updated 12/17/2009 11:50:18 AM ET 2009-12-17T16:50:18

Guests: Mark McKinnon, Chris Hayes, Dave Weigel

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  I know that was a difficult conclusion for you to arrive at.  Thank you for doing it.

And thank you at home for tuning in.

We begin tonight with how we got here.  And by here, in this case, I mean, here.  What you‘re looking at right next to me here is what happened for nearly three straight hours on the Senate floor today: a Senate clerk reading a 767-page amendment to the health reform bill out loud, word for painstaking word, grinding Senate business to a halt.  It was the latest anti-health reform delay tactic.  This one deployed by Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Two long hours and 43 long minutes later, after 139 pages had already been read aloud, the sponsor of the amendment that was being read, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, withdrew it.  And in doing so, he made no effort to hide his disgust.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  We‘ve got two wars, we‘ve got global warming, we have a $12 trillion national debt—and the best the Republicans can do is try to bring the United States government to a halt, by forcing a read of a 700-page amendment.  That is an outrage.  People can have honest disagreements, but in this moment of crisis, it is wrong to bring the United States government to a halt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Republican anti-health reform strategy of delay, delay, delay, delay, delay, delay, delay is one that they‘re now openly bragging about.  Republican Senator Jim DeMint tweeting about today‘s Senate floor stunt, quote, “If Reid won‘t slow down this debate, we will do it for him.”

Apparently, dissatisfied with just being able to vote against health reform, Republican tactics against it are getting, frankly, more radical.  Since the big “read the 700-page bill” stunt failed today, after Senator Sanders withdrew that amendment, Republicans moved on to step two, I guess.

As we speak, Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback and

Republican members of Congress, Michele Bachmann and Randy Forbes, are

taking part in a prayercast—it‘s what they‘re calling it—a prayercast

to stop health reform.  It is a prayercast against—what they‘re calling

the government takeover of health care.

           

As advertised, quote, “During the webcast, you will hear the latest on the threats to the God-given right to human life through government funding of abortions, our health from rationing, our family finances from higher taxes, and our general freedom posed by the government plan to take over health care.”

Speaking at the anti-health reform prayercast along side these Republican members of Congress are a whole host of features from the religious right.  Billed, for example, just above the Honorable Sam Brownback is a guy named Lou Engle.  Lou Engle isn‘t a household name, but you may have heard of him as the founder and president of a group called the Call to Conscience.  They Call to Conscience describes itself as a movement to bring holiness and purity back to America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU ENGLE, CALL TO CONSCIENCE:  Have the whole world pray for this is going on today in California, because what happened in California will release a spirit that is more demonic than Islam, a spirit of lawlessness and anarchy and a sexual insanity will be unleashed unto the earth.  We beg you, pray for California elections!  Pray that God would break in with Yes on 8.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Sexual insanity.

The anti-health reform event tonight is featuring Senator Brownback, Senator DeMint, and that guy, Lou Engle, anti-gay rights preacher.

But Lou Engle is not only one on the bill tonight that America should probably get to know.  Another speaker during tonight‘s Republican headlined anti-health care reform prayercast, he‘s actually billed right beneath the Honorable Michele Bachmann, is a bishop named Harry Jackson.  Harry Jackson is the pastor of a Maryland church.  He‘s been at the forefront of the opposition to gay marriage initiatives.

According to Pastor Jackson, gay rights must be opposed because gay people are inspired by the devil—saying, quote, “Gays have been at the helm of a fourfold strategy for years, but the wisdom behind their spiritual, cultural, and political and generational tactics is clearly satanic.”

Harry Jackson and Lou Engle are speaking tonight alongside Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Sam Brownback and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia.

I am guessing that the anti-gay stuff does not necessarily bother these Republican politicians.  But Lou Engle, at least, is known for one other thing that might be a political bother to the Republican anti-health reform forces that have sided with him now.  Lou Engle is known for encouraging acts of Christian martyrdom.

Here‘s Mr. Engle waxing poetic about martyrdom at an event that was just last November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ENGLE:  Even under martyrdom, God can be the grace.  Fasting, twelve hours of prayer, these are seeds of martyrdom.  The days are coming when we‘re going to have to risk our lives to stand for truth in the society.  Say, lift your voices, say, God, mark me now.  Mark me.  As a man and a woman of the cross of Jesus Christ, say, mark me!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So great is the need for Christian martyrdom on the issue of abortion, according to Pastor Engle, that he says may be cause for a second American Civil War.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ENGLE:  Six hundred thousand men died on the battlefields of America.  And if God required it for slavery, what will it mean if God requires it for America, for the bloodshed of 50 million babies?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Yes, can‘t we just please get some bloodshed in the abortion debate in this country, people, can‘t we?

The pastor calling for a second American Civil War for American Christians to be martyred against abortion, headlining tonight‘s anti-health reform event with two serving Republican U.S. senators and two serving Republican members of Congress.

If this is the next step in the Republican opposition to health reform, what‘s the step after this?

Joining us now is Mark McKinnon, Republican strategist, who has advised the campaigns of John McCain and George W. Bush.  He‘s vice chairman of Public Strategies.  He‘s also a contributor to “The Daily Beast,” where he has just posted his year-end rundown of who to watch for the Republican nomination in 2012.

Lou Engle, not on your list, I‘m guessing.

MARK MCKINNON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, I have to put him on the watch list.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I know what those kind of watch lists are about.

What are the political calculations, Mark, for Senator Brownback, for example, for these two Republican members of Congress, for them to associate with a Lou Engle?  To them—not only associate themselves with him, but to associate him with the fight against health reform?

MCKINNON:  Well, I think a lot of what we‘re seeing is that the Republican brand itself has been badly damaged.  And yet, there‘s a large swath, a majority of the country that still see themselves as conservative.  So, a lot of elected officials in the Republican Party are looking for a place to align themselves where they can gain more credibility.

So, increasingly, we‘re seeing these sorts of, some of the people that you mentioned tonight, trying to align themselves in order to get media and attention in a forum that gives them greater credibility than they can with the traditional Republican brand.

MADDOW:  And these—and you‘re saying that, like, Lou Engle, for example, he‘s trying to get credibility by associating himself with these Republicans, or vice versa?

MCKINNON:  Well, it‘s vice versa, and that‘s what‘s interesting.  I think, for example, a lot of the Republicans are trying to align themselves with the tea party, because the tea party has become a very legitimate grassroots movement in this country with people who are disenfranchised.  It‘s largely a libertarian—really libertarian at its heart.  But because there‘s—but because it‘s got a lot of power behind it right now, Republicans are trying to align themselves.  But you‘ll notice the tea party rarely uses the term “Republican,” smartly.

So, a lot of people are saying, why are they associating themselves with the tea party?  The real question is why is the tea party associating themselves with some of those elected officials?

MADDOW:   Well.

MCKINNON:  Because it actually hurts their credibility.

MADDOW:  Well, we‘re seeing—we‘re seeing that in terms of some of the internal fights among the tea party groups.

MCKINNON:  Right.

MADDOW:  Some of them are more willing to be associated with

Republican politicians and causes than others.  But at the same time, that

it is—it is a two-way street.  And so, yesterday, we had another one of these tea party events at the capital, a whole litany of Republican members of Congress speaking to this crowd.  And in the crowd, they‘re holding, you know, signs that show Obama as Hitler.

           

MCKINNON:  Yes.

MADDOW:  And comparing health reform to the Holocaust.  And—I mean, you can‘t police every sign, but you can decide whether or not you‘re going to address a group that is holding those signs.

MCKINNON:  Sure.  And, you know, we only have two parties in this country.  And so, there‘s fringe in both parties.  And it‘s always problematic, with any sort of these demonstrations that the media is always going to seek out the worst possible sign that they can and focus on that.

So, I think we have to be careful not to de-legitimize or demonize the tea party movement, because I do think that it‘s—you know, it‘s a large, legitimate movement.

MADDOW:  But, wait, though, when—I mean, you‘ve seen the worst of the Holocaust signs.

MCKINNON:  Yes.

MADDOW:  . signs big enough two people are holding them, right in front of the podium and.

MCKINNON:  Unconscionable.

MADDOW:  I mean, if you‘re a member of Congress and you‘re stepping up to the podium and that‘s what‘s in front of you.

MCKINNON:  I agree, you should.

MADDOW:  . you at least take it.

MCKINNON:  . disassociate.

MADDOW:  Yes.

MCKINNON:  You should speak out against that.

MADDOW:  Yes.  It doesn‘t seem impossible.

MCKINNON:  Unconscionable.  Yes, and irresponsible.

MADDOW:  On the issue of health reform, appears to be total unity, no dissent whatsoever among Republicans.  Looks like we‘re probably—probably will get zero health reform votes in the House and Senate from Republicans.  With events like this one tonight, though, it does seem—actually, it‘s what happened with reading that bill today in the Senate, it does seem like they‘re trying to turn that opposition into a big political plus.  It‘s not just zero votes—it‘s zero votes and a big campaign against health reform on top of that.

How does that work politically?

MCKINNON:  Well, I think there are—there‘s some calculation that it is—that they think, at least in the short-term, for sure, that health care will be—won‘t have time to be engaged or enacted and applied, really, and that will be seen as a large government takeover and it frightens a lot of people.  And—that there could be a real short-term political gain from the passage of that legislation.

MADDOW:  Do you—if health reform—if health reform does, say, it passes by Christmas, or say it passes by the State of Union, net gain or net loss, in your view, for Republicans for 2010?

MCKINNON:  Well, I‘m not saying it‘s the right thing, but it could be a net gain.

MADDOW:  If it passes.

MCKINNON:  . in the short-term if it passes.

Now, long-term, I think it, you know, very probably could be, you know, a big legislative accomplishment and may kick in by the next presidential election.  But short-term, it could be a liability.

MADDOW:  Senator DeMint, I just wanted to ask you about, because I know you‘ve been thinking about him as a potential presidential contender.  He seems to be trying to.

MCKINNON:  Thanks to you, he‘s on the watch list.

MADDOW:  Oh, good.  Well, he does seem to be trying to build his national image on.

MCKINNON:  Yes.

MADDOW:  . being anti-big tent, on being the “purge the moderates” guy.

MCKINNON:  Sure.

MADDOW:  What do you—what do you think of his chances?

MCKINNON:  Well, there is a—there is a huge piece of the Republican primary pie that‘s going to be filled by either Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, or Jim DeMint.  I mean, that—it‘s Iowa in the first caucuses.  There‘s a lot of gravity toward that particular segment of the Republican primaries right now.

So, you know, he‘s making a calculation and a political one that, you know, maybe some of those three don‘t scratch, and he‘s going to put on his running shoes and be ready to go.

MADDOW:  They‘ve got one corner reserved.  It‘s just a question of who‘s going to be in it.

Mark McKinnon, former adviser to President George W. Bush and Senator McCain, contributor now to “The Daily Beast,” and always a very welcome guest—it‘s always great to have your take on things, Mark.  Thanks a lot.

MCKINNON:  Thanks to you.

MADDOW:  Thanks for coming in.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  For those of you who have been waiting for us to finally connect the dots between faux populist anti-health reform tactics and Hooters—the Hooters Restaurant chain, your wait is over.  “The Nation‘s” Chris Hayes joins us for that next.  A sort of awkward subject, but it‘s for real.

And later, we learn what exactly former House Speaker Dick—former House Majority Leader Dick Armey did yesterday before appearing at a tea party rally, at which he called me names and pronounced my last name as “Maddox.”

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey had a really big day yesterday.  First, hosting a big event at the National Press Club and then tearing into me in front of a teabagger rally that his organization sponsored.  And tonight, we have discovered why he might have been in such a feisty mood by the time he got to the rally.  And it‘s definitely not because a ton of people showed up to his big event before.

The story is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  OK.  Let‘s say that you‘re a really big fan of the wings that they serve at the popular restaurant Hooters.  As a lover of hot wings, you might be tempted to say, click on a pop-up Web ad promising a $150 gift card for use at Hooters.  Think of all the wings you could get for that.  All of those wings.

All you have to do is fill out a quick Internet survey, quote, “To qualify for your $150 gift card, Amex gift card for use at Hooters, you must continue through our survey below.  Click ‘yes‘ to as many offers as you like.”

Let‘s see what kind of offers do we have to choose from?  Well, there‘s some sort of generic discount travel, there‘s “Get your degree online,” there‘s a YouTube-looking rip-off called “The Daily Tube,” and the friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, offering not free merchandise, but the chance to have your inbox filled up by the chamber‘s anti-health reform campaign.  Click the “yes” button and you‘ll, quote, “learn how to protect your family‘s future and bring common sense to the health care debate with free e-mails from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

Yes, free anti-health reform e-mails.  We‘re talking electronic messages, pushing the chamber‘s anti-reform message at no cost to you.  Free e-mails.

Now, if this incentivized anti-reform ad scheme described today by “Talking Points Memo,” is it all ringing a bell?  It may be because, just last week on this show, we talked about new reporting from business insider about an ad campaign that was targeting Facebook gamers, offering people playing games on Facebook free virtual money that you could use in Facebook games like “Mafia Wars” or “Farmville,” in exchange for filling out a survey, which appears to be from a coalition of insurance companies called Get Health Reform Right.

Now, it filled out these—if these things are filled out, these things will automatically send an e-mail opposing health reform to members of Congress on your behalf.  So handy.  Get Health Reform Right, the anti-reform group/insurance industry group has since denied having anything at all to do with the Facebook ad where you get “Mafia Wars” money to send your anti-health reform message to Congress.

But the very same ad with the Get Health Reform Right logo is now popping up again, this time in exchange for your automatically-generated opposition letter to Congress, you‘re being offered not fake Facebook money, but the chance to win a plasma screen TV!  A spokesman from Get Health Reform Right is denying any involvement in this one, too, telling “Talking Points Memo” today that the group suspended all of its Web advertising activity last week.

But, wait, there‘s more.  As a special bonus for staying tuned to this RACHEL MADDOW SHOW segment, there‘s an extra story about anti-health reform Web ad shenanigans.

Check out this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  Many doctors fear new government plans to change our health care system.  They understand that under the proposed rules, there will be longer waiting times and rationing of care for seniors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  See, doctors, as you can see in that ad, they‘re totally against reforming the health care system.  I mean, look at the size of that list that they ran.  All those doctors who think reform would lead to rationing of care.

It turns out at least some of those doctor‘s groups did not actually sign up for that list and they would please like their names to be taken out off of it.  “Politico” reporting today that two of the groups listed in the ad, the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons have asked the group behind this ad, Rethink Reform, to remove them from that handy scrolling list.

Rethink Reform‘s shady reasoning for including those groups‘ name in the anti-reform ad in the first place?  Well, according to a Rethink Reform spokesperson, quote, “They signed this letter opposing it and we used their name because they signed the letter.”

Now, the letter she‘s referring to was written in—on December 1st.  It laid out some specific pieces of legislation being debated in the Senate, which the group opposed.  In its final paragraph, though, it said, “While we must oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as currently written, the surgical coalition is committed to the passage of meaningful and comprehensive health care reform.”  That the letter is why the folks at Rethink Reform thought it would be OK to say they endorse a big scary ad claiming that all reform will lead to rationing.

The force behind this shady-sounding anti-reform group is a man named Rick Berman.  Do you remember Rick Berman?  Rick Berman and I had a really lively debate on this show back in October.

You may remember Rick Berman as the guy who built up—has built up an empire of nonprofits with glossy Web sites, arguing things like mercury in fish isn‘t really that bad for you, go to FishScam.com; or high fructose corn syrup is not all that bad for you either, go to SweetScam.com; and don‘t forget tanning beds, tanning beds aren‘t dangerous at all, SunlightScam.com.  That‘s Rick Berman.

And now he‘s here to tell you that doctors are opposed to health reform, insert doctorjokescam.com here.

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”

Chris, thanks very much for coming on the show.  It‘s good to see you.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Good to see you, too, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Incentivized pop-up ads that automatically generate letters to Congress.  Are we just stuck with this forever?  Is this—is this the Internet age of Astroturf?

HAYES:  Well, yes.  I think we are stuck with it.  I mean, I think the good thing about this is that there‘s a tendency when new forms get pioneered for them to be maximally effective when they begin, and then once the people who are staffing the offices on the Hill recognize they‘re being generated in this mechanical way, they begin to discount the value of them.  So, you‘ve actually seen this happen with e-mail petitions, which in the beginning when they first started flooding, when Move On pioneered the form, were incredibly effective, because, you know, people—staffers in the office didn‘t quite realize necessarily how easy it was to sign the form.  And now, as we‘ve gone on and gotten hip to it, it‘s declined.

So, I think instead we‘re actually instead going to see a constant cycle of Astroturf and petition innovation.

MADDOW:  I do think it‘s interesting, though, to find Rick Berman in the middle of all this.  I mean, Rick Berman is sort of the P.R., shady funding sources, fake nonprofit hive.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  You know, he‘s—he‘s the hive at the center of the swarm on so many of these issues going well back before even the Internet age.  And it makes me think that the pros, the people who have made really rich living for themselves.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  . doing these sorts of borderline political scams are getting in on health reform as if it‘s very rich territory.

HAYES:  It is rich territory.  I mean, this has been a feeding frenzy in Washington across the board, but particularly for people like Rick Berman.  And I think, one of the other things to sort of consider here is how much they‘re actually ripping off their clients.  I mean, it‘s a question as exactly how efficacious this kind of thing is.  What is true is that those contracts that people like that to have tend to be worth quite a bit of money.

So it‘s—you know, it‘s almost like a double scam, right?  There‘s sort of the scam on the substantive level of sort of, you know, misrepresenting what the legislation is and trying to mobilize people and create the impression of a constituency that isn‘t there, but there‘s also the scam that happens in-between these groups that run these P.R. campaigns on behalf of their clients, and—in which it‘s not necessarily clear they‘re actually delivering the goods.

MADDOW:  Well, is there a political antidote to these types of tactics?  Obviously, real grassroots and real people holding real ideas and positions they‘re not tricked into holding is the best thing to put up against these things.  But how do you—how do you oppose this if this stuff is being affected?

HAYES:  You know, it‘s a really good question.  I mean, I guess, maybe I have a naive faith in the power of genuine organizing versus ersatz organizing, but I do think that in the end, quality will out.

And I think that even—even on the right, right?  Even amongst the anti-reform constituency, you know, this—when you had genuine citizens, whether they were backed by a lot of corporate money—which they were—or not, when they were genuinely organizing themselves, that was much more effective and have more of a profound effect on the minds of legislators—

I know from talking to them—than, you know, some e-mail that they‘re getting through some massive list, and the same is true on the progressive side.

I mean, genuine, real organizing, whether it‘s mediated by computers and then brings people face to face with their elected representatives has an effect that I don‘t think any kind of technological invention or any kind of Astroturf campaign is ever going to be able to reduce.

MADDOW:  It might be naive, but it‘s a very heartwarming kind of naive, Chris.

HAYES:  We need heartwarming, Rachel.  We need heartwarming.

MADDOW:  It‘s the holiday season.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Also, excellent use of the word “ersatz” tonight from Chris Hayes.

HAYES:  Thanks.

MADDOW:  . Washington editor of.

HAYES:  In a Hooters segment, no less.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  The ersatz Hooter segment.  You see we got away from that quickly.

Chris, thank very much for joining us.  I really appreciate it.

HAYES:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  Speaking at an anti-health reform teabag event in Washington yesterday, former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey tore into some TV personality with a meaningless education named Rachel Maddox.  I totally know her.

Wait until you hear what put Mr. Armey in such a cantankerous mood. 

It would be a very funny story.  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Yesterday, a person I think was me was involved with a big teabagger rally against health reform, sponsored by the corporate-funded Americans for Prosperity with an assist from FreedomWorks.  At least, I think the person was me.  And to be fair, I was only sort of involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER:  I can‘t pass up my moment with Doc Coburn, because the last time Doc Coburn, a senator from Oklahoma, who has practiced medicine all his life, the last time he and I were together, I had the amazing opportunity to watch him receive a lecture on health care from a woman named—Maddox, a television personality, who, I‘m told, has a PhD in something that doesn‘t matter, who knew she was qualified to lecture the good physician on health care in America, because she had actually gone to a doctor once.

So, when Doc Coburn gets here, you ought to appreciate the fact that he had the strength to stand up to this world-renowned expert on health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was Dick Armey getting big yucks from the crowd, giving my name the old Norm Crosby treatment.  Today, we learned what might have put Mr. Armey in such a contentious mood as he took the stage mid-afternoon. 

About an hour prior to that taping you just saw, Dick Armey had scheduled a 12:30 p.m. luncheon at the National Press Club, an event, a big press event, starring him, talking about his favorite issues and reportedly for him to launch his new political action committee. 

As it turned out, there was no turnout.  The Dick Armey luncheon was canceled.  Canceled by whom?  By Dick Armey?  Not exactly.  After Adele Stan at “AlterNet.org” reported that she had tried to attend the Dick Armey national press club event only to find it called off. 

We reached out to communications and event manager at the National Press Club, Melinda Cooke, to find out why.  She told us that the luncheon was canceled because, quote, “They didn‘t have enough reservations.”

oh, not enough people wanted to luncheon with Mr. Armey.  We then asked the minimum number of interested reporters required to hold on to a reservation for such a luncheon.  And Ms. Cooke quite diplomatically responded, quote, “Let‘s just say there‘s a minimum required and they didn‘t meet it.”

Mr. Armey‘s noontime fizzle wasn‘t the only torch-and-pitchfork grassroot-sy, tea baggish event that failed to launch yesterday.  The Tea Party Patriot‘s anti-health reform group planned a die-in in Senate offices yesterday.  They were going to show up in droves at Senate offices and pretend to die because the health reform is a secret plot to - whatever. 

Except the thousands of people who were supposed to meet and pretend to die didn‘t show up in the thousands and the die-in sort of died.  It didn‘t really happen.  Given some of the falling flat yesterday, there was a really notable entry in the new NBC-“Wall Street Journal” poll which has just come out tonight. 

With just about everything and everyone in politics really taking it on the chin, public opinion-wise, the tea party movement is being relatively well-received.  Forty-one percent of those polled said they viewed the tea party movement as very positive or somewhat positive, which is not the sort of polling that all the fizzle would have suggested. 

The NBC News political team broke the numbers down a bit, gave us the cross tabs, and that‘s sort of where the revelation happens.  It turns out that 76 percent of people who get their political and current event information from FOX News see the tea party movement positively. 

Seventy-six percent.  Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say they viewed the tea party movement positively.  And they are popular with 44 percent of white people as well. 

\

For people who get their news and information from news channels that don‘t stage political events around the tea parties and therefore become participants in the process, just 24 percent of people viewed the tea-partiers positively.  Fourteen percent of Democrats view the movement positively. 

So the Dick Armey movement has seen an uptick in terms of how they are viewed.  It‘s based just about entirely in FOX News viewers and Republicans, meaning it‘s kind of official.  The fringe has purged.  The Republican Party is now officially steeped in tea baggers.  I‘ll be here all week. 

Joining us now is Dave Weigel, reporter from “The Washington Independent” who has been covering the tea-partiers.  Dave, thanks very much for being here. 

DAVE WEIGEL, REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT”:  Thanks.  And I would like to apologize for Dr. Armey for not reserving a spot to his luncheon.  I‘m sorry about that. 

MADDOW:  They wouldn‘t tell us what the minimum number was.  But, yes, yes.  Also, there wasn‘t anything else canceled on the calendar.  I looked.  That was the only one.  Never mind. 

Dave, you have covered the tea party rallies over the course of many months.  You have been on this show a number of times talking about them.  I know you were there yesterday in Washington. 

How would you say the energy at these things is tracking over time?  Stronger, weaker or staying the same? 

WEIGEL:  There‘s a ton of energy, although I found yesterday more pessimism about their chances of stopping a health care bill, any health care bill through the Senate.  The torture - you know, the agony of the teeth-gnashing that liberals are going through about what‘s not in the bill, that doesn‘t matter so much to tea party activists. 

They think any bill starts the government takeover of health care.  The road to serfdom - it‘s not going to be 10 miles down the road.  It will be seven miles - bad enough.  And they‘re actually not - they‘re worried they‘re going to lose this battle, but they‘re really confident they‘re going to win in 2010.  And that is where the energy is coming right now. 

MADDOW:  OK.

WEIGEL:  It‘s a lot of electoral energy like you saw in upstate New York in this election. 

MADDOW:  Well, and that‘s - I feel like that‘s the most interesting dynamic here.  It‘s the relationship between tea party movement and Republicans. 

WEIGEL:  Right.

MADDOW:  And at first, we saw a lot of excitement among elected Republicans that these sort of shock troops are holding town halls and expressing despite two operative opposition to Democrats and government.  And then there were at least a few voices of caution or hesitance among Republicans and some of the rhetoric got really out of control. 

Now, Sen. DeMint is really overtly readopting tea baggers.  Michael Steele put out Republican Party-branded tea bags yesterday at an event.  How much will the Republican Party, the people who run for office and serve, end up looking like the tea partiers? 

WEIGEL:  Entirely.  I mean, it‘s really like when the progressive party and William Jennings Bryan swallowed the Democratic Party in 1896, if I can try and one-up Chris Hayes on the nerd talk here.  It‘s a lot like that because the tea party movement, as you‘ve said in this poll, as we‘ve in the Rasmussen poll, is more popular than the Republican Party. 

The Republican Party is still George Bush‘s party, Ben Bernanke‘s party.  It‘s not very popular, whereas this anti-debt, let‘s save America, let‘s bring prosperity back movement - the more broadly you can define it, it‘s quite popular. 

Michael Steele today, the National Republican Committee today launched this “listen to me” campaign in which average Americans, you know, demand that Congress listen to them.  That was ripped precisely from the tea party movement and from the rally yesterday. 

Jenny Beth Martin and the tea party patriots kept using that slogan.  Talk radio uses that slogan.  I mean, the tea party movement is populism.  It‘s anti-Wall Street.  It‘s anti-government. 

The Republican Party is not really anti-Wall Street.  They‘re pro-tax cut.  So this is - all the energy, I think, against Democrats right now is coming from that movement.  Of course, it‘s going to drive the Republican Party. 

MADDOW:  And I think it‘s going to be an awkward marriage between the two when we get down to brass tacks with policy.  But I guess as long as they can keep it not about policy, they can enjoy one another‘s company. 

WEIGEL:  Enjoying it so far. 

MADDOW:  I guess so.  Dave Weigel, reporter from “The Washington Independent” - really appreciate your time tonight, Dave.  Thanks. 

WEIGEL:  Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW:  So this was Carly Fiorina‘s first campaign Web site for her Senate run - “Carlyfornia,” you might remember.  Carlyfornia dreaming. 

If you think it got better for Republicans on the Web this year, it did not.  In fact, it got more interesting, you might describe it.  You might also describe it as inadvertently, hilariously worse.  A festival of failing on the Internet in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith‘s special comment on the current health care bill.  You have probably already heard about it.  If you have not, you owe it to yourself.  It is blistering. 

Still ahead on this program, last year may have been a disastrous year for the Republicans at the ballot box.  But this year is turning out to be a disastrous for them on The Internet machine.  That‘s all coming up.

But first, a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  A big development in the fight against proposed legislation to execute people or imprison them for life for the crime of being gay.  The bill is being considered in Uganda.  It has made news here in the U.S. because of links between a number of American conservative politicians and pastors and anti-gay activists to the bill over there. 

Jeff Sharlet‘s expose of the secretive religious group known as The Family, which is famous for operating the C Street house in Washington, describes the nation of Uganda as something like The Family‘s outpost in Africa. 

The man who introduced the “kill the gays” bill in the legislature in Uganda and to the country‘s president whose government supports it, are members of The Family.  And now, finally, remarkably, The Family, a group so publicity-averse, it never once issued a word of response to our months of reporting on them and on C Street. 

The Family has overtly come out against the “kill the gays” bill.  Jeff Sharlet has just interviewed Bob Hunter.  Bob Hunter is a former Ford and Carter administration official.  He‘s also been one of The Family‘s key contacts in Uganda. 

And Mr. Hunter gave Jeff this statement, quote, “The fellowship, a.k.a. The Family, opposes the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill.”

Jeff also reports that Mr. Hunter has been speaking out against the “kill the gays” bill to his Family contacts in Uganda.  And he‘s been urging American politicians associated with The Family to do the same. 

So far, there have been recent statements against the bill from members of Congress said to be associated with The Family, people like Congressman Bart Stupak and congressman Joe Pitts, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada. 

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, though, still, at this point, not commenting, saying he doesn‘t know the specifics of the bill.  Maybe Mr.  Hunter could hook Sen. Brownback up with those specifics.  Or he could read about them himself if he wanted to. 

And Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates, shook world markets last month when it requested a freeze on $26 billion worth of debt payments by Dubai World, the state-owned holding company knee-deep in such austere projects such as man-made islands in the form of a palm tree, man-made islands in the form of the world.  Plus, a ski resort inside a shopping mall in the middle of the desert. 

Last fall, Dubai‘s position as independent from the reality-based community was cemented when at the height of the global financial collapse, a subsidiary of Dubai World announced plans to construct a building taller than what will soon be the world‘s tallest building, which is also, of course, in Dubai. 

Today, as the rest of the planet zigged, Dubai once again zagged.  Dubai Properties, part of another state-owned holding company, announced today that they will continue building the $1 billion golf course they‘re building in association with a guy you might have heard of named Tiger Woods. 

So Accenture is out.  AT & T, evaluating.  Gillette, no.  But Dubai - let‘s go for it.  They said, “The Tiger Woods Dubai is an essential part of Dubai‘s strategic plan to increase tourism to the region.  We are entirely committed to completing the project to the highest standards of quality.”

The $1 billion plan includes over 30,000 full-grown imported trees plus 100 villas, 75 mansions and 22 palaces, all in addition to the place where you play the sport.  Because Tiger Woods may have damaged his squeaky clean family man image here at home, this sort of thing probably wouldn‘t happen on American soil. 

But if your brand is garish excess, maybe Tiger‘s never been more valuable to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Michael Steele declared at a Republican tech summit earlier this year, if it‘s going to be outside the box, then not only keep it outside the box, but take it to some place the box hasn‘t even reached yet.  No one quite knew what Michael Steele was talking about with the box and the reaching of the box. 

That said, even though no one knows what he meant, I‘m pretty sure he did not mean that there would be an official Republican Party brand headlining Web sites for everything from the communist party to bondage to straight-up porn.  Yes.  That‘s outside the box.  That‘s next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  2009 was supposed to be the year the GOP reinvented itself.  And they wanted to do it using that miraculous system of tubes known by Web flummoxed adults everywhere as the interwebs. 

Republican chairman Michael Steele said that the Republicans online were going to be beyond the cutting edge.  And it has been a rather edgy year for them online.  Just this week, the GOP briefly took down its latest online gee-whiz-o-matic, a URL-shortener called “GOP.am.” 

Republicans were calling it the first branded URL-shortener in the world.  The idea was that you type in any long Web address like Rachel.MSNBC.com, and GOP.am would shrink it into a shorter address. 

But when you clicked on that shortened address, the original page would have a Republican-themed banner across the top of the page, including a little animated Michael Steele.  The thing is the Internet has a sense of humor and sometimes a sense of poetic justice. 

And so, of course, right way people started using GOP.am to put Republican official branding on top of the darnedest pages, like, for example, the site for the Wetsuit Wearhouse, and of course, pictures of pretty ladies. 

The red-faced GOP took the whole thing down, saying they were fixing it, saying they would add a filter that would catch red flagged words.  A list of red flagged words in this context? 

Even if you‘re not like a coder, right, you sort of think that would include words like - I don‘t know - S-E-X, maybe.  You take (UNINTELLIGIBLE) red flag sex.  Yes.  No, they didn‘t flag that one, because after taking the site down for the filtering, they put the site back up.

And we, of course, tried it in the middle of our news meeting and we ended up with SEX.com in all its natural glory.  And of course, here it is after we ran it through the GOP.am server today.  Yes, still works.  It‘s still funny.  Still an animated Michael Steele presenting - “Sex.com” brought to you by America‘s Republican Party.

But this latest embarrassment is just the latest embarrassment for them online.  Back in October, you might remember, the Republican Party redesigned their Web site.  Remember this?  They had a big public re-launch they were very proud of. 

They were so proud of this new Web site.  But when people started looking at it, because it had been publicly re-launched, you would you go to the all new “GOP.com” and find a few bugs. 

The page for future leaders, remember, had nobody listed - no names.  Their list of Republican accomplishments notably included invading Iraq.  The latest GOP accomplishment on the list of GOP accomplishments was in 2004. 

Hey, where did that Bush guy go anyway?  Then there was GOP Chairman Michael Steele‘s new blog on “GOP.com.”  His new blog was initially titled “What Up,” featuring awesome “What Up” observations like for example, quote, “The Internet has been around for a while now,” end quote. 

Then there was the new “GOP.com‘s” faces.  This is sounding off a bit on their Web site.  No they are - you see right across the top, every time you visit, it‘s a different GOP face, get it?  It turns out many of those faces are the faces of Republican Party interns, just regular Republican folks - Republican folks employed by the Republican Party. 

And their boss, the interns‘ boss, Michael Steele, posed with some of them in another context.  And one got a hold of the pictures and put them on the Internet.  It‘s been a tough year for these guys online. 

Republicans big online year also included their best hope for California Senate, Carly Fiorina launching what many lauded as possibly the worst major political Web site in America ever. 

The Web site famously billed her as Carlyfornia.  But even, you know, if they have had trouble online, coast to coast, the Republican Party is still really, really, really, really proud of its pioneering beyond the cutting edge use of computing technology to compete with Democrats in terms of the way they contact their supporters. 

It‘s their much ballyhooed Voter Vault database.  Have you heard about this?  The Voter Vault is the thing that they use for getting out their message and pulling their votes and trying to turn people out to vote on Election Day. 

One campaign management software developer called FilPac has called Voter Vault, quote, “the single greatest advancement in political technology since the personal computer.  In our view, it‘s even more important than E-mail and the Internet.” 

And now, Voter Vault has just been named in a criminal stalking complaint, “Huffington Post” reporting that the executive director of the Republican Party in Arizona had a complaint filed against him with the local sheriff‘s office last month in which a woman who says she was listed in the Voter Vault Republican database also says the state GOP chairman told her Voter Vault is how he got her address, to which he showed up uninvited and very un-welcome. 

Quoting from the sheriff‘s affidavit, quote, “I asked him how he

found my address.  And he responded, ‘I looked it up on Voter Vault.  I

called a staffer to look it up for me there.‘” 

Now, the state GOP chairman says that he is - the state GOP executive director says that he is innocent.  He says that he will be exonerated.  But the state Republican chairman is not helping matters.  The state Republican chairman issued a statement about the case which said this, quote, “The Republican National Committee owns Voter Vault.  It‘s a private list.  We own the list.  We can do what we want with the list, quite frankly.” 

Anything you want to do with it?  That‘s the state Republican Party‘s response to the stalking complaint. 

It has been a tough 2009 for the Republican Party on the technology front.  But, you know, beyond the cutting edge always seems like it might be an awkward place to be.  Here‘s wishing the Republican Party and all its state affiliates a much less edgy 2010.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We turn now to our Highway 61 revisited correspondent, Kent Jones.  Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  Bob Dylan is back in a way you‘ve never seen him before or perhaps ever wanted to see him before.  You decide. 

MADDOW:  OK. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over):  A while back, I reported that Bob Dylan was releasing an album of Christmas songs.  I reacted to this choice in my usual mature, dignified manner.  

Well, now the album, “Christmas in the Heart,” is out and I‘ve changed my tune.  A Bob Dylan Christmas album?  Why not?  If one of the great cranky contrarians in music history wants to sing “The Little Drummer Boy,” why not?  Plus, Dylan is donating the royalties to the anti-hunger group, Feeding America. 

So by all means, Mr. Tambourine Man, carol to your heart‘s content.  Besides, it‘s not like Bob Dylan is going to put on a goofy wig or a Santa hat or something like that, right? 

(MUSIC)

Once again, it‘s Bob Dylan one, preconception zero.  God bless us, everyone. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  Excellent.  Excellent. 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I love it.  I do kind of like the record. 

JONES:  It‘s awesome, yes.

MADDOW:  A quick cocktail moment for you.  I was just in D.C.  You know the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) museum on the mall, the one that‘s sort of shaped like a doughnut? 

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  They want to put a 145-foot tall vinyl blue blob on it that would look like this.  They‘re considering that.  

JONES:  Hey, that‘s a big blob, isn‘t it? 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I‘m in favor for the record, just so you guys know. 

Thanks very much, Kent.

JONES:  Sure.

MADDOW:  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.

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