The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/03/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next curse-free hour.
Howard Dean will indeed join us this hour; as will Andrea Mitchell, live from Jerusalem, where she is traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
You know, “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” never worked really well as a policy and it may finally be eliminated. We‘ve got the inside scoop tonight on the really stupid reasons that policy was created in the first place.
And stick around for an absolutely incredible re-creation of Flight 1549‘s safe landing on the Hudson River in New York City. Honestly, it will be the best thing you see all day, unless you had a really great day.
But, first, the second big political battle of Barack Obama‘s presidential administration is on. The first big battle was the stimulus bill. It went like this: The president wooed House Republicans, every single last one of whom voted no. In the Senate, three Republicans voted with the president, while every other Republican senator said, no.
Although there were some excellent theatrics, remember when Republican John Boehner literally threw the entire bill on the floor? Oh, that was exciting. The president ended up getting almost exactly what he wanted after all of that.
Now, that was the first fight. Now we‘re onto the second fight. It is the battle for the most comprehensive, far-reaching, across the board expression of this president‘s values and goals as we‘re going to get.
The first fight was the stimulus; the second fight, it‘s the budget. Do you want a spoiler alert? The third and fourth battles will be over-regulating Wall Street and healthcare reform.
But before we get to those, before we get to “Regulating the financial markets, that‘s communism!” Before we get to “Expanding health insurance to cover more people, who are you? Che Guevara?” Before we get to those really fun arguments in our politics, we now get to go through the fight over the president‘s budget. And this is the part where we get all of the dire warnings about how Barack Obama‘s budget will destroy the country.
Here‘s what‘s different, though, about fight number two, this fight over the budget, as compared to the fight over the stimulus. And the other issues like regulating Wall Street and healthcare reform and even the right to join a union—those fights that are coming up later this year. In this budget fight, in the fight we‘ve got now, it is not really Barack Obama against the Republicans because of this—on the budget fight, there is a good chance that Republican votes will be totally irrelevant.
You remember how under the stimulus there was all of that huge effort and compromise to get three Republican senators to sign onto that bill? That‘s because Republicans filibustered the stimulus. So it took 60 votes, not just the majority, but 60 votes to pass that bill. There are less than 60 Democrats in the Senate, so the Democrats needed that handful of Republican votes in order to pass it.
Now, in contrast, on the budget, that‘s not going to happen. The Democrats have the choice to bring the budget up in a way that cannot be filibustered. Democrats can pass the budget with just a majority, just 50 votes in the Senate—which means that the effort to pass the budget means Republicans like fish needs a bicycle, they‘re sort of just irrelevant here. Every single Republican could vote against the budget and it could still pass.
So all of this bloody blah and this whole maundering (ph) about who is leading the Republican, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Chuck Norris, that religious Baldwin brothers—yes, all of that fighting that‘s going on in the Republican Party, in the budget fight, it does not matter. The relevant battle in the current political fight, the fight over the budget, is not between Obama and the Republicans; it is between President Obama and his other opponents—President Obama in this case, and parts of corporate America.
People complaining that taxes will go up under Obama, under this budget, they aren‘t talking about the 95 percent of Americans who will get a tax cut in this bill. They are talking about the 5 percent, right, the people at the very top of the income scale, who will see their taxes go back to what they were under Bill Clinton. You remember, back in the ‘90s, when we were communists.
The other push back on the budget is that President Obama is using it to push a new set of policy values. In other words, change, no! Change, no!
Take environmental regulation and energy, for example. The president‘s budget institutes a cap-and-trade program, a system whereby companies have to pay for a permit in order to pollute. And then they can create a market and trade those permits. So, if you want to put carbon dioxide and smuts into the air, you have to pay for the privilege. That‘s the idea.
You know who else touted this plan? John McCain. So, this battle conceivably would have happened regardless of the party in the White House right now.
The whole cap-and-trade idea is to wean the country off of polluting technology and to move us towards renewable energy—an energy policy that leaves the oceans right where they are now, thank you very much, and that we don‘t have to pay for with a blood-soaked, dependent, hamstrung, self-defeating foreign policy.
Among the many vocal opponents of the energy plan in the budget as
written is Jim Rogers, CEO of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy -
a self-professed lifelong Democrat. He donated money to the Obama campaign. He says he supports the rest of the Obama budget. He met with candidate Obama recently. He sat on the panel of a town hall meeting about energy and the economy at the Democratic convention.
Mr. Rogers says that the fact that the president‘s plan involved auctioning off all of the pollution permits, in other words, the fact that the energy companies have to pay for those permits up front, amounts to a tax on pollution. A tax that companies like his will have to pass onto their—to their customers.
Now, is that a threat? Is that a promise? Is that a political opening bid in a big, productive argument? Let‘s see.
Joining us now is Duke Energy‘s president, Duke Energy‘s CEO and Duke Energy‘s chairman of the board, Jim Rogers.
Jim Rogers, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.
JIM ROGERS, DUKE ENERGY CEO: Rachel, I‘m delighted to be here. And thank you for inviting me.
MADDOW: First of all, I want to ask if I accurately represented your criticism of the president‘s budget. You‘re OK with the idea of capping and trading pollution permits but you don‘t want to have to pay for them?
ROGERS: No, I think—you didn‘t state it exactly the way I perceive it. And let me share with you my view.
I—as the third largest submitter of CO2 in this country, primarily because 70 percent of electricity we supply to over 11 million people comes from coal, we support cap-and-trade. We support putting a cap on emissions and declining over time. We support a price on carbon.
But what we‘re focused on, from the consumer perspective, is to smooth the transition to where we are today to the low-carbon world. If we build a bridge to the low-carbon world, we can‘t do it in a way that punishes those who relied on coal in carrying out the national policy of our country in the ‘70s to build coal plants.
MADDOW: So—but the basic idea here is that your industry, and Duke Energy specifically, that you—you profit from something that makes pollution, and you get to keep the profit but we have to live with the pollution. And I know it would be a difficult bridge to cross. I know it would make the industry and your company in particular less profitable to have to pay for that pollution. But it sorts of seems fair to me in the biggest sense.
ROGERS: Rachel, I started my career as a consumer advocate fighting rate increases of utility companies in the ‘70s. And I‘m going to speak to you as a consumer advocate for our consumers. It won‘t hurt our bottom line because the cost of 100 percent auction, which is proposed by President Obama in his budget, that cost will flow to our consumers. For instance, in Indiana, rates will go up 40 percent in 2012 as a consequence of 100 percent auction.
All I‘m suggesting is that we need to have a transition and rather have that kind of rate shock, which could possibly lead to a backlash that would undermine our ability to address what I believe is one of the greatest ecological crisis we‘ve ever faced, climate change, we need a transition that makes sense for consumers. The other important aspect of this, I would like to focus on, is that under this 100 percent auction approach, at the end of the day, consumers in the Midwest and south will basically subsidize tax refunds in the coast.
Further and probably most difficult for me to accept is the notion that the money that comes from this carbon tax is not going to be used to solve the climate problem, it‘s going to be used for other purposes. And I think, personally, that‘s just wrong, it doesn‘t allow us to address this important issue.
MADDOW: Well, on the—I want to get back to the issue of how we‘re going to fund alternative energies. But is Duke Energy profitable?
ROGERS: Yes, we are profitable.
MADDOW: Then why is it that you wouldn‘t take the hit in terms of your profit, even become an unprofitable company for a couple of years in order to make good on the fact you‘ve been getting all of this pollution for free and we‘ve been paying for it with our health, and we have been paying for it in terms of our economic—our environmental degradation while you‘ve been making profit off of it? Shouldn‘t—isn‘t this just a way to sort of redress what‘s been an economic wrong that has come out really well for you guys and really bad for us?
ROGERS: No, that‘s not quite right. We‘re a regulated utility that provides service to our customers in five states. And we tried—and our prices are regulated by state governments. At the end of the day, what we charge our customers is determined by regulators in each of these states. For instance, with respect to sulfur dioxide, over the last 15 years, we‘ve invested $5 billion to reduce the emissions of SO2 roughly 70 percent. And we‘ve done it under a cap-and-trade system that grew out of the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990.
And what we‘re suggesting is that, with respect to carbon, let‘s use a very similar approach with respect to carbon so we can smooth out the impact on consumers over time and the end of the day, embrace renewables, embrace energy efficiency, which I think is the key. And, thirdly, we need to build carbon capture sequestration with respect to our coal plants. That technology is evolving. At the end of the day, we‘re going to need nuclear to help us solve this problem.
MADDOW: Well, nuclear, we‘ll have to have you back on to talk about, because we‘re almost about out of time.
MADDOW: I mean, I think ultimately, we were talking about getting to the same place. You are—you‘re talking about the risk to the consumers. I see it as something that ought to be a risk to the companies. It‘s more of a matter of how we get to where we‘re going rather than—rather than whether we ought to go to a different place.
But I do have to ask you just about one last question, Mr. Rogers, about serving your customers. You know, the snowstorm this week, I was looking at your Web site, knocked out power to 185,000 Duke Energy customers. And according to your Web site today, about a half dozen counties shouldn‘t expect power back until 11:00 o‘clock tomorrow night.
I know your business for your customers is to keep the lights on. Why can‘t you? Why would a storm—not a very remarkable storm—put people out in the dark for so long?
ROGERS: Job one for us is affordable, reliable, clean electricity 24/7. One of the challenges that we have is when we have storms. Our people are highly motivated and are working around the clock to restore service. But this is part of our business of putting service back because electricity is a key to our modern way of life. And so, we are doing our very best to restore service.
MADDOW: Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy—it‘s kind of you to come on the show tonight and debate me .
ROGERS: Thank you.
MADDOW: . especially knowing that we disagree. I really appreciate it, sir. Thank you.
ROGERS: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up: Howard Dean joins us with hopefully some advice for Democrats on passing a budget. Some advice for Republicans on the political trap they have fallen into. I hope the president fails things and maybe some news on what he is doing since he‘s not running the Democratic Party anymore.
And in a moment, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell joins us live from Jerusalem where she‘s traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But, first, just One More Thing—the stimulus plan now has its own logo. Check it out. Today, President Obama announced that it would be easier for Americans to spot projects funded by the stimulus package because those projects will have a big sign on them featuring the new stimulus logo. So, a couple of jobs definitely created by the stimulus: graphic artist and sign-makers. We‘re on our way.
MADDOW: It‘s March 3rd, 2009. And you know what that means? It means it‘s Square Root Day in the minds of math dorks everywhere. Today is 3/3/09. The day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits of the current year. This only happens nine times each century. The last Square Root Day, of course, happened 2/2/04, February 2nd, 2004.
The next one happens April 4th, 2016, 4/4/16. So, Happy Square Root Day.
If you‘re not looking forward to waiting seven years for the next one, for the next math holiday, might I suggest planning a party for Pi Day? Coming up in just 11 days, March 14th; 3/14, get it, 3.14? Has there ever been a nerdier thing said on cable television ever?
MADDOW: The three-day terrorist siege of Mumbai in India about three months ago killed almost 200 people. The terrorists who perpetrated that attack are believed to be associated with an organization based in Pakistan.
Today, some very scary news from Pakistan, from the city of Lahore, which is normally known for its arts and culture, but where today, what appears to be a Mumbai copycat attack took place in broad daylight. About a dozen heavily-armed young gunmen attacked a convoy that was carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team.
The “Associated Press” says the attack killed eight people, six of whom were Pakistani police that were escorting that team. Six members of the Sri Lankan team and a British coach were wounded in the attack. The Sri Lankan team was in Pakistan because after the Mumbai attack in November, the Indian cricket team dropped out.
The attack in Pakistan comes as the Obama administration is making unprecedented attempts to reach out to the Muslim world. President Obama‘s aides say that he will give a major foreign policy speech in an Islamic country within his first 100 days. You‘ll recall also that the president gave his first formal TV interview after taking office to an Arabic language channel, Al Arabiya. He also sent his popular Secretary of State to Southeast Asia, including the world‘s most populace Muslim country, Indonesia. That was on her first overseas visit.
And today, after attending a conference in Egypt, where she reaffirmed the U.S. position in a favor of a two-state solution for the Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State Clinton is in Israel. Now, awkwardly, Israel doesn‘t really have a government right now. Its new prime minister will be its old prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu is still forming a government. He has—shall we say—a delicate relationship with the Clintons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Handshake, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In other words, they had to be told to shake hands. Oops!
Secretary Clinton‘s message on this trip is that the U.S. is reversing George W. Bush‘s policy of plugging its ears and going, la, la, la, la, la. And instead is sending diplomats to talk with the nation of Syria.
Now, NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, is traveling with Secretary Clinton. She spoke with the secretary about the change in policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You‘re sending a diplomat to Syria, the first time in four years. Why now?
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it‘s important that our two diplomats, one from the State Department, one from the White House, stop in Damascus to personally convey to the government the extent of our concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, who is live in Jerusalem.
Good evening, Andrea. Thanks for joining us.
MITCHELL: You bet, my pleasure.
MADDOW: What is the administration expecting about the prospects of diplomacy with Syria? And how much of a change is this from the Bush administration?
MITCHELL: It‘s a big change, Rachel. What they are doing is reopening talks with Syria for the first time in four years. Those talks were canceled, all diplomacy canceled with Syria after the Bush White House probably correctly blamed Syria for the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon.
That said, the Obama administration thinks that Syria is the best route, the road to Damascus, being the road to which all diplomacy in the Middle East will rest, and that in fact with no government in Israel and with a weak Palestinian leadership, the division that you know of, Hamas and Fatah and the war going on in Gaza, that, in fact, Syria—getting Syria on board is probably the most hopeful thing that they can do.
And John Kerry was there last week, sort of working on this, making it, you know, sort of easing the way with Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, and now they are taking the next step. And it‘s a really significant one.
MADDOW: What is it like traveling with Secretary Clinton in Israel and in the Middle East right now? If the Middle East—if the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is potentially ever going to get resolved, this might be one of the best chances ever at the start of the Obama administration. But how is she being received in Israel?
MITCHELL: Well, they love her in Israel because she is a Clinton. And you know how Bill Clinton had this very, very close relationship with Rabin, who he really revered almost as a father figure. Clinton is very popular here. Hillary Clinton is very popular here.
They came here together for the Saban Forum in 2005 with Chelsea. They spent a lot of time here over the years. And so, she‘s been very well-received.
But there‘s going to be tension. There always was, I think, with B.B. Netanyahu, the designated prime minister who can‘t form a government, and so far, it looks as though he‘s going to have to go to the right-wing parties to form that government. So, it will not be a centrist government.
And while she says over and over again that we believe that a two-state solution is inevitable and inescapable, is her language, he is not persuaded. So while the Netanyahu government might have backchannel talks with Syria, they have before, it is going to be really pulling and, you know, dragging him over the finish line here if there is going to be a finish line.
And his government may not last that long because the Israeli people really are more in line with what the U.S. wants right now than presumably what Netanyahu wants. They do want an end to this. People are just weary of it.
MADDOW: Andrea, for so long, we‘ve thought about the center of the potential resolution between the west and the Middle East—the whole relationship between the west and the Muslim world. We thought of the center of gravity there as being the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
I wonder if you sense that the Obama—the Obama administration still views the center of gravity in the Muslim world as Israel and Palestine? Or is it possibly the crisis in South Asia, the crisis in P, that‘s starting to really rise in terms of importance, in terms of what the Muslim world is paying attention to and what our relationship is with Muslims around the world?
MITCHELL: Oh, I think it‘s definitely aft-packed with, the way they would call it.
MITCHELL: It‘s Richard Holbrooke‘s agenda. It‘s that part of the world. It‘s nuclear. It is on a hair trigger.
And we saw in Lahore today exactly how little control there is over civil society, over law and order in Pakistan, the rise of the Taliban. The fact they‘re sending more troops to Afghanistan. And even though, you know, we are talking about a very small number of troops for a country the size of Afghanistan, a mission yet to be determined, that is the key to it all.
That said, they can‘t ignore the Middle East. But there is really nothing happening here on the ground that would make it the right time to till the soil. You‘ve got a weak Palestinian leadership, you‘ve got Hamas resurgent, and divisions in Gaza, bloodshed there, continued rocketing.
So, that they can‘t really press hard for Israel to open those borders as hard as they would like to intellectually because there still is rocketing and so, Israel can still justifiably insist on its right to defend itself. So they‘ve got no moral, political leverage right now on the Israeli/Palestinian front—and as you pointed out, no government.
And with that said, the best route they think is through Syria and through trying to pressure Iran through Russia. That was the other really significant thing today. The signals from the White House and the State Department that they are willing to give up missile defense in Eastern Europe. Who would have thought it?
And give that up as a tradeoff, they‘ll say it isn‘t a quid pro quo, but that‘s exactly what was laid out. And they are talking about enticing the Russians back into the game, getting the Russians to pressure Iran. That‘s a big deal. That‘s warming up the Russian relationship.
MADDOW: It just seems like the closer attention you pay to what‘s going on in foreign policy, the more you realize what a big change has happened between these two administrations. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign .
MADDOW: . affairs correspondent, thank you so much. Congratulations on that interview with Hillary Clinton.
I should say, Andrea will be anchoring her MSNBC show live from Jerusalem tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
All right. Coming up: Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean will be here.
MADDOW: Just ahead—it‘s the truly weird story of how we ended up with the “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy for the military in the first place. It turns out it‘s not at all like they told us it was. Stick around for that. Also, for my interview with Howard Dean—coming up next.
But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. We start with a little update on the end of the world. On Friday‘s show, we aired a segment about my interview last week with Dr. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. They are the co-authors of the massively successful “Left Behind” series of books which helped popularize the idea of the end of the world, the apocalypse, the rapture, even the anti-Christ among America‘s conservative Christians.
We talked for about 10 minutes on Wednesday night about the popularity of their books, the influence of apocalyptic prophecy on foreign policy in the Bush era. We talked about Jenkins and LaHaye releasing a statement during the presidential campaign to the effect that they believed Barack Obama probably wasn‘t the anti-Christ.
And ultimately, we ended up in a detailed discussion of what the theological context is, how rapture-ready, end times, “Left Behind” fan conservative Christians hear the accusation that Barack Obama is a commie. How it sounds to very far-right Christian Americans when they hear that allegation that Barack Obama is trying to make the United States a socialist country. Now, it was that portion of my interview with Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins that‘s we focused on when we edited down that 10 minutes or so of that interview for broadcast on Friday.
Now, Jerry Jenkins has since expressed that I tried to make him and Tim LaHaye look like idiots in that segment, that I sliced and diced their comments to fit my own “queen of liberalism” agenda and that they considered the entire appearance to have been a, quote, “fiasco.”
The last thing I want is for anyone who is a guest on this show to feel that their appearance here was an ambush, that they were not treated fairly. I don‘t think that we took anything out of context in the editing of that interview and I do not regret anything we have broadcast on Friday.
But I do regret that Mr. Jenkins feels so bad about it. And I do think the whole 10-minute interview was kind of a hoot. So we have now posted the entire unedited discussion on “Rachel.MSNBC.com.” If you have got 10 minutes to spare and you want a lot of detail on commies and antichrist and the new presidency - oh, my - it is there for you - “Rachel.MSNBC.com.”
And now, something for your viewing pleasure right here on the TV machine right now. I am here in Los Angeles to be on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, which is very exciting. I‘m happy and flattered to been asked to do that.
The last time I was in L.A. is when Captain Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger safely landed U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in New York City. In the aftermath, we ultimately were able to hear the cockpit voice recordings. We were able to hear from passengers and the crew what it was like in the moment of that landing.
But now, thanks to a firm called Seen Systems, they are marketing their animated reconstruction of events, which they do for lawsuits and stuff. Thanks to them, we‘ve got a two-minute re-creation of what happened on Flight 1459 in real-time, essentially, synced up with the cockpit voice recordings.
We‘re going to play it here. Remember as you watch this, 155 people are on board this plane while it‘s happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, U.S. AIRWAYS PILOT: Cactus 1549, 700 - climbing 5,000.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Check. This is 1549, departure to contact, maintain one 5,000.
SULLENBERGER: Maintain one 5,000. Cactus 1549.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Cactus 1549 - (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 270.
SULLENBERGER: This is cactus 1539. Hit birds. We lost thrust in both engines. We‘re turning towards La Guardia.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: OK. Yes. You need to return to La Guardia.
Turn left heading of two, two, zero.
SULLENBERGER: Two, two, zero.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Tower, stop your departures. Got an emergency returning.
LA GUARDIA AIRPORT: Who is it?
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: It‘s 1529. He - bird strike. He lost all engines. He lost the thrust in the engines. He is returning immediately.
LA GUARDIA AIRPORT: Cactus 1529, which engines?
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: He lost thrust in both engines he said.
LA GUARDIA AIRPORT: Got it.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Cactus 1529, if we get it to you, do you want to try to land runway one three?
SULLENBERGER: We‘re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: All right. Cactus 1549, it‘s going to be left traffic to runway three one.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: OK. What do you need to land? Do you want to try to go to Teterboro?
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Teterboro. Empire. Actually, La Guardia departure got an emergency inbound.
TETERBORO AIRPORT: OK. Go ahead.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Cactus 1529 over the George Washington Bridge, wants to the airport right now.
TETERBORO AIRPORT: He wants to go to our airport. Check. Does he need any assistance?
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Ah, yes. He was a bird strike. Can I get him in for runway one?
TETERBORO AIRPORT: Runway one, that‘s good.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Cactus 1529, turn right to eight zero. You can land runway one at Teterboro.
SULLENBERGER: We can‘t do it.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: OK. Which runway would you like at Teterboro?
SULLENBERGER: We‘re going to be in Hudson.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I‘m sorry. Say it again, Cactus? Cactus 1549, radar contact is lost. You also got Newark Airport up in 2:00 a.m. in about seven miles.
Flight 4718, turn left in two, one, zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one, zero - 47-18. I think he said he‘s going to the Hudson.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Cactus 1529 - he‘s gone.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Imagine having the presence of mind to be able to say, “We‘re going to be in the Hudson.” Right at that moment when he said it - I know. Seen Systems is the company that did that animation, and, frankly, all I did at work today was watch that over and over and over again all day. Sorry.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party continues its search for meaning in the minority, part of that is struggling to come to terms with themselves. Who‘s in charge? Who sets the agenda? Who is who?
Remarkably the central discussion in Republican politics right now is Rush Limbaugh‘s “I hope President Obama fails” doctrine. Even those who seem to disagree with Mr. Limbaugh are falling all over themselves to try to stay on his good side.
There was Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who said, quote, “I don‘t want him to fail. Anybody who wants him to fail is an idiot because it means we‘re all in trouble.”
Well, that was quickly followed by a missive from Sanford‘s communications director saying, quote, “The governor was not referring to anyone in particular.” In other words, “Please don‘t be mad at me, Mr. Man-on-the-Radio!”
And then there was Republican Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey, who said, quote, “It‘s easy if you‘re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don‘t have to try to do what‘s best for your people and your party.”
Congressman Gingrey didn‘t just issue an apology to Mr. Limbaugh.
He called in to Mr. Limbaugh‘s radio show with the apology.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): I want to express to you and all of your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments that I made yesterday to “Politico.”
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: And then yesterday, there was the chairman of the RNC, Michael Steele, reaching out to Rush Limbaugh to apologize for calling Mr. Limbaugh‘s rhetoric, “incendiary and ugly,” and denying that Mr. Limbaugh was the de facto leader of the Republican Party.
Quote, “My intent was not to go after Rush. I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh. There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.” His leadership. That one even got the attention of the White House today.
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ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I was a little surprised at the speed in which Mr. Steele, the head of the RNC, apologized to the head of the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “The head of the Republican party.” You know, the White House, I‘m sure, is delighted to keep talking about Mr. Limbaugh as the head of the Republican Party every chance they get.
Can you imagine a better negotiating position for the Democrats to be in heading into the budget fight? Can you imagine a better position politically than having it characterized as Barack Obama versus radio host?
Joining us now is Howard Dean, immediate past chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Governor Dean, thank you so much for your time tonight.
FMR. GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIRMAN OF THE
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: As chair of the DNC, was there anyone outside the party that you felt like you couldn‘t disagree with without feeling the needing to apologize for it later?
DEAN: Well, as you know, I don‘t feel like that about anybody and never have. But I will say that, you know, there weren‘t very many people in Washington who were happy to have me have the DNC job. But after I got it, I was able to sit down with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and we were able to work this out.
We had a lot of meetings at the DNC to reconstitute the Democratic Party. And we certainly did not engage in calling each other names. I think that‘s a mistake. We did have some disagreements but we didn‘t ever let them get personal.
MADDOW: What do you think the Republican Party should do right now about this political trap that they‘ve gotten themselves into, with this “I hope the president fails” stuff?
DEAN: What you really - well, that‘s a huge mistake. I mean, nobody helps - wants the president to fail. I didn‘t want George Bush to fail, I mean, even as a Democrat. You don‘t wish that on your country.
Look, they‘ve got a big problem and they‘re in trouble. They‘ve got the problem that we had about 25 years ago, which is that they have a hard group of ideologues who don‘t care what the facts are, and a fair amount of it is hate-based.
And they‘ve got a group of people who just got elected to various positions who realize that if that they don‘t bring the party somewhere back into the middle of the political spectrum, they‘re never going to win an election.
And so, they‘ve got to have that fight. And it‘s an ugly, bitter fight. And we had it and it took a long time. Evidently, they‘re going to take a long time having this fight, too.
MADDOW: Having lived through this fighting in the Democratic Party and as you mentioned, having ascended to DNC chair over a lot of grumbling from other people in the Democratic Party, it seems like you had a remarkably successful run as DNC chair, huge wins for the party in 2006, even bigger wins in 2008.
And yet, now you are no longer officially involved with the party in an official capacity. Why is that? And do you have regrets?
DEAN: Well, I don‘t have any regrets. I mean, gosh, you know, a Democratic president, a Democratic Congress with a huge majority, a Democratic Senate with a big majority. So I don‘t have any regrets at all.
You know, I‘m still very involved in politics. I‘m on this show, and hopefully we will be talking about what we ought to be doing about health insurance and the budget situation and bank balance sheets and other things like that. So I don‘t intend to fold my tent and go home quietly.
MADDOW: I guess - I don‘t mean to pressure you on this but I do want to ask you a budget strategy question. But I think a lot of Democrats, particularly a lot of progressive Democrats, still wish you were running things. Will you be involved in efforts to try to push the party into policy issues and doing the right thing on policy issues that you care about? Do you want to run for office?
DEAN: I don‘t particularly have any great desire to run for office. You never rule anything out in politics but that‘s not in my plans. I do intend to push very hard on key issues on health insurance - on real health insurance reform, not just compromises with people in giving away the store, and especially insurance companies.
On budget reforms that make sense - look, I think President Obama‘s agenda is fantastic. I really do. And I think he stuck to his agenda, and he ought to get full credit for that.
But tough times are ahead. We‘ve got to do healthcare reform. I give him enormous credit for putting this thing on the table because it‘s a huge economic savior for America. Maybe our automobile companies will finally be competitive with Canada‘s again if we can get some of these healthcare costs off the backs of the employers and off the backs of small businesses.
And we can do that, you know. But I‘m going to be fighting for that as hard as I possibly can.
MADDOW: Strategically, given what happened with the stimulus, do you think it‘s possible that Democrats should consider running in this budget fight and running in the healthcare reform fight that‘s coming down later in the year as if the Republicans don‘t matter, just trying to pass these things without Republican votes, trying to bring things up, particularly on the budget reconciliation rules that wouldn‘t allow the Republicans to filibuster?
DEAN: I think it‘s very - well, you know, I think it‘s very, very important that we not let obstructionists who are struggling to figure out how to define their own party interfere with the agenda of the American people. The American people clearly want change. They want bipartisanship.
The numbers of the - the poll numbers for the Republicans in Congress have gotten much worse since the election, not better, which isn‘t usually what happens. It is because they - people want compromise. They want people to work together. They want President Obama to succeed.
And I don‘t think that we to hold up the agenda of working together. If they don‘t want to work with us, then I think we ought to pass it without any help from the Republicans. I don‘t think we ought to give up the core principles of what must be done to help America.
And there are some core things in the health insurance agreement
the health insurance program that the president wants to put through that cannot be given up if you want serious healthcare reform. If we don‘t do it, we‘re not going to get a second bite at this apple. We‘re going to get one shot at this during the Obama presidency. We have got to get it right the first time.
MADDOW: Gov. Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Thank you very much for your time tonight, Sir. Good luck to you.
DEAN: Rachel, thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: Coming up, the inside scoop on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” And the really quite stupid reasons the policy was created in the first place. Are we finally ready to admit that we can‘t make an all in, 100 percent effort on national security without Americans who have the gay?
MADDOW: The latest attempt to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” has now begun in the 111th Congress. California Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher officially reintroduced the Military Enhancement Readiness Act to the house today.
Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts is expected to sponsor a similar bill in the Senate. Apparently, he is now looking for a Republican Senate co-sponsor for the bill.
It also looks like President Obama is tentatively supporting the repeal efforts with the White House saying today that he has, quote, “begun consulting closely with Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen so that this change is done in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security.”
Now, when Congresswoman Tauscher first announced her bill on Monday, she was joined by a researcher named Dr. Nathaniel Frank. His assessment of the policy that got 12,000 service members kicked out over the last 15 years - he said that it is, quote, “rooted in denial and deception and repression created by military advisers who had no empirical data, who drew purely subjective conclusions when they created the policy.”
In other words, they just made it up. Seriously, that‘s how we got 15 years of a policy that ended more than 12,000 military careers. They just made it up?
Joining us now is Dr. Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center at U.C. Santa Barbara. He‘s the author of “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.”
Dr. Frank, it‘s a real pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.
DR. NATHANIEL FRANK, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, PALM CENTER, UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA: Thank you, Rachel. I‘m glad to be here.
MADDOW: What did your research uncover about how “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” came to be, how the policy was created?
FRANK: Well, there was a task force appointed in 1993 called the Military Working Group and this was made up a panel of admirals and generals. And it‘s not just my assessment. I was fortunate enough to be able talk to them about his creation of this policy in 1993. And they said it was based on nothing.
It was rooted in their own prejudices and fears. They even said they didn‘t know what sexual orientation meant. So they didn‘t look at empirical evidence even though it was out there.
And instead, they created this unit cohesion argument which is the idea that openly gay service will somehow undermine unit cohesion and that you have to force service members to lie in order to preserve unit cohesion instead of the other way around that forcing people to lie actually has its own impact on unit cohesion.
MADDOW: And as I understand it, you spoke with a key adviser to the panel that created this policy who admitted to you full stop that the unit cohesion argument was completely made up out of folk law, that it had no basis and any empirical evidence whatsoever.
FRANK: Well, it wasn‘t about empirical evidence. And let me be clear. These were the good guys. The ones I spoke to are the ones who are trying to do the right thing, but they didn‘t understand enough what was going on. And that‘s one of the reasons they made it up.
There was pressure from people who were just outright anti-gay and what this was really was morality and religion. So there was pressure from those people. The people that were kind enough to speak to me and speak candidly were the ones who said, “You know, we were trying to do the right thing. We were concerned about unit cohesion.
But in fact, there was no empirical evidence. There has never been any empirical evidence that openly gay service undermines unit cohesion.” And so they made up that idea and that‘s how they sold that package to the American public.
MADDOW: And of course, there‘s plenty of evidence to the contrary with all of the other armed services around the world where openly gay people are included and there isn‘t an issue.
FRANK: Especially Britain and even over here.
MADDOW: Right. Are your ears pricked up about the news from the White House, this review of the policy announced by the White House now? Do you think there‘s any chance that President Obama will make the same mistakes that Clinton administration made? Or do you think that the review of the policy this time could be in empirically based?
FRANK: Well, I do think there‘s a risk that the laying too much, which is what Clinton did, could actually back fire. If you remember, Clinton set a six-month timeout. It was a study period which is Washington-speak for delay and defeat. And during that time, Clinton said, “We‘re going to study, not whether we should lift the ban but how to lift the ban.”
And still, what we ended up with was “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” So I am cautious about this. Of course, there‘s going to be consultation. Of course, Obama should speak with the military about it.
But he should do it armed with the confidence that we now have the researching showing that openly gay service just doesn‘t have any negative impact on military. And in fact, the policy itself is what‘s causing us to lose soldiers and to force service members to lie to one another. And that‘s bad for unit cohesion.
MADDOW: There is actually data on this subject that would be helpful in sorting this out. This is supposed to be the age of science, they keep saying.
Dr. Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center, author of the new book, “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.” Thank you for your research and thanks for joining us.
FRANK: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith exposes the phoniness of the Republican outrage over earmarks.
Next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones.
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. It‘s a music free for
Tuesday. First up, the state of Oklahoma has chosen an official rock song
that in itself is a cool thing.
But even cooler, the song selected by more than 21,000 voters online is “Do You Realize” by dork geniuses, The Flaming Lips. James Inhofe‘s home state, which voted 65 percent for McCain just chose a band to represent them that does videos showing rabbits carrying disco balls. Great leap forward. Very encouraging.
MADDOW: Please Flaming Lips, come on the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and tell us what you think of this. Please. Please.
JONES: Next, President Bill Clinton is participating in a charity auction in which bidders can seek out an iPod signed by the man himself which includes a playlist created by Mr. Clinton. There are some marches and folk songs and classical music in there.
But among the pop songs, his choices are, “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “I Get Along Very Well Without You” by Carly Simon, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel, “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, and “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John. That kind of soundtrack - I‘m thinking wine bar, 1985. Lots of ferns. It‘s called scandals. Gay night is on Sunday.
MADDOW: Marches. Sarah McLachlan and then marches?
JONES: And then marches - yes. Yes. I don‘t know how you‘re supposed to dance or workout or anything.
MADDOW: Well, you just have to keep it off of shuffle. That might be very jarring. All right. Sorry, go ahead.
JONES: That‘s right, exactly. And finally, the city council of Christ Church, New Zealand has had a problem with teen misbehavior at their outdoor mall - drugs, booze, bad language - the usual. The solution to drive off the delinquents? Play Barry Manilow.
JONES: That‘s some self love right there. Don‘t you love your kids?
MADDOW: Barry Manilow being used as a weapon.
JONES: Yes, indeed.
MADDOW: Very nice. Thank you, Kent.
JONES: I‘m not sure it‘s legal.
MADDOW: I have a cocktail moment for you.
JONES: Oh, very good.
MADDOW: It‘s good news and bad news from Japan. The good news is that lots of Japanese people are living to be really, really old, which is nice. In Japan, when you get to be really old, when you get to be 100, the Japanese government gives you a present. They give you a big silver cup, like this big chalice thing.
They started doing this in 1963. There were 153 people that turned 100 that year in Japan. Last year, 19,769 people turned 100 in Japan. So that‘s the good news.
The bad news is that Japan is broke and they can no longer afford the big cups. So they are shrinking them and they‘re getting smaller.
JONES: You get a little tiny cup. They‘re tiny.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you, Japan. Thank you for watching tonight. We‘ll see you back in New York tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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