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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, October 2, 2009

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Kent Jones, Rep. Danny Davis, Jeff Sharlet, Heather Sherba

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Happy Friday!  Thanks very much.


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

We begin tonight with a celebration among conservatives, a celebration befitting New Year‘s Eve in Rio.  It was also touched off by this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The City of Chicago having obtained the least number of votes will not participate.


MADDOW:  In a normal country, losing a bid to host the Olympics is seen as a bad thing.  That‘s why all these people in Chicago looked so shocked and upset.  They‘ve just received what they consider to be bad news, and they‘re having a normal reaction to bad news.

But on the American right, they saw America‘s loss as their own victory.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Oh, man, oh, man!  The worst day of Obama‘s presidency, folks, the ego has landed.



GLENN BECK, TV AND RADIO HOST:  Please, please, let me break this news to you.  Oh, it‘s so sweet.



LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST:  Chicago rejected for the 2016.


MADDOW:  Matt Drudge immediately ran the headline, “The Ego Has Landed.  World Rejects Obama.”

The conservative blog RedState responded for this bad news for the country by writing, quote, “World rejects Barack Obama, no Chicago Olympics.  Ha, ha, ha, ha.”  And the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, literally applauded America‘s defeat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If anyone cares, Chicago is out!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They were out on the first vote!



MADDOW:  All right, yes.  America loses, yes!  America lost!

Something happened to American conservativism between last year and this year.  Steve Benen at “Washington Monthly” remembered today that last year when he was still president, George W. Bush met with members of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Chicago 2016 bid committee.  President Bush told them this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  They say that the Olympics will, you know, come to Chicago if we‘re fortunate enough to be selected.  But really, it‘s coming to America, and I can‘t think of a better city to represent the United States than Chicago.


MADDOW:  President Bush went on to tell the big committee something you‘d think would be totally uncontroversial.  President Bush said, quote, “This country supports your bid, strongly.”

You‘d think that would be a given, right?  That it would almost go without saying.  Well, not today, not this year, not with America‘s conservatives now.

The conservative Web site Newsmax today reacted to the news by tweeting, “Chicago poned” which in Internet speak for being humiliated roughly.  Popular conservative pundit Michelle Malkin reacted by writing, quote, “Game over on Obamalympics.  Next up, Obamacare.”

The conservative magazine, the “Weekly Standard” tweeted, “Chicago loses!  Chicago loses!”  And in the article then link to that tweet, “The Standard” proudly reported that upon hearing the news that the USA lost its Olympic bid, the magazine‘s office erupted in cheers.  Their office erupted in cheers because our country didn‘t get the Olympics.

Does it work?

Boy, that was a big one.  Very exciting, this America losing.

All four countries that were finalists today to host the Olympics sent their heads of state or heads of government to make the pitch for their own countries.  Spain‘s King Carlos, Brazil‘s president, Japan‘s prime minister, they all made appearances before the Olympic committee as did President Obama.

And after returning from Copenhagen, our president today congratulated the city in the country that won.  He congratulated Brazil on their victory.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  One of the things that I think is most valuable about sports is that you can play a great game and still not win.  I believe it‘s always a worthwhile endeavor to promote and boost the United States of America.


MADDOW:  Who would think that would become a controversial assertion in this country?

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Danny Davis of Chicago.

Congressman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

REP. DANNY DAVIS (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, it‘s my pleasure.

MADDOW:  I‘m sorry that your city and our country didn‘t win the Olympic bid, you must be very disappointed.

DAVIS:  Well, I‘m disappointed, but also, I know that Chicago is a city of big shoulders.  People here have a tremendous amount of resiliency.  We‘ll bounce back.

You know, I was thinking to myself back when I was a kid, there was a year that the Yankees did not win the World Series.  We didn‘t win the championship every year that we had Michael Jordan, but we‘ll make it.  We put forth a good, solid, honest effort, and the results just didn‘t come out the way we wanted them to.

MADDOW:  I know that a recent poll showed that a huge majority, 84 percent of Americans supported Chicago‘s bid—Chicago hosting the 2016 Games.  I have to ask you what you—what do you make of so many prominent conservatives quite literally cheering today when they heard that Chicago lost?

DAVIS:  It‘s the strangest kind of patriotism that I‘ve ever encountered.  I mean, I am stunned and absolutely amazed that individuals who will wrap themselves in the Constitution, the history of the country, but would express joy and glee because the country did not win the bid for the Olympics.  Plus, I‘ve never encountered anywhere in my life where you have a referendum on political leadership, based upon whether or not you were able to bring the Olympics to your country or to your city.  So, I think it‘s grasping and going way out beyond the pale.

MADDOW:  And I know that not everyone in Chicago, not—it wasn‘t unanimous that everybody in Chicago wanted to have the Olympics there.  I mean, it is a huge undertaking for any city and so it comes with any measure of controversy.  But I actually wonder today—if you felt like that reaction on the right, people cheering against Chicago, conservatives rooting against Chicago, might end up unifying Chicagoans if only in defense of their own city, and their own reputation?

DAVIS:  Well, I think that‘s going to happen, Chicago is a great city.  We are proud of the effort that our mayor and the committee put forth.  We are pleased that our native son went on the line himself, and he and the first lady of our country went and made a pitch.

But it just didn‘t work.  The odds were kind of against us.  You know, the fact that there had never been the Olympic Games in South America, I suspect that that weighed very heavily in some of the decisions that some members of the group who had the opportunity to vote took.  And so, we just couldn‘t overcome that.

MADDOW:  Do you think that President Obama would have been criticized today if he hadn‘t personally pushed for the Olympics?

DAVIS:  Well, I think it‘s six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.  Had he not gone, then people would have said, “Well, you know, if Obama had been there, it might have made a difference.”


MADDOW:  You can‘t win that for losing.

DAVIS:  It would have been just the opposite.  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  Congressman Danny Davis, Democrat of Chicago—

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.  A tough day for Chicago, but your optimism about and the resilience of your city is, I think, part of the reason that Chicago had such a good shot.  Thank you, sir.

DAVIS:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Senator John Ensign, it turns out, had some competition for the “who looks worse in the John Ensign affair with his staffer and extortion” scandal.  It‘s a fellow Republican senator, and it‘s a fellow C Streeter.  The details with author Jeff Sharlet coming up.

And later on the show, we have a moment of geek to end all moments of geek.  It stars a very Randy Bird, literally.  It‘s the best moment of geek we have ever done by a mile, trust me.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  The front rage of “The New York Times” today hosts a 4,000-word expose on the John Ensign affair.  Among the revelations: somewhere, there exists a photo of John Ensign and his mistress and George and Laura Bush.  It turns out that Senator Ensign brought his mistress to the White House Christmas Party in 2006 and took a picture with her along with the president and the first lady.

Also, Senator Ensign tried to disguise his call to his mistress from his work cell phone by listing her in his contacts list as “Aunt Judy.”  Eww!  When he came back from a trip to Iraq last year, the bill for his calls from Iraq to Aunt Judy was almost $1,000.  He ended up paying the bill in cash.

The main charge of “The Times” expose is that John Ensign may be facing not only ethics inquiries but also criminal inquiries because it seems his efforts to pay off his mistress‘ family included an illegal lobbying gig for her mistress‘ husband.  Senator Ensign is obviously now on the resignation watch.

When we come back, we‘ll look in to the other Republican senator who he may be driving down with him.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER:  I really don‘t have any observations to make about the Ensign matter.  Senator Ensign continues to serve.  He‘s a member of the finance committee, been active in the discussions here.

I don‘t think today is a day to make any observations about the matter.  It just appeared in the newspaper today.  I don‘t have any observations to make about the Ensign matter today.  At the risk of being redundant, I really don‘t have anything to add about the newspaper article that was in the “New York Times” today.


MADDOW:  That‘s the top Republican in the United States Senate.  Mitch McConnell today pointedly and refusing to say anything supportive whatsoever about Nevada Senator John Ensign.  His political fortunes have gone from dismal to humiliating, to him now being on resignation watch because of an adulterous affair so dramatically mishandled it may ultimately land the senator in prison.

But the dramatic new revelations in the blockbuster 4,000-word expose published on the front page of “The New York Times” today have also ensnared another Republican senator whose self-proclaimed integrity and piety have also been dragged down into the gutter with John Ensign.  The second senator has been caught on tape lying to reporters about something he now admits—lying about the fact that he ended up being the financial broker who tried to get Senator Ensign a cheaper payoff rate for his mistress.

It‘s Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.  He‘s an evangelical.  He‘s an ordained deacon and he lived with Senator Ensign at the C Street house in Washington, a house that‘s maintained as living quarters for conservative Christian members of Congress by a secretive religious group that‘s called the Family.  We discussed the Family a lot on this show.

The Family actually lists on the C Street property as a church for tax purposes.  And it was at that church, C Street, where Senator Tom Coburn learned that his housemate, John Ensign, was having an extramarital affair.  And it was there that Senator Coburn made the extraordinary decision to try to help John Ensign contain the damage from that affair with cash.

According to an interview that Senator Coburn himself gave the “New York Times,” while Ensign was still sleeping with his mistress, Coburn became Ensign‘s negotiator, his financial negotiator.  A lawyer hired by the mistress‘ husband wanted a cash payout to the mistress and her family as compensation for the harm caused by the affair.

Senator Coburn personally negotiated the financial deal, trying to get Ensign the best possible price for his sins.

What you‘re looking at here is the first proposed cash settlement.  This is what the family of John Ensign‘s mistress wanted Ensign to pay as compensation for messing up their family and costing both the mistress and her husband their jobs since they were both employed by Senator Ensign.  The cash demand was $8.5 million.  That was presented to the upright and pious Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma who acted as Ensign‘s negotiator in the deal.  Coburn‘s reaction to that proposed settlement was: no way.

We don‘t know if he has experience negotiating senator‘s payoff rates for their extramarital affairs, or if he just thought that he could get his friend in this case a better deal.  But according to “The Times,” the mistress‘ family lawyer, quote, “gave Mr. Coburn a figure, just under $8.5 million.  Mr. Coburn dismissed that as ridiculous.  The mistress‘ husband came back with a lower number, about $2 million, which Mr. Coburn passed on to Senator Ensign.”

It‘s really a heck of a news flash for the people of Oklahoma if you think about it.  People of Oklahoma, your U.S. senator, the deacon, the anti-abortion, anti-gay, holier-than-thou senator who went so far as to demand that “Schindler‘s List” not be shown on television because it contained nudity, Senator Tom Coburn has been spending his time in Washington brokering cheaper payoff rates for senators to their mistresses.  And he‘s been lying about it.

This summer, after the husband of the Ensign‘s mistress did a local TV interview in Vegas in which he said that Senator Coburn had tried to negotiate a payoff to the mistress and her family, Senator Coburn categorically denied that he had done any such thing, telling reporters from the front stoop of the C Street that he, quote, “never made any assessment of paying anybody anything.  Those are untruths.  Those are absolute untruths.”

That was Senator Tom Coburn in July, a direct quote there.  That was Senator Tom Coburn lying about something to which he now admits.

I mean take your pick, either Senator Coburn is lying now when he tells the “New York Times” that he did try to broker a payoff rate for Senator Ensign to pay his mistress or he was lying in July when he denied doing exactly that.  Take your pick, Oklahoma.

In July, when Senator Coburn said he had not tried to broker a cash deal between Senator Ensign and his mistress, Senator Coburn‘s hometown paper, “The Tulsa World,” wrote an editorial about their senator‘s role in the affair.  It started with this line.  Quote, “We take Senator Tom Coburn at his word.  When he says he did not advice Senator John Ensign to pay off his married mistress.  It would have been completely out of character for him to do so.”

Maybe it‘s time to revise that assessment of his character.

Joining us now is Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.”  He‘s also a contributing editor to “Harper‘s” magazine.

Jeff, it‘s nice to see you again.  Thanks for joining us.

JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR, “THE FAMILY”:  Hi, Rachel.  Great to be back.

MADDOW:  Is there anything about the Family, about C Street, where both of these senators lived, that could give us some insight into why these guys were talking about a cash payout to the mistress‘ family?

SHARLET:  Yes, sure.  I mean, you start with the core principle of the family, which is this idea of biblical capitalism, that everything in the world can be understood through the invisible hand of the market, apparently, even these kinds of relationships.

But more to the point, there‘s a form of Family member, a guy named Ben Daniel, who went around and he interviewed wives of members of the Family.  And again and again, he heard the same thing, that these wives said, “In my husband‘s life, first comes his loyalty to his brothers in the Family, then comes our family,” and we see Ensign and Coburn acting like that.  That‘s the idea that your first loyalty is to protect your brother at any cost.

MADDOW:  When we look at the distance between what Senator Coburn said this summer and what he‘s just told the “New York Times,” there‘s two great chasms across which he has left.  One is that he now admits that he played a role in trying to broker a financial settlement between Ensign and his mistress.  And other is that he had previously said he would never discuss his conversations with Senator Ensign, that those were privileged, that they were privileged in part because he was an ordained deacon.

Now, Senator Coburn is telling a—telling a very different tale. 

Do you think that reflects that he knows he was doing something wrong? 

What might explain the change in story that he‘s telling?

SHARLET:  You know, Coburn has made his reputation as a guy—whether you agree with him or not—this is a guy who speaks his mind.  He‘s got a lot of candor, and he‘s a guy who‘s sort of known for his sense of character—and as you say, it‘s time to think, what does he mean by character?

Members of the Family say, “What we‘re really doing is we are being like Jesus.”  And yet, when you look at their core beliefs—again, they say that Jesus had one set of truths for the general public and another set truths for those whom anointed as a special, chosen, men like Coburn and Ensign.

I don‘t think Ensign—I don‘t think Coburn thinks he‘s doing anything wrong.  I think—I think he thinks by telling what is convenient at the right time, he‘s being like Jesus.

MADDOW:  In terms of Senator Ensign here and his potential criminal or at least ethical liability, there is this issue of him arranging what appears to be illegal lobbying by his former staffer, who was his mistress‘ husband.  One of the meetings that Senator Ensign arranged for him was with the Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  It took place earlier this year.

I wondered when I read that, if this might be a C Street connection. 

Do you know?

SHARLET:  Yes, it is.  Ray LaHood has been involved with the Family for some time.  You can find his name in the documents and it goes back even when he was in Peoria politics.  He doesn‘t live at C Street—at the C Street house.  But you‘ve got to understand that the Family is much bigger than C Street house.  It‘s just one of their properties and one of their many ministries.

So, once again, you see them putting into practice what they preach, which is that politics should take place through these—behind the scenes relationships, one brother in the so-called Family helping out another.  And if you have to bend rules to do that, that‘s fine, because you‘re serving—as Senator Coburn says—a higher authority.

MADDOW:  Jeff, do you know for sure—does anybody know for sure if Senator Coburn or Senator Ensign are still living at C Street?  It seems to me there‘s no real easy way to tell.

SHARLET:  We don‘t, but actually, a little while ago, a friend of mine went by to check thing—check on things at C Street.  And notice that the newspapers are piling up on the front step and there was a dead plant that hadn‘t been watered.  And you have to wonder if the Family hasn‘t decided to pull-up stakes there and move down the road, open up shop somewhere else.  C Street is now a location on the political tours of Washington.

MADDOW:  Well, I guess connected to that, in the big picture, Jeff, we‘ve had all these scandals, that started as sex scandals and became something bigger.  The John Ensign and Tom Coburn scandal.  Of course, the Mark Sanford scandal, which also had a Family and C Street connection.  And it‘s all unfolded just over the past few months.

And the way that this has all happened—do you think that this is all weakened the Family‘s influence in Washington?  Has this changed who they are and what they affect?

SHARLET:  I think it‘s actually—in a sense, actually pushing them further rightward.  Senator Coburn actually denying everything and in Muskogee Phoenix, write a little column in which he says, “Look, you know, the Family is very bipartisan, my friend Senator Mark Pryor is a part of it.”  And we‘ve talked about Pryor on the show before.  Pryor now denies his involvement.

So, you see some of these conservative Democrats, they‘re running away from the Family.  That‘s weakening them at the same time.  This is a group that‘s been around for 70 years that knows how to weather scandal, sit tight and hope for the press to move on.  And that‘s why it‘s great “The Times” is doing this and you‘ve been on top of this story.

MADDOW:  One last question for you.  Senator Coburn, I used some very harsh language in the introduction to this interview.  And I did it in a considered sense, because I think that he deserves it.  I think that it‘s quite clear from the record that he‘s either lying to the “New York Times” now and he didn‘t brokered that settlement, or he was lying when he categorically denied it in June.  It does not seem that he‘s got any wiggle room.  He was lying one of those two times.

As you say, Senator Coburn has really staked his political career in part on his professed character, his professed integrity and a lot of that tied to his professed faith.  If he‘s going to be in trouble here, he‘s at least going to have to answer at which of these times he was lying to his constituents and to the American people.  Do you think the Family‘s going to back him up?

SHARLET:  Yes.  I think they most definitely will, just as they backed up Senator Ensign and they backed up Governor Sanford, and down there in Mississippi, they‘re backing up the third Republican to be involved with a sex scandal in C Street, Chip Pickering.  They will stand by him as long as he‘s in power.  When he gets out of power, that might be another question.  The Family has kind of an ugly history of dropping people who are no longer useful.

So, Senator Coburn better hang on the their support while he has it.

MADDOW:  Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”—Jeff, thanks very, very much for your time tonight.  It‘s great to have your insights.  Good to see you.

SHARLET:  Great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, we did this story not long ago on this show about a young woman who was shot in the Pittsburgh area fitness club shooting back in August.  She didn‘t have health insurance.  And her friends held a carwash in her hometown to try to help with her medical bills for dealing with her injury from that shooting.  Well, tonight, we have a dramatic follow-up to that story—which includes not only the young woman about whom we told that story but also a governor getting involved in her case.

We‘re also getting set here at the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW for a moment of geek that will make your friends jealous that you watch cable TV on a Friday night and they didn‘t.  Guaranteed.  That‘s coming up.


MADDOW:  . was working on getting license in her home state of Pennsylvania, when on August 4th, she went to work on at the L.A. Fitness club in Collier Township, which is just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a man named George Sodini walked into the gym that day.  He turned off the lights in the aerobics room and he opened fire.  He killed three people and he injured nine others before he killed himself.

Heather Sherba was hit twice.  One bullet ricocheted off her front tooth.  Another went through her leg.  She spent five days in the hospital.  She still goes to physical therapy three times a week.

At the time of the shooting, Heather did not have health insurance.  She was a recent college graduate.  She was still looking for her first job as a nurse.

You might remember that we did a brief story on this show about how Heather‘s friends held a carwash to help raise money for her medical bills.  Because of the attention that Heather‘s story got, because of how she was hurt, because of the carwash fundraiser, and because of media coverage of the carwash fundraiser.


HEATHER SHERBA, SHOOTING VICTIM:  I‘m just absolutely grateful of everybody that is supportive of me and has come out and willing to have a helping hand in raising money for me.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Because of news stories like that one which aired locally and on this show, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell took notice and decided to step in to help. 

The first idea from the governor‘s office for how Heather could get health insurance was a new provision, one that the governor had just signed into law in June which allows Pennsylvania residents to stay on their parents health insurance for until they‘re 30 years old. 

But Heather told the governor‘s staff that that would not work for her because her father passed away a couple of years ago and her mother is uninsured just like Heather. 

So then, it was back to the drawing board.  Ultimately, because of the specific circumstances of Heather‘s case, this expected short-term disability, Gov. Rendell‘s office was able to help Heather get temporary coverage under a public health plan that‘s called Unison. 

So thankfully, Heather is now getting government-sponsored health care and her medical bills are being paid.  Getting health insurance is a happy outcome for Heather Sherba. 

But consider for a second how it happened.  It happened because she was hurt during a very tragic, very newsworthy event.  Because of that, the story became local news.  Once it became local news, it, by chance, became national news on this program.  And it thereby got the attention of her state‘s governor.

And there does exist a fragile, incomplete web of government-sponsored fall back health insurance.  And these programs exist because we as a country believe that government-run healthcare programs work, that they can solve problems that really need solving for people who fall through the cracks of the private insurance system. 

And right now, in this country, we are facing a very clear, very important choice.  We could just hope that all these individual, hard-to-find, harder to navigate niche programs with their really specific qualification requirements will fill in every single crack you can fall through between the hodgepodge of expensive and dissatisfying options offered by the private insurance industry. 

We could hope for that.  And if you‘re ever in a situation, God forbid, like Heather‘s, you can hope your story makes it on to TV while your governor is watching.  Or we could decide to have a broad public health insurance option available to everyone. 

So if private insurance doesn‘t work for someone for any reason, there‘s another choice, one that is affordable and that anyone can sign up for.  It‘s a really tough choice, right? 

Joining us now is Heather Sherba.  Heather, thanks very much for coming on the show and being willing to talk about your story.


MADDOW:  First, I have to ask you - how is your recovery coming on? 

SHERBA:  So far, so good.  I‘m taking it one day at a time.  But I can‘t complain too much, though.  

MADDOW:  A lot of could complain in your situation so that and that says a lot about you.  I know that you spent five days in the hospital.  You‘re still going through physical therapy. 

What kind of medical bills were you looking at around the time that your friends decided to have that car wash fundraiser for you?  

SHERBA:  Actually, I didn‘t receive any as of yet.  The only ones I did receive in the mail were just the ambulance bill and then like a consult from one of the doctors that had received in the hospital. 

They‘re saying the hospital is waiting to issue me an itemized bill and to see if I was going to be approved by a medical assistance first - see what the next step was going to be. 

MADDOW:  And you had been on medical assistance before, but you had aged out of that program, right? 

SHERBA:  Right. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Before the governor‘s office stepped in, awaiting what you figured what is going to be the bill, ultimately, from the hospital, what sort of options did you think you might have?  What were your plans?

SHERBA:  Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) - at first, I didn‘t have any idea.  But after a social worker had come and talked me in the hospital, they had explained that there is an organization known as the Center for Victims of Violent Crime. 

And also, they wanted me to reapply for medical assistance and then I believe certain hospitals have like a charity care or something that can help pick up a bill for whatever isn‘t paid for if you do qualify for it.  

MADDOW:  So you were going to try to use those various systems to try to sort of cobble something together.  

SHERBA:  Right.  Right.  There‘s a lot of documentation and a lot of things that you have to send in to show proof, of course.  

MADDOW:  Now, your mom isn‘t insured right now at the moment either. 

What‘s your mom doing for insurance? 

SHERBA:  Well, as of right now, I‘m not exactly sure.  But I know she did apply for something in the past, and the waitlist was very long.  I don‘t remember what insurance company that was for.  But she is paying out of pocket for right now. 

MADDOW:  The coverage that Gov. Rendell‘s office helped you find - I understand it‘s contingent on the fact - essentially it‘s contingent on your injuries.  It‘s contingent on the fact that you‘re considered temporarily disabled.  And so, it‘s temporary, do you know how long you‘ll be able to keep that coverage? 

SHERBA:  I‘m not so sure.  I actually had to sign all this information recently.  I still have a couple of phone calls to make with a couple of people and case workers to see how long this is going to last, and everything.  I‘m not exactly sure on that.  

MADDOW:  How is the job search going?  I know that you have been in nursing school.  

SHERBA:  It‘s becoming tedious and frustrating, but I‘m still trying. 

MADDOW:  I understand. 

SHERBA:  With the way the economy is lately, I guess it‘s just hard for anyone, especially with not having any experience under my belt.  It‘s not so easy, but I‘m working on it.  Hopefully something will happen sometime soon.  

MADDOW:  Or maybe somebody - right now, you have had some luck with getting on TV.


MADDOW:  So somebody seeing you right now is thinking about it. 

SHERBA:  Hopefully -

MADDOW:  A nursing job for a starting nurse with some very unusual experience and it should have health insurance. 


MADDOW:  Those are qualities you‘re looking for.  Heather Sherba, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  Good luck with your recovery ...

SHERBA:  Thank you so much.

MADDOW:  ... and good luck with the start of your career.  Good luck to you. 

SHERBA:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  OK.  The internecine warfare between Sarah Palin and the people who worked with Sarah Palin on her campaign to be vice president, that internecine warfare continues and it‘s getting even more awkward. 

The McCain-Palin campaign manager just made a public devastating assessment of Sarah Palin‘s inevitable run for president.  That is coming up. 

And I honestly wouldn‘t keep mentioning it if I weren‘t sure about it, but you have had a long week.  I‘m sure you owe it to yourself to see tonight‘s “Moment of Geek.”  Whether or not you are a geek, just trust me.  There is a money back guarantee on this one.


MADDOW:  Our dirtiest “Moment of Geek” ever is coming up.  Our “Moments of Geek,” I know, are usually about maps or molecular models or weather or something.  But this time, it‘s full-on boom-chicka-wow-wow(ph).  Totally.  Call your neighbors over.  That‘s coming up. 

But first, we‘ve got a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news, quote, “I don‘t think it‘s inconceivable that she could be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.  I think it‘s almost inconceivable that she could be elected president of the United States.” 

That‘s a direct quote from Steve Schmidt, the campaign manager for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign last year.  Today, he‘s saying exactly what he thinks about Sarah Palin. 


STEVE SCHMIDT, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN:  I think that she has talents.  But you know, my honest view is that she would not be a winning candidate for the Republican Party in 2012.  And in fact, were she to be the nominee, we could have a catastrophic election result. 


MADDOW:  Catastrophic?  It‘s one thing for a dummy like me to say something like that.  But Steve Schmidt - Steve Schmidt is reportedly the guy who pushed John McCain into picking Sarah Palin as McCain‘s running mate in the first place. 

Well, now, Steve Schmidt says it is inconceivable that she would be elected.  But the Republican Party might inexplicably nominate her anyway.  And he says that would be a catastrophe for the party. 

Well, the Sarah Palin cheering section has responded now by, surprise, attacking Steve Schmidt.  Talk show host Rush Limbaugh telling Greg Sargent of “Plumline” today, quote, “I think it‘s time for the McCain crowd to acknowledge they are losers and pack it in.  They have done enough damage to the Republican Party.  Move aside and let a brighter, more principled and more competent generation of people clean up the mess they helped create.” 

A brighter, more principled, more competent new generation - you know, like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.  Bright, principled, competent.  Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.  Don‘t let me interrupt you, guys.  This is the kind of fight that I‘d sell popcorn for. 

And then actual, not metaphorical sports news today.  The referees of the NBA - you might have heard, they are locked out.  They‘re embroiled in a contract dispute with the league.  The league has locked them out, and so as the NBA preseason games get underway, the stripy-shirt guy on the parquet are not the refs you are used to.  They are replacements. 

And you know how in seventh grade when you had a substitute Math teacher, your whole class would like sit backwards at your desks or steal off the chalk or tell the sub that actually your class got out 10 minutes earlier than it really did? 

Well, last night, in the preseason opener between the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz, the Nuggets decided to see what they could get away with due to the substitute refs. 

It was late in the first half and a foul was committed against this player for the Nuggets.  His name is Renaldo Balkman.  He‘s a forward, and although he‘s a very good player, he‘s not very good at shooting free throws.  He makes them about 54 percent of the time. 

So Mr. Balkman gets fouled.  Then the Nuggets call a time-out.  And after the time-out, they send this guy to the free-throw line as if it was him who got fouled instead of Renaldo Balkman.  Balkman, remember, only makes his free-throws 54 percent of the time.  This guy‘s way better at it.  His free throw percentage is almost 80 percent. 

So the Nuggets figured, hey, substitute refs - we‘ll swap in the other guy and they‘ll never notice.  Well, the substitute ref totally noticed.  They made Balkman take the free throws.  He missed them both and the Nuggets went on to lose the game.  The Nuggets‘ coach said later, and I am quoting here - he said later, “It works in high school,” direct quote. 

And finally, were he alive and immortal, Mahatma Gandhi would be 140 years old today.  We all like to think, of course, that he would still be engaged in the work to which he dedicated his life - helping the poor, irritating imperialists, promoting peace, bringing attention to the world‘s injustices through a life of self-denial, asceticism, leadership and civil disobedience. 

When you think Gandhi, you think hunger strikes, right?  You think peaceful marches.  You think $23,000 fountain pens.  What? 

Montblanc, the high-end writing instrument company decided that for the occasion of Gandhi‘s birthday, they would start selling a commemorative $23,000, 18-karat, solid gold pen.  Montblanc says it‘s only manufacturing 241 of these pens to recognize that Gandhi walks 241 miles in his salt march in 1930, protesting unfair taxation by the British. 

The company made a donation to the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation upon launching the pen.  And they are donating some proceeds from the sale of each pen to the foundation.  They also gave one of these solid gold pens to Gandhi‘s great grandson, who told reporters, quote, “I can‘t bring myself to use it.” 

The pen is solid gold.  It has a saffron-colored, mandarin garnet on the clip.  The nib is rhodium-plated.  The Associated Press also reports today that the pen comes packaged with a 26-foot long golden thread that can be wound around the pen to evoke the spindle and the plain cotton that Gandhi used to weave plain cotton clothing.  Except now, it‘s like weaving out of gold.  Gandhi would have loved that.


MADDOW:  Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty is making the media rounds fresh off the launch of his new political action committee this week.  He‘s capitalizing on all the “Hey, he‘s really going to run for president” attention by going on Fox News to make a poor people joke. 


GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN):  There‘s a joke out now that says the main value of the Cash for Clunkers program may be that we‘ll get a lot of cars with Obama stickers off the road.


MADDOW:  Because only poor people would vote for a guy like Obama.  Anybody who voted for Obama probably had a really lame car.  So if you don‘t have a nice car, keep in mind, Tim Pawlenty doesn‘t want you embarrassing him with your vote. 


MADDOW:  OK, as promised, tonight‘s “Moment of Geek.”  The kakapo is the largest and rarest parrot in the world.  It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1970s.  The kakapo is a flightless, ground-dwelling bird, which, it would be rude to speculate, might have something to do with the fact that there are only 124 kakapos known to be left in the whole world. 

For their protection, and thanks to the kakapo recovery program, the world‘s remaining kakapos live on predator-free islands off the coast of New Zealand, which is where they‘re originally from. 

Now, this is the part where it gets interesting.  During mating season, the male kakapo really puts other bird-mating rituals to shame, not to mention your own.  He inflates his whole body like a balloon, and then he emits a loud, subsonic boom that can travel up to five kilometers.  And that subsonic boom is his announcement that he is ready to mate. 

And when the male kakapo goes boom, it is best to keep your distance.  How do we know these things about the lustiness of a nearly extinct breed of ground-dwelling parrot from New Zealand?  Why is this our Friday night “Moment of Geek?”  Why have I been talking about it all show long to lead up to this?

Well, it‘s because of this tape.  Here‘s British actor Stephen Fry and a wildlife photographer named Mark Carwardine, as seen on the BBC documentary series that‘s called “Last Chance to See.”  Please watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  It ought to be impossible to describe a creature as looking old fashioned.  But that‘s exactly how Sirocco looks with big side burns and his Victorian gentleman‘s face. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s the nicest thing wandering around in the forest. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  You can see he‘s got very good camouflage. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So even if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) entirely rendered to be useless. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  A typical male, Sirocco is clearly only interested in one thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, look at that. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gosh, he‘s got sharp claws. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s getting a bit frisky. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ow, ow!  Do you think it is - he‘s actually attempting a sort of mating ritual.  He is.  Look, he‘s so happy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of the funniest things I‘ve ever seen.  You are being shagged by a rare parrot.  He thinks you are - he‘s really going for it.  Actually, you‘re in pain, aren‘t you? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, his neck is cut. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s fine.  That hurts.  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  You‘ve got blood there and blood there and blood there.  And we should patch you up, to be honest because that‘s not good.  But wow, I want you to call the chick.  When you have the chick, I want call Stephen for me.  I‘m not sure how to take that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘ll have eggs coming out of your mouth.  Ladies and gentlemen, you‘ve seen a television first.  You‘ve seen Mark Carwardine who has devoted his life to conserving animals actually taking an active part in the conservation and breeding of a whole new generation of a whole new species - homo kakapos.  He‘s going to give birth to a little kakapo.  We‘re very proud of you. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think I‘ll pass. 


MADDOW:  All right.  You are being shagged by a rare parrot.  OK.  You can check out more “Last Chance to See” episodes on the BBC Web site,  And that is the dirtiest “Moment of Geek” we have ever done. 

And I am an 8-year-old.  I‘m so sorry that I can‘t handle this more professionally.  And no, we don‘t have any word on whether or not Newt Gingrich is going to offer that parrot some sort of entrepreneurship award, but we‘ll keep you posted.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You think he‘s actually attempting a sort of mating

ritual.  He is -


MADDOW:  Here now, thankfully, in case I completely lose it again, is my friend Kent Jones with a look back at the last seven days.  Thanks, Kent.  I‘m glad you‘re here.  Thank you.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  You know, unlike the mating ritual

of the kakapo -

MADDOW:  Don‘t get me started.

JONES:  ... these are weak.  Check it out.

MADDOW:  All right.  Here we go.


JONES (voice-over):  First up, soporific crooner of the weak.   Remember Andy Williams, Mr. Moon River?  Eighty-one-year-old Branson dynamo had some less-than-soothing words for our current president, telling a British newspaper, quote, “Don‘t like him at all.  I think he wants to create a socialist country.  The people he associates with are very left wing.  One is registered as a communist.  Obama is following Marx‘s theory.  He‘s taken over the banks and the car industry.  He wants the country to fail.” 

There‘s one word for you, my huckleberry friend - weak. 

Next, love nest of the week.  In response to students‘ gripes about their excessively amorous roommates, officials at Tufts University have changed their guest policy for next year to say, quote, “You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.” 

You know the old saying, “Two is company.  Three is performance art. 

Get a room.”  Weak. 

Finally, pick me up of the weak.  A coffee house in Ft. Myers, Florida, celebrated National Coffee Day by serving cat poop coffee.  It‘s made from the grounds of the cat-like Indonesian civets, which eat coffee cherries off trees and then their poop is transformed into delicious super-swanky luxury java.  Customers paid $20 for a 12-ounce cup. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s earthy.  It‘s robust.  It has a strong aftertaste. 

JONES:  Nothing hits the spot like gourmet catpooccino(ph).  Weak. 


MADDOW:  Did you say “catpooccino(ph)?”

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  That‘s very good.

JONES:  Earthy and robust. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  With a strong aftertaste.  Kent, I‘ve realized we have descended into the depths of our juvenilia at this point.

JONES:  I‘m in my comfort zone. 

MADDOW:  I‘m totally in my comfort zone.  Do you mind if we just saw the kakapo one more time? 

JONES:  Mind?  I insist. 

MADDOW:  I‘m sorry.  We‘ll just have a second.  It‘s the seriousness with which you wonder you ought to take it.  With the flap, flap, flap. 

JONES:  Nature versus nurture. 

MADDOW:  Anyway, that‘s going to haunt me to my dying days.  Thank you very much, Kent.  Thank you to that poor guy who endured that. 

And thank you for watching tonight.  I will see you on Sunday, OK, in “Meet the Press” hosted by David Gregory, NBC, Sunday morning.  The other guests are E.J. Dionne of “The Washington Post,” David Brooks of the “New York Times,” Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. 

And then, of course, we will see you back here on Monday night.  Have a good weekend.  I‘m sorry that I completely lost control during that parrot shooping(ph) thing.  Have a good night.




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