the Democratic Party at an event in Chicago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS: She said, “Now, son, that you won, whatever you do, be honest.” And I told her, “Of course, mom, I’ll be honest because that’s how you raised me.” She says, “That’s good, son, I know you will. Let me ask you another question.” I said, “What’s that?” “Promise me, son, you’ll never take bribes.” I said, “Of course, I’ll never take bribes, not only would that be dishonest it would be illegal and I would never do anything to dishonor the memory of my father.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The infinite sadness.
OK. The prosecutor says you make Lincoln turn over his grave. Then 50 senators in your party say they want you to resign and then the video of you staking your honor and you’re not taking bribesiness (ph) on the honor of your late mother and father surfaces, the week we all learn of you and your taking bribesiness (ph), and then Blagojevich’s lieutenant governor goes on TV and not only says that Blagojevich should resign but says he hasn’t talked to the governor since the summer of 2007, which was around the time, I believe, that that lieutenant governor was pushing a constitutional amendment in Illinois that would let voters recall corrupt politicians, Blagojevich.
And, the icing on the cake of infinite sadness here in this story-is the former governor of Illinois, did you see this today, in the “Chicago Tribune”? The former governor of Illinois, one of the ones who went to prison, Dan Walker, who did 18 months in a federal pokey for bank fraud-he wrote a column in the “Chicago Tribune” today titled “A Disgrace to the State,” about Blagojevich, not about himself. He compares Blagojevich to Al Capone and Richard Nixon?
He says this, quote, “While I admittedly erred in my private life, after serving as Illinois governor and paid the price for my mistakes, I am too proud of my state to remain silent about the despicable conduct of Rod Blagojevich.” In other words, while I, too, am a felon, I’m not nearly as bad as that guy.
So, to recap here, the infinite as the Blagojevich turns sadness of this scandal, Blagojevich is more hated by his own constituents than even Dick Cheney is. The father-in-law, whose patronage greased his way in politics, publicly said he’s a crook and for years would not speak to either the governor or his daughter who was married to the governor until the governor finally got arrested.
At which point, he called-Dick Mell called his daughter, gathered together his other kids to support her, one of whom doesn’t know if she will vote to impeach her brother-in-law, and then a video surfaces of Blagojevich’s promise never to be corrupt in the honor of the memory of his own deceased parents, his lieutenant governor is the pitchfork-bearer-in-chief outside the governor’s mansion, and even the other felonious governors of his state are turning up their nose at him.
Oh, and also every major Chicago paper has implied or flat-out alleged that he is suffering from a marble deficiency, a few clowns short of a circus, if you know what I mean. This thing is an ethics catastrophe and I will admit it’s actually been a little bit funny at times because it’s been so over the top, but the more you learn about it, the worse it gets. No wonder we can’t stop paying attention to it. The infinite sadness of Rod Blagojevich.
MADDOW: Today was just another day at the governor’s office. This morning the governor walked out of house, kissed the wife, drove to the office, his spokesman says he spent the day working on state budget and foreclosure issues, and like the same old, same old. Only this was the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, a man up to his eyeballs in scandal with articles of impeachment being drawn up against him as we speak. The man drawing up those articles joins us shortly to talk about this very strange ordinary Illinois day.
First, though, it’s time for a couple of underreported holy mackerel stories in today’s news. We have been following the plight and the fight of former employees of Chicago’s Republic Windows & Doors, who were just given three days notice last week that their factory was closing and that they’d be out of a job despite a federal law that says they are entitled to 60 days notice. The employees took matters into their own hands and refused to leave the plant, occupying it 24 hours a day for six straight days while they negotiated with their company and its creditors.
Well, six days of direct action and negotiations paid off. The workers emerged victorious last night, chanting “Yes, we can,” and “Yes, we did.” Two banks, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, agreed to provide loans to the company to be used to settle up with its employees. The bank specifically required that the credit be used only for paying the workers.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who helped broker the negotiations, told reporters today, quote, “This money will only be used to pay the workers the benefits they are owed under the law and it will not, under any circumstances, be used for corporate bonuses, luxury cars, or any other perks for the owners of the plant.” Take that financial bailout reputation.
The employees will get eight weeks pay, two months of health benefits, and all their accrued vacation pay, probably about $6,000 each in total. The Electrical Workers Union says it hopes this is an example for workers across the country that people should know they can step up, speak out, and that they can win. Of course, the big thing these employees want to win is not just getting laid off the right way, the legal way, but getting their jobs back or getting new jobs. They are putting some of the donations they have received from sympathetic folks around the country into a foundation to try to get their factory back open and running again.
Americans who actually make things for a living have essentially had economic war waged against them for the past decade or two. No disrespect to that big overall war, but this was one small battle won. You have to celebrate these things when you can.
Now, from vaguely commie-seeming, lefty, worker-sympathizing on live cable news, we transition awkwardly to Russia, where despite the figurehead president, Dmitry Medvedev, we all know who’s really in charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® ALASKA: As Putin rears his head and…
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Vladimir Putin rearing his head today in an all-new way. Putin’s office says he has signed a resolution naming a previously unnamed mountain peak near the Russian border with Georgia and its breakaway South Ossetia region - a previously unnamed mountain in Russia’s North Ossetia province, and he has named it after Russian spies. Which Russian spies? Maybe Putin himself, some other top Russian spying official? Nope, the 10,780 foot mountain peak in the Caucasus Mountains is now officially named “The Peak of Counterintelligence Agents,” “The Peak of Russian Counterintelligence Agents.”
It’s named after all of them as a category. I guess in New York there’s the Avenue of the Americas. But still, it kind of seems a little generic, doesn’t it?
MADDOW: What if you threw a press conference about healthcare and everybody showed up for a press conference about the corrupt governor of your home state? Then you’d be Barack Obama who is honeymoon-y-grab-the-reins hero time has been interrupted by an unsightly pile of Blagojevich.
Tom Daschle is the HHS secretary - that’s nice. What did you know about Blagojevich? Health care must be fixed. Yes, yes, yes, should Blagojevich resign? Why don’t you repeat your call for him to resign?
A few Republicans like Mike Duncan, head of the Republican Party and Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia and some conservative columnists like John Fund in today’s “Wall Street Journal” are hell bent for leather that the Blagojevich scandal is somehow magically an Obama scandal in disguise. So far, there’s really, truly, honestly no evidence of that at all. And this kind of thing is all they are going to get from Obama himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: I was as appalled and disappointed as anybody by the revelations earlier this week. I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I’m confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, but you’re from Chicago. Chicago’s corrupt and there’s no way you didn’t know, right? And what about Rahm?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What I want to do is gather all the facts about any staff contacts that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor’s office and we’ll have those in the next few days and we’ll present them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Obama did repeat his call for Blagojevich’s resignation. He’s still only surfaces in this case as the guy so clean as to frustrate the governor into swearing some more, so kind of boring and reasonable thus far on the Obama front.
Sorry, right wingers who hope otherwise. That said on the Blagojevich side, there is still a hilariously terrible political corruption scandal at hand that is not going away. As of Tuesday of this week, in American political parlance the word “Blagojevich” is Serbian for just about anything you want it to be.
Today, Blagojevich meant “back at work again.” The governor’s spokesperson even said Blagojevich was in an upbeat, positive mood. So I guess that means Blagojevich can also mean “in massive denial.” But Blagojevich also means “inspiring of statewide scrum to figure out how to get rid of the guy,” because that’s what’s going on in the Illinois government right now.
One Blagoje-ditch camp is fronted by Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn. Mr. Quinn would be Governor Quinn if and when Blagojevich quits or is kicked out. Like the rest of America, he would prefer Blagojevich go quietly on his own. But if he doesn’t, and he has to be forced out, well, Quinn on the “Today” show this morning voiced concerns about impeachment saying impeachment takes time and an ordeal like that is not necessarily healthy for Illinois or for the country.
With Lieutenant Governor Quinn at least on this count is Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan. She has spoken in favor of impeachment, but she has also suggested another route to getting rid of him. She said, quote, “I have the opportunity to actually go to our Illinois Supreme Court and ask them to declare basically that our governor is unable to serve.”
Et tu, Attorney General Madigan. Doesn’t anyone have Governor Kickback’s backs? Actually, no. No one is on his side. It’s just a matter of how he is going to get fired if he will not quit at this point. Those who would impeach the governor say they may be ready to get that process under way like now, like as of tomorrow.
Joining us now from Chicago is Illinois State Representative John Fritchey who represents the House district that Mr. Blagojevich used to represent. Mr. Fritchey, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN FRITCHEY (D-IL): Happy to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Now, unless Blagojevich has moved, am I right in thinking that he is technically your constituent right now?
FRITCHEY: He is in fact not only my predecessor but my constituent, too.
MADDOW: Yes, that’s got to be a little awkward, I guess. You are chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. I know you’ve sent a letter to your Democratic colleagues asking them to declare if they will support impeachment. Does look like they will?
FRITCHEY: So far, the feedback has been unanimous in support of taking care of the situation. We all recognize that something needs to be done and the issue is how best to do it and how quickest to do it.
MADDOW: What would the charges be?
FRITCHEY: Well, in Illinois, we have a lot of latitude in seeking to impeach a governor though we’ve never done it in the history our state. Essentially, all we need to show is that he has an inability to perform the duties of his office the way we would envision an impeachment resolution looking is that he’s violated his oath of office namely to uphold the laws of Illinois and the constitution of Illinois, that he has not been able to fulfill his duties as governor. And there’s been some belief to that for a couple of years now actually, and that he has committed official misconduct as a result of the allegations brought forth by the U.S. attorney.
MADDOW: Would you prefer that he resign? Or do you think would be healthy for Illinois government to actually go through impeachment against him?
FRITCHEY: Well, I can’t believe impeachment is actually a healthy or welcome process for anybody. And let me say that it’s not something any of us would do with any glee or sense of satisfaction. I think it’s not only in the best interest of the state of Illinois that the governor resign but also in his best interest.
The man is potentially looking at upwards of 30 years of jail time. I think that his priority should be on defending himself from these charges or attempting to defend himself, taking care of himself and his family and letting the people of Illinois go on with taking care of our business.
MADDOW: How long do you think it would take to impeach him? You said thus far the feedback has been essentially unanimous from your Democratic colleagues in the House? I don’t anticipate just from here - it doesn’t seem like anybody would stand up against impeachment proceedings? How long do you think it would take if there wasn’t substantial opposition?
FRITCHEY: It’s tough to say with any certainty, but I would say that I think an impeachment proceeding could be done properly and fairly in a matter of weeks rather than months. You have to recognize that this is not an issue of import just to the people of the state of Illinois but to the entire country because we have an inability right now to properly seat a United States Senate vacancy, therefore depriving not just the people of Illinoisans of their representation but the entire country of having a fully constituted U.S. Senate.
MADDOW: You are the chair of the Judiciary Committee in the House. Impeachment, as you said, never feels like a healthy thing. It’s a very rarely used legislative maneuver. When did you start looking into what it would take to impeach the governor, what your options were and how it would actually un-spool if you were going to do it?
FRITCHEY: Well, I won’t labor you with the history right now, but I’ve actually been looking at this issue for about a year and a half now. We’ve had a lot of legislative gridlock and stalemate in Illinois. And there’s been a lot of questions as to not just his style of governance but whether he was actually able to govern the state in a way to get anything done.
So for my own preparation, I’ve been looking at this issue, understanding the history of impeachment, not just in Illinois but actually around the whole country hoping that the day never did come but wanting to be prepared in case it did.
MADDOW: Are you in favor of a special election to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat? Could it be folded into the special election that I think you guys have to hold for Rahm Emanuel’s congressional seat?
FRITCHEY: It could, but you have to recognize that even if a special election were to be held, you’re looking at not electing a new U.S. senator until mid-April most likely. I would not like to see our state and our country go four or five more months without a United States senator, a junior United States senator from the state of Illinois.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we could remove the governor in less time than that, have the lieutenant governor step up into that role, make a Senate appointment and a Senate appointment that both people of Illinois and the country could have faith and confidence in, once done appropriately.
And the key here is, again, let’s get the Senate vacancy filled but we have troubled economic times now, people losing their homes, their jobs. We need to be able to get back on focus with the business of the state of Illinois and we can’t do this with this distraction hanging over our heads. So a special election - I would accept that as an opportunity of last resort, but I think impeachment is the way for us to go right now.
MADDOW: John Fritchey, chairman of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee, a job that now unexpectedly now comes with a national spotlight. Thank you for coming on the show tonight, sir. Good luck to you.
FRITCHEY: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thanks. Coming up next, it’s time for another installment of “Lame Duck Watch.” Bush administration efforts to hamstring Obama from being able to close down Guantanamo, trying to make the whole Kafkaesque - imprisonment trial-thing without permanent, eek! “Salon.com’s” Glenn Greenwald is here.
But first, one more thing - more bad news for Governor Blagojevich. As we learned this week from his wiretaps, the governor was sure hoping to land a job in the Obama administration in exchange for his wheeling and dealing with Obama’s senate seat. One of his preferred payoffs? Secretary of Energy. He thought he would like to get that job because one of his aides told him it’s, quote, “the one that makes the most money.”
Well, faced with the choice, President-elect Obama passed over Blagojevich - shocking I know and instead picked Steven Chu to be the new Secretary of Energy. So what if Chu won the Nobel Prize in physics, so what if he’s not facing an enormous list of corruption charges. Come on, the guy is not even from Illinois. Nice call, Obama.
MADDOW: “Lame Duck Watch” is coming up in just a moment. But first a little lame duck trivia. In today’s “New York Times,” historian John Milton Cooper Jr. says there was one president who was so opposed to being a lame duck that he would rather quit than quack.
Back in 1916, just as the U.S. was on the verge of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson was fighting a tough reelection campaign, concerned he might lose the war and be powerless at such a critical time, Wilson himself typed a letter two days before the election and gave it in a sealed envelope to the Secretary of State who was then third in line to be president.
Wilson wrote that if he lost the election, he would immediately appoint his Republican opponent Charles Evans Hughes as Secretary of State, then he and his vice president would resign. Goodbye, lame duck period. Hello immediate President Hughes.
Fortunately for Wilson, it never came to that. He won the race after a recount and led America through that world war. I wonder if President Bush knows how to type.
MADDOW: There’s a kind of disconnect going on in America right now. Seventy-nine percent of Americans say, “We’re not going to miss President Bush when he leaves office. That’s according to the latest NBC News-“Wall Street Journal” poll. Almost half of us, 48 percent, think that Bush will go down as one of the worst presidents in history. Just 18 percent said that of Bill Clinton in 2000 and only six percent said that of Bush’s dad in ‘92.
So what’s the disconnect? Well, Americans agree that January 20th can’t come fast enough, but too many of us are, maybe because of wishful thinking, looking the other way as we come to the merciful finish line. You know, Bush is still in charge - hard to pay attention to, but we really ought to.
That’s why it’s time again for THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW’s “Lame Duck Watch” because somebody’s got to do it.
President-elect Obama has promised to shut down Guantanamo, and the military commission system that his predecessor put in place. But President Bush appears to be working to obstruct Obama’s plan.
According to a recent “Time” magazine article, quote, “Carrying the banner for the process of extending the military commissions is Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartman, who is the top legal adviser and chief administrator of the trials has managed to put 17 complex war crimes cases on the docket in less than 18 months.”
Hartman’s office has confirmed that more terrorism trials will be announced before Obama’s inauguration. Once all the tribunals at Guantanamo are under way, the fear is that Obama may find it politically and maybe even legally difficult to stop those proceedings and close down Guantanamo.
Aside from the area of political deck-stacking on Monday, authorities at Guantanamo hosted an emotional made-for-TV moment, the first ever visit to the trials by families of victims of September 11th, apparently to remind us that dangerous terrorists are housed there and there is a connection between Guantanamo and 9/11.
Yesterday, Guantanamo officials gave the media a rare tour of the bases’ detention centers and even gave a sort of sales pitch for Guantanamo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADMIRAL DAVE THOMAS, JOINT TASK FORCE GUANTANAMO: Some people had the wrong perception of Guantanamo. That’s a fact. Undisputable are the conditions of detention here. They’re world class. They’re safe and humane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So they are selling Guantanamo to us again just like they’re re-pitching the Bush Doctrine, just like they’re re-pitching President Bush as a God-fearing family man who liberated millions of people.
The military commissions are a huge success. Iraq was a huge success. At least they are if that idea will salvage the image for history that George W. Bush wasn’t the worst president of all time.
Joining us now is Glenn Greenwald, constitutional lawyer and columnist for “Salon.com.” Glenn, nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
GLENN GREENWALD, CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you think that the Bush administration is doing things at Guantanamo now to make it harder for Obama to follow up on his campaign promise to close it?
GREENWALD: I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean, if you look back at the history of Guantanamo, the one thing that was missing was any haste to try any of the detainees there. In fact, the president continuously asserted the power to put people into cages for life with no process of any kind.
And suddenly what you have, as Obama is about to be inaugurated and the promise he made to close Guantanamo is so emphatic that it’s virtually inevitable, is this extraordinary rush to commence all of these military commissions including against some of the most controversial detainees such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged matter mind of 9/11.
So that by the time Obama is inaugurated, these commissions will have commenced but not have concluded and will, I think, in the eyes of the Bush administration, and what they hope for will be a real complication in Obama’s intention to close Guantanamo and shut down these commissions.
MADDOW: Politically, I think we’re already seeing the outcome of these efforts by the Bush administration as a sort of, in my mind, a really whack consensus emerges from the sort of Washington think-tank world that there’s got to be some sort of indefinite detention without trial, even in American domestic law.
There’s got to be some sort of Guantanamo 2.0 system set up if Obama does close the prison in Cuba. That’s emerging from even quarters that I think you would think of as liberal. Do you see that as a political effect to what Bush is doing?
GREENWALD: I think there’s a clear effort under way on the part of the same people who have spent the last eight years trying to frighten the American people into believing that they have to submit to all sorts of perversions of our system of government and the people who told the American people that unless we invaded Iraq, they would be slaughtered by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction handed to his friends in al-Qaeda. Or that if we didn’t let the president eavesdrop on our conversations with no warrant or torture people, our families would be killed by terrorists.
These are people like Jack Goldsmith, a former Bush administration Justice Department lawyer. And even the Democratic Party associated think-tank, the Brookings Institution, the war cheerleading Brookings Institution, people joining together to now tell Americans that if we close Guantanamo, that they are likely to be endangered unless we empower the president to literally put people into prison for life with no charges of any kind or create new secret national security courts of the type that we just are getting ready to close in Guantanamo.
It’s pure fear mongering. There’s no reason whatsoever that these detainees can’t be transferred to the American justice system and tried in our courts of law, which have successfully prosecuted all sorts of high-level terrorists in a very orderly and just fashion.
MADDOW: Are we seeing the same sort of thing with the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Sylvester Reyes, who started making some noises that we maybe ought to look. I see him as sort of apologizing for torture, essentially saying we may want to look at not restricting the ability to torture in American agencies?
GREENWALD: Well, I think one of the things that often gets overlooked because these programs are typically blamed on the Bush administration, and rightfully so, since they are the ones who conceived of it and first implemented it - is the extent of complicity on the part of leading Congressional Democrats.
Most of these programs, not only were they briefed on it, like Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman, and Jay Rockefeller, briefed that we were torturing, that we were eavesdropping illegally and in many cases, they did nothing about it. Often, they assented actively to these programs.
You also have a series of laws that have been passed with the aid of the Democrats and even with the Democrats in control of Congress to authorize things like these military commissions and to immunize the people in our government who have broken the law and violated international treaties.
And so the fact that the leading House Democrat on the Intelligence Committee is urging that the CIA director and the director of National Intelligence, the people who have overseen these programs that have done such damage to our country, urging that they be retained and that some of these programs be maintained by Obama is not surprising.
Many of these Democrats have given full-throated support to a lot of these programs even as they try to heap the blame on the Bush administration.
MADDOW: So even though Obama says he wants to do the right thing, he’s really going to have to lead his own party?
GREENWALD: Yes. There are many factions including the Democrats who will try to stop him.
MADDOW: Greenwald, constitutional lawyer, bomb-thrower extraordinaire, metaphorically speaking, of course, and columnist for “Salon.com.” It’s nice to see you, Glenn. Thanks for being here.
GREENWALD: Great to be here, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. The George W. Bush presidential library and other oxymorons, 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. Now, admit it - part of you can’t wait to visit the George W. Bush presidential library someday, right? Just for the souvenirs. Ironic t-shirt heaven, right?
Plans for the museum in Dallas are underway but slight bummer, the saga of George W. Bush will not be told chronologically. I was kind of hoping for an interactive party-years exhibit. But, anyway, instead “The Dallas Morning News” reports that they’re thinking of organizing the museum along thematic lines around Bush’s four, quote, “core governing ideals” which are - are you ready - freedom, opportunity, individual responsibility and compassion.
Or for those who actually lived through the Bush years, surveillance, recession, corporate welfare and exclusion. Got to bring a translator.
Next up, want to have a peek at what Obama’s new green economy might look like? In Portland, Oregon, officials unveiled the first-in-line of a new solar-powered public toilet. Spacious, modern, room for your bike? Very nice, very nice. At the unveiling, Mayor-elect Sam Adams gave the fancy new toilet its first ceremonial flush. Here’s the photo he’ll cherish.
And Commissioner Randy Leonard was awarded an honorary golden plunger. You know, this recovery isn’t going to be sexy, people. Celebrate the small stuff. Think global. Poop local.
And finally, tanking economy taking a toll on another core American industry. Yes, that one. “The Daily News” reports the Scores, one of Manhattan’s most famous dancing emporia, will shut down before the end of the year. Back in the go-go ’90s, Scores was the place for celebs and bonus-happy Wall Street cowboys, used to drop thousands of dollars indulging in crystal, implants and dirty print songs.
Owners knew things were really bad because last week a bunch of former Bear Stearns guys were actually there for the buffet. Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Thank you for watching tonight. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” is up tonight. He’s going to be counting down the top 25 corrupt politicians of all time. I wonder where Mr. Blagojevich will land. Good night.
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