The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/18/10

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Mike Glander, Joan Vennochi, Neil Watkins

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Appreciate that.

And thank you at home for being with us tonight.

The situation in Haiti remains the most urgent story in the world.  The rescue and relief mission continues tonight, as does the logistical and infrastructure nightmare slowing the flow of supplies to people who need them.

It‘s also the eve of the special election in my beloved Massachusetts to fill the seat held for 47 years by Ted Kennedy.

We‘ll be talking about both of those stories tonight, but we will begin with the race against time to rescue survivors of last week‘s devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Forty-eight hours is considered the critical window for search and rescue operations for pulling people—pulling out people who have been trapped under the rubble.  After that 48-hour window, the likelihood of pulling out survivors, of course, diminishes hour by hour.

Well, we are now 148 hours since that massive earthquake struck Haiti, and the official rescue effort is still under way.  Late last night, rescue workers were able to reach two people who had been trapped for six days beneath a collapsed supermarket in Port-au-Prince.

In another part of town, search and rescue teams from California heard the cries of a woman trapped in the rubble of a collapsed bank.  They managed to pull her out alive as well.

At this hour, at least 71 people have been pulled out alive from crushed buildings, buildings that collapsed during the earthquake.  Many of those 71 have been pulled out in the last few days well outside that critical 48-hour window.

Despite the remarkable rescues still happening, NBC News has learned tonight that four FEMA search and rescue teams that were ready to deploy to Haiti have been told that they are not going after all—two teams from California, one from Texas, and one from Ohio.  The reason these teams have been told to stand down is not because officials think that rescues aren‘t possible anymore.  Rather, it is a problem of logistics.

If you have been watching the news coverage out of Haiti over the past week, there‘s been one thing that‘s remained quite consistent every day of this crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  The immediate problem is getting aid into this country.  There is such a bottleneck at the airport the FAA has had to stop any more U.S. planes from entering the country.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  You know, there‘s a bottleneck in the skies over Port-au-Prince trying to get planes to land.  There‘s a lot of planes trying to land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  One of the biggest problems is the bottleneck of aid here at the airport.  They can get some supplies in, the challenge is then getting it out to the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Once on the ground, there‘s a bottleneck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER:  Millions of Haitians remain without food, water, and medical care.  Some aid workers there blame the bottleneck at the U.S.-controlled airport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ANCHOR:  We keep hearing about this bottleneck and getting the supplies from the airport to the people.


MADDOW:  We are now in day seven of this ongoing catastrophe in Haiti and that persistent bottleneck that we have been talking about ever since the initial start of the relief effort, the challenge of getting supplies intended for Haitian survivors actually to them, that problem remains.

Today, U.S. officials running Haiti‘s airport have prioritized which flights get to land there.  First priority goes to shipments of water.  Then, the cargo involved distributing equipment.  Then, flights with food supplies.  And finally, flights with medical equipment and medical personnel.

While the U.S. government has more than 260 medical personnel on the ground in Haiti right now, it‘s actually the Israeli government that managed to set up a field hospital, fully operational field hospital, in Port-au-Prince.  That hospital has performed more than 25 operations since Saturday night.  They‘ve provided care for more than 200 earthquake-surviving patients.

In terms of American medical resources on the ground, it‘s been a challenge.  The U.S. military says tonight that the Air Force is moving in what they call a mobile aeromedical staging facility.  It‘s basically a stationary mobile hospital that has the capability of a small or medium-sized hospital.

The plan is to set that up near the airport and to treat patients there who will eventually be air-lifted to the U.S. naval ship Comfort.  Comfort, of course, is a floating Navy hospital that is set to arrive in the region of Haiti on Wednesday.  The reality of the situation is that American medical assets are still on their way to Haiti on this day seven, at a time when there is a desperate need for care on the ground right now.

This lack of medical manpower on the ground has led even to TV medical correspondents being drafted to provide direct assistance to people who need it.  NBC News chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman was able to provide some direct medical attention to earthquake victims yesterday.

Tonight, she reports about the extent of the injuries on the ground and the overwhelming number of victims who will soon be amputees.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She has a very bad infection.  I know.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN, NBC NEWS CHIEF MEDICAL EDITOR (voice-over):  For the mother of this 5-year-old girl, the decision is agonizing and complicated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She would prefer for her daughter to die.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Does she have any other family here?  Come here. 

Hold her hand.  Hold her hand.

SNYDERMAN:  In Haiti, the prospect of a decent life as an amputee is grim.  But grim or not, just down the hall, surgical teams are amputating the limbs of up to 70 people a day.  There is no end in sight.


MADDOW:  Joining us now from Port-au-Prince in Haiti, is NBC‘s Dr.

Nancy Snyderman.

Dr. Snyderman, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  Appreciate your time.

SNYDERMAN:  Hi, Rachel.  Good evening.  You bet.

MADDOW:  You‘ve been right in the middle of the medical emergency down there.  What can you tell us tonight broadly about the most urgent medical needs on the ground right now and the assets to try to meet those needs?

SNYDERMAN:  I think most of us have been taken aback.  All of the surgeons I‘ve spoken to since I‘ve been here, thinking that we would have seen the window for our need sort of come and gone that would have happened in the first 72 hours.  In fact, today, I think we all felt that, in fact, things are getting worse.  The people who died, have died, the people who have had minimal wounds, have walked away.

But what everyone is seeing now are the crush injuries, the broken bones, the open wounds.  And because there are no antibiotics, those limbs are now infected and when gangrene sets in, and limbs are so infected that they are useless, you have a choice as a surgeon to amputate an arm or leg or save a life and that‘s the grim reality.

There is an urgent call right now for orthopedic surgeons and for nurses, obviously, for medical supplies.  But, boy, what they need right now are hands onboard, people who know how to operate.

MADDOW:  Have you been promised that antibiotics will be arriving?  Those are among the assets that we keep hearing are being directed to Haiti.  Some of those assets we know aren‘t getting there because of this now legendary bottleneck in getting things to where they need to be.  But have you at least been promised that antibiotics are on their way?

SNYDERMAN:  The promises have been big, Rachel.  And until last night, we were sleeping on the tarmac of the airport.  We saw wide-bodied aircraft coming in every 15 minutes and lots and lots of supplies coming off.  That‘s the good news.

The bad news is: there‘s just no infrastructure.  On a good day, the Haitian government was rather, you know, incompetent.  Now, it‘s fractured.

There are roads that don‘t work.  There are Haitian police who, frankly, are of very little help.  There are aid workers who are cut off.  Phone service is poor.  BlackBerry service is poor.

So, things are trickling into places, but usually by word of mouth.  It‘s going to be days I think before we start to see the centralized push globally and the things that are being delivered here really getting to the places that need it.

The Israelis, as you mentioned, are the exception to the rule.  We watched as their 747 landed at the airport and they unloaded MASH units complete with everything—ORs with teams, equipment, just as you would expect the Israelis to do.  They came here complete, ready, fortified, and able to work.

MADDOW:  And Americans right now would love to hear that we were also matching that—in terms of what we were able to provide and we‘ve heard that the naval ship Comfort should be there by Wednesday.  We‘ve heard that they‘re able to do offshore work at the Carl Vinson.

We‘ve heard that there are hundreds of American medical staff there, but what you‘re saying is that the American assets haven‘t been organized in such a way that they could make an immediate impact?

SYNDERMAN:  The organization is terribly different.  I mean, the Israelis came in a more concentrated group, not as big as the U.S. forces, and really came prepared to have operating rooms that could be set up overnight and they could start doing surgery.  I must tell you that the Armed Forces we‘ve seen have done a yeoman‘s job.  They have hit the ground running.

But it‘s a small force relatively to be peacekeepers, deliver water, humanitarian aid, set up operating rooms, supply ORs surgeons and nurses.  It‘s a very different kind of structure.

Now, the good news is, I have met physicians and nurses from probably 30 different countries over the last 24 hours.  But they are making it here on their own.

They are arriving in Miami.  They‘re hitching rides.  They‘re landing. 

They‘re not sure where to go.

They‘re arriving on the front doors of clinics and saying, “Can I help?”  And the minute they ask that question, they are put to work with very little rest.

And that I think is the critical problem right now.  It‘s a massive effort, but it‘s not coordinated.  People meaning well, doing well, but no centralized command here to really make sure that all the entities are communicating.

MADDOW:  Nancy, let me put your medical expertise to work with one other issue that is difficult to talk about but is important—and it‘s the issue of the number of corpses in the streets and in public areas.  We‘ve heard a lot about the dead bodies in the streets.  We‘ve heard, in some cases, of them being burned, many places of them being buried in mass graves or people looking for places to bury them.

What are the medical implications of live people and injured people alongside corpses?  I know there‘s been a lot of misinformation about this.

SNYDERMAN:  So, you know, this is going to be more graphic than I‘m sure some people want to hear, but I‘ll lay it out for you.  A body in this heat has about 72 hours before it starts to bloat and decompose.

For the bodies that are trapped in the rubble, for those people who are able to get out, it‘s one story.  For those who are dead—there are rats in this city and they are eating the corpses.  Now, as gruesome as that is, it benefits the health issues here because, one, it gets rid of the rotting flesh and the other good thing is, there hasn‘t been any rain here.

The other thing is that, right now, there is a water shortage.  So you don‘t have the contamination of rotting bodies, a water source, and then fecal contamination.  That‘s what we‘ve seen in other refugee camps when I‘ve covered other crises.

And as cruel as it seems to have mass graves and to burn bodies, that‘s a very important public health step forward because you have to separate the live from the dead.  It‘s public health 101.

And what makes it really tough in Haiti, Rachel, is that a lot of people don‘t have formal identification.  They don‘t have birth records.  There are no ways to track people down.

So, for a lot of people, they will never really know what happened to a family member.  But for right now, no cholera, no other outbreaks of disease.  And I think it‘s for all those reasons I mentioned that right now disease is being held at bay.

MADDOW:  It is a very, very, very difficult subject to talk about but also of critical importance and the most sober possible reminder of the scale of this disaster.

NBC News chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman—we are lucky to have you with us.  Thank you for joining us.  I appreciate it.

SNYDERMAN:  Thanks, Rachel.  Good evening.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Nancy Snyderman joining us from Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

The airport at Port-au-Prince has struggled to accommodate planes carrying relief supplies.  If you want to transport aid by sea instead, well, there‘s a problem there, too.  Where do you dock?  Where do you unload?  The port was virtually destroyed in last Tuesday‘s earthquake.

There is a race against time to get what Haiti needs into Haiti.  It includes some pretty amazing measures being taken to bring that seaport back to life.  We‘ve got some first-hand information about that as our next story.

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  There‘s more to come in our coverage of the ongoing catastrophe in Haiti.  But there‘s also some electoral politics to cover tonight.  There‘s an election tomorrow from the idea that Republicans don‘t win statewide elections in Massachusetts to the well-worn story line that tomorrow‘s special election in the U.S.—for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts is some sort of referendum on health reform.  There is some very wobbly common wisdom going around about tomorrow‘s election.  We‘ll be looking at Coakley versus Brown later on this hour.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  It took nearly six days, but tonight, the only airport in Port-au-Prince is finally able to operate around the clock, accommodating up to 100 flights a day.  This despite the fact that the control tower and the terminal were so badly damaged in Tuesday‘s earthquake that U.S. Air Force Special Operations troops are still running air traffic control from a folding table in the dirt by the runway using radios.

And because there‘s only one runway and only room for about six parked large planes, vital aid is being delayed.

Case in point: That inflatable hospital we talked about last week—like this one, Doctors Without Borders tried to deliver an inflatable hospital like this this weekend.  While one flight carrying supplies and part of the hospital was allowed to land, a plane with the other part of the inflatable hospital that was meant to land in Port-au-Prince on Saturday morning, instead got diverted to the Dominican Republic, which forced Doctors Without Borders to drive half of their inflatable hospital on the somewhat treacherous land route across the island from the Dominican Republic into Haiti where it finally arrived this morning, 48 critical hours late.

And it is not just the insufficient airport that‘s causing delays.  The seaport is still closed tonight.  The earthquake not only destroyed the main dock, it submerged the key and toppled cranes.  It may also have dumped debris into the harbor.  And what‘s important about that is that it would leave aid ships at risk of running aground if they tried to use that port.

Today, the USNS Grasp, a Navy salvage ship, arrived in Port-au-Prince.  Its divers immediately started surveying the shipping routes, preparing to remove any dangerous debris.  The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oak excuse me—the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oak—excuse me—is also on the scene, leaving the port recovery efforts with—leading the port recovery efforts with cranes and other equipment to restore operations.

The military says it hopes to have the port actually open within the next two to three days.

I‘m joined by phone from Haiti with the commanding officer of the U.S.

Coast Guard Cutter Oak, Commander Mike Glander.

Commander, thank you very much for your time.  Really appreciate it, sir.


Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW:  From what you are seeing at the port so far, what do you think might be a realistic time frame for reopening operations there?

GLANDER:  Well, of course, it‘s difficult to make a very accurate guess.  I can tell you that we spent most of the day today at the—at the one remaining there in Port-au-Prince terminal that did not fall into the water and we spent time with the Navy salvage and dive teams.  They dove under the pier to assess the structural integrity of that pier.

We‘re encouraged that based on some preliminary investigations of that, the Haitian government is going to allow the very slow and careful off load of a Catholic Services relief barge which is going to be distributed to the World Food Program (AUDIO GAP).

MADDOW:  We just dropped.

GLANDER:  . tomorrow morning.

MADDOW:  We just dropped off—we just dropped the line there for a second, but I believe what you said was one relief barge is going to be able to offload its cargo tomorrow morning?

GLANDER:  Yes.  The plan is to begin offloading that barge very slowly.  The concern here would be that any premature offloading to the remaining (AUDIO GAP) actually cause further damage or destroy it before barge have a change to come in and strengthen and make it very useful.

MADDOW:  In terms of the Coast Guard personnel and the strategy that‘s involved in trying to bring this seaport back into working order, what are the specific skills that you‘re bringing to bear on this problem?  Obviously, you‘ve got divers.  But what else—what other sorts of personnel and specific skills are you bringing to bear on this?

GLANDER:  Well, you‘re right.  It‘s such a huge and complex effort.  Ports and maritime transportation systems are the Coast Guard‘s expertise, and today, we received special maritime transportation system recovery unit, this is a team of Coast Guard officers.  (AUDIO BREAK) this issue until they get it solved, both the physical issues pertaining to the pier, its structures, as well as the people issues, getting stakeholders together and making sure that everybody in the entire transportation chain is getting back to work and getting this port open.

We recognize how critical it is to open this relief pipeline and the maritime transportation system is absolutely vital to that.

MADDOW:  Are there physical dangers to your crew and the other Coast Guard personnel who are doing this?  It seems like in a sort of unknown situation where you don‘t—you are documenting the damage.  You don‘t know what damage is there before you arrive.  How dangerous is this mission?

GLANDER:  Well, many Coast Guard missions are.  Today, we offloaded about 60,000 bottles of bottled water donated by Pepsi.  That‘s a heavy lift operation.  That‘s always (AUDIO GAP).  We sent medical personnel ashore to help with some direct medical aid that‘s being formed at the Haitian Coast Guard (INAUDIBLE).

So, we‘re trying to take as many precautions as we can to keep our people safe while doing as much as we can to aid the effort.

MADDOW:  Commander Mike Glander, commander officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oak, which is leading port recovery operations in Port-au-Prince—good luck with this critical mission.  We‘re all counting on you.  And thank you for your service, sir.  Thank you for your time.

GLANDER:  Thank you, Rachel.  Good night.

MADDOW:  Appreciate it—Commander Mike Glander of the United States Coast Guard.

Further coverage of the situation in Haiti is coming up this hour.  But next, a quick detour.  Massachusetts special election tomorrow to fill the seat that Ted Kennedy held in the United States Senate for 47 years.  That‘s our subject matter when we return.  We‘ll be right back.



STATE SENATOR SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  Quite frankly, Barack‘s mom had him when, what, she was what, 18 years old?


BROWN:  I don‘t know about that.


MADDOW:  Open up the anti-Barack Obama conspiracy theory vault and you never know what you‘ll find.  That guy, for example, seems to be advancing a far less popular cousin of “birtherism.”  It‘s not the crackpot theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or wherever.

It‘s apparently a new crackpot theory that wherever Barack Obama was born, it was to an unwed mother.  Totally untrue, of course.  It says nothing about Barack Obama but it does say a lot about the people who would be so extreme and weird as to say that stuff about Barack Obama.

Now, that clip you just heard was from 2008.  Today, the blog Think Progress caught up with that 2008 “Obama‘s mom wasn‘t married” conspiracy theorist and asked him what he meant by that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A video has emerged that in 2008 of you saying that the president was born out of wedlock, that he‘s a bastard.  Do you have any comment on that?

BROWN:  That‘s not an accurate portrayal.  That‘s really a misrepresentation.


MADDOW:  It‘s not accurate.  A misrepresentation.  Roll the tape.


BROWN:  Barack‘s mom had him when, what, she was 18 years old?


BROWN:  I don‘t know about that.


MADDOW:  So, the woman on the left says Obama‘s mother was married. 

The guy on the right scoffs and says, “I don‘t know about that.”

I‘m not sure there‘s any misrepresentation here.  Ask again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You said that his mother wasn‘t married when he was born.  You‘re not apologizing for that video?

BROWN:  Come on.  Excuse me.  No.  I want to answer this question.  I was asked whether the president‘s parents were married and I said I didn‘t know.  That was the extent of the question.


MADDOW:  Wait, wait, wait, wait.  You were asked whether his parents were married?  Because it didn‘t sound like that.  It sounded like you were told that they were married by someone who was aware of the on-the-record facts that that was true and then you contradicted her.

No need to just take my word for it.  Let‘s roll the tape again and see who‘s right.


BROWN:  Barack‘s mom had him when, what, she was 18 years old?


BROWN:  I don‘t know about that.


MADDOW:  Tada!  And now, that man has a real chance at taking over the late Ted Kennedy‘s United States Senate seat.  Massachusetts meets Scott Brown.  He could be taking his claim that President Obama was secretly born to an unwed mother all the way to Washington, D.C., in your name, as your senator.

Mr. Brown is now a state senator.  He‘s the Republican candidate in tomorrow‘s special election to fill that Senate seat that was held by Ted Kennedy for 47 years.  Mr. Brown is running against Massachusetts Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley.

How did the “Obama‘s mom secretly wasn‘t married” guy come to be a viable candidate for Ted Kennedy‘s Senate seat?  Well, back in November, Martha Coakley, the Democrat, was ahead by about 31 points in a Suffolk University Poll.

At the beginning of this month, a Rasmussen Poll put Coakley‘s lead at nine points.

By January 7th, Public Policy Polling was putting Scott Brown, the “Obama‘s mom secretly wasn‘t married” guy ahead by one point.

And as of this weekend, a “Daily Kos”/Research 2000 Poll had the race tied, while a “Politico”/Insider Advantage Poll had Brown leading by nine.  And that is officially a trend in State Senator Scott Brown‘s favor.

Many of the conservative activists and donors are flooding into Massachusetts from out of state, look at that trend and see this race as a referendum on President Obama, a referendum that President Obama is losing.

Many Democrats, on the other hand, look at that trend and see the race less as a national referendum and more reflective of how Martha Coakley has pulled a bit of Creigh Deeds.  Her campaigning has included gaffes like calling famed former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling a Yankees fan, and misspelling the word Massachusetts in a campaign ad.

Despite the spin and beltway breathlessness over this race, consider that there is still a real election to be fought here.  The polls are mixed.

Get out the vote efforts likely mean everything.  It is impossible to predict turnout in a special election like this one.  It could be close enough that the weather could swing the election, or even the fact that voters had less time than usual to request absentee ballots because municipal offices were closed today for the Martin Luther King holiday.

The Democratic Party definitely has better machinery in Massachusetts, so maybe that will help with get out the vote efforts.  That said, this is the state that elected Mitt Romney who succeeded Bill Weld.  The current Democratic governor of the Bay State took office after 16 years of Republican governors.

I understand all the election withdrawal hyperventilation over the prospects of an Obama conspiracy theorist red state Republican in blue Massachusetts, right?  But there‘s still an election to be fought for here, and it‘s probably one that‘s going to depend on very old school things, like phone banks and door-knocking and driving people to the polls.

Joining us now is Joan Vennochi, columnist for the “Boston Globe.”

Ms. Vennochi, thanks very much for coming on the show tonight.  It‘s nice to have you here.

JOAN VENNOCHI, BOSTON GLOBE:  Nice to have you here.

MADDOW:  Tell me what you‘re expecting in terms of the get out the vote efforts and the overall turnout.

VENNOCHI:  Well, the Democrats are going to do everything they can to pull out their vote in and that hope lies basically their hope for victory tomorrow.  If there is such a hope right now. 

MADDOW:  You say if there is such a hope.  Part of the reason this has so much attention on it nationwide is not only the implications for what happens if Scott Brown gets to the Senate but because only about 12 percent of registered voters in Massachusetts are Republicans. 

How good is the Republican Party organization?  Do they have the infrastructure on the ground for a good get-out-the-vote operation tomorrow? 

VENNOCHI:  Well, they don‘t have the infrastructure.  But the other part of the Massachusetts election picture is that a little bit over 50 percent of the registered voters are un-enrolled or independent voters, and when they get angry, when they get mad, they tend to vote Republican and that‘s what Brown‘s counting on tomorrow. 

MADDOW:  The other way that this has been described in the national media, and I‘ve been paying attention a lot to the home state media.  I live in Western Mass, and to the national media and covering this, and I feel like the more national the source the more likely it is that they describe this race as all about health care. 

It seems to be a more complex picture in terms of the Massachusetts media and the way it‘s being talked about in state.  That‘s my impression.  Do you share that? 

VENNOCHI:  Yes, I think it is more complicated than that.  Yes, the polls show that people here in Massachusetts are not happy with the national health care legislation that Washington is grappling with but President Obama is still really popular in Massachusetts. 

We‘ve had a year of—our governor isn‘t very popular right now for one thing, Deval Patrick‘s favorability rating is about 39 percent, and we‘ve had a year of some shall we say little bit of corruption on Beacon Hill from the ex-speaker of the House and various state senators, and people have kind of focused on that and I think they‘re channeling a lot of anger over what‘s gone on here locally and Scott Brown has successfully harnessed some of that anger. 

MADDOW:  It‘s interesting to think about the way this does connect to national political trends and feelings, I guess.  I mean to have Martha Coakley bring in Barack Obama so dramatically in terms of his rally last night at Northeastern and then to have Scott Brown campaigning with a ton of Mitt Romney staff but no visible evidence of Mitt Romney or really of any other national Republican figures other than a sort of vague association with the tea party movement and a visit from Rudy Giuliani. 

Is he running as an—I guess as an outsider, somebody with no links to the establishment? 

VENNOCHI:  Right.  I mean that‘s part of—he‘s run a very smart campaign in that—from that perspective.  He says it‘s man against machine.  He‘s running against the Democratic machine. 

Well, the Democratic machine is really the elected officials that the voters of Massachusetts have been returning to office year after year.  Suddenly they‘re, you know, waking up from their long sleep and realized that all of their elected officials are Democrats, well, they‘re the ones that sent them there. 

But, you know, the hard part for Martha Coakley is her only hope, really—I‘m going to say her only hope—her, she—President Obama, President Clinton, ex-president Clinton still real popular here in Massachusetts.  So she calls in the troops.  They come. 

She is surrounded by the rest of the Democratic establishment, John Kerry, et cetera.  That‘s great, except Scott Brown looks at that and says, hey, that‘s the machine I‘m running against.  So it‘s a little bit damned if you do, damned if you don‘t for her right now. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the Scott Brown‘s success and what it says about the Republican Party and its prospects for maybe making inroads into the northeast again where it seems like they‘ve almost been kicked out over the last few years in politics, I think about Massachusetts Republicans and I think about Mitt Romney running against Ted Kennedy, saying he‘d be more pro-choice than Kennedy, more pro-gay than Kennedy would have been. 

Now Scott Brown is running for that seat with the endorsement of antiabortion groups, campaigning explicitly on being in favor of waterboarding.  Even though he voted for health reform in the state, he says I‘ll vote against it for the country. 

It sounds to me more like a Republican from the south or the Midwest than a traditional Massachusetts Republican. 

VENNOCHI:  Well, just like that first clip that you, you know, showed, he basically is kind of denying his more conservative leanings and has basically tried to sell himself as a much more moderate candidate. 

And that sounds a lot like Mitt Romney when he ran for governor in 2002 here.  And a lot of the Romney people are behind the Brown campaign.  And it‘s kind of a reprise of what they did then and Romney successfully beat a female candidate, Shannon O‘Brien, who was the Democratic nominee. 

And they‘re using a lot of the same techniques and tactics.  And it has been a smart campaign.  Brown, you know, painted the picture of who Martha Coakley is.  And you know in politics that‘s death. 

If you don‘t paint the picture first and your opponent does, you know, you‘ve got a lot to make up and she did make some mistakes and she just—

I mean, she—you know, this was a guy that nobody knew much about and she

I think she was complacent to some degree. 

MADDOW:  That gives her a real chance to define him had she taken it and she didn‘t. 

Joan Vennochi, columnist for “The Boston Globe,” it‘s great to have your insight on this race tomorrow.  Thanks so much for joining us. 

VENNOCHI:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  So at what point could high powered rifle scopes and references to bible verses possibly intersect?  A jaw-dropping, do unto others story coming up next, plus more on the situation in Haiti in just a moment.  Please do stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Still ahead, two days after the earthquake in Haiti the International Monetary Fund announced $100 million in new loans for Haiti.  First thought?  Awesome.  Second thought?  Wait a minute.  Loans?  They have to pay it back?  With interest? 

Later on this day, this Martin Luther King Day, we‘ll be talking about Dr. King‘s legacy and his FBI files. 

But first, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai was swearing in his Cabinet this morning, insurgents staged the biggest assault on the capital city of Kabul since October.  An Iranian press TV crew was right there right before an explosion went off. 

The press TV correspondent who you saw at the beginning of that clip was injured in that blast and was taken to the hospital. 

The reason the camera was already rolling when that explosion went off is because that bomb went off midway through this attack.  A suicide bomber first blew himself up outside the Central Bank.  The Central Bank is on the same traffic circle as Hamid Karzai‘s presidential palace. 

So this was, in effect, the equivalent of a suicide bomber hitting Lafayette Park right across the street from the White House or even the U.S. Treasury building right next door. 

After the initial suicide bombing, gunmen stormed into and took up positions in nearby buildings.  Then in the middle of that fight, another suicide bombing which you just saw.  The driver was in a vehicle that was marked as an ambulance.  And all the battles raged in the center of downtown Kabul for five hours. 

The death toll was not as high as many thought it would be given the perceived scale of the attack.  In the end, seven militants were dead and five others as well. 

Dexter Filkins of the “New York Times” witnessed the battle first hand.  He wrote afterward that the attack had a profound psychological effect on the capital emptying the streets of the capital city and terrifying its residents. 

NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel told us today that the attack may have been timed specifically to embarrass and undermine the Afghan government just before the big International Donors Conference for Afghanistan which starts in just 10 days in London. 

And ABC News reports that some rifle scopes issued to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and used in training Iraqi and Afghan troops, these rifle scopes are imprinted with bible verses. 

No, I‘m not kidding.  Here is one example.  A scope being used by an Iraqi police officer which has “JN 8:12” engraved on the site, a reference to “John, Chapter 8, Verse 12,” where Jesus is quoted as saying, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” 

The same company also makes rifle scopes that have “2 Cor 4:6” printed on them which references “Second Corinthians Chapter 4, Verse 6,” “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 

You see how both verses are about light?  In the rifle sights?  Light. 

Very clever, right? 

And fantastically dangerous to the safety of Americans and specifically American troops all over the world.  Not to mention pretty spectacularly unconstitutional and a real thumb in the eye of the U.S.

military rules that prohibit the military proselytizing at all,

particularly in Muslim countries we are fighting in. 

Those rules exist because the last thing in the world we want to do is hand al Qaeda and its recruiters and its sympathizers satiable evidence for their eternal claim that our military is fighting a Christian religious war against Muslims which all Muslims therefore have a duty to join against us. 

The company who makes these scopes is called Trijicon.  It‘s based in Michigan.  They have a $660 million contract to make gun sights for the military and they apparently plan to keep on keeping on with printing bible verses on these scopes right next to the model number. 

The company admitted to ABC News that it is printing bible verses on them.  It‘s not inadvertent.  It‘s on purpose.  They then said that any complaints raised about this were obviously from those who were, and I quote, “not Christian.” 

Or not interested in recruiting for al Qaeda, you self-centered, self-righteous, endangering the troops idiots.  Congratulations.  You‘ve just spawned a thousand anti-American propaganda videos.  Hope you‘re enjoying your war profits. 


MADDOW:  The FBI announced last week a new initiative in their Rewards for Justice program to update and enhance pictures of terror suspects including Osama bin Laden.  The FBI‘s press release said, “Using sophisticated digital enhancement techniques, forensic artists at the FBI‘s laboratory in Quantico, Virginia have age-progressed old photos of 18 terrorist suspects.” 

Cool.  They have computers that can anticipate how people will look when they age.  It‘s very CSI.  Take these pictures of Osama bin Laden.  What he looked like in 1998, enhanced version with a turban in 2009, and one without the turban.  Neat.  Techie. 

Except he really looks similar to that guy.  Spanish politician Gaspar Lamazares, the former leader of Spain‘s communist party.  The reason for the similarities in those pictures is because it is Spanish politician Gaspar LLamazares, the former leader of Spain‘s communist party. 

Yes, the FBI admitted over the weekend some of their supposedly sophisticated techniques were actually a Google image search and something quite like Photoshop which they used to take this Spanish politician‘s facial features and just put them right on Osama bin Laden. 

Look at the hair.  It‘s exactly the same.  Look at the crease in his forehead. 

After seeing himself as the new bin Laden, Mr. LLamazares said, quote, “It‘s almost like out of a comedy if it didn‘t deal with matters as serious as bin Laden and citizens‘ security.” 

Well said.  For what it‘s worth, we do all assume this was nothing personal, sir. 


MADDOW:  Among the pledges of aid to the people of Haiti today came one very interesting offer from Italy.  A pledge today to cancel Haiti‘s debt to Italy.  Just about $57 million worth. 

That‘s after France on Friday called on all of Haiti‘s creditors to cancel all of Haiti‘s debts.  France‘s role here is significant because France is arguably the original source of Haiti‘s debt-saster. 

The independent nation of Haiti was born into the red when France demanded reparations from its former slave colony for the loss of their slave labor.  Freed slaves literally had to buy their freedom on credit.  The price was 150 million francs in gold.  The rough equivalent of about $21 billion today.  That‘s according to the Jubilee USA Network, an organization that campaigns for the cancellation of debt to poor countries. 

By the year 1900 Haiti was spending about 80 percent of its entire budget on paying off that debt.  They were paying France hand-over-fist from 1825 all the way until 1947 before they finally paid that debt off with interest which they were able to do by taking other loans from other places. 

The economic damage was done.  Haiti kept borrowing.  Its economic woes are made worse by decades of corrupt governments borrowing heavily, stealing money from Haiti‘s people. 

As of last year Haiti was $1.8 billion in debt with just about nothing to show for it.  Recently there‘s been some movement to get Haiti out of its economic mess.  Last year the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank canceled about 60 percent of Haiti‘s debt. 

The U.S. even agreed to take on the monthly payments on what was left.  But Haiti is still on the hook for a lot of money, about $891 million according to figures given to us today by Jubilee USA. 

For a country with 80 percent of its population living below the poverty line, even before last week‘s earthquake, it is hard to see how Haiti is going to be able to pay this off. 

Scratch that.  It‘s not hard to imagine.  It‘s impossible to imagine. 

Then on top of all that Haiti got another incredible offer last week of $100 million from the International Monetary Fund.  Sounds great, right?  Came in two days after the quake.  $100 million, yes!  Except it‘s yet another loan, because Haiti is expected to be able to pay it back? 

Joining us now, Neil Watkins, executive director of Jubilee USA Network.  As I said earlier, his organization advocates for the cancellation of debt to poor countries. 

Mr. Watkins, thanks very much for joining us. 


MADDOW:  Is there any substantive argument for the IMF offering a loan rather than a grant?  Does that help them do it faster or more effectively in some way? 

WATKINS:  Well, the IMF would say, yes, that the loan is the fastest way to get the money to Haiti.  And certainly no one would disagree that Haiti needs money now.  But there are—we think that in this situation, it‘s not appropriate for the IMF or any donor to be giving Haiti a loan right now for all the reasons you just described about Haiti‘s history. 

Haiti—look, the last thing it needs right now is more debt.  It needs our help and it needs to get aid and grants rather than loans from the IMF or anyone else. 

MADDOW:  Up until the time of the quake, at which point the question of the Haiti government—no, the Haitian government and its activities became somewhat of an open question.  How much was Haiti paying per month on its debt?  How much was it owing? 

WATKINS:  Well, for the past several years, Haiti has been paying about $50 million a year in debt service payments back to the United States, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, other creditors. 

And just this past June, they were able to see a reduction of that.  And now this year going forward, if Haiti were to be paying, it would have to pay about $20 million to its creditors. 

MADDOW:  How much of giving loans instead of grants is about giving a lender more control over what Haiti does with the money?  Is that the overall rationale for the system being set up this way? 

WATKINS:  Well, I think historically, certainly, we‘ve argued that debt in developing countries has been a tool of leverage for creditors to say, you know, because you owe this debt, you need to change your economy, you need to do things a certain way, to follow a certain model of development. 

That said, on things like basic transparency or accountability, everyone wants that and donors can actually make sure that countries use the money that they are given for the intended purpose, whether that‘s through a loan or for a grant. 

And in this case, we think, in the aftermath of this disaster, really grant support is what Haiti needs. 

MADDOW:  Well, I feel like the issue of Haiti having debt—having more added to its debt in the middle of this crisis is such an exclamation point to me about the ridiculous politics here.  And you don‘t want to get too far into the politics while the tragedy is still under way. 

But in terms of figuring out how Haiti gets out of, this seems like step number one.  For France to be the one calling on other countries to be canceling Haiti‘s debt, to be giving money rather than loaning money, and for existing debts to be wiped off. 

Does that go back to France‘s colonial role, slave-owning role in Haiti?  Is that why they sort of taken leadership on this in some ways? 

WATKINS:  Yes, I mean, it‘s interesting.  In debt relief for a lot of countries, it ends up being the former colonizer that plays a leadership role in calling for debt relief for those countries.  You see, you know, that even 200 years later some of those patterns are still there. 

In this case, it‘s good.  I mean we‘re glad that France is calling for Haiti‘s debt cancellation but in a way it shouldn‘t require France to take that stand.  Countries, the United States, IMF, the IDB, I think at this point in time it‘s pretty clear that Haiti needs its debt canceled and shouldn‘t be sending payments really for the next five years to anybody except to rebuilding and reconstructing. 

MADDOW:  Even if all of Haiti‘s creditors canceled all of its debts, though, won‘t Haiti just have to start borrowing again?  I mean before the disaster with the hurricanes, four of them in a year, food shortage—I mean, can Haiti be expected to have any kind of economy any time soon? 

WATKINS:  Well, I think eventually Haiti will have to borrow again.  But at least in the short term they really need grants.  You know loans are good when you have a chance at making a return.  But what Haiti needs right now is actually water, schools, basic infrastructure, health care. 

Those sort of services are really provided best by donors to get started.  And then as they are able to begin recovering, you know, you can take on debt in a responsible way. 

MADDOW:  Grants, not loans.  Grants, not loans.  We‘re going to be staying on this story I think for a few days. 

Neil Watkins, thanks for helping us get started.  I really appreciate it. 

WATKINS:  Thanks for having me. 

MADDOW:  Neil Watkins is the executive director of Jubilee USA Network. 

All right, it is Martin Luther King Day.  Coming up, a rarely seen televised interview with Dr. King and the battle over making public his FBI files.  Stay with us. 



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I want to wish everybody around the country a day in which they reflect on the extraordinary contributions that ordinary citizens can make each and every day to make America the most hopeful country in the world. 


MADDOW:  President Obama advocating volunteerism this Martin Luther King Day.  He and the first family spent part of the day serving hot lunches at a soup kitchen in Washington. 

It‘s now been nearly 42 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  It‘s worth recalling that the man so venerated now was once under constant surveillance by his own government who tapped his phones and amassed huge files on him. 

We still don‘t know exactly what‘s in those files.  Senator John Kerry is proposing to change that.  He‘s proposing legislation that would create a Martin Luther King records collection at the National Archives. 

That would make public all government records related to Dr. King, including the infamous FBI file.  A similar commission was created after President Kennedy‘s assassination. 

Senator Kerry says, quote, “I want the world to know what he stood for.  And I want his personal history preserved and examined by releasing all of his records.” 

On the day when we remember Dr. King‘s legacy and we ponder the opportunity to know more about it, here is some rarely seen footage of Dr.  King from August 13th, 1967 on NBC‘s “Meet the Press.” 


DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  I have never advocated anarchy.  I have never advocated lawlessness.  I have never advocated violence.  I‘ve never advocated arson.  I‘ve never advocated sniping or looting. 

I‘ve only said, and I still believe this, that if one finds a law unjust, then he has a moral responsibility to take a stand against that law, even if it means breaking that law.  There can ultimately be no justice without peace and no peace without justice. 


MADDOW:  That does it for us tonight.  Stay tuned now for an MSNBC special, “OBAMA‘S AMERICA, 2010 AND BEYOND” with Chris Matthews and Tom Joyner live from Houston, Texas.  Stay with us. 



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