'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Tuesday, June 2
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Guests: Vicki Saporta, Warren Hern, Dan Rather, Chris Hayes, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Dan Rather will also be our guest coming up this hour. We‘re very excited to have him here with us in studio.
There are lots to come in tonight‘s show. I hope you will stick with us.
We begin with new developments in the assassination of Kansas doctor, George Tiller. Today, the man accused of gunning down Dr. Tiller inside his church on Sunday, got his day in court. He is 50-year-old Scott Roeder now officially charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
Mr. Roeder first crossed path with law enforcement officials in 1996. In April of that year, he was arrested in Topeka, Kansas, when authorities found bomb-making materials in his car. He served 16 months in prison for that offense. The judge that sentenced him then called him a “threat of danger to the public.”
At that time, Mr. Roeder was listed by the FBI as a member of the Freemen group, a right-wing militia that claims to be sovereign from the government. The leader of another group called the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia said that he knew Roeder well and that he was, quote, “just so fanatic about abortion.”
Clinic workers at Central Family Medicine in Kansas City now saying Mr. Roeder became, quote, “a regular at protests there.” In 2007, someone calling himself Scott Roeder posted this message about Dr. George Tiller on an anti-abortion Web site. Quote, “Tiller needs to be stopped. Sometime soon, it would be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tiller‘s church—inside not just outside—to have much more of a presence.”
Then this past Saturday, just one day before he allegedly went inside that church and murdered Dr. Tiller, Mr. Roeder was spotted at an abortion clinic in Kansas City. He was reportedly trying to pour glue into the facility‘s locks when employees noticed what he was doing and chased him away. They say they recognized him and that he tried to do the same thing last Saturday as well. One of the employees wrote down Mr. Roeder‘s license plate number and reported the incident to the FBI.
According to CNN, “He said FBI agents told him nothing could be done with the information until a federal grand jury convened.” The next day, Scott Roeder allegedly walked into a Wichita church and executed Dr. George Tiller.
“The New York Times” reports today that, “As recently as May, Dr. Tiller reported to the FBI that wires to surveillance cameras had been cut at his clinic and that a hole has been sliced in the roof.”
We called the FBI in Kansas City for comment today. They told us that they were informed of acts of vandalism at Dr. Tiller‘s clinic in May. They also confirmed that they were notified about the incident at the Kansas City clinic with Mr. Roeder this past Saturday. But they would not comment any further, describing the incidents as ongoing matters. Of course, anything concerning threats against Dr. Tiller is no longer an ongoing matter.
The protection of health workers who provide abortion services in this country is supposed to be a federalized law enforcement effort—because of the history of terrorism against abortion providers in this country, because of the bombings and the acid attacks and kidnappings and arson and anthrax attacks—excuse me, anthrax threats and sabotage and harassment and shooting and murders, because there were seven murders of abortion clinic workers before Dr. Tiller, because these crimes are designed not only to target their exact victims but also to terrorize everyone involved in seeking or providing abortion services, because this isn‘t random.
Policing the anti-abortion terrorist movement is a federalized law enforcement responsibility. After Dr. David Gunn was gunned down in Pensacola, Florida, in 1993, Congress passed a law that made it a federal crime—a federal crime to use force to intimidate or to physically obstruct individuals from entering reproductive health care clinics.
Then, six murders later, we got an additional piece of law enforcement assistance: The Justice Department established a national task on violence against health care providers. That task force was supposed to reinvigorate federal involvement in the fight against this type of politically motivated violence, federal coordination for investigating and prosecuting anti-abortion violence, training for local law enforcement.
The task force was providing specific security tips to health care providers, just like: Do not put your name on the outside of your residence or your mailbox. Keep bomb threat/personal threat checklist by each telephone. Do not leave your car on the street overnight. Do not drive home if you are being followed.
The Justice Department task force is also supposed to, quote, “Focus on connections that may exist between individuals involved in criminal anti-abortion activities, serve as a clearinghouse for information relating to acts of violence against abortion providers, and collect and coordinate data identifying national trends related to clinic violence.”
That includes data like attempting to glue-shut the doors of abortion clinics, threats of violence on anti-abortion Web sites, publishing articles in the newsletter that argues that is justifiable homicide to kill doctors who perform abortions. How about if the guy doing all of those things also has been arrested for carrying explosives?
With all these red flags being raised about Scott Roeder, with the history of abortion-related violence we‘ve had in this country, why wasn‘t this guy stopped?
Joining us now is Dr. Warren Hern. He‘s the doctor of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado. He‘s one of the few remaining doctors in this country who perform late-term abortions. He was a close friend of Dr. George Tiller.
Dr. Hern, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And you have my condolences on the loss of your friend, Dr. Tiller.
DR. WARREN HERN, FRIEND OF GEORGE TILLER: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate it very much.
And I think you have done a superb job in the last few minutes explaining some of the background. It‘s very chilling for me as a friend of Dr. Tiller and colleague to listen to the litany of the instances in which this man displayed this kind of behavior.
And it illustrates the fact that I have been pointing out, that in addition to the incredible sadness and tragedy of Dr. Tiller‘s assassination, which has affected—devastating for his families and profoundly sad for all of us who are his friends and colleagues, that this was not the act of an isolated, single nutcase guy who just decided to go into some church and blow somebody away. This was a political assassination. It is not isolated.
It is the culmination of the inevitable result and product of 35 years of constant, relentless anti-abortion fanatics offering hate speech, hate rhetoric and violence and intimidation, assassinations and the general message that it‘s OK to kill someone like Dr. Tiller, who was a dedicated and conscientious physician, who was courageous, took great care of his patients, helped thousands of women and their families, who was a tremendous asset to our profession and our society.
So, it‘s really a tragedy and even more grotesque because the assassination occurred in church, when Dr. Tiller was unprotected and unarmed, passing out church bulletins to his fellow worshippers.
MADDOW: Dr. Hern, when you look at the federal response to this wave of anti-abortion terrorist violence that we have experienced over the last generation, on paper, the federal government appears to be devoting a lot of resources to keeping you safe, to keeping abortion providers safe, to making the practice of this type of medicine something that is not a life-threatening thing to do. I have to imagine that you appreciate what‘s on paper.
But I want to—I want to ask how you feel about how well the people in your profession are really being protected in practice? Do you feel like law enforcement is taking the threat seriously and doing all they can?
HERN: Well, I do. But I also think that there is a limit to what their resources are and what they can do. There are a lot of people to protect. And I can‘t wear a tank. I can‘t work in a fortress. Some of my colleagues, including Dr. Tiller, have built their clinics to a very high level of safety.
But once you step out of that, then I think you are at great risk. I think that the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrance Bill was wonderful, but it was signed almost in secret by President Clinton instead of in the Rose Garden surrounded by people whose lives it affected. And we—the Republicans pulled the plug on this after they took control of Congress and cut the funding.
So, I think the law enforcement people, the federal marshals, are working under a great difficulty in terms of shortage of resources and manpower. But I think what we really need more than just efforts to try to physically protect the security of the doctors—which is an almost impossible task, is presidential leadership.
We need political leadership in this country where—in which the president of the United States goes on national television and confronts this incredibly difficult problem and says very clearly the message that safe abortion is a fundamental component of women‘s health care, that women have the right to have the safe abortion, that doctors should be able to help women without fear for their lives, that the anti-abortion terrorism and violence—which has been so painful and obvious over the last 35 years—has to stop. It will no longer be tolerated. And the president should tell the anti-abortion people to go home and leave other people alone.
Even the silent vigils in front of the abortion clinics—and they happen in my office—is harassment and intimidation. It is not free speech. And I think that people need to understand that there is a difference between harassment of people who are coming for a private medical care and harassment and free speech. There‘s a big difference.
And I think that anti-abortion leaders, including many of the political leaders, like, Jesse Helms, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and my others, Randall Terry, the leader of Operation Rescue, have used highly inflammatory language which has invited and encouraged people like this assassin to go kill Dr. Tiller. And that kind of language is very harmful.
And President Obama made a wonderful speech at Notre Dame and offered an effort to be conciliatory and to encourage a common ground. But there is no common ground with fanatics who want to kill you. The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.
MADDOW: Dr. Warren—
HERN: And the Christian churches have been in the forefront of this kind of fanaticism.
MADDOW: Dr. Warren Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, a friend of the Tiller family and of the late George Tiller, one of the doctors who‘s being protected by U.S. Marshal Service now, as many are, around the country in the wake of this assassination. Thank you for your time tonight, sir. Good luck to you.
HERN: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: What should it tell us? What should it warn us that the alleged murderer of Dr. George Tiller is, at this moment, right now, being essentially canonized by the organized violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement? There‘s recent history to consult here and the lesson is clear and frightening.
When we come back: Information about the response to Dr. George Tiller‘s murder on the fringe that you have not heard anywhere else. I promise you. We‘re back with that in just a moment.
MADDOW: Almost everybody in the country has condemned the killing of Dr. George Tiller. But in dangerous corners of the national debate about reproductive rights, Scott Roeder is being glorified, on talk radio, online, and among the adherence to anti-abortion terrorism with whom Mr. Roeder has associated himself, he‘s being praise.
Let‘s start with Steve Deese, a radio talk show host on WHON in Ohio.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STEVE DEACE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Are babies in Kansas safer today than they were yesterday while George Tiller was still taking in oxygen? Yes—is the answer to the question. Maybe the fact that we have a lawless society that has not protected these babies from this infanticide created the Scott Roeders of the world, who in very John Brown-like fashion, illegally took matters into his own hands, saying if the system will not deal with an evil then to hell with the system.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Scott Roeder, a hero like John Brown, killing not to stop slavery, but to stop infanticide. That was the talk show host named Steve Deace on talk radio in Iowa.
Consider also, David Leach, who publishes a newsletter called “The Prayer and Action News” to which Scott Roeder subscribed and submitted articles. David Leach tells “The Associated Press,” quote, “He will be the hero to thousands of babies who will not be slain because Scott sacrificed everything for them.” Mr. Leach told the “Iowa Independent,” quote, “So far, the Bible discussion I have seen overwhelmingly supports anyone willing to sacrifice everything in order to physically stop an abortionist from killing thousands of babies.” “The Prayer and Action News” Web site itself today says, quote, “So far, the only way to save hundreds, arguably thousands of unborn lives now has been to destroy abortion buildings or kill abortionists.”
Regina Dinwiddie is a long-time anti-abortion militant said she knew Mr. Roeder. She tells CNN today that Tiller‘s murder was, quote, “absolutely justify.” She told “The Associated Press” that is glad about Dr. Tiller‘s death saying, quote, “I wouldn‘t cry for him no more than I would if somebody dropped a rat and killed it.”
Dan Holman, a member of anti-abortion group in Iowa called Missionaries to the Preborn, says that Dr. Tiller‘s death was something to cheer. Telling CNN that he thinks abortion would also justify assassinating the president, calling him, quote, “Deserving of death.”
When Dr. David Gunn was shot dead in 1993, the militant anti-abortion movement made a hero out of his killer. At least six of the people who declared themselves—publicly declared themselves supporters of Dr. Gunn‘s killer, who signed a public declaration of their belief in the justice of that murder, themselves went on to do time for anti-abortion violent terrorism, including two murders. Within two years of Dr. Gunn‘s murder, seven more people would be shot and wounded at American abortion facilities; four more people would be shot and killed.
As this same radical fringe now celebrates the accused murderer of Dr. George Tiller, calling Scott Roeder a hero, are we ignoring warning signals from the radical right? Is this a signal of a very deadly pattern that we have seen before?
Joining us now is Vicki Saporta. She is president of the National Abortion Federation, an expert on anti-abortion violence. She knew Dr. Tiller personally.
Mr. Saporta, I‘m very sorry for the loss of your friend. And thank you for taking time to talk with us tonight.
VICKI SAPORTA, NATIONAL ABORTION FEDERATION PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MADDOW: Your organization has been tracking anti-abortion violence for more than 30 years. Are you afraid that Dr. Tiller‘s murder is going to spark more violence?
SAPORTA: We‘re always concerned about violence. You talked about the reign of terror that has existed in the past 30 years. This is the eight murder, the 17th attempted murder. There have been 41 bombings, 171 arsons, and the list goes on and on.
We work every day to try to ensure that our members are safe and that women can access safe quality abortion care. And we work very closely with law enforcement, at all levels, to try to ensure the safety of providers.
MADDOW: Do you believe—do you believe that this is more than—these crimes are committed by more than assemblage of cooks? Do you believe that there is a well-coordinated network of abortion extremists who promote violence in the U.S. right now?
SAPORTA: We know that there is an organized network of extremists.
These are people who advocate the murder of providers in the early ‘90s. They came to the conclusion that the only way to stop abortion in the United States was to murder providers. They put it in a manual. They recruit people to engage in these acts of violence and then they celebrate the violence that takes place.
These are terrorists. And they present a risk to providers and to communities where they operate.
MADDOW: I know that your organization, the National Abortion Federation, sent out a security alert to abortion providers soon after the November election. Why did you peg that security alert to the election results specifically?
SAPORTA: In tracking abortion violence we know that, oftentimes, when these extremists see themselves losing an election or don‘t see themselves winning in political legislative or judicial battles, they often resort to violence and we were concerned that we might see an uptick in violence. We wanted our providers to be on a little bit of a heightened security alert. And we have found that threats and activity, and the intensity of activity outside abortion clinics has increased.
And with this terrible heinous murder of Dr. Tiller, we reached out to the Department of Justice immediately. Eric Holder, the attorney general, responded very quickly. He provided U.S. Marshal protection to the most vulnerable physicians who we thought might be targeted. He instructed the FBI to contact each of the clinics in their areas to talk with them, to assess their threat levels, security risks and to work very closely with the clinics, to make sure that we don‘t see an uptick in violence.
But it‘s very hard to predict where these people will strike, when, by what method. And we‘ve seen a decrease in anti-abortion extreme violence since the murder of Dr. Slepian in 1998, due in large part to law enforcement response, a very visible captures and convictions of the three anti-abortion terrorists on the FBI‘s 10 most wanted list.
But in some instances, we just got lucky. Two years ago, there was a bomb outside a clinic in Austin, Texas. It was built with nails, designed to kill, and it was malfunctioning. And when the clinic staff found it and called the ATF, they were able to detonate it without a loss of life. Some family members have turned in sons who they knew were building bombs in their garage and planning to do harm to abortion providers and law enforcement worked with us to prevent those crimes.
But this is an ongoing problem and we can‘t, in a civilized society, allow people to use violence to advance their anti-abortion agenda and to try to stop abortions from taking place in the United States. We can‘t allow this to happen, and all of us need to be involved in stopping the terror. None of us want to see another uptick in violence and more murders, bombings and the like.
MADDOW: Of course, one of the things we are awaiting for from Washington now, beyond the original—the initial statement of outrage from the president is a statement of whether or not there will be further agency-wide action either from the Department of Justice or beyond, to reinvigorate these efforts that had went into effect during the Clinton administration to stop anti-abortion-related violence and to take further steps to make sure that these networks are disrupted and stopped. We‘ll be watching for that.
And Vicki Saporta, thank you.
SAPORTA: The task force, I .
MADDOW: Yes, go ahead.
SAPORTA: . I do want to say, has been receptive. The attorney
general has been receptive, and we have been very grateful for the response of federal law enforcement officials to this heinous crime. A lot of work needs to be done at the local level where problems still exist across the country.
MADDOW: Vicki Saporta is president of the National Abortion Federation. Thank you so much for joining us. I know this is a very difficult time for you.
SAPORTA: Thank you.
MADDOW: President Obama is not traveling to the Middle East right now just so he doesn‘t have to see Dick Cheney every time he turns on the television, but that has to be a nice fringe benefit.
Coming up: We will discuss the latest from the former vice president. Yes, there is more new material from Dick Cheney, with our very special guest, Mr. Dan rather. That‘s next.
MADDOW: Still ahead: Dick Cheney continues his post “in-charge of anything media” tour. We‘ll talk about that with Dan Rather, who will be here in studio—coming up.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
As the country is still reeling from the apparently politically-motivated assassination of a doctor who was vilified for providing abortion services, another politically-motivated slaying in Arkansas has today resulted in first-degree murder charges. Carlos Bledsoe, who changed his name to Abdulhakim Bledsoe, after converting to Islam, is a 24-year-old Little Rock, Arkansas resident, who, today, pled not guilty to first-degree murder and 16 counts of engaging in a terrorist act. Those terrorist act charges relate to him having fired a weapon toward an inhabited building.
Yesterday, Mr. Bledsoe, allegedly shot and killed 23-year-old Private William Long at the Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock. He was arrested a short while later and found to have several weapons and 200 rounds of ammunition in his car.
Before and during today‘s hearing, homicide detectives and prosecutors said that Mr. Bledsoe expressed, quote, “political and religious motives” for the shooting, reportedly stating his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and saying that he had shot at soldiers and would have killed more if he could, quote, “because of what they done to Muslims in the past.”
The 24-year-old private who was killed, William Long, and an 18-year-old private, Quentin Ezeagwula, who was wounded, had both just completed basic training. They were volunteering at a hometown recruitment assistance program in Little Rock. “The Associated Press” reports that before yesterday‘s shooting, an FBI joint terrorism task force had been investigating the man charged in this crime because he has been arrested and jailed in the nation of Yemen, reportedly, for using a false Somali passport.
Now, there is no word yet on whether this young man has links to any extremist or terrorist groups. So far, his family is not talking to the press. We will keep you posted on this developing story.
And finally, former congressman and former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Tom Tancredo has accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor of being a racist.
He has said that her belonging to the largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States, the National Council of La Raza, was the equivalent of her belonging to the, quote, “Latino KKK.”
Awkwardly, the executive director of Mr. Tancredo‘s political action committee, a young man named Marcus Epstein, is facing sentencing next month after pleading guilty to calling an African-American woman the N-word and delivering a karate chop to her head in 2007 in Washington D.C.
Mr. Epstein pled guilty to an assault charge after the U.S. attorney in the case agreed to drop hate crimes charges against him. Mr. Epstein is still working for Mr. Tancredo as the executive director of Team America, Mr. Tancredo‘s political action committee.
He is also the executive director of an organization called American Cause, which is headed up by MSNBC‘s own Pat Buchanan and his sister Bay Buchanan. Ms. Buchanan told “The Washington Independent” yesterday, quote, “Marcus is going off to law school at the University of Virginia at the end of the month. Who cares? This is something that happened two years ago.”
Within a few hours of that being posted online, the dean of admissions at the University of Virginia Law School was shooting that down, telling “The Independent” despite reports that Epstein was on his way to UVA, quote, “Mr. Epstein is not currently enrolled at the University of Virginia School of Law. And I do not expect him to be an enrolled student in the future.”
So if you are getting called a racist by the folks who are employing the racist hate crimes guy, do you bust out with, “I know you are, but what am I? I know you are, but what am I?” If you are me, you do. I‘m guessing probably not though if you are a Supreme Court nominee.
MADDOW: President Obama‘s highly anticipated trip to the Middle East and Europe is officially underway. The president left the White House earlier this evening. He is now en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where tomorrow he will meet privately with the Saudi king.
He will also stop in Germany to visit the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp and he will commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day in France. But it is the president‘s stop on Thursday in Egypt that will likely be the centerpiece of this trip.
President Obama will give a major address in Egypt that will be an attempt to reset the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. Underscoring the challenge, the president‘s spokesman Robert Gibbs today said fixing that relationship will not happen overnight. Because, of course, we did not get here overnight.
It took six years of preventive war, more years than that of extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention, and a few ill-considered words from the previous American president about waging a crusade to create the current mess that we are in.
But even as President Obama is moving the United States and our international standing beyond the Bush years, or at least trying to, former Vice President Dick Cheney won‘t let any of us leave those years behind.
Arguing publicly and with amazing frequency that we should keep Guantanamo open, that torture works and that the Iraq war was an awesome idea, even if there were no weapons of mass destruction or links between Iraq and al-Qaeda.
Now, President Obama has responded directly to Mr. Cheney. In an interview with the National Public Radio, the president made it clear that the Cheney media tour of late has gotten his attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Well, he also happens to be wrong, right? And last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn‘t get a very good grade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What you hear in the distance is fact checkers across the nation clapping themselves on the back. Even as the president was rebutting Mr. Cheney, he still was yet again out there. Cheney was out there yet again talking about his new favorite pet issue - the set of magical classified memos that he says prove that torture works.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The president has already released the legal opinions that allowed us to do them. I think he ought to also release the results and show what, in fact, we accomplished as a result of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Second time in less than 12 hours, we hear a call for releasing secret memos about torture from a vice president who, for years, defended the secrecy of memos about torture.
In a moment, we will talk about all of this with our guest, Dan Rather, live here in the studio. Mr. Rather has just finished a documentary about a former Guantanamo prisoner who says that he was tortured during his nearly seven years of imprisonment. The prisoner was finally released recently after never being charged with the crime. Here‘s a short little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN RATHER, HOST, “DAN RATHER REPORTS” (voice-over): This is the area Guantanamo journalists are now allowed to see. And the military says it now runs a humane facility in compliance with international and U.S. laws. But according Boumediene, there are other areas where he says torture was practiced for years.
LAKHDAR BOUMEDIENE, GUANTANAMO DETAINEE: They start torturing me in 2003, exactly, I think in February or beginning of March.
RATHER: For example, Boumediene says he was forced to run with his legs in shackles to soften him up for interrogation.
BOUMEDIENE: The big soldiers, they make me run with them by shackles. If I will be tired, they will pull me on floor. All my legs bloody, but they don‘t care to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Dan Rather, host of “Dan Rather Reports” on HD Net. Mr. Rather, thank you so much for being here.
RATHER: Always a delight to be with you.
MADDOW: The man you interviewed there in that clip you just showed, Lakhdar Boumediene, is not just saying he was tortured in 2003 or 2004 during the Bush administration. He is also saying the abuse is still going on at Guantanamo. How credible do you find his allegations?
RATHER: Well, credible in the sense that when you are in his presence, when you see the interview, he seems believable. However, one must contrast that with the admiral in charge of Guantanamo, and has been for the last year. The admiral says, “Listen, this is untrue. These things are not still going on.”
He doesn‘t address what went on in previous years. These things are not going on. So it‘s one of those cases where you take a listen to both sides and you have make up your own mind.
I want to make two points about what Mr. Boumediene says. Number one, he says that - for him, that the torture continued after President Obama came into office. But he is not talking about torture associated with interrogation. He was force-fed because he was on a hunger strike. And he - it is his claim that efforts were made to make that as painful and as uncomfortable as possible.
Number two, he is in that strange category, Rachel which - there are 21 people, I think, left in Guantanamo in the category. Officially, they are free to leave. The courts have said they don‘t have the evidence in many cases. In his case - they never had the evidence. They‘re free to go, but no one will take them.
And so, he was kept from November when the Supreme Court said that he was free to go, when the court said he was free to go, until very recently, the middle of May, because no one would take him.
The French were finally - they finally agreed to take him. But his basic contention is - Mr. Boumediene - that torture did go on big time from 2002 forward, that some changes were made but no one should kid themselves - this is to paraphrase. No one could kid themselves from his viewpoint that it still goes on and that the U.S. government has lied about the depths of the torture, how much it happened and the fact, from his viewpoint, that some of it is still going on.
MADDOW: And that not all of it was related to interrogation. Some of it was just cruelty?
RATHER: Well, beginning with the Obama administration, he agrees that
he doesn‘t claim anything had to do with interrogation. But such things as doctors using soldiers to do what doctors and nurses should do and knowingly doing that. It‘s kind of thing.
The picture that is painted is that some of the people by him - whether you believe it or not, is that some of the people working there now, looking, seeing Guantanamo was going to close sort of take their last shots, if you will, against the detainees, whether they are in this “officially free to go but nobody will take them” category or not.
MADDOW: There is so much to say about the domestic politics about closing Guantanamo right now. It‘s become such a “through the looking glass” kind of issue. But beyond that, do you think there also will be attention paid ultimately to the prison at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan? I mean, even if Guantanamo is closed, has Bagram effectively sort of taken its place?
RATHER: This is a very important point for Americans to consider.
There is a school of thought - I‘m not saying that I agree or disagree with
this. There is a school of though that Bagram Air Base, which is in
RATHER: That it is the, quote, “new Guantanamo.” We don‘t know much about what goes on there. We know that there are hundreds of prisoners there. We know that some of the prisoners were not captured on the, quote, “Afghanistan battlefield.” They were prisoners brought from other places such as Tunis or Yemen and brought to the Bagram Air Base.
And some of the contentions that were made about Guantanamo were certainly being made about Bagram. I think as things progress and we get deeper into this debate about Guantanamo, Guantanamo has become iconic, better or for worse, in almost all discussions about how to handle detainees, whom to hold, for how long, torture, not torture. It‘s in Guantanamo. But Bagram is out there. It is working. And the critical thing is there is no transparency.
MADDOW: Right. And if they were having legal debates about the grounds on which we hold people and their access to due process, Bagram is this giant sore thumb sticking out of that debate as we focus on Guantanamo. I think that is very important.
Dick Cheney is one to the reasons that this issue is as contentious as it is in domestic politics right now in my opinion. And you have a lot more experience in presidential politics and high-ranking politicians than I do. So I‘m hoping you can shed some light on something I‘ve been wondering about for a few weeks now. Why are we seeing so much of Dick Cheney right now? What do you think is motivating him?
RATHER: I think there are four reasons in no particular order. One, legacy. He knows he doesn‘t like it one damn bit, but he knows that as the Bush-Cheney administration left office, the outlook for how they are going to be seen in history books in the future was not good. So number one is legacy.
Number two - keeping in mind these are in no particular order of preference. Number two, he seeks to solidify and play to the Republican base what some might call the most right-wing part of the party which is stuck with him and President Bush all the way through. He wants to make sure that they realize they have a champion out there.
Number three, I think he really believes what he is saying. I don‘t think he is posturing. I don‘t think that he is saying something he doesn‘t really believes in. he really believes it.
And then, the fourth thing would be, and I could be wrong about this - I think he really detests President Obama, his policies, and everything he stands for. So those are the four reasons I think he is out there.
It is worth remarking and noting that particularly, the former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has said nothing - zero, zip, nada. And for that matter, neither has President Bush which indicates that they clearly think that the tactics that Vice President Cheney is using are not the right ones.
But Cheney has always been a person, ever since he broke out from under Don Rumsfeld who mentored him for all those years. He‘s always sort of prided himself, “I‘m my own man. I listen to myself. I don‘t listen to anybody else. And I do what I think is right and I do what I please.”
MADDOW: And now, because of that, he has become effectively the counterweight to President Obama.
RATHER: Well, I think in some ways, an effective counterweight -
RATHER: Whether one likes it or not. I think he‘s had some effect, partly because there are plenty of people who agree close Guantanamo. It is giving us a bad image abroad. Close it down.
But this business of bringing some detainees into the United States and the backwash from that of, well, “Not in my area code. Not in my neighborhood ,” has given Vice President Cheney some traction.
MADDOW: A new scare issue there. Yes. Dan Rather, it is always such a pleasure to talk with you about your work and about what is going on in the news. It‘s really nice for you to come in. Thank you.
RATHER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
RATHER: As always, thank you very much.
MADDOW: Dan Rather, of course, is the host and managing editor of “Dan Rather Reports” on HD Net. Mr. Rather‘s hour-long program about Guantanamo will air next Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
OK. Republican Tim Pawlenty announced today that he is not seeking a third term as Minnesota‘s governor. Is that because he is opening the door for a possible presidential run in 2012? Or does he know that the Republicans will never nominate a moderate like him, and he is just sick of being asked why he won‘t seat Al Franken in the Senate?
Chris Hayes from “The Nation” joins us next.
MADDOW: One of the leading lights of the Republican Party achieved the rare power retirement today. The governor of Minnesota and a very gracious repeat guest on this show, Tim Pawlenty, has announced that he will not seek a third term in his current office. What makes this a power retirement? Well, see if you could read between the lines here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): There‘s a lot of important and hard work to be done, and that‘s going to be my focus. And beyond that, I don‘t know what my plans are. I don‘t have any plans beyond that. I don‘t know what the future bolds for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Given what normally happens whenever any politician says they have no plans, about three nanoseconds after the world learned he was calling it quits 19 months from now, the political world decided that Tim Pawlenty is definitely running for president of the United States in 2012.
He didn‘t say so, but he didn‘t have to. It‘s called common wisdom. In any case, congratulations on your semi-distant retirement, Gov. Pawlenty. If you have any big announcements you want to make going forward, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is always glad to have you.
Joining us now to speculate baselessly on Gov. Pawlenty‘s future is Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation.” Chris, thank you very much for being on the show.
CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, “THE NATION”: Thank you, Rachel. I‘m happy to help.
MADDOW: Not exactly baseless speculation - very well informed speculation I‘m sure. But what odds do you put on an eventual Tim Pawlenty run for the White House?
HAYES: Well, I would say probably better than even. I mean, he‘s been, you know, a quote, unquote, “rising star” in the party for a while. He has a few credentials that I think recommends him. I mean, one, he‘s a white dude - the Republican Party likes that.
Two, he‘s the governor of a blue state which I think gives him some sort of credibility. You know, if you actually look at his position, he‘s a fairly doctrinaire conservative Republican. But because he‘s been elected in a blue state twice and because he speaks the language that doesn‘t sound as sort of harsh and culture warrior-esque as some of other people in the field, you know, there is a sense that maybe he can appeal to independents.
And so I think the odds are better than even. I think, however, if he‘s smart, what he is probably going to do is kind of gauge the political waters for a little while before he makes up his mind.
MADDOW: If his moderate image is not derived from his policy positions but, rather, from his - generally his image and from where he‘s from, how does that play into Republican primary dynamics in 2012?
Republican primary voters famously haven‘t been too kind to moderates even though John McCain was able to get the nomination this past time.
HAYES: Yes. Well, it depends, a lot, I think on actually the substance. So, I think that what you want to do if you‘re running in the Republican primary is you want to sort of pull off this trick where you can be substantively very, very conservative and right-wing but kind of stylistically appealing to moderates.
And I think Pawlenty has a shot to do that. I mean, what you can‘t do is be substantively moderate because no one will survive a Republican primary. And I think Huntsman, the governor of Utah, who recently took the job as the ambassador to China as Obama‘s nominee who had supported civil unions, he recognized there was no space for him in the primary because he had substantively kind of strayed from the catechism.
So Pawlenty has a shot, I think, at kind of squaring the circle of appealing in terms of what his issue positions are to the base, but managing to kind of present a warm and fuzzy feel to the rest of the voting public.
MADDOW: I think that makes a lot of sense. Last question for you, Chris. What does this do to the issue of Minnesota‘s second Senate seat does? Does this affect Coleman versus Franken at all?
HAYES: It likely does because it shifts the incentive. If you are a governor running for, you know, a third term in a blue state that is functioning with only one senator, the domestic political incentives are to seat the senator and that‘s going to be Al Franken.
If you‘re someone running for president and you need to curry favor with hard-line Republican base voters and also the Republican donor class who - let‘s remember, they don‘t want to see the Democrats have 60 votes. They don‘t want Employee Free Choice Act passed. They don‘t want climate change legislation passed or health care.
If you want to curry favor with the Republican donor class, you can kind of take one for the team and continue to obstruct and obstruct and obstruct and maybe call on those neighbors down the line.
I mean, incentives now shift for him to continue to obstruct seating Franken as long as he can.
Oh, poor Amy Klobuchar. Poor overworked Amy Klobuchar.
HAYES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) me.
MADDOW: I know. Inner staff, very sad. Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” - thank you very much for joining us tonight, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith is joined by a long-time friend of Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated this weekend in Kansas.
Next on this show, my friend Kent Jones will join us with his analysis of last night‘s historic show business event about which I am totally clueless but actually quite curious.
MADDOW: We turn now to our equality in late-night media correspondent, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Conan O‘Brien took over as the host of “The Tonight Show” last night. And it was a big moment for a lot of reasons. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES (voice-over): It seemed so natural. Many may have forgotten how hard the road has been for someone like him to reach a place like this. Back in 1954, there were no white men in suits telling jokes after 10:00 p.m. People said America would never accept such a thing. It just wasn‘t done.
Steve Allen set out to prove them wrong. As first host of “The Tonight Show,” Steve Allen, a white man in a suit, charmed his way into millions of bedrooms every night and it was OK.
Jack Parr followed and made more cracks in the white-man-in-a-suit glass ceiling. Parr‘s success paved the way for Johnny Carson whose breezy affability forever shattered the lingering stereotype that a white man in a suit telling jokes was somehow threatening.
Carson‘s breakthrough success made it possible for other white men in suits to express themselves with a freedom they had never enjoyed before.
By the time Jay Leno took over for Carson 30 years later, attitudes had changed so much that Leno‘s chief rival was another white man in a suit. And now, 17 years later, the torch has been passed to Conan O‘Brien.
As a nation, we progressed to a point where people barely comment on it anymore. He‘s no longer Conan O‘Brien, a white man in a suit. He‘s just Conan. And it‘s OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: Nice suit.
MADDOW: “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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