'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
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Guests: Ed Rendell, Jeremy Scahill
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for this next hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BROWN (R-MA), SENATOR-ELECT: As always, I rely on Gail‘s love and support and that of our two lovely daughters. So, I want to thank Ayla and Arianna for their help as well.
BROWN: And just—and just in case anybody who‘s watching throughout the country, yes, they‘re both available.
BROWN: No, no, no! Only kidding. Only kidding. Arianna is definitely not available, but Ayla is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop!
BROWN: This is Arianna and this is Ayla. Well, I can see I‘m going to get in trouble when I get home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And thus Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown declared victory last night over the Democrat who would have been the first-ever woman senator from Massachusetts. We will be talking to Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow about the impact of that race in just a moment.
But already, the election of Republican Scott Brown has created 100 new jobs in America, because every single United States senator is now also moonlighting as a pundit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: He ran a very smart campaign. He‘s a very, very good candidate. And he understood the mood of the people of Massachusetts. They want us to stop the spending, stop the borrowing, and stop the health care bill.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Some elections go your way. Some elections go the other way. It‘s the nature of democratic politics in a very diverse nation.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Last night, a shot was fired around this nation. A shot was fired saying, “No more business as usual in Washington, D.C.” The American people have spoken. The people of Massachusetts have spoken for the rest of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People of Massachusetts have spoken for the rest of—just like the people of New York 23 spoke for the rest of America when they put a Democrat in that House seat for the first time since the civil war, right? Remember how that was for all of America, back in November? Yes. Extrapolation fail.
Democratic Congressman Barney Frank made headlines last night with a statement that essentially declared health care reform dead in the wake of Scott Brown‘s election win in Massachusetts.
Today, Congressman Frank reversed himself, saying, “I have realized that my statement last night was more pessimistic than is called for. I was reacting—perhaps overreacting—to proposals I had heard from a variety of sources that we do things to facilitate the passage of a health care bill that would have sought in the short-term to neutralize yesterday‘s election. I continue to believe that it will be difficult to get the Senate bill passed in the House as is without a commitment to making amendments in that bill that would be necessary to get the votes in the House. But I should not have indicated that I would be opposed to trying that, as long as it was done with full regard for procedural fairness.”
So, with that, I didn‘t really mean what I said yesterday statement. You can take Barney Frank out of the column of those who have reacted to last night‘s special election by advocating that the Democrats legislatively surrender.
In order to wring the maximum possible political benefit out of this one special election, Republicans have been describing that election as a revolution, the Scott heard around the world.
And that makes total sense, as Republicans spin, right? Obviously, they‘d want to be able to say this wasn‘t a defeat of candidate Martha Coakley, this was a defeat of all Democrats! Of course, Republicans would spin it that way. And many masochistic Democrats like to think of it that way too—hmm, losing.
Pass the spin, though, here‘s what remains. Democrats have gone from having the largest majority in the Senate since Watergate to having the second-largest majority in the Senate since Watergate. They‘ve gone from 60 seats to 59.
In April, after Arlen Specter switched parties, the Democrats had 59 seats in the Senate. Today, factoring in the Senate-elect, they also have 59 seats in the Senate. So, obviously, this is the end of the world.
Even without 60 senators now, Democrats still have giant majorities in both the House and the Senate. And the question is what they‘re going to do with those majorities, now that they don‘t have their magical, mythical unicorn to play with anymore.
We had a really good time making that today.
On paper, after Al Franken was finally certified as winning in Minnesota, Democrats had a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority. On paper, that‘s what they had. But in reality, those 60 votes included a bunch of senators who really had no interest in voting with the rest of the Democrats on much of anything. Their little unicorn—their little myth of 60 reliable votes led the Democrats to draft policies in a way that they thought maybe could get all of those 60 votes.
Instead of working on the most effective possible policies that could still get a majority vote, Democrats have been allowing lassos at this mythical beast, trying to find the perfect, most conservative possible, but still theoretically, Democratic solutions to every problem, in order to earn these 60 votes that they‘d love to believe are theirs. And in trying to accommodate guys, like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh, they came up with watered-down, Republican-like policies that were, frankly, less effective.
Hello, smaller stimulus just for the sake of being smaller. Remember that?
The way that you build political momentum is not just by having attractive individual candidates. It‘s by winning. And it‘s not just by winning elections, but by being associated with winning policies.
Politics and policy are two different things, but they are linked things. By winning elections, you get the ability to affect policy. By affecting good policy, you win more elections.
And hitting the 60-vote threshold made Democrats worse at policy. It made them think they could lasso this unicorn. They could get every Democrat on board and still maintain good policy. Even when some of those Democrats found it to be in their political interest to just say “no” to everything in order to be seen as kind of a Republican-ish type of Dem.
That unicorn is now gone, after last night‘s special election. And the choice for Democrats is either to throw up their hands and say, “Well, the Republicans say we need 60 votes for everything, so I guess we can‘t ever do anything now.” Or they can say, “Hey, we‘ve got 59 votes. It‘s not filibuster-proof, so let‘s not continue to concede that for the first time in American history, every single vote of consequence in the United States Senate will be subject to a filibuster and will take 60 votes.
Either get rid of the filibuster, because it‘s being abused in a way that it never has been before—look at that chart—or at least change the rules of the filibuster. Or pass everything through reconciliation, where you need 51 votes and not 60. There are limitations to that, but it‘s not like big policies don‘t pass this way.
That‘s what President Bush did with his tax cuts in 2001, passed through reconciliation with 58 votes. Bush‘s tax cuts in 2003, passed through reconciliation with 51 votes. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which reduced spending on Medicaid, passed through reconciliation with 51 votes.
You don‘t have to get 60 votes every time. And now that 60 isn‘t even theoretically possible, with Republicans pledging to vote “no” always on everything, now that the mythical unicorn of the 60-seat majority is gone, it‘s time for Democrats to choose a path forward. Either quit and let the party with 41 votes control the agenda, or fight with 59 votes and give people a reason to vote for you again.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Senator Stabenow, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate your time.
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Sure, Rachel. It‘s great to be with you.
MADDOW: Let me ask you, in the big picture, how extrapolatable you think the results are of last night‘s special election. Is that election something that has a national message for Democrats? And if so, what is that message?
STABENOW: Well, I think that it would be wrong to assume it was only Massachusetts. I think there are larger issues. And I think the big question for folks is the fact that people are still hurting in this country. We saw eight years of a Republican Congress moving us into a deficit ditch and millions of jobs lost and moving us in the wrong direction. A new president comes in with tremendously high hopes and new Congress. We‘ve been working very, very hard.
But frankly, there‘s still a lot left to do. And things have not turned as quickly as we would like, even passing the Recovery Act and expanding children‘s health insurance, equal pay, mortgage relief, credit cards, FDA tobacco reform. I mean, frankly, to be honest, in the first year of this president, we have passed a tremendous amount of legislation.
But to go to the heart of what people are concerned about, they‘re still worried about their job. They may have a job, but will they keep it? Their health care costs are continuing to go up, which is why we need to pass health care reform. Out-of-pocket costs for them, they‘re getting squeezed on every side.
And so, people are feeling great anxiety, and I understand that. And that‘s something that we all need to understand and need to be laser-focused on jobs, turning around the economy, and addressing the pocketbook issues that families are struggling with today.
MADDOW: Well, on those substantive issues, on jobs—and I know there‘s going to be legislation, probably a lot of legislation addressing jobs issues early in the year.
MADDOW: On the financial services industry reform, on the issue of health care, of course—there‘s been a lot of breathless commentary over the last 24 hours about how last night‘s special election somehow means the end of the Democrats‘ agenda. Obviously, you are articulating a policy agenda that you think will work electorally for Democrats.
But what about how to get it passed? Do you think Democrats should be reassessing how you are going about passing legislation?
STABENOW: Well, Rachel, you raise several good points. Let me also add, that as much as I would love to change this 60-vote rule and filibuster rule, it takes 2/3 of the Senate to be able to do that. So that‘s not realistic for us.
We can use this reconciliation process you talked about for some things as—but not for everything. It can be done in a limited way. And I would support doing that. But I think one of the questions for us right now, given last year and the fact that everything was slow-walked, there were 101 different delay tactics and filibusters. And even with that, even though it took until Christmas Eve, we got through it, because we got the 60 votes we needed.
Well, now we have 59. And the big question that I have is, what are our Republican colleagues going to do with 41? Are they going to continue to block helping people who are unemployed? Are they going to block a jobs bill? Are they going to say that the country‘s going to go into bankruptcy rather than deal with the debt ceiling? Are we going to deal with health care?
I mean, the big question I have is, are they going to work with us?
And I hope that they will. We need them to work with us.
We have colleagues that, in the past, before they decided on this strategy of “just say no,” who worked with us. And that‘s really the challenge for us right now. Is will we have colleagues that will step across the aisle in the interest of families and businesses that are struggling in this economy and work with us. And I hope that‘s going to happen.
MADDOW: I don‘t mean to give away the ending, but I don‘t think that they‘re going to. And the reason I don‘t think that they‘re going to is not as a character judgment on the individual members of the Republican Caucus that need to make these decisions, but because, electorally, it‘s working for them.
MADDOW: I think they see themselves, the strategy of no, makes Washington—which is defined as Democrats right now—makes Washington look impotent. And when Washington looks impotent, they run against Washington, despite their role in slowing everything down, and it helps them electorally. I think they see a big N-O as their only—their only agenda between now and November. And if they continue to say no, that can‘t be the end of legislation between now and November.
STABENOW: No question, Rachel. And you‘re absolutely right. I mean, they‘ve had no accountability up to this point.
They‘ve been able to say no. We‘ve had to struggle, as you know, with our very diverse caucus, to get to 60 votes and—which means legislation isn‘t always exactly as I would like or you would like. Although it‘s positive, but the reality is now, it has flipped, because it‘s not just they‘re saying no and delaying, their saying “no” will actually stop the country from moving forward.
And so, we‘ll see. I have every expectation that you may very well be right on this. But I think the accountability has changed. Because with 41, instead of just filibustering, extending unemployment, and then finally voting for it after they‘ve delayed it for four weeks, now they can actually stop it.
Are they going to do that? Are they going to stop helping people? Are they going to stop helping our manufacturers in this country, our small businesses that need capital to be able to operate? Are they going to stop us on a jobs bill? That‘s a different question.
And I think, at this point, they ought to think long and hard about their strategy of “no,” because we‘ll continue to put these items forward. We‘re going to continue an aggressive agenda on clean energy, on lowering health care costs, making sure people get what they pay for, strengthening Medicare, making sure we‘re lowering health care costs for small businesses and individuals. We‘re going to make sure we move forward on a jobs bill, financial services reform, holding the banks accountable, all of the things that need to get done.
But right now, given the rules of the Senate, they can actually stop everything. And so we‘ll see. We will see. And I‘m—all I can say is I‘m hopeful that colleagues that we‘ve been able to work with in the past will come forward and work with us, because too many people in this country are hurting. And we‘re going to continue to fight for them.
And I have to tell you—coming from the great state of Michigan—nobody is hurting more than the folks in my state. And I‘m going to continue to fight for that agenda for them. And, hopefully, we‘re going to be able to move this forward.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, thank you for your time tonight.
STABENOW: You‘re welcome.
MADDOW: I appreciate your optimism about the Republicans potentially turning around on this. If they don‘t, we‘d love to have you back for chapter two in terms of how Democrats are going to respond to their continued behavior, as I suspect. Thanks very much, Senator.
STABENOW: Absolutely. Sure.
MADDOW: So, how do Democrats respond to Republicans blocking the president‘s choice to head up the TSA, Transportation Security Administration? So far, the response looks something like this: Oh, please, smaller, weaker, fragmented minority party, don‘t hurt us, we take it back. Yes. A lesson in what not to do when attacked politically coming up with “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.
And later, the latest from Haiti and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who helped to transfer more than 50 Haitian orphans back to his home state. It is a remarkable and complicated story. Governor Rendell joins us for the interview.
Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: Caved, folded, wimped out, cringed, shriveled, face-planted, pick your favorite verb for how Democrats have reacted to Republican attacks on getting a chief of the Transportation Security Administration. We have a little tough love. Coming up next.
MADDOW: Here‘s a quick lesson in how to fail in politics without really trying. This is Erroll Southers. He‘s a Homeland Security official in Los Angeles, a former FBI agent, a counterterrorism expert, and until today, he was President Obama‘s nominee to be the new head of the Transportation Security Administration.
Republican senators led by South Carolina‘s Jim DeMint blocked a vote to confirm Mr. Southers for weeks, alternately citing concerns that he might be in favor of unions at the TSA and calling him out over an FBI censure he received two decades ago for running a background check on his estranged wife‘s boyfriend.
Today, of course, we learned how the Obama administration ultimately responded to these Republican challenges. Not by taking a front, doubling down, pushing this nominee through, not by firing back, making the opposition to Mr. Southers more a political liability for those attacking him than an asset, not by using that handy recess appointment trick to put the nominee through, despite Jim DeMint and friends trying to stop it. But rather, the administration responded by—giving in, and at the same time, whining about how difficult the political opposition had made the climate in Washington.
A statement from Mr. Southers released by the White House said in part, quote, “It is clear that my nomination has become a lightning rod for those who have chosen to push a political agenda at the risk of the safety and the security of the American people. This partisan climate is unacceptable and I refuse to allow myself to remain part of their dialogue.”
So, in other words, to punish them for their bad dialogue, I‘m going to let them win.
Think about the overall context here. Jim DeMint, Senator DeMint, personally blocked a plainly qualified nominee for TSA administrator. And while that block was underway, someone tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane.
And not only did the Obama administration not capitalize on Jim DeMint‘s horrible political misstep, now they are rewarding Senator DeMint for making it.
Witness Senator DeMint‘s victory lap today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: What I did has turned out to be the right thing, and the White House has a vetting problem, not just with this nominee, but others. And so I think slowing it down and looking into it a little more was the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, why was he passed unanimously out of committee?
It is possible that Mr. Southers was just dead-set on withdrawing himself from consideration and the Obama administration somehow couldn‘t figure out how to stop him. But regardless of the precise circumstances surrounding this withdrawal, it is the very embodiment of political weakness. And that must be contagious among some Democrats right now, because that very same kind of reflexive weakness was on full display concerning the results of the Massachusetts Senate race. It was on display coming from the Senate‘s conservadems.
Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and everyone‘s favorite independent Democrat, sort of, Joe Lieberman, both preemptively reacted to their party‘s loss in the Massachusetts Senate race yesterday by essentially conceding that Democrats should really just slow down, lay low, scale-back the legislative agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I think the message is from the voters of Massachusetts that people are anxious about the future and they‘re unhappy about what‘s happening in Washington and they‘re really skeptical about this health care bill.
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: If you lose Massachusetts, if it‘s not a wake-up call, there‘s no hope of waking up. Moderates and independents, even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts, just aren‘t buying our message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, let‘s try the Republican one. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia added his own take on how best to hide in the corner from the big scary Republican minority, saying, quote, “In many ways, the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum on not only health care reform, but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital we restore the respect of the American people and our system of government and then our leaders. To that end, I believe it will only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”
Well, we did just lose one Senate seat. Guess we better do whatever Republicans say. After all, they do have 41 votes now out of 100.
Joining us now is Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for “Newsweek” and political analyst for MSNBC.
Howard, thanks very much for being on the show tonight.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the TSA nominee first. It‘s possible that Erroll Southers wanted out and there was nothing the administration could do to stop him. Does it look—does it look, though, like political weakness to essentially let Jim DeMint win this one?
FINEMAN: Well, anytime Jim DeMint wins, the White House loses. That‘s a simple equation. I‘m not sure how much political capital in the end the White House wanted to spend on Mr. Southers. He was a decent nominee, an OK nominee, but he had some problems. It wasn‘t the thing 20 years ago. It was the fact that he didn‘t tell the straight story the first time around to the committee about it, even though, as you point out, the committee ultimately voted him out unanimously on the Democratic side.
But I think the bigger problem they‘ve got is that in too many cases -
and Jim DeMint is only the small example of it—the administration has basically turned over its fate to the Congress, and I think, fundamentally, misunderstood how you get things done in Congress. You don‘t get things done as a president in Congress by turning your presidency over to the will of committee chairman, who have their own agendas or to minority members like Jim DeMint. You do it by constantly mounting a campaign from the outside for the agenda that you want and you heard the Congress, toward the direction you want.
It doesn‘t sound elegant, but you have to treat them that way. You have to scare them or cajole them into supporting your position—and Obama has not done that. Not really even tried to do it.
MADDOW: What are you able to report today? What are you hearing today from sources about Democratic intentions on health reform? There definitely are people saying, “Let‘s just lie low and hope nobody notices we don‘t pass anything and maybe they won‘t vote us out of office.” The conservadems that I was highlighting earlier, there are others, including White House advisors arguing that this is the time to double-down and get something pass.
Can you tell what they‘re going to do?
FINEMAN: Yes. I think—well, I know, having talked to them tonight, that their preference is to go forward with some version of the whole bill as it is, or some compromise deal between House and Senate. They‘re still aiming for the whole big thing. But I know that I have also discussed the possibility of taking pieces of it and passing them or trying to pass them and trying to force—as you call them—the conservadems and some Republicans to either vote for them or vote against them. If they try to filibuster them, hold them to account.
For example, pre-existing conditions, there‘s nobody—almost nobody in the Senate, I think, who would—on a straight up or down vote—would want to vote against the idea that insurance companies be required to cover people, even if they have pre-existing conditions. Similarly, the idea that you can‘t toss somebody out of coverage if they get sick.
Just those two things alone, straight up or down votes, I think the White House would be smart to try to dare people to vote against them, dare the Republicans to filibuster them.
You know, it‘s funny, I remember my friends at “TIME” magazine a while back did a composite showing Barack Obama as Franklin Roosevelt. When Franklin Roosevelt was trying to push through the New Deal, he had a smile on a face on his face, but a stiletto in his hand, politically. He forced people to take tough votes.
I don‘t see Barack Obama trying to force the conservadems and the Republicans back into the corner on specific issues that the Democrats can win on.
MADDOW: In terms of the president‘s power to do so, obviously, his political capital is actually quite considerable, looking at some polling on the anniversary of his inauguration today with nine in 10 Americans having a personally positive view of him. The president has that to bring to bear on any political—on any political dispute. But in what ways could he try to make a Joe Lieberman, a Ben Nelson, an Olympia Snowe, even, go his way on issues in which they haven‘t been able to so far?
FINEMAN: Well, I think he has to—I think he has to do a better sales job. And you know, Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, said in the White House briefing room yesterday, he said, we could have done a better job at making ourselves clear on things.
I think, sometimes, Barack Obama kind of tends to pour a sort of lawyerly syrup on things. It doesn‘t seem to speak from the heart about a couple of key easy to understand things. He wants the whole system. And I understand the instinct, except he didn‘t really back a sweeping change of the whole health care system.
Having not done so, everybody got to watch the sausage-making for months on end. A lot of people didn‘t like the process that they saw. So, he got the downside of that, not the upside. And he‘s not getting a specific message across, about three or four key things on health care that he can really do and that he cares passionately about—he personally cares passionately about.
I think those things are elemental to political salesmanship. And frankly, I haven‘t seen it in the White House. I haven‘t even seen them really brag at all about their accomplishments in the first year. I didn‘t see it on the White House blog.
Now, if you talk to them, they say, well, there are a lot of people hurting out there and we don‘t want to be dissident with the pain of the American people. Fine. But if you don‘t talk about how you brought the country, if not the world, back from the economic brink, who‘s going to talk about it?
They seem strangely—I wouldn‘t say paralyzed—but slightly anesthetized with the situation they‘re in—totally unlike the campaign. I despair the idea, Rachel, that campaigns really tell us anything about presidencies. I‘m not sure that they do. I‘m not sure that they actually do.
MADDOW: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek”—that‘s part of what‘s so fun about the campaign, trying to find the person inside it.
MADDOW: Thanks very much for joining us, Howard. I really appreciate it.
FINEMAN: Thank you. Thank you.
OK. This morning, Haiti was hit by a powerful—excuse me—aftershock, eight days after the initial earthquake. We have latest on relief efforts in Haiti.
And Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell will be joining us. Mr. Rendell just returned from Port-au-Prince and helped more than 50 orphans come to Pennsylvania with him. It is a complex and fascinating story. The interview with Ed Rendell is next. Stay with us.
LT. GEN. P.K. “KEN” KEEN, JOINT TASK FORCE HAITI COMMANDER: I see their frustration every day. I feel their frustration. Are we doing enough? Absolutely not. Are we going to do more? And when I say “we,” it‘s not just the United States, obviously, it‘s the entire international community.
BILL NEELY, CORRESPONDENT, ITN: But people 200 meters from the airport aren‘t getting enough food. They‘re not getting any food.
KEEN: Well, I‘ll take that back in. That‘s a piece of data that I
didn‘t know. We‘ve got troops here from Canada, we have troops coming from
NEELY: That‘s troops, though. That‘s fine, but, again, the aid isn‘t getting out.
KEEN: Well, the international aid that‘s coming is tremendous as well. We have, as you pointed out, a significant challenge is the distribution of this aid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, that‘s Bill Neely of our British broadcasting partner, ITN, confronting American Lt. Gen. Ken Keen about homeless Haitians, people homeless after the earthquake eight days ago. People who are encamped within sight of Port-au-Prince airport who say they have received no food, no water, no aid of any kind.
As the distribution problems and the crises in Haiti continue, there are continuing to be some bright spots to be able to report in terms of the relief effort. But obviously, things are not getting everywhere they need to be.
We can report now that the American hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, finally dropped anchor near Port-au-Prince and began taking on patients. Also incredibly, people are still being pulled out of the rubble alive, including a 15-day-old baby who spent half her life trapped under rubble in Jacquemel.
Overnight, a brother and sister named Tiki(ph) and Sabrina were rescued and not seriously harmed even after more than a week under the rubble. And the last orphan of a group of 54 made it safely to the U.S. this morning.
Her name is Emma. She was supposed to come to Pittsburgh yesterday, but she apparently wandered away just before the plane took off. That plane was arranged by Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who accompanied these other orphans from an orphanage run by two sisters from Pittsburgh back to his home state.
Joining us now from Washington, D.C. is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Governor, thanks very much for joining us. It‘s good to have you on the show.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D-PA): Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can you explain how you got involved with this group of Haitian orphans and can you tell us how they‘re doing now?
RENDELL: Sure. These are two Pittsburgh natives. They‘re sisters, not religious sisters, but blood sisters, who have been workers in that orphanage for a long time. In fact, most of the kids consider them their mom and their dad.
They called for help after the earthquake. Two of the three buildings in the orphanage were destroyed. The kids were living outside with no sanitation, very little water and food. The sisters called for help to the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Great folks there.
They got in touch with me. I got in touch with the State Department, with DHS and immigration. And by the way, al of the U.S. government agencies were terrific in getting this done. We arranged to get a plane. A private donor paid for a plane with Republic Airlines.
We flew down with 25 medical personnel and 2 ½ tons of medical supplies for a hospital in rural Haiti. And those supplies, by the way, have gotten to the hospital, subsequently. And we got there and we had been told we could take the orphans out.
And in the next 6 ½ hours, all hell broke lose. At first, we were told no. Then I got on the phone with Sec. Clinton‘s chief of staff and we got that order temporarily to extend. The embassy said we could only have 28 of the 54 kids even though 47 already had adoptive families in the U.S. and Canada.
The two girls dug their heels in and said, “We‘re not leaving unless everybody goes. We‘re one family.” We get back on the phone and the National Security Council adviser down there, with the help of Congressman Jason Altmire who was with us. He called from Emanuel‘s office. They got back to the NSC chief.
Finally, he tells us, “Everyone can go - all 54. Well, that was good news, except our plane had to leave without us, because you‘re only allowed a limited time on the tarmac because so many planes are trying to get in. We had no plane.
I went to a young major by the name of Miller down there and I said, “Major, what are we going to do?” He said, “Don‘t worry, governor. I‘ll get you a plane.” And in an hour and three quarters withes, 53 - we thought it was 54. Fifty-three young Haitians, half of whom are below three years of age, 25 medical workers, myself and a few others. We were strapped into a C-17.
And you know how big that is. These kids had never been on an airplane before. The C-17 made an incredible amount of noise. None of these kids cried. None of them got upset, and we were winging our way. It was only as we were about to takeoff, we did one last count and found that Emma wasn‘t there.
And we told everyone, let‘s go. The sisters wouldn‘t leave without Emma. One sister, Jamie, decided to stay behind and look for Emma. The other sister, Allie(ph), wanted to, but I persuaded her we would need her at immigration in the U.S. and we sure as heck did.
Jamie goes and we go off to - we land in Orlando Sanford airport, get an E-mail. They found Emma. Emma didn‘t wander away. She fell asleep on the bus and she didn‘t make it in to the airport. But Jamie found her on the bus. We arranged for Jamie to fly home. U.S. Air gave them free air traffic home.
She‘s back home in Pittsburgh with 53 other incredible kids. It was a great story. We were on the ground for 6 ½ hours. It seemed like 6 ½ days. But boy, was it worth it. It‘s the best single day I‘ve spent as governor.
And let me tell you, these Haitian kids were terrific. They were singing. They were full of optimism. And Rachel, you should have seen them, when we got off the plane in Pittsburgh. It was snowing and not one of them had ever seen snow. Not one of them.
Listen, be proud of being an American citizen and be proud of your government. With all the hurdles, we‘re doing great. I was on the tarmac for 6 ½ hours and I saw the United States military do incredible things in getting planes in and out and getting relief efforts.
And I know some people aren‘t getting aid, but our 2 ½ tons of medical supplies made it to this hospital in La Rue that had been partially destroyed. They made it there. We‘re doing the best we can, and no one but the American military could be doing the job we‘re doing.
So it‘s a good time to be proud of being an American citizen and proud of the American people, because our people have responded in incredible ways. We do our best as Americans in times of crisis.
MADDOW: It‘s also an incredible story of you pulling more strings than any other one person in any one story ever. Governor Rendell, it would be political TV show malpractice for me to have you here and to not ask you a couple of politics questions about what just happened in the United States last night. Can you hold on for a second and we can come back and talk about that?
RENDELL: Sure. Sure. Absolutely. Love to.
MADDOW: All right. The interview continues with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, just back from his whirlwind trip to pick up more than 50 orphans in Haiti. Gov. Rendell is our guest again when we come back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us again from Washington, D.C., is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Governor, thanks for staying with us.
On the issue of the Massachusetts election last night with Scott Brown defeating Martha Coakley, the Democrat there, seems to be a fight among Democrats today as to how to respond to that.
There‘s this sort of “dial back the agenda and lay low” crowd, voiced by Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, and others. And then, there‘s the “get something done now” crowd. Where are you on this?
RENDELL: I‘m with the “get something now” crowd. It‘s time for us to fight back. We have been - in everything, I heard your piece about the TSA guy who didn‘t get confirmed. It‘s time for us to fight back.
Look, if we‘re going to go down in 2010, let‘s go down doing something and fighting for things that we believe in as Democrats. Health care is number one. I do one of two things right now, either what Howard Fineman says, piece it out, give them - no one can be denied for pre-existing condition. No one can be dropped when they get sick and take away the ant anti-trust exemption.
Dare Republicans and conservatives Democrats to vote against that bill. I do that and if we pass that, then the health insurance companies will be coming back to the Republicans and the conservative Democrats and saying, “You‘ve got to pass the rest of this stuff because we need to have everybody insured to make it work financially.”
It would be a beautiful stratagem. But second, if we don‘t want to do that, then let‘s pass - let‘s the conference committees together, get the best health care we can and go back to the Republicans and say to them, “OK, folks. It only takes 51 to pass. It may take 60 votes to stop a filibuster. Game on. Go filibuster before the American people.
Stand there for four days, five days, six days, eight days, 10 days, read the telephone book and let‘s see what the American people think about it after you‘re done. Give them your ideas. Let‘s force them to do it.
I mean, you don‘t need 60 votes to pass legislation. You need 51. You only need 60 votes to stop a filibuster. If we make them filibuster, put the onus on them to explain to the American people why they‘re doing it.
Let‘s - and again, if we‘re going to go down, and I don‘t believe we necessarily are going to go down, but let‘s go down fighting for the things we believe in. And we‘ve always believed in health care for all.
Hey, when Medicare was proposed, it was unpopular among the people. They didn‘t understand it and it was unpopular. Social security, the same thing. Let‘s go down fighting for what we believe in. And if we lose, we‘ll have lost for something worthwhile. And my guess is, we won‘t lose, because we‘ll get things done and we‘ll win.
MADDOW: Bingo, on that last point. That‘s how you win, is by
actually fighting -
RENDELL: Doing something. That‘s what we‘re elected to do, to do something.
MADDOW: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, doing a lot recently.
Thanks very much for joining us, Governor.
RENDELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Great to have you.
RENDELL: Go get them. Go get them.
MADDOW: We‘ll be back just one moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the one year anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Obama last January. Two and a half months before that, on the eve of the election that made him president, we on this show reported on some weird wannabe shenanigans at polling places in Oregon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A CIA-linked private security contractor called Evergreen Defense and Security Services E-mailed Oregon County elections director offering to provide private for-profit security at every county election office on voting day tomorrow.
Quote, “EDSS proposes to post sentries at each voting center on November 4th to assure that disputes among citizens do not get out of control. All guards will be unarmed but capable of stopping any violence that may occur and detaining troublemakers until law enforcement arrives.”
Do you guys know that Oregon‘s the only vote-by-mail state, right?
You‘re going to post a guard at every mailbox?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
That was last election eve. Today, that same company, Evergreen, is making news again. “Aviation Week” reporting that they are flying a surveillance drone over Haiti. “Wired.com” followed up on that. They were told by the company that it did not, in fact, have any drones in Haiti.
So then, we followed up with the company and they split the difference telling us that the drone was on its way there today and that the drone‘s battery is expected to arrive tomorrow. These are not armed drones or anything. There‘s nothing wrong with this type of equipment being used in surveying and planning relief efforts.
But since Evergreen rang the cookie contractor bell big time with its offer to detain troublemakers on Election Day in a state where people vote by mail, it got us wondering, who else in the contracting world is in Haiti.
Jeremy Scahill reports for “The Nation” that just a few days after the earthquake, a Florida-based company called All Pro-legal Investigations registered the URL, “Haiti-Security.com.”
Here‘s what the company claims it can provide. Quote, “Professional security against any threat to prosperity in Haiti. Job sites and supply convoys will be protected against looters and vandals. Workers will be protected against gang violence and intimidation. And if you order now, you get armed cargo escorts, dealing with worker unrest and high threat terminations.”
The company that registered “HaitiSecurity.com” is literally offering that on their Web site - high threat terminations.
Joining us now is Jeremy Scahill, reporter for “The Nation,” author of the book, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” Jeremy, thanks for joining us.
JEREMY SCAHILL, REPORTER, “THE NATION”: Thank you.
MADDOW: Do security contractors currently have a presence in Haiti?
What do we know about what they‘re doing there.
SCAHILL: Yes, I mean, security contractors have been in Haiti since the 1990s. Bill Clinton, in fact, started sending in this company, Dimecorp(ph), and that kind of created this paramilitary program that Bush then put on steroids and unleashed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So there‘s been a longstanding presence of contractors there. But what we‘re seeing now - you just mentioned this Florida company. I mean, these guys are nobodies in the security industry. But they saw a moment to make a buck. They buy this URL and hope, you know, for the best.
But some of the kingpins of the mercenary industry like Dimecorp(ph) and Triple Canopy are hiring right now guys for deployment in Haiti. So I would predict that a month from now, when reconstruction starts happening, we‘re going to see more of these companies coming into Haiti.
And private businesses will hire them also. And there‘s going to be serious questions about who oversees them. What law do they fall under? Is the United States going to be monitoring U.S. citizens that are working for private companies, on contract with other private companies? It seems like the last thing Haitians need - yet more unaccountable people with guns in their country.
MADDOW: What‘s the alternative? What‘s a way to fill the vacuum so that private security companies don‘t do it if they‘re inevitably going to do it in an unaccountable way?
SCAHILL: Well, I think, first of all, we have to look at the whole disaster profiteering industry right now. I mean, we saw it start in New Orleans where Blackwater and others got all these contracts. They show up literally on the scene.
And then, after they‘re working, then they get some kind of legitimate government contracts and make a killing off of these operations. I think that the primary concern here is there has to be some rule of law. And if there‘s one thing these companies are known for around the world, it‘s operating in a lawless environment.
So I think that it should be a Haitian-led initiative. The Haitian government‘s sovereignty should be respected. Haiti should call the shots on who comes into the country. If Haiti says, “We don‘t want mercenaries here,” there shouldn‘t be mercenaries there.
MADDOW: Jeremy Scahill, reporter for “The Nation,” author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” whenever I read stories like this even when you don‘t write them, I think of you.
SCAHILL: Can I tell you one thing though? The looting - when they talk about looters - and this is how they benefit because they hype up the looting. The looting was what happened in Iraq on the part of war corporations. People struggling to find food after an earthquake is called survival. The real looters are the companies.
MADDOW: Jeremy Scahill, thank you for being here.
SCAHILL: Thank you.
MADDOW: I appreciate it. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” Keith‘s special guest on the election of Republican Scott Brown to the Massachusetts Senate is White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
And next on this show, an all-American basketball league for white players only. That‘s next.
MADDOW: So the “Augusta Chronicle” is reporting that a new basketball league is starting up. It‘s based in the south. They want teams in 12 cities. This is not a joke. They‘re calling themselves the All American Basketball Alliance - AABA. AABA - not that kind of Abba.
The All American Basketball Alliance is explicitly a whites-only basketball league. A statement put out by the league‘s organizers says, quote, “Only players that are natural-born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”
An all-white basketball league launching in America in 2010. We have obviously asked Kent Jones to investigate this. Kent?
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: You would like that, wouldn‘t you? You would like that if I were working today, right? On a national day of strike?
MADDOW: Oh, god.
JONES: Huh? National day of strike? You would like that, right?
You make me laugh. You are funny.
MADDOW: Kent, I totally forgot about the national -
MADDOW: This is the thing that the guys was going to be the greatest confrontation in the modern history of America, the Tea Party Patriots guys.
JONES: Yes. Go ahead. I have a statement. On January 20th, 2010, we will demonstrate our power and reach to those companies who employ individuals backing the leftist agenda in every major city.
When they refuse to stop backing the major opponents of liberty, liberal media outlets and socialist-leading elected officials, then we will proceed to financially cripple them, right here.
MADDOW: National day of strike.
JONES: Yes, national day of strike.
MADDOW: The plan is to financially cripple the opponents of liberty by you not working. That‘s the plan?
JONES: I‘m making a statement, all right? Feel the burn. Feel the burn. Stare into the bag. Go ahead.
MADDOW: Will we hear from you tomorrow, Kent?
JONES: Don‘t tread on me. Don‘t tread on me. We‘re gassing up the truck here. Stare into the bag. Stare into the bag.
MADDOW: Thank you, very much, Kent. We‘ll do this tomorrow, right?
JONES: Yes, why not?
MADDOW: The greatest confrontation in the modern history of America. He survived the strike today. Congratulations. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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