The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/07/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. It‘s very nice to be back.Thank you very much for that. And thank you at home for tuning in tonight.
Sarah Palin has been busy since I have been gone, as has Mark Sanford.
And Mark McKinnon and Ana Marie Cox will help review all of that news. Al Franken is Senator Al Franken as of today.
And Senator Amy Klobuchar will join us tonight to discuss that new fact. And, you will not believe what political group is having an outing, so to speak, at an Elton John concert.
Irony ahead and much, much more.
But we begin tonight with the Sarah Palin “I quit” clarification tour. Governor Palin, of course, gave her surprise resignation speech late in the day on Friday, right before the July 4th holiday weekend. The speech did make clear that she was not going to run for re-election, and that she was stepping down from her job as governor, even though there was still a year and a half left in her first term.
But, the speech, frankly, raised more questions than it answered.
Like, why was she quitting?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA: It maybe tempting and more comfortable to just kind of keep your head down and plod along and appease those who are demanding, hey, just sit down and shut up. But that‘s a worthless, easy copout. That‘s a quitter‘s way out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And so, to avoid the quitter‘s way out, the governor announced she was quitting, because only quitters stay in their jobs. It does not appear to have escaped Governor Palin that her long statement on Friday caused some confusion. It also appears that she is concerned about that confusion as she has now followed up those Friday remarks with two full rounds of attempts to clarify what it was that she actually said on Friday.
Yesterday, Governor Palin dispatched surrogates to tell reporters that her resignation is somehow designed to help the people of Alaska, by her leaving office halfway through her first term.
Today, yet another day of clarifications: interviews by the governor herself with NBC and ABC and CNN and FOX News and “The Anchorage Daily News”—all sticking closely to the same talking point that, as she said on Friday, only quitters stay in their jobs. Only fighters have the courage to quit before the job is done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Conditions that really changed in Alaska in the political arena since August 29th, since I was tapped to run for V.P. Things changed and it was quite obvious that nothing would ever be the same for our administration.
We spend most of our day fending off frivolous lawsuits. It has been costing our state millions of dollars. It‘s cost Todd and me, you know, the adversaries would love to see us quit on a path of personal bankruptcy.
Every time we do something, we get hit with, you know, an ethics violation charge or a lawsuit, because that‘s the political game that‘s being played right now, even though we won every single one of them that‘s been thrown our way.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: You haven‘t finished the job, some would say.
PALIN: You‘re not listening to me as to why I wouldn‘t be able to finish that final year in office without it costing the state millions of dollars and countless hours of wasted time. I don‘t need a title to be the one to usher in what it is that needs to be done in our—in our state and in our country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you running for president in 2012?
PALIN: I don‘t know what the future holds. I‘m not going to shut any door that—who knows what doors open? Can‘t predict what the next fish run‘s going to look like down on the Nushagak. So, I certainly can‘t predict what‘s going to happen in a couple of years.
I know that I know that I know this is the right thing for Alaska. I am a fighter. I‘m—I thrive on challenge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, if that is the right road for Alaska .
UNIDENTIFIED MAL: . is it a dangerous road for you to be labeled, in this land of tough people, a quitter?
PALIN: I‘m certainly not a quitter. I‘m a fighter, and that‘s why I‘m doing this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The difference between Governor Palin‘s long, confusing statement on Friday about her reasons for resigning and today‘s five separate interviews on the same subject was not a substantive difference. As you heard, her argument remains—steadfast in the face of reason—that only quitters stay in their jobs. That she‘s no quitter, she‘s a fighter and only fighters have the courage to quit before the job is done.
The difference between this latest round of clarifying interviews and the initial statement on Friday was not a difference of substance. It was a difference of style. The governor turning the folksy factor up to stun by conducting all five interviews in a really, really nice pair of waders that frankly, I envy.
I mean, these are nice, but—you know, as we consider the future of the Republican Party and the place of their folksy, confusing, vice presidential nominee in that future, it‘s easy to get stopped by the bizarre stage craft, by the confusing headline on this story. I‘m not a quitter. That‘s why I quit.
Beyond that headline, right—and the getup—is the argument that she‘s making to her many loyal supporters about why they should hope that this isn‘t the end of her political career; why leaving public office to move onto an unspecified, higher political calling should be seen as a principled move.
Palin‘s central argument today is about why she left office, and it is that there were too many pesky ethics complaints filed against her. She told “The Anchorage Daily News” that she spends most of her day, each day, quote, “on the frivolity.” That‘s her term for what she characterizes as frivolous ethics complaints lodge against her.
The problem, now that she‘s resigning, is that new ethic complaints are still being filed against her. Yesterday, a complaint from a conservative gadfly in Alaska that Palin was giving a per diem from the state to live at home in Wasilla rather than at the governor‘s official residence in Juneau. Now, those complaints have been made publicly by Alaskans in the past, but as of this week, they are now official state ethics complaints. These ethics allegations are not going away.
When questioned by ABC News about whether such ethical complaints wouldn‘t still be a distraction if she were elected to an even higher office, like, say, the presidency, Sarah Palin had this response. She said, quote, “I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at this, the things we have been charged with and automatically throw them out.”
Your department of law there in the White House. I can‘t help you. I don‘t know what she‘s talking about.
In terms of what it means for the future of the Republican Party, what Sarah Palin is essentially creating right now is a post elected official persona—that is defined by first being a victim of the liberal media. And that‘s a very traditional conservative movement orthodoxy. But she‘s adding something new to this, the idea that these ethics complaints is, the processes by which citizens hold government officials accountable are themselves victimizing to her as a politician.
If Sarah Palin is going to become a important person in the future of the conservative movement or the Republican Party, what will her followers believe in? Why will they follow her? They won‘t necessarily be anti-stimulus people like Mark Sanford‘s followers would have been. They wouldn‘t necessarily just be anti-mainstream media people like Rush Limbaugh‘s followers. They would apparently be anti-ethics people?
It‘s strange. Sarah Palin has decided to die on the hill of “there are too many ethics complaints against me.”
No politician or political leader has been bold enough to make the anti-accountability grounds, the grounds on which they will take their stand—until now.
Joining us now is Mark McKinnon, a former media adviser to President George W. Bush and John McCain. He worked with Sarah Palin to prepare her for the vice presidential debate last year.
Mark, I‘m sorry that I‘m doing this interview, conducting in waders.
I hope you‘ll indulge me.
MARK MCKINNON, FMR. MEDIA ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you‘re up at those waders, Rachel, you‘re going to finally get a whole new demographic of viewers.
MCKINNON: You know, here we are with another installment of Republicans gone wild. You know, we‘ve had some really crazy press conferences. First, Mark Sanford, who waxed on about the stress of fighting off the stimulus package when it turned out the real stimulus package was in his pants.
MCKINNON: And then we have Sarah Palin mixing her metaphors about dead fish going with the flow and point guards shooting for the basket and how quitting isn‘t really retreat.
So, I‘m kind of dizzy. But I have to tell you that in her waders today, it was pretty—you know, there is a whole segment of America out there that look at her in her waders out there and they‘re saying, “Go, Sarah, go.” And it‘s remarkable that they‘re really, you know, different Americas out there that see this on completely different terms.
But I think the one thing we can all agree on, on this issue, that Alaska is the winner. I think Sarah Palin agrees with that too apparently. So, it‘s Alaska and Tina Fey, I guess.
MADDOW: Well, I mean, I don‘t mean to be too personal about this, but this is my first day back from vacation, and I quite literally did spend my vacation fishing. But yet, I‘m the liberal media elite, you know? I‘m talking to you from New York. I‘m gay. My name is Rachel so people think I‘m Jewish, and I‘m very liberal.
I mean, I‘m the target when it comes to what she‘s explaining about what‘s wrong with America and who doesn‘t get her and who the real America is .
MADDOW: who understand who she are—who she is. I think the stage craft sort of falls flat. But you think it will work?
MCKINNON: Well, I just think that there‘s a lot of people out there who feel persecuted. You know, maybe Sarah Palin can start the persecution movement now.
MCKINNON: And if things really go south over the next couple of years, there‘s going to be—I mean, there already are a lot of people out there, but an increasing number of people are going to feel like the government‘s after them, they‘re being taxed, whatever. And Sarah Palin, you know, could become an icon of that movement and people who feel that persecution. And I—you know, I think that‘s a big part of her base already.
And so, I think that, you know—a couple things. She may be crazy like a fox. She may be crazier than an acre of snakes. But she‘s going to be crazy busy on the political radar screen for a long time to come.
MADDOW: Well, the persecution issue, sort of drilling down on that is really why I wanted to talk to you about this tonight, Mark. Because I feel like the idea—politicians sort of harnessing the idea of people feeling wronged, either by their government or some other larger forces at work, demographic changes, any sort of thing. It is a—it‘s right down the middle of American political tradition.
I do feel like Governor Palin is adding something new to it or trying to by saying that what she‘s being persecuted by is ethics complaints—that, literally, citizen-driven efforts to get accountability from their politicians are the things that are persecuting her. Is that politically important? I mean, is she trying to say that should be a centerpiece of the future of Republican politics?
MCKINNON: Well, it‘s a card that‘s never been played before. And we‘ll see how it plays. And, you know—and to—you know, we have—we do have to say that all but one of those complaints have been dismissed, and certainly a lot of it was because of her presidential bid.
But, you know, it‘s—it‘s wildness and unconventional, and that‘s what Sarah Palin is. And she‘s fascinating and, you know, perplexing. But that‘s why—that‘s why we‘re talking about her.
MADDOW: You know, I know that you wrote on “The Daily Beast” about the way that you were described in Todd Purdum‘s piece in “Vanity Fair” last week. And you were very specific to the extent to which you worked with her in preparing for the debate with Joe Biden. Purdum said that some people who worked with Palin literally consulted the definition of narcissistic personality disorder in order to try to understand her.
And I don‘t want you to try to vouch for anything that anybody else has said.
MADDOW: But from the time that you worked with her, do you think that it‘s possible that she‘s a little off? That she‘s—I mean, she‘s strange and unpredictable, but do you think that she‘s literally a little wrong?
MCKINNON: Not more than 90 percent of people who are in politics. And if I could just clarify, I was asked to go run Sarah Palin‘s debate preparation. I told the campaign I couldn‘t because of a pledge I said that I didn‘t want to be in the general election campaign attacking President Obama. They appealed to me, and I said what I would do is go for three hours one day and just do some basic debate 101 in talking about a core positive message, but agreed that I wouldn‘t participate in any discussions about attacking Obama.
But, you know, I saw two things in three hours that were pretty compelling. One is just—she‘s fearless and she‘s incredibly competitive. But at that moment she was very vulnerable, too, because she knew she wasn‘t prepared. I mean, it was like taking somebody off the street and saying you‘re going to take the MCATs tomorrow. That‘s sort of what it felt like.
And I left—I left there and went back to Austin and watched the debates five days later and I was shocked. I mean, because she—she exceeded expectations. Granted, they were low.
So, listen, I just think that a lot of people make the mistake of underestimating her, laughing at her and counting her out. I don‘t know if she‘s going to run for president or not, but she‘s going to be—she‘s got a lot of leverage now. She‘s going to have a lot of platforms and options to have an impact on Republican politics.
MADDOW: Well, I‘m not underestimating the impact of those waders.
That‘s my new gimmick on the air.
Thanks, Mark. Appreciate it.
MCKINNON: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Mark McKinnon, of course, a former media adviser for President George W. Bush and for Senator John McCain.
OK. Governors Palin and Sanford and Senator John Ensign all have more in common than being freshly, seemingly unviable Republicans for the 2012 presidential race. But there are also three huge building blocks of what used to be the conservative Republican base. What happens to them after this very strange summer in the headlines for each of them? Anna Marie Cox joins us next.
MADDOW: But, first, One More Thing about the soon-to-be former governor of Alaska. Her decision to quit her job appears to be both a crisis and an opportunity for Sarah Palin‘s political action committee. It‘s a crisi-tunity.
On the day of her resignation announcement, she made the top 15 in Google hot trends. More people have been searching her name now than at any time since the last election. So, who‘s got the top spot of sponsored links whenever anyone searches Sarah Palin? Well, that would be SarahPAC.com, of course, the governor‘s political action committee.
And then they even changed their subheading from “sign up now” to “donate today.” We called Sarah Palin—excuse me, Sarah PAC‘s office today to find out just how profitable their Google Adword campaign has been over the last few days? Shockingly, we have not yet heard back. It is possible they are too busy counting their money.
MADDOW: It is a very specific brand to Republican leadership that finds itself in self-destruction mode this summer. First, of course, there‘s Sarah Palin‘s sudden decision to resign because only fighters have the courage to quit before the fight is over. News of her resignation turned the spotlight off the self-destruction of still South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
Governor Sanford performed the gymnastic political feat of admitting to a life-altering love story affair while comparing himself to biblical King David and praising the spiritual guidance he received while continuing his affair from a secretive Christian fellowship organization that houses members of Congress at a tax-exempt house in Washington called the C Street.
Governor Sanford received his first measurable punishment for his affair last night. It‘s a censure from the leaders of the South Carolina Republican Party. They are not calling for his resignation. They are just saying, “Bad, Governor, bad.”
Governor Sanford‘s failings, you might also recall, eclipsed the first big conservative Republican scandal of the summer. That would be Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who outright-winged Mr. Sanford by actually living in that secretive tax-exempt Christian fellowship house on C Street in Washington and out-failed Governor Sanford by confessing to an affair not just with some random lady in Argentina but with one of his staffers and to putting her teenage son on the National Republican Senatorial Committee payroll as a policy expert. He‘s 19. At least he was a policy expert until he was done—until Senator Ensign was done sleeping with the boy‘s mother, and then the boy was let go.
Senator Ensign still has his job, despite having called on President Clinton to resign because of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and having called on Senator Larry Craig to resign because of his infamous wide-stance incident.
So among them—Sarah Palin, Mark Sanford and John Ensign—they have left a party perceived to be led by its conservative base with a rather crumbly and occasionally embarrassing foundation. What happens to that base next?
Well, joining us now is Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America and contributor to “Playboy” magazine.
Ana Marie, nice to see you.
ANA MARIE COX, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Good to be here. Welcome back, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. Thank you for filling me on Air America. It was very nice of you to have done so.
COX: I enjoyed every minute of it.
MADDOW: So, in terms of the conservative base of the Republican Party and their electoral hopes, is it definitely Brownback/Huckabee 2012?
MADDOW: Is there anybody else left on the right?
COX: Well, I think that we need to be very clear about this, Rachel. It is very early. And although Barack Obama actually is probably atypical in even four years before he ran, people were talking about him as a possibility, that‘s usually not the way presidential politics works and I don‘t think we really know who is going to be in front.
And also, I think, to my mind, Ensign and Sanford were never closer to the presidency until they had, you know, their affairs. I actually had never heard of them talked about in any real serious way.
So, I think that the ground is still empty for anyone that wants to step in there.
MADDOW: Well, the question though in terms of how somebody builds up leadership credentials in the Republican Party between now and the next election is—I mean, it‘s hard to understand how it works. I wonder if .
COX: Apparently, you start by resigning, you know?
MADDOW: Well, what we‘re seeing, though, from all of the—all of people who appear to be Republican leaders, at least like the chairman of the party, for example, is that moderates are still really getting trashed. Even people like Tim Pawlenty, who‘s sometimes praised as a moderate, when you ask him about it, he says, “No, no, no, I don‘t think being moderate is the future of the Republican Party. We have to be conservative and even more conservative than we have been as yet.”
But I wonder if moderates in the party are weirdly being relatively empowered by these scandals just because it‘s not them who are quitting and getting caught sleeping (ph) with their staffers?
COX: I think that‘s probably true but I also think we have to be very careful how we use the word moderate. I think that, sometimes, on the left and in the liberal media, it does exist. That moderate is often a code word for people that talk like I want them to talk or people who agree with me.
And I think that actually, Pawlenty, T-Pa, is a fan of—I‘m fan of his, I think you are as well. I mean, he is a conservative. He just thought through his conservativism.
And I think that‘s the thing that Republicans are going to have to do. A lot of the positions that Republicans hold these days that I disagree with, I think, are fundamentally not conservative. I think “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is not a conservative policy. I think conservatives would want the best possible for their country.
MADDOW: Well, on the issue, though, of how Republicans fight it out amongst themselves. You‘re saying that you hadn‘t—you hadn‘t really heard that Ensign or Sanford would be a serious contender—at least among Republicans who you talked to. Palin, obviously, even as she is the subject of so much derision, is considered to be a major, major headliner within her party.
I wonder if her resignation and this political brouhaha that she‘s created is sort of enough to save Senator Ensign‘s career and Governor Sanford‘s career. Has she just taken up all the oxygen in the room?
COX: Well, I don‘t think that Ensign or Sanford needed Palin to help them in whatever remains in their career. Republicans are remarkably forgiving of other Republicans. And I think that Palin has provided an alternative to the Michael Jackson coverage for a lot of us, which is exciting.
But other than that, I don‘t think that either the incident of the Sanford affair—unless Sanford just got even weirder, I mean, that whole story, regardless of politics, is fascinating—wouldn‘t have stayed on the national radar for very long. I mean, again, they‘re not incredibly major figures.
Sarah Palin is a major figure as she is a big headliner. But I don‘t
know how popular she is. Republicans that I talked to here in Washington
tend to kind of sigh and roll their eyes when I talk to them. And a White
House staffer that I talked to today said he was planning on maxing out if
Sarah Palin campaign if she did run
MADDOW: Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America and contributor to “Playboy” magazine and friend of the show—thank you for coming on today. Good to see you.
COX: I thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Still ahead: Decision 2008 coverage officially ended today. The U.S. Senate now has 100 members, like it‘s supposed to. Minnesota‘s senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, will join us to talk about her junior colleague, Senator Al Franken.
And later: We have a gobsmacking story about former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara who died this weekend. If you think people have hard feelings for guys like Donald Rumsfeld, prepare to redefine hard feelings.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Still ahead: Al Franken may have received the longest standing ovation of his career today after finally being sworn in to the U.S. Senate. He‘s thrilled (ph). The senior senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, will join us in just a moment.
And later, my friend Kent Jones fills me in on what I missed while I was on vacation. Apparently, a lot happened, even beyond that Ukrainian village trying to rename itself Jackson. So Kent says. We will see.
But first, it‘s time for a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
The last two days have been almost unprecedentedly horrendous for U.S. and NATO troops serving in Afghanistan. Today, in the west of the country, a roadside bomb attack on a military convoy took the life of one U.S. soldier. This comes just one day after seven other U.S. troops were killed, as well as one British soldier and two Canadian airmen in a helicopter crash in the south, a firefight in the northeast and two in roadside bombings.
There haven‘t been 10 U.S. and NATO troop deaths in a single day in almost a year in Afghanistan. To add to the toll, the Taliban also yesterday posted on a Web site, it claimed that they kidnapped an American soldier who disappeared from a combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan last week. The U.S. military has confirmed that the soldier has been reported missing, but they are not confirming the Taliban‘s claim that he‘s been captured.
The “Associated Press” says the Taliban‘s claim does not include proof that they‘ve captured the soldier or details on where he might be heard. The experts in the west have been telling us that as the numbers of U.S. troops in Afghanistan increases, the pace of operations should also be expected to increase and that means we should expect increased casualties.
The war experts in Afghanistan put it a different way. They always just call the summer the fighting season.
Next up: Here‘s footage that you really don‘t expect to see these days from inside a place like China. It‘s footage of Uighur protesters in China doing their best imitation of Tiananmen Square protests from 20 years ago, right down to a lone protester standing in front of a line of military vehicles, and in this case turning them back.
China, of all countries, worked really hard at controlling the media and sources of information for its own people. If we all learn something about shutting down the media and the Internet in the Iranian uprising in these past few weeks, the Chinese have been the real pros at this for a very long time.
But today, government efforts to manage coverage of Muslim protests in western China and the ethnic clashes that have followed apparently went very, very badly wrong. In the middle of a staged official media tour to show foreign journalists the approved Chinese government version of the unrest in western China, hundreds of wailing Muslim women, joined later by men, charged down a main city avenue, demanding the release of their husbands and sons who they said have been arrested in their homes after the initial protests.
Foreign reporters then got to see the protesters confronted by paramilitary forces and by police officers brandishing guns. The Chinese government has still done its best to shut down Internet access from that part of China, to block many cell phone calls, to shutdown access from Twitter, specifically, and to block all unauthorized discussion of the violence online elsewhere in China.
But a decision to let journalists get near actual live, aggrieved protesting people does tend to have a way of allowing the proverbial revolution to be televised.
Finally, And Republican Representatives Gene Schmidt of Ohio and John Shimkus of Illinois are not known for their love of the gay. In 2006, they both voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to recognize - to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages.
Two years, later they co-sponsored a similar bill. In 2007, they voted against banning workplace discrimination against gay people, which is otherwise known as voting for the legality of the “gays need not apply” sign.
And so given their records, it makes total sense that both Schmidt and Shimkus would be hosting fundraisers at the upcoming concert of noted anti-gay activist Elton John. Yes, it‘s true. The truth-stranger-than-fiction gods have blessed us again.
Gene Schmidt and John Shimkus will be raising money at the July 11th face-to-face concert at Nationals Park featuring, among others, Sir Elton John. Because nothing says donate money to my anti-gay marriage campaign like an openly gay married man in an Edwardian wig, platform shoes and alien goggles. I wonder if he might dedicate to them a special song or two.
MADDOW: To the extent that most guys in the country were on any one thing today, they were, of course, on the Michael Jackson memorial in Los Angeles. But in Washington, D.C., the big crowds were drawn to the Senate gallery on Capitol Hill. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, senator.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN): Thank you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Get the sense this is going to go on for a while. Let‘s just cut to 30 seconds later.
30 seconds more, I think.
This is like not hitting the fast forward fast enough on your DVD player. Can we skip to a minute later?
The crowd in the Senate gallery today applauded for a solid, uninterrupted, unabashed 2:50 for the newest member of the United States Senate, Al Franken. Why were they all so psyched? Maybe because they have a suspicion that the arrival of the 60th Democratic senator means more of the Democratic agenda will get done in Congress.
Even though what happens every day on Capitol Hill doesn‘t always make for big, exciting, massively covered news, the fact remains that even in the pre-Senator Franken, pre-60-seat majority days, President Obama has already done stuff on his legislative agenda that would have been sort of jaw-droppingly landmark if it had happened, say, in the last presidential term.
A partial list of bills President Obama has already signed into law - major new tobacco legislation, unprecedented credit card reform, financial fraud enforcement, a public lands management law that protects 2 million acres of American wilderness.
And, of course, there‘s the $787 billion economic stimulus package. There‘s SCHIP, the State Children Health Insurance Program. There‘s the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for equal pay for equal work.
All of these things are really big legislative deals in grand historical context and they‘re all already done. But there are even bigger deals coming up on the president‘s agenda.
There‘s the matter of his Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. There‘s the climate change legislation, currently on the table, a version of which has already passed the house. That makes, right now, the first time Congress has ever dealt seriously with the issue of global warming. And there‘s the great white whale of American legislation that is health care reform.
Now, is Al Franken the golden ticket to get all these things done? No. But clearly, there are at least quite a few people in Washington who think that his arrival as a U.S. senator is pretty exciting.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Joining us now is the senior Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar. Sen. Klobuchar, thank you so much for coming back on the show tonight.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), SENIOR SENATOR: Well, it is great to be on again, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: So I‘m measuring the excitement in the Senate by virtue of how long the uninterrupted applause went on. Was it that exciting? Were people as psyched as it seemed?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, the gallery was filled with Al‘s friends and his family and just people who have been waiting for this to happen for so long. As you know, the trial lasted longer than the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping trial. It went on for something like - who‘s counting - but 246 days since the day of the election.
So there was just a lot of good feeling for him and just a lot of joy in that room, and always, when a new senator comes in, there‘s a lot of dignity and civility in the Senate. So it was a good day.
MADDOW: Before we get to the big picture, political implications of him coming into the Senate, let me ask you personally and as an individual senator, how soon does your job get easier, since you have been handling the burden of all of the Senate representation from Minnesota?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, our staff, as you know I have said many times, I‘m so proud of them. I think they will continue to do double the work for a bit because we‘re not giving our cases over to him as his office is brand new. But gradually, obviously, constituents will call his office as well as ours.
For me, I‘m pleased it‘s over. I went six months, RACHEL, as the only senator without deciding to resign in front of a lake or disappear in Argentina. So it‘s a kind of a personal achievement for me.
MADDOW: But now that he‘s there, you are now going to collapse and put on waders and quit, right?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I think something like that. No, there‘s a lot of work to be done, as you pointed out.
MADDOW: Well, are there specific things that you think can be done now, now that Sen. Franken has been sworn in, now that there are 60 Democrats in the Senate that maybe couldn‘t have been done before?
Everybody is saying number 60 isn‘t the magic number. But do you think it actually does change the calculus of what might be able to get done?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, it‘s not a magic number because as you‘ve heard from many analysts and pundits, we have two people who are sick that haven‘t been in the Senate. Usually, our major legislation does come with Republican support. It might be three, like the stimulus package. It might be 30, like some of the other bills.
But it is always helpful when you are trying to push some difficult legislation to have an extra vote. You look at the Sotomayor nomination. I personally am not going to put words in my colleagues‘ mouths on the other side of the aisle.
I‘m sure - I would think she will get some Republican support, so it wouldn‘t matter. But a nomination like that, if it becomes highly charged and it‘s important for, say, a president to get someone in, it‘s always helpful to have those 60 votes as we head to these major issues that we‘re dealing with of energy and health care reform.
I was just up in Northern Minnesota, visiting some small businesses there. Some people were spending $20,000 for a family of four, an owner of a small backpack company up there that has just, you know, flourished in this little down.
And it‘s getting so expensive, he said he wouldn‘t have started the business years ago if he would have known how much the health care costs were eating into their bottom line. And you hear that all the time. So we have to get this done.
I‘m hopeful we‘ll do it and I still think that we could easily do it with some bipartisan support. It is a major undertaking - 17 percent of our economy. Other efforts in the past have failed, but we‘ve gotten to the point now and you look at the wasted costs and what‘s happening.
I know this from Minnesota, where we have an excellent model for how you can save money in health care. We just have to move forward with this.
MADDOW: I know that one of the real important political calculations on health care and some of these other major issues is what conservative Democrats are going to do. Al Franken is widely perceived to be a big-time liberal because of his association with Air America, which I‘m associated with and some of the other things in his past.
I personally don‘t see him as a particularly liberal guy. Do you know where we should expect him to be on the conservative-liberal spectrum?
KLOBUCHAR: You know, I can‘t predict that. I just know that I think some of the national media were thinking he would be just some laugh riot from the day he started. And I think they were somewhat stunned about how serious he was about the issues. People in Minnesota - we‘re used to that. He‘s been debating and talking about issues for quite a while. So I just know that he‘s buckling down and getting to work.
He also understands in the health care area, for instance, how important it is for Minnesota to make sure that whatever plan comes out, that it really looks at the cost savings that we get in our state, where it‘s a high-quality, low-cost state. And we want to make sure that there are incentives in place so the rest of the country does that as well.
MADDOW: One last thing - I don‘t usually do this but I have to do this because I‘m back from vacation and I‘ve got you.
KLOBUCHAR: I can‘t wait to see.
MADDOW: You know what it is. You made these two predictions during appearances on this show, and I have to ask you for a new one given how right you‘ve been. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: My prediction, Rachel, is that we will have a new senator
by the time the ice melts on Lake Minnetonka -
MADDOW: Which usually -
KLOBUCHAR: April 11th.
MADDOW: April 11th?
KLOBUCHAR: April 11th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: I keep giving you predictions.
KLOBUCHAR: Remember I said it would be done when the ice melted.
Now, this is my last kitschy prediction.
KLOBUCHAR: When the corn is knee-high on the Fourth of July. And if it‘s not done by then - yes, then I‘m going to be mad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, I gave you credit for the first prediction because on April 13th, the three-judge panel declared that Al won the election. Then, of course, Norm appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. And then you made the second prediction, which held up really even better. Now, I have to ask you to make another prediction.
KLOBUCHAR: Go ahead. Ask me the question.
MADDOW: How long do you think it will be before senator Al Franken agrees to appear as my guest on this show?
KLOBUCHAR: Whoa, he has really focused on local media. So I would guess - I would predict within a year. And what did I say last time? And if I‘m not right about that, I will just be mad, right?
MADDOW: That‘s fair enough.
KLOBUCHAR: But we‘ll see.
MADDOW: At least you didn‘t say until hell freezes over, which is what I was expecting.
KLOBUCHAR: Maybe. Anyway -
MADDOW: All right. Any time between then.
MADDOW: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota. Thank so much for coming on the show tonight. And congratulations for you in Minnesota.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, it was great to be on. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up, there are eulogies and then there is what has been written in the wake of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who died yesterday. If you think you know anger for recently powerful and horribly misguided public officials, stand by for a jaw-dropping upgrade.
MADDOW: President Obama is on his major diplomatic visit to our frenemy comrade-rivals in Russia, in addition to former meetings with Russia‘s president and prime minister. Our popular president today gave the type of speech that is fast becoming a hallmark of his approach to international affairs - addressing a plea for increased understanding between our two countries directly to the Russian people.
At least that was the plan. The problem? Russia‘s government controls or heavily influences basically all of the TV stations in Russia. And only one of those stations saw fit to cover the speech.
Yesterday, even Obama‘s joint press conference with Russian - with Russia‘s president was preempted on one station by a 3 ½ week-old rerun of an old soccer match. The two main radio stations in Russia didn‘t even bother to translate Obama‘s speech into Russian. Ah, freedom of the press, which still equates in any language to the freedom to own the printing press.
MADDOW: Generations before people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales represented political lightning rods in America, there was there was former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, the defining lightning rod of the Vietnam era in this country.
Mr. McNamara died yesterday at his home in Washington. He, of course, was reviled during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations for orchestrating the escalation of the Vietnam War which killed 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians and Laotians.
McNamara was reviled in later years when it was revealed he continued to promote and plan the war even after he had personally concluded as early as 1965 that the war could not be won militarily. He left office in 1968 and then sat by silently while the war went on for seven more years.
Late in life, McNamara publicly agonized about the decisions he had made about the war, most famously in Errol Morris‘ documentary, “The Fog of War.” Against that backdrop, the printed response to McNamara‘s death by the great war correspondent Joe Galloway has caused a stir.
Under the headline, “Reading an obit with great pleasure,” Mr. Galloway writes, quote, “The aptly named Robert Strange McNamara has finally shuffled off to join LBJ and Dick Nixon in the seventh level of hell.
That‘s how it starts. Mr. Galloway then recounts the story of a ferryboat trip that Mr. McNamara took to Martha‘s Vineyard in 1972. As he tells it, having a drink in the ferryboat‘s bar, Mr. McNamara was approached by a man who, as it happened, was a local artist.
The artist, quote, “told McNamara there was a radio phone call for him on the bridge. McNamara set down his drink and stepped outside. The artist immediately grabbed him, wrestled him to the railing and pushed him over the side.” This is not a metaphor. Somebody actually, apparently tried to throw Robert McNamara overboard.
Joining us now is Paul Hendrickson, a university of Pennsylvania professor who uncovered the McNamara ferryboat story and writes about it in his book, “The Living and The Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War.” Professor Hendrickson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
PAUL HENDRICKSON, AUTHOR, “THE LIVING AND THE DEAD”: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did Joe Galloway accurately recount the story of what happened on that ferry to Martha‘s Vineyard?
HENDRICKSON: Yes, absolutely, for all intents and purposes. You know, I think McNamara‘s position just hanging at bar in kind of a slouched, relaxed way - this is what the artist told me when I went to find him. He said that alone drove him crazy.
The artist saw him from about 20 feet away in this lunchroom and he looked at McNamara and all of that anger about the Vietnam War came up. And here was this guy going over to the vineyard for his weekend holiday in his sporting togs. And this kind of murderous rage began crawling up his throat.
And as the artist said to me, “I‘m an artist. I work in immediate context.” And so he went over to Mr. McNamara, “You have a phone call, please follow me.” And they got outside in the darkness. And he got McNamara by the collar and the belt buckle and tried to throw him over.
There weren‘t any words between them - except McNamara said, “Oh, my god, no.” I mean, it seemed to me, Rachel, that that was the Vietnam War, that 45 seconds of struggle right there at the railing.
MADDOW: Could he have killed him?
HENDRICKSON: Oh, absolutely because it‘s a seven-mile passage in dark waters. He would have been sucked under the boat or the fall from the ferry. It‘s a pretty big boat. The waves would have taken him under.
You know, there‘s always been - for all of his brilliance and master minding, there was always a naive quality of McNamara, which I could say I almost liked. So when the artist said to him, “Please follow me” - The artist later said to me, “I‘m an artist. I work in immediate context. Even as I was walking over I did not know what I was going to say to the guy.”
And what came out of his mouth was, “Mr. McNamara, you have a phone call, please follow me.” The artist - I spent a good deal of time trying to find him. And I guess I was working in my own immediate context.
I flew up to Martha‘s Vineyard without having called him and I found where he was. And I went to his studio and I knocked on his door and there he was. What kind of blind, stupid luck was that? And I said, “I can‘t go on with this story unless you are willing to talk to me.” And he was.
MADDOW: University of Pennsylvania Professor Paul Hendrickson, giving us more reason to read “The Living of the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War,” for tracking down that gentleman, for being able to confirm that story and for adding as to what we know about Robert McNamara‘s strange and tragic life. Thank you very much for your time tonight, sir.
HENDRICKSON: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” round 864 of Palin versus Letterman. Keith is at their way in. Next on this show, my friend Kent Jones reminds me of all that I missed by daring to take a vacation.
MADDOW: We turn now to my information retrieval correspondent, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Welcome back, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you very much.
JONES: While you were out doing this -
MADDOW: Very nice.
JONES: Fish time - I was here following some of the important news of the day.
MADDOW: OK. Thank you.
JONES (voice-over): Here‘s what you missed. Kevin Jonas of the Jonas
Brothers got engaged. Sorry, Rachel. He‘s taken. Roger Federer won again
at Wimbledon -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Federer stands alone.
JONES: Breaking the all-time record with his 15th grand slam title. His match with Andy Roddick took 77 games. So Federer has already won the first three rounds of the U.S. Open in August.
You missed a couple of excellent car chases. And because it‘s cable news, we showed all of it. Yay! In Spain, 2,000 people ran with the bulls through the streets of Pamplona. Afterwards, police warned of injuries caused by a surge in newly-validated manhood.
In cycling, seven-time winner Lance Armstrong is back riding the Tour de France. In anticipation of his eighth victory, the French have already started pre-hating him.
In the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, old iron gut Joey chestnut set a world record by snarfing down 68 hotdogs in ten minutes. Mmm, nitrates.
In Chicago, a glass-bottom ledge was opened on the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower, which must be an amazing view unless you just ate 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
And finally, at the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago, Cookie the Cockatoo celebrated his 76th birthday. Don‘t worry, Rachel, I‘ve got the top stories covered.
MADDOW: I knew none of those. Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: Excellent. Thank you also for watching tonight. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts now.
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Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>
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.>