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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, November 8th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: JJ Ramberg, Rebekah Dryden, Elizabeth Warren, Ken Strickland


THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC HOST:  And up next is Rachel Maddow.

Rachel, good evening.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Thomas, you‘ve been doing a spectacular job. 

It‘s good to see you, my friend.  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well.

After Democrats gave up a ton of seats in last week‘s elections to the Republicans, Republicans have responded by handing Democrats a ginormous political gift.  Democrats being Democrats however, no one yet knows if they will accept the gift.  Congressional Republicans this weekend laid to rest any ambiguity about what they are coming to Washington to do—at least what they are coming to Washington to do first.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, KENTUCKY:  Taxes.  Tax cuts.  Tax increases. 

Tax increases.

CANTOR:  Tax cuts.

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  Prevent a huge tax increase.  Tax, taxes.


MADDOW:  To unspin for a second.  I know you‘ve heard a lot about this, but the fight here is really about one very, very specific thing.  The fight that the Republicans are picking first, the first thing they want to do after this election in Washington is add $700 billion to the deficit.

There are two competing proposals from the Democrats and Republicans on the issue of taxes.  Both parties want tax cuts on the first quarter million dollars of income, that a person earns in a year.  Any income above the first quarter million, Democrats say that should go back to being taxed at the same rate that it was during the Clinton administration.

Republicans want to give tax cuts for that income over a quarter million dollars a year as well.

What does that cost us as a country to give tax cuts on income over a quarter million dollars a year?  It is estimated to cost us $700 billion.  In other words, Republicans first action upon coming to Washington, D.C., after this election is to make the deficit $700 billion worse in order to cut taxes on only the richest people in the country.

We knew this was the difference in policy proposals between the parties before the election.  But now that Republicans won control of one House of Congress, this is really what they say they want to do first—lard up the deficit, rich people need some change of their own.

If you were a Democratic shaman inventing an issue to define the Democratic Party versus the Republicans after this election in particular, after this election motivated by the bad economy and fueled by people worrying about their economic standing and all this populist lip service paid to fiscal conservatism, this is the issue that you would invent.

Here‘s an issue on which Democrats want to be fiscally conservative and Republicans want to be fiscally profligate in order to help the richest people in the country.  Bingo!

When President Clinton got his own midterm shellacking in 1994, when Republicans took control of both houses of Congress two years into President Clinton‘s first term, a big part of that president‘s political resurrection was another political gift given in the same spirit as the one Republicans today are offering to Democrats.

Back then Republicans went after Medicare, and Medicaid and Social Security.  It was the Republicans‘ desire to dismantle those social safety net programs that caused the infamous shut down of the federal government in 1995.  Speaker Newt Gingrich threatened to bring the federal government to a halt unless he got his way on those cuts.  And then-President Clinton responded in fact, make my day.  This is an issue on which I would love for you to make yourself famous.

When people think about less health care, Clinton told Gingrich, in essence, I want them to think about you.  When they think of a less secure retirement, I want them to think of you.  When they think about the battled days of impoverished senior citizens, I want two names to come to mind, Gingrich and Newt, and not in that order.

And when they think of me, he said in effect at that time, I want them to think of the guy who stood up to Newt Gingrich on this stuff.  So, do it, I dare you.

And Newt Gingrich go for it and he shut down the government, only to find himself ridiculed on the cover of newspapers and by colleagues who made a point of carrying those newspapers around with them on Capitol Hill.  He was also even made Man of the Year and not in a good way, lit in a reddish hue, with an accompanying article about his soaring unpopularity and his hubris.

The things you most want to do after a Cowboys versus Packers-esque route is define yourself—define yourself as a party, define your party and define the opposition party in a way that aligns your interest, your preferences, your sense of what‘s right and what‘s wrong, with where the vast majority of the country stands.  You wanted to define the other side you were standing up against as—sure, unified and determined—but also dead wrong.

In order for this to work, though, the thing is, you have got to stand up against that other side in order to collect that political gift, in order to reap that political benefit.

Joining us now to understand the real difference, the real policy difference between these two thing the parties are offering right now is JJ Ramberg.  She‘s host of MSNBC‘s “YOUR BUSINESS.”  And she is an expert explainer of complicated things about money.

JJ, thank you for joining us.

JJ RAMBERG, “YOUR BUSINESS” HOST:  Thank you.  We‘ll see if I‘m an expert explainer.  We‘ll try.

MADDOW:  Well, I think you are.  I mean, you host the only show I know that is dedicated to the singular issue of stuff that faces small businesses.  Republicans are trying to brand their tax proposal as fighting to cut taxes for small businesses.  They say Democrats want to raise taxes on small businesses.

How do small businesses even factor in here?

RAMBERG:  Yes, exactly.  I mean, in some ways, they‘re kind of being used as a pawn to get this issue away from, are we just taxing the rich?  What Republicans are saying is, if we do not extend these Bush tax cuts to those people in the highest income bracket, then what‘s going to happen if small businesses are affected?  They say that half of all business income, 50 percent of all small business income will be affected by that.  That‘s a big scary number, right?  Fifty percent.

And as a result, these small businesses, because they‘re going to be paying more in taxes, aren‘t going to be hiring people.  And so, as a result of not extending these Bush tax cuts, we‘re going to be slowing job growth in this country.  A good argument, right?

MADDOW:  Right.

RAMBERG:  Except it‘s not entirely true.

MADDOW:  What‘s not true?

RAMBERG:  I mean—and before I go into this, let me say both sides are also using these numbers to their benefit.  But the problem is: all these numbers are taken by a report from the Congressional Joint Tax Committee.  And in these numbers, they‘re not just small businesses what you and I would think of, the Internet start-up, or the drycleaner down the street.  It also includes a hedge fund investor and a guy who‘s a partner in a law firm that‘s already only three people.

And so, if they‘re taxed at a higher rate, well, it‘s not going to slow job growth because they weren‘t hiring any one in the first place.  It really has no effect on job growth.

MADDOW:  And that‘s particularly, it seems particularly important when they talk about the businesses being affected by tax cuts for wealthy people, or for high incomes being 50 percent of small business income—that makes sense if some of these small businesses are hedge fund guys.

RAMBERG:  Well, that‘s exactly.  That‘s why the number gets so big.

But let‘s go to the other side now.  So, the Democrats are saying, look, it‘s only 3 percent small businesses that are going to be affected by this, and that comes from that same report.  That‘s a little misleading also, though it is a small number, and frankly, it‘s probably less than 3 percent for that reason that we just discussed, the number of small businesses that actually account for most of the job growth in this country that are attributed to small business is a very small number of small businesses.  So, it stands to reason, if you‘re making more than $250,000, you‘re the guy who has the wherewithal to sign leases and buy equipment and do all the kinds of things you need to do to actually hire new employees.

MADDOW:  So, we don‘t know that there‘s a correlation between the richest small businesses and job hiring, but we could guess that there might be if somebody could document it?

RAMBERG:  I think it‘s not as scary as 50 percent of all income and it‘s not as insignificant as 3 percent and it doesn‘t happen.

MADDOW:  Yes.  I love that this is the first fight that we‘re fighting about.

JJ Ramberg, host of “YOUR BUSINESS,” 7:30 Eastern here on MSNBC on Sunday morning—thank you so much.  It‘s great to have you on the show.

RAMBERG:  Thank you.  Good to see you.

MADDOW:  Appreciate it.

So, beyond policy, in terms of the political impact here, the only way Democrats can take advantage of this political gift Republicans are handing them is if the electorate believes Democrats aren‘t just being more fiscally conservative on this issue than Republicans, they‘re doing it because they have the interest of the middle class at heart.  That the White House really does have a pro-middle class agenda.  That they‘re not waging war on the rich, is that they stand for the middle class, and for standing for the middle class in a responsible way.

Joining us now in many ways, the face of those efforts for this White House, Elizabeth Warren, assistant to the president and special advisor to the secretary of the treasury, now tasked with setting up a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Professor Warren, thank you so much for being here.


MADDOW:  Republicans coming to Washington have their sights on you.  Several are already saying they want the agency you‘re helping setting up dismantled before it even launches.

How does the mission of consumer financial protection fit into this idea of an agenda for the middle class?

WARREN:  You know, I have to say, I‘m really surprised by this move.  Following the Great Depression, it took 50 years before anyone started chipping seriously away at the new reforms that had been put in place to protect us.

Now, here, we‘re coming out of—we hope coming out of another great recession, we‘ve passed serious reform, and it‘s just a matter of months until people are talking about how to undercut this new consumer financial protection agency.  You know, this new agency has not yet drawn breath and yet there are those who are saying, let‘s do what we can to weaken it, to make sure that it‘s never able to have any effect to be an effective voice on behalf of middle class families.

MADDOW:  In terms of the middle class agenda of this White House, the middle class agenda that Democrats hope to present to regain their majority in the House, to try to make up some of the election gains that they suffered and to try to do what they want for the country, consumer financial protection is one of these things that has been defined by its enemies as an extra layer of regulation, as an extra layers of bureaucracy, that will hamstring businesses and therefore hamstring job growth.

What‘s your take on that argument?

WARREN:  Well, so let‘s just be clear, that argument didn‘t win.  The Consumer Financial Protection Agency became law, not because there was some special interest group pushing for it, or some lobbyists.  Remember the Wall Street lobbyists said they would kill it before it was ever born.  They lost.  And they lost because this is an agency that really is there for middle class families.

Let me give you an example of that.  This agency is about being able to tell in advance what the price of a credit product is, how much risk is associated with it, and being able to make comparisons, so you could look at a credit card, for example, tell what it costs, tell how risky it is, and compare four credit cards and tell which one is the cheapest.

Now, American families think that‘s a pretty good deal.  Recent poll says 96 percent of American families say we need to get rid of the fine print in these financial contracts.  Ninety-six percent—that‘s Democrats, Republicans, independents, libertarians, vegetarians, everybody.  This is not a partisan issue.  This is a core middle class issue.

American families have been hit hard, flat wages, rising core expenses.  They‘ve turned to debt.  Debt has turned out to be very dangerous.  It has really torn a hole in the bottom of the economic boat for millions of middle class families.

What this agency is about is about repairing that boat.  And families are with us on this.

MADDOW:  You have been studying the economics of the middle class of American middle earners for the last 30 years.  What is—what‘s going to make the biggest difference on the return of the middle class?

You talk about stagnating wages.  You talk about the parasitic effect of predatory debt and predatory debt marketers and these other issues.  But in the big picture, what is going to make a difference about the return of the middle class?  Is it ultimately going to be something that happens through the tax structures?  What can be done?

WARREN:  I think there are going to be—look, let‘s face it.  There are a lot of pieces that are broken, and as a result, it‘s going to take a lot of things to start fixing it.  We‘re going to have to work on the wage side.  We can‘t live with stagnant wages for the next 30 years for American workers.

Rising core expenses really matter here.  This is what pushed families into debt—rising expenses for housing, rising expenses for health care.  Those have been really tough on American middle class.

But here‘s one we can fix and start fixing right now, and that is that families turn to debt.  They turn to debt to deal with medical bills.  They turn to debt to pay for college.  They turn to debt to make it from here to the end of the month.

And that debt turned out to be really dangerous and it has put lots of middle class families.  Millions of middle class families over the edge financially.

This is an agency that can say, that problem we can fix and we can start fixing now.  And it doesn‘t take tax money to do that.  What it takes is leveling the playing field and saying, look, we just want some basic fairness here.

The pricing has to be clear up front.  The risk has to be clear up front.  And it has to be easy up front to make comparisons among products.  That means getting rid of fine print.  That means no more tricks and traps in the game.

When that happens, more money stays in the pockets of American families.  And less of it drains out to the financial institutions that have become so powerful.

MADDOW:  Elizabeth Warren, assistant the to the president, and special adviser to the secretary of the treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, demonstrating tonight why she is both of those things, and one of our nation‘s most eloquent voices on these very, very, very, very central issues.  Thanks for being here.  Good luck, Ma‘am.

WARREN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  OK.  New developments on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” tonight out of Washington, somewhat surprising developments actually.  The latest live from Capitol Hill in just moments.

Also, a gigantic whopper in the middle of George W. Bush‘s much vaunted new book.  Much more in that still ahead.




REPORTER:  What do you mean when you mean Second Amendment remedies?

ANGLE:  Thank you.

REPORTER:  Second Amendment remedies, anything?  Is there any comment about that anger?  What does Second Amendment remedies mean?

You‘re not willing to answer what Second Amendment remedies means? 

Nothing at all?

Why won‘t you answer what Second Amendment remedies mean?  Nothing at all?  It‘s a simple question.


MADDOW:  Sharron Angle did not win her U.S. Senate race against Harry Reid.  She got close, but she did not win.  But remember when she was running for that seat?  She repeatedly claimed if conservatives didn‘t get the results they wanted out of these elections, the nation should expect them to turn to Second Amendment remedies, to turn to guns to get what they want?

Remember she told “The Reno Gazette Journal,” for example, quote, “What‘s a little bit disconcerting and concerning is the ability for supporting goods stores to keep ammunition in stock.  That tells me the nation is arming.  What are they arming for if it isn‘t that they‘re so distrustful for their government?  They‘re afraid they‘ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways.

That‘s why I look at this as almost an imperative.  If we don‘t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”

What will be the next step?  Sharron Angle did not win at the ballot box next week?  And on Saturday night, I sat bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night and thought, Second Amendment remedies.  She warned us.

Because Sharron Angle did not talk to reporters while she was running for Senate, I doubt she will talk to anyone about this issue now that she has lost the race.  We called her office today.  Our calls were not returned.

What‘s worth remembering, though, is that there are a number of Americans who are already there, who are already at the Second Amendment remedy stage.  That for all of the focus we put on politics, there is an active fringe in this country that does explicitly reject politics, rejects persuasion.  They fervently believe not only that their right and other Americans who believe differently are wrong, butt they also believe the best way to get their way is to use force.  They believe that culture war is not a metaphor—that bombing, terrorizing, even killing other Americans is the way to get their way.

Last week, a 26-year-old North Carolina man pled guilty to a charge of distributing information about manufacturing and use of explosives.  This case received a little bit of national attention, in part because this man seemed to want national attention.

According to an FBI complaint against him, he referred to himself as the Christian counterpart of Osama bin Laden.

In public, on his Facebook page, he described himself as this, quote, “Whatever you may think of me, you‘re probably right.  Extremist, radical, fundamentalist?  Yes!  Terrorist?  Well, I prefer the term freedom fighter.  End abortion by any means necessary and at any cost.  Save a life, shoot an abortionist.”

In August, just a couple weeks before this young man was arrested, he allegedly posted this on his Facebook page.  Quote, “To all the Feds watching me, you can‘t stop what is in motion.  Even if you bring me in, my men will continue their mission.  Furthermore, I will not go peacefully.  Do you really want another Waco?”

Ultimately, though, what‘s going to land this 26-year-old man in prison in all likelihood is not his bragging or even his threats, but an act of furtherance he took when he explained three different viable bomb-making techniques to a confidential FBI informant, who he believed was going to use the information to bomb an abortion clinic.

In the some state today, a trial took place in a different case.  We‘ve talked on the show about these wanted posters that started showing up around Charlotte, North Carolina, shortly after the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas last year.  We blocked out the photos and names and addresses of the doctors being targeted.

But the information on the originals is very specific.  Three of the four doctors being targeted are pictured.  There are photos of them.  One doctor‘s home address is listed.

The emergence of these posters in North Carolina was shocking in part because this tactic hasn‘t been used in a long time.  And because of the pattern that grew up around it when it was being used back in the 1990s.

Before Dr. David Gunn was murdered, there was a wanted poster out targeting him.  Before Dr. John Britton was murdered, there was a wanted poster out targeting him.  Dr. George Tiller was murdered last year, but before he was shot the first time in 1993, it‘s believed that this wanted poster targeting him was being circulated by anti-abortion extremists.

Since these posters appeared in North Carolina this year, local authorities filed criminal charges against the man who was responsible for them.  He was charged with stalking and with violating picketing laws in conjunction with the way he chose to distribute these posters.  Today, that man was found guilty on those charges and sentenced to two years probation.

We actually have quite a bit of detail about the terrifying means by which those posters were distributed because we have done an interview with one of the doctors targeted.  His identity is obscured by multiple means for obvious reasons, given the threat against him.  But the story of how he has been terrorized, this year, in 2010, in the United States of America, because of what he does for a living, the story is mind-bending.  That interview is next.


MADDOW:  In “The Interview” tonight, our conversation with one of the North Carolina abortion providers who have been recently targeted by anti-abortion activists.  The doctor‘s names and faces were put on wanted posters—a chilling reminder of the tactics used by violent portions of the anti-abortion movement in the 1990s that targeted doctors.

RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producer Rebekah Dryden has been done yeoman‘s work on this story for us in the past two years.  She was able to arrange a sit-down interview with one of the doctors who agreed to this interview if we would disguise his face and voice.  Please watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I first became aware of the posters last year about a month or two after Dr. George Tiller was murdered.  The posters were brought to my office by someone who was actually making a threat for me to stop performing abortion services or they would spread these wanted posters with my address.

REBEKAH DRYDEN, TRMS PRODUCER:  So they were presented to you before they were distributed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, they were.  They didn‘t speak to me specifically, because I wasn‘t in the office at the time.  It was about 9:00 in the morning.  They presented it to my receptionist, and told her to give it to me.  And this is what will be distributed if I didn‘t stop performing abortion services.

The next time I saw the posters was this year, and that was in March, on one of the demonstrations that the protesters were doing outside of my office.

DRYDEN:  Have they ever been distributed around your neighborhood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, they have.

DRYDEN:  Did you immediately see this as a threat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, absolutely.  I still see it as a threat.  They continue to surface, but, yes, it reminds me of the old Wild West posters.  That‘s the way I put it.  The poster itself is a call for my murder.  And the distributors of the posters know that so, because they know that that prior to Dr. Tiller being murdered, these posters were circulated with his face on it.  And also it reminds me that there were several doctors who were murdered and these posters were spread, distributed just before their murders as well.

So, the intent to me is very clear.  There‘s no question about it. 

These posters are a call for my murder.

DRYDEN:  Has having this threat out there changed your life in fundamental ways?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It certainly has had an impact on the way I go about my day to day activities.  There are things that I do to help assure my safety.  For instance, I have a designated parking space at my—where my offices, which I never use any more because I am afraid that something could happen to my car or someone may approach me in my car who wants to harm me.

I don‘t drive around in my white lab coat any more just because someone may identify me as a doctor and then realize I‘m the person on the poster, and this borderline person may decide then the poster itself is a calling from God and actually act upon it.

I don‘t take the same routes to work every day.  I do vary my routes just in case someone is following me.  I know that the distributors of these posters know where I live, because they‘ve been into my neighborhood.  They‘ve been at my house. 

They‘ve distributed these posters on my neighbor‘s doors, so they know where I live.  So I have changed to some degree what I have a lot of work to do.  I just can‘t go on hiding and being so afraid that I can‘t function anymore.  I have to function. 

DRYDEN:  What would it take for you to feel safe again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  First of all, I think that these clinics, the police force could take a more active part in keeping these protesters, not only away from me, but also away from the patients who are trying to get access to the clinics. 

But just the harassment that they do at these clinics is enough

to turn patients away, and it does.  It turns patients away, and they will

if it doesn‘t turn them away, certainly, by the time they get to the clinic, their blood pressure is sky high and we‘ve got to turn them away because their blood pressure is too elevated for us to actually perform the procedure.  

DRYDEN:  You mean, literally -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Literally, yes. 

DRYDEN:  There are physical reactions? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are physical reactions, absolutely, in the patients.  Well, there are physical reactions in the doctors too, but we just keep on working.  We‘ve got to do what we need to do. 

I would like to see some sort of law enforcement to prohibit distribution of this type of posters as well.  I want them to see it as I see it - as a threat to my life and as a call for my murder. 

The poster itself, I think, is targeting that person who has a personality that‘s already borderline and will see this as a message to do some harm.  That is the purpose of the poster.  And if anything happens to me, that‘s what‘s going to happen. 

The person that does this is going to walk up to me, unknown to me, pointblank, and either shoot me or stab me or place a bomb under my car or something that nature.  It will not be anyone that‘s in the news.  It may not even be anyone that‘s demonstrated at one of the clinics before. 

The truth of the matter is, we don‘t know what‘s going to happen and how it‘s going to happen.  We just know the purpose of the posters.  And we know that purpose because it has a history. 

DRYDEN:  I want to ask you about just agreeing to do this interview.  Obviously, we‘re obscuring your identity.  But speaking out, even anonymously, do you think that puts you at a greater risk? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it does.  But I do also think it is really important that we get this message out that this is a real problem.  It‘s a problem that if it continues, despite the fact that we have legalized abortion procedures in the United States, there will not be access to the procedures. 

Once there are no more doctors who will perform the procedures, it may as well be illegal for a large group of patients, the patients who have income - substantial income.  As long as it‘s legal, they will always have access because they can go to their doctor and have it done in the privacy of his or her office.  They could have them in the privacy of the hospital. 

It is the patient who is poor, low income, doesn‘t have many options - that‘s the patient that‘s going to be affected when they go to these clinics.  It is because these clinics provide the procedures at low cost to them.  And even then, it is still a financial stretch for a lot of them. 

And there are ways, I think, to try to get them aid, but nevertheless, it‘s a fundamental stretch.  But the patient feels as if it‘s necessary, so necessary that they are worried to go through that harassment that they go through in order to get into the clinic. 

But if this continues and there are no clinics and no doctors who will perform it, it‘s going to be done anyway.  They‘re going to go find someone to do it just as they did prior to 1973, prior to Roe versus Wade.  And it‘s not going to be done by a medical professional. 

And in all likelihood, they‘ll be at risk for death and infection and hemorrhage, all those things we saw prior to Roe versus Wade.  So it is extremely important that we put a stop to this and reverse this process. 

It has become increasingly more difficult to find doctors who actually do these procedures.  They cannot find doctors who will do this.  There are often doctors that have to come from out of town because they can‘t find doctors that will locally do it. 

So there is a need there and we are trying to help with that need.  But we can only do so much.  So it has to be reversed. 


MADDOW:  Special thanks to our producer, Rebecca Dryden, for doing so much important reporting work on this subject and for scoring that unbelievable interview with one of the North Carolina abortion providers who have been targeted recently in wanted posters - wanted posters eerily similar to the ones that preceded assassinations and attempted assassinations of doctors who provide abortions in years past.  We‘ll be right back. 



OBAMA:  And this should not be a partisan issue.  This is an issue, as I said, where you‘ve got a sizable portion of the American people squarely behind the notion that folks who are willing to serve on our behalf should be treated fairly and equally. 


MADDOW:  President Obama addressing America‘s ban on gay people serving in our military at last week‘s post election press conference.  And the president‘s right - the ban is wildly unpopular, with 70 percent of Americans overall saying they are opposed with majorities of liberals, of Democrats, of Republicans and even self-defined conservatives all saying they are against the ban. 

One guy likes it, though.  The new commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, channeling Sam Nunn‘s creepy submarine fantasies from the early ‘90s telling reporters this weekend that he doesn‘t want the gay ban repealed because, quote, “There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women - and when you talk of infantry, we‘re talking our young men - laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers.”

See, gay people can‘t do that - no such thing as a gay Marine except for all the gay ones.  What‘s interesting here is the reaction of the commandant‘s remarks.  The chairman of the joint-chiefs-of-staff telling reporters, quote, “I was surprised is by what he said, and surprised that he said it publicly.”

The top Marine is brand new on the job, see, about two weeks, and he and the other service chiefs have all agreed to review the Pentagon‘s internal study of the issue, and make their recommendations on the policy up the chain of command and in private, as in not to a bunch of reporters, like the new Marine commandant did this weekend. 

Meanwhile, the defense secretary reiterated to reporters today, quote, “I would like to see the repeal of ‘Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.‘”  But he said, “I‘m not sure what the prospects for that are, and we‘ll just have to see.” 

We are in fact trying to see what those prospects are, which is why we‘ve called in Ken Strickland, NBC‘s Senate producer.  Ken, thanks very much for being here.  It‘s good to have you on the show. 


MADDOW:  So the House has already passed the Defense Authorization

Bill -

STRICKLAND:  That‘s correct.

MADDOW:  With the provision that essentially lets the military repeal it.  Do we know yet if the Senate‘s going to vote on that in the lame duck session? 

STRICKLAND:  We don‘t know for sure, but I can tell you Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, strongly supports repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  He has the power to bring it to the floor and try to do it. 

They tried in September.  They didn‘t work.  They‘re about four votes short.  But if the Democrats held together, they have 59 votes.  You know it takes 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate. 

However, there is one catch.  When the Senate convenes in December, the Democrats will be short one vote.  Mark Kurt, who holds Obama‘s seat, because it was a special election, he‘ll start in November.  He‘ll be sworn in, in late November, so that then the Democrats will be down one more seat. 

The president can‘t do it without at least one Republican.  They‘re going to need 60 votes to get this bill on the floor.  Without those 60 votes, he goes nowhere. 

MADDOW:  There have been reports today that Sen. Carl Levin who‘s the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican, that they were working on trying to strip the repeal out of the Defense Authorization Bill.  What‘s the latest on that? 

STRICKLAND:  Carl Levin and John McCain are talking.  These are the ranking and chairman of the Armed Services Committee.  They really want a pass, to some degree, some part of the Defense Authorization Bill. 

This Bill is so big, so massive.  It touches so many parts of the military.  They have passed it for the past 48 consecutive years, but they know they can‘t pass it without having controversial provisions in it like the ones in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

There‘s also the DREAM Act with a small immigration provision. 

So unless those things are stripped out, it‘s hard to find a path forward. 

And certainly, without any Republican support, it goes nowhere. 

MADDOW:  Well, the White House tonight stated quite emphatically, that whether or not John McCain and Carl Levin are talking about this, the White House is against stripping “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” repeal out of the Senate bill.  What kind of weight does that carry with the Senate and with the Senate Armed Services Committee? 

STRICKLAND:  I think it carries some weight for Senate Democrats.  The last time they tried to pass it, two Senate Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and her colleague Mark Pryor of Arkansas voted against bringing the bill to the floor. 

Blanche Lincoln lost.  It‘s reasonable to believe that maybe in these last days, she would go along with Democrats.  The president could help make that happen, but still, they need at least one Republican. 

Susan Collins on the Armed Services Committee, a Republican from Maine, supports the provision of repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” but did not support bringing it to the floor last time because she didn‘t like the procedure that Harry Reid was going to use by limiting debate. 

If Harry Reid can find a way to bring Susan Collins on board, get one more Republican and get to that 60, that‘s how.  But this is a lame duck session.  They call it lame for a reason because they get very little done during this period. 

So the path forward, there is one, but it‘s hard to see how that happens.  Many hurdles, both procedural, political and, of course, they need some bipartisanship. 

MADDOW:  NBC News Senate producer, Ken Strickland, our man on Capitol Hill about which we are very lucky, thanks a lot, Ken.  Appreciate it. 

STRICKLAND:  No problem. 

MADDOW:  Former President George W. Bush has a book out, have you heard?  I entered a contest on Facebook for a chance to interview him.  I thought it was my only chance - didn‘t win.  Doesn‘t mean I don‘t have a really big question for him, though.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  So Republicans took a ton of seats in the House last week.  They won back the 50 some-odd seats Democrats had picked up in the last two elections, plus a handful more.  They beat most expectations of how they would do in the House. 

In the Senate, though, Republicans did not beat expectations.  Give or take the ongoing tea party Republican versus Republican/Republican fight going on in Alaska, the GOP picked up six Senate seats.  That‘s less than expectations and less than historical midterm trends would have suggested. 

What happened?  Well, one widely-circulated new post-election analysis shows Republican Senate candidates underperforming their poll numbers, coming in lower than polls said they would, in a way that suggests get out the vote effort. 

Party organization just didn‘t come together for those candidates.  The Davis Intelligence Group analysis says party disorganization cost Republicans points in a lot of Senate races and it may have cost the party two seats that they otherwise would have won. 

So maybe that‘s what happened.  Or there‘s also the “Sarah Palin did it” theory.  Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus quoted this weekend in his hometown newspaper, “The Shelby County Reporter” saying, quote, “The Senate would be Republican today except for states in which Palin-endorsed candidates like Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware.”

Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus told the local chamber of commerce, quote, “Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate.”  Oh, really?  Do tell. 

And if Republicans think Sarah Palin cost the party control of the Senate, how do Republicans feel about the ad she launched right after the election, celebrating our movement and our moment, and our morning in America by which, of course, she meant her movement and her moment, and the dawn of her 2012 presidential campaign. 

I am excited to say - I can‘t believe this.  We have got the one and only star of that ad as our next guest on this show, exclusively, coming right up.  So excited.


MADDOW:  Right after the election, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin struck a blow for angular guitar and for her own presidential ambitions with a new video, the first political ad of the 2012 election season. 


FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK):  This is our movement.  This is our moment.  This is our morning in America.  We‘re going to stand up and we‘re going to speak out.  It may take some renegades going rogue to get us there. 


MADDOW:  We saw that on the interwebs and we had to book on it.  TV people call it “efforting.”  We “efforted” that a lot and we did it.  We at least obtained a statement from the star of that ad.  He is a little bit shy.  He would only talk to us on tape.  But still, world, for the first time, meet the real silhouette of grizzly bear on mountain ridge. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, I‘m the bear from the video.  Now, don‘t get me wrong.  I‘m happy for the work.  But I need to clear something up here.  Palin‘s people bought that video from a stock footage library.  I didn‘t volunteer for it or anything.  There was no, “Oh, Sarah, pick me!  You‘re so great.  I‘ll roar for you.” 

Wrong.  But now I‘m Sarah Palin‘s performing bear.  Joe Miller keeps texting me.  Mitch McConnell wants me at CPAC next year.  Total nightmare.  So all you tea partiers, enough. 

Come on, I can‘t even vote.  Hello, bear, bear, bear.  And oh, by the way, at the end of the video, that wasn‘t - we need to kick out the socialists.  That was, I‘m yawning, OK, because I need to sleep, because I‘m a large hibernating mammal.  Duh.  Goodbye.  Don‘t call me. 


MADDOW:  Mr. Silhouette of grizzly bear on Mountain Ridge, thank you for talking with us.  Please sleep well.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For many people, George W. Bush became a hero that day, but soon, the question started.

MATT LAUER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Based on some of the intelligence briefings you had gotten, did you not have any idea who was behind this? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I mean, we all surmised it was al-Qaeda.  But before you make a decision to go find somebody, you want to make sure the intelligence is as good as it can get.  In the next couple of days, we heard all kinds of chatter and celebratory talk and so it became clear it was al-Qaeda. 

LAUER:  Did you ever ask yourself the question, “What more could I have done to prevent this from happening?”

BUSH:  Well, we just didn‘t have any solid intelligence that gave us a warning on this. 


MADDOW:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the static there was obviously caused by politically-conspiratorial demons, but it was Richard Benjamin there asking Condoleezza Rice, “I want to ask you about August 2001 PDB, the President‘s Daily Brief. 

He said, “I ask you whether you recalled the title of that

President‘s Daily Brief.”  Condoleezza Rice said, “I believe the title was

‘Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.‘” 

Now, George W. Bush is still selling the same spin he tried to sell when he was president.  That is less surprising than the opposite would be. 

If George W. Bush finally decided to say, “Yes, we did have substantive intelligence ahead of 9/11 that we should have heeded and the intelligence agency and analysts who got it right should be praised for that and we should learn from how they got it right.  And I regret we didn‘t pay more attention and listened to what they said,” that would be new from him and that would, therefore, be big news. 

That would be a big change from the George W. Bush of the past. 

As it stands, though -


BUSH:  Well, we just didn‘t have any solid intelligence that gave us a warning on this. 


MADDOW:  “I believe the title was ‘Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.‘”  As it stands George W. Bush 2010 appears to be not at all discontinuous with the two terms of the Bush presidency. 

But there‘s one big question looming over the George W. Bush re-launched to where it‘s happening in conjunction with his new book.  And that question is not about the past.  It is not about the former president‘s same spin on the same old controversies. 

It‘s about us now as a country.  When a sitting president doesn‘t tell you the truth, especially about national security matters, it can be hard to fact-check him in real time because you assume the president has access to information you, as a citizen, don‘t. 

But this long after 9/11, this long after President Bush‘s decision to invade Iraq, we do have the benefit of clear hindsight.  We can say, factually, clearly, without a provocation, without spin, whether or not he was telling the truth. 

And in his new book, “Decision Points,” and in his “think kindly of me” media tour, President Bush is still not telling the truth on the biggest issue of all, that you might think he would know we would fact-check.

In his new book, Mr. Bush says removing Saddam from power was the right decision.  Why was it the right decision?  Mr. Bush says, quote, “For all difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD.” 

A homicidal dictator pursuing weapons of mass destruction.  Saddam Hussein was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction.  Do we really still have to go over this?  As David Corn and Michael Isikoff pointed out today, authors of the book, “Hubris,” about the lead-up to the war, Mr.  Bush himself appointed Charles Duelfer in the Iraq study group to study this issue once and for all and settle it. 

They reported six years ago in 2004 that Saddam not only did not have those weapons, he did not have programs to make those weapons.  He did not have anyone working on making those weapons.  Saddam wasn‘t pursuing WMDs, and we invaded anyway.  It is proven.  It is empirical.  It is settled.  It is in black and white.  It‘s true - unless you‘re this guy.


BUSH:  We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. 


MADDOW:  Not everyone believed him the first time around.  But enough people did that we went to war under that false pretense.  We now know for a fact that that was a false.  And incredibly, in print, he‘s still trying to sell it.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, can‘t get fooled again? 


BUSH:  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me - you can‘t get fooled again.

MADDOW:  Now, it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.



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