'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Friday, May 1, 2009
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Guest: Dale DeGroff, Evan Gregory, Sarah Gregory, Michael Gregory, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for tuning in.
It is Friday night. There is a new Supreme Court justice coming. It is the sixth anniversary of mission accomplished. There is something new to say about KBR in Iraq, as Keith alluded to. And it‘s Kentucky Derby eve.
So, we have lots to come over the next hour—including actual mint juleps—you will want to stick around for this show.
But we start with the retirement of Justice David Souter from the Supreme Court of the United States. Did you ever get that pit in your stomach feeling at work when your boss strolls up behind you and you weren‘t necessarily doing what you should have been doing at that moment? Today, that happened to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during the daily White House press briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We could see this again in the fall, in the beginning of flu season.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It‘s a mutated form of the virus, as the president said for the first time, I believe.
GIBBS: Yes. And—
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Hey. I‘m sorry, but Gibbs is screwing this thing up.
OBAMA: You know, there‘s a job to do—please, everybody, have a seat. There‘s a job to do, you got to do it yourself.
GIBBS: See you guys later. Have a good weekend.
OBAMA: I just got off the telephone with Justice Souter. And so, I would like to say a few words about his decision to retire from the Supreme Court.
The process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as president. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind, and a record of excellence and integrity. And it is my hope that we can swear in our new Supreme Court justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the court‘s new term begins.
And with that, I would like you to give Robert a tough time again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now that it is official that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is retiring this year, there are two sort of exciting story lines to follow in Washington. One is the obvious, Obama makes his first Supreme Court pick. So let‘s all learn the names of previously obscure law professors and solicitors general and appeals court judges, and memorize a few potentially, ideologically revealing biographical facts about each of them.
Yahey! I love that game as much as anyone. And all of us in the news business look forward to playing the “who-will-he-pick” prediction game over the next few weeks.
But this year, there is a perhaps equally exciting story line that we will all be following at the same time. Namely, will the process of putting a new justice on the Supreme Court help the conservative movement find a reason to live? Fighting about judicial nominees is the place that is very familiar to them.
This is back to their basics. This is like direct mail. This is talk radio. This is raising money and raising your own profile by making previously respected legal professionals look like threats to the very fabric of the nation. This is something that the conservative movement absolutely is geared up to do and knows how to do.
The only problem is that in their excitement this year to get going, to try to blaze a trail out of the political wilderness with the big Supreme Court nomination fight, which they are convinced they‘re very good at, they are perhaps overplaying their hand a little bit already. First, they have jumped the gun a bit and already announcing their vituperative opposition to Obama‘s nominee to replace Justice Souter. Of course, Obama‘s nominee to replace Souter does not exist yet.
Ed Whelan of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center told “The Associated Press,” quote, “Obama‘s own record and rhetoric make clear that he will seek left-wing judicial activists who will indulge their passions, not justices who will make their rulings with dispassion.”
He hasn‘t even picked anyone yet and you already know the imaginary nominee is an over-emotional left-wing judicial activist?
Mr. Whelan also says that Justice Souter has been a terrible justice and Obama‘s choice to replace him is likely to be, quote, “even worse.”
The spokesperson for the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, see, they have a permanent one. That‘s how much they love fighting about judicial confirmations, the Judicial Confirmation Network‘s spokesperson, Wendy Long, released a statement today saying that Obama has, quote, “made lawlessness an explicit standard for Supreme Court justices.”
Really? Obama specifically wants justices who are lawless?
Wendy Long arrives at the “Obama wants lawless judges” thesis on the basis of then-candidate Obama‘s statement that he‘s looking for a justice who will consult his or her deepest values when making decisions—lawless.
Obama‘s opponents may also be overplaying their hands by not checking their own record of past statements about Supreme Court nominees to make sure that they are not now committing rank, hilarious, inadvertent hypocrisy. For example, here‘s what Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl said about the idea of filibustering a judicial nominee back in 2005. He said, quote, “In the last two years, Democrats have begun to use this filibuster. It‘s never been the case until the last two years that a minority could dictate to the majority what they could do.”
Some of Jon Kyl‘s Republican colleagues in the Senate even went as far as saying that filibustering judicial nominees is unconstitutional.
But now, facing the prospect of a Democrat making a judicial nomination instead of a Republican, Senator Kyl has already made a public promise to filibuster Obama‘s nominee if he sees the nominee as being too liberal. Because when it‘s in a Republican minority filibustering, that‘s more constitutional apparently than when it‘s a Democratic minority doing the filibustering.
It is, of course, unlikely that the conservative movement, let alone the Republican Party, will be able to stop Obama from appointing who he wants to the court. The Democrats do, after all, have 59 seats in the Senate. But will conservatives be able to use the nomination process to rile up and reunite the fractured conservative base?
Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford. He‘s also a columnist for CQPolitics.com.
Craig, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The intersection of politics and law.
CRAWFORD: It‘s one of my favorite places.
MADDOW: Well, it‘s really a favorite place for conservative groups.
I mean, am I right in sensing that .
MADDOW: . conservative interest groups, really conservative members of Congress, are excited about this? They see this as a potential path out of the wilderness?
CRAWFORD: The Supreme Court has been a whipping post for the conservative movement, really going all the way back to Earl Warren, I believe, in those days with the rights for criminal suspects expanding in his court, and Richard Nixon campaigning against the Earl Warren court, bashing desegregation and other examples in those days, something that fired them up.
And ever since, I think conservatives, in general, at the grassroots level, broadly have been more focused, more energized by Supreme Court issues than some of the broad grassroots support for the liberal side.
MADDOW: Is the potential benefit here for them, not necessarily contingent on them actually stopping an Obama nominee, but just in terms of them energizing their base, replenishing their fundraising coffers, giving themselves sort of an organizing point?
CRAWFORD: It‘s a moneymaker.
CRAWFORD: Win or lose, it‘s a moneymaker. It has been for both sides. It‘s great for fundraising direct mail and for getting your side all ramped up, getting the talk radio folks on the conservative side into the crusade. And it‘s not always about winning—and in this case, Rachel, it sort of doesn‘t matter to them if Obama gets a liberal or someone as liberal as they perceive Souter because that‘s not going to change the makeup of the court. When there‘s a nominee—when a conservative leaves and he has an opportunity to opponent a liberal, their agenda will be more at stake.
MADDOW: Craig, in terms of the political common wisdom on nominees, we‘re already seeing signs of this argument that Obama can‘t pick a liberal because that would cost him the goodwill of Republicans in Washington, as if he‘s got that now, right? I wonder if you see that there is—or if you think that there is sort of a double standard for the two parties here. I mean, because the political common wisdom about Bush was that he would have to pick a very conservative nominee, and now, the political common wisdom about Obama it seems like it‘s turning out to be, oh, he has to pick a conservative nominee, too.
CRAWFORD: And that was the pressure that was put on Bill Clinton .
CRAWFORD: . who essentially caved in most cases to that argument.
You know, this town, Rachel, is still more or less wired for
conservativism. And, you know, Obama‘s gradually ripping the wires out,
but the house is a long way from being remodeled, I think, when it comes
to, you know, this changing the conventional thinking. And so, we‘ve had -
we‘ve been so used to moderates and conservatives on the court that we now call moderates “liberals” because that‘s the closest they come on the court.
And I think this is an opportunity for Obama to—he can get someone through he wants. The thing is, if he puts a moderate up there that liberal in his voting base don‘t get excited about, that could actually give the conservatives the running room and to dominate the debate. So, if they‘re going to oppose anybody he picks anyway, why not go with his gut and, you know, somebody who believes in the privacy rights and the individual rights, a truly liberal justice? We really haven‘t had one in a long time. If they‘re going to fight anyway, give them a good fight.
MADDOW: In terms of the way that the Republicans are going to fight, and I absolutely take your point that they‘re going to fight no matter what, I think that was borne out today by the fact that you‘ve got all these statements of opposition to nominees that don‘t exist yet—which I thought was pretty funny. But do you think .
MADDOW: . there‘s an extend to which their tactics—these permanent organizations they‘ve got around judicial confirmations, these sort of 1980s-esque tactics they‘ve got—is there a chance that they‘re not going to work as well in today‘s Washington? That politics have changed enough that it will sort of sap some of strength of those tactics?
CRAWFORD: They never pass up an opportunity to live in the past, Rachel. And yes, this is like the call 1-800 for those greatest hits compilation records from the 1980s. This goes back to Robert Bork—you know, that fight.
And if they‘re going to do this—like I say, give them the fight
of their life. Somebody they can really get angry about. And, in fact, if
I were Obama, considering there‘s no age requirement for the Constitution -
under the Constitution for the Supreme Court, find a really smart high school out who‘s from the left so he could—that person could make a whole career in the life on the Supreme Court.
MADDOW: Craig Crawford, I can see this on the blogs tonight—
Crawford recommends 17-year-old for Supreme Court. That‘s going to be great.
CRAWFORD: Or get them at birth. Raise them in the court.
MADDOW: They get some points with the pro-life crowd. Yes.
MADDOW: MSNBC political analyst and columnist for CQPolitics.com—
Craig, have a great weekend. Thanks for your time tonight.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
MADDOW: Coming up: Justice David Souter has always been one of the most interesting, high-powered people in Washington. Coming up next, we‘ll talk about how the Bush v. Gore case specifically may have affected Justice Souter and how it might effect how President Obama picks Mr. Souter‘s successor.
And then later on, it is Kentucky Derby weekend, and we‘re making mint juleps. You will want to stick around for that.
But first, One More Thing about our retiring Supreme Court associate justice, he, reportedly, keeps his life very, very low-fi. Jeffrey Toobin has reported that Souter has no cell phone, no answering machine, and no TV machine.
Therefore, if you happen to run into him, tell him—congratulations from THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW on his retirement. And let him now that there‘s a fourth judge on “American Idol” and that “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” is going to go on without Rod Blagojevich. I‘m sure he‘s dying to know.
MADDOW: Among the nominees for creepiest ongoing reminder of the Cold War, we have enormous, superfluous stockpiles of aging nuclear weapons, we have Americans still denouncing each other as commies when we have no better political insults at hand, and we have something called Loyalty Day. Happy Loyalty Day.
Today, in America, was officially Loyalty Day, as proclaimed by President Obama. May Day was traditionally a workers‘ holiday, a real Labor Day, but that seemed awfully commie and foreign to American lawmakers who, in 1958, officially un-May Day‘ed the first of May and christened it instead, Loyalty Day. Since then, every president but one issued a May 1st proclamation about Loyalty Day.
The president who didn‘t was Richard Nixon, a notorious freako (ph).
MADDOW: The most famous case Justice David Souter ever heard in his 19 years on the Supreme Court was, of course, Bush v. Gore, decided in the year 2000. Please join me in a cold shiver of remembrance. Justice Souter dissented from the ruling in that case and it has been reported that he perceived the court‘s actions to be so transparently partisan in Bush v. Gore that he thought about quitting in the wake of the decision.
In his book about the Supreme Court, “The Nine,” Jeffrey Toobin recounts Souter‘s reaction to Bush v. Gore this way. He says, quote, “Souter seriously considered resigning. For many months, it was not at all clear whether he would remain as a justice. At the urging of a handful of close friends, he decided to stay on, but his attitude toward the court was never the same. There were times when David Souter thought of Bush v. Gore and wept.”
Justice Souter has never publicly commented on Mr. Toobin‘s account, but Souter‘s friend, former U.S. Senator Warren Redman told “The New Hampshire Union Leader” about that story, quote, “That‘s absolutely false. It‘s one of the great works of fiction. It‘s no secret that Souter wasn‘t pleased, but to say he was weeping and crying as well—well, I won‘t use the word in the newspaper.”
Joining us now is Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington University, legal affairs editor at “The New Republic” and author of the great book, “The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America.”
Professor Rosen, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
JEFFREY ROSEN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV. LAW SCHOOL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What do you know about Justice Souter‘s reaction to Bush v. Gore? We all know about his dissent in the case. But do we know anything about what sort of lasting or formative effect the ruling had on him?
ROSEN: The most concrete evidence we have is a note he sent to the “Oxford” alumni magazine as it happens. Few people picked this up. But soon after the decision, he wrote in. This is a magazine for Rhode scholars.
And he said, “Out of all the things that have happened in my life recently, nothing has been as traumatic as Bush v. Gore.” I‘m paraphrasing, but he basically said, “I don‘t know if I‘ll ever look at my colleagues in the same light again and I‘m not sure if I can ever recover from this.” It was incredibly candid and surprising confession of how distressed he was with that decision.
MADDOW: Has he ever made any account or have you been able to report any account of why he didn‘t quit? What might have persuaded him to stay if he was that distraught?
ROSEN: Well, of course, many of the justices were distraught. What‘s interesting is that Souter seemed to take it much more personally than the others. He and Justice Steven Breyer had tried at the last minute to do a compromise with Justice Anthony Kennedy that would have allowed the recount to continue. Breyer, who‘s a little more politically-savvy, kind of brushed it off.
The fact that Souter internalized it so much is a window into this tender, sensitive, inner-directive, “18th century man” as he‘s often called. But, of course, you know, he‘d thought about it and he didn‘t feel like quitting at the time.
Really, from all accounts what led him to quit wasn‘t Bush v. Gore, but the fact he‘s always hated Washington. He wants to go hiking in New Hampshire while he‘s still young enough to do it and you have to really admire the fact that he was not so hung up on Washington status and he‘s really willing to walk away from it. This was not his life and that‘s a rare thing in the Capitol today.
MADDOW: One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about Bush v. Gore is because I‘ve been struck by President Obama‘s as-yet quite vague discussions about what he‘s looking for in a Supreme Court justice. He‘s been talking about wanting somebody who‘s had real world experience, somebody who understands the implications of their decisions in real Americans‘ lives. And that‘s led to a lot of speculation that he might choose someone who has run for office.
I wonder how you see that dovetailing with what we know about Souter‘s grave distress over Bush v. Gore, which, of course, we know he saw as a—at least we assume that he saw as a partisan choice.
ROSEN: It‘s true. Obama has said explicitly—as you‘ve suggested
that there has to be a justice who understands the effects of decisions on real Americans. And he cited as his model, Chief Justice Earl Warren, the governor of California who presided over the court that decided Brown versus Board of Education, because Warren understood the effect of segregation on real people‘s lives.
I think you‘re right that Obama may have taken from the Bush v. Gore experience the danger of having these abstract ideologue justices who don‘t have an understanding of practical politics. Now, in practice—and also as you suggest, you think maybe he‘d want to appoint a politician. When you look at the short list, though, it‘s surprising, the politicians have been mentioned have sort of backed away and the main people on the list are either former judges or the U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
So, as much as Obama wants a politician or someone who has real world experience, he may instead be driven to someone who is a very brilliant and has a great judicial temperament, and mostly, unlike Souter, it‘s not a steep (ph) candidate. I think Obama may have been struck by the fact that Souter, although a brilliant judge and a great human being, was less effective inside and outside the court because he was so hermetically sealed. He really was a scholar at heart. And Obama might want someone who, instead, is able to persuade the fellow justices and really interact with them in political as well as legal terms.
MADDOW: Of course, the other great issue about Souter and his temperament and what was known about him before he became a justice is the issue of how much he disclosed to the Senate. Famously, he was sort of a great surprise to the administration that nominated him, who thought they were getting a real rock-ribbed New England conservative and then ended up getting somebody who sided with the more liberal members of the court. Is there anything about Souter‘s tenure that has sort of changed the expectations about how disclosive potential justices should be to the Senate?
ROSEN: Certainly for Republicans. They‘re mantra is now “no more Souters.” They said, “We don‘t want any more stealth candidates,” and George W. Bush, whatever you might think about the many things he did, he learned that lesson and he appointed two justices, Roberts and Alito, who did not disappoint him, who were ideologically reliable movement conservatives. And in that sense, he got what he wanted.
Now, if you read Souter‘s confirmation hearings and you watch him in retrospect, it‘s not like he was really hiding the ball. He said that his hero was Justice John Marshall Harlan, who a sort of incrementalist conservative. He had warm words for William Brennan, the liberal lion, who he was replacing. So, it‘s like Souter was dishonest.
But I think what the lesson of Souter is for liberals as well as conservatives, is to see that it‘s too important to pick someone precisely because we all (ph) know about them. You have to have a clear sense of what their judicial vision is, what their temperament is, and in that sense you‘re less likely to be surprised.
MADDOW: Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington University, legal affairs editor at “The New Republic,” have a feeling over these next few weeks we‘re going to be calling you a lot. I hope you won‘t mind.
ROSEN: That‘d be a pleasure. It‘s going to be a lot of fun and lots to talk about.
MADDOW: Yes, indeed. Thanks a lot. Have a great weekend.
ROSEN: Thank you. You, too.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up: Mint juleps for real—as promised.
And we will be doing them with the king of cocktails, Dale DeGroff.
Also, further good news in the midst of bad economic times from a mystery benefactor who has, so far, given out over $80 million. Nobody knows who is doing it. Why they‘re doing it or where else the money might turn up. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: Coming up: It is the anniversary today of something that sends a chill down my spine every single weekday evening at approximately 8:59 and 45 seconds. It‘s the anniversary of the “Mission Accomplished” speech. A Rachel re (ph) on that subject coming up.
But first, it is time for a couple holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
Alleged defrauder, Sir Allen Stanford, is accused of running an $8 billion Ponzi scheme. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against Stanford and two of his employees back in February. Two days later, the feds served him papers at his fiancee‘s house in Virginia.
Mr. Stanford or—excuse me—Sir Allen, has since moved to Texas where his trial will take place in order to prepare for his defense there. That preparation apparently includes some very, very high melodrama. Yesterday, the accused billionaire bravely turned himself into authorities, attempting to surrender to U.S. Marshals, throwing himself on the mercy of the federal court.
One problem, the U.S. Marshals don‘t actually have a warrant out for Allen Stanford‘s arrest. So they told him to go away. According to Mr. Stanford‘s lawyer, his client was there to emphasize the degree to which he is not a flight risk, quote, “He wants to face this. He‘s not going to hide, and there‘s no need to come after him.”
It might also be true that he wants to avoid all the drama of a home arrest and a perp walk in handcuffs. Nice try, sir. Even your fake attempted surrender was a fraud.
Next up: This here is the Indian Point nuclear plant. It‘s located 45 miles north of New York City. And Indian Point is a little bit accident-prone. Back in 2000, an old steam generator ruptured, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam into the air. In year 2005, water laced with the radioactive element called tritium leaked from a spent fuel pool.
And today, we learned a burst pipe has spurted out 100,000 gallons of water at the nuclear facility. We still do not know when the leak began, only that the pipe in question is buried deep underground. Not a single visual inspection of the underground pipes has taken place since operations began in 1973.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn‘t require inspections like that. Similar problems with aging underground pipes have occurred at the Byron, Braidwood and Dresden twin-reactor plants in Illinois and at the Palo Verde plant in Arizona. All this to say, if you were looking for something legal and non-habit-forming to keep you up all night this weekend, you‘re welcome.
Finally, following up on a story first brought to us earlier this week by our official higher education mystery endowment correspondent, Kent Jones, today we have word of yet another anonymous multimillion dollar donation to an institution of higher learning. This time, it‘s the University of Alaska at Anchorage, the latest college or university to report receiving a giant donation in the last few months. UAA announced today it received $7 million from—who knows?
Fourteen schools have received these multi million dollar gifts in the past couple months. The one thing all the schools have in common, including the University of Alaska at Anchorage is that they all, all of them, have female presidents.
Now, might be a good time for a woman looking for a job running a college, particularly, if that college say broke one.
As for the do-gooder‘s identity, not even Stacy Palmer, editor of “The Chronicle of Philanthropy” said she had a clue. Reached for comment, she told us today, quote, “None of the speculation adds up. We have a lot of people commenting on our blogs, but they are not plausible. At some point, the clues will lead us to who it is. Only a few people have the money to make these donations while they are alive.”
Happy and mysterious. How happy is this? The $7 million was the largest contribution ever made to the University of Alaska at Anchorage. Jeffrey Selingo, who is the editor of the “The Chronicle of Higher Education” pointed out that anonymous donations to schools and nonprofits are made all the time, but usually, some ranking official negotiates the gift with the donor, even if the donor wants to remain anonymous to everybody other than that ranking official.
In this case, the gifts were made on the condition that the institutions wouldn‘t even investigate their source. They wouldn‘t even try to figure it out. Betting pools, of course, are opening now. And no - no one is even taking odds anymore on Oprah.
MADDOW: Six years ago today, our war against the country that attacked us on 9/11 ended, and American troops started to come home. At least that‘s the impression you would get if you went back and read George Bush‘s infamous “mission accomplished” speech, which our friend Keith Olbermann still uses as a benchmark in time to sign off his show every night.
Although the Bush White House initially blamed the “mission accomplished” banner on the sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln themselves, the speech itself gives a lie to that lie. It makes clear that the whole point of the event, banner or no, was to take a victory lap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. America is grateful for a job well done. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home and that is your direction tonight. You are homeward bound.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You are homeward bound. Homeward bound. Exactly six years later, how many deployments have those troops seen since? Looking back on the anniversary of the “mission accomplished” speech, everything from the promise that the troops were coming home to the flight suit strutting to the blatantly untrue swaggering statements about what the war was for make it seem like it‘s of another era, like it‘s a caricature of the Bush presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have not forgotten the victims of September 11th. The last phone calls. The cold murder of children. The searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually, what they got was an inexplicable war on a totally unrelated country in the Middle East that had nothing to do with 9/11. Sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: And this much is certain - no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime because the regime is no more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And because they didn‘t have weapons of mass destruction anyway. And even if they did have those WMDs, you think that getting rid of the regime would have made sure they ended up in safe hands while you abandon the country to looting and anarchy and civil war and death squads?
You think those non-existent WMDs would have just magically found their way into a vault or something? You know, yelling at George W. Bush‘s speeches about the Iraq War, I realize, is very last year. It‘s very pre-Obama. It‘s old news, like the Iraq War itself, right?
Except for the fact it‘s not. Today, the U.S. military announced that three more American troops were killed in Iraq in combat operations in Anbar province, which still got 142,000 American troops serving there.
And if you‘re really ready to go tripping down what feels like memory lane, but is actually totally still going on and has never been fixed, consider this legal news about what is still the largest private, for-profit contractor in the war zone, KBR.
You might remember our coverage on this show of KBR‘s contract to provide electrical work for U.S. facilities in Iraq. At least 18 American troops are believed to have been killed by electrocutions there. What we‘ve got here is a photo that was provided to us by Debbie Crawford, a former KBR electrician who became a whistleblower about the company‘s shoddy work in Iraq.
That‘s a very small photo. That‘s a shame. Well, if you can get real close to your TV there, what you can see is running water coming out of a tap in American living quarters in Iraq, a little probe sticking into the running water is a voltage meter reading that‘s reading 180.6. In other words, the water coming out of that tap is charged to over 180 volts.
You stick a fork in an outlet in your house - that‘s about 120 volts. That water is over 180 volts. It was electrified water coming out of a shower head in barracks in Iraq that killed a young green beret named Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth last January. Again, he‘s one of more than a dozen troops killed in Iraq, not by enemy fire, but by electrocution.
Army investigators have classified Sergeant Maseth‘s death as a negligent homicide. KBR was responsible for the electrical work in that building, but they continue to deny any responsibility in this case. And they continue to hold the U.S. Government contract for providing electrical services in Iraq.
This week, KBR filed a motion in federal court to have Ryan Maseth‘s family‘s lawsuit against the company dismissed on the grounds that the federal courts don‘t have jurisdiction over what KBR did. They say since they‘re providing services to the U.S. military, it‘s a military matter, and civilian courts, therefore, have no say.
Of course, they also expect that they can‘t be held accountable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. After all, they‘re not military - they‘re a civilian company, so they‘re neither civilian nor military and can‘t be held accountable in either venue. How convenient.
In that courtroom in Pittsburgh this week, on the sixth anniversary of the “mission accomplished” speech, KBR re-upped its efforts to avoid paying any penalty for the lost life of one very promising young, elite army soldier.
And on this sixth anniversary of the “mission accomplished speech,” we are reminded that no U.S. official has ever paid any penalty for the made-up-out-of-whole-cloth lie to the country about why we started the ongoing war in Iraq in the first place.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, they have been finding evidence of communism under all sorts of new rocks. Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas today found evidence of communism in college football‘s bowl championship series. At a hearing on Capitol Hill today, he advocated for a playoff system to replace the BCS‘s computer and formula-determined national championship game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE BARTON ®, CONGRESSMAN FROM TEXAS: It‘s like communism. You can‘t fix it. It will not be fixable. Sooner or later, you‘re going to have to try a new model.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Most priceless of all is the look on the face of the witness he‘s talking to. The witness is like, “Seriously? Communism? Am I supposed to respond to that?” No, sir, you are not supposed to respond to that. You leave that to us professionals here on cable TV.
MADDOW: She has been called a freak of all freaks. She‘s been called very aggressive. She‘s been called that monster. Her name is Rachel. I‘m not saying I haven‘t been called those things and worse and even in just the last commercial break.
But the Rachel to whom I‘m referring right now is a race horse, a 3-year-old filly called Rachel Alexandra. She entered the 135th running of the Kentucky Oaks on a four-race winning streak, she was a one-to-five favorite to win again. How did she do?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Rachel Alexandra takes the lead just outside the quarter pole. She did it willingly and really had no resistance whatsoever from Gabby (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And now, Rachel Alexander is opening up five lengths on the field. Six - oh, a tour de force by the super filly Rachel Alexandra. Captain Morales (UNINTELLIGIBLE). She‘s going to destroy this field. Oh, super filly, you bet! What‘s the final margin? She won by 20!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. Definitely nobody‘s ever called me “super filly.” She didn‘t just win. She won by more than 20 lengths. She won by half a football field. And this is not that long a race. So why did Rachel Alexander run today in the Oaks, which is a $500,000 thing instead of the Kentucky Derby tomorrow, which is a $2 million thing?
Well, her owners say they didn‘t want her to get roughed up by the all-male animals running in the derby, even though her jockey today disagreed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think she would have fared against the boys in tomorrow‘s race?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll tell you the truth, I‘m happy we didn‘t run her.
But I don‘t think they could have run with her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So without a freak of all freaks, very aggressive monster super-filly named Rachel to watch in the derby tomorrow, what are we supposed to on Derby day? How about some cocktails?
To help us do that, here is the world famous king of cocktails, Dale DeGroff. Dale, it‘s great to see you. Thank you for being here.
DALE DEGROFF, MASTER MIXOLOGIST: Racetracks and race season makes me feel so good.
MADDOW: All right. Well, of course, it wouldn‘t be Kentucky Derby Day
without mint juleps. So Kent is here because he heard there is going to be
booze. And I‘m hoping you can -
KENT JONES, POP CULTURE EXPERT: I don‘t miss that.
MADDOW: I am hoping you can walk us through the complicated julep process.
DEGROFF: Well, you have to start the process. I need you to whale away on
this bag with this mallet because we need really cold - this is real Kold-
Draft ice cube that when you whale away on it -
MADDOW: Can we just say that this is a little like a bank bag?
DEGROFF: That‘s a bank bag, but it‘s really called a Louis(ph) bag
DEGROFF: So what we‘re going to do while you‘re doing that I‘m just going to put the mint.
MADDOW: I‘m just going to hit -
DEGROFF: Just whack - whale away on that, baby. Hard. Really hard.
MADDOW: God, this is great.
DEGROFF: We‘re going to put the sugar in here. And I‘m going to start muddling some mint while you‘re making that ice work for us. So what‘s happened is the canvas bag is absorbing all the moisture so we get a nice dry ice. And here, we have our sugar.
JONES: Super-filly Rachel. She‘s going to open some veins later.
MADDOW: Emotionally-satisfied Rachel.
DEGROFF: OK. All right. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
DEGROFF: What we‘re going to do is we‘re going to reach in here with our special scoop.
MADDOW: Did put the mint in there already?
DEGROFF: Oh, the mint is in there. Now, you can leave it in or take it out. I‘m going to leave it in this time.
DEGROFF: And we‘re going to fill these babies with crushed ice.
MADDOW: While I was whacking this, what else did you put besides mint?
DEGROFF: Simple syrup.
MADDOW: OK. So simple syrup and some mint. And you smooshed the mint a bit.
DEGROFF: Now, I‘m not going to fill this all because I‘m going to put some
of the bourbon in first. We‘re going to give it a little stir to get this
baby frosting. I want that glass - by the way, these glasses were given to
the derby winner in 2002, War Emblem. The owner and jockey got these
glasses. And the next year, they put them on sale. And yours truly
(UNINTELLIGIBLE). Aren‘t they beautiful?
MADDOW: Are these silver cups?
DEGROFF: Look how they‘re freezing. They‘re done by a beautiful silversmith. Every year, they do a different silversmith for a different present for the winner.
MADDOW: And putting the bourbon makes the ice sort of disappear.
DEGROFF: If we had the time, we should let these babies sit around for about 10 minutes before you drink them because the outside of that glass would just freeze completely with stalactites of ice.
MADDOW: Just with them sitting here.
DEGROFF: Just with them sitting here.
DEGROFF: Now we‘re going to put the rest of our bourbon. And I‘m sure this makes Kent really happy.
I‘ve made a mess of your table here, but that‘s OK.
MADDOW: That‘s OK. It‘s just news.
DEGROFF: And we‘re going to finish with a tad more ice and then we are
going to put our mint on top and we are done and you -
MADDOW: So mint julep is just sugar water AND mint and bourbon and ice.
DEGROFF: Precisely. Which is why I‘m going to make another drink, called
the whiskey smash for you, because I want something a little more than just
but don‘t get me wrong, this is a classic and wonderful, wonderful drink.
And I will never say anything bad about the mint julep. But I‘m going to
do something that is sort of a take off from the julep. Now, look. You
can‘t even -
MADDOW: Yes, frosty.
DEGROFF: Be really careful when you pick it up, because - but that‘s why it flares out so you don‘t slip through your fingers.
MADDOW: Oh, nice.
Are we - cheers. Cheers.
DEGROFF: I‘m making a whiskey smash which is my sort of variation of the julep.
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
DEGROFF: There‘s lemon. There‘s mint.
DEGROFF: You see what we‘re doing here. It‘s sort of a combo. By the way, the julep is older than cocktail. The julep, sling, skin, the toddy - they‘re all neighbors and they all are much older than the cocktail. And they were made and exported to Europe. The julep was the popular drink overseas from America. And now, I‘ve got everything started.
MADDOW: This is a drink you leave the garnish in because you want the mint in your nose while you‘re drinking it.
DEGROFF: Yes. Absolutely.
MADDOW: Whiskey smash - lemon, mint.
DEGROFF: Lemon, mint - and this is all shaken and poured into these beauties.
MADDOW: Oh, yes. OK.
DEGROFF: This is sort of a take-off on a mix between a whiskey sour and mint julep.
MADDOW: This is a beautiful thing.
DEGROFF: My stingray here.
MADDOW: I‘m going to start making piggy noises in a second. Does it have a garnish?
DEGROFF: This has a garnish, and you can guess what it is.
MADDOW: Is it mint?
Mint and lemon.
DEGROFF: Yes, indeed.
MADDOW: Oh, this is a beautiful thing, Dale DeGroff -
DEGROFF: Now, I get a whiskey smash and so do you. So we can have a nice toast to tomorrow‘s winner which is going to be Mister Red Hot.
MADDOW: Cheers, indeed, derby day. Hmm. Dale, thank you so much for being here. Dale DeGroff is the king of cocktails. Dale‘s new book is called “The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks.” I have several copies of it, all of which are completely covered in liquor stains. We have Dale‘s mint julep and whiskey smash recipes on our Web site, which is “Rachel.MSNBC.com.” The phrase “woohoo” comes to mind. Wow!
All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” conservatives do not understand that the Colbert Report is satire. That‘s what one study found out. The study‘s author joins Keith at the top of this hour.
Next on this show, a special auto-tuned musical cocktail moment.
MADDOW: Now, it is time to look back on the last seven days of public lame-itude. Here again is my friend Kent Jones with our “Weak in Review.” Hi, Kent. What have you got?
JONES: Hi, Rachel. Oh, there‘s a world of weakness out there. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over): First up, dunk of the weak. At the Heat versus Hawks NBA playoff game, the Hawks‘ Josh Smith thought he would give the crowd something to remember. Mission accomplished. Josh Smith, he got lame. Weak.
Next, outrage of the weak. A new “Daily Kos” research 2000 poll finds that a third of Georgia Republicans approve of the idea of seceding from the United States. You know what they say, like great, great grandfather, like great, great grandson. Frankly, my dear, that‘s weak!
Next, ill-advised larceny of the weak. While Jerry Brown was in Sacramento on business, somebody swiped a passenger side tires off his Toyota Camry hybrid. He‘s the attorney general of California. Somebody should put that thief‘s head up on blocks. Weak.
Finally, puritanical ruling of the weak. A student board at the University of Oregon ended the season of a highly-rated ultimate frisbee team because five players on that team decided to compete in a sectional game without pants, or underpants.
Come on, student board, lighten up, it‘s frisbee. It‘s Oregon. Let freedom swing! Weak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Kent, excellent work. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We‘ve got a special cocktail moment tonight with musicians. Last week, we introduced you to the Gregory Brothers - Michael, Andrew and Evan and Evan‘s wife, Sarah. They are musicians in Brooklyn, New York who remix news clips using an audio processor called auto-tune which alters people‘s voices, at a catchy beat, create what we call newsicals, which is a little gross-sounding. Here‘s a sample from the piece we highlighted last week.
MADDOW: Joining us now are three out of the four Gregory Brothers - Evan and Michael and Sarah. It‘s very nice to meet you all. Thank you for coming in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to be here. Thanks.
MADDOW: So how you did put together the auto tune, the news segments?
Like, who does what?
EVAN GREGORY, AUTO-TUNE THE NEWS: First thing that has to happen is - let‘s find the greatest clips that we can from the news of the week. And we have to make a wild guess at who is going to sound the best singing once we can kind of tweak things a little bit.
MADDOW: And what makes a good news singer?
MICHAEL GREGORY, AUTO-TUNE THE NEWS: Well, that‘s a trial-and-error process. I thought Sean Hannity was going to be great, he wasn‘t. I did not know Katie Couric was going to be great. She‘s outstanding. I think she has a career ahead of her.
MADDOW: Is it a mellifluousness thing - like, people with pretty voices sound good? Is that what it is?
SARAH GREGORY: Maybe support, a little bit of tone, some lilt in the voice. Hard to tell. A little bit of magic, really.
MADDOW: What‘s with the gorilla costume?
E. GREGORY: The gorilla costume is an heirloom, really. It belonged to our grandfather. He‘s in his 90s now. He‘s not wearing it so often. For at least 30 years on and off, he was using it scare the family. He decided he was going to pass it on.
I‘m the eldest grandson so it fell to me so he wore it one last time out to check the mail and then brought it inside and gave it to me and we‘ve been using it ever since to pull stunts.
MADDOW: And in this case, sort of represents your typical cable newscast?
E. GREGORY: Right.
M. GREGORY: Yes. I couldn‘t have put it better.
MADDOW: Next project? What‘s coming up next?
M. GREGORY: Number three album coming out. I think, really, we‘ll just follow our dreams and see what happens.
E. GREGORY: Absolutely.
MADDOW: OK. Hopefully, one is of your dreams is to have yet another auto-tune of the news episode featured on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW because that‘s what you‘re getting.
S. GREGORY: Maybe featuring Rachel Maddow.
E. GREGORY: My dream is coming true right now.
MADDOW: My dream is starting to come true. It doesn‘t even involve a cocktail. All right. What we‘ve got coming up, right, this is number three?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s really a flashback.
MADDOW: A flashback.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, number three.
MADDOW: Sort of a flashback on the start of the Obama presidency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First 100 days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s right.
MADDOW: OK. And once again, Katie Couric featured because she sounds pretty when she is auto-tuned.
M. GREGORY: Exactly.
E. GREGORY: When you find your heavy hitters, you‘ve got to stick with them. Yes.
MADDOW: Well, Gregory Brothers Evan and Michael and Sarah - I feel awkward
calling you a brother, but -
S. GREGORY: It‘s all right.
MADDOW: It‘s OK? Thank you for coming in and we‘re going to leave our viewers now with a sample of auto-tuning. As promised, you can find the whole thing on their Web site. We‘ve got a link to that Web site at “Rachel.MSNBC.com.” Here is “Auto-Tune The News,” The Obama Flashback.
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