updated 9/22/2009 11:22:09 AM ET 2009-09-22T15:22:09

Guests: Wendell Potter, David Weigel, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Richard Trumka, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  You know, if he had only said plucking so much of the last week wouldn‘t have happened.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  I know.  I know.  It‘s—I‘m just giving him—he‘s a good guy.  I‘m giving him the benefit of the doubt.  Keep on plucking.

MADDOW:  Yes, as well.  Thanks, Keith.

Thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

We begin tonight with a new campaign to terrify you about health care reform.  Within Congress where what‘s going to happen is actually being worked out, the action is all among Democrats—and, frankly, things are happening really fast now.  Pressure from the left for major reforms is heavy and it is starting to change the range of what‘s possible.

Conservative Democratic Senator Max Baucus saying in an interview with “The New York Times” late today that because of pressure from the left, he will make more generous the subsidies in his bill to help people afford health insurance.

Over in the House, the lead conservative blue dog Democrat on health care, Mike Ross of Arkansas, was hit at the end of last week with ads that threatened a Democratic primary challenger against him if he didn‘t support real reform including the public option.

Well, now, Congressman Ross has been hit with devastating poll results, highlighting the risks of his stance against the public option to compete with private health insurance.  This poll was commissioned by the liberal Web site “Daily Kos,” but it was carried out not by a liberal group but by the nonpartisan traditional polling firm called Research 2000.  The poll found that in Mike Ross‘ Arkansas district, voters in general are in favor of the public option.  Independent voters in the district specifically are in favor of the public option.

And among Democrats in Mike Ross‘ district?  Democrats were in favor of the public option by a walloping 74 percent.  That‘s the hardball context in which the specifics of what our new health care system is going to be like are being worked out.  It‘s being worked out among Democrats.

Republicans are just not a big part of the legislative process right now, as evidence by the fact that even a senior Republican senator like Orrin Hatch today offered an amendment to the Baucus health care bill singling out—and I quote—“any state with a name that begins with the letter ‘U‘ to get special federal health care assistance.”  When your policy suggestions could double as skits about the alphabet on “Sesame Street” it may be fair to say that you‘re not doing the real heavy-lifting in developing legislation.

But even as Republicans become more and more irrelevant to the content of any health reform bill, they are launching new attacks on the whole idea of reform itself.

(MUSIC)

MADDOW:  And they‘re scary.

After promoting the idea that health care was a secret plot to kill old people and a secret plot to take away veterans health care, and a secret plot to kill women with breast cancer, and a secret plot to deny health care specifically to Republicans, and even a secret plot to deny care to disabled children—that one was particularly classy—just when you thought they might be running out of groups of Americans to scare about what secret plot lurks within health care reform, they found a new one.  A new survey being sent out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee says that health care reform is actually a plot to deprive you of health care on the basis of your race.

And, you know, the president is black.  So, we don‘t want to give you any ideas, but guess which race will be discriminated against?

Yes.  Under the heading “Rationing and Restricting Health Care” on this fund-raising fake survey from the Republican Party appears this question, quote, “Are you concerned about health care rationing could lead to a quota system which would determine who would get treatments on the basis of race or age?”  We‘re not saying that‘s going to happen, but hypothetically, would that sort of thing concern you?

Although they have been among the worst offenders in terms of scaring Americans by making stuff up about health reform, the Republican Party is not exactly alone here.  Consider this letter that has been sent out from the health insurance company Humana to its older customers, quote, “Millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many important benefits and services.”

In addition to that not being proposed by anyone in any of the health care bills under consideration, that sort of disingenuous health reform fearmongering might also be illegal.  Humana is being investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services because the government pays Humana to provide Medicare Advantage coverage to Medicare patients, and by virtue of that, Humana has agreed to abide by some marketing rules—marketing rules that are basically in place so Medicare patients won‘t be confused about who‘s sending them information about their benefits, confused between their insurance company and the government.

Now, in this case, Humana says they don‘t think they broke the rules but they are cooperating with the investigation nonetheless.

Meanwhile, an advocacy group called Consumer Watchdog on Friday released a sheet of internal underwriting guidelines from the industry that may clear just how sweet the deal has been for companies in the current system and how bad that system has been for those of us trying to use it to get our health care needs met.  BlueCross of California guidelines from 2004, for example, said you could be disqualified from health coverage in certain circumstances if you had varicose veins.

Health Net guidelines from 2006 said that you could be denied coverage or charged higher premiums if you ever had treatment for toenail fungus or allergies.  Health Net said you could be rejected from coverage if you were pregnant or if you were an expectant father.  Yes, who could ever be expected to cover a high risk freak like that?

A company called PacifiCare in 2003 not only said that pregnancy or being an expectant father were grounds for automatic rejection of health coverage, they also refused coverage to police officers and firefighters as a class.

What‘s actually scary about health care is what passes for a health system in this country now.  Why again does anyone in Congress fighting to preserve the industry that brought us the genius idea that police officers don‘t deserve health insurance in America?  Why is it so important to preserve that system?

Joining us now is Wendell Potter.  He‘s a former health insurance executive-turned-whistleblower.  He was head of public relations for CIGNA, one of the nation‘s largest insurers.  He‘s now a senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Mr. Potter, thanks very much for joining us again tonight.

WENDELL POTTER, FORMER INSURANCE EXECUTIVE:  Thank you, Rachel.  And also, I was at Humana for a few years, too.

MADDOW:  Which makes it all the more relevant to have you here.  Thank you.

I have to say that I was upset, I was sort of shaken up by these industry documents that were made public this weekend.  Internal rules that say you can‘t cover police officers.  You can‘t cover firefighters.  Don‘t cover anyone who‘s going to have a baby.

This pre-existing condition system was created by the industry.  What was the purpose of it and how has it worked out for them?

POTTER:  Well, it‘s worked out great for them.  They‘ve been able to avoid paying out billions of dollars in claims through the years because of the system that the industry created.  And they did this primarily to be able to avoid anyone who might need health insurance.  They‘ve been—they had such a sweet deal over many years by avoiding or not having to accept anyone who applied for coverage who might have some kind of illness in the past.

In fact, there are some professions in the industry that in the past they‘ve actually written do not quote.  So, it‘s something—and, in fact, health care workers are among those that health insurance companies would rather not have to cover if they had a choice.

MADDOW:  What about when someone already has coverage?  Do pre-existing condition clauses factor after somebody‘s already been granted coverage in order to avoid paying specific claims or in order to drop them?

POTTER:  Absolutely, it does.  And this is in the individual market where someone doesn‘t have access to health insurance through the workplace.  You have to fill out an application.  And you are expected to try to remember everything that you can throughout your medical history, throughout your life.  If you miss something or if you forget something, then if you do get sick, if you do have medical claims, the insurance company will go back and look at application, and they will have better memory—they‘ll have better records than you will have memory, and they‘re very—very often, they will cancel your coverage even though you paid premiums year in and year out every month on time even if you had acne or something like that.

MADDOW:  When we look at the prospects for reform right now, the idea of getting rid of pre-existing conditions is something that pretty much everyone seems to be on board with even the health insurance industry.  They‘re willing to let—they‘re willing to let the pre-existing condition thing go.

If you put yourself in the mindset of yourself when you worked back in the industry, or executives who are there now, surveying these reform prospects right now, how are they feeling about what may happening to their industry?

POTTER:  Well, they would be willing to give up pre-existing conditions as a condition to deny coverage because they see this as a potential bonanza for them.  If—and they‘ve already gotten the president to go along or change his course and agree that everyone should be forced to get coverage and that would mean that if there‘s no public option, they would have billions of dollars in new revenue that would come from new policyholders and for those who can‘t afford to pay their overpriced premiums, taxpayer dollars that would go into these companies.  And a lot of it would come out in the other end in terms profits for the shareholders.  So, it‘s a sweet deal for them.

They have said in the past, by the way, that they would—they‘d be willing to give up pre-existing conditions.  They said this in congressional testimony back in 1993.  It‘s empty rhetoric.  But they would be willing to go along with it, first of all, because I don‘t think they can‘t avoid it this time.  And secondly, in exchange for getting all of these new customers, you betcha, they‘ll go along with it.

MADDOW:  When I think about my own health insurance coverage and my own family‘s experience, my friend‘s experience with health insurance coverage, I have been through a long period of life when I was uninsured.  A lot of people in my family, my friends, have been through time where we‘re uninsured.  But I also know, a lot of people who have health insurance right now but still feel that we are underinsured, still feel that we‘re being given unaffordable costs even after paying unaffordable premiums.

Do you feel like the sort of new regulations for industries—including getting rid of pre-existing conditions but all the other things that are being proposed—would actually make our insurance less bad if we‘re all going to be required to have it?

POTTER:  No, I think it will make it even more bad.  Pre-existing

conditions could be eliminated.  I think they should be.  It should be made

illegal a long time ago.  But a lot of the legislation would still enable -

in fact, it would sanction or enable companies to continue shifting more and more of the cost of health care to us.  The so-called premiums might be more affordable comparatively, but on the other end of that is that we would make us pay more out of our own pocket for coverage.

           

So, the goal of making sure that no one has to file for bankruptcy because of medical bills is a pipe dream with the kind of legislation we see right now.

MADDOW:  And that is the argument for the public option to compete with private system.

POTTER:  Right.  Exactly.

MADDOW:  Wendell Potter, former head of public relations for CIGNA, also formerly with Humana—thank you very much for coming on the show tonight, sir.

POTTER:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Last weekend in Washington—last weekend—the conservative place to be was the oddly ill-focused tea party held on the occasion of the 9/11 anniversary, now to be remembered forever in journalism school textbooks for this scene of an associate producer at FOX News rallying the crowd so that the network could show images of a crowd that looked rallied.  This weekend in Washington, the conservative place to be was the Values Voter Summit, where the chief of staff to a U.S. senator told the crowd that pornography makes you gay.

I would never make something like that up.  You would never give me. 

We have an actual eyewitness report to this guy saying that—next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  First of all, I think it‘s important to realize that I was actually black before the election.  So.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was President Obama on “The Late Show with David Letterman” from this afternoon‘s taping, answering the claim made by former President Jimmy Carter that racism was behind the most recent political attacks against him.  Mr. Letterman also asked the president about putting this visit to a late-night comedy show on his presidential itinerary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  That‘s why those were—you know, you ask your advisors, who‘s responsible for this?

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST:  Yes, exactly right.

OBAMA:  And everybody kind of looks down.

LETTERMAN:  Yes.

OBAMA:  And they pull out their BlackBerrys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  President Obama on his sixth visit to “The Late Show,” but this was his first as president.

We‘ll be right back.

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MADDOW:  Behold, a Missouri congressman, candidate for U.S. Senate, until recently, the number three Republican in the House, telling what seems to be a really long, meandering, gut-churning racist joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ROY BLUNT ®, MISSOURI:  Supposedly it‘s the turn of the 19th century, the end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century, there was a group of British occupiers in a very lush, very quiet, very peaceful, very uneventful part of India.  And this group of British soldiers who were occupying that part of India decided they‘d carve a golf course out of the jungle of India.  And there was really not much else to do.  So, for over a year, this was the biggest event going on getting this golf course created.

And they got the golf course done and almost from the day the first ball was hit on this golf course, something happened they didn‘t anticipate.  Monkeys would come running out of the jungle and they would grab the golf balls.  And if it was in the fairway, they might throw it in the rough.  If it was in the rough, they might throw—they might throw it back at you.

And I can go into great and long detail about how many things they did to try to eliminate the monkey problem, but they never got it done.  So finally, for this golf course and this golf course only, they passed a rule, and the rule was you have to play the ball where the monkey throws it.  And that is the rule in Washington all the time.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Well, who does what?  So, who‘s the—who‘s the monkey in Washington in this story?  It‘s Republican Congressman Roy Blunt who wants to be the next Republican senator from the great state of Missouri.  Mr.  Blunt performed his lamentation of Washington monkey at this weekend‘s Values Voter Summit in Washington—which in addition to hosting much of the Republican congressional leadership and most of the probable Republican candidates for president in 2012, it also had some kind of strange stuff going on.

You might recall on Friday‘s show, we warned you there was going to be a breakout session at the summit to define what they called a new masculinism, like feminism but for guys.

Here‘s how that went.

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MICHAEL SCHWARTZ, SEN. COBURN‘S CHIEF OF STAFF:  It‘s been a few years, but not that many, since I was closely associated with pre-adolescent boys, boys who are like 10 to 12 years of age.  But it is my observation that boys at that age have less tolerance for homosexuality than just about any other class of people.  They speak badly about homosexuality.  And that‘s because they don‘t want to be that way.  They don‘t want to fall into it.

And that‘s a good instinct.  After all, homosexuality, we know, studies have been done by the National Institutes of Health to try to prove that it‘s genetic and all those studies prove it‘s not genetic. 

Homosexuality is inflicted on people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Inflicted on people.  The speaker there is chief of staff to United States senator.  His name is Mike Schwartz, and he‘s chief of staff to Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.  Mr. Schwartz is also a founding member of Operation Rescue.  He also co-authored a book accusing gay people of using AIDS to advance a nefarious gay agenda.

And now, well, this weekend, he moved quickly from the gay being inflicted on people to some remarkable advice about pornography and preteens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARTZ:  All pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.  Now think about that.  And if you—if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he‘s going to want to go out and get a copy of “Playboy”?  I‘m pretty sure he‘ll lose interest.  It‘s the last thing he wants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Chief of staff to United States senator.  How does a person have time both to be chief of staff to a United States senator and to develop complicated theories about how porn makes you gay, and that‘s a good thing to tell an 11 year old?  Under the same roof as that breakout session at the Values Voter Summit, the most absurd award ceremony award was unwittingly being earned by the Values Voter Summit organizers.

Bill O‘Reilly, who is a host at FOX News Channel, accepted the summit‘s first ever Media Courage Award.  The ceremony to award Mr.  O‘Reilly his Media Courage Award was closed to the media.  Courage.

Joining us now is the man who snapped that photo of that sign, David Weigel, a reporter for “Washington Independent.”  He filed several reports from the Values Voter Summit.

Mr. Weigel, thanks very much for coming back on the show.

DAVID WEIGEL, WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT:  Thanks for having me again.

MADDOW:  Was the Media Courage Award ceremony being closed to the press a mistake?  It seems like a very awkward decision.  Did they really follow through on keeping reporters out?

WEIGEL:  It was a surprise to everyone.  Reporters were ushered out at 5:00.  We were supposed to be allowed back in at 7:00.  And when we showed up, a very bashful, chagrin staff of Family Research Council informed us that Mr. O‘Reilly has just instituted this rule.  Somebody who is inside the event with a camera, I think, was kicked out very seconds after I took that photo, seconds after I took that photo.

And it was—not only was it surprising, but the content of the speech was actually about, according to who were inside, the content was about why the media doesn‘t cover conservatives.  Now, up to now, getting kicked out of the event wasn‘t a reason the media didn‘t cover conservatives, but O‘Reilly‘s doing his part.

MADDOW:  After the new masculinity breakout session, we just played some clips from that—what was the crowds‘ reaction to Mr. Schwartz‘s comments that porn will make you gay and we should tell preteens this?

WEIGEL:  It was—a door had been opened and they had just discovered an answer to questions that had for years and years.  It‘s not audible on that tape, there is a gasp, and a bit after he explains the truth in the story, some people started asking about where he heard this, what the guy‘s name was, and they wanted to know more about this theory because I think it cracked open a lot of theories that value voters, as they define themselves at this conference, had about why America keeps getting further from the values they like.

And this was a very nice silver bullet explanation.  I mean, you know that evangelicals, American evangelicals have a—there‘s a pornography addiction that a lot of these speakers talk about this.  So, it all came together for them and I heard gasps and people nudging each other to hear more about this.

MADDOW:  I‘m also—in addition to talking to people like Tom Coburn and his staff—Senator Coburn is on the far-right end of the Republican Party.  But I was also interested to see people like Tim Pawlenty turning up at this event.  He has still talked about, as a moderate, in beltway common wisdom.  Can you tell us what he was like before this Values Voter Summit audience?

WEIGEL:  He was revelatory, I think, because the reason Governor Pawlenty is seen as a very credible candidate to take down Barack Obama is that he‘s a governor of a blue state who has governed for most of his tenure with a Democratic legislature and vetoed a lot of things he doesn‘t like but close to the middle.

Before this audience, he was pushing every single button.  He compared what President Obama was doing on foreign policy to what Neville Chamberlain did in appeasing Hitler.  He talked about—he called the president out for the debt he was putting on our children and that actually indulged the people who are angry about the president speaking to schoolchildren, saying, “The next time you do it, you should apologize for this debt you‘re leveling on them.”

And he quoted from the verse from “Chronicles” that Ronald Reagan used in his inaugural and there was a moment where everyone in the audience, not everyone, but a big portion in the audience knew that passage and they were reading it along with him.  He sounded—he sounded like a preacher and it was—it was one—something that elevated him to the number three position in this straw poll, but two, just something we haven‘t seen from this guy before.

MADDOW:  Certainly not part of the national common wisdom about Pawlenty but a side of himself that he is cultivating with audiences like this.

Dave Weigel, reporter for “The Washington Independent”—thanks very much for your reporting, totally invaluable about this.  And thanks for joining us tonight.

WEIGEL:  Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Today‘s big intrigue in Washington is who leaked the new war plan to Bob Woodward at “The Washington Post,” and was that leak designed to push President Obama into doing something in the war effort that he wouldn‘t otherwise do?  The reporter who today said that what the Bush administration did in Iraq is being treated as a template for error by this White House joins us next.

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OBAMA:  And until I‘m satisfied that we‘ve got the right strategy, I‘m not going to be sending some young man or woman over there beyond what we already have.

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MADDOW:  Beyond what we already have.  So the 68,000 Americans who are there now have to stay even if we don‘t have the right strategy?

Last night, “The Washington Post” published to its Web site something that had been talked about for a long time in D.C. but so far had been kept secret.  The top military commander‘s review of what we‘re doing in Afghanistan and what we ought to be doing.

Conventional wisdom said the report was leaked in order to push the president into doing something presumably in all escalation of some sort sooner than he might have otherwise done it.  The report by General Stanley McChrystal raises the possibility over and over and over and over again of a U.S. military failure in Afghanistan.  Quote, “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

Quote, “Resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it.” Quote, “Continued under-resourcing will likely cause failure.”  Quote, “The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves.”  Quote, “Any of these risks in turn are likely to result in mission failure.”

Over and over and over again, this leaked report raises the specter of failure, of defeat in Afghanistan.  Even as it defines what‘s going on in Afghanistan right now as, quote, “Not a war in the conventional sense.”  It‘s not a war but a thing that‘s not a war that we can lose. 

Even though President Obama inherited this, whatever you choose to call it, from George W. Bush, no president wants to be the president who loses the not-war in Afghanistan in its ninth year. 

Of course, no one quite understands what it would be to win this not-war either.  But fear of losing is perhaps politically stronger than the existential dread of doing something indefinitely that just can‘t be won. 

Gen. McChrystal has not requested additional troops yet.  It‘s expected that he will.  But his report indicates that a strategic change is more important than more resources.  He defined the ultimate goal of U.S.  military operations as creating an Afghanistan in which, quote, “The insurgency never threatens the viability of the state.” 

To get there, he says U.S. forces must, quote, “prioritize responsive and accountable governance.”  The current government is describing this report using phrases like, “incompetent officials, power brokers and criminality.”  Also, quote, “high level abuse of power, low-level corruption and bureaucratic incapacity.” 

While the goal of creating a Afghan government that is worthy of its people is both admirable and well-intentioned, we‘re all left to wonder as the number of Americans in Afghanistan pursuing that very lofty goal has more than doubled just in the course of the last year, we‘re left to wonder how exactly how America can get the Afghans that awesome-sounding government?  And how long it‘s expected to take and how much it will cost?

Joining us now is Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior correspondent for “The Washington Post.”  He‘s reporting today on how Gen. McChrystal‘s report is being received at the White House.  He‘s also author of the book “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq‘s Green Zone.”  Rajiv, thank you very much for coming on the show. 

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  In your reporting today, you say that the Bush administration‘s Iraq policy is the Obama administration‘s template for error.  What did you mean by that?

CHANDRASEKARAN:  What I meant and what my colleague Karen DeYoung who wrote it with me meant is that what the Obama administration doesn‘t want to do is simply give carte blanche to military commanders to define what they need and how the war should be fought. 

There‘s a belief in the White House that what happened in the latter part of the Bush presidency in Iraq is that Gen. Petraeus was simply allowed to define the strategy as he saw fit.  And Bush, you know, repeatedly said, “I‘m just going to listen to what my commanders tell me they want and give it to them.” 

And the White House - this White House believes that the appropriate way forward in Afghanistan is to consider a whole number of inputs.  And they view Gen. McChrystal‘s assessment as just one input in the process of trying to figuring out how to move forward in Afghanistan. 

MADDOW:  Rajiv, I have one big conceptual disconnect reading the McChrystal report today.  And I was struck by how frequently it mentions the possibility of us failing in Afghanistan. 

And there‘s obviously some political oomph behind that assertion, but also how consistently the report denounces the Afghan government for being corrupt and abusive and all these other things. 

If the idea of what winning means in Afghanistan is that Afghan government has credibility that we have fostered and it can stand up on its own two feet, aren‘t we sort of undoing that by defining them as the problem?  Shouldn‘t we be promoting the credibility of the Afghan government?

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, it would be all well and fine to promote credibility if there was a credible government.  And that was everybody‘s assumption, you know, going into this when the Obama administration took over and when they sat on a policy back in March to move forward with an integrated, sort of counterinsurgency plan.

But what happened along the way were these presidential elections last month in Afghanistan that was just riddled with fraud.  It was a total fiasco.  A lot of, you know, ballot box stuffing by partisans of the incumbent President Hamid Karzai. 

And now, you know, it looks like Karzai is going to stay in office, but he‘s going to stay in office under a huge cloud of illegitimacy in the eyes of many Afghans. 

And so what you know have are smart people back in the White House saying, “Well, how do you implement counterinsurgency strategy that‘s aimed at promoting good governance, helping to connect the Afghan government to the people there if, at the very top, you have a leader who has won election through fraudulent means?”

MADDOW:  Rajiv, briefly, is leaving one of the options that‘s being considered right now?  Obviously there‘s a lobby in Washington right now that not only wants more troops but wants a lot more troops.  But is one of the options that‘s on the table, not only not just adding more troops, but actually taking the ones that are there and bringing them home?

CHANDRASEKARAN:  That is one option.  But it‘s not a full “just pack up our bags and leave,” but a drastically scaled-down mission that would involve perhaps special operations forces and aerial drones to go after any high-level al-Qaeda operatives who might seek to come back to Afghanistan.

And the people that support that view say, “Well, that‘s the truest approach in keeping with the strategy outlined - or the goal outlined by President Obama which is fundamentally to keep al-Qaeda from returning to their safe havens in Afghanistan. 

MADDOW:  Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior correspondent for the

“Washington Post,” author of the book, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City:

Inside Iraq‘s Green Zone.”  Rajiv, thank you for your reporting and thanks very much for joining us tonight. 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  As always, it‘s a pleasure. 

MADDOW:  If you think there is something notable about the Saudi national security adviser, Prince Bandar, owning a customized Dallas Cowboys silver and blue private wide-bodied jet, you are not alone.  And it‘s not just people who root against the cowboys who think so.  That story is next.

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MADDOW:  Still ahead, we score the first interview with the head of the AFL-CIO.  And a moment of geek that features both Ronald Reagan and a 1959 Chevy Bel Air - best ever.  That‘s coming up. 

But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in

today‘s news.  Those things euphemistically referred to “enhanced

interrogation techniques” that people for centuries have considered

torture, stuff like water-boarding and sleep deprivation and stress

positions have long been considered illegal.  They‘ve long been considered

by many to be immoral. 

And now, they‘ve been proven in terms of biology to also be counterproductive.  In a new report in the scientific journal, “Trends in Cognitive Science,” scientists looked at the ways that Bush-era American interrogators tortured people.  And then they studied the effects of those techniques on the brain, the physical effects.

They particularly looked at their effects on memory.  The studies‘ conclusion.  Not only doesn‘t torture coax usable intelligence out of people, it actually physically inhibits memory and distorts it and mixes false memories with actual possibly useful information. 

Torture is, quote, “biologically counterproductive to eliciting quality information.”  The mixing of actual memory with false memory is also known as confabulation, which I will admit is a very fun-sounding word.  Fabulous. 

But it‘s actually really a terrible side effect if you want to do is get real, true information from people about something as serious as terrorism. 

Also, the Dallas Cowboys debuted their $1.2 billion new stadium this weekend with a big, glitzy Texas-style last second loss to the New York Giants.  At the new stadium, the Cowboys amenities include the owner‘s club boxes where, for $500,000 a year, you get access to a bar, a private elevator, guards and a pretty nice view of the game. 

The team‘s owner has one of these boxes and so does Prince Bandar, the Saudi national security adviser, son of the crown prince and a really, really, really big Dallas Cowboys fan.  And like so many sports fans, the prince likes to wear his team colors. 

I, for example, have a number of New England Patriots t-shirts.  Prince Bandar has a private, wide-body airbus A-340 painted in the Cowboys‘ colors of silver and blue.  Unlike your Kansas City Chiefs‘ bed sheets or your Milwaukee Brewers bobble-head doll, this Dallas Cowboys airplane is the focus of a British corruption investigation of a massive arms deal between the Brits and the Saudis. 

This exact plane was allegedly a bribe to Prince Bandar from a defense contractor.  Now, the prince has representatives, who weirdly include the former FBI director Louis Freeh, are denying the bribery charges. 

But until it‘s all sorted out, I suggest we just repaint the plane in Patriots‘ colors in the meantime, while we‘re waiting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Our “Moment of Geek” tonight, requires you watching this simulated car crash.  It‘s a 1959 Chevy Bel Air colliding head-on with a 2009 Chevy Malibu.  They‘re going about 40 miles an hour. 

You know, if there‘s a fundamental dividing line, if there‘s one way to tell apart small C conservatives from small C liberals in this country, it‘s the issue of regulation.  Liberals think the market doesn‘t always produce the best results for the country or for us as individuals and families, so sometimes government needs to step in and set some ground rules, set some limits. 

Conservatives classically believe that the market should be left alone, companies should do what they want.  The free market produces the best outcomes and government regulation just interferes with that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  Government is not the solution to our problem.  Government is the problem. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s one way to look at it.  Here‘s another.  This is what 50 years of safety regulations forced on industry looks like.  Which of these cars would you rather be in, in this crash?  The one that‘s the product of all those safety regulations, forced on it by the government, ‘09 Malibu? 

Or would you rather be in this one?  It does have nicer

upholstery - oh, god.  Yes, it really doesn‘t -

Yet another “Moment of Geek” that will keep you up at night, particularly if you don‘t have airbags.  Sorry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  As you listen to President Obama reiterate his plan for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, try to imagine who would be his most meaningful opponent as he tries to get it done. 

The president had gone to Wall Street last week on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and proposed new rules to protect consumers and a new agency to enforce the rules. 

Well, here, after that was his weekly address in which he said again what he plans to do.  Now, remember, as you hear this, try to imagine who would be opposing this.  There will be a quiz. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I‘ve called on Congress to put in place a series of tough, commonsense rules of the road that will protect consumers from abuse, let markets function fairly and freely and help prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again. 

Central to these reforms is a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.  We need clear rules, clearly enforced, and that‘s what this agency will do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The proposal here is akin to an FDA for financial services.  The FDA makes sure that nobody bottles antifreeze and sells it as baby formula, right?  Baby formula is regulated so as to protect babies and parents. 

In that spirit, banks and lenders should be prevented from bottling proverbial financial antifreeze and calling it a mortgage. 

So now, for the quiz, who is the active opposition to the president‘s plan to stop banks from gouging consumers? If you said Wall Street, you definitely do not fail but you‘re not quite there. 

If you said Republicans, you have to go back and count seats in the House and Senate.  It‘s not really them.  The answer is actually Democrats, specifically blue dog Democrats - conservadems, the same crowd that‘s holding up healthcare reform right now. 

Freshman Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick of Idaho, a member of the blue dog coalition, says he‘ll propose an alternative to the president‘s plan to re-regulate Wall Street.  And Mr. Minnick‘s still unfinished bill would eliminate the president‘s proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency. 

Congressman Minnick reportedly prefers an advisory committee of existing consumer agencies that will have the power of suggestion, not actually any power of enforcement.  You know who thinks that stinks?  Congressman Barney Frank on whose committee Walt Minnick sits. 

Mr. Frank told “The Huffington Post” tonight that Mr. Minnick should withdraw what he said about opposing the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. 

Number one, ouch, getting smacked down by Barney Frank hurts particularly when you‘re a freshman congressman.  Number two, with guys like this, who needs Republicans, right?

Joining us now is a man who was just named to be the head of the nation‘s largest federation of unions, the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka.  Mr.  Trumka, congratulations.  Thanks for joining us here tonight. 

RICHARD TRUMKA, HEAD, AFL-CIO:  Thank you and thanks for having me on, Rachel.  Appreciate it very much.  

MADDOW:  In Washington right now, it‘s not just Republicans versus Democrats.  It is a battle of liberals versus conservatives within the Democratic Party on a lot of the most important policy issues.  How does labor today factor into that?

TRUMKA:  Well, we‘re going to try to keep them honest.  We‘re going to try to make them live up to their promises about health care.  We‘re going to try to make them re-regulate the financial economy and give us a consumer protection agency that isn‘t a hobby as it is right now to four other agencies, but actually protects consumers. 

Today, I talked to a woman in Atlanta.  And she had - she was making $1,162 a month on a fixed salary and they gave her a $900 a month mortgage.  That type of predatory lending should have been picked up by any of those agencies.  It wasn‘t. 

What we‘re going to do is make sure they live by that.  We‘ll educate our members.  We‘ll mobilize our members, and I think our members will hold them accountable on Election Day. 

MADDOW:  When labor is active on big, contentious policy issues like health care, like this regulation is going to be, you get denounced from the right as bullies.  You get denounced - the word “goon” always arises.  What do you think about the way that union members have been caricatured by the right?

TRUMKA:  That‘s totally unfair.  They can‘t answer us on the object or the issue itself so they try to minimize us or demonize us.  And we don‘t care about that or what they say.  We know what we‘re doing is right. 

We know that standing up for health care with a public option that will break the stranglehold of insurance companies - we know that‘s the right thing to do.  They can call us whatever they want.  It‘s not going to deter us.  Maybe it has in the past but it won‘t now. 

This re-regulation of the economy - we know Wall Street hasn‘t learned its lesson.  We know that unless we re-regulate them, the same thing will occur again and again and again and again.  So we‘re going to push for that regulation regardless of what they say.  

MADDOW:  What I think about right now, the power of labor, the power of really the middle class, the hopes for the future of the middle class in the United States.  I think about the proportion of the workplace that is - the workforce that is unionized. 

Now, over the course of my lifetime - I was born in 1973 - that proportion has dropped steadily and dropped by a lot.  What are the prospects for really rebuilding, restructuring the American economy, honestly, in a way that has a lot of union drawn to this?

Well, first of all, there‘s a couple of things.  The laws are stacked against workers.  I mean, over 30,000 workers a year get fired illegally for trying to form a union.  We get intimidated and harassed. 

There‘s an act called the Employee Free Choice Act that we are behind and we will get passed before the end of the year.  It will allow workers to form a union and get a better share. 

And here‘s the thing, Rachel.  It‘s necessary, if we‘re going to build a sound economy over the last 30 years, because workers‘ wages have stagnated.  We‘ve had to borrow our way into the middle class and that doesn‘t work. 

We‘ll bring the union to people.  They‘ll be able to bargain their way into the middle class, get more money, spend more money rather than borrowing it and create an economy that really does work for everybody. 

MADDOW:  Are you going to be able to count on conservative Democrats to support you on the Employee Free Choice Act?

TRUMKA:  Well, here‘s what I think.  I think we‘ll have plenty of votes to get it passed in the House.  I think we‘ll have enough votes to get it by in the Senate. 

And I think everybody is onboard on all that because they know that the system really is broken.  It needs to be changed.  There needs to be a counterbalance to the power of corporations and the power of Wall Street.  And the only way to do that is to empower workers. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Here on the record - plenty in the House and enough in the Senate.  Richard Trumka, new president of the AFL-CIO, congratulations to you again.  It‘s good to see you.  

TRUMKA:  Thanks, Rachel.  Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW:  Good luck to you.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN”, “Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson joins Keith to talk about Sarah Palin‘s big secret foreign policy speech in China. 

Next on this show, my friend Kent Jones reports on the newlywed game and the newly, legally wed.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We turn to our matrimonial recreation correspondent, Mr. Kent Jones.  This is intriguing.  

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Good evening, Rachel.  A poll in Iowa just said 92 percent of Iowans said that same-sex marriage had no effect on them whatsoever.  None. 

Apparently, it didn‘t cause the apocalypse, so now, there are little marital victories happening all over the place.  The next one?  Game shows.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  Once again “Star Trek‘s” George Takei boldly goes where no one has gone before.  Takei and his husband Brad Altman are going to be the first same-sex couple on the new newlywed game hosted by Carnie Wilson.  Mr. Sulu, prop aide on the starboard bow, fire proton torpedoes. 

Of course, any time gay people get to do anything they never got to do before, the usual suspects make the usual noises.  The Culture and Media Institute, quote, “They‘re trying to use TV and the movies to set the gay agenda and make it mainstream.” 

Yes.  Imagine that kind of thing in the mainstream.  Of course, for me, “The Newlywed Game” will always be the classic hosted by Bob Eubanks who smarmily quizzed young couples about how well they really knew each other.  Guess what?  Not that well. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB EUBANKS, FORMER HOST, “THE NEWLYWED GAME”:  What will your husband say is his favorite thing to squeeze in the supermarket?  Jane?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CONTESTANT:  I think it‘s meat.

EUBANKS:  Pardon? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CONTESTANT:  It‘s meat.  He‘s a butcher.

EUBANKS:  Gentlemen, how many decades has your mother lived?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE CONTESTANT:  I don‘t know what a decade is. 

JONES:  George, Brad, congratulations for joining the long list of couples who have appeared on “The Newlywed Game.”  This is progress. 

EUBANKS:  What will your husband say is his favorite condiment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CONTESTANT:  Oh, I would say his pool table upstairs. 

JONES:  I think -

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

MADDOW:  His favorite condiment? 

JONES:  His pool table.  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Spectacular.  Spectacular.  I have to say, the idea of Mr.  Sulu being married is so un-Sulu to me.  I mean, I‘m really happy that he‘s married as George Takei.

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  But I think of him as Mr. Sulu, and Mr. Sulu could not be gay.  

JONES:  I have a hard time thinking of any of the people on “Star Trek” as married, though, right?  

MADDOW:  It‘s very future-y.  

JONES:  Yes.  Not so much.  

MADDOW:  I know.  Thank you, Kent.  Thank you for watching tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a good night.  

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

END   

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