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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, July 8, 2011

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Brian Williams, Andrea Mitchell, Robert Frank, Rep. Peter Welch, Rep. Ed Markey

           

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Thomas.  Thanks a lot.  I appreciate it.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

           

We do begin tonight with more on the breaking news this hour that former First Lady Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford and famously the founder of the Betty Ford Center for Drug and Alcohol and Rehabilitation, has died tonight.  She was 93 years old.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams looks back at Betty Ford‘s remarkable life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS (voice-over):  We got to know her all over again during the week of mourning for President Gerald Ford.  Her strength and dignity still intact 30 years after leaving the White House.

BETTY FORD, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY:  I was an ordinary woman called on stage at an extraordinary time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president‘s first—and all of us—lady, Betty Ford.

(CHEERS)

WILLIAMS:  Elizabeth Bloomer Ford never expected to be anything other than a congressman‘s wife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  His wife, Betty Ford.

WILLIAMS:  But she became first lady the day Richard Nixon resigned. 

It was, she later said, the saddest day of her life.

GERALD FORD, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  I am indebted to no man and only to one woman, my dear wife.

B. FORD:  I didn‘t know what I was getting into and I don‘t think there‘s anything that can prepare you for it.

WILLIAMS:  Suddenly, America wanted to know all about Betty Ford.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  Mrs. Ford was born in Chicago, lived most of her life in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

WILLIAMS:  She married Jerry Ford in 1948, just two weeks before he was elected to Congress.  They raised a family that became America‘s first family, as regular as the neighbors next door.

From the beginning, Betty Ford spoke her mind.

B. FORD:  I think it‘s time that the women step up and take their place.

WILLIAMS:  This first White House press conference terrified her, but it was nothing compared to what came seven weeks later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Betty Ford underwent surgery for breast cancer on Saturday.

G. FORD:  Dr. Luke Ash (ph) has assured me that she came through the operation all right.

WILLIAMS:  Betty Ford openly and courageously faced breast cancer and a radical mastectomy, inspiring women to get breast exams themselves.

With new confidence, she spoke out for women, campaigning actively for the Equal Rights Amendment.

B. FORD:  Why should my husband‘s job or yours prevent us from being ourselves?

(APPLAUSE)

G. FORD:  I hear about that from Betty virtually every night.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS:  She lobbied for a woman on the Supreme Court and publicly supported abortion rights.

G. FORD:  In our own family, my dear wife, she differs substantially with me.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS:  But the president did listen.

B. FORD:  You have come a long, long way.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS:  She grew loved being first lady.  A former professional dancer, she found plenty of opportunities to step out, and along the way, met some of the world‘s most interesting people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were just good friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Betty Ford is considered by many to be the president‘s biggest asset.

WILLIAMS:  When Gerald Ford lost the 1976 election, his voice gone, he turned to his wife to read his concession.

G. FORD:  The real spokesman for the family, Betty?

WILLIAMS:  The Fords retired to California only to confront another crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  On Friday, Mrs. Betty Ford was released from hospital treatment for addiction to pain killing drugs and alcohol.

WILLIAMS:  Once again by honestly and publicly facing a very personal problem, Betty Ford became a pioneering role model.

B. FORD:  Having this happen to me has been the best thing in the world, I never felt better.

WILLIAMS:  She made recovery from substance abuse.  Her mission: co-founding the Betty Ford Center in 1982 and helping untold thousands of people.

G. FORD:  I‘m very, very proud of Betty with her leadership at the Betty Ford Center.

WILLIAMS:  Betty Ford faced perhaps her greatest challenge with the death of her husband in 2006, the closing chapter in an extraordinary 58-year marriage.

All her life as first lady and long afterward, Betty Ford found the strength to face her challenges head-on, giving countless others the courage to do the very same thing and that was her gift.

B. FORD:  I‘m delighted that I could carry a message.  I think that‘s what we‘re here on this earth for, to help others.

Brian Williams, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW:  Again, the breaking news this hour is that former First Lady Betty Ford has died in Palm Springs, California, at the age of 93.

A statement from Mrs. Ronald Reagan upon learning this news, “I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford‘s death.  She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center.  She was Jerry Ford‘s strength through difficult days in our country‘s history and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us.  My love and deepest sympathy go out to the entire Ford family at this very sad time.”

We turn now to NBC News chief foreign affair correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who joins us live from Washington, D.C.

Andrea, I know you knew Betty Ford well.  Your initial reaction tonight to learning this sad news?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I guess it‘s that it was expected, because she has been ailing, Rachel.  But this woman was such a role model and such a mentor to other women and was so strong and so determined and such an extraordinary leader for women when there were very few.

She supported the Equal Rights Amendment.  I covered her in Houston back in 1978, I think, when she marched with Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem.  She was very free-thinking.  This was, of course, after she had left the White House.

But in the White House, her—as Brian Williams was reporting—her response to the diagnoses of breast cancer, the fact they had a photo opportunity, as I said, in the hospital room, at Walter Reed, with the president, President Ford, hugging her and she was there in her bathrobe and they were talking about the importance of women getting early detection of breast cancer.  It was eye opening, really a lightening change in the way women and men around the country viewed breast cancer, because this was a disease not discussed.

Nancy Reagan, then, in her turn, when she suffered that diagnosis and recovered strongly from it after surgery as well when she was first lady.

But Betty ford really set the mold for that.  And then acknowledging that she had become addicted to painkillers and to alcohol, she led a lonely life when her husband was in Congress and then was out on the campaign trail, and her children and husband finally did an intervention.  And that—out of that evolved the Betty Ford Center.

So, countless millions of men and women have been helped with their addiction.  Millions of women helped with the mammography from the Betty Ford Centers.  The mammogram centers that are—the diagnostic centers around the country.  So, we all have heard a great gratitude to her, and we all went through that mourning for her husband when she lost President Ford some years ago.

But she has lived pretty much in seclusion well into her 90s.  She was 93 when she died.

MADDOW:  Andrea, do you feel her candor on issues like her breast cancer, her candor on issues like her support for the Equal Rights Amendment, some of the other things you were describing there, did that—did that change the role of the first lady ever more?  Did she sort of break the mold of what was expected for first ladies?

MITCHELL:  Oh, absolutely.  She was very honest and candid about what it was like to have an adolescent daughter, Susan, in the White House.  She had the boys and their pranks.  I mean, she—it was a very lively White House.

And even though, it was two and a half years, the bond they forged through those years, many of the cabinet members who succeed afterwards, and some had, you know, ups and downs, of course, is the course of history, but the Ford team came together every year, as I say, in June, there was always a reunion here in Washington, and there was a steadfast loyalty for the Fords.

She was beloved by her husband‘s staff, by the Ford alumni, if you will, and she will be remembered precisely for being so outspoken.

MADDOW:  NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell—

Andrea, I‘m really happy we‘re able to talk to you about this tonight. 

Thank you so much.

MITCHELL:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Former First Lady Betty Ford has died tonight at the age of 93 in Palm Springs, California.

Statement from Former President George H.W. Bush, “Barbara and I loved Betty Ford very much.  She was a wonderful wife and mother, a great friend and a courageous first lady.  No one confronted life struggles with more fortitude and honesty.  And as a result, we all learn from the challenges she faced.

The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern.  We were proud to know her.  We were proud to call her a friend.  We‘ll miss her very much.”

Betty Ford, mother of four, wife to the late Gerald Ford, again, has passed at the age 93.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When Republicans took over the House this year, they came in talking about jobs, jobs, jobs—how Republicans and Republican policies were going to create jobs.  They said they would cut spending, cut regulation, cut taxes, cut the deficit, shrink the debt, and that would all make jobs grow.  That‘s what they said in January when Republicans took over the House.

And, then, a miracle, the economy did grow some jobs, 192,000 jobs the very next month.  So, Republicans took a few modest victory laps.

“The improvement in our nation‘s jobs report demonstrates the resilience of the free enterprise economy in spite o the onslaught of the Democrats‘ big government idea.”

Quote, “House Republicans will not rest in our efforts to break down those barriers to job creation put in place by Washington Democrats.”

And, hey, get in there, Speaker John Boehner, take some credit here.  Yes, quote, “The improvement seen in this report is a credit to the hard work of the American people and their—by which I mean our—success in stopping tax hikes due to hit our economy on January 1st.”

What they said is when you look at job numbers, think Republican leadership, think Republican policies.  When you see job numbers, think Republicans.  Somebody give John Boehner a fresh cigar.

That has been the line from the Republicans when we have had good jobs reports these past few months.  Today, we got a really astonishingly bad job‘s report.  Magically, though, Republicans had nothing to do with this one.  They are responsible for the good ones, but the bad ones, definitely some other guy‘s fault.

Quote, “Today abysmal jobs report confirms what we all know, that President Obama has failed,” says Mitt Romney.

“A stinging reminder that President Obama has failed,” says head of the GOP.

John Boehner himself saying, “The American people are still asking the question: where are the jobs?”

That is what American people are asking, but what if they are asking that of you, Mr. Boehner?

Given the chance to take credit for today‘s jobs news, Republicans would like to pass, please—hand the talking stick to the person on your left.

From “Washington Monthly” today, from Steve Benen—this is the growth in jobs in the last few months—the last few months of last year when Democrats were in charge of the House, generally going up.  This is what happened to job growth after the Republicans took over at the beginning of this year, jobs going down.

Now, does that mean Republicans controlling the house kills jobs?  No, jobs did better last year when Democrats ran the House and worse since Republicans have run the House, but that doesn‘t mean they‘ve been causing it either way.

That said, it is true Republicans have not brought up a single jobs bill for a vote in the House since Boehner has been in charge, I‘m just saying.

But if you are looking for blame in today‘s disastrous economic numbers, there is some evident, plainly visible blame there.  What you want to blame is government layoffs.

Last month, private companies at the 57,000 jobs, not enough, not that great, but still better than the overall number.  Why is that?  Oh, that‘s because government, largely state and local governments, not only did not add jobs last month, they are still hemorrhaging them.  Public sector lost 39,000 jobs in—June 39,000.

So, if you subtract the public sector loss from the private sector growth, you get today‘s scary overall figure, only 18,000 jobs gained in the entire United States of America.

This is what‘s happened to public sector government jobs over the past two years.  That peak in the middle—look at that—peak in the middle is Census workers last year, right, those are temporary jobs.  The rest that slide toward oblivion, that‘s towns laying off police officers, and park workers, and states laying off teachers and road crews.

Matthew Yglesias today charting 500,000 government jobs lost, half a million.  Half a million jobs held by real Americans, paying real taxes, supporting real families over the last two years.

And why are local governments and state governments laying people off?  Why is Alto, Texas, as we‘ve been talking about, getting rid of its entire police force?  Why are towns across America closing their swimming pools, and shortening their school days?  And sending their workers home?

It‘s because of budget cuts.  David Leonhardt writing at “The New York Times” today, quote, “We are committing an unforced economic error.  We‘re cutting government at the same time that the private sector is cutting.  It is the classic mistake to make after a financial crisis.  Hoover and even Roosevelt made a version of it in the 1930s, the Japanese made a version of it in the 1990s.  Now, we are making it.”

An unforced economic error, a fumble, a mistake.  State and local governments cutting their budgets dramatically, in many cases, because they have to.  And the one entity that could really help them out, the federal government, now heading not toward helping them out, but toward cuts of their own, big ones.

This, which we thank local and state government for, that‘s what Republicans are insisting be brought now to Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I think the situation we face is pretty urgent.  As a matter of fact, I would describe it as dire.  And we have three really big problems: we have a spending problem, we have a debt problem, and we have a jobs problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That‘s why I believe, he went on to say, it is important for us to fundamentally fix our spending problem and our debt problem and help get our economy moving again.

So three problems, spending problem—he says we should fix that. 

Debt problem—he says we should fix that.

Jobs problem?  Yes, we sure have one of those.

Why doesn‘t he say we should fix that one, too?  John Boehner said he‘s ready to fix spending and the debt, but those two will just magically fix the jobs thing, too?  That doesn‘t need fixing on its own, that one fixes itself?  Is that what he‘s saying?

So far, anyway, that magic is not working out so great, President Obama plans to meet with Republican lawmakers again this weekend on Sunday, to talk about the debt ceiling.  Republicans are insisting on big cuts in spending to close the deficit before they will agree to raise the debt ceiling, so America doesn‘t default on its loans.  The president has advised everybody to wear comfortable clothes when they come to work on Sunday, saying that they will probably be there a while.

The House and Senate will stay in session next week, calling off their planned recess, so they can to reach a deal before it‘s too late.

This really is Washington in crisis mode.

The crisis in Washington is a political crisis.  It is a crisis over the debt ceiling, which is a vote they take every year.  Because of that vote, because Republicans are saying they are not going along with it this year, debt and deficit issues are the crisis in Washington.  That‘s the weekend beltway crisis, everybody come to work on Sunday thing going on in Washington.

That‘s why Washington is in a panic.

But outside of that political crisis of our own making, outside of politics, this is a real crisis.  This chart comes from “Calculated Risk,” which is a really good blog about the economy.  It shows all the recessions since the Second World War, all hard times in your parent‘s lives, in your grandparent‘s lives, maybe even your great grandparent‘s lives.  The lines show how steep the job loss was in those recessions and how quickly the economy recovered in each of those recessions.

And this is a real crisis.  Our economy has been almost unfathomably sick.  That‘s us, that bottom line there.  And we have now stopped getting better.  As you can see, as that line evens out and flattens out on the right.

The private sector is not hiring enough, and the government, instead of acting counter-cyclically, the government is making it worse, by cutting its own budgets and laying people off.

And this weekend in Washington, this is what the two political parties are meeting about.  What they are discussing—what they are discussing, the topic of discussion in this big crisis everybody go to work on Sunday in Washington, what they are talking about is how to cut spending mo—how to make this terrifying picture worse.

Joining us now is Robert Frank, professor of economics at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

Professor Frank, thank you for being here.  I appreciate it.

ROBERT FRANK, CORNELL UNIVERSITY:  Nice to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Paul Krugman writing in “The New York Times” today.  He says he‘s very worried about what he thinks is about to happen in Washington, says “trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is recipe for deepening the slump.”

Do you agree both with that assertion and that worry?

FRANK:  Yes, I do.  And it‘s odd when John Boehner said we have a spending problem, he‘s exactly right, that we do have a spending problem, only it‘s the opposite problem from the one he seems to think we have.

We‘re not spending enough.  That‘s why there aren‘t people employed today.  There‘s not demand for goods and services.  Consumers aren‘t spending because they are in debt.  Businesses don‘t invest because they can already produce more than people want it buy with existing plant and equipment.

The only actor on the scene with the capacity to do something about that deficit and spending is the government, and we‘re moving in the belong direction with it.

MADDOW:  What about the people who say that the government doesn‘t have that capacity anymore, that the deficit—that the debt level, frankly, is so heavy right now that America is putting itself in a different kind of risk by spending more?

FRANK:  It‘s wrong-headed.  It‘s focused on the wrong time dimension of the problem.

When we have so many millions out of work, the losses from the output they don‘t produce are 10 times the size of the interest we paid on last year‘s deficit, which was one of the biggest deficits we‘ve run in recent decades.  It‘s just an order of magnitude, greater loss to allow people to remain unemployed than it is to take steps that would get them back on the job.

We‘ve got lots of projects that need to be done, we should be doing them.

MADDOW:  If you accept the premise that the time frame needs to be adjusted, in terms of the way that we prioritize this.  If you accept the premise that long term, yes, the deficit and debt both need to be tackled.  But spending is what‘s needed now to keep us from going into recession, again, to try to deal with this horrendous unemployment.

What does that—what does that look like in practice?  Is it possible to reduce the long-term debt while actually increasing spending now?

FRANK:  Of course.  I mean, if you look at the infrastructure deficit that we have, the postponed maintenance, the crumbling bridges and highways, the dams that are at risk of collapse, there‘s one very compelling example that illustrates the nature of the opportunities we face.  There‘s a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in Nevada.  If we fix it now—it‘s in bad condition—we can do the job for $6 million.  If we wait two years, the frost will heave the holes and the roadbed out deeper, we‘ll have to spend $30 million if we wait two years.

Today, we can hire unemployed people to do that job, there‘s equipment sitting idle that can do the work.  Interest rates are lower than they‘ve been in decades.  There‘s no question we‘re going to let Interstate 80 go back to gravel.  We‘ve got to fix it.  We can fix it now for $6 million.  We can fix it in two years for $30 million.

The spending of that $6 million today will put people to work and reduce future deficits.  It‘s not a tradeoff.  It‘s just shooting ourselves in the foot not to be taking those steps.

MADDOW:  If the agreement in Washington is to cut deficit—cut spending, excuse me, steeply, do you think that could put us back into recession?

FRANK:  It will slow the recovery at the least and yes, we have every reason to fear the recession could begin anew.

MADDOW:  Robert Frank, professor of economics at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell.  This is—I‘m not a person who usually gets scared by economic stuff, I actually feel a little bit scared by looking at those numbers today and the figures.

FRANK:  We‘re all frightened.

MADDOW:  Yes, it‘s scary stuff.  Thank you for helping us understand it.  Appreciate it.

Let‘s turn now to Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont who joins us live.  Early this week, Greg Sargent reported that Congressman Welch was urging his fellow Republicans in the House to vote no on the debt ceiling if the White House and Democrats reach, what he called, a bad deal.

Congressman Welch, thank you very much for your time tonight.

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT:  Good to be here.

MADDOW:  What would constitute a bad enough deal coming out of these negotiations this weekend that might cause you to vote no on the debt ceiling?

WELCH:  Well, let me make two points.

First of all, this whole debt ceiling debate is not on the level.  The folks that are insisting that we stone wall and actually reach default, Mr.  Boehner and Mr. McConnell, those are the folks that insisted we go to war in Iraq.  They are the folks who insisted on this $2.3 trillion in tax cuts that were never paid-for in the Bush administration.  They are the ones who we insisted that we have a prescription drug program on the credit card, the bills as coming due.  And they are acting as though those bills can be waived away, and why—because the next assault is on Medicare and Social Security.

The second point is this, that this high-stakes cowboy gamble of playing Russian roulette wit the American economy, putting at risk our full faith and credit, for the first time actually possibly defaulting on our debt—you know who really is going to lose on this?  It‘s the American retiree.  It‘s a person with an IRA.  It‘s a mom and dad who‘ve been putting money aside for their college education for their kids, because the market is going to hammer us.

At the end of the day, we are going to raise the debt ceiling because we have to, and the question is: will we do it in a responsible way, or will be pistol whipped by the bond market that compels us to do it?  If we do it the latter way, it‘s going to be that mom and dad who‘d been saving for their kid to go to college.  It‘s going to be that retiree who is counting on that IRA.

So, this is reckless and irresponsible.  My view, we should acknowledge that we have to pay our bills.  America pays its bills—even ones, by the way, that we didn‘t necessarily endorse.  Like I oppose the Iraq war, but we‘ve got to pay for it—partly because we have veterans who have lost limbs, they are in the V.A., they need our help.  We‘re going to tell them, no, you gave your service, you gave your limbs to this county and we‘re not paying the cost of making certain you have a decent life?  Not acceptable.

MADDOW:  To be clear, Congressman, do you think that damage has already been done to the economic environment just by us getting this close already to potentially defaulting on the debt, this close to the debt ceiling?

WELCH:  Yes, I do, and it‘s risky.  And what will happen is that when the market turns, it will turn suddenly and savagely.  And we won‘t know what will precipitate it, but could be a Lehman -style disaster.

But, also, you know, basic American principle—we pay our bills.  Could you imagine if you say, “Hey, I just don‘t feel like paying my mortgage, I‘m not paying my rent, I‘m not going to pay the college tuition, I just don‘t feel like it, or I‘m using it as leverage my way on something else”?

Politicians do not have a right to do that.  We‘re playing Russian roulette with the American economy.

My view—we should acknowledge our responsibility to pay our bills, bills that some of which we endorse, some which we didn‘t, but America pays its bills and I support having us extend the debt with a clean vote on the debt ceiling so that we avert this real danger to American retirees, folks trying to put their kids through college and the American economy.

One point, by the way, in the increase in the interest rate, that‘s $160 billion additional debt to the American people, reckless, irresponsible, and avoidable.

MADDOW:  In terms of the sort of twin disasters or at least two disasters out here that we are facing—one, as you‘re noting is a political creation, that the debt ceiling vote is becoming a crisis, the potential of hitting the debt ceiling, the danger to the country of getting at least this close to the debt ceiling is a political creation, a deal this weekend would be averting that.

The other disaster is the jobs disaster, how bad the unemployment situation is right now and the possibility we‘re going back into recession.  Can you imagine anything constructive on jobs coming out of this Congress because of this fight?

WELCH:  Absolutely not.  I mean, right now, we collect about 15 percent of gross domestic product in revenues.  That‘s the lowest tax collection since the Eisenhower era.  We spend about 22 percent, and that‘s with Medicare, it‘s with Social Security and the baby boomers.

Obviously, we have to bring revenues up.  We could bring spending down some—the president has indicated the Democrats have indicated and the willingness to do that.

But this starving the beast, which is the strategy of the radical Republicans is all about undercutting any institutional capacity to do things to rebuild that infrastructure like Professor Frank mentioned, to do the water and sewer renovation that we need in the cities and towns throughout the country, to do basic scientific research in health care and in science that has almost been the hallmark of economic growth and the pride of America.

So, are we going to have confidence as a nation that we can be in this together, that we can invest in the future, that we can rebuild our infrastructure?  Or are we going to deny our obligation to pay obligations incurred?  That‘s what the debt ceiling debate is about, and essentially stick it to working men and women who will pay the biggest price when they see the impact of higher interest rates on their credit cards, on their mortgages, and lower values on their IRAs and in their college funds for their kids.

MADDOW:  Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont—thanks for your time tonight, sir.  I appreciate you joining us on a Friday.  Thank you.

WELCH:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  More ahead, including the state of Iowa rendering itself irrelevant this year in presidential politics.  That is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In 1991, the election for Louisiana governor was a Democrat named Edwin Edwards there on the left, against David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan guy.  Edwards, the Democrat, won that race.  Edwards the Democrat also eventually went to prison.  But in 1991, that was a ways off yet.

The reason the race for governor that years was a Democrat versus a Klansman is because the Klansman, David Duke, had beaten the incumbent Republican governor in the primary that year.  You‘re the incumbent governor and you lose to the guy from the Klan?  Seriously?

Yes, seriously.  Louisiana Republican politician Buddy Roemer, this is your life.  Buddy Roemer‘s exit stage right from American politics was in 1991, when he lost that Louisiana governorship and lost that primary to David Duke.

Buddy Roemer is trying to get back into American politics now by running for president.  He is due to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president at 5:00 p.m. in Louisiana tomorrow.

For the record and maybe to just annoy Buddy Roemer, David Duke himself is reportedly also considering getting into the presidential race this year.  Eve Conant writing this at “The Daily Beast” that David Duke, the Klansman, this month, is launching a tour of 25 states to explore how much support he can garner for a potential presidential bid.  Yes.

Want to go further down the rabbit hole with me on 2012 politics just from today‘s headlines?  I can keep going.

You may recall that Texas Governor Rick Perry has called on all 49 of the other governors in the country to come to Texas on August 6th—come to Texas on August 6th to pray and fast in a stadium with Rick Perry.  It‘s a big Christian prayer meeting.

The research group Right Wing Watch has been jumping up and down, trying to get people to notice what this event is and who Rick Perry is running it with.

Today, Right Wing Watch released video of one of the pastors signed on to this event with Rick Perry.  One of these pastors explaining his theory about the connection of the end of the world and a very popular television personality who you frankly might not expect to be a harbinger of the antichrist.  Check this guy out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Harlot Babylon is preparing the nations to receive the antichrist.  The Harlot Babylon will be a religion of affirmation, toleration, no absolutes, a counterfeit justice movement.  They will feed the poor, have humanitarian projects, inspire acts of compassion for all the wrong reasons.

They won‘t know it—beloved, they will be sincere, many of them, but their sincerity will not in any way lessen the impact of their deception.  The fact that they are sincere does not make their deception less damaging.

I believe that one of the main pastors as a forerunner to the Harlot movement, it‘s not the Harlot movement yet, is Oprah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Is Oprah?  Really?  Really.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She is winsome.  She is kind.  She is reasonable. 

She is utterly deceived, utterly deceived.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Oprah Winfrey, harbinger of the antichrist.  Rick Perry‘s campaign for the presidency, ladies and gentlemen.

Today is also the day in the Republican presidential nominating process when two of the candidates for president signed a pledge to ban porn and to never look at porn.  A right wing Iowa group that really, really wants its name to be said on national television is demanding that all Republican presidential candidates sign its pledge to ban pornography, never look at pornography themselves—which might make enforcing the ban awkward.  I don‘t know, I can‘t risk looking at it.

They have to pledge not to cheat on their spouses.  They have to pledge to declare that people are gay because people choose to be gay.  There‘s something in there about intrusive intimate commingling among attracteds.

Also, a lot of stuff about Sharia law, and banning abortion, making divorce harder.

Do you ever get e-mails that start of kind of normal like, I‘m upset about monetary policy or something, then this drift into all capital letters and the punctuation goes all free form and jazz-styly and then before you know it, it‘s the Bilderberg group and trilateral commission and I saw this thing on Alex Jones that has me upset—and then there‘s 30 pages of footnotes?

That‘s this pledge.  That‘s like this pledge that Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum both signed today in Iowa.  The footnotes alone, pages of footnotes about anal incontinence and the debasements of Judeo-Christian heteromonogamy and demographic jihad, it is amazing.

One of the things this thing says in its preamble is that black children grew up in more stable homes during slavery.

If you took a cracked pot and you cracked that cracked pot, you‘d be approaching the level of cracked pottery we are talking about here.

But Michele Bachmann, running second in Iowa and in some polls second nationally, signed this pledge today, so did Rick Santorum.

And Tim Pawlenty is reportedly mulling it over seriously—presumably because the “New York Times” put Tim Pawlenty‘s political obituary on its front page today and he is counting on keeping his campaign alive by doing unexpectedly well in Iowa and this anal incontinence, I promise I‘ll never look at porn thing is what presidential politics are like in Iowa this year.  This is what it‘s like this year to run for the Republican nomination to president.

Welcome, Buddy Roemer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  On the night of July 8th, 1998, an oil and gas platform operating in the North Sea just off the coast of Scotland was a scene of a dramatic disaster.  Two days earlier, that rig, which is known as the Piper Alfa that suddenly burst into flames in the middle of the night because of a massive gas leak on board.

As the Piper Alpha exploded and burned in middle of the ocean, hundreds of crew members stationed onboard that rig were thrust into a fight for their lives.  For hours, giant fire balls engulfed the rig, as gas continued to flow up to the platform, feeding the flames.

And then on July 8th, 1988, this day, 23 years ago, the massive loss of life resulted from that disaster started to become evident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE;  Rescue workers in the North Sea say they have given up any hope of finding anymore of the 149 men still missing in the oil rig fire there.  Seventeen men are confirmed dead.

REPORTER:  One survivor called it a big bang, an explosion that turned the huge oil platform into an inferno.  Several more explosions and the platform split in two, most workers were in sleep, trapped in their bedrooms by smoke and flames.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  After the Piper Alpha exploded in the North Sea and burned the only hope for survival for the men onboard were rescue vessels arrived on scene to try to put out the flames.  But even though those rescue vessels were beset by difficulties.  Two rescuers were killed after burning oil set fire to their rescue vote.

And then there was the main firefighting vessel, the one that you see here.  That vessel was in part crippled by its own bad design.  Its rescue bridge and its firefighting system were both hobbled as it tried to respond to the disaster.

The Alpha Piper ended up—the Alpha Piper explosion ended up killing 167 oil workers in all, making it the deadliest oil disaster in history.  This massive loss of life triggered by a mechanical and safety failures on the rig served as a wake-up call for the oil industry, which promised to change its ways going forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRADING, OCCIDENTAL PETROLEUM SPOKESMAN:  What has happened at Piper is, in my opinion, going to cause an acceleration of the whole number of changes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  An acceleration of a whole number of changes in the oil industry.  Oil drilling after Piper Alpha will be much, much safer, we promise.

That firefighting vessel that arrived on scene of the Piper Alpha, the one with the design flaws that kept it from doing much good, that vessel is still out there, it still exists.  At least the last time I looked at my watch, it still existed.  That rig came to be known as the Transocean Marianas rig.  The Transocean Marianas is currently on the verge of sinking off the coast of Africa.

Last year, on the 22nd anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, which again was the accident that was going to be the real wake-up call for the drilling industry in terms of safety, last year, this was the top story in the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  We turn again now to the mess in the Gulf on day 80.  Here‘s where we are: oil has now come ashore along 507 miles of coastline in all five Gulf States, and there‘s oil now north of New Orleans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.  In the twist of fate, the rig that actually started drilling that BP well in the Gulf was the same rig that is now sinking off the Coast of Africa, the same right that was called on to respond to the deadliest oil disaster in history 23 years earlier and that could not do what it was supposed to do when it got there.

The Alpha Piper disaster was supposed to be a big wake-up call for the oil industry.

Today, 23 years to the day after that disaster, this is what one of America‘s greatest river looks like—miles and miles of Montana‘s Yellowstone River fouled in ExxonMobil brand crude oil after yet another oil industry mess up.  It‘s now been a full week since an Exxon pipeline burst below the Yellowstone River, and this is what ExxonMobil‘s cleanup response has looked like since—big paper-like absorbent pads.  That‘s what they‘ve got.

Montana‘s Governor Brian Schweitzer who began this disaster working alongside Exxon officials is now openly criticizing the company‘s response.  Yesterday, Governor Schweitzer pulled members of his staff out of a joint oil spill command center.  He accused Exxon of violating the state‘s open government requirements by withholding information from the public and by posting Exxon security guards at the command site.

Today, Mr. Schweitzer opened up his own command spill center, telling the residence who gathered there, quote, “This is your office.”  The governor held up an oil sample jar.  That‘s what you see him holding there.  He told the crowd not to trust Exxon to do it, but take samples of your own soil on their own property and document the process with photographs and video.

Governor Schweitzer has also launched an emergency review of all of the oil and gas pipelines in his state that cross under waterways.  He‘s also demanding that Exxon‘s CEO tell the state of Montana everything they know about the type of oil that has been spilled into Montana‘s Yellowstone River.

If Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and ExxonMobil were partners when this oil began, it is becoming clearer and clearer by the day that is no longer the case.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts.  He‘s the ranking of the House Natural Resources Committee.  He‘s also called for congressional hearings to investigate the Yellowstone River spill.

Congressman Markey, thanks very much for being with us tonight.  I appreciate it.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  You‘re welcome.

MADDOW:  Can I get your action to Governor Schweitzer‘s actions?  Moving his staff out of this joint command center, accusing Exxon of violating open government laws and not doing it right, basically.

MARKEY:  Well, it‘s exactly what the Coast Guard had to do last summer after 30 days of being deceived by BP on the Gulf of Mexico spill.  They ultimately said, no, we are now going to control the flow of information.  So, Governor Schweitzer in Montana right now is just realizing that oil companies, when they have oil spills, wind up first being told by their lawyers that we have to protect the liability of the oil company before we protect the livability of the areas that they have polluted.

And this is just a lesson that keeps getting repeated.  You‘ve gone back over the last 23 years, but that is something that you could use today and you have appropriately, because they just refuse to ultimately deal with these safety issues in a way that reduces their impact on the citizens of our country.

MADDOW:  It‘s both the safety issues in terms of preventing disasters like this in the first place, maintaining safe equipment and operations.  It‘s also their ability to respond when something goes wrong.

ExxonMobil is making $5 million in profit every hour.  But their clean-up crews are out there trying to treat these contaminated areas, they‘re using boom, that are not doing great job with.  They‘re using absorbent pads.  It‘s technology that hasn‘t changed in over 40 years.

Is there anything that can be done to mandate improvements in this area?

MARKEY:  Well, in the legislation, the BP safety legislation that I authored last year, there was a requirement that the industry had to move to new modern technologies in order to clean up these spills, in order to prevent the spills.

But, as we know, the Republicans blocked that legislation.  No legislation passed since the BP spill last summer.  They lessons have not been incorporated.  The blue ribbon commission that came back and listed all the problem that was essentially a blistering, scalding indictment of the safety measures which the oil industry has in place.  All of them still remain in place.

And so, yes, we are still using boom.  We are using here absorbent pads.  People thought we would go to MIT, not CVS, in order to find the technology that we would be using.  But the industry still refuses to accept new legislation that would mandate them to move to a modern technological era.

MADDOW:  House Republican budget would cut the budget for the government‘s drilling oversight agency by a third.  Do you think that will have a material effect on safety issues?

MARKEY:  We began the debate today in the House of Representatives of the Republican energy bill of 2011.  In the bill, they cut wind, they cut solar, they cut biomass and geothermal, they cut hybrids, they cut plug-in, they cut all electric vehicles.  They cut conservation and efficiency.

What did they increase?  The budget for oil drilling, gas drilling, coal mining for the Yucca Mountain nuclear power plant.

But for safety?  No.  Safety gets cut.

So, wherever we talk about energy future, that budget gets cut.  Wherever we talk about this energy passed, this fossil fuel passed, unbelievably, as they cut Medicare, as they cut Medicaid, as they cut Social Security, there‘s plenty of dough left for an oil industry that is tipping consumers upside-down at the gas pump every time someone pulls in to refill their tank.

MADDOW:  Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, thanks very much for your time tonight, sir.  I really appreciate it.

MARKEY:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  “Best New Thing in the World” tonight is one of those kind happy crying things.  Heroism, wonder and bad-ass engineers that will snirple (ph) just a little bit.  That is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  What‘s the closest you can get to a spacecraft on launch day without actually flying in that spacecraft?  It‘s what these guys do.  They are called the closeout crew, seven guys in white numbered uniforms.  They help the astronauts make final adjustments to their flight suits.  They helped strap the astronauts into their seats.  They make sure the hatch is simply shut before they seal them in for blast off.

Today, after sending off the space shuttle Atlantis crew for the last space shuttle flight ever, the closeout crew staged a surprise and silent tribute for NASA‘s cameras.  I‘m not embarrassed to admit this made our whole newsroom a little verklempt today.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW:  The closeout crew for the final flight of Atlantis saying their own silent goodbye to the space shuttle program tonight “Best New Thing in the World.”

Have a great weekend.

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