The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/22/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I think the whole point of what John is saying is that you don‘t have to be one or the other. You can be a hybrid of both and that‘d be good for America.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Yay!
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
MADDOW: And thank you at home for tuning in tonight.
Yes, the Republican Party is divided within itself on the biggest news story in the world, in a very, very public and increasingly embarrassing way. We will get to that this hour.
But we will begin now with the news that we have been waiting for in Iran. It has been 10 days now since the presidential election there—which many international observers and supporters of the opposition candidates say was rigged. For a solid week after that election, the streets were filled with massive, mostly peaceful protests with demonstrators calling for a new, free and fair election.
But on Friday, the supreme leader, who has sided with President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned protestors that there would violent retribution if they continued to protest. Saturday, we did still see a large numbers of people in the streets, but also a massive police and military presence -with widespread reports of violence against demonstrators as well as many reported arrests.
Sunday and today, the crowds in the streets were smaller and in the context of what some people describe as martial law.
So, has the government succeeded in breaking the back of the opposition? Will there be further protests?
Tonight, we have, at least, part of an answer. A new message posted, in all places, on the Facebook page of the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, calling for another round of demonstrations on Thursday. Like some previous demonstrations, Mousavi has called for Thursday to be held in honor of those killed in the uprising thus far.
Iranian state TV says the official death toll thus far is 19. Many observers expect that the real toll is for higher.
But one death in particular has become a galvanizing symbol, both within Iran and increasingly, around the world. She‘s a 26 years old woman named Neda Agha Sultan. She was shot and she died at a demonstration in Tehran on Saturday. As people near her tried desperately to staunch her bleeding and try to keep her alive, two different witnesses on the scene captured her last moments on video. Those images have now rocketed around the world.
Now, we‘re going to show a short portion of one of those videos now, not to be gratuitously graphic, but because this has become one of the most, if not the single most iconic moment of this uprising. I want to give you fair warning here. This is not appropriate for kids to watch. This is a very difficult scene. We‘re only going to show about 11 seconds of it.
Here it is.
MADDOW: The video continues beyond that point, showing ultimately, a great deal of blood. Obviously, Ms. Agha Sultan did not survive the shooting. Over the weekend, this video circulated not only worldwide but within Iran.
“The Associated Press” today reporting that even as Internet and cell phone networks continued to be disrupted inside Iran, you can still share videos and images, device-to-device, using Bluetooth. That may be how the Neda video is being distributed within Iran.
Neda‘s death has become a rallying cry for opposition protesters—so much so that today, a tribute rally was organized in her honor. “The Christian Science Monitor” reports that about a thousand people attempted to gather in one of Tehran‘s main squares this afternoon, but when the protestors arrived at the square, they were met by rows and rows and rows of riot police and militia who fired tear gas at them as well as live ammunition into the air.
To prevent new demonstrations from forming, police, reportedly, broke up any groups on the street that numbered more than three people. Today, gunmen were reportedly visible in the windows of government buildings and policemen with cameras were seen taking photos of protesters. In its most serious warning yet, Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard, today, posted a statement on each Web site, ordering demonstrators to halt their protests immediately or, quote, “be prepared for a resolution and revolutionary confrontation with the guards, Basij and other security forces and disciplinary forces.”
The Iranian government has also rounded up and arrested family members of those who support the opposition, such as Iran‘s former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani is a vocal opponent of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he currently sits on two of Iran‘s most important clerical bodies, the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts.
Despite being that well-connected, despite, reportedly, being Iran‘s richest man, over the weekend, Rafsanjani‘s daughter and four other relatives were arrested and detained and then later released. The reason for the arrests, according to a security official, who spoke to Iran‘s Fars news agency, was quote, “to protect them from assassination by terrorist groups and rioters who would blame the government in an effort to create more turmoil.”
You get that? They are supporters of the opposition being arrested to protect them from being assassinated by the opposition as a ploy. Now, it‘s not just relatives of opposition leaders who are being detained. It‘s anyone associated with the opposition. The 26-year-old leading member of Mousavi‘s campaign was arrested at Tehran‘s airport as he was about to fly out of the country to England.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mousavi, himself, says that in the event that he himself is arrested, he‘s calling for a general strike across Iran in protest of that arrest. And a general strike is just the kind of thing that toppled the shah and brought about the revolution in Iran 30 years ago. In other words, we are sort of at the edge of your seat historic moment at this point.
Joining us now is Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian-American Council, a nonpartisan organization representing Iranian-Americans.
Mr. Parsi, thanks for joining us again.
TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: Thank you for having me again.
MADDOW: We are now beginning to see smaller numbers of people gathering in the streets of Tehran. Do you think that‘s a sign that this government crackdown has been successful? Are they—are they essentially forcing the movement to wind down?
PARSI: On the contrary, I think, first of all, the mere fact that you‘ve had such a large number of people, nevertheless, show up in complete defiance of the supreme leader‘s order, and to have sustained that for two days after he ordered them to come back and cease all demonstrations, is a clear indication that they‘ve already challenged his authority. They have overcome the barrier of fear. And at this stage, I think, it‘s more accurate to say that it is Khamenei that has misread the situation, because, for every more Neda, for every more killing, you will have a more determined and more radicalized movement on the streets demanding for change.
MADDOW: In terms of the authority of the supreme leader, the Guardian Council today admitted that there were, in fact, some voting irregularities. They admitted that there were, at least, 50 jurisdictions that had more votes than voters. Does that admission specifically also undercut the supreme leader? I mean, he gave the seal of approval to these election results.
PARSI: Well, actually, I think, the supreme leader‘s authority and credibility has been hurt mostly by his own actions, and the fact that even though he is supposed to play more of a balancing role, he has proven himself to be quite a partisan in this conflict. I think the news about the 50, about the complete exaggerated number of votes in some of those precincts, more is an opening, that may enable them to say, OK, there‘s clearly been something wrong here and then be able to save face and back down and essentially blamed the interior ministry or someone else that there‘s been some errors.
MADDOW: Trita, in terms of the intimidation tactics that we‘re seeing here, in terms of the different—essentially weapons at the disposal of the government to try to shut down the opposition, how significant do you think it is that the government has been arresting the family members of Mr. Rafsanjani? What message do you think they‘re trying to send there? We know they‘ve also arrested a number of journalists and a number of other opposition figures.
PARSI: I think, to be quite frank, I think they‘re starting to show signs of desperation. Clearly, they don‘t have a plan anymore. They certainly had a very, very clear plan during the first couple days of this. But by this stage, a lot of their actions are just acts of desperation.
They‘re starting to fall into the same type of a pattern as you saw during the time of the shah. For every person that was killed, there were more demonstrations being held, and eventually, the more brutality that the government showed, the more evident, the more obvious sort of a change, major change started to become. And I think the—I have to say that I‘m quite surprised by the way that the Khamenei government has acted.
MADDOW: In terms of the parallels to 1979, the parallels to the revolution, the end of the reign of the shah, Mousavi has now urged his supporters to go on strike if he is arrested. And, obviously, that‘s one way to dissuade the government from arresting you, if you‘re saying that there will be a general strike if that happens.
But how effective—how important do you think it would be if there was a general strike? Compare the impact of that to the impact of these daily protests in the streets.
PARSI: Well, I think it would be quite significant. It could cripple the entire economy if there was a general election. And at some point, I think, Mousavi will probably also feel that he needs to advice his followers to start manifesting their protests in a different way than just demonstrations, because demonstrations are extremely disrupted, and also, the casualties that come as a result of the demonstrations are quite problematic, of course, and the violence.
If he calls for a general strike, it may actually be more effective while, at the same time, avoid the bloodshed that we‘re currently seeing on the streets of Tehran and other cities.
MADDOW: Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council. Trita, I know you have zero sleep in the past 10 days or so as you‘ve been reporting on this and doing so many different television appearances. Thanks for making time joining us.
PARSI: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: We really appreciate it.
PARSI: Thank you.
MADDOW: We have been following the protests in the streets in the Iran, the statements by different political leaders, the threats by the security forces. But what if I told you that the opposition protestors were also essentially hunting the security forces, house to house? Part of the reason no one knows how this is going to turnout in Iran is because the protestors have been turning the table on the government in ways large and small that make all of this very unpredictable.
We‘ve got some really dramatic footage and some new reporting from Steve Clemons when we return.
MADDOW: The reason why so much of what we know about what‘s happening in Iran is coming from cell phone videos and emails from eyewitnesses is, in part, because the Iranian government has been cracking down on professional journalists. Reporters Without Borders is now saying that 33 journalists and bloggers have been arrested in Iran. They include a reporter for “Newsweek” magazine, whose name is Maziar Bahari.
Mr. Bahari was reportedly taken from his Tehran apartment on Saturday morning. Authorities are also reporting—authorities also reportedly confiscated his laptop and several videotapes. In looking at his photo, it seems like you‘ve seen him somewhere recently, it may be that you recognized from “The Daily Show” last week, in which he made a very funny appearance alongside a comedy correspondent Jason Jones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW,” COMEDY CENTRAL)
JASON JONES, “THE DAILY SHOW” CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I asked him the question on every westerner‘s mind. Why was his country so terrifying?
MAZIAR BAHARI, NEWSWEEK CORRESPONDENT: In one word misunderstanding. The truth is they don‘t understand each other. They don‘t know the values of the other side. They don‘t know how to talk to the other side. And actually I‘ve written about that for “Newsweek” magazine several times.
JONES: Yes, I don‘t understand a word of that. (INAUDIBLE), translate this for me, please?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That aired last week, on Saturday. That aired last week and then on Saturday, Maziar Bahari was arrested. Now, Mr. Bahari has duel Canadian and Iranian citizenship. He‘s been reporting in Iran for “Newsweek” for more than 10 years. Mr. Bahari hasn‘t been heard from since his arrest. “Newsweek” and the Canadian government are both calling for his immediate release.
We‘ll, of course, keep you up-to-date as we learned more about his case.
MADDOW: There is a piece of video I want so show you. This is from the Persian language BBC Web site. It‘s BBC footage that‘s presented in Farsi, and it‘s on their Farsi language site. This footage was taken on Saturday—which as far as we can tell, was the last day of very large-scale protests in Iran.
As we just discussed with Trita Parsi, there were still demonstrations yesterday and today in Iran, but presumably, because of the huge security crackdown, demonstrations have been smaller since Saturday. But this footage that you‘re seeing here from the BBC Web site, this was taken Saturday and it‘s kind of a reality check.
What‘s going on in Iran is absolutely a fight over the alleged stealing of an election. It‘s absolutely a fight between candidates, between factions of the elite—between different elements of the regime. It is absolutely political. But it‘s also physical. This is demonstrating and fighting in the streets, and that means that physical tactics matter.
What you‘re seeing in this footage is the riot police. They‘re the ones in the tan uniforms on the left side of your screen. And they‘re facing off against a crowd of opposition protestors. We assume that what the police here are throwing is tear gas canisters although it‘s hard exactly to tell what they‘re doing because of the scale of the images.
But, now, I want you to watch as the crowd—you know, we‘ll go back to the tape in a second, and what you‘ll see is, in the crowd, on the top and right side of the screen, the crowd turns the tables on the riot police. And out of all the demonstrations I‘ve ever attended and all the news footage I‘ve ever seen of mass scale protests, I don‘t think I‘ve ever seen anything like this.
MADDOW: You can hear the people in the foreground shouting what sounds like “hoorah, hoorah” as the riot police turned and run, overwhelmed not only by the size of the crowd they‘re facing, but apparently, by how emboldened the protestors are.
And the protestors‘ tactics are not only bold in these huge groups in the streets, we‘ve also had some reporting of small-scale tactical aggression by the opposition, including something our friend Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation in WashingtonNote.com has termed “Basiji Hunting.”
Steve Clemons joins us now.
Steve, thanks so much for coming on the show.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE WASHINGTON NOTE: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, tell us a little bit about the Basij, the Basiji, and this idea of Basiji hunting that you wrote about at “The Washington Note” recently.
CLEMONS: Well, first of all, the Basiji are feared, intimidating, a somewhat shadowy group of largely volunteers. They‘re not completely volunteers because they get stipends and university positions and certain other privileges in Iranian society for essentially being the goon squads for Ahmadinejad and the government. They report loosely to the Revolutionary Guard. There is a dispute about how many of them are out there.
But they basically are a group that sort of hide in society without uniforms and without organization. And they go out and crack heads. And they are despised, and they are the ones most responsible for the nighttime raids and the terror raids on many homes, apartment buildings, and most importantly, I think, most recently, the University of Tehran.
And it was that Tehran University case that really began to change the way many of the communities began going after some of these Basijs more proactively.
MADDOW: In terms of going after them proactively, what you‘ve been able to publicize at TheWashingtonNote.com is, essentially, house to house targeting of the members of this militia, is that right?
CLEMONS: Well, it is. There was a case—I was very surprised when I got it, of an Iranian internationalist. I‘d rather not say where he is, but he gave a compelling account which really caught my eye on how communities themselves all know each other and how they‘re not just playing into the victim mentality here. One part of this protest that Mr. Mousavi and his supporters are organizing is very much using nonviolent methods of marching and getting out there and using that to drive a conflict to essentially push the buttons of the government.
But another dimension of it is not sitting back and having bad things happen to their community, their parents, their sisters, their brothers. And they‘ve begun to sort of organize, if you will, in, you know, hard-edged, you know, neighborhood watch groups, and actually going out in a highly networked society and find family members of this people and track down these Basiji and go after them, turn the battle around.
The Basiji were marking the homes of people that they were tracking during the day to go and terrorize them at night. And now, what many communities in the sort of vigilante part of the protestors‘ community are now marking the Basiji in some cases and going after them. And I know what they‘re doing is telegraphing as best they can how they‘re doing this to other communities around Tehran and other cities in Iran.
MADDOW: Are they just trying to intimidate the members of the Basiji or are they actually hurting or killing them?
CLEMONS: It‘s unclear to me. I can‘t—I can‘t say no of killing. There are some cases where there is video out there of communities going after these young men on motorcycles, forcing them off the motorcycles, throwing bodies in front of the motorcycles to get them off and then taking them and either beating them up. And there was a bit of, you know, SMS traffic for a while, trying to encourage these communities not to kill these Basiji, interestingly, and try to sort of draw them in and to reach communities to sort of talk about them about coming in and joining up and not doing this stuff.
But these Basiji are complicated and they had various reasons for wanting to belong to this group. Some are casual and some hardcore fanatics who believe—who love the kind of violence they‘re deploying out there. So, I think you got a mixed bag of what‘s going on. And the reporting out, I have several clear incidents that I have been able to validate of them getting these Basiji and trying to turn them around or beat them up or to create family pressures for them.
MADDOW: Steve, with all your foreign policy experience and all that you‘ve seen about revolutions and uprisings and insurgent movements and the ways that governments try to destroy those things, do you think that this is—this represents some sort of turning point, tipping point, some sort of new face in what‘s going on here? Is this tactically important to the overall likely success of this movement?
CLEMONS: It‘s important for the narrative of the people not to be used just as victims. And if they see some pathway forward that for many of the people who are just average bystanders, they need to be able to see some pathway forward that‘s going to make some sense. And, this is the—this is the technique revolutions.
Revolutions aren‘t just people going out to the street and trying to protest against the government. If you‘re going to undo not only the legitimacy of the state, but actually, the security apparatus of that state, you‘d either need to begin arming yourself to be able to handle that and you actually need to get mass defections of the security apparatus of that state.
And so, we see a massive chasm, and to me, to be quite honest, I don‘t know whether the turning point where I feel we‘re at is going to stop some of these pressures down for a while and see them simmer and come out with convulsions as we move on, or whether the gap is now so large and things are unbridgeable that the protests that Mousavi is calling for actually drive a much, much more dramatic confrontation.
And I think it would be irresponsible for a lot of the observers to say which of these is going to be. I think it‘s very, very hard to tell.
MADDOW: Although we all—we are certainly seeing Mousavi calling for—calling members of the Basiji, “Our brothers”; calling for members of the military and the Revolutionary Guard to join the opposition. So, I think that your supposition about what‘s happening here in terms of the tactics is evident.
Steve Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, publisher of TheWashingtonNote.com—required reading around here—thanks so much for joining us tonight, Steve.
CLEMONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: And the big pile of things about this Iran uprising that you could label, “Wow, I didn‘t see that coming,” you can add the fact that what to do about Iran has become a huge wedge issue for the Republican Party. And I don‘t mean that they‘re using it as a wedge to divide the Democrats, I mean, they‘re using it as a wedge to divide themselves. Genius!
Chris Hayes from “The Nation” will join us in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: The president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world not follow it. He‘s been timid and passive more than I would like.
SEN. KIT BOND ®, MISSOURI: The president should be speaking out much more clearly on behalf of the Iranian people.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: I believe that we could be more forceful than we have.
FRED THOMPSON ®, FMR. U.S. SENATOR: I think he was very slow off the mark.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I‘d like to see the president be stronger than he has been.
We should lead. And I also think he should point out that this is not just an Iranian issue. This is an American issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “This is an American issue,” says Arizona Senator John McCain. And it is true that this is an American issue to the extent that Iran is where Republicans appear to be working out their issues with each other. On one side, as we just saw there, we got Senator John McCain, whose best friend forever, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Chuck Grassley, and also, that guy from “Law & Order.”
On the other side, they‘ve got a whole bunch of opposition from among other Republicans. We could start with former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who writes, quote, “To insist the American, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous. The ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrations as mindless lackeys of the ‘Great Satan‘ cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week. John McCain and others went quite crazy insisting President Obama declare whose side America was on, as if the world doesn‘t know whose side America is on.
This was aggressive political solipsism at work: always exploit events to show you love freedom more than the other guy, always make someone else‘s delicate drama your excuse for a thumping curtain speech.”
The Republican opposition to itself also includes figures like the first man you‘ll here in this group of clips. It‘s Nicholas Burns - he was the man who oversaw Iran issues at the State Department for George W. Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS BURNS, BUSH ADMINISTRATION‘S UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR
POLITICAL AFFAIRS: President Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than to see a very aggressive series of statements by the United States that would try to put the U.S. in the center of this. And I think President Obama is avoiding that quite rightly. It is a balancing act. I think the president has been very effective in maintaining that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is being roundly criticized for insufficient rhetorical support for what‘s going on over there. It seems to me foolish criticism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the president has handled this well. I think it‘s the proper position to take.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For us to become heavily involved in the election at this point is to give the clergy an opportunity an enemy and to use, really, to retain their power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Republican lost the last election, and therefore isn‘t in any position to wage actual war on anyone else right now. They are, however, definitely winning the war on themselves.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine. Chris, thanks very much for your time tonight.
CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, “THE NATION” MAGAZINE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I want to make sure I understand both sides in this Republican fight. What is it that John McCain and Lindsey Graham and all those guys actually want the White House to do?
HAYES: You know, that‘s a really good question. I mean, I think in the long mythology of neoconservativism, there is this notion that, you know, Reagan single-handedly brought down the entire Soviet empire because he said, “Tear down this wall,” and that somehow if you are like really willful and chest-thumping that the world will sort of bend to your will.
So I imagine they want, you know, sterner rhetoric. They want some kind of escalation. Ward(ph) hopes that they don‘t want some kind of military action although you never because people have been advocating all sorts of crazy things vis a vis Iran for a long time. So I don‘t know.
MADDOW: I‘ve always - I‘ve just found myself thinking if they got what they wanted, if they got like, pure bellicosity from the president, would they think that the Iranian people would then take to the streets in protest of their government?
They‘re sort of doing that already on their own. And it seems like it shouldn‘t be totally immaterial that the opposition in Iran is not actually asking for America to wade into this.
HAYES: Yes, it‘s a really good point. I mean, if you look at Shirin Ebadi, who is the Nobel Prize - Peace Prize winner, human rights lawyer. She said she thought Obama‘s comments were appropriate. She thought it was important for the U.S. not to insert itself too fully.
Akbar Ganji who is another dissident, a human rights activist inside Iran said the same thing in an interview. So, I mean, that‘s really where you want to be taking your clues from at a moral solidaritistic(ph) level from the actual people working inside the system.
And there is a tremendous pathological narcissism on behalf of people like McCain and Graham that everything revolves around the U.S. and revolves around our own kind of preening moral self-satisfaction. And it‘s actually - it‘s really destructive. I mean, if the president were doing what they want him to do, we would see things get worse in Iran, worse for the dissidents and protestors. It‘s very hard to excuse.
MADDOW: I think it‘s one thing to understand the impact or the potential impact of what they‘re asking for on the situation in Iran. It‘s another thing to understand what the Republican Party is now, and whether there is a credible alternative to Barack Obama‘s foreign policy vision in Washington right now, coming from the right, if not the left.
And on the right, well, Steve Benin at “Washington Monthly” put it this way and I thought this was smart. He said, “We‘re not dealing with the dynamic that pits the left versus the right or Dems against Republicans. Rather, this is a situation featuring neocons versus everyone else. Do you think that‘s right? Do you think this is sort of a resurgence of the neocon ideology?
HAYES: Yes. You know, I read that post and I thought it was very smart also and I agree. I mean, I think that there is this very virulent strain of neocon ideology that has kind of manifested itself.
I think John McCain, in some ways, is the most intense of true believers in terms of elected officials in American life in which every battle is a battle between the righteous U.S. which is a beacon of freedom and the evil forces of oppression, tyranny, wherever they may be and whatever kind of regime they might be occupying, and that everything kind of in this the solar system way, the U.S. is the sun and all foreign policy revolves around us and the freedom that we cast out into the world.
And that‘s exactly the world view that you‘re seeing represented in the comments that are being made by people like John McCain. And I don‘t think it‘s long for this world. I mean, I really want to hope that this is kind of a dead-ender, last gasp of this sort of thinking about American foreign policy because the actual real world results have been so disastrous.
MADDOW: And one sign of its “short-lived-ness,” even though it‘s not a word or even a phrase, may be the opposition to - the most vociferous opposition to it is coming from within Sen. McCain‘s own party.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine - always great to have you on the show. Thanks for your time.
HAYES: Always my pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up, remember South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? He was the one who really didn‘t want the federal stimulus money and really made a national case of it.
Well, Gov. Sanford is missing. He hasn‘t been seen or heard from since Thursday, which means he missed Father‘s Day among a few other days. We don‘t quite know how serious this story is, but we are going to try to get to the bottom of it. Stick around.
MADDOW: Still ahead, more sights and sounds from the streets of Tehran as the uprising there continues. And has anyone seen South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? He has been missing for four days. And well, it‘s complicated. We will get to those details in just a moment.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. Last month, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon. The United Nations responded by passing a resolution aimed at heading off not just the threat of a capably nuclear-armed North Korea, itself, but also the threat of North Korea proliferating its weapons technology to other countries the way that they‘ve done in the past.
The resolution allows U.N. member countries to search North Korean ships suspected of transporting weapons so long as they have the permission of the nation‘s whose flag the ship is flying.
Well, since Friday, a 2,000-ton North Korean freighter called the “Kang Nam” has been shadowed by an American Navy destroyed that‘s called the USS John McCain. The ship is after Sen. John McCain‘s father and grandfather, both of whom were also named John McCain, both of whom were admirals.
Well, John Sidney McCain III appeared on CBS‘s “Face The Nation” this weekend to explain how he would deal with North Korea if the 2008 presidential election had worked out a little differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN SIDNEY MCCAIN III (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we have a hard evidence that that ship is carrying technology, equipment, missiles that are in gross violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, I think we should board it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of course, North Korea has said it would consider the boarding of one of its ships to be an act of war. And the U.N. resolution does require that North Korea give approval for any such boarding at sea, a request that would most certainly be denied.
In that event, the vessel is supposed to be sent to a convenient port of an official inspection - which would be fine except the ship in this case, the “Kang Nam” is headed for Myanmar, also known as Burma, as also known as that other Asian nation defying international weapons sanctions.
So an official inspection there is rather unlikely. Instead of its crew boarding the North Korean ship, the USS John McCain will most likely just follow it around awkwardly for a long time, invading its space, all the while serving as a convenient reminder to Americans of just how many other wars we might have had already if we‘d only had the good sense to elect John McCain last November.
And finally, on a thankfully lighter and somewhat stranger note, prior to last week, Indiana Congressman Dan Burton was most famous for shooting a watermelon in order to prove a Clinton-era conspiracy theory about the suicide of Vince Foster.
For that, he earned himself the nickname “Watermelon Dan.” Now, Congressman Burton is cording the nickname “Plexiglass Dan.” Mary Ann Akers of “The Washington Post” reporting that Congressman Burton tried to introduce legislation in the House ordering a cost-benefit analysis of building a transparent shield around the chamber of the House of Representatives to protect the members inside.
In other words, Mr. Burton wants to install a giant sneeze guard over Congress. In arguing for the cost-benefit analysis, the gentleman from Indiana said, quote, “You could take a detonating device that looks like a watch so you could get it through the metal detector. And when everybody was on the floor as many as you wanted, you could put that into the plastic explosive, toss it out on the floor. And there is no way you would lose half of us if we were on the floor, at least, or more. I don‘t know how much damage it would do.”
Congressman Burton, in terms of cost-benefit analysis here, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is not at all qualified to assess the added security benefits of such a project. But we can tell you the cost of making Congress operate under a giant plexiglass, salad bars, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
The cost would be dignity. Also, general freshness. It‘s a great value of re-circulating air.
MADDOW: Many Republicans are vigorously feigning dissatisfaction with President Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Senate Republicans are expected to begin formally expressing their outrage about her tomorrow with a series of speeches questioning her record.
But only one Republican senator has thus far pulled the rude and impatient card. Ms. Sotomayor is still nursing the ankle she broke while running through the airport to get to Washington for a round of meetings on Capitol Hill.
On Friday, still on crutches, she was scheduled to meet with Republican Senator Bob Corker, but she was running about 10 minutes late. Sen. Corker decided to blow off the meeting, saying, quote, “I decided to proceed on to the next meeting.”
It was the unwritten rule in Junior High that if a substitute teacher didn‘t show up for 10 minutes, you can ditch class, right? That rule, however, assumed that the substitute teacher wasn‘t about to be a Supreme Court justice with a lifetime appointment. What was the hurry again, Sen. Corker, that you couldn‘t wait for the “about-to-be lifetime appointed to the Supreme Court lady on the crutches?”
MADDOW: Once you get to a certain level of importance, particularly in public service, it‘s sort of hard to disappear. You have perks like bodyguards paid to keep track of you and keep you safe. And of course, there‘s the omnipresent media hoard which makes its living knowing where you are and what you‘re doing and saying.
All that makes the disappearance of Gov. Mark Sanford extra-weird. Mark Sanford is the governor of South Carolina. He‘s been famous recently for standing up for his principles by refusing $700 million in federal stimulus money to help out the desperate schools in his state.
But according to reporting from the South Carolina newspaper, “The State,” Gov. Sanford has had no contact with this staff or his security detail since he was seen last Thursday, leaving the governor‘s mansion in a big, black SUV. Even the lieutenant governor, who is supposed to be in charge while the governor is away, was left in the dark.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GOV. ANDRE BAUER (R-SC): I haven‘t talked to him and his office hasn‘t contacted me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The governor‘s wife has also said she doesn‘t know where her husband is, though it should be noted she doesn‘t seem particularly worried about his AWOL status or the fact that he missed Father‘s Day with his four young children.
The governor‘s wife told the Associated Press, quote, “He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids.” The governor‘s office has issued a statement saying that Gov. Sanford was just taking some time away from the office to recharge after the legislative session.
It has been a rough few weeks for him. The Republican-controlled legislature overturned all 10 of the governor‘s vetoes. And the state Supreme Court forced him accept that stimulus money he gave national attention for refusing.
Also apparently, this is not the first time the governor has gone AWOL. A spokesman for Mr. Sanford told NBC News, quote, “After the session winds down, it‘s not uncommon for him to go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head.”
Well, early today, an official from the lieutenant governor‘s office said that Sanford‘s office told them he had been reached and he‘s fine. Weirdly, later on in the day, Sanford‘s spokesman refused to confirm that anyone has actually spoken to him or seen him since Thursday.
Authorities do say that a signal from his mobile phone was located on Thursday near Atlanta, Georgia which is not at all where he lives and which is a, frankly, pretty weird way to have to find your governor.
Joining us now is John O‘Connor, a political reporter for “The State Newspaper.” Mr. O‘Connor, thanks very much for being here.
JOHN O‘CONNOR, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE STATE NEWSPAPER: Good evening.
Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So tonight, the governor‘s office said they had spoken to Gov. Sanford but then, they backtracked from that. What‘s the latest on this as best as you can tell?
O‘CONNOR: Yes. This has been changing all afternoon. What they‘ve said very clearly now is that the governor‘s spokesman, who‘s very involved in how the office is run, has not spoken to the governor since Thursday. He could not say whether any other staff has spoken to the governor since Thursday. And we know that law enforcement has said that they have lost track of the governor and did so, Thursday. And they don‘t know where he is either.
MADDOW: Is the spokesman betraying any concern about not knowing the governor‘s whereabouts or is it the office - the position of the office that they know where he is and they‘re just not going to tell anyone?
O‘CONNOR: Yes. What they said is when he left Thursday, he told them where he was going, that he would be difficult to reach, and that he would be checking in from time to time, but that it would be difficult to get hold of him in between those times when he checked in with them. The spokesman said they know where he is, that he is healthy, but that they could not say they have spoken to him since Thursday.
MADDOW: Who is in charge when the governor is unreachable. I mean, it‘s one thing for the governor to plan to check in at his own volition. But if something happened in the state that he didn‘t know about, that they needed to let him know about as chief executive, if he hadn‘t given over power to the lieutenant governor, who would be in charge?
O‘CONNOR: The South Carolina law is a little unclear on this. The Constitution says very clearly that if there is an emergency and the governor is unavailable, that the lieutenant governor has the authority to take on some of that executive authority.
What happens is if the governor is - you know, if it‘s not an emergency or what constitutes an emergency, it‘s also unclear if the governor has the ability to appoint a representative to handle some of this official business that he needs to do. So it‘s a bit of a gray area in South Carolina law.
MADDOW: In terms of Gov. Sanford‘s history and as a political reporter and the state, is this unusual behavior for him? Has he gone AWOL in the past? I mean, one of the things that I think attracted everybody‘s attention nationwide to this is that it was Father‘s Day. He‘s got four young kids. It just seemed like a strange choice for this particular weekend.
O‘CONNOR: Yes, I can speak for this particular weekend. I mean, he mentions his children in a lot of the speeches that he gives and he references them often. As for his personality, he makes it very clear that he likes his solitary time. He has mentioned publicly many times that he is not a fan of having a security detail. And he‘s said that would get rid of it if he could.
So whether he has been out of pocket like this before, we don‘t necessarily know all the occasions because he doesn‘t have a habit of publishing a public schedule.
For instance, we do know a couple of weeks ago, there was a fire, a big wildfire in the Myrtle Beach area and that the governor was overseas on an economic development trip that up until that point, we didn‘t know that he was overseas. Nobody told us ahead of time that he was going on this trip. And so once the fire happened, he had to come back and deal with the emergency situation then.
MADDOW: What‘s the reaction to this is in the state thus far? Is this a potential political issue for him, or at least, some sort of awkwardness for him?
SANFORD: Yes. It‘s a little all over the charts right now. You know, you have folks who range from being concerned about his well-being, you know, kind of unbelievableness(ph). Right now, I think it‘s really too early to say. I mean, we need to hear from the governor. We need to know where he was and what he was doing. And then, maybe we‘ll know whether or not it will be an issue down the road.
MADDOW: Well, to the extent that we know so little about what‘s happened thus far, other than the fact that he‘s been AWOL since Thursday, we have to hope and assume that he‘s doing well and that he will check back in if only because people are worried about him at this point.
John O‘Connor, political reporter for “The State” newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, thanks for taking time to come on the show tonight.
O‘CONNOR: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith Olbermann talks to comedian John Hodgman, fresh off his riff on the president‘s nerd credentials from the Correspondents‘ Dinner on Friday night.
And next on this show, we go back to Iran in pretty dramatic fashion, the protestors in their own words. That‘s next.
MADDOW: The past three days have been some of the most violent in Iran since the protest against the presidential elections there began. Official sources say 10 people were killed on Saturday alone, more than 100 injured.
Now, official sources expect that toll may be higher. And despite the massive crackdown from the government on all forms of non-state-sponsored media, video, most of them taped by amateurs, is still finding its way out of Iran, mainly through the Internet that‘s provided us with crucial, if partial insight into what‘s happening on the ground.
We‘ve got to warn you that some of these images we are going to show you are a little bit disturbing. Some of them are also a little bit inspiring. We end tonight‘s show where we began, with the uprising in Iran.
(VIDEO FOOTAGE OF THE UPRISING IN IRAN)
MADDOW: Just some of the protest over the last three days in Iran. We‘ll, of course, continue to monitor the situation there. “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.>