'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
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Guests: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Andrew Bacevich
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Lawrence, I was quite transfixed by your conversation with Ms. Taitz. I wanted to know how you‘re feeling?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, “THE LAST WORD” HOST: It‘s over, it‘s behind us, and she‘s over.
MADDOW: I hear you. That was brave and amazing. Thank you for doing it, Lawrence. Thanks a lot.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Happy birther day. Yes, that actually happened at the White House today. We will get there, I promise, eventually.
But first, something real—after the 2010 midterm elections, after last year‘s elections, a group called the Center for Responsive Politics took a look at who spent the most money in that election. They concluded that the corporate funded side of Republican Party politics absolutely devastated Democrats and Democratic causes across the country.
Outside groups on the right outspent the left by so much in the last elections that they—it wasn‘t even quantitative anymore. They qualitatively changed the nature of the competition in that election.
The Center for Responsive Politics summed it up this way. They said, quote, “The Democrats brought a bat and the Republicans brought a grenade.”
Here‘s the difference between conservatives and liberals. Here‘s the difference between Democrats and Republicans. When somebody says that sort of thing about Republicans, about them bringing a grenade, Republicans put it on their home page because they‘re proud of it.
This is the front page of Karl Rove‘s unlimited spending campaign group, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. They brag about the grenade thing on their front page. That‘s what they‘re advertising that they do.
We can report tonight that Mr. Rove‘s groups may be about to bring that exact same grenade that they brought to the last election to what they see as the next big fight, a fight that we have been highlighting on this show for the past few nights—the organic grassroots vocal anger being expressed by regular American citizens to the Republicans who voted for the Paul Ryan Republican budget. The disapproval and the rage at Republican members of Congress for voting to kill Medicare, for voting to rollback tax rates for the rich to what they were in the 1930s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAN WEBSTER ®, FLORIDA: Not one senior citizen is harmed by this budget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re a liar!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know anything about Medicare?
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: Well, I‘m not on it. No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s what I‘m driving at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked me if I voted to abolish Medicare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you did vote to abolish Medicare. That‘s what his vote is!
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: As we have noted on this show, there has been a minor Republican Party freak-out overall of this.
House Republicans held their own conference call yesterday to try to do some damage control about how to better message their votes for the Paul Ryan Republican budget.
A congressional aide telling “Reuters” today, quote, “Some members are feeling the heat.”
But post-Citizens United, if you‘re talking about how politics really happens, frankly, the parties can almost be irrelevant. The Republican Party can hold as many as conference calls for its members as they want, it‘s the corporate side of Republican politics that will be fighting this fight for them in big dollar amounts. And the corporate side of Republican politics is mounting a counter-offensive on this that is pretty breath-taking in scope.
On one side of this fight again are folks like this random veteran in Florida who was expressing his anger about the Republican plan to kill Medicare and cut V.A. benefits in favor of tax cuts for the rich and for corporations. That gentleman showed up yesterday at a town hall event held by Republican Congressman Daniel Webster of Florida. We played his remarks on last night‘s show. So, we‘ll use him as a means of understanding that one side, right? That‘s one side of this.
Here‘s what‘s on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Something unusual happened last week. In Washington, D.C., of all places, elected officials actually did what they said they would. The House passed a budget that protects and preserves Medicare for years to come and our congressman, Daniel Webster, voted to protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees.
Paid for by the 60 Plus Association.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Paid for by the 60 Plus Association. Paid for by the 60 Plus Association. That sounds like in real time.
According to 60 Plus, they say the Republican plan, the Paul Ryan plan, protects and preserves Medicare, by dismantling it, of course. This 60 Plus group that‘s running these radio ads, they‘re also running robocalls and they‘re sending out mailers in 39 House districts right now, all about how when Republicans voted to kill Medicare, they were really voting to protect it. When they acted to kill, what they meant was to cuddle -- 60 Plus is shelling out somewhere in the neighborhood of $800,000 on this campaign.
Who is funding that? We do not know -- 60 Plus does not disclose who funds them.
In terms of what interests they advocated for in the past, though, back in the 2000s, the 60 Plus group lobbied against allowing states to re-import prescription drugs from Canada so they would be cheaper. Remember that fight?
How does it even make sense that a seniors‘ advocacy group would not want cheaper drugs for seniors? Why would they lobby in that direction? Ah, virtually all of their largest contributors at that time came from the same source, the nation‘s pharmaceutical industry.
Now, that same group, 60 Plus, says the Paul Ryan plan to privatize and, therefore, kill Medicare would actually be great for Medicare.
Also part of the counter-offensive on the right is the group Americans for Prosperity. AFP is running pro-Paul Ryan Republican budget radio ads, web ads and robocalls in more than 20 districts across the country right now. Total ad buy, about $400,000.
Who‘s paying for that? Again, don‘t know. Americans for Prosperity does not disclose its donors. We have asked them many, many, many times, trust me.
What we do know about them, though, they are funded at least in part by corporate funds. Here‘s what the president of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips, told us in the show back in 2009.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PHILLIPS, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: We would love to have more corporate funding so if there‘s more corporations watching tonight, feel free to give to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Americans for Prosperity was founded by the 18th richest man in the world, one of the Koch brothers. And Americans for Prosperity is now stepping in to defend the Paul Ryan budget, which of course slashes taxes for corporations and for the wealthiest people in the country.
Then there‘s Karl Rove‘s groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. They tell us tonight that they have not unleashed yet their grenade, their proverbial grenade on this fight but they told us, quote, “That could change.”
The group spokesman telling us, quote, “There‘s been an increased level of donor activity since President Obama‘s budget speech two weeks ago. Donor interest has peaked.”
When asked what sort of resources could be brought to bear on their side of this fight, Mr. Rove‘s group reminded us of the $750,000 ad buy the group placed last month going after union rights.
Who pays for that sort of thing when Crossroads and Crossroads GPS does stuff? Well, at one point last year, 91 percent of the funding for American Crossroads came from just a few people, just a handful of billionaires. Crossroads GPS, however, does not have to disclose to the public who funds them at all.
In addition to all of that big money coming from the right on this issue, there are other conservative groups, like FreedomWorks, like the Heritage Action for America, part of the Heritage Foundation, I think. Also, the American Action Network, who are joining in this big conservative, apparently, corporate-funded counter-offensive. They‘re doing things like distributing pro-Paul Ryan budget talking points.
That last group, the American Action Network, that‘s run by a who‘s who of current and former Wall Street executives. And you know, they just might benefit a little bit from Paul Ryan‘s tax-cutting budget. That budget also happens to dismantle some key parts of President Obama‘s Wall Street reform law.
That‘s what we can figure so far about who‘s behind the conservative counter-offensive to stop the ringing denunciations of the Paul Ryan Republican budget that is lighting up town halls across the country right now.
What‘s going on at these town hall events was not organized by anyone. The Democratic Party is following its own base here. After people turned up on their own and started doing this at town halls, then the machinery of the Democratic Party and liberal groups started scrambling to try to catch up and reinforce what was happening.
But take a look at their efforts on the left compared to the corporate-backed efforts happening on the right. Right now, the Democrats House campaign committee, the DCCC, is running radio ads, web ads and robocalls attacking the Paul Ryan budget. They‘re running them in 25 separate swing districts. Total ad buy, $6,000. That‘s not a typo.
A Democratic group called the House Majority PAC is now running radio ads in 10 districts. Their total ad buy is $100,000. And that‘s about it. That we know of.
Look at how the two sides stack up against each other, right? I mean here‘s the money on the right, $800,000 from 60 Plus, $400,000 from Americans for Prosperity, whatever Karl Rove‘s billionaire groups lob into the mix and their last big buy was three-quarters of a million bucks. Who knows what else from these well-funded other conservative groups who said they‘re getting in on this?
That‘s what we have on the right. Compare that to, $106,000 on the left.
It does appear that liberal groups are going to try to raise money to compete here. Groups like Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care is one group, Move On. These groups are already doing some early organizing, but look at what they‘re trying to compete with. There‘s real political potency to what is going on here, to the national reaction to what the Republicans in the House just voted for.
If what the Republicans have to run on this year and next year is a plan that defines their party, a plan to kill Medicare, a budget that is a rotten tomato target, even in red districts all across the country, the Republican electoral chances, that just won‘t do, and you can tell that the right thinks that just won‘t do because they‘re really, really, really big money is pouring in to stop it.
Joining us now is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He joins us here in studio tonight.
Senator Sanders, it‘s nice to have you here. Thanks for coming in.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you think this is sort of the way things are from here on out now. Any time grassroots momentum of any kind grows on the left, it is met by corporate, anonymous donor stuff on the right?
SANDERS: The answer is of course. And what you are seeing I have to tell you is nickels and dimes in terms of what we can expect coming down the pike as we get closer to the election. As a result of Citizens United, what can now happen is that billionaires and corporations can provide hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns, radio ads, television ads, and as you‘ve just indicated, they do it in secret.
What the Ryan budget is about is the most radical, right wing extremist budget ever passed in the history of the United States Congress. This would transform America by giving $1 trillion more in tax breaks to the richest people in this country already doing phenomenally well, while in the middle of a recession when working people, low income people, middle class people are hurting, it will decimate program after program after program—as you‘ve just indicated, convert Medicare into a voucher program, which means that low and moderate income seniors somehow or another are going to have to come up with money they don‘t have when they get sick and end up in the hospital. It is a total disaster.
And I think what you‘re looking at is an election which will be based on the Ryan budget. I just learned today that Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate, plans to bring the Ryan budget right to the floor of the Senate. Let the Republicans vote for it. I think that‘s good strategy.
But that is what the fight is. It‘s a vision of America which I think most Americans do not want to see.
MADDOW: I feel like it has been interesting to see this happen at constituent town hall meetings for Republican members of Congress. That means that people who live in districts that elected a Republican member of Congress have these feelings about this Paul Ryan budget. It is not necessarily the Democratic base who we are seeing and it certainly doesn‘t seem to be an organized effort, it seems sort to be an organic thing.
Given that, is the Democratic Party able to organize on the basis of this? As such—not to necessarily make more of it happen than would otherwise happen, but to turn this into a sustained, electorally rewarding effort?
SANDERS: Well, I certainly hope so. But I want to tell you something, polls that I have seen suggest that working class people in the Tea Party do not think it‘s a good idea to decimate Medicare and Medicaid or Pell grants. So I think that the Democrats now have an opportunity to bring forward a very different vision of America than the Ryan Republican budget. And your point is, is this going to be a sustained activity? Reid is planning to bring that bill to the floor of the Senate to give the Republican colleagues a chance to vote up or down, vote for it or against it, I think is the first step.
But I think this is what the campaign is about—do you give tax breaks to billionaires and decimate the programs that millions of Americans depend upon? And then in addition to that, it is clear: our Republican friends want to destroy Social Security as well.
So, I cannot recall a moment in American history where the choices are clearer. I think the vast majority of the American people, including many Republicans, do not support the basic concepts of the Republican budget.
MADDOW: I know that you—I think that you held two town hall events in Vermont yesterday?
MADDOW: You have another one out there tomorrow.
What are you hearing from—I mean, your constituency is the entire state and Vermont is a more diverse state. I live near Vermont. It‘s a more diverse state than people give it credit for.
What are you hearing from your constituents on this?
SANDERS: Rachel, we had a meeting, we focused on children‘s issues and family issues. And I‘ll tell you, if your TV camera was there, there would have been people in tears, to hearing what single moms and what families are struggling with right now.
And they are saying, look, if they cut Head Start, how do I go to
work? I have a job right now. How do I go to work if I don‘t have child -
decent child care or Head Start?
People right now are struggling with health care. If they cut Medicaid, what am I supposed to do? I have a chronic health problem. I don‘t have a lot of money. How do I get to the doctor if they decimate health care?
People are talking about how their kids are not going to be able to go to college if Pell grants are cut substantially.
So, what you‘re seeing is people just hanging on right now. And if the Republicans cut these programs to give tax breaks to millionaires, there will be enormous suffering.
I was in Morrisville, Vermont, last night. And a woman raised her hand and she said and asked a very simple question. She said, “What do they think is going to happen to people when they do all of these things? What is going to happen to people?”
And I‘ll tell you what will happen to people. People will die. We lose 45,000 people a year now who don‘t get to a doctor when they should, 45,000. What do you think is going to happen if millions of people are thrown off of Medicaid?
If you are a senior citizen, in 10 years when their plan kicks in, let‘s say you‘re earning—you‘re making $20,000 a year and you have cancer. What are you going to do with an $8,000 voucher? What do you think you‘re going to do? How long is that going to last in the hospital? What happens to you?
So, I think what you‘re saying now is an assault—an unprecedented assault on the part of big money, using their Republican friends, to remake America in a way that the vast majority of people in our country do not want to see.
MADDOW: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders—it‘s a real pleasure to have you here in person. Thank you for coming in. Appreciate it.
SANDERS: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: That was the political news today that affects real people, real policy.
Then there was that other thing, the birth certificate thing, which has nothing to do with policy. It has to do with political opportunism and a bunch of people making lots and lots and lots of money. Yes, it‘s a racket, it turns out. We will explain, next.
MADDOW: One note about what Senator Bernie Sanders just said about the Senate being forced to vote on the Paul Ryan budget thing. On Monday‘s show, I asked the one and only Chris Hayes how Democrats could capitalize on how much people seem to hate Paul Ryan‘s budget. Chris responded by saying the Senate should vote on this. The Senate should get all—they should get all of the Republican senators on the record with a politically disastrous vote for this thing just like the Republicans in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: They should take a vote on the Ryan budget in the Senate. Harry Reid should move for a vote in the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Chris Hayes on Monday night. Today, as Senator Sanders just said, Harry Reid said he will schedule that vote in the Senate. What does this mean? This means that Chris Hayes is very, very smart—which is why we love him.
MADDOW: Before Barack Obama, the last Democrat to run for president was John Kerry. John Kerry, a Navy veteran—his rank was lieutenant when he was discharged. He earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam.
The whole reason John Kerry became a public figure in the first place after he came home from war is because it was so striking to see somebody as highly decorated as he was speaking out against the war.
But then, of course, in 2004, he had the temerity to run for president against a sitting president who had started two wars but never fought in one. And so, part of the campaign against John Kerry was to try to erase his war hero status, to deny that he deserved the medals he had earned, to say that he was a coward, that he had lied to get those medals.
When you research the swift boating of John Kerry, one of the most visually jarring things is when you get to the swift boating book, the book that attacked him for his service in Vietnam. When you look at that book cover, look at that sash across the right corner there. Look at that Miss America-looking sash up there. “The New York Times” number one best seller. Seriously, that thing.
The same guy who did the debunked but politically lethal swift boating book has another potential number one best seller on the way. It‘s not even out yet, but it hit number one on the Amazon best seller list last week. It‘s called “Where‘s the Birth Certificate: The Case that Barack Obama is Not Eligible to be President.” This new book is being published by World Net Daily, which has been the sort of hub for the people on the right who have attacked President Obama as secretly foreign.
If you want to buy the new “President Obama is secretly foreign” book by the swift boating guy, you do not have to go to Amazon, you can get it straight from the World Net Daily online superstore. They‘re selling it at a discounted price of $8.70 more than the Amazon price? Yes.
You‘ll find it for sale in their special birther section. There‘s a whole section at the World Net Daily superstore just for birth certificate specialty items.
They also invite you to spend between $2,000 and $5,000 to underwrite ads for the book, going right over the heads of the hopelessly biased and politically correct press. You can actually pay for that. You can pay for it once or you can have it deducted from your account on a monthly low basis.
The World Net Daily superstore is also peddling “Where is the Birth Certificate?” yard signs and rally signs for $19.95 each. Undocumented worker magnetic easy off bumper stickers calling the president an undocumented worker. Get it?
There are $4 White House eligibility post cards where they have planted the “Where‘s the Birth Certificate” sign on the White House lawn—thanks to the miracle of photo shop. You can by birther on board bumper stickers or magnets.
There‘s a reason they call this thing the superstore. This is not like the birther bodega. This is a whole lot of birther merchandising. And everything is frankly really expensive.
What these folks have been demanding is that President Obama release his long form birth certificate, right? President Obama astonishingly actually did that today. No, you were not high, it really happened. Even if you were high, seriously, it still happened.
But if you had the kind of racket set up that World Net Daily does, if you had a money-making superstore racket set up like this all around this question, would you give up? Would you give up on this? Of course, you wouldn‘t give this up.
If you went to World Net Daily today to see their reaction to President Obama‘s birth certificate press conference, there are two things you would notice there. First, obviously, they still don‘t buy it. Under the headline “White House Releases Obama, quote, ‘Birth certificate,‘” the editor and executive officer of World Net Daily says, quote, “It is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved concerning Barack Obama‘s parentage, his adoption, his citizenship status throughout his life. It would be a big mistake for everyone to jump to a conclusion now based on the release of this document, which raises as many questions as it answers.”
World Net Daily also floats the theory today that maybe the new birth certificate actually proves President Obama is ineligible to be president because of something inexplicable about his father? Yes. Also, notice in terms of the graphic here, look at the graphic—the glossy photograph of the new dust jacket of the new birther book by the swift boating guy. World Net Daily assuring you today that book is still totally relevant.
The swift boating author telling World Net Daily today, quote, “When people read the book, they will see that Obama is not eligible to be president.”
Still, this new book they are trying to make all this money off of isn‘t even out yet so of course they can‘t let this go. This is a money-making scam. This is a racket. And that is one reason that it exists and it is continually promoted and it will persist.
But you know not everybody implicated in this is a grifter. Conspiracy theories are their own reward. There is a reason that Glenn Beck is a popular television and radio host. Glenn Beck is personally making money off of peddling conspiracy theories. But his viewers aren‘t making money of it.
People enjoy conspiracy theories. We are like that as a country. The JFK assassination or the moon landing or aliens at Roswell, or 9/11 was an inside job. Americans like conspiracy theories. We just happen to be plumed that way.
Sixty-six percent of Americans think the JFK assassination was as part of a conspiracy. As of 2006, 36 percent thought it was likely the U.S. government allowed or carried out 9/11. Thirty-three percent think aliens have visited earth. Six percent still think the moon landing was fake still.
It‘s not a ton of people, but a enough of us, a good amount of Americans fall for stuff. We are plumbed to believe this kind of stuff—and that makes this country fertile territory for another group of people that is promoting this. Another group of people that has a material interest in holding on to the Barack Obama is secretly foreign birth certificate story, and that group is Republican politicians. Not all of them, of course, but those Republican politicians who want to push this issue for, frankly, racist political advantage.
Politicians who don‘t want to be known as racist, necessarily, but who want to politically capitalize on resentment and unacceptance of Barack Obama as a real American president. You can‘t really be in mainstream national party politics right now and be overtly white supremacist about, but birther is the convenient proxy for that. The president is secretly foreign. He can‘t be American. He‘s not legitimate.
He just doesn‘t seem right as a president, does he? Not from anything about his politics, but in his person. There‘s something about his body, his biography, that makes it seem like he shouldn‘t have been allowed to take a position like this. The birth certificate as an excuse to just question whether or not Barack Obama should have been allowed to run for president was really laid bare when the birther presidential candidate, Donald Trump, started expanding his questioning of the president‘s birth certificate to a bunch of other things he thinks ought to be questioned about the president now, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: The word is, according to what I‘ve read, that he was a terrible student when he went to occidental. He then gets to Columbia. He then gets to Harvard. I heard at Columbia, he wasn‘t a very good student, and then, he gets to Harvard. How did he get into Harvard if you‘re not a good student? Now, maybe that‘s right or maybe it‘s wrong, but I don‘t know why he doesn‘t release his records. Why doesn‘t he release his occidental records?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And the president released his long form birth certificate today. This was the response on the front page of the right-wing website, the Drudge Report. Now, let‘s see the college records. I don‘t usually quote people like Donald Trump in the drudge report, but if there was ever any doubt about whether this was substantively about the fact of the president‘s birth certificate, in case, there was ever any remaining doubt about that, let‘s this make it clear, OK?
It is almost helpful to have the birth certificate thing out substantively out of the way, so we can all see that this has always just been a stand-in for raw, racial questions about whether a man like President Obama should have even been allowed to run for this job. That‘s why Republican politicians have been pushing this. Despite all the ridicule, right, they‘ve still been pushing it, and it has worked. It has resonated.
Even Republican politicians who do not want to be known as birthers have been widely stoking this issue. There are bills demanding further documentation of the president‘s legitimacy in at least 13 states now. A “New York Times”/CBS poll out last week showed 67 percent of Republican voters either believed President Obama was not born in the U.S. or they say they weren‘t sure.
So, Republican politicians wanting to capitalize on racial dissatisfaction, the whole idea that someone like Barack Obama was allowed to run for a job like this, they have found this to be a potent way to stir that up, to capitalize on that, to capture that, and they are not going to give that up. Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas today announcing that this whole thing, with the president in the briefing room and the birth certificate, only proves that we need a federal birther bill, like the one he co-sponsored back in 2009.
Newt Gingrich, potential presidential candidate responding to this incident today by saying of the president‘s decision to release his long form birth certificate, Mr. Gingrich‘s response was “what took him so long?” As if to say, the conspiracy continues. Why did it take so long? The Texas Republican who is behind that state‘s state level birther bill announced already today that his bill is, quote, “still on the table.”
We want to see a birth certificate, his legislative director explained, the one that we have that says birth certificate is from Mombasa, Kenya with his footprint on it. He has still not produced an American birth certificate, which he‘s talking about with the Kenya thing is one of the many very badly forged fake foreign birth certificates that have circled on the internet.
It has been and continues to be total bull pucky, but politicians do continue to push this stuff. That was not somebody like in the comment section of world net daily. That was the legislative director for a state legislator. Now, that this issue is even more substantively confirmed to be bull pucky, why would we expect politicians who‘ve been getting some attraction on this to stop pushing it?
In the grifters (ph) same deal, now, that this is even more substantively proved to be bull pucky, it was bull pucky before, why would they stop now? All of the reasons they had to push this stuff before, they still have to keep pushing it. All of the incentives still line up. So, the politicians, I can understand why they keep pushing it, the grifters (ph), I got it. Here‘s the thing I don‘t understand. What is the reason for any journalist to have pushed this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about this birth certificate issue? I mean, it has not been my main issue, but it kind of does get a little odd here after a while. Can‘t they just produce it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let‘s say that the people you have investigating
are they still investigating in Hawaii?
TRUMP: Well, I don‘t want to comment on that, but I can tell you, there are a lot of problems with this. He does not have—he has not given a birth certificate. And you know what, I wish he would. I‘ll give you an example.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could end it simply, just show it to us and it will be over.
TRUMP: Here‘s the birth certificate. Thank you very much, Steve. I appreciate that. Just show us the birth certificate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s that simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s that simple. Listen, reporting on spending press time covering birtherism itself I think is a defensible thing. Reporting on this as a phenomenon, reporting on the fact that this is a fundraising racket and money making on the right, debunking this as a conspiracy theory, those are all respectable excuses for spending time talking about the birther phenomenon in a news context, but what is the excuse?
What is even the motivation? What is the explanation for journalists, journalists even not on Fox News, taking up the birther cause? Pushing the idea that there are real questions about the president‘s legitimacy, that it is a reasonable question to wonder if the president is secretly foreign, to wonder if he‘s holding something out on us, to wonder if maybe he shouldn‘t have been allowed to run for this job?
I understand why Republican politicians would do that. I understand why grifters would do that. I can imagine myself understanding like people who work at Fox News Channel would do that. Why would a non-Fox News journalist do that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED HENRY, CNN: Last night, Trump was on CNN saying that he‘s been told the birth certificate is missing. That it‘s either not there or has been taken out somehow, and this is a problem for the president. When the White House hears this continued claim, what does it say? Trump and others keep saying that that‘s not the actual birth certificate, and as you know, Hawaii—the Department of Health says that you can request a birth certificate.
You put in a freedom of information request, and within a few weeks, you‘ll get a copy out of the vault. Why doesn‘t the president do—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pressing the birther‘s cause in the White House briefing room.
Legislation undermining the president‘s legitimacy as an American, questioning whether he should have even been allowed to run for the presidency in the first place. That legislation has been drafted by Republicans at the state level and at the federal level. Republicans pushed it at the federal level in 2009. They‘re now pushing it in more than a dozen state legislatures.
Cashing in on a feeling that has to go unspoken, on a sentiment that rejects the idea that somebody who looks like President Obama can be an American president. That‘s why Republican politicians have been pushing this as an issue. Grifters have been pushing it because this turns out to be a particularly monetizable conspiracy theory for the right.
So, this conspiracy theory is pushed by Republican politicians because there‘s racist political gain to be have from it, and it‘s pushed by grifters because there‘s money to be had. Why is it being pushed by journalists?
MADDOW: Today in Afghanistan, nine Americans were killed. Eight of them were soldiers, one was a civilian. That is the most number—the largest number of U.S. troops killed in a single attack since 2005 in Afghanistan. All nine of these Americans were working as trainers for the Afghan security forces. They were at the Kabul airport. It was a member of the Afghan security forces, an air force officer, who was the perpetrator of the attack.
If that type of attack in which an Afghan in uniform kills Americans in Afghanistan sounds familiar, that may be because an Afghan army recruit killed six U.S. soldiers in a grenade attack less than two weeks ago. Last week, a man wearing an Afghan army uniform killed two other people inside the Afghan defense ministry.
There have been at least four other instances this year in which uniformed Afghans, who are, again, supposed to be our allies in that war, who are supposed to be working alongside Americans, uniformed Afghans instead used their access to Americans to kill Americans or at least to try to. Right now, the overall explanation for how we get out of the Afghanistan war is in part a they stand up, we stand down thing.
You may remember that from our other war in Iraq. The mission to train Afghan security forces is supposed to be so important it is our path out of that country. Afghan trainees repeatedly killing American trainers and American service members they are supposed to be serving alongside, that casts a considerable cloud over the prospects for this as a path out of Afghanistan for the U.S. military.
If thinking about this stuff you have concluded that maybe we need some fresh thinking about our military challenges, about our war in Afghanistan, today‘s big national security news will probably not enthuse you. Once again, we have learned that somebody from the CIA will be running the military from now on and somebody from the military will now be running the CIA.
President Obama will announce from the Rose Garden tomorrow Defense Secretary Bob Gates is retiring, as he has been saying for awhile now that he would. General David Petraeus will be retiring from his more than three decade-long military career. He will be coming home from Afghanistan to run the CIA. The current CIA director will leave his job, Leon Panetta, in order to take Bob Gates‘s old job leading the Defense Department.
Also, the previous ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, will become the new ambassador to Afghanistan. If that all sounds like musical chairs, it‘s because that‘s musical chairs. Back in 1947, an anonymous Foreign Service officer published an article in the magazine “Foreign Affairs,” published it under the name Mr. X.
He did not want to use his real name because he did not want to jeopardize his gig in the diplomatic corps, but he wanted to make an argument for what he called firm and vigilant containment of Russian expensive tendencies or as the fundamental national strategy of the cold war would come to be known, containment.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars at Washington, D.C. just published what they‘re essentially billing as the follow-up to Mr. X 64 years later. The author of this piece is in reality, two guys, two officers, a marine officer and a navy officer. But in the paper, they are by-lined as Mr. Y. Their case for what ought to be the new big idea animating all of American national security thinking now is that we need international strength and influence that doesn‘t rely completely on a giant and, frankly, overused expensive military.
Joining us now for the interview is a man who has done more than anybody else in the last decade to articulate the same type of big rethinking of American power. He‘s Andrew Bacevich. His latest book is called “Washington Rules: America‘s Path to Permanent War.” It‘s now out in paperback. He‘s a professor of International Relations in History at Boston University. Professor Bacevich, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
ANDREW BACEVICH, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: How important is the Mr. Y idea and publication of this type at this time?
BACEVICH: That was a nice setup, and it was a nice setup because I think you really were putting your finger on the big problem, that the sort of rearranging of the deck chairs, exchange of people who we don‘t think of people who have ideas, Panetta, Petraeus, I think, is indicative of the absence of strategic thinking in the Capitol for the last ten years, which brings us to Mr. Y.
I think that Mr. Y essay is of interest less because of the content, more because of who wrote it. This navy captain, marine corps colonel, and what they‘re essentially saying is our approach to national security policy has been excessively militarized. We should focus on engagement rather than effort to control or dominate the world. And I think of particular significance, they say, we really need to pay more attention to what happens inside the country.
They use this phrase “sustainable prosperity.” In other words, prosperity is not simply what the profits your company made over the last quarter. Prosperity needs to be something that looks to the long term, and sustainable prosperity means that the country should be diverting some of its resources from the Department of Defense to building infrastructure, developing an educated citizenry.
Now, I think what‘s important here is that it‘s coming from two serving military officers. Many people, I think, might believe that proponents of change in the realm of national security might think that the officer corps is likely to be a place that‘s resistant to change. And these guys, I think, help us understand that the officer corps may well be a constituency supportive of change.
And what I tell you is it is not just these two guys. One of the things that‘s really impressed me since my last book came out is the tremendous number of e-mails that I‘ve been getting from serving officers, not of my acquaintance, who are basically saying you‘re right, things are screwed up. We need to take a different approach. I‘m not getting e-mails from three and four-star generals. Actually, it‘s better.
I‘m getting e-mails from the captains and the majors and lieutenant colonels, meaning the coming generation of military leadership. And that really gives me hope that if we could have a serious debate about national security in this country, we may actually find that members of the officer corps are supportive of change that will be in the interest of the country as a whole.
MADDOW: Do you think it‘s likely that we could have that debate? Do you see a political—I mean you‘re a keen political observer as well as a keen military observer. Do you see us as moving toward having a real discussion about that?
BACEVICH: Well, the officer corps is not going to trigger that debate. I mean, the debate has to come from our civilian leadership, and there I do—I wouldn‘t say a despair, but I come close to despair, because, to put it bluntly, it seems to me that civilian leaders in the Democratic Party, that has to be where the impetus for change comes from, in this regard, have not demonstrated the necessary moral courage to take the sort of political risks that would be required to say we‘ve gone down the wrong path.
We are not going to dominate the world with American military power. We are going to bankrupt the country. We are going to squander whatever moral standing we have. And, therefore, there needs to be an honest, non-partisan debate about what alternatives may be. I think Mr. Y has given us some suggestive thoughts about what those alternatives could be, but it‘s got to come from our political leadership.
MADDOW: Andrew Bacevich, author of “Washington Rules: America‘s Path to Permanent War,” professor of International Relations in History at BU, Boston University and somebody who had a long career in the U.S. army, thanks for joining us tonight. It‘s always a real pleasure, really eye-opening to talk to you. Thank you.
BACEVICH: Thank you.
MADDOW: We‘ll be right back
MADDOW: After this morning‘s birth certificate press conference at the White House prompted everybody on earth to say, wow, so that happened. MSNBC contributor, Goldie Taylor, was much more loquacious and eloquent than anybody else I know. She posted a remarkable response at the grio.com.
My initial instinct was to go all subterranean home seclude (ph) and just put Goldie‘s piece on cue cards and have you read it while I shut up. Ultimately, we realized it would be smarter to just let her explain it. Let her tell it. We‘ve never done this before. A sort of a guest on air op-ed, but I think this occasion calls for it.
GOLDIE TAYLOR, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THEGRIO.COM: My grandmother used to start the story, show me your papers. That‘s what the police officers said to Major Blackard, her great grandfather when he was just 19 years old. Major dug into the trousers of his wallet, patted his jacket, but he couldn‘t find his billfold. Sir, I done left my wallet, he said. But before he could finish his sentence, the young man was posted against the brick wall, cuffed, and taken to the St. Louis City Jail.
Unable to prove his identity, he would spend the next 21 days in a cramped musty cell. That‘s where his older brother, Matt, found him. He had been beaten and was bloodied. Matt returned with major‘s employer later that day. Wallet and identification card in hand. They needed to post bond. And the police officer needed to see a white face. The year was 1899 and Major Blackard was my great, great grandfather. The real crime was that Major Blackard was a man of color living in America in 1899.
This morning, when I initially got, you know, the first notification that the president was having to produce his long form birth certificate and passing it out, you know, by White House staffers, it recalled a really ugly time in history for me. It recalled a time when men of color, when black men, specifically, weren‘t allowed on the street without identification. And here we are with a president of these United States duly elected by the people of this America.
He‘s being asked to produce his papers and not just his birth certificate. They‘ve gone on to ask for his college transcripts. Never in our 235-year history have we ever asked a president to prove that he was born on this American soil.
TRUMP: Good morning.
TAYLOR: In a stunning show of unchecked ego, Donald Trump quickly hosted a press conference. He took credit for forcing our president to hand over his birth certificate. The sometime real estate developer, socialite, author, and television personality went on to caution onlookers to let the experts examine the documents as if the president were perpetrating a fraud. Trump didn‘t even want just the birth certificate. He wanted the president to release his college transcripts.
His implication is that Barack Obama was the beneficiary of affirmative action, and that he took the place of a more qualified white student. Apparently, graduating magna cum laude from the nation‘s most prestigious law school and being named editor of the Harvard Law review, the institution‘s highest student honor is just not enough for Trump. what You see for people like Trump, it never is enough.
TRUMP: If he gets on the phone or gets off his basketball court or whatever he‘s doing at the time, I mean, he should be focused on OPEC and getting those prices down.
TAYLOR: As if his place was better on the basketball court. When they tell you that this isn‘t racial, don‘t believe them. This controversy was constructed solely as a way to delegitimize the presidency of a black man. Those who question the location of Barack Obama‘s birth are clearly the same people who would pack up and move out of a neighborhood if somebody like me moved in next door.
They are the same people who would believe African-Americans are better suited on the basketball court than in a board room. When they say they want to take their country back, they mean from us.
MADDOW: Goldie Taylor‘s full article and response to this presidential press conference today is posted at thegrio.com. Highly recommended it. Thanks, Goldie, for doing our first ever guest op-ed.
Now, it‘s time for “The Ed Show.” Have a good night.
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