'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, November 29th, 2012
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
November 29, 2012
Guests: Jeff Merkley, Spencer Ackerman
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW." I`m Ed
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: We will know that is the case if we find some
kind of Mexican wrestling mask in the next Pete Sousa photo from the White
House. Then we`ll know they`re sending a message.
SCHULTZ: That`s right.
MADDOW: Thanks, man. That was awesome.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
OK. Last year in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, which to
refresh your memory is here, sort of wedged into a port of the world called
Eurasia. In that struggling young nation of Georgia, a 75-year-old
grandmother was out looking for scrap metal and she happened -- by some
dark miracle, she happened upon the cable that connects much of that region
to the outside world.
The cable that she found when she was looking for scrap metal happened
to carry the Internet -- the whole Internet service for that whole part of
the world. And because this woman was poor and she thought the cable maybe
contained some valuable copper that maybe she could sell, she cut that
cable with a shovel.
And with that one mighty thwack, that 75-year-old woman severed almost
all of the Internet in the next door nation of Armenia and also in parts of
her own nation of Georgia, and in the neighboring nation of Azerbaijan.
One lady, one shovel, one thwack with that shovel and it was the end of the
Internet in three countries.
This kind of thing happens sometimes. Look at this. It happens in
our country, too. Copper thieves just this month made off with wiring that
supplied Internet and phone service for the Navajo nation in New Mexico and
Arizona. They thwacked that cable in order to steal the copper and bingo,
And actually in that case, it was not only no Internet, it was also no
long distance phone calls and even knocked out all the ATMs.
We think of the Internet as almost an ambient thing, right? As a
presence. But it is a physical thing at some level. And even if every
country doesn`t exactly have a big national Internet on/off switch, the
Internet can be shut off. It can be shut off by accident or by thievery.
It can be shut off for political purposes by the government on purpose.
And today, in Syria, where they are in year two of a very violent
uprising, someone today in Syria turned off the whole Internet, the whole
thing, for the whole country, all of a sudden, like a light switch. Look
at this graph. It shows people using the Internet in Syria this morning,
typing along, tweeting, whatever.
And then, boom! Lights out. No more Internet in Syria. Somebody hit
the off switch.
Here`s another view -- the Internet in Syria humming along, and then,
all of a sudden, nothing.
Syria has three cables that connect it to the rest of the world. As
of about noon today, local time, this shows the traffic on those cables.
All three cables just shut down instantly, off a cliff, nothing moving into
Syria, nothing flowing out.
It`s not like this has never happened before. Syria has shut down the
Internet at times of military offensives in this uprising before.
And we have seen other governments do this before. The government in
Egypt shut down the Internet last year during the revolution there that
Same thing with government in Libya. In the months before rebel
fighters took down that regime and ousted and then killed Gadhafi.
Sometimes governments have also blocked access to the Internet in
smaller, more directed ways like Pakistan and Bangladesh turning off
YouTube this year on account of that insane Islamophobic video that sparked
fatal protests across the Muslim world.
Just this week, the government in Tajikistan turned off Facebook after
people started posting mean things on Facebook about the president of
Tajikistan who apparently is a wuss.
Earlier this year in Pakistan, the government blocked Twitter for a
day because of a, quote, "blasphemous cartoon contest."
So, yes, this kind of thing happens. Government shuts off parts of
the Internet or even the whole darn thing. And because this is a thing
that governments do to their people, preserving access to the Internet and
means of communication that the Internet affords us, that has become a
significant part of the way the U.S. interacts with other countries. It`s
become a significant part of U.S. diplomacy and what we try to get
governments to do in terms of the way they treat their own people.
During the Iranian revolution, the Iranian Green Revolution in 2009,
those big street protests against Ahmadinejad, remember that summer of big
protests there? Remember how the U.S. press called that the Twitter
Twitter was not the reason those protests happened in Iran that
summer, but it did turn out to be an important tool that activists and
regular Iranians used to communicate to each other about that giant protest
movement that was so threatening to the government there.
When Twitter was planning a totally unrelated shutdown for technical
reasons around the time of those big protests in Iran, the U.S. government
intervened and asked the company to please delay that planned outage to
another time when it would not crimp Iranians` ability to use that tool.
And Twitter agreed. Twitter did delay that planned service outage.
With this shutdown of the whole Internet in all of Syria today, it`s
still under way. We`re not sure how long it`s going to last.
But our government, the U.S. government, takes these things seriously,
and U.S. officials today blamed and criticized the Syrian government for
the Internet going dark in that country.
But then check this out. Our government, our State Department, also
said that the Syrian people will be able to get around the fact that the
Syrian government turned off the Internet and the phones in that country.
The U.S. expressing confidence that some Syrians will be able to get around
this in part because of direct help from us.
The government, our government apparently planned for this eventuality
and distributed in Syria 2,000 communications kits to the opposition.
Those kits include apparently computers and phones and cameras, quote,
"designed to be independent from and able to circumvent the Syrian domestic
network, precisely for the reason of keeping them safe from regime
The U.S. State Department expressing confidence today that those 2,000
kits from our government to the people of Syria will be enough to keep the
opposition movement going and to keep people in Syria in contact with
people outside of that country.
Now, from the other side`s perspective, Syria`s information minister
says it was not the Syrian government there, it was not the Syrian
government that shut down the Internet. He said terrorists did it.
That said, the same guy, information minister also said today that the
airport in Damascus was still open for business today. And if you want to
check his veracity, the airport in Damascus was not open for business
today. Really, it`s closed.
See inside that circle? No planes in the flight radar over Syria.
And while that detail is important to figuring out whether or not you
should believe things the Syrian information manager tells you are true, it
is also, frankly, ominous that the main airport in Syria is shut down. No
plane has taken off from or landed in Damascus since yesterday morning.
We`re getting all sorts of conflicting reports about why that might
be. Everything from the rebels have mortared the runway, to the government
shut it down in order to attack the rebels, to this information minister
guy saying it`s not shut down as all. It apparently is shut down.
There is a black box in terms of what`s happening over in Syria right
now. There`s a black box in terms of what`s going on in that country. We
do not know what`s going on. It has gone opaque.
And with the Internet shutdown and with the main commercial access
point to the country shut down in terms of air travel, with no reliable
information about what`s going on, the worry is that the Syrian government
has essentially made that country go dark so that under cloak of darkness,
they can do something to their own people that they`re unwilling to be seen
doing in the light when the world can watch, and that is scary,
particularly given the kinds of weapons that that government has access to.
So given this scary situation, Syria is a place where we say the
regime should go. We have not yet recognized officially the opposition,
but lots of other countries have. It`s clear the United States is heading
In this situation when Syria pulls the plug on the Internet and air
traffic stops and the information we`re getting from the government is
plainly wrong and we don`t know what`s going on, what should the United
Wait, before you answer that, I should also mention if you are the
person who gets to decide something like that, I should also tell you
what`s on your plate today besides that. Today, the U.S. and Israel got
outvoted 138-9 on a vote to grant Palestinians sort of junior nation status
at the U.N.
Palestine is not officially a country, so they`re not officially a
member of the U.N. They officially get to be observers of what happens at
the U.N. But this was a symbolic stamp of international approval for the
political legitimacy of the Palestinians.
It may not have much practical impact, but politically speaking, it
was the U.S. and Israel that were desperately trying to have this vote
today not happen, so that we would not to be shown to be so isolated in the
world in terms of our country`s perspective and the Israeli perspective on
this issue. The U.S. knew that the vote would look this lopsided, which is
why we did not want the vote to happen, but it happened anyway and it
happened just like we knew it would.
Also on your plate, after President Obama took his big historic trip
to Burma this month, the first time a U.S. president has ever visited
Burma, the Burmese government today attacked their own people using what is
being described as incendiary devices to break up a protest of Buddhist
monks in their iconic flowing saffron robes.
Also, while you`re spinning the chore wheel about what America should
do in the world today, consider that the Egyptian president who was the go-
between for us on trying to shut down the war between Israel and Gaza this
month, the first thing the Egyptian president did after getting that cease-
fire was assign himself new dictatorial powers that he said could not be
overruled by anybody or anything in Egypt.
This is not the old dictator of Egypt. This is the new guy.
And just one more thing: if you`re not too busy while you`re
considering these matters, while the United States is negotiating how many
American troops are going to stay on in Afghanistan after the end of our
longest war ever, while we`re negotiating what`s going to happen in that
country after 2014 while we`re in the middle of those negotiation, the
United States Senate voted today by a big margin, 62-33, that we would
please like to leave Afghanistan sooner than the end of 2014, faster --
which you will now need to work out with the president of the United States
and the Pentagon and the Afghans and all the NATO allies that are already
sprinting for the exits there.
So, that`s what`s on your plate. That`s today.
Do you want this job of sorting this all out? Again, that was just
today`s agenda. That`s a Thursday in American diplomacy.
Do you want the job of making all those things right?
I do not know you, but I know enough about you to guess that you do
not want the job of making all of those things right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We cannot view any of these
challenges or changes in a vacuum. They are all connected, and our
strategy needs to account for the intersections and relationships.
So, the United States really does need to bring an unprecedented level
of strategic sophistication to these problems rather than just chasing
after the crisis of the moment. American policymakers need to play chess,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Being in charge of diplomacy for the United States of
America, being the person responsible for getting America`s way in the
world by some means other than bombs, being America`s top diplomat is
harder than any other civilian job in the United States besides maybe being
president of the United States. It`s the toughest job you can do not in
But back home in Washington, the opposition party, the Republican
Party, at least some of them, have decided they do not want anybody to fill
Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire says she will block the
nomination of anyone to be the top diplomat for the United States. John
McCain has said the same thing, that he would not support confirming
anyone, anyone for that job, the way he feels now. Both senators saying
they would prefer nobody had that job because of their upset over comments
made on Sunday morning talk shows by a member of the Obama administration
on the weekend after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Republican Senator Susan Collins has now decided that that
administration official, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, is someone she could
not support for secretary of state if President Obama nominates her for
that job because Susan Rice chose to appear on those Sunday shows at all,
regardless of what she said there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I continue to be troubled by the fact
that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political
role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign by
agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Seriously. They`re no longer even complaining about what she
said. They`re complaining that she went on a Sunday show. So, therefore,
she can`t be secretary of state.
For Senator Susan Collins, appearing on a Sunday show is something a
politician would do. And she doesn`t want somebody for secretary of state
who would do something like that. Be totally inappropriate for somebody
behaving like a politician by going on a Sunday show to get the secretary
of state job.
She says she would much prefer Senator John Kerry for that job,
because, yes, he`s never been a politician.
Or presumably, she`s still OK with the current secretary of state,
Hillary Clinton. It`s not like she`s ever run for anything. You know,
obviously she`s never been on a Sunday show.
If she had been on a Sunday show, she`d ever gone on a Sunday show,
that obviously would have disqualified her from becoming secretary of
state. That would show her to be behaving in a political fashion.
Everybody knows the secretary of state cannot do anything political.
There is a mismatch between the seriousness of the things that we
actually need to get done as a nation and the quality of the system in
Washington that is the means by which we must get those things done.
Syria is not our war, and Syria is not going to be our war. But there
are tens of thousands of people dead there already. And the regime there
appears to have just turned off the lights, pulled the plug, disconnected
that country entirely from the eyes of the world.
What are we going to do about it? We do actually have to make a
decision, right? What are we going to do about?
And are we going to pick a new secretary of state in the middle of
deciding what to do about it? Or are we going to decide, nah, we don`t
need that job, we`d rather have a tantrum in Washington about something too
incoherent to track on a daily basis in the news anymore?
Are we capable of picking a secretary of state on substantive grounds
or is it going to continue to be this nonsense?
The Afghanistan war is our war. It`s the longest war in American
history. In the last campaign, the same opposition party, the Republican
Party for president and vice president nominated candidates who not only
had zero foreign policy experience between them, but who had no coherent
policy whatsoever about what to do about the war and who preferred not to
mention it, even in their major speeches about things going on in the
country. While we`ve got 66,000 Americans in that war right now.
We have serious things to make serious decisions about as a country.
How do we turn down the nonsense enough to hope that our political process
can be the means by which we make these grave and serious decisions?
Joining now is Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He`s the chief sponsor
of the amendment that passed today calling for an accelerated withdrawal of
U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Senator Merkley, thank you very much for being here tonight. And
congratulations on the success of that amendment today.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, thank you very much, Rachel.
It`s an incredible amount of things happening around the world today.
MADDOW: Yes. And I feel like this is one of those moments when I
have very high hopes and very high wishes for what our political process
will be capable of doing, and I have to say, seeing your amendment passed
today in such a bipartisan fashion with so much Republican support made me
have some hope that some of the biggest foreign policy challenges that
we`ve got might be tackled in a way that is at least less partisan, if not
Do you feel that way about it?
MERKLEY: You know, this was a very bold and bipartisan moment. It`s
the first time in 11 years that a chamber of U.S. Congress has said we need
to end this war in Afghanistan and bring our sons and daughters home and to
do it by nearly a 2-1 margin and tell the president, not only should you
stay the course in transferring responsibility to the Afghan military and
getting our troops out of a combat role, but you should do everything
possible to move more quickly. That was a tremendous statement to make,
and very different than what we had two years ago.
MADDOW: And this is essentially phrased as advice from the Senate.
It`s the sense of the Senate. It`s not a binding --
MADDOW: -- requirement that you`re putting on the Pentagon or the
What are you hoping is going to be the practical effect of this
MERKLEY: Well, let`s compare this to what the House has in their
language. They say there need to be 68,000 American troops at a minimum
through the entire next two years. So they`re talking about basically
indefinite war at large numbers.
And the Senate has responded tonight and said, no. This war must come
to an end. We have lost thousands of Americans. We have spent half a
We have spent 11 years. The nation building is not working. Our
primary missions on the training camps, our primary mission on taking out
those responsible for 9/11 is completed. Let`s get our sons and daughters
It`s an incredible rebuttal to the case the House has made for
indefinite high levels of war in Afghanistan.
MADDOWE: The executive branch and the Congress obviously are separate
and co-equal branches of government. I have to ask, though, if you`ve had
feedback from the executive branch, from the White House, about how they
feel about your amendment and the Senate expressing themselves this way.
Are you getting any sort of pushback or any sort of encouragement?
MERKLEY: I haven`t heard any specific feedback, but largely we`re
endorsing the president but saying do it faster. And so, I suspect that
the president would very much like to hear that we think he`s on the right
track but hope that the circumstances enable him to move even more quickly.
This is a very different message than the House is sending.
MADDOW: And, you know, and within the 2014 framework that the
president has laid out, he has described the pace at which he wants to
bring Americans home from Afghanistan as a steady pace. He hasn`t said
anything about how many troops he wants there over that time period. It
seems like the president would not have to change any statements that he`s
previously made about the war in order to go along with your language.
Is that your sense?
MERKLEY: No, not at all. We`re really reinforcing the vision the
president has laid out and to have a bipartisan endorsement of the
president`s vision, along with calling for an acceleration of his vision,
is really just the right message to send. It says you`re on track, but do
it more quickly. This war needs to come to an end.
We -- compare this to two years ago when we had a resolution that
Russell Feingold put forward and I assisted him in it. It simply asked the
president to set out a timeline. That`s all it asked. Just set out a
timeline. We only had 18 votes for that.
But tonight, we said, not only do we enforce a timeline for getting
out, but we want you to accelerate it. And we had 13 Republicans join with
the Democrats and say, enough is enough, we need to end this war, we need
to get home.
MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon -- thank you very much for
your time tonight, sir.
MERKLEY: You`re so welcome.
MADDOW: Congratulations again on this amendment. I really appreciate
MERKLEY: Thank you.
Senator Jeff Merkley, the other issue that he`s really been
championing in the Senate right now is this idea of changing the Senate
rules about whether or not you can just by rote (ph) require a 60-vote
majority rule for everything, which has made this the most least effective
Senates of all American times.
Senator Merkley has been a relatively low-profile senator nationwide.
That is not for long. Not with the issues he`s taking up and the -- I
think the prospects that his issues have in this Congress.
All right. The date January 11th just became a very important date on
the American political calendar. New Year, of course, is the 1st.
Inauguration is January 21st. But in between those two dates, January
11th, turns out is a day everybody needs to put on their calendar.
Hold on. I`ll tell you why, next.
MADDOW: The great state of Mississippi is a seriously conservative,
seriously Republican place. Republican Governor Phil Bryant won there last
year with 60 percent of the vote. Republicans control most of the
statewide offices in Mississippi. Democrats don`t even bother fielding
candidates for all the statewide offices in Mississippi anymore.
Republicans also control both chambers of the legislature which means
whatever Governor Bryant wants to put on his conservative Republican
agenda, the legislature is essentially there just to say, go.
And a lot of that agenda, the Mississippi Republicans like to wrap up
in the mantle of free enterprise. Like when Governor Bryant signed the
Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act. He said he wanted no business
to shy away from expanding or locating in our state because of burdensome
That`s how Mississippi Republicans like to be known, as the guys who
will do away with burdensome mandates.
At the same time, Mississippi Republicans are very much in the
business of burdensome mandates as long as the burden falls on folks they
would very much like to put out of business in their state.
The same month the Mississippi Republican governor signed that small
business act into law, he also signed another law that targeted one
Mississippi business in particular. It was designed on purpose to use
state government red tape to close the last abortion clinic in Mississippi.
The new law placed a mandate on this business in particular. It requires
doctors at this one clinic to get admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Since that law passed, the clinic`s two main doctors have been trying
to comply with the new regulation that was designed just for them. They`ve
been applying for admitting privileges that the state now says they`re
supposed to have.
The doctors started with a list of 12 hospitals in and around Jackson
where the clinic is. The clinic`s owner tells us their applications were
50 pages-plus per doctor, per hospital. The applications took weeks to
compile, each hospital, each time.
Two of them, the big teaching hospital in the city and the Baptist
hospital in town, they wouldn`t even accept the doctors` applications.
Five other hospitals did agree to receive the doctors` applications, but
they rejected them, not only the merits of the doctors as doctors but for
administrative reasons like the hospital`s policies on abortion or concern
about disrupting the hospital`s business within the community.
And so, this thing designed by Mississippi Republicans to be
impossible turned out to be impossible. They wanted to create a new
regulation that the state`s one last abortion clinic could not follow,
because they wanted to shut it down. And we know this because Governor
Phil Bryant said so on tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PHIL BRYANT (R), MISSISSIPPI: I think it`s historic. Today you
see the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on,
to say we`re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is constitutionally protected, but that`s not the point in
In case the Mississippi governor`s somehow wasn`t clear enough, the
state`s Republican lieutenant governor backed him up even more clearly.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LT. GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: Our goal needs to be to end
all abortions in Mississippi. I believe the admitting privileges bill
gives us the best chance to do that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now that the clinic`s doctors have been denied those
admitting privileges, Mississippi Republicans` goal of using state
government to end abortion in Mississippi has a very specific timeline, so
you can now mark on your calendar January 11th, just a few weeks away.
That is the date on which Mississippi`s last remaining abortion clinic will
become in violation of the law -- just by being a functioning abortion
clinic, unable to comply with regulations that were designed specifically
to be impossible to comply with.
Yesterday, the clinic asked a federal court to block enforcement of
that law so they can stay open.
So, remember that date, January 11th. Unless that court intervenes,
that date, January 11th, is when American women in one American state will
lose access to what is supposedly their constitutionally protected right,
because Republicans in that state decided that for them.
MADDOW: Your vice president did two of the things he does best today.
He got a lot of attention for one of them. He got a lot less attention and
probably deserved a lot more for the other thing. We have the tape and
nobody else does. An exclusive, coming up.
MADDOW: The reason you have to take your shoes off when you go
through airport security is largely this guy. Richard Reid, the shoe
bomber, who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001, he now lives
in Colorado in a federal supermax prison.
This guy was the bomb maker for the first World Trade Center bombing
in 1993. He also lives in Colorado, in a federal supermax prison.
This guy, "The Blind Sheikh", he was convicted for involvement in a
bunch of terrorist plots. He now lives in North Carolina at the Butner
Federal Correctional Complex there.
Remember Charles Manson? Charles Manson lives in California at
Corcoran State Prison.
Eric Rudolph -- Eric Rudolph is the guy who bombed the Olympics in
1996. He also bombed abortion clinics and a gay bar. Eric Rudolph lives
in Colorado, too, at the same federal prison as the shoe bomber guy.
Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11 conspirator, also lives at the supermax
prison in Colorado.
If you`re a convicted terrorist in the United States, depending on
what exactly you`re convicted of, it is possible that you will be put to
death, but it is likely instead you will just get locked up somewhere and
then you will just live in that part of the United States, securely locked
up for the length of your sentence. Which is usually your life or
considerably longer. That`s how it works. That`s how it has worked
There are 373 people convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related
offenses living in 98 different prison facilities in America. There has
never been an escape or a significant security problem associated with that
On his second full day in office, the then new president, President
Obama, signed an executive order to close the offshore prison at Guantanamo
Bay within a year. That did not happen because Congress stopped him from
doing it. In passing the bill that pays for all our defense, the annual
bill that gets passed every year, the Defense Authorization Act, Congress
added language blocking the president from moving any prisoners from
Guantanamo to American prisons.
It is, of course, one of the most high-profile, unfulfilled promises
of the Obama presidency so far, that Guantanamo is still open, and the
president is not shy about that. He brings it up.
He will explain why it is he has not been able to get that done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some things
that we haven`t gotten done. I still want to close Guantanamo. We haven`t
been able to get that through Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congress has not allowed him to close Guantanamo, but it
should be noted this president has not sent anybody new there, either.
There were 242 prisoners at Guantanamo when he took office. It`s now down
to 166. People have been shipped out to other countries, a few of them
have died. A very small number of them have gone through this cockamamie
military tribunal process that was invented just to try to come up with a
pseudo-legal way to deal with these people who we have locked up in a third
country no man`s land.
But interesting point of historical fact here, even before that day in
the White House when President Obama signed the executive order to close
Guantanamo, even before he did that, California Senator Dianne Feinstein,
chair of the intelligence committee, had already requested a thorough
government report on how logistically prisoners could be moved from
Guantanamo to American prisons.
In 2008, remember, yes, Barack Obama was running for president saying
he wanted to close Guantanamo, but the guy he was running against, John
McCain, was also saying that he wanted to close Guantanamo. And, frankly,
the guy who was president at the time, the guy who opened Guantanamo,
George W. Bush, was also saying at the time that we needed to close
So everybody sort of agreed and Dianne Feinstein apparently said,
well, hey, if everybody agrees that that must be done, let`s start looking
into how we are going to do it.
That report requested by Senator Dianne Feinstein from the Government
Accountability Office in 2008 has just come out. And it explains the duh
is silent that, yes, people convicted of terrorism offenses are already
safely held in American prisons, a lot of them. There are 373 terrorism
convicts being held in 98 different facilities that are capable of holding
the kind of people who are held at Guantanamo, even if there might have to
be modifications to those prisons in order to hold them there.
In addition, the GAO also notes that there are military facilities in
the United States capable of holding the Guantanamo prisoners as well, with
the added benefit that those facilities are only about half full right now.
That defense spending bill that Congress uses to block President Obama
from closing Guantanamo, that bill is an annual thing. It has to pass
every year. And so, every year that he has been president, Congress has
been passing a version of that bill again every year, that says these
people at Guantanamo can not be moved to American prisons.
And that bill is being debated in Congress right now just as this
report is coming out saying how feasible it would be to move those
remaining guys from Guantanamo into the American prison system.
And so, Congress has to decide whether they`re going to continue
saying it is impossible to do this, when there is this 63-page unclassified
report saying, in the most banal, obvious terms, duh, obviously, here`s how
you would do this.
In the real world, honestly, I believe, there is no reason for the
most powerful country on earth to maintain an essentially lawless, third
country, offshore prison to hold a specific tiny subset of prisoners that
scare us too much for our own legal system.
In the real world, this is essentially going to have to end.
Of course, in FOX News world, it`s never going to end, right? FOX
News needs for ratings sake to conflate a supermax prison in rural Colorado
with your backyard. You know, your backyard where Charles Manson lives
But back here in the real world, eventually, a decision is going to
have to be made. Maybe it`s going to have to be made now. Maybe it`s
going to be made this year.
Joining us now is Spencer Ackerman, national security writer for
Wired.com`s "Danger Room" who does actually live in Charles Manson`s
backyard but only for fun.
Thanks for being here, Spencer.
SPENCER ACKERMAN, WIRED.COM: It`s a lot of fun, actually, Rachel.
MADDOW: I understand the temporary tattoo with -- I know, I know.
Spencer, what are the implications of this GAO report if any? Do you
think this is going to change at all the debate over this issue in
ACKERMAN: Well, logically, it wouldn`t shouldn`t because as you point
out, everything in the GAO report is both well-established and kind of
obvious. There hasn`t been anyone who`s broken out of the supermax or any
of the other facilities around the country where 373 convicted terrorists
On the other hand, it does seem like it`s now somewhat possible --
thanks to Dianne Feinstein and this report -- to stake a claim right before
the second Obama term begins that, perhaps, this is something to start
fighting on again. And the fact that it`s happening during the defense
authorization debate sort of seems like an interesting marker to get that
off on perhaps a new footing.
MADDOW: I wonder if you sense on the issues of national security that
you cover if there`s been a change in resolve on the Democratic side.
We`ve seen fights over issues like this for the last four, eight, 10, 12
years. But I feel like when I talk to Democrats about these issues now,
when we see Democrats talk about these things in the media, they`re sort of
starting to treat these types of fights like the stupid Ground Zero mosque
fight or some other conspiratorial right wing nonsense fight. There seems
to be new resolve on the part of the Democrats and maybe on the part of the
president that they`re not going to lose fights when the other side`s
argument is really dumb.
ACKERMAN: I think you`re right about that. On the other hand, you
know, never underestimate the spinelessness of a Democrat. So, you know,
perhaps that`s not quite so firm.
On the other hand, I am kind of getting the sense like you`re getting
that at the very least, the firmament of political sentiment about national
security might be ready to move. The Democratic politicians and some
political appointees do kind of want to, you know, see if they, perhaps,
can move it.
And this seems to be another piece of evidence, you know, you had
Senator Merkley on. The Afghanistan amendment that he put out seems to be
another example of that.
MADDOW: Spencer, do you see anybody inheriting the John McCain role
on the Republican side in terms of being the Republican who other
Republicans look to for leadership on national security issues? I feel
like what`s going on with the Susan Rice thing that he`s doing is actually
turning out worse for him than it is for Susan Rice in the end. I mean,
we`ll have to see. But I don`t think it`s wearing well on him.
I wonder if you see contenders for that throne on the Republican side.
ACKERMAN: You might. It`s very unclaimed on the Republican side
right now. You definitely see people like Senator Kelly Ayotte who seems
to, you know, want to come out of that Lieberman and senator -- I`m sorry,
Lieberman McCain and Senator Graham mold, taking more hawkish positions.
You also see Marco Rubio playing another sort of somewhere between
hawkish and moderate position that might go in some interesting ways.
You`ll also see, you know, Bob Corker who`s taking a new position on the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have the opportunity to do that, too.
But, again, it does seem similarly to some on the Democratic side that
this is somewhat unclaimed territory and now that Senator McCain is going
to have something of a diminished role because he`s no longer going to be
the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, could also arise
new voices coming out.
MADDOW: Yes, seeing that big list of Republicans on the side, on the
mostly Democratic side on that Afghanistan amendment today I thought was
maybe a watershed moment.
Spencer Ackerman, national security writer for "Danger Room" at
Wired.com -- Spence, it`s great to see you. Thank you.
ACKERMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Just ahead, first, I will wholeheartedly endorse
a idea pitched by a super conservative media watchdog guy who hates me.
Watch and believe.
MADDOW: Most of what Vice President Biden made news for today was his
trip to Costco. A new Costco opened up in the D.C. area, and Vice
President Biden whipped out his Costco membership card and went to the
He bought some Duraflame logs. He bought a giant Costco-sized apple
pie. He bought some children`s books. He bought a 32-inch television and
he spent some time looking at watches.
And he hugged people. And he ate snacks that they were giving out in
the deli area. And he ate more snacks they were giving out in the bakery
He apparently had a great time and there were great pictures taken of
him having a great time at the great big Costco in D.C.
But the other thing that Vice President Biden did today that did not
get nearly as much attention is something that happened back on Capitol
Hill. And it is both more important and in some ways more impossible to
imagine than his funny trip to that funny store today.
Cameras were rolling of what he did on Capitol Hill today. We have
the tape. You will not see it anywhere else. That`s coming up next.
MADDOW: A Republican Party eating its own is a process that continues
a pace now 23 days after the presidential election. Today the last
remaining outstanding congressional race was decided -- seems like all the
ones decided late including this last one ended up going to the Democrats.
In the end, the final tally is that not only was the Democratic
president, Barack Obama, re-elected, but in the Senate, Democrats picked up
two seats, and in the House, the Democrats picked up eight seats. So it
was just a bad election for the Republicans.
And as the Republicans defeated presidential candidate was invited to
the White House today for what has come to be known as the quadrennial
American gracious loser White House photo op, the Romney campaign`s chief
strategist is being whatever the political equivalent is of being set upon
by wolves for opining in "The Washington Post" this week that even though
he ran a campaign that lost by 126 electoral votes, even though his
candidate lost his home state, even though his candidate`s running mate
lost his home state.
Even though the party lost seats in the House and Senate at the same
time they were losing the White House, Mr. Romney`s chief strategist says
he thought the campaign he ran went just fine. He says they, quote,
carried the day. Which I`m sure they did, other than the whole losing
You would think there would be a lot of mainstream opprobrium for
Stuart Stevens here for that fantastical Beltway self regard in the face of
all the contrary evidence. But actually, the mainstream seems to mostly
just be ignoring him.
The people who are paying attention to what he`s saying are the folks
on the political right. And they`re paying attention because they are not
happy. Quote, "If Stu Stevens` private advice for Romney was as delusional
as this op-ed, no wonder he lost."
Or there`s this one. "Oh, for effs sake, I just read the Stu Stevens
piece and my brain is burning with fire."
That`s the reaction for this year`s Republican presidential campaign
chief strategist from conservatives.
Then, there`s one of Mitt Romney`s Republican primary rivals, Jon
Huntsman, also now being torn apart by folks on the right for voicing his
own critical comments about his party`s process for choosing its nominee,
Mr. Huntsman this week told "The Huffington Post" about his primary
opponent, quote, "I looked on the debate stage and half were probably on
FOX contracts at one point their career. So, you do that.
You write some books. You go out and you sell some more. You get a
radio gig or a TV gig out of it or something. And it`s like you say to
yourself, the barriers of entry to this game are pretty damn low."
On the fund-raising side of Republican politics, we have not heard
hide nor hair from Karl Rove, basically since the election, since the
election in which he spent $390 million conservative dollars to elect Mitt
Romney and a Republican Senate. That money is not coming back, and, hey,
maybe neither is Karl Rove.
Reince Priebus is apparently staying on at the Republican National
Committee as its chairman. But today, Mr. Priebus got an ostentatiously
leaked letter from one of those conservative media publicity hound guys
telling Mr. Priebus that unless the fiscal cliff negotiations in D.C. go
the way they wants them to go, he will personally cut off the spigot of
conservative money to the Republican Party.
He says, quote, "I will make it my mission to ensure that every
conservative donor to the Republican Party that I have worked with for the
last three decades, and there are many, and they have given tens of
millions of dollars to Republican causes, I will make sure that they give
not one penny more to the Republican Party."
Promise? What are you going to do, right? You give it to the
Democratic Party instead?
Perhaps you should start a third party. I mean, I`m not allowed to
make political contributions because of my job, but as a liberal, I maybe
would cheat to contribute to your third party idea, right?
You`re right. The Republican Party is not pure enough. It`s not
conservative enough. You guys should hive off. Starve the Republican
Make your own thing, split away from them, new party. You can call it
the Tea Party. It`s already got party in the name.
I would support that. Every liberal in America will fund you if you
promise to do that. Oh, please, Brent Bozell.
But as the Republican Party continues to do this, or perhaps this,
which is a process that is maybe inevitable after an election like I just
went through, there was a moment in Washington today, inside the U.S.
Capitol, that was a great reminder that there is another way to look at
public service and the parties. And that there is a type of model of
public service in modern American history for which the question of which
party you belong to ends up being one of the least important things about
Today, former Republican Senator Warren Rudman, who was no liberal and
definitely a Republican, Warren Rudman, was eulogized by a bipartisan who`s
who of people who worked with him and competed with him and respected him
over the course of his storied multi-decade career in Washington. And they
eulogized him and talked about him in a way that just erased party
Vice President Joe Biden was one of the many Democrats there to pay
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was never a man
or woman, at least when I was with him, that he ever looked at and spoke
with who he didn`t treat with dignity. So many people in powerful
positions begin to think that they -- they know so much better than
It was never about pedigree. It was never about degree. He didn`t
look at people and yield to pedigree. He didn`t yield to that person in
the room who had the most advanced degree. He was as bright as anyone in
But the thing I admired most about him was I believed that he
believed, given a half a chance, just ordinary -- ordinary, plain Americans
-- ordinary plain Americans knew what their own interest was.
Maybe it appealed to me the most about him, because it`s a thing I
disliked most about -- people who are in high places sometimes. They
somehow think that they`re better. Not better -- they care about those
folks. But they somehow think that they`re not capable of making their own
I had the dubious distinction of being told by the Senate historian
that only 15 people in the history of the United States Senate have served
as long as I have in this body. I never met a man in all the time I served
with the single exception of Dan Inouye who had the kind of integrity, grit
and faith -- faith in ordinary Americans.
He was an incredible guy. He was all everybody else said. But the
part I guess we all look to the parts we most admire. The thing I most
admire about him is the way he treated everyone, everyone with dignity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Vice President Joe Biden speaking tonight at a memorial for
former Republican Senator Warren Rudman of New Hampshire who died last week
at the age of 82.
In politics -- even in politics, sometimes party is the thing that
matters least of all.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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