updated 3/26/2009 10:31:13 AM ET 2009-03-26T14:31:13

Guest: Jeanne Shaheen, Byron Dorgan, Andrea Mitchell, Timothy Noah, Kent Jones

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

Yes, Keith‘s right. A mystery guest will be here, a mystery guest who still serves in the United States Senate and who did predict all of this like to a “T.” Stand by to learn this soothsayer‘s identity and his view about what we should be doing now.

Also, the violence in Mexico is B-A-D, bad. National security level bad, send Hillary Clinton there, bad. Andrea Mitchell is with the secretary of state. She‘ll be with us this hour.

And the cable news gods have smiled on upon us as the leading Republican wellspring of “made for TV, I can‘t believe he just said that” kookiness says he might just run for president.

All that and much more—coming up.

But, first, tonight, at this very hour, President Obama is back on the rubber chicken circuit. Obama is headlining a pair of Democratic Party fundraisers tonight, the first he has done for the party since taking office. Democrats are no doubt delighted to benefit from the effortless, sky-is-the-limit fundraising possibilities of having a president of your own party available to headline those often sort of awful dinners.

The president, on the other hand, has to be considering just what it is that he is lending his star power to. The president earlier today was on Capitol Hill, lobbying for his budget with the people he needs to persuade to pass it. Not the Republicans, of course, since no matter how many times Republican call him a socialist or fascist or whatever ist, the Republican opposition to the president and to his agenda is sort of mathematically impotent. The Democrats have huge majorities in both houses of Congress.

So, the president went to meet with Senate Democrats today not with Republicans, because if he does have any problem passing his legislative agenda, it will be because of opposition from his own party. Who exactly am I doing this fundraiser for again?

Yes. A group of 16 self-proclaimed moderate Democrats in the Senate have recently joined forces to essentially put the brakes on President Obama‘s agenda, by forming a second right flank against him along with the Republicans.

Today, they defended that strategy in an op-ed in the “Washington Post.” Senators Evan Bayh, Tom Carper and Blanche Lincoln said, quote, “It is not our intent to water down the president‘s agenda. We intend to strengthen and sustain it.”

They go on to argue that the way they see it, there‘s no way to pass anything through the Senate except by going through them, quote, “On nearly all important votes, a supermajority of 60 senators will be needed to pass legislation. Without Democratic moderates working to find common ground with reasonable Republicans, the president‘s agenda could well be filibustered into oblivion.”

Filibustered into oblivion. That sounds bad, right? And if you support President Obama getting his agenda passed, that agenda being filibustered into oblivion—that would be bad. How could that be avoided? Well, one way would to be to not let the Republicans filibuster everything.

Democrats have the choice of bringing up important legislation under rules that don‘t allow a filibuster, legislation like health care reform or the global warming bill could just require a simple majority vote, 51 votes, in order to pass. No filibustering into oblivion. Problem solved, right?

Well, conservative Democrats are blocking that, because they want the Republicans to be able to stop Obama‘s agenda? Democrats do? How can you simultaneously warn that the Republican filibuster could send the president‘s agenda into oblivion and then argue in favor of that filibuster? I mean, of course, you can simultaneously argue for those two things, they‘ll kill the president‘s agenda, I want them to be able to kill the president‘s agenda.

You can argue for those two things but then you can‘t also get away with saying you‘re in favor of the president‘s agenda. Not if you‘re being forced to make sense. That is.

In the United States Senate right now, Democrats control 58 seats. Republicans hold 41 seats. In other words, Democrats have a huge majority because voters decided to send that many Democrats to Washington alongside the new Democratic president—thinking and I know this is a leap here, but thinking presumably that a Democratic president with big Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress might do Democratic things, might pass a Democratic agenda.

Anyone voting against a Democratic agenda voted Republican. Those votes produced a very small Republican minority in Congress. A small minority that now has way more power than they otherwise would because of conservative Democrats deciding to give Republicans as much power as they can.

In general, the American people, I don‘t think are all that concerned with process, right—with how many votes you need to pass something. Pass health care reform with 90 votes or with 51 votes—I don‘t care.

Just pass it.

You know what might concern them, though, the fact that the country can elect 58 Democratic senators -- 58 -- and the Democrats still can‘t figure out how to get stuff passed. They still can‘t figure out how to get major policies pass without watering those policies down or even blocking them to inexplicably please the Republicans.

Joining us now is Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire.

She‘s a member of the newly formed caucus of moderate Senate Democrats.

She met with President Obama today during his trip to Capitol Hill.

Senator Shaheen, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I know this probably is not your number one choice of discussion topics right now.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN, (D) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Oh, no. I‘m a big fan, Rachel, as I said. And it‘s always nice to watch your show. And I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you.

And the fact is, those of us who are working to support President Obama and support his priorities for the budget, I think we need to invest in education and health care and move towards energy independence. We need to reduce the budget deficit. We‘re all about trying to make sure that we can do that.

I worked to try and get the economic recovery and reinvestment act passed in a way that was able to bring along some Republican senators to get that done. And that‘s what I‘m intending to do in the Senate.

MADDOW: With a 58-seat majority in the Senate, though, does it not seem odd to you that the focus has to be on getting Republican votes all the time?

SHAHEEN: Well, this isn‘t just about getting Republican votes. There

are a number of issues that we are going to be working on, like legislation

major legislation to address global climate change, like an energy bill, where people are divided along geographic lines. And so, it‘s important for us to be able to build those bridges and relationships so we can bring everybody along to get something as important as climate change legislation through.

The same is going to be true of health care, where there are many differences that are based as much on geography as on party. And so, the goal, and for me anyway, in working with this group, was trying to make sure that we could build the relationships that it‘s going to take to get the priorities not only of President Obama but that I support and then I ran on and that I think we need for the country, to get those passed.

MADDOW: How would it make it more likely for climate change legislation and health care reform legislation to pass if there is a 60-vote threshold instead of a 51-vote threshold?

SHAHEEN: I don‘t think the issue there is 60 versus 51. I think the issue is how do we get the votes to get major pieces of legislation done. And that‘s—as I said, that‘s what my goal is. And there are a lot of arcane rules for how the Senate operates that I‘m still learning, but one thing I do know from my time as governor, that you have to compromise, you have to be able to work together, and that, often, that means taking a bipartisan approach. It means working with people who you may not agree with on every point.

And that‘s what I think we got to do because I certainly share the concern that the president has laid down an agenda for this country. He came to the caucus today and talked about the importance of investing in education so we can be competitive in the future, about his priority for moving this country to energy independence, about making sure that we get health care reform done—both so that we address those people who don‘t have access to it and we can do something about costs—about his interest in reducing the deficit. So, those are all things that we as a Senate caucus are supporting and we‘re interested in getting those done.

MADDOW: Senator Shaheen, I understand that bipartisanship is sort of

is a very attractive idea in the abstract. Honestly, trying to make—trying to work with Republicans toward policy ends on things like the stimulus bill, on health care legislation, on climate change legislation, is likely to make it less likely to pass rather than more likely to pass. The Democrats have a huge majority right now. And it seems like the obstacle toward them passing what they want to pass is not that they can‘t attract Republicans from the minority, but that they can‘t stay unified enough to pass anything.

SHAHEEN: Well, but that‘s not true. In fact, since we have been here, we‘ve passed a number of pieces of major legislation. The Lilly Ledbetter Bill that addresses equal pay. We passed children‘s health insurance, something that couldn‘t get done under the last Congress and last president. We passed a public lands bill that makes significant investments in protecting our environment.

This week, we are working on national service. I‘m sure we are going to pass that by the end of the week. We passed an economic recovery and reinvestment act that took us over 60 votes in order to pass. And so, it was important to work together to get that done.

We passed an omnibus budget bill that finally put in place a budget for 2009. And we‘re now going to be addressing the president‘s budget proposal.

But, you know, I was a governor. I prepared a budget for the state of New Hampshire with my administration and I sent it to the legislature and I knew they weren‘t going to rubber-stamp my budget, that they were going to put their own imprint on it, and that‘s what‘s going to happen, I‘m sure, with this president and this Congress. And that‘s the way the process works.

MADDOW: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, thank you so much for taking the time.

SHAHEEN: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

MADDOW: Nice to be with you, too. Thank you.

What if back in 1999, someone predicted that deregulating the banks would lead to a gigantic financial meltdown in 2009, complete with government bailouts for companies too big to fail. Well, someone did. He is North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan. The eerily prescient senator joins us next.

And later: NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell just interviewed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her trip to Mexico. Andrea joins us live from Mexico City.

But, first, One More Thing about conservadems. In their op-ed today, the three conservative Democratic senators, Evan Bayh, Tom Carper and Blanche Lincoln, based their defense of standing against President Obama‘s agenda now on what they say happened 16 years ago. They said, quote, “In 1993, we stood with great expectations as the last Democratic president was sworn in with big plans, a head of steam and a Democratic Congress ready to begin a progressive era. In less than two years, it all came crashing down, with disillusioned moderate voters handing the GOP broad congressional victories in 1994.”

They are referring, of course, to President Clinton, who did

undoubtedly have some big legislative stumbles in his first year in office

famously, of course, there was his effort to allow openly gay people to serve in the military. That effort to end the ban ended up getting perverted into the “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” disaster, in part because conservative Democrats like Sam Nunn say, conservadems 1.0, they refused to support the president and thereby forced him into a compromise with Republicans that was a horrendously bad policy that does not achieve the president‘s policy objectives and that politically hung him up for two years, destroyed his political capital, and helped Republicans win in the midterms.

In other words, the conservadems now say they need to repeat their 1993 disaster exactly in order to prevent another 1994. We know how conservadems 1.0 worked out. Can we apply those lessons to this new version?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: An update for you on those three American journalists who are still being held captive in Iran and North Korea. Since the U.S. doesn‘t have diplomatic ties with those countries, we‘re having to rely on our allies to negotiate for those reporters‘ release. Roxanna Saberi has been held in Evin Prison in Tehran since January.

And despite assurances earlier this month that Iran was planning to release her soon, Saberi‘s father now says that Iranian officials have told his daughter that they plan to keep holding her in prison for months or maybe even years. She‘s been charged of working illegally in Iran after her press credentials were revoked. The State Department is trying to get Saberi consular access through the Swiss.

Now, in North Korea, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained last week, they are reportedly being investigated for espionage. North Korean officials say the two are being treated well. The U.S. has asked Swedish diplomats to request consular access for them.

So, I guess, this means Godspeed to the Swiss and the Swedes, who bizarrely are our hope now for the release of these American reporters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: For a country pretty much unanimously focused on a single subject, it‘s amazing that stuff we are forgetting, they were just not factoring into the equation about why we ended up with this chicken fried, petrified, run-and-hide economy. Apparently, we are supposed to think that nobody could have seen this coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think some of the best financial minds in the country didn‘t see it coming.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: No, we didn‘t see it coming.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA: But I don‘t really know of hardly anybody who exceptionally had said, “Wait a minute, this thing is getting completely out of hand.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Who could have possibly seen this coming? Nobody could have seen it. It was totally unforeseeable force majeure.

(INAUDIBLE)

Join me now on a trip through the time machine, (INAUDIBLE), going back to 1999. All right, 10 years ago. The year the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was born. This bill was introduced by three Republicans: Gramm, Leach, Bliley, duh. And it removed a Great Depression era regulation that had said that banks, and investments banks and insurance companies all had to be separate.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley cleared the way for big financial companies to be all of those things wrapped into one. Big companies with huge internal incentives to take risks, companies that were so complicated they couldn‘t really be regulated, and companies that were so big that the government felt that they could not be allowed to fail.

At the time, in 1999, when this was being debated, Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan from North Dakota saw it coming, like he should have a psychic show in Vegas-level saw it coming. On May 6th, 1999, on the Senate floor, Mr. Dorgan said, quote, “This bill will, in my judgment, raise the likelihood of future massive taxpayer bailouts.” $1 trillion is massive, right?

Well, to the “New York Times” on November 5th, 1999, Senator Dorgan said, quote “I think we will look back in 10 years‘ time and say, we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lesson of the past, and that which is true in the 1930s is also true in 2010.”

So here it is 2009, and I‘m thinking—dude, at the time we worried about Y2K.

Joining us now Cassandra, I mean, Democratic senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan.

Senator Dorgan, thank you so much for joining us.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: Hi, Rachel. How are you?

MADDOW: Great. Thank you.

You‘ve been getting accolades in the blog world and now on this show, for having been right in 1999 when you rang alarm bells over the deregulation. At that time, when you were saying, we are going to look back at this in 10 years and say this was a big mess, did you really foresee there would be a crisis this big?

DORGAN: Well, I‘m not—I‘m not necessarily sure I saw this big a crisis. But I said at the time, the banks—I said, if you want to gamble go to Las Vegas. I mean, this was not about a crystal ball. It was just common sense at that time.

You know, in the 1930s, we saw banks merge with, you know, real estate and security risks and the whole thing collapsed, ‘20s and ‘30s, and—so, we put in place, I wasn‘t here, but they put in place laws like Glass-Steagall to prevent all of that. And then, 1999, we were told, that‘s so old fashioned. Let‘s strip that away and allow big financial holding companies, one stop financial shopping.

And I thought it was nuts. I mean, how on earth could we forget the lessons that were so important that we learned so well and with such pain about seven decades prior?

MADDOW: Ten years ago, when Gramm-Leach-Bliley passed and gutted that important—that essentially gutted Glass-Steagall, an important law that just described, Lawrence Summers was treasury secretary at the time. And he said when that deregulation bill passed, that it was historic legislation that would enable American companies to compete in the new economy.

DORGAN: Yes, well .

MADDOW: I have to ask you, if it sort of freaks you out that he‘s now one of the main guys trying to get us of out of the mess that this deregulation caused?

DORGAN: Well, I sat across the table from him at the White House two days ago. You know, there is a culture. And the culture is that Wall Street knows best. You know, there were only eight of us in the United States Senate that voted no. This was a huge deal to repeal the protections that were put in place after the Great Depression, a huge deal. Eight of us voted no.

This allowed these huge financial holding companies, allowed to bring significant risk into the banks, and, you know, they just ran hog wild. And now, we‘re in a situation in 2009 where we‘ve seen this financial crisis and collapse, massive taxpayer bailouts. You know, now, the question is: How do we put this back together and get out of this deep hole?

MADDOW: That‘s exactly right. And what‘s coming next is the discussion of not just how to rescue us but how to put the financial system back together in a way that it doesn‘t happen again and that these lessons are learned.

I was struck in looking at the “New York Times” coverage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley passing in 1999, Phil Gramm of Texas who wrote that bill said, “We have a new century coming, we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall came at a time when the thinking was that government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.”

That was what he said in 1999 when this passed. We know what the disastrous results of that were. Who is going to lead the cause, I think, of convincing the American people and really convincing Congress that we sort of need to believe sometimes that government is the answer? There is a philosophical status of this legislation .

DORGAN: Yes.

MADDOW: . as well as just a strategic one.

DORGAN: Well, and the other thing, immediately after this legislation passed, it stripped away all those protections and allowed all the big banks to marry up and decide that they loved each other and want to get together and merge, immediately after that, George W. Bush came to town as a new president and he hired regulators who were willing to boast about being willfully blind. They didn‘t want to regulate. They said, you know what, it‘s a new day. There‘s a new sheriff in town, the sheriff is not interested in watching what you do.

And the result is, we saw, you know, all of these credit default swaps and CDOs, all these exotic financial instruments, these derivatives—you know, in 1996, I wrote the cover story for “Washington Monthly” magazine on the subject of derivatives and pointed out there were tens of trillions of dollars of derivatives out there. The title of my cover story for the “Washington Monthly” magazine was, “Very Risky Business.”

And I had four different bills to try to regulate derivatives and hedge funds. I hope now, perhaps most people will understand in the Congress and, I think, the American people understand, we need regulation. It‘s not a four-letter word. We need effective regulation.

MADDOW: I have this kooky idea that people who were right when everybody else was wrong and we did the wrong thing—I have this kooky idea that the people who are right are the ones who should be allowed to decide what happens next time. So, could you like sort of being in charge of figuring out what regulations we need the next time around just when this comes up in the Senate a couple of times ?

DORGAN: I‘d be happy to.

MADDOW: All right.

DORGAN: I‘d be happy to. But let me tell you what else we need, we need a select committee in the United States Senate with subpoena power that gives us the narrative of what happens so that everybody understands what happened. We need a financial crimes prosecution task force down at the Justice Department right now, working on these issues, and we need to restore a portion of the Glass-Steagall Act to say to banks: You‘re over here and the riskier things are over here and we are not going to bring you together again—never again.

MADDOW: Democratic senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan—it‘s a real pleasure to have you on the show, sir. Thank you for being here.

DORGAN: Thanks, Rachel. I enjoy your show.

MADDOW: Thank you.

So, we have a war on drugs, right? That‘s going awesome, always has. Mexico basically has a civil war that is about drugs. And we are about hip deep in that one, too.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as much today in Mexico City. Our friend, Andrea Mitchell, is with the secretary of state. She joins us in just a minute about the big, big, big problems just over the border, just next door.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, guess who hasn‘t ruled out a presidential run in the Republican Party, baby? That was your hint, baby.

OK. Here‘s another one, baby. He would probably run a campaign beyond the cutting edge in hip-hop urban suburban settings, baby. Yes, Michael Steele for president. That cable news gods send is just ahead.

But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. You can tell a lot about a place by how it‘s recently laid off people respond to being laid off.

Take Chicago, for example. Back in December, when hundreds of unionized workers at the Republic Windows & Doors factory learned that they had been laid off without warning and their health benefits had been cut, they led a week‘s long sit-in at their factory, until a California company purchased the factory and gave the workers back their jobs.

Over in Ireland, Waterford Crystal closed one of its factories in January. The 480 employees there kindly asked the security guards to let them back into their factory as well. They texted their friends to come join them, they all drank coffee and played cards, and complained about the man until—just this week, Waterford Crystal agreed on Monday to reopen that plant and rehire almost 200 of the previously laid off employees.

That brings us the news from France. An American company, 3M, recently laid off people from a plant south of Paris. And today, the laid off employees of that plant responded by—not what you expect. They took their manager hostage during labor negotiations. Quelle horreur!

The manager was held in his office as a few dozen laid-off stood guard. The standoff lasted about 24 hours until a deal was reached and the manager got to walk out of his office to a chorus of booing.

As it happens, taking your manager hostage is not entirely unheard of in France. A similar situation unfolded at Sony facility just a few weeks ago. An American business is scared of EFCA?

Also, if this really is the age of diplomacy, you know, smart power and soft power, using all of American government power to achieve our objectives instead of just using the military, then wouldn‘t it be constructive to have an ambassador say, in Iraq right now?

President Obama nominated veteran diplomat Christopher Hill to be the new ambassador there. But a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today turned up a few Republicans voicing opposition to his nomination.

Their objections? They say Christopher Hill isn‘t experienced enough. Just to recap, Hill has been ambassador to Macedonia, ambassador to Poland, ambassador to South Korea. He was a lead negotiator in the discussions that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995. He was the special envoy to Kosovo. He was assistant secretary of state for East Asia. He was the special envoy to the multi-lateral negotiations on North Korea‘s nuclear program.

Maybe they are talking about a different kind of experience? Because Chris Hill has experience in war zones. And despite what many headlines around the country are saying these days, Iraq needs to still be thought of totally as a war zone.

In the last three days, 36 Iraqi civilians have been killed in bombings and shootings across the country. Valhalla on the Tigris, this is not. Need ambassador stat.

And finally, as I mentioned yesterday in this same bat place and same bat time, former governor and cable news wellspring Rod Blagojevich took to the airwaves today on Chicago‘s radio station, WLS. Regular hosts Don Wade and Roma were away so it was Governor F-word‘s show, presumably on a seven-second delay. First the former governor had some trouble remembering his former-ness.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D-IL): Hi, this is - former Governor Rod Blagojevich.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: But then, things really got rolling when an actor from the comedy troupe, Second City, stopped by the studio. Check this out.

Can you tell this is the guy who plays Blagojevich on stage?

What gave it away? It‘s the smile, right? The dimples.

Blago told listeners that he was hijacked from office today. He criticized his replacement in the governor‘s mansion. And he said his radio gig was harder than being governor.

You know, at least when you are on the radio, you know when the fed cans hear you. When you are governor, the microphone is so small and it‘s the listeners who wear the big dorky headphones.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It was a big day today in the age of diplomacy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to drug-war ravaged Mexico. And on the plane on the way there, she told reporters that she feels very strongly that the U.S. shares responsibility for the escalating Mexican drug war because of, quote, “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs and our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border.”

The secretary added that part of what we are trying to do is not only acknowledge that, but working with the Mexicans to create the very best possible responses.

So let me get this straight. You not only want to work to solve the problem. You‘re also not denying responsibility for having helped caused it. Who put the adults in charge? Oh, we did.

Hey, now. On that solving the problem front, with what amounts to a civil war just across our southern border, the Obama administration just announced plans to send more than 450 federal agents to the border along with an assortment of mobile X-ray machines, license plate readers and drug-sniffing dogs.

And at last night‘s press conference, the president made it clear that if it is not enough, he will do more. What count as more? Well, as to what still needs to be done, our own Andrea Mitchell got to ask Secretary Clinton that and more in Mexico this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That shared responsibility - what should Americans realize about American responsibility for this drug war that‘s been escalating on our borders?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Andrea, I think that is a really important question because we do have responsibility for what is happening in Mexico. It is drug demand in the United States which drives the drugs north across our border.

If there were not such a high level of demand, it wouldn‘t be so profitable and you wouldn‘t have these drug gangs footing for territory because they make so much money selling drugs to Americans.

And we have assault weapons and other guns coming south illegally to arm the drug gangs against the Mexican army and police. That‘s why we say it is a shared responsibility and we‘re going to do everything we can to help President Calderon and the Mexican government and the Mexican people defeat the violence and criminality of these drug cartels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I apologize for the video technical difficulties there. I‘m glad the audio was clear as a bell. We did just get that fed in right away. That interview just happened. Joining us now, live from Mexico City is Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent. Andrea, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.

MITCHELL: It‘s my pleasure. We just raced back in the car. Let me just tell you about driving through Mexico City traffic. But the interview was really interesting, Rachel, because what she is really talking about is resetting the whole relationship with Mexico here.

MADDOW: When she talked about that joint responsibility for the crisis in Mexico, talking specifically about the huge demand for drugs in the United States driving the entire crisis, is it your sense that she expects - that the State Department expects that that means there is going to be domestic policy implications of what she said? Is that a call for things to change in terms of drug policy on the northern side of the border, our side of the border?

MITCHELL: It is. And I think there is another step here that we‘re going to get because she talked about what we can do back home on the demand side. I asked her about that. But also, what we can do about guns.

Now, they acknowledge that their first choice would probably be reinstatement of the assault weapon ban, but they are not going to take on that political battle against the gun lobby.

She has a long record of being against those assault weapons. And so, she said, look, she is not going to sugarcoat it. It is a “heavy lift” - was her term for it, what the politics would be of trying to go up against the gun lobby right now with everything else on the economic side that Barack Obama has on its plate.

So the administration, according to Janet Napolitano with her testimony today is going to do the best they can with high-tech tools, that they‘re going to flood the border with new technology to try to stop the guns from going south and stop the drugs from coming in.

And also, I think just the fact, Rachel, that she acknowledged the shared responsibility meant a lot down here to the people I talked to and to the Mexican government, which according to, you know, the president and the secretary of state and everyone else with whom we‘ve talked about this, this Mexican president is really trying to go up against the cartel.

And that is one reason for the escalating violence because he is taking on in many places a corrupt police force and certainly, the drug cartels that feed the money into these corrupt government officials.

MADDOW: And the Mexican president has been complaining for the last couple of years that the U.S. hasn‘t done enough on our side of it to stop the drug war to work with him. We know about this new technology and these new federal agents going to the border.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been calling for more National Guard troops to be deployed to the border. Do you have any sense of what else might be on the table, what else the administration might be considering doing if they decide to do more?

MITCHELL: Well, one thing is to do what they already promised to do because they promised helicopters - Black Hawk helicopters. She talked about that today. But a Mexican reporter got right up at the press conference and said, “What about all the helicopters that you keep saying you are going to deliver?” And Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the weapons procurement process takes a long time to get through that bureaucracy.

So we have to actually deliver on our promises, and that‘s one of the things that she is talking about. But Eric Holder, the attorney general, is coming next week along with Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security secretary and the president on April 16th. And they are trying to get their act in shape certainly by the time President Obama gets here.

You know, Napolitano testified today that this is affecting the United States. This drug war has now flooded into 230 American cities. And according to the testimony today at one of these hearings, this is the largest organized crime organization in the United States. So it is a Homeland Security issue for us as well.

MADDOW: And if there is any doubt that this government is taking its seriously, I mean, it is incredible, chairman of the joint chiefs, attorney general, Homeland Security secretary, secretary of state and the president all heading in person to Mexico over this time. Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, thank you so much for braving Mexico City traffic to be with us tonight. I really appreciate it.

MITCHELL: Thank you. We‘ll get that tape fixed.

MADDOW: Excellent. No worries. You will actually be able to see all of Andrea‘s interview with Secretary Clinton tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. And I promise there will be none of that little - like when we showed it.

All right. How does the most infamous terrorist organization in the world try to lure potential recruits? Would you believe they use upbeat, friendly text messages? Yes way. Timothy Noah from “Slate” is here to talk about the creepy/hilarious new charm offensive from al-Qaeda.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: After last month‘s amazing run of near-daily hall of fame gaffes, RNC Chairman Michael Steele has been keeping a pretty low profile recently until he sat down with CNN today, that is, and he brought his “A” game. Turns out stuff like saying abortion is an individual‘s choice and taking on Rush Limbaugh and then practically breaking his back to apologize for it - that was all part of a big master plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I am a cause-and-effect kind of guy. So if I do something, there is a reason for it. Even if it may look like a mistake, a gaffe, there is a rationale. There is a logic behind it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You don‘t say. All part of your master plan. Wait, there‘s more. Michael Steele also said he would think about running for president but only if, quote, “that is where God wants me to be at that time.”

Divine guidance notwithstanding in the presidential race is where many, many, many, many Americans want Michael Steele to be at that time. Please, please, please, please, please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: While the Obama administration is full steam ahead with its own agenda, heavy on the economy stuff, naturally, there is this one thing left over from the bush years that really desperately needs some finishing off.

Despite the Bush administration‘s smoking-them-out-of-their-caves talk and the wars and the tens of thousands of people killed, you know, the leadership of that organization that attacked us back on 9/11 is still at large.

Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are actually still releasing audio and videotapes. Two of them came out just this week. The continuing threat from al-Qaeda is still front and center for Americans.

President Obama is expected to announce on Friday that a continued U.S. presence of some sort in Afghanistan is justified even in year eight of the war there because there is a threat that al-Qaeda could use Afghanistan as a base again to plan attacks against us.

And we know al-Qaeda at least still well-organized enough to be distributing a slick new recruiting manual. The Counterterrorism Center at West Point came across this newish, 51-page al-Qaeda recruitment manual when it was posted online. The manual details a really specific process for recruiters to turn moderate secular simpletons into hot-blooded terrorists through five steps of carefully-timed exposure to different arguments and ideas and propaganda.

There is even an appendix of questionnaires at the end for the al-Qaeda recruiter to rate his recruit‘s progress through the five recruitment steps.

Quote, “Is the recruit anxious to see you? Give yourself three points if the answer is yes.” Honestly, it‘s in there.

The most incredible thing about this manual is the part where it starts to blend over into, like how-to for high school dating or a fraternity guide for snowing wide-eyed freshmen during rush week.

Honestly, I‘m telling you, in stage two, the “building a relationship” phase, the al-Qaeda recruiter is advised to, and I quote, “go for a boat ride on the Nile or some other retreat.”

The manual says the al-Qaeda recruiter should also be sure to send friendly text messages and give gifts. As Timothy Noah wrote about this at “Slate.com” today, “Nobody likes a pushy terrorist.”

Joining us now is Timothy Noah, senior writer for “Slate.com.”

Mr. Noah, thanks very much for being here.

TIMOTHY NOAH, SENIOR WRITER, “SLATE.COM”: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Go for a boat ride on the Nile?

NOAH: I know. It does really sound like a dating guide. Go for a boat ride on the Nile, sending text messages, be thoughtful in all sorts of little ways.

I kept waiting for them to say, you know, address your potential terror recruit as pumpkin or cupcake.

MADDOW: And on the one hand - I mean, this is worrying because they are simplifying and systematizing their recruitment so anybody can do it in a decentralized way. That seems worrying.

On the other hand, what they are telling people to do is like this basic, dumb dating technique stuff. It‘s like they have got no standards.

NOAH: Right. The booklet might be called “Terrorism for Dummies.” And it‘s heartening that they have to go to these lengths - in a way, it‘s heartening they have to go to these lengths to get recruits. Obviously, the low-hanging fruit has long passed and they have to, you know, walk their recruiters through some really elementary stuff in order to try and get fresh blood into the organization.

MADDOW: One of the things that surprised me here is that the recruiting manual also gives advice on who to go after. And they say pretty explicitly, don‘t go after really religious people. Don‘t go after really religious Muslims. What did you make of that?

NOAH: I mean, it‘s bizarre. It‘s bizarre, exactly. You would think, don‘t go after the most logical people you could possibly imagine - rigid, hard core, Sunni fundamentalists. They don‘t like those folks because, you know, those folks, they think they know everything already.

Instead, they advise going after nonreligious people because those folks aren‘t really hip to the kinds of arguments that can be made on behalf of any kind of religious belief, much less fundamentalists and violent kind of Islamism.

MADDOW: And they also sort of concede - I thought this was fascinating, that there are a lot of really good religious arguments based on Koranic test, based on religious teaching, decades, millennia of religious teachings. There‘s a lot of great religious arguments against being a violent terrorist.

NOAH: Right. Right.

MADDOW: If you‘re religious, you might have heard those.

NOAH: yes, they keep talking about - there‘s a long, long list in this manual of text to be read, all kinds of sort of sermons from Jihadis and handbooks and whatnot. But they don‘t seem to want their recruits to lead the Koran, the central religious document of Islam.

Apparently, the Koran is - reading the Koran is not good training for becoming a terrorist. I guess that‘s the good news.

MADDOW: It‘s such a great - it bridges the gap so well between our, I guess, our caricatures of terrorism and what it‘s really like when you see their primary sources. I mean, getting recruited to al-Qaeda might mean romantic boat rides on the Nile, but it won‘t mean reading the Koran and it means a lot of boring, boring propaganda homework.

NOAH: Oh, yes.

MADDOW: It‘s not the way we turned these guys into these sort of overlords of violence in our destiny. They just - it makes them seem sort of pitiful.

NOAH: Yes, with all of the reading you have to do, it looks like a real pain in the neck. I mean, I can‘t imagine anybody having the patience.

MADDOW: Timothy Noah, senior writer for “Slate.com.” Tim, thanks for joining us. I really appreciate it.

NOAH: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” to attack an extremely popular president or not to attack an extremely popular president? That is the difficult question facing the Republican Party right now. Keith will talk with Howard Dean about that dilemma.

Next on this show, I will get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Hi, Kent. What have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Now, plans are in the works for an HBO movie called “The Special Relationship” about president Bill Clinton‘s friendship with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was written by Peter Morgan, the guy who did “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen.”

Check out this casting - Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton, Julianne Moore as Hillary Clinton, Julianne Moore as Hillary Clinton, and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair. However, a different actor will portray Blair during the Bush years - Bijou. Very talented.

Next up, people are finally making money with Bernie Madoff. Well, not Madoff personally, but New Yorkers betting on his prison registration number 61727/054 scored 501 winning state lottery tickets this Sunday after Madoff‘s guilty plea.

MADDOW: No way.

JONES: Also, a construction worker from Queens played the magic Madoff combo 054 and won $1,500. So at the rate of one $1,500 winner per week, Madoff‘s victims will be reimbursed in 833,333 years. Gotcha.

Finally, a hooker tax? A lawmaker has proposed a $5 tax on acts of prostitution in Nevada where it‘s legal in some areas. Las Vegas Democrat Bob Kauffman estimates his plan would raise at least $2 million a year, which would go towards solving the state‘s budget crisis.

Now, some people would argue there‘s always been a tax patrons‘ pay for soliciting prostitutes, and it‘s called guilt. A lot more than $5 right there, folks.

MADDOW: So there‘s going to be the strip club tax and now the hooker tax?

JONES: Oh, yes. Vice is in trouble.

MADDOW: Wow.

JONES: Definitely.

MADDOW: We can all pray, I guess. All right. Cocktail moment for you.

JONES: Yes.

MADDOW: The official state song of Maryland is perhaps unsurprisingly called “Maryland, My Maryland.”

JONES: Sure.

MADDOW: It was written in 1861, adopted as the state song in 1939. It‘s set to the tune of “O Tannenbaum.” The state senate president has just formed a new commission to examine the song and consider changing some of its lyrics.

JONES: Oh.

MADDOW: It ends with “Maryland, she is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb, as all she sperms the northern scum.”

JONES: Oh, 1861.

MADDOW: Yes.

JONES: Just got it.

MADDOW: That‘s what was going on.

JONES: Yes, that‘s right.

MADDOW: Thanks, Kent. Thank you for watching. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.

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

END

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2009 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.

WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,