The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/19/08
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: So, President Bush finally offers to rescue G.M. and Chrysler. But just look at those big strings attached. And just wait until you hear who the new “car czar” is going to be.
And Annie Leibovitz is here in studio to talk about here work with Mick Jagger, Hunter S. Thompson, and Richard Nixon? Yes, all of that is coming up.
But first, in a world with American‘s fighting two wars, a global economy tumbling down in endless slide of stairs, violent weather events in every season, the constant threat mass of casualty terrorist events, famine, disease, 500 channels of cable TV, the most compelling speaker of the 6 billion earthly human possibilities on this day today was a man named Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. There has not been much news about Blagojevich or Barack Obama‘s vacated Senate seat in the last couple of days.
Yes, the Illinois legislature continues to grind through the early stages of the impeachment process. And, yes, the “Sun-Times” reported that “no duh” news of the day that Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama‘s chief of staff, the fact that he had contacts with the governor about the vacated Senate seat, but that was about it—until this afternoon.
Now, we have read the criminal complaints and mocked Governor Blagojevich for it. We have heard the governor speak to the lurking press corps before a jog and we mocked him for that. We obsessed about his hair and we have mocked him for that. But until this afternoon, we have not heard Rod Blagojevich directly addressed the charges brought against him by federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.
Ladies and gentlemen, Governor Rod Blagojevich speaking for himself. If you have seen this before, enjoy it again, here, now, for the first time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS: Thank you very much. I‘m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrong doing. That I intend to stay on the job and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong. And I‘m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob. Now, that‘s what I‘m going to do.
Let me tell you what I‘m not going to do. I‘m not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing. And that is talk about this case in 30-second sound bites on “Meet the Press” or on the TV news.
Now, I‘m dying to answer these charges. I am dying to show you how innocent I am. And I want to assure everyone who is here and everyone who is listening that I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way. However, I intend to answer them in the appropriate forum, in a court of law. And when I do, I am absolutely certain that I will be vindicated.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you and make allowance for their doubting, too. If you can wait and not be tired by waiting or being lied about, don‘t deal in lies or being hated. Don‘t give way to hating.”
Now, I know there are some powerful forces arrayed me. It‘s kind of lonely right now. But I have on my side, the most powerful ally there is and it‘s the truth. And besides, I have the personal knowledge that I have not done anything wrong.
To the people of Illinois, I ask that they wait and be patient, sit back and take a deep breath and please reserve judgment. Afford me the same rights that you and your children have—the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself, the right to your day in court—the same rights that you would expect for yourselves.
And one last thing, to all of those, to those of you who have expressed your support to Patti and me during this difficult time, I‘d like to thank you for your thoughts, I‘d like to thank you for your prayers and I‘d like to thank you for your good wishes. Patti and I cannot express to you how grateful we are for your kindness. Merry Christmas, happy holidays.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And to all, a good night.
What have we learned today? We learned that Rod Blagojevich is not going away, that the legal process, at least, is going to take a long time to complete, that whatever political embarrassment Blagojevich represents for Barack Obama, or Rahm Emanuel, or the state of Illinois, that‘s going to linger. And we learned that Rod Blagojevich who has appeared, at times, to be like a character written by David Mamet about shady Chicago politics, he is in fact exactly like a character written by David Mamet about shady Chicago politics. Only, there‘s not a Mamet, nor any actor alive or dead who could do this particular character justice.
Joining us now is Illinois state representative Joe Lyons, who has battled with Governor Blagojevich for years, and who once memorably said and then discussed on this program that he thought the governor was insane.
Representative Lyons, thank you so much for coming back on the show. I really appreciate it.
STATE REP. JOE LYONS, (D) ILLINOIS: Thank you, Rachel, for having me.
MADDOW: You know the governor pretty well. Today, he was defiant. He seemed determined not to quit. Do you think he really intends to fight this all the way? Or do you think this is a negotiation—he‘s trying to cut himself the best deal he can?
LYONS: Well, again, Rachel, who ever knows in the mind of Rod Blagojevich, but I would take him for his word that he is going to try to fight this thing and drag this thing out as long as he can. If he had any real remorse, or if he really had the best interest of the 13 million people of Illinois at heart, he would say, “Listen, I don‘t want to put the state through this mess. Let me step aside, appoint Pat Quinn, the lieutenant governor, the acting chief executive, and I‘ll do my thing with the courts to try to, you know, exonerate, and to get myself proven guilty through the legal process.” But, again, he‘s put his own self-interest here, and that‘s his choice to be proven guilty by the courts and fight it tooth and nail. I‘m not surprised by this at all.
MADDOW: Well, after the governor spoke, his attorney said exactly that. He said the governor will continue to govern, he‘ll continue fighting for Illinois children and seniors, but he said he will step aside if the people are suffering and he is unable to govern. Do you make the case that he is already unable to effectively govern?
LYONS: Well, I think my position would be pretty clear. And I think he was joined today, there was a press conference immediately afterwards, Rachel, by our lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, who once again said, you know, if he really feels and he wants to do what‘s in the best interest of the state of Illinois, step aside, retain the position of governor, but transfer the power, all the executive powers to the lieutenant governor and let‘s let Illinois move on.
We‘ve got plenty of issues besides Rod Blagojevich that we need to handle like every other state in the union, with revenues going down, problems with unemployment, the whole of national issue, of course, affects Illinois just the same as the whole country.
MADDOW: Well, the Illinois Supreme Court this week that they were not going to remove Blagojevich from office, they were not going to consider that proposal in the legislature right now. Where does the process of impeachment stand?
LYONS: Well, the committee, we formed the committee. There‘s 12 Democrats and nine Republicans in that impeachment committee that are basically serving as a grand jury, trying to gather the information. Is there enough information to send to the Senate where he should be tried and a court, where the court would actually be held in the Senate? And the Supreme Court justice, the chief justice, Tom Fitzgerald, here in Illinois would be presiding.
So, possibly, that was the influence that the chief justice has thought, if we are going to be called upon to preside in the Senate case on this. Perhaps, we should let the legislative process continue before the Supreme Court renders any opinion.
MADDOW: Well, the open Senate seat of Barack Obama remains unfilled. The governor says that he will not appoint someone or, at least, his attorney said that on his behalf. You guys did have the option to try to pass legislation to hold a special election rather than try to replace the governor and have the replacement for the governor appoint the senator. Why not go to special election route?
LYONS: Well, for one, it‘s a very cost prohibitive type of thing, Rachel. It‘d be anywhere from $30 million on the low end and $50 million on the high end. What‘s the time table of that, we have to, you know, put the whole election process in place in a year that we traditionally don‘t have an election. It‘s only 1 ½ year term. Next February, we‘ll have primary here in Illinois for a 2010 election. So, is that money wisely spent?
The Republicans across the minority party and rightly so, saying, “Well, let‘s have a special election. They would certainly have a case for saying we‘d like a shot at something like this in light of the fact it‘s a Democratic governor that‘s got himself in trouble over this issue.
But I think, if you think this through—why change the rules because one person has violated his right as the governor? Let‘s just let the process go through, hopefully transfer the power at that point to the lieutenant governor, let him make an appointment possibly of somebody with impeccable qualifications who may not even choose to run again in 2010.
MADDOW: Even that process with Blagojevich holding as tenaciously as he can may take a very long time. I have a feeling we will be talking to you again, sir. Thank you for your time tonight.
LYONS: OK, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Democratic Illinois State Representative Joe Lyons, our guest tonight.
After days of tune-stroking, the White House finally decided that the American auto industry was worth saving, sort of. And they offered up $13.4 billion in government loans to the automakers if they can pull an economic rabbit out of a hat and magically start making money right now. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich will tell us if this plan is a lemon.
Plus, anger over Obama‘s way too post-partisan choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inaugural rolls over into day two. It turns out the super-antigay Rick Warren we knew yesterday was even less anti-gay than the one we got to know today. Oh, yes, it gets worse. Are there echoes of the Reverend Wright firestorm here? Obama‘s new pastor problem—a little later on the show.
But first, one more thing about Governor F-word press conference today. As we heard, he flashed some literary knowledge quoting his favorite Rudyard Kipling poem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you and make allowance of their doubting, too. If you can wait and not be tired by waiting or being lied about, don‘t deal in lies or being hated. Don‘t give way to hating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That, of course, is from Kipling‘s poem, “If.” You know what the very next line in the poem is that he conveniently stopped right before he read it? Next line is, “And yet, don‘t look too good nor talk too wise.” If you‘re Rod Blagojevich, you have to stop short of that line because you do look way too good and you do talk really, awesomely, Chicago-style, way too wise.
MADDOW: Vice President Cheney took my joke. That‘s right. He just stole it right in broad daylight. What joke, you ask? Well, you know me sometimes used an extreme analogy, something like Dick Cheney the vice president who thinks he can make up his own laws, special Dick Cheney laws. He used an extreme analogy like that to explain something more subtle and less objectionable that really did happen.
Well, now, Cheney has gone and stolen my joke. The man defies irony. In a new court filing, Cheney once argued he was not really part of the executive branch at all, now says he is the one who gets to make the final decision about what vice presidential records get handed over to the National Archives. Cheney‘s filing in U.S. district court said, quote, “The vice president alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records, how his records will be created, maintained managed and disposed, and are all actions that are committed to his discretion by law.”
In other words, Dick Cheney says there is no legal authority in the United States of America higher than the vice president, for determining what laws apply to the vice president. This man defeats irony. At least when Louis XIV said it, it sort of rhyme, “L‘Etat, c‘est moi.”
MADDOW: So, it finally got done after weeks of hand-wringing, and union-bashing, and “Hey, aren‘t those executives real dummies for flying to Washington on corporate jets” jokes about that, the auto industry finally got its rescue package today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES THE AMERICA: In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action. It would leave the next president to confront the demise of a major American industry in his first days of office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, unlike the bank bailout, the car business rescue did not come congressionally-approved. Thanks to the Republican senators who represent corporate welfare for foreign car companies in their non-union southern states, but free market orthodoxy and no government help for American companies in other states.
Today‘s loans from the federal government came with some major, major strings attached. And I don‘t know if it‘s a coincidence or not, but we also learned about the strings attached thing at the same time we learned of this supposed bailout for the Big Three had actually turned to the bailout for the big two. General Motors and Chrysler are taking the government up on its offer.
But the third amigo? Ford announced today that, “On second though, we‘re actually good, seriously, thanks but no thanks.” Why? Could it have something to do with the onerous gotcha set up conditions the White House attached to the loans? Conditions that did not apply to Wall Street when they stuck out their hands and pocketed our taxpayer cash? Conditions like stripping the auto executives of their corporate jets, yes, duh, and demanding autoworkers take pay cuts, pegging their wages to those of their foreign competitors.
Or stop me if you‘ve heard this one before, presenting a plan about how they will be viable companies going forward. That plan is due by March 31st. And if the plan is done, they haven‘t shown they‘re going to be viable, the money all have to come back. Meaning, the White House has set up Barack Obama, too. Just 10 weeks after assuming office, the new president will run up against this line in the sand drawn by his predecessor. It‘s as if Bush said to the automakers, “You guys better do this or else, or else this other guy will give you what for. Me, I‘m out of here.”
Yes. The other thing President Bush has retained here is the idea of a “car czar” to oversee the auto bailout. You know, because czars have such a history of effectiveness both in Russia and in the U.S government. Right, Nicholas II? Right, drug czar? Anyway.
But the White House declined to actually name the specific person they want to be the car czar, today. That means the default car czar, the one whose job it is to make sure this thing runs properly is the best possible czar of them all, it‘s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Yes, it‘s Mr. I-screwed-up-the-Wall-Street-bailout royally. He will the short-term overseer of the auto bailout.
Why do I suddenly have an even more uneasy feeling about the future of the American auto industry than I had before? If ever I needed to be talked down, now is the time. Here to try to Talk Me Down is former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. He‘s the author of a new book, “Supercapitalism.”
Mr. Secretary, great to have you back on the show. Thanks for joining us.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: Hank Paulson? Really? There wasn‘t anybody else they could find to oversee this thing just for a few weeks?
REICH: Well, there are not, you know, with due respect to the Bush administration, there are not that many very competent people left. I mean, you don‘t want Dick Cheney to supervise this. And Hank Paulson—look, he has a little running room and some record with regard to the big bank bailouts. We may see that that has not exactly succeeded but after all, there are only five weeks left. I mean, how bad can things get?
MADDOW: They did suggest that if the Obama team wanted to appoint their own person as car czar for these interim weeks that they could do so. Do you think, politically, it‘s a smart move to not put anybody in that spot because it won‘t be seen as a success over the next few weeks?
REICH: Well, look, basically, this is not exactly what it looks like. It looks like the president is imposing some very tough terms on the automakers, on G.M. and on Chrysler. But if you look at the fine print, you see that almost all the terms can be renegotiated over the next few weeks if the car companies find it too onerous. So, these are not exactly what they think.
I think what the president wants to do is avoid bankruptcy but also, at the same time, placate his Republican senators and his colleagues so they don‘t feel that he‘s kind of turned on them when they actually just last week said “no” to this exact provision.
MADDOW: So, you think that they put all these ostentatiously, onerous strains on the money for political benefit but there‘s really an asterisk on all of these things that says, “By the way, these things aren‘t binding”?
REICH: I think so, Rachel. I mean, basically, everything is negotiable. They want to keep the carmakers going. I think that‘s a good thing but this is a legacy that the Obama administration is going to have to struggle with, one among many things that the Bush administration is kicking down the road.
MADDOW: This is the first time that the TARP money has been used for something other than helping out the financial institutions. Do you think this bailout will lead other industries to start lining up for TARP money once President-elect Obama starts to take office?
REICH: Well, you can bet that every major industry‘s lobbyists are already lobbying and they‘re already lining up in Washington. They‘d like a piece of this action. If this TARP which, remember, it‘s $700 billion in total, if this can be used for autos, well, why not the ailing newspaper industry? Why not the pharmaceutical industry? Why not any industry that gets into trouble?
MADDOW: Treasury Secretary Paulson said today that Congress—that he would like the remainder of the TARP money, he‘d like to have Congress released that remaining $350 billion for him to use. Do you think that Congress should do that and do you think this money could be more effectively spent by the next administration as part of a bigger strategy?
REICH: Well, it certainly could be more effectively spent. As you said before, Rachel, a lot of this was supposed to go to Wall Street because Wall Street was supposed to turn around and send a lot of this amount down to Main Street in the form of loans to small businesses and to homeowners who were distressed. Well, a very little if any has got back to main street. It‘s basically lined the pockets of a lot of people on Wall Street. So, it can be done better.
I expect—now, I don‘t have inside knowledge here, but I expect that there will be a request for more money. I expect that Congress will probably wait and put some strings on the money and make sure that the Obama administration and Congress understand what the money is for. This is taxpayer money. It‘s just not to go to anybody and it certainly not to go to executives and to shareholders for big dividend payments.
Robert Reich, former labor secretary in the Bill Clinton administration, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
REICH: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: At his press conference today, President-elect Obama spoke nary a word about the aggressively unprogressive pastor he picked to pray at his inauguration, Rick Warren. Pastor Warren himself, however, had plenty to say to NBC‘s Ann Curry, sharing his extensive knowledge about the gay. We will have more on that later.
MADDOW: Annie Leibovitz has photographed kings, queens, movie stars, athletes, everybody. So, how does everyone‘s favorite lame duck president measure up? The great Annie Leibovitz will join us in studio here shortly. I‘m very excited.
First, though, it‘s time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. The world‘s most spectacularly expensive demolition derby is under way right now in the southern ocean. There‘s a southern ocean? Yes, there‘s Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and the Arctic at top, and the southern or Antarctic Ocean.
If you are in the treacherous Antarctic Ocean on a sailboat alone right now, you are probably part of this demolition derby as well. It‘s a solo around the world boat race that happens every four years. This year, they started out with 30 sailers or 30 boats. They‘re already down to just 18.
One Swiss guy washed ashore on an isolated archipelago called (INAUDIBLE) islands that I can‘t pronounce, somewhere between South Africa and Australia. One Frenchman had a mast ripped off his boat on Monday. A British guy had the mast ripped of his boat the next day. In the last race, that same British guy also lost his mast right after he picked up another guy who had just let his boat sink. The previous race winner this year just hit an iceberg.
And one sad French sailor snapped his femur, snapped his thigh bone yesterday when his boat smashed into a giant wave. There‘s a rescue operation underway to get him right now because even though he‘s got morphine on board and another boat is near enough to him that they have thrown painkillers on board at him, the guy is in so much pain, he cannot even crawl across his boat to get them. So now, the Australian navy is going to rescue him to the tune of about $1 million.
See, that‘s the difference between a demolition derby with yacht, and a traditional demolition derby with Chevys. When it‘s cars and not boats, there‘s no publicly-founded Australian navy rescue option.
And do you remember that one Republican presidential primary debate when the candidates debated right alongside Reagan‘s Air Force One? Both miff (ph) and slightly disconcerting, because it kind of felt like they were out on the wing of the plane like it was a smoking section or something. But imagine how awesome it would be to recreate that scene instead with the Air Force One with the space shuttle. You now have the chance, thanks to the entrepreneurial minds at NASA.
NASA is planning on retiring its space shuttles in a few years. And they have posted an official call to schools, science museums and other appropriate organizations to ask if anyone is interested in buying a space shuttle to put on display. It will only cost about $42 million plus shipping and handling. You know, that‘s always the kicker, the shipping and handling. The shipping and handling in one of these guys is about $6 million, which sounds like a total rip off, right, until you remember that they have to fly it to you on top of a 747.
If that‘s too rich for your blood, they will consider selling you just the space shuttle engine for about $800,000 – again, plus shipping and handling, and it doesn‘t include the tip.
Finally, Wednesday night, we reported that Sarah Palin was slated to receive a pay raise from $125,000 a year to $150,000 a year as Alaska‘s governor, based on the recommendation of a commission that she appointed. Incredible coincidence.
Well, yesterday, the “Anchorage Daily News” reported that Governor Palin has decided to not accept the recommended pay raise. She said it would be inappropriate to accept one in the middle of a term. Her spokesman, Bill McAllister said, quote, “We were all a little surprised by the preliminary recommendations. We didn‘t know that was coming.”
A raise? For me? No, you did not. You guys deserve a raise for saying I deserve one.
MADDOW: Today, Barack Obama got an early Christmas present from the press corps. No questions about the biggest political stumble yet of his time as president-elect. Obama introduced new nominations today to head up transportation, labor, trade and small business. After the thank you speeches, questions from the press.
But, none about Rick Warren, the conservative pastor who Obama has invited to DC to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. The controversy is still growing about the invitation to Warren as the renewed focus on his antigay views has brought us way more detail we ever wanted to know about Rick Warren‘s thoughts about what is natural about his fellow Americans who happening to gay and what who he personally wants to have sex with. Here he is speaking with NBC‘s Anne Curry for DATELINE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNE CURRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You‘re saying if it‘s part of your biology, it‘s your job to fight against it if in fact it‘s the wrong thing?
RICK WARREN, PASTOR: Here is what I‘m saying. I have had many gay friends tell me, why shouldn‘t I have multiple sexual partners. It‘s the natural thing to do. Well, just because it seems natural doesn‘t mean it‘s best for you or society. I‘m inclined to have sex with every beautiful woman I see, but that doesn‘t mean it‘s the right thing to do. And why should I reign in my natural impulses and you say well because I have natural impulses toward the same-sex, I shouldn‘t have to reign them in. Well, I disagree. I think that‘s part of maturity. I think it‘s part of delayed gratification. I think it‘s part of character.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you can just wait long enough for that gay gratification, eventually, you might be able to delay away the gay. Maybe. Keep talking, sir. You are making the job of making the case against you so much easier.
Actually the job of making the case against Rick Warren as an invocation speaker is getting easier and easier all the time the more we learn about him. Andrew Sullivan at the Web site of “The Atlantic” magazine took note today that Warren‘s church runs a group aimed at curing gay people of the gay. Ask responsible mental health professionals and they will tell you it‘s quackery and not even of the funny lame duck kind.
See what I mean about the case against Warren for invocation speaker getting stronger the more you learn about him? Tell me more. Huh?
Well, today, John Aravosis at “America Blog” points out in the fine print at Warren‘s Saddleback Church Website there‘s this very clear statement that maybe ought to give the Obama folks pause.
Quote, “Because membership of church is accepting the lordship and leadership of Jesus in one‘s life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted as a member of Saddleback Church.”
This means Barack Obama asked that the spiritual clarion call at his swearing in should be delivered by a man who will not allow unrepentant gay people to join the church. Whose church runs a program in fact to try to cure gays and who says gay relationships are the equivalent of child molestation and incest.
The common political wisdom is that this invitation to Rick Warren can‘t possibly be rescinded. No, Obama has plated his trough with Rick Warren. And people who don‘t think gay relations are like incest and that gay people can be cured, they should endure, get over it. Rick Warren is going to be the invocation speaker, OK. That‘s the common political wisdom here. But I think the people who make it up common political wisdom are maybe underestimating the anger of the gay community here. And the national liberal and centrist regret specifically about Proposition 8 in California. I think the common wisdom has also yet to factor in the revelation that Warren actually bans gay people from membership in his church and the common wisdom perhaps neglects the parallels here with a previous Barack Obama pastor problem.
After controversy surrounding the sermons of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama spoke out against those sermons but he did not initially denounce Wright. He hoped presumably that the story would go away. But as more of Wright‘s incendiary rhetoric came to light and the controversy didn‘t go away, Obama decided to publicly sever his ties. Here is your historical parallel of the day, are you ready?
Obama‘s repudiation speech against Reverend Wright wasn‘t actually the first time that he distanced himself from Reverend Wright. When Obama announced his candidacy for president way back when in front of the old state capitol in Springfield, Illinois, guess who was supposed to lead his invocation that day? Reverend Jeremiah Wright. The Obama campaign apparently got worried about Wright even way back then because Wright was uninvited at the last minute. And this was before Jeremiah Wright‘s sermons became all the rage on cable news channels and on the Internet machine. In March of this year, Obama‘s chief strategist David Axelrod admitted even before Obama‘s announcement speech over a year ago that the campaign was aware Wright could pose them a problem.
“There was no doubt,” he said, “that there was controversy surrounding him and we didn‘t want to expose him or make him the target and a distraction on a day when Senator Obama was going to announce his candidacy. Didn‘t want a distraction on an important day for Obama. Hmm - so is it truly politically impossible that Rick Warren‘s invocation invitation will be rescinded?
Joining us now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief from “Mother Jones” magazine. He is a blogger for cqpolitics.com. David thanks very much for joining us.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Should Obama, could Obama realistically rescind his invitation to Pastor Warren? Could it happen?
CORN: Well, as you know, should and could are very different questions. It could happen, but then he would have a holy war on his hands on the day of his inauguration. He has a little one at the moment. But this is a problem of Barack Obama‘s own making. I think no one expected that Rick Warren would be given a special invitation to the inauguration. Barack Obama, in his desire to be inclusive, had no obligation to invite Rick Warren on the basis of everything Rick Warren had said up to now about gay and lesbians who are a big part of Barack Obama‘s base.
So he‘s made this problem for himself. And while I agree with you, it was the wrong decision to make, what would happen if he said could we have that invitation back, please? Then from now until the inauguration, that would be the entire story of the inauguration. And Obama, if you listened to him two days ago in his one press conference, he showed not a sign of regret over this.
So I‘m guessing, inside Obama HQ that they think they can kind of weather this storm. The amount of anger they see from you and others will not get to what they consider to be a critical mass, yet. Now, if that shifts and there‘s an outpouring of outrage about this, a greater outpouring than one that has happened to date, they may have to change their minds.
But Rick Warren, himself, has not given Barack Obama an out. He announced the other day that he was going to stick with the invitation rather than say, that‘s OK, president-elect, I‘m busy that day.
So you‘re going to have to have a little more I think passion here for Barack Obama to feel inconvenienced enough that he will reconsider what he‘s done.
MADDOW: I think that he‘s in a position between now and the inauguration Rick Warren is the story. And I do think you‘re right that that‘s the calculation. That they think they would be happier to weather anti Rick Warren storm than the pro Rick Warren storm. And it may just be a political fight on the street, rhetorically, about this—Go ahead, David. Go ahead.
CORN: Sure. I was going to say, it‘s clear that the Obama campaign and now the transition believes they can sort of, if not win over evangelical voters to Barack Obama‘s side, can at least cut into that advantage that Republicans have had with evangelicals. Sometimes you don‘t want people to vote for you, you just want them not to vote for the other guy or not be against you so much. And if they want to work with evangelicals on global warming and poverty issues and economic matters, it would help his agenda on those fronts.
Now right now, he‘s thrown a big bone in their direction. Were he to sort of rescind the invitation then, then I think he would have the effort to recruit the evangelicals and would go up in flames. It could be a hellish situation. And I think right now as you just said, the calculation they are making is that would be a bigger conflagration than the one they are facing now from the people who up to now have been supportive and friendly and have worked for the Obama campaign.
MADDOW: Do you think that calculation changes with the revelations today that Rick Warren‘s church bans gay people from being members. I don‘t think it was known widely before today.
CORN: I would assume that. I didn‘t know the details until John put that up on his blog. We know Rick Warren compared gays and lesbians to incest lovers and pedophiles. And that‘s pretty bad. Of course you‘re going to ban pedophiles and incest lovers from your church. So it‘s a logical extrapolation from what his position is. So it doesn‘t really surprise me.
But again, Barack Obama is trying to be inclusive. And I‘ve said on other shows, if he wants to talk to Rick Warren and make common cause with him on climate change and how to alleviate poverty I think that‘s within the real ms of what should be. But Rick Warren by saying gays can‘t be members of my church and comparing them to pedophiles, is showing that he‘s not as inclusive as we‘d like.
MADDOW: To say the least.
CORN: To say the least. So, I mean, at some point, you have to say OK, there are real differences and I want to work with you in some ways, but I‘m not going to make you the number uno spiritual leader at my inauguration. That would be a reasonable approach for Barack Obama to have taken.
MADDOW: David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine, blogger for cqpolitics.com, thanks. Have a great weekend, David.
CORN: You too, Rachel.
MADDOW: There aren‘t too many things that Hunter S. Thompson, Mick Jagger and George W. Bush have in common. But those three and hundreds more were lucky enough to be photographed by our next guest. Annie Liebovitz is here.
MADDOW: Hey, happy Friday. I have a picture for you. Something funny about this picture? You see Andy Card there in the back row on the right. He wasn‘t actually scheduled to be in the shot. Photographer Annie Leibovitz who took this portrait in December of 2001, she thought there were only going to be six people in this picture and the lighting was set accordingly, the whole shot was set up accordingly.
Then in came Andy Card with the rest of the bunch. Wait, that makes seven, there was supposed to be six. Awkward. In her new book, “Annie Leibovitz at Work”, the photographer explains that the squoze (ph) Mr. Card into the shot, but quote, “Andrew Card didn‘t add much in terms of historical significance. He is remembered principally as the man who came up to Bush at the elementary school where the president was being filmed observing a class on September 11 and whispered in his ear that a second plane had just flown into the World Trade Center.”
Now if Mr. Card had been remembered as the guy who also told the president to stop observing the class and get up and do something, instead, maybe there wouldn‘t have been the same awkwardness about his historical significance and having him in the shot.
That said, it was December, ‘01, three months after 9/11, more than a year before the invasion of Iraq. If you look closely you can see that the Iraq War is already a twinkle in the president‘s eye. But the Bush administration decided they would let Annie Leibovitz and her crew into the White House for a couple of days not only for this cover shot but for a 16-page portfolio.
In the book, Leibovitz says, “I don‘t know why they agreed to let us do this. I suppose they felt more self-righteous and confident than ever at that point. Kabul had just fallen and now we know a few days earlier Bush had initiated secret plans for the war in Iraq. It was a heady moment for them.”
Joining us now to talk about her new book, “Annie Leibovitz at Work” and to allow me to geek out shamelessly as a fan is Annie Leibovitz, the photographer. It‘s very nice to meet you. Thanks for coming on the show.
ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, PHOTOGRAPHER: Thank you, Rachel. I hope that is not the picture I get remembered for.
Actually, it‘s in the book. And I tried to defuse it a little bit. It‘s in the book group section.
MADDOW: If we had to pick a picture to identify you by, it probably wouldn‘t be on the basis of the specific famous person you were portraying. As a portraitist you‘ve shot basically everybody up to and including the queen. So in order to pick one picture, we‘d have to ask you what is the picture we felt that most represented you, right?
LEIBOVITZ: Are you asking what is my favorite picture?
MADDOW: If there‘s an answer. I don‘t know if there is.
LEIBOVITZ: No. It‘s true, I do like the body of the work. I love the whole work. I love photographing the times and just looking back, just preparing myself to talk to you, I was looking at how many times I had photographed the Clintons and Mrs. Bush and the Bushes. So, anyway, a few times. Many times.
MADDOW: When Nixon resigned, got on the helicopter and flew away, other photographers stopped shooting after Nixon got on the helicopter because that was the news event. But you shot literally the clean up, the beginning of the aftermath. You have the image up there on the screen now. What made you keep shooting once Nixon was out of sight?
LEIBOVITZ: It was really, if you—it‘s hard to remember back then, but there was no “Life” magazine and there really were just the newsweeklies, “Time,” “Newsweek.” And they just ran small pictures. And most—they were really looking for the exact moment for a small picture that would run. Nixon, hands up, leaving. And they wouldn‘t—there isn‘t—it isn‘t as if good photographs weren‘t being taken. But there was no need for that kind of picture. But now we see that kind of picture all the time, sort of the moments in between the moments. Those are the pictures that are—that‘s the style now that is what is run now.
MADDOW: Do you think that‘s because we literally make more column inches available to photographs as part of news?
LEIBOVITZ: No, I think that we don‘t want to—I think we like the in between moment. I think the in between moment has become of great interest. I think there‘s more to be said of the in between moment.
MADDOW: If you—you worked with Hunter S. Thompson in the ‘70s and write about how he never worked with another photographer.
LEIBOVITZ: I don‘t know if you say can say we really worked together. We traveled together. We worked together but he was a lone wolf.
MADDOW: He resisted you?
LEIBOVITZ He pushed me away but we still had a great time. We were
together. It was his idea to actually go on the road for the—for that
presidential campaign and treat it like a rock ‘n‘ roll tour. And he made
he really made history covering that—covering that election.
Would you ever want to do the photojournalist thing attached to a single reporter again? Would you ever want to do that now?
LEIBOVITZ: Never. No. Actually, I lovingly call that chapter in the book my chapter on how I learned not to work with writers because I was like picking—you would sort of be baby-sitting the writers, getting Hunter out of bed to make the McGovern interview. He wouldn‘t quite make it. And it was a little work, a little clean-up work, a little nursemaid work with the writers in that day.
MADDOW: Thinking about covering politics like covering a band, you sort of became part of Rolling Stones‘ world when you shot them. Would you—would you ever—I guess you don‘t want to say you‘d work with a writer again but would you ever want to be embedded in that sort of culture again? Would you embed with a cable news show? Would you embed with another band, with a movie?
LEIBOVITZ: I feel like that tour, being on the road with the Rolling Stones for that whole tour, I think I did it. I don‘t feel the need to have to do it again. In fact, it was part of the reason I left “Rolling Stone” and went to “Vanity Fair” was looking for a broader base of subjects. And what I didn‘t know about rock ‘n‘ roll I certainly did learn on that tour. It took me a while to get off the tour. I was on it for a few more years, yeah.
MADDOW: One last question for you. It‘s about your technique and your art. You write in the book about how you sometimes think you get maybe 10 percent of what you see. That sometimes the light you see doesn‘t translate into the photograph and you know that it‘s not going to.
Are you trying to put your audience, the people who are viewing your pictures sort of behind your eyes? Are you trying to make people see what you see? Is that how you approach it?
LEIBOVITZ: No, I don‘t think you could ever think that way. I think you think—you pretty much trust your own point of view. You‘re not looking for your audience. You know, I think I learned early on that I had a point of view. And I trusted that. And that‘s where my work becomes strong. And, you know, for better or for worse. I think that‘s what—I mean, actually, when you‘re young, I‘m not too sure you know what you‘re doing at all quite honestly. And then as you get older you look back at the work and that sort of instructs you and points out what you‘re doing.
But it was personal reportage. You pretty much photographed what was in front of you. It wasn‘t journalism. It was how you saw things and what unfolded in front of you.
MADDOW: Annie Leibovitz, the photographer, the author of the new book “Annie Leibovitz at Work.” Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
Coming up on COUNTDOWN, the Palin saga continues. Now the future mother-in-law of Sarah Palin‘s daughter has been arrested on drug charges. Oy. Coming up on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. Quick, describe George W. Bush in one word. Something I can say on the air.
MADDOW: Now it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones. Hi, Kent, what have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Evening, Rachel. As the Bush era quacks to a conclusion, the pollsters at Pew Research asked 1,000 people to describe George W. Bush in just one word. Pew asked the same thing in 2004 and it‘s interesting to see how opinions have changed in four years. The number one word used to describe him, “incompetent,” said 56 people. Only 21 people used that word four years ago. Second place, “idiot” said 27 people. That‘s 15 more than in 2004.
Other words people used to describe our president include stupid, six people. Arrogant, 23 people. Ignorant, 14 people. And finally “ass” was the word that first came to nine out of 1,000 people.
Now, it wasn‘t all negative words, though. Not at all. Honest said 31 people. Integrity, nine people. Strong, four people. That‘s down from 18 four years ago who thought he was strong. And perhaps more telling of all, leader was the word used by only eight people. Down from 30 four years ago.
Now, 52 of those polled had an entirely different immediate response to the name George W. Bush, but the pollster was unable to spell eaowaaowoaaowowaaaw.
Finally a heavy metal medical alert. The British medical journal reports that—no, really. Head banging is totally bad for you. Australian biomedical and injury expert Dr. Andrew McIntosh (ph) has studied the effects of extreme rocking out on the head and neck and conclude, quote, “We identified a definite risk of mild traumatic head injury from head banging. We would suggest a proper public health warning as for smoking.”
The report calls for fans to wear neck braces when head banging in order to protect themselves from injury. Also, wearing a protective neck brace to a Metallica concert will also protect the wearer from ever dating again.
So that‘s important to know. Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. I‘m sorry that I was laughing too hard and messed up your Metallica joke. Thank you at home for watching tonight. We‘ll see you here Monday night. Until then e-mail us at email@example.com. Check out the podcast. Go to iTunes or rachel.msnbc.com. You can also hear my radio show 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast on Air America Radio. Have a great weekend. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>
Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is
granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not
reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or
internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall
user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may
infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or
interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of