'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
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Guests: E.J. Dionne, Ron Suskind, Rush Holt
O`DONNELL: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is up next.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks very much.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
You know, there`s a lot to love about the great state of New
Hampshire. Don`t get me wrong. There`s a lot to love about New Hampshire.
For example, there`s the Old Man of the Mountain.
Everybody talks about the fact New Hampshire has "live free or die" on
their license plates. And they do. That`s the state motto. It`s awesome.
It has "die" in it which sounds really tough.
But the other thing that New Hampshire has on its license plate is the
old man in the mountain, that thing in the middle, Old Man of the Mountain
-- a natural rock formation, asterisk, which looks like an old man`s face
if you squint at it, kind of. It`s made up of five granite cliff ledges on
Canon Mountain in the White Mountain range in New Hampshire. And if you
look at it from one particular angle, it does sort of is looks like an old
guy -- an old guy with a hairdo and a kind of big underbite.
Here`s the thing about the Old Man of the Mountain, though. New
Hampshire adopted him early on as their state symbol, and so they feel very
responsible for the Old Man of the Mountain, once the Old Man of the
Mountain started falling apart. For decades, New Hampshire used cement and
cables and turn buckles and tarps all to try to hold the Old Man of the
Mountain together. He was essentially made purely of bondo by the time he
finally collapsed in the middle of the night in 2003.
This is what the Old Man of the Mountain looked like before and this,
yes, this is what the Old Man looks like now. He`s gone.
But New Hampshire is so awesome and so freaking stubborn that New
Hampshire will not give up on the Old Man of the Mountain even though he
does not exist anymore. He is still, bondo and all, on the state quarter.
He is still on the official state license plate. The Old Man of the
Mountain is dead, viva the Old Man of the Mountain.
I love New Hampshire. I love everything about New Hampshire. But you
know what, New Hampshire? You and I are now in a fight, because New
Hampshire, you are ruining Christmas for everyone this year.
Today, the secretary of state of the great state of New Hampshire
announced the Granite State will likely hold its first of the nation
presidential primary on either December 6th or December 13th. What? Yes.
New Hampshire usually holds its primary in January or even February. They
may be pushing it up to December this time around.
And if this happens, you know what that means? Because New Hampshire
isn`t actually the first presidential contest in the country, remember --
you know what this means? New Hampshire is just the first primary. There
is something that comes before New Hampshire.
So, you know what this means? This means Iowa will be even earlier.
By arcane political rules we treat like gospel, Iowa caucuses have to be
held at least eight days prior to any other caucus or primary.
So, do the math there. If New Hampshire really does move up to
December 6th, that will put Iowa in November. Iowa will start voting
around November 28th as in next month. As in 6 1/2 weeks from now -- which
means America would spend 12 months voting for president this year, voting
for a full year. This is enough to make a giant old man with an underbite
collapse into rubble in despair. A year of voting -- not campaign season,
but election lasting a year.
If this happens, what happens then to the ratio of time when policy
can actually get made to time when everybody acknowledges policy can`t
really be made because it`s campaign season? What happens to that ratio?
If just voting is going to take a full year now, then nobody is ever
actually going to be president again. We`re going to have a constant flow
of candidates running campaigns -- punctuated by inaugurations, followed
immediately by the person who was just inaugurated going back to becoming a
And the problem with that for us as citizens is that some stuff
actually needs to get done and get done by our government. And if we are
making decisions about what we want to do as a country, what we want our
public policies to be, it`s a heck of a lot more valuable to see what
somebody does when they hold office when they`re actually responsible for
something than it is just to hear them make speeches, just to hear them
campaign about how bad the other guy is and what they value and how your
problems are their problems and how they feel your whatever. They feel
your pain, or your anger, or your delight, or whatever the national emotion
of the moment is.
The thing that tells you what you need to know about politicians and
about the parties and about priorities is not what they say they are going
to do. It is what they do. It`s their record. It`s how they behave.
What`s the most important thing in the country right now if you ask we
the people? No prizes for getting this right. Duh!
The top priority of the nation: jobs. Jobs creation and economic
growth, obviously. That is far and away the most important thing listed by
Americans in the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll released
tonight. And it`s the same result essentially in every poll: jobs,
The also-run items are the deficit and government spending that is
heavily influenced by Republican voters. Also, health care got a little
bit of a shout-out: the wars and national security. Energy and the cost of
gas is picked by some people: immigration picked by some people.
And then there`s other. They always ask if your top priority is
something other than those things I just named -- those things that were
just listed. In this case, there is no other.
Here`s the way it reads in the actual poll results. See, other, do
you have other priority of something else you think is the nation`s top
priority? They don`t get a zero. They get a dash. Not applicable.
Nobody said something other than those things.
The one branch of government controlled by the Republican Party right
now is, of course, the House of Representatives. You want to know what is
on their agenda right now? Other. That`s what is on their agenda right
The Republicans in the Senate filibustered President Obama`s jobs bill
last night. It did get a majority vote. But Republicans used minority
powers to block it though a majority voted for it.
In the House, they said they won`t put the jobs bill up for a vote.
They say there was apparently no time to do that. Why don`t House
Republicans have the time to work on jobs? Why don`t they have time to
even debate a jobs bill?
Because, well, what`s today? Today is already Wednesday. They don`t
really work on Friday. So, that leaves Thursdays, and -- well, Thursday`s
calendar is pretty much full already.
What`s Thursday`s calendar full with? It`s full with other. Because
Thursday is abortion day in the Republican controlled House of
Tomorrow. Again, Thursday will be set aside to have a full floor vote
in the House of Representatives tomorrow on yet another antiabortion bill
from House Republicans.
Now, if you`re thinking to yourself, haven`t they already voted on all
their antiabortion bills? Yes. Yes, they have. But that`s not stopping
them from doing it again.
When Republicans took over the House back in January, their first big
named bill was H.R.2. That was their repeal health reform bill, right?
And then the very next bill, the very next one they filed, H.R.3, was the
same abortion ban they`re voting on now this week again basically it`s the
So, since Republicans have taken over, it has been abortion day a lot
In February, House Republicans held a vote to eliminate all funding
for Planned Parenthood across the country as a way to stop abortion. The
same month, Republicans also voted to eliminate funding for family planning
programs of all kinds across the country, again, as a way of trying to stop
In April, when we had the first threat of a government shutdown under
House Republican control, what was the sticking point? What were
Republicans willing to shut down the federal government over? Abortion
In May, House Republicans finally passed their praise the H.R.3
antiabortion bill. That same month there was an amendment going after
In June, it was an antiabortion amendment to the agriculture bill.
Currently no fewer than five House subcommittee and committees are working
on yet more antiabortion legislation in the House because we haven`t yet
And again tomorrow, House Republicans will set aside time to have a
full floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on yet another version
of their abortion ban thing they already passed.
But even after that`s done, the Republican-controlled House Energy and
Commerce Committee will be pursuing an ongoing investigation of abortion,
demanding all records from all Planned Parenthoods across the country up to
and including essentially the shoe size and exercise habits of anybody
who`s ever glanced in the general direction of a Planned Parenthood while
driving past it. We know who you are. You know what you did.
These guys are laser-focused -- laser-focused on "other." And because
they keep saying they are laser-focused on jobs, should the Beltway media
just dutifully transcribe that, just dutifully write that down and say --
well, they say they`re focused on jobs so therefore they must be focused on
Or is it the role of the Beltway media, is it the role of the fourth
estate to not just take on faith what they say the Congress that they
control should be working on. Not just take on faith what they say is
important to them. Not just take on faith what they say they are doing to
meet America`s challenges. Don`t just take it on faith, but to actually
look at how that congress is spending its time, to look at what the
Republican-controlled Congress is actually doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Planned Parenthood clinics are among the most
dangerous places on earth for a child.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more we pour money to this organization, the
more abortions they`re going to try to promote and provide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve authored Title 10 Abortion Provider
Prohibition Act which would deny Title 10 funds to Planned Parenthood or
any other abortion provider.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the short time, I have talked tonight,
another baby has been aborted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abortion is not the only option available to these
women and to their families.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: A ban on taxpayer
funding of abortions is the will of the people and it ought to be the will
of the land.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Republicanland is different from the rest of the country.
Republican priorities are different from the rest of the country`s
priorities. And that`s OK. It`s part of the reason we have political
But if it is going to be even more permanent campaign season than ever
before, if voting for a president starts a year ahead of time now, expect
from now on a never ending barrage of artful language and perfect bumper
stickers and sharp attacks about the difference between the parties and who
has the best ideas to fix America`s problems.
Here`s the thing, though. If you want to find out if those ideas are
real, if you want to find out if those ideas are actually available for
governing, rather than just for campaign season, check them against what
they actually do with their real time in office, with the governing power
they actually have.
Joining us now from a crumbling concrete overpass that spans
Republicanland is "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne, who`s also a
senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and MSNBC contributor.
Hi, E.J. It`s nice to see you.
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you. We should meet next
week in Dubuque or Des Moines. We`re going to have to get there quick.
MADDOW: Do you believe we might start voting in November? I`m
assuming this is a bluff from New Hampshire in order to freak everybody
out. Will people be freaked out by this sufficiently that it will not
DIONNE: I think it will bring some pressure on all the states trying
to move up their primaries. But, look, New Hampshire would vote on July
4th if that`s what it took to preserve its role in the primary system. I
mean, it`s already moved way back from where it used to be not all that
We used to start this in February of March. Last time it was right at
the beginning of the year. There are a lot of New Year`s Eve parties in
Des Moines the last time.
MADDOW: Is there an alternative universe? Even if the campaign map
doesn`t change, the campaign calendar doesn`t change -- is there an
alternate political universe where regardless of what people say they want
Congress to work on right now, it makes sense for there to be this much
abortion time in the U.S. House of Representatives this year?
DIONNE: Well, look, for people in the right to life movement,
particularly for ardent folks in the right to life movement, there is no
more important issue. It`s a foundational issue for them.
And any day is an appropriate day to bring up this question. And we
are a country after all that loves to argue about moral issues. We were
yelling at each other about prohibition during the Great Depression. And
when I was thinking about this story today, it did bring to mind one of my
favorite political stories. Democratic Party was riven between wet
Democrats who were anti-prohibition and dry Democrats who were for it.
And it`s in the `30s, after the great crash, a Democrat out in
Missouri wrote, Jim Farley, FDR`s main political guy and said, I don`t
understand why wet Democrats are arguing with dry Democrats over alcohol
when neither of them can afford a price of a drink.
And I think what you got in this case, I think there are a lot of
right to lifers out there who are going to look at this and say -- wait a
minute, jobs are still my priority.
And I also think that from their point of view, looking at it from the
point of view of folks who are against abortion, people are much less
likely to have abortions, more likely to bring kids into the world when
they have some economic security. So, I guess five people out there can
hear this and form a group called right to lifers for the jobs bill.
But I think they`re going to -- they don`t have an excuse now,
although they`re not going to do it, but to bring up the jobs bill if they
can do all this other stuff.
MADDOW: One of the things that strikes me, though -- I got at this a
little bit in terms of the bill that the House Republicans are going to
spend all day tomorrow working on in Congress, is that they`ve already
passed this essentially. I mean, it does -- it`s a slightly different
version of what they passed.
But a lot of what they do, they even admit to being redundant and
making no new law, stopping no actual abortion, being something that only
theoretically goes into effect if there`s a future change in the law.
We`ve seen that in states, too -- states like Michigan which actually has a
few problems and has stuff to be working on. In Michigan, they devoted a
lot of legislative time in their short legislative calendar to work on an
abortion ban that will doubly, triply ban something that is already banned
in Michigan and does not take place there.
So, all of this stuff is -- none of this stuff is really about
governing so much or even about the size of government, as it so much being
seen to be working on this issue. And I just -- I wonder if there`s less
to a cost to that for conservatives who don`t really believe government is
a legitimate functioning institution anyway than there would be for
liberals working on something so symbolic.
DIONNE: Well, you know, I remember a politician who once said, you
know, we`re not really good at policy anymore but we`re really good at
symbols, so we do a lot of symbols.
And I think that, you know -- this is a political thing. The right to
life movement is an important component of the Republican coalition and so
they want to bring this issue up over and over again. What`s ironic is the
right for lifers have been supporting Republicans since Roe v. Wade -- and
Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.
And the fact is if Roe v. Wade fell, most states would actually adopt
relatively permissive -- if I can use that word -- they keep abortion legal
for a considerable period of time. So, yes, there is an awful lot of
And the attack on Planned Parenthood is something disturbing even for
right for lifers. You had on your show some months ago, Steve Lynch of
Massachusetts, who`s a right to life Democrat and he gave this great speech
where he said, you know, if you defund Planned Parenthood, defund all their
services for women, defund their family planning services, you`re going to
end up with more abortions, not fewer abortions.
And I hope he`s around again to make that speech again when this issue
MADDOW: E.J., one last question for you about sort of the distance
between Republican politics and the way Republicans talk to each other and
the decisions they make politically that may not make sense in the broader
context, like this focus on abortion in the House. I wonder if there`s
also something to be read there in what Republicans have decided among
their presidential candidates.
I mean, right now, Herman Cain is leading nationally in today`s NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal" poll and in the new PPP poll. That is seen
largely by people outside of Republican politics as being a -- if not a
surprise, at least a little bit inexplicable.
Should we see the fact it seems surprising and inexplicable as a wake-
up call that Republican politics are a little bit sequestered, kind of a
self-contained universe right now that doesn`t interact very much with the
rest of mainstream American politics?
DIONNE: Maybe Michele Bachmann was on to something last night when
she suggested we turn 9-9-9 around and get this kind of bewitching number.
I think what you really heard in the Republican debate and also heard from
the Republicans in the Senate when they blocked the jobs bill is their
ideology says that the way government solves problems is by being sure the
government doesn`t do anything about the problem. They have an ideological
block now to government action.
Barney Frank likes to talk about a reverse Houdinis -- people who tie
themselves up into knots then say, I can`t do anything because I`m all tied
up in knots. And I think that`s where they are now.
MADDOW: "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne -- thank you very
much for joining us tonight, E.J. It`s always great to see you.
DIONNE: Good to see you.
MADDOW: Whether or not you know it, you have been buying an awesome
new vehicle for quite some time. And it is now hitting the road. It is
hitting the road without a driver. It responds to your voice commands or
it can just drive on its own without even remote control.
We`ll have more ahead from the intersection of cool, brand new and
unnerving with the one U.S. member of Congress who is a rocket scientist
for real. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: Still ahead: the shocking true story of turkeys gone wild,
full exclusive high sky jam cam team coverage from the Best New Thing in
the World action team. Now with more Doppler Radar. That`s straight
ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: An NBC News scoop tonight. The new Secretary of Defense Leon
Panetta and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff delivering to President
Obama this afternoon a plan to drawdown U.S. troops in Afghanistan by
10,000 by the end of this year. Under this plan, some troops will come
home and some will just not deploy.
But the end result, one in 10 Americans who are there now, one in 10
of the 100,000 Americans in Afghanistan now, coming home. Now, one in 10
is nowhere close to a majority. It`s not everybody.
But if this happens, it will be significant movement in one of the two
global big picture things to know about America right now. I mean, if you
were an alien coming to earth right now and figuring out what countries
are, what`s distinctive? What are these things called country? What is
distinctive about the different things called countries?
If you knew nothing else, the two global big picture things to know
about America are that we just spent trillions of dollars and 10 years on
overseas wars -- in wars that we are still in. The other thing you need to
know is that this big country who`s fought these big 10 years of war, we
don`t have an economy anymore.
Here`s that second point in a nutshell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN GRAYSON (D), FORMER FLORIDA REPRESENTATIVE: Wall Street wrecked
the economy three years ago and nobody`s held responsible for that. Not a
single person has been indicted or convicted for destroying --
GRAYSON: -- twenty percent, 20 percent of our national net worth
accumulated over the course of two centuries. Wall Street has iron control
over the economic policies of this country and one party is a wholly owned
subsidy of Wall Street and the other party caters to them as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Alan Grayson, former congressman, nutshelling nicely what
happened to us over the past few years and explaining in that case why an
"Occupy Wall Street" protest makes sense to anybody who gets the basics
about what`s wrong with our country right now.
Here`s another nutshell version of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: The people on Wall
Street broke this country and did it one lousy mortgage at a time. It
happened more than three years ago and there has still been no basic
accountability and there has been no real effort to fix it.
That`s why I want to run for the United States Senate. That`s what I
want to do to change the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From populist like Alan Grayson, and the former congressman
there, also Elizabeth Warren, campaigning for Senate at a debate in
Massachusetts there, and from the people from all walks of life joining
this protest movement. I mean, you`ll notice, people aren`t complaining as
much anymore that they don`t understand the message of "Occupy Wall
Sorry, "Occupy Wall Street" doesn`t need a manifesto. It`s clear as a
bell. Wall Street broke the economy badly. We`re all still suffering from
it. Wall Street never got held responsible for it and now they`re using
their power and their money to stop us from fixing the mess. They broke
the economy and then they ate the political system.
So, not only do we have a broken economy, we do not have a way to fix
the broken economy.
Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has just written a
pot boiler of a book about how the Obama White House did and did not deal
with the explosion of Wall Street.
But what I want to know from Ron Suskind is after all of that
reporting on how this White House works, what it does well and what it
doesn`t -- after all that reporting on who the president talks to and who
helps him get done what he wants and who hurts him, what I want to know is
when we hear President Obama talk now sort of the way Elizabeth Warren
talks, when we hear President Obama now taking a more populist line, when
he talks about being a warrior for the middle class, does that mean he`s
going to do something now differently than he has been doing?
And if so, if he is going to do things differently now, why didn`t he
do those things before? And should we believe it really is different now?
Joining us now is Ron Suskind.
Ron, I want to congratulate you on the success of the book. You have
set a lot of people`s hair on fire.
RON SUSKIND, "CONFIDENCE MEN" AUTHOR: That`s what reporting does
MADDOW: From your reporting, do you think there is a more populist,
tougher on Wall Street, Obama presidency emerging now than we have seen
SUSKIND: I think it`s undeniable that that`s the direction he`s
moving. Will he bring rubber hitting road? That`s the question people are
But this is about the evolution of the president across four years
since he`s a candidate and certainly through the three years as president.
He wanted to do things early on -- much more progressive, much more
activist in terms of Wall Street and the financial capital of New York. He
was blocked by various advisers, mostly Tim Geithner and Larry Summers.
And it`s interesting because you can see Obama now in rhetoric and I
think if he has it in his hand, action saying maybe now is the time. This
is about Obama -- as he says in the final interview of the book -- arriving
at a fully realized presidency and the question is, will he bring action as
well as word?
MADDOW: Some of the people who you describe as blocking the president
from a more aggressive agenda against Wall Street, a more progressive
agenda, things like taking down Citibank, some of those people are still
there. Would it be different now if he wanted to push those same kinds of
ideas? He`s going to have the same resistance in the administration. Is
he more powerful in relation to them now?
SUSKIND: Well, I think part of the book -- the key to the book is
Obama learning how to run his White House. Look, this is a hard job. He
had no experience going in. He meets the twin crisis of a collapsing
economy and a collapsed financial system.
Ultimately, these guys are experts. He`s not an expert in finance or
the economy. Tim Geithner, Larry Summers is.
What he learned, though, is how to take control of his White House.
That`s in the book. It`s in the memos. It`s in meeting after meeting.
The question is: now, will he use that capacity?
He -- look, presidents sometimes take a year or two to learn that job.
He clearly has learned it. The question I think is deeper. It`s one of
commitment. It`s one of conviction.
And will Obama now in a way signal back to the people who elect him?
Which he does in that last interview. He says, look, why did I get here?
What did I do that only the president can do? In a way, he`s saying, can I
do it now?
But the difficulty is this: it`s going to take -- it`s going to take a
kind of a fervor, a kind of clarity that some of these things are not
simple and you`re not going to get consensus among your advisers. It`s
just a matter of doing it -- doing it because it`s the right thing to, a
matter of moral choice.
David Axelrod talks about that in the book. Can Obama capture moral
choice, moral energy on the domestic landscape? Clearly, that`s what`s
being asked of him now by people around the country. The question is: can
he rise to the moment?
MADDOW: And answer your own question now though. With the reporting
you`ve done and the people that you`ve -- I`m not just talking to the
president but talking to people around him and seeing this evolution in his
career, do you think he can -- just as an American watching him make those
speeches now, do you feel like he`s changing direction?
SUSKIND: Well, sometimes I worry because I still hear a yes and then
a "but" instead of just a yes. You know, it`s interesting because through
this period, you see the president realizing that at the end of the day
it`s about action as well as gesture. And, you know, I still don`t know.
I think that he in a way is facing necessity as the mother of invention.
He`s feeling desperation arise. How could he not? He sees the
political situation. He sees the economy still really hurting. People are
hurting across the country.
If it doesn`t happen now, I don`t think it`s going to happen. And I
think the hope for many people is that they`re signaling from Wall Street,
the demonstrators, they`re signaling actually what he`s finding is that
across the political spectrum on left and right, people are saying, step
up, be the president, do it now. The question is: will he hear the call?
MADDOW: Is there constraint on him from Wall Street? I mean, is Wall
Street trying to hold the re-election campaign hostage saying effectively
they will fund his re-election campaign if he gives x, y and z to Wall
Street in temples of policy and withhold donations if he doesn`t?
SUSKIND: Well, look, at this point, I think he figures the donations
are going to the Republicans anyway. What`s there to lose? I mean, he had
a lot of Wall Street contributors during the `08 campaign. They`re not
And in a way, look, what does he need their money for? He has got the
bully pulpit. He`s got the megaphone. And ultimately, he`s got a
megaphone at a time of crisis in the country when they can only turn to one
MADDOW: Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author of the
new book, "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a
President" -- and my friend who I don`t see enough. It`s really nice to
have you here, Ron.
SUSKIND: It`s great to be here.
MADDOW: Will you come back soon?
SUSKIND: Any time.
MADDOW: All right.
"Best New Thing in the World Today" is coming up right at the end of
the show. It involves a very serious lesson about the Fourth Estate and
journalism in America. It also involves turkeys. Turkeys. Crazy turkeys
coming for you to try to kill you.
Ah! Turkeys, turkeys, turkeys, turkeys -- coming up.
MADDOW: When you`re in the news media -when you`re in the news media
doing a cable TV show or writing on the Internet, writing for a newspaper
or whatever, there is a very inviting place, a very tempting thing to do
which generally should be avoided. But sometimes cannot be. It`s a trap
called the trend piece.
The pitch for a trend piece usually goes something like this --
everybody is talking about this thing, it seems to be rating for some other
people, so let`s do our version of it. The trend piece is death. It is
just awful -- except this one instance of it that we discovered today.
Finally, a new trend piece -- frankly, a trend piece trend that does not
"Best New Thing in the World Today" coming up right at the end of the
MADDOW: This is a rumba. This is a rumba. Its job -- its only job
is to vacuum your house without you. This is a rumba.
Now, this -- whoa -- is not a rumba. The same company that makes the
rumba vacuum cleaner also makes military-grade versions of the same basic
idea. Machines that can do stuff at your direction and can also do stuff
In this case, it`s sort of a dictionary-sized thing on treads that can
run over broken window frames or take pictures, spy on a bad guy that
doesn`t know that you`re there, go down stairs, falling down, collapse,
crumble, and get itself going again.
So, there`s civilian technology, right, and there is military
technology. There`s the rumba and there is the throwable iRobot 110.
The big technological advance in the civilian world was the all
electric vehicle from Chevy, the Spark. There`s already the Chevy Volt
which also has a gas engine. But the Spark due out the year after next is
all electric, baby. G.M. made its first electric vehicle in 1996. But
they`re finally getting one to market by 2013-ish. So, this is the
civilian world`s new car today.
This on the other hand is the military`s new car today. The
military`s new car today does not need a driver. It is a drone that drives
itself over land. It`s a heavily armored vehicle. It can carry more than
a thousand pounds. You can control it with your voice.
So you say, turn right, turn left and it turns right or turns left.
If you`re not voice controlling it or remote controlling it, this thing can
drive itself. It can find its own way. If it has taken a route before, it
remembers it and can replicate it. It`s an autonomous motor vehicle that
accompanies humans on patrol and stops when you yell stop at it.
When the Army gets a new car, that`s the kind of new car the Army
Elsewhere in military tech advancement in the exoskeleton, not for
sci-fi films but so that you can run, and jump, and lift heavy stuff and
not get tired and generally have superhuman strength and endurance because
you`re wearing an exoskeleton.
Want to get over the fence? The military has some technology for that
that will blow your mind. You need an overland creature smaller than that
driverless vehicle and unconnected to the soldier in order to move over
land or to get something moved over land?
How about this thing they have nicknamed a Dog?
Scary, cool, scary, cool, can`t decide, can`t decide. This thing now
comes in a larger size, too. This is the prototype. It`s called the alpha
dog prototype for the legged squad support system nicknamed the LS3.
Again, both amazing and sort of terrifying.
We`ve all gotten used to the idea of flying robot planes that kill
people now. Drone aircraft, right? The next thing we will learn about
drone aircraft is that they`re going to be the size of bugs. Again, they
will operate independently. The bug will go on its own and know where it`s
So, you know, in the civilian world, this month, we got new models of
the iPhone. It`s got a better camera and stuff. There`s the upgrade to
the 1996 electric car that`s going to come out in a couple years. It seems
But think about the trajectory in military technology. To go from the
hoopty Humvees that we sent to Iraq in 2003 where American soldiers are
bolting scrap metal on to the doors and the floors to function as some sort
of fake armor, the distance we went from those to the new generation of
mine resistant vehicles, the MRAPs we have now with their V-shaped hulls
and their fully armored chassis.
You know somebody who`s been deployed recently? Ask them how they
felt driving around a war zone in the new MRAPs. You know somebody
deployed early in the wars? Ask them to compare the MRAPs now to what they
Think about the distance the military has traveled from the Vietnam
era flak jackets we sent early on into Iraq and Afghanistan, to not just
the high-tech body armor we have now, but the freaking exoskeletons that
are on the way.
Don`t just tell me that the amazing distance traveled between old
technology and new technology is about, you know, the magic of the for
profit private market that operates in the defense contractor world. Even
the most profitable private industry on earth, oil companies, when they`ve
got a spill, their big tech idea for cleaning up their oil spill is
basically paper towels, napkins, right? The same idea they had in the
1970s is still what they use today.
Private industry does not equal amazing technological innovation.
So, this is not a hypothetical. What in the past decade has produced
observably amazingly technological innovation you can measure in leaps and
bounds, unimaginable innovation in manufacturing in the United States of
America -- what has produced that in the last decade is you, specifically
your money. Hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, public
investment, and the fact that it is all for fighting wars, of course,
really changes the politics around it.
But are there lessons to be learned for building ourselves out of the
economic disaster we`re in from the way that we became a country that could
build this guy?
Joining us now is a man who knows a thing or two about high-tech, the
nuclear physicist who beat IBM`s computer at "Jeopardy," Congressman Rush
Holt of New Jersey.
Congressman Holt, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
REP. RUSH HOLT (D), NEW JERSEY: Rachel, it`s always good to be with
Do you think there is a lesson to be learned from the leaps and bounds
we have experienced in military tech over the last 10 years fighting these
two years that can be applied to revitalizing what we invent and what we
make in the civilian world?
HOLT: Well, sure, the lesson is that research and development pays
off. They pay off big -- not just in nifty devices, not just in better
understanding of our universe, but really in dollars and cents and jobs.
It is our seed corn. It is the engine for innovation. You can
describe it various ways.
But the investment in research, economists will argue whether you get
a -- you know, a 2-1 return on your dollar or a -- you know, a 75 percent
return. Whatever it is, it`s huge. You never know exactly what it`s going
to be, which is why sometimes the -- it`s hard to sustain. It`s hard to
sustain the support for it.
And in fact, over the last four decades, the federal investment in
research, the government spending on research, has measured by -- you know,
as a percentage of our gross domestic product has fallen by about two-
Now, defense has stayed pretty flat during that time. So what it
means is the civilian R&D has fallen quite a bit.
You know, the slashers in Washington, the budget slashers are saying -
- well, but the private industry has grown during that period but not
enough to make up for the loss in the federal spending. And furthermore,
the private industry, as you were saying, just doesn`t do sometimes as well
or the same things that have been done with federal support.
MADDOW: Because defense has had almost no budgetary -- really not
even almost -- defense has had no budgetary constraint whatsoever for most
of my lifetime, particularly for the last 10 years and some of that is
understandable because we`ve been in two big wars, neither of which is
over. Because they`ve had essentially unlimited funds, you can sort of see
what a maximalist investment in defense can produce.
And I do think there will be some civilian uses for some of these
kinds of things, these gee whiz things that we`ve been talking about in
this segment. But I wonder if we should be cautious about extrapolating
from the military example because there are some things that the military
does better than other sectors can do. Are they particularly good at this?
HOLT: Well, the military spends a lot more on development than on
research. More on the D than the R. And so -- but they do a lot of other
things, too. I mean, you know, they certainly help the war fighter, the
soldier do the job more safely, more efficiently.
Now, not all products of research are equally helpful to people. I
mean, just because we`re able to kill people remotely more efficiently
doesn`t mean that we as a country should do that. But the Defense
Department has maintained a research budget and is one of the principal
research funders for breast cancer, for ovarian cancer, for prostate
cancer. It is one of the biggest funders for computer science and
So, there are a lot of other things that come out of the defense.
It`s probably not the most efficient way to improve people`s lives because
some of that research is kept secret. It makes it -- you know, if
scientists can`t communicate freely, they can`t be as innovative.
So, the lessons that we can learn from defense research and
development are limited but they`re real. And again, back to my previous
point. The yield to the investor in this case, the society at large, the
taxpayer, is really huge. And we really should reverse this decline that
we`ve seen over decades now in the federal investment and research.
I think we`re under-investing in research in almost every sector.
MADDOW: It is cool that we are -- have produced some of the things
that we have produced because of our overinvestment in military tech, but
if we can even keep up 10 percent in nonmilitary tech, I think we`d be a
totally different country with a totally different economic future.
HOLT: You know, overall, we`re investing only about a percent of our
gross domestic product in research. Other countries set a goal of 2
percent or 3 percent. They sometimes meet that goal, sometimes fall short.
But we`re far short of that.
MADDOW: Physicist and Democratic Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey
-- Congressman Holt, it`s always a real pleasure and honor to have you on
the show. You have insight on subjects like these nobody else has. So,
thanks very much.
HOLT: Can I watch the turkey trend now?
MADDOW: Yes. You can stick with us for the turkeys. Absolutely.
HOLT: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Still ahead, as promised, you and Rush Holt can
watch local TV news coverage of the scourge of rampaging turkeys. Don`t
say I never gave you anything.
MADDOW: A couple days before his 18th birthday when the fighting in
World War II was at its height, he enlisted. He joined the Army. He
shipped out. He saw combat in Europe.
And when he came back, he went to Harvard. He got his PhD. And with
his Harvard PhD, he moved to Washington, took a job as an astronomer with
the U.S. Army Map Service in 1956.
In 1957, the U.S. Army Map Service fired him because he was gay.
What do you do when you`re fired from your job for being gay and it`s
If you were anybody other than Frank Kameny, you do nothing. But if
you`re Frank Kameny, you fight it. You fight it all the way to the Supreme
Court in 1961.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK KAMENY: To my knowledge, that was the first gay rights legal
brief ever filed. I must say after half a century it still reads pretty
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But did it win?
KAMENY: No. It was filed at the end of January 1961 -- inconsistent
and not unexpectedly with the culture of the day. In March of `61, the
Supreme Court denied the petition which ended my own personal case. But
I`ve been faced with the issues it was clear enough something needed to be
So, I founded the gay movement here in Washington and as seen in
retrospect, that initiated as I said a few minutes ago, gay activism and
militancy, generally, and things proceeded from there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Things proceeded from there, slight understatement.
It was not until eight years after his Supreme Court case that the
Stonewall riots happened in New York in 1969.
Stonewall is often credited as the start of the movement for gay
people`s civil rights in this country. But a decade before Stonewall,
before Harvey Milk even moved to San Francisco, there was Frank Kameny and
his Supreme Court case. Before Stonewall, there was Frank Kameny founding
the Mattachine Society, before anybody had an idea there could be a gay
organization of any kind.
There was Frank Kameny in 1965 in a suit marching on the White House
for gay rights.
And through it all, Frank Kameny kept spectacular records. By the
time the government was ready to stop firing him for being gay and to
instead to formally apologize to him for that, as they did a couple of
years ago, by the time Washington, D.C. was ready to stop just arresting
him and instead start naming two blocks of 17th Street after him, after
declaring his home as a historic landmark for being the headquarters of the
earliest gay rights movement in the country, by the time he was personally
there to witness a presidential executive order for same sex partners
benefits and the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell"; by the time of Frank
Kameny`s decades of fighting mostly alone were finally being recognized as
the start of something that changed the country, Frank Kameny was ready for
He was prepared. He had kept records when the Smithsonian and the
Library of Congress came on his door to see if he had any stuff that might
put on display so other people could study the movement that he kind of
started, he had 70,000 pages of documents for them -- 70,000 pieces of
paper and artifacts from his time and his fight which you as an American
can see now at the Smithsonian and at the Library of Congress as part of
the story of how we became who we are as a country -- of who pushed and
pulled and fought to get us where we are now.
We all have decisions to make about how to live this one life we have.
Frank Kameny`s choice how to live changed all of our lives, changed the
world for all of us and forever.
Frank Kameny died yesterday in his sleep. He was 86 years old.
MADDOW: "Best New Thing in the World Today" has to do with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUFFY KELLY, KXTV NEWS 10 PRODUCER: All right. Oh! Jesus Christ!
No! God! Go away! Go away!
Help! OK. He won`t stop. Ah! OK. Thank you.
It`s true. It`s so true.
No! He`s got me trapped in the car. Oh, my God. OK. OK, fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is KXTV News 10 producer Duffy Kelly who went to
investigate reports of a rogue turkey and ended up herself getting chased
around a Sacramento neighborhood. Her discovery gave that local news
station in Sacramento a whole slew of ways to follow up on the turkey
attack. Like revealing the affected neighborhoods or telling viewers how
they can protect themselves from rogue turkeys.
Sacramento is also not alone in reporting on the turkey menace.
Consider also these stories from Peoria, Illinois, this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: How many times have you been attacked by these turkeys?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`ve hit me a few times. They come right after
us. They chased me down the hill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you, Peoria.
Now checking on rogue turkeys in Cape Cod.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is it intimidating?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is to me. This is the first time I saw it. I
didn`t want to get out of the truck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, just a single local news report of a rogue turkey is a
gift from the news gods. But the possibility this is a new and emerging
trend in local news -- that I am all in favor of, that is the "Best New
Thing in the World Today."
Now it`s time for "THE ED SHOW." Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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