The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/18/10
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening.
A dramatic day in politics today. Dr. Howard Dean will be with us to
put the final pieces in place on health reform.
C Street had a very bad day with Senator John Ensign‘s sex and ethics
scandal and Governor Sanford‘s sex and ethics scandal both taking turns
toward the serious in the same day.
There was yet more drama today about the military‘s “don‘t ask, don‘t
tell” policy, both in a jaw-dropper of a Senate hearing and at the gates of
the White House.
All of that news coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight at T-minus 65 hours. The countdown is now on for
Democrats to finally finish off health reform, to get it passed and signed
into law. At exactly 2:07 p.m. this afternoon, House Democrats officially
posted this document online.
This is the 153-page House amendment to the Senate health reform bill,
and this document getting posted online today at 2:07 p.m. starts a clock
ticking. It means that the earliest that a vote on that thing can now
happen in the House is at 2:07 p.m. on Sunday, 72 hours after it was posted
online. Roughly 65 hours or so from this moment right now.
Sunday is the day. Mark it in our calendars.
Democrats had longer than expected wait for the CBO score on what
they‘re going to be voting for, but what they finally got from the CBO,
they like. They like it very much. The bill will mean that 95 percent of
Americans will have health insurance. That‘s 32 million more people than
are covered right now.
President Obama had said he wanted a bill that costs $950 billion or
less. The costs actually come in about $10 billion under the president‘s
Fiscally speaking, the spending is worth it. The overall health
reform project should cut the deficit by $138 billion over the next 10
years, and then, by a whopping $1.2 trillion, the following 10 years.
Now, after those numbers came out today, House Democrats essentially
went sprinting for the nearest TV camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP: We are absolutely giddy
over the great new that is we have gotten from CBO. This is a magnificent
bill for the American people. And the news from CBO indicate that what
we‘re doing will be great for the American people way out into the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sharing in that giddiness today was President Obama, who
canceled his scheduled trip to Indonesia and Australia in order to be in
town when the House and Senate votes go down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reform we seek
would bring $1.3 trillion in deficit reduction over the next two decades.
OBAMA: That makes this legislation the most significant effort to
reduce deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s true what he‘s saying actually about bringing down the
deficit. Nothing since 1993 has been projected to reduce the deficit as
much as this bill does.
Do you remember how when President Bush took over from President
Clinton, President Clinton handed him a huge, big budget surplus, which
Bush then turned into giant deficits?
Nothing has been as good as this health reform bill for the deficit
since the time of Bill Clinton.
In response to the good CBO report and the cover that it gives to any
Democrats who might have been wavering on their vote on fiscal grounds, in
response to the impending passage of health reform, Republicans who are
opposed to health reform today got a little weird.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA: I want to send a couple of messages to
my colleagues in the House. If you voted “no” and you vote “yes” and you
lose your election, and you think you‘re not—you‘re any nomination to a
federal position ain‘t going to be held in the Senate, I‘ve got news for
you—it‘s going to be held.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Tom Coburn—you know, as principled as ever.
Pledging to place a hold—see if you can follow this—on any House
Democrat who votes “yes” on health reform and then loses their reelection
bid and then gets offered a federal position by President Obama while Tom
Coburn is still in the Senate. So, in other words, you‘ve been warned.
Your potential nomination that comes after you vote yes and then
potentially voted out of office will be held up.
Also, Tom Coburn promises to never give you a ride if he sees you
hitchhiking in Oklahoma someday—unless he‘s already going that way
The news that the bill will cut the deficit by more than expected,
will cover more people than expected, and will cost less than expected
seemed to catch opponents of reform off-guard today because, in some cases,
they are still reading from the old talking points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BILL CASSIDY ®, LOUISIANA: This program not only does not
control costs in a federal level, but it also does not control it on a
state level. It‘s bad for taxpayers.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: They‘re still going to
spend $1 trillion to impose government-run health care on the American
REP. PHIL GINGREY ®, GEORGIA: This bill spins too much. It taxes
too much. It costs too much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That guy right there, last guy there was Phil Gingrey. He
was the one at the end, right after John Boehner—Phil Gingrey expressing
his grave concern about how much this costs.
To be clear, the CBO is projecting that this bill will cut the deficit
cut the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years. You can see it right
there. $138 billion, not added to the deficit, but subtracted from the
This is the same Phil Gingrey and the same John Boehner who voted for
the Medicare Part D drug benefit in 2003. When the CBO scored that bill,
at that time, the CBO said that bill would raise the deficit by $394
billion, and yet, Phil Gingrey and John Boehner now so piously concerned
about how much things cost, happily voted for Medicare Part D anyway.
When Republicans passed the Bush tax cuts that same year, the CBO
score of that one at that time said that legislation would raise the
deficit by $349 billion. And Republicans, including Phil Gingrey, had no
problem voting yes. When Republicans passed the first Bush tax cuts in
2001, the CBO score of that one at that time said it would raise the
deficit by $1.3 trillion—trillion with a “T.” And Republicans,
including John Boehner, went along for that ride, too.
So, let‘s just make sure we‘re here on the same page, OK? Phil
Gingrey and John Boehner say yes to adding $400 billion to the deficit for
Bush‘s Medicare thing, yes to adding $350 billion to the deficit for Bush‘s
first tax cuts for rich people, yes to adding $1.3 trillion to the deficit
for Bush‘s other tax cuts. Those three votes projected to add $2 trillion
to the deficit. Votes yes on all of those.
But when confronted with this one, this current one, this health care
one, which actually cuts the deficit by $138 billion, this is their
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGREY: We are suffering as many states are. Our state with about a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voted against it.
GINGREY: It costs too much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The math actually doesn‘t work if you‘re willing to actually
Joining us now is Howard Dean. He‘s former governor of Vermont,
former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He‘s now consultant
to McKenna, Long & Aldrich. He is also the founder of Democracy for
America and contributor to CNBC.
Could you possibly have another title or affiliation?
HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN: I‘m sure I could find in some place.
MADDOW: It‘s like showing pictures of the grandkids at some point,
you‘re just going to have to sort of cascade them all done.
You were a pretty vocal critic of this health reform effort just a few
months ago. What would you say to congressional Democrats who might still
be wavering on this tonight?
DEAN: I think they ought to vote for it. I think the House bill—
the Senate has improved a lot. I don‘t think we can call this bill health
care reform because it really isn‘t. What they did was expand the existing
system dramatically. This is closer to the Romney approach in
Massachusetts, just to anything else. Having said—
MADDOW: Can you call it health insurance reform, not health care
DEAN: Certainly not health insurance reform because a lot of stuff
that they say is going to be in it, like preexisting conditions stuff.
It‘s going to very helpful for children and young people but not for older
people for very technical reasons. Basically, in the bill, there‘s not a
lot of insurance reform. They meant to put some in but somehow lost its
way in the Senate Finance Committee.
MADDOW: Well, what do you think is the most important thing this bill
DEAN: A lot of important things in this bill that will make it worth
passing. The first is, it‘s great for small businesses. If you have fewer
than 30 employees, you don‘t have to pay health insurance at all anymore.
We ought to break the link between employment and health insurance. And
that begins that process.
Secondly, it is good for the deficit. One figure you didn‘t mention,
which is even more important, is over the following 10 years, after the
first 10, it reduces the deficit by over $1 trillion.
DEAN: So, from financial point of view, it makes a lot of sense.
Medicaid is expanded so indigent working people who can‘t get any kind
of insurance get help now. Children‘s preexisting conditions on the day
the president signs the bill are gone. A friend of mine just had his 9-
year-old daughter come down with diabetes. He would lose his insurance
policy under the present—for the whole family under the present
circumstances. That will be gone if this bill passes.
So even though as a person who‘s kind of represents the Democratic
wing of the Democratic Party and I think we could have done a lot more,
this is worth passing.
And the other thing, just to be frank, Rachel, is—you know, this
opposition—they just lied their way right through this bill. I wish
that they had sat down and be honest with the American people and honest
This is farthest thing from the government takeover. This is Mitt
Romney‘s approach in Massachusetts, and in Massachusetts‘ defense, 97
percent of all the people in Massachusetts are covered. And that‘s a
really important thing to keep in mind.
So, when you add it all up, I think this bill should be supported. I
think it needs to be supported, and I think it‘s going to pass.
MADDOW: One of the grounds on which you—one of the grounds on
which you ran for national office for the first time after being governor
for Vermont was the fact that you‘d been able to achieve almost universal
coverage for kids in Vermont.
DEAN: We have—we have essentially universal. We don‘t have an
individual mandate, which I don‘t think is necessary. That‘s in the bill.
Look, you can‘t have the perfect bill and this isn‘t a perfect bill.
We have—we don‘t have an individual mandate. We use Medicaid. That‘s
middle class entitlement for people under 18 and 96 percent of our kids
have it, 99 percent are eligible. There‘s 33 percent difference. If we
have a mandate, we would have gotten 99 percent.
But I think people don‘t like to be told what to do in their personal
lives. But the big thing is, you know, this is not a government takeover
of health care. That‘s just a plain lie, and they were told to say that by
Republican spinmeisters and they‘ve been saying it ever since.
And I hope—I hope we win this, and I hope when we do, that the
Republicans will learn that the American people respect the truth. And if
you really want to oppose a bill, you ought to do it on truthful grounds
instead of making stuff up every five minutes because spinmeisters tell you
ought to do it that way.
MADDOW: One of the thing that we‘ve covered a lot here is how outside
groups, both affiliated with the Republican Party and in some cases
organized by pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, other people
opposed to reform, how they‘ve used—
DEAN: Well, pharmaceutical companies supported reform.
MADDOW: Sure. But there are—
DEAN: Big time.
MADDOW: – in terms of corporate interests being sort of quietly
funneled to outside organized groups, right?
DEAN: Oh, yes. Right.
MADDOW: And especially these group that don‘t disclose their funders
MADDOW: – like Americans for Prosperity and others, who‘ve organized
against health reform.
MADDOW: We‘ve covered their tactics. I wonder what you think—what
the state of angry mob is if health reform passes. I feel like Democrats,
the initial shock will have worn off about these tactics.
DEAN: I‘ll tell you exactly what‘s going to happen—the same thing
that happened when the president sent troops to Afghanistan. Fifty-one
percent of the people didn‘t want to send troops. When he did, 55 percent
now support him.
The big difference here is in the last four weeks, President Obama is
back. He started with a Republican Senate. He has been leading this
country for the last four weeks vigorously, standing up for what he
believes in. I think it took tremendous amount of guts on his part to go
back and try this again.
A lot of people in his White House staff said don‘t and he did it.
And he gets credit for that what people want more than anything else, to
see a really strong president. In the last four weeks, President Obama has
been a really strong president. If they win this, there‘s lot of reasons
that we‘re going to win, I think.
But the biggest is that he in the last four weeks has gotten out there
and said, this is what we need to do, this is what the American people have
to have. And I predict to you right now that if this thing passes, which I
think it will by a narrow margin, 10 days from now, the polls are going to
show the majority of people are supportive.
MADDOW: Governor Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, former
chairman of the Democratic National Committee—it‘s always great to have
you. Thank you. Appreciate it.
DEAN: My pleasure. My pleasure.
MADDOW: OK. So, today was a tough day for the C Street adultery
club. Two prominent family values conservative politicians, one pleading
no contest to ethics charges stemming from an investigation into his
extramarital affair. The other, refusing to say if he has received one of
the many subpoenas that have just been delivered in the criminal
investigation linked to his extramarital affair. It was family values
hypocrite (INAUDIBLE) Thursday today. Details in just a moment.
MADDOW: I woke up today thinking that Congressman Bart Stupak would
be the only former resident of C Street in the news today. I was wrong by
a margin of two. Holier-than-thou goes “holy cow”—in just a moment.
MADDOW: Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan and C Street fame is now
all but conceding that his plan to hijack health reform, to turn it into an
unprecedented new abortion ban, has pretty much failed. Congressman Stupak
did not manage to get his new restrictions on abortion into the final
version of the health reform bill and his threat to kill the bill if he
wasn‘t allowed to do that appears to have fallen apart, as well.
That said, Congressman Stupak‘s anti-abortion stunt was successful on
one level today. It was successful in the sense that it got Mr. Stupak on
TV again—but not, sadly, to name the 12 supposed friends of his in
Congress who he says believe his debunked claim that the Senate bill
somehow funds abortions, which it doesn‘t, and who, I guess we‘re supposed
to believe, will dramatically make themselves known some day.
Right now, the only evidence we have of the existence of Mr. Stupak‘s
12 possibly imaginary friends in Congress is the fact that he says he
carries around their names in his pocket. But again, the names in his
pocket are secret.
Meanwhile, two other politicians who have helped make C Street and The
Family, the secret religious group behind C Street famous were all over the
news today. Investigative reporters from KLAS, a local TV station in John
Ensign‘s hometown of Las Vegas are credited with breaking news that an FBI
agent and a Department of Justice prosecutor came to Vegas to interview
business and political leaders with ties to Senator Ensign and to hand out
grand jury subpoenas—seeking not only testimony but documents and other
records that are to be turned over by the end of this month.
Senator Ensign, you might recall, admitted in June to an affair with
Cindy Hampton, a campaign staffer of his who just happened to be married to
Doug Hampton, the senator‘s top Senate aide. Following the affair, Mr.
Ensign‘s mom and dad gave the Hampton family a $96,000 check that they
claimed was just a gift.
Also, Senator Ensign helped Mr. Hampton get a job as a lobbyist.
Sources telling KLAS in Las Vegas that the federal grand jury is focused
that part of the controversy, on Senator Ensign, the husband of the Senator
Ensign‘s mistress, “and others who may have assisted in trying to steer
income Mr. Hampton‘s way.”
“Politico” reported that the National Republican Senatorial Committee
was one of the organizations that‘s been subpoenaed in connection with the
Ensign scandal. Keep a close eye on that one.
“Talking Points Memo” reports today that Senator Ensign‘s own office
just won‘t say one way or another whether the senator‘s own offices have
also received subpoenas.
Anyone thinking the John Ensign scandal was over and it was returning
to politics as usual—oh, no, it‘s apparently just getting going. The
connection to C Street is that not only was John Ensign living at the C
Street house at the time of his affair with his staffer, which kicked off
the ethics scandal that‘s now being investigated by the FBI.
It was also in C Street where ostentatiously pious family values-
campaigning Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma attempted to
negotiate a cheaper deal for Senator Ensign for a potential cash payout
from Ensign to his mistress.
C Street was also the scene, of course, of negotiations and counseling
in South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford‘s extramarital affair. Governor
Sanford went public with his affair just about a week after Senator Ensign
went forward with his—following the governor‘s famous five-day
disappearance when he told some of his staff he‘d be hiking the Appalachian
Trail. Actually he was having an affair in Argentina. That led to a
number of ethics inquiries, including an impeachment investigation, which
led to a formal censure by state lawmakers in South Carolina.
But today, Governor Sanford pleaded no contest to 37 charges that he
violated ethics laws on campaign spending and travel. Governor Sanford
signed a form indicating that he didn‘t dispute the charges. He agreed to
pay $74,000 in fines. And—tah-dah—he‘s not stepping down from
Meanwhile, there are still many unanswered questions about the C
Street house itself. While its connections to the house, C Street house,
are well-documented, the Family has recently denied having anything to do
with C Street. When members of Congress who live there write out their
rent checks, we still want to know who they‘re writing those checks to.
If they are, as reported, paying well-below market rent, who‘s
subsidizing their rent? And if that‘s happening, that would be a blatant
violation of the congressional gift ban. How are they getting away with
When Melanie Sloan of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington, came on this show last week, she said her organization planned
to ask for a congressional investigation into exactly those questions. We
talked to the folks at CREW tonight. They say they are working on a formal
complaint and they plan to file that complaint with the House Ethics
Committee very, very soon.
Joining us now is Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy. He‘s a Baptist minister
from Louisiana. He‘s president of the Interfaith Alliance and he‘s my
Walton, thanks for coming back on the show.
REV. WELTON GADDY, EXEC. DIR. & PRES., INTERFAITH ALLIANCE: Thanks,
MADDOW: As you know, I like my religion and my politics separate. As
do you. You can‘t go two steps in politics though without combining the
MADDOW: What do you make of Congressman Stupak on this health reform
issue of his, saying that he doesn‘t listen to nuns, he only listens to
bishops when it comes to abortion rights?
GADDY: Well, it sounds very much like a male authoritarian point of
view, doesn‘t it? I don‘t know whether this is all about politics or all
about religion. Either way, it doesn‘t work. It‘s bad politics. It‘s bad
When a man takes up on himself the authority that lets him tell a
woman how she can handle her own body, what she can do and do with it, I
get very suspicious about the audacity of that man.
MADDOW: Reverend, on the issue of C Street, we have been looking into
not only some of the unexplained things and a lot of secrecy around C
Street, but the specific issue of whether or not this religious group is
subsidizing the rent for members of Congress. It‘s an ethics issue I
believe if that is happening. But there is the larger issue of whether or
not C Street should be getting tax exemptions. Whether it should be
considered a religious organization and get the tax benefits of that. Some
pastors in Ohio have challenged that, written to the IRS and asked for an
What‘s your view on that issue?
GADDY: Rachel, I‘m little surprised that you identify it basically as
a religious institution, because I think most of the people who have heard
the stories of C Street now think of it as a political institution. It‘s
interesting to me that all three of these stories that you‘re focusing on
right now come out of the same muller (ph) of mixing religion and politics
to the point that politics becomes religion. And, your religion becomes
And when you get in that situation, and you put yourself in an
insulated, isolated, secretive kinds of conversation, and you talk with
each other and you build each other up, you begin to think: we‘ve got the
truth and nobody else does. And they better listen to us and if they don‘t
listen to us, they‘re making a mistake. We know what‘s right for this
country and we‘re going to do whatever we have to do to see that this
country does right.
And so, you can‘t question our politics. You can‘t accuse us of being
illegal. You can‘t accuse us of being uncivil. We‘re doing God‘s work.
We‘re doing what needs to be done in this nation.
And when that happens, then you ultimately begin to think you are
above the law. You are above regular standards. And you dare anyone to
tell you differently.
MADDOW: Do you think that‘s why there is a—that‘s the connection
between C Street as you described it in terms of bag sort of secretive
organization, telling people they‘re above the law, giving them sort of
shelter from the law and from humility for having that, and this hypocrisy
issue. No one—at least I wouldn‘t be talking about Senator Ensign‘s
extramarital affairs, Governor Sanford‘s extramarital affairs, had they not
campaigned as family values politicians.
MADDOW: It‘s part of how they got the political standing that they‘ve
got. And so, therefore, their hypocrisy is a news story. Is that
hypocrisy connected to that sort of—I guess, theological arrogance?
GADDY: Well, it can be.
GADDY: It may not be. There may be something else going on.
I said to Keith Olbermann one night and he didn‘t believe I said it,
but I thought the governor might have been telling the truth. Maybe he was
in love as he‘d never been in love before, but that‘s not point. He could
be a good governor and have had an affair. Senators—Senator Ensign
could be the senator in the same tradition he‘s been and have had an
But the problem is, it is not that the affairs caused them the
difficulty. It‘s how they managed that and they got into illegal actions.
But it‘s the same mentality: I am above your judgment.
And it‘s important for people to understand the two tracks that this
has to move on. We‘re now moving on a track where there‘s a religious
dimension and there‘s a justice dimension. And in the religious dimension,
it is not too late for anybody to be forgiven.
I mean, I‘m not jumping up and down for joy that these guys are in all
that trouble. I don‘t like their politics. But I don‘t like to see
anybody in that kind of trouble. That is forgivable.
But the justice part is a strong track, as well. We have a
responsibility to prosecute illegality and just because a person says, “Oh,
I‘m more religious than you are,” doesn‘t mean they get a free ride on
And that‘s the problem I have with Senator Coburn. That why try to
reduce the thing? Why try to work it out?
It was an illegal situation. Let‘s confess it. Get on with whatever
the justice judgment is, and let America be America as one that is
forgiving of moral failures but is dead-set on seeing justice done.
MADDOW: Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith
Alliance—I so enjoy talking to you. And it‘s always great to have you
here. Welton, thanks for coming in. Nice to see you.
GADDY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. In just a moment, we‘ll be joined by Major Mike
Almy of the United States Air Force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. MIKE ALMY, U.S. AIR FORCE: As a final insult on the last day of
active duty, I was given a police escort from the base as if I were a
common criminal or a threat to national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Major Almy is a 13-year Air Force veteran. He testified on
Capitol Hill today about how he was discharged after being outed as gay
against his will. His dramatic story—next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Senate Armed Services Committee is taking up the question of
the military‘s “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy this year for the first time
since the policy was formulated in 1993.
You might remember that I went to the first hearing last month in D.C.
Today was round two and opponents of repealing the policy today introduced
a former Marine general to testify in favor of keeping the policy.
His name is Gen. John Sheehan. He‘s a retired Marine general. He is
former supreme allied commander of the Atlantic for NATO. Here he is
speaking with Sen. Roland Burris at today‘s hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D-IL): Could you give me a little insight of your
background. Did you ever command black soldiers under your command?
GEN. JOHN SHEEHAN (RET.), FORMER SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER OF THE
ATLANTIC FOR NATO: Sir, the American military has been integrated since
President Truman was the president.
BURRIS: 1947. By executive order, sir.
SHEEHAN: I have never commanded a unit that there were not Hispanics,
Blacks, Whites and Orientals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Gen. Sheehan‘s argument against “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” was
essentially today that the liberalization of the military would weaken the
He, in fact, made a very specific argument about that today that led
to this surreal breaking news tweet from the Associated Press. It reads,
“Retired U.S. general, a former NATO commander, says Dutch army failed to
stop genocide in Bosnian war because it included gay soldiers - AP.”
I can‘t tell you how stunned I was to see that when I was looking at
Twitter and saw that coming across today. That‘s what it said. That is
actually also the argument that he made.
And that argument did not sit very well with committee chairman Carl
Levin and led do this pretty remarkable exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEEHAN: That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The
case in point that I‘m referring is when the Dutch were required to defend
Srebrenica against the Serbs.
The battalion was under strength, poorly-led. And the Serbs came into
town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims
off and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since World
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:
Did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers
SHEEHAN: It was combination -
LEVIN: But did they tell you that? That‘s my question.
SHEEHAN: Yes. They included that as part of the problem.
LEVIN: There were gay soldiers on the Dutch (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SHEEHAN: The combination was the liberalization of the military, a net
effect of basically social engineering.
LEVIN: The - he said that no special accommodation should be made for
any member of the military.
SHEEHAN: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: Are members who are straight, who are heterosexual allowed in
our military to say that they are straight and heterosexual? Are they
allowed to say that? Without being discharged?
SHEEHAN: Are they allowed to -
SHEEHAN: The sexuality?
LEVIN: Yes, are they allowed to say that, “Hey, I‘m straight. I‘m
heterosexual”? Can you say that without being discharged?
SHEEHAN: There‘s no prohibition to my knowledge.
LEVIN: Is that special accommodation to them?
SHEEHAN: I wouldn‘t consider it a special accommodation.
LEVIN: Why would it be a special accommodation then to someone who‘s
gay to say, “Hey, I‘m gay?” Why do you call that special? You don‘t call
it special for someone who‘s heterosexual or straight. Why do you believe
that‘s a special accommodation to somebody who is gay?
SHEEHAN: I think the issue, senator, that we‘re talking about really
hasn‘t a lot to do with the individuals. It has to do with the very nature
of combat. Combat is not about individuals. It is about units.
We are talking about a group of people who declared openly sexual
attraction to a particular segment of the population and insist in
continuing to live in the intimate proximity with them.
LEVIN: You allow that for heterosexuals?
LEVIN: You don‘t have any problem with that?
SHEEHAN: I don‘t have any problem with that.
LEVIN: You don‘t have any problem with men and women serving together
even though they say they‘re attracted to each other.
SHEEHAN: That‘s correct.
LEVIN: That‘s not a special accommodation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s kind of a head-scratcher. Gaying up the military leads
to massacres and attraction between men and women serving together isn‘t a
problem. But, yes.
Anyway, there was more drama outside the Senate hearing today. Lt.
Dan Choi, the Army national guardsman who came out on our show last year
was arrested this afternoon after chaining himself to the White House
According to the “Advocate News” magazine, he and an army infantryman
who was discharged under DADT are reportedly being held by police
Another former serviceman outed and ousted under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
Tell” testified at the Senate hearing today. He is former Air Force Major
Mike Almy. He told a story there that he first told on television on this
show earlier this month.
Maj. Almy served in the United States Air Force for 13 years including
a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006 where he commanded nearly 200 airmen as the
insurgency was at its height.
That was when the Air Force decided to use its resources to
investigate Maj. Almy for being gay. He never told anybody he was. He was
outed by someone who went through his private E-mails and then alerted his
superiors to what they found there.
Maj. Mike Almy now joins us once again. Maj. Almy, thanks very much
for making time for us tonight. Appreciate having you here.
MAJ. MICHAEL ALMY, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE: Good evening, Rachel.
It‘s a pleasure to be with you again.
MADDOW: Let me first ask you your reaction to Gen. Sheehan‘s
ALMY: I was a little stunned by it, particularly his story about the
Dutch military and trying to link their operational readiness
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) with their allowing openly gays and lesbians to serve in
I kind of scratched my head on that one because as I mentioned in the
hearing after the general made his statement, I was stationed in Europe. I
have served right alongside with the Dutch military.
I have been in the field conditions on an exercise with the Dutch
where my American unit served right beside the Dutch military, officers and
enlisted. And there were absolutely no problems whatsoever. And the issue
of sexual orientation or “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” never once came up.
It just simply wasn‘t an issue between the American forces and the
Dutch forces. So I was a little concerned and a little uncertain as far as
what he was getting at.
MADDOW: So many of our NATO allies and so many troops alongside whom
our troops have served in engagements over the past eight years are
militaries that do allow openly gay men and women to serve.
MADDOW: Not just Dutch but the British, the Israelis, lots of other
people. Do you worry that the general‘s comments today will essentially be
casting aspersions on the military capabilities of all of those allies of
ALMY: I think that is a concern and that‘s a standard argument that
the people that support keeping “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” want to make. They
want to discredit the capabilities of our allies, our NATO allies and
foreign militaries who serve alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I have worked with many of these - many officers and enlisted from
these various services of nations that have repealed their bans. And they
are very professional, very competent, capable allies who work side by side
with their American counterparts. And I have seen zero detriment to their
mission or to our mission.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about something else that Gen. Sheehan talked
about today. He told an anecdote from Vietnam. It was about a sexual
assault that he says took place in a foxhole during the Vietnam War.
He also cited a study showing that sexual assaults in combat zones are
on the rise. And he concluded by saying that repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
Tell” would mean essentially more rape in the military. What was your
response to that anecdote?
ALMY: Once again, I was a little puzzled by general‘s comments. I‘m
not sure where he got his data from but there again it seems completely out
of date. For him to bring up a story of Vietnam and use that as relative
to today‘s argument, I just find that a little dated, quite frankly.
“Don‘t ask, Don‘t Tell” - repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” if
anything, would enhance the reporting of assault cases. It would allow for
more open venue for these situations to be reported.
Beyond that, the vast majority of assault cases are male on female.
So it just - it kind of befuddles the logic there. I don‘t know where he
gets his information from.
MADDOW: Maj. Almy, I have to ask - and if you‘re not comfortable
telling me, just say. But you were discharged three and a half years ago.
And you only spoke about it publicly on television for the first time with
me here last month.
What‘s the last month been like since you have become so public in
making the decision to speak out at the hearing today, for example? How
have things changed for you?
ALMY: Personally, I‘m glad that I decided to tell my story. I have
gotten a lot of feedback, a lot of E-mails thanking me for doing this, for
telling my story. More importantly, I‘ve gotten a lot of feedback for
giving a voice to those who have none in this argument.
There‘s an estimated, currently, 66,000 LGBT Americans serving in our
military today who have absolutely no voice in this argument, in this
public debate that‘s going on across our nation about “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
They simply cannot provide their input on this without risking being
thrown out of the military. And for - to get that type of gratitude, that
type of E-mail just expressing thanks, it really brings home the importance
of ending this discrimination and getting this horrible law off the
MADDOW: Former Air Force Major Mike Almy, discharged from the
military under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”, thank you again for your time, sir,
and thanks for your service.
ALMY: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. So can you un-ring a bell? Can you un-break an egg?
Can you un-release sensitive information after it‘s already been public for
years? One of our esteemed American intelligence agencies is actually
trying that last one. Good luck with that. Details, next. It‘s very
funny. Stick around.
MADDOW: As you First Amendment enthusiasts may know, this is Sunshine
Week, a nationwide initiative by journalists and public interest group to
encourage more open access to government information, which is becoming an
awkward issue for the Obama administration.
Despite claims that it would be the most transparent administration in
history, an analysis by the Associated Press finds the Obama administration
turned down Freedom of Information Act requests last year more than the
often than the Bush administration did in the year before.
About 70,000 requests in 2009 compared to 47,000 requests in 2008. Do
you want to hear the single best example I have heard all Sunshine Week
about inexplicable government secrecy for inexplicable government secrecy‘s
Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff found this one. The CIA just released a
letter in response to a lawsuit by the ACLU - see the letter. This is it,
a letter from three members of Congress to the CIA requesting information
on the treatment of a prisoner who was sent to Egypt for interrogation and
then to Libya where he died under mysterious circumstances.
This letter, in its entirety, is posted online at the Web site of one
of the Congressmen who wrote it. It‘s been online since he first signed
the letter three years ago.
Now, through the miracle of the opposite of sunshine, here‘s the very
same letter as just released by the CIA with the whole end of it blacked
out, redacted, even though you can get it all un-redacted online and you‘ve
been able to get online un-redacted for three years. Also, in 15 seconds,
everything I just said will become secret.
MADDOW: We are joined in studio now by someone I have been curious
about and looking forward to meeting for a long time. I‘ve heard a lot
You know how here we have MSNBC and CNN and Fox News and NBC and ABC
and CBS and then everybody else on your dial? Imagine those rolled up into
one. That is very, very roughly speaking - that is the situation in
Afghanistan that is enjoyed by Tolo TV.
And our next guest heads it up. His name Saad Mohseni and he‘s here
joining us in the studio. Mr. Mohseni, thank you for your time.
SAAD MOHSENI, CHAIRMAN, MOBY GROUP: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know that I am speaking roughly. You‘re not exactly that
dominant in Afghanistan. But how much do you dominate the media landscape
MOHSENI: Well, media has been one of the great successes of
Afghanistan. There are dozens of TV stations and radio stations across the
country. But we do have - Tolo TV has like a 55 percent market share in
But we also have the third most popular network and we have a number
of radio networks nationally. So we‘re fairly dominant.
MADDOW: You haven‘t been around for all that long. It was 2002 when
you returned to the country after having been living in Australia?
MOHSENI: Correct, yes.
MADDOW: OK. And so what explains your massive growth over the past
MOHSENI: Well, I think - I mean, we obviously worked very hard in
that period. But there was an opportunity, obviously. There was a vacuum.
There was no media in Afghanistan. As you recall, the Taliban had banned
So it was a virgin market and there was enormous opportunity for us.
We went back, all four siblings. And today, we have about 700 employees.
And as you said, we‘re fairly popular.
MADDOW: What are the technological challenges of coming into a market
in which television has been banned? How much of the population both in
Kabul and outside Kabul actually had access to TV? And then, are they
getting you on open-air broadcast or are they getting on satellite?
MOHSENI: It‘s mostly open air. And the challenges are numerous.
There‘s no security. There is no electricity. There‘s no water. So all
of these challenges you face on a daily basis.
Of course, we don‘t even have Internet. We have to use satellite for
Internet connectivity. But it‘s something that, you know, we‘ve adjusted,
of course. And almost half the population now watches television from
So it‘s been driven by the demand of the consumers. They don‘t have
electricity, but they buy small generators, they buy small TV sets in order
to watch television.
MADDOW: And is there conservative religious opposition to people
watching television? Are people taking a risk by doing it?
MOHSENI: Absolutely. Well, we face numerous challenges on a daily
basis from the religious establishment who don‘t want television, who don‘t
want to see men and women together on television. They don‘t want to see
music on television. So it‘s an ongoing battle.
MADDOW: In terms of your programming, you‘re not just news and
information. You‘re also doing drama. You‘ve gotten a little press here
for “Afghan Star,” which is a little similar to “American Idol,” isn‘t it?
MOHSENI: It is similar, yes.
MADDOW: How does it work?
MOHSENI: Well, people come and they audition. And you know, we have
thousands of people who audition nationally, men and women, not as many
women, unfortunately. And then, ultimately, the people vote using their
And we get millions of SMS‘s come through. And the public determines
as to who wins the competition. We‘re in season five now and the final is
in three days.
MADDOW: Do you have a favorite?
MADDOW: You‘re not allowed to, I suppose.
MOHSENI: May the best man or woman win.
MADDOW: Your restrictions from the government, pressure from the
authorities in terms of your news coverage. Have your reporters, your
camera teams faced pressure? Have they been detained in terms of what
they‘ve been allowed to cover?
MOHSENI: Well, we‘ve been - our people have been detained. They‘ve
been beaten up. They‘ve been intimidated, shot at. So those go on and on.
And again, it‘s a daily challenge for us to get the news out.
MADDOW: Do you have ongoing negotiations with the government? Or is
it negotiation at the street level?
MOHSENI: Well, we have to have discussions with them, obviously. We
talk to them on a regular basis. But it‘s a classic case of killing the
messenger. And they don‘t like the fact that we report on corruption, we
report on nepotism, we report on thuggery, on Mafia-type organizations
So that‘s something that irks them from time to time and they take us
on. But it‘s an ongoing battle, as I said. And you know, we have
survived, which is the most important thing.
MADDOW: Saad Mohseni, your personal story of the success of you and
your siblings of having done this is an amazing story.
MOHSENI: Thank you.
MADDOW: A business story in Afghanistan but also an incredible window
into what‘s going on in your country. Good luck. I don‘t think I have
anything to offer you that could be of any help. But if there ever is
anything, I hope you would ask.
MOHSENI: Well, you should come to Afghanistan.
MADDOW: Oh, I would.
MOHSENI: We‘d host you there on TV.
MADDOW: Great. Nice to meet you.
MOHSENI: Glad to meet you. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you. Good luck to you.
MOHSENI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” a special show of
Keith‘s special comment on health care, special deal. You should probably
check it out.
Next on this show, a conundrum in Wisconsin that only Kent could
solve. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Something important and hair-related is happening in the
Great State of Wisconsin. Kent, help me.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Basically, it‘s business in front,
party in the back. Check it out.
MADDOW: Oh, no.
JONES (voice-over): Check out the best street sign in Green Bay,
Mullet Place. Dude. Would it surprise you if you told you people keep
stealing this sign? No, it would not.
Of course it‘s possible that the sign refers to any of several marine
or fresh water usually gray fishes of the family Mugilidae, having a nearly
cylindrical body also known as a goat fish or a sucker, especially of the
A larcenist ichthyologist might look up at that sign and say, “You
must be mine.” But come on, some cheese head keeps swiping the Mullet
Place sign because of this -
Public Works crews in green bay have tried different types of vandal-
proof hardware and have even pushed the Mullet Place sign higher up the
poll to try to keep it out of reach. Yes, good luck with that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My general speculation is it‘s the same group or
same person that keeps taking it down. For what reason, we don‘t know.
JONES: What reason? How about because it represents the awesome hair
metal mega stud lurking inside each of us? And if you‘re looking for
suspects, dude, they‘re everywhere. And if I were you, I‘d keep an eye out
for this guy.
MADDOW: “COUNTDOWN” starts right now. That‘s good work.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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.>