'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Thursday, May 14, 2009
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Guest: Bob Windrem, Charles Duelfer, Chris Cillizza, Rand Paul, Zach
Stovall, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Charles Duelfer, the Iraq weapons inspector who received the order to waterboard an Iraqi prisoner, as well as investigative reporter Bob Windrem, who says that the request came from the office of Vice President Cheney. It is a huge bombshell in the ongoing torture story. And it breaks here tonight in just a moment.
Plus, a new “macaca” moment from a Republican Senate hopeful uttered in response, he says, to something that happened on this show. This is a story I really do not want to be involved in.
And, Rush Limbaugh‘s latest target is a 97-year-old woman.
That is all coming ahead in this next hour.
But we begin with a major development in what we know about former Vice President Dick Cheney and his role in authorizing torture. Over the past three months, there has been a steady stream of new information released about the Bush administration‘s torture program. Today, the dots started to connect—all the way up to the office of the former vice president of the United States.
Within three months after the attacks on 9/11, the Bush administration began making the case for invading Iraq, because Iraq, they said, was connected to al Qaeda. Vice President Cheney went on “Meet the Press” and said that Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, met with Iraqi officials before the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what we now have that‘s developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that—which has been pretty well confirmed, that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s been pretty well confirmed, said the vice president. In fact, that report turned out to be false.
But we now know that something else was going on in secret—inside government—while Dick Cheney was making those public pronouncements, like that one that you just saw from December 2001. According to the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin, as far as back as December 2001, the Pentagon was seeking information from the agency that runs the SERE program. The SERE program trains U.S. troops to resist the kinds of torture that were used by communist forces to get false confessions from American troops for use in propaganda.
By July, the people who ran the SERE program had written to the Defense Department, warning the Pentagon explicitly that it would be a mistake to base an interrogation program on SERE techniques—since they were not known to produce reliable or accurate information. Despite that warning, the Bush Justice Department signed off on the techniques the very next month. At that time, U.S. officials are questioning their first known high-value detainee, Abu Zubaydah.
Through normal FBI interrogation techniques, Zubaydah is spilling all sorts of information. He identifies Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of 9/11. He tells of a supposed dirty bomb plot leading to the arrest of Jose Padilla. He‘s singing, but what he‘s not providing is that link between Iraq and al Qaeda.
An order then comes from somewhere that Abu Zubaydah should be interrogated by other means. And in August 2002, Abu Zubaydah is waterboarded 83 times in one month—despite the warning from the people who train American soldiers to survive waterboarding that that technique was developed to produce false confessions.
Now, around the same time, October 2002, out in public, the Bush administration is stepping up the case to the American people that the link exists between Iraq and al Qaeda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy—the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high level contacts that go back a decade. We‘ve learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The following month, in November of 2002, President Bush continued to hammer away at this Saddam-al Qaeda link.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 7, 2002)
BUSH: He‘s a threat not only with what he has. He‘s a threat with what he‘s done. He‘s a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Still unable to prove this link that they are now repeating over and over and over again, the Bush administration gets what they think could be a gold mine. On March 1st, 2003, they capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. By this point, the administration‘s march toward invading Iraq is unstoppable.
And in that month, the same month of the invasion, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is waterboarded 183 times—six times a day. And while he admits to everything from kidnapping the Lindbergh baby to shooting JFK on the grassy knoll, KSM fails to provide one thing the Bush administration desperately needs at that moment.
The White House is launching its invasion of Iraq without any clear evidence that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. On March 20th, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. They‘re still waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at that time. Shock and awe—the war begins.
The Bush White House has two huge problems on its hands. One, it still hasn‘t proven a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. And two, it needs to find the weapons of mass destruction that they said were in Iraq. Enter Charles Duelfer, a former U.N. weapons inspector who is sent to Iraq after the invasion to help locate those weapons.
In April of 2003, the month after the invasion, Duelfer is involved in the questioning of a high-ranking Iraqi, who was an intelligence officer for Saddam Hussein. Duelfer and the rest of the team are getting information from that officer. He is, as they say, being cooperative.
But at some point during the process, a message comes from Washington. Quote, “Some in Washington at very senior levels, not in the CIA, were concerned that the debriefing was too gentle. They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding should be used.”
Duelfer says he considered the request to be reprehensible. He believed the rationale for the order was political. The request it seemed was to use waterboarding to find the Iraq-al Qaeda link, a link the White House had failed to prove for more than two years despite even using methods known to provide false information.
U.S. officials were being asked to waterboard not to prevent some imminent attack, but to justify an attack that had already been launched by us—against Iraq.
Today, the bombshell news from former NBC News investigative producer, Bob Windrem, that the suggestion to torture this Iraqi source, to use torture not to prevent an attack but to find that link, that suggestion came directly from the office of Vice President Cheney.
Joining us now is former NBC News investigative producer, Bob Windrem, whose piece today in the “Daily Beast” confirms this link to the vice president‘s office.
We‘re also joined by Charles Duelfer, former U.N. weapons inspector and former head of the Iraq Survey Group, the team sent in to Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction. He‘s author of the book “Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq.”
Mr. Windrem, Mr. Duelfer, thank you both for joining us tonight. I very rarely have two people on at the same time. Thank you both for doing this.
CHARLES DUELFER, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Thank you, Rachel.
BOB WINDREM, FMR. NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Mr. Duelfer, let me actually start with you. You were part of a team that was questioning this Iraqi intelligence officer who had been captured. Was he giving you information in this debriefing that you were doing with him?
DUELFER: Yes, he was. And, Rachel, it‘s important to remember the context at that time. We had just gone in to Baghdad. This was April of 2003. Saddam was gone.
What was different about this and other circumstances where the United States is dealing with enemies, all the Iraqis, the senior Iraqis at that point in time, they wanted to be on our side. The senior Mukhabarat, the senior military officers, they were dealing with the occupying United States Army and other officials at that time as potential allies.
Bear in mind, this is before we made the disastrous decisions that, you know, informed the Iraqis that we were going to treat their army as an enemy and that all Baathists were going to be treated as Nazis.
So, at this point in time, they wanted to be on our side. They wanted to be helpful, including the security officer.
MADDOW: But that you wrote, then, in “Hide and Seek,” you wrote that at some point, word came down from Washington about the questioning of this officer. What did Washington want the team on the ground to be doing differently with him?
DUELFER: Well, we had a few objectives—immediate objectives at the time. One was to find what were called high-value targets, you know, the senior people around Saddam. You remember the deck of cards with the 52 people that were considered to be key parts of the regime. We were trying to find them. And so, this guy was helping us on that area.
We were also looking, as you mentioned in your setup piece, about weapons of mass destruction. At that point, we still thought that that was a real risk. This guy might have provided useful information on that.
He had also offered information about the other things that he was familiar with, including their operations, Iraqi operations against Iran. But the questions which, you know, were coming to us from outside of Baghdad were about potential links with al Qaeda. And, you know, to anyone who understood the regime at all, this made no sense, because, you know, it wasn‘t logical for Saddam to align himself with a group that he didn‘t have control over, and they had no particular sympathetic relations with al Qaeda.
So, we didn‘t really press the questions on that score.
MADDOW: You write specifically in your book that this suggestion about using different techniques with this officer, presumably, to get at those type of links, that you didn‘t believe were there, and we learned were not there, but they were looking for still at the time, this suggestion did not come from the CIA.
What‘s your reaction to this new reporting today that that instruction
that suggestion came from the vice president‘s office?
DUELFER: Well, I can‘t—I can‘t verify, you know, Bob‘s sources on that. It was certainly—that was perhaps the right direction that it came from. But I also think that, you know, it wasn‘t an order. It was sort of a question, you know—can we get more from this guy if we used, you know, more aggressive, you know, interrogatory techniques.
But what they didn‘t understand and what, you know—unless you‘re in the field, you just can‘t get the feel for what an individual is doing. It‘s very easy to say, “Oh, you know, let‘s be real tough in a memo in Washington.” But when you‘re actually sitting across from somebody and breathing the same air and feeling the sweat with the guns going off in the background, it‘s quite a different set of circumstances.
MADDOW: Mr. Duelfer, I‘m going to ask you just to hold on for one moment. I‘d like to bring in Bob Windrem, former NBC News investigative producer, who wrote this up for the “Daily Beast” today.
Bob, the dots that you‘ve connected here say that the suggestion to use waterboarding did come directly from the vice president‘s office. Mr. Duelfer says he can‘t confirm those sources. But it sort of makes sense.
Can you tell us how you were able to confirm that?
WINDREM: I talked to two former U.S. intelligence officers, senior U.S. intelligence officers—intelligence officers who were working at that time. And in both cases, I was told that it was the office of the vice president who made the suggestion, and that the office of the vice president had made that suggestion in order to push forward the various—the various policy objectives that Charles described. Certainly, the people who I spoke to understood what was—what this meant and were still willing to tell us that.
And I think that the key thing here is that this is not something that was suggested by the CIA and, as Mr. Duelfer says, came from senior levels in Washington.
MADDOW: This is not—explicitly not a case in which the interrogators on the ground, the questioners on the ground, said we‘d like to be able to use additional techniques in order to get something out of this guy that we think he‘s not giving you.
MADDOW: That‘s the story that‘s been told to us about why these techniques had to be used, that the interrogators needed them, because they knew they could get more and they needed to be able to cross those lines.
WINDREM: Certainly. And I think what this—how this differs from a lot of the—from what we‘ve known previously is, the justification for doing this in the case of the high-value detainees at the secret prisons was that they knew of imminent threats to the United States. The suggestion that an Iraqi be waterboarded when, in fact, what they were looking for were political points that would help them, that is a big difference from what—from what had previously—waterboarding had previously been used for.
MADDOW: Mr. Duelfer, let me go back to you for a moment.
When this suggestion came from Washington, we know that—that this prisoner in particular wasn‘t actually waterboarded. Was that your decision to not use those techniques, despite the suggestion from the vice president‘s office or from Washington?
DUELFER: No, it wasn‘t my decision. But I think there was a consensus among all those on the ground that we were making progress with what we needed to do with this guy as it was. And bear in mind, he was a despicable character. And, you know, when you sat across him, you did not want to sink to his level.
He was a guy who probably did all of the things that you imagine the Saddam regime having done. But, still—you know, bear in mind, he wanted to be on our side at that point. Saddam was gone. He was looking to make us happy. So, he was providing information that we needed.
MADDOW: Bob, how much information is out there—in terms of a paper trail—about who specifically requested the use of these techniques? You‘re able to trace it as far back as the vice president‘s office. That could be any number of people, including the vice president himself but not necessarily him, right?
WINDREM: Right. And I think what we have to understand here is so much of this has been classified. So much of these requests have been classified. So much of the back-and-forth has been classified. So it‘s very difficult for us to tell.
There certainly is a paper trail. But that paper trail is not a public paper trail. We have to rely on sources who want to remain anonymous. But certainly, if there is a more fulsome discussion of this, of the enhanced interrogation techniques—and not just waterboarding, we‘re going to have an opportunity to go through essentially a blizzard of paper that would provide a paper trail. And more than that, I think it probably would provide to us the underlying rationale, which is something that really has not been—has not been fully evolved in these discussions.
MADDOW: And what we have arrived at, too, is the very disturbing prospect that after having been informed that these techniques were derived from means of garnering false confessions, that they were not a means of providing reliable information, that they were still deliberately and specifically turned to in order to try to find intelligence information—intelligence nuggets for something that wasn‘t actually true.
Mr. Duelfer, I‘ll close just by asking you, with your knowledge of how the case was put together for invading Iraq, with your knowledge of the issue of WMD, and Iraq, and how that contributed to the political case here in the United States—is it conceivable to you that they were looking for false information?
DUELFER: Well, I think—they had one hypothesis. And when you only have one hypothesis, you tend to see things which fit it. You know, I think everyone would agree that Saddam was a threat and a problem that had to be dealt with. The Bush administration elected to deal with him by getting rid of him by force. And they had to sell that to the American people, and they had to sell that in a way that would make it worth an enormous cost.
The risk that they painted was weapons of mass destruction, where the intelligence community genuinely got it wrong. It wasn‘t like we were making this stuff up. But all the evidence pointed in that direction. Saddam certainly had a track record on it.
The other bits, the connections with al Qaeda, that‘s just borne out of ignorance. I mean, anyone who knew anything about the Iraqi regime—and I certainly count myself as being fairly well-informed—there was no logic for Saddam to have a connection, an operational connection at all with al Qaeda. They were two completely separate entities.
In fact, Saddam said after the war, they were surprised when al Qaeda did strike on 9/11. It took them a long time to realize that they would get part of the blame for that. That just didn‘t occur to the Iraqis.
MADDOW: And yet, despite how unlikely it was, they kept trying to prove that—to prove that link.
Former head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer; “Daily Beast” contributor; former NBC News investigative producer, Robert Windrem—thank you both very much for your time tonight. It‘s much appreciated.
DUELFER: Thank you, Rachel.
WINDREM: Thank you.
MADDOW: With the whole “Who authorized whom to torture prisoners:” issue not going away, the political buck-passing is escalating. Nancy Pelosi convening a press conference in Washington today to say not only did she not know, but the CIA, she says, lied to Congress about the issue. We‘ll get the latest from Chris Cillizza from “The Washington Post.”
And, later, a Republican candidate for Senate gets in trouble for saying something really embarrassing after watching this show. I sort of feel sorry, even though I don‘t think it‘s my fault. It‘s coming up.
MADDOW: One of the lamest ways to get out of being in trouble for something is to say, “Oh, everybody was doing it.” I spent many a grounded Saturday night as a teenager after patiently explaining to my parents that everybody else blew through their curfew, too. Looking back on it now, I‘m sure if my parents could have grounded everyone else, they would have. But they could only get their mitts on me, so I was the one who got busted.
That same “everybody does it” excuse is now on display in Washington as those who don‘t want to pursue accountability on the torture issue are experiencing the sort of awkward coexistence of claims. First, there‘s the claim that the Bush administration didn‘t torture, everything they did was fine and we should stop talking about it. Second, there‘s the claim that it totally was torture and Nancy Pelosi was in on it. As Karl Rove argued in today‘s “Wall Street Journal,” Nancy Pelosi is a torture accomplice.
Well, today, Nancy Pelosi hit back, saying that CIA claims that she knew about waterboarding, that they told her in 2002 that the agency had waterboarded a prisoner. She said today that those claims were false.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker, just to be clear, you‘re accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And also .
PELOSI: Misleading the Congress of the United States. I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The speaker repeated what she said to me on this show in February, that that briefing that she had in September ‘02, CIA officials discussed harsh interrogation techniques but did not tell her they were being used. Pelosi said today that she learned only later that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded and he‘d been waterboarded even before she had been briefed about the technique.
Pelosi says she wants the CIA to release full details of its briefings and she renewed her call for a truth commission. The speaker‘s strong pushback comes after weeks of a feverish Republican effort to try to ensnare more Democrats in the torture issue. And it‘s the latest example of pushback against the notion that everyone in the government went along and was therefore complicit in torture. From some FBI agents to some CIA to senior officials in agencies like the State Department, objections were raised.
The question now is whether the “everybody was in on it” excuse is still so cynically tempting that it will gloss over any actual history to the contrary.
Joining us now is Chris Cillizza, White House reporter for “The Washington Post” and author of the political blog “The Fix.”
Chris, thanks for coming on the show tonight.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Rachel, thanks for having me. Let me quickly say, if everybody is doing it isn‘t a good excuse, my whole childhood is a lie.
MADDOW: Yes. I retroactively—I‘m retroactively grounding you for high school right now.
CILLIZZA: I hope my mom is not watching.
MADDOW: All right. Well, if she calls, I‘ll talk to her about it.
All right. So, why did Speaker Pelosi give this press conference today, Chris? And what was sort of the impetus in what she accomplished?
CILLIZZA: You know, the speaker would not have done this, Rachel, if she didn‘t think that there was some political damage being done to her.
Now, let‘s put this in context. She‘s a very strong speaker. She represents a very liberal district. Nancy Pelosi is in no trouble, politically, in terms of losing either her speakership or her office, but she has taken on a little water here. Republicans have scored some political points by saying she‘s telling different stories.
She wanted to come out—and you saw she stayed very much to a script. She wanted to come out, make very clear what she knew and when she knew it, to try and clarify, and to try and rebut Republican attacks that she‘s telling different stories now than she did then.
MADDOW: Well, what was the response from congressional Republicans to this press conference?
CILLIZZA: You will not be surprised to find out that John Boehner, the House minority leader, held a press conference very soon after Speaker Pelosi, essentially saying she‘s still telling a lot of stories. He rejected the idea of a truth commission. He essentially said Nancy Pelosi knows more than she‘s letting on.
Again, we‘re really into a political fight at this point, Rachel, because we‘re all—we are all dealing—and I sense as a reporter—frustrated, but we are all dealing with a limited amount of information. We don‘t have all the CIA memos. We don‘t know who met with whom when. And until we know that, really—it‘s really a political football of: Is Nancy Pelosi telling the whole truth, has she changed her story at all or are Republicans trying to play that national security card?
MADDOW: I am trying not to read in—read anything into the fact that lightning struck behind you.
CILLIZZA: I was just going to say, there was a deluge as I walked in the studio. I was trying not to think of any bad biblical references that that might have to do with.
MADDOW: You‘re saying, we‘re really into a point where there‘s politics here and God goes—I smote thee, Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZA: At least it didn‘t hit me.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly.
Well, at the risk of getting you in further trouble with the guy upstairs, let me ask you about the politics here. I mean, Speaker Pelosi is asking for the briefings to be released. U.S. government officials are telling NBC News that there were no recordings, there were no official transcripts, so the only way to resolve this would be to gather up other people who are at this September 2002 meeting.
Is it—isn‘t it the case now that despite this attack on Pelosi to try to say everybody did it, there‘s more momentum now for more disclosures?
CILLIZZA: Oh, absolutely. You know, the White House has been relatively clear that they don‘t necessarily want to go back into this. Nancy Pelosi put a firm—a foot firmly in the “Let‘s go back and look at this” because she believes that she will be vindicated by it.
If there was not momentum for some kind of truth commission or some kind of investigation—and I would argue there wasn‘t because the White House had worked to squash that—there certainly is now. It‘s hard to have the speaker of the House, one of the most powerful politicians of the country, accuse a huge intelligence-gathering agency of misleading, of essentially lying to her and not have some sort of follow-up—some sort of impact from those words.
MADDOW: How amazing will it be if we ultimately get the truth commission or some act of furtherance on accountability here because Dick Cheney can‘t stop talking about it and because Republicans went after Nancy Pelosi on this.
CILLIZZA: I think it‘s funny.
MADDOW: Talk about backfire.
MADDOW: Chris Cillizza, White House reporter for “The Washington Post,” author of the political blog, “The Fix”—be very, very careful tonight, Chris. Thank you.
CILLIZZA: I will tread lightly. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, how goes the pitched battle for the soul of the Republican Party? Well, Rush Limbaugh is going after John McCain‘s 97-year-old mother now. Yes, way.
For a dispatch from the front: Rand Paul will be here in just a moment. He is Ron Paul‘s son. And he‘s got some news to make right here.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Still ahead: John McCain‘s mother takes on Rush Limbaugh.
And Rush Limbaugh fires back at a 97-year-old woman.
Ron Paul‘s son will also be here. He‘s ready to make some news.
And an Arkansas politician blames this TV show for making him call Chuck Schumer, “that Jew.” I swear it is not my fault.
But first, a couple of - it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. One of the most puzzling unresolved loose ends from the last election has been the strange case of Marilyn Musgrave.
Musgrave is a staunch conservative. While on the school board in Fort Morgan, Colorado, she was known for quite literally blacking out passages that she found offensive in textbooks, like blacking them out with a sharpie.
As a state legislator, she pushed for allowing concealed weapons on school campuses in Colorado. After she was elected to Congress, the first thing she did was introduce legislation banning gay marriage.
Now, Congresswoman Musgrave lost in November. She lost badly, 56 to 44 to Democrat Betsy Markey. What has made Musgrave‘s case so strange since is to this day, more than six months after the election, Musgrave still hasn‘t conceded. In fact, after the election, Musgrave just disappeared. She never so much as even thanked her staff, let alone congratulated the winner of the race.
Now, Ann Schroeder at “Politico.com” reports Musgrave has finally resurfaced, sending out a four-page, bolded, underlined, exclamation-pointed, italicized missive on letterhead that reads “Congressman Marilyn Musgrave.” In the letter, Ms. Musgrave announces a new project to expose, in her words, “pro-abortion politicians.”
The project is called “Votes Have Consequences.” She also explains that she lost re-election because, quote, “The radical homosexual lobby, abortionists, gun-grabbers and all the rest of the extremists finally spent enough money, spread enough lies and fooled enough voters to defeat me.”
So welcome back, Marilyn Musgrave. Rep. Betsy Markey‘s office tells us you still haven‘t called to concede. If you E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we can hook you up with her number.
Finally, for those of you not familiar with the online inter-Web machine, there‘s a useful little map service provided by Google that lets you see 360-degree panoramic images of any given spot on any given street of more than 100 cities and towns across the world.
It‘s called “Street View” and looks a little something like this. This is the Street View of where I work here in New York where we shoot the show. But you can get images like this for almost anywhere. Google gets these images by sending out cars with cameras mounted on them and the cars just drive around and photograph city streets and thereby make this sort of mosaic of urban photography.
Most people think that Street View is pretty neat, myself included. But some folks also have concerns. For example, the Pentagon barred Google last year from using Street View to photograph military bases.
This year week, two whole countries moved against Google‘s Street View service. The nation of Greece, citing privacy concerns, banned Google from taking any pictures at all.
And Japan is forcing Google to retake all of its Street View pictures. In the case of Japan, they thought that the stick that the camera was mounted on that was stuck to the roof of the car that was driving around taking these pictures - they thought that that stick was too long. The camera was too high up.
It was so high up, in fact, that you could peek over people‘s fences and into their backyard, where you could see their laundry and their messy garages. And well, let‘s just say in some images, some spring cleaning was in order.
Google has agreed to re-shoot all Street View photography in Japan, except this time, they will make the pictures shorter. So if you are in Japan and you have anything embarrassing in your backyard or your garage, it‘s time to make that embarrassing thing very tall.
MADDOW: Some late breaking news in Republican Party politics, tea party 2.0 just wrapped up moments ago. It was a lot like the original tax day tea parties, only this one was held over the phone and it wasn‘t held on Tax Day. And it was convened by the governors of South Carolina and Texas.
Other than that, it was totally exactly the same. Most of the news in Republican Party politics continues to be about their internecine warfare. Tonight‘s winner of the Most Unlikely Republican Combatant Award actually goes to John McCain‘s mom who went after talk show host Rush Limbaugh on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTA MCCAIN, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN‘S MOTHER: What he thinks about or represents of the Republican Party has nothing to do with my side of it. I don‘t know what the man means. I don‘t know what he‘s talking about.
The chairman of the Republican Party Steele was exactly right when he defined this man as an entertainer. And to my horror, the Republican Party made him back up on it. Limbaugh - a compliment when you say the man is a rich entertainer. I don‘t know what he is. But he does not represent the Republican Party that I belong to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In response to that, Mr. Limbaugh remarkably went on the attack against Sen. McCain‘s 97-year-old mother.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: She‘s right, she‘s absolutely right. The Republican Party she belongs to gets shellacked election after election after election.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So the Republicans are losing elections because of people like Roberta McCain? It‘s her fault? It‘s not, say, the fault of the guys who publicly pick on 97-year-olds?
Meanwhile, a man who was once floated as a potential running mate for Roberta McCain‘s son, John, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, is getting a preview of this next election cycle. He announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate two days ago, and he‘s already facing an organized opposition campaign from the right wing of his own party.
They not only support his conservative primary challenger. They also want to deny support to the Republican Party Senate Campaign Committee for the sin of supporting Gov. Crist.
The blog “RedState.com” is decrying Crist‘s candidacy as well as the Republican Party‘s support for Mr. Crist. They have even started a Facebook group titled “Not One Penny to the National Republican Senatorial Committee” at which members pledge to give no money, no support, no aid, and no help at all to the efforts of the NRSC.
In the midst of the continuing and maybe even escalating turmoil inside the GOP, it is still not at all clear who is going to emerge as a trusted leader, as a bridge-builder or even just as a recipient of grudging respect within the party.
One possibility, as we have talked about before on this show, is the quixotic Republican libertarian conservative from Texas, Ron Paul. His presidential campaign last year engendered a surprise, genuinely youth-driven grassroots movement not seen in the Republican Party since Goldwater.
And here‘s where it could get really interesting in 2010. Ron Paul‘s son, who is also a surgeon, worked on his father‘s campaign. He shares many of his father‘s political views. And he‘s making his debut appearance on this show right now. Dr. Rand Paul, thank you so much for being here tonight. It‘s nice to see you.
DR. RAND PAUL, SON OF REP. RON PAUL: Hey, Rachel. Good to be with you this evening.
MADDOW: I want to start by asking you the same question I asked your father the last time he was on this show. I want to ask you if you agree with that assessment of the Republican Party I just laid out, that there‘s some turmoil right now over the party‘s identity.
PAUL: Well, I think so. I think the one thing is the Republican Party has lost their mojo. They‘ve got to find their mojo, and they sure aren‘t going to find it attacking 97-year-old grandmas. So I think we have to do a little better than that.
As I‘ve gone around the country and the state, I think really the problem is believability. We‘ve lost our believability. It‘s not that our message is so bad, but we‘ve said we‘re fiscal conservatives and then doubled the deficit.
President Obama recognizes this and he points at us and says, “Look, who are you to criticize my spending? You guys doubled the deficit on your watch.” So I think it‘s going to take some new people, somebody outside the traditional politician to do something good for the Republican Party.
MADDOW: I have talked about this a number of times on this show and I‘ve hosted your father a couple of times on this show because I felt like I saw some real mojo in the Republican Party around his presidential campaign. What do you think was behind the popularity of that campaign and the renewed interest in his ideas that we‘re seeing right now among Republicans?
PAUL: Well, I think it was kind of interesting that some of the people who came to it. Some came from the left. Some came from the right. A lot of young kids came on the war issue. But interestingly, I was in a house party in New Hampshire and a young kid came up to me. And he had long hair and he had a lip ring. And he didn‘t look like what you saw at your traditional Republican Party meeting.
And he said, “You know, I came to this - came to believe in what your dad was doing because of the war issue.” But he said, “You know what I‘m concerned about?” This is a 19-year-old kid. He says, “I‘m most concerned about the devaluation of the dollar.”
And I just laughed because people come from all walks of life. My father says liberty or freedom brings people together. And I think it does. I think they - young people like consistency, too. They like someone who says, “Well, you know, I‘m for economic liberty.” And the Republicans kind of are. But I‘m also for personal liberty.
The Democrats often are for civil liberties or personal liberties, but they kind of forget about the guy who owns the Pizza Hut and doesn‘t want to be overregulated. So I think we need to get a little bit of both.
And I think the joining of the two together could be a very popular message. So I think it‘s a matter of somebody‘s got to present the message better of the Republican Party. Maybe it‘s slightly different. But we‘ve got to get away from going around justifying torture as our main message. And I think we‘ve got to come out with a better spokesman for our party.
MADDOW: Speaking of which, Dr. Paul, I understand that you yourself have some political ambitions. I was hoping you might talk about those tonight on this show.
PAUL: Yes, I do. I‘m happy tonight to announce on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW that I‘m forming an exploratory committee to run for the U.S. Senate. We‘ve launched our Web site tonight “RandPaul2010.com.” I‘ve got some really old political hacks in California, age 24 and 25, who have started up this Web site.
You know how they say, if you‘re over 30, you‘re way old in the computer business. So we‘ve got some mature 24 and 25-year-olds putting this Web site together for us.
MADDOW: Now, you have said in the past that you were waiting to decide whether or not to run based on whether or not the incumbent senator in your state, Jim Bunning, was going to decide to retire. Has that situation changed? Are you willing to run against Sen. Bunning if he stays in?
PAUL: No, I still think that Sen. Bunning did a good job voting against the bank bailout. And I‘ve gone around the state saying good things about him. I think the problem is that every time a reporter asks him, “Bunning, are you running?” their follow-up question is, “Jim, are you really running?”
He‘s done some unusual things in the sense that he‘s encouraged another candidate to get in the race and start raising money other than myself as long as they sort of promise they won‘t run if he keeps running. But that does more to engender doubt about whether he stays in it.
And what I hate to see is a politician who might go all the way up to the deadline and pull their papers out an hour before. And then, you have one candidate and there‘s no real primary.
And I think the Republican Party is shrinking. As I traveled around the country, I said to people the real message or the real news story is not who is winning the Republican primaries but how small the primary is becoming.
I went to a bunch of Republican states, traditional Republican states, and in every one of them, the Democrat primary was bigger than the Republican primary. There‘s something bad going on and we need to change it, or we won‘t be a party anymore.
MADDOW: Dr. Rand Paul, thank you so much for joining us tonight and good luck to you. I hope to have you back on the show soon.
PAUL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: The latest Republican macaca moment was spawned apparently by something that happened on this show. At least, that‘s what the perpetrator is claiming. That story is coming up next.
And then, later, Kent Jones and nudity. That‘s all I‘m saying.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) n
MADDOW: As the Republican Party continues to wander in the political wilderness, one relic of the Bush administration has made his way back into the halls of power, this time as a witness. Karl Rove will testify before special prosecutor Nora Dannehy tomorrow. She‘s investigating whether Justice Department or White House officials lied during previous investigations into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.
For more on this developing story and this developing case, I‘ll be joined tomorrow night on this show by one of those fired lawyers, former New Mexico U.S. attorney, David Iglesias.
MADDOW: After Republican presidential hopeful George Allen‘s macaca moment, the National Republican Senatorial Committee posted guidelines on their Web site advising Republican candidates how to avoid similar pitfalls.
It appears Arkansas State Senator Kim Hendren who is trying to join the U.S. Senate maybe hasn‘t read those guidelines. During a heated meeting of the Pulaski County GOP in Arkansas last week, Mr. Hendren referred to Sen. Charles Schumer of New York as, quote, “that Jew.”
Mr. Hendren now says he regrets what he said, telling reporter Zach Stovall of “Arkansas News Bureau” who will join us shortly, quote, “I don‘t speak with a teleprompter. And if I had that reference would have never made it in there. I know I referred to him as Jew or Jewish and I should not have done that. I got my foot in my mouth. I don‘t care if he‘s Jewish, Muslim, Catholic or whatever. Although I said there was another Jew that I did agree with, and that was Jesus Christ.”
Sen. Schumer has accepted the apology from Mr. Hendren. But what prompted that epithet in the first place? What was Mr. Hendren so worked up about? He says he was responding to remarks that Sen. Schumer made about the Republican Party and their campaigning on traditional values, remarks that were made last month on this show. I‘m somehow responsible for the “that Jew” thing?
As promised, we‘re joined now by Zach Stovall, staff reporter and Web content editor for the “Arkansas News Bureau” who spoke with the State Senator Kim Hendren earlier today. Mr. Stovall, thanks very much for joining us.
ZACH STOVALL, STAFF REPORTER AND WEB CONTENT EDITOR, “ARKANSAS NEWS
BUREAU”: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did State Senator Kim Hendren tell you what Sen. Schumer‘s Jewish heritage had to do with what he said on our air, why he brought it up?
STOVALL: He did not. He said that he had - that he had read that Sen. Schumer was, in fact, Jewish somewhere before. And then, referring to two points did he make on your show about the waning of traditional values and strong military - or strong foreign presence, excuse me.
He was saying that he was referring to him in that sense. Nowhere did he mention to where Judaism or whatever Sen. Schumer practices where that came in. I think it was interjected in his mind. And he‘s known, as he will admit, that he is prone to gaffes and prone to making statements that perhaps ought not to be made for a politician.
MADDOW: Do the gaffes and his sort of foot-in-mouth thing he is usually known - do they often include the word “Jew?” I mean, is this the first time “Jew” has come up in the foot-in-mouth thing?
STOVALL: I don‘t think so, not that I‘ve heard of. This is a pretty big slip-up that he, himself, readily admitted, this story was not out. It was a Republican-only meeting with no media present there. The only thing that alerted anyone was that there were Twitter posts saying he was getting quote, unquote “eaten alive” by some over an issue of raising taxes which he had done in the Arkansas legislature.
From that point, a local blogger Jason Tolbert of “The Tolbert Report” called him to find out, you know, what was going on, basically what happened that was so devastating with the back-and-forth between those attending the meeting who were kind of mad at him about the tax hike, and then Kim Hendren. He admittedly admitted this. It came out.
MADDOW: He brought it up himself.
STOVALL: He brought it up himself. It‘s a sort of shot-in-the-foot macaca.
MADDOW: Zach, I‘ve got to ask what Sen. Hendren‘s chances are at unseating Blanche Lincoln in 2010.
STOVALL: Well, you‘ve got to think, not as good as they were before last week, at the very least. Some around here saying that, perhaps - he might not be a candidate by this time next week. But at that time, he‘s the only Republican candidate who has announced.
There are several names floating around - State Senator Gilbert Baker, Tim Griffin, a former U.S. Attorney, those names are floating around but he‘s the only one who‘s actually stepped up to the plate at this point.
MADDOW: Finally, Zach, did he say that he‘s a fan of this show? Did he share with you how he came to be watching this - what happened?
STOVALL: He didn‘t say. He did not say that he was a - whether he‘s a fan or not.
MADDOW: All right. Zach Stovall, staff reporter and Web content editor for “The Arkansas News Bureau,” thank you so much for your time tonight.
STOVALL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: It‘s nice to see you. And I‘ve got to say to Sen. Hendren - hi! It‘s nice to meet you this way.
All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Sarah Palin is now palling around with a new pal who is against gay marriage, blond and wears a sash. Guess who.
Next on this show, our special correspondent Kent Jones slides right into a home plate of naked baseball.
MADDOW: We turn now to our clothing optional correspondent -
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Oh, my goodness.
MADDOW: Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
JONES: Hi, Rachel. From Citi Field, the new stadium of the New York Mets, here‘s the stirring story of a 29-year-old plumber from Queens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over): Craig Cokely(ph) had a dream.
CRAIG COKELY, PLUMBER FROM QUEENS: I‘m about to be the first person to streak on Citi Field.
JONES: He had been planning this moment for eight years. And finally, on May 12th, 2009, with “Let‘s Go Mets” written on his back, and a stuffed monkey tied around his waist, Craig Cokely took off everything, and slid into history.
With this open-air romp, Cokely joined the proud legacy of fans who ask the question, “How much do I love my team?” This much. Sometimes, clothing is optional. What human activity isn‘t made extra special by someone interrupting it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To learn what this federal complaint - oh, my goodness.
JONES: This bold expression of fan-hood extends beyond the fields of competition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite likely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘ve got a puppy-streaker on the field.
JONES: It‘s natural. It‘s right. This is how we are - free, nude, and sometimes really drunk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re going streaking!
JONES: Craig Cokely, your dream is ours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Imagine the bravery it takes to slide into second while naked.
JONES: Or something, yes.
MADDOW: Wow. Incredible. Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: Stirring in a number of different ways.
JONES: Choked up.
MADDOW: All right. Cocktail moment for you.
MADDOW: I want you to highlight an entry in the progressive automotive X prize.
JONES: All right.
MADDOW: It is a car.
MADDOW: It is called the Spira - S-P-I-R-A. It is made of 90 percent foam.
MADDOW: The same foam they make Crocs shoes out of - three wheels, goes 70 miles an hour and gets 100 miles per gallon. It‘s padded with six inches of foam all around it and it floats.
MADDOW: Yes. Awkwardly the slogan for the company is “Spira - soft, safe, sexy.”
JONES: I was with you until then.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks, Kent. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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