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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Gail Collins, J.D. Smith

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you.

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

           

The ever-shifting goalposts in the potential repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” those goalposts stayed fairly still on Capitol Hill, despite Senator John McCain‘s attempt to move them yet again.  We have the highlights, the lowlights, and a live interview with an active duty military officer who is gay.  He is active duty, and he is willing to come on our show to talk about his career and this big day in military history.

Plus, really spectacularly vile tactics in Congress—tactics vile enough to be difficult to talk about on television.

And something sort of Jewish turns up in a really spectacularly unexpected place.  We thought it wasn‘t true, but it seems like it‘s true.  That‘s all ahead over the next eight days and nights—over the next hour.

But, first, today was the day that the thing we have been talking about for months finally happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  On this vote, the yeas are 234.  The nays are 188.  The motion is adopted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The motion in question was the Bush-era tax cuts.

Today, Democrats in the House voted to extend the Bush tax cuts, and Republicans voted not to.  House Republicans, all but three of them, voted against tax cuts.  Do not adjust your TV machine.  Those numbers are correct.

It was Republicans, 168 Republicans, who voted today in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts expire.  Democrats voted to extend the Bush tax cuts.  Republicans voted for everyone‘s taxes to go up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA:  Republicans are holding these tax cuts for the middle class hostage, demanding an extra tax cut of $700 billion worth of bailout for millionaires and billionaires.

REP. BILL PASCRELL (D), NEW JERSEY:  In this piece of legislation, everyone gets a tax cut.  Even billionaires will get a tax cut up to $250,000.  You have never communicated it, because you‘ve never told the total truth.

PELOSI:  This is so grossly unfair.  It is so grossly unfair.  I can‘t imagine that my colleagues on the Republican side don‘t want to give a tax cut to the middle class.  Why don‘t they just vote for that?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  After this last election, with Republicans marching into Washington to say, we‘re here to cut taxes, they just voted for everybody‘s taxes to go up—which, of course, is driving them crazy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SEPAKER DESIGNATE:  I‘m trying to catch my breath so I don‘t refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right?  But this is nonsense!  All right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Actually, it‘s you voting to raise everybody‘s taxes.  If Congress does not pass an extension of the Bush tax cuts, which the House was able to do today, despite the Republicans, then all of the Bush tax cuts go away at midnight on New Year‘s Eve.  Republicans in the House today said that if they can‘t get the bonus they want for the richest people in the country, for income over a quarter of a million dollars a year, then they don‘t want tax cuts for anybody!  Republicans want everybody‘s taxes to go up on New Year‘s Eve, unless they can get what they want, which is a specific tax cut for income over a quarter of a million dollars.

In addition to putting themselves on the record today voting for a tax increase for the entire country, the man who will be the new Republican speaker of the House also just did something that he said, emphatically, he would not do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  If the only option I have is the vote for some of those tax reductions.  I‘ll vote for them.  If the only option I have is to vote for those at $250,000 and below, of course, I‘m going to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Of course, he did not do that.  He didn‘t do that.  Even though he said he would.

That was exactly the option he was given today.  If the only option I have is to vote for those at $250,000 and below, of course, I‘m going to do that.  That‘s the option he had today.  And that is—that is not what he did.  He did not do what he said he was going to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  I‘m trying to catch my breath so I don‘t refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right?  But this is nonsense!  All right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Today, Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” helpfully documented the difference between “chicken crap” and what John Boehner apparently wants now.

He says, “There are 238,781 households in John Boehner‘s district. 

There are 2,824 of them with an income above $200,000.  That‘s 1.1 percent.  Many of those people make between $200,000 and $250,000, so every dollar of their income will be eligible for the tax cuts the Democrats are pushing, which the Republicans voted against today.  So, in all likelihood, what separates a tax cut bill that is “chicken crap” from a tax cut bill that‘s great is its treatment of the richest 1 percent of households in John Boehner‘s district.”

If he can‘t get something extra for that 1 percent, then everybody gets their taxes raised!  So says John Boehner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  Chicken crap, all right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What happens next is that this tax cuts issue moves over to the Senate, where the Republican position is the same as the position in the House.  They don‘t want tax cuts for anybody unless they can get this bonus they‘re after for the richest people in the country.

We have been talking about this issue for months.  The country has been debating it for months.  And now, it is finally on the table.  The Republicans in the Senate are planning to filibuster tax cuts for everyone in the country.  That‘s what‘s on the table.

Republicans are threatening to filibuster tax cuts for everyone in the country if they don‘t get a special bonus for millionaires and billionaires.  A special tax cut, just for them, just on income over a quarter million.

So what happens next?  Last night on this program, Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan made some news, telling us that, quote, “The vast majority of Senate Democrats want to do what Democrats in the House did today.”  They want to call the Republicans‘ bluff.  They want to make Republicans decide if they really are going to vote against tax cuts for everybody, because they won‘t also get a bonus for millionaires and billionaires.

Tonight, it appears that Senate Democrats are prepared to call Republicans‘ bluff.  NBC‘s Ken Strickland reporting that Senate Democratic leaders are now making plans to hold a vote, possibly as early as tomorrow, on the tax cut bill that was passed by the House earlier today.

All week, progressive groups have been putting pressure on Democrats to get tough on this issue.  Groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, whose ad you see here, as well as MoveOn.org.  They‘re calling specifically on the White House, specifically on President Obama to not cave to Republicans on this issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  President Obama -- 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, Barack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What up, B?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, I‘m Monique.  This is Allie.  I‘m asking for you stand tough and don‘t extend these tax cuts for the richest Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I voted for you back in 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We voted for you because for the first time in our lifetime, a politician was actually laying out a plan that reinforced the values that we come to believe in as Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I want to say thank you for all the hard work you do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But we the people want you back and need you back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What‘s happened to that bold, progressive man that we met in 2008?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The guy who stands for all the people and is not going to let himself get pushed around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President, please do not compromise with the Republicans about extending the Bush tax cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am in the highest tax bracket.  We don‘t need the money, the country does.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You said in your campaign speech that enough is enough and it‘s time to fight.  Please fight.  I‘m willing to fight with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  This is not liberals pressuring the president to do something that the president does not want to do.  The president has been among the most forceful and articulate advocates of this policy in the past, because it‘s his own policy.  This, for example, is from his campaign in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  On taxes, John McCain and I have very different ideas.  If you make less than a quarter million a year, you won‘t see your taxes raised one penny under my plan.  Instead of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, I‘ll focus on you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  “I‘ll focus on you,” so he said.  Will he do it?  Will he encourage Senate Democrats to do it?

As this debate moves into the Senate, Democrats have all the leverage.  If Republicans don‘t vote to extend the Bush tax cuts because they‘re holding out for this special favor that only applies to the highest income people in the country, then the Bush tax cuts will expire.  They will expire because of the Republican Party‘s filibuster.  And Republicans will then have to explain to voters and to their whole base why they insisted, why they used a procedural trick in the Senate to force a tax hike on the entire country.  Or Republicans can go along with what has been the president‘s plan all along—a plan that also happens to slice $700 billion off the national debt.

If the White House and Senate Democrats can somehow resist their innate urge to fold inexplicably the hand that they are holding here is incredibly strong.

Joining now is “New York Times” columnist, Gail Collins.  She is author of the book, “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from the 1960s to the Present.”

Gail, thank you very much for being here.

GAIL COLLINS, NEW YORK TIMES:  Good to be here.  I like this bonus thing you‘re doing.  The bonus for millionaires.  This is very cool.

MADDOW:  Well, you know, in talking about tax cuts, there‘s an inherent wordiness that comes into any description that I think occludes any ability to make a political point about it.  But because the differences between the two parties‘ positions are—the Democrats say all income under a quarter million gets a tax cut, and the Republicans say, no, we don‘t think that‘s good enough.  We won‘t—we don‘t want those tax cuts to go through at all, unless we get a tax cut for income over a $250,000.

COLLINS:  A bonus.

MADDOW:  It is sort of a bonus.  They want a—because every—it‘s not that 98 percent of people in the country get a tax cut, everyone gets a tax cut on the first quarter million dollars of their income.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah.  Do you think it‘s important that the house passed this today?

COLLINS:  Yes.  You‘ve got to stand up for something once in a while.  If this is not what Democrats represent, then, what?  You know, the thing on not having loud TV commercials?  I mean, there‘s nothing if this doesn‘t work, there‘s nothing else there that makes any difference.

MADDOW:  Although, the not having loud TV commercials would get people out in the streets.

COLLINS:  This is true.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  A new civil rights movement against loud commercials.

There is new reporting tonight from “Huffington Post” that Senate Democrats are meeting tonight to sort of, to fake vote on this.  To test votes on this.

What do you think the fake test results are going to be?

COLLINS:  I don‘t know.  But, you know, if you watch the Democrats in the Senate in action, you know, I have doubts that they can really rally—they certainly can‘t rally all their people.  They can maybe rally 51, I bet.  But if Barack Obama came out and said, here‘s what I believe—go, team.  That could make a huge difference.

MADDOW:  One issue here is what happens, sort of, what happens if people do cross the line.  If they draw a line in the sand and it is crossed, meaning that they decide, you know what, we‘re not going to compromise.  If you want to let these Bush tax cuts expire, they‘re going to expire.  Couldn‘t they then pass a retroactive fix to that somewhere in the next Congress?

COLLINS:  They could.  And their argument is that that will make everybody nervous and it will hurt the economy.  That‘s what all the arguments are.

But if you can make this clear, if you can really draw the line clearly, so that we‘re not really arguing next week about what Ben Nelson is going to do in Nebraska, but really about, OK, this is the Democratic position, and take that in the Senate.  And I would love to see, if it‘s really clear to the people of America that this is what we‘re voting on, the bonus for the millionaires, I‘d like to see Scott Brown in Massachusetts, you know, defend that when he goes up before the people again.  I‘d like to see him explain why he voted for bonuses for millionaires.

MADDOW:  I feel like the Republicans, though, are hazing Scott Brown.  They keep hearing that argument from Democrats or from liberals, from people who aren‘t on the Republican side on specific policy issues.  So then they made Scott Brown be the one to go out and object to unanimous consent for unemployment benefits.

COLLINS:  Kill the unemployment compensation bill, while yelling about the food safety bill, while complaining that he had been dragged back to Washington to vote on this food safety bill, which poisoned food, who cares?  I mean, it was just very strange—very, very strange.

MADDOW:  So, I almost feel like every time a Republican gets mentioned as a potential crossover vote on a moderate issue, that the Republicans are doing everything they can to rope them back in.  Is there any process like that on the Democratic side?

We‘ve obviously seen, as the Democratic tent got bigger, as they elected these huge majorities, a huge amount of dissent.  No unity, whatsoever.  No standing shoulder to shoulder on the Democratic side.

Is it possible that that will arise now, that the Republicans have really given them a scare in this last election?

COLLINS:  It‘s frankly easier to do it in the negative than it is to do in the positive.

MADDOW:  What do you mean?

COLLINS:  If you‘re in the minority and you‘re just stopping things, it‘s always easier to argue—I mean, everybody knows that.  You know, you almost never lose points for being against something.

MADDOW:  Right.

COLLINS:  You can always argue that it can be done better or it can be done later, or you need more discussion, or the procedures are wrong or something else.  So, it‘s a much harder thing to get people together on the plus.  Plus, the Democrats in this last election ran around wildly campaigning for people whose ads had them shooting holes in the—

MADDOW:  In the Democratic legislation.

COLLINS:  -- in the clean air bill.  I mean, Good Lord!  So, it‘s hard.  It‘s harder to rope in right now, the Republicans are.

MADDOW:  Briefly, let me ask you about the effect of the Democratic base on that process.  Seeing that campaign from Progressive Change Campaign Committee, from MoveOn.org, the left is trying to shove President Obama specifically towards sticking to his campaign pledges on this.  Does that help?  Does that help with Democratic unity?

COLLINS:  I think it can‘t hurt.  The problem difference is that for the Republicans, they‘re terrified now if they don‘t do what—if they don‘t always vote against tax cuts and stuff like that.  Somebody from the Tea Party will run against them and primary them.  I don‘t think the Democrats have that fear right now, that they‘re going to be primaried from the left.

MADDOW:  Well, attention, Tea Party, all but three members of the House who are Republicans voted to raise taxes on the entire country today.

COLLINS:  You tell ‘em!

MADDOW:  I‘m sure they‘re all watching.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  “New York times” columnist, Gail Collins—it‘s always such a pleasure to have you.  Thanks for coming in.

COLLINS:  It‘s always great to be here.

MADDOW:  So, the quote today was, “There no gray area here.”  There is no gray area here.  That‘s how Admiral Mike Mullen described the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” at a hearing on Capitol Hill today.  We have all the important sound from a very dramatic day of testimony.

And we‘ll talk with an active duty military officer who founded an underground group of gay currently serving military personnel fighting to ensure their own civil rights.  We do not often have RACHEL MADDOW SHOW exclusives, but this is one of those times.

Please do stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Only House Republicans could turn a vote in favor of children‘s nutrition into a vote in favor of pedophiles.  They can turn a vote on almost anything into a vote in favor of one form of sex offender or another.  Details to follow.

Plus, on “Debunktion Junction” tonight, I solve a mystery that‘s been

tormenting me for years, for years!  I finally got ahold of an audio file

related to politics that I have been searching for, literally, four years -

and it‘s as good as I hoped it would be.  That is on “Debunktion Junction,” coming up.

           

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEN. CARTER HAM, DADT STUDY GROUP CO-CHAIR:  After nine months of study, I am convinced that if the law changes, the United States military can do this, even in a time of war.

JEH C. JOHNSON, DADT STUDY GROUP CO-CHAIR:  Our basic assessment is that our military can make this change.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Now that we have completed this review, I strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of the year.

HAM:  I came to this conclusion, not only as a co-chair of the Department of Defense review, but perhaps more importantly, as the commander of U.S. Army Forces in Europe.  I was cognizant every day of this review, that I might have to actually lead the changes, including in our report.  As a serving commander, I‘m confident that if this law changes, I and the leaders with whom I serve can do just that.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  Admiral Mullen, what has led to your change in thinking?  If you could share with the committee just a bit about supporting policy change.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  Well, I mean, fundamentally for me, Senator Graham, it has been the issue, this mishmash of an institution that I have been raised in my whole life that values integrity, in many ways, across everything we do, and then we‘ve got thousands of men and women who are willing to die for their country that we ask them to lie about who they are every single day.  And that—and I mean, I just fundamentally think that is wrong.

GRAHAM:  I understand—

MULLEN:  And I worry, Senator Graham, that it is corrosive over time -

it‘s not one of these things that‘s going to—a light switch isn‘t going to go and it‘s going to be a disaster, but it is corrosive over time.  And it is—particularly during a time of war, where we are focused so heavily on our combat mission, that the—it undermines, in ways, our ability to do what we need to do, because of the people side of this, because the leadership focus it takes, et cetera.

           

And that‘s fundamentally what‘s led me to the—to my beliefs and conclusions with respect to where we are.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA:  In all likelihood, there were gay Americans serving at Valley Forge.  There were gay Americans at Gettysburg.  They were gay Americans on Normandy Beach.  They are gay Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today.  In all likelihood, that‘s probably true, wouldn‘t you say?

HAM:  I think it‘s a very reasonable assumption.

BAYH:  There are probably gay Americans buried at Arlington Cemetery and at Normandy Beach, where I took my young sons a couple years ago—one of the most inspiring things that you could possibly see, those rows of crosses and the American flag flying in the breeze, people who laid down their lives for our country.  There are probably gay Americans buried there, aren‘t there?

HAM:  I think that would be a reasonable assumption.

BAYH:  How do we say to them or to their families that we‘ve honored their sacrifice, laying down their life, and yet if we knew who they were, not only would they not be buried there, they would have been drummed out of the armed forces?

HAM:  Senator—sir, my response to that would be, based on the oath that we took, that all of us in uniform take, and that is that we support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  That means we follow the law.  And so we have to do that.

GATES:  This is the second time that I have dealt with this issue as a leader in public life.  The prior case being at CIA in 1992, when as director, I ordered that openly gay applicants be treated like all other applicants.  That is, whether as individuals, they met our competitive standards.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA:  There are elements in the CIA who perform functions that are pretty similar to military functions, are there not?

GATES:  Yes, sir, some.

WEBB:  Have you heard of any unforeseen circumstances based on your decision in those units, taking place in those units?

GATES:  Not one.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT:  We‘re on the front lines of a turning point in American history.  And we have these in every generation.  This country, from the beginning, was defined not by its borders, but by our values.

The Declaration of Independence says, you know, we‘re all endowed by God with those equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And every generation has realized those rights better, because they weren‘t realized at the beginning.  In 1776, for women, for people of color, et cetera, et cetera.

In our time, one of the great transitions occurring is the growing readiness and understanding among the American people that you simply—it‘s just wrong and un-American to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA:  To me, the issue seems to be not whether to allow gays to serve in the military, but whether to allow them to serve openly.  But permitting them to serve, but not openly, undermines the basic values of the military—honesty, integrity, and trust—and when that‘s undermined anywhere, it‘s undermined everywhere.

It also seems that our military is expected to say, I don‘t want to lie, but you won‘t let me tell the truth.  How do we square this circle?

MULLEN:  I think, Senator Nelson, I mean, you‘ve hit at the core—from my perspective, you‘ve hit at the core issue.  And I can‘t square the circle.  And certainly, historically, have not been able to.

And I think it is—your comment about, you know, if it exists anywhere, it exists everywhere.  And that‘s been the case with respect to gay and lesbian service for my whole career, including under this law.  And I think it does fundamentally undermine who we are, because we‘re an institution that is so, so significantly founded and based on integrity.  So, I can‘t square it.

SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS:  Since this time, my years in the military, and since being in this position, I‘ve had the opportunity to visit Walter Reed and, you know, I still can‘t get out of my mind the one time I saw a soldier who lost both his legs, lost an arm, and lost most of another arm doing crunches, you know, to try to get his mid—his torso strengthened enough so he could still have a viable, you know, and fulfilling life, and seeing many other injured men and women, you know, who have not only given that lives, their limbs, but their lives.  And I‘ve been to many funerals, unfortunately, in my home state for those soldiers.

And one thing I never asked was, are they gay or straight?  It never even crossed my mind, to be honest with you.  I just wanted to know if they gave their limb or their life, you know, with pride and with honor for our country.

MULLEN:  War does not stifle change, it demands it.  It does not make change harder, it facilitates it.

I do not believe the stressors currently manifesting themselves in the lives of our troops and their families—lengthy deployments, suicides and health care—are rendered insurmountable or any graver by this single policy change.  Nor do I believe that simply acknowledging what most of our troops already know to be true about some of their colleagues threatens our ability to fight and win this nation‘s wars, quite the contrary.

Today‘s young leaders are more attuned to combat effectiveness than any of the last three decades.  Tempered by war, bonded through hardship, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces are the finest and most capable they have ever been.

If there is a better opportunity or a better generation to affect this sort of change, I don‘t know of it.

It is true that as chairman, I am not in charge of troops, but I have commanded three ships, a carrier battle group, and two fleets.  And I was most recently a service chief myself.  For more than 40 years, I have made decisions that affected and even risked the lives of young men and women.

You do not have to agree with me on this issue, but don‘t think for one moment that I haven‘t carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that that advice informs.  I would not recommend repeal of this law if I did not believe in my soul that it was the right thing to do for our military, for our nation, and for our collective honor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  Today was the first day of two days of hearings on repealing the policy and practice of firing Americans from our military for the crime of being gay.  Tonight, on “The Interview,” a currently serving active duty United States military officer who is gay, speaking out in his first ever broadcast interview.

On a personal note: this is one of those times that I really acutely feel, both the relative smallness of this job that I have compared to the sum of the jobs that other people have, but also the responsibility to really get stuff right.  Please stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Admiral Mike Mullen is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-staff.  He is the highest ranking officer in the United States Armed Forces. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS-OF-STAFF:  I‘ve been serving with gays and lesbians my whole career.  I went to war with them aboard a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam.  I knew they were there.  They knew I knew it, and what‘s more, nearly everyone in the crew knew it. 

We never missed a mission, never failed to deliver ordinance on target.  Readiness was not impaired.  What mattered most, what made us a crew, was teamwork and focus on our combat mission. 

Let me be clear, nothing will change about our standards of conduct.  Nothing will change about the dignity and the fairness and the equality with which we treat our people.  And nothing will change about the manner in which we deal with those who cannot abide by these standards. 

The military is a meritocracy, where success is based on what you do, not who you are.  There are no special classes, no favorite groups.  We may wear different uniforms, but we are one.  There are some for whom this debate is all about gray areas.  There is no gray area here.  We treat each other with respect or we find another place to work, period. 

In the long run, repeal of this law makes us a stronger military and improves our readiness.  It will make us more representative of the country we serve.  It will restore to the Constitution the energy it must now expend in pursuing those who violate the policies.  And it will better align those organizational values we claim with those we practice. 

This is about integrity.  Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives.  None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.  It is true there are no - there is no Constitutional right to serve in the armed forces, but the military serves all the people of this country, no matter who they are or what they believe. 

And every one of those people, should they be fit and able, ought to be given the opportunity to defend it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Joining us now for the interview is a currently serving active duty officer in the United States Military.  I will not tell you the branch in which he serves.  I will not tell you his name, and we have otherwise shielded his identity by necessity.  He uses the pseudonym J.D.  Smith. 

He‘s become the spokesman for an underground network of active duty troops who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, a group known as OutServe. 

J.D. Smith, thank you for being willing to do this interview tonight.  Thank you for your time. 

J.D. SMITH, SPOKESPERSON, OUTSERVE:  Thank you so much for having me on. 

MADDOW:  Why is it worth it to you to take the risk to speak out like this and to do the work that you have done with OutServe? 

SMITH:  I think why it‘s important for me is that at some point, while you‘re serving under the military and under this policy, you see some of the atrocities that have occurred to people across the world, including myself who was blackmailed under this policy. 

And at some point, you have to see that there‘s something larger than yourself out there and you have to take these risks to do something like this, to help others and help create the change that‘s needed. 

MADDOW:  One of the things that was discussed today, particularly by Sen. Lindsey Graham, was that he emphasized at this hearing today that the military‘s current application of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is somewhat kinder and gentler, essentially claiming that the days of the witch hunts are over. 

You just said that you feel that you have been blackmailed under this policy.  Does the way that Lindsey Graham talked about this policy today comport with your own experience and the experience of other members of OutServe? 

SMITH:  Absolutely not.  With our network, we‘re able to monitor what‘s going on across units, across the whole military.  And what we‘re seeing across the military is that commanders are not doing a gentler, kinder military. 

What they‘re doing is sometimes coming up with something more creative, such as removing someone from a unit or punishing them that way.  Again, they‘re not issues, peer to peer, as far as the younger generation goes with troops on the ground.  It‘s an older leadership that‘s the issue. 

MADDOW:  What about the emphasis today, pursuant to the Department of Defense report on the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” repeal, the emphasis that was put today on opponents of repeal on members of combat units, frontline combat unit, combat arms group, and the Marine corps, in particular, being more resistant to the prospect of repeal than other aspects of the military.  That wouldn‘t be a generational factor.  Those would be largely younger troops. 

MADDOW:  I think what was really important to notice in that report are two things.  The first thing is the fact that 92 percent of people that knew someone in their unit that was gay and lesbian, they were more comfortable with the fact that people serving openly in their unit, and were OK with it. 

The second important thing that was brought up in the hearings was the fact that people that were actually serving in combat were the ones more comfortable with gays and lesbians serving openly than the combat arms that were actually not in combat at the time, which is a really interesting note to know. 

MADDOW:  What was the goal of forming an underground secret network of active duty personnel who are LGBT?  What‘s the mission of OutServe? 

SMITH:  Originally, we formed back in July because we thought that the policy was going away.  It looked like it was going away back then to actually go away next year.  And so we wanted to create a peer network that could be supportive to active duty gay and lesbian troops post-repeal. 

A lot of these organizations exist in the DOD right now, but that was our original goal, was to exist post-repeal.  But right now we‘re seeing that we can get out a lot of information telling the truth about this policy and what is actually happening to people on the ground. 

MADDOW:  The Defense Department report on repealing the policy went into great detail about the care they took to seek out the opinions of gay service members, despite the inherent logistical difficulty of trying to identify people who can be fired for being identified. 

As an active duty officer yourself, as a gay man, do you think that the report broadly got it right? 

SMITH:  I do think they broadly got it right.  I think the Pentagon working group did an amazing job in actually taking the time to talk to active duty service members, to find out what they thought about the policy and how the policy is happening, as well as gay and lesbian troops. 

They actually reached out through the RAM survey and other methods to actually talk to soldiers on the ground.  So I think the Pentagon working group did an amazing job. 

MADDOW:  The Active duty U.S. Military officer using the pseudonym J.D. Smith, founder of the group OutServe, which is an underground network of LGBT active duty service members, thank you, sir, for your time and your service and your trust in joining us tonight.  I really appreciate it. 

SMITH:  Thank you so much for having me. 

MADDOW:  OK.  Still to come, some important Noah‘s ark news and the grossest possible way to kill legislation in Congress, almost too gross to talk about on TV.  Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Some real, live breaking news for you.  In the wake of today‘s vote in the House of Representatives to approve the extension of tax cuts on income up to $250,000 a year, but not on income over that amount, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has just made this announcement, just moments ago, about what happens next.  Check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  So we‘re going to have cloture votes on our priorities on Saturday.  Our priorities are very, very simple and direct.  One, we want to make sure the American people know we believe that the tax cuts should be extended for people making less than $250,000 a year. 

And just to make sure the American people understand we do not support giving tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, we‘re going to have a second vote on that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Again, breaking news, the announcement just made by Harry Reid to expect votes on the Bush tax cuts extension on Saturday, on the weekend. 

Last night, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said on this show that the vast majority of the Democratic caucus feel very strongly that tax cuts for the middle class, but not for income over $250,000, are the appropriate course of action right now. 

Progressives have been loudly whaling on Democrats in Congress to use their leverage to call the Republicans‘ bluff on tax policy right now.  We saw what it looked like today in the House with a successful vote on this measure. 

And on Saturday, apparently, we will see what that looks like in the Senate - Democrats on offense.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  “Debunktion Junction,” what‘s my function?  I love this part of the show.  All right, true or false?  On the roof of the airport in Tehran, at the airport in the capital city of the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is a Star of David on the airport‘s roof, specifically on the Tehran airport headquarters of Iran Air, which is Iran‘s national airline. 

There a Jewish star, a Star of David, on roof of the building. 

Jewish star on the roof of Tehran airport.  Is that true or false? 

True, apparently.  On the Google Earth satellite imagery of the Iran Air headquarters at the Mehrabad International Airport, you can clearly see, look, a Star of David on the roof. 

Now, Al-Arabiya did an article about this this week, claiming this was true.  Frankly, at first glance, we did not believe it.  But sure enough, go to Google Earth satellite imagery, and there it is, clear as eight days and eight nights. 

Nobody noticed until recently.  How did it get there?  Well, the rumor in the Middle Eastern press is that it‘s attributable to Israeli engineers who constructed the airport during the reign of the shah in Iran before the Islamic revolution. 

Is that true?  We have been trying to verify it.  We‘re getting nowhere, and frankly, we‘re very suspicious.  But we do think the image is there even if we don‘t know why it‘s there. 

Of course, now, the Iranian government is reportedly enraged about this, which is its own reward.  So happy Hanukkah.  There is, in fact, a Star of David on the roof of Iran Air headquarters in Tehran.  At least, we‘re pretty sure there is one there even though we don‘t know why it‘s there.

Next up, true or false?  This is the voice of California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA):  Protected by Viper.  Stand back. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That is the voice of Congressman Issa.  Is that true or false?  True.  Darrell Issa, despite his carefully-cultivated image as a self-made business man, actually acquired one of his early companies by winning it in a lawsuit. 

He later founded another company in the ‘80s called Directed Electronics, Inc., DEI, as in Darrell Edward Issa.  Get it? 

DEI was responsible for the Viper car alarm.  And as you can see here, they were also therefore responsible for the worst car alarm TV ads of all time.  And yes, Darrell Issa himself provided the voice of the car alarm. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I did hear somewhere that you were actually the

voice -

ISSA:  Protected by Viper, Stand back.  That rumor continues to be pervasive, but yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So will you do the voice for us now? 

ISSA:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Please.  Please. 

ISSA:  Sure.  Protected by viper.  Stand back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  I have literally been waiting for years to get my hands on the Viper Car Alarm sound. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ISSA:  Protected by Viper, stand back. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Years, years, I was looking for this.  Worst ring tone ever, right?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  You may have heard it reported this week that the governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, a Democrat, has decided to give giant state tax breaks to a creationist theme park in his state, the theme park designed to depict, life-sized, the biblical story of the earth being created in six days, complete with a giant Noah‘s Ark. 

Gov. Beshear has made that decision already.  Now, as a public figure, as a state official, he has to take questions about it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will there be dinosaurs on the ark? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  OK.  Imagine you‘re the governor of a U.S. state.  You have decided the state is going its secular rates behind a giant Bible-themed park designed to convince people that evolution is not real, that the earth is 7,000 years old, that dinosaurs and people co-existed on the earth at the same time.  We just haven‘t found the T-rex saddles yet. 

You have decided to put the government of your state behind this thing.  How do you deal with the inevitable question, governor, about man wrangling dinosaurs, two by two, on to a giant state-supported boat?  What do you do? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will there be dinosaurs on the ark? 

GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D-KY):  That might be a question for them. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, you know the position of the answers in Genesis, you can probably answer that yourself. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll have appropriate animals on the ark based on

the biblical - 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you get to the microphones when you speak, please? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sure.  I‘m sure we‘ll have representative kinds of animals on the ark to include dinosaurs. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  See, the governor defers to the Bible theme park guy, “Yes, of course, we‘ll depict man-wrangling dinosaurs onto a giant boat two by two, because that‘s what happened. Next question, governor, the termites - the termites.  Where do the thousands of species of termites live on the ark for a year?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  If you want to kill a proposed policy in Washington, one of the most devious ways to do it is with a poison pill.  As a metaphor, the poison pill is relatively straightforward.  You simply force something into a bill that is so politically toxic it kills the whole thing, or at least that what you try to do. 

But if you‘re this year‘s minority in the House - and yes, that still means the Republicans - then you‘ve got a whole new take on the poison-pill tactic.  You‘ve come a long way, poison. 

This year‘s Republican lawmakers have come up with the poison sex pill, or the poison perve (ph) pill, or the world‘s most cynical poison pill, depending on how you think about it.  They keep coming up with ways to add the word “pedophile” or “Viagra” or “rapist” to bills that have precisely nothing to do with any of those things. 

They add those things to bills so it looks like Democrats are voting in favor of pedophiles or Viagra or rapists when, in fact, they are voting for things like better school lunches. 

Classy, right?  Exhibit A - health reform.  Republicans sent up 147 amendments last spring intended to sabotage the final bill, amendments that Democrats would have to vote down one after another to get to the final vote on health reform. 

Among those 147 amendments was a real poison pill, an amendment to prohibit coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs for child molesters, an amendment that had nothing to do with health care or health reform, but everything to do with politics. 

Democrats voted the amendment down so they could get to health reform.  Then, come campaign time.  Hello, Sharron Angle campaign ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders.  What else could you ever need to know? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  This has been a year of the pervy poison pill.  In May, House Republicans attached one to a so-called cash-for-caulkers bill.  You might remember the aim of that one was to weatherize homes so that people inside them stay more comfortable and save energy. 

Also, the workers who apply the caulk earned some cash, which means stimulating the economy.  Remember jobs, jobs, jobs?  But then, Republicans developed a poison pill specifically for this awkwardly-named bill.  They added a “no cash for caulkers” money for child molesters provision to the legislation.  So if you vote for cash-for-caulkers, you‘re voting for molestation. 

Actually, you‘re not, but if you squint, you might convince someone of that in a low-budget campaign ad some year that maybe you said that.  Maybe. 

Republicans this year also added a pervy poison pill to the bill called the America Competes Act that was legislation to fund science and technology research, a bill, in other words, to create really, really, really good jobs, jobs, jobs. 

By the time the Republicans got done with that one, a vote for America Competes Act had also become a vote for paying the salaries specifically of federal workers who had been officially disciplined for violations regarding the viewing, downloading or exchanging of pornography, including child pornography on a federal computer or while performing official government duties. 

Democratic Congressman Barton Gordon took his own righteous straw poll right on the House floor on that one. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everybody raise your hand that‘s for pornography?  Come on, raise your hand.  Nobody?  Nobody is for pornography?  Oh, I‘m shocked.  Well, I guess we need this little bitty provision that means nothing that‘s going to gut the entire bill.  This is an embarrassment.  And if you vote for this, you should be embarrassed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  See, one minute you think you‘re voting for technology jobs, the next, you‘re saying yes or no to firing up the adult sites at your government gig and specifically for paying the federal worker salaries of people who do that and got caught and busted. 

This week then, Republicans tried to block the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  This is a bill designed to help feed more kids at school, make those meals cheaper for families and make the meals more nutritious.  It‘s been championed by Michelle Obama, the first lady. 

This bill is about kids.  One poison pill amendment later, what is it about?  Sex offenders.  You were voting for school lunches, Democrats.  But now, Republicans have tried to make it so that a vote for school lunches is a vote for pedophilia. 

Congressman Jon Klein of Minnesota, the top Republican in the House Education and Labor Committee offering an amendment to try to make a vote for the bill a vote for funding sex offenders who lie on employment background checks. 

His statement in protest of the school lunches bill, quote, “I offered a modest and entirely non-controversial amendment to improve the bill by protecting children in communities.” 

Yes, you know what?  The school was about school lunches, dude. 

And we have you to thank for the weird and creepy total non-sequitur. 

Congressman Klein, everybody. 

The only silver lining in this totally disgusting cloud was that this time, it did not work.  House Democrats decided that Mr. Klein‘s amendment would be voted on separately. 

The school lunches bill passed today without him being able to attach his creep-fest to it.  And the bill, without Klein‘s creep-fest, is now on its way to President Obama.  So enjoy those salad bars, school kids of America.  And remember, you almost got a super-disgusting poison pill instead, thanks to House Republicans. 

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

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