'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, October 29, 2009
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Guests: Kent Jones, Jane Hamsher, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Gov. John Baldacci, Ed Markey
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks very much.
And thank you at home for saying with us for the next hour. The next hour is packed from top to bottom. We have enough content to do two hours.
But we will begin tonight with some exclusive breaking news about if we don‘t get health care reform, why we won‘t get it; if we don‘t get the public option, why we won‘t get it.
We‘ve reported on this show that Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut has put himself out as a lone Democrat willing to filibuster a vote on health care reform along with Republicans.
As of yesterday, it appeared that Senator Lieberman had company. Speaking with CBS yesterday, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana threatened to not only join Mr. Lieberman‘s filibuster threat but to take it one step further, suggesting that he would be willing to filibuster to even block debate on a health reform bill that he didn‘t like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Some people argue that we should vote to go forward on a bill, even if we don‘t like it, but, you know, as we get further along in this, I view procedure and substance as being one and the same. If there are things that are in the bill that I think are just beyond the pale, for example, that would really explode the deficit in the out years or would dramatically increase the premiums that ordinary families are paying, I just don‘t think that‘s even worth starting a discussion on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That remark has been interpreted, not only here but everywhere, as an indication that Senator Bayh planned to filibuster even debate on health reform.
Republican on Capitol Hill sent around his remarks as soon as he made them because it seemed to be in line with their strategy that a vote “no” on health care was the same as voting to filibuster health care. Even as Joe Lieberman promised to stand with Republicans to block the vote on health reform in the end, at least Lieberman was pledging to allow the bill to come to the floor for an initial vote. Bayh‘s statement on CBS yesterday indicated that he wouldn‘t even allow that.
Well, today, Senator Bayh‘s office issued an about face on that issue, releasing a statement that reads, quote, “Senator Bayh will support moving forward to a health care debate on the Senate floor, where he will work hard to address his concerns and craft affordable legislation that reduces the deficit and lowers health care costs for Indiana families and small businesses.” In other words, according to his office‘s statement today, Senator Bayh is now promising to allow the bill to come to the floor.
But would he still, like Lieberman, filibuster the final vote with Republicans? Would he block a majority vote on the final bill and force his party to get 60 votes to pass health care reform instead of 50?
Well, exclusively, this afternoon, Senator Bayh told us this, he told us that his position on health reform is not the same as Senator Lieberman‘s. Senator Bayh told us it is extraordinarily unlikely that he would filibuster health reform. He said there is nothing in the bill that he is aware of now that would cause him to vote to filibuster and he said that he currently, quote, “can‘t think of a set of circumstances under which he would vote against cloture.”
What does this mean? It means that it‘s been a very big 24 hours for health reform. Senator Bayh‘s statements as of 24 hours ago indicated that he had walked through the door that Joe Lieberman had opened, that he was willing to go even further than Joe Lieberman, not only willing to filibuster the final vote on health reform, but to filibuster any debate as well. Both of those perceived threats from Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana have now been walked way back—which means that Joe Lieberman stands alone. Joe lonely.
Questions remain about commitments not yet made by some other conservative senators, but probably, the most substantive issues about health reform depend on whether it will take 50 votes to pass them or 60. And right now, Republicans only hope to make it 60 or that a Democrat will side with them to filibuster. And right now, Joe Lieberman is their only stated hope for that. Joe Lieberman opened the door to that this week and no one else is yet walking through that door to join him.
Senator Bayh‘s office says today‘s turn of events is a clarification
of the senator‘s position. It, of course, goes without saying that Senator
Bayh does have a big political liability on this issue, and that his wife -
as we discussed on the show last night—sits on the board of directors of a handful of companies that would be directly affected by health reform.
Senator Bayh‘s wife Susan is on the board of the health insurance giant WellPoint. WellPoint is the nation‘s largest commercial health insurer. Susan Bayh also sits o the board of directors of a handful of pharmaceutical corporations including companies Dendreon, Curis and Dyax.
Senator Bayh‘s office told us explicitly today that Susan Bayh‘s activities have no impact whatsoever on Senator Bayh‘s legislative action. They said, quote, “Neither Mrs. Bayh nor any employee or lobbyist for WellPoint can lobby Senator Bayh or any member of his staff. Our strict ethics policy goes above and beyond what is required under Senate ethics rules.”
What‘s clear tonight is that Senator Bayh is making clear that he should not be seen as an obstacle to the Democratic Party‘s attempt to get a vote on health reform.
The same cannot be said for Joe Lieberman, who tonight reaffirmed his commitment to filibuster any health reform bill that includes any form of the public option.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You‘re saying that you would actually join in a Republican filibuster against the entire health care bill if this is included?
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Yes. That‘s right. I mean, I‘m going to filibuster now, and whether it happens to be Republican or not, that depends on other people‘s decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “Whether the filibuster is Republican or not depends on other people‘s decisions,” he said, namely other Democrats‘ decisions.
Now that Senator Evan Bayh has essentially counted himself out of filibustering with Republicans, there is still only one Democrat or one member of Congress who caucuses with the Democrats who is on the record as willing to blow out health reform and that is Joseph Isadora Lieberman. Joe Lieberman opened the door on this earlier in the week. Evan Bayh walked through that door very briefly but he has now returned.
Democrats only need 50 votes to pass health reform if they can get Lieberman himself to walk back through their door that he opened. Can they?
Joining us now once again is Jane Hamsher. She‘s founder and publisher of the progressive blog, Firedoglake. It‘s fair to say, I think she‘s been an online activist-in-chief for health reform.
Jane, it‘s good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
JANE HAMSHER, FIREDOGLAKE.COM: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: What‘s your reaction to this news from Senator Bayh tonight that he is apparently not planning to filibuster the health reform bill? He can‘t imagine any circumstances under which he would.
HAMSHER: Well, I think it‘s a mistake to think of the Senate as an august body, possibility the most powerful in the deliberative body in world. And instead, think of it as being in day four of a beauty pageant.
Day one, Harry Reid brings the public option to the floor, everyone is just happy to be there.
Day two, Miss Connecticut doesn‘t think anybody is paying enough attention to her, so she whips her top off by the pool in front of the judges.
Day three, Chris Dodd is going to run for Miss Congeniality, he sticks up for Miss Connecticut. Evan Bayh is worried he‘s not going to get enough attention, he thinks maybe taking his top off is a good idea.
And on day four, here we have Tom Harkin and Conrad shooting them looks and saying, you know, we‘ve had quite enough of this, everybody keep their tops on.
So, today, they came out and they said, you know, we think that Joe ought to think very seriously about whether he really wants to do something like this, and that doesn‘t sound like a lot to us, but the Senate doesn‘t think of themselves as a beauty pageant. They think of themselves more in Queen Victoria terms, in, “We are not amused.”
So I think Evan Bayh dialing it back today had a lot to do with the response that he got from his Senate colleagues.
MADDOW: That is—first of all, that metaphor is so disturbing and so spectacular, at the same time, I have just have to hand it to you. The image of Joe Lieberman sans bikini top is now seared into my mind like a brand on a cow.
HAMSHER: Sorry to do that to you.
MADDOW: That‘s OK. I‘ll never get that moment back.
MADDOW: But in your metaphor, I mean, Joe Lieberman is still topless. And.
HAMSHER: Yes, unfortunately.
MADDOW: He still is. And so, I think you‘re right to point out that other senators sort of gently expressing their disapproval of his proverbial toplessness at this point is a bigger deal than it would be in the real world. That their words do actually sort of calibrate differently. But what leverage can they really bring to bear on him in order to get him to get in line?
HAMSHER: Well, obviously, there are people who do have influence over Joe Lieberman. Joe has his committee chairmanship of the homeland security committee. That‘s his power base in the Senate. He‘s a very vain man, and were that to be stripped from him, he would be like Rumpelstiltskin putting his foot through the floor, and the Democrats have the power to do that.
So, again, the Harkin-Conrad comments today were to the effect of, you know, let‘s remember you‘re here at our good graces, Joe. But, you know, he also needs the sub base in Groton, which is, you know, the submarine version of the F-22 in order to stay in the good graces of Connecticut citizens while he does stuff like this. And that‘s something that could, you know, potentially go as well.
So, there are—there are levers that people in the Senate and the president can use to kind of rein Joe in. I think everybody is just sort of saying, this is what Joe does. We‘re going to let him run around with the top off for a little while, and eventually, we‘ll all just suck it up and tell him to put it back on. And hopefully, Joe will put his shirt back on.
MADDOW: Now, that Evan Bayh seems to be sort of off the table in terms of joining a Republican filibuster, now that he seems to be proverbially fully-clothed again, what other Democrats are out there who haven‘t committed to staying in line on the procedural votes? I know that at Firedoglake, that‘s one of the things that you guys have been really eyeballing.
HAMSHER: Well, I was over here the other night and I said I didn‘t think Blanche Lincoln would, and I don‘t think she would. She‘s too vulnerable on her state. And that kind of a move would draw primarily challenges for her.
You know, Ben Nelson, we haven‘t heard from. He is usually—you know, he‘s probably the shoe that‘s waiting to drop that has made noises about the public option before. And he has much less to fear that Blanche Lincoln does. So, I think that he‘s another one that got people sort of want to, you know, want to know where Ben stands.
MADDOW: Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of Firedoglake, if he calls me, I‘ll let you know what he says. Thanks for your time tonight, Jane.
MADDOW: While Joe Lieberman is the wrench in the works toward a public option in the Senate or the topless beauty contestant by the pool in tonight‘s metaphor, conservative Democrats have succeeded in forcing a weaker and more expensive public option in the House. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who prefers his public options straight up, no mixer, joins us next.
MADDOW: For a group that brags on its fiscal responsibility, the blue dogs in the House sure spent a lot of dough to come up with a worse outcome in the House health reform bill. New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner joins us next live.
MADDOW: When the Tea Party Patriots learned last night that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was going to be unveiling the House health bill today on Capitol Hill, they sprung into action. Evan McMorris-Santoro of “Talking Points Memo” reports that an e-mail signed by your Tea Party Patriot‘s national coordinator team rocketed among the nation‘s tea partiers last night, calling for protestors to mob Speaker Pelosi‘s speech. The Twitter messages soon followed and the tea party flash mob was thereby summoned.
About 10 of them turned up, which technically sort of makes it more of a flash pickup basketball game than a flash mob. But still, the aforementioned “TPM” reporter asked one of the 10 protestors if she was part of the online organized flash mob and she replied, quote, “If this is organized, we suck.”
What did materialize in front of the Capitol today was the House health bill, a mash-up of the three previous forms of the legislation that had been approved in House committees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The bill will expand coverage, including a public option to boost choice and competition in the health insurance reform.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From the 1900-page bill came many variations on one very brief headline, like this representative one in “The Washington Post,” “House health care reform bill to include public option,” or this one from “The Los Angeles Times,” “House Democrats unveil health care legislation including public option.” Ah, headlines.
You know, there‘s a reason why haikus is really made into movies, it‘s hard to tell the whole story in 17 syllables. Substantively, what the 1900-page bill really means is that there is a health care reform proposal that they think would expand health insurance to 96 percent of Americans, another 36 million people who aren‘t insured now would supposedly be insured under this plan and it could have done a whole lot more and saved the country a lot more money if the blue dog conservative Democrats hadn‘t gotten so much of their way—which they did.
The blue dog caucus, the conservative Democrats in the House, the people who sell themselves as the fiscally responsible wing of the party, wanted and got a health care reform bill that will cost roughly $85 billion more than what progressives wanted. Specifically, the public insurance option in the House bill will feature rates negotiated with doctors and hospitals the same way it works with private insurers—a cheaper and what they call more robust public option would have just tied reimbursement rates to Medicare.
What it means in the end is that for the very few Americans who will even have the option of choosing the public option—in all probability, that option will be a lot like just another insurance plan administered by a private health insurance company. They‘re purposely blocking themselves from using the buying power, the negotiating power of a big public plan to get a good deal for consumers. They could do it. But the blue dogs insisted that they don‘t.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich is among the progressive Democrats today who have raised some concerns about the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Is this the best we can do? Mandating private insurance, forcing people to buy private insurance policies, or pay a penalty, guaranteeing at least $50 billion in new business for the insurance companies? If this is the best we can do, then our best isn‘t good enough and we have to ask some hard questions about our political system, such as: health care or insurance care? Government of the people or government by the corporations?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Fired up, ready to go.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. He‘s been a fierce advocate of not only the public option but of Medicare for all from the beginning.
Congressman Weiner, nice to see you.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: Do you agree with my take on this, which is that the blue dog Democrats got a lot of their way in terms of defining what‘s in the ultimate bill?
WEINER: Well, yes. I mean, you know, a strange happened on the way to the forum. I mean, when John Boehner said several weeks ago, I haven‘t met anyone who supports a public option, I launched this Web site called countdowntohealthcare.com, saying send people petitions to tell John Boehner he‘s wrong. Well, one by one, people are writing and said, “You‘re focusing on the wrong guy. You really have to be focusing on your own Democrats.” And they turn out to be right.
You know, the strange irony is that someone gets called a fiscally conservative or a budget hawk, and then they go out and say, “Don‘t have as much competition, don‘t have as much choice, and don‘t keep costs down as much as we can.” And then people say to progressives, “Are you going to vote for this watered down bill?”
The real question is, who‘s forcing it to be watered down? We‘re—you know, if we were truly representing what a majority of the country and the majority of the House and the Senate wanted, we‘d have a much tougher bill. But, look, all that being said, I think it‘s a good bill, but it could have been a lot better if not been for the watering down of the public option.
MADDOW: You were quoted by Politico.com earlier today saying that the president has to get in here a little bit in terms of making the bill better by the time we‘ve got something final. What do you think President Obama could do now to help make it better?
WEINER: Well, for one thing, say the words “public option,” here‘s what I want, here‘s what I think I can get. You know, Nancy Pelosi, to her credit, has been left to try to round up votes for a tough public option, without much helped from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. You know, the idea that the president could have maybe come in and said, “You know what, here‘s 10 guys that I can sway.” If the president of the United States calls, it‘s tough to say no.
We‘ve kind of been left to do this on our own and you really need the full-throated support of a president at a moment like this when we‘re having a big national debate. Now, maybe he‘s right. Maybe this was the right time, and now, he‘s going to step into the ring and do this. But, really, I don‘t think we can close this out unless the president really helps us.
MADDOW: As part of the House Democratic bill, Speaker Pelosi reportedly went back on the deal that she had made with you to allow a vote on a single-payer health plan? Is that true? What do you have to say about that?
WEINER: Well, I don‘t know. You know, Nancy Pelosi publicly gave her word to me that we‘re going to have a chance to vote on a plan like Medicare for all Americans. As I sit here, she has not told me anything else. But, you know, kind of like the old Casablanca line, “I would not be shocked to learn that there‘s politics going on in Washington.”
But Nancy Pelosi is an honorable person. And she has been standing and as tough as she could for this public option. Unfortunately, she‘s been buffeted by members of her own party who have said, “You know what, we don‘t want to be that tough, we don‘t competition to be that tough. And unfortunately, those people, whether they did it willfully or not, are doing the bidding of the health insurance companies and that‘s regrettable.
MADDOW: A lot of progressives have looked to you over the last few months in health reform, as one of the most articulate champions, really, of the idea of Medicare for all, of the idea of government-run health care, not being such a terrifying idea.
What is it that you are going to be pushing for between now and the final bill in terms of amendments, in terms of improvements, that you think are actually within the—within your reach?
WEINER: Well, one of the things we‘re doing on countdowntohealthcare.com is pivoting towards the Senate. We have to make it very clear to the senators over there, we at least want it have a debate on these things. It is so impossible to believe that we should just be able to get a yes or no vote out of the senators on the notion of a vigorous public option.
Secondly, we need to make sure that we don‘t backslide anymore in the House bill. You know, many people don‘t realize this, but many of us wanted Medicare for all Americans, not just those 65 and older.
We‘ve compromised a long way here. We don‘t feel that sense of compromise by some of our more conservative friends. It‘s been kind of our way or the highway, and I resent that, and I think a lot of Americans do.
So, we‘re trying to help and we also want to try to animate (ph) the president here. We‘d love to have the president say, “OK, you know, I know last time when President Clinton did it, we didn‘t let the legislature do enough for the work. Now, maybe, it‘s the time for the president to stand up, here‘s why we need a strong public option. Here‘s what I want coming out of conference.”
So, if we get those elements, get the Senate at least having a vote, get the House members saying, we‘re not going to slide much more than this, and the president pushing us in the other direction, I think that this is well-worth the fight that we can win.
MADDOW: Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York—thank you.
Thanks for coming in.
WEINER: Appreciate it.
MADDOW: The state of Maine had barely cleaned up the confetti after legalizing gay marriage this year when some of the same people who passed California‘s anti-gay Prop 8 showed up. Their plan—to revoke the marriage rights gay people in Maine had a just gained just like they revoked the marriage rights in the Golden State last November.
The man whose personal transformation on this issue helped legalize gay marriage is now defending it. He is Maine‘s name, Governor John Baldacci, and he joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we‘re MSNBC: The place for politics, right? Most corporate slogans I know are just slogans. They don‘t have all that much to do with how you do your job everyday. But the whole “place for politics” thing is totally for real around here.
Case in point, I have already been studying my “Decision 2009” preparatory memos and statistics in order to get geared for our election night coverage here on Tuesday, “Decision 2009.”
I know, it‘s not even a midterm election. It‘s an off-year election and there‘s only a handful of races. But we‘re doing election coverage. I‘m really excited about it.
And even though it‘s only a handful of races, they are very exciting. There are mayors‘ races in a bunch of big cities, including New York. There‘s a special congressional election in northern California. There‘s that crazy special election up by Fort Drum in northern New York state where Republicans, like Fred Thompson and Sarah Palin, from all around the country are big footing the local Republicans, telling them they don‘t like the local candidate, the local Republicans picked to run in that local race. There are governors‘ elections in New Jersey and in Virginia.
And in the great state of Maine, there is a ballot initiative that will have all eyes upon it on Tuesday night. It‘s Maine‘s Question 1, and it asks Maine voters if they want to repeal their state‘s brand new—brand new law allowing same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, the Maine state legislature pass and the governor signed same-sex marriage rights into law. But before the law even went into effect, the opponents put together the petitions necessary to force a referendum on the issue. Like Proposition 8 in California this past November, Question 1 in Maine would ask voters to take away a civil right that‘s already on the books.
Ballot measures about same-sex marriage have a worse track record than this year‘s St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans all rolled into one. Same-sex marriage ballot measures are 0-for-30 right now.
The question is: could Maine break that losing streak? The polls say it‘s anyone‘s guess. A Daily Kos/Research 2000 Poll out today shows the no on one campaign is ahead of yes on one, by which I mean that people who are in favor of same-sex marriage rights are ahead of those opposed, but their only ahead by one point—one well-within the margin of error point.
The last round of polling we reported said the same. It was also a tie. Whichever way the vote turns out, it will be a big deal for gay rights as an issue nationwide. Many of the same players from both sides of California‘s Prop 8 battle have resurfaced in Maine this year to join the Question 1 fight.
And Tuesday‘s vote will be the first true test of whether the gay rights movement has recover and rebounded from last year‘s defeat with Prop 8 in California. But more than a Prop 8 rematch, the gay marriage battle over proposition one in Maine is about the state of Maine itself. If the “No on One” forces prevail, if gay marriage rights are not revoked, Maine will become the first state in the country to have gay marriage rights upheld by the voters.
Maine‘s struggle with the issue is perhaps most dramatically personified by the man who‘s become the unlikely top advocate for the “no on one” forces for the fight to keep same-sex marriage rights intact in Maine. He‘s a man who, just a couple of years ago, was openly, on the record against gay marriage. He is Maine‘s moderate Democratic Governor John Baldacci.
Mr. Baldacci made it clear during his reelection campaign in 2006 that he supported domestic partnership rights but not gay marriage. In fact, he said at that time, quote, “I don‘t support changing Maine‘s statutes to recognize same-sex marriage. That isn‘t a fight that Maine needs now.”
Governor Baldacci then had a change of heart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN BALDACCI (D), MAINE: I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and equal protection under the law, and that is a civil union is not equal to a civil marriage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was in May, right after the governor signed the Maine‘s gay marriage bill which had been passed by the legislature. This week, he‘s out campaigning against Question 1, urging voters to uphold that law that he signed.
On Tuesday, he appeared at a get out the vote event with gay marriage advocates and families, and he told them, quote, “We are all unique people. We are all different. But we are all under the same Constitution and we all want to make sure there is equal protection for all citizens.”
Joining us now is Maine Governor John Baldacci.
Governor Baldacci, thank you very much for coming on the show. I know you‘re a very busy man.
GOV. JOHN BALDACCI (D-ME): Well, you‘re very welcome. It‘s good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You didn‘t just change your mind on this issue. You started fighting in earnest for something that you were opposed to not that long ago. Personally, what caused this change for you on the issue of gay marriage?
BALDACCI: Well, it was an issue where you realized that civil unions were not equal to a civil marriage. And my responsibilities are under the Constitution to represent all people, not one particular faith or another.
And it‘s important that we are there for people who are being discriminated against or could be discriminated against. Our state came into the union as a free state. And I think it‘s something in our air and our water which we continue to strive to weed out and stand up against discrimination of any kind because we know that it could be us next.
And I‘m very proud of Maine and way that it stood up, the way that people have campaigned and recognized the inequality. And I mean, Rachel, there were farm families from northern Maine, a very rural part, that talked very personally about what their son or daughters were going through and what their family members were going through and that we needed to keep this law because it was important to their families.
And this is the same story that‘s being told throughout the state of Maine. So you know, I‘m just very proud to be governor of a state of people like our state of Maine.
MADDOW: I know that you‘re in your second term of governor, Gov. Baldacci. And I know that you won‘t be running again for governor, correct me if I‘m wrong.
But in terms of thinking about the political consequences of this change of heart for you, do you think that if you were running again, this would help you or hurt you with the voters of Maine? I know that other politicians are watching your experience thinking about their own stances on this issue.
BALDACCI: well, Rachel, I was a member of Congress when we were voting on the Iraq war resolution. And it was very difficult because it was just at the same time that we were running for election.
But that wasn‘t right and it wasn‘t being done for the right reasons. And I voted against it. It was a very difficult vote. I think the quote is that when history shines on you, you‘re sure to make sure you‘re advancing the cause of others and not letting their causes slip backwards.
When this presented itself to me, it was difficult. It wasn‘t something that I was used to, but I promised people I would keep an open mind. I‘d look into the issue and I would be able to determine if it, in fact, was something that we needed to do for our state and for our citizens.
And when I began to look at the issue and I saw that under state law, we were granting rights for marriages and that we were going to be creating a second class marriage statute if we allowed just civil unions. And we wouldn‘t be upholding to our Constitution of equal protection that there was only one course for me to take and telling people that civil unions don‘t equal civil marriage.
Separate and apart from the church, the church is free to continue to do their marriages and blessings as they see fit. And this law reinforces that strong separation of church and state. And it is something that we have to be very vigilant about.
But at the same time, we need to recognize that we are all unique. We are all different from each other, but we‘re all governed by the same Constitution. And it‘s my responsibility - I‘m passionate about that because I think our state is passionate about the rights of others and about standing against discrimination.
MADDOW: Governor, how confident are you about how this ballot measure is going to go on Tuesday? And if the law is overturned, if the Yes on One forces win, is there a Plan B for same-sex marriage rights in Maine?
BALDACCI: I think, Rachel, it‘s a very good question. But when I visited the campaign office, there were over 8,000 volunteers, Rachel. And almost all of them are from the state of Maine. They‘re from families in the state of Maine. There are college students. There are older people, retired people, working people that are working on this.
And they‘re working day and night in the campaign offices throughout the state. I was talking with Jesse Connolly(ph) and he was telling me about how driven and motivated they are and about the early voting that‘s already taken place.
And you know, we‘re giving it 100 percent effort and we‘ve got some really dedicated people doing it. I‘m very proud of them. And I told them that they can be very proud because they‘re creating a foundation and a recognition that our states stands for each other and we‘re there in very difficult times.
So we‘ve got good people. They‘re working really hard. They‘re running campaign. And we‘re going to run right up until election night at 8:00 and do everything we can do to make sure that Maine, you know, stands firm and is there for each other.
MADDOW: And a backup plan?
BALDACCI: I think the way I approach this, Rachel, is that we conduct a campaign well. We‘ve been able to get a lot of information and education out to people about a very difficult issue for some people, an emotional issue for some people to grapple with. So I think we‘ve made a lot of inroads.
So I think whatever the results are, I‘m very pleased of the efforts and abilities of a lot of people to be able to look inside themselves and realize that it‘s only an issue of fairness. It‘s an issue of equal protection.
And in our state, you know, we depend upon each other to be there in a pinch. And I think Maine people will be there for each other on election night.
MADDOW: Maine Governor John Baldacci, thanks very much for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate you taking the time.
BALDACCI: Thank you, Rachel. Talk with you later.
MADDOW: Indeed. So what do the naming of a college dorm and a bunch of forged letters to Congress have in common? If you said coal, I would be really impressed and thank you for watching the show so frequently.
The chairman of the House Energy Committee, Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, joins us in just a moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Still ahead, Kent Jones brings us the latest on the Dick Cheney-Sarah Palin donnybrook that‘s brewing over the Texas governor‘s race. So who to root for? Stick around for that.
But first, a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. Indiana Republican Congressman Steve Buyer first beeped on our radar when he claimed that health reform was super-secret plot to harm veterans, which it wasn‘t and it isn‘t.
He also notoriously stated that smoking tobacco is just like smoking lettuce. Then we didn‘t hear much from Congressman Buyer for a while. And then we did again and then some.
“Talking Points Memo” and “The Indianapolis Star” began looking into Congressman Buyer‘s Charitable Frontier Foundation which purports to grant scholarships to people who can‘t otherwise afford to go to college.
Despite raising almost $900,000 over the years, the Frontier Foundation has yet to award its first scholarship. So what does Congressman Buyer‘s Frontier Foundation do since it doesn‘t actually give scholarships?
Well, for one thing, it hosts fundraisers which put the congressman in the Bahamas or Disney World or lots of other golf-y locations to play lots of golf with lots of donors.
The story of the anti-health reform congressman with the foundation that mainly pays his greens fees has tonight come full circle. The guy in the red shirt in this picture is Congressman Buyer himself. The guy in the blue shirt is Ryan Buyer, who is his son.
Ryan Buyer sits on the board of his dad‘s foundation, his Frontier Foundation. “Talking Points Memo” reports today that Ryan Buyer is also employed by the drug industry trade group, Pharma. Pharma has also donated more than $200,000 to Congressman Buyer‘s charity.
On top of that, Congressman Buyer sits on the House subcommittee that regulates the drug industry, an issue that is of particular interest to that drug industry trade group that employs his son and gave $200,000 to his non-scholarship giving scholarship-giving charity.
We contacted the congressman‘s office in Washington today. His communications director E-mailed us the following statement, “Ryan works in a non-lobbying, administrative position at Pharma. Ryan has a finance background and first started at Pharma in the finance department which led to the administrative position. If the board of the Frontier Foundation has any information that it feels should be publicly disclosed, it is within the sole discretion of the private foundation to do so.”
Now, there is a way for Mr. Buyer‘s comments to remain in place and to his liking. He is still welcome to come on this show to explain just what the Frontier Foundation does besides enabling many awesome corporate-paid rounds of golf.
And now, to an extraordinary new detail tucked inside a new book by Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign manager. David Plouffe has a new book out about the campaign, and initial excerpts being published to make you want to buy the book include some very new, very detailed information about how Mr. Obama chose Joe Biden to be his vice president.
According to Mr. Plouffe, despite Obama‘s longstanding interest in Hillary Clinton as a potential running mate, in the end, it came down to three candidates on the final short list - Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Delaware Senator Joe Biden and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. Gov. Kaine was apparently at the bottom of the short list because of his lack of foreign policy experience. That left Senators Bayh and Biden.
In terms of deciding between them, candidate Obama told his advisers at one point, quote, “I really haven‘t settled this yet in my own mind. It‘s a coin toss now between Bayh and Biden,” which makes Sen. Evan Bayh possibly the first known American to have been a coin toss away from being a heart beat away from the presidency.
MADDOW: There is lobbying, and then there is what Bonner and Associates, a lobbying firm, did to try to defeat climate change legislation. It included forged letters on stolen letterhead sent to Congress.
It‘s not some metaphor for crooked politics. They actually sent forged letters on stolen letterhead to the actual Congress and they got caught. Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts joins us next.
MADDOW: Big coal is back in the news tonight. Usually, when the very profitable mining and sale of the 19th century favorite energy source grabs headlines, it‘s because in the world of carbon footprints, big coal is sasquatch.
Well, tonight, it‘s less direct but no more flattering than that. We start with an update from the University of Kentucky. You‘ll recall that we reported on Monday that a man named Joseph W. Kraft III is a huge fan of the University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball team.
He‘s also the head of a company called Alliance Coal. Mr. Kraft, offered to bundle together a donation to the University of Kentucky of $7 million in order to build a new dorm to house the men‘s basketball team.
His only condition was that he wanted the word “coal” included in the actual name of the new dorm. How embarrassing. The university‘s board of trustees, nevertheless, met on Tuesday to discuss the offer. And yes, Kentucky‘s men‘s basketball team will soon live in the Wildcat Coal Lodge.
Sounds homey. You get a little respirator with every room. The board approved the name by a vote of 16 to 3. The three dissenting folks came from the faculty representative, the staff representative and the student body president.
Students were not allowed to speak formally at the meeting. And when about 30 of them stood up to protest, most of the board, including the university‘s president, just got up and left, walked right out of the room. Put that in your stove pipe and smoke it, you meddling kids.
Big coal or at least its paid lobbyist had a tougher time today on Capitol Hill where a hearing was held to investigate a right-wing lobbying firm called Bonner and Associates.
We first reported over the summer about forged letters that Bonner sent to Congress on behalf of the so-called clean coal industry. These letters appeared to come from organizations like the NAACP, the American Association of University Women and groups representing Hispanics and veterans and senior citizens.
They were sent to three House Democrats. And they expressed opposition to climate change legislation supposedly from these community groups and this is right before a critical vote. The issue was that the letterhead was stolen from these community groups and the letters were forgeries.
The bill did barely pass on June 26th by a vote of 219 to 212. Two of the Democrats who received these phony letters from the clean coal industry actually voted against the legislation as the letter suggested that they should.
It‘s since been revealed that Bonner and Associates knew on June 22nd
that its employee had sent the fake letters. That‘s four days before the
vote. So why didn‘t the firm inform the member of Congress who had been
targeted with these forgeries? Or -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK BONNER, PRESIDENT, BONNER AND ASSOCIATES: The reason we didn‘t, we felt our first responsibility, a responsibility of our firm, as a grassroots firm, was to get to the organizations involved in a very open way and tell them that we, Bonner and Associates, had made this mistake and that we apologized to these groups directly and that we, as soon as we had found that this fraud had been committed by this temporary employee, fired that employee.
And we should have also, as I look back on it, sir, and as I look forward to the future, should have immediately informed Congress of it at that moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jack Bonner, the president of his eponymous firm, assigning responsibility for misinforming members of Congress to a rogue temp employee. Because you know, coal flows downhill.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Ed Markey from Massachusetts. He chaired today‘s hearing into the forged letters. Congressman Markey, thank you very much for taking time to come on the show tonight after such a big day.
REP. ED MARKEY (D-MA): Thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: At your hearing, Mr. Bonner said he took responsibility for the forgeries. But he did repeatedly blame a rogue temp for sending those letters. Were you about to figure out today if this was a rogue employee situation or if this is systematically the way these guys operate?
MARKEY: Well, I think the big issue here was that the Coal Coalition and their subcontractors that included Bonner and Associates knew about these letters, knew that they were fraudulent before we ever had this historic vote on the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill on the House floor on June 26.
And yet, the congressmen who had been the recipients of the fraudulent letters were never notified that the NAACP, that the American of Association University Women, the veteran groups, the senior groups actually did not oppose the legislation. And in many instances, they actually supported it, for example, the NAACP.
So Bonner was hired by Hawthorn. And Hawthorn had been hired by the Coal Coalition. And yet, all of them knew about the fraud and none of them told the members of Congress.
And it was a squeaker of a vote, 219-212. And without knowing it, we were able to win, but it wasn‘t because a fraud had not been perpetrated.
MADDOW: Is defrauding Congress a prosecutable offense? What can happen to the Coal Coalition, to the subcontractor, to Bonner and Associates for having done this?
MARKEY: Well, I don‘t know that, but my own feeling is that I do have a responsibility to ensure that there is a spotlight that is placed upon this legislation. Because now, the Senate is taking up the counterpart legislation to Waxman-Markey and that is the Kerry-Boxer bill.
And I want to make sure that this is a debate that takes place on the facts. The planet is running a fever. There are no emergency rooms for planets. And we have to take action in order to give global leadership, create the green jobs and back out the imported oil.
And we won‘t be able to do that if I have a fraud perpetrated on the Senate the way it was in the House because that vote in the Senate is going to be very close.
MADDOW: In addition to them getting sort of caught having done this in the House, this goes to the larger issue whether or not this is an ongoing strategy. This is an ongoing way. These are the types of tactics that the coal industry and other people opposed to global warming legislation are going to use to try to defeat it.
To that end, it‘s been reported late this afternoon that one of the people testifying today from the Coal Coalition may have committed perjury in your hearing today. He said, “Our organization has never opposed the climate change legislation, the Waxman-Markey bill.”
I don‘t think that‘s true. Is it possible that the committee will be looking further into today‘s testimony? Could there be perjury prosecutions?
MARKEY: Again, I don‘t know if that‘s the case, and it would be premature for me to make any judgment. But the reality is that there was opposition to the legislation. In one of these instances, by the way, one of the letters that was sent was - it was of a deceased woman of a defunct chapter of the American Association of University Women that was sent to a congressman in Virginia who they felt could be persuaded to vote against the legislation, Tom Perriello.
He did vote for the legislation, but that just goes to show the extent to which some people would be willing to go in order to block this historic energy, clean energy legislation from passing.
MADDOW: Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, chair of the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence. Sir, it‘s great to have you here. Thank you for joining us.
MARKEY: Thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” former Vermont governor, Dr. Howard Dean, gives his reaction to the health reform bill announced today.
And next on this show, Kent Jones here to pick apart the Dick Cheney versus Sarah Palin feud that‘s breaking out in Texas. I don‘t know who to cheer for. It‘s so exciting.
MADDOW: We turn now to our cumbersome endorsements correspondent, Kent Jones. Hi Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. You know, I just got back from Texas. And there is a huge heavyweight political bout brewing down there right now. Check it out.
MADDOW: All right.
JONES (voice-over): Remember when Republicans were one big happy family? Everyone was all together, laughing together, loving together, hating the same people together. Then he came. The home wrecker.
Now, in Texas, the primary for governor is turning into a colossal struggle for the divided Republican family. On one side is Gov. Rick Perry, that maverick-y stimulus refuser with great hair. The governor is being backed by Sarah Palin.
On the other, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, two-term U.S. senator, also with great hair. Ms. Hutchinson is being backed by Dick Cheney. Palin versus Cheney. Mommy and daddy are fighting.
How can Texas Republicans possibly choose? Dick Cheney‘s warm, grandfatherly demeanor versus Palin‘s ready command of the facts.
FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): I‘ll try to find you someone and I‘ll bring him to you.
JONES: Dick Cheney‘s eight years as vice president versus Sarah Palin‘s 12 minutes and 48 seconds as governor of Alaska. Gun lover versus gun lover. They can‘t both be right. Dick, Sarah, I‘m begging you, don‘t do this. Maybe you could sit down with someone and talk this over. Please, for the sake of the children.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. I was looking forward to that all day.
MADDOW: Appreciate it. And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Have a good night. “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.
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