Guest: Mark Denbeaux, David Sirota, Kent Jones, Joe Cirincione
Spec: Politics; Crime; Rod Blagojevich
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Greetings, Keith. Thanks. Enjoy Tampa.
And thank you for staying with us for the next hour.
As we just heard from Keith, Rod Blagojevich‘s impeachment trial is underway in Illinois today. We‘ve got some RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s specific Blagojevich-related news tonight.
There are also reporting on efforts to potentially sabotage President Obama‘s plan to close Guantanamo, a big 21st century changes underway at the vice presidential residence now that Joe Biden lives there and Dick Cheney doesn‘t, Karl Rove has been subpoenaed. There is a ton of news today, big and small. Did I mention that someone T.P.‘ed Bernie Madoff‘s house in Florida? Yes, it‘s all coming up this hour.
But first, there is something that is hard to make sense of amidst the horror movie that is the American economy right now. It‘s not the terrible news that before 9:00 a.m. today, another 40,000 Americans lost their jobs at companies like Caterpillar and Home Depot and Sprint—nauseating as that is, that news is sort of logical. There is a worldwide contraction going on: Fewer people with money to spend, fewer goods being sold, fewer employees necessary to make fewer goods, begetting fewer people with money, and so on and so on. It is awful but it makes logical sense if you understand the economic principles at work.
It also seems to make sense that Timothy Geithner was finally confirmed by the Senate tonight, by a vote of 60 to 34 -- 34 no votes. Well, Mr. Geithner did make an embarrassing mistake on his taxes and it‘s not inconceivable that some Democrats, four of them, would take exception, and a bunch of Republicans would choose this nomination to protest en masse. In the end, we have a new treasury secretary which qualifies as a relief, a better situation than not having a treasury secretary at a time like this. All of that make sense.
What doesn‘t make sense is what‘s going on with the stimulus bill. The proposed $825 billion stimulus bill that‘s supposed to be the best hope we‘ve got out for getting out of “R” rated horror movie economic territory into a still scary PG-13 horror movie of an economy.
The stimulus bill started off life as a giant bipartisan compromise, right? It‘s a third-full of tax breaks. It‘s got no more than 18 percent infrastructure investment. It‘s full of political giveaways to the Republicans—and it‘s still struggling for support? It just doesn‘t make sense.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of the brain, there‘s a reason for this not adding up, like I‘ve just remember.
MADDOW: That‘s right. That‘s what it is. That‘s why what‘s going on right now in Washington doesn‘t make any sense at all.
We already made a big American group decision about whose ideas we wanted to try to fix the economy. It was Wednesday, oh, no, it was a Tuesday. Yes. It was a Tuesday and Barack Obama won the election. And Democrats won really big majorities in both houses of Congress.
Yes, we can. That whole bit. Yes. Americans had a chance to vote Republican or to vote Democratic, and they voted Democratic. In large part because they thought the Republicans did not know what they were talking about when it came to the economy.
So honestly, what gives with the fight over the stimulus package? The election was a de facto referendum on economic policy, and Barack Obama and the Democrats won that referendum.
By John McCain‘s own account, the presidential election turned when the economy hit the commode. In other words, the prospect of Republican ideas being put to work to get us out of economic trouble got the Democrats elected. It would be difficult to find a clearer example of political impotence on the economy that the current iteration of the Republican Party and its most recent presidential standard bearer, John McCain in particular.
When John McCain fake-suspended his campaign to work on the bailout and said his best ideas for us keeping us out of the next Great Depression were to cut earmarks and cut taxes, he and his party got laughed at and then they got womped. John McCain lost Indiana. John McCain lost North Carolina.
So keep a grain of salt the size of the rock of Gibraltar in mind as we review Senator McCain‘s recent public stand against President Obama‘s stimulus plan. Mr. McCain turned up on “FOX News Sunday,” an appearance that led to headlines about what he thinks should happen next on the economy. McCain wants a stimulus rewrite and McCain says he won‘t vote for current stimulus package.
Back to the “this doesn‘t make sense” part—according to McCain‘s own election post-mortem, Americans‘ views of McCain on the economy are the reason that he‘s Senator McCain and not “President McCain.” And now, he‘s leading the opposition to Barack Obama‘s economic plan? This is like signing up for a geography lesson from Miss Teen South Carolina.
On what grounds does Senator McCain object to President Obama‘s stimulus package?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA: Some of the stimulus in this package
is excellent. Some of it, frankly, has nothing to do—some of the
projects and others that you just mentioned, $6 billion for broadband and
Internet access. That will take years
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: $6 billion for broadband and Internet access. What a waste.
Who thought that was a good idea.
Actually, there was this guy John McCain who ran for president. Yes, when he was campaigning in Kentucky back in April. Remember that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 23)
MCCAIN: Access to high-speed Internet services that facilitate interstate commerce, drive innovation and promote educational achievements, there is the potential to change lives, and government does have a role to play in assuring every community in America can develop that infrastructure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, broadband infrastructure was an awesome economic idea when candidate John McCain had it on the campaign trail, but now it is President Barack Obama‘s plan, it is offensive enough that it is reason to kill the whole stimulus bill. Do you see why I‘m confused?
You know, but it‘s not just John McCain. Throughout much of last week, Republicans cited a Congressional Budget Office report as evidence that Obama‘s stimulus plan would not work. They said the report showed that most of the money in the stimulus bill wouldn‘t be spent quickly enough; it wouldn‘t get into the economy until after next year.
One awkward but very important detail about this CBO report—is that it doesn‘t exist. Yes. The CBO says they ran some numbers on a small portion of an earlier version of the bill but they did no report like what the Republicans are talking about. They did no report on the current bill that is anything like what the Republicans are alleging. It doesn‘t exist, isn‘t there, hasn‘t ever been in existence ever.
That minor detail did not stop the “Wall Street Journal‘s” right-wing editorial page today from citing the non-existent report in an editorial against President Obama‘s stimulus bill. “The Journal” called the report‘s nonexistent findings, quote, “highly embarrassing” for those in Congress aka Democrats trying to push the bill through.
You know, it is highly embarrassing but I wouldn‘t say it‘s the Democrat in Congress who ought to be embarrassed here. There is bad news on the economy, of course. We have known that was coming. We have known to expect it. We have been bracing for that for quite some time.
It is harder to brace ourselves for political economic news that just flat-out doesn‘t make sense or that‘s flat-out just made up. But that is where we are.
Joining us now to make some sense of the politics of the economy is syndicated columnist, David Sirota.
David, thank you so much for coming back on the show. It‘s nice to see you.
DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Nice to see you, too, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is it your view that President Obama has enough political capital right now that he could campaign on a spending-heavy policy purist bill and just ignore the Republican counterproposals and get it passed if he wanted to?
SIROTA: Well, if you take the Republicans at their word, they think he does. You‘ve seen a lot of stories lately that where you have people like Mitch McConnell, Republican operatives, saying that if Barack Obama and the Democrats want to pass the stimulus, they can do it right now.
So, the question is: Why is Barack Obama and the Democrats, why are they so adamant about finding Republican support and in the process being willing to potential water down the economic stimulus package with tax cuts that we know won‘t create the kind of jobs that more infrastructure spending would?
MADDOW: Well, what do you think the answer to that is? Is this a political strategy decision that‘s about retaining political capital for future fights? Is there a reason to believe that the Republicans could ever come along on the stimulus package?
SIROTA: Well, the question is, what is the cost of political
aesthetics? What are the Democrats willing to force the taxpayers to pony
up in order to get a majority of the Republicans to vote for this thing on
again, how much do we have to spend on tax cuts that don‘t work in order to get that political aesthetics? It‘s a bad question.
I think the political strategy behind it is flawed. I think it is the idea that if Obama and the Democrats get some Republicans or a majority of the Republicans to support this, then the Republicans won‘t blame them for the economy not doing well in 2009. I think that‘s ridiculous.
I think that the problem here is that you don‘t have a lot of $825 billion tranches in your kitty until you got to spend every dollar as best as possible. Every dollar wasted on a tax cut to appease a Republican in a way that won‘t create jobs is a dollar that should have gone to real programs like infrastructure that would create jobs.
MADDOW: Well, on the Republican side of this, are the Republicans setting a sort of political trap for the president here? I mean, is there any stimulus bill that they would vote for? Is there good-faith negotiation going on?
SIROTA: It‘s hard to know and we can‘t know. But you‘re right. The Republicans have a twofer here. They can advocate for their right-wing ideology that‘s been flawed, that was rejected at the polls, they can appease their base. And if they manage to get concessions that weaken the stimulus bill and make it not worse, make it not as effective in lifting the economy, they can effectively sabotage the economy and then wipe their hands of it, blame Obama for that. It‘s a brilliant political strategy by them.
What‘s not brilliant, what‘s perplexing is why would Democrats play into this? You‘re right. They have a huge amount of political capital. They could pass this.
And let‘s just remember one thing, if Franklin Roosevelt had worried about getting the majority of Republicans to pass Social Security or Lyndon Johnson, a majority of Republicans to pass Medicare, we probably wouldn‘t have those things. We need Democrats to act boldly now.
MADDOW: Dave, one last question for you.
The Senate has now put out its version of the stimulus bill. I mean, the House version first, now, we got the Senate version. It contains about the same relatively low level of infrastructure spending as the House version did. Do you think that this is going to be the final bill? Do you it‘s too late in the game to expect that these bills might change substantially, there might be more infrastructure spending for example?
SIROTA: Well, I‘ve been pleased to see that a lot of Democrats, rank-and-file Democrats who stood-up and said, “We need more. This needs to be a bigger package. It needs to be more infrastructure spending.”
I think the public needs to call its members of Congress and tell them that we shouldn‘t waste this moment on tax cuts. The longer the negotiations go on, I think, the more chance there is for this to get better. I don‘t think it‘s over by a long shot. The only way it‘s over is if Barack Obama and the Democrats keep insisting that their goal is not to pass the best package, but to appease Republicans. That‘s just not going to do it.
MADDOW: David Sirota, syndicated columnist, friend of the show, nice to see you. Thanks, David.
SIROTA: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and a wrongly-hanged horse thief. These are among the historic and made up heroic figures to which Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has compared himself on his whirlwind media tour. Today, Governor F-word shared his unique perspectives with the “Today Show,” “The View,” “Good Morning America.”
And tomorrow night, the impeached governor of Illinois will expound on the issues of the day with me. No, really, he is going to be here in person. I love my job.
MADDOW: Time now for another episode in our ongoing tragic comic chronicle with the Republican Party‘s search for meaning in exile. Tonight, featuring a member of Bush‘s cabinet who actually rode the plane home to exile with just turned-former President Bush on Inauguration Day.
MADDOW: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told National Public Radio today that he is not worried about being prosecuted for his role in the alleged torture of prisoners. He said, quote, “I don‘t see a criminal prosecution for me?” Why not? He acted in good faith. He wasn‘t politically or personally motivated.
If you don‘t buy any of those reasons that he gave, how about this explanation for using torture techniques.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, NPR)
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: They were authorized. They were known at the highest levels. They were supported by legal opinions at the Department of Justice.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, he is not worried about officials being prosecuted for doing something illegal because they were in power. And from their position of power, they just said that the illegal stuff was legal. Doesn‘t this sound sort of vaguely familiar?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1977)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: When a president does it, that means that it is not illegal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Nixon defending wiretapping and burglaries that eventually brought him down.
Mr. Gonzales, when the attorney general says that the illegal stuff the attorney general does isn‘t illegal, that doesn‘t make it legal.
MADDOW: There are about 245 prisoners still at America‘s most famous offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Of those 245, the Bush administration has brought charges against 21 of them. That‘s it.
Now that President Obama has ordered a review of all the cases at Guantanamo, we are starting to learn the extent of the legal mess that the Bush administration has left behind there. The “Washington Post” report yesterday that while reviewing prisoners cases, quote, “incoming legal and national security officials discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.”
And how could that happen? Quote, “Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all of the facts and range of options for each prisoner. The Bush administration‘s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority.”
So, we have incomplete information on the prisoners who are still in U.S. custody at Guantanamo. Conveniently enough, however, Republicans who are still arguing to keep the prison open are using Pentagon claims that they have very specific information about what‘s happened to prisoners who have been released from Guantanamo. So, the folks who are there, we don‘t know anything about them. The folks who have gotten out, we‘ve got incredible dossiers.
Michael Isikoff reports in “Newsweek” magazine that the Department of Defense is planning to release new details on 62 people it claims have returned to the, quote, “battlefield” after being released from Guantanamo. Even though, according to Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall, who joins us presently, the Pentagon doesn‘t even track prisoners released from Guantanamo, at least they don‘t any way that makes sense. Professor Denbeaux‘s research shows that the Pentagon‘s list accuse people of having returned to the battlefield on grounds that they appeared in documentaries or wrote opinion columns for the “New York Times.”
Those facts have not stop Guantanamo‘s defenders from saying that if the prison is closed, dangerous terrorists will be loose back on to the battlefield as a matter of course, or in fact, they maybe loose into your proverbial backyard. It was fear like this that allowed Guantanamo Bay to open in the first place, to continue to exist all these years through all of its criticism.
Now, could that same fear keep it or something very much like it open into the future?
Here to try to Talk Me Down is Professor Mark Denbeaux. He‘s director of the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research. He wrote a detailed analysis tracking what happened to those Guantanamo prisoners who were released.
Thanks for coming on the show, professor.
MARK DENBEAUX, LAWYER FOR TWO GUANTANAMO PRISONERS: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Your report shows that the Pentagon has not been able to conclusively or convincingly document what has happened to people who have left Guantanamo. We now have word that heard they are going to put out some brand new dossier, about 62 prisoners. What‘s your reaction to that news?
DENBEAUX: Well, first of all, I‘ve been hearing the promise that data will come out at some point from them, and they‘ve never produced any. And the only documents they‘ve ever produced have been on plain letterhead, no stationary, just plain paper.
MADDOW: Why does that make a difference that it‘s not on letterhead?
DENBEAUX: Well, I think, there is no document ever produced by the Defense Department for which they can be held responsible for the information it contains. So, they will put out a document with a list of names on it, many of which are people who are never in Guantanamo, others of which are there because—as you mentioned—they have written editorials or because they‘ve been in documentaries.
And the other problem, I think, that‘s significant is the one, when you look at the times in which they give it, they‘ll list some people and say, “Here‘s this person‘s name with this number,” and they‘ll have two different detainees who have allegedly returned to the battlefield having the same internal security number. That is—there‘s two different names, one detainee, and they‘re both being counted as returning to the battle.
MADDOW: If one of the issues is that we don‘t know what part of the Pentagon, even what part of the government is producing this information, when you look at this various releases of information about Guantanamo prisoners who have gone and done these various alleged things, do you get the sense that they are coming from different people who don‘t know what the previous releases have been?
DENBEAUX: Either they don‘t know or they‘ve never care. I mean, the other possibility is they‘re just making up numbers. Each time, they are now ratcheting it up as if they are trying to redefine the truth of Guantanamo. And what they are not willing to do is to prove their case against Guantanamo. It‘s as if they are afraid of proof but they want to redefine the truth as it exists.
So, I think what we really finding are different people trying to create an oral history for Guantanamo that will disguise the fact that they never had any proof. The files are incomplete, surprisingly, because there‘s no evidence.
MADDOW: Yes. You represent two Tunisian men who are in Guantanamo now, is that right?
DENBEAUX: That‘s right.
MADDOW: The contrast between these repeated releases of information about how dangerous the people are who have gotten out of Guantanamo—the contrast with that and what we know about the poor state of the case files for the prisoners who still languish at Guantanamo must be very frustrating to you as you try to do legal work on their behalf?
DENBEAUX: Well, it is certainly frustrating but it‘s also important to understand that it‘s almost certainly false what they are saying about the files, in the sense that the first time they were required to collect their evidence was for administrative tribunals in 2004. They now claim they got that wrong. Then they were required to submit responses to the habeas corpus petitions. They then determined in July of this year they didn‘t that right.
So, in July of this year, they asked a federal judge to give them a third try to try and present their evidence. Over the objection of the habeas lawyers saying six and seven years was enough, he gave them five more months to re-amend their petitions. Those re-amended petitions for every single detainee were completed in December. There are seven more finished at the end of this month.
So actually, the best case the government has for every detainee is already collected in the files. And the only possible thing you can say about that is if they swung and missed at the third strike .
DENBEAUX: . then they are also in contempt of court, because they were ordered by the judge to get them all done in on time. So, it‘s not possible that what‘s missing from those files is anything that could possibly be used against detainees.
MADDOW: What the mess—what they‘ve got, the mess that they‘ve got is the best they are going to get and it‘s never going to get better.
Mark Denbeaux, director of the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research—thank you for your research. Thanks for coming in.
DENBEAUX: Thank you.
MADDOW: Later on, it is another edition of Scrub, Rinse, Repeat, our special series on President Obama‘s post-Bush reclamation project. Tonight‘s topic: Weapons of mass destruction. Remember, the reason we supposedly invaded Iraq after President Bush panicked the nation into thinking that WMDs were hiding under every tarp. In 2007, Congress required the president to name a WMD czar, somebody that would actually work on that as a problem.
Guess who never got around to putting anybody in that job? Go ahead. Guess. And guess who did put somebody in that job on his fourth official business day in office?
MADDOW: So exciting news. Me—Rachel Maddow has or we, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, have nabbed an exclusive interview with Rod Blagojevich. I will be the only television host talking to the Illinois governor tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. I think that is the extent of my exclusivity, unless something has changed. Just me, I will be the only one at 9:00 p.m. on MSNBC.
Seriously, though, I am pretty psyched to be talking to him and believe me, this interview will be different. I promise. Stick around. We will review all the Blagojevich of the last 72 hours and preview our big exclusive—coming up.
First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. Mark your calendars for February 2nd. Not only for your day after the Super Bowl chips and dip hangover, but also for your Karl Rove hair-of-the-dog subpoena party. Former President George W. Bush‘s chief political aide, Karl Rove, has been subpoenaed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee next Monday, February 2nd.
The committee wants Mr. Rove to testify about the Bush administration‘s alleged politicization of the Justice Department, the firing of U.S. attorneys, and the allegedly politically-motivated prosecution of Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.
Committee Chairman John Conyers has released a statement, noting that
Mr. Rove has refused previous subpoenas but now, in effect, things have
changed—quote, “Mr. Rove has previously refused to appear in response to
a judiciary committee subpoena, claiming that even former presidential
advisers cannot be compelled to testify before Congress. The ‘absolute
immunity‘ position was supported by then-President Bush, but it has been
rejected by U.S. District Judge John Bates and President Obama has
previously dismissed the claim as ‘completely misguided.‘”
Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not Mr. Rove will defy this subpoena like he did the last round. But Congressman Conyers argues that the change in the administration in Washington affects the legal arguments, the legal defense that is available to Mr. Rove if he still wants to resist.
Quote, “Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it‘s time for him to talk,” end quote. Far be it for me to presume to know the mind of Karl Rove, but I think it is fair to guess that the man who predicted that he and George Bush had created a permanent Republican majority was not at all ready for the kind of change that just hit Washington. Not at all.
Finally, a schadenfreude-laden Bernie Madoff story for you, the man who allegedly helmed a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that bankrupted hundreds of families and charities and schools in the process. He is under house arrest at his New York City Park Avenue penthouse while he awaits trial.
Even though he quite literally can‘t leave town, Mr. Madoff‘s other properties have received a little unwanted attention since the Ponzi scheme came to light. At his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, you will recall that last month, someone swiped a $10,000-piece of bronze yard art that I think was life guards.
They later returned it to with a note that read, “Bernie, the swindler. Lesson: Return stolen property to rightful owners. Signed, the educators.”
Then, last night a giant flash back to junior high. System TP‘ed him. The tree in front of the same Palm Beach mansion festooned with toilet paper. The “Palm Beach Post” is reporting that teenagers called the “Palm Beach Post” newsroom to claim, to brag that they were the ones who toilet papered Bernie‘s house in retaliation for him losing their trust funds.
The teenagers refused to give their names. They claimed the prank was OK‘ed by their parents who had invested with Mr. Madoff‘s firm. But the time Palm Beach Police arrived at the home this morning, the toilet paper was gone and they say the housekeeper elected not to make a police report. Wait a minute, Bernie Madoff still has a housekeeper?
MADDOW: Attention - programming note. For tomorrow, we have scheduled an exclusive, 9:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC on Tuesday, talking to me, Rod Blagojevich interview. Exclusively. As a matter of fact, it will be exclusive at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and at 2:00 a.m. Eastern because our show replays at those times. So it is a triple exclusive. Three time as exclusive.
How did we get this breaking news, triple exclusive all to ourselves? We got it by letting everybody else interview Mr. Blagojevich first. I think it was a very shrewd move on our part.
Just after noon, Central Time today, the Illinois State Senate convened to begin its impeachment trial of Gov. Blagojevich in Springfield. That is a potential question for him right there.
You have been watching your impeachment hearing, Sir? Wait, that‘s actually not that good a question because we know the answer to that one. While they were working on impeaching him in the all 217 area code, Mr. Blagojevich was in 212 area code on TV on the “Today” show on Sunday, on “Good Morning America” this morning, on “The View” this afternoon. He was even on with Geraldo Rivera in a parking lot apparently outside “The View.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDO RIVERA, HOST, “AT LARGE”: Give me two minutes, guys, first.
What happened to our 2:00 interview?
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D-IL): I don‘t know. I just go where they tell me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What is “go where they tell me”? I hope they tell him to come here like they said they were going to. So what questions to ask the governor? What about all that cursing, for example, that made him a folk hero to sailors and teenage boys everywhere that caused me to start calling him Governor F-word? Is there a question to be asked about that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: And I‘ll point out when some of that language was used, there were no women on the phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Always the gentleman. And you know, since, despite appearances, I am a woman. That means we will not be needing the seven-second delay for our exclusive.
What else can we learn from everybody else‘s exclusives in the last couple of days?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: The fix is in the Senate.
The fix is in.
The fix in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The fix is apparently in and he‘s got his talking points.
We‘ve got to try to get the governor off those talking points.
You know, maybe one area of - I don‘t know - personal
introspective questioning might be just about his self-esteem. I mean,
what, with all the ribbing that he has been taking from everybody -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: There was an old thing in the Old West. There was a cowboy who was charged with stealing a horse in town. And some of the other cowboys, especially the guy whose horse was stolen, were unhappy with that guy.
One of the cowboys said, “Let‘s hang him.” And the other cowboys said, “Hold on. Before we hang him, let‘s first give him a fair trial. Then we‘ll hang them.” Under these rules I‘m not even getting a fair trial. They are just hanging me.
I‘m not the first person this has happened to. All you‘ve got to do is read the Bible and parts of the Bible. It is filled with stories like this, about human beings treat each other.
And then, you know, the day unfolded. And I had a whole bunch of thoughts - of course, my children and my wife. And then I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi and tried to put some perspective in all of this. This is like an old Frank Capra movie, whether it is Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper - I do - I see myself that way in those movies, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Meet John Doe” “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” or “It‘s a Wonderful Life.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Self-esteem not a problem. He is a cross between a wrongly-accused Clint Eastwood, Job, Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. He is feeling OK about himself.
All right. Well, what about the whole impeachment thing? The still-governor says that he is being impeached for a whole bunch of reasons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: Before this happened, there was talk of impeachment because I found a way to give every senior citizen in our state free public transportation around the legislature. Because I found a way to give breast and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured women around the legislature. Because I found a way to expand healthcare and protect 35,000 poor people that President Bush kicked off healthcare.
Legislature wouldn‘t pass it. We found a way to do it, that is why they are doing this. Maybe they will wake up and realize this is just one big misunderstanding. And I will point out they were threatening and impeachment long before this came down because I went around the legislature to give every senior citizen free public transportation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In fact, there is mention in the articles of impeachment against Gov. Blagojevich about some of the governor‘s activities in the area of healthcare.
But the free public transportation for the elderly thing? It‘s not in there. That is not why he is being impeached. What is among the 13 charges of abuse of power is the charge that Mr. Blagojevich tried to extort the Tribune Company in order to force them to fire “Chicago Tribune” editorial members who he did not like.
And there‘s the charge that he tried to condition funding for a children‘s hospital on a campaign donation from a hospital executive. And there‘s that whole thing where he is accused of trying to use his power to appoint a replacement for Barack Obama in the Senate for personal gain for himself or his wife.
What sort of defense is the governor offering against those very serious charges?
(FOOTAGE OF GOV. BLAGOJEVICH BEING SILENT)
You know, maybe there is a question somewhere in that area. I suppose I could ask him how his national media tour has played in the Illinois State Senate where they started the trial today, except that we already have that answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ELLIS, BLAGOJEVICH IMPEACHMENT PROSECUTOR: There is one person who could come in here and could refute any charges that he was capable of refuting, try to explain away the charges, try to deny them, somebody who has absolute personal knowledge of all of the information contained in this complaint. That person is Gov. Blagojevich. And the rules clearly permit him to be here and to testify in his own defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. So there go rules 15-F and 8-B that he complained about on Friday. What happened we heard Rod Blagojevich talk about on every channel in the last two days? How about the fact that Rod Blagojevich by himself had the power to pick one of our 100 U.S. senators? Or the fact that Sen. Russ Feingold noticed this and announced his intention to introduce a constitutional amendment mandating that special elections, special elections, fill Senate vacancies?
He said, quote, “The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appoints to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end.”
I do not guess that Gov. Blagojevich minds very much. And he has answered a lot of questions from a lot of different interviewers. You‘ve just heard most of the sum of it. He repeats himself a lot.
So what are we going to do with our triple exclusive 9:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC talking to me interview? Well, assuming we still get to have it after this public prep session here tonight - don‘t worry. We‘ll figure something out.
Coming up next, tonight, join us for “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat” where we apply some elbow grease to clean up the stains left by former President Bush. It seems the used-to-be president forgot do something really important for the last couple of years. Remember that whole smoking gun mushroom cloud thing? He forgot to get around of working on that.
But first, one more thing. An actually and relevant news item about Rod Blagojevich who is scheduled to be our triple exclusive interview tomorrow night. The state of Illinois stands to receive billions of dollars in federal stimulus money. But if the U.S. House Appropriations Committee has anything to do with it, our scheduled special guest tomorrow will not be allowed near a penny of it.
The committee passed an amendment last week by a voice vote to put the state legislature in charge of Illinois‘ share of the stimulus if Gov. Blagojevich is still in office when the money arrives.
It‘s all right, Governor. The legislature probably wouldn‘t have let Gandhi or Gary Cooper have that money either.
MADDOW: Some big global-warming news today. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named a special envoy today for climate change. His name is Todd Stern. He was the United States chief negotiator for Kyoto protocol during the Clinton years. Now, he will be America‘s point person at the next round of climate change talks in Copenhagen this December.
And if that is not big enough news on climate change, how about this? It snowed in Dubai - yes, in the United Arab Emirates. And it‘s not the fake fluffy stuff they make for an indoor ski resort neither. These were big, chunky snow flakes falling on a mountain in the United Arab Emirates for only the second time in recorded history.
The occurrence this weekend was so rare that local residents say they do not have a word for snow in their local dialect. That falls into the rarely overlapping categories of “wow,” “neat” and “wow, worrying.”
MADDOW: President Obama promised change. And Google map enthusiasts have literally seen some. Here is a Google map image of Number One Observatory Circle in Washington, D.C. The vice president of the United States lives here. And you have never seen this shot before unless you saw it online today at “Valleywag.com.”
But you are thinking, I‘m sure I have seen this before, though. I have Google mapped everything while I‘m wasting time at work. I look at all sorts of famous landmarks, anything I could find.
Well, the shot of the vice president‘s residence has been pixilated. It had been deliberately obfuscated from the time that Google first mapped until now.
Why was it deliberately fuzzed? Because Dick Cheney lived there.
The White House fuzzed up, but the vice president‘s house was fuzzed up. The Bush administration‘s U.S. geological survey sort of kind of censored image presumably at the request of the vice president.
The big reveal, the big clarification of the image happened on January 18th, which happens to have been the day that Dick Cheney moved out and Joe Biden moved in. Just another example of setting something right after the Bush years.
And that means it is time for THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s special series on President Obama‘s clean-up mission, “Scrub, Rinse, Repeat,” because this is going to take a while.
Do you remember back in 2002 when President Bush said the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Facing clear evidence of peril. We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, in 2007, Congress passed a law which says the president should name someone to a job, specifically of preventing that sort of thing, a U.S. Coordinator for Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism. Or WMD czar, as it is commonly referred to. President Bush never bothered to fill the job ever.
President Obama? Well, foreign policy magazine‘s Web site reports that he filled the job on Friday asking Gary Samore to take the job just four days after oath of office.
Wow. Somebody might actually hold that position now. We can assume that‘s a good thing, right?
Let‘s ask our next guest, our nuclear expert, Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. Joe is the author of the book, “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons.” Mr. Cirincione, thank you for coming back on the show.
JOE CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT OF THE PLOUGHSHARES FUND: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: What is the remit of the WMD czar?
CIRINCIONE: Well, this is one of the first acts undertaken by the last Congress. It was House Resolution 1 to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission that President Bush never put into practice.
And it mandated the creation of this coordinator, someone who would serve in an office near the president in the White House who would be in charge of coordinating all of the various government programs to both prevent nuclear terrorism and prevent the spread of these deadly weapons to other countries.
President Bush never filled that post. It‘s one of the first acts that President Obama has taken.
MADDOW: One of things that I know you work on in the nonproliferation, counter-proliferation world is how governments do things well around issues like weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons.
Is it a good idea to have a czar? Is it a good idea to put one person as a point person in charge of this? Is there a risk that that will make some other people who really could make a difference in this issue that they would feel like they don‘t have to work anymore, that it‘s off their plate?
CIRINCIONE: Well, maybe. But I don‘t think so. This is a recommendation that not only the 9/11 commission, but many experts have been recommending for years. And we have so many disparate programs and the risk is that they don‘t get the attention or funding they deserve.
So President Obama has decided to start putting our resources where our threats are. He‘s had his appointees to the U.N. ambassadorship, Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifying last week that the number one threat to the United States is nuclear terrorism.
And now, he‘s saying, “This is going to take all we have to solve this problem and I‘m going to give it our highest priority.” So he‘s not only created this problem for Gary Samore is purported to the nominee for this. But he‘s going to staff it with 10 subsidiary expert positions to put in an office right next to his, the power and authority to coordinate all these programs, including the budget.
So this will be the liaison with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Energy, the Intelligence Services and focus the attention of the entire government, most importantly, the president on this vital mission.
MADDOW: So making this bureaucratic decision to staff up this office, to actually put somebody in the position that Congress created that implies a real sense of priority around the issue. In terms of policy, not personnel, but policy, what are you hoping to see from President Obama in his first move on the issue of WMDs and nuclear weapons?
CIRINCIONE: Well, you know, there are three things you look for - policy, people and presidential attention. Last week, we saw the policy positions laid out by now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declaring that this was going to be the number one national security priority for the United States.
And she articulated a series of dramatic measures, 180 degrees different from that of President Bush including seeking deep reductions in nuclear weapons, an early ratification for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, restoring U.S. global leadership for the entire non-proliferation regime and other vital measures.
Now we‘re seeing the second step, the people being put into place. Gary Samore is first rate. He‘s a three-for. He‘s a policy expert. He‘s a gifted negotiator, negotiated the agreement with North Korea back during the Clinton administration, worked to convince China to cut off its assistance to Iran‘s nuclear program.
Oh, and by the way, he‘s actually a victim of terrorism. He was in Mumbai during the terrorist attacks last month. So he feels this viscerally. A terrific choice and there are others to follow.
And finally, you‘re looking for presidential attention, how much does the president himself care about this. He mentioned it in his inaugural address. He came into the office with the most comprehensive and detailed nuclear policy any candidate has ever brought to the presidency. He mentioned it again today.
I think we‘re going to see quick action from the president, probably in the next couple of months, certainly by the time he goes to the NATO summit in April.
MADDOW: Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, author of the book, “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons.” Mr. Cirincione, thank you for your time tonight.
CIRINCIONE: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” the Obama White House response to revelations about exactly who the Bush White House was illegally wiretapping.
And next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. Guess who‘s buying a $50 million jet with your money?
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. Citigroup, which has received $45 billion in bailout money from the U.S. Government, is going through with plans to buy a $50 million corporate jet.
Citi put in an order for a Dassault Falcon 7X like this one two years ago and later this year. Now, Dassault is a French company which is a nice way to stimulate their economy. Merci beaucoup.
Citi claims they are not going to use TARP money for this. But since taxpayers now own a big chunk of Citigroup, I‘m pretty sure that means you and I get to fly on the new jet anytime we want. We just call them up and they say, “Yes, where can we take you?”
Finally, “Rolling Stone” reports that producers of the Nederlander Organization are working to transform Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” into a Broadway musical.
Now, we all remember the 1982 video, right? Michael and his date go out and he turns into a werewolf, and then dances with a chorus line of zombies. It was fantastic, really.
Finally, some overpriced, nostalgic kitsch for people my age.
Remember “Beat It?” Remember acid-washed jeans. Remember jobs with healthcare? That‘s fantastic. Tito, Latoya, jobs? Rachel?
MADDOW: Which came first, acid-washed jeans or parachute pants?
JONES: I think they came in pretty much about the same time.
MADDOW: They were roughly the same time?
JONES: As I had both, I would have to alternate days.
MADDOW: We were allowed to have acid-washed jeans, my brother and I.
But we were not allowed to have parachute pants. They were not OK.
JONES: You‘ve got to have standards. No parachute pants for you.
MADDOW: Why did one of them have more cultural resonance than the other? I should ask my mom.
JONES: I don‘t know. I can‘t answer that.
MADDOW: Anyway, thank you for watching tonight. We will see you here tomorrow night. Until then, you can E-mail us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our podcast on iTunes or Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can also hear my radio, 6:00 p.m. Eastern coast to coast on Air America Radio. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Good night.
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