Guest: Paul Krugman, Barbara Lee, Glenn Greenwald, Michael Hastings
High: On a day when the White House makes big populist, progressive news about limiting the pay of execs at bailed out companies, it‘s starting to seem incongruous that this White House is putting a conservative Republican in charge of the Commerce Department.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
On a day when the White House makes big populist, progressive news about limiting the pay of execs at bailed out companies, it‘s starting to seem incongruous that this White House is putting a conservative Republican in charge of the Commerce Department.
Also, the Russians are now saying they want to help us out in Afghanistan. Yes, that should strike fear into your heart.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney just enjoys striking fear into your heart. He just enjoys that. Glenn Greenwald will join us this hour. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman will join us this hour. It is all coming up.
But first, I have it on good authority that on some days, the best thing on the TV machine is just the raw feed from Congress. And today was one of those days. Today, we met a whistleblower with the goods on a suspected criminal who was ignored by the federal government for nine years. Harry Markopolos was begging and pleading to help the SEC take down Bernie Madoff, the alleged $50 billion bilking Ponzi scheme operator. Mr. Markopolos, despite the evidence he handed over, was ignored by the SEC.
Now, I‘m not usually an SEC hearings sort of person, but this stuff today—this was good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY MARKOPOLOS, FRAUD INVESTIGATOR: I gift-wrapped and delivered the largest Ponzi scheme in history to them, and somehow, they couldn‘t be bothered to conduct a thorough and proper investigation because they were too busy on matters of higher priority. If a $50 billion Ponzi scheme doesn‘t make the SEC‘s priority list, then I want to know who sets their priorities. If you flew the entire SEC staff to Boston and sat them in Fenway Park for an afternoon, but they would not be able to find first base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I told you this was good. Now, how bad did Harry Markopolos want to stop Mr. Madoff? Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARKOPOLOS: I offered to go undercover for the SEC, under their command and control, and have no one know where I was, except my wife, and I would have no contact with my family during this time. And I would have assumed a disguise, as I was trained to in the army, and gone undercover and led that team to a successful result very quickly. I don‘t know what more I could do to put it on the line than bring this man to justice than I attempted to do in my October 2001 submission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On one level, this is the story of a brave whistleblower willing to risk life and limb to give a criminal to justice as in B. Martin Sage (ph) and totally play him in the movie. On another level, this is a government gone bad story. This is consequences of deregulating everything story.
In the financial industry, radical deregulation took the bumpers off the bumper cars. It turned Wall Street into a demolition derby. When it all started to collapse in September, we were reminded that the bumpers are there for a reason. Finance is a high-risk, high-reward full contact industry. But because its collapse has the potential to collapse the global economy, government is supposed to contain the field of play, put a fence around the bull ring, put bumpers on the bumper cars.
So, the consequences of private sector financial catastrophe, if it happens, don‘t drag the country and the world down with it. Without regulation, what do we get? Well, we get 3 million people ruined by Bernie Madoff, 300 million people sweating the future in America like it‘s 1931. Deregulation and “laissez-faire market can do no wrong, tear down all the rules” time is up. Time is up. It was a failure. We tried it, it didn‘t work.
Now, it‘s time to return to sanity. The opening gambit in the inevitable new era of sane regulation was the executive pay issue, low hanging fruit. The president today is saying that in America, we don‘t disparage wealth, we do not begrudge anyone their success, but .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: But what gets people upset—and rightfully so—are executives being rewarded for failure, especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, many of whom are having a tough time themselves. Top executives at firms receiving extraordinary help from U.S. taxpayers will have their compensation capped at $500,000.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What you are experiencing right now is populist satisfaction. That money we all donated to these businesses isn‘t being siphoned off into the individual private, undoubtedly offshore bank accounts of individual executives who failed at running those businesses, who came hat in hand to the government for public money, whose companies would not exist had we, the American people, not said, “Sure, here‘s your handout.”
That feeling is satisfaction. The thing is, though, that executive pay caps are mainly a symbolic move. Yes, it‘s low-hanging political fruit, but if the executive audacious and gratitude problem were made 100 percent better today, we would still have an economy in freefall. And the geniuses who gave us deregulation, all this discredit “Market knows best, abolish all the rules” thinking are now the biggest barrier to what it will take to stop the freefall of the economy. They are still around and they are still pushing their discredited ideas that got us in this mess in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM PRICE, ® GEORGIA: We want a solution. We understand and appreciate that tax policy is the way you get to a solution.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN, ® NEVADA: We are going to have properly targeted tax credits that really help small businesses.
SEN. JON KYL, ® ARIZONA: The Republicans have better ideas about how to promote economic growth with business tax relief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, the deregulation and tax cut crowd—the crowd that brought us huge deficits and near economic collapse, they are now proposing -- surprise—more tax cuts as the solution to this current crisis. Fortunately, that crowd lost. They lost badly in the great economic ideas referendum known as the 2008 election. And, fortunately, the president found his voice on that point today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the past few days, I‘ve heard criticisms of this plan that frankly echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis in the first place—the notion that tax cuts alone will solve our problems. I reject these theories. And, by the way, so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Nobel Prize-winning economist and “New York Times” columnist, Paul Krugman. He‘s the author of the new book, “The Return of Depression Economics and The Crisis of 2008.”
Mr. Krugman, it‘s a pleasure to have you back on the show. Thanks for joining us.
PAUL KRUGMAN, NEW YORK TIMES: Good to be on again.
MADDOW: We know that reregulating Wall Street is coming. But the stimulus bill comes first in Washington. What is your response to the Republicans‘ insistence on tax cuts being the bulk of the stimulus?
KRUGMAN: Well, yes. I mean, we sort of tried that for the last eight years, right? It didn‘t work so well. And no, there‘s very good economic theory that says that tax cuts are very inferior form of doing this. The problem is there is not enough spending in our economy. There is not enough demand to keep people employed.
Give people tax cuts, especially give relatively affluent people tax cuts, they probably going to hang on to most of the money, not spend it. It doesn‘t do very much. You run up a lot of federal debt but you don‘t end up doing very much stimulating.
And that‘s why spending, you know, there are various forms that spending can take, but actually, getting the money out there, laying it out, aside from the fact that we need this stuff the government can give us here, it‘s also a better way of getting the economy moving.
MADDOW: I sort of feel like you and other prominent economists in the country deserve some sort of public interest credit of your own for having to explain that point over and over and over again.
KRUGMAN: I sometimes think we‘ve returned to the Dark Ages here. We have forgotten the stuff that our grandfathers learned and it sort of disappeared from our memory and somewhere hidden in the monasteries of the manuscripts with all this ancient knowledge.
MADDOW: Or hidden in Econ 101 textbooks in the first chapter.
MADDOW: I mean, it‘s basic economic literacy. Maybe we don‘t have basic economic literacy the pro-tax cut arguments are working. I mean, the Republicans are almost dominating the debate when you look at the popular discussion about the stimulus plan and we are starting to see their position reflected even in public opinion polls.
KRUGMAN: Yes, I think this is partly bad media coverage. It‘s partly that, you know, they have a simple point to hammer. And I have to say, until today, Obama and team were a little bit of sort of—they were so busy trying to change the tone in Washington that they weren‘t, you know, focused on the main thing which is to get this economy moving.
MADDOW: The Madoff whistleblower today, Mr. Markopolos. He said today that the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, essentially would lose in a math contest with Mr. Ed. He described them as completely feckless. Is regulation in the financial industry really that lame?
KRUGMAN: It‘s pretty bad. You know, it‘s not—if you spent 30 years saying that government is always the problem never the solution, if you spent 30 years castigating government bureaucrats, you know, many of whom are actually—we need bureaucrats—and if you under-fund these agencies, if you make government the place where smart people don‘t go, because, hey, it‘s got bad rep and furthermore, it pays so much less than being on Wall Street, being a malefactor of great wealth, then you have to expect that the whole apparatus is not going to work.
So, in the case of the SEC, they had the authority, the rules were there, but we had degraded, you know we FEMA-fied it, we‘ve degraded so much that it couldn‘t do its job.
MADDOW: When did that degrading start?
KRUGMAN: Oh, it really goes back to Ronald Reagan. And you really want to—this began in 1981, and it‘s taken place over the years. And while there was some improvement during the Clinton years, Clinton didn‘t have Congress on his side and wasn‘t able to make the kind of break in that trend. So, really we had, it‘s almost 30 years now of degrading these things, and eventually, these are the consequences.
MADDOW: If the stimulus bill gets passed and if the president keeps up the line that he was—that he got great applause for today .
MADDOW: If the stimulus happens, he kills the tax cut folly that could screw up that plan, what should be next on the agenda, in your opinion?
KRUGMAN: Well, financial rescue. That‘s the other thing. You know, we do—we are busy constraining the paychecks to these executives but we actually, meanwhile, have a failing banking system and, you know, the new administration has not been very good at coming out with a plan that makes sense to anybody. And they need to do that.
So, I mean, the immediate thing is we have stop this freefall in the
financial system and the economy. Stimulus bill takes care to some extent
I don‘t think it‘s big enough—but it takes care of the demand side, but we need to work on the financial side. And we also then have to do reregulation of the financial markets which we need to do while the crisis is still fresh in our minds. We don‘t wait until everything is fine before trying to do fix it because at that point, the industry lobbyists will make sure that nothing happens.
MADDOW: So, big stimulus, clearly explained, well thought out financial system retrenching and rescue.
MADDOW: And then, getting regulation back on track. (INAUDIBLE).
KRUGMAN: Yes. And next month, some other stuff.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly.
KRUGMAN: It‘s a huge agenda but it has to be done. And then, you know, the world is depending on it.
MADDOW: And then you have flying cars and then you know, we get to work on everything else.
MADDOW: Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, “New York Times‘” columnist—it‘s always such a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you, Paul.
KRUGMAN: Great to be on. Thanks.
MADDOW: In 1995, Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire voted to abolish the Department of Commerce. In 2009, Democratic President Barack Obama chose Mr. Gregg to be the head of the Department of Commerce? This fact alone should create an electrified fence between this man and that job. But apparently—no. Got to be bipartisan, got to reach across the aisle.
Did I mention Judd Gregg‘s links to convicted uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff? Yes, we‘ll talk about that next.
Later: I will have the latest on the American women‘s badminton team in their trip to Iran. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW striving, of course, to be the cable news leader in international women‘s badminton news.
But first, it‘s time for another installment of our tragic comic series, tracking the Republican Party‘s search for meaning in the minority. It‘s the GOP in exile.
MADDOW: The Republican Party needs a new vision, a new pitch to the country about their fundamental philosophies, some solutions to our national problems. To whom has the party turned in this time of need? That would be Samuel Wurzelbacher, the not-licensed plumber not named Joe, known as Joe the Plumber in John McCain‘s successful—John McCain‘s presidential campaign.
When we last saw Samuel the Joe, he was reporting for a right-wing Web site from Israel, getting the scope on the Gaza invasion. His reporting at that time, he said the media should not be allowed to cover wars. Oh—as a follow-up to that triumph, Mr. Wurzelbacher was asked to address Republican members of Congress in a closed-door GOP strategy meeting.
The “New York Daily News” says he advised Republicans to kill the stimulus bill because it‘s just another example he said of, quote, “American government kicking our butts.” When that pearl of wisdom led to the obvious follow-up question, if Joe would consider running for office, he told “The Daily News,” quote, “I don‘t know if the American public deserves me.”
You know, actually, we don‘t.
MADDOW: Last week, yet another lobbyist connected to Jack Abramoff pled guilty, facing up to five years in prison for essentially bribery, bribing congressional staffers. That lobbyist decided to sing for his freedom. In an effort to reduce his sentence, he is cooperating with prosecutors.
He‘s naming names, which is how we all learned about the despicable, alleged behavior of staffer “F,” a congressional staffer said to have ostentatiously traded baseball tickets and hockey tickets and meals and drinks, more than $10,000 worth of n bribes in exchange for promised legislative action by the senator for whom he worked. You get me front row hockey seats, you make sure my back seats at the Orioles game, or well-stocked with beer this time, and, yes, my senator will take a look at that earmark you want. My senator will take a look at that amendment for you.
The senator for whom staffer “F” worked was Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who President Obama just tapped to be commerce secretary. Senator Gregg himself has not been charged with anything. There‘s not even evidence that Senator Gregg knew what his staffer was allegedly up to, but it‘s, you know, something else we are now learning about the nomination of Mr. Gregg.
Now, Senator Gregg today did have kind words on CNBC for President Obama‘s stimulus plan, which is important since Senator Gregg‘s party is basically opposing that stimulus plan and the White House and Senate Democrats need every vote they can get to try to get the stimulus passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JUDD GREGG, ® COMMERCE SECRETARY-NOMINEE: Actually, I‘ve been supported of a very robust stimulus package from day one. I think this economy has to have a major stimulus initiative because the only person that‘s got—the only group that‘s got liquidity around here is the federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Every Republican vote in the Senate counts for this bill. So, Senator Judd Gregg speaking out in favor of it is huge. And by huge, of course, I mean hugely disappointing because Senator Gregg says that although he is in favor of the stimulus, and he is a Republican in the Senate, he‘s not going to vote for it. He is going to recuse himself from voting on the bill at all, pending his confirmation as commerce secretary.
So, let‘s just get the politics of this straight here. Choosing Judd Gregg for commerce secretary does not result in the Democrat governor of New Hampshire replacing him with a Democrat in the Senate. Mr. Gregg got to stipulate that his replacement would be a Republican.
Choosing Judd Gregg takes away one of the few Republican votes the White House might have been able to count on to pas the stimulus plan in the Senate. Choosing Judd Gregg puts a conservative Republican with a 4 percent lifetime voting rating from the AFL-CIO in charge of an important economy job under a Democratic president.
Choosing Judd Gregg puts a conservative Republican who voted to abolish the whole Commerce Department in charge of that department now. And if this staffer “F” business turns out to be what it looks like in the plea deal that was filed last week, choosing Judd Gregg means we‘ve got a secretary of commerce who was unwittingly duped for years by his own legislative director who was ostentatiously taking bribes from the Abramoff Republican uber-lobbyist crime family.
But apparently, all of this is outweighed by the very exciting fact that Judd Gregg is a Republican. That fact is so bipartisanly, politically awesome that, apparently, none of the rest of this stuff matters.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Democrat of California.
Representative Lee, a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining us.
REP. BARBARA LEE, (D) CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Good to be with you. Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is there something secretly awesome about Judd Gregg that I am missing here other than the fact that he is a Republican?
LEE: Well, let me say, first of all, Senator Gregg is an individual whom members of the Congressional Black Caucus are very concerned about based on his past voting record. As you indicated earlier, I believe it was in 1995, he voted actually to abolish the Commerce Department.
In 1999, he voted against the increase in funding for the census—which is very important. We have a census coming up in 2010. This determines the amount of federal funding going to our country. And for the undercount, our districts lose $2,200 per person. And that‘s an extremely large amount of money per person to lose f there is an undercount.
Thirdly, it‘s my understanding based on his record that he actually voted to protect gun manufacturers and retailers from prosecution if those weapons were used in a crime. When you look at his record, we have many, many concerns about how he would function as the secretary of commerce, and given that we are raising these red flags early on so that we can move forward in this confirmation process, understanding that there are many, many issues that many of us are very concerned about.
MADDOW: Commerce is one of those jobs that, I think, generally speaking people don‘t exactly know what it is responsible for. And it does have some wide-ranging areas of responsibility in addition to being responsible for the census, as you mentioned. The commerce secretary is also responsible for the weather service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It‘s a job that‘s not very well-understood.
What are the sorts of policy positions that you would want to see held by a person who would be better nominee for this job?
LEE: Well, of course, we would want to see a history of supporting small businesses, women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses. These businesses create many, many jobs. And during this economic downturn, we need these businesses engaged, working with our Department of Commerce to make sure that they are provided the support to create the jobs that our country so desperately needs.
And so, I want to see someone who is strong on economic development, who is strong and committed to creating jobs, who understands why it‘s important to be inclusive of the entire country in the job creation effort. When you look at his background and his record, I don‘t believe that his record justifies the position as secretary of commerce based on the importance of what this department brings to our country.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Lee, in addition to your leadership role at the Congressional Black Caucus, your leadership role as my parents‘ representative in Congress, about which they are very proud, I should mention, a point of full disclosure. You are also a very out loud progressive in Congress and you have been for your entire career.
Today, Senator Obama spoke about conservativism and about Republican ideology affecting—having brought us into a certain extent to where we are in terms of our economic crisis. Do you feel like fiscal conservative is a term that is not necessarily going to be an asset for people moving forward in government service or that it ought not be? Do you think that we ought to be looking for overt economic progressives right now in order to find our way out of this process?
LEE: Well, Rachel, first, let me just say, I‘m very proud to represent your parents in the great ninth congressional district of California.
LEE: But when you look at the last eight years, when you look at the economic policies of the Bush administration, this is why we are where we are. When you look at the fact that the Iraq war that should not have been fought, $10 billion a month. This is why we are where we are now.
When you look at the huge tax cuts that this administration promoted, the wealthy got wealthier, the gap between the rich and the poor grew, more people are living in poverty now than ever before. Look at the conditions of the working the poor.
So, when you look at the fact that the policies of the last eight years have brought us to exactly where we are now, I don‘t see how anyone could want to see some of the same old ideas and the same old policies move forward with this new administration.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California—so nice to have you on the show tonight. Thank you so much.
LEE: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: Is there anyone who needs the Scrub, Rinse, Repeat treatment more than Dick Cheney? Today, the former vice president “chicken little” about President Obama—if we close Guantanamo, we‘ll be overrun with the terrorists.
Later: Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com will join us to explain why Dick Cheney is so wrong so often on so much.
MADDOW: Today, retiree Dick Cheney went out of his way to concern and throw (ph) President Obama about closing Guantanamo. Apparently, if Americans decide to comport ourselves in accordance with the legal system again, the terrorists will win. Thanks for that, Mr. Cheney. Don‘t you have fish you are supposed to be killing or something?
Glenn Greenwald will be here to help Scrub, Rinse, Repeat in just a moment.
But first, it‘s time for a few holy mackerel stories in the world tonight.
First, a follow-up to our U.S./Iranian badminton report from yesterday. You will recall that the Iranian Badminton Federation had invited our national women‘s badminton team to come to Tehran, to play in an international tournament. We don‘t have official diplomatic ties with Iran, we haven‘t for 30 years, but we‘ve been doing this citizen-to-citizen exchanges for a while now wrestlers, ping-pong players, artists, and now, badminton—shuttlecock diplomacy. Shuttlecock is such an embarrassing word.
When we covered the story yesterday, the U.S. women‘s badminton team has made it as far as Dubai where the Iranian government had instructed them they could pick up their visas in order to gain entry into Iran. Well, today, the Iranian government denied them those visas. The announced reason for the denial was that there wasn‘t enough time to process the applications. Even though the applications were put in months ago, even though the head of USA badminton was told that the visas were totally all in order.
Either the Iranians are just messing with the U.S. or their foreign ministry runs about as well as your average American health insurance billing department. Our badminton team is now on their way home. Our State Department is reportedly mad as heck, and I‘ll probably never get to say “shuttlecock” in a story about Iran ever again.
Finally, cocktails - they‘re back, as if they ever really run away. President and Mrs. Obama have hosted another cocktail party at the White House totally on a school night.
Last week, you will recall the president had Democrats and Republicans over for drinks and pigs-in-blankets after the economic stimulus bill passed the House. On Sunday, he had a bipartisan group of lawmakers over to the White House rumpus room to watch the Super Bowl.
I don‘t actually know if the White House has a rumpus room, but that‘s what I imagine. Anyway, tonight, it‘s more members of Congress invited over for more drinks because - I don‘t know, drinks are nice. It is certainly a more benign way to carry political cooperation than, say, appointing Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary.
White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers told “NPR” this week, quote, “We don‘t always get everything accomplished over a meeting table. Many times, it is over cocktails. It‘s over dinner.” Amen, amen. Can I get an amen?
The open question, though, here for me? What kind of cocktails are we talking about at this cocktail party? Is this just an open bar? Is it just a catering bar? Is there a house drink? Are there theme nights, you know, join the Obamas for salty dogs and conversation?
Our extensive research efforts on this subject have thus far been stymied. But you know, these are taxpayer-funded spirits and frankly, I want some oversight. May I suggest the cherry julep that I made with Martha Stewart yesterday?
If you have any information about drinks the Obamas are serving at their White House cocktail parties, please E-mail the show, email@example.com.
In the meantime, lawmakers, who we called all day to find out what you drank at the last White House cocktail party and you wouldn‘t tell us, here is mud in your eye.
MADDOW: Our immediate former vice president is no longer living at the very lovely, very stately Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. He no longer works in the West Wing. He no longer even lurks in a secure, undisclosed location.
No. Dick Cheney now works here. See that sign, the one held to the door by scotch tape? It says that the office is occupied by the General Services Administration which sounds like the front name for a top secret spy agency in a James Bond movie.
But in this case, it actually indicates here is Dick Cheney in this little office in the strip mall. In Mr. Cheney‘s first post-vice presidential interview from this very office with “Politico.com,” he proved that even from this outside-the-beltway, low-rent office park in the Virginia suburbs, he is going to keep sticking to the same themes he perfected while he was in office.
Which means that it‘s time for our special series on the post-Bush administration clean up mission “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat” because this is going to take a while.
In his interview with “Politico” today, Dick Cheney said at least 61 of the prisoners who have been released from Guantanamo have, quote, “gone back into the business of being terrorists.” That figure, of course, has been roundly debunked most notably by Seton Hall Law School researchers who found that that number includes people who have never been in Guantanamo and people whose alleged return to terror consisted of writing op-eds for the “New York Times” or appearing in documentaries.
Undaunted by the truth, the vice president continued with the cockamamie about Guantanamo, quote, “The 200 or so inmates still there,” he claimed, “are the hardcore whose recidivism rate would be much higher.”
Yes. Except that we‘re still finding out about Guantanamo prisoners who shouldn‘t be there at all, including, say, including Hadji Bismallah(ph), who was released last month after being wrongly held for almost six years. He said that his brother could vouch for him not being a terrorist.
The Bush-Cheney folks said that the brother couldn‘t be reached. The brother, at that time, was the chief spokesman for a pro-American governor in Afghanistan. He regularly gave press conferences.
Hadji Bismallah(ph) just out last month after about six years. Do we count him as hardcore? But beyond his uncomplicated love of repeating debunked intelligence, the question remains, why is Dick Cheney talking to the press at all, something he hates to do? Why is he doing this barely two weeks after leaving office?
Well, because even if other former national leaders shut up about their successors at least for a while after they left office, Dick Cheney can‘t do that, because Dick Cheney‘s work is never done. Because Dick Cheney‘s job is to remind Americans always that if we don‘t do what he wants -can we cue the scary lights and sound effects please - they will slaughter us all!
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: In some respects, the biggest threat hasn‘t changed. You get a 9/11-type event where the terrorists are armed with something much more dangerous than an airline ticket and a box cutter. They‘re equipped with a nuclear weapon or biological agent of some kind.
The potential ability of an al-Qaeda organization or an al-Qaeda group to get their hands on that kind of weapon and deploy it in the middle of one of our cities - that‘s the ultimate threat.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: “That‘s the ultimate threat. Do what I say or there will be the ultimate threat.” Hang on. Hang on. They will slaughter us all. Thank you.
Just in case that didn‘t scare the be-Jesus out of you, how about this next thing?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHENEY: I think there‘s a high probability of such an attempt. Whether or not they can pull it off depends whether or not we keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts since 9/11 to launch mass casualty attacks against the United States.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You got that America? If Dick Cheney‘s favorite policies are not kept 100 percent totally in place by the new president, you know what will happen. They will slaughter us all.
I‘m joined now by Glenn Greenwald, a man who really ought to have trademarked some variation of that phrase long ago. Mr. Greenwald is a contributing writer at “Salon.com” and former constitutional law attorney. Glenn, thank you for enduring that. It‘s nice to see you.
GLENN GREENWALD, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, “SALON.COM”: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: You‘re very much more serious person than that, so I owe you an apology.
GREENWALD: That scared me, though.
MADDOW: Why does it help Dick Cheney politically for him to be scary?
GREENWALD: Well, I don‘t think there is much of a mystery about that. If you look at things that politicians and political scientists, historians have said, even the founders of this country have pointed out many, many times, there is really no more effective weapon for a government to keep a citizenry in submission to whatever it wants than keeping the fear level as high as possible.
And that has essentially been the lynchpin of the Bush administration for the last eight years, what you have just been yelling through that megaphone, which is unless you submit to the powers that we want, you will all be attacked by very frightening terrorists.
And I think what‘s so vital to point out is that if you look at American history, the most disgraceful and regrettable acts, the acts that most people consider to be quite awful that we‘ve done in our history, haven‘t been because we‘ve been insufficiently aggressive about dealing with external threats.
It‘s been the opposite. It is because we‘ve allowed the government to exaggerate external threats and drive us to embrace very radical overreactions, whether the interment of Japanese-Americans during World War II or the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, or the censorship clause in the late 18th century or even at the end of World War I.
It is Dick Cheney fear-mongering that has driven us to do the things that we end up regret doing. And it is the responsibility of the citizenry not to let our government do that.
MADDOW: But the post-Bush-Cheney legacy polishing which began during their lame-duck period says that these measures that they took, even if some people found them distasteful, or even if they have some unpleasant side-effects, they were all done for the right reasons. They were all done to keep us safe. And Dick Cheney is still making that case now, even just two weeks out of office. Does that need to be taken apart?
GREENWALD: Well, a couple of things about that. One is, you know, if you look at the argument that Cheney made throughout this interview and it‘s the one that not only supporters of his mate but also the people in the media, I think, have largely come to accept, which is that there must be something to what they did. Because after all, they kept us safe ever since the September 11th attacks.
If you really think about what that argument is, how inane it has become so readily apparent, what they‘re really saying is, “During our administration, we allowed one catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. But don‘t worry because we only allowed one and didn‘t allow any after that.”
And the implication of this is that somehow before Dick Cheney and George Bush and their torture camps and waterboarding and invasions of other countries arrived on the scene, it‘s as though they are implying that the United States was regularly attacked catastrophically by foreign terrorists, that we had terrorist attacks every several months. And until Dick Cheney got in place, now we only had one every eight years.
And what‘s so important to remember is back in 1993, in January of 1993, the second or third week of Bill Clinton‘s presidency, the World Trade Center was attacked by Islamic radicals. And Bill Clinton didn‘t open Guantanamo. He didn‘t disappear people to secret camps. He didn‘t go around touting and beating his chest about how important it was that we torture.
And yet, for the next eight years of the Clinton presidency, to use the jargon, he kept us safe. There were no other foreign terrorist attacks. By this rationale, that would mean that Clinton‘s approach of law enforcement, of prosecuting terrorists in federal courts, that is what actually keeps us safe. And I think that‘s the twist of logic that is constantly invoked.
MADDOW: But this argument is setting us up for the future. And you wrote about this at “Salon.com” today, that if something does happen, if there is another attack, there‘s a reason to keep pushing this legacy, to keep pushing this idea about what Bush and Cheney did so that there will be a political blowback against Barack Obama.
So if something, god forbid, ever did happen again, the country wouldn‘t rally around him the way they rallied around Bush and Cheney at 9/11. But rather, they would turn against him.
GREENWALD: Yes. That is so nefarious. It is setting the groundwork so that if there is another terrorist attack, and everyone agrees that there is high likelihood that at some point, no matter what our policies are, there will be. Unless we turn into a complete police state, there is no way to completely prevent any risk including one of a terrorist attack.
But I think what is so critical to consider is that after the 9/11 attacks, the question so many Americans were asking with this sort of bewilderment is, why do they hate us? That was the question that everyone was asking. And I think in order to get the answer, you should go read the interview that Dick Cheney gave today from the “Politico.” Because the things he is saying are things like - and this is a quote, “We need to be dirty, nasty and mean in our foreign policy. We need to launch wars in order to keep people respectful of who we are.”
And what I think all experts - counterterrorism experts agree is that things like torturing people and putting them in secret camps and invading other countries and dropping bombs on wedding parties in villages, those things don‘t terrorism. Those are the things that fuel terrorism, that cause and enable it.
And that‘s why you‘ve seen al-Qaeda strengthen over the last eight years and terrorism increasing. It‘s because of those policies that he is defending.
MADDOW: Glenn Greenwald, “Salon.com,” great to have you on the show. Thanks, Glenn.
GREENWALD: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: About 75 percent of the supplies for our troops and NATO troops in Afghanistan go over a bridge that just got blown up yesterday. But hey, no worries, Russia it wants to help us out now in Afghanistan. Russia, Afghanistan. Author and reporter Michael Hastings will join us in just a moment to hack through this dense jungle of irony.
MADDOW: This just in to the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW newsroom - the country of Afghanistan, still landlocked. This, of course, represents no change from yesterday when we talked about it being landlocked in order to report on the bridge in the Khyber Pass that was blown to smithereens by militants.
The smitherizing(ph) of that bridge cut off the travel route that about ¾ of the supplies for our troops and the NATO‘s troops in Afghanistan, the route by which the supplies traveled.
Bad, yes. And today, it got worse, because the 10 supply trucks that were stranded by the blowing up of that bridge were all set on fire as they sat helplessly stranded on that road.
This is very bad supply route news. And it comes as general David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. Central Command, looks for alternative supply routes. In that search, he can now cross consonant-rich Kyrgyzstan off his short list.
Late yesterday, the Kyrgyz government announced that it is evicting us from our base there, which for eight years, has been a key refueling and supply station for our operations in Afghanistan. Why are they booting us out? Well, apparently, we got outbid.
The Russian government is now loaning Kyrgyzstan $2 billion and Kyrgyzstan‘s president told the BBC that we wouldn‘t pay what he deemed to be a fair price to stay at that base.
But don‘t worry. The Russians say they‘ve got our backs. President Dmitry Medvedev said today that, quote, “Russia and other alliance members are ready for full-fledged comprehensive cooperation with the United States and other coalition members in fighting terrorism in the region.”
So Russia wants to help us in our war in Afghanistan? That‘s as attractive an idea as taking election-winning lessons from John McCain, taking elocution lessons from our former president.
Joining us now is journalist Michael Hastings, who recently returned from Afghanistan. Mr. Hastings is also author of the book “I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.” Michael, it‘s nice to see you. Thanks for coming on the show tonight.
MICHAEL HASTINGS, JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I know you just got back from essentially the front lines in Afghanistan. Was it your impression that the average soldiers who you were alongside there have a sense of what the larger American mission is in Afghanistan?
HASTINGS: Solders are solders, and they‘ll basically go wherever they‘re told to go and they‘ll do their normal grumbling. I would say they believe more in the mission in Afghanistan than they do, say, the mission in Iraq. Going after bad guys is something that they really want to do, that‘s why they signed up to join in the army.
I think the confusion comes because there are so few soldiers in Afghanistan. I was with 25 guys who had 900 square kilometers along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to sort of try to protect. Twenty-five guys can hardly do anything at all.
And so they‘re sort of overwhelmed with everything they‘re told to do. They‘re told to - are they building a station, or are they there to fight bad guys?
NBC‘s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported today that in a recent meeting with Pentagon officials, President Obama specifically asked what‘s the end game in Afghanistan? And Miklaszewski says that one military official said the answer was, quote, “Frankly, we don‘t have one.” That is what the president was told from Pentagon officials.
From your reporting, from your experiences, Michael, what are you expecting President Obama to say are America‘s goals there?
HASTINGS: I mean, that report is quite shocking, actually. Everyone is acting like, “Oh, we‘re in Afghanistan.” We have been there eight years. And for the response to be, frankly, “We don‘t know what our end game is,” is almost too incredible to believe.
But at the same time, I mean, you get that on all levels of the U.S. Military. You know, the mission is not clear. When I asked the commander of our forces in Afghanistan, “Well, what does the end game look like?” He said, “The end game is when the Afghan people can have confidence in the future of their country.”
If that‘s not sort of a vague, blurry goal, then I don‘t know what is. Whether what President Obama wants to do, I mean, it‘s almost like they rearranged the deck chairs on the “Titanic” and it‘s probably best just to jump overboard and brave the waters of the Atlantic and get out.
MADDOW: Michael, having just been on that border region, do you think that the solution is going to come from cooperation with the Pakistani troops with the Pakistani government? In political common wisdom, Afghanistan and Pakistan are being defined essentially as the same thing. But what is it like face-to-face when you‘re there?
HASTING: OK. I spent the night on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with a group of Afghan border patrol guards and American soldiers. The Afghan border patrol guards spent the night smoking hash and waiting for the Taliban to attack, which they finally did in the morning.
After Taliban attacked, the Taliban walked back across the border right past the Pakistan border outposts. It is one of the most ridiculous and absurd things that I have seen covering wars, just this - this nonexistent border and this sort of fruitless efforts to try to protect the border.
It‘s really startling just how difficult a task it is when people start talking about, “Oh, we‘re going to eliminate terrorist safe havens. We‘re going to close up the borders.” It seems to me from what I saw that it‘s a nearly impossible task.
And I‘m sorry to be bringing so much bad news, but that‘s just what I saw there.
MADDOW: Sometimes bad news is what you need to have a smart debate, which is probably what we need as a country on this.
Journalist Michael Hastings, author of the book, “I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.” It‘s nice to see you, Michael. Thanks for coming on the show tonight.
HASTINGS: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” are too many people charged with fixing the economy under President Obama the same people who got the country into its current crisis?
And next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. Does your toddler need a personal computing device? We can help.
MADDOW: Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Has our collective wealth for handheld gadgets gone too far? Check this out. Yes, it‘s a toy PDA Blackberry-thingy for kids.
JONES: Toddlers can learn to text things like, “Machines are no substitute for contact, Mommy. Hug me, love me.”
Speaking of bad habits, consumer reports just did a thing of risky stuff that Americans do which they probably shouldn‘t, and found that 61 percent don‘t have a rubber mat in the shower.
Whoops. Thirty-one percent use the top step of a ladder; 13 percent had a beer while using a power tool or a lawn mower and 54 percent of Democrats allow Republicans to have a say in implementing economic policy. You know, that‘s juggling with chainsaws right there. Don‘t ever do that.
And finally, a Brazilian judge awarded $2,600 in damages to a man who sued a store for not replacing his faulty television set.
Here‘s his rationale, quote, “In modern life, you cannot deny that a television set is considered an essential good. Without it, how can the owner watch the beautiful women on “Big Brother,” the national broadcast or a football game.”
JONES: TV as an essential good - operation global probe has achieved level five. Let‘s work it. Excellent work. Rachel?
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Wow.
JONES: It‘s an essential good.
MADDOW: Yes, legally.
JONES: Legally, yes.
MADDOW: Very nice. I have one thing that I want to show you before we go tonight, Kent. This was submitted by Marla Irwin, who is a fan of the show at Rachel.MSNBC.com. She submitted this and we posted it there. It says, “Infrastructure, because in the northern hemisphere, in the winter, we get snow - every year.”
JONES: Yes. Yes, we do.
MADDOW: Yes, we do.
JONES: Yes, we do.
MADDOW: Yes, we can.
JONES: And then the power goes out.
MADDOW: I know. Wouldn‘t that be nice?
JONES: Oh, look. Snow!
MADDOW: It‘s cool. You can post this stuff at Rachel.MSNBC.com.
Submit it there. You might make it on the show. You never know.
MADDOW: Thanks, Kent.
JONES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Until then, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our podcast at iTunes or at that same Web site. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.
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