'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, December 9th, 2010
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Guests: Austan Goolsbee, Aubrey Sarvis, David Bahati, Jeff Sharlett
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Now, you‘re going to, at some future dates, have to tell everybody about the private joke.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I will.
MADDOW: Some other day.
OLBERMANN: Some other day, when you‘re not around.
MADDOW: Thanks, peaches.
OLBERMANN: You‘re—you‘re welcome, door bell.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour, even though we‘ve started by mystifying you.
Today was a big consequential day in American politics. Today was a deal or no deal day in Washington, on a lot of really big deals in public policy and a lot of really big deals in American politics. We‘ll be talking about this one detail in detail in just a moment.
But today, you may have heard that the Senate took up the bill that would fund the entire U.S. military for this year, the National Defense Authorization Act. It is passed every—it has passed every year for 48 years. But Senate Republicans‘ filibuster has meant that it may not pass this year. Most of the attention the bill has received over the past few months is because a portion of it would allow the repeal of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy. Repeal passed the House months ago.
Finally, today, it came up for a snap vote in the Senate. After all of this time, after all of this fighting, after the hearings, after the report from the military, after the House‘s action, would there finally be a deal on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” today? Deal or no deal?
No deal. Republicans filibustered the entire funding of the military today in order to keep “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” in place. As I said, we‘ll have more on that coming up in the next segment on the show.
Also on the agenda in Washington today, the DREAM Act, a bill to grant legal the status to immigrants who complete two years of college or who join the military. As we reported here 24 hours ago, the DREAM Act passed the House last night. After the House‘ action, the bill headed over to the Senate today.
Would there be a deal today? Would there be a deal or no deal on the DREAM Act today?
No deal. Senate Democrats decided they did not have the votes to get it passed so they put it for—well, we don‘t really know how long. We will tell you once we know.
And then there‘s the big kahuna, the big tax cuts compromise between President Obama and congressional Republicans. The question here is not whether Democrats can persuade enough Republicans to their way of thinking. It‘s the Republican leadership who worked out this deal with President Obama in the first place, right? They‘re already on board with this. The question here is whether or not the president‘s own party is on board.
Would the president be able to make a deal with his own party today on this tax cut compromise that he worked out with Republicans? Deal or no deal?
A resounding, literally shouted “no deal” from the president‘s own party. House Democrats met behind closed doors today in what was described as an almost-unanimous and, yes, very loud voice vote, they proclaimed “nay.” They screamed “no”—no confidence in the president‘s tax compromise with Republicans.
And when I say it was an almost-unanimous voice vote, I mean that in a very specific sense. This is a voice vote, right? All in favor, aye. All oppose, no.
And when I say it was almost unanimous, what I mean is this—it is reported out of that meeting that there was precisely one House Democrat, one, who voted with the president on this, who voted against the no confidence resolution for his tax deal, one—Congresswoman Shelley Berkley of Nevada.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. SHELLEY BERKLEY (D), NEVADA: I think this is a good deal. I mean, I‘m not making any apologies for the president‘s compromise. I think it‘s good and good enough for me to support. Thank you.
REPORTER: Thank you.
REPORTER: You‘re saying you were the one vote against, the one voice vote against the resolution?
BERKLEY: Again, there may have been others that felt the way I did, but I was the lone voice that said no.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: The lone voice in that room.
Here‘s how “Reuters” described the Democratic revolt, quote, “In a raucous closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, mutinous Democrats chanted, “Just say no!” as they vowed to overhaul Obama‘s plan.”
Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon told reporters afterwards, quote, “They said take it or leave it. We left it.”
One House Democratic aide telling “The Huffington Post” that the vote was a, quote, “rejection of the deal as currently written.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: In the form that it was negotiated, it is not acceptable to the House Democratic Caucus. It‘s as simple as that.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It‘s only going to get worse for the president if he allows himself to be pushed around by this, with deals like this.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: What Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner was arguing there I think is key to understanding what‘s going on right now and how important it is for this presidency. The White House is using every tool in its arsenal right to try to persuade people that this deal that the president worked out with Republicans is not a bad deal. It‘s not bad policy. It will have an economic stimulus effect, what they got in the deal will be good for middle class families and people who are struggling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECON. ADVISORS CHAIR: These things are key to the short run recovery of the economy and getting the growth rate up. And I will point out that these Obama tax cuts are more than twice as big as the high income tax cuts in this short period.
Each of these is important. They‘re targeted. They‘re temporary, so they have no impact on the long-run deficit facing the country. And they add up to serious money that could help boost this recovery in the short run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President Obama‘s top economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee and his excellent white board making the case of this tax compromise. Mr. Goolsbee will be joining us live in just a moment.
I should note that we have just learned within this past hour that the Senate will take up the tax cuts compromise on Monday.
But it‘s not the quality of this policy alone that is tearing the Democratic Party apart right now. It‘s why this policy compromise is what is being considered now. It‘s the big picture question of whether or not this president knows how to win, how to get what he wants when Republicans take him on. It‘s the fundament of power in American politics right now.
When Democrats and Republicans square off because they disagree about something, who wins those fights? That issue, that fundamental question about when wins and who loses in American politics does not end if the Democrats get it together and pass this tax deal. In fact, it‘s just the beginning.
Look at the time bombs that go off in this policy if it passes. You want to worry about who wins political fights about who wins policy disagreements in Washington if there‘s a confrontation? Look at this. That bonus tax cut for millionaires and billionaires that everybody was fighting about, that is in this deal, when does that expire, December 2012?
The additional gift to millionaires and billionaires in the form of reduced estate taxes when does that expire? December 2012.
The earned next tax credit extension that the president pushed for, when does that expire? Oh, December 2012.
The child tax credit extension, when does that expire? December 2012.
The college tuition tax credit, when does that expire? December 2012.
All of these fights get scheduled—they get put on the calendar once this compromise passes, if it passes. And what you will notice about that recurring date, December 2012, is that it follows immediately the presidential election of November 2012 -- all but ensuring that, yes, again, the Bush tax cuts will be one of the main issues of that election.
Trying to win that fight this year with big majorities in the House and Senate, and public opinion already on his side, the president readily has admitted that he failed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact of the matter is, I haven‘t persuaded the Republican Party. I have not been able to budge them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Have not been able to budge them. The reason that what‘s going on right now in Democratic politics is so important, is because if you can‘t win now, when do you think you‘re going to be able to win in the future? That‘s why Democrats have their hair on fire about this, despite all the insults to them about the fact that they do. That‘s why Democrats have their hair on fire about this issue and it‘s why it makes sense that they do.
What is this White House going to be able to do in the future to win in these economic fights, these political fights when political circumstances worsen from what they are now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOOLSBEE: The president‘s going to continue fighting this. When these tax cuts expire in two years, the president does not think that they should be renewed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us without the benefit of his excellent white board is the chairman of the White House Council on Economic Advisers and chief economist for the president‘s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, Austan Goolsbee.
Mr. Goolsbee, thank you so much for your time tonight.
GOOLSBEE: Great to see you again, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you say that President Obama is going to keep fighting the Republican priority to give tax cuts to the best off people in the country. Why do we think it is politically possible to beat that in two years if you can‘t beat it now?
GOOLSBEE: Well, I think it‘s going to be a fundamentally different economy. I mean, the backdrop that the argument‘s taking place in now is we‘re just coming out of the worst recession since 1929. And so, let‘s leave everyone alone.
But two years from now, the fact that those high-end tax cuts don‘t work, we shouldn‘t have done them the first time around, we shouldn‘t do them this time, I think that has to stand on its own. I don‘t think it can stand on its own.
So, I think in 2012, there‘s a perfectly good opportunity to kill that. And the only thing I would disagree with a little bit in your characterization of 2012 is not all of those things are Bush tax cuts. A lot of those are the Obama tax cuts. So, the American opportunity credit and making the refundable earned income tax credit, and if you look at the shorter run payroll tax cut for workers and the unemployment benefit extensions, those aren‘t from Bush at all.
And so, I think if it‘s in 2012 that we‘re having the discussion in which we say, should tax relief be going to people that are working and middle class versus should we be giving tax relief to millionaires and billionaires, the content is totally on the side of the president there.
And in this case, no matter what you say, Rachel, the fact is, no one expected that in this environment where we‘re facing in January the possibility that John Boehner was simply going to come forward and pass these out of the House and get only the Republican things, nobody thought that the president was going to get two or two and a half times as much as for his priorities as those high income tax cuts. So, I think it‘s a little unfair to criticize him so vehemently on that.
MADDOW: Well, I don‘t—I don‘t think anybody is criticizing the things that the president was able to get. I think the criticism is that he wasn‘t able to get more than that. And that the Republicans got so much of what they wanted.
I think what‘s unexpected is that in the lame duck period, when Nancy Pelosi is still speaker and there are still 58 Democrats in the Senate, that the unemployment extension, sure, it‘s 13 months and that‘s a good thing and there‘s other tax credits you talked about are a good thing . But the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and millionaires that even Boehner admitted recently, just a couple of months ago, that he would vote against if he had to, that they‘re being—they‘re being allowed to move forward with those things. That‘s a surprise.
GOOLSBEE: Rachel, I don‘t like those things. As you know, I‘ve done multiple white boards. And for years, I‘ve been against that. I don‘t think those high income tax cuts work. And I don‘t think we can afford to make them permanent for sure. And I wish we didn‘t have them here.
But I think it‘s a little—I‘m not a legislative strategist. I‘m just a policy guy. But I don‘t think it‘s realistic that in this environment, we were just going to get rid of that.
John Boehner is going to be the speaker of the House. They would have put that forward and passed it out of the House. It would have gone to the Senate. We would be in the circumstance that for ordinary working people in three weeks, they would see their taxes go up by multiple thousand dollars for the year. And we would be in an environment where the deal would be substantially worse for the economy and for ordinary workers.
Now, as I say, I‘m never going to—I don‘t think that high income stuff is any good. It‘s not going to work. And we should get rid of it at the first opportunity.
But if having to deal with that, we got two and a half times as much stuff for the president ‘s priorities when nobody anticipated the president was going to be able to get two and a half times as much for investments in America, for money for the unemployed, for money for education, for money to middle class workers—I just really think it‘s not realistic to be saying that the alternative was getting rid of everything and just getting what the president wanted.
MADDOW: I think the politics here and the friction among Democrats and liberals right now is because of a difference in expectations. That everybody, I think, broadly agrees on what the right thing to be aiming at. Everybody on the left and in the center, and if you look at the polls of the majority of the American people, it is that question, I think you‘re right, about what is realistic, about what could be expected. And there‘s a gaping chasm there.
Again, you‘re not a legislative strategy guy. You‘re not a politics guy in that sense. But I think that‘s what explains why liberals in particular are so mad. And it‘s clearly frustrating to the president. He had some really harsh, sarcastic words for liberals right now. But I do think that it‘s not just that liberals don‘t understand it, I think that liberals were expecting more.
GOOLSBEE: Well, I agree with that. I‘m not disputing you. Look, I‘m disputing you. There‘s a lot of that is with expectations.
So, I think some fair amount of this too is there are tensions that I don‘t totally understand between the House and the Senate. And certainly, the House feels they weren‘t as involved in the negotiations as the Senate was involved. So, there are some of those things at play, too. I‘m not trying to minimize that.
What I would like to just have us put some focus on is that taken as a whole, this package is not a bad package. It would be good for the economy. The president got a lot of targeted money to priorities that we would agree will help in the short run and are helping the right people.
And I wish that high income stuff wasn‘t there. As I say, I don‘t think that works. I don‘t think it makes sense.
But we‘re facing an environment where I‘m afraid that, in Congress, they could have done something that was substantially worse than this deal. That would be my contention.
MADDOW: Briefly, Mr. Goolsbee, just one last question. People who have been out of work for 99 weeks who have come to the end of their rope in terms of unemployment insurance, wouldn‘t help for them, help for the 99ers as they call them—wouldn‘t that be among the most the effective economic stimulus that the government could pursue? Are there any plans for trying to cheat that?
GOOLSBEE: Yes. I think it would be highly effective stimulus. The data show that whenever an unemployed person runs out of their benefits, their consumption—their consumer spending drops really quite dramatically. And the 99ers, a difficult spot obviously for them to be in, but also for the economy.
I think in the current tax deal, though there is nothing for the 99ers, the 13-month extension was far beyond what anybody expected. There was a fight over would the president be able to get anything for the unemployed. The 99er question is a vexing question that we‘ve got to address because the long-term unemployment problem is as high as it‘s ever been. And it‘s critically debilitating of wide sections of the labor market.
So, I mean—my heart goes out to people in that situation. We‘ve got to find a way to help them.
MADDOW: Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors—you are a busy man. And it‘s nice of you to give us this much time, sir. Thank you.
GOOLSBEE: Great to see you again, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, all of the years of hard-fought struggle to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” came down to a vote in the Senate today, sort of. It did come down to a vote. But how you that happened, what happened, who voted which way and what happens now has taken a lot of figuring out over the course of the day. We think we have figured it out.
Did you hear how someone being late from their dentist appointment was a key factor in this vote today? Not kidding. That‘s next.
MADDOW: The U.S. Senate is not a place surprises usually happen. It is a place where legislation goes to cool, where things are debated and planned and votes are counted and recounted before bills get anywhere near a vote.
So, this afternoon all the C-Span geeks here at this show just about had cardiac arrhythmia in our newsroom, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to sort of suddenly and unexpectedly call for a vote on the defense authorization bill, the bill to fund the military, the National Defense Authorization Act.
It is passed every year. It has passed every year for 48 years. It is also the bill that this year contains the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” Senator Harry Reid and Senator Susan Collins of Maine were reportedly working on a deal for how many amendments would be allowed for the bill, how much time allotted for debate. Before any word of agreement on those issues, unexpectedly Senator Reid called for a vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: So, in my effort to get this done, I don‘t know how you I could have been more reasonable. But despite the critical importance for our troops, for our nation and for justice, we get this done, we haven‘t been able to reach an agreement. So, I would get to say it‘s our troops who will pay the price for our inability to overcome partisan political posturing, I will move to reconsider the vote for this amendment made on this matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And consider a vote, the Senate did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this vote, the yeas are 57, the nays are 40. Three-fifths of senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Fifty-seven to 40, it failed because majority doesn‘t rule in this version of the Senate. The Republicans filibuster everything. So, only overwhelming super majorities can vote to do anything -- 57 votes doesn‘t buy you enough. Senators like Democrat Joe Manchin and Republicans Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, John Ensign, George Voinovich all voted no today despite previous indications that they‘d at least consider voting for repeal.
The lead Republican negotiator, Susan Collins, did vote for repeal.
Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln did not vote at all. Like us, she was caught off-guard as well. She was at the dentist‘s office. She couldn‘t make it back to the Senate in time. So, she says if she had, she would have voted for repeal.
What now? Is the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” dead? Is that it?
The answer is maybe yes, maybe no, but mostly just maybe.
At a press conference following the vote, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said that he would like to pursue the repeal as its own bill, separate from the defense bill, in this lame duck session. Senator Lieberman also said he had the support of Mr. Reid to use a procedural mysteriously called Rule 14. Rule 14 allows a bill to go straight to the floor, bypassing the normal committee process, which means it might actually still have time to pass. It might have time to pass as a stand-alone bill.
Now, of course, it would have to pass the House as well. This is a whole new idea. It‘s previously been attach to the defense bill. Now, they‘re going to separate it out and do it as a stand-alone thing. They‘re going to do that in the Senate and they think they have time to do it if they use Rule 14. It doesn‘t have to go through the committee process, it just goes straight to the floor.
The Senate says if they do it in the right order, if they do it with the right things having been agreed to, they think they‘ve got the 60 votes to pass repeal. So, it could pass the Senate if all those fall into place. But it also has to pass the House. Is there time for that as well is?
In a statement today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the House in this case could be counted on. She said, quote, “An army of allies stands ready in the House to pass a stand-alone repeal of the discriminatory policy once the Senate acts.” An army of allies.
Joining us is Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Mr. Sarvis, thanks very much for joining us this evening. I really appreciate your time.
AUBREY SARVIS, SERVICEMEMBERS LEGAL DEFENSE NETWORK: Well, thank you for having me. It‘s good to be here.
MADDOW: Were you surprised by Senator Reid‘s choice today to bring this to a cloture vote? Did you have warning this was going to happen this way?
SARVIS: I was not surprised. Look, repeal advocates have been asking the majority leader to bring this bill to the floor of the Senate for months. We have wanted a vote. We should not have been surprised. This vote was overdue.
The defense authorization bill has been held hostage for almost five months now by those who want to put tax cuts first. This is what this debate has been about for far too long.
MADDOW: If the repeal does become a stand-alone bill and it gets separated off from the defense authorization bill that Senator Lieberman suggested today, what do you think the fate of the bill is in that circumstance? Does it have a chance of actually happening before the end of the lame duck?
SARVIS: Rachel, we‘re still alive. It has a good chance. And let me tell you what the bill number is. I missed part of your set-up, unfortunately.
But earlier today, after the vote, Senator Lieberman, Senator Collins, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado and Senator Gillibrand introduced S-4022. That‘s the new bill, the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal act of 2010.
That‘s what we‘re focused on.
And, yes, I believe we can get this done in the lame duck.
MADDOW: This is—to be clear—this is the language that‘s directly lifted from the portion of the Defense Authorization Act that it‘s still being filibustered at this point.
SARVIS: That‘s correct.
MADDOW: So, the language is nothing new for senators or members of the House for that matter to be considering. This is language they will have seen before as part of the defense bill.
SARVIS: Rachel, it hasn‘t changed whatsoever. This is the language reported out of the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. This is the language in its entirety that passed the House in May. This is the language that all that repeal advocates need to get behind. This is the language that we need the House and the Senate to move on this in the next two weeks.
MADDOW: Aubrey, over the next two weeks, obviously, this issue is going to say as volatile and as interesting as it has been in recent weeks. I do have to ask you, though, what you would say—what you would like to say to gay active duty service members tonight. We know there are a lot of gay people in the military. Do you have advice for them or explanation for them that you think they need to hear?
SARVIS: Well, first, I want to say to them how sorry I am that this vote failed today. We came up three short. Let‘s not beat around the bush about that.
But let me say to those service members, and we‘re talking about 66,000 service members who are on active duty around the world tonight. We failed earlier today, but we can get it done in the lame duck.
But I you also have to say to those service members tonight, Rachel, it is still not safe to come out. Unfortunately, you must continue be to be silent about your sexual orientation or you face the real possibility that you could be discharged under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
But I pledge to them that we will work over the next two, three—the next two to three weeks to make this happen.
And I call upon the House and the Senate to honor these service members by making this a priority. I call upon the House and the Senate, do not go on your holiday vacation until you get this done. You owe this to these service members.
MADDOW: Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network—Mr. Sarvis, thank you so much for your time tonight. Appreciate it.
SARVIS: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Still to come tonight, some incredible and rather jarring footage of the riots today, riots in London. Riots in which—I‘m not kidding—Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla got caught up in the middle of the riots. That is ahead. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Off with their heads! Off with their heads! Off with their heads!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Last night on this show, we aired part one of my interview with the man who authored and introduced legislation known by its cute nickname, “The Kill the Gays Bill”. This is a bill that exists in a foreign country. This is not an American bill or an American proposal.
The reason the story of this bill has become American news is that the guy proposing it, the man who authored it and is lobbying forward around the world, including here, is a political product in many ways of the secretive religious group known as the Family.
the Family operates the C Street House where a number of Members of Congress live in Washington and which has been tied to a number of recent Republican sex scandals.
the Family also known as The Fellowship has an extensive international network that in part identifies and trains and supports and promotes the careers of guys like David Bahati, the man who authored “The Kill the Gays Bill”.
According to Jeff Sharlet who has done more than a lion share of reporting on this subject, Mr. Bahati is himself a member of the Family, very well connected with very influential members of the Family who are politicians in the United States. And he is the leader for the Family in his own country‘s parliament.
For his latest book, which is called “C Street”, Jeff Sharlet traveled to Uganda to investigate that connection.
He says on the book, quote, “When I asked David Bahati if there was any connection between The Fellowship or the Family in Uganda and his legislation, he seemed puzzled by the question. I do not know what you mean, ‘connection,‘ he said. There‘s ‘connection‘ they are the same thing. The bill is the Fellowship. It was our idea.”
The Kill the Gays Bill and the American-backed version of the Family in Uganda he says are the same thing.
In just a moment, Jeff Sharlet will tell us the importance of what Mr.
Bahati admitted to me.
But first, here is the close of my interview with David Bahati, including what he said when I asked him directly about his visits to America and C Street and the Family.
DAVID BAHATI, MEMBER OF UGANDAN PARLIAMENT: Homosexuality is not a way of life that we accept in our country. It‘s not part of our character. It‘s not part of God‘s law. And—and this—this is Uganda.
MADDOW: What is God‘s law about homosexuality?
BAHATI: God‘s law is that homosexuality is sin.
MADDOW: Punishable by—
BAHATI: God‘s law is that homosexuality is sin. Yes.
MADDOW: In your view, does God‘s law prescribe an appropriate punishment for that sin?
BAHATI: God‘s law is always clear that the wages of sin is death. Whether that is implemented through a legislation like mine or by a mechanism of a human being, whatever happens is the end result that we need to turn to God if we have sinned.
MADDOW: All right. Let me ask you—one last thing. Are you part of the Fellowship, the group known as the Family here in the United States?
BAHATI: It is true that I have attended a national prayer breakfast here for—for two times. And we have friends in the Fellowship. We have a Fellowship in Uganda that‘s associated with—with the Fellowship in Washington.
MADDOW: I understand that you first publicly floated the idea for this bill at a—at an event associated with the Ugandan national prayer breakfast. Has anybody from the Fellowship or the Family in the United States encouraged you to drop the bill?
BAHATI: I have—I know some people have different views in the Fellowship about this bill. There are people who oppose it. But I have said this Uganda is Uganda. This legislation is for Uganda, not for America. And therefore it‘s not right for Americans to interfere with a process that is democratic in a democratic parliament.
So there is no one who has discouraged me and no one who has encouraged me.
MADDOW: Are you staying with a member of the Family while you‘re here in the—in the United States?
MADDOW: You‘re not?
MADDOW: Are you staying with a man named Jack Clink?
MADDOW: Is Jack Clink a former federal education official in the United States?
BAHATI: I think the proper (INAUDIBLE) on this show is to talk about the bill it‘s not talk about the person I know in America. I know so many people.
MADDOW: So you don‘t have any comment on whether or not Jack Clink is a former senior official—
MADDOW: -- in the Department of Education under the Bush administration?
BAHATI: That‘s really not my—that‘s not my—my purpose here, to
talk about Jack. My purpose is to talk about the bill. Jack is a friend -
is a friend and I have so many friends in America. But all these people are not associated with the bill; they have nothing to do with the bill. It‘s just an opinion that I have which can be accepted by parliament. It can be dropped, it can be amended. It‘s something that our population—require and it has really nothing to do with anybody in America.
And we do respect the opinions of Americans. We respect the—the opinions of the international community. And as we move towards passing of this bill, you will see all these views come into the bill. And at the end of the day, we should have a wonderful piece of legislation that protects the future of our children who works within international law. That would fix the—the spirit of tolerance and respect for one another. And—and understanding for one another.
MADDOW: It is more than your opinion, sir, this proposed legislation to subject to life imprisonment or possibly execution a relatively significant portion of the population—
BAHATI: The execution—
MADDOW: -- ok, life imprisonment. Even if you take the execution part of it out, to subject to life imprisonment a relatively significant portion of the population of your country. Because of that it‘s more than your opinion, it is the thing that has made you internationally famous. And it may be the thing ultimately that results in you being charged with crimes against humanity and some sort of international tribunal.
If that happens, sir, I wish you luck in your defense but I don‘t expect it will go far.
BAHATI: Thank you Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. Mr. David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAHATI: I do not hate gays. I—I love them. But at the same time I must protect our children who are being recruited into this practice. I‘m a God-fearing person. I want to make sure that this law is consistent with the—with God‘s law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We‘re joined now by the author of both “The Family” and “C Street”. Jeff Sharlett, he has been a frequent guest on this show as we‘ve tried to understand the importance of his reporting on the secretive religious organization that not only was tied last summer to a whole bunch of high-profile Republican sex scandals in this country.
But also to hear it put by “The Kill the Gays Bill‘s” author. It should be understood to be one and the same with that bill that has been introduced in Uganda. That bill of course proposed by David Bahati, the subject of one of the rudest interviews I have ever done on this show.
Joining us now is Jeff Sharlet. Mr. Sharlett, thank you for your time.
JEFF SHARLETT, AUTHOR, “C STREET”: Hi, Rachel. Good to be here.
MADDOW: Thanks. I think that Mr. Bahati made a little bit of news when he said in the interview that he was willing and even eager to take the death penalty out of his bill, even though he wanted to keep the life in prison part. What—what did you make of that news?
SHARLET: You know this is David Bahati‘s idea of democracy. When I visited him in his home in Campaola (ph), he talked about that. He talked about the fact that his bill would not provide for the execution of all gay people. He said in a perfect world it would. But in a democracy, we must go step by step.
So I think he sees the bill as he thinks it will pass with life imprisonment, seven years in prison for just talking about it. Three years in prison for just knowing a gay person. He sees that as a—a big step in—in the direction of his goal.
MADDOW: At the very end of my interview with him, as you just saw there, I asked about the man who he‘s staying with while he‘s here in the United States, who‘s housing him. A former official from the Department of Education, a man named Jack Clink.
I understand that you‘ve spoken to Mr. Clink in the last day or so. What—what has he—what does he tell you about hosting Mr. Bahati in his home?
SHARLET: Yes. Jack Clink, he was director of non-public education in the Department of Education. He didn‘t seem to understand the connection. He didn‘t think there was any connection. He was very familiar with the bill. He said he had read the bill and he said he had multiple conversations with David Bahati about it for a long time.
He wouldn‘t take a position on it. But he said it comes from a loving place. He said the punishments in it are—are loving punishments. And he—he seemed to think that the death penalty was going to go away but everything else might be loving. He said that it—it came from what he described in David Bahati as a beautiful—a beautiful place. That was—that was his view.
And he—he seemed puzzled by why people were concerned about it. I asked him about whether he supported criminalization of homosexuality. And he said, it depends on the circumstances. But he thought that was a mainstream position.
MADDOW: Is—what is the connection? How direct do you see the connection between American supporters of Mr. Bahati, between the Family specifically and this bill that David Bahati is promoting?
SHARLET: Well, I‘m glad you said American supporters. Because Jack Clink, in fact, I don‘t believe is part of the Family. But Bahati has a lot of supporters. There‘s the Family, there‘s Lou Engel‘s youth religious movement, called the Call, there‘s a—he has friends on the Family Research Council.
But when it comes down to the Family, that‘s really the core for him, what he calls the global family. He said it‘s been a very important part of his political career. He says, you know, it‘s really the institution that enabled him to move this bill forward.
So even as the Americans try to distance themselves, you have that connection of American politicians like Jim Inhofe—Senator Jim Inhofe and John Ashcroft going over there to Uganda and talking about these issues and Bahati kind of taking them up on it and moving it to that next extreme.
MADDOW: Jeff, in your last book, you wrote about how American fundamentalists have tried to use Uganda as a kind of laboratory of ideas. You describe it as a classic fundamentalist maneuver to move a fight you can‘t win in the center and—and move it to the margins and then broadcast the results back home.
Is—is that the kind of process of exporting fights that can‘t be won in America to other places? Do you think that helped create this “Kill the Gays Bill”?
SHARLET: Oh, there‘s no question. And—and when I was in Campaola, I think David Bahati was a little more candid about that as was—as were the other politicians who were involved, who really clearly acknowledged—that homosexuality wasn‘t an issue they talked about in Uganda until Americans came and started talking about it.
There was something in—in Bahati‘s answer tonight about this has nothing to do with Americans. When I was in Campaola, he told me that America has lost the battle with homosexuality, that he feels that he is carrying the sort of the mantle for this fight and that he hopes that this will become a—a symbol for—and an encouragement to American conservatives who are fighting homosexuality.
So he actually does see that—that he sees that—the export of ideas over to his country. He now wants to send them back and amped up on steroids.
MADDOW: Jeff Sharlett, author of books “the Family” and “C Street.” Thank you for your continued reporting on this. Thank you for telling us that David Bahati was going to be in the country, Jeff. Thanks for joining us tonight.
SHARLET: Thank you Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on the “LAST WORD”, Lawrence O‘Donnell talks to Ralph Nader about why he is in favor of Democrats giving President Obama a primary challenge. Surprise, even if it means the Democrats lose the White House. More ahead. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: I have infinitely more in common with Delaware Senate runner-up Christine O‘Donnell than meets the eye.
And I‘ve predicted it. “Debunktion Junction” fresh out of the oven.
Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: “Debunktion Junction, what‘s my function”.
First up, true or false: Christine O‘Donnell will be working for Fox News. And I totally called it. Is that true or is that false? True, nailed it, on point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I‘m a bad predictor. I have to say I think that it‘s going to be closer than people thing. I do not think it‘s going to be a Republican landslide but I do think we are going to get a lot more red. I do also think that Christine O‘Donnell‘s new show on Fox is going to be awesome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Despite the lameness of that joke that I made on “MEET THE PRESS,” it was an accurate lame joke at least on the Christine O‘Donnell point. Since losing Delaware‘s U.S. Senate race a month ago, Christine O‘Donnell has stayed busy as a non-candidate political camera attractant as reported by “Roll Call‘s” Christina Bellantoni and Steve Peoples. Quote, “O‘Donnell‘s schedule is booked through January with meetings, Tea Party events, official Republican events and even a guest host stint on “Fox and Friends” during Christmas week.
It takes precisely zero genius to have been able to predict that Christine O‘Donnell would end up hosting TV on Fox News but it has now gone from prediction and rumor to true. Yes.
Next true or false: when you have a house bursting at the seams with explosives, with grenades and PETN and shrapnel stuff, improvised explosive devices, is a bad idea to light a match to set a fire at that house. House stuffed with explosives, bad idea to set a fire at that house. Is that true or false? False. Turns out the people whose job it is to know these things had occasion today to figure out the right answer to the question of what to do with a houseful of explosives.
The explosives found at a house in Escondido, California, would be the largest stash of homemade explosives ever recovered in American history. Rather than tiptoe through those particular tulips, authorities decided the best way to deal with the house bomb threat was to build a 16-foot blast wall around the house, coat it with fire-proof gel and then blow the whole thing up. What they called a controlled burning of that house today went off without a hitch and it was very fun to watch.
For the better part of 45 straight minutes around 2:00 today on at least three cable news channels all at once because, you know, fire, can‘t turn away. Dude that rented the house, he is in custody. Duh.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: We here at MSNBC are under the NBC News umbrella. NBC News has partnerships with other media organizations around the world. That may be so we can have another outlet or another platform for getting our coverage out there, our videos on the “New York Times” Web site, for example. Or it may to be to help us maximize coverage from other places to expand our own newsgathering reach. That‘s the relationship we have with the UK outlet called ITN.
And ITN today had its people right in the middle of the riots that set central London on fire. The footage ITN fed from those riots is astonishing. This is important as a news story, but even if you don‘t care about this as a news story this news coverage is astonishing in its own right.
This is London, this is Parliament Square, not Tiananmen Square, right in the center of London. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX THOMSON, ITN - LONDON: Thousands of demonstrators are now about 20 yards or so about the gates of Parliament itself. But as you can see, there are a large number of riot police between the protesters and parliament.
One thing though these protesters have already achieved today: that‘s regaining Parliament Square as a place of protest for the people of this country. Even now, as for most of the day the vat bulk of protesters were peaceful, interested in making a point forcefully but not fighting with anyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we are really putting on the pressure, so I think yes, the demonstrations definitely have made an influence.
THOMSON: That said, from the air, could you see what unfolded across the afternoon as thousands of protesters and hundreds of police confronted each other. A simple no written on the grass of parliament square, so long barred to protesters. But this was in its way with, a peculiar British affair. No water cannon no tear gas and the police. The British way is to stand there and hold the line with horses, if necessary.
Look top left and you can see an officer apparently pulled from his horse; the riderless animal at ground level and the rider nearby with suspected leg injuries. Outside Westminster Abbey, riot police pelted with Christmas baubles filled with paint, again, all rather British, not exactly petrobombs but not pleasant.
The police say though that three of their officers have been seriously injured. Scores of demonstrators and other officers were also injured.
The police say their plan is to get the protesters out of Parliament Square just there and down to the embankment, where they originally were going to hold the protest rally, but within a few yards of Parliament it is quite clear none of the protesters seem to want to leave that zone. And quite a few, hundreds in fact, are hell bent on having a fight with the police.
As dusk approached, news of the vote was eagerly anticipated here, of course. This, just one small corner of Parliament Square, moments after news of the vote came through to the crowd. An officer gets separated from his lines. He was lucky to be rescued.
At the rally beginning this march today, speaker after speaker said whatever happens today, we go back and we plan for further protests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now the vote protesters were reacting to tonight was this one by which the House of Commons essentially tripled college tuition, part of that country‘s sweeping and draconian new budget cuts. The reaction to that vote, the austerity policies of the U.K. even saw the future king of England physically targeted tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Off with their heads. Off with their heads. Off with their head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Demonstrators pelting Prince Charles‘ vehicle with paint balls at one point, smashing the glass, as he and his wife, Camilla, made their way to a concert tonight. The couple was unharmed. Their bulletproof Rolls Royce was not unharmed. That, of course, is the news that got the lion‘s share of the attention tonight. The royal family became the lead, of course.
The bigger story though is that revolt in the streets is part of the reaction to some governments‘ response to the worldwide financial crisis. Some governments have decided that austerity measures are how they will save their economies now.
Thanks to some amazing journalism from correspondent Alex Thomson and colleagues at ITN, we can now see more clearly exactly how those who are expected to bear the burden of those austerity measures are not going to take it quietly. It is what every government in the rest of the industrialized world is hoping does not happen there next.
That does it for us tonight. Now it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.
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