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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/29/12

Guests: Jeff Merkley, Spencer Ackerman

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: We will know that is the case if we find some kind of Mexican wrestling mask in the next Pete Sousa photo from the White House. Then we`ll know they`re sending a message. SCHULTZ: That`s right. MADDOW: Thanks, man. That was awesome. SCHULTZ: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. OK. Last year in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, which to refresh your memory is here, sort of wedged into a port of the world called Eurasia. In that struggling young nation of Georgia, a 75-year-old grandmother was out looking for scrap metal and she happened -- by some dark miracle, she happened upon the cable that connects much of that region to the outside world. The cable that she found when she was looking for scrap metal happened to carry the Internet -- the whole Internet service for that whole part of the world. And because this woman was poor and she thought the cable maybe contained some valuable copper that maybe she could sell, she cut that cable with a shovel. And with that one mighty thwack, that 75-year-old woman severed almost all of the Internet in the next door nation of Armenia and also in parts of her own nation of Georgia, and in the neighboring nation of Azerbaijan. One lady, one shovel, one thwack with that shovel and it was the end of the Internet in three countries. This kind of thing happens sometimes. Look at this. It happens in our country, too. Copper thieves just this month made off with wiring that supplied Internet and phone service for the Navajo nation in New Mexico and Arizona. They thwacked that cable in order to steal the copper and bingo, no Internet. And actually in that case, it was not only no Internet, it was also no long distance phone calls and even knocked out all the ATMs. We think of the Internet as almost an ambient thing, right? As a presence. But it is a physical thing at some level. And even if every country doesn`t exactly have a big national Internet on/off switch, the Internet can be shut off. It can be shut off by accident or by thievery. It can be shut off for political purposes by the government on purpose. And today, in Syria, where they are in year two of a very violent uprising, someone today in Syria turned off the whole Internet, the whole thing, for the whole country, all of a sudden, like a light switch. Look at this graph. It shows people using the Internet in Syria this morning, typing along, tweeting, whatever. And then, boom! Lights out. No more Internet in Syria. Somebody hit the off switch. Here`s another view -- the Internet in Syria humming along, and then, all of a sudden, nothing. Syria has three cables that connect it to the rest of the world. As of about noon today, local time, this shows the traffic on those cables. All three cables just shut down instantly, off a cliff, nothing moving into Syria, nothing flowing out. It`s not like this has never happened before. Syria has shut down the Internet at times of military offensives in this uprising before. And we have seen other governments do this before. The government in Egypt shut down the Internet last year during the revolution there that toppled Mubarak. Same thing with government in Libya. In the months before rebel fighters took down that regime and ousted and then killed Gadhafi. Sometimes governments have also blocked access to the Internet in smaller, more directed ways like Pakistan and Bangladesh turning off YouTube this year on account of that insane Islamophobic video that sparked fatal protests across the Muslim world. Just this week, the government in Tajikistan turned off Facebook after people started posting mean things on Facebook about the president of Tajikistan who apparently is a wuss. Earlier this year in Pakistan, the government blocked Twitter for a day because of a, quote, "blasphemous cartoon contest." So, yes, this kind of thing happens. Government shuts off parts of the Internet or even the whole darn thing. And because this is a thing that governments do to their people, preserving access to the Internet and means of communication that the Internet affords us, that has become a significant part of the way the U.S. interacts with other countries. It`s become a significant part of U.S. diplomacy and what we try to get governments to do in terms of the way they treat their own people. During the Iranian revolution, the Iranian Green Revolution in 2009, those big street protests against Ahmadinejad, remember that summer of big protests there? Remember how the U.S. press called that the Twitter revolution? Twitter was not the reason those protests happened in Iran that summer, but it did turn out to be an important tool that activists and regular Iranians used to communicate to each other about that giant protest movement that was so threatening to the government there. When Twitter was planning a totally unrelated shutdown for technical reasons around the time of those big protests in Iran, the U.S. government intervened and asked the company to please delay that planned outage to another time when it would not crimp Iranians` ability to use that tool. And Twitter agreed. Twitter did delay that planned service outage. With this shutdown of the whole Internet in all of Syria today, it`s still under way. We`re not sure how long it`s going to last. But our government, the U.S. government, takes these things seriously, and U.S. officials today blamed and criticized the Syrian government for the Internet going dark in that country. But then check this out. Our government, our State Department, also said that the Syrian people will be able to get around the fact that the Syrian government turned off the Internet and the phones in that country. The U.S. expressing confidence that some Syrians will be able to get around this in part because of direct help from us. The government, our government apparently planned for this eventuality and distributed in Syria 2,000 communications kits to the opposition. Those kits include apparently computers and phones and cameras, quote, "designed to be independent from and able to circumvent the Syrian domestic network, precisely for the reason of keeping them safe from regime interruption." The U.S. State Department expressing confidence today that those 2,000 kits from our government to the people of Syria will be enough to keep the opposition movement going and to keep people in Syria in contact with people outside of that country. Now, from the other side`s perspective, Syria`s information minister says it was not the Syrian government there, it was not the Syrian government that shut down the Internet. He said terrorists did it. That said, the same guy, information minister also said today that the airport in Damascus was still open for business today. And if you want to check his veracity, the airport in Damascus was not open for business today. Really, it`s closed. See inside that circle? No planes in the flight radar over Syria. And while that detail is important to figuring out whether or not you should believe things the Syrian information manager tells you are true, it is also, frankly, ominous that the main airport in Syria is shut down. No plane has taken off from or landed in Damascus since yesterday morning. We`re getting all sorts of conflicting reports about why that might be. Everything from the rebels have mortared the runway, to the government shut it down in order to attack the rebels, to this information minister guy saying it`s not shut down as all. It apparently is shut down. There is a black box in terms of what`s happening over in Syria right now. There`s a black box in terms of what`s going on in that country. We do not know what`s going on. It has gone opaque. And with the Internet shutdown and with the main commercial access point to the country shut down in terms of air travel, with no reliable information about what`s going on, the worry is that the Syrian government has essentially made that country go dark so that under cloak of darkness, they can do something to their own people that they`re unwilling to be seen doing in the light when the world can watch, and that is scary, particularly given the kinds of weapons that that government has access to. So given this scary situation, Syria is a place where we say the regime should go. We have not yet recognized officially the opposition, but lots of other countries have. It`s clear the United States is heading toward that. In this situation when Syria pulls the plug on the Internet and air traffic stops and the information we`re getting from the government is plainly wrong and we don`t know what`s going on, what should the United States do? Wait, before you answer that, I should also mention if you are the person who gets to decide something like that, I should also tell you what`s on your plate today besides that. Today, the U.S. and Israel got outvoted 138-9 on a vote to grant Palestinians sort of junior nation status at the U.N. Palestine is not officially a country, so they`re not officially a member of the U.N. They officially get to be observers of what happens at the U.N. But this was a symbolic stamp of international approval for the political legitimacy of the Palestinians. It may not have much practical impact, but politically speaking, it was the U.S. and Israel that were desperately trying to have this vote today not happen, so that we would not to be shown to be so isolated in the world in terms of our country`s perspective and the Israeli perspective on this issue. The U.S. knew that the vote would look this lopsided, which is why we did not want the vote to happen, but it happened anyway and it happened just like we knew it would. Now what? Also on your plate, after President Obama took his big historic trip to Burma this month, the first time a U.S. president has ever visited Burma, the Burmese government today attacked their own people using what is being described as incendiary devices to break up a protest of Buddhist monks in their iconic flowing saffron robes. Also, while you`re spinning the chore wheel about what America should do in the world today, consider that the Egyptian president who was the go- between for us on trying to shut down the war between Israel and Gaza this month, the first thing the Egyptian president did after getting that cease- fire was assign himself new dictatorial powers that he said could not be overruled by anybody or anything in Egypt. This is not the old dictator of Egypt. This is the new guy. And just one more thing: if you`re not too busy while you`re considering these matters, while the United States is negotiating how many American troops are going to stay on in Afghanistan after the end of our longest war ever, while we`re negotiating what`s going to happen in that country after 2014 while we`re in the middle of those negotiation, the United States Senate voted today by a big margin, 62-33, that we would please like to leave Afghanistan sooner than the end of 2014, faster -- which you will now need to work out with the president of the United States and the Pentagon and the Afghans and all the NATO allies that are already sprinting for the exits there. So, that`s what`s on your plate. That`s today. Do you want this job of sorting this all out? Again, that was just today`s agenda. That`s a Thursday in American diplomacy. Do you want the job of making all those things right? I do not know you, but I know enough about you to guess that you do not want the job of making all of those things right. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We cannot view any of these challenges or changes in a vacuum. They are all connected, and our strategy needs to account for the intersections and relationships. So, the United States really does need to bring an unprecedented level of strategic sophistication to these problems rather than just chasing after the crisis of the moment. American policymakers need to play chess, not checkers. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Being in charge of diplomacy for the United States of America, being the person responsible for getting America`s way in the world by some means other than bombs, being America`s top diplomat is harder than any other civilian job in the United States besides maybe being president of the United States. It`s the toughest job you can do not in uniform. But back home in Washington, the opposition party, the Republican Party, at least some of them, have decided they do not want anybody to fill that job. Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire says she will block the nomination of anyone to be the top diplomat for the United States. John McCain has said the same thing, that he would not support confirming anyone, anyone for that job, the way he feels now. Both senators saying they would prefer nobody had that job because of their upset over comments made on Sunday morning talk shows by a member of the Obama administration on the weekend after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Republican Senator Susan Collins has now decided that that administration official, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, is someone she could not support for secretary of state if President Obama nominates her for that job because Susan Rice chose to appear on those Sunday shows at all, regardless of what she said there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration`s position. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Seriously. They`re no longer even complaining about what she said. They`re complaining that she went on a Sunday show. So, therefore, she can`t be secretary of state. For Senator Susan Collins, appearing on a Sunday show is something a politician would do. And she doesn`t want somebody for secretary of state who would do something like that. Be totally inappropriate for somebody behaving like a politician by going on a Sunday show to get the secretary of state job. She says she would much prefer Senator John Kerry for that job, because, yes, he`s never been a politician. Or presumably, she`s still OK with the current secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. It`s not like she`s ever run for anything. You know, obviously she`s never been on a Sunday show. If she had been on a Sunday show, she`d ever gone on a Sunday show, that obviously would have disqualified her from becoming secretary of state. That would show her to be behaving in a political fashion. Everybody knows the secretary of state cannot do anything political. Seriously? There is a mismatch between the seriousness of the things that we actually need to get done as a nation and the quality of the system in Washington that is the means by which we must get those things done. Syria is not our war, and Syria is not going to be our war. But there are tens of thousands of people dead there already. And the regime there appears to have just turned off the lights, pulled the plug, disconnected that country entirely from the eyes of the world. What are we going to do about it? We do actually have to make a decision, right? What are we going to do about? And are we going to pick a new secretary of state in the middle of deciding what to do about it? Or are we going to decide, nah, we don`t need that job, we`d rather have a tantrum in Washington about something too incoherent to track on a daily basis in the news anymore? Are we capable of picking a secretary of state on substantive grounds or is it going to continue to be this nonsense? The Afghanistan war is our war. It`s the longest war in American history. In the last campaign, the same opposition party, the Republican Party for president and vice president nominated candidates who not only had zero foreign policy experience between them, but who had no coherent policy whatsoever about what to do about the war and who preferred not to mention it, even in their major speeches about things going on in the country. While we`ve got 66,000 Americans in that war right now. We have serious things to make serious decisions about as a country. How do we turn down the nonsense enough to hope that our political process can be the means by which we make these grave and serious decisions? Joining now is Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He`s the chief sponsor of the amendment that passed today calling for an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Senator Merkley, thank you very much for being here tonight. And congratulations on the success of that amendment today. SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, thank you very much, Rachel. It`s an incredible amount of things happening around the world today. MADDOW: Yes. And I feel like this is one of those moments when I have very high hopes and very high wishes for what our political process will be capable of doing, and I have to say, seeing your amendment passed today in such a bipartisan fashion with so much Republican support made me have some hope that some of the biggest foreign policy challenges that we`ve got might be tackled in a way that is at least less partisan, if not less nonsensical. Do you feel that way about it? MERKLEY: You know, this was a very bold and bipartisan moment. It`s the first time in 11 years that a chamber of U.S. Congress has said we need to end this war in Afghanistan and bring our sons and daughters home and to do it by nearly a 2-1 margin and tell the president, not only should you stay the course in transferring responsibility to the Afghan military and getting our troops out of a combat role, but you should do everything possible to move more quickly. That was a tremendous statement to make, and very different than what we had two years ago. MADDOW: And this is essentially phrased as advice from the Senate. It`s the sense of the Senate. It`s not a binding -- MERKLEY: Yes. MADDOW: -- requirement that you`re putting on the Pentagon or the president. What are you hoping is going to be the practical effect of this proposal? MERKLEY: Well, let`s compare this to what the House has in their language. They say there need to be 68,000 American troops at a minimum through the entire next two years. So they`re talking about basically indefinite war at large numbers. And the Senate has responded tonight and said, no. This war must come to an end. We have lost thousands of Americans. We have spent half a trillion dollars. We have spent 11 years. The nation building is not working. Our primary missions on the training camps, our primary mission on taking out those responsible for 9/11 is completed. Let`s get our sons and daughters home. It`s an incredible rebuttal to the case the House has made for indefinite high levels of war in Afghanistan. MADDOWE: The executive branch and the Congress obviously are separate and co-equal branches of government. I have to ask, though, if you`ve had feedback from the executive branch, from the White House, about how they feel about your amendment and the Senate expressing themselves this way. Are you getting any sort of pushback or any sort of encouragement? MERKLEY: I haven`t heard any specific feedback, but largely we`re endorsing the president but saying do it faster. And so, I suspect that the president would very much like to hear that we think he`s on the right track but hope that the circumstances enable him to move even more quickly. This is a very different message than the House is sending. MADDOW: And, you know, and within the 2014 framework that the president has laid out, he has described the pace at which he wants to bring Americans home from Afghanistan as a steady pace. He hasn`t said anything about how many troops he wants there over that time period. It seems like the president would not have to change any statements that he`s previously made about the war in order to go along with your language. Is that your sense? MERKLEY: No, not at all. We`re really reinforcing the vision the president has laid out and to have a bipartisan endorsement of the president`s vision, along with calling for an acceleration of his vision, is really just the right message to send. It says you`re on track, but do it more quickly. This war needs to come to an end. We -- compare this to two years ago when we had a resolution that Russell Feingold put forward and I assisted him in it. It simply asked the president to set out a timeline. That`s all it asked. Just set out a timeline. We only had 18 votes for that. But tonight, we said, not only do we enforce a timeline for getting out, but we want you to accelerate it. And we had 13 Republicans join with the Democrats and say, enough is enough, we need to end this war, we need to get home. MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon -- thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. MERKLEY: You`re so welcome. MADDOW: Congratulations again on this amendment. I really appreciate your time. MERKLEY: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. Senator Jeff Merkley, the other issue that he`s really been championing in the Senate right now is this idea of changing the Senate rules about whether or not you can just by rote (ph) require a 60-vote majority rule for everything, which has made this the most least effective Senates of all American times. Senator Merkley has been a relatively low-profile senator nationwide. That is not for long. Not with the issues he`s taking up and the -- I think the prospects that his issues have in this Congress. All right. The date January 11th just became a very important date on the American political calendar. New Year, of course, is the 1st. Inauguration is January 21st. But in between those two dates, January 11th, turns out is a day everybody needs to put on their calendar. Hold on. I`ll tell you why, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The great state of Mississippi is a seriously conservative, seriously Republican place. Republican Governor Phil Bryant won there last year with 60 percent of the vote. Republicans control most of the statewide offices in Mississippi. Democrats don`t even bother fielding candidates for all the statewide offices in Mississippi anymore. Republicans also control both chambers of the legislature which means whatever Governor Bryant wants to put on his conservative Republican agenda, the legislature is essentially there just to say, go. And a lot of that agenda, the Mississippi Republicans like to wrap up in the mantle of free enterprise. Like when Governor Bryant signed the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act. He said he wanted no business to shy away from expanding or locating in our state because of burdensome mandates. That`s how Mississippi Republicans like to be known, as the guys who will do away with burdensome mandates. At the same time, Mississippi Republicans are very much in the business of burdensome mandates as long as the burden falls on folks they would very much like to put out of business in their state. The same month the Mississippi Republican governor signed that small business act into law, he also signed another law that targeted one Mississippi business in particular. It was designed on purpose to use state government red tape to close the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. The new law placed a mandate on this business in particular. It requires doctors at this one clinic to get admitting privileges at local hospitals. Since that law passed, the clinic`s two main doctors have been trying to comply with the new regulation that was designed just for them. They`ve been applying for admitting privileges that the state now says they`re supposed to have. The doctors started with a list of 12 hospitals in and around Jackson where the clinic is. The clinic`s owner tells us their applications were 50 pages-plus per doctor, per hospital. The applications took weeks to compile, each hospital, each time. Two of them, the big teaching hospital in the city and the Baptist hospital in town, they wouldn`t even accept the doctors` applications. Five other hospitals did agree to receive the doctors` applications, but they rejected them, not only the merits of the doctors as doctors but for administrative reasons like the hospital`s policies on abortion or concern about disrupting the hospital`s business within the community. And so, this thing designed by Mississippi Republicans to be impossible turned out to be impossible. They wanted to create a new regulation that the state`s one last abortion clinic could not follow, because they wanted to shut it down. And we know this because Governor Phil Bryant said so on tape. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: I think it`s historic. Today you see the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on, to say we`re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is constitutionally protected, but that`s not the point in Mississippi. In case the Mississippi governor`s somehow wasn`t clear enough, the state`s Republican lieutenant governor backed him up even more clearly. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) LT. GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: Our goal needs to be to end all abortions in Mississippi. I believe the admitting privileges bill gives us the best chance to do that. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Now that the clinic`s doctors have been denied those admitting privileges, Mississippi Republicans` goal of using state government to end abortion in Mississippi has a very specific timeline, so you can now mark on your calendar January 11th, just a few weeks away. That is the date on which Mississippi`s last remaining abortion clinic will become in violation of the law -- just by being a functioning abortion clinic, unable to comply with regulations that were designed specifically to be impossible to comply with. Yesterday, the clinic asked a federal court to block enforcement of that law so they can stay open. So, remember that date, January 11th. Unless that court intervenes, that date, January 11th, is when American women in one American state will lose access to what is supposedly their constitutionally protected right, because Republicans in that state decided that for them. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Your vice president did two of the things he does best today. He got a lot of attention for one of them. He got a lot less attention and probably deserved a lot more for the other thing. We have the tape and nobody else does. An exclusive, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The reason you have to take your shoes off when you go through airport security is largely this guy. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001, he now lives in Colorado in a federal supermax prison. This guy was the bomb maker for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. He also lives in Colorado, in a federal supermax prison. This guy, "The Blind Sheikh", he was convicted for involvement in a bunch of terrorist plots. He now lives in North Carolina at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex there. Remember Charles Manson? Charles Manson lives in California at Corcoran State Prison. Eric Rudolph -- Eric Rudolph is the guy who bombed the Olympics in 1996. He also bombed abortion clinics and a gay bar. Eric Rudolph lives in Colorado, too, at the same federal prison as the shoe bomber guy. Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11 conspirator, also lives at the supermax prison in Colorado. If you`re a convicted terrorist in the United States, depending on what exactly you`re convicted of, it is possible that you will be put to death, but it is likely instead you will just get locked up somewhere and then you will just live in that part of the United States, securely locked up for the length of your sentence. Which is usually your life or considerably longer. That`s how it works. That`s how it has worked forever. There are 373 people convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses living in 98 different prison facilities in America. There has never been an escape or a significant security problem associated with that fact. On his second full day in office, the then new president, President Obama, signed an executive order to close the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year. That did not happen because Congress stopped him from doing it. In passing the bill that pays for all our defense, the annual bill that gets passed every year, the Defense Authorization Act, Congress added language blocking the president from moving any prisoners from Guantanamo to American prisons. It is, of course, one of the most high-profile, unfulfilled promises of the Obama presidency so far, that Guantanamo is still open, and the president is not shy about that. He brings it up. He will explain why it is he has not been able to get that done. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some things that we haven`t gotten done. I still want to close Guantanamo. We haven`t been able to get that through Congress. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congress has not allowed him to close Guantanamo, but it should be noted this president has not sent anybody new there, either. There were 242 prisoners at Guantanamo when he took office. It`s now down to 166. People have been shipped out to other countries, a few of them have died. A very small number of them have gone through this cockamamie military tribunal process that was invented just to try to come up with a pseudo-legal way to deal with these people who we have locked up in a third country no man`s land. But interesting point of historical fact here, even before that day in the White House when President Obama signed the executive order to close Guantanamo, even before he did that, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the intelligence committee, had already requested a thorough government report on how logistically prisoners could be moved from Guantanamo to American prisons. In 2008, remember, yes, Barack Obama was running for president saying he wanted to close Guantanamo, but the guy he was running against, John McCain, was also saying that he wanted to close Guantanamo. And, frankly, the guy who was president at the time, the guy who opened Guantanamo, George W. Bush, was also saying at the time that we needed to close Guantanamo. So everybody sort of agreed and Dianne Feinstein apparently said, well, hey, if everybody agrees that that must be done, let`s start looking into how we are going to do it. That report requested by Senator Dianne Feinstein from the Government Accountability Office in 2008 has just come out. And it explains the duh is silent that, yes, people convicted of terrorism offenses are already safely held in American prisons, a lot of them. There are 373 terrorism convicts being held in 98 different facilities that are capable of holding the kind of people who are held at Guantanamo, even if there might have to be modifications to those prisons in order to hold them there. In addition, the GAO also notes that there are military facilities in the United States capable of holding the Guantanamo prisoners as well, with the added benefit that those facilities are only about half full right now. That defense spending bill that Congress uses to block President Obama from closing Guantanamo, that bill is an annual thing. It has to pass every year. And so, every year that he has been president, Congress has been passing a version of that bill again every year, that says these people at Guantanamo can not be moved to American prisons. And that bill is being debated in Congress right now just as this report is coming out saying how feasible it would be to move those remaining guys from Guantanamo into the American prison system. And so, Congress has to decide whether they`re going to continue saying it is impossible to do this, when there is this 63-page unclassified report saying, in the most banal, obvious terms, duh, obviously, here`s how you would do this. In the real world, honestly, I believe, there is no reason for the most powerful country on earth to maintain an essentially lawless, third country, offshore prison to hold a specific tiny subset of prisoners that scare us too much for our own legal system. In the real world, this is essentially going to have to end. Of course, in FOX News world, it`s never going to end, right? FOX News needs for ratings sake to conflate a supermax prison in rural Colorado with your backyard. You know, your backyard where Charles Manson lives right now. But back here in the real world, eventually, a decision is going to have to be made. Maybe it`s going to have to be made now. Maybe it`s going to be made this year. Joining us now is Spencer Ackerman, national security writer for`s "Danger Room" who does actually live in Charles Manson`s backyard but only for fun. Thanks for being here, Spencer. SPENCER ACKERMAN, WIRED.COM: It`s a lot of fun, actually, Rachel. MADDOW: I understand the temporary tattoo with -- I know, I know. Spencer, what are the implications of this GAO report if any? Do you think this is going to change at all the debate over this issue in Congress? ACKERMAN: Well, logically, it wouldn`t shouldn`t because as you point out, everything in the GAO report is both well-established and kind of obvious. There hasn`t been anyone who`s broken out of the supermax or any of the other facilities around the country where 373 convicted terrorists reside. On the other hand, it does seem like it`s now somewhat possible -- thanks to Dianne Feinstein and this report -- to stake a claim right before the second Obama term begins that, perhaps, this is something to start fighting on again. And the fact that it`s happening during the defense authorization debate sort of seems like an interesting marker to get that off on perhaps a new footing. MADDOW: I wonder if you sense on the issues of national security that you cover if there`s been a change in resolve on the Democratic side. We`ve seen fights over issues like this for the last four, eight, 10, 12 years. But I feel like when I talk to Democrats about these issues now, when we see Democrats talk about these things in the media, they`re sort of starting to treat these types of fights like the stupid Ground Zero mosque fight or some other conspiratorial right wing nonsense fight. There seems to be new resolve on the part of the Democrats and maybe on the part of the president that they`re not going to lose fights when the other side`s argument is really dumb. ACKERMAN: I think you`re right about that. On the other hand, you know, never underestimate the spinelessness of a Democrat. So, you know, perhaps that`s not quite so firm. On the other hand, I am kind of getting the sense like you`re getting that at the very least, the firmament of political sentiment about national security might be ready to move. The Democratic politicians and some political appointees do kind of want to, you know, see if they, perhaps, can move it. And this seems to be another piece of evidence, you know, you had Senator Merkley on. The Afghanistan amendment that he put out seems to be another example of that. MADDOW: Spencer, do you see anybody inheriting the John McCain role on the Republican side in terms of being the Republican who other Republicans look to for leadership on national security issues? I feel like what`s going on with the Susan Rice thing that he`s doing is actually turning out worse for him than it is for Susan Rice in the end. I mean, we`ll have to see. But I don`t think it`s wearing well on him. I wonder if you see contenders for that throne on the Republican side. ACKERMAN: You might. It`s very unclaimed on the Republican side right now. You definitely see people like Senator Kelly Ayotte who seems to, you know, want to come out of that Lieberman and senator -- I`m sorry, Lieberman McCain and Senator Graham mold, taking more hawkish positions. You also see Marco Rubio playing another sort of somewhere between hawkish and moderate position that might go in some interesting ways. You`ll also see, you know, Bob Corker who`s taking a new position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have the opportunity to do that, too. But, again, it does seem similarly to some on the Democratic side that this is somewhat unclaimed territory and now that Senator McCain is going to have something of a diminished role because he`s no longer going to be the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, could also arise new voices coming out. MADDOW: Yes, seeing that big list of Republicans on the side, on the mostly Democratic side on that Afghanistan amendment today I thought was maybe a watershed moment. Spencer Ackerman, national security writer for "Danger Room" at -- Spence, it`s great to see you. Thank you. ACKERMAN: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Just ahead, first, I will wholeheartedly endorse a idea pitched by a super conservative media watchdog guy who hates me. Watch and believe. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Most of what Vice President Biden made news for today was his trip to Costco. A new Costco opened up in the D.C. area, and Vice President Biden whipped out his Costco membership card and went to the store. He bought some Duraflame logs. He bought a giant Costco-sized apple pie. He bought some children`s books. He bought a 32-inch television and he spent some time looking at watches. And he hugged people. And he ate snacks that they were giving out in the deli area. And he ate more snacks they were giving out in the bakery area. He apparently had a great time and there were great pictures taken of him having a great time at the great big Costco in D.C. But the other thing that Vice President Biden did today that did not get nearly as much attention is something that happened back on Capitol Hill. And it is both more important and in some ways more impossible to imagine than his funny trip to that funny store today. Cameras were rolling of what he did on Capitol Hill today. We have the tape. You will not see it anywhere else. That`s coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A Republican Party eating its own is a process that continues a pace now 23 days after the presidential election. Today the last remaining outstanding congressional race was decided -- seems like all the ones decided late including this last one ended up going to the Democrats. In the end, the final tally is that not only was the Democratic president, Barack Obama, re-elected, but in the Senate, Democrats picked up two seats, and in the House, the Democrats picked up eight seats. So it was just a bad election for the Republicans. And as the Republicans defeated presidential candidate was invited to the White House today for what has come to be known as the quadrennial American gracious loser White House photo op, the Romney campaign`s chief strategist is being whatever the political equivalent is of being set upon by wolves for opining in "The Washington Post" this week that even though he ran a campaign that lost by 126 electoral votes, even though his candidate lost his home state, even though his candidate`s running mate lost his home state. Even though the party lost seats in the House and Senate at the same time they were losing the White House, Mr. Romney`s chief strategist says he thought the campaign he ran went just fine. He says they, quote, carried the day. Which I`m sure they did, other than the whole losing everything part. You would think there would be a lot of mainstream opprobrium for Stuart Stevens here for that fantastical Beltway self regard in the face of all the contrary evidence. But actually, the mainstream seems to mostly just be ignoring him. The people who are paying attention to what he`s saying are the folks on the political right. And they`re paying attention because they are not happy. Quote, "If Stu Stevens` private advice for Romney was as delusional as this op-ed, no wonder he lost." Or there`s this one. "Oh, for effs sake, I just read the Stu Stevens piece and my brain is burning with fire." That`s the reaction for this year`s Republican presidential campaign chief strategist from conservatives. Then, there`s one of Mitt Romney`s Republican primary rivals, Jon Huntsman, also now being torn apart by folks on the right for voicing his own critical comments about his party`s process for choosing its nominee, this year. Mr. Huntsman this week told "The Huffington Post" about his primary opponent, quote, "I looked on the debate stage and half were probably on FOX contracts at one point their career. So, you do that. You write some books. You go out and you sell some more. You get a radio gig or a TV gig out of it or something. And it`s like you say to yourself, the barriers of entry to this game are pretty damn low." On the fund-raising side of Republican politics, we have not heard hide nor hair from Karl Rove, basically since the election, since the election in which he spent $390 million conservative dollars to elect Mitt Romney and a Republican Senate. That money is not coming back, and, hey, maybe neither is Karl Rove. Reince Priebus is apparently staying on at the Republican National Committee as its chairman. But today, Mr. Priebus got an ostentatiously leaked letter from one of those conservative media publicity hound guys telling Mr. Priebus that unless the fiscal cliff negotiations in D.C. go the way they wants them to go, he will personally cut off the spigot of conservative money to the Republican Party. He says, quote, "I will make it my mission to ensure that every conservative donor to the Republican Party that I have worked with for the last three decades, and there are many, and they have given tens of millions of dollars to Republican causes, I will make sure that they give not one penny more to the Republican Party." Promise? What are you going to do, right? You give it to the Democratic Party instead? Perhaps you should start a third party. I mean, I`m not allowed to make political contributions because of my job, but as a liberal, I maybe would cheat to contribute to your third party idea, right? You`re right. The Republican Party is not pure enough. It`s not conservative enough. You guys should hive off. Starve the Republican Party. Make your own thing, split away from them, new party. You can call it the Tea Party. It`s already got party in the name. I would support that. Every liberal in America will fund you if you promise to do that. Oh, please, Brent Bozell. But as the Republican Party continues to do this, or perhaps this, which is a process that is maybe inevitable after an election like I just went through, there was a moment in Washington today, inside the U.S. Capitol, that was a great reminder that there is another way to look at public service and the parties. And that there is a type of model of public service in modern American history for which the question of which party you belong to ends up being one of the least important things about you. Today, former Republican Senator Warren Rudman, who was no liberal and definitely a Republican, Warren Rudman, was eulogized by a bipartisan who`s who of people who worked with him and competed with him and respected him over the course of his storied multi-decade career in Washington. And they eulogized him and talked about him in a way that just erased party differences. Vice President Joe Biden was one of the many Democrats there to pay tribute. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was never a man or woman, at least when I was with him, that he ever looked at and spoke with who he didn`t treat with dignity. So many people in powerful positions begin to think that they -- they know so much better than ordinary people. It was never about pedigree. It was never about degree. He didn`t look at people and yield to pedigree. He didn`t yield to that person in the room who had the most advanced degree. He was as bright as anyone in the room. But the thing I admired most about him was I believed that he believed, given a half a chance, just ordinary -- ordinary, plain Americans -- ordinary plain Americans knew what their own interest was. Maybe it appealed to me the most about him, because it`s a thing I disliked most about -- people who are in high places sometimes. They somehow think that they`re better. Not better -- they care about those folks. But they somehow think that they`re not capable of making their own judgments. I had the dubious distinction of being told by the Senate historian that only 15 people in the history of the United States Senate have served as long as I have in this body. I never met a man in all the time I served with the single exception of Dan Inouye who had the kind of integrity, grit and faith -- faith in ordinary Americans. He was an incredible guy. He was all everybody else said. But the part I guess we all look to the parts we most admire. The thing I most admire about him is the way he treated everyone, everyone with dignity. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Vice President Joe Biden speaking tonight at a memorial for former Republican Senator Warren Rudman of New Hampshire who died last week at the age of 82. In politics -- even in politics, sometimes party is the thing that matters least of all. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END