'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Friday, May 22
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Guests: Kent Jones, Douglas Wilder, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Didier Lefevre, Juliette Fournot, Emmanuel Guibert
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you for tuning in for the next hour. We have sort of an amazing show over the next hour.
At Liberty University, as Keith said, you are free to be many things. It is, after all, called Liberty University. But you are not free to be a Democrat on campus. That amazing story is ahead.
As is the official speed reader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee here with us live, this hour.
Also, Dick Cheney is being seriously floated as a campaign surrogate for Republican candidates—which is, of course, making Democrats very happy.
That is all ahead this hour.
But we begin tonight with what is quickly becoming the Republican Party‘s presumptive next presidential ticket: Cheney/Gingrich 2012. The two most visible Republicans in the country right now, the faces and voices being presented as counterpoint to President Obama—are Gerald Ford‘s former chief of staff and the early ‘90s era speaker of the House who led the Republican revolution to Republican revolutions ago.
Between them, Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich hold as much official power as our recently-graduated college intern, Michael, who works part-time at a bar. Neither Mr. Gingrich nor Mr. Cheney hold any office.
But, boy howdy, have current Republican office-holders embraced them. Former Vice President Cheney‘s national security speech yesterday at a D.C. think tank—that was promoted by the media and by Republicans as the Republican alternative to President Obama‘s speech on the same subject. Obama v. Cheney, Cheney v. Obama.
And the Cheney cheering section is not just his own family any more
it‘s stock with Republicans who actually have been elected to public office. South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune, for example, said, quote, “On this issue, I think he‘s viewed by people across the country as being very credible and very knowledgeable. What he says carries a lot of weight.”
Credible and knowledgeable? Compared to what? A fruit fly?
Credible and knowledgeable? This guy?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Credible and knowledgeable. He is as credible and knowledgeable on national security as I am on baking or string theory.
Nevertheless, Republicans are rejecting earlier common wisdom that Cheney was political toxic waste. They are now embracing him to the point where they are considering deploying him as a campaign asset in the next election cycle. That‘s according to Senator John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Asked if Cheney would be a good surrogate for candidates, Cornyn said, quote, “I think it depends on the circumstance on the race. But I‘d be proud to appear with the vice president anywhere, any time.”
That noise you hear in the distant is the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee popping champagne and renting party boats.
Mr. Cheney has been omnipresent over the past few weeks. He‘s unavoidable. CNN, FOX News, a radio station in North Dakota, CBS, FOX News again, the big televised speech he did at the American Enterprise Institute, he‘s done all of these things just in the last couple of weeks.
And it‘s not just him, it‘s his daughter, too. Liz and Dick Cheney have become TV tag team partners. Her recent appearances, MSNBC, FOX News, FOX News, FOX News, ABC, FOX News, MSNBC, FOX News, CNN—and today, appearances on CNN, ABC, and MSNBC. That last one—for an entire hour. This morning, Liz Cheney was on ABC‘s “Good Morning America” and she got in a big fight with Lawrence O‘Donnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY‘S DAUGHTER: The question of whether or not enhanced interrogation is torture has been answered and it has been answered legally. And it‘s not that Cheney or President Bush or anybody else believed it to be torture. The Justice Department .
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Are you afraid of calling .
CHENEY: No, waterboarding is not torture. Lawrence, if you‘d let me answer here.
CHENEY: Waterboarding is not torture. And you also—I would refer you to Attorney General Holder‘s testimony .
O‘DONNELL: Why has this country prosecuted people for waterboarding? Why did we do that?
CHENEY: Lawrence—because they did a number of other things in addition to waterboarding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh. Yes, waterboarding is not torture. We prosecuted people for other stuff. You know, waterboarding was just a coincidence with those prosecutions, really.
Between Cheney and his family, really their only competition in terms of pure visibility on behalf of the Republican Party right now is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who has been on NBC, FOX News, FOX News, ABC Radio, FOX News, “The Daily Show,” ABC, FOX News. The ongoing theme of Mr. Gingrich‘s recent TV appearances is this jeremiad he‘s on that Nancy Pelosi should resign her position as speaker of the House.
Why does he think she should resign?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, ® FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: In trying to defend herself, she went on to say that the CIA lies all the time to Congress. That is a terrible falsehood.
She defamed, she smeared every single person who works for the CIA everywhere in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: She defamed, she smeared every single person who works for the CIA everywhere in the world.
The same guy who delivered that shiny gold nugget of overreaching, overstated political opportunistic nonsense wrote this about a National Intelligence Estimate in 2007. He wrote, quote, “The NIE is so professionally unworthy, so intellectually indefensible and so fundamentally misleading that it is damaging to our national security.” Thus, smearing all 16 of America‘s intelligence agencies who contribute to things like the National Intelligence Estimate.
Mr. Gingrich has embarrassed himself with jeremiad against Pelosi, by calling for Pelosi‘s resignation. Even his fellow Republicans are telling Politico.com today that they are worried that they and he have overplayed their hand on this a bit.
Nevertheless, despite that embarrassment, when the Republican party was in need of someone to debate health care with Democrat Dick Durbin on this weekend‘s “Meet the Press,” they picked—drum roll please—Newt Gingrich. Yes. The Republican Party has their leaders and they‘re sticking with them. Cheney/Gingrich 2012 -- why not?
Joining us now is Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com.
Joan, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
OLBERMANN: So, the common wisdom here is that Gingrich and Cheney are some of the least popular humans in the world country and the Republican Party is hurt by them appearing to be the leadership of the party. But we‘re actually seeing Cheney‘s approval rating tick up a little bit recently.
Is it possible that the common wisdom is wrong and these guys could be good for the Republicans right now?
WALSH: I don‘t think in the long run. I mean, this is their back to the future tour and I don‘t think it can help them. What you‘ve got right now in the Republican Party is a party that‘s out of leaders, it‘s out of ideas, and so they‘ve thrown up these two have-beens or they‘ve nominated themselves to go out on this trashing tour, trash-talking the Democrats. And, you know, I think it will not last.
The problem is, I do think, it‘s mixed because I think it does hurt Obama. He‘s having to answer Dick Cheney, although he‘s trying to act like he‘s not, and that‘s never good. I think there‘s a possibility that you could even blame his centrism on the terror issues and “preventive detention”—my God, whoever thought we would see this, on the constant hazing of Dick Cheney.
But here‘s the bottom line, Rachel. Dick Cheney may hurt Obama in small ways, but they don‘t have anybody to come back with. They don‘t—
Newt Gingrich will never be our president. Trust me. Put all your money on anybody but Gingrich. He cannot be elected in this country.
So, they really have nobody to serve up in 2012. And so, even if these guys kind of soften up Obama and make our political discourse ugly for the next three years, I don‘t think that there‘s any—they‘re not going to get any traction because they have no leader.
MADDOW: So, in terms of the Republican Party coming back—which, of course, it eventually will—do you think that having Gingrich and Cheney in their leadership roles right now, does that mean that the Republican Party comes back like the party of Gingrich and Cheney, like the party of Gerald ford‘s chief of staff and the House Speaker from 1994? Or do these guys essentially hold a place and then they get supplanted by something totally new?
WALSH: Well, I just don‘t know what the totally new is. I think—
I don‘t think Cheney has any intentions of ever running, but Gingrich has not quite declared, but he would like to be president. So, he‘s not holding a place for anybody new. He‘s going to be out there throwing his elbows and making a problem of himself.
Would the party ever get anybody younger, fresher, with better ideas, and a more conciliatory style, I just—you know, I think that the Obama election told us that people want change and people were in the mood for something new.
And the Republican Party, they‘ve trashed Sarah Palin—like her or not, she could have been an appealing figure but they put her up too soon and then they tore her apart when she didn‘t do all that well on the national stage. Poor Bobby Jindal got thrown before the lions and didn‘t perform. Michael Steele is a punch line.
So, I don‘t—I think they‘re in a tough place, and, you know, the bottom line is, except for this notion of fear and trying to scare us all, they‘re out of ideas. They have no policy on reforming the economy, improving the economy. They have nothing to say on health care. They‘re really lost in the wilderness.
And I think you saw with the Democrats for years that people thought it was about leadership, style, oh, John Kerry wasn‘t quite the right guy. But it really is a question of articulating a vision for the future, and Obama did that. The Republicans have no one who‘s doing that right now.
MADDOW: Yes, and, of course, remarkably, President Bush is absolutely nowhere to be found, President Bush, his big public appearance this week was speaking to high school students in New Mexico. He‘s at least decided to keep his head down on this.
MADDOW: Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com—thank you so much for your time tonight. Have a great weekend.
WALSH: You too, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: The late Jerry Falwell‘s evangelical Liberty University has kicked the college Democrats off campus, saying it is impossible to be a Democrat and be within the Christian doctrine that is the mission of the school. In other words, who would Jesus ban? Who would Jesus deprive of the freedom of assembly? That‘s next.
And later, the Republican Party‘s latest ad compares putting terrorists in prison to nuclear annihilation. In related news, after a long battle against obviousness, subtlety has died. Stay with us.
But first, One More Thing—scratch that—three more things about Dick Cheney‘s popularity among Republicans. It turns out, moderate-ish Republicans, like Senator John McCain, Tom Ridge, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, are not so gung-ho about Cheney‘s recent appearances.
Now, how am I going to tell this story in 30 seconds? Do we have a speed reader in the house by any chance? Anybody? OK. Yes.
Hey, it‘s Douglas Wilder, the official speed reader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The man they hired to speed read the 946-page global warming bill in the committee yesterday.
Doug, we are up against a commercial break here. Can you help out with our three more things?
DOUGLAS WILDER, HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE CMTE. SPEED READER: No problem, Rachel. In the matter of (READING). There you have it, Rachel, 0-for-3 (ph) among these moderate Republican.
MADDOW: That was amazing, Doug. Thank you very much.
Doug Wilder will be back to put more of his talents on display in just a moment. Stick around! Stick around! Stick around!
MADDOW: Televangelist Oral Roberts founded the Oral Roberts University in 1963. Oral Roberts University is known for its sci-fi architecture, including a giant hand model of Oral Roberts‘ praying hands that is about the size of a house. It‘s also known for a really embarrassing financial scandal involving Oral Roberts‘ son.
Televangelist Pat Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network University, which begat Regent University in 1977. That‘s known for the Bush administration hiring more than 150 Regent alumni to staff the upper-tiers of the federal government, including Monica Goodling, who is seen here taking the Fifth in the U.S. attorneys scandal.
Televangelist Jerry Falwell founded the Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 which begat Liberty Baptist College in 1976, which begot Liberty University in 1985. Liberty is a big school, more than 11,000 students enrolled there last year. It‘s known for being the university founded by Jerry Falwell. It‘s also known for the auspicious decision to name its sports teams “The Flames.”
And, Liberty University is about to become famous for something else. They have banned Democrats on campus. Literally. Not hyperbole.
The school revoked its recognition of the Liberty University Democratic Club on moral grounds, sending an e-mail to the president of the club that read, quote, “We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University.” Adding, quote, “The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the ‘LGBT‘ agenda, hate crimes which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, et cetera.)”
The 30 members of the Liberty University Campus Democrats can no longer use Liberty in their name. They can no longer advertise events. They basically can‘t use the word “Liberty” and “Democrat” in the same sentence.
So, students, can you enjoy all the Liberty you want as long as you belong to the only political party allowed on campus.
Joining us now is Brian Diaz. He is president of what used to be the Liberty University Democratic Club.
Mr. Diaz, welcome to you. Thank you for being here.
BRIAN DIAZ, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY DEMOCRATIC CLUB PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Liberty University did formally recognize your club in October, right? But is it—have they somehow unrecognized you?
DIAZ: Well, basically, they sent me an e-mail around May 15th saying that we are not going to be recognized by the university as a club and official organization. So .
MADDOW: Are you—how do you feel about that?
DIAZ: Personally, shocked and—I‘m just shocked. That‘s just to say the least.
MADDOW: Are there—I‘m guessing that there is a campus Republican Club. Have they also had their recognition revoked?
DIAZ: No. They‘re still on campus.
MADDOW: I understand the Liberty University is a private school. But it‘s tax-exempt, you can get federally-supported student loans to attend Liberty. Do you think that Liberty is violating rights that you should have protected?
DIAZ: Oh, I don‘t know about that, but I think that, you know, you should definitely be equal and show both sides of the issues equally.
MADDOW: I know that just last month, the Virginia Young Democrats Convention gave you guys the up and coming Chapter of the Year Award.
MADDOW: Are you getting any help from the Democratic Party?
DIAZ: Basically, we‘ve been in contact with Virginia Young Democrats and we‘ve gotten some recognition from some gubernatorial candidates, Terry McAuliffe and a person running for lieutenant governor, Mike Signer. But basically, that‘s it.
MADDOW: Earlier this week, officials at Brigham Young University told “The Associated Press” that they dissolved both the college Democrats and the college Republicans. But, in that case—in your case, it was just the college Democrats. Would this actually—do you think this would actually be better if they had dissolved both party groups?
DIAZ: Well, I think that you definitely—if you‘re showing one side of the issue, you need to show the other side as well, and equally. And I think that it‘s definitely a shame that they won‘t do that.
MADDOW: How are you going to fight this, Brian?
DIAZ: Well, we‘ve been in contact with a couple of people. Virginia Young Democrats actually has a petition up on their Web site, VAYD.org, and we‘ve been in contact with local Lynchburg people. They‘re great. And they support us and they‘re definitely out there with the fight.
And basically, hopefully, we can just pressure the school to reinstate us back in as a club.
MADDOW: I doubt that they are ever persuaded by anything that happens on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, but to the extent that we can help, I hope you‘ll let us know.
DIAZ: Thank you.
MADDOW: Brian Diaz is president of what used to be the Liberty University Democratic Club.
OK. Coming up: The Republican Party releases a new ad—outdoing themselves—in their efforts to make you terrified of Barack Obama. Did I mention that he wants to kill the whole world? They have the documentation of it. That‘s coming up.
Plus, very important, fast news about speed reading in Congress—that‘s next.
MADDOW: Still ahead: Texas Governor Rick Perry stars in our weak, W-E-A-K—weak in review. Guess who‘s taking the stimulus money? And guess what it‘s for. A very embarrassing Texas story—coming up.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
As we head into this Memorial Day weekend, at least 300 people are likely to be showing their personal appreciation to one member of the U.S. Armed Services. He is Air Force Staff Sergeant Bartek Bachleda. He‘s part of an air-refueling squadron in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Japan. And recently, he was a passenger on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Tokyo.
On the flight, from his window seat, Sergeant Bachleda noticed something that looked like white smoke coming from the left side of the plane. He saw it at takeoff and again at 30,000 feet. Since he‘s part of an air-refueling squadron, he was pretty sure he knew what he was looking at. Sergeant Bachleda‘s job is operating the refueling boom from midair plane-to-plane refueling maneuvers.
He knows what it looks like when a plane has a fuel leak. When he saw the white smoke look off the side of the plane, he thought, that‘s a fuel leak—a big one. Sergeant Bachleda hit the flight attendant call button. And the flight attendant came right over and said, “Sir, I‘m handing out drinks, I‘ll be right back with you.” Mr. Bachleda then got out his camera or his cell phone and videotaped the leak.
He then called the flight attendant back to his seat and said, “Ma‘am, it‘s an emergency.” He identified himself as a member of the Air Force and showed her the video he had taken of the leak. To her credit, the flight attendant stopped serving drinks and alerted the captain.
United says the flight crew was already aware of the problem. The captain decided that heading out over the Pacific Ocean for the flight to Japan would be a bad idea with the big fuel leak. They diverted the plane to land in San Francisco. The airman was put up in a hotel for the night and was given a seat in first class the next day when he resumed his trip.
Well done, Sergeant.
And the House Energy and Commerce Committee has passed what “The New York Times” calls the most ambitious energy and global warming legislation ever debated in Congress. As it moves on through Congress now, Republicans are expected to throw everything they‘ve got at stopping the legislation, which would—which would—you know, I actually think we‘re going to run out of time before the commercial trying to go through the bill.
So, let‘s bring in Doug Wilder, the speed reader hired by House Democrats in case Republicans tried to block passage through slow down and read it out loud tactics.
Mr. Wilder, please, take it away.
(APPLAUSE AND LAUGHTER)
MADDOW: I never could have done that without you. Doug Wilder, thank you so much. I really appreciate that. That‘s very handy.
WILDER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Can I ask you how you got this job on the Energy and Commerce Committee?
WILDER: Yes, I actually am an actor in D.C. and my friend, Matt Isenberg, who‘s also an actor who works on the committee called me and said, “We need somebody who can read really fast and who has the stamina to read a huge bill.” And he explained the circumstances and—so I went in and I read the bill.
And they were looking for somebody who could read at 40 seconds a page and then my first effort was 40 seconds a page. And then, over the course of the week, I was able to get down to 32, 33 seconds a page.
MADDOW: How did you get your speed down so fast? How did you—how did you practice to get better at it?
WILDER: Well, I do some tongue twisters. I was trying to do tongue twisters as fast as I can, because when I run into words like carbon sequestration and hydrochlorofluoro-carbons, it got a little tough.
MADDOW: Can you give—what are some of the tongue twisters you practice on?
WILDER: I can do one if you want.
MADDOW: And that‘s what makes you strong. Doing that makes you—it builds up your face in some way?
WILDER: I don‘t—I don‘t know. I don‘t know, you know, I‘m not -
I‘m not really trained as a speed reader, I just happened to stumble into a skill that I guess I have.
MADDOW: Are they paying you per minute or per page?
WILDER: They pay per hour.
MADDOW: Oh, the incentives are all wrong there.
WILDER: Yes, well .
MADDOW: You know what I mean, right?
MADDOW: I mean, they should pay you per fewer hours. Well, let me just ask you, would you—this is your first-ever paid speed reading gig, which means I was wrong to describe you .
MADDOW: . as a speed reading professional before when we first covered this story. Would you ever take another speed reading gig? Do you sort of like the work?
WILDER: Absolutely. I mean, it‘s a blast, and, you know, I mean, if it‘s a skill that you have—market it?
MADDOW: I guess. Well, you have done so very effectively on this show, Doug. Thank you so much for being on the show, and good luck to you.
WILDER: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Douglas Wilder, the only congressional speed reader America has or needs.
All right. Since America refuses to be petrified of Barack Obama, the Republican Party have updated one of their most notorious fear-mongering ads of all time.
Stay tuned to learn what to be afraid of now. And if you don‘t stay tuned I can‘t promise that horrible things won‘t happen to you.
MADDOW: If you can spare 17 seconds, I want to share with you what I think is one of the strangest, most ambitious, horribly bizarre political ads ever aired on American television.
It‘s an old one - it‘s from 1968 when Democrats Hubert Humphrey and Ed Muskie were running against Richard Nixon and - well, check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CAPTION READS: Agnew for vice president. This would be funny if it weren‘t so serious.)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Notice how it ends just as the laughing guy starts retching? It‘s classy can a K, right? The guy who created that ad in 1968 also worked on arguably the most famous political ad of all time which ran only once in 1964 as part of Lyndon Johnson‘s campaign against Barry Goldwater.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIRGITTE OLSEN, CHILD ACTRESS: One, two, three, four, five, seven, six,
six, eight, nine, nine -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT (voice-over): These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God‘s children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.
CHRIS SCHENKEL, SPORTSCASTER (voice-over): Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The reason the “Daisy Ad” is the most famous political ad of all time is because it is the paragon of the “Be afraid, vote for us” strategy. “Daisy” was widely seen as completely over the top, extreme exploitation of Americans‘ fears. That‘s why it only ran once.
But today, completely over the top, extreme exploitation of Americans‘
fears is not really a problem anymore. As the Republican Party adopts this
as their new theme song -
“Be afraid, vote for us.” I‘m not going to play the entire ad again, but remember, this is how the Republican Party has been campaigning thus far on the issue of Guantanamo.
The feeling of fear, anxiety you might be experiencing watching that - it‘s because of the scary music. It‘s not because of the argument they‘re making in the ad. The argument they‘re making is about how scary it is that bad guys might be put into American prisons, which is actually not that scary an idea.
As “The Washington Post” headline conveniently pointed out today, “Supermax Prisons in U.S. Already Hold Terrorists.” Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Richard Reid, Ramzi Yousef, Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard Ramirez, Eric Rudolph, Charles Manson - all some examples of bad guys who have been safely held in U.S. prisons without us having that horrible agita(ph) feeling that “O Fortuna” gives us.
But the Republicans think that there‘s some “Be afraid, vote for us” blood still available to be wrung from this stone, so they have doubled down. They‘re not content to be simply inspired by the over the top, extreme exploitation of American fears symbolized from the “Daisy Ad” from 1968.
They‘re not content to have the symbolism, to have the inspiration. They‘re now using actual footage from that actual 1968 ad in their Guantanamo campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To close it, to close it not -
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Guantanamo - that‘s easy. Close down Guantanamo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To close it, to close it not -
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): I don‘t believe they should come to the United States.
SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We will never allow terrorists released into the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To close it, to close it not -
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We‘ve made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantanamo Bay, obviously, is one of those decisions.
JOHNSON (voice-over): These are the stakes!
OBAMA: Guantanamo - that‘s easy. Close down Guantanamo.
(CAPTION READS: Really?)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of course, the argument that Robert Gibbs was saying had been taken - the decision that was hasty, was the Bush administration‘s decision to open Guantanamo. The argument of that ad really is that putting more terrorists in American prisons is the same thing as the nuclear annihilation of the whole world.
Today‘s Republican Party brought to you by fear. Scaring people into getting in line since the first time god ever smoked something.
Joining us now is Melissa Harris Lacewell professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University. Melissa, thank you for coming on the show.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN
STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. Glad to be here.
MADDOW: Can we start with a little experiment?
MADDOW: We‘re going to play “O, Fortuna” in the studio. Go ahead. Can we play it?
Even though I‘ve been playing this over and over and over again on the show, trying to inure myself to the effect, the sound of it does make me feel scared. And it makes me wonder if maybe Republicans are being sort of smart here. I mean - kill it. It‘s going to make me upset. Fear is powerful.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Sure. They‘re not dumb. So the worst thing that we could do would be to underestimate the GOP and to think that just because there was a loss in 2008 that they‘ve lost their capacity to communicate with the American people.
I was a little afraid watching Dick Cheney give his rebuttal to Barack Obama. I was afraid because he was talking about being in a bunker and I kept thinking, you know, I don‘t get to be in a bunker.
If something goes wrong next time - you know, we live right here in the New York area. I‘m not going to be whisked away; neither is my 7-year-old daughter or my friends or family.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: So I mean, there is something scary about living in the terrorist age and recognizing America is now part of that.
MADDOW: Do you think that there‘s a connection between the Republican Party really doubling down on this “be afraid” theme? To the point of safely parody, is there a connection between that and Dick Cheney being the most visible representative of the party now?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Sure. And there‘s also a connection between those things and the Democrats actually cowering in the corner and appearing to be afraid.
MADDOW: Like on what?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: So let‘s take Guantanamo and let‘s take Democrats defecting from their president on the question of closing Guantanamo and seeming to, in fact, give credence to this idea that any one of them might end up with the Willie Horton ad played against them in their Senate reelection campaign.
Their great fear is that some member of - some detainee from Guantanamo will end up in their backyard, in their supermax. Something will happen, and it will be used against them in a Willie Horton manner in their reelection.
And so they‘re cowering, rather than saying - you know, there‘s only one thing that can be true here. Either a president is not responsible for security breaches that occur in his administration until September 12th, or 9/11 happened when Bush and Cheney were on the watch.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: I mean, those are the only possibilities. So I don‘t know why they don‘t push back, that if we are to be afraid of anyone, we should be afraid of the people who let 9/11 happen when they had been in office twice as long as Barack Obama has been in office.
MADDOW: If we take them on their own terms about what people are responsible for. Overall on the issue of Guantanamo, the Republicans are pressing here because they feel there is an advantage to press.
And when the president isn‘t able to convince even members of his own party to stick with him on something like this, it actually does say something about his leadership capacity on this.
I don‘t know - even regardless of the wisdom of the policy choices that he is making, it seems to me like he‘s not very - he‘s not a very good political leader on this issue because he‘s not able to bring very many people along with him on this issue.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it is possible that this is a failure of Obama‘s leadership. It‘s also possible that Barack Obama is wrong. But what I‘m going to say, if he‘s running a basketball cabinet, everybody needs to be watching the finals together.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: And the reason they need to be doing it is because - the reason Barack Obama is president is because he out-maneuvered everyone in the Democratic Party to win the nomination and everyone in the Republican Party to win. He‘s their go-to guy. Give him the rock.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Get behind Pelosi. Get behind Barack Obama. These are your leaders. This is your team.
MADDOW: And it ought to be judged - Democrats ought to be judged in terms of their leadership skills on how well they‘re able to recognize what the agenda is of the day, particularly an alternative to it or be coherent in their support and we‘re not getting that either.
MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton University, thank you so much for joining us.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Of course -
MADDOW: Great to have you here.
MADDOW: Coming up, you did not wake up thinking about your next guests, I can practically guarantee it. However, after you hear and see their story, you may fall asleep amazed by them. You will want to stick around.
Plus, Kent Jones will be here with the “Weak in Review.” It was a banner seven days of weak-itude. Stick around.
But first, one more thing about terrifying the electorate. If liberals were like Republicans, here‘s how they would have dealt with the provision slipped into the new Credit Card Bill that inexplicably makes it legal to carry loaded concealed weapons in national parks.
National parks, turned to national nightmares. Instruments of death - concealed and loaded weapons, allowed among our children while they play in America‘s backyard. What can a weapon do?
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JOHNSON: These are the stakes!
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MADDOW: See, that‘s how the Republicans would have played that. It would have totally worked, too.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party continues its search for meaning in the political minority, the latest opinion research survey shows George W. Bush‘s favorability rating at 41 percent - that is up six points since he left office. Seems the whole “no public appearances, spending a lot of time with teenagers” strategy is paying off.
By the way, the 19-year-old college student President Bush repeatedly called, who was supposed to join us on the show this week, bailed on us and decided not to come on the show after all. He probably got a more important call.
MADDOW: Whatever the toughest thing you ever did in your life was, prepare to be impressed and maybe amazed. This is the story of a walk from Pakistan into Northern Afghanistan at the height of the Soviet-Afghan war. And the walkers were armed primarily with medicine and in one case, cameras.
Here‘s the story. Twenty-three years ago French photographer Didier Lefevre joined the mission of doctors without borders - Medicins Sans Frontieres, MSF, an organization that provides care based on need all over the world and in war zones, offers care to people on all sides of the conflict, combatant or noncombatant.
Their mission to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan was so harrowing that you might not believe me if I tried to retell it to you today. Fortunately for us, there is a photographic record of the entire trip.
Didier Lefevre died in 2007. But before he did, he and his friend Emmanuel Guibert took the pictures and seamlessly produced this hybrid book unlike anything I‘ve ever seen before. It‘s called “The Photographer.” It‘s part travelogue. It‘s part novel. It‘s part amazing war photography.
It‘s about the photographer, of course, himself, Didier Lefevre. But it‘s also about the mission that they were on as well as the person leading the mission, Dr. Juliette Fournot. She is, in some ways, the hero of the story, or at least a hero of the story.
She speaks fluent Afghan Farsi which allows her to engage with and negotiate with local leaders. And even though as a woman, she attracts a whole lot of attention. In one of the most conservative places on earth and one of the most dangerous places on earth, she is able to lead her team on its remarkable life-saving mission.
Joining us now is Juliette Fournot and Emmanuel Guibert, the man who turned Didier Lefevre‘s photographs into this incredible sort of graphic novel. I don‘t feel totally comfortable calling it a graphic novel because it‘s a lot of other things besides. But it‘s really nice to meet you both. Thank you for being here.
EMMANUEL GUIBERT, ILLUSTRATED “THE PHOTOGRAPHER”: Thank you very much.
DR. JULIETTE FOURNOT, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Thank you for having us.
MADDOW: Dr. Fournot, let me start with you. You obviously were leading this caravan and you were doing all the negotiation that needed to be done in order to ensure safe passage. You were doing things like paying the horse grooms and all the people who were traveling with you. Were you scared while you were doing this?
FOURNOT: No, I wasn‘t scared. Actually, I felt very safe.
MADDOW: Didier was scared, we know, from these photographs and from the way he describes it. Did you know that the people were you leading were scared?
FOURNOT: Actually, you know, they were taken over by the physical challenge of just setting a foot after the other, getting over seven or eight passes to reach to the clinics after 1,000 miles, 35 days‘ walk. So, the fear was not a factor.
MADDOW: Emmanuel, why did you and Didier finally decide to put this project together almost 20 years after he took the photographs? These photographs were taken in 1986. Why do this now?
GUIBERT: When he came back in ‘86 from this mission, he had taken 4,000 pictures during the mission. And he‘s been very lucky, privileged to see six of them published when he came back. And all the rest wasn‘t supposed to get out of his boxes anymore. And I felt there was some sort of injustice in that. And I proposed to him that we should make a book together to try to show the rest of the mission and make justice to this story.
MADDOW: When you were on this mission, what did you tell people in Afghanistan about what Didier was doing, why he was traveling with you, why he was taking pictures? How did you explain his presence among all of these doctors?
FOURNOT: Actually, his presence was often at the request of the Afghan population because there was almost no coverage of the war. There were very few journals and magazines or reporters that were sent by their home offices.
So that was part of the drama, and the tragedy of the Afghan population was this wall of silence. And we were some of the very, very few witnesses and westerners to enter that zone. And so we basically had to do the work that normally reporters and journalists would do.
And the Afghans had a keen understanding of the value of our witnessing and carrying the word out to the - of their suffering and what they were going through.
MADDOW: There‘s - remembering a remarkable moment in the story - in the story, which is not a story. It‘s real life but in this recollection in which people, even in moments of incredible crisis with a parent having just lost a child, asks you personally to document it, to take footage of it so that it can be seen and so that it became known publicly.
That acute sense that‘s what‘s happening in Afghanistan in all of its horror had to be known so there could be at least some awareness, if not help.
FOURNOT: Yes, and giving meaning to what they were doing. So the mother was mumbling, you know, at least she were able to record it and show it out to the world, “My child will not be dead for nothing.”
MADDOW: Dr. Juliette Fournot, Emmanuel Guibert, featured in and the creator of “The Photographer: A Journey Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders,” literally one of the most amazing publications I‘ve ever read just in terms of its style, its structure and what it tries to cover. Congratulations to both of you and continued good luck.
GUIBERT: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” a right-wing talk radio host gets waterboarded and concludes, “Hey, wow! You know, that is torture.” It took him about seven seconds to change his mind, if that.
Coming up next on this show, the funniest photograph that I or anyone has ever seen of Raul Castro, and the “Weak in Review.” It‘s all coming up.
MADDOW: Now, it is time to look back in the last seven days of public lame-itude. Here now is my friend Kent Jones with the “Weak in Review.” Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Plenty of weak-itude out there. I mean plenty. Shall we?
MADDOW: All right.
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JONES: First off crypto-secessionist of the weak. Texas Governor Rick
Perry talks a tough game about Washington and taking federal money -
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX): We think it‘s time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the State of Texas.
JONES: But now that the governor‘s mansion in Austin needs to be rebuilt - it was burned in an arson fire last summer - guess where Texas is getting $11 million for the repairs? From the federal stimulus package. Funny how the tune changes when they‘re fixing your house. Weak.
Next, American idiot of the weak. Wal-Mart refusing to sell Green Day‘s number one album, “21st Century Breakdown,” because of language and content. Green Day? What? Said lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong, “What does that say to a young kid who‘s trying to speak his mind making a record for the first time?” The “W” in Wal-Mart stands for “weak.”
And finally, Europop poseur of the weak. The Eurovision Song Contest is over, but the aroma of this musical weak-a-palooza lingers on. In case you missed it, here Sakis Rouvas singing “This is Our Night.”
I think we can all agree this Greek is weak.
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MADDOW: You know, it actually takes - it‘s a remarkable act of surgery to allow the shirt to be that perfectly unbuttoned and yet structured through all those aggressive dance moves.
JONES: He‘s a professional.
JONES: That‘s why he is where he is - certainly is.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Excellent. All right a cocktail moment for you.
MADDOW: The CLEOs kind of the Oscars of ad world.
MADDOW: And I want to show you the - some of the CLEO winners from this year in the public service division. Check this out. That is Hugo Chavez, afraid of a mouse.
MADDOW: It‘s an Internet freedom thing. Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - this is very good. And then, my favorite one is Raul Castro, terrified of a little mouse. These are all done for the International Society for Human Rights. They won CLEO Awards. I think they totally deserved them. I think they‘re brilliant. We have a link to them at our Web site, Rachel.MSNBC.com.
JONES: I fear them, too, just for the record.
MADDOW: Fair enough. I like to trap them all myself. Thank you, Kent.
Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you back here next week. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a very good long weekend. Good night.
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