The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/15/10

Guests:
Dan Parker, Chris Hayes, Kent Jones
Transcript:

HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you.

And Happy Presidents Day to you at home.

               

Senator Evan Bayh today called it a career in the U.S. Senate.  But it‘s not entirely clear how bad a thing that is for the Democratic Party, common wisdom notwithstanding.

A filibuster challenge was among the top zillion things on the Internet all weekend.  We got some very, very, very good submissions already.  We will review.

And Joe the plumber, of all people, joins the chorus of 2008 presidential runner-up campaign casualties with nothing nice to say about the man who made him famous.

That‘s all coming up.

But we begin tonight with the Republican Party refusing to take yes for an answer.  After months of demanding that President Obama open up the health reform talks, invite the Republicans in, make it bipartisan, Republicans have gotten what they wanted.  They‘ve been invited to the White House for a bipartisan health summit next week.  And it turns out they are super-bummed about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STATE OF THE UNION”/CNN)

SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA:  Obviously, it‘s pointless to talk, because they‘ve made up their mind and they‘re going to ram it through, whether we like it or whether the American people like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was the number two Republican in the United States Senate, Jon Kyl of Arizona, who has spent much of the past month blasting President Obama and Democrats for engaging in a, quote, “go it alone approach,” behind closed doors and out of sight from the public.

Well, now that the president has said OK to Jon Kyl, we‘ll open up the doors, let‘s do this in full sight of the public, Jon Kyl‘s other face is against it.  Jon Kyl is now against the thing he has been demanding for a month.  Senator Kyl is finding that being two-faced, being a hypocrite on this issue, is actually not a very lonely place to be.  Many of Senator Kyl‘s fellow Republicans are now trashing the very invitation that they spent months asking for.

Exhibit A: John Boehner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  There has been no attempt, not one attempt, by the administration or the Democrats in Congress to actually sit down and work with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  OK.  That‘s argument from John Boehner, face one.

Here‘s the argument from John Boehner, face two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  I don‘t want to walk into some setup.  I don‘t know who‘s going to be there.  I don‘t know how big the room‘s going to be.  I don‘t know how—what the setup‘s going to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I don‘t know how big the room‘s going to be?  How big?

John Boehner‘s second face has also been articulating Republicans‘ specific concern that the health care bipartisan summit will be televised.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  You know, is this a political event or is this going to be a real conversation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The concern is, of course, that it will be hard to have an honest conversation about the real issues when there are TV cameras everywhere.  I think that is a reasonable concern.  But John Boehner‘s other face begs to differ.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  The president, during the campaign last year, said that when we got to this part of the process, there would be a big open room and he‘d invite the C-SPAN cameras in so the American people could see how this bill was coming together.  I do think it‘s time to let the American people see what‘s going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Republicans have been hammering President Obama for not holding televised negotiations on health care.  And now that he wants to hold televised negotiations on health care, they‘re against it.

If this feels like a familiar dynamic to you, you are guilty of paying attention to recent events in American politics.

Even suddenly retiring Senator Evan Bayh today called out this outbreak of hypocrisy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA:  Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation, our exploding deficits and debt.  The measure would have passed, but seven members who endorsed the idea actually co-sponsored the legislation, instead voted no for short-term political reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  We will have much more on Senator Bayh‘s retirement later in the show.  The chair of the Indiana Democratic Party is going to be here.

But what Senator Bayh was pointing to there was that seven Republican senators were for a bipartisan deficit commission until President Obama said he supported that same idea.  The seven then voted against it—among them, Arizona Senator John McCain.

Same thing happened when the Senate voted on a PAYGO bill.  Four Republicans, who had been fierce supporters of a PAYGO rule, after President Obama endorsed it, ended up voting against it—against their own position.  Among them, again, Arizona Senator John McCain.

In addition to PAYGO and the deficit commission, Senator McCain is also now against the same sort of climate change legislation he once supported.  He also now opposes the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” even though he said he would reconsider it once military leaders were for it, which they are.  Senator McCain also now opposes the very same immigration reform legislation he once co-sponsored.

Senator McCain, I‘d like to introduce you to Senator McCain.  I don‘t think you two guys are going to like each other very much.

We keep talking about political hypocrisy on this show for two reasons.  First, someone ought to.  Even if politicians are not capable of feeling shame and embarrassment for raw hypocrisy, we in the media, I think, owe it to the country to at least make clear that politicians ought to feel ashamed and embarrassed about it.

And second, it seems important to make clear that politicians who are willing to take two totally opposite positions on the same policy, those politicians should not be taken seriously when it comes to policy.  If you‘re for PAYGO until the president is and then you‘re against it, then, I don‘t really care what you think about PAYGO anymore, because it‘s clear that you really don‘t care either.  No one should bother engaging with policy hypocrites on policy because by their very hypocrisy, they‘ve proved that they do not care about policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I mean, you, in your district, just this week, you were at a community college touting a $350,000 green technology education program, talking about how great that was going to be for your district.  You voted against the bill that created that grant.  And so, that‘s happening a lot, with Republicans sort of taking credit for things that Democratic bills do, and then, Republicans simultaneously touting their votes against them and trashing them.

That‘s, I think, a problem that needs to be resolved within your caucus, because you seem like a very nice person, but that‘s a very hypocritical stance to take.

REP. AARON SCHOCK ®, ILLINOIS:  Rachel, with all due respect, I can assure you Republicans were not consulted on the stimulus bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Whether or not House Republicans felt adequately consulted on the stimulus bill, that‘s not the point.  They all voted no on it, every single one of them.

And that‘s fine.  You can be against the stimulus and not think it‘s going to work, and not going to create jobs.

You can also be for the stimulus.  You can think it‘s going to work and create jobs.

But you cannot be both against it and for it at the same time—unless you are a hypocrite.  You cannot denounce it as creating no jobs and then claim that it‘s creating lots of valuable jobs at the same time, or you‘re a hypocrite.

I meant it when I said on “Meet the Press” yesterday morning that Congressman Schock seems like a very nice person.  He does.  I also meant it about the hypocrisy.  And it‘s not just the $350,000 green technology education grant that he took credit for at home after voting against the bill that funded it.

Congressman Schock‘s hometown paper also noted that he voted against the bill that funded a $400,000 upgrade for police radios and cameras in East Peoria.  His vote against that funding did not stop the congressman from—yes, taking credit for it, and from handing over the grant—handing over the grant funding during an event in his district.

Now, look, again, you can be for the president‘s policies, you can think they‘re going to work and be good for your constituents.  You can also be against those policies and not think they‘re going to be—they‘re going to work, not think they‘re going to be good for your constituents.

But you cannot be against those policies and for those policies at the same time, unless you are a hypocrite.  You can be for a deficit commission; you can be against a deficit commission.  You cannot be a person who is both for and against a deficit commission, depending on who proposes it, unless you are a hypocrite.

You can be for health care reform negotiations being broadcast on television, or you can be opposed to health reform negotiations being broadcast on television.  But you cannot simultaneously hold both of those positions unless you are a hypocrite.

I will admit to being as cynical as anyone about politics and politicians, but even I am not so cynical that I don‘t think rank two-faced “I believe it now, now, I don‘t believe it” hypocrisy shouldn‘t at least be embarrassing.

Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an associate editor for “The Washington Post.”  He‘s also an MSNBC political analyst.

Gene, thanks very much for being here.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Rachel. 

Great to be here.

MADDOW:  You can probably hear the exasperation in my voice.  And I will not be upset if you tell me that I‘m being naive and nobody‘s ever embarrassed by hypocrisy in Washington.

ROBINSON:  No.  I‘m not—I‘m not going to say that.  I am going to -

I was going to point out that you used the word “politician” and “embarrassment,” I think in the same sentence, and that is, you know, I‘m not—I‘m not going to expect them to be embarrassed by hypocrisy.

               

But this is—this is beyond, I think, the usual sort of two-facedness or hypocrisy or whatever you want to call it, the usual slipperiness of politicians in Washington.  This strategy that the Republican Party had of saying no to anything that President Obama said yes to is really an unusual strategy.  And it brings with it unusual—it creates unusual situations for congresspeople.

Normally, you know, a congressperson who needed that federal funding for his or her district, like Representative Schock did, would be able to vote for that bill.  But they can‘t vote for anything if Obama is in favor of it, if he proposes it.  And so, they put themselves in these ridiculous positions which—as you pointed out in your introduction—get noticed at home.

That clip from the—from the local paper about the East Peoria project, I thought that was very interesting, because that‘s a sort of thing that does resonate with voters.  Hold it, wait a minute, you said you were against this, and now you‘re telling us what a great thing it is.

MADDOW:  It does seem like it makes sense in aggregate.  It would make sense for the Republican Party to have this as a strategy in aggregate, just pull out all the stops to say no to everything that Obama is for.  But it must be create individual political liabilities for the politicians who have to carry out these directives.

And the House Democrats‘ campaign arm, I though it was interesting, seems to be trying to capitalize on this now.  They‘ve launched this online house Republicans‘ hypocrisy hall of fame.  So, they‘re banking that you can combine politician and embarrassment in the same subject, at least when you‘re talking about the other party.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  Well, you know, Rachel, keep one other thing in mind, though, that all those Republican members of Congress who have to run in the fall are looking over their shoulders at potential challenges from the right, potential challenges from the tea party faction or whatever.  And I think a lot of them are worried about being seen as collaborationists with the administration or with “Washington,” in quote, or with whatever it is that the tea party faction doesn‘t like.

And so, that‘s another incentive for them to kind of toe the line,

even if the line is absolutely absurd.  This really—this new phase of

this discussion between the administration and the Republicans in Congress

really started with that session in Baltimore between the president and the

and the House caucus.

               

And, so far, this exchange has been going for well for the White House, because the president keeps say, “You know, come on in, let‘s talk.”  And after demanding to be given a seat at the table all this time, they really can‘t very well say, no, you know, the room is too big or too small or whatever it was Boehner was worried about.  And so we can‘t be bothered.

MADDOW:  They could very well say it, the question is whether they can get away with it.  So far, my sense is that it‘s 50/50, but I‘m leaning on one side of the scale.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and associate editor for “The Washington Post”—it‘s always great to have you on the show, Gene.  Thanks very much.

ROBINSON:  It‘s great to be here.

MADDOW:  OK.  So, can you count the number of terrorism suspects arrested on American soil during the Bush administration, who after they were arrested were read their Miranda rights?  Yes, you can count them if you can count to all.  Apparently, something has changed drastically under President Obama because doing the exact same thing they were doing before has now become a threat to our national security.  A long simmering rant breaks free—next.

And, Democratic Indiana Senator Evan Bayh announced today that he will not run for re-election.  Senator Bayh did not bother to inform the National Democratic Party of his decision ahead of time, which is sort of a fitting bye-bye from him.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  During the Bush years, every single person arrested on terrorism charges in this country had his Miranda rights read to him.  Under President Obama, Miranda rights equal coddling.  Yes.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We learned in the conservative newspaper, “The Washington Times,” today, that after the underwear bomber was read his Miranda rights, he cooperated with U.S. authorities to such an extent that, quote, “U.S.  and allied counterterrorism authorities have launched a global manhunt for English-speaking terrorists trained in Yemen who are planning attacks on the United States.”  This manhunt is under way due to information that the underwear bomber, quote, “revealed during recent cooperation with the FBI that he met with other English speakers at a terrorist training camp in Yemen.”

What did the FBI interrogators due to earn the scorn and insult they‘re receiving now from conservative politicians?  The underwear bomber‘s interrogation has turned out to yield a lot of useful information, but Republicans are still trying desperately to blame the Obama administration for somehow doing this wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I do see, repeatedly, examples that there are key members in the administration, like Eric Holder, for example, the attorney general, who still insists on thinking of terror attacks against the United States as criminal acts as opposed to acts of war.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS:  So, you mentioned Eric Holder, the treatment of the Christmas Day underwear bomber.  How do you think that case should have been dealt with?

CHENEY:  I think the proper way to deal with it would have been to treat him as an enemy combatant.  I think that was the right way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Of course, that isn‘t at all the way that you did go when you were vice president of the United States and making decisions about these things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL:  So, was it a mistake when your administration took on the Richard Reid case?  This is very similar and this was somebody that was trying to blow up an airliner with a shoe bomb.  And he was, within five minutes of getting taken off that plane, read his Miranda rights, four times, in fact, in 48 hours, and tried through the civilian system.  Was that a mistake?

CHENEY:  Well, first of all, I believe, he was not tried.  He pled guilty.

KARL:  You still had an option to put him into military custody.

CHENEY:  Well, we could have put him into military custody.  I don‘t -

I don‘t question that.

               

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You could have put him into military custody, but you did not.

The Republican effort to attack President Obama on the basis of the underpants bomber, unlike the underpants bomb itself, appears to be blowing up.  Say what you will about Dick Cheney, he‘s generally pretty skilled at making political attacks out of national security issues, but this time, on this one, even he is all tied up in knots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL:  So, was it a mistake when your administration took on the Richard Reid case?

CHENEY:  Well, we could have put him into military custody.  I don‘t -

I don‘t question that.

               

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes, but you didn‘t.  You didn‘t.  You could have and you didn‘t.

The attempted Republican talking point on the underpants bomber is that it‘s an outrage that this would-be bomber was read his Miranda rights and treated as a criminal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  And is reading Miranda rights to terrorists any way to fight a war?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  Some of us have been so upset about it that they immunized him with the Miranda rule.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE:  I think you don‘t give a Miranda rights.

GRAHAM:  Is it any way to fight a war to read Miranda rights?

RUDY GIULIANI ®, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR:  You do not—you do not go in and interrupt it with Miranda warnings.

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  We don‘t have to give Miranda warnings up-front.

SEN. KIT BOND ®, MISSOURI:  Mirandizing a terrorist like Abdulmutallab is absolutely ridiculous.

I don‘t know what purpose there was in mirandizing him.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  The administration seems to have lost sight of this essential requirement for national security out of a preoccupation, a preoccupation, with reading the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  He should not have been given his Miranda warnings.  This should not have been a mirandized situation.  You don‘t mirandize!

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  You know, like the underpants bomber, the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, who also failed when he also tried to detonate PETN when he was also aboard a U.S.-bound airliner after also being trained and directed by al Qaeda, Richard Reid was also arrested in the U.S. as a civilian criminal.  And he was also—yes, read his Miranda rights, four times.

And what was wrong with that?  Well, certainly no one complained at the time.  Richard Reid was arrested, interrogated, charged as a criminal and now he‘s in prison.  He was treated exactly the way the underwear bomber was treated.  He was mirandized.

Same goes for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted of participation in the 9/11 plot.  He was arrested, interrogated, charged as a criminal, and now, he‘s in prison.  He was treated exactly the way the underwear bomber was treated.  He was mirandized.

If anyone sees anything wrong with the treatment of the underwear guy, who didn‘t see anything wrong with the treatment of the shoe guy or of Zacarias Moussaoui or with the scores of other terrorism suspects we‘ve treated the same way, the only salient difference between the cases is that now Barack Obama is president.  So, there must be something wrong.

Every single person arrested in this country since 9/11 on terrorism

charges, or even terrorism-related charges, every single one has been

handled as a civilian criminal—every single one.  And of the years that

have elapsed since 9/11 – let‘s see, ‘02, ‘03, ‘04, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, what

came next?  Oh, yes, ‘08, and then there was ‘09.  Yes, after all the years

of the years that have elapsed since 2001, after all of those years, in which every single person arrested in this country on terrorism charges was handled as a civilian criminal, in all but one of those years, Dick Cheney was the vice president of the United States.

               

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  I think the proper way to deal with it would have been to treat him as an enemy combatant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That would be a lot more convincing if you‘d ever done that yourself when you had the chance.  Every single person arrested in this country since 9/11 on terrorism charges—I repeat—has been handled as a civilian criminal, which includes being mirandized—every single one.  The only two outliers are Jose Padilla and Ali al-Marri, both of whom were in military custody for a while, during which they didn‘t cooperate with their interrogators, by the way.  But then, even they were ultimately handled in the federal criminal system, treated as civilian criminals.  There are no exceptions to this rule.

The underwear bomber is being treated exactly the way that terrorism

suspects arrested in the U.S. were treated during the Bush administration -

arrested, interrogated, charged as a criminal, and yes, that process includes being mirandized.  The Bush administration did it hundreds of times and the current administration has continued doing it.  Only now, the Bush administration in exile would have you believe that what they did all those years was a huge mistake.  The mistakenness of which only became apparent when some other president did it, someone who‘s a Democrat.

               

This is just like the deficit commission or PAYGO or cap-and-trade or televising the health reform hearings or closing Guantanamo or any of these other things—where politicians were for it until Barack Obama signed on with it.  Then those same politicians are against it all of a sudden.  It‘s called hypocrisy.  And it should be reported as such.  This has become a joke.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BAYH:  I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives.  But I do not love Congress.  I will not, therefore, be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate this November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  When conservadem senator, Evan Bayh, made that surprise announcement today that he would be retiring, the initial reaction from inside-the-beltway types was that Evan Bayh was giving the party he‘d belonged to but never seemed to like very much one last sucker punch on his way out the door.

And truth be told, there is a filing deadline tomorrow for candidates who would want to run in the Democratic primary for Senator Bayh‘s seat.  Only one Democrat seems to have even a prayer of meeting that deadline.  She‘s an outsider candidate who was already planning to run in the primary against Senator Bayh.  She‘s already been collecting the signatures needed.  But even she is still reportedly about 1,000 signatures short of what she needs in order to qualify for the deadline.

None of the three insider politicians who were considered by Hoosier Democrats to be strong candidates for the seat have much of any chance at all of gathering these signatures in time.  And that means the Democrats probably will not be able to have a primary for Senator Bayh‘s seat.  If they can‘t have a primary, the party will have to pick a candidate to run in the fall without an election—which leads us to the common wisdom of the day: Evan Bayh sucker punches his own party yet again.

However, it is a little more interesting than all that once you consider the situation facing the other party, the Republicans in Indiana.  If Senator Bayh were running again, he would be a tough opponent for any Republican.

Evan Bayh is rated the most conservative Democrat in the Senate.  He‘s an incumbent who has never been defeated in a run for public office.  He reportedly has about $13 million campaign cash on hand.  And he has universal Indiana name recognition, thanks to his own lifetime of political jobs and thanks to his more famous and more liberal father, former Senator Birch Bayh.

If Republicans had known that Evan Bayh was out of the race, one might expect that they would have run a different candidate or different slate of candidates against him.

As it is, the GOP primary field includes John Hostletter, who you‘ve never heard of—no offense, sir; a state senator, Marlin Stutzman, who you‘ve also never heard of—again, no offense.  It also includes one person you might have heard of, their main candidate, who someone in Indiana might be able to pick out of a lineup, is former U.S. Senator Dan Coats.  Dan Coats, it turns out, is a disaster of a candidate. 

After his stint as a U.S. senator for Indiana, Dan Coats left Indiana for more than a decade.  He proclaimed that North Carolina was a much better place to retire to than Indiana.  And he became a lobbyist. 

As “The Indianapolis Star” pointed out just this weekend before the Evan Bayh bombshell, quote, “Only 11 days into his campaign challenging Sen. Evan Bayh, Dan Coats‘ opponents have used his work as a Washington insider to tie him to no less than Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a major bank that received a federal bailout, and Yemen, the Middle Eastern nation that increasingly has become a terrorist training ground.”

Heck of a way to return to the state that you dissed and left for 10 years, right?  “Hey, you guys, miss me?  Want to know what I‘ve been doing?  Ever heard of Yemen?”  As it shakes out, Evan Bayh in typical Evan Bayh fashion, kind of did sucker punch his own party on his way out the door. 

But the effect of this last punch may well be mitigated for Democrats because the Republicans themselves have been doing a pretty good job of punching themselves out all this time. 

Joining us now to sort this out is Dan Parker.  He is chairman of the Democratic Party in Indiana and he‘s getting a lot of attention today.  Mr. Parker, thank you very much for your time tonight.  Really appreciate it. 

DAN PARKER, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF INDIANA:  Good evening, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Did you have any inkling that Sen. Bayh was going to quit today? 

PARKER:  No, I did not.  He did call me this weekend to let me know of his decision.  We were actually planning on doing television ads this week, filming them, and we had the petition drive done and ready to file.  But he came to his decision this weekend and let me know. 

MADDOW:  Is it, in fact, too late for any Democrat to meet the primary filing deadline at this point?  Does it look like there won‘t be a primary? 

PARKER:  Well, Rachel, it‘s a two-step process.  You need to have your petitions in to the county clerks to be certified tomorrow by noon.  And then, you need to collect all of those and submit them to the Secretary of State‘s office by noon on Friday. 

So it‘s a two-step process.  It is a very difficult process to get done, because voters‘ addresses need to match on the voter registration rules and it takes a lot of time to get it done. 

Mr. Coats, who got in the race 10 days ago, has been paying people for 10 days to collect his and he just got done today. 

MADDOW:  Wow.  On the Republican side, do you think there would have been more interest by more and stronger Republican candidates for this race if Sen. Bayh had made this announcement earlier? 

PARKER:  Well, I think that the national Republican Party got Mr.  Coats to get in the race, primarily because they were not happy with the Republicans that were running.  The person who had the most amount of money at the end of the year was Mr. Stutzman.  He had $4,000 in the bank. 

MADDOW:  Wow.

PARKER:  But as you‘ve - as you‘ve kind of highlighted, Mr. Coats is kind of a disaster of a candidate, probably the worst candidate rollout I‘ve ever seen in my life.  And he has not gone over well here in Indiana.  The Indiana Republican Party is somewhat divided, particularly the tea party movement, who sees his lobbying for both Hugo Chavez and for Bank of America as a pure disaster for the Republican Party. 

MADDOW:  On the Democratic side, if there doesn‘t end up being a primary, and there‘s no reason to prejudge that, but it seems likely, on what grounds and by what means will Indiana Democrats choose a candidate to run for this seat? 

PARKER:  Well, Rachel, I‘ve been taught never to assume anything in politics.  But assuming for a second that no candidate by tomorrow has enough signatures into the county clerks, there is a provision in state statute and by party rule that the Indiana Democratic Party‘s state central committee can gather sometime thereafter to fill the ballot vacancy for the fall. 

So there will be a Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.  And our attempts are going to be to field the strongest possible candidate that we can to make sure that Hoosiers are represented with someone that shares our values. 

MADDOW:  I imagine - I can tell, both by your job description and by your demeanor right here that you‘re going to be exceedingly diplomatic when I ask you this, but I‘ve got to ask you. 

The Democratic short list that‘s being talked about so far includes Congressman Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill and Joe Donnelly, and then there‘s - forgive the pronunciation - I think it‘s Tamara D‘Ippolito who is the one Democrat who was seriously planning to challenge Sen. Bayh in the primary. 

Are those four the main candidates that you‘re looking at?  Is there somebody else who we should be considering to be on that list?  Or should we exclude any of those folks? 

PARKER:  I don‘t think that we should exclude anyone.  I‘m trying not to mention any names, because I want this to be an open process as we move forward.  I have been contacted by numerous people that are interested in running. 

But I think that it‘s a little too early to start talking about specific names, because we need to get past tomorrow‘s deadline first.  And then we‘ll move forward with all parts of the party to talk about who the best possible person is to be the nominee. 

We have a lot of great Democrats here in Indiana on our bench and I‘m very confident that we will field the candidate that can win this race.  Because as you‘ve mentioned, the Republican candidates are an absolute disaster and would be in complete opposition to most of the good things that are going on to get this economy back on track. 

MADDOW:  So nailed it on you being very diplomatic on that one, which I want credit for.  Just briefly, before we go, beltway common wisdom, in my experience, is usually wrong.  Beltway common wisdom in this case is that Evan Bayh is really the only Democrat who can win a Senate race in Indiana.  Can you make a bumper sticker case to the country that a Democrat will hold this seat? 

PARKER:  Well, Evan Bayh was a great governor, great U.S. senator for Indiana.  And he‘s going to be very difficult to replace, but we will field a strong candidate.  And I promise you this, Rachel, I feel confident that we will win this race. 

MADDOW:  Dan Parker, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  I‘m sure it was a very busy time for you.  I really appreciate it. 

PARKER:  Rachel, thank you. 

MADDOW:  So history may look back on February 2010 as the last month when there was any difference between the Republican Party and the aforementioned tea party.  That story, starring Michael Steele, is next. 

And our contest to replace the snooze-inducing term “filibuster” continues.  And oh, what good work our audience has done on this assignment.  We will review our options with Chris Hayes of “The Nation.”  That‘s all coming up.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Still ahead, our language-altering, potentially republic-saving “rename the filibuster” contest continues.  Your first entries are in and are very good.  And Kent Jones went to the Westminster dog show today.  If you‘re keeping track at home, that places Kent in new working dog category.  We have much more on that in a moment. 

But first, a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  Anthem Blue Cross is putting that big California rate increase on hold.  The insurance company wants to jack up premiums, of course, for 700,000 people by an average of 25 percent, in some cases, by 39 percent. 

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius questioned how the very profitable company could justify that kind of treatment in the middle of a recession.  Well, Anthem Blue Cross now says it will wait until May 1st to enact the hike, long enough to give California regulators a chance to see if it‘s even legal. 

Meantime, the company is looking to raise premiums elsewhere, including by nearly 25 percent, in the great state of Maine.  Maybe that will bring a moderate Republican like Maine Senator Olympia Snowe back to the table on health reform.  Kidding, kidding. 

Next up, the Republican Party and the amorphous tea party movement are becoming a difference without a distinction.  If you go to “Teaparty.GOP.com,” you can actually send a tea bag to the president, the vice president or to Democratic leaders in Congress.  I just found out today. 

And tomorrow, the perpetual gift to Democrats that keeps on giving.  Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will meet with 50 self-described leaders of the tea party movement. 

The founder of one such group in Florida set up the meeting about a month ago and told our producers today, quote, “I initiated the meeting with Chairman Steele and it‘s been a great response from tea party leaders around the country.  I invited them and the response kept spreading like wildfire.”

The problem with wildfire, of course, is that you can‘t contain it.  You can‘t just bottle it up and then unleash it wherever you‘ve determined it would be beneficial to do so. 

Take the case of Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential candidate in 2008, a 24-year mainstay of the party, a big leader for the Republicans, or at least he used to be.  And now, he‘s got a primary challenger, a primary challenger, in the former of J.D. Hayworth, former Congressman and radio talk show host. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R-AZ):  Today, I announce my candidacy for the United States Senate for the great state of Arizona.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  J.D. Hayworth indicated in interviews today that he would like to harness the power of the tea party movement, even though he‘s not technically running as a tea party candidate.  Which all must be very awkward for Sen. McCain, the chairman of your party meeting with tea partiers the day after your primary opponent announces his tea party-inspired run for your job. 

Makes McCain sort of a man without a country first.  Speaking of Sen. McCain, McCain campaign alums Mark Salter, John Weaver, Nicole Wallace, Steve Schmidt, even Sarah Palin - they have all since Election Day ‘08, trashed John McCain and/or the McCain campaign for president. 

The dissatisfied ex-McCainiacs now have a new member in their ranks.  Incredibly, it is Joe, the plumber, famous for being neither a Joe nor a plumber.  He is Samuel Wurzelbacher. 

He told a Pennsylvania reporter this weekend that John McCain messed up his life and he doesn‘t owe the Arizona senator a gosh-darned thing. 

Here‘s the quote, “McCain was trying to use me.  I happened to be the face of Middle Americans.  It was a ploy.  I don‘t owe him bullpucky.  He really screwed my life up, is how I look at it.”

For the record, Mr. Wurzelbacher did not say “bullpucky.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We have some breaking news this hour from the war in Afghanistan.  The Taliban‘s top military commander has been captured.  Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti of “The New York Times” are reporting that a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces captured him several days ago in Karachi. 

The Taliban commander is an Afghan named Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.  “New York Times” describing him as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the war began eight years ago. 

They think this is the biggest fish they‘ve ever got in Afghanistan.  His influence among Taliban leader is considered second only to Mullah Mohammed Omar.  According to the “Times,” he‘s believed to have been close to Bin Laden before 9/11. 

Mullah Baradar has reportedly been in Pakistani custody now for several days.  Both Pakistani and American intelligence officials are taking part in the interrogation. 

Again, this is a big headline - “New York Times” reporting that a joint American-Pakistani intelligence operation has captured the Taliban‘s top military commander.  We will be assessing and reporting on this news in the coming days.  Stay with us on this one.  We‘ll be right back.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  For months, we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW have been

driving friends and family members and even occasional strangers on the

subway crazy with our passion about a topic that is vitally important to

how our government works or doesn‘t.  It‘s the filibuster problem, the

political jujitsu move by which a minority of senators can block

legislation they don‘t like.  Threatening to expand debate indefinitely

until -

I recognize that it‘s not easy to hear about over and over again.  I can‘t even make it exciting even as excited about it as I am.  And that‘s the problem because we are smack in the middle of an unprecedented abuse of the filibuster, an abuse that has changed the way our government works in a radical way. 

Let‘s bring out the chart, OK?  Since Republicans lost the Senate in 2006, there‘s been this huge spike in how often the filibuster is used.  Now, for the first time in U.S. history, forcing the 60-vote supermajorities for routine Senate business. 

Are you still awake?  Are you still awake?  It‘s very important.  Now that Sen. Udall and Sen. Tom Harkin and Sen. Shaheen are sponsoring legislation to change Senate rules so that a tiny minority cannot thwart the will of the majority anymore, it‘s important to keep people interested in how important this is. 

To that end, we‘re trying some re-branding.  We need to replace the admittedly soporific description of the filibuster problem with a name worthy of something so important. 

On Friday‘s show, we asked you to help us rename the filibuster problem and here are some of the hundreds of ideas that have already flooded in.  Pass interference.  Hung Senate.  Minority veto.  Minority rule - simple but effective.  And how about this one?  Lawjam. 

These are great.  We‘ve received a lot.  We would like even more.  Please go to Rachel.MSNBC.com, click on “The Filibuster Challenge.”  We‘re going to pool the ideas together and then pick a winner. 

If you win, you get relatively lame prizes that I hope you like anyway.  It‘s a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW sweatshirt and a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW mug, both made in America.  But who knows?  You might be able to add to that swag a country with a future. 

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation,” who is one of the few people to have successfully thought of the soporific urge to write passionately about the filibuster.  Chris, nice to see you.  Thank you. 

CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  Good to see you, Rachel.  One of my Twitter followers said that if we really wanted the Republicans to join us in getting rid of the filibuster, we should rename it “gay marriage,” which I kind of like. 

MADDOW:  I once - the first time I ever played laser tag -

HAYES:  The first time? 

MADDOW:  The first time - you want to talk laser tag?  You know, you can put your name.  You can program it into your little laser tag receiver thing so that people can - in your guns so people can tell when you shoot them. 

I wanted to be as scary as possible.  This was like 1996.  So I made my name “gay marriage” in laser tag.  Everybody just ran out of the maze. 

HAYES:  Yes, that‘s the way to intimidate. 

MADDOW:  All right.  On the policy here, could Democrats get rid of the filibuster tomorrow, if they really wanted to?  Could that do it at any time? 

HAYES:  The answer to that is a qualified yes.  And the reason it‘s qualified is because it‘s never really been tested.  So let‘s run through four possible ways to get rid of it, starting with the most difficult. 

The most difficult will be changing Senate rules, right?  So Senate rule 22 is the cloture rule.  That requires 67 votes to change Senate rules.  So it‘s unlikely to get 67 votes. 

The next most difficult way would be statutorily, as Tom Harkin has suggested, to pass a bill that would change the rule.  That would require 60 votes.  Now, the two most interesting ways are, one, to start at the new Congress, right, after the elections this fall in January, to change the rules, or to do essentially what the Republicans threatened to do back in 2005, which is essentially the nuclear option. 

The nuclear option would allow them to essentially get rid of the filibuster tomorrow if vice president and 51 senators were along with it. 

MADDOW:  Vice president and 50, right?  Because he would make up the

51st -

HAYES:  Right, exactly.  I‘m sorry.  Yes, right. 

MADDOW:  So they just need a majority.  Well, this, I think, is politically important.  Because in 2005, the Republicans threatened to go nuclear and Democrats were so freaked out by the prospect they gave them all sorts of concessions and Bush got all his judges. 

HAYES:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  There has to be a credible belief.  It‘s not that Republicans had 67 senators at that time. 

HAYES:  No.

MADDOW:  There has to be a credible belief on this one that they actually can do it.  So when you say that it‘s a qualified yes that they can do it, are you saying there are doubts about whether the nuclear is constitutional? 

HAYES:  Well, look, it‘s never been ruled on.  And in fact, it‘s a sort of an uncharted area of constitutional law.  The Constitution gives to the body of the Senate the ability to make its own rules. 

Now, that‘s interpreted - there‘s an 1892 decision called Ballin versus the United States, in which that‘s interpreted as a majority of the Senate.  And it‘s hard to see how you can construe it otherwise. 

The other thing is that internal procedural rules of a body of Congress are technically called non-justiceable, right?  Or the court is going to be very unlikely to enter into it.  So the question is, if you made this ruling, right, the nuclear option is based on a senator raising a point of order in which he claims the filibuster is un-constitutional and that ruling is endorsed by the chair and then voted on by a majority of participants. 

The point is, there is no other body to appeal to.  Now, it‘s possible maybe the Supreme Court, in a totally unprecedented move, would insert itself.  So the point is this hasn‘t been ruled on. 

But I think the larger point, which you point out, is really important.  There have been moments in which procedural changes have happened in the Senate.  It happened after World War I.  It happened after Watergate in the 1970s.

And in every case, it wasn‘t a procedural change so much as a political change.  There was a political recognition the body was broken and things had to change, and that‘s really the most important thing. 

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation,” thank you for your time tonight.  I feel like the politics of this are one thing.  But the actual details about how it would get done, there‘s so much confusion and misinformation out there about it that - expect to be called back to say this exact thing all over again very soon. 

HAYES:  I would be happy.  And if you ever want to play laser tag, just, you know, let me know. 

MADDOW:  Watch out.  Here comes gay marriage.  Thanks, Chris.  All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith‘s special comment on race and the tea party.  First, on this show, politics and pooches collide happily.  That‘s next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We turn now to our canis familiaris correspondent - I spent all day learning how to pronounce that - Kent Jones.  Hi, Kent. 

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Today, I went to the Westminster

Kennel Club dog show -

MADDOW:  I‘m so jealous. 

JONES:  The Super Bowl of dog shows.  And you know, if you want to look at all the different breeds that gather together as a dog show as a metaphor for America, I won‘t stop you.  When will our political leaders finally profit from the four-legged genius? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera):  To explore the connection between dogs and politics, I talked to several dog owners today.  And more importantly, I talked to several dogs.  You got any names for the filibuster?  This filibuster has got to go, right?  We can‘t go on this way.  It‘s untenable. 

Fifty-nine is still a majority.  We can‘t go on this way.  You‘ll get a mug, though, and a sweat shirt.  It will almost fit.  Yes, I‘ve been saying that for month.  I don‘t have anything either. 

(voice over):  Clearly, dogs bring fresh ideas to the political table. 

But is America ready for a dog president? 

(on camera):  I have a question for you. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes? 

JONES:  Do you think Tipper would make a good president? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

JONES:  Why? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She‘s outgoing and she is not afraid to say what she wants to say. 

JONES (voice over):  I‘m sold!  Tipper the Beagle 2012.  But wait. 

Could there be an inter-party challenger? 

(on camera):  Do you think a dog would make a good president? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, Australian Shepherds are very smart, sometimes conniving, so yes. 

JONES:  This dog would make a good president? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, of course, he would. 

JONES:  You heard it here.  Spooner 2012.  Personally, this is who I‘m voting for. 

(voice over):  An exploratory committee has been formed and we‘re already prepping for the campaign trail. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  I would let that dog kiss a baby. 

JONES:  I got high-fived by Spooner. 

MADDOW:  It‘s so awesome.  I‘m so jealous of your side of the job.  Thank you, Kent.  I appreciate it.  That does it for us tonight.  We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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