'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Friday, April 17, 2009
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Guest: James Mann, Jonathan Mann, Kent Jones, Debbie Wasserman Schultz
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
As if they were floating a defense for investigations and prosecutions that may or may not come, former pillars of the Bush administration today struck back against President Obama. Bush‘s last intelligence director, Michael Hayden, and his last attorney general, Michael Mukasey, are arguing that President Obama has tied his own hands as president by releasing Bush-era memos that purported to find some heretofore and since invisible legal loophole that made it something other than a crime for Americans to torture people.
Hayden and Mukasey essentially arguing that torture works and torture should have at least been kept secret, even if we couldn‘t find it in ourselves to keep doing it. Hayden and Mukasey‘s arguments today in the “Wall Street Journal” may be a dry run for a more formal defense at some point in the future. “The New York Times” today arguing, quote, “The revelations may give new momentum to”—excuse me, for—excuse me, “may give new momentum to proposals for a full-blown investigation into Bush administration counterterrorism programs and possible torture prosecutions.”
President Obama announced yesterday that he has no interest in prosecuting the actual waterboarders if they were relying in good faith on these ridiculously-flawed authorizations—these memos that were released by the Obama administration yesterday.
But the people who wrote these authorizations and the people who maybe instructed the authors to write them, in terms of prosecutions, that may be a whole different kettle of fish. One of the possibilities there—well, there could just be direct criminal prosecutions brought by the Justice Department. There could also be a special prosecutor appointed—which is what the American Civil Liberties Union is calling for. There could be a thorough congressional investigation with an eye toward handing over any apparently criminal matters to a prosecuting authority.
One of the authors of the torture memos, right now, is currently a federal judge. His name is Jay Bybee. He sits on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco. That‘s just one level before the U.S.
Supreme Court. He has lifetime tenure in that position.
To understand how incongruous it is that Jay Bybee is a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge right now—given what we know about his previous legal career—consider this little thought experiment. It‘s sort of an “ask” and an “answer.”
Here‘s an “ask” from the CIA. So we‘ve got this guy in custody who‘s really afraid of rats—really afraid of rats. We have seen the way that he reacts to rats and it‘s pretty clear that it‘s a real problem for him. We‘re, of course, trying to get him to talk and we were wondering how much we can use this “rats” thing against him—how much we can use this “rats” thing that we figured out about him to try to make him talk.
We‘re thinking maybe something like—well, have you seen the movie “1984”?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “1984”/MGM)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. In your case, it is rats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Please. No. (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will do what is required of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what is it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Continuing with the experiment, the CIA might say, you know, the law here is pretty straightforward. Section 2340A of title 18, federal law says, “Committing torture, or attempting to, or conspiring to commit torture gets you 20 years in jail.”
So here‘s our ask. Is there any way you can figure out how to write us up a permission slip, a binding permission slip so we can use the rats on this guy without risking jail time? That was essentially the CIA‘s ask about Abu Zubaydah. And here was the answer. It‘s Jay Bybee. So, you‘re saying you want to be able to do this to the guy?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will leap on to your face and bore straight into it. Sometimes they attack the eyes first. Sometimes they burrow from the cheeks and devour the tongue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want? No. No, please. Help!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, yes, I remember seeing that movie, “1984.” You want to use the “rats” thing? And you want me to come up with a way to say that‘s not torture? Yes, I think I can work something up for you.
Like a scene out of George Orwell‘s “1984,” Jay Bybee‘s memo literally says, talking—he‘s answering the CIA and he says, and I‘m quoting, “You would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he has a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place stinging insect into the box with him.”
That‘s what Bybee signed a permission slip for. Now, he‘s a federal judge, one level below the United States Supreme Court.
Here‘s the rub for Judge Bybee: Federal judges have something this common with presidents and governors in this country. If their actions are deemed to rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, they can be impeached by the legislative branch. In the case of Judge Bybee, that power rests in the hands first of the House Judiciary Committee in the United States House of Representatives.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida. She is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Representative Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for making time for us tonight.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: Glad to be with you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I have to ask you straight up at the top here. Would you support an impeachment inquiry into Judge Bybee, given what we have seen of his legal reasoning in these memos, because it seem like he may have abdicated his legal responsibilities here?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I support what Chairman John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee on which I sit has proposed, and that‘s to (AUDIO BREAK) pleased to see President Obama release the memos to clearly indicate to the world that the United States does not sanction torture, even if the previous administration did. And to make sure that we shine a light—a very bright light on what practices we do not condone and that we deem unacceptable.
MADDOW: These memos provide a lot more detail about who authorized interrogation programs. And the president and the attorney general have both said that they don‘t want the people who implemented any of these policies to bear any sort of legal liability for them.
But the question remains about whether Congress itself has enough information to take up a serious investigation of the people who authorized them. It seems like there‘s not much more to know. It‘s just a matter of whether there will be action.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think there‘s plenty of evidence for us to examine and review, and I think that the approach that the leadership and Chairman Conyers and our judiciary members would like to take is one that takes the partisanship out of the process. Because really, this is—these are very serious accusations. The steps that the Bush administration and Justice Department officials took are extremely serious and I think we can‘t have the tenor of partisanship at all.
And certainly, when we conduct hearings in the judiciary committee, it‘s an adversarial situation, even though, obviously, we do everything in an above board way. Making the process really above the partisan process, I think, is the best way to go when it comes to dealing with the decision-making that occurred and also making sure that going forward, we don‘t have these torturous policies rear their ugly heads again.
MADDOW: Of course, there‘s always the worry that if it comes down to everybody else having the opportunity to move forward on these and nobody does, and you‘re there in the House Judiciary Committee and you didn‘t want to be the ones to move it forward but nobody else was moving forward on it. Ultimately, there‘s a statute of limitations on all of these things. And ultimately, somebody is going to have to decide that they‘re not going to let it fall through the cracks, right?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I really have the utmost confidence that we are
not going to let it fall through the cracks. I mean, we haven‘t set (ph) -
the independent commission legislation has been introduced. We are in the process of working through how we‘re going to deal with the situation. It‘s really—I mean, the details in these memos are absolutely shocking.
You know, look—I mean, one thing I think we have to make clear, Rachel, is that nobody feels sorry for these terrorists and for these detainees. I mean, these were heinous, horrendous, horrible people that no one is shedding tears for.
But the bottom line is that we are risking the safety of our detainees by other countries of our military—you know, of our military who are in other countries by subjecting the detainees that we hold to torturous measures. And quite frankly, we‘re being hypocritical if we vocally support human rights but then abandon human rights practices when we have detainees from other countries.
MADDOW: That‘s the thing about rights, is that it doesn‘t matter if it‘s bad people or good people.
MADDOW: You‘re relieved on the responsibility of making that determination.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes, that‘s exactly. It might be inconvenient, but—it might be inconvenient but we still have to make sure that we‘re consistent.
MADDOW: I have a totally unrelated question for you now—because you‘re in the 20th district in south Florida and so, I have to ask your reaction today to President Obama‘s call for a new beginning in relations between the United States and Cuba. What did you think about that?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think that President Obama has taken some initial tentative steps and extending the hand of diplomacy to Cuba. That has been attempted numerous times by other presidents and the ball is really in the Castro regime‘s court, that they have said many times before that they are willing to sit down and talk.
And—you know, look, the bottom line is: talk is cheap, and it is time for the Castro regime to recognize political parties, to release their political prisoners, to stop charging 30 percent tax on the remittances that Cuban-Americans send over to their families—which is the second highest source of income, Rachel, for the Castro regime of any other source of income.
So, you know, it‘s time, we—President Obama has taken the initial step. Let‘s see what the Castro regime does—because, you want to talk about human rights abuses, this is a government, a dictatorship that commits some of the most heinous, horrendous human rights abuses in the world.
MADDOW: Do you think that he should have made changes in those kinds of things that you‘re talking about now - a predicate for having further talks? Or do you think further talks are an appropriate way to start with changing those things being the goal?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I would have preferred—and mine and a number of other members‘ suggestion to the president was rather than roll back the remittances completely and allow, you know, unlimited remittances, I would have just doubled them and also insisted as he did, and I was very pleased to see that he—you know, that pushed the Castro regime to roll back the usury that they charge on those remittances.
But, you know, let‘s see what happens. We do need to use diplomacy and give it another shot and put the ball in the Castro regime‘s court and see what happens. But, you know, I‘m fearful and concerned that what they‘re going to do is simply try to lull the world, like they always have, into this false sense of security that there are too many people that romanticize the Castro regime and the Castro brothers.
They arrest 12-year-olds for deciding not to join the communist party. They—right now, they have Antunez, a human rights activist who is on a hunger strike surrounded by state security and they‘ve been abusing and torturing him while saying publicly to the world that they want to come to the negotiating table and sit down and extend the hand of diplomacy to the United States.
You know, you can‘t be doing both things. You have to walk the walk while you‘re talking the talk. And I am hopeful. I know the Cuban-American community in south Florida and across this country is hopeful that we will finally see some steps taken by the Castro regime, and eventually, have the—the sanctions be able to be lifted because we will eventually see a free Cuba. But we‘ve got a long way to go.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for taking time with us on a Friday. Have a great weekend. Thank you.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. Great to be with you. You, too.
MADDOW: Remember the senator who said that his response to the financial crisis was to make a run on the banks? His story remarkably keeps getting worse. We will have details in a moment.
MADDOW: There‘s been a lot of talk in advance of the president‘s current trip about what he would do if he crossed paths with Hugo Chavez on his trip to Latin America. We now have our answer. It is—handshake. And not your run-of-the mill world leader handshake, it was the full-on under-hand-grip, ‘70s style, one, two, three, four, I declare a thumbnail war. This is a very, very, very specific form of change.
MADDOW: It was reported in “The Hendersonville Times News,” in North Carolina this week, that the state‘s Republican senator, Richard Burr, told an alarming anecdote to a local chamber of commerce group when he addressed them on Monday. He said as the credit crisis started last fall, after talking to then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, he phoned his wife from Washington and told her to go as fast as she could, as many times as she could, to take out as much cash as she could from their bank‘s ATM. He reacted to news of the financial crisis, in other words, by trying to make a run on his bank before all the money was gone.
What‘s worse—in recounting that anecdote to his constituents as their senator—which he now says he has done multiple times—Senator Burr is, in effect, suggesting that a run on the banks might be a reasonable response to the financial crisis. This, of course, is an embarrassing story for a senator who, even before this happened, was probably going to face a tough time getting re-elected next year.
Unsurprisingly, the story has percolated this week in his home state press and nationally. Senator Burr has been asked to explain what he was thinking, and Republican officials have started now to respond to the scandal as well. And that is where this story takes a very unlikely turn.
Republican officials, both in North Carolina and in Washington, have decided to respond to the Richard Burr-called-for-a-run-on-the-bank scandal by themselves calling for a run on the banks. Yes. The chair of the Henderson County Republican Party told “The Hendersonville Times News,” quote, “Many Americans took out some extra cash as a common sense precaution during that period.” Everyone was making a run on the banks. That was common sense.
In Washington, the spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee which has the unenviable task of trying to re-electing Senator Burr next year, said, quote, “The Democrats‘ response highlights perfectly the competing views of the two parties when it comes to strengthening the economy. It‘s little wonder Americans want to keep their hard-earned money away from the grips of Washington.”
Taking your money out of the banks at the first sign of an economic crisis is somehow a noble Republican way to show those bozos in D.C., huh? The Republican response to the make-a-run-on-the-banks scandal has been to praise the idea of making a run on the banks. I have to say, I don‘t feel like I could have seen this coming.
Joining us now is Craig Crawford, MSNBC analyst and columnist for CQPolitics.com—Craig, thanks for coming on the show. Nice to see you.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Haven‘t you been the bur in Burr‘s side this week?
MADDOW: Well, I didn‘t mean to be. I just meant to report on him and he got so mad. Well, I wonder if .
CRAWFORD: Yes, I think—I think his response made more trouble for him than anything else.
MADDOW: Sometimes that happens when your response doesn‘t make sense and isn‘t based in fact.
MADDOW: Tell me about this guy, though. He‘s got an approval rating of 35 percent. He has to look pretty vulnerable in 2010, right?
CRAWFORD: Well, he is. Our readers and writers (ph) at “CQPolitics” are going to launch their official trackings starting next week, and I can reveal to you right here, Rachel, that at “CQ,” we are rating his a no-clear favorite, which is basically a tossup—and remarkable for an incumbent where no formal opponent has announced.
MADDOW: Wow. He‘s running as no clear—there‘s no clear winner when it‘s him versus nobody?
CRAWFORD: Yes. As you note, his approval ratings are down. He‘s losing against himself.
CRAWFORD: There is—the attorney general in North Carolina, a Democrat, already is ahead of him in the polls. One of the more remarkable things about his numbers, Rachel, is that so many North Carolinians don‘t even know him really. He has very high numbers on that score.
And that‘s why a story like this is so dangerous for him—because he‘s sort of a clean slate for a lot of voters, and this has gotten so much attention—thanks to certain television hosts we know—and as a result, a lot of North Carolinians are hearing this for the first time. This is the first thing they‘re hearing about this guy, which is not going to be good for him.
MADDOW: Well, I have been watching the North Carolina press about
him, and the North Carolina press about this story, to try to get a sense
of what people think about him and how this is being received. And I know
in “The News Observer” newspaper in North Carolina asked a finance professor at UNC Charlotte under what circumstances it would make sense to run to the bank and get cash. And the response from him that they printed was, I quote, “I don‘t know. Maybe simultaneous nuclear attacks on Washington, Chicago, San Francisco and Charlotte? Anything short of that? No.”
Does it imply that this is not going over well for him in his hometown press?
CRAWFORD: Not all. You know, I have tried to figure out what he meant—why he was using this story. And as you know, this wasn‘t a one time thing. He‘d been using it a lot.
I think here‘s what‘s going on, Rachel—as with many Republicans who voted for Bush‘s bailout plan for the banks back last fall, they are now in big trouble with conservative voters. So, they‘re trying to explain that vote, explain it away. This was his rather weak attempt at trying to show his frame of mind at the time as to why he voted for that bank bailout, that he was panicking about the economy.
So, I guess that you would call that an insanity defense? I don‘t know—or at least a crime of passion that he‘s trying to argue that these conservative voters who are now so mad about that bailout.
MADDOW: Well, it seems like it could get worse, too. I mean, the way that this particular scandal could get worse as if there‘s evidence that he acted one way privately to protect his own family, the way he described in this anecdote, but he told his constituents to do something different about that. Now, is there any evidence of that thus far?
CRAWFORD: Well, I did wander around his Web site today when we knew we were going to talk about this story, and started looking at his press releases back in those days. And lo and behold, he issued a very calm and reasoned press release about the bank problems in North Carolina, assuring everyone that everything was fine and counseling against panic. Of course, we now know that he was writing that column and reasonable press release under his bed—stuffed with cash in his mattress or something.
So, there were—he did have a very different public statement than what he was saying on the phone to his wife.
MADDOW: Oh, well, we will get our hands on that press release and do what we can to let folks know. Craig .
CRAWFORD: And don‘t—and don‘t let him challenge you to a duel because he claims to be a distant relative of Aaron Burr.
MADDOW: Oh, yes, that‘s bad history.
MADDOW: Craig Crawford, MSNBC analyst and columnist for CQPolitics.com—thanks for joining us, thanks for doing your homework on this one, Craig. It‘s nice to see you.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
MADDOW: If there is one blight on America‘s cultural landscape, it is clearly the shameful lack of catchy pop songs about Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and the TV show, “Battlestar Galactica.” All that is about to change right here—live on this show.
MADDOW: Still to come this hour—more singing, here, live on the show. And it‘s for a very good reason. You‘ve also got news about how a lot of Americans accidentally became Canadians today. And, James Mann, author of “Rise of the Vulcans” and the “Rebellion of Ronald Reagan,” is here to make us feel better about Republicans proposing that some big states secede from the country. That is all coming up.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
The state of South Carolina is at an impasse over hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funding from the federal government. On one side of the argument, you have the South Carolina legislature, which wants to accept the money, in parts so they can avoid laying off huge numbers of teachers. On the other side of the argument, Governor Mark Sanford, who teabagged at two South Carolina locations on Wednesday—excuse me—Governor Sanford does not want to accept the stimulus money.
The impasse here is over who is legally empowered to make the formal request to the federal government to get the money. Governor Sanford, of course, thinks that it is only Governor Sanford who has that right. But some other folks in South Carolina do not see it that way.
Meet 18-year-old Casey Edwards, a senior at a public high school outside of Columbia, South Carolina. She has just filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court, saying that the state‘s students are suffering from budget cuts that they could really benefit from the stimulus money, and she‘s asking the state Supreme Court to weigh in on issue of who can request the money from the federal government as a matter of urgency. Now, she is suggesting that the money from the feds might be able to be requested by the legislature instead of the governor, since the governor wants to say no to that money.
Now, in a statement, Governor Stanford dismissed the teenager‘s lawsuit saying, quote, “We believe the Supreme Court will ultimately see it as the politically-driven press spectacle that it is, rather than a suit with any actual merit.”
But despite Governor Sanford‘s dismissive and rather charmless attitude toward his young constituent, the state Supreme Court is taking her case very seriously. The court has ordered the state‘s attorney general to respond by Monday. We will keep you posted.
Finally, the November Minnesota Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken was not settled in November. So on February 16th, when Mr. Franken led by a few hundred votes and the case was going into the court system, we hosted Minnesota‘s only working senator, Amy Klobuchar, on this show.
You might recall me asking Senator Klobuchar, at the time, when she thought she would finally be joined by a second Senate colleague from Minnesota. This is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, R-MINNESOTA: My prediction, Rachel, is that we will have a new senator by the time the ice melts on Lake Minnetonka.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Very specific. Got that?
So, back in February, Senator Klobuchar predicted that the Coleman-Franken race would end by the time the ice melted on Lake Minnetonka.
The ice on Lake Minnetonka melted. The ice-out was declared this past Monday—exactly 42 minutes after the Coleman-Franken race was declared over by a three judge panel in St. Paul, Minnesota. Meaning that Senator Klobuchar‘s prediction from back in February about when the race would end was off by 42 minutes.
A tip of the hat to the “Minnesota Independent” for doing the follow-up work there.
Mr. Coleman, of course, says he is appealing the judges‘ ruling. But if he didn‘t, if he let the ruling stand, the 24-week election saga between Coleman and Franken would be over, and Senator Amy Klobuchar would finally have a home state colleague in the Senate, which would, of course, free her up for the second job that we at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW propose for her. That, of course, would be refilling America‘s coffers as the nation‘s lottery ticket procurement officer.
MADDOW: It has been an important week in the battle for the Republican Party‘s soul. As the party continues looking for its path out of the political wilderness, its path out of the political minority, frankly, voices of immoderation in the party had a pretty good week.
The TEA parties featured a lot of mainstream Republican figures alongside the “abolish the Federal Reserve” folks, and people with messages like this.
Yes, “the Obama was not born in the United States, and thus is not actually even really the president” conspiracy theorists are tea-baggers, too.
And then, of course, Texas Governor Rick Perry found the tea-bagging TEA party events this week to be a good time and place to talk about the possibility of his state maybe seceding from the Union.
Also this week, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made an out-of-Alaska star turn back into the national Republican spotlight with an appearance at a big anti-abortion event in Indiana, putting that classic culture war issue squarely back at the forefront of the Republican leadership race.
At that event, RNC Chair Michael Steele ticked off a list of the party‘s standard bearers that included Palin, as well as South Carolina Governor Mark “Turn Down the Stimulus Money” Sanford.
As the nation tries to discern whether the new post-George Bush, post-John McCain Republican Party is going to become a more moderate, centrist party, or whether it is going to tack hard right as many of its ardent activists hope it will, keep in mind that it was only earlier this month that Republican Representative Spencer Bachus insisted that he had a list of 17 secret socialists in the U.S. House of Representatives.
And Republican colleague Michele Bachmann, with her increasingly high national figure, also this month went public with her concern that President Obama has plans to establish re-education camps for young people.
Add those items to this week‘s developments, and we may officially have a trend toward the immoderate in the out-of-power Republican Party.
In political science terms, this is not unprecedented. In fact, the way most Republicans understand their own history, they were most significantly led out of the wilderness in the past by Ronald Reagan, who was originally seen as a conservative movement figure some considered too far right to be accepted by the mainstream of the party, let alone the mainstream of the country.
So, if past is prologue, does that mean we‘re in for a Palin revolution?
Joining us now, a man who knows more about that particular piece of political history than just about anyone, James Mann, author of the book, “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan.”
Mr. Mann, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.
JAMES MANN, AUTHOR, “THE REBELLION OF RONALD REAGAN”: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you see parallels between what the Republican Party is facing now and what it faced previously in terms of the time that Ronald Reagan rose to power and when he was at his apex?
JAMES MANN: Reagan rose to power in the 1970s. The Republicans had already been in the wilderness for a good 10 years, ever since Barry Goldwater‘s defeat, landslide defeat in 1964.
I think the Republicans now are about where they were in 1964, which is they‘ve got a good several years at least in the wilderness before anybody leads them out. And I don‘t see someone like Palin as being able to put together the coalition of different right-wing groups that Reagan put together.
MADDOW: Who were the members, the important members of that coalition? And why did it take Reagan to put them together?
JAMES MANN: Well, Reagan really put together a coalition of social conservatives—people who were opposed to abortion, for example—economic conservatives—people who wanted their taxes cut—and of foreign policy hawks. And Reagan managed to stitch together this coalition and persuade everybody that they would, each of these factions, they would get something from his presidency.
But there was nothing really inherently unifying about these groups. You can imagine someone who‘s in favor of lower taxes, who may have a position one way or another on abortion.
Reagan held it together. But, you know, it‘s fallen apart in the last few years, and I can‘t see who‘s going to stitch it together.
MADDOW: One of the things that‘s important, I think, about the modern legacy of Ronald Reagan is that Republicans and conservative movement activists, in particular, think of him as somebody who was able to make the Republican Party mainstream while still holding on to conservative principles in an almost purist fashion. That‘s the way that he‘s seen, looking back on him now.
When you study his contemporaneous political decisions, does it seem like that‘s what he was trying to do at the time?
JAMES MANN: In fact, the thrust of my book, “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan,” is that Reagan, particularly in his final years in office, his last three or four years, was very different from his image. Conservatives forget how much they not only were against, but severely criticized Reagan.
There are quotes in there, in my book, from conservative leaders who called Reagan—there was one quote from a guy named Howard Phillips—
Reagan was a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda. That was the view at the time. But conservatives now forget what they were saying, because Reagan moved in ways that they didn‘t like.
MADDOW: When you think about the difference between the way that he actually governed, the way that he behaved and, as you say, the way that he was treated by conservatives at that time, and the way that he is remembered now, why do you think there is this amnesia?
Why do you think that criticism has been forgotten? And what might that say about how the legacy of Reagan continues to influence the decisions that conservatives make now?
JAMES MANN: Yes, I‘ve been surprised. I couldn‘t have predicted before my book came out, conservatives can‘t deal with a dispassionate view of Reagan, which shows that he doesn‘t fit this image.
And I think the reason is because Reagan is one of the few unifying forces that they have with all these different groups, that there‘s a kind of—that nostalgia is an effort to stitch together these different groups.
So, by maintaining this nostalgic view of Reagan, they‘re really lost in the past, I think.
MADDOW: James Mann, author of “The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War.” Thanks so much for your time tonight. It‘s nice to see you.
JAMES MANN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up, Kent Jones tallies up the “lamitude” on week in review. But next, the world of cable television premiers a song about Paul Krugman—live. We love you, Paul.
Woo-hoo! Kafka (ph)! Woo! Woo-hoo!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN MANN (singing): But I know that things are going to change, with the EFCA. And there‘s no need to be afraid, because workers will get their share. Wa-oh. Wa-uh, wa-oh. The workers will get their share. Wa-oh, yeah, wa-uh, wa-oh. With the EF...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Blindly ripping the party that‘s got you down is one direction to go in when you are the party in the political wilderness. At least it was today for Republican windbag emeritus, Newt Gingrich.
Mr. Gingrich spoke to Republican lawyers today at the National Press Club, where he called President Obama‘s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, the H.R. Haldeman of this administration. That would be H.R. Haldeman of “went to jail for Watergate” fame.
He called having Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary utterly insane, because Mr. Geithner didn‘t get something on his own taxes right.
And Mr. Gingrich saved special venom for former President Jimmy Carter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, R-GEORGIA: And Carter got a Nobel Prize for being an anti-American president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Going after an 84-year-old former American president with a “he hates America” slur?
You stay classy, Mr. Gingrich. You stay classy.
MADDOW: President Obama said this week that he sees glimmers of hope in the economy. The stock market has been up, for whatever that‘s worth. Some big banks reported a profitable first quarter.
Last week‘s unemployment numbers were just awful, rather than shocking and awful. So, yeah?
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman‘s column in the “New York Times” today did have the headline, “Green Shoots and Glimmers,” which I thought was really, really encouraging, until I read the column and realized that the headline was sarcastic.
Krugman says today that there is a danger of premature optimism. He says that some of what seems like good news maybe isn‘t. He says things will be awful for a long time, even after they stop getting worse and start getting better.
But now, he says, the most you could possibly say about the economy is that it‘s still plunging, but it may be plunging more slowly, that things may be getting worse more slowly.
Oh, Paul Krugman. I was so enjoying my blissful ignorance. What would we do as a nation without you shaking us out of our undeserved contentment?
If it sounds like there‘s a plaintiff song in there somewhere, it‘s because there is.
Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else, the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is very pleased to welcome Jonathan Mann, writer and performer of a song a day, with the world‘s only known excellent song about Paul Krugman.
Mr. Mann, take it away.
JONATHAN MANN, SINGER AND SONGWRITER (singing): Hey, Paul Krugman, why aren‘t you in the administration? Is there some kind of politicking that I don‘t understand?
I mean, Timothy Geithner, he‘s like some little weasel. And wasn‘t he in a position of power when all this stuff went down in the first place?
When I listen to you things seem to make sense. I listen to him, all I hear is blah-blah-blah.
Hey, Paul Krugman, where the hell are you, man, because we need you on the front line, not just writing for the “New York Times.” I‘d feel better if you were calling some shots instead of writing your blog and probably thinking a lot.
I mean, don‘t you have some influence? Why aren‘t you secretary of the Treasury?
For God‘s sakes man, you won the Nobel Prize. Timothy Geithner uses TurboTax.
When I listen to you, things seem to make sense. I listen to him, all I hear is blah-blah-blah.
Hey, Paul Krugman, where the hell are you, man? Obama breakdown.
So (ph) singin‘ with me now, when I listen to you, things seem to make sense. I listen to him, all I hear is blah-blah-blah.
Hey, Paul Krugman, where the hell are you, man? Your country needs you now.
Ooh, I got bubble stuff all over me, I was so excited.
Jonathan Mann, I should say rockcookiebottom.com, so everybody can flood there right now and make you a very rich man.
JONATHAN MANN: Thank you. Yes, that‘s the Web site.
MADDOW: Thank you.
You write a song a day.
JONATHAN MANN: That‘s right.
MADDOW: Why did you write this song about Paul Krugman?
JONATHAN MANN: Well, because I felt it. You know? I mean, it‘s reflecting exactly what I feel. And I didn‘t expect any of this, obviously.
But I guess I hit on some nerve or something, but...
MADDOW: Yes. I liked your David Shuster song, too.
JONATHAN MANN: Thank you.
MADDOW: I must say, that was very...
JONATHAN MANN: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know David really liked it, as well.
Do these things sort of gestate in you for a while, and you set them up, and you write five in advance and then do them one a day? Or do you just really sit down in the morning and try to figure out what‘s going to come to you for that day?
JONATHAN MANN: No, I generally stick to the one-a-day thing. I don‘t crank them out or anything.
JONATHAN MANN: But, yes, it really depends on the day. Some days I have an idea, and it‘s just there. And with the Krugman thing, it was like, you know, I was just reading Krugman‘s blog and everything. And I was like, yes, this is the song I‘m going to write. It was very obvious.
Other days I sit there and I‘m like, I have no idea.
MADDOW: Making the song-a-day commitment, though, sort of forces you into that. It‘s a creative commitment to be able to produce that much, though.
JONATHAN MANN: Yes, absolutely. And the idea behind it, really, for me, is like the more I produce—say I write—you know, if I can write 31 songs in a month, 365 songs in a year, I have a better chance of writing a good song than...
MADDOW: Something that‘s going to get you on the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, for example.
JONATHAN MANN: Exactly.
And, you know, and the Krugman song came out of that process. It‘s just like, do it, do it, do it, do it, and something good happens.
MADDOW: Should any, your fans be looking forward to anything in particular you can see on the horizon? The Bo, the Portuguese water dog, or collateralized debt obligations or anything?
JONATHAN MANN: Well, you know, I was thinking about tomorrow, the torture memos that just came out. I was thinking about setting those to music, taking some actual language. Because the language is quite beautiful, you know. It‘s like—it‘s very Dylanesque in a way. It‘s like so thick, and you have to just sort of marvel at its, you know, at its capacity (ph)...
MADDOW: You know, what‘s sort of like psychotically interesting in a literature way is that it‘s all written—they‘re written to the CIA general counsel. So there‘s a lot of “you,” like it‘s this (ph) colloquial thing.
I understand that you want to put the insect in the confinement box.
JONATHAN MANN: Right.
MADDOW: That‘s a little creepy.
JONATHAN MANN: I think that would be good in the song.
MADDOW: I look forward to hearing it.
Jonathan Mann, I am a fan, and I am very grateful that you were able to come in and do this. Thank you.
JONATHAN MANN: Right back at you. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
All right. Coming up on COUNTDOWN, a former U.S. military interrogator reacts to the release of those torture memos—not in song.
Next on this show, my friend, Kent Jones, takes his look at the W-E-A-K, weak in review.
MADDOW: Is that guy getting his hair caught in the bass?
KENT JONES, “WEAK IN REVIEW”: Yes.
MADDOW: Yes, I love that.
JONES: Yes. Always a problem.
MADDOW: It‘s time to look back on the last seven days of public lamitude. Kent Jones and the “Weak in Review.”
I am very much looking forward to this, Kent.
JONES: Oh, there‘s plenty of the weakness out there.
First up, elitist fancy pants of the weak. Lacking a more pressing agenda, conservative icon George Will devoted his column yesterday to blasting the wearing of blue jeans, saying it was turning America into a nation of tasteless juvenile poseurs.
Sniffed Mr. Black Will, quote, denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults—
Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men—and cartoons for adults—King of the Hill.
Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy‘s catechism of leveling. Thou shalt not dress better than society‘s most slovenly. End quote.
Now, who should we dress like, Mr. Will? You?
Weak. Very weak.
MADDOW: I‘m wearing my special George Will annoyance outfit today, especially for him.
JONES: What have you done!
MADDOW: That‘s right. I know.
JONES: The children!
MADDOW: My best...
JONES: The children!
Next up, book-haters of the weak.
MADDOW: All right.
JONES: “And Tango Makes Three” is the story of two gay penguins who adopt an orphaned chick.
Obviously, incendiary stuff there. So much so that this book tops the
American Library Association list of titles Americans want banned the most
for the third straight year.
Clearly, our culture isn‘t ready for something this raw. Weak! Very weak.
MADDOW: How dare that orphan get a gay penguin parentage.
JONES: It‘s like those penguins are just insulting us, isn‘t it?
MADDOW: You know what it does? It makes normal penguin families forcibly dissolve. That‘s the problem.
JONES: Their marriages are worthless now.
MADDOW: That‘s exactly...
JONES: Next up, infrastructure—of the weak.
This small English village of Navistock has a pothole problem. But instead of fixing them, some officials have suggested they just leave the potholes as a way to slow down drivers who may want to speed through their little town.
Oh, that‘s lazy and shortsighted and bloody weak!
MADDOW: In a related story, the town is opening up an axel factory.
MADDOW: We‘re going to build shock absorbers now.
JONES: Booming business.
MADDOW: Yes. And we‘ll patch tires.
JONES: And finally, animal instinct of the weak.
Now, this cat is stalking a pigeon, as we see. And just as he‘s about to pounce—ope! It flies away. Oh, and he had to—oh, couldn‘t handle it.
Come on. Get up, big fella. Be the cat. Be the cat!
MADDOW: He just fell over like in shock?
JONES: Ah, ah! It was too much. They fly!
MADDOW: Oh, poor devil—I feel when things go wrong.
JONES: He‘s fine. Plunk! He‘s fine. He‘s just surprised.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you, Kent. Appreciate that.
I have a cocktail moment for you that has a little bit of a personal touch. But let me start with what the Canadian government has just posted, or posted recently on YouTube. I don‘t know if you saw this.
MADDOW: It was called “Waking Up Canadian.” Can we roll that tape?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a difference a day makes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He wakes up Canadian.
JONES: Everything‘s Canadian.
MADDOW: There‘s the queen.
MADDOW: They have maple leaf cookies, hockey trophies.
JONES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), eh?
MADDOW: He‘s so happy.
JONES: Look at that.
MADDOW: Oh! A hockey player needs to talk to him. All right. So, what‘s going on here is that there‘s an April 17th amendment to Canada‘s citizenship act, that automatically restores Canadian citizenship, and grants Canadian citizenship to all sorts of people who didn‘t have it before.
MADDOW: Yes. But it‘s meant to correct this fact that when Canadians had to renounce their Canadian citizenship in order to become citizens of another country, it had unintended consequences that they‘ve now wrapped up.
MADDOW: I think that this means that my brother is now Canadian.
MADDOW: Because my mom had to renounce her citizenship, but my brother was born before she renounced. I was born after the renunciation.
JONES: After. And you‘re not Canadian.
MADDOW: I don‘t think so. But I think my brother is.
JONES: Your brother though is.
Have a great weekend, everybody.
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