Guests: Kent Jones, Gavin Newsom, David Rose, Diana DeGette, Elizabeth Warren>
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Hi, Keith. Don‘t worry, fine. Thank you, Keith.
Thank you for all that shoe-throwing. Actually, it‘s kind of a public service at this point. Thank you also at home for staying with us for the next hour.
There is a big fat hole in Vice President Cheney‘s defense of torture and we‘ve found it. Tonight, along with another 11th hour George Bush midnight morality regulation—a really good lame duck watch is coming up tonight.
But first, for the first time since the Rod Blagojevich scandal broke last Tuesday, there was not a single question from the press corps today to President-elect Barack Obama about the Illinois governor. No “Governor F-word” controversy in Obamaland today.
Why not? Because there‘s a new controversy. Yes. This one, crucially, is not something that his political opponents are trying to pin on him. This one is something that Obama has brought on himself. And the people up in arms, by and large, are not his critics, but his supporters or they were his supporters.
We learned yesterday and made fun of on this show last night, that the fact that President-elect Obama has chosen Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in California to deliver the invocation at Obama‘s inauguration next month, the spiritual clarion that convenes the ceremony that gives us the next president of the United States.
Why the controversy about Rick Warren? This might help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK WARREN, PASTOR: I‘m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I‘m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I‘m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?
WARREN: Oh, I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, I do. Oh, I do. I think that the prospect of a same-sex couple getting married is the equivalent of pedophilia and incest. Oh, I do. And now you see what the controversy is all about.
Americans who support gay rights are miffed about this choice, to say the least, which is probably to be expected. What may have been underestimated by the Obama folks who undoubtedly factored gay backlash into the decision to choice Rick Warren was just how much the gay community and its supporters are not in the mood to be kicked around again right now. During the presidential primaries, one truly memorable moment in the gay issues forum hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, came when out a rock-and-roller, Melissa Etheridge, confronted Senator Hillary Clinton about how the gay community felt they were treated by the Clinton administration even after gays and lesbians have been so supported of Bill Clinton. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LOGO TV)
MELISSA ETHERIDGE, MUSICIAN: Senator, I have a personal issue here. I remember when your husband was elected president, I actually came out publicly during his inaugural week. It was a very hopeful time for the gay community. For the first time, we were being recognized as American citizens. It was wonderful. We were very, very hopeful. In the years that followed, our hearts were broken. We were thrown under the bus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thrown under the bus. What she is referring to in part there, is the decision by Bill Clinton in 1996, when he was facing reelection, to sign the Defense of Marriage Act, an anti-gay marriage measure that was sent to him by the then-Republican Congress. It seemed clear at the time that the Republicans were hoping Clinton would veto the measure and then they could campaign against him on that basis in the election. Clinton decided instead to throw the gays under the bus and he won reelection. And the gay community learned a very hard lesson about real politics.
Well, this year, in the presidential primaries, none of the three leading Democratic contenders supported gay marriage. Barack Obama‘s own statements against gay marriage were used by proponents of that anti-gay marriage measure on the California ballot this year, Proposition Eight, which revoke existing marriage rights from same-sex couples. The view from under the bus right now is that a vocal, rather uncivil anti-gay religious leader has just been invited to lead the invocation at the inauguration of the next Democratic president.
President-elect Obama defended himself on the subject today at a press conference that, of course, was supposed to be about something totally different than this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. I would note that a couple of years ago, I was invited to Rick Warren‘s church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, not entirely contrary. You‘re against gay marriage, too.
But the big picture here is that the implication of Senator Obama‘s defense is that he is returning the favor, returning the invitation that Pastor Warren so generously offered to him when he invited Obama to Saddleback. But Obama is not inviting Rick Warren to his church or into his campaign or something. He‘s inviting him to the nation‘s capital, to convene the swearing in of the next president of the United States. The president-elect did not invite him to his home, he invited him, proverbially, to ours, the nation‘s, which has raised hackles in the gay community and among those who support gay rights across the country because it begs the question as to whether Obama thinks the right spiritual clarion for the nation to start his presidency is from a man who has been so immoderate in taking up his position in the culture war.
Rick Warren has compared abortion to the holocaust. As you‘ve heard, he has compared same-sex relationships to pedophilia and incest. He was a vocal proponent of the anti-gay marriage proposition in California, arguing falsely that allowing sex-same couples to be married would result in hate speech charges against people who disagreed with homosexuality. Pastor Rick Warren gets a lot of national media credit for highlighting the religious evangelical interest in non-traditional issues like climate change and genocide in Darfur.
But just because he talks about issues that American evangelicals don‘t frequently talk about doesn‘t mean he has anything other than a traditionally hard right perspective on those traditional and culture war issues that evangelicals really do like to talk about.
The Human Rights Campaign today responded to Warren‘s selection as follows. They said, it is “a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Reverend Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans. By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.” An open addressed letter to President-elect Obama.
Pastor Warren, himself, tonight issued a statement in his own defense. He said, quote, “I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly taking enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me with whom he doesn‘t agree on every issue to offer the invocation at his historic inaugural ceremony. Hopefully, individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.” Comparing gay relationships to child abuse is an admittedly strange model of civility, but that‘s his point.
In addition to the outrage aimed at Obama from the left, many on the right are angry as well—angry at Rick Warren for accepting the invitation. David Brody at the Christian Broadcasting Network says today that he “has been flooded with e-mails and most of them absolutely rip Pastor Warren for doing this.”
What do we left with here? We‘re left with the cold, hard, political fact that this is a lose-lose proposition for Barack Obama, the first big mistake of his post-election politicking. The Christian Broadcasting Network folks are proverbially loaded for bear against him anyway. They will see this choice as him picking the “climate change” guy.
And Obama supporters among centrists and progressives, well, they just dumped a big bucket of tarnish all over Obama‘s star power. I mean, human rights activists look back decades, centuries from now on the first presidential inauguration of an African-American, a landmark civil rights achievement, won‘t they be thinking, “Boy, what a great moment, but, what was that guy who compared homosexuality to incest doing there?”
Joining us now is San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who fought on the other side of the Proposition Eight fight in California against Pastor Warren, among others.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us tonight.
MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, (D) SAN FRANCISCO: It‘s going to be tough to follow you now, Rachel.
MADDOW: The thing is that I‘ve been walking around all day, doing all the things I need to do, thinking that screed in my head all day because I‘m really mad about this.
NEWSOM: Yes, it‘s a tough one.
MADDOW: Well, you know, you were heavily involved in the Prop Eight fight. You know Rick Warren as a lightning rod in the gay community for his views. If you are President-elect Obama in this situation, what‘s the political calculation here? Why pick such a divisive figure among such an important Democratic constituency?
NEWSOM: Well, I‘m a lousy political pundit but I am someone that‘s very familiar with Rick Warren and his work, not only because I‘m from California but because I‘ve had the opportunity on multiple occasions to meet Rick Warren. I‘ve had time to listen to him in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. And I do admire a lot of aspects of what he does preach on the issue of climate change, on the issue of HIV and AIDS, issue against torture and the issues that he is now beginning to advance on, elimination of poverty.
But as you said, that doesn‘t necessarily, in any way, shape or form allow us to condone his position on homosexuality broadly, not just same-sex marriage as you‘ve stated as well as stem cell research and abortion. And so, in that respect you‘re right. The politics of this are lousy for President-elect Barack Obama.
But again, he is someone that said he was going to reach across the divide and try to bring us together. And if he can do that in a way that sparks a dialogue and a substantive one at that, where we can begin to understand one another and begin to address our differences in a meaningful way, then maybe it‘s an opportunity.
MADDOW: You think that Warren might spark that dialogue? Or do you think that President-elect Obama might spark that dialogue?
NEWSOM: Well, President-elect Obama is clearly going to need to now to spark that dialogue.
MADDOW: Yes. I think he‘s already have.
NEWSOM: And I think Rick Warren, you know, and as I said, I know Rick Warren and I think he‘s a good human being. I disagree with him vehemently on a lot of these issues, as you know. And, obviously, for him to compare pedophilia, incest, and polygamy in the context of same-sex marriage is disgraceful, and he‘s no better than the Falwells, the Dobsons, Phelps (ph). He is a different type of evangelical preacher.
And, obviously, he is one of the most well-known and popular in the world, not just in the United States. And so, I think that went to your question of political calculation. But again, it‘s an opportunity, if we make it one.
But make no mistake—I don‘t think it was a good idea under the circumstances. And the folks out here in California, that just had their rights taken away, to now have a person that was one of the leaders in that constitutional amendment to strip people‘s rights up there front and center to kick this inaugural, obviously, makes it more difficult to, as you say, enjoy the festivities.
MADDOW: Let many ask you about one other sort of non-social issue about Rick Warren that hasn‘t really risen to the foreign terms of the controversy but I think it might. And that is that he has openly advocated that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, should be assassinated. That‘s.
MADDOW: You can advocate whatever you want, right? But if there was an inauguration ceremony in Iran with a radical cleric calling for the assassination of George Bush, we might take it personally or more than personally.
MADDOW: I can‘t imagine they have factored that in, maybe?
NEWSOM: No, I can‘t imagine they did, either. And candidly, I‘m proud of the gay and lesbian community for standing out. Look, it‘s one thing if we can disagree that now, somehow, separate is equal. I have a fundamental different philosophy and I hope when all the politicians come on your show next year in the 55th anniversary and we celebrate and commemorate Brown versus board of education, and we talk about its core principals that we challenge some of those same elected officials, why they now believe separate is equal for the gay community but no one else.
But you‘re right. If these were a constitutional amendment that Reverend Warren advocated to take rights away from women or protected classes, I‘m not necessarily sure he‘d be front and center in inaugural. There is a point where the gay and lesbian community rightfully may feel that their rights can be trampled upon from a political calculation. And I think you‘re feeling and you‘re really sensing it across not only the state of California, the rest of the country that the gay community saying enough.
NEWSOM: We want equal rights not just rhetorically. We don‘t want just some rights; we want the same as others. And I don‘t think that‘s a wrong point of view and I don‘t think it‘s wrong-headed for them to be outraged. Then, again, I do see this as a potential opportunity and I want to give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt because we need to. He is our next president and I‘m still a huge supporter.
MADDOW: One last very quick question. You‘ve identified this essentially as a political mistake by Barack Obama. If you could prescribe to him a way to make it up to people, is there way?
NEWSOM: Well, he.
MADDOW: Obviously, he‘s not going to rescind this invitation. I think he ought to. Is there one other quick thing that he could do to make people feel better about him?
NEWSOM: Well, I think, there‘s a lot of things he could do to reach out to the LBGT community and obviously, moving forward with his commitments on “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” and other efforts in the federal level to equalize the disparity that still exists in states where there‘s still not a hate crime legislation that‘s been consistently administered state by state. There are a lot of things he could do.
And you know what? I‘m confident he will do it. I still have a lot of optimism. This was not his best choice. But again, I know Rick Warren. He is not a bad person. He‘s wrong on these issues, from my perspective. It‘s an opportunity to engage him and others, and I think that what we should be doing now.
MADDOW: Oh, I‘m so looking forward to the continued engagement. I can‘t even tell you.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, it‘s really nice to have you on the show. Thank you for your time.
NEWSOM: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Vice President Cheney has defended torture, again, saying it would have been unethical and immoral not to do everything the administration did after 9/11 in the name of national security, including, presumably, waterboarding. Tell that to “Vanity Fair” contributing editor David Rose, who has looked in detail into the awkward question of whether torture actually, you know, works.
And, that wrestle royale for the bailout money. Will there be any referees? The chair of the congressional oversight panel, Elizabeth Warren returns to the show a little later. She‘s one of the precious few people out there involved in the oversight of the bailout who talks anything that sounds like sense.
MADDOW: Last night on this program, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, said what we know about the treatment of prisoners in American custody during the Bush administration, indicates to him that it‘s time for a commission to determine whether there should be indictments of Bush administration officials for torture.
The “New York Times” editorial page follows up today, saying that Levin‘s committee has laid out a strong case for criminal charges against Donald Rumsfeld, his top lawyer William Haynes and possibly also, Alberto Gonzales, as well as Dick Cheney‘s top lawyer, David Addington. “The Times” is calling for the appointment of a prosecutor now.
And so, the lame duck lazy circlings of an administration that was hoping to close with a few quite midnight regulations and pardon here or there has instead swung around to defending torture all the time. What a bummer. And now, they‘re getting all high-minded about it.
Here is President Bush on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WEDNESDAY, FOX NEWS)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I‘ve had, you know, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is that I didn‘t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We will have to take him at his word on this soul stuff.
Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney told the “Washington Times” today it would have been, quote, “unethical and immoral” to not do what this administration did after 9/11 in the name of national security. He said this, quote, “Was it torture? I don‘t believe it was torture. We spent a great deal of time and effort getting legal advice, legal opinion out of the Justice Department‘s Office of Legal Counsel. And I think it produced the desired results. I think it‘s directly responsible for the fact that we‘ve been able to avoid or defeat further attacks against the homeland for 7 ½ years.”
The vice president is saying here that he got legal cover to take the name “torture” off of things that had always been called “torture” before because the country just needed that information, only torture could get that information for us and we needed that information to keep us safe.
Here is the complicating question for Vice President Cheney‘s defense:
What if torture doesn‘t actually work? It‘s a question that we can know the answer to. It is knowable.
This is what Cheney told ABC this week about waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MONDAY, ABC NEWS/”WORLD NEWS TONIGHT”)
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY, UNITED STATES: There was a period of time there, three or four years ago when—about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from that one source.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, a former senior CIA official who read all those interrogation reports on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he told “Vanity Fair” this week that, quote, “90 percent of it was bleeping bull bleep.” So, 90 percent of half of everything we knew about al Qaeda was “bleeping bull bleep”?
How about this same report in “Vanity Fair”? Quote, “A former
Pentagon analyst adds KSM, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed produced no actionable intelligence.” None.
So, Dick Cheney says we had to call torture legal because we needed to
torture because torture gave us such useful intelligence. The people in
charge of making use of the information that was tortured out of these guys
say that information was worthless, of no utility, whatsoever. At best, 90 percent bullpuckey.
Joining us now is David Rose, who is a contributing editor at “Vanity Fair.” He‘s the man who interviewed the intelligent sources I just quoted. He has just published a deeply reported piece called “Tortured Reasoning” for VanityFair.com.
Mr. Rose, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
DAVID ROSE, VANITY FAIR: It‘s my pleasure.
MADDOW: You‘ve heard what the vice president said about the importance of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Your sources are directly contradicting the vice president here. How close were your sources to the facts here? How close were they to the intelligence gained from this interrogation?
ROSE: They were very close to it. They read the reports. They read the transcripts of the interrogations and they were aware of the operations that were taking place, the actions that were being taken against al Qaeda during this period. And their assessment is that intelligence from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had very little to do with the actions that the intelligence community was generating by the military and so forth, as a result of all the intelligence that was coming into the intelligence community at that time.
MADDOW: That—your findings and what the sources told you have huge political implications here in the U.S. because the defense of torture, at this point in the political game, at this point in the Bush administration, in these waning days of that administration, is really boiled down to the idea that torture was necessary, that it was effective. I know that your sources have to be aware of that as we all are. Why do you think that they chose to talk to you about it?
ROSE: Well, I think, actually, a lot of people in the intelligence community feel deeply angry and betrayed by the damage that the Bush administration has done to the CIA and other intelligence agencies because of their use of torture. They feel that the mission that they had, the belief, the moral they had as the saw it as the good guys, has been completely eroded by the use of torture.
And I think what makes them madder than anything else is that if you go back to the beginning of this debate, right after 9/11 when the CIA started taking the faithful steps that would lead it to use torture, nobody paused for a second and said, “Well, hang on. Does this actually work?”
All the expertise built up, not only in the United States, but going back centuries in Europe and in the entire developed (ph) world, taught us that torture is, in fact, a very ineffective method of getting information from a detainee or suspect. And the most experienced counterterrorist investigators who I interviewed in researching this article, are unanimous in saying they got much better information from regular, legal, constitutional methods, rapport building, developing a relationship with the source. That way, they got really good information.
MADDOW: One of the things that you write about in this latest piece for “Vanity Fair” is the prospect that there was so much false information provided by people who were being tortured, that that information, those false leads, should actually also be seen as harm because they resulted in the intelligence agencies squandering resources, wasting time chasing down false leads, right?
ROSE: Absolutely. According to one FBI agent, a very experienced counterterrorism agent, he says that about half of the time he and his colleagues were spending was chasing down false leads generated by the use of torture.
MADDOW: Mr. Rose, one last question for you. You also asked the FBI director, Robert Mueller, if any attacks on America have been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through torture, through this enhanced interrogation techniques. What was his answer to you?
ROSE: Well, he was very reluctant to answer the question. He looked deeply uneasy. And he said, “Well, as far as I‘m aware, we have not disrupted any plot as a result of information gained in this fashion.” And, of course, a number of serious plots have been disrupted in America, and a number of very serious plots have also been disrupted in Britain, some, you know, really credible plots with big bombs and caches of explosives and so forth, people direct dealing to al Qaeda.
I turned (ph) to Peter Clarke, who was the Britain‘s chief counterterrorist police officer, between 2002 and the middle of 2008. And he says to me, too, that no actionable intelligence that led to the disruption of the any of the very serious plots in the United Kingdom came from torture, either.
MADDOW: You can‘t disrupt terrorist plots. You just can‘t necessarily do it through torture which begs the question: why torture.
David Rose, contributing editor at “Vanity Fair,” the article is called “Tortured Reasoning.” It‘s at VanityFair.com right now. Thank you so much for your time tonight, sir.
ROSE: Thank you, very much.
MADDOW: Would you give someone who fundamentally opposes abortion, artificial insemination, or birth control, heck, blood transfusions, antibiotics, would you give somebody who opposed those medical procedures, and medical processes and prescriptions, would you give somebody who opposed those things the power to deny those things to everyone who isn‘t opposed to them? That‘s what the Bush administration did today with its new “right of conscience” regulation. We will have more on this in sneaky, late-in-the-game move in our lame duck watch.
MADDOW: President-elect Obama went ahead and said it out loud today about our super-duper economic quagmire. He said, quote, “The American people right now are feeling frustrated that there‘s not a lot of adult supervision out there.
Coming up, an adult - we found one. The chair of the Congressional Oversight panel for the bailout, Elizabeth Warren, will be back on the show to talk about what can be salvaged and what has to happen next.
First, though, it‘s time for a few underreported, holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. Actually, some of this news is from very close to home for me. My whole family is here, at Rockefeller Center, watching the show tonight from somewhere over there. Hi, you, guys.
They are in town because my partner, Suzanne, has an art show opening tomorrow in New York City about which I am very proud. The newsy part of this is that two of the actual physical houses to which my family will return after this trip to the city are in the belt of tens of thousands of American homes that have had no electrical power or only intermittent power for nearly a week now.
The ice storms that hit New England last Thursday knocked out power initially to more than a million people. Now, it‘s down to tens of thousands of people without power. But still, tens of thousands of people without power at this time of year.
And when one of them is your partner‘s mom and one is yourself, the sense of urgency about needing to get that power back on, not to mention the heat back on, is quite acute.
Adding to the sense of urgency for so many people across the northeast is the fact that another big couple of walloping storms are expected Friday, tomorrow, and Sunday. Big snow events are hard enough to deal with at the best of times. They are potentially dire when power lines are already down across huge populated swathes of the affected areas.
The crews working to get stuff back up and running are doing yeoman‘s work. Make them some cookies if your oven works. But wouldn‘t it be awesome if our infrastructure was resilient enough that the United States of America could endure a good old-fashioned December ice storm without rendering a large area of the country uninhabitable for weeks afterwards? Wouldn‘t that be kind of a nice sign of national strength?
Next up, a less personal take on the same issue, if we wanted to find the issue here as freezing water falling from the sky. In the Des Moines, Iowa suburb of Ankeny, road crews responded to a storm there this past Tuesday by making a whole town smell like really awesome pizza.
A spice producer that is based in Ankeny, Tone Brothers Spices - they found themselves with a lot of extra garlic salt in their inventory this year, about nine tons of garlic salt to be precise. It was all destined for the landfill.
It occurred to the company executives that their hometown might be able to use the delicious, savory topping as a filler to mix with their road salt. Road salt stockpiles have been hard to come by this season.
Sure enough, the town accepted. The city mixed the garlic salt with the regular road salt. They said it works fine. The only side effects so far, some drivers say it makes them hungry. And one driver snow plow driver told local reporters it has made his dog very interested in his pants when he gets home from work.
MADDOW: Earlier this month, when Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli told Congress that he needed several billion dollars just to survive the year - yes, it turns out, not a bluff. Starting Friday, as in starting tomorrow, Chrysler is closing all 30 of its plants for at least a month. And the forced extended holiday break thing, it‘s happening at Ford and GM as well.
Bad news - credit crunch plus worldwide layoffs equals nobody is buying anybody‘s cars.
But wait a minute. What about that auto bailout bridge loan idea? Wasn‘t President Bush supposed to be floating the Big Three some of that bank bailout cash to prevent, sort of, exactly what seems to be happening right now from happening?
Michigan Senator Carl Levin certainly seemed to labor under that assumption when I asked him about it last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): There was an agreement that was reached between the president of the United States and Democrats in the Congress. And it is my belief that the president should comply and live up to the agreement that he reached.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. A deal was made, Mr. President, so, where‘s the money?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: First, let me take a step back.
I haven‘t made up my mind yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But you shook hands with the congressional Democrats and said you have. The still-president did say he‘s considering a quote, “orderly bankruptcy for the automakers to prevent shock to the economy.” Nothing more soothing to a jumpy economy than an orderly bankruptcy.
And he said he would press for more concessions from the unions, of course. Is this some sort of farewell prank? “Sorry about the million more jobs lost, everybody. Said I‘d help, but now, maybe not? I‘ll be in Dallas. Lose my phone number”?
Now, about the Wall Street crisis, want to hear something funny, as in funny bad, as in funny horrifying about the guys we did just load down with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money?
Turns out, they might have been using what were essentially fake profit margins to justify huge personal bonuses. Like, bigger than their salaries bonuses.
All those thieving skimps are choir boys compared to this guy - Bernard Madoff. It‘s probably “Madoff,” but that‘s too close to my own name, so I would prefer to call him “Madoff.”
He‘s the guy accused of the fraud of all frauds, the $50 billion Ponzi scheme disaster borne of his own greed and, what‘s the word? Evil?
A list of people, pension funds, towns and charities Madoff ruined keeps getting longer and more infuriating. And in an interview with “Talking Points Memo” today, a former FCC lawyer runs through the red flags that maybe should have tipped someone off about Madoff‘s schemes.
The one that just screams out among many, “Madoff‘s outside auditor was a three-person firm operating out of a small suburban office. And one of the three employees was a secretary and another was a 78-year-old.”
So the guys getting the bailout money have been gambling with vast amounts of borrowed company capital in order to get big personal payouts. And the oversight of this industry is so bad it doesn‘t blink at secretive black box algorithm and 78-year-old auditor. Help. Somebody.
Joining us now is Elizabeth Warren, chair of the bailout‘s
Congressional Oversight Panel and a professor at Harvard Law School.
Professor Warren, thanks so much for coming back on the show.
ELIZABETH WARREN, CHAIRPERSON, BAILOUT OVERSIGHT PANEL: I‘m glad to be here.
MADDOW: At a bailout hearing in Nevada this week, you said there‘s little evidence of what effect these billions of dollars are having on us. Did anything you learn from the people in Nevada at that hearing change your mind? Have the last few days been illuminating?
WARREN: Yes, it‘s been illuminating. It tells me that this problem is bigger than anybody in Washington wants to admit. It‘s tough out there. And it also tells me that when things start to go bad, they go very, very bad.
You know, we‘re talking about an economy in Las Vegas where now half the people with mortgages are “underwater” is the term, perfect for the desert, right, we thought people who have the highest foreclosure rate in the country. And then, it just starts echoing out from there.
That means that there are no construction jobs. That means people are getting laid off. That means fewer people can pay their mortgages. There‘s more stress on the food banks. Nobody can straighten this mess out.
You know, we hear from people whom we go on a road trip like this, that what‘s really happening is good people are out there. They are trying to pay their mortgages. They‘re trying to make their food bills and their credit card bills and they just can‘t do it.
And the answer, at least, seems to be so far, that we‘re going to take $700 billion and we‘re going to put it into some banks and we‘re going to ask for very little accounting and somehow, soon, it‘s magically going to fix those problems.
MADDOW: It seems like throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at any type of problem should have an effect on that problem. Why do you think it is that nothing is happening? Is this a bank problem? Is it an oversight problem? Is it an overall strategy problem?
WARREN: Well, I think it‘s a strategy problem. You know, $700 billion thrown at a problem only works if you actually aim it at the problem. You‘ve got to decide where it is.
Do keep in mind the principal strategy that the treasury is using right now is let‘s put billions of dollars more cash into banks that are already solvent. So if they thought money, let‘s give them more money. It‘s the main strategy.
And you know, it just takes a little to try to understand how that is going to help families all across the country - families who are facing foreclosure, families who can‘t pay their credit card debts, families who are losing their jobs.
MADDOW: On the subject of the bailout, Secretary Paulson has changed his explanations of what he is doing and apparently changed his strategies. He wanted to buy up troubled assets, then he wanted to buy stock in banks. He wanted to invest capital directly in banks. Now, he wants the rest of the bailout money. Should he get it?
WARREN: Well, you know, reasonable people change directions when facts change. I absolutely get that. You start out with plan one and something different changes and you‘ve got to go over to plan two. But that only works if you explain what were the critical facts that changed.
Give us the information so we understand why plan one doesn‘t work anymore and explain to us what plan two is. I think the key thing here is these guys are not masters of the universe. They are not people who are omniscient. They are people who are fallible like the rest of us.
And what would help is if they would explain what their plan is and how it is that they want to go from this point to this point to this point using our $700 billion.
MADDOW: Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the bailout and Harvard Law School professor, thank you so much for joining us tonight. We are not going to let you go. We are going to have you back frequently. I hope you don‘t mind.
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks. Leave it to the Bush administration to pass a regulation that will result in healthcare professionals not providing healthcare. It‘s got a great double speak name - it‘s the Right of Conscience Rule. Be afraid. Our “Lame Duck Watch” is next.
MADDOW: The Amish Bus Driver Rule is this. If you are Amish, you surely have the inalienable right to not operate an automobile. And consequently, you will not be hired to drive a bus. Seems like a fair deal, right?
Well, with 32 days left, in the Bush administration, the Amish Bus Driver Rule is being broken. It‘s time for “Lame Duck Watch,” because somebody‘s got to do it.
Today, the Bush administration issued a new rule that permits anyone who works in a medical facility from the chief of surgery to the janitor to refuse to participate in any procedure they believe violates their personal, moral or religious beliefs - say abortion or contraception or artificial insemination.
The rule empowers federal health officials to cut off federal funding to any of the nearly 600,000 healthcare facilities nationwide if they do not accommodate employees who exercise their right of conscience. When they say healthcare professionals, I really do mean anyone - anyone remotely involved in healthcare, trainees, volunteers, the person cleaning the medical instruments, the person sweeping the floors.
Under existing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) law, doctors could refuse to do procedures. But now, whole healthcare organizations can make it their policy to not do certain procedures. So a doctor could be willing and able to perform an abortion, say. But his company‘s or hospital‘s policy could forbid him doing so.
A receptionist who morally opposes abortion or contraception or anything else that you were seeking could refuse to make you an appointment. The 127-page rule will cost $44 million to implement. The Obama administration says that they have taken notice of the rule, according to the “Wall Street Journal.”
Officials in the incoming Obama administration have begun considering how and when to undo it. But reversing the rule is probably a lengthy process. Until the Supreme Court rules otherwise, abortion is legal in this country. In his waning moments as president, George Bush has imposed the moral opposition of his core constituency on the rest of the country by making the procedure as difficult as possible for those who would seek it out legally.
Joining us now is Colorado Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette. She is the co-chair of the house pro-choice caucus, and she is the vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over these issues. Congresswoman DeGette, thank you so much for joining us.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO), CO-CHAIR OF THE HOUSE PRO-CHOICE CAUCUS: It‘s great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: If an American woman is prescribed birth control pills by her doctor, and she goes to have that prescription filled at a pharmacy, and the person ringing up that sale, handling the insurance paperwork says it is religiously opposed to birth control.
Under this new rule, is it possible that that American woman will be denied of the opportunity to get the things she has just been prescribed?
DEGETTE: Yes, it is. What‘s frightening about this new rule is that it is written so broadly that the cashier over at Wal-Mart could say, “I‘m opposed to birth control. I‘m not going to ring you out.” That‘s how broad this bill is.
If the pharmacist is a Christian Scientist and opposed to giving a child antibiotics, they could refuse to give that prescription. And so it‘s just really so broad that it denies patients healthcare. And I‘m worried about particularly rural areas and underserved areas, minority areas, that this could be a real problem for patients.
MADDOW: One of the things that I find very surprising about this new regulation is that it seems to me that the way it‘s written, a healthcare worker or anybody employed at a healthcare facility who had religious objections to any particular services would not have to disclose that upfront to patients, but also to his or her employer.
So it would be like a surprise every time. You get three sevens. You‘re playing a slot machine. Congratulations, you get offered birth control. Next time, you have no idea whether or not you‘d be offered the same service.
DEGETTE: Well, that‘s exactly right. And there‘s no standard as to what that would be, what kind of employee is it? Right now, under the current civil rights laws, what they say is an employer has to make reasonable accommodation to an employee for their religion.
And so what would happen - and I think that‘s appropriate. Let‘s say an employee goes to their employer and says, “I‘m against birth control.” Well, in that case, then, the employer would have to make an accommodation to find somebody else to fill that prescription.
But here, it leaves it up to the employee. So the employee can simply say, “You know, I‘m against giving this to you for religious reasons. I‘m not going to do it.” Now, that seems to be quite dangerous.
MADDOW: And it would prohibit, in this case, the employer from taking that person out of that position. It would also not require the employer to make accommodation for the patient so that the patient could get that information or that service from somebody else, correct?
DEGETTE: Right, right. I mean, all of these attempts are attempts to reduce the - and, clearly, they‘re targeted at birth control. But all of these drugs that they‘re targeted at are legal. I always have to remind people drugs like the morning-after pill and even RU-486, the chemically induced abortion - all these drugs are legal.
So for people, employees just to take matters into their own hands and start playing God and decide who gets drugs and who doesn‘t, that‘s really a dangerous precedent.
MADDOW: The press release that you issued today on this subject says this
new rule goes - obviously is targeted at a woman‘s right to choose. But it
does go beyond that. It goes also to the issue of contraception. It also
goes to other non-reproductive healthcare issues. I wonder what you meant
If, for example, there was a doctor who was providing HIV care and decided that because of religious beliefs he or she would not provide HIV treatment to anybody who was gay, who was HIV positive. Would that be covered here?
DEGETTE: Absolutely. I mean, there‘s no standards whatsoever. Or, again, the cashier at the pharmacy - if they decided that HIV was God‘s punishment or something and they didn‘t want to give them the drugs, then that person could make that decision.
It‘s just so broad, it‘s really disturbing. And I think you hit the nail on the head. It would actually allow employees of healthcare facilities to discriminate against patients just on a case-by-case basis.
MADDOW: Last question and perhaps this is the most important question, how could this be reversed? Could this be reversed in an executive fashion by the new administration? Could it be reversed through Congress? What do you think will happen?
DEGETTE: Well, since this rule has gone through an entire rulemaking process, it would be difficult for the administration to simply reverse it by executive order. But Congresswoman Louise Slaughter from New York and I have already introduced legislation to reverse the rule.
We were going to try to bring it up in that very short session we had last week, but we thought, well, what‘s the point? President Bush will just veto it. So I imagine if this rule actually does get finalized, we‘ll bring that up early in the next Congress.
But you know, the comment period - the rule doesn‘t take effect until tomorrow. So if people are outraged about this, they should call the White House and tell the president to put a stop to this.
MADDOW: Now, that‘s an idea. We will put the White House phone number at Rachel.MSNBC.com today just in case people can‘t find their phone books.
Colorado Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette, House Pro-Choice Caucus co-chair, vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, thank you so much for your time tonight.
DEGETTE: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Coming up tonight on “COUNTDOWN,” humorist Harry Shearer will join Keith to talk about Bush and how he‘s bailed on the auto bailout.
Next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. It turns out the biggest problem in the universe is not Rick Warren.
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. If you‘ve got plans for Easter Sunday, April 13th, 2036, you might want to just, you know, pencil them in. Here‘s why.
A blue ribbon panel of scientists told the committee created by the National Academy of Scientists that there‘s an asteroid out there, 1,000 feet wide and weighing 50 million tons that they think just maybe might hit the earth on that fateful April day 28 years from now. The impact would cause a global cataclysm, to say nothing of the effect on your Easter brunch.
Scientists say the chances of the asteroid actually hitting earth is only one in 44,000. Nonetheless, President Bush is using the asteroid as the reason he‘s not bailing out the automakers. What‘s the point? Big rock coming. Won‘t need cars. Boom.
Next, it‘s the 45th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic flick “The Birds.” To celebrate, Mattel has created a Tippi Hedren doll they‘re calling Bird Barbie. There it is.
Mattel warns the Bird Barbie is not necessarily suitable for little
girls. Older girls, however, will learn it‘s OK for a controlling older
man to turn you into a fetish object and then terrorize you on camera under
the pretense of advancing your career. On the movie there -
Finally, on “The Price is Right,” a contestant named Terry made his bid during the “Show Case Showdown.” You know, if your bid is within $100, you win both showcases. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW CAREY, HOST, “THE PRICE IS RIGHT”: Terry, you had the trailer, jukebox, bid $23,743. Actual retail price $23,743. You got it right on the nose.
TERRY, CONTESTANT, “THE PRICE IS RIGHT”: What? What!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: He guessed it exactly right, down to the dollar. I want that guy in charge of all the TARP money. Bailout Czar Terry - I want him. Make it happen.
MADDOW: One in 44,000.
JONES: Yes, it‘s not that much now, is it?
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Thanks for watching tonight at home. We‘ll see you here tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.
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