'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
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Guests: Gov. Ed Rendell, Jeff Sharlet, Kerry Eleveld
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now to discuss the Democrats‘ midterm strategy with Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, (INAUDIBLE)
ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thanks very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
There is so much going on in politics right now that the staff of this show produced roughly 2 ½ complete shows over the course of the day today in an effort to try to cover it all.
What has actually made the cut for this hour is:
One, an update on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” The next step toward ending the military‘s gay ban could happen as soon as tomorrow. We will explain.
Number two, the Republican Party is releasing its election year agenda tomorrow. That agenda leaked tonight. So, we have seen it. The headline is that it totally avoids the blockbuster change-the-country policy idea that all of its high-profile candidates are actually running on this year.
And number three, new reporting on C Street. If you have been wondering what that quasi-religious, super-shadowy, having affairs on their wives while thumping their Bibles bunch has been up to recently, there is an answer to that question. We‘ve got it with Jeff Sharlet.
That is all ahead this hour.
But we begin tonight with something sort of weird happening in politics. Today, Democrats started to campaign. Today, Democrats started to campaign to apparently try to win this year‘s elections.
Politics broke out among Democrats. They started campaigning on the basis of the concrete things they have been doing since they‘ve been in power in Washington to try to make stuff better for people across the country. Democrats did—campaigning on good stuff they‘ve done. I know, right?
Apparently, they have not forgotten how to do this. Here‘s what it looks like when Democrats go on the offense and try to win.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we hand the other side the keys, they‘ve promised to spend the next two years chipping away at the new rules we‘ve put in place for special interests. And I refuse to let them do that. I refuse to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny you coverage or drop your coverage just because you‘re sick.
Over the last 19 months, we‘ve passed a new college tax credit worth $10,000 in tuition relief for each child going to four years of college. We want to make that permanent, too—because in good times or bad, no family should have to stop investing in their children‘s future! That‘s what we believe. That‘s what we stand for as Democrats. Those are our priorities. That‘s the choice in this election!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: “That is the choice in this election.” President Obama speaking New York City tonight, just a couple of hours ago, addressing the Democratic campaign committees for both the House and the Senate.
That event proceeded today by another presidential campaign event on something that Democrats have inexplicably not been campaigning on before now. Today, the White House rolled out its political campaign on behalf of health reform, and they rolled it out in a big way. President Obama traveled to Falls Church, Virginia, to speak at one of these private home backyard events that he‘s been doing lately to connect with a relatively small audience.
This one in Virginia today specifically zeroed in on what is happening roughly three hours from right now, which is that a big wave of changes is rolling into effect as a result of health reform being signed into law. Those changes take effect at midnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Part of the Affordable Care Act that we can implement right now that will take effect tomorrow is the most important patients‘ bill of rights that we‘ve ever seen in our history. Number one—Paul already mentioned—the issue of lifetime limits. That is not going to be the rule anymore after tomorrow. Number two: pre-existing conditions for children. Children who have preexisting conditions are going to be covered. Number three, we‘re going to make sure that if young people don‘t have health insurance through their employer that they can stay on their parents‘ health insurance up to the age of 26. You‘re going to be able to make sure that the insurance company doesn‘t drop you because of an innocent mistake on your insurance form.
All these things are designed not to have government more involved in health care, they‘re designed to make sure that you have basic protections in your interactions with your insurance company, that you‘re getting what you paid for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Back when health reform passed about six months ago, we did a segment on this show saying, “Mark your calendars, September 23rd is going to be a big day.” All of those things that President Obama just mentioned in that speech today, they go into effect tomorrow. No more lifetime limits. You can be on your parents‘ insurance until you‘re 26.
That stuff is happening. That stuff goes into effect tomorrow. America changes. Health insurance sucks less than it does now, starting tomorrow, because Democrats passed health reform.
And until today, that was essentially trivia. That was essentially something that you could look up if you were interested in health policy or taking a class on it. Or if you were researching maybe your own family‘s health insurance options or felt that health insurance options for your own business. Until today, this was policy. This was something to look up and try to understand.
Before today, this was not politics. Before today, Democrats were refusing to campaign on this major advance they have made toward improving what is a significant source of anguish and economic pain in this country.
As of tomorrow, as of less than three hours from now, all of those things that President Obama rattled off today will be law of the land. And so, now, the White House is finally starting to convert some of that policy into politics, into an electoral benefit for the Democratic Party.
One of the changes that went into effect already was the setting up of high-risk pools across the country, so people with pre-existing conditions could still get someone to insure them. Today, the White House made that change politically manifest, made it evident, put a face on what that means so it is not an argument anymore about policy, about some abstract or academic thing, but about people‘s lives getting measurably better.
On the new Web site the White House just launched to publicize the changes in health reform, they highlighted the story of Gail O‘Brien, a woman from Keene, New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WHITEHOUSE.GOV)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re pretty healthy people, you know? We work out. We eat right. We do all the right things, you know? Something like that is not in the family at all. So, that was the last thing from my mind.
GAIL O‘BRIEN, CANCER PATIENT: My doctor had said to me, when I was diagnosed with cancer, “It‘s either going to be, you‘re going to have to go into your retirement fund or you‘re going to die. Those are your choices.”
When that was signed, I mean, that just changed my life completely, because then I knew I could get the treatments and I would be OK. I have an appointment. I go, and I feel good. I know I‘m getting treated.
I‘ll get it.
Yes, this is her.
OPERATOR: Hi, I have the president on the line to speak with you.
O‘BRIEN: Oh, really?
OPERATOR: Hold on one second. I‘m going to put the president on.
O‘BRIEN: Thank you!
OBAMA: Hi, Gail.
OBAMA: How are you?
O‘BRIEN: I‘m doing really well. Thank you. This is an honor. I wanted to thank you so much, because if it wasn‘t for you, I probably wouldn‘t be here right now.
O‘BRIEN: And this is—that‘s from the bottom of my heart.
OBAMA: Well, look, it means so much. You know, it‘s still a battle that you‘re fighting, and—but now, you‘ve got some allies on your side and you don‘t have to spend all your time worrying about paying the bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This from the White House, this video from the White House. This is on the splash page that starts running when you go to the White House Web site on health reform.
This is putting a human face on this issue. Republicans have been running against health reform, essentially, all year long.
And Democrats, even though Democrats passed it, never before now took a victory lap about it. About what health reform meant about what it actually accomplished.
Well, now, as the first big wave of changes associated with the law are about to go into effect, Democrats are finally taking their victory lap and they are doing it with retail politics. Making people connect to not the policy, the abstract idea, but to people‘s lives getting better because of the policy, because their government did something good for them—like sending seniors checks to close the so-called donut hole in Medicare, so older Americans could afford their medications.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A couple of million seniors have already received, or about 1.5 million seniors have already received checks of $250.
MS. BYRNE: I was able to get my heart medication once that check got there.
OBAMA: Well, so you‘ve already received it and it helped you get—
BYRNE: Yes, yes.
OBAMA: -- some heart medication.
BYRNE: Medicine I couldn‘t afford.
OBAMA: Well, that‘s a wonderful story, and that‘s exactly what we want to make sure of, is that you don‘t have to make decisions about do I get this medication or not.
BYRNE: And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
OBAMA: Well, I appreciate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It may end up being a day late, it may end up being a dollar short, but Democrats, at least the White House, seem today to be actively trying to win the elections, actively campaigning.
The president helping to try to build political capital out of the constructive legacy of what they‘ve done in terms of policy.
And the vice president, Joe Biden, continuing with something we talked to him about last week—trying to make the election not just a referendum on how people feel the country is going, but rather a choice between the Democrats and something else—between the Democrats and the Republicans, which this year means a very specific thing. In Joe Biden‘s terminology, they are, this year, “The Republican Tea Party.” That‘s what he called them Monday night in Ohio. That‘s what he‘s been calling them a lot lately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask yourself, what alternative has been offered? What alternative had been offered?
BIDEN: There‘s a choice for Americans in this election, and it‘s not between Democrats and the Almighty, it‘s between Democrats and the Republican Tea Party. This ain‘t your father‘s Republican Party. This is the Republican Tea Party. This is the Republican Tea Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, as just a sample of how crazy it is that Democrats are doing this, how crazy it is that politics has broken out among Democrats in advance of an election, consider this—consider the reaction among Beltway Democrats today to somebody like Joe Biden actually getting out there and throwing punches to try to define the opposition in advance of people going out to vote.
Today, Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was quoted, terrified and quaking, that the vice president might alienate some people by using that phrase, “The Republican Tea Party.” Senator Nelson told “Roll Call” newspaper, quote, “I think there are some fine people who are concerned about the size and growth of government. What we ought to do is have a dialogue.” Such a perfect example of Democratic Beltway unilateral surrender.
This is an election in which the Republican Party‘s choices for U.S. Senate have been beaten, what, seven times now, by Tea Party-supported candidates. And as exciting as that might be to the Tea Party folks, to a broad section of America, that‘s radical and telling, and a clear, sharp distinction with a capital “D” between the two parties. One that will make them more comfortable, and frankly, more enthused about voting for the Democrats, not the Republican Tea Party.
So, Ben Nelson says we mustn‘t mention it.
For most of my adult life, Democrats have been afraid of their own shadow when it comes to campaigning. At least today, the White House, president and vice, do not seem to be afraid to campaign to try to win this election. Can the rest of the Democratic Party swallow their fear and actually try to win, too?
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Republican Party tomorrow is putting out its agenda. At long last, for this year‘s elections, they let advance copies of it leaked tonight, and it turns out that what their candidates say they are running on this year is not at all what the party officially says it is running on. It‘s a whole new Republican Party—again. This is getting exhausting.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OBAMA: Starting tomorrow, we‘ve got a whole bunch of consumer protections, a patients‘ bill of rights that goes into effect as a consequence of the Affordable Care Act. And I want you to know, we—I met a woman from New Hampshire who had gotten cancer, could not get insurance, and because of that legislation, she now is getting treatment, is feeling better, feeling optimistic about the future.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking before a Democratic audience tonight in New York City, just hours ago.
Joining us now is the governor of Pennsylvania, the former chairman of the Democratic Party, Ed Rendell.
Governor Rendell, thanks very much for your time tonight.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you were chair of the Democratic Party from 1999 to 2001. One of the men who succeeded you as chairman was Howard Dean. And I asked Howard Dean the other night on this show, if Democrats really can campaign on health reform, and his response was pretty much—no, the time for that has passed. Now, we see President Obama campaigning on health reform.
What do you think about the wisdom of that?
RENDELL: I think it‘s a smart move. Because I think the health care reform bill was popular when you broke it down into segments. It got spun out of control and people don‘t like the concept or the idea, but they like the individual stuff.
I was in Pittsburgh today at a senior center, talking about the $250. I‘m in Harrisburg tomorrow with some 24-year-olds who are now being covered through their parents. They lost their jobs, but they‘re covered by their parents.
People see that stuff and they say, oh, yes, the high-risk pool, the pre-existing condition. And for small businesses, you know, the Republicans have been saying—absolutely lying—saying this is going to drive up costs for small business. Well, in Pennsylvania, there are 150,000 small businesses under 25 employees. If they give health care to their employees, they‘re going to get a 35 percent tax credit this year for the money they laid out this year. It‘s going to be a big help to small business.
We ought to be talking about these individual things. They‘re all very, very popular. And to boot with, and you and I have been talking about this.
And by the way, we can‘t say that this makes health care suck a little less. It actually is good stuff. Not to criticize the host. But it‘s good stuff. And we should be talking about the good stuff that the stimulus bill has done.
It‘s avoided another, perhaps, 1.8 percent unemployment. That‘s what the CBO says we‘d have if it wasn‘t for stimulus.
We should be talking about all these things. We‘ve been scared. We‘ve been hiding behind shower curtains. It‘s time to get out there and campaign about the good stuff we‘ve done.
And also, as I said on your show a while ago, about the fact that the opposition is being influenced more and more by wackos. Michele Bachmann says the first thing they‘re going to do if they get control of the House is issue subpoena after subpoena, have investigation after investigation. Darrell Issa, who‘s going to be the chairman, says that‘s exactly what they‘re going to do.
And that‘s exactly what Americans don‘t want. And we ought to be telling people, and our base ought to wake up.
And anybody who‘s watching this show who thought they might not vote because they‘re a little disappointed over this and a little disappointed over that—get over it. The stakes are huge. We‘ve got to get out there and vote.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about how the sort of rubber hits the road on that political advice on a—in a specific campaign. In the race to succeed you as governor of Pennsylvania—the Democrat is Dan Onorato; the Republican is your state‘s attorney general, Tom Corbett.
Tom Corbett has a ridiculous record on health reform. He filed suit as attorney general to say it was unconstitutional trying to stop it. And now, on his campaign Web site, he‘s talking about all the wonderful opportunities it offers for Pennsylvania.
The Democrat in this race has this wide-open soft target to hit the Republican on this in your state if he‘s willing to stand with health reform in order to do it. Will he do that? Should he do that?
RENDELL: I think he absolutely should. We‘ll win in Pennsylvania, for Dan Onorato and for Joe Sestak for Senate, if Democrats get out and vote. We‘ve got to give them a reason to get out and vote. We‘ve got to give them a reason.
And Tom Corbett is the only northern attorney general to join the health care suit. Why, given the benefits that you and I and the president have just outlined on the show, the benefits that are happening now, not 2014? Why would you want to avoid the act?
If you want to amend it and change it—OK, I agree with that. I think that some things need to be changed. But don‘t try to throw the whole act out.
Why would Tom Corbett want to take away from 150,000 businesses the ability to get a 35 percent tax credit? Or throw 3,500 people out of the high-risk pool? Or say to children they can‘t be covered again because of pre-existing—because they have pre-existing conditions? Why would you want to do that?
So, I think Dan should go after it whole hog, absolutely.
MADDOW: Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, former chair of the Democratic Party—it‘s also great to have you on the show tonight, sir. Thank you for your time.
RENDELL: Remember, Rachel, it‘s actually a good bill. It doesn‘t suck less. It‘s actually a good bill.
MADDOW: You know, I know. Let me actually defend myself on that.
Health insurance companies suck. And health insurance sucks.
I went for a long time in my life with no health insurance and it was completely psychologically defeating and awful. I have health insurance now and it‘s awful. Dealing with health insurance companies is awful. I would be happy if they all went away and everybody in the country doesn‘t work for an insurance company would be happy if they went away.
This makes it suck less to have health insurance. And that‘s a huge advance.
RENDELL: I understand. But I believe—I believe the—I believe the exchanges will work and for 31 million Americans, this is manna from heaven.
MADDOW: It is—it is absolutely an improvement and health insurance companies suck. But on that, we can agree to disagree.
RENDELL: There you go. There you go.
MADDOW: Thank you, Governor. I appreciate it.
All right. For months and months and months on this show, we reported on the secretive and salacious details of C Street—C Street, which played a starring role in the sex scandals of Mark Sanford, John Ensign, and much, much more. Tonight, new reporting about the C Street band that has the shadowy religious organization behind it already in a total lather. Jeff Sharlet joins us in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I was part of what we called C Street when I was in Washington. It was a, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study—some folks who asked members of Congress hard questions that I think we‘re very, very important. And I‘ve been working with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford at his infamous “I was in Argentina having an affair, I wasn‘t on the Appalachian Trail” press conference last June, kicking off what would come to be known—around here, at least—as the summer as the C Street sex scandals.
By July of last year, the extramarital affairs of three Republican figures: Governor Sanford, along with those of Senator John Ensign of Nevada and former Congressman Chip Pickering of Mississippi, had all been linked to the secretive religious group known as The Family by way of this house on C Street in Washington, D.C. that was affiliated with the family. The house was registered as a church, so it would be tax-exempt, and a group of conservative members of Congress of both parties all lived together at the house.
The secretive religious group and the secretive C Street house got even more unwanted attention last fall when a Democratic congressman, Bart Stupak of Michigan, almost killed all of health reform on the altar of strict new anti-abortion regulations, an amendment he wrote with a Republican congressman, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, who also turned out to be a core member of C Street‘s The Family.
Now, upon learning that C Street was the connection between all of these people and all of these things in the news, the nation‘s eyes turned to Jeff Sharlet, who was the only person to have done extensive long-form journalism about C Street and The Family. Since those scandals broke—thanks to the great reporting in Jeff‘s first book, “The Family,” he made a lot of appearances on this TV show to talk about the organization.
And since all that publicity, C Street has sort of emptied out. John Ensign moved out. He‘s under investigation by both the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee.
Bart Stupak also moved out and announced that he would retire from Congress.
Congressman Mike Doyle and Senator John Thune moved out, even though they didn‘t have any C Street scandals of their own.
Congressman Jerry Moran didn‘t move out right away, but when he was asked about living at C Street, he did all he could to downplay his residency there. He told the “Topeka Capital-Journal” in April, quote, “I have a small bedroom and a bath I share with other people.”
When asked about his residence at the C Street house, Congressman Heath Shuler, Democrat of North Carolina, said, quote, “I‘ve been here all the time and there‘s talk about what the fellowship is, but I honestly have no idea what they‘re talking about. I honestly have no idea what it is.”
In other words, OK, maybe I live there and go to prayer meetings and stuff there, but I have no idea what goes on there. Who cashes my rent checks? I have no idea. I never even noticed who I make them out to. Don‘t care, never asked.
But the C Street house was just the most visible part of The Family. And even as C Street hollows out in Washington, even as the building apparently, reportedly, might be sold, the group behind it, The Family, remains—as does their agenda, to remake the world in the interests of its members—its powerful members who mostly, that they have anything to do with it.
Jeff Sharlet‘s follow-up book to “The Family” is called “C Street.”
It has just come out. It‘s important.
Mr. Sharlet joins us next.
MADDOW: One of the most difficult things about covering C Street, the C Street sex scandals and the fellowship, the secretive religious group behind C Street, has been that they‘re impossible to Google. Every town of any size has a C Street. The family, the fellowship, none of these names of these groups have any specific meaning. And presumably that‘s by design, so that they can be super duper under the radar. One of the things that we have learned about them over time is that secrecy is not incidentally to what they are, it‘s a huge part of even their theology.
So it‘s been really difficult to find out anything about them through original research, at least on a day to day basis. But the fact that Jeff Sharlet has a second book coming out about them now has driven the family to do something they have never done before. Which is that they‘re waging a PR campaign on their own behalf. These guys doing public relations for themselves is like the wicked witch of the west hosting a swim party or slugs moving to the salt flats. It‘s complete empathetical to who they are. But sure enough because of Jeff‘s new books, they have started giving reporters, reporters who are definitely not Jeff Sharlet, lots of access to their leaders.
Lots of access in order to write friendly whitewashes, like this giant puff piece that was published in “The New Yorker” this month. One of the things we did learn in that “New Yorker” puff piece is that the family is also apparently launching a website for the first time. A website for their secret group. Presumably the URL will be written in some sort of, “You are the chosen people” hieroglyphics.
Joining us now for the interview is Jeff Sharlet. His new book is called “C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy,” he is also a contributing editor at “Harper‘s Magazine.” Jeff, congratulations on the new book. Thanks for being here.
JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR “”C STREET”: Thanks, Rachel. It‘s great to be back.
MADDOW: First, I want to get your reaction to the family‘s reaction to you. The family‘s PR offensive. It seems strange that they would be developing a website.
SHARLET: You know, 75 years of secrecy and denying your own existence and confronted with your culpability and all kinds of things, ranging from sex scandals to possibly genocidal bills in Africa, and you got to do something. So a website, that‘s where they‘re starting. It‘s a small first step.
MADDOW: The family has been working in the background of international politics and American politics for decades now, as you have documented. And every now and then, over the years, stories about them surface. But usually they are dropped and forgotten about. What do you make of the cyclical nature of the coverage of this group?
SHARLET: Well, it speaks to the kind of sort of limited understanding, I think, of corruption that we function within the press. You know, we understand a scandal when it involves a politician in bed with the wrong person, in bed with a stripper or an envelope full of cash. That makes it clear. And in fact, that‘s what—that‘s what put the C Street story on the map is the sex scandals. The question then becomes, well, you go beyond that and you ask, the sex scandals are not what the organization is about. They don‘t exist to cover up members‘ affairs. They exist to pursue this idea of government by God, a leadership led by God. And to export that idea backed up by American power around the world. That‘s a much more serious story. It‘s not—doesn‘t have as many giggles, but actually has a lot more frightening aspects. That‘s what you have to confront. But that‘s not a story that mostly the media is prepared or framed to report on.
MADDOW: Well, the next big story that wasn‘t a sex scandal about C Street, that did get quite a lot of attention was the family‘s ties to this Kill the Gays bill in Uganda. Their defense happened in part on this show. The family trying to take credit for stopping that bill instead of being blames for starting it. I know you went to Uganda for this book. What did you find about the family‘s involvement with the Kill the Gays bill?
SHARLET: It was so much more extensive than I think I even understood, when we were talking about this last year. I went at the invitation of David Bahati who was the Member of Parliament in Uganda, has proposed this to Kill the Gays bill and is the de facto leader of the family‘s group in parliament, the Ugandan C Street, if you will. And he said, he wanted me to come there and he would explain to me what it was all about. And we had a series of meetings. He was very candid about his political education in the United States, his friendships with American politicians, his great admiration for Senator Jim Inhofe who‘s visited a lot and talked about the moral underpinnings of the government led by God.
But most of all what he cleared up was any doubt about what his intentions were. I asked him, I said, is the goal to kill all gay people? And he said, “Well, in a perfect world, yes.” He says, but we live in a democracy, so we go step by step. The other important thing he wanted me to understand was that he felt that he had received no pressure from the Americans to drop the bill. So, they‘re saying that they‘re putting pressure on him, he‘s saying, you know, I didn‘t get that memo. And that came from not only him, but other Ugandan politicians involved in the bill. They said, it seems to us that mainly what the family is doing is managing PR.
MADDOW: Wow. One of the things that blew my mind about your conversations with David Bahati, as re-laid in the book was him describing his friendship with Mitch, meaning Mitch McConnell, being on a first name basis with very familiar Republican leaders in this country. Is that, in fact, what the family is designed to do? To put people on first-name bases, so that they can essentially spread power around the globe via American projection?
SHARLET: That‘s exactly, in David Bahati‘s understanding. He said, you know, when I first came over, he came over to the United States in 2005 to study at a conservative activist group called the Leadership Institute, and they‘re the ones who put him in touch with the family. He started coming over for the national prayer breakfast multiple times, and he said it warmed his heart to know that wherever he would go from Washington, D.C., to the Ukraine, he was now part of this family. He had brothers, he could do business with them. He said that, you know, one of the great things was that although some of the Americans had denounced the bill, they could continue to work together on other biblical issues, like defense contracts.
MADDOW: Wow. Jeff Sharlet, author of the book “C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy,” thank you for your time tonight, Jeff. Good luck with the book tour. Congratulations on the book.
SHARLET: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. Still to come, Kerry Eleveld, the reporter who asked Senator McCain tough questions about Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell yesterday and who was told to, get off my lawn for her trouble. She joins us next.
MADDOW: The Republican Party has been promising for months now to release their big agenda, their version of the old contract with America from the ‘90s. The photo op for its release is tomorrow, but the document itself leaked tonight. What‘s in it? Well, lots of stuff about abortion. What‘s not in it? What their candidates have actually been promising all year long to do if they get elected. A pre-photo op immunization for the spin we‘re all due for tomorrow, coming right up.
MADDOW: Warning, warning! The following two facts about two Republicans from Texas make absolutely no sense at all when taken in conjunction with one another. They cannot be reconciled so please do not try. Fact number one about Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Pete Sessions is that they both have robust and illustrious anti-gay voting records. They both voted in favor of amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Congressman Sessions also voted yes on banning gay adoptions in Washington, D.C., because it‘s his business, and no on banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation. In their respective chambers, both men voted against the bills that would have paved the way for the repeal of Don‘t ask, Don‘t tell. Here‘s Mr. Cornyn voting no in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Mr. Cornyn?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Trust me, he said no. Here‘s Mr. Sessions in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETE SESSIONS ®, TEXAS: Mr. Chairman, I also note as I stand that I am opposed to the provisions known as Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell changes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Cornyn and Congressman Sessions each have a zero percent rating on gay rights from the human rights campaign. And as is clear from their records, these guys have earned that zero. So that‘s fact number one about Congressman Pete Sessions and Senator John Cornyn. That‘s fact number one. Fact number two, incongruous and inexplicable fact number two, those two members of Congress are getting an award from the Log Cabin Republicans tonight from the Republican gay rights organization. They are giving a gay rights award to two politicians who do not support gay rights. Why are the Log Cabin Republicans doing this? No idea. In what way does this advance the cause of gay rights? Hard to say.
Actually easy to say, it does not at all. That said, on the other hand, this same organization, the Log Cabin Republicans filed the lawsuit that resulted in a strong ruling against the Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy in California two weeks ago, and that ruling might offer the Obama administration the clearest path forward for getting rid of the military‘s gay ban. And that definitely would advance gay rights. The Obama Justice Department expected to decide by tomorrow whether or not they will appeal that judge‘s ruling or whether they won‘t. Which could have the effect of simply killing the Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy by means of a legal injunction.
Joining us now is Kerry Eleveld. Chief Washington correspondent for “The Advocate” magazine, who has been all over this story. Kerry, nice to see you. Thanks for coming in.
KERRY ELEVELD, “THE ADVOCATE” CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here.
MADDOW: What is it exactly that the Obama Justice Department has to do tomorrow in terms of this case? What are their options?
ELEVELD: Well, I want to, first of all, preface this by saying, I‘m not a lawyer and I simply cover these cases, but there‘s just a little bit of a difference in what you said. They don‘t actually have to appeal by tomorrow, but what they.
MADDOW: They have to state whether they are, right?
ELEVELD: What they have to do is they have to submit their proposal for an order of what to do in this case. Now, the Log Cabin Republican lawyers submitted their order last week, and their order said, what we would like to see is for you, Judge Phillips, to issue an injunction nationwide on this—on enforcement of this ban, of this policy, so that it cannot be enforced by the federal government at any time, at any place. And what the government will do tomorrow is submit their proposed order in response to that.
ELEVELD: And what they‘ll likely do, I mean, a betting person might think, is decide that—or ask her to limit the injunction, number one, so that it would only be limited to the plaintiffs in the case and not everyone, and might only be limited to the certain locales where they‘re from, and not everywhere. And then on top of that, they‘ll probably ask her to stay the injunction, so that they can buy some time. They actually have, my understanding is, 60 days from the time that she signs that order to decide whether or not to appeal. So you‘re going to have parallel tracks.
There‘s going to be this last-ditch effort on the political side to maybe get through the legislative repeal, which is really on its last leg. I mean, it‘s total life support at this point. And then on the judicial side, of course, you‘ll have this thing sort of moving through and the Justice Department deciding, based on what her actual order is, they‘ll take their 60 days and probably push it back to the very end that they can, and decide whether or not to actually appeal.
MADDOW: So people who are concerned about the Justice Department showing the Obama administration‘s commitment to repealing policy shouldn‘t necessarily expect that trying to stop that injunction tomorrow means that they‘re definitely going to appeal the case and fight it all the way forward. They need to stop the injunction to buy themselves some time, in short?
ELEVELD: They are. They want to buy themselves some time. I don‘t think they want to make any of these decisions before the midterms. Having said that, this administration has shown no interest in, you know, in letting any of these decisions stand, right? They have pretty much shown an interest in defending almost every anti-gay law that‘s on the books. And I don‘t see any reason, based on what I‘m seeing with my reporting to think that this would be any different. But I would add one thing. After the legislative—after legislatively, it failed yesterday, what you did see this morning was a “New York Times” editorial, and you also saw members of Congress coming together to circulate a letter to push the administration not to appeal. And that is a new effort.
MADDOW: Kerry Eleveld, Washington correspondent for “The Advocate” magazine, thanks for joining us this evening. I imagine we will be talking to you again. Appreciate it.
ELEVELD: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Coming up, what did not make the cut when Republicans decided to explain what their candidates stand for this year? Doesn‘t mean their candidates don‘t stand for it, just means the party doesn‘t want it to be publicized right now. That‘s next.
MADDOW: Ever since John McCain and Sarah Palin came in second in the presidential election in 2008. Watching the Republican Party figure out what they want to do next, who they want to be their post-Bush, post-McCain leaders, what they want their party to stand for? It‘s been the greatest show on earth. But now that all of the major primaries are over, now that the shear slate of Republican candidates has taken shape, the post-Bush, post-McCain Republican position on the issues is measurable. It‘s not a fear radical fight any more. It‘s not debate club. Republican voters have gone to the polls. They have selected their candidates and by looking at the positions, those candidates endorse, we can now measure what post-Bush, post-McCain Republican stand for. Generally speaking what they stand for is getting rid of Social Security. Or if we shouldn‘t eliminate it all together, then we should at least privatize it and give it over to Wall Street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON JOHNSON ®, WISCONSIN SENATE CANDIDATE: Guess what‘s coming in Russ Feingold‘s negative campaign? He‘s going to tell you, I said Washington treats Social Security like a Ponzi scheme. You know what? I did say that, because it‘s true.
KEN BUCK ®, COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: Whether it is constitutional or not, it is certainly a horrible policy.
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: We need to phase Medicare and social security out in favor of something privatized. We know that the government never gives us.
JON RALSTON, POLITICAL JOURNALIST: So, don‘t fix it? You‘re saying don‘t do anything to fix it.
ANGLE: I‘m saying it can‘t be fixed. It‘s broken.
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: It‘s a Ponzi scheme.
They‘re taxing us to pay for the current generation.
BUCK: The idea that the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe.
JOE MILLER ®, UNITED STATES SENATE NOMINEE: We have to look at all the options that are out there, including privatization.
STAR PARKER ®, CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Put it into personal retirement accounts immediately.
ANGLE: What we need to do is personalize Social Security and Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If there was a hint of a hint of hesitation there at the end the hedge? Did I say privatize? Maybe I meant personalize, that sounds better, right? Any hesitation like what you heard from Sharron Angle and her re-branding operate there, is now going away. That‘s in part due to the influential deep pocketed conservative group, the club for growth. That‘s to get government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub group. That‘s the group once led by Pat Toomey, he is now the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, the club for growth is now pushing for the privatization of Social Security and they‘re pushing for Republicans to be proud to run on that.
In a new post on its website titled, “Privatize Social Security? Hell Yeah!” That‘s the name of their pro-privatize Social Security article, “Hell Yeah.” Whoa, yes, we‘re not the Social conservatives, we‘re the money guys, we swear, we say H-E double hockey sticks.
You may remember that after he won re-election in 2004, President George W. Bush toured the country pushing his plan to privatize Social Security. Remember he said, he had accumulated political capital and now he wanted to spend it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH ®, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style, that‘s what happened after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I earned capital in this election, and I‘m going to spend it for what I‘ve told the people I‘m going to spend it on which is you‘ve heard the agenda, Social Security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Social Security. And the president did do a national road show about privatizing Social Security in 2005. He told the American people how excited he was for the elderly to divert their Social Security checks to Wall Street. And while President Bush was manifestly excited about that idea, the American people were not. The road show was a failure. The accumulated political capital dispersed, the American people were not moved. And boy, did that turn out to be handy. Because take a look at this, this is the S&P 500 index over the last five years. From about the time that President Bush was proposing, we start putting people‘s Social Security checks in the stock market. If you retired under a privatized system like the one George W. Bush was pushing in 2005, you would just have to hope to not need that retirement money in a year that looks say, like 2009.
But there‘s another element to privatizing Social Security that even Republicans who say they‘re in favor of it, don‘t like to talk about very much. And that‘s overhead. The cost of administering it. Right now as it is, with the government in charge, Social Security is cheap to administer. As our friend Ezra Klein pointed out in his recent column for “Newsweek,” “Administrative costs for Social Security are less than .9 percent of total spending.” In other words, it costs relatively nothing, sort of to run Social Security. Less than one percent of the total cost of the program is spent running it. It is super efficient and it‘s a government program. I know your head‘s exploding, how is this possible? They might possible for Medicare. Some big government programs like Medicare and Social Security have like zippo for overhead. They are very efficient.
But if you privatize Social Security, you instead, start paying private for-profit Wall Street financial firms to manage Social Security money. And they‘re probably not going to operate like the super efficient government programs they would be replacing, because after all, they are private, they are for profit, and they are in it to make money. In fact, back when President Bush was pushing for privatization in 2005, his own Social Security commission estimated that under their system of individual accounts, five cents of every dollar would go to pay administrative costs, five percent. For those of you keeping track at home, that‘s more than five times more expensive than it is now.
So, yes, the government now doesn‘t gamble with old people‘s Social Security checks on Wall Street and it can administer this program for almost nothing. But Republicans think it would be a better idea to go ahead and pay Wall Street five times as much to do with Social Security checks whatever it is that Wall Street does with money, which as we know sometimes involves losing it, a lot of it quickly. And remember, this is not people‘s investment portfolios, this is not pin money, this is a safety net. In many cases for millions of Americans, this is the safety net. If you‘re retired and Social Security benefits account for the majority of your income, which is true for the majority of all retired Social Security recipients, if you are one of the 13 million retired Americans who would live below the poverty line without Social Security, when you lose the value of your safety net portfolio to a downturn in the stock market or when you watch it get eaten up overtime by Wall Street fees, that‘s it, that was the safety net.
There isn‘t one any more. Suddenly you‘re 85-years-old living in cardboard and eating cat food. But, hey, don‘t worry, most of these same candidates who we just mentioned, the once who want to get rid of Social Security or privatized it or personalized it, they‘re also talking about phasing out Medicare, which is our health insurance program run by the government for older people. So, you will be 85-years-old living in cardboard, eating cat food and trying to buy health insurance on the private market. If there‘s any one group of people who can reliably find affordable health care on the private market, it‘s definitely people who are Social Security age. So far this campaign season, people have been paying a lot of attention to tax cuts and to the individual wackiness factor of a lot of this year‘s proof of candidates.
But right now, these issues, Social Security and Medicare are at the heart of Republican policy proposals, that the center of the Republican platform is the idea that maybe there shouldn‘t be a safety net for retired people in this country. That is what republicans are fighting for this year this year. If you take away all the characters, all the gaffes, all the scandals, this is what they‘re proposing. Democrats have been running away from the new deal for so long, they‘re sometimes afraid to say it. But the new deal brought us Social Security, and Social Security has been really good for America. And Republicans want to ash can it. Some Democrats may be too scared of their own shadows to say it, but it is worth saying.
That does it for us tonight. We‘ll see you again tomorrow night. Meanwhile, lots to add on what you see on the show, our blog is maddowblog.msnbc.com. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Have a good night.
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