Guests: Dr. Alan Stewart, Sherrod Brown
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: Gather your armies.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. The GOP is inviting us all to live in their impossible world, where tax cuts help budget deficits. We‘ll be talking about that tonight.
There was a major movement by a ranking republican on the war in Afghanistan today. And the first-ever installment of the Rachel Maddow Show‘s comic book voice-over theater involves the issue of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell. It is getting rave reviews, I have to tell you. That‘s all to come this hour.
But we begin tonight with unexpectedly major news about the health of former vice president Dick Cheney. An episode of acute cardiovascular disease last week required Mr. Cheney to undergo an advanced surgical procedure. Now, the nature of the surgery has revealed unequivocally the severity of Mr. Cheney‘s heart condition. And the entire event occurred without the real-time public awareness to which we have become so accustomed when it comes to the health of major public figures.
In a statement today, the Cheney family revealed that Mr. Cheney underwent cardiac surgery last week in a northern Virginia hospital to combat congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure means the heart can‘t pump enough blood to the body‘s other organs. Mr. Cheney‘s surgery installed a small pump, called a left ventricular assist device which by battery power helps the heart‘s main pumping chamber pump blood through the body.
Included in the Cheney family press release was a statement from the former vice president himself, which read in part, “I have dealt with coronary artery disease for decades. A few weeks ago, it became clear I was entering a new phase of the disease when I began experiencing increasing congestive heart failure. After a series of recent tests and discussions with my doctors, I decided to take advantage of one of the new technologies available and have a left ventricular assist device implanted. The L-vad is a small implantable pump that improves heart function and will enable me to resume an active life.”
Mr. Cheney has suffered coronary disease for more than 30 years. A minor heart attack as recently as February was his fifth since 1978 when he suffered his first at age 37. In late June, the former vice president was admitted to George Washington University Hospital in Washington after complaining of discomfort. That episode resulted in his receiving medication to treat a fluid buildup around his heart. But this latest episode is different.
The installation of this Lvad, this device, it‘s traditionally been a short to midterm treatment of heart failure, frequently used to sustain patients who require heart transplants. The American Heart Association‘s website refers to this device as a bridge to transplant. That‘s the way they put it. The device that Mr. Cheney received is being worn outside his body, like sort of a belly pack.
His statement described the surgery as a success. He said that he is recuperating well. NBC News‘s Steve Handelsman did additional reporting by speaking with a doctor involved with the former vice president‘s care. That doctor told NBC News that Dick Cheney is doing well now, but that he was, quote, in heart failure before the surgery.
The doctor describes Mr. Cheney as, quote, running on three cylinders. Now the doctor says he is running on eight. Dick Cheney is, of course, among the most significant and polarizing figures in modern American politics and policy. As always, we sincerely wish him good health tonight.
To help us understand the former vice president‘s current condition, Dr. Alan Stewart joins us now. Dr. Stewart is a cardiac surgeon and director of the Aortic Surgery Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Stewart, thanks very much for being here.
DR. ALAN STEWART, HEART SURGEON: Thank you for inviting me.
MADDOW: I will guess that I got some of those basics, some of that explanation wrong. Did I get anything—fuzz that at all?
STEWART: Well, you had all the salient points right. A left ventricular assist device, this is an example of the device that Mr. Cheney has. It‘s predominantly inside the body with the battery pack exiting through a small drive line that exits the belly. This ventricular assist device is quite small, as you can see, and it‘s hooked up—
MADDOW: Is this actual size?
STEWART: That is actual size.
MADDOW: Oh, my gosh, that doesn‘t seem small.
STEWART: It involves an inflow to the device, an impeller pump, which is a rotary pump that spins it about 8,000 to 10,000 rpms and an outflow to the body. It‘s hooked up by coring a hole in the ventricle, shown here, which is a pumping chamber of the heart. This will be hooked up here.
This pump would reside just at the top of the belly, and then would spin. It spins in a continuous manner to allow blood to be impelled into the aorta, which contains blood and which allows blood to be distributed to the rest of the body.
MADDOW: So essentially a mechanical bypass to do the pumping motion that the heart in a healthy individual would do on its own?
MADDOW: Okay. What are the implications for Mr. Cheney‘s health to have this implanted? As far as I understand it, this is something that‘s usually implanted on a short-term basis. Sounds like he‘s intending on having it permanently in his body.
STEWART: Well there are two options for a ventricular assist device. Bridge to transplant, which is a short-term device meaning that he would eventually get a transplant. And the reality is is that there is no indication for Mr. Cheney to have a transplant.
The other option is that it can be something called destination therapy, meaning that this is his destination. This is his end result. He will have this ventricular assist device for the rest of his life.
MADDOW: What does that mean for him, for the way he lives and his health?
STEWART: You can have a pretty decent quality of life on a ventricular assist device. The devices are smaller now and they‘re quite durable. This device could be expected to last for three to five years and then could even be changed out for another device.
MADDOW: In terms of, when we were talking to you earlier about explaining what this means, one of the things you pointed out, which I think was—it tells you an important point about how this works, is that Mr. Cheney won‘t be expected to have, literally, a pulse.
STEWART: A pulse. That‘s true.
MADDOW: He won‘t have a pulse.
STEWART: This is a continuous ventricular assist device, meaning that blood is impelled. It is not a pulsetile device. So if someone were to feel Mr. Cheney‘s wrist, Mr. Cheney will have no pulse.
MADDOW: Because it flows continuously like a garden hose instead of something that goes on and off. No pulse.
STEWART: Exactly. The normal heart has an expansion and contraction, and that gives that bump bump, or two-beat pulse that we feel. It‘s the valves closing. The valves will stay shut in his heart now and blood will flow in a continuous manner.
MADDOW: Through that whirring motor that‘s in the machine.
MADDOW: How common are devices like this and what does Mr. Cheney having one suggest to you about the seriousness of his condition?
STEWART: Well, it means he‘s at the end of his line as far as medical care. He had coronary surgery. He had percotanious stenting done. He had a pacemaker. He had medical management and failed all of those over the course of time. This was his last step.
Either he would die of congestive heart failure or have a mechanical device inserted. It meant that he was quite ill at the time of his operation and didn‘t have a long period of time to exist without a fatal event.
MADDOW: It is shocking to hear the doctor describe him as being in heart failure at the time this was implanted. One last detail on this, it seems remarkable again for people who don‘t know about these devices, like me, that this is worn—part of this, the drive for this, as you say, is worn outside the body. Does Mr. Cheney have to wear this belly pack apparatus all the time now?
STEWART: Absolutely. The device is powered by batteries, for six to eight hours outside to be untethered. And he‘ll carry a number of battery packs, either in a handbag or in a harness which have become quite small and really not visible underneath the clothes. However, at nighttime, he‘ll need to be hooked up into a power adapter into the wall.
MADDOW: Wow. Without a pulse.
STEWART: Without a pulse.
MADDOW: The state of the technology is amazing. This is a strange way to learn it, and obviously, grave concern for Mr. Cheney‘s health, but it‘s fascinating. Dr. Stewart, thank you very much. I really appreciate your help with this.
STEWART: Thank you.
MADDOW: Dr. Alan Stewart is a cardiac surgeon, he‘s the director of the Aortic Surgery Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center.
So republicans have the economy all figured out. If Bush and Cheney‘s tax cuts for the rich are made permanent, then the rich will pay less taxes permanently. And that, of course, means any problems we‘ve got in the economy are solved. Senator Sherrod brown will join us next to talk about that.
And coming up later, does the military‘s Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy seem cartoonishly misguided to you? It is not as cartoonishly misguided as it‘s going to seem after you see this. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Still ahead, the military‘s Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell instructional comic book. Yes, instructional comic book will be brought to vivid life by “The Rachel Maddow Show‘s” comic book voice-over theater.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma‘am, I‘ve been talking to chaplainry‘s over the last few weeks and I think I might be homosexual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM BUNNING: George Steinbrenner died yesterday, 2010 because he was smart enough to die in 2010, there is zero tax liability to the estate tax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican senator Jim Bunning, as ever, keeping it classy. He says George Steinbrenner was smart enough to die yesterday, so his family could avoid paying taxes on his estate because of a loophole in the Bush tax laws. In Jim Bunning‘s rush to use the death of a man who had been dead for only about 24 hours in order to make his case against the estate tax, you can see both Jim Bunning‘s classiness and the republican party‘s enthusiasm for talking about what they now think is going to be their issue for this upcoming election.
Yes, there‘s going to be a fight about immigration and about republicans berating unemployed people for being unemployed. Yes, there will be a fight about energy. But the big issue you can see republicans getting geared up for now is taxes. Specifically the George W. Bush tax cuts.
The 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this year. Everybody, panic! And republicans right now are psyched to campaign on extending the Bush tax cuts, on making them permanent. In Florida, for example, republican Senate hopeful Marco Rubio just released his 12-step plan to fix the economy.
Twelve ideas he says will get the economy going again. Marco Rubio‘s idea number one, permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and it‘s not just the Bush tax cuts that republicans are psyched to run on. It‘s the whole Bush tax agenda. Marco Rubio put all of these things down as his ideas, but they‘re not really just his.
The person we have drafted as his tax spokesman tonight can actually help us through these. For example, Marco Rubio idea number two, cut taxes on American businesses. “By cutting this tax, we can spur job creation in America.” Mr. Spokesman?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH: Tax relief is right and tax relief is urgent. Help for small business means jobs for Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Also, Marco Rubio idea number three, “permanently end the death tax.” Mr. Spokesman?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We must repeal the death tax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Marco Rubio idea number six. “Fundamentally reform the U.S. tax code.” he says, “The U.S. should have a tax system that is simpler,” or as the spokesman says—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We simplify the tax code by reducing the number of tax rates from the current five rates to four.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Before carrying on—beyond carrying on the Bush economic and tax agenda that worked out so awesome, other Marco Rubio ideas, “track very closely with what House republicans have proposed this year.” Things like ending taxes on dividends and capital gains and reforming the alternative minimum tax. Taxes is what republicans want to run on. The problem is, they also want to run on being against the deficit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The American people are saying to us, you‘re spending too much. You‘re running up too many debts, and we expect you to do something about it.
MICHAEL STEELE: I see no shame in wanting to lower the debt off the backs of our kids. I think that‘s a good conversation to have with America right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republicans want to be the anti-deficit and anti-debt party right now, but they also want to run on George Bush‘s tax policies. And that is the giant awkwardness at the heart of republicanism right now. Because George W. Bush‘s tax policies did to the deficit what the “I only eat fried cheese” diet does to your cholesterol.
In 2001, the first Bush tax cuts cost $1.3 trillion. Two years later, republicans passed another round of Bush tax cuts at a cost of $350 billion. Neither of those tax cuts was paid for. They just added them on to the deficit.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch admitted to the Associated Press back in December that during the Bush years, “it was standard practice not to pay for things. It certainly added to the deficit, no question.” In 2005, the congressional budget office looked a to the impact of the Bush tax cuts and estimated that they added $539 billion to the deficit that one year alone.
If it wasn‘t for the Bush tax cuts, the U.S. in that year would have had a budget surplus, not a deficit. Do you remember how George Bush sold the tax cuts in the first place? He essentially said, don‘t worry about it. Don‘t worry about it. We can afford to cut taxes. We got a surplus. It will be fine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The growing surplus exists because taxes are too high and government is charging more than it needs. The people of America have been overcharged and on their behalf, I‘m here asking for a refund.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whoo. We got that and more. We got a huge deficit to show for it. Remember when they would complain about surpluses? Yeah. So now how do you run as a republican who‘s in favor of extending the deficit bomb that was Bush‘s tax policies and also say you‘re against the deficit?
You do that by magic. Republicans are now arguing with a straight face that tax cuts just magically don‘t effect the deficit at all. On Sunday, republican Senator Jon Kyl argued that you should never actually have to pay for tax cuts. And now the top republican in the Senate is backing him up.
Mitch McConnell telling Talking Points Memo today that tax cuts don‘t have to paid for, because, “there‘s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue.” Despite all of the empirical evidence to the contrary, republicans are now arguing that tax cuts are good for the deficit, just like fried cheese is good for your cholesterol.
You heard Mitch McConnell there say that tax cuts increase revenue to the government. He is making the case that cutting revenue increases revenue.
Also, cats love baths. Even George W. Bush‘s former chief economist has called bullpucky on this sort of ridiculous logic. He wrote recently, “I did not find such a claim credible based on the available evidence. I never have and I still don‘t.”
As our friend Ezra Klein today wrote today at “The Washington Post,” what is helpful about all of this magical thinking about math and deficits is that the republicans are at least making these claims openly now. Guys like Marco Rubio and the House republicans and Jon Kyl and Mitch McConnell. They‘re writing this stuff down. They are saying it on tape, and that lets us show what they are really offering.
So here it is, including the math. Here‘s what republicans are campaigning on. Right now the national deficit stands at about $1 trillion. That‘s what we‘re—that‘s where we‘re at right now if nothing happens. What happens if republicans get elected and they do what they say they‘re going to do? Well, first they say they want to permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. So—all right. That‘s fair enough, there, the deficit.
Did I get that up right? They want to—yeah, that‘s good. I knew that was going to happen. Wait. Hold on. How‘s that? See, our wall is slightly less magic. All right. There we go. They want to—yeah, that‘s good. I knew that was going to happen! Wait. Hold on. How‘s that? See, our wall is slightly less magic. All right. There we go.
Permanently extend the -- ‘01 and ‘03 tax cuts.
Hey, Rich, can you help me out? Will you help me with this? There you go. Hold that. That would add $2.3 trillion to the national deficit. Thanks, man, appreciate it.
As you saw from Marco Rubio, republicans also want to repeal the alternative minimum tax, the AMT, they also want to permanently end the estate tax and the gifts tax. Doing those three things would tack on another $1.1 trillion or so on to the deficit.
The first thing that wasn‘t a tax cut in Marco Rubio‘s 12-point plan was repealing Obama care. Repealing health reform. You hear that from a lot of republicans right now, including the top republican in the House, John Boehner.
If you did that, you would add another $19 billion—you would add another $138 billion to the deficit. The next idea from Marco Rubio was another republican favorite, to prevent cap and trade energy legislation from becoming law. If you do that—I bet this is the only one that will actually stick watch this—If you do that, you add another $19 billion to the deficit.
So that is a grand total of $3.5 trillion. That is what republicans are proposing to add to the deficit. Right now our deficit is around $1 trillion, republicans are proposing to add $3.5 trillion more to it. Thank you very much.
Now let them all fall down. Well done. There we go. Don‘t let the door hit your fiscal responsibility when you‘re on your way out. All right. Joining us now is democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Senator Brown, thank you for joining us tonight.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): You‘re having too much fun, Rachel.
MADDOW: I am having too much fun. Whenever things fail visibly on television, I enjoy myself.
BROWN: You do. And we do!
MADDOW: Well, thank you. Let me ask, though, if there is something that I‘m missing aside from good double-stick tape. Are republicans essentially campaigning on adding all this tax cut stuff to the deficit?
BROWN: Yeah, in some sense, what you‘re missing is you‘re only telling half the story, in this way that not only what they‘re doing provably increases the deficit, and did increase the deficit in the first several years of this decade, this century, we know that. You proved that and we knew that.
What else it did is it doesn‘t create jobs. Just contrast the last two eight-year administrations. During the eight Bush years, 3 million jobs, net jobs created. During the eight Clinton years, 22 million net jobs created. So I care about deficits, absolutely. But what I care even more about is job creation that people have a chance to join the middle class.
We saw jobs created, 22 million in the Clinton years. Because they were responsible about cutting taxes selectively and increasing taxes selectively and they were responsible about what government programs they formed and they dismantled. 22 million jobs created and incomes went up in those eight years for the average American. And in the next eight years, the eight Bush years, only 3 million jobs created and that wasn‘t even enough to keep up with population growth.
So in that sense, there was a relative decline in job creation. And wages were flat or worse for the average American. So—and coupled with that, what the republicans did in eight years is they cut taxes for the richest Americans and they deregulated Wall Street and deregulated worker safety. Look what happened to the mine disaster. And deregulated in terms of safety and environment.
Look what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. And it‘s the same story. When I look at who they‘re running for office this year, in my state, the republicans are trotting out Mike DeWine, formerly a U.S. senator. Rob Portman, former U.S. budget director and trade rep under Bush. John Kasich, former republican chairman of the budget committee in the ‘90s.
They‘re trotting them out, and they‘re saying the same things. They want to do the same things as Marco Rubio wants to do. Cut taxes, cut regulation, and that‘s going to create jobs. No, it cost us jobs and drives up the deficit.
The economics are so clear in this, as you pointed out, that it‘s terrible for the budget in all the big things they did. Tax cuts, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the drug company and the insurance company bailout in the name of Medicare privatization. All those hundreds of billions of dollars were not paid for and charged to our grandchildren. And they have the hypocrisy and the nerve to say democrats are irresponsible with the budget? Give me a break.
MADDOW: One of the things that was proven not only to be the right thing to do with people that are down on their luck but also a big economic stimulus is extending unemployment benefits. That is something you and the Senate have been dealing with over and over and over again as republicans continue to block it. Do you think the Senate will be able to get an extension next week?
BROWN: I think we are, because Senator Byrd‘s replacement will be appointed by Governor Mansion of West Virginia. We need one more vote, but that is the hypocrisy. They insist we—they give tax cuts to the rich, they start wars, they do a drug and insurance company bailout giveaway. Charge that to our grandchildren.
All of a sudden now, we have to pay for unemployment benefits for working people who have been in the job market for 20 or 30 years, working. They lose their jobs. They‘ve paid into this. Republicans seem to think, republican senators, 41 of them vote no on unemployment time after time after time. They seem to think that unemployment is welfare. It‘s insurance. You pay in when you‘re working, you get help when you‘re not.
And for them to say, we don‘t pay for tax cuts for the richest Americans, just add that to our grandchildren‘s balance sheet. Let them pay that, put that on their credit card, yet say you can‘t do unemployment compensation unless you pay for it.
I saw a guy tonight who used to work for Bob Dole and he was incredulous that republicans today won‘t bipartisanly extend unemployment benefits. We‘ve always done it. It‘s countercyclical, meaning when the economy is bad, you want to the prime the pump, as you point out on the show, Rachel, that that‘s good economics.
Every dollar you put into unemployment benefits creates a $1.60 in economic activity. So forget the humanitarian cost, the humanitarian issue. It‘s good economics to provide unemployment extension to people who are working hard and lost their jobs.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, thank for your time tonight. I feel like I wasn‘t very clear in explaining this and you were crystal clear.
BROWN: No, you were very clear. You just didn‘t mention the fact that they ruined the economy in addition to the budget deficits. But you did really well, as always. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Sherrod. Nice to see you. So how swimmingly has the don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy gone for the U.S. military? Well, eight years after it was put into place, the U.S. military published a comic book instruction manual to help folks in the military understand how it “works.” “The Rachel Maddow Show” comic book voice-over theater makes its unanticipated debut, next.
MADDOW: There was a long, weird history of using comics, using the comic book format to make essentially public service announcements, to address social problems.
Like, for example, poison, addressed here in comic book form with the help of Dennis the Menace. Or drug use, addressed here with the help of two attractive blond comic druggies.
These and many other attempts to harness the power of comics to address social issues are chronicled at the excellent Web site, “Comics with Problems.” Our friends at “BoingBoing.net” this week alerted us to the fact that “Comics with Problems” had posted a rare find. It‘s called “Dignity and Respect.”
It appears to be a U.S. military effort to convey through comics the appropriate implementation of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” They apparently published it in 2001, which means that eight years into the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell Policy,” that policy was working so well the army had to turn to comic books to try to convey to soldiers what the heck the policy meant.
But when you look at the details, the confusion is maybe understandable. Take, for example, the definition of “homosexual conduct” as described in the comic book. Quote, “The army defines homosexual conduct as an act or a statement or propensity to engage in homosexual acts, the solicitation of another to engage in homosexual acts and a homosexual marriage or attempted marriage.”
You tried and failed to get married? You got cold feet, maybe? OK, so maybe how people get fired isn‘t always clear, but that‘s why we turn to The RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘S comic book voice-over theater for clarification.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, PFC Howard reporting as ordered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: PFC Howard, I‘ve received a report that you were seen engaging in a homosexual act. I consider this information to be credible. I‘ll be conducting an inquiry and would like to ask you some questions.
But first, I must inform you of your rights under article 31. Do you understand your rights as I explained them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, I do. But I don‘t know what this is about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I said, I received a report that you and another male were seen engaging in a homosexual act in the barracks yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I would like to talk to a defense counsel before making any further statement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine, PFC Howard. I understand. The ISG will assist you to get an appointment with an attorney. By the way, if you need to talk with someone else, the only other person you can talk to in confidence is the chaplain. Let the ISG know if you want an appointment with him, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soon after PFC Howard leaves -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma‘am, I wanted to give you an update on PFC Howard‘s case.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, how‘s it going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as you said, PFC Howard decided not to make a statement. He‘s contacting military counsel through the ISG.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good, captain. Thanks for the updates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few days later, PFC Howard consults with a trial defense attorney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, can you explain the process and what will happen to me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. First, let me cover the possible actions your commander could take and potential discharges you could receive if you were involved with homosexual conduct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later, that very same comic book -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on my review of the statements by Sergeants Hall and Johnson and discussion with your chain of command, I have decided to recommend the initiation of separation action.
You will receive a memorandum, notifying you of the convening authorities‘ action. You may talk to military counsel about your options. Would you like to discuss it at this time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir. I think I will see my military counsel before I talk about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You are dismissed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A few weeks pass -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ISG, I just received word that PFC Howard‘s discharge has been approved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s all so tidy that way. That‘s what they say happens when other people out you. What about when you out yourself? “Dignity and Respect” comic book, what say you?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma‘am, can I talk to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure. Is it OK if the ISG stays?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma‘am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What‘s on your mind, Sgt. Williams?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma‘am, I‘ve, talking to Chaplain Ayers(ph) over the past few weeks and I think I may be homosexual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop right there. Before you go any further, I want to be sure you understand that under the homosexual conduct policy, saying you‘re homosexual can be a basis for discharge. You may also want to talk to a legal assistant officer about this matter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma‘am. I understand. I have already talked with a legal assistance officer as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you understand the army‘s homosexual conduct policy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma‘am, I do. But I‘ve been struggling with this a long time and decided I had to tell you that I am homosexual.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you understand the consequences of what you are telling me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma‘am. I needed to let you know, and I do understand the consequences of my actions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, then, sergeant, I will talk with the SJA and battalion commander. I may have some more questions for you after that, so that I can confirm you are serious about this. I also want to make sure that you understand the implications of your statement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand, ma‘am. Thank you for your time, ma‘am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No need to thank me, Sgt. Williams.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later, in the commander‘s office -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you‘re certain about this sergeant‘s sincerity?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ISG, I think so, especially after talking with the platoon sergeant and platoon leader. We don‘t see any other reason for Sgt. Williams to make this statement at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what are you going to do, ma‘am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Based on Williams‘ statement, I may have to initiate discharge procedures. But first, I‘ve got to contact the battalion commander and then get advice from SJA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Capt. Smith calls the balance commander and then
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maj. Storm, sir, this is Capt. Smith. I am considering a possible homosexual conduct separation against Sgt. John Williams in my command.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later that week -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are things going with Sgt. Williams, ma‘am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After talking with the SJA, the battalion commander and I agreed to recommend discharge for Sgt. Williams.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Getting discharged with dignity and respect, according to the army‘s comic book on how to do it. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): There is substantial concern about our course in Afghanistan. At some moments, it appears as if we are trying to remake the economic, political, and security culture of Afghanistan.
We should know by now that such grand ambitions are beyond our resources and powers. We started in Afghanistan because we thought that‘s where al-Qaeda was and we wanted to disrupt any further activity might threaten us and the United States of America.
Now, 10 years later, as we‘ve all pointed out, we are still there. I‘m sort of coming to a conclusion here that our idea of attacking the original al-Qaeda people by trying to reform or reshape Afghanistan may not have been finally where we should have started or ended.
And the question is, how do we and start to move on? I just think we really have to begin sharpening our pencils as to what our objectives are physically, because the wealth of this country is not interminable, nor are the casualties of our forces and the number of people we have available.
We can‘t fall back on measuring our military and civilian activities in Afghanistan according to relative progress.
Arguably, we could make progress for decades on security, employment, good governance, women‘s rights, other goals - expending billions of dollars each year - without ever reaching a satisfying conclusion. In such circumstances, avoiding mission creep toward unattainable goals is essential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What is not remarkable about those statements is the concern about the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Public skepticism about our continued war there is, of course, on the rise.
What is remarkable about those statements is that the senator making them is the top-ranking Republican on the foreign relations committee, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Republican, which is a huge deal, politically if the Republican Party starts allying with him on Afghanistan and his skepticism, rather than, say, Senator “Stay Forever” McCain.
Three Americans were killed in Afghanistan yesterday. Another five were killed today. The three yesterday died alongside four English-speaking Afghan interpreters and three Afghan policemen in the exact area where I and this show reported on joint U.S. Afghan policing efforts just last week. We‘ve got more to come. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith talks with Congressman Ed Markey about the BP oil disaster. And still ahead on this show, making people in Afghanistan switch from the AK-47s they have always used to American weapons rather inexplicably. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: Clearly, I am no authority on shooting straight. I am neither an authority on shooting or am I an authority things going on straight. But whether or not the Afghan army can shoot straight was one of the single most interesting and unexpected things I came up against on my trip to Afghanistan.
We are building a $10 billion-a-year army and police force in a country with a $14 billion-a-year economy. Now, that‘s hard enough to swallow. It is even harder to swallow when you realize how badly we were at building that army and police force for so long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera): So I‘m here with Lt. Jeff Korshayne(ph). He‘s originally from Minnesota, and he‘s been here since January. It‘s July now. And he‘s involved in direct training of Afghan national army recruits. It‘s the basic warrior training. It takes about eight weeks. Is that right, lieutenant?
LT. JEFF KORSHAYNE(ph), U.S. ARMY: Yes.
MADDOW: OK. And over the course of that eight weeks, obviously, we‘re at right now is marksmanship training. Where are you trying to take them toward in terms of what they‘re trying to accomplish with marksmanship? Where should they be at the end of the eight weeks?
KORSHAYNE(ph): At the end of the eight weeks, we want them to be able to qualify at about a 98 percent rate. That‘s what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) team right now, to qualify on their target of 98 percent over the year, the personnel.
MADDOW: These are M-16 rifles they‘re using?
KORSHAYNE(ph): Yes, it is.
MADDOW: So I understand that you‘ve had some remarkable progress in the marksmanship rates. When you arrived here, the qualifying rate for a group of 1,400 Afghans going through here in an eight-week course was 30 to 35 percent. That was January. Now, now in July, it‘s 95 percent?
MADDOW: How do you get improvement that dramatic?
KORSHAYNE(ph): One of the things that we did is we introduced more rigorous basic rifle marksmanship instruction. So even before they go on to the range, we ensure they know everything about their weapon, how to pull the trigger, how to properly aim.
And then right here, we have some classes. You can see an example of that. There‘s two days of this type of instruction where it‘s just hands on the weapon before they even come up here.
MADDOW: In terms of what we can see here, these are diagrams of the weapons, learning about the weapons. This is about - if your target looks like this, you need to be adjusting your technique at a specific (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
KORSHAYNE(ph): It is -
KORSHAYNE(ph): Yes. You have to know how to load the weapon. This second one here is what different (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will look like and what they‘ll go through and explain this is what you‘re doing wrong for each shot group.
So that top left one, they have for breathing and for sight (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The top right one there would be for (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The shot groups are close, but they‘re all over the place. And they just go through each one and they can show what it should look like if you‘re using proper (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MADDOW: And how to diagnose what‘s wrong with your technique based on what‘s happening with your target.
MADDOW: I see. In terms of these young men here who are turning out to join the A and A, do they have any experience with weapons before they get here, or are they generally learning about rifles - learning about rifles for the first time?
KORSHAYNE(ph): They don‘t have experience with the M-16. Many of them have experience with the AK-47.
KORSHAYNE(ph): But it‘s a very different weapon. And so we do have to basically teach them from the beginning about the M-16 rifle.
MADDOW: May I ask them questions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MADDOW: How much has the training changed before 2009? How has it changed between the way it was before and now?
GEN. AMINULLAH PATYANI, AFGHAN ARMY: The first thing that we have totally changed the system of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And now, we are training with a new and better equipment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What I was asking about - all I was asking about was how training had changed over time. It is fascinating to me that what the Afghan general I was asking immediately brought up, when I asked him that, Gen. Patyani there - what he brought up is that the training changed from Warsaw-packed weapons, meaning Russian weapons, meaning AK-47s to NATO weapons, M-16s.
I wasn‘t asking them about weapons. I was asking about training broadly. That is the issue he raised - Afghans using American guns. That is a huge deal on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORSHAYNE(ph): They train on the M-16s here.
MADDOW: On the M-16 - OK.
KORSHAYNE(ph): And when they get to the course, I don‘t think all the course filled the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). they are in transition to receive U.S.
what we call NATO weapons. So there is U.S. M-16s or NATO M-16s and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) machine guns.
BRIG. DAVID PATERSON, IN CHARGE OF TRAINING THE AFGHAN ARMY: The emphasis on accuracy as opposed to spraying the target area.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. Accuracy. It is a microcosm because it‘s a single issue among a million different issues. But it‘s actually - it says quite a lot. You know, the AK you presumably do not have to maintain it as well.
You wouldn‘t need the sort of training to maintain that weapon but you‘d never be able to count on the sort of accuracy as the NATO weapon.
PATERSON: That‘s correct.
MADDOW: And it actually sort of speaks to a larger issue here. What
you need if you kind of have -
PATERSON: There is a certain degree of - often, there is a certain degree of pride for the Afghans, too, in having, you know, proper modern NATO weapon.
PATERSON: It only looks the part. They feel different. They are not just like the fellow on the street with their AK-47.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Brigadier David Paterson of NATO there is in charge of training the Afghan army for NATO. I‘m not sure about whether there is a point in pride of not using an AK-47 like any guy on the street using an American-made weapon instead.
But there is definitely a big difference between the two. AK-47s are ubiquitous in that part of the world. They are definitely considered less accurate than American-made weapons. But they‘re very powerful. They‘re almost indestructible and they need very, very little maintenance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PFC. ETHAN SUBLET, U.S. ARMY: It is a little more difficult because you do have to take care of them - but take care of them, I don‘t have to worry about.
SUBLET: But actually, the popular choice here is AK-47.
SUBLET: So that‘s pretty much (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You can pretty much never clean it.
MADDOW: Wow. If you had the choice of the AK-47 or M-4 (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which would you have?
SUBLET: Probably an AK-47.
MADDOW: Yes, what about you?
SGT. YERIAL BARBOSA, U.S. ARMY: M-4.
MADDOW: You would have M-4? How come?
MADDOW: Do you have a romantic attachment M-4?
BARBOSA: Usually, M4s are more accurate than AK-47.
BARBOSA: They do have a bigger round.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Two American soldiers there with two different perspectives.
One said he‘d prefer an AK. One said he‘d prefer the weapon he has.
Russian or Russian knock-off weapons like AK-47s or NATO weapons, M-16s, M-4s. Your rifle politics depend on your personal taste, your training, your goals. But your rifle politics are also matter of politics politics, and politics‘ best friend which, of course, is money.
Afghanistan has an economy of something like $14 billion a year - $14 billion. The training budget for Afghan security forces last year was roughly $9 billion. This year, roughly $10 billion. Next year, roughly $11 billion.
So average it out to $10 billion a year, training up the security forces - $10 billion a year in a country with an overall economy of $14 billion a year. These training budgets are reported for us by NBC‘s Richard Engel. They‘ve never before been reported in the U.S. media.
So there is your scoop. There is your scoop, but here is your question. When you build a $10-billion-a-year institution in a $14-billion-a-year country, what does that do to that country?
We are building an Afghanistan in which the dominant institution in that whole country by a mile is the military. If the west funds the military there to a tune of $10 billion, that just completely dwarfs any other institution in the country.
There is no way that institution will end up being constrained by any civilian authority. And maybe that is not the worst thing in the world, but it is sort of inadvertently what we are aiming at.
Even if the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan ended today, no one I talked to from any country, none of the Afghan officers, none of the NATO officers, no U.S. officers, thought we would stop building up that Afghan military any time soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATERSON: But it‘s good, comparatively.
PATERSON: Yes. I met (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MADDOW: Yes. But certainly, speaking with Afghan officers earlier, they are - you know, they are very clear that is a very important part of making this - of making the Afghan national army grow.
Of course, it raises the question of whether or not this force size is sustainable for a government with a GDP this small.
PATERSON: Yes. That is an issue. I think NATO, the United States maybe including that particular bill (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MADDOW: In terms of the American public thinking about America‘s role here and our role as part of this coalition here - obviously, this NATO training mission, do you think that what is happening now is sustainable in an Afghan-only environment?
After the coalition leaves, will Afghanistan itself be able to sustain this kind of training that they need for a police force this big?
BRIG. GEN. ANNE MACDONALD, DEP. CMDR. FOR POLICE DEVELOPMENT: Well, that‘s exactly what we are trying to do, is build the foundation to be able to train leaders. We‘re really focusing right now on leader development.
We are investing in literacy for the young police who come through as well as the army soldiers recognizing that that is the cornerstone to building a foundation here. If we can get them to read and write, not only are they better police and army soldiers, they are better citizens and then they can take that gift and pass that on.
It‘s going to take time for them to be able to sustain this. And we believe they can. Now, fiscal sustainability is another issue.
MACDONALD: And how are they going to be able to afford this? And the answer to that is that the coalition is going to be here shoulder-to-shoulder for a while.
MADDOW: Shona ba shona(ph) - shoulder to shoulder. We‘re building an Afghanistan, if all goes well, in which the military is dominant institution in the country, supported even if we need, to the tune of $10 billion western dollars a year.
But remember, we have now insured they will be spending on American-made weapons. Your tax dollars at work, America.
MADDOW: That does it for our show tonight. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
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