The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/18/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
AIG outrage—we‘ve got your AIG outrage right here. And we‘ve got your congressional hypocrisy—and what in the name of Phil Gramm we can do about this whole mess. We‘ve also got Colonel Larry Wilkerson who fills like I do about Dick Cheney‘s recent pronouncements about President Obama. There‘s also a subway hero here in New York City and that‘s not just two euphemisms for a large sandwich, that‘s actual heroism underground involving transportation.
Also, stick around for an updated count of former Bush administration officials who are in or headed to a crowbar hotel. There‘s a new guy on his way.
But, first, near-universal accord has come to our shores. At this moment, the country is essentially, entirely united in outrage at a company nobody had heard of before, that‘s called AIG. Today, that collective frustration was aimed squarely at one person, AIG‘s current CEO, Edward Liddy. Now, Mr. Liddy did not write the bonus contracts. He has not been there very long, but he did pull the trigger on paying them out.
And today, Mr. Liddy was hauled up to Capitol Hill to explain why. Members of the House Financial Services Committee played the part of angry American mob demanding answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) FINANCIAL SERVICES CMTE. CHAIRMAN: I‘m now asking you to send us the names of those who received bonuses who have not given them back.
REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Do you really believe these are the only people that are capable of doing this job?
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: This should not have happened. And I honestly believe this is reversible. This is so outrageous.
REP. GARY ACKERMAN, (D) NEW YORK: Pay the $165 million back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To his credit, CEO Liddy knew that he was walking into a lion‘s den where the crowd, of course, would be rooting for the lion. Instead of mounting a fight, he essentially just curled up into the fetal position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD LIDDY, AIG CEO: Had I been CEO at that time, I would never have approved a retention contracts that were put in place over a year ago. It was distasteful to have to make these payments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At this point, even AIG is not defending AIG. That‘s how unpopular they are. You know it‘s bad when the only people who will take your side are, well .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: People who are working there that are middle-class people are expecting to get this bonus. If they don‘t get it, maybe they won‘t be motivated enough to try and help the company turn around.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: If we want a company to stay in business doing what it‘s doing and we give them the money because if they fail it‘s calamitous, then why the hell are we complaining and griping over what they do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and George W. Bush‘s last press secretary, Dana Perino.
You know, how you are on the moving walkway on the airport, there‘s that really loud voice in that speaker that tells you you are approaching the end of the moving walkway—the voices of Dana Perino and Rush Limbaugh are the voices that let you know you are approaching the unsustainable luminal edge of American political opinion.
But there is more interesting here in all this “death to AIG” outrage. Some of those in Congress who are doing the most flamboyant grandstanding against AIG right now are the same people who opposed things that could have prevented this from happening in the first place, say, bailout-related executive pay limit legislation, for example.
Here is Republican Senator Mitch McConnell this week channeling his fake inner populist. He said, quote, “It‘s shocking that the administration would come to us now and act surprised about these contracts. This administration could have and should have prevented this from happening.”
You know what maybe could have prevented this from happening? The executive pay limits that the White House was pushing for last month. Remember those—the one that Senator McConnell opposed?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 2)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, ® SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I think we are all appalled by these—some of these executive salary arrangements and bonus arrangements and perks and all the rest. On the other hand, I really don‘t want the government to take over these businesses and start telling them everything about what they can do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, I mean, why bother? Then there‘s the jaw-dropping double standard that somehow Wall Street contracts are unbreakable and sacred even in the context of a public bailout but the contracts for the autoworkers in Detroit? Tear them up.
Here‘s Tennessee Senator Bob Corker now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER, ® TENNESSEE: Well, I do think it‘s important to know whether these are commission payments for products that brokers have sold or whether this is, in fact, a bonus. Knowing whether these were contractually obligated to or not is important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s important. That‘s right. I mean, contracts have value. Respecting contracts that has value, right, Senator Corker, back in December?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORKER: They have to agree to have a contract in place that puts them on parity—on parity with companies like Toyota and Nissan and Volkswagen and other companies here in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Rip off those contracts or else. If the American car companies are going to get bailout money, we are going to open up their labor contracts and tear them up and make sure they are rewritten so that American workers get paid as little as they do if they were working for a foreign company. Yes.
How did we get into this AIG outrage mess in the first place? The base level diagnosis is greed gone wild, right? People out of incredible, irresponsible greed with apparently no rules in place to stop them. How can they get away with this stuff? Cue the outrage.
Senator McCain, go, Tweet, “If we hadn‘t bailed out AIG, no bonuses for greedy execs.” Yes, those greedy execs. We‘ve got to rein them in. Right, Senator McCain, circa April 2008?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA: I don‘t think, frankly, someone who wants to increase the burden of government regulation and higher taxes has any real understanding of economics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Take it from him. Heaven forbid, there would be rules to rein in what happens on Wall Street, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
The conservative argument against regulation was always that deregulation would create a lot of wealth. Deregulating Wall Street would allow for all of this great wealth creation that we have experienced as a country. The problem, as we have found out, is that “A,” it allows for all sort of immense criminality, say, Bernie Madoff, say; “B,” it puts the country hugely at risk, say, AIG, Citigroup the whole country; and, “C,” economically, it really only benefits the people at the top.
While all of those executives walk away with these giant bonuses year after year after year, take a look at what normal families walked away with during the Wall Street fueled deregulation so-called boom. This is median household income. In the 1970s, it rose 4.5 percent. In the 1980s, it rose 6.5 percent. In the 1990s, it rose 8.3 percent. In the 2000s—down 0.6 percent.
Deregulation benefits the people at the top. They get really, really, really rich doing stuff that might otherwise be illegal if there were regulations in place to stop them. We get all the national risk associated with what they were doing, and they get all the cash. No one else actually benefits from it except for them. It doesn‘t trickle down. No one pays ultimately except the rest of us.
Joining us now is David Weidner, Wall Street columnist for “MarketWatch.”
Mr. Wiedner, thanks for coming back on the show.
DAVID WEIDNER, MARKETWATCH WALL STREET COLUMNIST: Yes. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, lots of outrage coast-to-coast, outrage from both
parties about AIG. Does this mean that when President Obama sets out to
re-regulate Wall Street, it‘s actually going to happen?
WEIDNER: Well, certainly, public opinion being on the president‘s side is going to help a lot. I think that the president should worry that the government now is somehow getting tagged with this – with being responsible for what‘s happened at AIG even though the government really hasn‘t been in the game at AIG that long. So, he needs to worry that Timothy Geithner, treasury, and some of the other bailout people aren‘t being painted with this brush of signing off on huge bonuses for people on Wall Street.
MADDOW: In terms of how the outrage translates to the politics translates to whether or not we actually fix the problem, do you—can you see, in terms of what you know about the politics of the financial industry and the way these things get worked out—can you see there are going to be real political roadblocks to the kinds of changes that would stop something like this from ever happening again?
WEIDNER: Yes, of course, there is always going to be roadblocks. I mean, the financial industry is still powerful even though it‘s been weakened and even though it‘s taken government money. There‘s still a lot of influence there. There‘s still a lot of campaign financing going on. So, of course, the financial industry is still going to be able to push back a little bit at more regulation.
MADDOW: Honestly, though, if Goldman Sachs lobbyist turns up on Capitol Hill, doesn‘t just get pointed and laughed at, tarred and feathered and set on fire?
WEIDNER: Well, Rachel, you know, what we‘ve seen over the last years is that shuttle between Washington and Wall Street where officials on one side go to work on Wall Street and then they go back to Washington to regulate the industry they just came from. So, that‘s a real problem when we talk about reform in the financial industry. So, I‘m not sure that anybody is being laughed at. These guys are all friends.
MADDOW: Yes. And it also is true that—yes, they‘re all friends and it was true under the Bush administration, it‘s true under the Obama administration. I mean, the Goldman Sachs pedigree is sprinkled among the upper echelon of the Obama administration as well.
WEIDNER: Yes, that‘s right. And, you know, I would only add that what‘s happening at AIG is—it‘s a war between Wall Street culture and Washington culture. And AIG was just taken over by the government six months ago. It‘s still a Wall Street culture.
And what‘s happening is that it‘s got to become a Washington culture because Washington owns AIG now. And that‘s what we are seeing erupting on Capitol Hill, this battle between two cultures. And I think, right now, the people are picking between Iran and Iran. They‘re picking the government because they see it as the lesser of two evils.
MADDOW: But, in terms of fixing this to make sure that it gets better, in terms of .
MADDOW: . looking ahead at the policy changes that are going to have to be put in place to make sure—to redress some of the wrongs we‘ve got, to put the economy back together in a way that is going work and we are not going to get sort of had like we have again, there‘s got to be somebody outside Wall Street making the rules—because the Wall Street culture has infected the policy-making in this subject.
MADDOW: Is there anybody in Washington with necessary credibility who‘s not effected by Wall Street culture who‘s going to be able to come in and be an Elliott Ness, be a crusader here, and say—no, we are going to be cops, we‘re not going to be we‘re not going to be in cahoots with the robbers?
WEIDNER: I think you need to look at people who have worked on the enforcement side of some of these agencies and who‘ve actually brought Wall Street crooks to justice and had strong enforcement records. You know, last week, we talked about Harry Markopolos, the whistle blower in the Madoff case. Now, there‘s somebody who, if you listen to his testimony on Capitol Hill, he knows the SEC inside out—and you know, there‘s a candidate.
But again, it‘s coming from outside the beltway, probably would be difficult to get someone like that through a confirmation. I don‘t know. But there are people out there, but they‘re not the names that we are so familiar with in terms of .
MADDOW: Because the names we are familiar with are people who have been in that revolving door system.
MADDOW: It‘s fascinating politics. It‘s really important policy.
David Weidner, Wall Street columnist for MarketWatch, thanks for coming back. It‘s nice to see you.
WEIDNER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up: Former chief-of-staff to Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson will be here live to share with us his feelings about Dick Cheney‘s recent heckling of President Obama.
Also, I get to share my excitement that a man named Chad Lindsey will be here this evening, New York City‘s latest subway hero. I will explain. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: There is some scrubbing of Bush administration leftovers that takes a lot of repeating. And there‘s some that gets done lickety-split. Today was lickety-split kind of day as the Obama administration endorsed a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. It is illegal to have the gay in 77 countries; seven of which can impose the death penalty for this so-called crime.
Now, the Bush administration had refused to sign this declaration as recently as December because of legal concerns supposedly over states rights—meaning—same-sex marriage and stuff like that. Now, according to the new-fangled U.S. government, it is OK to have the gay. That didn‘t take long.
MADDOW: Back in the day when there was only the first Bush administration to speak of, the term “back door draft” generally had something to do with a breeze coming through an open door in the porch. Eight years on, “backdoor draft” describes our military‘s practice of holding on to troops beyond their retirement date or their re-enlistment date. The Pentagon calls it “stop-loss.”
And since 2001, nearly 185,000 service members have been on essentially involuntary active duty, stuck there after they had thought that they‘d be able to get out if they wanted to. Today—change. Defense Secretary Bob Gates announced plans to dial the practice of stop-loss way, way, way back and returning the “backdoor draft” term to it original lovely Norman Rockwelly meaning.
The Pentagon also sent a memo to Congress on the official decision to stop banning the media from covering the return ceremonies for the remains of U.S. troops killed abroad when families agree. Secretary Gates also announced new (ph) support for family members of the fallen. The Pentagon will pay for family members to travel to Dover Air Force Base and they will increase the availability of support available to the family members there.
So, there were two big policy changes today, courtesy of the Obama administration. The big one we are still waiting for is President Obama‘s plan for Afghanistan. We are awaiting a presidential directive on what the war is all about. And it‘s supposed to be delivered before the big NATO meeting on Afghanistan which is on the last day of this month. So, tick, tick, tick—can‘t be long now, right?
We did get a few tidbits today, the “New York Times” reporting late tonight that President Obama wants a massive 400,000 strong Afghanistan security force – 400,000, including Afghan troops and national police officers. The cost of doing is expected to be $10 billion to $20 billion over the next six or seven years—six or seven years.
Also, according to the “Washington Post,” there will be a civilian surge, hundreds more U.S. diplomats and civilians officials expected to be deployed to Afghanistan. Two new veteran senior diplomats are being sent as well.
As for the rest of the Afghanistan plan, I don‘t know. And unless the president is watching right now, hi, Mr. President—unless you are Barack Obama, you don‘t know either. Nobody seems to know. Today, even the Defense Secretary Bob Gates says he doesn‘t even know what he thinks the plan should be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This has been an area where I‘ve had—unlike Iraq and some of the other problems—this is an area where I‘ve been somewhat b uncertain in my own mind what the right path forward is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Join the club.
Joining us now is “New York Times” foreign correspondent, Dexter Filkins. For the last eight years, he has reported extensively from Afghanistan and Pakistan. He‘s been called the premier combat journalist of his generation. And this generation, there‘s a lot of competition for that title. Mr. Filkins‘ book, “The Forever War,” just won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Dexter Filkins, it‘s nice to meet you. Thanks for coming on the show.
DEXTER FILKINS, NEW YORK TIMES FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know you just got back from Afghanistan and Pakistan. I know you even met with a Taliban commander in the tribal areas while you were there. It must have been harrowing to get there.
On the ground, is there a sense the Taliban is at war with us,
at war with the Afghan government, at war with the Pakistani government
are they at war with all of those entities? What was your sense?
FILKINS: Yes, I think so. I mean, it‘s sort of on both sides of the border what you could conveniently call Pasthunistan; it‘s like 45 million people, 45 million Pashtuns. And in the Afghan part of that, that‘s where most of the American soldiers are fighting. And in—on the Pakistani part of that, the government there has basically lost control of that. I mean—so—in some ways, the Taliban are actually stronger in Pakistan than they are in Afghanistan because nobody is trying to kill them there.
MADDOW: So, when we look at this proposal what we‘re hearing from your paper, from the “New York Times,” that they‘re proposing a 400,000 strong Afghan national security force, that‘s, what, police and soldiers. It‘s a huge increase in the size of, essentially, the authorities in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: Do you think that makes the Taliban less—if that were to come to pass—would the Taliban have just more targets to shoot at or would it make them have less of a hold on the population?
FILKINS: No. I mean, I think, if the government in Kabul is ever going to have control of that country, they are going to need a lot more soldiers than they have or else—or else we have to do it. And so, I think, it‘s—you know, it‘s a long-term thing. It will take a long time. The Afghan army now only has 70,000 people in it. So, you are talking about a huge increase. It will take a very long time.
If you look at Iraq where the numbers are about 600,000 – I mean, that took—that took almost six years to get there. So, these are very long-term things, but at some point, we want to be able to hand the baton to them.
MADDOW: You‘ve spent so much time in Afghanistan over the years. I know you were there before 9/11.
MADDOW: You were there in 2001, 2002. You‘d just been there recently. Do you feel like from the Afghans that you‘ve met and from the way that people live, the prospect of quadrupling the number of Afghan young men mostly that are wearing uniforms—is that something that you can imagine them doing, culturally, economically, wanting to do that?
FILKINS: Well, I think the hard part would be paying for it.
FILKINS: I mean, that‘s just an economy that‘s—I mean, when you go into these villages, it‘s like the fourth century. I mean, there is no electricity, there‘s no water, there‘s no—nothing.
But I think, you know, my experience in Afghanistan when you go into these villages, people are pretty much the same everywhere. They don‘t want war. They don‘t want fighting. There‘s the Taliban over here. There‘s the Afghan government and the Americans over here, and they‘re kind of stuck in the middle.
So, I think what they really want is order. You know, they want
they want security for them and their families. And so, it‘s going to be a while before they get that, I think. It will probably get worse before it gets better.
MADDOW: When people talk about policy and these whole counterinsurgency ideas that, you know, the people are the prize, the people aren‘t incidental to what you are trying to do.
FILKINS: Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: You are trying to keep them safe.
MADDOW: When the policy talk in Washington, when it‘s about, it‘s all about trying to make order in Afghanistan, trying to make .
MADDOW: . the government there work. So, there‘s basic security, basic needs being met. The Taliban won‘t take over if that‘s true. How corrupt is the governance in Afghanistan right now?
FILKINS: Extremely. It is .
MADDOW: Like compared to other places that you‘ve been?
FILKINS: It‘s corrupt from top to bottom. I mean, it‘s—you know, Karzai‘s brother has been implicated in the opium trade. That‘s at the top. All the way down, all the way through, it‘s corrupt.
I mean, I—for instance, I mean, just as an example, I wanted to go into the airport one day. I couldn‘t get into the airport until I paid a bribe to a police officer. You know, one of our photographers was arrested and detained and he paid a bribe and they let him go. So, I mean, it‘s just kind of everything you do is corrupt. And everybody knows it. So, the government is kind of very discredited. So .
MADDOW: How do you build on that, though?
FILKINS: I don‘t—that‘s a tough one.
FILKINS: It‘s a really, really tough one. I think the—I think the greater problem probably, I mean, it‘s corrupt, it‘s thoroughly corrupt. But the problem with the Karzai government is, it‘s the government in Kabul. He‘s kind of the mayor of Kabul.
FILKINS: And when you leave the city limits, there is no nothing, there‘s no government at all. So, and you go—I mean, I remember, I was way out in southern Afghanistan in this little town called Maywan (ph), you know, we went to the police office there and it was a broken building with no electricity and the windows are broken, and we sat in the dark and talked to the police chief. And that‘s kind of—that‘s Afghanistan.
FILKINS: So, fourth century. And it‘s still a long way to go.
MADDOW: Dexter Filkins of the “New York Times,” author of, “The Forever War”—congratulations on the National Book Critics Award.
FILKINS: Thank you.
MADDOW: Nice to see you. Thanks.
FILKINS: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: OK. Imagine you are standing on a subway platform. A man nearby falls on the tracks—what do you do? If you daydream about yourself being awesome, then in your mind what you do is what Chad Lindsey did? Have you heard about this story today?
I‘m very excited to say—Chad Lindsey will be here live in just a few minutes. In my mind, he‘s already wearing the cape and tights.
MADDOW: Man, that Dick Cheney is a not very helpful former vice president. And people all over the place are starting to notice. At least one of them held a very senior position in the Bush administration and he is speaking out about it now. Colonel Larry Wilkerson will be with us to elaborate in just a moment.
First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
Do you remember the horrible, fascinating spy versus spy story from a couple of years ago? When a Russian spy named Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated in London? Remember that?
The story was riveting in part because the murder weapon used against Litvinenko was Polonium 210, a rare super radioactive metalloid. It took the poor guy about 3 ½ weeks to die after he was poisoned.
Now, the British police investigation concluded that the most likely culprit, the most likely killer was naturally another Russian spy. A guy named Lugovoy. Lugovoy, of course, had fled back to Russia by the time the Brits indicted him and the Russians refused to extradite him back to Britain.
That guy, Andrei Lugovoy, with the murder warrant out for him—he is running mayor of a city called Sochi. It‘s a Black Sea resort city almost a thousand miles south of Moscow. And you have heard of Sochi because it‘s going to host the Winter Olympics in five years.
Next month, Sochi will elect its next mayor to a term that leads right up to those Olympic Games. So, that promised spotlight for the mayor is inspiring all the wing nuttiest, wing-nut kooks in Russian politics to run to be mayor of this town. In addition to Lugovoy, the accused Polonium spy killer, the “New York Times” reports today that other candidates are rumored to include at least two Vladimir Putin rivals who want the Olympics to not be held in Sochi, also, a ballerina and a male figure skater. What, no Alan Keys?
Speaking of politicians accused of crime, in Washington today, a former Bush administration official was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Felipe Sixto is his name. He pled guilty to embezzling almost $600,000 from a government-funded program called the Center for a Free Cuba. He then became a special assistant to George W. Bush for intergovernmental affairs after the Cuba gig.
He ended up quitting the George W. Bush gig when he found out that
the Cuba office folks were totally on to him. That “oops, I‘d better
quit my job in the administration before I report to prison” phenomenon
that happened kind of a lot in the Bush administration.
I mean, Felipe Sixto is not the first member of the Bush
administration to have gone to prison. First, there was David Safavian
remember him? Chief-of-staff at Bush‘s General Services Administration, the top procurement official in the government? He got 18 months for charges connected to the Jack Abramoff scandal.
Then, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney‘s chief-of-staff. He was sentenced to 30 months in jail for lying and obstructing the investigation into outed the covert CIA officer Valerie Plame-Wilson. President Bush, of course, commuted that sentence.
Then, there was Bob Stein. He was the comptroller for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He got nine years in prison for conspiracy, bribery and money laundering. Then, there was Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary at the Department of Homeland Security until he was sentenced to five years in prison for trying to use a computer to seduce a child.
There‘s more, though. Who could forget Dusty Fago? Despite the name, not the star of a series of spaghetti westerns. Mr. Fago was, in fact, the executive director of the CIA. He was sentenced to three years for corruption.
And then, there was Italia Federici, a political aide to the
Secretary of the Interior, Gail Norton. She got two months in a halfway house for tax evasion and for obstructing the Senate investigation into Jack Abramoff.
Next in line was Italia Federici‘s boyfriend, the number two official at the Interior Department, Steven Griles. He got 10 months in jail for his part in the Abramoff debacle.
And now, we‘ve got Felipe Sixto as of today, which brings the total number of Bush administration officials who have gone to jail already to at least eight. That is not counting all the other convictions that didn‘t result in jail time, all the other investigations. That is just the lucky Bushies who made it all the way to the crowbar hotel. They could like have a prison softball team at this point.
And finally, in the absence of a useful functioning Republican Party right now, some Democrats in the Senate have taken on the important responsibility of torpedoing their party‘s own agenda. I speak of course of the conservadems.
Evan Bayh, conservative Democratic senator from Indiana has followed through on his promise to form a conservative Democratic caucus in the Senate to oppose the Obama agenda. So far, he says, they want to focus on reducing federal spending. Really? In a recession? Because you liked the Great Depression?
According to roll call today, the conservadems are also trying to water down the president‘s climate change legislation and the gearing up to prevent healthcare legislation from passing by making sure that it is brought up in a way that it will still be subject to the Republicans filibustering it.
These are Democrats doing this. Who needs Republicans when you‘ve got Democrats like this? These 15 conservadems all allowed their names to be used on Evan Bayh‘s press release announcing his new group.
But on “Morning Joe” here on MSNBC yesterday, Sen. Bayh said in addition to the names scrolling under me right now, there are others as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN): There are three or four others that we are putting in witness protection program who don‘t want to be publicly identified yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There are others? There are other Democratic senators who are secretly against the president‘s agenda and want to work against it but don‘t want to be seen working against it?
That seems cowardly and it seems like something we ought to be able to surmount through the magic of people ratting you out. We hereby appeal for tips. Who is not only that list but is going to these meetings siding against Obama with the conservadems but doing it secretly? Anybody know? Disgruntled staffers? Anyone? firstname.lastname@example.org. We await word.
MADDOW: He‘s been in Washington for so long that by the time I was two, he was already White House chief-of-staff. He has been in prominent national positions ever since then. You would kind of think that I would be inured to the guy, that I would be used to him. But I cannot get over this Dick Cheney.
The former vice president seems to be suffering from a case of “post-causing other people traumatic stress disorder.” Since he no longer has access to actual levers of power at his world domination command center in McLean, Virginia, he has undertaken a campaign in the press to apparently try to undermine the current administration.
In an interview with “Politico” last month, Mr. Cheney put on that mask from the movie “Scream” and warned us all of the coming attack. He said that he was worried about the new administration‘s ability to stop it.
On Sunday, he actually said that the current president is, quote, “making some choices that will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.” In other words, Dick Cheney, until a couple of months ago, the vice president of the United States of America is now a heckler.
The former chief-of-staff to Colin Powell, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson has just written an article for “The Washington Note” in which he called the former vice president‘s “Politico” interview, quote, “almost mystifying in its twisted logic and terrifying in its fear-mongering.”
Quote, “Cheney said, ‘These are evil people and we are not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.‘ I have to agree but the other way around. Cheney and his like are the evil people and we certainly are not going to prevail in the struggle with radical religion if we listen to people such as he.”
A reminder, this is not me saying this at least this time. On the subject of the war on terror Col. Wilkerson also says that utterly incompetent vetting of prisoners in Afghanistan inevitably resulted in a lot of innocent people being sent to Guantanamo who had no business being there.
He indicts Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld specifically for knowing about that incompetent vetting, knowing that so many people at Guantanamo were innocent and blocking their release from Guantanamo anyway.
He indicts what he calls an ad hoc intelligence philosophy called “mosaic” that came into force after 9/11. Quote, “Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee was innocent.”
Col. Wilkerson closed by saying that he believes there will be future terrorist attacks, that al-Qaeda will be back. He says, quote, “With people such as Cheney assisting them, they are far more likely to succeed.”
Joining us now is retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief-of-staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Col. Wilkerson, thank you for making time to come on the show with us tonight. Nice to see you.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Thanks for having me. I must say that as you were reading off the long list of people going to jail from the Bush administration, I had trepidation you were going to get to my name.
MADDOW: Well, as far as we know, that‘s not yet in the cards. Give us a heads-up and an exclusive if it is going to happen, though.
MADDOW: I have to ask you. After levying this kind of criticism against the former vice president when you pick up the phone now, do you worry Dick Cheney is going to like, reach through and grab you by the neck or something?
WILKERSON: No, but I absolutely do worry that the IRS might check my tax accounts a lot more closely.
MADDOW: Yes. I mean, you are taking on a guy who notoriously chews people up and spits them out in bureaucratic fights and in political fights. But I have to ask you why you feel like it is important to do that right now. He is out of power. He‘s still doing interviews, making comments on current policy. Why go after him now?
WILKERSON: I am really concerned about - what I started to be concerned about when John McCain and Sarah Palin were campaigning. I saw the fringe of the McCain rallies and I didn‘t like what I saw. It frightened me.
And I think people like Rush Limbaugh and now Dick Cheney, former vice president as you pointed out and as everyone knows, are doing some of that fear-mongering, too. This is not good. There are some crazy people in this country. There are Una-bombers. There are Lee Harvey Oswalds. There are Sirhan Sirhans. And these are the kind of people that listen to this kind of fear-mongering and it‘s dangerous and so someone‘s got to start talking out about it.
MADDOW: You are also making some pretty serious allegations related to the war on terror and Guantanamo. You‘re alleging that keeping innocent people in prison essentially became a matter of policy.
How do you know that people like Rumsfeld and Cheney knew that the people at Guantanamo weren‘t really vetted, but there was a likelihood that a lot of them were innocent when they were calling them the worst of the worst.
WILKERSON: We knew at the State Department so I find it extremely difficult to believe that the people who are in charge - although I have said they are incompetent, I don‘t think their incompetence reached the degree that they didn‘t what we knew in terms of what was happening at Guantanamo.
Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage began immediately when people hit the camps in Guantanamo trying to deal with some of the ones that we knew we could probably deal with like U.K. citizens. That is to say British citizens whom Jack Straw, then the foreign minister for the United Kingdom wanted to be returned.
I mean, who would think that the United Kingdom couldn‘t incarcerate, couldn‘t interrogate, couldn‘t control people, couldn‘t deal with people like this who were their citizens. And yet, we couldn‘t even repatriate British citizens.
MADDOW: You also say that Cheney and Rumsfeld knew that a 13-year-old boy and a man over the age of 90 were among the people who we had in prison. Have they ever admitted to that?
WILKERSON: As far as I know, it became public knowledge and they were eventually released, but no one has ever admitted any culpability for it, nor has anyone been held accountable for it.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about “mosaic,” an intelligence philosophy that you described as being based on the idea that anyone caught near a battle zone must know something. So therefore we shouldn‘t let anybody go even if they are innocent just based on where they were from when we picked them up.
Where did this idea come from? Was it ever officially approved or was it just an ad hoc developed thing?
WILKERSON: I don‘t know if it was officially approved. And I know it was used and I know that it was a philosophy behind some of the interrogation. For example, it was a philosophy behind some of the interrogation that occurred in Bagram, in Afghanistan and behind some of the interrogation at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
And it is really fairly rational. If you really don‘t have good intelligence, good actionable intelligence, and you really don‘t have good language capability and interrogation capability, then about the best you can do is vacuum up all that you can and get all the information you can and try to piece together from that information solid information about who might be a terrorist, who might be a Taliban, who might be an insurgent and so forth.
So it makes sense from an “I don‘t know and I need to know” basis. But it was so haphazardly run and so not coordinated - so uncoordinated that I think in Abu Ghraib, for example, we probably had somewhere around 25,000 people incarcerated. And I dare say maybe 500 of them knew anything that was worthwhile.
MADDOW: And it meant that the policy of the U.S. Government towards detentions was such that being innocent was no claim on actually getting out of prison. That‘s sort of hard to defend.
MADDOW: Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief-of-staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, it is always really great to have you on the show. Thank you for taking time tonight.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: If someone fell on the subway tracks near you, hit his head on the rail and passed out, would you be able to drag him to safety off the tracks in like, I don‘t know, 10 seconds before the train came? That is what our next guest did. Stick around.
MADDOW: George W. Bush‘s first post-presidency speech was closed to the press but some choice quotes have now made it out of the room, including Mr. Bush‘s first description of the book he‘s writing. It‘s about the 12 toughest decisions he says he made as president and why he is writing it.
He said, quote, “I‘m going to put people in my place so when the history of this administration is written, at least there‘s an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened.”
Authoritarian? You know, not all Freudian slips are created equal.
MADDOW: Something big like a State of the Union address affords presidents and congressional leaders a rare privilege to invite and honor special guests who symbolize important virtues like hard work or honesty or heroism.
Last month, for example, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi invited U.S. Airways Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and other crew members from Flight 1549 to President Obama‘s big speech to Congress.
In 2007, President Bush‘s special State of the Union guest was Wesley Autry, who three weeks prior had saved a man from being run down by a New York City subway train.
Now, we here at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW do not host events like the State of the Union. But thanks to my immense power as a cable TV news host, I can invite heroic people to come talk to me, people like actor Chad Lindsey who did something remarkable this week while waiting for the C-Train at New York‘s Penn Station.
Here now is Chad Lindsey. He‘s an actor. He‘s currently appearing in the off-Broadway show, “Kaspar Hauser.” You may also recognize him - wait you‘re going to be more embarrassed - from this Best Buy commercial.
CHAD LINDSEY, ACTOR: Oh, my god.
MADDOW: Yes. There you are. Chad Lindsey, nice to meet actor.
LINDSEY: Nice to meet you.
MADDOW: Is all of this incredibly embarrassing to you?
LINDSEY: It is. But it‘s a pleasure to meet you.
MADDOW: It‘s nice to meet you, too.
LINDSEY: It‘s that part of us.
MADDOW: Thank you for being on the show.
LINDSEY: You got it.
MADDOW: Right. Right to the story.
MADDOW: It‘s Monday. You‘re at Penn Station. You‘re waiting for the C-Train. What happens?
LINDSEY: Yes. And I was just sort of zoned out. And everybody watched this guy coming at the edge too fast.
MADDOW: Just walking?
LINDSEY: Stumble walking.
LINDSEY: And you know, we were frozen. And then he just sort of teetered and no one could quite get to him in time and he took ahead right into the track bed and smacked his head right on the second rail and just started bleeding all over the place and then sort of collapsed, like passed out.
MADDOW: So he like hit his head, was still moving a little bit …
MADDOW: … but then …
MADDOW: He‘s lying between the two rails?
LINDSEY: Between the two tracks, yes. And kind of sprawled out over
the whole deal. And -
MADDOW: What did you do?
LINDSEY: Apparently, I dropped my backpack and jumped in there.
MADDOW: Why do you say apparently? You don‘t remember?
LINDSEY: I don‘t remember that part.
LINDSEY: Not really.
MADDOW: OK. But you had a backpack with you. You must have dropped it.
LINDSEY: And then I picked it back up before I got out of there. So, yes. I didn‘t have it on down there. So jumped down in there and I tried to wake him up because I was like - you know. Well, I thought of that guy who lay down on top of the other guy and like went under the train.
MADDOW: Wesley Autry, right. Yes.
LINDSEY: And I was like - not doing that.
MADDOW: Not doing that.
LINDSEY: No, that just sounds horrible.
MADDOW: And there‘s nowhere else safe to like roll him out of rail.
LINDSEY: I didn‘t know. I still don‘t know. I haven‘t figured that out. He didn‘t seem like it. And he was moved - then he started moving. I couldn‘t quite wake him all the way up. And he was just sort of really stunned.
And I‘m sure he really hit hard. I mean, he was bleeding all over the place. So I grabbed him under the armpits and I hoisted him up to the, you know, top of the platform. But I couldn‘t get him all the way up, so then I started yelling for people in a voice I‘m not familiar with.
MADDOW: Did anybody else go down with you?
LINDSEY: I don‘t think so. But there were two guys that were helping
the whole time. Like once I got him up there, you know -
MADDOW: They pulled him up.
LINDSEY: They pulled him, yes, the rest of the way out.
MADDOW: So when you‘re standing up, how high above you is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
LINDSEY: Higher than it looks.
LINDSEY: It‘s like -
MADDOW: So lifting a full-grown man that high is hard .
LINDSEY: I don‘t - yes.
MADDOW: All right.
LINDSEY: It went all right.
MADDOW: What did you show to people?
LINDSEY: I said, “Alert the station agent and contact the authorities.”
MADDOW: “Alert the station agent and contact the authorities.”
LINDSEY: It was like coming out of my mouth.
MADDOW: You don‘t seem like an authoritative - I mean, not that you don‘t seem heroic.
LINDSEY: No. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: It is a very official thing to have said. Good for you.
LINDSEY: No. I have no idea.
MADDOW: So you hoisted him up and then - I mean, was the train coming?
LINDSEY: The train? Yes. When I was trying to wake him up, I looked to see what was going on. And you know, the train tracks start to shine when the reflective light of the train is headed at you.
MADDOW: The headlights, yes.
LINDSEY: And I saw that. And I was like, “OK, we need to get out of this hole like, pronto.” So that‘s when I picked him up into that. And then the guy who helped me, you know, drag him all the way up and he was really, really confused. So I hopped out of there which I didn‘t think I could do. But at that point, like adrenaline.
LINDSEY: So I kind of just felt like - I felt like that anyway.
MADDOW: You couldn‘t just stop the train like that.
LINDSEY: Yes. Hold it. There‘s a guy over here. But anyway, so - I jump out of there. And then I had to hold him down because he was going to get right back up. And you know, I think he just didn‘t know what was going on.
LINDSEY: So held him down and told him to calm down and kept saying, “Sir, you have to lie down. You have to stay down,” because the train then was whipping in.
LINDSEY: You know, they come in fast. And finally, someone had called
the cops. Two officers showed up and I quickly explained what was
happening or what had just happened. And he needed help. He was
obviously bleeding all over the place. And then I -
LINDSEY: Went to my rehearsal.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, Chad Lindsey, this means that you should be the world‘s most famous actor or whatever else you want to be. We owe you a debt of gratitude.
LINDSEY: Wow. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: I should say the guy who Mr. Lindsey rescued is fine. He has been released hospital and he‘s doing all right.
MADDOW: And I think this is all neat. If ever I was going to host the State of the Union, you would be my special guest.
LINDSEY: Tada. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee on just what should be done about AIG.
Next on this show, just enough pop culture with Kent Jones and a cocktail moment that is really, really, really good news.
MADDOW: Hi, Kent. I like that.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: What have you got?
JONES: Sorry to break up the dancing there. For the third straight year, Lance Mackey and his canine crew won the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska today. Mackey became the third musher in the race‘s 37-year history to win the freezing 1,100-mile race in three consecutive years. Good going. And best of all, he got to speak to the governor of Alaska, whom you might recognize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): We are so proud of you, Lance. We are considering this the greatest team in Iditarod history. And all my best, too, sent to you from Todd.
LANCE MACKEY, IDITAROD RACE WINNER: That‘s great. Thank you.
JONES: So what? Nothing for the dogs? Not even a, “Good boy. Good boy”? Why does Sarah Palin hate dogs? Next.
One expert says that the bad economy is causing people to swear more. Lots of F-bombing going on out there, said Los Angeles psychotherapist Nancy Irwin, quote, “There are a lot of elements that are out of control right now and as a result, there‘s a lot more frustration, a lot more fear and anxiety. When people feel that, many cuss. Swearing is something that gives us an instantaneous release.”
Let‘s try it. Those AIG execs are a bunch of pod jam brother packing sploosh bazzles! Yes. That worked.
MADDOW: Do you feel better?
MADDOW: All right. A cocktail moment for you Kent that will definitely make you feel better.
MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff was here a couple of nights ago after he met Obama and he was saying that Obama was considering this privatized VA healthcare things that all of vets‘ groups were super, super mad about?
MADDOW: I talked to Paul about it a couple of times. I talked to him yesterday and he was like, “They‘ve asked me to come back and talk to them.”
MADDOW: Yes. And they just decided they‘re not doing it.
JONES: Very nice.
MADDOW: Yes. Statement from the White House, “The president listened to concerns raised by the Veterans Service Organizations. The president has instructed that consideration of this be dropped.
MADDOW: Yes. Great news. Congratulations to all of the vets‘ groups on that one for doing that.
MADDOW: Great. Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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