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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Thursday, February 19

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Welton Gaddy, Daphne Eviatar, Ken Salazar, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you for staying with us at home for the next hour as well.

Alberto Gonzales said that he would answer to a truth commission if he were called to do so.  But is there a legal clock ticking on the possibility of Bush administration criminal investigations?  Is it getting to be already too late to prosecute?  We will find out just a later little on this hour.

But first, President Obama was in Canada today on his first international trip as head of state.  It was a very quick trip.  He was there for—under seven hours.  No overnight.  Not even dinner.

Why the rush?  Urgent business back at home, you know, governing.  President Obama is not only head of state, he‘s also the head of the major political party that now dominates Washington, as well as a majority of statehouses and state legislatures.

The Republican Party, the opposition, is way, way out of power—which means they will spend the Obama presidency trying to get back into power.  As of today, we have news.  We have a much clearer picture of how the Republicans intend to try to regain power.  The picture is becoming much more clear, I have to tell you, it is becoming much more weird.

The national leader of the Republican Party, their only elected national leader, is party chairman Michael Steele.  Who‘s Michael Steele?  A quick reminder, he is from Maryland.  He once spent three years at seminary before deciding that the priesthood was not for him.

In 2000, he was elected chair of his state‘s Republican Party.  He became Maryland‘s lieutenant governor in 2002.  In 2006, he launched a failed U.S. Senate campaign, in which he did not succeed in becoming senator but he did succeed in finding a way to send thousands of campaign dollars to his sister‘s defunct catering company, Brown Sugar, for catering that reportedly never took place.  He‘s currently being federally investigated for that one.

Before tonight, the leading indicators of his Mr. Steele‘s efficacy as leader of the Republican Party came from his early decisive moves after winning the chairmanship.  First thing, he scrapped the already underway plans to rebuild or to build—excuse me—a new RNC think tank.  No.  We are not going to do that anymore.  Think tank.  Who needs a think tank?

Then Mr. Steele led the charge to derail the economic stimulus plan. 

Stimulus plan?  Who needs a stimulus plan?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SITUATION ROOM”/CNN/FEBRUARY 2)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  The government doesn‘t create jobs. 

Let‘s get this notion out of our heads that the government creates job. 

Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Of course, the government created not only his job as lieutenant governor and the Senate job he didn‘t win in 2006, the government also created the job of the federal investigators, who are looking into his sister‘s defunct catering company that he paid for catering that reportedly never happened, right?  Right.

Now, we have learned in try not to laugh terms as of today what Michael Steele‘s plan is to return the Republican Party to power—an effort that will perhaps foreshadow when Mr. Steele denounced the stimulus as Democrats effort to, quote, “get a little bling-bling.”  Mr. Steele, we have learned today, intends to give the Republican Party a hip-hop makeover.  No, I mean, the actual Republican Party.  The one—yes, the one you are thinking of, hip hop makeover and I quote from an interview that he has done with the “Washington Times,” quote, “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles but we want to apply them to urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

Explaining that he had killed the think tank plan but put in motion a new public relations team, Mr. Steele said, quote, “It will be avant-garde, technically.  It will come to the table with things that will surprise everyone—off the hook.”  Asked by the “Washington Times” if “off the hook” in this case meant that the PR effort would be cutting-edge, Mr.  Steele replied, quote, “I don‘t do cutting-edge.  That‘s what the Democrats are doing.  We‘re going beyond cutting-edge.”

America, behold your new Republican overlords.  I, for one, welcome them, because, frankly, at a time like this in our country, we need the kind of visionary leadership that is willing to be not just on the cutting-edge but beyond the cutting-edge, which presumably means we could be in front of the cutting-edge on the part of the thing that‘s not yet cut but about to be cut by the cutting-edge.  Behold the majesty of creative leadership.

Just a reminder, Michael Steele does hold the Republican Party‘s only national leadership job and what he is very awkwardly attempting to do, I think, is to position the Republican Party the way like your dad might try to, as if it is hip and cool, and in this case, it is hip and cool in a specifically black way.  The reason that is awkward is not because Michael Steele himself is black but because there are no black elected officials in the Republican Party on national levels—none in the House of Representatives, none in the United States State, no American Republican governors.  The highest ranking elected black Republican in the entire country, according to the African-American Republican Leadership Council, is the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission.

But don‘t let that stop you from seeing the modern day GOP as beyond the urban-suburban cutting-edge of hip-hop.

Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

Melissa, thanks for being back on the show.  Nice to see you.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIV. POLITICAL SCIENCE PROF.: 

Absolutely.

MADDOW:  I am going to quote to you what you said the last time you

were on the show about Michael Steele, the night that Michael Steele got

elected chairman.  And you said that the Republicans electing him chairman

of the party showed, quote, “their thinking Barack Obama is Superman so

what they needed to do was get kryptonite.  Kryptonite comes from

Superman‘s own planet, so they went to ‘planet black guy.‘”

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Which you should be proud for having said off the cuff there. 

Do you still think that holds?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Not only do I think they went to “planet black guy,” they went to like “planet old black guy.”  I mean, this is—this is very bizarre set of choices to decide instead of being part of real policy-making, instead of being part of, you know, a set of new precepts around conservativism and what conservative politics might be able to do for the country, kind of offering an alternative vision.  Instead, Michael Steele would like to direct the GOP to hip-hop?

As far as I can tell, I mean, as funny as it all is, there is something here that suggests to me, maybe they are trying to engage younger voters.  Maybe what they see in the Obama candidacy and then the Obama administration is the use of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.  Maybe what they‘re thinking is that hip-hop is a way to energize potential new voters among young people.  That‘s the most charitable read I can give to this.

MADDOW:  The thing that‘s incredible, though, is that it does imply that they think that maybe the way that Barack Obama won was through hip-hop outreach, like Barack Obama, the least hip-hop man in America as far as I can tell.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I mean, my dad likes that one Jay-Z song, too.  But it doesn‘t—you know, it does imply to me that they‘ve sort of taken the wrong lesson from his victory.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, I think they have taken the wrong lesson.  But I also want to suggest that Barack Obama deployed or at least allowed hip-hop to deploy itself in a lot of important ways.  I mean, Jay-Z was on southern college campuses and Beyonce did sing at the inauguration and Ludacris did make some videos that were widely distributed in the kind of the echo chambers of young people.  So, hip-hop was always there.  Barack Obama certainly wasn‘t leading the hip-hop charge, but he allowed sort of hip-hop political communities to do their work.

I think the real issue is underestimating what hip-hop is.  Michael Steele thinks that he can deploy it like a, you know, some sort of, I don‘t know, “Pavlovian response” like when we hear it, we just can‘t help but to go buy that, you know, malt liquor or GOP candidate because, you know, we heard rap music.  But that‘s not what hip-hop is.  It‘s sort of a way of being.  The most important part of what hip shop is it asks people to be authentic.

You know, the number one thing that you would get, you know, made fun of in hip-hop for doing is stealing other people‘s ideas or not being authentically yourself.  You got to keep it real.  And Michael Steele is definitely not keeping it real.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  Well, I think that the likelihood that black voters are going to defect to the Republican Party, with or without Michael Steele, in large numbers is unlikely.  But I wonder if trying to rebrand the GOP as black might actually be sort of an effort to appeal to, not necessarily black voters in some ways, sort in the way that you would be trying to appeal to white kids in the suburbs who listen to rap or something maybe.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Oh, sure.  I mean, again—remember, hip-hop is as much a generational movement as it is a racial movement.  I mean, part of what we think of around hip-hop music and culture are young urban black and Latino young people.  But the people who consume it are a much broader group, and you know, they‘re sort of generation one and generation two of hip-hop.

I think of myself as, you know, generation one.  We have beef with generation two hip-hop.  So, there‘s older people and younger people.  It‘s a rich community.  But whatever it is, it‘s not a community that can simply be as a matter of a marketing or tool or strategy used against the very people who create it.  This is going to fail but it‘s going to be so funny.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  I just—I can‘t wait to watch it happen.

MADDOW:  This is a failure to look forward to.  Yes.  I know that feeling.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell from Princeton University, it is always great to have you on the show.  Thanks for being here.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Peace out, Rachel!

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  If I did that back I would collapse for the rest of the hour, and we have to call off the show and play commercials.  Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  All right.  The man in charge of cleaning up the Roman orgy and corruption poster child that was the Department of Interior under President Bush, he will be here with us tonight.  He is former Colorado senator and now cabinet secretary, Ken Salazar.  He will be joining us this hour.  I do not yet know whether he‘ll be wearing his famous cowboy hat.

First, though, we have One More Thing—from Michael Steele‘s very revealing interview with the “Washington Times,” that I just discussed with Melissa.  Can I read you the end of his quote about the GOP‘s new hip-hop outreach?  Here‘s the quote I just read a minute ago.

“We want to convey that the modern day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles.  But we want to apply them to urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

That—we knew he said that, right?  This is what he said next, quote, “We need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets,” end quote.

So, if the urban-suburban hip-hop thing doesn‘t work out, next up, one-armed—one—you know, never mind, don‘t even.  Yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Want to know how you know you are an international sensation?  The locals remake a popular hometown desert in your honor.  In anticipation of President Barack Obama‘s visit today, Canadians have adapted a popular deep-fried pastry called the “beaver tail.”  They have topped it with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle in the shape of an “O.”  Obama was presented with one looking similar to this after making a surprise stop at a bakery in Ottawa today.

It seems to me there are two bits of news here.  Number one, Canadians have totally one-upped us on the bear claw, the beaver tail?  And Canadians totally have president envy.  I love that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It is never too soon after the last presidential election to start thinking about the next presidential election—especially if you are a Republican who is no longer a senator and who, therefore, has really no political power at all and nothing to do.

Let‘s look in on the “GOP in Exile.”

(MUSIC)

MADDOW:  Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is apparently on a college tour right now, giving students lectures about what he thinks is actually going on in the Muslim world.  His latest stop, the University of Nebraska, where according to the “Daily Nebraskan,” Senator Santorum tried to impress upon the audience the importance of his insight that Muslims take their religious texts literally.

The “Daily Nebraskan” quotes Senator Santorum saying, quote, “A Democracy could not exist because Mohammed already made the perfect law.  The Quran is perfect just the way it is.  That‘s why it is only written in Islamic.”  Right.  And of course, the Torah was written in Jewish and we are broadcasting right here right now in American.

We contacted Senator Santorum‘s office today to see if the “Daily Nebraskan” got his views right.  His staff explained he was just explaining the views of the jihadists.  OK then.

It‘s not just Rick Santorum, though.  For many conservatives, Islam has become something of a cottage industry in the past 7 ½ years, specifically exposing Islam.  Leaders like Mike Huckabee and like George W.  Bush have tried to popularize terms like “Islamofascism.”  A term that craftily implies that Muslims are all radicals bent on destruction.  Some, of course, are, but way fewer than all.

There was the whisper campaign that Barack Obama was a Muslim which craftily implied that he was therefore not to be trusted.  And you may recall Pastor Rod Parsley, who endorsed John McCain for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR ROD PARSLEY, WORLD HARVEST CHURCH:  Islam is an antichrist religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Senator McCain did later reject Rod Parsley‘s endorsement, perhaps fearing that a fear campaign was unwise.  But has this become part of how the Republican Party is defining itself in opposition?

Joining us now is my friend, Reverend Dr. Welton Gaddy.  He is a Baptist minister from the great state of Louisiana.  He‘s also president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Reverend Gaddy, it is great to see you.  Thanks for being on the show tonight.

REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, INTERFAITH ALLIANCE PRESIDENT:  Hi, Rachel. 

Good to see you.

MADDOW:  What is your reaction to what the “Daily Nebraskan” quotes Senator Santorum as having said?

GADDY:  Well, I would think, first of all, if you are going to do a college tour, you might get the language thing a little bit closer to right.  Secondly, Rachel, it‘s more of the same.  What the religious right has done from the very beginning that is most detrimental to the nation and probably most detrimental to religion, is that it has measured spirituality and authenticity of spirituality, whatever the religion, not by the criteria of religion but by loyalty that is political in nature and directed to sociopolitical issues.

That‘s what Santorum is doing here.  And to simplify what happens there, if you don‘t agree with me, you‘re wrong and I‘ll attack you.

MADDOW:  Well, in terms of that—defining that loyalty, in terms of judging religions, judging religious belief, judging religious practice—is it to make a political point?  What I‘m worried about here, it‘s not just Senator Santorum having said something dumb and offensive, but the idea that there maybe a sort of developing cottage industry in right-wing politics in America to expose Islam, to attack Islam as a religion as if it needs to be debunked in some way?

GADDY:  Yes, there‘s no—there is no question that that‘s true.  And that gets reflected in some of the alarming polling figures about anti-Islamic feelings even in mainstream America.  The idea is, that we come at this from both a religious and a political perspective as right-wing Christians in America, primarily right-wing Christians, and primarily Republicans as a matter of fact.  However, you come at this to debunk the religion which gives authority to the political perspective.

And, Rachel, what bothers me about this and particularly when this kind of pejorative stuff goes on in the name of religion, I was in the Middle East this past week, at a conference in Doha, Qatar, with a lot of Muslim people for U.S. Islam Conference.  When you look at what‘s going on there, the number of displaced people, the two wars that are going on and a third one breeding, all of the kinds of problems with the economy related to young people in the Middle East and so forth, it looks to me like—genuine religious people, out of the compassion of their hearts, would be looking for ways to make common ground with everybody there in order to correct these screaming problems.

MADDOW:  Welton, how do you feel about President Obama‘s efforts on religious and policy issues so far?  He has decided to hold on to a version of George W. Bush‘s faith-based initiative office.

GADDY:  Rachel, I‘m disappointed.  I had conferences with the Obama transition team.  I said right up front, I think that was a mistake.  There are errors there that are not going to get corrected, I fear.  Right now, the Obama policy with the faith-based initiative is still following the Bush policies because they haven‘t been changed.

There are two major areas which I hope the Obama administration will change.  One has to do with direct funding of sectarian organizations by federal funds.  That can be changed fairly easily by requiring recipients to make a 501c3 organization out of its entity, putting up a firewall between that organization and government.  Second, is getting rid of those organizations being able to receive federal funds and then break civil rights laws and discriminate in employment practices and sometimes among recipients.  Those have to be changed.

There is a partnership that can exist and exist well between religion and government and their agencies, but it is going to take a relationship defined by law held to accountable standards that lets religion be religion and government be government, and not try to mix the two.

MADDOW:  Which is the thing that is best for both we‘ve learned through history.

GADDY:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  Reverend Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance -

thank you so much for joining us, Welton.  It‘s great to see you.

GADDY:  Rachel, you, too.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he will participate in Senator Pat Leahy‘s proposed truth commission to look into alleged Bush administration crimes.  The last time he was at the witness table, Mr. Gonzales caught a major case of amnesia, sputtering variations of “I don‘t recall” 64 times.

So, will there be a truth commission?  Will Gonzales recall if called?  And—is it possible that it will be too late to prosecute at that point in any case?  Much more on that—coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Coming up on the show, I will talk to the new interior secretary, Ken Salazar, a man who has been known to wear his cowboy hat on camera.  No promises tonight.  Mr. Salazar is a very serious man which is why I will find it embarrassing to ask him about employees of his department snorting meth off of toaster ovens.  But, you know, somebody‘s got to ask these questions.  That is coming up.

First, though, it is time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  You know who loves President Obama?  Canadians.  If we ever wanted to annex Canada, it would probably be our best shot right about now, because if Obama asked right now if we could annex them, I‘m not sure they could feel like they could say no.

The American president arrived in Ottawa today on his first trip abroad.  The “Toronto Star” reports that thousands of American flags greeted him.  Canadians wearing Obama t-shirts, Canadians with signs that said “Yes, we Canada.”  Obamamania on sale as street vendors and local shops hocked all manner of Obamaphernalia.  There were bus trips organized for Canadians who live in neighboring cities, there were rallies at churches, there were celebratory concerts.  You know, despite differences on NAFTA and Afghanistan and all sorts of stuff, our president was received rather more than well.

Now, it used to be sort of a tradition that the American president‘s first trip abroad would be to Canada.  George W. Bush changed that tradition when he decided to go to Mexico as his first trip abroad instead.  It was not until after George W. Bush was reelected in 2004 that he dared venture north of the border.  Remember how that went?  Bush was greeted by thousands of Canadians as well but they weren‘t waving flags and sell collector plates.  They were protesting against his visit, fighting with police, getting arrested, doing things like driving alongside his motorcade route in a truck plastered with signs that said Bush is a war criminal.

Our next scheduled news story will come next month when President Bush returns for another visit with our neighbors to the north.  He will give his first post-White House speech in Calgary.  What do you think the odds are that Canadians will be outside that speech holding signs that say, “No we can‘t-ada.”  I‘m sorry.  It took me a long time to come up with that.

All right.  Finally, do you remember when Dick Cheney set his office on fire?  He set his office on fire after he shot his friend in the face, but before he put himself in a wheelchair.  It was December 2007 and a room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building that was being used by then-Vice President Dick Cheney mysteriously caught on fire.  We still do not know how or, more importantly, why, but hundreds of people were evacuated and officials said at that time that that fire caused significant damage.  Spooky, right?

Well, there has since been another fire in that same building.  I know.  This one turns out to be not as spooky.  But still, Ben Smith has an interview at Politico.com today with Peter Orszag.  He‘s the director of the Office of Management and Budget.  In an interview that‘s otherwise totally about management and budget, there is this one very important detail about Mr. Orszag‘s office.  In Orszag‘s first weekend at work, last month, he was there on a day - it was about 33 degrees in Washington and snowy. 

And in a side room in Mr. Orszag‘s office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Mr. Orszag found that a - this fancy room had a big marble fireplace.  It was a chilly day, new office, big fancy fireplace.  There was wood stacked in the fireplace already.  So he lit it on fire.  He just lit a few logs.  He describes them as being there, neatly stacked. 

Smoke alarms started going off a few floors up because the Secret Service had apparently blocked the building‘s chimney.  It turns out that the Secret Service had capped the chimney but we don‘t necessarily know why. 

The smoke alarms went off upstairs.  Everybody had to be evacuated.  The bottom line here is we still do not know how or why Dick Cheney‘s office in that building was set on fire last December.  But we know that Peter Orszag had a really, really embarrassing first day at work.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left office under difficult circumstances.  Lots of people calling for his resignation, that whole no-confidence vote issue, the endless YouTube montages of him saying, “I don‘t recall.  I don‘t recall.  I don‘t recall,” every time Congress asked him about firing federal prosecutors or any of his other scandals.  It was not a pretty exit for that attorney general.

Last we heard from him, he was having trouble finding employment.  But he did turn up today at an event in Washington whereupon a reporter asked him if he would cooperate with a truth commission that has been proposed by Sen. Pat Leahy, a truth commission to look into the alleged crimes of the Bush administration. 

Mr. Gonzales said that he would cooperate.  But then, he said, quote, “I think only a fool would be unconcerned about any kind of commission or investigation in this political town and in this political climate.” 

This political climate?  This one, the one where the Justice Department isn‘t known for firing federal prosecutors on the basis of their politics?  The political climate where you can‘t just write memos extemporaneously that you say have the magical effect of legalizing torture? 

The former attorney general went on to say, quote, “My view has always been to be as cooperative as possible and that‘s what I‘ve been with respect to everything.  Every time I‘ve been asked to cooperate, I‘ve cooperated.” 

Right.  If by cooperated, you mean saying, “I don‘t recall” 64 times in a single day of testimony when being questioned about those fired prosecutors. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I don‘t recall whether it was a phone conversation.  Senator, I have no recollection of knowing when that occurred. 

No, Sir.  I don‘t remember where that conversation took place. 

I do not recall what I knew - Senator, I don‘t recall having the conversation with Mr. Rove. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Alberto Gonzales might want to begin to collect his recollections soon, because in an interview with “Rolling Stone” magazine, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has predicted that investigations into the Bush administration will happen. 

When asked, quote, “Do you foresee a scenario in which senior members of the Bush administration are actually prosecuted?”  Pelosi answered, “I think so.  The American people deserve answers.” 

When asked about the other alleged Bush crimes like torture and rendition, Ms. Pelosi said, quote, “If you have a case against someone, you bring a case.”  If you‘re keeping score at home, the roster of elected officials supporting investigations into potential Bush-era crimes now includes Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Patrick Leahy, along with Senators Barbara Boxer, Carl Levin, Sheldon Whitehouse, Russ Feingold.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he would support funding for Senate committee inquiries. 

And then there‘s House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers who has subpoenaed Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, not to mention the 24 co-sponsors in the House who have signed on to his legislation that would create an independent panel to start the investigations rolling. 

However, amid the gathering push to investigate, there is a however.  Is it possible that there will be a statute of limitations issue for some of the alleged Bush administration crimes?  If stuff happened, say, in 2002 and 2003, and now it is 2009, are we actually running out of time legally?  Could it be too late to prosecute? 

Joining us now is Daphne Eviatar.  She‘s an attorney.  She‘s the legal correspondent for “The Washington Independent.”  Ms. Eviatar, thanks for coming in. 

DAPNE EVIATAR, LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT”: 

Thanks for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So of the big potential crimes that could be investigated from the Bush era, which of them would pose or could pose statute of limitations issues? 

EVIATAR:  Well, the biggest one really is torture.  There is an eight-year statute of limitations when it comes to prosecuting torture.  And we know and there‘s been strong evidence that there was torture including waterboarding and all sorts of bizarre humiliations of detainees at Abu Ghraib and possibly also at Guantanamo Bay starting very early on in 2002. 

Now if you give that eight years, that means by 2010 it could be too late to prosecute. 

MADDOW:  The statute of limitation - I mean, I know it from sort of like, procedural crime dramas.  I don‘t know it as a lawyer.  It literally means that you are immune from being brought up on charges for those things even if it can be conclusively proven that you did them? 

EVIATAR:  Yes.  Generally - I mean, sometimes, there are various exceptions and you can try to find exceptions.  But as a general matter, once the crime is committed, the statute of limitations begins to run.  Eight years later, if you tortured somebody in March 2002 and there is strong evidence that people were tortured in March 2002, by March 2010, it could be too late to prosecute. 

MADDOW:  Well, if there was an appetite, politically and/or legally to bring prosecutions, and the statute of limitations became a major constraint, could it be extended?  Could it be extended either for torture, broadly speaking just in terms of the law as it applies to everybody, or could it be extended in individual cases? 

EVIATAR:  The really good question.  And actually John Conyers has proposed that the statute of limitations be extended for torture and other kinds of crimes - assault - other sorts of crimes where it could be difficult to prosecute later. 

But it is not clear.  Politically, that is a very difficult thing to do.  The statute of limitations is there for reasons of due process.  You know, people have an expectation that they won‘t be prosecuted decades later for things that they did earlier. 

If you change the statute now, you‘d probably be OK because for things like torture, it‘s still within the time limit where it‘s OK to prosecute.  So you could extend the statute now and that would be OK. 

If you waited until after 2010, for example, it would be too late

to change the statute to get those people -

MADDOW:  Retroactively.  Yes.

EVIATAR:  Retroactively. 

MADDOW:  It does seem sort of stupid that there‘s no statute of limitations for murder, but the statute limitations for torture, which is a war crime and a lot of other things besides, is only eight years.

But I guess that could be argued in all sorts of different venues.  In terms of the overall fighting about whether or not there will be prosecutions, what is the scale of the debate right now?  What are the possible options? 

Obviously, one option is don‘t investigate.  Another option on the other extreme is start criminal investigations with an eye toward prosecutions now.  What are the other things that are possible, that really could happen that are being debated right now? 

EVIATAR:  I think the thing that‘s gaining the momentum right now is what Sen. Leahy proposed last week, which is a truth commission.  That‘s problematic for a variety of reasons.  But what he was talking about with the commission is sort of like South Africa had after apartheid - truth and reconciliation where people testify.  It has subpoena power to require testimony.  But you could also grant immunity in exchange for testimony. 

And that‘s very controversial because there‘s a lot of people who say, in particularly, lawyers and international human rights lawyers who say, you can‘t just grant immunity for war crimes, for torture.  This senior Bush official violated international law, the Constitution, war crimes law.  They should be prosecuted as an example to the world.  I mean, you have to think about how this would look to the rest of the world, to just grant immunity for someone to testify and admit that they committed war crimes.

MADDOW:  And we have treaty obligations internationally because of what we‘ve signed on to for that.

EVIATAR:  Exactly.

MADDOW:  Daphne Eviatar, legal correspondent at “The Washington Independent,” herself, an attorney.  Thanks.  It‘s nice to meet you. 

EVIATAR:  Thank you, nice to meet you.

MADDOW:  Coming up next, I will talk with our new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.  If you Google Interior Department and meth and kick backs and sex parties, you‘ll get a lot of hits, which is clearly a problem.  It is time to “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat.” 

But first, one more thing -    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We have been reading for a while about the U.S. and NATO trying to find a safer supply route into Afghanistan since the main supply line through Pakistan‘s notorious Khyber Pass is always getting attacked and shut down by the Taliban and stuff. 

There was a proposed northwest route, one that the Soviet Union used during their ill-fated, decade-long war in Afghanistan.  That is awkward, not only because of the bad juju Soviet demise-istan thing.  But also because it‘s not like the Russians are so reliably friendly to us these days. 

But there are new reports this week that there is a new option, a new proposal for a shorter, more direct new supply route for troops in Afghanistan.  Look at it.  It is the shorter one there on the lower left hand side, the red one.  It avoids the Russians.  It goes right through Iran.  Yes, it goes right through Iran.  What could possibly go wrong? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Tonight, our first and last “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat” trivia question.  Which of Bush administration department boasted the most embarrassing individual stories of confirmed malfeasance and corruption? 

Now, there‘s plenty of candidates here.  The Justice Department being run by people who went to Pat Robertson‘s, quote, “university.”  The White House domestic policy office being run by that guy who shoplifted from Target.  The AIDS policy office run by the guy with the hooker problem. 

All good candidates.  But alas, no one can really top the Department of the Interior.  Steven Griles, once the number two in the department, sentenced to 10 months in prison for lying to a Senate panel about his connections to imprisoned, corrupt Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. 

The Interior Department‘s Minerals Management Office, which gave us the true stories of employees snorting meth off toaster ovens and having booze, sex and parties with lobbyists for the oil and gas companies they were supposed to be regulating.  You can‘t really top that. 

As they were saying, Interior but thinking Caligula, that department was supposed to be overseeing 1/5 of the land mass of the United States. 

And as their run under the Bush administration wound down in the last days of the administration, the Department of the Interior put huge swaths of American wilderness near some of the most beautiful national parks in the country up for auction - for auction to oil and gas companies for drilling. 

Then, on his way out the door, Dirk Kempthorne, Bush‘s last Interior Secretary, drops $235,000 public dollars on renovating his office bathroom including putting in a new fridge - in the bathroom. 

In Secretary Kempthorne‘s valedictory address to the department, you may also recall that he showed his employees a 600-slide slide show retrospective, featuring himself in every one of those 600 slides.  Restoring the Department of the Interior to the realm of the ethical and effective and not just super-embarrassing is a big job, a big job that falls to one man, the new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN SALAZAR, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR:  We will follow the law.  We will hold people accountable.  We will expect to be held accountable. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is our nation‘s Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  Mr. Secretary, thank you for making time for us tonight. 

SALAZAR:  It is my honor, Rachel.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  So your first speech as secretary to the employees of your department described ethical lapses and even criminal behavior at the highest levels of your agency.  Your second major action as secretary was a memo to your employees about ethics.  Your major third action was a speech at the office in Colorado where that sex and drugs and lobbyist scandal happened.  You made a speech about that scandal. 

Do you feel like you entered into a job that really starts with just a whole lot of cleanup?  This is a big cleanup operation you are undertaking here? 

SALAZAR:  It is.  You know, the first thing that we have to do is to restore the confidence of the American people in the Department of Interior.  And in order for us to do that, we need to clean up the ethical lapses and messes that occurred in the past. 

We can‘t take the moon shots on energy independence or on our treasured landscapes or helping young people get jobs unless we frankly take care of these issues which are grounding the department or have been in the past. 

So it was the first order of business, and that‘s to restore the confidence of the American people in the department. 

MADDOW:  I do have to ask you one other question, just about accountability and those previous scandals, that Minerals Management Service scandal with the Interior Department employees having inappropriate relationships lobbyists and the drug scandal and all of those things.  Has anybody ended up going to jail in the aftermath of that scandal?  Do you think that anyone will? 

SALAZAR:  Well, there have been two convictions as a result of what happened there in Lakewood, and there may be others.  We have asked the Department of Justice to review the dispositions that were made under the Bush administration.  And we‘ll see what the Department of Justice does. 

In my view, I think what happened in Lakewood was frankly sickening and I don‘t think that it ought to be tolerated.  And I think we need to make sure that people who violate the law in that way are in fact held accountable. 

I mean, when you think about drugs and sex in the workplace and the kinds of relationships that were going on with the oil and gas industry, which were inappropriate relationships, I think it needed to be cleaned up.  And we‘re cleaning it up. 

MADDOW:  On the issue of the last-minute sales of oil and gas leases near national parks in Utah, these things that happened at the very end of the Bush administration, have those last-minute sales been reversed?  Or have they been stopped from going through?  What‘s the status on those? 

SALAZAR:  You know, we have stopped those from going forward.  The lease auctions have been completed on the part of the BLM of Department of Interior in one of the midnight actions of the Bush administration. 

But they had not been signed off at the point in time when I came

in.  And so I went ahead and I stopped them, because I think it‘s important

that we protect the icons of America.  And when one looks at the canyon and

the arches and so many other wonderful places that would have been affected

by the oil and gas drilling in their vicinity, in my view it was

inappropriate for there to be drilling at that place. 

And so we‘re taking a second look at it and I expect that if drilling does occur in this part of Utah that it‘s not going to be in the proximity of our national parks. 

MADDOW:  On the stimulus bill that was just signed into law, you have said that your department through the stimulus, expects to help to create 100,000 new jobs.  What kind of jobs are we talking about here?  What are people going to be set to work doing? 

SALAZAR:  You know, in all 50 states, we will have people who are going to go back to work because we‘re going to create those 100,000 jobs in the Department of Interior.  For example, in New York, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are places which need some work. 

The restoration of Ellis Island has been not going on for a very long time.  But the stimulus will allow us to move forward and to work on those icons of America.  And it will help us bring people back into jobs, small businesses, and construction contractors and their employees will be able to have places to work as we restore many of these icons for America. 

MADDOW:  Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, thank you very much for your time tonight, Sir.  It‘s nice to see you.

SALAZAR:  Thank you, Rachel.  Nice to see you again.

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith asks Howard Dean about Republican governors who are threatening to refuse stimulus money for their states. 

And next on this show I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones.  Tonight, global warming.  Find out who has come out in favor of it. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones. 

Hi, Kent.  What have you got?

JONES:  Good evening, Rachel.  Well, giving the moving vans and BP police presence, it‘s a pretty safe bet that George W. and Laura Bush are almost ready to move into their house in the Preston Hollow neighborhood in North Dallas. 

Now, just so you know, Preston Hollow is a mixed neighborhood.  I mean, just around the corner live some Episcopalians.  It‘s no biggie.  That‘s what‘s cool about it. 

Next, global warming.  Why does it have to be such a downer?  The head of Russia‘s state weather center Alexander Bedritsky has no problem with the temperatures rising a few degrees, saying, quote, “The heating season will be reduced and this is a positive factor for us as it will allow us to economize on fuel. 

Always nice when the vodka glass is half full, or even 2/3 in this case. 

Next, the “New York Times” reports that there‘s an epidemic of grade grubbing going on out there in academia, and that increasingly students think they should get higher grades than they are actually receiving. 

A recent study by researchers at California Irvine found a third of students said they expected B‘s for just for attending lectures and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading. 

MADDOW:  Wow.

JONES:  You know, between the lectures and the required reading, college can get really time consuming.  You know, there should be some compensation there. 

And finally, in Japan, here‘s some sushi crafted to look like Obama. 

MADDOW:  Oh.

JONES:  What do you call that, an Illinois roll?  All Lincoln got was the penny and $5 bill.  And he would have been psyched about this.

MADDOW:  Look at that.

JONES:  Yes.  It‘s Obama sushi.

MADDOW:  It almost sort of looks like bathroom tiles. 

JONES:  A little bit. 

MADDOW:  All the more - I don‘t know if that would be more or less upsetting than eating that - perhaps. 

JONES:  Beautifully crafted and pointless.

MADDOW:  Yes. 

JONES:  Fantastic.

MADDOW:  And maybe tasty.

JONES:  I would hope so.

MADDOW:  Yes.  A cocktail moment for you, Kent. 

JONES:  Ah, here it comes.

MADDOW:  This Sunday, at the White House, Earth Wind and Fire. 

JONES:  Upgrade. 

MADDOW:  I know. 

JONES:  Fantastic.

MADDOW:  I was trying to figure out how to maneuver through the new White House Web site today, which I‘m not very good at.  And I come across a statement from the First Lady that she made the Sweet Honey in the Rock concert. 

And then I get notice that Earth, Wind and Fire are playing at the White House this weekend.  The White House is different than it used to be. 

JONES:  Oh, yes. 

MADDOW:  It‘s better. 

JONES:  It‘s way cooler, yes.  Look at that. 

MADDOW:  Wow.  That‘s very impressive.  That song is reminding me of something from long ago - those trails.

JONES:  I used to listen to this on 8-track.  But anyway -

MADDOW:  Also, on Ms. Info today, we did the story about the guy from the Office of Management and Budget setting a fire in the fireplace in his new office.

JONES:  Right.

MADDOW:  He comes in on a weekend.  It‘s the first weekend that he has

been in the White House.  And there‘s logs in the fireplace.  Peter Orszag

he said that he actually lit a little piece of paper on fire to see if there was a draft.  And there was. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  And lit the logs on fire that were in the fireplace, and smoke alarms started going off because the chimney had been blocked up. 

JONES:  Right.

MADDOW:  Turns out totally happened in the “West Wing.” 

JONES:  Oh.

MADDOW:  Yes, “West Wing,” Season 2, an episode called “The Leadership Breakfast.”  It was Josh and Sam.  Everything happened in the “West Wing.” 

JONES:  It‘s nothing new. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  I appreciate it. 

JONES:  Sure.

MADDOW:  Thank you for watching tonight.  We will see you tomorrow night.  Until then, “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Good night. 

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

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