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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show


Guests: Jonathan Alter, Kent Jones, Ned Lamont, Tina Brown, Nikolas Gvosdev


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Hello, I got another day off today. All work and no play, you know what they say. Tonight is Tuesday and I asked my friend Alison Stewart to sit in for me. So, she is coming right up with the whole day's news. I'm very excited to have Alison here. So, I hope you will stick around and enjoy the show.


ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST (voice over): You can't please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but when it comes to someone with the surname Clinton, all bets are off. As the possible secretary of state-ness of Hillary Clinton looms, the vetting of her husband looms larger.

And then, Obama reportedly taps the first African-American attorney general, a Clintonian character. So, which people is Barack Obama pleasing? For how long? And does it matter in the long run? "Newsweek's" Jonathan Alter on where the transition stands tonight and where it's likely to go next.

Senator Joe Lieberman pleased none of the Democrats none of the time during the campaign, but so few Senate Democrats objected at put-up or shut-up time that there were basically no consequences for Joe the Senator.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Joe Lieberman is a Democrat, he's part of this caucus.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my long-time record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself, that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems.


STEWART: Tonight, the Democrat who once defeated Joe Lieberman. Ned Lamont joins us live to comment.

Lame duck watch continues with news of President Bush's last-second move on abortion rights, political appointees, and the bailout.

And a last-second lame, lame duck joke that will fall flat with anyone who sat in traffic or a middle seat in coach lately. Tina Brown helps us keep track of the last days of President Bush.

And, pirates doing what pirates do on the high seas. Get your arrghs, and your Johnny Deep jokes out of your system because this is serious and scary business. A pirate expert from the Navy War College tells us why.

All that plus, big famous Republicans taking shots at other big famous Republicans.

And, a buy one, get one free deal on the Clintons. No, actually.

It's on a new Chrysler. You heard that right.


(on camera): A little breaking news to begin tonight. After two weeks of counting early votes and absentee ballots, the "Associated Press" has called the race between Republican Senator Ted Stevens, he of seven felony convictions, and Democratic challenger, Mark Begich. And the race goes to-Begich. With approximately 2,500 overseas votes to be counted, Begich has a lead of more than 3,700 votes.

And so, the Democrats pick up another seat in the Senate with contest in Minnesota and Georgia to be determined. More on a second with "Newsweek's" Jonathan Alter.

But first: news of the transition. We've watched the good ship Obama sail through the roughest waters, American politics can churn up, without taking on water, all of that Reverend Wright wave was a doozy-smooth-sailing most of the time, good navigation, and little change of course, and here we are-with the shore in sight and suddenly, there's a leak, and another, and one more. So many, in fact, that today, we learned the captain of the ship, transition chief, John Podesta, issued a command to all hands on deck, quote, "If you leak, you're gone."

And right after that anti-leak message was, well, leaked-there was another story emanating prematurely from the Obama transition apparatus. This one late this afternoon regarded President-elect Obama's pick for attorney general. NBC News confirmed today that Obama has tapped former Clinton deputy attorney general, Eric Holder, to become his A.G. If he's confirmed by the Senate, Holder will become the first African-American to lead the Justice Department. Word is that Holder already accepted the offer, and he's never had a vote cast against him in previous Senate, three of them, Senate confirmations. "No Drama Obama" indeed.

Not so regarding the major leak the Obama team and the entire national news media are still managing. I mean, did you hear that Hillary Clinton is up for secretary of state? Today, the reporting on this story stayed true of it's all over the mappy (ph), distinctly an Obama nature. ABC News reported that, quote, "serious progress has been made." reported that Senator Clinton is, quote, "deeply torn" about taking job which would take her away from the issue of healthcare. On that count, Senator Ted Kennedy today deputized Clinton to lead a working group on insurance coverage.

Now, tea leaf reading aside, it seems the one thing everyone can agree on is that something-there's something about a white-haired iceberg lurking near Obama's foreign policy route, that iceberg is, of course, Bill Clinton. And icebergs are well known to be more damaging below the surface, as are the former president's various involvements with foreign governments, mainly, how much money they have given to his presidential foundation and global initiatives. Most of those dealings haven't been publicly disclosed.

But the "New York Times" reported today that a number of Bill Clinton's post-presidential activities are now being reviewed by the Obama transition team. What we do know that since 1998, the Clinton Foundation has raced more than $500 million, at least, some of it from donors that include the Saudi Royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates, and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar.

A possible conflict of interest if your wife happens to be the secretary of state, her job taking could mean his putting his foundation on hold for a few years. But on top of the Bill question, Obama also, apparently, has questions to answer among those helping steer his ship. Expressing dismay about the swirl of drama surrounding the secretary of state appointment, one Democrat close to the Obama campaign told today, quote, "These guys didn't put together a campaign in order to turn the government over to the Clintons," end quote.

Now, further aggravating those in the "vote no on Hillary for secretary of state" camp, the steady stream of Republicans are now lining up behind her. The latest? Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.


LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Personally, I don't think-let me put hit the way-I don't think the president-elect knows the foreign policy from a hole in the wall. So, I think it's important that he have someone in the secretary of state's job that does know some of these things. And I think she clearly does and she could draw on her husband. So, I don't see anything particularly wrong with all that.


STEWART: Aw! Mr. Eagleburger joins former Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in approving the Senator Clinton pick. And even a former McCain campaign staffer who came out today to support Clinton for what he characterized as her neocon tendencies.

So, what to make of the transition on this-the two-week anniversary of Barack Obama's election? Between the leaks and the perception that the Obama administration might look more similar to the Clinton administration than some of Obama supporters might have hoped, what does the president-elect have on his hands?

Joining us now is "Newsweek" senior editor, Jonathan Alter. He's, of course, an NBC News analyst, and author of the new book "The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope," which is flying off the shelves after Barack Obama mentioned it during his interview with "60 Minutes" and that's the book that he's currently reading about FDR's first 100 days.

Hi, Jonathan.


STEWART: Hey, before we get to the president-elect, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, et cetera, et cetera-we got to talk about Mark Begich and Ted Stevens?


STEWART: What do you take away from a Democratic Senate when Alaska not seen since Mike Gravel? Hey, Mike Gravel got a mention tonight.

ALTER: Yes. Well, you know, 3,700 votes in most states would be a squeaker. But there were only, you know, a little more than 300,000 cast in Alaska. That's how small a state it is. So, Begich won. And the Democrats now have 58 seats in the Senate. They're just a couple away from having a filibuster-proof majority. And as we know, Georgia and Minnesota are still outstanding.

Now, it may be that for practical purposes, they already have a filibuster-proof majority because getting, you know, two or three moderate Republicans from Obama states on particular votes won't be so hard, necessarily. So, every one of these seats counts and the Democrats caught another break tonight.

STEWART: Another day, another leak out of the Obama camp. What do you think the purpose of today's leak was? I'm assuming it had a purpose somewhere that Eric Holder has been tapped for attorney general?

ALTER: Well, you know, there are different motivations for leaks. Sometimes, people just get their jollies by saying something they leaked it, you know, in the press. They don't necessarily have any real reason to do it. But it is, I'm sure it's something that's aggravating for the Obama people because they wanted to release these on their own time, and they're learning the lesson that every president learns.

Remember when Ronald Reagan said, I've had it up to my keister with these leaks." You know, going back, you know, all the way back to presidents have really pulled their hair out over this, not all of them have responded like Nixon and get a plumber's unit, you know, to spy on the leakers but it's something that the Obama people had to figure was going to start happening before long. But they are control freaks when it comes to information and I'm sure they're not happy at all that this was not done on their schedule.

STEWART: I got to tell you, if you get your jollies through leaks, you need to get out more often.

ALTER: Yes, right.

STEWART: That's all I'm saying.

ALTER: And while you get-you know, you're in Washington, Alison. You know, there are people there who they'll really do. They love opening the paper the next day and, "Oh, I leaked that" and it makes.

STEWART: I did that.

ALTER: . them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

STEWART: Oh, it is Washington, as you said.

Let's talk about Eric Holder. He was an early supporter of Barack Obama. He does represent another former Clintonian hand.


STEWART: . who will be working in the Obama administration. How fine a line is President-elect Obama walking here in terms of how many Clintonites to bring onboard?

ALTER: Well, first of all, I don't really think of people like Eric Holder as Clintonites, because he was for Obama from the get-go; same thing with Greg Craig, the new White House counsel. Yes, they worked for Clinton but anybody who has any experience, unless they are really long in the tooth and go back to Jimmy Carter, worked for Bill Clinton if they were a Democrat. So, you got to draw a distinction between the people who were really in the Clinton orbit, who were for Hillary this year, and those like Eric Holder and Greg Craig, who actually, you know, betrayed the Clintons by supporting Obama.

Now, in making up an administration, you want to balance between experience and fresh thinking. And that's something that the Obama people are trying to work out. Now, there's some people that think they're too tilted towards the Clintonites and that some of them might be fighting the last war, particularly, on economic policy, that they are, you know, making comparisons to 1993 that are not helpful right now. They don't need to be kind of rehashing all of the choices that they had in 1993. They need to be thinking more about 1933.

So, these tensions will exist between the people who were, you know, for Obama, before Iowa, and the people who come out of the Clinton camp. But I think you have to understand that, politically, aside from her qualifications to be secretary of state, it makes a lot of sense to put Hillary Clinton in that job. Because if she were in the Senate, she would have an independent power base, and over time, she would make a lot more political trouble for Barack Obama, inevitably, than she'll be able to do as secretary of state.

STEWART: And one quick question. Is Bill Clinton a stumbling block for Hillary Clinton getting the secretary of state gig?

ALTER: You know, I don't think he really is, unless, for some reason, they just refuse to disclose as much as the Obama people want them to. You know, there's nothing that's all that terrible here. Most of the money that Clinton has raised-in fact, it's very, very positive. It's been for great causes around the world-fighting poverty, fighting AIDS. But he's got to disclose it because Obama's made it very clear he wants a transparent administration.

And if, you know, the big dog thinks that the rules don't apply to him, then this nomination could get held up or it may be that as political reports she decides that is she'd rather stay in the Senate. So we don't want to get ahead of ourselves.


ALTER: . on how this is all going to play out. But I do think it's pretty likely that this thing will be fairly smooth-sailing for Hillary Clinton becoming secretary of state.

STEWART: "Newsweek" senior editor and NBC News analyst, Jonathan Alter-always nice to see you, Jonathan.

ALTER: Thanks, Alison.

STEWART: For tirelessly supporting John McCain and aggressively bad-mouthing Barack Obama, Senator Joe Lieberman took his punishment today from the Democratic Party and the punishment was-well, you can't call it a punishment. How will the powerful netroots react to the forgiving of Joe Lieberman? Next up: Ned Lamont, the Democrat who forced Lieberman to run as an independent, joins us live.

And Rachel maybe away but our lame duck watch carries on as President Bush turns his attention to anti-abortion rules while he still can. Tina Brown joins us for a quack-itude update.

But first, one more thing, about dissent within our political parties. The Democratic Party has its share of in-house drama right at the moment, but it is nothing compared to the current, sort of nastiness going on in the GOP. Remember, kindly, congenial former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee? He has a book out called "Do the Right Thing" and in it, Huckabee shows no love for fellow Republican primarian, Mitt Romney. Among other things, Huckabee writes that Romney's record was, quote, "anything but conservative until he changed all the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for the White House." Oh, no, he didn't. Yes, he did.

Then, there's outgoing Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. Hagel is retiring from the Senate, so it's time to say what he really thinks, and he did it at a forum in Washington last night, amid a series of slams, Hagel said that Rush Limbaugh and other, quote, "entertainers" tried to, quote, "rip everybody down and make fools of everybody, but they don't have any answers," end quote. And sarcastically suggested, Limbaugh should run for office because he'd be called, quote, "elected overwhelmingly." The Grand Old Party resembling ultimate fighting. I wonder what Kimbo Slice thinks of Fred Thompson?


STEWART: Say it ain't so, Joe. Did you really honestly want to dump your party in the heat of the most important election in recent memory? Maybe Lieberman didn't pay attention to history because past party members gone wild didn't fare as well as the senator from Connecticut.

In 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater got the endorsement of two Democratic congressmen. They were later stripped of their seniority after Lyndon Johnson won. In 1968, when Democratic Congressman John Rarick from Louisiana endorsed the American Independent Party presidential candidate, George Wallace, the party stripped him of his seniority.

Today, Joe Lieberman faced his own party in the wake of his strenuous, sometimes spiteful, campaigning against Democrat, Barack Obama for president, was stripping in order? Well, let's look back at Lieberman caught on tape.


LIEBERMAN: Colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for our American troops on the battlefields.




ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FORMER JUDGE: Is he a Marxist as Bill Kristol says might be the case in today's "New York Times"?

LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I must say that's a good question.



LIEBERMAN: Who do you want to lead America at a time like this? Somebody who's untested or somebody's who's been proven in crisis and always puts America first?


STEWART: Joe Lieberman in his own words.

So, with the eyes of the party upon them, Senate Democrats took a secret ballot on Joe Lieberman's political fate. Would they take his committee chairmanship from his cold, politically dead hands? Would they punish him at all? No. Not just, no -- 42 to 13 no. That was the tally by which the Democratic caucus approved the resolution condemning statements made by Lieberman during the campaign, but allowing him to keep the Homeland Security Committee gavel.

Question for the Majority Leader Harry Reid: What about all those voices especially in the progressive wing who demanded the proverbial "pound of flesh" on this one?


SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I am very satisfied with what we did today. I feel good about what we did today. I don't apologize to anyone about what we did today. We're moving forward recognizing that there's a period of time that in Joe Lieberman's political career that I will never understand or approve. But I also recognize that he's been in public office for four decades.


STEWART: Senator Lieberman got his time in front of the microphone, too. All is well that ends without retribution?


LIEBERMAN: This is the beginning of a new chapter. And I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my long-time record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems. The resolution expresses strong disapproval and rejection of statements that I made about Senator Obama during the campaign. Obviously, in the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that and now it's time to move on.


STEWART: So, that's that? Everybody walks hand-in-hand into the sunset with a significant wing of the party wanting an eye for political eye? This isn't the kind of move on those people like. How is this going to work?

Here to talk about it is Ned Lamont. He ran as a Democrat against Joe Lieberman in 2006 and he's also a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics.

Mr. Lamont, thanks for being with us.

NED LAMONT, HARVARD INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Alison, it's great to be here with you.

STEWART: I just need to know. What did you think today when you heard that Senator Lieberman will still caucus with the Democrats and retain his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee?

LAMONT: Well, first of all, the set-up suggests there's something about retribution, it's not about retribution, it's about whether you want to reward Senator Lieberman by giving him the Homeland Security Committee chairmanship. That's a reward. I think that was probably the wrong move.

Look, I've traveled a lot around the state of Connecticut-and I got to tell you-over the last few months working on behalf of President-elect Obama. And there, the folks weren't necessarily shocked that Senator Lieberman ended up endorsing McCain. You know, for Senator Lieberman, it's been all war all the time for the last six years.

But I think they were really disappointed when Senator Lieberman went out and attacked Obama. You know, attacked him on a whole variety of different fronts. I think that's what was disappointing-you know, attacked him on homeland security, attacked him on national security. So, I was surprised that they make, you know, Lieberman chairman of homeland security where he doesn't see eye to eye with the president of the United States. Maybe, Lieberman with the environmental committee where he could do less mischief.

STEWART: About a week ago, you told the "Greenwich Times," quote, "My sense is he," it's Lieberman, "psychologically moving in to the Republican column." Do you still believe that?

LAMONT: You know, I do. I think he feels much more comfortable, certainly on foreign policy and national security. You know, when he endorsed, you know, John McCain, he was endorsing a whole variety of issues when it came to a new Supreme Court, when it came to a Supreme Court that would compromise our civil liberties, you know, threaten a woman's right to choose.

So, I thought he'd crossed the Rubicon. But, you know, that's then, and now is now. And I can understand where President-elect Obama is coming from. He doesn't need a, you know, where (INAUDIBLE) a Democratic senator who feels victimized, who can be a distraction. You know, President-elect Obama has got bigger fish to fry right now, and I think he'd wanted to take that distraction off the table.

STEWART: But what kind of precedent do you think this sets?

LAMONT: Well, I think at the end of the day, it's the voters of Connecticut that will hold, you know, Joe Lieberman accountable. You know, fool me once, shame on you. And they're not going to be fooled again. I think there's a real sense in the state right now they know where Senator Lieberman is. And I think the accounting will take place at the voting booth.

STEWART: Do you think Senator Lieberman shifted his alliance as a result of his loss to you?

LAMONT: Some people have said we liberated him during my challenge to him back in 2006. But I would have challenged him if it was just about an issue. It was really about a whole world view where I challenged Senator Lieberman. I thought he was moving closer and closer to sort of Republican orthodoxy, he wasn't willing to challenge the Republican status quo. I thought he was wrong on national security. And he's challenged the Democrats on those same issues. So, yes, I think he seems to feel more and more comfortable in the Republican camp.

STEWART: A Senate Democratic aide told Chris Cillizza at the "Washington Post." I'm going to read this here. Quote, "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage, but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes."

Your thoughts on that?

LAMONT: Look, I don't think ranting and raving does any good. Like I said, Senator Lieberman sometimes loves to play the role of the victim. And I think, again, I would have voted differently than the majority of the Democratic caucus did. But now, you do go forward.

I'd like to see, you know, President Obama get his administration in place. I'd like to see, you know, Democrats and Republicans rally behind him. And if Joe Lieberman is going to be distraction from that, I can understand how the Obama administration is trying to go forward.

STEWART: Are you going to run for office again?

LAMONT: You never say never.

STEWART: Ned Lamont, never says never. He's also a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics. Thanks for your time, Mr. Lamont.

LAMONT: I'm delighted to be with you.

STEWART: As if the legitimate economy didn't have enough problems, offshore pirates are siphoning off millions more in stolen goods. Off the coast of Africa, the pirates have hijacked a tanker and a cargo ship. The tanker is a black gold mine. It's carrying $100 million worth of oil that belongs to the Saudis and the pirates are holding the crews hostage. This is one business that we hope goes under much more.

We do have more on the pirates later this hour and how to stop them, that's coming up. And no cheap arrgh jokes. That means you need Peter Sarsgaard, really. This is serious.


STEWART: While Ms. Rachel is away, we're still on "Lame Duck Watch:

Quackitude," keeping an eye on President Bush's every move during his final days in office. That includes the new protections the Bush administration wants to give healthcare providers who oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds. The Bush administration ain't over till it's over. Tina Brown will join us.

First though, it's time for a few underreported holy mackerel stories in the news today.

A silver-ish lining to the dark cloud hanging over Detroit? I bet you knew that the auto industry leaders were on Capitol Hill today, pleading for a $25 billion bailout from taxpayers. But I bet you didn't know that for anybody with $39,000 and a dream of a four-door crossover wagon, there's apparently one positive development from the trouble in the car business.

A dealer suburban Chicago is offering a great deal - buy one car at full price and get the second one for only $1. The deal started on Saturday and it works like this. Car salesman Frank Mancari is offering the SUV style 2008 Chrysler Pacifica for about $39,000. And if you buy it, you get a more fuel-efficient, slightly used 2008 PT Cruiser for $1.

The PT Cruisers have about 10,000 miles on them and some were driven by Chrysler employees or were rentals. They would normally retail for about $12,000 or $13,000. The catch? Mancari had only five '08 Pacificas on his lot. Once they are sold, the offer ends. Call before midnight tonight.

Now, in international news, overseas flights remain really long and uncomfortable and rather expensive. However, for those wanting to visit the U.S. from certain countries, those flights just got easier to get off of.

A new U.S. travel rule will expand the visa waiver program, a program that allows citizens from select countries to enter the USA for up to three months without getting a visa, a time-consuming process that requires a personal interview. Now the VWP now includes citizens from South Korea and six eastern European countries - Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia.

The seven countries bring the total number of countries participating up to 34. And to be admitted, a country has to meet various homeland security requirements. One reason the east restrictions matter - international tourists spend money when they visit the United States. Heavy visa restrictions apparently discourage many would-be international visitors from coming, eating, drinking and shopping. So come on over everybody, all you Czechs. If you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and you have 794,270 corona, you can get two Chryslers for the price of one.


STEWART: Welcome back, I'm Alison Stewart, in for Rachel Maddow.

And the "GQ" man of the year goes to Barack Obama. Really? We had our money on the pregnant dude. Give the gents at "Gentlemen Quarterly" credit for (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The editors reportedly selected the plain old Sen. Obama back in October.

The smart money is on Obama for "Time" magazine's person of the year, too. Well, of course. One person probably way down the list has hopefully filed his change of address for his subscription. That would be President Bush, who has just 62 days left in office, which means RACHEL MADDOW SHOW has 62 more days to cover what Ms. Maddow refers to as "quackitude." It's the "Lame Duck Watch" because somebody better do it. Roll the animation.

That duck does not sound well. Like others before him, President Bush hopes to push through dozens regulations including anti-abortion proposals, including one that hopes to grant new protections to healthcare providers who oppose abortion on religious or moral grounds.

The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors or other healthcare workers who refuse to perform or assist in the performance of abortion or sterilization procedures because of their, quote, "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

The Obama administration may be watching and keeping a list of new regulations that, well, let's just say, aren't likely long for the world. But there are things that the Bush administration is doing that the Obama administration will simply not be able to undo, like placing political appointees in career civil service posts. It's aptly called "burrowing."

Here's the deal. Half a dozen key deputies including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions have been placed into the senior civil service posts creating security for these employees. It also will initially deprive the incoming Obama administration the chance to install their preferred appointees in some key jobs.

Now, according to the federal office of personnel management, this transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, burrowing, has happened with 20 political appointees between March 1st and November 3rd.

And how is the Bush administration handling the $700 billion bailout, about half of which has been spent on something?

Well, Treasury Secretary Paulson said today that they're not really sure what to do with the rest of the money. So he's going to let the Obama administration figure it out.


HENRY PAULSON, SECRETARY OF UNITED STATES TREASURY: We have, therefore, determined that the prudent course at this time is to the conserve the remaining funds available from the TARP, providing flexibility for this and the next administration.


STEWART: So in other words, President Bush's Treasury Department has punted to the Obama administration on the second down.

Here to help us get our head around the daily beast that is political coverage is Tina Brown, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the "" Miss Brown, thanks for being with us.


STEWART: Now, we want to get to the Bush administration's last days in just a second. But I want to begin with something from your site. The "Daily Beast" has a new poll on sexism, which we just completed. What finding in your poll surprised you the most?

BROWN: Well, one of the things that surprised me was that actually, only 20 percent of women even wanted to be considered feminists. And only 17 percent would want their daughters to be feminists. So I think at this point, we can really honestly say that the ideas of feminism as such seem to be completely dead which, you know, is really an amazing thing.

But I think what we really also see is that there has to be a new term for it because what the poll does show is there is an enormous amount right now of female anger at the end of this election. Women have a very bad taste in their mouths. I mean, you know, 68 percent of women are feeling that the media coverage was enormously unfair towards both Hillary and Sarah Palin. And they really want to see women better treated. So there's a lot of anger and a lot of desire for activism. They just don't want to call it feminism.

STEWART: Now, how would you assess the Bush administration from the gender equity perspective?

BROWN: Well, you know, I think that, you know, gender equity, you know, is not what I think of particularly when I think about the bush administration, except that - I mean, the fact is that they have continually interfered in the idea of women's reproductive rights. But aside from that, they've gone along and sort of made a giant mess of everything else they have touched.

I mean, one of the things that, you know, I'm told at the moment is that Bush is entirely focused right now on his legacy, on his library. All he really wants to talk about is library, because he's trying to build a legacy.

But you know, quite honestly, what can only fit into that library is almost a kind of Halloween house of horrors. I mean, you know, from the Guantanamo Room, you know, to the Abu Ghraib room to the Hurricane Katrina room. You know, this is going to be a very interesting library when it is filled.

STEWART: Well, regarding the president's "lame duckedness," for lack of a better term, how do you think he's different from past lame duck presidents?

BROWN: Well, I think at this point, Bush has had so many disasters on his watch that I almost can get the sense that this is not a president who's kind of looking back in a mellow fashion on his presidency or even feeling, you know, that he has busy things to do. So much as a president that's kind of hunch-struck, really, with the series of debacles which even he, in his great sort of denial and, you know, his refusal to really accept his own failures, has to accept at this point - has been really a chapter of hideous accidents, if you want to be charitable about it.

So I do feel right now he's very stunned I think that the financial collapse was one debacle, one disaster that he honestly didn't anticipate. Everything else has been stuff that he was actually sort of informed on. But this one, you know, he really didn't expect this. And so he has to recognize he's going out on a cloud of disaster. And I think that's really almost paralyzed him. He might feel he's fading. He's becoming the invisible man as we look at him.

STEWART: Now, you're a well known author and there have been reports that book publishers don't seem particularly eager to publish President Bush's memoirs right away. But they're very interested in Laura Bush's memoirs. You've written biographies - Princess Diana's, recently. Why do you think hers is causing more interest than his?

BROWN: Well, you know, Laura has been a pretty fascinating character in the last eight years because she seemed like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these things without a secret. I mean, you know, she has sat there, smiling and smoking and reading and just simply not saying what she thinks.

And I think all of us have projected on her, feelings of enormous kind of frustration. I think she does feel frustration. What I'm told about the publishing meetings in which this is happening is a real sense that Laura really wants to pop, that Laura is fed up with being silent, and she will have things to say.

She's watched all of these disasters for the last eight years and she really said nothing at all. So it's kind of intriguing what she might say at last.

STEWART: It would be a good read. Tina Brown, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the "" Nice to see you again.

BROWN: Nice to see you.

STEWART: Pirates have hijacked a ship the size of an aircraft carrier off the coast of Somalia and are holding the crew for ransom. The booty? $100 million worth of oil. It is the seventh ship hijacked off the coast of Somalia in 12 days. More on that later, and I'm not saying "booty" again.

But first, there's one more thing with extra-lame ducks off. President Bush wants you to get home for the holidays announcing today that the government will temporarily open airspace, typically dedicated to the military during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Now, while addressing the Department of Transportation, President Bush also made one of his periodic stabs at comedy. I think that's what this is.


GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You have done a terrific job as far as I'm concerned. The past eight years I have not seen a traffic jam, waited for an airplane or had my bags lost.


BROWN: Yes, it's at Yuk Yuk's and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), ladies and germs, George W. Bush.


BROWN: Pirates strike again off the east coast of Africa. An informal poll of people in our newsroom found that most of them made jokes about Rahm and Johnny Depp, and went "arrrgh" when they read today's pirate headlines.

There's bad news and good news for them. The bad? This isn't even remotely funny. It's scary and dangerous and very real. The good news is - well, it's kind of fascinating.

A day after pirates took control of the Saudi oil tanker filled with $100 million worth of crude oil, pirates like these guys have struck again, this time, hijacking an Iranian ship carrying 30,000 tons of grain in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia.

And in yet another attack in the region, a band of sea faring rogues in speedboats surrounding the Trafalgar, a British tanker. In this case, the crew radioed for help and a German ship patrolling nearby dispatched a Sea Lynx helicopter that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the buccaneers away.

But all is not well in these dangerous waters where mostly Somali pirates wreak havoc in the busy shipping lanes - the region, the hotbed for piracy, more than 80 attacks this year alone.

This map shows the rash of pirate attacks here and across the globe in 2008. Tonight, in response to the emerging piracy threat, a Norwegian shipping power has ordered its tankers to sail around Africa rather than use the Suez Canal to reach the Red Sea and beyond.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy also continues to keep a close eye on a Ukrainian ship still in pirate hands after being seized in late September. The reason for the concern - the treasure, Russian-made tanks and weapons, the Navy making sure the arms stay on board.

And that huge oil tanker under pirate control, the one that the began this week's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of pirate news? It's now docked off the northeast coast of Somalia as the pirates commence negotiations with the ship's rightful owners. As I mentioned, this is really serious stuff.

Joining us now is Nikolas Gvosdev professor of National Security Studies at the U.S. Naval War College. Thanks for being with us, professor.


WAR COLLEGE: Not at all. Thank you for having me.

STEWART: Who are these 21st century pirates?

GVOSDEV: Let me just first put my disclaimer. I'm speaking of my own opinions and not representing any institution.

Who are these guys? They are essentially dispossessed fishermen, who in the 1990s, found that they could not compete against the so-called zombie fleets coming from Europe and Asia, fishing in illegally in Somali waters. So they began to take on some local protection, some local muscle to go take some taxes, as they called it from, Europeans and Asians fishing in Somali waters.

They discovered, "Hey, if it we can take out a fishing trawler, 16,000 ships a year go through the Gulf of Aden on the way to Suez, maybe there might be some richer pickings down the line." And ever since that point, these groups have grown better organized. They've struck bigger targets, and they've gone further a-field.

The Saudi tanker that was taken, not off the coast of Somalia, but actually 450 nautical miles off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean which is a lot farther than people assumed Somali fishermen could strike.

But that's who essentially they are. They're fishermen who didn't have a lot of options, had guns, had a willingness to go out to commit these acts of piracy, and who have discovered it's profitable. $60 million came in this year, they estimated, in ransom money into Somalia. It's the largest source of income for the country right now.

STEWART: Now, walk me through one of these pirate attacks. I mean, it boggles the mind. But how do guys in a speedboat take over an oil tanker?

GVOSDEV: Well, first of all, keep in mind that due to the wonderful world of modern automation, you don't need many crews anymore to run these giant ships. These crews are usually 25, 30 people. Their radar is set to look for giant ships that they might collide in. They're not looking out for small speed boats or fishing vessels.

Generally, what has happened is you have a mother fishing boat that goes out into the shipping lanes. It may have two or three or four speedboats connected to it. They see a target. They go after it sometimes in the early morning or dusk hours. Very old-fashioned.

As you can see from the graphic, there are plenty of places to throw a rope over. You climb aboard, 10, 12 pirates go in, usually well-armed with ak-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. They go into the pilot house. They catch the crew by surprise. And because the areas here do not have a lot of the transponders, early warning systems, a good coastal protection service as you have in the Mediterranean or in the straits of Malacca, it can be several hours before authorities know that a hijack has taken place.

By that point, these guys are in position. They're moving the shipping along. Also, keep in mind that the crews generally are not well paid to such an extent that they want to take a bullet for the company. So we've gotten reports from people who have been ransomed from the pirates. They said, "Yes, it was scary, we didn't understand what they were saying. But once we knew that they weren't going to kill us, we weren't going to put up a lot of resistance, because we knew the company would probably ransom us at the end."

And that's up to now, up to late 2008, most of these incidents were being resolved quietly, with ransom payments. Emissaries being sent in with a suitcase of cash into a Somali village. Cash is turned over. Radio signal goes out. "OK. You can leave the boat now. You tell the crew you have 24 hours. We want you to stay still, and then you can take your boat and leave."

And so it's why you have these attacks, why you have not had the publicity about them, really, until they started going after high-profile targets like ships carrying weapons, or oil tankers.

STEWART: Professor, it's a tremendously fascinating subject. We thank you so much for walking us through it. Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of Natural Security Studies at the U.S. Naval War College.

GVOSDEV: Thank you.

STEWART: Next, we get just enough pop culture from Kent Jones. Sasha and Malia Obama visit the White House, next on RACHEL MADDOW, "Cribs."


STEWART: Now, it's time for "Just Enough" with Kent Jones who gives us just enough pop culture without making us feel dirty. Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Allison. Nice to see you. The first kids Washington visit hit a climax this afternoon as Sasha and Malia Obama visited the White House to check out their new digs.

At the invitation of the first lady Laura Bush, the girls, their mom, Michelle, and grandmother, Marian Robinson, spent some time touring the first family's residential rooms at the White House. The visit was strictly private with no media coverage or photos, or we would have shown them to you. We're like that!

Staffers say the girls had a great time discovering out-of-the-way parts of the historic mansion and secretly plan to make a playhouse out of Chester A. Arthur's panic room. Perfect.

Speaking of girl power, in Japan, a 16-year-old has been selected as the first woman ever to play alongside men in Japanese professional baseball. At 5 feet tall and 114 pounds, Eri Yoshida, as side-armed, knuckle-ball pitcher, was drafted for a new independent league that will launch in April.

Yoshida said she wants to follow in the footsteps of the great Boston Red Sox knuckle-baller, Tim Wakefield. Now, presumably, she means the Tim Wakefield who's won a 164 games, and not the Tim Wakefield who got whacked for five runs in 2-2/3 against the Rays in Game Four of the ALCS. You know sometimes that knuckle ball, it just hangs up there. It's like a cantaloupe or something, the weirdest thing.

Finally, a study at the University of Maryland found that people who consider themselves happy spend more time reading and socializing while unhappy people watch more TV.

Thousands of people kept diaries for years and researchers found that activity such as sex, reading and socializing correlated with the highest levels of overall happiness. Watching TV, on the other hand, was the only activity that had a direct correlation with unhappiness.

Now, I'm sure this study has no relationship whatsoever to viewers of this program, or indeed any of the NBC family of networks. But in case your day wasn't all it could be, here's this. Puppy cam. Take that scientists, we're happy now! Allison.

STEWART: Puppy cam works for me every time. Thanks, Kit. And thanks for watching tonight. Rachel will be back soon. In the meantime, you can hear me host NPR's "Talk of the Nation" all this week on your local public radio stations. "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann starts now.



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