The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/25/10
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. It sort of feels
momentous, doesn‘t it? I mean—
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSBNC POLITICAL ANALYST: It does. Make something
of it. Go ahead.
MADDOW: I mean, can I just say, can I have Lawrence O‘Donnell as my
guest for 10 seconds?
O‘DONNELL: For as long as you want.
MADDOW: I mean, you were in the Senate during the whole initial push
for health care, during the last Democratic president that tried to do
this. Now that it‘s finally passed right now, do you actually sort of feel
like the circle is closing? Or is this—or is this not a circle, this is
a path that keeps going and there‘s more reform to come?
O‘DONNELL: Rachel, I‘m going to—I‘m going to confess something to
you that I don‘t want anyone else to know. I cried watching C-SPAN this
O‘DONNELL: There‘s nothing like it. It is an amazing accomplishment
and this leaves aside the issues—I have plenty of issues with what‘s in
the bill. A lot of people have issues with what‘s in the bill. But what
they did, what they managed to do, given what they were up against, is an
absolutely extraordinary accomplishment. And I‘m so in awe of it at this
point as a legislative accomplishment that I don‘t really have words that I
think are adequate to it.
MADDOW: Well, those were pretty great words, Lawrence.
Congratulations, that something has passed that you worked on for a very
long time, and thanks for being part of our coverage of it tonight. Thank
O‘DONNELL: I don‘t get the credit. I‘m one of those people who quit,
who couldn‘t stay on there for the hard long road to this.
MADDOW: Well, congratulations on admitting you cried. It takes a big
man to do that. How‘s that?
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
And we do begin tonight with what is live ongoing drama right now in
the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. As you just heard just
moments ago, literally moments ago, the House passed the final vote on
health reform. The House has just agreed to the Senate amendments to the
health reform bill, drawing to a close what has been a very long process in
The bill now moves on to President Obama who can sign it as early as
This final vote officially marks the end of the health reform battle
in this Congress. And it unofficially marks the end of the first
legislative chapter of the Barack Obama presidency. Chapter one of the
Obama presidency was, broadly speaking, in tabloid terms—the Obama
agenda, including the monumental agenda of health reform, versus, on the
other side, the party of no.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP: I will guarantee you that we
are committed to making sure that not one Republican will vote for this
REP. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA: The American people want to hear us
say no. No is a wonderful word.
SENATE CLERK: And Mr. Kyl?
SEN. JON KYL ®, OKLAHOMA: No.
SENATE CLERK: Mr. Bunning? Mr. Bunning, no. Mr. Crapo? Mr. Crapo,
no. Mr. Roberts? Mr. Roberts, no. Mr. Ensign? Mr. Ensign, no.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Hell, no, you can‘t!
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: The no, no, no, hell, no, Republican strategy put Democrats
in the position of having to do everything in pursuit of this monumental
historic reform to do everything themselves. It therefore put a spotlight
on all the differences among the Democrats, because Democrats had to get
beyond everything that divided them in order to get stuff passed. And in
that process, the Republicans—the no, no, no, hell no Republicans became
sort of uninteresting.
They weren‘t just one big “no.” They were predictable. Their unified
“no” strategy was a big gamble and it is a gamble that they tonight have
ultimately lost. The strategy did not work.
Democrats were able to overcome the things that divided them. Health
reform has passed as of, finally, tonight, just moments ago. The
Republicans got nothing.
Actually, they did get one thing. They got a very angry, and at
times, it seems, dangerously angry rump activist base that is now doing
things from which Republicans are furiously having to try to distance
themselves. That‘s what Republicans got from their just say “no” gamble.
What Democrats got was not only this landmark generational legislative
accomplishment, but as you saw today in Iowa, they got the opportunity to
take a celebratory victory lap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, health insurance
reform is the law of the land, all across America.
CROWD: Yes, we did! Yes, we did! Yes, we did! Yes, we did! Yes,
OBAMA: Yes, we did. Yes, we did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One of the things that could have happened here—and this
is what Republicans who are playing pundit said what happened—one of the
things that could have happened is that as soon as health reform passed,
Democrats could have wanted to pretend it never happened. They could have
been so embarrassed about it or so politically nudgy about it that they‘d
want to move on right away and start talking about other things.
That‘s what Republicans predicted. That is not at all the way it is
working out. Health reform is turning out to be a big win legislatively
for Democrats and it is something they‘re going to keep talking about and
they‘re going to be running on, because they are happy about what they can
say this policy does.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now that we passed it, they‘re already promising to repeal it.
They‘re actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November. You‘ve
been hearing that.
And my attitude is, go for it.
OBAMA: If they want to have that fight, we can have it. Because I
don‘t believe that the American people are going to put the insurance
industry back in the driver‘s seat. We‘ve already been there. We‘re not
going back. This country‘s moving forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democrats, it turns out, are thrilled to run on what‘s
actually in this legislation. It may have been a hard fight this past
year, but it‘s not just fighting that matters. It‘s not just kinetic
activity. It‘s the outcome of the fight. And the outcome of this fight is
that Democrats and the Democratic president are taking a victory lap right
Ancient political science axiom here: The one sure way to build your
political strength is by winning. That‘s what‘s happened on the Democratic
On the Republican side, look what‘s going on over there right now. In
the Senate, there was this last battle over the last package of fixes to
the health reform bill. Last night, the Senate was in session past 2:00
a.m. dealing with Republican amendments that were never going to pass.
They were just there to try to trip up Democrats to somehow maybe slow down
the bill further. That amendment‘s battle again went past 2:00 a.m. and
then it continued today.
Republicans, if they wanted to, if they had been motivated enough,
could have kept this going all day long. There‘s no limit on the number of
amendments you can put in on a bill like this. They could have kept the
Senate in session around the clock, for days, for weeks, for months, who
knows? They could have done that. But it appears they lost their
Republican Senator Jim DeMint saying today, quote, “We‘ve decided that
offering 200 or 300 amendments doesn‘t make sense. I had 50 amendments. I
still have them in my back pocket but I‘ll probably only offer two or
Where‘s that old Waterloo fight, Jim DeMint?
This much wanted dogging Republican opposition in the Senate fell
apart today. The fixes bill passed the Senate after Republicans relented.
They just stopped offering amendments, even though they could have kept
And for all the “fight, fight, fight, this is the next revolution”
rhetoric from the Republican Party, Republicans folded in the House, too.
What just happened moments ago on the House floor put an official end to
the health reform fight in Congress.
Once upon a time, like, say, 72 hours ago, the prospect of this
package of fixes, this bill having to go back to the House, that was going
to be some sort of legislative doomsday. House Republicans were so
diametrically opposed to this thing. They were so energized to kill it.
They could have held it up today in the rules committee. They could
have thrown other procedural roadblocks up there. They kept talking about
how much this bill is the end of the world, how they‘d do anything to stop
it—and then in the end, nothing.
It turns out this thing passed pretty easily tonight. We were ready
to be here all night again. It‘s already done.
Republicans seem to have lost their will to fight. They are rolling
And so, maybe this is chapter two of the legislative history of the
Obama presidency. Chapter one was the whole “party of no” thing. However,
you thought that was going at the time, now, we know how it worked out.
Democrats won and the Republicans not only lost every major
legislative fight, they also seem to have lost their will at the end here.
And some of their base seems to have, at times, lost their minds here.
That was chapter one. That‘s how Republicans dealing with the Obama
presidency chapter one ended.
What‘s chapter two like? So far, it looks like there‘s a lot less
unanimity on the Republican side.
Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, for example, had this to
say about the Republican approach to the next new big thing in Congress,
the new Wall Street rules that are being worked on in the Senate Finance
Committee. He said, quote, “We have made a very, very large mistake and I
regret that. You don‘t pull out the game book out for health care, I‘m
sorry, and apply that to financial reform.”
Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins also breaking with
the Republican party on a same-sex marriage amendment that was offered
early this morning.
Even at the straggling end at Senate Republicans‘ attempts to block
health care reform, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham broke ranks, too. He
and Democrat Jim Webb decided together to buck Republicans. The
Republicans wouldn‘t consent to them continuing to hold a hearing they were
holding military health system.
Instead of shutting down their hearing, because Republicans wouldn‘t
consent to it, Lindsey Graham and Jim Webb went a little sort of civil
disobedience. They just decided to ignore what the rest of the Republicans
were doing. They just held their hearing anyway.
We don‘t know exactly what Republican strategy is going to be from
here on out. We don‘t know what it‘s going to be now that their “say no to
everything” strategy has led to this huge loss on health reform. Whatever
chapter two is for the Republicans, it looks like it is going to be a lot
more interesting than chapter one. At least it will be a lot more
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”
Chris, thanks very much for joining us. Nice to see you.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good to see you, too, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the House just—just moments ago voted to pass the
fixes to the health reform bill. A few weeks ago, the idea that this thing
would have to get pinged back to the House was almost a doomsday scenario
for the Democrats. But tonight, it passed pretty easily. What does that
HAYES: There is no sure sign of how the political situation, the
momentum has changed than the way that the parliamentarian ruling out two
small items in the Senate patch and sending it back to the House, that was
met with just a minor shrug. The House said, OK, cool, we‘ll pass it
A week ago, that would—like you said—it would have been a
doomsday scenario because the health reform bill was beginning to feel like
Zeno‘s paradox, you know? It was like, it would always go half of the way.
It was never going to finally get there.
And I think that this shows that the momentum has switched entirely,
the House was able to just take it back and get it done in a day.
MADDOW: The old way that Republicans were fighting this, whatever
they felt about the kind of political capital it gave them, the kind of
momentum it gave them in process, at the end, it didn‘t—it didn‘t work.
They didn‘t win. They didn‘t end up looking very good in the process to
anybody other than their base. But they did, in fact, energize their base
at least for a time.
What do you think their ultimate political—what have they reaped
ultimately, politically, from this year of process?
HAYES: That‘s a really interesting question. I mean, I think
ultimately, it was—like you said—it‘s a high stakes bet that lost. I
mean, the situation they find themselves in, David Frum who—you know,
who is a conservative commentator who is sort of, was one of the very few
who said this was a mistake, this strategy, and today, he lost his job at
He had this great quote the other day, he said, “The Republicans used
to think that FOX News worked for them. And now, we realize we work for
FOX News,” which is to say, at this point, I think the tail is wagging the
dog in terms of the relationship of this very activist base to Republican
And what‘s going to be really interesting is—are they going to be
able to move in any different direction? Are they able to be more
conciliatory, have a more kind of, you know, back-and-forth about
legislative strategy? Or is that discipline going to be enforced by the
base that has become so powerful in this year in which they‘ve pursued this
MADDOW: It is hard to imagine, even as I was able to find evidence
today—just in today‘s news, the last couple day‘s news, in terms of
Republicans really breaking with this unified front strategy on same-sex
marriage, with Corker on financial reform—
MADDOW: – with Lindsey Graham on that procedural issue with Jim
Webb, you‘re able to find this evidence, but it does seem like there‘s this
big problem. I mean, if this is socialism, if this is the end of a
constitutional republic, if this guy is a Kenyan Marxist, Nazi or whatever,
to the extent that they‘ve adopted that rhetoric, haven‘t they hamstrung
any future efforts to work with him?
HAYES: That is exactly right. They‘re totally painted into a
rhetorical corner insofar as they have at every—at every juncture in
this first year and two months of the Barack Obama administration, they
have painted things in maximalist terms, they have sort of created the most
apocalyptic stakes for every legislative battle, and they have also chosen
incredibly philosophical and ideological terms on which to have the debate.
And once you‘re at first principles, once you‘re at ideological
impasse, there is no place for negotiation. And so, that‘s place they‘re
in right now. It‘s extremely difficult to imagine a scenario where they
say, it‘s time to sit down with the Marxist, Kenyan-born subverter of
American values to hash out this minor technical language on financial
reform. The base is going to rebel.
Now, the question is: do they say to the base, “You know what, screw
it, you got us into this problem”? Or do they listen to them? My bet is
they listen to them.
MADDOW: Well, that‘s going to be the single most interesting thing
and I think totally unpredictable thing about politics in chapter two here.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”—thanks for joining
us for immediate response to this historic vote, Chris. I really
HAYES: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: OK. Do you remember when Army lieutenant and Iraq veteran
Dan Choi came out as gay on this show? Him doing that started the process
of the Army firing him under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
Now, Lt. Choi‘s first appearance on this show was just about a year
ago today. Today, the Pentagon softened the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”
policy. It is still no help to Dan Choi. He‘s not particularly happy with
Dan Choi is “The Interview” on tonight‘s show. I‘m very much looking
forward to talking with him. That‘s coming up in just a moment.
Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: The breaking news tonight: Just in the last few moments, the
House of Representatives has passed by a vote of 220-207 the final package
of fixes to this Senate health care bill that had already passed both
houses of Congress and been signed by President Obama. This was the final
smaller bill that represented the House‘s chosen fixes to the Senate bill.
It passed the Senate today after a number of Republican amendments were
voted down. It has now passed the House again, 220-207.
The Democrats are bringing in four votes to spare on this measure.
The final vote cast by liberal Democratic congressman of Florida, Alan
We‘ll be right back with continuing coverage.
MADDOW: Health reform is law. The debate over whether or not to
adopt it is over. Democrats won, Republicans lost—which does not mean
that Republicans can‘t still be opposed to health reform. It just means
the way they‘re opposed is changing.
All the made-up stuff about death panels and secret plots to kill old
people, and secret plots to kill veterans and special needs children—
those have passed their shelf life at this point. Since as the reforms go
into effect and no death panels convene—kind of loses its impact to say
they‘re coming, right?
Well, now, the fashionable way to show off how opposed you are to
health reform is with a lawsuit—filing lawsuits against the government
alleging that health reform violates the Constitution. Today, the
Republican governor of Georgia, Sonny Purdue, went so far as to announce
that he will appoint a special attorney general whose sole job will be to
sue the federal government over health reform on behalf of the state of
You might be asking yourself: why does Governor Purdue of Georgia need
a new attorney general just for this special lawsuit? It‘s because when he
asked the real attorney general of Florida, Democrat Thurbert Baker, to
file this lawsuit, Mr. Baker looked into the matter and determined that it
would be a futile exercise. It would be a giant waste of Georgia
The real attorney general of Georgia said plainly and publicly that
there is, quote, “no viable legal basis to challenge the health reform
law.” But—but, get me a new attorney general then!
The purported legal basis for these latest anti-health reform stunts -
lawsuits—is that they say it‘s unconstitutional to require everybody
to have health insurance.
Now, even as Republicans really, really, really, really, really,
really want to support these lawsuits, this is an awkward argument for them
to make. Let me tell you why. Take Mitt Romney, for example. Mitt Romney
is trying really hard to be against the mandate in health reform that you
have to get health insurance. The problem is, Mitt Romney‘s own health
reform plan that he passed in Massachusetts—it has the mandate, too.
Up until now, his tiptoe around this has been that the mandate from a
state government is OK. But the mandate from the federal government—
well, that‘s obviously evil and wrong and unconstitutional, for some
Then the Democratic National Committee unearthed and circulated this
piece of video from Mitt Romney from the ‘08 election cycle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: – backed away from mandates on the national basis.
MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, no, I like
mandates. The mandates work.
FRED THOMPSON ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Beg your pardon?
ROMNEY: Let me—
THOMPSON: I didn‘t know you were going to admit that.
ROMNEY: Oh, absolutely.
THOMPSON: I like mandates.
ROMNEY: Let me tell you what kind of mandates I like, Fred, which is
THOMPSON: The ones you come up with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That, of course, was what Mitt Romney thought about a federal
mandate back when e was running for president, before all the cool kids
from the Republican Party were filing lawsuits claiming that a federal
mandate is unconstitutional.
But Mitt Romney is not alone. He never is. Mitt Romney is not alone
in suddenly claiming that he believes requiring people to have insurance is
unconstitutional, despite a very clear record that speaks otherwise.
The fact is the individual health insurance mandate is a Republican
idea. The Republicans came up with it. But as soon as the Democrats
decided they agreed with Republicans on that, Republicans changed their
mind and decided it was horrible, awful, and unconstitutional.
In 1993, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Orrin Hatch of
Utah were co-sponsors of a health reform proposal—a Republican health
reform proposal that included an individual mandate. But if you ask them
what they think of the individual mandate today, now that Democrats have
adopted it, now that Democrats have adopted their position on it—now,
apparently, they are absolutely opposed to their own idea.
Just this afternoon, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell called Senator Grassley to
account for his brand-new take on the individual mandate he used to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: You were one of the people who conceived
the idea of the individual mandate back in 1993, you and the late Senator
Chafee were trying to come up with alternative compromises in Hillary
Clinton‘s health care proposals.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: Yes.
MITCHELL: Was it OK then, but now it‘s unconstitutional? Or do you
think these attorneys general are wrong about challenging the legality, the
constitutionality of the individual aspects of this?
GRASSLEY: No, I think they‘re right then and I think the only
difference between 1993 and the year now, if it was unconstitutional today,
it was unconstitutional in 1993. But I don‘t think anybody gave it much
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We didn‘t really think about it back then when it was our
idea. That‘s his answer. But now that it‘s the Democrats‘ idea, and I
think about it now, it‘s totally unconstitutional, obviously.
And stunningly, Senator Hatch—this amazes me. It‘s like they
coordinated this. Senator Hatch is offering up more or less the same
totally inexplicable explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH: Back on Hillary Care, you know, they had
a mandate in there, and I didn‘t realize it. I didn‘t pay any attention to
it. We were trying to defeat Hillary Care. But the more I‘ve studied it
since then, the more I‘ve looked at it since then, the more I‘ve come to
the conclusion that it would be absolutely unconstitutional to force people
to buy something they don‘t want to buy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, no, no, the mandate was your idea.
It‘s a good thing they didn‘t pass your own proposal back then when
you proposed it, Senator. It turns out you hadn‘t really thought about
just how unconstitutional it was, back then—when it was your idea that
you didn‘t know anything about.
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for the “Washington Post.”
Ezra, thanks very much for coming on the show. It‘s good to have you
EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you first about the historic thing that has
just happened in the House of Representatives, Democrats get 220 votes.
KLEIN: We‘re done.
MADDOW: Is it actually done? Is there anything going to sneak up
here or are we done?
KLEIN: No, we seem pretty done. I mean, for the moment anyway.
We‘ll be back at this in a couple years and we‘ll certainly be talking
about it in the election. But for now, our long national boring
conversation is finally over.
MADDOW: Well, let me actually ask you about the surprise that this
all sort of happened suddenly today. The Senate looked like it was on the
long, slow road until well past 2:00 a.m. last night when they were
dragging this out and dragging this out and dragging this out, and then
today, ping pong ping, it‘s done. They kick it to the House. Ping pong
ping, it‘s done before my—even an hour of my show is over.
How come it wrapped up so quickly?
KLEIN: It‘s a wonder what winning does for Democrats, isn‘t it?
Back a couple of weeks ago, back a couple of months ago, everything
the Republicans said terrified the Democrats. The Republicans would say—
well, maybe the Senate wouldn‘t act on it and House Democrats would feel a
little shiver run down their spines. And then it turned out that they can
actually do this, they can actually legislate.
And more to the point—and this is I think the big psychological
change between this week and two weeks ago—they like it. They like what
it feels like when they do something enormous for the American people, and
they didn‘t want to let it stop. And so, when it happened to be the case
and we had a minor glitch when it went to the Senate, the House said, oh,
yes, fine. We‘ll work on it. This is worth taking one more vote to
MADDOW: When the president went out on the stump in Iowa today and
essentially campaigned, and campaigned on health reform, begged Republicans
to please campaign on repeal, do you think that was a sign of things to
come? I mean, Republicans were saying, for months now, you‘re never going
to hear the end of health reform in this election. I‘m starting to feel
like that may be true, but it‘s going to be Democrats talking about it, and
KLEIN: Well, I never put too much stock in advice one party gives the
other party. I didn‘t when it was Republicans giving it to Democrats and
now the other way. I will say that I think Republicans would not be wise
to spend the election on health care for the simple reason that, in
general, health care is a Democratic issue. When they‘re up there saying,
listen, we don‘t want to cut Medicare, and they start getting the ads (ph)
all the time, so they‘ve given it a shot, people start wondering, well, who
do I trust on Medicare, it won‘t go good for them.
I think you‘ll see them trying to talk about unemployment, not the
giant historic health care legislation that by the fall is going to be
delivering rebate checks to seniors.
MADDOW: Meanwhile, all these attorneys general and potential
Republican presidential candidates and would-be sort of Republican national
stars are all supporting these lawsuits against health reform.
Do any of these lawsuits stand a real chance of succeeding? If they -
in a fantasy world, if they did succeed, would it have any real impact in
KLEIN: No. But it‘s fascinating to watch them all pile up. It‘s
sort of like, when everybody comes and pushes the elevator button one after
the other, as if more people coming, it makes it more unconstitutional on
If they manage to do this, putting side the fact that the legal basis
for it is unlikely, it also wouldn‘t be imported, it would not repeal
health care reform, it would not undermine the bill fatally. The Democrats
would have to make a slight change to the individual mandate, such that
instead of putting a penalty on you, it would instead simply bar you from
taking advantage of the subsidies and protections offered by the bill. It
would not be that hard. Some people wanted them to go that route anyway.
What‘s been amazing about this, is that even for the folks—it‘s
fine for the fringes to do this, for ambitious attorney generals to do
this. But the folks who are supposed to hold up that moderate center, the
Olympia Snowes and Chuck Grassleys of the world, supposed to be the bulwark
between FOX News and the rest of America, they fell on this.
I mean, put Grassley aside who supported this back in the day, Olympia
Snowe voted for it when it left the Senate Finance Committee. That was
2009, not 1993. And suddenly, she‘s on board for questions about its
The grown-ups in the Republican Party have sat down, and that‘s not
MADDOW: Ezra Klein, staff writer with the “Washington Post”—it‘s
great to have you on the show, particularly on this historic vote night.
Thanks a lot, Ezra.
KLEIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the military modified its “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy
today. The new version could be called “We‘re not going to ask you if
you‘re gay anymore, really we won‘t, but if you say you‘re gay, you‘re
still fired.” It doesn‘t have a good acronym yet, we‘d be trying to come
up with one.
We will discuss this historic half-measure with the soldier who came
out to very dramatic effect on this show about a year ago. His name is
Lieutenant Dan Choi. He joins us for “The Interview—next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you just be clear about that one more time
if the study is looking at whether to implement repeal or how you would
actually implement it?
ROBERT GATES, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The study is about
how you would implement it. If the law changes, how would we implement it?
This study is not about, should we do it? This study is about how would we
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That was defense Secretary Robert Gates this
morning talking about the potential end of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” the
military‘s policy of a legally sanctioned discrimination against our
fighting men and women who also happen to be gay.
Four hundred and twenty-eight service members were fired or, as
the military says, separated under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” last year alone,
more an under investigation right now. Those include Lt. Dan Choi, a West
Point-educated Iraq war veteran, an accomplished Arab linguist who is also
A year ago this week, Lt. Choi made the brave choice to come out
right here on this program. In the year since, he has been investigated
under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” and a commission has recommended he be
separated from the military.
Also since then, the president of the United States has made it
clearer than ever that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” must be repealed. And the
Secretary of Defense ordered the military to study how to make it happen.
Meanwhile, while Lt. Choi still faces the very real possibility
that he will be forced to leave the military, last month, his commanding
officer in the Army National Guard asked him to rejoin his unit and
participate in drills with them.
Last week, Lt. Choi and a fellow gay serviceman were arrested
when they chained themselves to the White House fence to protest the
Today, Defense Secretary Bob Gates announces changes to the way
“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” would be implemented, changes he said are designed
to make the enforcement of the current policy more fair.
The major changes, as I understand them, are these. Only a flag
rank officer, that is a one-star general or Navy admiral, can initiate a
“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” inquiry.
Also, third-party information about someone‘s sexual orientation
can only be given under oath, meaning no more anonymous outings. The new
rules say that overheard statements and hearsay are now discouraged,
although they can still be used in an inquiry.
And some kinds of confidential information will no longer be
admissible, statements like gay service personnel make to their lawyers,
for example, or clergy or doctors.
Do these changes mean that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is over? Not
even close. They‘ve just decided to make the policy more like they
promised it would be in the first place. For more than 15 years now,
members of the military who weren‘t telling anything were still drummed out
of the service.
But the military sure did ask to the point of witch hunting
closeted people out of the service against their will, by the thousands.
Now, the military has decided to really not ask anymore, except in some
special circumstances, but gay personnel still can‘t tell.
Will people like Lt. Dan Choi stop getting fired for being
themselves under this change in policy? Not at all. Can gay men and women
in the military stop lying about who they are and still serve? Simply put,
Joining us now is Lt. Dan Choi. Lt. Choi, it is really good to
see you again. Thanks for joining us.
LT. DAN CHOI, U.S. ARMY: It‘s good to see you. It‘s like our one-
MADDOW: It is our one-year anniversary, which I think is paper or tin
or something - wood.
CHOI: I‘ve got a couple papers in the mail after the first date that
MADDOW: What‘s the status right now of your discharge under “Don‘t
Ask, Don‘t Tell?” Are you in limbo still?
CHOI: Myself - I am still in limbo and I could be fired right after I
get off the set here. I mean, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is still in place.
And all of these exceptions or the more humane ways to implement
“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” - none of that applies to me or anybody who simply
just wants to tell the truth about who they are.
MADDOW: So your feeling about this change in policy is that,
obviously, in your case, it still won‘t affect you. But in general, you
think this is a tweak to the existing policy, this isn‘t a substantial
CHOI: Well, this is an attempt, just as Secretary Gates said, to try
to make the implementation a little bit more humane. But I think it misses
the point entirely.
What‘s inhumane, what‘s absolutely intolerable about “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
Tell” itself is that it enforces closeted-ness and it enforces shame and
hiding and lying and deception.
And that is not in keeping with any of the Army values or any of
the military‘s values or American values. So it misses the point entirely.
MADDOW: Dan, last week you were arrested after you chained yourself
to the White House fence. We had some images of that that we showed our
I wondered - you‘re a savvy activist and an incredible advocate
for this cause, not only for yourself but for everybody fighting it. When
you made the decision to do that, I wondered if you were being specific.
If you felt that meant the holdup now is with the White House
that you chained yourself to, not with Congress and not with the Pentagon.
CHOI: Well, it‘s really obvious that the president now needs to show
resolve, strong resolve to get rid of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” And the
ball is still in his court. The Defense Authorization Bill can include the
And in that way, the Republicans or anybody who opposes getting
rid of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” would have to get 60 votes. And so when the
president responds to activists and says, “I will repeal ‘Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
Tell‘ this year. I will work with Congress and I need your help. Keep
pressuring leaders like me,” as an army officer, I hear a directive, an
order, a command.
And so I‘m going to do everything that I can to make sure that he
knows the ball is still in his court, and we need to see action.
MADDOW: What do you think about the strategy that has been taken in
terms of having Defense Secretary Bob Gates direct a Pentagon year-long
review? And it‘s not about whether to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”.
As you heard him say there quite clearly, it‘s about how. He
says if Congress repeals it, if the laws change, this is how we‘ll repeal
it. What do you think about that?
CHOI: When I hear people talk about the study, I get so absolutely
confused and frustrated. You don‘t have to look all the way to Australia
or Canada or Israel or any of our NATO allies that we‘re serving with in
You can look at the Secret Service or the CIA or the FBI or the
State Department - they have none of these kinds of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”
or discrimination saying that you must lie about who you are.
But we can‘t prove these statistics about unit cohesions.
Essentially, that‘s what people are trying to figure out. Is there going
to be a negative impact? And I know just personally, I went back to my
unit - and I mean, a lot of people are wondering what the reaction was
People would be surprised, the first question that comes out of
people‘s mouths is, “What was Rachel Maddow like?” They want to know.
They‘d say, “We love Rachel Maddow because she speaks the truth and she is
not afraid to tell it like it is.”
And you know what, Rachel? What the soldiers really respect most
and what they demand of their leaders is not to be of a certain orientation
or a certain race or a certain religion or anything. They want to see
They want to know that the leader can step up and speak the truth
when it needs to be spoken. And I speak the truth for all of these other
people who cannot speak up for themselves. And that‘s what they respect.
So there‘s no negative impact. When people can be honest about
themselves, there‘s always a positive impact.
MADDOW: Lt. Dan Choi, you have had a heck of a year.
CHOI: It‘s been quite a year, right.
MADDOW: It‘s been quite a year.
CHOI: And I‘ve seen so many activists throughout the entire country,
and so many organizations that do so many wonderful things. And I knew
that when I was on that fence - I was not alone.
Robin McGhee(ph) - somebody who is so inspiring in all of her
life. She handcuffed me to that fence. And when I had those chains on me
on my waist and the tethers and the shackles on my legs, for the first
time, I knew that on the outside, it matches what was on the inside, having
to live in the closet and to suffer through “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”.
And I see so much of these people that just step up and say, “You
know what? I am somebody, and I deserve full equality.” And that‘s what
we intend to fight for.
MADDOW: Dan Choi, congratulations on everything you‘ve accomplished
so far. I look forward to seeing you under different circumstances
MADDOW: Has anybody asked you recently to give them money in order to
repeal health reform? Or maybe to sue to stop health reform? Did those
same people ask for money to pass a federal constitutional amendment to ban
If you‘re noticing a pattern in all of many acts, you should be.
The next big political money scam targeting you and probably your elderly
grandparents or parents. That story‘s next.
MADDOW: Behold a news miracle. The group of state attorneys general
who are suing the federal government to stop health reform has been joined
by a new ally.
Their new ally is Orly Taitz, the queen of the birther movement,
the California dentist who keeps filing lawsuit after lawsuit after - wow,
that‘s crazy lawsuit, alleging that President Obama is secretly foreign and
therefore secretly isn‘t really president.
Orly Taitz has filed a newly-amended complaint in one of her many
birther lawsuits. As you can see in this copy of the complaint obtained by
“Talking Points Memo,” her new anti-health reform crusade is entitled
“Violation of Commerce Clause and of Plaintiffs‘ Rights to Gainful
Employment as a Doctor of Dental Surgery upon Defendant‘s Imminent Signing
of the Health Bill.”
See the defendant is the foreign pretender president, Barack
Hussein Obama, and by signing the health reform bill, he‘s somehow
depriving Orly Taitz of her constitutional right to practice dentistry when
she‘s not busy getting her lawsuits against the president thrown out of
Orly Taitz joining the lawsuits against health reform is just
about perfect. The 14 state attorneys general who have filed lawsuits
against health reform, like Orly Taitz, have no reasonable expectation that
these lawsuits will succeed.
There is nothing illegal about health reform, and nobody really
seriously believes that there is. But the fact that these lawsuits have no
hope of succeeding doesn‘t mean they‘re not worth doing.
Pointless lawsuits, like acts of otherwise pointless things in
politics can be used for fundraising. The Virginia Republican Party, for
example, now making a fundraising appeal on the basis of the fact that that
state‘s Republican attorney general is suing the government over health
Quote, “As soon as the ink dried on President Obama‘s signature,
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit in federal court. As you
might imagine, the Democrats are a little worried about the Attorney
General Cuccinelli‘s lawsuit.”
Really? “Friends there is a lot at stake. The attorney general
is moving forward with his lawsuit. We need your help. I hope you will
make your Victory 2010 donation right now.”
He‘s suing. Isn‘t that awesome? Send us money. No, no. The
suit‘s not going to do anything, like, legally, but come on, send us money.
The same thing is happening with the supposed campaign to repeal health
It‘s not a real campaign. It‘s a fundraising scam. Are
Republicans actually going to repeal health reform? No. Be honest. It‘s
really not feasible. Numerically, it‘s pretty much impossible.
And politically, what, the country‘s going to rise up and demand
that insurance companies be allowed to cut off our health coverage when we
get sick like they used to? We demand a return to yearly caps on what
insurance will pay and benefits.
Obviously, it‘s not going to happen. But don‘t tell Mitt
Romney‘s donors that, “America has been taken down the wrong path by
President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, which is why it‘s critical
we elect fiscally responsible conservative leaders in November who will
repeal this bill.”
“I‘m writing you today to announce a new initiative at my Free
and Strong America PAC called “Prescription for Repeal.” Will you stand
with me in this effort with a generous contribution of $25, $50, $100,
$250, $500, $1,000, $2,500 or even the maximum $5,000?”
John McCain is pulling the same scam, “I assure you I am not
quitting our fight. I believe we must repeal this bill immediately. I am
currently working in every way possible on your behalf to accomplish this.
However, I am facing a tough reelection campaign, that‘s why your donation
of any amount is so critical.”
Of course, like any good fundraising letter, there‘s always a
P.S., where they ask the exact same thing again, just with more emphasis,
because, you know, P.S., hey, I forgot to say this again.
So when John McCain had this P.S., “P.S., I am working to repeal
the bill, but I need your support to continue my service in the U.S.
Senate. Your immediate donation of $25 or more will enable me to continue
fighting. Please follow this link to make your urgent donation.”
Is John McCain, is Mitt Romney going to repeal health reform?
No, they‘re not. They‘re really, really not. But they are going to wring
every last cent they can out of anyone dumb enough to believe that they
It‘s a scam. It‘s a scam that‘s been done before, too. In the
2004 election, you might remember that Republicans and conservatives pushed
a lot of anti-gay marriage initiatives on to state ballots.
The idea was those initiatives would motivate a lot of
conservatives to turn out and vote. President Bush, also during that
campaign, came out for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage. It was a centerpiece of his reelection campaign in ‘04.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: A constitutional
amendment should never be undertaken lightly. Yet to defend marriage, our
nation has no other choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Reelect George Bush. He‘ll get us a constitutional amendment
protecting us from the gays.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Now, people say why the constitutional amendment? And the
reason why is, it‘s because I am concerned that law on the book will be
overturned by the courts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: George W. Bush used this constitutional amendment promise,
not only to beat up on his opponent and to thrill conservative crowds. He
used the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment promise to raise a lot
of money, “Support George Bush, he‘ll change the Constitution to protect us
from the gays and their rights.”
And then, right after the election, he didn‘t do anything about
it at all. I remember “The Washington Post” wrote about this in 2006,
“Bush, whose opposition to marriage between gay partners helped power him
to reelection in 2004, has remained largely silent on the issue since, much
to the consternation of conservatives who complained he has not exerted
“Now, with midterm elections approaching, he is returning to the
topic that galvanizes an important part of the Republican base.”
Galvanizes as in fleeces. Now that election time is coming up,
time to drag out this old thing we‘re not going to work on again. It‘s a
scam. It‘s a political scam. It‘s a constitutional amendment on gay
marriage. It‘s a repeal of health reform.
It‘s an Orly Taitz-approved lawsuit against the foreign pretender
president to stop health reform. These are scams. These are fake
political stunts designed not to change anything on actual policy but to
separate gullible, afraid, overexcited people from their money.
And now, I must scam, too. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts
telling would-be donors around the country that I‘m running against him for
Senate in Massachusetts so they need to send him money urgently to defeat
me who is not actually running for anything.
I really don‘t want to be some Republican politician‘s scam,
thank you very much. My new effort to get him to stop fake campaigning
against me and stop trying to scam people out of money by doing so. It‘s
MADDOW: One of Scott Brown‘s home town‘s newspapers turns against the
senator. Will this be a setback in his imaginary Senate race against me?
I hope so - or I hope not. Or whatever. It‘s very confusing. I‘m not
MADDOW: This is the front page of yesterday‘s “Boston Herald.” Do we
have that? A big picture of Scott Brown and the text says, “Gleeful Dems,
shaken Republicans ask, where is he now? Backers fear Scott Brown has lost
luster with passage of health reform.”
Ouch. Evidently, the freshman senator from Massachusetts needs
someone on his side if he‘s lost even “The Herald.” In that spirit, to aid
in his fake campaign against me for Senate, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW crack
production staff offers him this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Far-left wing pundit
Rachel Maddow claims she‘s not running for Senate in Massachusetts against
MADDOW (on camera): I have the best job in the world. I‘m not
running for office.
I made clear on TV even that I am not running. I never said I was
running. The Democratic Party in Massachusetts never asked me to run. I‘m
JONES: So which is it, Rachel? How long do you intend to duck this
issue? Or is the Massachusetts Democratic machine forcing your silence?
If she‘s flip-flopping now, imagine her as your senator. And if
Rachel Maddow is really not running for Senate, how do you explain this?
Sen. Scott Brown knows where he stands. And he‘s not afraid to
follow-up on any ridiculous, wafer-thin Internet rumor to raise money - I
mean, to defend the people of Massachusetts.
Scott Brown, he‘ll run against Rachel Maddow before she runs
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I hope that helps, Mr. Senator. I hope that helps.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>