'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
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Guests: Rep. Ed Markey, Rep. Joe Sestak
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour.
Lots to come tonight on the new cast of characters that make up the political scene in our country after last night‘s primaries.
Plus, what you have probably heard today about last night‘s primaries that is utterly completely and totally wrong.
And, just wait until you hear the newest supposed reason to delay the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” It is amazing.
That‘s all to come.
But, first, everything you thought you knew about the BP oil disaster is wrong. All of the damage to the Gulf Coast you think you‘re seeing on your TV screen, you‘re not actually seeing that. You‘re not seeing it because it‘s not possible.
I know this sounds kind of trippy, but follow me here for a second. When BP applied for its permit to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, to drill the Deepwater Horizon oil well, they had to make some promises to the federal government, so the government would provide them with that drilling permit. BP, for example, assured the government that the Gulf Coast beaches would never see oil, even if there were a spill at Deepwater Horizon.
Here‘s what BP told the government, quote, “Due to the distance to shore, 48 miles, and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts to the beaches are expected.”
So all that oil on the beaches down there? Stop being so hysterical. That is so unlikely. BP‘s response capabilities and the fact that the rig was so far out to shore, so far offshore, would prevent the oil from ever getting to those beaches.
And the wetlands that have been hit by oil, the wetlands that we need to protect the Gulf and for so many other things that have been hit by oil and we don‘t know how to clean them up, here‘s what BP told the federal government about the wetlands, quote, “Due to the distance to shore, 48 miles, and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts on the wetlands are expected.”
So, again, all good. Nothing to see here.
BP told the government the same thing about potential impacts on coastal wildlife refuges and bird nesting areas. Nothing to worry about, we got this. That‘s what BP said. And the government took their word for it and gave them the permit to drill.
That‘s how easy it is to get a drilling permit. You say it, the government believes it, no questions asked. Welcome to America.
You remember BP‘s regional oil spill response plan for the Gulf of Mexico, this is the document we‘ve been talking about, the one that lists walruses among the marine life to look out for in the Gulf of Mexico in the event of a spill, even though walruses really only live in the Arctic and in places where it‘s really cold. That they just cut and pasted their Gulf of Mexico plan from the one they had written from the Arctic apparently.
It turns out there are some other genius suggestions in this disaster response plan that maybe should have tipped off the government that BP put together their supposed disaster response plan drunk and in the dark. Toward the end of that document, BP provides a list of people to get in contact with in the event of a spill at the Deepwater Horizon rig. Among them is Dr. Peter Lutz from the University of Miami-School of Marine Sciences.
As the “Associated Press” pointed out today, Dr. Peter Lutz died in 2005, four years before this disaster response plan was submitted and rubber-stamped. The “A.P.” also points out today that the names and phone numbers of several Texas A&M University marine life specialists are wrong, so are the numbers for marine mammal stranding networking offices in Louisiana and Florida—offices which are no longer in service.
We have learned a lot about BP in the nearly two months since their well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. But perhaps the most significant revelation is the fact that they did not take seriously safety, or the possibility of having them mount a cleanup effort ever. And because the government regulation of the oil industry has been so lax for so many years, BP never had to take that seriously.
Listed dead guy on your oil spill response plan as the guy who should be called in the event of a spill? Who cares? The regulators will never check that out.
Talk about walruses in the Gulf of Mexico? Sure, the regulators won‘t even notice.
Promise that beaches and wetlands will never be significantly harmed. Yes, yes, that sounds good. They‘ll love that. Write that down. They‘ll never check it out.
BP could have told the federal government anything and they still would have been approved to drill that well. That‘s how seriously they took this drilling application process. That‘s how seriously they took the possibility of a spill.
This is not about the overall safety of drilling, this is not about caps and blowout preventers and all that. This is very specifically about what happens if there‘s a spill. If there‘s a spill, how BP, are you planning to clean it up?
And it turns out BP had no idea how to clean it up. Nor did they care.
I know this isn‘t necessarily the main focus of how the BP oil disaster is being covered right now. Everybody‘s still quite intently focused on physically capping that well that continues to gush at the bottom of the ocean.
But, in Congress today, things finally took a turn toward this side of this disaster: the oil industry‘s complete lack of interest or investment in how to clean stuff up when it goes wrong. The fact that the technology for cleanup of oil spills was mostly developed before we even required seat belts in cars in this country, and it hasn‘t been improved since because nobody‘s made them improve it—finally, that got put in the spotlight today in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D-MA), ENERGY & COMMERCE CMTE.: This past week, we watched BP roll out the latest version of the top hat, which they claim is now capturing about 15,000 barrels of oil per day. Three decades ago, during the Ixtoc spill off the coast of Mexico, they tried a similar approach, Operation Sombrero. A lot like top hat.
If we stay on the current trajectory, if a similar spill occurs in 20 years by a French company in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil industry‘s response is likely to be talking about launching operation chapot (ph). That is unacceptable.
For the oil company‘s drilling ultra-safe is not as high a priority as drilling ultra-deep. The confession of BP‘s CEO, Tony Hayward, that the company did not have the tools in its tool kit to handle a blowout was old news the moment it left his mouth.
After six weeks of failed containment domes, junk shots and top kills, we all know the truth. There was no response plan, because BP did not invest the time. The response technologies are the same as they were three decades ago, because BP, a company that has made record profits, did not invest the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts during a house energy and environment subcommittee briefing today, calling out BP and calling out the oil industry in general for having no idea what to do in the event of a spill, having no response plan for a worst-case scenario, for spending all of their money on technology to drill deeper, rather than technology to prevent a spill or, God forbid, to clean it up afterwards.
That briefing today featured a number of witnesses, including the man who wrote the government incident report on the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.
He offered this assessment of the oil industry‘s recent spending on safety
recent spending on safety, research and development, R&D, since then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. THOMAS LESCHINE, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON: The Exxon Valdez spill happened in 1989, and a big infusion of cash went into R&D afterwards. But it didn‘t last. Zero was the amount allocated to R&D in many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Zero. That would be zero dollars. Zippo, zilch, nada. Nothing spent in some years on developing technology to prevent a spill from happening or to clean it up after it does. Why bother, right? Why bother spending money on something as useless as that when you can get a government permit to drill without it?
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
He chaired that subcommittee briefing today on the BP oil disaster.
Chairman Markey, thank you very much for coming back on the show.
MARKEY: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: I sort of feel like the rest of the country hasn‘t quite caught up to this part of the story yet, that the industry has never cared about being able to respond to a spill. Is that—is that what you found today in this briefing? Is that a fair assessment of your view?
MARKEY: I think it‘s—I think it‘s the only conclusion which you can reach. In the hearing today, we learned from the witnesses that a probabilistic risk assessment had to be made of what the risks were of a catastrophic accident occurring in deep-water drilling. A probabilistic risk assessment is another way of saying, what are the chances that there could be an accident? And it turns out that they determined that there was a zero percent chance that a catastrophic accident could occur.
So, if you believe no accident can occur, then why invest in safety technologies? Why invest in modern response capabilities, since not only the oil company, but the government agency accepted the probabilistic risk assessment that the chances of an accident was zero. And so, what we‘re seeing now, the logical consequences of that kind of assumption being allowed to be accepted, and the investment in the technologies that would be needed to shut down the leak, to respond to the spill, never having been made.
MADDOW: Since the government approves permits to drill in these waters—I mean, this is—this is drilling in the United States of America. Is it possible that the American government could compel these companies to invest in sustained research and development projects? Not just immediately after a spill like this happens, when they have to admit that none of the stuff has ever been tested, they don‘t know how any of these response technologies will work, but is there a way to make them invest long-term as a condition for getting permits?
MARKEY: I think that we have to pass legislation, and I‘m going to introduce this legislation that will create a fund—a fund for research into modern safety technologies. Not technologies that are 30 years old, but 21st century technologies that match up with 21st century risks that are assumed when you go out 50 miles deep in the ocean and drill down five miles.
So, you need new safety technologies. You need new response technologies. That will make it possible for us to be successful.
In that first couple of weeks, BP was actually talking about nylons and hair that we could put out into the ocean. People thought that we would, at this point, be talking about the Apollo Project and not “Project Runway” as a way of responding.
And so, we need to fund it with oil company money, and then have independent researchers be able to develop the technology, the 21st century technologies, that we will need to make sure that this does not happen again.
MADDOW: One of the response technologies that has been so controversial for this disaster, Congressman, is the issue of dispersants. And one of the complications in—around dispersants is the fact that dispersants are seen as proprietary technology, that the companies who them don‘t disclose what‘s in them, they don‘t see a public responsibility in letting people know what the risks are of those technologies because they‘re marketing them as a for-profit product.
Is that the sort of thing—because dispersants are a big part of the way the industry imagines responding to spills—is that something in which those patents should be busted or is that something where those industries should in part be nationalized so that we can benefit from those industries having to worry about the profit mode of getting in the way?
MARKEY: There is a—an historic science project going on under the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico. We have tens of millions of gallons of oil. We have natural gas. We are shooting it with hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals. It is creating underwater plumes. It is going to ultimately affect the fish, the fauna, everything that is inside that Gulf of Mexico which is so important to the livelihoods of people in that region and to our country.
We cannot allow for these companies to be using dispersants, chemicals in ways that could ultimately have profound impacts on not only the food that is provided from that region, from the fishing, but also the impact that it could ultimately have upon human beings. Because we are ultimately part of that food chain as we consume what is produced from that region.
And so, no longer can we allow for the oil industry to be using proprietary technology chemicals without a full disclosure of what it is and what the potential impact could be on the Gulf and on human beings, because, ultimately, that is the chain that finally reaches us.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, I think making some news tonight here with us both in that brief hearing today and in your comments right now on those proprietary dispersant formulas. Thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. We always appreciate it.
MARKEY: Thank you so much for having me on.
MADDOW: So, last night, Nevada Republican Sharron Angle won the right to take on Senator Harry Reid this fall. America, meet Sharron Angle. Sharron Angle, meet America. This is going to be fun.
And if you‘ve read anything about this year‘s election cycle and the peril for incumbents, please, please, please stay tuned for the fact-based antidote to that convenient, widely accepted bit of analysis that appears to be totally, provably wrong. Pesky facts and lots of them—coming up.
MADDOW: There will probably never come again a politician like Sue Lowden, who proposed bartering chickens for health care. However, there already is Sharron Angle who beats Sue Lowden last night in Nevada and she may be even more fun to cover than the chicken lady. That reporting begins in earnest—next.
MADDOW: Some of the most interesting evidence about the dance between the mainstream conservative movement and its un-mainstream fringe took place at this year‘s Conservative Political Action Conference, at CPAC, which this year featured the John Birch Society as a co-sponsor. The same John Birch Society that was seen as so extreme and so conspiratorial and so bad for the image of normal conservatives that it was exiled from the conservative movement by conservatives way back in the 1960s.
The John Birchers, don‘t forget, are the folks who essentially thought the entire U.S. government was secretly under communist control. They said that President Eisenhower, for example, was a conscious agent of the Soviet Union while he was president. Think about that for a second. According to the John Birch Society, Ike was being run as a communist agent from Russia while he was president.
The communist plot in the imagination of the John Birch Society reached far and wide. Fluoridation of drinking water was supposedly part of the plot. Of course, when the Birch Society got the CPAC gig this year, and we reported on their position on water fluoridation and it‘s place in the vast commie, pinko conspiracy, the John Birch Society got really ticked off at me and denied ever having held that position.
But then we got all industrious and researchy and found ourselves some primary source material, an official John Birch Society bulletin from 1960 in which strategies are outlined for stopping the communists in their evil plot to add fluoride to drinking water.
Then, astonishingly, when I met had some really nice John Birch Society folks at CPAC this year, after the whole fluoridation fight—you want to know what they wanted to talk to me about? They wanted to talk to me about how evil fluoride is. They brought it up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m remembering the show you ‘ did, on the subject of fluoridation, OK? The reason we oppose fluoridation is that it‘s mass medication. Right after we opposed the professor from Tufts University, you know where that is, he came on and said, “I think the population is growing so high and so fast that we‘ve got to put birth control substances in the water supply, and we can use as a precedent putting fluoridation in the water.”
MADDOW: A lot of people say crazy (EXPLETIVE DELETED). It‘s true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, right, I know. Are we wrong to be opposed to mass fluoridation in the water?
MADDOW: You know what I always wondered was, what did you guys think about putting iodine in salt?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Seeing the John Birch Society back in the heart of the conservative movement has been sort of a trip. I mean, once they got over the impulse to try to pretend that they are not now and never were crazy about stuff like fluoride, they then got right back into the business of being super paranoid, highly imaginative, conspiracy theorists about stuff like fluoride.
These guys really believe if we‘re going to get serious about stopping communist mind control plots, we must oppose the dreaded Bolshevik fluoride in the water.
Here‘s the most amazing thing though. The John Birch Society now, in that view, has a very highly placed champion. The Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada, Sharron Angle, fighter against fluoride. Really?
In 1999, the Nevada state assembly passed a bill requiring the fluoridation of water into Nevada counties. Then-Assemblywoman Sharron Angle tried to block fluoridation in one of those counties. According to an account in the “Las Vegas Review-Journal,” quote, “Angle said she simply does not like fluoride.”
You know what else she doesn‘t like? Alcohol. In a 2006 interview, Sharron Angle said she was against booze being legal. Quote, “I would tell you that I have the same feelings about legalizing marijuana, not medical marijuana, but just legalizing marijuana. I feel the same about legalizing alcohol. The effect on society is so great that I‘m just not a real proponent of legalizing any drug or encouraging any drug abuse.”
Sharron Angle was forced to clarify her position last month. She now says she no longer wants to outlaw alcohol. Not like when she was all crazy about that stuff back in her youth, four years ago.
But it‘s not just making beer illegal and stopping the evil plot to put fluoride in the drinking water. Here‘s Sharron Angle‘s take on the United States‘ role in the United Nations, quote, “The U.N. continually threatens U.S. sovereignty with endless rhetoric and treaties and it has become the umpire on fraudulent science such as global warming. The United States needs to withdraw from the United Nations and work solely with America‘s willing allies.”
Her foreign policy position here is that we should ditch the U.N. and their crazy ideas about global warming and treaties.
As for energy policy, check out Sharron Angle‘s response to the BP oil disaster:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: We have oil reserves and petroleum reserves we should tap into and that‘s a policy that we really need to look at as a nation, how do we deregulate enough to invite our industries to come back into the United States and quit outsourcing their business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When you look at the BP oil disaster and the fact that they were approved to drill there, even though they had no idea how to clean anything up there, do you think—oh, if we could only figure out how to deregulate that industry more, got to get the boot of the man off the neck of the oil industry so they can be more free to do their oil stuff?
That brings us to the environment and the environmental angle of Sharron Angle. She wants to abolish the EPA. She also wants to abolish the Department of Energy. She wants to abolish the Department of Education. She also wants to abolish the IRS tax code. Also, she wants to eliminate Social Security and she would like to eliminate Medicare.
Sharron Angle has also gone on record as supporting the Oath Keepers. The Oath Keepers are a conspiratorial group that asks law enforcement officers and soldiers to pledge not to enforce certain directives. They have a list of 10 orders they say they will refuse to obey. It includes things that are imminently, you know, going to happen—stuff like blockading American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
Just to be thorough, I guess, the Oath Keepers also make a point to say that they will refuse to force American citizens into any form of detention camps—because, you know, that‘s coming. Also the fluoride—the fluoride is coming, too. We must fight the plans we fantasize about to put Americans in concentration camps and we must fight the fluoride that precedes that kind of thing.
America, meet Sharron Angle, one of the newest members of the Republican class of 2010 Senate candidates. I wonder if she‘ll do an interview with me.
Joining us now is Howard Fineman, “Newsweek” columnist and MSNBC political analyst.
Howard, thank you very much for coming on the show.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLTICAL ANALYST: Hi, Rachel. Keep in mind that I live in the district and I‘ve been drinking fluoridated water. So, as you analyze what I say, just remember that, OK?
MADDOW: I will assume that it is your communist controlling agents that are speaking through you without your consent. I understand.
Is there a—is there a cloud inside the silver lining for Harry Reid here? Is there anything that he should worry about with Sharron Angle?
FINEMAN: Yes, but it doesn‘t have that much to do with Sharron Angle. It has to do with the national mood, which is foul, and which is, I think, very suspicious of Washington, very suspicious of elected officials of all stripes, very suspicious of anybody who can be considered an insider.
He‘s on the ballot with his son, who, Rory, who is going to be the Democratic candidate for governor. I don‘t think people are in a dynastic mood. Nevada‘s economy is in bad shape. He‘s an easy guy to blame because he‘s the ultimate insider.
Those are the things that he has to worry about and those are legitimate worries. And if there‘s a huge national anti-incumbent, anti-insider tide in the fall, you know, it‘s going to be tough. But Sharron Angle is a gift, because, you barely scratched—I mean, you hit some good ones, but you could go on—you could do an hour on Sharron Angle.
He‘s not going to do that right now, by the way. He‘s going to let her try to argue with herself as she attempts to distance herself from some of these things.
MADDOW: What do you think happens in terms of the Republican establishment and Sharron Angle? I recognize in Sharron Angle not only some tea party inflection, but also some sort of Ron Paul movement inflection that sort of John Birchy conspiratorial side of that movement. And mainstream Republicans have long been very uncomfortable with that folks. How are they going to handle her?
FINEMAN: Well, that‘s a very good question. On something, she makes Rand Paul seem like Gerald Ford. I mean, you know, she is—she is really out there. And I think what the Reid strategy is going to be and the Democratic strategy is going to be is: number one, to let the Republicans fight among themselves here still.
Don‘t forget that Sharron Angle is considered too far out for “The National Review”; too far out for the conservative Senator John Cornyn who‘s running the campaign committee; you know, too far out for other candidates who are very conservative. So far out that even Sarah Palin, who was careful not to endorse anybody in that race there in the primary in Nevada, did not endorse Sharron Angle.
So, you know, you‘ve got Brian Sandoval, who‘s the Republican candidate for governor, brought in to try to clean up the image of the state party there. He has been very careful not to say anything much about Sharron Angle. He‘s going to be called on to say, do you stand with Sharron Angle on points A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H. That‘s number one.
Senator Ensign of all people, the other Republican senator, has cautioned Sharron Angle to be careful—which I find is amusing given Senator Ensign‘s situation. And, you know, I think Harry Reid will wait and let it simmer, while putting on positive ads. Tomorrow, the Reid campaign is going to debut two positive ads about Harry Reid to try to build up his image for what is ultimately going to be a very nasty campaign. And then Bill Clinton, who, by the way, is becoming the surrogate of the year for Democrats, is going to be in next week for Harry Reid.
MADDOW: At this point, I guess you hope Sharron Angle talks as much as possible and you meanwhile just keep yourself—keep yourself to yourself and let it happen.
FINEMAN: That‘s right. That‘s right. That‘s exactly right.
MADDOW: Howard Fineman, MSNBC political analyst and “Newsweek” columnist, and always a very welcomed guest on this show—Howard, thanks very much.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: If there‘s one thing we learned from last night‘s primaries, it‘s that incumbents everywhere are definitely in trouble, right? Actually, if there‘s one thing we were supposed to learn it‘s that incumbents everywhere are definitely in trouble, when you learn the real number of incumbents who found trouble last night in this whole primary season, you will wish you were an incumbent. Incredible conventional wisdom trouble—next.
MADDOW: The way beltway media works is this - someone picks a theme. Somebody picks an explanatory story to lump together and contextualize and explain what‘s going on in politics.
There‘s nothing at all wrong with that. We humans are story-based creatures and it is easier to absorb information when it‘s plugged into a narrative. We are hard-wired to accept explanations, not just raw data.
Here‘s the thing, though. When the raw data, when the actual news totally contradicts the explanatory story that everyone‘s telling about that news, that disproven, explanatory story should be dropped.
When the media is lazy and facile and more interested in their own explanatory stories than they are in the actual news, though, what happens is this, “Un-harnessed Anger: Incumbents Win in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana.”
You might remember me making fun of that headline from the Associated Press about last month‘s primaries. We really, really, really want to be able to hold on to this narrative that all incumbents are all getting thrown out, but the anger has been un-harnessed.
We therefore find it very uncomfortable to have to report that actually all the incumbents are winning. I thought that was so embarrassing in the little primaries last month, that at least this month, though, there would be some effort to hedge a little, to dial back a little on this dumb, sweeping narrative that keeps getting disproven by the facts.
I thought it would change. I was wrong. Here‘s today‘s “New York Times,” quote, “Anti-Incumbent Rage Bypasses Arkansas.” Here‘s another one from Reuters, “Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln Survives Anti-incumbent Wave.”
See, it‘s a little wave. An ineffectual wave that doesn‘t affect some incumbents depending on who they are. But we really want to keep calling it a wave. This was the great juxtaposition in today‘s big AP analysis on last night‘s primaries.
Check this out, “Antipathy toward elected officials and the establishment, a dispirited public is demanding change.” So that‘s the big narrative, right? Public demands change.
And that is right next to the AP‘s own story on the specifics of what happened last night. And I quote, “Incumbents sweep New Jersey congressional primaries.” Don‘t let the facts hit your narrative in the butt on the way out.
Listen, I understand that the beltway media decided at some point a few months ago - what do they have, conventions or something? They decided that this was going to be anti-incumbency year. The anti-incumbency theme was going to be the story that they told to explain politics this year.
But that has been sold as if it is a predictive story. They‘re saying here‘s what‘s going to happen. The voters are going to throw all the incumbents out. They‘re going to throw the bums out. And then the bums keep not getting thrown out.
In New Jersey, like I mentioned, 13 incumbents on the ballot in New Jersey, all of them won. In California, a whopping 52 incumbents - 52 incumbents on the ballot in California, each and every one of them winners.
How about Virginia? Eleven incumbents on the ballot in Virginia, all 11 incumbents won. In Iowa, seven incumbents on the ballot. They all won as well. In Arkansas, three incumbents on the ballot, all three incumbents won.
In South Dakota, two incumbents running, both winners. In Maine, two incumbents, both winners. In Montana and North Dakota, one incumbent each, not one of them a victim of the mythical anti-incumbent rage.
In fact, if you look at this whole campaign season, all of the races, all together, who among the incumbents has been thrown out? Well, I can tell you. It‘s easy to remember. There haven‘t been that many of them.
There were two guys who switched parties, they lost. That‘s not that weird. There were two guys with corruption scandals who lost. Also not that weird. There was one guy who wasn‘t voted out. He was just unselected by a small number of party activists at a convention. That‘s not even that weird.
And then there‘s Congressman Bob Inglis - Bob Inglis of South Carolina. Bob Inglis of South Carolina legitimately is an incumbent who got voted down in a primary without a corruption scandal or a party switch or a weird activists-only vote at a convention to explain it. Bob Inglis. That‘s the one.
That‘s the one piece of data supporting the whole national narrative of the anti-incumbency wave, one guy who most of us had never heard of before last night. One guy, for what it‘s worth, who didn‘t even lose. He‘s in a runoff.
So the big national, everybody agrees anti-incumbency wave story is a good story. I‘m not saying it isn‘t cogent, it isn‘t satisfying the way a good fairy tale always is. It is an enjoyable story to tell, hear, spread around the campfire. It‘s just not true, in case that matters.
MADDOW: Great news tonight for rich people who want to buy elections. Hey, Daddy Warbucks, the Supreme Court has your back. Earlier this year, the Roberts court ruled of course that corporations are people, that corporations can spend, spend, spend all the corporate cash they want on political campaigns.
Yesterday, the Roberts court further dismantled decades of work to try to keep politics open to regular people when they went out of their way in an emergency order to intervene in the elections in the great State of Arizona.
More than a decade ago, after a bunch of scandals in which Arizona politicians took campaign contributions to vote a specific way, Arizona passed a law that said candidates could get public money to run for office.
And if they were running against someone who didn‘t take public money, publicly financed candidates could get additional matching funds so they could keep pace with their Daddy Warbucks opponent to keep the playing field level. In many ways Arizona‘s law has been considered a model campaign finance system.
Not anymore. Yesterday the “wow, they really are pretty radical” John Roberts court, in the middle of an election season, issued an unsigned an emergency order to overturn that Arizona State law.
Publicly financed candidates in Arizona can‘t get matching funds anymore effective immediately as of today, even in the midst of this election season, which is not great news, even for people like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who is a publicly-financed candidate in the middle of a campaign and who now, thanks to the Supreme Court, can‘t get any more money.
That said, it‘s great news for anyone psyched to get all the riffraff out of politics so we can get over this old democracy fantasy and just settle down to being ruled by economic overlords like the Founding Fathers intended.
MADDOW: Yesterday, we reported on the bloodiest day of the year so far in Afghanistan for western troops when over a 24-hour period, nine Americans, two Australians, one French and one British soldier all died in insurgent attacks.
Today, we have to add to that toll as U.S. and Afghan sources confirm that another four Americans have died. They were in an American helicopter providing air support to British ground troops in Helmand Province.
The chopper was shot down and all four American service members were killed. And taking credit for downing the helicopter, a Taliban spokesman in Helmand Province told the “New York Times” quote, “We will keep shooting down these helicopters. Even though we don‘t have highly developed weapons, our mujahedeen have a lot of experience at it.”
The U.S. military says it knows the identity of the four soldiers who were killed today but it‘s holding those names pending notification of the next of kin.
MADDOW: When something happens in the news, something about politics, you might have noticed how we set up an interview, set up a story to talk about it on this show. We have a little graphic that you can see over my shoulder that says something about the story.
In this case, it‘s “What Do Mommies and Daddies Say,” which is a quote from the person we‘re about to be discussing. Then I do a little monologue intro explaining the story trying to make the salient points point out the importance of the story, make those salient points stand out.
We base these little intros on news reports about the story. Any primary source material we‘ve been able to turn up about it, comments sometimes from the participants involved, and often a little bit of my own analysis. That‘s sort of our formula. That‘s how these segments usually work.
But today, for this story, for “What Do Mommies and Daddies Say,” there is nothing that I can add. There‘s no way I can make this better or more understandable than just to straight up read you the lead from the Associated Press today. This is totally unembellished, unedited.
This is it, “The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said yesterday that he thought the military should keep its ban on openly gay service members in part because he did not want to open a national discussion about homosexuality.”
I‘m not kidding. I‘m not embellishing. This is seriously the story. OK. I will continue this, “The chairman, Congressman Ike Skelton, a conservative Missouri Democrat, said he thought the debate in Congress over the proposed repeal of the Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy might force families to explain homosexuality to their children.”
Quoting Ike Skelton, quote, “‘What do mommies and daddies say to their seven-year-old child?‘ Mr. Skelton asked.”
That‘s it. That‘s not me cobbling that together from various sources trying to make the most dumbfounding point possible out of this story. That is actually what he said.
The reason we‘re not repealing Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell straightforwardly, the reason the Democrats can‘t pass a straight up repeal measure through the House of Representatives that they dominate is because the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, is quite literally afraid to talk about the fact that gay people exist.
He doesn‘t want there to be a debate about anything gay at all because then people might know and have to discuss the fact that gay people exist and he finds that awkward. He would rather that we could please just avoid the whole issue of the gay, not just gays in the military, but the gay.
He doesn‘t want the poor families to have to see the word “gay” in the newspaper because it makes him feel weird. Congressman Skelton admits that none of his constituents had expressed the same fears to him.
Nobody is asking him to please don‘t act to repeal Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell because that might keep mentions of the gay out of Missouri newspapers. He admits that it is not coming from his constituents. It‘s just him. He just feels icky about the whole idea of the gay and he doesn‘t want to hear it discussed.
So 14,000 Americans have to be fired from their jobs in the military because Congressman Ike Skelton is ughed out by the word “gay.” Also, you know, cooties.
Joining us now to discuss this brazen outbreak of leadership from the full-grown adult man who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is Congressman Joe Sestak, who is the Democratic nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Sestak, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time.
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA), MEMBER, HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It is always a pleasure being on with you. Thanks.
MADDOW: I did not expect to see this from Congressman Skelton. I have heard a lot of arguments against repealing Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell. I have never before heard that it shouldn‘t be repealed because it is too embarrassing a subject to discuss. I know that you know Congressman Skelton. Can I get your take on this?
SESTAK: Well, first of all, Congressman Skelton, Rachel, he is a - he really is very kind man. He‘s been a very good - as far as the professional side of the armed services, a mentor of mine.
But I‘ve been shaped by my experience in the military. And in a number of ways, I really do strongly disagree with Ike Skelton on this issue. First, I‘ve learned that everyone is treated equal and everybody is equal, black, white, purple, green, whatever your orientation is. They are all equal.
Second is, I think we need to leave it to families to discuss how they want to have an exchange with their children. But what I learned about families in the military was that it‘s the military‘s responsibility to protect, to save families by what we do.
And the best way we can do it is have the best of the best. This isn‘t just a matter of equality, as important as that is to have the LGBT community within the military. It is a matter of being able to do our job even better, particularly at a time of two wars.
I‘ll never forget and I may have mentioned it to you, that when someone would come up to me and start to say, “Captain, I am -“ you just wanted to say, but you couldn‘t, please don‘t tell me. You‘re too good.”
So this issue for the military is we are going to be better once Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell is finally thrown out. But I honestly do believe also on the issue that you brought up, that there should be an exchange about equality on this within a family, at least within mine. I do think that is the right thing to do, is to have such discussions.
MADDOW: Are you satisfied with the repeal process for the Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy as it stands now. Or do you think that repeal - it seems to be on track for some time early next year. Do you think it could be done more quickly?
SESTAK: Without a question. I asked Secretary Gates that. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was in a military that could turn on a dime and could go to war in Afghanistan within just a few short months and can do so much.
We can actually have an interagency process that includes the Defense Department after the underwear bomber all of a sudden changed its procedures. We have gone through matters of equality before from African-Americans to women in combat positions.
We can readily take those lessons learned and within, I believe, a short two months implement this. And this is particularly important because Admiral Mullen said it very well. You are asking people to lie.
And this is an institution that prides itself on its integrity, its accountability. And soon you are going to have the leaders being behind those that they are supposed to lead, those 5,000 youth from their aircraft carrier. Their average age, those 5,000 soldiers 19 ½ - 19 ½.
And this is not an issue for them. They grew up different than others in generations. And again, I come from the military. Yes, there is disagreement on this. I understand it. The vast, vast exposure I had is this is not an issue and we need to be leaders and implement it. And I wish we were doing it in the next weeks or months and I believe we can.
MADDOW: Congressman Joe Sestak, retired as an admiral in the Navy, Democratic nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania. Mr. Sestak, thank you, as always, for being here. It is always nice to have you on the show.
SESTAK: It is always great to be here. Thank you. Have a great evening.
MADDOW: Thank you. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith gets Lewis Black‘s reaction to the BP oil disaster. You will want to see this.
But first on this show, a reporter gets as close as one can get to the underwater oil plumes in the Gulf of Mexico. His courage and it‘s really quite amazing visual results are next.
MADDOW: I can tell you that from personal experience that going to the gulf coast and seeing and smelling and being around the oil that spilled from the Deepwater Horizon rig informs your view of what is happening down there like nothing else. One news reporter (UNINTELLIGIBLE), whose firsthand encounter with the disaster cannot really be matched.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s almost like being a little kid and afraid of the bogeyman in the closet. But this bogeyman is real. Just globs of death out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Globs of death out there on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and globs of death underneath the water, too. Al Walker of the Gulf Wildlife Rescue Unit went scuba diving in the BP oil disaster. This is what he encountered with an AP reporter 60 feet below the surface.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL WALKER, GULF WILDLIFE RESCUE UNIT: Something I have never seen dominant in my whole life out here. These big snot balls - yes, I never saw that in my life, ever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not just a normal algae bloom that is happening now?
WALKER: There is nothing natural about what we dove in today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: BP can try to wish the underwater plumes of oil away. They keep saying there aren‘t any or that government scientists and private researchers are talking about minute particles. But it depends on what the meaning of “plume” is.
Or Tony Hayward and Doug Suttles could just go for a dive and see this for themselves - slime balls, globs of death, no fishing places where fish used to thrive. The AP guy who dove in that today said it took a full half hour of scraping, physically scraping the oil off himself before he could even try to get back into the boat he dove from today. That is what it takes to pay a single visit to this disgusting stuff. Imagine what it is to live there.
That does it for us tonight. But a programming note - I will be on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” tonight on NBC. Same jacket, different shirt. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
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