'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Thursday, April 9, 2009
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Guest: Stephen Romano, Henry Lee, Kent Jones, Ana Maria Cox, Paul Rieckhoff
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Hi, thanks for staying with us for the next hour.
Here‘s something you really could have never predicted you would hear in the 2000s from an American secretary of state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are bringing to bear a number of our assets, including naval and FBI, work, in order to resolve the hostage situation and bring the pirates to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bringing the pirates to justice.
Yes, for the first time in over 200 years, an American vessel and an American crew have been attacked by pirates, and tonight, the standoff continues. Hundreds of miles off the coast of Somalia, the container ship that was initially attacked yesterday by the pirates, the Maersk Alabama, it has been directed by the Navy to move away from the scene. Now, it‘s on its way to Kenya, the original destination for its cargo of food aid.
The unarmed 19-strong crew is accompanied now by an 18-man armed security detail. The Alabama has left behind one of its 28-foot lifeboats, which we think looks a little something like this one seen here. It‘s a bare-bones craft, minimally stocked with about 10 days‘ worth of food and water, it‘s reportedly drifting, having run out of fuel.
In the lifeboat, the four presumably Somali, heavily-armed pirates, and the captain of the Alabama, 55-year-old American Richard Phillips. After his crew overpowered and took hostage one of the armed pirates, Captain Phillips reportedly volunteered to himself be taken hostage by the rest of the pirates in order to protect the safety of his own crew.
The U.S. government has now summoned the resources of the U.S. Navy and the FBI to help secure the release of Captain Phillips. The USS Bainbridge arrived late on the scene last night and launched an unmanned drone called a “ScanEagle” which is now feeding back real time video of what‘s going on aboard that lifeboat. A second warship, the USS Halliburton—yes, Halliburton, it‘s a long story—it is now racing to the scene as well, carrying two Navy helicopters.
Now, there‘s apparently a radio on board the lifeboat and the U.S. officials say the Navy is now talking with the pirates and trying to negotiate some sort of release. The lifeboat has reportedly been stocked up with additional batteries for their radio, as well as some additional food.
Tonight, the Maersk Shipping Company confirms that Captain Phillips has made contact with the Navy and he says that he is unharmed. The company has also said today that the pirates have not yet made any ransom demands, since ransom is always what they‘re after in this remarkable if anachronistic East African growth industry.
Captain Phillips is a Vermonter. His family was expected to hold a press conference this afternoon at their home in Vermont. But a neighbor eventually came outside to say that the captain‘s wife feels too overwhelmed to speak publicly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WILLARD, NEIGHBOR OF CAPT. PHILLIPS: You know, she‘s done very well under the circumstances, and I think this is getting a little bit out of hand for her. You know, right now, she‘s just under enormous strain and she would just like her privacy respected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You see the yellow ribbons tied around the tree behind the neighbor there.
Imagine the scene right now in the Indian Ocean. It‘s a lifeboat containing four heavily-armed men and an unarmed American hostage. They‘re on the open sea—day two now—sitting there next to at least one, soon-to-be two, Navy destroyers. And the head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus announced today that even more U.S. warships will be in the area within the next 48 hours.
It would seem at this point that the pirates have very few options. Remarkably, “Reuters” actually reached one of the pirates by satellite phone tonight. He told them, quote, “We are surrounded by warships, and don‘t have time to talk. Please pray for us.”
How do you end a standoff like this—from ships designed to fight wars, not to engage in delicate hostage negotiations? The Navy has called in a little help in order to try to get this resolved peacefully. Trained FBI hostage negotiators are coordinating the situation from halfway around the world, from back home in the U.S.
Joining us now is the FBI‘s former chief hostage negotiator, Stephen Romano. He‘s now a senior advisor at the Center for Personal Protection and Safety.
Mr. Romano, thank you so much for joining us.
STEPHEN ROMANO, FMR. FBI CHIEF NEGOTIATOR & ADVISOR: You‘re quite welcome.
MADDOW: You were at the FBI for 20 years. I imagine that any normal hostage situation is difficult. How much more difficult do you think this one is because it‘s on the open seas?
ROMANO: Oh, I think it‘s very difficult. Logistically, having to negotiate on the open seas like that, it‘s just fraught with many, many problems. Keeping the communication lines open, I‘m sure, is a challenge enough for the authorities.
So, yes, it‘s a very unique situation and it‘s challenging, but I‘m sure the authorities are doing everything they can to get the safe release of the captain.
MADDOW: What sort of specific guidance do you think the FBI might be giving the Navy right now? I imagine that there are—even under different logistical circumstances, there‘s got to be some standard principles that apply to hostage situation.
ROMANO: Well, you‘re absolutely right. Regardless of the environment that the negotiation is taking place in, the basics, the fundamentals, the goals and objectives remain the same, and that is to get safe release of the captain. So, what they‘re trying to do is slow the situation down, lower the emotions and the anxiety of the hostage-takers, and give them time to reconsider their actions.
MADDOW: Give them time to reconsider their actions, implying that they might eventually peacefully give up in a way that they wouldn‘t have anticipated doing before the negotiations started?
ROMANO: Yes. Well, I think for these hostage-takers, this is a paradigm switch for them. They‘re used to taking a vessel, holding it, having far more control than they have in this situation. So, what the authorities don‘t want them to do is to panic and take a precipitous action that could have tragic consequences.
MADDOW: The French military in the past couple of years has launched two different commando raids on pirate vessels that we know about. In one case, they captured pirates after the pirates had already released their hostages. And in another case, the commandos freed the hostages themselves.
Assuming that the pirates know that history, do you think that might have some sort of impact on the negotiations in terms of what these guys imagine could be the potential outcomes here?
ROMANO: Oh, I think that‘s always a dynamic that‘s in play. The negotiators are trying to convince the hostage-takers that it‘s to their betterment to reach a peaceful resolution—because there is other options that sometimes can come about and they would not be in the best interest of the hostage-takers. So, that tactical option is always on the table, and the negotiators subtly make reference to that, but their main goal is to convince them that the best way to go is to live to fight another day. And in order to do that, they need to release that captain unharmed.
MADDOW: Isn‘t it kind of hard to make the “live to fight another day” argument though when you‘re speaking from two U.S. Navy destroyers? I mean, they don‘t really—they don‘t really convey a sense of everything‘s going to be OK.
ROMANO: Well, yes, that could be quite intimidating.
ROMANO: But once again, the process that the negotiators will follow will be to continually stress the importance of the release of the captain in a safe way. And as long as there‘s a dialogue going on, and there‘s no harm coming to that captain, the negotiators—despite the visual stimuli in the water, those Navy assets—the negotiators can guarantee the hostage-takers will be safe as long as no harm comes to that captain and they‘re continuing a dialogue.
MADDOW: Mr. Romano, one last just real quick question. If the pirates make a ransom demand and the shipping company wants to pay that ransom, would the FBI negotiation team facilitate that or would they tell the shipping company they‘d be on their own for dealing with that?
ROMANO: Well, I don‘t know the facts and circumstances of this case. Each case is unique in its own way. So, I don‘t feel I can adequately comment on that dynamic.
MADDOW: Fair enough. Stephen Romano, former chief hostage negotiator for the FBI—thanks very much for your time tonight, sir.
ROMANO: You‘re quite welcome.
MADDOW: Coming up: We‘ve got some spooky infrastructure sabotage news from the Bay Area in California. We‘ve got a “Where‘d they get that footage” mystery tonight on misinformation. And Ana Marie Cox is here to try to make me feel better about the sudden enthusiasm for tea-bagging, among America‘s beloved right-wing. That is all coming up.
But first, One More Thing about national security. The black site prisons, the post-9/11 secret interrogation sites overseas, where the Red Cross says the CIA tortured prisoners, in a program that itself was in contravention of international law because they disappeared these prisoners outside of all legal channels, those sites are closing. President Obama announced as much in his first week in office.
But now, in light of this week‘s release of the secret Red Cross report on those CIA prisons, CIA director, Leon Panetta, has written a letter to his own agency, announcing that the sites are being decommissioned, that CIA interrogations will not include the use of physical force, and that interrogations will always be done by government employees and no longer by contractors.
Mr. Panetta‘s letter re-enforces what seems to be a pattern for the new administration. When new info comes light about torture or abuse by the previous administration, the Obama administration takes new steps to assure the country that things won‘t be done that way anymore; that those abuses do not and will not continue.
Left on the table, of course, is the question of whether torture and abuse are not just worth not repeating but whether they‘re bad enough to deserve the punishment. If there are no efforts to prosecute anyone for those crimes, it will be the Obama administration that sets the precedent that torture and abuse are not punishable by law in the United States.
MADDOW: In Britain today, the country‘s top counterterrorism officer resigns red-faced. His name is Bob Quick, and he quit after he was photographed walking into a meeting with the prime minister carrying secret documents. The papers were clearly visible to photographers who were standing outside 10 Downing Street, and with a good telephoto lens, it was easy enough to actually read the details of an anti-terrorism operation against an alleged al Qaeda cell in northern England that was due to be launched late last night. The raid was moved up several hours because of the leak, and Mr. Quick resigned and apologized today.
You know, we do things differently here in the U.S. Remember when CIA Director George Tenet said it was a slam dunk that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? He got some Medal of Freedom.
MADDOW: One of the four basic 21st century spy thriller plots, which has already been featured in one of the “Die Hard” movies and on an episode of “24,” has gone and ruined the future the chances for innumerable future bad thriller screenplays by going ahead and coming true.
Yesterday, “The Wall Street Journal” reported that current and former national security officials believe online infiltrators from multiple foreign countries have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and some American water and sewage systems. They‘ve essentially mapped the grids.
They have not yet caused any mischief but, quote, “authorities investigating the intrusions have found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components.” Said a senior intelligence official, quote, “If we go to war with them, they will try to turn them on.”
Wow. Scary in a “that might be a big deal in the future” kind of way, right?
Then today, someone in California decided to put a low tech exclamation point on that very threat. Check this out. Someone today cut fiber optic cable lines belonging to AT&T and Sprint, knocking out land line and cell phone service to more than 50,000 people in four counties. The outages included 911 services, ATM machines and Internet access. Yes, Internet access in Silicon Valley.
How did they do it? Well, it‘s believed that they were equipped with some sort of heavy-duty cutting equipment. They lifted off heavy manhole covers in two places, they climbed down several feet to reach the cables, and then they cut right through them.
From local news reports, the cables appeared to be about the width of a garden hose, each containing dozens if not hundreds of bundled fiber optic cables inside a heavy insulated housing. A spokesman for Sprint said, quote, “Fiber cuts happen all the time, usually by accident. But a specific act of vandalism, I can‘t say that I recall it.”
Vandals are bringing down our communications just by cutting some well-chosen wires—or Russian and Chinese cyber-hackers infiltrating our electrical grid. Two thriller plots now consigned forever to the “truth stranger than fiction” category.
Joining us now is Henry Lee, a “San Francisco Chronicle” reporter who has been covering the story of the severed cables.
Mr. Lee, thanks very much for coming on the show tonight.
HENRY LEE, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE” REPORTER: Hi, Rachel. My pleasure.
MADDOW: First of all, how did I do with the chronology there of what‘s happened in the Bay Area? Is that, in essence, what happened?
LEE: Yes, that‘s pretty accurate. What we don‘t know is who is responsible for this, Rachel. We do know that a lot of people were certainly inconvenienced. The potential is there for a major emergency to erupt. Nothing of that sort happened, as far as people know.
So now, right now, they‘re trying to find out who did this and why. Is this something more of a union dispute or is this something more sinister that perhaps Jack Bauer might be interested in.
MADDOW: You raise the issue of the union dispute, because I know that with the utility companies there‘s been—all right, forgive me, with the union representing the communication workers there, they‘ve been working without a contract since Saturday. There was some speculation that this might be related to a union dispute.
As far as I know, the Communication Workers of America have said that they deplore this and they‘re sure it has nothing to do with that, right?
LEE: That‘s right. They are saying that they have nothing to do with. AT&T is saying they have a very good, cordial relationship. So, don‘t know if that‘s just posturing and PR, but all we‘d know is that something really bad happened, inconvenienced a lot of people, and they‘re trying to get to the bottom of this.
MADDOW: Henry, how‘s—has service now been restored?
LEE: Service has been restored in some quarters, Rachel. There‘s still a lot of disconnect, some customers are back; 911 service is still sporadic. Nothing trustworthy—nothing can be set in stone at this point. So, it‘s going to be really difficult for the next few hours.
MADDOW: Thinking about the two places where this happened—as far as I understand, it was south San Jose and down in San Carlos. It seems like the cuts happened about two hours apart. It‘s not inconceivable that it could have been the same person in both instances. But I‘m intrigued by this idea that you would need some sort of special equipment, or at least something heavy-duty to cut through those lines.
Do we know anything about what would be needed in terms of just the physical equipment to be able to do something like this?
LEE: Well, Rachel, in both cases, in San Jose and San Carlos, you do need special equipment to lift the man hole. It‘s not something you and I could do together easily or with someone else easily. Then you have to go down eight to 10 feet down, and you might have to use some kind of special saw or special cutting equipment to cut these cables. These cables are about, you know, a silver dollar in diameter—very big.
Someone had to know something about the technology down there to get into there.
MADDOW: Henry, one of the concerns today was 911 service. How did local police departments cope—not only with their own phone lines being inoperable, but with no local citizens being able to call 911 in case of emergency?
LEE: That was the most distressing aspect of this, Rachel. What they had were extra deputies and police officers on hand, in the streets and also at police stations and fire stations. Anyone who had a problem or some kind of emergency, they had to go to the hospital themselves, go and find an officer. So, that‘s very difficult.
In this world of 24/7 access, this is a very, very difficult situation indeed.
MADDOW: Deliberate infrastructure sabotage, incredible stuff.
Henry Lee of the “San Francisco Chronicle”—thank you for your reporting tonight. Appreciate it.
LEE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: The conservative movement is now using the phrase “tea party” as a threat. What‘s next? Gummy bears. Yummy jam tarts. Arrr!
Air America‘s Ana Marie Cox joins us shortly.
MADDOW: During a meeting today with leaders in his home district, a Republican congressman announced that he had a list of socialists in Congress. Also, he apparently found three or four Bolsheviks in the bathroom and a partridge in a pear tree right outside. We‘ll have more on that coming up.
But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
When President Obama unveiled his budget, he and his budget director acknowledged that it was a big expensive budget. It was a budget for very difficult times. They were starting off with a $1 trillion deficit, which President Bush and Vice President Cheney had thoughtfully left behind on fire in a paper bag on the White House doorstep when they moved out.
But Mr. Obama and the budget director, Mr. Orszag, did felt they said that they had at least one simple, big deal thing to brag about unequivocally in that budget. They said that that budget was honest. By which they meant it did not have any of the budget trickery of the Bush era budgets—accounting and procedural moves designed to make budgets look smaller than they actually were, things like paying for the wars every quarter not by an allocation in the budget but by demands for emergency supplemental funding. Like after five, six, seven years of war, it was still a complete surprise every quarter that we‘d have to pay for those wars.
Even as a candidate, Barack Obama had criticized that kind of budgetary chicanery, pledging that his administration wouldn‘t do it like that.
Today, at about 6:30 p.m. Eastern, we got word that the Obama administration is sending Congress an emergency supplemental war funding request—for $83 billion. The administration is acknowledging that as a candidate and as president, Obama has criticized this thing that he is now doing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that it‘s necessary because the appropriations process will not be over by the time the money is needed to fund the troop increase in Afghanistan this summer. Gibbs also said this will be a one-shot deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This will be the last supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan. The process by which this has been funded over the past—the course of the past many years, the president has discussed and we‘ll change, and this will be the last time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This will be the last time. It will change. It will change at some point in the future, at which point that will be change we can believe in. Until then, not so much.
Human Rights Campaign, the gay rights group notable for not having the word gay in their name, has pulled off a coup and they‘re counter-organizing against a group called the National Organization for Marriage. The National Organization for Marriage is itself notable for not having in their name the phrase, we mean just straight people‘s marriages. The “National Organization for Straight-only Marriage” is running a new multimillion ad campaign warning about how scary it is for gay people‘s relationships to have legal recognition.
Here‘s a little bit of the ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s a storm gathering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clouds are dark and the winds are strong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I am afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Spooky, right? Spooky.
Human Rights Campaign has done a good job refuting some of the “Gay marriage ruined my life” stories that are in the ad, but they‘ve also gone one better—somehow obtaining video footage of the people who applied to pretend that they were straight people who had been somehow hurt by gay marriage. These folks have been referred to elsewhere today as actors.
I‘m going to withhold judgment here and just let you make that call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, the storm is—there is a storm gathering.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The clouds are dark, and the winds are strong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am afraid—and I am afraid.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some who would advocate—some who advocate for same sex marriage have taken this—the issue .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: . far beyond same-sex couples.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A storm—the storm is coming. But we have hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A rainbow of coalition of—a rainbow coalition of people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A rainbow collision of people of every creed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Creed—creed and color are coming together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It allows us to perfect—to protect marriage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We do not know how Human Rights Campaign got access to the audition tapes, but because they did, we do know that pretending to be a straight person hurt by gay marriage is apparently very, very challenging.
Finally, the Masters started today. The world‘s best golfers teed off at Augusta National Golf Club.
The championship tournament is invite-only but there are a few exemptions available, one of which you can earn by winning an amateur tournament called the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. The man who did so last September in Milwaukee is 39-year-old amateur Steve Wilson, who works at a Mississippi gas station and convenience store. He‘s playing with two-time Masters champion Tom Watson and the runner up at the open, Ian Poulter. No pressure, right?
In the first round, Mr. Wilson shot a 79, seven-over, which makes him tied for 93rd place. But what? Are you going to give up on him here over the long odds? If the 39-year-old amateur who works at the Mississippi gas station making it to the Masters doesn‘t tell you to ignore the odds, nothing will.
Go Steve Wilson. Go! Go! Go!
MADDOW: The Republican Party controls no real levers of power in Washington. They have yet to settle on any national leadership at all. They did come up with a Republican budget proposal in the House of Representatives, and 38 House Republicans even voted against that.
The GOP, in other words, is clearly in exile. But the conservative movement has found a reason to live. They have found something about which they feel very positive, something which they are ready to rally around. I speak of course of teabagging.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, “ON THE RECORD”: Angry taxpayers, or at least some of them, are taking to the streets in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party.
BRET BAIER, HOST, “SPECIAL REPORT”: More than 250 locations in all 50 states will hold rallies April 15th.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST, “YOUR WORLD”: Americans sick of government ballots and wasteful spending, taking their message to the street and it‘s spreading fast. We‘re all over it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re going to try and send teabags to D.C.
D.C. - teabag the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Teabag the fools in D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Teabagging. After spending weeks mailing teabags to members of Congress, conservative activists next week say they plan to hold tea parties to proverbially teabag the White House. And they don‘t want to teabag alone, if that‘s even possible. They want you to start teabagging, too.
They want you to teabag Obama on Twitter. They want you to, quote, “send your teabag and teabag Obama on Facebook.” They want you to teabag liberal dems before they teabag you. And all this nonconsensual conservative teabagging is just the start.
All across America on Tax Day, Republican members of Congress are lining up to speak at teabag tea party events. Even Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina is getting in on the hot teabagging action.
Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, previously most famous for his self-admitted very serious sin with prostitution services - he wants to give teabagging the Senate seal of approval. He has asked the Senate to commemorate the day of anti-Obama protests in law.
In terms of - now, no laughing offset or I will lose it. I‘m only barely making it through this as it is. All right. Ready? In terms of media, our colleagues at Fox News are not just reporting on teabagging, they are officially promoting it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”: Celebrate with Fox News. This is what we‘re doing next Wednesday. We want to be with you and your tea party, if you have a tea party any where that we‘re not covering one of those, E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may cover your tea party live on April 15th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Fox News Channel has described the Tax Day events on screen as FNC Tax Day tea parties. And they are dispatching some of their hosts to take part of in the teabagging. But amid the celebration of inchoate right-wing bad feelings and the denunciation of taxes, spare a thought for the man who you‘d think might have the most to gain from harnessing the power of mass-organized public teabagging.
That of course would be Republican Party chairman Michael Steele. Mr. Steele apparently asked to address a teabag tea party event in Chicago next week. But organizers turned him down, saying he is welcome to show up at the event but not welcome to speak. The organizers said they did think the event would be, quote, “a fantastic time for Chairman Steele to listen to what we have to say.” Though, presumably, if he is being teabagged while doing so, the message will be a bit muffled.
Joining us now, Air America‘s national correspondent and “Daily Beast” contributor, Ana Marie Cox. Ana Marie, thank you for being here.
ANA MARIE COX, AIR AMERICA NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT/”DAILY BEAST”
CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: The Boston Tea Party was about taxation without representation, right? The protests planned for Tax Day are about the plan to go back to the Clinton-era tax rates for rich people. Is that the purpose of these and is this a parallel they‘re trying to draw?
COX: Well, it‘s the parallel they‘re trying to draw, Rachel. But you know, it is true that teabaggers are grossly unrepresented in Congress. I‘m trying to work on that personally. But one can only do so much. I think David Vitter really is the right spokesperson for the movement, though.
MADDOW: Well, that‘s a point well-taken and which I was afraid to allude to. And that‘s why you‘re here because you‘re braver than I am. So many Republicans are addressing the Tax Day teabag parties. Michael Steele has been rejected. Is he not considered a true teabagger by the movement?
COX: Well, you know, he said in that “GQ” interview that he thought teabagging wasn‘t a choice, that you couldn‘t change whether or not you would be a teabagger. I think the teabaggers now really believe that it‘s something they‘ve chosen to do, that they could change if they wanted to. But they won‘t.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of what‘s going to happen on Tax Day and what‘s been happening with the teabagging of Congress, which has been happening through the mail, which I didn‘t even know was possible, I sort of never believed you can be held responsible for the people who say they agree with you.
So we had this enthusiasm expressed for the teabagging events by white power groups like storm front and by the secessionists and by the armed militias. And I don‘t think you can really hold the teabaggers responsible for that. But is there a radical message here? I mean, the whole idea here is about revolution, sort of, right?
COX: Well, yes. I mean, I think that the people - the teabaggers would like it to be more radical than it is. But the fact is people have been teabagging for a long time and they probably will continue to do so.
MADDOW: Fair enough. Most of the energy of these events seems anti-Obama. You saw all, you know, the Facebook and Twitter things, “Teabag Obama. Teabag Obama.” But then, there‘s the rejection of Michael Steele and I wonder if there‘s also a chance that this sort of gets channeled into being teabag Arlen Specter, teabag John McCain, against Republicans who voted for any of the bailouts.
COX: Well, who wouldn‘t want to teabag John McCain - that‘s all I have to say. But I really think actually it‘s probably going to be more directed at Obama. And this is actually very much a part of, I think, the midterm strategy. You know, it‘s going to be teabagging like 24/7 when it comes to midterms.
MADDOW: Well, is there an effort to divide the conservative movement from the Republican Party once again, though? Because there is something about the origin of the current Republican Party that owes very much to the conservative movement which was not organized within the party. It was sort of organized without and took it over.
I wonder if they‘ve trying to cleave themselves again and say, “No, we‘re teabaggers, and you‘re not. And we‘re, therefore, the future of the right wing”?
COX: You could say there‘s a big split between the teabags. I think that you‘re right. I think the social teabaggers and sort of the fiscal teabaggers are really starting to move apart from each other.
MADDOW: Actually I just heard from standards we‘re not allowed to talk about fiscal teabags. But thank you for bringing it up. Ana Marie Cox of Air America Radio and “The Daily Beast,” it is always wonderful to have you on the show, particularly more tonight than ever. Thanks.
COX: All right. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Reds under the bed? Try on the Hill instead. Latest Manchurian claims from a Republican congressman coming up next.
And after what looked like a rocky start when it came to some veterans‘ issues, the new president suddenly seems to be batting 1,000. My friend, Paul Rieckhoff, who has been spending a lot of time with Barack Obama recently, joins us next.
But first, one more thing about teabagging. If you want to teabag someone in Washington, how about giving it the personal touch at Patriot Depot? You can order a teabag with a personalized, miniature armed minute man tag. And they will send it to Capitol Hill. The Web site hopes to send 1 million of them at the low, low price of $1 a teabag.
Where does the money go? They don‘t exactly say, though they do note that teabag purchases are not tax deductible. What, you expected an unrestrained market, Ayn Rand, anti-tax teabagging rally to not have profiteers?
MADDOW: As Republicans continue their search for meaning in the political minority, one Republican congressman from Alabama is looking to the past for inspiration. The improbably named Spencer Bachus of Alabama met over breakfast today with municipal and county leaders in Birmingham Alabama, his home district.
It all started off sort of unremarkably. Then he told them that he thinks - he told them that he thinks Barack Obama is a better listener than George W. Bush. Then he said he could not say he would oppose all gun bans. He might support some assault weapons bans.
And then things went a little bit off the rails. Spencer Bachus busted out that he keeps a secret list of socialists lurking in the United States Congress. He told the breakfast, quote, “Some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists.”
Apparently, that went over fine at the breakfast itself. But afterwards, “The Birmingham News” asked him to clarify his remarks. Bachus insisted that in fact, he knew of precisely 17 members of the House of Representatives who are socialists.
He‘s not saying who they are. But as anyone who remembers Joe McCarthy can tell you - heck, as anyone who‘s seen the original “Manchurian Candidate” can tell you, it‘s not so much that these are actual commie infiltrators you‘re talking about. It‘s just important that you make it seem like there are a lot of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. SEN. JOE MCCARTHY (R-WI): And I have here a list of the names of 207 persons who are known by the Secretary of Defense as being members of the Communist Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Bachus, I have one word of advice. If anyone offers to introduce you to Angela Lansbury, run away. Run away.
MADDOW: Here‘s one of the ways that my actual, everyday, me-as-a-person personal life has changed since George W. Bush left office and Barack Obama became president. It used to be when I was looking for Paul Rieckhoff, who heads up Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American, I would call Paul on his cell or call his office and tada, there‘s Paul.
Now, it seems like about half the time when I call, it‘s, “I‘m sorry, Paul is in Washington, meeting with the president again.” Or meeting with the White House chief-of-staff. Or, meeting with the joint chiefs.
One of the gravest responsibilities of being a country at war, which we are, is that we make sure that we make good on the promises that we make to the people our government has ordered to fight those wars. We make sure veterans and military families get treated the way our government promised we would treat them.
In terms of this new administration and making good on those promises, here‘s the big stuff that‘s happened so far. Big increases in the VA budget, in fact, the largest single-year budget increase for veterans in the past 30 years.
Eric Shinseki, appointed head of the VA - he, himself, is a veteran. He‘s known as a teller of hard truths, which is why Donald Rumsfeld had him drummed out during the Bush administration. Those developments both welcomed by veterans service organizations.
But then, there was one point of friction. The president‘s initial call for third-party insurance to be involved in veterans‘ health care. Veterans‘ organizations were not happy with that idea. They said so publicly and they said so privately to the administration.
Paul Rieckhoff said so on this show when the decision was made. And then, the administration changed its mind. They dropped that proposal that the vets had criticized.
That wasn‘t all, though. One other point of friction - veterans groups had been seeking advance funding for the VA. In other words, they wanted the VA budget decided a year early. It‘s one of those boring-sounding bureaucratic things that actually can make all the difference as to whether or not the government ends up doing a good job keeping its promises and taking good care of vets.
You may remember hearing Mr. Rieckhoff on this show also voicing frustration that advanced funding for the VA was not getting the support they wanted it to get from the president.
Now today, that‘s apparently coming through as well. Now is the point where you should be figuring out that if what you really, really, really, really want is a pony for your birthday, you should figure out a way for America‘s veterans organizations to put your pony on their lobbying agenda. Because these folks right now are getting what they‘re pushing for.
Joining us now, fresh from his most recent meeting with the president, is the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff. Paul, thank you so much for joining us.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
VETERANS OF AMERICA: My pleasure, Dr. Maddow. I wish I was that cool.
MADDOW: Well, I hope you don‘t mind me bragging on you like this, but you have to be - this is sort of reflect on what‘s happening here moment. I imagine you have to be happy about this decision.
RIECKHOFF: I am. I‘m very happy. I‘m very satisfied to see this level of progress. It‘s got to be noted that our organization wasn‘t alone in this. We‘ve been joined by 10 of the leading veterans service organizations in the fight for advanced funding and the fight for seamless medical records and helping educate this new administration and the American public about the issues pressing.
And I‘ve got to give you credit. You‘ve been focused on this for years now and it‘s helped us make our case to the American people and it‘s helped us really become a force to be reckoned with here in Washington.
MADDOW: Paul, it‘s nice for you include me in that. I do not accept the praise, but it‘s nice of you to say it. Let me ask you, though, about the specifics today. We got support from the president for advance funding of the VA. That‘s not additional funding for the VA, just says decide a year early for planning purposes, right? And then there‘s one other major issue, this idea of the seamless transition between being in the military and being a vet in terms of your health care, right?
RIECKHOFF: Yes. This is two of the top priorities for every major veterans group. Today was a twofer for us and President Obama addressed two of the biggest hurdles that we face as veterans, the first being red tape.
We‘ve heard about veterans struggling with the health care system, having their paperwork lost, falling through the cracks. So today, he announced that the Department of Defense and the VA will have one seamless electronic medical record keeping process.
This is something we‘ve been calling for, for years. It brings the VA and the DOD and our entire medical system into the 21st century. It‘s not going to be easy. The implementation probably will be tough, but this focus on it and the focus of the president and the two secretaries is key.
And the second piece is funding. We need money. We need timely and predictable funding. We had dozens of veterans in Washington back in February pushing for this. All the other major veterans groups were pushing for this. This is how PBS is funded. This is how Medicare is funding.
And it sets Secretary Shinseki up for success. It allows him to be predictive in running the second largest bureaucracy in the U.S. government. He can do hiring. He can fix buildings. And he can be proactive in trying to deal with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
It is a big day and the president deserves credit. A lot of work ahead, but today is a good day.
MADDOW: I‘ve got to ask you about Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth who got a major shout-out from the president today at the podium.
MADDOW: Her nomination for that position at the VA no longer being held up by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. And I know we talked about it on this show. I know that wasn‘t everything that was going on there. What do you think was happening there?
RIECKHOFF: You know, I don‘t know. I think Burr had some questions about how she did her paperwork. I mean, at the end of the day, we need Tammy at work in the VA. We need her helping the Veterans Administration and Veterans Affairs get up to speed.
She‘s a double amputee, a wounded combat vet, a female vet. And she understands our issues. And Sen. Burr took a chance here, I think, a political calculation to try to oppose this nomination. He may have had his concerns but he didn‘t tell us what they were. And politically, I think he‘s going to pay a heavy price for this. I mean, we‘ve learned - the president has learned this and then now, Sen. Burr has learned this.
There‘s an old saying in the Marine Corps that I think applies to veterans groups, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” Tammy Duckworth has tremendous support from the American people, has tremendous support from veterans of all generations and had tremendous support in Congress. So standing in the way of her nomination wasn‘t a smart move for Burr. And I think unfortunately for him, he‘s going to pay a price.
MADDOW: Paul, today is the sixth anniversary of the - what they call the fall of Baghdad. Specifically, it was the statue of Saddam pulled down in Firdos Square. I know that you were on your way to Baghdad this time six years ago.
The protests by the Shiites there today were reminder, of course, that the war is not over, but also a reminder that even the Shiites who Saddam suppressed see us as a heck of a lot more than liberators.
I wonder if you worry that Iraq is sort of falling off the political radar, off the media‘s radar now, the way Afghanistan had been off the radar so many years.
RIECKHOFF: Yes, absolutely, and I‘m definitely concerned about it. I think it was good that the president was there this week. And to come home from that scene and focus on veterans‘ issues, I think, was an important political message, an important social message.
But we all know that Iraq is very fragile. There‘s still tremendous concern about violence increases. Things are not OK in Iraq and it‘s going to be a long time before they are. And we‘ve got over 100,000 troops there.
So we need the media to stay focused on it. They‘ve pulled back significantly on the number of reporters and journalists in Iraq. We need the American people to understand there are still a lot of sons and daughters in harm‘s way there. And we need to be able to multi-task. We need to be able to focus on the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan all at the same time. It‘s what our troops deserves and also what the national dialogue deserves, too.
MADDOW: Paul, I know you are pretty happy with the administration and the President Obama today because of these two big announcements. But I‘ve got to ask about this decision announced after close of business today that they are going to ask for another emergency supplemental to fund the war, another $83 billion, a way of funding the war that president Obama and candidate Obama both criticized. They have said it‘s only going to happen one time. But what‘s your opinion of that?
RIECKHOFF: It‘s disappointing. It‘s definitely in conflict with what we heard throughout the campaign. We were hoping to turn over a new leaf here. We‘ve always thought that there needs to be a higher level of oversight when it comes to war-funding.
We need the American people to have total transparency about where their tax dollars are going. And I think this is a wrong move. And they say it is the first time in Washington that doesn‘t hold a lot of water when you say that.
So if it is going to be the only time, I hope that‘s true and I hope that the American people will hold them to it. But we need a much-higher level of accountability and all the funding of the war on issues like contracting, on how our equipment is handled, how procurement is done. There‘s a lot of things we can definitely dig through when it comes to war-funding. And I think this is only the start.
MADDOW: A rubber stamp and blank check, not necessarily the most patriotic way forward.
MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America - the Web site is “IAVA.org.” Thanks for joining us, Paul. And congratulations on the success today.
RIECKHOFF: Thank you, Rachel. We appreciate the focus.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. Plus, a cocktail moment of pure playground politics - a bit early.
MADDOW: Hi, Kent Jones.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Here we are.
MADDOW: How are you?
JONES: Good, Rachel.
MADDOW: What‘s going on?
JONES: Heads up “Star Wars” fans in London. John Williams‘ music for the Skywalker epic was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra while they showed scenes from the six movies overhead.
Now, this kind of hybrid concert is for people that can‘t fully appreciate the nuances of classical music unless you also show them pictures of ewok babies and Hans Solo encased in carbonite. So pretty cool.
MADDOW: It must be a little distracting to be reading sheet music with like the, you know, fight scene happening overhead. I guess they are pros.
JONES: They‘re good at this. Next, while strolling by an art gallery in Aspen recently, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fell in love with this 250-pound bronze bear statue, bought it and had this symbol of California placed in the hallway outside his office at the Capitol in Sacramento.
Schwarzenegger reportedly thought school children would get a kick of having their picture taken with the bear. And so will presumably hairy gay guys. They‘re loving this.
MADDOW: They love the bear.
JONES: Love the bear.
MADDOW: You know, that bear actually looked very friendly. It was sort of a smiley bear, which is a different kind of guy. A happy bear.
JONES: That‘s what you want to project there. And finally, scientists in England confirm something we may already know from experience, that a bacon sandwich really does cure a hangover.
JONES: Researchers say the carbs and protein in the bread and bacon speeds up your metabolism which is crucial the morning after. Plus, the bacon breaks down into amino acids which gets depleted by downing that third Safe Sex on the Beach.
Now, for the bad news, a bacon sandwich will not kill the taste of regret. You start with that, cowboy, bacon or no bacon.
MADDOW: I wonder - you know, in England, the bacon is different, right? It‘s like wider. It‘s a little more like hammy.
JONES: I think it translates.
MADDOW: Kent, I have a cocktail moment for you that doesn‘t actually have much of a point, but I like it very much.
JONES: All right.
MADDOW: Remember that the Obamas decided to put in a swing set at the White House on the south lawn?
JONES: Yes. Yes. I‘m jealous.
MADDOW: Yes, right outside the Oval Office window. And one of the things we talked about when we talked about it on the show was, oh, it will be tempting. He can see it from Oval Office.
JONES: Right. Sure.
MADDOW: Apparently, it was very tempting. And at about 4:15 this afternoon, it is reported by the “Root Blog,” which is affiliated with “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek,” Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were supposed to have a meeting. They decided to take it at the playground.
JONES: Oh, there it is. Look.
MADDOW: Look. There is a picture of them.
JONES: It‘s a lovely spring day.
MADDOW: Having a no-food picnic.
JONES: Get on the ball swing. Come on. Go for it.
MADDOW: Oh, that just makes me happy. Thank you very much, Kent. Thank you very much for watching tonight. We‘ll see you here again tomorrow night with a very exciting guest, Kal Penn - Kumar from “Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.” He‘s going to the White House. He will be joining us live in studio tomorrow night. Have a great night.
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