The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/01/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I want to say thank you to everybody at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Indeed, I did interview Colin Powell earlier today here in Washington. We talked about President Obama‘s foreign policy, President Bush‘s torture policy, and even the Republican budget proposal.
Republicans, you will want to hear what General Powell has to say about you.
Also, Queen Noor of Jordan will be here live, for real.
All that plus, the evidence that the president‘s car is too big for England. That is all coming up this hour.
But, first, within a span of 12 hours today, President Obama met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao, British opposition leader David Cameroon, the Queen of England, the Queen of England‘s husband, Prince Phillip, and he wrapped it all up by dining on some slow-roasted Welsh lamb with all the other leaders of the free world, plus, J.K. Rowling, who wrote the “Harry Potter” books. I mean, why not?
After the meeting with the Russian president today, Obama and Medvedev released a remarkable joint statement that said, quote, “The era when our countries viewed each other as enemies is long over.” Good to know. You know, someone should tell the new edition of the Kremlin youth who are making party dresses out of the Cuban flag these days. Yes, for real.
After dancing on the grave of the Cold War with the Russian president, President Obama made more news with China‘s premier. The two nations agreed to form a U.S./China strategic and economic dialogue. In English, that means Obama and Hu Jintao pledged to cooperate on essentially every major international issue, from the economy to terrorism to military relations. And that all to come on handy the next time Chinese sailors strip down to their underpants and throw things at our Navy ships in the South China Sea—that only happened three weeks ago.
President Obama also accepted invitations to visit both China and Russia later this year. Somewhere Henry Kissinger thought—hey, that was my idea.
Obama‘s first full day on the world scene was essentially about capital “D” diplomacy, winning over former and possibly future rivals, sustaining relationships with current allies, getting a spot of tea with the queen, and putting a new face on America as he attempts to make two enormous international sales pitches—one, selling the world on his plan to fix the global economy and, two, selling the world on his first major foreign policy initiative, his plan to pull the situation in Afghanistan back from the brink.
Earlier today, I had the chance to sit down with former Secretary of State Colin Powell. And we began our discussion by talking about Obama‘s first trip abroad and the challenges that lay ahead in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: First of all, General Powell, happy birthday. I know that you—your birthday is this week, right?
GEN. COLIN POWELL, (RET), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And yours is today, so happy birthday to you, Rachel.
MADDOW: This is a sort of Aries cabal, we‘re having here.
MADDOW: I have to ask you, when you look at President Obama abroad, trying to make the case for Afghanistan, to our allies this week, Secretary Clinton at The Hague trying to do the same—I wonder if you wish that you were back there. If you wish that you were there, too.
POWELL: No, you know, I had—I had been to so many summits in the course of my career and had so many meetings in The Hague and Brussels and elsewhere, but I have no feelings that I‘d want to be there.
But I surely hope that their work is successful. I hope that they‘re able to mobilize our NATO and other European allies to understand that the risk in Afghanistan is not just a risk to Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is a risk to Europe, it‘s a risk to the rest of the world, because we cannot allow al Qaeda to grow in an environment of chaos in that part of the world. And we can‘t allow Pakistan to fail and we don‘t want Afghanistan to fail.
So I hope the president and Secretary Clinton and my other colleagues, Secretary Gates, my friends, will be able to make that case to our friends over there so that they will do more.
MADDOW: The Powell Doctrine, part of the Powell Doctrine is that military campaigns should employ decisive force and that there should be a way out. In year eight of the war in Afghanistan, as we‘re making these continued overtures to allies now, it doesn‘t seem like that is the game plan. I wonder if you think that the Afghanistan and Pakistan situation is something to which the Powell Doctrine should not apply.
POWELL: I think the Powell Doctrine is pretty good military strategy and I‘m proud to have a doctrine named after me that really is classic military thought. Decide what you are trying to achieve politically and if it can‘t be achieved through political and diplomatic and economic means, and you have to use military force, then make sure you know exactly what you‘re using the military force for and then apply it in a decisive manner.
The president, I think, has laid out a very comprehensive plan and made a statement last week about Afghanistan and it looks like every single issue and every itch has been scratched. We need more troops, we need more civilians, we need more economic assistance to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he understands the centrality of Pakistan to the situation in Afghanistan.
Now, the means he‘s applying to it, 21,000 more troops, hundreds more civilians, $1.5 billion a year to Pakistan, is that enough? Is that decisive? I don‘t know the answer to that question because, you know, even the greatest of all strategists must take into account the presence of an enemy.
There is somebody in the other side who is going through their own analysis—leaders of al Qaeda, leaders of the Taliban. And I don‘t know enough about that situation to know what level of force is really necessary to be able to say we now control Afghanistan and working with the Pakistanis, the Pakistanis now control those tribal areas.
We don‘t know how this plan will execute yet. I mean, it‘s going to be a long-term prospect. There should be no illusions that this is suddenly going to be a surge that produces results by the end of the year.
Now, your question was, how does it all end up? I think, ultimately, it ends up with America and NATO and the UN all coming together to help the Afghans put together a security force that can provide security to the country so that it isn‘t going to take American and NATO troops forever to be there. And if that can be the case, that we have security forces built up to the point where they can manage security, and a government that‘s functioning and that has control throughout the country, that would be a success, we could start to come home.
But, the other half of that, which makes it more complicated in recent months, is the situation in Pakistan. Because if Pakistan remains a sanctuary, a place where al Qaeda and the Taliban can regroup and get recruits, they‘re not just going to solve the problem and American troops aren‘t going to go into Pakistan. We have to work with the Pakistanis so that they can bring that problem under control.
MADDOW: You were secretary of state when the Afghanistan War started. Can you tell us about conversations that you had with President Bush or Vice President Cheney or even Donald Rumsfeld about winning the peace in Afghanistan? Was that a major agenda item? Was that a central area of focus?
POWELL: It was an area of focus and our principal task, even though it‘s been, I think, missed in recent reporting, we went in there and after we got rid of the Taliban government because they wouldn‘t turn over al Qaeda, we then focused on going after al Qaeda and the Taliban, and we were having donor conferences and I chaired one and went to Tokyo and chaired one to get the kinds of funds for reconstruction that they‘re now trying to do in The Hague.
And so, we were not unmindful of the need for reconstruction or unmindful of the need for a stable government. We helped Mr. Karzai become president and take over and we began the process of building the Afghan security forces. But we did not eliminate al Qaeda. We did not eliminate the Taliban. Could we have if we had more forces? That will be discussed and debated for years to come.
MADDOW: On the issue of development assistance in Afghanistan, Secretary Clinton has essentially said in recent weeks that the initial recent reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan were wasted, that that money didn‘t go to reconstruct the country in a way that we should consider to have been effective, both because of just inappropriate—because of corruption, and also because of—an unfocused approach to the problem.
Do you disagree?
POWELL: I can‘t agree with her that it was wasted. And the characterization that was made of it was always that roads were built, schools were built, a government was created, a military force was created. It needs to be made much larger, but there is a military force there now. A police force, which has problems but, nevertheless, we did something to get it started. We helped millions of refugees who were living in camps in Pakistan come back to Afghanistan.
And so I think there were problems in the aid effort, and we can do a better job. I cannot go along with the assessment that it was all wasted. And in fact, when we started our aid efforts in that part of the world, and we were also providing funds to Pakistan, we needed Pakistan in order to be able to conduct our operations in Afghanistan. And so, a lot of that money went to assist the Pakistani military, to help us and to build them up.
And some went to—I spent a lot of time with President Musharraf and his team at that time, going over textile quotas and debt relief and other things to get the Pakistani economy going again. And so I think the money wasn‘t totally wasted, as some have characterized it, either in Afghanistan or in Pakistan.
MADDOW: Did Pakistan spend the money well once they got it?
POWELL: I don‘t think you can say they spent every dollar well, but I do know that they were investing in their educational system. They did things with their military. But I cannot account for every single dollar, nor do I have the audit trail on every single dollar.
MADDOW: That Afghanistan reconstruction money not at all wasted, according to General Powell. Over to you Secretary of State Clinton.
There‘s much more of my interview with General Powell ahead, including pretty brutal criticism from him for the budget plan his fellow Republicans unveiled in Congress today.
Also, General Powell and I have a rather tense discussion about something no Bush administration senior official really wants to talk about it.
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MADDOW: I don‘t mean to press you on this to the point of discomfort.
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MADDOW: I told you it was tense. That‘s ahead.
MADDOW: As Russian President Medvedev prepared to make nice with President Obama in London today, one of his predecessors suffered a most embarrassing attack back home. Vandals affixed a bomb last night to an 80-year-old statue of Vladimir Lenin in St. Petersburg. The bomb blew a hole in—well, in his crotch. Or if you look at it from another angle, the bomb exploded the junk in Vladimir‘s trunk. You now, they always said that communists would get it in the end.
MADDOW: General Colin Powell has long argued that the prison at Guantanamo should be closed, that America‘s standing in the world has been hurt by Guantanamo and by Abu Ghraib. His says that his position at the State Department after 9/11 was that the Geneva Conventions should be followed by the United States.
When we debate prosecuting American officials for breaking the laws against torture, those discussions have often centered on people like the six legal and policy advisers who may get indicted soon in Spain—people like John Yoo and now Judge Jay Bybee who wrote the legal memos that said essentially, “We are just not going to call it torture anymore, so feel free.” We think about Alberto Gonzales and the Pentagon‘s top lawyer, William Haynes, and Douglas Feith, who had lived in Secretary Rumsfeld‘s desk drawer at the Pentagon.
We also think about David Addington, Vice President Cheney‘s terrifying cross-the-lineman. We think about those aides, in other words, who put their names on the paperwork that resulted ultimately in men across the world in secret prisons being fitted with long, flexible collars to better to use their body weight to swing them head first into the walls of their prison cells to purportedly make them talk.
The prospect has been raised that Vice President Cheney himself or maybe even the former president could ultimately find themselves unable to travel abroad or even facing subpoenas here at home, if America ever decides that we couldn‘t live with ourselves, if we let American policymakers get away scot-free with having devised and implanted policies that some Bush administration officials now even admit were torture.
Where does Colin Powell fit into this debate, a man with approval ratings about as high as Dick Cheney‘s are low? Well, last spring, Jan Crawford Greenburg at ABC News reported that then Secretary of State Powell along with Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft and CIA Director George Tenet and Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney all were members of the National Security Council‘s Principles Committee—a committee that met a dozen times in the White House Situation Room to discuss and approve specific interrogation techniques to be used against specific prisoners.
Abu Zubaida, who the CIA admits to having waterboarded, who told the Red Cross that he was slammed into his cell walls by a towel that was fitted around his neck like a collar, who was locked inside a tiny black box with little airflow, who, in other words, was tortured, he was one of the prisoners who‘s interrogation was reportedly signed off on by that National Security Council principles group which reportedly included Secretary Powell.
So, I asked Secretary Powell today, was he there and did he sign off on that?
MADDOW: On the issue of intelligence tainted evidence and those things, were you ever present at meetings at which the interrogation of prisoners like Abu Zubaida and other prisoners in those early days where the interrogation was directed, were specific interrogation techniques were approved? It has been reported on a couple of different sources that there were principles meetings, which you would have typically been there where those interrogations were almost play by play discussed.
POWELL: They were not play by play discussed, but there were conversations at a senior level as to what could be done with these types of interrogation. I cannot go further because I don‘t have knowledge of all the meetings that took place or what was discussed at each of those meetings, and I think it‘s going to have to be in the written record of those meetings what will determine whether anything improper took place. But it is always the case that at least from the State Department‘s standpoint, we should be consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions.
And that‘s why this was such a controversial—controversial issue which will have to go in due course, I think, we all will go to the written record of what memos were signed. I‘m not sure what memos were signed or not signed. I didn‘t have access to all of that information.
MADDOW: If there was a meeting though in which senior officials were saying—were discussing and giving approval for sleep deprivations, stress positions, waterboarding, were those officials committing crimes when they were giving that authorization?
POWELL: You‘re asking me a legal question. I mean, I don‘t know that any of these items would be considered criminal and I will wait for whatever investigations that the government or the Congress intends to pursue with this.
MADDOW: There have been two Bush administration officials now who have said explicitly that what we did at Guantanamo was torture. One of them was the State Department general counsel for Guantanamo litigation, a man named Vijay—excuse me—Padmanabhan.
POWELL: I don‘t know him.
MADDOW: Also Susan Crawford, who heads up the military tribunals at Guantanamo. Both have said it was torture. Do you think that they are wrong? Do you feel like you have enough information to know if people were waterboarded—is that torture?
POWELL: I will let those who are making the legal determination of that make that judgment. Susan Crawford has made a statement and she was in a position of authority to make such a statement, has access to all the information.
The lawyer you mentioned who is working, I guess, in the legal advisor‘s office in the State Department but I don‘t—I don‘t believe I know him has made statements recently. What‘s the basis for his statements and what meetings he was in and whether he was in Guantanamo, I just don‘t know.
MADDOW: I guess have to ask that—a broader question about whether or not you have regrets not about what the Bush administration did broadly in the years that you were secretary of state but the decisions that you participated in about interrogation, about torture, about the other things that are now so much .
POWELL: There was no meeting on torture. It‘s constantly said that the meetings—I had an issue with this—we had meetings on what torture to administer. What I recall, the meetings I was in, and I was not in all the meetings and I was not an author of many of the memos that have been written and some have come out and some have not come out.
The only meetings I recall was where we talked about what is it we can do with respect to trying to get information from individuals who were in our custody. And I will—I will just have to wait until the full written record is available and has been examined.
MADDOW: I know—I know that—I don‘t mean to press you on this to the point of discomfort, but there is an—there is an extent to which there is a legal discussion around this where everybody feels a little constrained by the legal terms on whether or not they are a legal professional. There is also the policy implications that you‘ve been so eloquent about in terms of what the implications are of these policies towards the U.S. abroad in a continuing way, and you‘ve been very optimistic in thinking that America still has a reservoir of goodwill around the world that we can call on regardless of these difficulties that we‘ve had around these issues.
If specific interrogation techniques were being approved by people at the political level in the Cabinet, it doesn‘t—it almost—the legal niceties of it almost become less important.
POWELL: I don‘t know where these things were being approved at a political level.
MADDOW: If there was a principles meeting at the White House to discuss interrogation techniques?
POWELL: It does mean—this does not mean it was approved—anything was approved at a meeting.
POWELL: It depends on did the meeting end up in a conclusion or was it just a briefing that then went to others to make a final decision on and to document. And so it is a legal issue and I think we have to be very careful and I have to be very careful because I don‘t want to be seen as implicating anybody or accusing anybody because I don‘t have the complete record on this. And that complete record I think in due course will come out.
MADDOW: That complete record, he says, will in due course come out.
And the question, of course, is—will it?
General Powell says he expects a written record was made of those discussions in the Situation Room and that record would show whether anything improper happened when senior White House officials discussed how to get information from individuals in our custody, as he said. He says he awaits whatever investigation that the government or the Congress intends to pursue with this in order to say if what happened in that Situation Room was a crime.
He‘s awaiting that investigation. Will that investigation happen? That‘s not up to the people who came up with these policies in the Bush administration. Now, it is up to Congress and to President Obama.
MADDOW: You know that huge bulletproof, bombproof, James Bondy Cadillac One that President Obama is driven around in? They call it “The Beast.” Well, when “The Beast” met Downing Street today, it had a certain Godzilla in Tokyo feel to it. We‘ll have more on that later in our cocktail moment.
First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
The first is a dramatic tie vote essentially in a teeny, tiny, teeny, tiny, little congressional seat special election. And it involves a lot of the biggest A-list politicos in the country.
Here‘s how it started: Hillary Clinton did not, as you might recall, win the presidency. She instead kept her job as senator from the state of New York. Then, the new president, Barack Obama, named Senator Clinton to be secretary of state. In order to take that job, she had to resign from the Senate.
And then, the totally un-democratic, creepy, man-above-democracy power of governors to fill Senate vacancies kicked in. The governor of New York picked Kirsten Gillibrand for Senator Clinton‘s Senate seat. One issue with that is that Kirsten Gillibrand already had a job in Washington. She was a member of the House. So, she resigned her seat in the House in order to move up to the Clinton Senate seat.
And now this week, finally, there has been a special election to fill that seat in the House that used to be Kirsten Gillibrand‘s. Now, the issue is—that the election was essentially a tie—at least almost a tie.
The election pitted Democrat Scott Murphy against Republican Jim Tedisco in a district where there are 75,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, and yet, the Democrat, Scott Murphy, is ahead right now—just barely ahead but ahead. With all precincts reporting, the Democrat‘s lead is 25 votes – 25 votes out of more than 150,000 votes cast. That means we‘re going to have to wait almost two weeks for all overseas absentee ballots to come in before we have an actual winner, well, until we think we will have an actual winner.
The Republican Party is preemptively fighting this already, sending out a fundraising email today, saying, quote, “Democrats have almost succeeded in stealing the election in Minnesota and seating Al Franken. We cannot allow them to manipulate electoral results to seat another tax-troubled liberal.”
OK. First, Al Franken has been seated? Second—by stealing? And third, how is it manipulating electoral results to win more votes than the other guy?
This one may take a while, particularly because Michael Steele has been staking his RNC chairmanship on the outcome of this special election. We will stay on it. I promise.
And Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was convicted last year of seven felony charges related to the very expensive renovation job on his house paid for by an oil company. And when an oil company doing business with the government gives an elected official stuff for free, that‘s called corruption. Tada!
Senator Stevens was convicted a week after losing his Senate seat in the November 2008 election. But now, Attorney General Eric Holder asked the appellate judge in the Stevens case to throw out the conviction due to what he says are prosecutorial shenanigans.
The oil company executive who ordered the renovations on Stevens‘ house, a man named Bill Allen, he apparently gave contradictory statements to prosecutors and when a witness gives contradictory statements to prosecutors, those prosecutors are supposed to turn that evidence over to the defense. The prosecutors in this case apparently did not. There were also—inducing allegations of an improper relationship between Bill Allen and a lead investigator in the case.
So, not only is Stevens‘ conviction going to be thrown out but Attorney General Holder is also going to launch an investigation into why things went so terribly, terribly, terribly wrong in that prosecution in Alaska.
I wonder if that means that Ted Stevens gets to keep the massage chair that the oil company gave him or the dog. Imagine bribing someone with a dog. He also got a stained glass fancy window and a big fancy gas grill for his house. I almost wish I could see his house from here.
MADDOW: We have been really excited here at this show for the Republicans to present their alternative to President Obama‘s budget. We even started a countdown clock, remember? Which, frankly, is less exciting to look at once the thing you are counting down to has taken place. Just sort of zeros.
Anyway, last week, the Republicans released a teaser for their budget that considered precisely one significant budget number, a whopper of a tax cut for wealthy people. President Bush‘s giant tax cut for the rich was about four points. The Republicans now are talking about dropping taxes for the rich another ten points on top of that.
Yes. That was the only real policy number in the Republican teaser glossy brochure that they released last week. But now, we‘ve got the whole deal.
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REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): This is our budget with real policies and real numbers.
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MADDOW: Real numbers. This could only be better if they also brought along giant graphs. Oh, please. Oh, please. Yes. Tax cuts for the wealthy, very innovative. Repealing the economic stimulus package - who needs stimulus anyway? Increasing offshore drilling, - drill, baby, drill. No, really. Drill, baby, drill.
And my personal favorite, freezing government spending, except for the military, for five years. In an economy gasping for spending with unemployment numbers looking like a graph of testosterone levels during puberty, because no one is spending any money in this economy when all basic 101 level economic theory says the government has to spend some money right now to counteract the disastrous recessive cycle that we are in.
The Republicans want a five-year spending freeze. Not all people in the Republican Party agree with that, actually. As you know, I sat down with former Secretary of State Colin Powell today and we got a chance to talk about the Republicans‘ budget proposals.
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MADDOW: The Republican Party right now is trying to find its legs politically, I think, while they‘re in the minority. And the one issue they seem to be coalescing around is the idea that there ought to be a spending freeze, that the government ought to get smaller and ought to try to do less. I wonder if that makes you feel like less of a Republican. How do you feel about the Republican Party now?
POWELL: Well, you know, I‘ve never seen a spending freeze work. I have heard it trotted out many, many - what are you going to freeze, Social Security benefits? What are you going to freeze, the growth of Medicare payments? Veterans - no increase in disability amounts for veterans? Are you going to freeze the Defense Department?
You can‘t freeze a government as large as ours with a budget of a $1.5 trillion. And so if somebody actually froze everything, then it would freeze our development assistance.
I‘m proud to say that in the Republican administration I worked in, President Bush‘s first term, we doubled the amount of development assistance. We quadrupled the amount going to African brothers and sisters. And we created a program to fight HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases that went up to $15 billion. And that passed in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans.
So I hope my Republican friends don‘t go too far with this spending freeze idea, because I don‘t think it works. It‘s not really practical.
MADDOW: Are you still a Republican?
POWELL: I am a Republican, yes. But I‘m also an American citizen. And I try to make my political judgments on what I think is best for the country.
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MADDOW: In other words, what is best for the country bears no relation to what the Republicans have just proposed for their budget. So says the most popular Republican in the country who is not Laura Bush.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Pete DeFazio of Oregon.
Congressman DeFazio, thank you for coming in. It‘s great to see you.
REP. PETE DEFAZIO (D-OR): Hey, Rachel. Thank you. Good to see you in person.
MADDOW: So the Republicans have proposed an alternative to Obama budget which is a blessing to those of us whose job it is to figure out where they‘re coming from. Do you feel you have a better sense of what their agenda is now?
DEFAZIO: Yes. Well, no. It is not much different than it has been. Tax cuts - tax cuts solve all problems. I mean, we are pretty soon going to fill in potholes with tax cuts, collapsing bridges, healthcare - everything comes from tax cuts.
I mean, this budget says if you want to have a new government program or increase spending, you have to cut other government programs. Zero sum game. So government can‘t grow despite population growth or needs grow where we are in a big economic hole.
Except you can decrease revenues. So you can have tax cuts but you don‘t have to pay for the tax cuts. You only have to pay for services to people. I guess the theory being that somehow tax cuts will educate our kids. Tax cuts will take care of our failing infrastructure. I mean, they‘ve got more uses for tax cuts than the book “1,001 Uses for Duct Tape.” I mean, you know, it‘s getting to be 1,001 uses of tax cuts.
MADDOW: Well, because it is - I mean, there‘s this five-year spending freeze. But because it is all tax cuts even with this, they‘re proposing a $1.7 trillion deficit.
DEFAZIO: Yes. That is the interesting thing. I mean, with some serious - big, you know, born again fiscal conservatives after, you know, spending just - you know, I mean, increasing spending dramatically and cutting revenues all through the Bush years, having a war off the books, you know, and tax cuts and borrowing money for tax cuts and all that.
Now, suddenly, they‘re born again as fiscal conservatives. And what does it mean to be a fiscal conservative? Well, the government is running deficits and we‘re concerned about it. We will cut revenues. They have this weird theory of like dynamic scoring. I mean, I guess under their theory, if we ultimately, you know, get taxes down to nothing, then the government wouldn‘t have a deficit anymore.
MADDOW: And we wouldn‘t have that pesky government to worry about at all, ultimately.
DEFAZIO: Right. There is that.
MADDOW: John McCain suggested a one-year spending freeze during the campaign. Sen. Sessions suggested a two-year freeze, Sen. Grassley said maybe a three-year freeze. How do you think they end up on five-year spending freeze? And what do you think the impact that would be on the economy?
DEFAZIO: Well, there is one, two and three proposed. They skipped four because they are not great at math and they went to five. It‘s like, we do five-year budgets so five-year freeze sounded good to them. I mean, by then, they expect Sarah Palin to be president and all things will be good.
MADDOW: Magic, tax cuts, no potholes. Isn‘t it true though that the idea of freezing spending, not doing any sort of stimulus, sort of hamstringing government - wasn‘t there sort of a pilot project for that during the Great Depression?
DEFAZIO: Yes. Well, we had first, I mean, Hoover before and deepening the fall into the Depression. And then, actually, a couple of times Roosevelt stopped spending and the economy sank back down again.
So it‘s pretty well - they‘ve got a whole new reconstructive theory about Roosevelt, too, that the spending wasn‘t what got us out of the Depression. It was the parts - you know, I mean, they just have these weird ideas. I don‘t know. I studied economics and I went to a really different school than this.
MADDOW: Well, we‘ve talked about a number of different budget issues, domestic priority issues before. And I wonder if given this - given that this is what the Republicans are proposing and they have actually put a proposal on the table now so we get to debate it. I do think that is a blessing to really know where they‘re coming from.
I have to ask if you are frustrated by the rise of the blue dogs within your own party, blue dog caucus within the House and also a new blue dog-like caucus in the Senate essentially arguing for reducing the deficit, reducing federal spending even within the Democratic Party. Is that a frustration to you?
DEFAZIO: Well, no. I mean, President Obama said he wants - his long-term goal is to get control of the deficit, return us to fiscal responsibility. But short term, he is saying we can‘t cut spending in the short term.
And you know, I think the blue dogs are - you know, they are a little torn here. I mean, a number of them voted for TARP. I didn‘t. So, you know, they were willing to borrow the $700 billion to bail out Wall Street. So I‘m not going to take grief from them for wanting to pay for healthcare or improvements in our transportation, infrastructure or other essentials, education for the American people. So I think we will get through this OK.
The budget in the house is pretty good, actually. The numbers are good. We are increasing funding in education, healthcare, dramatically increasing transportation, actually, over the president‘s proposal and being a little bit more honest about, you know - we are not going to pretend that we are not going to fix the AMT the first year. And hopefully, by the second year, we will have real tax reform so we don‘t have to mess with that anymore.
MADDOW: Do you think it‘s going to pass?
DEFAZIO: It is going to pass by a decent margin.
MADDOW: Congressman Pete DeFazio of Oregon, it‘s really nice to see you in person. Thanks for coming in.
MADDOW: So President Obama met with Queen Elizabeth today. In a moment, I will hold my own audience with the queen, Humanitarian activist Queen Noor, the widow of King Hussein of Jordan is here. I‘m having kind of a big day.
MADDOW: As Republican Party loyalists continue their search for identity in the political wilderness, one of their unofficial spokes-oddities, Joe the Plumber, Samuel Wurzelbacher, is working his own brand of leadership. He wants your vote to help him abolish the IRS.
You can vote online or call a 1-900 number or even text. Normal texting rates apply. When you click to vote, you will be asked for your shirt size so you can get a cool t-shirt with Joe the Plumber on it.
The catch? To vote, you have to pay 99 cents. The reason is reportedly to ensure a fair voting system and discourage people from casting multiple votes. Because nothing ensures fairness in voting like a 99 cent charge and a t-shirt.
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BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: One of the things I have always believed strongly is that both the United States and Russia and other nuclear powers will be in a much stronger position to strengthen what has become a somewhat fragile threadbare nonproliferation treaty.
The presence of these deadly weapons, their proliferation, the possibility of them finding their way into the hands of terrorists, continues to be the gravest threat to humanity.
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MADDOW: No matter how much things have changed since the Cold War, nukes still remain, in the president‘s words, the gravest threat to humanity. Now, the silver lining on the mushroom cloud here is that 96 percent of all of the nuclear weapons are in the hands of two nations who see getting rid of those weapons as one of the few things that they really agree on.
President Obama today met with the Russian President Dimitri Medvedev. And despite the Russian bombers in Venezuela thing, and despite Russia arming Iran and despite that awkward little war in Georgia that made John McCain want to start World War III last year - despite all of that, the getting rid of our nuclear weapons discussion actually seemed to go pretty well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. OBAMA: I believe we have begun today - is a very constructive dialogue that will allow us to work on issues of mutual interest like the reduction of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of our nonproliferation treaties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The last treaty the U.S. signed with Russia said we would each aim to reduce our nuclear weapons stock pile to about 2,200. Now, Russian and American officials are privately saying that could come down to 1,500, maybe even below 1,000, which is great.
That would mean we could only destroy the world several hundred times instead of several thousand times over.
Our next guest is turning the international power of her celebrity, her skills as an activist and her status as royalty to get us off the incremental arms control treadmill we have been on for generations now and on to instead a path toward Global Zero - no nuclear weapons in any country whatsoever.
Joining us is Queen Noor, the widow of King Hussein of Jordan. I have never in my life had the opportunity to say this before, but your majesty, thank you for joining us.
QUEEN NOOR, WIDOW OF KING HUSSEIN OF JORDAN: It is my pleasure. And thank you, Rachel, for talking about Global Zero.
MADDOW: Positive indications on reducing nuclear weapons from Russia and the U.S. today? But you think these types of agreements don‘t go far enough?
QUEEN NOOR: On the contrary, I think it is a historic and bold breakthrough. It is the first time ever that the American and Russian presidents have committed their countries to work for the total elimination of all nuclear weapons.
That was part of this discussion and their declaration that is extremely encouraging. Everything you said about the reductions - yes, they are going to make deep reductions we hope to all their nuclear weapons not just to those that are activated right now.
That means 23,000 now exist in about nine countries, 96 percent in Russia and the United States, as you said. As these two countries now beyond London negotiate deep reductions in their arsenals, it is absolutely critical that all the other nuclear countries start to come onboard and also commit to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Because if you consider that there are also 40 countries that have enough nuclear material to make another 100,000 nuclear weapons, you either have a country using them or you have an increasing chance that terrorists may make use of nuclear weapons. And the results would be catastrophic.
MADDOW: The logic of why we still have nuclear weapons in such great numbers is still about deterrents, essentially, you still hear mainstream policymakers arguing that having nuclear weapons is the only deterrent against other people starting nuclear wars. Is that no longer true?
QUEEN NOOR: Increasingly, the militaries around the world are questioning the utility of nuclear weapons. In fact, there are 19 military leaders from all of the nuclear states on Global Zero. Global Zero is around 100 former heads of state, former policy ministers, defense ministers and military commanders and activists and others of us who have - I have spent a lifetime worrying about weapons of mass destruction from landmines, cluster bombs to nuclear weapons.
And this group is a nonpartisan international group. And we have a declaration that we presented in advance of the London talks to the presidents, Sen. Chuck Hagel and Ambassador Burt were instrumental in that. And any one of your audience who wishes to sign onto this declaration to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the world can go to “GlobalZero.org.”
MADDOW: The countries that don‘t have nuclear weapons right now and who want them loom so large in this debate. Thinking about Iran and Iran‘s purported search for a nuclear weapon, which they say they‘re not going for but the U.S. accuses them of doing, if they did get a nuclear weapon, would that start a Mideast nuclear arms race?
QUEEN NOOR: The Middle East sadly has the highest per capita spending on arms in general in the world. And it hasn‘t led to security for any state. It‘s only increased, I think, the insecurity and deprived us of resources to go into social development and other genuine human security priorities.
If the confrontational rhetoric between Iran and Israel in particular is heightening tension in the region and Iran has actually signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, so have all of the Arab states. Israel has not, and all the rests of the region are committed to a nuclear weapons - actually weapons of mass destruction-free Middle East zone and trying to bring Israel into the equation.
MADDOW: Do you think that Israel‘s again, purported presence of nuclear weapons in Israel, which, again, is never officially agreed to, but which everybody assumes they have, is that itself provocative? Is that a barrier to making global progress?
QUEEN NOOR: I think you can‘t look Iran or any Arab state in the context of nuclear activities without also looking at Israel, because both sides are provoking the other in the case of Iran and Israel in public rhetoric.
And both sides, I think, feel genuine fear and both sides may have the misplaced notion, which as I said militaries around the world are discounting that nuclear weapons have any real utility, whether it‘s a deterrent or in any other way.
Because in fact most militaries see the only value of nuclear weapons is to terrorists, to sow terror and destruction.
Also, if I might add, according to the Islamic laws of war, which Ayatollah Khamenei actually raised when this issue came up many, many years in Iran, the killing of innocents is forbidden. Killing an innocent person is tantamount to killing all of mankind in Islam.
And that was the logic that he used for saying that nuclear weapons were in fact un-Islamic. But they‘re also inhuman and they‘re indiscriminate and they‘re immoral.
MADDOW: And the gravest threat to the world.
QUEEN NOOR: They are. And I was so delighted to hear the president reiterate what he has said before and to see the presidents of Russia and the United States together identifying this as probably the greatest security threat in the world today. And their commitment - it‘s historic - to work together to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the earth.
MADDOW: Queen Noor of Jordan, thank you for your activism. We‘ve got a link to the Global Zero campaign on our Web site today. Nice to meet you. Thank you.
QUEEN NOOR: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith Olbermann makes a very big announcement about the future of MSNBC. And he talks Republican budget with Maxine Waters.
Next on this show, did you see that President Obama‘s entourage got sort of physically stuck when he went to London today? Cocktail moment with way more ice than the British usually use, coming right up.
MADDOW: The cocktail moment today is pin‘s cup. You want to see the royal small talk today in London?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: You arrived last night?
MICHELLE OBAMA, UNITED STATES FIRST LADY: Last night. We‘re still trying to stay awake.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: The awful time lag, isn‘t it?
M. OBAMA: It is. It is, but he‘s been busy in meetings and I have been a little less busy.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II: You had to get breakfast?
B. OBAMA: I had breakfast with the Prime Minister. I had meetings with the Chinese. The Russians. David Cameron. And I‘m proud to say I did not nod off in any of the meetings.
PRINCE PHILIP: Can you tell the difference between …
B. OBAMA: It‘s all a blur.
PRINCE PHILIP: How about turning around.
B. OBAMA: Of course.
QUEEN ELIZABETH: It‘s always the same thing, isn‘t it, you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Come on, like you‘d do better? That‘s the most high-pressure small talk in the world. Then there were gifts. The president gave the queen a new iPod. In return, the queen gave him a photo of herself. How thoughtful.
The president‘s other only in-England photo-op today was vehicular. His driver trying to turn around the presidential limo outside of Downing Street, a simple two-point turn taking a full four minutes and six different positions.
In the interest of avoiding future such embarrassment in foreign narrow streets, Mr. President, might we recommend an alternate form of transportation for next time.
We‘re here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW are fans, of course, of the motorized barstool. You can get anywhere fast, make any turn, and they make great gifts. There‘s no way that Queen Elizabeth already has one. I mean, Prince Philip maybe, but the queen, no chance.
Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night with more of our interview with Colin Powell, including what he had to say about the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy, the policy he helped put in place. “COUNTDOWN” with Mr. Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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