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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Barbara Boxer, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill.

HOST:  Good evening from San Francisco.

If you have heard anyone talk about the big, bad, scary-sounding

nuclear option in health care politics today, the odds are, you‘ve heard

someone lie to you today.  We will name names and set some proverbial

“pants on fire” in just a moment.

And we‘ve got an all-star lineup of guests joining us this hour. 

California Senator Barbara Boxer,‘s Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy

Scahill is here to talk about the freak show that is Blackwater.


And Blackwater implicating a character from “South Park” in the latest

thing that they‘ve been caught doing.

It is all coming up this hour.

But we begin tonight with an effort to clear up a big, fat

embarrassing political lie.


SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA:  Democrats have already decided on this so-

called nuclear option, a reconciliation process.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS:  This would be the nuclear option.  And I

think it would be a terrible mistake.

REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  Reconciliation, that sounds real nice and

gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  It‘s the nuclear option.


MADDOW:  No, it‘s not, actually.  It‘s not the nuclear option.  This

is the last-ditch, last-day, last-try effort to stop health reform by lying

about it, one day before the health care summit in Washington.


KYL:  It is reported that the speaker has already said that she has

the process for reconciliation figured out.  It was never designed for a

large, comprehensive piece of legislation, such as health care, as you all

know.  It‘s a budget exercise.  And that‘s why some refer to it as the

nuclear option.


MADDOW:  Actually, no.  That‘s wrong.  No one calls it a nuclear

option except you guys.  And you know you‘re lying when you do that.

On the eve of the health summit, Republicans are trying to get away

with saying that Democrats passing health reform through budget

reconciliation rules, where you only need 51 votes to pass something in the

Senate instead of 60, Republicans are trying to get away with saying that

would be the nuclear option.

It sounds awful, right?  It‘s nuclear.  Except that it isn‘t the

nuclear option and Republicans know that.

The nuclear option and reconciliation are two totally different

things, which Republicans are intimately aware of.  And we know that

because the nuclear option was the Republican‘s own threat five years ago -

not to pass something through reconciliation, but to do away with the

filibuster altogether, to prevent Democrats from filibustering President

Bush‘s judicial nominees.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist says he will

soon trigger what‘s known as the nuclear option, a vote to change Senate

rules to ban filibusters on judicial nominees.


MADDOW:  Oh, yes, that‘s what the nuclear option is.  The nuclear

option is changing the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster, to get rid

of the ability to require a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.  What

Democrats are talking about is something totally different, passing health

reform through reconciliation, passing health reform with 51 votes instead

60 -- not the nuclear option, and Republicans know it.  They know it

because, “A,” they created the nuclear option back in 2005, and “B,”

they‘ve used reconciliation over and over and over again.

And there‘s been no nuclear explosion.  They‘ve defended its use. 

They‘ve never described it as nuclear before, before Democrats decided that

they were going to do it.


SEN. JUDD GREGG ®, NEW HAMPSHIRE:  We are using the rules of the

Senate here.  That‘s what they are, Senator.  Reconciliation is a rule of

the Senate.  All this rule of the Senate does is allow a majority of the

Senate to take a position and pass a piece of legislation, support that

position.  Now, is there something wrong with majority rules?  I don‘t

think so.


MADDOW:  Is there something wrong with majority rules?  I don‘t think

so—unless Democrats ever want to use them.  And then we won‘t call it

reconciliation anymore.  We don‘t call it—we‘ll call it using the rules

of the Senate.  Then we‘ll call it nuclear.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch is calling it, quote, “The highly

partisan ‘nuclear option‘ of reconciliation.”  Republican Senator John

Cornyn tweeting today about, quote, “reconciliation, the 51-vote nuclear


What‘s going on here is a deliberate attempt on the part of

Republicans to define nuclear down, to conflate these two totally separate

things, to demonize the way the Democrats have to pass health reform right

now by calling it the nuclear option, even though the nuclear option is a

real thing in the Senate and this isn‘t that.  It has nothing to do with


Perhaps the reason that Republicans are so unwilling to call this what

it is, reconciliation, is because they have a really long record of using



SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  My Republican friends are

lamenting reconciliation.  But I would recommend for them to go back and

look at history.  Realistically, they should stop crying about

reconciliation as if it‘s never been done before.  It‘s done almost every

Congress.  And they‘re the ones that used it more than anyone else.


MADDOW:  Republicans have, indeed, used reconciliation repeatedly to

pass their own agenda items.  They used reconciliation to pass not one, but

two giant tax cuts during the Bush administration.

You want to say reconciliation was never used to change the health

care system, Senator Kyl?


KYL:  It was never designed for a large, comprehensive piece of

legislation, such as health care, as you all know.


MADDOW:  Actually, that‘s completely, utterly 100 percent, knowingly

wrong.  That is not true at all, Senator Kyl.  And you know it‘s not true. 

Reconciliation is how the health care system has been essentially formed in

this country, over and over and over again.

You ever heard of COBRA?  COBRA is the law that lets people keep their

employee health insurance for a while after they‘ve been laid off.  You

want to know what the “R” in COBRA stands for?  “Reconciliation.”  Oh, yes,

look at that.

In 1986, Congress passed the Consolidated Omnibus Budget

Reconciliation Act, COBRA, which forever affected health care coverage in

this country.  Do you ever heard of SCHIP, the State Children‘s Health

Insurance Program?  CHIP was created in a budget reconciliation bill in


Reconciliation is how we make changes to our health care system.  As

NPR pointed out today, quote, “Over the past three decades, the number of

major health financing measures that were not passed via budget

reconciliation can be counted on one hand.”

This is how health reform is done in this country.  And this effort to

say that using reconciliation would be the nuclear option, that it would

somehow be unprecedented is a lie.  It is a lie and it is—it is

disingenuous.  It is disingenuous in the sense that it‘s not just a

misunderstanding, they know they‘re lying about it.  And people in the

media who repeat what Republicans are saying about this instead of

challenging them on it are helping Republicans spread a lie.

Republicans have used reconciliation over and over and over again—

as was pointed out to them by Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer last March.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Nineteen times since 1980 has

reconciliation been used by far and away more times by the Republicans,

namely, 13 times they used it.  They never came here and complained.  They

used it.  I have the record.


MADDOW:  Senator Boxer actually inserted into the public record 13

previous instances of Republicans using this thing that they now say has

never been done before.  That would be so unprecedented.  This thing that

they‘re now calling the nuclear option, even though the nuclear option is a

totally different thing.  This thing they now say the Democrats shouldn‘t

dare use.  This thing that they‘ve used again and again and again.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California.

Senator Boxer, thanks very much for your time tonight.

BOXER:  Thank you for shining the light of truth on this whole issue. 

It really—it‘s heartwarming for me to listen to you.

MADDOW:  Well, I‘m glad to hear it.  I am—I‘m heartwarmed to be

able to do it, but I‘m angry that they‘re getting away with it.

BOXER:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I have talked to people in my profession, in the media who,

actually, I think have been bamboozled by this.  They remember that there

was something called nuclear option.  Now that Republicans are saying this

is it, I think they‘re falling for it.

BOXER:  Yes.  I mean, you—the nuclear option had to do with

something entirely different, the filibuster and judges.  So let‘s set that

aside.  I think was so—there were so many good things about what you

did, but I thought the best case for reconciliation was made by Republican

Senator Judd Gregg, who said, “Colleagues, this is a rule of the Senate. 

It‘s the way we do business.”

And by the way, way back when I talked about how many times the

Republicans use it, I was wrong.  They actually used it 16 times out of 22

times that it‘s been done since 1980.  Let me say that again—since 1980,

we‘ve used reconciliation 22 times and out of those times, the Republicans

used it 16 times.

So, you know, to my Republican friends, you can have your opinion, but

you cannot change these facts, because they‘re in the congressional record. 

It‘s important.

And I don‘t know that you know this, Rachel, but Eric Cantor, who‘s in

the leadership of the House, in 2005 -- I have an exact quote.  Can I give

it to you?

MADDOW:  Please.

BOXER:  I wrote it down.


BOXER:  This is what he said.  “Reconciliation is a process I hope we

can engage in every year.”  Eric Cantor, a leader who‘s going to the White

House tomorrow, Republican in the House—“Reconciliation is a process I

hope we can engage in every year.”

So, thank you for doing this and thank you for giving me the chance to

set the record straight.

Look, all this is about is utilizing the rules of the Senate, using

the majority of the senators to make sure that we get health reform done. 

We cannot wait another day.  I listened to Keith‘s talk.

I know from my constituency what is going on.  Doctors that are told,

begged by mothers, “Please don‘t write down that my child has asthma. 

Please lie and say it‘s bronchitis, because if you write down asthma, when

my child turns 18 or 20 and has to get his or her own insurance, it will be

a preexisting condition.”

And did you hear Harry Reid talk about—an incredible conversation

he had with a constituent who owns a restaurant, a lovely couple and they

had a baby and they had good insurance, really good insurance, covered the

birth.  The baby was born with a cleft palate, and they were so devastated,

but the doctors say, “Don‘t worry, we can fix this, we can fix this.”  It‘s

easily done.  And they then got a note from the insurance company: your

baby has a pre-existing condition, and therefore you have to pay for this.

I mean, how much more do we have to hear about the injustice of it

all?  And we can fix this.  And we can fix it, you know, in a very good


And I‘m glad the president has, you know, invited everybody over

tomorrow.  I think it‘s a good thing.  And then we‘ll act.  We have to.

MADDOW:  Senator Boxer, you are one of the 23 Democratic senators who

have signed on to a letter supporting not only using reconciliation, but


BOXER:  Yes.

MADDOW:  -- the pursuit of a public option through reconciliation.

BOXER:  Yes.

MADDOW:  And when you give me that story about the child with the

cleft palate in Nevada and the way the private insurer responded to that—

BOXER:  Yes.

MADDOW:  -- it does make me want there to be better regulation for

private insurers, but it also makes me want the American people to have an

option to compete with the private insurance companies through a publicly-

accountable public plan.

BOXER:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Is this—is this new push for the public option going to

translate into anything?  And if it‘s—if it‘s not, why can‘t we get it?

BOXER:  Oh, it‘s about getting the votes.  And all I can say is this -

we want competition.  And the best way to have competition is to have a

public option in there.  Because then we‘ll know what the fair prices ought

to be.  It‘s just a—it‘s a very straightforward way to make sure

everybody, as the president said a long time ago, is kept honest.  It‘s the

easiest way.


The other ways to go, one way, is to have regulation, where if

somebody—some insurance company wants to raise rates, they have to come

before a board and explain why.  And that was an idea Senator Feinstein

had.  I was proud to cosponsor that and the president has now taken that

up, which is great.

But the public option is the easiest way to go, the best way to go. 

And I still think we‘re going to try to push for it.  We‘ll push and push.

At the end of the day, we cannot walk away from this whole issue.  And

we better make sure that when we finish, people have insurance they can

count on.  They get treated with respect and fairly, and that it‘s

affordable.  That‘s it.  And that‘s why a public option makes sense.

But, Rachel, I do want to say to you and I‘ve said this to you before,

we will have a great expansion of Medicaid, and that is a public option.

Fifteen million of the uninsured will be covered under an

expanded Medicaid, so that is, in fact, a public option.  Medicare, which I

think we should expand and open up to younger people, is a public option. 

And by the way, it is strengthened in this bill.  And the

doughnut hole, which is that terrible problem when you are getting

prescription drugs and all of a sudden, you reach a certain level and you

don‘t get anymore coverage.  We‘re going to fill that hole. 

So we do - it‘s a good approach.  Without a public option, it

would be far better with it.  But I really hope we don‘t get caught in a

situation where we say, unless we have this one thing, we shouldn‘t do it. 

I think that would be a mistake. 

MADDOW:  I think that you and the president and Democrats in general

who are in the lead on this will find that when you fight for it, when you

fight for it in public, the public will stand by you.  Democratic Senator

Barbara Boxer of California -

BOXER:  I will.

MADDOW:  Thank you for your time tonight.  And it‘s nice to be here in

California, my home state and yours, too.  I appreciate it. 


MADDOW:  Thank you.  New York Congressman Anthony Weiner appeared on

this show last night and made his customary forceful case for health care

reform.  Apparently, the Congressman was just warming up, because today,

him on the floor of the House was the single best, most dramatic

performance of the day, of the entire country, other than people who are at

the Olympics.  Have you seen this?  We‘ll be right back.  


MADDOW:  President Obama is hosting the big televised bipartisan

health care summit during the day tomorrow.  Tomorrow night, MSNBC will

bring you the highlights and the analysis, in case you were, you know,

doing something else all day.  It‘s president‘s question time, from 9:00

p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.  We very much hope you‘ll

tune in.  And we‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  I feel privileged and lucky to be working at the network that

gets to show the Olympics.  I love every single thing about the Olympics. 

I love the opening ceremonies.  I love the national anthems.  I love the

outfits.  I love the crying.  I love the scandals.  I love the sports.  

I love all of it.  Everything from biathlon to curling to hockey,

I love the Olympics.  There is nothing like the Olympics.  Except,

sometimes, C-Span.  Sometimes the action in Washington is as full-contact

as any full-body check in hockey.  Sometimes, the action in Washington even

has forced penalty box time-outs, like it‘s Slovakia versus Serbia after a

particularly hard-fought power play. 

Did you see what happened today in the house with Anthony Weiner? 

I cannot make this any better by editing it or cutting it up in any way. 

Just watch this raw.  Watch it. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anthony, go for it. 



WEINER:  You know, you‘ve got to love these Republicans.  I mean, you

guys have chutzpah.  The Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of

an insurance industry.  That‘s the fact. 

They say that, “Well, this isn‘t going to do enough.”  But when

we propose an alternative to provide competition, they‘re against it.  They

say that, “Well, we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners and

they‘ll do the job.” 

But when we did that in our national health care bill, they said,

“We‘re against it.”  They said they want to have competition and when we

proposed requiring competition, the Republicans are against it.  They are a

wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.  That‘s the fact.  And

now they stand up -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Speaker, Mr.  Speaker - I ask the gentleman

the words be taken down. 

WEINER:  You really don‘t want to go here Mr. Lungren. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The gentleman will suspend.  The gentleman from

New York will please take a seat.  The clerk will report the words. 


MADDOW:  Did you see, he‘s like, in the penalty box there.  You see

him walking off?  Getting your words taken down is just a mild form of

censure in the house.  So Anthony Weiner gets sat down and his words get

taken down. 

But watch what he says when he gets back up.  The very first

thing he says when they let him out of the penalty box.  Watch what



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This gentleman seeking unanimous consent to

withdraw his words? 

WEINER:  I request unanimous consent to substitute other words? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That would involve a withdrawal.  Does the

gentleman withdraw -

WEINER:  Request unanimous consent to withdraw my words. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is there an objection to the request?  Objection

so ordered. 

WEINER:  How much time do I have remaining? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The gentleman from Oregon has three minutes remaining. 

REP. PETE DEFAZIO(D-OR):  You can have them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gentleman from New York is recognized. 

WEINER:  Make no mistake about it - every single Republican I have

ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance

industry.  That is why Americans each and every year -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Speaker, I ask the gentleman‘s words be taken

down once more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will suspend - from New York will please take a

seat.  The clerk will report the words. 


MADDOW:  He‘s back in the penalty box again.  Now, the context here is

that Anthony Weiner has been given this time on the floor by Pete DeFazio

of Oregon.  And Pete DeFazio of Oregon, at this point, is sort of visibly

shocked and maybe delighted by what Anthony Weiner is doing with this time. 

Watch how this part of this ends. 


WEINER:  I thank you very much.  Look, the point is very simple. 

There are inequities in the present way we distribute insurance, the way we

distribute health care.  There are winners and there are losers. 

The winners are the insurance industry.  And our efforts to reel

in the insurance profits not just because they shouldn‘t make profits -

they‘re doing what they‘re supposed to.  But what they‘re doing is driving

up taxes, they‘re driving our economy into the ground, and we need

competition and choice to deal with that. 

That‘s what this legislation does and the motion to recommit

undermines it.  And I‘ve heard a couple of times today, well, we have an

effort for bipartisanship here.  No, there is no bipartisanship on this

fundamental issue. 

And that is the people who sit on this side, at the risk of

offending anyone, generally support the idea of standing up for the

American people in their daily battles against high insurance. 

And the people, generally speaking, who sit on this side of the

chamber - and specifically speaking as well in a lot of cases - simply

won‘t permit that to happen and haven‘t for a generation. 

Well, that‘s going to end now.  That is going to end because we

are going to have competition.  We are going to make sure that there are

regulations, and we are going to make sure that the American people aren‘t


That‘s what the American people stand for.  And time and time

again, people say, “Well, I don‘t really mind this bill.  I just want to

weaken it to the point that it‘s meaningless.” 

And then I‘ve heard my good friend from Texas say, “Well, this

doesn‘t do anything.”  But every single time we‘ve tried to do something,

like a tiny sliver of competition called the public option, they said, “No,

we can‘t withstand competition.  We can‘t have that.”

Enough of the phoniness.  We are going to solve this problem,

because for years, our Republican friends have been unable to and unwilling

to.  Deal with it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thank the gentleman for those remarks.  In

summary -


MADDOW:  We indeed thank the gentleman for those remarks.  Anthony

Weiner has been a frequent guest on this and lots of other TV shows since

the health reform fight started because that‘s the way he talks about

health reform. 

I was in Washington recently.  And a center-right influential

columnist, think-tank guy - I was talking with him about health reform, and

he sort of rubbed his hands in glee and said he hopes that Anthony Weiner

keeps going on TV a lot, because Anthony Weiner gives health reform a bad


He hopes Anthony Weiner keeps going on TV a lot because he makes

health reform look bad.  I don‘t know about that.  I think the way

Congressman Weiner talks about health reform shows what it looks like for

Democrats to stand up on their hind legs and fight, to be bare knuckled

about getting something passed, to say that bipartisanship is a farce if

one side wants to pass something and the other one doesn‘t. 

I think the common wisdom guys in Washington hate that.  They‘re

terrified of it.  But I think it‘s what a lot of people, who voted in a

huge blue tide of Democrats in the last two elections, have been waiting to


And consider it in context, too, substantively.  Profits at the

top five largest for-profit insurance companies rose 56 percent last year. 

They made $4.5 billion more in 2009 over what they made in 2008, while

dropping more than 2.5 million people as customers. 

And for those companies, that‘s great news.  That‘s how it works. 

That‘s business.  Don‘t blame them for that.  Well, do if you want, but

don‘t blame them entirely.  This is business 101.  It‘s how they profit. 

It‘s not for-profit insurers‘ fault that they do everything they

can to not pay out when people they insure get sick.  It‘s not for-profit

insurers‘ fault that they do everything they can to avoid giving insurance

to people who actually need health care. 

It‘s not for-profit insurers‘ fault that they hike premiums by

anything they can get away with, by double digits every year, year after

year, after year, so we‘re getting to the point where $1 in every $5 we

spend on anything in this economy is spent on their dumb, evil health

system and that‘s with 15 millions still uninsured.

I mean, times are great for Wellpoint, right?  In 2008, 39

Wellpoint executives were getting paid more than $1 million a year.  In

2007 and 2008, Wellpoint spent $27 million on retreats for their

executives.  And they‘ve got us over a barrel, 39percent rate hikes here in

California this year. 

In Maine, Wellpoint‘s going for a 23 percent rate hike this year

after five consecutive years of double-digit premium increases on those

same policies.  Wellpoint‘s hiking rates by up to 50 percent in Indiana

this year.  Twenty-nine percent hike in New York State for small businesses

insured by Wellpoint. 

Things are going great for Wellpoint.  Don‘t blame them.  It‘s

not their fault.  They‘re a private for-profit business.  They do not care

about this country.  It is not their job to care about this country. 

They‘re not a person.  They do not have feelings. 

They‘re a corporation.  They‘re a company.  They are not a

person.  They‘re doing the job that is their fiduciary responsibility to do

for their own shareholders.  It is not their job to get health care for the

American people. 

It is their job to make as much money as possible off of the fact

that American people, like all people, need health care, which is

expensive, which we don‘t have the luxury of shopping for like we shop for

cars or eggs or sneakers. 

Because it‘s cancer.  It‘s pregnancy.  It‘s appendicitis.  It‘s a

compound fracture.  It‘s a heart attack.  It‘s diabetes.  It‘s relief of

pain at the time of death. 

We have private for-profit companies who are trying to make as

much profit as possible off our need for that care.  And the point is not

to blame them for them wanting to make a profit, but to not look at what

they‘re doing and call it a health care system. 

It‘s a profit-making system for companies that are not designed

to meet your needs or my needs or our needs as a country.  The better

business health insurance companies do, the worse off the American people

and the American economy are.  The incentives are wrong. 

Health insurance companies are the health care system in this

country.  By and large, that‘s what our system is.  It‘s for-profit

companies.  And that means there is a problem in the system.  The

incentives are wrong. 

It is individually rational for each private for-profit company

that makes up this system to make decisions that are bad for the country. 

So we end up with a bad system. 

Republican invitees to the health care summit tomorrow include

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha

Blackburn.  Their proposals on health care are to get rid of the main

system that saves the elderly in our country from the for-profit system

that would eat them alive. 

The Republican plan, the plan favored by the Republican

negotiators, is to end Medicare, get rid of it.  Go to a purely for-profit

system.  Let Wellpoint and all the goodness in Wellpoint‘s heart take care

of the 85-year-olds among us who they want to buy private insurance on the

open market. 

Some Democrats, like Anthony Weiner, want the opposite.  They

want the Wellpoints of this world out of it all together.  They want

Medicare for all. 

Let companies find their profits and make millionaires out of

their executive and fund their dozens of multimillion dollar retreats at

resorts from a sector of the economy that isn‘t health care, that isn‘t

cancer and hospice and broken bones. 

Republicans want it to be all Wellpoint, all for profit, no

safety net, not even for old people - kill Medicare.  That‘s who they‘re

bringing to the health summit. 

Up on their hind legs, Democratic fighters like Anthony Weiner

want Medicare for all.  Democrats aren‘t even letting him in the door to

that summit tomorrow.  So to the White House, I say this.  A lot more

people are with Anthony Weiner and against the insurance companies than are

with Marsha Blackburn and Paul Ryan who want to hand the insurance

companies even more of our blood and treasure. 

You ignore the public option and the appeal of Medicare for all

at your very grave peril.

MADDOW:  Last week, in Austin Texas, a man named Joseph Stack posted a

rambling, incoherent, anti-government anti-IRS screed online.  He set his

house on fire, and then he flew a small plane into a building that housed

IRS offices. 

Mr. Stack killed himself in the attack and he killed IRS

collections manager, Vernon Hunter, a 27-year employee of the Internal

Revenue Service and a 20-year veteran of the United States Army, who served

is two tours of duty in Vietnam. 

The city of Austin will hold a moment of silence tomorrow in

honor of Mr. Hunter and those wounded in the attack.  Timothy Geithner has

also traveled to Austin to meet with IRS employees who survived the attack. 

The IRS, of course, is under the jurisdiction of his government department,

the treasury. 

As the city of Austin and the survivors and the family of the man

who was killed all try to come to terms with this inexplicable suicide

attack on a government facility, one member of Congress has repeatedly,

publicly announced that he sympathizes with this act of terrorism.  He is

Congressman Steve King of Iowa. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  The pilot who flew himself into an IRS

building.  Do you think his attack, his terrorist attack, was motivated at

all by a lot of the anti-tax rhetoric popular in America right now?

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA):  I think if we‘d abolish the IRS back when I

first advocated it, he wouldn‘t have a target for his airplane.  And I‘m

still for abolishing the IRS. 

It‘s sad that the incident happened in Texas, but by the token,

the IRS is an agency that is unnecessary.  And when the day comes that

we‘ve abolished the IRS, it will be a happy day for all Americans. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  So some of his grievances were


KING:  I don‘t know if his grievances were legitimate.  I‘ve read part

of the material.  I can tell you I‘ve been audited by the IRS, and I‘ve had

the sense of, “Why is the IRS in my kitchen?”


MADDOW:  It will be a happy day when that guy, who just killed a

government worker and flew a plane into a government building, gets what he

wanted.  That will be a happy day.

There was a response to Congressman Steve King‘s comments from

Congressman James Clyburn.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC):  One of our colleagues has now called the

act of terrorism a noble act.  The fact of the matter is, the gentleman

that lost his life in that building, Vernon Hunter, was from Orangeburg,

South Carolina that I proudly represent in this body. 

He spent two tours in Vietnam and was about the business of

carrying out his duties and responsibilities to this great country of ours. 

If anybody is a hero, it is this victim.  And I find it appalling that a

member of this body will call his death a noble happening. 


MADDOW:  Congressman Steve King still says he‘s not sorry for his

remarks.  We contacted his office today.  They gave us this statement,

quote, “As a founder of a small business who has endured IRS audits, I

understand the deep frustration with the IRS.  In the early days my company

could not run with me in the job.  I once had to shut down just to be in

the room with the IRS.  I did not get a fair shake, but I channeled my

frustration the American way and ran for office.” 

“Americans looking for an outlet for their frustrations should

join me in calling on Congress to pass a national sales tax and abolish the

current federal tax code and the IRS.” 

I don‘t want to tell Congressman King to do his job, but when you‘re

asked to respond to a terror attack on your country, even when in which the

attacker‘s target happens to be something you also don‘t like, I could put

to you that the appropriate response is to condemn the act of terrorism and

then stop talking for a while, rather than ally yourself with the

terrorists and talk about how justified you think his actions were. 

We‘re joined now by Glenn Greenwald, a contributing writer at

“”  Glenn, thank you for your time, and I‘m very sorry that

American Airlines lost your luggage today. 


That‘s very consoling. 

MADDOW:  I generally don‘t take things that Congressman King says all

that seriously, because I think he‘s sort of a provocateur in this, just

trying to get on cable.  It does seem remarkable to me, though, just in

terms of our politics, that a member of Congress can get away with talking

about the legitimacy of this type of act against the government and not

have caused a firestorm. 

GREENWALD:  Well, when someone commits an act of violence against

civilians or non-combatants in pursuit of a political agenda, I think it‘s

important to distinguish between discussions of whether the underlying

grievances are valid, which is a legitimate discussion to have, and

justifications for the violence itself. 

I mean, can you have discussions about whether the underlying

grievances of, say, Islamic radicals, are justifiable, things like the fact

that we bombed their countries and then occupied them, overthrow their

governments, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tyrannies without justifying terrorism, as

long as you say the act of terrorism and violence itself is illegitimate. 

But what the right tends to do in this country - and this is true

historically, at least when they‘re out of power.  When they‘re in power,

they expand government power wildly.  But when they‘re out of power, they

adopt very extremist, anti-government rhetoric that suggests not merely

that the government is acting wrongly, but that the government is a

legitimate target for attack and should be seen as illegitimate. 

You saw that several years ago, when there was a state of attacks

on judges, and John Cornyn, the senator from Texas, said judges basically

had it coming because of bad decisions that they‘ve made.  You saw it in

the 1990s when Newt Gingrich, after the Timothy McVeigh attacks, said that

the fear that Americans have over the government is justifiable.

And you see it now with some of the movements on the right

talking about the need to replenish the Tree of Liberty with the blood of

patriots.  It‘s very violent, anti-government extremism.

And what Congressman King said, I think, clearly crosses that

line for merely talking about the underlying grievances into endorsing

violence itself.  And it‘s very dangerous and should provoke a much

stronger reaction. 

MADDOW:  Glenn, you‘ve written critically and with some detail about

whether or not this incident in Austin should be described as terrorism. 

You just heard me describe it as terrorism. 

I also described the killing of Dr. George Tiller as terrorism

when that happened.  I know there‘s lots of people who disagree with me on

that, using that sort of name for legitimate reasons.  I think it‘s worth

discussing.  Do you think that this should be called an act of terrorism? 

Does it make sense that people are reluctant to call this terrorism? 

GREENWALD:  Well, the problem is that “terrorism” has really become

the most meaningless and therefore the most manipulated word in the

American political lexicon.  Really, what it has come to mean is Muslims

who generally are hostile, too, or dislike the United States. 

There are actual definitions of terrorism that the United States

government has adopted that are very clear.  It has nothing to do with who

the person is, but what the act is.  And the act of terrorism means

engaging in violence directed at civilians or noncombatants for the purpose

of putting fear into the population or changing behavior in order to

achieve political goals. 

And if you read the manifesto, for lack of a better word, that

Joseph Stack left, what it said was, “I‘m doing this in order to inspire

others to give up their bodies in pursuit of these political ideas.” 

I mean, if that‘s not terrorism, then I don‘t know what is.  And

yet we call things terrorism, that don‘t meet that definition, like the

Fort Hood attack, which attacked a military base.  Everybody called that

terrorism, because it was a Muslim attack who said “Allah Akbar.”

But in this case, and in the case of people who stand outside

abortion clinics and shoot abortion doctors in order to change abortion

laws - clear definitive acts of terrorism.  We‘re reluctant to call it that

because these are Americans and the premise seems to be that Americans

don‘t commit terrorism.  Only foreigners do. 

MADDOW:  Or Americans who are Muslims or have foreign-sounding names. 

GREENWALD:  Exactly. 

MADDOW:  Glenn Greenwald at “,” as always, clear and

compromising thinker on these and many issues.  Glenn, it‘s good to have

you on the show.  Good luck with your luggage.

GREENWALD:  Thank you, Rachel.  I appreciate it.

MADDOW:  The story of the rare intersection of military contractors in

Afghanistan and the TV show “South Park.”  And bonus, the story is totally

not funny.  Jeremy Scahill joins us shortly.  This is a very strange one. 

Please stay tuned. 


MADDOW:  Today on the floor of the House, Congressman Jim Moran gave

the country a piece of information that puts an outraged exclamation point

on one contested matter of civil rights.


REP. JAMES MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  I rise today to share the substance

of an e-mail from an active duty soldier in Afghanistan, response to an

inquiry from his commanding officer related to the military‘s review of the

“don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.  The soldier shared how he and his partner

of 10 years have managed multiple deployments to Iraq and to Afghanistan. 

They explained that they survived like any couple does, except because of

the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy, his partner would not be informed in

the event of his death, and cannot make any emergency decisions that would

normally fall to a spouse.

This situation is typical, even within his unit.  He learned that a

fellow soldier was also gay, only after he was killed by an IED in Iraq. 

The partner of the deceased soldier wrote the unit to say how much the

victim had loved the military, how they were the only family he had ever



MADDOW:  Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia sharing details of a gay

American soldier killed in action in Iraq.

The letter he describes is from a gay Army Ranger combat arms

commander who‘s currently deployed in Afghanistan.  The letter is

incredible.  We have posted it at our Web site today,  I

encourage you to check it out if you have an interest in this issue.

Well, the Congress and some conservatives have been wringing their

hands about repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  I want to leave you with

one note on personnel policy in the military.  Buried in the inside pages

of today‘s “New York Times,” in a five-sentence, one-paragraph-long story

is notification that the Pentagon has decided to lift the 100-year-old ban

on women serving on U.S. Navy submarines.

Women make up about 15 percent of our Navy‘s officers and sailors. 

Since 1993, women have been assigned to surface ships in the Navy but not

submarines, because, you know, submarines are sexy or something—unlike

aircraft carriers which are totally not sexy.

In any case, Defense Secretary Bob Gates has now told Congress that

the ban will be repealed, women service will be phased in starting with

women officers on larger submarines within a year or so.

Without fanfare, without congressional hearings, without a year long

review, without any noticeable peep from Senator John McCain, the Pentagon

is ending a personnel ban on the basis that it was discriminatory and

antiquated.  No muss, no fuss.  No humiliating dishonest pseudo-

intellectual public declarations and bigotry from members of Congress—so



MADDOW:  Multiple choice: Elmer Fudd, Eric Cartman or Scrooge McDuck. 

Which cartoon character did a real life Blackwater employee use as an alias

in order to get his hands on 200 stolen AK-47s?  The answer is next.


MADDOW:  Whatever the level of U.S. government oversight of the

defense contractor Blackwater has or hasn‘t been, that level is very likely

about to change.  We have just learned that the Senate Armed Services

Committee hearing that in September 2008, more than 200 AK-47s were signed

out by a Blackwater employee apparently named for this guy.


ERIC CARTMAN, CARTOON CHARACTER:  Hey, I‘m a cop and you will respect

my authority.


MADDOW:  That is Eric Cartman from “South Park.”  Eric Cartman is the

name that a Blackwater contractor used to sign out hundreds of AK-47s for

Blackwater employee‘s personal use in Afghanistan.  These were guns that

were supposed to be issued to Afghan police.  And no, there was no one

actually named Eric Cartman working for Blackwater at that time.  And no,

Blackwater employees at that time were not even allowed to possess weapons

in Afghanistan without permission—which, of course, they did not have.

In December 2008, after grabbing these weapons they weren‘t supposed

to have, a Blackwater contractor jumped on the back of a moving vehicle

with his loaded weapon.  When that moving vehicle hit a bump, the

contractor accidentally shot another contractor in the head.  What happened

to the “Dukes of Hazard” reckless shooter?  Blackwater sent the shooter

back home to the U.S.—that was it.

Blackwater was also nailed today for setting up a shell company for

its operations in Afghanistan to avoid being associated with Blackwater‘s




were working for you in the theater said, yes, we work for Blackwater.  But

you know we work for Blackwater.  Our paycheck came from Blackwater.  We

were Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater.

Paravant just appears to be a classic example of a cover corporation

in order for the people who are doing the contract not to know who they‘re

really contracting with.


MADDOW:  Despite all of this, it was reported this week that

Blackwater is in the running for another new multimillion-dollar contract

from the Defense Department to train Afghan police—the police they stole

all those weapons from under the name of the kid from “South Park.”

Joining us now is national security correspondent with “The Nation”

magazine, Jeremy Scahill.  He was at the hearing today.  He‘s also the

author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary


Jeremy, thanks very much for being here.

JEREMY SCAHILL, AUTHOR, “BLACKWATER”:  It‘s good to be with you,


MADDOW:  Stealing weapons, unauthorized carrying of weapons, shooting

civilians, drinking, shooting each other, fraud, tax evasion—am I

missing anything else in terms of what Blackwater has been accused of in

Afghanistan now?

SCAHILL:  You‘re describing a perfect resume for employment with


You know, Rachel, I actually like the show “South Park” and what

happens on every episode of “South Park” is that poor little Kenny, one of

the characters on the show, dies in every episode and sometimes, Eric

Cartman kills him.

Well, in Afghanistan, when Eric Cartman, i.e., a Blackwater employee,

signs out 200 weapons and then they kill innocent Afghan civilians with

them, they don‘t come back the next episode.  Afghanistan is not “South


And what we saw today at this hearing is just the tip of the iceberg

of what Blackwater has been doing, running this criminal enterprise around

the world.

In Afghanistan, they set up this shell company Paravant in

collaboration with a mammoth war giant Raytheon, which held the prime

contract for this.  And they set up this contract to try to hide the fact

that the Pentagon was once again hiring Blackwater, this firm that‘s been

under investigation by practically every federal entity in the United

States.  It‘s a shell company that was used to essentially defraud the

government by convincing the Army that Blackwater was not getting the

contract, but this company Paravant.

As was pointed out in the hearing today, Paravant represented in its

contract documents that it had years of experience.  Paravant hadn‘t even

existed for a few months when they got that contract to work in


But I have to say, Rachel, that we‘re talking about very small details

in a much larger picture that has Blackwater as the tip of the sphere in

assassination programs and involved with all sorts of other dirty deeds on

behalf of U.S. government and other corporations.

MADDOW:  Jeremy, what do you think is the most serious of these new

charges that have been leveled against the company?  I mean, it seems at

least politically notable to me that the company is being exposed for

having—we‘re learning about the criminal history—

SCAHILL:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- and the history of incompetence and misconduct among the

people that Blackwater is hiring.  It seems important because they‘ve had

this reputation that they hire only very elite people.  That seems to be

over now.

SCAHILL:  Right.  I mean, two of the guys that have been indicted now

on manslaughter charges in the United States for killing two Afghan

civilians, it‘s been revealed that they—one of them had gone AWOL from

the military, had tested positive for cocaine.  Another had been on the “do

not deploy” list and Blackwater then transferred him over to Paravant, this

shell company, so that he could be redeployed to Afghanistan.

So, I think that when you take the combination of the fact that

Blackwater is essentially lying to the U.S. military, is in possession of

hundreds of illicit weapons, is killing Afghan civilians, and is over all

endangering the lives of U.S. forces there through their misconduct, what

you have is a very lethal cocktail.

And the fact that the Obama administration is now leaning toward

giving Blackwater not a multimillion dollar contract, Rachel, but $1

billion dollar contract to train the Afghan national police, I think should

sound emergency warning bells for subpoenas to be issued to Eric Prince and

other Blackwater executives to go in front of Congress and answer for all

the crimes their personnel committed.

MADDOW:  Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill with “The Nation”—

Jeremy, thanks for attending the hearing today so you could report on it

with us.  Thanks for being on the show tonight.  Appreciate your time.

SCAHILL:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN”: Keith‘s very, very important

special comment about health care reform and tomorrow‘s summit.  We will be

right back.


MADDOW:  That does it for us tonight.  Tomorrow‘s a big day in

Washington and a big day for the country as President Obama hosts a

televised health care summit.  Tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, MSNBC will

bring you the highlights of the day and analysis.  That‘s 9:00 p.m.


“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.  Have a great





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