Guests: Kent Jones, Malcolm Nance, Steven Soderbergh
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Hi, David. Thanks so much.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: You‘re welcome.
MADDOW: And thank you for sticking with us.
Tonight, a new twist in the old guilt-by-association tactic against Barack Obama. The coal industry takes a swipe at us, this show, me. And, we‘ve got Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow joining us tonight. Plus, a bombshell, bombshell report on Donald Rumsfeld, of all people.
But first, who‘s this guy? And why is he totally, totally central to understanding what‘s going on in American news right now even though he‘s been dead for almost 45 years? He‘s, of course, Herbert Hoover. Now, you recognize him, right?
Given what just happened to the emergency loans that didn‘t get made to the Big Three automakers, I owe a debt of thanks to Dick Cheney—
I‘m not kidding—for reminding us all why it‘s so important to keep Hoover in mind right now. Dick Cheney, this week, reportedly went up to Capitol Hill. He had a close door meeting with his fellow Republicans. He told him that if they block the rescue of the auto industry, quote, “We will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever.”
That‘s a bad thing. Hoover is a political epithet in bad economic times because his response to the depression—was to, first do nothing and then do stuff that made it worse. The country needed massive federal spending to stimulate demand and keep people working. Hoover? Cut spending. The government had an economic responsibility to borrow some money and get credit moving. Hoover picked that awesome time to balance the budget.
Everything was going the wrong direction economically, so the government needed to make some big bold moves in the opposite direction. Hoover picked that time to proclaim his own impotence, telling Congress in 1930, quote, “Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement.”
I‘m Herbert Hoover. I can‘t do anything helpful. How about I hurt the economy some more instead because of my dumb, moralistic, ideologically-driven, ignorant, short-term, self-serving bad ideas? I‘ll take this depression and make it not just good but great. That‘s the ticket, the Great Depression.
And how does Hooverism or neo-Hooverism apply to us on this big full moon Friday night in 2008? Well, 20012348 last night, Senate Republicans, who spent the last eight years setting huge piles of taxpayer money on fire for nothing in return but two ill-advised endless wars, they decided that they were the party of reduced spending and fiscal responsibility. Hell? High water? (INAUDIBLE).
Last night, with both hell and high water all around, Senate Republicans killed $14 billion of emergency loans to save G.M., Ford, and Chrysler. Why? Because they‘ve apparently looked back at the Great Depression and decided that Hoover is their role model. Of course, the government shouldn‘t spend money to shore up its own economy and save jobs in a downturn. That might make economic sense, couldn‘t do that.
The Senate Republicans are counting on our economic and historical ignorance to win short-term political points for refusing to spend government money on something that it hurts to spend money on. Nobody wants to bail anybody out. But sometimes you have to. And frankly, they are seizing the ideological opportunity to crusade against the unions and against the very idea of Americans making good wages at their jobs.
Leading the GOP charge? Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Corker‘s only previous claim to political fame was the race-baiting “Call me Harold” ad that he ran against Harold Ford in the 2000 Senate campaign. His latest claim to fame? Union-busting with an estimated 3 million jobs on the line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER, ® TENNESSEE: They were willing to make no concessions, zero and let these companies fall into peril as they are now. To me, as I wake up today, it‘s just—it‘s pretty surreal to me, actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, surreal. A memo circulated among Senate Republicans on Wednesday called for Republicans to, quote, “stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor.”
The UAW president, United Auto Workers president, Ron Gettelfinger, unsurprisingly has a somewhat different take on what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON GETTELFINGER, UAW PRESIDENT: Senator Corker admitted to our people, on the ground there, that the other discussions over wages were largely about politics within the GOP caucus. They thought perhaps they could have a twofer here, maybe—you know, pierce the heart of organized labor while representing the foreign brands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, we‘re facing a looming 3 million job economic sinkhole. Even if you don‘t care about those specific workers, those specific American lives, those specific American companies, those specific jobs—even if you don‘t care about that, everyone fears that a 3 million job sinkhole could suck the world into a depression, not just us. And in the face of that, the Senate Republican caucus decided to block the rescue plan to make a principled point about how much they want to be like Hoover and the Great Depression, and how much they want to lower American wages. Shasaa (ph).
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd couldn‘t believe it either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS DODD, (D) CONNECTICUT: The idea that we would say last evening, that the only issue was to say to working families in this country that you‘re the ones we‘re asking more of, we‘re asking you to take less, in your wages and benefits at time when you‘re already suffering because of the disparity in income in this country was rather incredible to me that that‘s the one demand that was being insisted upon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Traders in China were duly terrified. The stock market there crashed overnight. Our own markets were spared today because President Bush and Henry Paulson say they may still save the Big Three with some of that so-called “TARP money,” that $700 billion we‘ve all lost track of. And therefore, the world might not suffer the fate that was cued up by Senator Corker and his friends in the Republican caucus in the Senate.
So, here‘s what we‘re down to. The Democrats will not have a filibuster proof 60-seat majority come January. The country is on the brink of something so bad that it is not clear if or when it would end. The Senate Republicans are determined that Hoover was right in the 1930s. Matthew Yglesias at the Center for American Progress calls it neo-Hooverism. The strategy is to dig in their ideological heels and stop the Democratic-dominated government to counteracting what is already the longest recession since Hoover‘s Great Depression.
The Democrats‘ charge, of course, is to find some steel for their spines to stop the neo-Hooverites from using their filibuster power in the Senate to drag us down into depression the way their party‘s original, Hoover did the first time around.
Do you want to live through the same kind of America that this guy left us? Have you read “Grapes of Wrath”?
Joining us now is Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Good evening, Senator Stabenow. Thank you for enduring my puppetry and thanks for joining us.
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW, (D) MICHIGAN: Well, Rachel, I just want to say, first of all, amen to what you just said.
MADDOW: Thank you. I was hoping that I wouldn‘t embarrass you with that.
STABENOW: Not, not so far.
MADDOW: There‘s still a chance.
Today, Governor Granholm of your state said the automakers are drowning. Do you think the rescue plan is kaput? Can there be another go at this?
STABENOW: Well, our only chance, and I‘m amazed that I‘m actually saying this but, you know, our chance is with the president. And the White House called and talked to me early this afternoon and indicated that they have every intention of helping and that they are not going to let this industry go down. And there are meetings that have been going on all day, and I expect some kind of an announcement. I hope it will be enough.
MADDOW: General Motors has announced that it will temporarily shut down 20 of its plants. Do you think that there‘s a possibility of bankruptcy?
STABENOW: Oh, yes, absolutely there is, if there‘s no action. And, Rachel, we‘re within a matter of days on this, not weeks. That‘s why what happened last night was so shocking to me. The fact that, in the end, what stopped this was a narrow political agenda, leftover from the campaigns, and frankly, it‘s important to also say, as they were beating up on workers, that as the “AP” reported today, a comparison of the hourly wage of all the different automakers and actually, facts are, the folks at Toyota make a few cents more per hour than the folks at G.M.
The difference in wages, by the way, is healthcare, which isn‘t their fault. It‘s the Congress‘ fault for not addressing healthcare costs and creating universal healthcare. So, I asked Senator Corker yesterday if he was going to join with me in dealing with real parity which was fixing the healthcare system in this country.
MADDOW: Any response from Senator Corker on that?
STABENOW: Not much.
MADDOW: Yes. The government gave $150 billion to the insurance giant AIG without really, relatively so much as a peep, but blocking $14 billion for the automobile industry has become a rallying cry and a unifying cry for the Republican Party. Do you see politically—is what‘s at work here, is it just obstruction—trying to regain political power through obstruction? Or is there a point to it?
STABENOW: Well, I think—and first of all, let me say, we had 10 Republican colleagues joined with us and I thank them for that.
STABENOW: But the reality was that there is, I think, an agenda leftover from the campaigns, people upset about the outcomes of the campaigns, coupled with an ideology that opposes organized labor. And basically, you know, they were saying that the United Auto Workers should agree to cut wages in half in the middle of a recession, possibly going over into a depression, and they wanted to negotiate.
Have Senate Republicans sit down and negotiate with the United Auto Workers separately from the arrangement of restructuring that was put together in the legislation, the 90-day restructuring, where everybody comes to the table—management, suppliers, the workers, everybody; and even though the demand itself was outrageous, because of the dire circumstances in the auto industry, the autoworkers were actually willing to sit down and try to work something out, because they understand and care so deeply about keeping 3 million people‘s jobs.
And so, they went well beyond what could ever have been expected, and in the end, it didn‘t matter, because they really didn‘t want an agreement. And that‘s—that‘s really pretty outrageous.
MADDOW: Yes, it is a strange form of free market conservatism that those sorts of things ought to be negotiated by senators in Washington rather than done by the companies.
MADDOW: One last quick question to you, Senator. You know, 3 million people in this country have jobs that depend in some way on the auto industry—any message for them and their families who might be watching tonight?
STABENOW: Well, first, I want to thank them for working hard and creating the middle-class of this country. I want to thank the retirees who have worked hard all their lives and just expect to have the pensions they‘ve earned and the healthcare they‘ve earned.
And we‘re going to keep working at this. We‘re not going to let the manufacturing sector of this economy go down, the middle-class go down in this country. I do believe that the White House is stepping up and we appreciate that—to use the authority that they have. But next year, with a new president, we need a 21st century manufacturing strategy that keeps jobs in America. And that‘s what we need to be focused on.
MADDOW: Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, good luck. Thanks for joining us.
MADDOW: The Rod Blagojevich pageant of bent hubris continues. Today, the state of Illinois attorney general took the unprecedented step of asking the state Supreme Court for a restraining order that would temporarily relieve the governor of the responsibilities of his office. Meanwhile, the smell of wounded Democrat has the right-wing feverishly trying to play the guilt-by-association game with Blagojevich and Barack Obama.
Again, it didn‘t work with Reverend Wright, it didn‘t work with Bill Ayers, but bleep it, there‘s just got to be a bleeping connection with this guy somewhere. Isn‘t there? Mary Mitchell of the “Chicago Sun-Times” will be joining us next.
And later, Academy Award-winning director, Steven Soderbergh will join us right here to talk about his new film about the Cuban revolutionary and t-shirt star, Che Guevara.
But first, just one more thing. You got the feeling the automakers are having to give up everything shy of their firstborn to even get a chance of that $14 billion worth of loans to keep them alive? Compare that to $335 billion already given away to financial institutions with basically no strings attached. You know, at least we know the names of the companies, the banks and financial institutions who got the TARP money.
In contrast, actually, the Federal Reserve has loaned out more than $2 trillion taxpayer dollars to companies they will not even name, not even after requests were made under the Freedom of Information Act by “Bloomberg News.” Talk about double standards.
The Feds want to tell the auto industry what shoe to put on first and how to tie their shoe laces in exchange for pennies on the dollar of what the banks and the financial institutions get to walk away with, no questions asked, and they can even keep it secret. If you shower before you go to work, you get bailed out. If you have to shower after work, you get thrown out. And the rest of us, frankly, feel like we‘re taking a bath.
MADDOW: Earlier this week, I spent some time making fun of the clean coal carolers, singing lumps of coal representing America‘s coal business. I made fun of them for turning the classic Christmas carol “Silent Night” into propaganda for the energy industry. But today, I looked at their Web site, what happened? The singing lumps of coal are gone. In their place? This, quote, “We had fun this week with the clean coal carolers and hope you enjoyed them. Now, it‘s time for them to head home for the holidays.”
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity told us in an email that they took this ad down because it wasn‘t getting enough hits and they kind of blamed us for that. They said, quote, “Frankly, even after being featured on MSNBC, traffic for the clean coal carolers was not what we had hoped for. Only 20,000 visitors in a week.”
So, we should have sent more people to your Web site when we were making fun of it? I wouldn‘t call that a feature. But even better than the e-mail to our producers here is the shoutout we got on the clean coal blog, where the V.P. of communications criticizes me and this show for criticizing them for using “Silent Night,” a beloved hymn about the birth of Jesus, to spin their polluting products, quote, “Remember that this cuts both ways. So, you might want to be sure that we‘ll make our list and check it twice for things we might find offensive, too.”
So, by making fun of the coal barons has resulted in a threatening blog entry? And the premature Web banishment of their singing lumps of coal? My work here is done.
MADDOW: On the off-chance that you didn‘t watch cable news all day today, here‘s the day in Rod Blagojevich. The indicted governor is still in office. The hair is still awesome.
He even got some work on, signing a bill that helps with insurance coverage for parents of kids with autism, also notably managed to some smiles and waves for the cameras and then he welcomes some pastors to his home for prayer. How powerful the prayer was remains to be seen. Blagojevich reportedly did tell his visitor that he is innocent and he will be vindicated. He wouldn‘t fib to clergy, would he?
Meanwhile, the full court press to oust him from office continued today. Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, went the restraining order route, as in stay a safe distance from any gubernatorial duties, pal. Madigan called Blagojevich unfit to serve and asked for the Supreme Court to strip the governor of his powers.
Meanwhile, the legislature is set to discus impeachment options starting on Monday. And Blagojevich‘s chief of staff, John Harris, who was arrested along with the Gov on Tuesday, he resigned today. That‘s kind of all that actually happened, except for the emergence of every Barack Obama opponent‘s favorite political parlor game. Guilt by dot, dot, dot.
Remember, first he was a Muslim. That was guilt by middle name. Then Obama hated America because he knew Reverend Jeremiah Wright. That was classic guilt-by-association. Then, Obama was an anarchist terrorist guy. Sarah Palin gave us that one. We call it guilt by common charitable board membership.
And now, the national media, newspapers, radio shows, and yes, TV news networks, have bought into one degree or another to guilt by proximity. Obama is from Chicago, right? Hey, Rod Blagojevich is from Chicago. Blagojevich appears to be a filthy, corrupt, bribe-taking, shakedown artist who tried to sell Obama‘s Senate seat. Chicago can‘t possibly be big enough for Barack Obama to not also be guilty too somehow, right? Obama is on the defensive, right?
Joining us now is Mary Mitchell. She‘s an editorial board member and columnist for the “Chicago Sun-Times.”
Ms. Mitchell, it‘s nice to see you again. Thanks for coming back on the show.
MARY MITCHELL, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST: Thank you for inviting me.
MADDOW: I get the sense that the national media thinks that Chicago is much smaller than it actually is. You are a long-term Chicago reporter. Could it be true that Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich really did not operate in the same political circles?
MITCHELL: They definitely did not operate in the same political circles. In fact, Chicago is one of those places where you have different cliches, different groups of politicians. Barack Obama has been a very independent. He was a Hyde Parker; he was seen as a South Sider. And he was very much removed from the Blagojevich‘s administration. So, he doesn‘t have anything to do with Rod Blagojevich.
MADDOW: Do you.
MITCHELL: It‘s just kind of odd that people think, are trying to put those two together.
MADDOW: Do you think that it is born—those accusations are born of ignorance? Or do you think that people are sort of seeing a little smoke and that there may be some fire, that there may be links between fundraisers, between advisers? That Rahm Emanuel might be some sort link to this scandal in any way? Are you seeing anything from your up-close perspective?
MITCHELL: Well, from my perspective, what I‘m seeing is that, in any opportunity that opponents of Barack Obama can latch on to something that will connect him to a scandal or something that will make his vision of transforming a Washington politics to show it to be not true or impossible to happen, they‘re going to grab a hold to that.
If you know Chicago politics, Barack Obama was an outsider. President-elect Obama was an outsider and the people that worked in his campaign, even if you look at Valerie Jarrett, who is now going to be in the administration, even if you look at her, she worked in business. She worked in city hall, but she was not—there was no proximity between Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett in politics. That just didn‘t happen. This is a new transformation.
MADDOW: When we look at what‘s happening in response to Rod Blagojevich‘s indictment, in response to that criminal complaint—now, one of the things that we‘re seeing, it sort of seems like a little bit of competition between different politicos within Illinois state government of how they‘re going to get rid of him and when. We‘ve seen the attorney general appeal to the state Supreme Court to have him declared unfit for office. We‘ve seen a lot of people call for his resignation. We‘ve seen actions in the state House to move toward impeachment. Who do you think will get him first?
MITCHELL: Rachel, this is the reason why things are such a mess in Illinois. Instead of following the Constitution and following the process that‘s set out for getting rid of a governor who doesn‘t function, which is impeachment, everybody is trying to get some face time on this. I have great respect for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. I think she‘s done a great job, but the chances of the Supreme Court ruling, showing that Blagojevich has to get out of office, is just so far removed, it doesn‘t make sense for her to even try that.
What should happen is that the House should impeach the governor, the Senate should conduct a trial, and he should be thrown out of office. That‘s what should happen.
MADDOW: Impeachment can sometimes be a sort of good cleansing and a reminder about what the constitutional responsibilities are in various parts of government. It works at the state level and at the federal level.
One last question for you, Mary, and that is about Governor Blagojevich, a lot of speculation as to his mental state, what maybe motivating that at this point. Do you see any prospect that he will resign and spare everybody all of the various machinations that would have to be gone through to get rid of him?
MITCHELL: Well, I think he‘ll resign. He‘ll resign when he‘ll get something out of the deal. He‘ll resign when he‘s able to figure out a way that he‘s going to be able to pay his mortgage and he‘s going to be able to take care of his family, and he‘s going to be able to pay his lawyers. So, right now, where we speaking, he‘s probably somewhere trying to cut another deal so that he can leave the office and still be able to take care of himself.
MITCHELL: It‘s all about money.
MADDOW: We could just take up a collection nationwide and save you all the trouble.
MITCHELL: And then he‘ll get out.
MADDOW: Mary Mitchell, editorial board member and columnist for the “Chicago Sun-Times”—a real pleasure to have you back on the show. Thank you.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Remember how Donald Rumsfeld used to say there are known unknowns? Well, a new report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has dropped some enormous knowns about who is to blame for torture in post-9/11 America. This is a genuine bombshell. Will prosecutions follow? More coming up on lame duck watch.
MADDOW: A little later, the director of “Oceans 11” through “13,” Steven Soderbergh, will be here to talk about “Che,” a biography starring the Benicio Del Torro of the Argentinean and Cuban revolutionary. I feel more left-wing just having said that.
And later on “COUNTDOWN” tonight, wait until you hear their take on John McCain‘s long interview with David Letterman last night. Apparently, McCain showed up this time. So, Keith‘s services were not required.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: First though, it‘s time for a couple of underreported, holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. We‘ve got our full RACHEL MADDOW SHOW “Lame Duck Watch” coming up in just a moment.
But here‘s an appetizer. On his way out the door, President Bush plans to sign America‘s first ever nuclear agreement with a Middle Eastern country. Nukes, in the Middle East. What could possibly go wrong?
The proposed deal is with the United Arab Emirates or UAE - that‘s where Dubai is. What do most of us think of when we think of Dubai? We think of ginormous(ph) skyscrapers and man-made islands and hotel suites the size of basketball courts, right? The kind of stuff you build when you‘re so filthy rich you can think of nothing better to spend your money on than making yourself new islands in fancy shapes.
Why does UAE have so much money? Duh. Oil - tons of it, and natural gas. They actually have some of the world‘s largest energy reserves and they have the gold-plated bling-tastic lifestyle to show for it. So if UAE have some of the world‘s largest energy reserves, why do they need nuclear power, too? Good question.
Another good question - why is Bush rushing to do a nuclear deal with a country in the Middle East whose largest trading partner is a little country you might have heard of named Iran? And remember when the A.Q. Khan network in Pakistan sold their nuke technology all over the world, like to North Korea - they sold it to the highest bidder? A.Q. Khan used Dubai as one of his drop boxes for that.
So tell me again why UAE needs nuclear technology, and why we‘re helping with that. And does anybody in the Bush administration actually worry about the world getting way more nuclear? Because that smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud scare tactic they used on all of us. It totally worked on me.
Speaking of scary and nuclear, new pictures of North Korea‘s dear leader Kim Jong-Il have just been released after a French doctor who reportedly treated him in Pyongyang told a newspaper that the jumpsuited little dictator did recently have a stroke some months ago but he‘s not dead.
The doctor said he‘s not only not dead, his condition is improving. The new pictures show Kim Jong-Il visiting a chicken farm. According to the often inadvertently funny official North Korean central news agency, Kim Jong Il said, quote, “The officials, workers and technicians of the farm should provide the people with more chickens and more eggs by sincerely performing their duties as faithful servants of the people as required by the slogan, “Serve the people!”
The chickens reportedly replied (clucking). Sorry. So the state media says Kim Jong-Il is fine. He‘s exhorting chickens patriotically to lay more eggs. He‘s up and around. But there have been worries that he might secretly be dead or very ill.
When U.S. and South Korean officials said he suffered that stroke back in August, the North Koreans released pictures him to assuage any concerns about his health. Here, for example - here he is in seemingly perfect health, standing with North Korean soldiers. Not a hair out of place, right?
Look closer. What happened to the black line on the stand just below his knees? And you notice the shadow from his leg goes straight up while the leg shadow from the guy next to him tilts left? I think somebody‘s communist photoshopper(ph) may soon be out of a job.
MADDOW: President Bush is working double time on his revisionist last second delusion campaign to try to make us remember him fondly before he‘s run out of town on a rail. He‘s working so hard on that today that Bush gave a commencement address in mid-December, addressing the fall-term cap and gowners at Texas A & M, the people graduating mid-year.
He was full of the kind of advice you buy through the Sky Mall catalog in the form of inspirational office (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Develop a set of principles to live by. Character and conscience are sturdy as the oaks on this poster - I mean campus. Be on the look out for role models.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Be on the look out for role models, people whose conduct you admire and whose paths you can follow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Character, conscience, principles, role models - you got it? With 38 days left of the Bush administration, it‘s time once again for THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s “Lame Duck Watch,” because somebody‘s got to do it.
So President Bush counsels character, conscience, principles and role models. I hope none of those graduating aggies read this morning‘s “Washington Post.” Did you see this morning‘s “Washington Post?” Check this out.
All right. I marked it, “Report on Detainee Abuse Blames top Bush Officials,” by Joby Warrick and Karen D. Young. And I quote, “In the most comprehensive critique by Congress of the military‘s interrogation practices, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report yesterday that accuses Donald Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the authors and chief promoters of harsh interrogation policies.”
Torture - “Harsh interrogation policies that disgraced the nation and undermined U.S. security. The report released by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain contends that Pentagon officials later tried to create a false impression that the policies were unrelated to acts of detainee abuse committed by members of the military” - “detainees” is a polite word for “prisoners.”
“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of a few bad apples acting on their own,” the report states. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.” Prisoners.
“The report is the most direct refutation,” it says - “the most direct refutation to date of the administration‘s rationale for using aggressive interrogation tactics” - torture - “that inflicting humiliation and pain on detainees was legal and effective and helped protect the country. The 25-member panel without one dissent among 12 Republican members declared the opposite to be true.”
In other words, everybody agrees. This is bipartisan. “The administration‘s policies and the resulting controversies, the panel concluded, damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies and compromised our moral authority. Rumsfeld rejected the report‘s conclusions and said it was the committee, particularly Senator Levin, that had sullied the nation‘s image.”
Really? It was the committee that came up with the forced nudity, water-boarding, stress positions, sonic bombardment, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes, sick the dog on them stuff? That was a committee? That was Carl Levin and this committee? Really?
The White House, it says here, declined to comment. Imagine that. One last thing here, “Levin acknowledged that most of the senior officials named in the report have left government or soon will. He says, quote, ‘But I would hope that the new administration as well as the Defense Department, would look for ways where appropriate to hold people accountable,‘ he said.”
Newspapers are very important. I know this kind of thing isn‘t top of the news right now. This isn‘t what‘s driving everybody‘s political coverage, but this is a heck of an idea, isn‘t it? Accountability for the last eight years?
Joining us now is Malcolm Nance who is a terrorism and counterterrorism consultant to the U.S. Government and the military. He‘s the author of the upcoming book, “The Opposite Shore: How to Defeat Al-Qaeda and Restore America.” Mr. Nance, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
MALCOLM NANCE, TERRORISM AND COUNTERTERRORISM CONSULTANT TO THE U.S.
GOVERNMENT: It‘s my pleasure to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: You were a SERE instructor. Can you explain what the SERE program is?
NANCE: Sure. In my time, when I was in the military, SERE is “Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape.” And I was a master instructor at the Navy School in Coronado, California. And it‘s school where we simulate and teach U.S. service members how to resist interrogation and to withstand harsh techniques.
MADDOW: And the techniques that you trained U.S. Military personnel how to withstand, those were sort of catalogued from the techniques that had been used in warfare by our enemies, that had been used against Americans before, right?
NANCE: Absolutely. The entire SERE curriculum is the enemy‘s playbook. I mean, we had information and data that had gone back as far as the French and Indian Wars on how people behaved in captivity and how harsh interrogation techniques and brutal methods were used by totalitarian nations with a complete disregard for human life and human tolerances.
MADDOW: The reason that your work as a SERE instructor and that the whole idea of SERE is being discussed nationally is because this report, the Senate Armed Services Committee report and their investigations suggest that these torture techniques elicit false confessions and that they were reverse engineered to be used as interrogation techniques by our troops despite the fact that they were designed to elicit false confessions. Is that how you understand it?
NANCE: Yes. One of the key findings of this committee was that SERE - the techniques, the manuals, the methodologies that were developed by SERE over the last 50 years were all taken and were used and reverse-engineered. And there was a fine piece of scholarship a little bit earlier this year by the writer Jane Mayer, who was the first one to find out that SERE had been brought onboard to be used as our interrogation policy.
And those techniques, which, of course, as you say, are torture, were used to break prisoners. However, in doing so, you literally took our enemy‘s playbook, you took the North Koreans, you took the Vietnamese, you took the Gestapo and you used those methodologies in how to break the people who came into our control as captives.
MADDOW: One of the things that Is so notable to me about the Senate Armed Services Committee report is that it not only names names and says who is responsible and ought to be held accountable and thereby, I think, sort of lays an accountability charge to the next administration or the people who have the power to prosecute things like this. But it also explicitly says that this was counterproductive, that this was not a way to keep us safe. What do you think about that?
NANCE: Well, that‘s absolutely correct, and that finding didn‘t first come by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It came from the CIA themselves who said that we are actually breeding terrorists.
Donald Rumsfeld said a few years ago himself, we‘re making more terrorists than we could possibly kill them. Out in the field, the most difficult thing that you can do is actually encounter the enemy in such a way that you can gain intelligence or turn that person to work in your favor.
What we‘ve done is we have created an entire generation of people who have used what they perceive as tortures, murders. And they have now joined the al-Qaeda organization or other franchise organizations of al-Qaeda, and they are carrying out acts in the name of the atrocities that they believe we‘ve carried out.
And a full accounting of this has to be done, because we need to level the intelligence playing field before we can go back out there and push our operations that we‘re going to need to do in the next administration in the future in order to defeat al-Qaeda and organizations similar to it.
MADDOW: Briefly, do you think that full accounting should include prosecutions and the people who design these policies?
NANCE: Well, you know, when I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States 27 years ago, there was no loophole in there for what I did and how I did it. There is a - this is a matter of national honor. The honor of the United States Military and the intelligence community needs to be restored. And if that requires that the people who ordered crimes, and if crimes are found to have been committed, then we need to bring those people to account.
MADDOW: Malcolm Nance, the man who knows of which he speaks, author of the forthcoming book, “The Opposite Shore: How to Defeat Al-Qaeda and Restore America,” thank you for coming on tonight.
NANCE: It‘s my pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up next, Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh will be here to talk about his new movie “Che.” But I may have to ask him about Mr. Clooney as well. And why didn‘t Danny Ocean hire any ladies to rob those casinos?
MADDOW: Tonight, something a little different. We‘re going to talk about a conflict that does not involve the Middle East or al-Qaeda or George W. Bush or Vladimir Putin. You know, Rob Blagojevich is like news candy. Ate too much, need to lie down.
Tonight, we‘re going to actually talk about revolution in Cuba and guerrilla warfare in Bolivia - A, because we can, and B, because there are good movies to be watched. Or at least one big movie in two parts - an epic biopic directed and produced by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh.
The film is about Che Guevara, the man who helped Fidel Castro take over Cuba and who, 40 years after his murder in the Bolivian jungle, remains a romanticized symbol of revolutionary fervor.
Of course, Che, the legendary figure, lives on in some way through t-shirts and coffee mugs and posters among college students around the world, capitalism‘s last laugh perhaps.
The hero of a movement that long ago lost the celebrity luster bestowed by Che. Whoever said that history doesn‘t have a sense of humor? And yet, the story of Che Guevara has rarely been told by an artist with the range and reputation of Steven Soderbergh. One of his screenwriters called him the “Michael Jordan of filmmaking.”
Mr. Soderbergh won the Academy Award for best director for him film “Traffic” in 2000 which I loved. He‘s considered one of the most creative filmmakers working today, with works ranging from “Erin Brockovich” to “Ocean‘s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen,” “Solaris,” “Syriana,” “Good Night and Good Luck.” I could go on. I could go on. I will speak with Mr. Soderbergh about “Che” starring Benicio del Toro in just a moment. But first, here‘s a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, we were working with other groups. It was like a wait. When we arrived in the towns, people received us with open arms and many of them even joined us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You took a lot of towns in less than a week. Isn‘t it now called the lightning campaign?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Si. True, but in reality the battle has been building steam for nearly 100 years. When people hate their government, it‘s not very hard to take it down.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now, Steven Soderbergh, director of the new film, “Che,” which is out in limited release this weekend. Mr. Soderbergh, nice to meet you.
STEVEN SODERBERGH, DIRECTOR: Nice to meet you.
MADDOW: Thank you for being here. I‘m very excited to meet you. I‘m a very large fan.
SODERBERGH: Well, thanks.
MADDOW: Instead of a general survey of Che Guevara‘s life, you focus really on three events - Cuban Revolution - you use his 1964 speech at the United Nations as sort of a frame for telling that story and the insurgency in Bolivia. Why did you focus in that way?
SODERBERGH: Well, I guess, you know, there were a lot of people who share Che‘s ideology, who shared his ideology. But I was fascinated by the fact that here‘s a guy who grew up in a sort of upper middle class environment, was well educated, well read, trained as a doctor. And then at a certain point, decides to pick up a gun and join a lot of other people who picked up guns and try and wage a revolution.
And that to me was unusual, and so I wanted to focus on the two periods in his life where he went into the jungle with a lot of other people and tried to make something happen because to me that, that‘s walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.
MADDOW: Do you feel like you had a different understanding when you were done making the film than you did when you set out?
SODERBERGH: Well, it was interesting when I was approached by Benicio del Toro and Laura Bickford who were the star and producer of “Traffic.” Making a movie about Che, I really didn‘t know anything about him. So I sort of came with a clean slate. I had no real agenda.
And the thing that I was drawn to was this - fact that he really wanted to - he kept wanting to go back there. I mean, they won the Cuban revolution, then he becomes sort of a bureaucrat in Cuba for many years.
MADDOW: In charge of the economy, right?
SODERBERGH: Yes, among other things. And then twice, first in the Congo which not a lot of people know about. He went to Africa to try and stage a revolution and failed. And then he goes back to Bolivia.
So clearly, this is a guy who feels like the best version of himself is out there in the jungle with a group of guys with guns trying to make something happen. And so I just, I just kept coming back to that because he kept coming back to it.
MADDOW: Because if that‘s what gave his own life meaning to him, maybe it‘s what we could understand as the meaning of life.
SODERBERGH: No, I feel like, you know, he must have felt like that‘s what defined him.
SODERBERGH: That‘s what I got from my research.
MADDOW: This is a complicated political movie. You make complicated political movies. I mean, Michael Crichton - “Good Night and Good Luck,” and “Syriana” - the list of them. It seems to me and the reason that I like your work so much is that I feel you have a lot of faith in your audience. You don‘t dumb things down.
I wonder how you get away with being the guy who makes all the intellectual complex films that still make lots of money.
SODERBERGH: Well, I always believe that I‘m the audience, you know. I have a high school education. So I feel like anything I can understand, the audience can understand. And also I see evidence all around me that people are able to understand complex ideas.
I was saying to a friend of mine the other day, you listen to sports talk radio, and the people that call in there retain unbelievable detail from decades ago and they don‘t hesitate to call a coach out on the carpet about a play that they‘ve called.
Clearly, people have the capacity to withhold a lot of information in their heads and I feel the same way about politics. I think there‘s this vested interest in making people think, “This is beyond you. It‘s too complicated. You can‘t understand it.” And it‘s just not true.
MADDOW: Yes. I feel the same way about news.
MADDOW: Congratulations. It‘s nice to meet you.
SODERBERGH: Nice to meet you, too.
MADDOW: Steven Soderbergh is the director of the new film, “Che.” And it opens - correct me right here - it opens as one very long movie first, and then it opens maybe as two movies starting in January.
SODERBERGH: In January.
MADDOW: All right. Nice to see you.
Coming up next, just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. If you voted for George W. Bush, would you tell a pollster? Now, really, what if you sort of like the pollster?
MADDOW: Now, it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my mortal enemy, Kent Jones.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: I thank you, Herbert Hoover, but I won‘t.
Good evening, Rachel. Hey, I‘ve got some good news. President Bush told “The Washington Post” that he has no interest in becoming the next commissioner of Major League Baseball. This may be the first time his lack of interest is actually a good thing.
Can you imagine him as baseball commissioner? According to the Bush Doctrine the batter can storm the pitcher‘s mound before he gets hit.
Finally, here‘s a freaky contest. A Japanese research team says they have succeeded in processing and displaying images taken directly from the human brain. So far the team at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratory has managed to reproduce only simple images from the brain. But they said the technology could eventually be used to visualize our dreams.
Now, think about that. Your dreams displayed on a screen. What would Sarah Palin‘s dreams look like?
JONES: Or I don‘t know - Dick Cheney‘s dreams or George W. Bush‘s dreams?
I can watch that all night. This thing has to be stopped. It‘s dangerous.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you, Kent. That was very sad. Good bye. Thank you for watching tonight. We‘ll see you here again on Monday night. Until then, “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Have a great weekend.
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