'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
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Guest Host: Chris Hayes
Guests: Ezra Klein, Rebekah Dryden, J.R. Ross, Richard Engel
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Thanks a lot, Lawrence.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. I‘m Chris Hayes, filling in for Rachel.
We begin tonight with a surprising new development, what looks to be a spreading revolt by unions and Democratic allies against Republican-led state level efforts to attack unions all across the country.
Wisconsin‘s Democratic state senators are still hold up tonight in an undisclosed location over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker‘s now infamous anti-union bills in that state. Those Democrats fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on that bill.
And today, in a truly unexpected move, Democratic legislators in the state of Indiana followed suit. Indiana House Democrats fled the statehouse today in order to prevent a vote on another anti-union bill being proposed in that state by Republican legislators.
Today, in the great state of Ohio, thousands upon thousands of protesters descended on the statehouse in order to back another anti-union bill being brought by that state‘s Republicans.
In Michigan today, protests broke out in state capitol of Lansing. The cause of the protests: yet another anti-union bill proposed by Republican state legislators.
Public school teachers in Tennessee are fighting back this week over another anti-union bill in that state being proposed by Republican state legislators.
What began in Madison, Wisconsin, is now spreading like prairie fire across the Midwest. Perhaps in the coming days, a little bit further east.
Today, Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey delivered his annual state of the budget address. And he set his eyes on what should now be a very familiar prize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY: In Wisconsin and Ohio, they have decided there can no longer be two classes of citizens, one that receives rich health and pension benefits, and all the rest who are left to pay for them.
CHRISTIE: The promises of the past are too expensive and the prospects of the future are too important to stay on the old failed course. Across the country, we have come to a moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Chris Christie has become the media‘s favorite mouthpiece for a whole cluster of conservative arguments about the perilous economic situation that states find themselves in right now, and a specific story about the culprits for state budget troubles and the remedies.
And chief remedy number one: squeeze the unions until they choke. There are, of course, different situations in all of these different states that we‘re now seeing anti-union proposals on the table. But the central case here on the right is that states are facing budget crises because of the public sector unions. That‘s the argument—the argument being made by Scott Walker in Wisconsin, by Chris Christie in New Jersey and by conservatives in the media like David Brooks in “The New York Times.”
Mr. Brooks writing today, quote, “States with public sector unions tend to run into fiscal crises.” Tend. Look at that argument again. Summed up in four little letters t-e-n-d—those four letters are bearing a very heavy, causal load right there. They‘re little shoulders are straining. The T and D are sagging down, asked to shoulder so much of this argument.
That‘s the thesis the right is selling right now. So, let‘s test it.
There are a few different ways to do that.
A political scientist named John Sides had a bright idea to just graph it out to see if there‘s a connection. What you‘re looking at is a result of that. Now, there‘s a lot of information on this graph, but don‘t be scared.
Here is the bottom line: a state like Mississippi, for example, has a very low union membership rate, about 5 percent of the state‘s work force is in a union. Mississippi‘s current budget shortfall is about 16 percent of their budget.
A state like New York, on the other hand, has a very high union membership rate, about 25 percent of its work force. Their budget shortfall is pretty much the same as Mississippi‘s.
One state has lots of union members, the other state has very few.
And it‘s the same deficit.
Now, that graph was for overall union membership. It wasn‘t specific to public sector union membership. So, let‘s check that part of it.
If Republicans are to be believed, a state that doesn‘t allow collective bargaining for their public employees should be in pretty good shape, right? A state like, say, North Carolina.
North Carolina does not allow government workers to bargain. The result of that, the seventh worst fiscal crisis in the entire country.
Idaho, on the other hand, which does allow some bargaining by state workers, they‘re in the best shape of any state in the country.
This idea that somehow public sector labor unions are the main cause of these budget crises is just not supported by the evidence.
The reason all these states have fiscal problems is not because of unions, it‘s because we‘ve just been through the worst recession since the Great Depression. We have insane, astronomical, prolonged levels of unemployment in this country. We have unbelievable waste of human capital just sitting around and degrading. We have record foreclosures. We have record bankruptcies. That‘s what‘s destroyed the revenue base in these states, not unions.
States don‘t have money right now because the economy is terrible, and the economy is terrible because an $8 trillion housing bubble and subsequent Wall Street shenanigans destroyed it. This was not a crisis brought on by public employee unions but it‘s a crisis that‘s now being used to crush them.
The other argument you‘re hearing from conservatives right now is that it‘s not all unions they‘re against right now. It‘s just public sector unions. What‘s happening in Wisconsin they say is about government employees unionizing and causing the state to go broke. Private sector unions,, we‘re totally cool with those. You want to Walmart—unionize Walmart, go for it.
David Brooks writing in “The Times” today, “Private sector union members know that their employees could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest.” The idea here is that conservatives aren‘t all against unions, just the ones in the public sector.
But cast your memory back to the state of Indiana where Democrats fled today. The bill there that Democrats are walking out on has nothing to do with public sector unions. No. That bill was to effectively end collective bargaining for private sector unions in this state. The right has been whacking away at private sector unions since the 1940s. And now that they succeeded in nearly extinguishing them, their move to opportunistically say nice things about them, if only to contrast it with the big, bad public sector unions.
It‘s pretty darn disingenuous. In fact, it‘s so disingenuous that people are beginning to catch on. The reason this revolt is spreading from state to state is because we‘re seeing new Republican governors and new Republican state legislators who rode into power on a wave of justified discontent with the economic status quo, that they: “A,” understood as a mandate for all these hard right economic policies, and “B,” used in order to pull a bait-and-switch.
They rode into power on profound frustration with the jobs crisis, and what are they doing? They‘re pursuing with reckless zeal all of their pre-existing ideological vendettas.
How does hamstringing collective bargaining for private sector unions in a place like Indiana do anything for either the balance sheet of the state of the Indiana, or the prospects of its workers? It doesn‘t. It‘s just an excuse to kneecap a long-standing conservative foe. In fact, it‘s such a ham-handed move that even Governor Mitch Daniels wants Republicans in the state legislature to pull the bill.
The broader question we‘re left with now is this: Is it going to work? The bet that Republicans are making, they can use the mandate they think they got in November and channel it towards their own wish list of right wing priorities. And the bet progressives are making as they try to stop their bills in their tracks is that slowing it down, delaying it, will give the American people more time to recognize exactly what‘s going on here.
And tonight, we may have some early evidence that the progressive strategy may be prevailing. The first independent poll done on this issue now shows that 61 percent of Americans would oppose their state legislators bringing up a Wisconsin-like union-stripping bill in their state -- 61 percent.
The other early sign, a fellow incoming conservative Governor Rick Scott of Florida backing away from the Scott Walker union-busting plan, rather than endorsing it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SCOTT ®, FLORIDA: He‘s trying to eliminate collective bargaining for some issues there. My belief is as long as people know what they‘re doing, you know, collective bargaining is fine.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: Which side benefits from this battle in Wisconsin stretching out into week two, which side stands a better chance of winning as the fight goes nationwide?
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, columnist for “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek” and an MSNBC contributor.
Ezra, it‘s great to see you.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Chris.
HAYES: All right. So, first of all, do you think the premise is right? I mean, in terms of what—to the degree we can establish relationship between public sector unionization as standing policy in the state and fiscal crisis, there really isn‘t much of a connection at all?
KLEIN: Unionization does not drive fiscal crises. Definitely not right now.
Now, we don‘t want to go too far with that. Pension funds, health care benefits, these things do matter for state budgets. They are a drag, just as, and we should be very clear about this, giant corporate income tax cuts are a big drag on state budgets, loss of revenues are a big drag, overspending is a big drag. But budgets are complicated.
But I want to go a step further with what you‘re saying here. Excuse me there. I want to go up a step further with what you‘re saying, because it is important to realize that when the states made these promises to their workers, they made a deal. They said, we‘ll get your work now if you let us defer payment for it until later.
That wasn‘t a bad deal for the state. There‘s a sort of narrative out there that these greedy workers got too much money. They got too much benefits from the state. Right now, they actually got less than what they figure they were totally promised.
And, in the end, people are going to pay here are these workers, not the states. The idea that the people who are coming out on top of this are these overcompensated unions is really, frankly, a little bit atrocious. They basically got the short end of the stick here.
HAYES: Why do you think it is that we‘ve seen this sort of coordinated agenda? I mean, it strikes me that Walker is—it is overreach, and maybe he is beginning to realize that, although I don‘t know. But why do you think at this moment do you think we‘re seeing this play out in so many states?
KLEIN: Power. So, there‘s the argument and you heard it from Rahm Emanuel when the Obama administration came in, you don‘t want a crisis to go waste.
HAYES: That‘s right.
KLEIN: People do take these moments of upheaval and moments of political opportunity to achieve long-term structural ends, and the Obama administration did this. They looked to get health care reform passed, which was not necessarily a direct need from the financial crisis, even though it was something that was helpful to the country.
And similarly, Republican governors in these states are seeing the opportunity in the large new majorities they have to do more than just balance the budget, which is an unpleasant task under any scenario. They see an opportunity to reshape the balance of power in the states.
If you look at Walker‘s budget, it‘s a fascinating document, his budget repair bill, and his platform. He says what we‘re going to do is we‘re going to essentially undercut union power in my state and we‘re going to then balance the budget at least in part by taking away promises we‘ve made to union employees in the state. At the same time, we‘re going to drastically cut corporate income taxes and other taxes that harm or impede corporations in order to increase business unemployment in the state.
You can argue that‘s good or bad thing. But what it is functionally is a different balance of power. Corporations become more powerful as unions become less powerful. And they get more of what they want. And there‘s money freed up in the budget to give them more of what they want. So, that‘s the equation we see.
HAYES: I sort of wonder, finally, if what you—where the balance of power—since we‘re talking about power—where the balance of power politically lies in this standoff? Because it seems to me like it sort of poise, an equipoise. I mean, it can, kind of, tip either way.
Who do you think gains the advantage the longer this drags out?
KLEIN: The longer it drags out, probably the unions. I mean, I think there‘s a very good chance this does pass in Wisconsin ultimately, or certainly something that‘s going to terribly impede the unions there. At the same time, I do think you‘re seeing a very substantial re-knitting of coalition between the unions and Democratic Party, and arguably unions and many people in the country who are having to sort of step back and say, well, what is it that the unions—what role do unions actually play?
I don‘t think we‘ve had this serious a conversation of the role of labor in America certainly in my memory. And I don‘t know about in yours.
But at the same time, I think that has led Democrats and others to say, well, you know, maybe we need to worry about this long term trend of de-unionization. Maybe we actually need them on the landscape here.
HAYES: That‘s a great point.
Ezra Klein columnist with “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek” and an MSNBC contributor—thanks a lot for coming on.
KLEIN: Thank you.
HAYES: Two weeks ago, how many non-Wisconsiners could tell you who Scott Walker is—much less predict he‘d be in a middle of a national struggle for America‘s soul? An overdue examination of the Dairy State‘s big cheese, up next.
HAYES: Breaking news this hour that Rahm Emanuel, President Obama‘s former chief of staff and former U.S. congressman representing a district in the city of Chicago, is going to represent that city as its next mayor. “The Associated Press” says he is projected to win the Democratic primary in that race, not only win it but exceed the 50 percent threshold that would keep him from having to face a runoff. Once again, according to “The Associated Press,” Rahm Emanuel will be the next mayor of Chicago. Insert your expletive of choice.
We‘ll be right back.
HAYES: Let‘s say you‘re state government and you need to hire a company to run one of your state-owned power plants. You don‘t want to run the thing yourself. You want a private company to do it for you. So, what do you do?
Well, if you are a fiscally responsible state government, you invite companies to bid on that contract. And here‘s how it works: company A says I‘ll do it for $10. And company B comes along and says, I‘ll do it for $9. And A comes back with $8 and on and on, until the contract is given to the lowest bidder, giving the state the best possible deal. That‘s how it‘s supposed to go.
Now, hold that in your brain for just a minute while we turn to the state of Wisconsin, where this incredible thing is going on right now.
The Republican Governor Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans are trying to dismantle almost all the unions for almost everybody who works for state and local governments in Wisconsin. The unions and lots and lots and lots of Wisconsinites do not like this idea. They‘d like to keep their hard fought for rights—thank you very much.
The standoff between these two sides has only intensified this week, with Governor Walker threatening layoffs if his bill isn‘t passed because it‘s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, right? And on the other side, an umbrella representing 45,000 workers vowed to call for a general strike if the bill does passed.
In the state Senate, Republicans on one committee up the stakes, attempting to lure self-exiled Democrats back with a voter ID bill liberals have been fighting for years. The committee passed the bill with Democrats on the phone from Illinois, they were not allowed to vote.
And over in the state assembly this morning, “Slate‘s” Dave Weigel reports that after a fairly simple discussion commending law enforcement, Republicans tried to sneakily rush a vote on the union-busting bill. Democrats rushed to the floor and a shouting insult match ensued. Democrats flooded the bill with a stream of 100 amendments in order to thwart Republicans.
The unions and their supporters showed no signs of backing down today. Even as a deadline of sorts of looms Friday, one provision in the bill allows the state to refinance its debt for savings of about $165 million. And the governor claims that if a bill doesn‘t pass by Friday, the state won‘t be able to save the full amount.
But don‘t worry. Not all legislation was stalled today in Madison. Governor Walker proudly and defiantly signed a bill making it more difficult for the state to raise revenue during what he, himself describes as a time of fiscal crisis. It is that same crisis which has been and continues to be the governor‘s argument as to why he wants to dismantle public sector unions.
He reiterated it earlier this evening in his fireside chat, an awkward name given that—an awkward choice of name, given the president with whom we associate the term “fireside chat” oversaw an era of union proliferation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: The legislation I put forward is about one thing. It‘s about balancing our budget now and in the future. Our bill is about protecting the hardworking taxpayer. Some have questioned why we have to reform collective bargaining, to balance the budget. The answer is simple: the system is broken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That‘s the thesis. Destroy unions because of money. We are broke. Ergo, collective bargaining as it stands must go.
We know that it‘s not about closing a budget shortfall because with the bill he signed today, he‘s made it much more difficult to raise revenue, and this is a very big “and,” the delicious-sounding blog, ginandtacos.com points to a little known portion of the bill. Quote, “The department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant with or without solicitation of bids.”
With or without bids. Remember the whole bidding on contract thing in order to get the best, most fiscally responsible deal possible? This bid allows for fiscally irresponsible money wasting no bid contracts. In other words, company A says they‘ll do it for $12, and it is sold to the only bidder.
So, what‘s going on in Wisconsin right now is not about money and it‘s not about closing a budget shortfall. It‘s about implementing a conservative wish list that stretches back long before Walker was even elected.
Joining us now is J.R. Ross, editor of wispolitics.com.
J.R., thanks so much for joining us this evening.
J.R. ROSS, WISPOLITICS.COM: No problem. How you doing?
HAYES: I‘m great.
So, Governor Walker‘s argument is the public sector unions are to blame for the fiscal crisis, and they have to be weakened. He has been pitted in a battle against these very same unions for a long time, if I understand correctly.
ROSS: Yes. Sorry. Say that again.
HAYES: He has been—Governor Walker has been pitted in a battle with these very same unions for quite some time as I understand.
ROSS: Oh, yes, I‘m sorry. You know, go back, Scott Walker was county executive in Milwaukee County for eight years before he became governor. And he‘s been fighting the local unions there for the whole time he was basically in office. He was swept into power after a scandal over a pension sweetener deal that (INAUDIBLE) officials put in place themselves, came as an aggressive conservative trying to cut government spending to rein in public employee costs and kind of fix the deficit there in Milwaukee County and (INAUDIBLE).
So, there are a number of things between layoffs, furloughs, trying to privatize services done by public employees, all kinds of things because in his mind, this is part of the, you know, his agenda trying to rein in the government of Wisconsin to try and fix the finances of Wisconsin.
HAYES: I‘m wondering if Walker has a bit of a reputation as kind of a movement conservative. Certainly, he sort of comes up in the circles. If that was the campaign that he ran if—when he ran for governor, if issues like collective bargaining were on the table when he was running for governor, or is this something of a sort of bait and switch?
ROSS: Oh, look, he dropped some hints. He definitely made it very clear that he was going to go after public employee pensions and health care, and he was trying to rein in costs. He talked of this over and over again, rightsizing government, give more (INAUDIBLE) for taxpayers, and holding a line, but he never ran an ad about, you know, I‘m going to end collective bargaining, almost every issue for public employees in Wisconsin save salaries. That wasn‘t, you know, part of the deal originally.
Now, he dropped some hints in December. You have to go back—when Democrats lost control of both houses actually here in Wisconsin and the governor‘s office, before they turned over power to Republicans, they tried to pass through—ram through some contracts for the ‘09 to ‘11 (INAUDIBLE) that included basically some extensions of benefits, public employees enjoy in Wisconsin.
Walker urged them not to do that. And at the time, he made it clear that he wanted to consider these contracts in light of the 2011 to 2013 budget and the problem in Wisconsin for finances then. And it was thought at the time by insiders that he was holding back kind of like an ace in the hole, if you will, that if employees won‘t agree to concessions on public employee benefits and pensions, he would go after them hard on their collective bargaining rights. But they never really assumed this is going to happen like this, and that he was going to go after collective bargaining right away. So, it kind of surprised some people he did this up front.
HAYES: Finally, real quick here, I wanted to get a sense from you—you have been covered Wisconsin, feel that this—what the political results are going to be of this if has overreached or gauged properly sort of where the public is on this issue?
ROSS: If the debate is going to be about public employee pay, pensions and health care, he wins that hands down. I mean, you ask anybody, any insider in politics, both sides, Democrats and Republicans, will tell you that the public is fed up with government spending, public employee pension and pay. They want to rein it in.
When it gets to collective bargaining, I‘ll say it‘s sort of dicer for him. That‘s a little bit—a tougher issue. And that‘s why you‘re seeing private unions come out here and support them—support the union forces. You‘re seeing the firefighters come out and the police officials who wouldn‘t be covered by his proposal.
So, this is a tougher fight than it is on pay and benefits for sure.
HAYES: J.R. Ross, editor of wispolitics.com—thanks so much for your insight. Really appreciate it.
ROSS: Any time.
HAYES: Here‘s how negotiating works. If you want 70, you look your opponent in the eye and ask for 100. The other spits out his coffee and says, 100, are you out of your mind? Seventy tops. And you smile, say, 70, and he agrees and you shake hands.
Republicans from Wisconsin, on the Hill, know this. Do Democrats?
HAYES: When you negotiate, especially in politics, you want to press maximal advantage. Never want your first negotiating position to be the same as where you end up. You first plant a stake in the ground as far as possible from your home turf so that when you inevitably have to retreat, you still end up having gained ground.
In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has certainly made a maximalist first offer. He wants salary cuts and pension cuts for most state workers. He wants to all but take away their collective bargaining rights. He wants rules that would make it difficult for unions to stay organized.
Governor Walker has already won concessions on the salary and pension cuts, and he won‘t even discuss accepting them. He‘s pressing for maximal advantage on everything, and at least for now, he won‘t accept anything less.
The same dynamic is also playing out in Washington, where today, House Republicans were standing firm on their position that keeping the government funded, keeping it up and running, means drastic cuts in spending, too. And Democrats in the Senate, to take up the bill next, today, would not rule out a stopgap measure that includes some modest cuts.
So, even though unemployment rate is still above 9 percent, even though many Democrats rightly believe expansionary spending is still the way to grow the economy and create jobs, the Democratic leaders of the Senate are already conceding ground to Republicans on spending and suddenly, the debate is over how much to cut, not whether we should be cutting at all.
It‘s still relatively early in the debate. How much more will the Democrats be willing in order to concede to avoid shut down? A shut down that Republicans are claiming the Democrats are trying to bring about. Quoting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a statement, “A government shut down is not acceptable outcome and again I call upon Leader Reid to commit to take that threat off the table and find areas to actually cut spending.”
Except the continuing resolution that House Republicans have proposed to keep the government funded does a whole lot more than cut spending.
It‘s jammed full of hundreds of legislative items that would, among other things, strip the EPA of its ability to regulate carbon emissions, not merely hack $3 billion from the agency‘s budget, because it would do that, too, but also bar the agency from using its funding for the development and implementation of greenhouse gas regulations.
In amendments that were passed along party line votes Friday, the House voted to end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and to take away the funding needed to implement health reform and a whole lot more.
The set of extreme policies are the Republicans‘ opening bid, their first offer. By making it so dear by stuffing in so many provisions that are so far out there, they set up a dynamic in which either they win major concessions from Senate Democrats or the government shuts down.
And what‘s at stake here is not just whether the lights stay on and social security checks still get sent after March 4th, which is, let‘s remember, only 10 days from now.
What‘s at stake is whether people without health insurance will be able to get health insurance or access to services if they don‘t have it. What‘s at stake is the quality of the air you breathe and the water you drink.
Are these things you want held hostage without negotiation or ceded away early in negotiations? Are they just bargaining chips? Take a deep breath as you think it over.
HAYES: With dictators around him either toppling or hanging on by their fingernails, Libya‘s strong man of four decades appears to be making a brutal play to avoid joining their ranks.
This, as far as we can tell, thanks to the regime‘s media blackout, the kind of violence that has been happening in Libya‘s capital, Tripoli. Witnesses are reporting that armed militia men loyal to Moammar Gadhafi have seized control of Green Square, the central square of the capital, after two nights of mayhem.
Witnesses say neighborhoods throughout Tripoli are littered with bodies after protesters were fired on from speeding cars, tanks and helicopters. They even have reports that planes dropped explosives on protesters from above, and that foreign mercenaries have been firing indiscriminately into crowds and civilians.
Human Rights Watch said that, so far, it has confirmed 62 deaths since Sunday in Tripoli. It‘s impossible to verify these reports since so few independent journalists have yet made it into Libya‘s capital city.
NBC‘s Richard Engel did make it into eastern Libya today. He‘ll join us to tell us what he saw there in a moment.
But for what‘s happening in most of the country, we are forced to rely on witness accounts and video shots on cell phones or uploaded through social media. What we can tell you is that Libya‘s strongman for the past 41 years, Muammar Gadhafi, is calling for all-out war on anyone who dares question his regime.
Libyan state television today broadcast a rambling, aggressive, 73-minute speech in which Gadhafi pounded his fists, vowing to fight on until his last drop of blood was spilled, saying he would die a martyr, all in front of a carefully chosen backdrop, the facade of his palace, still scarred by the bomb attack by American forces that he survived during the 1980s.
Gadhafi denied being responsible for the violence against protesters, but also called them rats and mercenaries, and urged his supporters to take to the streets to fight them.
Gadhafi even appeared to give them a legal pretext, brandishing his green book which reportedly contained a legal statute saying that Libyans who betray their country should be put to death.
Libyan state television showed Gadhafi supporters in Tripoli cheering after his speech. But in Libya‘s second city of Benghazi, it was a very different picture. Al Jazeera today showing video of people throwing their shoes at their television screens in contempt.
Benghazi, along with much of the eastern part of Libya, is now reportedly out of Gadhafi‘s control, the army reportedly taking the side of the protesters there and even supplying the people with weapons.
Libya‘s interior minister also reportedly joined the defectors today. According to Al Jazeera, he urged the rest of Gadhafi‘s army to join the Libyan people.
The United Nations Security Council convened today and issued a statement condemning use of violence and calling for those responsible for attacks on civilians to be held accountable.
It is unclear what leverage anyone has over Gadhafi. One world leader who admits having spoken with him today is the man spotted here last spring kissing his ring, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
His office announced today that Berlusconi spoke to Gadhafi by telephone, but gave no further details. Meanwhile, Libya‘s own deputy ambassador to the U.N., who has severed his ties to the regime, suggested imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.
And today, the Arab league today reprimanded Gadhafi and suspended Libya‘s participation in the organization. Sen. John Kerry called on President Obama to re-impose sanctions on Libya until the crisis ends and called on United Nations to remove Libya from the human Rights Commission.
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today called Gadhafi‘s violent crackdown, quote, “completely unacceptable.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe that the government of Libya bears responsibility for what is occurring and must take action to end the violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining us now from Tobruk in eastern Libya is NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. Richard, what have you seen today?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We crossed in from Egypt, and we crossed the border. And as soon as you cross the border from Egypt, it is obvious that things are not normal here, that the government of Gadhafi, Muammar Gadhafi, who has ruled this country for 41 years, no longer exerts his authority across the country.
On the Libyan side of the border, like every border crossing, there‘s the Egyptian side which stamps your visas. And then, there‘s the entry side on the Libyan side.
Well, all of the Libyan side is gone. So as soon as you get through Egypt, you just drive right into the country. Then, you run into the protesters. You run into the rebels.
I don‘t think you can call them protesters anymore because this is an armed movement with its objective. They are not trying to sit peacefully in Tahrir Square in Cairo. They are gathering weapons with the intention of trying to go and kill Gadhafi, so they are actively trying to overthrow the government.
So as soon as you cross over, you get into Libya. You run into these armed demonstrators - lots of them. They‘ve set up check points almost everywhere they can put a checkpoint, on intersections, on street crossings, down the main highways.
There‘s lots and lots of these protester rebel checkpoints. We drove around for about - about 100 miles in this part of eastern Libya. And we didn‘t see, Chris, an entire, one single loyalist to Gadhafi.
HAYES: Do we have any sense - do you have any sense from where you are of how far this kind of inkblot extends in terms of rebel control and how much of the country Gadhafi still has under his tenuous control?
ENGEL: We‘ve been - I spent a lot of days looking at that exact question. And according to people - most of our sources on this are from the opposition, so you have to take their claims with a grain of salt.
But they believe they control about a third of this country and that would start at the Egyptian border and it would end just beyond the city of Benghazi, and then extend south, not all the way to the bottom of the country, but the best would be the northeastern corridor of the country that is in rebel hands, and then after Benghazi all the way to Tripoli is the disputed area and then with fighting inside Tripoli itself and south still in Gadhafi‘s hands.
So it is a fluid situation, but the rebels here have lots of family contacts. This is a tribal society. We drove comfortably around this area today, not the entire roughly 500 or 600 kilometer span along the north, but we didn‘t find any problems. So they think about a third.
HAYES: We all watched the speech from Gadhafi today, and I‘m wondering what people there made of it, what that portends for what the government is doing now and will continue to do to try to retain the regime‘s power.
ENGEL: They believe that Gadhafi has lost his mind, that he is an insane person right now. And they think he‘s capable of doing anything. And they watched that speech and heard the threats that he was making, and thought he‘s clearly insane, and he needs to go.
And this only inspires the movement to go forward. But there was a note of concern, this of someone who is grasping for - grasping onto power, who has been here 41 years - they‘re capable of doing almost anything. The army has defected. Today, I was at an army base in Tobruk and the entire unit, the entire army - not quite, I think it was a battalion - had defected.
All the soldiers were there. They said they weren‘t going to fight. They told us they were refusing to fire on their own people. And because that has happened, Gadhafi has hired mercenaries from several African countries.
And these mercenaries, according to opposition groups, human rights groups and other independent sources, are the ones that are carrying out the crackdown on the urban population and carrying out what the people here in Tobruk are describing as massacres.
So if you have a leader who is, according to many in this city, insane, desperate for power, and has hired mercenaries, then it is hard to know what to expect from somebody like that. You could expect anything.
HAYES: Finally, Richard, if that is the case, what do the folks that you‘re talking to see as the endgame? How does this play out? Does it fundamentally depend on the loyalty of the army and what it does, international pressure? How is this going to be brought to a resolution?
ENGEL: I think Gadhafi‘s lost loyalty for a lot of sections of the army, in this area, particularly. For the protesters, they think it is very personal. This is an old-fashioned style revolt.
They want to kill the leader. They want the off-with-his-head model of revolution. And I think that‘s what they think will change this dynamic. It is not that organized of a society.
It wasn‘t that the military had such a sway in politics like it did in Egypt, where the military was an organized bureaucracy, a ghost in the machine.
This is much more tribal. The military is an institution, which is one of many. But the tribes, in many ways, are more important than the institutions in this country.
They think this ends by taking Tripoli - there‘s fighting in Tripoli now - and by having Gadhafi hanging upside down from a lamppost. That‘s how the rebels see it.
HAYES: NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel in eastern Libya. Thanks so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
Coming up on “THE ED SHOW,” Ed talks to Democratic lawmakers from both Wisconsin and Indiana who have fled their states to protect the public sector unions.
But first, on this show, how hard is it to get a straight answer out of Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Known Unknown? Today, MSNBC‘s Andrea Mitchell found out.
HAYES: Rachel Maddow is currently en route to Kansas where THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW has been all week investigating extremists who are trying to eliminate women‘s reproductive rights. We go back live to Kansas for an exclusive report, coming up.
HAYES: You may have heard that Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has a book out. Today, he appeared here on MSNBC where he was as slippery as a wet bar of soap. Andrea Mitchell made the valiant and effective effort to hold on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST, “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS”: Didn‘t you make up your mind to go after Iraq before there was any evidence?
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No, absolutely not.
MITCHELL: And without any evidence to connect them to al-Qaeda?
RUMSFELD: No, there was not.
MITCHELL: Not even 9/11?
RUMSFELD: There was not, although he was one of two or three
countries only of all the countries in the world that made negative remarks
about 9/11. No -
MITCHELL: That‘s not enough reason to go to war.
RUMSFELD: Of course not. I didn‘t suggest it was.
MITCHELL: You actually created, for the first time, a special unit,
this Office of Special Plans. It has been described as an intelligence -
RUMSFELD: I didn‘t create it. The policy office created it.
MITCHELL: On your orders?
RUMSFELD: It was - not on my orders at all.
MITCHELL: According to subsequent reports, inspector general reports, that intelligence unit, that analysis unit in the Pentagon was stove-piping information, intelligence information.
RUMSFELD: What does that mean, “stove-piping”?
MITCHELL: Mr. Secretary, you know what “stove-piping” means.
RUMSFELD: I don‘t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Having receded from public view since leaving the government in 2006, Rumsfeld has never been held to account for his performance as Defense Secretary, where his record included two wars through which nearly 6,000 Americans have died, along with untold thousands Iraqis and Afghanis.
On a late-night talk show last night, Mr. Rumsfeld criticized President Obama‘s budget proposal, but faced no question about torture, WMD or the Bush administration‘s habit of pairing costly foreign wars with massive upper income tax cuts.
It appears that most people are going to be content to treat Mr. Rumsfeld as just another personality with a book to sell rather than someone who should be rigorously held to account for his awful record.
To Andrea‘s great credit, she did her best to do that just today. I really hope others follow her lead so that Rumsfeld‘s book junket doesn‘t end up as little more than a victory lap.
HAYES: One of the reasons THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is in Kansas this week, covering the extreme anti-abortion movement is this man, the former Republican Attorney General of Kansas, Phill Kline.
He is in day two of an ethics violation hearing convened by a state disciplinary panel that handles complaints against lawyers. Among other things, Kline is accused of cross-referencing hotel records with redacted medical records, subpoenaed from the late Dr. Tiller‘s office in order to learn the names of Dr. Tiller‘s patients.
Today, Kline defended himself by saying he used those records to identify child victims of sexual abuse who he claims might have been getting abortions at Dr. Tiller‘s clinic.
He also testified that he was trying to find the, quote, “traveling companions of children who may be seeking abortions.” Kline could be disbarred if the Kansas Supreme Court decides to impose sanctions.
RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producer Rebekah Dryden has been in Kansas since Kline‘s hearing began. She joins us tonight from Wichita. Rebekah, why are you in Wichita?
REBEKAH DRYDEN, PRODUCER: Chris, we came down here to talk to a guy named Lee Thompson. He was Dr. Tiller‘s attorney for more than 15 years. And he told us they knew, of course, that they were being investigated by Phill Kline but really didn‘t know the depth of this investigation.
You know, some of the allegations set forth against Mr. Kline in
this complaint, for example, that his office had investigators staking out
Dr. Tiller‘s clinic following his employees, things like that, Dr. Tiller‘s
Dr. Tiller‘s lawyer tells us today, those were the tactics that were being used that they knew by, you know, the protesters and some of the, you know, extreme anti-abortion movement.
Those were not the sort of things that he knew that the Attorney General‘s Office might have been using, so he was sort of surprised to learn of some of these allegations.
Now, we also came down here, though, to talk to Lee Thompson because he is not just Dr. Tiller‘s long-time attorney. He is also the attorney for Dr. Mila Means. And she is the physician who is trying to become the first abortion provider here in Wichita since Dr. Tiller was murdered more than a year and a half ago.
So really, we came here to ask him what he thinks it is that there is no abortion provider here in Wichita and if he thinks there will be anytime soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE THOMPSON, DR. GEORGE TILLER‘S FORMER ATTORNEY: I think the tactics used against Dr. Tiller are clearly being employed here just as they have been employed across the country.
As you say, there is the example of following employees home, but also the intimidation of economics, you know, going after people who might wish to lease office space to an abortion provider to discourage them and say “We will inundate you with not only mailings. We will call your homes. We will call your families.”
It‘s just a plan, virtually, of terrorism. And the Federal Government wouldn‘t stand for that when it was intimidating people not to vote. And I think we should see what is decent federal cooperation now accelerated into much more aggressive federal action to protect the rights of women.
DRYDEN (on camera): Do you think the Federal Government may assist in Wichita and do something to make sure that abortion can be provided here? Do you think they need to have a stronger role than they have right now?
THOMPSON: Historically, the Federal Government has been helpful. Wichita is a wonderful location, very supportive, quite frankly, in my opinion, of abortion services. It‘s gotten a bad name because of the minority of people who have come around and done these sort of terrorist acts.
I think the Federal Government could be of assistance now. It‘s dependent upon, you know, exactly what‘s happening. But I think increased federal prosecutorial resources, looking at complaints, looking at FACE Act violations.
The prevention of access to an abortion clinic is a federal offense. Those sorts of things always need to be constantly monitored and I would hope that they would continue to be so and probably accelerated.
DRYDEN: Describe sort of the climate here in Wichita for me. Is it that this is a city that is that opposed to abortion? Or is it that this is a city that‘s that afraid of abortion or of the anti-abortion movement that it can‘t have abortion services?
THOMPSON: I don‘t think the climate in Wichita has virtually anything to do with the provision of abortion services. It was our experience and trials of Dr. Tiller that studies we did indicated that it was the abortion protesters who had the highest negatives, not Dr. Tiller.
This is a city - this is a state that produced Dwight Eisenhower and Nancy Kassebaum, a wide range of moderate politicians. What has happened is simply that the risks for the physician have become so great, created by a climate of fear and intimidation, that that is what prevents provision of abortion services.
It isn‘t the climate of Wichita. It isn‘t the climate in Texas or Minnesota or any place else, in my opinion. Some places it‘s better and worse. But it is the acts of those who are breaking the law to prevent women from having access to abortion services that has really made physicians wary of doing that.
They can‘t get leases on buildings. Their dry cleaners are picketed. You know, their families are harassed. All of those sorts of things. That is the sort of climate and I think that has occurred wherever people seek to perform abortions.
DRYDEN: Are you confident that abortion services will be able to be available in Wichita and south central Kansas sometime soon?
THOMPSON: Am I confident? I can‘t say that I am. We are the official custodians of Dr. Tiller‘s records. And so when people look for Dr. Tiller on the Web, they get this law firm‘s address.
And they call here asking, thinking we might be an abortion clinic and they say, “Where can I go?” And we have to say, “Maybe Kansas City.” It‘s heartbreaking to get those calls and we get them every week or two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DRYDEN: Chris, Rachel will be joining us in Kansas tomorrow.
HAYES: Thanks a lot. RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producer, Rebekah Dryden. Great reporting. Thanks a lot. Rachel is on the “Tonight Show” tonight and you can see her there. And you can read more of my work at “TheNation.com” or follow me on Twitter, user name ChrisLHayes. Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Good night.
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