The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/10/10
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that. Make sure if you are going to leave by one of the unapproved exits, you grab a couple of brewskies on the way out.
OLBERMANN: There you go.
MADDOW: My single favorite detail of the whole story. Thank you.
We begin tonight with—what else—election night across the country.
MADDOW: Polls have now officially closed in all four states, holding primary elections today—Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia and Connecticut.
Tonight, really, is the biggest primary night between now and the elections in November. The results of these elections tonight will go a long way towards determining whether Democrats or Republicans will control the Senate, the House, as well as governors‘ mansions in the years to come.
At this hour, there is one result we can bring you. In the great state of Connecticut, Republican Linda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment executive, currently leads her two opponents in the race for the Republican Party‘s nomination for the United States Senate. With 11 percent of precincts now reporting, Linda McMahon has 47 percent of the vote. Her nearest challenger, Rob Simmons, right now—again, with 11.5 percent of precincts reporting—Rob Simmons is at 29.8 percent, Peter Schiff at 23.1 percent.
The winner of that race will face that state‘s Democratic attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, to fill Chris Dodd‘s vacant U.S. Senate seat in November.
Polls are also now closed in the great state of Georgia where the race for governor there has attracted some big-name Republicans and some very unexpected Republican sloganeering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: So, Georgia, are you ready to bring it on?
PALIN: Are you ready to elect Karen Handel as your new governor of Georgia?
AUDIENCE: Bring it on! Bring it on!
PALIN: Bring it on.
AUDIENCE: Bring it on! Bring it on! Bring it on! Bring it on!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To be clear, that was not a liberal satire of a Republican political event in 2010, that was not Bush-bashing liberal video editors putting words in conservative‘s mouths—that really happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: So, Georgia, are you ready to bring it on?
AUDIENCE: Bring it on!
PALIN: Bring it on.
CROWD: Bring it on! Bring it on!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bring it on. Bring it on.
That was Sarah Palin stumping for a woman named Karen Handel who is in a Republican primary runoff tonight in Georgia. Karen Handel, I‘m not kidding, is actually using “Bring it on” as her campaign slogan. Apparently “mission accomplished” and, “Brownie, you‘re doing a heck of a job” were both taken. This is a primary that‘s interesting in its own right, reused George W. Bush slogans and all.
But it‘s also turned into a very interesting political proxy war among Republicans. Karen “Bring it on” Handel is running against former Republican Congressman Nathan Deal. And while Ms. Handel has Sarah Palin by her side, Nathan Deal has his own Republican Party heavy-hitter backing him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This man I stand beside is the real deal.
HUCKABEE: I cannot help but believe that the same Georgia that was smart enough to give me their confidence wouldn‘t be smart enough to make sure that their next governor is named Nathan Deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Huckabee is back. Thank you.
But this race is about more than just Mike Huckabee versus Sarah Palin. In addition to Mike Huckabee, Nathan Deal has also scored the endorsement of one Newt Gingrich. Karen Handel has also scored the endorsement of former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. So, it‘s Huckabee and Gingrich for Nathan Deal versus Palin and Romney, plus George Bush‘s old Iraq slogan for Karen Handel.
Now, to be clear this is not a Senate race or a House race, this is a race to be the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia. And you have all of these Republican Party presidential wannabes, Republican Party heavyweights, trying to step in and essential become king-makers in this race.
Polls closed in Georgia a few hours ago. At this hour, we can report that Nathan Deal holds a slim lead over Karen Handel. Deal right now with 51 percent of the vote and Handel with 49 percent. Again, it is early. The winner of this race will face Democrat Roy Barnes in November.
There‘s another political proxy war going on tonight in the state of Colorado—this one happening on the Democratic side, specifically the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate seat in Colorado. There is an incumbent there—incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who‘s been endorsed by President Obama. Mr. Bennet‘s Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff, has been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton.
Both President Obama and President Clinton are cutting robocalls in this race for their chosen candidates.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi, this is President Barack Obama and I need your help. I‘m asking you to vote to keep Michael Bennet in the United States Senate. I need Michael Bennet in the Senate so that together, he and I can continue to fight for the future we want and the change we need.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Hi, this is Bill Clinton. I‘m supporting Andrew Romanoff for the U.S. Senate. And I hope you‘ll vote for him in Tuesday‘s Democratic primary. Make sure you get there before 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. And, please, mark the top line Andrew Romanoff for U.S. Senate. Thank you.
(END AUDIO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Thank you. It is not often that two presidents of the same party campaign even in very boring robocalls against each other‘s candidates.
Earlier this year, President Obama traveled to Colorado to headline a fundraiser for Michael Bennet. Mr. Bennet‘s opponent has countered with TV ads like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: President Bill Clinton calls Andrew Romanoff one of the best legislative leaders in America, and the Democrats‘ best hope to hold this seat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, this whole president v. president thing has made that Colorado Senate race tonight a really interesting one to watch. There isn‘t a lot of heat on that one, but still, it‘s been interesting.
Polls closed in Colorado at the top of the hour. Right now, we‘re still waiting for the first numbers to come in. We will be keeping an eye on that. That‘s what happening tonight in the Colorado Democratic side.
But I have to tell you, if you‘ve been following anything leading up to the midterms at all, you already know that the most interesting thing in all of the primaries happening tonight—the most interesting thing going on tonight in the whole country in terms of politics is the children‘s treasury of amazing candidates that are gracing the Republican side of the slate in Colorado.
I mean, demographically, in terms of the way the political winds are shifting, this sort of ought to be the year for Colorado Republicans, but it has not worked out that way. They cannot get it together. Take the Republican Senate race in Colorado. Do you remember their Senate race?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why should we vote for you?
KEN BUCK ®, COLORADO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Why should you vote for me? Because I do not wear high heels.
BUCK: I have cowboy boots. They have real (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on them.
BUCK: As well (EXPLETIVE DELETED) not Washington, D.C., (EXPLETIVE
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s the state of the race between two Republicans running for the U.S. Senate nomination in Colorado. That‘s Ken Buck in his poppy boots against Jane Norton, who he said you should not vote for because she wears high heels.
That‘s a race for United States state senator. You guys stay classy.
Then there‘s a race for Republican governor in Colorado where there‘s a real risk that even if Republicans do turn out to vote for governor, it will just be to vote no. Their two choices are these: Former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis, who distinguished himself last month by getting caught up in a plagiarism scandal, a scandal that was unearthed by the “Denver Post” which later called for him to withdraw from the race.
It‘s either him or it‘s Republican businessman Dan Maes—the man who made himself nationally famous in the last week or so because he‘s been pushing the conspiracy theory that because there is a bike-sharing program in the city of Denver, that means that black helicopters are going to take Denver away and make it part of the United Nations.
But whichever candidate wins tonight, Republicans will have another option in November: prolific anti-immigrant crusader and spectacularly fascinating candidate, former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo. Tom Tancredo initially demanded those two Republicans withdraw from the governor‘s race because they didn‘t—he said he is going to run against whoever wins tonight as a third-party challenger—for which Democrats and the people who make public news segments are very thankful.
Colorado is mostly a mail-in ballot election, but you could vote at the polls, too, which close at the top of the hour. The first results have not yet come in. But have I mentioned how much I love election nights?
Joining us now is NBC News chief White House correspondent and political director, Chuck Todd. He‘s also co-host of MSNBC‘s “THE DAILY RUNDOWN.”
Mr. Todd, thank you for your time this evening.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Rachel, I just love hearing the music. Love that you opened the show with the music. You know, it just brings back good memories.
MADDOW: I hear that music and I get this sort of pseudo-drunk euphoria washing over me—
MADDOW: – that makes me unreliable as a narrator of facts. So, you have to help—you have to help—
TODD: Fair enough.
MADDOW: – bring the authoritativeness back here, Chuck.
TODD: Yes, ma‘am.
MADDOW: Polls have closed everywhere. We don‘t have very many results so far.
But what is going to be the most significant thing that happens tonight in terms of extrapolating toward November?
TODD: Well, I think, look, I guess you would have to say Colorado—
and I say this in this respect because I think one thing we learned about
Colorado, and the most fascinating part of the Romanoff-Bennet race is this
you know, Bennet had a large lead three or four weeks ago, to the point where the Bennet campaign made a decision not really to go negative, and they never did. Romanoff was—he was—went negative on Bennet big time, ad after ad after ad, hitting Bennet on Wall Street ties, this and that, and it worked and it closed the gap.
And I think one thing that I feel like I‘m learning there that I think does matter in the fall is that people are going to—people are going to take their time to make a decision. That it‘s a very—it‘s an electorate that‘s in flux.
And don‘t assume just because a few weeks out, you‘ve got a double-digit lead that it‘s over. I think that that leads to the fact that the public is a little bit anxious about the economy, a little bit anxious about a lot of things. And I think that means a candidate trailing late can close the gap because voters are waiting until the very last minute. You know, they don‘t like a lot of their choices right now on anything, whether it‘s what‘s going on in Washington, what‘s going on in their state.
And that‘s the one thing I would say I take from Colorado. You know what, maybe that‘s a lesson for all of us, in late October, everybody that‘s predicting everything that‘s going to happen now, hold off, wait until the last week or so in October.
MADDOW: With the electorate in—or at least opinions—in flux like that, what happens when former presidents get involved? I mean, there‘s been so much attention paid to what the effect is of an Obama endorsement right now. But to have Bill Clinton involved in that race, it‘s hard to discern what the results of that have been, how the electorate is reacting to Bill Clinton as a political figure again.
And then there‘s also the situation with the candidate who‘s running with Bush‘s “Bring it on” slogan in Georgia—which just blows my mind that somebody would use that as a slogan. It does point out the fact that George W. Bush is nowhere to be seen in terms of campaigning for Republican candidates this year.
TODD: No, and I don‘t imagine we‘ll see him. We have seen Laura Bush on the trail for a couple of candidates.
That said, look, I think this former president stuff, as you put it, those were pretty boring robocalls. I mean, neither one of them seemed like they put a lot of energy into it. It‘s as if they said please record this call. Oh, by the way, oh, Mr. President, is it really 10:30 at night, you know? It was very late that they seemed to do that.
But I think a lot of people are going to probably over-read what happens here. Look, Bill Clinton never stepped foot in the state for Andrew Romanoff. And, in fact, it seems as if he had a lot of respect for the White House here and he didn‘t want to create this proxy fight. And he even did this recorded phone call it seems reluctantly.
Even President Obama—look, if Bennet loses, there is this narrative
building, some people say it‘s un fair, but I think there‘s clearly it does
puts a judgment on the White House and you sit there and say, geez, every time you guys have gotten involved in a primary, you haven‘t done well, you‘ve ended up with egg on your face, whether it‘s Arlen Specter, whether it‘s what happened in Arkansas, which were they were kind of for Blanche Lincoln, then they pulled back, oh, by the way, she won and then here with Michael Bennet.
I think Bennet ends up eeking this out. Organization and a mail-in primary—it matters a lot.
But I‘ll tell you, the bigger story in Colorado is this Republican debacle. As you put it, look, Republicans could win the House, could take control of the Senate, and yet somehow, they‘re going to—they‘re going to mess up two places where they should have a good election night in November and that‘s Colorado, and we‘ve seen a similar problem going on in Florida with the Florida Republican Party. That‘s a big problem for the Republican Party if they ever want to get the White House back.
Colorado and Florida are such huge states in presidential elections, and so what‘s going on with the Republicans in Colorado is a mess. It‘s a debacle. And the fact that they could lose both the Senate and gubernatorial seats in this political climate is malpractice by the Republican Party in that state.
MADDOW: NBC News chief White House correspondent and political director, Chuck Todd, co-host of MSNBC‘s “THE DAILY RUNDOWN” which you can catch everyday from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern here on MSNBC. Chuck, thanks for your insight and your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
TODD: You got it.
MADDOW: We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring ‘em on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Einstein‘s theory of relativity is E equals mc squared—unless you believe some conservative critics who want you to believe that E equals liberal plot to encourage godless relativism. A dispatch from the war on brains is just ahead.
MADDOW: Former Alaska senator Ted Stevens was among five people killed in a plane crash late last night in Senator Stevens‘ home state of Alaska.
Here‘s what we know so far: The flight carrying Senator Stevens and eight others took off at about 2:00 p.m. local time. It left a lodge and it was going toward a fishing camp, a salmon fishing camp. It crashed about 15 minutes after takeoff, about 17 miles north of a town called Dillingham in Alaska.
Of the nine on board, five are confirmed dead, including Senator Stevens. His former chief of staff, Bill Phillips, the pilot of the plane, Terry Smith, and Dana and Corey Tindall of Anchorage. Dana Tindall worked for the Alaska telecommunications firm GCI, which owned both the plane that crashed and the fishing lodge from which it departed for this trip.
When the plane did not arrive at its destination, volunteer pilots flew out over the flight path to investigate what might have happened. They found the plane‘s wreckage on a remote rocky mountain side sometime after 7:00 p.m. last night. Because of low visibility and poor weather conditions, it wasn‘t until about 12 hours later that the Alaskan National Guard and the Coast Guard were able to reach the crash scene.
Before the Coast Guard and the National Guard were able to arrive this morning—this is remarkable—there are reports that five volunteers hiked to the location last night to help the crash victims. We‘ll have more on that as we learn more about it.
At this hour, we still do not know why the plane went down. We do know that the plane was flying below radar, below 4,000 feet, which means that it was flying under visual flight rules without any direction from air traffic controllers.
Thirty-two years ago, Senator Ted Stevens survived another small plane crash in Alaska—a crash that killed his wife, Ann, and four other people. That was a Learjet that crash landed at the Anchorage airport in December 1978. The airport was later renamed for Senator Stevens.
Six years before that crash, another high-profile Alaskan politician also died in an aviation accident. That was October 1972, when Democratic Congressman Nick Begich, whose son Mark is now the state‘s junior senator, was campaigning with the House majority leader, Hale Boggs, when their plane disappeared on route to Juneau. The plane was never found.
Two peaks in the area, two mountains that they are believed—in the area, they are believed to have disappeared in were renamed Mt. Begich and Mt. Boggs in honor of the two men killed in that flight.
These multiple accidents involving prominently Alaskans are obviously an awful tragedy, but they are not necessarily a coincidence, in the sense that, in Alaska, travel by small plane is very, very, very common—much more common than it is anywhere else in the United States. There are 14 times as many airplanes per capita in Alaska as anywhere else in the country.
One out of every 58 Alaskans is a registered pilot. That‘s because although the state is twice the size of Texas, it has just five highways in the whole state. And not one of them connects the eastern part of the state to the western part of the state. In a state that is 663,000 square miles, there are 2,000 miles of roads.
According to the director of the Alaskan Aviation Museum, more than 70 percent of Alaskan communities are accessible only by plane. One of the many, many, many, many federally-funded projects that Ted Stevens secured for Alaska when he was senator was a federal subsidy program for air travel to dozens of remote locations in Alaska.
Now, the plane that was carrying Senator Stevens when it crashed was a 1975 DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter. When outfitted with floats, an Otter can land on the water. It‘s a single engine prop plane.
Now, as I mentioned before, this particular plane, the one that crashed, was owned by the telecommunications company GCI. In 2002, another of these same kind of planes owned by the same telecommunications company flipped over while landing on a lake. The pilot drowned and a passenger was hurt.
Obviously, the coverage of this horrible crash is being dominated by obituaries for Senator Stevens and others who died on board that plane. One of the most amazing things about the story, though, is that there were four people who survived the crash. They survived the crash and they survived 15 hours waiting at the scene to be evacuated. They were flown aboard a Coast Guard C-130 at 10:00 a.m. this morning to Anchorage for medical attention.
The survivors include Sean O‘Keefe, the former NASA administrator and Navy secretary who had worked for Senator Stevens earlier in his career. The survivors also include Mr. O‘Keefe‘s teenage son, Kevin. The other survivors are William Phillips, who was the son of Bill Phillips, the former Stevens‘ chief of staff who died in the crash, and another former Stevens‘ aide, now a man who is a lobbyist, his name is Jim Morhard.
Joining us is Jason Lamb, a reporter with KTUU in Anchorage, Alaska.
Jason, thanks very much for joining us this evening. I appreciate your time.
JASON LAMB, KTUU REPORTER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: What do we know about the condition this evening of the four survivors?
LAMB: Well, that‘s something we really don‘t know a lot about at this hour. We do know there have been four survivors—as you‘ve said. three of them were taken on a C-130 jet, one of them—C-130 plane. One of them was actually taken on a private air ambulance. All of them are in Anchorage at a hospital there right now.
But as far as the conditions, we‘re still trying to get that information.
MADDOW: Do officials have any specific ideas about why this plane might have crashed? Also, whether it is a surprise that there were survivors based on what we know about the crash?
LAMB: Well, you know, we haven‘t been able to talk to any NTSB officials to comment on specifically what even their initial indications of the cause of the crash were. But what we do know is the weather conditions out here last night were very dangerous to be flying any aircraft around. Ceiling—the ceiling is as low as 100 feet, visibility very limited.
We talked to a pilot earlier here today who said he saw the conditions out here last night and he would not be flying.
MADDOW: Wow. Jason, what has been the reaction in Alaska to the news of the crash and specifically to Senator Stevens‘ death? Obviously, he‘s a figure who looms so large in Alaska political history.
LAMB: Oh, yes, that‘s true. And we‘ve been hearing from elected officials and from just everyday Alaskans coming by, just very, as you can imagine, sad about the death. This is someone who people affectionately called “Uncle Ted,” someone who served in the U.S. Senate longer than any other Republican in Senate history. And just not even two years ago got over his own legal troubles in the corruption probe up here in Alaska.
I think today, no matter what side of the aisle you may fall on, this is certainly a very, very big loss to Alaska—not to mention the other four people who were on that plane.
MADDOW: Absolutely. Jason Lamb, a reporter with KTUU in Anchorage—
I know it‘s a very busy night of coverage for you all with this big story in Alaska, thanks for taking the time to join us this evening, Jason.
LAMB: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. So because we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW strive to be both a very good place to work and a very difficult place to work, we have dispatched two RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staffers this week to go to the Mexican border to report on how the national political interest in the border and immigration right now, how it looks from up close at the border.
Now, naturally those two staffers who we sent to the border told us that if we wanted to reach them tonight, we could do so at a bar—because they‘re at a bar with 100 other people watching the show. I will give them a stern dressing-down next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF TONY ESTRADA, STA. CRUZ COUNTY, ARIZONA: They want to amend the 14th Amendment.
BILL WOLFF, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I find that to be an amazing thing.
What is your view on that?
ESTRADA: And I read about that and I read that it‘s almost impossible to do that, you know.
ESTRADA: And yet, they‘re using this to scare people and drum up, like you said, you know, a vote for themselves. This is what I‘m for. We‘re going to change all of this. This is what is hurting our country and I‘m going to propose this.
I mean as ludicrous as it may be, you know, we‘re going to believe these people that they‘re going to try to do something like that, because they have no business being there because they‘re lying to people and they should know that it‘s almost impossible to do that.
And if they don‘t know that it‘s almost impossible, then, they‘ve got no business being there. So, you know, it‘s just one of those things that they‘re using, just about every tool that they possibly can use to get the popularity on their side.
And, you know, and it‘s going to die down, you know, once they get elected. They‘re not going to be out screaming anymore because they have got what they wanted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That was Sheriff Tony Estrada of Sta. Cruz County, Arizona, talking with our executive producer, Bill Wolff, today in his office in Nogales, Arizona. He, along with our producer, Laura Conaway, spent the day on the border today checking out what the national conservative freak-out over the border looks like from up close to the actual border.
I‘m very jealous to say that Laura and Bill are now in Tucson where they join us from a “Maddow Blog” watch party happening right now apparently through some sort of Fisher-Price interface. Hi, you guys. How‘s it going? Oh, webcams.
WOLFF: We went all out for the -
MADDOW: Hey, are you guys literally in a bar with a hundred people?
WOLFF: We are literally in a bar. Now, the National Park Service estimated it at six million, but I think it‘s close to about 150. And my dad is here, finally watching my only marketable job skill, leaning on a bar, come into play at long last.
MADDOW: I don‘t want to keep you from your beer, but I just want to ask you about what Sheriff Estrada said. It sounds like he‘s saying that the political heat on border issues right now is not actually coming from people on the border. Did he say where he thinks the pressure is coming from?
WOLFF: Yes, he did. In his own words, the state of Maricopa County - Maricopa County is the big rich county in the middle of the state where Phoenix is and where a lot of the state‘s Republicans are.
They are further from the border. I mean, Sheriff Estrada‘s office is about two minutes from the border. Maricopa County is about four or five hours from the border. And it is his perception that the strong anti-immigrant feeling in Arizona emanates from what he calls the state of Maricopa County, and that as you get closer to the border in Pima County where we are now or in Sta. Cruz County where he is that the anti-immigrant fervor is more moderate.
MADDOW: I got you. Well, Bill, thank you for going down there and proving that we can do the cheapest field trip in cable news history. And in order to - because you have done that, please, if we can afford it, please buy everybody a beer.
WOLFF: We can‘t afford it. What have you done? What are you doing?
MADDOW: I‘ll take it out of my own salary. Thank you. Thanks, you guys. Thanks for coming out. Nice to see you all.
WOLFF: See you later.
MADDOW: Our executive producer, Bill Wolff, and our producer, Laura Conaway, are - they were in Nogales today. They‘re in Tucson right now with 150 people with the “Maddow Blog” watching the show. I‘m so jealous I can hardly speak.
You can catch more of Bill and Laura‘s reporting from the Arizona boarder at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” And who knows, if we could do it as cheaply again, they may be coming to your town some time soon.
All right. Attention - countries that are owed money not by the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW but North Korea. Dear leader Kim Jong Il will be reimburse you as long as you don‘t mind being paid in slow-growing, perennial plants with fleshy roots that are often marketed as an aphrodisiac. A whole new definition of legal tender in today‘s weirdest news story just ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: By the authority vested in me as president - president by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo and promptly to close the detention facility at Guantanamo consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, I hereby order. And we then provide the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was one year ago, January. Remember when Guantanamo was going to be closed by January of this year? It is now August and they assure us that the plan to close Guantanamo is still the plan.
But at this point Guantanamo is not only still open, it is still open for whatever it is that is Guantanamo‘s business.
Today, jury selection began there for the first war crimes trial since President Obama took office. And reporters are on hand at Guantanamo to cover this so-called trial. At least, they‘re sort of there to cover it. In May, the Pentagon invoked new rules that it used to ban four reporters from covering the trials of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo.
The four were three Canadian reporters and the “Miami Herald‘s” Carol Rosenberg. They were banned without any hearing whatsoever. In fact, none of them was given any notification that they were even being considered for this kind of action.
In a July 26th commentary, Carol Rosenberg detailed some of the rules for reporters now that she said can change daily. She wrote, quote, “I don‘t break the rules. I protest the ones that make no sense. Now, they‘ve got a new expansive interpretation of military censorship authority. A colleague calls it a bid to impose collective amnesia on reporters of things we‘ve known for years.”
“I say protect the secrets that are secret, not the prerogative.
Don‘t create a bunch of ad hoc rules that keep us from doing our jobs. Some days we can‘t challenge awe have all of them. They come too fast without rhyme or reason.”
Joining us now from Guantanamo is NBC national investigative correspondent, Michael Isikoff. Michael, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, give us the big picture on the trial that you‘re covering there, what this means and how important a case this is.
ISIKOFF: Well, it‘s actually a very big deal. The case is that of Omar Khadr. He is a Canadian detainee who is accused of lobbing a hand grenade that killed an American Specials Forces medic in a firefight in Afghanistan eight years ago.
And as I think you indicated, it‘s the first big test of the new revamped, improved Obama military commissions. And how it goes is going to depend - will make a big difference in the administration‘s hopes to try as many as 30 to 40 Guantanamo detainees in these new military commissions.
But some of the circumstances of this trial make administration officials wince. Khadr, at the time of the alleged incident, was only 15 years old. And human rights groups have caused an outcry over this saying how can you put on trial somebody who was a teenager at the time of the alleged crimes?
Today a United Nations official, a top United Nations official, denounced the administration for proceeding with this case, saying it will endanger the status of child soldiers all over the world, that people like Khadr should be considered victims, not war criminals.
MADDOW: In terms of your ability to cover this trial, not only just those controversial elements but being able to just report on the way this process works now and what‘s going to happen to Mr. Khadr ultimately, are you feeling like the media restrictions, the rules under which you‘re forced to operate in covering this are unduly constraining or worse than you experienced in your other trips to cover Guantanamo over the years?
ISIKOFF: Well, look, Rachel, it‘s always been surreal coming to Guantanamo. I remember the last time I was here it was for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed‘s and the 9/11 conspirators‘ arraignment in 2008.
And at one point, there was court testimony about the medications that were being given to Ramzi bin al-Shibh to sedate him because he‘d been uncooperative. And at that point the white noise went on and we weren‘t allowed to hear anything about what the medications were given to him to him more and we asked why. We told that his HIPAA medical privacy rights had to be protected.
Now, Ramzi bin al-Shibh was a high-value CIA detainee who had been at black site prison for years, cut off from any access to any lawyer or any trial, denied any rights at all, but they were protecting his medical privacy rights.
In this case, the same sort of circumstances arise. We haven‘t - when Carol Rosenberg and the Canadian reporters were kicked out, it‘s because they identified the name of an interrogator, interrogator number one, who was the first one to interrogate Omar Khadr at Bagram Air Force Base.
And they identified him. His name was Joseph Klaus(ph). And Klaus, in fact, had identified himself. He had given public interviews saying he was the interrogator at Bagram who questioned Omar Khadr, but for that reason, because reporters were excluded for publishing what was public information.
There‘s just so much around here. I mean, to me, among the most absurd surreal aspects of this is all the restrictions on what you can take pictures of. You can‘t take pictures of the coastline here at Guantanamo. There‘s a courtroom right behind me that we are barred from showing to you.
There‘s barbed wire that surrounds it. Presumably, if anybody - if al-Qaeda saw the courtroom, they could send its air force to dive bomb the courtroom. Or if it saw the coastal line, it could send its submarines to have a commando team to rescue the detainees here.
It‘s really hard to draw a direct connection between the actual security threat and the kind of rules we have here.
MADDOW: It‘s like a freaking Kafka novel is what it is. It‘s unbelievable. Michael Isikoff, NBC and national investigative correspondent, I am very glad that you are there covering it and I am very sorry about the rules that our government has put on your ability to do your job. But thanks for being there, Mike. Appreciate it.
ISIKOFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith‘s special comment from the professional left. Did you hear about this today? Yes.
And coming up on this show, willful ignorance versus Albert Einstein. I‘m rooting for Einstein. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The regime in North Korea has started a war. It appears to be a war on fish.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On North Korea, the U.S. has been urging the North Koreans to stop further provocation, but today North Korean military fired more than 100 rounds of artillery into border of South Korea. So can I ask a reaction to this particular incident?
P.J. CROWLEY, SPOKESMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, I‘m sure it resulted in a lot of dead fish and we certainly hope that PETA will protest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, allow me to explain. North Korea and South Korea are more mad at each other than usual these days. But North Korea has the strategic advantage of just literally being mad, as in - yesterday, the North decided to ramp up its current escalating ongoing snit for tat with South Korea by firing 110 artillery rounds into the sea.
They literally shot the ocean, 110 times, to show how mad they are. Take that, fish in the sea. But the “North Korea shoots the ocean” story is not actually the weirdest story in today‘s news about the weirdest dictator in the world. No, actually, not by a long shot. What could possibly be weirder than North Korea shooting the ocean? That‘s next.
MADDOW: So how many communist countries are left in the world?
There‘s China, of course, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos and North Korea. Although, really, it seems like communist is almost too subtle a word to describe what North Korea has going on.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when North Korea was one of lots of communist countries, it borrowed a lot from other communist states who were happy to lend a hand in that spirit of “from each to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
The problem is that North Korea really has no money at all to pay off those debts now. Countries like the Czech Republic, formerly Czechoslovakia, that loaned North Korea money - they may not be communist anymore, but north Korea sure is.
And it‘s the type of communist state that spends most of what little it has keeping its eccentric, bouffant-hairdo dictator pampered in the gold toilet-style to which he has become accustomed.
Also, it spends a ton on profligate, lousy weapons and its nuclear program. And of course, there are the synchronized dancing spectaculars. Those are very expensive.
But this week, North Korea has come up with a creative solution to its money worries. North Korea has decided to pay its national debt to the Czech Republic with this. Looks like cigars but isn‘t. This is ginseng.
North Korea is trying to pay of its national debt to the Czech Republic, I kid you not, in ginseng, in dried supposedly aphrodisiac roots. Apparently, ginseng grows nicely on the Korean peninsula, so North Korea approached the Czech Republic with the idea of giving them 20 tons of ginseng to settle five percent of its national debt to Czech Republic. That‘s about $500,000.
Sadly but not surprisingly, it turns out that the Czech Republic is not that into the whole idea of being paid with ginseng. They wanted something a bit more fungible, like money or at least medals or something.
But North Korea will not be deterred. “The Financial Times” reporting today that the country ignored the Czech‘s disinterest in their aphrodisiac root and they sent an emissary to Prague carrying actual ginseng as a sample, perhaps to try to tempt the Czech government with the ginseng‘s invigorating properties.
Oh. What‘s behind all this is that when there were more communist countries in the world, they frequently used barter to settle debts between them. So that like that Republican Senate candidate in Nevada suggested chickens for checkups, with Korea, it‘s ginseng for Czech debt. And apparently, it‘s just as popular an idea there.
MADDOW: Before I got this job, I was on Air America Radio which doesn‘t actually exist anymore and I miss it. But there was this guy who worked at Air America with me and Kent. His name was Jim Earl. Jim Earl is very funny. We have a link to his Web site at “The Maddow Blog” right now, if you want to check it out.
One of the recurring segments that Jim Earl did for Air America was called “The War on Brains,” all about political stances and ideological stances that were against what is knowable by human deduction.
Unfortunately, Jim is not documenting those developments in the war on brains on Air America anymore but the war on brains is still being waged every day.
Take, for example, the issue of human evolution. On the one
hand, evolution is accepted mainstream science. On the other hand -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”: Do you believe in evolution, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I believe in evolution?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m curious, is there anybody on the stage that does not believe in evolution?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there is a theory, theory of evolution. I don‘t accept it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that‘s in them.
MATHEWS: Right. You believe in evolution is how he did it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The means, Chris, that he used to do that, I can‘t say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anybody wants to believe they are the descendents of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And if anybody wants to believe in the scientific method, they‘re welcome to do that, too. Find it. There‘s also global warming. Global warming - that‘s what the scientists call it, anyway. Sen. James Inhofe, senior senator from Oklahoma, refers to global warming as the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): I don‘t think that anyone disagrees with the fact that we actually are in the middle of a cold period that started about nine years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s cold. Sen. Inhofe has good company in the House in the form of Texas Congressman Joe Barton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE BARTON (R-TX): Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant in any normal definition of the term. It‘s not hazardous to health. It‘s naturally occurring. I‘m creating it as I talk to you. It‘s in your Coca Cola, your Dr. Pepper, your Perrier water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Evolution is not true. Global warming is a myth. And carbon dioxide emissions are in your Perrier and therefore harmless.
But the war on brains isn‘t just for science. It also applies to history. Sharron Angle, Republican nominee for Senate from Nevada recently debated “The Las Vegas Sun‘s” John Ralston about whether or not the separation of church and state is an actual thing that is in our Constitution.
It was not a debate about if it‘s a good idea. It was a debate about whether it is indisputably written down on a document that you can go and look at and read for yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN RALSTON, HOST, “FACE TO FACE WITH JOHN RALSTON”: What about separation of church and state? You know, that is in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers believed in that. And you know what? Back in 1995, when you were on the Nye County school board, you came to the legislature testifying a school choice bill.
And here is what the minutes say you said, “The bill is exclusionary of many private religious schools and Ms. Angle believed that to be an un-American concept and the tenet of separation of church and state is an unconstitutional doctrine.”
The separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution.
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: No, it doesn‘t.
RALSTON: Oh, it doesn‘t? The Founding Fathers didn‘t believe in the separation of church and state?
ANGLE: Actually -
RALSTON: They established the clause of the First Amendment?
ANGLE: Actually, Thomas Jefferson has been misquoted like I‘ve been misquoted out of context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Me and tom. If that sounded like the most easily disprovable, winnable by brains battle in the war on brains, you will be delighted to learn about the newest front that has just opened up in this war. It is against Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, the one about energy and the speed of light. You know, E equals MC squared. I‘m not kidding.
The folks at “Talking Points Memo” this week flagged this assault on physics, taking note of the apparent contributions by Andrew Schlafly, the son of famed anti-women‘s rights conservative activist, Phyllis Schlafly.
And here it is. Here is his contribution. If you visit the Web site, “Conservapedia,” you will find a very detailed entry on the theory of relativity. Quote, “Despite censorship of dissent about relativity, evidence contrary to the theory is discussed outside of liberal universities.”
And by outside of liberal universities, they mean on their “Conservapedia.” There is also a page full of counter examples to the theory of relativity which contends that the theory is, quote, “Heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.”
I know I‘ve found the idea that the energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light to be a really effective tool in spreading my evil liberal views throughout the world.
Mostly, though, the big brains at “Conservapedia” are concerned about the effect that Einstein‘s theory of relativity is having on the rate of Bible reading. Quote, “Virtually no one who is taught and believes relativity continues to read the Bible.”
See, it‘s physics. Physics is a liberal plot to mislead people about the world and make them stop reading the Bible. Suffice it to say, the war on brains is proceeding apace.
Luckily, today, brains got some badly-need reinforcements. The House passed a $26 billion state aid package that will keep tens of thousands of teachers from losing their jobs. The bill was then immediately signed into law by President Obama. In the war on brains, brains are getting some reinforcements.
That does it for us tonight. We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Good night.
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