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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, February 25

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest: Tom Andrews, Nancy Pelosi, Kent Jones

High: Interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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

Today, I did have the opportunity to sit down with the most powerful woman on Capitol Hill, the most powerful person in Congress, period—the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  During Barack Obama‘s not State of the Union address, Speaker Pelosi‘s joy at being seated behind him not, instead of behind George W. Bush, was itself a joy to behold, if only for the sheer, unbridled, “who are you calling a grandmother,” energetic enthusiasm with which she leapt out of that chair to applaud, really enthusiastically again and again and again.

There were more than 60 applause lines.  Check her out.  The leg workout from standing, the arms workout from clapping—Joe Biden unable to keep up.  Look.  Wow.  I am worn out all over again just watching it.


I went to Washington today in the wake of the president‘s big speech to talk with Mrs. Pelosi in one of the ceremonial offices in the Capitol, just off the floor of the House.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, of course, made news today when he went to the floor of the Senate to announce that his judiciary committee would hold hearings on creating a new “truth commission” to investigate allegations of crimes committed by Bush administration officials.

I asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about that proposal from Senator Leahy, she made some news in her response.  Check it out.


MADDOW:  On the issue of looking back while moving forward, on the issue of accountability, and you knew I was going to ask you about this because this is something that liberals have really been pushing.  You have stated your support for John Conyers convening an investigation into potential law-breaking in the Bush administration.


MADDOW:  You‘ve been outspoken about contempt of Congress charges related to the politicization of the Justice Department and that investigation.  You have been less specific about how Congress should proceed on warrantless wiretapping and torture.  Why is that?

PELOSI:  Well, I haven‘t been less specific because we are waiting the

what we had in the bill which I did not like the bill, but part of the bill that was positive, the FISA Bill, was the inspector general.  We will have an inspector general‘s report in July about the conduct of the government in the collection in our country.

Senator Leahy has a proposal, a “truth and reconciliation commission” and—which is a good idea.  What I have some concern about there is it has immunity.  And I think that some of the issues involved here like the politicizing of the Justice Department, and the rest, they have criminal ramifications and I don‘t think we should be giving them immunity.  But we‘ll find a way to go forward, because the American people want us to go forward, but also making sure that the Constitution is respected.  And that‘s what our issue is whether you are talking about separation of power, whether you‘re talking about Karl Rove, Josh Bolten and the others at the White House not responding to subpoenas by the Congress on the subject of the Justice Department politicizing.

And, so those issues are still alive.  We are in the courts on those.  We are in negotiations with the administrations, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration, about how the executive branch responds to the legislative branch honoring our Constitution.  I don‘t—

I‘m not—I don‘t want—I want to go forward, but as we try to have reconciliation, I‘m a little hesitant to have immunity.

MADDOW:  And if that inspector general .

PELOSI:  More than a little hesitant, let me say.  I don‘t think we should have immunity for some of those issues.

MADDOW:  Then, in terms of moving forward, if the inspector general report that comes out this summer suggests that there has been criminal activity, at the official level on issues like torture or warrantless wiretapping or rendition or any of these other issues .

PELOSI:  No one is above the law.  The president has said that.

MADDOW:  And you think that you would support a referral for criminal investigation and potential prosecution?

PELOSI:  Exactly.  Yes, absolutely.  No one is above the law.  But we have to go through—we have to have the facts.  I mean, we are unhappy about certain things, we anecdotally know about certain things, we will have the documentation of it and we can go forward.


MADDOW:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today is saying that she would support, absolutely, criminal investigations of Bush officials, pegging that, in the instance of warrantless wiretapping, to an inspector general‘s report that is due out this summer.  She says that if that report indicates that crimes were committed, she wants a criminal investigation.  And if she -- and if there is a criminal investigation and the circumstances of that investigation warrant, she says she does favor criminal prosecution.  That‘s news.

Also news, she says she opposes the idea that a “truth commission” of the kind proposed by Senator Pat Leahy should offer immunity in exchange for testimony.  What does this news mean?  Well, either Speaker Pelosi is way more gung-ho about investigations and potential prosecutions of criminal behavior in the Bush administration than we previously understood, or it could be that she is not enthused about the growing momentum for Senator Leahy‘s “truth commission” idea.

Her opposition, of course, could block what might have been an emerging consensus in favor of a truth commission.  Regardless of why she wants to block it, without that consensus, the Bush investigation issue could once again become something that lots of people want but no one quite knows how to move forward on.

One issue that has been talked about a lot on the left but hasn‘t much made it into ye oldie mainstream media, is the suggestion that some Democratic leaders have not had their hair on fire about investigating torture and warrantless wiretapping because any deep investigation would turn out evidence that senior Democrats were briefed about those programs way back at the beginning, and those Democrats did not crow about it publicly at that time and they don‘t particularly want that to be known, nor do they wanted to interfere with a potential prosecution.

The Bush administration has defended itself in part by saying that congressional Democrats knew about torture and spying and other scandals, and didn‘t have a problem with them.  Because of those suggestions, I decided to ask Nancy Pelosi what she thought about that.


MADDOW:  Let me ask you about one sort of thorny issue in this area.  And it‘s—I say it‘s thorny because it has been invoked by the Bush administration and its supporters as a way to try to deflect calls for this accountability.  In October 2001, you were briefed as a member, as a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee on NSA spying issues.  September 2002, you were briefed on CIA detention issues and enhanced interrogation issues.

Because of those briefings, and I know that you expressed concerns to the NSA after that October 2001 briefing, you released that publicly in 2006, you didn‘t express public concerns at the time after those briefings.  Does that raise a complication?

PELOSI:  No.  The fact is, they did not brief—but first of all, we‘re not allowed to talk about what happens there but I can say that they did not brief us that these enhanced interrogations were taking place.  They did not brief us that—they were talking about an array of interrogations that they might have at their disposal.

MADDOW:  Techniques in the abstract as if they were not being used.

PELOSI:  We were never told they were being used.

MADDOW:  Were you told they weren‘t being used?

PELOSI:  Well, they just talked about them but they—the inference to be drawn from what they told us was, these are things that we think could be legal and we have a difference of opinion on that.  But they never told us that they were being used, because that would be a different story altogether.

And we had—we had many disagreements with them all along the way on how they collect information in their country and what they think might be acceptable.  They have never gotten any comfort from me on any of these issues, no matter what they want to say publicly, and they know that I cannot speak specifically to the classified briefing of that kind.  But I can say flat-out, they never told us that these enhanced interrogations were being used.

MADDOW:  And they have said publicly, they have cited those briefings as essentially congressional consent for what they did.

PELOSI:  No.  No.

MADDOW:  And, “A,” you say the consent was not given.

PELOSI:  No.  Not at all.

MADDOW:  And, “B,” you cannot explain the extent to which consent was not given because you‘re not allowed to discuss the briefings?

PELOSI:  Well, look, what I‘m saying to you is, they never told us that these techniques were being used.

MADDOW:  But did they tell, we think waterboarding is legal now?

PELOSI:  They may have given the inference that there were some

debates that waterboarding could be legal.  Of course, I disagree with

that.  But the issue, are you going to use such a thing, and they have not

they have not ever briefed us that that was the case.


MADDOW:  It‘s flat-out, she says, flat-out, no one ever told her the U.S. was using enhanced interrogation torture euphemisms, I mean enhanced interrogation techniques.  If we get to full investigations of torture, and who knew what when, Speaker Pelosi told me today—on the record—that she was never told, Democrats were told that the U.S. was torturing anyone.

Of course, that does raise questions of why the administration would brief anyone on the legality of interrogation techniques if they were not using those techniques.  Hey, John Yoo says this is legal, just so you know in the abstract.

But still, now, it‘s on the record.  I have one more clip for you here that I want you to see where Speaker Pelosi makes some more news.  I pressed her on why she didn‘t publicly object to the Bush administration programs that appeared to have been illegal.  She says it was because the information was classified that she could not object, she couldn‘t object publicly nor could she object privately.  She said there was no one she could talk to about the information that she got in these super classified briefings.

It‘s kind of like in comics, you know, how Doctor Manhattan is kind of lonely?  Spiderman is kind of a lonely character.  They have much superpower but they can‘t tell anyone about it.  It is the same for members of congressional intelligence committees and their super-secrets.  They are not allowed to tell anyone.

Today, in this interview, Speaker Pelosi actually proposes a change in congressional intelligence oversight so people with super-secret high security clearance can blow appropriate whistles when need be.

Check this out.


MADDOW:  On the NSA, just a couple of weeks after 9/11, the very start of October 2001, you‘re briefed on an NSA spying program and you objected.  You wrote a letter to the NSA saying, “I‘m concerned about this warrantless spying.”  The NSA responded to you with a letter and I know you .


PELOSI:  It‘s all redacted.

MADDOW:  And I printed it out.  I have it.  I actually have it because it‘s funny, because so much of it is redacted.  What they release is absolutely nothing.

PELOSI:  Dear Congresswoman, redact, redact .

MADDOW:  Sincerely yours.

PELOSI:  Sincerely yours.


MADDOW:  Exactly.  But, was there something in that letter that, and I know it‘s redacted, so I can‘t you can release it publicly.


MADDOW:  But was there something in that letter that made you feel like, you know what I objected privately.  I should not object publicly.  I should not, I should .

PELOSI:  Well, you can‘t.  You can‘t.

MADDOW:  You can‘t speak out about the content of what you have been briefed on, but isn‘t there a way that you can say, “I‘m a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, I believe that we are doing something we ought not to be doing”?

PELOSI:  You cannot do that publicly.  And that‘s something that I think we have to change in terms of—because your hands are pretty much tied.  And we are relentless with them on this score, in terms of questioning them on what they were doing and fighting them on it.  And this is a very major battle and it‘s one of the reasons I‘m looking very closely at some of the appointments in the Obama administration, to make sure that nobody who had anything to do with this in the Bush administration has any cloak of authority and experience, and should be appointed at any level—advisory or at any level.

MADDOW:  Do you think the rules should be changed in terms of what members of oversight committees can say?


PELOSI:  Well, you know, I though, can I go—can you go to the chief justice of the Supreme Court?  Can you—these are issues, mind you, that you can‘t even talk to your staff about.  Your—I have a security adviser, but you can‘t talk—you can‘t talk to anybody about it.  And that just isn‘t right.  That isn‘t right.  Because it gives all the cards to the administration and then if you say anything about it, you have violated our national security.  And that—it shouldn‘t be that way.

MADDOW:  It neuters the oversight role of the Congress.

PELOSI:  It does.  And that‘s what we‘re going change because you can‘t—even with a Democratic president, any president, Democratic or Republican, to have that kind of authority.  And that will happen.


MADDOW:  Speaker Pelosi proposing changes to the oversight system so members of Congress can publicly express concerns in some way about classified programs, and saying no immunity for Bush administration officials willing to testify about alleged Bush era crimes.  I know, it‘s all very exciting.  Wait until you hear what she had to say about Iraq.


MADDOW:  Before President Obama took to the rostrum last night, there was—out of nowhere—a huge lightning bolt of political news not about the not-State of the Union.  The speech was pretty much all about domestic policy and the economy.  The surprise afternoon news was an almost seismic story about Iraq, about how the Iraq war will end.

The timing was sort of weird.  Was the administration trying to bury that Iraq news right before the big address?  Keith Olbermann and I discussed that possibility last night on “COUNTDOWN.”  Today, the White House told me today that that was not the case.  They said that the Iraq news bombshell before the not-State of the Union speech came by way of, quote, “an unauthorized leak.”

President Obama is widely expected to make his official Iraq policy announcement in a speech in North Carolina on Friday, though that is not yet confirmed.  Today, I asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi what she thought about these leaked details of the president‘s purported Iraq plan.


MADDOW:  I want to ask you a little bit about Iraq.  I know we‘re expecting a major statement from the president on Friday in North Carolina.  You describe the ‘06 election in which you became speaker of the House as a referendum on Iraq.  And you said right before those elections that—absent a Democratic victory, we could be in Iraq for 10 years.

I wonder if you are disappointed by the prospect that we might be looking at 50,000 American troops still in Iraq essentially beyond seven years into Iraq, beyond that 16-month timeline that we‘d heard from candidate Obama.

PELOSI:  Well, in the House of Representatives, I want to be clear, we have ended the war in Iraq six or seven times .


PELOSI:  . and sent the legislation over to the Senate where, of course, they need 60 votes.  One time, it got to the president‘s desk and he vetoed it, and that was never allowed to happen in the Senate again.  So, we were calling over the past—now, we‘re what—it had been two years ago, in that period of time for a year or, you know, by the end of ‘09.  And now, the president is saying—I don‘t know what he‘s saying because he hasn‘t made the statement yet, but certainly, that the war would be over by 2010.

What is important about this is that we are on a path to ending the war.  Some might want a few months shorter or something a bit longer, but nonetheless, the time will go by and the war will be over.  Right now, all we‘ve had is the debate, we there‘s also about timelines and deadlines and times certain and all that.  Then it‘s sent out (ph) to him.

MADDOW:  Fifty thousand seem like an awful large residual force?

PELOSI:  It does.  It does.  I completely agree with that.  And I don‘t—the president hasn‘t made the statement.


PELOSI:  So, I don‘t know what he‘s going to say.  I know what the rumor is.  And I don‘t know the justification is for 50,000 -- a presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq.  I do think that there is a need for some, and I don‘t know that all of them have to be in the country.  They can be platformed outside.

But I‘ll just be interested to see what the president has to say.  But I do think that—I would think 1/3 of that, maybe 20,000, maybe more than 1/3, 15,000 or 20,000.  But, again, I don‘t know what purpose he has in keeping them there.  Whether it is fight terrorism, train whatever—the training of the Iraqis which is that it seems to have been going on forever.  I don‘t know what the purpose of those are.

So, we have to see what the purpose is, how it fits the mission of our national security, and why that number is important.  But again, he hasn‘t said it yet.  So, I‘d like to see what he has to say.  But I am pleased that we are at long last on the path to responsibly end the war.  And he said 19 months but he said by 19 months.  So, I would hope that it could be sooner than that.


MADDOW:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today is saying she looks forward to hearing the president‘s plan for why such a large residual force is needed in Iraq.  But she offered up the opinion that 50,000 troops feels like too many to her.  And she says that 15,000 to 20,000 could be more of what she has in mind.  Wow.

Joining us now is Tom Andrews, former congressman from Maine and a national director of the Win Without War Coalition.

Mr. Andrews, it‘s great to see you.  Thanks for being here on the show.

TOM ANDREWS, WIN WITHOUT WAR COALITION:  Hi, Rachel.  Thanks for having me on.  It‘s great to see you.

MADDOW:  Does this sound like news to you—House speaker proposing a much smaller residual force be left in Iraq?

ANDREWS:  Well, you know, first of all, the president made it clear last night that he wants to leave Iraq to the Iraqi people—which is, of course, music to the ears of Iraqis and I think music to the ears of Americans.  It‘s a very good step.  This occupation by U.S. military forces is deeply unpopular in Iraq.  And Iraqi people put enormous pressure on their leadership to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with the United States that would get all U.S. forces out, not just combat, but all U.S.  forces out.

Two important benchmarks, Rachel—one, in that agreement that the United States signed, by June of this year, all U.S. combat forces will be out of Iraqi cities and villages.  But, two, that by no later than 2011, the end of 2011, all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq—combat forces, residual forces, even support civilian personnel will be out.  We signed that agreement.

And I think one of the questions, the ambiguities, the debates about this is, is not only the numbers of residual troops left, but who are these residual troops?  What‘s the difference between a combat troop and residual troop?  Will the residual troop find itself in the middle of combat, is it that not, in fact, combat?

I think a key to this is the president on Friday announcing very clearly that he supports this Status of Forces Agreement with its clear goal of having all U.S. forces out by a date certain.  And hopefully, we can make that date certain earlier than 2011.  But at least there‘d be a date certain.

MADDOW:  What do you think of this idea of residual force?  Again, terminology is important.  What‘s a combat troop, what‘s a non-combat troop?  A residual of 30,000 to 50,000 troops is what has been floated.  Again, it‘s not the official statement.  What‘s your reaction to that?

ANDREWS:  You know, it‘s very dangerous, Rachel.  And you got to—let‘s put this in context.  We‘ve got military planners telling the press that they are going to get to that number, of the reduction of combat troops just by redefining a combat troop as a residual force.  You‘ve got our chief commander, our—General Odierno in Iraq, announcing that, OK, even though the Status of Forces Agreement says that we have to be out of the cities by June in next year, don‘t worry, we‘ll have combat forces in those cities as long as they‘re part of an Iraqi force.  They have this joint Iraq security stations that they have.  That created an enormous uproar among the people in Iraq.

And then the kicker here is—on “Meet the Press” a week ago Sunday, Tom Ricks and in a book that he just published said that the commanders and other military personnel he‘s been dealing with and talking to, with experience in Iraq, are telling him that there is a growing consensus that we‘re not even halfway through combat operations in Iraq and that we‘re still going to be in combat operations in Iraq by 2015.

So, there‘s a lot of people inside and outside of the Pentagon that have designs on obscuring this difference between combat and residual force, and use it to keep combat operations going.  I mean, really, the devil is in the details.  And I‘m here in Washington, D.C., I mean, there are a lot of—there are a lot of details in this and a lot of devils here, and we‘ve got to be very, very careful about what is being agreed to.

MADDOW:  And what you are looking for is a clear, unequivocal statement from the president?

ANDREWS:  That‘s correct.

MADDOW:  OK.  Tom Andrews, former congressman from Maine and the national director of the Win Without War Coalition—thank you for your time tonight, Tom.

MADDOW:  Coming up: Speaker Pelosi‘s plans for what she will do the next time the Republicans all vote “no” on something.

And, Bobby Jindal unites America against his speech.


MADDOW:  Coming up: The part of my interview with the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, where she smacks me down like a ball-peen hammer meeting a thumb.  Ow.  Ow.  Ow.  That‘s coming up.

First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  When I was in Washington today, in the few minutes before the speaker arrived for our interview, I was privileged to spend some time with NBC News‘ congressional correspondent Mike Viqueira.  Now, if you are a politics dork who admittedly spends very little time in D.C., like me, and you have a chance to hang out and ask anything of a longtime congressional correspondent who knows everything about the U.S. Capitol, what would you ask?

In my case, the choice was obvious, I asked Mike Viqueira about suspicious fires in the Capitol.  It‘s one of those things that I have had a minor slow boiling obsession with for about a year and a half now.  In the fall and winter of 2007, mysterious small fires kept breaking out in the Senate‘s office buildings, mostly in women‘s bathrooms.  Authorities said they were basically nuisance fires and they didn‘t seem intended to hurt anyone.  Ultimately, that December, a Capitol Hill police officer was indicted as the fire bug.

Then just a couple of weeks later, thick black smoke was seen billowing out of Vice President Dick Cheney‘s suite of offices in the old executive building right next to the White House.  Remember that?  The vice president wasn‘t there, but more than 1,000 people were evacuated from the building.  Lots of damage was done.  The White House said that that fire appeared to have started in an electrical closet or a phone bank.  All very mysterious.

Fast forward to January 2009, last month, Peter Orszag is the new director of the Office of Management and Budget.  He gets to work one day in the same building where the Cheney fire took place.  Mr. Orszag sees some logs in his new office fireplace.  He sets them on fire and the next thing he knows - smoky, smoky - a few floors up. 

Apparently, the chimney had been capped by the Secret Service or something, cue yet another Capitol Hill fire-related evacuation.  So I‘m sitting there in the speaker‘s office today with Mike Viquiera, congressional correspondent.  And said to him, totally joking, “Hey, Mike, any new weird Capitol Hill fires to report today?” 

And he said, “Well, not since the one in Jon Kyl‘s office.  The one in Jon Kyl‘s office?  There‘s been another one.  Yes.  Apparently there has been another one. 

Last night, a staffer in Arizona Senator Jon Kyl‘s leadership office tried to start a fire in that office‘s fireplace.  And I don‘t know what happened exactly but it was a failure, a failure that resulted in, once again, black billowy smoke, smoky Capitol Hill hallways, embarrassed staffers and me having something further to obsess on. 

Now, on a totally different subject, it is spring cleaning time at the Navy.  And I will just go ahead and admit it at this point in this story this is one of those stories that I‘m doing because I like the pictures, because it is totally worth it when the sea faring-est branch of the Armed Services gives away its hand-me-downs.  That produces really good pictures. 

Check this out.  This is the Sea Shadow.  Look at that.  An experimental stealth ship designed to elude radar and sonar.  If this looks familiar to you, it maybe because A ship very much like this one played a key role in the very bad Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie, “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

Now, the United States Navy says it is willing to part with this cool ship for the low, low bargain price of zero dollars.  Zero dollars. 

And as a special bonus, the Sea Shadow comes with another larger ship that is designed to conceal other vessels.  It is called the Hughes mining barge.  Its sole purpose was once to cover up the Sea Shadow to keep it a secret.  Both of these vessels could be yours for the low, low price of zero dollars provided you have the wherewithal to maintain them. 

The Historic Naval Ships Association tells the “Wall Street Journal” that opening a naval museum, even when you get the ship for free from the Navy is a, quote, “bloodthirsty, paperwork-ridden, permit-infested, money-sucking hole because of all the strings attached to taking those free ships off the Navy‘s hands. 

So best of luck to the Sea Shadow and its disguise-me ship, which I have to say are the most adorable multimillion bits of scrap heap (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Cold War ephemera that we have seen in a long time.  


MADDOW:  Healthcare reform cannot wait, it must not wait and it will not wait another year.  That was the big bipartisan jump to-your-feet applause line in the not state-of-the-union this week. 

And why not?  Our healthcare system is like a Ford Pinto at a Formula One race.  It‘s the guy in the parking lot of the high school dance three years after he graduated from that high school.  It is mustard in your mustache.  It is embarrassing. 

Everybody loves the idea of healthcare reform.  But the question is could healthcare reform could really happen?  Could it really happen this year?  Finally?  Today, I asked that of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. 


MADDOW (on camera):  The president is legislatively ambitious as you would expect for a new president.  Not just the giant stimulus bill that has already passed, also the education and national service proposal from last night‘s speech, energy, and he says healthcare reform this year.  Can healthcare reform be done this year, really? 

PELOSI:  It is a priority of the president of the United States.  It has always been a priority of the Democrats in the Congress. 

We want to work in a bipartisan way, but it is absolutely essential.  It‘s essential to everything, not only the personal well-being of individuals which is, of course, our top concern.  But if you are going to, for example, have entitlement reform, you must have healthcare reform. 

The rapid increase in cost of healthcare is the biggest contributor to our concerns about, shall we say, Medicare, Medicaid and the rest.  So it is about individuals.  It is about our national budget.  It is about the health of America.  It has everything going.  And it is an economic issue, of course. 

MADDOW:  Is entitlement reform contingent on healthcare reform happening first?  Is it not economic reform happening first?  Is it not worth approaching Medicaid and Medicare reform, for example, without having approached healthcare costs in a bigger way? 

PELOSI:  No.  You have to start with healthcare reform, reducing the rapid increase in cost of healthcare in our country.  And again, healthcare reform is entitlement reform.  And you put it all on the table. 


MADDOW:  You got that, Republicans?  You want to see any changes to any entitlement, Medicare, Medicaid - any changes at all?  Social Security maybe, even?  Only if healthcare reform is completed first. 


MADDOW (on camera):  If the Republicans in the House treat healthcare politically the way they treated the stimulus and they decide to say no, would you compromise the quality of a healthcare reform proposal to try to chase their votes or would you just let it pass with zero Republican votes if it came to that? 

PELOSI:  Well, I think my record is clear on this subject.  I want bipartisanship to the extent that we are making progress.  But we are not going backward. 

If I had to use four words to describe on all of our initiatives, whether it is rebuilding infrastructure of America, keeping America competitive and number one through innovation, whether it‘s global warming or healthcare, use these four words - science, science, science and science.  That‘s what it is about. 

So we want to have the best scientific basis and the best scientific method as we go forward to put together this healthcare reform.  And we want bipartisanship.  Too many people are involved.  Too much money is involved.  We want to have as much legitimacy as we go forward. 

And I think this is a national debate.  It‘s not just in this chamber or the Senate chamber.  It is national debate for our country.  And so we have to bring people together.  But while we may want to respect views on tactics or different provisions, we cannot dilute the healthcare prevention, customize personalized care, the universality, because it all feeds together to make America healthier. 

MADDOW:  So politically, it would be great to have Republicans and Democrats standing united in favor of a comprehensive proposal.

PELOSI:  Absolutely.  We should strive for that. 

MADDOW:  Striving for that - but if it comes to compromising the quality of the policy in order to get that, you are not going to compromise? 

PELOSI:  We take it to the American people.  I think that the Republicans are not accountable to all of us here.  They are accountable to their constituents.  And what we have to do is promote this idea in a larger sense with a vision.  And our president is so well-prepared and committed to do that. 

Now, the Senate is a different place.  They need 60 votes and the rest.  But hopefully, the vision is so compelling.  The strategy is so clear and the results so promising that the American people will insist that their representatives vote for it. 

MADDOW:  On that issue of taking it to the people, the president, last night, obviously, starting off his speech saying, “I want to not just address this joint session of Congress, but also the American people directly,” his oratorical skills in full display. 

The Republicans in the House don‘t really have any political power.  They are a substantial minority in your House.  But they did dominate media coverage to a certain extent of the stimulus fight. 

Will you approach that - will Democrats in the House approach that differently on the next big bill?  Is there a lesson learned there? 

PELOSI:  No.  I don‘t think so.  I think that the fact is that they have come out very poorly in any measure of that - we call it the recovery package - because their numbers are terrible.  Their numbers are terrible. 

So they wanted to talk about process.  We want to talk about jobs.  And while they made some little hay with saying - well, the president reached out though the Democrats didn‘t have to.  They had every parliamentary opportunity, but not to get so involved in the process discussion.  They came out very poorly in this. 

But you know, bless their hearts.  They vote for what they believe in.  And they do not believe in a new direction for America.  They are committed to the path that we were on that got us here in the first place. 


MADDOW:  You want to know what just happened there?  She smacked me down - smacked me down.  That Speaker Pelosi, the Republicans are all over the TV machine opposing the economic stimulus. 

Settle down, kid.  It‘s not working.  Duh.  Maybe she‘s right.  Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal sort of put the punctuation mark on Speaker Pelosi‘s point about Republicans on TV with his response to the not state-of-the-union last night. 

I was personally left sort of speechless after his speech.  It wasn‘t just his delivery.  It was his use of Hurricane Katrina as a lesson that government is not necessary, that nothing should be expected of government. 

And it wasn‘t just people on TV, liberals like me, who couldn‘t believe Mr. Jindal‘s Republican response.  The reviews have come in - left, right and center. 


BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The speech read a lot better than it sounded.  This was not Bobby Jindal‘s greatest oratorical moment. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jindal really had a hard task and he tried the best he could. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To come up with this moment of history with a stale “Government is the problem, we can‘t trust the federal government” - it is just a disaster for the Republican Party.  I think it is insane.  And I just think it is a disaster for the party.  I just think it is unfortunate right now. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It was like throwing a rookie in the first game of the World Series.  And I‘m afraid the manager was out on the hill before the first inning was over. 


MADDOW:  Ouch.  Today the Associated Press also ran with this headline, “In Style and Substance, Jindal‘s Speech Panned.”  Ow.  On the Internet machine, Gov. Jindal‘s response appears to have garnered a permanent place in the political parody pantheon. 

The idea is, Gov. Jindal as Kenneth the page from “30 Rock.”

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  And they all seem to really hate my grandpa because they keep yelling, “Kill Whitey!”  And I‘m like, “What do you think you are, alcohol?” 

BOBBY JINDAL ®, GOVERNOR OF LOUISIANA:  The president completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from independence hall to Gettysburg to the lunch counter. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the drama about two cops, one named Cash and one named Kerry.  I don‘t have a title for that.

JINDAL:  When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4 ½ months pregnant.  I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a preexisting condition. 


MADDOW:  OK.  Sorry.  Many people responded last night to Gov. Jindal, the new face of the Republican Party.  Everyone else responded today to Gov. Jindal. 

How did Gov. Jindal respond to the response to his response?  He actually could not be reached for comment today because he has gone to Disney World.  I‘m not making this up.  He‘s gone to Disney World today to celebrate his - I don‘t know.  He‘s gone to Disney World.  


MADDOW:  So far, we have heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about investigating the Bush administration.  She made some news there.  We‘ve heard from her about congressional oversight of intelligence.  She made some more news there. 

We‘ve heard from her about Iraq - big news there, too.  And we‘ve heard from her about the Republican opposition in the House.  Not exactly news, but that was kind of fun. 

The speaker has actually just returned from a trip to Afghanistan and I concluded my interview with her today with what felt like a preview of the next big important national course-altering political battle in this country - what to do about Soviet demise-istan.  What to do about Afghanistan. 

Listen carefully to the way that Nancy Pelosi talks about Afghanistan in tone and in substance.  She does not see a military solution.  She‘s not comfortable with the 10-year U.S. presence.  She thinks that Iran has to be part of the solution in that area. 

The most powerful person in Congress talks herein in a way that makes you think that this debate is going to be way different from the debate in Iraq War. 


(on camera):  You are just back from Afghanistan.  Your thoughts? 

Your impressions? 

PELOSI:  What a tragedy.  What a tragedy.  Of course, 9/11 occurred and we had to respond in terms of eliminating any safe haven for those who would do harm to our country. 

But the fact, Rachel, is that we did not defeat or eliminate the al-Qaeda and the Taliban.  We routed them.  They went into the mountainous areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  They have safe havens there now and they‘ve come back into Afghanistan. 

So for 7 ½ years, we have had an administration without a plan

adrift.  And it‘s really a tragedy because so much could have been done. 

And this, again, is about our national security - how we protect the American people.  And in order to do so, I conclude, coming from the trip - I come back with many questions.  You know, a trip does not make you an expert, although I have been there a number of times and I have seen some difference. 

Everyone in the military says this cannot be accomplished militarily only.  So it‘s about how we work with our allies in NATO for a military presence there that will be effective in defeating the Taliban and eliminating the al-Qaeda. 

It‘s about governance.  It‘s about the government of Afghanistan and how it is legitimate in reducing corruption and the whole poppy trade - the drug trade - the rest of that.  About governance, we‘re giving more power to the local people, more empowerment of the Afghan people as they - I‘m not talking about a Jeffersonian democracy.  I‘m just talking about a stake in their future.  It‘s about reconstruction of the economy of Iraq. 

Again, we can‘t make a commitment to change hundreds of years of disparity in Afghanistan.  But we can create a circumstance where, in a secure environment, there‘s some appeal to cooperate rather than saying, “Oh, the Taliban is here.  We don‘t know what the other side is doing.  I will make my peace with the Taliban.” 

The most important ingredient, though, and this is - don‘t think

I‘m so pleased with what the Obama administration is going that was neglected by the Bush administration - is the regional cooperation.  This cannot be done in Afghanistan. 

Pakistan has to be honest about what it is doing.  It has been duplicitous, I think, in terms of saying it‘s fighting in their mountainous regions the al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the rest, when in fact that hasn‘t been really sincere. 

It‘s not just about Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It‘s about Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the neighboring -stans, the other -stans.  It‘s about China.  It‘s about Russia.  It‘s about Iran. 

It‘s about Iran.  Iran has a stake in some level of stability in Afghanistan.  They don‘t want the refugees.  They have some commerce on the border there, and the Taliban are Sunnis and they are Shia. 

MADDOW:  And there‘s the huge - the drug problem in Iran. 

PELOSI:  And the whole drug problem.  And they don‘t want that.  They don‘t want that in Iran.  So there are many reasons why these countries in the region have a stake in bringing stability to Afghanistan.  We have to work together. 

The beauty that I see in my - and this is my first trip since this term as speaker.  My trip is always - my first trip is always to visit the troops and thank them for their service and this or that and to talk to the leadership of the countries. 

And people are so excited about Barack Obama.  They think that he will listen and not lecture.  They think he will be collaborative and not condescending.  They see that if they are going to work together with the United States, it‘s a plan that we work together on and not one that is dictated to them.  So I think this is a big, new direction. 

MADDOW:  It‘s a long mission, though, isn‘t it? 

PELOSI:  It‘s a big mission.  It‘s essential as the national security of our country. 

MADDOW:  Is it 20 years?  Is it 10 years?

PELOSI:  Oh, no.  Well, they talk about a 10-year plan as some do, or five-year or 10-year.  But you have to have a longer view so that the Taliban doesn‘t wait you out.  So that what you‘re doing is not irrelevant.  We do it, we leave, they come back.  But I hate to see it be a 10-year plan.  But what it has to be is a plan. 


MADDOW:  There needs to be a plan.  It can‘t just be a militarily solution.  I hope we‘re not talking about 10 years here.  The Afghanistan debate is just starting to simmer in this country.  Consider what you just saw there with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to be a preview of your politics to come. 

I want to say thank you to Speaker Pelosi and her staff for making time to sit down with me today.  You can see the entire interview unedited on our Web site, along with a full transcript.  That‘s at “” 

Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith Olbermann talks to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman about Obama‘s plans for the economy and the Republican response to his plans.  I learned a new word recently to help with that discussion.  The word is “gah.” 

Next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend Kent Jones. 


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.  You know, last night, President Obama said, “From now on, things are going to be different for those corporate fat cats.”

And right on cue today, Morgan Stanley, which took $10 billion of TARP money from us said it won‘t entertain clients and executives as part of the memorial golf tournament it is sponsoring in June. 

Said a spokeswoman, quote, “We‘ve canceled our participation in the event due to the environment.”  Oh, yes.  It‘s getting cold.  The environment is getting very cold for places like Morgan Stanley.

MADDOW:  Did she mean like we want to reduce our carbon footprint?  Or did she mean like little silly trips to banks?

JONES:  People hate us. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I felt that environment before.  It‘s nice.

JONES:  Next up, speaking of golf, Tiger Woods is back.  Eight months after having knee surgery, Tiger defended his title at Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona where he looked positively Tiger-esque advancing to the next round against poor Brendan Jones. 

The entire golf business has been in a huge slump with Tiger on the sidelines.  It‘s the only sport I can think of where his competitors are like, “Please, Tiger.  Come back and kick our butts again.  Make us question our chosen profession.  Humble us.  Just come back, please.” 

MADDOW:  Is there anybody in the golf world who‘s anywhere near him at

all or he‘s just like -

JONES:  Well, no. 


JONES:  I mean, no. 


JONES:  We were just going to be honest.  The guy is like, you know, playing a different game and the rest of them are like, “Pity us.” 

Finally, octuplet mom, Nadya Suleman, is reportedly being offered $1 million to star in - Rachel, cover your ears - an adult video.  Vivid Entertainment says the offer also promises a year of health insurance for Suleman and her 14 children. 

You know, just because you‘re famous doesn‘t mean everyone wants to see you like that.  Two totally different ideas.  There‘s famous.  There‘s like that.  Separate. 

MADDOW:  Occasionally (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Not this time. 

JONES:  Separate.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent. 

JONES:  Sure.

MADDOW:  Thank you for watching at home tonight.  We will see you here tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 



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