'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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Guests: Frank Schaeffer, Chris Hayes, Anthony Weiner, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I‘m still sort of hung up on the broke back Texas Two Step. But I.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Michael will do that to you.
MADDOW: I might ask him to stick around to elaborate on that. Thank you very much, Keith. Appreciate it.
And thank you for staying with us for the next hour for what—I have to warn you—it turns out is going to be a rather prurient hour of cable news. I did not intend for it to work out this way, but we‘ve ended up with a show full of terrifying warrior robots, comic book heroes come to life by terrorists, right-wingers calling me really funny names, drugs being snorted off toaster ovens, and polling—as Keith said—on the anti-Christ.
I will admit that this is a very, very weird hour of television we have coming up this hour. But that‘s because it‘s been a very, very weird day of news.
We begin in D.C., where Republicans fighting against the reprimand of Congressman Joe Wilson for screaming “You lie!” at the president, insisted that they did not want to spend time on that reprimand because they had better things to do. Well, today, we learned what it was they were so eager to spend their time on instead of censuring Mr. Wilson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE: As you can see, we have a team effort to get a handle on this issue of the czars.
REP. STEVE SCALISE ®, LOUISIANA: What I found is H.R. 3569, which is called the SAC Act. This bill would sunset all czars effective December 31st of this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The SAC Act, get it? Sunset all czars, sack the czars.
That‘s what Republicans have been working on. More surprising than a midday press conference called to address the czar epidemic that Republicans have just noticed has struck the country was perhaps the reaction that this Republican attack elicited from the White House today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it‘s been somewhat remarkable that in previous administrations, the so-called criticism of this has been a bit deafening. The silence has been deafening, only to have it come around as a political issue now. I‘ve noticed that—you‘ve read Senator Bennett was pushing for a Y2K czar that he didn‘t think was powerful enough. You‘ve seen Lamar Alexander call for a manufacturing czar. So, you know, somebody referred to in the bush administration as the abstinence czar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That mentioned of the abstinence czar there was a reference to a gentleman named Randall Tobias, who also known as President Bush‘s AIDS czar. As AIDS czar, Randall Tobias insisted that countries who wanted any of America‘s AIDS funding had to promote abstinence and denounce prostitution. That turned out to be very awkward when Randall Tobias‘ name turned up on the D.C. madam‘s phone list.
The press secretary also singled out Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Bennett in his rejoinder today.
Back in 2003 when President Bush was the one appointing the czars, this was Lamar Alexander‘s stance then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE: The president of the United States yesterday, in a Labor Day speech in Ohio, talked about—talked about jobs, and specifically, manufacturing jobs. He talked about appointing a sort of manufacturing jobs czar in the Commerce Department, which I would welcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which I would welcome. Manufacturing czar, sure, sounds great.
But now that President Obama is the one appointing the czars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: These czars are an affront to the Constitution. They‘re anti-democratic. They are poor—a poor example of a new era of transparency which was what was promised to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Lamar Alexander.
As for Senator Bennett? Well, he‘s just written a letter to the Obama White House complaining about the proliferation of czars in your administration. If you go to Senator Bennett‘s Web site at this very moment, you will see that one of the things on his brag list of his accomplishments in the Senate is, quote, “Successfully urged President Clinton to appoint a ‘Year 2000 Czar.‘” Yes, but that was for Y2K, that was huge, that totally needed a czar.
Czarism is auditioning to be the new “Birtherism” right now on the
right. It‘s a fact-free but exciting slander against the Obama White House
one that bridges the ever-narrowing gap between conservative conspiracy theories and the beltway Republican agenda. Even as the birther theory that the president is secretly foreign is considered debunk in polite circles, 12 Republican congressmen—do not forget -- 12 of them are still trying to push birther legislation in the House.
And what must have been a disappointment for the birther dozen today, a federal judge appointed by President Bush in Georgia just issued a Hall of Fame-quality smackdown to the birthers, denying yet another of their lawsuits challenging Obama‘s legitimacy as president and saying in the process, quote, “Unlike in Alice in Wonderland, simply saying something is so does not make it so.” The judge even threatened the Medusa head of the birther movement, Orly Taitz, with sanctions if she keeps filing these same frivolous lawsuits in federal court.
So, even as “Birtherism” rapidly converts to a punch line, the overall idea of challenging presidents—challenging President Obama‘s legitimacy is so attractive to the right that they‘re no longer reserving this technique just for President Obama. Today—get this—a three-judge panel in D.C. heard a case brought by a group called Judicial Watch, which alleges, this time, that it‘s Hillary Clinton who is ineligible to serve in office as secretary of state.
A provision in the Constitution says you can‘t take a job if you also had a part to play in raising the salary for that job. Now, Hillary Clinton was a senator when the secretary of state job got a pay raise. To avoid the constitutional issue that was posed by that, the salary was dropped back to its lower level when Secretary Clinton took the job. Of course, it‘s always possible that she is secretly getting paid the difference in Kenya.
If the czar thing and the birther thing and the “Hillary Clinton can‘t really be secretary of state” thing aren‘t cookie enough for you, consider one last development in today‘s news. Today, Public Policy Polling released results from its new poll of residents of the great state of New Jersey. The poll found that 18 percent of New Jersey conservatives say they are sure that President Obama is the anti-Christ. No questions asked. Another 17 percent of New Jersey self-identified conservatives say they just aren‘t sure, but they‘re not willing to rule it out.
What do you think the White House strategy is going to be to rebut the fact that more than one in three conservatives think the president might be the anti-Christ? At least in New Jersey. That is a P.R. challenge.
Joining us now is Frank Schaeffer. He grew up in the religious far right. He is the author of “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All or Almost All of It Back.”
Mr. Schaeffer, thank you so much for coming back on the show tonight.
FRANK SCHAEFFER, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: I do not know what possessed this polling firm to ask whether or not people think the president is the anti-Christ, but they did. Does the response rate among conservatives surprise you? More than one in three saying yes or they don‘t know.
SCHAEFFER: Well, I was a child when President Kennedy was assassinated, and my mother thought, because he died of a head wound, foretold in scripture of the anti-Christ he would be resurrected as the anti-Christ. She thought this might be a possibility.
So, those of us who come from the evangelical subculture have been weaned with our mother‘s milk on a changing cast list of villains. It might be Kennedy to one generation, Obama to the next.
But I think the larger point this brings up is that the mainstream—not just media, but culture—doesn‘t sufficiently take stock of the fact that within our culture, we have a subculture which is literally a fifth column of insanity, that is bred from birth through home school, Christian school, evangelical college, whatever, to reject facts as a matter of faith. And so, this substitute for authentic historic Christianity, and I may add as a little caveat here, I‘m a church-going Christian, really brings up the question: Can Christianity be rescued from Christians? And that‘s an open question.
And when you see a bunch of people going around thinking that our president is the anti-Christ, you have to draw one of two conclusions. Either these are racists looking for any excuse to level the next accusation or they‘re beyond crazy? And I think beyond crazy is a better explanation.
And that evangelical subculture has rotted the brain of the United States of America and we have a big slice of our population waiting for Jesus to come back. They look forward to Armageddon. Good news is bad news to them.
When we talk about the “Left Behind” series of books that I talk about in my book “Crazy for God.” what we‘re talking about is a group of people that are resentful because they‘ve been left behind by modernity, by science, by education, by art, by literature. The rest of us are getting on with our lives. These people are standing on the hilltop waiting for the end.
And this is a dangerous group of people to have as neighbors, and they‘re our national neighbors. And this is the source of all of these insanities that we see leveled at the president. One way or another they go back to this little evangelical subculture. It‘s a disaster.
MADDOW: It is one thing though to think about these as almost cultish
views, to think about these as views that are on the fringes of beyond the
edge of mainstream Christianity. It‘s another thing to look at the
numbers. I mean, in this same poll, the numbers are also really high on
the question of whether or not the president was born in the United States
61 percent of McCain voters in New Jersey expressing doubt that Obama is American, saying he definitely wasn‘t born in the U.S. or they‘re not sure.
The birther thing has been disproven. The anti-Christ thing is—it‘s all another kettle of fish. But how do you work to move people off that position? It doesn‘t seem like facts are relevant in trying to move people away from these beliefs.
SCHAEFFER: You don‘t work to move them off this position. You move past them. Look, a village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot. It‘s as simple as that. And we have to understand, we have a village idiot in this country, it‘s called “Fundamentalist Christianity.”
And until we move past these people—and let me add as a former lifelong Republican—until the Republican leadership has the guts to stand up and say it would better—it would be better not to have a Republican Party than have a party that caters to the village idiot, there‘s going to be no end in sight. The next thing they‘ll do is accuse Obama of being the anti-Christ and then who knows what comes next on and on it goes.
There is no end to this stuff. Why? Because this subculture has as its fundamentalist faith that they distrust facts per se. They believe in a younger of 6,000 years old with dinosaurs cavorting with human beings. They think that whether it‘s economic news or news from the Middle East, it all has to do with the end of time and Christ returns. This is la-la land.
And the Republican Party is totally enthralled to this subculture to the extent that there is no Republican Party. There is a fundamentalist subculture which has become a cult. It‘s fed red meat by the pawns like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and other people who are just not terribly bright themselves and they are talking to even stupider people. That‘s where we‘re at. That‘s where all of this is coming from.
And it‘s becoming circular. It‘s becoming a joke. Unfortunately, a dangerous joke because once in a while, one of these “looney tunes,” as we see, brings guns to public meetings. Who knows what they do next. It‘s a serious thing we all have to face, but the Democrats and sane Americans just have to move past these people, say, “Wait on the hilltop until the end, the rest of us are going to get on with rebuilding our country.”
MADDOW: Mr. Schaeffer, briefly, is there anybody on the right who could be constructive here if they wanted to be? To the extent that people could be moved off of these conspiracy theories? And I understand your point that they not—it‘s not true that all of them could be. But is there anybody who could be influential to try to stop the impact of these conspiracies?
SCHAEFFER: Look, in the year 2000 I worked for John McCain, to try to get him elected in the primaries instead of George Bush. But John McCain sold out by nominating Sarah Palin who comes directly from the heart of this movement and carries with her all that baggage. So, he sold out. I don‘t see anybody on the Republican side of things these days who has the moral standing to provide real leadership, or who will risk their position to do so.
MADDOW: Frank Schaeffer, author of “Crazy for God”—thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. It‘s always fascinating and a pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks.
SCHAEFFER: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: The terrorist group al Qaeda appears to have adopted an American as a new spokes-model, an American whose image they have modeled on a comic book hero. True story—a very weird true story coming up in just a moment.
But, first, “One More Thing” about fact-free indulgence in our politics today. Opponents of health reform first said that it was a secret plot to kill old people. Then they said it was a secret plot to take away veterans health care. Then they said it was a secret plot to take away health coverage just from Republicans. Then they said it was a secret plot to kill women with breast cancer.
Casting around for another group of hopefully scare-able Americans to try to turn against health reform, it‘s possible reform opponents have hit a new low this week, targeting disabled children. Republican members of Congress Trent Franks and Cathy McMorris Rodgers held a press conference this week warning that kids with disabilities would somehow become victims if there is health reform. Pressed by reporters as to whether she could actually point to any language in proposed health reform bills that would deny care to disabled kids, Congresswoman Rodgers said, “No.” But she did say that parents of disabled kids are worried it‘ll happen anyway.
Hmm. I wonder why on Earth they‘d be worried about that. Maybe because people like Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Trent Franks are telling them to worry about it? It may also be useful to note here that kids with disabilities in this country right now, by and large, have government-run health coverage. The SCHIP program is kids‘ health insurance, the Medicaid covers people with disabilities.
So, when Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Trent Franks tell people with disabilities to be afraid of government-run health care, they‘re telling them to be afraid of what they‘ve got now.
Don‘t let the truth hold you back from a good scare though, right?
MADDOW: Before the Bush administration, the phrase “Department of the Interior” never really had much zing. After the Bush administration, it will always sound vaguely pornographic. That‘s because during the Bush administration, the Interior Department‘s inspector general nailed its own employees for having sex with, doing drugs with, and taking all sorts of cheap bribes from employees of the oil and gas industries they were supposed to be regulating.
And one memorable finding, the inspector general described a supervisor at the Minerals Management Service at the Department of the Interior snorting meth of his subordinate‘s toaster oven before they—did something I‘m uncomfortable describing on television. The “meth off the toaster oven” reports and all of the other details is linked at Rachel.MSNBC.com today if you want to read it yourself. Fair notice, it‘s PG-13.
Today, there was a little Interior Department change that we can believe in. Secretary of the Interior Kent Salazar announced that the whole office made famous by the “meth toaster oven snorting” is going to be closed. It turns out that while the employees of that office were stooping and getting high with and taking bribes from the oil and gas industries, they also were letting those industries get away with underpaying their obligations to the federal government to the tunes of tens of millions of dollars.
So, that office is now closed. And hopefully, the phrase of “Department of the Interior” will go back to being very boring.
MADDOW: In the wake of Congressman Joe Wilson being reprimanded by his colleagues in Congress yesterday, the signs are proliferating that his decision to scream “You lie!” at the president during a speech to Congress is making him a hero on the right. And by signs of that, I mean that literally, this sign has just gone up outside the office of Republican Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida. “I am a friend of Joe Wilson.”
And Congressman Steve King of Iowa continues in his efforts of screaming “You lie!” at the president step one in becoming a new Republican hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA: Because his hope for amnesty in the health care bill has gone down because of who? Joe Wilson.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KING: God bless Joe. He said what we were thinking. Joe‘s a man of honor. He‘s an officer and a gentleman and he‘s a patriot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Conservatives are now actually asking Congressman Joe Wilson to autograph photos of himself yelling at the president. The congressman has been happy to oblige. Did I mention how sorry he said he was for doing it?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: The truth is, that had Joe Wilson not spoken, it‘s very likely that this legislation, 3200 in the House, would have proceeded, which has no enforcement at this point even now of the prescription against health care insurance for illegal immigrants. I mean, he did a public service.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: He did a public service. That‘s CNN‘s Lou Dobbs joins the canonization of the “You lie!” screaming congressman. He also serves to remind us that Wilson screaming at the president has also served as sort of a kick-off event for the resurgence of anti-immigration politics on the right. Texas Governor Rick Perry this week used a press conference with Rudy Giuliani to pound his chest about his decision to send the Texas rangers to the border—not the baseball team formally run by George W. Bush, but rather a Texas rangers law enforcement unit that if you squint, looks a lot like a military commando group. Their mission at the border, in Governor Perry‘s words, will be to, quote, “go to where the bad guys are.”
You know, the electoral potency of anti-immigration politics for Republicans can‘t really be denied. After all, without the salient and motive demonization of immigrants, we never would‘ve elected President Tancredo.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”
Chris, thank you very much for coming on the show.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Are we seeing a resurgence of anti-immigration politicking on the right?
HAYES: Yes, absolutely. I don‘t know if it ever went away amongst the base. I mean, this is something that has tremendous—tremendous—resonance with the certain portion of the Republican and conservative base. It has for a long time.
I think it was sublimated largely because the vehicle for the conservative movement sort of awkwardly for much of 2008 was John McCain, who doesn‘t fit quite so comfortably with that portion of the base. And now we‘re seeing it be resurging right now. And there‘s no question that it has exploded in both intensity and profile, you know, in the last six months or so.
MADDOW: Well, it is a weirdly an electoral blessing for Democrats looking ahead to 2010. I mean, how have anti-immigration politics fared for Republicans in recent election cycles?
HAYES: Well, it fared terribly, and it fared terribly because of a basic demographic fact, which is that the country grows more Latino by the day, and shockingly, Latino voters are not super psyched about voting for a party that has, as part of its coalition, a percentage of the population—a portion of the population that seems to hate them.
HAYES: So, yes, shockingly. And so, you know, it‘s proved disastrous and there‘s all sorts of people who are, I think, bad people but have, you know, sort of basic faculties of math and reason, like say Karl Rove who understand that it‘s absolute, you know, political suicide for the Republican Party to continue to be associated—in the minds with the growing Latino population—with this totally intolerant and demagogic portion of the conservative base. And yet, when you see the glorification of someone like Joe Wilson, that‘s exactly what‘s happening.
MADDOW: Well, fantastical success of President Tancredo aside, why is it that Republicans then are going back to this well? I mean, first of all, health reform bills don‘t benefit illegal immigrants, that hasn‘t stopped Republicans from repeating this is a myth, from taking up.
MADDOW: . Wilson‘s cry as a battle cry here. And we‘ve—as you say
we‘ve seen how this has fared for them in past electoral cycles. Why can‘t they help themselves from doing this?
HAYES: Well, they can‘t help themselves because it plays incredibly well for the base. I mean, it‘s one of these things that gets people‘s blood boiling and gets people‘s blood boiling for all sorts of reasons I won‘t speculate on. But the fact of the matter is it does for a certain percentage of the population.
But I think it‘s just really important just to piggy-back on what you said, that there are two things to think about in terms of this health reform bill, right? The accusation is that it‘s going to subsidize the purchase of health insurance for illegal immigrants, absolutely 1,000 percent not true, right? It‘s statutorily borrowed in the bill and the mechanism for subsidization, our tax returns which the legal immigrants then not to file.
But because of Joe Wilson‘s outburst, Max Baucus went and made sure that illegal immigrants cannot purchase health insurance in the exchanges. This is a totally brittle and criminally stupidly idea. And so, what‘s really more frustrating than how politically backwards this is, is the fact that in a round about, in perverse way, Joe Wilson has won through his outburst.
MADDOW: Because conservadems decided to come up with a whole new idea of preventing illegal immigrants from buying stuff.
HAYES: From purchasing insurance.
HAYES: I mean, look, presumably Congress could pass a bill, right, that would prevent illegal immigrants from purchasing food and maybe that would chase them out of the country, but really—I mean, really? Really? Is that the kind of country we want to be?
MADDOW: And how is that going to fare for Republicans politically, honestly.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation” magazine. Thanks for joining us with the bucket of cold water in the face, as usual. Appreciate it, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Dead on arrival pretty much describes the reception today to conservadem Senator Max Baucus‘ health reform proposal.
Senator Baucus, personal note you and I, feel free to come on the show to talk about it any time, or at least to please return the calls our office keeps placing to your office.
Meanwhile, the congressman who declared Senator Baucus‘ bill DOA, Anthony Weiner, will join us shortly. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Still to come, I interview a surprise crucial player in the health care reform fight that you have never heard interviewed before. Trust me.
Plus, robots, robots, terrifying, soul-sucking robots in a scary movie moment of geek. That‘s all coming up.
But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
One of the funny things about al Qaeda, not ha-ha funny obviously, but more like “Hey, that‘s really embarrassing” funny, is that they keep trying to promote American guys purported western converts as al Qaeda spokes-models. First, it was Azzam the American, a kid who was a dorky death metal fan raised on a goat farm in California who ended up in Pakistan running al Qaeda‘s A.V. Club, As-Sahab. He makes propaganda and has himself appeared in al-Qaeda videos in which he speaks English with a fake foreign accent and inveighs against the American infidels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AZZAM THE AMERICAN: It‘s crucial for Muslims to keep in mind that the Americans, the British, and the other members of the coalition of terror have intentionally targeted Muslim civilians and civilian targets both before as well as after September 11th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If that message wasn‘t hard enough to take anyway, there‘s something about the fact that it‘s coming from a chunky kid who was raised in Orange County whose name used to be Adam Pearlman. That makes it all the more ridiculous.
Mr. Pearlman - I mean, Azzam the American is now on the FBI‘s most wanted list. He faces charges of treason and providing material support to al-Qaeda.
And al-Qaeda‘s now marketing another purported American al-Qaeda dude, a man whom they‘ve given the name of - I kid you not - Rakan Ben Williams. This week Rakan Ben Williams issued an essay titled - and again, I kid you not - it was titled, “Obama, What up?”
It is noted by terrorism expert Evan Coleman the essay devolves from its genius title into a bunch of racist name calling, quote, “Do you remember who Kunta Kinte now is, Mr. Hussein Obama? This is you, Mr. Obama, who has failed to understand the true mentality of racism.”
Kunta Kinte? Al-Qaeda is attacking President Obama now with references from “Roots.” I wonder if they mean the LeVar Burton mini series or if they read the novel in the original.
But that‘s not even the most incredible cultural reference of the supposedly American al-Qaeda polemicist, Rakan Ben Williams. People who study al-Qaeda and its communication say that Rakan Ben Williams is probably fake.
He‘s probably not a real person like goat farm death metal boy on the FBI‘s most wanted list. Part of the reasoning for why this guy might be made up is the name, Rakan Ben Williams.
Rakan is a comic book character that‘s really popular in the Middle East. He is “Rakan, The Lone Warrior.” And according to comic book legend, his family was killed by roving Mongol hordes leaving young Rakan to be raised by a saber-toothed tiger.
So to recap, today‘s al-Qaeda news, a probably fake American al-Qaeda convert named after a comic book character raised by a saber-toothed tiger wants President Obama to not be like LeVar Burton, or at least like the fictional character LeVar Burton portrayed in the American TV mini-series in 1977.
Al Qaeda is never funny. Americans will never laugh with them. But sometimes, being nihilist, murdering medieval dirt bags also means being incredibly stupid and embarrassing. And then I think it‘s OK to laugh at them.
Finally, a quick programming note, or at least a quick request for future programming note. By now, you will have probably seen images of this line, which was distributed at the 9/12 protest in Washington over the weekend.
It says, “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy.” That sign stood out at the 9/12 march, not for being gut-churning - a lot of the signs at the 9/12 march were gut churning. But this one stood out because it was both gut-churning and well made.
This was not some off-the-cuff message one person scribbled on the cardboard at their kitchen table. This is a professionally-designed and printed sign. And the group that had it professionally designed and printed and distributed, they printed their name on it. It‘s the American Life League, which you can see there.
They describe themselves as a Catholic organization, a Catholic pro-life organization that printed and distributed signs that said “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy.” The cackling over the senator‘s death is just implied.
Even though the sign was distributed for Saturday‘s march, we haven‘t talked about it yet this week on this show because I had been hoping that the American Life League would come on to the show to defend or at least try to explain the sign.
So far, they won‘t. We ask them to on Monday, they said no. We asked them again yesterday, they said no, since the American Life League‘s president, Judy Brown, has also called me names in her column, calling me a “pro-promiscuity zealot.” Woohoo!
I thought that she and I would like to have a chance to talk this out like adults. I would love to hear the American Life League‘s Catholic pro-life explanation for the “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy” signs.
So far, they are afraid to defend it. I think they should defend it. So consider the invitation extended for a third time.
MADDOW: We have a very special exclusive guest tonight you will not see anywhere else. Joining us now is health care reform. Hi, bill. Are you OK? I have to say you don‘t actually look very good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve had a bad August, Rachel. People said so many mean things. I don‘t want to kill old people. Come on.
MADDOW: Well, things did seem to be going pretty well for you. As recently as July, you were approved in those three House committees. You were approved in one Senate committee before the recess. You only had one committee to go. What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Max Baucus happened. He thought delaying me would make Republicans like me better. Yes, right. As if.
MADDOW: Bill, that cough sounds pretty bad. Maybe you should get that looked at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would, Rachel, but I can‘t afford it. I‘ve got to go. Oh, I‘ve got a cracked rib too. See you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Are you actually going to make it? I‘m very worried about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know, Rachel. You tell me.
MADDOW: Oh, Max Baucus, what have you brought? Back in November last year, Sen. Baucus released a healthcare reform call to action where he outlined his big plan for reform with the number one goal of universal coverage.
And to get there, he said there would be a public health insurance option to compete with the private companies and bring down costs. Health care for everyone.
That sounded like a good idea to a lot of Democrats in Congress and lucky for them, they had huge majorities in both houses of Congress. So practically, they didn‘t need to spend a lot of time worrying about trying to get Republican votes they could get a move on.
And healthcare reform generally chugged right along. It passed the Senate Health Committee, chaired by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy on July 15th with all Democratic votes. It passed the House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee two days later with all Democratic votes.
And then it passed a third House committee, Energy and Commerce on July 31st with, spoiler alert, all Democratic votes. This was the little bill that could. Thanks to the Democratic majorities in Congress in both houses and the widespread belief that this was necessary, needed and going to happen this year, it was moving along.
It only had to get through one more committee, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Max Baucus, the same Max Baucus who, back in November, wrote his health care for all public option manifesto.
But instead of proceeding like all of the other committees had, like all of the other committees that healthcare reform had zipped through, Sen. Max Baucus decided to do things differently.
In his committee, he decided to take Republicans from the minority of the committee and put them into a small bipartisan group of six, to see if those six could get Republicans to vote for the bill instead of it just being voted for by Democrats.
And that‘s where everything came to a halt. Instead of passing the bill before the August recess, which would have been probably possible if the Finance Committee had just done what all the other committees did. Sen. Baucus instead started hundreds of hours of bipartisan negotiations while Republicans and anti-reform forces luxuriated in the time they were granted to crusade against reform.
Sen. Baucus negotiated a way the public option and coverage for living wills. And he made the bill anti-immigrant and he made it anti-abortion. And in the end, what did he get?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES SENATE COMMITTEE ON
FINANCE: No Republican has offered his or her support at this moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So was it worth it? All that time, Sen. Baucus spent watering down the bill and negotiating with Republicans who weren‘t going to vote for it anyway? You know, that‘s time you‘ll never get back.
Joining us now is Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us again.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY), MEMBER, HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE
COMMITTEE: It‘s my pleasure.
MADDOW: You said today that Sen. Baucus‘ proposal is quote, “dead on arrival.” What makes you say that?
WEINER: Well, I don‘t say it with any pleasure. I just can say that if you don‘t have something containing costs, something providing competition, the public option, for example, in the bill, then it doesn‘t have the support in the House of Representatives.
But it‘s not just in the House. It doesn‘t seem to have the support among the president or the public of the United States of America. So after all the time, I‘m glad they put so much effort into it. You know, it is an important part of the process. But frankly, if the bill was intended to move this forward, it really didn‘t accomplish that.
MADDOW: The reason that I highlighted the procedure by which we got the Baucus bill in our kind of stupid little intro that we did here is because I think it is worth knowing that the Finance Committee, Sen. Baucus‘ committee, did this differently than everybody else did.
They tried this experiment of doing this bipartisan committee within a committee, this group of six. Now that that bill seems to have - or the outcome of that process seems to have produced something that nobody‘s necessarily going to vote for, should that process just be worked around?
Should the whole Senate Finance Committee look at it the way whole committees and all the other committees that have done so thus far?
WEINER: Well, let me just correct one thing. I think all of the committees began with the idea of, “Let‘s try to do a bipartisan bill.” But I think in every case we learn that many Republicans, if not all of them, came to the conclusion they want to be no part of actually solving this problem, whether it be for political reasons or just substantiated. They don‘t believe that there‘s any problem to solve.
The problem is with the group of six and Sen. Baucus is that we can‘t see bipartisanship as an end. It has to be seen as a means to getting good legislation for the American people. And at no point should we allow the people that simply say as the Senate Minority leader says, “We‘re against it,” or as John Kyl who is the whip of Republicans say there shouldn‘t be a single Republican vote.
We can‘t let those people stand in the way of doing what the American people want us to do. And clearly, whether it be Democrat or Republican or Independent, people in this country want us to solve this problem.
MADDOW: In terms of what is ultimately going to come to pass this year and it seems like something will happen even if we can‘t say exactly what it‘s going to be now. Do you think that a bill without a public option won‘t pass the House?
WEINER: I think that it won‘t. I think that it won‘t because I think that fiscal conservatives who say they want to hold costs down or quickly realize that if we just say to the insurance companies go cover all of these new people but we have no cost containment, it‘s just going to be unaffordable.
I think people are in the more progressive side, who believe that competition for insurance companies makes good sense, I think the - if you put those two groups together, you‘ve got well over 150 votes in the House who believe, in one form or another, you need cost containment.
Look, let‘s explain what this is about. If there are three parts, one part is covering the uninsured. The other, second part is making sure that people who have insurance get treated well by the insurance company.
The third piece of this is so important and that‘s cost containment or else the other two things won‘t be possible.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about a sticky political wicket here. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that Sen. Baucus‘ proposal will move the debate forward. She has previously said, been a real champion of the public option, saying that something without a public option won‘t pass the House, which is what you just said.
Are you confident that she is still an ally for your position on this? Are you confident that the House leadership is still an ally for getting a progressive bill through the House?
WEINER: 100 percent because Nancy Pelosi can count. You know, she is our speaker because she understands what‘s going on in the Democratic side of the aisle. And I think she‘s got a pretty good sense of what‘s going on out there in the country as well.
Look, this public option is not just a progressive pipe dream. What it is, is a fundamental element, and to many of us, a compromise. You know and I‘ve come on your show before to say that I think the really - the way to do this right, to do it least expensively and to do it most clearly is to extend something like Medicare for all Americans.
I‘m prepared to compromise. I‘m prepared to say, listen, maybe not an entire government single-payer plan. But there at least has to be some element, some tiny sliver. And that‘s all that‘s left. Nancy Pelosi, I think, understands without at least that, there are at least 100 of us, maybe as many as 150 of us that won‘t vote for a bill.
MADDOW: Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, thank you very much for your clear statements on the matter for your leadership. And thanks for joining us tonight.
WEINER: Well, I appreciate it. I just want to know if the guy who does the voice of the bill is now in the union.
MADDOW: We took care of him, don‘t worry. All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith‘s special guest is the insurance industry whistleblower, Wendell Potter. He‘s been making headlines all across the country. Wendell Potter explains why the insurance industry is reacting to the Baucus proposal like a 7-year-old reacting to getting a real live pony for Christmas.
Next on this show, we‘ll talk about how I wasted my afternoon.
Two words - jumping robot. Moment of geek, stick around.
MADDOW: In life during wartime news, the U.S. military has confirmed today that three American soldiers lost their lives today in southern Afghanistan when their vehicles hit a roadside bomb.
Word of their deaths comes as a new CNN poll shows that U.S. approval for the war in Afghanistan is down to just 39 percent now.
Despite that and despite growing opposition in Congress to sending any more U.S. troops, the chairman of the joint-chiefs-of-staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, told Congress yesterday that the insurgency in Afghanistan is strengthening and that, quote, “A properly resourced counterinsurgency probably means more forces.”
President Obama said today he isn‘t rushing to send more troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You don‘t make determinations about resources. And certainly, you don‘t make determinations about sending young men and women into battle without having absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Year nine of the war in Afghanistan starts on October 7th.
It would be nice to have a clear strategy for the anniversary, you know.
MADDOW: OK. If you can spare 12 seconds, I want you to watch this little video. It is only 12 seconds long. This was just posted at the “Danger Room” blog at “Wired.com” this week and I cannot stop watching it. It‘s a metaphor for something, but I can‘t yet tell what.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over): So here‘s a tiny, little wheeled robot. And obviously, this little guy has got an obstacle to get over. That curb in front of it is like three times his size, right? How is he ever going to get over that curb?
Oh, OK. Let‘s see that again. Here, I am all worried about how this little dude is going to get over the curb and - booing, not only over the curb but over the giant fence behind it.
This little robot is called the Precision Urban Hopper. It is the latest military spec robot built by Sandia Labs. It‘s about to be developed by a company called Boston Dynamics who have also developed other robots they call the Big Dog which walks on all fours and can carry some cargo.
The Rise Robot, which climbs up walls like the scariest gecko ever. Also the RHex, which can cover rough terrain, which makes me wonder why our cars don‘t have flop-over treads like it, and which is frankly, inexplicably scary when it‘s going really fast.
There‘s also Israel‘s Snake Robot, speaking of scary, with a camera for a head. There‘s Vecna‘s BEAR Robot, BEAR standing for Battlefield Extraction Robot.
And then, of course, there‘s the infamous drones, our deadly flying robots that allow us to say we‘re not really at war with Pakistan even though our robots are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
That‘s tonight‘s “Moment Of Geek.” The little jumper guy, the Precision Urban Hopper, can leap over obstacles up to 60 times bigger than itself. Whether these things give you nightmares or make you want to go to engineering school or both, it‘s your call, of course. Personally, I‘m terrified. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: We turn now to our advanced symbology correspondent Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. You know the “Da Vinci Code,” right?
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
JONES: Well, the writer, Dan Brown, has got out a new one out called, “The Lost Symbol.” It‘s a gigantic, crazy, “Harry Potter”-sized hit right now. Everyone‘s buying it. And take a look.
MADDOW: All right.
JONES (voice-over): In “The Lost Symbol,” symbologist Robert Langdon runs around Washington translating a complex web of arcane symbols‘ astonishing truths about a powerful secret society that will rock the world to its very foundations.
So obviously, it‘s nothing like “The Da Vinci Code.” totally different. This time around, Langdon delves into the mysteries of the free masons, the symbol-happy lodge brothers who are responsible for all of the freaky deaky on the dollar bill.
Oh, and these guys. OK, that is kind of sinister. “The Lost Symbol” shrewdly arrives right after our summer of paranoid kookitude(ph) - you know, “If only we can penetrate the man‘s secrets, we can take down the man,” and all that.
This gives me an idea for the next installment, “The Lost Document.” The vast left-wing conspiracy wants to keep Robert Langdon from finding Obama‘s real birth certificate. Clues to its secret location are buried in the pages of “The Nation” and “Huffington Post” and are jealously guarded by a fanatical priestly order called the registered voters of the United States of America.
And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren‘t for these meddling Harvard symbologists. Still, studying symbols can be useful. For instance, I discovered a symbol that explains the entire universe.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: I have a great cocktail moment for you.
MADDOW: It is an update on operation Iraqi baseball.
JONES: Oh, my favorite.
MADDOW: The Iraqi baseball team has received their uniforms.
MADDOW: Awesome. Ebbets Field Flannels donated the jerseys and the hats and the pants and the stirrup socks and everything. They finally arrived. The McClatchy news service got this photo of the team in the uniforms for us. It‘s so cool.
Jerry Cohen at Ebbets Field wrote to me today and said, “I can‘t tell you how great it feels to see them finally being worn by the guys. It‘s very cool.” And I should also point out that if you would like to have an Iraqi baseball team jersey, you can buy one from Ebbets Field.
JONES: Very cool.
MADDOW: Which is very cool. We‘ve got the link posted at “Rachel.MSNBC.com” today. And the even cooler part of it is that if you buy one of these jerseys, a portion of the proceeds goes to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
JONES: There you go.
MADDOW: Operation Iraqi baseball -
MADDOW: The best thing that ever happened to me.
MADDOW: I‘m so happy. So thanks to Ebbets Field. Thanks to the folks at Verdero in the south Bronx for donating the other gear. It‘s been so cool. Thanks.
“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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