The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/14/11

Guests:
Dr. Mila Means, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Dan Rather
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thanks very much.

And thanks to you at home for sticking around with us this hour.

           

In 1993, this woman, her name is Shelley Shannon, walked up to a car in a parking lot at a medical clinic in Wichita, Kansas, and she shot the driver.  She shot the driver of the car she walked up to.  The driver was the doctor who ran that medical clinic.  She shot him through both arms.  The doctor survived the shooting and the very next day, he returned to work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. GEORGE TILLER, MEDICAL DOCTOR:  You know, I‘m just like my patients.  You know, last night, I got shot and I was scared, but there was somebody there to take care of me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The woman who shot that doctor in both arms got letters and visits in prison from a whole lot of people who said they agreed with what she did, and they wanted to support her in having tried to kill that doctor.

One of the people who visited Shelley Shannon in prison, and made friends with her on the basis of his admiration for her crime was this man.  Sixteen years after Shelley Shannon shot Dr. George Tiller in Kansas, Scott Roeder shot him, too.  Scott Roeder shot him point-blank in the head, at Dr. Tiller‘s church and killed him.

A couple things have happened in this story since then.  First, Mr.  Roeder was tried and convicted.  Like Shelley Shannon before him, he was visited and got correspondents from a whole bunch of people said they agreed with him, that murder was the right thing to do in this instance, that it‘s a justifiable way for one side to get what they want in the fight over abortion rights in America.

Two of the people who testified as character witnesses for Mr. Roeder at his sentencing wanted to make their case in court that it was right to kill that doctor.  That one legitimate way to get what you want in this country is to kill the people on the other side of the debate.  The judge essentially shut them down from making that case but they made it to the press and to anybody else who would listen.

You may also remember from when this story broke that the radical anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue, their phone number was found on a piece of paper on the dashboard of the killer‘s car when he was pulled over just hours after the murder.

Now, the Feminist Majority Foundation is an organization that tracks threats and violence against clinics.  A legal coordinator for that foundation attended an anti-abortion rally last month, who‘s put on by the Maryland Coalition for Life, it was held at a church in Germantown, Maryland.  The foundation reports that the operation of Operation Rescue, this group that had its phone number found in the car of the man who killed Dr. Tiller, the president of Operation Rescue was there last month, bragging in a speech about how Wichita, Kansas, had been made abortion-free.

They are right, that since the assassination of Dr. Tiller, abortion, as far as we know, has become unavailable in that city and in that part of Kansas.  The family decided to—the family of Dr. Tiller decided to close the doctor‘s clinic and another one has not opened in Wichita to replace it.

So, here‘s the question that matters—that looms over all this, regardless of how you feel about the abortion issue: is murder an effective political tactic in the United States in 2009, 2010, 2011?  If there‘s a political movement that preaches that killing people is a just and appropriate way to achieve your desired political ends—how do we as a country react when some extreme member of that extreme political movement actually follows through and really does kill someone?

It was May 31st, 2009, when a man who provided abortion services in Kansas was killed because he did that.  Nobody has openly provided abortion services in that city since then.  The movement to which the extremist who killed him belonged is now bragging about the effectiveness of their tactics at stopping abortion in Wichita.

And now, we can report exclusively that the same tactics of intimidation, harassment and the implicit threat of force are being used to keep anybody from replacing the doctor who was killed.  Again, regardless of how you feel about abortion, are we OK as a country with this being the way this issue gets decided?

In December, “The Associated Press” reported that two Wichita doctors were training to provide abortion services.  The doctors‘ names were leaked to the press by the anti-abortion movement and the “A.P.” inexplicably decided to publish them, even though it did not necessarily advance the story.

The protest at the doctor‘s offices against them potentially providing abortions at some point in the future started immediately.  And after a lawsuit filed by her landlord, one of these two doctors is now looking for another facility to move to, one where she‘ll be able to set up enough security to be able to provide this supposedly constitutionally protected legal service.

But there‘s more.  In October and November of last year, you may remember we reported on the disturbing reemergence of one of the most notorious tactics of the extreme pro-violent edge of this movement, the wanted poster, or the pseudo-wanted poster.  It used to happen a lot.

Before Dr. David Gunn was murdered, there was a “wanted” poster about him.  Before Dr. John Britton was murdered, the radical anti-abortion movement had a “wanted” poster out targeting him.  Before Dr. Tiller was shot the first time in 1993, it is believed this “wanted” poster targeting him was being circulated in anti-abortion circles.

And this past fall, we reported on the return of that tactic.  In North Carolina, these wanted posters targeting abortion doctors there.  Posters call them killers.  They show their photos.  They list their offices and in some cases, their home addresses.

One of the doctors targeted by the posters told us that he saw the poster very clearly as a threat against his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It reminds me of the old Wild West wanted posters.  That‘s the way I took it.  The poster itself is a call for my murder.  The poster itself, I think, is targeting that person who has a personality that‘s already borderline and will see this as a message to do some harm.  That is the purpose of the poster.  And if anything happens to me, that‘s what‘s going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  A doctor in North Carolina speaking to us a couple of months ago, his identity severely shielded for his own safety at his request.

A member of the same group that put up the wanted posters that targeted that doctor in North Carolina is now doing it in Wichita, too.  They‘re doing it by e-mail, but you recognize the format, right?  The grainy photo; the exact address of where to find the doctor.

We blocked all this out, but assure you, the information is very specific.  I have seen it.  It includes not only the address but the cross streets.  It also includes an instruction that this doctor should get visits at her office or at her home.  The doctor described as an unspeakable, horrific murderer who earns blood money for violently slaying the innocent.

Again, it lists the address of her office.  It says, “Don‘t ignore her.  Do provoke her.”

The supposedly more mainstream anti-abortion movement under the banner of Kansans for Life is now doing all but the same thing—naming the doctor, calling her practice a killing center, denouncing her as grave evil, publishing her exact address, describing it as a place for killing children.  Kansans for Life recently convened a prayer meeting to pray or to stop this doctor‘s practice.  They convened the prayer meeting at a middle school literally around the corner from where Dr. George Tiller was murdered.

After the last murder of an abortion provider by this radical movement that promotes killing American doctors in order to get its way, this is at least the seventh doctor or clinic worker they have killed.  What did we think the affect would be of that murder?  What did we think the effect would be of George Tiller‘s murder?

Are we doing anything to stop this movement of using physical intimidation and threats and harassment and murder—we generally lump those under the category of terrorism—what are we doing as a country to get them to not get their way?  Or are the doctors who are willing to provide this service still just on their own, with their face on wanted posters and we‘re just waiting to see what happens next?

Joining us now is Dr. Mila Means.  She‘s the Wichita doctor whose plans to begin providing abortions have made her the target of protests, a lawsuit and those very disturbing emails you just saw.

Dr. Means, I know this was not an easy for you to join us tonight. 

Thank you for doing so.

DR. MILA MEANS, WICHITA FAMILY PRACTITIONER:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  First of all, I guess I should feel like—I guess I feel like I should ask you how you are holding up, and what went into your decision to talk publicly about this?

MEANS:  I think I‘m holding up well.  My decision is I had too many patients since Dr. Tiller‘s murder who were unable to get their legally rightful services if they were having a pregnancy that was causing their life and their health problems.

MADDOW:  As for these—the threats that you have received, and I can see—I see these e-mails as threats, these ones from these guys responsible for the wanted posters in North Carolina.  What did you think when you first saw this e-mail?  I saw it as a threat to you.  Did you see it that way as well?

MEANS:  Yes.  I think they‘re clear threats there.  I‘m hoping that they acted so quickly to put Scott Roeder away that people will think more about whether they want to destroy their own life before proceeding in a violent fashion.

MADDOW:  In terms of this lawsuit that you‘ve been contending with, I know you‘ve recently come to agreement with your landlord, and it, as far as I understand, that an agreement that involves you looking for another place to practice medicine.  Are you satisfied with that agreement?  Do you feel bullied by this process?  How do you feel about that situation now?

MEANS:  We actually were looking for two to three months before the lawsuit, and my landlord knew that.  I felt very much that the lawsuit was a tactic of the anti-abortion movement in Wichita.  Its effect has been that there are some realtors and properties that wouldn‘t even talk to us or let us look at a property that‘s been opened for two to three years now.

MADDOW:  Do you think that you‘re going to be able to relocate your practice in Wichita?

MEANS:  I am hoping that there is some corner of this city that is willing to take a chance on us and realize that we will be providing security for staff and our patients.

MADDOW:  In terms of your decision to do this, you mentioned at the top that it was essentially medical concern for your patients who didn‘t have anywhere else to go.  Do you feel like that what‘s happened since you made this decision, the way this has played out thus far and the reaction thus far, do you feel like it‘s worth it?  Are you glad you made this decision?

MEANS:  I am glad and I think women deserve their rights in this state.  And a lot of the rights in Kansas are very behind the times.  And it, in fact, spurs me forward.

MADDOW:  The reason that felt like this is a national story, that this is a story that‘s about much more than Wichita, much more than Kansas, is that it seems like this is—this is—this is an issue on which one very far-fringed side of the debate has decided that violence is the way they‘re going to get what they want, either by directing violence individually at people on the other side of this debate, or by simply creating such a physically threatening climate that people are intimidated and won‘t do it.

Do doctors who are considering making the decision that you‘ve made talk about that threatening environment as a determinative factor about what kind of medicine they‘re going to practice, where they are going to practice medicine, whether they‘re going to offer abortion services?

MEANS:  I really haven‘t talked to a lot of other doctors in this community that would even consider it, so it‘s not come up in conversation.  Certainly, the person that has been helping me train is very committed to women‘s appropriate healthcare and has been a real leader and mentor for me.

MADDOW:  Can I just ask what happens next for you, Dr. Means?

MEANS:  Well, right now, we just are looking intensively and continuing to train so that we can make sure and keep women in our community healthy.

MADDOW:  Dr. Mila Means, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  As I said, I know it wasn‘t an easy decision and I wish you all the best of luck.

MEANS:  You‘re welcome.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  OK.  Last week, we sent a really, really large letter, a physically large letter to Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill.  We were hoping for a reply, but we weren‘t sure it would reach her.  Lo and behold, Senator McCaskill saw our 19th century communique and raised us a phone call.  Missouri senior senator has generously decided to join us live on this show live tonight to talk military spending cuts, budget deficits and our cartoonishly large envelope.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Senator Claire McCaskill and legendary newsman Dan Rather—all ahead.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Want to see how a war ends?  We have a picture of it.  Check this out—the figure that you‘re looking at is what the United States military spent this past year in Iraq.  That‘s how much we spent winding down our eight year war there this past year.

Here‘s what the military has requested for Iraq next year.  Oink!  This is what it looks like when wars end.  Long wars that started for reasons other than what they told us they were starting for—they end with funding charts that look like this.

Now, spending by agencies that aren‘t military actually goes up for Iraq next year.

Do you remember how George W. Bush funded both the wars as emergency supplemental funding?  It was a big surprise.  Every few months that we are still at war.  Well, not only did President Obama stop doing that.  But this year, they also combined everything that we spend in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, our military spending goes way down as the war winds down in Iraq, but since there‘s an XXXL giant embassy there, and tons of people who are staying on, Hillary Clinton‘s budget for Iraq at the State Department, that actually goes up.  Part of that is to pay for the small army of private contractors that Secretary Clinton said she would ban when she was a candidate for president, but now she now oversees by the thousands in the place where our war is still ending.

The military, spending on the military in particular, is one of those things in Washington, one of those blessed things in Washington that functions essentially as a bullpuckey detector.  It‘s one of those things that tells you whether or not people really mean what they say.

This, for example, is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  It is a very, very fancy fighter jet.  It is also the subject of a whole lot of advertising in Washington, D.C.-based publications.

Why does it star in so many Beltway advertisements?  Why does it get so much attention?  Because Congress has decided in its infinite wisdom that it wants to fund part of this plane that the Pentagon doesn‘t want.  This very fancy jet comes with a spare engine.  Full disclosure: one of our parent companies, G.E., helps make this spare engine.

The way Congress has designed this right now, for every Joint Strike Fighter jet that‘s built, there is a backup engine built for it, too.

Why do you need a backup engine built for this jet?  Good question. 

The Pentagon doesn‘t know either.  They do not want it.

But despite the fact that the military keeps saying they don‘t want it, Congress keeps funding it.  Today, that spare engine offered us yet another bullpuckey detection moment.  President Obama‘s spending plan that was put out today follows the military‘s advice.  It eliminates funding for this spare engine that the military does not want.

House Republicans, on the other hand, they want to keep it.  Their spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year includes $450 million for this random backup engine that the military doesn‘t want and would prefer to kill.

The military brass gave a press conference.  This is amazing.  The military brass gave a press conference today detailing the list of things that they really don‘t want that Congress keeps making them take anyway—only in America.  The spare engine got star billing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  We consider it an unnecessary and extravagant expense.  American taxpayers are spending $28 million a month for an excess and unjustified program that is slated for termination.

ROBERT HALE, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  I think the secretary, what he said is he will look at all options to terminate the program.  We remain strongly opposed to the extra engine.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  We remain strongly opposed to the extra engine.  It is unnecessary.  It is extravagant.

And you‘re getting it anyway!  House Republicans will not let this thing die.  According to “The Wall Street Journal” today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now personally reaching out to Republican freshmen in the House in a last-ditch effort to pretty please kill this thing that the Defense Department desperately does not want.

This is probably the part where I should mention that the random spare engine that can‘t be killed is primarily built right outside Republican House Speaker John Boehner‘s district in Ohio.  I should also mention that Rolls Royce, the other company in on this engine, just built a giant fancy plant in Eric Cantor‘s district in Virginia.  And that plant was slated to build part of this spare engine.

In addition to wanting to keep this engine that nobody wants, wanting to buy this engine that nobody wants, House Republicans also appear to want to keep about $4 billion in oil and gas subsidies in the budget, yes, because those companies don‘t make enough money, right?  President Obama would like to cut them.  House Republicans would like to leave them in.

What do House Republicans want to cut exactly?  Well, they would like to cut funding for food inspectors.

They would like to cut funding for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  You remember - the people who were right about Katrina, the people who tell us when the hurricanes are coming.

They also want to cut funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration.  These are the people who lock up loose nuclear material all over the world.  Smoking gun, mushroom cloud, remember that?  Remember who had on that guy from the NNSA, the undersecretary for saving the world, the Republican plan would cut his budget.

So, in terms of their priorities, we‘d stop working on the whole “keeping terrorists from getting the bomb” thing, but we‘d keep spending money on the random spare engine that the military doesn‘t want and keep saying, please, don‘t make us take it.

For people who wonk out about policy, it is truly fitting that Valentine‘s Day and budget day are the same day this year.  It does warm the heart to have these many numbers to play with it.

But days like this in Washington are also clarifying in a conceptual sense.  If you want to keep building stuff the military doesn‘t want because you think of weapons systems as a jobs program, just a make work jobs program, we could be making anything.  Then just call it that, call it a make work jobs program.

It could be economically stimulative, sure.  I would prefer some new off ramps, or a new train line from downtown to the airport in whatever city you live in.  But knock yourself out.  Build the pointless engine the military doesn‘t want.

Here‘s the thing though: you cannot be the party that says it is cracking down on spending, cracking down on what it derives as government waste.  You can‘t be those guys while you are simultaneously bending over backwards to fund all sorts of government waste—the stuff government says explicitly it doesn‘t want to buy, but you are making them buy it.  You can say you are fiscally conservative or you can keep funding stuff the Pentagon doesn‘t want any more.

You can do one or the other.  You cannot do both.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Last week on the show, we prepared a very special, very large delivery for Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.  Senator McCaskill had been quoted in Politico.com as considering ways to rollback parts of health reform—parts of the Democratic signature legislative achievement of the last two years.

As a reminder of what happens when Democrats join in on Republican attacks on the Democratic Party, as a reminder of the nasty electoral backsplash when Democrats run for office by painting their own party as irresponsible and wrong, we prepared a ginormous envelope to fit our life size poster of former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, which we tried unsuccessfully to mail to Senator McCaskill.

Blanche Lincoln is the poster child—never do things life size—for this specific kind of bad politics since Blanche Lincoln lost her bid for re-election last fall by 20 points after trashing just about every major Democratic initiative that Republicans were attacking in that election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  We have turned this poster child into a postage child.  Guys, would you mind helping me out for a minute?  Senator McCaskill, you are always very welcome to come back on the show.  We‘d love to have you, we miss you.

Until then, as a gesture of goodwill, we are going to mail you this life size cutout of Blanche Lincoln to serve as a—poke your hand in there, Blanche, yes—serve as a reminder of the giant—the consequences of the giant electoral mistake that you are thinking about making.  We hope you like it.

Also, our interns are very skilled at paper art.  Thanks, you guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Because she is a fundamentally good cheer, Senator Claire McCaskill has agreed to come back on the show, even after we pulled that lousy stunt.

Senator McCaskill, thank you for being here.  Thank you for being such a good sport.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI:  Absolutely, my pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, tell me what I got wrong here in the facts or in the analysis.  I bet you think I‘m wrong.

MCCASKILL:  Well, I think the analysis is wrong.  First of all, I voted against the repeal that we voted on just a few short days ago, and I don‘t want to rollback any of what we‘ve done in health care that accomplishes the goals we want to accomplish, which is affordable, accessible choices when it comes to health care in the private market.

Now, having said that, I think it‘s a really good idea to be willing to listen to see if there are other ways out there that we could still accomplish that goal—and I‘m referring especially to just the mandate.  If there‘s a way we can get enough people in the insurance pool that makes the ban on insuring people, the requirement that you must insure people that have preexisting conditions, if we can do that without the shall, I think that‘s a good thing to do, if we can.

Now, I don‘t know that we can, but I think it‘s worth exploring and listening, and I think I owe that out of respect to the voters of my state.

MADDOW:  In terms of the—in terms of the individual mandate, it does—if it is paired with the pre-existing conditions thing, it sort of axiomatically eliminates the whole concept of insurance.  If insurance companies have to take you on, even if you have a pre-existing condition and you don‘t have to purchase insurance if you don‘t want to—no rationale person will get insurance until they‘re already sick, which then eliminates the whole concept of insurance.

So, I understand the idea of trying to look to see if it might be feasible, it just seems almost—unless you deny the nouns in the sentence, it seems it would be an impossibility.

MCCASKILL:  Well, let‘s look at what we do with Medicare D.  There are thousands and thousands of seniors that sign up in a very limited enrollment period for prescription drug program when they‘re not even taking prescription drugs.  Now, why do they do that?  They know if they don‘t do it and they end up needing them the next year, it‘s really going to cost them.

So, we—I think exploring the idea, to see if it would work, to really limit the enrollment period with a huge financial penalty if you didn‘t sign up—obviously, we‘ve got to get to the issue of personal responsibility here.  I don‘t want to pay for somebody who‘s in the emergency room who decided to buy a new motorcycle than pay for health insurance.

On the other hand, nobody likes the idea of the government is saying the word shall.  So I think we‘ve got to continue to look at this and see if there are other ways.

We do have a split decision in the federal courts.  We have a Supreme Court that we don‘t know for sure what it‘s going to do.  At a minimum, we ought to be looking at the options in case we must look at another alternative.

MADDOW:  In your—when you‘re looking ahead to your re-election effort, now, I hear—I hear you addressing this in policy terms and not political terms.  But in terms the way the politics of this will work, I‘m guessing that the Republican Party in Missouri is pretty much going to run against Obamacare as if it is the end of the world, heading into the next election, and I‘m guessing that because they did that in the last election.

Are you helping them make their case by re-opening, re-litigating some of the things already decided in the health bill?

MCCASKILL:  That‘s what I‘m really trying to do.  I‘m trying not to look at this through the lens of a gotcha moment.  You know, we get to the point that we get so embedded in our two sides up here.  I‘ve been pretty independent since I got here.

I mean, I—day one, I said, you know, this earmarking is not for me.  It‘s an arbitrary way to spend money.  I went after contracting not because I hate contractors, because it‘s a huge waste of money.  I‘ve carved out from day one, a fairly independent path when it relates to matters dealing with the way we spend money.

So, yes, is this a gotcha moment?  Saying you‘re willing to continue to look at all of the problems we‘re facing and see if there could be a better way?  I don‘t think it should be.  I‘m sure it will be, but it‘s kind of been a gotcha moment on both sides.  Me just saying I‘m willing to look and listen and learn has ended up having both ends of the spectrum pretty upset.

MADDOW:  So, can‘t be a gotcha moment, though, if it goes on for years.  Gotcha moment is by necessity a short, sharp shock.

But let me ask you about another spending issue.  I know that you are a spending hawk in many ways.  I know you have signed on with a half dozen Republican senators on this 10-year spending cap idea.  Why have you lobbied for the C-17 cargo plane?  Every year since 2006, the Pentagon said they‘ve got enough C-17s, they don‘t want more.  And you‘ve been such a fiscal hawk on so many issues.

Why are you in favor of pushing them to buy more when they don‘t want them?

MCCASKILL:  Because it‘s cheaper, more reliable, and used more often and needed in more situations than the C-5.  Unfortunately, some senators came along awhile ago and wrote into law that we were required to modernize the C-5.  That‘s a bad idea—just like the second engine has become a bad idea that you referenced earlier.

The C-17 is more reliable, used more often.  It‘s the only plane we could land in Haiti.  It‘s the only plane we could land in many places, in deserts, where we have to get supplies in.  It is the lift aircraft of choice for our military and it‘s a bargain.

MADDOW:  At a quarter million dollars a pop, though, the military is saying, we love this plane, we can do everything with this plane that we want to be able to do with this plane, and we‘ve got enough—is this a time to be telling them, no, you got to take more?

MCCASKILL:  Well, the point was—and, by the way, I think that we were able to get the ones they needed, and there hasn‘t been a big push since then on that front.  But the point was, it was less expensive and a better bargain for the government than the alternative that they were investing in which was the modernization of these C-5s.  So, there was a factual basis.

I know the point you‘re getting at—and, by the way, it‘s everywhere.  It is basically where the earmarks come from, this notion that it‘s not good to spend the federal money unless you‘re spending it on something I want.  And that‘s part of the problem around here.

And here‘s the bottom line.  We have got to start saying no.  We can‘t keep kicking this can down the road.

As much as all of us would like to, because this is awkward and hard, all of us need to realize that debt is a real problem.  The deficit is a real problem.  And we need to quit playing a political football game with this thing and sit down and figure out the best way to be honest with the American people and do better with the way we spend their money.

MADDOW:  Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, with whom I like talking about things on which we agree, and even more so on things which we disagree—thank you very much for coming back to the show.

MCCASKILL:  You bet.

MADDOW:  I should also mention that Senator Claire McCaskill was featured on a “Jeopardy” question last week under the category Congress is all a Twitter.  Oh, yes, she was.  She‘s that cool.

Dan Rather still to come.  Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We have some breaking news tonight about a controversial campaign finance law and whether or not one or maybe two Supreme Court justices should have recused themselves from the case.  Telling the story tonight involves beginning with something that in television terms is called a “big get.”  When you land a huge interview for your TV show, that‘s called a big get.  When you score a bold faced name for the speaker for your convention or your fundraiser, that‘s a “big get.”

So when the billionaire brothers—when the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles Koch and David Koch, sent out invitations last fall for a political retreat in Palm Springs, because he and his rich conservative friends get together twice a year and discuss things like why campaign finance laws should be changed, Charles Koch made note in that letter of the past appearances at that retreat three years ago by Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.  Mr. Koch was highlighting two really big gets for his annual Koch brothers‘ weekend conservative get together.

It was a bit of bragging that prompted an advocacy group to say, hold on there, wait a minute.  If two Supreme Court justices were at an event with a group of conservatives who wanted to change campaign finance laws, shouldn‘t those justices have recused themselves from ruling in the land mark Citizens United case last year, the one where the justices ruled five to four to change campaign finance laws, to change them so they benefit the Koch brothers in a huge, huge way?

When those questions were first raised last month, the Supreme Court spokesman for Justice Thomas said that Justice Thomas had only made a brief drop-by at that event in Palm Springs back in January of 2008.  That‘s all it was, a brief drop by.  He just stopped by, nothing to see there.

And that‘s where that story might have ended if in his financial disclosure report for 2008, Justice Thomas had not reported that a group funded in part by the Koch brothers had reimbursed him for four days‘ worth of transportation, meals, accommodations.

Four days does equal a brief drop by.  At least it doesn‘t seem to.

The vice president of Common Cause, the advocacy group that‘s been looking into this, says that the statements from—the financial statement from Justice Thomas and the statement from the Supreme Court spokesman appear to be at odds.  Today his group, Common Cause, has sent a letter to the Supreme Court asking for further clarification.

Common Cause maintains that Justice Thomas should have disqualified himself from the Citizens United case, partly because of his ties to the Koch brothers and partly because of the political work of his wife Ginni here in a foam Statue of Liberty hat.  Common Cause maintains that Mrs.  Thomas‘ political work has created a possible perception of bias in the case.

Lots of questions about this, which have so far led to just more important questions.  This news again is just breaking tonight at the Web site of “The New York Times.”  This seems to me, honestly, like kind of a big deal.  And you should probably expect more on this tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Dan Rather—the Dan Rather joins us next.  Woo-hoo!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  OK.  One of these things is not like the other.  See if you can figure it out.  Here‘s footage from four different countries facing revolts in the streets after Egypt.  This footage here is from Algeria.  These protests took place over the weekend.  This footage here is today in Bahrain, and this footage here is today in Yemen.

Now, this is Iran.  Notice how this tape looks kind of different than the others, notice how the quality of the tape is different?  That‘s because there are not any broadcast quality professionally shot images of the protests from the streets of Iran today.  In all the other countries that we just showed you footage from, there have been efforts to curtail the flow of information or to shut down the press.  But only in Iran have those efforts so effectively worked today.

So, just as during the protests in Iran nearly two years ago, Iranians themselves are taking matters into their own hands as best they can.  That‘s why the video looks like this.  It‘s cell phone video.  It‘s flip cam video.

It‘s anything that people can shoot themselves on the streets of Iran and upload.  And that is as much as we know about what the protests in Iran look like.

Governments wary of the faith of rulers in Tunisia and Egypt are not just worried about their own people rising up against them in the street, they are terribly worried about the rest of the world finding out protests like that are happening.

Today, BBC correspondent Abdullah Gorab reported that he and his camera men were beaten and injured by police when they were covering protests in Yemen.  He was able to call into the BBC as he was running away.  Listen to what he told them.

Quote, “I am bleeding from my head.  The policemen who were accompanying a prominent official figure were running after me after they asked more than 50 protesters from the ruling party to hit us.  They took my phone and my cameraman‘s phone.  They beat any correspondent who tries to film the attack on the protesters.

This is the current regime now in Yemen.  No rule, no law.  I am bleeding now as I escape from the people.”

Joining us now is Dan Rather, former anchor of the “CBS Evening News.”  He now hosts “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNet.  His documentary on Palestinian security forces which is called “A Precarious Peace” premiers tonight.

Mr. Rather, it‘s a real honor to have you here again.  Thank you.

DAN RATHER, “DAN RATHER REPORTS”:  Thank you for having me again, Rachel.  And happy Valentine‘s Day.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  You, too.

From the reporting we can get out of Iran today, it seems like the protesters were brave and fairly creative and trying to do what they wanted to do.  It seems like the government, the police were fairly violent.  Why is it so important for Iran to shut down news coverage of these protests?  Why does it matter so much to governments that they stop the media coverage?

RATHER:  Well, they have to stop the messenger.  So, internally, in so far as they can control the word getting out, they‘d control it.  And externally, in so far as they can control it with social media it‘s more difficult these days.  And that‘s the reason they do it—it‘s to keep the secret.

But in—now the second decade of the 21st century, it‘s getting increasingly hard to keep the secret.

MADDOW:  In terms of what‘s happening across the Middle East, the implicit argument that long, justified U.S. support for somebody like Hosni Mubarak is that stability is more important than rights, that free people in the Middle East are more of a threat to American interests than a strong man ruler in the Middle East.  Does that calculus, that sort of argument, is it weaker now than it used to be because of Mubarak?

RATHER:  Yes, it is weaker.  But what has not weakened is our determination as a country to avoid the tough question, which is how do we reconcile our belief in our ideals, our highest values as stated in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and our belief in self determination for people all over the world—to reconcile that with our desire for protection, for security.

And time after time, when we ask ourselves as a people, why have we thrown in with Somoza in Nicaragua, name your strong man wherever it is, it‘s always been, we say, well, security comes first.  We haven‘t had this national debate, this national conversation of how we can reconcile on the one hand our, quote, “standing firm” for our values, democratic process, freedom for people, and on the other hand, our security.  We have yet to reconcile it, yet to even have the discussion in a meaningful way.

MADDOW:  I think Americans broadly speaking, and certainly there are exceptions, but Americans, broadly speaking, accept the issue of Israel security as a state as an American priority, that that is an issue that America has essentially taken ownership of.  But are there—particularly when we‘re deciding what sort of relationship to have with different Middle Eastern governments, are there cases in which our support for Israeli security contradicts our own interest in our own security?

RATHER:  Well, there certainly are aspects that do that.  But let‘s see clearly that we are committed to Israel‘s survival.  And Israel is surrounded by people who wish them ill.

It‘s become a cliche but it‘s a cliche because it‘s true.  Israel can only lose once.  Their Arab and other neighbors, Iran is not Arab, it‘s Persian, remind ourselves, they can lose dozens of times, hundreds of times and still exist.  Israel can only lose once.

And one reason we went to the West Bank, the Palestinian West Bank, Israeli occupied as it is, is because this is the core question.  This is the, if you will, the heart of the cauldron that is the Middle East.  It‘s a very small country, the West Bank, Palestine.  Of course, Gaza has been - - had free elections which we supported, and to our surprise yet again they elected Hamas, which is committed to Israel‘s destruction.

So, the reason we went to the West Bank was to say, look, things may be happening elsewhere.  I‘m sorry to say I didn‘t predict what was going to happen in Egypt when it happened.  And now, we‘re looking at the contagion—if you want to put it that way—that happened in Egypt.  You said yourself earlier that Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan – the same forces coming up from below in all of those countries, same forces that came up in Egypt, are coming up in those countries, and that could exist very well on the Palestinian West Bank.

Right now—and our story is, security on the Palestinian West Bank has improved tremendously.  They have a booming economy.  Their economic growth is about 8 percent.  Places like Ramallah, Hebron, Jericho, which not that long ago you and others were reporting on were death traps—

Israeli soldiers facing down rock throwing crowds, rockets going into Israel, suicide bombers going into Israel.

That‘s not the case now.  It‘s peaceful.  Business is booming.

On the surface, it looks very good.  But when you think about Egypt, what happened from below, that could happen with the Palestinian West Bank unless real progress is made toward giving them an independent and free Palestinian state.  And that‘s as I say at the very vortex of the cauldron that‘s going in the Middle East.  And as long as the Palestinians are in their present state and don‘t have an expectation that they will get their own independence, that will continue.

Israel is having its own internal debate whether to risk allowing the Palestinians on the West Bank now that they‘ve improved security.  It‘s incredible that when you look on the West Bank now, when you walk the streets now, this new security is financed by the people of the United States, the new police, and the new security forces are trained by the United States and Europeans, and to see Palestinian West Bank security forces working hand in glove with Israeli security forces—frankly, I never thought I‘d live to see the day.  And the reason is that they face a common enemy and that enemy is Hamas.

Hamas is laying low in the West Bank now, hoping against hope that no progress is made toward a free and independent Palestinian state because they will eventually attach themselves to the hostility results from that.

MADDOW:  I feel like we have so much more than we ever usually do, even in the—on the cliched side of the cable business that I‘m in.  We‘ve been saying I never thought I‘d see it in my lifetime a lot recently.

RATHER:  So true.

MADDOW:  And I wonder if there is—if there is widespread change in the Middle East, whether it is more of what happened in Tunisia and in Egypt, or whether it is government reforms put forth by leaders who don‘t want to—who want to stem something like that.  Does it create a new window for Palestinian/Israeli negotiations?  Does it create some sort of new grounds on which peace might be based?

RATHER:  The answer is yes, it does.  And the Israelis are having this internal discussion among themselves now.

There is a whole theory of negotiation.  You negotiate when you‘re strong.  Not when you‘re weak or heavily threatened.

MADDOW:  Yes.

RATHER:  And with stability and peace on the Palestinian West Bank just now, there are those who are saying, this is our best chance to give the Palestinians—it‘s a risk, but also there‘s a risk in not risking.  And this is the debate that‘s going on in Israel right now.

It isn‘t important—if someone in the audience is saying, well, this is a long way away.  We‘ve got Afghanistan.  We‘ve got Iraq.  We just had Egypt.  Why are they talking about the Palestinians in the West Bank?

It‘s because, as I said before, this is the very red beating heart of the problem.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.

RATHER:  And if well-intentioned people on both sides, the Palestinian government now, led by President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad and the Israelis can work something out, this may be the best chance in at least a quarter century to work something substantively out, but it hangs in the balance.  It‘s on the razor‘s edge of danger.

MADDOW:  Dan Rather, host of HDNet‘s “Dan Rather Reports,” the documentary—new documentary is called “A Precarious Peace” and it premieres tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on HDNet.  Mr. Rather, it‘s always a real honor to have you here.  Thank you so much for coming here.  I really appreciate the chance to talk to you about this.

RATHER:  Thanks a lot.

MADDOW:  All right.  Coming up on “THE ED SHOW”: the Wisconsin governor who is reveling in threatening to bring out the National Guard to quell the unrest that it seems like he‘s hoping for when he strips public workers of their rights.  Oh, boy.  If you have never watched Ed Schultz before, you should watch Ed Schultz on this and you should wear something fire retardant while you do it.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Recapping tonight‘s breaking news, again, this has been posted on the Web site of “The New York Times” tonight.  Justice Clarence Thomas and Justin Scalia had previously been speakers at an event hosted by the Koch brothers, the famous conservative brothers who head up an oil and chemical conglomerate who have been hosting retreats for themselves and other conservatives to plot political strategy.  The Koch brothers had been bragging that Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas had spoken at one of these retreats in 2008.

There now appears to be some sort of discrepancy between the way the Supreme Court described the way Justice Thomas participated in the retreat.  Described—the court described it as a brief drop by, but in his financial disclosure report for that year, Justice Thomas described being reimbursed for four days of transportation, meals, and accommodations over the weekend of the retreat.  He didn‘t report this as a gift.  Common Cause is suggesting that he should have disqualified himself from the Citizens United case last year which, of course, broadly benefited the Koch brothers.

We will have more on this on tomorrow‘s show, including, we‘ll have an interview with somebody from Common Cause to explain to us the importance of this accusation they are making.

That does it for us tonight.  Now, it is time for “THE ED SHOW.”  Good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>