The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/09/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much.
And thank you at home for staying with us on a Monday night that sort of feels like a Wednesday night, given what happened on Saturday night.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette will join us this hour to talk about the big setback for abortion rights that unexpectedly came along with the House health reform bill. Author Jeff Sharlet is here for the interview about a rather mind-blowing C Street connection to that story. Senator Bernie Sanders will join us to discuss Senator Joe Lieberman’s continuing influence in the Senate. And, Ana Marie Cox helps us assess the ongoing and ever-developing chaos right now in the Republican Party.
All that and much, much, much, much more tonight.
But we begin with the prospect of monumental change in Washington.
MADDOW (voice-over): Since Barack Obama took office 10 months ago, the Democratic Party went from having 58 in the U.S. Senate to having 60. Democrats went from carrying 257 seats in the House to now carrying 258. And this weekend, the House grabbed the brass ring that president after president and Congress after Congress have wanted to grab and failed: health reform at last-the kind of once in more than a lifetime historic achievement that could brand the Democratic Party and inspire voter loyalty for a generation.
Even better for Democrats? They’ve done it in a way that has brought out the worst in the opposing party. The Republican House leadership last week speaking in front of a banner comparing health reform to bodies stacked up at a concentration camp. Despite reported chants of “Nazis, Nazis,” not a single House Republican walks off the stage in protest.
The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee is now equating medical care for women to medical care for smokers. The former House majority leader organizing the anti-health reform protest outside Congress, saying Americans have too much health insurance and some who don’t have it don’t deserve it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK ARMEY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Because they eat like a pig, you must now insure them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For women, the boorish behavior of Republicans against health reform has been even worse as Democratic women in Congress tried to speak on the House floor about gender disparity and health coverage, here’s the treatment they received from Republican men.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ask unanimous consent that my remarks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: . to revise my remarks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: . unanimous consent to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: . to extend my remarks in support of the Democratic bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I object.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ask unanimous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, we reserve the right to object.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In terms of the political impact of health reform, this is potentially a huge generational win for the Democratic Party.
MADDOW: Or is it? Snatching electoral defeat from the jaws of victory here, Democrats have decided to pass monumental, sweeping, legacy-building health reform, inexplicably along with the biggest restriction on abortion rights in a generation. It’s called the Stupak Amendment named for Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan. And if his amendment becomes law, if the bill passes as is, insurance companies across the country would likely stop covering abortions-period.
Stupak’s language in the House bill says that anyone who gets a government subsidy to buy insurance through the health insurance exchange would be banned from buying any insurance plan that covers abortion services.
So, if you’re an insurance company that wants to participate in the new health insurance exchange, if you want access to this new pool of millions of Americans, tens of millions of Americans, choosing between insurance plans on the exchange-well, the CBO says about 90 percent of those people will be getting some kind of government subsidy in the exchange. And if they’re getting any sort of government subsidy, they can’t even choose your insurance plan if they want to, unless you drop abortion coverage.
The effect of this law isn’t just no federal funding for abortions. That’s the law now. The effect of this law is likely to be no insurance coverage for abortion in the United States-period.
With a single amendment, Congress is making a legal medical procedure potentially unattainable for a huge number of American women. All that conservative talk about the evil government getting involved in which medical procedures are covered and which aren’t, it’s conservatives who now, from Congress, are ruling out coverage nationally for one specific medical procedure for political reasons.
Congressman Stupak apparently got this language into the bill by promising lots and lots of conservative Democratic votes for health reform. And what he got was lots and lots of conservative Democrats, 26 of whom voted for his anti-abortion amendment, but then against the health reform bill anyway.
In response to the Stupak Amendment passing, 41 House Democrats have now said in writing that they won’t vote for any final health reform bill that includes Stupak’s language in it or anything like that.
Meanwhile, as a health reform vote approaches in the Senate, even supposedly pro-choice Democrats are now signaling that they’re OK with the Stupak Amendment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: We’re talking about whether or not people that get public money can buy an insurance policy that has any coverage for abortion. And that is not the majority of America. The majority of America is not going to be getting subsidies from the government. And so, I’m not sure that this is going to be enough to kill the bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, I mean, we’re only effectively banning abortion for people who get subsidies, people making less than $88,000 a year. Who cares about anybody making less than $88,000 a year, right?
This apparent lack of concern among supposedly pro-choice Democrats is made all the more relevant, given the news tonight that a pair of anti-choice Senate Democrats are already preparing similar language as what’s in the House bill for the Senate version, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the man ultimately responsible for whether the anti-abortion language goes in or stays out, he doesn’t exactly have a great record on supporting abortion rights. Senator Reid is personally against abortion rights and the National Abortion Rights Action League gave Senator Reid a whopping 20 percent voting rating last year.
The White House, for its part, has shifted its position on this issue as the day has gone on. While White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs hedged earlier in the day on the issue, President Obama told ABC News tonight, quote, “I want to make sure that the provision that emerges isn’t restricting women’s insurance choices. There needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we’re not changing the status quo.”
Democrats not only want to pass health reform because they’re interested in the policy change, but also because it is supposed to come with a lot of electoral spoils-leaving us to wonder what the electoral spoils will be for Democrats if they don’t get women or anybody who’s pro-choice to ever vote for them ever again.
Joining us now Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. She is circulating that letter which now has about 40 signatures of House Democrats who say they will oppose the health care bill if it’s used to restrict abortion rights.
Congresswoman DeGette, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO), ENERGY & COMMERCE CMTE.: It’s good to be with you again, Rachel.
MADDOW: In terms of the substance of the Stupak Amendment, how big a setback is this for access to abortion services in this country?
DEGETTE: Well, you said a part of it, but there’s even more-even more. In the public option, nobody in the public option would be able to get an insurance policy that offered abortion coverage. And we need to remember, the public option is not funded with public money. It’s funded with private insurance premiums.
So, let’s say you have a small business owner who goes in to the public option because they can’t get insurance anyplace else, and they want to buy a policy with their own private money, no federal money, that they would be banned from doing that. And as you said, the people in the exchange who get some kind of premium assistance could not use their own private portion of their health care premium to buy abortion coverage.
So, we think that in the public option, definitely, and almost for certain, in the exchange, no insurance companies would offer abortion coverage. This is-you know, Congressman Stupak and others said, “Well, we’re simply codifying the Hyde Amendment.” But the Hyde Amendment says no federal funding for abortion. We reached that compromise this summer in the committee, and that was in the base bill.
So, we already agreed to what the president says, “Let’s keep the
status quo.” This would be the most far-ranging abortion restriction in my
certainly, in my political career.
MADDOW: Congressman Stupak and others who support him are suggesting that women who would like their insurance coverage to include abortion services should buy abortion insurance specifically.
DEGETTE: I was-you know, Rachel, I was so appalled by that. I thought that was the most outrageous thing they said, because what it shows is a fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly happens when a woman needs to have an abortion, because nobody ever gets pregnant thinking they’re going to have to terminate the pregnancy. Either it was an unanticipated and unwanted pregnancy, or it was a wanted pregnancy that went terribly wrong.
So, to say to somebody you have to pay extra money in anticipation of this horrible event I think is just appalling.
MADDOW: I know that you’re currently collecting signatures of house Democrats who will oppose a final version of health reform if it restricts abortion rights. What kind of support are you getting now?
DEGETTE: Well, let me put it this way. That letter-the letter that we’re sending, it says that we will not vote for a conference report that extends abortion restrictions beyond current law. We think that’s fair. That’s the compromise we reached this summer.
I got those 41 signatures in one hour. I put the letter out after we lost the amendment. I had collected those signatures before the final vote on the bill.
So, we’re still continuing to get more signatures this week. And what we want to say to everybody is, look, we’re willing to work, we’re willing to work on language. But we’re not going to accept language that vastly restricts a woman’s legal right to choose.
MADDOW: The president today voicing some support for your position in saying that the goal is to not change the status quo in terms of.
MADDOW: . abortion laws and funding for abortions. Have you had any sort of response from the White House? Are you at all encouraged by those words from the president tonight?
DEGETTE: I just found out about the president’s statement about an hour ago. And I’m enormously encouraged, because the president is really saying what the rest of us think. This is a health care bill. This bill is designed to expand health care to 36 million Americans. And all of us have worked so hard to pass this bill for months and months.
To have it-to have it torpedoed by this extraneous but very dangerous amendment is wrong. And I’m hoping that the president will sit down with us in the next few weeks and really start to hammer out some language that we can all accept. If people don’t think that the language in the base bill was acceptable, we’re willing to talk about them, about language that pretty much keeps the status quo the way that it is.
And so, I was encouraged. We also-the pro-choice caucus sent a letter to the president today with over 80 signatures asking him to meet with us next week when we return, to talk about how we can make this happen.
MADDOW: Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado, always a very person, especially busy today given these latest legislative developments-thanks for taking time.
DEGETTE: That’s right, and with virtually no sleep.
DEGETTE: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: You’re still totally cogent. Congratulations on that.
Thanks for joining us.
DEGETTE: Well, good.
MADDOW: OK. The next hurdle for health reform is, of course, the Senate, where once again, Senator Joe Lieberman has promised a filibuster if there’s a public option in the bill. Is there anything the Democratic leadership in the Senate can do to influence Senator Lieberman? Yes. Yes, there is. That’s coming up.
And there may be a connection between the draconian new anti-abortion restrictions coming out of the House and the secretive religious group known as the Family and our old friends at C Street. Our guest for the interview tonight is Jeff Sharlet.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The man accused of killing Dr. George Tiller today called the “Associated Press” from jail, and he confessed to the murder. He says he killed Dr. Tiller, that he has no regrets, and that when he goes to trial in January, he plans to use a so-called necessity defense, which means he will try to use his case to put abortion rights on trial as a means of arguing that the murder of Dr. Tiller was justified.
Scott Roeder’s confession comes as anti-abortion extremists release a new third edition of what they called their defensive action statement. It’s proclamation of their own belief that it is acceptable and justifiable to kill abortion providers. A previous edition of their defensive action statement was signed by a man named Paul Hill. Paul Hill went on to murder an abortion doctor and a clinic escort. Hill was executed by the state of Florida for his crimes.
The new addition of the intent to murder declaration is signed by, among others, Eric Rudolph, James Kopp and Shelly Shannon, all of whom are in prison for either injuring or killing workers at women’s health care clinics.
MADDOW: The next stop on the slow-moving train that is health reform is, of course, the United States Senate. And if, amid all the attention and news coverage surrounding the passage of health reform in the House, you forgot what sort of resistance it might be meeting in the Senate? Well, here’s Joe Lieberman as a reminder. Surprising no one, Senator Lieberman took time out this weekend to say once again that he will side with Republicans to block a vote on reform in the Senate. Also surprising no one, he said it on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He’s not just saying he’ll vote no. He’s not just saying he’ll vote no, he’s saying he’ll prevent anyone from voting on it at all.
But the bulk of Senator Lieberman’s FOX interview was not actually about his promise to kill health reform. It was about the Fort Hood shootings and the alleged shooter, Army Major Nidal Hasan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: If the reports that we’re receiving of various statements he made, acts he took are valid, he had turned to Islamist extremism. And therefore, if that is true, the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act and, in fact, it was the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11.
What makes that strong inflammatory and, at this point, totally speculative moments about the motives of the alleged Fort Hood shooter at least a little surprising? Is that Senator Lieberman made it exactly six seconds after he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: It’s premature to reach conclusions about what motivated Hasan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You should tell that guy Joe Lieberman about that.
It turns out that the man warning against drawing conclusions about the Fort Hood shootings and at the same time drawing conclusions about the Fort Hood shootings will be leading the Senate’s investigations into the Fort Hood shootings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMAN: I’m intending to begin a congressional investigation of my homeland security committee into what were the motives, what were the motives of Hasan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did you catch that there? My homeland security committee, mine-Senator Lieberman’s own homeland security committee.
Whatever you think about him coming to his conclusions about the shooter’s motives before leading his investigation into the shooter’s motives, recall that Senator Joe Lieberman will lead this admitted-admittedly cart before the horse investigation and get all of the grandstanding, uninformed preening camera time he wants to get out of it because the Democratic Party, which has a majority in the Senate and, therefore, grants chairmanships, wants him to have that homeland security chairmanship, even as he’s promising to kill health reform.
Joining us now is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He is the other independent senator who caucuses with the Democrats. He is a member of the Senate Health Committee.
Senator Sanders, thank you very much for coming on the show tonight.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You objected publicly to letting Senator Lieberman keep his chairmanship after he campaigned last year for Senator McCain, and against President Obama. You said at the time, “Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not ‘change we can believe in.” A year later now, do you feel like, I told you so?
SANDERS: Yes, something like that.
MADDOW: Is this-is the way he has behaved since keeping his chairmanship a surprise? He did promise that this would be a whole new chapter, whole new day moving forward.
SANDERS: No. Frankly, from my perspective, it’s not a surprise. And I think the role that he’s now attempting to play on health care is very, very unfortunate. The American people overwhelmingly want a public option for a variety of reasons. Correctly, they want a choice between a private insurance company and a Medicare-type plan. And they should have that choice.
And maybe even more importantly, if we’re serious about cost containment, if we’re serious about the fact that we have to deal with the United States now spending almost twice as much per person on health care than any other country, you’re going to need to have somebody, some entity competing with the private insurance companies so they don’t continue to raise their rates and raise their rates. That’s what a public option does.
So, it’s absolutely essential that we have, not only a strong public option, but a public option that is available to as many people as we can possibly make.
MADDOW: If Senator Lieberman follows through on his threat and he does filibuster, it’s quite likely that a public option, a bill containing a public option cannot pass the Senate unless it is brought under reconciliation rules. Would you support that?
SANDERS: Absolutely. Look, the trick here is to do the best that we can for the American people. And that is quality, affordable health care for all of our people. And if we can’t do it because we don’t get 60 votes, then there are other ways that we have to proceed. And I would strongly support those other ways.
MADDOW: If it’s now brought under reconciliation and if Senator Lieberman, whether or not he includes-gets other conservative Democrats to go along with him-if they manage to remove a public option from the Senate bill, would you still vote for it?
SANDERS: It would be at this point-you have to look at the whole bill.
SANDERS: There are aspects of affordability in it. There are aspects of cost containment in it. You raised a very important issue that we can’t retreat under a Democratic president and Democratic Congress on a woman’s right to choose.
So, there are a lot of issues out there. But, frankly, I don’t know how you have cost containment if you don’t have a public option. So, I think a public option is absolutely imperative. It would be hard for me to support legislation without that.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, what do you think will happen with that anti-abortion provision on the Senate side?
SANDERS: You know, Rachel, just-I mean, and you capsulized it pretty well with Diane. It is hard to imagine that with a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, we would take a major step backwards in a struggle that women have engaged in for decades. So, it just seems to me inconceivable that that can remain in the bill.
MADDOW: The White House wants a bill to be signed by the end of the year. They’re reiterating that emphatically. Do you think delays work against the prospects for passing reform? Do you think it’s important to do it before the end of the year?
SANDERS: You know, that’s what the pundits all say. To my mind, it’s infinitely more important to get it right. I mean, for example, this bill is going to cost $1 trillion over a 10-year period. Where is that money coming from? Is it going to come from a tax on the health care benefits of middle-class workers or are we going to raise that money in a progressive way?
How many people will have access to a public option? Will it be 5 percent? Will it be 50 percent? How do we make sure that the insurance companies are not going to raise their rates rapidly so that we will be paying far more for health care than we should?
All of these questions remain in the hopper and are going to have to be struggled with. But I think the evidence is pretty clear. The American people want not just any old health care bill, they want something that’s strong, and they want something that’s meaningful for working families and the middle-class. That’s the fight that we’re undertaking now.
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont-thank you very much for joining us tonight, sir. It’s always a pleasure to have you on the show.
SANDERS: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: Some of the members of Congress behind the anti-abortion amendment to the health reform bill in the House share more than just an anti-abortion ideology. They share an address. In the interview tonight, I will talk with writer Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family,” about the biggest restrictions on the right to choose in a generation, and its possible connection to the secretive religious group known as the Family and C Street.
MADDOW: When I heard on Saturday night that the anti-abortion Stupak Amendment was going to pass as part of health reform, I was racking my brain. Stupak, Stupak, why does that name sound so familiar? And then I remembered.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Look, you know, I don’t mean this disrespectful, but, you know, I’ve been on the Hill for 14 years. And, we all know Mark Foley has a different lifestyle than most of us. And, when this-this should have set off all kinds of alarms.
But if you know the person has a little different lifestyle, you know that you warn the pages when they come in that don’t get too friendly with this guy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Michigan’s Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak on my Air America Radio show back in 2006, talking about former Republican Congressman Mark Foley, volunteering to me out of the blue that everyone should have seen coming Mark Foley’s problem with harassing teenage congressional pages since, after all, the dude was afflicted with the G-A-Y gay, and everybody knew it.
Mr. Stupak’s name also rang a bell for me because of C Street. Conservative Democrat Bart Stupak lives at the townhouse on C Street, operated by the secretive religious group the Family.
The anti-abortion Stupak Amendment is technically called the Stupak-Pitts Amendment for its co-sponsor, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Joe Pitts. And it turns out, Mr. Pitts also a core member of C Street’s the Family.
So Stupak and Pitts of Stupak-Pitts are both C Streeters. And as negotiations approached a vote in the House on health reform, Mr. Stupak promised that a coalition of 40 anti-abortion Democrats would vote for the health reform bill if and only if the Stupak-Pitts anti-abortion amendment passed.
In the end, 26 of those Democrats voted for Stupak-Pitts and against the health reform bill that included it anyway. Included in that group of 26 were Democrats like Missouri’s Ike Skelton; reportedly a member of The Family; North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre, reportedly a member of the family; Tennessee’s John Tanner, reportedly a member of The Family; Lincoln Davis, also of Tennessee, also reportedly a member of The Family;
Oklahoma’s Dan Boren, reportedly a member of the Family.
Another Democrat who voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment and against the health reform bill, former NFL quarterback and North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler who also reportedly lives at C Street but who weirdly recently wouldn’t confirm that information to his hometown newspaper.
If two is a coincidence and three is a trend, what’s eight? Because C Street shares the same code of silence as fight club, none of its members can be counted on to be forthright about The Family’s role in trading the promise of votes for a regressive anti-abortion amendment. What is clear is that C Street isn’t at all just for Republican lawmakers.
Joining us now is Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” He’s also a contributor editor to “Harpers Magazine.” Jeff, it’s nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR, “THE FAMILY”: Hi, Rachel. Great to be here.
MADDOW: What are Congressman Stupak and Congressman Pitts’ connections to C Street and The Family? Is one of them more deeply involved than other?
SHARLET: Yes. Well, Congressman Pitts has been involved with The Family since 1976. And in the 1980s, he was instrumental in bringing anti-abortion politics into this kind of elite fundamentalism, and to that point had been focused on economics and foreign affairs.
Bart Stupak, meanwhile, has been living at C Street since - at least since 2002, when he told “The Los Angeles Times,” “We kind of don’t talk about what happens here.”
MADDOW: Are there signs that The Family had anything to do with the Stupak-Pitts amendment? I mean, this is quite a legislative coup that they’ve pulled off.
SHARLET: Well, you have to consider that Congressman Pitts is what The Family calls a core member. This is a little bit like being the board of directors. You can go online and find video of him talking about the objectives of the group is to create a God-led government.
He has worked over the years to prevent, not only abortion, but AIDS education overseas and so on. This has been a lifelong project for him, going back years and years and years. Stupak is a little bit newer to this issue.
And I think what you really have to question here is Pitts, who has been active in this for a long time and was bringing up these amendments, I think. And Stupak and his brother in The Family, as it’s called, found a Democrat to carry the issue for him.
MADDOW: So you think that this legislative work reflects more the skills, connections, background of Congressman Pitts than it does Bart Stupak?
SHARLET: yes. With respect to congressman Stupak, nobody ever called him the brightest bulb on the porch. Everybody likes him. He’s a good guy. Pitts is a guy who has been doing this for a long time. When he was a state legislator, he was head of a national state legislators’ group that was really doing anti-abortion work on the state level before anyone was really paying attention to it.
He is a long-term strategist. And I think we really have to look at that broader connection at how he played this issue.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about some of the other conventional wisdom here, because the sort of conventional explanation for this is that this anti-abortion amendment to health reform resulted mostly from the Catholic bishops pressuring Catholic politicians to support it. But I know that you think that it’s bigger than that. Can you explain why?
SHARLET: Well, I think it’s unfair to Catholics. I think it’s unfair to Evangelicals. First of all, most of the press has focused on had Catholics despite the fact that a number of the congressmen involved in this are not Catholic including congressman Pitts, including Congressman Shuler, who you mentioned.
And frankly, the majority of American Catholics are pro-choice. That’s not true of the majority of American Evangelicals. I think it’s a very comfortable story to tell ourselves this is just traditional Catholic conservatism rather than facing the fact there’s a growing and new Evangelical - conservative Evangelical influence within the Democratic Party.
MADDOW: We have talked a little bit about this in the past. I mean, obviously, because we’ve been talking about a form of conservatism and how this religious movement dovetails in many ways with a lot of conservative agenda items. Do you feel like we’ve overlooked or, generally speaking, it’s been overlooked how conservative Democrats are part of this, too?
SHARLET: Yes, absolutely. I mean, conservative Democrats have made this happen. I mean, look, here we are with a fully Democratic government and Joe Pitts and his colleagues like Chris Smith and so on have just achieved a goal that they could not have achieved during eight years with Bush.
And they’ve done it with Democratic help and they’ve done it with
I think what’s crucial is, you have to look at the traditional Catholic pro-life votes, respect those. But look at the new influence of evangelical Democrats like Heath Shuler, traditional evangelical Democrats like Joe Pitts and you see a growing movement within the Democratic Party that we haven’t faced up to yet.
MADDOW: Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power” and contributing editor to “Harpers Magazine,” thanks very much for joining us again, Jeff. I really appreciate it.
SHARLET: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was marked not only by 1,000 graffiti’d plastic foam giant dominoes being toppled, which was cool, but also by newly revealed, cool, geeky, cloak-and-dagger-y facts about the wall itself. Stay tuned for that.
And Ana Marie Cox here to review the latest fringe and purge in the Republican Party on the way to decision ‘10 - you know, next year’s election.
But first, one more thing about C Street. The most “sleep with a staffer then pay her off” housemate of them all has moved out of C Street. According to “The Las Vegas Sun,” embattled Senator John Ensign apparently left the C Street residence voluntarily a few weeks ago after apologizing to his C Street roommates saying that he didn’t want to draw more attention to C Street during his preliminary Senate ethics investigation.
Which I think means somewhere in some creepy Congress-only section of “Craigslist,” there’s a listing that says, “Roommate wanted. Prime Capitol Hill location. One bedroom, shared bathroom. Untold political influence. Holier-than-thou pious back sliders who need Sen. Tom Coburn to bargain a better cash settlement with your mistress welcome. No pets.”
MADDOW: As the nation tries to figure out exactly how the conservative activists who identify as tea partiers will affect the Republican Party, consider that in Florida the Tea Party is now an official party recognized by the state.
And the Tea Party of Florida says it will run candidates against Florida Republicans. And, yes, the “Urban Dictionary” now says scozzafava is a verb. Ana Marie Cox is here to tell us who scozzafavaing who. That’s next.
But first, the investigation into last week’s shooting into Ft. Hood is still very much ongoing. And at this moment, what we know for certain about the primary suspect, Army Major Nidal Hasan, remains very limited.
The Associated Press reports tonight that he will be charged in military, not civilian court. Hasan was taken off a ventilator Sunday and he’s now awake and able to talk, even though we don’t know if he’s been interviewed.
ABC News reports that U.S. intelligence agencies knew months ago Hasan was, quote, “attempting to make contact with people associated with al-Qaeda.”
But while NBC News has discovered that earlier this year, Major Nidal Hasan did send an E-mail to a radical cleric who used to preach at his mosque and who has advocated violent jihad, federal officials dropped their inquiry into the exchange.
And the FBI says it has no information that Major Hasan was a part of a broader terrorist plot. We will, of course, continue to keep you posted on the actual facts of this inarguably tragic story and we will continue to try to identify contrivances and fear mongering when we are certain we see it as well.
Today is also, of course, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the bureaucratic mistake that meant sort of the end of the Cold War. According to an hour by hour accounting of the day in the German magazine, “Der Spiegel,” on November 9th, 1989, an East German lawmaker publicly read a draft of a new travel law, a new travel law that would have allowed East Germans to travel to the west.
Although the draft hadn’t been fully approved, in a moment of confusion, an Italian reporter asked the East German lawmaker when the new rules would go into effect. The lawmaker mistakenly blurted out immediately and thereby set in motion the mobbing of the check points, the opening of the gates, and, boom, they tore down that wall.
The wall that no longer is turns out to have been a masterpiece of spy-versus-spy engineering. It was topped with round concrete tubes to make it really hard to scramble over. Your grappling hook will do you no good here.
The border zone was a mass of tank traps and soft sand and vehicle-trapping ditches. And parts of the wall were secretly left intentionally weak so that East German tanks could crash through them and knock them down if war erupted between east and west.
To celebrate the fall of the wall today, a thousand giant polystyrene dominos were toppled over a 1.5 kilometer course in Berlin, grappling hooks not included.
And finally, Sky News Australia, the channel owned by Rupert Murdoch and run by his son James Murdoch, just led at the interview of the century with Rupert Murdoch. In it, the Australian media tycoon said he wants people to pay for all his news organization’s online content.
He said that search engines like Google, which index content, quote, “steal stories.” And he said, he intends to stop them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other argument from Google is that you could
choose not to be on their search engine, that you could simply refuse to be
so that when someone does do a search, your Web sites don’t come up. Why haven’t you done that?
RUPERT MURDOCH, OWNER, SKY NEWS: Well, I think we will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: An excellent idea. Then nobody will ever be directed to any of your stories through Google searches. And presumably, like Google, Murdoch will also become a verb - to Murdoch, to magically attract an audience to one’s media product by ensuring that no one knows it’s there.
MADDOW: Two things to tell you. First, earlier on the show this
hour, Jeff Sharlet inadvertently said that Joe Pitts is a Democrat. He’s a
Republican. Sorry about that. And Ana Marie Cox is our next guest. Stand
MADDOW: We try to make the most of our graphics. They’re very expensive to make, so we just like to update them with a Sharpie. I love that. That’s just one way to remember that the 2010 midterm elections are right around the corner. Just 357 days until Election Day. Yes!
Another way to remember that the 2010 elections are coming right up is to watch the steel-caged death match going on inside the Republican Party in advance of those elections.
And that’s where the ugliness from last week’s conservative face plant in New York’s 23rd congressional district is spreading like some wicked political kudzu. In New York 23, the GOP picked a moderate Republican to run. The local Republican Party picked a moderate Republican.
But national conservatives attacked that decision and national groups like the Club for Growth and conservative celebrities like Sarah Palin, who is from Alaska, went on the offensive.
After weeks of attack, the moderate, locally-backed Republican candidate withdrew, but the division had taken its toll. And for the first time since 1872, a Democrat won in New York’s 23rd district.
Fresh off of that stellar work, the Club for Growth has now endorsed conservative Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race. Mr. Rubio is running against Gov. Charlie Crist who is well-liked by home state Republicans but not apparently by national conservatives.
Sound familiar? If the conservative challenger to Mr. Crist, Mr.
Rubio, loses in the Republican primary, he may now have another option. Running with the tea partiers because the Tea Party is now an official party registered in Florida.
Brawling Republicans can be found elsewhere, too. In New Hampshire, where the race is already on to replace longtime Senator Judd Gregg, he and other national Republicans recruited former State Attorney General Kelly Ayotte for the job.
But she’s being challenged now by a conservative activist named Ovid Lamontagne. And deep divisions in the Republican Party are once more being exposed. Small animals and Democrats would be well advised to stand clear while the Republican Party continues to knock itself out.
Joining us now is Ana Marie Cox national correspondent and host of “Inside Story” for Air America Radio. Ana Marie, thanks for joining us.
ANA MARIE COX, HOST, “INSIDE STORY”: It’s good to be back, Rachel.
MADDOW: It doesn’t seem like the Republicans’ fiasco in that New York congressional race has done anything to dissuade conservatives from trying that battle plan in other places? Why do you think that is?
COX: Well, it depends on who you talk to. I do talk to - I’ve tried to talk to several people today, actually, Republicans, who know the lesson from the Republican loss in New York. Oh, sorry. The conservative loss in New York 23 is not perhaps to have a national party come in or have national figures come in and choose your candidate.
However, they do see that the energy is with the conservatives. But it’s always best to have that energy be local. That’s what, I think, the lesson that they’re trying to - I’m, of course, encouraging the national party to try to replicate their success in New York 23. I hope they do that. I know that - hey, Sarah, if you want to call Marco Rubio, go for it.
MADDOW: Oh, well, in Florida -
COX: They’re waiting by the phone.
MADDOW: Charlie Crist has been a popular governor. He’s still, technically, favored to win the Senate seat. But they think - I think because they’ve got more time than they did in the Hoffman race, in part, they really feel like Rubio is the guy they’re going to get behind. Are they aware that that could cost them that seat?
COX: Not only are they aware of it, I think that the Rubio people are aware of it. The Rubio campaign has some people from the McCain on it. I’m not sure if they’re excited to have a Sarah Palin endorsement over there. I’m not sure if they’re excited to have national people come in.
I think right now, what they’re saying to me, and these are people on both sides, is that the Crist race is an outsider versus insider race. That’s what’s really dragging on Crist right now.
To the extent he has been very popular up until now, he’s had a real slide - he’s taken a real beating up in the press over some of his statements including flip-flopping on the stimulus.
And I think that if they can paint him as an establishment figure, if they paint Crist as an establishment figure, as the Washington figure, that’s where Rubio comes in. He comes in as a non-establishment figure.
What you have a problem in and where that message gets muddied is when you have national figures like Sarah Palin, like Dick Armey, like Tim Pawlenty come in and choose the Rubio-style candidate. I don’t think that’s what they want in that race, the Republicans. I mean, the Republicans who are backing Rubio do not want that kind of help from the national party.
MADDOW: “Help.” “Help.” Well, locally, in Florida, the Tea Party is now an official political party. And I realize that pretty much every family in Florida gets to have its own official political party where there are a lot of minor parties there. But does that signify something about local initiatives like this being there to stay?
COX: Perhaps. I don’t know. Although, I’m curious - is it the “Tea Party” party or is that the Tea Party?
MADDOW: Tea Party, like when people say the HIV virus or jazz music.
COX: Yes, exactly. I’m sorry about that. I can tell you that the Rubio people had no idea that the party existed until I called them about it today. So I don’t see it as a real possibility for him in the future. But I say the more parties, the better.
I also want to encourage you to use - to quit using the word “teabag,” Rachel. I think that we just need to make a stand on that. It is crude. It’s rude. It does not do any favors to anyone. I think now we need to follow the lead of the “Urban Dictionary.” Because you know, “scozzafava” is Italian for teabagging.
MADDOW: Oh, that’s very good. I’m sure Italy will be very happy to hear that.
COX: So will Dede Scozzafava, I’m sure.
MADDOW: Yes. Let me ask you about something on a different subject, Ana Marie. Within the last hour, Sen. Claire McCaskill, who I pointed out at the top of the show, did say she didn’t think that the Pitts-Stupak anti-abortion amendment was that big a deal, that it wasn’t enough to kill the whole bill.
She has since tweeted, “Oppose Stupak. Don’t think we should change current law, which is no public money for abortions, but amendment goes too far limiting private funds, too.” Any insight into this?
COX: Well, I think it’s actually pretty significant. Sen. McCaskill very jealously guards her blue dog status, I mean, and really takes her cue from her constituents when she takes a stand on social issues.
She has gone to the left of them before, in fact, in endorsing Obama right away. She’s gone to the left of her constituents. But she really makes those choices carefully and I think her coming out against the Stupak amendment and saying that she’s going to fight any version in the Senate shows how badly conservative Democrats in the House miscalculated what this amendment did.
I think it shows how radical the Stupak amendment is, radical in the sense that it goes so much farther than the current law. It really is an imposition of government into people’s lives that I would hope that libertarians and conservative Democrats could recognize as a real tragedy.
MADDOW: I think it also shows that when she initially did say - I mean, we had her on tape saying this is really no big deal. It’s not enough to kill the bill. She may have been underestimating the level of opposition to this.
COX: I think that’s true. I think the more people find out about this bill and the more women that find out about this bill, the more people who care about women find out about this amendment, I think the more opposition it will gain.
MADDOW: Maybe she’ll come on the show and let me interview her about it. Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent and host of “Inside Story” for Air America Radio, it’s great to see you. Thanks for coming back.
COX: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith asks Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island what it will take to get a good health care reform bill through the Senate.
And next on this show, where do down-on-their-luck billionaires go to make some extra money? We have an investigation. Kent Jones joins us next.
MADDOW: We turn now to our luxury online acquisition correspondent, Mr. Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. We’ve all bought and sold stuff on eBay.
JONES: But I’m guessing it was never a yacht.
JONES: Until now. Check it out.
(voice-over): Here’s a problem we’ve all dealt with. Where’s the best place to sell your Lamborghini? Yard sales take up the whole day and pawnshops sometimes lack the connoisseur’s touch.
Luckily, now, you can try “BillionaireXchange,” an auction Web site for the Bush tax cut crowd who, since the recession, now have popped economic bubble all over their faces.
Said the owner, quote, “We’re seeing a lot of people who need to actually trade out or trade down from some of their luxury items and facilitate the transactions somewhere discreetly and privately so that they don’t have to deal with the shame and/or embarrassment of downgrade.”
Quelle horreur! Anything but the embarrassment of downgrade. So now, it’s possible to keep up with the Joneses by buying Joneses’ jet, like this 2001 Gulfstream 5, now for the everything-must-go low price of $40.4 million. Very clean, flies like new.
Want some bargain celebrity bling? How about A-Rod’s Miami mansion for $10 million? Madonna not included. And when you need to buy a gift for someone who used to have everything, this exquisite 50.66 carat diamond is a steal at $21.7 million. Seriously, it might be stolen. Get that checked.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: You hang out in weird parts of the Internet.
JONES: It’s a little odd, yes. A little upscale for me, but -
MADDOW: Fair enough. We need you to do it. Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Mr. Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a good one.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>
Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC’s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>