The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/07/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Happy Friday. Thanks a
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
When Bill Clinton was running for re-election in 1996, you may
remember that his campaign theme that year was building a bridge to the
21st century. That campaign theme worked, Bill Clinton, of course, was re-
And at his second inaugural address, he kept the theme going. It was
all bridge, bridge, bridge, end of this century, start of a new one, over
and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, at
this last presidential inauguration of the 20th century, let us lift our
eyes toward the challenges that await us in the next century. Let us build
CLINTON: A bridge wide enough and strong enough for every American to
cross over. From the height of his place and the summit of this century,
let us go forth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I love inaugural addresses. I love all inaugural addresses,
no matter the president. But as a theme for a campaign and for a re-
election and a second term, that whole heading into a new century thing
made sense because we were in the late 1990s – zooming toward the 2000s.
So new century, new millennia. The whole thing was very big at the time.
2000, zero party, over – OK. All right. OK. Party like it`s 1999.
It was all very zeitgeisty at the time. Chronologically, the whole
idea of bridge to the 21st century made sense as a `90s campaign slogan.
But, then, having survived Y2K, having eaten all the food we stored,
having crossed over into the new century, having made it to now to the
first decade of the new century and having started into the second decade
of the new century, today, the man who would like to be the next president
of the United States and who has a pretty good shot at it, declared a start
of a new century. Today, in 2011 – either 89 years early or 11 years late
depending on what you think he meant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me make this very clear.
As president of the United States, I will devote myself to an American
century. This century must be an American century.
In an American century, American has the strongest economy and the
strongest military in the world. In an American century, America leads the
free world and the free world leads the entire world. The 21st century can
and must be an American century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mitt Romney, the current front-runner for the Republican
nomination depending on how Rick Perry and Herman Cain are doing today,
Mitt Romney chose today, the tenth anniversary of the start of the
Afghanistan war, to declare his big vision of America in the world.
Despite choosing the ten-year anniversary of the Afghanistan war as the
occasion for this big speech, he did not actually say anything about
Afghanistan in the speech, substantively. He said if elected president, he
would convene a group to study the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I`ll order a full review of our transition to the Afghan
military, to secure that nation`s sovereignty from the tyranny of the
Taliban. I`ll speak with our generals in the field and receive the best
recommendations of our military commanders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the war`s 10-year anniversary, that is his big idea on
Afghanistan. I will look into it.
But, mostly, the big Mitt Romney next Republican president vision
rollout this week was about making this big speech today and making the
announcement of his very long list of foreign policy advisers, which
actually explains why he was talking about a new American century 89 years
before it`s due.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: In an American century, America leads the free world and the
free world leads the entire world. The 21st century can and must be an
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of the 22 people who Mitt Romney has now named as his foreign
policy advisers, 15 of them are people who worked on foreign policy under
the George W. Bush administration – 15 of the 22. About a half dozen of
them are former members of the Project for the New American Century.
Remember them? Project for the New American Century was the
neoconservative think tank that was arguing for an American invasion of
Iraq all the way back into the 1990s. And, again, for them, like for Bill
Clinton the name sort of made sense – since they started before the end of
the last century, talking about a new American century. The group did
survive, though, for a hot minute into the 2000s.
Nine days after 9/11, they are the ones who wrote to President Bush
saying Saddam Hussein might have helped in the 9/11 attacks. And even if
Saddam didn`t help, any counterterrorism strategy after 9/11 that didn`t
include invading Iraq, quote, “will constitute an early and perhaps
The Project for the New American Century has folded now, for obvious
reasons. Their Web site is still up, though. It`s like a time capsule of
“I was wrong” incorporated. Saddam did 9/11 stuff and we`ll remake the
Middle East in our own image and we`ll be greeted as liberators and all the
rest of it.
Seriously, visit it sometime. It`s like a time travel back to the
worst losing arguments in foreign policy in the last decade.
Having been so discredited by the Iraq war disaster, the Project for
the New American Century people closed up shop. They did basically re-open
under a different name – a rather obscure name, foreign policy initiative.
Which I think not by accident is much less Google-able than their old name.
But with the greatest foreign policy failure in American history hung
around their necks, with the Project for the New American Century, neocon
fantasy a punch line now, Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate has
decided to embrace them. Romney picked six New American Century guys and
three of the four board members of the new group that replaced it to be his
advisers on foreign policy. He`s essentially set on reconstituting the
major parts of the George W. Bush foreign policy apparatus. He`s even
picked the ones that you would think could really never work in Washington
For example, do you remember the lie making into President Bush`s
State of the Union Address?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The British government has
learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
uranium from Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The whole uranium from Africa thing is traced back in the
Bush administration in terms of who they blame for that, getting into that
speech. It`s traced back to a man named Robert Joseph. He was the
specific guy in the White House who reportedly pushed the White House to
include the “uranium from Africa” thing in that Bush speech.
Saddam Hussein was not seeking uranium from Africa. That was not
true. It should not have been in the State of the Union Address or used as
evidence for why she would go to war.
And if you were the guy responsible for that – I mean, we do not
banish people in this country. You`re not going to be exiled. But you
know what you can`t work on anymore? You can`t work anymore talking about
people getting uranium from Africa. You can`t be that guy. You can`t work
on proliferation anymore.
It is the one thing in which you have not only discredited yourself,
but by your actions, you basically discredited our entire country.
You can work on anything you want. You can become a color by numbers
genius. You can invent a new form of recycling container. You can write
amazing sci-fi novels. You can be a stay at home dad, but you cannot work
on the whole weapons of mass destruction thing anymore.
If you are the uranium from Africa guy, that is the one thing you can
not do. Mitt Romney named the uranium from Africa guy co-chair of his
counter-proliferation working group. The uranium from Africa guy is going
to be Mitt Romney`s uranium from Africa guy.
That`s like hiring John Ensign to be your marriage counselor. This
would be like hiring somebody from Blackwater to advise you on saying
forward-looking foreign policy. Oh, wait, Cofer Black, the former CIA
official who left in the middle of the Bush presidency to become an
executive at Blackwater, he has also been named a Mitt Romney foreign
policy adviser. Mitt Romney picked up Dan Senor, the guy who the Bush
administration sent over to be the spokesman for the coalition provisional
authority in Iraq.
A former staffer for the Coalition Provisional Authority acknowledged
that Mr. Senor`s press office would send out targeted good news about the
war press releases to the American media during the `04 presidential
campaign in order to deflect criticism of President Bush. Once somebody
admitted you did that in war on behalf of your country, you`re never
supposed to be able to work in politics again.
“The Washington Times” which is not a mainstream newspaper, but is a
conservative newspaper and therefore gets a lot of conservatives to talk to
them, “The Washington Times” found a prominent conservative foreign policy
observer today to give this assessment of Mitt Romney`s newly announced
list of who`s advising him on foreign policy. Quote, “There are some good
people on this list and some crappy people. It`s like they stood on a
street corner and screamed, who doesn`t have a job?”
It turns out a lot of people who don`t have jobs in this field don`t
have jobs because of what they did in the field during the George W. Bush
administration. What they did to the world and what they did to the
But Mitt Romney has given them a soft landing, on the tenth
anniversary of the start of a war that is still going on.
To be fair to George W. Bush, when that president, when George W. Bush
announced the start of the Afghanistan war ten years ago, he did counsel
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Given the nature and reach of our enemies, we will win this
conflict by the patient accumulation of successes by meeting a series of
challenges with determination and will and purpose. In the months ahead,
our patience will be one of our strengths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the months, months ahead.
By patience, President Bush counseled that it might take months. That
administration was thinking about starting a new war on top of the one that
was still going on in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
told the American public to sit tight. In December of 2002, he said
everything was looking pretty good in Afghanistan.
Asked by CNN`s Larry King, “What`s the current situation in
Afghanistan?” Secretary Rumsfeld replied, “It is encouraging. The Taliban
are gone. The al Qaeda are gone.” That was nine years ago.
Right now, there are roughly 100,000 Americans still in Afghanistan.
President Obama`s current plan would have them out not by the end of this
year, not by the end of next year, not by the end of the year after that,
but by the end of 2014.
We have never had a decade-long war in this country before.
Afghanistan became the longest war in American history last summer. So we
are in unchartered territory in terms of what we`re asking America`s
military and military families to do on our behalf.
The Pew Research Center just polled Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
about the wars and about America`s life during wartime. Fifty percent of
Iraq and Afghanistan vets say the Afghanistan war was worth fighting, 50
percent of them say it was, 50 percent of them say it wasn`t. That`s more
than the country at large but not much more.
Here`s the really striking thing, though, that has far reaching
consequences for us as a country. Not just for what we`ve done, but for
what we do next.
If you ask Iraq and Afghanistan veterans about the distance between
people in the military and their families who have been at war for 10 solid
years now, if you ask about the distance between them and the rest of the
country, if you ask Iraq and Afghanistan veterans if after 10 years of the
military fighting these wars the rest of the country understands military
personnel, if you ask them whether the public at large gets them and their
family and their issues right now – 84 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan
veterans say no.
That is horrifying. That chasm, this yawning gap between American
civilian life and the American military`s life in the last 10 years is
horrifying. The radically different experiences in the 10 years since 9/11
for military families and non-military families, that is fundamental change
for who we are and for who we will be moving forward.
Joining us now is Ali Soufan, former FBI special agent whose
interrogation proved the first 9/11 link to al Qaeda just after the
attacks, the link that led to the start of the Afghanistan war. His new
book, of course, is called “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and
the War Against al Qaeda.”
Ali Soufan, it is great to have you back. Thank you for being here.
ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: You were there, literally there in the room as we connected
9/11 to al Qaeda, and al Qaeda to Afghanistan, and eventually thus started
the American war. Given that start in our goals then, does it make sense
to you that 10 years on, we still plan to have tens of thousands of troops
there for years to come?
SOUFAN: It`s interesting if you asked me that when we figured out
that al Qaeda was behind the attacks of 9/11 and on the eve of the
Afghanistan war. I could have told you now, it`s really impossible to
think that 10 years later, we`re still in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan war
lasted longer more than World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War.
This is really interesting – interesting phenomenon. And as you
mentioned, new charted water for us.
MADDOW: When you think about this as a counterterrorism expert, you
became an operative at the highest levels. The whole idea of why we are
still there in Afghanistan is counterinsurgency, the idea that our presence
will provide security and essentially build up Afghan institutions so that
the Afghan people want their government more than they want this insurgency
and that that will have an effect on whether or not that society still
produces terrorists that can pose a threat to us.
Do you see those as linked? Do you believe that argument? Does it
work for you?
SOUFAN: No, I truly don`t believe that argument, especially when it
comes to Afghanistan. I don`t believe in the argument, a nation – state-
building in Afghanistan.
You know, Afghanistan is divided into many different factions, many
different tribal factions, many different ethnic factions. You have the
Uzbeks, you have the Tajik, you have the Hazara who are Shiites. You have
the Pashtun. The Pashtun tribes, they are divided between northern Pashtun
and southern Pashtun.
And if you look at the landscape 10 years later of at least from the
insurgency side, you have the Taliban. Not all the Taliban are Mullah Omar
Taliban. There are different factions based on tribal and clans and so
But, also, there`s the Haqqani Network. And the Haqqani Network don`t
actually present Haqqani Network. They are the proxy for Pakistan and the
ISI in Afghanistan.
So, there`s a lot of regional issues that we have to take into
consideration, a lot of tribal issues that we have to take into
consideration. A lot of ethnic issues that we have to take into
For example, the Hazara, their loyalty is to Iran and Iran has a lot
of control over them. The Uzbeks, they have very strong relationship with
Russian. The Tajik, they have very strong relationship with Tajikistan and
with different allies that they have in Central Asia. Haqqani, Jalaluddin
Haqqani – Jalaluddin Haqqani historically from, as early as the Soviet
jihad in Afghanistan, he was the ISI`s main man. He was a deputy of
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, maybe a lot of people forget that name, but that name
was very important in Afghanistan during the Soviet jihad.
And after the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, the leaders of the
mujahedeen start fighting with each other. The Pakistan said, look, we
cannot tolerate – this is happening in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is
a strategic depth into Pakistan. So, they created what we now the Taliban
today, under Mullah Omar. And the moment they created the Taliban, and the
Taliban took over Kabul and defeated all the other leaders of the
mujahedeen, immediately, Haqqani switched alliances and he became part of
the Taliban because ISI asked him to be part of the Taliban. And Mullah
Omar gave him a position as a minister for tribal affair in the very first
So, now, the strategy that we have in Afghanistan is basically a
strategy to pull out in 2014. The Pakistan strategy is how they can have
their proxy in control of Afghanistan after we pull out and that`s what we
see today. That struggle that`s happening and the emergence of Haqqani
Network as a major player in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: And in the absence of an indefinite American presence as
adopting Afghanistan as the 51st state, there`s no effect that we`re going
to have on that –
SOUFAN: These people have been killing each other hundreds of years
and they will continue unfortunately to kill each other for hundreds of
years. We need to leave, but we need to leave in a way that we can
guarantee that Afghanistan won`t be a launch pad for transnational
terroristic groups to attack the West and attack the United States.
So, in order to have the security guarantees, we have to have regional
agreements and tribal agreements in the country. You can put 200,000
troops in Afghanistan and that`s not going to make a difference.
MADDOW: The book is called “Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11
and the War Against al Qaeda” – Ali, because you are here, I have to ask
you something personally as a favor. I`ve been using your book essentially
as an almanac since it came back – it came out. Will you publish an e-
book like version of an index for this book? There`s no freaking index of
this book. I`m constantly looking stuff up in it and it really stops me.
SOUFAN: That`s actually a very good question.
MADDOW: It`s Gofer Black. Now that he`s been picked by Mitt Romney,
Gofer Black stars in your book. You need an index, dude.
SOUFAN: Well, we had an index. However, the CIA as part of a
redaction pulled it out and they said that we cannot put the index, we
cannot even put the picture of me or my wife in the book in heaven`s sake.
But as I mentioned on the first page of the book, we`re working on
that and we`re hoping all the redactions will be taken care off, and we`re
hoping that the index that we have, but it`s considered redacted, will be
part of the book.
MADDOW: I may start producing a wiki index just of Mitt Romney
advisers in your book between now and then. Don`t rush me.
Ali Soufan, thank you so much for being here.
SOUFAN: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: You probably do not know a 96-year-old lady from Tennessee
named Dorothy Cooper. But after you meet her in a minute, you will not
forget her, nor will you be able to forget how important her story is about
who`s going to be the next president.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: “Best New Thing in the World Today” coming up at the end of
the show, involves some free range facial hair, a goat, my executive
producer, and a bunch of other things that sound really dirty when you put
them in a list but I swear they aren`t.
MADDOW: This is Dorothy Cooper. Ms. Cooper is 96 years old. She was
born in north Georgia on or about the year 1915.
At the time Ms. Cooper was born, America did not allow women to vote.
Women did not yet have that right. In 1919, when Dorothy Cooper was still
a tiny tot, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution
which gave women the right to vote. But before the amendment could go into
the Constitution and go into effect, the states, of course, had to have
their say. They had to ratify it.
Georgia where Dorothy Cooper was growing up at the time said no to
letting women vote. Georgia lawmakers voted against ratifying that
amendment. Men only voting for Georgia.
Ultimately, though, enough other states agreed to the 19th Amendment
that it became the law of the land in 1920. Georgia still didn`t get
around to extending that supposed federal right to women, that
constitutional right for another year until 1921. They didn`t get around
to ratifying the amendment until 50 years later in 1970.
But lucky for the women voters of Georgia, a federal right is a
federal right even if Georgia`s men wanted to keep that vote all to
themselves. When Dorothy Cooper grew up, she left Georgia, she moved to
the city. Se she moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to work and start a
Tennessee, as it happens, was the state that pushed the 19th Amendment
over the edge, to let women vote. The state that gave the final yes vote
needed for ratification. And Dorothy Cooper, as a new Tennessee resident,
enthusiastically exercised her right – her right to vote.
Starting in the 1930s, she voted in pretty much every election she
could. She voted in the race between FDR and Alf Landon. Remember Alf
Landon? Me neither. Don`t sweat it.
She`s voted in the race between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson.
She voted without any trouble. She says, even in the very Southern state
of Tennessee, before Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to protect
African-American access to the polls.
In the 1960, Dorothy Cooper did break her string of perfect attendance
at the polls. She missed voting in that year, in the Kennedy/Nixon race.
The only time Ms. Cooper ever played hooky from an election, she said she
just moved before Election Day and she did not have time to update her
So, other than that sort of glitch in 1960, though, Dorothy Cooper
from the 1930s until today, Dorothy Cooper voted. She voted every single
She voted in 2010 when Republicans gained control of both chambers of
Tennessee`s state legislature and the governorship for the first time since
reconstruction. The newspapers promised, quote, “far reaching
ramifications from the Republican takeover in Tennessee.”
One of those far reaching ramification was that for the very first
time in her very long life in Tennessee, Dorothy Cooper is now finding it
very hard to vote.
This year, the new Republican Tennessee legislature passed a law
requiring people to show ID they never had to show people in order to cast
a ballot. During the debate, Democrats tried to insert an amendment
exempting senior citizens from the new rule, but Republicans rejected it.
The bill passed.
On June 1st, the new Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam signed
it into law. And now, for the first time in Tennessee, in order to vote,
you have to show an ID that 500,000 Tennesseans do not have, including
Dorothy Cooper – Ms. Cooper, whose story appears this week in the
“Chattanooga Times Free Press.”
Ms. Cooper found out last month that she`d need a photo ID to vote.
She`s never been a driver, so she does not have a license to show at the
But she does have documents. She has all the accumulated documents of
a normal life lived normally when you`re 96. She went down to the local
driver service center, the DMV, with a ton of documentation. She brought
her lease, a rent receipt, her voter registration card, her birth
Naturally, that 96-year-old birth certificate carries the name she was
born with, Dorothy Alexander, instead of her married name, Dorothy Cooper.
She says, quote, “I didn`t have my marriage certificate. I don`t know what
difference it makes.”
Well, that day at the DMV in Tennessee, it made all the difference in
the world because the clerk looked at all of those documents she brought
and said no. No, Dorothy Cooper, age 96, voting in Tennessee since the
1930s. No, we will not give you the ID that you need now, all of a sudden,
in Tennessee, in order to vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SHARPTON, “POLITICS NATION” HOST: Even during Jim Crow days, you
didn`t have any problems voting in Tennessee?
DOROTHY COOPER, TENNESSEE VOTER: No, I haven`t had any problems at
all until this time. This is the only time that I`ve had any problems.
SHARPTON: Do you feel that this is something that you never thought
at this stage in your voting life that you`d have to face? Are you
surprised that they would change and make these kinds of strict
requirements at this stage in the game?
COOPER: No, I never thought it would be like this ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dorothy Cooper said she never expected this. But at least
she does have company in her predicament. Half a million of her fellow
Tennesseans do not have the right ID either. And only a third of
Tennessee`s counties have a DMV office for you to haul your documents to
for the clerk to decide whether or not you meet the requirements.
The Republican state senator who sponsored the new law, Bill Ketron,
called the new law, necessary to, quote, “protect the purity of the ballot
box.” Casting out the manifest impurity, I guess, that is Dorothy Cooper.
That`s what it looks like in Tennessee right now where Republicans
have succeeded in making it harder to vote for Dorothy Cooper and for a lot
of other people.
As we have been talking on this all year, this isn`t just about
Tennessee. Republicans are doing this all across the country with state
law. Republicans in Kansas passed a law this year that requires you to
prove your citizenship when you register to vote.
So, think about it – you`re at the supermarket, the nice lady from
the League of Women Voters is there at the card table out front – are you
registered to vote, sir? Would you like to register?
Yes, you would like to register. Great idea. OK. Do you have your
passport on you there at the grocery store? How about your birth
certificate on you at the grocery store? If not, sorry, not in Kansas.
In swing states like Florida and Ohio, Republicans have cut the time
for early voting, or absente voting, or both.
In Colorado, the Republican secretary of state ordered Pueblo County,
a very Democratic county, not to mail ballots to troops overseas who had
not voted since the big election in 2010 or re-upped their registration.
The state considers them inactive voters. Maybe they`re a little busy
fighting a war or whatever – but no ballots for them. We have to protect
the purity of the ballot box. From the troops trying to protect us?
Tonight, we can report that Pueblo County has sent those ballots out
to the troops after the intervention today of court ruling today against
the secretary of state in a related case. Pueblo County`s clerk, Gilbert
Ortiz, told us tonight that sending those ballots to the troops is the
right thing to do even if the Republican secretary of state initially tried
to stop him from doing it.
Mr. Ortiz telling us tonight that even with the legal issues not all
settled, he has gone ahead and sent out the ballots to the troops. That`s
the way voting is being challenged and defended now, mostly at the state
and the local level. This is not being seen as a national story yet. But
voting is a federal right.
Last week, President Obama said access to the polling place matters to
him and his administration and that he would like to do something about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATEES: I will say that my big
priority is making sure that as many people are participating in our
democracy as possible. Some of these moves in some of the other states
that we`ve seen trying to make it tougher to vote, restricting ballot
access, making it hard on seniors, making it hard on young people, I think
that`s a big mistake. And I have made sure that our Justice Department`s
taken a look at what`s being done across the country to insure that people
aren`t denied access to the franchise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama in an interview with Michael Smerconish
saying that the Justice Department will look into the many changes in state
law that are making it harder for Americans to vote this year. This is not
one where you can troubleshoot for a particular problem. This is not one-
off matter of what`s happening in Florida, or Ohio, or Maine, or Kansas, or
Colorado, or Tennessee. It`s not just Dorothy Cooper.
This map from the Brennan Center for Justice shows the states that
tried to pass new requirements that you show ID you never had to show
before in order to vote. These are the states that tried, Republican
Enough of them succeed in making it harder to vote that the new laws
could affect millions of people next year, people who are
disproportionately young and/or poor, and/or minority. In other words,
people who are traditionally part of the Democratic base.
And this is important. It`s not coincidental, and it is perhaps more
to the point to note that there are enough states now that have passed new
laws to make voting harder to swing the Electoral College, to decide who
gets to be president in the 2012 election. The laws thin out and preclude
likely Democratic voters in more than half of the states you need to win
Is that who Republicans are trying to protect the purity of the ballot
box from, from Democrats? Likely Democrat voters? Is that the goal?
Because that is going to be the effect?
MADDOW: Back in March when Newt Gingrich was just thinking,
considering, noodling around, kicking around the idea of thinking of maybe
running for president, he put up this Web site, Newt Explore 2012, send
cash right away to help Newt make up his mind.
And those smiling diverse Americans on the Web site there in the photo
looking admiringly up at Newt, they are available to look admiringly up at
just anybody with a few shackles and an Internet hookup. They`re a stock
photo. They are for sale.
The people looking in different directions, engaged in various
patriotic activities – except for the guy in the middle breaking
character. What is he doing? Or when they have to break and make that
call, of course. All available for purchase.
But now our friends in the stock photo are doing something altogether
new. As you can see here, they are occupying Wall Street, at least
according to occupyparty.org. These are the 99 percent protesting the 1
percent that own 50 percent of everything.
As reported by NPR, occupyparty.org was registered as a Web site this
Sunday using a post office box in Brisbane, Australia, which is not the
heart of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. But the site does seem poised
to place well on Internet searches for people looking for information about
“Occupy Wall Street” or people looking for Newt Gingrich`s fake adoring
crowd. What ever happened to those guys?
The interview tonight about “Occupy Wall Street” and many other issues
is with the great Lawrence Lessig. I`m really nervous. I`m really excited
that he`s going to be here. That`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT STRAWN, IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR: One thing we`ve been very
clear on in Iowa is that we do plan to be first in the nation with our
first of the nation caucuses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, we learned that the Iowa Republican Party has settled
on a tentative date for their first in the nation caucuses. Tentative
date, January 3rd, the date party officials agreed to which means the
process of voting for president officially begins on the third day of 2012,
which means we will be voting for president for 10 months.
And so, now, more than a year before the election, campaign season is
already well under way. Campaign season it turns out is basically forever
now. And that leaves politicians of both parties with hardly any time in
office to do what they`re supposed to do between elections which is, of
course, raising money.
New estimates out this week are that TV ads alone for the 2012
election will total more than $3 billion.
We`re told to expect that almost a quarter billion dollars, quarter
billion of that, will come just from Karl Rove`s group, the American
Crossroads group, which announced last month they were doubling their fund-
raising goal to $240 million. Ninety-two percent of the millions they
raise this year, so far, was from three people, three zillionaires. So,
that fund-raising isn`t going to be hard.
Welcome to post-Citizens United America, where every season is
campaign season, where every campaign season is driven by cash, and where
there`s so much cash, the cash only counts if you can divide it into $100
We are not much for public intellectuals in this country. We have
celebrities and politicians and activists, but public intellectuals we do
not have many.
Lawrence Lessig is one of the few public intellectuals that we have as
a nation. Today, the way you can tell that is because, now, on the
occasion of his profound and comprehensive new book on the routine
corruption of money and politics, Lawrence Lessig`s talks about money and
politics are being remixed with video of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests
– for explanation and for inspiration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE LESSIG, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: The framers of our
Constitution gave us a republic, representative democracy, democracy to be
dependent upon the people alone.
But here`s the problem, members of Congress spending between 30
percent and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress.
Seventy-five percent of Americans believe, quote, “money buys results in
Congress.” Eleven percent of Americans have confidence in Congress – 11
percent. Just think what that means. There were more people who believed
in King George III at the time of the revolution than who believe in our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us tonight for the interview is Lawrence Lessig, he`s
professor at Harvard Law School and the author of the new book, “Republic
Law: How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It.”
Professor Lessig, I`ve been nervous and excited to talk to you. Thank
you so much for being here.
LESSIG: It`s really great to be here.
MADDOW: I`m a fan of yours.
LESSIG: Me, too.
LESSIG: Of you.
MADDOW: Well, let`s just leave that alone.
The process of raising money, the amount of time that it takes, the
proportion of a member of Congress` life that is taken up by the pursuit of
campaign money in order to stay a member of Congress – is the money
process, itself, what corrupts, or is it specifically about where the money
LESSIG: I think it`s both. The first thing to recognize is that this
corruption is not the kind of Rod Blagojevich corruption. This is not
criminal activity. These are decent people that are just trying to live in
a terrible system.
But as they spend their time, 30 percent to 70 percent of their time
trying to raise money, it begins to shape shift them and they`re constantly
are aware how anything they might do will affect their ability to raise
Leslie Byrne, a Democrat from Virginia, describes that when she went
to Congress, quote, she was told, quote, always lean to the green and then
to clarify, the guy continued – she continued, he was not an
The point is they recognize exactly how they can raise the most money
and that begins to affect exactly the policies that they pursue.
MADDOW: Is there any opting out option for a member of Congress? If
somebody gets elected to Congress because of something other than a ton of
money or maybe because of a ton of money, once they get there, can they opt
out and survive as a member of Congress if they choose not to do with the
LESSIG: Well, probably not, but the one big pressure increasingly
they have is a tax for their own party. Members have to raise money for
their own party as well as for themselves. So, the constant focus of
Democratic policy or Republican policy is actually a focus on capacity of
members to continue to raise money so that the party can regain control or
to maintain control.
So, the shift, and you talk to people like Jim Cooper, a Democrat from
Tennessee, who described for me Congress as a farm league for K. Street,
the shift from a Congress that was really working out policy issues, to a
Congress that is really working out fund-raising issues is profound. And
it`s really just in the last 20 years. This is not something that was 30
MADDOW: And that is a really important point. I think in terms of
not feeling hopeless about it and angry about it in an impotent way. That
it wasn`t always this way and doesn`t have to be this way. What got us to
this point – and as you say, in a relatively recent timeframe?
LESSIG: So, Newt Gingrich got us to this point. When Republicans
took over control of the House and the House and the Senate and then
Congress was up for grabs. It created huge competition for both parties to
continue to keep control. And leadership in both parties began to demand,
not leadership on policy issues, but leadership on the capacity to raise
So they became full-time fund-raisers. You know, spending the vast
majority of their time focused on this issue rather than focused on the
issues that are important to America. And that has had a profound effect,
not just on what Congress does – I mean, there`s a great story in “The
Huffington Post” about how in the first six months of the year, the number
one issue that Congress focused on in the middle of two wars, huge
unemployment problem, huge deficit problem.
But the number one issue was the bank swipe fee issue. And why was
that? That was because if you dance around with $19 billion on the table
and act like you`re a coy and not quite sure which way to go, money begins
to rain down on top of your campaign.
So the whole agenda of Congress gets driven by the issues that will
raise the most money. So, you wonder why we don`t pay attention to
unemployment. Turns out unemployment doesn`t raise a lot of money for
congressmen and their campaigns.
MADDOW: The proscriptive element of your book, I think, the
diagnostic part of it, is fascinating. And you are legendary for being
able to explain things well in this sort of tightly constrained use of
visual media. Even in the book, is really helpful.
But it is the prescriptive part of it that I think makes this
important. And – not to be too long winded – but it`s essentially I feel
both good and bad about it. I am buoyed by the fact that you see this not
as good members of Congress and bad members of Congress, but a bad system.
And that gives us some hope that it could have, as you say, cross-partisan
solution. We could solve it both from anger left and right.
The thing I`m worried about is that I feel like all the potential
solutions that all have to do with, you know, public financing instead of
private financing of campaigns, I feel like they`re all being precluded by
the Supreme Court.
LESSIG: Well, the solution that I describe here – a kind of citizen-
funded, small dollar-funded election, would not be precluded even by this
Supreme Court, even under the recent Arizona solution. It`s true solutions
that try to silence people or block the ability to speak, this court said
those are off the table.
A system that said – the proposal I have here is basically every
voter has a $50 voucher, plus they can give $100 on top of that. And
candidates who opt to take only $100 contributions can get the voucher
money. That`s if every voter had $50, that`s $6 billion in an election
cycle. That`s 2 1/2 times the total amount raised and spent in the last
congressional election. So, that`s real money and that`s completely
constitutional even under this Supreme Court`s session.
The hard part, in my view, is not the Supreme Court. The hard part is
the world inside the Beltway, that depends upon a system, where very small
number of people fund campaigns so that lobbyists can leverage that
influence to sell more lobbying services and, therefore, sell more access
to members of Congress. Those people, that business, gets crushed if we
had a system where the funders were actually the people, and they will
fight like hell against any change that undermines that power.
MADDOW: The idea that you get around that with – through bottom-up
democratic means is radical and interesting and presented in really concise
form. And I`m not going to explain it now, A, because we`re out of time,
and B, because I think people should read the book. I`m glad that you are
doing a heavy duty book tour promoting this because you`re a good
communicator about this. And it`s definitely important.
I had Buddy Roemer on the show talking about these issues and I can`t
tell you what an incredible response we had from our viewers talking Buddy
Roemer of all people talking about these people and you tell his story and
this overall story so well. So, thank you for doing this.
LESSIG: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know you could be doing a lot of different things. And
LESSIG: I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Lawrence Lessig is the author of the book. It`s called
“Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop.”
OK, it has been almost a year since 33 Chilean minors were rescued
after being trapped for months underground, an ordeal that was frankly
Tonight, Ed Schultz hosts a documentary about the miners` ordeal
called “17 Days Buried.” It`s pretty amazing stuff. It has exclusive
interviews with the miners, themselves. It`s going to be airing tonight
right after this show here on MSNBC. I recommend it.
But, first here, “Best New Thing in the World Today.” Or as it says
on our rundown board in the office, if you can read my writing – cat,
goat, rat, squirrel.
That`s just ahead.
MADDOW: This past week has been a good news week overall. For the
running competition on our show to be named the Best New Thing in the
This, for example, we cited with the best sarcastic thing from an
American governor in the world. Governor Jerry Brown send thing letter to
the California State Senate and I quote, “To the members of the California
State Senate, I am signing SB-769 which allows for a dead mountain lion to
be stuffed and displayed. This presumably important bill earned
overwhelmingly support by both Republicans and Democrats. If only that
same energetic, bipartisan spirit could be applied to creating clean energy
jobs and to ending tax laws that send jobs out of state. Sincerely, Edmund
G. Brown, Jr.”
Best new sarcastic thing by a governor definitely.
Best country western single released by a conservative Democratic
senator and reviewed this week by the “Omaha World Herald” newspaper, that
award this week goes to Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who, in the song, sounds
way more like Kermit the frog than I would have expected from him. But I
mean it in a good way.
MADDOW: It`s not easy being Ben. Best country western single
released by a conservative Democratic senator and reviewed this week by the
“Omaha World Herald.” Congratulations, Senator Nelson.
But for the single best new thing in the whole world today, for what
won, you must know that this happened at our show`s news meeting today.
When the person pictured here, our executive producer and our boss, Bill
Wolff, e-mailed this picture to his lovely wife Alison today, she e-mailed
back instantly, how old are you? To which bill replied, “13,” CC-ing the
Bill is not 13. If he was, that beard would not have so much gray in
it. But the “Best New Thing in the World” that has inspired the beard and
the shameless regression to the point of being dressed down by his wife and
him being happy about it – that is coming up at the end of the show.
“Best New Thing in the World,” it is awesome. That is next.
MADDOW: Billy Sianis is a rabid fan of the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Sianis
was also a goat owner, the kind of goat owner who took his goat everywhere
he went, including game 4 of the 1945 World Series between his Cubs and the
At the entrance of the ballpark, though, Mr. Sianis and his goat were
denied entry. No animals allowed. This infuriated Mr. Sianis, who
according to widely-believed legend, said, “The Cubs ain`t going to win no
more. The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not
allowed in Wrigley Field.”
Since that fateful day in 1945, the Cubs have not returned to the
World Series. Every other team that existed in `45 and exists today has
been to the World Series at least twice since then. But not the Cubs.
That is the curse of the Billy goat.
And then there`s the black cat curse. Late in the 1969 season, the
same Chicago Cubs were in first place playing the New York Mets Shea
Stadium when a black cat released from the stands crossed in front of the
Cubs` dugout and reportedly hissed at the Cubs. Uh-oh!
The Cubs lost that game, immediately nose-dived, going from first
place to eight games behind the championship Mets. That`s the curse of the
Sixteen years ago tomorrow, hockey player Scott Mellanby was in the
locker room of his Florida Panthers when he saw a rat running across the
locker room floor. He fearlessly slayed the rat by smashing it with his
hockey stick and went on to score twice that night as the Panthers won 4-3.
From that point forward, Florida Panther fans threw plastic rats by the
hundreds on the ice to celebrate big goals and the rat-propelled Florida
Panthers wound up in the Stanley Cup Final.
So, that`s the opposite of a curse. That`s the victory vermin.
But all of that brings us to now. This is my boss, our executive
producer Bill Wolff. His team, the St. Louis Cardinals, are playing the
Philadelphia Phillies in a deciding playoff game tonight. Bill`s concerned
that we`ve already jinxed the Cardinals by even discussing that he is
delusional. But how did the underdog Cardinals even get this far? They
got this far by squirrel power.
In Tuesday`s game in St. Louis, a squirrel darted across the field and
hung out along the third baseline, delaying the game. The squirrel did not
stay long and the Cards lost 3-2.
But then Wednesday was different. Game 4, in St. Louis, fifth inning,
the Cards` Skip Schumaker at the count. The Phillies pitcher delivered a
pitch at almost the exact moment that the squirrel makes his dramatic
return right in front of the plate. The immediate result was ball two.
But in the next inning, the Cardinals unheralded David Freese hit a
two-run home run to give the Cardinals a dramatic, unlikely 5-3 win. How
certain of the squirrel`s power are the crazed denizens of St. Louis and
Bill? The most famous phrase in St. Louis is the command for fans to “go
crazy, folks,” right? Say it to anybody from St. Louis and they will know
what you mean.
But, today, yes, that is a squirrel in a Cardinals` cap. Go nuts? Go
Goat, cat, rat, squirrel, and the complex and comforting beauty of
over-the-top sports superstition in America – Best New Thing in the World
Today. That does it for us tonight. Have an excellent weekend. We`ll see
you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for “17 Days Buried Alive” hosted by Ed Schultz. Good
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