The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/21/11
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Good evening. I‘m Chris Hayes. Rachel has a well-deserved night off. We will hear from her a little later in the hour.
But, first, do you remember this amazing moment from February 2009?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA: Good evening and happy Mardi Gras. I‘m Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our republic and the very chamber where Congress once led to abolish slavery, our first African-American step forward to address the state of our Union.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana who was tapped to give the official Republican response to President Obama‘s first faux State of the Union address after he was sworn into office. If you remember that speech, it‘s probably because Governor Jindal was mocked mercilessly for his Kenneth the Page-like outfit, for his overly folksy delivery.
And then do you remember this amazing moment just a year later?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, VIRGINIA: Good evening. I‘m Bob McDonnell. Eleven days ago, I was honored to be sworn in as the 71st governor of Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: See, after the disaster that was the Bobby Jindal experiment of 2009, Republicans followed up with the Bob McConnell disaster of 2010.
Hoping to castaway the demons of Bobby Jindal‘s lonely man in the mansion speech, Republicans made the odd choice of picking a guy on the job for 11 days and having him deliver his official Republican response before a live studio audience—not of Virginia legislators or fellow Republicans, but of his family, friends and, oh, yes, his donors.
For two full years now, the Republican Party has tried to elevate one of its own to give the official Republican response to Barack Obama‘s State of the Union address. And for two full years now, it‘s been one disaster after another.
But with this year‘s address just four days away, Republicans have been given another opportunity for greatness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: FOX News just confirmed that Paul Ryan is going to be delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union address by the president. This news breaking moments ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: A perfect choice, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Not only is Paul Ryan a young, articulate rising star in the Republican Party, but he is the perfect embodiment of the Republican message of fiscal discipline—the image the party wants to project right now is a pure, ideological commitment to the sacred principles of reduced spending and smaller government. Just feel down the essence of the newly ascended, reincarnated, Tea Party-infused Republican Party, that‘s essentially it at its core—smaller government, more freedom, cut spending, get government off your back.
Paul Ryan has branded himself as r as the resident intellectual of this GOP project.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: He‘s a conservative, highly regarded, very intelligent. I guess they want to stress that he is their go-to guy when it comes to perhaps slashing the budget, creating jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Republicans say they chose Ryan as a way to show the party‘s commitment to cutting the deficit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They say that Paul Ryan will address from the budget committee room where they say the Democrat spending spree will end, and Republicans push for spending cuts will begin.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: OK. So, that‘s the picture that Paul Ryan and the Republican Party want to project. It‘s what they want you to think of them. That‘s one we are attempting to have, you know, say what you want about them, I‘m not agreeing with them, but they do want smaller government. They do want spending cuts. It‘s tempting to believe that. It is really.
But when you look closer at Paul Ryan, the picture becomes a little muddy. Paul Ryan‘s claim to fame at this point is his road map for America‘s future. This road map calls for a number of quite draconian, severe, radical and drastic spending cuts to the most cherished entitlements in America, things like a partial privatization of Social Security and a voucher system for Medicare.
The weird thing is at the same time that Paul Ryan was pushing his road map which advocates for essentially dismantling Medicare, the National Republican Party was running ads like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been in Washington for only a year.
NARRATOR: And what‘s been done? He voted to gut Medicare, jeopardizing benefits for over 200,000 Colorado seniors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You see that? On the one hand, dismantle Medicare. But on the other hand, don‘t touch Medicare.
This is a little hard to square, right? I mean, the Republican Party is supposedly the party of cuts to spending and smaller government. Medicare should be target number one. It‘s a crowning achievement of the welfare state. The last massive piece of truly social Democratic legislation passed in this country.
Shouldn‘t Republicans like cuts to Medicare? I mean, why in the world is the Republican Party defending Medicare? Haven‘t they read Paul Ryan‘s road map?
The answer to that question lies a little bit further in Paul Ryan‘s record. It goes back to 2003 specifically. What did Paul Ryan do in 2003? He and the Republican Party passed a massive expansion of Medicare. A massive expansion that wasn‘t paid for, that was just larded on to the deficit, that was essentially a massive give-away to the drug companies.
Now, this would seem at first blush to be everything that Paul Ryan is against—expanding the government, increasing the deficit, getting the government more involved in health care.
The Republican Party wasn‘t forced to do this, remember. They were in the driver‘s seat in 2003. They controlled the White House and both houses of Congress at the time. So, what did Paul Ryan do when confronted with this ideological test? How did he vote?
He cast the deciding vote for the Medicare expansion. Now, in fairness, it passed the House by just one vote. So, every Republican who voted yet passed the deciding vote for it.
But why? Why would Republicans pass this massive expansion of government?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) senior center in suburban Philadelphia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I27.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Where Republicans are betting whatever prescription drug plan Congress passes will be a winning issue in next year‘s election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They talk about it more than the others. Not to get things rolling, I think. That‘s admirable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: It‘s attitudes like that that made Republicans optimistic and experts take notice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care in general, prescription drug benefits, it‘s been a Democratic issue. By seizing that issue, the president thinks, Republican think they can get a real advantage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It didn‘t matter if they were creating a whole new unpaid-for entitlement, Republicans were courting the vote of seniors. Republican Congress that Paul Ryan was a part of, the Tom DeLay/Gingrich revolution Congress, they came to town pledging to cut spending, to reduce government. But that‘s not at all what happened.
In fact, spending increased in the Bush years. Look at that. It went up and up every single year. But it was sort of spending that Republicans liked—spending for their constituencies, like the defense industry, or spending for constituencies they were trying to court like seniors.
Go back to the Reagan years—same thing, every year, spending went up. Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of fiscal conservatism, grew spending during his time in office, largely on things like defense.
So, if you look at the record rather than the rhetoric, you‘re forced to come to a simple conclusion. Republicans aren‘t against government spending in general. They are against government spending on things that don‘t benefit either their own coalition‘s interest or the political interest of those whose votes they‘re actively trying to court.
It‘s not a question of bigger government or smaller question—government. It‘s a question of who benefits from that government.
Today, House Republicans unveiled $2.5 trillion in spending cuts they‘d like to make over the next 10 years. Look at who the cuts go after. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation which provides legal aid to the poor, the Community Development Fund, USAID. It‘s all about taking money away from the constituencies that are marginalized, don‘t have power or that don‘t support the Republican Party and rewarding the constituencies that do support them or who they might support them in the future.
That Paul Ryan road map, here‘s what it does. It raises taxes—that‘s right—it raises taxes only on those Americans making between $20,000 and $200,000 a year, and slashes taxes in half for the wealthiest Americans. It eliminates the taxation of corporation income, and replaces it with a consumption tax that hits middle class Americans the most.
It hands a gift to their friends on Wall Street by partially privatizing Social Security.
See, this is the way to understand the Republican Party. Not as a party that‘s interested in reducing the deficit or spending cuts or smaller government—but as a political party that is a vehicle for the interest of certain constituencies, a party that will pursue those interests first and foremost, above and beyond whatever their supposed ideological interests are.
So, if that means $700 billion to the banks when the Republican president and congressional leadership worked hard for TARP, then it‘s $70 billion for the banks. If that means a massive unfunded expansion to Medicare to simultaneously benefit drug companies and lure seniors into their political camp, then it‘s a massive, unfunded expansion of Medicare. If that means exempting all military cuts for their friends in the defense industry, then, sure, let‘s spend $13 million on a marine fighting vehicle that even the Pentagon doesn‘t want.
The political interest should come before ideology every time. The Republicans have this narrative they want to you believe, that they are the party of small government and reduced spending. That‘s why they‘re putting up Paul Ryan to give their official response to President Obama on Tuesday. He embodies that message for them.
When you look at what they‘ve actually done in power, they in no way deserve that reputation. The only way to understand the Republican Party right now is to view it through this lens, to cast aside this false perception out there that Republicans are bound by some sort of ideological commitment to smaller government and cutting spending. They are not. They haven‘t been in the past.
And despite what you may hear from Paul Ryan on Tuesday night, they won‘t be in the future.
Joining us now is acclaimed economist and University of Texas professor, James Galbraith. Professor Galbraith‘s article titled, “Actually, the retirement age is too high,” appears in “Foreign Policy” magazine‘s 40th anniversary issue on “Unconventional Wisdom.”
Professor Galbraith, thanks so much for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.
JAMES GALBRAITH, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Good to be with you.
HAYES: So, Professor, Congressman Paul Ryan is touted as one of the leading spending, deficit hawks and his support of these policies in the past. How do you square this? How do you see this? How do they bridge this sort of gap between ideology and reality?
GALBRAITH: Well, you gave an analysis that I could hardly improve on, particularly considering that a few year ago, I published a book that was entitled “The Predator State” and the subtitle was, “How Conservatives Abandon the Free Market and Why Liberals Should, Too,” making essentially the same point that this is a practice of the Republican Party, but also to some degree it‘s not strictly a partisan matter—
GALBRAITH: – to expand government and do so in ways that are targeted to the most important constituencies. Medicare Part D being a prime example of that.
Now, we will see how they square—one of the interesting questions going forward is how they square the attack on Social Security and Medicare that‘s part of Congressman Ryan‘s playbook with the defense of those two programs that seems to be embodied in the refusal of the Republican study group to go after those two programs. So, that‘s going to be, I think, a very interesting question to focus attention on.
HAYES: That seems to be where the rubber hits the road because it‘s so clear, you know, we have this sort of iconic image of the Tea Party rally to keep the government hands off my Medicare. And we know from demographic data that the constituency that supports the most sort of—the most conservative electorate is also the oldest demographically. That really hits it home.
How do you see them? Who‘s going to win that battle, the ideologues or the people that want to keep those votes in line?
GALBRAITH: Well, I hope what happens is that the Democrats who are still present on the fringes of this scene embrace the Republican defense of Social Security and Medicare. These are, after all, two very successful, very efficient programs that protect an extremely important part of the population from the worst effects of the economic crisis. So, if we can establish bipartisan consensus on defending those programs, then we can have a very interesting discussion about the feasibility of achieving massive cuts in the rest of the budget, which, practically speaking, would have catastrophic social effects in this country if they actually went ahead with what was in the package of proposals they put forward.
HAYES: Yes, let‘s talk about the Republican Study Committee proposed cutting $2.5 trillion in government spending over 10 years on domestic programs. Very notably, they excluded the military and they excluded Social Security and Medicare, the sort of social insurance programs.
How much fiscal sense did that make? If that‘s how you want to cut spending, if you exclude those, what are you really left with?
GALBRAITH: Well, what it means is that they are focusing their proposed cuts on, for example, transportation budgets so that, for example, they proposed a massive cut in the operations of the Washington subway system. Now, that‘s going to have the effect—one of two effects, either you have to cut the service dramatically or you have to raise the price.
If you rate either way, what would happen is that people who—people would abandon the subway for the cars and the city would become far less livable than it is now. So, that scenario would play out in every major urban area in the country. It played out in New York and Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago—every place that relies on mass transit.
The principle here would be, what they‘re doing essentially is engaging in an ancient exercise they won a battle and now, they‘re slaughtering the prisoners. This is a—you know, something that was traditional in North America under the Aztecs, but is somewhat fallen in this sense.
HAYES: Well, I think may be dinged in our new civility era for the metaphor.
Professor James Galbraith, thanks so much for your insight on a Friday night. I really appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
GALBRAITH: Good to be with you.
HAYES: So, who protects the Environmental Protection Agency?
Plus, state governors gone wild, the latest on the attempted bombing in Spokane and the new oversight committee chairman‘s high-quality government video. Apparently, he‘s also the chairman of the new unintended irony committee. That‘s all coming up.
HAYES: Later, Rachel talks to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the Citizens United debacle and the Democrats‘ chances for an electoral rebound in 2012. Stay with us.
HAYES: If you heard of Joe Manchin, it‘s probably for one of the three reasons. Perhaps you live in West Virginia. Mr. Manchin was the very popular governor of the great state of West Virginia and is now the state‘s junior senator after replacing the late Senator Robert Byrd last year.
Or if you follow this show closely last year, you might remember Mr. Manchin for his “no” vote heard around the world. The senator voted against repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
If neither of those biographical facts about Joe ring a bell, this one might. He approved and paid for what just might be the single greatest political ad of the 2010 election cycle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I‘m Joe Manchin. I approved this ad because I will always defend West Virginia. As your senator, I‘ll protect our Second Amendment rights. That‘s why the NRA endorsed me. I‘ll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our backs and out of our pockets. I‘ll cut federal spending and I‘ll repeal the bad parts of Obamacare. I sued the EPA and I‘ll take dead aim at the cap-and-trade bill, because it‘s bad for West Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Every time I watch that, I want to whisper, “Joe, dude, the bill is already dead. You don‘t have to shoot it.”
But, nonetheless, that is how Joe campaigned in the special election to fill Robert Byrd‘s seat. He said he‘d be anti-environment and he bragged about it. He is turning out to be a man of his word.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed a permit for a mine in West Virginia that would have been the state‘s largest mountaintop removal operation.
Mountain top removal is the rare technical term that means exactly what it sounds like it means. It literally blows up the top of mountains to make the coal easier to reach. The stuff blown apart, only gets dumped into nearby rivers and streams and seeps into the local water supply.
If that sounds ghastly, just wait because it gets worse. Mountain top removal is an automated system, meaning that ubiquitous mining company A doesn‘t mean to employ as many miners to do the mining. If this weren‘t such a civil time in political discourse, you can even call it job-killing mountain top removal.
So, bad for the environment, bad for public health, bad for jobs—a no-brainer for a politician, except for the fact that it has been common wisdom for decades that mining is the undisputed third royal of politics in West Virginia. Republicans and Democrats, they all vote for mining interests as predictably as residents of Wisconsin cheer for the Green Bay Packers. Who lose, by the way? But I digress.
So, that is why Joe Manchin announced that as his very first piece of legislation, his very first bill, his very first big move as Senator Joe Manchin, he‘s going to be revoke the EPA‘s authority to issue these kinds of vetoes.
The EPA does not use these vetoes often. It uses them only in extraordinary circumstances, just 13 times in the last 39 years. Why? Because we as a country decided we didn‘t want to have the Cuyahoga River on fire.
When Joe Manchin got elected this past November, the best thing liberals and progressives could say about him was, hey, at least he‘s not his Republican opponent John Reese who wants to eliminate the minimum wage. But now it seems like the best thing we can say about Mr. Manchin is, hey, he is running a great campaign to replace Joe Lieberman as the Democrat you can always count on to carry water for the Republicans.
Joining us now is “New York Times” energy reporter Matthew Wald.
MATTHEW WALD, NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, Chris.
HAYES: Thanks for joining us.
So, the conventional wisdom at West Virginia was—West Virginia politicians, in mining, is that no matter what your party your affiliate with, you pretty much have to always vote for the mining interest. But as of 2008, as I was looking at a chart today, a relatively small number of the jobs in the state were mining, around 20,000 down from 150,000 at the peak.
And I wonder if that has impacted the political calculus. Is it residual essentially?
WALD: I think West Virginia is not unusual. Energy is not really a partisan subject around the country. The fuels differ, the conditions differ, and whether you‘re a Republican or a Democrat, you tend to favor local industry.
This was—this mountain top removal would have been 250 jobs and the number of jobs is getting smaller. But it‘s still part of the economic life blood of the state.
HAYES: Yes, and it‘s important and I don‘t want to minimize. I mean, 250, a lot of work particular in these conditions, I understand.
HAYES: If I were them, I would be writing letters to my senator. But Robert Byrd who is arguably the most influential politician in the history of the state of West Virginia, at the end of his life, he called the coal industry‘s strangle hold on politics morally indefensible.
So, do you have to be a thousand term senator in West Virginia in order to say something like that?
WALD: It‘s possible. But none of it strikes me as unusual. In fact, the coal industry maybe is stronger in West Virginia than elsewhere. But their energy is always a big deal wherever it is. Those companies have lots of employees. They are entrenched politically within their states. It‘s maybe more so in West Virginia, but nobody goes against his local energy company.
HAYES: So, if that is the case, no one goes against their local energy company and there‘s coal extraction in a lot more states in West Virginia. I know when I was in Illinois covering coal there. President Obama, when a senator from Illinois, was a proponent of clean coal, because coal interest matter in Illinois.
HAYES: What does that mean for the big issue for coal which is a cap and trade, that bill that Joe Manchin so bravely put a bullet through?
WALD: Well, we‘re not going to get that bill anyway. But let me turn this around slightly. Oil is extremely powerful in the state where is there is a lot of oil. Look at what‘s going on in the Gulf of Mexico right now, is which, we got the federal government trying to go slow on resumption of deepwater drilling and local politicians in Louisiana, in places were hit by the oil, are saying you‘re killing us. Let‘s get started already.
HAYES: So, if that‘s the case, then what is the way out of the straight jacket? I mean, if there is no defying these various energy interests and there‘s a recognition that we need to change our energy mixture, what is the political path out of that? Is it EPA regulation?
WALD: Well, there is a difference between state and federal politics.
In fact what the EPA did on this mountain top removal permit wasn‘t a veto. They actually reversed themselves. In the Bush administration, the permit was issued and what made it so unusual was they yanked it back again.
There is a changing national political climate and it‘s changing faster than the state political climate, but all over the country, we had these arguments between the broader interests of the whole country and the more particular interests of a state. And part of our federal system is this stuff gets argued back and forth. This particular one is going to end up getting argued in federal court.
HAYES: “New York Times” energy reporter, Matthew Wald—thank you so much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.
WALD: Thank you.
HAYES: There‘s a whole new crop of Republican governors out there and they are out there. Just when did kiss my butt become acceptable political discourse?
HAYES: Earlier this week, new governors gone wild. We featured Maine‘s brand new governor, Republican Paul LePage. Last Friday, LePage started a beef with the NAACP saying he wouldn‘t attend two of their MLK events and telling them this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: And what‘s your response to them saying this is more than just one instance, but rather a pattern?
GOV. PAUL LEPAGE ®, MAINE: Tell them to kiss my butt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Well, if you are a newspaper editor, there‘s probably your headline. But focusing on that colorful comment ended up burying the lead, because right before all that talk of the kissing and the butts, the governor said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEPAGE: They invited me to go to the state prison to meet black prisoners. I told them, I would go, I‘d more than happy to go. But I would meet all prisoners. They didn‘t—that wasn‘t acceptable to them. So, tough luck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What prison invitation is he talking about? Well, in June, the civil rights group had invited then-candidate LePage to a candidate forum at Maine state prison, to meet with—wait for it—all the prisoners, not just the black ones. And if you don‘t have to take the NAACP‘s word for it because they still have the e-mail they sent in June to LePage inviting him to participate in the forum. They also kept his reply, stating that he was, quote, “already committed” on that date and was unable to attend.
Earlier this week, they released those e-mails to the “Portland Press Herald” who authenticated them and reported they contradict the governor‘s story. The newspaper also reports that there was nary a mention of race. Not one.
Governor LePage‘s spokesperson blamed the snafu on a misunderstanding and told a news radio station in Portland that quote, “we need to do a better job of communicating.” On that, Mr. Governor, we are in full agreement.
Another newly elected governor is communicating his intentions a little more clearly. Tennessee‘s new chief executive, Republican governor Bill Haslam issued an executive order earlier this week—get this—eliminating the outside earnings disclosure rule that his predecessor had instituted for the governor and his senior aides.
Why was this such an urgent task for Mr. Haslam? Well, you ever pass one of these, a Pilot Travel Center, the gas stations and truck stops that are a familiar site for many along the turnpike? Mr. Haslam‘s dad founded Pilot Corp which now has annual revenues hovering around $20 billion.
The governor himself worked for Pilot Corp before starting his political career. Mr. Haslam is not drawing a salary from the state, as he said he wouldn‘t, however he is refusing to disclose earnings from outside sources, citing privacy concerns for family members and proprietary ones for Pilot Corp.
This just isn‘t about Mr. Haslam‘s family business. That earnings disclosure rule is not about prying into family finances, it‘s a safeguard against corruption.
Now, Tennessee voters will likely never know what he is earning from Pilot or from any other corporate interest doing business with the state. Governor Haslam promised a transparent government. Maybe someone should e-mail him with a link to dictionary.com.
HAYES: In the latest “NBC News Wall Street Journal” poll, 71 percent of those asked think we will leave Afghanistan without a stable democratic government. And 82 percent think the situation in Afghanistan over the past few months has either stayed the same or gotten worse.
As for what will happen in congress vis-a-vis the war, that‘s precisely what Rachel Maddow asked minority leader Nancy Pelosi this week.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Let me ask you about one last issue. And I encourage you to tell me I‘m wrong if you disagree with the premise—
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: O.K.
MADDOW: – but I think that this year Republicans will try to split Democrats on the issue of the war in Afghanistan. I think they are anticipating a more hawkish stance from the president on Afghanistan than they think that you and other Democrats in congress will be able to go along with.
Do you think that‘s correct? How do you see the issue of the Afghanistan war playing out this year?
PELOSI: I really don‘t see it as a political or a partisan issue.
There will be those who—we don‘t know what the president will present
We know there is significant unease in the country about what our goals are there and how is it in the interest of our national security and what are the metrics—how are the metrics being met in terms of progress there. But I don‘t see it as something that would be divisive.
I think on both sides of the aisle, people will have their views about the length of time we should stay there, the commitment of troops. This is a place where we have spent so much in terms of the lives of our young people, the public treasury in terms of the dollars, which are insignificant compared to the lives of our young people, their health when they come back.
The attempts to meet security needs, construction needs. I don‘t want to say reconstruction because there isn‘t that much there in Afghanistan to begin with. A regional approach to how we do the geopolitics of the region to make sure that our national interest is served, and that‘s why we‘re there, and the corruption issue which is overwhelming. It‘s overwhelming.
So all of these have to be addressed and they have been. Now let‘s see what progress we‘re making, and people will make their own decision. We don‘t even ask people on a war vote. People have their views on the subject. They‘re very clear about it.
So we don‘t have to say vote for the president on this. We gave him a chance when he first came in, to say—give him a chance to make his own plan. Now we will see what that is.
MADDOW: In terms of your own view, if come July there has not been substantial progress, qualitative progress on some of the measures you described, things like corruption in the Afghan government, Afghan governance, the strength of extremism in that region, if things have not substantially gotten better or if they have in fact gotten worse, is that then a reason to stay longer or is that a reason to come home more quickly?
PELOSI: Let me just separate some of those issues. First of all, we will begin the deployment of troops out of Afghanistan come this summer, as we know. What that rate of return home is, we shall see, and it will probably relate to some of the criteria that you mentioned.
But corruption is—I was there Mother‘s Day—I‘m about to go—I wanted to say soon—I can‘t say when. I was there on Mother‘s Day. We visited our moms in the military, the grand moms in the military, but we also visited everyone, all of the troops.
But we went far away, to Kandahar and then beyond, an hour by helicopter into remote areas to talk to women. And women—the poorest women that we met there were practically beggars—maybe last year they were beggars, this year they‘re separating raisins from twigs and making a living doing that.
They were so wise. They said to us, “We want all of these things, education and health care for our daughters, and the rest, but we can‘t have that without security.” And they went on to say, “We can‘t have security unless we end corruption.” In the remotest parts of Afghanistan, they understood that the corruption issue is corrosive.
MADDOW: Is our presence there making it better or worse?
PELOSI: Depends on who you ask, but hopefully it‘s making it better.
But not in every instance.
But it‘s something that the president, the vice president, I as speaker at the time, and others have tried to impress upon the Afghan government, that this has to change. Because it‘s not just—it‘s not penny ante corruption. Give me five dollars to cross the road.
It‘s systemic corruption and, you know what? It‘s our money. A lot is our money. So now they‘re saying, “Well you‘re putting all this money here, so you‘re contributing to corruption.” Well, that‘s I think almost silly.
But what we‘re trying to do is help win the hearts and minds, build
roads, schools, clinics and the rest of that. And you know what? This war
you know, with all of rest of it, of course we have to act in our national security, what protects the American people. Our first responsibility is to keep them safe.
But the fact is we can‘t afford this war, endlessly unpaid for, in addition to our other security obligations. So at some point there‘s going to have to be a moment where we say, “Can we do this better another way or are we getting results? Let‘s see.” But it‘s very controversial, Afghanistan.
MADDOW: And you think we are capable of having a robust, sound debate on that without it being party line, without it being partisan?
PELOSI: I think so. I mean, I certainly hope so. It is about our national security, and that‘s our responsibility to the American people.
And the issue of fighting terrorism is something that the American people support our doing, that we have to do. Is this the best use of our resources to get that done? President Karzai, is he a reliable partner? He seems to be the only partner.
But again, all of these things have to be put on the table for us to review, because this cannot be endless. Then you have the issue of the debt ceiling. The Republicans are saying, well, they don‘t want to raise the debt ceiling.
Well what does that mean? They want us to stay in Afghanistan? They want us to stay in Iraq—what does that mean?
That we don‘t take care of our troops where they are if they—if we don‘t have resources to do that, that we don‘t—are not responsible in terms of the national debt, that we‘re not responsible in terms of sending out social security checks, paying our troops, those kinds of things?
So they have to see that the budget is a binder in all of these things and we have to establish what our priorities are and what the best way is to do the job that we must do, protect the American people, create jobs, reduce the deficit, educate the public, invest in innovation for the future, to be the great country that we are.
But that Afghanistan situation slows us down. It slows us down.
MADDOW: Leader Pelosi, you are as busy as you ever have been and I‘m very grateful for this time with you.
PELOSI: It was my pleasure.
MADDOW: Thank you.
PELOSI: Thank you, Rachel. It‘s wonderful to see you.
MADDOW: Good luck.
PELOSI: Thank you.
HAYES: The infamous Citizen‘s United ruling turns one today. Instead of blowing out a lone birthday candle on set, we‘re going to play you a portion of Rachel‘s interview with minority leader Pelosi, where she discusses the best democracy money can buy. Stick around.
HAYES: Darrell Issa has bragged about his ability to play the media.
I‘ve seen his videos, and trust me, we‘re not the ones getting played.
We‘ll show you next.
HAYES: There‘s an old beltway joke—the most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a microphone. You know, because the senior senator from New York is notorious for Friday afternoon press conferences, for loving to talk to the media, but of course he has a lot of competition in our nation‘s capitol.
Certain politicians gain the reputation of having specific affection for the press, an intense ardor, if you will, for the attention of the fourth estate. Michele Bachmann, obviously, can never pass up the opportunity to be in front of a camera.
In fact, she‘ll be giving her own response to the president‘s State of the Union address on Tuesday. Not the official Republican response, Michele Bachmann‘s response.
Right now, the person who‘s grasping to be crowned king of all Washington media attention-seekers, which is a difficult title to earn, is the one and only Darrell Issa. The Republican congressman from California has sought attention for so long that when he ran a car alarm company, he used his own voice as part of the alarm system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did hear somewhere that you were actually the voice.
CAR ALARM RECORDING: Protected by Viper, stand back.
REP. DARRELL ISSA ®, CALIFORNIA: That rumor continues to be pervasive, but yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So will you do the voice for us now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, please?
ISSA: Sure. Protected by Viper. Stand back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Darrell Issa‘s 27-year-old whiz kid spokesman recently bragged to a reporter from the New Yorker about his ability to play the media. Quote, “There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word.”
He went on, quote, “I‘m going to make Darrell Issa an actual political figure. I‘m going to focus like a laser beam on the five hundred people here who care about this crap.” And that‘s it.
Of course that kind of strategy can sometimes go very weirdly awry, because it just so happens that this same 27-year-old whiz kid press guy gave a telephone interview to Howie Kurtz back in November. Only, Kurtz somehow thought he was talking to Congressman Issa himself.
All of which gave rise to perhaps the most bizarre and embarrassing correction in recent memory. It was sort of like, “Remember when I did that interview with Darrell Issa? Well, turns out he didn‘t refer to himself in the third person. Also, I didn‘t do an interview with Darrell Issa.”
And now on the next frontier of Darrell Issa, Inc., the total Darrell Issa experience, comes this amazing video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISSA: I‘m Darrell Issa, the top watch dog in the new House of Representatives. And my mission is to shape a government where you can see, hassle-free, what Washington actually does with your money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Despite the look and feel and soundtrack of this new Darrell Issa video, it was not, as far as we know, made on an elevator or at a cruise ship in the year 1993. In it, Darrell Issa is not trying to sell you a used car or even a car alarm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISSA: The House Republicans pledge to America, I want to share a first step we‘re taking to deliver the government openness you deserve. Today you can visit this link to watch high-quality video of every oversight committee hearing since 2009.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: No, Darrell Issa is trying to sell you Darrell Issa. And maybe also some really boring videos he put on YouTube.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISSA: Going forward, we‘ll keep sharing high-quality videos of tough oversight work. Congress speaker John Boehner, transparency through technology will be crucial to shaping a government that does more with less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Going forward, Darrell Issa will also be sharing himself on television, on the radio, in the newspapers, and even, as you can see, on the Internet.
If that doesn‘t make Darrell Issa more beloved by the American people, his 27-year-old whiz kid spokesman will make phone calls to every single one of those five hundred people who give a crap, until all anyone in Washington can talk about is Darrell Issa.
HAYES: That should be our new theme music. Today marks the one-year anniversary of what may very well be the worst thing to happen to American democracy in my lifetime.
In the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 margin, invalidated long-standing restrictions on corporate campaign donations involving individual races. The result was that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of their money on the politicians most likely to give business what business wants.
And because corporations see so much of the Democratic party‘s agenda as being against their unfettered interest in making money, they spent many, many millions on getting Republicans elected. Conservative PACs won the money race by a ratio of 6 to 1.
Last year Democrats tried to pass new regulations on corporate donations. Congressman Chris Van Hollen got the Disclose Act passed in the House.
It would have required companies to, at the very least, well, disclose, just how much they were giving and to whom. But it died in the Senate, where it had been championed by Senator Charles Schumer.
This week, Rachel got a chance to ask former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi whether her Democratic party has any chance of leveling the playing field.
MADDOW: When you look at the list of accomplishments, at the things that you were able to pass in the House, particularly the things that also passed in the Senate, the health reform, Wall Street reform, stimulus, repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” credit card reform, the National Service Act, the 9/11 First Responders Bill—
PELOSI: Willie Ledbetter.
MADDOW: Willie Ledbetter, student loan reform, and many others.
PELOSI: Thank you.
MADDOW: I don‘t want to re-litigate the last election, but is it possible that Democrats lost the House in the last election because of the political capital that had to be spent to accomplish that much?
PELOSI: Let me say this. When we did all the things that you talked about, you‘re talking about big oil, you‘re talking about big health insurance industry, you‘re talking about big banks, you‘re talking about Wall Street, credit card bill you didn‘t mention.
Many of these things that gave leverage—I keep using that word, leverage—to consumers. Biggest consumer protection bill in history. Banks didn‘t like that and they‘re still trying to resist it. And so you‘re going after the special interest, you throw a punch, you better be prepared to take one.
There was endless money spent, unidentified, undisclosed money on the outside coming into these campaigns, using all kinds of other issues, but largely because of how it affected them. Whether it was taxes for the rich, as opposed to balancing the—you know, reducing the deficit.
So I believe that the big money came in because the big money thought it was the cost of doing business, and they spent a fortune.
MADDOW: If your analysis about special interests weighing in to defeat Democrats—because they took hits from the Democratic agenda—if that is true, doesn‘t that bode not well for Democrats heading into the next election and the post-Citizens United environment, special interests have—particularly corporate interests—have more free reign to spend both anonymously and freely than they have ever had before. How can Democrats compete if their agenda is the kind of agenda that irks the special interests?
PELOSI: Well, I think we have to use the power of communication. We have to—people power, we have to make sure that we are communicating in a way that people who are affected on the positive side of what we did understand what is at risk for them.
And I don‘t—I think that we did have a very ambitious agenda. I know that the people who were special interests knew that they got—they took a big hit with that, and now they were using their resources to—I don‘t have—what‘s an expression that I could use that would be courteous in this era of civility. But they could make a difference using their dollars.
Around this time last year it was thought that the Republicans could never win the election because we had outraised them, we had out-energized them, we had the issues on our side, really, and then the Supreme Court decision and then, as you know, the president mentioned it at the State of the Union, and then the decision that they made to put endless money.
But you know what? Whatever the situation is, we have to deal with it. We cannot let our democracy be bought. We have to fight back on that.
And I think that maybe what we failed to do in the election, which was to make the proper contrast, and to say this is what is in store for you if the Republicans are in power, may be more eloquently portrayed by the Republicans in the actions that they take. And let them be themselves.
And God willing, they‘ll do something good for the American people. God bless them if they do, we hope they will. Solve problems for the American people, create jobs.
But if their job creation is tax cuts for the wealthy, which is what it has been up until now, which has not created jobs, then this is—it will be clearer to the public by the actions of the Republicans than the words of the Democrats.
HAYES: With all respect to Congresswoman Pelosi, who served as the most effective House speaker in a generation, she‘s got no choice but to hope the Democrats can win with better messaging or better policy.
Because neither the Republican-controlled House nor the Republican-throttled Senate is about to pass new campaign finance laws. Meanwhile, even if the Democrats win the policy arguments, they‘ll keep losing elections because they‘ll have so much less money.
Big money swamps good policy because big money buys air time and glossy mailers and campaign strategists. In politics, money makes you real. If, that is, the rules allow it to do that. And the rules do.
In fact, they did even before Citizens United. That ruling took a bad state of affairs and, through a kind of dark jurisprudential alchemy, transformed it into a disaster. The Citizens United ruling, one year old today, has further cemented a deep structural problem in American democracy.
It can‘t be fixed by better arguments about policy, it can only be fixed by radically re-conceptualizing how it is we fund elections in this country. And radical restructuring is not something of much interest to a Republican party who just won a big electoral victory thanks to the new status quo.
That leaves one side at an almost permanent disadvantage and more importantly, it leaves our democracy much, much the poorer.
All right, that does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back on Monday, but you can see her tonight on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO. You can read more of my work at TheNation.com or follow me on Twitter, user name chrislhayes.
Have a great weekend. Good night.
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