'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
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Guests: Victor Fehrenbach, Anthony Weiner, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I just think of that as a knuckleball. It‘s just—you know, I‘m swinging, a few seconds later. I try it one more time.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Watch that, see?
MADDOW: All right.
OLBERMANN: Nothing happened.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
MADDOW: And greetings to you from Washington.
Having spent months playing defense, President Obama played more high-profile political offense today. We‘ll review that.
The “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy had its day before a Senate committee for the first time in 17 years today. A lot to say about the policy and about Senators Chambliss and Sessions and McCain tonight.
There‘s fresh evidence that health reform is not dead.
There‘s a mini-oil crisis that‘s being caused by swordfish.
That‘s all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with President Obama making joint appearances now with his much-debated political mojo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn‘t run for president to kick these challenges down the road. I didn‘t run for president to play it safe. I didn‘t run just to keep my poll numbers as high as possible for the next election. I ran to solve problems for the next generation. I ran to get the hard things done—that‘s why you elected me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Obama hit what sounded like the campaign trail today in Nashua, New Hampshire, riding a wave newfound momentum that‘s been building since his State of the Union address last week, and since his face-to-face rhetorical duel with House Republicans on Friday. The president was in New Hampshire today to unveil a new economic proposal. He wants to take $30 billion of bailout money, already paid back by Wall Street, and use it to create a fund to give loans to small businesses to create jobs.
While Mr. Obama was in New Hampshire today, pitching the jobs idea, New Hampshire‘s Republican Senator Judd Gregg was back in Washington trashing the idea—in a verbal joust with President Obama‘s budget director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JUDD GREGG ®, NEW HAMPSHIRE: The law is very clear. The money‘s recouped from the TARP shall be paid into the general fund of the treasury for the reduction of the public debt. It‘s not for a piggybank because you‘re concerned about lending to small businesses and you want to get a political event when you go out and make a speech in Nashua, New Hampshire. That‘s not what this money is for. This money is to reduce the debt of our children that we‘re passing on to our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now on the subject of the debt and deficit, Republicans keep trying to get back on offense, as you heard right there, and you saw in the invisible frustration in Senator Gregg‘s face. But the president is not ceding them that ground right now.
Today, for a second day in a row, the president pilloried Senate Republicans for bailing on a proposed bipartisan deficit commission. A number of Republicans who originally supported that idea ended up voting no when it came to a vote once the president said he supported it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This law failed by seven votes—when seven Republicans who had cosponsored the bill—had cosponsored the idea, suddenly walked away from their own proposal after I endorsed it. So they make a proposal, they sign on to the bill. I say, “Great, good idea.” I turn around...
OBAMA: ... and they‘re gone. What happened?
Now, look, it‘s one thing to have an honest difference of opinion on something. There‘s nothing wrong with that. But you can‘t walk away from your responsibilities to confront the challenges facing the country because you don‘t think it‘s good short-term politics. We can‘t afford that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Obama teed up Republicans on the stimulus package today as well, another subject on which Republicans have been trying to stay on the offense, but President Obama, again, no longer letting them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Some of the very same folks in Congress who opposed the Recovery Act and claimed that it hasn‘t worked have been all too happy to claim credit for Recovery Act projects, and the jobs those projects have produced. They come to the ribbon-cuttings and...
OBAMA: They found a way to have their cake and vote against it, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the issue of health reform, again, the president went on offense saying the country is at the five-yard line. It‘s time to push it into the end-zone. He‘s hitting Republicans for attacking his health reform plan without presenting what he considers to be a credible alternative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: At the Republican Caucus, they held up—they said, “We got a plan, it‘s going to provide everyone coverage at no cost.” And I said, “Well, if that were true, why wouldn‘t I take it?” My wife Michelle thinks I‘m stubborn sometimes, but I‘m not that stubborn.
So, OK, let me think. I could have everybody get health care coverage that‘s high quality and it‘s free—which I‘ll bet‘s really popular. But I‘m not going to do that, I‘m going to go through the pain of really working through this hard process in Congress, getting yelled at and called a “socialist” because I—you know, I just, that‘s how I roll, I‘m a glutton for punishment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If he seems like he is enjoying himself there, I have a suspicion that‘s because he is.
Is this a normal post-State of the Union presidential rollout, or is this what year two of the Obama presidency is going to be like?
Joining us now is Chris Matthews, the host of “HARDBALL” here on
Chris, thanks for staying around. Thanks.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Thank you. It‘s fun.
MADDOW: It is. The president seems that he‘s having fun.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a fun time these last few two to three days to watch politics come back into our lives and democracy at work and two sides going at each other. So, it‘s not just one side.
MADDOW: Well, I saw you talking about this on “HARDBALL” today.
Yesterday, I saw your segment titled, “Has Obama Got His Groove Back.”
MADDOW: And it certainly seems like he‘s got momentum. But do you think that translates to him actually getting stuff passed?
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, I had this image of—it‘s very (INAUDIBLE) -- this image of an old cowboy movie where the soldiers, the guys on the uniforms or on the horses, and they‘re inside the fort. And the Indians are attacking outside these allegorical Indians in cowboy movies. And they were attacking the fort.
And I always wondered why did the soldier soldiers leave the fort to fight the Indians? Why didn‘t they stay inside the fort and let them the shot the arrows and behind the fence.
You know why? Because they‘re cavalry. And that‘s the reality we‘re looking at. He‘s cavalry. He‘s happier on his horse.
MADDOW: Does that mean...
MATTHEWS: He‘s happier out there fighting. And he‘s been under attack. And I think—I think the fact of the matter is, I think, you talk to people up in Massachusetts, all through these hosannas about Scott Brown. Scott Brown won because Democrats took punishment for about a month there and didn‘t do anything about it.
The president was on vacation in Hawaii. I‘m not knocking him, but that‘s where he was, when we were threatened in Detroit by that attacker.
They didn‘t handle the first reason. The secretary of homeland security did not say the right thing. The system wasn‘t working, apparently.
They did make a deal for Nebraska.
There‘s a lot of things that didn‘t look right, and there was a lot of incoming, a lot of bad stuff, bad karma going on there for about a month. And Scott Brown went out there and took advantage of it. They never polled on that election. They never knew it was coming.
But I‘ll tell you—this White House took that hit very hard. Not only did they lose their 60th vote, they lost any sense of arrogance, which is probably the good side of this.
So, the president is out there campaigning, he‘s on the opposite of vacation. He‘s going into the Republican stronghold in Baltimore last week. He‘s going to the basketball games. He‘s reengaging with people. He is exploiting his personal popularity, his (INAUDIBLE).
You notice he‘s bringing Biden along with him. Just as company, but also as a symbol of that sort of excitement of the campaign, the two guys out there on the road...
MADDOW: Well, also picking New Hampshire. I‘m sure, I mean, New Hampshire is a real state. It‘s not just a prop for electoral politics.
MATTHEWS: It‘s also a reasonable state and it does care about fiscal responsibility. It‘s not a joke up there.
MADDOW: But you know...
MATTHEWS: Also, it caught the Republicans in that snare, when those seven members pulled out having cosponsored, he had—that‘s the ultimate proof of treachery. When you cosponsor a bill, and then you‘re not there for the final vote—well, which is the truth?
MATTHEWS: You believed in the bill or you didn‘t?
MADDOW: And him positing them against honest differences of opinion, those are OK. He‘s just implicitly saying this is dishonest. That you‘re not...
MATTHEWS: It‘s treachery.
MADDOW: Well, on this subject of the things that they‘ve sort of done wrong. On all of those things that you mentioned, it seems to me like there‘s good rejoinders. I mean, that he did respond to the Christmas bombing faster than Bush responded to the shoe bomber. That Janet Napolitano, if you take her in context, you can make a different argument about it.
And I raised those things...
MATTHEWS: He‘s also running against Bush in Massachusetts. It didn‘t look...
MATTHEWS: ... at that time.
MATTHEWS: But it‘s the standards of the time.
MADDOW: But the point is that they make—they didn‘t rebut. They were out there fighting. They took the abuse. They could have rebutted and they really didn‘t.
Now, it seems like they‘re taking all the existing facts, even issues like how the Christmas Day bomber was treated, in terms of his Miranda rights and all of those things.
MATTHEWS: It turns out somebody we didn‘t know. That he went in for surgery and stopped talking when he came out, before there was any talk of Miranda rights. In other words, the sequence was off. The way it was presented by the critics was: they gave him his Miranda rights and he just was lawyered up and stopped talking. No, he stopped talking before he got the Miranda rights.
MADDOW: But something‘s changed in this White House, because the critics who were making those charges and the facts were what the facts have always been.
MATTHEWS: They were playing defense.
MADDOW: But we didn‘t hear—we didn‘t hear anything back from the White House. Now, all of a sudden, we were getting a ton of...
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re hiding in the fort, to use my allegory.
MATTHEWS: They‘re hiding in the fort and let the arrows come in the fort, instead of going out and fighting in the field. He‘s out in the field right now. It‘s great to watch because I think he has a big problem. His number did go down.
And when his numbers went down, he lost his oomph on Capitol Hill with the number of senators he needs. Because I do think they‘re going to go for a very closely run effort to win health care. It is their last chance, but it is a chance, and the only tricky question is: does the Senate move first on reconciliation, alongside the bill they already passed? Or does it hope that the House can pass the bill with some kind of deal that they will then act in reconciliation in the Senate?
It‘s a sequence problem right now. But they can‘t do any of that until they get the president‘s numbers up. This president has got to get up around 55, way moving north, so that they can hold on to the 50 senators they need.
You have to understand, about a week ago, they were losing 50 -- they weren‘t going to get to 50.
MADDOW: Do you think right now...
MATTHEWS: They have to get 50.
MADDOW: If they had—if they had the vote right now, you think they still get it?
MATTHEWS: Right now, I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: ... because if they get 50 plus the V.P., they win. But it‘s so close. And by the way, at the end of a couple hours, or 20 hours of debate, they might be down to 40-something.
So, I believe the president wants some padding. He wants this thing to marinate for a while. I have some intel on this, by the way.
They want to let the thing marinate for a while.
MATTHEWS: Get the president‘s power back—his political capital back. It‘s February, we‘re not talking beyond February. Get the power back, then go back there on the Hill, get the senators to vote 50 votes plus the vice president. And we get 53 or more votes. Get a good solid vote with reconciliation, to compliment the Senate bill.
But the tricky part, and the hardest part, let‘s face it, the heaviest lifting is to get 218 in the House.
MATTHEWS: And to get to 218, either with Stupak or go to the left the other way. They‘re going to make a big decision, Pelosi‘s people: do we go with the 218 or 220 we had before, or go to another combination by ditching Stupak or modifying it significantly enough to get the pro-choicers? It‘s really tricky.
MADDOW: On the bigger issue...
MATTHEWS: But they can do it, but it‘s so close right now.
MADDOW: Well, it seems like it‘s still in motion. They just announced today that they‘re going to have a vote next week in the House on this issue of the insurance companies‘ antitrust protection. So, there are some—there are some motions that we can...
MATTHEWS: That would be a gift to the Republicans, I think, right?
MADDOW: In terms of the...
MATTHEWS: They want that, they‘ve been saying that all along. They want to get...
MADDOW: So, that would be another one these issues of saying—let‘s find something on which we agree.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll find something, you know, find something. Maybe they‘ll end up with tort reform. I think the Democrats are willing to make a reasonable cap on damages if they can get health care reform.
MATTHEWS: And, certainly, that‘s more of a—less of a compromise to them if you think about it on moral terms, than some of the issues like choice, which are harder for them.
MADDOW: I think—I think that—I think that what‘s got to happen, in terms putting together something that‘s going to work is that you have to—sure, you can box Republicans in on these votes that they‘re going to have a hard time explaining why they vote no. But ultimately, to pass something, it‘s not just a political gain. You do actually have to pass something, and you‘ve got to probably do it with zero Republicans—zero Republicans.
MATTHEWS: In the Senate, yes.
MATTHEWS: And I think in the House, except for the fellow from New Orleans.
MADDOW: Yes, I don‘t even know if I can count on him any more. He said he wouldn‘t vote for it. Cao, he voted for it the one time.
MATTHEWS: It doesn‘t make any sense that he‘s zany because you got to be consistent. In fact, the best thing the Democrats are going—I use the term marinate. I think if you sit and wait a couple weeks, it sinks in to the Democrats who are bit recalcitrant, and worried. Some of them are worried, they‘re in purple districts. That it‘s better for them to act.
Remember I said a couple of weeks ago, the biggest knock people have against government is not that it‘s tilting left, that‘s the thing you do, that‘s sort of diagnostic if you worry about what‘s going on. It‘s when you see it can‘t act.
MATTHEWS: And then somebody says it‘s because it‘s leaning left. No, what initially gets to you is the high unemployment rate, the symptoms, and then the sense that they can‘t act.
MADDOW: They‘ve got—they have no choice but to pass it.
MATTHEWS: If you can move once—if you can move and act, it makes up for a lot of sense in terms of ideology with the middle. They like to see an act of government.
MADDOW: Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL,” appears at 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern, it‘s really nice to be here on set with you. Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I like joining the night shift occasionally.
MADDOW: Yes. Sorry to keep you up late. Good to have you on.
MATTHEWS: No, no. It‘s not late. I‘m not that old. I don‘t go to bed at 9:00.
MADDOW: I didn‘t mean to imply.
All right. John McCain came out angrily in favor of keeping “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” today. John McCain used to say he‘d favor scrapping the policy if the military‘s top brass wanted to. They want to. I was at the hearing when the brass spoke up today. We got some dramatic details on how it all went down—coming up next.
MADDOW: In 2006, Senator John McCain said he‘d be ready to let gay people serve in the military if Pentagon leaders said they were for it. Well, they‘re for it. So, of course, John McCain today was angrily still dead set against it. More on that next.
MADDOW: You may know that the person we just had as a guest on this show, Chris Matthews here at MSNBC, does a “HARDBALL” college tour, right before the midterm elections in 2006. Chris had Senator John McCain on the college tour with him in Iowa. They took questions from the crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our military needs as many fine young men and women as we can get.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, why do we still have a policy that discriminates on the basis of declared sexual orientation?
MCCAIN: I listened to people like General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and literally every military leader that I know, and they testified before Congress that they felt that the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy was the most appropriate way to conduct ourselves in the military. I understand the opposition to it, and I‘ve had these debates and discussions, but the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, “Senator, we ought to change the policy,” then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it, because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was John McCain speaking in 2006, telling “HARDBALL” that the day the leadership of the military says that “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” should be changed, on that day, he‘d consider changing the policy. That day was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: During the State of the Union address, the president announced he will work with Congress this year to repeal the law known as “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” He subsequently directed the Department of Defense to begin the preparations necessary for a repeal of the current law and policy. I fully support the president‘s decision.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the defense secretary, Bob Gates, both expressed unreserved support for repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” And even though John McCain is on record saying that‘s what he would need to hear to be able to consider changing the policy, that isn‘t how John McCain reacted at today‘s hearing—at all. In fact, he sort of blew a gasket.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I‘m deeply disappointed in your statement, Secretary Gates. Your statement obvious is one which is clearly biased, without the view of Congress being taken into consideration. You are embarking on saying it‘s not whether the military prepares to make the change, but how we best prepare for it, without ever hearing from members of Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, for John McCain, as long as the military leadership is against gay people serving in the military, he wants to defer to their judgment. But if the military leadership is for gay people serving in the military, he thinks the military leadership should defer to him.
Last year, John McCain also did an interview with Ana Marie Cox on Air America Radio, in which the senator said that on his very first day in office, if he‘d been elected president, he would have asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to review “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANA MARIE COX, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Do you have...
MCCAIN: Right now, the joint chiefs have said that the policy‘s working and that in their view, it should be kept in place. But, again, if I were president, on the day I was elected—sworn in, I would have asked the chairman of the joint chiefs, conduct an in-depth study and come up with recommendations for me.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: The military is, in fact, doing an in-depth study of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” now, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he thinks the policy should be repealed.
Now that those things, John McCain said he‘d defer to are actually happening, Senator McCain has changed his mind about them.
In addition to John McCain‘s collapse of credibility and embarrassing loss of temper on this issue today, a couple of important other things happened. First, Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made clear that dropping “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” can happen with not 60 votes, but 50 in the Senate, or maybe even 40. This was a sort of subtle but important moment at the hearing.
Watch his exchange here with Joe Lieberman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: It‘s up to us, we in the Congress, and in the Senate. We got—we got to get 60 votes to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” or else it will remain in effect. Thank you.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Unless there‘s a provision inside the Defense Authorization Bill that goes to the floor which would then require an amendment to strike it from the bill, in which case, the 60-vote rule would be turning the other way.
LIEBERMAN: No, it‘s good and it is with great appreciation that I accept the higher wisdom of the chairman on the committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Levin is saying that on the Senate side, if repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” could be done as part of a big defense bill, a big defense authorization bill, which is how “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” became law in the first place, then it would actually take 60 votes to kill the repeal, not 60 votes to hold on to the policy—which means that even as the military is announcing a year-long process for studying and figuring out the implementation issues of getting rid of the policy, Congress could essentially move right away. There‘s no reason for Congress to wait. On the Senate side at least, there is a clear path.
The other important thing that happened today is that the opposition to repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” had a bad, bad, bad day in opposition. In addition to Senator McCain doing his big awkward, angry public flip-flop on the matter, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia tried on an argument that had at least one person in the hearing room, who was sitting about three rows behind me, audibly snorting coffee out of his or her nose.
This was it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS ®, GEORGIA: The military society is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs and traditions, including restrictions on personal behavior that would not be acceptable in civilian society. Examples include alcohol use, adultery, fraternization and body art. If we change this rule of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” what are we going to do with these other issues?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was at that moment that Senator Chambliss uttered the phrase “body art” that I distinctly heard someone shot coffee out of their nose in the hearing some.
Saxby Chambliss, our nation‘s watchdog over whether more civil rights will inexorably lead to more tattoos.
In some, the basic talking points of Republicans against repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” aside from the “it will lead to more tattoos” worry, essentially, the talking points are leftover from 1993. Back then, they were able to turn the issue into bad politics for President Clinton by driving a wedge between him as a commander-in-chief who wanted to get rid of this don‘t ask—who wanted to get rid of the prohibition on gays in the military and the military itself. Colin Powell against gays in the military, Bill Clinton for gays in the military—the political advantage went to Colin Powell and the conservatives on his side.
That dynamic is over now. And conservatives who are trying to find an anti-gay ally this time around in the chairman of the joint chiefs are embarrassing themselves by doing so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULLEN: It does go to, again, a—sort of a fundamental principle with me, which is everybody counts. And part of the struggle back to the institutional integrity aspect of this...
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS ®, ALABAMA: Well, I know, I‘m privy to your views...
MULLEN: And putting individuals in a position that every single day they wonder whether today‘s going to be the day and devaluing them in that regard just is inconsistent with us as an institution.
I have served with homosexuals since 1968. Senator McCain spoke to that in his statement. Everybody in the military has. And we understand that. So, it is a number of things which cumulatively for me, personally, get me to this position.
Senator Sessions, for me, this is about—this is not about command influence. This is about leadership. And I take that very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And can you see in the face of Senator Jeff Sessions there that the leadership from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, is likely to make all the difference.
One of the highest ranking people in the military who is facing discharge under the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy joins us next.
Please stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAMBLISS: I think the live-and-let-live policy is not a bad policy to adhere to and that‘s what we have in place in the military with “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” right now.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective. It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension between the desires of a minority, and the broader interests of our all volunteer force.
It is well understood and predominantly supported by our fighting men and women. It reflects, as I understand them, the preferences of our uniformed services. It is sustained unit cohesion and unit morale.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): I don‘t think they‘re required to lie about who they are. I think that‘s an overstatement, although I think the rule of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” has seemed to work pretty well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is someone whose very existence gives lie to those claims that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is working out great for the country and great for the military.
He is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, an F15 fighter pilot, 19-year veteran of the United States Air Force, decorated for heroism. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach was outed by a civilian acquaintance in the midst of an unblemished career. And although he wants to continue to serve his country, his discharge under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is pending.
Lt. Col. Fehrenbach, thanks very much for joining us again, particularly because you‘re standing in a very cold outdoor location.
LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH, U.S. AIR FORCE FIGHTER PILOT: It is cold, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: When I was in the hearing room today at the Senate listening to those Republican senators talk about how well “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” works, how effective it is, in my mind, I just wanted to hear your response to that. What is your response?
FEHRENBACH: Well, first of all, let me say this - you know, Sen. McCain is actually a hero of mine. So it was very disconcerting and very disappointing to hear that. He is actually the reason I joined the Air Force 18 and a half years ago. And he is the reason I stayed in this long.
I felt I owed him personally and his generation a debt, and that I wanted to repay that with service to my country. So I was extremely disappointed to hear that.
Secondly, I would like to hear those that are proponents of this law to explain to me how it‘s possibly successful, how it‘s working. I can show you evidence how it‘s unconstitutional. I can show you evidence how it‘s blatant discrimination.
I can show you evidence how it hurts the combat effectiveness of my squadron in particular. And when you do it 13,500 times over with people with critical combat skills in the middle of two wars at the cost of billions of dollars how it hurts national security as a whole.
And I can show you - I can invite these people to come to work with me tomorrow and show you how military professionals don‘t care about someone‘s personal private life. They care about somebody who‘s able to execute the mission, who is dedicated and who is professional. That‘s what the people I work with care about every day.
MADDOW: Victor, Congress has to repeal this policy, obviously. It is congressionally created and Congress has to get rid of it. The military has to implement that repeal. They say they want a year to figure out implementation.
But in the interim, the Secretary of Defense today said they essentially want to constrain the way the policy is applied. They want to try to make it more fair, at least until they can get rid of it. What‘s your reaction to that?
FEHRENBACH: Well, I think we‘ll have to wait and hear - I know my lawyer and service members‘ legal defense network are going to look for more information on that topic and whether that applies to me and my case in particular. I just don‘t know yet.
What I heard today is, like you said, they want to look into ways of possibly - apply it more leniently while they look into the implementation plan. Now, whether that means that it takes effect right away and it applies only to future cases, we just don‘t know yet.
We‘re going to need to hear more details. I hope what it means is that cases that are pending like mine, that hopefully they‘ll be able to look at the way this was handled and they‘re able to dismiss my case.
MADDOW: Are you disappointed that the military says it needs a year to study and figure out implementation? Does that seem appropriate to you?
FEHRENBACH: Well, Rachel, that was actually one tiny thing that did disappoint me today, because the way I see it, this issue has been studied for over 15 years now. And the best example I can give is, you know, we‘ve got 25 allied countries that is we work with and go to war with every day, and they have ended their bans.
And I‘ve actually served with people from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. I‘ve been deployed with them in tent city and gone to war with them. And it was a non-issue for them.
And you know, we need a year to talk about the issues that we do need to tackle. And there are important issues we‘ll need to look at. They talked about housing and others. You know, all we need to do is look at the models of our 25 allies. They‘ve tackled these issues and come up with solutions.
So I don‘t think that takes a year. I think we can make a few phone calls and get this done in maybe 30 or 60 days.
MADDOW: How important do you think it is for leaders like the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, today to show personal leadership on this, to say that he‘s personally committed to repealing this and to doing it right? Do you think that‘s significant?
FEHRENBACH: Absolutely, Rachel. I think this was a hopeful, promising historic day. This is the first time we‘ve seen military leaders, you know, the very top of the military, make these kinds of statements.
And I do just want to say I was overwhelmed by Admiral Mullen‘s statements. I was overwhelmed by his commitment. It sounded personal. It sounded from the heart that this wasn‘t something he was told to do. This was something that was personal and really meant something to him. And I was overwhelmed by that today.
MADDOW: Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, thank you so much for joining us. Get inside somewhere warm, and good luck to you, sir. It‘s nice to see you.
FEHRENBACH: Thank you, Rachel. Nice to see you.
MADDOW: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is live from Washington, D.C., today.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: Still ahead, President Obama says health reform is in the proverbial red zone, which is a football thing. That‘s a good thing for health reform. Congressman Anthony Weiner joins us for that.
Plus, Saints versus Colts, a musical throw-down as our Super Bowl Mardi Gras week continues.
But first, a late development today in the case of the man accused of trying to blow up a plane headed for Detroit on Christmas Day with explosives that he had hidden in his skivvies.
When Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arrested, he was read his Miranda rights, which a number of Republican lawmakers have called a travesty, a disaster, a weak move. They wanted Mr. Abdulmutallab in military custody.
But today, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress that despite being read his Miranda rights, and despite not being tortured, the Christmas Day underwear bomber suspect is still cooperating with investigators and giving them useful intelligence.
A senior administration official has now told NBC News that two FBI officials flew to Nigeria on New Year‘s Day to meet with Mr. Abdulmutallab‘s family. A few of his family members then flew back to the U.S. with the FBI. They convinced the man to cooperate with authorities.
The official also says that standard FBI interrogation practices were used in the interrogation of Mr. Abdulmutallab. They say that Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was Mirandized within the first five minutes of his detention. And they say that more than 300 terrorists were convicted in the U.S. court system by the Bush administration.
Mr. Abdulmutallab is apparently still talking to and cooperating with authorities. But the attempted politicization of his arrest at least seems so far to be misfiring.
Next up, a fascinating snapshot of today‘s Republican Party. I don‘t mean Republican leadership in Congress or every Democrat‘s favorite Republican, party chairman Michael Steele. I mean, average, everyday self-identifying Republicans - Joe the Republicans, if you will, polled coast-to-coast by Research 2000.
This poll was commissioned by daily coast, now, “Daily Kos.” Now, “Daily Kos” is an influential liberal Web site. But the polling firm that did the survey, Research 2000, is a nonpartisan mainstream polling organization.
And this is what they found out about today‘s Republican Party. Not just its base, but the party. You ready? The number of rank-and-file Republicans who think President Obama should be impeached already for something is 39 percent.
The number of rank-and-file Republicans who think President Obama is a socialist? More than 60 percent. The number of rank-and-file Republicans who think the president was not born in this country or are not sure, almost 65 percent.
The proportion of rank-and-file Republicans who think the president is a terrorist sympathizer, who actually wants terrorists to win, that he‘s rooting for terrorists is nearly one in four.
The proportion of rank-and-file Republicans who think that ACORN stole the presidential election - more than one in five. The number of rank-and-file Republicans who think that President Obama is a racist, who hates white people, like, for example, his mother - the proportion is 31 percent.
Almost a quarter of Republicans think their state should secede from the country. Country first. Remember these numbers when somebody asks you why everything can‘t be more bipartisan these days.
Importantly, though, there is no known correlation between political sanity and political motivation. When asked whether or not they would vote in November, 83 percent of these rank-and-file Republicans said yes, which means they should totally run Orly Taitz in 2012.
And vagaries of oil prices can affect global politics, national economy and industries from here to Timbuktu. But what affects oil supply? Well, that‘s easy - demand, reserves, refining capacity, pumping limits by the oligopoly of oil producing nations. Swordfish. Swordfish?
Yes, swordfish have reportedly punctured a flexible loading pipe operated by a French oil company in Angola. Tanker shipments of crude oil were delayed for three days. Traders said that will probably lead to additional delays to oil cargo loading for the next two months.
This is, of course, the part of the story where you want to see a picture of a swordfish, and another picture of a swordfish, too. Yes, hello, pretty. How about two seconds of a video of a swordfish captured on a submersible camera. Go on. Yes.
And this is the part where I say to protect crude oil supplies, we, of course, will have to fish, baby, fish.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is warning that the Japanese health care system is a secret plot to kill dissenters. We will hear the latest remark of the Bachmann-alia and ask Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner what it might mean for passing American health reform. That‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We‘re essentially on the five-yard line, for those who like football analogies. We‘ve had to go into overtime, but we are now in the red zone. That‘s exactly right. We‘re in the red zone. We‘ve got to punch it through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The whole country has football on the brain right now. We cannot have a conversation without talking football. In this case, what President Obama wants to punch through in overtime from the red zone, on the five-yard line, is health reform.
Sixty years in coming, it has passed the house. It has passed the Senate. Democrats have huge majorities in both houses in Congress. And yet, beltway common wisdom keeps trying to say that it‘s dead now.
If the president‘s New Hampshire town hall speechifying on health care was not enough to convince you that health care is not dead, consider also that the far right of the political spectrum is still speechifying on health care, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): Government takeover of health care is
the crown jewel of socialism and I will fight it -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann just yesterday still campaigning to kill health reform, which presumably she wouldn‘t be doing if the bill weren‘t alive.
Health reform is alive enough that its opponents are still even inventing new conspiracy theories to use against it. Health reform was once, you recall, a secret plot to kill old people. Then, it was a secret plot to hurt veterans. Then, it was a secret plot to deny health care to all Republicans.
If you can‘t get enough of the kooky conspiracy theories about health reform, I have some good news. Now, crazy health reform conspiracy theories are turning Japanese.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: They showed me a little card that was about this big. And he said, “This is my card from when I lived in Japan.” And Japan had the government takeover of health care. They said, “This is something that people don‘t know. In Japan, people have stopped voicing their opinion on health care.”
They said that because they know that they would get on a list and they would not get health care. They wouldn‘t get in. They wouldn‘t get seen. And so people are afraid. They‘re afraid to speak back to government. They are afraid to say anything. Is that what we want for our future? That takes us to gangster government at that point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Michele Bachmann warning that the Japanese were all secretly born in Kenya or something. You know, this is what the five-yard looks like. The Democrats are in the offense. They are one play away from the end-zone.
The Republicans are blitzing their entire defense at this point. So in this metaphor, somebody should be wide open, shouldn‘t they?
Joining us right now is Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. Congressman, thanks for your time. It‘s good to see you.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY): It‘s my pleasure.
MADDOW: I‘m not going to ask you about Japanese secret plots and conspiracies. But I wonder if that is reasonable - it is reasonable to take that as a sign that the right isn‘t giving up on this stuff, that health reform is still alive and kicking.
WEINER: Well, I think it‘s also interesting that when the president went to New Hampshire today, he went up there to talk about jobs, opened up to questions and like most of the questions were about health care.
WEINER: The American people want this to continue and they are frustrated. And I think the president today - boy, I wish the president sounded that way three months ago rather than worshipping at the altar of Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe, if he was up there on stages all across this country, saying we have to do this. We have to do this.
I take it as a good sign. It always takes something else. Buried in the budget yesterday was the assumption of $150 million of savings - $150 billion of savings over the next 10 years for health care reform.
So the president‘s number crunchers still think it‘s alive. The people in New Hampshire think it‘s alive. People like Michele Bachmann and whoever talks to her from the mother ship thinks it‘s alive. So I think it‘s a good sign but doesn‘t mean by any stretch of the imagination we‘re that much closer today to getting a deal today than we were yesterday.
But if the president plows ahead with this and goes long or short or whatever he has to do here and gets over the goal line, I think we‘ll be better off.
MADDOW: Drilling down on that, though, you have been very vocal on the fact that health reform needs presidential leadership, presidential energy in order to pass. It also needs to be lent some of his presidential popularity, I think. How does it help? Does it move legislators who are on the fence?
Does it create the sense among the leadership in either house of Congress that they‘ve got to do something soon at a moment when they can? How is it made concrete? How is it manifest?
WEINER: Well, here it is. I mean, I think the president has acted kind of like Lyndon Johnson in the last few months, trying to arm-twist, trying to massage the vote to get to 60 votes.
But you need a little leavening of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton or Abe Lincoln to kind of talk to the country about why this is important. You know, we‘re asking members to take some tough votes for a lot of them. You know, and yet the president seems to have been reluctant until relatively recently to really sock it in on some of these things.
And I put it this way. If he would have gone around the country talking about how important the public option was in various states, those senators might have given him the 60 votes.
You know, it‘s a chicken and egg thing. You can‘t just say, “We don‘t have the 60 votes.” We are not going to get them unless we really push it. If the president speaks like he did today for the next couple of weeks in every one of the states where we have wavering senators, I think we‘re going to get to the 60 votes on the things we want to get.
MADDOW: We have been hearing rumblings from the House leadership that they may take up one very specific part of health reform next week. It‘s the insurance company‘s antitrust exemption. What do you make of that?
WEINER: Well, look for months and months, Republicans have been saying, “Why don‘t you let insurance companies compete over state lines?” Well, if you‘re going to do, then they should be governed like any other interstate commerce, which means they shouldn‘t have any exemption from antitrust laws.
There‘s no real good reason to give it to them anymore. I mean, it used to be - you said we want to have them exchange information so they can rate us all properly. Now, frankly, they‘re just using it as a giant gap in the regulations.
So that‘s one thing. But a lot of the other things have to go together if we‘re going to give them, require that people get coverage. We have to have subsidies so they can get it less expensively.
If we‘re going to require that insurance companies cover more people, then we have to make sure they don‘t raise rates on everyone else. But this is one of the ways we can go ahead incrementally. But I really do think that you still need a comprehensive bill like we have in the House.
MADDOW: Yes. There‘s only a few little things that you can do in stand-alone ways.
MADDOW: Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, it‘s great to see you here. Thanks for coming.
WEINER: Thank you. My pleasure.
MADDOW: I appreciate it. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” the Christmas Day underpants bomber is talking without waterboarding and with Miranda rights. Keith explores what the torture fetishists among this administration‘s critics will make of that.
Next on this show, our countdown to our New Orleans show continues with a musical smackdown of champions.
But first, one more thing about Congressman Michele Bachmann of the “be afraid of Japanese health care” caucus. We don‘t know why, but Congresswoman Bachmann has lost three chiefs-of-staff in the last three years.
And today, we learned that she‘s losing another staffer. She has just said goodbye to her press secretary, Debbee Keller, who had been on the job for less than a year.
In an E-mail to friends and colleagues, Ms. Keller wrote, quote, I am excited to announce that starting today I will be serving in a new role as communications director for Rep. Paul Broun.”
Debbee joins more than a dozen other staffers who have left Congresswoman Bachmann‘s office for exciting new opportunities since Michele Bachmann took office in 2006. And again, we do not understand the reasons behind this, but it is quite a tribute to the Congresswoman, one way or the other.
MADDOW: As I mentioned last night, this show will be broadcasting live from the French quarter in New Orleans this Friday night. We‘re so excited. In that spirit, KENT JONES has another Saints versus Colts story for us. Hey, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. There‘s more than just a football rivalry going on between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. Fans of each team have recorded special Super Bowl songs for the big game.
For the Saints, here is the song “Glory Bound” featuring Theresa Anderson and the great Aaron Neville. Hit it.
JONES: Yes, OK. Proceeds from the downloads of “Glory Bound” will benefit a health insurance program for New Orleans musicians, so it‘s extra cool.
Now for the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts, here are the mud kids with “Do It Again Colts 10.” Hit it.
JONES: Indiana hip-hop. I like it.
MADDOW: I‘ve got to say I really like both tracks, but I think it‘s a bad idea to try to pick a fight with New Orleans on the basis of music under any circumstances.
JONES: Very sound advice. Very sage.
MADDOW: Also beads and benets (ph).
JONES: Yes, beads, benets - yes, all that.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Appreciate it. That does it for us tonight. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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