The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/27/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for tuning in, to watch us tonight.
I am in San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom will be here this hour—as well Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, as well Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich. Yes! All here during this next hour.
But first, Americans tonight are focused on the stark reality that one of the world‘s largest cities is in a state of virtual lockdown, because of a virus that began within its borders and is now spreading around the world. The streets of Mexico City are virtually empty. Schools have been closed until next week. Parks are shuttered.
Mexico City is, for all intents and purposes, a bit of a ghost town—a ghost town of millions tonight, as a strain of swine flu continues to claim lives.
At last report, the virus has killed 149 people across the nation of Mexico. Yesterday, Sunday mass was canceled throughout much of Mexico City, leading Mexico City‘s cardinal, Norberto Rivera, to offer this prayer to an empty cathedral, quote: “Grant us the prudence and serenity to act with responsibility and to avoid being infected or to infect others. Give help to the health workers, keep vigil for the recovery of the sick and console those in mourning.”
“Give help to the health workers.” His words broadcast on television and radio because people could not be there in person to hear them.
Right now, health workers around the globe are launching an enormous international response to the threat of swine flu. The number of confirmed swine flu cases worldwide outside of Mexico has jumped to 73. The European Union today issued a travel advisory, warning Europeans about traveling to the United States and Mexico.
Tonight, the U.S. State Department urging Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to Mexico over the next three months. Governments in the Pacific Rim, like Singapore and Thailand and Indonesia, are in the tragic but fortunate situation of being all too familiar with this type of scare. Because of the SARS outbreak in the earlier part of this decade, they already have screening equipments and protocols ready to be implemented right now. Hong Kong and Russia are mass screening people who come to their airports and quarantining passengers who register fevers.
There is an international system in place for dealing with threats like this. From Central America to the Pacific Rim to Western Europe, the institutions that are built for this are kicking into gear. In worst-case scenarios and in potential worst-case scenarios, it‘s only appropriate to panic when there is no constructive response happening.
In this case, there is something constructive happening, internationally. Now, thanks to American politicians constantly denigrating the need for international institutions to deal with globalized problems.
But here domestically, you know, it‘s not just the Centers for Disease Control that are helming the response. There‘s also the Department of Homeland Security, explaining that the emergency declaration on this issue does not mean that we are in a health emergency right now. It means that emergency response measures are being deployed now as a precaution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It‘s similar to what we do, for example, when we know—when a hurricane may be approaching a site, we will go ahead and issue an emergency declaration that allows us to preposition—frees up money, resources to get pre-positioned, to get ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If this does turn out to be a major public health crisis, this is one of those situations in which it will be really handy if the government works really well. It will be really handy if our public health infrastructure has been adequately invested in and funded and supported and is well-understood by our population. Politically, it‘s been fashionable recently to denigrate that kind of infrastructure as indulgent, wasteful, unnecessary.
Republican Senator David Vitter recently mocked the idea of pandemic flu funding being included in the recent stimulus package. Republican Senator Susan Collins made sure that that funding was stripped out of the final version of the recent bill.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer specifically crowing about the removal of the pandemic response money from the stimulus plan, telling “The New York Post” at the time that flu pandemic response infrastructure investment was, quote, “one of those little porky things,” the Senate wisely stripped from the bill. I‘m guessing that he wished this wasn‘t called a swine flu, after being called at calling it “a little porky thing.”
The reason pandemic flu funding was put into the stimulus package in the first place is—well, because it has economic implications. “The Nation” magazine recently is characterizing the argument of House appropriations chief, David Obey, by saying that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn turn a recession into something far worse. In other words, imagine the effect on the United States of a lockdown happening in Mexico City right now, happening here.
Joining us now is NBC chief science correspondent, Robert Bazell.
Robert, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: The World Health Organization has elevated the world‘s pandemic level. They had a numerical scale of one to six, and they‘ve elevated it to four. What does that mean?
BAZELL: Well, six means forget about it, we‘re really toast. So, we‘ve gone from three, which we had yesterday to four, and four means a pandemic is really a possibility. It doesn‘t mean it‘s going to happen.
And we should explain what a pandemic is. A pandemic is a killer virus that circulates around the world to which people have no immunity. What we have now is a killer virus that‘s in Mexico that‘s leaked out to the United States and several other countries. It has killed some people in Mexico. Fortunately, it hasn‘t killed anybody in the United States, at least not yet.
But this is a very serious situation. And as you pointed out, a lot of government agencies around the world and the World Health Organization are taking it very, very seriously.
MADDOW: It seems that the U.S. government‘s response has been aggressive, it has certainly been serious. They‘ve been putting out a lot of information about what they‘re doing. But there are some concerns about the fact that the entire federal government is not fully staffed, especially in the health field. The cabinet position for health and human services is still a vacant position, as Kathleen Sebelius has not been confirmed.
How well prepared is the government? How well would you assess their response thus far?
BAZELL: It‘s very hard to know how you would assess—there was a lot of talk about pandemic flu preparedness in the early years of the Bush administration because of the threat of bird flu and also the SARS that you mentioned. Then those funds started to be stripped away and there‘s always been an argument that we don‘t have an adequate public health structure in the United States. They certainly don‘t have one in Mexico and that you can see the result of that was.
That virus has been obviously festering in Mexico for many, many months, went undetected until just a few days ago. And it‘s now just blasting around the world. So, you can see what happens if you don‘t have a public health infrastructure in place. Really bad things can happen very quickly, and as they are now.
MADDOW: As it spreads outside of Mexico, what can we tell about the way that it is spreading? Is it spreading faster than expected? Is there any information so far about whether the way the virus is mutating as it spreads is in a way that makes the virus more dangerous or less dangerous?
BAZELL: That‘s one of the gigantic questions, Rachel. Nobody knows that, and it takes a lot more time, effort and a lot of researchers who work in that public health infrastructure on the ground, both in Mexico City from the World Health Organization, from the Centers for Disease Control.
There‘s no evidence yet that the virus is mutating except for the fact that in the United States, there haven‘t been any deaths or even much serious illness. There have been some deaths in Mexico City. But according to genetic analysis in the laboratory, it is exactly the same virus in the United States that is spreading very quickly that‘s killing people in Mexico.
The thing we don‘t know about Mexico is how many cases totally they have and whether all the deaths are really flu, because they really don‘t have the laboratory structure to have done all these tests. So, it‘s going to take a few weeks to sort all that out.
One thing it could be is that this is a flu virus that fortunately has a low fatality rate and there‘s actually been millions of cases in Mexico. That would be one of the best possible scenarios and it means that there would be just a few deaths in the rest of the world. Or it could be things are worse, as it does mutate. A virus can mutate as it travels around the world. There‘s no evidence of this one has yet.
MADDOW: Robert, one last question for you and it‘s about something that is very specific and maybe seems a little petty, but I think it does have—it will have an effect on how people think about the seriousness of this issue, and that‘s the precaution of wearing surgical masks. So much of the footage that we‘re seeing of Mexico and even around the world involves people actually, physically wearing masks over their nose and mouth. That is not something that‘s being, of course, recommended in the United States.
Under what circumstances might it be recommended and how do you think that would affect the way that Americans feel about this?
BAZELL: Well, one of the things you have to understand is that those masks that you see in Mexico City, which are common in the United States as well, don‘t actually filter out the virus that causes the flu. I think it makes people feel good that they‘re doing something to put on the masks. Usually, they‘re recommended for health workers or people who are working in laboratories who are nearby either somebody who‘s infected or the samples of the virus itself. But it‘s not something that we really need to do.
There are better quality masks that do a better job and we don‘t have enough of those in the United States that we were supposed to stockpile, a lot of them were as part of our pandemic flu preparation plan, but that was stopped a few years ago.
MADDOW: NBC chief science correspondent, Robert Bazell, he‘s been covering this story all the day—Robert, thanks very much for coming on the show tonight.
BAZELL: My pleasure.
Coming up: We will be joined by California gubernatorial candidate and San Francisco‘s mayor, Gavin Newsom.
But first, One More Thing about government and their response to the swine flu. The genius governments of Lebanon, China, Russia and Indonesia have reacted to the pandemic of swine flu by cracking down on swine. All four countries are banning pork imports from places affected by the outbreak. Since you can‘t get swine flu from pork or pork products, unless by pork you mean you‘ve got a live infected pig sneezing in your face, such measures will be roughly as ineffective against this flu as banning the flues inside your chimney that you open to let the smoke out when you lit a fire. Flu is flu, right?
Lebanon, China, Russia and Indonesia, you are today‘s winners of the “international totally missing the point” award.
MADDOW: The home of beleaguered General Motors and Chrysler, and Kwame Kilpatrick, and the Detroit Lions—Michigan got a bit of much needed good news reported in “The Detroit News” over the weekend. A high school senior at Canton High School, which is between Detroit and Ann Harbor, just got a perfect score on the SAT, 2,400; and she got a perfect score on the ACT; and she got a perfect score on the PSAT.
Has anybody ever done that before? We don‘t know. Nobody really keeps track.
But Willa Chen has done it. And she also got a 4.3 GPA, and she does the Math Olympiad and she does jazz, tap and ballet dancing. Willa Chen, we know you have plans to go to Princeton next year, but here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW we‘re wondering if maybe before you start classes in the fall, you might consider taking over the bank bailout. Please?
MADDOW: Swine flu appears to have started in Mexico, but cases of it have turned up so far in five American states: New York, where nearly half of the 40 cases appear to be clustered at a single private high school in Queens; a handful of cases each in Kansas, Ohio and Texas, and 11 cases in California. In California, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has activated the state‘s joint emergency operation system, a combination of California‘s emergency management and public health resources.
In Texas, a very different style of Republican governor, reputed presidential hopeful, Rick Perry, requested today that the federal Centers for Disease Control and prevention provide Texas with hundreds of thousands of courses of the federal stockpile of anti-flu medication. That, of course, would not really be news at all, if that same governor hadn‘t recently been making noises about how awesome it would be for Texas to no longer be part of the United States of America.
(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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Its interference with the affairs of our state. We call it
oppressive federal interference except when we need flu medication or help
cleaning up after Hurricane Ike or extra law enforcement help on the border
or, or, or, or.
The reason governors are often thought of as good presidential timber is because they theoretically can‘t get so caught up in ideological point scoring that they neglect the practical needs of their state. In Governor Perry‘s case, for example, it‘s hard to keep points with the secessionists if you also need to ask the federal government for help in dealing with your outbreak.
So, how well-equipped are the states to handle a potential health crisis like the one we‘re facing now? And do party politics get less important at the state level than they are in D.C.?
Joining us now, a man who wants to be the next Democratic governor of the state of California, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. This is his first interview since he formally declared his candidacy for governor.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for being here. Nice to see you.
MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: Good to see you.
Welcome to San Francisco, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
NEWSOM: Give me everything but unemployment insurance, half a billion dollars, says Perry.
NEWSOM: Everything else but not the thing that my constituencies needed the most. Those who had been laid off. It‘s remarkable, isn‘t it?
MADDOW: Well, when you look at him, and you look at him requesting federal help, after he spent all of this time denouncing the federal government, flirting with the idea of secession, do you feel like where the Republican Party is at ideologically hurts their leaders‘ ability to do good, practical governance?
NEWSOM: No, at the end of the day, absolutely. And look, I think it‘s self-evident, isn‘t it? In terms of whether the rest of the republic is. The fact, registration down here—Republican registration is way down.
We have a governor that candidly, is acting more like a Democrat each and every day. He‘s not the governor that came in and perhaps, that special election in 2005, and was repudiated. He‘s changed dramatically. He‘s still not, from my perspective, progressive enough but he‘s moved in the right direction.
In contrast that to Republican governors that clearly are looking to put their name up as nominees for the Republican primary in a few years, and clearly, they‘re acting like it. And they‘re not acting, I think, in the best interest of their constituency.
MADDOW: How is Governor Schwarzenegger not progressive enough?
NEWSOM: Well, I think there‘s a lot of various bills (ph) that he vetoed not once but twice, the same-sex marriage bill. He says one thing on that and then acts in a different way. It‘s not atypical, I‘m sort of used to hearing politicians say one thing and doing ultimately another.
I think he‘s coming around now in terms of understanding the realities and error of his ways. I mean, he actually advanced a lot of initiatives that helped put the state in this fiscal deficit. One was a vehicle license fee. He ran against the vehicle license fee in California going up under the previous governor. There was a recall campaign almost exclusively because of that, not exclusively but primarily because of that.
And here he is now promoting that it goes back up. He‘s borrowing more prolifically than any governor of any state in American history and he came to terminate, quote, unquote, “the credit cards.” So, you know, it‘s interesting, you say one thing and do another. That oftentimes gets you in trouble politically. But, at least, some of the things he‘s now doing, I think, are more enlightened because he‘s dealing with reality.
What‘s frustrating about Perry and some others is I don‘t think they‘re dealing with the reality of the needs and desires and frustrations of real people. Governor Schwarzenegger, at least to his credit, is and he extended that hand and extended it gracefully to President Obama and, obviously, has brought down some—roughly, we estimate $50 billion of federal stimulus money to his credit.
MADDOW: When we think about how party politics extend to the state level and think about the future of a state like California, which is in such fiscal trouble right now, and it‘s so important to the economy of the entire country, what would a Democratic governorship in California mean to the state of California as opposed to another Republican governorship? What would be the difference, what would be the biggest outcome that would be different for the people who live here?
NEWSOM: Well, I mean, I think the frustration now is we‘re in stasis, we‘re finger-pointing and nothing is really getting resolved. I mean, we‘re applauding ourselves for just passing a budget, in this case, it‘s a budget, smoke and mirrors, that‘s predicated on a special election in a few weeks, and if that goes south, we‘re in serious trouble.
We haven‘t invested except rhetorically in universal health care. Our education system is now among the worst in the nation, at least in terms of per pupil spending and the outcomes aren‘t necessarily very distinguished. We‘ve seen environmental stewardship again on the surface, we‘re doing very well, but we need to do substantively more. And the poverty issues in the state are quite acute.
So, I‘d like to think that a Democratic governor is going to get serious about universal health care, serious about investing in our schools, not just “K through 12” but “pre-K through 16,” and institutions of higher learning and get more serious about the issue of global warming and climate change, and to continue that leadership but in a much more substantive and comprehensive way, and deal with the issue of poverty in all its forms and manifestations. That would, I think, lay a course for a different kind of approach and different agenda that is more in line with the politics and the policies of the Democrat.
MADDOW: How come it doesn‘t feel anymore like Republicans can go from California into national office? I mean, obviously, Governor Schwarzenegger‘s got a specific citizenship issue, right? I mean, the constitutional issue for why he‘s not going to go to national office.
MADDOW: But it doesn‘t—this doesn‘t feel like the launching pad of the next Ronald Reagan? The next national .
NEWSOM: Ford and Nixon, in some respects.
NEWSOM: Well, it‘s a good question, because it tends to be a little bit more moderate state and tends to elect more moderate Republicans, or ultimately, they go out a little bit more moderate. They may come in conservative but they realize the reality of the card that‘s have been dealt and the fact that the constituency of the state tends to be a little bit more moderate.
Now, we‘re much more progressive than we‘ve ever been, and people, I think, though, are less inclined to be Democrats or Republicans right now. I think people across party lines are looking for someone to get things done, looking for real leadership, looking for bold ideas. In the absence of ideas, again, you have finger-pointing and stasis, and that‘s what‘s happening in California.
MADDOW: Today, the first same-sex couples in Iowa got married.
NEWSOM: Yes. Right.
MADDOW: You are a straight politician who is associated nationally .
NEWSOM: Who would have thought? Yes.
MADDOW: I know. I‘m here to help with you that.
NEWSOM: Thank you. Yes.
MADDOW: So, you‘re associated nationally with the issue of gay marriage, because you‘re the mayor of San Francisco, because of the bold stance that you took on the issue. That has certainly helped you here in the city, helped you here in San Francisco. But the common wisdom has been that it might not help you statewide and it might not help you nationally. Should that common wisdom change now?
NEWSOM: Well, I mean, you know, maybe Obama was right, as Iowa goes, so goes the nation.
NEWSOM: I never thought I‘d hear that as a Californian. But the reality is, it‘s Vermont, it‘s Iowa, it‘s other states now, and you‘re going to see legislative tracks as well. Hopefully, Governor Paterson in New York, et cetera. So, I think, a lot has beginning to change.
Look, this is not even on people‘s radar. I‘m traveling all up and down the state, consider, progressive, liberal counties, coastal and inland communities. And the reality is, it‘s not even on the top 10 list. People are worried about their jobs, their homes, either they‘ve been foreclosed or the values dropped precipitously, their health care, et cetera. You know the routine.
And so, regardless of party, the issues of guns, gods and gays, these were the three Gs that define so much of the wedge politics that we‘ve come to know from the hardcore right in this country, is beginning to wane. That dog, I don‘t think, is not going to hunt anymore.
People are split in California, down in the middle. Good people on both sides, truly good people. Members of my own family are just coming around or still are not there that somehow believe that separate is equal, that civil unions are the same thing as marriage, I don‘t believe in that, nor did Miss California. And we accept that premise that separate is now somehow equal.
But again, we‘re making progress everyday and I think people are starting to come around that there are fundamental issues and there are issues that are pocketbook issues, that are the immediate issues of our time, and I think those are getting a little more attention now.
MADDOW: If Prop Eight was on the ballot again, would it pass?
NEWSOM: I think it will. I think it would today. I think, we—I think a lot folk have voted for it now step back and say, “Boy does this—did I need to do that?”
A lot of people are hurt, 18,000 couples are waiting for their day in court, literally—adjudication of the Supreme Court to decide if their fate and future, and their marriage licenses are still valid. That doesn‘t just affect those 18,000 couples. It‘s their friends and families and loved ones that are all sitting there wondering if their lives matters as much as my life and my wife and our relationship matters.
I think people are starting to pause and say, “Maybe we have other things we should be focused on.”
MADDOW: Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, candidate for governor of the great state of California. Good luck to you. Good to see you.
NEWSOM: Welcome, Rachel. Good to have you out here.
MADDOW: Thanks. Nice to see you.
All right. It is a warm, sunny morning in lower Manhattan when out of nowhere a low-flying 747 trailed by fighter jets roar overhead. First, flashback. Then, freak-out. Then, find out that it was an FAA-approved photo-op that no one warned the public about. The video and the story—coming up next.
MADDOW: For a person who has the opening riff from “Enter Sandman” as my ringtone. Me being this person with this ringtone, being able to say that Lars Ulrich from Metallica is my guest in just a few minutes, is a very, very, very exciting thing. Very. Stop it. Stop. Thank you.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
On a bright sunny morning in lower Manhattan today, a very large, still traumatized neighborhood had a very bad collective flashback. These are images of a 747 and two F-16 fighter jets flying disturbingly, familiarly low over lower Manhattan today.
The big plane is actually an Air Force DC-25. To us civilians it looks like a 747. It‘s one of the planes that when the president is on board, it‘s called Air Force One. Air Force photographers were taking pictures of it flying low around the Statue of Liberty, apparently, just a government photo-op.
But because there had been no public notice, no public warning, thousands of New Yorkers reacted to this, exactly the way you think they would. Workings in several buildings in lower Manhattan and Jersey City evacuated on to the streets and more than a few people feverishly e-mailed news outlets and called the city‘s emergency hotlines, trying to figure out what was going on.
This afternoon, after everyone from the mayor of the New York City to the president of the United States made it known how furious they were about the whole thing, the director of the White House Military Office, Louis Caldera issued an apology, saying quote, “Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision. While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it‘s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and I take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”
The FAA and the Defense Department say they knew about the flyover and helped coordinate it. They said they did due diligence in notifying the NYPD, the park police, the New Jersey State Police and even the New York City Mayor‘s Office.
But clearly, even if those notifications were made, the message wasn‘t distributed. Fire drill, in other words—fail.
Next up, we do not often get to—we do not often get to cover news from smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean because, as you can see from this map, there‘s not a ton there. I mean, you have Madagascar, you have Mauritius, and you have the island of Reunion. The island of Reunion became famous today for a spy novel, comic book, summer action, blockbuster, scary movie-worthy prison break.
A 27-year-old cult leader and convicted sex offender named Juliano Verbard was being held at a French prison on the island of Reunion.
Verbard started a cult in 2002 called the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Verbard was caught after kidnapping a young boy he was reportedly grooming to be his successor. He and two accomplices were sent to 15 years in prison on the staggeringly remote Reunion Island.
Then today, three of Verbard‘s followers chartered a helicopter, pretending to be tourists. Once airborne, they threatened the pilots with a gun and make shift bomb. They hijacked the aircraft and forced it to land near the prison.
There, they loaded Verbard and his two associates on to the helicopter and flew a short distance away to a waiting van. Both helicopter pilots were unhurt. This is the first successful prison break of any kind for the Reunion Island prison.
That said, it is France‘s 11th helicopter jail break in less than 25 years. The last French helicopter-borne jail break before today was in 2007 when a man convicted of murder was busted out of prison on Bastille Day. Bastille Day, of course, is the national French holiday commemorating the storming of a prison. Say what you will about French criminals, you can‘t say they don‘t have a sense of irony.
And finally, real closer to home a political fight is underway in Oklahoma over the legislators‘ efforts to establish an official state rock song. Voting was open to the public. And when all was said and done, Oklahomans overwhelmingly, by a margin of 2 to 1 voted for a song called “Do You Realize” by the homegrown band, The Flaming Lips.
Here are The Flaming Lips in an official band photograph, wrapped in a nice American flag. But when the results of the vote were announced on March 2nd, the bassist to the band, Michael Ivins, wore something to the ceremony that Republicans in the state legislature did not like.
Mr. Ivins is the one in the t-shirt with the yellow star and sickle logo - hammer and sickle thing there on the right. Republicans were so outraged, so furious about the horrible communist imagery that last Thursday, they voted against the measure that would have made “Do You Realize” the official state rock song despite the public vote.
There‘s good news here, though. Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has intervened in this situation so that The Flaming Lips may realize their musical destiny. The governor will sign an executive order tomorrow naming The Flaming Lips‘ song the official rock song of The Sooner State, Republicans in the legislator be darned. The governor‘s love for the band is so strong he next plans to name himself Yoshimi and battle a pink robot. Yay, Flaming Lips!
MADDOW: It was the Republican Party who gave us the Bush administration, who gave us the practice of torture as a policy by the United States Government. And now, in the smoldering political and moral aftermath of that program, that same party is having a hard time figuring out what to say about the fact that we did that.
2008 presidential runner-up, Sen. John McCain, tried to combine two seemingly antithetical arguments in describing his position on torture yesterday to Bob Schaffer yesterday. I‘ll give you a little preview here. It‘s one part “never again” and one part, “move along, there‘s nothing to see here.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I have opposed torture. It‘s a violation of the Geneva Conventions. We need to put this behind us. We need to move forward. We‘ve made a commitment that we will never do this again. No administration, I believe, would ever do this again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So I am opposed to the fact that this has happened, and I don‘t want it to be punished. McCain also called bullpucky on former Vice President Dick Cheney‘s sudden burning irony-saturated desire to release some magical memos that he thinks will prove that torture works.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice President Cheney says he wants more of these documents made public so the public will understand that these interrogation methods worked. Do you agree with him?
MCCAIN: No, I don‘t think it‘s necessary, to be honest with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So Sen. McCain has the personal internal contradiction down here. He also has the party-based internal conflict down here. It‘s the GOP‘s non-strategy, essentially.
Then there‘s windbag emeritus and maybe possibly-rumored 2012 presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich. His tactic, I would describe as the “just play dumb” routine. When asked if waterboarding is torture, Mr. Gingrich said this weekend, quote, “I think it‘s something we shouldn‘t do.”
When pressed, he then said, “I can‘t tell you.” How about, does it violate the Geneva Conventions, Mr. Gingrich? Answer? “I honestly don‘t know.”
The downside to playing dumb, of course, is that you sound dumb. That will make a great campaign slogan - “Newt Gingrich, unfamiliar with the Geneva Conventions.”
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader John Boehner appears to be stuck in some sort of obstructionist echo chamber in which the only thing he considers before making an argument is whether it allows him to speak against the president.
This ingenious tactic has caused him to denounce President Obama for releasing the interrogation memos in his weekly press conference on Thursday, and then on the same day, at a meeting at the White House, to push the president to release more memos. Except the ones he wants released are the same ones Dick Cheney wants released.
So to recap, the various leaders of the Republican Party, current, former and would-be, are trying to win the torture debate, even after losing power, by arguing that torture is bad and we should never do it again. Or we should just move on because everything‘s fine. Or they don‘t know what torture is. Or if they‘re John Boehner, by arguing that President Obama is very, very bad.
Joining us now is Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Sen. Wyden, thank you so much for coming on the show.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), MEMBER, SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON
INTELLIGENCE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: As far along as we are in this debate, it seems surprising to me that the Republicans don‘t seem to have a story to tell, an explanation about whether or not waterboarding is torture and how we should proceed as a country in dealing with the fact that we did it. Do you think there is a Republican Party line on this subject now?
WYDEN: Rachel, I almost needed a scorecard to follow the players. First of all, it is very clear that waterboarding is torture. We prosecuted after World War II the Japanese for doing it to our folks.
I‘m also very struck by the former vice president‘s comments. He said that we ought to make these documents public. Well, the fact is there are thousands and thousands of documents involved here. I am sure there are one or two pieces of paper out there that may support the vice president‘s position. But I do believe, consistent with national security, this ought to get out to the public.
MADDOW: It is to me, as I said, surprising, and I think interesting that there are so many different and seemingly internally contradicting Republican positions on this issue. But in terms of the political math in Washington right now, it doesn‘t necessarily really matter what the Republicans want to do, because Democrats have such large majorities in both houses of Congress and because, of course, they control the White House.
Do you think that there is a singular Democratic Party position on how to deal with the fact that we have tortured and how to move forward?
WYDEN: I think the president has laid out a plan for moving forward. First, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that I serve on - we are out of the gates now. We‘ve got people in place. We‘re doing the inquiry and given the fact that many of us protested these interrogation techniques as soon as we found out, we are very motivated to get to the truth.
When we get that information, certainly, if there are matters that need to be followed up on, such as matters before the Justice Department, we‘ll get it to them.
MADDOW: When the fact-finding inquiry of that Senate Intelligence Committee report - when that inquiry is completed, when you say things may need to be followed up in the Justice Department, does that mean that if the inquiry warrants, you would support, potentially referring things for prosecution?
WYDEN: Absolutely of the Justice Department is an independent agency. It‘s our job to find the facts. At this point right now what‘s need is an infusion of good information. The American people want to know who ordered this, what exactly was done, under what legal authority. It‘s time to get to the bottom of it.
As soon as I found out what happened, I wrote to the Central Intelligence Agency. I began making speeches. I fought John Rizzo, for example, who was going to be named general counsel of the agency because I thought he condoned some of the most offensive memos. We ought to make sure that the American people get the facts now.
MADDOW: Are you disturbed by the fact that John Rizzo is still acting general counsel at the CIA right now? Of course, he is due to be replaced. But today, he still stands as the highest authority at the CIA as to what is and isn‘t legal in the agency‘s actions.
MADDOW: Rachel, this is bizarre, even by the standards of Washington D.C. His nomination was withdrawn. I led the effort in the Intelligence Committee to have it withdrawn. Had it gone through a vote, I think it would have been overwhelmingly disapproved on a bipartisan basis, but he‘s still there.
I do think that the president‘s intelligence team should take steps to get somebody in there who will make judgments in line with the law.
MADDOW: Beyond John Rizzo and his position at the CIA, there appears to be one person whose name we know and whose actions we understand, from the - throughout the torture program, and that is Judge Jay Bybee who is still a person who is holding public office.
There have been discussions about the prospect of Judge Bybee facing an impeachment inquiry because of what we now know about his actions in the torture program that we didn‘t know when he was confirmed by the Senate. Do you think such an inquiry is warranted?
WYDEN: I was one of the 19 senators who opposed Judge Bybee at the time. I was particularly troubled his approach to the Geneva Convention matters that he had written on.
With respect to the issue of impeachment, that‘s before the House of Representatives. If it comes to the United States Senate, I would sit as a juror and at that point, I‘d be making judgments.
MADDOW: Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
WYDEN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. Coming up next on this show - I‘m so excited to be able to say this - Lars Ulrich from Metallica is here. Yes!
MADDOW: As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has taken the paranoid hyperbole baton and sprinting with it. Sen. Gregg is all hot that President Obama‘s healthcare reform might be brought up under Senate budget reconciliation rules.
What does that mean? It means that it could pass with a majority vote rather than allowing the Republicans to require a 60-vote supermajority. The man who was almost Obama‘s commerce secretary said about that decision, quote, “I can understand shaking Hugo Chavez‘s hand, but I can‘t understand embracing his politics.”
Of course, Sen. Gregg himself embraced majority rule, the same South American dictatorial politics of constitutionally-approved majority rules back in 2005, when it was President Bush wanting to use those rules to open up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. At that point, he was all for it. You know, Judd Gregg was about half a hair from being Obama‘s commerce secretary. That is the definition of a near-miss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The first time I ever heard a Metallica song, I was 15. I was quite possibly not where I should have been in the middle of the school day. And when my lab partner from science class put “Master of Puppets” on the stereo in his mom‘s living room, I was dumbfounded.
I remember literally just staring at the speakers for the entire length of the entire album wondering what was going on. Poring over the album jacket, looking for some sort of explanation as to what I was hearing, finding sadly no lame, expository liner notes, it was just this wall of inexplicably cathartic, totally uncompromising sound that blew my mind and became the unofficial soundtrack to the part of my adolescence in which I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
Twenty years later, the band‘s latest studio album, its (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is called death magnetic. They won nine Grammies. They‘ve had five consecutive albums debut at number one. They were the biggest-selling rock act of the last decade. They were just inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. And Lars Ulrich, the band‘s drummer, apparently watches this show which makes me feel like I‘m 15 all over again and still impressed and dumbfounded.
Joining us now, one of the greatest drummers of all time, Lars Ulrich.
LARS ULRICH, METALLICA DRUMMER: Thank you.
MADDOW: So happy to be meet you.
ULRICH: And back at you. That was quite an introduction. Thank you for that.
MADDOW: I didn‘t know whether or not I should like go total fan girl.
ULRICH: It‘s always good to just let it all out there. Trust me.
MADDOW: Oh, there it is. There you have it. You know, a 15-year-old now, or even a 36-year-old like I am now, falling in love with your music might just as easily be finding you on guitar hero, as by any other means.
MADDOW: Is that cool to you?
ULRICH: It‘s very cool, especially when you have a 10-year-old and 7-year-old like I do, because it‘s certainly in the age of spending a lot of time forcing them to finish their vegetables and do their homework and get to school on time. “Dad actually has his own video game” - that certainly helps and will continue to help into adolescence in the next couple of years.
So, it‘s been a lot of fun in the last year putting that together and actually realizing that almost 30 years into your career that you can still find an outlet that is unknown and new to you and sort of unique and exciting. And it‘s been a lot of fun putting it together.
MADDOW: Talking to you in the studio today right after talking to Gavin Newsom, mayor, who‘s running for governor, just makes me think about - I mean, I‘m from the bay area and it makes me think about what San Francisco means.
And nationally, there‘s this denigration of San Francisco values that
something about the bay area, that we need to protect the rest of the
country from what it‘s like here. I wonder what you think -
ULRICH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mind that.
MADDOW: Yes. Yes, we don‘t mind being a threat?
ULRICH: No. No. I mean, it‘s a - what we love about San Francisco -
and we fly the flag all over the world, obviously, for San Francisco - is
that it‘s a very small community in a sense that everybody knows each other
the artists, the politicians, the musicians, the actors. Everybody that‘s here all feel a kinship to each other, not just through what we do, but also because we share a love of San Francisco and the bay area.
And we are not Los Angeles and we‘re not New York and we‘re not Washington and we sort of like that. And we all know each other and certainly we know the mayor and his wonderful wife. And we see each other a lot in both social situations and private situations and it‘s just a great place to - I‘m European, grew up in Denmark, a very liberal social Democratic country, as you know. And being in San Francisco is the only place that I would be in the United States.
If I was a tarred, feathered and mercilessly thrown out of here, I would probably go back to Denmark. So most Europeans and certainly everybody from Denmark and the people I have kinship to in the world of culture and social issues, and so on, we all just love San Francisco and it‘s the only place in America we would be.
MADDOW: I love the idea that it‘s tolerance that is threatening. San Francisco is tolerant of everything - how terrifying.
ULRICH: They just don‘t know.
MADDOW: No, I think they know. I think they know.
ULRICH: But, you know, the thing is that, you know, when you‘ve had the opportunity to travel everywhere in this great country and spend so much time away from New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles and so on, it‘s what you meet a lot in the middle of the country. There are obviously a lot of people that are very, very endearing to what you bring to them and so on, but you certainly feel that there is a - I don‘t know if it‘s intolerance - but certainly an ignorance to what we do out here on the coasts.
And so when I say that they don‘t know is they don‘t know that we‘re actually, you know, somewhat normal people out here that get up at 6:45 and make lunch boxes for our kids and take them to school just like they do in all the red states, you know.
MADDOW: Yes. But then, you think about the network of people that Metallica has tapped into and created. I mean, it‘s been 28 years?
ULRICH: Something like that.
MADDOW: Unbelievable -
ULRICH: Close enough.
MADDOW: And you think about the way that - I mean, at least the way
it worked for me as a teenager discovering Metallica, it was like oh this
is not just antiauthoritarian. It‘s not just rebellious. It‘s not just
something that‘s unlike anything I‘ve heard before, it‘s something that
makes me feel like there might be other people out there who feel like I
feel. And so whether those people are listening in Iowa or Arkansas or San
Francisco or wherever they are -
ULRICH: It‘s the thing that we all long for which is a sense of belonging to something else, something that‘s greater than who we are as individuals. And, obviously, in music, and especially in maybe in harder music, you‘re appealing to a lot of people who have issues of alienation and being loners and outcasts and so on.
And obviously, it brings everybody together and it‘s a great - it‘s always a great feeling when you know that there are other people like you out there and that you feel that you‘re belonging to something greater than yourself.
MADDOW: Can I ask you one last question?
MADDOW: I guess that‘s what this is about. When you found out that “Enter Sandman” and other Metallica songs were being used in Iraq and other detention facilities as sort of this way to torture people, essentially psychologically torture people, did you ever think about trying to pull a copyright action on the government saying you are publicly playing our stuff without permission?
ULRICH: No. I would say that my first reaction would probably be in one of - in some way it‘s all terribly fitting because if there are people that are dumb enough to use Metallica to interrogate prisoners, you are forgetting about all the music that‘s to the left of us.
I can name, you know, 30 Norwegian death metal bands that would make Metallica sound like Simon and Garfunkel. And so you‘re kind of sitting there, going, it‘s all so strange and it‘s also bizarrely fitting in a way that it all comes from a place of ignorance.
And certainly, listen, you know, there are a lot of Metallica music that‘s helping a lot of scared 18, 19, 20-year-old kids out there who are out on the frontlines and who are doing a hell of a job on behalf of you and me and the rest of us. But, it‘s - and there‘s a lot of love in those ranks for what we‘re doing. And I certainly don‘t want, in any way, to belittle that.
But, obviously, when you hear stories like the one you‘re telling, it all seems to bizarre and so strange that Metallica‘s music, which generally is sort of - facilitates bringing people together is used in these bizarre circumstances. It‘s certainly not something that we, in any way, advocate or condone. But somewhere you just have to kind of roll your eyes and say like, “Go find all those Norwegian death metal bands, because maybe you will get the answers you are looking for.”
MADDOW: Yes, hopefully (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ULRICH: Exactly. Yes.
MADDOW: Lars Ulrich, Metallica founder and drummer - it‘s such a pleasure to meet you.
ULRICH: Nice to be here.
MADDOW: Thank you.
ULRICH: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” a former army interrogator volunteers to take Sean Hannity up on his offer to be waterboarded.
Next on this show, we‘ll be joined by our higher education mystery endowment correspondent, Kent Jones, who‘s trying get to the bottom of anonymous but very, very good news.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: In the past few months, more than a dozen colleges across America have received large donations, really large. We‘re talking nearly $70 million worth out of the blue and nobody knows where these big checks are coming from.
Look at this list. And then it gets deeper. These colleges only have one thing in common - they are all lead by women. So, the question is this, who would give away that much money during a severe recession anonymously and only to colleges with women leaders?
MADDOW: Kent, does it have to be Oprah?
MADDOW: Could it be anyone but Oprah?
JONES: You can ask but should ask Lars also.
MADDOW: OK. I will check with him. Thank you very much, Kent. Appreciate it. Thank you for watching tonight. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>