The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/22/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Melissa. You see? You could
have called it “Sister Citizen,” exclamation point, and it would have been
on the same shelf with Rick Perry`s book.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It`s the exclamation.
See, I was going to the academic thing. Oh, well.
MADDOW: Sub titles are the death of these things, man.
All right. Thank you, Melissa. Good to see you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us tonight.
At this hour, the situation half the world away in Libya continues to
unfold. Things are not resolved conclusively, although it appears that 42
years of Moammar Gadhafi`s dictatorship may be coming to an end, as in
right now, as in this evening. Former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather
will be with us this hour.
But, first, we want to go right to NBC News chief foreign
correspondent Richard Engel, who is in Libya tonight. Richard has been
covering the uprising from the very beginning, and he joins us tonight from
the central square in the Libyan capital city of Tripoli. The square, of
course, has been a stronghold, the geographic heart for Gadhafi loyalists
since the beginning of this revolution.
Richard, what`s the scene tonight?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening,
Rachel. You can probably hear that celebrations are going on in Green
Square. This is the square, the center of Tripoli. It was the center of
I remember coming here and a group of rebels have actually just
arrived. If you can zoom in over my shoulder, you can see this is a group
of rebels, they are following that car which has the fighters inside, and
the rest are just people from the neighborhoods who`ve come out into the
streets, come out into the square, to express their support, to express
their appreciation for what the rebels have done.
Their actual cheering right now is saying that the blood of the
martyrs will not be forgotten.
So, it`s an amazing turn of events what`s happened over the last 24
hours or so. This was the center of Gadhafi`s power base, now clearly in
the hands of the rebels. They`ve already changed the name of this square.
It used to be called Green Square. That`s how it`s known across the world.
Now, they are calling it Martyr`s Square.
Now, there is still an element of danger. There is still something
of a war zone here in Tripoli. That`s because Gadhafi`s loyalists – and I
say loyalists because we`re not exactly sure if Gadhafi himself is there –
but at least Gadhafi`s loyalists remain inside Gadhafi`s compound.
Now, Gadhafi`s compound is nothing like the White House or another
presidential compound, Gadhafi lived on a military base and his forces
inside that base are defending it, they are making a final stand, and they
were firing rockets and mortars out of that base today and firing them into
civilian areas. That`s one reason why we haven`t seen huge crowds here in
Green Square or as it`s called now Martyr`s Square. But they are still
coming out and the people in this square, the rebels are convinced that
their next step has to be an assault on Gadhafi`s compound to finish his
last hold on power in Tripoli and across the country – Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Richard. I talk to Richard Engel far too
frequently when there`s gunfire that near him.
Again, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reporting
from what used to be called Green Square but which has been renamed
Martyr`s Square by the anti-Gadhafi forces that have taken over that
country and that city.
In terms of symbols of the Gadhafi regime, you will see the color
green referenced over and over again, and things called green by the
Gadhafi regime are among the first things to go as Gadhafi is ousted from
power as Richard just described and as you can actually see here, the
aforementioned Green Square in the capital of Tripoli has been renamed
Martyr`s Square. You can see on Google Maps, the white writing there
behind the label. That happened just hours after Libyan rebels took
control of the capital.
This right here, this is, do not adjust your television, this is the
flag of Libya under Moammar Gadhafi. Do not adjust your screen, it is just
a green flag. That`s the entire flag.
So in addition to renaming green`s square in Tripoli, the anti-
Gadhafi forces are also now replacing that Gadhafi era all-green flag with
this, the pre-Gadhafi flag that you have been seeing in the news footage
out of Libya in this revolution.
So, long Green Square, so long green flag. This is Libyan state-run
television. For months now, they have been broadcasting Moammar Gadhafi`s
almost daily haranguing speeches against the forces who have been rising up
against him. In this instance, what you see here, yes, that is one of
their news anchors brandishing a gun on television, warning the anti-
Gadhafi rebels that they will never win and they will never take control of
that state-run television station.
The television station is now effectively gone. This was the last
thing they were showing before they went off the air, sort of a Libyan
version of “The View.” But as you see there, it`s a program about women`s
issues, then it just ended abruptly, it went black.
It was later replaced by this, a pro-rebel news network based in
Qatar, a network that was in the process of interviewing a rebel who
claimed to be calling into the station from a cell phone from inside the
Libyan state TV building.
Part of what has happened in Libya over the last 24 hours has been
the exulting you would expect from not just ordinary Libyan citizens happy
for the toppling of the dictatorship in their country but also from the
fighters who have been engaged in the civilian uprising against a
militarized state for five months now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know how to express myself, but I can say
to everybody who`s free in the world. Libya is free finally, and she`s
back after 42 years of kidnapping.
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Do you know where Gadhafi is now, do you care
where he is now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t care where he is. I just want – I don`t
know where he is, because already I feel free. This is the – this is the
most important thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-five years now, my life starts now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom, man, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For all the happiness you see and hear being expressed by
rebel forces there and supporters of the rebels there, for all the physical
changes that have taken root in Libya over the last 24 hours, the situation
is not resolved yet. We keep hearing that from everybody we`re in contact
with in that country. Even though rebel forces have taken control of much
of Libya`s capital, some forces that are still loyal to Moammar Gadhafi
continued to put up a fight.
BBC News reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes experienced that firsthand
today as he traveled with rebel forces into the heart of Tripoli. Watch
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUPERT WINGFIELD-HAYES, BBC NEWS: Here we are, here`s a group of
young men on the corner here. Every time we go past, groups of young men
celebrating, so far no signs of any fighting in the city, everything looks
(voice-over): A rebel convoy is heading into the city, little do the
young men know what fate lies ahead.
Up ahead, there are still signs of fighting. Then, suddenly, we run
straight into a classic ambush. I can see the muzzle flashes as a gun
opens fire directly into the front of the convoy.
WINGFIELD-HAYES: We simply don`t know how many of the young men
traveling with us survived.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of BBC. Even with the
capital city that is now reportedly 90 percent controlled by rebel forces,
the roughly 10 percent that is still controlled by Gadhafi loyalists means
some very scary stuff is going on tonight. This is a fight that does not
seem to be yet over.
Despite reports that Moammar Gadhafi`s son Saif was in rebel custody,
this tape emerged of him tonight showing him apparently still at large and
apparently still defiant in a crowd of pro-Gadhafi supporters.
Joining us now live on the phone from Zawiya, about 30 miles of
Tripoli, is “Washington Post`s” Thomas Erdbrink.
Mr. Erdbrink, thank you very much of your time.
Can I just ask you first to describe what the situation is like in
Zawiya and what you`ve been able to see over the course of the evening?
THOMAS ERDBRINK, WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Well, there`s not
much going on in Zawiya, apart from someone from the Transitional National
Council arriving, that is the rebel council that was based in Benghazi,
which is about, you know,1,000 miles to the east here. And this is the
first time that one of their representatives have actually come here in the
vicinity of Tripoli.
MADDOW: In terms of the late reports that we`ve had, we have had
reports earlier today that Gadhafi`s son Saif was in rebel custody, that he
had been arrested, that, in fact, a traitor among the ranks in the Gadhafi
loyalist military had turned him over to rebel forces. We are now seeing
footage that appears to be him this evening.
Have you heard anything about the voracity of the reports and what
we`re seeing tonight?
ERDBRINK: Yes, I can confirm that he`s free. I had a talk with a
high-level rebel commander today and he already told me earlier that Saif
was definitely not in the rebels` hands. And he was actually criticizing
the rebel political leaders for bringing out this news. He said if we
would have had Saif Gadhafi in our hands, we would have paraded him through
town and put him in Libyan court instead of sending him to the
international court in The Hague, something that someone within the rebel
council apparently said.
MADDOW: I know that you spent much of the day with rebel forces in
Tripoli today. What happened to the group of rebels that you were with?
ERDBRINK: Well, while I was interviewing this commander and he was
giving me a line that 90 percent of the city was in their hands, about five
minutes later, pro-Gadhafi troops pulled up in front of the compound,
opened fire with heavy machine guns and totally took the rebels by
surprise. Now, this is a rebel army, these are people who carry a machine
gun in their hands and are wearing plastic flip-flops as they go to battle,
so they were completely surprised by this well-targeted attack.
And even though nobody died, we have been caught up in the crossfire
for almost two hours, and it just illustrates the situation here in
Tripoli. Tripoli is not 90 percent in the hands of the rebels. I don`t
think there`s anybody who is controlling Tripoli at this point.
And one thing is for sure, Gadhafi`s forces are fighting back and
seems their fights and efforts (ph) are increasing.
MADDOW: In terms of Gadhafi`s forces and what you can tell about
their remaining strength, do they seem to have withdrawn to hardened
targets they are defending or are they mounting ambushes and setting up
sniper positions and doing other things to be on the offensive?
ERDBRINK: Yes, definitely. I think what they are doing is have a
pre-planned certain attacks, they have melted into society, not given up
their weapons, something the rebels have been hoping for, but also planning
these attacks, organizing among each other, actually forming their own
rebel army now against the rebels that invaded Tripoli.
MADDOW: Let me ask you one last question. We showed footage a
moment ago of a reporter on state television brandishing a gun on
television saying state TV would never been taken. I understand you
witnessed her arrest?
ERDBRINK: Well, I witnessed her, actually, being brought – she was
brought into a compound where they brought also journalists in to see her.
Now, this woman, Hala Misrati, the same woman brandishing that gun was
there, and we could hear her scream “I am innocent,” then we heard a loud
man`s voice saying, accusing her basically that she was a traitor, and then
afterwards we were not allowed to see her.
But the rebel commander came out saying she was in good hands and
sees the errors of her ways.
MADDOW: Just chilling.
“Washington Post” reporter Thomas Erdbrink, thank you very much for
your time tonight. I realize that you have been very much in the crossfire
– please, stay safe.
ERDBRINK: Thank you.
MADDOW: We will be right back with Dan Rather.
MADDOW: When the famous basketball player Charles Barkley famously
said that he was misquoted n his own autobiography, that was a very funny
moment in American culture. When increasingly famous Texas Governor Rick
Perry says the same thing, it is also funny – but in a different this guy
could be president sort of way. That story is coming up.
MADDOW: Senator John McCain of Arizona has had a Twitter account for
a really long time. He started tweeting in January 2009. John McCain was
an early adopter.
Right at the top of his Twitter feed today, you can see his tweets
about Libya, including his link to a statement he put out with his friend
Senator Lindsey Graham. The statement congratulates all the other NATO
countries involved in the support mission for the rebels in Libya. But as
for the U.S., Senators McCain and Graham just say, quote, “We regret the
success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to
employ the full weight of our air power.”
One interesting thing about Twitter is it can be a time machine. So,
if you have the patience, you can just scroll down, down, down the page of
John McCain`s tweets going back in time until you get to, say, two years
ago this week when the same bellicose John McCain today criticizing
President Obama for not waging enough of a war on Gadhafi, even as Gadhafi
appears to being overthrown. Two years ago this week, John McCain was
instead tweeting about his, and I quote, “late evening with Colonel Gadhafi
at his ranch in Libya. Interesting meeting with an interesting man.”
The war in Libya does not knit neatly into American politics.
Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to look like the most anti-Gadhafi
people around, in contrast with this wimpy president, but there`s that darn
footage of them effectively cuddling up with Gadhafi two summers ago in
Gadhafi`s tent no less.
But it`s not just Senator McCain and Senator Graham. This is a
military intervention that was multilateral, where America did not take the
lead, in which there were no Americans killed, but the U.S. either did or
is about to, it seems, get what it wants.
The Republican-led House voted to defund the war. But the vote was
taken in the way sure to be toothless. The administration tried to get
away with not calling it a war. The voices left, right, and center that
denounced NATO and Libya as a quagmire and a standoff and a morass have
tonight at least seemingly been proven wrong.
And at this hour, with Libya and its capital city almost entirely in
rebel hands, but Gadhafi himself is still unaccounted for. The question is
not only how America assesses our role in what has just happened, but how
we chose our role in what happens next.
Joining us now is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of HD
Net “Dan Rather Reports.”
Mr. Rather, it is very good to have you here. Thank you for making
DAN RATHER, HD NET`S “DAN RATHER REPORTS”: Well, great to be here on
a night like tonight. What an exciting and interesting inspirational time.
This is a transforming year and a transformational decade. We had
the Arab spring, which extended now into the Arab summer. And with Syria
and Yemen still out there, perhaps, perhaps to extend into an Arab winter.
The echoes of this will reverberate through history for a very, very
long time to come.
MADDOW: I know that you have personally interviewed Moammar Gadhafi
three times, is that right?
MADDOW: I`m sure it`s hard to get into his head. But based on what
you know about him and those conversations that you`ve had, do you feel
like you know what to expect from him at this point of extreme pressure in
RATHER: Well, the straight honest answer is no. However, based on
what little I know about him, I have been – I evolved with him. He must
be going through some version of on the one hand saying death before
dishonor, I`ll go down fighting, I`ll go down in flames, I`ll be a martyr.
But say what you want about Moammar Gadhafi, a very strange and
dangerous man, but he cares about his family. He`s got to be worried about
his family. I would think on the one hand – it`s fight to the finish,
never give in, whatever it takes. On the other hand, saying maybe just
maybe I can get away to Russia and maybe negotiate some way that my family
will be taken care of. He must be struggling with that or have struggled
with in the last 24 hours.
You said something earlier when the program first came on which is
important. This situation has not resolved.
RATHER: It`s a great moment. The regime has fallen.
But the question, and I think it`s a question in the viewer`s mind,
what now, what next? Answer: we don`t know and the Libyans themselves
MADDOW: The transitional government has been recognized –
internationally recognized by the United States in mid-July, recognized,
for example, by Egypt yesterday upon present circumstances.
Do we know enough about them to know whether or not they can credibly
form a government? I mean, forming a government anywhere where there`s
been a dictatorship for decades is hard because the institutions have all
been so contingent on the autocratic will of one man.
Do we know if this government is going to be capable of serving the
RATHER: No. And I don`t think the people of Libya – credit cannot
be given to them, but I don`t think they know. It may be, unscrewing the
word “may,” it may be they`ll need some help in making a transition, say
the European Union under the auspices of the U.N. and with the help of the
Arab League and the African Union, could help them through the transition
period, because keep in mind, unlike Egypt, unlike Iraq, Libya has no
institutions, has no governmental infrastructure other than Gadhafi.
Gadhafi is not gone. He`s not gone as far as we know yet, but his
regime is gone.
And so, there`s a prospect of chaos, great disorder. Libya is a
sparsely populated country, size of Arizona but it only has about 6.5
million people, very sparsely populated. They`re going to need some help
and I`m not sure that the European Union working under the U.N. and
bringing the Arab League and the African Union could help, but something
And help from the United States – yes, will continue to be
necessary, particularly humanitarian aide. In a situation like this, for
example, what happens to the electricity, what happens to garbage
collection and what happens to the day-to-day things that people expect to
keep going. It`s going to be difficult to keep going without American help
and help of others.
By the way, we have spent in Libya over the last six months, the
official figure I think is $1.1 billion over the last six months. That`s
military and everything. My suspicion is it costs a whole lot more than
that because we`ve used mercenary help and contractors and that sort of
But that cost $1.1 billion over the last six months is what we spend
in a day in Iraq or in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: Yes. It`s incredible. And what you`re talking there about
institutions and people depending on institutions for their daily life, to
avoid both dissatisfaction in order just to live – that is behind why the
U.S. government has been stressing so much that the institutions that do
exist shouldn`t be torn down, that they should be protected. They are not
just talking about looting, they are talking about keeping the traffic cops
as they were, keep the traffic cops on the corner, to the extent that –
RATHER: Exactly. And as we learned in Iraq, electricity is so
RATHER: And if electricity doesn`t get provided, big trouble ahead.
But let`s be optimistic, because this is a moment to be optimistic,
that you know, there`s an old song you may remember from Kris Kristofferson
that Janis Joplin (ph) used to sing, one line: freedom is just a word for
nothing left to lose.
Well, up to now, rebels had nothing to lose. It`s now or never and
nothing to lose. Beginning today, they have a lot to lose, and that would
be their future. So much depends on this long and bound to be turbulent
MADDOW: Dan Rather is anchor and managing editor of HD Net`s “Dan
Rather Reports.” He will be hosting a special “Dan Rather Remembers” on
Sunday, September 11th, on HD Net.
Sir, it`s always a real honor to have you here. Thank you so much
RATHER: Thanks so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. More ahead, including the virtually unknown and frankly,
rather shocking fact about this helicopter in the war that may or may not
be ending tonight in Libya.
MADDOW: Among the most memorable and frankly sort of perplexing news
reports out of these past five month in Libya were reports by NBC`s chief
foreign correspondent Richard Engel about the rebels as essentially the
gang that couldn`t shoot straight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL (voice-over): “We have light weapons, he has tanks,”
complained one man. Another rebel showed me he isn`t actually armed at
(on camera): It`s a toy gun.
This is amazing, he just handed me his gun. I didn`t realize until
he put it in his hands, it`s just actually made of plastic, it`s a toy.
On the frontline, we saw some of the rebels try and fire a mortar
without securing it so it went wildly off in the wrong direction. And I
couldn`t believe it, we saw them aim a rocket at Gadhafi`s forces, but
instead it was pointed the wrong way and went in the opposite direction
towards a civilian city and they fired a rocket in the wrong direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But, yet, it`s those forces, kids with the plastic gun, and
the guy aiming the rocket in the wrong direction that five months into this
fight seem to be on the precipice of prevailing.
What happens next in Tripoli and around the country is not at all
clear, but how we got here is a combination of civilians fighting it out
inch by inch on the ground and 20,000 NATO air sorties, 7,500 strike
sorties, 18 countries, 13,000 troops, though not troops on the ground,
Tomahawk missiles, constant airborne surveillance mostly by the U.S.,
American surveillance and armed drones.
But in no way was this an American-led war. It has truly been a
multi-lateral support mission for a Libyan ground war, one in which the
sole NATO causality we know of in the conflict is this guy, a robotic,
unmanned helicopter shot down in Libya – unmanned as in no pilot.
Joining us now is Steve Clemons from the New America Foundation. You
can find him writing at his blog, “The Washington Note,” and “The Atlantic”
magazine where he is now the Washington editor at large.
Steve, it`s great to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight.
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Sure thing, Rachel.
MADDOW: You were skeptical from the beginning about whether or not
outside countries getting involved militarily in Libya would produce a
positive outcome. And we talked about this in March. You said that you`re
worried the western footprint is too large and this needs to be the Libyan
people who take control of their own destiny.
Now, with what`s going on in Tripoli night, was that footprint too
large? Is this ending as a Libyan outcome? How do you feel about this?
CLEMONS: Well, I think two things. One, I think President Obama,
you know, watched your show and he created an intervention that actually
despite the sorties and the various kinds of presence we had, he
nonetheless kept this intervention from becoming a slippery slope, to a
much deeper, broader ownership of the outcome.
I think, you know, to build on the theme of tonight`s show, he had a
tipping point strategy to help tilt the odds towards the rebels, given what
they were facing, but this thing could have still gone very badly. And we
didn`t own the outcome.
And I think if you listen to President Obama`s remarks tonight, he
ended them exactly with where we were talking before, that this had to
remain a Libyan story, their control, and we had to be supportive but on
the periphery of things. I think that`s exactly the right tone.
MADDOW: Steve, I`m cognizant this is not over. We had a live report
from just outside Tripoli tonight that said that the rebels claim that they
control 90 percent of the city should be viewed with a lot of skepticism.
That there are quite a lot of pro-Gadhafi forces still left and fighting
If this does continue to tip, if this does not turn into a long,
protracted battle in Tripoli, what do you expect next from this new
transitional would be post-Gadhafi government.
CLEMONS: Well, I think one of the key things and the real change in
the status quo was that the troops in the villages and mountains to the
west came down and basically closed off Gadhafi`s western flank. And I
think that put Tripoli in a vice.
And so, I think whatever may happened and it could continue to be
quite bloody and we may not get the kind of straight information that we
would all like to get, that nonetheless, I think that we`re seeing the real
end of the Gadhafi regime, and that means Benghazi and the Benghazi crowd
have to find the new heroes of the revolution that helped out else where
and not only create tribal balance and inclusion but to deal with the very
many pockets of resistance that came together to bring down the regime.
And that`s going to be a complicated affair.
When Dan Rather was speaking earlier on the show about water and
infrastructure and waste collection, the government in Benghazi has done a
very good job of creating a model where people in their provisional
councils have functional responsibilities looking at exactly those issues
and they`ve been simulating over the last couple of months what success or
government under the Gadhafi regime would look like.
That doesn`t mean it`s going to be easy. But I think it`s been
impressive to see what they have put in place.
MADDOW: Steve Clemons from the New America Foundation, his blog is
“The Washington Note” and he`s also with “The Atlantic” magazine now –
Steve, thank you so much tonight. I was looking forward to talk about this
with you. Appreciate it.
CLEMONS: Appreciate it.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Juan Cole, professor of history at the
University of Michigan and author of engaging the Muslim world. He also
blogs at JuanCole.com.
Professor Cole, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being with us
JUAN COLE, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Thanks for having me on, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know that you have been in Egypt and around the region
this summer. Do you think that the involvement of NATO in this makes this
a complicated outcome when this finally ends? Or is this in a relatively
uncomplicated way really the Libyan`s own uprising?
COLE: Well, the involvement of NATO was controversial, and there
were some groups like the Muslim party in Tunisia that said we`re with the
rebels, but we can`t support an effort where NATO is involved.
But there, I think, minority voices, I think most people in the
region in Egypt and Tunisia were very happy to see someone rescue the
revolutionaries from being bombed to death, and I think that the way that
this ended with the uprising in the capital, you know, puts a Libyan stamp
on the whole thing pretty firmly.
MADDOW: Juan, I don`t know if things are happening in the region
like dominoes, if that metaphor is appropriate. If they are, this
particular domino took about five months to fall, with a lot of people
saying it never would.
Do you think this has wider repercussions in the region, Tunisia,
Egypt, Libya? I mean, is Syria – is Syria more worried tonight than they
COLE: Oh, absolutely. The Baathist government in Syria is
absolutely petrified by what happened in Libya and has been attempting to
down play it.
Look, you know, we`ve had three long-serving dictators fall this
year. The rulers in the region are on notice that their people can rise up
against them and get rid of them.
And the leaders are scrambling to find a response. In Syria, they`ve
gone the Gadhafi route. They started rolling tanks against the
In Morocco and Jordan, they`ve started announcing at least baby steps
towards constitutional monarchy. But the region is being shaken up by the
MADDOW: Juan, one of the things that has gone relatively unremarked
upon when we talked about international involvement here is how involved
the Arab nations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were in this
How important was it strategically but also in terms of the political
COLE: Yes, well, with regard to image, it was important this
intervention in Libya not be seen in the region as solely a Western one, I
think it wasn`t. It should be remembered that Turkey is a NATO member, and
it`s a major Muslim country of over 70 million, and did play an important
role in Libya.
Likewise, as you say, in the Arab League, the most active members
with regard to the intervention were Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar supplied weaponry. It flew some missions. It supplied aide. So,
it`s very important.
MADDOW: Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of
Michigan, author of “Engaging the Muslim World,” he blogs at juancole.com.
Juan, your post today about the 10 myths about the Libya world is required
reading for everybody within the sound of my voice. Thank you for doing
that and thanks for making time to join us tonight. Appreciate it.
All right. If you have any doubt why there has been quite a bit of
jubilation in Libya these past couple of days, we have a good reminder on
tape of why out of all the dastardly dictators in the world, Libya`s
dictator was a really famously dastardly one.
But before that, Texas Governor Rick Perry strikes back at Texas
Governor Perry. For all that stuff Texas Governor Perry wrote in Texas
Governor Rick Perry`s book – a man losing an argument with himself, in
MADDOW: Texas Governor Rick Perry launched his presidential campaign
in South Carolina just over a week ago, on a Saturday. So, this is Rick
Perry, Republican presidential candidate, day one.
The next day, Mr. Perry, being a presidential candidate, of course,
went to Iowa.
This, the interwebs will forever record is Rick Perry, presidential
candidate day two. He`s answering a question about Social Security here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let the whole, the
whole issue of – have you read my book, “Fed Up”? Get a copy of it, read
it. It is, because I talk about the entitlement programs in there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Have you read my book, “Fed Up”? Governor Perry released
the book called “Fed Up!” in November, as in November nine months ago. The
book was meant to introduce him on the national political stage. It was
one of the first big hints he might be running for president this year.
And if you do want to know about what Rick Perry thinks about
entitlement programs, as he said there, “Fed Up!” will give you an earful,
an eyeful, whatever.
Quote, “Certain of these programs massively altered the relationship
between Americans and their government, violently tossing aside any respect
for our founding principles of federalism and limited government. By far,
the best example of this is Social Security.”
Social Security, Rick Perry, is saying – “Fed Up!” – is not just
un-American, but violently un-American,
And it`s not just Social Security. That same month, Governor Perry
told “Newsweek,” quote, “I don`t think our Founding Fathers when they were
putting the term `general welfare,`” in the Constitution that is, “I don`t
think they were thinking about a federally-operated program of pensions,
nor a federally-operated program of health care. What they clearly said
was those were issues the state needs to address, not the federal
government. I stand very clear on that.”
Very clear. Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional in
Rick Perry`s America.
But in the rest of America, Social Security and Medicare are what you
might call very popular, the kind of government programs people are willing
to stand out on a street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for so they can yell
at you, Rick Perry, better keep your darn hands off of them.
These voters last week called Mr. Perry a threat to America for his
view that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional. When one of
them challenged him about that stand, he reportedly, according to ABC News,
took a giant bite out of a pop-over and said he couldn`t answer because he
had a big mouthful.
Now, Governor Rick Perry is trying another approach. His campaign
has started disavowing the things he said about Social Security and
Medicare in his book, “Fed Up!” Things he wrote in this book in November -
- he said these things, he wrote them down, they are in print. But he
didn`t mean them.
A Rick Perry spokesman telling “The Wall Street Journal” that
although Rick Perry`s book does seem to dog him on the campaign trail, we
should all get over it. The book is supposed to be, quote, “a look back,
not a path forward.” It`s a, quote, “review and critique of federal
excesses, not in any way a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto.”
It`s a review, a critic. It`s ancient story, this “Fed Up!” book
thing. Somebody needs to tell Rick Perry that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Have you read my book, “Fed Up”? Get a copy of it, read it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I mean, don`t – former RNC chairman Michael Steele joins us
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Let the whole issue of – have you read my book, “Fed Up”?
Get a copy of it, read it. It is, because I talk about the entitlement
programs in there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So Rick Perry the person says you can find his positions in
here on entitlement programs. His campaign today, though, saying nothing
in here about entitlement programs should be taken as what he believes
anymore. The book is, after all, a full nine months old.
Joining us now is Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican
Party, now an MSNBC contributor.
Do you feel I teed you up on here?
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Teed it up nicely. Good to be
back with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Nice to see you, particularly given this news.
MADDOW: Rick Perry says we should read his book for answers about
entitlements. His campaign telling “The Wall Street Journal” what`s in
here has nothing to do with his real position.
STEELE: Right, rock and a sticky place.
MADDOW: But is this how we should expect him to operate broadly
speaking, or is this just a screw up?
STEELE: I wouldn`t say it`s a screw up. I think it`s kind of get
caught flatfooted, almost forgetting the book was out there, you know,
because nine months ago in politics is a long time, not making excuses, but
that`s certainly how this campaign – once you lock and load you go, you go
and then all of a sudden you realize oh, I did say that, yes. I wrote
MADDOW: But he hasn`t forgotten it`s in there because he brings it
STEELE: But he brings it up, he brings it up. But I think that he,
definitely, used to what he`s written, he`s not going to say I didn`t
believe what I wrote at the time. I think what they are trying to do is
sort of finesse the answer in a way that doesn`t come off as if he`s anti
these programs and he wants to abolish, which is all kind of the wonderful
hype from the left about what the Republicans think and feel about –
MADDOW: No, no, if you say it`s unconstitutional, unless you are
proposing that America become a different country that doesn`t have the
Constitution, you are proposing getting rid of it.
STEELE: Well, I don`t think he actually said it`s unconstitutional.
I do remember reading the passage. I think he referred to the question of
MADDOW: Yes, yes, no.
STEELE: You`re not buying that one either?
MADDOW: No, I`m sorry.
Let me ask you bottom line what you think Rick Perry`s chances are.
STEELE: I think his chances are good. I think, though, that there`s
a whole lot of trail to be covered on this campaign. We`re hearing
telltale signs others are getting in this thing, whether it`s a Pataki or
Palin. So, there`s still movement here, I think largely the campaign is
set, I think you`re going to begin to see some elbow room clearing – as we
saw this past weekend with Mr. Huntsman, who did the big smack down on the
team that he`s running with.
MADDOW: Which Democrats are very excited about.
STEELE: Of course.
MADDOW: Yes, somebody`s finally telling the truth about the
STEELE: That was like in the Obama/Clinton race, people on our side
were very happy with some of the stuff that was going back and forth.
That`s the give and take of politics.
MADDOW: But do you think what Huntsman says does resonate with a
significant number of Republican voters.
STEELE: It does resonate with the significant number of Republican
voters and that`s going to be the real test for him at that debate in
California at the Reagan library with those gentlemen and Ms. Bachmann on
the stage and doesn`t pull a Pawlenty where when confronted with the very
people he`s talking about, he goes, well, my bad, time out, you know?
MADDOW: I have to say it to your face?
STEELE: Yes, kind of really? You`re here.
So, I don`t think that`s going to be the case though. I think he`s
made a conscious decision to really draw very bright line. He sounded as
if he was a Republican fed up with the party pulling its evil elf in the
direction where the American people aren`t right now. And so, how this
works, particularly given that you`re talking about a very conservative
base that goes to the polls in a number of states. They have open primary
states that could, you know, make a big difference.
But if he gets – if Huntsman survives the first four states and gets
into Florida, whole different ball game.
MADDOW: And he could self-finance.
STEELE: Self-finance, absolutely.
MADDOW: We got some news tonight that George Pataki who you
mentioned is going to be, I know, America is now scooting to the edge of
their chairs, Polk County GOP picnic, Polk County, New York, on Saturday.
I think it`s Polk County, New York.
He will be attending on Saturday and a local Republican saying there
may be a major announcement there.
You think the Republican America is waiting for George Pataki?
STEELE: Yes, it could. Could be. Could be.
I don`t know. We`ve been waiting for a whole lot of folks,
MADDOW: But, George –
STEELE: Let`s stop the waiting. Whoever is in is in. And go do
your thing, run, make your argument to the American people for goodness
sake and stop all this dog and pony nonsense about getting in the race.
It`s September for goodness sakes.
MADDOW: It`s Polk County, Iowa, I should say.
STEELE: Oh, Iowa, that is even more telling.
MADDOW: Yes, of course. What exactly would George Pataki be doing
in Iowa at this point?
But the idea that George Pataki who has cultivated this sort of aura
of moderation and un-headline worthiness – I mean, really he`s more Tim
Pawlenty than Tim Pawlenty.
STEELE: He`s a solid guy with a number of issues that are important
to the party, particularly on the fiscal side. He ran the state well. I
mean, there`s just – you know, everybody has the oranges you can pull out
from time to time that don`t look right or smell right.
But the reality is, by and large, he`s done well.
The question is how does the base take him and how will he be
perceived entering this race now? Is a Palin still out there? Who knows?
What kind of traction can he get on the heels of Rick Perry? Because
that will be an immediate comparison – and on the heels of a Huntsman?
MADDOW: He would love it to be compared with Perry.
STEELE: I know.
MADDOW: He`s the sweet spot between John Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty.
STEELE: You took the words out of my mouth.
MADDOW: Which is not a very sweet spot.
MADDOW: Michael Steele, this was not a very pro-Republican
discussion, I have to say. But you handled it. You parodied very well on
STEELE: Look, you know, my parody, your trust. What can I say?
MADDOW: Thank you.
STEELE: I was offensive, don`t forget.
MADDOW: On guard. (INAUDIBLE)
All right. At this crucial point in Libya`s history, guess which
American would say something like all those rebels are going to be richer
than the people in this country because they`re going to take all the oil?
Yes, “THE ED SHOW” gets to the very weird overlap between Donald Trump and
foreign policy. That is coming up right after this show.
And here, we take a video look back at the long, strange, scary
regime of Gadhafi in his own threatening bizarre unhinged words on tape.
We will never see his like again if we are lucky. Stay tuned for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our decisions have
been driven by Gadhafi`s refusal to respect the rights of his people and
the potential for mass murder of innocent civilians. Just yesterday
speaking of the city of Benghazi, a city of roughly 700,000 people, he
threatened and I quote, “We will have no mercy and no pity.” No mercy on
his own citizens.
Today, I authorize the arms forces of the United States to begin a
limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to
protect Libyan civilians. We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his
people that there will be no mercy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To protect Libyan civilians. That was the stated rational
behind the last five months of the U.S. participating in military decisions
in Libya. It was not to depose Moammar Gadhafi after 42 years in power, it
wasn`t to liberate the rebels in Eastern Libya. It was specifically to
protect Libyan civilians from what Gadhafi said would be an imminent
The U.N. Security Council authorized all necessary measures to
protect civilians and the U.S. and NATO started bombing Libya because of
Moammar Gadhafi specifically promising a bloodbath in Benghazi.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Prepare
yourselves for tonight. The traitors, the heretics, there will be no
mercy, no compassion. We`ll tumble walls on top of you, wall to wall.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: After that initial threat about Benghazi, Gadhafi made it
clear throughout this year just what he thought of his fellow country men
as they rebelled against his regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GADHAFI (through translator): Come out of your homes. Just attack
them in their dens. These gangs like cockroaches. They don`t represent
anything. They were drugged. They were given orders. These are
It`s al Qaeda, al Qaeda, al Qaeda, not my people. It`s Al Qaeda, al
Qaeda, al Qaeda, yes.
Put on the Libyan channel you son of dogs, you cowards, you
crusaders. Put on the Libyan channel. You traitors. You servants of the
How can the armed people allow a group of mercenaries, traitors, and
rats to open the way for colonialism in the city of Tripoli? This is
Where are you going? To hell fire? What did you leave you traitors?
You dirty people who make mosques filthy. You go into mosques and make
calls. You are sons of dogs. You go into mosques and un-purify them, you
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: A leader striving and discussing ands talking to his own
people. And this hour, we are told Gadhafi`s compound in Tripoli is
surrounded by rebel troops. His actual whereabouts are still unknown, as
are the locations of his sons.
Libyan opposition said earlier today that it had at least two sons in
custody including his heir apparent Saif who was reportedly arrested while
trying to flee Tripoli disguised as a woman. But just hours ago, Saif
showed up at a hotel in Tripoli that`s mainly occupied by journalists. He
told the BBC that his father is alive and well. And another son reportedly
escaped house arrest and a fourth son was reportedly killed, but none of
that in confirmed.
MSNBC will keep bringing the very latest on this still very volatile
and undecided in Libya, starting with “THE ED SHOW,” which starts right
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