updated 7/21/2009 10:13:10 AM ET 2009-07-21T14:13:10

Guests: Kent Jones, Paul Rieckhoff, Gov. Ed Rendell, Jeff Sharlet

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, David.  Thanks very much for that.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  You‘re welcome.

MADDOW:  And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford now says that his adultery made him a better husband.  A congressman asks the House of Representatives to imagine a world in which President Obama was aborted.  And even more members of C Street start spilling secrets about the group, even as they defend its secrecy.  Jeff Sharlet who infiltrated C Street will join us in a few minutes.

But we begin tonight with—well, with an explanation of what all this stuff is doing in the studio.  A week ago tonight, we covered a story from the “McClatchy” news service about the national baseball team of Iraq.

Iraq has a national baseball team.  The Iraqi Olympic Committee has given them enough money to join some of the international baseball associations they need to join if they‘re going to compete on the world stage.  What they don‘t have is any equipment.  “McClatchy‘s” Laith Hammoudi explained that the team is sharing a total of three baseballs, one 5-year-old softball bat, and exactly one jersey—that someone got it somehow from a team in Japan.

A week ago on this show, I admitted to THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff and host being a little sappy about sports.  And I said that we were looking into ways to try to get this Iraqi team some gear.  We didn‘t ask for anyone‘s help in figuring that out, but the offers of help came in fast and furious, and I am now very, very happy to report that what has become “Operation Iraqi Baseball” has turned into a huge success.

I bought baseballs and batting helmets and an official baseball rule book.  Everything else has been donated.  CTG Athletics is an independent minority owned business in the Bronx.  They make the Verdero brand of professional grade foot wear and bats and gloves and accessories.  They have donated bats and batting gloves and fielding gloves and cleats for the entire Iraqi national team.

Again, we didn‘t ask for help from CTG.  They saw our segment on Iraqi baseball and they called us.  They called us and asked if they could make this donation.

So, did a Ebbets Field Flannels.  They‘re a Seattle-based company that called us after they saw our segment on the Iraqi team.  They asked us to ask the team what they wanted for jerseys.

And the Iraqi team requested blue jerseys with the post-Saddam Iraqi flag on the front and Iraqi baseball written on the back above the numbers.

Ebbets Field Flannels recreates historically accurate vintage jerseys.  They‘re going to make the Iraq team‘s jerseys free of charge and they‘re throwing in pants and hats as well.

So, we‘re sending this stuff now.  And we‘re going to send the uniforms when they‘re ready.

How are we shipping this stuff to Iraq?  I‘m glad you asked.  An international trade company based in Ashland, Ohio, with experience in exports, imports, customs and all the other things you need to be an expert at to make a shipment like this, is donating their services.  They are called Star USA Incorporated, Star USA International Trade Services.  And they are doing what needs to be done to get the gear from here to Baghdad.

So, this is where I say thank you.  Thank you to CTG Athletics and Ebbets Field Flannels and to Star USA.  Thank you to all the other companies and organizations who contacted us and offered unsolicited donations and advice for this very unexpected project.

Thanks to “McClatchy” for their reporting, for helping us follow up on their reporting, and for putting us in touch with the Iraqi national baseball team.

And thanks to all of you who were moved by the story to ask how you could help.  At Rachel.MSNBC.com right now, we have linked to some organizations that provide help to Iraqi civilians in a much more sustainable way than a TV show could ever pull off.  If you felt moved to try to help out this team, you can make that thought count by making a donation to the organization of your choosing.  We‘ve got some links to get you started at Rachel.MSNBC.com.

So thanks, everybody.  It‘s very exciting.  And that‘s your “Operation Iraqi Baseball” update for now.

But we turn now to our lead story tonight.  It is the heartbreaking and infuriating situation involving an American soldier who has been taken captive by the Taliban inside Afghanistan.  We had known that this soldier had been missing since June 30th and we knew of the Taliban‘s claims that they were holding him hostage.  But now, the Taliban has produced proof.  It‘s a 28-minute video showing Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl apparently in Taliban custody.

Mr. Bergdahl is from Hailey, Idaho.  He‘s based out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.  He‘s been serving in Afghanistan for about five months.

Today, his family released a statement thanking the public for its support and asking for prayer for his safe return.  Footage like this and an individual, personal story like this young soldier‘s story has managed to draw the attention of the nation back to the war in Afghanistan—in a way almost nothing else has been able to in months.

Just today, Defense Secretary Bob Gates announced that the overall size of the U.S. Army is being temporarily increase by 22,000 troops to meet the demands of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As expected the recent increase of troops in Afghanistan has brought with it an increase in casualties.  July has been the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the war began in October of 2001.  At least 30 U.S. troops have been killed there this month along with at least 55 NATO troops.

Even as we‘re engaged in the massive upscale of our military presence in Afghanistan, the story now getting the war in Afghanistan back onto the front pages is not the overall military operation.  It‘s the story of Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl and the infuriating fact that he‘s being forced to do the types of propaganda videos that we have seen for generations now, when American soldiers are taken prisoner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PFC. BOWE BERGDAHL, CAPTURED U.S. SOLDIER:  Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country.  Please bring us home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That statement from Private Bergdahl is not about the American war in Afghanistan whatever you think about it.  That—what you just heard—is what people holding American soldiers captive make them say for propaganda purposes.

During the Vietnam war, for example, then Lieutenant Commander John McCain was forced to write and sign a statement that read, quote, “I am a black criminal and I have performed the deeds of an air pirate.  I almost died and the Vietnamese people saved my life, thanks to the doctors.”

Seeing Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl put through the same propaganda paces that American POWs have been put through so many times before strikes an emotional cord in this country—as it would in any country.

President Obama had this reaction to the situation in an interview with NBC‘s Meredith Vieira that‘s going to air tomorrow morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s always heartbreaking.  Our young men and women, who are serving in our armed forces do such an extraordinary job, put themselves in harm‘s way each and every day, especially those who are deployed in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  And so, seeing something like this makes you think about their families.  It makes you think about the young man.  We are hopeful that it will have a good ending.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  There also have been statements from Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen about the fact that there is a determination in the United States military and throughout the United States government to get this young soldier back.

Despite that nearly unanimous sentiment, some of the American right-wing reaction to this young soldier‘s plight has been frankly bizarre.  Here is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters commenting on Private Bergdahl‘s plight yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS, RET., U.S. ARMY:  Nobody in the military that I‘ve heard is defending this guy.  He is an apparent deserter.  Reports are, indeed, that he abandoned his buddies, abandoned his post and walked off.

We know this private is a liar.  We are not sure if he‘s a deserter, but the media needs to hit the pause button and not portray this guy as a hero.  If he walked away from his post and his buddies in wartime, I don‘t care how hard it sounds.  As far as I‘m concerned, the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Save us legal hassles and legal bills—presumably advocating that this young soldier be killed by the Taliban.

Whether Lieutenant Colonel Peters is alone in this view, or whether he represents some broader American political perversion of the story remains to be seen.  I can tell you that, so far, the most prominent right-wing blogger in the country, Michelle Malkin, linked to Mr. Peters‘ comments and described them as, quote, “tough words.”  Tough words—I think I could probably come up with a few other adjectives besides “tough” that might be more appropriate here.

Joining us now is Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  He‘s a veteran of the Iraq war.

Paul, thanks very much for joining us.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA:  My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Sadly, this is not the first time we‘ve seen this type of hostage video over the past few years.  You head up the largest Iraq and Afghanistan veterans group.  What‘s the overall impact of incidents like this when they happen?

RIECKHOFF:  I think it‘s concern.  We have tremendous concern for the private, for his family that‘s going through an unbelievably, unimaginable anguish right now.  I mean, our hearts go out to that family.

And with regard to Colonel Peters, he needs to shut his mouth.  He doesn‘t know what happened on the ground.  And nobody knows what happened on the ground.  And that private is an American, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt.  Until we know what went down, we all deserve—he deserves our support.  His family deserves our support.  And guys, like Peters, need to shut up.

MADDOW:  What I‘m worried about is that Lieutenant Colonel Peters isn‘t a kook, that there is some sort of politicization of this individual case, even of the politicization of the plight of American soldiers that we‘re seeing right now, through some down-looking glass—through the looking glass, wrinkle in American politics that I don‘t understand yet.

Have we seen Americans who have been held in these difficult circumstances before made into political pawns, used for political purposes outside the military?

RIECKHOFF:  Well, that‘s the intent of the Taliban here.  I mean, they want to use this guy as a propaganda prop.  Obviously, these statements are coerced.  And that‘s the design here, is to try to sway the public opinion here.

I think, you know, they are trying to seem as though they‘re treating him well.  I think they realize that there is a public opinion war that is important, arguably as the war on the ground.  But we‘ve got to understand he‘s on a tremendous duress.  We want him returned safely.

And I know that, right now, the U.S. military is looking high and low and everywhere to try to get this guy back to his family safely.

MADDOW:  How do you approach a story like this in the country knowing that if people do have a very strong emotional reaction to this story, knowing that this can get the war back on the front pages in a way that a less personalized story might not?  How do you handle a story like this in the country without essentially furthering the Taliban‘s propaganda aims which we know they have?

RIECKHOFF:  Well, I think we highlight the bravery and the courage and the sacrifice of all of these families—thousands of people just like this private who have been in harm‘s way and help people understand there is a personal component to war.  There is a visceral impact of seeing a young, 23-year-old guy on TV, hearing about his family, hearing about his hometown.  It‘s something you really don‘t hear between the numbers of 10,000 troops here and 20,000 troops there.

I mean, back when Pat Tillman was killed, that was really the first time that Americans had a visceral reaction to somebody they felt like they knew.  Less than one-half of 1 percent of the American population has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what our troops (ph) too is at 12 percent.  So, most Americans don‘t personally know somebody.

So, this can connect them to that sacrifice, to the human cost, and to our military in a world where the civil-military relationship has really been stretched.

MADDOW:  Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America—thanks for coming in to talk to us about this topic.

RIECKHOFF:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Nice to see you.

RIECKHOFF:  You, too.

MADDOW:  Back in Washington, Republicans are very excited about partisan points that can be scored by campaigning against health care reform.  They‘re saying health care will be Obama‘s waterloo.  Actually, look at how the fight‘s going so far, health care looks more like it might be Obama‘s Agincourt, and he‘s not France.  Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell will join us next.

And South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford says cheating on his wife made him a better husband.  That and more C Street logic in a moment.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Want to hear why the hardest thing to do in American politics might finally happen this year even though it‘s never happened before?  Check it out.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: If we‘re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his waterloo.  It will break him.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It will break him.

It‘s Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina presumably trying to rally conservative activists to oppose health care reform on a Friday conference call.

What he actually did, of course, was give the White House all of the ammunition they need to portray the opposition to fixing health care as a political goal that has everything to do with scoring points against Democrats and nothing to do with what‘s right for the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Just the other day, one Republican senator said, and I‘m quoting him now, “If we‘re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his waterloo.  It will break him.”

Think about that.  This isn‘t about me.  This isn‘t about politics.  This is about a health care system that is breaking America‘s families, breaking America‘s businesses and breaking America‘s economy.

We can‘t afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care.  Not this time.  Not now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  On the Republican side, there isn‘t yet a counterproposal on the table.  So, the fight is not about what to do about health care.  Right now, it‘s about whether or not we should do anything at all.

The Republican Party chairman today gave a press conference in which he said that plans to reform health care were socialist, and then he said he wasn‘t prepared to actually talk about health care policy at all.  His exact phrase was, “I don‘t do policy.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  Do we support requiring individuals to get health care?  Again, that is one of those areas where there—there is different opinions by some in the House and the Senate on this.  And, look, I don‘t do policy.  I‘m not—I‘m not a legislator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I don‘t do policy.  I‘m just here to do a press conference about health care policy.  Why are you asking me about policy?  What is this policy anyway?

Mr. Steele also managed to miss the news that “Harry and Louise,” the TV ad couple who helped kill health care reform 15 years ago are now actually for health care reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEELE:  Harry and Louise helped us save—helped save us from Hillary Clinton‘s health care experiments in 1994.  This year, Harry and Louise have been replace bide another couple—Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Actually, it‘s not the ‘90s anymore and even “Harry and Louise” know it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TV AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It looks like we may finally get health care reform.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s about time.  Because every day more and more people are finding they can‘t afford health care.  A little more cooperation, a little less politics, we can get the job done this time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Governor Rendell, thanks so much for joining us tonight.  We really appreciate your time.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Hi, Rachel.  How are you?

MADDOW:  Great.  Thanks.

I got to ask you.  You‘ve got a great political compass.  You can predict things well.  Is this finally the year after decades the stars finally going to align to fix health care?

RENDELL:  Absolutely.  I think the people in the Senate and the House, Democrats and a lot of Republicans, too, understand that Barack Obama was elected to make change, and the primary domestic change that the American people want is accessible, affordable health care—health care that can‘t be taken away from you when you get sick, health care that can‘t be denied to you because you have a preexisting condition.

The system needs change.  It‘s broken.  American people want to fix it and Congress will eventually respond.

MADDOW:  There is not a Republican counterproposal on health care policy.  RNC Chairman Michael Steele admitted as much today.  Essentially, he said that he was there to do a policy-free, pure politics discussion of health care.

And given that that‘s so far been the Republican approach, I understand why they‘re calling for a delay.  The thing I don‘t understand is why conservative Democrats, some conservative Democrats, are also calling for a delay.  Do you understand that?

RENDELL:  You know, I do in part because, I think, there are a lot of conservative Democrats who are afraid of exploding deficits and the prediction from the CBO is something that makes everyone sit back and say, “Wow.  How are we going to pay for this?”

I think the proposal to tax the top 1 percent of people in America and pay for health care that way and pay for health care by the cost containment that the president wants to put in place are very reasonable and something we all should support.  One of the problems is, it‘s the way the CBO scores things.

There‘s no doubt in my mind, from our own experience in Pennsylvania, that you can do cost containment and cut costs.  And let me give you just one example.  In Pennsylvania, we passed an aggressive law to police hospital acquired infections.

Hospital acquired infections were killing 2,500 people a year in Pennsylvania, costing in charges to the system $3.5 billion.  In just one year after the law, we reduced hospital acquired infections by 8 percent and cut $358 million of charges out of the health care delivery system.  And that‘s just one of 20 different ideas to contain and cut costs.

So, we can cut costs.  I don‘t know how the CBO scored it and said there are not going to be any cost reductions from the Obama plan.  I think the plan will cut costs dramatically.  We‘re going to find out that it‘s far more affordable to do this than anybody thinks.

MADDOW:  The argument from the Republican side has been not that there is some way to reform health care that‘s different than what the president and Democrats are proposing.  Their argument, thus far, and it may change, has this boiled down to “We have the best health care system in the country, stop whining.  Why do you want to mess with something that‘s working so well?”

Do you think that that‘s going to be.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Do you think that‘s going to be the plan they stick with? 

It seems to me, that has to change.

RENDELL:  Yes.  And I don‘t think that washes with any of the American people.  And the statistics are pretty clear.  We have the most expensive health care system in the world.  But in things like infant mortality, cancer, AIDS—things like that, things that govern wellness of the people, we‘re in the mid to low teens.  We‘re 15th or 18th or 19th.

So, we‘re spending the most and we‘re not getting the best return on our investment, far from it.

So, the system has to change.  Look, do we have the best doctors and hospitals in the world?  Of course, we do.  Of course, we do.  And we should be proud of that.  But the system needs changing.  The system can contain costs, very common sense ways of doing it.  And there‘s no excuse for the richest country in the world to have 47 million Americans without health care and another 30 million or 40 million who have inadequate health care, health care that drops them if they get cancer for example.  That‘s unacceptable in the U.S. of A. in the year 2009.

MADDOW:  Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, thanks very much for your time tonight, sir.  It‘s always great to have you on the show.

RENDELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  The secretive religious group in Washington that has ties to all the current major national Republican sex scandals is starting to get slightly less shy.  Members of Congress affiliated with C Street are starting to talk publicly about the group, mostly so far to defend how secretive the group has been.

Also, yet another member of Congress affiliated with C Street seems determined to make himself famous in a bad way.  That‘s coming up with Jeff Sharlet in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Still ahead: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has more thoughts he‘d like to share with us about cheating on his wife.  TMI violation times infinity.  Jeff Sharlet will join us in a moment.  Plus:

Pat Buchanan‘s appearance on the show last week has necessitated a follow-up this evening.

That‘s all coming up over the course of the hour.

But first, we have breaking news from the White House tonight.  A report that‘s key to the president‘s plan to close Guantanamo is due tomorrow.  But we have learned tonight that it actually won‘t be ready for another six months.  The delay was first reported by “Newsweek” investigative correspondent and MSNBC contributor Michael Isikoff, who says the report is late because of continued divisions inside the Obama administration over indefinite detention.  Mr. Isikoff also reports that a second report on interrogations that was also due this week is going to be delayed by two months.

Now, these delays of course raise new questions about whether the president will be able to meet his January 2010 deadline for closing the prison at Guantanamo.  The delays were confirmed at a White House briefing tonight where, according to Mr. Isikoff, quote, “one senior administration official twice referred to closing Guantanamo as a goal.  When pressed, they said it was on track.”

Remember when closing Guantanamo by January was a commitment, not just a goal?

And in some holy mackerel news tonight, one of the strangest conspiracy theories to bog down conservative politics in recent months has been the theory that President Obama isn‘t actually president.  That despite him posting his birth certificate online, despite all contemporaneous evidence to the contrary, the birther conspiracy theorists believe that the president wasn‘t really born in Hawaii, he was born somewhere foreign, and therefore, he isn‘t really president.

Americans love a good conspiracy theory, present company included. 

And there are always conspiracy theories around.

But the birthers are changing American politics by making inroads into the Republican Party.  Ten Republican members of Congress are now signed on to proposed birther legislation in Congress.  And non-birther, relatively moderate Republicans, such as Mike Castle of Delaware, are finding that their normal Republican political events—like town hall meetings in their home districts—are getting taken over by these conspiracist folks.

We have an incredible piece of tape for you shot earlier this summer.  This is a recent Mike Castle town hall in Delaware—kind of amazing footage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE CASTLE ®, DELAWARE:  This lady has had her hand up for sometime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.  (INAUDIBLE).  I want to know—I have a birth certificate here from the United States of America saying I am an American citizen with a seal on it, signed by doctors, with the hospital administrator‘s name, my parents, my date of birth, and the time of the day.

I want to go back to January 20th, and I want to know, why are these people ignoring his birth certificate?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

He is not an American citizen.  He is a citizen of Kenya.  I am American.  My father worked - fought in World War II with the greatest generation in the Pacific for this country, and I don‘t want this flag to change.  I want my country back.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you‘re referring to the president there, he is a citizen of the United States. 

I think we should all stand up and pledge allegiance to the flag. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All the men and women who died for this country in 1776 until the present time.  I think we should all stand up and give pledge of allegiance to that wonderful flag, those people that sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Everybody stand up.

CROWD:  I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands - one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  The birther conspiracy theorists are taking over normal Republican politics.  Some smart Democratic strategist should take credit for starting this movement. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  If there is one piece of common political wisdom one might think South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford would have absorbed over the course of his very public sex scandal, it‘s that that scandal stopped getting worse for him when he stopped talking about it. 

The governor apparently has not taken that to heart.  This weekend, he wrote a newspaper op-ed explaining how famously cheating on his wife will make him better - better at pretty much everything.  Quote, “I‘ve been humbled and broken as never before in my life, and as a consequence I‘ve given up areas of control in a way that I never have before.  And it is my belief that this will make me a better father, husband, friend, and advocate.” 

You know the old adage - nothing improves a husband like him having an affair with a woman in Argentina.  But going public seems to sort of be a theme this week for Gov. Sanford and other associates of C Street, the secretive ministry and living quarters for several members of Congress at which Gov. Sanford and Sen. John Ensign of Nevada both received some sort of counseling during their extramarital affairs. 

A number of other C Street affiliates are now going on the record about the shadowy organization, mainly to defend its secrecy.  Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma telling “Roll Call” newspaper, quote, “It‘s a great place,” and vowing to continue holding foreign policy meetings with African ambassadors at the C Street house. 

Former Ohio Congressman Tony Hall tells “Politico.com” the prayer breakfasts he attended at C Street were, quote, “Probably some of the best moments I had during the week, precisely because we closed the doors.” 

C Street is also in the news anew because of something that happened on the House floor last week.  A member of Congress, one with ties to c Street, argued against public funding for abortion services by saying that if there were public funding for abortion, Barack Obama might have been aborted as a fetus - also, Clarence Thomas. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TODD TIAHRT (R-KS):  If you think of it in human terms, there is a financial incentive that would be put in place, paid for by tax dollars, that would encourage women who are single parents, living below the poverty level, to have the opportunity for a free abortion.  If you take that scenario and apply it to many of the great minds we have today, who would we have been deprived of? 

Our president grew up in those similar circumstances.  If that financial incentive was in place, is it possible that his mother might have taken advantage of it?  Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice - if those circumstances were in place, is it possible that we‘d have been denied his great mind?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Republican of Kansas.  I wonder how he settled on those two, Clarence Thomas and Barack Obama.  What do they have in common?  Congressman Tiahrt was first elected as part of the Republican revolution in 1994.  He is now running for the United States Senate in Kansas. 

Joining us now is Jeff Sharlet who wrote about Congressman Tiahrt‘s affiliation with C Street in his book “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.”  Jeff, thanks very much for joining us again.  I really appreciate it. 

JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR, “THE FAMILY”:  Hi, Rachel.  Thanks for having me back. 

MADDOW:  While you were undercover in the family doing the reporting for “Harper‘s” and for your book, you actually attended a meeting between Congressman Tiahrt and Doug Coe, who is the long-time leader of the family.  What happened at that meeting and what impression did you get of Mr.

Tiahrt‘s position in the family? 

SHARLET:  Yes.  It was a spiritual counseling session, precisely the sort that Ensign and Sanford were having.  And Tiahrt also sort of had sex in the brain but of a different sort.  He was very concerned with the number of babies Muslims are having. 

And he said Americans are killing too many of their babies while Muslims are having too many.  And we need to have more babies and outlaw abortion so that we can win the race with the Muslims.  And what happened was that Doug Coe, the leader of the family, said that‘s fine as far as it goes but doesn‘t go far enough. 

He said to Congressman Tiahrt, “I want you to think bigger.  I want you to think of Jesus plus nothing,” that‘s what he said.  It‘s a phrase they mean to suggest something they call the totalitarianism of Christ.  And I think he was introducing Tiahrt into the sort of the advanced lessons of the family.

MADDOW:  What‘s the totalitarianism of Christ? 

SHARLET:  The totalitarianism of Christ - by that, he meant - he said to Tiahrt, think about - what you need to do is form a covenant, a private covenant with your brothers in Christ.  Men like Ensign and Coburn and Sanford. 

He says when you do this, when you commit total loyalty to each other and you vow to keep each other‘s secrets, you can accomplish much more.  He gave to Congressman Tiahrt examples of guys who had done this very well he thought, Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama Bin Laden, and Lennon.  And you know, it just makes your jaw drop.  But Congressman Tiahrt thought this was very wise advice. 

MADDOW:  His invocation of the abortion of President Obama as a fetus on the floor of the House was such a shock it even earned him some immediate booing in the House which - the House doesn‘t usually do that. 

This kind of wild argument that he made, does it make sense to you in the context of the family‘s teachings and philosophy.  Or is that the sort of thing they would frown on? 

SHARLET:  I think it shows that he‘s not quite ready for primetime.  I mean, the family - what they‘re generally looking for is someone like a Sen. Ensign, pre-affair, a much more polished figure - or Gov. Sanford, a much more polished figure. 

But keep in mind, you know, several years ago, Gov. Sanford was talking about winning the race with Muslims.  Now, he‘s changed a little bit.  Instead of calling Obama a baby killer, he‘s saying, wouldn‘t it be a shame if Obama had been aborted? 

So for him, this is a lighter touch.  This is a part of his grooming process or what the family calls discipling which is preparing him for what looks very likely a possibility that he‘ll be the next senator from Kansas. 

MADDOW:  Jeff, when we are starting to hear more from members of Congress and political leaders who have been associated with the family, with C Street - they‘re sort of starting to come out of the woodwork a little bit, mostly defending the group.

When we‘re hearing from these people who‘ve had affiliations with the group, when they describe C Street, when they describe the family, does what they‘re saying comport with what you reported?  Do you recognize the organization that they‘re describing when you think back on your own reporting on the way the group works?

SHARLET:  Well, there are pieces of it.  We saw a lot of the congressmen who were coming forth like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Randy Forbes.  They talk about how this provides for them a safe space. 

Sen. Sam Brownback - I remember him explaining the same thing.  We were sitting in his kitchen in Kansas and he said, “It‘s a safe place to talk about policy issues, political issues, even sexual matters.” 

But what‘s really interesting about this is these very powerful men feeling that they‘re so vulnerable that they need a safe space.  Sen.  DeMint even said it‘s a place where we remember that senator this, senator that.  It‘s just a title.  They apparently forget and, no, it‘s not just a title, it‘s a responsibility.  It‘s a trust they‘ve been given by the public. 

That is very much in keeping with what happens there.  But it is, at the end of the day, far more political as Sen. Inhofe tried to talk about in his comments. 

MADDOW:  Jeff Sharlet, contributing editor at “Harper‘s” and author of the book “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” and a man who we have been keeping very busy lately.  Jeff, thanks very much for joining us again tonight. 

SHARLET:  Thank You, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” President Obama calls the Republican Party on the carpet for their crusade against health care reform. 

And next on this show, you may have caught my rather heated conversation with my colleague Pat Buchanan last week about Judge Sotomayor‘s Supreme Court nomination.  We have a very specific kind of follow-up to that conversation coming up next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), CHAIRMAN, SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: 

The idea of trying to say, “Well, you know, she was on the Puerto Rican defense thing.  And so we have to ask some questions about that.”  I hope we don‘t go back to the day when we used to have African-Americans up for confirmation and say, “Yes, but you belong to the NAACP.  So you know, we‘re really suspicious of you.”  Come on.  Stop the racial politics.  This is a person ...

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL):  Well, come on, Pat, you...

LEAHY:  No, no, no, but...

SESSION:  I want to disagree on that.

LEAHY:  That‘s what it comes across. That‘s what it comes across. It comes across...

(CROSSTALK)

SESSIONS: Make them...

LEAHY: ... that if you belong to a group that tries to help Hispanics, help them in school, help them in other things, somehow you‘re suspicious. The same arguments were used against Thurgood Marshall and others. I think it‘s wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The two top senators on the committee that handles Supreme Court nominations appearing yesterday on CNN, crystallizing the impact of the Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination hearings.  Sen. Leahy, the chairman of the committee there saying stop the racial politics. 

The vote on Judge Sotomayor‘s nomination is expected to happen at the latest by a week from tomorrow.  Barring something truly unforeseen, she will be confirmed by a large margin.  The United States Supreme Court will get its first Latino justice. 

And the Washington battle over her nomination will be remembered less for what it revealed about the nominee and more for what it revealed about just how much overt racial politics Americans can still stomach. 

After MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan penned a column last week, urging more over at racial politics over Sotomayor‘s nomination, he and I had a heated discussion on this show about race and about Judge Sotomayor‘s nomination.  If you missed it, essentially Pat and I had a sharp disagreement over Judge Sotomayor‘s statement that she‘s an affirmative action baby. 

I think that in our history some Americans have been kept out of positions of power and wealth and influence by discrimination and that that tends to be a self-perpetuating thing, restricting the best jobs, the best schools, the best incomes, the best opportunities to a single group tends to set that group up to continue to prosper disproportionately. 

Historic discrimination doesn‘t undo itself but has to be overtly interrupted by affirmatively helping some people from previously excluded groups into positions where they have the opportunity to succeed. 

So we as a country don‘t end up sealing in place forever a white supremacist society created by and defined by segregation and Jim Crow and slavery.  Current discrimination has to be stopped now and the ongoing effects of massive structural past discrimination have to be overtly overturned as well.  That‘s my position. 

Pat sees it differently.  He describes affirmative action as overt discrimination against white males, full stop.  And I don‘t want to speak for him.  Pat has been making these arguments for a long time.  And he says what he means and means what he says. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  They are victims of this evil affirmative action policy which says in effect that everybody is covered by the 14th Amendment and the civil rights laws.  Unless you‘re a white male and your parents and ancestors came from Europe, then we can discriminate against you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That is the argument Pat made.  It‘s not cool to talk about guests after their segment is over.  It‘s also not fair to re-litigate these arguments in the absence of one of the parties that participated in the argument.  And I will not try to do that now. 

But what I do feel obliged to do is to correct some of the things that were said in the course of my argument with Pat that were stated as fact that were not true.  I feel an obligation just to correct the factual record as we would with anything else that was stated as fact on this show that was not true. 

So first, in trying to make the case that Judge Sotomayor was unqualified for the Supreme Court, Pat said this, quote, “She‘s never written anything that I‘ve read in terms of a law review article or major book or something like that on the law.”

While it may very well be true Pat has not read Judge Sotomayor‘s law review articles, he should not have implied that she hasn‘t written them.  Our staff has tracked five of the judge‘s law review articles, the earliest written in 1979, the most recent in 2004.

Pat also stated that Judge Sotomayor, quote, “How did she get on Yale Law Review?  Affirmative action.”  We contacted Yale, and “The Yale Law Journal.”  A spokesperson told us that the students themselves choose who is on “The Law Journal.” 

And when asked about Pat‘s affirmative action claim specifically, a spokesperson told us, quote, “That is a statement of opinion by Mr.  Buchanan.”  But here is the statement from my discussion with Pat that does require the most emphatic correction. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  White men were 100 percent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 percent of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 percent of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy.  This has been a country built basically by white folks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Pat joined us for this discussion from a studio in Washington, D.C., that is not far from the White House, which was, of course, built by slaves who were not white folks.  The U.S. Capitol, the physical building, was built by slaves.  The city of Washington, D.C., where Pat spent his entire life, was physically built in part by slave labor. 

It‘s not even possible to imagine how America could have competed for a place in the global economy in the 1800s without plantation cotton and tobacco and sugar and rice and the other industries that were so thoroughly dependent on slave labor. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  This has been a country built basically by white folks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That statement is only true if you don‘t consider any one other than white folks to be folks.  Even if you only consider slave labor, even if, for example, you re-imagine the railroad somehow magically building themselves without Chinese laborers, the idea that only white people built America is a fantasy and it should not have been maintained on this show as fact. 

As for who has died for this country in combat?  More than 200,000 Americans fought for the union in the Civil War.  Thousands even fought for the confederacy.  1.2 million African-Americans served in World War II.  And yes, they were among those who stormed the beaches of Normandy. 

The Defense Department says almost 10,000 Mexican Americans fought for the union during the Civil War.  Hundreds of thousands of Hispanics served in the Armed Forces during World War II.  Twelve Hispanics were awarded the Medal of Honor.  Twenty-four Asian Americans received the Medal of Honor for heroism in World War II. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  This has been a country basically built by white folks. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s just not true.  I love white folks.  I‘m white folks.  Yay, white folks.  It‘s just not factually true to generalize from white experience to explain how America came to be.  Also a clarification - Pat said over and over again in our discussion that he is against affirmative action. 

Rick Perlstein, who wrote the book, “Nixonland,” turned up a memo from 1971 in which Pat actually suggested an affirmative action program to Richard Nixon‘s White House. 

It was an affirmative action program for Catholics, quote, “Instead of sending the orders out to all our agencies - hire blacks and women - the order should go out hire ethnic Catholics, preferable (sic) women for visible posts.  One example, Italian Americans, unlike blacks, have never had a Supreme Court member.  Give those fellows the Jewish seat or the black seat on the court when it becomes available.”

In other words, choose a Supreme Court nominee in part on the basis of ethnicity and religion, said Pat to Nixon.  Those are our corrections and clarifications.  Oh, actually, one other - Pat also said, quote, “The U.S.  track team in the Olympics, they‘re all black folks.”

The U.S. Olympic track team is not all black, folks or otherwise.  Also, the Olympic hockey team is not all from Minnesota either, which he also said. 

We very regret these errors ending up on the show.  And we will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We turn now to our red alert correspondent.  Hi, Kent Jones. 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  Does the color red make people crazy? 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

JONES:  Well, let‘s take a look. 

MADDOW:  Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES (voice-over):  There‘s that birther in the red shirt and that McCain supporter, also in a red shirt. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE JOHN MCCAIN SUPPORTER:  I can‘t trust Obama.  I have read about him and he‘s not - he‘s an Arab.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  He‘s 50 percent Egyptian.  He‘s going to change the White House to pyramids. 

(LAUGHTER)

JONES:  No, I‘m not saying there is a direct correlation between the color red and, shall we say, extreme behavior?  But there‘s something going on here. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You damn turn off (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because we don‘t want you! 

JONES:  Red associated with some pretty in-your-face stuff like bullfighting, Jessica Rabbit, anti-fur protests, Mars, Nebraska fans, worldwide communism, lobsters.  Creepy, right?  The electoral map from 1984 and her. 

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK):  We‘re fisherman.  We know only dead fish go with the flow. 

JONES:  So if you are going to a political rally and you have something important you want to say, may I suggest wearing a nice beige? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent. 

JONES:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  Quick cocktail moment for you. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  NASA celebrated 40 years since the first moon walk today ...

JONES:  Yay!

MADDOW:  ... by making a 3.5 foot wide 55-pound marshmallow moon pie. 

JONES:  Delicious.

MADDOW:  Did I say we couldn‘t put a man on the moon?  We can do that. 

JONES:  Oh, yes.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Kent.  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.                    

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,