The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/21/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Keith.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: You‘re welcome.
MADDOW: And thank you for staying with us at home for the next hour.
Say this for the Obama administration—it has really busy news days so far. Conflicting reports today of whether Caroline Kennedy wants Hillary Clinton‘s old Senate seat coming just days before New York‘s governor said that he would announce his choice for that seat.
President Obama changes ethics rules with the big dramatic left-handed stroke of the pen today, and he meets with his economic advisers, and he meets with his military brain trust, and he retakes the oath of office. There‘s so much to do and we‘re going to get to it.
But first, we begin with breaking news. The “Associated Press” reports that President Barack Obama will issue an executive order tomorrow to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year. That is according to a senior Obama aide who spoke with the “Associated Press.”
According to the report, a draft of the executive order says, quote, “The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order. In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.”
Just before midnight last night, lawyers at Guantanamo followed an order from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who followed an order from President Obama, to hit a pause button on the military tribunals at Guantanamo for 120 days. The tribunal proceedings that will be halted include one of a Canadian man who was 15 years old when they first sent him to Guantanamo as well as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters, some of whom are representing themselves at these tribunals and some of whom have already confessed not only to 9/11 but to just about every other terrorism-related thing you can think of short of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.
It is worth noting that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed believed to be the organizer of the 9/11 attacks is against President Obama freezing these tribunals. He told the court there today, quote, “We should continue.”
It is still unclear exactly why the Obama administration needs a full year to close the prison or what will happen to the prisoners currently held there. But one thing is clear—this is the start of the end of Guantanamo. Guantanamo can be thought of as a marquee issue among the many issues left over from the Bush administration, issues that are going to take a heck of a lot of time and a heck of a lot of energy to clean up.
And so tonight, we offer a new RACHEL MADDOW SHOW commitment to be sure they don‘t miss a spot in the big post-Bush cleanup. The RACHEL MADDOW SHOW presents the inaugural installment of “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat” because this is going to take a while.
Tomorrow, President Obama will take direct executive action on Guantanamo Bay. Today, he took action to fix not what the Bush administration did wrong, but to fix the ways the Bush administration did so much wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are here as public servants and public service is a privilege. It‘s not about advantaging yourself. It‘s not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It‘s not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients or the oil firm that‘s about to hire you five minutes after you leave the “regulate the oil industry” office. I wonder what he‘s talking about.
You know, a lot of the Bush administration failures are so famous at this point that they only go by one name, they‘re like celebrities—
Katrina, Iraq, torture. These are specific things that were badly messed up, egregiously messed up.
But it was more than just what went wrong under Bush; it was the way that the federal government went wrong—the process of governing that allowed thing to go so wrong over these past eight years: an administration cloaked in secrecy, unapologetic cronyism, a revolving door between industries and the agencies that were supposed to watchdog those industries, a disdain for government itself.
As a result, not only does Obama have to reverse some of those bad things that Bush did, say closing Guantanamo, he also has to change the ways in which the whole act of governing has been done these past two terms. And that brings us to Obama‘s day one. During hour 25 of his presidency, Barack Obama signed two executive orders and three presidential memoranda detailing explicitly how things will change.
The first, admittedly, was largely symbolic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: During this period of economic emergency, families are tightening their belts and so should Washington. That‘s why I am instituting a pay freeze on the salaries of my senior White House staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Neat. No big pay raises for senior staff. Honestly, many of whom who have already made buckets of cash in the private sector. Neat.
OK. The rest of the pronouncements carried a very heavy “We are reversing how things were done under the last guy” subtext. Take lobbying, for example, you will recall, embarrassingly, that 17 of the 24 Americans who served in Bush‘s cabinet while he was president, took lobbying positions after leaving the White House – 17 of 24.
You know, many of the people who committed the worst offenses of the Bush administration like, say, rewriting scientific reports to please industry, they were industry folks who were effectively taking an ethics vacation while doing jobs inside the federal government.
Under President Obama?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As of today, lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than under any—under any other administration in history. If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years. When you leave government, you will not be able to lobby my administration for as long as I am president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Got that, lobbyists? Your days are numbed.
Although Obama does still have a little explaining to do about how say, a former Raytheon lobbyist got a job as the number two in the Pentagon. Does that former lobbyist get an exemption to this new conflict of interest rule? I wonder.
President Obama then turned to the issue of secrecy, the hallmark of the Bush years, the thing that often made Bush administration law-breaking possible because nobody knew it was happening. The best tool that we, the people, have to break through government secrecy is often the Freedom of Information Act. It was treated as an annoyance, an obstacle to be overcome by the Bush administration.
In 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memo to federal agencies saying this, quote, “When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions.” Back in February, President Bush even used a budget request to effectively kill his administration‘s FOIA compliance officer.
In contrast, here is how FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, will be handled under President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side, not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known. But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Music to the ears of bloggers and (INAUDIBLE) activists and reporters everywhere. His first orders of business show that President Obama gets that the subtlety of how things are done is sometimes as important or even more important than exactly what is done.
Joining us now is “New York Times” columnist, Frank Rich.
Mr. Rich, nice to see you. Thanks for coming back on the show.
MARK RICH, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did you think this was a good move, a move that you felt positive about? That he went right to the way that government is done rather than just what government has done in the past eight years?
RICH: I think it is good. I mean, think back to the beginning of the Bush administration even before 9/11. Remember—it began with that energy task force that was full of oil and gas cronies of the president and the vice president that set that brilliant energy policy that we still have today? We never—to this moment—we never found out who exactly was on it, what exactly they said or what was accomplished. So, this is definitely a turning a page and more than symbolic, although it, obviously, has all sorts of symbolic meaning as well.
MADDOW: On the secrecy issue, it‘s sometimes argued that secrecy is something that feels better in principle than it does in practice. That once people get into the upper reaches of the federal government, they see why there is an urge toward secrecy by people who tend to hold those offices. Do you feel like Obama is putting bulwarks against that perhaps inevitable drift towards secrecy by passing these rules and doing it on his first day?
RICH: Yes, I think he is trying to. You know, he may learn a lot more and may work against this kind of transparency once he‘s, you know, got his sea legs. But he made an important distinction in his statement, I believe, between sort of silly secrecy and meaningless secrecy and national security secrecy.
And, of course, as we know from the Bush administration, they turned everything into national security. You know, probably what lipstick Laura Bush wore was somehow, you know, had encoded secrets in it. So, I think this is positive and there‘s so much damage done, you know?
You mentioned about how the FISA, but also, early on in the Bush administration, he revoked the one major reform of Watergate, the Presidential Records Act that allowed things like Nixon not to happen again where everything was hidden in a drawer or under lock and key. So, he‘s got a lot of turning back to do on this Bush secrecy.
MADDOW: On the issue of lobbyists and the sort of revolving door that we‘ve seen between industries and the agencies, they are supposed to regulate those industries. But the way that getting elected to a federal office or getting appointed to high federal office has become sort of a meal ticket you can punch for the rest of your life with lobbying jobs. Is an executive action like this big enough to undo that moneyed culture of Washington? Is it going to take more vigilance than just this initial action?
RICH: This cannot undo it. I mean, lobbying is the second oldest profession, I guess, in Washington after the first—prostitution. So—and like the first, it‘s really built into the culture.
It does seem that he‘s applied some sensible rules and provisions, but as you, yourself said in your opening remarks, we have to trust but verify. There are some lobbyists that are, you know, right on the cusp of this.
But I do think after what we went through with Republicans for eight years and after the explosion of Tom DeLay and the K Street Project and Jack Abramoff, all this happening under the executive branch‘s nose with no one saying “boo” about it, is at least a step in the right direction. But we shouldn‘t be naive this is going to end the bipartisan lobbying culture in D.C.
MADDOW: President Obama also signing the order to close Guantanamo Bay. They have circulated the draft of the executive order. They have frozen the tribunal process already.
We sort of knew this was coming. How does it feel to you that it‘s actually happening? How do you—what do you think about the impact of this early, early move on Guantanamo?
RICH: Well, I think it‘s terrific. And I understand the year deadline, which is a deadline after all (ph), an outer limit because there is such a big mess there, such a betrayal of American law and jurisprudence by the way we‘ve conducted everything in Guantanamo.
I think it sends a great signal about the rule of law in America and not just to Americans but to the world. This is along with Abu Ghraib, probably the biggest single badge of horror that‘s attached to our country and that he is ripping it off and trying to do it in a careful way that doesn‘t undermine national security but preserves the rule of law, I think, is great. And he did it right now, the very first week, attaches a lot of significance and weight to it.
MADDOW: “New York Times” columnist, Frank Rich, thanks for your time tonight Mr. Rich. Nice to see you.
RICH: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: It would take something pretty big to knock Obama‘s first day in office off the front burner but that‘s kind of what we got. Sighting concerns about her Uncle Ted Kennedy‘s health, Caroline Kennedy has reportedly told New York‘s governor that she no longer wants to be considered for Hillary Clinton‘s Senate seat. But wait—maybe she hasn‘t done any such thing. There‘s been conflicting news about this over the course of the evening. We will have more on this bombshell and the latest reporting on what‘s happening with Caroline Kennedy and that New York Senate seat in just a moment.
And, President Obama sat down with his military brain trust late today. Later, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill from Senate Armed Services Committee will join us to talk about the jaw-dropping foreign policy challenges that Obama faces in Iraq, in Afghanistan and Israel and lots of other places. Good thing he took the oath of office twice. He‘s going to need the extra presidential legitimacy.
But first, we got one more thing about the president‘s first day. Not only did he inherit too many problems that are sort of too huge to think about for too long, but Mr. Obama was going to be forced to give up his beloved BlackBerry PDA as well because of fears that somebody might hack into his e-mail messages. Well, good news for our technologically-minded president, a government agency, probably the NSA—let‘s face it—has added a super presidential encryption package to a standard BlackBerry so the president will be able to keep using the device.
Two thoughts here: One—we now have a president who wants more information from the outside world. Wow. And two—we just inaugurated a kind of James Bondy super-encrypto president. No wonder I covet his car.
MADDOW: Amidst the celebration and excitement for the new Obama administration, spare a thought for the Republican Party. The Democrats won the White House. The Democrats in the House of Representatives have the biggest majority either party had there in 15 years. The Democrats in the Senate will probably end up having the biggest majority anyone‘s had there since I was in preschool. The Republican Party, in other words, is in exile.
MADDOW: As Republicans search for their proverbial reason to live, we promise to keep you up-to-date on how their search is going. Today‘s update comes courtesy of Jon Kyl, widely known as “the other senator from Arizona.” In an interview yesterday about the inauguration on Arizona radio station KTAR, the senator said of Obama‘s inaugural address, quote, “His speech was not high-brow, it was more low-brow.”
You know, that famous low-brow Barack Obama and his grunting primitive attempts at speech. Keep trying, Senator Kyl. I‘m not sure that the “Obama is a bad public speaker” charge is going to catapult you back into power, but you will find something. I‘m quite sure of it.
MADDOW: Welcome back.
We‘ve got more breaking news tonight. “Meet the Press” moderator, David Gregory, is reporting in the last 20 minutes that Caroline Kennedy has not withdrawn her name for consideration to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the junior senator from the great state of New York.
And why is this breaking news exactly? Well, early this evening, three New York newspapers including the “New York Times” reported that Ms. Kennedy, the leading candidate to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate had withdrawn her name. And no one from the Kennedy camp jumped forward to correct those stories.
The “New York Times” reporting that she informed New York Governor David Paterson in a phone call today. “The Times” story also says, quote, “Her concerns about Senator Edward M. Kennedy‘s deteriorating health prompted her decision to withdraw, coping with the health issues of her uncle with whom she enjoys an extraordinarily close bond, was her most important priority; a situation not conducive to starting a high-profile public job.”
All of this reporting comes amid furious speculation in the media in the past days that Governor Paterson intended to appoint her to the seat and it comes after weeks of frank resistance to her appointment by supporters of other New York politicians who also wanted the job and also those who questioned her credentials. But clearly, right now, there is very little that is clear about this story.
Joining us now by phone to help us sort it out is the moderator of NBC‘s “Meet the Press” and the man with the very latest reporting on the Caroline Kennedy story, our colleague, David Gregory.
David, thank you so much for your reporting on this, thanks for your time tonight.
DAVID GREGORY, “MEET THE PRESS” MODERATOR (through phone): Sure, Rachel.
Let me bring you up-to-date on what I know. I have spoken to a source in the Kennedy family who says, in fact, that Caroline Kennedy has not—not withdrawn from consideration to become the next senator of New York. But what‘s happening outside of that is not entirely clear, how we got to this point.
You referenced some reporting about her concern for her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy. I‘m told the same thing. That she was rather spooked by what happened yesterday, the seizure that Senator Kennedy had. He‘s back home out of the hospital and doing much better.
But nevertheless, that was a concern. And there was—she has some concerns even over the weekend about how the process was going and whether she wanted to assume this role. Nevertheless, it was certainly the expectation that she would be appointed by Governor Paterson and that would happen sometime as early as tomorrow or maybe at the latest on Saturday. And even that Senator Ted Kennedy was remaining in Washington for the purpose of welcoming her to the Senate.
So, what led to all of this other reporting, which is not being confirmed or denied by the governor‘s office in New York, is possible but this is not entirely clear yet that there may have been some kind of miscommunication between Kennedy and the governor‘s office. I can‘t go anymore deeply into that because the facts are just not entirely solid. But there could have been some miscommunication with regard to timing that could have been confused for whether she was really withdrawing from consideration.
So, to sum it all up, a Kennedy source indicating that she is not withdrawing. And so, we‘re kind of back to square one.
MADDOW: David, does your reporting indicates whether or not Governor Paterson has settled on his choice? Of course, one of the things that everybody thought when the initial reports came out that she might be withdrawing her name was a question of whether or not she had found that it was not going to be here and this was a way to sort of save face rather than look like a second place finisher.
GREGORY: Right. And I saw that report as well. And I just don‘t know the answer to that …
GREGORY: … other than my reporting indicates that she did had some concerns about the process and that how it was going, perhaps that she may not be selected over the weekend, and there were definitely concerns about her uncle as of yesterday. But the best that I have to go on is the indications I have from the family, saying that she has not withdrawn.
So, I think, the other big piece of this is reporting out of the governor‘s office. And the last I have heard and seen—the governor‘s office is not confirming the story. So, I think we‘re just in a fairly murky situation at the moment and I would assume it will get sorted out here before too very long.
MADDOW: I think so, too. David Gregory, thank you for your reporting on this. Thanks for your time tonight.
GREGORY: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: One day after the historic, admittedly, inspiring inauguration of a new Democratic president—how are the Republicans serving the republic today? By getting into the confirmation delaying business. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did finally make it today. But Treasury Secretary-nominee Tim Geithner and Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder—well—a couple of Republicans are making them wait.
That will win back the hearts and minds, you GOP masterminds. We will have more on that in a moment with Senator Sherrod Brown who is here tonight.
Today, President Obama, which is still sort of fun to say, met with senior military and foreign policy officials to talk about two wars he‘s inheriting. We‘ll be discussing in just a moment with Senator Claire McCaskill.
MADDOW: Today, President Obama, which is still sort of fun to say, met with senior military and foreign policy officials to talk about the two wars that he is inheriting and one that ended on the day of his inauguration. It‘s kind of meeting that might make most people say, wait, did I say that I wanted this job? Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and of the Senate Armed Services Committee will join us in just a few minutes to talk it through.
First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. Yesterday‘s inauguration went off pretty darn well as big events go; the biggest crowd ever for an inauguration. For a time yesterday, the National Mall and the immediate area around it in Washington was the fifth largest city in the United States population-wise.
That said, the situation was not entirely glitch-free. The swearing in was, of course, marred by a flubbed delivery by the Supreme Court‘s chief justice, John Roberts. Because the actual, exact 35-word presidential oath of office is spelled out in the Constitution, Article II Section I says exactly what the new president is supposed to say to be sworn in, it is possible that messing it up like John Roberts did yesterday, kind of, sort of has constitutional consequences.
And so, tonight, in the Map Room at the White House, already probably President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts tried it again, and this time, they got every syllable of the oath correct. They did it very slowly.
And then, the president joked that he had to attend 12 more inaugural balls. Seriously. So, that was inauguration glitch number one. Fixed. Whew.
Glitch number two: Even though something like 1.8 million people did make it to the inauguration ceremony, thousands of people were left quite literally out in the cold. Two hundred and forty thousand people had tickets to see the inauguration from the Capitol lawn area. They were each assigned to a color-coded section. Folks were told to go through security at a specific gate around the Capitol.
Well, for some people with purple, blue or silver tickets, having a ticket and following instructions and starting out really early morning wasn‘t enough. For hours and hours and hours and hours and hours, they stood in line. By the time they got within sight of their security gate, they found it was closed. Their areas had already filled up while they were waiting in line.
So now, in a 21st century style protest, the ticket holders have launched their own Facebook page. It‘s described as a group dedicated to all those with purple blue or other tickets to the inauguration who braved the early-morning cold and the crowds, only to end up lined up for a mile through a highway tunnel that purple ticket holders have deemed the purple tunnel of doom.
So if folks had tickets, why weren‘t they accounted for? The senate sergeant-at-arms, Terrence Gaynor, told the “Washington Post,” quote, “It does appear that maybe there were more tickets in purple and blue than bulky people in coats would permit.”
Sure, blame the layering. Police opened some areas that were not supposed to be for crowds but that still did not accommodate all the ticket holders. A friend who had one of those purple invitations sent me this cell phone picture to show me the exact spot that he and thousands of other people were standing in when Obama took the stage to take the oath.
Not all that memorable. Considering the hundreds of thousands, or frankly, millions of people who did get in, this counts as a glitch, not a full-scale breakdown. But for the thousands of people who were locked out and half-frozen through no fault of their own, that glitch was their inauguration experience. Drag.
And speaking of glitches, on Monday, we talked about a project spearheaded by a Virginia businessman named Earl Stafford to bring more than 400 disadvantaged Americans to D.C. to experience the inauguration and a lavish party he called the People‘s Inaugural Ball. Mr. Stafford provided hotel rooms and transportation to D.C. and lots of people were moved to donate ball gowns and tuxes and services of various kinds to make the People‘s Inaugural a success.
While discussing that on this show on Monday, the image we showed on screen was of the Web site of this inaugural celebration - a totally different People‘s Inaugural Ball - whoo-hoo - which took place on Sunday, which is all about raising funds and raising awareness for D.C. statehood and D.C. voting rights among other causes.
We apologize for confusing the two totally different People‘s Inaugurals and their Web sites. I hear that people had a great time at both events and I, of course, am a ginormous doofus.
MADDOW: Pick a crisis, any crisis. Your choices include the two hot wars we are still in or the perpetual Israeli-Palestinian crisis or whatever it is that we‘ve got going on in Pakistan that we don‘t call a war.
President Obama got to all of that presumably today at a meeting with his military brain trust. The president‘s first 33 hours have given some indication of how much he will correct the Bush administration‘s foreign policy course for the last eight years.
On the change-y side of things, there was Barack Obama‘s inaugural address in which he not only made a measured offer of respect and conciliation toward the Muslim world, he also became the first president to ever say the word “Muslim” in an inaugural address.
There was also some ostensible change in President Obama‘s Day One call list as well. Rather than phoning leaders of reliably friendly, peaceful places like Canada or England, the president instead rang leaders of Egypt, and Jordan, and Israel, and the Palestinian authority to talk about next steps for peace in their regions.
Also, aides said later in the day, Obama will name George Mitchell the special envoy for the Middle East as of tomorrow. So action. Change, sort of. Neat.
That said, at 4:15 Eastern today, the president made good on a Day One in office promise from July. He met with military leaders to discuss his 16-month timetable to get troops out of Iraq.
Among the brain trust, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, U.S. Ambassador in Iraq Ryan Crocker and Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno.
If you are thinking that that is remarkably similar to President Bush‘s military brain trust, you are correct. The same brain trust whose most recent timetable withdrawal from Iraq was longer than President Obama‘s 16-month target.
Also, not particularly change-like, then President Bush made a deal in his final day in office with Israel about the terms of Israel‘s relationship with Gaza. I‘m sorry - it wasn‘t his last day in office. It was within his last few days in office - my mistake.
The U.S. under President Obama is bound by that last-minute agreement between the U.S. and Israel. And a statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today says that President Obama supports the agreement fully.
Also today regarding Afghanistan or Taliban-istan, depending on what part you are talking about, the main supply route for our troops goes through Pakistan‘s Khyber Pass. It is in constant peril. It had to be closed a few weeks ago.
It has been announced that the United States expects to have the use of new supply routes for our troops in Afghanistan. They are sort of Russian via Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, also known in my head as Soviet-demise-istan.
Not only are these the same routes that the Soviet Union used to supply its troops during its tenure occupation of Afghanistan, not only do Afghans remember and loathe the 10-year Soviet occupation, but the 10-year occupation of Afghanistan, arguably sort of sank the Soviet Union. And we are going to do it like they did it?
Also 30,000 more troops? Where is the Obama military policy going to go exactly, and what are the big debates going to be about?
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator McCaskill, so nice to see you in person.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Thank you.
MADDOW: So the U.S. is going to start transporting supplies to our troops in Afghanistan through the same places that Russia used to supply its troops with the help of Russia.
Even if this were fiction, this would be foreshadowing of something bad about to happen in the third act of the book. Are you concerned in us following in the same tracts that the Soviet Union did in their long-term occupation of that country?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think what this really represents, Rachel, is a pragmatic problem that we‘ve got to solve, and that‘s, how do we get supplies to support the NATO forces that are there? They have to have supplies. We‘ve got to support them and protect them …
MCCASKILL: … as they do their work for NATO. And if we can‘t get threw the Khyber Pass because the Pakistanis are now refusing driving the trucks because of how dangerous it is, the failure - that is really - to me, the thing we have to really watch is the Pakistani government and how much are they really doing to help us in this fight, in that Khyber area to make sure we can get those supply routes through.
So getting concessions from Russia to be able to move our supply routes through their territories probably is a help to us because it gives us another option that could be safe if we got in trouble in terms of getting our supplies in there to the NATO folks.
MADDOW: The success of our efforts in Afghanistan - we should about what success looks like in Afghanistan. But what we are trying to do there depends so much on what happens in Pakistan. How concerned are you that the Pakistani government may not be capable, even if they wanted to, that all the will in the world, they may not be stable enough or have enough power to do what we need to do to allow us to do what we want to do in Afghanistan?
MCCASKILL: Well, I‘m very concerned about it. And I know that our president is very concerned about it. One of the things that have gotten us in trouble in terms of our foreign policy all across the world has been the tunnel of vision we‘ve had in Iraq.
That‘s why I‘m so glad that he has - he kept a lot of promises today. He‘s got a lot to keep, but he kept a lot today on ethics, on transparency and on meeting with the military leaders, listening to them, but most importantly, saying, “The policy I‘m setting is we must get out of Iraq as quickly and as reasonable as we can, hopefully one brigade a month over the next 16 months.”
MADDOW: In Afghanistan, adding these combat brigades that we are adding now is decision that makes tactical sense to me in terms of who we‘ve got there now, what their mission is and what sort of resistance they are facing, what their tasks are.
That is tactical. What I am hoping to hear from President Obama is a clear statement of what our goals are in Afghanistan, what success would look like. Do you feel like you already know what the answer is to that question, or are you waiting for direction from President Obama?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think it is one of those problems because what we are really worried about in Afghanistan are - it‘s the Taliban, it‘s the terrorists that are really beginning to ramp up, muscle up in that region.
We - really, that is where. In fact, all of these military leaders you just referenced, even when President Bush was here, they admitted that it wasn‘t Iraq that was a danger to the United States. It was what is going on in Afghanistan.
So I think he has to, to keep our world safe from this terrorist threat. I think we have to support NATO. Now, one thing that I think this president will do that George Bush was not successful in doing, that is strengthening our alliances with all the NATO countries so that they do more of the heavy lifting.
We have done so much heavy lifting - our country has in this region without the kind of help that, frankly, we must have if we are going to be successful.
MADDOW: Do we bring more people on board, more other countries, more allies on board if we define our goals narrowly as counterterrorism instead of even what progressives define it now often which is counterinsurgency.
Counterinsurgency, if you read the doctrines sort of literally by the people who are writing the counterinsurgency field manual and stuff, they say we need 600,000 people in Afghanistan to build that government, to provide total security, to do complete counterinsurgency. I mean, counterterrorism is sort of a police mission on steroids. It‘s a very different idea, a much more narrow goal.
MCCASKILL: I‘ll tell you, that is what begins to strike fear in my heart. If we start doing reconstruction now like we did in Iraq - this is when I put my fiscal hat on. As you know, I spent a lot of time looking at war-contracting and what went wrong in Iraq, literally hundreds of billions of dollars up in smoke, fraud, waste and abuse.
And a lot of it was through this idea that we can go into a country in chaos and somehow rebuild everything and nobody was going to blow it up. That is what we‘ve got to be careful about. I think the more we focus on the terrorism, I think, the more buy-in we get from nations around the world, and the more success we may have.
I‘m not sure - we haven‘t heard what President Obama is going to say about that. And I‘m anxious to be supportive of his vision as it relates to foreign policy. But in my eyes, we‘ve got to be very careful about rebuilding another country unless it is stable enough to actually accept that rebuilding and not have it just be wasted.
MADDOW: It is a complicated situation and we need a big, smart, loud debate about it. Whenever you or any of the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee want to talk about it, I hope you will consider coming back on the show.
MCCASKILL: Absolutely. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Senator McCaskill. Nice to see you.
MCCASKILL: Thanks. Nice to see you.
MADDOW: Armed Services Committee member, Senator Claire McCaskill represents the great state of Missouri, of course.
Republicans are scrambling to make every possible defensive move to try to block President Obama‘s picks for treasury secretary and attorney general. They delayed on Hillary Clinton as well, but she was confirmed today with two dissenting votes.
Did the Republicans miss all the bad news about the economy and the Justice Department and the world at large? Or are they just sort of swinging wildly for some reason to be swinging wildly? Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio will join us to discuss that, next.
Plus, our own Kent Jones goes to an inauguration watch party outside of my office. I will hear his very cold report a little later.
MADDOW: In his inaugural address yesterday, President Obama proclaimed an end to the, quote, “petty grievances that have for too long strangled our politics.” And today, what is he dealing with? It seems like a lot of petty grievances.
For example, President Obama still has no Treasury Secretary. Despite the fact that after a week‘s delay, Tim Geithner finally faced a confirmation hearing. He is expected to be confirmed eventually, even by the Republican senators who spent today voicing concerns about mistakes that he made on his income taxes.
Republican objections are also responsible for the delay in getting President Obama‘s Secretary of State confirmed. Hillary Clinton‘s vote did not happen until just a few hours ago. She was confirmed, but the vote did not happen until just now because a certain senator from Texas who is not named Kay Bailey Hutchison apparently still had some questions about Bill Clinton‘s foundation and the donations it gets from foreign entities.
And even though this Texas senator said Hillary Clinton was qualified and that he intended to vote for her confirmation, he felt it was necessary to just slow down the process, hold it up for a beat.
Now, principled opposition to any nominee is not a bad thing. That is democracy. If you don‘t think somebody is the right person for the job, you don‘t think they are qualified, you don‘t vote for them.
But when the person in opposition isn‘t actually opposed to the nominee, actually goes on to vote for the nominee and instead just enjoys the delaying process, the delaying tactics for the purposes of getting themselves attention, that person doesn‘t get his name mentioned on the television because that would seem to be rewarding his search for publicity.
Finally, that same nameless GOP senator is also responsible for the holdup of another important member of President Obama‘s team, Attorney General designate, Eric Holder. The Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on Mr. Holder‘s nomination today, but now, Republicans have gotten that pushed back to until next week citing his recent answers on torture as a rationale.
Those are three vitally important cabinet nominees delayed by senators who appear to plan on ending up voting to confirm these nominees anyway, at least for the most part.
Well, the power of one individual senator to take a stand, be it in a filibuster or a confirmation hearing, is one of the great things about our system of government in my opinion. Individual senators who hold up important confirmation hearings for no other apparent reason than to hold up confirmation hearings just for the sake of a delay, that seems sort of petty, which means that once again, I need somebody to talk me down.
Joining us now with that is Senator Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat.
He serves in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Senator Brown, it is very nice to see you. Thanks for coming in.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH), SENATE BANKING, HOUSING AND URBAN AFFAIRS
COMMITTEE: It is nice to see you in person. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So we expected that Tim Geithner would be confirmed by now. This has already been delayed and sort of delayed again. Is he ultimately going to get confirmed? And what do you make of the holdup?
BROWN: He‘s going to get confirmed. The yet unnamed senator, not Kay Bailey Hutchinson, also happens to be the head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. I think that‘s worth-noting. And he is - he didn‘t even vote against Hillary. I don‘t know - he spoke about it and put a hold on her.
The delays have been short so far, but we have huge amount of work to do to create jobs. I mean, that‘s the whole point of the stimulus package and what we‘re doing. I give him the benefit of the doubt, though. We start that way.
I was at the inaugural prayer service at the National Cathedral. The president, the vice president and others were there. And I sat a couple seats away from Senator McCain. And he stepped up and I stepped up and done the right thing, spoke for Hillary, said, “Let‘s vote. Let‘s get this through.” So is Lindsey Graham.
Other major Republicans have stepped up in the right way. I think we give them the benefit of the doubt. I think they understand the confirmation of all these important people - the Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary and Secretary of State, and so many other important cabinet officials, all of that is so important and moving on the stimulus packages.
So I think that they got the message, most Republicans, a couple of them. But they got the message that in this election that the voters want something different. Barack Obama surely has gotten the message. He had the message all out last year. That‘s one reason he won.
His behavior has been exemplary, both in the transition period and his first couple days in office. I think most Republicans will follow suit and we‘re going to see a much better government in the days ahead.
MADDOW: It does seem like there is disagreement or maybe even disorganization among Republicans in terms of what their tactics are going to be. They don‘t seem to have a unified front on issues like this. At least, one hasn‘t emerged yet.
But the rules of the Senate are such that even one senator can really hamstring the actions of the body for quite some time. Because the Republicans have not really figured out their leadership and their tactical approach, do you think there is a risk that we‘ll see a few senators sort of go rogue and decide to block things as much as they can because obstruction seems like the principled way to make a difference?
BROWN: Perhaps principle, maybe not the principled way for them. I think that doesn‘t work. When you‘ve got one or two standing in the way, as did two people today voting against Senator Clinton, one person stood in the way, but only for a day before that. The delay, after a while - the delay -they start paying a political price.
And we have 59 Democrats. We don‘t get them all on every issue, of course, nor should we, probably. But there will be a number of Republicans that go with this if they‘re embarrassed by their party that simply engaged in obstructionism. And it‘s just simply too early to tell.
But I do take Senator McCain and other leading Republicans - Lindsey Graham and my other Senator George Voinovich, the face value that they‘re going to work together. I think they know they need to.
This country is in worse trouble than any time of the political career of any of us in the Senate or the House or anywhere else. I absolutely believe they are patriots. I absolutely believe they want the right thing for their country, the great majority for them, and we will move forward.
MADDOW: You‘re sort of talking me down.
BROWN: Sort of. It‘s never an easy thing.
MADDOW: We‘re about to be out of time. Just one last quick question on the bailout. Do you think the rest of the bailout money, the TARP money, is going to be administered in a substantially different way than the first half of the bailout?
BROWN: Yes, totally different. First, money goes for housing, money goes for autos, because that‘s the most important single industry, not just in my state, but in the country, and it‘s important for national defense.
And the money that goes for financial institutions won‘t be used for banks to buy other banks, won‘t be used for dividends and executive compensation and all that.
Barack Obama looks at this very differently from Secretary of Treasury Paulson did and George Bush did. And basically, Barack Obama and the new Treasury Secretary are going to treat this, I believe, the same way that we treated the auto industry.
We want accountability. We‘ll do this, but it has to be done right. It is important for financial markets. It‘s important for getting credit flowing. It‘s important particularly for small business to create jobs around this country.
MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, it‘s so nice to see you.
Thanks for coming in.
Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” in an exclusive interview, Keith talks to a whistle-blower who reveals just the Bush administration has been wiretapping, including at least one of American citizens who are most definitely not terrorists.
And next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones who has a report from an inauguration watch party at Rockefeller Center.
MADDOW: Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones.
Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hello, Rachel. While you were having a fabulous time in Washington with two million of your friends, it seemed like everyone else was gathered for an inauguration watch parties - in Obama‘s hometown of Chicago, in a movie theater in Indianapolis, in Fountain Square in Cincinnati, at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and at Rockefeller Center right here in New York City where I talked to some very cold but some very happy New Yorkers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: What did you think of the speech today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was good. He‘s not perfect but none of us are perfect. So I‘m happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s sort of miraculous and I couldn‘t help but tearing up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter is of mixed ethnicity, so it‘s an especially proud day for us. There‘s a bright future for her that we can look forward to now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son was just born and now, I could actually have hope that my son could be the next president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we noticed people are more polite with one another. People are more cordial and mannerly to one another. Everybody feels like they are on the same team today - everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a big change to the country. We‘re finally, to me, one country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m flooded with patriotism in a way I‘ve never felt before in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, Kent.
JONES: Apparently, Obama killed Snark. It‘s gone. It‘s dead now.
MADDOW: Even in New York City.
JONES: Even here. Yes.
MADDOW: Kent, that was awesome. Thank you.
And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you back in New York City tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a great night.
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