'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, July 23rd, 2010
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Guests: Rep. Anthony Weiner, Ezra Klein, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I don‘t know if it would be lucky to run into Sharron Angle or not run into Sharron Angle. So, I‘m just going to generically wish you luck.
O‘DONNELL: I have my hopes.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Lawrence. Have a great weekend.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
The home stretch of an unexpectedly week of news this week includes the oil industry winning ugly but winning definitively over everyone.
It includes brilliant avoiding of the actual issue by Republican Senate hopeful, Tea Party darling and avowed but apparently faking it deficit hawk, Marco Rubio.
It involves the underreported threat of health reform‘s secret squadron of bacon police. You heard me.
And the crowning of a new American champion in the fine art of pretending to play music but not actually playing it.
That is all coming up this fine Friday.
But, first, what you‘re looking at right here is the official Friday schedule for President Obama released by the White House last night. This is what was on his public schedule for today.
Now, as you can see here, it says the president receives the presidential daily briefing in the oval office at 11:00 a.m. and then it says the president meets with senior advisers in the Oval Office at 11:30 a.m., and then that‘s it. There‘s nothing else on the schedule. Just a lazy, lazy July Friday.
But then something interesting happened today—something interesting happened on the way to the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody.
Trying a little change of venue here, mix it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There was President Obama in the Roosevelt Room at noon, delivering a statement that was added to his schedule at the very, very last minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to talk about the progress that we made this week on three fronts. First, I signed a Wall Street reform bill. Second, I signed a law that will improve our ability to crackdown on improper payments made by our government. Third, we finally overcame the procedural blockade of a partisan minority in the Senate to restore unemployment insurance for about 2.5 million Americans who were out of work and looking for a job. So, taken together, we made enormous progress this week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Enormous progress this week—a great week. Look at how much we did. Why is an announcement like that the sort of thing that would be added to the president‘s schedule at the very last minute?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: On Wednesday, the president signed the consumer protection, the financial regulatory reform bill—that was on Wednesday. Overshadowed a bit perhaps, Lynn, by that fact that Shirley Sherrod had been fired, the entire saga that played over the course of the last four days—definitely got the White House off message here.
We‘re heading into the weekend. The president had no public events on his schedule as of about an hour ago. They laid this on here. The president, one more whack at it before we head into that weekend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One more whack at winning back the news cycle—a late add to the president‘s schedule.
The Shirley Sherrod controversy exploded all over the news the same exact day the president finally signed sweeping Wall Street reform into law. And that, of course, totally eclipsed that bill-signing, that historic accomplishment in the news cycle.
What happened this week perfectly encapsulates the big flashing red light political problem for the Obama administration right now. Over the last year and a half, they‘ve put lots and lots of points on the board. They have scored legislative achievement after legislative achievement. But they have done so without much political capital to show for it. The Beltway media calls it the Obama paradox. No matter what the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress accomplish legislatively, it‘s not earning them the political capital that it rightly should.
I mean, think about what President Obama and congressional Democrats have accomplished in the last year and a half: the most historic financial reform since the Great Depression; health reform—something politicians of both parties have been chasing 56 for generations; the economic stimulus package, which not only included the largest middle class tax cut in history, but also historic investments in infrastructure and alternative energy. When is the last time you heard the president get credit for the largest middle class tax cut in history?
They passed credit card reform. They passed really quite good student loan reform. There was civil rights legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women and hate crimes act. Historic nuclear agreements:
both an international one about nuclear terrorism and one with Russia about nuclear weapons. Barack Obama won the freaking Nobel Peace Prize.
And then, of course, there‘s the minor matter of achieving economic growth now, pulling the country back from what was by all accounts the brink of the Second Great Depression, turning the job numbers into the right direction and doing it while retaining some semblance of the previous American economy that went totally Chernobyl barely two years ago.
President Obama has managed to do all of this stuff in less than half a single term. And yet, here‘s his approval rating right now: 45 percent, in the latest NBC News/ “Wall Street Journal” poll.
Here‘s the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans—look at that—heading into November. People have all sorts of misconceptions right now about the stuff that has happened over the last two years.
Polling numbers actually show that the Bush job loss numbers are blamed on Obama. The Bush bailouts are blamed on Obama. Nobody credits the stimulus for any of the good economic things it has proven to have done.
There‘s this gaping chasm between what people think about what has happened and what actually has happened. It all means that the policy achievements of this administration are not translating into political capital. They‘re not translating into popularity.
The victor in this case, President Obama, is not receiving any of the spoils. He‘s not winning by winning.
So, what is zapping the political capital from the administration? Well, here‘s something. Yesterday, “The Washington Post” reported that the Chamber of Commerce, the business lobby, is spending nearly $3 million per week in opposition to President Obama‘s major agenda items. About $150 million spent since Barack Obama took office last year -- $3 million a week.
And while they haven‘t been able to stop big agenda items like Wall Street reform or health care reform, they probably do deserve some credit for stopping stuff like cap-and-trade energy legislation and union rights legislation, card check, as well as the public option in health care reform.
But even on the stuff that the corporate lobby loses on legislatively, like big picture health reform and Wall Street reform, they are able to prevent the administration from accruing any political capital from those wins by trashing those policies.
It would be like if you won the World Series, but the whole time the World Series was being played, somebody was spending $150 million on ads saying, “The World Series doesn‘t matter. And that team, they‘re a bunch of bums. They‘re the worst team in baseball.”
So, OK, you still win the World Series. You still get a parade, but nobody shows up to your parade. Nobody gives you any credit for winning.
While the Chamber of Commerce is busy spending money hand over fist to trash specific policies, FOX News and right-wing activists—whom the Obama administration refuses to fight back against—is busy cementing this narrative on the right that the president is a Marxist, racist, socialist, foreigner, redistributionist, whatever.
And you may not care what people on the right who aren‘t going to vote for you think anyway—but in a nation of independents, if that is staked out as the right-wing position, that you‘re a Marxist, socialist, foreigner or whatever. It doesn‘t matter if those people who aren‘t going to vote for you anyway.
If that‘s the right-wing position—you‘re a crazy Marxist racist—and the left-wing position is: your an OK centrist-Democrat, where‘s the middle in-between those things? Where‘s the center between you‘re a crazy, Marxist, foreigner and you‘re an OK centrist? Where‘s the middle?
The middle between those two things is Ben Nelson.
If the center is so warped by what you are letting them get away with
on the right, if you‘re never attacking the right, if you‘re just letting
their narrative stick because you don‘t really care about the low-brow
smear stuff and you don‘t want to, you know, lower yourself down to
fighting with people like that who are never going to vote for you anyway -
then when centrist Democrats try to figure wrought the center is, when they rightly or wrongly try to split the difference between what mainstream people think and what people on the right think, you end up losing them and not being able to win any of your precious legislative victories either, because you get people like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln and Evan Bayh and Mary Landrieu.
Trying to split the difference between “yawnsville” in the center and “crazyville” on the right and we end up in “stuckville.”
The way to move the center back to anything approaching the center is to take on the right, to fight back—to not only lobby for your achievements, but to call out those mischaracterizing them.
Letting lies and distortions and smears go unanswered is not working -
you end up delivering last-minute statements on Friday afternoons to try to salvage some of the news cycle on a week when you‘ve done something so historic you really shouldn‘t have to fight for that. But you do. You do
when you have powerful enemies spending literally millions of dollars a week to make sure your message doesn‘t get through.
If you still want to win, you don‘t lament those enemies and what they do, you take those enemies on and you beat them.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.
Congressman Weiner, thanks very much for coming back on the show.
Nice to see you.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It‘s my pleasure. Thanks.
MADDOW: Why do you think the Obama administration and congressional Democrats aren‘t really accruing political capital commensurate with their achievements?
WEINER: Well, for one thing, where a party that has so much fidelity to outcomes and progress that sometimes we don‘t look up—we spend too much time trying to think about the process of things and we don‘t realize that we might be losing the country behind us.
But before we get too deep into the punditry, let‘s remember that list you read off of the accomplishments here, these are real important things. There‘s a reason why they matter to the American people. These are real human beings who are behind getting some of these things. And that‘s important.
Now, we are—no doubt about it—not doing a very good job of every day letting democracy work. It frustrates me to no end that we don‘t have actual votes in the Senate where people who are actually against the public option have to stand up and say it. People who are actually against the energy reform and empowering the Iranians don‘t have to stand up and say it. People who are actually for more money pouring into politics don‘t have to stand up and say it by voting against the fix of the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance.
We, sometimes, think by short-circuiting the schedule to get to the outcome, we do ourselves a favor. In fact, sometimes, we should fight for the things we believe in, even if it means we take a loss because it helps define what we‘re for.
MADDOW: Last night on this show, I made a version of the same—advanced a version of the same thesis that I just did right now. And Jonathan Alter sort of rebutted by making the case that the Obama administration doesn‘t want to fight against Shirley Sherrod-type smears from the right because they don‘t want to punch down. The administration in particular doesn‘t want to spend presidential time fighting with slime balls.
And you can tell from—you can tell that I disagree with that. But I do think that argument has some merit, that they‘ve got to find some balance there and not having the president down there in the mud with people, but fighting back in some way as well, don‘t they?
WEINER: I think that‘s right. But there‘s a distinction to be made. You know, there are these fabricated things that the FOX Newses and the Breitbarts of the world generate just about every week. They got attention with one this week because it was so outrageous. But it goes on just about every single week.
They do need to recognize that while they might be rising above it, it is important to the American people that we, as an institution, as people, progressives, Democrats, that there is some fight-back going on. But it doesn‘t have to be just on these so-called frivolous things. It can be on substance, too.
I think that the president did a disservice when he didn‘t stand up during the midst of this Gulf oil spill and made the case for comprehensive energy reform in specific terms and why it‘s important to the American people, why it‘s important to our national security, much more full-throatedly.
And if it turned out the Republicans and maybe a handful of Democrats were going to drag the bill down that should have had to do so with a fight. And I think that‘s where the line gets drawn.
MADDOW: Is there somebody, anybody, powerful enough and loud enough outside of the White House to make those cases for them, if for whatever reason the president and the White House aren‘t willing to do it themselves?
WEINER: Well, besides me, you mean, Rachel?
Look, I think that there are some things that absolutely need the presidential leadership. And I got to tell you, he—we are going to have a moment coming into this election and he‘s going to have his moment in 2012 where we are going to get a chance to look up at the scoreboard and remind people how much was done. And I think the American people are smart enough to realize that part of what we‘re doing in these elections is to giving credit for these things.
And maybe we‘re losing the day-to-day war, but this has been a remarkably accomplished administration. And you listed all the ways and I think this Congress is going to get more credit for it than I think the day-to-day pundits believe.
But, ultimately, the answer is no. The president of the United States has to go out and fight for some of these things. And it‘s not the worst thing in the world to go and fight for something that has national support and maybe lose in the United States Senate, I think it‘s only so long that senators are going to vote no against things that are ultimately popular nationally.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York—thanks very much for your time tonight, sir. Nice to see you again.
WEINER: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, so there was a time not long ago when I thought the most compelling thing about covering the midterm elections this year was going to be the theme music—the theme music, which I love.
MADDOW: Even when I know it‘s coming, I still get that little—anyway.
While I do love that theme song, it turns out the midterms are turning out to be awesome to cover, not just because of the music. They‘re being awesome—they‘re turning out to be awesome to cover by a factor of Sharron Angle, of Tom Tancredo.
And tonight, for the first time, I‘m aware of an American history, the midterms are becoming awesome to cover because of the threat of bacon police. Bacon police are coming for you, America.
All of that—plus the theme music—coming right up.
MADDOW: Marco Rubio and I have been playing catch. He is running to be the Republican nominee for Senate in Florida, and he keeps using clips of me talking about him to try to raise money.
Tonight, our effort to say something about Marco Rubio that he actually has to answer, instead of just raising money off of it, and instead of just getting—this song stuck in your head. Our effort includes bill at a halal cards, me hanging out a window, and something terrifying involving Kent Jones and the Statue of Liberty and this song.
It‘s all coming up.
MADDOW: As of yesterday, I thought the campaign stuff this year among Republicans in Colorado in particular could not get more weird.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN BUCK ®, COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: Why should you vote for me?
Because I do not wear high heels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do not vote for the other Republican running for Colorado Senate, the woman, vote for the man because of his man shoes.
I thought that was as weird as election 2010 was going to get. I was wrong. I was wrong—even if you‘re just talking about Colorado Republicans.
In the governor‘s race in Colorado, the man who put the shush in audacious—shush—Tom Tancredo, has not only thrown his hat in the ring for governor of Colorado, he has thrown his hat in the ring really, really hard in a way that is intended to hurt.
Mr. Tancredo has issued an ultimatum/promise demanding that by Monday, at the latest, both Republican candidates must agree to drop out of the governor‘s race. They must agree to drop out or else—or else he, Tom Tancredo, is going to run as a third party candidate on the American Constitution Party ticket. The what? Right. Exactly.
Now, here‘s the best part: Mr. Tancredo does not actually want the two Republican candidates to quit by Monday. He wants them on Monday to just promise to quit. What he actually wants is for both Republicans to promise to quit, but for them to stay in the race until after the primary next month, and then he wants them to drop out.
Or as Jason Linkins at “The Huffington Post” explained today, quote,
“The idea is that the two competitors will commit to not running before the
primary, then they actually stage the primary, and then the winner will
say, ‘Like I promised Tom Tancredo, I will now quit the race for some
It should also be noted that Mr. Tancredo published an op-ed today in “The Washington Times” calling for President Obama to be impeached. Impeached for what? It‘s not terribly clear, but there is an eye-catching pictorial accompaniment of the United States Constitution as a roll of toilet paper with the Obama campaign logo on the side.
If the weird primary stunt and impeaching Obama and showing the Constitution as toilet paper is not exactly what you‘re looking for in a candidate this year, I have something in the same variety that you might like better from Tennessee. The governor‘s race there includes Republican Congressman Zach Wamp. He‘s the guy on the left there famous for living in the C Street house which is over there on the right. That‘s the subsidized mansion/dorm for members of Congress that is registered as church for tax purposes.
Congressman Wamp has been driven so round the bend by health care reform that in his campaign for Tennessee governor, he is now calling for his home state of Tennessee to secede from the Union. Where have I heard this before?
Quote, “I hope the American people will go do the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government.”
You‘ve been warned, American people. It‘s either vote for Zach Wamp or secession. Or maybe it‘s vote for Zach Wamp because you‘ll get secession.
If you can‘t actually really tell in terms of what he‘s promising, it‘s either vote Governor Wamp if you want civil war or it‘s vote Governor Wamp if you don‘t want civil war. Unclear as of yet, but he wants you to know that the threat of Tennessee seceding from the Union, again, might yet happen.
But Zach Wamp is not the only politician on the ballot this year to be driven to distraction by health reform. Take also, please, Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS: Think about it. The federal government has all of your personal medical records—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know what you guys, actually, Rob, can you hear me? I don‘t mean to be disrespectful. But I forgot that Louie Gohmert talks really slowly and this is a Friday and this is cable news. We‘ve all got really short attention spans.
Hi, Rod, can we do the fast version of it? Can we do it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOHMERT: Once the federal government, through tax dollars, is paying for people‘s health care, then it will proclaim the right to know what you‘re spending your money on. Because for example, if you have a high cholesterol rate, you have too high of a body mass index, then it‘s quite conceivable, at some point, you get an e-mail, you get a letter, from your government saying, “We noticed your cholesterol was 160, and we noticed that you bought bacon at the grocery store this weekend. Accordingly, since you are on a federal program, we were going to have to increase the amount that you pay to participate in the federal Obamacare program.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just to be clear, what the congressman is saying there is:
because of health reform, there will be federal officials regulating your bacon intake. Bacon police.
Flower delivery, ma‘am. Land shark, ma‘am. Bacon police! Put your frying pan on the air where I can see it!
I so unexpectedly am turning out to love this election season. Bacon police!
MADDOW: This has been a very busy week for me, very busy. I did the usual five episodes of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. I went to the gym I think once, or maybe that was last week. There was that whole weird back-and-forth with me and Mr. Riley over at FOX News. Now, he‘s calling me a loon, which is cool, because I sort of love loons. My mom is Canadian and there‘s a loon on the Canadian dollar coin, of course.
But also, since last Friday, we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW have been trading campaign ads—which for me are fake but for him are real—with a Republican Senate hopeful from the great state of Florida, a man named Marco Rubio.
It started when we pointed out a giant awkwardness in Republican economics right now, which is their candidates crusading against the deficit while proposing making the deficit way bigger through tax cuts.
Here‘s how Mr. Rubio responded to that:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was his whole argument. If Rachel Maddow thinks it‘s wrong, it must be right. Tada!
Still, though, there remains the issue of why I brought up Marco Rubio in the first place. Marco Rubio calling himself a deficit hawk while proposing adding more than $3 trillion to the deficit—that is still the point. So, we tried to get him to address the point instead of just me as a person with this—it was sort of our rebuttal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Perhaps inevitably, Mr. Rubio thought our response to his response was hilarious. And so, yes, he put out another ad again featuring me, and again totally avoiding the point. The point of all this—since the beginning—the point being that he wants to add $3.5 trillion to the federal deficit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And Florida‘s most recent state budget needed a rescue from federal stimulus funds which, of course, Marco Rubio opposes. These are troubled times.
SUBTITLE: She‘s got that right.
Think Obama and Crist‘s policies are working just fine for Florida?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. So, this “your ad, my ad, your ad” game has been really fun. I want to keep going with this, even if it‘s only because the music is so great and I can‘t let it out of my life. Great music, great game.
But here‘s the point of all this, here‘s how it started—Mr. Rubio, your economic proposals would add $3.5 trillion to the federal deficit. Care to comment?
At our news meeting today, we sat down and tried to figure out a way to keep this going, to keep the music which we love, to give Mr. Rubio one more shot, but to not give Mr. Rubio any other distractions, anything else he could respond to other than the central point, which is his phenomenally, fiscally, irresponsibly bad ideas about the deficit. So this is our effort, Mr. Rubio, to keep you focused, to see if you can get the point.
MADDOW: Marco Rubio wants to add $3.5 trillion to the federal deficit
$3.5 trillion. If we‘re just focused on that, if there is nothing else in the ad, do you think he will respond?
MADDOW: After the Exxon Valdez oil spill way back in 1989, oil companies formed something called the Marine Spill Response Corporation. The idea was to reassure everyone that if another big spill happened anywhere, any time, the oil companies would be on top of it.
They would invest big oil company money into state-of-the-art oil spill response. How is that state-of-the-art oil spill response looking these days?
Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez‘ supposed wakeup call and the oil companies forming the Marine Spill Response Corporation, the BP oil disaster in the gulf has shown us just how awesome that big investment in making us feel better has paid off.
This week, now, in the wake of the BP oil disaster, oil companies want us to fall for it again. Because the Marine Spill Response Corporation worked out so well, oil companies now say they‘re going to create another post-disaster, make-us-feel-better, oil-company-funded, oil-company-run outfit.
It‘s called the Marine Well Containment Company, which I‘m sure will be totally different from the disastrously pointless Marine Spill Response Corporation, even though it‘s funded by the same companies for the same purpose under the same circumstances with almost exactly the same name. Maybe they‘ll pick a new font.
So that‘s how the oil industry plans to take care of future undersea oil disasters from now on, the same way they were going to take care of future oil disaster 20 years ago. Three cheers for business as usual.
As for the response to the current oil disaster, the oil industry has that that under control, too, including the parts of the response that the oil industry really shouldn‘t have any control over at all.
Like for instance the decision about whether or not there should be a temporary ban on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. You might remember this judge, Judge Martin Feldman. He is the federal judge who overturned President Obama‘s first attempt at a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
He has also significantly invested in a money management firm that is the single largest shareholder in a company called BP. This week, Judge Feldman issued an order in which he officially refused to recuse himself from the case despite his financial interest in BP.
And while we‘re on the subject of oil industry interests, the Associated Press did some digging this week and found tons of it on President Obama‘s oil spill commission, the one formed to investigate the BP oil disaster.
Quote, “The oil industry is so thoroughly connected with government and academia that it can be difficult to find prominent people for a commission who have not been touched by oil money. Even life-long environmentalists are not exempt from that exposure. Oil companies routinely support and work with conservationists on engineering and alternative energy research, despite often being at loggerheads over drilling.”
Among the specific connections to big oil compiled by the AP, quote, “Both commission chairmen had stock in BP as well as broader interests in the oil industry.
As for the rest of the members of the spill commission, one is dean of Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Science which is a recipient of subcontracts based on a grant awarded by a collaboration of oil and energy companies including Halliburton and BP.
Another is chancellor of the University of Alaska at Anchorage, which has received money from BP and other oil companies over the years. Another had to sell stock in Transocean and had to take a leave of absence as a member of the board of trustees of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership which has a contract with Transocean to work in the gulf.
And yet another commissioner, an executive at the National Geographic Society, had to agree not to be involved in finding ads or sponsors from the oil industry for “National Geographic Magazine” in order to serve on the commission because the oil industry has advertised there in the past.
It‘s not that these affiliations are bad affiliations. It‘s not that these people are bad people or even the wrong people to be on the commission. It‘s that the oil industry was the most profitable industry in the history of human enterprise.
And as such, it is basically the most influential, too. Even if you look at the huge cost BP has incurred so far in cleaning up the disaster in the gulf, it reached $4 billion this week. That is still less than a third of BP‘s profits from last year alone.
If you look at all of the oil that has spilled into the gulf of Mexico so far, as much as 184 million gallons of oil, you should know that all of that oil, everything in total that has spilled into the gulf so far over this past 100 days, every bit of it represents a quarter of the oil we use in America in one day.
As long as we are that dependent on oil, the idea of us extricating anything we do from the influence of that industry is folly. The oil industry is so dominant it‘s impossible to extricate it from any part of the cleanup and response process, from the judge who is ruling on whether there should be a moratorium on drilling to the spill commission that‘s investigating into the disaster, to even the life-long environmentalists who are criticizing the industry, to the best hope for developing spill prevention and response technology which we clearly don‘t have right now.
None of it is beyond the reach of the oil industry. The oil industry is so dominant and we can‘t escape them because we feed them so much, because we are so dependent on oil.
So the question becomes how do we reduce our dependence on oil and thereby get the oil companies out of the driver seat? We do that by a total change in the way that we look at energy, right? How do we accomplish that?
We accomplish that by developing a new national energy policy. How do we do that? With a whole new comprehensive energy bill. Except, hey, guess what? The oil industry dominates in Washington as much if not more so than it dominates anywhere else.
And yesterday, Senate Democrats announced their intention to abandon any effort at passing a comprehensive energy bill this year. If not this year, when?
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and MSNBC contributor. Ezra, thanks very much for being here.
EZRA KLEIN, STAFF WRITER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: How is it that even in the middle of this disaster caused directly by oil, how is it that it can‘t happen this year? What year would be better for this?
KLEIN: Probably no year would be better for it. Look, if you wanted to find a problem that our political system could not solve, here is what you do. You‘d create one where all the costs come in the future, where fixing it would require a lot of action in the present, where the people who hurt the worst are international, and where the way to fix it would be something you call tax. And that‘s all what you‘d have to do with climate change.
And so isn‘t there is an easier year - there is no easier year than when there are 68 Democrats sitting around, and now, I guess 59. But it isn‘t clear that our political system is able to handle long-range problems where people aren‘t feeling the damage today, but would need to make a change today.
MADDOW: But the art of politics is making that possible. If climate change, if the externalities of climate change - if climate change causes externalities and those are felt by countries that are far away that don‘t have much political capital in this county, if all of those things are true, don‘t you just make the urgency of getting off oil something else?
Don‘t you make it, say, a giant environmental catastrophe in the gulf which happens to - happens to have happened this year? That‘s the thing that I don‘t understand, that there is nobody thinking hard enough about this politically to make it possible with what is at hand.
KLEIN: No, I mean - you know, I agree with you on that. But I don‘t know that a speech could have changed this. I really - I try to think about this a lot and I don‘t know that it could have.
But what is scary is that we have had the most wonderful warning system or the most terrible warning system you could ever imagine. Last year, we had a seminar on what happens when there are foreseeable risks that we do nothing to ameliorate, the financial crisis which we are still paying for, the BP oil spill which we really have not figured out how to fix. We cannot turn back the flow of that crude.
And we know that global warming is coming, but we haven‘t quite figured this out. So now, with this commission - we‘re worried about the commission. But really, what the commission is going to tell us is we should have stopped it beforehand.
And so, what, we‘re going to wait for global warming and then the planet will roast and hundreds of millions will be displaced? Will we form a commission and say back in 2010, we should have done something?
MADDOW: Probably. Yes. Well, Harry Reid - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now promising to introduce some sort of scaled-down energy bill. Do we know what “scaled-down” means in this case? Will there be anything meaningful in this bill?
KLEIN: We don‘t know much. It‘s pretty vague right now. We do know it‘s going to be a lot related to essentially politics around the BP oil spill. Look, when we don‘t have a press on carbon, what we‘re left with is attempting to rely on innovation.
We need a Bill Gates somewhere sitting in his garage, doing for energy what Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did for computers and listening to music while you walk places. And the question of whether or not we get that will be a lot of luck and a lot of questions about the actual technology, but also, it will be about whether or not we fund it.
So we do need it if we‘re not willing to press carbon. We do need to be willing to fund research into energy at a pretty high level the way we have in the past to create the Internet, help create computers and communication advances.
I mean, we have done a lot in this country technologically. And if we can‘t give this the best shot we can, then we at least need to start getting started on plan B, which is trying to fund these thinkers and these research scientists to figure out a way - figure us a way out of this if we can‘t do it through our political system.
MADDOW: Are we in a situation, though, where the people are ahead of the politicians on this, where a new energy policy to get us off oil, whether it‘s motivated by climate change, whether it‘s motivated by the environmental disaster that is oil, whether it‘s motivated by geopolitical concerns, whether it‘s motivated by anything that anybody makes up.
Isn‘t it possible that there is more support for that among the people than there is among the politicians and therefore it would be good politics for Democrats to introduce a good bill anyway, force everybody to go on the record with their votes?
KLEIN: Look, I tend to think the politician know more about getting reelected than I do. So I take them at their word and at the word of the polling that it isn‘t. One of the problems in this is it‘s a very polarized discussion, right? And people aren‘t always being told the truth and you just hear it‘s a huge tax.
I mean, cap-and-trade, right? Where it would change things is coal-fired power plants. It would do almost nothing to what we put in our cars in the first 30 years or so anyway. The big problem right now is coal-fired power plants. They‘re terrible for the air, too. I mean, there are a host of problems.
But it‘s very, very hard to have sort of a grownup conversation in our political system because you‘ve got half of the group here running to try to get power from the other half. And in that scenario, you actually need something where the two parties will come together and to say this is above politics. But there is no above politics anymore. There is only politics.
MADDOW: Yes. As evidenced by the fact that cap-and-trade is a Republican idea that John McCain and Sarah Palin ran on, not against, but on, and it‘s now a Republican death knell apparently.
Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post,” MSNBC contributor, thanks for sharing some of your Friday with us, Ezra. Good to see you.
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: So there is a risk in reporting on the U.S. National Air Guitar championships on any Friday night or, frankly, any night, really.
The risk is that you, our beloved well-informed, sophisticated, civic-minded audience might already be air guitaring at home and therefore resentful of the competition we would show. That said, our own Kent Jones was a judge at this year‘s championships. So frankly, this is a risk we‘re going to take, people. That‘s next.
MADDOW: You know, some people say America is in decline. It is hard to argue when the country that invented, perfected and wasted its teenage years on the art of air guitar lost the world championships last year.
Dude. Baseball, hot dog, apple pie, and fake Yngwie Malmsteen-ing. Come on. There‘s an American who‘s going to go to the world championships this year to take back what is rightfully ours. That story of national pride, coming up next.
MADDOW: The World Cup in soccer just ended. We spent a lot of time talking about that on this show. I‘m pretty sure we‘re the only cable news show that also talked about the World Cup of lacrosse this year.
So with those world championships under our belt already, we now turn with confidence to the World Cup of fake musicianship for which we need Kent Jones, who is apparently an in-demand expert on this subject.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, come on, everybody. So yes, I got to be a judge last night at the U.S. National Air Guitar Championships. It was pretty amazing. A little extra drama this year because last year at the world championships, the two top American air guitarists lost to a Frenchman.
JONES: Quelle horreur!
JONES: So the next world championships are in Finland next month. So
last night, they were trying to select an American to snatch back the world
MADDOW: With your help.
JONES: Apparently with my help. Here you go.
MADDOW: All right.
JONES (voice-over): It was a pressure-packed night for the masters of imaginary rock, not only for the shredding participants but for me as a judge. I knew if I got this wrong, it could alter the history of U.S. air guitar forever. Clearly, I needed to get into the minds of the artists.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, you‘re opening the curtain on yourself and you step out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, my goal tonight is to make as many people vomit on themselves as possible.
JONES: What‘s better, air guitar or sex?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air guitar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air guitar sex.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Got to develop these neck muscles or you can get hurt pretty damn bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I‘ve got some new tricks up my sleeve. I don‘t have sleeves on right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you‘re 48 years old, this is the key to breaking air. Nice marinated chateaubriand, to bananas and a couple Red Bulls.
JONES: As the competition raged on, it was clear the Americans had
stepped up their game. But only one could reign as champion. And this
year, that was, from Milwaukee, the devastating -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romeo Dance Cheetah -
JONES: Godspeed, Romeo Dance Cheetah. The prayers of a nation go with you to Finland. Clearly, American air guitar is in good hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rock on!
MADDOW: Kent, if we can get you a ticket to Finland, would you -
JONES: I‘ve already got an outfit. Yes. Yes, OK? Yes.
MADDOW: All right. Must start raising money. Still ahead, I will
use the hyphenated phrases “hemline-checking” and “seven-level wipe.” Both
of those phrases apply to the same former Bush official but not to air
guitar. Stay with us. Finland -
MADDOW: In 2004, a man named Scott Bloch was appointed to run the Office of Special Counsel and that‘s an independent agency in the federal government that‘s designed to protect federal workers, especially whistleblowers.
So if you work for the government and you want to call bull puckey on something going on in the government, Scott Bloch and the Office of Special Counsel were supposed to have your back.
Turns out Scott Bloch didn‘t so much have your back as he did your thighs, or at least your hemline. Right after Mr. Bloch was appointed by President Bush, he instituted a new dress code for the agency, a dress code that instructed female employees, quote, “Before choosing a skirt to wear, sit down in it, facing a mirror.”
He put that in writing. It was around the same time that Mr. Bloch scrubbed the Office of Special Counsel‘s Web site to remove all mentions of the words “gay” or “lesbian.”
Even though his agency‘s mission is to protect federal employees in the workplace, Scott Bloch did not want to give anyone the false impression that on his watch, that would include protecting federal employees who were afflicted with the gay.
After instituting the neo-pilgrim dress code and after the great hetero-only Web site scrub of 2004, the following year, Scott Bloch conducted an alleged purge of his critics at the agency.
Eventually, but perhaps unsurprisingly, Scott Bloch came to find that he was being investigated by the Office of Personnel Management and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
He was accused of retaliating against his own employees, which is nice for the guy who is supposed to be protecting people from stuff like that throughout the government. He was also accused of dismissing whistleblower cases without actually checking to see if they had any merit.
In the context of those investigations, sometime in December 2006, Scott Bloch made a fateful call, a call to the most trusted name in “Help, I‘m being investigated. Can you please make sure there‘s nothing damning on my office computer?”
Scott Bloch, President Bush‘s head of the Office of Special Counsel, while he was still in that job, called geeks on call to wipe clean his office computer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does your office network need a tweak? Call Geeks on Call at 1-800-905-GEEK. Geeks on Call professionals are industry certified, trained and tested. And best of all, they come to you usually the same day. No need to disconnect or move your computer. We‘ll fix it on the spot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s who he called. At Scott Bloch‘s request, Geeks on Call gave his computer and those of his two top political deputies something the company called a seven-level wipe. For all that delete, delete, deleting, Mr. Bloch paid the Geeks on Call $1,000 in taxpayer money.
When Congress inquired about that, Mr. Bloch dug himself a deeper hole by failing to tell lawmakers what he really asked the Geeks on Call to do.
He said in essence, “I had a virus,” which is not what Geeks on Call treated his computer for, nor is it something that requires a seven-level wipe that meets Defense Department data security standards.
In May 2008, the FBI raided the Office of Special Counsel looking for whatever the Geeks on Call had left behind. A few months later, in October, President Bush finally - finally, you think it‘s time now - finally fired Scott Bloch.
In April of this year, 2010, Mr. Bloch pled guilty to criminal contempt of Congress. Despite a possible sentence of six months in jail, we learned this week that he‘s likely looking instead at probation. Hemline-checking, erase the gay, whistleblower-quashing, contempt of Congress, seven-level wipe probation.
We will let you know if the judge in the case decides to surprise Mr. Bloch, but probation is what we are told to expect.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Meanwhile, there‘s a lot to add to what you see on the show. We are very proud of our excellent blog at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” It also has much less background noise than the actual TV show.
Our E-mail address is and our free podcast is at iTunes. Have a great weekend. Good night.
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