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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, Nov. 12th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Dave Mann, Chris Hayes

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC:  Here‘s Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  The ponders?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  You know, pondering, ponderousness, ponds, pond. 

Yes, I think “pond” is the word I‘m looking for.

MADDOW:  I think of myself as I proud panderer, if you don‘t see me that way I‘d like to sort of keep that—

OLBERMANN:  We can talk about it slowly over the course of an hour perhaps.  A lot of leaning backward—lean forward during those interviews is what I always say.

MADDOW:  OK.  OK, point taken my friend.  Point taken.  Thank you, Keith.


MADDOW:  You, too.

And thanks to you for staying with us for the next hour.

We begin tonight with trouble at home for one of the top Republicans in the country unforeseen but now here—trouble on a grand scale for the leader of the Republican Party in the United States Senate.

As Mitch McConnell prepares to bring his Senate minority back to Washington after the weekend, this editorial in his hometown newspaper is staring him in the face.  Look at this—“McConnell‘s True Colors.”  This is from Louisville‘s “Courier-Journal” newspaper.  The paper is denouncing their home state senator, the top Republican in the Senate, for what they call, quote, “contemptible hypocrisy.”

What is this all about?  It is about this actually.  “Decision Points,” the new memoir from George W. Bush that has just been released.  This is definitely not James Thurber and I am definitely not trying to be Keith, but I do actually have to read out of this book for just a second.  So, please forgive me, OK?

Page 355, start of chapter 12.  “In September 2006, with the midterm elections approaching, my friend Mitch McConnell came to the Oval Office.  The senior senator from Kentucky had asked to see me alone.  Mitch has a sharp political nose and he smelled trouble.

‘Mr. President,‘ he said, ‘your unpopularity is going to cost us control of the Congress.‘  Mitch had a point,” Bush writes.  “Many Americans were tired of my presidency.  But that wasn‘t the only reason our party was in trouble, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

‘Well, Mitch,‘ I asked, ‘what do you want me to do about it?‘  ‘Mr.

President,‘ he said, ‘bring some troops home from Iraq.”

Bring some troops home from Iraq.  That, of course, because this is George W. Bush‘s own book, this is what he quotes himself as having said back to Senator McConnell after that rather astonishing exchange.

“‘Mitch,‘ I said, ‘I believe our presence in Iraq is necessary to protect America and I will not withdraw troops unless military conditions warrant.‘  I made it clear I would set troop levels to achieve victory in Iraq, not victory at the polls.”  Which is sort of really as much of the taste as you need about how George W. Bush portrays himself in his new book.

But what is important here is not George Bush‘s own incredibly healthy view of his own ethics, his sharp memory and his perfect elocution and ending the sentences with the word “warrant.”  What‘s important here is what he says—what this book says about the man who is now head of the Republican Party in the Senate.

According to President Bush, Mitch McConnell told him to bring some troops home from Iraq so Republicans wouldn‘t lose control of Congress in that year‘s elections—so Republicans could win in the 2006 midterms.  Mitchell McConnell telling George Bush he wants had him to draw down troops in the middle of the war so Republicans could do better in the elections.  Wow!

Mitch McConnell, it should be noted, is not denying this.  We spoke with his office today.  We will have more on that in a moment.

But because he is not denying it, this is what we‘re left with.  While Mitch McConnell was telling President Bush in private to pull troops out of Iraq, not for any national security reason, but for political reasons because it would be good for the Republican Party in the midterms, while he was saying that to the president lobbying for that in private, here‘s what he was saying in public about Democrats‘ efforts to get President Bush to withdraw troops.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, KENTUCKY:  General Abizaid had it correct when he said if we leave Iraq, they‘ll follow us.  They‘ll come back here.

So, cutting and running is not a strategy for protecting the American people here in the United States.


MADDOW:  Cutting and running.  See, Democrats want to cut and run from Iraq.  That was September 2006, September 5th, to be specific.  September 5th, 2006, Mitch McConnell excoriating Democrats for even suggesting that President Bush might pull out troops from Iraq.

According to President Bush it was that same month, September 2006, that Mitch McConnell was arguing with him privately to pull troops out of Iraq because, quote, “your unpopularity is going to cost us control of the Congress.”

Just a month before Mitch McConnell told that to President Bush, Democrats in Congress wrote a letter to the president.  That letter said in part, quote, “The open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained.  We need to take a new direction.”

The Democrats were asking President Bush to begin pulling troops out of Iraq on national security and fiscal grounds.

Mitch McConnell was privately arguing the same thing except on political grounds.  Privately, he was arguing the same thing that Democrats were arguing.  Privately, he was also asking for troops to be taken out of Iraq.  Privately, that‘s what he was doing.

But in public, quote, “The Democrat leadership finally agrees on something—unfortunately it‘s retreat, leaving Americans more vulnerable and Iraqis at the mercy of al Qaeda.”

So, in public, Mitch McConnell was essentially calling Democrats all but appeasers of al Qaeda for them wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq.  At the same time, he was telling George W. Bush in private that he wanted to withdraw troops from Iraq because it would be good for the Republicans in the elections.

Again, that meeting with President Bush where Mitch McConnell is saying pull out troops, that happened September 2006.

Here‘s Mitch McConnell on September 6th, 2006.


MITCHELL:  They want to attack Rumsfeld because they apparently don‘t have the courage to stand up and offer amendments to implement what they really like to do, which is to get out.


MADDOW:  See, Democrats just want to get out.  While he was saying that publicly, privately, he was telling George W. Bush the exact same thing—because he thought it would help Republicans in the elections.

This is—this is an incredible story.

On September 3rd, 2006, Mitch McConnell appeared on the CBS Sunday show “Face the Nation.”  The guest right before him that day was Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean.


HOWARD DEAN, THEN-DNC CHAIRMAN:  The Democrats want a new direction in our defense policy.  We want to fight the war on terror.  We don‘t think that the Iraq war is the right way to fight the war on terror because it simply has nothing to do with the war on terror.


MADDOW:  Asked to respond to the plan that Howard Dean laid out there, shifting resources out of Iraq, Mitch McConnell that day said, quote, “Their plan is to leave.  What they‘ll do is cut and run in Iraq.  People need to remember what Democrats do when they‘re in the majority.  They‘ll wave the white flag in the war on terror.”

Mitch McConnell was saying that in public the same month he was encouraging President Bush in private to—what does he call it—wave the white flag in the war on terror?  Cut and run?  He was encouraging President Bush in private to pull out troops.  Why did he want to do it?  It would help Republicans in the upcoming elections, thought.

We called Senator McConnell‘s office today to find out why he was saying one thing in public and one totally different thing in private.  I would also love to discuss with him whether or not he thinks it will help the Republicans in an election is a good basis on which to make national security decisions about American men and women in wartime.

Mitch McConnell‘s office gave us this statement, quote, “Senator McConnell does not comment on advice he may have given the president on improving the president‘s political standing.  But the public record is clear on his unwavering support for ensuring that our troops in the field were fully funded, and that General Petraeus was able to execute a counterinsurgency strategy on the ground in Iraq free of arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal even when it was politically u unpopular to do so.”

Does it count as an arbitrary deadline if it‘s before the elections?

And as for whether or not the public record is clear—yes, that‘s not the point.  The public record is very clear.

The problem is that what you‘re doing in public is the opposite of what you were doing in private—in private, with the president.  Excoriating everyone in public for making the same case that you were making in private, except other people making that case said they wanted the war ended for national security reasons.  You told the president you wanted the war ended to help your political party—regardless of what was good for the country.

As I said, Mitch McConnell is not at this point denying this charge laid against him by George W. Bush in Mr. Bush‘s new book.  If Mr.  McConnell does end up denying this, he will have to effectively call George W. Bush a liar to do so.

As “The Courier-Journal” puts it in their editorial, quote, “Unless he is prepared to call a former president of his own party a liar, Mr.  McConnell has a choice.  He can admit that he did not actually believe the Iraq mission was vital to American security, regardless of what he said at the time.  Or he can explain why the fortunes of the Republican Party are of greater importance than the safety of the United States.”

Again, that‘s Mr. McConnell‘s hometown paper.

The initial reaction on our staff to finding this thing about Mitch

McConnell in George W. Bush‘s book is right at the beginning of a chapter -

- sort of a showcase moment in the book.  The initial reaction of this was

ooh, George W. Bush is throwing Mitch McConnell under the bus, using and abusing McConnell to show that he, George W. Bush, didn‘t bow to craven politics of people like Mitch McConnell.


But with Mr. McConnell—so if you think about it that way, our reaction was, oh, obviously, Mitch McConnell will deny this and say this didn‘t happen.  You don‘t get thrown under the bus like that.  Oh, yes, I was the craven guy who wanted to, you know, forget national security because we wanted to do what was good for us in the elections.

But with Mitch McConnell not denying this account, this is now a huge story.  We‘ve just been through a midterm election that was not really at all about foreign policy and national security.  Those were not the main topics of discussion and actually it was an election that had very little to do with Mitch McConnell.  He was not a starring figure in these elections either.  But we are about to start a whole new session of Congress on Monday, and this scandal puts Mitch McConnell and, frankly, national security right back in the middle of everything.

We asked Senator McConnell today if he would please come on this show to talk about these matters, his office declined our request.  I hope that he will reconsider.  I hope that he will agree to come on the show next week.

You‘ll be the first to know if he does.


MADDOW:  Good news post-election depression sufferers, the most entertaining race in America this year is still going.  Officials are still tallying votes in the Senate race in Alaska.  And not only will the count decide who will be their senator, but it will also decide the fate of literally hundreds of facial hairs—the fate of those hairs hanging in the balance.

Please stay with us.  Eww!


MADDOW:  I have now given up all hope.  It seems ear that there are now no circumstances under which I‘m going to get an interview with George W. Bush.

As of today, Mr. Bush has given interviews to five—count them—five FOX News hosts, five.  He‘s also done interviews with CBS and with NBC and CNN is getting an interview with him this weekend.

And you know, if he‘s doing all of these interviews and I still haven‘t heard squat, I—I think it‘s done.  I think it‘s clear I am not going to get an interview.

It is liberating in a way though because now, I feel like I can point this out.  On the back cover of George W. Bush‘s new book, “Decision Points,” on the back cover photo, he is wearing a jacket that says President George W. Bush.  It‘s embroidered on the jacket.  And at the same time, he is also wearing a belt buckle.  What does the belt buckle say?  It says, Governor George W. Bush.

So, he‘s wearing his name twice in both of his last two job title as well on his clothing on the back cover of his book.  This is a thing about which I do not necessarily have a specific question.  I just think it‘s amazing and I would like to talk with Mr. Bush about it.

I don‘t—again, I don‘t so much have questions about the name and the job title in two places thing, I just—I would just like to draw him out about it.  I think I could do that.

Here‘s something I do have a question about, though—one of the ways we tried to get an interview with George W. Bush this year was by entering a Facebook contest in which you submitted questions for Mr. Bush and if—

I don‘t know if it was Mr. Bush himself his handlers, maybe, if they liked your questions, then you would win the contest and be allowed to interview him.  We did not win—surprise.

One of the questions we submitted, however, as part of our application was this very serious one—are you comfortable with every death sentence that was carried out under your supervision as governor of Texas?  Well, now, today, more than ever, I would like to have the chance to ask former President George W. Bush that question.

The “Texas Observer” has front paged an astounding story about Mr.  Bush‘s time in office as governor of Texas.  Mr. Bush oversaw the executions of 152 people while he was governor there.  He put 152 people to death.  As governor, he had the power to say thumbs-up or thumbs-down in all of those cases—and 152 times, he chose to put a prisoner to death.

The last one, the final man executed under George W. Bush‘s time as governor, number 152 was a man named Claude Jones.  Claude Jones was convicted of murder for killing that took place in 1989, part of a liquor store holdup in which a man was shot and killed.

Now, Claude Jones says he didn‘t kill anyone.  He didn‘t do it.  There was only one piece of physical evidence that connected him to the murder.  It was a hair that was found at the crime scene.  And the prosecution said that hair belonged to Claude Jones.

It turns out it didn‘t.  Groups including the Innocence Project, a legal organization dedicated to clearing people who have been wrongfully convicted, as well as the “Texas Observer” itself they succeed in getting that hair from the crime scene tested this year -- 10 years after Claude Jones was executed.  That test showed conclusively that the hair from the crime scene did not belong to Claude Jones.  It in fact belonged to the victim in the crime.

Because the case against Mr. Jones hinged on the jury believing that he was there, because of that hair that was found at the scene, Mr. Jones asked that the hair be DNA-tested before he was executed by the state of Texas.  The state of Texas turned down that request.  That request for DNA testing was actually made to then-Governor George W. Bush.

Governor Bush had a system in place in his office in which state lawyers prepared short summaries for him about prisoners who were due to be executed.  Mr. Bush used those summaries to make a thumbs-up or thumbs-down decision on executions—life and death decisions.

Even though Mr. Bush had previously stated that he was in favor of DNA testing, ahead of executions in capital cases, the summary his staff gave him of Claude Jones‘ case left out, neglected to mention that Jones had requested a DNA test of that crucial piece of evidence.  Mr. Bush just read the summary presumably, didn‘t look into it any further.  In any event, he gave the executioner the thumbs-up.

And on December 7th, 2000, in the midst of the Florida recount that would ultimately name him president, almost exactly 10 years ago now, Claude Jones was killed.

Joining us is Dave Mann, senior editor at the “Texas Observer,” who‘s been covering this story.

Dave Mann, thanks very much for joining us.  Appreciate your time.


MADDOW:  The day before Claude Jones was killed, the day before he was executed, he asked for that hair from the crime scene to be tested.  What do we know about what happened to that request?

MANN:  Well, it went nowhere really.  He requested a stay of execution to, as you say, to have the hair submitted for DNA testing, and he made that request to two separate Texas courts, and to the governor‘s office, and he was turned down by both courts, and his last hope was with then-Governor George W. Bush.

And as you mentioned, he seemingly had a good chance with the governor‘s office because Bush had previously expressed support for DNA testing to verify someone‘s guilt before they are executed.  And, in fact, earlier that year, he had granted a 30-day stay of execution in another case so that that prisoner could get DNA testing.  And in that case, the testing confirmed his guilt and that man was executed.  And on other occasions, Bush had expressed support for this kind of DNA testing.

Unfortunately, for Claude Jones, as you mentioned, the briefing memo that lawyers in the governor‘s office prepared for Bush did not mention that Jones and his attorneys were requesting a stay precisely for a DNA testing.  In fact, the words “DNA” do not appear anywhere in that four-page memo.

Why that is the case is a very good question.  In fact, I spent a good part of today calling around to lawyers who worked in the governor‘s office and on this case to ask them that question.  And I haven‘t gotten any answers on that yet.

But I do think this is one of the real tragedies of this case because the test that we just conducted, the DNA test really could have been done 10 years ago when Claude Jones was still alive and there‘s a good chance that had these results popped up or been discovered in 2000, there‘s a good chance that Claude Jones would be alive today.

MADDOW:  Why did the “Texas Observer,” as a magazine, join the effort to get this evidence tested?

MANN:  We felt this was a real issue of the public‘s right to know that the hair was still around in a courthouse in rural east Texas, and this was clearly public information that could confirm or overturn someone‘s guilt in a death penalty case, and we felt very strongly that the public needs to have confidence in the criminal justice system, that the verdicts that are being issued are correct.  And if that‘s not the case, then we need to figure out what those problems are.

And so, we thought this—we felt like this case was a real public right to know issue, a public information issue.  And we got involved on that basis.

MADDOW:  Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project, when he was asked about this—I guess he put out a statement about this today—and he attributed this execution to what he called a completely inadequate post-conviction review process.  Obviously, leaving out from the summary that went to the governor the request for a DNA test in this case seems like there‘s something wrong with the system, seems like given the governor‘s at that time, his feelings about DNA testing, the way he had made decisions in other cases in which DNA testing was pending or possible, given how important that was, the fact that it was left out seems like something was wrong with this post-conviction review process.

Is the process the same now?  Has it been improved since then?

MANN:  Well, I think there‘s two possible answers to that question.  Since we‘ve had a lot of revelations recently about problems in death penalty case, problems with forensic evidence I do feel like Texas courts and attorneys and juries are much more aware of the potential for wrongful conviction and a wrongful execution.  So, I do think there are people taking closer looks at these issues as these cases move through the system.

When they get to the governor‘s office, however, I don‘t know if the process has been improved.  And one of the reasons for that is because we don‘t have access to the documents anymore.  The memo that the attorneys wrote to Bush were—they were available.  They were public information under Bush‘s administration.

Under Rick Perry‘s administration, those are considered private documents and are no longer public information and are no longer released to the press.  So, we haven‘t seen one of these legal memos on an execution in years.  We‘re not sure what the governor is being told.

From the available evidence, cases like the Cameron Todd Willingham arson case where there are allegations of a wrongful execution, as well, it does seem like there are problems in the process, certainly when you get to the governor‘s office.

MADDOW:  And certainly when you consider that these are not exactly appealable, life and death decisions here.

Dave Mann from the “Texas Observer,” senior editor at the “Texas Observer”—thank you for pursuing this, what I‘m sure was a difficult and expensive investigative journalism.  And thanks for taking time to join us tonight.

MANN:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  It should be noted that since Claude Jones was killed, he was the last man killed, the last prisoner killed when George W. Bush was governor, since then, the state of Texas has executed 225 more of its prisoners.

All right.  Still to come on the show, debunction junction.  We‘ve got just two stories eligible for debunking tonight, but there are doozies.  One of them involves cheating, fighting and something very vaguely related to the Dallas Cowboys.  It‘s “make Texas mad at us” tonight here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Since we did the show in Alaska a couple of weeks ago, our executive producer Bill Wolff has not shaved.  Which you might have noticed if you follow his vid tweets online.

Last time we talked about it on the show, we were calling it Bill‘s road beard.  But, in fact, as an homage to our bizarre Joe Miller interview, Bill has declared that he‘s not going to be shaving his beard until there‘s a result in Alaska‘s Senate race, until we know for sure who won.

Today, there was very mixed news out of Alaska for Bill Wolff and for his terrifying facial hair.  There are more than 92,000 write-in votes to be counted altogether.  Ballot counters just passed the halfway mark this afternoon.

The “Anchorage Daily News” reports more than 90 percent of the write-ins counted so far are unchallenged for Murkowski.  Another 8 percent-ish are considered counted but challenged.  In other words, they‘re counted as Murkowski votes but they‘ve been challenged by the Joe Miller campaign and they could conceivably end in up court.

Still, though, at this pace, Lisa Murkowski is on track, mathematically, to win—to win overwhelmingly actually.  Still though, lots more counting ahead.  Probably all weekend.  And lots more hair every day on Bill‘s now harrowing visage.

Really, he—by the end of this, he may be able to wrap it around his head like a hat by the time this is decided, because the Miller campaign is apparently challenging every single ballot in which an FBI handwriting sample might reveal the slightest trace of a personality. 

This write-in, for example, leans too far left or runs the letters together so you‘d never guess it says Lisa Murkowski, right?  Challenge.  This one - here‘s another one.  This one leans too far right or something.  This one can‘t be a write-in for Lisa Murkowski because I don‘t know, what, Joe Miller is the true conservative leaning right or something? 

Joe Miller has filed suit in federal, mark that, federal court to block Alaska election officials from counting write-in votes in which Lisa Murkowski‘s name is misspelled even minorly, even if the election officials think the voter clearly intended to vote for Lisa Murkowski. 

Mr. Miller argues that Alaska‘s state law prohibits any misspellings whatsoever from being counted.  Also, maybe people who cast write-in votes for Lisa Murkowski but misspelled her name didn‘t want their votes to count, right?  Maybe they were misspelling her name on purpose to protest her candidacy in a remarkably inarticulate way of doing that. 

Can I just note here that a big part of Joe Miller‘s campaign appeal was states‘ right, right?  States‘ rights this, states‘ rights that.  We should let the states deal with unemployment insurance.  Let the states deal with social security. 

The minimum wage is a federal overreach.  National parks - they‘re a federal overreach.  That Joe Miller, Mr. States‘ Rights, Joe Miller, is now quite literally trying to make a federal case, federal case out of how the ballots are being counted in his race. 

And the state government of Alaska is not having it.  An assistant state attorney general writing, quote, “The plaintiff, Miller, in this case, has attempted to dress his state law claims in federal question clothing in order to go forum shopping.  The Alaska court system is the proper forum for this case.” 

The parties have until next week to finish arguing this case so Bill keeps getting hairier.  The only thing woollier about the story than Bill at this point is that Mr. Miller, late in the game, has brought on board who I think is a new campaign adviser for his campaign, new adviser to challenge write-in ballots by the dozen. 

His name is Floyd Brown.  If you‘re old enough, you may remember Floyd Brown for his iconically racist Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential race.  More recently, Floyd Brown founded Citizens United.  Yes, that Citizens United.  And he‘s been the proprietor of a Web site called “”  And he‘s very, very, very serious about this issue in his heart. 

Amanda Terkel at “Huffington Post” today quoting Mr. Brown off of “World Net Daily” from September of this year.  Floyd Brown says, quote, “Barack Obama is a very dangerous man.  Over the last two years, we have been watching the slow progression of what I call a bloodless coup.  For the international socialist movement of which Barack Obama is a card-carrying member -“ card carrying? - “the United States must be brought to its knees and I guarantee you that Barack Hussein Obama is doing everything he can to bring the country to its knees.  He wants to bring it to its knees”. 

That‘s not me doing a caricature of, what, somebody like Floyd Brown talking to “World Net Daily.”  That‘s actually what he said.  Now, Floyd Brown has moved his vague accusation factory to Alaska where he is minting new vague accusations telling the press that a ballot box in one precinct was not secure because electoral judges had a key to it.  That one is getting its own lawsuit. 

Meanwhile - yes, Bill, I know it itches.  Bill, Alaska, America, we will keep updating you on Alaska‘s great and perpetual Senate race until it finally really ends.  And by that point, we‘ll be able to sell Bill‘s beard for mattress ticking. 


MADDOW:  We have not used it since we introduced it so I‘m very excited now to deploy for the first real time our big, new, important sound. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How long you -


MADDOW:  The 111th Congress with Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House and Harry Reid as Senate majority leader reconvenes for its last time in session on Monday.  So get your (UNINTELLIGIBLE) spinach this weekend.  You‘re going to need strength. 

The big question looming over D.C. right now is which snowman we‘re going to end up with when the Bush tax cuts expire on New Year‘s Eve.  Do we get the blue snowman, the Democrats‘ tax policy proposal?  Or do we get the Republican one. 

As you can see, the two plans offer roughly the same size tax cuts for each income group.  Democrats and Republicans both want tax cuts for all income up to $250,000 - but boing, there‘s the difference. 

Republicans want tax cuts for income over $250,000 as well, which has the handy side feature of blowing a $700 billion hole in the national debt, and it only benefits the richest people in the country. 

This is the fight that starts on Monday.  This is the fight that starts on Monday and has to finish by New Year‘s Eve.  Which of these two things do we get?  There‘s been a lot of reporting recently, both reporting and speculation, that the White House is going to cave in and give Republicans what they want on this. 

Even though while this decision is going to get made, Republicans are still a pretty tiny minority in both houses of Congress.  Asked about that, he‘s going to cave reporting and speculation today, President Obama shot it right down. 


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  That is the wrong interpretation because I haven‘t had a conversation with Republican and Democratic leaders.  Here‘s the right interpretation - I want to make sure that taxes don‘t go up for middle class families starting on January 1st.  That‘s my number one priority for those families and for our economy. 

I also believe that it would be fiscally irresponsible for us to permanently extend the high income tax cuts.  I think that would be a mistake, particularly when we‘ve got our Republican friends saying that their number one priority is making sure that we deal with our debt and our deficit. 

I continue to believe that extending permanently the upper income tax cuts would be a mistake and that we can‘t afford it.  And my hope is, is that somewhere in between there, we can find some sort of solution, but I‘m not going to negotiate here in Seoul.  My job is to negotiate back in Washington with Republican and Democratic leaders. 


MADDOW:  He may have to negotiate with Republican leaders on that position, but he‘s not going to have to do any negotiating with Democratic leaders.  At least not in the House, because Nancy Pelosi not only shares the president‘s position on this; she is being clear as a bell about it. 



The position that we have and which is the position that the president has put forth is that everybody should get a tax cut in our country.  The problem comes when you give an additional tax cut to the wealthiest two percent that will heap $700 billion in debt onto our children and our grandchildren. 

So this is it.  We want to fight for the middle class.  We want to create jobs.  We want to have tax cuts for everyone, but the additional tax cut at the high end is too costly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What about, though, a temporary extension including a tax cut for those at the high end, a year, two years? 

PELOSI:  Well, our position in the House has been that we support the tax cuts for the middle - for everyone, but not an additional tax cut at the high end.  It‘s too costly.  It‘s $700 billion.  One year would be around $70 billion.  That‘s a lot of money to give a tax cut at the high end. 


MADDOW:  The beltway common wisdom says the Democrats are definitely going to cave on this.  The Democrats are definitely going to give the Republicans what they want and those tax cuts for the richest - they‘re just going to give it away and give Republicans what they want.

The Democratic base, on the other hand, sees this as something that Democrats don‘t need to lose and that they shouldn‘t lose. 

But this is a perfect line-in-the-sand moment to show that the White House and the Democrats have guts, that they don‘t blink when they‘re threatened, that they‘re the fiscally conservative party standing up for the middle class and that Republicans are the ones being irresponsible on this.  The beltway says the Democrats will cave.  Democratic base says they won‘t.  Who‘s right? 

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, who is always right, who is Washington editor of “The Nation” and he‘s an MSNBC contributor.  Hi, Chris. 

CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  Hi, Rachel.  I can‘t help but notice I‘m not getting the Charlie Rose treatment here in our interview. 

MADDOW:  We couldn‘t blacken your background but then your jacket would disappear and you would look like you‘re wearing a Dickie.  So we have to be very careful the way we do these things. 


MADDOW:  All right.  Who do you think will turn out to be right here - the beltway that says the Democrats are going to cave or the Democrats who say they‘re not going to cave? 

HAYES:  You know, I wish I knew.  I mean, it feels like even odd, to be honest.  The thing that makes me think that the Democrats won‘t cave is the fact that Nancy Pelosi is a person driving this train right now. 

I mean, she is the speaker for the lame duck session.  And the way things work in the House is that what‘s going to come to the floor for a vote in the House is what Nancy Pelosi wants to come to the floor. 

I mean, barring some sort of cataclysmic thing in which she gets mass defections in her own caucus which I think her records indicates won‘t happen and barring some unbelievable pressure by the White House it really is going to be what she wants to see brought to the floor.

And I kind of trust her to bring forward simply a middle class tax cut that doesn‘t include the $700 billion for the richest two percent. 

MADDOW:  Let‘s be specific about that.  You guys in the control room, can we put the snowman graph back up there again showing the bottom rating. 

Right.  Since the two parties agree on cutting taxes for everyone -

HAYES:  Right. 

MADDOW:  But the rich, everything but the bottom two levels there, is

what‘s the resistance to them voting first on what the two parties all agree on and leaving the vote up or down on the tax cuts for rich people to a separate vote? 

HAYES:  Well, I don‘t know.  I mean - I mean, the resistance is this and I‘ll tell you what the resistance is.  The resistance is what - what one academic recently, in a paper about American inequality, called the income defense industry.  The income defense industry which operates on the blue dogs and conservative Democrats and the Democratic Party and Republican Party wants that $700 billion put into the pockets of the people that had benefited the most from the rising inequality in American economy. 

That is what this is.  Is there is no - I mean, really, there are places where there are real policy disputes.  This is pure class warfare.  This is really who is going to get what slice of the pie. 

There is no policy rationale for this, not in terms of recovery, not in terms of - certainly not in terms of deficits and debts.  This is a naked and boldfaced play by people that have a lot of power in this country and a lot of money to use the levers of their power and influence to apportion to themselves a larger amount of the pie. 

MADDOW:  What‘s the other side of that?  I know the AFL-CIO, the big labor organization, wants that decoupled vote. 

HAYES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  They want to vote on everything the two parties agree on and put the vote for upper income tax breaks into a separate vote.  They‘re putting their leverage into that.  But who else is - I guess, what is the Democratic base pressure on this side look like?  What are the elements of that? 

HAYES:  Well, look, I mean a lot of groups - Move On I think is going to weigh in on this.  The PCCC, which has done a lot of this, is sending out a petition and they were pushing back hard yesterday when the Axelrod - or I guess, two days ago, when the Axelrod interview came out. 

I mean, I think this is the kind of thing that unites the caucus, frankly, or generally unites the base, and even I think broader than unites the base, really unites most of the party. 

I mean, this is one of these kind of cool things.  I mean, tax cuts for the rich is the sort of central identifying policy of the Bush era, of the Republican Party - that and starting wars, frankly.  Those are the two things the Republican Party likes to rally around. 

This shouldn‘t be a hard thing to rally the Democratic base around.  You know, what‘s happened here is a psychological switch as opposed to a switch in the real power.  The psychological switch is the election. 

But remember, before the election, John Boehner was willing to cave, too.  A month ago or two months ago when he was on TV shows, he was willing to cave on this issue, too, so nothing has changed since from he was willing to cave. 

MADDOW:  And even since the election, the new CBS polling on this

today shows a majority of America -

HAYES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  That more Americans want the tax cuts for the rich gone than want to hold on to them. 

HAYES:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”  Thank you, my friend.  Much appreciated. 

HAYES:  Thank you.  Have a great weekend. 

MADDOW:  You, too.  A freshly-elected new member of Congress says there is a left-wing vile, vicious, despicable machine out there and he‘s vowing to bring that machine to its machine‘s knees. 



FL), CONGRESSMAN-ELECT:  This liberal-progressive-socialist agenda, this left-wing, vile, vicious, despicable machine. 


MADDOW:  It is amazing, thought, that it is not only a machine.  It is a machine with knees.  Everybody, freak out.  That‘s coming up, plus, some debunkery.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Debunktion(ph) junction is so crowded there is gridlock.  We will clear all the traffic and probably make Texas mad at us in the process, next.


MADDOW:  Debunktion(ph) junction, what‘s my function?  OK.  True or false - number one, true or false - as the political and legal wrangling continues over the ban on gay people serving in the military, what‘s looming is that ultimately, the courts are likely the policy down.

“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is on track to die at the Supreme Court.  Is that true or is that false?  False.  The debunking of this wishful thinking on the left is not about what you probably think it‘s about. 

You may have heard today about the Supreme Court rejecting a further suspension of the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy today.  That, I‘m sorry to tell you, was all - an all but forgone conclusion.  That ruling itself is not that big a deal. 

The bigger deal is here.  This is the tiny, tiny little notice that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from that ruling.  She did not take part because of her previous job as solicitor general in the Obama administration touched on that case. 

This recusal today likely means that Justice Kagan would have to recuse herself again if the full case came before the Supreme Court.  Why is that so important?  Because it‘s not like there are alternates to the Supreme Court justices. 

There is no bench for this bench.  If one justice has to sit out a case, they just decide it with eight justices instead of nine, which means, in this case, if Justice Kagan recused herself, you would only need four votes, to uphold “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” at the Supreme Court. 

Four votes, not five.  Four votes.  Four votes.  I wonder where

four totally, reliably, predictably anti-gay rights votes could be found on

this Supreme Court.  Without Elena Kagan, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is

unlikely to be killed in a U.S. courtroom.  That means, if it dies, it dies

by legislation, by political leadership, not by litigation. 

Story number two - true or false.  One of the cheatingest boxers in recent history is being allowed to fight for a huge payday because Texas and Texas alone does not give a flying flip what kind of cheater he is.

The big boxing match that‘s happening this weekend could only happen in Texas legally.  True or false?  True.  The biggest draw in boxing is a fighter named Manny Pacquiao. Mr. Pacquiao‘s next fight is tomorrow night and he is taking on a fighter named Antonio Margarito. 

Antonio Margarito is a cheater.  Before he fought a man named Shane Mosley, Mr. Margarito was caught with something a lot like plaster in his boxing gloves, as in, “You‘re giving me leather gloves with your hands inside them.  I‘m giving you leather gloves with my hands inside them, plus a little something extra to break your face.” 

That‘s not only super against the rules; it is super dangerous, even barbaric even for boxing.  Because he was caught red-handed as it were, and amid universal suspicion that Mr. Margarito had loaded his boxing gloves in previous fights as well, he was suspended from boxing for a year. 

But a California State athletic commission, every other state athletic commission honored California‘s move.  And Antonio Margarito was effectively banned from boxing in the U.S. for just about all of last year. 

Then, because people would pay to see it, he was booked to fight Manny Pacquiao, but neither California nor Nevada, where most of many fights happen, would give Margarito a license.  The guy had plaster in his gloves. 

That‘s where Texas comes in.  Without a hearing and ignoring the extended bans in California and Nevada, the fight folks in Texas said it‘s all good and granted Antonio Margarito a license to box in the Lone Star State. 

Who cares if he cheated, and he cheated in a way that could kind of, sort of help you kill a guy if you wanted to.  Tomorrow night, Antonio Margarito, hopefully without loaded gloves - there he was - could earn as much as $6 million to fight Manny Pacquiao at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas.  Texas, you stay classy.  We‘ll be right back.



WEST:  I‘m even more committed, even more focused on making sure this liberal-progressive-socialist agenda, this left-wing vile, vicious, despicable machine that is out there is soundly brought to its knees.  And that‘s my commitment to you.  You don‘t have to worry about me doing the right thing in Washington, D.C. 


MADDOW:  “You don‘t have to worry about me doing the right thing in Washington.”  Sort of depends on the meaning of the word “right,” doesn‘t it?  That was the voice of Congressman-elect, Allen West. 

On Tuesday, we ran a story about the remarkable choice that he made for his new chief-of-staff, the person who would organize and lead his office in D.C. now that he has been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

He chose a talk radio host from his district in Florida on whose show he has reportedly appeared more than 100 times in the past four years. 


JOYCE KAUFMAN, RADIO HOST:  I don‘t care how this gets painted by the mainstream media.  I don‘t care if this shows up on YouTube because I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. 

And if balance don‘t work, bullets will.  I‘ve never in my life thought that the day would come where I would tell individual citizens that you responsible for being the militia that the Founding Fathers designed.  They were very specific.  You need to be prepared to fight tyranny. 


MADDOW:  That is who Congressman-elect Allen West chose to be his chief-of-staff - Joyce Kaufman.  We reported that on Tuesday.  On Thursday, Ms. Kaufman declared that she was no longer going to be chief-of-staff to Congressman-elect West, but she also made clear that she‘s still going to put him on the radio a lot. 


WEST:  The important thing I want everybody to understand, especially the people on the left to understand very simply is that you will continue to fight on your battlefields and your voice there.  And I will fight them on the battlefield in Washington, D.C.  And we‘ll meet in the middle after we soundly defeat them both. 

What they need to understand now is that I‘m even more committed, even more focused on making sure that this liberal-progressive-socialist agenda, this left-wing vile, vicious, despicable machine that is out there is soundly brought to its knees.  And that‘s my commitment to you. 

You don‘t have to worry about me doing the right thing in Washington, D.C. 


MADDOW:  We contacted Congressman-elect Allen West‘s office today to find out what ended his plans for his would-be radio show host chief-of-staff, and also what the left-wing vile, vicious, despicable machine is. 

I not only want to know what that machine is.  I also happen to have an anatomical question about where its knees are and how it‘s going to force us to use them.  So far, we haven‘t heard back from Mr. West.  And in the best of all cable news world, we will someday soon have Congressman-elect Allen West as guest on this show and he can tell you himself.  If that happens, next week will be another big week around here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. 

Have a great weekend.  Good night.



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