'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, May 7, 2010
Read the transcript to the Friday show
Past transcripts by month
Guest: Dean Baker, Steve Kornacki, Kent Jones
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now with the new details on
what may have caused the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico—ladies
and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for
that. I can‘t tell you how much I enjoy “Thurber Fridays.”
OLBERMANN: Do you remember those feelings of how to relax in
broadcasting, this studio here? Ring a bell?
MADDOW: It‘s been about I guess 10 years for me, all told in
broadcasting so far, my entire life, radio and everything. I haven‘t
OLBERMANN: Thirty-one for me. Good night.
MADDOW: Have a good weekend, Keith. Good to see you.
We do begin tonight with some breaking news, as Keith said, on the
cause of the April 20th oil rig explosion, the explosion, of course, that
killed 11 workers and then spilled more than 3 million gallons of crude oil
into the Gulf of Mexico so far.
According to brand-new information from the “Associated Press,” rig
workers on board the Deepwater Horizon told British Petroleum investigators
that it was a methane bubble—a bubble of methane gas that triggered the
blast. And apparently, that gas bubble was caused when workers removed
pressure from the drilling column, then they added heat to set a wellhead
cement seal. A chemical reaction created the bubble and the cement
destabilized. Again, this is according to the rig workers. Then, the
bubble expanded rapidly blowing through various safety barriers on the rig.
This all happened, according to interviews from the workers, while
seven B.P. executives were on board the rig. Why were they on board the
rig? They were celebrating the company‘s safety record.
Again, these are new details that we are learning tonight from the
“Associated Press” based on interviews with workers on board the Deepwater
Horizon‘s rig. We will give you more details as we learn them over the
course of this hour.
But now to what is officially bikini graph Friday here on THE RACHEL
MADDOW SHOW, first Friday of the month. As you may have seen, the new jobs
numbers were released today, the biggest monthly jobs growth in four years.
These monthly jobs numbers are where we got the whole bikini graph thing in
the first place.
This is what the job situation looked like before today, OK? This is
a full year of rather horrific jobs losses. This is the final year of the
Bush administration, right? And then job losses steadily sort of get
better during the first year of the Obama administration.
And it gave us all together this graph that kind of sort of—at
least in the eyes of our executive producer Bill Wolff—looks like a
bikini, sort of. Well, I‘m not sure it ever did in the first place, but
that‘s what we‘ve called it.
The thing is—it‘s not really a bikini anymore. One of the things
that happened as new jobs numbers come out each month is that the figures
from the previous months get revised to reflect better data. So, instead
of losing 14,000 jobs in February, we actually gained 39,000. So this
number changed a little bit. And instead of gaining 162,000 jobs in March,
this number changed a bit, too. We actually gained 230,000.
That brings us to April. That brings us to last month. I love doing
Last month—ta-da! Ahem -- 290,000 jobs created in April. Woo! Go
America. USA! USA!
The biggest job creation in four years, the biggest one-month
manufacturing job creation in almost 12 years. So, instead of this thing
looking like a bikini, it‘s now starting to look like—I don‘t know. I
don‘t know. Maybe a Loch Ness Monster maybe? See? Loch Ness?
Wait. Hold on. Does that help? Yes. Little Loch Ness Monster,
To be honest, our producer, Bill Wolff, named the bikini graph and
everybody liked that, and now, when he looks this he says he sees the Loch
Ness Monster! So, we‘re just letting him go with that. I don‘t know if—
yes, I don‘t know.
Whether or not you see the monster, these latest numbers are good.
Even the bad news about the latest numbers is good. As you‘d probably seen
today, in addition to jobs being up, the employment rate also went up.
Now, the unemployment rate getting worse in this case is because there are
starting to be new jobs in the economy.
I know it sounds counterintuitive but people are looking for work
again. People who have written off the unemployment rolls because they
were so discouraged that they were not even looking for work are now back
looking again. And that‘s how simultaneously we see the unemployment rate
going up even as new jobs were created.
Now, big picture, overall—economically, are we in good shape as a
country? No, of course, not. We‘re obviously still digging out of a huge,
horrible recession right now.
Just for context, we are—I‘m going to use April here to help us out
here. We are here in this recession here, right? This is the graph of all
the big recessions that we‘ve had since World War II, since the late 1940s.
This shows the percentage, right—oops—percentage of jobs lost over
Here‘s what past recessions have looked like, right? Here‘s what ours
looks like. Things are bad. Nobody‘s going to tell you that things are
good. But what came out today in terms of what happened in April reminds
us that at least we are finally going in the right direction.
Even though a bad economy is never good politically for the party in
power, the fact that things are going in the right direction now is
especially challenging for the party out of power. The top Republican in
the House, John Boehner—did you see this today? Did you see him react
to these numbers today? John Boehner released a statement today decrying
these new jobs numbers.
John Boehner choosing—despite the jobs report—to stick to the
Republican slogan: “Where are the jobs?” That was his statement about the
new jobs numbers.
They‘re right here. It‘s so weird. It was such a weird thing to do.
It‘s like handing somebody a cookie and them responding by saying, “I want
a cookie. Show me the cookie.” “Dude, I just handed you a cookie.
There‘s your cookie.”
There‘s your job. Show me the jobs. Here they are.
Republican Congressman Roy Blunt, who is running for Senate in
Missouri right now, did essentially the same thing, too. He put out a
release today in response to the jobs numbers which said, “Show me the
OK. Roy Blunt, dude, here they are. Here are the jobs. I‘m showing
them to you. Eat your cookie.
Again, there‘s no reason to be excited about the big picture story of
the American economy. We are still in the dumps. But things are going in
the right direction.
On the subject of the economy, though—and as long as I‘m standing
here talking about giant graphs, this is probably also the time to mention
this big graph. Did you see this? The big flash crash of 2010. Graphs of
large-scale economic activity are never supposed to look like this.: things
like this aren‘t supposed to happen in economic nature—never, ever,
ever. There‘s never supposed to be anything that looks like this.
But, yesterday, we had the market‘s biggest ever within-the-day point
drop. The market has never dropped this many points during one trading
Now, last night on the show, we talked about what might have led to
this very dramatic thing happening. There were rumors that a Citigroup
trader might have sold a billion shares of something when he only meant to
sell a million shares. So, maybe it was such a typo that caused the whole
thing to collapse.
Citigroup denies that that happened with any of their traders. They
say that didn‘t happen. There‘s currently a really big financial autopsy
going on by regulators to figure out what did happen, though.
What happened yesterday on Wall Street was a moment of eek—
something really strange happened, and obviously, we need to get to the
bottom of it. But it speaks to a much larger issue here about the whole
economy, about the whole financial system in this country.
If you are a global investor—somewhere in the world right now,
there are tons of places to put your money. You put your money in New
York. You can put your money in London. You can put your money in Hong
Kong, in Singapore, you name it. You can put your money anywhere.
We, of course, as Americans want all that money to come through the
U.S. Whatever your feelings are about Wall Street, for the sake of our
economy, we want as much business as possible going through our financial
And when you think about it, why would anybody want to invest with us?
If we have, A, unpredictable, inexplicable giant not found in nature flash
crashes, like we did yesterday; and, B, if government regulators are so
underpowered that something like, say, the Bernie Madoff thing went on for
years undetected by them; or, C, how about a financial system with giant
players like Goldman Sachs allegedly selling products to their consumers,
selling products to their customers that were designed to fail? And again,
at least thus far they‘ve gotten away with it.
Essentially, our message to the rest of the global capital markets out
there is: come do business in America. The system is totally rigged in
favor of the crooks and you‘ll get fleeced.
For a long time now, we‘ve had unregulated markets, poorly regulated
markets and markets that just aren‘t required to work very well. The jobs
picture in this country might be improving but we have a problem right now
in terms of America competing for global financial industry money, with the
system that we have. We can‘t compete for that money unless people believe
that the system rules and the cops in our financial system work well;
unless we reform Wall Street, even if we can figure out how to get that
Loch Ness Monster into that bikini. Even if we pull off some sort of
domestic miracle, we are not going to be able to compete and to keep
Joining us now is economist Dean Baker. He‘s the co-director of the
Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Dean Baker, thanks very much for joining us tonight. Nice to see you
Do we have—
DEAN BAKER, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC & POLICY RESEARCH: Can you hear me?
MADDOW: Oh, now, I can hear you.
MADDOW: Hi. Sorry about that.
First of all, how was the U.S. financial system viewed by global
investors before, let‘s say, December 2007, when this giant recession hit?
What was our reputation?
BAKER: Well, Wall Street really was the gold standard. You‘re
mentioning the other financial centers around the world, Hong Kong,
Singapore, financial centers in India. I mean, we have a lot of
People went in to the United States—they went to Wall Street
because not that it was cheapest, it wasn‘t. But they were the gold
standard. You wanted people that were credible. You knew that if you were
buying something there, it was supposed to be a good product. That people
stood behind it.
So, it was thought to be gold standard—the best, cleanest market in
MADDOW: In the wake of things like the Bernie Madoff scandal, the
Goldman Sachs charges—in the wake of what happened here that led to the
financial system crisis that we had, what would you say of our reputation
BAKER: It‘s shattered. I mean, you‘ve had disaster after disaster.
You have—you know, the Madoff story, of course, is a big one. Probably,
the Goldman Sachs is a worse scandal from the standpoint of potential
customers, that here you have this huge investment bank that‘s setting
their clients up to lose money. I mean, that‘s pretty serious.
Also, something that‘s got a little less attention, all around this is
around United States and around the world—in fact, there was an article
about a town in Italy where they had bought a product totally inappropriate
for them. It‘s a high-risk product they obviously didn‘t understand. It
was a midsize city that Goldman Sachs sold to them. People don‘t need
investment banks to rip them off. Anybody can do that, you know? So, why
should they go to Wall Street?
MADDOW: I—as you can tell from my introduction—view this as a
global competitiveness issue for the United States. Are other financial
centers across the world, like those you describe that are competing with
us, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, other markets—are they becoming more
attractive places for investors to put their money while we‘re
simultaneously becoming less attractive?
BAKER: Well, they had been for a long time. I mean, again, they‘re
lower cost, so they compete to some extent on cost. They are building up
their credibility as, you know, good markets that people can go on and view
them as trustworthy.
And as we get more and more mired in, who knows what nonsense will
come out next, that we get more and more mired in corruption and, you know,
silly mistakes like, you know, this glitch that who knows what caused that,
it certainly undermines our credibility. So, if we want to have a
financial center that can compete with all the other ones around the world,
we have to clean it up.
MADDOW: What we are debating right now, politically, in this country
is more regulation for the financial industry, more rules for Wall Street.
And some people look at that and say, well, why would global investors want
to put their money in a financial system that‘s becoming increasingly
How do global investigators view regulations when they‘re deciding
where to invest? I‘m guessing that it‘s not a simple calculation.
BAKER: No, it‘s not. I mean, there are, you know, cost factors.
Again, you know, the banks are often saying, well, this will raise our cost
and that‘s in many cases going to be true. So, if you have to have
capital requirements—high capital requirements—that means you have
money sitting there not getting interest. You‘re not making money on that.
So, you have to somehow cover that, so that will raise your cost. But
it‘s the same sort of thing—think of the Food and Drug Administration.
You know, we—I think most people, even Republicans tend to like that
because we want to know if we‘re getting—you know, we‘re getting this
drug, we want to know that it‘s the drug it‘s supposed to be, it‘s safe, it
was processed well, it‘s manufactured well. Same thing with finance.
And if we can say that we have credible regulatory agencies—that‘s
a really big plus. If we don‘t have credible regulatory agencies, people
don‘t know what they‘re dealing with.
MADDOW: Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic
And Policy Research and a person who has a talent of being a clear
explainer of these things—thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate
BAKER: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: If you have been reading the Beltway press in the last few
months, you will no doubt be aware that the unbridled theory of the tea
party movement has changed everything this political season. If you‘ve
been paying attention to what‘s actually happening in real politics, you
may have noticed that that‘s total bullpuckey.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Still ahead: the mysterious story of the anti-gay crusader
who hired a rent boy, he says not for sex but to carry his luggage. Here
is said anti-gay crusader and said rent boy in an airport returning from a
long European trip.
If you‘re not familiar enough with these things to know exactly what‘s
wrong with this picture, let me just point out that the luggage wrangling
in this picture is being done not by the young hot guy in the tight t-shirt
but by the old guy with the comb over.
Why that story is legitimate national news and not some sad posited
(ph) guy‘s sad posited story—coming up in just a moment.
MADDOW: Do you remember how during the height of the fight over
health reform, every once in a while, an insurance company would get caught
sending out lobbying materials essentially to its own customers? Lobbying
its own customers with anti-health reform mailers? Like the super scary,
totally misleading letter that Humana sent to seniors last fall, warning
them that health reform was really a secret plot to cut their Medicare
You might also recall last summer when oil companies started bussing
their employees to rallies protesting against climate change legislation—
so it would look like there was a big swell of grassroots opposition to the
climate change bill.
If an industry—apparently any industry—is about to be regulated
in this country, you can pretty much count on that industry deploying a
massive professional fake grassroots P.R. campaign to oppose that
regulation at all costs. We saw it with health reform. We have seen it
with climate change. And now—now that financial reform is getting
serious consideration in Congress, we are seeing it again.
But there is a more shameless and insidious element to the industry-
designed Astroturf campaign that‘s under way right now to oppose financial
reform. This stealth corporate-lobbying tactic was devised and carried out
by the payday lending industry. We talked about the cartoon villainy of
the payday lending industry on this show in the past.
Well, the term “payday lenders” sounds innocuous enough. What payday
lenders actually do is more commonly known as loan sharking. They offer
mostly to low-income customers what look like short-term loans, but they
are designed to roll over and over every couple of weeks collecting giant
new fees each time until their customers are buried in debt and ultimately
have to pay the equivalent of up to 400 percent annual interest.
Payday lenders are allowed to do that to engage essentially in usury
because they‘re not at all regulated by the federal government. Some
states regulate them, but some states don‘t. It looks like Congress might
be about to change that through a new consumer agency that‘s part of the
financial reform bill that‘s being debated right now.
So, cue the depraved payday lending opposition effort.
David Lazarus of “L.A. Times” is reporting today on efforts—
apparently successful efforts—by the payday lending industry to pressure
not their employees, but their customers, the people borrowing money from
them at 400 percent interest into opposing financial reform.
This astroturfing effort was exposed when both of California‘s
senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, say they started getting
suspiciously similar sounding calls from payday lending borrowers demanding
that Congress leave the payday lending industry alone. No regulations for
the loan sharks—I mean, payday lenders.
Senator Boxer told the “L.A. Times” the calls were coming from just a
few phone numbers and it sounded like the callers were reading from the
same script. But Senator Boxer said, “What was most surprising was that
the callers were opposing a bill that was designed specifically to protect
Why would the very people being trapped or tricked into paying 400
percent interest be against regulations that would give them better
interest rates? Well, a woman named Norma Canel spoke to the “L.A. Times.”
She said when she visited her local loan shark—I mean, payday lender—
to make a payment on her 180 percent interest loan, she was encouraged by
an employee to make this call to fight financial reform. She was given a
flyer that listed contact information for Senators Boxer and Feinstein.
The flyer read in part, quote, “If we don‘t act today, Congress will
create a new agency and a government takeover of your personal finances.
This new agency would have the power to regulate and restrict your personal
credit options. Tell the senators to stop the Community Financial
Protection Agency”—which isn‘t what it‘s called, but still. “Tell them
you‘re angry about health care and now Congress wants to control your right
to get credit. Tell them you‘ve had enough and that the senator should
stand firm against the administration‘s attempt to interfere in your
Cue the twirling of the evil villainous mustache.
Norma Canel was not of the loan shark customers who follow those
instructions. She did not call her senators and demand that they vote
against financial reform that would benefit her. But she did offer some
insight into why so many others did. Telling the “L.A. Times” that she was
worried the payday lender holding her 180 percent interest loan would
retaliate against her if she didn‘t make the calls. She said, quote, “What
if they call in their loan?”
And with that, the payday lending industry has bested its own record
for amoral sleaziness. The founding principle of this industry—don‘t
forget—is that it‘s OK to exploit people who are financially desperate.
Their business model is something that, frankly, should be illegal.
And now that it‘s in danger of actually being illegal, they are trying
to create a fake grassroots defense of that business model in the most
despicable way possible. Not by just bussing their own employees to
rallies or organizing tea parties that are making grassroots-y looking Web
sites but by intimidating their victims—I mean, borrowers—the people
they‘ve already tricked or trapped into high interest debt cycles into
fighting for more high interest debt cycles.
The payday lending industry exits because the people behind it
essentially figured out how to legally steal your wallet. And now, they‘re
trying to make you help them legally steal your wallet and others, too.
MADDOW: Tell you what about the tea party movement. From everything
I‘ve read, they are angry, they are massing in huge numbers, they are
independent, and they are principled. Tea partiers stick to their—you
know, they believe in their cause—except when they don‘t.
We learned yesterday that the de facto patron saint of the tea party
movement, Sarah Palin, has endorsed a Republican candidate for Senate in
California and it is not the tea party guy, Chuck DeVore. Instead, Sarah
Palin endorsed Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard executive with the
insanely embarrassing campaign Web site and very little tea party creed.
How could that be? Sarah Palin endorsing a super rich corporate-type
over the populist the tea party-type? Quick, get to Facebook for her
Quote, “Please consider that Carly is the conservative who has the
potential to beat California‘s liberal senator, Barbara Boxer, in
Later that same day, there was an update. Quote, “Most importantly,
Carly is the only conservative in the race who can beat Barbara Boxer.”
So, it‘s small government, anti-establishment, I hate Washington party
politics except when it‘s—whatever, I pick the one who‘s not a tea
partier because she‘s more electable.
It has been kind—it‘s been kind of a crummy couple of weeks for the
movement that if you believe the Beltway press is supposedly going to
dominate the coming elections.
The tea party candidate voted most likely to succeed in the class of
2010 is, of course, Marco Rubio, whose Republican candidacy for Senate in
Florida ran the Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, out of the
Republican Party altogether.
Now that Governor Crist has said he will still run for Senate but as
an independent, a Mason-Dixon poll of a hypothetical three-way race for the
Florida Senate including Republican Marco Rubio and independent Charlie
Crist—shows Rubio losing to Crist by six points. But I thought the tea
party was the big story of 2010 (ph).
And then there were the election results of this week, none of which
substantiated the overwhelming eat, drink, sleep, every breath you take
Beltway story line that anti-establishment, anti-incumbency will rule the
On Tuesday night, tea party candidates will shut out in that night‘s
House and Senate primaries in Ohio and Indiana and North Carolina, showing
a remarkable reluctance to give up on the Beltway narrative.
Anyway, though, the “A.P.” ran this inexplicable headline about the
primaries. I‘ve got this printed out and taped up on the wall in my office
next to my desk because I think it‘s so awesome. “Unharnessed anger:
Incumbents win in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana.” But if it‘s
unharnessed anger, wait a minute. How—oh, geez.
Also, “The Christian Science Monitor” said this: “Primary election
results: establishment candidates battered. Results from Tuesday saw
establishment candidates face stiff opposition from challengers, who they
Put another way, establishment candidates succeed tea party movement
may be louder and more reported than it is powerful or organized.
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki. He‘s news editor at Salon.com.
Steve, thanks very much for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Happy to be here.
MADDOW: I enjoy reporting on the tea party phenomenon as much, if not
more than anyone. Do you think that the pure enjoyability of that movement
has caused there to be essentially a media fisheye lens effect on their
KORNACKI: Yes. I have to plead guilty, too, you know. As an editor,
we‘re trying to make decisions every day about what do we put up, what do
we not put up for stories.
And you know, if it‘s a tea party story, you realize it‘s
generally going to get reaction. You‘re generally going to find something
that‘s pretty colorful. You‘re generally going to find something that the
audience responds to.
But when you look at what the tea party itself actually is I
think what it represents in politics. I think it represents something
that‘s not new at all that we completely understand.
It represents, you know, the Republican base, the base of the
Republican Party and specifically how the base of the Republican Party
reacts when they‘re completely shut out of power.
We‘ve seen this before. There was no name threat in 1993, in
1994, the last time the Republican Party was out of the White House, was
out of the House, was out of the Senate.
But the venom was there, the sort of irrational, knee-jerk
rejections of Bill Clinton, of the Democratic agenda. It was all there.
There just wasn‘t the name, like the tea party, to latch on to.
And I think you‘re seeing that, you know, again now. You‘re
seeing that sort of knee-jerk rejectionism and it comes under the name tea
party. I think the problem with the media and the problem with this whole
perception is it‘s this new force that‘s, you know, all powerful that
you‘re talking about there.
I think the problem is it‘s getting mixed up in something else
that‘s very - that‘s not new at all in politics and that is the buyer‘s
remorse nature of midterm elections.
It was inevitable. You know, if you think back to Obama‘s
election in November 2008 and the euphoria and all of that, and that was
obviously legitimate. It was a great night for a lot of people.
But inevitable from the moment that the Democratic president with
massive Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, entering the office
with double-digit unemployment looming and all the economic catastrophe
that he inherited, not to mention two wars, there was going to be
substantial buyer‘s remorse.
And buyer‘s remorse means that the swing voters, the voters who
are willing to vote Democratic or Republican. They are some of them out
there. They latch on to the opposition party simply as a vehicle of
And they don‘t look at all the details. I think a lot of people
would have moved against Obama when you see these polls, his popularity may
be dropping a little bit. Democrats aren‘t looking good in 2010.
These are people who are simply latching on to the Republican
Party as a protest vehicle. They will go back to the Democratic Party
because they like Obama - if the economy recovers - because they like
But right now the media looks at these big poll numbers and says,
wow, Obama‘s dropping. Republican candidates are doing well, therefore the
tea party movement is on the rise. There are two different things going on
MADDOW: But the media getting thins wrong isn‘t just a reflection of
the media being dumb or easily swayed. The media getting things wrong also
can also have an effect on politics.
And if the perception of the tea party is dominating the
perception of opposition politics, that affects whether or not people are
willing to sign up with the opposition, does it not?
KORNACKI: Sure, yes it will. And this is the trap for Republicans
and this is why, at one level you want to bemoan what the media is doing
now, because you feel they‘re getting it wrong and I think they absolutely
But this is a classic trap for the Republicans. And you can see
I don‘t want to get too wonky with history here, but this is sort of the
trap the Democrats fell for in 1981, ‘82 when Ronald Reagan first came to
They didn‘t understand basic nature - the buyer‘s remorse nature
of 1982. The Democrats absolutely slaughtered Reagan in the ‘82 midterms.
They said, well, we don‘t to change. They nominated Walter Mondale in 1984
and a 49-state, you know, catastrophe ensued.
KORNACKI: The Republicans, I believe, are going to do well this
November simply because of the buyer‘s remorse nature. But then they‘re
going to wake up and the unemployment rate is going to be under eight
percent in 2012.
And guess what? Then the tea party is a problem. Then
identification is a problem. And then Obama is still standing there with
that personal popularity he had in 2008. That comes back just like
MADDOW: And that‘s why it matters even the tea party candidates can‘t
win in elections if they do succeed in dragging mainstream Republican
candidates really far to the right in terms of policy. Republicans are
paying the price in 2012. That‘s right.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, news editor at “Salon.com,” I can‘t believe
we haven‘t had you on the show before. I really enjoy you and I hope
you‘ll come back.
KORNACKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Happy anniversary wishes are
in order this weekend for the birth control pill. Also, Happy Mother‘s
Day, because the world is sometimes hilarious that way.
Anyway, what better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a
genuine game changer than by spotlighting the singular essential unmatched
piece of writing on the subject of the birth control pill? It was the work
of an American treasure named Loretta Lynn and that is coming up in just a
MADDOW: A Canadian kid was arrested in 2002 when he was 15 years old.
He was picked up in Afghanistan. U.S. forces say he confessed to throwing
a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier.
That kid, Omar Khadr, claims that he confessed to no such thing.
He says that anything he said like that was forcibly extracted from him and
that therefore can‘t be used against him.
This past week at a military tribunal at Guantanamo, the man who
was the first U.S. military officer to interrogate this kid after his
arrest back in 2002 testified as a witness and he made a really remarkable
He said that early in his interrogation of this 15-year-old, he
decided to use the fear up approach, the made-up, crypto, pseudo, fake
academic Bush-era interrogation technique invented by fantasists who watch
too much film noir as teenagers.
The basic idea was to make prisoners so scared that they would
talk. Actually experienced interrogators tell us that terrifying people
can be a way to get them to talk. It just isn‘t a way to get them to tell
Omar Khadr‘s interrogator testified that in order to terrify the
kid, he threatened him with rape and possibly death. Spencer Ackerman at
“The Washington Independent” has been doing great coverage of this case
from Guantanamo this week.
Let me let Spencer describe what the interrogator admitted on the
stand. Quote, “Interrogator number one began using techniques that he said
were designed to elicit fear from the detainee. One of them involved
telling a fictitious story to Omar Khadr, something interrogator number one
said interrogators at Bagram came up with after noticing Afghan detainees
were terrified of getting raped and general homosexuality.”
“According to the story, a poor little 20-year-old kid found to
be lying to interrogators was sent to a U.S. prison where four big black
guys and big Nazis eye up the fictitious detainee and the black inmates
rape him in a shower, a brutalization that proves to be fatal.”
So in the interrogation of this kid, they told him if he didn‘t
cooperate, he‘d be sent to the U.S. to be raped and killed in prison. Then
the kid confessed. Despite the best legal gymnastics of the Bush
administration, threatening to kill a prisoner is a potential war crime
under the Geneva Conventions.
Nevertheless, interrogator number one appears to have testified
about what he did without immunity and without being forced to give that
testimony. Now, this was a pre-trial hearing about the admissibility of
the evidence of this against this Canadian kid, Omar Khadr.
He has been in prison for eight years already. He‘s now 23 years
old. But here was the kicker that happened in Guantanamo this week.
Pursuant to their reporting on this case, the office of the secretary of
defense decided to kick four reporters out of Guantanamo and has banned
them from coming back.
The Pentagon‘s complaint against these four reporters is that
they published the name of interrogator number one who testified as a
witness. Now, that interrogator has done an interview under his real name
with one of these reporters. His name has been published in publicly
available documents by both the prosecution and the defense in this case.
It has been printed in multiple publications other than those of
the reporters who were just banned. But still the Pentagon has kicked
these reporters out and banned them from Guantanamo indefinitely.
One of those reporters that was just banned is the single most
experienced Guantanamo reporter in this country, Carol Rosenberg of “The
Miami Herald.” One of these reporters who has been banned is the reporter
who quite literally wrote the book on the Omar Khadr case. She is Michelle
Shephard of the “Toronto Star.”
The other two reporters who were banned were from “Canwest” and
“The Globe and Mail,” also in Canada. They‘re described by Spencer
Ackerman as, quote, “invaluable resources about the Khadr case and
Guantanamo to their journalistic colleagues.”
And now, the Pentagon has banned them from covering Guantanamo,
for publishing information that has been publicly available for years and
that other people have published, too.
If this administration is trying to make the case that the
tribunals at Guantanamo aren‘t kangaroo fake courts that insult the whole
idea of the rule of law, then this whole authoritarian, inexplicable
banning the press thing is not helping.
Next up, a quick programming note about Arizona‘s “Papers,
Please” law. The anti-immigration group that takes credit for writing
“Papers, Please” is FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
We had the group‘s president on this show last week. It was a
contentious interview. Because the FAIR president said I had everything
all wrong in that interview, we fact checked it on the air the next day.
Here‘s one thing he asserted that I got wrong though that we
couldn‘t fact check at the time but now we can. Here‘s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera): In 1997, you did an interview with Tucker Carlson. And
he has asked you to respond to this quote from somebody else who is on
FAIR‘s board of directors. And the quote he asked you to respond to was
this, “It would be better to encourage the breeding of more intelligent
people rather than less intelligent. He said that in the context of -
DAN STEIN, PRESIDENT, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM:
Tucker Carlson has already conceded -
MADDOW: Expressing his alarm about people in other countries
reproducing too much.
STEIN: Rachel. Rachel -
MADDOW: Your response to that was - let me just finish the question
and then you can answer. It works every night. I try it. Trust me. Your
response was, “Yes, so what? What is your problem with that? Should we be
subsidizing people with low IQs to have as many children as possible and
not subsidizing those with high ones?” Did you not say that without a
misquote from Tucker?
STEIN: Rachel, no. I didn‘t say that.
MADDOW: It was a misquote?
STEIN: It was an absolute misquote. Tucker Carlson has admitted that
most of the quotes in there were twisted in misquotes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tucker admits I never said that. He‘s taking it all back.
As we noted on this show, the day after that interview, we couldn‘t find
any indication that a correction had ever been run about that interview
from “The Wall Street Journal” or that any of the super-creepy Eugenics-y
quotes that Tucker Carlson attributed to the president of FAIR had been
corrected or retracted in any way.
Since then we have heard from Tucker Carlson himself who assured
us that not only was there no correction or public retraction made of those
quotes but he stands by what he reported. Tucker told us, quote, “My ‘wall
Street Journal‘ piece on FAIR is accurate and I have never said otherwise.”
So to be clear, the president of the group that wrote Arizona‘s
“Papers, Please” law says that all the things we turned up about that group
and their links to white supremacists and white separatists and eugenics -
he says we were all wrong.
When pushed, though, they have been unable to disprove any of the
things we said about them. Have a nice day.
And finally, it‘s Friday. It has been a tough news day, frankly.
It‘s been a tough news week. There‘s a lot going wrong in the world.
But there‘s also Loretta Lynn in the world who is pure American
goodness. And the fact that the birth control pill turns 50 this weekend
is all the reed-thin excuse I need here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW to leaven
the heaviness of this week‘s news burden with a little bit of Loretta.
So happy birthday, birth control pill, happy excuse to play
Loretta Lynn, circa 1974.
This old maternity dress I‘ve got is going in the garbage. The
clothes I‘m wearing from now on won‘t take up so much yardage. We will be
MADDOW: So is everything but Loretta Lynn in turmoil this week? The
answer is apparently yes. The proof is that our investigative reporting
team has uncovered controversy in the world of yodeling. You heard me.
MADDOW: Meet George Alan Rekers, a conservative Baptist minister, co-
founder of the vehemently anti-gay group, The Family Research Council, and
one of the nation‘s loudest proponents of the idea that homosexuality can
Here George Rekers photographed by “The Miami New Times” at
Miami‘s airport returning from a 10-day European vacation with a much
younger quite hunky companion, whom he met and hired through the Web site
“Rent Boy,” in case you‘re unfamiliar with the term, is not like,
you know, “Man with a van, we‘ll help with moving,” or get tickets to
“Rent,” the Broadway show. It‘s “Rent Boy,” as in when you log on, you‘ll
have to click through to acknowledge you‘re OK with sexually explicit
material and then you essentially agree to pay for hunky male
When the story broke in “The Miami New Times,” Mr. Rekers told
the paper he had hired this young man in question because, quote, “I had
surgery and I can‘t lift luggage,” which doesn‘t explain why, in this “New
Times” photo, as you can see, it is Mr. Rekers who was the wrangling the
cart, not his young consort.
Mr. Rekers also told the paper that he used the trip to explain
that the Christian faith is based in love and to show the rent boy how he,
too, could be could be saved. Later, the young man who Mr. Rekers brought
to Europe told the paper that he had spent part of each day on that trip
giving Mr. Rekers massages - very, very massages.
You can look up the descriptions of them online yourself.
There‘s no need to get into that here. I realize this story has been
everywhere this week. There are a lot of things that are funny about it
and it is easy to have schadenfreude about a guy this ostentatiously
I would like to add something, though, to our understanding of
what‘s going on here after a week of coverage of this story. People being
gay, people being closeted, people hiring sex workers, in themselves, these
things are neither all that funny nor all that newsworthy.
But when people have built their careers, their professions on
professions of their own sexual moral rectitude - David Vitter, John Ensign
when people have built their careers on trying to make life miserable and
dangerous for gay people while they themselves are secretly gay, Larry
Craig, George Rekers, then congratulations, you‘ve made the news.
It‘s no longer just your private business. What hasn‘t been
appreciated about the George Rekers-Rent Boy case is just how miserable he
has tried to make life for other gay people in this country and the fact
that he‘s still doing it.
So here‘s George Rekers getting caught at the Miami airport on
April 14th, OK? That‘s him in the blue shirt in the foreground. It‘s a
picture he didn‘t want you to see. The George Rekers he does want you to
see shows up here exactly two weeks earlier in this letter, dated March
This letter was reportedly sent to every school superintendent in
America, all 14,800 of them. The letter advises school districts, quote,
“In dealing with adolescents experiencing same-sex attraction, it is
essential to understand there is no scientific evidence that an individual
is born gay or transgender. It‘s also critical to understand that these
conditions can respond well to therapy.”
Right, if you have the gay, don‘t worry. It can be cured.
Although doing so sometimes leaves a lingering backache, maybe? The “hey,
superintendent, any gay kids in your school district need to be told they
can be cured” letter is from none other than George Rekers.
See, he‘s listed here on the letter as a member of the Pediatric
Psychosocial Development Committee of this group, the American College of
Pediatricians. That sounds official. It sounds serious, right? It‘s not.
They are just one of these wacky far-right “cure the gays” groups.
They‘re hoping that you will mistake them - they are the American
College of Pediatricians - they‘re hoping you will mistake them for the
real doctors group, the American Academy of Pediatrics. That‘s the real
Again, the “cure the gays” letter from George Rekers‘ group goes
out on March 31st to every school district in the country. George Rekers
then shows up at Miami‘s airport two weeks later with a hot young guy he
hired off of “RentBoy.com,” having just returned from a 10-day rent boy
vacation. It‘s as though he and his colleagues put the letter in the mail,
deadline met, and then left for two weeks of much-needed vacation and
The reason George Rekers‘ pitiful, closeted hypocritical life
news is actual news is because he‘s quite actively engaged in trying to
change this country to make it a more difficult place to be gay,
particularly a more difficult place to be a young gay person, while he is
simultaneously hiring at least one young gay person to not carry his
In 2004, George Rekers was paid tens of thousands of dollars to
testify as an expert witness for the state of Arkansas, supporting that
state‘s ban on gay parents caring for foster kids.
In 2008, George Rekers was again paid tens of thousands of
taxpayer dollars to be an anti-gay expert witness, this time by the state
of Florida, to defend Florida‘s ban on gay parents adopting.
Florida is fighting for that ban with the help of esteemed
experts like George Rekers. A court ruling on the constitutionality of
that law is expected any day now. Here‘s the basic idea about cases like
this, and Larry Craig and Ted Haggard and John Ensign and David Vitter and,
and, and, and.
The miserable denial and lying in your own sex lives is your own
miserable, in-denial lying business, unless you make it the whole country‘s
business by crusading against the thing that is true about yourself that
you hate so much. Being gay cannot be cured. Being a contemptible,
pathetic hypocrite can be cured. Come out, come out, whatever you are.
MADDOW: We turn now to our alpine throat-singing correspondent.
What, you thought we didn‘t have one? It‘s Kent Jones, of course. Hi,
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, we do.
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
JONES: Hi, Rachel. You know, I don‘t know how many times we said to
each other at the morning meeting, gosh, I wish we had more times for this.
JONES: Ah, yodeling. Originally a form of intermountain
communications between isolated valleys in the alps, yodeling became a folk
art in Europe and a staple of country music here in the States.
Good news, yodel fans, tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of
the Swiss Yodeling Association. And to honor that event, the association
will stage a gala yodeling concert at a huge hockey stadium in the Swiss
city of Bern.
Organizers feared the hockey rink was so big that the 600
yodelers on stage wouldn‘t be able to be heard properly, so they suggested
backing the yodelers with recordings of extra voices. Swiss yodelers
howled with indignation. Why, that‘s just one step away from lip syncing.
Are you trying to ruin yodeling?
Fumed one yodeler quote, “This is taking the mickey out of the
public.” Insisted another, quote, “We‘ll never sing over pre-recorded
tapes. In singing, we express our feelings.”
JONES: Come on, clap.
MADDOW: Yes, I know. Here‘s the thing about the yodeling story.
MADDOW: So yodeling now is just for joy, but yodeling, obviously, was
started to yell really loud to people on other mountains. The whole point
was so that to do something with your voice that could be heard a zillion
JONES: Yes, Johan‘s(ph) over here and Georg is over on the alp. And
they got (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You know, they‘ve got to -
MADDOW: So what kind of Swiss Yodeling Association can you be, if you
think, “Oh, these guys won‘t be able to be heard in row 13”?
JONES: Well, it shows a lack of confidence in the yodeler which is
bad for him.
MADDOW: Which is bad for - a bad strategy.
JONES: Always. Always. Yes.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Appreciate it. That does it for us
tonight. We will see you again on Monday night. Meanwhile, do what our
favorite junior viewer Cassie does. Hang out with us in our new blog,
“MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” Have a great weekend. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2010 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.
MORE FROM RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Add Rachel Maddow Show headlines to your news reader: