Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET for Monday, February 14th, 2011
Read the transcript from the Monday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Earl Blumenauer, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Frank Gaffney, Matt Welch, Matt Apuzzo
CENK UYGUR, HOST: President Obama‘s budget cuts go toward the right. Did the right give him any credit for it? What do you think? Here‘s what he got for his efforts. Nothing.
Tens of thousands of protesters march in the streets of Tehran as tear gas is used on them. Frank Gaffney was fear mongering about the Egyptian protests for weeks. I‘m going to debate him tonight on the latest social revolution in Iraq.
Plus, exposing a huge divide in the Republican party. They‘re booing and hollering at each other. And Ron Paul is driving the establishment crazy. Who‘s right and who‘s wrong?
And exposing the CIA. An explosive Associated Press special investigation uncovers wrongful imprisonment and dead detainees with zero accountability. The reporter reveals all the details tonight.
Now, today President Obama rolled out his nearly $4 trillion budget.
It axes more than $1 trillion from federal program over the next ten years. Well, does it get the job done? And will it satisfy Republicans? Those are the questions we have to answer tonight.
First, let‘s look at the numbers. He has cut $200 billion over the next two years. Two billion in savings. That‘s got to do it, right? That‘s a huge amount to cut.
Well, as it turns out, again, let‘s do math. I like math on this program. As you remember, they just had an $858 billion in tax cuts over the next two years. So when you subtract the $200 billion that they just cut from the $858 billion in tax cuts, well, you‘ve got $658 billion to go and you still haven‘t made it up.
So what I‘m telling you is, these cuts that he‘s doing, whether it‘s Obama or it‘s the Republicans, it‘s not putting a dent in the budget because of the giant tax cuts. We keep focusing on the wrong problem. Let me prove it to you without a shadow of a doubt.
The projected deficit in 2011 is $1.6 trillion. The whole non-defense discretionary spending budget in 2010 was $477 billion. Do you know what that means? That means that if you took non-defense discretionary spending, OK, all of it, all of it, all of it, wiped it out to zero, that‘s it, we cut everything outside of defense, you would still have a deficit that was over $1.1 trillion. You can‘t cut your way to doing this. It‘s so obvious.
But that didn‘t deter President Obama. He‘s going to put these things on the chopping block. Let me give you examples. Three hundred million dollars for block grants. I thought he was a community organizer but when it comes down to cutting the budget like the Republicans want him to, they go under the bus.
And how about two and half billion dollars cut from low income home energy assistance program? Yes, poor people don‘t need heat in the middle of the winter. And $400 billion from five-year domestic spending freeze. That also gets cut.
Look, when you add all these up, it still doesn‘t come close to the tax cuts for the rich that they just gave them. What drive me crazy is that no one in Washington cares. They‘re like, look, you can‘t argue with the numbers. There‘s not a person in the world that could argue with those numbers.
They‘re like, I don‘t care. No, no, spending cuts. That‘s the way to go. Let‘s hit the rich. I‘m sorry. That would be awesome. If they actually shared the pain with all of us, middle class, poor, rich, if we did that. No, they hit the poor, they hit the middle class.
Look, let me give you another problem with this, which is the framing, right? So Obama agrees to the GOP framing. Give tax cuts to the rich to help the economy. But that doesn‘t help the economy.
Then cut programs for the middle class and the poor to balance the budget. But you can‘t balance the budget that way. All you‘re doing is helping them. Now, for all of his efforts, is Obama going to at least say, all right. Republicans come out and say, OK, finally he cut the spending exactly like we told him to. Let‘s give him credit. Do you think that‘s going to happen? Of course not.
Republican House Leader Eric Cantor says today, quote, “The president missed a unique opportunity to provide real leadership.”
Republican Budget Chair Paul Ryan says, quote, “In this critical test of leadership, the president has failed.”
How about Republican Study Committee Chair Jim Jordan? He says, “The president failed a crucial test of leadership.”
How about John Cornyn from the Senate? He‘s the National Republican Senate Committee Chair. He says, quote, President Obama‘s timid budget proposal represents a missed opportunity to lead.”
How did that work out for you, President Obama? Did you get them on your side? It doesn‘t look like it, right? You cut the heating for the poor. You cut programs to the middle class. I didn‘t even tell you about the Pell grants that he cut a little bit. Graduate school loans, he cut a little bit.
Cut, cut, cut, including community access and what did you get? Nothing. But I‘ll tell you what the downside of all this is. You‘re moving the spectrum to the right.
Now let me show it to you in football terms. A fun little graph here. See there‘s, theoretically, Obama on the left, the Republicans on the right. That‘s where they start out. And that‘s where the center is.
But when Obama does a preemptive surrender, if any, and however you want to frame it. I frame it that way. And says, I will give you these programs. Right from the beginning, he moves to the right. But the Republicans don‘t move towards the center to him. They said, fantastic, thank you for moving to the right. We‘ll also move right. And now look at where the center is. It‘s closer to the hard right end zone. They‘re about to score and Obama doesn‘t get it.
Now you see where I stand on this. Let‘s talk to some others now.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. He sits on the House Budget Committee. Congressman, look, I want to talk about the Republicans in a second. But I‘ve got to start with President Obama. Do you think it‘s a great idea to do these budget cuts here and start giving in to Republicans who don‘t give you anything back?
REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well, I personally think that some of the reductions that the president has proposed are not priorities that I would push. I do give him credit for focusing on the need to keep going with health care reform which is the largest source of our budget deficit in the future. And retaining the commitment to rebuild and renew America, putting Americans to work, revitalizing our communities.
But you were right at the top. If we are going to not deal with health care reform and if we‘re not going to deal with the fact that these tax cuts actually significantly increased the deficit, we‘re going to be chasing our tails. We should be reforming the tax system, not extending the tax cuts.
UYGUR: Congressman Blumenauer, is there any effort by the Democrats, whether it‘s in the House, the Senate—I know there isn‘t in the White House, but to say, hey, you know what, we‘ll talk about cuts and that‘s a fair discussion, sometimes you need cuts to balance the budget, of course, everybody gets that. That‘s reasonable, right? But you have to talk about tax cuts for rich. If you don‘t give back some of the money that they just took, well we‘re not going to talk about cuts. So (INAUDIBLE) you either put up or you shut up. Is there a movement like that among you Democrats or none whatsoever?
BLUMENAUER: Well, there were a number of us, as you know, that voted against the extension of the tax cuts at the end of the last Congress. It‘s going to be on the table very quickly. The Republicans are going to be continuing to push ahead with this along with their crazy ideas about conditioning, increasing the debt limit with draconian elements.
We‘re going to be in the middle of this over the course of the next two years. I agree with you, we need to have tax reform. The last thing we need to do is to extend tax cuts for people who need them the least. But we also need to continue with the rebuilding and renewing America and accelerating health care reform, not trying to eliminate it.
UYGUR: Congressman Blumenauer, let me get more specific. You know, to President Obama‘s credit and to the Democrats‘ credit, they won‘t take away oil subsidies or some of them do. Some of the Democrats don‘t, but a lot of them do. They want to take away the subsidies -- $36 billion over the next ten years. That‘s a giant number, right? So how about, again, we‘ve been—throughout this segment we‘ve been talking about the two-year time period. So that would be a little over $7 billion that they would save.
Now the Republicans say, no, I need to give it to the oil companies because I‘m going to cut from the poor, I‘m going to cut from the middle class, but I got to give it to my oil company friends.
Can‘t the Democrats at least take a stand and go, that‘s it, we‘re not going to give you a dime of cuts until you cut those oil subsidies for the richest companies in the world.
BLUMENAUER: Well, as you may know, last week I introduced legislation that would do just that. In fact, it would cut over $40 billion over the next five years. Many of those are embedded in the president‘s budget. I think we ought to stand up and fight for them. We ought to spotlight the fact that the Republicans won‘t allow tax break loophole closing to count towards deficit reduction. But just because those are rather silly rules doesn‘t mean we shouldn‘t push ahead and try and do it.
UYGUR: Congressman Blumenauer, I agree with your bill, but you guys got to draw the line. If you don‘t draw a line and say, we are not doing a single cut until you agree to that, you‘re going to get rolled over. I mean, I don‘t know if the White House understands that. I don‘t know if the Democrats in Congress understand that. I mean, my guess is, I have to be honest with you, I think that you guys aren‘t going to insist on it. And when you don‘t, you‘re not going to win.
BLUMENAUER: Well, we‘re involved with sort of an elaborate four-way discussion here. We‘ve got the Republicans in the House who are proposing draconian ideologically-driven massive cuts. We have a proposal from the president. We‘re going to be pushing back on the House Budget Committee for Democrats. And we‘re going to have to be working with the Senate.
I‘m convinced that if we are aggressive in terms of tax justice, in terms of being sensible in the reductions in areas like the military, like areas of agriculture reform, and accelerating health care reform, I think there‘s a path that the American public will agree with.
UYGUR: All right, Congressman Blumenauer, thanks so much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
BLUMENAUER: My pleasure.
UYGUR: All right. Joining me now is Katrina Vanden Heuvel. She‘s editor of “Nation” magazine. And, Katrina, I want to start by asking you this. Are the initial concessions by President Obama before the initial negotiations even begin, is that a mistake?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, “THE NATION”: I think we‘ve seen time and time again a president preemptively making concessions that abet his opponents and demoralize his supporters. Compromise is demanded in politics, but leadership cannot be defined by compromise.
This president was played a good hand in many ways and I‘m thinking back to the end of last year on the tax cuts. The preemptive concessions there took away his good hand. And he had on his side public opinion. But you can‘t just let that sit there. You have to mobilize public opinion with your leadership.
Listen, our system in many ways is rigged through the power of establishment money, through the lobbyists that swamp D.C. every day. But, on the other hand, you can provide leadership that lays out a different narrative. Cenk, we‘re having this debate about the budget, completely wrong frame, skewed priorities.
A budget is not just a set of numbers, it‘s a moral document. It is also a reflection of a nation‘s values and aspirations. And if we‘re a nation that is going to balance a budget on the back of the working class and low income Americans to the benefit of the richest, to the multi-national companies with offshore jobs, then we are a nation different than what we‘re seeing in the Middle East, but we are a nation in dire need of our pro-democracy movement to take back this country for the people who have built it, who have made it strong. Take it away from those who brought us the financial crisis which robbed trillions from people who have worked so hard over these last decades.
UYGUR: All right. Katrina, here‘s the main thing I want to ask, right? Because we‘ve got to understand what the heck is going on inside the White House, right?
VANDEN HEUVEL: Do we? I mean, I think we need to understand, Cenk, what we‘re going to do outside of the White House, outside of D.C. It is late for that. We need independent organizing in this country.
UYGUR: I hear you.
VANDEN HEUVEL: To change the balance of forces, to change the nature of political power and to find a way to have a different debate. Because the president, with all due respect, great cuts to big oil, the national infrastructure bank is a good thing, but this president is not going to lead us to the promised land.
UYGUR: OK. I understand that and I 100 percent agree with you. Don‘t get me wrong. Definitely, get in the square. Get everywhere, whatever you go to do because these guys aren‘t listening to us. They‘re cutting for the middle class and they‘re giving it to the rich. They keep doing it over and over. I get that.
But in your mind, does the president even understand this? Because I think it‘s, of course, important for us to understand the Democratic president that we elected if he is on our side or not. So I mean, does he get all this and go, I don‘t give a damn. I‘m just going to do this because I look more (INAUDIBLE) to my Washington friends. Or he‘s like, oh, my God, I‘m giving in to Republican framing? I didn‘t know that.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I do not believe a president who fought this hard to get to the White House is (INAUDIBLE). He is an intensely intelligent man. Listen, we have a blueprint of cruelty in the GOP plan. Let us not forget that they didn‘t have a mandate to do what they were doing. It was about a lousy economy and joblessness, not desire for big spending cuts that put them in 2010 the way that they were put in.
But this president is now seeking reelection in 2012, and this president is charting his own course. It is a course which sadly has demobilized a base which helped elect him to the White House. And so I think at the end of the day, we need to lay out alternatives. You spoke earlier, It is insanity that we have this military spending, 58 percent of the discretionary spending budget, and we have alternatives.
Barney Frank and Ron Paul, if everyone is always seeking bipartisanship, laid out a good plan. By 20, cuts nearly a trillion. Seventy-eight billion ain‘t going to do it over five years. And we have an inflation-adjusted terms. A military budget that is larger than during the Bush years or the Cold War. This is insanity.
And two wars costing about $120 billion a year. We can do better, but it‘s going to require people outside of Washington, working with allies inside. Cenk, you said it earlier, no one in D.C. cares? There are allies inside this Congress. And we can ally with them to say hey, enough. There is a disconnect between what is going on in Washington and what this country needs.
UYGUR: Absolutely. And, by the way, later in the program we‘re going to have a Ron Paul supporter on here and we‘re going to see if we can find true bipartisanship. What‘s wrong with the Republican party? Can they fix it from the right? Can we fix it from the left? Can we all get together in the middle, the real middle of the country? Not some fake middle of Washington.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Redefine—redefine the center is what is important because I don‘t think what is called center in Washington is the true center of this country.
UYGUR: Absolutely right. Absolutely right.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel, thank you so much for your time tonight.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. Now, President Obama walked a tight rope with Egypt and we wound up with the Democratic protestors winning. But here come the Monday morning Republican quarterbacks. Gingrich, Pawlenty, and the rest are all criticizing the president. Do they have a point? Doubt it.
And it might be Valentine‘s Day, but the Republican party has no love for liberals or each other. Instability, booing and yelling headline their big conference over the weekend. We bring in a conservative to tell us what all the fighting was about.
UYGUR: Inspired by Egypt, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Tehran and other Iranian cities forcing a swift and bloody backlash from their government, unfortunately. Police in riot gear attacked protesters with teargas and beatings. Witnesses say police forces fired bullets at the people in the crowd. At least one demonstrator was killed by the violence.
Iranian Security Forces also cut the phone lines and reportedly blocked the Internet to try and crush the protests. Now, there are two different ideas on how to encourage democracy in Iran. One is, of course, the Egyptian model where you go and organize online. Wael Ghonim, the Google employee who was instrumental in getting the protests in Egypt started, has said, quote, “If you want to liberate a government, give them the Internet.”
It‘s impossible for me to agree more with that. That is obviously what worked in Egypt. And it was nonviolent. It happened in 18 days. Now you compare that with the Iraq (INAUDIBLE) where we bomb, bomb, bomb and what happened? Disaster. How can anybody argue with that?
Well, look, let‘s lay it out for you. Ghonim says, here are the tools that you should use, Facebook, Twitter and the blogs, right? John Bolton, who was our former U.N. ambassador, of course, a well-known neocon, has said on numerous occasion, the correct way to do it is bombs, bombs and bombs. Of course, the answer is obvious. Look at Egypt. Look at Iraq. But, luckily, it looks like the U.S. government has gone with the Ghonim strategy. We‘ve even started tweeting in (INAUDIBLE) to reach the Iranian audience.
Here is a tweet that we sent out in Farsi. Don‘t worry, I‘m not going to read it to you in Farsi, otherwise, you wouldn‘t understand. It says, “U.S. calls on Iran to allow people to enjoy same universal rights to peacefully assemble, demonstrate as in Cairo.” Clearly going with the Egyptian model. That‘s exactly right.
Then Secretary of State Clinton was also very clear on preferring the Egyptian model.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, a regime which, over the last three weeks, has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt. And now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights as they called for on behalf of the Egyptian people, once again, illustrate their true nature.
UYGUR: All right. Go get them. Let‘s point out the hypocrisy of the Iranian government. Let‘s give the people the tools to be able to organize and then they do whatever they do. Then it‘s not up to us. It‘s in their hands. Now, unfortunately, that was the good news. The bad news is in President Obama‘s budget that was just unveiled today, they cut $1.84 billion from the economic support fund which helps countries move toward democracy. Oops. I wouldn‘t have gone in that direction.
But look let me tell you a final thing on why this can work. In Egypt, the population is 80 million, right? Sixty percent are under 30. In Iran, the population is 76 million, very similar. Sixty-six percent are under the age of 30. Which means, just like in Egypt, we‘ve got the young, they‘re online. That‘s why Iran cut the Internet, because they‘re scared to death of the Internet. We can reach the young in Iran. They can do the same thing as they did in Egypt.
Well, some neo-cons in this country think bombing is the better strategy, which is clearly mental.
Now let me bring in a well-known neo-con to see where he stands. Joining me is Frank Gaffney. He‘s the former Assistant Defense Secretary to President Reagan. He now has the center for security policy.
Frank, first let me start with Iran. I‘m curious. I don‘t know where you stand on it. Do you still think that your conservative strategy is laid out by former Ambassador Bolton that bombing is the right way to go. Or do you realize, no, no, Egyptian model is better?
FRANK GAFFNEY, FMR. REAGAN ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think all of us have hoped for a long time, Cenk, that we would be able to help the people of Iran liberate themselves. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not seen fit to do that. It has, to contrary and in stark contrast to what has just happened in Egypt, actually been encouraging the regime to think that it supports it instead of the people of Iran.
And I believe that if we don‘t bring about regime change through these kind of means, we are going to probably have to use military force to stop the nuclear weapons program that is moving forward inexorably and will threaten not only our friends in Israel, but I think the people of the region and probably our own people—
UYGUR: Do you think Iran is going to build a nuclear weapon that reaches the United States? Come on, Frank. You‘re not really serious, right?
GAFFNEY: Well, here‘s how you do it very quickly and they‘ve tested this capability, Cenk. You put a missile with a nuclear weapon on a ship. They don‘t have the nuclear weapon as far as we know just yet, but they have launched missiles from ships. You bring the ship closer to—
UYGUR: What ship is going to get close to our waters? Frank, are you serious? They‘re going to build a ship that gets close to our water and they‘re going to launch a nuclear missile from that ship. What? In the year 2030? 2080? What timeframe are you talking about?
GAFFNEY: If you were following a threat assessment that was done by a blue-ribbon commission appointed by the Congress back in 2004, they were pointing out the Iranians have actually tested the kinds of missiles that could be used for an attack involving a nuclear missile against the United States years ago. And that‘s the problem.
UYGUR: Years ago, OK.
GAFFNEY: And most of us don‘t know about it. Here‘s how you do it. Just to answer your question. Just to answer your question. You put a missile on a transporter erector launcher on a tramp steamer. There are thousands of them on the—
UYGUR: I know. They‘re going to nuke us from a goat—they‘re going to nuke us from a boat. I know it.
GAFFNEY: It could happen. It would be a good idea to be protected against it.
UYGUR: -- said they do not have nuclear weapons.
GAFFNEY: I imagine you don‘t think that‘s a good idea.
UYGUR: So you‘re making it all up. They don‘t have nukes. They don‘t have it at all.
GAFFNEY: Well, they‘re working hard at it.
UYGUR: So let me ask you this, Frank. Let me ask you this. Yes, they‘re working hard on it.
UYGUR: Frank, listen, let me ask you this. Cenk, are you telling me they‘re not working on it?
GAFFNEY: When it gets to the protestors, do you think—
UYGUR: Frank, are you going to listen to the question? Do you think it‘s a smarter strategy to reach out to the young protestors or do you think it‘s a smarter strategy to drop bombs on their heads. Do you think they will say, oh, they killed my aunt. That‘s awesome. Let me join the Americans.
GAFFNEY: I think I answered that question actually, Cenk. I said, it would be far preferable and it‘s a tragedy that the United States government under President Obama and, for that matter, under President Bush didn‘t do an awful lot more to empower the people of Iran. Here‘s the problem. The government in Iran is not like the government that we helped bring down in Egypt. It‘s not on our side. It is, as we saw today, willing to use violence against people extensively and to repress them.
UYGUR: So dropping bombs on the protestors is what you would go to?
GAFFNEY: No, I certainly didn‘t say that and I don‘t think it‘s fair to even suggest it. I‘m saying—I‘m saying that if the people of Iran are unable—do you want me to answer your question?
UYGUR: I‘m asking you. Do you want to bomb Iran? If you bomb Iran, you‘re going to drop a bomb on innocent civilians. Yes? Right? Obviously? Do you have a problem with that? So will you take it off the table or won‘t you?
GAFFNEY: I would not take it off the table if the alternative is having an Iranian regime that seeks our destruction armed with nuclear weapons. But if we can bring about regime change—and here‘s the point. It‘s not just Facebook, my friend. The United States government has lots of means at its disposal? Some of which we saw them use against the Mubarak regime which had been friendly to us for some time.
Those should be applied to the Iranian regime instead of what we‘ve been doing which is propping them up.
UYGUR: That‘s easy. We totally agree on that. Totally.
GAFFNEY: But it hasn‘t been done.
UYGUR: We‘re not propping up the Iranian regime. That‘s ridiculous.
GAFFNEY: We absolutely are. The president of the United States has withheld any kind of material support for the people of Iran since they started by the millions demonstrating in the streets.
UYGUR: Frank, you had these theories about Jihadists and they‘re all
over the world
GAFFNEY: It‘s not theories. This is a fact.
UYGUR: So how about in Egypt? The protestor? Were you on their side? Did you want democracy? Yes or no?
GAFFNEY: I‘d love democracy. I don‘t want to see it bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power and I‘m afraid that‘s what‘s likely to happen.
UYGUR: So you only like democracy where your guys win? You don‘t like democracy where the people actually vote.
GAFFNEY: I‘m looking out for the interest of the United States. And having the Muslim Brotherhood in control of the Suez Canal, having it armed with—
UYGUR: So you don‘t like democracy if it brings in the Muslim Brotherhood or any other group you don‘t like.
GAFFNEY: Look, if it brings in Hamas, as it did in Gaza, I don‘t like that. If it brings in—
UYGUR: You only like guys on your side. So you like puppets.
GAFFNEY: I believe in (INAUDIBLE) when it produces democracy. Not one man. Not one vote.
UYGUR: When it produces a democracy with leaders you like.
GAFFNEY: Cenk, no, it‘s not a democracy if you get in a Hamas or a Muslim Brotherhood group that is never going to allow people to vote again.
UYGUR: That‘s ridiculous. They voted for him. It‘s not your election. It‘s their election. But listen, listen—
GAFFNEY: They don‘t get to vote them out.
UYGUR: But you‘re (INAUDIBLE) mongering. Muslim Brotherhood would not win in Egypt. They only poll at 15 percent. Do you disagree with that? That‘s a fact. A poll at 15 percent.
GAFFNEY: I disagree with when it‘s a circumstance like this because
the most ruthless, the most disciplined, the most organized people tend to
win in this kind of circumstance. I‘m afraid the Brotherhood will come in
either directly or shortly as a result of this kind of vote.
UYGUR: How are they going to take control of the military? How are they ruthlessly getting control of the military when they‘re not in the military? How would they win in a democracy with only 15 percent?
GAFFNEY: That‘s the wild card. Well, because they had 15 percent when they were being suppressed by the Mubarak regime. We‘ll see what they actually get. The polls, as you probably know, Cenk, suggest that the Egyptian people are overwhelming in favor of Sharia law. And if that‘s the case, then—
UYGUR: In family law, Christians apply Christian law. Muslims apply Muslim law in Egypt. Everywhere else it is totally and utterly secular.
GAFFNEY: Christians are being brutally murdered in Egypt by those who adhere to Sharia, Cenk. I‘m sure you know that.
UYGUR: You‘re taking it—you know, there‘s how many murders there are in America so you‘re blaming the U.S. government for all those murders?
GAFFNEY: No, I‘m blaming—I‘m blaming those who adhere to Sharia for killing Christians all over the world.
UYGUR: The question is what is the law? And the law in Egypt is secular and you know it.
GAFFNEY: Actually, the law in Egypt is Sharia adherent. It‘s just not enforced but it will be if the Brotherhood comes to power.
UYGUR: That‘s not true. It‘s just simply not true.
GAFFNEY: Check it out. Check the Constitution out.
UYGUR: Frank Gaffney, we‘re out of time. Yes, I‘ve checked it out plenty. I‘m hoping you do likewise.
Thank you for joining us though. We appreciate it.
GAFFNEY: Compare notes.
UYGUR: Now, Speaker Boehner has no problem telling President Obama how to do his job. But when it comes to birthers, he‘s keeping quiet. We‘ll show you why he doesn‘t want to take them on.
In our latest edition of “Red States Gone Wild,” this South Caroline state senator is worried about the federal reserve. Wait until you hear his plan. Crazy doesn‘t begin to describe it.
UYGUR: Once again, Republican leaders are proving that they just can‘t stand up to the fringe elements of their own party. This time, the man who won‘t take them on is House Speaker John Boehner.
On NBC‘s “Meet the Press,” David Gregory asked Boehner about the right wing smear campaign against Barack Obama that questions his birthplace and religion. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: As the speaker of the House, as a leader, do you not think it‘s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: David, it‘s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That‘s good enough for me. The president says he‘s a Christian. I accept him at his word.
GREGORY: But that kind of ignorance about whether he‘s a Muslim doesn‘t concern you?
BOEHNER: Listen, the American people have a right to think what they think. I can‘t—it‘s not my job to tell them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Obviously avoiding the question. And he says it‘s like, if he claims he‘s a Christian, I guess take him at his word. Come on, how obvious is that?
Now, if you want to understand why Boehner is afraid to answer these simple questions, just look at the polls. About 41 percent of the self-described Republicans question whether Obama was born in the U.S., and 10 states are looking at various form of birther legislation right now. And about 30 percent of the Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim, more than they think that he‘s a Christian. That‘s crazy.
But Boehner can‘t call these people crazy, because they form a huge chunk of his voters. . If he calls them nuts, he‘ll have to admit that he‘s running the asylum.
This is why you won‘t see Republican leaders denounce these guys.
Plus, come on, keep it real, stoking them gets them more and more votes.
That‘s why they do it.
Now, in light of all that, I‘m guessing John Boehner will not come out strong against the latest whacky proposal from one South Carolina state senator. Republican Lee Bright wants the Palmetto State to move away from the dollar and establish its very own currency. He warns that the Federal Reserve system could break down, causing people to lose faith in the dollar.
Well, I got my own concerns about the Fed. I got that. But this is the not the direction I would go.
Bright says South Carolina will need a, quote, “backup plan” if the Fed goes down. So, he introduced a legislation calling for a subcommittee to study the matter.
As one state Democrat pointed out: no word yet on whether that subcommittee would be funded in dollars or gold or fairy dust.
By the way, this is not Lee Bright‘s first ride on the crazy train. Last year, he helped pass a state bill that took aim at part of Obama‘s health care law. Bright said it was a victory for state‘s rights.
Now, are you ready for the money quote? He said, quote, “If at first you don‘t secede, try again.” That‘s the ironically-named Mr. Bright for you.
All right. Now, conservatives turned on each other over the weekend. It‘s Ron Paul versus the entire party. And he won. A libertarian Ron Paul supporter tells us why they‘re fighting the rest of the GOP—next.
UYGUR: Conservatives had their biggest convention over the weekend. CPAC, as its known, had its share of animosity and anger. Who‘s surprised by that? No one, right?
First, they were angry at Democrats and liberals, but Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels expressed it in a very ironic way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MITCH DANIELS ®, INDIANA: Our opponents are better at nastiness than we will ever be. It comes naturally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Even the audience laughed at that. The opponents, the liberals, the guys interested in peace, the bigots, among many, many others. They‘re nastier than Republicans? What a joke.
Now, let‘s listen to what conservative blogger and activist Andrew Breitbart had to say about liberals. Let‘s see who‘s nasty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW BREITBART, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: The people that I‘ve confronted at these things to a person are monsters. They‘re hate filled and racists. They‘re not Americans. I‘m sorry, they‘re animals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: They‘re animals. They‘re monsters. They‘re not Americans.
No, no, but the liberals are hate-filled and racist. Who are these guys kidding? By the way, that guy looked like he was on a bender.
Now, let‘s come back to the ironic Mr. Daniels. Now, listen to what he says at the end here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: The public is increasingly disgusted with a steady diet of defamation and prepared to reward those who refrain from it. It would help if they liked us, just a bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: You see that? He knows that they‘re the ones that are nasty, and he tells the audience, you know, don‘t be nasty. It might help if voters liked us. Now, interesting honesty there.
But people weren‘t just yelling at the Democrats. Conservatives started turning on each other, which is always fun.
Pamela Geller, one of the most vocal opponents of building a mosque at Ground Zero now thinks the big, bad Muslims have infiltrated CPAC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA GELLER, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: This is the problem with CPAC, that it‘s been corrupted and it‘s been compromised by Muslim Brotherhood activists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Muslims are in the building!
UYGUR: Thank you. That‘s what I was waiting for.
And the CPAC crowd was also divided on substantive issues as well. And, of course, they did not voice their disagreements politely. Some of them even turned on their one-time hero Dick Cheney, booing him when they came out to give Rumsfeld the defender of the Constitution award.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: All right, sit down and shut up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: War criminal! Liberator!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: All right, now, we‘re having fun. That‘s some serious disagreements. That‘s Republicans yelling war criminal at Dick Cheney, and him telling them to shut up. It sounds like it was a load of fun.
Now, Ron Paul supporters also took out their anger on an interesting guy, Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESS MOGUL: By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected, I‘m sorry to tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: That was some serious booing.
Ron Paul‘s opponents let their voices be heard as well. When the straw poll results were announced declaring Paul the winner, boos from the anti-Paul crowd were mixed in with the cheers.
Look, when you‘ve got a room full of angry people, it‘s only a matter of time before they get angry at each other. But I actually think this is a good thing about the Republican Party. Why? Because agree or disagree with their position, the Ron Paul people are genuine and they‘re asking an important question: what does it mean to be a conservative?
Now, joining me is Matt Welch, editor-in-chief from the libertarian magazine “Reason,” to talk about that and what happened at CPAC. So, first, how big is the Ron Paul faction? Is it—is it—you know, I know he won the straw poll and he got 30 percent of the vote, but is it 30 percent and that‘s it? Or are there others who are sympathetic to it? Is it likely to become a majority at some point?
MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: Every time we try to assess or limit the impact of Ron Paul, he kind of exceeds expectations. And that includes these of us who share, you know, a good swath of his politics. You know, for the entire year of 2007 on the Republican side, the favorite—consensus favorite in the Republican presidential campaign was Rudolph Giuliani. And Ron Paul didn‘t even show up on the radar screen. Yet, he ended up showing up in fourth place back then.
Since then, his message has only gotten stronger or more purchased out there in the culture. He‘s chair of the subcommittee that‘s looking into the Federal Reserve, for crying out loud. People are auditing—wanting to audit the Fed on the left and right.
So, I don‘t know if it‘s majority at this point. I don‘t think anyone on the Republican side of the aisle is anywhere close to a plurality or a majority of the voters. It‘s a real contested field right now, and libertarians are in the mix, in the middle of it all, duking it out and trying to reorient the party towards limiting the size of government, which is what Republicans were supposed to be about you can but totally forgot for more than a decade.
UYGUR: That‘s really interesting, right? And, of course, as I said, Ron Paul is about 30 percent. Sarah Palin didn‘t even—I think she came in ninth at 3 percent. But is there concern here—or maybe it‘s not. That‘s why I‘m asking you because you‘re involved in this—is the concern the rest of the Republicans are just doing the bidding of the lobbyists and the corporate guys, et cetera, and they‘re not being real conservatives? Is that have really taking hold of the Republican Party or not yet?
WELCH: Beginning with George W. Bush and John McCain back in the late ‘90s, they explicitly repudiated or even repudiated libertarianism by name. They thought that was mean and nasty wing of Republicanism. And they also found, to their benefit, personally, that if they were going to do business with various interest groups, it would be helpful to be more of big government conservatism to use a David Brooks phrase. That was successful in the short term, but it went against a sizable minority, at least, or strain within the American politics.
And I think all of the juice in American politics in the grassroots since about the fall of 2008 has been with people who were against the Wall Street bailout, against bailout economics, perpetually. And so, that enthusiasm has been looking for a place to go and it‘s astonishing to me that the Republican Party is still very slow to realize that. And capitalize on that in a real way.
I mean, you have—
UYGUR: They are not slow. What it is, Matt, is that they get paid by the lobbyists. So, they get it, they‘re just not interested. By the way, do you pay my paycheck? No, you don‘t. The lobbyists do. So, that‘s why they would go in that direction.
Well, look, I got issues with Ron Paul, too, though. I want to run a clip of him at CPAC and then get your reaction. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: What if I could offer you and say, look, we‘re not doing such a good job in government these days. We make promises and we don‘t know about the future. But would you consider opting out of the whole system under one condition—you pay 10 percent of your income, but you take care of yourself, don‘t ask the government for anything?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Matt, that plays well. But you‘re not going to ask the government for cops when you‘re getting mugged? You‘re not going to ask for roads you can drive on? Come on.
WELCH: Does that cost more than 10 percent of our money? I mean, look, Ron Paul offers the most sort of radical version of libertarianism or limited government that‘s out there. And it is not politically palatable. And he knows that. He‘s actually using this whole process as a way to sort of startle people out of their complacency and maybe get to a point where we start reconsidering like, hey, why don‘t we unilaterally cut agriculture subsidies or ethanol subsidies or any number of these sort of useless and harmful programs that we have that‘s much more modest in scale and scope than what he‘s talking about.
But he‘s reminding people, and Republicans and Democrats alike, because he gets a lot of support from the left side of the aisle, that there is an untapped constituency of people who are not in favor of perpetual war, of spending haft of the world‘s money on defense and all of these kinds of apparitions of modern conservatism.
WELCH: He‘s trying to shock their sensibilities and in that, he‘s building an audience that exceeds everyone‘s expectations.
UYGUR: Right. Matt, and that‘s why I‘m so excited honestly, because, look, as much as I might disagree at ways you even accurately described as radical ideology sometimes, look, the guy can achieve real bipartisanship. They did on auditing the Fed. When he talked about cutting the useless waste and spending, whether it‘s ethanol subsidies or whether it‘s defense, we totally agree.
So, it‘s a fascinating phenomenon. And, Matt, thanks for coming on tonight to talk about it.
WELCH: Thanks very much for having me.
UYGUR: All right. Now, how would you like to make mistakes at work and get promoted? That‘s what‘s happening inside the CIA. An “Associated Press” investigation finds abuse and then promotions. We‘ll discuss that, next.
UYGUR: What happens when people make mistakes, even deadly mistakes at the CIA? Unfortunately, they get promoted. Details from a shocking investigation about our government. That‘s coming up next.
UYGUR: An explosive new report from the “Associated Press” exposes the CIA‘s accountability process, or as it turns out, the lack thereof. The “A.P.” investigation revealed that a number of CIA officers who made serious mistakes, resulting in wrongful imprisonment or even death, were not held accountable.
For example, the case of Khali el-Masri. He‘s a German citizen who was rendered by the CIA—meaning, he was taken to a secret CIA detention center and interrogated. The only crime el-Masri had committed was having the same name as a suspected al Qaeda member.
It took the CIA five months to figure out that they had made a mistake. During that time, el-Masri says he was subjected to brutal interrogations.
And a counterterrorism analyst who screwed, she wasn‘t even reprimanded. In fact, she was promoted.
Now, for more, let me bring, Matt Apuzzo. He is one of “The Associated Press” reporters who investigated the CIA and broke this story.
Matt, tell us what happened to Frances, that analyst that we were just talking about?
MATT APUZZO, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, she was recommended for discipline after this all fell apart, after el-Masri was released. There was an internal review board. Obviously, there was an inspector general investigation.
And the review board said, well, you know, she had information that he was the wrong guy and the review board recommended her for discipline. It also recommended a lawyer in the Counterterrorism Center for discipline, and what happened was when those recommendations got up to the seventh floor, the senior management of the CIA, took a look at both and said, well, two people took a mistake, but we‘ll discipline the lawyer, but we don‘t—we don‘t want to discipline the analyst because we don‘t want to discourage risk-taking. We don‘t want to discourage initiative in the ranks.
UYGUR: Yes, I laugh (ph) there. She didn‘t take any risks. The guy got tortured. Not her.
They made it seem like, oh, she put her life on the line. No. And it wasn‘t that she just made a mistake, people told her, you know, in your report, they say over and over again, hey, this isn‘t the right guy. She said, no, keep him there, keep him there, keep him there. And she gets a promotion for it.
Now, let‘s talk about Steve, another guy, another analyst that you guys featured in your report. Tell us about him.
APUZZO: He was a—he was an officer at Abu Ghraib who was disciplined for not processing a prisoner—a ghost prisoner, Jamadi, into Abu Ghraib correctly. And that decision delayed medical care for an inmate who turned out to be dead within an hour. He was disciplined and was allowed to stay on at the agency until retirement and is actually now back at the CIA as a contractor.
And I want to make a point about a number of these things is, there‘s a balancing act between, you really don‘t—spying is hard work. And you do want people to take risks. That‘s one of the big problems of pre-9/11, is people weren‘t taking risks. So, you want them to take risks. You don‘t want to discipline people just because when they take risks and they put themselves out there, that it goes wrong.
And that‘s the tension that I think we saw over and over again is, you know, the analysts, the counterterrorism analyst who pushed the el-Masri rendition, there was real, a lot of discussion about, do we really want to discipline her, or the next time there‘s a close call, are they just going to say, well, forget it, I just won‘t make the call. I‘ll just the easy way out.
UYGUR: Yes, yes. Next time, I don‘t want them tortured. That‘s right.
And, look, and, by the way, taking risks is going inside north Pakistan and getting bin Laden. Are they even trying? Is that sitting in office and saying, yes, let‘s rendition that guy, let‘s kidnap that guy, let‘s torture that guy—well, I‘m taking a lot of risks today. Whoa, I got to go grab a coffee. I mean—
APUZZO: Well, I don‘t think—I don‘t think—I mean, first of all, I mean, you can label it torture. We‘re not—we‘re not going there and not for politically correct reasons. But these are people trying to make the best decisions that they can with the information they have. And I think what we were trying to show is not, oh, the CIA is of bungling and they don‘t know what they‘re doing.
APUZZO: This is actually a really difficult—
UYGUR: I hear you, man. There‘s no question. Unfortunately, we‘re out of time here—thank you so much. And it‘s a great report. We‘ll come right back.
APUZZO: Great. Thank you very much.
UYGUR: Now, Republicans and conservatives have been trying to figure out how to criticize President Obama over what‘s happening in Egypt. They‘re heading from this side, in that side, they can‘t quite figure it out. Perfect example is on “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty slammed President Obama‘s handling of the situation in Egypt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PAWLENTY ®, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: You had the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the national intelligence director, going off in different directions, saying nearly incoherent things, at least inconsistent things. It‘s really important that the United States of America speak with one voice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: She had asked him, what would you do? He had no answer, just blanket criticism.
And on this week, Newt Gingrich also criticized Obama over Egypt, saying Obama was too public with his critiques over Mubarak, which embarrassed the dictator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: You do it quietly because every other potential ally in the world is watching you. And if they see you publicly abandon someone who‘s been with you for 30 years, they wonder, why should I trust the United States?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Oh, you don‘t want to abandon your dictator friends. They‘ve been so good to you this whole time. And what was he so good about?
Roger Cohen in “The New York Times” described one of the guys that had met with the young protesters. He had Muslim Brotherhood sympathies and he said, you know what they did to me? They put a hook in my back and they tortured me. And he showed the scar.
Now, why did they do that? They did it because they wanted see if there was a connection to Osama bin Laden because we asked them. That‘s the problem. That‘s why the Republicans like Mubarak.
That‘s the show, guys, tonight.
Chris Matthews is up next with “HARDBALL.”
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