The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/27/10
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And, now, to hear more about the Republicans voting “no” on war funding, I present Chris Hayes, sitting in for Rachel Maddow again tonight.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks a lot.
And thank you for staying with us for the next hour.
Congress voted to fund the war in Afghanistan again this afternoon, thanks to the belief among many deficit hawks that war money isn‘t real money. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah isn‘t one of them and he joins us tonight.
We‘ll also feature the outrageous truth of what your friendly neighborhood CEO makes compared to you, Rod Blagojevich‘s trial transcript, reenactment theater, and a salute to the most bad ass ex-president currently walking the earth.
But, we begin tonight with the latest Democratic effort in Congress to fall victim to the now ubiquitous Republican filibuster. Today, Democrats in Congress failed in their effort to pass what they dubbed the Disclose Act.
The Disclose Act was the attempt by Democrats to blunt the Supreme Court‘s recent Citizens United ruling that essentially opened the floodgates for corporations and unions to spend limitless amounts of money on U.S. elections.
The Democrats‘ effort to pass the Disclose Act was blocked in the Senate today by a Republican filibuster. All Republicans, present today, voted to effectively kill the Disclose Act.
Now, to be clear, this vote was not a vote for or against the Disclose Act itself, this was a vote to merely begin debate on it, and Republicans, every single one of them, blocked the bill from even being debated.
Now, this isn‘t your run-of-the-mill failure for Senate Democrats. When the Citizens United decision came out earlier this year, it provoked a huge backlash across the country. There‘s really bipartisan agreement that this was a bad ruling, 80 percent of the American public opposed the decision at the time. Only 18 percent supported it. Given the incredibly polarized electorate right now, this is as close to unanimity as you can get on an issue.
I myself have been going around the country a lot recently doing some reporting for a book, and I‘m constantly struck by how strongly people feel about this ruling. Their eyes light up in fury when you mention Citizens United. And yet, Democrats propose something ultimately fairly modest to deal with it, something quite imperfect I will say, and you would think with those kind of poll numbers and the type of public pressure would have some sort of effect on Congress. But every single Republican voted against it today, voted against even debating it.
This, of course, is not the first time this has happened. You can think of Democratic legislative battles in two categories really. There‘s the stuff that‘s not very popular with the public. That stuff gets uniform Republican opposition.
Then there‘s the stuff that‘s actually really quite popular with the public and even that stuff now gets almost uniform Republican opposition.
At a time when oil company, BP, enjoys a 16 percent approval rating, at a time when 76 percent of the public disapproves of BP, Republicans in the Senate over and over again blocked legislation to raise the liability for oil companies, like BP, when an oil spill happens, effectively siding with the oil companies. Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee approved similar legislation with only two of the committee‘s 16 Republicans voting for it.
At a time when in this country—this country is full of discredited institutions, legislation comes along to try to reform possibly the most discredited institution, Wall Street. Wall Street reform legislation enjoys broad support from the American public: 58 percent favor the reform bill drawn up by Congress, only 39 percent oppose it. And yet, only six Republicans in Congress voted in favor of Wall Street reform when it passed. Between the House and the Senate, just six Republicans out of 219 voted for Wall Street reform.
At a time when the unemployment rate is the highest it‘s been in years, people out of jobs everywhere, extending unemployment insurance enjoys incredible support among the American public. Sixty-two percent favor extending unemployment insurance, only 36 percent oppose it. And yet, when it came up for a vote in Congress, only 33 Republicans in Congress out of 219 voted to extend unemployment insurance. Republicans in the Senate blocked it for weeks.
And that brings us to the Disclose Act—an attempt to blunt the impact of the incredibly unpopular Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. And only two Republicans out of 219 vote in favor of it. It gets filibustered in the Senate.
What we‘re faced with right now is a sort of remarkable situation. The basic mechanism in a democracy is that public opinion fuels legislation. Now, this isn‘t always a great thing. It doesn‘t produce amazing results because, sometimes, really bad things are popular.
But in general, that‘s how our system works. The input is public opinion and the output is legislation. Politicians react to that public opinion because they want to be re-elected.
Right now, Republicans in Congress have basically decided that public opinion on individual issues and legislation just doesn‘t matter to them anymore. That it doesn‘t matter to their electoral futures. And so far, they kind of seem to be right. I mean, Republicans are poised to make huge gains in November despite the votes they‘ve taken.
So, how do Democrats make it matter? Can they do anything?
Will talking about all of these unpopular positions, essentially thumbing your nose at the American public over and over again, hurt Republicans at all in November?
Joining us now is someone who finds himself in a re-election campaign under these conditions, Democratic Congressman Thomas Perriello of Virginia.
Congressman Perriello, thank you so much for your time tonight.
REP. TOM PERRIELLO (D), VIRGINIA: Good evening. Thank you for having me.
HAYES: Congressman, you are in the district that leans Republican. I think Republicans really outnumbered Dems in terms of the voter registration rolls. What are the issues you‘re finding have resonance in your district right now? What are you hearing from voters?
PERRIELLO: Well, it‘s all about jobs and the economy. We have good, proud, hard working people—many of whom have been out of work for a long time. And, you know, the unemployment benefit is a good example where even very solid Republicans in my district often come up to me and say, you urgently have to pass this extension.
But they also find it frustrating because they know at the end of the day what people really want is a job and the more that the Republicans in the Senate extend out through all of these hurdles, how long it takes us to do the basics, that‘s time we‘re not spending on the job creation parts, getting Americans building things, making things, growing things again.
So, it‘s not just being out of touch in terms of these unemployment benefits. It‘s also being out of touch with how urgent it is to get job-creating going again and being more solutions-oriented.
HAYES: So, let‘s talk about unemployment, that conversation you had with the Republican voter in your district in which they‘re expressing support for extending it. I wonder how much there is recognition among voters that the party to which they lend their support generally is against these sorts of things. Is that registering or is that a surprise when you bring that up?
PERRIELLO: Well, I think people are really concerned and they‘re pretty much mad at the status quo and at Washington. And I think what we‘ve seen is as long as the Republicans can make it about us, that heat comes down on us.
But the second they open their mouths and say what they really stand for, people say, whoa, we‘re not with that. And particularly when you combine that with—as you said—some of their positions on Wall Street and other issues, you see who‘s standing up for working and middle class folks. And I think it‘s not everyone in the Democratic Party, but at least a core group that really understand working and middle class folks have been struggling, not just for the last couple years but really for 10 years. This forgotten decade for the middle class where prices have been going through the roof and salaries and wages have been dropping.
And that‘s going to continue until we recommit ourselves to making things in America again, building our competitive advantage. And I think we have a strategy for doing that and we‘ve seen that start to get through the House here in the last couple weeks.
HAYES: I want to talk about the Citizens United ruling and the Disclose Act. You voted for the Disclose Act in the House, am I correct?
HAYES: Yes. So, is the Citizens United ruling the kind of thing and the Disclose Act, is it the kind of thing that you can make into a campaign issue or is it so many sort of steps removed from these sort of immediate kitchen table issues that it‘s not really going to register one way or the other as you come down the stretch in November?
PERRIELLO: Well, I think, you know, it‘s part of explaining that Washington is too often driven by the people that can write seven figure checks. With campaign finance, it wasn‘t perfect before, but at least those checks were capped out at $2,400. We‘re talking about being able to blindly spend money.
Where I come from, if you have something you believe in you put your name on it, you stand by it. And all Disclose is saying is, hey, you got to say who you are at the end of the ad.
And I think you ask, why are Republicans willing to do something that‘s so unpopular here with voting against the Disclose Act? Well, that‘s because all of those ads from the big corporate groups are being run for them and the working class and middle class are paying the price for it.
So, you have to understand, you know, what we‘re up against here, and I think the Disclose Act is an important step. And I think, when you put that together with the unemployment extension, standing in the way of these five jobs bills that we‘ve already gotten through the House and the Disclose Act, you see who‘s standing with the powerful and who‘s standing with everyday American folks. And we‘ve got to go out and make that case.
HAYES: Is that—is that your argument? We‘re 100 days out from
November. Is that your sort of message coming down the stretch? Is that -
when you talk to colleagues of yours who are also Democratic members of the House who were in districts and being competitive, is that - is that the message that you‘re hearing?
PERRIELLO: Well, I think people are looking for a plan right now. People want a plan for how America is going to out compete China, how we‘re going to keep and protect middle class jobs and make it a little easier by reducing the cost of health care and other things like that, going after the credit card companies and others that are nickel-and-diming the middle class.
So, working both on the jobs side and on those cost sides—and I think that‘s what we‘ve been hard at work doing. The other side has been spending a lot of money to tell people otherwise. But I think we‘ve got to take that message.
Now, how much do we look back and say, well, obviously it was the Republicans that got us into this mess? You know, I think looking backwards is only so helpful. The problem is, the Republicans haven‘t changed their ideas. They‘re still putting forward the same things that got us into the ditch. The tune hasn‘t changed. And for that reason, it is relevant to look at that.
But I find people are more excited to hear, what‘s your plan for getting us out of this? And I think, you know, we have got to have that proactive agenda that‘s protecting the middle class from that nickel-and-diming and focusing on jobs.
HAYES: Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia—thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
PERRIELLO: Thank you.
HAYES: Still ahead: how America‘s war is paid for? By magic money. Ladies and gentlemen, I present an amazing disappearing act. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz joins us next.
And later: silly, insecure, and broke. That‘s how Rod Blagojevich was described in his corruption trial today and that was the defense.
Stay with us.
HAYES: Late today, the House of Representatives approved spending more than $33 billion for the war in Afghanistan, but more than 100 Democrats voted to stop paying for it—in other words, voted against the war and against President Obama. More on that—just ahead.
HAYES: Gather closer, children, and I will tell you a tale of two bills—involving the best of spending and the worst of spending. And let me give away the ending now. They are the same bill.
One thing I‘ve learned in my time reporting on Washington is that in the view of most people on Capitol Hill, war money is magic money. It appears out of nowhere and no one asks where it came from. It is apparently written in invisible ink in the government‘s ledger.
And even the biggest deficit hawks are fine with whipping out the checkbook when the Pentagon comes calling, because who can say no to our fighting men and women overseas?
Here is magic money in action today. That‘s the House of Representatives voting to spend more than $33 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The measure passed 308 to 114 – 102 of the nays were Democrats, that‘s up from 32 last year, which suggests maybe some members of Congress are starting to think that money isn‘t so magic after all. And 12 Republicans joined them, 12. We‘ll talk to one in just a moment.
But, now let‘s look at the other kind of money, that‘s real money—like for instance $10 million to keep more than 100,000 teachers from losing their jobs, or $5 billion in grants to low income students, or $1 billion to fund summer jobs for young people. This is spending that would stimulate the economy by keeping people working.
But, you see, in Washington, that kind of spending involves real money, which means you have to find a way to pay for it, either through increased revenue, or cuts to programs elsewhere. And that kind of funding was stripped from the bill that passed today, even though the House Appropriations Committee says it was paid for.
So, to review, money for war that adds to the deficits? Yes, please.
Money for teachers that doesn‘t add to the deficit? No way.
Maybe we should just create a division in the Marines that teaches math to fifth graders.
Joining us now is Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He was one of the 12 Republicans who voted against the war funding tonight.
Congressman, thank you so much for your time tonight. I‘m really glad you‘re here.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ ®, UTAH: Hey. Thanks for having me.
HAYES: First, I want to ask you a question about—across the aisle, were you surprised so many Democrats voted against the bill, 102 versus 32 last time?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, and I think that‘s part of it. We have a few more Republicans and, yes, a whole lot more Democrats.
HAYES: Why did you go against the majority of your caucus and vote against funding the war?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I got to vote for what I think is right. And I think there are a couple fundamental flaws to this. One is: how we pay for it. It‘s not paid for and I think you make a very good point about the inconsistency.
I applauded then-candidate Barack Obama who said we weren‘t properly paying and accounting for the war in Iraq. He was right and I agreed with him. But now, we seem to have shifted away from that and said, oh, this $33 billion, we don‘t have to pay for it. So, yes, it‘s a problem.
HAYES: I wonder. Do you—you know, there are 11 other Republicans who joined you and that‘s more than in the past. Do you feel like that position is gaining traction among your colleagues in the Republican Caucus? What do—what do you hearing from them and how do they respond to you when you make the argument to them?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I make the argument that, look, this is a good conservative position and I think a lot of them are very hesitant to be perceived as being anything but tough on the war on terror. And I‘ve tried to argue, look, we have been very successful over the last nine years, and it‘s hardly a cut and run strategy to say, hey, it‘s time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. It‘s the longest war in the history of the United States for goodness‘ sake.
So, you know, we‘re making that argument and people like George Will and other notable conservatives are also taking this viewpoint. So, I hope it gains traction. You can still be the tough guy but want to bring your troops home. I think they are still consistent and that‘s the right way to go.
HAYES: I want to talk about that. This fear of being sort of weak on defense or cutting funding from the troops, which is usually how it is sort of put in sound bites. You know, Democrats are a lot more scared of that generally than Republicans, and I wonder when we‘re 60 days from now and there are ads being run by your Republican—by members of the Republican Party against Democrats who voted against the war, are you going to come out and say, “You know what, that‘s really not fair”?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I‘ll say it on national television. I don‘t think that‘s fair. I think it‘s a good conservative position to say that this war and the way that‘s being fought is just not the right thing to do. You ought to be go big, go with everything you have, and go play to win or you bring your troops home.
And so, you know, there are two metrics that I think are key to this. You either agree with them or you don‘t agree with them. Number one is: do you agree with the national intelligence estimate and CIA Director Leon Panetta that says there are less than 100 al Qaeda in the entire country?
And the second thing is: they say that the Taliban are not a clear and present danger to the current Afghan government, nor to the United States of America. If you disagree with that let‘s see your evidence. If you agree with it, it‘s probably time to bring your troops home.
HAYES: Finally, I want to ask you about conversations you‘ve had with people in your district in Utah. I mean, I read a news account about talking with some of the people, family members of those who are serving –
HAYES: – and hearing, I think, some—maybe perhaps surprisingly that they were with you on this issue.
CHAFFETZ: You know, since I was fortunate enough to come into office here, we‘ve had four—two marines and two soldiers who have lost their lives. I called their parents and I told them how I was going to vote. And three of the four I was able to get on the phone and they all agreed with me. They totally agreed that, you know, it just—it was time to bring—to bring the troops home.
The other thing is, I said to the people of Utah—I‘m just a freshman here—I said to the people of Utah: you know what? Based on what we knew about Iraq, I probably would have voted to go to war. But knowing what we don‘t know now, we should have never gone.
And so, now, let‘s be smart about this and pat our troops on the back and say, you did a great job, but now, it‘s time to come home from Afghanistan.
HAYES: Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, also Jason in the House on Twitter, if I‘m not mistaken.
CHAFFETZ: Yes. Yes.
HAYES: We really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks a lot.
CHAFFETZ: Hey, thank you. Appreciate it.
HAYES: Like everything from his hair to his alleged penchant for auctioning off U.S. Senate seats, Rod Blagojevich‘s criminal trial has broken new ground. His defense lawyer chose mockery of Rod Blagojevich in open court as the case for his innocence. Thank goodness for transcripts and re-enactment theater. Stay tuned.
HAYES: Well, it‘s official. Tony “I want my life back” Hayward is out as BP‘s CEO.
Here is a word on Tony Hayward‘s legacy from Bob Dudley, the guy who is set to replace him as of October 1st.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB DUDLEY, REPLACING HAYWARD AS BP CEO: I have great admiration for Tony. His commitment to the corporate response in the United States and around the Gulf was evident from the very beginning. When you talk to Tony, he says, look, I was the captain of the ship when a terrible accident happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, that‘s one way to look at it.
Another way is that Tony Hayward was the captain of a ship that routinely and systematically ignored safety concerns—and as a result exploded, sank to the bottom of the ocean, and pumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening a quarter of America‘s wetlands, not to mention the Gulf region‘s economic stability—but, you know, tomato/tomato.
What‘s not in dispute is the result of Tony Hayward‘s metaphorical ship-captaining. As a reward for his, I guess, leadership, let‘s say, during this really stellar moment in BP‘s corporate history, Tony Hayward is getting a severance package plus pension payments that amount to an estimated $18 million. That‘s what he gets for presiding over a massive oil disaster and record losses.
But “The Wall Street Journal” has compiled a list of the best paid CEOs of the decade and Tony Hayward‘s $18 million payout is an absolute pittance compared to the kind of cash top CEOs are raking in.
Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle, tops the list with more than $1.8 billion, billion with the B.
Barry Diller of IAC and Expedia.com made $1.4 billion.
Ray Irani of Occidental Petroleum made $857 million.
And Steve Jobs of Apple made $749 million.
Richard Fairbanks, CEO of Capital One, made off with $569 million.
OK. So, CEOs, in other words, make an astonishing amount of money and, right, we know that. If we‘ve learned anything from our friend Tony Hayward, it‘s not that just because they‘re all great at their jobs and they‘re totally worth it to the company they work for.
CEO pay is not, in fact, a meritocracy. It is a result of the very cozy relationship between CEOs and the people who decide how much CEOs should get paid.
Here‘s how it works in a nutshell: The board of directors has to determine how much to pay their CEO, but it just so happens that most of the people on the board of directors are really good buddies with the CEO in question. So, naturally, they‘ll want to cut their pal a good deal, and there are lots and lots of ways to do that.
For example, “The New York Times” is reporting this week on a study showing that boards of directors, quote, “routinely use compensation peer groups to artificially inflate pay for their chief executives.” So they pick out other overpaid CEOs and choose them as examples of why they need to overpay their CEO. Neat system, huh?
This whole system would be more frustrating than infuriating if it weren‘t for the fact that CEO pay is both a cause and partly a symptom of the staggering increase of inequality in this country.
I want you to take a look at this: this is how much better the poorest people in America are doing now compared to 1979. This is adjusted for inflation. It‘s income.
OK. Look at that. If you are in the bottom fifth of the income bracket, you‘re making only 16 percent more today than you would have in 1979. If you‘re in the middle of the income bracket, you‘re making 25 percent more now.
But the top fifth of earners in this country—they‘re making 95 percent more now than they would have in 1979. And that‘s not the really shocking part of this graph.
Check this out—this is how much better the top 1 percent of Americans are doing now. The income of the very richest among us has shot up by 281 percent since 1979.
The inequality represented in that graph doesn‘t just mean the rich are doing well and the poor are doing badly. It means there‘s a social pyramid in this country, and as you climb it, you enter—you encounter a smaller and smaller group of people doing better and better while everyone at the bottom stays where they are. And it‘s precisely this kind of systematic inequality that incentivized the corporate fraud of the last decade, from Enron to Countrywide. It helped drag the economy into near collapse and it‘s creating an environment in which a select group of people are able to completely immunize themselves against the fate of the rest of the society.
And what that means in practical terms is that evidence of the economic collapse and the too slow recovery is in full display in cities that I‘ve been visiting in Detroit and New Orleans and Des Moines, but it‘s not at all evident on Wall Street. Something needs to be done to change that.
We can all celebrate the passage of financial reform or what‘s passing for financial reform, for giving shareholders more say on how much CEOs are paid—but the problem is more fundamental and more pervasive than that, because the problem isn‘t just CEO pay. It‘s that our entire social and economic way of life in this country is broken and unfair and inequitable, and we need to figure out a way to repair it.
Want to know what might be a good way to start? Well, remember how George W. Bush massively cut taxes for the richest people in America? That tax cut, the one designed to benefit the very wealthiest people in this country who are already doing so well is due to expire in January. We could let it. That would be a first step in the right direction.
What remains to be seen is whether the Democrats in Congress have the political will to take that step.
HAYES: Our long national nightmare is nearly over. No, KFC has not pulled the Double Down off its menu. In fact, I almost had one for lunch today.
No. One year, seven months, and 18 days after the federal government first filed corruption charges against then governor of Illinois, a jury finally gets to decide the fate of Mr. Rod Blagojevich first thing tomorrow morning.
And while Blagojevich is most famous for his alleged attempt to sell President Obama‘s bleeping golden Senate seat, the former governor is actually facing a whole slew of charges, 24 to be precise, including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, and making false statements to the government.
Even facing all that, Rod Blagojevich himself didn‘t take the stand despite vehement declarations on this show and elsewhere that he would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST (on camera): Will you defend yourself in court?
FMR. GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D-IL): Oh, absolutely. Are you kidding me? Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Instead he signed autographs outside the courtroom and his lawyer spoke for him in an 80-minute closing argument during which he called his client‘s silence the, quote, “big pink elephant in the room,” told jurors it was his decision, not Blagojevich‘s, to keep him off the stand, and told them that the government hadn‘t made their case.
But the main thrust of his argument is that Blagojevich is silly, insecure and broke. That was the defense. If my client‘s a twit you must acquit, all made while Blagojevich was sitting right there.
Unfortunately there were no cameras in the courtroom to catch the “my client‘s an idiot but he‘s not corrupt” defense. But fortunately, we have THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW players available to provide a partial re-enactment verbatim. This was the best Rod Blagojevich‘s lawyer could muster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know why he spent $400,000 on suits in six years? Because he‘s a politician, a CEO for the state of Illinois. He‘s on the front page of the paper every day. They have media every day.
You‘ve got to look the part. Why did Sarah Palin spend $150,000 on her wardrobe? Now, she‘s getting $150,000 for a speech. He‘s broke, man. Broke. And when I say broke, I mean broke.
You heard the tapes and you heard Rod on the tapes. You can infer what was in Rod‘s mind on the tapes. You can infer from those tapes whether he is trying to extort the president of the United States.
We heard tape after tape of just talking. If you put Joan and Melissa Rivers in a room you wouldn‘t hear that much talk. That‘s how he is. I‘m sorry, gov, but you‘ve got absolutely horrible judgment in people. And they want you to find him guilty of these horrible things because of that?
As much as I like him and as much as he‘s loved around the world, this is a man who considered appointing Oprah Winfrey. No one‘s going to say he is the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he‘s not corrupt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And now in honor of the great tradition of political nepotism in Chicago, remember that Blagojevich himself got his first jobs thanks to his father-in-law Chicago alderman Richard Mel‘s connections, I am joined now by my father-in-law, Andy Shaw, the executive director of the Better Government Association and former chief political reporter for WLS TV in Chicago. Andy, how you doing?
ANDY SHAW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BETTER GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION: I‘m doing great. How are you doing hosting THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW? You know, I got you that gig. I used every chip I had and I hope it‘s working out.
HAYES: All right. All right. You were in court today, and you‘ve been throughout the trial. I‘m wondering what your impression of Blagojevich‘s defense was.
SHAW: Well, I think your players did a pretty good job. It was entertaining but I don‘t think it was very effective. The government has 27 witnesses, 40 tapes, and the law on their side or so it would appear. And they methodically went through their case.
And they made it very clear you don‘t have to be successful at extorting. You simply have to try. And in example after example, this man tried to trade government action for personal things like campaign contributions.
The defense had no way to refute that except for some of those funny lines you heard. So I thought it was a very ineffectual close and I think they‘re having second thoughts about not putting him on the stand and not calling a lot of other witnesses who might have made it much more interesting.
HAYES: You know, one of the things about this sort of national coverage is this - there is this obvious explosion of coverage when Patrick Fitzgerald announced these charges. And there‘s been so much focus on the bleeping golden Senate seat.
You know, what is actually the substance of what he is being charged with independent of that, the most sort of well-known of the charges?
SHAW: Well, it‘s so much deeper than that, Chris. It actually suggests that he and a cabal of evil doers sat down even before he got to Springfield in 2003 and they plotted to make money off of government.
They had a list of nine things they were going to do. They were going to make millions of dollars, put it aside, and split it up when Rod left government.
And along the way what we heard on the tapes and what we heard in the testimony is that he sold a top level job for $50,000 in campaign cash, that he tried to shake down a racetrack owner and a road builder for a lot of campaign funds in exchange for legislation, that he tried to get the owner of a children‘s hospital to give him $50,000 before he would agree to turn over $12 million Medicaid dollars to doctors that treat sick kids.
And then there was lying to the FBI. There was laundering
kickbacks to his wife. The litany was long and it was serious. And the
Senate seat was simply the last step on a road that the government says was
paved with some of the most heinous corruption that Illinois has ever seen
24 counts. And they had witnesses and tapes to validate all of those.
HAYES: Did you hear anything in the trial that sort of tainted the Obama administration? One of the things we heard obviously when this was made public, there was a lot of sort of braying on the right about how this was Chicago-style politics. This was going to ensnare the White House and I wonder if that dog ever barked in the trial.
SHAW: Well, you know, as it played out in the trial, the Obama administration looks pretty good. Rahm Emanuel didn‘t bite at some alleged extortion and shakedown efforts. Valerie Jarrett never got mixed in.
Obama, himself, in one phone call that was talked about in court, actually told an intermediary that what he wanted in the next Illinois senator was someone who would be good for the people of Illinois. We don‘t hear that kind of talk very much back here in Illinois.
And secondly, he wanted someone who could win two years later so that he could keep the seat in Democratic hands. That sounds pretty practical. No smoking gun despite what the bloggers may say.
HAYES: You know, I want to talk about that - you know, Illinois and corruption - Chicago. I mean, you know, I lived in Chicago for six years. And Chicagoans tend to view local corruption with a sort of tragic comic irony, you know, the same way you expect the cubs to lose, you expect your local politicians to be corrupt.
They have seen governors go to jail. I wonder if you think this trial is going to change that. I mean, do you see this as an impetus for some kind of actual substantive reform to get at the underlying structural factors that led to this?
SHAW: You know, the wink and the grin that used to accompany these misdeeds is long gone, Chris. The economic meltdown has created so much hardship for so many people that no one puts up with this anymore.
We see billions of our tax dollars going to a corruption tax which is what we pay when governments run for the benefit of politicians and not the people. And I think Illinois is fed up and that‘s why our group, the Better Government Association, was paying such close attention.
This is a teaching moment for the people of Illinois. We‘re watching the sausage-making. Government was on trial right alongside of the ex-governor. And we are compelled as a state to learn from the mistakes and change some of the structural deficits that allowed this to happen.
We at the BGA have already suggested three or four changes that could perhaps create a climate in which government is conducted a little more honestly and with a little more integrity.
We‘ll see if those things pass. But I‘ve got to tell you, the wink and the nod and the “this is the grease that makes the machine go” - long gone. We‘re fed up. And this trial was the moment, I think, that gives us enough impetus to go forward. Otherwise, there is no point in a good government group paying attention to it. This was about government on trial, not just the ex-governor.
HAYES: Andy Shaw, former chief political reporter for WLS TV in Chicago, current executive director of the Better Government Association and my father-in-law and a White Sox fan. His White Sox are doing much better than my Cubbies. Thanks so much, Andy. I really appreciate it.
SHAW: My pleasure. See you later in the summer out here in Chicago.
HAYES: OK. America‘s ex-presidents have taken on various roles in retirement - humanitarian leadership, the writing of memoirs, the occasional motivational speaking gig. Mostly, it‘s respectable stuff. And Vladimir Putin has got them all beat by a factor of a three-wheel motorcycle in a biker alley in Ukraine. Details to follow.
HAYES: One of the biggest stars in baseball? A New York Yankee for crying out loud is about to pass a huge career milestone. The national fervor about this impending history-making moment doesn‘t exist. The great Dave Zirin of “The Nation Magazine” believes he knows why, and a disagreement is coming right up.
MADDOW: If there were a competition to choose the ex-world leader that‘s been having the most fun being an ex-world leader, then you‘d have to give the cup to former Russian iron-fist, Vladimir Putin.
Never one to shy away from cameras, Putin has been especially peripatetic of late. For a closer look at Vladimir Putin‘s busy summer, here is Kent Jones. Hey, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Putin has always portrayed himself as the bad boy. He‘s bad, right? But this weekend, he may have out-Putined himself. It‘s Putin-tastic. Take a look.
(voice-over) Say what you will about Vladimir Putin, that he‘s an authoritarian, ex-KGB thug whose addiction to shirtless photo-ops is just the creepy frosting on the creep cake. The dude knows how to party. Check out Putin a couple weeks ago at an ultimate fighting match.
And who does he bring as his bromantic side kick? Jean Claude Van Damme, the muscles from Brussels! Nicely played. Then, last week, Putin met with the Russian spies that were kicked out of the U.S. Said Putin, “We talked about life.”
And not just talked. He sang with them, too. First he crooned a patriotic Russian song with his new spy BFFs. And then, as the evening wore on, you just know it turned into this.
JONES: But Putin was just warming up for this weekend‘s international bike show in Ukraine. Now, that‘s what I‘m talking about. Try to imagine an American ex-president rocking a three wheeled Harley dressed like that for a bunch of bikers who love him. George W. Bush? Please.
“Take care. Take care of yourselves and everyone around you.
Let us say no to crazy races and to any crazy riding. Long live Ukraine.
Long live Russia. And long live the bike.”
In the words of the ultimate biker anthem and this bird, you cannot change. Long live the bike.
HAYES: That is awesome. I like the fact that he went with the safety message.
JONES: Yes. Yes.
HAYES: And I would love to see him as his next step get a thug life tattoo in - somewhere like the belly.
JONES: Oh, yes. But he‘s not wearing a helmet. Did you notice that part?
HAYES: Yes, that‘s right.
JONES: No helmet for V.P. there.
HAYES: Not so much crazy races.
JONES: No crazy races, please.
HAYES: Thanks a lot, Kent.
HAYES: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” should a city official in a town with a population of 37,000 get paid nearly $800,000 a year?
And next on this show is - is Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez actually being overlooked? Sports writer for “The Nation,” Dave Zirin, joins me next.
HAYES: Are you familiar with the 600 Club? It should not be confused with the “700 Club,” the wildly popular religious talk show hosted by Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcast Network. That club was named after the network‘s original 700 founding contributors.
The 600 Club, on the other hand, refers to the baseball players in major league history who have hit 600 homeruns. If you know nothing about sports or baseball, you at least know that 600 home runs is a lot. It‘s a big impressive number.
Members of the 600 Club include Ken Griffey, Jr., Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and, of course - Darth Vader music - Barry Bonds.
The Yankees third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, turns 35 today, and he is on the cusp of becoming the seventh and youngest member of the 600 Club. He‘s just one home run away. So why isn‘t this a bigger deal? Why isn‘t the entire country whooped up into a homerun frenzy, champing at the bit every time the slugger steps up to home plate?
Why did one New York state paper poll readers online to see if they even care? Well, maybe it‘s because about 40 percent of respondents do not, and this is in New York.
Now, I should admit here I‘m a huge sports fan. I love baseball. I‘m obsessed with basketball. I follow the Chicago Bulls the way day traders follow currency fluctuations. The Kyle Korver signing made my heart flutter.
OK, look. Just because I like sports doesn‘t mean that I‘m also
not also a pretty big nerd as well. But the point is that for sports fans, it is a Sisyphean task to escape wall-to-wall talk about Alex Rodriguez. He is one of the most covered and sometimes uncovered sports stars in the world.
But this time, with this milestone, with this ginormous star about to break into the 600 Club any day now, why is there this collective shrug?
Joining us is Dave Zirin, sports editor for “The Nation” and author of the new book, “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love.” Dave, it‘s great to have you here in person.
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, “THE NATION”: Great to be here, Chris.
HAYES: All right. So let‘s start with this A-Rod thing. Do you think - do you agree it‘s not that big a deal and it‘s sort of strange it isn‘t?
ZIRIN: Oh, absolutely. This has everything to do with major league baseball. They have placed Alex Rodriguez in the major league baseball version of the witness protection program.
And there‘s a - no, he‘s the Courtney Love of major league baseball. They find him embarrassing and past his day. And there‘s a reason for that, and it‘s a very simple one. It‘s because he‘s an admitted steroid user.
And so to talk about Alex Rodriguez‘ 600th home run is also to cast light on the entire steroid era which the Commissioner Bud Selig oversaw. And owners have skated on that era. They have avoided all accountability on the steroid era, spectacularly so.
And so then, if you celebrate A-Rod, you raise uncomfortable
questions like what did owners know and when did they know it
HAYES: Yes. You know, I want to talk about the steroid era because it occurs to me that in some respects, what happened in the steroid era was almost as kind of - it kind of prefigured all these scandals and corruption we had throughout the decade.
ZIRIN: Oh, absolutely.
HAYES: Everything from Enron, you know, Wall Street -
ZIRIN: You know, I would argue that the public funding of stadiums did the same thing. I mean, you‘ve had public stadium funding over the last 20 years.
You also had the corruption with the steroid era and the public funding of stadiums. You have the socializing of debt and the privatizing of profit. That‘s exactly what you could argue the bank bailouts were as well.
And so the lab for that was professional sports. And for the steroid era, it‘s about the absence of accountability at the top. I mean, you look at everything from Enron, British Petroleum and the rest of it, they saw in major league baseball how owners skated on what was supposed to be a time of scandal.
Think about the congressional hearings on steroids. How many owners were called out in front of the hot lights of Congress? Zero. How many general managers? One - Brian Sabean of the San Francisco Giants.
It‘s like one player said to me off the record - he said to me, “Why is it when it comes to steroids, distribution is a team issue, but punishment is an individual issue?”
HAYES: Yes, although I want to push back a little bit, because, you know, I‘ve been doing some reporting on this, actually, for the book I‘m working. And you know, the union really does seem to have kind of done a lot to keep the steroids issue going insofar as they really resisted in a kind of block way any attempts to introduce any kind of testing regime. I mean, it does seem like they have some accountability for that era as well.
ZIRIN: There‘s definitely some accountability there. But here‘s the thing about the union. They have a job and the job is to protect the interests of the players. And there are a lot of questions raised about the reliability of the tests, about privacy issues.
And let‘s remember, the only reason why we know that A-Rod is a steroid user is because of a leaked private test.
ZIRIN: Ironically -
HAYES: Exactly the worst nightmare, right?
HAYES: The thing that the players union didn‘t want.
ZIRIN: Ironically, it was a list that the union had that they were supposed to destroy and didn‘t destroy in time before the feds raided their offices. And then the names around Barry Bonds and then the names started to leak one by one. The water torture of major league baseball.
Owners have one job also, and it‘s to protect the integrity of their sport and the integrity of their leagues. And they have failed spectacularly at that task.
HAYES: I want to go back to this stadium issue, because it‘s - you cover it really well in the book. And you know, you go around the country and you go to these places that are just - there‘s no job creation. There‘s nothing.
You have these industrial cores that are just hollowed out. And there‘s this gleaming new stadium that is the economic development agenda of the local government.
ZIRIN: Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee -
HAYES: Exactly. First, I -
ZIRIN: Pittsburgh -
HAYES: Does it work? I mean, does it?
ZIRIN: Yes -
HAYES: You know, the argument they make is this is going to spur job creation. This is going to be this big economic driver. It‘s going to revitalize our downtown. Does that actually happen?
ZIRIN: Economists from Fox News to MSNBC, the democracy now across the political spectrum, they will say the same thing. They will say stadium funding does not provide a return on its investment.
And $30 billion has been spent on stadium construction over the last generation. It‘s become a substitute for anything resembling an urban policy in this country. And I would argue it has a body count. It‘s very real.
Look at Minnesota where the bridge collapsed in 2008. The bridge collapsed, sending 13 people to their deaths the same week they were going to break ground on a new $30 million publicly funded stadium courtesy of Mr. Anti-Pork, Tim Pawlenty. Hypocrisy alerts big time.
ZIRIN: And you could argue the same thing in Washington, D.C. Five minutes from my house, the metro went off the tracks. The metro trains dated back to the Jimmy Carter administration. And it happened the same year they debuted a gleaming billion-dollar stadium for the Washington Nationals. It‘s an ugly business.
HAYES: You know, and in Houston, I was just going to back to the
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) on this. It was Ken Lay -
HAYES: It was not (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It was Ken Lay who campaigned
for the taxpayers to float all this public money to build Enron Stadium -
ZIRIN: Oh, wow.
HAYES: And they won that election and they built it. And then their name was on it.
ZIRIN: But now, it‘s imposing Minute Maid Park which strikes fear into the hearts of everyone who has to play the Houston Astros.
HAYES: Last thing here. You know, there was a time in this country when there were labor reporters in which industrial relations - there was an industrial relations school started at Cornell.
People followed labor management relationships. Sports is the only place where we do that anymore, don‘t you think?
ZIRIN: Right. Well, absolutely.
HAYES: Well, it just seems like - and yet - and it‘s a place where the normal rules of labor management are very different in some ways. But some of those same struggles are still there.
ZIRIN: Well, we‘re going to see that because you‘re looking at lockouts in the National Football League and in the NBA coming up in the next year, I think. And I interviewed the head of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith.
And he said to me, “Look, we‘re making this a broader class issue. When they lock us out, we‘re going to say you‘re not just locking out us. You‘re locking out maintenance workers. You‘re locking out day laborers. You‘re locking out the people who clean up the stadiums and sell beer.
And you‘re actually affecting a broader swath of people in the context of 10 percent unemployment. And I think it‘s a strategy that might resonate.
HAYES: And lockout is going to be something to really watch.
ZIRIN: Oh, yes. Are you kidding - 280 pound guys on the picket lines? We‘ll see what happens.
HAYES: Dave Zirin - he is the sportswriter - he‘s a colleague of mine at “The Nation” magazine.
HAYES: He‘s got this new book which I‘m going to show - oh, it‘s up there at the graphic. “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Game that We Love.” Dave, thanks so much for coming and talking to me.
ZIRIN: My privilege, Chris.
HAYES: Yes, I really appreciate it. OK. That does it for us tonight. I‘m Chris Hayes, in for Rachel. You can read more of my work at “TheNation.com” or follow me on Twitter, username chrislhayes.
I also want to say happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. You guys are really an inspiration. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts now. Good night.
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