The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/10/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We do have some original reporting tonight, news you have not heard anywhere else about an apparent surge of threats of violence against abortion providers—a surge that included the killing of George Tiller in Kansas, but that may have gotten worse since then. That is coming up.
Michael Isikoff will also be here this hour to give us the heads-up about the big news that‘s about to drop in Washington about torture. Ana Marie Cox ill be here as well to explain the anointing of Senate hearing rooms with holy oil today.
That is all coming up over the course of the next hour.
But we begin tonight with the shocking shooting this afternoon at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Authority say the shooter was James Von Brunn, an 88-year-old vocally anti-Semitic white supremacist, an ex-convict who was well known both to the authorities and those who track the white supremacist movement, specifically.
He reportedly walked into the museum just before 1 o‘clock this afternoon, Eastern Time, and opened fire in the entry way to the museum. Security guards apparently returned fire and critically injured Mr. Von Brunn, but not before a shot of his fatally wounded Stephen Tyrone Johns, a security guard who had worked at the museum for six years. Mr. Johns was pronounced dead at a hospital hours after the shooting.
James Von Brunn has an arrest record and a public paper trail indicative of a dedication to anti-Semitic, anti-government, right wing extremist causes. He was the proprietor of a Web site called the Holy Western Empire, which propounded his ideas and conspiracy theories. He self-published a book called, “Kill the Best Gentiles: The Racialist Guide for the Preservation and Nurture of the White Gene Pool.” A typical excerpt is of a character that will be familiar to anyone who‘s ever spent any time in the dink, little Nazi corners of the Internet.
Forgive me, I will quote from it briefly. “Here is the grist underlying the Jews‘ goal to rule the world, garner its wealth, and enslave the gentiles. It is the Luciferian credo that is changing the United States into an Illuminati-controlled non-white nation soon to become part of one mongrel world.”
And yes, all the “I want to make it obvious that I‘m insane” capitalization in the excerpt is as written originally by Mr. Von Brunn. He goes on to say that it is the Jews who have created the myth that Thomas Jefferson said all men were created equal. He praises Hitler explicitly. He denies the Holocaust. He derives complex conspiracies about World War I and World War II and Germany that are all derived from the protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a white supremacist anti-Semitic standard text that is a fraud and that was debunked at such decades ago but it still circulates in many, many languages.
In addition to Mr. Von Brunn‘s book, you can also still find online, bearing Mr. Von Brunn‘s byline, an essay titled, “Hitler‘s Worst Mistake:
He Didn‘t Gas the Jews.” In the essay, Von Brunn calls America, quote, “ a third-world racial garbage-dump.”
James Von Brunn also posted an article last year, arguing that then-candidate Barack Obama hadn‘t provided sufficient documentation to prove that he was born in the United States and that therefore, Obama must have been sent by someone.
We also know that James Von Brunn was convicted of attempted armed kidnapping among other things. After a 1981 incident in which he was caught inside the Federal Reserve board headquarters, carrying a revolver, a sawed-off shotgun and a knife. Mr. Von Brunn said that he was trying to place members of the Federal Reserve board under citizen‘s arrest for treason.
In a bio, he apparently wrote about himself. On his Web site, he says of that crime, quote, “convicted by a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys, and sentenced to prison for 11 years by a Jew judge. A Jew/Negro/White Court of Appeals denied his appeal. Mr. Von Brunn ultimately served 6 ½ years in prison for that crime.
You know, it was just April of this year when the extremism and radicalization branch of the Department of Homeland Security‘s threat analysis division released its report on potential threats from right-wing extremists. This followed a similar group about left-wing extremists.
But conservative, nevertheless, went nuts over that report. They demanded that it be retracted—which it was—and they demanded that Secretary Janet Napolitano apologize for it—which she did.
As recently as last week, Secretary Napolitano was called before the House Homeland Security Committee and ranking Republican, Peter King, demanded that she further apologize for that report.
Now, within less than two weeks, we‘ve seen two shootings—two fatal shootings in which the prime suspect is quite clearly motivated by extreme right-wing political views, exactly what the report was warning about.
Is the overall threat of extreme right-wing violence in America getting worse? Is there a risk that this shooting and that the Dr. George Tiller shooting in Kansas will embolden others who are already on the edge?
Joining us now is Mark Weitzman, who‘s director of the Task Force Against Hate and Terrorism at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
MARK WEITZMAN, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: Thank you for having me here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Was James Von Brunn at all on your radar before today‘s shootings?
WEITZMAN: Yes, he was in the sense that he was a name that we had come across. We had seen his materials online. We had read some of his works, et cetera.
But he was not a hot profile person in the movement. He was not a leader of any particular band. He was 88 years old. He had basically been someone crying around for himself. We had links we had seen him, back in 1980s, for example, appearing on the Holocaust denial Web site based in Toronto, Canada. So, his links have gone back quite a while. But he never really seem to be a person that was going to create this kind of fuss and had to do something that would end so tragically.
MADDOW: Much like in the abortion rights movement. There are those in—not only in the Jewish community but also in other civil rights communities who track these right-wing groups independently, beyond what the government does. Why is that?
WEITZMAN: Well, I think, certainly for us, it clearly is an imperative that came out of the Holocaust, the sense to know what is going on out there that can pose a threat, that can pose a danger. We take this people very seriously. Even though Von Brunn did not appear to be someone with the, you know, possibility of potential of violence, the type for the activity that we saw it today.
The lesson of Timothy Wolf—Timothy McVeigh, for example, a product of a lone wolf .
WEITZMAN: . which is someone who flies below the radar screen, someone who is not well-known and yet precisely because of that has the ability to put together an act—it‘s something that we ought to carry seriously. It really just takes one person who is seriously committed to this kind of ideals and has the propensity or ability to act violently, to create a tragedy, as we saw it today.
MADDOW: Well, for people who aren‘t leaders but who are active in anti-government and extremist and sort of hate circles, what is the connection between people like this who have clearly threaten violence—
Mr. Von Brunn had, Mr. Roeder in the George Tiller killing had—and groups that are also extremists but do not overtly promote violence?
And it‘s been suggested that those groups may—although they maybe anti-government, they maybe—they may not have sympathy for the groups that they organized against, they may have more responsibility than anybody else. Simply because of their opportunities to get information from these people, they may have more responsibility than any other Americans, to literally turn people in when they hear threats of overt violence, when they know about people bragging about criminal mischief, criminal damage.
Do you think that‘s an appropriate line of attack?
WEITZMAN: I would hope that anyone who has knowledge of this kind of activity of someone who plans to take law into their own hands or act violently, targeting other people for harm, would act as a responsible citizen and would do something about it. And that cuts across the board and every time for the whole broad political spectrum. Here, we‘re talking about the denial of the basic human right, which is the right to live.
And threats like that need to be met directly. If anyone knows of someone planning as that, they really should be turning it into law enforcement. They really should be acting that.
And it‘s responsibility as well in terms of monitoring rhetoric and moderating rhetoric. We turn, particularly with the Internet; we saw how much Von Brunn used the Internet for example. He‘s not the only one there. There are 10,000 databases on our Web site that we – 10,000 Web sites on our database that we are taking a look at.
And the rhetoric keeps ratcheting up. People keep calling for violence. People are looking—particularly in the climate that we have now, the economic turmoil, of a first minority, an African-American president of the United States. This people see this as a tipping point. They are ready to act. And unfortunately, today, we saw something like that.
MADDOW: Mark Weitzman, director of the Task Force Against Hate and Terrorism at the Simon Wiesenthal Center—thank you for your work and your contributions, really, to the country for monitoring this stuff. And thanks for joining us tonight to talk about it.
WEITZMAN: And thank you for opening up the discourse of this.
Still ahead this hour: We will be joined by Michael Isikoff from “Newsweek” magazine. He‘s here to give us the heads up on a big story that is about to happen in Washington, a story for which you should brace yourself.
Also, Ana Marie Cox will be joining us. That is all ahead.
But first, we have One More Thing about homegrown terrorists associated with political agendas. Abdulhakim Muhammad formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe is the young man accused of killing one American soldier and wounding another outside an Army recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, last week—because he didn‘t like America‘s military involvement in the Middle East. He‘s the man who somehow amassed an arsenal of guns and ammunition while he was supposedly being investigated by the FBI‘s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Mr. Muhammad called “The Associated Press” from his jail cell yesterday and again today. “The Associated Press” describes him as saying that he, quote, “wanted revenge for claims that American military personnel had desecrated copies of the Koran and killed or raped Muslims.” And that, quote, he said, “I don‘t think it was murder because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason.”
The concept of a justified murder is a thread weaving its way through way too many stories in the news right now.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should all (BLEEP) dies, (BLEEP) bomb that place, (BLEEP) (INAUDIBLE) (BLEEP) kill you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s the sound of domestic terrorism, a voicemail left on a Texas abortion clinic‘s voicemail last month. Given the events today in Washington, D.C., and in Wichita, Kansas, at Dr. George Tiller‘s church two Sundays ago, it is, of course, bone chilling. Its aim is to intimidate the doctors and nurses and clinic workers and the people who are legally seeking medical services amid strident, sometimes lethal, sometimes merely ghoulish intimidation.
On Saturday, George Tiller was laid to rest. Yesterday, the Tiller family announced that the doctor‘s clinic in Wichita will close forever. And today, the president of the extreme anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue, said that his group wants to buy the Dr. Tiller‘s clinic in Kansas and move their headquarters into it.
Mr. Troy Newman told “The Associated Press,” quote, “I would love to make an offer on that abortion clinic and some of the discussion that we are having.”
So, the official reaction of the super right-wing fringe to the assassination in its name, of its cause, is to make George Tiller‘s place of business a triumphant symbol for themselves, a symbol of their victory over the murdered doctor.
On Saturday, at the day George Tiller was buried, a man with ties to the radical anti-abortion group, the Army of God, threatened a voluntary escort at an abortion clinic in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This is according to a worker at the clinic.
If you aren‘t already familiar with the Army of God, on their Web site right now, there is picture of Dr. George Tiller just moments after he was murdered under the headline, “The lives of innocent babies scheduled to be murdered by George Tiller are spared by the action of American hero, Scott Roeder. George Tiller, the baby killer, reaped what he sowed and is now in eternal hell.”
You can then scroll through the prisoners of Christ portion of their Web site and see mug shots and descriptions of murders and attempted murders and bombings—all celebrating the perpetrators.
The person accused of threatening the clinic in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday that‘s a prominent link on this Web site to his anti-abortion prisoner newsletter. His website says, quote, “Because I believe we should use every legitimate means, including force, in our attempt to protect those being tortured to death, I want to hear from people who have been forceful.”
And it is the same man who on Saturday allegedly walked up to a volunteer at the clinic in Allentown and said, “How do you prefer to die, by knife or by bullet?”
Joining us now is Jennifer Boulanger. She‘s executive director for the Allentown Women‘s Center and a member of the Abortion Care Network, a group of independent abortion clinics across the country.
Ms. Boulanger, thank you very much for joining us.
JENNIFER BOULANGER, ALLENTOWN WOMEN‘S CENTER EXEC. DIRECTOR: Thank you for inviting me.
MADDOW: Was what I just described there an accurate description of what happened at your clinic last week?
BOULANGER: Frighteningly, yes. Yes, and Mr. Dunkle pickets my home, the home of our physician and also the home of several doctors in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
MADDOW: Have you noticed a change recently in the amounts and the character of protests and threats that you have received in Allentown?
BOULANGER: Absolutely. We‘ve had malicious calls. Not a bomb threat but calls similar to the one you played in Texas. We‘ve had—we‘ve been targeted by a number of malicious calling events. We‘ve been targeted since the beginning of the year. I think abortion providers across the country have been targeted since Obama was inaugurated.
But now, since Dr. Tiller has been murdered, it‘s just—they feel even more empowered and we‘re seeing an anger that we‘ve never seen before.
MADDOW: That‘s what we are trying to document here, because we‘ve been hearing this over and over again, that the Tiller murder was part of what has been a spike in the last few months in threats, harassment, violence and the character protest against abortion providers.
Now, as you mentioned, we spoke with other members of the Abortion Care Network, of which your clinic is a part of today, we heard more stories of intimidation outside of a clinic in North Dakota today, a man reportedly held a Tiller “Deserve It” sign and told other protesters that they should promote assassinations.
In Texas, as you said, that bomb threat voicemail that we played earlier was part of a chain of suspicious activities. One protestor got inside the clinic and threatened a patient. A broken security camera was accompanied by unsettling fact that one of the protestors somehow knew that the surveillance camera had been disabled.
Is it your experience that the Tiller reference is essentially becoming sort of a touchstone for people? That it‘s becoming a way that people indicate that they‘re in favor of violence?
BOULANGER: Absolutely. I mean, he‘s always been a target. But we‘ve always been experiencing violent, and it‘s been a slow increase. It‘s like a slow boiling pot. You know, it‘s—we have been simmering for a while. And you get desensitized. You don‘t realize the level of terrorism you‘re experiencing.
And it shouldn‘t take a doctor being murdered for, you know, for law enforcement to take this seriously. You know, we need—we need more prevention efforts. We need buffer zones.
We need—we need the Feds to educate local law enforcement on FACE and we need FACE prosecutions. Without strict enforcement of existing laws, it‘s just going to escalate.
MADDOW: This is another thing that we‘ve been hearing repeatedly, that the reason that FACE was put into effect, the reason that FACE was passed, a federal law about clinic violence and clinic intimidation and criminal damage and all of these things—the reason a federal law was passed is because of worries that local law enforcement didn‘t take these things seriously.
But what you‘re suggesting is that it‘s part of the federal responsibility to make sure that local police do respond when things happen at clinics?
BOULANGER: Absolutely. That‘s the only way you can prevent the escalation of terroristic activities.
MADDOW: Your organization hosted a memorial for Dr. Tiller on Sunday.
I know. Were you at all concerned about safety at that event?
BOULANGER: Well, I was concerned—very much concerned. We felt very vulnerable after the threat on Saturday. And even, you know, federal marshals were telling me not to go.
But, you know, I can‘t—I can‘t hide. I‘m not the one that‘s supposed to be hiding. They‘re supposed to be preventing the terrorists. You know, I shouldn‘t be told to hide in my home and not come out and not speak out for myself. You know, it‘s really—they need to go after the terrorists.
MADDOW: Every crime committed by an organized—by the organized militant wing of the anti-abortion movement is a failure of law enforcement, and every time that somebody is prevented from having a legal job, like you do, or pursuing legal medical services like the women do who use your clinic, is a failure of law enforcement.
MADDOW: Is there—is there anything specifically that you would like to see changed in terms of the ways that law enforcement—that laws are enforced around this issue? You mentioned buffer zones?
BOULANGER: Yes, buffer zones, just safety zones—around the entrances of clinics so that people aren‘t touched. We—our patients, our employees, our volunteers get touched all the time. And this is an issue.
That shouldn‘t happen. We shouldn‘t have to worry about the safety of our patients as they enter the clinic. So, you know, that is at the very minimum what we need.
We also just need strict enforcement of laws. We need prevention efforts. We need local law enforcement to work with federal marshals and the Department of Justice to prevent this. We need Obama‘s help.
It‘s just—it‘s gotten way out of control. I shouldn‘t be told by local law enforcement that this is to be expected because of my chosen profession—which is what I have been told.
MADDOW: Wow. Jennifer Boulanger, executive director for the Allentown Women‘s Center, member of the Abortion Care Network—thanks for helping us get the word out about this tonight. Thank you.
BOULANGER: Thank you. And I just hope women tell their stories, because they need to support the clinics, too.
MADDOW: Thanks, Jennifer.
MADDOW: OK. So, here‘s the Republicans‘ latest tactics against the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. They will try to delay it for so long that—I don‘t know actually—she‘ll get bored and go home maybe? Their strategery reached new heights today and Ana Marie Cox joins us in a moment to explain how. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When every reasonable argument you have falls apart, stall. Ana Marie Cox will be here to discuss the collapse of quasi-thoughtful Republican opposition to Sonia Sotomayor and the party‘s new approach to replace it. Michael Isikoff is also on deck in the midst of a ton of news about America‘s torture policy. And Kent Jones has the perfect father‘s day gift if your old man is the laziest person ever born.
That‘s all still to come this hour.
But first, it‘s time for a couple holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
In the war we‘re in that Americans talk about now even less than the other war we‘re in that we don‘t really talk about either, in Iraq, today was a momentous day for one very bad reason and one very interesting reason.
The very bad reason is that a huge car bomb went off at a marketplace outside the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. It killed 35 people today according to “The Associated Press.” Local citizens responded by attacking Iraqi police for not having protected them. And the provincial governor fired the chief of police on the spot in the town where the bomb went off.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the Iraqi parliament has just appropriated about $100 million to run a national election this summer, a national referendum actually, on whether or not Iraqis want to kick the U.S. military out of Iraq right away. We still got 135,000 or so troops in Iraq and they‘re there under the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement that was worked out between the Iraqi government and President George W. Bush.
Under the terms of that agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraqi cities by the end of this month, but American troops will stay in Iraq on bases for a long, long time—until the end of not next year but the year after, December 31st, 2011. However—this is the interesting part—when the Iraqis agreed to that deal, they attached some contingencies. They said, “Sure, we agree to you staying until December 2011 but we also reserved the right to hold a referendum for the Iraqi people to themselves vote on whether or not they want U.S. troops out of here a lot faster.”
That referendum that U.S. officials have been lobbying against ever since now looks like it is going ahead. If it happens as scheduled on July 30th and if, as expected, the Iraqi people do vote on that referendum that U.S. troops should leave sooner rather than later, then the exit date for U.S. troops from Iraq will change by a lot. Instead of leaving in December 2011, the exit date for U.S. troops will rush back all the way back, to here, July 30th next year—a year and a half earlier than we were planning on coming home.
And that, I‘m guessing, would at least grab our attention about this war, again. Thank you very much. We will keep you posted on that.
And finally, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it‘s temporarily suspending the Bush-era deport-the-widow immigration rule. As of today, if you‘re an immigrant married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years and your spouse dies, that will no longer be grounds to deport you.
OK, in other news, apparently, until today, we were deporting widows and widowers because their spouse died. That‘s classy.
Also, if you‘re gay and you live in this country and your spouse is still alive, you still get deported—which means that even under this administration, the fierce advocate administration, having a dead, straight spouse gives you 100 percent more immigration rights than having a live, gay spouse.
Dead, straight people. (BELL). Live gay people. (BUZZER)
MADDOW: Yesterday‘s news on the Supreme Court was not a fluke, not a misfire, not a political accident that was quickly dialed back.
Today, the leaders of the very, very, very, very, very small Republican caucus in the United States Senate confirmed that they are, in fact, going to try to delay the confirmation of President Obama‘s nominee to the United States Supreme Court.
And they have come up with a genius argument for doing so. The relevant context here, just so you know, is that if you look at the current members of the Supreme Court, it took on average 45 days between the date in which a justice was nominated to the court and the start of his or her confirmation hearings - 45 days is the average - 45.
Democrats have proposed a 48-day schedule for this Judge Sonia Sotomayor. And the Republicans think that is outrageous. They want a delay. The Senate Republican‘s PR office has now put out this press release. The press release is titled “SCOTUS Hearing Double-Standard.” And it says, quote, “Judiciary chairman forces 76 case-per-day review of Judge Sotomayor‘s record while comparing it to Judge Roberts‘ six-case-per-day schedule.”
Republicans are arguing that the same pacing standard from John Roberts‘ confirmation should be applied to this next one, too. In other words, we should set the number of days before the confirmation hearings start based on the number of cases the judge has heard in her career. And we should assume that Republicans are only comfortable prepping for the hearings by reading six cases per day.
So for Sotomayor, she‘s heard 3,625 cases - divide that by six cases per day and carry the two. Republicans apparently want to hold up the sort of the confirmation hearings so they can read Sotomayor‘s cases for 604 days. Meaning we should expect to start the confirmation January 20th, 2011. That‘s if they keep their reading six-cases-per-day pace even on weekends and holidays.
If this really is the grounds on which Republicans want to handle Supreme Court nominations, it is probably worth pointing out that if I was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court on this schedule, I could get confirmed that day because I have no judicial record. Zero cases - rather the pace of six cases per day, zero divided by - I would be on the court before lunchtime.
But regardless of the utter preposterousness of this argument regardless of the fact that they are all conceding that Sotomayor will be confirmed anyway, Republicans have decided that they like this delaying strategy and they are sticking with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We‘ve got a lot on our side. We‘ve got a schedule set up for Chief Justices Roberts and Alito that this would be at a sync with it. We have a right to be thorough.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), UNITED STATES SENATE MINORITY LEADER:
They want the shortest confirmation timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest record in recent memory. This violates basic standards of fairness, and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I‘ve been informed there have been some 4,000 decisions. My gosh, that is going to take some time to go through those decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I‘m saying, you know, you can‘t argue with the math. You can‘t argue with that six-cases-a-day thing that we made up. You can‘t argue with that. Basic fairness. The Republicans‘ tactical opposition, the delay, delay, delay strategy appears to be overtaking their substantive opposition to Sotomayor which is really falling apart now.
The course of criticism that Judge Sotomayor is a racist, for example, pegged to her wise Latina judge comment has now been denounced by the Republican Party‘s most prominent Latino, the former chairman of the Republican Party, Republican Senator Mel Martinez.
After meeting with Judge Sotomayor yesterday, Sen. Martinez said, quote, “For someone who is Latin background, personally, I understand what she is trying to say, which is, the richness of her experience forms who she is. It forms who I am.”
OK. So she‘s not a racist. She‘s an odds-on favorite to be
confirmed. But because Republicans still want to be known as the party
that tried to prevent Judge Sotomayor from making it to the Supreme Court,
they are settling on the argument that it would be nice to wait a couple of
years before confirming her anyway. Good luck
Joining us now is Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America Radio, contributor to “Playboy” magazine. Hi, Ana Marie.
ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you feel like you‘ll be read in enough on Judge Sotomayor by the time the hearings start a year from January? Is that enough time?
COX: Well, I am a slow reader, so I may need to take that long. But you know, it‘s funny. I came with three different reasons why this is a preposterous standard for them. The first one actually relates to you saying that you could be confirmed on the same day.
Justice Roberts had only been on the bench for two years when he was nominated for the Supreme Court. And the reason why no one made a big deal about it, even though it doesn‘t sound like very long, is that because he had argued hundreds of cases as a lawyer which is what they probably looked at when they were confirming him. No so much those decisions which were very paltry, but the cases that he argued.
COX: The other thing is that you don‘t read cases. You read opinions. And if you narrow it down to just the opinions that Sotomayor has written, it‘s just over 600. So that is - I did the math. That‘s about 20 opinions a month and they could just read 62 cases a day. But the thing is, most of her opinions were written since her 1998 confirmation. If they just look at those, they could read four a day, Rachel.
MADDOW: Oh, which might mean they could up it and take weekends off.
COX: Yes, I know. And also they could - I know some of their lips move. So, you know, that takes some more time.
MADDOW: They also have staff to help them. I mean, this is - it‘s not like this has never been done before. It was seven days between the nomination of John Paul Stevens and when his confirmation hearings started.
But all of the sudden, this violates basic tenets of fairness. I just -
COX: It‘s funny they bring up Stevens, because actually, she was floated - Sotomayor was floated in 1998 when there are rumors that Stevens was going to be retiring then. And Republicans took a good hard look at him then. She‘s already been sort of vetted on that level.
In fact, “The Wall Street Journal” in 1998 said that she would be a confirmation nightmare for Senate Republicans because her record was so good.
MADDOW: But it‘s only been 11 years since then, Ana Marie. How fast do you think we are? We have been very busy.
COX: I know. I know. I am sorry. Also, apparently, she wasn‘t Puerto Rican then or a woman. Strange.
MADDOW: Right - which has made things all the more complicated.
COX: That‘s right.
MADDOW: Unless the Democrats have softer spines than even their reputation suggests, it seems to me that there‘s no chance that Senate Democrats are actually going to move the date of this hearings back now that they have announced the date. So - well, A, do you agree with that? And if you do, what do you think is the political advantage for Republicans in calling for delay that they probably not going to get?
COX: Well, this is kind of the only objection the Republicans can
make - elected Republicans can make. There‘s no sitting Republican Senator
who wants to get out in front and start to make substantive - in air quotes
“criticisms” of Sotomayor we‘ve heard from people like Newt Gingrich.
They have to get her reelected. Newt Gingrich does not. And I think, so they‘d have to go with - and the Senate is naturally a conservative place, not just for Democrats. And I think that they feel just much more comfortable arguing about the comity of the Senate, and sort of the gentlemanly atmosphere, and it is pretty much all gentlemen.
And I think that is something that - on both sides, you hear a lot of arguing about. I can kind of imagine just out of sense, the Democrats getting a few days. But there‘s no need to. They have all the numbers that they need on the critics‘ side including seven sitting Republican senators who voted for her confirmation in 1998.
MADDOW: Oh, that‘s going to be awkward if they try to do the filibuster. I have ask you about one last thing, a development today concerning the actual room in the Hart Senate office building where the confirmation hearings are going to happen.
A group called Faith and Action posted online video of themselves anointing the doors of the hearing room with oil in the name of Jesus. Do you think that‘s a total game changer here?
COX: I think Jesus has very good chances of getting confirmed to the Supreme Court. I also think Sotomayor does. I don‘t have a big problem with it. I just hope that people would have the same sort of nonplussed reaction if it were a Buddhist ceremony or even forbid a Muslim ceremony.
COX: And I‘m all for people blessing other people in whatever faith that they choose do that.
MADDOW: I happily also just send a godless hazah(ph)at those doors
MADDOW: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as well.
COX: Way to go.
MADDOW: Go team. Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America Radio, contributor to “Playboy” magazine. I should tell you your article on “Playboy” on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is very good. Congratulations on that.
COX: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I read it for the articles. All right. We now know when the CIA inspector general‘s report on interrogation techniques will be made public. But we don‘t know what‘s in it.
We know that CIA Director Leon Panetta won‘t release documents detailing videotaped interrogations at secret prisons during the Bush era. But we don‘t really know why he has done that. We have an idea of where it all leads, but we don‘t know if or when it will lead there. “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff is here to help us with this, next.
MADDOW: Political exile is not all bad, it seems. Former President George H.W. Bush and family were celebrating Barbara Bush‘s 84th birthday at their summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine when this happened.
Wow, look at that smile. It‘s been a while since Pappy Bush busted out his six-pack abs in a Speedo. Not to be outdone, the former president enjoyed the coastal scenery as well. Sitting in his lap is a bikini-clad actress named Katie Cameron. How do you do? Have you tried the spinach dip.
Mr. Speedo and Ms. Cameron are, in fact, cast members in a local production of “A Chorus Line.” Former President Bush invited the entire cast over for Barbara‘s birthday after they saw the performance.
And then, someone presumably in the employ of the Bush family told Mr. and Mrs. Bush it would be a good idea to pose for photos with the people in those swim suits. May I suggest that that someone maybe needs firing?
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): I‘m very sorry to say this. But there has been campaign of falsehood about this whole sorry episode. And it has disserved the American public. As I said earlier, facing up to the questions of our use of torture is hard enough.
It is worse when people are misled and don‘t know the whole truth and so can‘t form an informed opinion and instead quarrel over irrelevancies and false premises. I will warn you, the record is bad. And the presumption of truth that executive officials and agencies should ordinarily enjoy is now hard to justify.
We have been misled about nearly every aspect of this program. I want my colleagues and the American public to know that, measured against the information I have been able to gain access to, the storyline that we have been to believe, the storyline about waterboarding that we have been sold is false - in every one of its dimensions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island giving a long, indignant, impassioned speech on the Senate floor last night about torture, warning essentially that everything we think we know about it, at least, everything we have been told about it officially is wrong.
And as of today, we can report that we‘re about to know a lot more. A bunch of probably very inflammatory new information is about to drop on the issue of torture. First, the “New York Times” reports that the CIA is about to show us whatever it is that was redacted in these transcripts that you see on the screen.
These were released from the tribunals at Guantanamo. This is apparently the part of the transcripts where prisoners how they had been treated since being in U.S. custody. We are expected to get that stuff un-redacted really soon by Friday.
Also, and this is a big one, the Justice Department has just said in a letter to a federal judge that it will finally, finally, finally, finally release the CIA‘s own report on the torture program from 2004. This document, this report is sort of the big Kahuna in terms of what we have been waiting to see from the government‘s own files on torture.
It was the inspector general of the CIA way back in 2004 looking into what the CIA was doing in its interrogation program. And that report, which is long and has been described by people who have seen it as sickening, apparently stopped the torture program in its tracks. We are about to learn why.
Here now to make sense of this is our interpreter-in-chief Michael Isikoff, “Newsweek” investigative reporter and MSNBC contributor. Mike, thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK” INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: There‘s a lot of stuff happening and about to happen on the issue of torture right now. Which of these developments do you expect will have the biggest impact on the debate?
ISIKOFF: It is hard to say, because while each one of these things could provide significant new information, what we don‘t know is how complete the disclosures are going to be.
This Friday, we‘re supposed to see the un-redacted portions of those combatant status review hearings where the detainees described what was actually done to them. Will the un-redacted portions be completely un-redacted? Will they lay it all out? We don‘t know.
More significant even than that, of course, is the IG reports. There are hints in the inspector general reports in the CIA. There are footnotes, very significant footnotes in the interrogation memos that came out a couple of months ago that indicate and quote from the inspector general‘s report that what was actually done went beyond what was authorized, that how waterboarding was conducted, the frequency with which it was conducted and the manner in which it was conducted was beyond what the CIA told the Justice Department it was going to do when the Justice Department authorized the technique.
Now, will we see the complete, un-redacted report? That is the key question here. And we don‘t know the answer to that yet.
MADDOW: But what‘s driving these releases? Are they being forced to release these things, or are they deciding to release these things?
ISIKOFF: There are - no. Nothing is really voluntary here. This is all being done in the process of freedom of information act lawsuits, mainly filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
And, you know, I have to say, a couple of months ago, just before those interrogation memos were released, I and others had said it was going to be a key test of the Obama presidency‘s commitment to transparency if they disclose those memos.
If they did, it would open the floodgates for a lot of this to come pouring out, and we‘d begin to see the full scope, the full story of the program. But what‘s actually turned out is rather than that - that one disclosure being a big breakthrough, it‘s become trench warfare. Document by document, a fight goes on over it in which the CIA and the intelligence community have pushed back hard.
The other day, we had this affidavit from Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, saying that he didn‘t want the operational cables discussing what was actually done in the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, for instance, because it still needed to be classified because it would provide ammunition for critics of the United States.
In other words, if we saw the abuse, if the world saw the abuse, it would provide ammunition for critics of the United States to bash us. Well, that might well be the case, but is that an argument for not disclosing it?
MADDOW: It would seem that if you were arguing on the basis of national security, that you couldn‘t disguise the identities of either sources or intelligence officers or something, if those things are released. That‘s the sort of way you get around the Freedom of Information Act request. You don‘t get out of one by saying, “It will make us look bad because we did wrong.”
ISIKOFF: Right. Right. And look, it‘s clear that people in the intelligence community never wanted this stuff out to begin with. And there was a lot of criticism of the White House when it did.
There are three key questions to look for when after we see how much of this gets disclosed. One, were there interrogations, harsh interrogations, that began before the Justice Department legal authorizations were given? That‘s very key in terms of whether or not criminal acts were conducted before the authorizations.
Number two, did they go beyond what was authorized? And number three, were the harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding used for purposes other than what the CIA said they were being used for? I think this is something that what Sen. Whitehouse was referring to.
You know, was it not - did it go beyond just finding out about possible plots against the United States to provide other information such as supplying possible evidence that could be used to justify the war in Iraq, information about Iraq-al-Qaeda ties, which didn‘t really go to operational plots that were imminent against the United States.
MADDOW: And wasn‘t the grounds on which any of this stuff was purportedly authorized.
MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, MSNBC contributor, investigative competent for “Newsweek,” I look forward to having you back when some of this stuff comes out over the next few days. Thanks, Mike.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” much more on today‘s apparent terrorist-driven murder in Washington, D.C. Keith‘s special guest is criminologist Jack Levin.
And next on this show, how can a simple towel be improved? Prepare to be amazed. Plus, a warm embrace for a topless cafe. Our cocktail moment is coming up next.
MADDOW: It‘s now time for “Just Enough” with THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s absorbent fashion correspondent, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. You know, just when we thought that modern clothing couldn‘t get any more casual, the bar just lowered. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over): We‘re born naked, and part of us wants to stay that way. How else can you explain this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Want to stay covered after being wet? But your towel just won‘t let - robes are heavy and hot and towels with fasteners, I think not. Now there‘s the wearable towel, the towel with arm openings.
JONES: The take-away here - regular towels are too hard. The wearable towel is the latest leisure lifestyle miracle product like the Snuggie or the Jump Snap that makes you question the resolve of our people. With the pioneers who tamed the west wrap up in one of these?
Would the greatest generation choose the rope-less jump rope? Has civilization evolved to this point just so we could wear a towel as clothes? Now, I have nothing against the toga per se. It‘s fine in its place. But the wearable towel just seems like giving up.
It says, “OK, world, you win. Whatever. I‘m just going to wear
a towel.” But here‘s the thing, if wearing clothes is such a burden,
there‘s always what I call the Will Ferrell option -
WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Come on! We‘re streaking! Come on!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
JONES: You can always do that.
MADDOW: Oh, my cocktail moment is about clotheslessness as well.
MADDOW: The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vassalboro, Maine has got a little bit of attention, a lot of local controversy. Somebody burned it down - arson fire - on June 3rd, which is very bad.
The good news here is that the folks at the Grand View have opened back up in a tent …
MADDOW: … while their facility is being rebuilt, except it‘s cold in the tent so they‘re wearing sweat shirts.
JONES: Yes. So would we.
MADDOW: Yes. They‘re still getting tips, though. Still working for tips.
MADDOW: Thanks, Kent. Thank you for watching tonight. We‘ll see you here again tomorrow night. Until then, “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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.>
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.>