'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, January 24th, 2011
Read the transcript to the Monday show
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Guests: Ed Schultz, Dahlia Lithwick, Jan Schakowsky
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Hey, Lawrence. That was very cool what you just said, not only about your mom, but about all of that. That was very cool.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: Thank you, Rachel, very much.
MADDOW: Thanks. Good to have you here.
Everybody justifiably has a lot to say about what happened on this time around here this time on Friday night. I will add my two cents later on this hour.
But, first, 24 hours from right now, at this time tomorrow night,
President Obama will be starting his State of the Union address. Actually,
at exactly this point, he will probably be about three feet down the aisle
shaking hands with, I‘m guessing, Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New
York, who every single year stakes out the best seat in the House so he can
be seen shaking hands with the president right at the start of everything -
no matter who the president is, as you can see here.
So, exactly 24 hours from now, I am guessing Eliot Engel and his amazing mustache.
But, roughly, roughly, 24 hours from now, sometime after Eliot Engel and his amazing mustache, we will, as a nation, have the State of the Union address. We will have wall-to-wall coverage of it here on MSNBC. We hope you will join us for that. We will be live through the night, including a live edition of this show after the speech at midnight Eastern.
In this building, one of the things that is proving hard to figure out in planning our coverage for the State of Union this year is that this year, there‘s something new is happening. This year there‘s not just a Republican response to the State of the Union. This year, there is a Republican response to the Republican response to the State of the Union.
Here is how they say it‘s going to go: President Obama will give the actual State of the Union address starting at roughly 9:00 Eastern. It will look a little different than it usually does because as a gesture of civility after the Tucson shootings, many members of Congress this year say they will abandon the traditional seating of Democrats on one side of the chamber and Republicans on the other side. So, that will be one of the new and interesting things about covering the State of the Union this year. It will just look way different as people applaud and pointedly don‘t applaud, and as they stand up and sit down.
I am guessing that some members of Congress will be very confused as to whether or not they are supposed to applaud or stand up or sit down because they will not have all of their partisan compatriots around them, which should make for a fun night of coverage. But then, after the speech, and after all the sitting and standing and looking around nervously, then it will be the opposition party‘s time to shine.
Outside of nominating somebody to run against the president, picking somebody to respond to the State of the Union is essentially the highest profile thing the Republican Party does to shape their image when a Democrat is president. They choose the face that they want the country to think of when people think Republican Party. This is sort of their biggest, most high profile choice like that any time a Democratic—there is a Democratic president.
Since President Obama was elected, the Republican Party had two shots at this. The first time, they chose Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Remember that? I remember being an analyst on this network the night that that happened. My response to Bobby Jindal‘s speech was not one of my most articulate moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I know that I‘m paid to talk for a living. I am incapable of doing what I‘m paid to do right now. I‘m absolutely stunned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It wasn‘t just me, though. Governor Jindal‘s Republican response that first year was thought of almost universally as (INAUDIBLE).
The next year, it was Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Governor McDonnell delivered a very highly-staged, very stiff, but probably in its impact, more successful Republican response.
This year, in a sign that the Republican Party is still operating in some disarray, the New Jersey “Star Ledger” has reported that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was asked to do the Republican State of the Union response but the governor turned it down. Quote, “They tried to see if there was some interest. And there wasn‘t any.”
We spoke to Governor Christie‘s office tonight. They would neither
confirm nor deny to us that Governor Christie was asked to do the response
and said no. But if this report—even if this report isn‘t true, think
about what this means. This means that Chris Christie, his inner circle,
is leaking to the press that Chris Christie was asked to give this response
leaking to the press that the other guy Republicans did end up with to give their response was the Republican‘s second choice and he only ended up getting that gig because Chris Christie wasn‘t interested.
Even if that‘s not true, the fact that Chris Christie‘s inner circle is leaking that to the press is in itself a sign of Republican disarray.
So, America, meet Mr. Second Choice. Apparently, the Republicans‘ plan B, or at least allegedly the Republican‘s plan B, his name is Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Paul Ryan is a young and up and coming Republican. He‘s nationally known really only for one thing, and that one thing happens to be yet another sign of Republican disarray. It‘s the so-called Republican roadmap. Remember this?
Paul Ryan introduced the Republican roadmap, the Republican economic plan last January. It‘s essentially the Republican Party‘s alternate approach to the budget. And when it came out, Republicans at the time fled from it if droves.
But ten there was the election, right, when a whole new slew of super conservative, Tea Party-esque members of Congress were elected, it turns out that they, too, are not all that into Paul Ryan‘s Republican roadmap.
Steve Chabot of Ohio is saying after the election, quote, “I‘m not ready to announce a position. We need more time.”
Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania is saying, “I‘m reserving judgment.”
Jon Runyon of New Jersey is, “I‘m not prepared to make a statement on that.”
Sean Duffy of Wisconsin says, “This is Paul Ryan‘s vision. I have not heard a swell of support saying, ‘Let‘s go endorse Paul‘s roadmap.‘” Ouch! Fellow Wisconsin Republican.
So, tomorrow night, the Republicans are putting up as the face of the party, the response to the State of the Union, a man who is known for one thing and that one thing is something that Republicans don‘t particularly like.
But by front-paging Paul Ryan and by—thereby, front paging Paul Ryan‘s ideas in the big Republican response to the State of the Union tomorrow, Republicans are giving not just themselves but the whole country the opportunity to decide they don‘t like Paul Ryan‘s big roadmap.
This is the roadmap, remember, that gets rid of Medicare—gets rid of Medicare and replaces it with coupons. So, let‘s say you‘re 90 years old, or let‘s say you have a life-altering disability. Paul Ryan‘s roadmap says no more Medicare for you. Instead, Paul Ryan will give you a coupon, wish you well, and tell you to buy private insurance on the open market, hoping to get a discount with your coupon.
So, you‘re 90 years old. You‘ve been retired for more than 20 years.
Go buy yourself a private health insurance policy. Here‘s your coupon.
Did I mention that you‘re 90 years old? Shop around. We don‘t need Medicare.
That‘s Paul Ryan‘s roadmap. That‘s the face of the Republican Party that they‘re putting forth tomorrow night in response to the State of the Union. That is the highest profile decision the Republican Party will make about who represents them until they pick somebody to run for president. They picked “coupon guy.”
In a further sign of Republican disarray this year, there‘s not just the Republican response to the State of the Union. There‘s also the Tea Party Republican response to the Republican response. So, if plan A was reportedly getting Chris Christie, he said no. Plan B is now Paul Ryan.
But we will also get plan C, C standing for—online. Michele Bachmann, presidential aspirant and congresswoman from Minnesota will be giving a Tea Party response to the State of the Union online after Paul Ryan‘s response. Ms. Bachmann will give that response at the Tea Party Express Web site. This is what the Tea Party Express Web site looks like right now.
The Tea Party Express has distinguished itself in recent weeks by repeatedly raising money off the Tucson shootings by calling Jared Loughner, the alleged Arizona shooter a, quote, “political liberal.” The idea being that, therefore, you should send the Tea Party Express money.
The Tea Party Express was also the group whose former chairman last summer wrote a satirical letter to Abraham Lincoln praising slavery on behalf of, quote, “colored people.” Same Tea Party Express chairman had previously referred to President Obama as an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug.” That‘s the Tea Party Express where Michele Bachmann is going tomorrow night to deliver the Tea Party Republican response to Paul Ryan‘s Republican Republican response to President Obama.
State of the Union is the biggest day in American politics outside of elections. It is a huge deal. It is always very exciting. It‘s a chance for the president to formally assess the State of the Nation, to say how he intends to lead in the New Year.
For the opposition party, the opportunity is just as great. Republicans get to elevate one of their own who will respond to the president‘s vision and give their own. And then this year, they will also elevate one other person to respond to that vision and get another one, too. It‘s not just choice this year. It‘s multiple choice.
I have said it before and I will say it again, there is no greater story in American politics than the Republican Party trying to get its act together in the age of Obama.
Joining us now is my friend, Ed Schultz, who as of tonight is moving to 10 p.m. Eastern on this network.
Ed, it‘s great to see you. Thanks for joining us.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: Great to be here, Rachel. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: How important do you think it is that Paul Ryan is doing the response for the Republicans? What do you think that says about what they‘re offering the country?
SCHULTZ: Well, from a liberal perspective, obviously, he‘s radical. Any time you talk about changing Social Security and working with people who are living on fixed incomes and you want to take that away, and you want to reduce it almost immediately—you‘re hurting a lot of Americans.
I think there‘s a strategy as to why the Republicans are putting this radical agenda out because they‘re negotiating with the American people. Just how far do you want to go when it comes to cuts? Just how far do you to want go with an agenda to get our budget where it belongs?
And they‘re not shy about it at all. They‘re going to go to people who live on fixed income. They want to take health care away from people with preexisting condition. They want to change Medicare as we know it after it‘s already helped millions of Americans in their later years.
If the American people don‘t realize that this is radical and this is the way they want to balance the budget, I—it‘s just—it amazes me. The Democrats and the president have got to stand up to this immediately.
MADDOW: Since I found out that Paul Ryan was doing the response, I did I went back and I went through and learned just as much as I could about the roadmap from when he put that forward because that‘s really what he stands for.
But then I was really surprised to go look at the Republicans‘ own
response to that roadmap. Really, none of them are endorsing it. None of
them have been running with it. And so, I wonder if putting Ryan out there
is almost a way of radicalizing their own members. As you say, sort of
drawing a line in the sand saying, we need to get way more edgy about what
we are demanding
SCHULTZ: Well, they run a lot of stuff up the flagpole to see which way the wind is blowing.
SCHULTZ: If there‘s an inkling of support anywhere, if there‘s anybody in the media that really advocate that this is the right way to go, who knows what they‘re going to end up with. They‘re talking about it for a reason. And it‘s just like negotiations, when you go in and negotiate, you don‘t give away all your cards right away. You put everything out there and see what you can get.
Look, if they can get government in a bath tub, that‘s exactly where they want to put it.
MADDOW: Is it a sign of disarray or weakness or is it a sign of strength that they are—they‘re doing two responses? They‘ve got the Republican one and the Tea Party one?
SCHULTZ: Yes. I think the second response, the Tea Party response, has a lot to do with Michele Bachmann‘s political aspirations and her ego. I don‘t think there‘s any doubt that she can raise money. She‘s proven that. She does have a following because of some of the antics of Sarah Palin as of late. I think Bachmann becomes more of a relevant candidate in many respects.
SCHULTZ: She will have a following. She will make a heck of a run for that Senate seat in Minnesota against Amy Klobuchar if she doesn‘t run for president. But I think this is a test run for Michele Bachmann. She wants to see what kind of response she‘s going to get from this, just how many Tea Partiers are out there that might support her—maybe not as president but maybe as vice presidential candidate, because the Tea Party‘s going to have to be heard from in the next Republican run.
MADDOW: In terms of what the president is expected to say in the State of the Union, “Washington Post” reported over the weekend that the president will not endorse cutting Social Security. You‘re identifying that as very key issue for politics right now.
How important do you think that is for the president‘s re-election campaign? For this next year?
SCHULTZ: Well, the president, I think, is going to go into tomorrow night‘s speech concerned about tone, wanting to bring everybody together. But this is one of these issues where he can‘t be put on the defensive. He is going to be very clear—very clear and speak in very clear terms to the American people and to the Republicans tomorrow night: You can‘t go there.
SCHULTZ: I won‘t allow you to go there. As president, I‘m not going to allow to you go there.
And if he can‘t draw that line in the sand, then I think the Democrats are in trouble in 2012.
So, it‘s Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. We‘re not going to back up on health care. I think you‘ll hear that tomorrow night in his speech. And it‘s the proper place for the president to be.
MADDOW: Ed Schultz, it‘s great to have you here. We‘ll see you tonight after the show, 10 p.m. Eastern, the new time slot for “THE ED SHOW.” Good luck, my friend. It‘s great to see you.
SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you so much. We‘re going to miss Keith, but opportunities present us and we just got to keep going as a network.
MADDOW: That‘s right. I‘ll be addressing the reason that Ed‘s show is moving to 10:00 Eastern, talking about Keith leaving this network. It‘s also the reason why Lawrence‘s show has moved to 8:00 Eastern. My comments on that later on in tonight‘s show.
But, first, “One More Thing” about Republican Congressman Paul Ryan giving at least the first Republican response to the State of the Union tomorrow night. I said just a moment ago that Mr. Ryan is nationally known for only one thing—for his plan to replace Medicare with coupons.
But that‘s not actually true that‘s the only thing he‘s known for. There is one other thing for which Paul Ryan has received national attention. It‘s his amazing workout routine.
Seriously. Google Paul Ryan workout. What you come up with is six separate stories at Politico.com about what workout he does. You also come up with something at workoutjourney.com; something at a Web site called “My Healthy Fit Life.” Also, he appears at ribbedbody.org. Receiving some friendly coverage in his hometown paper, Congressman Paul Ryan is a workout warrior.
Apparently Mr. Ryan does a very, very difficult workout. So, there‘s that and the coupons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: It‘s called muscle confusion, it hits
your body in many different ways. Pull-ups, pushups, sit-ups, lots of
cardio, karate, jump training, yoga. I keep my body fat between 6 percent
and 8 percent. I keep
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you weigh?
RYAN: A hundred and sixty-three pounds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How tall are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What‘s your resting --
RYAN: Kind of a skinny guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand they‘re not as faithful to it as you are.
RYAN: Not all are. But a lot of—we have a lot of comers and goers, you know, but it works. It‘s a good workout.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Be patient, America. The Republican controlled House of Representatives is going to get around to working on creating jobs really, really soon. They just have to refight the culture wars again first. It will only take a second. That story, a few comments about my friend Keith Olbermann and a lot more—coming up.
MADDOW: One thing you can do on State of the Union night that you cannot do any other time of the year is you can see all three branches of your government in one room at the same time.
The executive branch will be there, of course. That‘s the guy giving the speech. The legislative branch, those are all the people on the floor, standing up, sitting down, applauding, hopefully not screaming insults this year. If this new civility thing takes hold actually, maybe they‘ll be able to recognize the legislative branch because they‘ll be the ones arm in arm singing “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore.”
So, in one room, there‘s the executive, there‘s the legislative and also there will be at least some representation of the judicial branch—specifically at least someone will be there from the United States Supreme Court. We don‘t know who will be there representing the Supreme Court this year in part because one of those intemperate outbursts at last year‘s State of the Union came from a Supreme Court justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You saw that, right? The mumbly brunette in black was Justice Sam Alito saying, “Not true,” when President Obama criticized the court‘s Citizens United decision.
We don‘t know yet whether or not Justice Alito will be attending this year‘s State of the Union, answering questions at a conservative Manhattan Institute in October, he said he doubted he would show up this year. Chief justice John Roberts also has indicated that he might not be there, saying in this past year, quote, “To the extend the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I‘m not sure why we are there.”
So, we don‘t know of the current Supreme Court justices who will show up. But this would be an odd crop of Supreme Court justices to try to make a big confrontational public issue about who‘s being too political. Today, Justice Antonin Scalia accepted an invitation from the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives to lead a seminar on constitutional issues. What did he tell these members of Congress? We don‘t know. It was closed to the press.
Was it, say, legal advice on how Tea Party Caucus members should shape their brief to the court that argues that health reform is unconstitutional before Mr. Scalia gets a chance to rule on that issue? We don‘t know. It was closed to the press.
Michele Bachmann of the Tea Party Caucus told NBC today after the meeting that the justice didn‘t talk about health reform. But other than her saying that, we don‘t know. It was closed to the press.
And remember, when conservatives say they hate activist judges, they always say that Antonin Scalia is the model of a judge who isn‘t activist.
And other breaking news, the word “activist” has lost all its meaning, which does make it hard to describe Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She is herself a self-described Tea Party activist. A complaint last Friday from the watchdog group Common Cause led the “Los Angeles Times” to report this weekend that Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report his wife‘s conservative activist income when he was asked to by the court.
Apparently, there‘s a box on the Supreme Court financial disclosure forms where justices are supposed to list espousal noninvestment income. Meaning, did your spouse get paid by anyone this past year? Clarence Thomas did that for his wife until 1996, but then inexplicably, he stopped for a time period that included his wife earning nearly $700,000 from the Heritage Foundation and an unknown amount from the Tea Party group Liberty Central.
Today, Justice Thomas corrected his disclosure forms for the past 13 years, saying that he misunderstood the filing instructions on those financial disclosure forms, starting 13 years ago—even though he apparently had understood them before.
But, hey, he‘s only a Supreme Court justice. Some of that legalese is sometimes, you know, really hard to follow.
Joining us now is “Slate” senior editor, Dahlia Lithwick.
Dahlia, happy State of the Union even. It‘s nice to have you here.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Why do Supreme Court justices have to fill out financial disclosure forms?
LITHWICK: There‘s just a federal law that says everybody has to do it. So, everybody does it. As you said, the mystery is that Clarence Thomas seemed to understand that box for a while and then now says he doesn‘t. This is one of those issues that I think is probably just going to go away for Justice Thomas, but I think it‘s of a piece with the sort of conservative justices behaving weirdly that you flicked at in your introduction.
MADDOW: Well, what is—I mean, let‘s say this doesn‘t go away. What‘s the importance of this? I mean, what is the potential ethical liability, the potential conflict of interest issue for Justice Thomas as a result of not disclosing his wife‘s income?
LITHWICK: Well, there‘s two separate issues. One simply, you know, it is against the law to fail to disclose income. So, there‘s that issue.
There‘s a separate issue that has to do with Liberty Central and that is simply this organization has expressly on its Web site put up articles saying that the health care reform bill is unconstitutional. She has expressly, explicitly aligned herself with the group that has taken a position on something that will come before the court. So, that question is a really interesting ethical question. That is a question about should he recuse himself because of this, quote, “appearance” of impropriety.
Now, Clarence Thomas‘ position is, hey, I‘m a feminist. I want my wife to work. We should both have a job. You know, we don‘t live in the 18th century anymore.
And, to some degree, that‘s fair. But the fact is, if he has benefited either financially, or if his wife has played a key role in trying to take down health reform, there are very, very serious questions about whether it‘s appropriate for him to sit on the case. And you know I‘m going to finish this sentence by saying, nobody is bound by these rules at the Supreme Court. These rules are adjudicated by the justices for themselves.
And so, when Justice Antonin Scalia went duck hunting with Dick Cheney, who was a party to the case before him at the time, Justice Scalia said, “I‘m not compromised,” and that was the end of it. There‘s nothing anyone can do to force the justices to recuse themselves and that‘s the nut of the ethical problem.
MADDOW: And the reason that is because they‘re expected to have good enough judgment and enough respect for the institutions of our government that they wouldn‘t do something to call those institutions their, own institutions—their own institution into question in terms of its ethical standards.
Is it appropriate to call on or to look to the chief justice to exert some leadership here if only to protect the integrity of the court?
LITHWICK: It‘s just not been done, Rachel. It wasn‘t done when Justice Scalia wouldn‘t recuse himself in duck-gate. It‘s just not done.
The justices are each left to their own devices. And as you can imagine, they‘re very, very smart people and very, very good at multi-page rationalizations, which is really what Justice Scalia did in the duck hunting case. He wrote this sort of love letter to the American people explaining why it was that he didn‘t feel compromised.
And the nut of his argument was, you know, justices have palled around with vice presidents since time immemorial. We are people, too, and we need to play with our friends.
So, I think that you‘re going to see a version of that, if you see anything at all, come from Clarence Thomas where he says, this is my wife, this isn‘t my issue. You know, justice—Judge Reinhardt on the ninth circuit has a wife who‘s very involved with the ACLU and nobody is asking him to recuse.
So, I think these other questions that at the Supreme Court level, to be clear, other levels, the judges are bound by these rules. But at the Supreme Court level, there‘s this sensibility that they police themselves and they police themselves sometimes to their own convenience.
MADDOW: Briefly, Dahlia, because some members of Congress have signed onto briefs in issues that are likely to come before the court, like health care reform—is it irresponsible or inappropriate for Justice Scalia to be addressing some members of Congress behind closed doors?
LITHWICK: I mean, I don‘t know if it‘s irresponsible or inappropriate. My sense is, again, if the ethical cannon says you avoid impropriety or the appearance of impropriety, why go there?
LITHWICK: Why do something that makes people throw their hands up saying, oh, he‘s doing it? I think that should be the standard. And that was incomprehensible to me is that the justices don‘t hold themselves to that standard anymore.
MADDOW: Disrespect for the institution that‘s given them their unquestionable authority.
“Slate” magazine‘s senior editor, Dahlia Lithwick—thank you for making time for us tonight. It‘s nice to see you.
LITHWICK: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, Republicans were very clear about their priorities when they took power in the House of Representatives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY WHIP: We will find our whole focus will be about job creation, reducing spending, and, more importantly, changing reform in Congress itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It turns out what they meant by that was they would immediately try to pass bills about abortion. Jobs and all that stuff presumably later, eventually, we assumed.
Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: After the yearly State of the Union address, a couple of things always happen. The party the president is not in gives its response to the speech.
This year, because Republicans are in kind of a weird place, they will not only deliver their response to the State of the Union, they will do a tea party Republican response after the official Republican Republican response.
But also, traditionally the day after the State of the Union, the president hits the road. The president hits the road in a way that almost feels like hitting the campaign trail.
He goes somewhere in the country, and from there, he does more speaking that is intended to augment and continue the message of the State of the Union.
This year, the president will be going to Wisconsin to a company called Orion Energy Systems. I think you can probably take that as a preview that there will be some talk in the State of the Union about environmentally-responsible energy production.
But this year, in addition to the president‘s post-speech trip, there will be another post-State of the Union high-profile political appearance, one by the First Lady. After the State of the Union, Michelle Obama is going to Oprah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Michelle will be on “Oprah”
this week -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh -
OBAMA: To urge - to urge every American to join a new national campaign to support our military families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It actually said that in the White House transcript - oh. The president and First Lady appeared today, along with Jill Biden, the vice president‘s wife, at a White House event that might have more political significance than I think it is getting credit for today.
One year ago, the president directed all his cabinet secretaries to see what they in their agencies could do to make life better for military families - military families who, of course, have borne the brunt of a decade of war.
Today, we got the answer of what the cabinet agencies - what the administration thinks it can do for military families. The president announcing 50 new things the administration will now start to do for military families, real life, specific, nuts-and-bolts things that seem like they might make a real difference, things like employment workshops for military spouses.
Using the Agriculture Department to support families who are in rural parts of the country. Setting up an office at the Treasury Department to protect military families from predatory lending. Prioritizing military families for some education grants.
Creating summer jobs at the Interior Department for teenagers from military families. It‘s no one giant program, but it‘s a million different little ways of bending over backwards for these particular Americans.
It‘s 50 specific initiatives, all new, all going into effect by presidential directive. We are in years 10 and eight of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
After a midterm election in which the wars were hardly mentioned, in which foreign policy barely even came up, there are signs that, this year, Republicans are hoping to split Democrats on the issue of Afghanistan.
Republicans are hoping the Democratic base will attack the president for being to hawkish, while they attack the president for not being hawkish enough.
If past politics on Iraq and Afghanistan are any prologue, we will soon start to hear allegations from Republicans that the president doesn‘t support the troops because of what he wants for the war.
When those allegations start flying - I‘m talking to you, John McCain - when politics shifts to the war and Republicans start trying to wedge issue the Democrats on support for the military, then - then I think it will make sense in retrospect.
Even though the beltway didn‘t take much notice today, the day it happened, then I think it will make sense in retrospect, why the president spent the day before the State of the Union doing right before the cameras in a huge way by America‘s military families.
MADDOW: If the new House speaker, John Boehner, and his fellow Republicans had anything they wanted the voting public to take them seriously about before the election, it was jobs. J-O-B-S - jobs, and maybe some other stuff like the government not spending any money on anything ever again, right?
But really, it‘s the jobs. And we know this is so. We can be sure about this because right after the November elections, the new Republican House leadership lined up at a press conference to tell us all exactly that, one after the other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES: Republicans have made a pledge to America to listen to the American people and a pledge to focus on their priorities and that‘s exactly what we‘re going to do. We‘re going to focus on creating jobs, cutting, spending and reforming the way Congress does its business.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We are going to be a results-driven Congress. Job one is for us to cut federal spending and to remove the uncertainty that has been hampering job creation over the last several years in this country.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY WHIP OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE
OF REPRESENTATIVES: And you will find that our whole focus will be about job creation, reducing spending, and more importantly, changing the reform of Congress itself.
REP. JEB HENSARLING (R-TX): The American people spoke loudly on Election Day. They said, “We want more jobs.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Want more jobs - jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. The American people are saying “jobs.” They‘re spelling it jobs, J-O-B-S, jobs. A funny thing happened on the way to what Republicans are calling job one.
Republicans spent last week flexing their new majority on a quixotic symbolic repeal of health reform which, of course, they called job killing, even though it‘s no such thing and it, in fact, cuts the deficit which Republicans themselves say is how you make more jobs at least some the time.
Then Republicans turn their attention immediately from that time waster to American women, specifically to American women‘s uteruses, with not one, but two bills designed to make sure the government doesn‘t do something it doesn‘t already do, and that‘s to not spend money on abortion.
You may remember last year when President Obama signed an executive order saying there would still be no federal funding for abortions. Remember it was part of deal that made it so health reform could go through.
Republicans who say they want to streamline government and create certainty and focus on jobs - Republicans, before any of that, would first like to make President Obama say again that thing he said already before that was true even before he said it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Clearly, there‘s an awful lot of doubt as to where the administration really is on this issue. I think the will of the people is that we enact this clear-cut prohibition on the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Passing new laws to do what existing laws already do is a great way to create redundancy. Asking the same settled question over and over again is a great way to create uncertainty.
And banning abortion funding doubly, triply, extra when it‘s already banned may be good for somebody‘s job - I don‘t know. Maybe the person who writes bills like this or something? Who might be - couldn‘t have another job because this is all they know how to do? I don‘t know. Probably not.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky Democrat of Illinois. She‘s chief deputy whip and a strong advocate for women‘s issues. Congresswoman Schakowsky, thanks very much for your time tonight.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL), CHIEF DEPUTY WHIP: Thanks, Rachel.
Always good to be with you.
MADDOW: Doesn‘t the government already ban funding for abortion? Why do we need the “no taxpayer funding for abortion” act?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, because this bill actually goes way further. This says that a person whose employer provides health care, but that health insurance policy covers abortions, man or woman, then that employer can‘t get a tax break, if an individual who buys a policy that provides for abortion cannot get any kind of health care tax deduction if that policy were to cover abortion.
So now it goes into private money and private insurance policies and things that people do on their own. It‘s much further than the Hyatt Amendment.
MADDOW: So this is restricting private health insurance, provided privately to individual Americans, essentially restricting them from providing coverage for abortions?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, what it does - it doesn‘t ban the abortion, but it says that you can‘t get any tax credit. I think what it really says is that insurance companies don‘t offer abortion coverage.
That‘s the safe way to go because people won‘t want to buy that coverage because they won‘t be able - let‘s say they have a separate health tax account.
If they use the money out of tax account to pay for insurance or to pay for abortion, then that will be considered income.
I mean, they‘re getting around it through the tax code in order to prevent ordinary Americans - and the way I read it, it could extend to men who buy those policies as well.
MADDOW: Do you think this is going to create jobs?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, of course it‘s not going to create jobs. It‘s not even on the radar of what people think is most important.
In fact, we have a pro-choice country right now. The Congress is way out of step. This is not a priority for Americans. Americans believe that women should be able to make choices.
Do they always agree there shouldn‘t be some rules of the road? But Roe versus Wade provides rules of the road around abortion. And the Hyatt Amendment is sufficient to say that direct federal funding isn‘t going to go to abortions.
I actually think that that‘s a discrimination against poor women. I don‘t support the Hyatt Amendment, but that is the law right now. This goes way beyond.
MADDOW: What do you think explains the distance between the reporting about the priorities of this Republican Congress that say that they‘re really abandoning culture war issues. They‘re letting social conservative issues down.
That part of their base is going to be disappointed because they‘re so focused on economic issues. That continues to be the mainstream beltway line about what Republicans are doing.
Whereas what we see is HR-1 is their new rule, which they violate with HR-2, which is repealing health care to increase the deficit and HR-3 is abortion.
It seems like they‘re front paging both symbolic issues, the opposite of fiscally responsible action and culture war issues in their agenda in the House. I don‘t understand the difference between that and how they‘re being described.
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I think that the American people are beginning to have serious buyer‘s remorse. We‘re seeing that the president‘s numbers are going - are going up. And the Republicans, I don‘t think, have really had a good day since the Election Day, which was a very good day for them.
But since then, I think the honeymoon is over. This is a party that has clearly looked now in the rearview mirror, reversing health care. They wanted to reverse the Wall Street reforms.
They want to cut the budget back to - for social programs that serve so many middle income Americans to 2008, some to 2006. It‘s all about pedaling backwards now.
And the American people are ready to move forward to get ourselves out of this economic mess. And they are not interested in these culture wars that they continue to engage in.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Schakowsky, I know that you served with Congressman Paul Ryan on the Bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Congressman Ryan, of course, delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union.
I saw today that you blogged that we should be prepared to be frightened by what Congressman Ryan says tomorrow night. What did you mean by that?
SCHAKOWSKY: What I meant by that is that Paul Ryan is going to exacerbate the problem of money just gushing to the wealthiest of Americans, the richest of the rich and taking from the disappearing middle class in our country.
Turning Medicare into a voucher program, cutting social security
by privatizing it, adding a value added tax, at the same time, eliminating
corporate income taxes and creating a tax policy that would make the top
0.1 percent get up to $1.7 million a year in tax breaks.
This is a kind of policy that he‘s providing, not surprisingly, because Paul Ryan has received about $1.4 million from banks and investment houses and hedge funds and other financial institutions for his campaigns.
This is exactly the direction that we should not be going in, in our country right now. We‘re going to see programs that - for medical research and education and health care and law enforcement in our country being shredded - all those programs being shredded at the same time as more money is going to the wealthiest Americans.
This kind of income disparity that he‘s helping to create I find very scary. We talk about the deficit as the biggest problem that we‘re facing. Yes, we have to deal with it.
But they‘re not even doing that. And they are creating - they‘re helping to disappear middle-income people, and low-income people are hurting worse than ever.
MADDOW: Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, articulating many of the reasons I think that Democrats are politically very happy that Congressman Ryan is giving that response tomorrow night, because he offers such a stark contrast with your own agenda. Congresswoman Schakowsky, thank you.
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. This man decided to spend all of his political capital somewhere that is not in the United States. That means that his American political capital is gone, spent, elapsed. Why Rudy Giuliani will not be president again this time around, coming up.
MADDOW: A few thoughts about Keith Olbermann leaving this network, coming up next.
MADDOW: Ed Schultz was our guest at the top of our show tonight. As you may have heard, Ed will be hosting his show right after this one at 10:00 p.m. Eastern from here on out.
Lawrence O‘Donnell‘s show has moved to 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Lawrence‘s show airs right before this show now. Our primetime schedule here at MSNBC has been re-jiggered to take into account Keith Olbermann ending his run on “COUNTDOWN” this past Friday night.
As you may know there is no way I would have ended up with a show on this network had it not been for Keith making me first a regular guest on his show and then his regular guest host when he was away.
I wouldn‘t have this show without Keith directly nudging the network to give me a try and without Keith clearing space for the liberals among us in this country to identify ourselves as such, as liberals even on primetime cable TV.
The way Keith cleared that space was not only by voicing his own opinion, but by really being freaking successful while he did it. If you want to be a pioneer, don‘t just be the first person like you to do something; be the first person like you to do it brilliantly.
That‘s how you change the world so other people like you get chances, too. We are all sorry that Keith and MSNBC decided to end his run here. I can also tell you that that decision has no effect on the editorial independence that makes it possible for me to do this work.
We are here. We are not going anywhere. We‘re really, really glad you are here with us. And I‘ve got something really vile to point out about Rudy Giuliani when we come back.
MADDOW: By every measurable factor, Americans have a great appetite for news about our own politics. And by all the same quantitative measures, we have a fairly small appetite for news about politics or really anything else going on in the rest of the world.
But there is a place where American politics and the stuff going on in far corners of the world we don‘t really like to think about come together.
There is a place where American politicos turn up in the 20th paragraph of mostly otherwise unread international news stories about scary things happening in faraway places.
I‘ve always thought of it as the skuzzy dictator portfolio. It‘s a frequently recurring creepy thing about being an American reading up on bad things happening in other parts of the world like say you‘re reading up on the 1976 Argentinean military junta or that super-creepy Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
You‘re reading up on these guys for some reason and then you come across the fact that they had an American PR firm working for them.
Burson-Marsteller - remember Burson-Marsteller, the pr firm run by Hillary Clinton‘s pollster from 2008, Mark Penn, who continues to pop up as a talking head. Burson-Marsteller represented those guys.
They also represented Indonesia when they were putting down the uprising in East Timor. And three days after 9/11, Saudi Arabia hired Burson-Marsteller. I wonder why.
There is this class of American politicos who build up their rolodex and their reputation and D.C. contacts and their political capital by participating in American politics.
But then they sell it abroad. They sell all that clout they build up here to the world‘s skuzziest dictators around the world.
Today, we have a new one of those. In the past week, one of the strangest, skuzzy dictators in the news emerged, when Baby Doc went back to Haiti. This is the man who was handed the dictatorship of his country by his father when he was 19 years old.
He is most remembered for looting his country of hundreds of millions of dollars and for the horror movie tactics of the death squads he employed against his own people.
What could be more cartoonishly horrible than a death squad teen dictator whose name was Baby-something, right? Well, perhaps learning that a former Republican Congressman and libertarian presidential candidate is trying to sell said dictator to the world.
Bob Barr, remember him? He is an uber-right wing Congressman from Georgia for eight years. He then sort of kind of remade his image and ran for president in ‘08 on the libertarian party ticket.
He even did an interview on this show at that time. But now, his new gig is cashing in on his own skuzzy dictator portfolio.
Check this out, from Bob Barr‘s Web site, “Haiti‘s former president brings message of hope to people.” And by Haiti‘s former president he means Haiti‘s former 19-year-old dictator who was run out of the country on a rail 25 years ago.
Skuzzy dictators selling their own message of hope is one thing. American politicos helping skuzzy dictators sell their message of hope is a whole new level of - ah.
But it‘s not just Mark Penn and Bob Barr. This is a big industry. This is a big, secretive, back-alley cottage industry for American politicos.
Lanny Davis, for example - he was White House counsel during the Clinton administration. He‘s known mostly now as a talking head who will say nastier things than most other talking heads will say about other Democrats, going after candidate Obama in 2008, for example, on the basis of his church membership.
And when Mr. Obama, during the campaign, said the U.S. should reach out to countries with whom it has disagreements, Lanny Davis accused Obama of kowtowing to dictators.
How does Lanny Davis make his money? He works for dictators having counseled the dictators in lovely places like the Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea, having represented the military in Honduras when the military ousted the president there.
After Pervez Musharraf took over the government from Pakistan in a military coup, who was his lobbyist? The lovely and talented Lanny Davis.
Right after 9/11, you might remember that then-mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, made national headlines by getting up on a soap box and refusing to accept a $10 million check from a Saudi prince.
He gave it back because the prince had been critical of the U.S. government‘s foreign policy in the Middle East. That did not stop Mr. Giuliani‘s company, Bracewell and Giuliani, from later going to work as lobbyists for the Saudi government, the same government Mr. Giuliani made such a show of rejecting that money from.
American audiences have a much bigger appetite for news about America than we do for news that is about people who are not Americans. And so, American politicos who work for skuzzy dictators around the world - they are counting on that only making the international news so as to insulate them from any domestic political fallout here.
But if you‘re Bob Barr and you want to go work for Baby Doc or you‘re Rudy Giuliani and you want to cash in on how much you hate Saudi Arabia and then go work for Saudi Arabia, if you‘re Mark Penn or Lanny Davis, if you‘re an American politico who builds up political capital in this country and spends it for skuzzy dictators in other countries, that‘s fine.
You have the right to work for whom ever you would like. But know that when you spend your hard-earned political capital on skuzzy dictators, you are also spending your political credibility as well.
I always sort of wondered what would happen to Bob Barr after he took that interesting turn of rejecting his own cultural conservative ideas and becoming a libertarian. I wondered if he had a brighter future ahead of him.
He might in Haiti. Here, it is not going to happen. The skuzzy dictator stink, Rudy, Bob, all you guys - it follows you home.
Now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Good evening, Ed. It‘s good to see you.
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