Guest: Paul Krugman, Mark Danner, Chuck Schumer, Hilda Solis
High: President Obama is on his way back home after finishing his eight-day sprint through Europe and the Middle East.
Spec: Politics; World Affairs; Barack Obama
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
As we speak, President Obama is on his way back home after finishing his eight-day sprint through Europe. But before returning from this jam-packed, compulsively super-scheduled tour, there was a surprise. Well, technically, it was a surprise anyway. President Obama made an unscheduled stop that is now familiar to presidential itinerary watchers—he flew into Baghdad unannounced. His third trip there but first as commander-in-chief.
In other news, six years after the invasion of Iraq, traveling there still has to be a surprise. Air Force One actually departed Baghdad tonight with its lights off.
While he was in Iraq, the president met with the top U.S. military commander on the ground there, General Ray Odierno. He received a rousing “ooh-rah” welcome from the U.S. troops that he visited at Al Faw Palace, a palace which was one of Saddam Hussein‘s dens of iniquity.
The president gave the troops sort of a pep talk about the U.S. goals that remain in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Just as we thank you for what you‘ve already accomplished, I want to say thank you because you will be critical in terms of us being able to make sure that Iraq is stable, that it is not a safe haven for terrorists, that it is a good neighbor and a good ally. And we can start bringing our folks home. So .
OBAMA: So now is not the time to lose focus. We have to be more focused than we‘ve been in order to achieve success.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do you think they choose the particularly good-looking soldiers to stand behind the president at things like that or are all our soldiers that good-looking? Anyway, one of the soldiers in attendance during that speech today was Vice President Joe Biden‘s son, Bo, who is currently serving in Iraq as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard.
The president then met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who clocked in as the roughly important world leader Obama has met with in the past week, then president headed back to the airport for the long, dark flight home—a long, dark flight home to the stuff, frankly, that he was dealing with when he left.
While you were out, Mr. President, there was an awful new jobs report showing the unemployment rate rising to 8.5 percent. The new labor secretary, Hilda Solis, is going to be on the show this hour to talk about that.
Also, today, marked the beginning of earnings season, that time every three months or so when publicly traded companies report how much money they have earned, or in this quarter‘s case, more likely, how much money they did not earn. The big one everyone was waiting for today was the aluminum company, Alcoa, their announcement today was not good. They lost roughly half a billion dollars in the first quarter of this year. Ah!
In a brand new survey of CEOs that‘s out today, the proportion of CEOs who say that they expect more layoffs at their companies in the next six months, that proportion is 71 percent. There is a silver lining here, maybe. As horrible as the job numbers are and as pessimistic as executives across the country appear to be, Americans broadly speaking are actually sort of increasingly optimistic these days.
According to a new “New York Times”/CBS poll, back in mid-January, right before President Obama took office, the proportion of Americans who thought the country was headed in the right direction was only 15 percent. Now, it has more than doubled to 39 percent, who say we are on the right track. The percentage of people who think the economy is getting worse has dropped 20 points since Obama took office.
Even the perception of the incredibly unpopular bank bailout is on the upswing. Last month, the proportion of Americans who said bailing out Wall Street would benefit all Americans not just bankers was just 29 percent. Now, just a month later, it‘s up to 47 percent, who think the bailout will benefit everyone.
Now, poll numbers like those are just a measure of the public‘s mood. But when everyone talks about how important it is for people to have confidence in the economy, for people to expect that things will get better, is it possible that this little, inexplicable bout of public optimism could be a self-fulfilling prophesy?
Joining us now is a man who is probably going to tell me to cut the Sally Sunshine routine and get real. Nobel Prize winning economist and “New York Times” columnist, Paul Krugman. He‘s is a professor of economics at Princeton University.
Paul, thank you very much for coming back on the show.
PAUL KRUGMAN, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Well, hi. Good to be on.
MADDOW: Are you here to kill Sally Sunshine? Are you here to tell me that people feeling better doesn‘t really matter?
KRUGMAN: Yes, basically. I mean, you know, what are you going to say? It‘s not—look, the trouble is—now, better to have people slightly optimistic, you know? Sheer panic is not good for anything. But the fact of the matter is—we have some real, real problems that are not going to go away through self-fulfilling optimism.
You know, one of the little things that‘s been reported now is the IMF has now, International Monetary Fund has upped its estimate of losses on bad loans to $4 trillion. You know, not so long ago, $1 trillion was considered an exorbitant estimate.
So, the problem is that there‘s a lot of real underlying mistakes that were made that have landed us in this mess. And the public‘s optimism is good. People believe that Obama is likely to do the right thing. That‘s all good, but it‘s not enough.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about one other thing that looks from a distance like a silver lining that maybe isn‘t. Last fall on this show, I remember asking you what I should watch for as an indicator rather than the Dow. The Dow is something that people are emotionally rewarded by, that they cued in to that on a day-to-day basis. But you suggested that watching the credit markets would be a more realistic thing to watch in terms of understanding the economy.
“New York Times” today ran something that says muted signs of life in the credit market. Is that a reason for optimism?
KRUGMAN: Yes. That‘s certainly better news. I mean, instead of things getting steadily worse—the Dow is terrible, right? The stock market, by my count, has predicted six of the last one recoveries, right? It doesn‘t mean anything.
But the—but these credit markets are a little bit better which still means that they are inconceivably bad by normal standard. I mean, loans are harder to get, perfectly legitimate business projects can‘t get funded. But that line has moved a little bit, you know, we are dropping—the overflow pressure of whatever is is dropping a little bit.
So, that‘s good. That‘s real progress. Some things are improving—or maybe the right way to say is that things are getting worse more slowly which is a good thing.
MADDOW: You described though that, essentially, the main problem here is that we did some things really, really, really wrong. We made huge errors. And part of what has to happen now is that we not only need to recover, but we need to put things back together in a way that rights those wrongs.
What do you think the priorities should be policy-wise for the administration in fixing stuff that‘s really wrong?
KRUGMAN: I think that we really need to completely overhaul the way we regulate the financial system. I mean, there—one of the things—you know, we could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here. If we get an economic recovery but we don‘t actually fix that system, then the same thing is going to happen to us.
You know, we have—we‘ve been—we spent the last 20 years lurching from bubble to bubble—basically is the description. And if we don‘t fix it, then, that will happen all over again. So, we need to really tighten the regulation. You have to make sure that people who lend money have to keep some stake in the loan so they don‘t sell off the whole thing and then forget about it.
You know, the excesses that got us to this point are ready to do it to us again even if we get out of this current trap.
MADDOW: Do you feel like what‘s being put together thus far by Treasury Secretary Geithner and by Larry Summers and others doesn‘t take an antagonistic enough approach toward regulations but also doesn‘t set up the incentives correctly?
KRUGMAN: Yes. I think that they are—you know, these are smart guys. Ask them. They‘ll tell you.
But there is this sense that comes from the administration still that they basically see this as, well, there were a few wrong turns taken, a few things went wrong and we‘ll do some minor patches and we‘ll throw a bunch of money at this to get the thing restarted.
But, yes, I am not hearing both what—you know, what you—what‘s in the public domain and the murmurs I hear that they‘re not really looking for a root-and-branch reform which is disturbing.
MADDOW: We‘ve heard now that they are not planning—the Treasury Department is delaying the release of the results .
MADDOW: . of the stress tests for the banks. Do you know what—why that might be? And do you have an opinion on that?
KRUGMAN: No. But, I think, we can say pretty clearly if the stress tests were saying that everything was fine, they probably wouldn‘t be eager to postpone the release of that.
And, you know, this is a problem—because suppose that, you know, one of the versions that we‘re hearing is that they‘ll release some generic information but not information on particular banks. And, boy, would that be a downer. That will be saying that basically there is still—you know, what everyone is worried about is we talked about Japan in the ‘90s, keeping the zombie banks still shambling forward.
And there is a lot of feeling that we got our, you know, American zombie banks now on the march. And this news was not good. It made that scenario look a little bit more likely.
MADDOW: Brains. Brains.
KRUGMAN: Now, I mean, what can you say, there‘s a lot of night of the living dead in the way we all talk about the economy these days.
MADDOW: Yes, wow. Not heartening but it‘s good to know.
MADDOW: Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, “New York Times” columnist—thank you for your time tonight. It‘s always great to have you on the show.
KRUGMAN: Good to be on.
MADDOW: President Obama arrives back in Washington to face a Republican Party determined to block a lot of his nominees, a lot of his nominees like—oh, say, the ambassador to Iraq. Why would we need one of those anyway? Senator Chuck Schumer of New York will join us right here in just a few minutes to talk about that.
But, first, One More Thing about President Obama‘s trip abroad. He is on his way back but he left the White House press corps there. They are stuck in Istanbul. Not Constantinople, now, it‘s Istanbul. Their plane broke down in Istanbul. Then another plane that was supposed to bring the parts to fix their plane showed up without the parts.
The bottom line: The press corps is stuck in Istanbul overnight. According to “McClatchy‘s” report, quote, “Normally grumpy, reporters at first moaned at the thought of spending the night without a hotel room and without their luggage. That eased with news of extra wine being brought in.” Seriously.
CNN‘s Suzanne Malveaux describes not wine but dinner being provided to the stranded reporters. The lesson here: If you are ever stranded in Istanbul with reporters, sit with the guys from “McClatchy.”
MADDOW: When prisoners were shackled by their arms to the ceilings of their cells, when prisoners were fitted with collars so they could be slammed head first into their cell walls, when prisoners were waterboarded in American-run prisons, trained medical professionals were apparently there, helping. Not helping the prisoner, helping the other guys.
We‘ve now got the full previously strictly confidential Red Cross report on what happened at the CIA secret prisons. Even just reading the subheadings, the chapter titles, can make you feel like it is impossible that you are reading about your own country. Things like suffocation by water beatings—excuse me—suffocation by water, beatings by use of a collar, beating and kicking, confinement in the box, prolonged nudity, sleep deprivation, use of loud music, exposure to cold, deprivation of solid food—American-run prison.
In the report, the Red Cross tells the U.S. government that its entire black site prison program is against international law. They advise that the U.S. should investigate all allegations of ill-treatment and take steps to punish the perpetrators.
This report, of course, was never meant to see the light of day. The fact that it is not secret anymore, that you can download it right now from NYBooks.com, is the other major element of this major revelation. Red Cross reports on prisons are strictly confidential. They‘re given only to the authorities that run that prison. That‘s the deal. That‘s part of the reason the Red Cross gets into places no one else is allowed into.
The leaking of this report about CIA black site prisons suggests that someone maybe in the Red Cross, maybe in the government thought that it was more important that this report be read by everyone than it was that that confidentiality system be sustained.
The man who obtained that report and who got permission from his source to put it all online on the “New York Review of Books” Web site and who wrote extensively about it in “The Review‘s” latest issue is journalist Mark Danner.
Mr. Danner, thank you very much for joining us again tonight.
MARK DANNER, “TORTURE AND TRUTH” AUTHOR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: The Red Cross told the “New York Times,” quote, “We deplore that confidential material attributed to the ICRC was made public.” Are you worried that by publishing this report you may have just helped end the access the Red Cross gets to prisons?
DANNER: I think it‘s a real problem. I think also that the publication of the report is in the public interest. It describes in unprecedentedly vivid terms what was done in the black sites by American interrogators and American Central Intelligence agents. And it does so at a time when the vice president, former vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, is claiming that all of these activities were done legally, according to the Constitution and that furthermore, they were necessary to protect the country and that President Obama by stopping them has left the country vulnerable.
So, I think this is very much a matter of present debate, not about what was done in the past. And I think it‘s very much in the public interest that Americans have a chance to read first-person accounts of exactly what was done in these prisons by Americans to detainees under their control.
And they can now do that by simply looking at the reports a www.nybooks.com, reading it for themselves. It‘s 40 pages, written in very clear language, easy to read. And I urge them to just have a look at it and read it for themselves.
MADDOW: Mark, the Red Cross in the report says that what medical personnel did in participating in these techniques, they describe it a gross breach of medical ethics. Do we know if these were doctors? Do we know if they were—were they military medics? Were they CIA employees? Do we know?
DANNER: Well, according to the Red Cross, they were doctors. These doctors appear in the accounts of the detainees. One of them is putting a clip on the finger of one detainee before he‘s waterboarded so his heart rate and vital signs can be monitored. So, when he is suffocated by water, in the Red Cross phrase, it can be—one can keep track and make sure he isn‘t killed by that procedure.
Another doctor is shown examining the single leg of a detainee who lost a leg in Afghanistan, who‘s being subjected to forced standing. His hands are manacled above his head to the ceiling, his feet are manacled—or his foot, I should say, is manacled to the floor and he is left in that position for days at a time. A doctor appears with a tape measure to measure his remaining leg to see the degree of swelling in the leg brought about by the forced standing.
So, doctors appear several times in the report. We don‘t know their identities. We only know that they are participating in these procedures. And the Red Cross makes a judgment about whether or not this is a breach of medical ethics and they say very affirmatively that it is.
MADDOW: Mark, of course, the thing that we‘re running up against again and again and again and again is the question of accountability. And the issue of medical personnel raises the prospect that maybe one form of accountability might be the medical profession bringing accountability on its own members for having participated in this. Much in the same way that the prosecutor who brought charges against Bush administration lawyers in Spain says that is a “lawyers going after lawyers” prosecution and in order to stand up for the integrity of their profession.
Do you see any hope that that might be a way in to get some accountability here?
DANNER: Well, I think there are a lot of areas where one can seek accountability, you just pointed to two, the legal and the medical professions. I think for the society as a whole, and this is what I argue in my “New York Review” piece, I think it‘s enormously important that we have a societally agreed on investigation undertaken by people who can speak with authoritative voices that will show not only what was done, but whether or not real intelligence vital to the country was gained by the use of these techniques—because the former president and the former vice president claim that these particular procedures, which the Red Cross calls “torture,” unequivocally, were necessary to protecting the country.
The current president believes they were not, and that security and the country‘s ideals can co-exist together. It seems to me that it‘s absolutely vital, a vital matter of our politics, and our existence as citizens, that we determine whether or not it‘s true as the former Vice President Cheney says that torture was necessary to protect the country, and that the current president, in refusing to torture, has left the country vulnerable. And I think that kind of investigation with that kind of authority is absolutely necessary to us as citizens and as Americans.
MADDOW: Journalist Mark Danner, also author of the book “Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.” Mark has done some of the most important reporting we‘ve got on this topic.
Mark, thank you very much for your time tonight. Thank you for your continued reporting on this.
DANNER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of Vermont today. And so far, we got a reporter on scene monitoring it just in case, but the early word is, that the Vermont sky is still up there. It‘s not falling. Early reporting from our bureau at the institution of straight marriage is that institution remarkably is as yet still intact. We will stay on this evolving story.
MADDOW: There are more milestones in the Norm Coleman/Al Franken election fight than a month-full of marathons, and we passed a couple today. Al Franken still leads the vote count and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York publicly called on Norm Coleman to give it up already. Senator Schumer himself joins us live in just a moment.
But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
The country waited 232 years for the first two U.S. states to recognize gay marriage. Now we‘ve got two more states in the space of a week. Same-sex marriage was made legal in Massachusetts back in 2004, next came Connecticut as of last year—and now, in the past week, both Iowa and Vermont and also sort of D.C.
The Vermont state legislature had already voted in favor of recognizing the right of same-sex couples to get married. Yesterday, the Republican governor from Vermont vetoed that bill. Today, in a surprise, both houses of the Vermont legislature summoned a 2/3 majority to override the governor‘s veto, thereby making same-sex marriage legal in the Green Mountain State.
Vermont was the first state to grant statewide legal recognition to same-sex couples nine years ago when then-Governor Howard Dean was sort of forced by the courts into signing a civil unions bill. Now, Vermont continues its pioneering ways, becoming the first state to make same-sex marriage legal not because of a court ruling on the constitutionality of the issue, but because the state legislature moved proactively to make it a new law.
Also and this is an important detail, Vermont does not have residency requirements for marriage—which means that you do not have to be one of Vermont‘s 600,000 residents in order to get married there. So, for example, any same-sex couples in California who had their rights taken away by Proposition Eight in November, I hear Burlington is lovely this time of year. I‘m also partial to the awesome, old independent movie theater in downtown Brattleboro. I‘m just saying.
After you get hitched to New England styley, might I also suggest the
honeymoon in the District of Columbia, because in addition to the Iowa
Supreme Court unanimously recognizing same-sex marriage rights this week,
in addition to the Vermont state legislature recognizing same-sex marriage
rights this week, the city council of Washington, D.C., voted unanimously
today to recognize gay marriages performed in other states
So, have yourself a wedding in Massachusetts or Connecticut or Iowa or Vermont, and enjoy whatever privileges and responsibilities are afforded to married couples under the city laws of the District of Columbia as well. No, still no recognition from the federal government that‘s located in D.C., which is, you know, where we all pay our federal taxes to and everything.
But still, when it rains, it pours. Feel free to make your own rainbow joke.
Now, a follow-up on a story that we covered when it first broke, because I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old and I think scientists watching dirty stuff on the inner tubes is hilarious. The stories about scientists at the National Science Foundation—an independent U.S. government agency responsibility for reporting science and engineering.
Back in January, an inspector general‘s report said that some National Science Foundation employees were spending a lot of their time at work looking at the pornography. The inspector general found pornographic images and videos saved on network drives. One employee reported hearing another employee‘s computer produce sexually explicit sounds.
One senior employee says he charged $40,000 worth of porn on his personal credit card for stuff that he saw at work over a period of a couple of years. The inspectors estimate that over that time that guy spent 20 percent of his working hours checking out porn, one in every five hours.
Apparently, with no sense of worry that he might be found out, at one point, he sent an e-mail from his work computer and from his work e-mail address that read, quote, “I am trying to learn how to use cam-to-cam capability on your AsianBabes.com site. I do not seem to be able to do that.
Senators Grassley and Mikulski have now sent a follow-up letter to the NSF, asking why they did not take more disciplinary action against their personnel after the I.G. report came out in January. It‘s a fair question.
My question: You‘re smart enough to work at the National Science Foundation but you are not smart enough to set up some junk mail account for your AsianBabes.com hot work time action - - seriously?
MADDOW: Stop the presses. Stop the presses. Or at least stop the computer thingy that makes the teleprompter go. There was good news today for an Obama administration nominee. I haven‘t been able to say that in a long time. Specifically it was for one celebrated Iraq War vet. An experienced veterans‘ advocate and administrator named Tammy Duckworth. Her nomination to the Department of Veterans‘ Affairs I‘m happy to say is not longer being inexplicably held up by North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr. Senator Burr consistently said only that he was delaying a vote on Duckworth‘s nomination to do his quote “due diligence.”
Today the senator‘s office relented, still not clear on what the due diligence was on a helicopter pilot, double amputee, experienced veterans‘ advocate supported by all the veterans‘ service organizations and nationally known for her work but it is done at last.
However, this apparently does not signal smoother sailing for the rest of the high level nomination that are still stuck in the Senate. Take the issue of Iraq, for instance, where the president was today. He met with the troops. The top U.S. military commander in Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister and then he left. I mean, there might have been another meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq but we still don‘t have one. Ryan Crocker, the Bush appointed ambassador left Iraq in mid February and President Obama‘s nominee to replace him, one of the most experienced foreign services officers anywhere, Christopher Hill, he can‘t take over the job until Senate Republicans, chiefly Sam Brownback of Kansas stop blocking the vote on his nomination. Senate resistance is costing the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and a top lawyer for the State Department. Couple all these blocked high level nominations with zero Republican votes on the bill that just passed and with the number of votes on which the Republicans are insisting the threshold for passenger is 60 votes and not 50 and you get a numerically illustrative portrait of Republican strategy for their time in the minority. Also you get a numerically illustrative portrait of a very changed America, one in which a majority vote doesn‘t pass legislation through our government anymore.
How did that happen? Joining us now is Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. He sits on the Judiciary, Finance and Banking Committees and chairs the Senate Rules Committee. Senator Schumer, thank you so much for coming in. It‘s nice to see you.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NY: Good evening. Great to be here.
MADDOW: Thanks. On the issue of nominees .
MADDOW: Should Republicans be paying a bigger political and public relations price or is this sort of business as usual?
SCHUMER: No. It is really not business as usual. There has always been this filibuster rule. But they have just used it for everything. They began last year when we only had 51 votes, of course it was much harder. They even blocked something called the Highway Technical Corrections Bill. The highway number was supposed to be 684 and it said 685 they blocked that.
And I think the answer, the reason is simple. They have nothing positive to say. The world has changed. The old Reagan philosophy which served them well politically from 1980 to about 2004 and 2006 is over. But the hard right which still believes when the federal government moves, chop off its hands, still believes that, you know, traditional values kind of arguments and strong foreign policy, all that is over. So they have nothing other than to say no.
And the good news for us, make two points here, the good news for us is the polls show that the Republican Party in the House and Senate is the lowest ratings they have had in a long time and Democrats are pretty high. So this no strategy clearly isn‘t working with the public and I think President Obama has a pretty smart strategy. He is going to talk bipartisanship to the American people. But realizes until the Republican grassroots pushes their people over, if that ever happens, we are not going get change in the House or Senate. So the answer is 60 votes.
MADDOW: I look at that, though. I look at the number of cloture
votes they forced. This assumption that 60 votes is normal now and I worry
that is not what I learned on “Schoolhouse Rock”. That‘s not the way I learned this is supposed to work.
MADDOW: You are the chair of the Senate Rules Committee. I don‘t know if this is where it should go. Is there some anti-filibuster abuse rule that could be pushed?
SCHUMER: Well, here is the problem. It is sort of a Catch-22 that dates from the days of the old Southern Democrat barons. You need two thirds of the Senate to change any Senate rule. That is 67. That is worst than 60. So that was—that makes it almost impossible to change the rules except if public opinion forces them to change.
Now there are three probably Republican moderates in the Senate. Moderate. Specter and Collins and Snowe from Maine. There are about 30 hard right guys. They just believe in that hard right philosophy. They‘re not changing.
But there are 10 or 12 what you‘d call mainstream conservatives, people like Dick Lugar who supports Chris Hill, for instance, people like Lamar Alexander or George Voinovich. And the question is are they going to continue to march totally in line with the hard right even though I think in their hearts they know it is wrong or break on occasional issues? The president is going to keep talking bipartisanship to the American people in hopes that it moves some of them.
MADDOW: Why not use the budget reconciliation rules for more legislation even though that is not precedent because the Republicans have broken the precedent by invoking filibuster so often.
SCHUMER: I think that is the direction we are going to move in. I would support that. I don‘t think—I know we are going to give Senator Baucus, Senator Conrad a chance to pass health care legislation with 60 votes. But it would be my view that if they can‘t do that by a certain time, August, we then move to reconciliation where we need 51 and it will be hard enough to pass national health care with 51 votes.
MADDOW: In the contested Minnesota Senate race, speaking about the size of the majority, you called today for Norm Coleman to concede. When do you think this ends?
SCHUMER: Well, we—you know, here is what Norm Coleman does. He keeps contesting different parts of the election and keeps losing votes. The count today, Al Franken gained—well, he is up to 315 votes, he was up to 225 and 250. So Coleman ought to realize that he is not going to win this election.
Here is the key. He does have a right, Coleman does, to go to the Minnesota Supreme Court. My view, the Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected his arguments four times already. Then is the key issue, the law requires both the governor and secretary of state to sign the certification that Al Franken is senator. The secretary of state has said he would. Governor Pawlenty says he would follow the law, but he hasn‘t said explicitly he should. The people of Minnesota certainly want him to sign and get a senator already. Poor Al Franken, he‘s been through—they have read and reread and challenged and re-challenged vote after vote after vote.
But, Pawlenty who has national aspirations may be under pressure from the national Republican Party to just hold it up and not sign. And I hope that doesn‘t happen. Because the law is very, very clear.
MADDOW: You know what defeats pressure, pressure.
SCHUMER: You bet. I‘m a believer in that.
MADDOW: One last question. Mark Danner was just joining us here. He is the man who has published the CIA report on torture in CIA prisons. You are a member of the Judiciary Committee. Would you support a movement toward a Judiciary Committee led investigation?
SCHUMER: Well, I think the first place, look, I have some faith in Eric Holder and the Obama administration on this issue. The first day they said, OK, waterboarding is torture. We are not going to torture. And the most important thing they did is they extended the Army Manual, which isn‘t bad on these issues, to the CIA. So the first and logical place to do investigations, and look, if there are egregious violations of law, they should be prosecuted.
MADDOW: There are.
SCHUMER: President Obama has said .
MADDOW: We‘ve got good evidence at this point.
SCHUMER: I know. Innocent before proven guilty. President Obama said he doesn‘t want to spend all his time looking back. Fair enough. But he has also said egregious violations should be prosecuted. The most logical best place to start is the Justice Department. They haven‘t said if they are going to do it or not. They are just beginning to get staffed up because of all these holdbacks. If they won‘t do it someone else is going to have to do it. But they should be given the first crack.
MADDOW: Senator Schumer, it is a real pleasure to have you on the show.
MADDOW: I can‘t believe we haven‘t had you here before but I‘m really happy to have you here tonight. Thank you.
SCHUMER: Thanks. Good to be here.
MADDOW: Who wants to be secretary of labor when the economy is on a downward spiral, unemployment is horrendous and the stock market is on a roller coaster? Hilda Solis does and she will join us here next.
MADDOW: The fight to get President Obama‘s nominees confirmed by the Senate has been a wily one so far. As we discussed this hour, it looks like Iraq veteran helicopter pilot Tammy Duckworth will finally get a vote for her proposed position in the Veterans‘ Administration after North Carolina Senator Richard Burr lifted his mysterious objections to her.
Important appointees like the ambassador to Iraq, the top legal eagle in the State Department, the new head of the Office of Legal Counsel, an office that wrote many of the infamous torture memos during the Bush administration. All of these appointees are still being held up in the Senate.
So far the highest profile nominee to survive dug in Republican opposition is Hilda Solis, the nation‘s first Hispanic American to head the Department of Labor. Herself the daughter of two immigrants whose work lives included union activism.
Remarkable, I know. A labor secretary who purports to support labor. I know. The confirmation of Secretary Solis is historic and really politically important not just because of who she is because her department, roughly the department for people who have to work for a living, it is the department that makes sure the government is looking after not just the executives who sign paychecks at the end of the week, but the employees who cash them as well.
At a time like this we need that department to be super heroic, to be better than it has ever been, to be staffed by people in capes and tights if need be. This year will probably see a political fight over the most important labor legislation, the unfortunately acronymed EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act that would make it easier for people to join unions, an important defection from EFCA from Blanche Lincoln, the conservative Democratic senator from Wal-Mart - I mean from Arkansas. She defected from EFCA yesterday. That does make the legislation less likely to pass.
And of course this year we will probably see the very worst job market in a life time as the economy sputters along on very expensive life support. Unemployment us up to 8.5 percent generally, it‘s up over 11 percent for Hispanic Americans, it is over 13 percent for African Americans. Joining us now, not in a cape and tights but still is the secretary of labor Hilda Solis. Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.
HILDA SOLIS, SECRETARY OF LABOR: How are you, Rachel? Good to be here.
MADDOW: I‘m great. Thank you.
When you look at these horrible job numbers, 5 million or so jobs lost in this recession already, do you worry that if and when those jobs do come back, the new jobs might not be as good of jobs as the ones we are losing now?
SOLIS: You know, I am very concerned about the unacceptably high rate of unemployment. It is something we can‘t stand by and allow to continue. We are doing everything in our power, the president, myself and his other Cabinet secretaries to make sure we get the stimulus money, the Recovery Act money, out in to those communities that have been dislocated. Think about it, Rachel, we‘re talking about since December of 2000, 5 million jobs have been lost. Many of these people for the first time are losing their homes. They can‘t pay down their rent, they can‘t send their kids to school. So many things, factors are affecting them. We are doing everything we can to make sure education and training, those programs get out there immediately and especially unemployment insurance benefits get out to those dislocated workers.
And I can tell you right now that we haven‘t stopped since I‘ve been there. And I have only been there now for five weeks.
MADDOW: I wonder about this issue of underemployment. Of people working fewer hours than they want to be working. I know the average number of hours worked per week is at a very low point right now, we know people are working multiple jobs because they can‘t find full employment with just one job.
What does the Labor Department have to do about issues like that, that are about the quality, the types of jobs people are able to get?
SOLIS: One thing I want to tell you is that we have just made a major modification to unemployment insurance. It‘s called the Modernization Act actually to allow for people who have had their hours reduced or say they had to leave a job because their spouse moved or something like that or even women and part-time workers will be eligible for an additional benefit through this modernization act. And some states have begun to change laws so that they can receive this money. In fact New Jersey has come onboard today. I also spoke with Connecticut, the governor there. We are having, I think, some good opportunities where some the governors really understand the immediacy of getting this money out to all of their dislocated workers, particularly those that are in that niche that maybe have seen a reduction in their work hours and may not, under normal conditions, be able to draw down unemployment insurance.
And it‘s been set up especially for those people that have had their hours cut back or they‘re part-time workers and many who happen to be women.
MADDOW: What do you think about those Republican governors, it has just been Republicans who have done this, who have wanted to not accept federal money to extend unemployment benefits in their states? A number of governors have made big public stands about that. What‘s your opinion about that?
SOLIS: You know, I‘ll be honest with you, I am delighted that, for the last two weeks, I‘ve been making calls with Democratic governors and Republican governors. Today, my call was with the governor of Connecticut. And she was telling me that just today they were also extending a provision in their law so that they could draw down the full amount of unemployment compensation benefits that we could provide to them through the federal government. So, I don‘t look at it as, you know, Republican or Democrat. We‘ve got to talk about people. We‘ve got to talk about those dislocated workers and those families that urgently need this help. That‘s what the public needs to be focused on, that what we as policymakers, politicians and folks out there, we need to be careful and mindful of those people that have been going through this hardship for the last two years.
MADDOW: In terms of the Employee Free Choice Act, people who support that act keep expressing confidence that it will pass, all of their public statements are very, very positive. But, we have seen a little bit of erosion in the Senate, which is where the votes really count right now, Senator Specter, Senator Lincoln, both now saying they will vote against the legislation. I, from here, don‘t imagine that there are enough votes to pass it. I wonder if you think it will pass and if the Department of Labor has a role in promoting that legislation?
SOLIS: Well, the president and I are on record in support of this legislation. I, as a former member of Congress, he as a former senator, but he continues, as I do, to believe that this is a good bill and that we would hope to see it pass.
MADDOW: Madam Secretary, just one last question. I know you‘ve been on the job for, as you said, about five weeks now. Just a little bit over a month. I have to ask, it‘s got to be a big leap from the House of Representatives.
SOLIS: It is.
MADDOW: To the Cabinet. How has it been, how are you doing?
SOLIS: I‘m excited. I just can‘t tell you how thrilled I am about the opportunities to do good things for our country, particularly dislocated workers, our youth, those hard-pressed communities that have seen their job losses, trying to provide increased protections for them in the workplace and OSHA, in wage and hour, those are areas that I think the American public has—will start to see some changes and I‘m very, very delighted and hopeful to be part of this administration to see that agenda move along. That‘s what change was meant to be in the November election and now we have to—we have to implement that plan and that agenda.
So I‘m just excited, Rachel, and it‘s a wonderful opportunity to be here with you.
MADDOW: Secretary of labor Hilda Solis, thank you very much for being on the show. I really appreciate you taking the time.
SOLIS: Thank you.
Coming up on COUNTDOWN, Tap into America. Keith talks to legendary rockers Spinal Tap about their upcoming reunion tour. Hello Cleveland.
And next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from Kent Jones plus a cocktail moment courtesy of the latest acronymically challenged invention from General Motors and Segway.
MADDOW: Hi, Kent. I‘m still not over our theme music.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: It‘s wonderful.
MADDOW: Every day is a surprise.
JONES: Oh, good!
MADDOW: What have you got?
JONES: As we speak, the University of Connecticut Huskies and Louisville Cardinals fight out for the women‘s NCAA title. Here‘s how sick UCONN is, the Huskies are 38-0 this season and could become the first team ever men‘s or women‘s to finish the season unbeaten with every win coming by double digits.
JONES: That high level of excellence and achievement why for years male newspaper editors have featured women‘s basketball news in the sports section on page 5 and sometimes page 4. Rachel?
MADDOW: They have not lost by less than—they have not won by less than double digits the entire year.
JONES: All season. They are phenomenal.
MADDOW: Holy mackerel.
JONES: It‘s the best story.
JONES: Next up in September 12 classic Beatles albums will be available in shiny new digitally remastered CD packages, these are the Beatles like you have never heard them before. Unless you‘ve already bought the vinyl LP or eight-track or cassettes or the CD or the mini disc versions then, yeah, you have heard them before, a lot. Paying for the “Sergeant Peppers” yet again, that‘s the new part here. All you need is love, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well, you know, I mean it‘s nice it is all digitally perfect and everything but it can‘t be .
JONES: No, not a new band. I just read that.
MADDOW: Not coming back.
JONES: But fantastic. Finally, congratulations to Metallica, who were just inducted into the Rock n‘ Roll Hall of Fame over the weekend. This is very cool. Drummer Lars Ulrich was asked by “Time Magazine” about his favorite current media offerings, and number one on Lars‘ list, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
JONES: Oh, yes, he praised your, quote, refreshingly anti-PC attitudes.
JONES: Do you think they watch the show backstage?
MADDOW: Oh, please.
Guys, if you are watching, I have been a fan my whole life. You were a major part of the soundtrack of my youth, you formed a significant portion of my brain. If you like me, I‘m very excited.
JONES: One of these. There it is.
MADDOW: A T-shirt. That‘s so cool.
How do you think Metallica?
JONES: We just tried.
MADDOW: OK. All right.
JONES: We‘ll do more.
MADDOW: Cocktail moment. GM and Segway are making this strange new like phone booth on wheels thing. Did you see this today?
MADDOW: It‘s like a Segway but with a little booth on it.
JONES: There it is.
MADDOW: It goes 35 miles an hour, got a little enclosed cab where you can throw your fast food wrappers or whatever. It‘s battery powered. The idea is that .
JONES: That‘s good.
MADDOW: Each one is one less car.
JONES: No making out in, this no room for any stuff.
MADDOW: No. The not good thing about this, in addition to the no-making out space the name they call it the PUMA, which would have been fine before the campaign season.
JONES: Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
MADDOW: That‘s, you know, Party Unity My Asterisk. We won‘t .
JONES: Yeah, my ACL.
MADDOW: . vote for Barack Obama no matter what. Thank you, Kent.
Thank you for watching. COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN starts now.
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