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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Mark Udall, Robert Frank

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Keith, can I see that switch?

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Sure, what about it?

MADDOW:  Did you—


MADDOW:  I just—I want one.  Really bad.

OLBERMANN:  Why?  What do you intend to do with it?

MADDOW:  That‘s the problem.  It‘s an inchoate yearning.


OLBERMANN:  I‘ll give you the—ACME Company now has a Web site and toll free number.  You can order this or contact Wile E. Coyote who works with them now because he can‘t get around anymore after all the bad ACME products.

Shall I do this and then you can make the sound?

MADDOW:  I‘m worried it would go out.

OLBERMANN:  Well, not just out.  We‘ll point away from the tree and I‘ll give you five, four, three, two, one—excellent.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Get rid of this.

MADDOW:  Awesome.

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

They just lit the gigantor Christmas tree outside as you just saw.  So, besides the big, big “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” news and unemployment benefit news and a big “Debunktion Junction” news, all of which we will cover this hour, we will also, this hour, have your first news-based holiday party tip which involves bright red, fluorescent red live bumblebees.  It will be news for you about booze, news that you can use.  So please do stick around even though I don‘t have the enormous switch that Keith has—some day.

First, though, we start with this.


MADDOW:  Right.  OK.  I don‘t know if it‘s the most famous episode of “The Twilight Zone” of all time, but it‘s definitely in contention for the best episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  I hope you‘ve seen this one, but these aliens, they come down from outer space and aliens land on earth.  Have you seen this one?  The aliens come down from outer space, they land on earth and they address leaders from around the world at the United Nations.

Kill the music.  Kill it.  Ah.

The aliens speak English, but they bring with them this book in their secret language that explains their intentions.


ALIEN:  We ask only that you trust us.  Only that you simply trust us.


MADDOW:  Now, once the humans figure out the cryptic language of that book, they finally start to decipher it and they are able to figure out the title of the book.  Once they‘re able to figure out the title of the book, the title of the book puts to rest all of their human concerns about whether or not these aliens that have just come to earth are going to be a threat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We got the title anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What does it say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How much does it tell us?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, that makes the cheese a little more binding, wouldn‘t you say, Colonel?  I call that a reasonably altruistic phrase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To serve man.  I hope so.  I fervently hope so.


MADDOW:  To serve man.  Well, thank God, right?  Those aliens, they could have come here to kill us or to conquer us or to exploit us in some way, but to serve man.

That‘s what their book says.  They‘re here to serve us.  Huge relief for the humans, right?  The space aliens come in peace.  There is nothing to fear from the aliens.

Now, the greatness of this “Twilight Zone” episode is the punch line -

which is that to serve man, the alien‘s book is not about how the aliens can be of service to man, it‘s a cookbook.  To serve man, as in perhaps we should serve man with a cream sauce?


That phenomenon, that phenomenon of two different parties thinking they‘re communicating in the same language when in fact they are meaning two very different things, that was essentially the plot today in American politics.  It was like Rod Serling wrote today‘s news cycle.

Today, President Obama and congressional Republicans met at the White House for the first time since the elections.  It was hyped as this bipartisan coming together where the two sides would hash out an agenda for the coming weeks.  The meeting lasted an hour.  Nobody was filming inside, so we don‘t have evidence of exactly what happened.

But when the president emerged from the meeting to explain what had happened at the meeting, he couldn‘t have been more delighted at what he had learned at that meeting about Republican intentions.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I just want to say, I thought it was a productive meeting.  I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together.  A lot of times coming out of these meetings, both sides claim they want to work together then they head out to the microphones trying to win the news cycle instead of solving problems.  They understand that these aren‘t times for us to be playing games.


MADDOW:  See, it says to serve man here.  That‘s good, right?

Republicans understand these are not the times for us to be playing games.  I was assured by these Republican leaders that this meeting that they‘re not going to come out here to these microphones, they‘re not going to come out here and try to win the news cycle, and they‘re not going to talk smack about me, we‘re going to work together—we‘re going to work together to serve man.


REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA:  I was encouraged by the president‘s remarks regarding his, perhaps, not having reached out enough to us in the last session.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO:  I agree that the president did make an important point that Eric mentioned that they haven‘t spent as much time with us reaching out and talking to us.


MADDOW:  These guys were all supposedly at the same meeting.  President Obama thinks what happened is we all agreed we‘re going to work together from here on out, moving forward in a spirit of cooperation.  The Republicans‘ take on it was, oh, at last, the president is admitting what a jerk he is, and we intend to serve his liver with a nice Chianti.


OBAMA:  Today, we had the beginning of a new dialogue that I hope, and I‘m sure most Americans hope, will help break through the noise and produce real gains.


MADDOW:  We together, we are here to serve man.  Expect less noise, a new dialogue, a new tone as we constructively try to work together.


REPORTER:  Would your side dial down its rhetoric a little bit on the president saying you know you guys have (INAUDIBLE) on these issues?  Are we going to hear a softer tone from Republicans, sort of wait and see, what the president‘s good on?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY:  I would just make the point that Americans have preferred divided government more often than not since World War II.  It‘s not unusual to find ourselves in a position we‘ll be in in the 112th Congress.


MADDOW:  The question was actually about toning down your rhetoric, whether we should expect a change in tone.  The question was not how psyched are you for divided government?


ALIEN:  There is nothing ulterior in our motives.  Nothing at all. 

You will discover this for yourselves before too long.


MADDOW:  This is our political universe now: Both sides are saying their own version of “to serve man.”  But each side means something different by that.

This morning before their meeting with President Obama, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner wrote an op-ed in “The Washington Post” in which they said, quote, “Republicans heard the voters loud and clear.”

What did the American people tell John Boehner and Mitch McConnell when they spoke?  They said, quote, “Voters did not signal they wanted more cooperation.”  That‘s how Republicans see it.  Mr. President—


OBAMA:  The American people did not vote for gridlock.  They didn‘t vote for unyielding partisanship.  They‘re demanding cooperation.


MADDOW:  To serve man.  It would be one thing if instead of this being some weird parody of an awesome episode of “The Twilight Zone,” this was more like “Rashomon,‘ right?  this is more like two different parties looking at some other thing and just coming away with different interpretations of it.

But that is not what‘s going on here.  These two parties are talking to each other and about each other and they have completely different views of how one another will act.

The Republicans keep insisting that they are at war with the Obama

administration.  They are at war with this presidency.  Their highest

priority has nothing to do with the country.  Their highest priority is to

end Barack Obama‘s time as president after one term—to make him fail by

any means necessary.  This is not my interpretation of what they want to do

this is what they say they want to do.


And the White House is not watching this happen to somebody else.  They‘re not stumbling on to this happening to somebody else and having a unique singular interpretation of it.  This is happening to them.  This is what the president‘s political enemies are saying about him.

And yet when confronted by people with those intentions, who admit they are trying only to kill him politically, the White House keeps saying they see nothing but the best intentions.

The president today announced the formation of a bipartisan group, a bipartisan group that will come together to try to find some middle ground on the expiring Bush tax cuts.  Democrats, of course, have huge majorities still in both houses of Congress, but they‘ve decided to give up that advantage to try to work something out together with their friends across the aisle.

Here‘s the thing: Republicans have exactly one position on this issue, and that position is no.  Not only no to what the president is proposing, but no to even the idea of compromise.  I mean, how many times have they said no compromise?


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS:  Between now and January 1, as things are, is there any compromise that you could make?

CANTOR:  No.  Taxes shouldn‘t be going up on anybody right now.


MADDOW:  That is their only position on this.  They only have one position.  There is dissent.  There is nobody on the Republican side voicing any opinion other than that.  They have one-word response to any request they compromise on this.  The one-word response is no.  No compromise.  No, no, no, no, no.

And yet Democratic response is to say: can‘t we just reach some sort of compromise?

There is another way to do this.  There‘s another way to do this other than rewarding the intransigence of your adversaries by refusing to unify your own side around your position and instead constantly inching toward the other side until you finally embrace their position and they get what they want—even though the American public doesn‘t agree with it and even though they‘ are in the minority.

There is another way to do this—which is to go on offense, to embrace your own position, to explain it, to make the case for it, to nail down every stray vote on your own side in favor of it and to nail your political opponents for what is politically wrong with their position, make them explain what it is they want to do, particularly when what they want to do puts them on the opposite side of public opinion.

This is going to seem a little “Twilight Zone-ny” to you.  This is going to seem a little alternate reality to you.  But here‘s what‘s going on the offense on this issue looks like.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  We are now faced with the issue of what we do with the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

And if you can believe it, we have people here, many of my Republican colleagues, who tell us: Oh, I am so concerned about our record-breaking deficit.  I am terribly concerned about a $13.7 trillion national debt, terribly concerned about the debt that we‘re going to be leaving to our kids and our grandchildren.  But wait a minute—it‘s very important that we give over a 10-year period $700 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent.

We talk about a lot of things on the floor of the Senate, but somehow we forget to talk about the reality of who is winning in this economy and who is losing.  And it is very clear to anyone who spends two minutes studying the issue that the people on top are doing extraordinarily well at the same time as the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing.

But the highest priority of many of my Republican colleagues is to make sure that millionaires and billionaires get more tax breaks.  I think that that is absurd.

I am sure that in a little while, my friends are going to come down to the floor and say, we‘re very concerned about the deficit.  We‘re very concerned about the national debt.  But you know what we‘re more concerned about?  Giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country.

We just don‘t have enough money for working families and their needs.  We‘re going to cut back on food stamps.  We‘re surely not going to expand unemployment compensation.  We got a higher priority, Mr. President.  We have got to, got to, got to give tax breaks to billionaires.

I mean, that‘s what this whole place is about, isn‘t it?  They fund the campaigns, they get what‘s due them.


MADDOW:  Joining us now is the independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders, thank you for coming back to the show.  It‘s nice to see you.

SANDERS:  Good it be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Do you feel like you are alone in making that case you made today in that impassioned speech?  Or do you feel like you have allies in Washington in the Senate?

SANDERS:  I‘ve got allies but not a whole lot.  I think our real allies are with the American people who are sick and tired of hearing Republicans talking about the deficit at the same time as they want to give $700 billion in tax breaks to people who don‘t need it.  And, Rachel, all of this takes place at a time when the top 1 percent have seen a huge increase in their income and now earn more money than the bottom 50 percent.  This makes sense to nobody except my friends in the Republican Party on the Senate.

MADDOW:  Do you feel, though, that in making that case, Democrats agree with you by and large on this as a matter of policy?  But we‘re not hearing very many people make as sharp an argument about it, certainly as an impassioned an argument about it as you are.  A lot of the biggest voices, the most powerful voices on the Democratic side have been talking from the very beginning about compromise and sort of half measures on this.

SANDERS:  Well, you know, I fear that you‘re right, Rachel.  And I think the point you made a moment ago in your production about, you know, the president constantly compromising is a sad but true point.

Look, what these Republicans want is very clear.  And it‘s not just the tax breaks today.  What they want to do, really, and I don‘t want to get people nervous, but they really do want to move this country back into the 1920s.

They want really to privatize and eliminate Social Security.  They really are not staying up nights worrying about what happens when elderly people become sick and have no place to go.  They want to cut back on Pell Grants.  They certainly want to eliminate the authority of the EPA so that the coal companies, the oil companies can do whatever they want.

The Republicans have an agenda.  They‘re pretty open and honest about it.  They‘ve rallied their troops.

What the president and the Democratic leadership and all of us have got to do is rally our troops.  We need a Tea Party of progressives who are going to demand that the Democratic leadership and the president fight for the middle class and for working families.

MADDOW:  What‘s going to happen with unemployment benefits in this short session in the Senate?  As you know, unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans at midnight tonight because of the Senate not taking action today.  Do you have any hope that those will be extended in this session?

SANDERS:  I certainly hope so.  Look, we are suffering through, as everybody knows, a horrendous recession.  And one of the key features of this is long-term unemployment.

In Vermont, all over this country, you have people who can‘t find work, who have no income at all, and to leave those people hanging out there with nothing is not only immoral, it‘s bad economics.  If you provide extended unemployment to people who need it, they‘re going to spend that money.  They‘re going to stimulate the economy.  But we have got to address that issue.

But I want you—just to get back to this point: the Republicans want to give for the billionaires in this country, people like Rupert Murdoch, $1 million a year in tax breaks.  And yet, they are balking—they are balking, resisting providing unemployment compensation for people who have no jobs.  I think, you know, that is just horrendous.

MADDOW:  Senator, when I hear the president come out of that meeting with Republicans today and say that he thinks Republicans are approaching this with a spirit of trying to work together, as you noted from my intro, it strikes me as detached from the reality of where Republicans admit that they are.

Is it possible that the White House is gaming this out in a way we cannot see?  That I‘m missing something, that there‘s a broader strategy here that doesn‘t work at face value?

SANDERS:  Well you know, Rachel, a couple of years ago, I might have suggested that, yes, maybe we‘re missing something.  Maybe the president is on to something.

Look, the bottom line is: everybody wants, you know, the Democrats, the Republicans, the president to work together.  People don‘t want to see the fractious contentiousness that we‘re having right now.  But the president has got to have learned something in the last two years.

What you have just shown right on your TV there is these guys are very clear.  They want to destroy the Obama presidency.  Their job is to represent millionaires and billionaires.  They really do want to privatize Social Security.  They really do not want young people to be able to get help in order to go to college.

At some point, you got to learn that lesson.  They do not want to work with you.  And the alternative approach rather than keep going back with a cup in your hand is to rally the American people, the vast majority of whom support you.

Most people think it is absurd to give tax breaks to billionaires when you have a $13 trillion national debt.  Most people think it is appropriate and moral and right to make sure that people who are unemployed have money come in so their families do not become desperate.  We have the ideas that the American people agree with, we need the president and the leadership to start rallying those people and start putting the Republicans on the defensive.

MADDOW:  Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont—thank you for your time tonight, sir.

SANDERS:  Good to be with you.

MADDOW:  So, today was the day, the president and the chairman of the joint chiefs and secretary of defense and more than half the Congress and half the American people had already publicly supported repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  Now that way more than half the military rank-and-file are known to be onboard with the idea of repeal as well, it‘s time for a game of what excuse will the Republicans super-minority in the Senate pull out of its collective patoot to keep “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” in place this time. We‘ll play along.  Next.


MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.


MADDOW:  If you are gay and you have served in our nation‘s armed forces, I have good news.  The people you work with like you.

One of the eye popping details in the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” report released by the Pentagon today is that 69 percent of service members who answered the survey said they had served alongside someone they believed was gay.  That‘s a lot -- 69 percent.

Asked how they felt about that maybe gay person they served alongside, the proportion of service members who said their feelings about that person were neither good nor bad, or good or very good was 92 percent.

So, if you are gay and you served in the military or, weirdly, if

you‘re not gay but people in the military thought you were gay, the good

news is that your colleagues in the military like you, by a huge proportion

92 percent, dude.  Good job.


The bad news is you‘re fired anyway or liable to be just because you‘re gay.  No matter how good you are at your job or what any of your colleagues in the military think about you because firing people for being gay is still the policy of the United States military.  But maybe not for long.

Today, the military released results of the largest review they‘ve ever done on any personnel issue in the history of the United States military.  They were asked to assess the impact of repealing the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy and to figure out the best way to repeal it if Congress decides it should be gotten rid of.

They found that the risk of repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is low.  They found that most members of the military don‘t give two hoots about the policy and those who think they have hoots to give about it are in the minority and ultimately, they‘ll be fine.  I‘m paraphrasing.

The co-chairs of the review, Jay Johnson, Pentagon general counsel, and General Carter Hamm of the Army, went so far as to write this in the introduction of the report, the executive summary.  They wrote, quote, “We are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war.  We do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in the law but neither should we underestimate the ability of our extraordinarily dedicated servicemen and women to adapt to such change and continue to provide our nation with a military capability to accomplish any mission.”

If anyone cares what the military thinks about this policy, if anyone cares what the military thinks about the prospect of repealing this policy, it‘s done now.  This report ends it.  It is utterly unequivocal.

The policy can be—can be repealed.  I mean, our military can do this.  They‘ve now reported what they need to do to implement repeal in a way that makes sense for the military.  They‘ve issued their recommendations on what needs to change in the military to accommodate gay people serving openly.

Mostly what they say needs to change is nothing.  Everybody abides by the same rules, everybody abides by the same standards of conduct, harassment and discrimination are not OK, just like they‘re not OK now.  The only difference is you can‘t get fired just for being gay.  It is an unequivocal report on issue.

The military in short says not a problem.

Senator Lindsey Graham, “I do not support the idea of repealing ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell‘ before our military members and commanders complete their review.  I‘m open minded to what the military may suggest.”

Senator Scott Brown, “I believe we have a responsibility to the men and women of our armed forces to be thorough in our consideration of this issue and take their opinions seriously.  I‘m keeping an open mind, but I do not support moving ahead until the Pentagon completes its study.”

Senator John Ensign, “Senator Ensign is waiting on the report from the Pentagon.”

Senator Olympia Snowe, “The question is whether we should be voting on this issue before we have the benefit of the comprehensive review that the secretary of defense ordered.”

Senator Mark Kirk, “I think we should wait for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to report.”

Senator George Voinovich “I belief it would be logical to wait for the

Department of Defense to issue its report on ‘don‘t ask, don‘t tell.‘”

All of these senators—all of these senators, the people with the power to decide this issue now say they have been waiting to decide until this report came out.  It is out now.  And anyone waiting on this report, on this report to see if the military is giving the green light to repeal this policy now has their green light.  Seriously.  It‘s green.  Green means go.

If word from the military is what you say you‘ve been waiting for—this is as clear as that gets.  If you have been waiting for the green light, it‘s green now.


MADDOW:  The repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” already passed in the House this year, which means it is up to the Senate and Senate, alone, to finally do away with this 17-year law if it‘s going to be done away with. 

Joining us to discuss this green-means-go moment on the repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is Sen. Mark Udall from the great State of Colorado.  He serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Senator, welcome to the show.  Thanks for being with us. 

SEN. MARK UDALL (D-CO), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Thanks, Rachel.  Thanks for acknowledging that Colorado is a great state.  And by the way, there is a green light. 

We‘re going to see that green light displayed even more on Thursday and Friday when the Armed Services Committees hold hearings and hear from the Secretary of Defense and hear from the chairman of the Joint-Chiefs and hear from the service chiefs themselves.  So this is an important moment as you know. 

MADDOW:  Senator, what are you expecting from those hearings in terms of focal points of those hearings both for people who are proponents of repealing the policy and proponents of keeping it? 

UDALL:  Well, I expect to hear from some who are implacably opposed reasons to continue to be opposed.  And you outlined a couple of them in your lead-in to this story.  But I‘m hopeful that some who, as you also listed as being open to what the study would show and demonstrate, will come to the hearings with an open mind and decide then to support moving forward in the last few weeks of this Congress. 

If we don‘t get this done now, and you know this, I fear it will be a number of years until we actually have a statutory repeal.  And the chairman of joint chiefs and Secretary of Defense are saying they want to do this now because they want clarity. 

They also know this is about national security.  That has long been my point of view that we want to lift this outdated policy because we‘re in two wars.  We‘ve discharged over 14,000 patriotic Americans. 

In the end, this is about civil rights but this is also about our national security.  Those are two very, very important elements in why this policy needs it be repealed. 

MADDOW:  Senator, are there any people, any members of the Senate who have previously voted no on this matter, voted not to repeal, either for some procedural reason or because they were opposed to repealing the policy who you know may be changing their votes, people who we should look to as possible flips on this? 

UDALL:  Well, I think we ought to look to Sen. Brown of Massachusetts and Sen. Collins of Maine who both in the committee supported the repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  We should also look to Sen. Webb who really wanted to see the study. 

And I can tell you that Sen. Graham is always open-minded and I take seriously and on face value what he said about wanting to see the studies and the results therein.  Sen. Graham, of course, is a reservist.  He does a couple weeks of duty every year. 

And as I‘ve said, he‘s been very open in the past to looking at matters like this from all sides and doing what‘s right.  So those are some senators but there are a number of other ones that you mentioned in your lead-in as well. 

MADDOW:  Are you aware of lobbying efforts among Democrats to try to wrap up every Democratic vote, not just Jim Webb but also Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor?  Are you aware of if the White House, for example, lobbying any senators?

UDALL:  There are certainly a lot of quiet conversations.  There aren‘t any boldly public lobbying efforts going on because I think this is the sort of thing that‘s better done from senator to senator. 

But history beckons all of us.  This is also the right thing to do.  And I think Secretary Gates appealed today to do it.  Hopefully, it will be heard by not just Democrats, but by Republicans as well who, of course, style themselves for good reason as the defenders of the country and strong on national defense. 

And that‘s really what this is about.  You don‘t really move me in the hearings and I know you‘ve attended some of them. 

When you asked all of those service members and CEOs, enlisted personnel officers who have been discharged under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” what they would do if it was repealed, they all said they would reenlist or they would ask for their commission to be reinstated. 

Is there anything more patriotic, or is there anything that underlines more the opportunity here to repeal an outdated law that doesn‘t serve us well? 

MADDOW:  One last question for you on this, briefly, senator. 

UDALL:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen both emphasized over and over today the importance of Congress handling this so the courts don‘t do it. 

UDALL:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Do you see that as critically important as those two military leaders said it is? 

UDALL:  It‘s crucial.  I think you‘re a lawyer, I‘m not.  We both know having worked with the law for a long time that judges and the law sometimes takes a twisted and winding road to getting to the point where you need to arrive. 

And clearly, we want to arrive at this point very quickly.  And that‘s, again, why the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of Joint-Chiefs are saying, repeal the law clearly so we then can go to our enlisted personnel, our officers, the leaders in the military, begin to implement this change. 

Two years ago, the president called for, and clearly in the hearings we‘ve had the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said it‘s not a matter of whether - it‘s a matter of how we‘re going to do this. 

They want to get to work.  They want to enhance our national security.  They want to let patriotic Americans, whether gay or straight, serve in our military. 

MADDOW:  Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat of Colorado.  Thank you for joining us, sir.  I really appreciate it. 

UDALL:  Thanks a lot, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  I should note, for the record, that I am not a lawyer but I‘m very happy to be confused with one. 

All right.  Still to come, what living bees that are the wrong color that are fluorescent and red can tell you about your drinking habits and how to improve your drinking habits? 

Also I will debunk myself on “Debunktion Junction” and an actual economist will make sense on television.  That‘s all coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Priority one has got to be more jobs for more Americans. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The American people want us to create jobs. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The issue is jobs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Creating jobs. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was all about jobs. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Even more jobs. 


MADDOW:  Jobs.  “Jobs” is an easy word to say.  It‘s one syllable, starts with a consonant, ends with a consonant.  “Ah” is an easy vowel sound in the middle.  Very few people have trouble with the “B” there.  Jobs.  Jobs.  Jobs. 

Easy word to say and everyone in Washington says it a lot.  But for all the saying of the word, “jobs,” voting for things that actually make jobs is proving harder for politicians to squeeze out of their face. 

The Congressional Budget Office was asked this year to look in its nonpartisan way, its “just the facts, ma‘am” way, its math-only way, at policy options for creating jobs. 

Look at these 11 different policy options, CBO, and tell us, if we did these things, which one would create the most jobs?  What would be the best? 

The one that came in ichiban, numero uno, tippy-top, cream of the crop was extending unemployment benefits.  And the Senate today rejected that in favor of saying the word “jobs” a lot in the hopes that those of us watching at home would mistake their frequent pronunciation of the word “jobs” for an actual commitment to creating them. 

The Congressional Budget Office is not partisan.  They just do the math on proposed policies to see what their impact would be.  And when they studied 11 different proposed policies for their effect on jobs numbers, the number one most effective one was aid to the unemployed.  So?  Splat. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would like to formally, Madam President, ask (UNINTELLIGIBLE) consent its finance committee be discharged from further consideration of S 3981, a bill to provide for a temporary extension of unemployment insurance provisions. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is there objection? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Madam President -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The senator from Massachusetts - 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I object and I have a paid-for -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The objection is heard. 


MADDOW:  Because the Senate said no, unemployment benefits will begin to expire for millions of Americans in, depending on when you‘re watching this show, a couple of hours from now - at midnight tonight. 

Is this because the Senate doesn‘t care about the jobs numbers or, god forbid, for political reasons, they want the job numbers to be bad? 

Or do we take a rosier view of the world in which it‘s not that members of the Senate are actively wishing harm on the American people for political gain, but rather, they‘re just fundamentally incompetent.  Speaking now for the fundamentally incompetent, Congressman John Shadegg. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you vote for the extension of unemployment benefits right now today?  Up or down?  Yes or no? 

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R-AZ):  If they were paid for, and if we extend the tax cuts.  Of course, Republicans don‘t want to tax the job creators because that will bring revenue down. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What about the fact that unemployment benefits pumped into the economy are an immediate benefit to the economy? 

Immediately -

SHADEGG:  No, they‘re not.  Unemployed people hire people?  Really? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I didn‘t know people spend money, Congressman, because they have no money. 

SHADEGG:  Ah, ah.  So your answer is it‘s the spending of money that drives the economy.  I don‘t think that‘s right. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unemployment checks - people don‘t spend that money? 

SHADEGG:  No, no, they‘ll spend as little of it as they can because they‘ll hold on to it as long as they can. 


MADDOW:  Joining us now, a guy who knows these things, Robert Frank, economist and professor at Cornell University and author of “The Economic View” column at the “New York Times.”  Professor, Frank, thank you very much for being here. 


MADDOW:  I put Congressman Shadegg in the position of speaking for the ignorant on this issue.  But let me ask you a professional opinion - is Congressman Shadegg right?  Is there any evidence that the unemployed do not spend money that they receive as unemployment benefits? 

FRANK:  No.  It‘s just a bewilderingly strange position.  And I can‘t see how any intelligent human being could make that argument.  And add to that the fact that the whole source of our problem right now, the reason there aren‘t enough jobs, is that people aren‘t spending enough. 

Businesses aren‘t investing because they can already produce more than people want to buy.  Consumers who haven‘t already lost their jobs are worried they will so they‘re holding on to their money. 

It‘s the long-term unemployed.  These people are getting benefit levels that average less than $300 a week.  That‘s about half what a family typically spends during a week.  Every nickel that goes to them will be spent, and that‘s why that program ranked at the top of the CBO list. 

All the money that‘s put into it gets pumped into the economy for additional rounds of spending.  When the recipients get it, they‘ll spend it and so on.  No, it‘s one of the most effective programs we have. 

MADDOW:  Now that the Senate has failed to extend unemployment benefits, about two million people are going to stop getting checks by the end of next month.  Should we expect to see damage to the economy as a result of that? 

FRANK:  Oh, without question.  I mean, these are people who don‘t have a flow of income.  They don‘t have jobs.  This was their main source of support in many cases.  Once those checks stopped coming, that‘s money they won‘t have to spend. 

So yes, spending will go down and, again, insufficient spending levels - that‘s the reason we don‘t have people at full employment now.  There‘s just not enough demand in the economy. 

MADDOW:  The other part of Congressman Shadegg‘s argument and Republican argument more broadly right now is that what we really need right now to get the economy going to create jobs is not extending unemployment benefits to people who don‘t have jobs, but it‘s tax breaks for the wealthiest people in the country.  What‘s your take on that part of the argument? 

FRANK:  Yes, that‘s an argument that‘s often been made.  I think the claim sounds reasonable on its face, so we‘ll give a tax cut to a high-income person.  Many of them own their own businesses.  With that money, they‘ll go out and hire new workers and we‘ll get the economy going again. 

It sounds good, but if you just stop and think about it for a minute, it doesn‘t make any economic sense whatsoever.  A business hires a worker if it thinks it can sell the stuff that the worker is going to produce for more than it has to pay him. 

In this case, they‘re not going to be able to sell the extra output they get from hiring an extra worker because people don‘t have money that they‘re spending to buy things. 

So it wouldn‘t matter whether the owner of the business was a billionaire or a pauper, if you can‘t sell what an extra worker would produce, there‘s no economic reason to hire that worker.  So those tax cuts aren‘t going to do a bit of good to stimulate the economy. 

MADDOW:  Robert Frank, economist and professor at Cornell University and somebody who speaks about these things in a way that I feel very - I feel like I‘m clued into you and can understand even though I‘m not great in economics.  Thank you very much for your time and your expertise tonight. 

FRANK:  You‘re very welcome. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “THE LAST WORD” tonight, Lawrence O‘Donnell‘s exclusive interviews with Sen. Dick Durbin and Congressman Steny Hoyer, who were in that meeting with Republican leaders and President Obama today.  And also Jennifer Grey.  All of those people, all on one show. 

On this show, another edition of “Debunktion Junction” is on the way.  I will debunk Rachel Maddow.  She is toast.  I will eviscerate her. 


MADDOW:  Still to come on tonight‘s show, a cocktail moment - the cocktail moment featuring living bees.  You heard me - bees.  And why you should never eat the garnish in your cocktail.  Just ahead.


MADDOW:  “Debunktion Junction,” what‘s my function?  Ready?  All right.  True of false?  The current lame duck Congress will not get a darn thing done.  Nothing will pass.  Is that true or is that false? 

False.  The lame duck Senate passed a piece of actual, some would even say major legislation today.  So eat crow, all you doubters in the media, you forecasters of doom and gloom, you of little faith in the 111th Congress.  All you people like me. 


(on camera)  Forget policy.  Forget what you‘re supposedly for.  Forget your own ideas that you were on the record supporting or even proposing.  Nothing can pass, no matter what the country needs, no matter what you believe the country needs, nothing can pass in Washington because something passing, something getting done might have a side effect, a horrible side effect, of making Barack Obama look not bad for a second. 


Yes.  Despite how sure I was that nothing, nothing, nothing could happen, the Senate today approved the Food Safety Modernization Act.  It is the biggest deal in food since sliced bread, seriously.  Close at least.  Sliced bread dates to 1928. 

The last time we had a full overhaul of our food safety system was 1938.  It has been 72 years.  The “New York Times” today reports that the House might even forgo the usual haggling and conference committee and just pass the Senate version of this food safety bill to make sure it gets to the president‘s desk and gets signed. 

Hey, they‘re actually passing something.  Dry, aged steaks for everyone.  I was totally wrong.  I deserve this.  False.  Oh, what a feeling. 

All right.  Next one.  True or false?  The bailout of the financial system that, for all its problems and inequities, did stave off a second Great Depression.  That bailout cost taxpayers $700 billion.  The TARP bailout cost taxpayers $700 billion.  Is that true or is that false? 

False.  Not that you would know it from the last two years on the TV machine. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  $700 billion plus in bailout cash. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  $700 billion -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That $700 billion rescue plan. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The $700 billion bailout. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That the Wall Street Washington-crony capitalists have put a $700 billion bag of dung on taxpayers‘ doorsteps, rung the bell and expect you to thank them when you answer it. 


MADDOW:  A $700 billion bag of dung?  A.k.a. $700 billion.  That‘s what we say when we talk about the bailout.  But make way for the very sexy follow-up accounting. 

The Congressional Budget Office reporting this week that the bailout‘s actually going to cost taxpayers about $25 billion.  $25 billion or roughly 1/28th of what everybody says it costs. 

The CBO writing, quote, “Clearly, it was not apparent when the TARP was created two years ago that the cost would turn out to be this low.” 

So the idea that saving the global economy cost $700 billion - that idea is false though, when you think about it, that probably would have been a bargain anyway. 

All right.  Third question, true or false?  In monetary settlement for African-American farmers for which the Senate recently approved funding, it is actually reparations for slavery.  A monetary settlement for African-American farmers is actually reparations for slavery.  Is that true or false? 

Also false - really, really false.  Today, the House cleared the way for the Department of Agriculture‘s multi-billion dollar settlement in the discrimination suit.  Just over $1 billion of that money is targeted for African-American farmers, farmers who have been denied the same USDA loans that white farmers used to stay afloat. 

Congressman Steve King of Iowa was sad about these farmers getting that money.  Congressman King called it as he saw it and maybe as only he could. 


REP. STEVE KING (R-IA):  we‘ve got stand up at some point and say, we‘re not going to pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress.  That war has been fought.  That was over a century ago.  That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for with the blood of a lot of Yankees. 


MADDOW:  People have been arguing about slavery reparations since the civil rights movement and before, but nary a dime has been paid out as compensation to the descendants of slaves in America. 

That is the truth.  But apparently, Steve King believes he‘s stumbled on a secret master plan to distribute what are really reparations, but are disguised as a legally-obtained, federally-approved settlement of agriculture claims.  Steve King is making that up.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  The “New York Times” reported today that honey bees in this city are turning red.  Their actual little bee bodies are changing color. 

This summer, restaurant owner David Selig noticed that in the sunset, his bees were glowing as if they were fluorescent - fluorescent red.  Their honeycombs were also bright red as was their honey itself. 

It didn‘t even taste of honey, according to the “New York Times” today.  It tasted metallic and overly sweet.  And Mr. Selig wasn‘t alone with his messed-up bright red honey bees.  Fellow urban beekeeper Cerise Mayo had the same problem with her bees.  Bright red, fluorescent, stinky(ph) red honey. 

It turns out the bees had been apparently been foraging, not just on local delicious organic nectar but on the maraschino cherry vats at a maraschino cherry company in Red Hook, Brooklyn. 

The “Times” reporting that the samples of the bees‘ red honey were found to be, quote, “riddled with red dye number 40,” the same dye used in the maraschino cherry juice. 

Red dye number 40 - just one of the many ingredients found in typical bar supply maraschino cherries along with high fructose corn syrup, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, artificial flavor, sulfur dioxide. 

Moral of the story - don‘t eat the garnish.  Cocktail garnish is not meant to be a tiny wet meal served conveniently inside your drink glass.  Cocktail garnish is there to visually amuse you and/or augment the taste or smell of your drink. 

Like for example, the citrus twist.  I just cut a new one.  What you‘re hoping from the lemon or orange twist is a little oil from the outer pores of the fruit.  That oil is expressed on to the top of your drink, which makes your drink taste or smell lemony or orangey. 

You are not supposed to eat the twist.  It has a job to do and its job is not for it to be eaten.  Also, cocktail umbrella.  This is a garnish.  It is for your visual and perhaps tactile pleasure as you consume your drink, your drink which is separate from your garnish. 

Then, cocktail olives - cocktail olives and cocktail onions found in Martinis and Gibsons.  Not a meal.  Hard to resist, I know, until you remember that, depending on your bar, they have conceivably been lying out festering in their own juices in a warm room all night with fingers on them.  Olives and onions, there to flavor your drink. 

If you want food, order food.  Sneak a Slim Gin out of your pocket.  Try nuts.  Garnish, not for eating.  Which brings us back to the bees.  Maraschino cherry - lovely in a glass.  It says, “Oh, that‘s a Manhattan, not Rob Roy.” 

It says, “This is a light colored drink that needs most visual interest and a little sweetness.”  It says, “I don‘t really know how to make a Tom Collins.”  It does a lot of things, but it does not say, “Eat me.” 

It will dye you red like those poor bees, that‘s why.  Probably not.  But let this be a harrowing mnemonic device to you to - anyway, to help you remember don‘t eat the garnish.  I‘m sorry, sometimes, “Cocktail Moments” are bossy. 

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



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