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'1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" for Thursday, January 8

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Jim Miklaszewski, Mike Murphy, Jeanne Cummings, Pat Buchanan, Clifford May, Richard Wolffe, Pat Buchanan, David Corn, Gary Walters, Joe Klein

DAVID SHUSTER, HOST:  Tonight, Barack Obama‘s biggest economic speech yet.  He says we need a massive stimulus or else.  Top Republicans aren‘t so sure and prepare to slow things down.  Also, the criticism of Israel‘s war on Hamas.  Why is the Jewish state being held to a higher standard? 

Later, the Pentagon‘s insulting letter to families of soldiers killed in Iraq.  Somebody needs to be fired. 

Plus, our “Muckraker of the Day” has written a must read about the Bush legacy and the administration‘s most despicable act.

Finally, the Bush photo-op today with second graders.  The president spoke about his house, his next house, and left the kids and us bewildered.

All tonight on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.

Twelve days until the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. 

Welcome to the show, everyone.  I‘m David Shuster. 

President-elect Obama kicked off the campaign to sell his trillion-dollar stimulus package to Congress and the American people, making his first formal speech since election night.  Today at George Mason University in Virginia, Mr. Obama laid out his plan to create three million new jobs, investing in infrastructure, greening the country‘s energy outlets, and modernizing federal buildings and schools.  He called on lawmakers to move quickly, working nights and weekends if necessary, to pass a stimulus package, and he predicted dire economic circumstances if they don‘t. 

But even as he called on lawmakers to put the country‘s interests ahead of party, this line may have ruffled a few Republican feathers. 


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT:  This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business cycle.  And we won‘t get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come or relying on the worn out dogmas of the past.  We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington, D.C. 


SHUSTER:  On Capitol Hill today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would work to get a stimulus package by next month, but warned the president-elect not to overreach. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL ®, MINORITY LEADER:  We started off here talking about this year‘s deficit, $1.2 trillion.  The last thing we ought to do in this package is make long-term, systemic changes that make the spending problem even worse. 


SHUSTER:  Also on the Hill today, the prognosis is good for Tom Daschle to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services.  He was the first of President-elect Obama‘s cabinet picks to go before the Senate firing line, a ritual colloquially known as confirmation hearing, the kind of hearing that makes spouses cry.  Today, led by Chairman Edward Kennedy, whose grueling questioning of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito two years ago ended in tears. 

So, would Daschle suffer a similar fate? 


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I particularly welcome our very special witness today, a valued friend and a former colleague.  Tom Daschle is a leader of great integrity and strong dedication. 

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT:  I want to commend the president.  He couldn‘t have chosen a better person. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president made a very wise choice. 

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND:  It‘s really with great enthusiasm that we see you. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I am delighted that you are taking on this agency. 


I want to work with you. 

I would really like to work very closely with you. 


SHUSTER:  And so Daschle cleared his first confirmation hurdle and Health and Education Committee members sent him on his way, wishing him godspeed in the way only a senator can. 


MIKULSKI:  We once talked about a colleague who had a bit of a swagger, and you said he was all hat and no cattle.  When I looked at the 67,000 federal employees you have, you have a lot of cattle and now we have to get you a hat. 


SHUSTER:  Whatever that means. 

Daschle will face the Senate Finance Committee later this month before his nomination goes to the full Senate for a vote. 

And speaking of walking to a victory, Barack Obama‘s now officially the president-elect of the United States, courtesy of Dick Cheney. 


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The whole number of electors appointed to vote for president of the United States is 538, of which a majority is 270.  Barack Obama, of the state of Illinois, has received for president of the United States 365 votes. 



SHUSTER:  Today, the Senate president stood beside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, respectively the first and second in the presidential line of succession, and certified the election votes from each state.  The veep faithfully performed his constitutional duty with all the mirth and animation we‘ve come to know these past eight years. 

At one point, when Pelosi jumped up for another standing ovation, Cheney started looking around for Patrick Leahy to yell at.  Actually, he didn‘t move at all, not even a twitch.  Very strange. 

True, it probably wasn‘t the easiest task for Mr. Cheney but, remember, it could have been worse. 


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The whole number of the electors appointed to vote for the president of the United States is 538, of which a majority is 270.  George W. Bush, of the state of Texas, has received for president of the United States 271 votes.  Al Gore, of the state of Tennessee, has received 266 votes. 


SHUSTER:  Ouch. 

But being a president-elect doesn‘t guarantee you can get a room in this town, at least not when President George W. Bush is a concierge.  Despite the warm photo-op yesterday, today we‘re learning more about the insulting manner Obama was kept from Blair House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue‘s swanky guest quarters across the street. 

The incoming first family was denied early access to Blair House because President Bush had offered it to former Australian prime minister John Howard, a zealot supporter of the Iraq war who started a firestorm in 2007 for saying al Qaeda was rooting for Obama. 


JOHN HOWARD, FMR. AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER:  If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March, 2008, and pray as many times as possible for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats. 


SHUSTER:  Howard is staying just one night, January the 12th, the only night the Blair House will be in use.  Yet, because of that, the Obama family has had to stay in a hotel until they move temporarily into the Blair House five days before inauguration. 

A footnote to Howard‘s attack on Obama.  That same year, Howard was defeated by current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  Shortly after Howard‘s ludicrous comments, Rudd took to the floor of parliament and absolutely destroyed him for what he said.  YouTube it; you won‘t be sorry.

But back to the USA, today Barack Obama focused on the economy and the integral role of government in helping all those Americans who have lost their jobs simply because of that. 


OBAMA:  We cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth.  But at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.  Only government can break the cycle that are crippling our economy. 


SHUSTER:  Republican leaders in Congress offered cautious bipartisanship in response, agreeing that some immediate stimulus is needed but wary of systemic changes.  But will GOP good will still be around by Valentine‘s Day, when Congress is expected to put the stimulus package to a vote? 

Joining us now, Jeanne Cummings, the chief money correspondent for Politico, and Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist and NBC News analyst. 

Mike, let‘s start with you.  Republicans asking him to go slow, but there‘s really nothing they can do to stop this, is there? 

MIKE MURPHY, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Well, I think they have the bully pulpit.  They can kind of whip up the country a bit, though I think the Republican instinct is to work with President-elect Obama. 

I think Obama made a very shrewd move in including some tax cuts and tax reform in the package.  I think he‘s looking for a central compromise, and I think the appropriate role for the Republicans is to be the watchdog to make sure the good idea of stimulus doesn‘t turn into the bad idea of a big pork-fest or ridiculous spending that will burden us for a long time. 

It can‘t be a big liberal spending program under the cloak of

stimulus.  It has to make common sense from the middle, and I think Obama -

I think it‘s going to work out, actually. 

SHUSTER:  Jeanne, you mentioned just a few minutes ago off camera that Barack Obama is a gambler as evidenced by this.  What did you mean? 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO:  Well, he‘s—in addition to trying to stimulate the economy, what he is putting in this stimulus package are down payments on some of his biggest campaign promises.  And so this isn‘t just a stimulus bill about a short-term recovery, this is a long-term gamble on how the economy will move in the future.  And it‘s an opportunity for him to start delivering on those promises. 

SHUSTER:  Mike, some of the Democrats today came out and started criticizing the aspect of the plan, the 40 percent that would go to tax cuts.  You can already see the contours of this.  The Democrats want all of this to be—or at least most of it to be on government spending, the Republicans want as much of it as possible to be on tax cuts. 

Where is the middle? 

MURPHY:  Right.  Well, I think Obama has been very clever in leaning into the Democrats a little bit. 

I mean,  one of the first lessons when you‘re a president is make sure you don‘t let the majority in the Congress take over running the city.  So even though it‘s his own party, there‘s a natural institutional stress (ph) between the president and the majority in Congress.  So I think Obama, building his own center coalition between some Democrats and Republicans, is the right way to go.  Otherwise, he‘s just going to be the tax collector for a liberal majority in the Congress, and that‘ll engulf his presidency. 

SHUSTER:  Jeanne, your thoughts? 

CUMMINGS:  Well, I agree with Mike.  And also, it‘s worth keeping in mind that he did campaign on these middle class tax cuts.  And so it‘s a way that he can build a bridge to the Republican Party and keep the campaign promise that he made out on the trail.  So he was careful even back then to sort of modify his economic plan in a way that is now serving him well. 

SHUSTER:  Mike, where do you see the fight being, if there is going to be a big fight? 

MURPHY:  Well, I think the infrastructure thing is tricky on a couple of levels.  One, there was a good story actually on Politico about the environmental wing of the Democratic Party being a little worried about infrastructure spending versus the governors of both parties, frankly, who are dying for infrastructure money.  And so there would be a bit of a fight there. 

The other fight is, what is infrastructure?  You know, the line between smart infrastructure, capital spending, which the country badly needs, and pork spending on dumb projects, is a pretty thin, murky line.  So it‘s the administration of it. 

If Obama does capital spending on real projects that help the economy, if he even looks for a little bit of a compromise on some of the labor regulations about how public works projects are funded so not everything turns into another big dig, I think a lot of Republicans will support him on that.  And all of the Republicans are going to like sensible tax cuts. 

So I see a middle path where I think both the Obama and the country can be a big winner here. 

SHUSTER:  Mike Murphy, Republican strategist and NBC News analyst, and Jeanne Cummings, chief money correspondent for Politico, thank you both.  We appreciate it. 

Up next, the war of words over the war.  As Israeli fighters continue their assault on Hamas, there is new criticism of the Jewish state. 

Plus, wait until you hear what the Pentagon did to the families of soldiers who lost their lives serving our country.  We promise it‘ll make you shake your head at the least. 

Plus, Senator John Kerry is about to have a very lonely week.

But don‘t worry, Senator.  We here at 1600 have figured out a way to show you a little love.


SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600.

This evening at the United Nations, western diplomats and Arab states reached an agreement on a draft resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent today in meetings at the U.N. and on the phone with the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, trying to come to agreement on how to characterize any demand. 

Earlier today, for the first time since Israel‘s strikes on Gaza began 13 days ago, rockets were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel.  And the United Nations suspended its humanitarian operations in Gaza after a convoy came under fire killing the driver. 

At a news conference yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama faced more questions on his silence about the conflict. 


OBAMA:  Look, the—I will repeat what I‘ve said before.  We can‘t have two administrations running foreign policy at the same time.  We simply can‘t do it. 

The silence is not as a consequence of a lack of concern.  In fact, it‘s not silence.  It has—I‘ve explained very clearly exactly what institutional constraints I‘m under when it comes to this issue. 


SHUSTER:  Turning us now to talk about Obama‘s approach and the world‘s harsh criticism of Israel, Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Pat Buchanan, an MSNBC political analyst. 

Pat, we knocked this around the other night, Obama‘s silence.  I want to start on a different point. 

A lot of people have criticized Israel for its disproportionate response.  And yet, after 9/11, the United States went into Afghanistan and killed a lot of people.  Some would argue a lot more than were killed with 9/11. 

What‘s the difference? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, the difference is, in my judgment, Afghanistan—al Qaeda was responsible for bringing down those towers.  If the Afghans had dealt with them, given us Osama bin Laden, we would not have gone in.  We had a justification that was an act of war. 

The Israelis have been hit with, for six months, with these little rockets which didn‘t kill anybody.  It was outrageous, cruel and stupid, and they triggered a Blitzkrieg against the Palestinians in Gaza, which in my judgment is an Israeli concentration camp where 1.5 million people are locked up, cannot come out or go in.  They‘ve been controlling food, electricity, fuel, and the innocent people in Gaza are the ones suffering. 

SHUSTER:  A concentration camp, Pat?  Doesn‘t that diminish the significance of the real concentration camps? 

BUCHANAN:  I‘m not talking about a death camp.  I‘m talking about what the British had in concentration camps in South Africa and what the Spanish had in Cuba and what others have had, where they bring all these people, lock them in there, and treat them with great cruelty and a humanitarian disaster, despite what Tzipi Livni says. 

SHUSTER:  Cliff?


Look, the people of Gaza could have peace tomorrow and they could have an independent state the day after.  All it would take is for Hamas to do two things. 

One, stop the missiles.  You cannot have any country, even a country like Israel, simply accept that, OK, for the rest of our lives—and this has been going on for years now—we accept that they are going to be firing missiles at us.  Some of them are small, some of them, they‘re bigger, they‘ll get bigger, but we accept this as a fact of life.  We deserve to be hit with missiles. 

All Hamas would have to do is say no more missiles starting tomorrow.  We understand—and by the way, we accept Israel as a state, as a neighbor.  We just want to negotiate the borders. 

Now, Hamas cannot do that because of its religious conviction that infidels may not anywhere in the Middle East be in power, cannot do it.  The best thing—all right, I don‘t want to go too long, but what I‘m saying is, it‘s not a concentration camp.  They could walk out of it tomorrow, they could walk...


MAY:  Anybody that wanted to.  And they could have peace if they just stopped the missile attacks.  They haven‘t yet. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, that makes you wonder why the Israelis had a hand in creating Hamas to split Fatah.  Now...


BUCHANAN:  Exactly.  All right.  Let‘s go—all right, he says stop the missile firing, and work for peace with Israel and you get your own state. 

Why don‘t they have a state on the West Bank then?  They have done that, and the Israelis continue to steal their land.  They build outposts and settlements. 

SHUSTER:  They want all of Jerusalem.  That‘s why. 


BUCHANAN:  Well, let me mention—hold it.  Hold it.  Let me talk here a second. 

And of course they have not agreed to have the Palestinians have their own capital in Jerusalem.  The point is, why haven‘t they given back the Golan Heights?  It‘s been peace on the Golan Heights since 1973. 

MAY:  Let me ask you—as you know, in 2005, Israel decided to leave Gaza, end the occupation of Gaza.  Every soldier, every settler came out.  And the rationale was, look, if it‘s our occupation that‘s causing the violence, let‘s see what happens from our absence.

They left, and there was a chance then that Hamas or the Palestinians then could have put hotels on the beaches, they could have had factories and schools, they could have taken over the greenhouses.  And instead, they made it into a terrorist...

SHUSTER:  Play devil‘s...

MAY:  Had they done the other thing, had they made...

BUCHANAN:  Let me play devil‘s advocate.

MAY:  Let me just say this.  Had Gaza become a functioning and free state, then the pressure inside Israel to give up everything or 97 percent of what‘s in the West Bank would have been enormous.  There was no such pressure because Gaza became Hamas...

BUCHANAN:  Well, this is the Israeli Defense Ministry.  Excuse me, but when the 8,000 left Gaza, where did they go?  They took them and put them on the West Bank with American tax dollars, took Palestinian land, built new settlements, despite the fact that about 10 American presidents had said, please stop building settlements. 

MAY:  Hamas can‘t build schools.  They have to throw missiles at Israel because Israel‘s not on the West Bank?  Do you think for a minute that if Israel got off the West Bank the missiles would stop?  We know from Gaza it wouldn‘t.

SHUSTER:  I agree with you on this, but on the point of Obama, why can‘t Obama or somebody representing him articulate that very simple point? 

MAY:  Well, look, I think Obama is probably being smart to not say much right now.  And the best present that Obama could have in the new administration is for Israel to defeat or at least cripple Hamas. 

Fatah would come back into Gaza, and you‘d have a new peace process, but a peace process that has a chance, because there‘s no peace process you can have with Hamas if you understand Hamas.  And I can‘t believe you don‘t understand Hamas‘ ideology. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me tell you—I‘ll tell you how you create people for Hamas.  You kill 675 people, you wound and injure 3,000. 

What do you think the brothers and sisters of those five little girls that died, what are they going to be when they grow up?  What are these people under this, treated like this?  Look, why do you think the Palestinians...

MAY:  You know and I know that Hamas‘ doctrine—I can talk about it right here...

BUCHANAN:  I know their doctrine.

MAY:  ... is to hide in schools, in mosques, to hide among the civilians and use civilians for shields.  And you know it is a war crime to use civilians for shields.  And you should be criticizing those war crimes on the part of Hamas.

BUCHANAN:  Let me tell you—look, Hamas—any war crimes I criticize.  Their attacks with those rockets, stupid and cruel.  But you sit here and tell me that the Israeli people or the Israeli nation have treated the Palestinian people with any kind of justice.  Those towns hit by the rockets are former Palestinian towns—Ashkelon... 

SHUSTER:  Well, speaking of—the issue we‘re getting into tomorrow is sort of the justice of the criticism of Israel, which to me seems like a complete double standard with the way we treat a lot of countries around the world.  And that‘s a separate issue, and we‘ll get into that tomorrow. 


SHUSTER:  But Cliff May, Pat Buchanan, thank you both.  We appreciate it. 

Still ahead on 1600, another 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but this one‘s not in Washington, D.C.  And its owner almost got kicked out of it. 

Plus, if you‘ve been paying any attention at all, you know the Obama administration is all about man‘s best friend.  From debates of the breed of the future first dog to the Bidens‘ new puppies—yes, that‘s plural—now Obama has upped the ante once again. 


SHUSTER:  We‘re back with our segment we call “The Briefing Room.”

And it turns out there won‘t be a move out of the White House after all.  No, not the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  We‘re talking about the White House in Atlanta, Georgia.

It was pictured on the front page of today‘s “New York Times” and had me wondering at first glance, what happened to the north lawn grass? 

In fact, Fred Milani (ph) built this White House just for fun in 2002, but he fell behind with his mortgage payments and was on the brink of foreclosure.  However, a faith-based group offered to help out, and now Milani (ph) has convinced his bank to refinance.  So no transition out for him. 

President Bush is going to move out of the big White House and back to Texas.  He talked about the move with a classroom of second graders in Philadelphia this morning, telling them that he hasn‘t even seen his new digs. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I haven‘t seen the new house yet.  Laura went and got it.  I haven‘t had a chance to see it yet, so I‘m going to see it the day we move in. 

Thank you.

That‘s called faith. 


SHUSTER:  “That‘s called faith,” he said.  Well, that‘s also called a strange lesson to give the second graders.  Yes, kids, you don‘t need to take any responsibility for these things.  Just let your spouse deal with it all.  That‘s a healthy way for a good relationship. 

Anyway, in 12 days, the current first family is moving to a home in a previously quiet Dallas neighborhood that has now become something of a tourist attraction.  Just last night, the Secret Service met with neighbors to talk about the changes that are coming, including a security gate. 

Up next, we have an update on the Obama family dog watch.  You will recall that the future president and first lady have promised daughters Sasha and Malia that in the springtime, they can get a puppy.  Joe Biden already has gone with this very cute German Shepherd, and we‘re advised the Bidens are considering another dog, a Golden Retriever from an animal shelter. 

Back to the president-elect.  And take a look at this.

Mr. Obama is now on the cover of the “American Dog” magazine.  He is helping to bring attention to animals, including this three-legged poodle who was rescued from a mill. 

That‘s very nice, but remember, Mr. President-elect, when it comes time to get the kids that puppy, you really should consider a pug.  Have I shown you pictures of my wife‘s family pug?  Oh, yes.  Here he is again.

And I know Webster would behave well if you or anybody else wanted to hold him while he was posing for a magazine cover.  Oh.

But never mind the dog thing.  Many Americans have other kinds of terrific pets, so maybe you can honor those animals as well. 

It might look something like this—here you are with “The American Ferret,” for a magazine of ferret owners. 

Or what about this, “The American Piglet”?  Everybody loves Wilbur. 

That would be a cool magazine.

And how about “The American Bovine”? 

Yes, change has definitely come to America, and we are sure that pet owners welcome a big tent strategy—or, shall we say, a Noah‘s Ark approach? 

Now back to the human species. 

Hillary Clinton‘s confirmation hearings for secretary of state will start Tuesday, and it will be led by committee chairman Senator John Kerry, who once wanted Clinton‘s job as secretary of state. 

Those of you keeping score will remember that Kerry went out on a limb by endorsing Barack Obama just before the South Carolina primary.  Hillary Clinton, of course, fought Obama until the end.  Joe Biden only endorsed Obama after Hillary had dropped out and he got to be Obama‘s running mate. 

All of us here at 1600 believe John Kerry deserves some love.  So we have officially designated next week as John Kerry Appreciation Week.  Let‘s practice everybody.  Senator Kerry, we appreciate you. 

Up next, the spectacle in the Senate, Arlen Specter comes out swinging.  Norm Coleman is left off a list.  And will Roland Burris ever be sworn in?  The 111th Congress hasn‘t even been in session for a week. 

Plus, the Pentagon is looking for a do-over after a huge mistake targets families of fallen soldiers.  Believe us, this one is shocking.

Also ahead, we‘ll talk to the man who has kept the secrets of seven of the first families who have lived at 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.


SHUSTER:  Still ahead, the theatrics playing out in the 111th Congress; controversy over seating senators, forgetting others, and one lawmaker prepares for a battle over a cabinet nomination, all with just 12 days until President-Elect Obama moves to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. 

Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.  Today, the Burris circus returned to Illinois, where Roland Burris, Governor Blagojevich‘s pick to fill Obama‘s vacant Senate seat, went under oath at the governor‘s impeachment hearing. 


ROLAND BURRIS, ILLINOIS SENATE DESIGNATE:  I would not participate in anybody‘s quid pro quo.  I‘ve been in government for 20 years and have never participated in anybody‘s quid pro quo. 


SHUSTER:  As for the outstanding Minnesota Senate seat, Norm Coleman‘s lawyers have now filed the lawsuit contesting the election results that show Democrat Al Franken the victor by more than 200 votes.  The lawsuit is 330-page labyrinth, cobbled together from several unrelated but equally bizarre claims, such as election workers were too efficient in their counting. 

More on the specifics in a moment.  But Talking Points Memo sums up the Coleman case as this: “The whole election was tainted, from election day through the recount, and the numbers should be changed so that the race is awarded to him.” 

But in the meantime, Coleman‘s Senate colleagues are moving on.  They‘ve booted him from the official Senate phone book.  Take a look, Coburn, Cochran, Collins, but no Coleman.  This is just some of the drama on Pennsylvania avenue. 

Joining us to talk about it all, “Newsweek‘s” Richard Wolffe and MSNBC political analyst David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and a blogger for CG Politics, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  Richard, first, as far as this Minnesota Senate argument, Coleman is arguing that because some of the absentee ballots were opened a little too quickly, that taints the process. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, he‘s grasping at straws.  You know, he finds himself in a situation that Al Gore did, which is when you have an official win—it may not be the official winner—it‘s very hard to overcome the public perception.  So he‘s got a PR battle, a legal battle, and the politics is moving on. 

SHUSTER:  David Corn, on Burris, and it does appear now that this committee has the votes to recommend the impeachment of Governor Blagojevich to the full general assembly.  But here‘s what Burris said in 1984 -- this is according to the Associated Press.  In 1984, when he—we‘re talking about Burris—“ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, he once mused, Illinois is the land of Lincoln.  Maybe some day it will be the land of Burris.  He often speaks of himself in the third person.  And he named his children Roland and Rolanda.” 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  Apparently he‘s already built his mausoleum.  I kid you not.  You can go to those Internets and see pictures of yourself.  He‘s a fellow with a high estimation of himself.  Now, Barack Obama and Dick Durbin and other people from Illinois have spoken very highly of him.  He spent 20 years in Illinois politics without being tainted by corruption.  That‘s probably close to a record.  Paul Simon managed to do that, too. 

There might be some positive attributes here.  I think we‘re going to have to get used to him, because it looks as if he‘s going to get the seat. 

SHUSTER:  Pat, I think there are going to be a flood of Republicans moving to Illinois so they can run against this guy in two years. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Maybe.  But I hear Ditka might get in the race, which would drive them out.  Listen, you saw and you showed it to me yesterday the picture of that guy that they knocked out of that ski lift and he was completely naked, ripped his clothes off and he was hanging from there.  That is Harry Reid today.  And Senator Burris did that. 

Whatever you say about it, his handling of this and his coolness and the way he took it, made himself the victim, was masterful.  And Blagojevich has beaten the socks off the Washington establishment. 

SHUSTER:  The other big issue today was Obama‘s speech.  Never mind all of the sort of side distractions with these contested Senate races.  David Corn, you picked out something pretty remarkable in Obama‘s speech today.  What was it? 

CORN:  Well, you even played the clip earlier.  He said, “only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.  Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy.” 

Now, about a dozen years ago, Pat, you will remember this, when Bill Clinton said “the era of big government is over,” and you said, we‘ve won!  We‘ve won!  Well, I think about 80 percent of the public probably supports this sentiment now that we have to turn to the government.  You have a lot of House Republicans these days saying there‘s too much deficit spending in this.  We can‘t let government be the solution.  But really that fight, at least temporarily, has been lost by conservatives. 

BUCHANAN:  Look, no, in terms of an immediate trillion dollar stimulus, only the government of the United States can do that.  The question is, where, in the long run, does he the real growth coming?  Does he see it, as FDR does, from the government or the way Reagan did, to unleash the private sector.  I think Reagan‘s record, in terms of growth of the economy and unemployment, worked far better.  Barack Obama‘s going I think with a part of both of them, frankly.  He‘s got tax cuts in there. 

SHUSTER:  Richard Wolffe, you‘ve covered Obama longer than anybody.  Which is it?  Is it this idea of private enterprise creating the jobs or the government helping out? 

WOLFFE:  This guy is taking the middle ground.  He‘s got lots of money being spent on tax cuts.  If he didn‘t believe that tax cuts could stimulate the economy, if didn‘t believe that supply side piece of it, then he wouldn‘t be wasting 300 billion dollars on this whole thing. 

CORN:  Unless it‘s just a payoff to the Republicans. 

WOLFFE:  That‘s a lot of money to pay off to go from 60 to 80 votes, whatever that is.  If you look at where the market is, and this is the free market, the stock market, they all think government is this temporary solution as well.  So Barack Obama and his incoming administration are not out on a limb here. 

SHUSTER:  David, I would think some Democrats are going to be upset when they see how this is broken down, 40 percent going to tax cuts.  There‘s a huge amount now going to medical records online.  The actual amount for infrastructure keeps seeming to get smaller. 

CORN: There are a lot of issues here.  One is that breakdown between investment and tax cuts.  And there‘s a lot of disagreement about what tax cuts actually lead to, in terms of economic development.  But then on the infrastructure side, are we building roads to nowhere, roads that aren‘t need, as a lot of governors want to do, because they get spending going right away.  Or Obama I thought talked very effectively today about creating a smart grid for our power system, you know, getting computers in schools, and doing the type of investments that actually lead to greater economic growth. 

SHUSTER:  Pat, you get the last word.

BUCHANAN:  You know, in a hundred words or less, tell me the difference between infrastructure, pork, and earmarks?  I mean, all three are basically—they can slop over into the same thing, unless you are really are doing something that‘s going to long term help the economy like the Interstate Highway system.  I‘ll tell you, you get mayors and all of these shovel turning projects, they‘re going to be straight pork, straight earmarks. 

SHUSTER:  And this is going to be great for all of us.  Pat Buchanan, David Corn and Richard Wolffe, thank you both—thank you all. 

As of today, the war in Iraq has claimed the lives of 4,223 U.S.  military personnel.  The insults to many of these families have been bad enough over the years, including how the war was sold in the first place, lack of war planning, no strategy, et cetera.  Now add another embarrassment to the list: this, a form letter accidentally sent to 7,000 family members of people killed addressed to “John Doe,” alerting them to organizations that help families of fallen soldiers.  It is amazing and outrageous. 

Let‘s bring in NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.  Jim, 7,000, because some of those soldiers killed had more than one family member receive the letter.  I get that.  But what happened?  Is anybody in the Army getting fired for this? 

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  You know, David, so far it doesn‘t look like anybody‘s going to get fired.  Military officials are calling this an honest mistake.  But just when you thought that the Army bureaucracy couldn‘t bungle the handling of the affairs of the dead and wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan any worse than they already have, they find a way to do it. 

And they did it with this letter that went out, as you say, to 7,000 family members of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And right up here in the corner, it was supposed to include the name and address of the recipient, and then down below the salutation.  That‘s missing in this letter and in all of the 7,000 letters sent.  Instead, it says, “Dear John Doe.” 

Now, according to Army officials, this was apparently the fault of a private contractor, who correctly printed out all the envelopes, but somehow omitted the printing of the names and address and the names of those in the salutation on each of the 7,000 letters.  Now, this follows, of course the—what some saw as the abuse of the wounded at Walter Reed that ended in the firing of both the Army secretary and the head of Walter Reed Hospital, and the most egregious error, or some think criminal misstep by the Army, was in the death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL star, who was originally said to have been killed by the enemy in Afghanistan, and the Army knew that he had been killed by friendly fire, even before a nationally televised memorial service. 

I can say, however, that in an attempt to correct the record here, the Army chief of staff, General George Casey, is sending out a letter of apology, in which he says “we discovered a terrible error yesterday, and I feel responsible for this grievous administrative error.  And, on behalf of the United States army, sincerely apologize.” 

David, he‘s not stopping there.  He intends to personally sign each and every one of those 7,000 letters.  And we‘re told that, as of tonight, he‘s up to 1,000 -- 6,000 to go. 

SHUSTER:  I hope he feels the pain, because the Army certainly deserves it.  Jim Miklaszewski, over at the Pentagon.  Jim, thanks as always for the report. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  All righty, David. 

SHUSTER: Still ahead on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, our Muckraker of the day, “Time Magazine‘s” Joe Klein and his scathing take on President Bush‘s legacy.  First, here is Jay Leno. 


JAY LENO, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”:  You know, President Bush keeps giving interviews about his eight years as president.  Earlier this week, he said his greatest accomplishment—this is what he said.  He said his greatest accomplishment was his effort to privatize Social Security, even though he never actually did it.  That‘s President Bush, isn‘t it?  Your greatest accomplishments?  Well, there aren‘t any.  But if there were, by golly, here‘s what it would be. 


SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600.  Remember that odd and poignant moment in the Oval Office yesterday, five presidents shoulder to shoulder and suddenly Bill Clinton compliments the carpet? 




SHUSTER: I love the rug.  Well, President Bush is fond of pointing out the rug, which took six months to make, to White House visitors. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And the rug we designed—each president designs a rug, and the rug that Laura designed for the Oval Office captures the sun.  And it helps make this room an open and optimistic place. 


SHUSTER: Just one of the personal touches a president puts on his White House.  Joining me now is the man in charge of carrying out the first family‘s requests, as well as managing the butlers, maids, maitre-dis, florists, calligraphers and electricians who work in the White House office, the chief usher.  That was Gary Walters‘ job for more than two decades.  Gary, first of all, welcome. 


SHUSTER: The Obamas move in 12 days.  What happens?  How do they meet all the various staff that work there? 

WALTERS:  Well, the president and First Lady Laura Bush invited them to the White House to meet.  And at that time, they are introduced to the current chief usher, and a series of conversations goes on during that period of time that has ensued since that first meeting, to make the White House what the Obamas would like it to be on Inaugural Day. 

SHUSTER: Is there a particular challenge for the staff, that all of a sudden you‘re going to have a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old in the residence? 

WALTERS:  Well, there have been children there before and so I don‘t think it‘s going to be a particular challenge for the staff.  They will adjust to the way the Obamas want to make their home.  And that‘s one of the primary responsibilities of the chief usher and the staff, to make sure that it becomes their home. 

SHUSTER: What is it about the White House that you think would take so many people by surprise? 

WALTERS:  Certainly, any incoming family, it‘s the amount of time that they‘re going to have—amount of time they‘re going to have demanded of them by all the activities associated with both obviously for the president, leader of the free world, but also for the first lady. 

SHUSTER: It‘s so interesting, because you think well there they are just upstairs.  They can always go downstairs, go to the meeting.  But it‘s not that simple. 

WALTERS:  Not that simple at all.  Certainly, once the president gets to the Oval Office each day, he‘s got a full day.  Whether he‘s doing meetings, meeting people from around the world, or around the country.  The first lady has a series of activities.  It‘s not an easy transition. 

SHUSTER: As far as that 3:00 a.m. phone call we heard about during the campaign, that would go through your office, right? 

WALTERS:  Well, 3:00 a.m., probably not.  We probably wouldn‘t be there. 

SHUSTER: But as far as if the phone‘s not working or if you want a certain kind of ring tone. 

WALTERS:  Or if the plumbing doesn‘t work, they would call the ushers.  Of course.  It‘s the consummate this old house.  The White House was built in 1792, at least the cornerstone was laid.  And it was rebuilt in 1948-1952. 

SHUSTER: What‘s your favorite memory of White House moments where it just seemed like history was being made at the time? 

WALTERS:  That by far is the circumstance when President Reagan and President Gorbachev met in the State Dining room, after they had signed a treaty in the East Room.  The great fireplace in the State Dining room was blazing for the first time in the 30 years since I had been there.  And they spoke to the world.  The two gentlemen spoke to the world.  And at that time, I literally felt in my heart that the Cold War was thawing. 

SHUSTER: Did the staff talk about it?  We‘re looking at the video now.  Did the staff talk about these sort of things that they witnessed or are people trained to keep to themselves and do their duty and that‘s it? 

WALTERS:  Pretty much keep to themselves.  The staff is representative of the presidency.  And they‘re there to make the presidency, regardless of the president that‘s in office, the very best that we can do.  And that‘s the responsibility of the resident staff, is to take some of the mundane chores away, the daily household activities, and see that the White House becomes their home. 

SHUSTER: And yet, I understand that the Obama girls are going to have to make their own bed, clean up their own room. 

WALTERS:  Well, that‘s what I understand from the press reports.  And, of course, Mrs. Obama and the president-elect will have to make those decisions.  And the White House staff will live with whatever decisions they make. 

SHUSTER: All right, Gary.  Thank you very much.  Nice to see you. 

WALTERS:  Thank you. 

SHUSTER: Gary Walters. 

Breaking news right now, an Illinois House committee has just unanimously voted to recommend an impeachment vote on Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell Barack Obama‘s Senate seat to the highest bidder.  Up next on 1600, our Muckraker of the day.


SHUSTER: Welcome back to 1600.  Time for our Muckraker of the day.  Nearly every day, we‘re going to feature a journalist, columnist, pundit, broadcaster, blogger or combination who is bringing some heat and light to a topical story.  When the terrible pictures of U.S. troops torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison became public in April of 2004, President Bush said, quote, “this is not the America I know.” 

But our next guest calls the torture at Abu Ghraib the Bush administration‘s most despicable act.  He writes, “If Barack Obama really wanted to be cagey, he could pardon Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld for the possible commission of war crimes.  Then they‘d have to live with official acknowledgment of their ignominy in perpetuity.  If Obama doesn‘t want to make that statement, perhaps we could do it in the form of a Bush memorial in Washington, the statue of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner in cruciform, stress position, the real Bush legacy.” 

That was written by Joe Klein, our Muckraker of the day.  You can read Joe‘s full column yourself in this week‘s issue of “Time Magazine.”  Joe, with all of the stories that you‘ve covered and all the reporting, what is it about Abu Ghraib that prompts you to call it the most despicable and real Bush legacy? 

JOE KLEIN, “TIME MAGAZINE”:  It‘s not just Abu Ghraib.  It is the torture that went on at Guantanamo, that went on at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, as well.  It‘s outrageous because we have a paper trail where the president of the United States, himself, in 2002, signs a memo saying that he is not going to acknowledge the Geneva Accords on the treatment of foreign combatants.  That‘s international law. 

And then it drifts down through the Justice Department.  They write memos under the supervision of the vice president.  It goes to the Defense Department, where the legal counsel there writes a memo approving 18 different forms of torture, and Rumsfeld isn‘t satisfied.  You know, one of the forms of torture is a stress position like the one that cruciform, hooded prisoner, you know, was holding.  And Rumsfeld objected that you could only do that for four hours.  He said, I stand at my desk for eight to ten hours a day.  Of course, he can move around.  He‘s not naked.  It‘s not, you know—he‘s doing it on eight hours‘ sleep. 

SHUSTER: The other person that is part of this, Vice President Dick Cheney.  He‘s been giving interviews and he told the Associated Press that he doesn‘t see a reason for President Bush to preemptively pardon anyone who authorized harsh interrogation techniques.  He also said during this interview he has no qualms about the reliability of intelligence obtained from terrorism suspects through water boarding.  Your reaction? 

KLEIN:  Well, it‘s disgraceful.  It‘s despicable.  It has done our country enormous damage.  I was in Jordan the day that the Abu Ghraib pictures were released.  And I was sitting with a very moderate, pro-American businessman who hit the ceiling when he heard about it.  He said, you guys are going to lecture us on human rights? 

Do you realize, David, what this has done to our credibility in the world?  It‘s not only illegal.  It has been disastrous for the United States‘ standing in the world. 

SHUSTER: Well, I realize it.  I think most Americans realize it.  But how come President Bush and Vice President Cheney don‘t seem to realize it? 

KLEIN:  Because they have a view of the power of the presidency and, perhaps, of morality, and perhaps of other peoples and other religions that doesn‘t square with American principles.  I think this has been a profoundly un-American administration. 

Now, you know, it‘s going to be very hard to prosecute these people.  The Obama folks don‘t want to do it, because they want to focus on the big problems we have going forward.  It might happen overseas, you know, I raised the possibility of Cheney being snatched mid-stream while, you know, fly fishing in Norway, as Augusto Pinochet, the dictator in Chile, was.  I mean, those are fanciful ideas.  But I do think that it is going to be on the new president to make a very clear statement, saying that this sort of behavior on the part of the United States was reprehensible and that it is not going to happen again. 

SHUSTER: Joe Klein from “Time Magazine,” our Muckraker of the day.  Joe, great column.  Everybody can see it in “Time Magazine.”  Thanks for coming on. 

That‘s the view from 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE tonight.  I‘m David Shuster.  Thank you for watching.  We will see you back here tomorrow night, same time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.  Remember, you can get the latest political news and a sneak peek at what‘s coming up on the show, including a sneak peek at Muckraker, sent straight to your inbox with the 1600 daily briefing.  We found some fun content.  Just go to  “HARDBALL” starts right now.



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