The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/23/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much.
And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
As Keith said, South Carolina’s lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer, will be here this hour to talk about his state’s mysteriously missing governor.
And we will have full coverage of President Obama’s White House press conference with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
That is all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with what appears to be a big development in Iran. Opposition figures are calling for new protests there, both tomorrow and on Thursday, amid signs that the regime is attempting to reassert control in ways that are ominous-given Iran’s history of crushing dissent.
Today, Iranian state television began airing statements from individuals who it says participated in post-election protests. These people are now being shown supposedly recanting their opposition views. The statements are being presented as if they are confessions and they include explicit, and for my opinion-in my opinion, frankly, arcane and repeated claims that it’s the western media that’s causing Iranians to attend opposition rallies.
We have obtained some of these supposed confessions. We can show you what’s been airing on state-run television inside Iran. The translation from Farsi to English for these statements was done by “Reuters.” Our staff here as MSNBC used those written translations in order to voice-over the tapes in English.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, IRANIAN STATE TELEVISION)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was influenced by Voice of America Persian and the BBC because they were saying that security forces were behind most of the clashes. I saw that it was us protesting who are making riots. We set public property on fire, threw stones, attacked people’s cars and broke windows of people’s houses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I came to Tehran for cell phone-related work, but when I saw it was chaotic, I started stealing. We took advantage of the large crowds on the streets and the riots to steal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think we were provoked like networks like the BBC and the Voice of America to take such immoral actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “We were provoked by networks like the BBC and the Voice of America to take such immoral actions.”
We’ll leave it to you to assess how genuine these confessions are. Politically, it’s important to know that this is what the Iranian government is broadcasting to its own citizens now. For an American audience, of course, these confessions evoke eerie parallels to the forced confessions from Americans held prisoner in wartime, broadcast as-as essentially wartime propaganda.
Now, professional journalism is all but completely extinguished in Iran now. The Iranian government confirmed today that a Greek man who reported for “The Washington Times” in Tehran was arrested last week at the Tehran airport as he attempted to leave the country. We’ve also had BBC Persian today detailing how they are reduced almost entirely now to showing material that is sent in to them by ordinary citizens in Iran.
In this vacuum of independently-verified information, the government is presenting its own version of reality to its citizens. For example, consider the case of the footage that we showed last night, the gut-wrenching and iconic footage of a 26-year-old woman named Neda Agha Soltan, who was fatally shot during a protest in Tehran on Saturday. The video of her death has been circulated and described all over the world. It was even referenced directly today by President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I think that when a young woman gets shot on the street when she gets out of her car, that’s a problem. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking, and I think that anybody who sees it knows that there’s something fundamentally unjust about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Remarkably, today, Iranian state television suggested that the footage of this young woman dying in the street was staged. Quoting an unnamed source, Iranian TV said that “filming of the scene and its swift broadcast to foreign media, suggested that the incident was planned.” The implication, of course, is that opposition protesters either shot this young woman or made it look like someone shot her in a propaganda effort.
According to reports, Iran’s capital stood eerily quiet today. As journalists and hundreds of opposition supporters sit in jail, some of their purported confessions among the only messages now being broadcast to the Iranian people.
Joining us now is NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. He was in Tehran, reporting on the presidential election up until, essentially, the moment his visa expired.
Richard, thanks very much for coming in.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It’s a pleasure.
MADDOW: What’s the significance of these purported confessions being broadcast on Iranian state TV?
ENGEL: Iran is really trying to write its own history and seems increasingly detached from the rest of the world. Iran is building a case that the protesters have no legitimacy, that they are foreign-inspired rioters or that they are young people who were simply misled by the media.
And it is a case that many Iranians themselves aren’t believing-some clerics, they saw they were up to a million people on the streets in the early days of this protest, and it seems very illogical for them to say, how can a million people all be terrorists, all be delinquents or people who are so easily misled?
MADDOW: When I, as an American observer, look at those propaganda efforts today from the Iranian government, they seem to me incredibly hand-handed. They, therefore, seem like a sign of desperation. And they seem like the sort of thing that will impose a self-inflicted wound in terms of the legitimacy of the government.
Do-how many Iranians also see it that way? Or am I just really looking at this through a western lens that doesn’t translate?
ENGEL: This is only a part of the Iranian crackdown that began this weekend. So, on Friday the supreme leader said, there will be no protests.
ENGEL: That unleashed the militias and unleashed the Basij onto the streets. Sunday-Saturday and Sunday, there were violent clashes. And then, since then, you’ve seen this insidious crackdown where hundreds of people have been arrested, some people just disappearing, others have been shot.
The cries that they have been calling out at night, a lot of people have heard them. They have been calling out “Allahu Akbar.” Sometimes, they were calling out, “I am Neda,” as well in reference to that young woman who’s been shot.
Today, Iran banned those as well and asked people if they heard their neighbors calling out “Allahu Akbar” at night, which has become this rallying cry to inform on them.
So, it is becoming a type of police state. There has been no official martial law imposed, but any gatherings of three or four people have been quickly broken up. It is gone to a deep perversion. And I don’t think the government is concerned about the outside image right now. It is mostly concerned about keeping people inside and off the streets.
MADDOW: It also seems unconcerned though about its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people. I mean, in a country as deeply religious and conservative as Iran is-I’m not talking about the regime but among the people-how legitimate can a government be that literally bans its citizenry from shouting “God is great” into the night sky?
ENGEL: It is-and that is the problem. And you see some contradictory statements from the government. Today, the group that is supposedly monitoring the elections said there were five more days to submit claims about election fraud.
ENGEL: But at the same time, it also announced that President Ahmadinejad would likely be sworn in late in July or early August. And it is-it is these mixed messages that the government is trying to send that many people think is really just tap dancing. They’re just trying to buy time and show the people a little bit that they’re taking these claims seriously as long as they stay off the streets.
But it is-it is a problem. This conflict has gone into a new phase. I don’t think you’re going to necessarily see major street demonstrations over the next-over the next few days.
MADDOW: So, these protests that have been called for Wednesday and Thursday, you’re not expecting them to be-
ENGEL: It might happen.
ENGEL: It might happen if the leaders come out themselves. If Mousavi comes out-I think if he does, he’ll probably get arrested-and manages to bring a lot of crowds onto the streets, then you could have clashes. But, it seems like we’re entering into a longer, protracted fight.
MADDOW: Briefly, Richard, any threat of a general strike if Mousavi is arrested?
ENGEL: They’re talking about a general strike. And that’s what they
want to do. They want to transform this from a clash with the government -
and the government has been ruthless and effective at it-into a general strike and shut down the ministries.
But Iran is not that wealthy of a country. A lot of the middle class simply don’t have the savings to carry out a strike. And all of the organizers have been picked up. There’s a real mood of melancholy, of fear on the streets, and people are worried, if they get engaged in a strike or any kind of political activism, they’ll be detained. Human right activists who were simply gathering names of people who have been-who disappeared have been disappearing themselves.
MADDOW: NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel-it’s always great to have your insight on this type of situation. Thanks.
ENGEL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Today, President Obama faced a barrage of questions about his reaction to the uprising in Iran. Technically, it was more of a barrage of question, singular. The same question just asked over and over and over again. Those “question” and the president’s answer when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to enlist in the Army during the Vietnam War. In 1968, sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos were suspended from the U.S. Olympic Team from making the Black Power salute on the medal podium in Mexico City.
In 2009, you can add the names of four players on the Iranian national soccer name to the list of athletes would have paid a very high price for expressing their political belief. Six Iranian players sported green arm bands during a World Cup qualifying match next week, an evidence of solidarity with the opposition movement in their country. As we reported at that time, it was a brave, brave gesture.
How brave was it? Well, four of the six players, including the team captain, Mehdi Mahdavikia, have been involuntarily retired from soccer after refusing to remove the armbands during halftime. That’s a lifetime band for refusing to take off a sweatband.
Two other players who wore the bands have yet to learn of their fate.
They had been sports heroes. Now they’re just hero heroes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In your opening remarks, sir, you were-you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged. What took you so long?
OBAMA: Well, I don’t think that’s accurate. Track what I have been saying.
CHIP REID, CBS NEWS: Were you influenced at all by John McCain and Lindsey Graham accusing you of being timid and weak?
OBAMA: What do you think?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wow! The president at his press conference today giving rhetorical wedgies to reporters who asked what he plainly thought were ill-informed or off-base questions about his position on Iran.
In addition to the questions on Iran, the president led today’s press conference with a lengthy statement about the uprising in Iran that didn’t necessarily go further than anything he had said previously, but it did inexplicably, nevertheless, earn him headlines and questions from reporters that implied that he had gone significantly further.
Here’s some of what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.
The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, they must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a statement being billed everywhere as a dramatic escalation of the president’s stance on Iran. Except, when you look back at his previous statements, he was saying pretty much the same thing even more than a week ago.
Here, for example, is what he said last Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 15)
OBAMA: We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran. Having said all of that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I have been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process-free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent-all of those are universal values, and need to be respected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was more than a week ago, that was the Monday right after the election in Iran. The day after that, here’s what the president told CNBC’s John Harwood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNBC, JUNE 16)
OBAMA: My hope is that the regime responds not with violence but with a recognition that the universal principles of peaceful expression and democracy are ones that should be affirmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You noticing a theme here? Certain similarity in the president’s comments? You should be.
On Saturday, he said this. He said, quote, “The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.”
It all kind of sounds the same, doesn’t it? Because it has been. Despite the inexplicable headlines today about how tough the president suddenly got on Iran, when you look at what President Obama has actually said, in his repeated statements since the Iranian election, it sort of meets a tough new stance, same as the tough old stance.
So, leaving aside what I find to be utterly inexplicable Washington common wisdom on this subject today-which does not seem to me to be at all based in fact-the real question remains: What has been the effect of Obama’s statements on Iran? It’s not something that’s theoretical right now. We can see the impact of his statements in terms of the way they’re being used, the way they’re being distorted, and it’s now appropriate to ask: Is America being used as a political football by the regime in Iran?
Joining us now is someone who knows a thing or two about diplomatic specificity. She is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Madam Secretary, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER PRES. CLINTON: Good to be with you, Rachel. Very nice to see you again.
MADDOW: Thank you.
So the president has been criticized on the right in American politics for not doing enough with respect to Iran. I wonder if it’s worth starting to ask now if it’s possible that he’s doing too much, if these statements that he’s made about Iran have been used against the interest of the opposition forces.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think he’s taken absolutely the right tact and I’m very interested in the way that you have really codified to show that he’s been saying the same thing, and very appropriately. And I think being very concerned about not being used as a football. I think he’s made that point also a number of times.
I think that it is bound to happen as the Iranian regime feels increasingly under pressure, that they are looking for outside excuses. They had already blamed the British. They had blamed us for a number of things before.
But I think the president’s taken absolutely the right tact in sympathizing with the crowds and understanding the complications of the situation and making clear what the international community stands for.
MADDOW: In terms of specific decisions that the president and the
administration as a whole have to make about what to do about Iran, there’s
a very interesting question today from Nico Pitney at the “Huffington Post”
and I think it’s received more attention for the fact that the president called on Mr. Pitney than what the question was itself. But he asked, essentially, what the U.S. government is going to do when it comes time to decide whether or not we are going to call him, “President Ahmadinejad”; whether we’re actually going to recognize that government when Ahmadinejad, if and when, he is sworn in.
Does the U.S. really have a decision to make there? Do we have to call him president and recognize him as president because that regime will say that he is?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we have no diplomatic relations with Iran, and we have been dealing through a European group of ministers and through various other intermediaries, so I don’t think the question will come up.
I think the issue is, ultimately: what are U.S. national interests? And I believe that the president said, we are very concerned about the direction Iran is going in on the nuclear program. And ultimately, I think we have to figure out how to deal with that.
But we don’t have diplomatic relations with them, which is one of the issues that we don’t have to decide what we’re going to call him.
But I have to say this, Rachel, we have dealt with a lot of odious people in order to deal with issues that are larger. For instance, we dealt with Stalin; we dealt with Mao Tse-tung. We have dealt with other people that we don’t like when we have to deal with America’s national interests. And the truth is, that the nuclear proliferation is one of the biggest problems that we have.
MADDOW: In terms of what is going to happen in Iran, what sort of the end game is here, with all of the national and international transformations that you’ve seen and that you’ve been part of as secretary of state and in your other diplomatic roles-what do you see as the range of possible outcomes here? Is it possible that Mousavi will end up being president? Is it possible that Iran ends up with a new structure of government because of this uprising?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think anything’s possible. But I do think, what is fascinating, Rachel, is that while something might not happen immediately, from everything that I have studied about Iran, this is a sea change.
All these hundreds of thousands of people out there-and fascinatingly enough-as you’ve said, calling for, you know, “God is great,” they are not trying to show that they are not religious. They want to see their country respected. And so, there are those that are really Iranian experts who say that nothing will ever be the same.
I do think that the ayatollahs and the regime have a great deal of strength, and the courage of the crowds are amazing, but it’s very hard to tell where this is going except to say that nothing will ever be the same in Iran.
MADDOW: One thing that I think has been surprising and interesting, as an American watching this, is how engaged Americans are with this story, how much hunger there is for information about this, how emotionally engaged we are with the struggle that’s played out in Iran’s streets.
Is there anything that the American people-not our government-but American citizens should do or could do to sort of, I guess, have an act of furtherance to sort of events what-how we have been moved by what we’ve seen happening there?
ALBRIGHT: Well, it’s kind of a two-level thing and it’s interesting you asked it that way, because I think, the government-the U.S. government has to be very careful not to become the football, as we have been saying, and not to be the story.
On the other hand, dissidents and those who protest around the world are always very encouraged when they know that Americans care. And through all this modern technology, it is so evident that we are always on the side of those who want freedom.
And for me, Rachel, what this shows is democracy is alive and well. You know, people question whether people want to make decisions about their own lives, and what you’re seeing out there on the streets is people want to be in control of their own lives. And democracy from below is something that is a very, very powerful movement.
MADDOW: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright-it’s always a real honor to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us tonight.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: One person South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford really should have kept in the loop about his Appalachian Trail-disappearing-act-taking-trip was probably his lieutenant governor. You know, succession of power and all that.
We got in touch with the lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Andre Bauer, and he will join us in a few moments to talk about the governor’s lost, long, long, long weekend.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Among the leaders in the fight for gay rights, who will meet President Obama on Monday, is Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, who was in the process of losing his Air Force fighter pilot job for being gay. Mr. Fehrenbach will join us on the show tonight. The lieutenant governor of the missing governor of South Carolina will also be joining us in a moment. That is also coming up over the course of the next half hour.
But first, it is time for a couple holy mackerel stories in today’s news-including the latest on the worst accident on the history of Washington, D.C.’s metro system.
Yesterday afternoon, at about 5:00 p.m., one metro train crashed into another that was stopped on the tracks outside the Fort Totten station in suburban Maryland. The collision appears to have happened at really high speed. The moving train ended up partially on top of the stopped train. As of now, the toll is: nine people killed and 76 people injured. Two of the injured are said to be in critical condition.
As investigators try to determine the cause of the crash, “The Washington Post” reports today that the train that crashed into the stopped train was an older model of rail car that the National Transportation Safety Board had said two years ago should be replaced, in part because of concerns about its safety during a crash. The city says proposals for replacement cars were due next month.
The crash also may indicate a failure of the train system’s computerized signal system, which is supposed to keep trains at a safe distance from one another. That system failed back in June 2005 as well when a train operator noticed that despite having that automated system, his train was getting too close to the train that was ahead of him. In that case, back in 2005, the operator hit the brakes and averted a crash.
In yesterday’s crash, it does not appear that the train operator hit the brakes before impact-though “The Washington Post” also reports today that the train that crashed was two months past due for scheduled maintenance on its brakes. We will keep you posted as further details emerge on this fast-moving investigation.
Up next: At this point, the script for the disgraced senator returning to Capitol Hill is pretty well understood.
If you’re Republican Senator Larry Craig, having just pled guilty after getting caught in a public sex sting at an airport’s men’s room; if you’re Republican Senator David Vitter, having just admitted to very serious sin involving the hookers; if you’re Republican Senator Ted Stevens, having just been indicted on seven felony counts; if you’re Republican Senator John Ensign, having just called a press conference in Las Vegas to admit to an affair with a campaign staffer who’s married to one of your Senate office staffers-if you are in any of these scenarios, you’d do the same thing, apparently. Apologize at a press conference, followed by no further comment to the press, followed by receiving a round of applause at the weekly Senate Republican luncheon?
Yes, apparently, that’s what they do. Today, John Ensign surfaced on Capitol Hill for the first time since his press conference announcing the affair with his former staffer. He addressed his Republican colleagues at their weekly luncheon. He reportedly was applauded for doing so.
And at least one fellow Republican senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, was willing to tell reporters that there have been, quote, “no discussions among Republicans about asking Ensign to resign.” Corker even said he’s heard nothing but support for Sen. Ensign among Senate Republicans and said that he and other Republican senators, quote, “appreciate the way he was really stand-up about this.”
Isn’t it a little awkward given that since Ensign’s press conference about the affair it has emerged that he used Republican Party money to put the 19-year-old son of his mistress on the payroll of the Republican campaign committee Ensign controlled and that he doubled his mistress’ salary both at his own political action committee and his campaign committee while she was sleeping with him.
And apparently, both his mistress and her husband were fired by Ensign, the husband says, because of the end of the affair. I guess that counts as stand-up, according to Sen. Corker.
Tomorrow the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington will file a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee. The organization’s director, Melanie Sloan, told us today that the complaint focuses on Sen. Ensign’s employment issues and campaign finance rules.
Quote, “It looks like Sen. Ensign has violated Senate rules by terminating two employees due to an affair with one of them. There are serious questions about whether or not the senator violated campaign finance rules.” We did call Sen. Ensign’s office for comment today as well, but he never called us back. Shocker, I know.
MADDOW: A week ago today, the legislative session in the state of South Carolina came to a close with a bang. The legislature overrode 10 - count them, 10 vetoes by the embattled Republican governor there, Mark Sanford. And he lost the battle for which he had received a lot of national attention this year, his fight to turn down federal stimulus money to counteract the recession.
So that was all on Tuesday. On Thursday, the governor disappeared. The more you know about this story, the weirder it gets. By some time late last week, we don’t know exactly when, someone in South Carolina tracked the governor by his cell phone saying that a signal from the phone had been picked up by a cell tower near Atlanta, Georgia.
Who was worried enough about the governor that they looked for signals from his cell phone in order to find out where he was? We don’t know. We contacted South Carolina law enforcement about that today but they would not comment. By Saturday, a Republican state senator named Jake Knox said that he had personally contacted the head of the State Law Enforcement Division in South Carolina to ask if they knew about the governor’s whereabouts since word was getting around that the governor could not be reached.
By Monday, still no one appears to have known where the governor was. He had been gone Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday by this point. He had not spoken to anyone on his staff. He was not answering text messages or phone calls. He had not transferred power to his lieutenant governor, and this was starting to get weird.
His wife told the Associated Press on Monday that the governor was, quote, “writing something, and wanted some space to get away from the kids.” His office released a statement that same day saying, actually, he was, quote, “taking some time away from the office to recharge after the stimulus battle and the legislative session and to work on a couple of projects that had fallen by the wayside.”
Hours later, the same office released another statement saying that, contrary to the earlier reports that he was writing something or working on some projects, actually, what he was doing was hiking - hiking the Appalachian Trail to clear his head though they still hadn’t actually spoken to him.
Today, the governor’s office said that the governor did ultimately call his chief-of-staff this morning. And they said that he’s expected to be back at work tomorrow. They also praised him as an avid outdoorsman and said, quote, “Nobody’s ever accused our governor of being conventional.”
No argument here. He may have checked in with the office but a CNN reporter spoke with his wife, Mrs. Sanford, today, and she maintained that as of today even, quote, “I have not heard from my husband.”
Late this afternoon, sources told WYFF, the NBC News affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina, that a missing state vehicle had been found, not at the Appalachian trail, but at the Hartsfield Jackson airport in Atlanta. WYFF also reporting that a federal agent saw Gov. Sanford in an airport boarding a plane late last week.
Now, the story at one level is just weird. On another level, it’s a little bit alarming, because the only arrangements were actually running the government of the state of South Carolina in the governor’s absence appears to have been his staff’s plan, as they say, to contact other state officials as the situation warrants, i.e. if something needed governing.
Joining us now is the lieutenant governor of the great state of South Carolina. He is a Republican. His name is Andre Bauer. Mr. Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
LT. GOV. ANDRE BAUER (R-SC): Yes, ma’am.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first if I have characterized things in a way that you understand to be the truth. It’s been pretty complicated. It’s been hard to keep up with all of the changing stories. Does that about sound right to you, what I said?
BAUER: Of course, some of the stories that you heard I haven’t actually heard. But a lot of what you said I have actually heard as well. A lot of the knowledge that I have gained has been through the news media.
MADDOW: You have made a statement about the governor’s disappearance. You said, “I cannot take lightly that Gov. Sanford’s staff has not had communications with him for mourn four days and that no one, including his own family, knows his whereabouts.”
As you say, you found out a lot about this through the media. Do you still have those same concerns that you voiced a couple days ago?
BAUER: Sure, I had two concerns. Number one is for his own security. I mean, we know he’s a national figure. We know a lot of people have seen his controversial stand, although I support him on that stand. There are people out there every day that would like to make a name for themselves by apprehending a governor or causing harm to one. That’s why governors have security detail.
But secondly is, we just recently had a national - or a natural disaster here in the state of South Carolina. We had forest fires that consumed all kinds of property, and we need to get in touch with the governor.
It took a while to get him, but when he did come back, he was able to resolve the situation and make the right decisions and ultimately get the fires put out in a timely manner. If another emergency were at hand right now, we don’t have a way to contact our governor, and so that concerns me.
MADDOW: As far as I understand the South Carolina State constitution, in the event of emergency, in the absence of the governor, you would be empowered to take over. If there was an emergency, but there was something else that, as I sort of flippantly said, needed governing, are you empowered right now to actually act as governor given that Mr. Sanford is still not in the scene?
BAUER: Well, keep in mind, who declares what an emergency is? The constitution, when it was written many years ago, they never explained who would decide what an emergency was, when an emergency was. And so there’s a lot of gray area there, and in the meantime, a lot of people can lose their lives or suffer drastically if someone didn’t make a quick decision.
And so there has to be a better format in which someone who’s leading the state can be contacted or someone else fills in, in that position.
MADDOW: But he didn’t transfer power to you before he left?
BAUER: No, and I don’t think he need to. I just think his staff needed to be able to contact him. And maybe they had been in contact with him. But when I have tried to talk to him and ask them about contact, they had not been able to contact him.
MADDOW: You had said previously that - as you said, your request to speak with the governor by phone was denied. He is now, according to his staff, expected back at work tomorrow. Has he called you yet?
BAUER: He has not.
MADDOW: What happens if he doesn’t come back to work tomorrow?
BAUER: I don’t have an answer for that question.
MADDOW: That’s fair enough. Had something happened here - on the one hand, this is a tale of frustration that I can tell from you and of concern. On the other hand, this a bit of a crisis in governing in your state, and I wonder how the people in South Carolina are reacting to this.
Is this scene sort of a human-interest quirky thing about your
idiosyncratic governor or are people upset about this?
BAUER: Well, Mark Sanford is a populist governor. He has an extremely large following and a lot of people appreciate that we have a governor that has done things unconventionally.
However, there are people that are really concerned for his safety as well. So there’s a mixed - there are mixed signal across the state as to how they feel about this. But in the end they are concerned for his safety, number one. And number two, they want to make sure that the governor is able to be reached should there be a decision that needs to be made and made quickly.
MADDOW: South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, thank you for joining us. Even as the facts of the case are still swirling - we’re still not exactly sure what has happened, it’s kind of you to take time to join us tonight. I really appreciate it.
BAUER: Thank you.
MADDOW: So the White House has not announced it yet. But word on the big gay gossipy street is that gay rights leaders will be invited to the White House on Monday, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, as a commemoration of gay rights, which, of course, has been rather a sore subject for this administration and its base.
One of those attending will be Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who is losing his job in the Air Force because he’s gay. The lieutenant colonel joins us next.
MADDOW: A month ago, we hosted on this program an Air Force aviator named Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, an 18-year veteran of the Air Force, an F-15 pilot, decorated nine times including for heroism in combat, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He’s flown 88 combat missions.
Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is now being fired from the military because he’s gay. We asked Lt. Col. Fehrenbach to come back on the show tonight to let us know what the last month has been like for him since coming out. He has remained on active duty and in the Air Force stationed at a base in the Pacific Northwest, while his case goes to a review board and ultimately to the secretary of the Air Force.
Since he came out on this show, the White House has continued to go, hmm-na, hmm-na whenever they’re asked what they’re doing to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” if in fact the president is so opposed to the policy.
The man who was chair of the joint-chiefs-of-staff when the policy was first put in place, John Shalikashvili, has written an op-ed saying that it would be perfectly doable to suspend implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until it can be repealed.
And as of yesterday, 77 members of Congress have asked that the president do just that, suspend the implementation of the policy, saying in a letter to the White House, quote, “Although we are confident that you will remain true to your campaign promise to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ our LGBT service members and our country’s national security will continue to suffer if initial action is delayed until 2010 or 2011. We urge you to exercise the maximum discretion legally possible in administering “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until Congress repeals the law. To this end, we ask that you direct the Armed Services not to initiate any investigation of service personnel to determine their sexual orientation and that you instruct them to disregard third-party accusations that do not allege violations of the uniform code of military justice.”
Joining us now is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach. Lieutenant colonel, thank you for coming back on the show.
LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH, U.S. AIR FORCE FIGHTER PILOT: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So how has your month been since coming out here?
FEHRENBACH: Surprisingly, there’s been absolutely no change at work. As a matter of fact, Thursday is the day I returned to work. We had a commander’s call so basically, the entire squadron - just to give out awards and the commander to speak.
And in fact, he addressed the situation and we had a media event and what he wanted to say was everyone in the squadron was a valued member of the team. No one should be treated differently and that everyone should go along about their business and execute the mission.
And my squadron has done just that for the last month. So that just says a lot about their professionalism and their dedication, as well as the professionalism and dedication of everyone in the military. It just shows that this policy is antiquated and needs to go.
MADDOW: Right now, you are an openly gay member of the United States Air Force serving on active duty, and the rationale for this policy is that that would be toxic to good order and morale in the ranks. Do you think that prescription is going to depend - is going to be true or less true depending, squadron to squadron or unit to unit? Or do you think across the military that the U.S. Armed Forces can handle this issue?
FEHRENBACH: No, I think it’s across the board. Like I said, military people are professionals and they are a dedicated to mission and they get the job done. I don’t think this is unique to me at all.
And, like you said, as we prove on a daily basis, we now have an openly-gay person serving inter-squadron. And our squadron didn’t fall apart. People didn’t quit. They’re doing the mission as well as the entire fighter wing. Everyone has gone about their business.
MADDOW: Yes. You know, your story - you coming out as galvanized a lot of people, and it has brought people out of the woodwork, including people who have served with you. I was randomly today looking online to watch the clip of you on show last time. I found it posted at “Washington Monthly.”
In the comments - I won’t read the whole thing, but somebody writes in the comments, “I’m a 26-year active-duty senior master sergeant stationed in the National Capitol Region. Additionally, I’m an unwavering Christian conservative. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach was my supervisor while I was stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station. And I must say he was one of the best supervisors I have ever known. His service to our country should never be overlooked because of who he loves or what he does outside of duty.”
He says he supports you 100 percent and he’s praying that this institution will make the right decision. Are you finding that your decision to come out is sort of bringing people out of the woodwork to tell you what you mean to them?
FEHRENBACH: Absolutely. I have literally gotten thousands and thousands of E-mails, letters, phone calls from people I have served with, from long lost friends, from obviously family and even just total strangers who really are the ones that mean the most are the people I served with. Especially not just the senior master sergeant who used to work for me, which is a great honor he wrote that to me, but also the aviators I’ve flown with in combat. I can’t even count the number who have written me and said, literally, “Dude, I’ll go to war with you tomorrow.”
MADDOW: What is the status of your case right now? What happens next.
FEHRENBACH: As far as I know, it has not left the three star
general’s office yet. He is the show cause authority and has not left the
Air Force in Davis-Monthan, Arizona. Traditionally, as I mentioned before,
these cases, after the discharge board, has taken about five months to go
through the personnel review board and then to make its way all the way up
to the sectors of the Air Force. We have no idea -
MADDOW: You are still within the window of sort of the normal amount of time for handling?
FEHRENBACH: Exactly, so I could still be saved by any kind of action from our commander-in-chief.
MADDOW: Speaking of which, Monday is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the occasion commemorated more than any other in the gay rights community. The White House is apparently hosting gay leaders at the White to commemorate the occasion. We learned late today you are going to be attending as a guest of the service members legal defense network. Are you planning on trying to get a word with the commander-in-chief?
FEHRENBACH: I would love to. I would love to tell him I want to continue to serve, that’s it’s been dream, it’s been my entire life. I want to serve my country. And I would like to ask him when he plans on saying or doing something about it, when he plans to keep his promise to all of us to be able to continue to serve and end discrimination and to stand up for equal rights for all Americans.
MADDOW: Are you hopeful?
FEHRENBACH: I am still hopeful.
MADDOW: Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, thank you, as always, for your service. Thanks for coming back to the show. It’s good to see you. Good luck to you.
FEHRENBACH: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith’s special guest is comedian Louis Black. Next on this show, where in the world is Kent Jones?
MADDOW: Normally, at this time in the show, I turn to my friend, Kent Jones. But we are not really sure where Kent is. He’s sort of lost. He told me he was doing one thing, then he told other people he was doing other things. So our big cheese producer, Bill Wolf, has been investigating where Kent might be. Bill, what can you tell us?
BILL WOLF, PRODUCER: About Kent?
WOLF: It’s not like Kent to disappear, Rachel, especially when White Snake is not on tour. What’s left of the Kent Jones investigative unit filed this Kent Jones investigative unit report.
MADDOW: OK. All right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Kent Jones, pop culturist from MSNBC’s popular RACHEL MADDOW SHOW was last seen hosting a segment called, “The Weak in Review” on Friday, June 19th, 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Eyewitnesses say Jones then walked off the set, took off his make-up and vanished.
Saturday passed, then Sunday. No E-mail, no call, no tweets. Where was Kent Jones? Finally, on Monday, Jones’ spokesman released a statement, quote, “Kent is taking time away from the office this week to recharge after ‘Just Enough’ and ‘Weak in Review’ and to work on a couple of projects that have fallen on by the wayside,” end quote.
His onscreen partner had another story.
MADDOW (on camera): He was writing something and wanted space to get away from his desk.
WOLF: Then, Jones’ office threw out a third explanation. Kent is hiking along the Appalachian Trail. By this time, Jones’ secret hiking trip had blazed a trail of criticism.
ANDY DALLOS, KENT JONES’ PRODUCER: Kent needs to transfer the power and let the lieutenant pop culturist be the person that makes the decisions.
JEN LEON, KENT JONES’ COMPETITION: We’ve been concerned about Kent’s erratic behavior for quite some time that we’re (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for him and his family.
WOLF: Reporters in South Carolina point out that the search for Kent Jones is almost identical to another infamous disappearance.
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: In a remarkable coincidence, Mark Sanford and Kent Jones have been missing for exactly four days. Now, when just one of these men goes on sabbatical, it creates a power vacuum. Both of them leaving at the same time? This is going to have far-reaching implications as well into the future.
WOLF: Like Gov. Sanford, Kent Jones says he will be back at work tomorrow. But he’s not out of the woods just yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF: It’s a very proud moment for award-winning Mike Viqueira.
WOLF: Yes. Now, we’re asking our viewers if you have any information where Kent Jones really is, please let us know. We’ve set up a special section on Rachel.MSNBC.com for your exclusive tips. And of course, Rachel, political observers wondering what effect this will have on Kent Jones’ hopes in 2012, their rising star up to this point.
MADDOW: And what effect this is going to have on Mark Sanford’s overall reputation? If there is anything that could damage Mark Sanford’s reputation more than disappearing on naked hiking day on the Appalachian Trail, it’s maybe disappearing with Kent Jones.
WOLF: Or being compared to Kent Jones, pop culturist, and now-missing hiker. He’s from Missouri, a swing state. So never rule that out.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. Senior producer Bill Wolf, it’s nice to see you.
WOLF: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Kent, come home.
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.>