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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, February 7th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Chris Hayes, Eugene Robinson, Mona El-Ghobashy


LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST:  Rachel, I‘m sending her right over to be your first guest.  Don‘t move.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Look, I dislocated my own head by shaking my head too fast.


MADDOW:  Thanks to you both, I think!

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

You know, the last time we led the show with anything other than the revolution in Egypt was on January 27th.  We have been devoted to that story and we still are as it continues to evolve.  There‘s some worrying news to report tonight about one of the correspondents who we had counted on for some reporting from Egypt.

Plus, “The Interview” tonight is about how Egypt‘s president plans to stay in power, kicking and screaming for long enough that the opposition groups start fighting with each other instead of directing all of their ire at him.

So, we have a lot to come on Egypt this hour.

But, this is the first night, again, since January 27th, that we have not led with that story.  And we return to front paging U.S. politics with a little bit of humility about the fact that we have been away from that story for most of the last two weeks.  That said, despite our acknowledged humility about that, it turns out that what‘s happened since we last checked in with U.S. politics is pretty much absolutely nothing.

The Republicans have just taken control of the House of Representatives with a loudly self-proclaimed mandate to shake up Washington, to do things differently, to make manifest in Washington the electoral roar heard coast to coast in the November elections.  But what they have done substantively since they‘ve been in charge in Washington is pretty much bupkis.

What is important about that is not they have been trying to accomplish things and they have been failing, is that they haven‘t really been trying.  And that‘s why it‘s worth putting this on the front page.

This is an important new normal.  This is the new way things work in Washington.  Nothing happens.

Today, for example, we were all excited to getting back to covering the new Republican revolution in Washington.  But the House today, not in session.

Here‘s the House schedule for this week.  Yes.  That‘s the whole webpage.  It‘s not that the rest of the page hasn‘t loaded, or that there‘s more pages beyond that—that‘s all that‘s there.

Tuesday, the House meets at 2:00 p.m.  After that, nada.

If you go to the official House calendar, it looks like there‘s all of this busy stuff on the schedule.  Oh, look at all the things they‘ve got listed, right?

What they actually show, though, is just a list of all the extra weeks the House is taking off of work.  And they say “constituent work week,” that means time at home.  Constituent work week—that means I don‘t have to come to work this week.

As Dave Weigel noted at “Slate” recently, the Republicans made arrangements in December that after they took over the House, they would work a lot less.  They set their schedule so that every two weeks of House business is followed by a weeklong recess.  A week off after every two weeks you come to work.  Nice work if you can get it.

That‘s the change that Republicans have brought so far in Washington.

Did you ever get like a calendar or a calendar or a date book where it‘s really clear that the maker of the calendar didn‘t want it to look totally blank so they put all sorts of—like every imaginable holiday inn there?  My date book, analogue Palm Pilot, I know, but I have a date book made in England, marketed to North America as a whole.  And my date book includes holidays like Benito Juarez Day, and St. John Baptist Day in Quebec.  You know, those wacky North Americans, who knows what they actually celebrate.

These holidays aren‘t necessarily important to me, but they do make my calendar look really, really packed.

And that lesson is what the Republicans have followed with the House of Representatives‘ official calendar this year.  Look at this: January 31st, constituent work week, that‘s a week off.  February 22nd, hey, look at that—another week off.  March 21st, oh, another week off.

All of these things are just weeks off for members of the House.  But they have interspersed all of the “we‘re taking a week off” notations with important things like—oh, look, it is Saint Patrick‘s Day, or, oh, Daylight Savings Time begins.  Also, Father‘s Day.

It‘s all of these holidays, I guess, apparently included to make it not look like they‘ve just planned a week off and then a week off and then a week off.

The House is working a short week this week.  They‘re planning to get to five bills in total for the rest of the entire week.  Four of those five, they don‘t plan to debate, and the one they do plan to debate, quoting “The Hill” today, “merely instructs committees to review federal regulations.”

For the record, it‘s already the job of committees to review federal regulations, but that‘s what Republicans plan to have the House spend 10 hours debating—the only debate they‘re doing this week.

All through the election, Republicans talked this great game about what they wanted to do when they took power in Washington.  They have continued to talk a great game about what they want to do now that they‘re in power.  When the jobs numbers came out on Friday, Eric Cantor, the number two Republican, he tweeted this, quote, “Today‘s jobs report reveals far too many people remain out of work.  That‘s why all our efforts are centered around jobs.”

You know, that looks awesome in a tweet and it sounds great when you say it, but what are they actually doing?  Well, today, day off, obviously.

Tomorrow, when they get back to work, what are they going to do?  A judiciary committee hearing on H.R. 3, that would be the no taxpayer funding for abortion act.  This is the bill that in its initial form redefined rape and incest, because of what?  Republican frustration that too much was being called rape that wasn‘t really rape?  And incest, really, what do you mean by incest?  Tomorrow, that bill gets a big hearing.  Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Then the day after that, they‘ve got a subcommittee hearing of another one of their sweeping anti-abortion bills.  This one H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act.  It‘s sponsored by Republican Congressman Joe Pitts.  You may remember him as the man who tried to hijack health reform last year with Democrat Bart Stupak when they tried to turn health reform into an anti-abortion vehicle.

Joe Pitts will get a hearing on his new big, sweeping anti-abortion bill on Wednesday.  It‘s a bill that says, among other things, that if a woman is pregnant and is in an emergency medical situation, if she‘s in a situation where she will die if she is forced to keep the baby and the only thing that can save her life is an abortion, if she‘s in that situation, hospitals do not have to perform the abortion, nor do they have to refer her to someplace that will.  They are free to let her die.

Remember, all our efforts are centered around jobs.

Today, 10 Democrats in the House wrote to House Speaker John Boehner complaining about the lack of substantive work being done in the House.  They wrote, quote, “The floor schedule that the Republican majority has pursued and intends to pursue this week will create no jobs.”  Spokeswoman for the Democratic leadership saying the sum total of what the GOP wants to accomplish is to, quote, “instruct oversight committees to conduct oversight.”

We admittedly walked away from Congress for the last couple of weeks to cover what‘s been happening in Egypt.  The last thing we led with before going into full blown Egypt coverage was how Republicans were randomly focusing on abortion instead of jobs.

Well, it turns out here‘s what we missed while we were out for this couple of weeks. “Democratic senators promised to block House abortion legislation,” that‘s from “The Hill” today.  “Abortion battle heats up,” that‘s from “Politico” today.  “GOP-led House is moving to restrict funding of abortions,” that‘s from “McClatchy.”

It would be one thing if this were the abortion rights press, if this was what publications that are most interested in reproductive rights were covering about the new Congress, but this is the Beltway media.  This is the mainstream political press covering what‘s happening in Congress because this is all Congress is doing.  There really isn‘t anything substantive on the agenda from the Republican-led House except this anti-abortion stuff—and, of course, taking a lot of time off.

That‘s not what Republicans say their priorities are right now.  That‘s not what they campaigned on, but that is how they‘re acting.  That‘s what they‘re doing.

So, if you voted for Republicans in November because you thought you were voting for smaller government, you should know that you are getting a government that works less, but in the time that it is working, it is obsessively fixated on your uterus.

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, MSNBC contributor and Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.

And, Chris, I have been trying for months if not years now to have the last word of a write through I got before tossing to you, the uterus.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  The uterus, I know.  And you won.  I think we all won actually.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

Chris, you understand the workings of Congress better than I do.  You report from Washington, D.C.  Am I right that the Republican-controlled House just quantitatively isn‘t doing very much?

HAYES:  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, there‘s a certain kind of perverse political logic here because, in some ways, I think this Republican Congress was never so—was never so popular as they were the day they were sworn in, right?  Because everything about that campaign was about rejection and reaction and frustration and discord amongst populist with the status quo, understandably.

And they‘re not idiots.  I mean, the people who are running this sort of consulting class of the Republican Party understood that and basically said, look, let‘s not say as much about anything, really; let‘s not get very specific about what we‘re going to do.  Let‘s just essentially ride this wave of discontent.

Well, they‘ve ridden the wave of discontent.  They‘re in there now, and they made good on their first promise to vote on repealing health care and dot, dot, dot, what else?  Well, there‘s not a whole lot, right?  I mean, that‘s why you‘re seeing this come to the floor because these social issues, the kind of culture war cudgels, are filling a vacuum that is really, rally remarkable because there‘s not much agenda there aside from that.

MADDOW:  But you‘d think that they could keep going on the repeal health reform, just saying no to Democratic things, train without sort of putting forward all these affirmative culture war things.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Actually, when you talk to Republicans, when you confront them with this accusation, they will still explain their own agenda as, well, we still need to dismantle everything the Democrats have done.  What is surprising is that abortion, specifically, is the stuff going to the foreground.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Is that because the anti-abortion movement is directing this? 

Or do they just want to attack Democrats on abortion in the next election?

HAYES:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s the latter.  I mean, I think this is the kind of consultant class, strategic class of the Republican Party really believes and I think rightly believes that the kind of culture war issues, LGBT issues, specifically, and abortion issues, you know, most notably, they had a lot of returns.  They got a lot of ground on them.  They squeezed that orange every last drop politically, but at certain point, they had diminishing returns.

And if you talk to people who are organizing the kind of Tea Party, the whole idea was to put forward this face that was very distinct from the kind of evangelical coalition that everybody was singing the praises of, you know, under Karl Rove era, this was going to be focused on—not on social issues but on fiscal issues, on the debt, on too much government, et cetera.

But the fact of the matter is, the coalition hasn‘t changed.  It‘s the same—it‘s the same people.  I mean, four years ago when every magazine editor was assigning articles about the 50 most influential evangelicals in America, all those voters are still there.  They still vote for Republicans.  In fact, they get elected to office.

I mean, this isn‘t disingenuous I think on the part of Congressman Pitts, he really wants to limit abortion rights extremely much, right?  That was achromatical.

And so, I think that actually this is they are pursuing what is their ideological agenda, what is their commitment, and they were also making good on promises of constituency.  The final point I would make is this: it‘s much harder to deliver on the economic promises.  If you want to cut government, OK, the three things you go after, the federal government is basically the military, Social Security, Medicare, all three of those things are off the table.  They can‘t go after any of them because of the nature of constituency because it‘s politically toxic.

What does that left with?  Well, not much.  You can cut taxes, but taxes are the lowest rate they‘ve been since 1950.

So, they look around, what really is there aside from some sort of going back into the kind of like comfortable habits of waging culture war?

MADDOW:  Well, there‘s giving yourself a week off after every two weeks.


HAYES:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.  And they can—I had this thought today when I was like, (INAUDIBLE) they can‘t repeal the stimulus, although that would be amazing if they were like, tried to like have like a claw back bill to go back and get the $770 billion back.

MADDOW:  Well, what would have happened had the Republicans been honest about this agenda?  I mean, what if they‘ve said, “We‘re going to work less, and we‘re going to focus intently on abortion”?

HAYES:  And we‘re going to redefine rape, right?  You missed all the rape redefinition ads, of course, in the 2010 cycle that were playing in every swing district.

MADDOW:  Are you tired of incest, something that‘s not really incest being called incest.  If so—

HAYES:  We‘ve all seen it, America.  Right.


HAYES:  No, of course, I mean, that‘s clearly the case.  And fact of the matter is, look, I talked to like people at FreedomWorks and I‘ve talked to other organizers who work on the Tea Party, they are very explicit about this.  They really do think, look, the way we get independent voters now, and I think they‘re right is to focus on this sort of diffuse sense of: “A,” the economy is not working, which is absolutely true.  There‘s too much joblessness, which is absolutely true.  And government too big, there‘s too much debt—which I don‘t think is true.

But those are the issues they really rode to power on, and at the end of the day, they got empowered.  And what can they really do about them.  They don‘t have a lot of ideas for creating jobs and they can‘t bring down the debt because the things necessary to do that are politically toxic or sort of inimical to their whole belief system.

MADDOW:  And so, so we are left with two weeks on, one week at home, and let‘s just talk about it‘s 1989 all over again in culture wars.

HAYES:  Right.

MADDOW:  Amazing.

Chris Hayes, MSNBC contributor and Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine—and correction to some earlier remarks, not a radical imam.

HAYES:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  Thank you for your time tonight.

HAYES:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Stocks were up again today.  The Dow Jones index is at a two and a half year high.  If you Google “corporate profits,” in order, auto searches that will auto populate in your Google field, the things that will come up are 2010, up, and record.

So, today, President Obama visited with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to try to—if you read the Beltway press, I guess he was trying to mend fences with America‘s business community.  Why would that be, because he‘s surely to blame for something that makes them mad when they‘re riding at high on the hog as they have been in—we‘ll be right back.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m here in the interest of being more neighborly.  I strolled over from across the street.  And, look, maybe if we had brought over a fruitcake when I first moved in, we would have gotten off to a better start.


MADDOW:  Who does the president think he could have lured into liking him with delicious fruitcake?  That is next.  Fruitcake-plomacy in action.


MADDOW:  President Obama walks to the Chamber of Commerce today, literally.  He walked over from the White House with Valerie Jarrett and his chief of staff, Bill Daley.  It‘s very close by.  He walked to the Chamber to give them a speech that included a teeny, teeny, tiny, tiny, tiny, little, very, very tightly edited history lesson about Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


OBAMA:  And I‘m reminded toward the end of the 1930s, amidst the Depression, looming prospect of war, FDR, President Roosevelt, realized he would need to form a new partnership with business if we were going to become what he would later call the arsenal of democracy.  And as you can imagine, the relationship between the president and business leaders during the course of the Depression had been rocky at times, had grown somewhat fractured by the New Deal.  So, Roosevelt reached out to businesses and business leaders answered the call to serve their country.


MADDOW:  President Obama described that as a rocky at times relationship between the president and business in FDR‘s day, he was rather radically understating that rockiness.

Listen to this—one of the all-time most shocking moments in presidential speechmaking.  This is from 1936.


FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.  They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs, and we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.


ROOSEVELT:  Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.  They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.



MADDOW:  And the crowd goes wild.  I welcome their hatred.

But President Obama was arguing today in citing FDR was that after that period of time, after the “I welcome their hatred” period, things ultimately did get better between FDR and business.  Mr. Obama was lauding the post “I welcome their hatred” spirit of cooperation.

But would that have ever happened?  Would business have ever decided to come around to FDR, had President Roosevelt not gone on the war path against them first, and clearly brought the clapping, screaming sentiments of the American people with him?

Sometimes, the only way to get respect from people who are really truly opposed to you is to beat them, or at least show them that you can and you intend to.

The president today getting all sorts of Beltway credit for crossing the street and talking to this business group that did their best to destroy the Democratic Party in the last elections.  The Chamber spending more than $30 million in the last elections, and if you‘re wondering—yes, almost all of that money went—according to “New York Times” review in October of last year at the end of election season—almost all of it, 93 percent of the Chamber‘s election ads that had run nationwide at that point, either supported Republican candidates or criticized their opponents.  Ninety-three percent anti-Democratic spending of tens of millions of dollars.

From the president‘s tone today, though, you might have thought that was all a big misunderstanding.


OBAMA:  Yes, we‘ll see things differently at times.  But we‘re all Americans.  I know you love this country.  I know you want America to succeed just as badly as I do.


MADDOW:  That sounds awesome.  It is more than just a rhetorical flourish though.  That is an assertion that can be tested empirically.

Ask yourself: are you, in fact, rooting for America to succeed if you are rooting for businesses here to stop hiring American workers?  In fact, if you‘re rooting for American businesses to fire Americans who work for them and instead hire foreigners?  Because that‘s where the Chamber stands.

Here is their president and CEO on out sourcing, on firing Americans from their jobs and instead having that work done by people in other countries.


TOM DONOHUE, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE:  There are legitimate values in outsourcing, not only jobs but work.


MADDOW:  The Chamber of Commerce is pro-outsourcing and they are not shy about it.  Check out the lead of this from “The Associated Press” in 2004.  “U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas Donohue urged American companies to send jobs overseas.”  Mr. Donohue told “The A.P.” that, quote, “People affected by offshoring should”—in his words—

“stop whining,” and that, quote, “the benefits of offshoring jobs outweigh the costs.”

President Obama told the group that Tom Donohue heads, President Obama told the Chamber today, that business should take responsibility for gains in productivity, actually translating into higher wages for middle class workers here.  He told them to invest, to get out their wallets, and start spending the $2 trillion they‘ve got in cash reserves on expanding their businesses and hiring more people.  He made the case that government regulation is not always the enemy, saying, “Few of us would want to live in a society without rules that keep our air and water clean, and that give consumers the confidence to do everything from investigating in financial markets to buying groceries.”

And, of course, President Obama today told members of the Chamber that they should hire American workers, that they should keep new jobs, in his words, on our shores.  He made a good case for it.

But outsourcing American jobs, firing Americans from their jobs so people in other countries can do that work instead?  That is not something that just happens to us like bad weather, even though nobody is really in favor of it.  The Chamber of Commerce has been openly advocating in favor of offshoring U.S. jobs for years.  So, if you‘re against outsourcing American jobs, if you think it is right that American companies should hire Americans, and that firing Americans to hire foreigners instead is wrong, you‘re not fighting a straw man.  There is somebody else who is taking the other side of that argument.  If you think outsourcing is wrong, there is a pro-outsourcing lobby that is wrong.

The president today, true to his style, did not say that anybody was wrong.


OBAMA:  I know you want America to succeed.


MADDOW:  Depending on how you define it, they really don‘t.  I mean, they say explicitly that they don‘t.  They‘re not shy about it.

The president is on the other side of the Chamber in this, but he is not calling them his opponent, let alone, his enemy.  Can the president win a fight that he‘s refusing to pick?

Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post.”

Gene, thank you very much for being here.


MADDOW:  How does the president gain from this central thing about his style?  He says what he thinks is right, but he generally refuses to say who he thinks is wrong about even very important issues like this.

ROBINSON:  I think we know who he thinks is wrong.  Remember, they

spent millions and millions of dollars trying to bury him and the

Democratic Party in the pass election -- 93 percent of their expenditures

went to try to defeat him and his party.  So, I think if there were thought

balloons that you could read, they would have given a very different speech

balloons over the president‘s head would have been a bit more direct and perhaps angry.


Look, all of this niceness and kind of kumbayah in that speech—that wasn‘t directed at the people in the hall, it was directed at the folks at home, especially at independent voters, because the White House calculates that independent voters like hearing that sort of thing.

MADDOW:  Well, wouldn‘t it help the president politically, though, to make those thought bubbles above his head explicit, to say, “When you have advocated for outsourcing jobs as you have, Mr. Donohue, you‘re wrong, that‘s bad for America, and I think that you are rooting for America to succeed, but that thing that you‘re advocating hurts America”?  I mean, why not sort of name and shame that way?  Why not confront that way the way we saw him do on Wall Street as a candidate?

ROBINSON:  I think you could make a good argument that that specifically is a fight that he might have picked and maybe could have won or could have gotten good political mileage out of, as well as perhaps some action.  I mean, if you kind of shamed him, go into their house and shame them, maybe they react in some way.

But, you know, the real meat of that speech, I think, aside from the niceties was the bit about infrastructure.  And I think what he was saying essentially was you don‘t like me much, I don‘t like you much, but we can spend a whole bunch of money on infrastructure, it‘s good for the economy, it‘s good for you.  You guys want it, the unions want it, let‘s get together and bring the Republican House along to the idea that this is necessary.

MADDOW:  Do you think that this is intended, as you said—sort of more for people watching at home, more for the way this is represented as the president being sort of sunny, positive, even though people disagree with him.  But, is this intended to stop another $30 billion, $50 billion, $100 billion from the Chamber being spent against Democrats in 2012?

ROBINSON:  No, I don‘t think there‘s any illusion about that.  And, in fact, look, 2012, if the president‘s approval ratings are high, if it looks like he‘s going to win, guess what?  He‘s going to get some money from business.  They‘re going to make the cold calculation that it‘s better to back a winner than to always oppose a winner.

So, I don‘t think he‘s terribly worried about that.  I think he‘s worried about getting the economy in good enough shape that he can win in 2012, and the extent to which he needs the Chamber is to pressure the Republican House, which after all they helped elect, to spend money that really needs to be spent.

MADDOW:  Eugene Robinson, MSNBC analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post”—Gene, thanks for joining us.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Rachel.  And what if you did grow your hair actually?  Joan Rivers could be right.

MADDOW:  You know, Gene, you have known me long enough, you have actually seen me with slightly longer hair because I just did not have enough time to get it cut.   And you know what I look like.  I looked like a mushroom.

ROBINSON:  You looked marvelous.


MADDOW:  You‘re lying and doing it poorly.  But I appreciate the effort.  Thanks, Gene.

All right.  So, the latest from Egypt, also the new almost unrepeatable remark from the man who said Social Security is a cow with 300 million tits, except he didn‘t say tits.  And we got an update about one of the most asked about and most talked about guests we have ever have on the show.

That is all still to come this hour.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Egypt‘s revolution in the making has entered its third week now, minus the shocking fiery, bloody pictures from the streets of Cairo, and with much of the media summarizing the situation now as more calm, and implicitly, therefore, less urgent. 

But this is the third week with protestors camped out by the thousands in Tahrir Square refusing to leave until President Hosni Mubarak steps down.  Sometimes, it looks like an Egyptian Woodstock, a big happy be-in. 

One young happy couple posing for wedding photos in front of Egyptian tanks.  Families yawning in front of tanks - exhausting work, this peaceful revolution thing.  This guy actually curling into the caterpillar tread of a tank - great place for a nap. 

In the very early days of the mass demonstrations, the Egyptian military announced that it would not fire on civilians, that it wouldn‘t use force to stop what they called, quote, “our great people” from overthrowing the government with peaceful resistance. 

And in some instances, it seemed even to be trying to help them.  As we saw, when we covered this, live as it happened, a tank laying down smoke cover so protesters could get away from pro-Mubarak supporters who had trapped them in Tahrir Square. 

But away from the cameras, in some cases, away from Tahrir Square, a more ominous picture of the Egyptian military is now emerging.  A worker with Human Rights Watch reports hearing howls, presumably from people being tortured, during a day-and-a-half long military detention. 

Two reporters from the “New York Times” got delivered to secret police by the military.  They then spent a night listening to what they described as dull whacks and screams of pain. 

The military, the same military that promised not to fire on our great people is handing people over to the police who apparently are taking care of things from there.  And in some cases, we are hearing that the military are doing the dirty work themselves. 

At the beginning of our reporting on Egypt, we were fortunate to have Al-Jazeera reporter, Ayman Mohyeldin, on our show.  Today, we spotted Ayman again, telling Al-Jazeera that a soldier had stopped him yesterday at the entrance to Tahrir Square. 

He identified himself as a journalist.  Ayman did - Ayman identified himself as a journalist.  He then was hauled off to a military detention center with other reporters and average protesters. 

He was blindfolded for a time.  He was handcuffed.  He was left for five hours on the ground to witness what the military was doing to other Egyptians it had detained.  Watch. 


AYMAN MOHYELDIN, REPORTER, AL-JAZEERA:  I can tell you from what I saw and from what I heard, a lot of these people were beaten up.  They were very - the military was dealing with them in a very aggressive manner. 

They were slapped.  They were kicked.  The military was trying to essentially subdue them.  I don‘t think it was a matter of trying to coerce them for information.  But in essence, the military was dealing with these people as prisoners of war. 


MADDOW:  Signs that things may be taking a darker, more dug-in tone.  And what that means for this revolution that has transfixed the whole world, when we come back.


MADDOW:  On Friday‘s show, we interviewed NBC chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, about what was ahead for the on-going revolution/protest movement in the world‘s largest Arab country. 

We noted that Egyptian protesters had plans to march on Sunday, yesterday, and again on Tuesday, and, again, this coming Friday. 

Richard responded by saying, yes, it may be true that individual marches were planned for those individual days.  But he told us we shouldn‘t expect people to be reconvening at Tahrir Square in Cairo for those marches, because he said nobody is leaving Tahrir Square, and he‘s right.  This is footage just from tonight.  Watch this.



MADDOW:  Not bad.  Posted on YouTube earlier today by a reporter at Al-Jazeera English.  The carnival feel that so many people remarked upon last week - apparently, it is still there. 

Then, there‘s this, an impromptu salon called “revolution‘s barber.”  Why would you need your haircut at a protest?  Because you haven‘t gone home from the protest for more than a week now.  People are not leaving. 

Tahrir Square is not just an ad hoc concert hall where you can get a trim.  It is also turning into tent city.  One of the most circulated images from Tahrir Square last week was when Muslims wanted to hold a religious service on Friday. 

Egyptian Christians, Copts, surrounded them and essentially provided security for them while they prayed.  Yesterday, the favor was returned.  Egyptian Christians held a mass in the square.  While they did so, they were protected by Muslims there. 

And as we joined, there are people say be afraid of these protesters because they are so terribly, terribly intolerant. 

Joining us now for the interview is Mona El-Ghobashy, assistant professor of political science at Barnard College.  She has been paying attention to Egyptian politics for a heck of a lot longer than the rest of us.  Professor, thanks for joining us. 


COLLEGE:  Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW:  What is your view of the sustainability of the two sides here?  Is Mubarak just trying to wait the protesters out, and are the protesters capable of that? 

EL-GHOBASHY:  That‘s exactly what he‘s trying to do.  He‘s now regained his footing after being completely caught off guard by the protesters in the first week of the protests.  And his counter attack on Wednesday when he had the armed gang from the members of the ruling party storm the protesters and on camelback and horseback. 

But now, the effort is to step back a little bit, offer some concessions to the opposition, attempt to divide the protesters and basically wait them out.  You know, it is very difficult to be standing up against one of the strongest authoritarian regimes in the world. 

They‘ve been doing this now for 15 days.  It is very much unequal power balance.  And we are waiting to see how - what their stamina is going to be. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the stamina of the opposition, there‘s reports today that some people who are not pro-Mubarak or anti-Mubarak are essentially in favor of accepting the concessions, saying, “Let‘s let life go back to normal.  We accomplished a great deal.” 

Others are saying this does not end until Mubarak steps down.  Do you have any insight into that split, in whether it‘s likely to get deeper? 

EL-GHOBASHY:  This is the key split that occurring right now.  Most of the public, even if they were urging and sympathetic to the protesters who are dealing with fatigue, compassion fatigue, they want ordinary life to go on. 

They‘re starting to get concerned about the prospect of these protesters actually being able to survive this long.  And so, that‘s what he‘s banking on, the sense of the futility of all of this, the attempt to say that this is radical. 

He already said that he is going to step down in September, so why not accept this?  So it‘s a rather shrewd move to basically let the movement itself dissipate under its own internal pressures. 

MADDOW:  So the protesters themselves have cited what happened in Tunisia as their inspiration for rising up in the way they did specifically on January 25th

Is there anything out there that‘s likely to be a continued catalyst, to give them continued momentum, to keep mobilizing people under, as you know, difficult circumstances? 

EL-GHOBASHY:  Well, like you already mentioned, they‘re already starting to think about the scheduling and the structuring of this.  So instead of saying that, every day, we‘re going to have a million or 250,000-man protest, we are going to do specific days. 

Tuesday, tomorrow.  Friday, which is the big day, because it is a weekend, and people have a lot better chance of actually coming down into the square.  So they are trying to preserve their energies.  They are trying to make sure that the energy they‘ve gotten up doesn‘t dissipate.

And most importantly, they‘re trying to fight against those kinds of internal sort of informants going into the crowds, spreading the sense of futility, spreading the sense of fatigue. 

This is what we have to be looking for.  And again, I just want to emphasize to your listeners that how difficult it is for these protesters, unarmed, unorganized - they are not led by any single party - how extraordinary it is that they‘ve been able to maintain this in the face of very, very high odds. 

MADDOW:  If the Mubarak government, the police or internal security services, or even the military, starts to attack unarmed protesters again the way they did last week, will that help the protesters by catalyzing more of them?  Or will that scare people enough to keep them off the streets? 

EL-GHOBASHY:  I think it will help them.  It will have a more mobilizing effect.  But I think what‘s more insidious right now is that the regime is perhaps not considering options of force. 

What it is considering are these carrots and sticks.  So again, holding out certain carrots to the opposition so that the opposition parties can come and sit around the table, spreading the sense of fatigue, telling them that, “Well, what is your end game?  What are you waiting for?  We already offered you these concessions.” 

“So why not just call it a day?  And we‘ve heard your demands and we will make sure to answer your demands.”  I think the lack of force option - the option of spreading discouragement - is what‘s most important right now. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about one last thing.  Even the most ill-informed observer, even noobs like me, could tell very early on that the military is important here.  But it is difficult to tell what role the military is playing day to day. 

Is the fact that the army now, not just the police, but the army, is detaining journalists - should we take that as a sign that the army is siding more with the government than they have in the past? 

EL-GHOBASHY:  That is the sign to be taken.  And the turning point was, if you recall first, when the military came in, they were widely welcomed by the protesters. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

EL-GHOBASHY:  There was a lot of fraternizing.  The troops were very friendly to the protesters.  The turning point came on Wednesday when Mubarak sent the police, the plainclothes police and the armed gangs. 

However, the military stood by and didn‘t do anything, despite the protesters pleading with the military to please step in and protect them.  That was a sign when observers, all of us, plus protesters on the ground, realized the military is not exactly neutral here. 

The military is standing very much behind Mubarak, and that has only increased by the day.  So now, there‘s no doubt among people‘s minds that this is not going to be a Tunisia scenario, where the military withdraws its support from the president and the president flees. 

We are talking about a completely different context in which the military is very firmly behind Mubarak and it has made that very clear. 

MADDOW:  And that means they are in for a much longer haul, if this is going to be successful.  Professor Mona El-Ghobashy, assistant professor of political science at Barnard College, and somebody who, honestly, I wanted to talk to since we very first started talking - covering this story, I‘m really glad we were able to get to you come in. 

EL-GHOBASHY:  Thank you very much for having me.  I really appreciate it.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Thanks.  All right.  Coming up on “THE ED SHOW” tonight, my friend, Ed Schultz, goes in on the billionaire Koch brothers and their incredible influence on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Go Ed. 

On this show, it‘s time for Debunktion Junction once again, this time featuring President Bush.  President Jeb Bush.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Sometimes, the mark of total human triumph is the opportunity to retire.  A spectacular good news “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” success story starring one of our favorite military heroes, still ahead.


MADDOW:  It‘s back.  Debunktion junction, what‘s my function?  First up, true or false.  A major conservative publication is calling for yet another Bush to run for president.  Is that true or false? 

True.  A column on the influential conservative news site, “National Review Online,” pivots off their own cover story this month on former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to advocate that he follow his father and his brother and challenge for the presidency in 2012. 


Why?  Well, they say, quote, “The Bush rehabilitation has begun.”  Also, quote, “He‘s not just another Bush.”  That does seem to be true in that this particular Bush does not seem to want the job.  He said this just last July. 


FMR. GOV. JEB BUSH (R-FL):  I‘m not running for president. 


MADDOW:  That may be true, but the Republican party did run someone named Bush for president in 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004.  Why stop now? 

Next up?  Sorry, Rob.  Put in a workman‘s comp claim for that. 

I‘m really sorry.  Did you guys see that?  We need witnesses.

All right.  Next up, true or false?  Retired Republican U.S.  Senator Alan Simpson has actually managed to make his now-infamous $310 million “word that rhymes with bits” comments even worse.  Is that true or false? 

True.  As you might recall back in late August, the former senior senator from Wyoming sent the executive director of the Older Women‘s League an E-mail.  Again, the Older Women‘s League. 

The executive director of that group sent it to “The Huffington Post” after noticing part of the letter where Mr. Simpson criticized social security by saying, quote, “We‘ve reached a point now where it‘s like a milk cow with 310 million teats.” 

Except he didn‘t say “teats.”  He said something that rhymes with “bits.”  Those remarks provoked some attention especially from the guy who is supposed to be the sage old bipartisan hand when it comes to social security‘s future.  Yes. 

Mr. Simpson apologized two days after the remarks.  He wrote back to the Older Women‘s League and said, quote, “Over the last 40 years, I have had my size 15 feet in my mouth a time or two.  When I make a mistake, it‘s a doozy!” 

Now, because that apology is already months old, it was curious to see Mr. Simpson on TV this past weekend bringing up those remarks, months later, and totally unprompted to apologize all over again.  At least I think that‘s what he was doing. 


FMR. SEN. ALAN SIMPSON (R-WY):  I meant to say that America was a milk cow with 300 million (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and not just social security. 


MADDOW:  One more time? 


FMR. SEN. ALAN SIMPSON (R-WY):  I meant to say that America was a milk cow with 300 million (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and not just social security. 


MADDOW:  Thank you for clarifying.  The added bonus to his clarification is that it came after he said this on the same show.  He is talking here about politicians who advocate small cuts in spending, at least I think that‘s what he‘s doing. 


SIMPSON:  That‘s just sparrow belch in the midst of a typhoon.  That‘s about six, eight, 10 percent of where we are.  So I‘m waiting for the politician to get up and say there is only one way to do this. 

You dig into the big four - Medicare, Medicaid, social security, and defense.  And anybody giving you anything different than that you want to walk out the door, stick your finger down your throat and give them the green weenie. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So goodness.  That‘s quite a -

SIMPSON:  Give them the green weenie. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Get the green weenie.  That‘s terrible. 


MADDOW:  Mr. Simpson later indicated in the interview that “green weenie” is slang from his army days.  We do have a call out to his office attempting to find out exactly what he was referring to, though I am kind of scared about the potential response. 

And let me say that even though Candy Crowley‘s reaction was edited out the final broadcast version of this interview, I cannot imagine that it is easy to hear the term “green weenie” uttered in al seriousness in any interview, let alone keep your composure afterwards so, Candy Crowley, I salute you.


MADDOW:  At this year‘s State of the Union address, instead of a big, heated, ideological, arcane argument defending health reform, President Obama told the story of brain cancer patient, James Howard, who could not get his treatment covered by insurance until health reform kicked in. 

Pointing out how policies affect specific people is a useful, if predictable, speech technique.  Lots of presidents have used it to explain what our laws and policies really do. 

And so we‘re copying it tonight to talk about a change in another policy, “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  Starting this month all branches of the military begin training their personnel on implementing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” repeal. 

The Pentagon has distributed new guidelines to each branch of the military that say that, in fact, once repeal is enacted, you can‘t get kicked out for being gay anymore.  You can be openly gay and still get in the military.  And if you were kicked out for being gay, you can come back. 

But here‘s our State of the Union-style human story highlighting how this has affected one member of the Armed Forces. 

On this show, you met highly-decorated Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran, Air Force pilot, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach.  Col Fehrenbach was a little more than a year from being able to retire at his full rank and pay when he was outed and investigated under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”. 

His case has made it all the way to the desk of the secretary of the Air Force which is the last step on the road to being fired. 

But now, I‘m happy to report some good news.  The Col. Fehrenbach has received his next set of military orders.  They say, quote, “Effective 30 September, 2011, you are relieved from active duty, organization and station of assignment, retired effective 1 October 2011 in grade of LTC.” 

Dry but oddly moving legalese letting him know that despite everything he has been through this fall, Col. Fehrenbach gets to retire at full rank with his pension. 

Even though his case under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is not technically dismissed, in effect, he gets to be treated like he would have been had the policy never existed. 

The long national nightmare of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is not yet over but for Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, it is at least dawn. 

Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.”  Good night.



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