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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, February 18

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Rich, Karen Bass, Jonathan Linkov, Kent


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Tonight—we prepare our so long to the PT Cruiser to the Saturn, and to 50,000 jobs at General Motors and Chrysler.  We will extrapolate from my childhood bitterness about the closing of my hometown library to a national worry about the Republican Party‘s political tactics right now.

We‘ve got Zbigniew Brzezinski joining us this hour.  We‘ve got the speaker of the California State Assembly joining us.  Frank Rich from the “New York Times” will be here.  It is all coming up this hour.

But first—if there were not a national foreclosure crisis, if there were not a national unemployment crisis, and a national banking crisis, and a regulatory crisis, and an infrastructure crisis, if the Democratic president of the United States had not inherited epic problems and a dug-in at the heels opposition party determined to block his legislative agenda to address these crises, then the political storm around a short time Illinois senator and a court battle over an election in Minnesota would be great local stories.  You know, maybe fodder for the true politic geeks among us, but not much more.

However, now, because Barack Obama did inherit epic problems and this particular opposition party, the storm around Illinois Senator Roland Burris and the ongoing stalemate between Norm Coleman and Al Franken of Minnesota have turned out to be a big national deal.  First, Burris, just 34 days after being sworn in as the new junior senator from Illinois, his hometown newspaper, “The Chicago Tribune,” is calling for Mr. Burris to resign.  Democratic Illinois congressmen, former guest on this show, Phil Hare, is also calling for him to resign.  Senior Illinois senator and Democrat, Dick Durbin, is also confirming that the Senate Ethics Committee is investigating Mr. Burris.  All over the issue of quid pro quo, whether the quid that Governor Blagojevich sought in exchange for the Senate seat was quod (ph) his way by Roland Burris.

Today, after announcing that he was done speaking publicly on this issue, Roland Burris, went with the old refer to yourself in the third person defense.


SEN. ROLAND BURRIS, (D) ILLINOIS:  You know, the real Roland, I am the real Roland.  If I had done the things I‘ve been accused of, I would be too embarrassed to stand up here in front of you.  I ask you today to stop the rush to judgment.  You know the real Roland, I‘ve done nothing wrong.  And I have absolutely nothing to hide.


MADDOW:  Generally speaking, it is a bad sign for a defense strategy when it boils down to you—know me.  Yes.

Meanwhile, there is the never-ending Coleman-Franken story in Minnesota, which had been the most boring unresolved Senate fight in recent memory—until now, until Norm Coleman decided to stop playing Minnesota nice and instead start playing 52-card pick-up.  Mr. Coleman‘s lawyers today are suggesting that maybe the whole Senate election should be redone.  Do it again.  They called it fatally flawed.  They said it was based on illegal votes.

Roland Burris, Norm Coleman, and Al Franken against the odds, have turned out to be enormously important figures in the country right now because, while we were all memorizing the names of the Kardashian sisters or learning to play Sudoku or something, while we were not noticing, the minority party in the United States Senate changed the rules of how laws get made in the United States of America.

Traditionally, constitutionally, you need a majority of votes to pass something in the U.S. Senate.  In extraordinary circumstances, a weird rule called “the filibuster” could be used to block an upper down majority vote on something.  Sixty senators would have to vote to shut down the filibuster—extraordinary circumstances.  That‘s how these filibusters worked for—I don‘t know, say the entire existence of the United States Senate.

Through, say, the 1980s and 1990s, it was normal to have 20 or 30 cloture votes, 20 or 30 filibusters during a given session of Congress.  That started to pick up a bit in the mid-90s to about -- 50 votes.  When Democrats were in the minority in 2005/2006, there were 54 cloture votes, Republicans freaked out about that publicly.  They threatened the nuclear option to end the filibuster rule to take away that power in the Senate.

Then what did the Republicans do in the very next Congress when they became the minority?  One hundred and twelve cloture votes.  That‘s 112 --


Look, I am all for the Constitution, I‘m all for as being protected from the tyranny of the majority.  I dig it.  I like arcane rules that protect minority rights—duh.  But this seems sort of anti-small “d” Democratic.  It seems like this rule is not being used as intended.

The Republicans search for meaning by the way of the filibuster threat is having a tangible effect.  It‘s making the American people hate them.  The approval rating for congressional Democrats, just that you know, it‘s up 25 points from a month ago.  Independents, their approval rating is up 12 points.  The approval rating for congressional Republicans is down, that‘s fallen four points over the past month.

The GOP‘s “obstruct at all costs” strategy is making them unpopular.  The practical policy effect they‘re having is to essentially just water down things that the Democrats are passing anyway.  And they are behaving in such a radical way that it‘s causing even constitutionalists minority rights dorks like me to seriously consider the wisdom of scrapping some of the rules that I would otherwise cherish because it turns out that those rules assume a level of good faith and keeping the country‘s interests at heart.  That just isn‘t in evidence right now.

Joining us right now is “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich.

Mr. Rich, thank you for coming back on the show.  It‘s nice to see you.


MADDOW:  In your latest column, you compare the Republican Party to the bailed out banks.  You said the GOP is quote, “in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets.”  How do you think that denial‘s being made manifest?

RICH:  I think they‘re completely adrift from the American people. 

This is a country in a serious economic crisis.  People are frightened.

They may not agree with everything that the president is saying, but they want action and here you have an obstructionist party with no ideas, just sound bytes that they repeat over and over and over again, calling the stimulus bill a spending bill, saying the New Deal failed, and I think they‘ve become irrelevant.  I think they‘re increasingly a regional southern white party that‘s upholding very strongly its opposition to deficits after letting that cow out of the barn for eight years.

MADDOW:  We‘ve seen a lot out Newt Gingrich recently.  And I wonder if the Republican Party right now is sort of trying to find itself back in 1994.  They‘re trying to find their way back to a contract with America era.  Trying to say, “We want to show how Republicans would govern even though we know it‘s just sort of shadow boxing, even though we know it‘s not really—we don‘t really have the responsibility.”

It seems to me like they‘re trying to cast themselves as 1994.  It seems to me that the American people are reading it as 1995.  When they weren‘t showing how they would govern, they were showing they would shut down the federal government.

RICH:  Right, I think, it‘s being read as—remember the famous Gingrich temper tantrum about where he was seated in the airplane.  I think the “New York Daily News” did a front page cartoon about it?  That‘s what they‘re seeing it as.

And also, this isn‘t the mid-1990s.  This is the greatest economic crisis in 80 years.  So, the whole context and backdrop is different.  They‘re just tone deaf really.

MADDOW:  Do you think that I‘m crazy to be talking about getting rid of the filibuster.  I mean, I will admit that I thought it was crazy when the Republicans were proposing it, but I don‘t think the Democrats were abusing the filibuster like the GOP is now.

RICH:  I don‘t think you‘re crazy, but I think, you know, if we‘re just looking at the politics of it, let the Republicans filibuster.  They‘re being accused of being a “do-nothing” party.  There‘s no way better to dramatize that from the get on the floor and read the phonebook or the funny pages.  So, I think it‘s sort of a win-win situation for the Democrats no matter what happens with the filibuster.

MADDOW:  But that‘s only true if they‘re actually forced to act out the filibuster where they refuse to shut up unless there‘s that cloture vote.

RICH:  Right.

MADDOW:   Just assuming that everything takes 60 votes means that all of the political risk for them goes away and all of the political benefit of requiring a supermajority goes their way too.

RICH:  Yes, that‘s true.  I think, you know—but I think what‘s really only going to break this logjam whatever happens with the filibuster is the next mid-terms, because I think regardless of what happens, we don‘t know what‘s going to happen, of course, with the endless Coleman-Franken race or who is going to end up really being the senator from Illinois—but I think that the Republicans seem to be indicating they need yet another election failure third in a row, maybe the third time will be the charm and they‘ll snap them back to their political senses.

MADDOW:  Well, I don‘t think that the Republicans will trust advice from you.


RICH:  Why not?

MADDOW:  But if they would, what would you tell them about how to not lose the midterms?  How to find some meaning in the minority?

RICH:  Look, there are Republican governors, a classic example of Charlie Crist, who‘s hardly a liberal and a state that was a Republican state, Florida, who are trying to work through these problems.  There are a number of Republican governors around the country who are really in conflict with their own Washington representation because they see on the ground the problems their own voters are having.

That seems to me the model.  It doesn‘t—it seems self-evident.  This country‘s in trouble.  But, instead what they‘re doing, is people on the hard right in Washington are trashing Charlie Crist .

MADDOW:  Right.

RICH:  . who has an approval rating as high as Obama‘s.

MADDOW:  The person who‘s on the ascendancy among Republican seems to be Bobby Jindal, who we learned today, is now considering turning down stimulus money that could generate 50,000 jobs in the state of Louisiana, on the basis of this political principle that the Republicans need to say no to economic stimulus.  He‘s seen as one who has a real future.  Charlie Crist is seen as, you know, sort of over.

RICH:  Right.  And Bobby Jindal who‘s very unproven and very young, obviously, in some ways, a talented and very bright guy, but what is the stand he‘s taking in that state of all states .


RICH:  . that‘s just been suffering so much.  For you to turn down the money the cognitive dissonance politically in that, whatever the ideology behind it, just makes him look completely rigidly ideological.

MADDOW:  Yes.  Frank Rich from the “New York Times”—it‘s great to have you on the show.  Thank you for coming in.  Nice to see you.

RICH:  Good to see you.

MADDOW:  Coming up—are American cars finished?  Dodge Durango?  I think I won‘t miss you most of all.

But first, One More Thing about the top of our show guests last night.  I interviewed Brandon Neely, a young man from Texas who served as a guard at Guantanamo.  He decided to come forward to tell his story of things he did and saw in his time at Guantanamo that he was not proud of.  He gave us a firsthand account of how prisoners were abused at Guantanamo.

We heard about Mr. Neely after he chose to the Guantanamo Testimonials Project at U.C. Davis in California.  Well, since Mr. Neely‘s interview aired on this show 24 hours ago, the folks at U.C. Davis tells us three more former Guantanamo guards came forward asking to tell their stories publicly, as well.

It‘s amazing how giant the ratio is of talk about Guantanamo to talk about Guantanamo of people who have been part of what happened there.  So, if you or someone you know wants to speak out, the contact information for the Testimonials Project is again at our Web site:


MADDOW:  Burly politicization of the stimulus bill, what‘s in it and what‘s not?  Have you ever wanted to check for yourself what‘s in it instead of believing politicians and jerks like me when we talk about it?  Well, you can—, the whole bill is there.  The details are there, graphs explaining it.  And as more projects get funded, the White House says that more data will go on to that Web site, it will become searchable.

Now, this whole openness thing, it‘s going to take some getting used to.


MADDOW:  In Washington, the Republican Party has defined itself this year as the “party of no.”  The party that brags about contributing zero votes to stuff that, you know, passes anyway.  That has led to the awkward spectacle of Republicans who voted against the stimulus.  Guys like Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, and Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, touting the benefits of the stimulus to their constituents.  That would be the stimulus that they voted against.

That‘s the kind of inscrutable accountability you try to get away with when you are the GOP in exile.


MADDOW:  The GOP is also in exile in the great state of California, where Democrats have big majorities in both Houses of the legislature.  However, California is turning out to be a test lab for what happens when the party in exile, the “party of no” can‘t get overruled.  Legislative rules in California require a 2/3 vote on certain legislation, which means a few minority Republican votes are needed to pass the Golden State‘s horrible new budget.

Why is it horrible?  Well, because California capped property taxes when I was five.  I remember because that shut down my town‘s library for most of the week, not that I‘m bitter.

With no real property tax base, California is instead really dependent on income taxes, and since people‘s income goes up and down with a lot of volatility depending on the state of the economy, California‘s state budget has ended up being really sensitive to economic downturns.  And in case you hadn‘t noticed, this is to economic downturns what a buffalo is to a buffalo wing.

California is in a really bad state.  They‘ve got a $42 billion budget deficit and they‘re not allowed to run budget deficit.  They‘re a state.  Still, though, the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and legislative leaders from both parties saw what was coming.  They spent the last three months negotiating a budget together that would be awful but would fix the deficit problem.

And now, the Republicans won‘t vote for it.  The assembly has the three Republican votes that they need there, the Senate has two Republican votes, but they can‘t get the crucial third.  They even fired their own party‘s leader in the Senate for agreeing to be one of those two votes in favor.  As go California Republicans, so go national Republicans?  Eek!

Joining us now is Karen Bass, the Democratic speaker of the California State Assembly.

Madam Speaker, thank you so much for coming on the show today.


MADDOW:  You have the votes on the assembly to pass the budget, but it is the Senate that is holding things up.  Can you tell us what has come to a stop in the state?  What has happened in the state of California because of this impasse?

BASS:  Well, let me tell you that a couple of months ago, several hundred transportation projects that were vital to our state had to be halted and several other projects did, as well.  I tell you, California is ready to go over a cliff and that will happen tomorrow because tomorrow, 276 more projects, which will lead to tens of thousands of people being put out of work will be called to a halt tomorrow if we don‘t get that one Republican vote tonight.

MADDOW:  Do you mean literally that highway overpasses that are mid-construction will—the work on them will stop with the, you know, the rafters sticking out, right, the rebar, yes?  OK.

BASS:  That is exactly what I mean.  And I will tell you that these projects that remain were allowed to go forward because they impacted public safety.  That‘s why they weren‘t stopped a couple of months ago.  So, if we don‘t vote on this budget tonight, those projects will stop.

And let me tell you—that it will cost us close to $400 million to stop those projects and then start them again.  And the only thing that is standing in the way is one Republican vote—the party of no votes, the party of no solutions.

MADDOW:  Well, what is the Republicans‘ tactical goal here?  Are they proposing an alternate plan for dealing with this $42 billion cap or are they just invested in saying no to the existing plan?

BASS:  Well, that‘s exactly why I said “no solutions,” because—no, they have not put forward a plan, they did a couple of months ago talk about $42 billion of cuts, but understand that over the last three years, we have cut $19 billion in transportation, education, health and human services.  We are even proposing $15 billion more in cuts.  It is impossible in the state of California to close a $42 billion budget without raising taxes.  And so we have five brave Republicans, we need one more.

MADDOW:  The reason that we‘re talking about this on the show tonight is not just that California is the eighth largest economy in the world, and California is the most populous state in the country, and California, in its own terms, is massively important to the fate of our country.  It‘s also because a lot of people around the country are looking at California and thinking that that is a test lab for what may be happening nationally.

Is the Republican Party in California viewing this obstruction as a net positive?  Are they proud of this—of denying this last vote?

BASS:  Well, absolutely they are.  And let me just tell you that it is not always the individual legislators, OK?  Because there are many legislators that would like to do the right thing, and they understand what the right thing is.  The problem in California, just like the rest of the nation, is right-wing talk radio that literally threatens these individuals.

As a matter of fact, one famous station in our state has put Republican legislators‘ heads on sticks, and they have threatened to recall them, they have threatened to run a candidate and a primary against them, and the individual Republican Party committees in different cities and different regions have called for the recall of legislators.  So, it‘s not always the individual legislators, it is the Republican Party in the state of California.

MADDOW:  Having that—having something in California that has that kind of radicalizing affect on a party, though, it‘s easy to see how that can influence things from one direction.  But there‘s got to be public opprobrium from the other direction, people mad that this is being stopped simply because of the intercedence of one vote.  I mean, there‘s got to be a push in the other direction politically too, right?

BASS:  Well, exactly.  You know, although, many people do buy into the mantra of no taxes and frankly, I‘m not celebrating the fact that we need to raise taxes.  But what I do understand is that we cannot devastate education.  We already fund education at a lower level than most other states in the country.

And so, sometimes, you just have to step up and you have to do what might feel uncomfortable for you ideologically.  It‘s certainly uncomfortable for Democrats to make the type of cuts we‘ve made just as it‘s uncomfortable for the Republicans to take—to go against the pledge they took and vote for taxes.

MADDOW:  California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass—good luck to you. 

Thank you so much for joining us.

BASS:  Thank you.  I‘ll need some luck.


MADDOW:  Probably some sleep too, I understand.  Thank you, ma‘am.

BASS:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Do you remember Sam the American Eagle from “The Muppets”? 

He was like the protector of all things American, remember him?


SAM THE AMERICAN EAGLE:  There are those among us who would silence our factories, shut down our mills, and grind our highways to a halt.


MADDOW:  Sometimes, it takes the wisdom of a puppet to explain the downfall of the U.S. auto industry.  Sometimes it doesn‘t.  Not sure whether we need Sam today or not.  We‘ll see.


MADDOW:  Coming up in just a moment—do you know Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski from “MORNING JOE” on MSNBC?  Well, Mika‘s dad you may know was national security adviser to Jimmy Carter and he is wicked smart.  And frankly, I need someone wicked smart to talk to about Afghanistan.  Mika‘s dad will be here next.

First, though, a number of things that we have covered on this show in the past few days that had important follow-up since.  For example, the Japanese finance minister, the man who I described as seeming totally hammered at that press conference at the G-7 this weekend, he is sticking to his story that he was not drunk at that press conference, he says he was just on too much cold medicine.  The minister has nevertheless decided to resign.  He apologized for, quote, “causing such a commotion.”

This all happened while Hillary Clinton was in Japan.  On the same day the finance minister resigned, Secretary Clinton announced that the Japanese prime minister would become the first foreign head of state to visit Barack Obama at the White House.  That would be Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso of the 9.7 percent approval rating.  Mr. Aso has a reputation, also, as a somewhat epic drinker.  Perhaps best then not to have him at the White House on a Wednesday, with the weekly Wednesday White House cocktail parties and all.

Also, in a misinformation story a couple of days ago, we noted that family values anti-obscenity-crusading Republican Congressman Eric Cantor had not only circulated an anti-union video with so many swears in it that it just sounded like one long beep when it was shown on TV, Mr. Cantor also sent a “Yea Republicans” video.  He set this video that he circulated this week to a song by Aerosmith, a song by Aerosmith that is about hookers.

To follow up on this one is that Aerosmith or rather the company that owns the rights to Aerosmith‘s song about hookers, has told the Republicans that they cannot use that hooker-related song anymore.  So, the whole thing‘s been pulled down off YouTube and now poor Republican Congressman Eric Cantor has to figure out some other way besides the swearing video he had to apologize for and the hooker song he can‘t use anymore, has to figure out some other way to get his family values message across.  Good luck, Mr. Cantor.

Finally, a not-everything-is-totally-miserable-after-all story from the decreasingly reliable world of sports.  This time, high school basketball.  De Kalb High School in Illinois traveled 2 ½ north to play Madison High School in Milwaukee back on February 7th.  Now, one of Madison‘s players lost his mom to cancer that day, earlier that afternoon.

At the first half of a close game played out, the young man who have lost his mom showed up at the gym, not to watch, he said he actually wanted to play.  Of course, that was a surprise.  The young man had not been included on the official roster of players for the night.  The rules say that if a player enters the game who was not listed on the roster, that cost that team a technical foul.  Two free throws for the other team.

Well aware of the situation, the opposing team‘s coach argued with the ref and said his team did not want the technical foul.  Please just let the kid play.  The ref said, “Hey, rules are rules.  You have got to take the technical.  You have got to take these two free throws.  The kid is not on the roster.  That is the rule.” 

A De Kalb senior named Darius McNeal volunteered to shoot the free throws and here where we are getting to the part about why this high school boys‘ basketball game is on this national news show. 

As the Madison squad huddled in what was still a close game, they saw something remarkable, the ball bounced just in front of the free throw shooter and it rolled past the basket.  Second shot, same deal.  Darius McNeal, high school senior, had volunteered to purposely miss the free throws, to miss them on purpose and the entire gym, aware of the scene unfolding, stood and cheered the visiting player. 

Asked about the free throws Darius McNeal said, quote, “I did it for the guy who lost his mom.  It was the right thing to do.”  And of course, it was the right thing to do, but it wasn‘t necessarily the obvious thing to do.  So yay.  Yay De Kalb High.  Yay Darius McNeal.  Well done. 


MADDOW:  Twenty years ago this week, the Soviet Union skulked out of Afghanistan after 10 years of war there, 15,000 soviet casualties, and a financial outlay that led to - well, that led to me sometimes calling Afghanistan Soviet demise-istan. 

On this 20-year anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal, the very last Russian to leave Afghanistan - literally, the general who was the last guy over the border when the Russians retreated in 1989.  He had some words of caution for the latest foreign army to get its arms around Kabul - that would be us. 

Asked about President Obama‘s decision on troop levels in Afghanistan, this Russian general, General Boris Gromov, told reporters quote, “One can increase the forces or not - it won‘t lead to anything but a negative result.”  He said, quote, “Afghanistan taught us an invaluable lesson.  It has been and always will be impossible to solve political problems using force.”

Take it from a guy who knows.  For his part, President Obama seems to agree, sort of, in principle with the general who supervised the Russian retreat, even as he announced an additional 17,000 U.S. troops would be deploying to Afghanistan. 


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I‘m absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means.  I think Afghanistan is still winnable in the sense our ability to ensure that it is not a launching pad for attacks against North America. 


MADDOW:  What‘s going on here is the American president is simultaneously adding troops, but shrinking U.S. objectives in Afghanistan.  Does that mean he is moving the starting line and the finishing line closer together so we‘re trying to do something less impossible? 

Is he sketching out a more realistic task for us in Afghanistan?  And what do the American people think we ought to be doing in Afghanistan anyway and how we ought to be doing it? 

A new Washington Post-ABC poll says the proportion of Americans who want our troop numbers in Afghanistan to go up is just 34 percent; 29 percent want a reduction in forces; 32 percent would have no change at all. 

What that means is that U.S. public opinion on troop levels in Afghanistan is totally mixed.  Afghan public opinion on troop levels there is rather more decisive.  They want us out.  Only 18 percent of Afghans want us and NATO to increase troop levels.  More than twice that number, 44 percent, want fewer foreign troops there. 

Our military has been in that country for more than seven years.  If the people of Afghanistan thought the NATO and U.S. troop presence was good for them, wouldn‘t more than 18 percent of them favor a greater presence? 

Joining us now, the former national security adviser to President Carter.  Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter.  Dr. Brzezinski, thank you so much for coming back on the show. 


CARTER:  Good to be you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Do you agree with President Obama‘s decision to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan even before this big strategic review he‘s doing is completed? 

BRZEZINSKI:  I am willing to believe that some additional troops may be necessary here or there.  And the figure of 17,000 isn‘t enormous, all things considered.  But I think that it‘s quite clear by now that adding more troops and then more troops and then more troops is not going to be the solution. 

This 17,000 that we put in will bring the American forces up to roughly 60,000.  Then, there are an additional 20,000 NATO troops.  That‘s, together, 80,000.  You cited general Gromov, the Russian commander.  At its high point, the Soviet army presence in Afghanistan was about 160,000.  And they didn‘t win.  I don‘t think increasing the troops by itself will be the solution. 

MADDOW:  When the president looks at options for what goals to set in Afghanistan, what policy decisions to make, are those options labeled with troop numbers, with size of the military footprint?  Or is he considering, do you think, big non-military missions?  Say a big development effort?  Are those some of the decisions that he needs to make, some of the options he‘s choosing between? 

BRZEZINSKI:  I think he realizes that our policy has to be a mixture of several undertakings.  A limited military undertaking, a reasonable amount of help to stabilize the country, to offer it something constructive so that they see in our presence, some tangible benefits for the society. 

The Soviets, mind you, were present for 10 years and almost entirely destructive.  We have to show something quite different.  And last but not least, we have to be willing to explore the possibility of some limited accommodations with some of the Talibans, not the entire Taliban movement, but some of the Talibans depending on circumstances and specifically on one circumstance above all else. 

Are they willing, explicitly, completely, unambiguously, to detach themselves from any relationship with al-Qaeda?  Because one of the things we have to think about is this.  Al-Qaeda is a threat to us.  Taliban is a medieval movement, very negative in its social values from our standpoint, but it is an Afghan movement. 

If we‘re going to fight the Taliban to its end, we may have to be in Afghanistan for a very long time. 

MADDOW:  Well, thinking about the Taliban and relationship of our government and other governments with the Taliban, what do you make of the decision to allow Islamic law, to allow Sharia law in the Swat Valley across the border in Pakistan in exchange for what is hopefully going to be some sort of peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban? 

BRZEZINSKI:  Well, that illustrates another complexity of the problem.  We are now in a situation in which we cannot make decisions regarding Afghanistan entirely on our own.  We have to deal, first of all, with our European allies.  We‘re asking them to put in troops. 

They‘re going to respond and they are responding by saying to us, “What is your goal?  What is your strategy?  How do you feel about this or that issue?  And here‘s our input.”  We have to be responsive to that. 

And secondly, the issue that you have just raised.  If we are to prevail in Afghanistan in a total sort of a sense, that is to say, we wipe out the Taliban, we have to have massive Pakistani assistance.  And the Pakistanis increasingly feel that they have to make some limited accommodations themselves within Pakistan. 

We‘re beginning to strike at the Taliban in Pakistan.  So we are beginning to be part of the conflict within Pakistan.  That is a rather dangerous and risky road for us to be pursuing.  We have to talk to the Pakistanis about shared objectives for Afghanistan, and that‘s not going to be easy. 

MADDOW:  It seems like the emerging, I guess, the emerging debate about what to do in the whole Afghanistan-Pakistan region comes down to this idea that whether or not the problem can be out-governed instead of outgunned, whether this is something the U.S. can be part of a constructive political solution, whether it really is a military issue. 

When I look at the evidently corrupt government and government of a limited reach and Hamid Karzai and I look at the government of Pakistan which is only one year old and is bankrupt, it‘s hard for me to believe that we‘ve got enough - there‘s enough governance there to really solve this big problem. 

BRZEZINSKI:  You know, I can‘t help smiling because you used two words, which we like to use when we become uncomfortable with those who are dependent on us or who are, to some extent, our allies.  If we‘re uncomfortable with them, we begin to say they‘re corrupt or now we‘re saying the Pakistanis are bankrupt. 

What about us?  We‘re close to being bankrupt.  And you know Washington and I know Washington. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

BRZEZINSKI:  What we have in this city is well organized, legalized corruption.  But I don‘t think we ought to be going around labeling others.  We have to be serious about it. 

If we don‘t like the Afghan government, probably we can overthrow it.  We better make sure that if we do that, it is a government that‘s better than the present one.  We have done this before with some other countries in which we engaged. 

We overthrew those with whom we were in solidarity.  But then they begun to feel they are corrupt, inefficient, so we overthrew them and in the end, we lost the engagement.  I‘m thinking particularly Vietnam. 

So we ought to go easy on these classifications.  Karzai may be not the ideal president for Afghanistan, but I‘m not sure we know that there is a much better substitute. 

And above all else, we cannot treat these people in a patronizing way if we want them to work with us.  You know, when we went into Afghanistan to throw out the Taliban and to try to catch Osama Bin Laden, we went in with 300 troops - 300 troops. 

The Soviets didn‘t win with 160,000.  We won quickly with 300 troops because most Afghans were on our side.  We have wasted seven years pursuing policies which are ill-defined, not seeking any realistic objective. 

And now, we have to rethink this whole engagement very seriously and take into account both Pakistani and European views. 

MADDOW:  Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter, it‘s a real honor to have you on the show.  Thank you, Sir. 

BRZEZINSKI:  And don‘t forget how you introduced me before. 

MADDOW:  Thank you. 

BRZEZINSKI:  You introduced me as Mika‘s father. 

MADDOW:  I introduced you as Mika‘s father. 

BRZEZINSKI:  That‘s right. 

MADDOW:  If there‘s any way I can make it up to the family let me know and I‘ll write a note.  Thank you, Sir. 

MADDOW:  File Saturn and Pontiac alongside Studebaker and Hopmobile in the folder marked “Cars Americans Don‘t Make Anymore.”  As the auto crisis gets worse, Chrysler and G.M. are starting to look like they are in the business version of a demolition derby.  That is coming up next.   


MADDOW:  Armed with his figurative scrubby bubbles, new Attorney General Eric Holder is heading to one of the dirtiest legacies of the Bush administration.  He is heading to the prison at Guantanamo.  Mr. Holder has been put in charge of the task force charged with closing Guantanamo within a year. 

He‘s heading there personally on Monday.  He says because, quote, “We need to have our feet on the ground to really see what is going on.”  Well, according to Dick Cheney‘s review, the prison is in the tropics and the prisoners are well fed and they have everything they could possibly want.  But now, we need more information than that?   


MADDOW:  The RACHEL MADDOW SHOW bids a fond farewell tonight to the Chrysler PT Cruiser, the Chrysler Aspen, and the Dodge Durango, a car I have never owned but one I have rented occasionally simply for the pleasure of deliberately mispronouncing the name of the vehicle as “doango.” 

As Chrysler and G.M. make their case to the government that they need more bailout money, we now know that those three models will join four others Chrysler has already eliminated during the auto industry‘s current cash crisis. 

G.M. is not just cutting models - they‘re cutting entire brands.  Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick will survive for now.  But Pontiac, part of the car business since 1932, will have a smaller role if it makes it at all.  And Saturn, developed just 19 years ago to compete with small Japanese cars - Saturn will be phased out by 2012. 

I had a Saturn once.  It had a really, really loud turn signal.  The companies also say they will need billions more in government money if they are to survive.  G.M. is seeking more than $16 billion.  Chrysler is seeking $5 billion. 

In return, the car companies say they will make major cuts.  G.M, says it will cut, get this, 47,000 jobs around the world - 47,000.  They say they will close five more plants in North America.  Chrysler says they‘ll cut 3,000 jobs.  Wow. 

Last fall, there was a debate in this country about just how bad things really were for the car companies.  Now, it seems there can be no doubt.  Durango - we are in danger of having a core American manufacturing industry just go away. 

Here now is Jonathan Linkov, who is the managing editor for “Cars,” at “Consumer Reports” magazine.  Jonathan, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 


MAGAZINE”:  My pleasure, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  There‘s no more PT Cruiser, no more Chrysler Aspen, no more Dodge Durango. 


MADDOW:  From your perspective, what‘s the best car that‘s no longer going to exist because of this crunch? 

LINKOV:  Oh, goodness.  Well, you know, the big thing that we saw come across the wire today is that General Motors has now said they‘re not going to produce a lot of their performance models.  So you‘re looking at CTSV.  You‘re looking at SS Cobalt, the HHRSS.  You know, so these are enthusiast models that really kind of keep the flames going for the flag wavers, and those are going away. 

MADDOW:  Wait.  I have to stop you.  The abbreviation CTSV, that‘s the like, Super Car Cadillac One? 

LINKOV:  Yes, exactly.  The Cadillac CTSV - it‘s a 550-horsepower V8 sedan.  It competes with the M5 from BMW.  And you know, they‘re really cutting through everything, you know, a lot of performance.  But they‘re also getting rid of the trucks.  They‘re going to focus only on fuel economy is what they say. 

MADDOW:  Focusing on getting rid of some trucks.  One of the ways the big three have competed is by the sales of their large vehicles, their SUVs and their trucks. 

Are those - did those succeed because they were very good quality trucks, very good quality large vehicles?  Or because it just took the import manufacturers a long time to catch up with the fact that Americans wanted giant things to drive? 

LINKOV:  Well, you know, what happened was the American manufacturers really put their money, as we all know, into trucks.  And some of them were good.  The trailing end of the previous generation, Silverado, was good. 

But they had models like the Trailblazer, which were just horrible reliability in our “Consumer Reports” survey.  And the problem with General Motors isn‘t that they were building vehicles people don‘t want, because taste change like - you know, fickle - in a minute. 

However, they didn‘t have alternatives.  They didn‘t have the small cars.  Chrysler doesn‘t have the small cars.  So when there was - the cash cow going away and the cash cow into the barn and closed the door, there‘s nothing left from them.  And that‘s why we‘re seeing a huge stumble from them. 

MADDOW:  At “Consumer Reports,” when you look at customer satisfaction, when you look at vehicle quality, what where some of the American winners?  What are some of the American cars that actually do score very well even when compared against imports? 

LINKOV:  Well, actually, all of the Ford lineup, almost, except for a couple of the Explorers, have done extremely well.  They‘re very reliable.  And the Fusion model, for example - it‘s a sedan - that‘s on par with Honda and Toyota. 

So you can get very good, reliable American cars.  General Motors

they‘ve been a little hit-and-miss.  They launch a car very well.  The Outlook - the Saturn Outlook launched well.  Then the Chevrolet Malibu launched well. 

But the second year of the Outlook had poor reliability.  So General Motors tends to focus on something.  They launch it well and then they change their focus and go somewhere else. 

Chrysler - there‘s really nothing in the portfolio according - that we can see.  Product that they have, we don‘t recommend anything whether it‘s for reliability or performance.  We haven‘t anything coming down the pipeline that looks like it‘s going to be in any kind favor for them. 

MADDOW:  Jonathan Linkov, one last quick question.  Do you think that G.M., Chrysler, and/or Ford will be around a year from now? 

LINKOV:  I do.  I do think it‘s best in the interest of the country really not to let them fail.  Because it‘s not just the employees there, but it‘s the trucking company.  It‘s the people at the dealerships.  It‘s the suppliers.  If they fail, the suppliers will have problems and they support Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Ford - so it‘s a big trickle effect. 

MADDOW:  Jonathan Linkov, who covers the auto industry at “Consumer Reports” magazine, great to have you on the show tonight.  We‘d love to have you back.  Thanks, Jonathan.

LINKOV:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith talks to Al Sharpton about this cartoon in “The New York Post.”  Eek!

Next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones.  White Sox or Cubs?  Obama‘s across the aisle nightmare.  


MADDOW:  Now it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend, Kent Jones. 

Hi, Kent.  What have you got?

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Good evening, Rachel.  Well, President Obama was just in Arizona stumping for the stimulus.  But he declined an invitation to stop by the spring training camp of his beloved Chicago White Sox in nearby Glendale. 

Diplomatically, Obama also declined an invite to visit the Chicago Cubs‘ training camp in Mesa just about an hour away.  So, he‘s giving up reaching out to the opposition.  Interesting. 

Next, in Seattle, the estate of Jimi Hendrix said it has won a trademark infringement lawsuit against a company that promoted something called Hendrix‘s Electric Vodka, which will be pulled from the market, because that‘s how Hendrix became such a great musician.  First, he drank a pitcher of screw drivers.  And then, acts as bold as love.  Magic.

Speaking of too much here, here‘s an indicator of our national obesity epidemic.  The study of the classic cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking” found that from between 1936 and 2006, the calorie counts for 14 of the recipes in there went up by an average of 928 calories or 44 percent per recipe. 


JONES:  And the serving sizes are larger too.  For instance, here‘s an instruction for cookies.  Quote, “Add butter until that sad feeling goes away.” 

Finally, last night, at the end of the third quarter -of the Hawks-Lakers game, L.A. fan Robert Ward sinks the half court shot and wins $165,000.  Well done. 

MADDOW:  Wow. 

JONES:  Ward said he would spend the money on - well, nothing, actually.  That‘s the problem.  You see, no one‘s spending money right now.  You‘ve got to get it out there - liquidity.

MADDOW:  I‘m just going to dish it to myself as a tax rebate. 

JONES:  Exactly.  Exactly. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  I have one personnel story and one policy story for you.  Personnel story.  “New York Times” reporting citing advisers saying that Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas has emerged as Obama‘s top choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services after Tom Daschle had to step down.  Sebelius, of course, makes political trivia because she is the first daughter of a governor to have ever become a governor in the United States. 

JONES:  Oh, yes? 

MADDOW:  Her dad was governor of Ohio.  On policy though, my cocktail moment today, what I geeked out on all day is the Department of Transportation‘s map that they released showing the designated high-speed rail corridors. 

Oh my god, I‘m hyperventilating.  It‘s the northeast corridor right there, just in the upper right hand corner.  All the other stuff would be new.  I know. 

JONES:  Fantastic. 

MADDOW:  I know.  Thank you, Kent.  Thank you for watching tonight.  We‘ll see you here tomorrow night.  Until then, “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Good night. 



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