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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Bill Wolff, Rep. Anthony Weiner, John Stanton


KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Keith, that was an incredibly kind segue, given that you know what‘s about to happen and you know we need all the help we can get.


OLBERMANN:  Good luck out there.

MADDOW:  Thank you very much, my friend.

OLBERMANN:  Hats off to you, as it were.

MADDOW:  He‘s foreshadowing—all right.

Thank you for staying with us for the next hour—during which time we shall employ an Icelandic bodybuilder.  Also, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  Also the former and late President Ronald Reagan.  Also, “Roll Call‘s” John Stanton.  Also, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.

We shall employ all of those people and/or characters in the service of explaining the unexpectedly rich day of news we have had this first December Friday.

But we begin tonight‘s politics news with Script Ohio.  Script Ohio is the highest manifestation of American college football marching band fight song performance.  The school that we‘re talking about here is the Ohio State University.  They are based in Columbus, Ohio.

And actually, Bill, maybe you could explain this.

Bill Wolff, executive producer of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

Please explain Script Ohio to us.

BILL WOLFF, TRMS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:  Rachel, you‘re off to a flying start.  It is the Ohio State University—home of the Buckeye is Columbus, Ohio.  And their marching band which they call The Best Damn Band in the Land officially—like even children call it the Best Damn Band in the Land, before every humongous football game, this giant marching band comes out in a horseshoe stadium called The Horseshoe, and they spell out Ohio in cursive, there you see it on the screen.


WOLFF:  And the entire time that they‘re spelling it out in cursive, which is awesome, the crowd of 100,000 people all dressed in red and committed to the Buckeyes is going absolutely berserk.  Now, you see the “I” there in Ohio.


WOLFF:  The pinnacle moment, the key thing, is the dotting of the “I.” 

When a special chosen senior sousaphone player, and the drum major do that.

MADDOW:  Oh, gosh.  Yes.

WOLFF:  High-stepping it, the drum major points to where the guy is going to stand, then the guy turns there, and then—bows to the crowd as he‘s dotting the “I.”


WOLFF:  And everybody is more fired up than we ever get fired up about anything.  And it is totally tremendous, like I‘m fired up now.  I‘m ready to go.  I‘m ready to go.

MADDOW:  Well, the only reason I know this exists, because you, while not having gone to the Ohio State University, you, Bill Wolff—

WOLFF:  Yes.

MADDOW: -- the fight song thing is sort of what you do to get yourself psyched for your daily non-football life.  I mean, you use—you use fight songs to get yourself psyched for this show every day.

WOLFF:  Yes, I do.

MADDOW:  If you follow our show online, you may not that Bill does short videos promoting what is happening each night.  We post them on Twitter.  We post them on our Web site.  If you pay very close attention to what we do online, you may have also noticed what Bill is sometimes doing at the start of those little short video clips.


WOLFF:  When I was a kid, when the St. Louis Blues hockey team would come on the air, this would happen.  And then the voice of the announcer would say, the St. Louis Blues are on the air.  And the hair on the back of my neck would stand up, fired up.

This is Script Ohio.  I‘m not from there.  I‘m from Missouri.  But I love all marching bands.  It‘s the best thing in the world.  It is literally the best thing in the world.

You know, I‘m not from Tennessee.  But you know, we all envy each other‘s cultures in certain ways, right?  I mean, there‘s just certain ways that certain people from certain places do certain things that make you say, “Man, I wish I did it like that.”  “Rocky Top”?  Tennessee.


WOLFF:  That was so humiliating.

MADDOW:  It‘s brilliant because you‘re totally un-cynical about it.  I

mean, you didn‘t go to Tennessee.  You didn‘t go to Ohio State.  You didn‘t

you didn‘t go to any of those places, but you—it‘s not anything like you get fired up.  It‘s like you become an animal, like a weepy, fired-up, emotional in all good ways animal about fight songs.


WOLFF:  And bring myself my tears.  It‘s totally true.

MADDOW:  What is it about you and fight songs?

WOLFF:  You know, it‘s—I‘ve been thinking about what it is.  I can‘t really—I don‘t know except to say, I think it has to do with pride.  You see all those people listening to that song.  And it makes them proud of where they come from.

And there‘s a sort of a certainty about the righteousness of being from Tennessee.  It‘s an overly harmless because it‘s just a football and nothing really bad is going to happen.  So, you don‘t have to worry about the negative implications of that.

It‘s the pride and self-identity.  And they hear that song.  And it could be like if they were on their death beds and they just heard the tune, you know, the Buckeye battle cry, we have a heartbeat.  And then suddenly, they‘d be up and they want to go!  And it makes me feel that way, because—

MADDOW:  But that—that, what you are expressing right there, and you‘re getting fired up talking about it right now—

WOLFF:  Yes, I am.

MADDOW:  And I know when you go to the gym, the only music you will listen to when you are at the gym trying to make yourself go farther is fight songs.

WOLFF:  Other people‘s fight songs, it doesn‘t matter.

MADDOW:  That—this evidence that you—that we have before us here, and you manifested in Bill Wolffe, this phenomenon, being fired up like that, that is the key to the most important thing going on in American politics right now, I am convinced.

This weekend, Congress is going to be in session, this weekend, on a Saturday.  We heard it as breaking news last night during this show.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announcing that he is not letting the Senate go home.  The Democratic leadership is keeping the Senate in Washington over the weekend because the thing that we have been talking about, the thing that they have been fighting about for months now is finally going to happen.

Tomorrow on the weekend, Senate Democrats are finally going to do it.  They are finally going to go through with this vote that they‘ve been trying to psych themselves up for on the Bush tax cuts.  The Democrats‘ position on this has been really clear for a really long time.

Barack Obama said as a candidate and President Obama said a ton of times as president, that the Bush tax cuts should be extended for the first quarter million dollars of income, but above that, no.  We cannot afford it.  And it is not good for the economy.  The first quarter million dollars of income, yes—above that, no.

The Democrats drew that line in the sand.  They drew it before the session of Congress started, before President Obama was elected.  They have drawn it a million times over since he was elected.

Now, if you read the Beltway press, nobody thinks that line in the sand means anything anymore, but tomorrow, we are going to find out if the Democrats can do it, if they have the courage of their convictions.

If they can say, you know what, Republicans?  You don‘t like the way we‘re going to do it?  Fine.  Then the Bush tax cuts are going to expire.  Thank you for the filibuster.

You just raised taxes on the entire country.  You are doing it our way because it‘s responsible to do it our way, and it‘s irresponsible to do it any other way, or you are not doing it.  We have the majority in this branch of the legislature, the House already voted on it.

The president‘s going to sign it.  This is how it‘s going to be.  You are not getting your way.

We‘re right.  You‘re wrong.  The public‘s with us.  And we are not caving.  We‘re going to do what‘s right for the country.

That‘s what Senate Democrats have to decide if they have it in themselves to do!  What do they need to be able to do that?


WOLFF:  Yes, that‘s right.  That‘s right.  That‘s a great show!  You can do it!  Come on, Rachel!

MADDOW:  This is not a matter of figuring out the policy.  That is done.  This is nothing out of doing the polling.  That‘s been done.  This is not a matter of doing the math.  The math has been done.

The argument has been made.  The numbers have been crunched.  The debate has been worked through.  It is a matter of whether or not the Democrats are psyched.  It‘s a matter of whether or not the Democrats have the fight in them to make this happen.

Congressman Weiner, I am honored that you are still here and that you have not been scared off by what we just did.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  You know, Bill has me thinking, I‘m not sure what the Plattsburg State fight song is, I think it‘s the Huey Lewis B side or something.  I think “Oswego sucks” was our theme song.  I don‘t even know that.

MADDOW:  None of the songs that Bill listens to get himself psyched up have anything to do with his own collegiate experience.  He just loves the fact of people getting psyched up.

WEINER:  Now, do they charge him two fares on the subway with that hat?  Is that—does he work around—

MADDOW:  It‘s the baton, actually, that nails him on the double fare.

Is there a Democratic fight song?  I mean, are Democrats psyched?  Is there a fight song playing in their heads at this point?

WEINER:  You know, we‘ve been giving this a lot of thought since November 2nd, but frankly, we should have been thinking of this all along that the idea—I think the American people have lost track of what it is that we believe.


WEINER:  And there is so much of it that has gotten lost because it‘s all about the transaction in Washington.  And people forget that fundamentally as Democrats, this isn‘t a game.  This isn‘t a contest.

We believe in the idea that the middle class and those struggling to make it, they need a break.  We believe in the idea that frankly the people that are unemployed need a little bit of a break.  And what‘s happened here is that these are things that I thought the Republicans said they believed also.

They‘re the ones gaming the system.  And the only way to point that out is to every day say what it is that we‘re willing to fight for.  I hope that the president understands that sooner or later we have to do that.  The Senate‘s going to do it tomorrow morning.

And hopefully, if someone threatens to filibuster, it‘s not just a threat.  We get a chance to watch it.  I want to see Mitch McConnell stand up and filibuster the idea that 97 percent of the American public is going to get a tax cut if he doesn‘t sit down.

And that‘s the point.  I think that, frankly, we‘ve lost sight of this.  And it‘s not just a contest.  This is why the American people lost sight of what Democrats believe in and hopefully we‘re going to get it back.

MADDOW:  What I see is the difference between the parties right now is not just the differences on policies and values like you were just describing.  It‘s also—I think there‘s a fundamental difference between the parties on whether or not they see confrontation as constructive.

Republicans clearly see confrontation as a way to sharpen the differences between the two parties as a way to get their way.  They think when they confront Democrats, Democrats will cave and they‘re more likely to get Republican policies.  Democrats have been looking, particularly in the Senate, have been looking for ways to avoid confrontation, try to work everything out by deals, not have sort of head-to-head combat on issues like this.  And on the tax cuts, if they‘re going to get their way, it‘s going to have to be combat, isn‘t it?

WEINER:  Yes, but let‘s take a look at the Republican narrative.  You can‘t say that they‘re wrong.  We negotiated in good faith on the stimulus bill, watered down to get their votes—got none.  They then bragged they didn‘t vote for it.  Health care bill, same way.  We watered it down to get their votes—got none.

Just about every step of the way and then came November 2nd.  They walked around and said we voted no on everything.  Now, usually the American people don‘t like that.  Usually, the American people say, you know what, we want problem solving.  But since we really didn‘t have any abiding philosophy on our side, they chose the Republican tactic.

And I think what we‘ve got to say is we‘re the opposite.  We actually want to do things to help the American people, and they‘re still saying no.

Now, what‘s going to happen in January?  What‘s going to happen in January is they‘re going to be in charge.  Then what happens?  They stand up every day and say what they‘re against and go home?

And I think the president has kind of enabled them a little bit in this, because he‘s kind of said, OK, OK, OK.  You know, I‘ll sit down and I‘ll make a deal with you on these things.  When the American people, I think to some degree, want to know first and foremost what it is we‘re fighting for.

And in this case, what the senators are going to do is say we‘re fighting for middle-class people and those struggling to make it.  We‘re fighting for people who are unemployed and we‘re fighting for a sound fiscal future for our country.

And the Republicans are going to be lockstep “no” on all of those things.

MADDOW:  And I think what people are going to be looking for, though -

I mean, the polling numbers are with Democrats on this.


WEINER:  Right.

MADDOW:  Overwhelmingly, it‘s a huge gap in the polls in terms of people agreeing with Democrats.  People think that above—for income above $250,000, the tax cuts should expire.  We can‘t afford that in terms of our debt and deficit.  And that‘s sort of settled in terms of what the American people favor.

I think the question, though, is when Democrats are going to fight for this?  How hard are they going to fight?  And that is a very concrete measure, which is that—that Senate Democrats have a choice about whether or not they‘re going to let the Bush tax cuts expire in January if Republicans don‘t come along.

Do you think they‘ve got it in them?

WEINER:  Well, I hope so.  Look, here‘s what we do know—the Republicans have done a very good job sticking together fighting for billionaires.  They‘ve taken an unpopular position, and they‘ve stuck with it, and they‘re getting rewarded for it.  Well, why is it?  Because it‘s one-hand clapping.

We have not done a good job of saying here‘s who we‘re fighting for.  Here‘s who we‘re going to go down to the floor of the House and Senate and fight for, and we‘re going to make them go on the record for it.  There‘s been too much of this kind of weird sense of, you know what, let‘s just try to parse the differences here.

No, these differences are pretty darn big.


WEINER:  They want tax cuts for billionaires, we don‘t.  They want to leave the unemployed out there hanging dry?  Most American people and the Democrats don‘t.  But we don‘t get a chance to have that clear, binary argument because I think there‘s too much of this notion that everything is a deal in Washington, 100 percent.

MADDOW:  Well, right now Democrats have as much leverage as they want to exert.  And it‘s going to be a big politics weekend watching the way this unfolds.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, and a good sport for enduring our silliness here—thank you, sir.

WEINER:  Go Plattsburgh State.

MADDOW:  Yes.  Who sucks?  Oswego?

WEINER:  Oswego State was our big rival.

MADDOW:  All right.

WEINER:  Plattsburgh has rivals.

MADDOW:  You hear that Oswego?  Right here, man.

All right.  More to come on the president‘s surprise trip today.  How to visualize what $52 million in cash looks like and why you should do that.  Why that‘s important.

Plus, the return of an embarrassing and unsightly policy from the 1980s, a policy that has the word “trickle” in it.  That is all still to come.

But, first, “One More Thing” about the greatness of the college fight song tradition.  We would be remiss if talking about Script Ohio and the dotting of the “I” on this show, especially in turning it into a political metaphor if we did not mention that sometimes Script Ohio and the dotting of the “I” goes horribly wrong and causes collateral damage, as learned by a photographer who got way to close to the dot when Ohio State faced off against USC last year.  Watch this.



MADDOW:  It is every offended person‘s dream to meet face to face with the people who can alleviate the offense.  For the people who can fix the problem, who can right the wrong.  That‘s what happened today when Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach and Major Mike Almy attended the Senate‘s “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” hearings in person.

Our producer Vanessa Silverton-Peel was there as well.  She shot this flip-cam video of the Major Almy and Colonel Fehrenbach chatting at the hearing today with Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.  Colonel Fehrenbach has been fighting the military‘s efforts to discharge him under the policy of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” for more than two years now.  Major Almy was separated, as they say, in 2006.

New news about the long and slow but seemingly impending death of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”—coming up in just a moment.


MADDOW:  What you see on the left side of your screen here is—surprise—your president turning up in landlocked Central Asia today.  This is how presidents travel to America‘s wars now.  They go into a publicity airlock.  They give no one any indication that they‘re going anywhere, and then they pop up at a U.S. air base in the hot zone somewhere.

President Obama today in Afghanistan, left side of your screen.

On the right side of your screen is a YouTube video of a man name Benedikt Magnusson, dead-lifting 1,100 pounds.  Why the weights are in the form of Hummer tires, I cannot tell you.  But he‘s lifting 1,100 pounds here—the weight of an extra-large grand piano.

The connection between those two things is this—as the president made his way to Afghanistan today, the morning edition of “The New York Times” made its way to newsstands, complete with this detail about whether or not what we are still doing in the Afghanistan war makes sense, whether the sacrifices Americans are making there increase the likelihood of us achieving what we say are our country‘s goals there.

One of the WikiLeaks cables says that last year, a former vice president of Afghanistan, a guy the U.S. had thought of as a potential successor to Hamid Karzai, he was caught carrying $52 million in unexplained cash into the United Arab Emirates, caught carrying $52 million.  The former vice president could not explain where the money came from nor where he was taking it.  But he was taking it in cash out of Afghanistan and into Dubai.  He got to keep it.

Do you have any idea how physically large $52 million in cash is?  The largest denomination bill in U.S. cash is a $100 bill -- $52 million in cash is, at minimum, 520,000 bills, $100 bills.  One million dollars in $100 bills is 10,000 $100 bills.  That million weighs 22 pounds.

So, $1 million weighs 22 pounds.  Fifty-two million dollars in $100 bills is 1,144 pounds worth of cash.  Over 1,100 pounds worth of $100 bills.

This is a video of a man lifting 1,100 pounds.

When President Obama almost a year ago announced a re-doubling of U.S.  forces in Afghanistan, he said the goal of the American war there remains defeating al Qaeda.  And the way U.S. troops in Afghanistan would do that was by fighting the Taliban so they didn‘t take over the Afghan government again and—and, he said—


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan‘s security forces and government so that they can take a lead responsibility for Afghanistan‘s future.


MADDOW:  But the Afghanistan government is actually taking is $52 million in cash, a giant 1,100-pound pile of $100 bills, hundreds of thousands of $100 bills out of Afghanistan, to Lord knows where.

Remember, the punch line of this “New York Times” story is that the former vice president got caught in Dubai with $52 million in cash that he could not explain, and he kept it.

The president said our mission in Afghanistan depends on strengthening the Afghan government.  How‘s that going?


MADDOW:  Today was the second day of Senate hearings on the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” after this week‘s release of the military‘s comprehensive report on the potential of repeal of that policy.  And while day one was a nearly four-hour military-led class on a million reasons why “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” should be repealed, today‘s testimony was definitely more mixed.


SEN. MARK UDALL (D), COLORADO:  If we changed this policy, can your branch in the U.S. military make it work?  And perhaps I‘ll start this end of the line and start with Admiral Papp.

ADM. ROBERT PAPP, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD:  Yes, sir, I have complete confidence that we could make it work.

GEN. NORTON SCHWARTZ, AIR FORCE CHIEF OF STAFF:  As I indicated earlier, we would execute thoroughly, professionally and with conviction.

GEN. JAMES AMOS, MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT:  Senator, as I indicated in my written and verbal statement that we will follow the law and execute it faithfully.


ADM. GARY ROUGHEAD, NAVAL OPERATIONS CHIEF:  We can make it work as do my most senior commanders believe that as well.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF:  I believe we can implement the policy and will implement the policy with moderate risk to our short-term effectiveness and long-term health of the force.


MADDOW:  We had mixed responses on whether or not the law should be repealed, to a man, as you just heard, they were 100 percent unified on the important point that the policy could be repealed with an acceptable level of risk.


UDALL:  If we changed this policy, can your branch in the U.S.  military make it work?  And perhaps I‘ll start this end of the line and start—


MADDOW:  That is the same sound bite playing twice.  But essentially, you heard there the brass talking about the fact that they can implement that policy.

Now, this does not mean that all the brass agreed on the urgency of implementing the policy, particularly given the prospect of a court overturning it and forcing the military‘s hand.  Before the military and Congress can change it proactively.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  General Casey, what is your personal opinion about repeal at this time?

CASEY:  Senator, I believe that the law should be repealed eventually.  I would not recommend going forward at this time given everything that the army has on its plate.

AMOS:  My recommendation would be not to do it as long as we have forces that are involved singularly focused where they are right now on combat.

SCHWARTZ:  I therefore recommend deferring full implementation and certification until 2012.  While initiating training and education efforts soon after you take a decision to repeal.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  General Schwartz, you said that we ought to be paced by the people who are in combat.  OK.  Obviously, we ought to consider them.  Then you said 2012, that‘s the right date.  Do you know how many people will be in combat in 2012?

SCHWARTZ:  I don‘t.

LEVIN:  Why is 2012 the right time?

SCHWARTZ:  Because I‘m—

LEVIN:  There may be people in combat.

SCHWARTZ:  There may well be, sir.  It‘s my conviction, though, that 2011 -- I have enough confidence in what‘s going to transpire in 2011, and I think that‘s too soon.

LEVIN:  I understand that but you said it should be paced by the number of people in combat.  And you don‘t know how many people will be in combat in 2012?  And yet, hey, do it then, not now.


LEVIN:  Without knowing that.

SCHWARTZ:  There‘s uncertainty here, no question.

CARTWRIGHT:  Some ask why not wait for some more timely opportunity.  There is never a perfect time.  Change challenges organizations.  However, contrary to expectations, this may be a better time than one might expect.

ROUGHEAD:  I do believe any change in the law is best accomplished through the legislative process and not judicially.  Legislative repeal affords us the time and structured process needed to effectively implement this significant change within our armed forces.

SCHWARTZ:  Legislative action on this issue is far preferable, to a decision by the courts.


MADDOW:  So whether or not repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” should happen urgently or could happen urgently or definitely shouldn‘t happen urgently or definitely couldn‘t happen urgently, depended not only on which service chief you happen to be listening to during today‘s hearing, but what part of the hearing you happened to be listening to that service chief during the hearing today.

While we‘re on the topic of today‘s very, very, very mixed messages, we were also treated to the sight today of senators trying to get the brass to go along with them on their own pet senatorial arguments and the brass refusing to play that role.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA:  How would you face a 23 percent drop in retention?  What does that do to you, General Casey?  We‘ll start with you.

CASEY:  Senator, projections on retention are historically overstated.

INHOFE:  Do you agree with that, Gen. Amos? 

AMOS:  Sir, I agree with my colleague, Gen. Casey, in that I think it‘s - I think it‘s overstated.  My instincts, as I read those figures and just knowing the Marines for 40 years, I don‘t sense the same level of impact either on retention or recruitment. 

INHOFE:  They never asked the question - do you think you should be asked repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”?  Gen. Casey, should that have been asked?

CASEY:  Senator, I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think the survey should have been a referendum of a poll of our soldiers.  There‘s a democracy in the military, and I believe the way that the survey was executed gave us sufficient information to make our judgments. 

INHOFE:  Anyone else think that the question of should it be repealed should have been asked?  How about you, Gen. Amos? 

AMOS:  Sir, I‘m with the Secretary of Defense and my colleagues.  I don‘t think that we needed a referendum-type question on that.  I got the information I needed. 


MADDOW:  Sen. Inhofe palpably fishing from the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Amos, to try to get the answer that he wanted.  Gen. Amos not going along with that.  Ultimately, the bottom line on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” right now is that there‘s no bottom line on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

The commander-in-chief, Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the joint-chiefs-of-staff, some of the top brass, most of the troops seemed to be fine with the prospect of repealing the policy or enthusiastic about that prospect. 

Others in the chain of command, not so much.  But for gay people who want to serve in the military and who are serving in the military or for those who have been separated from the military even though they wanted to stay in simply because they‘re gay, really today the bottom line the only statements that really mattered today came out after the hearing. 

That‘s when Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Susan Collins of Maine gave written, qualified announcements that they will support repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” which means it looks like “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is on its way out. 

Some expert opinion on that still to come this hour.  Please do stick around.


MADDOW:  “Debunktion Junction,” what‘s my function?  All right.  True or false?  The Secretaries of State for the past five Republican presidents are supporting President Obama‘s new nukes treaty with Russia. 

All the last five Republican presidents - all the last five Republican presidents, all their Secretaries of State are publicly lobbying Republicans for President Obama‘s position on the START Treaty.  Is that true or is that false? 

False.  But if you did think that was true, you have a really good excuse for why.  Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell all signed on to a “Washington Post” op-ed this week saying, “Hey, Republicans, ratify President Obama‘s nukes treaty with Russia.  We know he‘s a Democrat and you hate that, but we‘re Republicans, and we‘re saying you ought to do this for the country‘s sake.” 

At the end of the op-ed, “The Washington Post” helpfully notes in italics - they say, quote, “The writers were Secretaries of State for the past five Republican presidents.”

They were, in fact, all Secretaries of State for the past five Republican presidents.  But they weren‘t all of the secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents. 

The last Republican president was George W. Bush.  His last Secretary of State was Condoleezza Rice.  And Condoleezza Rice didn‘t sign it.  Condoleezza Rice has definitely not signed on to this “ratify the treaty” “Washington Post” op-ed effort thing. 

Why isn‘t she?  Well, we called her office yesterday at the Hoover Institution at Stanford to find out.  The press office there told us they don‘t use phones.  Seriously, that‘s what they told us. 

But then, an aide to Dr. Rice told us on the phone that Dr. Rice was asked to sign on to that op-ed and she decided not to.  The aide did tell us that Dr. Rice thought it was a well-written op-ed but the aide also told us Condoleezza Rice has been working on the treaty behind the scenes and she will only make a public comment about it at some undisclosed future time that she deems appropriate. 

So although it went quite largely unnoticed, Condoleezza Rice is not part of the emeritus Republican juggernaut in favor of signing that nuke treaty this week.  And that apparently is on purpose. 

She tells us it is on conspicuous yet mysterious purpose.  Is it going to make a difference in whether or not the treaty gets passed in this conspicuous, mysterious, unpredictable time in Washington right now?  Stay tuned for that.


MADDOW:  If the fight songs earlier did not get you fired up, well, how about this?  The supposedly flat-line lame-duck Congress has actually passed some sort of good stuff including a bill to control the volume on your television.  Coming up.


MADDOW:  I think that started off better than it ended up, didn‘t it?  The whole lame duck thing.  At any case, even if sounder signifying the lame duck Congress and our lame duck watch has gotten significantly lamer over time, it turns out that the lame duck Congress itself is not that lame. 


(on camera):  Forget policy, forget what you‘re supposedly for, forget your own ideas that you are 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. 


So turns out I was totally wrong about that.  Totally wrong, ugly wrong, shame-faced wrong.  Because in this lame duck Congress, stuff is passing right now. 

Today, a stopgap spending bill passed to keep the federal government going.  That is on its way to the president‘s desk.  Also, that food safety bill passed, the biggest overhaul of food safety since 1938.  It‘s on its way to the president‘s desk. 

And something else really cool passed.  They finally passed that thing where commercials can‘t be louder than the TV shows now, which means I‘m going to do everything in whisper from here on out.  So when the commercials come on during the show, you will still have the comforting, familiar feeling of being screamed at. 

Joining us now is John Stanton, reporter for “Roll Call.”  Mr.

Stanton, thanks very much for your time. 

JOHN STANTON, REPORTER, “ROLL CALL”:  It‘s good to be here. 

MADDOW:  Was it clear before the lame duck session that the “commercials are too loud” act was going to be one of the things that they actually made time for in this really short-packed session? 

STANTON:  Yes.  No, that was actually not on the list of items that

anyone was talking about.  Although it is - you know, it‘s pretty classic

sort of legislating, frankly, like you do something to make it look like

you understand the plight of your constituents, though I‘m not sure how

effective it‘s going to be.  Look at the no-call list.  People still call

you.  So -

MADDOW:  I will say if it works, if it does actually go into effect, I will be very happy that this passed.  I‘m just completely blindsided that this is one of the things that got done in the lame duck. 

I mean, I feel like the common wisdom has been totally unreliable in predicting what‘s going to happen in this session and particularly in the Senate.  What do you think they‘ll actually be able to get done in the next few days? 

STANTON:  Realistically, in the next few days, probably not much.  They will have - they‘ll have the sort of fight over these two tax bills that Democrats want to have votes on, but they don‘t expect those two to pass. 

They‘ll continue to try to work on START.  And behind the scenes - very much behind the scenes, they‘ll continue to work on how to pay for the federal government over the next about 10 months, it looks like. 

Those three things seem like they‘re likely to pass.  “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” may be able to pass in the next two weeks, but it really seems like those will be the three big-ticket items that get done. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the way that you‘re able to report on what‘s going on in this Congress right now, I feel like there definitely is a big beltway common wisdom on what‘s going to happen. 

It‘s been pretty much consistently wrong about what‘s going to happen in the Senate recently.  Who are you looking to, to actually understand, to actually report well on what‘s happening, on who‘s scheduling things about what the priorities are?  Are there strong signals? 

STANTON:  Yes.  You know, ironically enough, it‘s already with the Republicans.  They seem, particularly on the taxes and on START.  They‘re sort of more plugged into sort of how things are happening in large part because they sort of have the White House‘s ear. 

They both sort of agree that the tax cut deal that is eventually going to be put together will have an extension for all the tax cuts for two years, not just for middle class. 

They‘re in negotiations now with the White House and with some Senate Democrats and House Democrats on sort of what other things will get put in there, unemployment insurance, some parts of the stimulus bill. 

But they‘re really - you know, they sort of are holding the cards to a certain extent in doing this and are able to stop things or let things go through sort of at their leisure, really, frankly. 

MADDOW:  If what Republicans are telling you about what they expect to happen on those tax votes actually happens, that would represent a pretty giant cave on the Democratic position, and the Democrats are still the majority in the Senate. 

They do, obviously, still control the White House.  Is there any - what you feel like is a good indication of what Democrats will be able to get out of Republicans in terms of concessions if they do let Republicans have their way on taxes? 

STANTON:  It looks like it‘s going to be at least a one-year extension of unemployment insurance benefits.  There are provisions in the stimulus bill.  There‘s one called “make work pay,” which is a tax cut that everyone got that you sort of don‘t realize because it‘s not that big, frankly.  But there‘s a few things like that. 

But there really is some sort of modest pieces.  There‘s something that‘s called the tax extenders which is a very sort of wonky bill that Democrats have wanted.  Those are going to be sort of the things that - you know, the irony behind all this, though, is because the White House wants it, because a lot of leadership in the Democratic Party wants it and Republicans want it, we‘re sort of waiting around to wait and see whether the rest of the Democrats sort of come to terms with the fact that they‘re not going to be able to pass a middle-class-only bill and sort of figure out how to move forward from there. 

MADDOW:  I think that the fight over that is, again, one of those things that‘s going to be sort of unpredictable until it happens.  Let me just ask you one last specific point on the Defense Authorization Act including, of course, the repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”. 

Any reliable vote counting on that at this point, or does it still seem like it‘s uncertain as to whether or not 60 votes will be able to break that Republican filibuster? 

STANTON:  It‘s still uncertain.  You know, today, with Sen. Brown and Sen. Collins coming out that, I think, built momentum towards getting there.  Sen. Webb has not quite come out and said he won‘t vote for it.  He said he doesn‘t want to or he has some concerns. 

There is some thought that he may vote for cloture which will allow out it come to a vote and then that would put it at a 50-vote level where he could still vote against it but it could still pass. 

So it‘s close.  I think it‘s within a couple of votes, which is why Republicans, frankly, are so concerned about it. 

MADDOW:  John Stanton, reporter for “Roll Call.”  Thanks very much for joining us, John.  I really appreciate it. 

STANTON:  Any time.

MADDOW:  One note I should mention on the food safety bill that I described - I described it as having passed.  What happened here is it passed the house, and then it passed the Senate. 

And when two things pass the House and Senate, remember the whole conjunction-junction thing, right?  I‘m just a bill here on Capitol Hill?  What then happens, the two houses then have to resolve the differences between the bill before it goes to the president. 

There are indications that the House may just go ahead and pass what the Senate passed which means it goes to the president, and it‘s on its way to passing, but that has not yet technically happened yet.  So in order to be precise and accurate, let me say the food safety bill not yet a done deal. 

All right.  Still ahead, remember when George Bush, Sr. called Ronald Reagan‘s trickle-down, supply-side philosophy voodoo economics?  If it was voodoo then, it is even voodoo-ier now.  That‘s next. 



is that - that it‘s a - it just isn‘t going to work.  And it‘s very

interesting that the man who invested this type of what I call a voodoo

economic policy -




RONALD REAGAN, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  This is not the time for political fun and games.  This is the time for a new beginning.  I ask you now to put aside any feelings of frustration or helplessness about our political institutions and join me in this dramatic, but responsible plan. 


MADDOW:  Join me.  President Ronald Wilson Reagan addressing the country from the Oval Office in July of 1981.  President Reagan had assumed office just six months earlier. 

The nation was mired in a bad recession and Mr. Reagan used the power and the prestige of a primetime Oval Office address to present his way out, his vision of how the country could get on its economic feet. 


REAGAN:  In a few days, the Congress will stand at the fork of two roads.  One road is all too familiar to us.  It leads ultimately to higher taxes. 

The other road promises to renew the American spirit.  It‘s a road of hope and opportunity.  It places the direction of your life back in your hands, where it belongs. 


MADDOW:  Tax cuts.  Not just any tax cuts, largest set of tax cuts this country had ever seen.  With all sorts of charts and graphs at his disposal, President Reagan walked the country step by step through his tax plan, an across-the-board tax cut of 25 percent for all income brackets.  Everybody gets a tax cut. 

After months of selling his plan, Congress finally passed it and President Reagan signed it into law. 


REAGAN:  This represents $750 million in tax cuts over the next five years.  And this is only the beginning. 


MADDOW:  And thus was born a new economic philosophy - Reaganomics, cutting government spending, cutting regulation and cutting taxes - cutting taxes especially for the richest Americans. 

President Reagan‘s tax plan cut the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 70 percent to 50 percent.  Why cut taxes so dramatically for the richest of the rich in the middle of a recession? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  More trickle-down economics. 


MADDOW:  Trickle-down economics.  Trickle-down economics.  The idea of trickle-down economics is basically this - you cut tax rates for the richest Americans, therefore the richest Americans have more.  They have more money in their pockets, therefore they have more money to spend and invest. 

And as they spend and invest, the effect of rich people‘s good fortune and rich people spending trickles down to everybody else in the economy.  A rising tide lifts all boats, right?  That was the idea.  That was the plan. 

That did not happen.  Reaganomics was a spectacular success in some ways.  It was a spectacular success for the richest Americans in the country who benefited the most from President Reagan‘s historic debt-exploding, budget-busting tax cuts. 

In 1980, the top one percent of Americans earned wages about $110,000 a year.  By 1990, after about 10 years of Reaganomics, the top one percent had seen their wages rise by 80 percent. 

Trickle-down economics, though, right?  What‘s good for the rich is good for all of us, right?  Not quite.  Here‘s the average wages in the rest of the country in 1980 and here is what happened for the rest of the country after about 10 years of Reaganomics - flat.  A whopping three percent rise in wages in 10 years. 

The richest people see their fortunes go up like the Matterhorn.  Everybody else, nothing.  This is what family income growth looked like during the 1980s.  Look at that. The richest one percent of Americans had an awesome decade.  They saw their family income skyrocket by 74 percent. 

Everybody else, not so much.  In fact, the poorest Americans saw their income shrink by more than 10 percent.  That was Reaganomics.  That‘s what Reaganomics did.  That was the impact of Reaganomics.  That was the result of this experiment called trickle-down economics. 

The rich did great.  Everybody else still waiting for the trickle. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Today, downtown Chicago is getting ready for their Christmas shopping season.  But the merchants in one neighborhood, Inglewood, expect little business this year.  Most of their customers are on public aid which has been cut by the Reagan administration. 

At Judge Barber‘s Furniture Store(ph), pre-Christmas sales have not attracted customers.  And Barber(ph) blames Reaganomics. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The customers that are coming in are getting less than those that were coming in before the economics of Mr. Reagan‘s took place. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  But some people elsewhere will be spending more this Christmas at luxury stores like Neiman Marcus in Northbrook, Illinois, a wealthy suburb of Chicago. 

Store manager Larry Gore(ph) predicts record sales, especially in jewelry and furs.  Gore says his customers have more to spend this year because of the Reagan tax cuts. 


MADDOW:  At the end of 1989, after eight years of Reaganomics, here is where the country stood.  Income gap between richest and poorest, biggest since 1947.  That was the headline on UPI on December 30th, 1989. 

That month, Congress released a report on Reaganomics concluded, quote, “Upper income Americans were the main direct beneficiaries of tax cuts in the early ‘80s.  There is no evidence in our data that those benefits have trickled down.”

Aside from not trickling, the era of Reaganomics also had one other awesome side effect.  When President Reagan came into office in 1981, he inherited a $994 million national debt. 

By the time he left, it had ballooned to $2.6 billion.  Ronald Reagan, patron saint of fiscal conservatism, supposedly, grew the national debt by an astonishing 186 percent during his eight years in office, which is what tends to happen when the government drastically reduces the amount of tax revenue it corrects. 

When the Reagan folks tried to argue that the huge deficits they were creating were not that big of a deal, they were kindly corrected by editorials like this one in “The Washington Post” from January 1988. 

Quote, “The deficit is a terrible legacy for which the country will be paying socially as well as financially for years.  The only thing worse would be to believe the gloss now being put on it that would condemn another generation to repeat what the country should repent instead.” 

So the largest income inequality since the government started tracking those things and a skyrocketing national debt.  Thank you, Reaganomics. 


REAGAN:  This is only the beginning. 


MADDOW:  On that point, Ronald Reagan was right.  Trickle-down economics is back.  It‘s making a comeback. 


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA):  What we‘ve got to do is try, as we may, and see if we can deliver, to make sure that tax rates don‘t go up on anybody.  What we need to do is get the entrepreneurs and investors back, be willing to commit capital. 

REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN):  Anybody that thinks that raising taxes on job creators is going to create jobs I think is going to meet with an argument for me. 

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH):  You can‘t have a healthy economy if you raise taxes on those that you expect to reinvest in the economy and to hire more people. 


MADDOW:  You can‘t have a healthy economy unless you give special bonus tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.  If millionaires and billionaires can‘t get an extra tax cut, nobody else should get a tax cut either.  Everybody else‘s taxes can go up. 

Those are the people - those rich people - those are ones who invest. 

Give them money and watch it trickle down to everybody else.  Go ahead. 

Watch it trickle down to everybody else.  Just watch.  See what happens. 

Watch the country right itself by giving massive tax cuts to the super rich. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Average hourly wages have dropped 4.5 percent.  Five million workers have lost their jobs because of factory closings and corporate cutbacks and that the nation‘s richest families are getting a bigger slice of the economic pie while the growing number of poor people are getting a smaller slice. 


MADDOW:  Just watch.  There is a key difference, of course, between now and 1981.  Now, we have a president in the White House that doesn‘t subscribe to the economic theory that one of his Republican predecessors used to call voodoo economics. 


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  We‘ve been told that the way to a stronger economy was to give huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest Americans and somehow prosperity would trickle down. 

Well, now, we know the truth.  It didn‘t work.  Instead of prosperity trickling down, pain has trickled up. 


MADDOW:  It didn‘t work.  Giving billions of dollars in tax cuts to the super rich did not work.  The difference between now and 1981 is not on the Republican side.  They‘re still selling trickle-down. 

The difference between now and then is the president now doesn‘t buy it and the rest of us know what happened the last time somebody tried to promise us a trickle.

Tomorrow, Democrats in the United States Senate have an opportunity to

render their




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