Guests: Sen. Jeff Merkley, Ezra Klein
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Our MSNBC coverage continues now with THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. I can‘t believe you gave away the whole trick.
O‘DONNELL: I can see you.
MADDOW: I can see you, too. And sometimes I pretend like I can see everybody at home, but that‘s just to keep them in line.
O‘DONNELL: It works.
MADDOW: Yes, thank you. Cheers, Lawrence. Thanks a lot.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home, who I can see, for staying with us for the next hour.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explains something today about the war in Afghanistan that I have never heard any official admit to about this where before. NBC‘s Richard Engel will be here.
There is all sort of fresh and amazing chaos among Washington-controlled and/or straight up for-profit tea partiers today. Ezra Klein will help us sort through that.
BP makes a move that Tony Soprano would definitely admire.
And Marco Rubio produces a very charming but totally pointless political ad about this TV show.
Oh, and in this summer of real life news that seems more like a spy novel or an action movie—we‘ve got another one. This time, it‘s a nuclear heist gone terribly awry. Explaining it involves a weird detour about very old wine and eccentric American billionaires. I kid you not. That‘s our cheesy-ium (ph) story tonight and that‘s all to come.
But we begin tonight with a totally unexpected development inside Republican Party politics. As the Republicans‘ big economic talking point, what they want to run on in 2010 is destroyed by one of their own—destroyed by a fellow nationally-known Republican candidate. Here‘s the talking point in question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CARLY FIORINA (R-CA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Let me propose something that may seem crazy to you. You don‘t need to pay for tax cuts. They pay for themselves.
MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: You need policies like an extension and making permanent the ‘01 and ‘03 tax cuts. They will be paid for because they create economic growth.
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: When President Obama imposed those tax cuts, they actually generated economic growth. They expand the economy. They expand tax revenue.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Behold the Republican economy talking point for this year.
The Bush tax cuts for rich people have to be extended.
And don‘t worry about offsetting those tax cuts—don‘t worry about paying for them because they‘re free. They pay for themselves. They don‘t add to the deficit. They actually reduce the deficit.
The shock political development tonight is the way that this philosophy, this talking point, is being debunked and dismantled, complete with a peppy insulting phrase from within the Republican Party, a nationally known Republican sage. A public gray beard is taking his fellow Republicans apart on this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 10, 1980)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: So, what I‘m saying is that it‘s—it just isn‘t going to work. And it‘s very interesting that the man who invested this type of what I call a voodoo economic policy—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Voodoo economics. The idea that massive tax cuts can actually reduce the deficit and help balance the budget, it‘s voodoo economics. Burn!
That was, of course, George Herbert Walker Bush way back in the primary season before the 1980 election debunking fellow Republican Ronald Reagan‘s promise—his campaign promise that he would balance the budget while also giving massive tax cuts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: A big difference, for example, that the governor and I have regards this tax cut. In my judgment, that economic program would exacerbate the deficit. It would result in less stimulation of the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, Poppy Bush, as you know, ultimately lost that Republican primary but he did turn out to be right about Ronald Reagan and the whole idea of voodoo economics. When President Reagan entered office, the national debt was about $994 billion. When Ronald Reagan left office, the national debt had swelled to $2.8 trillion.
Love Ronald Reagan or hate him, when Poppy Bush said that Reagan‘s
economic policy would exacerbate the deficit, boy, howdy, he wasn‘t
kidding. And Reagan‘s supply side trickle down nonsense about how his tax
cuts would pay for themselves, they wouldn‘t add to the deficit, that was -
that was, well, you say it, Poppy Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: What I call a voodoo economic policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: George Bush senior was right. It‘s voodoo economics. Tax cuts don‘t actually pay for themselves. If they aren‘t offset, they grow the deficit, just like spending does.
And yet, when George Bush senior‘s son was president and pushing through his own massive tax cut, listen to the argument that he made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Tax relief not only has helped our economy but has helped the federal budget. You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If that sounds too good to be true, that‘s because it is. That argument was debunked by his dad years before. It was debunked by the experience of the Reagan administration. It was debunked even at the time that George W. Bush was making that argument by his own economic advisors.
A 2003 report to George W. Bush from his council of economic advisors said, quote, “Although the economy grows in response to tax reductions, it is unlikely to grow so much that lost tax revenue is completely recovered.” In other words, they‘re not paid for.
In 2006, Bush‘s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said, quote, “As a general rule, I don‘t believe that tax cuts pay for themselves.”
In 2007, Bush‘s former chief economist wrote to people still in the administration. Quote, “You are smart people. You know that the tax cut have not fueled record revenues.”
Now, you may not care that tax cuts add to the deficit. You may think that the deficit doesn‘t matter. You may think that reducing tax rates on rich people is so important that the whole country should take on debt in order to pay for that.
But the idea that tax cuts are going to magically not affect the deficit—the idea that as Steve Benen at the “Washington Monthly,” the tax fairy is going to come in and make giant taxes cuts not balloon the deficit. The argument that one way to cut the deficit is actually to cut taxes, it‘s nonsense. It‘s magic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: What I call a voodoo economic policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right. Thank you, sir.
Today, at the White House, no one said the word “voodoo,” but President Obama turned criticism of Republicans blocking unemployment benefits into an attack on the way Republicans do like the spend money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, I have to say, after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn‘t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn‘t offer relief to middle class Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama obviously wants unemployment benefits extended to help ease the pain on the million of Americans who are out of work right now, but he is also making a larger argument about how Republicans govern, what Republican priorities are.
Democrats obviously want this upcoming election to be as much as possible about Republicans. They want it to be about what‘s wrong with individual Republican candidates, what‘s being proposed in terms of individual Republican policies.
Republicans, on the other hand, keep saying over and over again now that they really want this election to be about spending and the deficit. They say they want to run on their fiscal conservative credentials—which is a framing that Democrats should welcome.
Here‘s how the national debt has increased under Republican and Democratic presidents. On the Republican side—excuse me, on the Democratic side, the debt went up 42 percent under Jimmy Carter and 36 percent under Bill Clinton. On the Republican side, it went up 189 percent under Ronald Reagan, it went up 55 percent under George Bush senior, and it went up a whopping 89 percent under George Bush Jr.
So, that‘s the record of fiscal conservatism that Republicans want to run original apparently. As both Bush presidents might say if they were awkwardly amalgamated into one Bush president say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Read my lips.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Bring them on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Senator Merkley, thanks very much for your time tonight.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Oh, it‘s great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, Senator, the new Democratic senator from West Virginia is expected to finally be sworn in tomorrow. Should we expect that that will mean the Senate will finally be able to extend unemployment benefits?
MERKLEY: You should be able to expect that. And it‘s none too soon because we‘re having a situation in states like mine, in Oregon, we have 40,000 people who have lost their unemployment benefits. If you put that across the country, that‘s 4 million people. So, we really have a contrast here with programs to help the wealthiest or programs to help working Americans bridge through this deep recession to a better time.
MADDOW: Republicans are arguing now that the reason to help the wealthiest Americans is because doing so is free. Extending the top tier of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is just—is something that wouldn‘t add to the deficit. What‘s your—what‘s your reaction to that?
MERKLEY: Well, may reaction—this is like a summer sequel of a horror film. We‘ve been there. We‘ve seen exactly what happened under the Bush administration.
We saw the national debt double. We saw none of these giveaways to the wealthiest produced income. And we saw that in—it worked in tandem with shipping jobs overseas.
So, if this is the idea of a national Republican economic policy, well, let‘s have that debate and we‘ll bring to bear the statistics on just how it worked out the last time.
MADDOW: In terms of specific policies to try to—not only grow the economy but to try to alleviate some of the pain that‘s being felt in specific parts of the economy, I know that, right now, you‘re trying to push through a small business lending fund. Republicans, as I understand it, are currently blocking that. What‘s the source of their opposition?
MERKLEY: You know, this is really strange. This is a program to help out banks on Main Street make loans to small businesses. We hear from small businesses in every single state that they are constrained by their access to credit. They need that credit to seize opportunities, to grow, to take us out of this recession. Most importantly, to create jobs.
So, here, we have a program that CBO has scored as making the treasury $1 billion over the next 10 years. And yet it could create credit equal to about $300 billion of credit to small businesses.
But the Republicans are opposing it. And why is that? There‘s no rational reason unless the goal is to drive the American economy into a double dip recession.
MADDOW: You feel like, honestly, that Republicans are opposing the policies they‘re opposing, and promoting the policies they‘re promoting because they want a bad economic outcome?
MERKLEY: Well, you know, I didn‘t come to D.C. as cynical as I feel here a year and a half later as a senator. What I have seen is everything politicized by the primary elections and the general election plan for this year. And it certainly appears that all sense has lost all sorts of partnership to make American economy work for working Americans is gone. So, if a program is going to restore credit to small businesses, then the Republican leadership is against it.
And we can‘t let that happen. We need to have this conversation. We have to have this national debate, and I think the American people will say that program is not for us.
MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, it‘s a real pleasure to have you on the show tonight, sir. Thanks for your time.
MERKLEY: Great to be with you. Thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
So, it turns out I‘m always wrong—always. Whatever I say, you should believe the exact opposite. If I say the sky is blue, the sky is definitely chartreuse or maybe even lavender but not blue. That at least is the argument from a new weird ad by Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio --in which he says I‘m always wrong.
So, since I‘m always wrong, I just have this to say. Marco Rubio‘s strategy to argue that his policies are clearly right because I disagree with them is the most sophisticated master stroke in American political history and it is sure to win him the election. Opposite day. That‘s coming up.
Plus, NBC‘s Richard Engel joins us onset next.
Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: The idea that we must all take the Tea Party Movement very seriously because it‘s a force to be reckoned with, emerging as the change maker in American politics. That common wisdom is rock solid—rock solid as in pop rocks. Or one of those big Styrofoam rocks you can hide your keys in in your front yard.
Ezra Klein joins us in just a moment.
MADDOW: Nine years—nine years, nine conferences. Every year since launched the war in Afghanistan nine years ago, we and a bunch of other countries had held a conference to talk about what to do there. Nine years, nine conferences.
And it is this year, for the first tame ever, that that yearly conference about what to do in Afghanistan is actually taking place in Afghanistan—first time. And that is your “what‘s wrong with this picture” Afghanistan microcosm of the day.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Kabul today for the conference. Reporters asked her about concerns that western spending in Afghanistan is being diverted to the elites and to the corrupt and to the bad guys in that country. She responded with this, quote, “We also have to take a hard look at ourselves, because it is very clear our presence, all of our contracting, has fed that problem. This is not just an Afghan problem, it‘s an international issue.”
What‘s remarkable about that from Secretary Clinton is that it seems to recognize a key and subtle point about this war: extending the duration of our presence there may very well reduce our chances of achieving our goal there. If the end goal is to have a real Afghan state functioning there, serving its people, us funneling billions of war dollars into that country breeds corruption and dependence and resentment. It undermines an Afghan state. It does not promote it.
“Newsweek‘s” cover story right now is titled, “We‘re Not Winning. It‘s Not Worth it.” The story is a lengthy argument for why and how to extricate ourselves from this war.
Is that cover story an effort to move American public opinion and the administration‘s opinion on the war? Or is that cover story a reflection of where that opinion already is?
Joining us now is NBC‘s Richard Engel. He‘s not just NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, he‘s also served as my tour guide and uncompensated carpet salesman on my recent trip there.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Do you have the money for that? That‘s why I came.
MADDOW: Everybody thinks that was you giving me 20 bucks to buy the rug. Can we play this up once and for all?
ENGEL: Yes, it was—it was my money.
MADDOW: Roll the tape!
ENGEL: It was your—t was your money. I was holding it for you.
MADDOW: You never carry any money. You didn‘t have any money.
ENGEL: We‘ll go with that story. That‘s fine.
MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) Richard Engel!
All right. Am I right in detecting a sort of new center of gravity in arguments about our presence in Afghanistan? Do you feel like thing are shifting?
ENGEL: Things are definitely shifting. The idea is not we‘ve got to win this war, how many troops is it going to take—it is: how do we get out of this war. And the shift is focusing on—well, what can be the new strategy? Is there going to be a negotiated settlement?
And that‘s what pretty much what Haass is arguing in that article, that there should be some sort of political accommodation and that after nine years of war, trying to rebuild and occupy a landlocked central Asian country to protect the homeland isn‘t working and isn‘t going to work.
MADDOW: Are there splits among powerful people? Among people who tend to influence big policy decisions like this on that central issue, or is that really—is that really the common wisdom now? Are the people who are dissenting from that and say, no, we need to stay forever?
ENGEL: I don‘t think so. I think everyone is trying to figure out how to do it. And most people, the one issue that no one is talking about is the key to this entire equation is Pakistan.
ENGEL: I‘ve been told time and time again, Pakistan could turn off this problem quickly, in a day, as the expression goes. It‘s probably not a day, but very, very quickly. Pakistan knows it and has said to that Afghanistan several times. We can fix this problem.
But they want certain assurances from the United States. They want certain deals from the United States.
So, if you can come up with some sort of accommodation with Pakistan, you don‘t need to be in Afghanistan anymore.
MADDOW: And what does Pakistan—what does Pakistan want, or what is salient about what Pakistan wants that might be hard for the American people and the American government to swallow?
ENGEL: The Pakistan wants to have influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants to have influence in Afghanistan to protect itself from India. So, it might be difficult for people in the U.S. to accept a stepping back of relationship between India and the United States, which are very close.
ENGEL: People in the United States feel very connected to India.
It‘s good training partner. It‘s a world partner.
Do we have to then sacrifice some of our relationship with India in order to placate Pakistan, in order to save ourselves in Afghanistan? Maybe. There may be some of that tradeoff that‘s coming along.
But it needs to be a political bargain Pakistan needs to be involved. The idea of just trying to build the Afghan government and send in more troops to try and fight our way or pay our way out of Afghanistan—most people don‘t think it‘s possible.
MADDOW: It has to be a Pakistan solution.
ENGEL: It has to be a Pakistan and Afghan solution—something with the Afghan government and Taliban reconciliation to a degree.
MADDOW: Well, when you talked to Afghans, and when you talked to Pakistanis, and when talk to people who are sort of connected to the power brokers in those countries, what are they expecting us to do? Do they feel like they—do they feel like they see where we‘re going before we do?
ENGEL: The Afghans are very nervous—and we talked about this a
lot. The Afghans are nervous that there will be a deal and that the
country is going to be sold off to Pakistan. And there are many people in
particularly ethnic minorities—who are worried about this. They don‘t want the Taliban coming back. They don‘t want more Pakistani influence and they‘re thinking, maybe we should go back into the mountains of northern Afghanistan and fight again. So—
MADDOW: Does Pakistani influence equal Taliban?
ENGEL: It has in the past.
ENGEL: So, Pakistani influence would probably mean more hard-line Islamic influence, particularly in the border areas there. Because Pakistan has found these groups useful allies, useful militias to fight other wars and other things.
I think, going forward, this is an analogy I‘ve always used and I think it‘s starting to maybe even catch on: the war on terrorism, particularly the war on terrorism in Afghanistan—think of it a little bit as like the war on drugs. Do you remember the war on drugs?
Well, the war on drugs is similar to the war on terrorism in that you‘re both fighting a concept. You‘re fighting something that is bad, is evil, and has a—has a damage on your society at home. But we didn‘t occupy Colombia or other drug-producing countries, and we didn‘t try to rebuild their governments. You try to help the local governments. You try to eradicate drug dealers, killing them when necessary.
And I think there is a growing consensus that that is a different kind, that‘s more the approach you need for terrorism. You don‘t need to occupy, rebuild, clear, hold and build your way through every failed state in the world in order to prevent that problem washing back on your shores.
MADDOW: Does that also imply though that you tolerate some low-level of terrorism in the way that winning the war on drugs means tolerating—
ENGEL: There are still drugs there are in America. There would still be terrorism in America. There would still be terrorism in the world. You‘re not going to get rid of it.
If you could accept, OK, there‘s a little bomb here and there. And that‘s not the end of the world. You don‘t need to go and occupy every unstable country in the world. But if you can protect against it, you can minimize it, you can make it happen as—you know, as little as possible, the same way—
MADDOW: Harden yourself as a target.
ENGEL: Harden yourself the same way you protect places that would be vulnerable to drugs, schools or ports. And you can look at the problem and think strategically about it, or you can look at terrorism the same way. But, yes, there will be some terrorism and there‘s still will be some drugs, kind of don‘t matter what you do.
MADDOW: You still don‘t get that 20 bucks. That‘s a really good try.
ENGEL: I thought that was worth $20.
MADDOW: That was sort of worth $20, but I think NBC pays you.
ENGEL: I‘ve thought about this for years. It‘s not even $20 worth.
MADDOW: Unless you know I‘ll just loan you the rug whenever you want to borrow it.
ENGEL: It‘s so nice to see you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. Richard Engel, NBC chief foreign correspondent, of course.
All right. One wing of the Tea Party Movement is organizing a conference on race to avert claims that there is any racism at all in the Tea Party Movement.
On the other hand, the leader of another wing of Tea Party Movement has written a mock letter to Abraham Lincoln on behalf of slaves, asking Lincoln to repeal emancipation. It is hilarious like only a white Tea Party guy impersonating black slaves can be.
A Tea Party divided amongst itself is not standing. The ongoing struggle to take that movement seriously continues in just a moment.
MADDOW: Something just happened in the BP oil disaster that can really only be explained using a scene from season five of “The Sopranos.” OK. So, Tony and Carmela were going to get divorced, OK? They both need to get divorce lawyers.
But because Tony is a criminal mastermind, he effectively poisons the well for Carmela so that all the good divorce lawyers are off-limits to her. Do you remember this good plot twist?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Soprano, you needed (ph) an attorney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, hi, great. Thank you.
The reason I called—I gave your secretary the broad strokes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re in the middle of a separation, your original attorney retired?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Bob Greenburg (ph). At any rate, I‘m thinking it is time I move forward with the divorce proceedings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Soprano, I‘m afraid I‘m going to have to cut you short. As far as handling it, I‘m afraid I have to recuse myself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean? Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, your husband has been in to see me for a consultation last year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband hired you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But based on our prior meeting, the Code of Professional Responsibility precludes me from representing you because of that consultation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he met with Greenburg, too, and he was willing to represent me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Mr. Greenburg would have found himself in a bit of ethical soup had he actually moved forward.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t understand this. Why is my husband so picky? He talked to seven or eight of the top divorce attorneys in New Jersey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you can probably figure that maneuver out for yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Jesus Christ.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand your frustration. If you like, I can recommend a colleague. Someone your husband hasn‘t contaminated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, yes. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Someone your husband hasn‘t contaminated. Perfect verb for using that plot from “The Sopranos” to understand what BP has been trying to do to science on the Gulf Coast.
All right. The Mobile “Press Register” reports that for the last few weeks, BP has been trying to hire tons of prominent scientists in the Gulf Coast region to help the company defend itself against the inevitable litigation to come.
According to the “Press Register,” BP even tried to hire the entire Marine Sciences Department at one Alabama university. That school turned BP down, but it is reported that scientists from several other universities in the region have accepted BP‘s offer.
Now, the “Press Register” obtained a copy of a contract that BP was shopping to scientists. The contract, quote, “prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data they collect for at least three years.”
Scientists approached with the deal told the paper that BP offered to pay $250 an hour for the scientists to help BP with its legal defense and, of course, for them to not say a word to anyone about what their research shows.
The head of the Dauphin Island sea lab in Alabama told the “Press Register,” quote, “It makes me feel like they were more interested in making sure we couldn‘t testify against them than in having us testify for them.”
Think about how this would work. When the government files a natural resources damage assessment lawsuit against BP, the government will have to turn to the scientific community to build their case against BP. The government will start looking for gulf coast regional experts on sharks and marine invertebrates and plankton and marshes and oceanography.
They‘ll be looking to those experts for evidence and to use them as experts. But if all goes well with BP‘s “buy up all the scientists” plan, all or most of those gulf coast experts will already be on the BP payroll, prohibited by contract from sharing their research with anyone, and prohibited by conflict of interest concerns from participating in the government‘s lawsuit. Nice plan, right? Tada! Or maybe I should say, badabing(ph)!
MADDOW: Quote, “We colored people have taken a vote and decided we don‘t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just too much to ask of us colored people and we demand that it stop. Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14 Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.”
That particularly nauseating screed written by tea party activist, Mark Williams, on his blog last week. That was apparently a bridge too far for Mr. Williams and for the organization he represents, the Tea Party Express. Both man and tea party machine have since been slammed by two other groups, the Tea Party Nation and the National Tea Party Federation, which kicked mark and his group out entirely - seemingly.
This is perhaps an unsurprising development given that Mark Williams is a man most famous in TV land for saying stuff like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, “ANDERSON COOPER 360”: Mark, what you‘re saying makes sense to me here when I‘m hearing what you say. But when I read on your blog, you say, you call the president an “Indonesian-Muslim-turned-welfare-thug” and a racist-in-chief.
MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Yes, the whole thing -
COOPER: I mean, do you believe he is Muslim? Do you really believe he is a welfare thug?
WILLIAMS: He is certainly acting like it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So Mark “the president is an Indonesian Muslim welfare thug” Williams and his Tea Party Express have been booted out of the tea party movement - booted. What does that even mean? How do you get kicked out of a movement?
How do you get kicked out of the tea party movement? Do you have to turn in your frequent protest sign making card? Do you no longer qualifying for a discount on tea bags to staple to the brim of your hat? How do you lose tea partier affiliation?
Well, let‘s see here. The Tea Party Express was created by Sal Russo who is a long time California Republican operative. The Tea Party Express, Mark Williams‘ group, should not be confused with a for-profit group that‘s called the Tea Party Nation.
Tea Party Nation is the famous thrower of conventions gone terribly wrong. At its first convention this winter, you‘ll recall that a former Republican Congressman and presidential hopeful called for reinstating literacy tests as a precondition for voting.
Yes, Jim Crow, I said literacy tests again as in what essentially is this, again, and what country is this. Tea Party Nation convention part two was to be held this month in Las Vegas. But ticket sales were slow because of the weather, or so the organization claimed.
Apparently nobody warned them it was hot in Vegas in the summer, and tea party for profit convention part two was postponed. The Tea Party Express, Mr. Williams‘ group, should not be confused with the Tea Party Patriots, which is a whole other thing.
They should also not be confused with the Tea Party Party in Florida. That is an actual registered political party, meaning you can vote for its candidates. Other tea party groups think the Tea Party Party are frauds and not really that tea-partyish at all, so they want them to be called not the tea party but the TEA Party so as to prevent confusion.
And speaking of confusion, there is also the newly-minted National Tea Party Federation, an umbrella group that includes and has alliances with Dick Armey‘s Freedom Works, the socially conservative right-wing anti-gay Family Research Council, the corporate-funded Americans for Prosperity and, until very recently, the aforementioned Tea Party Express.
So you got all that? Tea Party Express admonished by the Tea Party Nation and booted from the National Tea Party Federation. The spokesman for the National Tea Party Federation is a guy that who also runs another group which is called Tea Party 365.
And this gentleman, David Webb, apparently has the power to expel tea party groups, expel tea party people, and to call for other tea party conventions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID WEBB, TEA PARTY 365: Think what it would mean to this nation if
we would have an open forum and a real summit, a real tea summit instead of
a beer summit -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right -
WEBB: On race relations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He said it and so it was - the Uni-Tea Convention. I didn‘t make that up and slapped them with it. They picked it themselves. The Uni-Tea Convention for tea partiers who want to talk about race will be held at the end of this month.
As best as we can tell, the Tea Party Express will not be participating. The tea party movement gets talked about and reported on as a movement, as a cohesive, unified, organized movement that explains a lot in American politics right now. But if this is organized, what counts as disorganized?
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and an MSNBC contributor. Ezra, thanks very much for being here.
EZRA KLEIN, STAFF WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, Rachel. You‘re going to need to borrow Glenn Beck‘s blackboard to do that.
MADDOW: The good news, though, is that I could do part of it with a stencil because all of the groups all say “tea party” in them somewhere, so you can just stencil that all over the board and then fill in all the modifiers.
KLEIN: But we need visuals.
MADDOW: Yes, I know. The confusion here is - I mean, the way that I‘m talking about it makes it sound confusing. But it‘s no less confusing in real life. And I feel like the common wisdom, especially in beltway reporting, is that the tea party is this cohesive movement with leaders and an agenda and clear demands. And in real life, when you really report on them, it just doesn‘t seem like they‘re like that.
KLEIN: No. And I should say, I‘m not a reporter on tea parties but I‘m a reporter on Washington politics. And what is interesting here is that you‘re having a movement that is not internally cohesive, essentially taking over a movement that is not only internally cohesive generally but also quite powerful, which is the Republican Party.
Michele Bachmann, this week, I believe it was, filed to begin a tea party House caucus in the House of Representatives. There will now be a tea party caucus and different members of the GOP are joining in today.
And this gets very, very dangerous for the Republican Party, because it‘s one thing to have an activated, energetic, disorganized, chaotic grassroots movement that is helping you but you can keep at arm‘s length.
It is another thing to let it into the party, because as you saw with the now-ejected Tea Party Express, if I remember your intro correctly, they say they‘re not media-trained. They‘re not politicians. They‘re just people. And if you bring that linkage too close, so the Republican Party has to answer for all that they do.
MADDOW: In terms of the way that this movement, this sort of disorganized movement is affecting the very, very organized Republican Party, where do you see manifestations of that influence? What has happened in Republican politics that you think reflects the power of this movement?
KLEIN: You can name - and I think John Shea(ph) points this out at the “New Republic” - you can name at least four Senate races that look to be endangered because of the tea party.
In Nevada, of course, they were going to knock off Harry Reid and then Sharon Angle won because of tea party support. And now, Reid has off in three straight polls. In Florida, you have - Charlie Crist was locked to win that Senate seat.
Then, Marco Rubio looked to beat - like you would beat him in the primary. Crist moved into the middle and now seems to be ahead running a sort of centrist Democratic coalition.
You have - in Pennsylvania, you also had - it wasn‘t exactly tea party but it was allied where Specter was driven out of the party. He then became a Democrat 60th vote on health care reform, then he was knocked out by Specter - by Sestak. I‘m not as good at this as you are.
And so now, it looks like they may lose that election, too. So you can go sort of on and on and on down the line. And at the end of the day, the tea party, which has given a lot of energy to the Republican Party, may actually end up taking seats away from it.
MADDOW: One last point, Ezra, on the issue of deficits. Does the base, either as articulated through the tea party movement or not, care enough about deficits that proposals like Marco Rubio‘s, like all of these other candidates who are proposing big tax cuts without paying for them, would that pose a potential political problem for them if these base voters really do care about deficits?
KLEIN: But the base voters really don‘t. There was a tea party poll
I believe it is in “New York Times” about a week ago - that asked directly, “Which would you prefer, the Republicans and the government in general focus on tax cuts or deficit reduction?” Tax cuts won out about 49 to 42 or 43.
So there doesn‘t appear to be a conflict there like the Republican Party itself. Deficits are convenient for now, but tax cuts tend to be the actual priority.
MADDOW: Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor. Next time, we‘ll do the whole thing with puppets, OK?
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” former White House counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, talks about “The Washington Post‘s” giant landmark two-year investigation of our super-bloated, expensive, outsourced and unwieldy intelligence-gathering apparatus. A rather shocking expose.
Coming up on this show, Florida Republican Marco Rubio generously promotes this TV show for free and we did not even ask.
MADDOW: Florida‘s Republican Senate hopeful Marco Rubio takes two big gambles in this latest campaign ad. One, that everyone in Florida knows who I am. That‘s a bad bet. And two, that “I know you are but what am I” is a sound argument that‘s used by adults who aren‘t drunk. My favorite kind of debate, coming up.
MADDOW: Koch Industries is the largest privately-held oil and chemical company in the country, privately-held as in the Koch family owns it. You may remember that one of the Koch brothers, David Koch, spent some of his fabulous oil and chemical wealth on propping up the tea party movement.
He is the chair of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and supports lots of other right-wing causes. Another fabulously wealthy Koch brother, however, spends his money in a way that is less Fox News-y and more “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous-y.”
Bill Koch bankrolled a yacht racing team that won the America‘s Cup. He collects Picasso and Salvador Dali and Mondigliani and Renoir and Rodin and Gaugin and Chagall and Cezanne and Monet and Botero and everyone else listed in the index of your introduction to expensive art text book.
And Bill Koch collects wine. He collects really expensive wine. In one of the best articles published in “The New Yorker” in a long time, Patrick Radden Keefe, a couple years ago, wrote about how Bill Koch, this fabulously wealthy Koch brother, spent $500,000 buying wine that had supposedly been owned by Thomas Jefferson.
But after he bought it, Bill Koch started to worry that he had been swindled. To test whether the Thomas Jefferson wine was really from the 18th century, he had the bottles dated by a scientist. Not carbon-dated like it was a fossil, but cesium-dated. This is so cool.
Cesium-137 is a thing that doesn‘t really exist in nature. It didn‘t exist in this world, really, until humans invented nuclear bombs. Cesium-137 is something that is only produced by nuclear fission.
So if you find cesium-137 on something or in something, then that you know that that thing is atomic age. It‘s post 1945. Its prominence(ph) is sometime after the first nuclear explosion on earth.
If your thing does show traces of cesium-137, it is post 1945. But if it doesn‘t show traces of cesium-137, it is pre-1945. It‘s cool, right? Well, zillionaire Bill Koch had a scientist test his Thomas Jefferson wine for cesium, to see if the bottles were fakes, to see if they were actually wind from post-1945 being passed off as if they were really, really old.
That‘s, I think, the first thing I ever learned about cesium-137, that you can use it to precisely, molecularly mark the start of the atomic age. That‘s one thing that stuck in mind about cesium-137.
The other thing that stuck in my mind about cesium is dirty bombs. Cesium is what counterterrorism people always say would be the sort of thing that would turn up in a dirty bomb attack.
Cesium is highly radioactive. It‘s around. We produce it at nuclear labs because it has industrial and medical uses. And if a terrorist wanted to lace explosives with nuclear material, radioactive material, to cause widespread radioactive fallout but not a nuclear explosion, people always cite cesium as a likely candidate for a bomb of that type.
Now, get this. Last week, five men were indicted in South Africa after a sting operation and a shootout and a chase through a crowded area. They were arrested and charged with trying to sell a bunch of cesium to someone they didn‘t know was an undercover police officer.
The arrests happened apparently at a gas station in Pretoria, South Africa. There were many police officers involved, reportedly a lot of gunfire in the streets and a foot chase of one suspect through a busy downtown intersection.
The suspects were caught with some amount of highly radioactive cesium-137. They didn‘t just say they had it. They, in fact, had it in their possession. The cesium had been shielded expertly in lead to make it safe to handle.
So someone involved in this, somewhere along the line, was a pro. The stuff was packaged properly, which is comforting to anyone anywhere near those arrests at that gas station. There was no contamination in the area.
But it‘s also worrying in terms of where this stuff came from. These guys got it from someone who knew what he or she was doing in dealing with highly radioactive material or the suspects knew that stuff themselves.
The five suspects had allegedly planned to sell that radioactive material as part of a larger sale that included the cesium and an industrial nuclear device. Huh?
In the “Voice of America” and in local South African and public radio international reporting on this story, the device these guys wanted to sell along with the cesium is consistently described, I kid you not, as an industrial nuclear device.
People haven‘t found - police haven‘t found this industrial nuclear device yet, but the reporting seems to indicate that police believe it exists. They say the asking price for the radioactive cesium that they did find on these guys and the nuclear device to go with it was about 45 million South African rand, which is about $6 million U.S. dollars.
I recall that we lost our collective minds as a country when the Bush administration concocted the “he wanted to build a dirty bomb” accusation against Jose Padilla, even though none of that was ever proved and all those charges were dropped.
But now, we‘ve got five guys arrested actually with radioactive material and a shootout and big chase with tons of cops through a crowded city and some mysterious nuclear device that police still believe is at large, and we haven‘t really heard a peep about it.
One little blog post so far on “The Washington Post” from their intelligence reporter, Jeff Stein, but otherwise, this is only in the foreign press so far and nobody else picking it up.
Unless these guys are proven to have had that cesium because they were rogue, old wine testers working for some Bordeaux-hound billionaire, I would like further information about this story, please.
If dirty bombs are going to be a real threat and not just some campaign slogan anymore, I would please like some further information about this. Thank you.
MADDOW: On Friday, Republican Senate hopeful, Marco Rubio, posted a new campaign ad. Mr. Rubio‘s new commercial is all about the economy, which makes sense, because he is running in Florida where the economy is really very, very bad.
Unemployment in Florida stands at 11.4 percent, higher than the national average. Foreclosures up nearly 10 percent in the first half of this year in Florida, higher than the national average.
And Florida‘s most recent state budget needed a rescue from federal stimulus funds, which, of course, Marco Rubio opposes. These are troubled times, time to call for big ideas, detail arguments, facts.
And so Mr. Rubio released a new ad. Can we actually just play it? Can we play this whole ad, you guys? Is that OK? All right. We got the whole thing. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: On Tuesday, Marco Rubio announced 12 simple ideas to grow the economy and create jobs. How can you know the plan is right? Rachel Maddow thinks it‘s wrong.
(on camera): And Marco Rubio just released his 12-step plan to fix the economy. The giant awkwardness at the heart of Republicanism right now.
TEXT: Marco Rubio. He supports. You decide. Marco Rubio supports:
Extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Cutting taxes for American businesses. Ending double taxation. Repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Think Marco‘s ideas are wrong? Rachel Maddow comes on at 9:00 p.m. But if you agree with Marco, help him stand up to the big spending liberals wrecking our economy. Donate today, www.marcorubio.com.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: First, I just want to thank Mr. Rubio for naming the ad “Maddow.” That‘s very flattering. Also for telling everybody about THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and what time it starts and all.
A big, warm welcome to those of you who have tuned in. Thanks to Mr. Rubio. Hello, I love Florida. Let‘s keep the ball rolling, shall we?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEXT: Marco Rubio has proposals for cutting the deficit and growing the economy. He wants to: Make Bush‘s ‘01 and ‘03 tax cuts permanent, end the estate tax, prevent cap-and-trade energy legislation, repeal health reform. How does Marco Rubio say you can know his plan is right? “Rachel Maddow thinks it‘s wrong.” Seriously. That‘s his argument. That‘s it.
Even if everything about me is inherently wrong just by virtue of who I am, this is still true about Marco Rubio: His economic proposals will add $3.5 trillion to the federal deficit.
Examples: Keep the ‘01 and ‘03 tax cuts: $2.3 trillion. End the estate tax: $364 billion. Prevent cap-and-trade energy legislation: $19 billion. Repeal health reform: $138 billion.
When Marco Rubio says he would cut the deficit, he either doesn‘t understand his own policy ideas, or he doesn‘t understand what a deficit is. Marco Rubio is right about one thing, though: Rachel Maddow comes on at 9:00 p.m.
And we‘re on the Internet, too: MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com. Rachel Maddow, not running for anything. Ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don‘t know if it‘s just the goofy music or what but I have to say I‘m really enjoying this. Tag, you‘re it.
That does it for us tonight. If you want to find out what happened to the Thomas Jefferson wine bottles and the cesium dating, you can check out Patrick Radden Keefe‘s excellent “New Yorker” article. It‘s linked at MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
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