'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
Past transcripts by month
Guests: Eugene Robinson, Doug La Follette, Dean Baker
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We have news ahead on Libya where things today did not go the way you might have expected them to go, given the president‘s speech last night.
We‘ve got a heads up for you tonight on something really important that‘s happening at the United States Supreme Court. Our newsroom name for it among the staff, so far, is son of Citizens United. It is not getting national attention yet, we find it very spooky. That is coming up.
We‘ve also got the Wisconsin secretary of state on the show tonight for “The Interview,” because the union-stripping thing in Wisconsin that we keep hearing is over is not only not over, it is dissolving into chaos at this point. That is all coming up over the course of this next hour.
But we start tonight with conservatism, with what the word conservative means in America now. The choice the conservative movement and the Republican Party have to make between being authoritarian conservatives or libertarian conservatives.
Do American conservatives favor big, intrusive government, or do they favor small, “leave-me-alone” government? If you ask them, if you ask just about anybody that identifies as a conservative, nobody ever says they are on this side, right? Nobody calls themselves an authoritarian anything, let alone an authoritarian conservative.
Nobody says, “I‘m for big, intrusive government, vote for me.” They always say they are on this side, right? They are all on the libertarian side, according to them.
No matter what kind of policies they actually like, they all say they
are for smaller government, limited government, personal freedom. That is
that is the conservative brand, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MITCH DANIELS ®, INDIANA: The commitment to limited government and individual liberty and freedom in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strong on conservative, limited government.
REP. BOBBY SCHILLING ®, ILLINOIS: Do I believe in smaller limited government giving power back to the people? Yes.
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: The importance of limited government and with the blessing of self government. But the pursuit of happiness depends on individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government. Renewed commitment to limited government. We need to reclaim our American system of limited government.
SEN. RON JOHNSON ®, WISCONSIN: Their vision of limited government is what has made America the greatest nation in the history of mankind.
SEN. JOHN THUNE ®, SOUTH DAKOTA: Because of my upbringing, I believe in things like limited government.
MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Limited government.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We stand firm. We stand for limited government.
RYAN: We cannot take for granted the case for limited government and individual freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Pretty clear, right? Limited government, restrained government, humble government—tiny, tiny, tiny government. That is what they are selling. American conservatives—government that leaves you alone. That‘s the brand.
The new Republican governor of Florida is a man named Rick Scott. Rick Scott just issued an executive order that will mandate forced drug testing of public sector workers in that state at least quarterly, at least quarterly. When Governor Scott became governor, he transferred to his wife his controlling shares in a for-profit company that does drug testing. He says that has nothing to do with this executive order, he just likes the idea of the government forcing drug tests on people it can force drug tests on.
There is a Fourth Amendment protection we have in this country against unreasonable search and seizure, and that has generally banned blanket invasive drug testing like this. You‘re supposed to only be able to do it if, for example, there are grounds for suspicion, or in the case of very specific kinds of jobs. But Rick Scott, despite those legal restrictions on doing what he wants to do, he‘s going for it anyway. He‘s at least going to try. The state will pay the cost of defending his mandatory drug testing policy in court.
The state, of course, will pay what is expected to be the spectacular cost of drug testing, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people quarterly at least, and Florida already has a really bad budget deficit. But, you know, any cost is apparently worth it, because under Rick Scott, his state government wants mass forcible drug tests, and so, it shall have them.
Is that small, leave-me-alone government, or is that big, intrusive government?
In the great state of Michigan, the new Republican governor there is a man named Rick Snyder. Rick Snyder‘s signature legislation since he has been governor is to establish what‘s being called financial martial law, or fiscal martial law. His administration will decide if your town is in a financial emergency.
If the Snyder administration so declares, if they declare a financial emergency in your town, a financial emergency czar will be appointed, not elected by you, but appointed, sent to your town, given the power to abolish your town. The town can be dissolved on the say so of the governor‘s financial emergency person. Anyone you elected locally to represent you can be dismissed. All contracts, all unions, all rights of people who worked for that town can be dissolved on one person‘s say so if Governor Rick Snyder gives the nod. He is taking that much power.
Is that small, leave-me-alone government or is that big, intrusive government?
In “The Interview” tonight, we will be talking with the secretary of state of the great state of Wisconsin, where there has been national attention to Wisconsin Republicans stripping peoples‘ rights and ability to join unions. Your freedom to associate in this country is guaranteed by the Constitution, your freedom to join a union if you want to. But to the extent that the government can be used to limit that right of yours, Republicans in Wisconsin and in Ohio and in Indiana and in New Hampshire and in Florida and in Tennessee and in Oklahoma and in Nebraska, Republican governors and legislators in all these states all over the country are stretching the power of government to try to end that right of yours.
A history professor at the University of Wisconsin published a long study guide online earlier this month, looking at what might explain this policy push not just in Wisconsin but in all these other states, all at once. The professor‘s name is William Cronon.
And he is not only not a liberal activist, he‘s also really no shlub. He is president-elect of the American Historical Association. He‘s a MacArthur genius award winner. He‘s one of the most distinguished history professors in the United States of America.
But after Professor Cronon wrote this academic piece online about conservative groups using model legislation to push certain policies in the state, the Republican Party of the state of Wisconsin filed an open records request demanding to read Professor Cronon‘s e-mails, taking a law designed to make law transparent to the public and instead using it to force into the public e-mails written by a university professor whose academic writings put him on the wrong side of the Republican Party on an issue they feel quite sensitive about.
You speak out, the government will use all the leverage it can muster over you to pry open your life.
Small, leave-me-alone government or the other kind?
We probably should have seen this thing coming. After the big Democratic wins in elections in 2006 and 2008, the pendulum swinging back to the Republican Party ever since has really been a swing back to a specific kind of conservatism—a specific kind that is all about government that is as big and intrusive as possible.
One of the first statewide elections after the big Democratic win in 2008 was the Virginia governor‘s race, right? In November, 2009, Virginians elected a man who has said that, quote, “Every level of government should statutorily and procedurally prefer married couples over cohabitators, homosexuals, or fornicators.” Not only is that not leave-me-alone, small conservatism, that is “big government crusade against the fornicators” conservatism.
And the administration of the man they elected, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, has been sort of like that. As with that professor in Wisconsin having the Republican Party demand his e-mails, in Virginia, it has been Governor McDonnell‘s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, who has demanded to search e-mails of a Virginia science professor, a professor whose research on climate issues that apparently did not meet with government approval.
Can‘t you just smell the freedom, the liberty, the humble, restrained government leaving people free to go about their business?
The latest incarnation of this breed of conservatism weirdly involves this show or at least my last name.
Evan McMorris-Santoro at “Talking Points Memo” turned up a new demand by the conservative movement, new demand by the right, to obtain the private e-mails of people to whom it is busy selling the idea that conservatives really want to just leave people alone. The labor studies faculty at the University of Michigan, at Wayne State University, and at Michigan State have all just had their e-mails demanded by a right wing think tank, specifically demanding to see any e-mail from any professor at the labor faculty at any of these schools, any e-mail that includes the words: Scott Walker, Wisconsin, Madison, or Maddow.
It is possible they think that Maddow is just a common misspelling of Madison, but if that‘s not the case—they mean me, this show.
The right wing group that is demanding any e-mails that include references to me or the show is called the Mackinac Center. They are a conservative group. They are funded mostly by secret donations, in that they do not disclose names of individuals or corporations who give them money. But they are well-funded and we know through tax records about donations to them by the charitable foundations of a lot of billionaires and corporations, frankly.
“Mother Jones” did a nice piece explaining who these guys are, what we know about their funding from foundations like the one run by Charles Koch, of Koch brothers fame. Also, the Walton Foundation, that‘s the Walton family that runs Walmart. Also, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation—
Edgar and Elsa Prince, I believer, are the mom and dad of Eric Prince, who you remember from Blackwater fame. All of those foundations fund the Mackinac Center.
The Mackinac Center wrote what looks to be the basis of that financial martial law policy in Michigan, Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder. This show was the first national news outlet to report in detail on that policy. And now, the Mackinac Center is demanding the e-mails of anybody who could be an expert on that subject in Michigan that might have the that temerity to type the word Maddow in any context in an e-mail.
How‘s that leave-me-alone personal liberty thing working out for you?
Americans like this idea. Americans like the idea of small-c, small government, leave-me-alone conservatism. This is—this is good political branding. This is a good sales pitch for any politician.
The conservative movement and Republican Party have done very well for themselves selling this idea, small, leave-me-alone government, selling this idea to America.
But, now, the country is figuring out that even though this is what they bought, this is not what they got when they took it home and unwrapped it.
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker won in November by six points. The latest polls say if the election were held today, he would lose to that same Democrat by seven points.
Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich won in November by two points.
Today, he would lose to that same Democrat by 15 points.
Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott won in November by one point.
Today, he would lose to that same Democrat by 19 points.
Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder won in November by a whopping 18 points. Today, he has swung 20 points in the other direction, and he would lose by two.
Yes. But you say the big, intrusive government Republicans, they aren‘t up for re-election right now. Democrats can‘t capitalize on the Republican big government overreach, can they?
It turns out they can. And it‘s in progress. That‘s next.
MADDOW: So, apparently I am a key search term for right wing groups demanding to see the e-mails of university professors. Yay? I guess some people in Michigan have surprisingly high interest in this show. Coincidentally, this show has some high interest in some people in Michigan. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: The big Republican overreach is having disastrous results for Republicans at the polls. Everywhere that Republican governors are pushing union-stripping measures, the public is not only pretty dramatically against that policy, pretty dramatically against union-stripping, but they are turning pretty dramatically against the Republicans pushing for that, too. Nationally, it‘s the Democratic Party‘s challenge to make that translate in November—this November and preferably next November, too.
But, you know, in Wisconsin, November seems to be coming early.
November coming early in Wisconsin looks like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSS DAITSMAN, SHOREWOOD, WISCONSIN: I‘m 85 years old. But I have never seen anything like this.
STATE SEN. CHRIS LARSON (D), BAY VIEW, WISCONSIN: We‘ve been working the recall efforts against the Republicans. This is the beginning of a movement.
REID SCHOONOVER, RETIRED TEACHER, CLINTONVILLE, WI: People open the door gladly and say, “We heard you were out in the community and we‘ve been waiting for you to come over here and get our signature.”
MIKE JABBER, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, FON DU LAC, WI: Our governor decides to give $117 million in tax breaks to corporations. And now, they want to make cuts to education. I can see class size going up to 35 to 40 kids in a class.
MIKE CRUMP, CORRECTIONS OFFICER, BERLIN, WI: As a Republican, my entire life, I am appalled at what Scott Walker and the Republicans did. It hurts my family. It involved my kids and school.
VALERIE LANDOWSKI, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: Whether you‘re a college student like me or a kindergartener, the Republicans are hurting everyone.
SCHOONOVER: This is for my children. This is for my wife. This is for my friends, my neighbors. This is for our community.
BETSY LAFONTAINE, CUSTOMER SERVICE REP, OSHKOSH, WI: Republicans declared war on the middle class. And with this recall campaign, we are fighting back and we‘re going to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that posted this ad today. They posted it and said they wanted to raise 100 grand to run it, and boink—the next time I checked, they got their 100 grand. Their little $100,000 thermometer was all the way to the top. You guys need a bigger thermometer.
But, in Wisconsin where public opinion is very, very strongly against the Republican union-stripping bill, the fight is not just electoral. It is also legal.
Republicans passed that bill by taking the unusual step of stripping it out of the budget, even though they had called it the budget repair bill. They relabeled the thing non-fiscal. They said it did not therefore require a quorum to pass it. And while Democrats said what they were doing was illegal, Republicans voted alone on their own without a larger quorum to pass it. and then they called it law.
A judge ruled otherwise, issuing an injunction blocking the bill from officially becoming law until the question of whether it was passed legally could be sorted out.
Scott Walker‘s administration effectively ignored the judge‘s ruling. They said, you know, we think the bill is law, and they started to implement it.
Today, the judge ruled again, saying that her earlier ruling must have been, quote, “either misunderstood or ignored.” This time the judge said with some insistence that the union-stripping law is, in fact, not in effect in Wisconsin. It is enjoined.
Remarkably, after this second ruling, the Scott Walker administration still declared that they‘re going ahead with implementing the new union-stripping law, which maybe makes me think maybe we should stop calling it a law, because this doesn‘t seem legal.
Joining us now for “The Interview” is the Wisconsin Secretary of State, Doug La Follette.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time tonight. I know you‘re a very busy man.
DOUG LA FOLLETTE, WISCONSIN SECRETARY OF STATE: It‘s great to be here, Rachel, and to talk to you and the people across America.
MADDOW: Let me ask you if I got anything wrong in my introduction there. I know this has been a fast-moving and at times confusing process. Did I screw anything up there?
LA FOLLETTE: No, you pretty much got it right. It‘s pretty complicated. But the summary you made is what‘s going on. The administration decides to ignore the court ruling, and try to make this act a law by sort of the back way of doing it. And I think they should be seriously punished by the court for what they‘re doing.
MADDOW: In terms of that specific issue of publishing it, as I understand, it is your responsibility as secretary of state to publish laws formally which allows them to take effect. Am I right that the judge‘s ruling blocked you from publishing the law, but the Walker administration went around your office and just had another part of state government publish it instead and called that making it law?
LA FOLLETTE: Well, that‘s right. But there‘s more to it. The normal procedure would be: I receive the act, I schedule publication, and I did that under the law. Then the judge issued a temporary restraining order.
But the restraining order said two things. It said she blocked any further implementation of the law and enjoined the secretary of state from publishing. So, there‘s two parts.
And the Walker administration totally ignored the first part. She said no further implementation. And the secretary of state should not publish it.
MADDOW: Now, that the judge has so emphatically reiterated what seems to have been the terms of her earlier injunction, how do you expect the Walker administration will react, what they‘re going to do next?
LA FOLLETTE: I don‘t know. They‘ve already behaved quite erratically, a little irresponsible, I believe, to ignore the orders of the court. They seem—pardon my language—hell-bent to get this passed.
And from my point of view as secretary of state, there‘s sort of two parts of this. My responsibility to publish the law or not based on court orders and following the rules. The other part of my thinking as a many, many year statewide elected official is the substance of that law. It is wide sweeping, gives the governor 37 new political appointees, changes health care, strips unions of their ability to discuss class size or working conditions.
This is a major step backward for what I always dreamed of as Wisconsin, of a progressive state. And so, the substance of it is very disconcerting to me. But the Walker administration seems, as I said, hell-bent to push this thing through.
MADDOW: In terms of how hell-bent they are—I wonder, if there‘s going to be a serious and expensive legal path for the Walker administration in trying to force this change through the way they have been approaching it so far—do they have other options for making this into law that would be less expensive, less hassle, more direct for the state?
LA FOLLETTE: Exactly. Exactly. And I‘ve been saying that the last two weeks.
Today, the judge said it. The judge said she doesn‘t understand why they just don‘t go back and start over and do it right, introduce the same bill, hold a public hearing, give proper notice, let the public comment and then pass it, if they have the votes, the governor can sign it. It will come to my office, and if it‘s done properly, I would publish it.
The judge said why are we wasting thousands of dollars of taxpayer money all this time when they could do it over and do it right?
MADDOW: Why do you think that they are not doing it that way? Do you have any insight?
LA FOLLETTE: Well, I‘m not sure I have any more insight other than the fact that I have been in politics now for many, many years. They may not have the votes.
At this point, we know what‘s in the bill. We didn‘t when they had that sort of quick, possibly open meeting violation get together one night, and they pushed this thing through. Now, the public and many legislators, including Republicans and Democrats, know much more about this legislation and there might not be enough votes to pass it a second time.
MADDOW: Doug La Follette, Wisconsin secretary of state—I wanted to talk to you about this for a long time, sir. I‘m thankful for your time tonight. Thank you.
LA FOLLETTE: Great. Enjoyed it.
All right. Today in Ohio, a committee in the House there approved a union-stripping bill that is even more extreme than the one I was just discussing with Mr. La Follette, than the one that has convulsed Wisconsin for this past few weeks and months and grabbed the nation‘s attention. Democrats in Ohio knew they didn‘t have votes in the legislature to stop the Ohio bill.
So, when Republicans passed it on a party line vote in this committee today, the Democrats‘ contribution to that was that they delivered 65,000 signatures of Ohioans saying they were against what the Republicans were doing. Ohio Democrats say they cannot stop this union-stripping bill from being passed in the legislature and signed by Governor John Kasich in all likelihood, but they say they can get it repealed by voters on the ballot this November. And, frankly, the polling shows the Democrats are right.
How would you like to be a Republican down ticket from that question on the ballot in November?
More ahead, including how conservatives have dragged this show into their mess in the great state of Michigan—coming up.
MADDOW: The unemployment rate in the great state of Michigan is 10.4 percent. It has been above the 10 percent mark for longer than in any other state—so jobs, jobs, jobs, right? Michigan‘s Republican Governor Rick Snyder says that is totally what he is working on.
What he has actually been working on is a bill suggested by a right wing think tank that doesn‘t disclose its funders that would give Snyder‘s administration the power to declare a financial emergency in your town, and then abolish your town. It would give a financial emergency manager the ability not only to abolish your town but to also fire everyone you ever elected there to represent you.
When it emerged today that the same think tank that suggested the financial martial law bill in Michigan was using state‘s open records laws to see any e-mails from state professors that mentioned things about the Wisconsin union fight or that mentioned the word Maddow—I want to let you know we called that conservative think tank. They are—if you phonetically read the name, it is Mackinac. They prefer to you called Mackinac. I‘m going to call them Mackinac.
Mackinac Center, we called them today. We asked them to be on the show, they said no.
We also asked the Charles Koch Foundation which funds Mackinac. We asked them to be on the show. We got no response from them.
We also asked the Walton Family Foundation to be on the show tonight. This is the Walton family from Walmart. They also fund this conservative think tank in Michigan. We got no response from the Walton Foundation.
We then asked the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation to be on the show since they, too, fund Mackinac. They are the parents of Eric Prince, who runs Blackwater. The Prince Foundation did not so much say no to us as they did say they had no idea what we were talking about, then they seemed very alarmed that they had called them and then they hung up on us.
But hot on the heels of this abolish your town financial emergency power assertion, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder this week decided to do something directly related to jobs. He is tackling unemployment in Michigan—by which I mean that yesterday, Governor Snyder passed a—signed a measure passed by the Republican-led Michigan legislature that would cut unemployment benefits in the state by six weeks, starting next year. Governor Snyder and Michigan Republicans are tackling the unemployment problem in their state by making sure that people without jobs in Michigan get less help.
Let‘s just say you don‘t care whether or not the approximately half million people who don‘t have jobs in Michigan will have to eat cat food for six weeks because of this measure. Let‘s not even talk about what unemployment benefits mean for each individual person who gets them. Let‘s not even talk about whether or not state government should be prioritizing the kinds of social safety nets that are all that‘s between, say, half a million working and middle class Michiganders and abject poverty.
Let‘s just get cold-hearted about it and talk instead about what unemployment benefits mean to the economy, what they mean not just to the person who‘s receiving them, but to everybody else who‘s trying to make it in this very slow recovery from the great recession. Here is the cold hearted thing about people that don‘t have jobs—people who don‘t have jobs tend also to not have a lot of money, but they do still have to survive.
So, when they get money in the form of, say, unemployment benefits, they tend to spend that money right away. When they get a dollar, they do not file it away for a rainy day, it is raining already for them. And so, if they get a dollar, they spend it on something they really need to spend it on, say food, really efficiently. Money spent on unemployment gets pumped back into the economy because of the nature of what it means to be unemployed.
Moody‘s looked at the effectiveness of different economic policies in terms of likely impact they would have on the economy as a whole. They found that for every dollar spent on extending unemployment benefits, we get $1.61 back in economic growth. So, Michigan Republicans‘ idea of dealing with high unemployment in their state by making life harder for the unemployed, that isn‘t just mean, it‘s bad for Michigan‘s economy.
Instead of taking lemons and making lemonade, they have taken lemons and they have started squeezing them into eyeballs and open cuts. Confronted with a lot of people in their state who are already hurting, Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Republicans are making the whole state pay for the privilege of hurting those people just a little bit more.
Joining us now is Dean Baker, economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Thanks very much for joining us, Mr. Baker. It‘s nice to have you here.
DEAN BAKER, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC AND POLICY RESEARCH: Thanks a lot for having me on.
MADDOW: What will be the likely economic impact in Michigan of cutting way back on unemployment checks like this?
BAKER: No, it‘s just further downward pressure on the economy. I mean, the basic story we‘ve seen across the country, Michigan more than anywhere, is that there‘s incredible shortfall of demand. We had this collapse in the housing bubble that had been driving the economy, that‘s gone. That destroyed $1.4 trillion in demand.
We desperately need the public sector, the government, to come in and fill that gap. Unemployment insurance is a great way to do that, so again, exactly as you said, apart of what it does to the workers and their families, this is cutting demand from Michigan‘s economy. Fewer jobs. How could that be a good story?
MADDOW: Well, at the federal level, we are seeing some of the same kinds of proposals. House Republicans also said they want to cut food stamps very dramatically, federally. Would that have the same kind of economic impact across the country?
BAKER: It‘s the same sort of story—meaning, you know, people getting food stamps, it‘s the same situation with the unemployed. They don‘t have—they need to spend that money. They need the food.
And, you know, the bizarre story, the Republicans seem to have this idea, at least implicitly that somehow you have firms out there, you have stores, factories, offices, they are going to go hire people because they see, hey, the government cut food stamps, good time to hire. I don‘t know anyone like that. I take it to going to the stores and I go to talking the people there, are you going to hire people if the government cuts food stamps? I haven‘t found anyone that says yes.
MADDOW: Republicans, of course, brand themselves as the fiscally conservative party, right? The fiscally smart party. And often enough, it works. People still have that impression of Republicans—even if they don‘t think that about Republican policies.
But how is it they have been able to sell the idea that giving more money to people who already have the most of it has a positive economic impact, and that there will be a positive economic impact of taking money away from people who have the least?
BAKER: Well, I think basically they‘ve been playing against no opposition. Here, I‘m going to toss the grenade at President Obama. He‘s supposed to be the one calling the shots, setting the agenda.
He should have been out there saying, look, we‘re in a recession because Wall Street went nuts. Government has to make up the demand. I don‘t want to do it.
You know, no one wanted to be in a situation with 10 percent unemployment, but that is what he was in. The government has to make up the demand, and that means we have to spend money right now. We have run large deficits. And, unfortunately, the president hasn‘t made that case and it‘s very hard to do that in the absence of the leader of the party.
MADDOW: Well, we are facing this as in terms of a national political debate. But when you look at the way it is playing out in the states, it‘s devastating. I mean, this is a long term coordinated project of the right to change economic policies in a way that take resources away from people with the least and shift them towards people with the most.
“McClatchy” ran a really hard-hitting piece on how states are prying open huge holes in their budget by cutting their revenues, particularly by cutting corporate taxes, even though it makes budget deficits worse. Republican governors are saying there‘s a fiscal justification for doing that, that it‘s somehow fiscally conservative.
I mean, do the argument—would it make a difference for the president to make the argument at the federal level if the states are already sold on this, implementing it, paying the price, and still people don‘t understand it?
BAKER: Well, there‘s two things. One, he has, you know, he has the podium of the presidency. That has the big impact on national politics.
But, also, from the stand point of state and local governments, this is the backdrop. So, Republicans have been in this context of—oh, my God, we have these huge deficits, and I realize it‘s a totally contradictory story. On the one hand, they say, we have these huge deficits, we have to cut unemployment benefits, we have to cut, you know, education spending, health care spending. Same time, they‘re slipping the money out to the back door to their buddies and the corporations who pay for their campaigns. That‘s a contradiction.
But nonetheless, the president really has to get out there and say, in this downturn, we need to spend money every way we can because that‘s what‘s going to give jobs. I mean, that‘s why employers hire people because people are coming through the door buying things. And if people don‘t have money to buy things, well, then, the employers aren‘t going to hire people.
MADDOW: I think whether or not President Obama takes your advice on this, we are starting to see with Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan and these other states, we are starting to see Democrats in the states not only who understand that but are willing to crow about it, because they find it immediately resonates with people as soon as you explain it.
BAKER: It does.
MADDOW: So, this may be a bottom up thing in Democratic politics.
Dean Baker, economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research—it‘s always a pleasure to have you here, Dean. Thank you.
BAKER: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: President Obama‘s speech on the war in Libya anticipated and answered a lot of questions about America‘s involvement in that war, except for what happens now, what happens next, and when and how we plan to leave? How we know when it‘s over? Pulitzer Prize-winning “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson will join us next.
MADDOW: The Obama administration cannot single-handedly control or determine the outcome of the war in Libya, but it can single-handedly control and determine and American level of commitment to that war and how much the U.S. is willing to devote to that war in terms of money and time and equipment and manpower and risk.
In terms of America‘s lead military role in the war there, thus far, the Obama administration has been saying from the start that the U.S. would hand that off in a matter of days, not weeks. Eleven days ago, in a meeting with congressional leaders, President Obama reportedly assured those members of Congress that the handover would be, and I quote, “in days, and not weeks.”
Defense Secretary Bob Gates echoed that time line a few days later on board a military plane to Moscow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We expect it in a matter of days to be able to turn over the primary responsibility to others. We will continue to support the coalition. We will be a member of the coalition. We will have a military role in the coalition. But we will not have the preeminent role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, in a matter of days, we will not have the preeminent role. That was over a week ago. Fast forward to Sunday night when NATO supreme allied commander in Europe posted this update on Facebook—yes, seriously, a Facebook update, I know. He said, quote, “NATO is now in charge of all operations in Libya, humanitarian, arms embargo, no-fly zone, and protection of civilians. International approach!” Exclamation point, on Facebook, yes.
But last night, the American commander-in-chief seemed to be under the impression that the transition of all operations in Libya from U.S. hands to international hands, last night, President Obama seemed to be under the impression that that transition had not happened yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It will happen on Wednesday, as in it will happen tomorrow. And yet, in an interview with NBC‘s Brian Williams today, the president described the whole thing as a NATO mission already.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that what we‘ve already done is transition so that this is now a NATO and international mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If your head is spinning, you are not alone.
The time line of the transition of the United States, I guess, standing down as NATO stands up, it‘s not the only murky but really super important detail about what happens next in the Libyan war. There‘s also the matter of Moammar Gadhafi himself. It is official U.S. policy that Gadhafi should go, that he should step down as the leader of Libya.
But will the United States and NATO use military force to make that policy a reality, to force Gadhafi out, either by going after Gadhafi himself or by arming the rebels who are trying to do it themselves?
On the last point, on the possibility of arming the rebels, here is what President Obama had to say tonight in that Brian Williams interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I am not ruling it out, but I‘m also not ruling it in. We‘re not taking anything off the table at this point. Our primary military goal is to protect civilian populations and to set up the no-fly zone. Our primary strategic goal is for Gadhafi to step down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Strategic goal is for Gadhafi to step down. Military goal is to protect civilian populations. Do the twines meet?
The primary strategic goal for Gadhafi to step down was front and center in London today when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with four dozen international leaders. That‘s a crowded room. Of Gadhafi, she said, quote, “We believe he must go. We are working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome.” Leaders from Britain and Qatar said the same thing today. And the secretary general of the United Nations announced that he would be dispatching an envoy to Libya to mediate between the Gadhafi regime and the rebels.
But despite all the uncertainty about when the U.S. steps back and how far it‘s willing to go to achieve what the U.S. is still calling our primary strategic goal, there is one thing the administration does seem certain of—it is something we talked about in the analysis of the president‘s speech, it is something that the president wanted to make crystal clear again today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, as I indicated last night, I think it‘s important not to take this particular situation and then try to project some sort of Obama doctrine that we‘re going to apply in a cookie-cutter fashion across the board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I think that is clear, even if it‘s apparently not clear to the Beltway press. I think that is clear, that the administration says that Libya does not set a precedent for the next war, I guess.
But what about this current one? What about Libya? How long is the U.S. on the hook for this one now that we are in it?
Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst and Pulitzer prize winning columnist at “The Washington Post.”
Gene, thanks very much for being here tonight.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It‘s great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you wrote at “The Post” this week about Libya, that the goal must be to prevent the bloodbath, not just reschedule. What did you mean by that?
ROBINSON: Well, you can obviously bomb Gadhafi‘s troops and keep them from sweeping into Benghazi. And, indeed, that was done by really the first wave of French barrage jets that wiped out the column of tanks.
You can do a lot of things. But if you leave Gadhafi in charge in Tripoli, even if he just has the city of Tripoli—number one, he is going to terrorize the civilians in Tripoli, because that‘s what he does. He terrorizes civilians.
And so, you‘re not I guess fulfilling your mission if you‘re not protecting them. And if you leave him there, his forces are going to try to take back territory. So, it seems to me that in order to fulfill the NATO mandate of protecting civilians, you have to go for regime change, yet that‘s not what we‘re doing. So, I am confused.
MADDOW: Well, the president made a very strong, very blunt—he even described it as blunt—case last night for why it is not a U.S. military objective to kill Gadhafi or force him out, that they‘re not—they‘re not pursuing regime change with Gadhafi as a military mission because therein lies the road to Baghdad.
Did the president make a clear case about why the U.S. shouldn‘t do that, a clear enough case that would justify leaving Gadhafi in power, even if some other military objectives were achieved?
ROBINSON: Well, I can understand the case for not using military means to pursue regime change, but my point is that if we are to fulfill what the president says is the NATO mission, is the mission that our military is pursuing, which is to protect civilians from the deprivations Gadhafi surely will inflict, then I don‘t know how you do that and still leave him in charge.
MADDOW: Does it make sense to have a difference between a U.S. policy that Gadhafi should be gone and a military intervention of which we are a part and not a leader, that is not aiming at that? I mean, is it—is war policy by other means and is it—is it conceivable to have the sort of, not just—not just conceptual divide between those things but actually an operational divide between the two things, to try to get Gadhafi out by every means other than what our military is doing?
ROBINSON: I don‘t see it, maybe it‘s possible. But I don‘t see why you would do that. If, in fact, our policy is that Gadhafi must go, then you‘ve got the military in there, they are bombing, they are strafing, they‘re doing what the military does to tell them, but don‘t try to further our policy is—I don‘t think you can really separate those two. And that‘s kind of the contradiction that I think you can drive a semi through here.
The other thing, frankly, is that we may be talking semantics when we talk about does it get handed over to NATO on Wednesday or Thursday or next Tuesday. You know, what is NATO? NATO has at its heart the United States military capabilities. So, it‘s not as if we‘re going away.
MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “The Washington Post” and man who will tonight forgive me for asking you the same question five different ways. I realize that there is no answer to it, and that‘s why we talked about it the whole time. Thank you very much, Gene.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Rachel.
So, back when there was a Republican was in the White House, that whole partisanship supposedly ending at the water‘s edge was at least something that both parties paid lip service to. Now that there‘s a Democrat in the White House, the idea of Republican patriotism looks very, very different. Ed Schultz has that next. You don‘t want to miss it.
On this show, you know that Citizens United ruling giving corporations the right to spend what they like in elections—unlimited corporate spending, turns out that was just the beginning. The bigs may soon be getting bigger. We got a little warning for you on that one.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: I have one more thing for you about Libya. Today, the Pentagon announced that, so far, the U.S. military has spent a total of $550 million in our war with Libya. The Pentagon says the bulk of that money, about 60 percent, is the cost of the bombs and missiles our forces have shot at and dropped on the Libyan military there. So, $550 million and it was reportedly spent in the first 10 days of the bombing campaign. It works out to about $55 million a day -- $55 million a day -- $55 million each day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: That‘s the $600 million a day question that‘s being asked now because that‘s the cost incurred by Americans as we support the no-fly zone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, before you complain I think she is running for president so I think that‘s why this matters. But it is not clear where Sarah Palin got the idea that we are spending more than 10 times per day in Libya what we really are spending.
One guess? This was a headline at ABC News‘ Web site yesterday.
“Cost of Libya Intervention $600 Million for First Week, Pentagon Says.” Maybe Sarah Palin only read the first six words of that and then got tired and stopped. You know, not everybody has time to read past the first six words of every news headline. So, really, maybe this is on ABC for not writing that better.
Maybe they could have done it like this. First week of Libya costs $600 -- no. That‘s seven words. How about this? Wait. One other idea. What? Wait!
Libya, week one $600 million. Ha! Did it in five. Twitter is good for training.
MADDOW: The U.S. Supreme Court is one of the secretive corners of U.S. government except for when it‘s not, except for when it tips its hand far enough that you can count those little curls by the jack of heart‘s little chin which the court has just done in a case shaping up to be the least populist thing that‘s happened to U.S. democracy since the last time this court ruled in a case like this in Citizens United. With that ruling last year, the Roberts court gave corporations the right to spend as much as they wanted directly for or against political candidates.
Since Republicans make a political point of keeping corporations as happy as possible, you can guess which side gets most of the corporate cash. Conservatives get the post-Citizens United special interest corporate cash six-to-one.
But, yesterday, the Supreme Court heard a new case about an Arizona clean elections law that offers candidates who do not want to rely on unlimited corporate cash, an alternative by means of public matching funds. Did the justices tip their hands about what they think about this Arizona law?
Justice Elena Kagan, quote, “I think the purpose of this law is to prevent corruption.” Justice Kennedy, quote, “Do you think it would be a fair characterization of this law to say that its purpose and its effect are to produce less speech in political campaigns?” Yes. Justice Kennedy is the probable swing vote.
This case, the son of Citizens United, looks to be heading down the same 5-4 road the Citizens United itself. If you are a candidate who isn‘t likely to attract corporate campaign dollars and say you want to go to D.C. to fight for union rights, this would be bad news. After Citizens United, you could try to get corporate money or you could go for public funding. You still had a chance at both. If the court declares Arizona‘s law unconstitutional, corporate money will get that much closer to being the only means of running a real campaign.
A new threshold for viability in politics: you can either be a billionaire who can self-finance or you better pleased the corporations. And that‘s the only path to making it to Congress.
We will keep you posted on this case.
Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
PASTE THE TRANSCRIPT HERE, LEAVE THE BELOW PART ALONE
WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.
MORE FROM RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Add Rachel Maddow Show headlines to your news reader: