The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/03/10
HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. I will admit to an
outright guffaw in the makeup room at the malaise potato chips.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You betcha.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks, Lawrence. Appreciate it.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
Senator Sherrod Brown, “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich, and
Arkansas Lieutenant Governor and Senate hopeful Bill Halter—all ahead.
Plus, a new face of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” fight—a man who you
will not forget after you meet him here tonight.
That is all coming up this hour.
But, first, we keep doing these segments that are called “They‘re Not
Embarrassed,” right? They‘re about people who have lied or been blatantly
hypocritical in their opposition to policies like the stimulus and health
The reason we keep calling these segments “They‘re Not Embarrassed” is
because that‘s supposed to describe a problem in that people should be
embarrassed when they get caught lying or when they get caught showing
blatant hypocrisy. But there is a problem here. They are not. They‘re
And as the health care reform fight draws to a close, people who want
health reform to not happen are becoming even less afraid and even less
embarrassed about lying about health reform and about demonstrating rank
hypocrisy about health reform. This problem is not getting any better. It
turns out that our diagnosis was not at all a cure.
Last night, we highlighted Republican Senator Orrin Hatch‘s untruths
about the health reform process. He wrote an op-ed that appeared to have
no connection to the fact-based world most of us live in. Senator Hatch,
in response to that segment, did not dispute anything that we said about
him on last night‘s show. Senator Hatch did tweet on the matter—not to
correct me, just to say that he thought that my criticizing him was a,
quote, “wonderful badge of honor.”
To be clear, what I said Orrin Hatch did was lie. He says he‘s
wearing that as a wonderful badge of honor. I wasn‘t expressing my opinion
about Senator Hatch. I wasn‘t talking about his opinions about health
reform. I was catching him in a lie and documenting that he, in fact,
It turns out in response to that he‘s very proud. Weird. I know.
But it‘s not just Orrin Hatch. The Republican leader in the Senate,
Mitch McConnell, responded to the president‘s speech on health reform today
with this whopper of his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Virtually, every time
reconciliation has been used, the results were bipartisan support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “Bipartisan support,” he says, virtually every time—
virtually every time.
Except for this time, when it was a 51-50 party line vote, or that
other time when it was a 50-49 party line vote, or that other time when it
was a 52-47 party line vote.
You know, actually, if you look at the past two decades of using
reconciliation in the United States Congress—if you look at the last two
decades, the majority of times it has been used, it has been used for party
line votes. So, Mitch McConnell told a lie about that today.
I do not take pleasure in saying this—but some of the most
prominent politicians opposed to health reform are just lying about health
reform, lying about the U.S. Senate. They‘re not embarrassed about being
caught in the lies. They‘re not even embarrassed about taking brave stands
against their own records, their own positions in order to try to stop
health reform from succeeding.
Take, for example, Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.
Mr. Gregg went on the FOX News Channel today to decry the use of
reconciliation to pass reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JUDD GREGG ®, NEW HAMPSHIRE: It‘s bad policy. And to do it
this way is to really railroad the American people and the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Reconciliation railroading the American people and the
Congress—railroading them. That new Judd Gregg really is not going to
be happy when we introduce him to the old Judd Gregg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREGG: 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 think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don‘t think so. Wait until this Judd Gregg hears about
what that other Judd Gregg just said, huh?
In their desperation to try to stop health reform by any means
necessary, senators opposed to health reform have repeatedly decided to
take brave stands against themselves. Now, this desperation is a
manifestation of the mass freak-out by opponents of health reform over the
fact that health reform is close to a done deal.
And it‘s not just the lying and the hypocrisy by politicians who
really ought to know better, it‘s also this—Code Red! This is not a
Website that we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW created today in order to
satirize the Republican freak-out over health reform passing. This is
their actual Web site. Code Red!
Look at the siren. You see the siren? “Alerting America to the
Democrats‘ Health Care takeover!”—exclamation point. This is a—this
is a new project of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Code
Red, Code Red, everybody, freak out!
Another symptom of this freak-out is one that actually makes me upset.
You know how in baseball, if you intentionally bump an umpire, you get
slapped with a pretty big suspension. On the street, if you assault a
police officer, you end up getting a way worse sentence than if you
assaulted a person who is not a police officer. The idea is that not that
these people are so much more important than regular citizens, but these
folks, in doing their jobs, represent the system itself. They represent
the commitment that we in America have to living within some agreed upon
People in our society whose job is to uphold the rules can‘t be
attacked. That‘s sort of an American value, in everything from our
criminal justice system to sports—which is why even jaded Beltway
insiders recoiled today when Senate Republicans started to attack the
Senate parliamentarian. Yes. This is basically the Senate‘s ump, the guy
who calls balls and strikes on how the Senate operates. He hasn‘t even
ruled on anything related to health care yet, but Republicans are
preemptively bullying the parliamentarian in terms of how he will rule on
procedural matters related to health care.
Republican Senator Jim DeMint warning, “I‘ve got concerns,” and
telling Politico.com, quote, “I would think that reconciliation would make
or break the perception of his objectivity.”
My friend Senator Orrin Hatch warning, “He‘d be crazy not to follow
the rules and to rule properly. If he didn‘t do that, he‘d lose all
Another brave anonymous Republican just throwing the evidence-free
insult that “Politico” duly transcribed, quote, “I think most people don‘t
You know, I would normally show you a picture of the guy that they‘re
attacking at this point, but I think that he actually deserves to be left
out of this. He‘s the parliamentarian. He‘s a guy who‘s doing his job.
He hasn‘t even done anything yet in this fight, let alone having done
The reason health reform opponents are freaking out—code red, code
red—attacking the parliamentarian, lying, denying their own records on
subjects like this, the reason they‘re freaking out is because this process
is almost done. They‘re desperate. And it‘s not just my opinion that it
is almost done, president Obama today made clear that this really is almost
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We began our push to
reform health insurance last March, in this room, with doctors and nurses
who know the system best. And so, it‘s fitting to be joined by all of you
as we bring this journey to a close.
Every idea has been put on the table. Every argument has been made.
Everything there is to say about health care has been said.
OBAMA: And just about everybody has said it.
OBAMA: So, now is the time to make a decision about how to finally
reform health care so that it works.
At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but
our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it‘s
still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their
future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead.
And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. I
do not know how this plays politically, but I know it‘s right.
And so, I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to
signing this reform into law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Senator Brown, thanks very much for making time for us tonight.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be back. Thanks.
MADDOW: In terms of the logistics here, the House would need to pass
the Senate version of health reform first. They are reportedly a little
reluctant to do so until they are satisfied that the Senate really does
have the votes to pass the last fixes to the bill via reconciliation.
Can you assuage those concerns tonight?
BROWN: Well, yes, I think there‘s—there‘s no question in my mind
that we get somewhere between 52 and 57 votes, something like that, for a
reconciliation that actually improves the bill.
And, you know, I listened, Rachel to your—to all the Republicans
and the old Judd Gregg and the new Judd Gregg and the old Mitchell and all
that. You know, I tried to understand them better and put myself in their
shoes. And I think they look back in history and they understand that they
had to explain away their opposition to Medicare for two or three decades,
and it cost them at the polls.
And I think Republicans, the ones that are more—that are more—
have more insight than some of the others, perhaps, understand that they
vote no on this, they‘re going to be explaining it 10 and 20 years from now
as a real bad vote, because this health care bill that we‘re passing is
going to work for the overwhelming majority of Americans. And so, they‘re
sort of protesting to—protesteth too much in some sense.
And I think they know that—you know, this may help them short-term
in one election, this opposition. But I think they know, as this bill
takes effect and helps people, helps small business, makes sure nobody‘s
thrown off for pre-existing conditions, or the caps on coverage when they
got real sick and it was real expensive, and people back in 2010 lost their
insurance, that won‘t happen in 2015 and ‘20 – I think they know this is a
troublesome situation they‘re putting themselves in. So, they want to keep
pushing back, keep delaying, keep stopping this any way they can.
MADDOW: Yes. It seems to me like in terms of political calculus for
the Republicans, the worst situation is if the bill passes and they all
vote no for it. In the—with the expectation that health reform is going
to actually improve things for average Americans and improve the overall
economic situation with regard to health care. But Senator McConnell today
started talking about not wanting to tip his hand as to what he had in mind
for stopping health reform. I understand they‘re desperation to stop it.
Do you know what they‘re going to pull out their hat to try to kill
BROWN: I think they‘re going to—with reconciliation, they‘re going
to try to do amendments, as many as they can get away with. And I think we
keep them all here tonight, the next night, the night after, the night
after. We—if they‘re going to—if they‘re going to try to filibuster
in the traditional sense or in the more modern obstructionist sense that
they do, they‘re going to have to—they‘re going to have—they‘re going
to pain too. They‘re going to have to stay all night and we‘re going to
have quorum calls and we‘re going to do whatever we need to do to get this
passed within the Senate rules and within fair play.
But that‘s the way we‘ve done it all along. And I just—you know,
this whole thing when they say, we‘re going to—reconciliation, we‘re
going to turn over 1/7 of the American economy, reconciliation, for one
thing, it‘s a majority vote, as you point, which every other country in the
world runs their parliamentary or their congress by. But more than that,
the reconciliation part of the bill is small, at the edges, fixing, making
positive changes in the big bill that both houses have already passed and
the Senate with the supermajority of 60 and in the House.
So, this whole thing that we‘re turning to reconciliation—one more
point, when I hear them say they only did little things with
reconciliation. When I was in the House, the Senate did reconciliation—
when they did reconciliation on tax bills, they took a surplus that was
going to be trillions of dollars and turned it into a deficit—a debt,
which was going to be trillions of dollars. And they say that was a minor
thing they did with reconciliation? Nice try on that one, my friends.
MADDOW: Senator Brown, briefly, one last thing on health reform. The
current bill before the Senate does not include a public option. You said
today that you could—you might offer a separate bill that would include
the public option.
How would that work, exactly? And what sort of support do you think
BROWN: Well, my comments that way just meant, I don‘t give up on
this. I—when Senator Kennedy and Senator Dodd, the acting chair of the
health committee, asked Senator Whitehouse—Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode
Island and me to write the public option bill, we‘ve been working on it
ever since, for seven or eight months. We‘re going to try to get it in
reconciliation. If we fail, we‘re going to keep trying and keep trying.
If it‘s a free stand-alone bill later, I‘m not giving up on this.
And by the time this bill takes effect, this law fully takes effect, I
hope to have the public option included, because it will save money. It
will keep the insurance companies honest.
The insurance companies always play this game a step ahead of the
sheriff. And we need the discipline on the market, the discipline on the
insurance companies, and in the choice that so many Americans that are
being told, you‘ve got to buy insurance, we want you to have the option of
buying a public insurance plan that‘s freestanding and can compete toe to
toe with Aetna and Blue Cross and all these other insurance companies.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio—thank you for
your time tonight, sir. Appreciate it.
BROWN: Always. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. So this is the only TV show in America where I am quite
confident that you, the audience, will share my excitement when I tell you
that coming up in our next segment, we have the best graph ever. Best
graph ever. Best graph we‘ve ever had.
Admit it! You are excited for that and you would never hear a tease
like that on any other show ever. It‘s OK. Just give in to your inner
Give in. Just let it go. Let it go.
MADDOW: “The New York Times” columnist Frank Rich is our guest here
in studio, next. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: There‘s big news out of the Texas primary results. The tea
party and Ron Paul-supported candidate for governor, a woman named Debra
Medina, had a very respectful showing for someone whose platform with the
governor who maybe wants to secede from the Union isn‘t right wing enough.
Miss Medina got more than 18 percent of the vote. In other words, nearly
one in five voters in the Republican primary in Texas voted for her—
compare that to the 31 percent won by Kay Bailey Hutchison, a recognized
sitting U.S. senator.
Also, a pair of tea party races in down ballot races actually defeated
or forced runoffs with Republican incumbents.
But as America continues to try to figure out in what direction the
Republican Party is going, what the GOP‘s path out of the political
wilderness is going to be, we‘re left with electoral results like that on
the one hand, but also something that the great Chris Hayes mentioned on
this show yesterday. Chris, in our interview last night, pointed out that
before Senator Jim Bunning‘s one-man stand against unemployment benefits
came crashing down last night, Kentucky Senate candidate, Rand Paul, the
son of Congressman Ron Paul, attended a rally, celebrating Senator Bunning
and his brave obstructionist stand yesterday afternoon outside Senator
Bunning‘s Lexington, Kentucky offices.
And it‘s not just Rand Paul. All three of the Republicans who are
looking to replace Senator Bunning endorsed what Senator Bunning did in the
Senate this week. The folks celebrating Jim Bunning are seeing him as an
anti-government, anti-spending activist.
But to embrace Jim Bunning is to embrace a strange record, if you
really are a libertarian, if you really are a deficit hawk, if you really
care about spending and responsibility. I mean, sure, Jim Bunning
quixotically blocked this one bill that involved spending money, but look
at Jim Bunning‘s record.
As we pointed out last night, Senator Bunning‘s been voting to add
billions to the deficit for years, including many, many, many, many, many,
many, many votes for bills like the one that he was roadblocking this week
weren‘t paid for—votes like the 2001 Bush tax cuts, the 2003 Bush tax
cuts, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the 2003 extension of
unemployment benefits, the 2008 war supplemental bill, just to cherry-pick
Here‘s something to keep in mind, as Republican senators continue to
argue against reconciliation to pass health reform, as the Republican Party
as a whole to tries to capitalize on the conservative uprising in the
streets and in the conservative movement, as the tea partiers themselves
continue to shout about how much they care about the deficit, how anti-
spending they are—here‘s the facts. This is—this is something I want
you to look at here. This is the historical truth from the Congressional
Budget Office. This is their numbers.
This is a graph that in constant dollars shows three different
measures and their effect on the budget. That first one, the one that goes
way, way, way down there—that represents the 2001 Bush tax cuts, passed,
of course, using budget reconciliation. That was the effect on the budget
and the deficit. The second bar, the one that also goes way, way, way down
represents the second Bush tax cuts, also passed using budget
reconciliation. And that last bar, the one that actually has a positive
net effect on the budget and the deficit, that‘s the health reform bill
that was passed by the Senate. That‘s what it is projected to do.
So, which one of those are the so-called deficit hawks railing against
now? Does any of this make sense?
Joining us now is “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich.
Mr. Rich, thank you so much for being here.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK TIMES: Great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I‘m so excited about that graph, I can hardly stand it.
MADDOW: I just feel, sometimes—
RICH: It‘s a great graph, yes.
MADDOW: Well, sometimes you spend weeks and months talking about
something and then you look at one picture and it‘s like, right, that makes
Where is the dividing line between the Republican Party and the sort
of the conservative uprising that you wrote about in your column this week,
the tea party movement?
RICH: I think there‘s a huge dividing line. I think it‘s to the
peril of the establishment Republican Party. I think the tea party people
a lot of them, it‘s hard to generalize about them—realize exactly
what‘s in that graph. They associate the George Bush, John McCain, Mitch
McConnell, John Boehner Republican Party with deficits. They may have been
tax cuts that they like, they may not know the fine points, but they‘re not
inviting those people to those rallies.
They rally around Bunning for 10 minutes because he‘s a lame duck
who‘s suddenly became, you know, a deficit hawk for 10 minutes at the end
MADDOW: And you think they rally around him out of ignorance of his
RICH: Yes, I think they just rally around what he did this past week.
RICH: That‘s it. And they don‘t—he‘s a symbol. I mean, he‘s
going to be going anyway. He‘s out of office.
But the fact is that the—Rand Paul, for instance, doesn‘t have the
blessing of Mitch McConnell in his own state. And I think they hate the
Republicans. They hate all of Washington. They may hate Obama more, but
they hate that establishment party.
MADDOW: When you described that movement as counter-conservative in
your column this week, that sort of jumped out at me because I feel like in
some small “c” way, it is a conservative movement, but you think it‘s—
well, what did you mean by counter-conservative?
RICH: Well, in some ways, it‘s almost like in the ‘60s on the left,
it‘s kind of countercultural to official establishment conservatism which
they feel has sold them out. If you‘re a true libertarian and you‘re
really anti-government and you don‘t even want Medicare, you know, you
don‘t even want government to spend money on Medicare, then you don‘t like
the Republican Party in Washington that‘s now, you know, positioning
themselves as a champion of Medicare. And you don‘t like Bush giving a
huge entitlement program and prescription drugs and all the rest of it.
So, I think they‘re counter to the official conservatism of the GOP.
MADDOW: I wonder what happens to—there is a libertarian party in
MADDOW: And I wonder what happens to them and the people who have
actually been the very small, sort of, rump of the conservative movement
that really have been libertarian all this time, if they‘re able to
capitalize on this. At this point, it seems like there‘s so much friction
between the Republican Party trying to call these folks their own, but then
the Republican Party‘s own record leaving such a bad taste in the mouths of
the tea party folks that it‘s not gelling, it‘s not working.
RICH: I agree. And I think you saw the split in the CPAC convention
in Washington, where, first of all, Ron Paul won the straw poll.
RICH: Second, if you look down deeply in that poll, you find the
issues are sort of where the old right, like same-sex marriage, don‘t even
register as important. There‘s a huge libertarian and youthful libertarian
component, and they want nothing to do with this Republican establishment.
Will they gain as a party from it? Probably not. But there‘s a lot of
chaos in this whole sort of tea party conservatism.
MADDOW: The one thing that seems useful about it to me for Democratic
prospects is that it does, if tea partiers start really making an impact in
the Republican Party, and if there is an electoral effect running against
beside the record of George Bush, as you described it, John McCain and
others, that unifies Democrats, because it gets Democrats—Democrats are
just as comfortable running against George Bush as they are running against
an “abolish Medicare, abolish Social Security” true libertarian agenda. I
actually think, in the long run, this probably splits conservatives and
puts Democrats in a very good position.
RICH: I think it does. In a typical state, Texas may not be a
typical state in many ways, but in a typical state, if the far-right
candidate wins, the tea party candidate wins, that only helps Democrats in
the terms of independents. At the same time, if a tea party candidate
loses, that energized base may not—may not turn out for John McCain.
RICH: Or Charlie Crist, should they triumph in their primaries.
So, it‘s kind of a win-win situation for Democrats, which isn‘t to
underestimate the Democrats‘ ability to screw it all up.
MADDOW: It‘s a win-win situation for Democrats, I think,
strategically, provided that Democrats have some enthusiasm on their side.
RICH: Right. And they have to get it because, right now, it‘s not
clear what their program is, and as we‘ve seen in the health care debate
you‘ve been talking about, there‘s a lot of sort of cowardice and
quibbling. And so, they have to rally their own side, too. And that‘s not
happening right now.
MADDOW: On the Democratic side, because they are the governing
parties. I think the way they have to energize their base is very hard.
They need to pass health care reform, pass Wall Street reform, pass cap and
trade, do—you know, get a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, all this
stuff. It‘s hard to do.
RICH: And they‘ve got to do at least some of it. And so far, they
haven‘t done much of it.
MADDOW: Yes. We shall see.
Frank Rich, “New York Times” columnist—it‘s always such a pleasure
to have you here. Thanks very much.
RICH: Great to see you.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
RICH: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln has so agitated liberals
with her persistent conservadem-itude that her primary opponent, her more
liberal primary opponent, has raised roughly $4 million or $5 million to
challenge her for the nomination since Monday. That man, Lieutenant
Governor Bill Halter joins us for “The Interview”—next.
MADDOW: Last summer, Blanche Lincoln wrote an op-ed for the “Arkansas
Democrat Gazette,” saying that she was all in favor of a public option for
health reform. Sen. Lincoln wrote, “Individuals should be able to choose
from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include
private plans as well as a quality affordable public plan or non-profit
plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan.”
That was in the summer. That was in July. By September, Sen.
Lincoln had completely changed her mind, saying that she would not vote for
a public option. Then by November, Sen. Lincoln was not only in longer in
favor of a public option, she was not only going to vote against a public
By November, she was going to vote with Republicans to filibuster
a public option, not only completing her flip-flop, but doing so in a way
that would prohibit the rest of the senators in her party who supported a
public option from even having the opportunity to vote on it.
Sen. Lincoln is also against the Employee Free Choice Act, which
makes it easier for people to join unions. She‘s also joined with
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to make it illegal for the EPA to
regulate carbon emissions.
She also joined the Republican filibuster against President
Obama‘s nominee for the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker. And
Sen. Lincoln‘s contribution to the last televised senator sit-down with the
president was to ask him what he was going to do to push back on all those
darned extremists in the Democratic Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D-AR): Are we willing, as Democrats, not only
to reach out to Republicans, but to push back in our own party for people
who want extremes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a Democrat, but it is no longer a
sure thing that she is the person who the Democratic Party will have as
their nominee for the Senate seat she now olds in Arkansas.
Joining us now is the lieutenant governor of Arkansas. He is
mounting a primary challenge against Sen. Lincoln as of this week, Lt. Gov.
Bill Halter. It‘s very nice to meet you. Thank you for joining us, sir.
LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D-AR): Thanks very much, Rachel. It‘s great to
be with you.
MADDOW: What‘s your biggest concern with Sen. Lincoln? What‘s the
single most important reason you decided to run against her in this
HALTER: Well, I think I‘d express it differently, Rachel. I‘m
running for the United States Senate to put Washington back on the side of
middle class Arkansas families. I‘ve never viewed this as running against
any particular individual, but in terms of running for the office.
Now, there are areas where Sen. Lincoln and I disagree. I could
point out one right off the bat. I never would have voted for a Wall
Street bailout bill without stricter accountability. And I think we‘re
seeing how that‘s coming home to roost now as we spend hundreds of billions
of dollars bailing out financial institutions.
And at the same time, the unemployment is at a 25-year high and
we have not seen the relaxation in credit that small businesses need. And
at the same time that all that‘s going on, my fellow Arkansans and I wake
up and we see tens of billions of dollars being paid in bonuses to Wall
That‘s just one of many areas where folks here in Arkansas are
pretty frustrated with what‘s going on in Washington. We‘re going to talk
about that during this campaign.
MADDOW: Mr. Halter, one of the issues, of course, that has brought a
lot of attention to this race nationally is health care.
MADDOW: Sen. Lincoln‘s campaign is saying that you have been all over
the map on the specific issue of the public option. They say you‘ve
answered the question, “Do you support the public option” six different
ways. So I‘ve got to ask you, what is your opinion on the public option
and what do you make of that criticism?
HALTER: Well, let me just say this - I‘ve answered that question six
times in pretty much the same way and I‘ll answer it again the seventh time
for you. If ask 100 Arkansans about the phrase, “the public option,” or “a
public option,” you‘ll get 100 different impressions about what that means.
There‘s been so miscommunication and so much, actually,
distortion of it, and a lot of it over our airwaves down here. Let me tell
you what I favor. I favor the public having an option to voluntarily buy
into a program like Medicare.
And I said that in all six of those interviews that Sen.
Lincoln‘s campaign is referencing. And I think I‘ve said it pretty clearly
to you here tonight.
MADDOW: If that was the sort of proposal, if you were in the Senate
right now and that was the sort of proposal that was put up under a vote
that took place under reconciliation rules, would you support it? Would
you vote for it?
HALTER: Yes. And I think this whole idea that somehow reconciliation
is somehow a bad process or a rigged process or a new process that‘s geared
just for these circumstances is totally undermined by the facts.
Reconciliation has been used under Republican presidential
administrations, Democratic presidential administrations. It‘s been used
when Democrats control the Congress. It‘s been used when Republicans
control the Congress.
And, in fact, a great many different reforms and changes to our
health care delivery system had been passed through reconciliation.
MADDOW: Lt. Gov. Halter, a ton of people have pledged a ton of money
to you since you announced, in a very short time, and a lot of that money
has come from unions. Unions, of course, have been very frustrated by Sen.
Lincoln‘s very strong anti-union stance. Would you support card check, the
Employee Free Choice Act to make it easier for people to join unions?
HALTER: Well, I want to clarify the money thing in just a minute,
Rachel. But let me answer your question. I‘ve talked to labor leaders.
I‘ve talked to business leaders. I‘ve talked to folks on all sides of this
And the fact is that the debate and the discussion is moving
beyond the initial card check legislation. What is being discussed now and
what‘s being discussed as a compromise is a compromise bill that would
allow for faster elections.
It would put some tighter restrictions upon the ability to harass
or intimidate workers as they make a decision to - whether or not to
collectively bargain, and they would do that through the normal Democratic
process. I‘m looking forward to seeing the specific language emerge, but I
will tell you that those two concepts I do support.
Now, about the money, because you brought that up. You know, we
have been very fortunate that over $1 million has been raised in
contributions to my campaign in less than 60 hours since the campaign
launched. The average size of those contributions has been around $30 per
You mentioned contributions by labor unions. That‘s actually not
to my campaign. It has become public and it‘s been released that some
folks are talking about independent efforts. But I‘m not in coordination
with that, nor is my campaign. And so we‘ve raised just north of $1
Sen. Lincoln has raised $7 million. And so I would say to all
those folks out there that would like to see someone take on special
interests and go straight at them that we still need your help and we need
it greatly. And I‘m very grateful for those folks that have contributed.
MADDOW: Arkansas Lieutenant Governor and Democratic Senate candidate,
Bill Halter. Sir, good luck with your campaign. Thank you for joining us.
I appreciate your time.
HALTER: Thanks, Rachel, very much.
MADDOW: I should also note that our invitation to Sen. Blanche
Lincoln still stands and we‘re looking forward, hopefully, to having her on
the show very shortly.
When Sen. John McCain says that the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy is
working, he means that he endorses what our next guest went through, when
he was fired after 13 years in the United States Air Force while he was
deployed in Iraq. Major Michael Almy joins us next. You do not want to
meet missing this gentleman. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: In their effort to win back the House in 2006, Democrats ran
in part on the promise that they would drain the swamp in Washington. In
other words, that they‘d clean up corruption and graft and ethics
Four years later, with some ethics reforms passed and the swamp
waters lowered, it looks like we can see - is that - I think it might be.
Oh, yes, it‘s Congressman Charlie Rangel, chairman of the powerful Ways and
A House ethics panel has found that Mr. Rangel violated conduct
standards when he attended a corporate-sponsored getaway in the Bahamas in
2007 and 2008, a big no-no, clearly.
But the whole iceberg, it is not. The ethics panel also
investigating Mr. Rangel‘s ownership of rent-controlled apartments in New
York City, as well as his not paying taxes on an offshore rental property
and his use of official congressional letterhead to solicit donations for a
public policy center that would have born his name.
So while those investigations continue, Charlie Rangel has now
asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to grant him a leave of absence as
chairman of Ways and Means. The speaker has granted the Congressman‘s
And now, California Congressman Pete Stark will likely take over
the gavel in Mr. Rangel‘s absence. Now Congressman, not chairman, Rangel,
denies all wrong doing. For example, he says he did not even know these
Bahamian trips were sponsored by AT & T, Pfizer, Citibank, HSBC and IBM.
He even says he didn‘t know what HSBC was. For the record, HSBC
is one of the biggest banks in the world. Pleading ignorance about that
might be a good way to avoid letter of the law ethics charges. It is
probably not a good way to make your case that you should still be heading
up the most important money-related committee in the whole Congress.
MADDOW: A quick clarification about the way in which some senators
are publicly backing the return of the public option to health reform.
Last night we reported that the number of senators in this pro-public
option camp had surged to 34, including newcomers senators Mark Udall of
Colorado, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Ted Kaufman
We said that these four had added their names to Sen. Michael
Bennet‘s letter, calling for the public option to be voted on under
reconciliation rules, which means it could pass with 50 votes.
In fact, while these four senators issued statements supporting
the proposal described in the letter, they did not actually sign the letter
itself. So I‘m sorry for the confusion on how those four senators
expressed their support.
But the fact remains 34 senators are now publicly calling for a
return of the public option by a means by which it really could be
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): My opinion is shaped by the view of the
leaders of the military. The reason why I supported the policy to start
with was because Gen. Colin Powell, who was then the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs-of-Staff, is the one that strongly recommended we adopt this policy
in the Clinton administration. I have not heard Gen. Powell or any of the
other military leaders reverse their position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Sen. John McCain speaking this past summer,
describing his position on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” A month ago, Gen.
Powell did reverse his position. So that seems straightforward, right?
Sen. McCain had said he supported the policy in the first place
because Colin Powell supported it. He was waiting to see if Colin Powell
would change his mind about that. Then Colin Powell changed his mind and
John McCain says he still likes “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”
He said on “Meet the Press” this weekend that the policy is
working, which is the same argument that he and other proponents of the
policy have been trying to make since it‘s been clear that the Obama
administration is going to repeal this policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): I think the rule of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
Tell” has seemed to work pretty well.
MCCAIN: It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension
between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all-
volunteer force. It has sustained unit cohesion and unit morale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, in the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman
“you lie” Joe Wilson explained what proponents of keeping the anti-gay
policy mean when they say that the policy is working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WILSON (R-SC): During fiscal year 1999 through fiscal year
2008, eight of those years being wartime years, the military service
separated more than 1.9 million people - 8,300 of those, less than one-half
of one percent, were a result of Section 654.
That‘s about 800 people being discharged per year. And unless
you contradict me, that is not a significant loss from an overall DOD
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not a significant loss from a manpower perspective. The
military is only losing 800 troops a year. That‘s, what, only one - what,
two or three service people a day. Two or three troops a day. Who cares,
Meet one of them. Former Air Force Major Mike Almy. He served
the United States Air Force for 13 years, including four tours of duty in
the Middle East.
It was during the height of the insurgency in Iraq in 2006 when
the Air Force decided to spend its manpower searching through Maj. Almy‘s
private E-mails to try to figure out if he might secretly be gay, even
though he‘d never told anyone in the military ever about his sexual
orientation, and he had therefore never violated the “don‘t tell” part of
the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell Policy.”
At a press conference in favor of repealing the policy today,
Maj. Almy described what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. MIKE ALMY, FMR. UNITED STATES AIR FORCE COMMANDING OFFICER: I
led those nearly 200 men and women into deployment into Iraq where my team
came under daily mortar attacks as they were controlling the air space over
During this deployment, I was named one of the top officers in my
career field for the entire Air Force. In Iraq during the height of the
insurgency, the Air Force conducted a search of my private E-mails, solely
to determine if I had violated “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” and to gather
whatever evidence they could against me.
I was relieved of my duties, leaving nearly 200 airmen. My
security clearance was suspended. Part of my pay was terminated and I was
forced to endure a grueling 16-month legal ordeal before I was ultimately
discharge from the Air Force.
On my final day of active duty, I was given a police escort from
the base as if I were a common criminal or threat to national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Maj. Mike Almy who was on Capitol Hill
today with a group of senators announcing new legislation to repeal “Don‘t
Ask, Don‘t Tell.” Mr. Almy, thank you very much for your time today.
ALMY: Thank you for having me tonight, Rachel.
MADDOW: So you were discharged in 2006.
MADDOW: I know this is the first time you‘ve talked about it on
television. Why have you decided to come forward in this way now and tell
ALMY: For a variety of reasons. There‘s tremendous momentum that is
going on right now, in the House as well as the Senate, and also the
Pentagon and the administration.
There‘s a great deal of movement right now and an impetus to
finally get this ball rolling forward, partly through the Senate, the great
staffers there, as well as in the House.
There‘s also several key organizations that have been working
hard behind us, Service Members United, Service Members Legal Defense
Network as well as the Human Rights Campaign.
I know several of these people, and they know me, they knew my
story and they had asked me to come forward at this time to tell it. So I
said yes. I was more than happy to play whatever small part I could in
this movement to finally end this discrimination.
MADDOW: The inertia that‘s pushing against that momentum has been
voiced by people like Sen. John McCain and Congressman Joe Wilson, arguing
that losing a few troops a day to this policy doesn‘t matter from a
manpower standpoint, that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is working. What‘s your
reaction to that argument?
ALMY: I kind of scratch my head and just - I don‘t understand it.
We‘ve recruited convicted felons and brought them into the military.
We have brought in drug dealers, people who have made terrorist
threats. And yet we continue to turn away qualified capable men and women
who will only want to serve their country.
It astounds me the loss of manpower that we have thrown away in
our country, thousands of people, as well as taking it personally. When
they say that that number is acceptable, that is me that they‘re talking
MADDOW: Some people who want to keep the policy have argued
specifically that it shouldn‘t be repealed now specifically because we are
at war. That‘s part of the reason that your story is so incredible.
You were relieved of duty while deployed in Iraq. Can you talk
about the impact on the mission on the folks you were working with there of
your getting fired?
ALMY: It had a tremendous impact after I was fired. I was working in
an absolutely amazing squadron. The people there were just incredible.
They were highly dedicated, highly trained.
They worked very hard at getting the mission done and were very
successful at that. We had strong unit cohesion, in other words. After I
was fired, it had a complete disruption to the unit, to the cohesion, to
the mission. There was a lot of chaos, a lot of confusion.
I was replaced by an officer who was very junior to me, and who,
quite frankly, just wasn‘t adequately prepared for the job. And as a
result, the mission suffered and so did the unit cohesion.
MADDOW: I know that you served 13 years before you were fired under
this policy. You‘ve been in the private sector now for three years. If
you could still serve, would you?
ALMY: Absolutely, I will be one of the first people, if not the first
person, to go back in. And there‘s no greater desire than I have right now
to go back into the Air Force as an officer and a leader.
It‘s what I was born to do. It‘s what I was called to do. I
come from a family with a strong military background, and I miss it
MADDOW: Do you think that the military, the Defense Department needs
nine months to study this?
ALMY: I don‘t, to be perfectly honest with you. I think they could
shorten that quite a bit. I do believe that they need time to develop a
strategy to deal with implementation, certainly, that they need a little
time to prepare for that.
Concurrently, Congress can go ahead and move this legislation
forward as the Pentagon is studying how to deal with repeal. I‘m not sure
that they need nine months, but we‘ll see.
MADDOW: In terms of the specific grounds on which you were
discharged, one of the things we know about your case is you actually don‘t
seem to have violated the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy. You didn‘t tell
anybody you were gay.
It was a bit of a witch hunt. They went through your E-mails for
other reasons, found things they didn‘t like, and then decided to
investigate you. Is it your understanding under the sort of interim
softening of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” that Sec. Gates has proposed that
under those rules now, you may not have been kicked out if that had
ALMY: That‘s what I understand. From the announcement that Sec.
Gates made when he testified last month before Congress, when he wanted to
get rid of the so-called third party outings, I believe it would have had a
direct bearing upon my case.
And in all likelihood, I would still be in active duty. I
probably would have been promoted and certainly would have gone on to
finish my successful career.
MADDOW: Maj. Mike Almy, discharged from the military because of the
“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy, thank you for speaking out and for joining
us tonight, sir. I appreciate it.
ALMY: Thank you for having me tonight, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” when presidents co-mingle,
“FunnyOrDie.com‘s” very funny presidential reunion. That‘s coming up on
“COUNTDOWN” and we will be right back.
MADDOW: Thank you for joining us tonight. That about does it for our
show. We will see you again tomorrow night. Until then, you can E-mail
us. Our E-mail address is email@example.com.
I can tell you, honestly, we do actually read your E-mails. It‘s
true. Real humans read your E-mails. Our podcast is also available at
iTunes or at Rachel.MSNBC.com.
“COUNTDOWN” starts right now. Have a great night.
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