'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Wednesday, March 11
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Guests: Kent Jones, Meghan McCain, Bruce Mirken, Frank Rich
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you. I was just going to say you‘ve now freaked a lot of people out about me explaining what it is to be young and Republican. Yes, it‘s true. It works but—I could try it but Meghan McCain will actually do that this hour on this show and we are very much looking forward to that.
Thank you for staying with us for the next hour.
We are going to be joined tonight by the woman who is probably the most notable young Republican in the country, Meghan McCain. But besides being John McCain‘s daughter, she is also notable for being one of the only Republicans of any age in this country who will agree to speak with me on this show. I‘m very excited to have Meghan McCain here. That is coming up.
We‘ve also got a new drug czar to talk about. John Kerry finally gets it right politically. Seriously. We have pictures. That is all coming up this hour.
But, first, you know the spending bill that the president signed today? Had he not signed that theoretically, the entire federal government would have had to shut down at midnight. And if you know anything about combustion engines in winter, you can imagine that the enormous federal government is not something that just isn‘t all that easy to start up again once it is shut down.
The spending bill is not the budget which establishes broadly what the government will spend for all of the next year, this is a bill left over from last fall, when George W. Bush was still president and when the idea of the Democrats having a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was just a sweaty Republican nightmare and not reality—like it is now.
The Congress last fall decided to put off voting on this spending bill, this keep-the-government-going bill, just because they didn‘t want to deal with it at the height of the presidential elections. So, it was put off until now, until this new Congress and the term of this new president.
But today was really the deadline. Had this thing not passed, midnight—lights out. So, it passed and the president signed it today. And when the president signed it today, he did not sign it in public, and he took time out of his day to let everyone know that not only was this bill not getting the honor of being signed in public, it was—in the president‘s opinion—a rather stinky bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill, because it‘s necessary for the ongoing functions of government and we have a lot more work to do. We can‘t have Congress bogged down at this critical juncture in our economic recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This imperfect bill, he says. The president essentially is saying that he would like for this bill to not stink but it does. And he made a decision since this was left over from the last Congress and the last president that it really wasn‘t worth the time and effort to try to make this bill perfect now. He wanted to pass it and he wanted to move on. He wanted to get the budget right and fix the lousy system that produced this stinky bill for the future.
That‘s sort of nuanced, isn‘t it? That would make a very bad bumper sticker. But it also seems sort of understandable if you stop trying to make a bumper sticker out of it and just follow the logic.
More nuance today from the president rather than just railing against earmarks in this bill, earmarks that most bumper sticker worthy of all political buzz words, President Obama did vow to reform the earmark process, but he also said—nuance alert—he also said that sometimes they‘re a good idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Let me be clear. Done right, earmarks have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects that benefit people in their districts and that‘s why I‘ve opposed their outright elimination. I believe as we move forward we can come together around principles that prevent the abuse of earmarks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, I oppose the outright elimination of earmarks because they are sometimes the right way to get the right policy in place but I recognize the earmark process has been abused and it should be fixed to stop that abuse.
You know, that definitely does not fit on a bumper sticker. But, again, it sort of makes sense as a policy argument if what you are trying to do is have good arguments about policy instead of just making bumper stickers.
House Democrats are also treading on very un-bumper sticker worthy territory, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi now acknowledging that the economy is not turning around and we are still way down on the demand side of supply and demand, and we may need another stimulus package. Neither we may need a stimulus package nor I am signing an imperfect bill make for good political epithet. Neither make for good slogans, but non-infantile, complex if need be, grown-up policy and politics, were sort of what we were promised from this new president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This crisis is a direct result of a philosophy that the people who have been running Washington for the last eight years have been following. And it is time we had some adult supervision in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Adult supervision. Across the aisle, on the other end of the political spectrum, politics are different there. Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina has announced that his big plan for the stimulus money offered to his state by the federal government is to not use it for economic stimulus in his state, not to spend it in his state to add more demand to the will-be-gone supply and demand imbalance in his state, but rather, he wants to use that money to pay down the state‘s debt now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: A simple message, our own idea (ph) is that we don‘t think it‘s a good idea to spend money that you don‘t have. And that fundamentally, if you boil down what the stimulus would mean for South Carolina, it means we would go through the process of spending a bunch of money that we don‘t have and there would be a price to be paid 24 months from now when these funds dry up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Or you could spend that money the federal government is giving you now in an effort to shore up the tail-spinning economy in your state, instead of just letting it keep tail-spinning.
The argument here and I will concede Governor Sanford‘s point that it is a simple message, is that government spending is what got us into this mess. That is his argument. Great bumper sticker, right?
Honestly, it sounds good. Cut government spending. Tighten your belts.
The problem is, it is completely economically wrong. Our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad recession is a demand problem, not a supply problem. No one is buying anything. Paying down your state‘s debt with stimulus money instead of spending it will not stimulate anything.
So, as the adults speak frankly about imperfect bill and politically risky spending programs, Republican Governor Mark Sanford is designing politically awesome but totally incorrect policy bumper stickers. And he is not the only one.
For a double whammy of the wrong kind of child-like behavior of an elected official today, take Republican Senator David Vitter of Gomorrah—
I mean, Louisiana. After making news today for an alleged temper tantrum at a Washington, D.C. airport, Senator Vitter made policy news today by drawing up something he calls the “no cost stimulus act of 2009.” No cost stimulus. Those two concepts, “no cost” and “stimulus,” while both very attractive ideas, cannot be combined.
Your ice cream diet is great for your arteries. That totally looks like your real hair. Sure you can stimulate the economy by spending nothing. To their credit, the American people appear to be preferring mature to—“Do you know who I am?” politics.
The most recent Gallup Poll about Congress, with their evil spending and their impolitic adult supervision, shows that their approval ratings, as you can see here, have doubled.
Joining us now is “New York Times” columnist, Frank Rich.
Mr. Rich, thank you for coming back on the show. Nice to see you.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK TIMES: Nice to see you again.
MADDOW: Is this the way that you see it, that there is some policy seriousness on the Democratic side that is rather impolitic, but on the Republican side, we‘ve got great politics with no policy behind it?
RICH: Yes, I agree completely. I mean, on the Republican side, it‘s—they didn‘t learn even the lessons from the failed campaign of last year when it was “drill, baby, drill,” that was supposedly going to save the economy and McCain did this huge campaign against earmarks which, by the way, are 1 percent of the budget. We are in this enormous crisis and they want bumper sticker slogans and solutions. It‘s non-policy.
In the case of Sanford, it‘s pure ideology. I mean, if I were a citizen of South Carolina, I‘d be marching in the streets. This money is going to pay down the debt. He is running, I guess, in the right end of a presidential primary next time, and the hell with the citizens of his own state.
MADDOW: Is the biggest story here, though, actually the way these two different approaches are being received? To see Congress‘ approval ratings double—I mean, Congress‘ approval ratings are always awful. To see them double during this time of passing all these spending bills, the Republicans making these unified statements against what the Democrats are doing, to see Congress‘ approval rating to go up like that, to see the president‘s approval ratings stay so high, and to see Republicans not really able to get any traction—I wonder if there is cause for optimism that‘s just what the American people want here is policy seriousness?
RICH: I think there is a lot of cause for optimism. I think those polls also consistently show that Americans believe it‘s going to take time to solve this enormous economic crisis. That people—I think people feel in their hearts and in their own lives that this is the biggest economic crisis they‘ve ever seen. So, they know it can‘t be fixed with Kool-aid and things that you‘d find in a, you know, fortune cookie.
And so, they seem to be showing patience with the president and with the policy and seem to be willing to listen to him and to a certain extent, Congress, as they try to work through this mess.
MADDOW: I think the non-optimistic way to look at those reactions is to say, well, the Republicans don‘t really have Karl Rove anymore. That they don‘t—they‘re losing this PR war. They‘re not able to connect politically the way they were in the past just because they are not as good at spinning it. Do you think that‘s possible?
RICH: I don‘t really buy it. I mean, it is true that they don‘t have any leadership. If the intellectual center of the Republican Party is David Vitter, I think that defines brain dead. That said, I really believe you have to have some content particularly in a crisis.
Yes, spin can work up to a point. But, you know, for instance, the Bobby Jindal answer to Obama, people said, oh, he was high-pitched and he spoke to fast, but really, it was the ideas that were bankrupt. And they can‘t be spun. If they have nothing except sort of ideological prescriptions which aren‘t—don‘t fit this time, they are nowhere. I don‘t think you can spin that.
MADDOW: I think the other thing that is—that seems to be happening is that we are getting sort of a third party in our politics now. Not a third political party, but rather, it‘s not just Democrats and Republicans, we‘re also sort of having corporate America weigh in in a politically potent way, not only defending themselves on the things like the bank bailout, defending themselves in the economic crisis but, you know, hitting really hard on the Employee Free Choice Act, on the union bill.
Even the business press becoming not only attacked but defending itself sort of vociferously. It almost feels like since the Republicans are kind of out of the game, the corporate world is coming in as the opposite political party to the Democrats now.
RICH: Well, they at least feel that they have something at stake.
RICH: The Republicans seem to just be booting it down the road and hoping that, you know, lightning will strike and improve their lot. But, yes, the corporations, first of all, they have the manpower and they actually more brains than the Republican Party right now. So, they can mount an offense. I don‘t think it‘s going work because I think they are extremely unpopular right now for different reasons than the Republicans, particularly since some of the major corporations within the banking area are held responsible for a lot of what went wrong.
MADDOW: I do think it‘s why there is so much juice right now about these fights about the business press, though, which I think is new and fascinating.
RICH: Yes, it is. Yes, the unnamed business press. Yes, absolutely. Also .
MADDOW: I have heard about this business press.
MADDOW: I can‘t remember what they are called.
MADDOW: In your Sunday column you said Obama‘s policies are already being described as socialist. You suggested that cries of being called fascist were not far behind. Obama reportedly told the new Democrat coalition this week, “I am a new Democrat.” Which is him essentially calling himself a conservative Democrat.
Are these labels just, you know, fodder for rhyming epithets at this point? Do they no longer have use in terms of figuring which policies are right?
RICH: I think they have any use, I think they fly by people outside the beltway. A lot of these terms people don‘t know what they mean. New Democrat sounds like a generic term, not a specific group if you‘re not in the beltway.
RICH: Socialism, as people remember I thought during the ‘08 campaign, the Weatherman. Did most Americans even know what Bill Ayers belonged to? They might have thought, you know, he was on “Eyewitness News” or something. So, I think it‘s talking past the public. It has no impact whatsoever.
MADDOW: I‘m waiting for Bolshevik.
RICH: He‘s got to make a comeback.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Frank Rich, “New York Times” columnist—it‘s always great to have you on the show. Thank you for being here.
RICH: It‘s great to see you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: John McCain‘s daughter, Meghan McCain stepped into the political pundits Thunderdome this week when she took some shots at a person named Ann Coulter. Guess who inherited the maverick gene? Meghan McCain joins us next—my first ever McCain interview.
MADDOW: The Bush administration threw huge amounts of money around
huge. Wouldn‘t it have been smart to have someone good at math keeping track of all that money? To which a new GIO report blames the Bush administration‘s Energy Department for $500 million math mistake, which costs one Illinois town a, quote, “near-zero emissions” coal plant. After the Bush administration invested $174 million in a coal plant, the math error led them to believe the project had doubled in cost. And it was therefore too expensive so they canned it. They canned a sort of zero-emissions plant because they forgot to carry the five.
Did I mention that Illinois has beaten out Texas for that low emission plant that wasn‘t?
MADDOW: So, I do this very short thing at the end of the show every night. It‘s called the cocktail moment. You might have seen it. It‘s a story in the day‘s news that I don‘t have a big spiel peel about.
It‘s just “Wow, did you see that” kind of thing.
And on Monday, my cocktail moment was John McCain‘s daughter‘s column—Meghan McCain‘s column on the “Daily Beast” that was titled “My Beef with Ann Coulter.” And I quote, “I straight up don‘t understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting and confusing all at the same time.”
Now, I don‘t want to make that big a deal of people who are involved in politics or appear (ph) in their politics, criticizing each other. I don‘t want this show to be the “Us Weekly” of politics.
But in this case, wow! (LAUGHTER).
First of all, Meghan McCain is writing a column for “The Daily Beast” and purposely staying in the public eye after her dad‘s run for the presidency. Second, Meghan McCain is picking a big on-purpose fight with one of the most volatile, ruthless, unpredictable and sometimes flat-out mean people in all of American politics in going after Ann Coulter. And third, Meghan McCain, daughter of the man of who just—just came in second in a race for the presidency is becoming one of the “I‘ll tell you the hard truths” voices about what is wrong with the Republican Party now in the immediate wake of her dad‘s election loss.
I have so many questions about all of these things and now,
remarkably, one of the reasons that this is the best job in the entire
universe, I get to talk to the one person who could answer these questions
Meghan McCain, I am very, very happy to meet you. And it‘s really kind of you to agree to come by. Thank you.
MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAILY BEAST CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: You said in the Ann Coulter column, “Ann Coulter could be the poster woman for the most extreme side of the Republican Party, and in some ways, I could be the poster woman for the opposite.” What‘s the opposite?
MCCAIN: The opposite is the more moderate Republicans. They‘re the Republicans that think where we have gone wrong is by so extreme in our attitudes. And I think, inadvertently, and maybe on purpose, with these columns, I started speaking out. And I guess, I am the only one speaking out right now at least this publicly. And so, that‘s why people are saying I‘m their new poster child for the moderate side of the Republican Party.
But, have no doubt, the Republican Party is split in two-halves of where they think the Republican Party should go. There are people who think we should go back to our conservative roots become extreme conservatives, Mike Huckabee says that quite often, and there are people like me that think we need to be more moderate and reach out to people.
MADDOW: I think that that‘s what it seems like. But then, one of the most well-known politicians who I would put on your side, the moderate side of it would be Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota. And I asked him that same question last week, and I said, do you think the party needs to become more moderate as it reinvents itself? And he said, “No, no, no. We need to stick with our conservative principles.”
And it made me think that it‘s not OK, politically OK, to articulate the sort of thing that you‘re articulating—that that sort of hitting the third rail of Republican politics right now.
Do you feel like you really are hitting a nerve?
MCCAIN: I do think I am and I think, also, but why I can (ph) is I‘m not running for office. And I—I will never run for office. And I love the Republican Party and I‘m trying to help it.
I know my statements are controversial but I wouldn‘t be doing this if I didn‘t think it was important. Period. Because, I, you know, I don‘t have to be doing this. But I love writing. I love the “Daily Beast.” And I‘ve seen a lot, I‘ve done a lot. And this is what I really believe.
MADDOW: One of the reasons that I really wanted to talk to you is because, when we think about presidential families and political families, we often think about—especially the young people of those families—trying to stay out of the public eye, trying to avoid becoming public people. But you have really sort of asked to be, as you say, as the poster child for moderate Republicanism. You have really chosen to be in the public eye.
Was that—was that a hard decision for you or did it feel like the only obvious choice?
MCCAIN: I‘ve always been a writer. And then doing the blog on the campaign really raised my profile. And then afterward, I said, I still have this platform now, what am I going to do with it? You know, that‘s like, to just say no and fade, but it‘s not really in my nature.
And like I said, I‘ve seen a lot and I‘ve experienced a lot. Especially, I have had a front seat to presidential politics and what is wrong and very right with the Republican Party. And I‘m just trying to say what I think and I‘m still glad people are responding. And I am so flattered that people are reading it and listening to me.
MADDOW: I imagine when I try to put myself in your shoes that it must have been and it must continue to be hard to see your dad criticized, especially with the sort of gloves off criticism that you get in a presidential campaign. But yet, in your career, you‘re picking a fight with Ann Coulter. I wonder if your reaction to seeing your dad in the arena, in the political arena in that way made you sort of want to be the one having those fights yourself—because you picked a fight with somebody who‘s definitely going to fight back.
MCCAIN: Yes. Well, if it was, you know, if it was too hot in the
kitchen, I‘d get out. I know what I‘m doing. And I know that I‘m creating
she probably will respond. She already has. But I‘m sure she‘ll respond harder.
But this dialogue should take place. It should. I think that, you know, oftentimes, and I think it‘s relevant because I am a Republican. I still consider myself a Republican. And that‘s why it‘s relevant because I‘m someone within the party criticizing itself.
But, unless we have dialogues—unless Republicans can come on shows like yours, unless, you know, people like you can go on FOX, we‘re never going to create a dialogue and we‘re never going to meet in the middle. And I think there‘s extreme on both party and I hate extreme.
I don‘t understand—I have friends that are the most radically conservative and radically liberal people possibly ever. And we all get along. We can find a middle ground. And I just—I think it‘s a generational thing. I‘m 24. And I think, possibly, people in their 50s, 60s, you know, 70s, it‘s different.
MADDOW: On this issue of the age divide, and I guess I think about this in terms of politicians and in terms of just regular folks, I know, for example, because I follow you on Twitter that you met with a New York realtor. And that you‘re looking for a New York apartment. I know when you talk to your parents on the phone. I know these all things about you.
MADDOW: And you probably know a lot of things about me from Twitter. I wonder if that‘s one of the big age divides, that younger people just have totally different expectations about what counts as a private life and what will let people know about ourselves. And maybe that has some political manifestations, too—that older politicians or sort of old generation politicians aren‘t willing to let know people anything about themselves.
MCCAIN: Yes. I definitely think that‘s a generational thing. Definitely. I mean, my father is Twittering a lot, which I think is really funny. And my mom Twitters now, too.
But, I think, for me personally, part of it is my personality, like my friends always joke if you meet me in an elevator I‘ll tell you my life story and all my secrets because I don‘t really have any. And I just—
I‘m open. That‘s why I love blogging, and I blogged about my dating life.
I really—I love being open.
I love telling people my experiences because I think people are curious. I‘m curious about other, I‘m curious about your life. How did you get here? How did it happen?
And I always want to tell people because people are curious what‘s it like to have your dad run for president; what‘s it like to have John McCain as a father. And I‘ll tell you, every single second, and I think the reason why I‘m so different is because politicians‘ children in the past are so quiet and they want a very private life. And that‘s great. That‘s their choice. But this is mine.
MADDOW: Meghan, would you do me the favor of sticking around for a second while we make money for the General Electric Corporation. We‘ll come right back.
MCCAIN: No problem.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you.
Meghan McCain is here. She‘s the daughter of former Republican presidential candidate—nominee, excuse me, John McCain. She‘s now contributor to “Daily Beast.”
We will be right back with Meghan McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA: Our daughter, Meghan McCain who is here with us. Anyone who knows openings for art history majors, please see me after.
M. MCCAIN: My brother Jack is exactly like my mom. And my brother Jimmy is exactly like my grandfather. And I‘m exactly like dad. And Bridget (INAUDIBLE).
SEN. MCCAIN: Let‘s hope not.
I read the blog that my daughter Meghan works on.
M. MCCAIN: Seven days until primary, days leading up to the primary. It‘s crazy. It‘s snowing really bad.
CINDY MCCAIN, SEN. MCCAIN‘S WIFE: I am so proud of Meghan.
M. MCCAIN: I spent two years campaigning with my father and I completely fell in love with the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We are joined again by Meghan McCain, daughter, of course, of former Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain. She‘s now a “Daily Beast” contributor.
Meghan, thanks for sticking around.
MCCAIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: You have written a lot about how Republicans are not reaching younger people. But, you know, at the CPAC conference, when I was walking to work today, I ran into a friend on the street who had been covering the CPAC conference. And she said to me, you know, the thing that was most surprising about it was how young everybody was. It felt like a high school debate competition, like all these young guys wearing their dad‘s suits.
And sure enough, I looked into it, and the CPAC Straw Poll participants, 59 percent of them were under the age of 25. So, there are a ton of young conservatives.
MCCAIN: There are.
MADDOW: But you feel like the Republican Party is not doing a good job reaching out to young people at the same time?
M. MCCAIN: I don‘t. Again, there are people that disagree with me within the party. But what I feel is if we were truly reaching out to this many young people, wouldn‘t we have done better in the election with younger people?
And yes, there are a lot of young people that go to CPAC but I didn‘t even really want to go to CPAC, you know. And I love the Republican Party and I am curious about it. So I do mean - but I‘m sure if you had a convention for liberals a lot of young people will go. I just think that - I don‘t know if CPAC is a very good example because I think we need to think ...
MADDOW: Why not CPAC?
M. MCCAIN: Because we need to think broadly.
M. MCCAIN: I don‘t think we can just think about how we can get more conservative Republicans drawn to the Republican Party. I think we need to see how we can get independent-minded young individuals who just want to know about politics and have them join the Republican Party.
MADDOW: Your attitude about CPAC and your outspoken criticism of people like Ann Coulter - there has obviously been a lot of controversy about Rush Limbaugh. You think it would be helpful for the Republican Party, for lack of a better term, sort of extreme side of it, the extreme conservative part of the Republican Party to get called out by more moderate Republicans. But you really are the only one doing that.
M. MCCAIN: I know. I think it is weird. I‘m 24. You know, I didn‘t graduate college that long ago. And my guess is they‘ve been taking my hits. My Web site has been flooded with hate mail - my personal Web site. And there are people that really think that what I‘m doing is wrong. And people - “Why are you doing this right now? The Republican Party is not in a good place right now.”
But I‘m doing it because I want the Republicans to be in a good place. And I really think we are on the precipice of possibly becoming a party that is irrelevant to young people. It‘s truly possible in the next election (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the right politician and right message.
And it starts with message which I think people are missing, too. And I just don‘t know how someone yelling and screaming on the news saying anti-Semitic comments could possibly draw someone to that party. I just don‘t understand the logic in that.
MADDOW: Anti-Semitic comments - you mean Ann Coulter‘s comments about Jewish people needing to be perfected?
M. MCCAIN: Yes.
MADDOW: Do your mom and dad ever caution you about the political path that you‘re choosing and also the very public path you are choosing?
M. MCCAIN: They do. My dad more so than my mom. My mom just Twittered. She‘s like, “I have the most awesome daughter. She says what she feels. I love her.” And my dad is a little hesitant. And I think especially with this Ann Coulter article. But I have been doing this a long time, even though I‘m only 24. I‘ve been doing this since I was a child.
And I just got through 2 ½ years of campaigning with my father. And if I didn‘t feel like I truly knew what I was doing, I wouldn‘t be doing it. And like I said, I‘m the only one saying these things. And there are a lot of people thinking this. I know because I get traffic and comments.
But I just think I‘m the only person that‘s this public saying it. I hope other people will come out and say more. But I like said, I have the advantage. I‘m not running for office.
MADDOW: I know you‘ve only been a Republican since Father‘s Day, which was when you registered, which is, I‘m sure, very sweet for your dad.
M. MCCAIN: I was independent before. I wasn‘t a Democrat.
MADDOW: OK. Do you agree with the Republican Party right now on policy, like on what to do about the economic crisis? I feel like I don‘t really know what they‘re - I study this every day, spend all day reading the news. Hard for me to figure out what the Republican Party is proposing on the economic crisis. Are you with them on policy there?
M. MCCAIN: I agree with my father that there should not be as much pork that‘s going on (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There is pork in each segment of the bill. I think that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is awful.
MADDOW: But you can‘t agree with him on the spending freeze? I mean, the spending freeze is a bad idea.
M. MCCAIN: No economic things - I said it on “Hannity.” I didn‘t take economics in college. I don‘t completely understand so I‘d hate to make a comment one way or the other. That‘s the - truly, out of other things I keep reading, and I just do not understand it.
MADDOW: Yes. Totally fair enough. I don‘t want to pressure you.
M. MCCAIN: I‘m sorry. I know -
MADDOW: Don‘t apologize. You‘re not here be to be economist-in-chief.
M. MCCAIN: I know it‘s scary and bad. I only write what I know about. So
MADDOW: Meghan McCain, it is a real pleasure to have you on the show. And thank you for saying yes to being here. Thanks for your writing. It‘s nice to meet you.
M. MCCAIN: Nice to meet you too.
MADDOW: Meghan McCain is, of course, the daughter of former Republican presidential nominee John McCain. She writes at “Daily Beast.” We‘ve got a link to her blog at our Web site today.
At the world baseball classic, which you otherwise probably don‘t really care about, I have to tell you, there has been an upset, an upset that is roughly akin to me beating Hussein Bolt in the 100-meter dash, akin to Danny DeVito winning a tall contest, akin to Kim Jung Il beating Chesley Sullenberger in a cool, calm, collected competition. Details even for the non-baseball-loving among us, coming up.
But first, one more thing about former presidential runners-up, what if John Kerry had eschewed the public during the campaign on-camera windsurfing in 2004 in favor of, say, public during the campaign on-camera ice hockey?
It turns out that Sen. Kerry skates and shoots and checks and all that rugged tough-guy non-liberal elite seeming stuff. He and other lawmakers laced them up and took to the ice against lobbyists in a charity match this week and they won.
Lawmakers 6, lobbyists, including the NRA and big pharma, 4. Sen. Kerry with an assist for the winners. Let‘s see. Kerry whooped lobbyist in rugged upper Midwest beloved blue collar sport, or Kerry wind surfs off Nantucket? Ah, the spin meisters regret.
MADDOW: Coming up, we‘ve got a new drug czar to continue waging the decades-old drug war, which maybe we should start thinking about differently since it is decades old and we don‘t appear to be anywhere near winning it. Just say no to waging un-winnable wars. That‘s coming up next.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. Years from now, when your kids or friends‘ kids ask you when the World Baseball Classic started to matter, when it hit the radar of baseball fans everywhere, you may be able to cite this year, this World Baseball Classic. Because this year is the year that the underest of underdogs beat the powerhouse of powerhouses and shocked the baseball world.
Don‘t care about baseball? You might still care about this. Check this out. The World Baseball Classic is an actual international baseball tournament. You know how we call it the World Series but it is really not, unless you count Toronto as the world?
Well, they actually mean the word “world” in the baseball classic. It‘s teams from Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Venezuela and us.
The idea is to promote the game of baseball worldwide. Now, one of the teams‘ most heavily favored to win this year is the Dominican Republic. That team‘s roster has 23 major leaguers on it including Miguel Tejada, MVP, Pedro Martinez, a Cy Young Award winner. Also two of the faster runners in baseball, Jose Reyes and Willie Taveras. And also Big Papi himself, David Ortiz. Oh, Big Papi.
On Saturday, that powerhouse of a team, that all hail Dominican baseball overlords of a team faced off against Holland - the Netherlands, which has precisely two major leaguers on their roster. The Netherlands versus the Dominican Republic in baseball is the definition of underdog. This is a real Van David‘s Troop(ph) versus Goliath story.
And on Saturday - here‘s the thing. Van David‘s Troop(ph) won.
Everyone said, “Wow, what a fluke. Neat. Incredible. Once in a lifetime.
Won‘t ever happen again. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever.”
And then it did. It happened again yesterday. A scoreless game until the 11th inning when the Dominican team scored. That run was met with two from the Dutch. Final score, the Netherlands, 2, Dominican Republic, 1. Go crazy Amsterdam. Go crazy. Sorry.
All right. Finally, a little seedy politics news from Detroit. Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is out of jail. And if you were not familiar with the former mayor‘s story, the phrase “no longer in jail” should tell you a lot about his recent political past.
The mayor and his girlfriend got in trouble last year for perjury in a whistleblower‘s trial about the firing of a police official. The mayor and his girlfriend, his chief of staff, claimed to not be having an affair, but they were.
The “Detroit Free Press” was able to prove the lie when they got a hold of text messages that the mayor and his girlfriend had sent back and forth. 6,000 of those messages have been publicly released. Do you need to trouble your beautiful mind with all 682 pages of text messages transcripts? No, you have a life.
But the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff read them all. I am easily embarrassed as a person and I thus cannot give you the salacious lowlights, the Kwame as it were. But I can just give you the cleaned up RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff approved version of 6,000 text messages of courtship.
Are you ready? LOL, BRB. LOL. SEFU. LOL. LOL. OMG, OMG, OMG, LOL. What is it about text messaging that turns us into 11-year-olds?
MADDOW: When you are a party in exile, a party with no real political power, sometimes it must seem tempting to be really hypocritical, to try to get away with something sort of privately that you are also publicly crusading against.
I mean, you‘ve got no power. Who is going to pay attention to what you do, right? Well, in that spirit, Congressional Republicans who voted against the spending bill signed by the president today, who complained about the horrible, horrible earmarks in the spending bill, maybe they thought no one would notice their personal earmarks in the spending bill.
Of the 35 senators who voted against this omnibus spending bill that was signed today which passed yesterday out of the Senate - of the senators who voted against it, 28 of them had solo earmarks in the legislation. And all but one of those 28 were Republican senators.
Together, the senators who opposed the bill on the grounds of too much spending are taking home nearly $240 million for earmarks for pet projects to help their constituents. Glass houses meet stones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The war on drugs has been an utter failure. And I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws. But I‘m not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana. What I do believe is that we need to rethink how we are operating in the drug wars and I think that, currently, we are not doing a good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was then-state senator monochrome shirt and tie-wearing Barack Obama at a debate during his 2004 run for the United States Senate. He was saying there that he was in favor of dialing back the criminalization of marijuana even though he wasn‘t in favor of legalizing it entirely.
Today, now-President Obama‘s Vice President Joe Biden introduced the Obama administration‘s pick for drug czar. He is Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. What do we know about Mr. Kerlikowske? Well, first and most importantly, we know he is not the same guy as the last guy to have this job.
The drug czar under George W. Bush was John Walters who famously, in 2003, said that arguments in favor of the medically-prescribed use of marijuana make no more sense than arguments for, quote, “medical crack,” end quote, because marijuana and crack - you know, those are exactly the same thing.
Although the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors decriminalization, has said that they lament the fact the president has chosen a police chief to be drug czar. As police chiefs go, Chief Kerlikowske is well-regarded on the issue, the Associate Press citing Seattle drug reform activists calling him smart and reasonable.
For example, in free Kerlikowske noted that arresting people for possessing marijuana for personal use was not an arrest priority for the Seattle Police Department. Last fall, he gave his blessing to a pilot program in drug-plagued Seattle neighborhoods for officers to send users to treatment or job centers instead of to jail.
If he is confirmed, Chief Kerlikowske will also find drug czar job is no longer part of the cabinet. That job was moved up to cabinet level under George W. Bush. It will be moved back down under Barack Obama.
One other thing about could-be drug czar Gil Kerlikowske - did you ever see the really-good Stephen Soderbergh, Michael Douglas Benicio Del Toro movie, “Traffic?”
Remember that Michael Douglas was the drug czar and that his really plot point that he learns that his daughter has a really serious drug problem and ends up with him giving up the drug czar job?
Anyway, in life imitates art news, at least for the beginning of the movie, it seems that Chief Kerlikowske‘s stepson has a pretty considerable arrest record on drug-related charges.
Joining us is Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. Bruce, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
BRUCE MIRKEN, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: Well, thanks for having me, Rachel. Good to be here.
MADDOW: Do you think that there should be a drug czar? And if there is going to be one, is Gil Kerlikowske a good choice?
MIRKEN: Well, I think, frankly, a lot of us wonder if there should be a drug czar and in the best of all possible worlds, we‘d probably like to see it be a public health person.
But that said, I think there‘s reason for cautious optimism here. Mr. Kerlikowske is a guy who comes a town, Seattle, that has instituted some significant reforms. For example making arrests for personal marijuana the lowest priority for local law enforcement.
And while he hadn‘t been one of the folks pushing for these reforms, he has not been mindlessly obstructionist. And I think by most accounts, he‘s a guy that you could have a rational dialogue with. That was absolutely not the case under George Bush‘s drug czar, John Walters, who was, frankly, a pitchfork-wielding fanatic. An absolute zealot, particularly on marijuana, who had no interest in facts, no interests in data and frankly was perfectly happy to lie about what the research says in service of his ideology.
MADDOW: Well, we saw the results of that when everybody in America stopped smoking pot during the Bush era. No, I‘m just kidding.
Bruce, given what you know of Barack Obama‘s history on this issue and how he has behaved as president thus far, just in terms of how he does politics, what do you expect him to do differently on the drug issue other than this appointment?
MIRKEN: Well, you know, I don‘t think we‘re going to see sudden, radical departures but I think we can see a beginning of rationality. He‘s already talked about dialing back the drug enforcement administration‘s raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it‘s legal.
We have seen that reaffirmed recently by the attorney general. And, you know, we‘re talking about a guy here who keeps saying that we should base policy on data, on research. We should put science ahead of ideology. And if he does that, it opens up the possibility for dialogue on a lot of things, certainly on medical marijuana.
The data is here. We know that this relieves certain kinds of pain, nausea, side-effects of drugs that are used to treat AIDS and cancer. And we should just stop being irrational about it and deal with the science and maybe we can begin to do that.
MADDOW: Bruce, beyond the medical marijuana issue, on the full legalization argument, some folks are starting to make an economic argument that the economic stimulus that booze sales and booze taxes contributed at the end of prohibition might be duplicated now with the end of the prohibition on marijuana, that it could actually be some sort of an economic boon in terms of its taxation and regulation. Do you think that‘s a useful argument?
MIRKEN: Well, I think it‘s a true argument, first of all. I mean, the cost of prohibition in terms of both law enforcement expenses and lost tax revenue is estimated somewhere between $10 billion and $40 billion. That‘s not pocket change.
But, you know, there‘s another side to the economic argument, too. Our current laws are funding these horrific Mexican drug gangs that have started a real war on our southern border. 60 percent of their income, according to Mexican officials, comes from marijuana.
If we treated marijuana like we treat our wine industry here in California, brought it out of the shadows, regulated and taxed it, we could cut off 60 percent of the income to these horrific gangs.
MADDOW: Bruce Merkin, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, a man who‘s very effective at his job. Bruce, it‘s nice to see you. Thanks for your time tonight.
MIRKEN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith Olbermann takes a look at the plucky determined effort by George W. Bush loyalists to make the country like Mr. Bush more in retrospect than we did when he was president. Good luck.
Next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones, plus a horsy little cocktail moment. That‘s coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Hello, Mr. Jones. What have you got on “Just Enough”?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. In the huge continent-wide song contest called Eurovision, this funky bunch were the winners from the nation of Georgia with our tune “We Don‘t Want to Put In.” Put in, Putin, Putin. Get it?
JONES: Yes. However, these guys were informed by officials that this song was too political and that they will have to rewrite it or be disqualified. So today, they pulled out of the contest. Not changing it. My song. Good for them.
JONES: That was close. This is exactly the kind of thing that can bring down Vladimir Putin. Ironic foe Euro disco must be stopped.
MADDOW: Do they take Eurovision really seriously? If I were Putin, I‘m sure he‘s figuring out some way to sabotage it.
JONES: Yes. No more singing. Finally, Apple‘s putting out a new iPod shuffle. It‘s a teeny, tiny, tiny thing. It has four gigs and here‘s something new - it talks.
JONES: It will tell you the name of the song and artist you‘re listening to in your choice of 14 languages and it will also read your playlist. Let‘s listen. This is real.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
VOICE OVER: “Just Dance,” Lady Ga-Ga.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JONES: OK. Right. There it is. Now, I made some modifications on my talking iPod. Now, here‘s what mine sounds like.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JONES: “Let‘s Groove,” Earth Wind and Fire. 12 more sit-ups, lard-ass.
“Here I Go Again,” Whitesnake. Dude, grow up, seriously.
“Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” Shania Twain. Tell no one.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You should be able to annotate them. That‘s so perfect.
JONES: It‘s a fabulous device. Yes, yes.
MADDOW: You have to - please, Apple, allow Kent‘s vision to become reality.
JONES: I need motivational statements.
MADDOW: Seriously. You should be able to annotate them.
MADDOW: One of my favorite things is I text message my landline at home so that I make the little robot voice say embarrassing things on my answering machine.
JONES: Oh, great.
MADDOW: I‘ll tell you about it later. All right. I have a cocktail moment for you.
JONES: Very good.
MADDOW: We have some pictures from Southampton, England of a tiny little pony.
JONES: Oh, look at that.
MADDOW: See, a tiny little pony. She was named Mayflower and then they renamed her Shorty for obvious reasons. The problem in Shorty‘s life, is that she is so short compared to the other ponies around her, that passing motorists think that she is stuck in the mud and have been calling the police and fire department over and over again to rescue her. They‘re considering putting up a sign. I know you‘re OK, Shorty.
JONES: Not in danger, too short.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Thank you for watching tonight. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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