updated 9/1/2009 10:45:12 AM ET 2009-09-01T14:45:12

Guests: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Chris Hayes, Ana Marie Cox, Wayne Slater, Kent Jones

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thank you, America.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  All of you who are watching me at the same time and it‘s not my ego that‘s predicting that, yes.

MADDOW:  America.  Thank you, Keith.

And thanks to you, individual person at home who is staying with us for the next hour.  We appreciate it.

We begin tonight with the end of the wondering and the speculating about how President Obama is going to handle the biggest policy challenge of his young administration.  With the previous administration handing off to him, two wars and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, but also, huge Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, President Obama decided to try to do something really hard in his first year in office.

As you can probably say in your sleep by now, the need to reform America‘s health care system has been on presidential agendas since the 1940s.  Truman tried it.  Nixon tried it.  Clinton tried it.

They‘ve all watched the proportion of our economy that we devote to health care grow and grow and grow and grow—even if the number of uninsured people continues to rise, even as the other industrialized countries we compete with get better outcomes, that their populations are happier with, with universal coverage, without spending the extra $1 trillion a year or so that we somehow set on fire—I mean, pay to insurance companies.

Other presidents have noticed for generations now that the effect on our economy of our inability to deal with health care is like trying to drive somewhere with the trailer hitched to the back of the car that‘s got two flat tires and we keep piling more and more and more weight on it.  We have known for years that we can‘t put this off forever.  We have got to fix this health care system.

Actually, what we need to do is build some sort of health care system.  We don‘t have a system now.  We have haphazardly grown this thing that‘s a collage of relatively unregulated expensive for-profit insurance markets and we just hope that will work out for people—except for the population groups for whom we can‘t bear to just see the impact of just having private insurance.

For those groups, we step up.  We step up for our veterans.  We promise veterans that they will be covered and they get their care from the V.A. and from TRICARE For Life.

We step up for the elderly, too.  They all get Medicare, government-provided single-payer that most older people in this country will fight to the death to defend.

We step up for kids in this country.  More than 6 million American kids are covered by SCHIP, the state kids‘ health insurance program championed by the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

This is what passes for a health care system.  In the richest and most ambitious nation on Earth, programs that work and that represent a moral public commitment to making sure that the specific favored population groups are covered and then a totally dysfunctional, out of control, expensive, dissatisfying, bureaucratic, inefficient, but massively profitable private for-profit system for everyone else.

Building a real health care system, taking on this most difficult of all the political fights in American politics is what the new president, Barack Obama, decided to try do in his first year in office.  As the nation buries the man most identified with the fight for universal health care, the man who‘s very eventful 47 years in the U.S. Senate are most defined by his work towards health care reform.

Some of the suspense about whether or not President Obama is going to succeed at this and how is over.  Before Ted Kennedy died, the committee he chaired in the U.S. Senate passed his health reform bill.  It calls for a major reform of the private insurance markets and for Americans to have the choice of buying into a Medicare-type system if they want to.  It‘s not exactly Medicare for all like he pushed for in the past, but it still would be a big leap forward.

The political question of the summer was how a bill like Kennedy‘s could get through the next hurdles in Congress—specifically a second Senate committee that inexplicably had decided to let three members of the Republican Party have an equal voice in deciding what passed despite the fact that Republicans are vastly outnumbered on that committee, as they are throughout the Senate, because, frankly, Republicans got creamed in the last election.

Now, today, that question can be answered.  Republicans on the finance committee and in general are not going to support Kennedy‘s health reform bill—or any health reform bill.  They are just not.  One or two or three of them may peel off from their party ultimately and support as individuals, but the party as a whole, no.  Nada.  No.  Not going to do it.

And as of today, the suspense is over because the White House appears to have finally received that message that the Republicans are not going to help.

Here‘s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs speaking today about the likelihood of getting any Republican vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It looks like Republicans are stepping away from seeking a bipartisan solution.  Some of the comments that have been made, it certainly seems to suggest, I think, to anybody that reads them that they‘re—they seem to be less interested in the bipartisanship they talked about only a few weeks ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So, at the end of a long, hot, politically dirty August, what

has finally convinced the White House of this—what has finally convinced

the White House the Republican Party has no intention of supporting health

reform?  How have they finally come to terms with the fact that whatever

they‘re going do, they‘re not going to get any help from the Republican

Party to do it—might have been the fact one of the three Republicans,

those three magic Republicans ostensibly working with Democrats to craft

this bipartisan bill, one of them gave this week‘s Republican radio address

in which he shared his belief that health care reform is—you guessed it

really a secret plot to kill old people.

           

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE ENZI ®, WYOMING:  The bills would expand comparative effectiveness research that would be used to limit or deny care based on age or disability of patients.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  No, it wouldn‘t.  But that‘s Senator Mike Enzi—erstwhile health care reform negotiator who turns out is a deather.

Meanwhile, “The Washington Post‘s” Ezra Klein unearthed today a fund-raising letter sent out by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who is the top Republican on health care in the Senate, who, with Senator Enzi, was also supposedly working on a bipartisan bill with Democrats.

In his fund-raising letter, Senator Grassley tells his would-be donors, quote, “I had to rush you this Air-Gram today to set the record straight on my firm and unwavering opposition to government-run health care.  And ask your immediate support in helping me defeat ‘Obama-care.‘  The simply truth is that I am and always have been opposed to the Obama administration‘s plan to nationalize health care.  Period.”

Period—there you have it.  Political blessing of obviousness.  Two of the Republicans that had been gifted this inexplicable role in shaping policy because they are the most reasonable guys Democrats could find to negotiate with—two of those people are spreading the “kill old people” conspiracy theory and they are raising money on their prospects for defeating Obama-care.

And the White House now apparently gets it.  Thanks to the gift of obviousness.

So now that we all understand that this is not going to be a bipartisan thing, the real question, the really important question moving forward is, what can the Democrats really get done on this age-old American political problem if they‘ve got zero Republican votes?

Joining us now is a man who caucuses with the Democrats but who is a proud independent from the state of Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders.

Senator, thanks very much for coming back on the show.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you to dispute my premise right off the bat.  Do you think that there are zero votes for health care reform among Republicans in the Senate?

SANDERS:  Rachel, I believe that for many, many months.  And it‘s sad to me that it took the administration that long to finally catch up with what reality clearly is.

Republican Party today is enormously obstructionist.  They have no desire to address the enormous crisis that the American people are facing in health care, with so many people uninsured and underinsured, 1 million people going bankrupt.  You know, you talk about death panels -- 18,000 people a year die because they don‘t get access to a doctor when they should.

So, no, it doesn‘t surprise me that the Republicans have not come onboard.  I don‘t believe they ever had any intention to.

MADDOW:  The last time you and I spoke, you said that if Republicans were going to stonewall on something like the public option, you could support using budget reconciliation rules to beat a Republican filibuster, to pass health reform without any Republicans.  Do you think that is going to be the way that this moves forward?

SANDERS:  I think there are two things that have to be done.  Remember, in the Senate we have 60 people in the Democratic Caucus.  That, in fact, once Massachusetts sends another senator, that is enough to beat back Republican filibusters.  And every Democrat in this country must demand that every member of the caucus stands firm against Republican filibusters.

And then we can develop a strong health care reform plan which focuses on prevention and increases primary health care, which makes sure that every single American has coverage which begins to deal with the absurdity of the insurance companies, cutting people off because they have pre-existing condition or because they got sick in the previous year.

So, I think what we need to do is get 60 votes to stop the Republican filibuster and where we can—it‘s a little bit tricky—but where we can certainly use the reconciliation package.

MADDOW:  So, just to be clear, you are separating the issues of cloture, the filibuster, and the bill that‘s actually voted on.  So conservative Democratic senators like Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson and other people who have not said that they would support the kind of legislation that you would, for example, you are saying that activists who want health reform should pressure them to vote no, to stop the Republican filibuster.

SANDERS:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  . and so that there can be an up or down vote on the bill.

SANDERS:  Absolutely.  Because it‘s a lot easier to go forward in a comprehensive way to regular order.  And that means stopping the Republican filibuster and then bringing forth vote.  And as I‘ve said many times, if some of the conservative Democrats don‘t want to vote for final passage because we have a strong public option, because we‘re taking on the insurance companies and the drug companies—fine.  All we need is 50 votes plus the vice president.

So, that is the preferred route.  If you can‘t do that, then you use reconciliation.  That is a harder approach to bring forth comprehensive reform.

MADDOW:  I guess—and this is—I am outside the Senate, I am outside Washington and don‘t know how the politics of these things work, but I‘m guessing that since there has been a de facto 60-vote rule to get anything through the Senate in recent years since the Republicans have been in the minority and the Democratic leadership has not made a ton of noise about that, I‘m guessing that they are not interested—they are not inclined towards trying to hold all the Democrats together to stop that Republican filibuster.

Are you getting any support for this idea from the leadership?

SANDERS:  Well, Rachel, we are.  I mean, it‘s been hot and cold.

MADDOW:  OK.

SANDERS:  The leadership, on occasion, has made it clear that they expect everybody to vote against the Republican filibuster.  Unfortunately, the next thing, sometimes, there has been reversal on that.  But I think that the bottom line is what we need is the president—we need the Democratic leadership to be articulating very clearly what real health care reform means, take on the right wing echo chamber which is lying and distorting what we are trying to do, rally the American people—as the president did so brilliantly during the campaign.

In my view, once the American people understand the distortions coming from the right wing, once they—we can rally people who have no health insurance, small business people who are going out of business today because they can‘t afford soaring costs—I think we can bring forth a strong bill and make the American people proud.

MADDOW:  Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont—thanks for joining us tonight, sir.  It‘s always great to have your very clear perspective on this stuff.  Thank you.

SANDERS:  Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Coming up: There is a place where torture yields totally reliable intelligence -a place where threatening to kill someone‘s children is just one way to earn a medal.  That place, of course, is “planet Cheney.”  We will suit up and visit with our friend Chris Hayes for safety in just a moment.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced today that a special election will be held January 19th so Massachusetts voters can choose who they would like to fill out the remainder of Senator Ted Kennedy‘s term which ends in 2012.  Before he died last week, Senator Kennedy advocated Massachusetts state law be changed so that the governor could appoint a successor for Kennedy until that special election can happen.

Well, state lawmakers will hold a hearing to discuss that proposed change next week.  So, you have another occasion for the balance of the Senate, the big huge national politics of health care to all terms on arcane wrangling in one little state legislature.  Civics dorks, get your popcorn ready.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  There are certain basic elements that define life here on

planet Earth.  In general, we humans need air to breathe, water to survive,

and we need facts in order to win arguments.  The vitality of facts may not

be among the essential elements of life on another planet within our galaxy

planet Cheney.  The former vice president reemerged yesterday after weeks in presumed orbit somewhere to give an interview on FOX News, offering his response to the just released CIA report which concluded that we don‘t really know how effective torture was—or if you reside on planet Cheney?

           

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I think the evidence is overwhelming, that the EITs were crucial in getting them to cooperate and that the information they provided did, in fact, save thousands of lives and let us defeat all further attacks against the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The evidence is overwhelming.  I think so.

You know, the actual evidence from the CIA review of the torture program in 2004 doesn‘t say that at all.  Quote, “There is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness,” talking about interrogation techniques.

In the case of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times in one month, the CIA says, quote, “It is not possible to say definitely that the waterboard is the reason for Abu Zubaydah‘s increased production, or if another factor, such as length of detention, was the catalyst.”

But on fact-free planet Cheney, that counts as overwhelming evidence.  That issue of Abu Zubaydah‘s interrogation led to another fact-free but still iron-clad Cheney assessment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  It shows that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah provided the overwhelming majority of reports on al Qaeda.  And both of them were uncooperative at first, that the application of enhanced interrogation techniques, specifically waterboarding, especially in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is what really persuaded him he needed to cooperate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So says the transmission from planet Cheney.

You know, if only we could hear from someone who is actually there at that Abu Zubaydah interrogation.  If only we could hear from, say, the FBI agent who first interrogated him.  If only he could tell us what actually happened there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI SOUFAN, INTERROGATED ABU ZUBAYDAH FOR FBI:  And we interrogated him using intelligence interrogation methods, within the first hour, we gained important actionable intelligence.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  You say, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced which did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking, correct?

SOUFAN:  Correct, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Oh.  Enhanced interrogation techniques made him shut down and stop talking, says the man who was there.  Back here on planet Earth, the facts about that interrogation are the exact opposite from news from planet Cheney.

You know, even in an interview that was so softball, that conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan denounced it as, quote, “a teenaged girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers,” FOX‘s Chris Wallace did manage to ask Mr.  Cheney if he was OK with torture techniques that went even beyond those that were purportedly legalized by the Bush lawyers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS:  This inspector general‘s report, which was just released from 2004, details some specific interrogations—mock executions, one of the detainees threatened with handgun and with an electric drill, waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times.  Do you think what they did was wrong?

CHENEY:  It was good policy.  It was properly carried.  It worked very, very well.

WALLACE:  So, even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you are OK with it?

CHENEY:  I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I am.  So, even though they went through the motions of trying to make some kinds of torture look legal on planet Cheney, feel free to ignore even that cubic zirconia imitation rule of law.

Planet Cheney is always fascinating.  But it also continues to be the source of the major voice of the Republican Party on national security.  His only competition for that rule is probably his own daughter now, who frankly says all the same things that he does.  And the fact that Dick Cheney continues to be the voice of opposition to accountability for the torture years is probably the greatest political gift there could be for those of us who do want that accountability.

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, whose article on the Church committee that investigated secret government activities after Watergate is this week‘s cover story on “The Nation.”

Chris, thanks very much for making the time.

CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, THE NATION:  Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Do you agree with my premise here that Cheney is the voice of the opposition to really investigating what happened in secret in the Bush years?

HAYES:  Absolutely.  I mean, the remarkable thing about Cheney is how unapologetically, impolitically evil he is, right?  I mean, he doesn‘t—there‘s no hedging, no mincing.

And when Chris Wallace says, “Well, what about these mock executions which exceeded even the criminal allowances that your regime made for torture, what about those?”  He said, “I‘m fine with that,” which, you know, what if they‘ve carried out actual executions?  What if they‘ve actually killed the children?  What and what if they had—as John Yoo accented to in a House Judiciary Committee testimony I saw—ordered to crush the testicles of a child of a detainee?

Apparently, all of this is fair game for Cheney.  I just think it shows just how insane, insane, insane his vision of national security and constitutional governance are.

MADDOW:  Your cover story in “The Nation” this week is essentially a call for wide, wide ranging inquiry.  Not at all like what‘s been announced from Attorney General Eric Holder, this very specific.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  . narrow look.  You are calling for something like the inquiry after Watergate, that gave us the presidential ban on assassinations and the whole modern structure of congressional oversight for intelligence.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Cheney was in government while the Church committee was happening.  What did he think of it then?

HAYES:  It‘s interesting.  It was, I think, one of the key sort of defying traumas of Dick Cheney‘s political life.  One of the things that happened during the Bush administration was, you know, they were incredibly secretive and they had just obvious contempt for Congress.

And there were people who said, well, here‘s a guy, Dick Cheney, who served in Congress, how can he loathe Congress so much?  And I think a lot of it goes back to what he saw during the Church committee which was, frankly, the Congress of the United States wrenching back some of the power, a lot of power that had been taken from it throughout the Cold War and he has given these interviews in which he sort of ruefully talked about it being the nadir of executive power.

And the fact of the matter is, he is someone who‘s an executive power absolutist and watching this happen, as he was the chief of staff under President Ford, and this kind of sea change was taking place and he was watching it up close, I think that was kind of a key trauma for him and it inspired a kind of commitment on his part to make sure that if he was ever back in the White House, they would regain the executive power that he saw lost there.

MADDOW:  And so, we‘re now in a situation with Cheney being the foremost voice against investigating the Bush years.  We‘re sort of back to Church committee v. Cheney.  The question is whether he‘s going to win this time.  And he lost the time around.

Last question for you, Chris.  The Democrats‘ political argument against the big investigation is that this president would rather spend its political capital on stuff like health reform and climate change and—this is something that would be nice to clean up but it would eclipse everything else.

HAYES:  Right.

MADDOW:  . this White House wants to do.  The opportunity cost is too great.  What do you think about.

HAYES:  Right.

MADDOW:  . that argument?

HAYES:  Well, I can understand it‘s plausibility.  I don‘t think it‘s a crazy argument, but the fact of the matter is, as self-consciously practical that argument is, it‘s proving wildly impractical to implement.  And the reason is, the White House has defined any news about the torture regime or what happened in the last eight years as a distraction.  And, therefore, by their own definition, when there‘s any news, it‘s distracting.  It‘s a distraction.

And if there was some sort of comprehensive inquiry put in place with a target date to release a report, what you would do is you would corral all this into one place.  You wouldn‘t have this oscillating news cycle in which every week or two, there‘s a new revelation and bookers across Washington, D.C., riffle through their rolodexes to see what Cheney they could get on television to, you know, to apologize for torture, you would actually have some sustained inquiry that would put all this in one place.

I actually think it would be politically beneficial to the White House for something like that to take place, because what they‘re doing right just isn‘t—it‘s not working morally.  It‘s not working constitutionally, but it‘s just not working practically, politically.

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine—it‘s a great cover story.  Thanks very much for making time to talk to us about it tonight, Chris.

HAYES:  Thank you, Rachel.  I really appreciate it.

MADDOW:  Senator John McCain, as you know, earned his credibility on the subject of torture.  He earned it the very, very, very hard way.  And Senator John McCain says that torture is bad and it‘s wrong and it‘s illegal and it is not in our national interests.  And Senator John McCain now says that he does not want it to be investigated.  Ana Marie Cox joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I think it harmed us.  I think torturing harmed us.  And I think it harmed our image in the world.  I think the interrogation were in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture that we‘ve ratified under President Reagan.  I think that these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Senator John McCain speaking on CBS this weekend, coming out strongly in favor of investigating and potentially prosecuting Americans who committed torture.

Very sorry.  Actually, John McCain did say all those things this weekend on CBS about torture being wrong and bad for the country and illegal, but that was apparently his argument to not prosecute anyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  We ought to go forward and not back.  For us now to go back, I think, would be a serious mistake.  I think it‘s a mistake.  I think in the future, we‘ll find out it‘s a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It was illegal.  It was awful that we did that and we have to make sure that the people who did it get away with it.

You know, because of his personal history as a prisoner of war, because of him being tortured and seeing the torture of his fellow prisoners in Vietnam, John McCain‘s change of heart since the presidential campaign to say now that Americans should not be held responsible for torture and mistreating prisoners is both hard to understand and it is politically important.  What John McCain thinks about torture really matters in this country.

A Bush Justice Department memo that was just released says CIA told Congress in 2007 that it wanted to use extended sleep deprivation, really extended sleep deprivation—keeping people awake for six days.  The memo mentioned Senator McCain by name, essentially bragging that he was one of the senators who was told about the sleep deprivation torture in advance.

Quote, “In those”—excuse me—“In those classified and private conversations, one of the members expressed the view that the CIA detention and interrogation program should be stopped, or that the techniques at issue were inappropriate.”

Well, now, Sen. McCain‘s office is denying his role in that saying that he told the CIA he was, quote, “opposed to unduly coercive techniques and especially when used in combination or it is taken too far including sleep deprivation.” 

So again, this is a little awkward.  The CIA brags that extreme sleep deprivation torture was on the up and up.  Had to be - even John McCain knew about it.  McCain has spoken publicly many times specifically about sleep deprivation being torture and his obvious objections to torture. 

Now, he is objecting to his name being used by the CIA to justify them doing it.  And he still doesn‘t want any of this investigated? 

Joining us now is someone who has spent a lot of time trying to understand Sen. John McCain.  It‘s Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America and a contributor to “Playboy” magazine.  Ana Marie, it‘s good to see glue good to see. 

ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AIR AMERICA:  It‘s good to see you, too, Rachel.

MADDOW:  After a campaign event in Iowa in 2007, John McCain said this.  He said, “After we passed the Detainee Treatment Act and Military Commissions Act, both of this in 2006, then obviously anybody who violated any law of the U.S. would have to be held responsible.”  That was Iowa 2007.  Now, it seems like he no longer thinks that.  Do you have any insight into the change? 

COX:  Well, I actually spent a long time on the phone with people in Sen. McCain‘s office today trying to sort of get to the bottom of this.  One thing I really feel like I should say they are pushing back really hard on that CIA that said that he OK‘d the sleep deprivation thing. 

MADDOW:  Yes.

COX:  And I remember him talking a lot about sleep deprivation and it

being torture.  So I don‘t really - on that one - for some reason, I‘m not

trusting the CIA.  But going back to -

MADDOW:  Wait.  Let me stop you there.  I think that‘s important, though.  I mean, that‘s sort of - that‘s the important and interesting thing about it.  Because he is saying he doesn‘t want an investigation, but yet, he‘s objecting to what the CIA saying about him. 

COX:  Well, actually, it is - he doesn‘t want a prosecution.  He doesn‘t want special prosecutors in the DOJ involved.  There is actually right now, as I‘m sure you now, a summit intelligence committee investigation going on.  He fully supports that. 

There is a little puzzle about the lack of, you know, responsibility part.  You know, if you want - have an investigation and you find things - you find out people did things that are wrong, then you would like to have something done about that, which he doesn‘t quite go that far. 

I don‘t think that it‘s all his fault though, I have to say, or that we should pin this all on him, that there‘s a backtracking here.  As you well know, his position now is pretty much identical to Obama‘s who also doubled back on his promise on prosecute tortures. 

MADDOW:  Oh, sure.  But the question is whether or not Sen. John McCain is going to continue to be some sort of moral leadership on the issue of torture.  And what I don‘t understand is to change that very specific statement, saying anybody who did anything illegal after the Detainee Treatment Act and Military Commissions Act. 

So anybody who says wanted to sleep-deprive somebody for six days in 2007, they would have to be held responsible.  Now, the CIA is saying that was kosher because John McCain signed off on it.  He is going nuts about them saying that, but still isn‘t asking for any sort of criminal investigation.  I don‘t understand this. 

COX:  I don‘t understand it either.  And I have to say I don‘t think we‘ve heard the last from McCain on this one.  Again, like I got into a very heated argument with two different staffers today on this who really wanted to emphasize that the senator has not changed his opinion on torture and that‘s very clear from what he said on “Face the Nation” yesterday. 

Now, it is a question of what is happening going forward.  To me, it is not useful to have a law if you don‘t wind up prosecuting it, right?  And I would think that something McCain believes as well - I don‘t know exactly like what the - I don‘t want to say there is a game being played. 

But definitely when I talked to his office today, there was a little bit of note of “told you so” to their voices when they pointed out his position was the same as Obama‘s.  They kept on wanting me to emphasize that rather than the fact McCain seemed to have changed his mind.  And I have to say that may be true, in which case I‘m disappointed in both of hem. 

MADDOW:  Right.  And I was going to say that says a lot less interesting Obama than it does about John McCain, which is the thing I‘m still trying to get to the bottom of it.  It‘s good to know that there is a lot of energy in his office around this issue. 

I would love to hear an explanation from them, I guess, on the change in his position.  We‘ll try to get it from him.  But so far, he doesn‘t want to be on the show.  We‘ll keep asking. 

COX:  I‘ll keep asking, too.

MADDOW:  All right.  Thanks, Ana Marie.  Ana Marie Cox is national correspondent for Air America and contributor to “Playboy” magazine.  Great to see you.  Thanks for your time tonight.

Coming up, a Texas gubernatorial candidate publicly proclaims his hatred for the United States of America.  He said it into a microphone on the steps of the state capitol.  In Gov. Rick Perry‘s Texas, this is actually a sort of reasonable strategy for trying to win an election there now.  Yes, yes.  We‘ve got the tape.  Hold on just a second. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When state tourism slogans go wild.  On the Texas tourism Web site, it says, “Texas - it‘s like a whole other country.”  Some folks in Texas are taking that way more literally than they should.  The extra-crazy videotape evidence is next along with our guest Wayne Slater. 

And Kent Jones will be here with a tribute to gaffes, the time you put in your car, I think.  But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. 

First up, the cap-and-trade bill that is now headed for the Senate and has inspired some really momentous political fakery.  You will recall that the coal industry‘s PR firm stole letterheads from local senior senators and groups like the NAACP and then wrote letters to Congress on the stolen letterhead to make it look like those groups were against cap and trade. 

And when the coal industry set out to build a Web site, supposedly showcasing real people, regular Americans who are against cap and trade because they just cared a lot about coal, the coal industry found those real people by buying pictures of them from “iStockPhoto.com.” 

The energy industry has also been hosting energy citizen rallies, one of which in Houston we covered on this show because it featured oil company employees bust into the event by their employers which makes that rally one of a group of very specific types of energy citizens. 

Well, now, today, “The Washington Post” reports that the energy citizen rallies ends with an emotionally poignant video, a video that shows a whole bunch of people looking right in the camera and saying meaningfully, “I‘m an energy citizen.  I‘m an energy citizen.”  And me, I‘m an actor paid to say, “I‘m an energy citizen.” 

Quoting from today‘s “Washington Post,” quote, “Some of those films for the video were actors, a petroleum institute spokeswoman said.” 

All right.  Had you already figured out that Energy Citizen was funded the American Petroleum Institute?  We asked the American Petroleum Institute if we could please get a copy of that video, the one they are showing at public rallies all over the country. 

We were told by them that it was not available publicly for contractual reasons.  That sort of thing happens when you hire actors.  So if you have attended one of the American Petroleum Institute-funded rallies and you happened to tape the event with your camera phone or some other device, you know, you could E-mail me, rachel@msnbc.com.  I‘m just saying. 

And finally, there is a new social networking site online that we want to give a shout-out to, try to give a little helping hand.  If it is for people who just do not think that that Friendster and MySpace and Facebook are Republican enough.  The site is “Republicanville.com.” 

And it looks like a lovely place to meet people who share your same political orientation if you are a Republican.  It could be a nice place to upload fun works of Photoshop or something. 

I wouldn‘t go “Republicanville.com” looking for a job, though.  There is just one, one job listed in the job section and it is for an internship.  It‘s actually for an internship at “Republicanville.com.”  And I‘m guessing that‘s without health insurance. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Once upon a time, the sixth largest air force in the whole wide world was the air force of Iraq.  Around 1990, they had French mirage fighter jets and Soviet-made MIG fighters like the ones that Tom Cruise so handily dispatched in “Top Gun.”  That‘s something like 750 aircraft. 

But in Gulf War I, the U.S. went for Iraq‘s air power first and bombed their air force pretty much to smithereens.  Iraq managed to save about 100 of their aircraft at the time by sneaking them into Iran. 

But then, Iran decided to keep those planes.  They wouldn‘t give them back.  Now, in this life during wartime, the post Gulf War II Iraq air force is decimated.  They‘ve got zero jet.  They‘ve mostly just got helicopters. 

But are the fortunes of the Iraqi air force about to change again?  Their defense ministry announced this weekend Iraq just found 19 of its Soviet-era MIG fighter jets in Serbia.  They had misplaced them.  Saddam sent them over to Serbia in 1989 for maintenance, and for a bunch of reasons Serbia had them ever since. 

Well, now, Iraq says it wants them back.  Serbia says except for one that it kept in a museum in Belgrade, most of the jets are in pieces.  And even if they weren‘t, by the way, they‘d still be 20-year-old Soviet MIGs.  But still, got to start somewhere, right?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX):  We think it is 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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Some residents of the great state of Texas have had enough of the oppressive hand that feeds them.  And over the weekend, they decided to bite it. 

It was nearly five months ago that Texas Governor Rick Perry came out publicly in support of a resolution affirming Texas sovereignty and thereby opening the door to the possibility of breaking apart the United States of America by having Texas secede from the union. 

Well, now, a group of secessionists calling themselves the Texas Nationalist Movement is demanding that Gov. Rick Perry make good on his threats.  The secessionists held a rally this weekend on the capitol steps in Austin lamenting that Governor Perry wasn‘t there to support them and calling for a special session of the Texas legislature to be called to debate whether or not Texas should leave the country. 

You know, many conservative politicians this summer have enjoyed trying to secure the support of the Fringy McFringerson(ph) by making some extreme statements, whether it is Sen. Tom Coburn saying the U.S. deserves threats of assassination and other political violence right now, whether it‘s Congressman Phil Gingrey saying that people should bring guns to public meetings now.

Or whether it is Rick Perry saying that maybe Texas ought to secede.  The problem is this is what happens when a supposedly mainstream politician feeds the fringe.  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KILGORE, RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR:  I hate that flag up there, that flag that‘s above the Texas flag.  That‘s the United States flag.  I hate the United States government.  The U.S. flag is coming down from over Texas.  It will not be part of Texas anymore. 

DEBRA MEDINA, RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR:  We are aware that stepping off into secession may, in fact, be a bloody war.  We are aware.  We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots. 

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Health care for those who can‘t pay for it! 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, get a job.  Get a job.  Get a job. 

(CROSS TALK)  

KILGORE:  We want freedom, total and complete freedom.  Secession. 

Secession is the answer!  We hate the United States.  Get out of our lives. 

Get off our back.  Move on! 

DANIEL MILLER, PRESIDENT, TEXAS NATIONALIST MOVEMENT:  Governor Perry, I and the rest of people of Texas, if you abrogate this leadership, we will pick up this banner and we will march it forward.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of secession, we will (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Yes, we can! 

(CROWD SHOUTING “YES, WE CAN!”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes, we can.  I do not think that means what you think it means.  One of the single most amazing things about that tape that we just saw, the “I hate the flag, I hate the U.S.” guy, “I hate the United States of America” - that guy is running for governor in Texas. 

The woman who said, “We‘re ready for a bloody war?”  Also running for governor in Texas.  Or is it president?  To be president of the nation of Texas? 

Joining us now is “Dallas Morning News” senior political reporter Wayne Slater.  He‘s author of the book “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.”  Wayne, thanks very much for coming back on the show.  Good to see you. 

WAYNE SLATER, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS”:  Hey, great to be with you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So, no Rick Perry at the secession event.  After his big splash at the tea parties this spring why do you think he didn‘t show up? 

SLATER:  Yes.  Well, I think this is an object lesson and be careful what you ask for because you may ask for secession and then you end up with the lunatic fringe on the capitol steps calling for you to do something about it. 

Clearly, Rick Perry is trying to divide the field here.  On the one hand, he wants to talk about secession and states rights and the Tenth Amendment and state sovereignty to fan the flames of the right wing of his party for re-election. 

On the other hand, he doesn‘t want to position himself so that many - just normal conservative Republicans think he is too closely-aligned with the kooks. 

MADDOW:  Well, what are those political risks there in terms of seeming too politically aligned with the kooks?  Is it possible to seem that way right now in Republican politics in Texas?  Is it possible to seem too extreme and that be the reason you lose a Republican primary? 

SLATER:  Well, it doesn‘t seem that way, does it? 

MADDOW:  That‘s why I‘m asking. 

SLATER:  You have, in fact - yes.  You have Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the challenger of Rick Perry, saying that she thinks the secession talk is silly.  She is calling for enlightened Republicans, and I guess enlightened Republicans in Texas means those who go to NASCAR but don‘t put the confederate flag on the window of the car. 

This is really an appeal to a conservative constituency in the primary, the Republican primary that is very, very conservative.  Now, on the one hand, you don‘t want to appeal to folks whose main sort of method of operating is to call for you to pick up your guns and go to the hills. 

On the other hand, talking about states rights and state sovereignty and anti-Washington rhetoric really pays dividends here. 

MADDOW:  Well, if Hutchinson is going to run to Perry‘s left on the issue of sovereignty and state rights and the prospect of secession, I‘ve got to ask you, you‘re an experienced guy in Texas politics, are there any real chances that as this bid for re-election ramps up for Perry, he would support there being a referendum on secession or there being some sort of formal debate of it in the legislature? 

SLATER:  Well, this group, in fact, is asking the governor to call a special session for - to put an issue on the ballot for Texas voters to vote to secede from the union which would be, of course, illegal.  It is unlikely. 

I talked to the governor‘s office this afternoon.  It‘s unlikely the governor is going to do this.  On the other hand, as I said, the governor would like to continue to fan the flames, the heat of those conservative Republicans who like the idea of independence, who like the idea of state sovereignty, who don‘t like Barack Obama, who don‘t like the federal government. 

And rhetorically, he‘s using something like a discussion of secession, though probably not really secession to build his political profile. 

MADDOW:  Wayne Slater, senior political reporter with “The Dallas Morning News” and author of the book “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.”  Wayne, invaluable insight as always.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

SLATER:  Great to be with you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith asks “Blackwater” author Jeremy Scahill about Dick Cheney‘s outrage - outrage over the proposed Justice Department investigation into what the CIA did with his approval.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We turn to our fossil fuels glorification correspondent, Mr.

Kent Jones.  Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  How is the planet expected to reduce its carbon footprint in the face of bouncy, Croatian pop music?  I don‘t know. 

MADDOW:  Wow.  I don‘t know either. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES:  Well, the electric car era is nearly here.  Better for the environment.  Quieter.  Tiny carbon footprint.  Intellectually?  I‘m there.  I get it.  But so far, this affair is strictly from the waist up.  Where‘s the sexy car culture buzz?  Where‘s the rock ‘n roll, man? 

Are we supposed to replace 90 years of sweaty, squealing muscle with this?  We‘re even into gas and oil all by themselves. 

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ):  Drill new wells offshore. 

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  Drill, baby, drill.  And drill now.  Drill, baby drill. 

JONES:  Face it.  We love us some liquefied dinosaurs.  “Atlantic Online” points out that 150 years ago this week, oil was drilled out of the ground for the very first time in Titusville, Pennsylvania.  As a birthday gift, they post a link to a video by the Croatian pop star, Severina, entitled “Gas, Gas,” a loving tribute to gas, gas. 

(MUSIC PLAYING)

If our planet is to ever get over our lust for all things carbon, first we have to get past this. 

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  And in other news, the way you say “gas” in Croatian is, “gas, gas.”

JONES:  Gas, gas -

MADDOW:  Thanks, Kent - cutting to the chase.  Thanks, Kent.  I have a cocktail moment for you. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  My girlfriend Susan‘s favorite thing in the whole world is the Rose Parade.

JONES:  Oh, yes?

MADDOW:  And that‘s because all the floats are covered in seeds and organic material. 

JONES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  “The Minnesota Independent” this week has been reporting on seed art at the Minnesota state fair. 

JONES:  Oh, that will be good. 

MADDOW:  Political seed art.  For example, we‘ve got this one here.  Obama‘s birth certificate in seeds.  A little guy in the corner yelling, move on (EXPLETIVE DELETED) birthers. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  There is also one for Michele Bachmann with her precious moments, some of her most amazing quotes in seeds.  We‘re going to put links to all this stuff at “Rachel.MSNBC.com” today.  So cool. 

Thanks, Kent.  Thank you for watching tonight.  We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now. 

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

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