The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/07/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Hey, happy Friday.
Here was the big front page screaming headline at Politico.com for most of the day. Check this out: “GOP finds governing isn‘t easy.”
Over at the Web site “Talking Points Memo” they summed it a little bit more succinctly when they said, “First Day with the New Gavel?”
The Republican takeover of the United States House of
Representatives has not gone smoothly so far. In some cases, it‘s things that Republicans tried to pull of but failed at like yesterday‘s reading of the Constitution in which some passages were left out on purpose and others were left out because pages stuck together in the three-ring binder from which people were supposed to be reading.
Some of the mistakes came in the form of promises Republicans were unable to keep, loudly proclaiming rules about citing the Constitution in every bill, allowing amendments to every bill, having to offset any effect on the deficit of any bill that they passed, and then they broke all of the rules immediately with the first bills that they proposed.
Some of their mistakes were just, frankly inexplicable. Two Republican members of Congress who thought they could be sworn in at a television that was showing the swearing in instead of them actually showing up for the swearing in. It has been a rich and highly rated comedy of errors this week as the Republicans have taken over the House.
But today, Republicans tripped and face-planted into the first of the big mistakes so far that appears to be a purely political miscalculation. Today, Republicans used their newfound power in the House to hold a test vote on repealing the health reform bill that passed the last Congress and that was signed into law by President Obama.
And here‘s where you might have gotten your first inkling that Republicans pressing ahead with this as their marquee first priority in office might be a mistake.
After all of the demonization of health reform over the past year, after Republicans used health reform as a cudgel to beat Republicans over the head with during the election, after Republicans convinced conservative Democrats to vote against health reform or even to campaign against health reform—after all of that, today when it came down to it, when Republicans finally had their big test vote on repealing health reform, their marquee issue they got four Democratic votes – 181 Democrats voted not to repeal health reform and four voted with the Republicans.
Four. That‘s roughly the number of party crossovers you can expect to defect from a vote on whether or not today really is Friday. They got four votes. That‘s it. That includes one Democrat who says that‘s the last vote Republicans will get from him on this issue when it comes to actually voting for repeal. He is not with them.
So, that means there are three Democrats in the entire House out of hundreds of members of the House who are willing to side with Republicans on repealing health reform. That‘s it. Even Democrats who not only voted against health reform originally but are still against health reform, even Democrats who are willing to go on FOX News to talk about how much they hate health reform—even those Democrats can tell it is a bad idea to vote to repeal it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: To repeal it all, including the few provisions that were beneficial, just doesn‘t make sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire, not a progressive leader. Jason Altmire, eager for any opportunity to vote against his own party on anything—Jason Altmire is not taking this one up. He voted no on health reform but he‘s not voting to repeal it.
It is amazing news for Democrats that Republicans have decided that this is the hill they want to die on in Washington. This is the first thing they want to do. What they want to broadcast to America about them being in charge is that their first priority is to add $230 billion to the deficit. To be clear: this means they want to make the deficit $230 billion worse.
What do they propose to get for adding $230 billion to the deficit? They propose to 32 million Americans losing health insurance. Well, who wouldn‘t pay hundreds of billions for that? Also, Americans who don‘t lose health insurance will have the privilege of paying more for the insurance that they are lucky enough to keep.
So, your health insurance gets more expensive, 32 million Americans lose their health insurance, and the deficit gets worse by a quarter trillion dollars. That‘s what Republicans are pursuing first.
Welcome to power. Welcome to control.
You know, thanks to the Jason Altmires of the world, the reflexive timidity on conservative Democrats on issues like this. Even when health care reform passed last year, Democrats never really able to create new political capital from passing health reform, they were to too busy fighting about what the bill should have had in it and whether or not it was a good idea in the first place and, ooh, what Republicans might say about it passing—as if Republicans would have anything nice to say if it didn‘t pass.
How did we get from that circular firing squad, Democrats attacking each other, Democrats running from their own accomplishments, fractured Democrats on the issue of health reform—how did we get from that to all but three Democrats voting to defend it? The Jason Altmires of the world standing with unified with the Nancy Pelosis of the world to defend health care.
Democrats have finally achieved unity. They have finally decided health reform was worth fighting for.
Thank you, John Boehner. All it took was Republicans make it their first priority to take an impotent swipe at taking it away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT: You campaigned effectively. You beat us good. You ran on the agenda of defeating health care and repealing it. Now, you‘re doing it.
Own it. Admit what it is you are doing. This is not a campaign. We‘re playing with fire. We‘re taking away health care benefits that make a real difference to our families.
REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: There is no commitment to the American people here. The only commitment is to the insurance companies. They are the only ones that gain from repeal of this very important legislation.
REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: The Republicans are going to allow the return of the worst abuses of the health insurance industry—pre-existing condition exclusions, taking away your policy when you get sick, lifetime annual caps, throwing your kids off your policies. The Republican repeal of this bill would enable all those things for their very, very generous benefactors in the insurance industry.
I haven‘t had a single constituent and I know you haven‘t begged you to bring back these abuses. Is that what you‘re doing? Is that what they want?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Not only would House Republicans repealing the bill add $230 billion to the deficits, not only would it take away health insurance from 32 million Americans, not only would it have everybody with health insurance pay more, repeal would also allow insurance companies to drop you when you get sick and when you need coverage the most.
Repeal would allow insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Repeal would have insurance companies be allowed to impose annual limits on the amount of care you can get. Maybe you hate the whole idea of the dreaded Obamacare.
But who hates the idea of these things? These things that are the constituent parts of health reform? No matter what dismissive nickname you want to give health reform? What political party, what politician would hang his political future on fighting for insurance companies‘ rights to drop you once you get sick, even though you‘ve been paying your premiums all along?
Insurance companies can‘t do it anymore because of health reform. So, naturally, Republicans want to repeal it. The Republicans‘ first act now that they control the House is to do everything they can to make sure insurance companies are allowed to drop you when you get sick.
Even conservative Blue Dog Democrats are not stupid enough to go along with this.
Just because it‘s something you plan to do in advance doesn‘t mean it‘s not a blunder. Republicans have made a blunder here. They have blundered into finally forcing Democrats to reap the political capital they should have reaped in the first place from passing health reform. Republicans have unified the Democrats on health reform. They have persuaded Democrats to preach to the country about how important the reforms are that they got passed, and they have invited on the floor of the legislature that they control a campaign-ready, “what are you doing to the American people” defense of health reform as an achievement to be proud of and an achievement to defend.
I hesitate to believe that Democrats could have achieved this alone.
But with John Boehner in charge, anything is possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The Democrats‘ health care law helps grandma afford her prescription drugs. The Republicans don‘t care about grandma. They want to take back the drug benefits in the new law. GOP used to stand for Grand Old Party. Now, it stands for grandma‘s out of prescriptions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, he is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and he joins us now from Washington.
Congressman Markey, thank you so much for being here tonight.
MARKEY: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: How‘s the Republican effort to repeal health reform is their first action right out of the gate in the House to make this their signature first priority—has that unified Democrats in defense of health reform in a way that didn‘t happen when you were trying to pass it in the first place?
MARKEY: Well, you know, George Bush and Republicans, they always say that they are uniters and not dividers. And congratulations, you have united the Democratic Party in a way in which it has not been for two years.
I think that the Democrats are now rallying around those provisions that protect children, protect grandma, protect against people going bankrupt just because they become sick, protect the free prevention screenings which everyone is entitled to in the bill.
And I think the more that people understand actually what was in the bill is the better the Democrats are going to do so—we welcome this debate because it‘s helping us now finally to explain what the fight was all about.
MADDOW: Do you feel like—I mean, what Republicans are doing here is obviously something they think will have great symbolic and therefore political power. Even if repeal passes the House next week as it‘s expected to because of the Republican majority, it‘s not going to become law. The Senate is not going to pass it. The president wouldn‘t sign it, even if it did.
Is this also a political opportunity to Democrats? Not just to articulate what‘s right about reform—like you just did, but to really sell the idea of the American people, turn it into a political asset instead of a liability?
MARKEY: Yes. I think that we are now going to be able to take advantage of the result of the Citizens United case last year which allowed tens of millions of dollars that are still unknown in terms of the source to come into the political system.
Today, we saw the first installment. Yes, they now have to pay back the insurance industry, the health care industry and try to repeal this bill. And then we‘ll move down to what the oil and gas and coal industries think they have bought from this Republican Congress and on and on.
And the more that we have these debates, I think, is the greater our prospects will be for turning this whole thing right around in the election of 2012.
MADDOW: In the last Congress, Congressman Markey, you, of course, chaired the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming. One of the Republicans‘ first acts upon taking power in the House was to disband that committee. What‘s the message there and how important is that decision?
MARKEY: Well, I think the message is that in the same way that more than 50 percent of all Republican primary voters do not believe in evolution—a very high percentage of them do not believe in the science of climate, even though in 2010, we had the warmest recorded year in history. We had the Chinese eating our lunch in solar and wind and selling those technologies around the world. We can see at the pump that the price of gasoline is going up and all that money is going over to the Middle East.
But, again, the oil industry basically bought a result last year and the first installment—and I guess in a way it‘s perverse honor—was to abolish the committee that I was the chair of, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that Nancy Pelosi created four years ago and asked me to be the chair of.
So, I do believe that in the same way they don‘t believe in healthy families, they don‘t believe in a healthy planet either and it all goes back to their basic belief that we don‘t have to put prevention measures in place that help both families and a planet avoid catastrophic consequences by neglecting the obvious signs that science presents to us.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts—thank you for your time tonight, sir.
MARKEY: Can I just say this?
MARKEY: Can I just add one thing? Yes, you know, Ben Franklin at the Constitutional Convention, he was there and helping to draft this very important document and one of the other things that he was saying to his buddies there was an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
And that‘s what this health care bill has in it. We don‘t want to run a sick care system anymore. We want to run a health care system. That‘s why we moved the whole system towards prevention, where 75 percent of all the costs in our medical system is caused by preventable diseases.
And so, this whole thing goes right back to the Constitutional Convention and Ben Franklin‘s admonition to all of those who were there and every American, and all we are doing is abiding by it. And I think American families are starting to get it.
MADDOW: And if Republicans wanted to hear Democrats wax constitutional and wax poetic about the importance of health reform again, they have gotten their wish by putting this at the top of their agenda.
Sir, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.
WAXMAN: Thank you. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
So, in addition to the big political blunder of leading with trying to repeal health reform, there have also been the total procedural, symbolic and optic snafus of these first few days of the new Congress under Speaker of the House John Boehner. Anthony Weiner has been as gob-smacked as anyone by the whole spectacle. Congressman Weiner, one of our favorite guests joins us next.
MADDOW: Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York joins us next.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Please rise. I mean, seriously. Stand up. Are you standing?
OK. Raise your right hand—raise your right hand at the TV. See me here on the TV? Raise your right hand at me, at the TV. Now, repeat after me.
I—state your name—do hereby swear that I will watch THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW to the very, very end, to the very, very last second every day that THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is on to the best of my ability. So help me, Nelson. Thank you.
You may sit down back in front of the television.
One of the strangest face plants that has happened in this week of big funny mistakes in Washington is a story that started off like a footnote, like a wacky detail about the proceedings in Washington, but which of now has snowballed into a real story. It‘s the story of two members of Congress, people who are elected to serve in Congress, who tried to fake their own swearing-in.
The Constitution says you can‘t be a member of Congress unless you are sworn in as a member of Congress and Thomas Jefferson‘s writings in the Constitution itself make clear what it means to be sworn in as a member of Congress. The speaker of the House swears you in. You have to be there.
Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas, who‘s now serving his 8th term, and Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who used to be a congressman and then got beaten and then won back his seat, so two people you would think would know better—they both tried to skip the swearing-in ceremony. They instead went to an event celebrating the swearing-in at the Capitol Visitor Center. And when it came time to actually be sworn in to become members of Congress, Mr. Sessions and Mr. Fitzpatrick turned and faced the television and raised their right hands, just like you did when you swore to watch this show forever. Thank you.
Now, again, this started out as a footnote. Clearly, these guys—
I mean, come on. They don‘t really believe anybody who raises their hand at a television while a swearing-in is happening becomes a congressman. Clearly, they don‘t believe that.
And if they just messed up and missed the swearing-in, it would have been a footnote. But, apparently, these guys really did believe, really did believe that they and I guess anybody else who happened to be waving at somebody while the swearing-in ceremony was on C-Span in front of them, apparently they really believe that‘s enough to make you a member of Congress.
We can tell they believe that because these two guys went on the next day to vote as if they were members of Congress even though they hadn‘t really been sworn in. And that put Republicans in the position of trying to figure out what to do with those illegal votes that those non-congressman cast.
Today, the chairman of the rules committee for the Republicans, Congressman David Dreier, made a novel case for his colleagues‘ decision to fake swear themselves in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA: These two individuals were in this Capitol. They were in this Capitol when they took the oath. They didn‘t happen to be in this exact room.
DREIER: Under the standard of collegiality in Jefferson‘s manual, it is indicated that they have to be within the proximity of the speaker. Madam Speaker—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can hear how that argument went over in the House Chamber today as Republicans tried to make this right. They were near the swearing-in.
Ultimately, though, in trying to sort out those votes and trying to retroactively make right what these guys screwed up, Republicans stepped in yet further, violating another of their much vaunted chest pounding promises to the American people about how they‘re going to run things differently now.
Remember they said when everything was going to be up on the Internet for three days for everybody to see and consider before anything got voted on? Fast legislating is not good legislating, right? No more rushing anything through the House because now, there will be a new three days‘ advance notice rule.
Well, the Republicans decided they didn‘t want to allow three days advance notice for their resolution to undo the illegal vote that these guys cast when they weren‘t congressmen. They didn‘t want three days advance notice. Forget the new rule. They decided instead that instead of three days‘ notice for this matter, they would allow four minutes‘ advance notice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I strongly urge my colleagues to vote against this resolution, not because Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Sessions are not members of Congress. They clearly are and I congratulate them. But because for the first time in American history, the first in the history of this body, we are going to pass a fix of a constitutional infirmity with—wait for it—four minutes of debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Anthony Weiner joins us right here next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: What we are dealing with today is perhaps the most basic test that we have of whether we‘re going to take legislation seriously. To the great credit of the maker of this resolution, which we just got, it stipulates right in the first couple of sections we violated the Constitution on our very first day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York speaking on the floor of the House today on the resolution to undo the illegally cast votes of the two Republican congressmen who faked their own swearings-in in front of a television this week.
Congressman Weiner joins us now live on set.
Congressman Weiner, thank you for being here.
WEINER: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Are you just busting these guys‘ chops today holding this thing up? Or do you think there is a real problem in the way the Republicans tried to fix this mistake?
WEINER: No. I believe in amnesty for the undocumented congressmen.
WEINER: You know, this was a principled thing here. I mean, for one thing, our discussion here is literally going to be longer than the debate that we had on how to fix a constitutional problem. You know, Congressman Sessions was not a casual participant of the first couple of days. He was chairing the Rules Committee as we were trying to figure out what the rules of the House were going to be. It kind of makes you wonder, you know, how do you mess that up. And it‘s a complicated issue.
I don‘t hold anything against these two guys. I mean, they obviously made a bad judgment call. You know, if you think you stand in front of the PlayStation 3 and hold your hand up doesn‘t make you a member of Congress.
But I do think that it deserves some notice that on the very same day we read the Constitution—something that I support and I think was a good idea—that we take a constitutional problem and we choose to deal with it with a rushed piece of legislation and four minutes of debate. I‘ve been in the House now 12 years. I‘ve never seen consideration of a bill limited to four minutes, two minutes on each side.
MADDOW: Well, here‘s something that seemed strange about the fix.
With this resolution, it‘s only two pages long, right? They deleted Mr.
Session‘s and Mr. Fitzpatrick‘s votes on roll calls three through eight. But apparently, everything else they did, including, as you say, chairing the Rules Committee, bills they co-sponsored, submissions they made to the congressional record, all that stuff stands—which does seems constitutionally arbitrary to me.
Some of the things they did counted and some of them don‘t?
WEINER: Yes. And it‘s also puzzling. It‘s not as if the fingerprints—you know, you always talk about, you know, what happens if you change one element of history if things would have been different. You know, Mr. Sessions was there presiding. He was making arguments and everything else. He was doing so not as a member of Congress.
WEINER: It‘s quite literally the case that for the purpose, all intents and purposes. And also, let‘s realize something, this is a constitutional requirement. This is not something—oh, we‘ll get to it some other time. This is something that is required in the Constitution and is pretty darn serious.
And I‘m not sure this might turn out to be the correct fix, but I think it shows a little bit—you know, a little bit about how carefully we‘re going to do things in the next Congress that something like this happens and not only do we fix it, we seem in such a hurry to get things done quickly on a Friday that we take this big problem we try to solve it this way. And I think it was—it was a mistake the way we handled it, but I think something else.
I think that if you‘re going to thump your chest about restoring the Constitution and the constitutional foundation for our laws, if you run into a problem like this and you‘re serious about your new edict that you‘re going to be constitutionally grounded, slam the brakes.
Let‘s make sure we get it right. Let‘s have a good conversation, maybe even refer it to the Judiciary Committee and let them have hearings on how you fix a mess like this.
Let - you know, these guys, obviously, will be able to serve in come capacity. But how do you deal with the infirmities they created?
What we should have done - we should have gone back to square one where, early enough in the session, we could have gone back and try to fix some of these things by doing them again. Anything that Mr. Sessions and Mr. Fitzpatrick were involved in should have been nullified in my view.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: There is so much talk about sort of constitutional fundamentalism by the people - particularly by the newly-elected freshman Republicans elected on the supposed tea party wave of not only a romantic appreciation of the early days of the republic, but also on this idea that the Constitution ought to be quite tightly abided to in a way that supposedly hasn‘t been.
Are there any of these tea party Republicans, these people who suddenly have such a newfound respect for the Constitution, are they making the same arguments, too? Any reception of that?
WEINER: Well, I didn‘t get any of their votes. I mean, asked for a no vote. Again, as you saw in your lead, and I just wanted to buy some time to make sure we‘re getting this right.
It‘s a pretty big precedent that we are setting here. I don‘t know -
you know, I happen to be - you know what I mean? I‘m in the camp that
thought that reading the Constitution was a salutary thing to do for some
of these new members -
WEINER: So that they can see things like the good and welfare clause exists in the Constitution. They can see what the powers of Congress, including, you know, doing things necessary for interstate commerce, that they can see that the 10th Amendment also says - has the language except as Congress deems appropriate.
You know, that‘s why I think it‘s important, but I think something else is important, that we are laying the foundation here in this early week for how the new Republican Congress is going to govern.
And apparently, they are going to say, oops, and try to gloss over mistakes that get made. I know that they are still operating in their first days and the training wheels are still on.
And I‘m not - you know, I don‘t believe that our job as Democrats is just to be there and say “gotcha.” But I do think if you are going to be the constitutional Congress, this was an early test that they failed.
MADDOW: Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, it is always good to see you. Thanks for being here.
WEINER: Thank you. My pleasure.
MADDOW: I appreciate it. When I used to think of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, I‘d think stuff like, hey, that was nice when we he used to come back on our show way back when tea party meant something else.
Or I think something like, has anybody named Tim ever run for president before? Now, when I think of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, I think of flannel shirts and axes and paper towels. I can explain. I want to explain. I shall explain. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the cover of Sarah Palin‘s book, “Going Rogue.” This is the cover of Tim Pawlenty‘s new book, “Courage to Stand.”
What do you get if you subtract Sarah Palin‘s book cover from Tim Pawlenty‘s book cover? You get the brawny man, but you get the post-gay brawny man. That old brawny man, the blond one with the mustache, the Village People YMCA brawny man - that is not the Tim Pawlenty additive he needs that this guy is going to be a viable presidential candidate.
He needs the less mustached one, if you know what I mean. Tim - sorry. The Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, wants to be a presidential contender, but he‘s polling at roughly one percent in Iowa, roughly four percent in New Hampshire.
And nobody has much of an impression about him other than his name is Tim, gosh, he seems nice. What‘s that you were saying? Is that a dog barking in the distance? I feel sleepy.
Mr. Pawlenty knows this and the way that he‘s pursuing viability for the Republican nomination appears to be, therefore, through a He-Man makeover. We saw early signs of his He-Man makeover when he started telling awkward and unprompted sex jokes about his wife at political events and in radio interviews.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): I have a wife who genuinely loves to fish. I mean, she will take the lead and ask me to go out fishing and joyfully comes here. She loves football.
She‘ll go to hockey games. And I jokingly say, “Now, if I could only get her to have sex with me, I‘d really have it made.”
I think that captures the sentiment about how I feel about first lady of Minnesota, Mary Pawlenty, who joins me, my red hot smoking wife, Mary Pawlenty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He‘s told the “Ricky, Bobby, Talladega Nights, red hot smoking wife” joke at three times in public lately. And to cover both fake NASCAR and boxing, to cover all his man sports angles, Mr. Pawlenty also recently used his wife as a campaign prop to proclaim himself to be Rocky Balboa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAWLENTY: And Mary came across the room and she grabbed me by the lapels literally and looked at me in the eye and said, “You can‘t quit. Everything we‘ve worked for, everything we stand for is going to get washed away. You got to get in there and fight. You‘ve got to move forward for Minnesota and for the conservative cause.”
And I thought, “Wow, I‘m Rocky Balboa. And this is Adrian.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: With further refinement of his tough guy re-branding, Gov.
Pawlenty writes in his new book about the way he relaxes.
Quote, “I‘ll sit at the computer when I‘m home at night and pop over to “HockeyFights.com” to watch a few of the latest videos.”
To be clear he doesn‘t watch actual hockey, just the fights. “Politico.com” excerpting from this book today that the governor says he loves, quote, “watching two guys, gloves down, helmets off, pounding each other while the ref stands back and lets it happen.”
In case the He-Man point isn‘t clear enough, Mr. Hockey Mom‘s latest self-promotional video shows him dressing up in hockey pads and skating around.
In case you are still not getting the point, consider that the ghostwriter for his new book was also the ghostwriter for Hulk Hogan. And the one excerpt of his new book that‘s posted on his Web site is about Mr. Pawlenty puking in a meat locker.
How much money is Tim Pawlenty paying some political consultant to tell him to talk about puking and to talk about political audiences - to talk to political audiences about the sex he‘s having or wants to be having with his wife?
Who is getting paid to tell Tim Pawlenty to say these things? Because this is about trying to manufacture a new authenticity for this politician, right?
Tim Pawlenty may be a lot of things as a candidate, but he‘s never going to seem like the tough-guy candidate. Tim Pawlenty is the guy who hired to do his official state portrait in Minnesota the man who also did a portrait of Britney Spears that I didn‘t expect to be a picture of who I think is John McCain there.
Tim Pawlenty is the guy who, when I asked being John McCain‘s potential mate in 2008, talked about going inner tubing. Do you remember that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How have you dealt with the additional spotlight of being on the shortlist of vice president knowing what it‘s coming down to the next few weeks?
PAWLENTY: Well, this past weekend, I was up fishing, doing a little inner tubing and some waterskiing. But other than that, I have been doing my job as governor and trying to help Sen. McCain as a volunteer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So your reaction is to tube?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tim Pawlenty‘s He-Man makeover team will never let him talk about inner tubing again. They have him inveighing against the Ground Zero mosque and talking about how much he doesn‘t want to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” have him dressed up like a cross between the paper towel man and Sarah Palin on his new book cover.
I‘m guessing that somebody is making mint off of the advice that Tim Pawlenty is getting to try to convince America that, really, despite appearances, he‘s a tough guy. I wonder if it is good advice?
Joining me now is Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for “GQ”
magazine and noted tough guy. Ana Marie -
ANA MARIE COX, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “GQ” MAGAZINE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good to see you. Thank you for your time. Is this good advice that Tim Pawlenty is getting? Does he need to seem like a tough guy in order to get this nomination?
COX: Well, I think that probably he does need a little toughening up. People have asked me whether or not this is akin to the Al Gore transformation or supposed transformation to become more masculine.
I do think what Tim Pawlenty is looking for is a “de-nice-ing.” He‘s less like Al Gore than Ned Flanders. He seems like the kind of guy you could borrow his power tools from and never give them back.
And I think that that is probably not a good presidential, you know, persona. And it is puzzling to me, I have to say. I met him on the campaign trail when he was campaigning for McCain. And actually, he is nice.
He didn‘t strike me as particularly effeminate, certainly not the kind of man who enjoyed watching men pound each other, although I think, to be fair, the brawny, mustachio guy does enjoy watching videos of men pounding each other as well.
MADDOW: I‘ll never live this down.
COX: But you know, the thing is, actually, he‘s basically a sane person.
I mean, I do think you are right to peg this as a work of consultants.
He did some very good - not progressive but moderate work in Minnesota when he worked with a Democratic legislature. And the guy that I met seemed to have rational views on climate change among other things.
And I think that that may be the real Tim Pawlenty. But it‘s true that you don‘t win a Republican primary nomination by being that kind of person. And it is unfortunate. I mean, we both have fondness for the guy. He was on your show. I know that.
MADDOW: Yes. And he was very - he was a cordial and interesting guest and somebody who I think was very challenged by me addressing him as a perceived moderate. He definitely wanted to be seen as a conservative.
And we see some of that in the remaking of his positions. He‘s taking very right-wing, very red-blooded positions on all of this culture war issues that you wouldn‘t expect him to do like the Ground Zero mosque and English only and all this stuff.
MADDOW: But it‘s interesting that you raise the Al Gore thing, because I wonder if he‘s sort of being treated like a de facto Democrat, that consultants are giving him that, you know, “Al Gore, go make out with your wife” advice that he so famously got.
COX: Maybe that‘s true. I think that that would work in Minnesota. He did win the governorship of Minnesota. It is hard to say how that will play in some places like Iowa where, as you say, he‘s only polling at one percent.
Caucus goers in Iowa need their candidate to be conservative and not just play conservative on TV. And I think they‘re going to be really exacting. I do think he has more traction in a place like New Hampshire where they are more open to moderates.
It will be interesting to see. Mitt Romney, you know, very famously tried to lose the moderate label and was, in fact, punished for it because voters saw him as insincere. I have to say, you know, Tim Pawlenty seems like many things.
He still seems sincere. He doesn‘t have that blow-dried look that Mitt Romney has. So if voters believe he‘s really changed his mind on the issues, he could do better in these Republican - in these very conservative primaries.
It will be interesting to see. And as you know, the real point of all this, Rachel, is to get people saying his name on TV.
MADDOW: That‘s true. And I will say it, even if it sometimes makes me fall asleep on camera. I think there is a chance that people will believe him that he really hates the Ground Zero mosque or whatever.
I don‘t think there is a chance anybody will ever think of him as a guy who naturally says “puke” and makes sex jokes, but he‘ll try and we‘ll be here monitor it. Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for “GQ” magazine, thank you very much, Madam.
COX: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Between Loretta Lynn, Muhammad Ali and mint juleps it is hard to imagine the Commonwealth of Kentucky providing the world with more amazingness. Imagine more amazingness, though.
Arkansas, Kentucky sees your birds falling out of the sky story and raises you a meat shower, a shower of meat, rain made of venison. True story. Props ahead.
MADDOW: See if you can guess what this story is all about. We have this and we have this and we have this. What do all these things add up to? Ponder that a moment. We will be right back.
MADDOW: This is something that‘s sort of gone down the memory hole, but it should not have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A dramatic escalation in the battle for Najaf(ph) and the control of Iraq‘s holiest city today. The battleground, sacred ground. The world‘s largest cemetery.
Fighters from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr‘s Mahdi army are using the cemetery to stage hit-and-run attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For six weeks, the battles have raged in Iraq‘s holy cities as Muqtada al-Sadr led his war to drive the U.S.-led coalition out of Iraq. His fiery sermons attracted thousands of young fighters to his Mahdi army. And American military commanders vowed to capture or kill him.
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY: The target is Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia. We will hunt them down and we will destroy them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forces loyal to the world Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, attacked a police station in Najaf. And when American troops moved in to help Iraqis defending the facility, fierce fighting broke out. Al-Sadr‘s men also fought U.S. forces in Baghdad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Loyalists of radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, battled Iraqi security and coalition forces in Najaf, taking down this U.S. helicopter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is footage from 2004 when the Mahdi army fought as a militant Shiite army in Iraq against both Iraqi forces and against U.S. troops. Do you remember that? The Mahdi army, right?
The Mahdi army were loyal to one of the only men in Iraq who every American at the time learned the name of, Muqtada al-Sadr. When Saddam Hussein was executed, you might recall, when they hanged Saddam Hussein, the executioners in the room chanted Muqtada al-Sadr‘s name.
When the U.S. Marines pulled down the Saddam statue in Baghdad, the Iraqis there chanted Muqtada al-Sadr‘s name. And then, he went on to lead his Mahdi army against the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: The Americans helped them pull it down. There was that very awkward moment where, at one stage, the Americans put an American flag on it.
MADDOW: That‘s right. I remember that. Over the face of the statue.
ENGEL: I remember it‘s like - it had ties to 9/11. It was a flag that had
been in New York. What‘s odd, and the people who were in that square at
the time - as I was listening to them cheer. They weren‘t cheering the end
of America, the end of Saddam. This is freedom, freedom. They were
yelling, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Sadr. They were cheering -
ENGEL: Sadr. They were cheering for - not Muqtada al-Sadr.
MADDOW: Muqtada‘s father.
ENGEL: Exactly. So they were cheering for a -
MADDOW: They‘re giving a Shiite sectarian chant.
ENGEL: As the statue is being pulled down. That‘s what they were yelling in there.
MADDOW: See, that wouldn‘t have made local radio either.
ENGEL: I was reporting it at the time, but I said, look, that‘s the beginning of something huge. They were not cheering American democracy. They were cheering for a Shiite cleric.
MADDOW: But in America, I mean, we were so - as Americans, we were so eager to have reflected back to us the supposed glory of the war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As they chanted for Muqtada al-Sadr‘s father. And the son has now inherited the legacy.
The one last thing that I want to tell you about this week, that happened in this week‘s news that did not happen in the U.S. but that is hugely important to the U.S., this has sort of gone down the memory hole and it didn‘t get a lot of attention.
But I think it‘s really important. One thing I‘ve got to tell you is that Muqtada al-Sadr is back now. He spent the last three years in Iran.
And Iraq has just let him come back, which means that the man who led the religious Mahdi army against U.S. troops and against Iraqi forces is back.
It means that the most famous man and maybe the most powerful man in Iraq now is a radical Shiite fundamentalist cleric.
It means that the Iraq war in the end has had the effect of taking away Iran‘s biggest enemy right there on its border and making Iraq instead into Iran west, Iran adjacent, Iran‘s greatest ally in the world. You can send your thank you cards to George W. Bush.
MADDOW: So here I am on the TV, on a cable channel called MSNBC. We have a bit of a weird relationship with a really very good Web site that is called “MSNBC.com.” What‘s weird about the relationship is that “MSNBC.com” doesn‘t really have anything to do with MSNBC on TV.
They have their own content. They do a great job. It‘s a great Web site. They‘re not only good aggregators of news from other sources, they frequently break stories. They do a lot of their own original reporting.
And today, “MSNBC.com” published the single most useful follow-up that anyone anywhere has posted anywhere to a story that got a ton of play in the last week or so.
It‘s the story of birds suddenly falling out of the sky starting on New Year‘s Eve in Arkansas. It was then followed by other similar incidents from Louisiana to Sweden leading to an understandable, if minor, freak-out.
I mean, it‘s not just dead birds which is upsetting, but it‘s birds that died in midair. I‘m not an expert on these things, but the best explanation so far, at least, for the Arkansas incident seems to be the one that involves fireworks and the unfortunate effect of sudden loud noises on red-winged blackbirds in flight.
But now, the awesome “MSNBC.com” saw the strangeness of that story and
they raised it by a factor of ick. Behold the Kentucky meat shower of 1876
yes, I said meat shower - an incident that was almost certainly nothing like what‘s happening to me right now.
So here‘s what happened. From “The New York Times” march 9th 1876, dateline Louisville. Quote, “Last Friday, a shower of meat fell near the house of Allen Crouch, who lives some two or three miles from the Olympian Springs.”
“Mrs. Crouch was out in the yard at the time engaged in making soap when meat, which looked like beef, began to fall around her. The sky was perfectly clear at the time and she said it fell like large snowflakes, the pieces, as a general thing, not being much larger than snowflakes. The meat, when it first fell, appeared to be perfectly fresh.”
So fresh that a couple of brave locals decided to eat some of the meat. Quote, “Two gentlemen who tasted the meat expressed the opinion it was either mutton or venison.” They tasted it.
Despite the reassurance from those two very brave men, samples of the windfall meat was collected, sent off to scientists for testing.
This might actually be a picture of up of the samples. It was found recently by an art professor named Kurt Gohde at Kentucky‘s Transylvania University who‘s totally into this historical scientific mystery of the Kentucky meat shower.
He said some of the samples were studied back in the day at
Transylvania U. But he says today he can actually get anybody to open up the bottle and taste it.
Another of the samples that they collected at the time went to a scientist named Dr. Meade Hunter. He wrote about the Kentucky meat shower in “Scientific American” in 1876. Dr. Hunter offered no explanation of his own about what caused the meat to fall from the sky.
But he did, by reprinting it, sort of lent credence to the local folk theory that explained what happened. Quote, “Mr. Parker informs me that the favorite theory in the locality is that it proceeded from a flock of buzzards, who, as is their custom, seeing one of its companions disgorge himself, immediately followed suit.”
“In fact, such an occurrence has been actually seen to occur, so it would seem that the whole matter is capable of a reasonable and simple explanation and we may expect to hear of similar downfalls in other localities.”
So basically the leading theory about the cause of the great Kentucky meat shower of the 19th century is buzzard vomit - peer pressure, socially-induced mass buzzard vomiting.
We could not let that go unchecked, of course, so our producers asked raptor expert Dr. Keith Bildstein from the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania about this. He says the mass vomiting theory is actually plausible.
Apparently, the birds, which would most likely have been turkey vultures or black vultures, they are prone to projectile vomiting either as a defense mechanism or to lighten up their load before flying.
Dr. Bildstein says that if all the birds in the flock were simultaneously frightened, mass upchucking could happen. The bottom line, dead birds are totally not the scariest thing to ever fall out of the sky in America.
That does it for us. Are you serious? Good night. See you - thanks.
We‘ll see you Monday.
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