The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/24/10
HOST: Good evening from San Francisco.
If you have heard anyone talk about the big, bad, scary-sounding
nuclear option in health care politics today, the odds are, you‘ve heard
someone lie to you today. We will name names and set some proverbial
“pants on fire” in just a moment.
And we‘ve got an all-star lineup of guests joining us this hour.
California Senator Barbara Boxer, Salon.com‘s Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy
Scahill is here to talk about the freak show that is Blackwater.
And Blackwater implicating a character from “South Park” in the latest
thing that they‘ve been caught doing.
It is all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with an effort to clear up a big, fat
embarrassing political lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA: Democrats have already decided on this so-
called nuclear option, a reconciliation process.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS: This would be the nuclear option. And I
think it would be a terrible mistake.
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA: Reconciliation, that sounds real nice and
gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. It‘s the nuclear option.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: No, it‘s not, actually. It‘s not the nuclear option. This
is the last-ditch, last-day, last-try effort to stop health reform by lying
about it, one day before the health care summit in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYL: It is reported that the speaker has already said that she has
the process for reconciliation figured out. It was never designed for a
large, comprehensive piece of legislation, such as health care, as you all
know. It‘s a budget exercise. And that‘s why some refer to it as the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, no. That‘s wrong. No one calls it a nuclear
option except you guys. And you know you‘re lying when you do that.
On the eve of the health summit, Republicans are trying to get away
with saying that Democrats passing health reform through budget
reconciliation rules, where you only need 51 votes to pass something in the
Senate instead of 60, Republicans are trying to get away with saying that
would be the nuclear option.
It sounds awful, right? It‘s nuclear. Except that it isn‘t the
nuclear option and Republicans know that.
The nuclear option and reconciliation are two totally different
things, which Republicans are intimately aware of. And we know that
because the nuclear option was the Republican‘s own threat five years ago -
not to pass something through reconciliation, but to do away with the
filibuster altogether, to prevent Democrats from filibustering President
Bush‘s judicial nominees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist says he will
soon trigger what‘s known as the nuclear option, a vote to change Senate
rules to ban filibusters on judicial nominees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, yes, that‘s what the nuclear option is. The nuclear
option is changing the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster, to get rid
of the ability to require a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate. What
Democrats are talking about is something totally different, passing health
reform through reconciliation, passing health reform with 51 votes instead
60 – not the nuclear option, and Republicans know it. They know it
because, “A,” they created the nuclear option back in 2005, and “B,”
they‘ve used reconciliation over and over and over again.
And there‘s been no nuclear explosion. They‘ve defended its use.
They‘ve never described it as nuclear before, before Democrats decided that
they were going to do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JUDD GREGG ®, NEW HAMPSHIRE: We are using the rules of the
Senate here. That‘s what they are, Senator. Reconciliation is a rule of
the Senate. All this rule of the Senate does is allow a majority of the
Senate to take a position and pass a piece of legislation, support that
position. Now, is there something wrong with majority rules? I don‘t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don‘t think
so—unless Democrats ever want to use them. And then we won‘t call it
reconciliation anymore. We don‘t call it—we‘ll call it using the rules
of the Senate. Then we‘ll call it nuclear.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch is calling it, quote, “The highly
partisan ‘nuclear option‘ of reconciliation.” Republican Senator John
Cornyn tweeting today about, quote, “reconciliation, the 51-vote nuclear
What‘s going on here is a deliberate attempt on the part of
Republicans to define nuclear down, to conflate these two totally separate
things, to demonize the way the Democrats have to pass health reform right
now by calling it the nuclear option, even though the nuclear option is a
real thing in the Senate and this isn‘t that. It has nothing to do with
Perhaps the reason that Republicans are so unwilling to call this what
it is, reconciliation, is because they have a really long record of using
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: My Republican friends are
lamenting reconciliation. But I would recommend for them to go back and
look at history. Realistically, they should stop crying about
reconciliation as if it‘s never been done before. It‘s done almost every
Congress. And they‘re the ones that used it more than anyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republicans have, indeed, used reconciliation repeatedly to
pass their own agenda items. They used reconciliation to pass not one, but
two giant tax cuts during the Bush administration.
You want to say reconciliation was never used to change the health
care system, Senator Kyl?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYL: It was never designed for a large, comprehensive piece of
legislation, such as health care, as you all know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, that‘s completely, utterly 100 percent, knowingly
wrong. That is not true at all, Senator Kyl. And you know it‘s not true.
Reconciliation is how the health care system has been essentially formed in
this country, over and over and over again.
You ever heard of COBRA? COBRA is the law that lets people keep their
employee health insurance for a while after they‘ve been laid off. You
want to know what the “R” in COBRA stands for? “Reconciliation.” Oh, yes,
look at that.
In 1986, Congress passed the Consolidated Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act, COBRA, which forever affected health care coverage in
this country. Do you ever heard of SCHIP, the State Children‘s Health
Insurance Program? CHIP was created in a budget reconciliation bill in
Reconciliation is how we make changes to our health care system. As
NPR pointed out today, quote, “Over the past three decades, the number of
major health financing measures that were not passed via budget
reconciliation can be counted on one hand.”
This is how health reform is done in this country. And this effort to
say that using reconciliation would be the nuclear option, that it would
somehow be unprecedented is a lie. It is a lie and it is—it is
disingenuous. It is disingenuous in the sense that it‘s not just a
misunderstanding, they know they‘re lying about it. And people in the
media who repeat what Republicans are saying about this instead of
challenging them on it are helping Republicans spread a lie.
Republicans have used reconciliation over and over and over again—
as was pointed out to them by Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer last March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Nineteen times since 1980 has
reconciliation been used by far and away more times by the Republicans,
namely, 13 times they used it. They never came here and complained. They
used it. I have the record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Boxer actually inserted into the public record 13
previous instances of Republicans using this thing that they now say has
never been done before. That would be so unprecedented. This thing that
they‘re now calling the nuclear option, even though the nuclear option is a
totally different thing. This thing they now say the Democrats shouldn‘t
dare use. This thing that they‘ve used again and again and again.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
Senator Boxer, thanks very much for your time tonight.
BOXER: Thank you for shining the light of truth on this whole issue.
It really—it‘s heartwarming for me to listen to you.
MADDOW: Well, I‘m glad to hear it. I am—I‘m heartwarmed to be
able to do it, but I‘m angry that they‘re getting away with it.
MADDOW: I have talked to people in my profession, in the media who,
actually, I think have been bamboozled by this. They remember that there
was something called nuclear option. Now that Republicans are saying this
is it, I think they‘re falling for it.
BOXER: Yes. I mean, you—the nuclear option had to do with
something entirely different, the filibuster and judges. So let‘s set that
aside. I think was so—there were so many good things about what you
did, but I thought the best case for reconciliation was made by Republican
Senator Judd Gregg, who said, “Colleagues, this is a rule of the Senate.
It‘s the way we do business.”
And by the way, way back when I talked about how many times the
Republicans use it, I was wrong. They actually used it 16 times out of 22
times that it‘s been done since 1980. Let me say that again—since 1980,
we‘ve used reconciliation 22 times and out of those times, the Republicans
used it 16 times.
So, you know, to my Republican friends, you can have your opinion, but
you cannot change these facts, because they‘re in the congressional record.
And I don‘t know that you know this, Rachel, but Eric Cantor, who‘s in
the leadership of the House, in 2005 – I have an exact quote. Can I give
it to you?
BOXER: I wrote it down.
BOXER: This is what he said. “Reconciliation is a process I hope we
can engage in every year.” Eric Cantor, a leader who‘s going to the White
House tomorrow, Republican in the House—“Reconciliation is a process I
hope we can engage in every year.”
So, thank you for doing this and thank you for giving me the chance to
set the record straight.
Look, all this is about is utilizing the rules of the Senate, using
the majority of the senators to make sure that we get health reform done.
We cannot wait another day. I listened to Keith‘s talk.
I know from my constituency what is going on. Doctors that are told,
begged by mothers, “Please don‘t write down that my child has asthma.
Please lie and say it‘s bronchitis, because if you write down asthma, when
my child turns 18 or 20 and has to get his or her own insurance, it will be
a preexisting condition.”
And did you hear Harry Reid talk about—an incredible conversation
he had with a constituent who owns a restaurant, a lovely couple and they
had a baby and they had good insurance, really good insurance, covered the
birth. The baby was born with a cleft palate, and they were so devastated,
but the doctors say, “Don‘t worry, we can fix this, we can fix this.” It‘s
easily done. And they then got a note from the insurance company: your
baby has a pre-existing condition, and therefore you have to pay for this.
I mean, how much more do we have to hear about the injustice of it
all? And we can fix this. And we can fix it, you know, in a very good
And I‘m glad the president has, you know, invited everybody over
tomorrow. I think it‘s a good thing. And then we‘ll act. We have to.
MADDOW: Senator Boxer, you are one of the 23 Democratic senators who
have signed on to a letter supporting not only using reconciliation, but
MADDOW: – the pursuit of a public option through reconciliation.
MADDOW: And when you give me that story about the child with the
cleft palate in Nevada and the way the private insurer responded to that—
MADDOW: – it does make me want there to be better regulation for
private insurers, but it also makes me want the American people to have an
option to compete with the private insurance companies through a publicly-
accountable public plan.
MADDOW: Is this—is this new push for the public option going to
translate into anything? And if it‘s—if it‘s not, why can‘t we get it?
BOXER: Oh, it‘s about getting the votes. And all I can say is this -
we want competition. And the best way to have competition is to have a
public option in there. Because then we‘ll know what the fair prices ought
to be. It‘s just a—it‘s a very straightforward way to make sure
everybody, as the president said a long time ago, is kept honest. It‘s the
The other ways to go, one way, is to have regulation, where if
somebody—some insurance company wants to raise rates, they have to come
before a board and explain why. And that was an idea Senator Feinstein
had. I was proud to cosponsor that and the president has now taken that
up, which is great.
But the public option is the easiest way to go, the best way to go.
And I still think we‘re going to try to push for it. We‘ll push and push.
At the end of the day, we cannot walk away from this whole issue. And
we better make sure that when we finish, people have insurance they can
count on. They get treated with respect and fairly, and that it‘s
affordable. That‘s it. And that‘s why a public option makes sense.
But, Rachel, I do want to say to you and I‘ve said this to you before,
we will have a great expansion of Medicaid, and that is a public option.
Fifteen million of the uninsured will be covered under an
expanded Medicaid, so that is, in fact, a public option. Medicare, which I
think we should expand and open up to younger people, is a public option.
And by the way, it is strengthened in this bill. And the
doughnut hole, which is that terrible problem when you are getting
prescription drugs and all of a sudden, you reach a certain level and you
don‘t get anymore coverage. We‘re going to fill that hole.
So we do - it‘s a good approach. Without a public option, it
would be far better with it. But I really hope we don‘t get caught in a
situation where we say, unless we have this one thing, we shouldn‘t do it.
I think that would be a mistake.
MADDOW: I think that you and the president and Democrats in general
who are in the lead on this will find that when you fight for it, when you
fight for it in public, the public will stand by you. Democratic Senator
Barbara Boxer of California -
BOXER: I will.
MADDOW: Thank you for your time tonight. And it‘s nice to be here in
California, my home state and yours, too. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thank you. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner appeared on
this show last night and made his customary forceful case for health care
reform. Apparently, the Congressman was just warming up, because today,
him on the floor of the House was the single best, most dramatic
performance of the day, of the entire country, other than people who are at
the Olympics. Have you seen this? We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: President Obama is hosting the big televised bipartisan
health care summit during the day tomorrow. Tomorrow night, MSNBC will
bring you the highlights and the analysis, in case you were, you know,
doing something else all day. It‘s president‘s question time, from 9:00
p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night. We very much hope you‘ll
tune in. And we‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: I feel privileged and lucky to be working at the network that
gets to show the Olympics. I love every single thing about the Olympics.
I love the opening ceremonies. I love the national anthems. I love the
outfits. I love the crying. I love the scandals. I love the sports.
I love all of it. Everything from biathlon to curling to hockey,
I love the Olympics. There is nothing like the Olympics. Except,
sometimes, C-Span. Sometimes the action in Washington is as full-contact
as any full-body check in hockey. Sometimes, the action in Washington even
has forced penalty box time-outs, like it‘s Slovakia versus Serbia after a
particularly hard-fought power play.
Did you see what happened today in the house with Anthony Weiner?
I cannot make this any better by editing it or cutting it up in any way.
Just watch this raw. Watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anthony, go for it.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY): I yield.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later.
WEINER: You know, you‘ve got to love these Republicans. I mean, you
guys have chutzpah. The Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of
an insurance industry. That‘s the fact.
They say that, “Well, this isn‘t going to do enough.” But when
we propose an alternative to provide competition, they‘re against it. They
say that, “Well, we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners and
they‘ll do the job.”
But when we did that in our national health care bill, they said,
“We‘re against it.” They said they want to have competition and when we
proposed requiring competition, the Republicans are against it. They are a
wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. That‘s the fact. And
now they stand up -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker - I ask the gentleman
the words be taken down.
WEINER: You really don‘t want to go here Mr. Lungren.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend. The gentleman from
New York will please take a seat. The clerk will report the words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did you see, he‘s like, in the penalty box there. You see
him walking off? Getting your words taken down is just a mild form of
censure in the house. So Anthony Weiner gets sat down and his words get
But watch what he says when he gets back up. The very first
thing he says when they let him out of the penalty box. Watch what
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This gentleman seeking unanimous consent to
withdraw his words?
WEINER: I request unanimous consent to substitute other words?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would involve a withdrawal. Does the
gentleman withdraw -
WEINER: Request unanimous consent to withdraw my words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there an objection to the request? Objection
WEINER: How much time do I have remaining?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from Oregon has three minutes remaining.
REP. PETE DEFAZIO(D-OR): You can have them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman from New York is recognized.
WEINER: Make no mistake about it - every single Republican I have
ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance
industry. That is why Americans each and every year -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the gentleman‘s words be taken
down once more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will suspend - from New York will please take a
seat. The clerk will report the words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He‘s back in the penalty box again. Now, the context here is
that Anthony Weiner has been given this time on the floor by Pete DeFazio
of Oregon. And Pete DeFazio of Oregon, at this point, is sort of visibly
shocked and maybe delighted by what Anthony Weiner is doing with this time.
Watch how this part of this ends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: I thank you very much. Look, the point is very simple.
There are inequities in the present way we distribute insurance, the way we
distribute health care. There are winners and there are losers.
The winners are the insurance industry. And our efforts to reel
in the insurance profits not just because they shouldn‘t make profits -
they‘re doing what they‘re supposed to. But what they‘re doing is driving
up taxes, they‘re driving our economy into the ground, and we need
competition and choice to deal with that.
That‘s what this legislation does and the motion to recommit
undermines it. And I‘ve heard a couple of times today, well, we have an
effort for bipartisanship here. No, there is no bipartisanship on this
And that is the people who sit on this side, at the risk of
offending anyone, generally support the idea of standing up for the
American people in their daily battles against high insurance.
And the people, generally speaking, who sit on this side of the
chamber - and specifically speaking as well in a lot of cases - simply
won‘t permit that to happen and haven‘t for a generation.
Well, that‘s going to end now. That is going to end because we
are going to have competition. We are going to make sure that there are
regulations, and we are going to make sure that the American people aren‘t
That‘s what the American people stand for. And time and time
again, people say, “Well, I don‘t really mind this bill. I just want to
weaken it to the point that it‘s meaningless.”
And then I‘ve heard my good friend from Texas say, “Well, this
doesn‘t do anything.” But every single time we‘ve tried to do something,
like a tiny sliver of competition called the public option, they said, “No,
we can‘t withstand competition. We can‘t have that.”
Enough of the phoniness. We are going to solve this problem,
because for years, our Republican friends have been unable to and unwilling
to. Deal with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank the gentleman for those remarks. In
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We indeed thank the gentleman for those remarks. Anthony
Weiner has been a frequent guest on this and lots of other TV shows since
the health reform fight started because that‘s the way he talks about
I was in Washington recently. And a center-right influential
columnist, think-tank guy - I was talking with him about health reform, and
he sort of rubbed his hands in glee and said he hopes that Anthony Weiner
keeps going on TV a lot, because Anthony Weiner gives health reform a bad
He hopes Anthony Weiner keeps going on TV a lot because he makes
health reform look bad. I don‘t know about that. I think the way
Congressman Weiner talks about health reform shows what it looks like for
Democrats to stand up on their hind legs and fight, to be bare knuckled
about getting something passed, to say that bipartisanship is a farce if
one side wants to pass something and the other one doesn‘t.
I think the common wisdom guys in Washington hate that. They‘re
terrified of it. But I think it‘s what a lot of people, who voted in a
huge blue tide of Democrats in the last two elections, have been waiting to
And consider it in context, too, substantively. Profits at the
top five largest for-profit insurance companies rose 56 percent last year.
They made $4.5 billion more in 2009 over what they made in 2008, while
dropping more than 2.5 million people as customers.
And for those companies, that‘s great news. That‘s how it works.
That‘s business. Don‘t blame them for that. Well, do if you want, but
don‘t blame them entirely. This is business 101. It‘s how they profit.
It‘s not for-profit insurers‘ fault that they do everything they
can to not pay out when people they insure get sick. It‘s not for-profit
insurers‘ fault that they do everything they can to avoid giving insurance
to people who actually need health care.
It‘s not for-profit insurers‘ fault that they hike premiums by
anything they can get away with, by double digits every year, year after
year, after year, so we‘re getting to the point where $1 in every $5 we
spend on anything in this economy is spent on their dumb, evil health
system and that‘s with 15 millions still uninsured.
I mean, times are great for Wellpoint, right? In 2008, 39
Wellpoint executives were getting paid more than $1 million a year. In
2007 and 2008, Wellpoint spent $27 million on retreats for their
executives. And they‘ve got us over a barrel, 39percent rate hikes here in
California this year.
In Maine, Wellpoint‘s going for a 23 percent rate hike this year
after five consecutive years of double-digit premium increases on those
same policies. Wellpoint‘s hiking rates by up to 50 percent in Indiana
this year. Twenty-nine percent hike in New York State for small businesses
insured by Wellpoint.
Things are going great for Wellpoint. Don‘t blame them. It‘s
not their fault. They‘re a private for-profit business. They do not care
about this country. It is not their job to care about this country.
They‘re not a person. They do not have feelings.
They‘re a corporation. They‘re a company. They are not a
person. They‘re doing the job that is their fiduciary responsibility to do
for their own shareholders. It is not their job to get health care for the
It is their job to make as much money as possible off of the fact
that American people, like all people, need health care, which is
expensive, which we don‘t have the luxury of shopping for like we shop for
cars or eggs or sneakers.
Because it‘s cancer. It‘s pregnancy. It‘s appendicitis. It‘s a
compound fracture. It‘s a heart attack. It‘s diabetes. It‘s relief of
pain at the time of death.
We have private for-profit companies who are trying to make as
much profit as possible off our need for that care. And the point is not
to blame them for them wanting to make a profit, but to not look at what
they‘re doing and call it a health care system.
It‘s a profit-making system for companies that are not designed
to meet your needs or my needs or our needs as a country. The better
business health insurance companies do, the worse off the American people
and the American economy are. The incentives are wrong.
Health insurance companies are the health care system in this
country. By and large, that‘s what our system is. It‘s for-profit
companies. And that means there is a problem in the system. The
incentives are wrong.
It is individually rational for each private for-profit company
that makes up this system to make decisions that are bad for the country.
So we end up with a bad system.
Republican invitees to the health care summit tomorrow include
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha
Blackburn. Their proposals on health care are to get rid of the main
system that saves the elderly in our country from the for-profit system
that would eat them alive.
The Republican plan, the plan favored by the Republican
negotiators, is to end Medicare, get rid of it. Go to a purely for-profit
system. Let Wellpoint and all the goodness in Wellpoint‘s heart take care
of the 85-year-olds among us who they want to buy private insurance on the
Some Democrats, like Anthony Weiner, want the opposite. They
want the Wellpoints of this world out of it all together. They want
Medicare for all.
Let companies find their profits and make millionaires out of
their executive and fund their dozens of multimillion dollar retreats at
resorts from a sector of the economy that isn‘t health care, that isn‘t
cancer and hospice and broken bones.
Republicans want it to be all Wellpoint, all for profit, no
safety net, not even for old people - kill Medicare. That‘s who they‘re
bringing to the health summit.
Up on their hind legs, Democratic fighters like Anthony Weiner
want Medicare for all. Democrats aren‘t even letting him in the door to
that summit tomorrow. So to the White House, I say this. A lot more
people are with Anthony Weiner and against the insurance companies than are
with Marsha Blackburn and Paul Ryan who want to hand the insurance
companies even more of our blood and treasure.
You ignore the public option and the appeal of Medicare for all
at your very grave peril.
MADDOW: Last week, in Austin Texas, a man named Joseph Stack posted a
rambling, incoherent, anti-government anti-IRS screed online. He set his
house on fire, and then he flew a small plane into a building that housed
Mr. Stack killed himself in the attack and he killed IRS
collections manager, Vernon Hunter, a 27-year employee of the Internal
Revenue Service and a 20-year veteran of the United States Army, who served
is two tours of duty in Vietnam.
The city of Austin will hold a moment of silence tomorrow in
honor of Mr. Hunter and those wounded in the attack. Timothy Geithner has
also traveled to Austin to meet with IRS employees who survived the attack.
The IRS, of course, is under the jurisdiction of his government department,
As the city of Austin and the survivors and the family of the man
who was killed all try to come to terms with this inexplicable suicide
attack on a government facility, one member of Congress has repeatedly,
publicly announced that he sympathizes with this act of terrorism. He is
Congressman Steve King of Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The pilot who flew himself into an IRS
building. Do you think his attack, his terrorist attack, was motivated at
all by a lot of the anti-tax rhetoric popular in America right now?
REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): I think if we‘d abolish the IRS back when I
first advocated it, he wouldn‘t have a target for his airplane. And I‘m
still for abolishing the IRS.
It‘s sad that the incident happened in Texas, but by the token,
the IRS is an agency that is unnecessary. And when the day comes that
we‘ve abolished the IRS, it will be a happy day for all Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: So some of his grievances were
KING: I don‘t know if his grievances were legitimate. I‘ve read part
of the material. I can tell you I‘ve been audited by the IRS, and I‘ve had
the sense of, “Why is the IRS in my kitchen?”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It will be a happy day when that guy, who just killed a
government worker and flew a plane into a government building, gets what he
wanted. That will be a happy day.
There was a response to Congressman Steve King‘s comments from
Congressman James Clyburn.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): One of our colleagues has now called the
act of terrorism a noble act. The fact of the matter is, the gentleman
that lost his life in that building, Vernon Hunter, was from Orangeburg,
South Carolina that I proudly represent in this body.
He spent two tours in Vietnam and was about the business of
carrying out his duties and responsibilities to this great country of ours.
If anybody is a hero, it is this victim. And I find it appalling that a
member of this body will call his death a noble happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Steve King still says he‘s not sorry for his
remarks. We contacted his office today. They gave us this statement,
quote, “As a founder of a small business who has endured IRS audits, I
understand the deep frustration with the IRS. In the early days my company
could not run with me in the job. I once had to shut down just to be in
the room with the IRS. I did not get a fair shake, but I channeled my
frustration the American way and ran for office.”
“Americans looking for an outlet for their frustrations should
join me in calling on Congress to pass a national sales tax and abolish the
current federal tax code and the IRS.”
I don‘t want to tell Congressman King to do his job, but when you‘re
asked to respond to a terror attack on your country, even when in which the
attacker‘s target happens to be something you also don‘t like, I could put
to you that the appropriate response is to condemn the act of terrorism and
then stop talking for a while, rather than ally yourself with the
terrorists and talk about how justified you think his actions were.
We‘re joined now by Glenn Greenwald, a contributing writer at
“Salon.com.” Glenn, thank you for your time, and I‘m very sorry that
American Airlines lost your luggage today.
GLENN GREENWALD, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, “SALON.COM”: Thank you, Rachel.
That‘s very consoling.
MADDOW: I generally don‘t take things that Congressman King says all
that seriously, because I think he‘s sort of a provocateur in this, just
trying to get on cable. It does seem remarkable to me, though, just in
terms of our politics, that a member of Congress can get away with talking
about the legitimacy of this type of act against the government and not
have caused a firestorm.
GREENWALD: Well, when someone commits an act of violence against
civilians or non-combatants in pursuit of a political agenda, I think it‘s
important to distinguish between discussions of whether the underlying
grievances are valid, which is a legitimate discussion to have, and
justifications for the violence itself.
I mean, can you have discussions about whether the underlying
grievances of, say, Islamic radicals, are justifiable, things like the fact
that we bombed their countries and then occupied them, overthrow their
governments, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tyrannies without justifying terrorism, as
long as you say the act of terrorism and violence itself is illegitimate.
But what the right tends to do in this country - and this is true
historically, at least when they‘re out of power. When they‘re in power,
they expand government power wildly. But when they‘re out of power, they
adopt very extremist, anti-government rhetoric that suggests not merely
that the government is acting wrongly, but that the government is a
legitimate target for attack and should be seen as illegitimate.
You saw that several years ago, when there was a state of attacks
on judges, and John Cornyn, the senator from Texas, said judges basically
had it coming because of bad decisions that they‘ve made. You saw it in
the 1990s when Newt Gingrich, after the Timothy McVeigh attacks, said that
the fear that Americans have over the government is justifiable.
And you see it now with some of the movements on the right
talking about the need to replenish the Tree of Liberty with the blood of
patriots. It‘s very violent, anti-government extremism.
And what Congressman King said, I think, clearly crosses that
line for merely talking about the underlying grievances into endorsing
violence itself. And it‘s very dangerous and should provoke a much
MADDOW: Glenn, you‘ve written critically and with some detail about
whether or not this incident in Austin should be described as terrorism.
You just heard me describe it as terrorism.
I also described the killing of Dr. George Tiller as terrorism
when that happened. I know there‘s lots of people who disagree with me on
that, using that sort of name for legitimate reasons. I think it‘s worth
discussing. Do you think that this should be called an act of terrorism?
Does it make sense that people are reluctant to call this terrorism?
GREENWALD: Well, the problem is that “terrorism” has really become
the most meaningless and therefore the most manipulated word in the
American political lexicon. Really, what it has come to mean is Muslims
who generally are hostile, too, or dislike the United States.
There are actual definitions of terrorism that the United States
government has adopted that are very clear. It has nothing to do with who
the person is, but what the act is. And the act of terrorism means
engaging in violence directed at civilians or noncombatants for the purpose
of putting fear into the population or changing behavior in order to
achieve political goals.
And if you read the manifesto, for lack of a better word, that
Joseph Stack left, what it said was, “I‘m doing this in order to inspire
others to give up their bodies in pursuit of these political ideas.”
I mean, if that‘s not terrorism, then I don‘t know what is. And
yet we call things terrorism, that don‘t meet that definition, like the
Fort Hood attack, which attacked a military base. Everybody called that
terrorism, because it was a Muslim attack who said “Allah Akbar.”
But in this case, and in the case of people who stand outside
abortion clinics and shoot abortion doctors in order to change abortion
laws - clear definitive acts of terrorism. We‘re reluctant to call it that
because these are Americans and the premise seems to be that Americans
don‘t commit terrorism. Only foreigners do.
MADDOW: Or Americans who are Muslims or have foreign-sounding names.
MADDOW: Glenn Greenwald at “Salon.com,” as always, clear and
compromising thinker on these and many issues. Glenn, it‘s good to have
you on the show. Good luck with your luggage.
GREENWALD: Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: The story of the rare intersection of military contractors in
Afghanistan and the TV show “South Park.” And bonus, the story is totally
not funny. Jeremy Scahill joins us shortly. This is a very strange one.
Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: Today on the floor of the House, Congressman Jim Moran gave
the country a piece of information that puts an outraged exclamation point
on one contested matter of civil rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I rise today to share the substance
of an e-mail from an active duty soldier in Afghanistan, response to an
inquiry from his commanding officer related to the military‘s review of the
“don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy. The soldier shared how he and his partner
of 10 years have managed multiple deployments to Iraq and to Afghanistan.
They explained that they survived like any couple does, except because of
the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy, his partner would not be informed in
the event of his death, and cannot make any emergency decisions that would
normally fall to a spouse.
This situation is typical, even within his unit. He learned that a
fellow soldier was also gay, only after he was killed by an IED in Iraq.
The partner of the deceased soldier wrote the unit to say how much the
victim had loved the military, how they were the only family he had ever
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia sharing details of a gay
American soldier killed in action in Iraq.
The letter he describes is from a gay Army Ranger combat arms
commander who‘s currently deployed in Afghanistan. The letter is
incredible. We have posted it at our Web site today, Rachel.MSNBC.com. I
encourage you to check it out if you have an interest in this issue.
Well, the Congress and some conservatives have been wringing their
hands about repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” I want to leave you with
one note on personnel policy in the military. Buried in the inside pages
of today‘s “New York Times,” in a five-sentence, one-paragraph-long story
is notification that the Pentagon has decided to lift the 100-year-old ban
on women serving on U.S. Navy submarines.
Women make up about 15 percent of our Navy‘s officers and sailors.
Since 1993, women have been assigned to surface ships in the Navy but not
submarines, because, you know, submarines are sexy or something—unlike
aircraft carriers which are totally not sexy.
In any case, Defense Secretary Bob Gates has now told Congress that
the ban will be repealed, women service will be phased in starting with
women officers on larger submarines within a year or so.
Without fanfare, without congressional hearings, without a year long
review, without any noticeable peep from Senator John McCain, the Pentagon
is ending a personnel ban on the basis that it was discriminatory and
antiquated. No muss, no fuss. No humiliating dishonest pseudo-
intellectual public declarations and bigotry from members of Congress—so
MADDOW: Multiple choice: Elmer Fudd, Eric Cartman or Scrooge McDuck.
Which cartoon character did a real life Blackwater employee use as an alias
in order to get his hands on 200 stolen AK-47s? The answer is next.
MADDOW: Whatever the level of U.S. government oversight of the
defense contractor Blackwater has or hasn‘t been, that level is very likely
about to change. We have just learned that the Senate Armed Services
Committee hearing that in September 2008, more than 200 AK-47s were signed
out by a Blackwater employee apparently named for this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC CARTMAN, CARTOON CHARACTER: Hey, I‘m a cop and you will respect
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is Eric Cartman from “South Park.” Eric Cartman is the
name that a Blackwater contractor used to sign out hundreds of AK-47s for
Blackwater employee‘s personal use in Afghanistan. These were guns that
were supposed to be issued to Afghan police. And no, there was no one
actually named Eric Cartman working for Blackwater at that time. And no,
Blackwater employees at that time were not even allowed to possess weapons
in Afghanistan without permission—which, of course, they did not have.
In December 2008, after grabbing these weapons they weren‘t supposed
to have, a Blackwater contractor jumped on the back of a moving vehicle
with his loaded weapon. When that moving vehicle hit a bump, the
contractor accidentally shot another contractor in the head. What happened
to the “Dukes of Hazard” reckless shooter? Blackwater sent the shooter
back home to the U.S.—that was it.
Blackwater was also nailed today for setting up a shell company for
its operations in Afghanistan to avoid being associated with Blackwater‘s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), ARMED SERV. COMMITTEE: The people that
were working for you in the theater said, yes, we work for Blackwater. But
you know we work for Blackwater. Our paycheck came from Blackwater. We
were Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater.
Paravant just appears to be a classic example of a cover corporation
in order for the people who are doing the contract not to know who they‘re
really contracting with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Despite all of this, it was reported this week that
Blackwater is in the running for another new multimillion-dollar contract
from the Defense Department to train Afghan police—the police they stole
all those weapons from under the name of the kid from “South Park.”
Joining us now is national security correspondent with “The Nation”
magazine, Jeremy Scahill. He was at the hearing today. He‘s also the
author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary
Jeremy, thanks very much for being here.
JEREMY SCAHILL, AUTHOR, “BLACKWATER”: It‘s good to be with you,
MADDOW: Stealing weapons, unauthorized carrying of weapons, shooting
civilians, drinking, shooting each other, fraud, tax evasion—am I
missing anything else in terms of what Blackwater has been accused of in
SCAHILL: You‘re describing a perfect resume for employment with
You know, Rachel, I actually like the show “South Park” and what
happens on every episode of “South Park” is that poor little Kenny, one of
the characters on the show, dies in every episode and sometimes, Eric
Cartman kills him.
Well, in Afghanistan, when Eric Cartman, i.e., a Blackwater employee,
signs out 200 weapons and then they kill innocent Afghan civilians with
them, they don‘t come back the next episode. Afghanistan is not “South
And what we saw today at this hearing is just the tip of the iceberg
of what Blackwater has been doing, running this criminal enterprise around
In Afghanistan, they set up this shell company Paravant in
collaboration with a mammoth war giant Raytheon, which held the prime
contract for this. And they set up this contract to try to hide the fact
that the Pentagon was once again hiring Blackwater, this firm that‘s been
under investigation by practically every federal entity in the United
States. It‘s a shell company that was used to essentially defraud the
government by convincing the Army that Blackwater was not getting the
contract, but this company Paravant.
As was pointed out in the hearing today, Paravant represented in its
contract documents that it had years of experience. Paravant hadn‘t even
existed for a few months when they got that contract to work in
But I have to say, Rachel, that we‘re talking about very small details
in a much larger picture that has Blackwater as the tip of the sphere in
assassination programs and involved with all sorts of other dirty deeds on
behalf of U.S. government and other corporations.
MADDOW: Jeremy, what do you think is the most serious of these new
charges that have been leveled against the company? I mean, it seems at
least politically notable to me that the company is being exposed for
having—we‘re learning about the criminal history—
MADDOW: – and the history of incompetence and misconduct among the
people that Blackwater is hiring. It seems important because they‘ve had
this reputation that they hire only very elite people. That seems to be
SCAHILL: Right. I mean, two of the guys that have been indicted now
on manslaughter charges in the United States for killing two Afghan
civilians, it‘s been revealed that they—one of them had gone AWOL from
the military, had tested positive for cocaine. Another had been on the “do
not deploy” list and Blackwater then transferred him over to Paravant, this
shell company, so that he could be redeployed to Afghanistan.
So, I think that when you take the combination of the fact that
Blackwater is essentially lying to the U.S. military, is in possession of
hundreds of illicit weapons, is killing Afghan civilians, and is over all
endangering the lives of U.S. forces there through their misconduct, what
you have is a very lethal cocktail.
And the fact that the Obama administration is now leaning toward
giving Blackwater not a multimillion dollar contract, Rachel, but $1
billion dollar contract to train the Afghan national police, I think should
sound emergency warning bells for subpoenas to be issued to Eric Prince and
other Blackwater executives to go in front of Congress and answer for all
the crimes their personnel committed.
MADDOW: Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill with “The Nation”—
Jeremy, thanks for attending the hearing today so you could report on it
with us. Thanks for being on the show tonight. Appreciate your time.
SCAHILL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN”: Keith‘s very, very important
special comment about health care reform and tomorrow‘s summit. We will be
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. Tomorrow‘s a big day in
Washington and a big day for the country as President Obama hosts a
televised health care summit. Tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, MSNBC will
bring you the highlights of the day and analysis. That‘s 9:00 p.m.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Have a great
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.