'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, August 2nd, 2010
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Guests: Kent Jones, Antonia Estrada, Andrew Bacevich
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I have to warn you there‘s a hat prop coming up in my show if you want to start shielding your eyes now.
OLBERMANN: Across America, people are getting the DVR pause buttons so they can get their screen caps ready. Here we go again.
MADDOW: Yes, another way to know that I will never run for office. I will willingly put a hat on on camera.
OLBERMANN: How is that?
MADDOW: You neither.
Good to have you back, my friend.
OLBERMANN: And, you, too.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well. My vacation is, in fact, over—which is good timing because the blue fish of Cape Cod are really angry with me.
Also, because there‘s a ton of news to get to, this is supposed to be the dog days—but, wow, it really isn‘t. The president‘s big Iraq speech tonight. The interview tonight is one of the president‘s most stringent critics on the wars and foreign policy.
Also, as Keith mentioned, the re-enactors of Colonial Williamsburg have become unwitting Tea Party mascots.
The religious right is very, very, very, very, very upset about the possibility of homosexuals on trains.
And the most interesting story of the day is about BlackBerrys in the desert.
That is all coming up this hour.
But, first, have you heard—have you heard about what happened in Texas? You haven‘t heard? Oh, my God, listen to this.
OK, so, here‘s Laredo, Texas. We have Laredo on a map? Yes.
As you can see, it‘s right down there in southern Texas. You know, where Laredo is? It‘s very close to Mexico. It‘s like right across from Mexico.
Do you want to know what happen in Laredo? Did you hear what happened in Laredo? Oh, my God, a Mexican drug gang called the Zetas. The Zetas rampaged over the border and took over two ranches in Laredo, Texas. American ranches are now being run, right now, by a Mexican drug gang.
So, presumably, like the cattle on the ranch are being herded by that Mexican drug gang. All of the rancher‘s stuff being used by the Mexican drug gang. Presumably all of the tractors are now being driven by the Mexican drug gang.
Mexican gangs have breached the border. The invasion from Mexico has begun. Did you hear about it? Did you hear about it?
If you live in right-wingville in this country, then I‘m sure you have heard all about it. None of it is true. None of those things actually happened. But you‘d never know it in right-wingville. And it is a great story, right?
It was originally fed to a tiny blog by anti-immigration activist.
Then it spread like wild fire across conservative corners of the Internet. It was hailed as “an act of war against the sovereign borders of the United States.” It made its way to the blog of a conservative FOX News commentator named Michelle Malkin. It, of course, made it to the blog of the conservative activist who peddled the fake, “Shirley Sherrod is a racist” scandal. It was everywhere.
“Drug Cartel Gunmen Invade Texas, Ranches Seized.”
The only problem, of course, not true. Just ask around in Laredo.
The Webb County sheriff said, quote, “Our deputies went out there and talked to the ranch owners in the area and found nothing.”
An investigator for the Laredo Police Department where all this was supposedly going down said, quote, “Basically everyone was shrugging their shoulders. There was no proof or evidence that was found.”
How does a story like this go that far around wingnutville while plainly exculpatory, plainly contradictory evidence is out there—while the people who would actually know if it was true when asked say, it‘s not true? How does a story like this get so much traction?
It‘s because it‘s a good story—particularly if you‘re looking to gin up your political base on the issue of immigration. Particularly if what you need to rile up your base is a good “scare white people” story. There‘s a “good but fake” stories out there about scary nonwhite people doing scary things all reported by conservative news outlets in a way that‘s designed to gin up maximum fear.
But in immigration politics, the fake scary immigrant stories are legion.
You might have also heard the one about Phoenix, Arizona, now being the number two kidnapping capital of the world. That‘s become a mainstream conservative talking point that‘s been trotted out over and over again by Republicans. But when PolitiFact, Texas checked that claimed out when it was made by the lieutenant governor of Texas back in June, they found it to be, and I quote, “false.”
Nevertheless, Republican Senator John McCain repeated it a few weeks later on “Meet the Press.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Why is it that Phoenix, Arizona, is the number two kidnapping capital of the world? Does that mean our border is safe? Of course not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Same claim, same results—and I quote, “false,” according to PolitiFact. Despite that, Republican Senator Jon Kyl, undaunted, is still going for it. This was in this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA: Phoenix is a very large source of kidnapping. It‘s called the kidnapping capital of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s like it‘s too good of a talking point to stop using it even though it‘s not true. Jon Kyl also distinguished himself by going to great detail about how awful illegal immigration has made crime in his home state of Arizona—a state you would think he would take care to know some factual things about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS: In some of these border towns that were thought to be susceptible to lawbreaking of illegal immigrants, the crime is actually down. Crime in Phoenix, for instance, is down significantly over the last couple of years.
KYL: Well, that‘s a—that‘s a gross generalization. Property crimes are up. Certain property crimes on certain parts of the citizenry are up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Property crimes are up, violent crimes are up—define up, Senator Kyl. Let‘s take property crimes first. There were about 231,000 property crimes in the state of Arizona last year, in 2009. That was down from the year before, which had about 262,000 property crimes—a number that was down from the year before that, which was down from the year before that. Property crimes there, down in Arizona right now.
Senator Kyl also mentioned violent crimes being up. Let‘s have a look at what he thinks about up in this context. In 2009, there were 26,000 violent crime offenses in Arizona, a number down from the year before, which was also down from the year before that, which happened to be down from the year before that.
So, down, down, down, down, down—also known in anti-immigrant white people politics as up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The United States of America has an unsecured border between Arizona and Mexico which has led to violence, the worst I have ever seen, and numbers that stagger those who are unfamiliar with the issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, they are staggering numbers—for the exact opposite reason of what you mean.
Whether or not you want to run on an anti-immigrant platform is up to you. It‘s a political decision. Everyone gets to choose their own political strategy.
But as they say, you do not get to choose your own facts.
Republicans have decided that running against immigrants is once again a great electoral opportunity for them, at least in the primaries. But they have apparently decided that they need some very extreme “scare white people” stories this time around to justify this year‘s crop of anti-immigrant proposals that they want to run on.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for example—at one point in his career, he was thought of as a relatively policy-driven guy, a relative fact-based Republican. How far he‘s come—just last week, Senator Graham floated the idea of rescinding the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. That‘s the one that says if you‘re born here, you‘re a U.S. citizen. Put in to place after the Civil War so slaves could not be denied citizenship.
Lindsey Graham wants to do away with that and the idea of rescinding that has now gained support from Republican Senator Jon Kyl, as well as the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
If you think about it, you have to come up with pretty extreme stories about how awful immigration is in order to justify extreme stuff like repealing the 14th Amendment.
I mean, sure, repealing the 14th Amendment is a radical idea, but it‘s exactly what we need if the Zetas are driving tractors in Laredo.
Republicans bring up immigration cyclically—whenever they think it‘s going to be good for their electoral hopes. It actually never really turns out to be all that good for them, but they always think it‘s going to do. It‘s at least a good Republican primary issue, not a very good general election issue.
Illegal immigration always has to be refashioned into a crisis for every electoral cycle that Republicans want to use it.
But the overall fact about illegal immigration—and this is going to shock you if you‘ve been paying attention to some of the darker corners of the Internet—the overall fact about illegal immigration is that it‘s not actually getting worse. What you‘re looking at is a graph of Border Patrol apprehensions over the last 30 years.
Illegal immigration is by definition hard to measure, it‘s illegal and covert. But apprehensions are one of the best static measures that we‘ve got of the scale of the problem over time.
And as you can see here, the number of apprehensions made, say, back in 1978, all the way over there in the left side of the graph, is roughly identical to the number of apprehensions in 2008.
I mean, look at the last 10 years, look at what‘s happened since 2000
since the year 2000. Apprehensions essentially have cratered.
Republicans have to make it seem like illegal immigration is getting worse.
Every election cycle, there‘s more and more and more of them.
But when you actually look at the best information we have got about illegal immigration, it‘s a relatively static measure that‘s been relatively the same for roughly my entire lifetime. The thing that it seems to most fluctuate with is whether or not there are jobs here for people to do.
But don‘t tell that to the professional hysteria-mongers who think the Zetas have taken over ranches in Texas. It is too good a story. It is to scary to white people to give up. Who cares if it‘s true?
Joining us is now Sheriff Antonio Estrada. He‘s the sheriff of Santa Cruz County, Arizona, which is right on the border with Mexico.
Sheriff Estrada, thank you so much for your time tonight.
SHERIFF ANTONIO ESTRADA, SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, ARIZONA: Rachel, thanks for the opportunity again.
MADDOW: The political rhetoric coming from the politicians right now on the issue of immigration might lead a person to believe that crime is cry rocketing in your part of the country, in the border counties. That crime is out of control in a way it never has been before.
What are you actually finding as sheriff of a border county in Arizona?
ESTRADA: Well, you know, those claims are actually crazy. You think that we‘re dodging bullets every day down here. That‘s not the case.
Like you indicated before, you know, apprehensions are down. Drug seizures are down. We are seeing less violence, I think, here along the border.
The activity continues to be here, obviously. This is still a porous border here and a lot of activity through southern Arizona, in particular, the Tucson sector and Nogales and Santa Cruz County. That is going to continue. That‘s going to go on for years. There‘s nothing special about it.
But they‘re really exemplifying it. They‘re really enhancing it now and taking advantage of it. And I don‘t think that‘s right. I think they‘re scaring a lot of people.
MADDOW: In terms of scaring people, let me ask you specifically about Nogales, which is there in Santa Cruz County where you‘re sheriff in Arizona. Can you tell us about crime rates, say, in Nogales, compared to roughly a decade ago? If you listen to the politicians, again, things have just become exponentially worse in the last 10 years. Is that true?
ESTRADA: You know, we haven‘t experienced anything really drastic or different. You know, things are still the same here along the border. The activity continues to be the same. Crime seems to be the same.
We haven‘t seen an increase in anything. Yes, there has been more influx of illegals coming through maybe in the last 10 years, but it‘s been holding steady, I think, for a while now.
MADDOW: Does the politically charged rhetoric about violent crime exploding across the border—does the rhetoric which, as you‘re saying, some distance from the facts there? Does it make your job as sheriff easier or harder?
ESTRADA: You know, I‘m having problems. There‘s a train going by here. You know, if I understood you correctly—you know, you‘re—you‘re saying about, you know, beheadings and the desert. They‘re saying that, you know, illegal immigrants are all bringing drugs across the border.
You know, that‘s not right, that‘s not fair, and that‘s not true. I‘ve been here for four decades and I have not seen that the greater majority of the illegal immigrants that come through the border here are not bringing in drugs and we have not had any beheadings in Santa Cruz County.
We have, obviously, found skeletal remains—you will find a skull here and there because the animals probably can‘t deal with something that big. But, you know, we‘re not having that type of violence. We‘re not having that crime.
What we are seeing and what has been happening obviously in some of these canyons and valleys of Santa Cruz County, you know, these same groups are vying for this territory. Obviously, they‘re ripping each other off. They‘re—there‘s violence out there. It‘s not the directed to the residents of Santa Cruz County.
We‘ve been kind of isolated against that and I think it has to do with these groups, these cartels wanting to have nothing to do with law enforcement on the Arizona side. They want to get their product. They want to get the merchants to Tucson and Phoenix. They don‘t want to attract any attention.
So, I think that‘s kind of like a safety net, not only for law enforcement for now, but for the residents of Santa Cruz County. I think they‘ve been really—the rhetoric has been really far out.
MADDOW: Santa Cruz County Sheriff Antonio Estrada, braving the streets of Santa Cruz County every day and braving a very loud freight train for us tonight—Sheriff Estrada, thank you very much for your time tonight. Nice to have you back on the show.
ESTRADA: Thank you, Rachel. Have a great day.
All right. So, in London—have you seen pictures of the guards outside of Buckingham Palace? You can stare at them and make faces of them and try to make them laugh and you can yell at them and they just stand there all stony faced and they do not react.
Well, in America, we don‘t have guys outside of Buckingham palace, obviously. But we do have colonial re-enactors who have to stay in character and stay all 1700s-y no matter what happens around them, even say when tea partiers are trying to adopt them as their unwitting mascots and try to make the re-enactors comment on Obamacare. Leave the re-enactors alone. That‘s coming up next.
MADDOW: The second totally inappropriate appearance of a train on tonight‘s show is next. First, one ran right over my interview with Eric Estrada in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. Now, a train gets stuck right in the middle of America‘s loudest anti-gay political operation. That‘s next.
MADDOW: If you suddenly suffer from psychosis while you are in Jerusalem, if you were previously delusion-free, if your psychosis can be accurately described as religious in theme, then you, my friend, might be suffering from Jerusalem syndrome—the spontaneous religious psychosis attributed to just physically being in the city of Jerusalem. Sufferers believe they are biblical figures like John the Baptist or the Virgin Mary. They‘ve been wandering around the desert, swaddled in a bed sheet, anxiously awaiting the birth of baby Jesus.
The only way to prevent Jerusalem apparently is to stay away from Jerusalem. It‘s a geographically dependent disorder.
Well, here in the United States, we may have a parallel syndrome afflicting some particular facet of the conservative movement. Only this one is not associated specifically with geography, so much as it‘s associated—it associates with a time period.
It began with—probably I guess—with anti-immigration activists so dedicated to defending the country‘s borders that they got all of Bernard Goetz-y, traveled down to the U.S.-Mexico border themselves, got all vigilante on themselves and called themselves the Minutemen. A titled borrowed from colonial militia act during the Revolutionary War.
Unlike their namesake, the modern anti-immigrant Minutemen were and are a little embarrassing. For example, the founder of the Minuteman Project was accused this year of selling his endorsement to political candidates, as in, you hire a firm to which this man has ties and the great Jim Gilchrist will lend you his immigration-hating name for his campaign. Classy.
Then there was the whole Glenn Beck-ish Tea Party thing. It got off to a very 18th century aesthetic start when Mr. Beck published his version of Thomas Paine‘s political pamphlet, “Common Sense,” Mr. Beck‘s version is called “Common Sense by Glenn Beck.” And look the cover resembles parchments, just like the Founding Fathers used to write their best-selling screeds against the out-of-control American government that they were busy creating.
Also published in a way resembled parchment was the “Mt. Vernon Statement” named after George Washington‘s estate. It was signed by a number of conservatives in February. This was sort of an insipid list of conservative principles so vague and watered down that even I, a liberal commie pinko, can relate to most of them.
This all led rather predictably to the obvious conclusion that a Tea Party protests, one simply must wear double breasted pants. Try corn hat, optional but strongly encouraged.
If done right, it certainly looks like you‘re wearing three perfectly blocked baseball hats all at once with the brims evenly distributed around your head.
But things now despite this emerging aesthetic, I think things have gone too far. “The Washington Post” is now reporting that self-identified tea partiers are flocking to Colonial Williamsburg and claiming it as their own. They attend all of the big events with the Patrick Henry re-enactor and the Thomas Jefferson re-enactor.
They reportedly cheer very loudly at certain Tea Party-approved sentiments and call upon the re-enactors to defend or challenge modern day policies. Give me liberty or give me death, but don‘t you dare give me Obamacare!
OK, you know what? Politics aside—just seriously here just for a moment, all right, can we just all agree that re-enactors should be left alone? The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a nonpartisan and nonprofit thing. Re-enactors work very hard for their money in some very restrictive structural garments.
And while you were trying to justify your political beliefs in a tete-a-tete with Jefferson, Jefferson is just trying to do his job. And his job means not breaking character long enough to tell you that he really doesn‘t want to talk to you about TARP.
So, everybody, please, leave the re-enactors alone. Hands off all petticoats, waistcoats, and frocks. Your country thanks you.
MADDOW: Michael Hastings “Rolling Stone” article that ended the career of General Stanley McChrystal starts like this: quote, “‘How‘d I get screwed into going to this dinner?‘ demands General Stanley McChrystal. It‘s a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hotel Westminster in Paris. He‘s in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies—to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies.
Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has been the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany‘s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops.”
That‘s how Michael Hastings article about McChrystal started.
Those troops from the Netherlands actually did leave Afghanistan yesterday -- 1,900 Dutch soldiers pulled out of Afghanistan this weekend a couple of months after the ruling coalition in their government was thrown out of power in part because of how much the Dutch really did not want to keep their troops in that war. It‘s not that hard to imagine a government being thrown out over dissatisfaction with an ongoing, ongoing, ongoing, ongoing, ongoing, ongoing land war in land-locked central Asia. I mean, well, look what happened here about Iraq in 2006.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Last night‘s vote was seen as a message, a protest vote on the war in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exit polls from Tuesday‘s election show that voters want a new approach to the war in Iraq.
BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS: It turned out to be a referendum on the president and the war in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most Americans are sick and tired of the war in Iraq. On Tuesday, they made their voices heard at the ballot box.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That was the 2006 election, when America got introduced to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid because Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate in large part on the strength of anti-Iraq war sentiment in this country.
By the next election, which started five minutes after those midterms, Democrats positioned themselves early in the presidential field on the strength of their opposition to the Iraq war. It‘s one of the definitive early edges that candidate Barack Obama took over the then-presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The last point I‘ll make is on Iraq, Senator Clinton brought this up. I was opposed to Iraq from the start. And that—
OBAMA: And I say that not just to look backwards but also to look forwards because I think what the next the president has to show is the kind of judgment that will ensure that we are using our military power wisely.
HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, several people who are adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq like Senator Durbin voted the same way I did and said at the time that he if there was even the pretense that could be use from the language in that nonbinding resolution to give George Bush any support to go to war, he wouldn‘t have voted for it. Neither would I.
OBAMA: She voted for a war to authorize sending troops into Iraq and then later said this was a war for diplomacy. I don‘t think that—now, that might be political savvy, but I don‘t think it offers the clear contrast that we need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: By the time Barack Obama was elected president, the Iraq war wasn‘t the definitive political issue it had been early on in the campaign, in part because, frankly, the financial crisis overtook everything else in the universe of voter concerns. But also in part because U.S. troops leaving Iraqi cities had quieted the daily reports of Americans in danger there.
Still, though, the new president pledged in his inaugural address to leave Iraq to its people. And just over a month later, he spoke in detail about doing just that. He spoke about it to the marines of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, saying, quote, “Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end. Let me say this as plainly as I can. By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end. I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”
And so, it goes. Say good-bye to Operation Iraqi Freedom. That ends at the end of this month—when Operation New Dawn begins.
As a month from now, Operation New Dawn is the name that will be used to describe what 50,000 American troops will still be doing in Iraq for another year. The president today addressed the impending change of mission in Iraq when he spoke to the vets group Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsible. And I made it clear by August 31st, 2010, America‘s combat mission in Iraq would end.
And that is exactly what we are doing - as promised and on schedule.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is true that what‘s happening in Iraq is an end to the combat mission this month. And it is true that President Obama is doing what he said he would do about Iraq.
But he‘s also doing what George W. Bush obligated us to do in Iraq. Our war toppled Saddam Hussein, of course. Iraq got a new government. Even though the U.N. never signed off on Bush invading Iraq, the way we could keep our troops there without being in violation of international law was that the U.N. Security Council annually said it was OK for us to stay there.
But the Iraqi government asked the U.N. to stop saying that, to stop giving authorization for foreign troops to occupy their country. And so George W. Bush negotiated a date certain by which we promised to leave.
And now, that president coming after him is making good on that deal. The exact end date for the combat operations part of the mission slid around for a while, but it settled on the end of this month. But the all-clear, all-out date is still this time next year. It‘s the date that Bush agreed with the Iraqis. Same plan to leave, different presidents.
We are in year eight of one of our wars. We‘re in year nine of another of our wars. Both started during/by the previous administration. Should we expect that we get a break of that now?
President Obama today, with the Disabled American Veterans, told the story of an army ranger who was severely wounded on his 10th deployment - his 10th. The man is 27 years old. Ten combat deployments.
Does that new president mean that the last president‘s war gets wound down? Is there a tangible life-and-death difference between presidents now on national security - between Democrats and the Republicans? Will the Afghanistan war end and soon? Is it possible that another war won‘t just take its place?
The next guest for the interview tonight says that the answer to the questions is probably no, that the foreign policy consensus is beyond politics, beyond partisanship, that the price of admission, the criteria for being taken seriously in Washington is embracing a vision of America that essentially requires us to be at war one way or the other all the time.
He‘s one of the most insistent, readable, compelling critics that we‘ve got in this country right now on any subject. He‘s Andrew Bacevich and he‘s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A week before Congress passed the joint resolution authorizing war against Iraq in 2003, an Illinois state senator stood up before an anti-war rally in Chicago. He described Saddam Hussein as a bad guy who the world and the Iraqi people would be better off without.
But then, State Senator Obama said this, quote, “I also know that Saddam poses no direct threat, no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength and that in concert with the international community, he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dust bin of history.”
“I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require an occupation - a U.S. occupation of undetermined length at undetermined costs with undetermined consequences.”
“I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst better than the best impulses of Arab world and strengthen the recruitment of al-Qaeda.”
“I‘m not opposed to all wars,” he said, “I‘m opposed to dumb wars.” The number of U.S. troops in Iraq since that young state senator became president of the United States has dropped by 90,000 and will apparently drop to zero by this time next year. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, however, since that young state senator became president has tripled.
Joining us now is Andrew Bacevich. He is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He retired at the rank of colonel after 23 years in the United States Army. And he‘s author of the new book, “Washington Rules: America‘s Path to Permanent War.” Professor Bacevich, thanks very much for being here.
ANDREW BACEVICH, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,
BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me on the program.
MADDOW: Do you think there‘s really no difference between Democrats and Republicans on the biggest most important issues in national security?
BACEVICH: The differences are far smaller than one would conclude from all of the rhetoric and the hype. I‘ve long believed that if you‘re looking for the big truths about American politics, about the way Washington works, you don‘t look at the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. You look for the continuities.
And I think when it comes to the national security policy, going all the way back to the beginning of the Cold War, the continuities are quite evident and very strong and continue down to the present day with the president who promised he was going to change Washington works.
MADDOW: And that, to you, boils down to Washington rules, this credo that America has to determine sort of the means by which the rest of the world is allowed to run and that we need to enforce that by global military dominance.
That means having troops everywhere all over the world, being
able to project force all over everywhere in the world and being repeatedly
almost in a recidivist way, being interventionist all the time?
BACEVICH: Exactly right. I mean, I was really struck by that quotation from State Senator Obama who, at that point, is not a creature of Washington and who, in that quotation, reflected, I think, a real skepticism about the way we do our national security policy.
That skepticism today with President Obama has long since vanished. I mean, you have to be struck by the fact that President Obama has followed a path in Afghanistan that is probably identical to the path that Sen. McCain would have followed had we elected Sen. McCain president.
There is no real change when it comes to national security policy. And as someone who voted for the president and admires the president, I have to say that that absence of change is not only disappointing. I think it may even qualify as tragic.
MADDOW: But the difference that I see between theoretical McCain presidency and the actual Obama presidency in Afghanistan is that withdrawal deadline. Now, the administration is taking great pains to make that withdrawal deadline next summer seem very squishy.
And if there is no withdrawal, then, I‘d say you‘re right. But if there is withdrawal, if they really do wind that war down and end it and don‘t let it go on permanently, isn‘t that a potential crack in the consensus? Is it a break in permanent war, sort of an opportunity to question that as a default path?
BACEVICH: It could well be. But I mean, the scenario that you‘re suggesting is one in which President Obama in the summer of 2011 is, in effect, I think, going to have to say, “The decision I made back in December of 2009 was an incorrect decision. And now, please elect me to a second term as your president.”
I mean, he is really going to be, I think, in a real political pickle. Because when we get to next summer, it‘s highly unlikely that the conditions in Afghanistan will be any better than they are today.
MADDOW: Can‘t that -
BACEVICH: The counterinsurgency strategy devised by Gen. McChrystal and, I think, endorsed by Gen. Petraeus is not working.
MADDOW: Couldn‘t that reasonably be a grounds to explain why we‘re leaving though, to say, “Hey, counterinsurgency isn‘t making things any better” - us staying there isn‘t going to make things any better? Let‘s try to do it in a civilian, diplomatic aide way.
BACEVICH: I mean, I would hope that he would say that. And indeed, if he did, if - we have seen the failure of the conventional military instrument. We‘ve seen the failure of shock and awe.
Counterinsurgency is supposed to be sort of the new American way of war that does it better. If the president says, well, counterinsurgency doesn‘t work either, then, yes, that really could, I think, create an opportunity for a fundamental rethinking of how we imagined military power can be - can be utilized.
And we‘d find ourselves greatly sort of shrinking the domain in which we would see military power as useful - something which I think would be wonderful. I just think the politics are going to make that very, very difficult for him to do.
MADDOW: It is interesting. I‘ve read all of your books. I‘ve interviewed you a number of times as you know. I find your thinking on this stuff very interesting.
But I felt like, in this, in Washington rules, I started to see through your eyes the way that this thing that you decry, this consensus, might end. It‘s conceivable. I don‘t think you‘re hopeful about it, but I do think it‘s conceivable.
BACEVICH: Well, I think - I mean, to my mind, if it‘s ever - if the consensus is ever going to be confronted and challenged, I believe that the challenge is going to have to come from us. It‘s going to have to come from Americans.
And alas, that‘s not going to happen until Americans come to appreciate all of the consequences of our misguided wars. Some of those consequences are moral. Some of those consequences are fiscal. I think some of those consequences are strategic.
Alas, in this open-ended military project that began after 9/11, the American people have pretty much checked out of the net, you know? Very few of us sacrificed. Not too many of us served. None of us are even asked to pony up the money to pay for these wars.
That just gets passed on to somebody - some other generation to deal with. So, we, the people, I think, have failed in our responsibility as much as our political leaders have failed in their responsibility in this regard.
MADDOW: Professor Andrew Bacevich. Thanks for your service in the Army. Thanks for your service as a critic of foreign policy and war policy in your time since leaving the Army.
As I said, I‘ve been a real admirer of yours for a long time.
Thanks for being on the show.
BACEVICH: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Good to see you. The book is called “Washington Rules:
America‘s Path to Permanent War.”
OK, so do you or someone you know have a phobia about gay people riding on Amtrak? A story that will address that deep, strange fear is next.
MADDOW: Given the option, I prefer the train to the car or the plane or the blimp or whatever else is available. I like the cafe car, for example. So I pay attention to Amtrak news.
And Amtrak has announced that it wants to spend $250,000 on an advertising campaign targeting a specific group of potential passengers - gay passengers.
Said an Amtrak representative, quote, “We are always looking for new ways to reach potential passengers and this community travels a lot.” I can‘t speak for this community‘s travel habits or anything else, but if there‘s research about the gay traveling a lot and Amtrak is trying to get people to take its trains, then, it seems like a business strategy.
Nonetheless, there‘s one very vocal group that hates it idea of the government trying to encourage people who have the gay from riding Amtrak. We asked Kent Jones, of course, to look into that. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. Welcome back.
JONES: That group is - shocker - the Family Research Council, yes, which has a long, long history of opposing all things gay. Their problem this time - gay locomotion. Take a look.
(voice-over): In the snack car, in the bar car, in the very next seat
there‘s no escape from “gays on a train.” The Family Research Council wants to start America‘s trains from becoming a train-bow. Listen to the FRC action alert, quote, “If there was ever proof that the Obama administration had gone off of the rails, it‘s Amtrak. In a very real sense, this ad campaign is a federal endorsement of homosexual behavior, one of the most serious public health threats in America.”
“Using taxpayer funds to promote this ad campaign is insulting to the millions of Americans who have deeply held moral convictions against homosexuality. Yet, Washington is targeting the demographically small homosexual population, probably because marketing surveys suggest it is also one of the richest.”
“So let‘s be honest. This administration is more interested in riding the gravy train than getting the culture back on track.”
So if Obama has his way, the glam track will be swarming with gays, rich gays, reading their rich gay magazines, listening to their rich gay iPods, feeling like they have the freedom to go wherever they want. And who knows where that attitude could lead. Gays on a plane?
MADDOW: I like the idea of the gay gravy train.
JONES: The gravy train -
MADDOW: That‘s the solution to all of our problems. Woo-hoo. Thank you, Kent. If we didn‘t have the Family Research Council, we‘d invent them. Appreciate it.
All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith looks at the growing call to boycott target after Target donated $150,000 to a rather surprising place, given Target‘s other policies.
Next on this show, one government‘s crackdown on the lowly Blackberry. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: So yesterday, I was walking my dog in a state forest in western Mass. My state, like every state now, is broke, so the parks are un-staffed for the season, but still, it doesn‘t matter. Me and the neighbors still walk our dogs there. So there I am, in the middle of the woods when all of a sudden, I hear a birdsong I have never heard.
Now, I didn‘t know what kind it was. So I took out my Blackberry and I turned on the little application where you can record voice notes for yourself. And I recorded this bird.
I would try - yes. Can we try it one more time? Yes. All right. So it didn‘t come out great but you get what I was trying to do. My personal bird vocabulary is sort of limited. I can do crow versus raven. I can do seagulls, a few other embarrassing greatest hits but not really any of the detailed stuff, and this was new to me.
So I made this recording on the Blackberry and I sent it to my girlfriend, Susan, who laughed at me so hard that she forgot to tell me whether or not she can identify the bird either. I still don‘t know what it is. But I tried.
Now, as an American citizen I was perfectly free to take out this device and record the sound of the bird. And the part where it gets really great is I could also send that sound as a message and I could get a reply, could get information and give information on my own time, at my own choosing in my own way.
If that whole scene had happened in Dubai, I‘d have been able to record that birdsong on my Blackberry, sure, but the government would have stopped me from E-mailing it to anyone.
The United Arab Emirates yesterday announced that it will be turning off Blackberry service in October, just turning it off, the E-mail, the messaging, the Web browsing, because the government there considers the free sending of information back and forth over this device to be a security threat.
I was in Dubai last month on my way to Afghanistan and while I was there, I used my Blackberry to send out some really blurry pictures from the airport.
The whole world was blurry after flying for 12 hours but I sent those really blurry pictures using my Blackberry. I sent them over to someone in New York who posted them on the “Maddow Blog” right away.
Look, I spend most time in public - most of my time in public, as part of this big apparatus called television which takes tons of hours and human labor to get from 30 Rock here to you at home.
If an evil regime wanted to censor us, we would be very easy to find here. When it‘s just one sleep-deprived person sending blurry photos from the airport in Dubai when it‘s that light and fast and unimpeded, that‘s a very difficult form of broadcasting to stop.
And that‘s what makes this aspect of the digital age so dangerous for governments like the one in the United Arab Emirates. They lose control of the information that you and I are sending.
In the case of Blackberry in UAE, this decision has been made because the company that makes Blackberries uses a system to protect the privacy of messages. And that system makes them so private that the Emirates government has trouble spying on them.
The Blackberry‘s ability to encrypt our messages has outrun that government‘s ability to read those messages. And if the government of the United Arab Emirates cannot read those messages, it doesn‘t want people to be able to send them.
The story of the UAE shutting off Blackberry service is about a lot more than a Middle Eastern country cracking down on thumb-typing. The line that distinguishes organized media like us here in the studio from everyday human beings without jobs in the organized media, that line has gotten a lot more dotted in recent years.
There‘s still a big important place for professional reporting and writing and editing and story telling. But ordinary people frankly got the word out about the uprising in Iran last year, one tweet at a time, one YouTube clip at a time.
In Haiti this year, people used Twitter and Flickr and Facebook to figure out who was still trapped in the rubble and to send messages about where supplies were most desperately needed.
When flash-flooding devastated Nashville this spring, and few outside the region noticed, the people of Nashville kept the story alive on Twitter and on their own blogs. They let the world know themselves.
Democratic societies like ours have a romantic and fervently defended tradition of freedom of the press. Freedom of the capital P press is among our most sacred principles. We defend it almost reflexively but there is a new threat in town for governments with something to fear, and that threat is you and it is me.
Not you, the viewer, and me, the cable news host, but you and me, a sleepy person in the Dubai airport who is sending a picture out. You and me trying to identify a bird call over E-mail. You and me writing an angry note about the Ministry of Justice or sitting in China trying to Google the background of a national official or downloading a movie that has been banned or starting a discussion about a policy that we, as individual humans, don‘t like.
You and me, communicating freely with each other. That - that simple act outside the organized media is so dangerous, is so powerful, has had such an impact already in the short time that it has existed on this earth that it terrifies enormous emerging superpowers like China.
It also apparently terrifies small, ostentatiously consuming nations like the United Arab Emirates. The thing that scares them really is you and me talking, exchanging information and ideas on our own terms. That is becoming the most dangerous thing in the world, and so defending it is becoming one of the most important fights for freedom in the world.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Meanwhile, there‘s lots to add to what you see on the show. We are very proud of our excellent blog at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” Our E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and our free podcast is at iTunes.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Have a good night.
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