The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/14/10
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now to discuss how and if anyone can fix the Senate—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
I grew up in northern California, where I can report there is, relatively speaking, not very much weather. For most of my adult life, however, I have lived on the East Coast, where there is lots of weather. I had to learn, therefore, as an adult that doing everyday things like going to the grocery store have to be coordinated with the weather forecast.
If you want to get your regular grocery shopping done, it is very important that you don‘t try to do that when a giant storm is in the forecast. Because when a giant storm is in the forecast, it primarily activates a primal animal instinct to hoard and burrow just in case you get snowed in or something. You got to have all of your provisions with you at that time.
Learning—learning that was an important part of becoming an East Coaster in my life. Bad weather forecast equals mobbed grocery store.
But I‘ve also learned that if you are trying to do your grocery shopping in the least possible time, if you are trying to do your shopping as fast as it can be done, one of the best ways to do that is to show up right before the store is about to close, right when the store‘s closing. Right when the store‘s closing? But wait, shouldn‘t the people who work there have tons of other stuff to do at that time?
Yes, they do. That‘s exactly the point. They want to get you out of there so they can get their stuff done and they can go home.
This does not mean that the people who work at the grocery stores are slow-walking or slow-rolling you the rest of the day. It just means that the incentives are all there for you, their work, you. You can just—their work consists of dealing with you in large part. The incentives are there for you to be over with as their work. For you to be done so they can do what they want to do, which is to finish up all the stuff they need to do and go home.
It is just a natural incentive. It probably even works in California although I‘ve never tried it there.
That phenomenon, that closing time phenomenon turns out to be the thing that explains why the United States Senate looks like an episode of Benny Hill right now.
MADDOW: This is the lame duck Congress. This is the interregnum period in Washington. This is supposed to be a slow news period when it comes to U.S. politics, but there has not been more legislative action. There has not been more stuff going on in Washington at any other time in this entire year than there is going on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We must complete the tax bill. We‘re going to move as soon as we can to the START Treaty. We have to fund the government.
We‘ve got to make sure that we complete work on the DREAM Act. If the House completes work on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” we‘ll have to work on that. We have the 9/11 situation in New York. We still haven‘t given up on that.
We have a number of nominations we‘re working on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you want to find a time that there was this much, all that stuff going on in D.C., where this much important action on the docket, you would have to go all the way back to this time exactly last year—which was, again, supposed to be a dead period, a quiet interregnum, a time when people in the news business had vacations scheduled because no big news ever happens around this time of year.
But what was going on this time last year, this time last year on Christmas Eve, what was happening?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: A lot of Americans will be getting up early tomorrow, including U.S. senators, they‘ve been told to report to work—believe it or not—at 7:00 a.m. because it apparently is really happening now, a final vote on the health care bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A Christmas Eve vote on health reform in the United States Senate. Why does stuff stall all year long and then this time of year, it takes off like it is in fast motion?
It‘s because the people who work here want to go home. Get your stuff, get your rewards cards, it‘s time to go, move it. You do not have to go home, but you can‘t stay here, everybody out.
This is not just sociology about human incentives. This is political science right now, because this is not an accident. It has not always been true that stuff got done only at Christmas time in Washington only at the end of the legislative Washington.
This is a political phenomenon right now and not just a grocery store phenomenon at the end of the night, because of something really dramatic that has happened really recently to the American political system. Look at this—this is the way that Senate works. This is 1919 to just before Republicans in the Senate went into the minority in 2006. So, this is how the Senate worked from 1919 until just before Republicans became the minority.
Then the last time Republicans became the minority, what happened? Boing! Look at that. What you‘re looking at there is the breaking of the United States Senate as an institution. What these are is filibusters. This is when the Senate decides to take the extraordinary measure of making something take 60 votes to pass instead of 50 votes.
And that‘s impossible. Supermajorities are impossible. You cannot actually pass things with supermajorities in an ongoing way. This is not the way that legislatures function. It is never the way that America‘s legislature has functioned.
If you‘re going to require a supermajority, it means that effectively this body has ceased to function. It has ceased to function as a normal majority rules legislature.
This is how Republicans broke the Senate. They have turned the Senate into a Republican stronghold not while they were in the majority, but since they‘ve been in the minority. Since they lost the Senate, they have turned it into a stronghold for their own party by using power that the Senate minority is usually entrusted not to abuse. They‘ve used that power to break the institution.
Even though they are the minority, even though there are less than 50 of them, significantly less than 50 of them, they exert all of the leverage. They get what they want. Which not only means that policies get changed to try to appeal to them, it also means that the calendar just stretches on and on and on and on with nothing ever getting done. That is – that‘s their preference.
They are filibustering the funding of the military right now. That‘s passed every year for 48 years. It is being filibustered by Republicans right now. It‘s on the docket.
They are filibustering the appointment of people to relatively low-level political jobs at middle management levels at cabinet agencies you cannot remember the names of—people who are not famous, people who are not controversial, but who are nevertheless subject to this extraordinary supermajority rule. This extraordinary thing that was never supposed to be used the way it‘s being used. But because Republicans are using it the way they are, nothing gets done. And they have found that strategy to be in their political interest—to get as little done as possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA: Saturday at midnight, the government funding runs out. We have to deal with that. That‘s the only thing that has to be dealt with.
And then you have to ask, is there anything that‘s absolutely necessary beyond that? Anything that were to be done during that period of time would not have the respect of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is in their interest as the political minority that nothing gets done and they can achieve that with the way they have broken the institution formally known as the United States Senate. And that‘s what explains why Christmas is so busy every year now, because the only leverage the Democrats have, even though they‘re in the majority, the only way Democrats can exert any majority—any pressure on Republicans is using the fact Republicans want to go home and the only way to go home, Democrats say, is to have to do stuff first.
Democrats‘ only leverage is: hey Republicans, you can‘t leave yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: We‘re going to complete the work we have to do here. I want to get out of here just as soon as we can, but we‘re not going to walk away from any of the work we have to do. Christmas is a week from Saturday. I understand that.
But I hope the Republicans understand it also, because we are going to complete our work no matter how long it takes in this Congress. We have to do the work of the American people. We‘ve been stalled and stalled and stalled this whole Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is the Democratic leverage. The leverage that Democrats have, it‘s circumstantial. It‘s you guys want to go home, so we‘ll keep the Senate opened so you can‘t go home.
This is not a procedure. This is not a rule. This is not a technique for bringing things to the floor. This isn‘t even debate. This is—you guys want to go home and that‘s all we have to use against you so that we can get things done.
The Senate is broken. So, this is the only time and the only way the majority can get stuff passed.
Here‘s what things stand right now. The big tax cuts vote could theoretically get taken up after midnight tonight, although Democrats now say they‘re going to wait until tomorrow morning. Why is midnight the important threshold here? Because that‘s when the 30 hours of waiting time that Republicans are requiring on this thing ends.
Again, they are stalling something that most of them are in favor of. After the tax cuts deal passes, which it is expected to do, then they‘ll try to get through the other things that Republicans are filibustering.
The START Treaty, which is supported by every living boldface Republican name on national security.
The “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal for which there are reportedly definitely 60 votes, enough to beat the filibuster.
The DREAM Act, which used to be a bipartisan thing, now being filibustered.
The 9/11 first responders bill, which I cannot believe there is any controversy about. But, hey, it‘s your conscience, you live with it.
All of those things are stacked up and ready to go. Today is December 14th. And there is a reason why all of this stuff happens at this time of year. Why this time last year all of this stuff was happening and why we are likely to see them working on Christmas Eve and maybe even Christmas Day, who knows?
There is a reason the Senate is on fast-forward when it gets to this time of year. It‘s because the Senate is broken. And the only means by which Republicans can be moved to allow the Senate to function is to threaten to make them work instead of going home when they want to go home.
That is not the way it is supposed to work. The thing is broken. But it can be fixed.
Joining us now is Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, a man who wants to fix it. Thank you very much for joining us again, Senator. It‘s nice to see you.
SEN. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: Thank you, Rachel. Great to be with you. You made a strong case there, no doubt about it.
MADDOW: Well, do you think the Senate is broken, or do you think I‘m overstating it?
UDALL: Oh, no, no, I don‘t think you‘re not overstating it. It is a very broken, dysfunctional institution. And right to the heart of what you‘re talking about is we lurch from one filibuster to the next. We waste an incredible amount of time.
Filibuster used to be something that was extraordinarily rare, you know? In LBJ‘s days back in the 1954 to ‘61 period, he only had to cut—and this is six years—cut one filibuster off in that period. This year, Harry Reid had to cut off 84.
So, you know, it‘s—they‘ve taken something that‘s incredibly rare and they‘ve now turned the institution into a supermajority institution. And you just can‘t govern with supermajorities. It‘s just not going to work that way.
MADDOW: People get very nostalgic for the arm-twisting effectiveness of LBJ, when you put—when you realize what he was up against, one filibuster versus 84 for Harry Reid. It kind of puts Harry Reid in a brighter light.
I mean, there is a reason that the filibuster exists. I mean, the Senate values the preservation of the rights of the minority for making their views known and having some legislative effectiveness. But is there a way to preserve that while stopping the breaking of the institution?
UDALL: I think there is, Rachel. I real believe in the rights of the minority. And, really, the way the filibuster used to work is there was respect back and forth between both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats. And you would say to the minority side—well, if you want to take the time to be heard, to put your viewpoint out there, to rally the American people, please do that and take the time that you need. But then at the end of that, there was an understanding that you would come together and have an up-or-down vote.
And that‘s what we‘re missing right now from filibuster to filibuster.
We vote maybe most of the time because we don‘t even get on to the bill. And all the things that you‘ve named, from the DREAM Act to the Defense Department authorization, to “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” we could have done these a long time ago, but there was a filibuster going on, preventing us from getting to a “yes” or “no” vote.
And so, one senator shouldn‘t have the right to hold the whole institution up. You‘ll remember there was a senator that held unemployment benefits up for almost two or three days, singly while people were rolling of and losing their benefits. That just isn‘t right, and I don‘t think the American people and the middle class feel that this is the way the Senate should operate.
But we can fix it. We can fix it on the first day because with 51 senators and utilizing the constitutional option, we can move to a situation where we change the rules. Obviously, I may be in the minority at some point, so I want minority rights protected. But we can make the Senate work more efficiently. And that‘s what we‘re working on right now.
And I‘ve got this idea on the constitutional option that on the first day, and it‘s been utilized before, with 51 votes, you can cut off debate and adopt rules of the Senate. And that‘s what we‘re galvanizing around.
MADDOW: Senator Udall, I asked Senator Reid right before the election if he would support filibuster reform. With—as you‘ve said—your constitutional option, something that‘s structured to take a 51-senator vote on the first day of the new Senate. Obviously, there will be more than 51 Democrats, for example, in the chamber at that time. Plus, some Republicans maybe interested in this proposal as well. Certainly, there has been some positive noises on it from some Republicans.
Do you have support for Senator Reid pursuing some kind of filibuster reform? He did say that he would be interested in it at least in concept.
UDALL: No, Senator Reid has spoken several times passionately, that one of the ones I remember was when he appeared at Netroots Nation and he talked about abuse of the spitball and abuse of the four-corner rule in basketball. He said they banned those. And he said, you know, this abuse is unprecedented, we have to do something about it.
And so, he has assigned a number of task forces to take a look at the rules and come back. We‘re going to meet this Thursday in the Democratic Caucus. If we can‘t get it done on Thursday, we‘re going to meet again on Friday, and we‘re going to try to hammer out what 51 senators would like to see.
But none of that can happen. Any of those changes that we come to a conclusion on unless we utilize the constitutional option which works on the first day, 51 votes, cut off debate, 51 votes to adopt the rules.
Now, I hope the Republicans join us. You know, you‘ve mentioned there are some Republicans out there. And we want to reach across the aisle and we want to try to make sure that the place isn‘t dysfunctional and that they give us their ideas. But if they aren‘t going to join us and continue this, then I think it‘s our obligation to govern and do everything we can do make sure that the American people have legislation that meets their needs.
The middle class is hurting now. We need to get out there and legislate, get this economy going, and move on all those other important matters that we talked about earlier.
MADDOW: Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, thank you for joining us, sir. Appreciate your time on this.
UDALL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: What Senator Udall is talking about there I believe is the single most important thing that could be done to change Washington on a single day in the legislature that we know about. It would make a huge difference for the rest of Barack Obama‘s first term as president and might make the difference between whether or not he has a second term. It can only be done on the first day of the new Congress.
All right. Since Christmastime is the new rush hour in Washington, there is a lot going on right now, including the nation‘s liberal elected officials having to decide what to do about the president‘s controversial deal with Republicans on taxes. Chris Hayes helps us with that.
Plus, we apparently started a fight between Christine O‘Donnell and FOX News. Don‘t know how we got in the middle of that, but we did. That‘s ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: A heartfelt defense of speaker to be, Republican Congressman John Boehner. That‘s ahead. Seriously.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: If you are a liberal or a centrist, or anyone who voted for Barack Obama for president and you are disappointed that more of the president‘s agenda has not become law, then where your sadness lives is the United States Senate.
The incredibly fast scroll beneath me right now is a list of hundreds of things that have passed the House as of yet have not gone anywhere in the Senate, over 400 bills since the end of September. Nobody has bothered to update the count since the end of September. Our poor researchers are trying to.
But with Republicans breaking the Senate so a supermajority is required to pass anything there now, the Senate is where Article 1 of the Constitution has died, where the process of making law by legislation in this country has died. The Senate is broken. That is looming fog over Washington at all times.
What does that mean for the stuff that is lined up to pass in a huge big rush in the next few days?
Well, joining us now is “The nation” magazine‘s Washington editor and MSNBC contributor, my friend, Chris Hayes.
Hello, Mr. Hayes. Thanks for your time.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Miss Maddow, how are you?
MADDOW: Good. Thank you.
Tax cuts, the START Treaty, repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” the DREAM Act, on and on. When is this stuff going to get done? And what of it, do you think, passes?
HAYES: Well, you know, January 4th is the expiration date on this Congress. And Harry Reid seems to be quite serious about working through that. I mean, the new Congress starts January 5th. And up until, the stroke of midnight on January 4th, this Congress is in session. Harry Reid wants to squeeze all the juice out of it as possible.
What‘s going to pass? The tax cut deal I think, although I don‘t think it‘s a sure thing. I mean, I think it‘s more likely to pass than not, but not quite a sure thing. You‘re starting to hear rumblings from Tea Party types on the Republican side of this about a backlash against the deal. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the House.
DADT is—“don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal is right, right, right on the razor‘s edge, as we saw.
The DREAM Act I think is probably short of the votes it needs to pass. At least, it was a few weeks ago. I don‘t think anything changes in the interim.
And the START Treaty is fascinating because it looks like it has the votes to pass. If you talk to people who are around the START Negotiations, it does have a number, it needs 66 votes, because it‘s a treaty. It needs two-thirds.
But the question of whether it‘s going to be taken up is now—Bob Corker from Tennessee is now saying we‘re just going to push until the next Congress. So, that remains to be seen as well.
MADDOW: I feel like the Beltway press writ large is particularly bad at reporting on liberals, on liberal arguments, on liberal beefs about policy.
MADDOW: But I feel like you are very good at that. What do liberal Democrats end up doing about the president‘s tax cut deal that he made with Republicans? You mentioned some grumbling on the right. But what happens to the dissatisfaction on the left?
HAYES: It‘s a good question. I mean, first of all, some of my best friends are liberals. So, I think that‘s why I have a little insight.
No, look, I mean, it‘s a really good point. Al Franken had this sort of very kind of frank and heartfelt post on “The Huffington Post” today which basically said this is the hardest vote I ever had to take, because he voted—he basically voted for the tax. He said it was right on the line of what I would go for and basically I went for it, but I‘m not happy about it.
And I think you‘re going to see a lot of that. The question is: how do they channel that? There‘s a few things.
One is: there‘s movement in the House to attach two more things to the compromise. One is if unemployment is going to be extended and tax cuts are going to be extended, they should be extended for the same amount of time. That is to say unemployment currently is getting 13 months in the bill and the tax cuts get two years.
Why is that the case? Why can that not be the case that they get extended for the same amount of time, fair is fair—particularly since it‘s going to be Republican Congress in 13 months and they‘re just going to hold the unemployment checks hostage again and we‘re going to have another capitulation.
And the other thing that some have been talking about although I don‘t know what‘s going to happen is getting a debt ceiling raise put into the package as well. So, yet again, we won‘t be up against this sort of hostage situation in March or April when the debt ceiling comes due.
So, those are the ways they can operationalize their discontent in the sort of short-term legislative sense.
MADDOW: Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation” magazine—thank you very much, sir. I have a feeling we will be checking in with you for updates on the matters very shortly.
HAYES: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Still ahead, “Debunktion Junction.” In it, the long awaited duet between Kim Jong-il and lead guitarist of the Yard Birds. And nonstop geopolitical rock docs—straight ahead.
MADDOW: “Debunktion Junction,” what‘s my function?
First up: True or false? This segment, this “Debunktion Junction” segment has started a fight on the right. This segment by which we attempt to sort out fact from fiction in the daily news cycle, the “Debunktion Junction” has sparked a disagreement, has sent out loggerheads, two political forces on the right, it started a fight between FOX News and Christine O‘Donnell. Is that true or false?
True. Last week on “Debunktion Junction,” we cited a “Roll Call” report which said that Christine O‘Donnell would be doing a guest host stint on “FOX and Friends” during Christmas week. Christine O‘Donnell said that in a sit-down interview with reporters from “Roll Call.”
But after he reported it on the TV machine, FOX News told a conservative TV columnist that Christine O‘Donnell was doing no such thing.
So, Christine O‘Donnell says she‘s guest hosting on FOX; FOX says, she said what? She totally is not.
So, now, FOX News is calling Christine O‘Donnell a liar. They confirmed that same denial to us.
Christine O‘Donnell will not comment, not even to defend herself from what FOX is now saying about her. We keep calling. She keeps not calling us back. We will let you know if that changes.
And you know, guys, if we started this whole “you‘re a liar, she‘s a liar, you‘re a liar, she‘s a liar” fight here, we are sorry. We hope you will be able to talk it out and get back together. We didn‘t mean anything by it.
Next up, true or false, one of the Wikileaks revelations is that as part of the diplomatic overturns to North Korea, the U.S. State Department considered arranging a private Elton John concert for Kim Jong-Il.
Kim Jong-Il private concert, Elton John. Is that true or false? False. Common misconception. Common mix-up I should say. It is actually the president of Kazakhstan who got the private concert with Elton John and the United States did not arrange it.
He apparently paid for it himself. It was for his son-in-law‘s birthday party. The Wikileaks revelation about Kim Jong-il and aging, but still impressive pop stars was not about Elton John, it was in fact about Eric Clapton.
According to a State Department cable released by Wikileaks in May 2007, the U.S. embassy in South Korea sent a wire suggesting that the U.S. government should, quote, “book Eric Clapton.” It said that in all caps. So-and-so person whose name is X‘d out, passed only suggestion from his North Korean interlocketers that the U.S. government arranged for Eric Clapton to perform a concert in Pyongyang.
As Kim Jong-Il second son Kim Jong-tsul is reported to be a great fan. The performance could be an opportunity to build goodwill. Though he has since been passed over for succession by his little brother Kim Jong-un, pictured here with dear old dad, Kim Jong-tsul reported attend several Eric Clapton concerts a few years ago while he was in school in Europe.
Two years after this Wikileaked cable in 2009, North Korea did in fact invite Eric Clapton to come to Pyongyang to play a concert. Mr. Clapton did not end up going, but thanks to this Wikileaks cable, we now know that North Korea apparently asked our government to help book the gig. Disturbing as that it, hey it‘s not Elton John. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: All day long I‘ve been hearing accusations that we made up a story that was on our air yesterday. That would be the story about the Ukrainian government planning to open Chernobyl as a tourism destination next year.
Yes, Chernobyl as in - I mean, nuclear reactor that blew up in 1986. Now I‘m open for tourism. I will admit that story sounds made up, but it is not made up. Further detail for you on that. After the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, they built a hat for it, a shell to cover up the disaster site made of iron and concrete.
That 25-year-old shell hastily built at a very stressful time, it leaks - it leaks radiation. It is reported to be on the brink of collapsing. To replace it, they‘re building a fancy new shell thing to cover the meltdown site. It‘s a huge thing. Tall enough to cover the statue of liberty. All new construction, all to try to contain the worst of the radiation.
This is my favorite detail of the story. The plan from the Ukrainian government is for tourists to start visiting Chernobyl next year. The plan for the new shell over the super radioactive part of Chernobyl is scheduled to be ready in 2015.
So visit next year, radiation guard to follow in four years. I would make this stuff up if I could, but I am neither that creative nor that insane.
MADDOW: Coming up, I will defend tears, blubbering, shouting, getting red faced, snorty laughing and all matter of public emotional oversharing in politics. Who‘s going to make fun of John Boehner for crying on television? Not me, not this show. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: How does America get its way in the world? How do we exert power and influence? Obviously, some of it is leading by example to the extent that we‘re admired. Other countries try to be like us. We influence countries by the virtue of our big economy and our vibrant culture. So contact with American business and culture around the world is a diffuse means by which America gets its way.
Beyond that, there are two direct ways. There‘s the threat of force, the use or the threat of using our ginormous military in which we spend more than almost of the other militaries in the world combined. Then there‘s talking, talking people into agreeing with us, negotiating, twisting arms.
If you care about America‘s role in the world and think our influence in the world is important and to believe the military cannot continue to be the primary means by which we get our way in the world, then the mostly invisible people who do diplomatic work for America are doing the most important American work of all.
One of the few people who did this work who was not invisible was Richard Holbrooke who as you know died yesterday at the age of 69. Today is the 15th year anniversary of his most important lifelong accomplishment, the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the horrific genocidal war in Bosnia.
Early today - frankly in looking for something else entirely, we came across a sort of time capsule of Holbrooke‘s importance and diplomacy‘s importance, the importance to America and the world. We found this. It is from 12 years ago. It‘s short. We thought you should see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Kosovo tonight, there are reports the forces are beginning to move out and that NATO air strikes won‘t be necessary just now, but warplanes will remain at the ready just in case.
Albanian refugees are reluctant to return to their homes just yet. They‘re waiting for the international observers to get into place and the beginning of political dialogue with the president.
Today Richard Holbrooke, the man who negotiated the stand down, described for me the ordeal of the deal. Nine days of heated difficult negotiations, meetings with Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic a man with a bloody record, nine days that may have saved thousands of lives.
Did you yell at each other?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: We don‘t yell, but it got damn heated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he his own man?
HOLBROOKE: In the end and this cannot be stressed too highly, he runs that place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Milosevic agreed to withdraw from Kosovo‘s so-called Serbian security police and to allow observers to see that he keeps his word.
Some people are saying he got exactly what he wanted.
HOLBROOKE: In order to avoid being bombed, he let 2,000 foreigners wander around Kosovo at will verifying. He‘s going to let NATO fly at will over Kosovo looking down with cameras and had to move in the politics. Why would he want that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is he like as a negotiator?
HOLBROOKE: He‘s tough. He‘s smart. He knows how to mix belligerence and threats with changing subjects.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holbrooke spent eleven hour days with Milosevic who would sometimes joke, take a drink at the bargaining table, sometimes become pointed and then day four, Holbrooke is joined by American Air Force General Mike Short.
HOLBROOKE: Milosevic leaned forward and said, so, you‘re the general who‘s going to bomb us. And Mike Short reeled back for an instant, but he held his cool and said, well, Mr. President, I got B-52s in one hand, I got U2s in the other. I‘m going to do whatever I‘m ordered to do, but I‘d rather use the U2s, but it‘s up to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aggressive stance worked. What do you think made the difference in terms of him finally agreeing to the terms you were laying out there, that he had nowhere else to go?
HOLBROOKE: I think that he recognized the western world‘s slow moving democracies had caught up with his outrageous behavior. The fighters were on the bases in Italy and we were moving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he ever say to you or suggestion, anyway, Mr.
Holbrooke, your country is not prepared to move here?
HOLBROOKE: He did ask me several times things like, would you be crazy enough to bomb us over our security police? I said, yes, we‘re just that crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You spent hours and hours with Milosevic. What drives him?
MADDOW: Understanding war power, understanding diplomatic power. The power of force and the power of persuasion. Richard Holbrooke‘s last posting was as an American diplomat was this president‘s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Our country‘s big review of what to do in that war started to leak out today. It will be presented to the country by the president in two days on Thursday. We‘ll have more of that on tomorrow‘s show. Stay tuned. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: So Nancy Pelosi is still speaker of the House. The House is still in Democratic control as long as this lame duck session is going on, but in January when Congress comes back. The new speaker of the House will be a man who is known for a lot of things. But specifically, he is known for getting very emotional in public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER: There are some things that are very difficult to talk about. Family, kids. I can‘t go to a school anymore. I see all these little kids running around making sure that these kids have a shot at the American dream like I do. It‘s important.
MADDOW: In a “60 Minutes” interview this weekend, top House Republican and House speaker in waiting John Boehner put his heart back on his sleeve and got per clumped as you heard there. He got for clumps about how he feels when he sees children like at school visits. He also for clumped about the fact that he gets per clumped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: You‘ve probably found out by now I‘m a pretty emotional guy. There are just some things that, you know, trigger real emotions and I was talking, trying to talk about the fact that I‘ve been chasing the American dream my whole career.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that was it?
BOEHNER: That was it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: John Boehner is starting to get more attention for the amount of emotion he‘s willing to show in public and it‘s true that him crying so much in public is extraordinary. He should get credit I think for showing an extraordinary range of emotions. He not only cries a lot in public. He also is willing to lose his cool and scream and yell and get red in the face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?
Hell no, you can‘t! Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the managers amendment? Hell no, you haven‘t!
I‘m trying to catch my breath so I don‘t refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right? But this is nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If John Boehner were a woman, you‘d be hearing about almost nothing other than his emotionality given even the prospect of him becoming speaker of the house. But because he‘s a guy, I think nobody knows quite what to make of how emotional he‘s willing to get in public. After all, almost all of the other famous crying in public stories involved in politicians are how the crying in public called them into question as a candidate or maybe hurt them in some way.
Most famously there‘s been Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, an early favorite in the Democratic presidential primary of 1972. Mr. Muskie called a press conference to speak out against a newspaper publisher who printed negative stories about him including one that turned out to be a hoax and one that went after Senator Muskie‘s wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR EDMUND MUSKIE: By attacking me, by attacking my wife, has proved himself to be a gutless coward. It‘s fortunate for him he‘s not on this platform beside me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Muskie maintained that he was not tearing up that day in New Hampshire. What reporters saw and described and reporting that press conference were snowflakes melting on his face, not tears. Regardless, that has gone down in history as the beginning of the end of Senator Muskie‘s presidential ambition.
But here‘s the thing about that, about the politicians can‘t cry in public myth that in large part was born on that day. Whether or not Muskie actually cried or whether it was snow melting on his angelic face, Senator Muskie was reported to have cried that day ten days before the New Hampshire primary.
On the day of the primary, he won. As recently as 2008 also in New Hampshire, there was Hillary Clinton, not so much crying as becoming a little tiny bit emotional. An event which convulsed the Democratic primary process and all the punditry in the world for days on end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I have so many opportunities in this country. I just don‘t want to see us fall backwards. So you know, this is very personal for me. It‘s not just political.
It‘s not just public. I see what‘s happening and we have to reverse it. And some people think elections are a game. They think it‘s like who‘s up or who‘s down. It‘s about our country. It‘s about our kids‘ futures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For all the massive crisis and conniption that called in 2008, Hillary Clinton won that primary. She won in New Hampshire. That incident had an effect on voting in New Hampshire, it very well may have helped her more than it hurt her.
There‘s nothing wrong with politicians showing emotion. There‘s nothing wrong with politicians crying in public, a, it demonstrably does not hurt them with voters, but, b, it shows us what they feel passionately about, and what‘s wrong with that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he walks out of this chamber for the last time, he‘ll leave an enormous void behind.
The true measure of a man is how you handle victory and also defeat.
He reached the pinnacle in government, but he defines his life by other roles, a father who gave unconditional love, a grandfather devoted to his grandchildren.
So at this moment, I wanted to be home, to come to this place and see all of my friends.
When I think of what Kyle has meant to me over the past 15 years, I can‘t help but think that‘s exactly what he‘s been to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator McConnell memorializing a long time staffer in February there at the top of that block there memorializing Senator Judd Gregg. That was just today. Each of those events in which public figures become for clump in public tells you nothing bad about that person.
We‘re about to get probably the most emotional politician in modern American history taking on a very visible role, third in line to the presidency. With John Boehner about to be in the headlines every single day for all of next year and beyond, we‘re going to have to get past the shock of his visibly strong feelings and the feelings that that invoke in us.
We‘re going to have to figure out how to keep paying attention to what John Boehner is saying even if he is crying while he is saying it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Members on both sides of the aisle who feel differently about our mission in Iraq and our chances of success there. After 3,000 of our fellow citizens died at the hands of these terrorists, when are we going to stand up and take them on? When are we going to defeat them?
I put myself through school working every rotten job there was and every night shift I could find. And I poured my heart and soul into running a small business. You probably found out by now I‘m a pretty emotional guy and there are just some things that, you know, trigger real emotions.
I was talking, trying to talk about the fact that I‘ve been chasing the American dream my whole career. So I ask all of you, both sides of the aisle, what‘s in the best interests of our country? Not what‘s in the best interests of our party. Not what‘s in the best interests of our own re-election. What‘s in the best interests of our country? Vote yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pause that for a second. What he is crying about there, what he‘s upset there—now again, there‘s nothing wrong with crying and it‘s distracting and novel and interesting that he is crying, I know.
But what he‘s talking about there, what that speech is about is T.A.R.P., the bank bailout. He‘s saying vote yes for the Wall Street bailout. The fact that he‘s crying while talking about it can‘t occlude our vision that he‘s about to be this powerful. The fact that he‘s crying while begging for a yes on the bailout is fascinating.
What politician does that that‘s kind of cool, but the fact that he‘s crying belies the fact that he campaigned against the bailout. He started talking about the bailout as if he not only didn‘t vote for it and he didn‘t cry and beg people to vote for it during a speech on the floor of the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: So I‘m going to ask my colleagues, if you‘ve had enough of bailouts, enough of T.A.R.P., let‘s do the right thing for the American people. They‘re already saying enough is enough. Let‘s end T.A.R.P., let‘s pay down the deficit. No more bailouts. Let‘s cut spending back to 2008 levels. Back before the bailouts and the stimulus and all the nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All the nonsense that I cried about and begged you to vote for. Now, most recently Sunday night on “60 Minutes” we saw John Boehner crying about kids and their futures. It‘s fascinating that he will cry while talking about that in public. It‘s amazing in terms of just who he is as a person, as a politician, but however not more important than what he actually wants to do for the kids who make him cry.
He is not an actor. He‘s a politician. He‘s a powerful politician who gets to make laws for the country. Despite the crying, part of his pledge to America is a pledge to cut about $100 billion out of the national budget. That is $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts and he wants to not have any of those discretionary spending cuts come from defense or Homeland Security or veterans affairs.
So what does that mean? That means taking $100 billion out of, among a few other things, education, pulling it out of there, the cuts to domestic spending including education. John Boehner is proposing would amount to, as Steve Bennett of Washington Monthly pointed out, it would amount to nearly quadruple the largest cuts in discretionary spending faced in the entire last generation nearly four times.
So yes, John Boehner may cry while talking about all the awesome things he wants to do for children. I find it amazing that he allows himself to cry in public while he talks about these things. But having a positive feeling is not the same as doing something positive.
As humans we react to a politician crying about children‘s welfare because we instinctively think it implies strength of that politicians‘ commitment to improve children‘s welfare. It doesn‘t always.
When the new Congress convenience and John Boehner is speaker of the House, remember this, just because he‘s crying about something doesn‘t mean he‘s going to fix that thing. Crying in public is neat. I‘m all in favor. Crying in public, however, is not the same thing as fixing the thing that makes you cry. That does it for us tonight.
Now it‘s time for “The Last Word” with Lawrence O‘Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.
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