The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/08/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that.
And it is sort of an amazing story—we will be talking about Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford and Senator John Ensign of Nevada this hour. Yes, the original summertime “Republican fall from grace” story actually gets “fallier” from grace tonight. You thought the John Ensign scandal was over there is more.
We will be discussing Republican self-destruction with “The New York Times” columnists Frank Rich. He‘ll be joining me here in the studio.
That is all to come.
But we are beginning with some breaking news. CIA officials have misled Congress since 2001. That is no longer just a controversial allegation from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. It is also now an admission—reportedly coming directly from the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta.
Today, a letter has surfaced. It was a letter written to Leon Panetta from seven Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee.
And the letter says this, quote, “Dear Director Panetta, you recall, no doubt, that on May 15th, 2009, you stated the following in a letter to CIA employees: ‘Let me be clear. It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and values.‘
Recently, you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress and misled members for a number of years from 2001 to this week. This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods.
In light of your testimony, we ask that you publicly correct your statement of May 15th, 2009.”
They don‘t actually say “meow,” but it‘s implied. And it is signed, sincerely, Anna Eshoo, Rush Holt, Alcee Hastings, John Tierney, Mike Thompson, Jan Schakowsky and Adam Smith.
The letter was sent to CIA Director Leon Panetta on June 26th, that‘s two days after he briefed the House Intelligence Committee of which these seven signatories are members.
Now, these seven signatories are considered allies of the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Her contention that the CIA deliberately misled her and other members of the Congress about waterboarding is what prompted the CIA to issue their “We don‘t mislead anyone” rebuttal way back in May.
Well, now, these members of Congress are saying that Leon Panetta directly contradicted that statement and admitted that the CIA has misled Congress, but he did it in testimony behind closed doors. They now want him to say it in public.
For its part, the CIA is sticking to its guns—releasing a statement tonight, once again reiterating, quote, “It is not the policy or practice of the CIA to mislead Congress.”
Joining us now to follow all of this smoke to its fiery source is “Newsweek” investigative correspondent and MSNBC contributor, Michael Isikoff.
Mike, thanks very much for joining us.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NEWSWEEK: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So—first, do you think that I‘ve summarized this right? Members of the House say that Leon Panetta admitted something behind closed doors .
MADDOW: . that he ought to fess up to in public. Is that about right?
ISIKOFF: Well, whether he—they‘re saying he ought to fess up to it in public is a little unclear.
But, you know—look, it is very hard to tell at this point whether we are talking about a series potential federal crime here—and it is a federal crime for the CIA to conceal information or lie to Congress, as Chairman Reyes said—or whether this is a political food fight by the Democrats trying to defend Speaker Pelosi from what they view as bogus charges by the Republicans relating to her comments about waterboarding, because we don‘t know what the underlying information is.
We know that it is not related to the interrogation dispute that presumably sparked this, because that‘s what—you know, the whole issue of a waterboarding when Pelosi said that she was misled about waterboarding. We know that from both sides on this, that the underlying program was highly classified. It‘s not clear that this was some program that was concealed entirely as opposed to what we think it is, was some adjustment or modification to an ongoing program that the Congress was told about, but was not told about the modification.
So, there‘s a lot of unanswered questions here, but there‘s, unquestionably, a lot of politics behind this.
MADDOW: It certainly seems—particularly because of the list of signatories, because it‘s only members of the House Intelligence Committee from the Democratic Party who have signed on to this, and because of the brouhaha over Nancy Pelosi in the past—it certainly seems like there‘s some politics at work here. But then the timing seems really weird. The letter is dated June 26th.
MADDOW: So, it‘s been out for a few weeks now. It‘s just surfaced today. The only thing that we know that‘s going on in intelligence politics right now is that there is a bill—the intelligence bill is moving through Congress that has some controversial assertions about how many members of Congress should be in .
MADDOW: . on the super-secret briefings.
Do you think that it‘s possible that this whole kerfuffle, the release of this document is related to that bill, to trying to change current context?
ISIKOFF: That bill was scheduled to come to the House floor tomorrow. And one of the extraordinary things that happened today is that the White House, the Obama White House, threatened to veto the bill if it included a provision that Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats put in it, requiring all members of the intelligence committee to be notified about covert programs as opposed to the so-called “gang of eight,” just the chairs of the relevant committees and the leadership of both chambers.
And—look, the Democrats put that in there. Pelosi put that in there, because they said the “gang of eight” was so subject to manipulation, there wasn‘t enough oversight going on and it‘s hard after everything that we saw during the Bush administration years to quarrel with that. And yet, there is the Obama White House saying, “No, we want to be able to restrict the information that goes to Congress about covert action programs,” so much so that they were threatening to veto the bill.
I can tell you, tonight, as a result of that veto threat, that House bill is probably going to be pulled from the House floor tomorrow, because the Democrats are afraid to push it with that veto threat hanging over it.
MADDOW: Briefly, Mike, are you expecting Leon Panetta to clarify what it is that he said and whether or not that initial statement that we don‘t mislead anybody needs to be clarified or do you think that he‘ll just keep mum and let the CIA spokesman to deal with this?
ISIKOFF: Hard to know. The statement tonight that the agency put out is remarkably unrevealing .
ISIKOFF: . saying—emphasizing only that they came forward on their own, that Panetta came forward on his own to disclose it. We‘re going to have to see whether all this smokes him out or not.
MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, “Newsweek” investigative correspondent and NBC contributor, a man who is very much on top of this stuff—thanks very much for joining us tonight on short notice. Appreciate it.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: After Mark Sanford‘s steamy correspondence became public, you would think we would have met our quota for the summer of heartsick letters from hypocritical elected official adulterers—but no. Welcome back to the spotlight, Nevada Senator John Ensign—whose sex scandal now comes with a cringe-making handwritten footnote of his own.
“New York Times” columnist Frank Rich will join us shortly to talk about the post-family values Republican Party. That‘s coming up next.
MADDOW: President Obama today got to see what he would look like on Mt. Rushmore. It was courtesy of this banner unfurled by intrepid rock climbing, repelling Greenpeace protesters. The top of the face of Mt. Rushmore is more than 5,000 feet up. At lunchtime today, two Greenpeacers repelled on to Abraham Lincoln‘s forehead. A third Greenpeacer posted himself way out to the right. And then battling high winds, they spread out this. It‘s a banner that says “America honors leaders, not politicians, stop global warming.”
President Obama was in Italy today, trying to get an agreement between the G8 countries on cutting the emissions that caused global warming. So far, at least, it looks like a big new deal is not going to happen on that subject anytime soon.
Still, though, global warming opponents remain optimistic about the chance for change with the new American president. Meantime, they have the enviable dilemma of deciding whether to shop the photo-op from their latest publicity stunt to “Mother Jones” or to “Men‘s Health.”
MADDOW: The first major Republican sex and corruption scandal of the summer—twice buried—is now reaching out from beyond the grave. New detailed and scandalous evidence surfaces to further—of all things—the John Ensign sex scandal.
Today, “The Las Vegas Sun” published a handwritten letter purportedly written by John Ensign to the campaign staffer he has admitted to having an affair with. Her name is Cindy Hampton. The letter is dated February 2008 that would have been during the time of the affair, according to the senator‘s own time line.
And the letter reads, “Cindy, this is the most important letter that I‘ve ever written. What I did with you was wrong. I was completely self-centered in only thinking of myself. I used you for my own pleasure, not letting thoughts of you, Doug, your husband or your kids come into my mind.
I betrayed everything I believe in. I lied to myself over and over. I justified my actions because I blamed my wife. Doug has been a great friend to me over the years and I threw all over that away over wanting to feel good.
I take 100 percent responsibility for my actions. Plain and simple, it was wrong. It was sin.”
We called John Ensign‘s office today to confirm that this letter was in fact written by him. They have not returned our calls so far.
The letter was given to “The Las Vegas Sun” by the husband of Ensign‘s admitted mistress, Doug Hampton, who‘s referenced in the letter. Hampton today also filled in a few of the other outrageously scandalous blanks in this story. He admitted that he was attempting to extort millions of dollars out of Senator Ensign.
Mr. Hampton also said that within 24 hours of writing this plaintive letter, Senator Ensign was already back to pursuing his life. Ensign, that weekend, reportedly telling Doug Hampton, quote, “I‘m in love with your wife.” And we know from Ensign‘s own admission that the affair didn‘t end until six months after this. It all has to be over now, it was when the letter was dated.
Mr. Hampton also says that his wife was paid over $25,000 severance by John Ensign when she left his office during the affair in April of last year. That may pose some serious ethics problems for Senator Ensign. We already knew that her pay had been doubled during the time of the affair, but it was not previously known how much her severance package was worth.
Also, Cindy Hampton herself is now publicly calling for her ex-boyfriend, John Ensign, to resign.
Meanwhile, from Ensign‘s Republican colleagues in the Senate, we have still heard—nothing. Senator Vitter, still no comment, really?
Also, no comment from the Republican Party establishment. That‘s an important part of this, because we learned at the start of the scandal that Republican Party funds were used to put Ensign‘s mistress‘ 19-year-old son on the payroll of the National Republican Senatorial Committee while Ensign chaired that committee. It means, essentially, Republican Party donors were paying Ensign‘s mistress‘ son at his behest.
We called the NRSC today and they referred all questions on the matter to Senator Ensign‘s office. Like I said, he‘s not calling us back. But the NRSC did tell us that they haven‘t received any complaints from Republican Party donors thus far. What—it‘s supposed to be weird now to have the teenage sons of your senator‘s mistress on the payroll?
Then there‘s also Republican Senator Tom Coburn, who has been dragged into this yet again. We placed a call to his office yet again for his comment because his name surfaced yet again today. Doug Hampton alleged, as he made this letter public today, that Ensign wrote the letter at the urging of and in the presence of Senator Coburn. Senator Coburn was one of Ensign‘s roommates.
Doug Hampton further alleges that Coburn confronted Senator Ensign about the affair and told him he should pay the Hamptons millions of dollars.
Senator Coburn‘s office has previously resisted our efforts for comments on this matter, but today they did give us this statement. Quote, “Dr. Coburn did everything he could to encourage Senator Ensign to end his affair and to persuade Senator Ensign to repair the damage he had caused to his own marriage and the Hampton‘s marriage. Had Senator Ensign followed Dr. Coburn‘s advice, this episode would have ended, and been made public, long ago.”
The connection between Coburn and Ensign here happens to be the same connection that connects this Republican sex scandal with the other Republican sex scandal still ongoing, the one of Governor Mark Sanford. The connection is a house in Washington called “C Street.”
Coburn and Ensign both lived together at the C Street Christian fellowship house that was made famous when Mark Sanford mentioned it in his long rambling, “I was sleeping with the Argentinean lady” speech. He says he received support from C Street during the time he was continuing that secret affair with a woman in Argentina. That would have been at roughly the same time that John Ensign was getting advice from his C Street friends about how best to pay off the woman he was having his secret affair with. Kind of sounds like a fun house.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina today, presumably, in an effort to show how the new post-scandal Mark Sanford is going to be different from the old pre-scandal Mark Sanford, Sanford‘s office, for the first time in the whole 6 ½ years he‘s been governor, released a public schedule of events for him. We‘ve been waiting 6 ½ years to find out where he‘s going to be this week.
And here it is. No public events are currently scheduled for the remainder of the week. Tada!
The common beltway conventional wisdom about these scandals is that Mark Sanford was going to be saved because of good political timing, being overshadowed by Governor Sarah Palin‘s awkward resignation and the overwhelming story of Michael Jackson‘s death. Then again, conventional wisdom also said the John Ensign scandal was gone too, and that came back with a handwritten vengeance today.
Beltway of wisdom also holds that Sarah Palin would be a Republican rock star and a fund-raising magnet, despite the damage she‘s done to her own elected office prospects recently. That—it turns out—may also be wrong. There‘s news today that the Republican candidates in the only major statewide elections this year, the governors races in New Jersey and Virginia, are both cool to the idea of Palin joining them on the campaign trail.
Republican Bob McDonnell of Virginia told “The Associated Press” he still doesn‘t fully understand the announcement Palin just made about her own career. And a spokesman for New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie told “The A.P.,” flat out, quote, “We don‘t have any plans on having her in.”
Joining us now is “New York Times” columnist, Frank Rich.
Mr. Rich, thank you very much for coming. It‘s always nice to see you.
FRANK RICH, “NEW YORK TIMES” COLUMNIST: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: I had Mark McKinnon on the show last night.
MADDOW: And I had planned to ask him, if he was working for Republican gubernatorial candidate right now, would he want Palin to come raise money. And at the last minute, I didn‘t ask him the question, because I felt like it was so obvious that the answer was yes. Of course, anybody would want Palin to come and campaign for them if they‘re running as a Republican. Now, it seems like that common wisdom might be wrong. Do you think it‘s correct?
RICH: Well, it‘s half and half. Look, the majority of the country, which means blue America and purple America, she‘s persona non grata. That‘s why they don‘t want her into New Jersey and Virginia because she‘ll only hurt their cause in closed races and states that are Obama states.
The problem is: she is the biggest star in the Republican Party. This is all they have left. We‘re seeing what‘s happening to all the other potential stars. You know, Ensign and Sanford both thought they were possibly presidential candidates for the next go round.
So, Palin probably is the biggest fund-raiser for the party. So, the question is: how they maneuver this to get her into places where they‘ll love her—you know, South Carolina, Utah, Idaho—and not further damage the national Republican brand, although you have to wonder, it‘s so damaged, maybe it doesn‘t even make any difference at this point.
MADDOW: Well, I mean, one of the ironies of all the Republican self-destruction this summer is that it has been all of these people from the very sort of same of the party. These family values conservatives, Ensign and Sanford and Palin. And I don‘t feel like ‘90s politics are going to come back. I don‘t feel like they can be a family values .
MADDOW: . party anymore if only just because of all this embarrassing hypocrisy. But I don‘t believe that right-wing Republicanism is going to go away. So, if they lose the family values platform, what do they run on instead? What is the new ride of the Republican Party?
RICH: I think the new ride of the Republican—and you see it most of all in Sarah Palin—is this sense of grievance against the elites.
RICH: Starting with Obama, but then, you know, the mainstream, so called mainstream or liberal media—and also the elite of the Republican Party. They don‘t really like people like Mark McKinnon, for instance.
And so, there is this kind of populist, angry thing going on—a lot of it focused on Obama, but there‘s a following for it. And it‘s separate from, you know, same-sex marriage, abortion—those issues. It‘s related to it, but it‘s different. And that‘s—that‘s the note Palin has been hitting.
MADDOW: What sort of policies would those—would a movement like that support?
RICH: Nothing good. I mean, it really—it‘s—the only policy is, you know, I see Russia from my state. I mean, there is—the whole point, it has no real content. It‘s this unfocused anger.
You know, you see them on someone like Glenn Beck, some of it is aimed at Wall Street, which is a big—traditionally, a big part of the Republican Party. But it‘s just a kind of—almost nihilistic, and therefore, somewhat scary if it gets out—burns out of control, and a problem the party has to deal with.
MADDOW: The problem—the part of it I see a little scary, and I realize that people—other people are focusing on this as the main point of Sarah Palin‘s sort of weird implosion over the past week, but her railing against the ethic complaints? But, first of all, there aren‘t that many ethics complaints.
MADDOW: There‘s like three of them that are outstanding. The most serious ones were all filed before she got tapped for the V.P. But to make that the issue, to focus in on that issue as the talking point to explain why she had to get out of public office, ethics complaints, this accountability stuff. To crusade against accountability—citizens‘ means of keeping their elected officials in control—seems to me to be a pretty a sort of dangerous form of grievance politics for people who actually want to get elected.
RICH: Right. Particularly as the party that‘s still coming off the Abramoff scandal, one of their other few marquee stars, Newt Gingrich, had his own set of scandals that are not that far in the past.
RICH: But I think it‘s kind of a desperation to try to find something, and it will be something else. But underlying it is, you know, you look down on us—you look down on us working people who go out fishing and have, you know, grandchildren out of wedlock, and, you know, you‘re a bunch of snobs and it‘s a minority market for this. But it—it‘s a loud one and it will shell out money for her and for Republican candidates she supports in those places where she is wanted.
MADDOW: Briefly, do Democrats just stand by and watch this happen? Is this a fire they just watch burn in the Republican Party or should they be throwing people cans of gas and helping this along in some way?
RICH: I think the Democrats should ignore it. Let them commit hara-kiri and then deliver on the promises that Obama has made to the country.
MADDOW: Oh, you radical.
RICH: Radical idea.
MADDOW: I know. Frank Rich, “New York Times” columnist—always great to have you here. Thanks for coming in.
RICH: Great to see you.
MADDOW: Coming up: The celebrated Fourth of July in North Korea this year by shooting more missiles into the sea—a very inefficient means of fishing. But they also sort of tried to shut down “The Washington Post.” A very strange war story—coming up.
And, a new taped message from a guy who is supposed to be dead.
It‘s all coming up next. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: Still ahead: The first Iraq veteran elected to Congress launches a new effort to overturn “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” Congressman Patrick Murphy joins us shortly.
Plus, the man who turned his own brother in and thereby stopped one of the longest domestic terror campaigns in this country. David Kaczynski, who is the brother of the man known as the Unabomber will be joining us here.
And, my friend Kent Jones has on tape at the epic struggle between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a fly.
That‘s all coming up.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
If, like me, you tried to go to the Web site of “The Washington Post” yesterday afternoon and found yourself unable to proceed with a big awkward “network error” message staring you in the face, you are not alone. You may have also encountered a “network error” message over the past few days at the Web site of the Secret Service, the treasury, the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Trade Commission, even the White House.
What was going on? It turns out North Korea was waging war on us—maybe. At least, that‘s what the South Koreans are saying. Starting July 4th, more than two dozen major corporate and government Web sites in South Korea and the U.S. were hit with widespread resilient, hard to stop denial-of-service attacks.
Now, denial-of-service attacks are the easiest kind of hacking. You essentially make someone‘s Web site unusable by sending so much fake traffic there that their servers poop out. People who do security for Web sites are pretty good at combating DNS attacks. The South Koreans are intimating, however, that this latest round of attacks succeeded as much as it did because it was a sophisticated, coordinate, not your garden variety DNS hack.
The South Korean National Intelligence Service put out a statement that said, quote, “This is not a simple attack by an individual hacker, but appears to be a thoroughly planned and—but appears to be thoroughly planned and executed by a specific organization or on a state level.” By which they mean, North Korea‘s waging cyber war on the U.S. government—and “The Washington Post,” for some reason. Maybe they‘re mad about Dan Froomkin getting fired, too?
Up next: An equally intriguing international mystery from Iraq. U.S. troops have now pulled back from Iraqi cities. All U.S. combat brigades are due to be gone from Iraq by the end of next summer. And by the end of the year after that, there are supposed to be no U.S. troops at all left in Iraq.
Well, today, an audio message was issued by al Qaeda in Iraq saying, quote, “Even if the Americans remain nowhere but a small spot in the Iraqi desert—so every Muslim should battle them until they are expelled.”
This is not exactly a surprise message from al Qaeda in Iraq. They are, after all, al Qaeda in Iraq—formed specifically in response to us invading that country, which had never had al Qaeda before it had us.
That said, there is one surprise about this new message. Al Qaeda says the voice on the tape is a guy named Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of their group. The reason it‘s surprising to hear from him is because the Iraqi government says they‘ve been holding him in jail since this spring. The Iraqi government even released this picture of the man they say is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.
Of course, the man in this picture looks nothing like the man in this other picture, and he‘s the guy who Al Arabiya news channel claims is really Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. But wait, it gets weirder. Because two years ago, the Iraqi government said they killed Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. The U.S. military at the time said, no, no, no, the Iraqis couldn‘t have killed him because it was the opinion of the United States military that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was a myth. He did not exist. In fact, he was an actor.
So either today‘s anti-American audio message was sent by a guy in jail or by a guy who proves the Iraqis have the wrong guy in jail, or by a dead guy, or by an actor. It‘s your call. We report, you find it very difficult to decide.
MADDOW: Patrick Murphy served as an army captain in the 82nd airborne division in Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star. He‘s also been a professor at West Point, a criminal prosecutor. And in 2006, he was the first veteran of the Iraq War to be elected to Congress.
In his first month in office, Congressman Murphy introduced the Iraq War De-Escalation Act to responsibly withdraw troops from Iraq on a time line. He introduced that legislation alongside a young Democratic senator with the hard-to-remember name of Barack Obama.
Now, in his second term in congress, Congressman Murphy has just announced that he is taking on lead sponsorship of a bill that President Barack Obama says he would sign if it gets to his desk. It‘s legislation that would repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D-PA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The policy is not working for Armed Services and it hurts our national security. President Barack Obama has stated that if Congress gets a bill to his desk repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” he will sign it into law. It is now our job and my job specifically to quarterback this to the Congress of the United States to do just that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama has, of course, been emphatic and consistent in his statements that he is opposed to “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” that he thinks that openly gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the U.S. Military.
What‘s been in question to those who share the president‘s views on the issue is the sense of urgency that he has about getting the repeal done. Well, as of now, getting it done in Congress is the job for which Patrick Murphy has decided to volunteer.
Joining us now is Iraq War veteran, Congressman Patrick Murphy.
Thanks very much for joining us tonight, sir.
MURPHY: Thanks so much, Rachel, for having me.
MADDOW: As far as I know, you‘ve got 151 cosponsors so far. I would love it for you to translate that number into how likely it is that this bill actually gets passed by the House this year.
MURPHY: Well, we need 218 votes, Rachel, in the House of Representative. And we actually just got one a couple hours ago, another paratrooper from 82nd Airborne Division, my fellow congressman, just signed on.
So we‘re making progress every day. I‘ve been quarterbacking this, Rachel, as you mentioned, for about a week now. And we need to act with a sense of urgency to put this on the president‘s desk.
MADDOW: Can I ask who your new signup is?
MURPHY: Sure. It‘s Joe Baca, one of the co-chairs of the Hispanic Caucus here in the House of Representatives.
MADDOW: Excellent. Well, I mean, you‘re a veteran yourself, obviously, decorated with a Bronze Star. You‘re a married man. You‘re a blue dog Democrat. You represent Pennsylvania. You‘re conservative on a lot of fiscal issues. Why did you decide that you were the guy to take point on this issue? Why does this mean so much to you?
MURPHY: Sure. Rachel, I served in the Army since 1993 and I saw some
I served with some great soldiers who were kicked out of the Army, not because of any type of sexual misconduct, but just because of their sexual orientation, just because they were gay.
This is a national security issue, Rachel. The fact that we let go over 13,000 troops - that‘s over 3 ½ combat brigades, it doesn‘t make any sense. And now is the time to repeal it. We‘ve got to get it through the House and in the Senate. And we‘ve got to get the president to sign this.
MADDOW: Well, the president does say that he wants to repeal the law. He has said that he looks forward to getting a bill from Congress. Has the White House been helping you with your efforts?
I know you‘ve been going around meeting people, other members of the House, face to face. You‘ve been working personally, really in difficult circumstances, to try to move this bill. Are you getting direct support from the White House?
MURPHY: Well, I think the president last week, his instructions to both the chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff and also the Secretary of Defense to say, we look at the policy, we look at the implementation of it.
But really the issue is, Rachel, is this was an act of Congress that made “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” into law. It will take an act of Congress to fix that mistake of 16 years go. And it‘s our job as a Congress to get a backbone, to have the courage to get this passed.
We can‘t punt this to the president. We can‘t punt this to the courts. It‘s our job. And it‘s my job to quarterback this. And we‘re going to make it happen.
MADDOW: When you go around and meet with members of Congress on this, do the ones who are against this, who say that they‘re not going to support you on this, you can‘t count on their vote, do they make good arguments? When people are arguing against “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” are you finding yourself in solidly, intellectually rigorous debates about the merits of the policy?
MURPHY: Well, I think that would be a stretch, to be honest with you, Rachel. I think, you know, sometimes, it‘s frankly disheartening. I‘ve only been here for 2 ½ years, but sometimes they give the excuse of, “I can‘t do it in my district. I‘m in a tough district.” And that‘s Republicans and Democrats. They be like, “Murph, I would love to be with you.”
But the fact is this, we have lost 13,000 troops. We‘re now losing about two per day. We need every able-bodied, qualified American to serve their country. I mean, our troops are stretched so thin in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
And now it‘s a time, because it‘s with national security, to change this wrongful policy. And I‘m doing just that. But I will tell you, there are members - you know, we‘re up, as I mentioned, at 152 right now. But there are members on both sides of the aisle that say, “Patrick, I‘ll vote for it. I just can‘t cosponsor it.”
But we‘re still pushing to hopefully get to that 218 mark that we know it‘s going to pass. Because I want to make sure when it comes up for a vote, we‘ll pass this bill because we don‘t want to regress here. We want to move it forward.
MADDOW: Let me ask you the hard procedural question here, though.
MADDOW: Until a repeal can get through Congress, and I hear your confidence that it can, do you think it would be appropriate for the president to hit the pause button on kicking more people out of the military under this policy?
While a repeal is considered, should he use his executive authority to say, let‘s put a halt to this and just stop implementing the policy. Stop the witch hunt. Stop the processes of kicking people out while a repeal is under consideration?
MURPHY: Well, I think there‘s a distinction here. You know, one thing - you know, I was critical of President Bush. I was respectful of the office, but I was critical of him. The one thing here is that I criticized President Bush on his signing statement. Congress passed a law which he signed and said, “Well, we‘re going to disregard what that Congress said.”
You don‘t want President Obama to do the same thing. And here‘s what you‘re looking at right now. You‘re saying you don‘t want the president to say, “Well, let‘s just forget what the Congress did back 16 years ago and ignore them.”
You know, he honors a coequal branch of government. And we need to do it as a Congress said and put it on his desk. He‘s been very clear, Rachel, that he will sign it. He‘s been very clear to his Secretary of Defense and his Joint Chiefs now that he wants to make sure we‘re looking at how we‘re going to implement a change in policy.
It‘s our job now to act with a sense of urgency to make it happen. You know, we have the momentum of the American public. We have even a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff.
We have Gen. Colin Powell, who has come out and said - who is one of the authors of the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy 16 years ago, who has said now, we need to re-evaluate this. We need to look at it. I have the former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy that said, we need to repeal the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”
So listen, we have over 75 percent of the American public. It doesn‘t matter if you‘re in a conservative district or a liberal district. If you‘re an American, you should believe in equality.
You should believe in that oath that we all take as an Army officer, that we take as a congressman, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And that Constitution guarantees equality for everybody.
And I‘ll tell you what, Rachel. You know, when you‘re in Baghdad in 138-degree heat like I was exactly six years ago, when that guy is on your left or your right or that young woman is on your left or right, the fact is you don‘t care what their sexual orientation is. You don‘t care what their race is, their religion is, their creed is.
You care whether or not they can fire an M4 assault rifle, if they can kick down a door. That‘s what this is about. And that‘s why we need to repeal this. Now is the time to make it happen.
MADDOW: I think you just demonstrated why you‘re the right guy to be leading this fight right now. Congressman Patrick Murphy, Iraq War veteran, taking the lead on the effort to reverse “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” Good luck with your efforts. Thanks for your time. Keep us surprised, OK?
MURPHY: Will do, Rachel. You‘re a great American. Thanks.
MADDOW: Thank you. Coming up, we will get the inside story on how the federal government ultimately copped the man known as the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. We will hear that story from the man who, in a sense, turned him, his beloved brother, David Kaczynski. With that and his views on how America should be dealing with convicted terrorists. That‘s all coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The big “C” conservative argument that Guantanamo can‘t be closed amounts substantially to the argument that it‘s just too risky to put dangerous people in American prisons.
You think that if there‘s one thing Americans left, right, and center can agree on is that we‘re good at locking people up. My life span in this country has been roughly the time of the largest experiment of mass incarceration in the history of western world.
In trying to make that argument and in trying to contextualize the arguments against closing Guantanamo, I have frequently on this show listed some of the well-known people we‘ve got in prison in this country, people who give lie to the idea that our country can‘t reliably operate any sort of prison dead bolt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over): Terrorists like Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind sheikh, and Eric Rudolph and Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber guy, and Richard Reid and Charles freaking Manson have all been in prison in someone‘s hometown in America without incident.
Seemed very well-known people like the Unabomber. Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Richard Reed, Ramsey Youssef, Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard Ramirez, Eric Rudolph, Charles Manson - all some examples of bad guys who have been safely held in U.S. prisons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Among those people that I mentioned, the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski. He was convicted of a domestic bombing campaign that began in 1978 and lasted nearly two decades. He killed three people and injured 23 more. His targets were mainly universities and airlines, bastions of the modern technology that Mr. Kaczynski despised.
Living alone in a very small cabin in Montana, it wasn‘t until 1995 when parts of the Unabomber manifesto was published in newspapers that Mr. Kaczynski‘s sister-in-law shared her suspicions with her husband, David, that Ted might be the Unabomber.
David, Ted‘s younger brother, recognized his brother‘s style of writing and beliefs in the manifesto. And eventually, he took his suspicions to the FBI. Ted Kaczynski was arrested at his remote cabin in Montana, April 3rd, 1996. He‘s currently serving a life term in the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
David Kaczynski, Ted‘s younger brother, has since devoted his life to the issue of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system and to campaigning against the death penalty.
David Kaczynski is executive director of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. For the first time, he has written about his relationship with the brother he grew up with and admired, in a collection that‘s titled, “Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry.” He joins us now. Mr. Kaczynski, thanks very much for making the decision to be on the show. Thanks for being here.
DAVID KACZYNSKI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NEW YORKERS FOR ALTERNATIVES TO
THE DEATH PENALTY: It‘s a great delight to be with you.
MADDOW: When you see those clips, those clips from this show, how does it feel to see your brother used as an example of a dangerous person who‘s being kept safely away from society in prison?
KACZYNSKI: It just feels incredibly sad. Ted‘s life didn‘t start out that way. He was a brilliant student. He was a good big brother. He was a kind person, I think, until he became mentally ill. He was on track to become a real contributor to our culture and our society.
And unfortunately, because of his mental illness, things changed dramatically. So it almost in some ways feels like you‘re talking about somebody else, not the brother I knew.
MADDOW: Yes. You‘ve become - you‘ve devoted your adult life to activism against the death penalty. And I know that the Justice Department sought the death penalty against Ted. But in the end, they did not succeed. His life was spared. He‘s serving a life term in prison.
Why do you think that they sought the death penalty against him?
Did you understand that decision, and how did that make you feel?
KACZYNSKI: It made me feel awful. It made me feel betrayed. They knew that Ted was mentally ill, and yet I think they sought the death penalty because there was political pressure. This was the Unabomber, after all, the person responsible for the longest-running and most expensive criminal investigation in the history of the FBI. I think there was political pressure to do it.
MADDOW: Yes. Have you had contact with people who survived attacks by your brother, people who are family members of those who he killed?
KACZYNSKI: Most have found one way or another to thank me. My mom Wanda and I had a very moving meeting after the trial with one family that lost a loved one. I‘m actually almost best friends, I mean very good friends, with one of Ted‘s surviving victims, Gary Wright of Salt Lake City, who is just a wonderful guy. And for me, that‘s a silver lining. Gary is very dear to me and a close friend.
MADDOW: One of the reasons, of course, they would be thanking you is because it was your decision after you read the manifesto, suspected that the Unabomber might be your brother Ted, that you ultimately went to the authorities.
MADDOW: I have to correct you, Rachel, only in the sense that my wife Linda really is the unsung hero. She was the first person to suspect. And the decision we made was very much a joint decision between two people, you know, who love each other very much and share some basic values.
MADDOW: Did you know what to do once Linda shared her suspicions and you started to realize you might share them? Did you know what that meant you would have to do and how would you go through with it? And I understand it was a long, complicated process.
KACZYNSKI: Well, the most agonizing part was, of course, the realization that no matter what we did, could lead to somebody else‘s death. If we did nothing, the end result might be that if the Unabomber was my brother and struck again, we‘d have blood on our hands. Someone would have died because we had failed to act.
On the other hand, we also understood that turning in Ted could result in his death if he was found guilty and sentenced to death. And that was just agonizing. It felt like an absolutely horrific dilemma to face.
MADDOW: Ultimately, how did you decide?
KACZYNSKI: I think ultimately it was the realization that Linda and I both share that we just couldn‘t live with ourselves if some other innocent person had died because we had failed to act. We had to do what we could to save innocent lives and then we had to do whatever we could to save Ted‘s life.
MADDOW: Have you had any contact with Ted since - I guess since that time and since he‘s been incarcerated?
KACZYNSKI: I have only seen him at his trial. And at his trial, he didn‘t acknowledge me there. Mom and I still write to Ted. Unfortunately, he never writes back.
It‘s almost as if he‘s in two prisons. One is, you know, the federal maximum security prison where he‘ll spend the rest of his life. The other is this prison of mental illness, which may be just as cruel.
MADDOW: When we‘re debating now as a nation - in some ways it‘s in the beltway and some ways, it‘s really coast to coast about what to do about the threat of terrorism.
I mean, your brother is a very specific case when it comes to terrorism. It certainly was in his mind, politically motivated violence that he was committing, politically motivated murders. It‘s in the larger context of the war on terror. It‘s hard to fit him into that sort of a concept.
Do you see his case as a terrorist case? Do you feel like learning about what happened to him, what caused him to do what he did, gives you any insight into how Americans should be thinking about terrorism?
KACZYNSKI: I actually think though my brother committed technically legally acts of terrorism that the best way to understand what was going on with Ted is to understand that he has schizophrenia.
On the other hand, I think it‘s very clear - I‘m not an expert on prison security, but to my knowledge, nobody has ever escaped from a federal maximum security prison. And I think we can rest assured that people like my brother and the terrorists who are locked up in Florence, Colorado are not getting out. They‘re not going to be able to hurt anybody else.
MADDOW: David Kaczynski, who is the brother of Ted Kaczynski, who is known as the Unabomber, who is a contributor to this new book called “Brothers,” and who is the executive director of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.”
Thank you so much for being willing to come on the show and talk about this. Thanks for writing about your story about your relationship with your brother in such moving ways in “Brothers.” It‘s really an amazing essay you have written. It‘s really nice to meet you. Thanks.
KACZYNSKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith finds out about the testimony of the gentleman from Texas who is known affectionately to his friends as Turd Blossom, though would I never call him that.
Next on this show, my friend Kent Jones reports on the escalating battle between a very small dictator and very large insect.
MADDOW: We turn now to our entomological combat correspondent, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. You know, recently, no fewer than two world leaders have engaged in hand-to-hand combat with insects.
MADDOW: That‘s right.
JONES: I have to go on record as saying I think this sets a dangerous precedent. Let‘s take a look.
JONES: You may have seen the video of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doing battle with a really big fly today and losing. And of course, you can‘t help comparing that to President Obama‘s famous fly-killing episode. So, ha, ha, we win, right?
Wrong. Both Ahmadinejad and Obama made the mistake of thinking that humans could control the insect world. Fat chance, bipeds. It‘s their planet and we just live in it. For instance, bees interrupted a Major League baseball game last week for 52 minutes.
In 2007, the Yankees-Cleveland playoff game was decided by flies. Do you really think insects care about our silly little pastimes? They do not.
Mosquitoes cause malaria. When he wanted scare a crowd, Bill Gates released a jar full of the little blood suckers. Fire ants can do this, wow. Spiders can turn a rational adult into a shrieking tweener.
Bedbugs prove that insects don‘t care about our dreams, either. Fleas caused the bubonic plague. No, thank you. And cockroaches, well, they run the place.
So my message to Ahmadinejad is this - be very careful of trying to impose your will on an adversary that outnumbers you, that is faster than you, that is more organized than you, and that when angered, will never stop swarming until they ultimately prevail. Have a nice second term.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Kent.
MADDOW: Absolutely terrifying. Cocktail moment.
MADDOW: Today‘s July 8th, 2009 …
MADDOW: … which means at 12:34 and 56 seconds, the numerological freak show I‘m so proud of was one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine!
MADDOW: “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.