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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, March 25, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, Dan Choi

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  It sort of feels

momentous, doesn‘t it?  I mean—


of it.  Go ahead.

MADDOW:  I mean, can I just say, can I have Lawrence O‘Donnell as my

guest for 10 seconds?

O‘DONNELL:  For as long as you want.

MADDOW:  I mean, you were in the Senate during the whole initial push

for health care, during the last Democratic president that tried to do

this.  Now that it‘s finally passed right now, do you actually sort of feel

like the circle is closing?  Or is this—or is this not a circle, this is

a path that keeps going and there‘s more reform to come?

O‘DONNELL:  Rachel, I‘m going to—I‘m going to confess something to

you that I don‘t want anyone else to know.  I cried watching C-SPAN this



O‘DONNELL:  There‘s nothing like it.  It is an amazing accomplishment

and this leaves aside the issues—I have plenty of issues with what‘s in

the bill.  A lot of people have issues with what‘s in the bill.  But what

they did, what they managed to do, given what they were up against, is an

absolutely extraordinary accomplishment.  And I‘m so in awe of it at this

point as a legislative accomplishment that I don‘t really have words that I

think are adequate to it.

MADDOW:  Well, those were pretty great words, Lawrence. 

Congratulations, that something has passed that you worked on for a very

long time, and thanks for being part of our coverage of it tonight.  Thank


O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t get the credit.  I‘m one of those people who quit,

who couldn‘t stay on there for the hard long road to this.

MADDOW:  Well, congratulations on admitting you cried.  It takes a big

man to do that.  How‘s that?

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence.

And we do begin tonight with what is live ongoing drama right now in

the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.  As you just heard just

moments ago, literally moments ago, the House passed the final vote on

health reform.  The House has just agreed to the Senate amendments to the

health reform bill, drawing to a close what has been a very long process in


The bill now moves on to President Obama who can sign it as early as


This final vote officially marks the end of the health reform battle

in this Congress.  And it unofficially marks the end of the first

legislative chapter of the Barack Obama presidency.  Chapter one of the

Obama presidency was, broadly speaking, in tabloid terms—the Obama

agenda, including the monumental agenda of health reform, versus, on the

other side, the party of no.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP:  I will guarantee you that we

are committed to making sure that not one Republican will vote for this


REP. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA:  The American people want to hear us

say no.  No is a wonderful word.



SENATE CLERK:  Mr. Bunning?  Mr. Bunning, no.  Mr. Crapo?  Mr. Crapo,

no.  Mr. Roberts?  Mr. Roberts, no.  Mr. Ensign?  Mr. Ensign, no.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  Hell, no, you can‘t!


MADDOW:  The no, no, no, hell, no, Republican strategy put Democrats

in the position of having to do everything in pursuit of this monumental

historic reform to do everything themselves.  It therefore put a spotlight

on all the differences among the Democrats, because Democrats had to get

beyond everything that divided them in order to get stuff passed.  And in

that process, the Republicans—the no, no, no, hell no Republicans became

sort of uninteresting.

They weren‘t just one big “no.”  They were predictable.  Their unified

“no” strategy was a big gamble and it is a gamble that they tonight have

ultimately lost.  The strategy did not work.

Democrats were able to overcome the things that divided them.  Health

reform has passed as of, finally, tonight, just moments ago.  The

Republicans got nothing.

Actually, they did get one thing.  They got a very angry, and at

times, it seems, dangerously angry rump activist base that is now doing

things from which Republicans are furiously having to try to distance

themselves.  That‘s what Republicans got from their just say “no” gamble.

What Democrats got was not only this landmark generational legislative

accomplishment, but as you saw today in Iowa, they got the opportunity to

take a celebratory victory lap.



reform is the law of the land, all across America.


CROWD:  Yes, we did!  Yes, we did!  Yes, we did!  Yes, we did!  Yes,

we did!

OBAMA:  Yes, we did.  Yes, we did.


MADDOW:  One of the things that could have happened here—and this

is what Republicans who are playing pundit said what happened—one of the

things that could have happened is that as soon as health reform passed,

Democrats could have wanted to pretend it never happened.  They could have

been so embarrassed about it or so politically nudgy about it that they‘d

want to move on right away and start talking about other things.

That‘s what Republicans predicted.  That is not at all the way it is

working out.  Health reform is turning out to be a big win legislatively

for Democrats and it is something they‘re going to keep talking about and

they‘re going to be running on, because they are happy about what they can

say this policy does.


OBAMA:  Now that we passed it, they‘re already promising to repeal it. 

They‘re actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November.  You‘ve

been hearing that.

And my attitude is, go for it.


OBAMA:  If they want to have that fight, we can have it.  Because I

don‘t believe that the American people are going to put the insurance

industry back in the driver‘s seat.  We‘ve already been there.  We‘re not

going back.  This country‘s moving forward.


MADDOW:  Democrats, it turns out, are thrilled to run on what‘s

actually in this legislation.  It may have been a hard fight this past

year, but it‘s not just fighting that matters.  It‘s not just kinetic

activity.  It‘s the outcome of the fight.  And the outcome of this fight is

that Democrats and the Democratic president are taking a victory lap right


Ancient political science axiom here: The one sure way to build your

political strength is by winning.  That‘s what‘s happened on the Democratic


On the Republican side, look what‘s going on over there right now.  In

the Senate, there was this last battle over the last package of fixes to

the health reform bill.  Last night, the Senate was in session past 2:00

a.m. dealing with Republican amendments that were never going to pass. 

They were just there to try to trip up Democrats to somehow maybe slow down

the bill further.  That amendment‘s battle again went past 2:00 a.m. and

then it continued today.

Republicans, if they wanted to, if they had been motivated enough,

could have kept this going all day long.  There‘s no limit on the number of

amendments you can put in on a bill like this.  They could have kept the

Senate in session around the clock, for days, for weeks, for months, who

knows?  They could have done that.  But it appears they lost their


Republican Senator Jim DeMint saying today, quote, “We‘ve decided that

offering 200 or 300 amendments doesn‘t make sense.  I had 50 amendments.  I

still have them in my back pocket but I‘ll probably only offer two or


Where‘s that old Waterloo fight, Jim DeMint?

This much wanted dogging Republican opposition in the Senate fell

apart today.  The fixes bill passed the Senate after Republicans relented. 

They just stopped offering amendments, even though they could have kept

going indefinitely.

And for all the “fight, fight, fight, this is the next revolution”

rhetoric from the Republican Party, Republicans folded in the House, too. 

What just happened moments ago on the House floor put an official end to

the health reform fight in Congress.

Once upon a time, like, say, 72 hours ago, the prospect of this

package of fixes, this bill having to go back to the House, that was going

to be some sort of legislative doomsday.  House Republicans were so

diametrically opposed to this thing.  They were so energized to kill it.

They could have held it up today in the rules committee.  They could

have thrown other procedural roadblocks up there.  They kept talking about

how much this bill is the end of the world, how they‘d do anything to stop

it—and then in the end, nothing.

It turns out this thing passed pretty easily tonight.  We were ready

to be here all night again.  It‘s already done.

Republicans seem to have lost their will to fight.  They are rolling

over now.

And so, maybe this is chapter two of the legislative history of the

Obama presidency.  Chapter one was the whole “party of no” thing.  However,

you thought that was going at the time, now, we know how it worked out.

Democrats won and the Republicans not only lost every major

legislative fight, they also seem to have lost their will at the end here. 

And some of their base seems to have, at times, lost their minds here. 

That was chapter one.  That‘s how Republicans dealing with the Obama

presidency chapter one ended.

What‘s chapter two like?  So far, it looks like there‘s a lot less

unanimity on the Republican side.

Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, for example, had this to

say about the Republican approach to the next new big thing in Congress,

the new Wall Street rules that are being worked on in the Senate Finance

Committee.  He said, quote, “We have made a very, very large mistake and I

regret that.  You don‘t pull out the game book out for health care, I‘m

sorry, and apply that to financial reform.”

Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins also breaking with

the Republican party on a same-sex marriage amendment that was offered

early this morning.

Even at the straggling end at Senate Republicans‘ attempts to block

health care reform, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham broke ranks, too.  He

and Democrat Jim Webb decided together to buck Republicans.  The

Republicans wouldn‘t consent to them continuing to hold a hearing they were

holding military health system.

Instead of shutting down their hearing, because Republicans wouldn‘t

consent to it, Lindsey Graham and Jim Webb went a little sort of civil

disobedience.  They just decided to ignore what the rest of the Republicans

were doing.  They just held their hearing anyway.

We don‘t know exactly what Republican strategy is going to be from

here on out.  We don‘t know what it‘s going to be now that their “say no to

everything” strategy has led to this huge loss on health reform.  Whatever

chapter two is for the Republicans, it looks like it is going to be a lot

more interesting than chapter one.  At least it will be a lot more


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


Chris, thanks very much for joining us.  Nice to see you.

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

MADDOW:  So, the House just—just moments ago voted to pass the

fixes to the health reform bill.  A few weeks ago, the idea that this thing

would have to get pinged back to the House was almost a doomsday scenario

for the Democrats.  But tonight, it passed pretty easily.  What does that


HAYES:  There is no sure sign of how the political situation, the

momentum has changed than the way that the parliamentarian ruling out two

small items in the Senate patch and sending it back to the House, that was

met with just a minor shrug.  The House said, OK, cool, we‘ll pass it


A week ago, that would—like you said—it would have been a

doomsday scenario because the health reform bill was beginning to feel like

Zeno‘s paradox, you know?  It was like, it would always go half of the way. 

It was never going to finally get there.

And I think that this shows that the momentum has switched entirely,

the House was able to just take it back and get it done in a day.

MADDOW:  The old way that Republicans were fighting this, whatever

they felt about the kind of political capital it gave them, the kind of

momentum it gave them in process, at the end, it didn‘t—it didn‘t work. 

They didn‘t win.  They didn‘t end up looking very good in the process to

anybody other than their base.  But they did, in fact, energize their base

at least for a time.

What do you think their ultimate political—what have they reaped

ultimately, politically, from this year of process?

HAYES:  That‘s a really interesting question.  I mean, I think

ultimately, it was—like you said—it‘s a high stakes bet that lost.  I

mean, the situation they find themselves in, David Frum who—you know,

who is a conservative commentator who is sort of, was one of the very few

who said this was a mistake, this strategy, and today, he lost his job at


He had this great quote the other day, he said, “The Republicans used

to think that FOX News worked for them.  And now, we realize we work for

FOX News,” which is to say, at this point, I think the tail is wagging the

dog in terms of the relationship of this very activist base to Republican

Party officials.

And what‘s going to be really interesting is—are they going to be

able to move in any different direction?  Are they able to be more

conciliatory, have a more kind of, you know, back-and-forth about

legislative strategy?  Or is that discipline going to be enforced by the

base that has become so powerful in this year in which they‘ve pursued this


MADDOW:  It is hard to imagine, even as I was able to find evidence

today—just in today‘s news, the last couple day‘s news, in terms of

Republicans really breaking with this unified front strategy on same-sex

marriage, with Corker on financial reform—

HAYES:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- with Lindsey Graham on that procedural issue with Jim

Webb, you‘re able to find this evidence, but it does seem like there‘s this

big problem.  I mean, if this is socialism, if this is the end of a

constitutional republic, if this guy is a Kenyan Marxist, Nazi or whatever,

to the extent that they‘ve adopted that rhetoric, haven‘t they hamstrung

any future efforts to work with him?

HAYES:  That is exactly right.  They‘re totally painted into a

rhetorical corner insofar as they have at every—at every juncture in

this first year and two months of the Barack Obama administration, they

have painted things in maximalist terms, they have sort of created the most

apocalyptic stakes for every legislative battle, and they have also chosen

incredibly philosophical and ideological terms on which to have the debate.

And once you‘re at first principles, once you‘re at ideological

impasse, there is no place for negotiation.  And so, that‘s place they‘re

in right now.  It‘s extremely difficult to imagine a scenario where they

say, it‘s time to sit down with the Marxist, Kenyan-born subverter of

American values to hash out this minor technical language on financial

reform.  The base is going to rebel.

Now, the question is: do they say to the base, “You know what, screw

it, you got us into this problem”?  Or do they listen to them?  My bet is

they listen to them.

MADDOW:  Well, that‘s going to be the single most interesting thing

and I think totally unpredictable thing about politics in chapter two here.

Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”—thanks for joining

us for immediate response to this historic vote, Chris.  I really

appreciate it.

HAYES:  Thanks a lot.

MADDOW:  OK.  Do you remember when Army lieutenant and Iraq veteran

Dan Choi came out as gay on this show?  Him doing that started the process

of the Army firing him under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

Now, Lt. Choi‘s first appearance on this show was just about a year

ago today.  Today, the Pentagon softened the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”

policy.  It is still no help to Dan Choi.  He‘s not particularly happy with

the change.

Dan Choi is “The Interview” on tonight‘s show.  I‘m very much looking

forward to talking with him.  That‘s coming up in just a moment.

Please stay tuned.


MADDOW:  The breaking news tonight: Just in the last few moments, the

House of Representatives has passed by a vote of 220-207 the final package

of fixes to this Senate health care bill that had already passed both

houses of Congress and been signed by President Obama.  This was the final

smaller bill that represented the House‘s chosen fixes to the Senate bill. 

It passed the Senate today after a number of Republican amendments were

voted down.  It has now passed the House again, 220-207.

The Democrats are bringing in four votes to spare on this measure. 

The final vote cast by liberal Democratic congressman of Florida, Alan


We‘ll be right back with continuing coverage.


MADDOW:  Health reform is law.  The debate over whether or not to

adopt it is over.  Democrats won, Republicans lost—which does not mean

that Republicans can‘t still be opposed to health reform.  It just means

the way they‘re opposed is changing.

All the made-up stuff about death panels and secret plots to kill old

people, and secret plots to kill veterans and special needs children—

those have passed their shelf life at this point.  Since as the reforms go

into effect and no death panels convene—kind of loses its impact to say

they‘re coming, right?

Well, now, the fashionable way to show off how opposed you are to

health reform is with a lawsuit—filing lawsuits against the government

alleging that health reform violates the Constitution.  Today, the

Republican governor of Georgia, Sonny Purdue, went so far as to announce

that he will appoint a special attorney general whose sole job will be to

sue the federal government over health reform on behalf of the state of


You might be asking yourself: why does Governor Purdue of Georgia need

a new attorney general just for this special lawsuit?  It‘s because when he

asked the real attorney general of Florida, Democrat Thurbert Baker, to

file this lawsuit, Mr. Baker looked into the matter and determined that it

would be a futile exercise.  It would be a giant waste of Georgia

taxpayers‘ money.

The real attorney general of Georgia said plainly and publicly that

there is, quote, “no viable legal basis to challenge the health reform

law.”  But—but, get me a new attorney general then!

The purported legal basis for these latest anti-health reform stunts -

lawsuits—is that they say it‘s unconstitutional to require everybody

to have health insurance.


Now, even as Republicans really, really, really, really, really,

really want to support these lawsuits, this is an awkward argument for them

to make.  Let me tell you why.  Take Mitt Romney, for example.  Mitt Romney

is trying really hard to be against the mandate in health reform that you

have to get health insurance.  The problem is, Mitt Romney‘s own health

reform plan that he passed in Massachusetts—it has the mandate, too.

Up until now, his tiptoe around this has been that the mandate from a

state government is OK.  But the mandate from the federal government—

well, that‘s obviously evil and wrong and unconstitutional, for some


Then the Democratic National Committee unearthed and circulated this

piece of video from Mitt Romney from the ‘08 election cycle.


MODERATOR:  -- backed away from mandates on the national basis.


mandates.  The mandates work.


ROMNEY:  Let me—

THOMPSON:  I didn‘t know you were going to admit that.

ROMNEY:  Oh, absolutely.

THOMPSON:  I like mandates.

ROMNEY:  Let me tell you what kind of mandates I like, Fred, which is


THOMPSON:  The ones you come up with.


MADDOW:  That, of course, was what Mitt Romney thought about a federal

mandate back when e was running for president, before all the cool kids

from the Republican Party were filing lawsuits claiming that a federal

mandate is unconstitutional.

But Mitt Romney is not alone.  He never is.  Mitt Romney is not alone

in suddenly claiming that he believes requiring people to have insurance is

unconstitutional, despite a very clear record that speaks otherwise.

The fact is the individual health insurance mandate is a Republican

idea.  The Republicans came up with it.  But as soon as the Democrats

decided they agreed with Republicans on that, Republicans changed their

mind and decided it was horrible, awful, and unconstitutional.

In 1993, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Orrin Hatch of

Utah were co-sponsors of a health reform proposal—a Republican health

reform proposal that included an individual mandate.  But if you ask them

what they think of the individual mandate today, now that Democrats have

adopted it, now that Democrats have adopted their position on it—now,

apparently, they are absolutely opposed to their own idea.

Just this afternoon, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell called Senator Grassley to

account for his brand-new take on the individual mandate he used to



ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  You were one of the people who conceived

the idea of the individual mandate back in 1993, you and the late Senator

Chafee were trying to come up with alternative compromises in Hillary

Clinton‘s health care proposals.


MITCHELL:  Was it OK then, but now it‘s unconstitutional?  Or do you

think these attorneys general are wrong about challenging the legality, the

constitutionality of the individual aspects of this?

GRASSLEY:  No, I think they‘re right then and I think the only

difference between 1993 and the year now, if it was unconstitutional today,

it was unconstitutional in 1993.  But I don‘t think anybody gave it much



MADDOW:  We didn‘t really think about it back then when it was our

idea.  That‘s his answer.  But now that it‘s the Democrats‘ idea, and I

think about it now, it‘s totally unconstitutional, obviously.

And stunningly, Senator Hatch—this amazes me.  It‘s like they

coordinated this.  Senator Hatch is offering up more or less the same

totally inexplicable explanation.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  Back on Hillary Care, you know, they had

a mandate in there, and I didn‘t realize it.  I didn‘t pay any attention to

it.  We were trying to defeat Hillary Care.  But the more I‘ve studied it

since then, the more I‘ve looked at it since then, the more I‘ve come to

the conclusion that it would be absolutely unconstitutional to force people

to buy something they don‘t want to buy.


MADDOW:  No, no, no, the mandate was your idea.

It‘s a good thing they didn‘t pass your own proposal back then when

you proposed it, Senator.  It turns out you hadn‘t really thought about

just how unconstitutional it was, back then—when it was your idea that

you didn‘t know anything about.

Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for the “Washington Post.”

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


EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST:  Good evening, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Let me just ask you first about the historic thing that has

just happened in the House of Representatives, Democrats get 220 votes.

KLEIN:  We‘re done.

MADDOW:  Is it actually done?  Is there anything going to sneak up

here or are we done?

KLEIN:  No, we seem pretty done.  I mean, for the moment anyway. 

We‘ll be back at this in a couple years and we‘ll certainly be talking

about it in the election.  But for now, our long national boring

conversation is finally over.


MADDOW:  Well, let me actually ask you about the surprise that this

all sort of happened suddenly today.  The Senate looked like it was on the

long, slow road until well past 2:00 a.m. last night when they were

dragging this out and dragging this out and dragging this out, and then

today, ping pong ping, it‘s done.  They kick it to the House.  Ping pong

ping, it‘s done before my—even an hour of my show is over.

How come it wrapped up so quickly?

KLEIN:  It‘s a wonder what winning does for Democrats, isn‘t it?

Back a couple of weeks ago, back a couple of months ago, everything

the Republicans said terrified the Democrats.  The Republicans would say—

well, maybe the Senate wouldn‘t act on it and House Democrats would feel a

little shiver run down their spines.  And then it turned out that they can

actually do this, they can actually legislate.

And more to the point—and this is I think the big psychological

change between this week and two weeks ago—they like it.  They like what

it feels like when they do something enormous for the American people, and

they didn‘t want to let it stop.  And so, when it happened to be the case

and we had a minor glitch when it went to the Senate, the House said, oh,

yes, fine.  We‘ll work on it.  This is worth taking one more vote to


MADDOW:  When the president went out on the stump in Iowa today and

essentially campaigned, and campaigned on health reform, begged Republicans

to please campaign on repeal, do you think that was a sign of things to

come?  I mean, Republicans were saying, for months now, you‘re never going

to hear the end of health reform in this election.  I‘m starting to feel

like that may be true, but it‘s going to be Democrats talking about it, and

not Republicans.

KLEIN:  Well, I never put too much stock in advice one party gives the

other party.  I didn‘t when it was Republicans giving it to Democrats and

now the other way.  I will say that I think Republicans would not be wise

to spend the election on health care for the simple reason that, in

general, health care is a Democratic issue.  When they‘re up there saying,

listen, we don‘t want to cut Medicare, and they start getting the ads (ph)

all the time, so they‘ve given it a shot, people start wondering, well, who

do I trust on Medicare, it won‘t go good for them.

I think you‘ll see them trying to talk about unemployment, not the

giant historic health care legislation that by the fall is going to be

delivering rebate checks to seniors.

MADDOW:  Meanwhile, all these attorneys general and potential

Republican presidential candidates and would-be sort of Republican national

stars are all supporting these lawsuits against health reform.

Do any of these lawsuits stand a real chance of succeeding?  If they -

in a fantasy world, if they did succeed, would it have any real impact in

practical terms?


KLEIN:  No.  But it‘s fascinating to watch them all pile up.  It‘s

sort of like, when everybody comes and pushes the elevator button one after

the other, as if more people coming, it makes it more unconstitutional on

this case.

If they manage to do this, putting side the fact that the legal basis

for it is unlikely, it also wouldn‘t be imported, it would not repeal

health care reform, it would not undermine the bill fatally.  The Democrats

would have to make a slight change to the individual mandate, such that

instead of putting a penalty on you, it would instead simply bar you from

taking advantage of the subsidies and protections offered by the bill.  It

would not be that hard.  Some people wanted them to go that route anyway.

What‘s been amazing about this, is that even for the folks—it‘s

fine for the fringes to do this, for ambitious attorney generals to do

this.  But the folks who are supposed to hold up that moderate center, the

Olympia Snowes and Chuck Grassleys of the world, supposed to be the bulwark

between FOX News and the rest of America, they fell on this.

I mean, put Grassley aside who supported this back in the day, Olympia

Snowe voted for it when it left the Senate Finance Committee.  That was

2009, not 1993.  And suddenly, she‘s on board for questions about its


The grown-ups in the Republican Party have sat down, and that‘s not


MADDOW:  Ezra Klein, staff writer with the “Washington Post”—it‘s

great to have you on the show, particularly on this historic vote night. 

Thanks a lot, Ezra.

KLEIN:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, the military modified its “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy

today.  The new version could be called “We‘re not going to ask you if

you‘re gay anymore, really we won‘t, but if you say you‘re gay, you‘re

still fired.”  It doesn‘t have a good acronym yet, we‘d be trying to come

up with one.

We will discuss this historic half-measure with the soldier who came

out to very dramatic effect on this show about a year ago.  His name is

Lieutenant Dan Choi.  He joins us for “The Interview—next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Could you just be clear about that one more time

if the study is looking at whether to implement repeal or how you would

actually implement it?


how you would implement it.  If the law changes, how would we implement it? 

This study is not about, should we do it?  This study is about how would we

do it? 


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  That was defense Secretary Robert Gates this

morning talking about the potential end of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” the

military‘s policy of a legally sanctioned discrimination against our

fighting men and women who also happen to be gay. 

Four hundred and twenty-eight service members were fired or, as

the military says, separated under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” last year alone,

more an under investigation right now.  Those include Lt. Dan Choi, a West

Point-educated Iraq war veteran, an accomplished Arab linguist who is also


A year ago this week, Lt. Choi made the brave choice to come out

right here on this program.  In the year since, he has been investigated

under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” and a commission has recommended he be

separated from the military. 

Also since then, the president of the United States has made it

clearer than ever that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” must be repealed.  And the

Secretary of Defense ordered the military to study how to make it happen. 

Meanwhile, while Lt. Choi still faces the very real possibility

that he will be forced to leave the military, last month, his commanding

officer in the Army National Guard asked him to rejoin his unit and

participate in drills with them. 

Last week, Lt. Choi and a fellow gay serviceman were arrested

when they chained themselves to the White House fence to protest the

ongoing policy. 

Today, Defense Secretary Bob Gates announces changes to the way

“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” would be implemented, changes he said are designed

to make the enforcement of the current policy more fair. 

The major changes, as I understand them, are these.  Only a flag

rank officer, that is a one-star general or Navy admiral, can initiate a

“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” inquiry. 

Also, third-party information about someone‘s sexual orientation

can only be given under oath, meaning no more anonymous outings.  The new

rules say that overheard statements and hearsay are now discouraged,

although they can still be used in an inquiry. 

And some kinds of confidential information will no longer be

admissible, statements like gay service personnel make to their lawyers,

for example, or clergy or doctors. 

Do these changes mean that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is over?  Not

even close.  They‘ve just decided to make the policy more like they

promised it would be in the first place.  For more than 15 years now,

members of the military who weren‘t telling anything were still drummed out

of the service. 

But the military sure did ask to the point of witch hunting

closeted people out of the service against their will, by the thousands. 

Now, the military has decided to really not ask anymore, except in some

special circumstances, but gay personnel still can‘t tell. 

Will people like Lt. Dan Choi stop getting fired for being

themselves under this change in policy?  Not at all.  Can gay men and women

in the military stop lying about who they are and still serve?  Simply put,


Joining us now is Lt. Dan Choi.  Lt. Choi, it is really good to

see you again.  Thanks for joining us. 

LT. DAN CHOI, U.S. ARMY:  It‘s good to see you.  It‘s like our one-

year anniversary. 

MADDOW:  It is our one-year anniversary, which I think is paper or tin

or something - wood. 

CHOI:  I‘ve got a couple papers in the mail after the first date that

we had. 

MADDOW:  What‘s the status right now of your discharge under “Don‘t

Ask, Don‘t Tell?”  Are you in limbo still? 

CHOI:  Myself - I am still in limbo and I could be fired right after I

get off the set here.  I mean, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is still in place. 

And all of these exceptions or the more humane ways to implement

“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” - none of that applies to me or anybody who simply

just wants to tell the truth about who they are. 

MADDOW:  So your feeling about this change in policy is that,

obviously, in your case, it still won‘t affect you.  But in general, you

think this is a tweak to the existing policy, this isn‘t a substantial


CHOI:  Well, this is an attempt, just as Secretary Gates said, to try

to make the implementation a little bit more humane.  But I think it misses

the point entirely. 

What‘s inhumane, what‘s absolutely intolerable about “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t

Tell” itself is that it enforces closeted-ness and it enforces shame and

hiding and lying and deception. 

And that is not in keeping with any of the Army values or any of

the military‘s values or American values.  So it misses the point entirely. 

MADDOW:  Dan, last week you were arrested after you chained yourself

to the White House fence.  We had some images of that that we showed our


I wondered - you‘re a savvy activist and an incredible advocate

for this cause, not only for yourself but for everybody fighting it.  When

you made the decision to do that, I wondered if you were being specific. 

If you felt that meant the holdup now is with the White House

that you chained yourself to, not with Congress and not with the Pentagon. 

CHOI:  Well, it‘s really obvious that the president now needs to show

resolve, strong resolve to get rid of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  And the

ball is still in his court.  The Defense Authorization Bill can include the

repeal language. 

And in that way, the Republicans or anybody who opposes getting

rid of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” would have to get 60 votes.  And so when the

president responds to activists and says, “I will repeal ‘Don‘t Ask, Don‘t

Tell‘ this year.  I will work with Congress and I need your help.  Keep

pressuring leaders like me,” as an army officer, I hear a directive, an

order, a command. 

And so I‘m going to do everything that I can to make sure that he

knows the ball is still in his court, and we need to see action. 

MADDOW:   What do you think about the strategy that has been taken in

terms of having Defense Secretary Bob Gates direct a Pentagon year-long

review?  And it‘s not about whether to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”. 

As you heard him say there quite clearly, it‘s about how.  He

says if Congress repeals it, if the laws change, this is how we‘ll repeal

it.  What do you think about that? 

CHOI:  When I hear people talk about the study, I get so absolutely

confused and frustrated.  You don‘t have to look all the way to Australia

or Canada or Israel or any of our NATO allies that we‘re serving with in


You can look at the Secret Service or the CIA or the FBI or the

State Department - they have none of these kinds of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”

or discrimination saying that you must lie about who you are. 

But we can‘t prove these statistics about unit cohesions. 

Essentially, that‘s what people are trying to figure out.  Is there going

to be a negative impact?  And I know just personally, I went back to my

unit - and I mean, a lot of people are wondering what the reaction was


People would be surprised, the first question that comes out of

people‘s mouths is, “What was Rachel Maddow like?”  They want to know. 

They‘d say, “We love Rachel Maddow because she speaks the truth and she is

not afraid to tell it like it is.” 

And you know what, Rachel?  What the soldiers really respect most

and what they demand of their leaders is not to be of a certain orientation

or a certain race or a certain religion or anything.  They want to see


They want to know that the leader can step up and speak the truth

when it needs to be spoken.  And I speak the truth for all of these other

people who cannot speak up for themselves.  And that‘s what they respect. 

So there‘s no negative impact.  When people can be honest about

themselves, there‘s always a positive impact. 

MADDOW:  Lt. Dan Choi, you have had a heck of a year. 

CHOI:  It‘s been quite a year, right. 

MADDOW:  It‘s been quite a year. 

CHOI:  And I‘ve seen so many activists throughout the entire country,

and so many organizations that do so many wonderful things.  And I knew

that when I was on that fence - I was not alone. 

Robin McGhee(ph) - somebody who is so inspiring in all of her

life.  She handcuffed me to that fence.  And when I had those chains on me

on my waist and the tethers and the shackles on my legs, for the first

time, I knew that on the outside, it matches what was on the inside, having

to live in the closet and to suffer through “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”. 

And I see so much of these people that just step up and say, “You

know what?  I am somebody, and I deserve full equality.”  And that‘s what

we intend to fight for. 

MADDOW:  Dan Choi, congratulations on everything you‘ve accomplished

so far.  I look forward to seeing you under different circumstances

sometime soon. 

CHOI:  Thanks. 

MADDOW:  Has anybody asked you recently to give them money in order to

repeal health reform?  Or maybe to sue to stop health reform?  Did those

same people ask for money to pass a federal constitutional amendment to ban

gay marriage? 

If you‘re noticing a pattern in all of many acts, you should be. 

The next big political money scam targeting you and probably your elderly

grandparents or parents.  That story‘s next.  


MADDOW:  Behold a news miracle.  The group of state attorneys general

who are suing the federal government to stop health reform has been joined

by a new ally. 

Their new ally is Orly Taitz, the queen of the birther movement,

the California dentist who keeps filing lawsuit after lawsuit after - wow,

that‘s crazy lawsuit, alleging that President Obama is secretly foreign and

therefore secretly isn‘t really president. 

Orly Taitz has filed a newly-amended complaint in one of her many

birther lawsuits.  As you can see in this copy of the complaint obtained by

“Talking Points Memo,” her new anti-health reform crusade is entitled

“Violation of Commerce Clause and of Plaintiffs‘ Rights to Gainful

Employment as a Doctor of Dental Surgery upon Defendant‘s Imminent Signing

of the Health Bill.” 

See the defendant is the foreign pretender president, Barack

Hussein Obama, and by signing the health reform bill, he‘s somehow

depriving Orly Taitz of her constitutional right to practice dentistry when

she‘s not busy getting her lawsuits against the president thrown out of


Orly Taitz joining the lawsuits against health reform is just

about perfect.  The 14 state attorneys general who have filed lawsuits

against health reform, like Orly Taitz, have no reasonable expectation that

these lawsuits will succeed. 

There is nothing illegal about health reform, and nobody really

seriously believes that there is.  But the fact that these lawsuits have no

hope of succeeding doesn‘t mean they‘re not worth doing. 

Pointless lawsuits, like acts of otherwise pointless things in

politics can be used for fundraising.  The Virginia Republican Party, for

example, now making a fundraising appeal on the basis of the fact that that

state‘s Republican attorney general is suing the government over health


Quote, “As soon as the ink dried on President Obama‘s signature,

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit in federal court.  As you

might imagine, the Democrats are a little worried about the Attorney

General Cuccinelli‘s lawsuit.” 

Really?  “Friends there is a lot at stake.  The attorney general

is moving forward with his lawsuit.  We need your help.  I hope you will

make your Victory 2010 donation right now.” 

He‘s suing.  Isn‘t that awesome?  Send us money.  No, no.  The

suit‘s not going to do anything, like, legally, but come on, send us money. 

The same thing is happening with the supposed campaign to repeal health


It‘s not a real campaign.  It‘s a fundraising scam.  Are

Republicans actually going to repeal health reform?  No.  Be honest.  It‘s

really not feasible.  Numerically, it‘s pretty much impossible. 

And politically, what, the country‘s going to rise up and demand

that insurance companies be allowed to cut off our health coverage when we

get sick like they used to?  We demand a return to yearly caps on what

insurance will pay and benefits. 

Obviously, it‘s not going to happen.  But don‘t tell Mitt

Romney‘s donors that, “America has been taken down the wrong path by

President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, which is why it‘s critical

we elect fiscally responsible conservative leaders in November who will

repeal this bill.” 

“I‘m writing you today to announce a new initiative at my Free

and Strong America PAC called “Prescription for Repeal.”  Will you stand

with me in this effort with a generous contribution of $25, $50, $100,

$250, $500, $1,000, $2,500 or even the maximum $5,000?”

John McCain is pulling the same scam, “I assure you I am not

quitting our fight.  I believe we must repeal this bill immediately.  I am

currently working in every way possible on your behalf to accomplish this. 

However, I am facing a tough reelection campaign, that‘s why your donation

of any amount is so critical.” 

Of course, like any good fundraising letter, there‘s always a

P.S., where they ask the exact same thing again, just with more emphasis,

because, you know, P.S., hey, I forgot to say this again. 

So when John McCain had this P.S., “P.S., I am working to repeal

the bill, but I need your support to continue my service in the U.S. 

Senate.  Your immediate donation of $25 or more will enable me to continue

fighting.  Please follow this link to make your urgent donation.” 

Is John McCain, is Mitt Romney going to repeal health reform? 

No, they‘re not.  They‘re really, really not.  But they are going to wring

every last cent they can out of anyone dumb enough to believe that they


It‘s a scam.  It‘s a scam that‘s been done before, too.  In the

2004 election, you might remember that Republicans and conservatives pushed

a lot of anti-gay marriage initiatives on to state ballots. 

The idea was those initiatives would motivate a lot of

conservatives to turn out and vote.  President Bush, also during that

campaign, came out for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay

marriage.  It was a centerpiece of his reelection campaign in ‘04. 



amendment should never be undertaken lightly.  Yet to defend marriage, our

nation has no other choice. 


MADDOW:  Reelect George Bush.  He‘ll get us a constitutional amendment

protecting us from the gays. 


BUSH:  Now, people say why the constitutional amendment?  And the

reason why is, it‘s because I am concerned that law on the book will be

overturned by the courts.


MADDOW:  George W. Bush used this constitutional amendment promise,

not only to beat up on his opponent and to thrill conservative crowds.  He

used the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment promise to raise a lot

of money, “Support George Bush, he‘ll change the Constitution to protect us

from the gays and their rights.” 

And then, right after the election, he didn‘t do anything about

it at all.  I remember “The Washington Post” wrote about this in 2006,

“Bush, whose opposition to marriage between gay partners helped power him

to reelection in 2004, has remained largely silent on the issue since, much

to the consternation of conservatives who complained he has not exerted


“Now, with midterm elections approaching, he is returning to the

topic that galvanizes an important part of the Republican base.” 

Galvanizes as in fleeces.  Now that election time is coming up,

time to drag out this old thing we‘re not going to work on again.  It‘s a

scam.  It‘s a political scam.  It‘s a constitutional amendment on gay

marriage.  It‘s a repeal of health reform. 

It‘s an Orly Taitz-approved lawsuit against the foreign pretender

president to stop health reform.  These are scams.  These are fake

political stunts designed not to change anything on actual policy but to

separate gullible, afraid, overexcited people from their money. 

And now, I must scam, too.  Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts

telling would-be donors around the country that I‘m running against him for

Senate in Massachusetts so they need to send him money urgently to defeat

me who is not actually running for anything. 

I really don‘t want to be some Republican politician‘s scam,

thank you very much.  My new effort to get him to stop fake campaigning

against me and stop trying to scam people out of money by doing so.  It‘s



MADDOW:  One of Scott Brown‘s home town‘s newspapers turns against the

senator.  Will this be a setback in his imaginary Senate race against me? 

I hope so - or I hope not.  Or whatever.  It‘s very confusing.  I‘m not


MADDOW:  This is the front page of yesterday‘s “Boston Herald.”  Do we

have that?  A big picture of Scott Brown and the text says, “Gleeful Dems,

shaken Republicans ask, where is he now?  Backers fear Scott Brown has lost

luster with passage of health reform.” 

Ouch.  Evidently, the freshman senator from Massachusetts needs

someone on his side if he‘s lost even “The Herald.”  In that spirit, to aid

in his fake campaign against me for Senate, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW crack

production staff offers him this. 


KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Far-left wing pundit

Rachel Maddow claims she‘s not running for Senate in Massachusetts against

Scott Brown. 

MADDOW (on camera):  I have the best job in the world.  I‘m not

running for office. 

I made clear on TV even that I am not running.  I never said I was

running.  The Democratic Party in Massachusetts never asked me to run.  I‘m

not running. 

JONES:  So which is it, Rachel?  How long do you intend to duck this

issue?  Or is the Massachusetts Democratic machine forcing your silence? 

If she‘s flip-flopping now, imagine her as your senator.  And if

Rachel Maddow is really not running for Senate, how do you explain this? 

Sen. Scott Brown knows where he stands.  And he‘s not afraid to

follow-up on any ridiculous, wafer-thin Internet rumor to raise money - I

mean, to defend the people of Massachusetts. 

Scott Brown, he‘ll run against Rachel Maddow before she runs

against him. 


MADDOW:  I hope that helps, Mr. Senator.  I hope that helps. 


MADDOW:  That does it for us tonight.  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now. 




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