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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for February 27, 2009

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Dave Zirin, Charles Duelfer, Richard Engel

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

Richard Engel will be joining us from Afghanistan this hour.  Dave Ziron will be joining us this hour from the brave depths of the lefty sports world.  And we will talk with the authors of the “Left Behind” books, the rapture guys, about what they really mean, or at least what some people really mean when Obama is called a socialist.  It will blow your mind.

First, though, the biggest news of the day, biggest news of the year, but certainly—the biggest news of the war.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor and succeeded beyond any expectation.  Today, I‘ve come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.


MADDOW:  On the 18-year anniversary of the day that George W.  Bush‘s father announced that Iraq‘s army was defeated in the first Iraq war, President Barack Obama today announced that he will end the second Iraq war, which was started by the second President Bush.


OBAMA:  So let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.  As we—



MADDOW:  That at first tentative and then enthusiastic applause from the serious as it gets marines of Camp Lejeune put an exclamation point today on the president‘s history-making speech.  This was the antidote to the “mission accomplished” presidential aircraft carrier photo-op.  Rather than a cocky and then embarrassing and then ultimately hideously shameful declaration that the war our troops were still fighting was over, “mission accomplished”—today, the new American president explains in apparently, fairly water-tight, no wiggle room details how the American military will extricate itself from Iraq and end the war.


OBAMA:  And I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.


MADDOW:  After 18 months, 35,000 to 50,000 American troops will remain in Iraq as a transitional force, not a residual force, but a transitional force, in case you are interested in the semantics.  Even with combat brigades gone then, there is no such thing as an American soldier or airman or sailor or marine who is not combat-ready.  And it may well be that what those 30,000 or 50,000 Americans keep doing in Iraq after 18 months still looks a lot like combat.

There will be debate and oversight and consternation about what U.S. troops are still doing in Iraq after next August, and how many of them ought to be there.  That debate, in fact, has already started.  A lot of it happened this week on this show.  But what we know now is when we‘re leaving—totally, completely, fully, residually or transitionally or anything-ally leaving.  We now have an actual end date.


OBAMA:  Under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.



MADDOW:  It is all over, everyone out by a very long time from now.  It‘s not the end of this year; it‘s not the end of next year, it is the year after that—at the latest.  That‘s the end point.

You know, something like 1.7 million Americans have already served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Even if we know the number serving in Iraq now will be brought down over time, a lot more are going to serve there still and for a long time yet.


OBAMA:  For you and your families, the war does not end when you come home.  It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn‘t going away, the dream that wakes you up at night, the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street.  You and your families have done your duty.

Now, a grateful nation must do ours.  That is why I‘ve committed to expanding our system of veterans healthcare to serve more patients and to provide better care in more places.



MADDOW:  Crowd goes wild.  That was the start of the end of the war.  This is a big deal today.

And whatever you think about this plan to end the war, there was one thing in this speech today that struck me—it didn‘t strike me as necessarily wrong, but it struck me as not the way I remember it.  Here it is.


OBAMA:  I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein‘s regime—and you got the job done.


MADDOW:  Nobody‘s going to argue that that job was not done, but I‘m a little nudgy about the idea that the mission we tasked our military with in the first place was dumping Saddam Hussein.  It‘s just not how I remember it from the time.  Do you want to know how I remember it?


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.



MADDOW:  Yes, weren‘t we supposed to be disarming him?  Wasn‘t that the justification or at least the pretense for the war?  That clip was from Bush‘s State of the Union in January 2003.  Then six weeks later, he gave his “Here we come” speech.


BUSH:  We have sent hundreds of weapons inspectors to oversee the disarmament of Iraq.  The United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.


MADDOW:  Ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.  That was the whole idea, right?  That‘s why we went.

I am reluctant to let that fact disappear down the memory hall, because if as the war ends, or at least starts to end, if at this time, the history of the war is written as us going there to topple the regime of a bad man when that frankly isn‘t why were told that we were going there—and aren‘t we still at risk of making this horrific mistake again?  And, aren‘t we letting the people who foisted the WMD idea on us, not many years ago, aren‘t we sort of letting them get away with it?

Joining us now is Charles Duelfer.  He led the CIA‘s weapons inspection team in Iraq after the war started.  He‘s also the author of the new book, “Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq.”

Mr. Duelfer, thank you so much for being on the show tonight.


MADDOW:  The pre-war intelligence on Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction turned out to be wrong.  The big question is: Are the systemic problems that made that error possible now fixed?

DUELFER:  I think the intelligence community has taken a lot of steps to make sure that we don‘t make that magnitude a mistake again.  What happened was there was just a predisposition to assume that Saddam had WMD.  Here is a guy who had experience in the 1980s in his war with Iran of using weapons of mass destruction.  He used 101,000 chemical rounds.  That saved his regime in the 1980s.

Subsequently, as you mentioned in the first Gulf War by Bush the

elder, Saddam believed that his possession of WMD at that time deterred the

Americans from going to Baghdad then.  So, there was a predisposition to

believe that Iraq would have weapons of mass destruction.  So, we tended,

and the intelligence community to see all evidence to fit that hypothesis -

which turned out to be wrong.


Now, the guidance is, you should always have competing hypothesis.  And that‘s true for every American citizen as well, I would point out.  I mean, in a way, we‘re all intelligence analysts.

MADDOW:  In terms of the political inclinations to believe that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that would be a good reason to justify invading Iraq, that that would be justification enough.  Do you think that the intelligence community is oriented in a sufficiently different way right now that if we had some sort of political inclination like that in the future, it wouldn‘t be enabled by the intel?

DUELFER:  I think what you‘re saying is correct.  The intelligence community, you know, was not the tool of the politicians to the extent that I think many Americans suspect.  Where we got tied up in knots around WMD was because the message for containing Saddam throughout the 1990s were sanctions; sanctions were held around Saddam by the U.N. Security Council.  The rule was that Iraq would have sanctions, would be under sanctions so long as it did not comply with the disarmament provisions.

When President Bush came in, the sanctions were crumbling.  He had the problem of what am I going to do with Saddam.  He was advised by the State Department and, indeed, the British said, behave as an internationalist and go through the U.N.  And the view was that there‘s no way that Saddam could comply with the WMD provision, so that Bush would get what, I think, he ultimately wanted, was a rationale for getting rid of Saddam.  But that made the issue pivot on WMD.  They sold it to the American people largely on WMD.

And you remember quite well, the statements about the next—if we don‘t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud—all of that turned out to be completely wrong.  But that was not the biggest intelligence mistake under the regime—the Bush presidency, the biggest mistake, I think, was their ignorance about the internal dynamics of Iraq.  You know, they elected to move Saddam out without any firm understanding of what was going to follow him.  And that was a costliest mistake.  It costs us, over four years, billions and billions of dollars, thousands and thousands of lives.

MADDOW:  Do you believe, though—I mean, when you were involved in doing weapons inspections, when you were heading up the CIA team, you ultimately—your name is forever associated with the report in 2004 documenting that there were no weapons of mass destruction and how we got that wrong—do you think if the administration knew that there weren‘t weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that if the intelligence had been right and they knew it, do you think they would have been prepared to call off the invasion or were they just going to go and get Saddam regardless?

DUELFER:  That‘s a great question, Rachel.  I—you know, I can‘t really say for sure.  I think that President Bush, after 9/11, really took a decision and said, “Look, we can‘t afford to give up the first punch anymore,” and looking at Saddam, this guy with the track record.  But to take that huge step of going to war, that‘s a very, very costly thing to do.  And if anything else we learn out of all of this, you know, you better make sure that you really want to do something badly with our military forces because it‘s really a political activity they were engaged in, not a military objective.

I suspect that if we had firm knowledge about the status of WMD, we would not have gone to war to remove Saddam.  And this bears on the future looking towards countries like Iran and North Korea.

MADDOW:  It‘s one thing to think about what our leaders would have wanted to do if they had that information, it‘s another thing to think what we, as a public, would have stood for, I guess.  And I guess that‘s what you mean by us all being intelligence operatives to a certain extent.

Charles Duelfer—

DUELFER:  Well, we all need to think critically.

MADDOW:  Yes.  Charles Duelfer, former weapons inspector, author of the book, “Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq”—thank you for coming on the show on this big auspicious Iraq-related occasion tonight.  Thanks for being here.

DUELFER:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Now that President Obama has given us some clarity about America‘s future in Iraq, what about the other war?  NBC‘s Richard Engel is in Afghanistan where he has been embedded with the 10th Mountain Division.  How today‘s news about Iraq affects soldiers fighting in the snow, in the mud, anticipating a Taliban spring offensive?  Richard has been with them.  He had some incredible footage.  He joins us from Kabul—next.

But first, One More Thing—about the tens of thousands of U.S.  troops now scheduled to come home from Iraq, President Obama harkened to the G.I. Bill today to say that those returning from the war can form the backbone of our American middle-class.  But as Paul Rieckhoff wondered aloud on this program last night, what are the troops coming home—coming home to?  Like in terms of jobs and stuff?  The civilian life, the economy?

Are you ready for another one of those graphs that is going to keep you up at night?  I‘m sorry.  Brace yourself.  Here it comes.  Ahh!

Those grayish blue lines there—they are growth in the economy, growth in the gross domestic product.  That big huge scary red one is what happened last quarter—the economy shrinking by over 6 percent last quarter.  Welcome home, troops.  While you were out, the economy fell off a cliff.  No wonder recruiting numbers are up.


MADDOW:  Some quick and thorough scrubbing and rinsing by the Obama administration today of George W. Bush‘s so called “right of conscience” rule.  One of the last-minute actions of the Bush administration was to pass a rule that said healthcare workers could refuse to provide healthcare services or even information about healthcare services on the basis of their own religious beliefs or moral convictions.  So, a hospital couldn‘t, say, fire a nurse even if that nurse refused to do his job as long as the nurse‘s explanation was that he was refusing to do his job on the basis of his religious beliefs.

In other words, Bush broke what I have always called the “Amish bus driver” rule.  If your religion requires you not to drive, cool beans, free country—but then you can‘t get hired to be a bus driver if your religion won‘t let you drive the bus.  Of course, this wasn‘t about Amish bus drivers, it was about women being refused contraception and abortion and fertility treatment, which is why the Bush administration changed the rule in December and why it has been changed back now.

Scrubbed and rinsed.



OBAMA:  There are many lessons to be learned from what we‘ve experienced.  We have learned that America must go to war with clearly defined goals, which is why I have ordered a review of our policy in Afghanistan.


MADDOW:  Yes, but what if we are not deciding whether to go to war.  What if we‘re already there?  Doesn‘t make it kind of harder to find clear goals for what we‘re already doing there?

Yes.  The president speech today at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was a major statement on Iraq, perhaps the most major statement on Iraq since the invasion.  We are expecting another major statement from the president sometime soon about what we are doing in Afghanistan and why and how and for how long.

But while we wait for that clarity of purpose here at home, tens of thousands of Americans already in Afghanistan don‘t have the luxury of waiting.  They are there now in the middle of a deteriorating and hostile eight-year conflict, seeking clarity of mission in real time.

NBC‘s Richard Engel is in Afghanistan.  He has just returned from several days with the 10th Mountain Division.  The company was expected to go to Iraq but instead became part of the first wave of new troop buildup in Afghanistan.  They have been setting up defense of a key highway into Kabul preparing for an expected springtime offensive from the Taliban.  As Richard reports, the conditions are very, very, very tough and it is very slow-going.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  The terrain here is a constant challenge, and in some places, there‘s just no way through it.  This vehicle is stuck in mud that comes all the way up to my waste.  These roads simply weren‘t built for these heavy American vehicles.

It took this supply convoy seven hours to travel just 15 miles. 

Another challenge—working in temperatures that often drop below zero. 

The medic, Sergeant Joseph Piedad (ph) checks hands and feet for frostbite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I say you are looking blue.

ENGEL:  At night, the troops warm their feet by a fire.  For many, it feels like this war, more than seven years after it began, is starting over.


MADDOW:  Joining us from Kabul is Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent.

Richard, thanks for joining us.

ENGEL:  It is always a pleasure, Rachel.  Good to see you.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  You, too.  You got some incredible footage there, just incredible conditions in which these troops are operating.  How is the morale among those troops that you have been with?

ENGEL:  I think the morale is quite good at this stage because they are starting out a mission.  They have a very clear sense of purpose.  I was talking to several of the platoon commanders and they said that here, the mission is still quite clear.  The country is in a state of almost free fall, violence has been increasing about 20 percent to 30 percent year after year, and they simply have to stabilize this country.

And after all, it was the Taliban that was backing al Qaeda that launched the attacks of 9/11.  That is still something that many soldiers connect with.  And it‘s a much clearer mission than it was in Iraq, and because of the clarity of mission and because the situation is declining so much, I think they have a clear sense of mission and that helps their morale quite a bit.

MADDOW:  One of the things that‘s been talked about here on the policy level is this idea of shifting the orientation of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from fighting the Taliban, from chasing the Taliban, to protecting the population.  It sounds like the 10th Mountain Division troops that you are with are out pursuing the Taliban, out fighting a very offensive battle, planning to defend that highway on the way into Kabul at the same time.

How would—do you see that distinction as being meaningful on the ground or is it all the same thing?

ENGEL:  I think it‘s not really very meaningful on the ground.  They send in cannons and troops and APCs for a reason.  It is to protect the people but also to kill an enemy.

I was talking with one of the soldiers recently and as these big APCs roll into town, they are quite intimidating and they have guns sticking out of them.  And those guns are not designed as happy sticks.  They are designed to fight back enemies.

So, if the mission is to protect the people, it is by eliminating the enemy, eliminating Taliban.  So, I‘m not sure that on the ground level, it makes much of a difference.

MADDOW:  Richard, I know that you‘ve been to Afghanistan several times before.  In your report, you talk about the sense that the war might be sort of starting over.  How does what you are seeing now compare in terms of security and in terms of what U.S. troops are doing now versus what they were doing before?

ENGEL:  It‘s very much starting over again.  And not only does it feel that way, I‘m seeing all of the same faces that I recognized in Iraq, the same commanders—in some cases, the same troops.  It is almost as if a lot of the leadership and personnel has shifted from one conflict zone to another.  Commanders who are studying Arabic in the past are now brushing up on their Dhari.  So, it‘s a whole class that is moving over here.

And it is—it is a very different fight in that area where I was, just south of Kabul for example.  It‘s an area about the size of the state of Connecticut, and previously, there were only 300 U.S. troops in that area.  You saw how mountainous it was.  Three hundred U.S. troops can‘t do very much.  They are basically there to defend themselves.

There are now 3,000 American soldiers in that same area.  They are spreading out.  They are setting up these combat outposts, they‘re moving in with extra equipment.  So, they‘ll be able to do a lot more offensive operations.

MADDOW:  Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, joining us from Afghanistan—Richard, take care of yourself.  Thanks for joining us.

ENGEL:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  As you may have heard, President Obama will trigger the rise of world socialism which will set the stage for the end times and then the rapture and, of course, the coming of the antichrist.  I know.  I know.  You have heard it before a million times on this show.

Coming up: I will speak with the authors of the “Left Behind” novels.  They‘ve sold tens of millions of books on the coming rapture.  We will get their take on “Comrade Barack.”


MADDOW:  All time baseball superstar Barry Bonds‘ trial for perjury about steroids ahs been delayed indefinitely.  He is a very, very, very unpopular guy and he kind of always was.  Is that why he‘s the one guy the Feds went after among all the alleged steroid users?  Is Barry Bonds an “equal rights under the law” story masquerading as a baseball and acne story?  My friend Dave Ziron will be with us here to discuss it later.

First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  There is a holy mackerel element to Barack Obama‘s trip to Canada that we did not find out about until now, more than a week after he got back.  You remember that trip last week—the cheering, the clapping, the collector‘s plates, the lots of foreigners not hating America?

Well, it turns out that Russia celebrated the president‘s big first successful trip abroad by sending a bomber—that was a long-range Russian bomber that‘s called the “Bear.”  The Canadian defense minister says that less than 24 hours before President Obama landed in Canada, this Bear bomber unexpectedly flew toward Canadian airspace.  The Canadians scrambled two F-18s to intercept the Russian plane.  They say the Bear bomber did not enter Canada‘s airspace but the F-18 pilot had to order it not to do so.

According to the defense minister, quote, “I‘m not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of having deliberately done this during the presidential visit, but it was a strong coincidence, which we met with F-18 fighter planes and sent a strong signal that they should back off and stay out of our airspace.”  As my mom always said, “There‘s nothing that quite says stay out of our airspace like F-18 fighter jets.”

Also, a rather devastating follow-up now on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal‘s Republican Party response to President Obama‘s not State of the Union address.  As you know, Governor Jindal‘s response is not well-received generally—especially the part where he used the example of Hurricane Katrina to argue for demanding less of our government.  To make that rather jaw-dropping point, Governor Jindal told an extended anecdote about working with the late sheriff of Jefferson Parrish, Harry Lee, a controversial figure in his own right.

Governor Jindal said in his speech that in the chaos of rescue operations, while people were standing on their roofs waiting to be saved, Governor Jindal himself helped the sheriff cut through all that awful no good government red tape in order to rescue stranded citizens.  The sheriff, Mr. Jindal said, volunteered both himself and Mr. Jindal to get arrested if those darned bureaucrats kept standing in the way of rescuing people.

After a couple of days of muckraking on this story by “Daily Kos” and “Talking Points Memo,” Governor Jindal‘s office has now issued a clarification, saying that the governor didn‘t mean to imply that any of that actually happened the way the governor said it happened.  Rather, the fighting the red tape thing is something the governor heard about after it happened.  The governor himself was not involved in it.  And there certainly wasn‘t any offer to arrest Bobby Jindal that got the rescue boats moving.

Still, though, as self-aggrandizing exploitative good fix stories go, it was a pretty good one.


MADDOW:  It is day two at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.  And if the right is your wing, this is like a carnival without the rides or the corn dogs.  It has everything - the taxpayer watchdog free, the gung-ho young Republicans, the veterans of the culture wars. 

Last night Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann offered the doowop moment of the year from just out of camera view about the new RNC Chairman Michael Steele. 


REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN (R-MN):  Michael Steele, you be the man.  You be the man. 


MADDOW:  You be the man?  You be the man.  You be - no, you be the - a little Michelle Bach-bonics (ph) there.  A conservative confabs like this - the refrains don‘t usually disappoint. 

The hills are alive with the sounds of conservatism.  Global warming doesn‘t exist.  The media is full of liberals.  Somebody wants to take away your guns.  And of course, the “it” refrain of the moment for this particular CPAC is President Obama is a socialist. 


SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC):  Earlier this week we heard the world‘s best salesman of socialism address the nation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff. 


MADDOW:  This “he is a socialist” thread in the conservative weave these days - it means different things to different people.  When I hear Obama is a commie, I think you are not a serious person and I don‘t have to pay very much attention to the rest of the things that you say.  That‘s one way to react.

A politically conservative person might hear it and think political epithet, political accusation, “Oh, no these Democrats are going to make our country more like the dreaded Sweden. 

But there is a third way that Obama is a commie is heard by a big and poorly understood but powerful group of Americans.  In 1995, a book came out called “Left Behind,” an novel of the earth‘s last days.  As you might expect, it is an apocalyptic tale of good and evil.  It‘s about the end of the world, the rapture, the anti-Christ. 

It‘s fiction, but it‘s based the Bible‘s Book of Revelation.  “Left Behind” eventually became a 16-book series.  And today, get this, it has sold more than 65 million copies - 65 million.  That is not a typo or a speak-o or whatever - 65 million. 

That is as many copies of “Catcher in the Rye” that have ever been bought ever either for pleasure or to say at the insistence of 10th grade teachers.  That is 10 million more copies sold than Merriam Webster dictionaries since the start of Merriam Webster dictionaries and they have been on sale since 1898. 

About the first book in the series, the first left behind book, Rev.  Jerry Falwell said this, “In terms of its impact on Christianity, it is probably greater than that of any other book in modern times outside the Bible.” 

So what‘s the connection to Obama the socialist here?  Well “Left Behind” authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins came to this studio the other night, because they have a new book out that‘s called “Luke‘s Story.”  It‘s part of a different series, but the same authors.  When I asked them about their thoughts on the new presidency, Tim LaHaye immediately, without me prompting him, raised the “Obama is a socialist” meme. 


TIM LAHAYE, CO-AUTHOR, “LUKE‘S STORY”:  I hope it will work.  It will mean that everything conservatives have stood for for years have been false and the things that have made America great can be supplanted by socialism.  And I think that‘s what it is, very cleverly packaged and conveniently presented socialism. 

MADDOW (on camera):  You think that Obama is sort of a secret socialist who is hiding his real agenda? 

LAHAYE:  I don‘t know if he is hiding anything.  I think he is just doing what he believes.  He believes that government can control everything and supply everything and pay for everything and support everything and take, as he said, from the haves and give to the have-nots. 


MADDOW:  No.  It is not all that surprising that Tim LaHaye went right to the “Obama is a socialist, Obama is a commie” thing.  Tim LaHaye is a top tier king-maker conservative activist.  He helped found the Moral Majority.  He‘s been right at the center of all of this stuff. 

Well, what was surprising to me though was to realize that the “Obama is a commie” idea - it isn‘t just a political epithet.  It also has theological implications, religious implications for a lot of people, for the end-times, rapture-ready folks. 


LAHAYE:  The process is going to be according to the end-times prophecies.  And you can‘t have a world socialist government headed by an antichrist without similar patterns that are going on today. 

MADDOW (on camera):  Wait a minute.  World socialist government.  You can‘t have the antichrist.  That‘s before the rapture.

LAHAYE:  No, no.  The stage setting.  We are back to getting things ready for that because it can happen overnight. 


MADDOW:  As you can tell, we are both a little fuzzy on the details here about whether world communism is before or after the antichrist, whether or not Barack Obama is a symptom of the end of the world or a cause of the end of the world.  But Obama and the end of the world are definitely theologically, at least in some people‘s minds, linked. 


MADDOW:  Talking about Christianity in broad terms is something that has been done publicly throughout the history of our country.  Talking about very specific interpretations of Christianity that involve things like the antichrist, that involve the rapture, that involve the end times. 

These are things that are more popular now than ever before because of your work, your cultural work in popularizing those ideas.  Do you see those as having political implications?  Is it part of your activism, as a conservative activism in addition to being an evangelical, to popularize those ideas? 

LAHAYE:  I don‘t think so.  My concern is for the country.  And when I look at prophecy - by the way, one of the reasons that prophecy is so popular today is people are looking for answers.  They recognize the world is in a state of change. 

OK.  What is going to happen when this change takes place?  And the Bible has a good scenario.  And I‘m not worried about antichrist right now because the truth is the rapture has to take place first.  And then, after a period of indeterminate time, the antichrist will come on the scene. 

MADDOW:  That‘s why we don‘t have to worry about the antichrist until after the rapture?

LAHAYE:  That‘s right. 

MADDOW:  Takes a load off my mind. 


LAHAYE:  And you see, there is what we call a stage setting.  The antichrist isn‘t going to take over the whole world all in a moment of time without preparation for the people of the world.  And you have to admit that some of the great intellectuals of our time believe that the only way you‘ll have world peace is to have world socialism. 

Now, they may call it something else, but it is where the government controls everything, where the government supplies money and decides who can be poor and who can be rich and so on.  That is social government. 

MADDOW:  So you think that Obama is a socialist and you think that a world socialist system is a predicate for - is a necessary precondition for the rapture.  And then, after the rapture, then there is the antichrist? 


MADDOW:  So Obama is the antichrist doesn‘t make sense even if everybody believes everything you believe. 

LAHAYE:  He might be a closet Christian.  He claims to be a Christian.  So if he is, when the rapture takes place, he is out of here, too. 


MADDOW:  You know, it is sometimes hard a little hard to follow.  But fascinatingly, apparently, another one of the reasons we can be fairly sure that Obama is not the antichrist is because he is not popular enough. 

So sure he‘s antichrist-ish, but he‘s not the antichrist because he is not popular enough.  Everybody would love him if he was the antichrist and a lot of people don‘t like Obama.  Whew. 

None of us have the right to judge anybody else‘s religious beliefs.  And Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye have sold literally tens of millions of books - tens of millions based on their religious beliefs.  They have sold them to millions and millions of Americans. 

But if you were curious as to why there was a John McCain ad in the presidential race that seemed to imply that Obama may be possibly was the antichrist, know that it probably wasn‘t meant as a joke. 

And know that if you hear President Obama derided as a commie, as socialist these days, some people hear that as a joke.  Some people hear that as political criticism and lots and lots of Americans hear that as almost a dog whistle signal that the end is near and they see that as good news.  


MADDOW:  Another twist in the saga of President Obama‘s short-lived pick for Commerce Secretary, Republican Senator Judd Gregg.  Judd Gregg, you remember, was hailed as a Republican hero for bailing on joining Obama‘s cabinet after he initially accepted.  Take that bipartisanship, take that.  

Judd Gregg said he had irresolvable conflicts with Obama‘s policies.  Oh, and also, the AP is now reporting that Judd Gregg helped steer millions of dollars in taxpayer money to the redevelopment of the defunct air force base in his home state of New Hampshire. 

Judd Gregg‘s brother had real estate projects there in which Judd Gregg himself had invested.  And Senate record showed Judd Gregg made at least $240,000 on those investments. 

Oops.  Also, we had big disagreements about policy.  The senator today said he violated no laws or Senate rules which is a fine defense, one that is admittedly more easily made when you are not trying to be confirmed for a cabinet post, don‘t you think? 


MADDOW:  The perjury trial of baseball‘s homerun king, Barry Bonds, has been delayed indefinitely.  Mr. Bonds was expected to stand trial on Monday.  But late today, federal prosecutors postponed the trial while they tried to get some of their key evidence to be admitted. 

Why am I telling you this?  Why is there baseball in your news show?  Well, first of all, it is kind of a big deal.  The man on trial for lying about steroid use is Barry Bonds, the guy with more homeruns than anyone.  More homeruns than Hank Aaron.  More homeruns than Babe Ruth.  More homeruns than anybody.  Most homeruns ever, even most homeruns in a single season. 

If homerun hitting were a Web site, Barry Bonds would be Google.  If homerun hitting were being a superpower, he would be the USA. 

So first of all, this is our national past time and he is a really big deal.  Second of all, there‘s the whole faith in the justice system thing.  Barry Bonds has always widely been understood as a baseball villain, a bad guy, rude to the fans, mean to the sportswriters, selfish among his teammates.  That is the rap on Barry Bonds and it is not a good one. 

Does that have anything to do with why he is the one going on trial? 

And how this trial has been going thus far? 

Here now, my friend, the sportswriter Dave Zirin, sports correspondent with “The Nation” magazine and author of “The People‘s History of Sports in the United States.”  Dave, so nice to see you.  Thanks for being here. 


MADDOW:  So tell me this - 

ZIRIN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Why do so many people hate Barry Bonds? 

ZIRIN:  Well, they hate Barry Bonds because they see him as one step below a pit bullfighting banker at this point.  He has a reputation as being somebody who is not good to his teammates.  There is a great quote by one of his teammates who says, “When Barry says “bleep,” you know what the difference is?  He really means it.” 

But I think the thing about Barry Bonds is that there are two kinds of people in this world - there are Sean Penn people and Tom Hanks people.  And Barry Bonds is a Sean Penn person.  He is absolutely brilliant.  He is surly with the press.  He is surly with the fans.  But at the same time, he is brilliant at his craft. 

And you know what?  I like Barry Bonds because he tells uncomfortable truths like Sean Penn.  I mean, he was quoted during the beginning of the steroid trial as saying, “Why do people care about this and not about what is happening in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina?  Why do people care about this and not the fact that there is a war going on in Iraq?” 

And the response from the press was to say, “Oh, look at Barry.  He is dodging the question.”  My response was to say, “You know what?  Those are pretty good questions that deserve to be answered perhaps.” 

MADDOW:  Well, in terms of the latest news on this trial, it is going to be delayed.  We thought it was going to go forward on Monday.  Who benefits from the delay of the trial?  Does Barry benefit from that or is does the prosecution benefit? 

ZIRIN:  On one level, Barry Bonds delays it, because Barry Bonds benefits.  Because it shows tremendous admission by the prosecution that they‘re walking in there with no case. 

Remember, the Justice Department wins 95 percent of the time when they bring these cases to trial.  This was going to be one of those five percent, because Judge Susan Illston - she struck down most of the prosecution‘s case because she saw the prosecution as having used the Bill of Rights basically as dental floss during the whole process of trying to gather evidence. 

And that‘s the thing about this case, that stinks to high heaven.  And that‘s why I think it‘s important for MSNBC viewers to understand this.  Because Barry Bonds is only the most public face of a process over the last seven years where the Justice Department just ran roughshod over people‘s rights. 

I mean, remember the last time I was on this show.  It was to talk about the Maryland State Police spying on me and my friends and for doing anti-death penalty tablings(ph) in Tacoma Park, Maryland. 

And I know you know about the case of Sami Al Arian the college professor in Florida who‘s been in American gulag hell for giving money to a Palestinian charity.  And Barry Bonds is the most public face of the way John Ashcroft and then Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush handled their business.  They ran roughshod over the Bill of Rights.

And in Barry Bonds‘ case, it‘s particularly egregious every step of the way.  I mean, in the discovery processes, what Judge Susan Illston had such a problem with - I mean, you had the IRS agents walking into a continental drug testing lab with warrants that said, we can get 10 people‘s results and they leave with 4,000 - 4,000 people‘s results.  And three-judge panel judging the actions of this particular agent, a man named Jeff Novitsky and what they said was, “Gee, I didn‘t know the Fourth Amendment was repealed.  No one told us about that.” 

MADDOW:  But what people - if you‘re not a sports fan and if you haven‘t been following the steroid scandal closely, what you brought thus far is, everybody in baseball is on steroids.  And that makes me feel bad about our national past time and athletes are spoiled and get away with everything. 

ZIRIN:  The players are scapegoated to a profound degree.  I spoke to a player who I‘m not going to reveal his name, but he‘s somebody who‘s been caught up in this mess.  And he said to me, “Why is it that punishment is an individual issue but distribution is a team issue?” 

And I pressed him what he meant about that.  And it means whenever there‘s a punishment, it‘s all about the individual - Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez.  But in the process when baseball was hitting homeruns and there were commercials that chicks dig the long ball and everybody was making a ton of money and everybody looked like pro-wrestlers.  Owners weren‘t asking questions.  Front office people weren‘t asking questions.  Managers weren‘t asking questions. 

I mean, steroids weren‘t a banned substance in baseball until 2003.  But you could go back to 1988, the first time a trainer raised that in an owners‘ meeting, “You know what?  There are some substances here that maybe shouldn‘t be in the game.”

So there‘s a hyper-scapegoating that goes on in the sport while owners are getting off scott free. 

MADDOW:  So you‘re saying that baseball, as an industry, benefited from steroid use knowingly ...

ZIRIN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  ... and now has decided to turn on specific players, scapegoat players, as a way of sort of excusing their own complicity in it. 

ZIRIN:  Their own complicity.  There‘s an old expression, Rachel, and that‘s “follow the money.”  1995, after the baseball strike, the rights to baseball sold the whole package, the TV rights - $500 million.  The playoff rights alone in 2003 sold for $2.6 billion, I believe. 

And that was all built on the homerun.  The homerun became the most marketable thing in baseball over that period.  And the 1998 homerun race, for example, between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and this was something that was followed by the entire country.

The owners loved it.  The union loved it.  The money was flowing.  The problem now is that the chickens have really come home to roost.  And there was an article by George Vecsey in the “New York Times” just the other day about how players have showed up for spring training this year all looking noticeably thinner. 

MADDOW:  They‘re all smaller - yes.  There are a lot of tiny little hats now. 

ZIRIN:  Yes.  They all look like they are wearing zoot suits now.  They‘re 1940s Los Angelinos. 

MADDOW:  And so steroids - the players are juicing less.  Some players are getting scapegoated.  The Justice Department rode roughshod here.  And the Barry Bonds case is more than it appears.

ZIRIN:  Absolutely. 

MADDOW:  Dave Zirin, sports correspondent with “The Nation” magazine, author “A People‘s History of Sports in the United States.  Great to see you, Dave.  Thanks for coming in. 

ZIRIN:  My pleasure.  It was a tough task to follow Tim LaHaye, but I‘m glad I could do it. 

MADDOW:  I understand.  I would like to see you follow him, literally. 

ZIRIN:  Oh, yes.

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” the latest from the conservative conference in Washington, D.C.  And guess what?  Even they say George W.  Bush is to blame. 

Next on this show, the week in review with my friend Kent Jones.  Why do I think we‘ll be hearing more about that conservative conference? 


Now, it is time to look back on the last seven days of public lame-itude.  Here now is my friend, Kent Jones, with the weekend review.  Hi, Kent. 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Good evening, Rachel.  Plenty of lame-itude out there.  First up, lame Republican rock anthem of the week at the CPAC conference.  Newt Gingrich made his triumphant entrance to Survivors‘ “Eye of the Tiger.”

MADDOW:  No way.

JONES:  Dude.  Rocky III.  1982.  Reagan.  Yes!  After his speech, the Newt-ster(ph) exited to Queen‘s, “We Will Rock You” though I seriously doubt that Newt Gingrich will ever rock anyone.  As for Queen, I wonder how welcome Freddie Mercury would have been at the CPAC.  Weak. 

MADDOW:  Looking at this footage, I would have thought that we would have put those songs over that footage to make those guys look lame. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I never would have thought they would have made their own soundtrack. 

JONES:  Does it so?

MADDOW:  Incredible. 

JONES:  Voila.  Next up, quote of the week, also from CPAC.  Senate

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the room that conservatives are more

interesting and fun than liberals saying quote -


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  I mean, let‘s be honest.  Who wants to hang out with guys like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich when you can be with Rush Limbaugh? 



JONES:  Weak. 


MADDOW:  Really?  The punch line is -


JONES:  You‘d hang out with Paul Krugman rather, right?

MADDOW:  I did actually go on a cruise with Paul Krugman in Air America.

JONES:  Yes, exactly.

MADDOW:  I would have preferred that to Mr. Limbaugh.  I don‘t know. 

JONES:  Would you say that they rock? 

MADDOW:  They will, they will rock you.  Yes.

JONES:  Next up, obsession of the week.  Well, lent started this week.  And in an effort to earnestly atone for their sins during this holy season, some Christians have decided to give up Facebook.  There‘s even a Facebook page called “Give Up Facebook for Lent.”  Weak.  Very weak.

MADDOW:  Sort of weak you have to let things go. 

JONES:  Absolutely.


JONES:  It should be a soul searching thing.  And this is what - Finally, wedding accessory of week.  New England Patriots‘ quarterback Tom Brady married supermodel Giselle Bundchen at a private ceremony yesterday in Santa Monica, California. 

According to “Us Weekly,” Giselle wore a Dolce & Gabbana dress, and her three dogs wore matching Dolce & Gabbana floral lace collars.  Weak.  Very week.  Floral lace collars here. 

MADDOW:  Well, they own Dolce & Gabbana though. 

JONES:  Gee, darling.

MADDOW:  There‘s a minority view among some of my Patriot fans friends that Giselle Bundchen has not been a lucky thing for Tom Brady, and so they call her Gizzly(ph). 

JONES:  Aww.

MADDOW:  Yes.  It‘s very sad. 

JONES:  They could be nicer.

MADDOW:  My cocktail moment today -

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  The new social secretary at the White House has decided that instead of 36,000 people waiting in line to go on the White House Easter egg roll - instead you‘re going to be able to sign up online this time. 

JONES:  Excellent. 

MADDOW:  It seems rational.

JONES:  It seems Democratic.

MADDOW:  I‘ve given up trying to get invited to a cocktail party but I‘m going to the egg roll.  I swear.

JONES:  Absolutely.  I‘ll go with you.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  Thank you for watching at home tonight.  We will see you back here on Monday.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 




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