The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/12/09

Guests:
Richard Engel, Chris Kofinis, David Weidner, Bill Nye, Kent Jones
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Yes, the first President Bush is in the news tonight, and not just for turning 85.

The polls have closed in Iran but we do not yet know who won the presidential election there.  Richard Engel reports for us from Tehran on that.

We will introduce you to Congressman Mark Kirk, a man who used to be a rising star in the Republican Party.

And, Bill Nye the Science Guy will be with us this hour for a very special moment of geek.

That is all coming up on what is turning out to be a very packed show.

But first, every year, on June 12th, two very important things happen.

First, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff and throngs of fans around the country boisterously celebrate the birthday of our friend, Kent Jones.  Yay, Happy Birthday, Kent!  Yay!  Sorry.

Also on June 12th, former President George H.W., aka, Poppy Bush, celebrates his own birthday—by jumping out of an airplane 10,000 feet in the air.

(VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Today‘s jump mark President Bush‘s 85th birthday.  Happy Birthday to him.

It was his seventh skydive—and when the jump was over, the occasion was commemorated with trademark class and subtlety by his oldest son, former President George W. Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  I was curious for what you had for breakfast this morning, sir?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  It could be found out there in the ocean.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH:  Never mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Barf jokes always a nice touch on your father‘s birthday—at least I‘m hoping that was a barf joke.

This year George Bush, the senior, also marked his birthday by driving a big fat political wedge between the Republican Party and the party‘s conservative base, by announcing essentially his support for Barack Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SITUATION ROOM”/CNN)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  She should be given a fair hearing.  She should be accorded every courtesy that goes with her record as a judge and her aspirations to be a Supreme Court justice.  And I‘ve—

I‘ve had the feeling she will be confirmed.

I think she‘s had a distinguished record on the bench, and she should be entitled to fair hearings.  I mean, she was called by somebody a racist.  Well, that‘s not right.  I mean, it‘s not fair.  It doesn‘t help the process to get out there name-calling.

So, let them—let them decide whether they want to vote for her or not and get on with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It‘s not fair, he said, that‘s not right.  These words from the preeminent elder statesman of the Republican Party—echoing those of his daughter-in-law, the former first lady, the single most popular figure in the Republican Party by a mile, who also expressed her support for Judge Sotomayor earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”/ABC/MONDAY)

LAURA BUSH, FMR. FIRST LADY:  As a woman, I‘m proud that there might be another woman on the course—court, and so we‘ll see what happens.  But I wish her well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What we are seeing now is would-be moderating voices in the Republican Party, essentially saying, “Leave Judge Sotomayor alone!”

It‘s the elder President Bush.  It‘s Laura Bush.  It‘s former McCain adviser, former Bush adviser, Mark McKinnon, who gave his advice to the party in part on this show.  Also, the prominent Latino in Republican politics, former chair of the Republican Party, Senator Mel Martinez.  All of these folks expressing some level of support for Sonia Sotomayor.

And yet, the conservative movement to oppose her nomination steams ahead—a movement that showed pretty radical political judgment in the first place by choosing a conservative political operative named Manuel Miranda as the guy who would publicly call for a filibuster of Sotomayor‘s nomination.

Manuel Miranda‘s last job after he got fired from the Senate for hacking into other people‘s computers?  His last job was running an organization to end filibusters altogether.  Literally that was the name of the organization, the Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters.  That‘s the guy they put forward to call for a judicial filibuster of Judge Sotomayor.

Today, further news of the political judgment that‘s driving the anti-Sotomayor—anti-Sotomayor movement, despite all the cautions to the contrary from the establishment GOP, “The Washington Post” is reporting today that the anti-Sotomayor movement has turned to the PR agency responsible for—arguably, the worst political ad campaign of the last decade—the worst example of embarrassing, train wreck, scorched-earth politicking in a national election that we have seen in a generation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2004 POLITICAL AD)

NARRATOR:  If you have any question about what John Kerry‘s made of, just spend three minutes with the men who served with him 30 years ago.

CHRYON:  Here‘s what those men think about John Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I served with John Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I served with John Kerry.

GEORGE ELLIOTT, VIETNAM VETERAN:  John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam.

AL FRENCH, VIETNAM VETERAN:  He is lying about his record.

LOUIS LETSON, VIETNAM VETERAN:  I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart, because I treated him for that injury.

VAN ODELL, VIETNAM VETERAN:  John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. 

I know, I was there, I saw what happened.

LARRY THURLOW, VIETNAM VETERAN:  When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry.

BOB ELDER, VIETNAM VETERAN:  John Kerry is no war hero.

JOE PONDER, VIETNAM VETERAN:  He dishonored his country.  He most certainly did.

BOB HILDRETH, VIETNAM VETERAN:  I served with John Kerry.  John Kerry cannot be trusted.

NARRATOR:  Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes.  The same group that created the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry in 2004, who decided that the way to run a guy who never went to Vietnam against a decorated Vietnam War hero was to say the war hero didn‘t deserve his medals.  That PR company is who conservatives are turning to now, to lead their efforts against Sonia Sotomayor.

The Swift Boat campaign was so over-the-top, so shocking, that people have started making parodies of it as soon as these ads came out.  I have to say, this one has always been my favorite of the many Swift Boat parodies.  It was done on Marc Maron and Mark Riley‘s dearly departed morning show on Air America, which is called “Morning Sedition.”

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you have any question of what John Kerry is made of, just spend three minutes with the men who served with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry?  He‘s bad.  John Kerry, bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t like him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry‘s bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry just loses, you know, like John Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s not good.  John Kerry‘s buy poop by a truck (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry‘s not good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kerry no good.  Bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t like John Kerry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry took my shoe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Swift Boat campaign was so iconic that it didn‘t just end in 2004, in terms of people parodying it.  It survived two more election cycles, and what‘s still getting parodied in the 2008 election.  This one was courtesy of “The Huffington Post‘s” “23/6.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “23/6”)

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL:  Barack Obama lied to the American people when he told us that he was black.  He is not black.  I should know because I‘m black.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY:  Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY:  Barack Obama, Barack Ohama, Barack Obama, Barack Ohama—Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama, and Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This message is sponsored by Swift Kids for Truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Swift Boat campaigning from 2004, so lowered the bar, so shocked the conscience of what would be paid for and produced and put on television in an American election that it is still being parodied today.  To get swift-boated is now political jargon—meaning that you‘ve been the target of an over-the-top, beyond outrageous, offensive political smear campaign.

And now, the PR firm that brought us swift-boating is the firm that‘s going to be leading the conservative campaign against Sonia Sotomayor.

What we‘re seeing here is the mainstream Republican Party splitting from its activist base.  The base which is comfortable with the sort of scorched-earth politicking versus the relatively moderate adults of the party, the Poppy Bush wing of the party—the part of the GOP that may actually have its eye on—someday, somehow winning another election.

Joining us now is Chris Kofinis, a former communications director for John Edwards‘ 2008 presidential campaign.

Mr. Kofinis, thank you for joining us tonight.

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  I guess it was only a matter of time until the group that wrapped the swift boaters got involved here.  Do you think the Republicans are at war with themselves about what to do with this nomination?

KOFINIS:  I think they are.  I think this has been kind of growing since the—since the presidential election.  I think there‘s an emerging civil war between the moderate wing, which is declining by the day within the Republican Party, and the true right-wing faction that seems to dominate it both in the media and, I think, in the reality on the ground.

This whole debate about what to do with Judge Sotomayor‘s confirmation, I find interesting, because, at the end of the day—listen, I don‘t think it‘s a big judgment to say she‘s going to get confirmed.  And so, the notion that you are going to go out there and run this kind of scorched-earth, gutter politics, politics of personal destruction, to what end?

At the end of the day, what you‘re going to end up doing is alienating the very demographics—and I‘m talking about Hispanics and women—that you need to attract more of in order to be competitive at the national level.  It is an amazing strategy of basically self-defeat.

As a Democrat, I‘m happy about it.  But it‘s almost inexplicable.

MADDOW:  Well, I always believe that there‘s a method to the madness.  I believe that somebody has to understand all those basic political realities you just explained and still be making the decision to pay this PR firm to send the letters to the RNC, to get the articles covered, to send out the many, many, many, many times a day e-mail blasts, that I get, the anti-Sotomayor stuff—somebody in Republican, or more likely conservative circles, thinks this is a good idea.

To whose advantage could this possibly be?  Is it just about fund-raising?

KOFINIS:  I think it has actually probably less to do with fund-raising and more to do about activating the base.  I think there‘s this general perception within some wings of the Republican Party that thinks the reason why they lost the last presidential election is because they didn‘t scream loud enough, they didn‘t have the right candidate, the right wing of the base wasn‘t motivated enough, that the country really is a right wing country.

And it is a fundamental misunderstanding what happened in America over the last six months, year, two years.  There‘s been a shift in this country, a dramatic ideologically shift.  We have moved to the center-left, not the center-right or the right.  They keep believing it is a right-wing nation.  It is not.

And so, I think they really believe if they do this type of things, if they scream loud enough, people are going to listen.  What they don‘t understand is the more they scream, the more they do these types of politics, they end up alienating people over and over again.

MADDOW:  And thinking about the concrete harm that that might do, not only to the conservative cause but to Republicans in particular—I mean, you worked for the presidential campaign of John Edwards.  You traveled around the country with him.

In your view, how much are Republican candidates—who are up for re-election—likely to suffer from these types of attacks against Sotomayor from the conservatives?  Is it going to hurt people running for the House, people running for the Senate on the Republican ticket?

KOFINIS:  Well, I think it is a piece of a larger puzzle.  And I think what we‘ve seen from the Republican Party since President Obama was sworn in office is a strategy of not just saying no, but a strategy of being nasty and brutish.  You‘ve seen this from the—who basically become the spokespersons of the party, people like Rush Limbaugh.

And so, when you have this strategy of going out there and alienating individuals, of talking, if you will, non-solutions to the fundamental problems that the country faces, you‘re not going to win that—you‘re not going to win voters.

The problem of running now a nasty campaign against an accomplished jurist—that no one, I think, can disagree with—is you‘re not going to alienate Hispanics and women; you‘re going to say to moderates that we are completely out of touch of reality.

And I think, it is, again, the self-emulation political strategy that the Republican Party seems to have employed.  It is, again, it‘s almost unbelievable to believe that any party would go down this road.  But it tells you that they honestly believe that this country is a right-wing country.

MADDOW:  Chris Kofinis, former communications director for John Edwards—Chris, thanks very much for your time tonight.  Have a great weekend.

KOFINIS:  Thanks, Rachel.  You, too

MADDOW:  The results of the intense big deal presidential elections in Iran are still getting counted.  In a very American styley development, both the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his main opponent have declared victory.  Florida 2000, anyone?

NBC‘s Richard Engel joins us with the latest from Tehran.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  A news update for you: We reported earlier this week that today was the day the CIA was meant to release whatever it was that was redacted from the transcripts of the tribunals at Guantanamo.  Reportedly, the redactions included prisoners‘ explanations about how they‘d been treated since being in U.S. custody.

So, it‘s Friday, why aren‘t we talking about those transcripts now?  Well, because the CIA only said they would release them today—which apparently means all they did was postmark them by today.  They‘re literally in the physical snail mail on their way to the court.

So, we don‘t know when we‘ll see them, but when we do, we‘ll keep you posted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Every time we elect a president in America, it‘s said and written and we mean it every time that this is the most important election of our lifetimes.

If the Iranian media were the American media, believe me, they would be describing today‘s election there in even more over-the-top terms.  Iranians went to the polls today to vote for president.  The incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, faces what was anticipated to be a serious challenge from the apparently more moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Well, here‘s what it looks like in the polls in Iran.  Actually, that doesn‘t look like a polling site in Iran.  You know, I‘m from California and I could swear—oh, right, yes, that‘s because it is in California.  There were 41 voting sites set up for Iranian-Americans in the United States, for the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who live here.  And it wasn‘t just in the U.S., there were 304 polling stations set up in locations around the world, in places like Great Britain and the UAE and Russia, Iraq, China, Japan, Syria—all taking Iranians‘ votes.

Some polling places abroad had to stay open for two hours because of the long lines.  But it was in Tehran, in the Iranian capital, where people voted in droves, the scenes of young people, students, women, the lines so long that officials extended voting hours three times.  Six hours.

Today‘s election follows a week of unprecedented demonstrations and rallies which flooded the streets of Iran‘s major cities with cheering, green-clad supporters of Mousavi.

Now, President Obama today couldn‘t stop himself from expressing his own opinion about today‘s events in Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there‘s been a robust debate, hopefully, will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Well, by midnight in Iran, which is mid-afternoon here, both Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi had claimed victory in this election—both of them.  What happens next?

Well, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Tehran. 

On election day today there, there were huge communications blackouts. 

Text messaging was reportedly blackout all day.  Some Web sites were

impossible to access.  Cellphone and landline communication was on and off

spotty.

           

We expected to be able to do a satellite interview with Richard but that was made impossible today as well.  In the end, just before the show, I was able to feed Richard a couple of questions and he shot us back these answers with his portable satellite videophone.  My first question to him was just to describe how the elections went today and what we know about the results.  We edited in my next couple of questions to the interview, check out how it worked out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  Rachel, I think the best way to describe these results is controversial and still contested.  Many Iranians were surprised when Iranian state television announced just a few hours after voting was closed—because voting here kept getting extended—but just a few hours after the ballots were being cast, the Iranian state news agency and Iranian television announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won another four-year term as the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The elections today were a very different character.  If the election results were contested and somewhat unclear in how they came about, the voting as it was carried out was very obvious, very welcoming.  There was a good atmosphere on the streets.

A lot of people brought their families to come out and vote.  There was a festive atmosphere at many of the voting stations around the country and they were packed.  Millions of Iranians came out to vote.

And it is this dichotomy, the way that the election results were announced and the way that there seems to be so much controversy around them and so much secrecy, and the way the open nature in which the voting took place during the day, it is this contrast that people in the Mousavi camp say is the real—the real dirty trick that was played by Ahmadinejad‘s government, trying to convince the people that this was a real vote, giving them the belief that they had the opportunity to make change and then taking the results away from them, away from them in the last minute—Rachel?

MADDOW:  How is this going to be resolved?  Are there established procedures for resolving contested elections like this?

ENGEL:  It is very unclear, Rachel, what will happen when the sun comes up here in Tehran tomorrow.  Already, there have been some scuffles between the police and some of Mousavi supporters.

The Iranian government was clearly expecting some sort of controversy, because as these announcements of the results were being made—and it wasn‘t just one announcement—first, it was on the state news agency and then the electoral commission made an announcement, then Iranian state television, all announcing the same thick, that President Ahmadinejad had won by about a 65 percent to 68 percent margin compared to only around 30 percent for Mousavi.

The Iranians were clearly expecting a backlash, because they cut off all the international cellphones.  It is almost impossible to make an international call out of Tehran tonight.  For the last 24 hours or so, text messages have also been canceled.  So, Iranians, particularly young people here who use mobile text messages are finding it very difficult to communicate with each other.

But it‘s—it‘s very—it‘s not—we‘re not sure how this is going to be resolved.  The basic answer, the easiest answer is: it‘s not going to be resolved because according to the Iranian government, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new—is the new president, and the case is closed.

MADDOW:  If Ahmadinejad does win, what happens to all the hopeful young people who have been flooding the streets for his rival, for Mousavi?  I mean, is this a movement that could be a potential ongoing threat to the power structure in Iran?  Do you think this movement will persist?

ENGEL:  That is a big question on many people‘s minds here tonight.  What happened in this country over the last two weeks or so had simply been extraordinary.  No one had expected that tens of thousands of students would come out into the streets and so openly protest the current government, and demand a new foreign policy, a new government, new relations with the west.

Can you put the genie back in the bottle?  That is the question that many here are asking here tonight.  No one expects that all of these students will suddenly be rounded up and put in a jail.  There were simply too many of them to do that.

But the ringleaders, the people who organized these demonstrations in stadiums, the human chains that were held across major boulevards in Tehran, those organizers are worried, because in the past, when the government has wanted to crack down, it does it in a subtle way.  It goes after the leaders and picks them off one by one, finding some sort of charge, putting them in prison.

So, there are many student activists tonight who are concerned about this election result—Rachel?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  Richard Engel, NBC News chief important correspondent, reporting from Tehran earlier this evening.

OK.  Illinois Republican Congressman Mark Kirk went to China and told the Chinese government not to trust the American government anymore—which at this point is sort of like telling our landlord to evict us.  So, maybe the good congressman should ix-nay on the talking ax-may (ph) about his own untry-kay (ph).  We‘ll have more on Congressman Mark Kirk in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Coming up: We‘ll introduce you to Republican Congressman Mark Kirk who has been busy trash-talking America to China, while he was actually in China—talking to the Chinese government about all our debt that they hold.  There‘s also really cool, nerdy and totally visual news about weather in our moment of geek coming up with our special guest-star, Bill Nye the Science Guy.  That is all ahead.

But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.

First up—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE BUYER ®, INDIANA:  Do you realize if you were to take that lettuce, dry it, and roll it and smoke it, and you go ahead and you smoke your lettuce, do you realize that you‘re going to end up with similar problems than if you were smoking tobacco?  It‘s not the nicotine that kills.  It‘s the smoke that kills!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was Republican Representative Steve Buyer from Indiana, warning complacent Americans about the risks of smoking lettuce.  I have no idea what he‘s talking about actually, other than the fact that it seems sort of pro-nicotine.

Still, despite his lettuce-related warning, the House today did pass by an overwhelmingly vote of 307-97 a bill that will allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.  Not ban it, just regulate it.  The Senate passed the bill yesterday.  So, it‘s on its way to becoming law. 

The president says he will sign it.

The FDA will now have the power to set acceptable levels of nicotine in cigarettes.  Companies will have to submit lists of all the things they add to their tobacco.  All new tobacco products will have to get approval to be marketed in the United States from the FDA.

Before this bill, even as the FDA regulated things like pet food and makeup, they had no input or authority whatsoever when it came to those cylindrical temptations of burning dried chemical-soaked leaves known as cigarettes.  That‘s all about to change.

Next up: The National Conference of Mayors‘ meeting is this weekend in lovely Providence, Rhode Island.

The mayors were expecting a whole bunch of senior administration officials from the White House to attend their meeting: Attorney General Eric Holder, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the commerce secretary, Gary Locke, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, Valerie Jarrett, the senior White House advisor, even the vice president himself, Joe Biden—these Obama administration all-stars had been scheduled to attend the mayors‘ meeting in Providence tomorrow, all of them.

Now, none of them are going.  They‘ve all canceled.  The head of the mayors‘ conference is furious.

Why the mass bailing out?  Picket line.  The International Association of Firefighters represents about 500 local firefighters in Providence; they‘re engaged in a longstanding labor dispute with the city.  They will be picketing the mayors‘ conference venue and this administration says they will not cross a picket line.

Robert Gibbs said, quote, “While this administration is taking no position on the circumstances of the dispute itself, we have always respected picket lines, and administration officials will not cross this one.”  And they‘re not kidding.  They have all bailed.

They say, if the dispute is settled, the vice president and the other administration officials may be able to move things around and un-cancel.  But from what we hear, settling this thing before the weekend is wicked unlikely. 

And, finally, it is Friday.  And despite trying really, really, really, hard to be a good, hardworking productive citizen today, I mostly failed, because all I really wanted to do was watch this video that I found on the “Danger Room” blog at “Wired.com.”  Take a look. 

(VIDEO FOOTAGE)

What you are looking at here is a video shot from inside the cockpit of the Blue Angel fighter jet - one of the Blue Angel fighter jets.  The Blue Angels are the outrageously talented Navy demonstration squadron. 

They travel around the country doing air shows.  Look at that. 

And if you‘re watching this and feeling a little bit ill, experiencing a little bit stomach upset, do not worry.  It‘s completely natural.  It‘s the residual G-forces just emanating from your TV screen. 

If you want to catch the Blue Angels performing this summer, we‘ve got a link to their official Web site at “Rachel.MSNBC.com.”

And if you have important work to do, don‘t start lazing through awesome videos on the Internet.  It‘s not just a big truck.  It is a system of troops. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Please allow me to introduce you to a Republican congressman named Mark Kirk, a young, handsome member of Congress from the great state of Illinois.  He‘s something of an ambitious rising star in the Republican Party.  He‘s in his fifth term in the House of Representatives.  He‘s hinted that he might run for governor of Illinois, might be interested in running for the U.S. Senate seat, embarrassingly occupied by Roland Burris right now. 

And you know, when you are a member of the lower House of Congress looking to move up and you want to improve your international standing and your foreign policy bona fides, one of the things you do is you take foreign trips which Congress makes wicked easy to do. 

Congressman Kirk recently took a trip to China whereupon he did something that, more than anything else in his career, is likely to make him famous and not for a good reason.  Congressman Mark Kirk traveled to China to take meetings with the Chinese government to tell the Chinese government that they shouldn‘t trust America anymore. 

They shouldn‘t trust the American government.  Specifically, they shouldn‘t trust what our government says about our finances, particularly, when the Chinese are evaluating whether or not to keep extending more credit to us.  Yes, Mark Kirk is actually an American and a member of Congress who did this. 

Upon returning from China, Congressman Kirk bragged publicly at the Center for Strategic and International Studies about what he had said and done on this Chinese trip.  Check it out. 

REP. MARK KIRK (R-IL):  One of the messages I had, because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor is that the budget numbers that the U.S. government have put forward should not be believed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Wait, whoo, whoo, wait.  What did Congressman Kirk just proudly proclaim to have said to our nation‘s largest debt holder? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRK:  The budget numbers that the U.S. government have put forward should not be believed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s what you told China?  A sitting member of Congress went to China and told the Chinese government not to trust our country‘s budget numbers?  OK, China holds more than $750 billion of our national debt.  They are our single largest creditor. 

If China called in that debt, if they decided to follow Congressman Kirk‘s advice and suddenly judge that their debtor - that would be us - is no longer trustworthy, that we shouldn‘t be believed when we tell them it‘s safe to take up more of our debt?  Do you know what would happen? 

Well, have you heard of that foreclosure crisis, like where the bank takes the house back?  We, America - we‘re in the house.  China is the bank that owns the house.  Foreclosure would not be pretty at this level. 

Furthermore, Congressman Kirk has also spoken out since that trip to broadcast the idea that our biggest creditor, China, is getting noodgy(ph) about holding open our line of credit. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRK:  What‘s happening is China is beginning to cancel Congress‘ credit card, doesn‘t want to lend much more money to the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Congressman Mark Kirk just wants to make it clear to any other countries out there, any other potential creditors who might to lend us money that we might say, need - well, China doesn‘t it‘s such a good idea to lend us money anymore.

And he‘s advising them we shouldn‘t be trusted anyway.  Thanks, Congressman Kirk.  We‘ll see you in the soup line.  Wow. 

Joining us now is David Weidner.  He‘s a “Wall Street” columnist from “Market Watch.”  David, thanks very much for coming back on the show. 

DAVID WEIDNER, “WALL STREET” COLUMNIST, “MARKET WATCH”:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  He said he was doing this because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor.  Is that sarcasm, maybe?  Do you have any idea what that is?

WEIDNER:  It was a colossally stupid thing to say. 

MADDOW:  Yes.

WEIDNER:  I think that had it been someone of some import or some authority from this country, we might have seen a real international incident in terms of economic credit for this country across the globe.  But I think, fortunately, the world kind of knows where this is coming from.  This is a brawl in the U.S. between two parties. 

And he went on the global stage, brought it on to the global stage, and created - really added to the tension between us.  But I don‘t think it‘s going to be a meltdown. 

MADDOW:  In order to understand the risk that he potentially caused us, even if he‘s too small a fry to have actually started that sort of a crisis, what would happen if China took Congressman Mark Kirk‘s advice?  I mean, China‘s our biggest creditor.  In they decided that the full faith and credit of the United States wasn‘t worth anything, what could they do? 

WEIDNER:  Well, I don‘t want to understate what he did.  I mean, what he did was - we have a fragile relationship with China in terms of our economic standing with them, our credit with them.  And anytime you get someone talking contrary to what your position to the rest of the globe is, it‘s a dangerous thing. 

And it upsets the balance.  You know, in terms of what could they do? 

MADDOW:  What‘s the worst-case scenario?

WEIDNER:  What could they do? 

MADDOW:  What could they -

WEIDNER:  Well, I think what they could do is start curtailing their purchase of U.S. debt. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

WEIDNER:  You know, because we‘re running about 100 - a $1.8 trillion debt this year.  We‘re going to have to sell more bonds overseas.  China is going to have to buy them.  They could not be in the market, you know.  They could not buy as much as we expect.  We‘d have to pay higher interest rates. 

And then, our interest on the debt, the single biggest thing that we pay for as taxpayers, is going to get bigger and bigger.  And so, we‘re going to, you know - maybe inadvertently he‘s making the problem an exponentially bigger problem. 

MADDOW:  And just to be clear here for those of us who don‘t always think easily in terms of supply and demand like you do at “Market Watch,” as long as China is buying so much of our debt, that means we essentially pay lower interest on what we owe. 

WEIDNER:  That‘s right. 

MADDOW:  And if it was harder to sell our debt, we need to make our debt more attractive.  We need to promise to pay higher interest rates.  And the interest that we pay on our debt that we owe right now, you‘re saying, is already the most (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WEIDNER:  It‘s the single biggest expense for the government right now. 

MADDOW:  We spend more on that than we do on the Pentagon. 

WEIDNER:  That‘s right.  That‘s right. 

MADDOW:  So the congressman tells us they should lose faith in us.  And that means America‘s financial condition goes that much further down the tubes.  Is there the precedent for the sort of thing that Congressman Kirk did, for a junior congressman to go overseas and have this sort of a - tell a crucial foreign government something like this? 

WEIDNER:  Well, you know, I can‘t think anything in terms of economic policy, in terms of global credit that somebody made misstatements.  I mean, Tim Geithner, after he took the job, made some misstatements that sent the currency markets into a tizzy.  And the U.S. dollar, you know, was destabilized for a little bit.

So little things do tend to set things off.  But a junior guy like this going over and kind of making this kind of splash, I don‘t recall anything like it. 

MADDOW:  It is the thing that has made Mark Kirk famous.  That is the one thing that we can definitely draw from this. 

WEIDNER:  Not our nation‘s best Captain Kirk, that‘s for sure. 

MADDOW:  Absolutely.  David Weidner is a “Wall Street” columnist for “Market Watch.”  David, it‘s always really nice to have you on the show.  Thanks for coming in. 

WEIDNER:  It‘s great to come here. 

MADDOW:  OK.  I have a total Friday special for you coming up. 

Remember when you learned way back in school in science class about clouds? 

There are three main types of clouds as I relearned today. 

Coming up next, we‘ll talk to Bill Nye, the science guy, about whether textbooks are going to have to change, whether or not a paralegal in Cedar Rapids, Iowa accidentally discovered a whole new kind of cloud outside her office window.  Our moment of geek with Bill Nye, the science guy, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, part of the solution is figuring out how they got into the minority in the first place.  The reasons are apparently obvious to House minority leader John Boehner.  His name is spelled B-O-E-H-N-E-R, but it‘s pronounced “Boehner.”  Honestly, it‘s not the way it looks.  It doesn‘t look like it should be pronounced Boehner, but that‘s how he says it, Boehner. 

In an interview with ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos yesterday, the Republican leader said, quote, “We are digging ourselves out of a deep hole.  We took it in the shorts with Bush-Cheney, the Iraq War, and by sacrificing fiscal responsibility to hold power.” 

We took it in the shorts says Congressman Boehner.  We took it in the shorts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  This is your Friday night moment of geek.  Are you ready?  Clouds are visible masses of particles of condensed vapor suspended in the atmosphere of a planet, you know, with, like, rain in them and stuff. 

What‘s the big cloud news today?  Well, since the early 19th century, clouds have been described as one of three main kinds, cirrus, cumulus or stratus.  Cirrus comes from the word meaning, “curl,” sort of.  Cumulus comes from a word meaning “heap.”  Stratus means, you know, strata - layers, right? 

And there are combo subgroups like cirrostratus and stratocumulus.  Even though the weather is always changing and there are people watching and wondering about clouds all over the earth at any one time in human history, the types of clouds on our little earth just don‘t vary that much.  There hasn‘t been a new cloud category named in more than 50 years. 

However, that might be about to change.  A woman in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, may have documented a whole new cloud category when she took this picture out her office window.  Check this out. 

Her name is Jane Wiggins.  She‘s a paralegal and an amateur photographer.  She works on the 11th floor of an office building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  She took this picture in 2006 out of her office window.  She told the Associated Press that she had never seen clouds like this before.  She said, the cloud - excuse me, the shadows of the clouds, the lights and the darks, the greenish-yellow backdrop - it looked like Armageddon. 

It does have a sort of “Ghostbusters” look, right?  When Thor does his lightning bolt bit, in my mind, he appears through clouds that look like that.  Well, the Cloud Appreciation Society in England said that they believe this is a new variety of cloud.  They think they even found a picture of another cloud that would fit this same new category from New Zealand. 

Scientists are skeptical, of course, that there‘s anything new blotting out the sun these days.  But the matter is now being discussed by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.  This is very exciting. 

Joining us now is someone who knows a thing or two about science, the ultimate science educator, Bill Nye, the science guy.  Mr. Nye, thank you so much for joining us. 

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY, SCIENCE EDUCATOR:  So good to see you, Ms.

Maddow. 

MADDOW:  I know - I can just tell that you‘re going to shatter my dreams here and you‘re going to tell me this is some other kind of cloud we already know about, aren‘t you? 

NYE:  Well, I just don‘t think it‘s that extraordinary.  I think a couple things happened in Cedar Rapids.  I mean, if it turns out to be a new type of cloud, I mean, more power to us.  I mean, just that we‘re even having this debate, I think, is wonderful, let me start by saying.  But nimbus, you know, has to do with the glow, even the word “aureole,” like the halo.

MADDOW:  OK.

NYE:  You get this dark green, this dark effect as the sun scattered through by these water droplets.  And then the ragged nature of - can we get this picture up?  Yes, the ragged nature of the clouds, that‘s where rain is falling out entraining - can I say entraining? 

MADDOW:  Sure. 

NYE:  Entraining some water vapor along with the droplets, and they selectively come and go out of vapor state into liquid state.  All good, all exciting.  But I think what may have happened in Iowa is this person grew up on the ground the way many of us do - in Iowa.  On the ground.  And then, you happen to be in an office building. 

Cedar Rapids may not have a lot of tall buildings, but you are substantially up higher, and so everything looks a little different.  And it could be this undulatus - asperatus(ph), the undulating rough cloud.  It could become a new cloud.  But to me, it looks like a variation of the famous 29 clouds from the Weather Service.

MADDOW:  So we‘ve got three main categories of clouds.  We‘ve got 29

NYE:  Yes.

MADDOW:  … subgroups beneath that.  You think it‘s probably one of

the subgroups sort of created by both the specific expectations of our Iowa

resident who took this photo, but also because of sort of what was actually

happening in that cloud at the moment.  What‘s the -

NYE:  Well, there are two things about it that are great. 

MADDOW:  Go ahead.

NYE:  First of all, it‘s undulating.  It‘s got a wave in it.  And secondly, it‘s ragged.  It‘s rough on the on the bottom.  And I also wonder a little bit - I know this one is professional photographer or amateur - she‘s a photographic enthusiast. 

MADDOW:  Yes.

NYE:  But I wonder if there was a little depth of field problem where the near clouds are a little out of focus and looks smoother than the distance.  Oh, it‘s exciting, Rachel.  It‘s exciting. 

MADDOW:  Nobody is going to remember if you go through all the 29 different types of clouds right now.  But can you tell us the basic differences of the three main cloud categories between cirrus, cumulus and stratus? 

NYE:  Oh, yes.  Yes, ma‘am.  First of all, cirrus - you mentioned the word “curl.”  That‘s good.  But also, the word “filament” is in there from Latin.  And those are ice.  Those are ice.  And those are up high.  So this is not an ice cloud.  Oh no, my friend. 

Then you have your stratus, which is a layer and as you correctly pointed out from the get-go, the low layer - that‘s what we think of as a dark - it‘s what we think of as the rainy day. 

MADDOW:  OK.

NYE:  But the big question in meteorology, of course is, is the cloud of upward development?  Does the cloud have upward development?  And this is cumulus cloud which becomes a thunderous cloud where you get this big, vertical rising column of air.  And as it goes up, the pressure is lower. 

And you may have noticed this at the bottom of a swimming pool; you feel more pressure on your ears than you do at the top.  Well, as the rising air is squeezed up by cold air, it rises.  It expands, cools off and the water vapor turns, which is a gas and invisible, turns to liquid droplets usually attaching itself to the dust particles. 

And so clouds of upward development, as we say in the business, that‘s when the excitement happens.  That‘s when the thunderstorms and the crazy storms in Midwest - you get these tornadoes and things. 

And so these clouds to me, although they are undulating and they are as - they have this asperity.  They have roughness.  They look to me like stratus clouds, like they‘re low clouds that are going to rain and make you get your rainy day in Cedar Rapids.  And it also has - this picture has the charm, may I say, of having a little bit of the sunlight coming through some opening somewhere in the clouds.  And this adds to the drama or as my Latin teacher would insist, “the drama.”

MADDOW:  Well, we will wait -

NYE:  Yes, that‘s right.

MADDOW:  We will wait to hear from the United Nations World

Meteorological Organization.  I can already tell that they‘re pooh-poohing

the enthusiasm from the cloud enthusiast society -

NYE:  But let me say though -

MADDOW:  Yes?

NYE:  This is exciting. 

MADDOW:  I know.

NYE:  People are concerned about it.  Everybody talks about the weather and people are learning a little Latin and that‘s good.  And you know, the thing that‘s exciting about weather is that this is interaction between liquid water and water vapor.  That‘s what makes all of this heat get transferred in crazy ways. 

And so this is insight into our atmosphere which is astonishingly

thin and we all dependent upon it.  And so the more we talk about the

atmosphere, the better.  And by the way, Ms. Maddow -

MADDOW:  Yes?

NYE:  I‘ve got a ride in the Blue Angels.  And it is, as the kids say, all that. 

MADDOW:  Wow.

NYE:  It is all that.

MADDOW:  I‘ll never get closer than that video I watched all day.  But

thank you.  Bill Nye -

NYE:  Oh, you keep schmoozing.  You keep schmoozing.

MADDOW:  Someday.  Bill Nye, the science guy, of course.  Great talking with you tonight.  Thank you so much for coming on the show.

NYE:  Thank you.  Thank you for having me on the moment of geek. 

MADDOW:  You‘re welcome.  I don‘t think it‘s going to be the last time. 

All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith Olbermann helps us understand the latest national media blitz by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  And next on this show, my friend Kent Jones looks at the “Weak in Review.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Now, it is time to look back on the last seven days of public lame-itude.  Here now is my friend, Kent Jones with the “Weak in Review.”  Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  In honor of my birthday, I have put together a special bouquet of stupid.  Shall we? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(voice-over):  First up, totalitarian monikers of the weak.  North Korean dictators like to give themselves fuzzy nicknames to ensure maximum personality worship.  Kim Il Sung was “Great Leader.”  His son, Kim Jung-Il is “Dear Leader.”  And now, his youngest son, the heir apparent, Kim Jung-Un, has been given a dictator nickname of his very own - all hail, “Brilliant Comrade.” 

Oh, the world is extra-impressed and scared of you now, Brilliant Comrade.  As long as you‘re collecting names, he‘s one for your whole egomaniacal despotic family - weak. 

Next, vacant yet fiercely coveted urban space of the weak.  In the tony Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, parking spaces are scarce.  But here‘s a nice one.  How nice?  Somebody just plunged down $300,000 for this gorgeous empty space.  Another overpriced empty space?  Between the buyer‘s ears - weak. 

And finally, winged menace of the weak.  Last night, Cleveland against Kansas City - 10th inning.  Two men on.  Cleveland Shin-Soo Choo cracks a sharp single up the middle.  And oh!  The ball hits the sea gull and the winning run scores.  How did those birds get through security anyway?  Is this the respect they show our national pastime?  How dare you, seagulls - weak. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The poor bird.  Just brilliant. 

JONES:  It‘s a bystander.

MADDOW:  Kent, I have a special cocktail moment you.  It requires a hat.

JONES:  Oh, excellent. 

MADDOW:  I‘ll allow you to put yours on. 

JONES:  Finally.  Hats -

MADDOW:  Happy birthday, Kent. 

JONES:  Great.

MADDOW:  We‘re very excited.  And we have a special new weapon for your birthday.  Are you ready?  Ready? 

JONES:  Oh!

MADDOW:  You cannot use these outside.  Happy birthday, Kent.  We love you. 

Thanks for watching tonight.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 

                                                                                   

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