The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/19/10

Guests:
Jonathan Humbert, Dan Rather
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  I have to admit, watching those Stewart clips—I sort of do that at home sometimes.

(LAUGHTER)

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You don‘t have to admit that, Rachel.  You don‘t.

MADDOW:  All right.  I‘ll just tell you, don‘t let anybody else know.

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s our secret.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.  Have a good weekend.

O‘DONNELL:  You, too.

MADDOW:  Ands thanks to you at home for tuning in tonight.

All systems appear to be go for health reform to happen this weekend.  The votes are getting whipped, and the giant fake grassroots outrage machine that has been trying to scare people about health reform for the past year is surprisingly starting to sputter out.  Mr. Dan Rather will join us to discuss that whole story.

Plus, there is quasi-secessionist news from the great state of Maryland.

There is funny, weird news of a big fat fake political memo that Politico.com fell for, right on their face.

And there are a lot of angry Dutchmen to contend with this hour.  Dutchmen and Dutchwomen who are really, really mad as the way they‘ve go dragged into the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” debate in our country.

This is one of those news Fridays where every story is more unbelievable than the last.  We have a heck of an hour coming up.

But we begin tonight with news that—get sort of a tongue-in-cheek red siren.  It is news that is big enough to at least bump health reform off the top of our newscast, which is something that I would not have predicted before I saw this news today.  The Republican Party itself tonight finding itself implicated in something what started as a run-of-the-mill sex scandal but that has grown into a legal crisis, complete with the federal grand jury subpoena for the Senate campaign arm of the Republican Party.

Nine months ago, it looked like a simple case of political and sexual hypocrisy on the part of Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada.  Senator Ensign had run for office as a family values conservative.  He had called for Bill Clinton to resign because of the affair President Clinton had while in office.

When his Senate colleague, Larry Craig, was caught in an embarrassing airport bathroom sex sting, John Ensign called for senator—excuse me, John Ensign called Senator Craig a disgrace and told “The Associated Press” that if he, John Ensign, were ever in that sort of position, he would resign from office.

But then, John Ensign was forced to admit publicly his own sexual indiscretions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA:  Last year, I had an affair.  I violated the vows of my marriage.  It‘s absolutely the worst thing I‘ve ever done in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was June of last year, Mr. Ensign apologizing to his family, his friends and his staff.  But despite what he preached for Larry Craig and Bill Clinton, Senator Ensign did not himself resign.

And if the story had ended there, Senator Ensign would probably still be the only one in any kind of real trouble for this right now.  And that trouble would probably just be of the marital sort and the political sort.  But it turns out that John Ensign‘s public mea culpa was just the beginning of this John Ensign scandal.  It soon became the John Ensign sex and lobbying scandal.  And the John Ensign sex and lobbying scandal has now become the John Ensign/Republican Party sex and lobbying and potential bribery scandal.

In the nine months since Senator Ensign admitted to having had the affair, we‘ve learned about attempts to cover up the affair, as well as payoffs to his mistress‘s family.  And now, we know that the erstwhile sex scandal has mushroomed into a criminal investigation by the FBI—a criminal investigation by the FBI that has roped in the Republican Party itself.

Here‘s how it happened: Johns Ensign‘s affair was with Cindy Hampton, a campaign aide of his who was married to Doug Hampton.  Doug Hampton also worked for Ensign in Ensign‘s Senate office.  The affair reportedly began in December 2007.  It lasted until August 2008.

Now, during that time, John Ensign was both a U.S. senator and he was chairman of the Republican Party‘s Senate Campaign Committee.  A few months after Senator Ensign started sleeping with his employee, Cindy Hampton, the senator put the Hamptons‘ teenage son on the payroll of the Republican Party‘s Senate Campaign Committee.  In other words, money from Republican donors, money donated by people to elect more Republicans to the Senate was used to pay the son of John Ensign‘s mistress.

He was a teenager at the time.  He was on the NRSC payroll as a policy analyst.  This, of course, was during the disastrous 2008 election cycle.

With Johns Ensign responsible to the Republican Party‘s fortunes in the Senate in that election, Republicans lost eight seats, not a single seat switched hands from Democrat to Republican and five Republican incumbents lost their seats to Democrats.  John Ensign was in charge of the Republicans‘ effort in that election in the Senate.  In retrospect, it seems possible that he was distracted.

Senator Ensign‘s affair is thought to have ended in August 2008, as I said.  That is the same time the mistress‘ son was taken off the payroll at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Now, was there any connection between Ensign‘s affair and this young man being hired by the campaign organization that Ensign chaired?  Was it just a coincidence that the young man was removed from the payroll around the same time John Ensign‘s affair with the kid‘s mom ended?

Senator Ensign has never answered those questions, nor has the Senate campaign committee that he led at the time.  The NRSC did confirm to this show back in June that the Hamptons‘ son was listed on the organization‘s expenditure.  When we asked them about the affair and the employment of Hampton‘s son again in July, they told us they hadn‘t received any complaints from donors‘ about how donors‘ money was spent on the committee in relation to the committee‘s chairman‘s extramarital affair and his generosity with the campaign‘s money to his mistress‘ family.

But the questions about the affair, its cover-up and its aftermath, don‘t end there.  Two of the top employees of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee were tasked by Senator Ensign with some of the cleanup after the affair.  In the summer before the ‘08 election, John Ensign asked the political director and the finance director of the Republican Party‘s Senate Campaign Committee to put his former mistress‘s husband, Doug Hampton, on the payroll at their political consulting firm.  They did so.

E-mails obtained last summer by “The Las Vegas Sun” show that those two senior NRSC officials knew about the affair and its aftermath by July of last year.

And now, according to the new investigative reporting from KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, not only did John Ensign direct Republican Party funds to the son of his mistress, not only did he ask two top officials at the Republican party Senate campaign committee to put his mistress‘ husband on the payroll at their company, not only is John Ensign being investigated for having arranged potentially illegal lobbying gigs for the mistress‘ husband, but there are other actions taken by Senator Ensign while he was heading up the Republican Party Senate Campaign Committee that are being investigated now by the FBI.

KLAS, a TV station in Senator Ensign‘s hometown of Las Vegas is reporting on a slew of grand jury subpoenas that have been served in Nevada this month by federal investigators looking into the affair and other things about Senator Ensign.

One of the companies that has—a one of the companies that has acknowledged receiving a subpoena is a company called eCommLink.  ECommLink was one of a group of prepaid credit card companies, essentially gift card companies, approached by Senator Ensign‘s office, and told that in exchange for donations to the Republican Party‘s Senate Campaign Committee, he could help get rid of pending new regulations that would be bad for that company.

If a quid pro quo were offered, solicited or actually took place, that would be the sort of thing that is commonly known as bribery.  And that‘s where we stand.

The John Ensign/Republican Party sex, lobbying, and maybe even attempted bribery scandal.  Beyond the affair, did the senator use the office and the funds or the manpower of the Republican Party itself to try to cover up the affair, to try to arrange an illegal lobbying job for his mistress‘ husband, or to provide any illegal quid pro quo for companies in his home state of Nevada?  The question is now not only how far John Ensign himself could fall, but whether he is set to bring some of the Republican Party down with him.

We‘ll talk with the reporter at KLAS-TV who‘s been investigating how deep the Ensign scandal goes—next.  Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The big trouble that Senator John Ensign of Nevada has caused for himself this year may also now mean big trouble for the Republican Party nationally.  In a moment, we‘ll talk with the Las Vegas reporter who‘s broken this latest news wide open.  Please stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN HUMBERT, KLAS-TV INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  So, here‘s the full list of what we know.  Rogich and Ernaut have been served by the Senate.  We also know executives at card companies: eCommLink, Selling Source, and PaycardUSA have been served by the grand jury.  Emails reveal, Ensign‘s group pushed multiple tech companies for money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s KLAS-TV‘s investigative reporter Jonathan Humbert in a package on this story naming names in the simultaneous Senate and Department of Justice investigations into Nevada Senator John Ensign.  Mr.  Humbert and his team have done some excellent investigative reporting on this story.  We‘re happy to have Mr. Humbert join us tonight.

Jonathan, thank you very much for being with us.  I really appreciate your time.

HUMBERT:  Absolutely.  Thanks so much, Rachel.  And, certainly it was a big team effort.  Big thanks to everyone involved.

MADDOW:  Great.

Help us understand the two parallel investigations that are going on here—one by the Department of Justice, the FBI, and one by the Senate.  Are both of these investigations looking at the same potential crimes or potential misbehavior?

HUMBERT:  Well, they‘re looking at the same evidence.  They‘re trying to find the same amounts of evidence that have been passed through e-mails, conversations, meetings that had gone on.  But they‘re, in the end, going to be doing two very difficult things.

The Senate Ethics Committee obviously investigating just the senator.

But when you get to the criminal side of things, that‘s when things get a little dicey.  It appears that Doug Hampton may have done more, perhaps violating a federal ban on lobbying for one full year after leaving the senator‘s office.  So, that‘s what they‘re going to be looking at for him.

When it comes to the senator, they‘re also going to look at what may have been done and how he went about trying to get these jobs for Doug Hampton, shopping him around, so to speak.  That‘s what they‘re going to try to find and see how he did it, what words were put in other people‘s mouths, what he said, and how that all came to pass.

MADDOW:  Because there is a lobbying ban for people leaving Senate offices, like Doug Hampton did.  Potentially, if John Ensign is found to have overtly facilitated, knowingly facilitated getting Doug Hampton a job that is specifically a lobbying job, that would be a criminal problem, not just an ethics problem for the senator, isn‘t that right?

HUMBERT:  And that‘s the great issue that needs to still be decided, is that you lead a horse to water, so to speak, you get him the job, you do everything you can to help your friend succeed after everything that had happened with the affair.  But then the question is, how far do you go in continuing that job getting him other jobs?  Is that—is it Hampton who goes forward and violates that ban?  Or is Ensign, in some way, legally culpable for making that happen?  Is that you can give someone the opportunity to commit a crime, but it‘s whether they actually follow through it that that‘s the issue.

MADDOW:  I see.  One of the things that was surprising this week that your investigative team helped move the story toward is this—this other element of the investigation that I did not know about before.  And it‘s about these prepaid credit card companies, like for example, eCommLink, one of the companies that has received a subpoena apparently.

What do we know about specifically about those dealings and what may be being investigated between the senator and those companies?

HUMBERT:  We‘ve taken a look at some of the e-mails that have come to light that the grand jury hasn‘t even had access to at this point.  And you see these companies losing out on a federal bid back in January of ‘08.

They contact the senator and say, “Senator, we‘d like to learn more about what the Treasury Department said about our bid.  We didn‘t win.  We want to learn for the next time so that we can do a better job.”

The senator‘s staff contacted them back.  So, that‘s great.  Let‘s get together, let‘s meet, and then it begins to morph into something very, very different.  There‘s talk of coming to an office, coming to have a meeting, having a fundraiser, and all of these sorts of issues start to morph into something more.

Then, when you look at February, just about a month after this is happening, you got that $28,000 annual contribution that was asked for for the majority makers.  That‘s part of the Senate committee or the National Republican Senatorial Committee campaign group that had asked for all of that money, in exchange, in theory, to try to make some of these regulations go away.

At the same time, they‘re asking, hey, we‘re going to have some of these regulations coming down the pipe, you may want to have Doug Hampton on board.  He‘s worked with our staff.  Take a look at him.  He‘s the sort of person that can help you with this.

And a lot of those folks were leery about how it all went down, but they were so desperate for help from their state senator that they looked at it and said, maybe this is something we need to take a look at.

MADDOW:  Do we know—and this is sort of jumping ahead to the punch line, I guess—but do we know if Senator Ensign ever did make interventions on those specific regulations that he was raising with those companies?

HUMBERT:  It doesn‘t even appear that those regulations at this point were real.  We haven‘t heard from those companies say that these were serious issues that we were really concerned about.  Again, they were talking about getting a bid.  That‘s why they came to the senator‘s office in the first place.  We‘re not sure about the possibility of these regulations and whether they were actually real issues that those companies had to even deal with.

MADDOW:  One last question for you, Jonathan.  We keep contacting the National Republican Senatorial Committee about this.  We have—ever since we first learned that one of the things that Senator Ensign did in conjunction with this affair, from all appearances, is to have put the teenage son of the woman he was sleeping with on the Republican Party‘s payroll at the NRSC.

The NRSC consistently tells us, we‘re a whole different animal now, we‘re a whole different community now.  John Ensign isn‘t in charge anymore.  We really don‘t feel like we have to answer any questions about.

Have you been able to sense whether or not the NRSC, the Republican Party as a whole, feels at all vulnerable because of the way they have been roped into this, with receiving this federal subpoena now?

HUMBERT:  Well, we‘ve talked to a number of Republicans and strategists as well.  And a lot of them are really upset, clearly, at what happened with Senator Ensign and what he had done over the last few years.  And they feel like they‘re left holding the bag for his drama, for his baggage, and other issues that he‘s brought forward.  That this was a committee that was pushing very, very hard, they still are, but the staff is all but gone from the folks who were involved when the senator was running that committee.

And so, you look at these folks and say anyone that knew the senator, anyone that worked with him, at this point, looks at that relationship as a big liability.  And that‘s definitely something that that committee and this party has to deal with—is moving forward with the baggage, that he‘s still in the Senate, will be in the Senate for more than a year, at least, without a resignation, and they have to deal with that for sure.

MADDOW:  Even as he says he‘s running for reelection.

It‘s an incredible story and getting more and more incredible all the time.

Jonathan Humbert, investigative reporter with KLAS-TV, doing yeoman‘s work on this.  Thank you so much for joining us.  Appreciate it.

HUMBERT:  Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  After health reform passes, what will happen to the anger infrastructure?  What will happen to the corporate-sponsored fake grassroots group that so far have been cashing in on the outrage about death panels and President Obama‘s Hitler-like qualities and other things that don‘t really exist?  I will have the honor of discussing that with Mr.  Dan Rather, who joins us next.

Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Do you remember Ralph Reed, the Christian coalition guy who got all caught up in the Abramoff scandal a couple of years ago?  Ralph Reed was never indicted over the Abramoff situation, but he was implicated by the Senate investigation into that scandal for having secretly taken Abramoff money to dupe conservative Christians who trusted him into thinking they were doing the Lord‘s work when, really, they were just taking political stunts that helped out Jack Abramoff‘s lobbying shop.  That‘s called classy with a “K.”

Ralph Reed is back now.  He now has a new gig.  He is selling something called FaxGrams.

What are FaxGrams?  Well, if you‘re someone who is opposed to health reform right now, Ralph Reed says he will fax members of Congress for you to tell them just how angry you are.  The goal is to, quote, “bury Congress with an avalanche of FaxGrams in the next 24 hours.”

How do you get in on this sweet FaxGrams deal?  Easy, just click that red box.  It says, quote, “I would like you to put my name is an emergency FaxGram today to every member of Congress, including my congressman and my two U.S. senators—for $24.95, saying no to Obamacare.”

Just $24.95 and Ralph Reed will send all of those faxes for you—just $24.95.  Act now, only while supplies last, everything must go.  We‘ll take checks or money orders.  Did I mention it‘s only $24.95?

All right.  First of all, is everybody really still faxing these days?  Also, $24.95 doesn‘t that sort of seem like a lot of money to, you know, fax?  Fax a piece of paper?

Ralph Reed‘s sweet deal here is actually what the anti-health reform world is starting to look like in the last few days they have left.  For example, I‘ve been seeing these countdown clocks everywhere online.  The one on the left is the one from the anti-health reform corporate fake grassroots group Americans for Prosperity.  The one on the right is from the National Republican Congressional Committee, that‘s their Code Red countdown clock.

You‘ll notice that the countdown clocks look very similar, but they‘re not actually on the same page?  The time they‘re counting down to is different?  I guess the Code Red one is faster, so maybe that‘s imparting more urgency about when the sky will fall.

It‘s not entirely clear what they are counting down to, but at least the one from the Republican Party makes it very clear what exactly you are supposed to do if the sight of the flashing bright red countdown clock does make you feel alarmed.  Right next to the government health care takeover clock is the big red button that says “donate now.”

The anti-health reform group Focus on Family is apparently in money grab mode as well.  As “Mother Jones” magazine first reported, Focus on the Family is busy making their last-ditch effort to turn your fear about health care reform into cash for them.  They‘ve sent out a fundraising pitch that reads, “On the eve of one of the most historic votes, Focus Action is stretched thing.  That‘s why I‘m urgently asking you to help Focus Action with a special gift today.  Please give as generously as you can.”

Six or eight months ago when groups like the Republican Party and FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity were trying to stop health care reform, they were whipping up lots of very evident fervor.  They were holding pretty big marches on Washington.  They were orchestrating takeovers of town hall meetings.

And back then, there was a real question of not only whether these groups would succeed at blocking health reform, but also whether these groups and the angry crowds that they ginned up would become an ongoing powerful force in American politics.

I‘m not sure that most of my friends in the media have caught up with this yet, but from our perspective here, it seems like this big vaunted anti-health reform movement is sputtering out.  The big Code Red rally in Washington earlier this week which featured a lot of big-name Republican politicians only managed to attract a few hundred people.

Same thing for a FreedomWorks rally that happened at the same day, happened the same day.  It was a very sparse turnout.  They don‘t—I don‘t even think they had a P.A. system at that event.

And there was the drive around circle and honk your horn if you‘re against health reform day.  That was also kind of a bust.

We had an inkling of this back in December when we were in Washington to cover a supposedly massive dye-in that was going to happen on Capitol Hill.  And do you remember this?  We couldn‘t find anyone dying in when we went to cover it.

But now, just one day before health reform is to be voted on in the House, yet another Code Red rally has been called in Washington.  This one is featuring a gentleman who claims to be Barack Obama‘s second cousin, and also the actor, Jon Voight.  Mr. Voight calling all freedom-loving Americans to attend in an open letter that said in part, “Speaker Pelosi will stop at nothing to fulfill her corrupt conquests.  She will bring all of the corrupt ACORN liars to try to bully all the Democrats.  If they‘re bullied into saying “yes,” it will destroy America.”

Now that health reform looks like it is going to pass, the effort to prevent that from happening appears to be sputtering out, as these groups all but concede that they‘re going to lose this one, rather than inspiring even more in the streets anger, the groups that have been trying to organize angry Americans to be afraid of health reform appear to be spending these last few days instead just trying to squeeze as much money as they can out of the dwindling number of people they are still able to upset.

Joining us now is Dan Rather.  Dan Rather is the host and managing editor of “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNet.

Mr. Rather, thank you so much for being here tonight.

DAN RATHER, HDNET:  It‘s always a pleasure to be with you.

MADDOW:  You started in the news business in 1950 as an “Associated Press” reporter?

RATHER:  That‘s true.

MADDOW:  Lots of presidents between then and now have tried to do national health reform.  If it passes, does it seem like a landmark achievement to you in terms of just the magnitude of what was attempted legislatively?

RATHER:  No question about it.  I think it—not seems to be, I think it will be.  It will be the signature achievement of this first term, perhaps the only term, but a signature achievement of President Obama‘s this term.  And whether one likes it or not, disagrees with it or not, it takes up the line that started with Social Security, ran through Medicare and Medicaid, which was passed more than 40 years ago, 45 years ago, and it will be put in that category.

And if it passes, and if it is put into effect, I expect it will be in the first paragraph of President Obama‘s obituary, that he passed health care reform, partly because so many presidents—President Johnson was successful, but President Nixon had a run at this, just about every president with the possibility exception of Gerry Ford, has at least thought about trying something along these lines.  I don‘t mean this specific bill, but to get some kind of health care reform.

MADDOW:  When Lyndon Johnson was able to get Medicare passed in 1965, is there any useful comparison to make or contrast to draw between the political environment in which he was able to make that happen in ‘65, and the way—and the environment in which Obama has been able to presumably make this happen if he does it?

RATHER:  Well, there are certainly a lot of contrasts.  First of all, remember that President Johnson got this landmark legislation, Medicare and Medicaid, passed in the wake of the assassination of President Kennedy.  He ascended to the presidency.  And the country was aching to not only appear to be, but to be united.  So that‘s one thing.

I have my doubts whether President Johnson could have gotten Medicare and Medicaid pass if it had not been for the assassination of President Kennedy and the mood the country was into after that.  Then, the second thing, that there was—certainly it was political warfare, and the kind of no holds barred political warfare.  But nothing like the polarization in Washington and nothing like the polarization in the country existed at that time. 

MADDOW:  Really? 

RATHER:  And – 

MADDOW:  I always think that—I look at the polarization we have now and I think oh every generation must think that they‘re the most polarized time ever. 

RATHER:  No. 

MADDOW:  You think we are actually. 

RATHER:  I think we are.  This is the most polarized the country has been certainly since the 1960s over the Vietnam War, and I think even more so than then, and Washington is unquestionably more polarized. 

Lyndon Johnson got Medicare and Medicaid passed, given the special circumstances in the wake of President Kennedy‘s assassination, but he did so with some Republican support. 

MADDOW:  That‘s right. 

RATHER:  The Republican Party was almost totally different.  You had three wings of the Republican Party Lyndon Johnson was dealing with.  You had the liberal Republicans, and they would call that people like Jake Javits, the senator from New York.  You had moderate Republicans, many of them from the upper Midwest, and then you had self-described more conservative Republicans. 

You had the three.  That made it a totally different situation than today.  The Republican Party was not completely totally united against it.  It was, in the main, united against it, but you see the difference. 

Whereas now the Republicans, whether—again whether you like it or not, they have been from a strictly political/practical standpoint, well disciplined, well organized and a total and complete absolute united front against health care. 

Lyndon Johnson didn‘t face that. 

Also, you had the Senate, for example, which I think by any reasonable objective analysis we can now say mostly was dysfunctional, that the Senate leadership had a lot of what we call the, quote, “old votes,” that the Senate changed a lot in the early 1970s, but in this period in the 1960s when Medicare and Medicaid were passed, that—the seniority system was much stronger. 

You had a lot of people who had been in the Senate and the House for a long time, some of them 35 to 40 years.  And President Johnson himself had been a congressman and senator for a very long time. 

So almost a completely different landscape from which President Obama is operating today. 

MADDOW:  One very little noticed announcement, a report, I guess, about Senate Democrats that happened within the past week or so.  We haven‘t even covered it on the show, but I‘ve been thinking about it ever since I noticed it. 

And it was a report that Senate Democrats said starting next Congress they were not going to giving out chairmanships on the basis of seniority anymore.  They were essentially going to dole them out on the basis of who wanted what, who best deserved it, who was going to be the most legislatively effective. 

That would completely, and not only move us away from the old bull system that you‘re talking about there.  It would erase it. 

What do you think the impact that would be on how our government works? 

RATHER:  Well, first of all, I think you‘re more likely to see Fidel Castro ride through here on a giraffe that you‘re to see that happen. 

(LAUGHTER)

RATHER:  But if it happens—by the way, that would be good for the ratings. 

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  We‘re working out—can you guys work on arranging that now? 

Thank you. 

RATHER:  But should it happen, from where I sit, and this is strictly opinion, I think if it‘s possible, that particularly the Senate might become even more dysfunctional than it is now. 

I don‘t expect it to happen.  I think this is a threat that they‘re laying out and saying, listen—to the Republican Party—if you continue to do what you‘re doing, we‘re going to have to make some drastic, maybe even cataclysmic changes. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the filibuster being one of those things, but not all of them.  I know. 

RATHER:  Right.  Let me say that I‘m—back from a trip to California and some other places in the country, the country is angry.  This is as angry as I‘ve seen the country.  Republicans, Democrats, independents, mugwamps, whatever they are..  They‘re really angry. 

A lot of it springs from the recession, almost depression that we went through and a sense that we‘re not all the way through it yet.  And that anger is going to be interesting to see how it cuts in the November elections.  Very, very interesting. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about one last question on a totally different subject.  I know that you are heading back to Iraq next week.  We should note that today is—I guess one way to put it is day 1 of year 8 in Iraq.  We invaded seven years ago today.  It‘s impossible to believe it was seven years ago. 

I know you have a special premiering on HDNET on Tuesday about Iraq. 

What should we expect? 

RATHER:  Well, we went to see whether the drawdown was beginning, and indeed it is.  What you‘re going to see on our program Tuesday night and I think you‘ll hear more about, we‘re beginning to draw down. 

You know the president has said August we‘re going to go down from 96,000 troops to 50,000 troops.  And this is a logistical nightmare of sorts.  All this equipment, all the little Humvees, all the motorized vehicles.  All of the equipment is already beginning to move out of from the bases. 

And we profiled one base there.  I think 250 U.S. bases in Iraq now.  But with some of the bases they‘re already moving stuff to Kuwait, the equipment to Kuwait, which this is a logistical operation that would dwindle anything in history. 

Hannibal over the alps, Alexander going into Southeast Asia dwarfs it, and it says a lot about our military, that they‘ll be—that they are able to do this kind of operation.  But it‘s beginning. 

We‘ve talked for, lo, these many years when are we going to draw down? 

When are we going to pull out?  Well the pullout has begun, for better or

for worse.  And by August, there‘s every indication they‘ll the equipment -

most of the equipment out.  They‘ll have most of the troops out, some of them unfortunately will be reassigned to Afghanistan. 

But with Iraq, for large intents and purposes, come August, as things are now pointed, we‘re out of there. 

MADDOW:  Fascinating stuff.  Dan Rather, the host and managing editor of “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNET.  The new special premiers on HDNET this Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. 

Mr. Rather, as always, it is such an honor to have you here.  Thank you so much for coming. 

RATHER:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  It‘s great to see you. 

RATHER:  I really appreciate it. 

MADDOW:  Thank you. 

RATHER:  Thanks a lot. 

MADDOW:  When the “Drudge Report” and Politico.com announced news of a leaked internal Democratic Party memo, you can be sure that news is 30 to 40 percent accurate.  Or in the case of today‘s memo, more like 15 percent or so.  Much ado about surprisingly little.  Next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Yesterday retired Marine General John Sheehan told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a massacre of Muslims by Serbian forces in Bosnia happened because the Dutch military had gay soldiers in it. 

Tonight we have the Dutch response, and it‘s not oh you‘re so right, thank goodness for you, smart, straight guy. 

That story is sort of incredible.  It‘s coming up in just a moment. 

But first a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. 

Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter has had more than his share of public and professional embarrassment recently.  He was the politician who ran as a family values conservative, who called for President Bill Clinton to be impeached for his sexual immorality, and who then had to hold a press conference admitting that he, David Vitter, was a client of the D.C. madam. 

Despite calling for other politicians to step down because of their sexual improprieties, David Vitter chose the long, slow, humiliating burn of staying in office.  Over the short, sharp dignified consistency of resigning himself. 

Senator Vitter‘s latest embarrassment is again self-inflicted, but thankfully this one is much more PG.  Several popular Web sites that tried to look like journalism, the “Drudge Report”—one of “Drudge” acolyte Andrew Breitbart‘s Web site—and Politico.com today published a memo that was attributed to the Democratic Party. 

It was supposedly an internal Democratic memos that spilled all sorts of damaging details of things that Democrats wanted to keep secret from the public about health reform.  Top House Republican John Boehner sent it to reporters. 

Republicans congressman Eric Cantor sent out an “oh my god, everybody panic” e-mail blast to his supporters, highlighting this horrible, horrible, horrible Democratic memo. 

Thankfully “Talking Points Memo” committed actual journalism on this story and found that no Democrats would confirm that the memo was real. 

And in fact, Democrats believed this was a hoax, which does seem conceivable given that the memo was full of Republican talking points and it had a big ostentatious “draft” stamped on the top of it like it‘s 1977 or something. 

And we just got this thing out of the typing pool and I‘ve got to get my rubber stamps for it. 

Thanks, girls. 

“Drudge” and “Politico” took their breathless stories about the memo down.  “Politico” even forced to admit that they were given the memo by Republican sources and that they did not bother to verify its origin because they credulously printed it.  Even Congressman Cantor forced to walk back from the story in a press conference today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA:  Look, the appropriate question really is ask the reporter who wrote the article alleging that it was a hoax.  I know nothing more than what I read in “Politico.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Even as this apparent clumsy dirty trick embarrassed everyone who helped it along or fell for it.  Senators Sirius (ph) and David Vitter in Louisiana is still trying to raise money off of this thing even after it has been discredited. 

Look at this from David Vitter‘s Web site, quote, “We intercepted a Democrat memo on Obamacare.  The summary is, ignore the American people and substantive policy concerns.  David will continue to discuss the bad policy in Obamacare and fight all of Pelosi‘s deem and pass schemes to help David keep pushing forward in this fight, make a contribution today.” 

Oh, Senator, don‘t your party leaders call you anymore to let you know when a talking point has changed?  Are they still peeved about that whole “yes, I‘m not resigning over the hooker” thing? 

Next up, so Maryland was technically part of the union during the Civil War.  But its the allegiance was dicey enough that President Abraham Lincoln stationed troops in Baltimore to make sure it stayed that way. 

The state‘s song describes the union occupation as “the despots‘ heel upon thy shore.”  That said, bygones with the north are apparently really, really bygones.  Maryland has now in a way asked permission to secede from the south or at least from the southern region of the Council of State Governments. 

Maryland, instead, would like to join the eastern region of the Council of State Governments.  No state has actually switched regions since Missouri went from being Midwest to southern in 1994. 

Maryland now says it would like to make the switch because according to its state officials Maryland has more in common economically and socially with states like Pennsylvania and New York and New Jersey than it does with southern states like Virginia.  Especially Virginia now since the last election, it is fast becoming known as Jesse Helms‘ stand. 

As we have covered in this show, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell rescinded the state‘s old antidiscrimination order right after he was elected.  He replaced it with a new one that explicitly doesn‘t protect gay people from being discriminated against. 

So it is legal to fire state employees in Virginia simply because they‘re gay.  It didn‘t used to be legal, but the new Republican governor of Virginia took overt steps right after he was elected to make it legal to fire people for being gay right after he became governor. 

Happy 2010. 

The hard-right antigay activism of Virginia‘s new governor is in part how a Maryland state senator is making his case to a defense contractor considering where to locate its new executive headquarters. 

The contractor is Northrop Grumman, and they‘ve received a perfect score from the gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, for the last few years.  One Maryland state senator has now written to the company suggesting that if the company wants to do right by its reputation for being respectful to its gay employees, the company might want to move its new headquarters not to Virginia, but instead to a nearby, less vociferously antigay state that rhymes with Schme-Maryland. 

Of course Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has not been alone on his antigay policy agenda.  There has been a Robin to his Batman, a Chong to his Cheech.  And Mr. Bigglesworth to his Dr. Evil. 

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—he‘s the one on the left—has been by Governor McDonnell‘s side for this dramatic turn of the commonwealth‘s government against its gay citizens. 

As soon as Governor McDonnell cut gay people out of the state‘s antidiscrimination order, Mr. Cuccinelli followed up with a directive to Virginia‘s public universities, telling them he could not—telling them they could legally prohibit discrimination against gay people and they should change their existing nondiscrimination policies if the ones they did have already included that protection. 

Mr. Cuccinelli is the attorney general, right?  So maybe there‘s some highfalutin legal reasoning behind that order?  Maybe he‘s not personally antigay at all, maybe there‘s just some more complicated procedural legal explanation that‘s above all of our heads?  Maybe.  Right? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  You think gays—the practice of homosexuality is a detriment to our culture? 

KEN CUCCINELLI, VIRGINIA STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL:  The acts are.  I mean, you certainly want everybody in your society to be integrated into society, so that‘s a focus that I‘d like to take. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Consider that focus very much taken.  Here on national television.  You‘re welcome.  And for the record, some people think your acts are detrimental to American culture, too, sir. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Yesterday a retired American general made—I‘m just checking my figures here—yes, he made all Dutch people in the entire world really mad at us all at once.  I don‘t think they‘re going to invade us or anything, but they are not happy. 

The ballad of millions of very angry Dutchmen, next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When a retired marine general yesterday testified in the Senate in favor of keeping the military‘s antigay “Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell” policy, that general appears to have started a little war of his own.  Retired General Jack Sheehan blamed the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995 on the fact that the Dutch military allowed its gay soldiers to serve openly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JACK SHEEHAN (RET.), U.S. MARINES:  That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there? 

SHEEHAN:  It was a combination – 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did they tell you that?  That‘s my question. 

SHEEHAN:  Yes.  They included that as part of the problem. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Actually, not so much.  Pressed to name these people he said were Dutch leaders who supposedly told him that Srebrenica happened because the Dutch had gay soldiers, General Sheehan said that he based his allegation on something he was told by a man named Hankman Berman.  That‘s what he said.  Hankman Berman told me it was the gays. 

The Dutch said they‘ve never heard of anyone named Hankman Berman, but they do say there is a former chief of staff in the Dutch defense ministry whose name is General Hank Van Den Breemen. 

So maybe that‘s who General Sheehan meant? 

It turns out they couldn‘t have been him either.  General Van Den Breemen says what General Jack Sheehan says about gay soldiers is—and I quote, “absolute nonsense.”  Breemen says he never said anything like that to Sheehan and besides what Sheehan‘s claiming about Srebrenica just is not true. 

In the days since General Sheehan made these comments—in the one day since General Sheehan made these comments, the Dutch have gone nuts about this.  If you peek out your window right now and you see an angry Dutchman holding a pitchfork or a torch or something, just hide and hope he calms down. 

The Dutch defense minister said that General Sheehan‘s comments were, quote, “scandalous and unbefitting a soldier.”  The Dutch defense ministry spokesman said it is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense. 

The Dutch foreign minister called Sheehan‘s comments extremely strange saying the claim was, quote, “the bizarre private opinion of someone without an official function.”  The head of the Dutch Military Union said, “That man is just crazy.  That sounds harsh, but what else can I say because it‘s complete nonsense.” 

The Dutch ambassador to our country said, “The military mission of Dutch U.N. soldiers at Srebrenica has been exhaustively studied and evaluated.  There is nothing that suggests any relationships between gays serving in the military and that mass murder.” 

Even the Dutch prime minister weighed in on this calling Sheehan‘s remarks way off the mark and saying they should never have been made. 

The head of a gay soldiers groups in the Netherlands maybe (INAUDIBLE).  That group‘s quote is that Sheehan‘s comments were, quote, “The ridiculous convulsions of a loner.” 

I don‘t know what convulsions of a loner means, but let‘s hope the Dutch are slightly less horrified with Jack Sheehan than with us.  The next time we go back to them yet again to ask them to serve with our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else. 

Also just as a political note here, if the best ally and the best argument be pro-Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell people have now is General Sheehan and his imaginary Dutch friend, Hankman Berman, I think we may be pretty much on the track to repeal. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Orly Taitz.  If that name rings a bell, it‘s because Orly Taitz is the queen of the birthers.  Orly Taitz is the California dentist who has filed lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit alleging that President Obama is secretly foreign.  That he‘s secretly not really president.  That his actual birth certificate, which you see here, isn‘t really his actual, actual birth certificate. 

Orly Taitz has had three previous lawsuits about this dismissed.  She has been fined $20,000 by a court in Georgia for the frivolous nature of one of this lawsuits.  She‘s the most purely distilled essence of undeterrable birther fanaticism that we have in this country. 

And Orly Taitz wants to be California‘s secretary of state.  She has qualified as a candidate.  She‘s competing with a former pro football player named Damon Dunn for the Republican nomination for the job of California secretary of state. 

How is she competing against Mr. Dunn?  Well, true to form, not kidding, she has filed a lawsuit against him, challenging his eligibility for office.  Yes! 

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  According to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, Miss Taitz filed a complaint that‘s 55 or 60 pages long alleging her opponent was not registered as a Republican for long enough to qualify as a candidate and thus she says, he is ineligible to run on the Republican ticket. 

So it‘s just like birtherism, except—it‘s a different black man this time. 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, of course, does not endorse candidates and is affiliated with no politician or party, but we do every once in a while close our eyes and we press really hard with our fingers into our eyeballs and then sometimes we can see what Orly Taitz‘s campaign ads might be like.  Try it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  California deserves a fighter as secretary of state, and they‘ll get one with Orly Taitz.  She‘s a lawyer.  She‘s a dentist.  She has a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. 

So she‘s trained to inflict pain on a variety of levels.  And as secretary of state, she will.  Who else will defend us from the tyranny of Barack Hussein Obama‘s birth certificate? 

ORLY TAITZ, CALIFORNIA CANDIDATE FOR SECRETARY OF STATE:  A number of volunteers have called each and every hospital in Hawaii and no one had any record of either Obama or his mother ever being hospitalized there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Orly Taitz won‘t be bullied by Obama‘s web of lies.  “I believe he is the most dangerous thing one can imagine, in that he represents radical communism and radical Islam.  He was born and raised in radical Islam.  All of his associations are with radical Islam, and he was groomed in the environment of the dirty Chicago mafia.  Can anything be scarier than that?” 

As secretary of state, Orly Taitz will protect Californians from radical Islamic, communist, Kenyan, Indonesian Chicago mafiosi.  Regardless of the evidence. 

Some people don‘t know the meaning of the word stop or of the word paranoid.  Or the word cuckoo.  That person is Orly Taitz. 

Paid for by the Committee to Elect Orly Taitz. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That does it for us tonight.  Boy, we had fun with that. 

We‘ll see you back here again on Monday.  I hope you have a great weekend. 

Thanks very much for joining us.  Have a great night. 

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

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