The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/15/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
You know, today is the day that taxes are due to the federal government. And in an act of somewhat in kind (ph) of amorphous protest, Americans in many cities around the country gathered in public around their chosen protest symbol today, the tea bag. Although the numbers of teabaggers were not particularly large by American protest standards, the teabaggers, where they did turn out, appeared to be having a bowl.
They teabagged Boston. They teabagged Washington. There was tea bagging in Lansing, Michigan, Nashville, Tennessee, Sacramento, California. If you were not able to witness or participate in any teabagging action yourself today, and frankly, the odds are, you were not, you‘re still in luck. We have some of the highlights for you in the next hour.
For example, we‘re going to start here with a little narrated slide show. A child‘s treasury, if you will, of imagery from today‘s teabagging excitement. One popular item of protest ware was the “Chairman Mao-bama” t-shirt modeled by this happy gentleman in Washington, D.C. Another D.C. protester suggesting that members of Congress should be hanged, “Hang ‘em high,” the sign says here. The sign‘s listing adds, “Traitors in Congress, Pelosi, Reid, Waters, Schumer, Frank, Dodd, Conyers, Kerry, Clinton and Kennedy.”
Interesting note here, Senator Clinton, not in Congress anymore, a technicality, I‘m sure. Also, it‘s nice to see African-American members of Congress singled out for proposed hanging. That‘s historically minded.
There were a lot of “Obama is a secret Muslim” signage on display, that says “Speak for Yourself Obama, we are a Christian nation,” that‘s being held by a gentleman who was wearing a t-shirt that says, “Stupidity offsets for sale.” “Obama is not really American,” also a popular theme today. This sign says, “Hey, big brother, show us your real birth certificate.” Or this one, this sign says, “Stand Idly by while some Kenyan tries to Destroy America? I don‘t think so. Homey don‘t play dat!” Wow.
The ever popular “Obama is Hitler” theme was in evidence across the teabagging nation today. This first sign seen at the teabagging in Colorado Springs. This next one, this actually says “Barack Hussein Obama, the new face of Hitler.” That was in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Philly also saw this one. “The American taxpayers are the Jews for Obama‘s Ovens.” That‘s very subtle. That gentleman wearing an operation chaos hat—remember that Rush Limbaugh-inspired event from the presidential campaign.
For all of the hype about the teabagging, for all the high-powered, corporate-funded, D.C. lobbyist driven-organizing for today‘s teabagging, the turnout today can probably best be characterized as a mixed bag. Five thousand people reportedly teabagged Lansing, Michigan. A few hundred teabaggers dropped in on the Massachusetts state house in Boston. And offbeat path tea party like the one held in Rockford, Illinois, about 200 people gathered today. Just for context, this is the same Rockford, Illinois, that two months ago turned out over 6,000 people for a Motley Crue reunion gig.
About 5,000 people reportedly showed up for the Sacramento tea party today. That would slightly less than half the number of people who turned in the same city in January, to see a game between the worst professional basketball teams in the country, the Wizards versus the Kings.
“The Tampa Bay Tribune” reports, quote, “well over 500 people” showed up at the noon rally today in Tampa. Just as a point of reference, that would be about half the 1,200 Tampa-area residents who turned out last weekend to Ott‘s off leash dog park for the annual Ruskin pet fest. You could also compare those 500 of or so Tampa teabaggers with the 14,000 Tampa fans who turned out in February to watch the two worst teams in the National Hockey League play each other.
Remember the group MillionTeabags.org, which we discussed on last night‘s show? Their plan was to dump a million tea bags on Washington, D.C. today. The million tea bags were delivered to Washington‘s Lafayette Park but then they had to be promptly reloaded back on to the trucks once when they came and sent away on police orders. Apparently, the MillionTeaBags.org folks never knew that you would need a permit if you wanted to dump a lot of stuff all over a national park.
Eager teabaggers were also turned away when they tried to teabag the Treasury Department without a permit. They headed over to that protest in Lafayette Square instead. That protest actually ended up getting broken up early today when someone spoiled the teabagging in the park fun by teabagging the White House lawn. That sort of thing sounds amusing, unless, of course, you are a member of the United States Secret Service.
The organizer of the event in Lafayette Square today told “The Washington Post,” quote, “This is the largest grassroots demonstration in history.” Wow. The largest grassroots demonstration in history? The largest? Wow.
What‘s it like to be at the largest grassroots demonstration in history?
Joining us now is someone who was there. Air America‘s national correspondent and “Daily Beast” contributor, Ana Marie Cox. She attended the tea party at Lafayette Square today, which, of course, left-wing killjoys are already deriding as the fizzle in the drizzle.
Ana Marie, thank you very much for joining us. I‘m sorry to have interrupted your mid-tea experience.
ANA MARIE COX, AIR AMERICA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I was experimenting with the proper use of a tea bag.
MADDOW: How was it today? How was the teabagging in D.C.? Describe the scene.
COX: A little placid, Rachel, I have to say. It was very damp today. I have—I also want to say that these people who turned out were truly dedicated to teabagging. And they really, they put a lot of muscle into it, but, hopefully, not too much. But I think that they were very, very excited to be there.
And you would have to be pretty dedicated in order to show up in the weather that we had today in Washington, which was really ugly weather. It was rainy and cold. But a few hundred hardy souls came out with their mildly racist signs and their love of their country.
MADDOW: Mildly racist signs, such as?
COX: Well, there was a—there was a sign of Obama being a shoe shine boy.
COX: Yes. And then there‘s also one. You‘ll like this one because I know you like the puns. It says earmarks, “earmarx,” E-A-R-M-A-R-X.
COX: And it had a picture of Obama with huge ears and lips.
MADDOW: Oh. Yes. I love the good homonym but, yes—then you had to go there.
Well, I‘m confused thought, that they announced that their turnout was 3,000.
COX: They did. From the stage—they‘re saying now that their turnout was 3,000. It was a right—it was a very adorable little stage. I thought it was an umbrella for a long time until I got closer to it. It was really sort of like a picnic table situation, like standing on a picnic table—which gave it a homespun feel. I have to say that.
And, you know, again, like—it was interesting. I am a veteran of many a protest, I confess, from my radical days in college. And this was unlike most of the ones that I went to in college. There are lots of people in suits and ties. There were a surprising number of children being forced to hold propaganda that had to do with holding their future for ransom, or don‘t teabag me, teabag—you know, I don‘t want to be teabagged, teabag someone else.
I don‘t know if there are laws about using children in that way in a district, but you know, the whole thing got broken up by police anyway. I don‘t think it was kids. I guess it was the bomb scare.
MADDOW: Well, it was broken up by police after somebody threw something on to the White House lawn? Is that right?
COX: Yes, someone threw tea bags on the White House lawn—which, of course, you know—yes, the fine granular substances thrown at the White House, that seems like something—somebody—there‘s something, there was a rumor at some point that someone—oh, yes. Terrorists.
COX: Terrorists were going to do that. And in fact, it was a little bit of fun. They had to send—they send out their robot, the Secret Service sent out their robot that undoes bombs, the bomb-sniffing robot, I guess. And the robot came and, you know, discovered it was simply tea. And—but by that time, the protesters had pretty much disbanded and I, of course, went to teaism as a show of solidarity, to demonstrate.
MADDOW: Well, some—I mean, there was—people wanted to teabag the Treasury Department and they didn‘t think to get a permit to do so, and so, they couldn‘t do that. They threw the tea bags on the White House lawn, not expecting that that would break up their protest. The million tea bags couldn‘t be dumped on Lafayette Square because they didn‘t have a permit.
For that, it sort of felt like, this—and the joy and the enthusiasm to teabag, they just overlooked a lot of these important details that, right, that you would think you‘d need to be able to do in order to pull off a D.C. protest.
COX: Well, you know, the thing is, I guess after you‘re in power for eight years, like you forget, you know, how to run a decent protest. I‘m sure that they‘ll come up with some more and I bet they‘ll get more practice at it. Although I would add another flaw in the plan—is all of these anti-tax rallies. Many of them took place in parks, which are normally paid for with taxes unless they‘ve developed another way to, you know, have a park.
But the whole thing really felt—and also security provided by the police. I can‘t afford a fire truck myself, I can‘t afford police myself. I don‘t know what their solution is.
MADDOW: Ana Marie, one last question for you. I just—I was struck today by the fact that there was a teabagging protest at the Alamo.
COX: Yes. That was a—Glenn Beck was the headliner there. And I -
you know, he has a problem with history in general. A few days ago, he had a Thomas Paine impersonator come on and compare the stimulus package to 9/11. So, that‘s a problem.
But I sort of actually—I‘m kind of glad. Apparently, he thinks the Alamo is just a perfect place to start your revolution. And so I wish him all the best. And I also wish that someone at some point gets him a history book.
MADDOW: Yes. Time to fact check even the basic idea of what he‘s doing.
Ana Marie Cox, Air America‘s national correspondent, “Daily Beast” contributor, and our intrepid reporter at today‘s protest—thanks for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
COX: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: “The Washington Independent” today noted the irony of this gentleman holding the “I am a right wing extremist” sign at the teabagging protest that Ana Marie was at, and he was holding that sign at the moment that speakers at the moment were decrying that idea that anyone at the event should be seen as a right-wing extremist. We will have much more on the complicated relationship between the mainstream and the extreme—coming up.
But first, One More Thing, on the grassroots tea party movement. One of the controversies about the teabaggers is the fact that insider D.C. corporate-funded PR shops and lobbying groups have done a lot of the organizing and promotion for these events. That‘s controversial because it‘s astroturfing. It‘s disguising a formal top-down organized paid for things as if it‘s some spontaneous grassroots event. It‘s also controversial because some of the insider D.C. corporate-funded PR shops and lobbying groups, astroturfing these protests, these protests against profligate government spending against the bailouts, the folks organizing the anti-bailout protests are also lobbyists for the bailout companies.
Freedom Works, for example, a key protest organizer, is headed up by Dick Armey, who‘s lobbying firm in the past year has represented AIG, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, as well as other recipients of TARP funds. Organizing the protest against the bailout after lobbying for the firms that got the bailout, it‘s almost like Dick Armey is talking here out of both sides of the teabag.
MADDOW: Some fundamental truths about April 15th. It happens every year, right after April 14th. Some post offices stay open late. There are usually big lines at the post offices anyway—and there‘s almost always Tax Day protests. Tax Day is one of those red-letter days on the direct actionista calendar.
For years and in some place still, groups on the left have held Tax Day protests at the post office to make clear that they didn‘t want tax dollars being spent on war. For even more years, groups on the right have protested on Tax Day, just against the whole idea of taxes. Anti-tax protesters over the years have range from run-of-the-mill libertarians all the way to the “no one has to pay taxes” armed tax resisters.
Last year, the Tax Day ‘08 protests were organized around the idea of abolishing the Federal Reserve. So we can all go back to paying for stuff with doubloons like we learned from the secret subtext in the “Wizard of Oz.” Protest is as American as jazz and right old fashioned. It is—it‘s a part of who we are as a country.
In America, we just make more or less cockamamie arguments to each other about taxes every April 15th. It‘s what we do. As ever it has been and as ever it shall be, as long as the Bill of Rights and the IRS shall live.
What‘s different about this year‘s Tax Day protest, different this year from other years—is that this year, one of the two great political parties of the American two-party political system has decided to hitch its wagon to the Tax Day protest star—a heretofore sort of fringe tradition. It‘s an awkward coming together of a major political party and groups associated with those late-night “how to legally pay zero taxes without going to jail” infomercials—those ones that didn‘t work out at all for Wesley Snipes.
That coming together was perhaps nowhere more awkward today than when the ambitious Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, told a crowd of Texas teabaggers, quote, “I‘m just not real sure you‘re a bunch of right-wing extremists. But if you are, we‘re with you.” As portions of the crowd shouted “Secede, secede, secede,” as in secede from the union, the governor was asked today about secession. His answer, quote, “If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”
Last week, Governor Perry denounced the federal government as oppressive as he signed a piece of state legislation asserting Texas‘s sovereignty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY, ® TEXAS: I believe the federal government has become oppressive. I believe it‘s become oppressive in its size, its intrusion in the lives of its citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state. We think it‘s time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas. There is a point in time where you stand up and say enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Enough is enough. Except when you‘ve got to ask for FEMA to come in for help with wildfires like you did five days ago, and except when you got to call out for federal troops to help out on the border like you did last month, or when you got to ask for another year and a half worth of federal funds for cleaning up after hurricanes like you did all—other than that kind of stuff, other than the help that Texas really wants from the federal government, other than that, down with that oppressive federal government.
Joining us now is “Dallas Morning News” senior political reporter, Wayne Slater. He‘s the author of the book, “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.”
Wayne, thanks so much for coming on the show. Nice to see you.
WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Now, I understand that you were at a tea party event today in Texas with the governor. I got to ask you if it seems like a pretty typical Republican event or was this a less mainstream group than usual?
SLATER: There were elements that were absolutely mainstream Republican, conservative, Texas Republicans. You had the orthodox members of the party—political party, including the governor, who were speaking. You had good, solid Republican burgers (ph) out there, who—folks who don‘t like taxes.
But what you also saw was this sort of fringe group, the secessionists, the militia types, the conspiracy theorists, sort of the marginalia of the radical right. This group is always with us. It‘s always around. What was new today was that you had them—a group that usually comes in the back door—really come through the front door, and the governor appealing directly to them as part of a larger political pitch.
MADDOW: Have you ever seen this happen before in Texas politics? Is there any—is there any—is there anything in history that would tell us what the effect on what you call the marginalia of the radical right—what the effect of it of this embrace from the Republican Party might be on them?
SLATER: We‘ve seen it happened a number of times in small ways. The most significant way that you can think of was back in 1964. That‘s ultimately what happened to the Republican Party, not only in Texas when Lyndon Johnson was running for president, but the Republican Party nationally, when it‘s really appeal to the same kind of thing that Rick Perry was talking about, state rights, which carries with it a kind of unfortunate, you know, baggage of our most recent history—states rights was the reason that the southern states, particularly, argued against ending segregation.
What we saw was a Republican Party that closed, in and of itself,
embraced the most radical elements, and I guess to apply the Dr. Phil test
how did that work for you back in 1964? Not well at all.
MADDOW: So when Governor Perry is really running with this Texas sovereignty theme, really renouncing the federal government—on the one hand, that is a straightforward political message. But on the other hand, you‘re saying that sort of operates on a few different levels. That‘s heard a few different ways by people who are hearing that message.
SLATER: Well, it really is. Obviously, you have the farthest right elements of the Republican Party, and some of these folks aren‘t even Republicans. As you said earlier, they‘re libertarians, third-party folks, they‘re folks that have—parts (ph) of all political parties basically. But to those in the—on the Republican Party sort of solid Republican, conservative base in Texas, Rick Perry is appealing to them because he‘s got a primary against Kay Bailey Hutchison, seen as a more moderate Republican challenger next March.
And also, to a number of folks in Texas, you see who think this is a bad idea, they might be, I guess you‘d call them progressives, it‘s the kind of thing that defines Perry, possibly, for national office, which is clearly something he‘d like to think about in the future—especially now when you have a Republican Party that nationally really doesn‘t have a clear voice. It doesn‘t have a marginal—it doesn‘t have a major candidate that is emerging, and Rick Perry would like to see himself, I think, as part of that mix and clearly, has defined in himself pretty far to the right.
MADDOW: Wayne, one last question, and I hope you hear this in the spirit on which it is intended. I‘m asking this because I know you are a savvy guy and because this has actually become sort of a serious issue about these tea party protests today. Did you get the sense today that anybody knew why it would be weird to use the word tea bag or the word teabagging as a verb? Do you think they get that? They understand the weird implication there?
SLATER: Two things. One, Rachel, I don‘t think anybody of the folks who were—I was surrounded by today watches you on MSNBC. I could be wrong, but I‘ve got a feeling they were looking at another channel when they watched so they don‘t know this .
MADDOW: I didn‘t invest this idea, I‘m just reflecting the .
SLATER: I know. I turned around, there was a guy right behind me who had a tea bag hanging from his sunglasses; a woman next him had several tea bags around her face, hanging from the brim of her cap. I am convinced, Rachel, that they did not know the other implications of what they were saying.
MADDOW: I pray that is the case.
Wayne Slater, senior political reporter with the “Dallas Morning News”
thanks very much for your time tonight, Wayne. It‘s great to have you on the show.
SLATER: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Coming up: Remember the senator who putt the inexplicable hold on Tammy Duckworth‘s nomination to the V.A.? Tammy Duckworth, Iraq veteran helicopter who lost both legs when her chopper was shot down in Iraq. Remember the guy who held up her nomination and wouldn‘t say why he was doing so? That guy is back in the news tonight for a totally new, awful reason. More on that—coming up.
MADDOW: Governor Blagojevich is applying to the court for permission to go film a reality TV show in Costa Rica. Two American Christian bands got permission to go play a gig in North Korea for a very strange reason. And a North Carolina senator has decided to make himself famous for all the wrong reasons. That is all yet to come this hour.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
In the aftermath of the U.S. Navy‘s rescue of Captain Richard Phillips this weekend, there has been an escalation in both rhetoric and tactics by the pirates and by the anti-piracy forces operating off the coast of Somalia. As we reported last night, another American freighter was attacked by pirates yesterday—a ship called the Liberty Sun, with 20 American sailors on board. It was hit with automatic weapons fire and rocket propelled grenades. No one was hurt and the pirates did not succeed in seizing the ship. But the ship did sustain some minor damage.
Today, a Somali pirate commander—they have commanders—told “Agence France Press” that after three pirates were killed by the U.S. on Sunday, the Liberty Sun attack should be seen as the first of many American ships that the pirates will target not for ransom but for revenge, quote, “The aim of this attack was totally different. We were not after a ransom. We also assigned a team with special equipment to chase and destroy any ship flying the American flag in retaliation for the brutal killing of our friends.”
As the pirate‘s rhetoric ratchets up a notch, they were also dealt a tactical blow by the French today. Last night, French sailors responded to a distress call from a Liberian ship that was under attack by pirates. The pirates were thwarted in the attack on that ship, but then a French helicopter followed the pirates back to a pirate mother ship, about 500 miles off shore that the pirates were using as a base.
At dawn, the French attacked the mother ship. They took 11 suspected pirates into custody. They are reportedly going to bring those pirates back to France and put them on trial.
Our own government, meanwhile, has reportedly not yet decided what to do with the one surviving pirate that we‘ve got in custody from the siege this weekend. The young man says that he is just 16 years old.
Next up—as you know, the Minnesota Senate race is still undecided. The state courts have decided that Al Franken won fair and square by a few hundred votes, but Republican Norm Coleman is not conceding yet and Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty will not certify the election results. So, still no Minnesota senator.
In New York, there is also an unresolved election. It‘s the race to replace conservative Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in the House, after Gillibrand took Hillary Clinton‘s seat in the U.S. Senate. And a special election was held on March 31, but the counting is still going on. It‘s still apparently too close to call.
Republican candidate Jim Tedisco‘s campaign has now made the remarkable decision to challenge the vote cast by Kirsten Gillibrand in the election to say that her personal absentee ballot should not be counted. New York law says you can apply for an absentee ballot if you have a good-faith belief that you won‘t be in the district to vote in person on the day of the election.
Because Gillibrand did end up being in the district on Election Day, Republicans want her vote thrown out. You know, usually, the strategy in recounts is to brand yourself as the candidate that wants every vote counted and no one disenfranchised.
In Jim Tedisco‘s case, they‘re apparently going for a lesser-known brand. They‘re going for the brand that is, “I‘m the guy hoping to win on a technicality, even if I didn‘t really get the most votes.” Good luck with that.
Finally, there are scandals about leaders in hard-to-pronounce far-away countries and then there are scandals about leaders in hard-to-pronounce far-away countries. Today‘s is a doozy.
All right. Fernando Lugo is president of Paraguay. In a press conference this week, President Lugo admitted, in response to a paternity suit, that he is the father of a heretofore unknown 2-year-old boy. He fathered the 2-year-old boy with a woman to whom he was not married. The woman to whom he was not married with whom he fathered the 2-year-old boy was 16 years old when their sexual relationship began. He was 47 at the time.
And he was a catholic bishop at the time. I think on the rankings of “I did not have sex with that woman” presidential sex scandals, game set match to president Lugo.
MADDOW: We got word today that President Obama might be ready to let us all in on a big bank-related secret. The “New York Times” reporting that the Obama administration plans to release sensitive details from the stress tests of the country‘s 19 biggest banks.
The secrecy has been controversial because on the one hand, all that bailout cash came from us, so you could say we ought to know how it‘s doing over at the banks. On the other hand, releasing the results could essentially broadcast that there is trouble at certain banks, which could itself be a recipe for disaster.
Anyone who‘s seen “It‘s a Wonderful Life” knows what happens when people lose confidence in the banks, right? That‘s what you call “a run on the banks,” which everyone agrees is a very bad thing, both for the bank that‘s being run on and for the people who are making the run on that bank.
Keep that in mind as you hear this story about the unfolding of the financial crisis last fall as it was first becoming clear to the U.S. Government, as it was related by a U.S. senator to a local chamber of commerce this week. Quote, “On Friday night, I called my wife and I said, ‘Brooke, I‘m not coming home this weekend. I will call you on Monday.
Tonight, I want you to go to the ATM machine, and I want to you draw out
everything that it will let you take, and I want to you go tomorrow, and I
want to you go on Sunday.‘”
OK. First of all, she can‘t just go in and talk to a teller.
Second of all, the FDIC insures your freaking deposit, senator genius. Third of all, you think it‘s worth making a “run on the bank” anyway because of what you‘ve learned in Washington about what‘s going on in the financial sector but you don‘t tell your constituents. You instead just use that information you‘ve got because of your position as a senator to protect your own family?
And fourth, what kind of a genius admits to having done this and suggesting a “run on the banks” in public? What kind of a genius? A genius named United States senator from North Carolina Richard Burr, that‘s who. If you‘ve never heard of him, it‘s probably because he‘s vying with the likes of Senators Barrasso and Crapo to be the most anonymous member of the United States Senate.
If you have heard of him, it‘s probably because of his recent inexplicable and still unexplained decision to block the nomination of celebrated veterans advocate Tammy Duckworth to the Veterans Administration. Yep. He‘s the same guy.
What do you get when you combine anonymity with a quixotic stand against a war hero with the great idea of a run on the banks? In Sen. Richard Burr‘s case you get an approval rating of about 35 percent, roughly on par with the approval rating for junk mail, aluminum bats and cold sores.
If little-known Sen. Burr is trying to get famous, it may actually be working, but probably not the way he intended.
Joining us now, David Young who is the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Mr. Young, thank you very much for coming on the show tonight.
DAVID YOUNG, CHAIRMAN OF THE NORTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Rachel,
thank you so much for having me.
MADDOW: You can disavow the cold sore thing. I‘m sorry to have done that in your presence. You didn‘t know I was going to say that. I‘ll just leave it at that.
I have to ask you - has your party‘s 2010 Senate campaign strategy just presented itself as it‘s going to be?
YOUNG: I think -
MADDOW: Vote against bank run Burr?
YOUNG: Exactly. I think you‘ve - he‘s really helped frame our case. I mean, I was shocked today, shocked at the selfishness of somebody who would use insider information, insider information that he got in Washington and then try to do something to enrich himself while all - basically all his constituents would lose money under that scenario.
I mean, it was just beyond selfish, beyond shocking. And a U.S. senator, somebody we trust, somebody we voted in, in North Carolina to sit up there to serve us. You know, that‘s - we‘ve got a great campaign started right now for 2010.
MADDOW: So selfish and shocking. I have to ask you if another “S” adjective applies, which would be “stupid.” I mean, one might assume - he‘s been involved in making federal law for a very long time, both in the House and the Senate. You would think that he would know that his deposit would be insured by the FDIC. This doesn‘t apply to some sort of basic misunderstanding about how government works, how the financial system works, doesn‘t it?
YOUNG: Right. And there‘s a limit on how much you can get out of your ATM anyway. And I‘m not sure how all that was going to work, but just the fact that you‘re out telling and bragging about the fact that you called your wife and said, “Look, honey, this may affect me, much less all the citizens in my state, but let‘s take care of ourselves first. Go out and get that money for us.”
MADDOW: Just unbelievable. David, the other occasion that I have found to talk about Sen. Burr on this show was when he decided to delay Tammy Duckworth‘s nomination to the Veteran‘s Affairs Administration. And that obviously upset a lot of veterans groups. It upset me, which I was quite open about on the show.
There are so many veterans in North Carolina. I have to ask what you think Sen. Burr might have been up to by picking that particular fight.
YOUNG: I could say I have no idea. I mean, North Carolina has Ft. Bragg. We‘ve got a huge veteran influence here. We send more troops to Iraq than any other state. We value, revere our veterans and our military in North Carolina. And why stand up to somebody who‘s a decorated veteran? You know, I can‘t explain it.
MADDOW: What explains how Sen. Burr got this job in the first place? I understand - I spent a long time with his biography today, trying to assess it out. I mean, he worked for - I guess it was a lawn mower company as a salesman for a very long time before getting into politics.
And it seems like the rest of the Republican establishment in your state backed off and allowed him to ascend to this Senate seat. Where did he come from and why does he have this job?
YOUNG: He was in Congress for a number of years from a very conservative area of our state. And then a great - picked a great year to run. It was an off-year election. He was very fortunate to run at that time six years ago.
But it‘s way time that we take care of it. I mean, we‘re talking about economic recovery and saying no is not an economic recovery plan.
MADDOW: Well, with him having a 35 percent approval rating this long into his term in the Senate after all those years in the House, I think it‘s quite possible we‘ll be looking at a Democratic senator from the State of North Carolina.
YOUNG: We‘re going to work very hard on that.
MADDOW: David Young, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.
YOUNG: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up, how did an American Christian rock band wind up playing in North Korea, playing in North Korea at Kim Jong-Il‘s dad‘s birthday party? The weirdest gig ever explained, next.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, they appear to be bonking into and bothering some other institutions while they search. Take Michele Bachmann for example, featured for writing an op-ed piece in the “Minneapolis Star Tribune.” Her op-ed included this totally debunked fact-free made up statistic about the new global warming legislation.
Quote, “According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average American household could expect its yearly energy bill to increase by $3,128 per year.”
The problem is, Bachmann‘s claim about that study was completely and publicly rejected directly to House Republicans by the guy who wrote the study. And he did so weeks earlier. Her quoting that was pure bullpucky. That number doesn‘t even appear anywhere in the study.
When we reported on this op-ed last week, I noted that the “Star Tribune” would now have to run a correction for Bachmann‘s column. So far, the paper has not done so though I live in hope. The paper did print a letter to the editor about Bachmann‘s lie.
The opinion page editor did tell the Center for American Progress that he is embarrassed to have printed the error. But so far, no correction - yet. Go on. Go on, go on, go on.
MADDOW: In America, the father of our country‘s birthday doesn‘t even get its own holiday. Washington plus Lincoln equals one day off. In North Korea, on the other hand, founding has privileges. Today is the birthday of Kim Il Sung, father of the current dictatorship and the father of the current dictator himself, Kim Jong-Il.
And Kim Il Sung‘s birthday is no floating three-day weekend in February. It was a week solid of apparently forced celebrations that would make Liberace blush. A national meeting in Pyongyang to commemorate the birth of their late great leader, crowds of devoted citizens and soldiers swarming the many statues of the country‘s founding father that are all over the country during today‘s flower festival featuring the Kimilsungia orchid. And it‘s because it‘s North Korea, there, of course, was an obligatory massive, state-choreographed dance in unison, similar to this dance last week in celebration of Kim Jong Il‘s re-election.
The celebration for Kim Il Sung comes a day after North Korea declared it will restart its nuclear program, quit disarmament talks and kicked out international inspectors. This all following just a week or so after the country launched a missile which prompted international condemnation.
So in short, this is a forced national birthday party for the founder of a ruthless, rogue dictatorship that‘s in the midst of defying the rest of the word.
If you‘re a band from Nashville and North Korea calls to offer you to play - the opportunity to play this gig, do you say yes? Among the acts performing at today‘s Kim Il Sung‘s birthday-dictatorship extravaganza, believe it or not, are the Nashville-based classical fusion band, the Annie Moses Band and the Grammy-winning contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, who actually performed at the same festival two years ago.
Let‘s bring in Steve Clemons, director of foreign policy programs at the New America Foundation and publisher of “TheWashingtonNote.com” which I read everyday. Steve, thanks very much for being on the show.
STEVE CLEMONS, DIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY PROGRAMS, NEW AMERICA
FOUNDATION: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So the U.S. and North Korea don‘t officially have relations.
So how do they get two Christian American bands to come play there?
CLEMONS: Well, you know, a friend of mine, David Rothkoff(ph), said yesterday in a program that it‘s interesting that it‘s easier today to get into a Stalinist nuclear weapon-toting country like North Korea than to go to Cuba.
Not to, you know, mix the topics for the evening, but I think that North Korea is reminding us of lessons of what it was like to deal with 1970s China and Brezhnev era and pre-Brezhnev Soviet Union when we had very complex relationships. We had lots of fits and starts in our nuclear negotiations with the Soviets. But we have cultural exchanges and lots of other exchanges. In case we had a blowup in other area, we had other opportunities.
And I think these bands apparently got their invitations in December were happening during the great fall that occurred under Ambassador Christopher Hill who helped negotiate this push forward in North Korean American relations at that time.
And I think everything has fallen apart since Chris Hill went off the job.
MADDOW: The idea of cultural exchanges, the idea of sort of citizen-to-citizen, person-to-person diplomacy, the sports exchanges that we‘ve seen, arts and music - it all seems like a good idea. At least, that is how - my prejudice about this, it seems like a good idea.
MADDOW: It seems like a possible way forward. It seems like sort of a pressure valve that you could put on this otherwise very tense relations. On the other hand, playing Kim Il Sung‘s forced week-long birthday party seems like a bad idea.
CLEMONS: Yes, it is bizarre. These things can be manipulated. But you know, on the other hand, these are Christian rock bands, you know. I‘m not really big into Christian rock bands. This isn‘t just a sort of a grunge band from Seattle or something.
This has, you know, a lot of other sort of loaded messages potentially for those listeners. And I don‘t know whether the North Korean authorities were paying attention or not. So, yes, they can be manipulated but I do think at one level, lots of engagement is very good.
And we saw a lot of the better side of this when the New York Philharmonic went to North Korea which has had a lot of positive residual effects that I think it continued to echo both in South and North Korea and also back in the States.
MADDOW: Is there a sort of rule of thumb for people who - and groups who participate in exchanges like this, giving that sort of fine line between helping and hurting with the regime. We know, for example, in this case, or at least we‘ve heard that the groups were asked to play specific songs for these events. That seems tough.
CLEMONS: Yes. I honestly think that is a mistake. I think it is very important for any group that is invited to be invited and maintain their own identity, the backbone of what they‘re about.
And I also think they should have their eyes wide open knowing that dictator, that Stalinist state is going to try to manipulate them for political reasons. So it‘s important to try to maneuver the latitude to do something that demonstrates an independence of that invitation.
That‘s sometimes complex, but it is important not to just go over a sort of a deer-in-headlights and just follow along with whatever their North Korean handlers want them to do, but also not to end up in jail or prison, you know, for espionage or any other problem for sort of reaching out.
But they‘ve got to maintain their identity and I‘m not sure - we don‘t know yet whether this group is able to do that.
MADDOW: Along those lines, Steve, last question. We do know that those two American journalists are still being held by the North Korean government. We know that we do not have direct relations with the North Korean government and that we have been using intermediaries to try to be involved and get those women hopefully out of jail.
Do you have any sense of how those things might be proceeding behind the scenes, whether there is any reason to hope that those two young women from Current TV will be released?
CLEMONS: We‘ve got a lot of - it‘s sort of a weird dance going on right now. Particularly, what I‘m worried about are the expulsion today of inspectors and sort of, you know, observers of North Korea‘s nuclear activities.
I think Russia and China are the two biggest levers that we have on North Korea. And they don‘t seem to be having that much influence. They seem to be having more influence on us in terms of how we respond to North Korea‘s behavior.
But we‘ve got to see what China and Russia can do to try to nudge this forward. But I think the biggest thing, frankly, is there is a back game that can go with the Russians and Chinese. There‘s got to be a front game, too. And I‘ll just say we know that Kirk Campbell is going to be nominated as assistant secretary for East Asia to replace Chris Hill.
But we‘ve got nobody in that job. Chris Hill, a guy John Bolton really doesn‘t like, accomplished a great deal with North Korea. Not everything is perfect. But since he left and now Barack Obama wants him as his ambassador in Iraq, I think we are a few people short of doing the kinds of things we need to do.
And getting that fixed and getting - yes, we need to, you know, sort of get back in that gear and get somebody employed that can deal with the North Koreans better.
MADDOW: Steve Clemons, director of foreign policy programs at the new America Foundation, publisher of “TheWashingtonNote.com.” Steve, thank you so for joining us tonight.
CLEMONS: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith puzzles out Rush Limbaugh‘s criticism of Obama for authorizing lethal force against pirates.
Next on this show, I still really don‘t understand the Rod Blagojevich reality TV gig. I will get schooled in the matter by Kent Jones in a moment.
MADDOW: Now, for our cocktail moment - the signing up of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to appear on a reality show called “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” on NBC.
This is sort of technically where I work, NBC, and so I feel like I need to understand this. Apparently, on this show, 10 celebrities are dropped into the jungle of Costa Rica and then - lost me.
So once again I turn to the BBC. Our Blagojevich bureau chief, Kent Jones, for some answers. Kent, help me out here. Please, help me understand this.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: OK. The show is a little bit like “Survivor,” only with celebrities. And they vote people off and they go away and they don‘t bathe. There is a lot of that.
JONES: We are not exactly sure what the new one is going to be like.
But the original British version of the show looks like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
If past episodes are anything to go by, we might be treated to Bunjee-Blago or bug-eating Blago or bitten Blago. And that‘s just for starters.
Hey, ex-governor, how do you feel about being chucked out of a helicopter or trapped underwater or left in the dark with nothing for but rats for company? OK. That might seem familiar. But I‘m sure nothing in Chicago has prepared you for the Martina Navratilova treatment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Keep your eyes shut.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, TENNIS PLAYER: There is something in my nose.
JONES: Leaping building - it‘s not. And again, Blago might just enjoy living amongst the lowest creatures on the food chain. Others certainly have.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love everything about the jungle. I‘m just grateful for the magic here. I‘m in love with everything about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Yes. The magic.
MADDOW: Do politicians ever do this sort of thing before? Those are like entertainment people.
JONES: Not usually. But there was an MP in England named George Galloway who appeared on “Big Brother.” And he was dancing around in a red unitard during one of the episodes. And then he pretended to be a cat in another one.
JONES: There he is. It‘s very nice. I think I can speak for America when I say I never want to see Blago in a red unitard or as a cat.
MADDOW: I‘d say, do not see that.
JONES: Draw a line.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Thank you for watching. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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