The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/13/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you for staying with us for the next hour at home. I‘m in Boston tonight.
Coming up on tonight‘s show: Are there still developments in our Decision 2008 coverage? You betcha! And we‘ve got them all the way from Minnesota.
Also, do you know the Obama “Hope” poster, the iconic “Hope” poster from the campaign, the red, white, and blue? The one and only Shepard Fairey of Andre the giant, Obey, ubiquitous sticker fame, he created the Obama “Hope” poster. There‘s a big legal fight over it now and he joins me live this hour.
But, first, Friday afternoon in the Obama administration is turning out to be a really, really busy time of the week. Recent Friday afternoons have brought with them big fat news stories like the Obama administration plans to leave between 30,000 and 50,000 troops in Iraq as a residual force. Another Friday afternoon—oh, the Obama Justice Department plans to continue President Bush‘s policies regarding prisoners at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Both of those stories—pretty big deal news items, liable to evoke some negative reaction. Both—let out to the press late on Friday afternoons.
Luckily, and at least in one sense, we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, are on the air live Friday nights. It is less than ideal for the social lives of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff, but we do catch Friday night news dumps all the time.
Today‘s surprise news item crossing the late afternoon wires was this, quote, “U.S. Justice Department drops enemy combatant as basis for holding Guantanamo detainees.” Wow! How come they saved this one for a Friday afternoon?
The term “enemy combatant” was not exactly invented by the Bush administration but it got popular like a high school sophomore with a car during the years 2001 to 2008. The Bush administration used the term when they were in need of some pseudo-legal explanation/justification for lots of unprecedented things they wanted to do to human beings in the post 9/11 era.
The truly whacky implication of this meant-to-scare-Americans-about-terrorists term, “enemy combatant,” was that it was used to indicate that the president now claimed the power to take anyone off the street, anywhere, in any country, including this one, to declare that person an enemy combatant and by virtue of having said those two magic words, enemy combatant, to incarcerate that person indefinitely. Whether that means for the rest of his or her life or just until the end of the war on terror, they could be incarcerated without charges and without trial indefinitely. The term “enemy combatant” essentially gave the American president the right to disappear people.
Now, one way to understand the impact of this is to understand the people who have been subjected to this, who have been designated enemy combatants. And we do know some of their names—from Jose Padilla to Ali al-Marri. Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident. Also, Yaser Hamdi.
What happened to those people designated enemy combatants? It‘s complicated and, in a lot of ways, awful. They are complicated people. It has complicated their complicated and in many cases, seemingly awful lives. The impact of the use of the enemy combatant designation on people who have been enemy combatant has been hard to follow, sometimes difficult to swallow and it is ongoing.
But the existence, the real existence of the enemy combatant designation, as adopted by the Bush administration, is that it changed the American government. It changed the American presidency and took away some of what makes America different from—and frankly, I‘m not ashamed to say it—better than many other countries.
Giving one person this type of power, giving anyone in America the power to supersede the law, changed, in some fundamental sense, the very idea of what America means. And as of this afternoon, that is at least sort of now over.
Joining us to explain the “over” and the “sort of” is Jonathan Turley, professor for—excuse me—professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School.
Professor Turley, I‘m sorry I tripped over your title. Thank you for coming on the show.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
Is the way that I have summarized the Bush administration‘s use of the term “enemy combatant” accurate? Am I—am I stating that correctly?
TURLEY: No, you did. It is impossible to overstate it because it was an absolute assertion of power. And the president literally did claim and did actually act upon the very thing you described. Jose Padilla, for example, was taken on U.S. soil and stripped of all of his rights, denied access to a lawyer, denied access to the courts, and told that he would stay in detention indefinitely as long as George Bush felt he should.
MADDOW: What is going to change about the enemy combatant designation, about the claimed powers of the presidency, and about the lives of these people who have been designated enemy combatant after this proclamation today?
TURLEY: Well, that‘s the problem. This statement was actually made in court as part of a filing to preserve the status quo, to actually continue what George Bush did. It said that we‘re not going to call them “enemy combatants.”
But you can call them zucchini if you want, but the fact is, they will remain in Guantanamo Bay without charge—and that‘s the problem for civil libertarians. That what the Obama administration has said is that we do believe, like George Bush, that we are at war with al Qaeda and that we reserve the right to hold people indefinitely when we believe that they fit the category that we are defining.
But when asked what does it mean? What is it you‘re defining? What does substantial assistance, for example, to the Taliban mean? They said, well, we really can‘t define it at this time. We‘ll just do that case by case.
MADDOW: Is it the whole reason that they started using the term enemy combatant in this way to give them the purported legal right to hold people indefinitely? If you‘d take away that designation but still claim the right to hold people indefinitely, under what law are you claiming that and is that any less lawless than it was under the Bush administration?
TURLEY: Well, I think there‘s the rub. And, you know, for the purposes of these detainees and for civil libertarians, this is rhetorical. And the Obama administration as in a number of recent court actions is trying to preserve and, in fact, defend what George Bush did. It‘s just that they want to say they are doing it on a different principle. But it‘s hard to take the high ground when you‘re not moving from the ground that your predecessor held.
Now, in fairness to President Obama, I think the most significant thing about today‘s filing is he said that he would no longer rely upon his authority as commander-in-chief. He would no longer assert the inherent authority for this type of power. Now, that‘s a meaningless difference for the detainees. They‘ll stay in the same cell in the same conditions indefinitely.
But that commander-in-chief assertion of power by George Bush was the foundation of many of the worst abuses, including the torture program.
MADDOW: Doesn‘t that also give people who have been challenging indefinite detention, people who have been representing Guantanamo prisoners for example—doesn‘t it also give them different grounds on which to challenge what the administration is doing legally? If the administration was defending it on the grounds before of the inherent power of the commander-in-chief, that‘s it‘s no longer the basis of their claim, does this open up whole new avenues for people to challenge the fact that they are being held this way?
TURLEY: Well, I think that that‘s the great hope, that there is a feeling that President Obama is not going to make the same extremist arguments that we saw with President Bush. But I also think that we need to hold President Obama to the same standard. The fact is, he is asserting the ability to hold people indefinitely without charge, based upon a standard he won‘t define and something he said basically he‘ll know it when he sees it.
If George Bush did that and he did do that, we‘re very critical and we need to be equally critical with President Obama. What he should do is charge them as terrorists if they‘re terrorists. If there is evidence that they are a threat to the nation and done things against us, we need to charge them.
And, you know, the great burden about being a nation committed to the rule of law is that you charge people and you prove their guilt. You know, it‘s a great luxury in some perverse way to the al Qaeda where you can say, I think you are what I fear the most and I‘ll just put a bullet in your head or you‘re the person I hate the most.
But we are a nation committed to the rule of law. And so, we have to bring charges and we have to prove them. The idea of indefinite detention without charge, obviously, should be obnoxious to anyone who believes in the rule of law.
MADDOW: Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School—thank you, as always, for your clarity on this, and thanks for your time tonight.
TURLEY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Our friend Chuck Todd is off covering the White House now 24/7. Slacker. So, it‘s up to us to carry the Decision 2008 torch. And, yes, it is still lit. You betcha.
In a second, we‘ve got strange new updates in the genuinely critical Minnesota Senate Al Franken/Norm Coleman race.
And the most iconic image of Barack Obama that there is, is at the middle of a legal fight. Shepard Fairey, the man who created that image will be joining us live later on.
But, first, the term “enemy combatants” is not the only phrase getting a Scrub, Rinse and Repeat today. So, too, is the term Department of Labor, which was practically a term of sarcasm during the Bush years.
Today, after a long drawn out confirmation process, labor rights advocate and former congresswoman, Hilda Solis, finally was ceremonially sworn in as secretary of labor after being on the job already for a couple of weeks. Solis encountered a wrath of Republican opposition partly because she supports the Employee Free Choice Act which would make it easier to join a union, and partly because she has been a pro-labor activist in her career.
She‘s the daughter of immigrants, both of whom were union members. They met at a citizenship class. And now, she is the country‘s first Hispanic secretary of labor. That‘s more than a Scrub and Rinse. For the representation of working people in the federal government, that is a total makeover. Si, se puede.
MADDOW: And now your moment of geek. Tomorrow is Albert Einstein‘s birthday which is March 14th, or 314, 3/14, which is, of course, the ratio of the circumstance of a circle to its diameter. Get psyched matheletes. Happy Pi Day! When else would Einstein have been born, right?
The House of Representatives even passed a resolution designating tomorrow as Pi Day, to help promote math education. But the measure got 10 no-votes. No to Pi Day? Who votes no on Pi Day?
One dissenter, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Twittered that he could not support having a single day designated as Pi Day because Pi should go on forever. Get it? It‘s an infinite number. Oh, geekdom-manship (ph)!
Let me do one better, Congressman! Extrapolation pi to eight digits at 3.1415926, one could celebrate a somewhat accurate second of pi by determining the moment that is 0.1415926 through the day. So happy pi second at 3:23:53.6 seconds a.m.
How‘s that for geekdom?
MADDOW: Time for a Pavlovian experiment. We are all the guinea pigs. Ready?
MADDOW: Oh, my pulse is racing. I‘ve been transformed to a time when 700 billion sounded like a large number. What madness is this? Why the election 2008 shamille shamozzle? Well, it‘s Minnesota Senate madness.
The court case involving the recount between one-time comedian Al Franken and one-time incumbent Norm Coleman is sort of done. Lawyers gave their closing arguments today in the seven-week-old trial, and now, we wait – some more.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that Coleman should appeal the issue to a federal court. Of course, he says that. If Norm Coleman gives up, Al Franken is Democratic senator number 59. That is counting Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders. Republicans do not want the Democrats to have 59 votes. Do you remember the stimulus bill and all the haggling around that?
So, Norm Coleman, who, the day after the election demanded that Al Franken should concede before the original counting was done, he is probably going to appeal. However, raising money for that appeal might be complicated. After about 51,000 Coleman supporters had their names, addresses, e-mail addresses and passwords exposed on the interwebs, including 4,700 donors to the Coleman campaign, who had their credit card information posted online.
Now, the Coleman campaign is trying to blame nefarious hackers, saying the people responsible for the privacy breach, quote, “are clearly interested in influencing the outcome of the current election contest.” On top of that news, according to the “Minneapolis Star Tribune,” Coleman‘s campaign may have broken the law because it did not bother to notify the affected supporters that their data had allegedly been exposed in January.
And what‘s totally worse than that? The campaign Web site “fact page” that they‘ve got up about the breach, which says, oops you gave us money, and then your credit card ended up online, and maybe you should cancel your credit card, that facts page ends with a solicitation to send more money to Norm Coleman. That said, the money should be sent only via snail mail or on the phone because the Web site‘s credit card option is no more.
My next guest Adria Richards was the first to discover the exposed database. She‘s a technology consultant based in Minneapolis. And she writes on her blog ButYou‘reAGirl.com.
Adria, thanks for coming on the show.
ADRIA RICHARDS, TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANT: Rachel, thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First, I have to ask you, when and how did you discover this breach?
RICHARDS: Well, when was about 6:00 p.m. on the 28th of January.
And I came across it because I saw a post on Twitter.
MADDOW: You saw a post on Twitter by somebody who had found this information they shouldn‘t be finding online?
RICHARDS: No. The Twitter actually said “Norm Coleman Web site crash may have been faked.” And so, I was curious. And I followed the link to a blog to read more.
Being a techie and I—loving to fix things, I had to see what was going on.
MADDOW: And so, when you went to investigate with your tech skills and your curiosity piqued, what did you find?
RICHARDS: Well, there were—everybody was discussing and posting, I took the domain name, brought it over to OpenDNS.com. And Open DNS helps you figure out if a Web site is up or down. It said Norm Coleman‘s Web site was up. So, I said, OK.
Every address like a Google.com has an IP address. It‘s just like you‘re a person and you have an address where you live. So, I took that address for Norm Coleman‘s Web site and put it in my browser. But what I got wasn‘t a Web site; it was a list of folders. So .
MADDOW: And in the folders you found?
RICHARDS: I found a really large database file and I started taking screen shots and I started uploading them to Flickr because I knew this was not right. So .
MADDOW: And that was the private information that the Coleman campaign now has had to do all these apologizing about?
RICHARDS: I would say so. But I was unable to confirm that because I never downloaded the database.
MADDOW: But you posted screen shots of what you‘ve found there that‘s showing that all of this information was totally unprotected?
RICHARDS: Yes. I‘ve never seen a case this blatant before where, you know—it‘s fine if someone has a fan page about someone who they think is really great. You would see this type of things where you can browse directories and folders, but, you know, for a senator, I was really surprised, which is why I started—I said I have to get this out.
MADDOW: The Coleman campaign says that the only reason this information got out is because people who were politically motivated to try to hurt Norm Coleman went after him for this. Did you have any political motivation to try to influence this election?
RICHARDS: No. If it would have been a Democrat or Republican, I still would have done the same thing. For me, the important thing is that people can feel safe about their information. This is not an isolated case. This is happening all over the world. There are many Web sites where you can see data breach after data breach for hospitals, financial institutions, government agencies.
MADDOW: Minneapolis technology consultant, Adria Richards, right at the heart of this case. Thank you for coming on tonight. It‘s nice to meet you. Thanks for joining us.
RICHARDS: Thanks. Thanks, Twitter.
MADDOW: What‘s up, Twitter?
At least she didn‘t say “Happy Birthday.” And we do have a geeky “Happy Birthday” thing coming up at the end of the show. Darn it, I‘m ruining the surprise!
All right. You know that super cool, much imitated red, white and blue poster of Obama from 2008 campaign, “Hope,” right? The artist Shepard Fairey is now in a legal battle over the image. He is here. I‘m very excited to talk to him. That‘s coming up next.
MADDOW: Coming up on the show: If you were alive during the 2008 presidential campaign, and you can see, chances are, you have seen this image. It was practically impossible to avoid, on posters, on buttons, on street signs that even led to spin-off versions including one that exists of yours truly and the word infrastructure instead of hope. That was so flattering.
Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the Obama “Hope” poster will join us in just a moment.
But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
One of the leading contenders for most fun to pronounce reasonably sized cities in America, is the city of Kissimmee, Florida. It is even more fun to mispronounce, but we‘ll leave that to another time. Kissimmee is near Orlando on Florida‘s sort of east coast.
And the congressional district that includes both it, Kissimmee, and the city of Melbourne that is not in Australia, is represented by a freshman Republican congressman named Bill Posey. Mr. Posey is what is known as a birther. It has nothing to do with, you know, midwifery or anything.
A birther is a specific new breed of American conspiracy theorists who believe that the real problem with Barack Obama being president is that he can‘t possibly have been born in the United States. He‘s not eligible to be president. The birth certificate is a fake. He‘s a foreigner.
Once this is exposed, I guess, he will be run out of the White House and exposed for the alien, columnist, communist, Muslim, gay, drug dealer, al Qaeda member that he is and then Linda LaRose or whoever can take his rightful place in the Oval Office.
Now, the birthers have repeatedly sought to have this issue address in courts, with no success thus far. The relevant authorities in Hawaii have said that President Obama‘s birth certificate is kosher and the United States Supreme Court even told the birthers to get over it already when they nixed an emergency appeal from trying to stop Obama from being sworn in.
But sometimes, in stories like this, the more you get told it‘s all made up, it‘s all in your mind, the more compelling it all seems. So, perhaps, it should not have been a surprise this week when Congressman Bill Posey introduced a Birther bill in Congress. A bill that would change the laws of the United States to require a birth certificate from every candidate for president—presumably even one running for re-election?
Also, maybe we should get one of those free credit reports on everybody and also, maybe a permission slip from mom.
Good luck with this maiden voyage in Congress, Mr. Posey. You are already making a name for yourself.
Today was one of those news days with a little bit of everything—news that we are getting finally the president‘s strategy on Afghanistan, maybe as early as next week. We‘ll be talking about that on the show with Les Gelb in just a moment.
We got news today that the Dow is up four days in a row. We‘ve got news of allegations against Maxine Waters that she allegedly, improperly got involved in a bailout outlay to a bank that her family was linked to. We hope to have Maxine Waters on the show on Monday to talk about that.
We got news today about the enemy combatant designation. We had news today about the bizarre turns in the last remaining undecided Senate race in the country. A little news about Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is turning down stimulus money. That crazy story about Bill Posey and the Birther bill.
And in the midst of all that, in the midst of all of that going on today, the country still found time to click on the video link of Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart fighting it out on “The Daily Show” last night—millions and millions and millions of times. Sources tell us the Comedy Central Web site experienced a roughly 400 percent increase in traffic today. That has not happened since the last time Jon Stewart told Sarah Palin something that rimed with cluck you.
At the White House press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was even asked whether the president had seen the segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president and I talked earlier in the day yesterday about watching it. I forgot to e-mail and remind him that it was on. So, I don‘t know if he‘s seen it.
I enjoyed it thoroughly.
GIBBS: Despite even as Mr. Stewart said, that it may have been uncomfortable to conduct and uncomfortable to watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Why did this strike such a nerve? Well, you know, it was not the funniest thing that has ever happened on “The Daily Show” by any stretch of imagination. It was essentially Jim Cramer sitting there getting pummeled and pummeled and pummeled by Jon Stewart. Not funny ha-ha, but apparently, by the sights of the firestorm and the amount of attention and a number of clicks this has gotten, apparently, this has been deeply satisfying and resonant for a country that is in economic free fall.
Being in economic dire straits means there is an understandable search for villains and also, a lot of serious uncomfortable questions being asked all over the country about what happened to oversight and investigations and watchdogery? Not only in the government and the business world itself but in the business journalism world as well.
The perfect overlooked punctuation mark to the story today is that while doing a Google news search on the words “Kramer” and “Stewart” would turn up more than 1,000 news stories about this clash, and rightly so.
Meanwhile, while we were all riveted to the TV drama, the “Washington Post” quietly - quietly announced sotto voce today that it was eliminating its business section in the weekday paper. That‘s sobering.
MADDOW: I came to Boston today to meet with the faculty of the Belfer Center, the international security academic center think-tank-y thing at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Meeting with the faculty there was national security dork heaven for me. It was very kind of them to host me for the day. And at one point when we were talking today about the wars, one of the professors said, “I‘m not sure the question is, to which the right answer is 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan right now.
Excellent point, right? Big brains at Harvard. But I‘ve sort of been gnawing on this all day since. And I do think there are some questions to which 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan could be the right answer.
Questions like, how do we better ensure the safety of the 35,000 American troops who are already in Afghanistan? Or how do we nudge our troops in Afghanistan away from having to rely on air strikes which too often kill civilians in favor of more troop intensive but relatively more precise guy-with-gun missions.
Here is another question to which 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan could conceivably be the right answer. How does the new U.S. president make it look like we are committed to some kind of positive outcome in Afghanistan? How does he make it look like Afghanistan is not forgot-istan anymore even before he has announced or maybe even arrived at his plan for what he thinks the point of the war there now is?
That is maybe a question to which 17,000 more u.s. Troops to Afghanistan could conceivably be the answer. It could be the right answer if by right you mean understandable if not right as in a good idea.
Les Gelb, the foreign policy eminent (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who used to run the Council on Foreign Relations and who has held senior posts in both Defense and State. He wrote in the “New York Times” today that Afghanistan is President Obama‘s problem from hell.
He said U.S. troops should be gradually withdrawn from Afghanistan and that the U.S. should we redefine our goals there to be way less ambitious but maybe more realistic. Mr. Obama‘s goal, he says, is to ensure that Afghanistan is not a sanctuary for terrorists.
But trying to eliminate the Taliban and al-Qaeda threat in Afghanistan is unattainable while finding a way to live with, contain, and deter the Taliban is an achievable goal.
Living with the Taliban. How is that for inspiring? Then again, us escalating a war that is eight years old already in a country world famous for three things - heroin, pomegranates and felling and expelling world-dominating empires and war - that‘s also not very inspiring. Problem from hell, indeed.
Joining us now is Dr. Leslie Gelb is president emeritus of the council of foreign relations and a former senior official in both the State Department and the Defense Department. His new book is called “Power Rules: How Commonsense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy.” Dr. Gelb, thank you so much for coming on the show.
DR. LESLIE GELB, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: Good to be here.
MADDOW: We are expecting an announcement from the president possibly next week about his overall goal, his overall strategy for Afghanistan. Have you timed this op-ed to try to dissuade him from escalating the war further?
GELB: I timed it to try to get the people in the administration to think hard about what we really can achieve in Afghanistan and at what cost. Because almost certainly, he is going to up the ante - that is more troops.
And it‘s not just the 17,000 more troops that he‘s already approved. What the military have on the table requests for troop levels that could take us up to 80,000, 90,000 U.S. troops. And, you know, three years from now, we can find ourselves in a quagmire. And basically, what I wanted to do, Rachel, is to get the administration think now - not three years from now - on what an alternative could be to stopping the terrorists who could conceivably come back to Afghanistan.
How could we deal with it without occupying and fighting a war in that country for the next three years on top of the six we‘ve already been there?
MADDOW: In the short term, in terms of what to do now, do you disagree with the recent decision to send 17,000 more troops? Do you disagree with any expected forthcoming decision to send thousands more?
GELB: Right. See, that is a fair question because I don‘t disagree with the decision to send the 17,000 more and I don‘t disagree with President Obama‘s decision to try to talk to the Taliban. These things all make sense but they make sense to me as part of a strategy of preparing friendly Afghans to fight for themselves and take care of themselves over the next two, three years, contain the Taliban and al-Qaeda threat and build a coalition of neighbors to make sure they‘ve got no place to run and hide thereafter.
Traditionally, we‘ve dealt with our enemies by containment and deterrence. And I believe we ought to take a look at trying to do that in Afghanistan rather than getting involved in another quagmire there.
MADDOW: Conceptually, you are arguing that we should set our goals low so that they are attainable. I have heard President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates argue conceptually the same thing. But their idea of setting the bar low is something that you say is unattainable, this idea that we should prevent Afghanistan from being a place in which terrorist can operate.
GELB: That‘s right.
MADDOW: Do you think the U.S. needs to concede that Afghanistan could be a sanctuary for terrorists?
GELB: Well, I think they need to concede that the Taliban is going to coming back to power. The Taliban are Pashtun. Pashtun is 60 percent of the population of Afghanistan. And they have support of that country.
You know, right now, in the southern part of the country, they are winning the war. So you know, they‘re going to be a part of Afghan‘s future even though I don‘t like them. They are going to be there. To get rid of them would involve an enormous cost and we probably won‘t be able to do it anyway. No one else has been able to defeat the Afghans on their own soil for more than 1,000 years.
So I want us to define the goal in a way we reduce the risks of any serious terrorist threats from Afghanistan. And I think we can do that. But to say we have to ensure there are no terrorist threats from there or we have to eliminate the potential for terrorist using Afghan soil for attacks, that means staying there forever.
And the fact of the matter is, Rachel, as you know, as you report, we already live with terrorists threats from Pakistan, from Yemen and from Somalia. We can get attacked from those places right now. And who is saying we ought to go in and occupy those countries and fight a 10-year war?
MADDOW: Sometimes it seems to me like we imply it‘s incredible, baroque, impressive, cerebral prophecies to figuring out how to win wars that are already underway and we don‘t apply nearly the same effort to figuring out whether or not it is worth it to even keep trying in terms of the costs.
GELB: Yes. We have to look at the alternative. We really do. I‘m not faulting these people for the individual decisions they‘ve made. But Congress owes it to us to take a hard look at this.
And President Obama owes it to the Afghans and to us to ask, is there another way of reasonably accomplishing this task? And that is the debate I want to make sure happens before we get in too much further.
MADDOW: Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, thank you so much for joining us tonight. It‘s really nice to have you here.
GELB: It‘s good to be here.
MADDOW: Thank you. So it‘s the most famous picture of Barack Obama that there is. It is hanging in the Smithsonian portrait gallery and allegedly illegal? What? Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the Obama hope poster will join us next to talk about the iconic image and the legal fight over it in which he is now embroiled.
MADDOW: Sweaty men wearing snug singlets played a role in promoting world peace today as the team from the United States competed in a big 10-nation wrestling tournament in Iran. Persian grapplers. The U.S. wrestlers lost six matches and won five overall.
Against the Iranians, specifically, U.S. lost five and won three. But this is more than just sports because it is also us and Iran. So it also raises the prospect of citizen to citizen diplomacy, peace by one half nelson at a time. The American team reportedly received a warm welcome from the crowd in Iran.
U.S. coach Zeke Jones said, quote, “We hope that our countries can learn from the wrestling family. Wrestling has brought us closer together. We hope that our countries can do the same.”
The official Iranian news agency was slightly less kumbaya about the whole thing. They put out a statement that said, quote, “The Iranian wrestlers have a surprising superiority over their foreign competitors.” Wow. At least they said it was surprising.
MADDOW: There is a portrait of Barack Obama in the Smithsonian‘s National Portrait Gallery in Washington and you have seen it all over the place. Not an oil painting with the president‘s hands clasped in front of a fireplace mantle and the American flag, but an image by Shepard Fairey, the street and skate-inflected graphic artist whose work is known not just for his unique imagery, but its ubiquity. It is everywhere.
In the continuum of artists on the vanguard, Keith Herring blurred the line between street and gallery, between graphic design and fine art. Andrew Warhol blurred the line between commercial art and fine art, between reproduction and homage and parody. Barbara Kruger still blurs the line between propaganda and anti-propaganda.
And Shepard Fairey? He is blurring a lot of those same lines, too. His many courtroom adversaries say he is also blurring the line between legal and illegal. Mr. Fairey says that Obama portrait that now hangs in the Smithsonian used as a reference, an Associated Press photo taken by photographer Manny Garcia, a photo taken by Mr. Garcia of Mr. Obama at the National Press Club in 2006.
The AP says that it wants credit and compensation for the relationship to the original image to Mr. Fairey‘s portrait. Mr. Fairey says he did not violate the AP‘s copyright and the legal fight is now on.
The dramatic background of all of this is that two weeks after the inauguration here in Boston, as he arrived for the opening night big party of his big one-man retrospective at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Shepard Fairey was handcuffed and arrested by Boston police.
Instead of going to the party, he spent the night for jail. Not for anything related to his dispute with the Associated Press over the Obama portrait, but for what have ended up being dozens of graffiti-related charges from the Boston police. In jail, in the Smithsonian and now here with us tonight.
It has been a busy few months for artist Shepard Fairey. Mr. Fairey, it is very nice to meet you. Thanks for coming by.
SHEPARD FAIREY, ARTIST: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Your “Obey” giant image was the visual soundtrack to my adolescence. And so I have to ask you, is part of what you are trying to do with your art is that, on purpose, should be ubiquitous - it should it be everywhere you look?
FAIREY: Yes. It is about really showing an individual who doesn‘t have a power of a corporation or any other means than a Xerox machine can make something that affects people that makes them think about things differently. That is what is important about spreading images and showing the power that one individual with a grassroots effort, you know, can affect people and make them - inspire them to do something and be part of the dialogue.
MADDOW: The use of your images in public and in outdoors in streetscapes has resulted in you butting up against a lot of graffiti charges. You pled guilty to the latest rash of charges in Boston.
And now, obviously, your images are all over the streets of Boston, just like they‘re all over the streets of every city in the country. Is it your defense to these charges that it wasn‘t you personally who put up all the stickers or posters? Or do you think that it just shouldn‘t be illegal even if you had personally put them all up?
FAIREY: Well, I think that I‘m being prosecuted in Boston mostly because of the idea that I advocate that public space shouldn‘t just be a one-way dialogue with advertising, that there should be room for other forms of expression.
In the case of my situation in Boston, I was given a lot of legal mural walls and other venues. I actually purchased 10 billboards around the city to display my art and also put my art on the side of city hall. So I didn‘t really need to do anything otherwise.
And my images are available for download on the Internet and were given away at my lecture. And you know, I can‘t control how they appear through those means on the streets.
MADDOW: In thinking about public art and the importance of public art which, as you said, is so central to the way that you approach your whole career, is it important to you that it has a guerilla component, a sort of lawless component? Or what, for example - what would you think about, like a new WPA federal art program where it was public art, but it was organized and not at all rebutting up against graffiti regulations that was organized by the government?
FAIREY: No, I think for me, public art isn‘t about some sort of a rebel pose. It‘s about the idea of communicating with people. I consider myself a populist artist. So I‘m trying to reach people through any venue possible.
The idea of a WPA-type program is actually something that I‘m extremely excited about. I think it could be, you know, very useful. It was useful during Roosevelt‘s administration. And I would like to see that happen. I‘ve actually talked to some people in the Obama administration about a concept like that.
MADDOW: The Associated Press, in terms of the Obama portrait - they say, because you used their picture as a reference for your portrait, that you should compensate them for that. Without getting to all of the details about what‘s going on with the suit and the countersuit and all that stuff, what‘s wrong with their basic argument in their mind?
FAIREY: Well, their basic is that no one should be able to work from a
reference photo without licensing it. And I think a piece of art that
transforms both the intent and aesthetics of an image is actually a valuable new piece independent of the original.
Also, in this case, my work does not compete with the original market. And I‘m fighting this basically for not just myself but for the rights of all artists who make grassroots images about for or against leaders that they don‘t have access to having personal portrait sittings with or possibly the financial means to license an image in order to make something that, you know, makes a comment and speaks to the public.
MADDOW: Shepard Fairey, I know that you have been turning down a lot of interview requests recently and that makes me all the more thankful that you‘ve chosen to be here. Thanks a lot. It‘s nice to meet you.
FAIREY: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith Olbermann picks the worst person in the world for the week.
And next on this show, I‘ve got our own “Weak in Review” from my friend Kent Jones. Plus, a little birthday cocktail moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: All that falling down can only mean only one thing. It is time to look back at the last seven days of public lame-itude. Here now is my friend, Kent Jones with “Weak in Review.” Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hello, Rachel. Hello.
JONES: Plenty of lame-itude. First up, tidy golfer of the week. At the Doral tournament in Miami yesterday, Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson drive on the third hole landed in a muddy patch near a water hazard. Well, rather than soil his clothes or lose a stroke, Stenson decided to strip down to his mulligan. Oh, weak. Weak.
MADDOW: That wasn‘t just some guy alone that was like a public kind of thing?
JONES: Yes. That‘s a professional golfer. You know what, buddy? Mud happens, all right? Mud happens to athletes.
MADDOW: Wow, some pride.
JONES: Next up, quote of the week. On his blog this week, a not-at-all-paranoid Chuck Norris shared his future plans saying, quote, “I may run for president of Texas. That may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone some day may again be running for president of the Lone Star State if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state.” Weak.
MADDOW: It‘s like trying to get in as many brand names as he can. Lone Star State - there‘s enemy of the state, there‘s state of the union.
JONES: Yes. I see a movie coming on.
MADDOW: That‘s exactly right.
JONES: Next up, ancient joke of the week. An English epidemic uncovered a book of jokes, dating back to the third century A.D. and is believed to be the oldest joke book ever found.
A sample of third century wit, quote, “‘Doctor,‘” asks the patient, “Whenever I get up after I sleep, I feel dizzy for half an hour. Then I‘m all right.‘ The doctor replies, ‘Then wait for half an hour before you get up.‘” Thank you. Tip your vessels. Weak, old joke.
MADDOW: Very nice. What was the footage from?
JONES: Oh, I don‘t remember offhand. It‘s “Life of Brian,” I think.
MADDOW: “Life of Brian.”
JONES: Not weak. Not weak at all. And finally. head banger of the week. We don‘t know what band this is or where they are, but we do know they are kicking out the jams on the inner web until this happens. Watch and learn, young metallicist. Ouch, hair in the bass strings. Ow.
MADDOW: Yet another reason to have mine and Kent‘s uniform haircuts.
JONES: Absolutely right. Absolutely.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
JONES: I can bang my head all night.
MADDOW: That‘s right. Never a problem with the bass. Kent, cocktail moment for you.
MADDOW: We have here some of the most favoritest(ph) Web video ever, some of the best stuff that has ever - just really like greatest hits. We‘re bringing you this potpourri of wonderfulness on the occasion of the birth - Aww.. I love that little hamster. This is - it‘s actually the Worldwide Web‘s birthday today.
JONES: Oh, very nice.
MADDOW: The Web is 20 years old today. And of course, as with everything related to technology, there‘s a huge fight. But Tim Berners Lee in Geneva, Switzerland, a scientist with the European Organization for Nuclear Research 20 years ago wrote a research proposal to create the Web. And it is a research proposal called “Information Management: A Proposal,” and that was essentially the thing that started the web. So it‘s happy birthday, Worldwide Web. You brought us all that crazy ninja stuff.
JONES: That‘s fantastic. Where would we see pandas otherwise?
MADDOW: Thank you for watching tonight. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>