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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday December 2, 2008

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Ana Marie Cox, Leo Gerard, Melissa Harris-Lacewell

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: At least one hour of it. Thank you, Keith. And thank you for sticking with us at home. It is starting to look a lot like the holiday season. Lots of twinkly lights, lots of catalogues in the mail, impending New Year's Eve dating anxiety-it looks like the holiday season, right? But it feels like the recession season and all the depressing economic data, the miserable layoff numbers and the bailouts. And, you know, it really is election-electoral transition season. Did you hear, Hillary Clinton, secretary of state? I know. But for, at least, one more night, in addition to all those other seasonal feelings, for one more night, that old phrase (ph), it is still election season. That's right. Do not attempt to adjust your TV machine. Votes are being counted at this very moment, but as Keith said, tonight we have new numbers to report in undecided U.S. Senate races, two of them, which means-all right, I'm a little excited, I haven't been able to do this in a while, but let's roll the animation.


MADDOW: Actual real-live breaking news to report tonight in the Georgia Senate runoff race held today between Republican incumbent, Senator Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. Polls closed at 7:00 Eastern tonight and NBC is now projecting that Saxby Chambliss is the winner. With 61 percent of precincts now reporting, Saxby Chambliss leads Jim Martin by 20 points. Relatively low turnout has been reported all day in Georgia, which was seen as an advantage for the Republican, Mr. Chambliss. Today's runoff was the first test of the power of Barack Obama's brand new coattails. The president-elect chose not to travel to the state to campaign for Jim Martin, even though Martin asked him to and even though he did, however-Obama did, however, send about 100 of his field operatives to try to ensure high turnout there for the Democrat. Now, this means the end of the road for the Democrat's hopes for a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the United States Senate. The best they can now hope for is 59 Senate seats. And to get that, they will need to win the Senate recount now underway in Minnesota. A recount that gets stranger and stranger by the day. Today, Democratic challenger Al Franken reportedly picked up 37 votes in Ramsey County after election workers there discovered 171 ballots that had not been recounted yet. Discovered? I hate that when that happens. Anyway, Al Franken is trying to unseat Republican incumbent senator, Norm Coleman, who going into tonight, held a razor-thin 340-vote lead. Now, all that said, if Democrats do not get their 60 seats this time around, they will have another shot in two years. Today, somewhat unexpected news of another seat that will be up for grabs in the United States Senate that the Democrats have been eyeing intently. First term Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez lame duck-ified himself today, by announcing that he will not run for re-election in 2010. Martinez employed the old, "wanting to spend more time with my family" line while explaining his decision today.


SEN. MEL MARTINEZ, ® FLORIDA: The inescapable truth for me is that the call to public service is strong but the call to home, family and life-long friends is even stronger.


MADDOW: A recent poll showed that only about 1/3 of voters thought that Martinez deserved another term-ouch-so he will be out at the end of this, his first term. But then, there's also this sidebar drama of all the Senate vacancies that the Obama victory created. There's obviously his own Senate seat in Illinois. Among those rumored for that job? Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and Iraq war vet, Tammy Duckworth. Then, there's also the vice president-elect's Senate seat in Delaware, which will reportedly go to Joe Biden's long-time aide, Ted Kaufman. And, of course, who could forget the junior Senate seat in the great state of New York, which effectually became vacant yesterday when Barack Obama officially nominated Senator Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. The duty falls to New York's Democratic governor, David Paterson to fill that seat. Among those taking their hats out of the ring already? New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey and, my colleague at Air America Radio, Robert Kennedy, Jr. Both said they are not interested. Also, former President Bill Clinton has taken his hat out of the ring, as if it was ever there, and he was a likely replacement. So, what kind of Senate will President-elect Obama be inheriting on January 20th as he tries to stave off the great recession? And what does Saxby Chambliss winning in Georgia say about Obama's coattails, about the Democratic Party machine that Obama built this year and now leads?'Joining us now is "Time" magazine contributor, Ana Marie Cox. She is also a contributor to the Daily Beast Web site.Ana Marie, thanks for joining us again.


MADDOW: If Democrat Jim Martin-Democrat Jim Martin has lost this runoff tonight in Georgia-is the story here that a Democratic senator was really never going to unseat an incumbent Republican in Georgia, so we should just move on? Or should Obama's coattails have given Martin a real shot here?

COX: Obama's coattails are about the only thing that gave Martin a shot here. I actually think-it's pretty well recognized among Democratic circles or in Democratic circles that Martin was not an especially strong candidate. He made it as far as he did because of the "Obama machine." And I would call it an "Obama machine" and not a Democratic machine.And I think it's really telling-I was looking at the turnout numbers earlier-the turnout was down 40 percent from the general to this special election or, I'm sorry, or this runoff. And also, 70 percent of white voters voted early in this runoff. It looks really bad for Martin from the beginning. And we have to look at the general to see how well he did. What this does suggest, however, is that in 2010, the mid-terms are going to be a struggle because Obama's name will not be on the ballot.

MADDOW: And when you say that you see this as an "Obama machine" and not a Democratic machine, is that, in part, peg to the idea that African-American voters, in particular, didn't turn out in the same numbers that they did in the general? Is that in part just about the personal enthusiasm that organizers had for Obama? Are you seeing that that could be something that's going to really resonate in every election come 2010?

COX: I'm not sure how racially-I'm not sure how strongly we can peg this to race, although, you know, Georgia has its own history in that area. And I think we should be very careful in talking about that there. But I do think it's a sign that people in general, white and blacks, were Obama voters and not Democratic voters, necessarily. And I think that that's the problem that Martin ran up against in this runoff.

MADDOW: Well, Obama-it seems that he made a calculated decision not to travel to Georgia to campaign for Jim Martin. Jim Martin overtly asked him and Obama definitely didn't, even though he cut a radio spot for him. He did send field staff there to help get out the vote. What sort of calculations do you think went into Obama's decision in that regard? Do you think it could have made a difference had he gone there and campaign in person?

COX: It might have made a difference but I think it was looking pretty bad for Martin from the beginning. And so, I think, there were probably two things that went into the Obama's camp thinking in deciding not to campaign very hard for Martin in Georgia. One of them is pretty obvious which is that it didn't look good. His chances of actually pulling this off were pretty slim. And, right now, look at all the good press that Obama is getting in introducing his cabinet, right? It's nothing that goes on (INAUDIBLE) from both the right and the left, really, and to go back to Georgia and campaign for someone that would wind up losing might tarnish that just a little bit. So, I think that's part of it. And the other part of it, I think, is that, I think you and I talked about this, in his introduction of his cabinet, in all of the things that he's done so far, Obama has really positioned himself as above partisanship still. He really wants to solve problems. He doesn't want to recreate the bitterness and the acrimony of the general election contest. So, I think, to fight too hard for that 60-vote majority, to like really go tooth and nail for the 60-vote majority, and still not get it, that's too high a price to pay. You want to walk in in January, you want to walk in to whatever numbers you have, with a feeling like, we're all going to work together now. So, to fight to go down to the mat for any races that are still in progress might have been just a little bit too much.

MADDOW: Boy, that's a big contrast in tone from the Bush years, isn't it? I mean, Bush managed to make some sort of noble political asset out of the idea that you would be stomping on your opponents after they were already dead. Obama, rather, doesn't want to be seen as campaigning too hard or trying too hard to win. He doesn't want to be seen as running up the scoreboard. It's such a difference.

COX: I think the idea of running up the scoreboard, you know, this is he invokes the mercy rule, let's (ph) say.

MADDOW: The slaughter rule, yes.

COX: The Republicans are losing-yes, the slaughter rule. The Republicans have already lost big, to punish them even further, I think, would make him look like a sore winner. And I think that going in to this, especially looking at the mid-terms, I don't think Obama wants to setup a narrative where the Democrats have all the power they need and they still might manage to screw it up somehow. I think he wants to go into the next few years looking like he's willing to share power because, I mean, maybe that's cynical way to look at it, but then if things do, like not work out quite as well as everyone thinks, not all of the blame will fall on his shoulders.

MADDOW: Ana Marie, one last question about that sudden resignation announcement today from Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez was a bit of a surprise if not a total shocker. With the Democrats not getting their 60 Senate seats this time around, this Florida vacancy is one that they're going to be making a really strong push for in two years. Could we be looking at a flip there in 2010 in that Senate seat?

COX: We could. But I think it depends on how real the rumors are that Jeb Bush might want to run because I think he could just walk in and sweep that up if he wants to. Although I've heard that he's not too interested. I think that, in a way, it's a little bit too bad that Mel Martinez left because-he is a Republican but I got to know him just a little bit when he was campaigning with McCain, and he's actually one of those Republicans that was never allowed to be as moderate as you felt he might have been. In that way, maybe the Republicans are glad to see him go. And maybe they want a real fire-breather in his place. You and I can hope otherwise.

MADDOW: I will say that one thing that was strange to me about Mel Martinez's career, that once he got, you would think, elevated to RNC chair he became less visible than ever. He got this big high-profile job and he just disappeared.

COX: Well, that's because, in part, because he was more moderate than the position sort of would have him be. On immigration, you know, he was born in Cuba-on immigration, he's for comprehensive reform. That's one of the reasons he campaigned for McCain. And as you know, the party in general was very much against that. So, he was forced to kind of, you know, hold himself back and I think that couldn't be a good experience. I wouldn't blame him if he went out of politics for good and just stayed in more executive roles. I do believe that he believes in service and I think that we should keep an eye out for him in Florida, but I don't see him in electoral politics.

MADDOW: Ana Marie Cox, "Time" magazine contributor, thank you for your time tonight.

COX: Thank you.

MADDOW: So, the Big Three automakers CEOs are gassing up their hybrid cars to drive to Washington this time, to ask for a federal loan again. But it's not clear Congress is in a more generous mood than it was two weeks ago when the big bosses arrived via private jet. Up next, the president of the United Steel Workers will join us. Remember that line about people who shower before work are getting bailed out but people who have to shower after they get home from work are getting thrown out? That was his line. And for our lame duck watch again tonight, we got a big, scary one, "lame duck-zilla," "lame duck-cula," in a moment. But first, one more thing about the U.S. Senate. Remember Ted Stevens, the soon-to-be former senator from Alaska who was convicted on seven felony corruption counts, and who then got a 56-second-long standing ovation from his colleagues, eight seconds for standing applause for every felony? Well, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch tells today that President Bush should give Ted Stevens a pardon for his crimes. Hatch said, quote, "I think most anybody would probably say, "Yes, he should be pardoned." I think most anybody would say it's fair to say that." Most anybody? Like most anybody who rides with you in your car to work everyday and you don't carpool?


MADDOW: "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Yes, a super violent but otherwise, sort of excellent Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, but also, the day in bailouts today. First, the good. America's governors, guess what? They don't want a bailout. Seriously. Republicans Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina say they don't want anything to do with federal funds. They co-wrote an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" today saying, quote, "The federal government is taking our country in a very dangerous direction-towards a "bailout mentality" where we look to the government rather than ourselves for solutions. We're asking other governors from both sides of the political aisle to join with us in opposing further federal bailout prevention." And most of the rest of the country's governors were in Philadelphia today, talking to President-elect Obama about getting some money for infrastructure and social services. The "Reader Digest's" version of their position? They would like some money, please, but not as a bailout but as part of the solution, works projects, job creation kind of thing, to stave off a depression, not a straight up handout. Good. But if you think they are still coming to bailout fever, Governor Ed Rendell has something to say to you.


GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Almost every governor in this room has dealt this year, during this fiscal year, has dealt with the effects of the financial crisis. So, we didn't come here begging for help, we came here to enter into a discussion of what's the best way for us as states, working with the federal government in a partnership, to help this country turnaround its economic dilemma.


MADDOW: The nation's governors will be the good. Now, the bad. From the whole of "good, bad, and ugly" construct, right? The $700 billion bailout that started all the bailing out, the big financial industry bailout-the one that was supposedly going to prevent the Great Depression? Elizabeth Warren is the chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Committee of that big bailout plan. And today, she told the "New York Times" that the government doesn't seem to have a coherent plan in terms of administering that bailout or what it's for. She was feeling that way. And it is bad to know that feeling was right on the money, right on the money-sorry. I couldn't avoid the pun. Now here comes the ugly, "good, bad, and ugly"-the car business. After making the unfortunate transportation choice of private jet to their first trip to D.C. to ask for money, the Big Three automakers are now making their pitch to Congress, making that again this week, and this time, they got some decent P.R. advice. Also, they got some new promises-for $1 CEO salaries, ground transportation to Washington in hybrid vehicles and everything, and also, town hall meetings with the regular, non-private jet-owning people who work for them.


JIM PRESS, CHRYSLER PRESIDENT: You are those involved get (ph) so involved and so affected by what happens in the economy and what happens to our companies. And I want to learn from you the issues that are important to you so I can take them with me on my whistle stop trip to Washington.


MADDOW: Whistle stop trip? Whistle stop trip does sound much better than private jet charter even though cars don't have whistles or make whistle stops. Those are trains. Anyway, figures out today show U.S. car sales down almost 37 percent from last year. And the Big Three are reportedly preparing to ask for as much as $9 billion more than the $25 billion in loans they originally asked for. So, a little touch of folksiness probably can't hurt one CEO's case here. But beyond all the indignation and the posturing, indignation at the big money corporate barons here and the posturing about trying to make themselves seem more folksy, there are the workers here, about a quarter million of them, whose fate hangs in the balance in this debate. And I think their position, the position of labor in this debate, is best summed up actually in a three acts play, posted by a commenter on the blog Balloon-juice. I read these things deeply. I will you the third and final act. Are you ready? All right. Here we go. United Auto Workers Union, that's one of the characters, "I have fulfilled my end of the deal by building the automobiles that you have asked me to build. Big Three says, "Oh, no. I am undone. My automobiles are no longer competitive due to my years of poor planning and poor judgment." Then in the third play, Mitt Romney says, "Obviously, this is all UAW's faults." So, the problem is this: A key piece of our economy is about to be flushable. And whether or not the government even attempts to rescue, it could depend on just how hateable its CEOs are. And does that seem to be fair or wise? I need to be talked down here. Joining me now is Leo Gerard, who is president of the United Steel Workers Union. Mr. Gerard, thank so much for coming on the show tonight.

LEO GERARD, UNITED STEEL WORKERS UNION PRESIDENT: Thanks, Rachel. Glad to be on. Hope I can talk you down.

MADDOW: Nobody ever has before. So, it would be great if you did.


MADDOW: Is the auto industry getting tougher treatment from Congress than the financial industry did when it was their turn for a bailout? And if so, why?

GERARD: Absolutely. I think it's the culture we've had for a long time out of Washington. And, in fact, we haven't bailed out Washington-or Wall Street with $700 billion. We bailed them out with trillions. We've had a bailout and we've had collapses as we had Ponzi schemes, let's go back to the capital fund that was bailed out by Greenspan. We've had the corruption of Tyco, WorldCom, and Enron. We had the tech bubble. Now, the housing bubble and the bailout. We're talking about trillions of dollars. Nobody complained that these guys made not billions, but, really, hundreds of billions that they've paid themselves over the years as they've taken the whole economy down the tank. The reality is that there's more than 250,000 people in the auto industry that make their living from auto. We have steel workers that work at U.S. Steel. We have tire makers that work at Goodyear, who are reliant on the auto industry. When Wall Street collapsed, their pension funds went with them at places like U.S. Steel and Goodyear and G.M., because as the market tanked because of Wall Street, we added liability and workers lost pensions. Not just their jobs already. And let's remember one other thing. One of the problems that we have with the Big Three automakers is that they're providing healthcare to almost 1 million lives. They're providing healthcare in a society where we're competing with all the other companies that make cars in other countries whose healthcare is provided as a matter of right of citizenship. So, we shouldn't punish the auto industry for producing pretty damn good cars-in fact, let me tell you one other thing before I leave this to you. The North American auto industry, promoted by the Big Three, makes more fuel-efficient cars than all of the imports, all of the transplants. They have amongst the highest fuel efficiency rating. Sure, they made some SUVs and trucks but if you go out on the road, what you see is SUVs and trucks. People were buying them. And they were selling those cars and trucks. So in my view, yes, we've treated the people who take a shower after work much different than we we've treated the people who shower before they go to work.

MADDOW: I spoke with the president of the Auto Workers Union recently on this show about the difference in response to those other industries that have been getting assistance or asking for assistance from the federal government and the way that the auto industry has been treated. And it seems to me that there is a real political infliction to the resistance to helping out the auto industry, and that political infliction you can hear when people start complaining. Critics start complaining about auto workers being overpaid. And they start complaining about unions. Unions are being set up as if they are the reason that America can't be that competitive and that business has failed. Do you feel that as a political attack on unions as a union leader right now?

GERARD: I think it's a lot of Republican hypocrisy, Wall Street hypocrisy. It's the hypocrisy of the already rich and powerful that have kept silent, like the governors that you had on earlier, kept silent about bailouts when it was going to their friends on Wall Street. Look at the economic deregulation we've seen in this country over the last 20 years. We deregulated the financial sector. We deregulated industries like the aerospace industry, like the trucking industry, like the energy. We deregulated employment levels so that now, for the first time in the last 50 years, this generation might pass on a lower standard of living for the next generation. And we deregulated the global trade. Tell me which one of those has been good for working families. Which one of those has increased America's standing in the world? Of course, it's a phony attack. An auto worker that makes $57,000 a year, working some overtime, who produces a good car, who has a half decent pension who's now had their pension equity whacked by more corruption and calamity on Wall Street, who has some decent healthcare after working 30 or 40 years in the workplace, an employer that's trying to provide that healthcare because it's the only country on earth where society doesn't get its healthcare provided through a universal system. And all of the sudden, we're going to blame the workers? It's not the worker's fault. In fact, this calamity, as your report said today, people aren't buying cars. I was in a car lot on Saturday with my wife, I went to buy my daughter a coat just to see what was going on. There was nobody in the car lot buying any cars. You know why? Because they can't access credit. That's not the auto workers' fault, that's Wall Street's fault. That's-those who deregulated the financial sector. You know, I have this little saying, it's good (ph) chance to tell it to you. When we deregulated the financial sector, that was the economic equivalent of leaving three-year-olds alone in a candy store. You know what they're going to do. They're going to gorge themselves. And when you go and get them, they're going to throw up on your shoes. I'm just tired of having my shoes thrown up on by Wall Street.

MADDOW: Leo Girard, president of the United Steel Workers, you and I think in a lot of the same metaphors. Thank you for joining us tonight. Good luck to you, sir.

GERARD: Hope I talked you down. Hope I talked you down.

MADDOW: Sort of. I think I'm with you on the ledge (ph) together.


MADDOW: That's half of the battle (ph) there. Thank you, Mr. Gerard.

GERARD: Your welcome, my pleasure. Thank you.

MADDOW: Later on, another installment of lame duck watch tonight, where we keep an eye on the last days of the Bush presidency. His latest bit of quack-itude? Planning a new, quote, "right of conscience" rule that would allow healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any medical procedure they find morally objectionable, like for example, a woman's right to choose? Yes, like that. Don't take your eye off this guy not for one day.


MADDOW: When discussing the burning question of how worrying things really are in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and now India, I need two things, a world class reporter and a map. Next, I get both. NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, will be here with a map and a pen thing - to draw on the map, to break it all down. First, though, it's time for a couple of underreported holy mackerel stories in today's news. This week marks the end of the 2008 hurricane season. And the Texas and Louisiana gulf coast have got to be glad to see it go. It was September 12th when Hurricane Ike stormed the shore near Galveston, Texas this year, claiming the lives of at least 82 Americans and causing tens of billions of dollars of damage. So Ike hit more than two and a half months ago. But if you take a gander at the Texas coast today, you might swear the storm hit yesterday. The Associated Press reports today that the latest monument to the achievements of the emergency response, rescue and recovery capacity of the American federal government under George W. Bush is this - this 30-mile stretch of debris and trash - 30 miles that still remains on the Texas coast two and a half months after Hurricane Ike hit. Quoting from today's expose from AP reporter Michael Graczyk, quote, "Alligators and snakes crawl over vast piles of shattered building materials, lawn furniture, trees, boats, tanks of butane and other hazardous substances, thousands of animal carcasses, perhaps even the corpses of people killed by the storm." In the two and a half months since Ike, the area of coastline cleaned up thus far is about 100 yards out of the 30-mile long debris field in Chambers County, Texas. Local officials are blaming FEMA saying that red tape is holding up the clean up directly and the release of millions of dollars that local communities could use to themselves conduct the clean-up. The feds are supposed to clean up public lands and hazardous waste, while private landowners have to clean up themselves but they are supposed to be able to get federal assistance. One Galveston County judge said that he got word from FEMA on the day Ike hit, that Galveston County would be getting about half its multi-million dollar reimbursement request for storm cleanup. That notification came in September of this year, the day Ike hit. It was for the costs associated with Hurricane Rita, which was three years ago - three years - where all the counties hit by Ike and huge cleanup costs are now on the brink of financial collapse. FEMA's response? Well, they sent the Associated Press an E-mailed statement saying, the recovery process for Hurricane Ike, quote, "continues seamlessly." Seamlessly? Is this a bad time to mention the thousands of homeless gulf coast families who are still living in tents and trailers and motel rooms? Heck of a job, FEMA. Heck of a job. In Iraq today a court sentenced Saddam Hussein's cousin, "Chemical Ali," to his second death sentence for his role in killing thousands of Shia Muslims during the uprising in southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. He sat quietly as the verdict against him was read. Also sentenced to death today but not taking this quietly was Abdul Gani(ph), Abdul Gafoor(ph), the official in charge of the Saddam's Ba'ath party in southern Iraq during the time of that uprising. He responded to the sentence by yelling. He yelled, "Welcome to death for Iraq and to the Arabs and Islam. Let the arrogant be debased. Down with the American occupation. Victory to Islam. Victory to jihad. God is great." The judge in the case responded to the outburst by saying, and I quote, "Shut up!" Now, this is where there's some dispute. Our local NBC News translator tells us that the judge just said to say to shut up. That's also what the "New York Times" reported. The AP reports that the judge actually said, quote, "Shut up, you dirty Ba'athist!" And Agence France-Presse reports the judge saying, "Get out of here, you dirty Ba'athist!" Not to be confused with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Ba'athist of the same Iraq clan.


MADDOW: When Barack Obama lined up his national security team yesterday morning in Chicago, no reasonable person yelled, "Incompetent. What's he doing? Who are these clowns?" But quite a few reasonable people thought, "You know, how is this going to be different from the god-awful super-disaster that has been the last eight years of American foreign policy? Yes, but kind of hawkish on average, his team, and kind of Republican, in the case of Defense Secretary Bob Gates. That said, two bits of reassuring news for you, for any Obama supporters worried about what it means to keep on Bush's Defense Secretary Bob Gates. First, the deputy secretary of defense, Gordon England, Gate's number two guy, they guy who does operational, day-to-day stuff at the Pentagon. He will not serve under President Obama. The "Washington Post" also reporting today that all four undersecretaries of defense will be new as well in the Obama administration. And those appointments underneath - those staff positions underneath the big-top guy appointment, those are really important for figuring out what the Pentagon will be like in the new administration. The second piece of reassuring news is about Bob Gates himself, a reminder, actually, of why keeping Gates on didn't actually cause a big uproar on the left despite a lot of sloppy reporting that said it did. Yesterday, immediately after being announced as his nominee by Obama in Chicago, Gates headed to Minot Air Base in North Dakota, the Air Force base there. Minot was the base where nuclear missiles were mistakenly loaded on to a B-52 last year that then flew to Louisiana. Gates' reaction to that nuclear debacle claimed the jobs of the Army secretary and chief-of-staff. And about 65 airmen at Minot were sanctioned. Now, Gates' first act as Obama's defense secretary nominee was to fly to Minot yesterday and tell them that he is still mad about that mistake. Republican, schmaputlican(ph). People like a top guy who demands accountability, particularly nuclear accountability. In any case, Obama's national security team had best be the best. Things are getting increasingly bad in a part of the world now where it is especially bad to have things going badly, namely the Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, South Asia triangle, where new details about the deadly Mumbai terrorist attacks are making an already-dangerous corner of the world seem even more dangerous. Joining us now is NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. Richard, many thanks for being here.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC'S CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It's really a pleasure. And I must warn you tonight I've been armed with a map, to try and -

MADDOW: I'm very frightened about that.

ENGEL: It all goes down to geography.


ENGEL: And it's so much easier when you can really see some of the things laid out in front of you. The intelligence today, India and U.S. security officials say that cell phone numbers were discovered on a satellite phone of senior Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, which means that, by all indications, Lashkar-e-Toiba was responsible for this.


ENGEL: Now, what does that mean? Lashkar-e-Toiba is a group based in - well, based in Kashmir, but a lot of support in Pakistan. The Pakistani institution you should really know about is called the ISI. It is the - Pakistani Intelligence Agency is very similar to the CIA. And going back to the '80s, ISI had two strategies. One was to back Islamic fundamentalist militants in Afghanistan and the other was to back them Kashmir.

MADDOW: Why do they want to do that?

ENGEL: Well, for a couple of reasons. They wanted to back them in these militants where the Mujahideen, and then later became the Taliban, in Afghanistan because, if you look at Pakistan, it is a very narrow country. It is a small country compared to India which is giant. These countries have long-been rivals, foes, since they were separated. And if India were ever to ever attack, it could probably overrun Pakistan. So it has always wanted friends and proxies in power back in Afghanistan, and to the same degree, to have friends and allies in militant groups in Kashmir, which is dispute property, so that it could carry out attacks on to India. So if you had the Taliban, which later went on to attack the United States in 9/11, in Kashmir, it was the Lashkar which carried out the attacks in Mumbai as everyone knows recently.

MADDOW: OK. So that's based on the - there's a little flame there on the map.

ENGEL: That's a flame.


MADDOW: Wow, this is very impressive. So we know now, at least we have good evidence now, good clues that the Mumbai attacks may have been carried out by Lashkar which has -

ENGEL: It's the L -

MADDOW: Which is the L, which has been supported by the ISI.

ENGEL: Exactly.

MADDOW: Then -

ENGEL: That creates the tension that is between these two nuclear powered states in Pakistan.

MADDOW: Well, looking at Afghanistan there and thinking about our relationship with Pakistan, if the Mumbai attacks have been carried out, at least it appears, by the Lashkar which has ties to the Pakistani government, obviously, things are going to get very bad, very quickly between India and Pakistan.

ENGEL: Yes, they have already been escalating in a war of words.

MADDOW: And they weren't good to begin with.

ENGEL: Absolutely not.

MADDOW: But does this also have a big impact on our troops who are very nearby in Afghanistan?

ENGEL: Yes, exactly for this reason. There are about 120,000 Pakistani troops along the border with Afghanistan. U.S. troops are on the other side of the border. This area in the middle is where the fighting with the Taliban is going on.

MADDOW: Right.

ENGEL: In this cross-border area, Waziristan, the northwest frontier province. This is the center of what is the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the fight. And it is backed up by these Pakistani troops on the other side of the border. Their loyalties are sometimes mixed. Sometimes they cooperate with the Taliban but at least they're there. Now, as tensions are heating up with India, and there's this increasing focus from India on to Pakistan, Pakistan is threatening to move these troops that are along the border and to send them to the other border, to the border with India.

MADDOW: And we know from your reporting and some incredible tape we've played on this show from your reporting from "NIGHTLY" about how difficult it already is for our troops in that border region. The prospect of Pakistani troops, even if they are somewhat unreliable, leaving and going to other borders across their country ...

ENGEL: If that happens ...

MADDOW: It would make things much more difficult.

ENGEL: It would be a disaster. If that happens, not only does it give the Taliban in this area a much more free area to operate, but it gets worse. Seventy-five percent of U.S. supplies for Afghanistan go through Karachi up through Pakistan and go over the Kaibar(ph) pass and into Afghanistan. They need those Pakistani troops along the border to help protect the convoys. So if these troops move away, that essential supply route is very much in danger.

MADDOW: Yes. Because it's not like we're going to get our supplies in there through Iran.

ENGEL: Well, there are some talks of trying to find alternate routes.

MADDOW: Wow. Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for NBC.

Thank you for bringing your map.

ENGEL: It is my pleasure.

MADDOW: Thank you for showing all the bells and whistles, and thanks for explaining this. It's great to have you here.

ENGEL: My pleasure.

MADDOW: So President Bush is working on a new rule for healthcare workers that could have the effect of making it really, really, really, really, really hard to get an abortion in this country. If you can't make it illegal, just make it impossible instead. Our "Lame Duck Watch" is next.


MADDOW: Last week, you will recall the White House sent an invitation to American Jewish leaders to join the president and first lady for a Hanukkah party. Sadly, they decided to include a Christmas tree on the front of the card - the front of a Hanukkah card. And now, the president and his staff have sort of made another holiday blunder, although this one is less offensive than it is just embarrassing. Mrs. Bush asked members of Congress to pick local artists to decorate ornaments for a Christmas tree inside the White House. Democrat Washington State Congressman Jim McDermott asked a Seattle collage artist, Deborah Lawrence(ph), to participate for his congressional district. She created a 9-inch ball, a big ornament, covered with swirly red-and-white stripes. It looks very nice and festive, right? Well, in tiny, glued-on text, the artist decided to salute Congressman McDermott's support for a resolution to impeach the president. For the White House Christmas tree. The ornament was actually accepted for the tree but today, a spokeswoman for the first lady confirmed that the ornament will not be displayed after all, saying, quote, "We reviewed the ornament along with all the other ornaments and Mrs. Bush deemed it inappropriate for the holiday tree." And the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Seattle artist was invited to the White House reception which she did attend earlier today. With 48 days left of the Bush administration, it is time, once again, for THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW's "Lame Duck Watch" because somebody's got to do it. Quack, indeed. Today we learned the lamest of lame ducks plans to announce a broad, new right of conscience rule permitting medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable including abortion, possibly even including artificial insemination or birth control. For more than 30 years, federal law has dictated that doctors and nurses can refuse to perform abortions. But the new rule goes way further including virtually everyone and anyone remotely involved in any such procedure. The proposed rule says this, quote, "The department proposes to interpret the term 'assist in the performance' broadly as encompassing individuals who are members of the workforce of the department-funded entity performing the objectionable procedure."What does that mean? Does that mean basically anyone, even the person cleaning the medical instruments would be included, person sweeping the floors, the person guarding the door? We should call the Amish bus driver rule. You know, if you're Amish and your values and your beliefs will not allow you to operate an automobile, then surely, you know, that's your inalienable right. But consequently, you will not be hired to drive a bus. On the other hand here, if you're morally opposed to abortion, that's absolutely your inalienable right to hold that belief. But you can still be a healthcare professional and just refuse to perform legal medical procedures to people who need them? As a matter of fact, yes. Thanks in part to our lame duck president. Bush is not taking abortion rights to the courts. He's just making abortion rights increasingly difficult for those who would exercise them legally. Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University and a reproductive rights advocate. Hi, Melissa. It's great to see you. So this proposed new rule says healthcare workers could even refuse to provide information or advice to patients who might want an abortion. Do you see this as a major setback for reproductive rights?


AMERICAN STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. This has really been the new strategy of those opposed to women's reproductive rights. Rather than fight this out in the courts, rather than remove the constitutional right that currently exists for women to protect their health around reproduction, instead you limit access and you limit the education that doctors are getting in medical schools. You limit the ability of these doctors to practice in various states and localities. You keep reducing, reducing, reducing. Of course what we know is that that has a disproportionate affect on poor women, on rural women. In other words, women who have private health insurance, women who have private physicians, tend to have plenty of access to a variety of reproductive rights options. But poor women and women with less access are the ones hit hardest by these kinds of decisions.

MADDOW: Right. The fewer options that you have, the more affected you are when your options are reduced or, in this case, eliminated. Health and Human Services says that this rule would apply to any entity which receives federal funds. And as far as I can tell, we're talking more than 500,000 entities, nearly 5,000 hospitals, nearly 250,000 doctor's offices, almost 60,000 pharmacies. And while they are not making abortion illegal or saying no abortion-related or contraception-related services will be provided in these places, this sort of opt-out rule might make it just impossible for those facilities to provide these services and all the things around them. Do you feel like this is -I guess we talk a lot about the sneaking nature of these lame duck actions, but this seems to me to have potentially a very, very broad coast-to-coast impact. Do you feel like it's sunk in yet?

LACEWELL: Probably not, because everyone is so focused on the transition team and on the choices that Barack Obama is making in terms of personnel that were probably not paying a lot of attention or nearly enough to what's going on in the last days of this presidency. But let me point out that this right to conscience is not just about reproductive rights. This could have a huge impact. Listen, you want your doctor to be making choices based on medical needs, based on the health of the patient. You really want, in certain ways, a bureaucrat in that position. In other words, a decision-making based on rules and procedures, not on these moral conscience questions. I mean, some people, for example, are opposed to anesthesia. You certainly don't want, you know, nurses who are opposed to anesthesia in surgical operating rooms. And we want to be sure that, as a nation, these kinds of decisions are not being sort of legislated out by these broad opt-out rules that allow doctors to make decisions without consulting their patients.

MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who is obviously a reproductive rights advocate and a very eloquent one, and also an associate professor in politics and African-American studies at Princeton University. Thank you for your time. It's nice to see you.

LACEWELL: Absolutely. Thanks.

Next, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. Vintage White House tapes from Richard Nixon have been released. Stick around, feel the love.


MADDOW: Now, it's time for "Just Enough" with my friend Kent Jones. Hi, Kent. What have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Well, since the butt end of the Bush years has me in kind of a Nixon vibe, I think it's appropriate the National Archives is releasing to the public about 198 hours of White House recordings from the vintage Nixon years. Here's a little nugget from May 18th, 1972. Nixon chats with Henry Kissinger about meeting with Ivy League college presidents regarding the war in Vietnam.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The Ivy League presidents? Why, I'll never let those (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in the White House again. Never, never, never. They're finished. The Ivy League schools are finished.


JONES: Never let Ivy Leaguers in the White House again. You hear that, George H. W. Bush, Yale '48, Bill Clinton, Yale '73, George W. Bush Yale '68, Harvard '75, and Barack Obama, Columbia '83, Harvard '91? You're finished. Nixon has spoken, out! Next props to YouTube. The web video giant is holding a competition that will invite classical musicians around the world to submit two videos showing off their musical and technical chops. Entries will be voted on by a panel of judges from the world's leading orchestras and viewers of YouTube. The winners will be flown to New York for a big show at Carnegie Hall. What will that be like? We got any Mendelsohn fans in the house. Who wants to hear some Goldberg variations? Ina, Kleina, not music, not music, not music. And finally, a new survey of 29,000 high school students nationwide found that these are boom times for cheating. According to the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, in the past year, 30 percent of teenagers have stolen from a store, 64 percent have cheated on a test, 36 percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. And yet, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character. Nice. And also, 96 percent think they deserve a bailout, $100 billion, $200 billion, whatever it takes. The teenager industry is too big to fail. Rachel.

MADDOW: Ina, Kleina.

JONES: Mozart, Mozart.

MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. And thank you for watching tonight. We will see you tomorrow night. "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN" starts right now. Good night.



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