updated 7/2/2010 9:30:34 AM ET 2010-07-02T13:30:34

Guests: Jason Linkins, Tim Kaine, Ezra Klein
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Even as confirmation hearings for the nation‘s next Supreme Court justice have failed to dominate the headlines this week, today, one thing did become very clear about these hearings—it became clear they are illuminating something sort of amazing about what we‘ve been calling the greatest show on earth, about the internal struggle post-Bush/post-McCain to figure out who the Republican Party really is and what they stand for.
Inside the Senate right now, the opposition to Elena Kagan is sort of withering among Republicans.  Most Republican senators say they are not going to vote for Kagan but they‘re also sort of conceding that, well, I guess she‘s all right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  The nominee is a person of skill and intelligence and diverse background.  I do think that this Senate has a very serious responsibility at this time—
SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  She came across very well in many ways. 
And I like her very much.  She‘s a good person and very, very smart lawyer. 
And I think, you know, has a terrific personality in many ways.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW:  All my life, Supreme Court confirmation battles have been these blunt, simple brawls—red versus blue, right versus left, conservative versus liberal.  And yet, this time around, it‘s not really like that.  Democrats are lining up behind Elena Kagan, but Republicans seem to have decided they‘re not really going to fight her with their mainstream forces.
Republican senators have tried a few different tacks against her.  They tried calling her a liberal activist judge, like they always do.  They tried the novel strategy of attacking civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall as a means of attacking her.  I dare say that one didn‘t stick.
And today, they appear to have just turned the whole project over to
the Republican base, leaving the field that is usually where Republicans
and Democrats play “clash of the titans” to have their side fought instead
by folks who no one will confuse with a titan.

Today, on the front steps of the Supreme Court, the conservative group Young Americans for Freedom tried to rally opposition to Elena Kagan‘s nomination.  I wish we could show you some tape from that event, but it doesn‘t appear to have gotten any actual press coverage.  Young Americans for Freedom, though, however, they did hold another rally against Elena Kagan before these hearings go under way.  Here‘s how that went:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN MARKS, EXEC. DIR., YOUNG AMERICANS FOR FREEDOM:  Students cannot have Kagan on the bench for the next 40 years because of Kagan‘s appalling judgment to favor socialism over freedom.  Students cannot afford the appointment of Kagan to the Supreme Court of the United States where the Constitution will be subject to her socialist reinterpretation and revision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  Her socialist revisionism.  Goodbye, we the people.  Hello, we the Politburo.  Don‘t say you weren‘t warned.  Yes.
A few years ago, Young Americans for Freedom was the group that was the group that was forced to distance itself from one of its own chapters when its members held a protest featuring signs with slogans like, “Straight Power,” as in straight people power, and “End Faggotry.”  Their chapter at the University of Michigan also got itself in trouble that year when they held “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” on campus.  That‘s the group that‘s now leading the charge to keep Elena Kagan off the court.
Promoting that “down with Kagan” rally today by Young Americans for Freedom was the group Tea Party Nation.  You will recall that they are the folks who just canceled their national convention in Las Vegas after belatedly discovering that it‘s really hot in Las Vegas in the middle of July.
Tea Party Nation blasted out this email, quote, “A message to all members of all Tea Party Nation.  Make no mistake about it, Elena Kagan wants to ban books.  She thinks there‘s nothing wrong with banning books based on their political content, period.  That makes her the most dangerous person ever nominated to the Supreme Court.”
There‘s no truth to the “she wants to ban books” thing but, you know, it sounds good when you yell it in scary voice.
With Republican senators all but conceding that Elena Kagan is going to be confirmed, it‘s also the NRA that stepped into the breach today to do their part to try to head that eventuality off.  They sent this letter not only to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee but also to every single member of the United States Senate.  The NRA warns that Elena Kagan has, quote, “repeatedly demonstrated a clear hostility to the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms.  Given the importance of this issue, this vote will be considered in NRA‘s future candidate evaluations.”
You know, nobody bats an eye reading something like that from the NRA.  The NRA is part of the Washington fabric.  They are so powerful they are thought of as being reasonable by virtue of their size.  But consider also the fact that the NRA is also the group that holds it against candidates if candidates don‘t support people on the terrorism watch list being allowed to buy guns—while they‘re still on the terrorism watch list.
With the quieting down of some mainstream Republicans in this court fight, it is the NRA that is now among the most vocal anti-Elena Kagan voices on the right.  Consider also the witnesses chosen by Republicans to testify against Ms. Kagan—witnesses like this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  Our last witness is William Olson.  He‘s the principal of the law firm of William J. Olson, P.C.  He received his J.D. from the University of Richmond and his B.A. from Brown University.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  Attorney William J. Olson.  If you go to the Web site for Mr.  Olson‘s law practice right now, you can see that among the expertise he brings to bear on a Supreme Court nomination is his propounding of a conspiracy theory that Obama-care might secretly be a mind control plot.  Mr. Olson‘s co-counsel in his firm, Herb Titus, is cited in an article on the Web site, World Net Daily, that‘s titled, quote, “Obama-care‘s control plan: behavioral modification.”
That‘s the sort of thing that is being promoted on William Olson law firm Web site, because presumably the John Birch society wasn‘t available to testify today against Kagan.
Today at “The Huffington Post,” Jason Linkins took a deeper look into William Olson, again, one of the Republican witnesses today against Elena Kagan.  It turns out he is way more kookier than just Obama-care mind control.  For instance, he‘s representing an organization called the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee, which is worried that the U.S. government has been secretly flooding the market with gold from Fort Knox in order to keep its value low.
His law firm is also representing Daniel Chapter One, a Christian ministry that ran afoul of the FTC for running advertisements for miracle cancer cures with web headlines like, “Brain Tumor Gone!”  Or as Jason Linkins puts it, “Jesus Will Cure Your Cancer with Food Supplements.”
In my whole lifetime, Supreme Court nomination battles have been clash of the titans, big-hitting political battles.  They‘ve been the high point on the political calendar no matter what else is going on that year, even elections.  And this time around, it‘s really not like that.
And William Olson is what the Republican forces against Elena Kagan look like.  What does that mean exactly?
Joining us now is “Huffington Post‘s” Jason Linkins.
Jason, it‘s really nice to see you.  Thanks for being here on the show.
JASON LINKINS, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM:  Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN:  So, Jesus will cure your cancer, search for Fort Knox gold guy just finished his testimony an hour ago.  How did he do overall?
LINKINS:  Well, he didn‘t make a spectacular of himself.  He instructed nobody to apply this cancer cure directly to anybody‘s forehead.  He more or less kept his comments strictly to the issue of gun control and Elena Kagan‘s stance on it.
This is one of the more mainstream battles his law firm fought.  He filed an amicus brief in the recently decided Supreme Court case that overturned Chicago‘s gun ban.  But if you dug into his background like I did, I‘d say it was even money how things might have gone today.
But the entire afternoon—and let‘s remember the witness portion of these hearings is pushed back until 4:00 this afternoon.  It was dispensed with very, very quickly.  And he pretty much kept himself confined to the issue of gun control.
MADDOW:  What do you think it means that Republicans would choose somebody with a record like his, though, to testify in a Supreme Court nomination hearing?  I mean, I‘m not surprised to see, you know, Randall Terry and the super anti-abortion people out there protesting.  They, sort of, protest anytime anybody thinks the word court, let alone a nominee comes up.
But to have Young Americans for Freedom and the Tea Party Nation leading well-publicized events, well-publicized marches and rallies against this, to have people on the witness stand called by Republicans who are as fringe as this guy Olson—does that his tell us something larger about where Republicans are at on either the judiciary or in their politics in general?
LINKINS:  Well, a lot of these organizations, like Tea Party Movement, as you mentioned, are constantly a vent.  They‘re in the public square and they‘re calling their representatives and senators.  And they‘re likely telling them that you guys had better filibuster this nomination for reasons ranging the gamut of things that we would find fairly mainstream in the context of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, to crazy birtherism like this guy Olson‘s firm has sort of been a haven for.
They hear this and they have to account for it.  They‘ve got to bring people in so they can go back to these same constituents and give them a pat on the head and said, we‘ve taken up your cause, we‘ve given your ideas a fair hearing, we brought in people who represent your point of view to question Kagan.
But Kagan‘s getting confirmed.  There‘s really—in all likelihood—there‘s no filibuster in the offing and they know it.
So you see these—you see these people step to the fore to question Kagan‘s nomination.  Tony Perkins was out there today taking up the cause of why we should keep “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” as a policy.  Charmaine Yost was there talking about abortion.
And a number of people, including Flagg Youngblood who—which was forename about until this week, I‘m going to have to change it—digging down into this uniquely Kagan controversy of the military recruiting at Harvard, which Kagan would argue is an example of her having to balance the interest of military recruiters on campus with a long-standing anti-discrimination policy that Harvard Law School upheld for decades.
But you‘ve got to get these people come to the fore because constituents in the field are calling senators and threatening to withhold their vote and insisting that Kagan gets filibustered.  But everyone is more or less aware of the reality that no filibuster is happening.
MADDOW:  The thing—the thing that‘s going to be exciting to watch is when some Republicans do inevitably vote for Elena Kagan, will those folks in the base get really angry about it and hold it—hold it against them?  My guess is no.  But it‘s going to be, as always, really fun to watch.
“Huffington Post‘s” Jason Linkins, thank you so much for your time tonight.  I always really enjoy your reporting.  It‘s nice to see you.
LINKINS:  Thank you very much.  Thanks for having me.
MADDOW:  Sure.
All right.  So, unemployment benefits have been filibustered again and again and again by Republicans—while Republicans who are filibustering them make speeches about how bad unemployment is.  It‘s a very awkward combination.  But it‘s not nearly as awkward as the top Republican in the House, John Boehner, taking a brave stand against his own record on the subject today—and, of course, his own record on the subject is all on tape.  That‘s next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MADDOW:  The problem for the top Republican in the House, John Boehner, today, is that his public record is both public and on tape.  Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine joins us next for the third day in a row of John Boehner having really, really bad days.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS:  Are there any indicators from the stimulus bill it‘s working?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  None that I can see.  Now, we‘ve never said that it wouldn‘t create one job when you spend $800 billion.  Somebody has got to get a job out of it.  But it certainly has not created the kind of environment where the economy‘s beginning to move and employers are beginning to hire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  That was Republican minority leader, John Boehner, last night, revealing the results of his very, very special Republican-only mathematical computation of the efficacy of the stimulus bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER:  We‘ve never said that it wouldn‘t create one job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  We never said that.  We, Republicans, we have never said the stimulus didn‘t create one job.  Our country‘s newest Republican senator, for example, Scott Brown, he certainly never said that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  The last stimulus bill never created one job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  You know who else never said the stimulus bill didn‘t create one new job?  That would be Newt Gingrich.  He didn‘t say it in a fundraising letter this year when he described the stimulus bill as, quote, “a monumental failure that hasn‘t created a single job.”
But it wasn‘t just in press conferences and fundraising letters that Republicans never made this outrageous claim.  They also didn‘t say it in radio interviews, such as one a man named John Boehner gave to conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
“A trillion dollar stimulus bill that didn‘t create any jobs.”  You know, that stimulus bill that didn‘t create any jobs, the one we‘ve never said didn‘t create new jobs?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER:  We‘ve never said that it wouldn‘t create one job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  While Republicans are busy trying to revise their derision of what Democrats have been trying to accomplish legislatively on jobs, the fact is, unemployment in this country is really bad—double digits in many states bad.
And so, you were granted a pardon if last night you pounded your fists on the table and steam came out of your ears when this happened, when Republicans filibustered for the third time in as many weeks, an extension of unemployment benefits.  Democrats had 59 votes, including two Republicans.  Although the final vote tally was 58-38 because Harry Reid had to vote against the bill for procedural reasons that will allow him to bring it back to the floor.
Filibusterers included Scott Brown, who provocatively announced when he first took office that his top priorities would be jobs, jobs, and jobs, like John Brady‘s Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, that clearly turns out to have just been a cry for attention.
Unemployment extension benefits have—an extension of unemployment benefits has now passed the House.  But it is still stuck in the Senate.  What does the Republican filibuster of unemployment insurance mean in real human terms?  It means that 1.3 million Americans have already lost their benefits.  By the end of the week, that will jump to 1.7 million.  And once Congress returns from the July 4th break, 2 million Americans will have lost their benefits.
At this point, Democrats‘ best hope for extending unemployment lays with whoever is appointed to fill the late Senator Robert Byrd‘s seat.
Joining us now is former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who currently serves as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Governor Kaine, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  It‘s a real pleasure to see you.
TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN:  Glad to be back, Rachel.  Thanks.
MADDOW:  Let me begin with this failure to pass an extension of unemployment benefits in the Senate.  One of the single most economically stimulative things government can spend on is, of course, unemployment.
KAINE:  Right.
MADDOW:  Democratic Senator Ben Nelson voted with Republicans to filibuster.  Can Democrats not get him in line on a Democratic priority like this?
KAINE:  Well, the vote was very disappointing because when you‘re voting against hard-hit people at a very hard-hit time, you know, you‘re going to have to be held accountable by your constituents.  That was disappointing.
But, Rachel, you know, the big game here is he did vote away—we‘re not happy with, but every other Democrat—and we‘ve got a broad variety of Democrats in the Senate, voted for unemployment benefits.  And all the Republicans, save the Maine senators, voted against.  That‘s a sharp differentiation between these two parties.
We‘re trying to both assist hard-hit workers and as you point out, do things that will stimulate the economy.  As they have over and over and over again, the Republicans are standing four square against economic recovery and against hard-hit people.
MADDOW:  One of the many controversies in Washington in the past couple of weeks has been the reporting that among the Republican Caucus, there‘s some pretty heavy-handed ways that they lean on their members in order to keep them in line with the Republican agenda, threatening seniority, threatening committee chairmanships, playing real hardball with their own members to keep them in line, even on procedural votes.
Do you support tactics like that?  I mean, Ben Nelson would make all the difference here, even as all of the other Democrats line up with this priority.
KAINE:  I think the Dems should do what they need to do in the Senate to get Senator Nelson to recognize the fact that even Nebraska constituents are hurting at a time like this.  We need his vote.  But we also need Republicans to stop their policies of just standing four-square against hard it people.  You see it over and over and over again, Rachel.
They‘re apologizing to BP.  They‘re stating—they‘re fighting tooth and nail against Wall Street reform.  And now, they‘re fighting against the hardest-hit folks.  And when you ask them why, they mention the deficit.
They didn‘t care about the deficit when they were waging two wars off the books.  They didn‘t care about the deficit when they were doing Medicare prescription drug benefits without paying for it.  And they didn‘t care about the deficit when they were doing tax cuts for the wealthiest and for oil companies.
But suddenly, when it‘s for the unemployed, they care about the deficit.  That tells you about their priorities.  It tells you how they govern.  That‘s why we think there‘s such a sharp choice for Americans this November.
MADDOW:  I sort of feel like Republicans used to argue, used to be sort of normal or at least mainstream among Republicans to argue that unemployment benefits were not necessarily an evil but maybe they couldn‘t be afforded.  Maybe—they didn‘t want to add to the deficit.  Now, I feel like there has been a shift in which some Republicans, both candidates and elected Republicans, are arguing that unemployment benefits themselves are evil.  That it‘s wrong to afford people any sort of social safety net once they‘ve lost their job.
Is that shift important, and will Democrats defend unemployment insurance on its merits?
KAINE:  Absolutely.  Well, first, as you point out, and just to explain it for a second—unemployment benefits are one of the best forms of stimulus because people who are hard hit and were getting those benefits, spend a bigger chunk of those dollars in the economy, which then has ripple effects to help with economic growth.  You do see Republicans now more and more mainstream, marquee candidates, like their nominee in Nevada actually saying that unemployment insurance is a bad thing.
And it makes me wonders sometimes: is it the deficit?  Is it a hard-hearted attitude against the unemployed?  Is it, frankly, a desire that the economic recovery not go forward so that they can get political benefit if there‘s turmoil?
There‘s a whole series of things at work here.  But what you see is a uniform strategy of battling for Wall Street, apologizing to BP, but turning a hard heart against those who are hit the hardest by this toughest economy since the 1930s.
MADDOW:  Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, currently the chair of the Democratic National Committee—Mr. Kaine, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
KAINE:  Look forward to being back.  Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW:  Sure.
I should note that we repeatedly asked the Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, to join us on the show.  We would love to have him at any time.  Michael Steele, you are welcome quite literally any time.  We would love to have you.  So far, he has not accepted any of those invitations.
All right.  It must be awesome to appear in the coolest sneaker commercials in the world, right, while everybody else is obsessing about your sport.  You know what I mean.
(VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  Is everybody familiar with that whole toutsy (ph) and bargain thing?  The curse that is behind this awesome ad—is coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MADDOW:  According to Minority Leader John Boehner‘s metaphoric stylings, the House of Representatives last night killed an ant with a nuclear weapon.  The ant, of course, was a gigantor killer alien ant from outer space that mercilessly destroyed earth‘s economy.  And then informed (ph) complaint about the nuke they used is that it wasn‘t big enough to make sure the ant never comes back—the “Who can play the bad metaphor game” John Boehner.
What John Boehner called an ant, of course, was the economic collapse, the near total incineration of our financial system in ‘08 and ‘09.  He said passing Wall Street reform would be like hitting an insignificant ant like that with a nuclear reform.
Now, the House did pass a final version of Wall Street reform, 237 to 192 -- but not before Barney Frank of Massachusetts got to say something on the floor of the House that you‘d kind of got the sense has been bugging him for a while—something he needed to get off his chest about Republicans and Democrats and the financial collapse and Wall Street reform and blame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  The fact is that the Republican Party controlled the House and the Senate from 1995 through 2006.  During that period, they showed remarkable restraint.  As eager as they were to restrain subprime lending, as passionate as they were to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they didn‘t do it.  That‘s a degree of abstinence unparalleled in political history.  They were in charge and whose fault was it?  Probably it‘s our fault, it‘s my fault.
But as I‘ve said before, people who have accused me of being the secret manipulator of Tom DeLay—well, if that were the case, you wouldn‘t have cut taxes for very rich people and wouldn‘t have gone to war in Iraq.  And as I said, if he was listening to me, he wouldn‘t have gone on the dance show.
You know, I wish I could have it back.  I wish I knew I was secretly in charge of the Republican agenda.  I wish I knew they wouldn‘t do anything unless I said they could and they would do something if I said they should.  But no one told me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  Sometimes in Congress, they pass landmark legislation like Wall Street reform and sometimes, they just fight with each other.  But sometimes, they fight with each other over landmark legislation.  And they do so in a way that makes you want to give them their own TV shows.  Those days are good days.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MADDOW:  So we don‘t quite have Wall Street reform yet.  The Fourth of July recess starts this weekend.  And we now know we‘re not going to have Wall Street reform before this weekend because over the Fourth of July recess, Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts says he has to put his thinking shorts on and decide whether or not he is going to vote for it. 
Sen. Brown has actually voted for Wall Street reform for the Senate‘s version of the bill.  And as he‘s emerged as the key Republican negotiator on the issue, he has scored himself a tiny little list of compromises. 
He managed to get some home state financial interests exempted from new restrictions on trading.  Nice.  He also convinced negotiators that the bill should allow banks to invest in hedge funds.  Oh, goody, sticking up for the little guy. 
He‘s demanded that Democrats remove a proposed tax on big banks and hedge funds, which Democrats promptly did.  So Scott Brown has won all these concessions.  He‘s gotten all these special Scott Brown deals but still not the sure he‘s going to vote for the final bill. 
He says he‘s, again, got to put his thinking shorts on over the long weekend and review the bill and decide whether or not he‘s going to support it this time around. 
So hey, Democrats, got to ask.  Is this ringing a bell for you at all?  I mean, she‘s not famous for her shorts, but how about Olympia Snowe during the health reform debate?  Remember how that went?  It was all about Olympia Snowe.  She was the key to making health reform bipartisan and, therefore, awesome. 
She even voted for it once in the committee which got her a ton of attention, a ton of attention that she used to lobby against a public option.  For those of you keeping track at home, you‘ll recall that the health reform debate ended with no public option and also ended with no vote from Olympia Snowe. 
The pattern of Republicans negotiating on big pieces of legislation, winning major concessions and then not voting for it after all has been pretty clear for a while now to people who are paying attention. 
Take, for example, this prescient October 2009 on Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from “Mother Jones‘” Kate Sheppard, quote, “While the support of a prominent conservative senator could pave the way for the passage of climate legislation, Graham‘s backing comes at a steep price.  He‘s pushing for massive payouts to the nuclear industry along with other environmentally questionable provisions.” 
“A few of the left-leaning or outspoken groups such as Friends of the Earth and the Union of Concerned Scientists are worried that Graham will pull a bait-and-switch.  They fear he‘s offering his backing now in order gain big concessions for the nuclear industry, but he won‘t ultimately vote for the legislation.”
Again, that was from October of last year.  Sen. Graham subsequently played a major role in putting together a climate bill with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, a big old compromise bill that he then backed out of in April. 
And of course, since they don‘t have Lindsey Graham to kick them around anymore, Senators Kerry and Lieberman are in the market for a new Republican negotiator.  And as such, they are advertising the fact that they‘re willing to scale back the bill even more. 
If that happens, I wonder if they‘ll get a vote in the end from that Republican.  So again, the pattern is this - some Republican senator or another appears to be a making a super-sincere effort at negotiating on a key piece of legislation with his or her friends from across the aisle. 
Said Republican senator convinces these Democratic friends to make tons of concessions on the key legislation.  But then, for whatever reason, all those concessions don‘t turn out to be enough to win that Republican‘s vote. 
So the inevitable outcome is that - well, first of all, it‘s less likely that any given piece of key legislation will pass, because, hey, guess what?  No Republican will vote for it pretty much ever, no matter what. 
And if the Democrats still do manage to pass something, it will be an undermined, watered-down version of the key bill in question that robs the Democratic Party‘s base of any sense of accomplishment or excitement or satisfaction in what its party is doing. 
And this undermined, watered-down bill will eventually become an undermined, watered-down policy that‘s worse than it would have been without Republican influence and worse in the precise ways - the precise ways that Republicans want it to be worse. 
Oh, also, for a hot minute before this particular negotiating Republican senator votes against the bill in question, they look for a hot second like they‘re not as extreme as they really are, that they are not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Republican like they‘re always are at the end of the day, because, look, they‘re negotiating with the other side. 
It‘s good strategy on the part of Senate Republicans, one that is working and keeps working over and over again, one that Democrats probably should have figured out how to fight by now. 
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post.”  Ezra, nice to see you.  Thanks for being here. 
EZRA KLEIN, STAFF WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good evening. 
MADDOW:  Do you think that Democrats know they keep making concessions and not getting any votes in return?  Have they figured this out yet? 
KLEIN:  I actually don‘t think so.  And for this reason, I don‘t think they‘re necessarily dumb on this.  But I do get the feeling that the Senate has trouble figuring out there‘s a difference between in there and out here. 
I remember talking with Kent Conrad shortly after the gang of six went down.  I said, “Why do you think it failed?”  And he said, “I don‘t know.  You know, I think if we had a couple more weeks maybe in that room, we could have done something.” 
And I said, “It seemed to me the longer you took, the less of anything became.  It became harder Chuck Grassley - he said more things against it.”  He said, “Yes, I can only speak in that room.  Out here, it‘s sort of anybody knows.”  And that seems to me what happened. 
So I mean, these people have good personal relationships.  They talk to each other.  They generally want to work together.  I legitimately think at the beginning, a lot of these Republicans - they want to be on board. 
And then, as they do it for a while, they realize they can‘t be.  And then, at the end, they find a reason to bail.  And it‘s always in that reason finding a way to bail that everybody - maybe even the Republican himself or herself - is a little bit shocked that this happened this way again. 
MADDOW:  I have to say that I did not know you were the silver lining and I was the cloud on things like this.  I think the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in such a more conspiratorial way.  I see it as like, oh, that‘s what Mitch McConnell‘s good at. 
You find somebody who actually needs a little bipartisan cred.  You put them in this position of being the sort of shadow negotiator.  They water it down and then they bail. 
It‘s sort of - it seems - because they keep doing it.  Olympia Snowe, Lindsay Graham, Scott Brown - they keep doing it over again.  It actually seems smart to me, not tragic. 
KLEIN:  I think it would seem smart.  Actually, I think, though, this is what Mitch McConnell‘s good at.  All these people at the beginning - Lindsay Graham said this.  Bob Corker said this on (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 
They say, “I‘ll only on be there if we get a couple more with me.”  And they say, “We‘ll all work with you and we‘ll try to get them.  And if I can bring a couple other people over, if I can have a little group of my own, like we did on stimulus, I‘ll be there for you.” 
Mitch McConnell never lets even one more go.  That‘s really the key.  Not one more Republican ever bails.  If it happens like that, they tag team, right?  They relay race.  Corker gives it to Shelby who gives it to Brown. 
But I don‘t know it‘s even done like that.  They are never allowed to get a friend.  And the pressure from the Republican grassroots is so enormous.  And the recognition of what is going to happen to you, now that people like Bob Bennett have lost their seats, becomes so overwhelming. 
But it‘s not that Mitch McConnell tells you you‘ve got to get out of here, although there may be some of that, too.  It‘s that you start to look for reasons to decide that this can‘t happen. 
You saw it with Lindsey Graham.  He said one day, “Well, you know what?  Harry Reid is going to go with immigration first.  And if he does that, we‘re definitely not going to pass energy.  So I‘m out of here because this isn‘t for real.” 
And I actually - I tend to give these a little bit of sincerity.  I don‘t necessarily think they‘re all cynical but I don‘t think that they understand that Mitch McConnell‘s never going to give them a friend.  And the Democrats don‘t understand the Republican will never come alone.  And within that space, there‘s no room for anything to happen. 
MADDOW:  Yes.  Somewhere right now online, someone is Photoshopping a movie poster of Mitch McConnell that says, “There Can Be Only One.”  It‘s perfect.
KLEIN:  Certainly, after you say that, they are. 
MADDOW:  I hope so.
KLEIN:  Check Twitter. 
MADDOW:  Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and a very good friend of this show.  Ezra, thank you very much. 
KLEIN:  Thank you. 
MADDOW:  OK.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith has interviews with both Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Al Sharpton, but not together. 
Next on this show, is this ad that everyone loves to blame for a curse, a curse that‘s gone global?  That‘s next. 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MADDOW:  From the publishers of mysterious and threatening Internet videos comes al-Qaeda, the magazine.  I am totally not kidding, but it sort of seems like they might be.  Please stay tuned.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MADDOW:  Legend has it that in 1945, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago was asked to leave a Chicago Cubs game and take his pet goat with him.  The tavern owner cursed the Cubs and the curse of the Billy Goat, the faithful believe, is supposed to explain why the Cubs haven‘t been to the World Series since. 
If you are not at least a little superstitious about sports, you are probably not that big of a sports fan.  Alleged sports curses are legion.  I, for example, am a Red Sox fan, so don‘t even talk to me about the curse of the bambino.  I do not want to hear it. 
There‘s the also Madden football videogame curse.  Since 2001, every offensive football player to be featured on the cover of that year‘s John Madden videogame, had a pretty lousy season. 
There‘s also, of course, the “Sports Illustrated” cover curse.  If an athlete or team appears on the cover of that magazine, in way too many cases, they soon after flame out spectacularly.  It doesn‘t apply to the swimsuit issue though. 
True enough, these curses are widely believed.  And now there is another one and it concerns this. 
(MUSIC)
MADDOW:  This is an ad Nike released in May to drum up excitement for the World Cup.  I know. I know.  Woo hoo, an ad.  Who cares?  But this ad made a big splash.  Three minutes, hard-core music, hard-core editing, cameos and sport celebrities and other celebrities and lots of people all over the Internet saying, “OMG.  OMG.  OMG.  Best ad ever.  World Cup fever.  Woo hoo!”  
The ad is called “Write the Future,” and it pits five of the best international soccer stars against each other in what looks like the most awesome imaginary soccer game ever. 
Each of the players imagines the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat while making some incredible moves of sheer poetic athleticism.  To be honest, I‘m not sure what “Write the Future” means.  That‘s the tagline. 
But the future that these guys wrote turns out to be a little bleak.  As of Portugal losing to Spain on Tuesday, every single one of the featured players in this blockbuster ad out of the World Cup is now out of the World Cup. 
One of them even never made it in.  Take Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast.  He broke his elbow a couple of weeks before the World Cup.  He did score two goals for his team during the tournament, but Ivory Coast was knocked out in the group stage.  Au revoir, Didier. 
In the ad, Italy‘s Fabio Cannavaro‘s dreams of glory included spangled, jersey-wearing showgirls.  But Italy famously flamed out quite early in World Cup play as well.  Their coach blamed himself.  He said the Italians played with fear in their legs.  Ciao, Fabio.
England‘s Wayne Rooney failed to score a single goal in the four matches that England played before they were knocked out By Germany.  Ta-ta, Rooney. 
Now, Brazil - Brazil is still in the World Cup.  But their featured player from the cursed ad, Ronaldinho, is not.  Right before the Nike ad aired, he found out he wasn‘t even picked for the Brazilian team. 
The last to fall is Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, one of the highest-paid soccer players in the world, who managed a grand total of one goal in the four World Cup games and Portugal was eliminated this week.  So Cristiano out as well. 
They‘re all out, all of the featured players in this amazing ad.  If you‘re still not convinced of the curse, though, consider that all of the bit players in the ad, lots of them, also appear to have run afoul of the curse as well. 
For example, isn‘t that Landon Donovan and Tim Howard of Team USA?  Yes, the U.S. lost to Ghana last weekend.  Also, Franck Ribery of France?  France flamed out really badly, so badly that France‘s parliament held two secret inquiries into what went wrong. 
The curse of the Nike ad is so strong it actually goes beyond soccer.  Por ejemplo, not a soccer player, but that‘s Roger Federer in the ad playing ping pong with Wayne Rooney.  Roger Federer lost at Wimbledon this week.  He never loses. 
Kobe Bryant is also in the ad.  You might think he‘s sitting on top of the world after winning the NBA championship.  But Kobe Bryant has hurt the index finger on his shooting hand.  He may have to have surgery.  It‘s the curse. 
So far the only people in the ad that still seem to be doing OK are a trio of Spanish players.  Spain is still in it for now.  The only other person to have escaped unscathed is Homer Simpson.  Homer Simpson is apparently fine.  Him and Spain.  What could possibly go wrong?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MADDOW:  You know, people keep saying that print media is over.  Oh, “Newsweek,” don‘t even try.  Print is dead.  Well, tell that to the publishing geniuses behind the new magazine, “Inspire,” which launched its much-anticipated debut issue this week. 
Now, admittedly, this is a tough name for a new magazine.  “Inspire.” “Inspire” is also the name of a pharmaceutical company in North Carolina and it is also the name of Christina Aguilera‘s perfume. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINA AGUILERA, POP STAR:  Follow your inspiration. 
ANNOUNCER:  Inspire - the new fragrance by Christina Aguilera. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  So although “Inspire” will sound to some people like the name of a perfume or a drug company or a particularly-ineffective deodorant or a Korean car or something, it is also the name of al-Qaeda‘s new magazine. 
That magazine launched, sort of, this week.  You‘re looking at the premiere run.  The summer 2010 issue, or as al-Qaeda mentioned, summer 1431, according to the Islamic calendar year. 
I say that al-Qaeda‘s “Inspire” magazine was only sort of launched this week because there were sorts of technical difficulties with this first issue.  Marc Ambinder at “The Atlantic” notes that the uploaded magazine seems to have been contaminated with a virus. 
The Associated Press notes that several pages of the magazine consist of just garbled computer code.  And everyone was disappointed that although the table of contents was posted of what was purported to be a long, like 67-page magazine, not all of the actual magazine seems to exist.  Or if it does exist, it doesn‘t seem to be posted anywhere online yet. 
There are some other anomalous things about al-Qaeda‘s “Inspire” as well.  In fact, there are enough anomalies about this thing to make me wonder whether it really is what it says it is. 
For one, even though there have been excited warnings online recently to expect this big, new al-Qaeda publication, this thing doesn‘t appear to have been produced by the Al Qaeda A.V. club.  Al-Sahab(ph) is the A.V. Club, them media arm of al-Qaeda central, famous for being run by and regularly featuring in their videos a ridiculous pudgy American kid named Adam who grew up on a California goat farm and who likes to be called Azzam the American now. 
Even though al-Qaeda has been hyping this new global English-language magazine, it‘s not apparently affiliated with its global English-language spokesman, Adam the goat farm dark. 
So that‘s weird in and of itself.  Because it‘s not an Adam the goat farm dork project, who is responsible for “Inspire?”  Well, it‘s attributed to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the branch of al-Qaeda that says it‘s in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. 
Here‘s the thing that‘s weird about that, though, as well.  As Spencer Ackerman notes today at “Danger Room,” it‘s being reported that the logo on the magazine isn‘t the logo that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula uses. 
So it‘s all kind of weird here.  It‘s named after Christina Aguilera‘s perfume.  It has viruses in it, which al-Qaeda stuff usually doesn‘t.  The upload appears to have been botched.  The document appears to be incomplete.  It‘s a big, English-language, global media effort that is not being launched by al-Qaeda‘s big English-language global media goat farm dork. 
And the al-Qaeda branch that it is supposed to represent is misbranded.  And that‘s a big error for a terror group for whom branding is everything.  I have my doubts - I have my doubts about this thing even before we get to its content. 
Did you see today what is listed as the content of this al-Qaeda magazine?  Even the few pages you can readily get online, all just seems either fishy or inadvertently funny. 
For example, here, on the table of contents page, a clandestine organization is really going to publish a how-to article on sending and receiving encrypted messages.  They‘re really going to put their how-to on what codes they use on a magazine that they post online? 
Not to mention, they have a contact us page.  Al-Qaeda wants you to get in touch.  Delighted.  I‘m sure the 82nd Airborne would love to oblige. 
And then, there‘s the inspirational articles in this thing.  Remember, this is supposed to be their English-language global outreach effort.  So you can‘t just chalk this up to bad translation or anything.  They say that this was written in English for English speakers. 
Here‘s one of their articles, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” by the A.Q. Chef.  Also, “Don‘t Be Sad.”  Don‘t be sad?  Is that a problem that al-Qaeda feels it needs to address with its recruits?  Sadness?  Don‘t be sad. 
Or this one, “Thoughts on the Way to Save the Earth by the Big Guy Himself, Osama Bin Laden” - because who else would you ask how to save the world? 
As Spencer Ackerman noted today, even though this article wasn‘t posted online, we already sort of know what Bin Laden‘s advice is going to be on that subject, don‘t we?  Blow stuff up when people disagree with you about what‘s Islamic. 
We will have to let the experts fight over what exactly this new magazine is.  It‘s possible it‘s just another particularly humiliating outing for al-Qaeda international, after Adam the goat farm dork‘s last genius tape. 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM GADAHN, SPOKESMAN FOR THE AL-QAEDA:  So what‘s wrong with one final flip-flop, but this time for a good cause? 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  Evil grin.  It‘s possible that this magazine is from some other al-Qaeda group that‘s not al-Qaeda central and Adam.  And it‘s possible they just really don‘t have their act together. 
After all, it is the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula guys who reportedly trained the spectacular failure that was the fruit-of-the-boom underpants bomber.  So it‘s possible that “Inspire” is just some lame output from al-Qaeda. 
But with front-page offerings like, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom,” it‘s hard not to believe this is something from the al-Qaeda version of the “Onion.”  The CIA director last week said there are less than 100 members of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan now. 
Gen. David Petraeus recently said al-Qaeda numbers in Afghanistan are in the double digits, if any.  A top intel officer yesterday in Aspen said even over in Pakistan, the al-Qaeda numbers are probably only somewhere in the vicinity of 300. 
So by the end of the summer, we will have 100,000 American troops in a war in Afghanistan against all sorts of people because of their even oblique relationship with the 2010 version of al-Qaeda. 
We‘re told it‘s not al-Qaeda‘s small numbers, their small membership we should focus on.  It‘s al-Qaeda‘s global reach, their appeal to all sorts of fellow traveler extremists. 
In other words, it‘s their message, al-Qaeda‘s global reach, the appeal of their propaganda.  I repeat, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom.” 
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GADAHN:  So what‘s wrong with one final flip-flop, but this time for a good cause? 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW:  Feel the threat?  “Inspire” magazine.  If al-Qaeda‘s power is the strength of its propaganda, then I feel like I actually have some great news for the war on terror. 
Al-Qaeda propaganda these days really sucks.  It sucks so badly it looks like somebody else is making stuff up in al-Qaeda‘s name to make al-Qaeda look bad.  Maybe somebody is.  Maybe this is some brilliant psy-ops operation to undercut the authority of al-Qaeda around the world by offering something incredibly lame and putting al-Qaeda‘s name on it. 
But if it isn‘t, if this really is what they‘re offering, if al-Qaeda propaganda has become indistinguishable from “The Onion,” that‘s awesome. 
At “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com” today, you can see some of the other al-Qaeda magazine headlines suggested by our readers.  So far, the current staff favorites from things that you have suggested are these - “How to convince Allah to give you 70 virgins that aren‘t lesbian in three easy steps.” 
Also, this is a good one, “Make a delicious infidel style casserole in the kitchen of your mom.”  “In the kitchen of your mom” sort of works for anything now.  You can contribute your own fake headlines at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com” today. 
You can also see lots of other stuff there related to the show.  Watch there as well from updates from our travels to Afghanistan for next week‘s special shows from there. 
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.  Good night. 
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