'The Rachel Maddow Show'for March 5, 2009
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Guest: Dennis Herrera, Ada Fisher, Don Siegelman, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well.
We will be joined, in just a moment, by a member of the Republican National Committee who says that Michael Steele, the chairman of the RNC, should resign now.
Also, Karl Rove will testify before Congress about the scandals at the Bush Justice Department. One draft question, if you are working on them at home, might be: What if anything did you have to do with the criminal conviction of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Mr. Rove? Don Siegelman will be here this hour. Live.
There is all of that and lots else to come.
But, first, the as yet very brief tumultuous reign of Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee, as head of the Republican Party, today became even more troubled.
Today, an active member of the Republican National Committee has called on party chairman, Michael Steele, to resign his post, saying she has, quote, “never seen such ineptness in our GOP leadership,” quote, “I don‘t want to hear anymore language trying to be cool about the bling in the stimulus package,” calling the back-and-forth between Mr. Steele and Rush Limbaugh a, quote, “Republican horror show.”
She goes to say, quote, “Limbaugh has already promised that his conservatives won‘t be giving to the RNC. I would suggest to you that is a real bet. If we can‘t raise money and if we continue to allow the alienation of the few verifiable red states remaining, we are foolish.”
A member of the Republican National Committee making those allegations and calling for Mr. Steele to step down will join us here live in just a moment. She adds her voice and her name to a chorus of other Republicans who have started to criticize Mr. Steele vociferously even if they are only doing so anonymously.
“U.S. News & World Report,” yesterday, quoted an unanimous top GOP strategist saying, quote, “If his implosion continues, RNC members are likely to call a special session to dump him for an effective chairman.” We recounted that anonymous shot across the bow yesterday. You will recall that Michael Steele offering the, quote “friggin‘ awesome” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal some, quote, “slum love.”
Recall Mr. Steele calling civil unions crazy. You‘ll recall him insisting that in all human history, government has never created a job. Hmm. Mr. Steele has also failed to hire staff to run the Republican National Committee and, of course, he memorably has promised more outreach to urban-suburban hip-hop settings via an off-the-hook Republican public relations campaign.
Now, in a new radio interview, Mr. Steele has also said that Republicans over the years, quote, “in trying to be, you know, cool and hip in a Democrat way, we failed.” Mr. Steele then went on to explain how he thinks of the task ahead for the party he leads.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I‘m putting the party on a 12-step program of recovery. And this is going to take some time, it‘s going to take some effort.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, if it‘s one thing that Republicans must have been looking for in a new leader is a man who will publicly equate being a Republican with being an alcoholic.
On top of all this, Michael Steele continues to have a cloud hanging over him from his last run for public office. He‘s currently under FBI investigation for possible fraud after he paid thousands of dollars in campaign funds to a firm called Brown Sugar that was controlled by his sister. A former Steele campaign official says that no work was performed in exchange for those payments.
In addition, WBAL in Baltimore is reporting allegations about thousands of dollars Mr. Steele paid to a different firm during that same failed 2006 Senate bid. It was more than $60,000 in payments labeled as political consulting fees, but they were paid to a company that traded commodities. Their business was like trading coffee and minerals and stuff. And the company had forfeited its license to operate in Maryland a year before the payments.
While those allegations circle around Mr. Steele, he has started the second month of his term as Republican Party chairman which, although the RNC continues to not have any other significant senior staff, does seem to involve Mr. Steele spending a lot of time talking to the media. Mr. Steele told the “Washington Post” in an interview publish today, quote, “I‘m in the business of ticking people off. That‘s why I‘m chairman.” Steele also told “The Post”, quote, “Everyone has a role to play, but at the end of the day, all roads are going to lead to this desk.”
From his very centrally-located desk, Mr. Steele has gone back-and-forth on one really important political question for his party: Whether he will use party resources to punish moderate Republican senators who supported President Obama‘s stimulus bill. He had initially said he was open to supporting primary challenges against those senators. That‘s a big deal. These would be senators Collins and Snowe from Maine and Senator Specter from Pennsylvania.
Senator Snowe said when she heard that threat from Mr. Steele, she demanded of him, quote, “You didn‘t really mean that, did you?” That prompted the RNC spokesman to say, actually, no, Mr. Steele didn‘t really quite mean that, quote, “The RNC has no interest in getting involved in primaries.”
But then, incredibly Mr. Steele reiterated that he did mean it. Asked yesterday if it was a serious threat, he said, quote, “I‘m not backing down from that.” Then today, whiplash again, Chairman Steele gave $1 million RNC dollars to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They presumably will be in the business of re-electing Republican senators including Snowe and Collins and Specter, even while the chairman runs his mouth and says he will support people running against them in the primaries.
Are you confused? You are not alone. I will concede that if Mr. Steele does indeed believe that it is his job—excuse me—it is his job as party chairman to tick people off, that is one area in which he can say “mission accomplished.”
Dr. Ada Fisher of North Carolina is a Republican National Committee member. She is among the select group of Republicans who are responsible for developing the party platform and coordinating fund-raising and election strategy. It‘s only RNC members, only the 168 members of the RNC, who get to cast a vote in electing the party chairman. And it was Dr. Fisher who circulated an e-mail among her fellow RNC-ers calling for Mr. Steele to resign. That makes her the first reported member of the committee to say this out loud.
Joining us now is Dr. Ada Fisher of North Carolina. Dr. Fisher, many, many thanks for coming on the show tonight.
DR. ADA FISHER, REPUBLICAN NAT‘L. COMMITTEE MEMBER: Well, thank you for inviting me. I‘d like to also thank (INAUDIBLE) Hendersonville, North Carolina, for agreeing to let me meet here with you in this public forum.
MADDOW: Sure. You are the first Republican National Committee member to publicly call for Michael Steele‘s resignation as chairman. What are you main concerns about his chairmanship?
FISHER: Well, first of all, let me say that I sent a memo to 13 members of, people who I thought were on Michael Steele‘s transition team and not to the media. So, I was surprised to find that people are quoting from the memo about various things that I said. What I said to the transition team and what I stand behind is I believe that, given all the things that are happening, it would be a good idea for Mr. Steele to consider stepping aside and letting the—and letting the RNC elect a new chairman. And you can call it whatever you want to, but that‘s what the memo said.
My concerns are, number one—that the job of the RNC is to raise money and get our candidates elected. We also have to sit down and talk about what our strategies are. We have been diverted by nipping and sniping from a lot of different sides, and we have not gotten to our primary mission. And if we don‘t get to our primary mission, we won‘t be effective in helping our candidates get elected both in 2010 and 2012.
We also have a challenge, because we have people in local races, from school boards to county commissioners who need our help. And we need to be out in the counties, where I am now, trying to drum up support and get the Republicans energized to take on this task as well. And that is what our mission is and that‘s what we should be doing. And I don‘t think that we have put the time into that.
MADDOW: I know that your memo was not intended for the media. It did leak, which means that somebody who received it decided to let it—to let it get out to the media. What we got from the memo was reported in “The Hill” newspaper. I wonder—given that—what kind of response you have had directly from the people to whom you sent this memo, from the transition team, from other RNC members?
FISHER: I haven‘t received any response from anybody that I know of. And I checked my email at a different computer today about 4:30. So, I haven‘t received anything.
And when you called me, it was the first time that I knew that the memo was leaked. And that‘s just not standard operating procedure nor is it correct. And we need to tighten up our ship and do better.
MADDOW: Well, Mr. Steele‘s transition chairman did say publicly today that—essentially, that you just got a grudge against Mr. Steele, that you have been gunning for him essentially since he decided to run for chairman. That‘s the way publicly he‘s responding. What‘s your response to that?
FISHER: Well, I think that his response is absolutely wrong. I don‘t have a public grudge against anyone. My role at the RNC National Committee woman from North Carolina is to help get our candidates elected.
And if we are not about that business, then we are not doing what we are supposed to. I‘ve also said that we must have transparency in all of our operations because I am accountable to my state and the people in this state. And people want to know what‘s going on. Now—that‘s it.
FISHER: And I don‘t have a grudge against anybody.
MADDOW: In an e-mail that you wrote—in this email that you wrote, you said and I‘m quoting here from, again, something you did not intend to be public but it is. “I don‘t want to hear anymore language trying to be cool about the bling in the stimulus package or appealing to D.L. Hughley and blacks in a way that isn‘t going to win us any votes and makes us, frankly, appear to many blacks as quite foolish.”
I mean, Mr. Steele made history as the first ever black party chairman. You are one of only three members of the RNC who are African-American. Why do you think he specifically makes the Republican Party look foolish to black people?
FISHER: I think that he makes people—he makes us look—first off, we have an 11th commandment. And that commandment says we should not speak ill of other Republicans. Mr. Steele has a right to say what he wants as does Rush Limbaugh.
My concern is, we need to focus on our mission and our principles. We need to talk about the fact that this economy is failing and we need to promote what is the Republican response. We need to talk about the fact that we have healthcare coming from the White House, and Republicans need to say this is what our response is. Those are the challenges that we face.
And the Democrats are doing a good job of getting us off-task and off-mission.
MADDOW: Do you think that Mr. Steele should stop talking to the media as long as he is chairman? Would that be—would that be a positive step in your mind?
FISHER: What I think should happen is Mr. Steele and the RNC needs to come together and talk about several issues. If you read the memo further, you would say that—you would hear that we are having a phone conference on Friday. And I asked to talk and discuss these things on Friday in the phone conference. So, I haven‘t received a response to that.
We need to talk to each other not about each other. We need to get it straight what is going to be our mission so that we can go with a unified front and say, this is what we believe. The principles of this party are correct.
I am writing a book now which is called “Commonsense Conservative Prescriptions.” And the subtitle says, “It‘s not what you say, it‘s what they hear based on what they‘ve seen.” And I think that that is one of the dilemmas for the party. We have the right principles. People have not seen us use them and promote them in a way that they can relate to, and we need to do a better job of that.
MADDOW: We‘re just about time, just one last quick question. Are you, at all, concerned about those financial scandals surrounding Mr. Steele? Having spent money on a—given money to a company run by his sister, apparently, for work that was not done, this other allegation about spending $60,000 for consulting with a company that appears to be a minerals commodity trading firm—are you concerned about those things as well?
FISHER: I‘m concerned about how we use and operate money throughout the Republican Party, not just in his case. I ran a campaign and the FEC came down on me for some late reports which were not my fault but related to a third party. So, we got some cleaning up in campaign finance reform to do all along. But I would say to you, if the FBI can investigate Mr. Steele for his finances, somebody needs to look at the Obama campaign and its finances, which are not subject to public scrutiny and should be to the same extent that we are holding Mr. Steele and others.
MADDOW: Republican National Committee member, Dr. Ada Fisher, thank you for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate your time, ma‘am.
FISHER: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: In just a moment, I will be joined by former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman, a Democrat who was convicted of bribery in 2006. His case continues to resonate, and it has many unanswered questions surrounding it because of its links to the U.S. attorney scandal, the twisting of the Justice Department‘s law enforcement powers to suit the interests of the Republican Party. Does Karl Rove having to testify before Congress mean that Governor Siegelman‘s case is going to blow back open? That is coming up exclusively this hour.
And, the California Supreme Court hears arguments today on Proposition Eight, an issue that has gay rights supporters more fired up than they have been in years. Throngs of people in the streets demanding change. We‘ve got pictures. That‘s next.
But, first, One More Thing about complications for Republican leaders. The Democratic-controlled state legislature in Mississippi just voted to strip their state‘s Republican governor, Haley Barbour, of his ability to turn down federal stimulus money. By a vote of 69 to 52, lawmakers passed a resolution certifying the state‘s intent to request and use all of the federal money that is on offer, including millions of dollars to expand unemployment benefits that Governor Barbour wanted to turn down.
That‘s right, in this economy, the governor of Mississippi wanted to turn down unemployment benefits on behalf of the unemployed people of his state—because, you know, Heaven forbid.
MADDOW: A moment of sheer joy has been captured for our vicarious joyousness on the White House lawn. This photo released by the White House tonight shows the first lady and the first daughters, Malia and Sasha, playing like crazy on the new swing set that the president just had installed yesterday outside the Oval Office windows on the south lawn. Nonpartisanly speaking (INAUDIBLE).
MADDOW: November 4th, 2008, was a bittersweet moment in the American history of equal rights. On the one hand, for the first time in American history, an African-American president was elected. On the other hand, it was the first time in American history that an existing civil right that was being used and enjoyed frankly, was taken away—the right to be married, which same-sex couples in California had had, and it vanished with Proposition Eight.
And today, four months after Proposition Eight passed, the equal rights movement is galvanized. Hundreds of people marching the in the streets of San Francisco last night, gathering for candlelight vigils on the steps of state buildings, protesting outside the California Supreme Court building this morning, and then huddling around JumboTron screens to witness what was happening inside.
The California Supreme Court, today, heard arguments on Prop Eight for the first time since it passed. And the legal fight here is actually very narrowly cast. The debate in the country, the debate between rival groups of protesters outside the courthouse today, that debate is very roughly in favor of gay marriage versus against gay marriage.
But if you want to smart about this and actually grasp what the legal fight is about, the fight that will actually determine whether or not same-sex couples have the right to marry in California, it‘s sort of important to get the details right here.
Today‘s hearing was about three really specific particular points. First, is Prop Eight invalid? Should it never have been on the ballot in the first place because it‘s a revision of the state Constitution instead of an amendment to the Constitution?
Revision versus amendment—what does that mean? Stay with me, that will be explained uno momento.
Second point: Does Prop Eight violate the separation of powers doctrine? Is it blocking the courts, a co-equal branch of government, from enforcing the equal protection clause of the state Constitution? And third, if Prop Eight is constitutional, if the ban stands, what is the effect on those 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California before the ban came down like a hammer?
The arguments were today. The court now has 90 days to decide? Do you want to know what‘s likely to happen?
Well, we‘re joined now by San Francisco City attorney, Dennis Herrera. He, along with others, filed the lawsuit that the Supreme Court heard today, arguing that Prop Eight is invalid because it‘s a revision rather than an amendment to the Constitution.
Mr. Herrera, thank so much for being here.
DENNIS HERRERA, SAN FRANCISCO CITY ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can you explain to us non-lawyers why the whole revision versus amendment argument is important here?
HERRERA: It‘s important because it‘s about equality. Not just marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, but equality for all Californians.
And the people of California, in their wisdom, put limitations on their ability to change the Constitution, such that when there is a structural change to state government or when a fundamental right is implicated, a higher level of scrutiny is required before something is voted on by the people in a constitutional amendment. Such that you have to have either a constitutional convention or a 2/3 vote of the legislature before the matter is put to a vote.
And that was done precisely because they recognize that some things were so important that we should be more deliberative as we consider them, and not just consider them in the heat of a political moment.
MADDOW: Overall, how do you think that argument was received today? News reports do seem to indicate that the justices were leaning in favor of leaving the gay marriage ban in place. How did you feel that it went?
HERRERA: Well, I thought that my chief deputy, Terry Stewart, did a wonderful job in specifying what really was at issue. And I think what was very telling was the chief justice‘s questions of Judge Kenneth Starr who, representing the other side, said very, very clearly, that if Prop Eight was allowed to stand, issues such as free speech and other fundamental rights that many of us take for granted would be freely able to be changed by a vote of the people. And certainly, that‘s not what we understand when we recognize that we have three co-equal branches of government with an independent nonpolitical judiciary there to act as a check in order to protect minority rights.
So, they asked a lot of tough questions of both sides. They recognized that this is a novel area of the law. There‘s only been nine cases in this area of jurisprudence. Quite honestly, we did raise some novel arguments that talked not just about saying that a revision is required when you have a structural change to state government but also when you have the right that is protected by those structures is also at issue.
So, I think that they asked a lot of difficult questions, but I think that what was clear, starkly laid out, is what the stakes are. And that has implications not just for gay and lesbian couples but for women and over disfavored minority groups here in California as well as the broader population when it comes to the protection of their constitutional rights.
MADDOW: Just to be clear, Ken Starr did actually argue today, people do have the raw power to define rights. I mean, I know you‘re saying that the chief justice questioned him sharply about that. That‘s a—that‘s an astonishing statement about what—about his view of American jurisprudence.
HERRERA: Absolutely. From my perspective, he wasn‘t bashful about it. He was very, very clear in saying that the people have an unfettered right to take away rights that all of us hold sacred and take for granted. Specifically, he referred to freedom of speech. Now, why I think what we all need to be concerned about is the fact that we have an independent judiciary there to, precisely, to protect those rights.
We also have a limitation that the people have put in the California Constitution by virtue of the fact that they have the revision process in there anyway. I think that they recognized when the California Constitution was formed that there were certain things that required such a high level of scrutiny because they were so fundamentally important. And I can think of nothing more fundamental than the fundamental right to marry and enjoy your life with the person of your own choosing.
MADDOW: Mr. Herrera, if the court does rule against your lawsuit and the other arguments presented today, what will be the next attempt to restore same-sex marriage rights in California?
HERRERA: Well, the claim we all brought today, San Francisco as well as 15 other counties and cities in California, representing over 17 million Californians along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and others, only raised state law claims under the state Constitution. So, in the event that we are unsuccessful, this is the final stop on the state law claims that we brought.
There‘s—it‘s no secret that there have been rumblings that there are political movements out there that would look possibly to put this item on the ballot within a couple of years. And that‘s a political battle that will probably occur in the event that we are unsuccessful. But number one, I‘m hopeful and I‘m cautiously optimistic that we will be successful.
And in any event, I think there‘s been tremendous progress that‘s been made in the fight for civil rights when you look at Prop 22 that passed here in the year 2000, where it was 60/40 against same-sex marriage, and here, in a closely fought election, it‘s 52-48. And I think a lot of that is due to the great work that‘s been done by the city and county of San Francisco as well as my brethren in this fight, other cities and counties and other advocacy organizations.
MADDOW: Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City attorney—thank you so much for joining us and good luck to you.
HERRERA: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up: A story in misinformation that I will try to get through without weeping like I‘m watching “On Golden Pond” and singing the end of the national anthem all at once. Followed by a story about AIG, the giant bailout hole that I will try to get through without tearing my hair out and banging my head on the desk.
Totally inappropriate host-driven emotional rollercoaster—coming right up.
MADDOW: Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman will be here on the show in just a moment. He is out of prison on appeal. And the news that Karl Rove will be forced to testify to Congress soon is very appealing to the governor, indeed. That is coming up.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. We start with a story about money, about how we depict money. Bear with me here.
The United States has a symbol for its currency, right? The dollar sign, the recognizable but fairly hard to explain “s” with one or two vertical lines running through it. The British pound uses a Laverne and Shirley style cursive capital “L” with a little slash through it. The Japanese yen has a capital”Y” with two slashes in it horizontally. The euro has this little slashy “C” thing.
But the rupee, the Indian rupee, with those awesome pictures of Gandhi the bills that remind us that he really he looked nothing at all like Ben Kingsley. The Indian rupee has no symbol. It has been around for centuries. It has no official symbol.
So now, the Indian finance ministry is holding a contest to come up with one. The contest is open until April 15th. Everyone can submit only two entries. It costs 500 rupees per entry. That‘s about $10. And sadly, you have to live in India to enter. Dang it.
The winner gets a 250,000 rupees, which is about $5,000. And of course, the winner gets the bragging rights on what I am guessing will be one of the most often-seen designs ever, considering that India has a population of over 1 billion people. And unlike the rest of the world, they seem to be on course to continue having money even as everyone else financially melts down. So good luck. Happy rupee symbol designing - RACHEL MADDOW SHOW - if you‘re seen in India.
All right. Our next story is from Garland, Texas where Alicia Young(ph) is a mother of two. She teaches eighth grade social studies. She is also married to Sergeant Matthew Young who serves with the 56th Division of Texas National Guard.
In addition to being a mom and a teacher and a wife, Alicia Young also volunteers as a greeter, welcoming home soldiers at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. She has brought her classes to greeting sessions before as a sort of civic show intel for her eighth graders.
Well, today, Alicia Young was back at the airport. The USO and local coordinator of the airport greeting program had called and asked if she could be there today as a volunteer to help with a bus load of students who were coming in participate.
Unbeknownst to her, the plane load of soldiers arriving at the F.W. included her husband back from southern Iraq. He had engineered it for her as a surprise through E-mails to his wife‘s school principal. Want to see how it went?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALICIA YOUNG‘S CHILD: Daddy!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: So Alicia, tell us, how did it feel when you first saw him coming?
ALICIA YOUNG, VOLUNTEER GREETER: I don‘t even know where he is.
Where did he go? No, don‘t take him away, OK? I just got him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So very cool. Could not be cooler. Welcome home to Sergeant Young and way to go to the folks who orchestrated this super-awesome surprise.
MADDOW: It is a good week to be working the separation of powers beat. Because the last 30 hours or so have brought some big, long-awaited news in the epic and hard-fought battle between the congressional subpoena and the giant George W. Bush claim the executive privilege umbrella. We learned yesterday that Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, former top aides to President Bush will testify under penalty of perjury to the House Judiciary Committee investigating allegations of politicization of the Justice Department during the Bush years.
So after nearly two years of refusing to testify, of ignoring subpoenas from Congress - subpoenas, legal documents that order you by law to testify - Rove and Miers have given in. They have agreed not to keep breaking the law. They are going to testify. Big news for separation of power buffs as I said.
But what exactly will they be testifying about? Generally, the subject is this. There is reason to suspect that the Bush administration might have used the United States Department of Justice not to pursue, you know, justice by enforcing federal law in an impartial way but rather to use the law enforcement system to pervert the law enforcement system to create a climate that was more politically suitable for the Republican president.
For instance, there is the case of David Iglesias, one of the eight famously fired former U.S. attorneys who was canned after reportedly refusing to bow to pressure from the Justice Department to prosecute voter fraud cases that he didn‘t think should be prosecuted. Those cases mainly targeted Democrats conveniently enough.
There is also the more complicated case of former Democratic Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Yes, I said, Democratic governor. Yes, I‘m talking about that Alabama.
But while he has managed to pull of the impossible-sounding feat of being elected governor of Alabama with a capital “D” next to his name, Siegelman‘s superhuman political powers were not enough to stop what just might have been the great buzz saw of politically motivated prosecution.
Don Siegelman was convicted of bribery in 2006 in a case prosecuted by a U.S. attorney with ties to Karl Rove. Governor Siegelman and others alleged that the case against him was, in fact, brought at the direction of Mr. Rove working from the White House for political reasons.
Now, how might that have happened? Well, here is the theory/allegation. Karl Rove had worked closely with a Republican consultant in Alabama by the name of Bill Canary. Bill Canary‘s wife, a woman by the name of Laura Canary, was the U.S. attorney put in charge of the case against Don Siegelman.
Mr. Siegelman and an on-the-record whistleblower, say this, this case of two degrees of separation is not a coincidence. The new and potentially good news for the former governor and the former U.S. attorneys is that according to the official agreement between Karl Rove and Harriet Miers and the House Judiciary Committee, the U.S. attorney firings and the prosecution of Governor Siegelman will be fair game when Rove and Miers finally go up to Capitol Hill to testify.
The agreement also indicates that the testimony should take place, quote, “as soon as possible.” It says Rove and Miers can only use the executive privilege shtick if someone asks a question about communications to or from the president.
So expect some news on the years-old prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Expect that news as soon as possible, whatever that may mean in the unknowable time zone that is Capitol Hill.
Don Siegelman joins us now from Alabama. Due to a few technical difficulties, he is joining us just by phone. We just lost the video shot. But Governor, we are very grateful for having you on the show tonight.
Thanks for joining us.
DON SIEGELMAN (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA (on the phone): Rachel, I look forward joining you in studio some time. But getting the truth out of Karl Rove is not going to be easy. It is not going to be pretty. And the American people are not going to be proud of what they see when the truth does finally come out.
MADDOW: Are you optimistic that this particular form of testimony by Karl Rove is going to be an appropriate venue for learning the truth about your case?
SIEGELMAN: Well, Karl Rove is like a double-headed rattlesnake. You‘re going to have to back him into the corner before you get anything out of him. And just like an infected wound, the wound that has been created in this country by the subversion of our constitutional rights, the abuse of power, the use of the Department of Justice as a political weapon, this wound also has to be cleaned before the American people can feel safe about their democracy again.
So getting out the truth is not going to be easy and it is not going to be quick. And I think that rushing through this is not going to instill faith in the American people that we‘ve done a good job. So I would encourage Congress to take their time and to look at other people who also can lay the foundation to put Karl Rove in check.
There are other people - Karl Rove didn‘t fire these U.S. attorneys on his own. He didn‘t plot the prosecution of Democrats by himself. He didn‘t carry those acts out by himself. And so that‘s why I think Congress needs to first subpoena - for example, in my case, they need to subpoena the telephone records and E-mail communications between Karl Rove and the attorney general of the state of Alabama who started the investigation of me.
They need to subpoena the records and E-mails and phone records of Bill Canary, the husband of the prosecutor, who is Karl Rove‘s closest friend in Alabama so we can have some records on which to base some questions.
Also there are other people in Alabama who have knowledge of this prosecution. Those people should be brought before the committee and should be asked to tell the truth under oath and under penalty of perjury.
MADDOW: Governor, I know you are out on appeal right now. I know that you are convicting your 2006 conviction in that case. When you talk about subpoenaing the phone and E-mail records between Karl Rove and the attorney general of Alabama subpoenaing the communications of Bill Canary, Karl Rove‘s associate tightly tied to this case. Are those strategies you are pursuing in your own appeal as well?
SIEGELMAN: No. My appeal is strictly based on the law. Most of the political ramifications of this case only came out subsequent to my being sentenced, handcuffed, shackled and taken off to the maximum security prison and put in solitary confinement, for a crime the New York defenses said that has never been considered a crime in America. And 54 former state attorneys general agreed that was not a crime. So the political implications of Karl Rove and others are not involved in the appeal of my case.
MADDOW: At what point in your case did you start to suspect that there might have been politics originating in the White House that affected why you were prosecuted, why those campaign contributions were pursued as prosecutable bribes in your case?
SIEGELMAN: Well, as you know, I‘m not accused of taking a single penny of money. This is a very unusual case because this is a matter of a campaign contribution and my appointing the contributor to a nonpaying board.
The investigation started in 1999 immediately after I endorsed Al Gore for president. It was started by Karl Rove‘s client who was the attorney general of Alabama. It was kicked into high gear in 2001 by Karl Rove‘s best friend‘s wife who was appointed by George Bush as attorney.
The case I was brought to trial, as you may know, one month before my most recent reelection attempt by the wife of my opponent‘s campaign manager, again Karl Rove‘s best friend Bill Canary. So we suspected almost immediately that Karl Rove was involved.
But some of the evidence that has come out subsequent to the conviction has - we have sworn testimony that Karl Rove was involved in the prosecution.
MADDOW: Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, people across the country will be boning up on your case in advance of Karl Rove‘s testimony on Capitol Hill which is anticipated sometime in the next few weeks or at least the next couple of months. Good luck to you, sir, and thank you for coming on the show to talk with us about it tonight.
SIEGELMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” the aforementioned Karl Rove says that Democrats want him barbecued. In terms of imagery, the word “eww” comes to mind.
Next on this show, AIG, the people being paid to polish AIG‘s image and the really, really, really super creepy people that those people have helped before. I‘ll explain.
MADDOW: It is time for another look at the Republican Party‘s search for meaning in the political minority. Tonight, dabbling in the fine arts. You know the forever-running joy of painting show on public TV hosted by the late Bob Roth, left painting his happy little trees.
Guess who else does, too? Paul Bremer. Remember him - Timberland boots and a business suit? President Bush appointed Paul Bremer to oversee the massively tragically mismanaged and poorly overseen occupation of Iraq. Since being dumped from the Coalition Provisional Authority, Mr. Bremer has taken to painting landscapes of Rustic Vermont, like this one. See? Happy little trees.
Mr. Bremer is selling these online for several hundred dollars a pop. Proceeds reportedly go to charity. This means either Mr. Bremer has gone to Vermont in order to recover enough peace of mind to paint serene pictures or he had peace of mind enough in the first place, which is harder to believe.
MADDOW: We have now learned that in a week where AIG is accepting its fourth government bailout, they‘ve decided to finally address the real problem here. They just decided to get right down to the root of it at last. They have decided to spend some of their precious and now 80 percent public resources, fixing what is really wrong with their company.
They are working on their image because that‘s the real problem here, right? They look bad. The publication “PR Week” just reported that AIG is adding a public relations firm called Kekst and Company to its list of PR firm representation. That‘s actually how they phrased it, “AIG has added Kekst and Company to its list of PR firm representation.”
I thought when I read that today, “AIG‘s list of PR representation?” We called AIG today and they wanted us to be sure to tell you Kekst has worked with AIG for years on different M & A transactions.
OK. That doesn‘t change the fact that this company we own 80 percent of, to which we have given $163 billion taxpayer dollars. This company is paying a list of PR firms to shine up its image. We‘re paying for that? We‘re paying the bill for PR firms to spin us about how awesome AIG secretly is?
All the more amazing is when you look at who they are paying. AIG does have its own in-house public relations staff already. But in October, right after taking the first government bailout money and then sending all their managers to a resort and spa for a week-long, all-expenses-paid trip.
AIG hired a company Burson-Marsteller to shine up their image. Who is Burson-Marsteller? Well, let me put it this way. When Blackwater killed those 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, they called Burson-Marsteller. When there was a nuclear meltdown at three-mile island, Babcock and Wilcox, who built that plant, called Burson-Marsteller.
The Bhopal chemical disaster that killed thousands of people in India; Union Carbide called Burson-Marsteller. Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaucescu- Burson-Marsteller. The government of Saudi Arabia, three days after 9/11 - Burson-Marsteller. The military junta that overthrew the government of Argentina in 1976, the generals dialed Burson-Marsteller.
The government of Indonesia, accused of genocide in East Timor - Burson-Marsteller. The government of Nigeria accused of genocide in Biafra - Burson-Marsteller. Phillip Morris - Burson-Marsteller. Silicone breast implants - Burson-Marsteller. The government of Columbia, trying to make all those dead union organizers not get in the way of a new trade deal - they called Burson-Marsteller.
Do you remember Aqua Dots, little toy beads coded with some thing that turned into the date-rape drug, when the kids and all those kids ended up in comas? Yes, even the date-rape drug, Aqua Dots people called Burson-Marsteller.
When evil needs public relations, evil has Burson-Marsteller on speed dial. That‘s also why it was so creepy that Hillary Clinton‘s pollster and chief strategist in her presidential campaign was Mark Penn, CEO of Burson-Marsteller .
And that‘s also why it is so creepy to learn that U.S. AIG, this four times bailed out company that we own 80 percent of is paying Burson-Marsteller to improve their image with us, to make us like them more.
It‘s not enough to merely bring down the world financial system and saddle us with having to save you. Now, you also have to saddle of us with the knowledge that we‘re paying the PR firm from hell?
MADDOW: Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones.
Mr. Jones, what have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. It‘s about T minus two hours before the opening of “The Watchmen.” Reviews are seriously mixed. In the violent trippy story of Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre and the Comedian has become a litmus test for a critic‘s levels of fan boy love.
“The Hollywood Reporter” dismissed it as nonsense while “The New York Post” proclaimed it as fresh and magnificent in sound in vision as “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
JONES: Now, I saw it. And for my money, “Watchmen” is the best movie about the dating problems of a naked blue, 200-foot tall radioactive demigod of the year, blurb me.
MADDOW: Perfect. Absolutely perfect.
JONES: You‘re a fan of “The Watchmen.”
MADDOW: I am a fan of “The Watchmen.” I had no idea, of course, it was being made into a movie.
JONES: Oh, yes.
MADDOW: In fact, how come it‘s being reissued?
JONES: Next up, wide receiver Mr. Excessive Celebration himself, Terrell Owens, has been cut loose from the Dallas Cowboys after three long years and zero titles.
Granted T.O. is second all time in touchdown receptions, but whatever team picks him up will also have to hire an assistant coach in charge of apologies, retractions and props. Porter, get my bags.
MADDOW: No titles?
JONES: Who‘s going to take T.O.?
MADDOW: I know, I know. Somebody will take him.
JONES: Somebody will, though.
Finally, one more comic book story - remember the Obama comic book? Well, from the same publishers, here‘s the art form female force.
MADDOW: No way.
JONES: Yes. A series four of biographical comic books featuring Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Caroline Kennedy. One quibble? Palin on the left? No. No, I don‘t think so.
MADDOW: Also Caroline Kennedy?
JONES: Yes. They‘re in there.
MADDOW: That‘s an unusual choice.
JONES: I don‘t know if they fight crime together or separately, but it‘s a nice idea.
MADDOW: I wonder if it went to press before the Kirsten Gillibrand -
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. I do have a cocktail moment for you.
JONES: Very good.
MADDOW: Michael Jackson appeared in public somewhere today which, I guess, is unusual.
JONES: Oh, yes, he did.
MADDOW: He appeared in London. He‘s announcing something about a concert.
JONES: He‘s on tour. He‘s back.
MADDOW: Here‘s why I‘m upset. This is Michael Jackson.
MADDOW: This is me on “The Tonight Show.” I wonder if he gets his shirts at J.J. Western Wear in West Springfield Massachusetts.
JONES: For the record, you were first, OK?
MADDOW: Exactly right.
JONES: You were first.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.
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