Guest: Howard Dean, Jared Bernstein, Stephen Gordon, Kent Jones
Spec: Politics; Government; Policies
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We are eagerly counting down to midnight to the start of Tax Day, which this year will be “teabag day.” The conservative movement organizing amorphously to oppose taxation maybe, spending maybe, President Obama‘s birth certificate, perhaps—it‘s not totally clear. But the adoption of their teabag as their symbol, now that is as plain as the one-two punch to the face.
The mass teabagging group, MillionTeabags.com, plans to dump 1 million tea bags on the nation‘s capital tomorrow. Conservatives are being encourage to teabag Obama, as you see there, teabag Pelosi, teabag liberal Democrats, before they teabag you.
Offices in D.C. have received notices like this one which was posted by the cheerfully profane D.C. Web site, Onekit (ph). It reads, “Congratulations, you have been tea bagged. You are one of the capital D bums that we intend to have thrown out of office.”
Here on tea bag eve, one form of response to the great teabag gob smack of 2009 is, of course, to laugh at it, even while trying to report on it, which is the prurient, juvenile approach that I admit I have taken over the past week. I can‘t help myself.
Today, further illustration of why jerks like me can‘t be president of the United States. President Obama, today, seriously addressed his critics, taking them on as if he has been able to discern within the teabag blizzard some legitimate concerns that require rebuttal. Unlike giggling TV hosts, he has identified points of concern that people may have with him and he logically walked through those concerns and gave his responses to them.
President Obama‘s speech today explained what he thinks is going on in the economy and why he thinks it‘s going on. He enunciated and justified his policies to respond to the crisis. In the process, he spelled out and answered the criticisms he has encountered from left, right and center, and in the case of the teabaggers from over the top.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA COLON: Spending is not the solution.
CHAD LANG: It‘s putting hippos on the Titanic. That‘s all it‘s doing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are robbing my children. They are robbing them for the rest of their lives. They are robbing my grandchildren.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From grandchild robbery and Titanic hippos to the president‘s response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: You see, when this recession began, many families sat around the kitchen table and tried to figure out where they could cut back, and so have many businesses. And this is a completely reasonable and understandable reaction. But if everybody—if everybody, if every family in America, if every business in America cuts back all at once, then no one is spending any money—which means there are no customers, which means there are more layoffs, which means that the economy gets even worse. That‘s why the government has to step in and temporarily boost spending in order to stimulate demand. That‘s exactly what we‘re doing right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That makes sense. That‘s the paradox of thrift from econ 101. That said, it‘s less fun than talking about hippos on the Titanic. He also took on conservative criticism about the deficit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JUDD GREGG, ® NEW HAMPSHIRE: We‘re talking about a deficit in the $1 trillion range for as far as the eye can see. The practical implications of this is bankruptcy for the United States. There‘s no other way around it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Rather than pointing out that these same Republicans presided over the exploding deficit of the past eight years, President Obama left that alone and identified the main culprit of the growing deficit that he attempts to deal with in his budget.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I absolutely agree that our long-term deficit is a major problem that we have to fix. The key to dealing with our long-term deficit and our national debt is to get a handle on out-of-control health care costs—not to stand idly by as the economy goes into free fall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president also answered the widespread frustration over the Wall Street bailout as in, “Hey, where is my bailout, man?”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I understand that TARP is not popular and I have to say that I don‘t agree with some of the ways the TARP program was managed. But, I do agree with the broader rationale that we must provide banks with the capital and the confidence necessary to start lending again. The truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in $8 or $10 of loans to families and businesses. So, that‘s a multiplier effect that can ultimately lead to a faster pace of economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After putting on his professorial hat today and giving this speech after rebutting the teabaggers, after rebutting his elected critics on the right, and after rebutting Americans upset about the bailout, President Obama then took on his critics on the left, seeming to be pretty clearly responding to Nobel Prize-winning economist and frequent guest on this show, Paul Krugman. Mr. Krugman has chastised the White House for not getting it over with and just nationalizing the banks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We believe that preemptive government takeovers are likely to end up costing taxpayers even more in the end, and because it‘s more likely to undermine than create confidence. Governments should practice the same principle as doctors. First—do no harm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, the president took them all on—the reasonable on the right, the reasonable on the left, and the nonsense from the know-nothings across the board. How did he do?
Well, joining us is former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, now a contributor to CNBC.
Governor Dean, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, do you think this speech today was at all timed to pre-butt the protests that are going to happen tomorrow?
DEAN: Actually, I don‘t think so. I think he is—you know, I‘m actually have to say, I was just listening to the speech, I‘m a little surprised at how much I agree with him. I revere Paul Krugman. I think he is one of the smartest people in America. And this one, I actually agree with President Obama.
We really do have to spend some money that I, as a fiscal conservative, don‘t like spending. But we‘ve got to get the economy going again, primarily so that small businesses that are in good shape don‘t collapse. And that‘s what happens in bad recessions, people with good balance sheets collapse as well as bad balance sheets.
So, I don‘t think this has anything to do with the tea party. When you‘re winning, why take on people that are having tea bag parties or whatever they are. But I do think and I particularly liked his very plain language. This was aimed right at Middle America, and explained in very plain language—as you put it econ 101. I thought it was a really good speech.
MADDOW: In terms of the political strategy here, I was—I was struck by the timing, just because it seems like he is—these aren‘t straw man arguments. He wasn‘t building up arguments that are easy to knock down. He seemed to be taking on arguments from the right that don‘t really exist—honestly. He‘s taking on arguments as if they are being—he‘s being more rationally criticized than he is right now. Republicans .
DEAN: I agree.
MADDOW: Go ahead.
DEAN: That‘s why I don‘t think he is responding to the tea party or whatever they call it, because there‘s no real message in that. I mean, people are mad. OK, well, that‘s fine. But there‘s no real focused message on the part of the people who are doing the teabag party.
What Obama was doing, I think, was explaining things that ought to be explained. What about these big deficits? People should be worried about those. What about a government bailing out the bank? Those are legitimate questions that lots of people have concerns about, not just the fulminating talk show hosts on the far right.
And those concerns deserve to be answered and I think he did that. I do think it was a really good speech. And what I thought was so great about it—it totally lacked the soaring rhetoric of most of his speeches. It‘s look them right in the eyes on Main Street and explain in plain language why he‘s doing what he is doing. And that is why he is at 68 percent in terms of his ability to handle the economy, and that‘s why the Republicans are at about 23 percent.
MADDOW: On policy, health care is, obviously, a very important issue to you and has been throughout your career. When the president named increasing health care costs as the policy issue that he‘s going to use to explain why the deficits are so high, taking on—putting health care reform in the context of fiscal conservatism essentially. How did you feel about that?
DEAN: I think that‘s exactly the right tack. People have been talking about doing health care for the uninsured for a long time, that doesn‘t move people. What does move people is the understanding that our companies are not competitive, not just to Chinese companies which pay a lot less money, they‘re not competitive with Canadian companies because Canadian companies aren‘t saddled with this incredible cost that goes up two or three times the rate of inflation every year for 30 years.
This has to be fixed. If you want long-term economic health, I think the president gets it. He‘s also talked about education, which is even further out—further out problem that needs to be fixed. He really wants to fix the economy, not put just Band-aids on it. And I think he ought to get credit for that.
MADDOW: Looking at what the Republicans are proposing, looking at the House Republican budget, for example, looking at the Republican economic solutions Web site that was put out today, looking frankly at the tea parties tomorrow which dozens of Republican congressmen are taking part in -- I‘m wondering if the real substantive policy debate in Washington is actually among Democrats right now. It doesn‘t feel like Republicans are really participating.
DEAN: Yes. There is no substantive among the Republicans. They are badly wounded. They‘re trying to figure out how to come back. There is no agreement among themselves what they—how to do it. And none of them have the courage to do what Michael Steele started to do, which is to take on the right-wing of his own party. They got a terrible problem.
There are very—the “New York Times” did a good job this week talking about this. They‘ve gotten to a much smaller party and much, much more conservative party. They‘ve almost become a regional party and they‘re way out of the mainstream.
And they want to use the formula that got them back in ‘94, which is to get the mainstream to come to them. But unfortunately, the new generation is moving in the other direction. They‘re going to have to take some really tough medicine and they are not off to a very good start. But they have a long way to go.
You will not find this former Democratic chairman talking about a Democratic, whatever it was that Rove talked about for the Republicans, a permanent majority. Anybody who talks like won‘t be in the majority for very long.
But the Republicans are really in trouble. They don‘t look like America. They don‘t talk like America. They don‘t like America. And they don‘t seem to have any solutions for America.
MADDOW: How do you think that Michael Steele is doing as chairman?
DEAN: I think he needed to stand up to Rush Limbaugh and he failed the test. You don‘t let a talk show host run your party, and that‘s what they have done.
MADDOW: As a former talk show host, I can‘t tell you how much I agree with you.
MADDOW: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, thank you so much for your time tonight, sir. It‘s nice to see you.
DEAN: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: So, how should House Republicans counter President Obama‘s grown-up economic address today, in all its seriousness and professorial detail? How about tax cuts! Tax cuts! More tax cuts.
Would it be more persuasive—would that argument about tax cuts be more persuasive if it were expressed as a cartoon? Oh, yes. Vice President Biden‘s chief economist, Jared Bernstein, will be here to discuss next.
But first, One More Thing about President Obama. The comparisons to President Lincoln might need to end right here—because unlike President Lincoln who left his dog Fido back in Springfield because he didn‘t want Fido to be scared by the loud church bells and cannons of Washington, D.C., President Obama introduced his new family bowser (ph) at the White House. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Bo the Portuguese water dog.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The only concern we have is apparently Portuguese water dogs like tomatoes. Michelle‘s garden is in danger.
SASHA OBAMA, PRES. OBAMA‘S DAUGHTER: He doesn‘t know how to swim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All the criticism right off the bat. Washington is a tough town. You know that saying about, “If you need a friend in Washington, get a dog”? Maybe Bo needs a dog, too.
MADDOW: Night of the living head is back. The former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich and his brother pled not guilty today to federal racketeering and fraud charges. Never mind that Governor F-word was caught on tape apparently trying to auction off President Barack Obama‘s former Senate seat. He is still protesting his innocence to anyone who will listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: I‘m innocent of every single accusation. I know what the truth is as it concerns me. I‘m glad that this day has started because now, we can begin the process of getting the truth out and I can clear my name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nothing says the process of “getting the truth out and clearing my name” like a reality show on NBC starring Rod Blagojevich. I am not joking or misreporting. You are hereby implored to stay tuned for details.
MADDOW: President Obama gave a big prose not poetry grown-up speech today, laying out his view of the economic crisis and explaining why his administration has chosen the policies it has chosen to respond. What‘s the character of the opposition to those policies right now? Well, there are the “down with Obama,” anti-tax, anti-spending teabagging protests. Everyone is looking forward to seeing those go nuts tomorrow on Tax Day.
And then there is the anti-Obama Republicans in Congress, who have just launched a new Web site, showcasing their alternatives to Obama‘s policies. A Republican congressional aide today explaining to Politico.com, quote, “The short term tactical reason for the site is to dispel the myth about having zero ideas.”
I spent three full minutes studying every word of the new House Republican Economic Solution Center Web site today—trust me, you do not need to set aside more than three minutes to read it because it does not actually have very many words on it. Also, it is organized in cartoon form.
The cartoon House Republican Economic Solution Center asks four pressing questions and proposes the same answer to all of them. How will I grow my savings? Tax cuts—specifically cutting the capital gains tax. How should we use taxpayer money? Tax cuts—permanently extend the Bush tax cuts. And for extra bonus points, freeze the budget.
How will I keep my job? The diverse and innovative plan the Republicans are offering here is a combination of tax deductions, tax relief, and tax freedom. In other words, more tax cuts. Last question:
How will I keep my house? Surprise answer here—tax cuts. And also, limiting lawsuits against mortgage companies because tort reform will solve the housing crisis?
So, w got tort reform, we got a spending freeze, and, of course, we got 32 flavors of tax cuts. Does that sound like a plan?
Joining us now is Jared Bernstein, chief economist and economic policy adviser to the Vice President Joe Biden.
Dr. Bernstein, thank you so much for joining us.
JARED BERNSTEIN, CHIEF ECONOMIST TO VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: And thank you for inviting me.
MADDOW: President Obama said today, “Economists on both the left and the right agree that the last thing a government should do in a middle of a recession is to cut back on spending.” The Republicans are not conceding that. They are still arguing for a spending freeze. And I don‘t think they are kidding, do you?
BERNSTEIN: No. I don‘t think that are, and I think they need to get out a little bit more, maybe a lot more.
If you look at what‘s going on throughout this country, the first thing you‘re struck with, certainly, the first thing the president thinks about when he reflects on how the economy is doing is the kinds of job and income opportunities that middle-class families are facing right now. And we know that there is an intense contraction going in this economy vis-a-vis jobs. You know, the unemployment rate stands at 8.5 percent nationally. But there are states, about five or six states, that are in double digits.
The idea that you would retrench as a government, kind of, you know, go and hide under the rubric of trickle-down or supply-side economics is policy from a different universe, a universe that has nothing to do with the economic realities facing families today.
MADDOW: It seems like, in terms, of their message, they are really counting on the idea of tax cuts. They are suggesting cutting the capital gains tax, extending the Bush tax cuts. They want to cut the tax rate for the rich. The highest tax rate in the country, they want to cut it by 10 points, would be tripling the Bush tax cuts. That‘s their—that‘s their message.
BERNSTEIN: Well, you know, Rachel, what I think they‘re counting on is that people have incredibly short memories—because if you think back not too far, we tried it their way and it didn‘t work.
Now, I‘m not saying we tried it for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, we had an eight-year program of supply-side, trickle-down economics based on cutting taxes for those at the top of the scale, under the fairy tale that it‘s going to create robust prosperity for everybody else; that if you deregulate financial industry, that markets will self-correct and any problems, any bumps in the road, they‘ll fix them themselves. It‘s precisely what got us to where we are. So, I don‘t think it‘s a serious debate.
And I think the president has it exactly right. If you pull out this group of folks who are—who are kind of stuck in this tape loop from, you know, X years ago, and you look at people who are seriously looking at the economy today, and you could—you can find conservatives. You won‘t see people who recognize that we do have to engage in some re-regulation, some oversight of financial markets. We do have to spend in the current climate, on a stimulus package, to create or save 3.5 million jobs now and the end of the next year; to essentially get this economy back on track so that we can get out of the way and let the private sector engine of growth take over.
MADDOW: On the issue of regulation, I was struck today by the
president‘s language around what we need to think about when we approach
re-regulating the financial sector. And he was talking about needing a
21st century set of regulations.
MADDOW: Not a 20th century set of regulations. I was struck by that because that‘s the same language that was used by the deregulators, by the conservatives in both parties to push for deregulation in the ‘90s. I wonder if there is a case to be made that there ought to be an ideological, philosophical case presented by the president, by the vice president, for why deregulation was the wrong idea rather than just talk about modernization.
BERNSTEIN: You know, I think that that‘s a principle that the president and the vice president understand, and one that many of the economic advisers get as well. The idea is that—if you sort of came into this with a notion that, you know, Alan Greenspan was known for promoting, that these markets don‘t need to be monitored because they correct themselves—something Greenspan, to his very considerable credit, realized that he had wrong that these markets will not self-correct.
And again, the important thing to recognize, Rachel, is that there is left/right consensus on this point. Now, we can have very good debates about how far such oversight should go, about what‘s the best way to deal with the banking sector, the non-banking sector, the AIGs of the world. And we will have those debates. And in fact, if the Republicans or anybody else wants to put some good ideas up on solutions dot whatever, we‘ll go there and we‘ll look at them and we‘ll talk about it.
But the idea that you can somehow ignore the lessons of the past eight years, that‘s just unacceptable to this president.
MADDOW: Jared Bernstein, chief economist and economic policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden—Jared, thank you so much for coming on the show. We‘d hope to have you back more frequently. It‘s great to talk to you.
BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Rachel. See you soon.
MADDOW: With the conservative tea party protests just one day away, is there a rift among the anti-tax faithful? With apologies to President Lincoln, we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW are worrying that teabaggers divided against themselves cannot stand.
Coming up: It is libertarians versus Republicans in a battle for the teabaggers‘ hope (ph).
MADDOW: We are preempting misinformation tonight to report a couple of late-breaking stories, both of which we have learned about late in the day today. The first from Guantanamo, where apparently a prisoner has been able to surreptitiously make a phone call to a TV network from inside the prison. The Al Jazeera television network has posted on its Web site a transcript of the call. It‘s the first known interview with anyone in prison at Guantanamo. While journalists have been allowed to tour the prison, they have done so on the condition that they will not speak with prisoners there.
The prison who called out is apparently Mohammad el Gharani. You might recognize his name because a federal judge ordered him freed from Guantanamo back in January, about a week before President Obama took office. Despite the judge‘s order to free Mr. Gharani and send him either to Saudi Arabia, where he was from or to Chad, he has not been freed. He is housed still at Guantanamo, along with other prisoners who the courts have ordered free but who the U.S. government cannot figure out what to do with.
Mr. Gharani‘s name may also be familiar to you because he is the prisoner who was locked up at Guantanamo when he was only 14 years old. He was picked up in Pakistan at age 14. He has been in Guantanamo ever since. He is now 21 years old.
In the call from Guantanamo, Mr. Gharani alleged that he had been beaten with batons and teargassed for refusing to leave his cell.
An unnamed government official told the “Reuters” news agency that Mr. Gharani made the call to the Al Jazeera network under the guise of calling a family member. He was supposed to have called an uncle. It would be against Guantanamo‘s policy if Mr. Gharani dialed the number himself, that should have been done by a staff member or a guard there at the facility. Also, nobody knows why he had Al Jazeera‘s phone number.
We will keep you posted if there‘s any further information or response to this first breaking news story.
We also have a second breaking news story that we‘re covering. It is incredibly about another American-flagged ship being attacked by pirates off the eastern coast of Africa today. No one was injured. The ship has not been taken by the pirates. But apparently, a violent attempt was made on an American ship called the Liberty Sun. It‘s a container ship that, like the Maersk Alabama, was loaded with humanitarian aid down for Mombasa, Kenya.
One of the 20 American sailors onboard tells NBC News that pirates opened fire on the Liberty Sun as it attempted to take evasive action. The source said, quote, “The pirates pretty much shot up the bridge, but no one was hurt.” And in a statement released tonight, the shipping company that owns the Liberty Sun said the pirates also fired rocket propelled grenades at the ship as well as automatic weapons fire.
Now, this incident apparently will delay the trip home for the Maersk Alabama captain, Richard Phillips, who was rescued from pirates by the U.S. Navy on Sunday. He is onboard the USS Bainbridge. He is bound for Kenya himself to be reunited with his crew before they are flown home to the U.S. Now, the Bainbridge will divert course to go escort the Liberty Sun, the ship that was just attacked. And Captain Phillips‘ trip home will therefore get a little bit longer.
We‘ll be keeping our eyes on both of these breaking news stories over the course of the hour. We‘ll keep you posted as we learn more.
MADDOW: Now, admittedly, I am no expert. But from what I understand, the traditional tea party involved tea, of course, and lots of agreement about the lovely weather, the perfect drapery, the deliciousness of the crumpets and the bonnets or whatever else that traditionally adorns a tea party. Everybody agrees - it‘s a agreeable, be nice, sort of the tea party vibe.
Not the vibe for the nationwide tea parties planned for tomorrow. We are learning now of a rift in the movement behind the tea party protests planned for tomorrow around the country. Yes, I said it is a growing teabagger rift, a conflict between different teabagging factions.
In order to really understand this internal conflict, we actually have to go way back to 2007 in our cheap time machine. All right. In the Ron Paul for president campaign a bunch of his supporters developed a plan to fly a giant Ron Paul blimp to Boston.
When the blimp got to Boston they were going to dump boxes of tea into the Boston harbor. Sound familiar? The blimp did actually not manage that flying reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. But the association of tea parties, and even Tax Day protests with the libertarian movement, with Dr. Paul‘s presidential campaign in particular, is a pretty steadfast one.
Dr. Paul did pull off a pretty impressive shadow convention held opposite the Republican National Convention in the twin cities last fall. It was a victory of sorts for Dr. Paul‘s backers who support messages that are anti-tax, anti-spending, often anti-war, anti-Federal Reserve and frequently, anti-Republican Party.
Now on the eve of the national tea party protests, many of Ron Paul supporters say that the mainstream Republican Party and leaders like Newt Gingrich have co-opted their protest movement.
Libertarian party activists and tea party planner Jason Pye told “The Washington Independent” today, quote, “Bringing in someone like Gingrich takes away from the message. Newt Gingrich enabled George W. Bush. He enabled the big spending. He lobbied conservative Republicans to compromise their principles and support Medicare part D. He supported the bailout.”
Now, what you see here, this poster was posted online today as a response to Sean Hannity‘s decision to attend and broadcast his Fox News show from a tea party in Atlanta tomorrow.
Now, this is a product of a lefty, anti-Fox News Channel group. It was created and posted by libertarians in Georgia who say it is their tea party movement and they didn‘t invite Mr. Hannity.
With all the focus on whether teabagging tea-partiers represent the future opposition to Mr. Obama, is the real story - is the more honest story here that the tea parties are, in fact, the Republicans trying to run off with the libertarians‘ idea and getting the libertarians very mad at them in the process?
Joining us now is Stephen Gordon. He‘s a political consultant and blogger from Alabama. He was Ron Paul‘s state media coordinator. Mr. Gordon, thank you so much for coming on the show.
STEPHEN GORDON, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Good evening, Rachel. I‘ve got a present for you, actually. These are teabags. These are special, special teabags. This is a pair of southern tea bags.
I know up north, you all like your tea unsweetened. But in the south, in the deep south especially, our Republican politicians like their teabags sweetened with taxes and spending.
MADDOW: That was very elaborate and much appreciated. I am a big
lover of props. Thank you for bringing those. I want to ask you -
GORDON: Well -
MADDOW: Go ahead.
GORDON: Newt Gingrich is a good example. I mean, Gingrich could be one of these two tea bags because he likes his teabags sweetened, let‘s say, with TARP funding. And this other one could be Mike Huckabee. We call him “tax hike Mike” in my circle because he likes his teabag sweetened with tax increases.
So you see we‘ve got a bunch of Republican - senior Republican officials in the Deep South that can‘t tell if their teabags are swinging from the left or the right.
MADDOW: Well, do you think that Republicans like Newt Gingrich and the hosts from Fox News Channel and these other people who have decided to be the big headlining, nationally-known folks who are attending these tea parties tomorrow. Are they trying to accomplish the same things with these protests that libertarians and, as you described them, your circle of friends there are trying to accomplish?
GORDON: Well, we‘ve been trying to cut deficit spending for a long time. Republicans, for the most part, have been increasing deficit spending. And Newt Gingrich, of all people, should not be involved in any movement to decrease deficit spending.
In Alabama, we‘ve had tea parties before and there‘s been a lot of talk about astroturfing. I will pick on Mr. Krugman‘s article a little bit. He had some truth to it and he had some bad points about it. The organization that was called Freedom Works, who was called CSE back then, helped us in our rally before. But they held a separate rally.
We had a rally that had thousands of people - overflow with people. Freedom Works held an event, or CSE as it was called then. They rented this big place at the convention center in Birmingham and nobody showed up for it. So the grassroots can show for an event just because some of these Republican-type organizations are trying to control the outcome of it doesn‘t mean they‘ll necessarily be successful. It‘s important the people at the grassroots level stick to our guns and say no when they try to co-opt our message.
MADDOW: Yes. You know, a lot of people, myself included, were really impressed with the enthusiasm and the creativity and the commitment of Ron Paul supporters in the presidential campaign. And it made me wonder at the time, and I wonder now, I guess, in retrospect, has the Republican Party ever made any serious effort to court you guys, to try to bring you into the mainstream of Republican politics? I mean, Dr. Paul ran as a Libertarian before. But this time, he ran as a Republican?
GORDON: Well, I mean, I do consulting on Web 2.0 stuff. And they‘re always wanting me to help them with their Web 2.0 projects. But they‘re not wanting to shift their message or change their focus. And I hear a lot of other Ron Paul supporters saying more or less the same thing.
MADDOW: Stephen, I understand that - talking about astroturfing - these are organizations that are sort of getting involved after the fact - after this grassroots movement rose up, claimed the tea party symbolism and used that throughout the Ron Paul campaign - actually, throughout the Libertarian party for a long time.
There is a group called the Institute for Liberty. And one of their employees is quoted in “The Washington Independent” today saying he is going to bring a large blue arrow to the tea party in D.C. tomorrow that will be marked “tea party crasher.” And he is planning on pointing that arrow at fringe protestors who show up at the event. Somebody pointed an arrow like that at you at one of these events tomorrow, what would you do?
GORDON: That is a good question. Caught me off guard on that. If I‘m not mistaken, this is the gentleman who is bringing Alan Keyes to speak in D.C. And if that is the case it would be pretty simple to grab a microphone and start pointing how Alan Keyes has treated his own daughter.
MADDOW: Oh, touche. Stephen Gordon, Libertarian blogger and political consultant, paying me back for catching you off guard - caught me here off guard too. Good luck tomorrow. I understand you are attending a couple of these events. And thank you so much for coming on the show.
GORDON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you want to know what me and Keith Olbermann talk about after hours? OK. We talk about the tribal regions of northwest Pakistan. We talk about Michael Steele. We talk occasionally about the Smoot-Hawley Act.
But sometimes we talk about baseball. Keith and I will revisit a very strange day between the foul lines, coming up next.
And it‘s true, Governor F-bomb Rod Blagojevich will star on a reality show on NBC which vaguely means we‘re going to be colleagues. Details forthcoming.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, the last Republican presidential nominee, the man who put the GOP quite a ways down their current lonely road, made an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” When Mr. Leno asked Sen. John McCain for his thoughts on who might end up leading the Republican Party out of the political wilderness, Sen. McCain suggested a few possibilities. See if you can spot the snub in his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have, I‘m happy to say, a lot of voices out there - Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Huntsman, Romney, Charlie Crist. There are a lot of governors out there who are young and dynamic. There are a lot of good people out there. I‘ve left out somebody‘s name and I‘m going to hear about it.
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”: Right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, you left somebody out. You know, five months ago, she was going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Now John McCain is forgetting her name on lists of promising Republican governors, but remembering the name of John Huntsman? Does anybody else feel a new “People” magazine, “Tyra Banks Show” drama coming on?
MADDOW: The start of baseball season can sometimes be a polarizing experience. People who love baseball can think of little else, want to talk about little else, they may appear to be participating in life and work as usual. But in their minds, they are on the third-base line, drinking light beer, slurping nacho cheese goo off pickled jalapeno rings while heckling the shortstop.
Anybody not who‘s not into baseball sort of missing a whole level of American experience around opening day. And every once in a while there is a day of baseball so weird that even people who are not into the game find themselves paying attention.
Por ejemplo, yesterday. Yesterday, the legendary super power New York Yankees got so shellacked by Tampa Bay they ended up putting in their first baseman, Nick Swisher, to pitch in the eighth inning.
And even though he is the first baseman and he hadn‘t pitched since his freshman year in high school in West Virginia, Mr. Swisher was the only Yankee pitcher or otherwise to pro a scoreless inning as the team got beat 15 to 5.
Fans of New York‘s other team, the Mets, live to revel in Yankee suffering. Last night, the Mets opened their new stadium, Citi Field which went great, until game started. The first batter in the first inning in the first game in the history of Citi Field, Jody Gerut hit a home run for San Diego against the Mets. And downhill from there.
With everything tied up in the sixth inning, Mets pitcher Pedro Feliciano balked. He balked. He twitched. And thus, balked in the run that lost the game for New York on opening night at their new stadium.
Also, there was a cat loose on the field who ran over near home plate in front of New York Governor David Paterson. Not to be upstaged, New York City‘s Mayor Mike Bloomberg grabbed a baseball after a wild pitch in the ninth.
In Chicago, things were just as weird yesterday, but also totally awful and disgusting. A dead goat found hanging from a rope on a statue outside of Wrigley Field. A similar thing happened at a same spot in 2007 which is the image you see there.
Needing help from my curse of the Billy goat lore and needing a little perspective on night one at Citi Field on how weird things get in baseball, we are joined now by Mr. Keith Olbermann host of “COUNTDOWN” here on MSNBC. You can check out Keith‘s baseball blog titled “Baseball Nerd” at “KeithOlbermann.mlblogs.com.” Keith, many thanks for making it a late night.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”: I had to be here anyway for the 10:00 show.
MADDOW: Oh, very good.
OLBERMANN: That‘s my story and I‘m sticking to it. Jody Gerut, by the way, “COUNTDOWN” and RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewer - Jody Gerut.
MADDOW: Oh, really?
OLBERMANN: And that‘s the first time anybody has ever christened a stadium with a homerun. First batter in the stadium hits a homerun. Never happened before and there have been a lot of stadiums in baseball history.
MADDOW: Hello, Mr. Gerut, congratulations to you. Very exciting.
Please, will you explain the curse of the Billy goat thing?
OLBERMANN: I‘m not sure about that. The curse of the Billy goat supposedly it dates to 1945, the last time the Chicago Cubs were in the World Series. And a guy who had been going to the games with his goat all season was denied. He couldn‘t bring the goat in during the World Series.
OLBERMANN: And he promised - there was some sort of curse on the Cubs that they‘d never win. I never heard this story until the ‘80s. And I was a baseball historian when I was a kid. I think they made it up in the ‘80s.
So anyway, the premise of it is there is some sort of Billy goat tavern curse put on the Cubs that they‘ll never win until somehow they exercise this. That they haven‘t won is more the result of bad trades than it has been bad goats. And I guess that is some sort of ritual. Either that or you have Satan worshippers who work with the Cubs which is also a possibility.
MADDOW: Yes. And which also might have explanatory value on the World Series thing. Maybe.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Not playing in the World Series very often will keep you from winning in the World Series more than anything else.
MADDOW: There is so much superstition in baseball. I have to ask you if there‘s now going to be some complicated new superstition about the cat at Citi Field opening night.
OLBERMANN: It‘s an old superstition, actually. In 1969, 40 years ago, when the same Chicago Cubs were in first place and the New York Mets had never not finished last, the Mets were gaining on the Chicago Cubs.
And in a critical Cubs-Mets game at Shea Stadium, a black cat ran in front of the Cubs dug out, stopped, hissed at the Cubs and moved on. And that was supposedly - it turned out - of course, later on we find out that the cat was owned by one of the trainers and one of the groundskeepers at Shea Stadium. And the whole thing was - there it is.
MADDOW: There‘s the aforementioned black cat.
OLBERMANN: And the whole thing was kind of set up, at least, by Mets fans, if not employees. So it was not as random as it appeared, but evoked that thing once again. On the other hand, it had nothing to do with Governor Paterson.
It tried to leap into the - and all the bad jokes that ensued from that. But the poor cat comes out of nowhere. Next to Citi Field is a whole bunch of chop shops - car lots. And all winter long, they had animals appearing out of nowhere in the construction site at Citi Field. So this is not as weird as it sounds.
MADDOW: But the cat wanted to get out of the field and couldn‘t.
OLBERMANN: Couldn‘t because of the screen. It could not get through the screen. The wild pitch that Bloomberg came up with somehow got through the screen. But the cat could not get through the screen and Gov. Paterson would have not known what hit him as it were.
MADDOW: There‘s that bad joke. How does a balk -
OLBERMANN: Sounded like a cat. OK, sorry.
MADDOW: How does a -
OLBERMANN: I‘ll get a job on “Saturday Night Live” now, won‘t I? I apologize.
MADDOW: Balk is one of those baseball terms that I am very familiar with as an analogy.
MADDOW: I‘m not familiar at all with it as an actual phenomenon in baseball.
OLBERMANN: It is actually much simpler than it sounds. It is any motion that the pitcher makes to deliberately deceive a base runner.
OLBERMANN: In other words, to make him think he is throwing to the plate when he‘s actually throwing to first base to check on the base-runner or vice versa. So when Pedro Feliciano of the Mets was in the set position, he made a slight motion like that which is legally interpreted within baseball rules as a balk.
There was a runner at third base at the time and he is then entitled to advance one base. It happened to decide the first game in Mets history at this ballpark. Talking about opening night jitters, that‘s was the literal definition of it.
MADDOW: You were you there. Could you discern his intent?
OLBERMANN: Intent has nothing to do with it. It is if you do it, it is - either if it is intended to deceive or serves to deceive, even if it‘s an accident.
OLBERMANN: And a pitcher who is concentrating on the sign from his catcher, the signals about which pitch to throw, may, at some point, lose his focus, lose his concentration and suddenly think, forget about the runner at first base or runner on third base and make some sort of motion or just twitches. But, it was just sort of a decisive last night.
MADDOW: Last question.
MADDOW: Can we do this all the time?
OLBERMANN: Can I talk about baseball every time? Sure. Could we do it earlier in the show?
MADDOW: Yes, we could.
OLBERMANN: Would you mind doing it at, say, 9:01 rather than 9:45?
MADDOW: That would be absolutely fair.
OLBERMANN: OK. Fine.
MADDOW: Keith, thank you very much. I understand that you‘ve got Scott McClellan tonight? Is that right?
OLBERMANN: Scott McClellan on the Bush reunion that he‘s not going to. It is wonderful to talk to because it‘s like he‘s reborn in that religious sense.
MADDOW: He‘s free.
OLBERMANN: He‘s free and, as I said to him, it‘s cathartic.
MADDOW: Keith Olbermann - you should check out Keith‘s new blog on baseball which is titled Baseball Nerd.
OLBERMANN: You bet it is.
MADDOW: You can find at “KeithOlbermann.mlblogs.com.” It has lots of really good pictures.
OLBERMANN: I took those myself.
MADDOW: There‘s also a very cute of you. You‘re super-excited to be there.
OLBERMANN: It‘s my New York Cubans uniform.
MADDOW: Keith, thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: It‘s a pleasure.
MADDOW: “COUNTDOWN” is up next, of course. But first, on this show a Blagojevich reality show.
OLBERMANN: The first.
MADDOW: For real? For real? Really?
MADDOW: A cocktail moment of rare vintage tonight, a Chicago fizz. Former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich, the man who called Barack Obama‘s Illinois Senate seat F-ing golden, the man who turned national press conferences into virtual poetry slams - he has a new gig, reality TV star.
The show will be on NBC. It‘s called “I‘m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.” Ten contestants will be flown into the jungles of Costa Rica to, quote, “face fun and comedic challenges designed to test their survival skills.”
And if Mr. Blagojevich can get a court to let him fly there, he will be one of those celebrities. Reports say Nancy Kerrigan may also join Governor F-word. She had this reaction to the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY KERRIGAN, FORMER OLYMPIC SKATER: Why? Why? Why?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To help me understand the monumental importance of this development, I‘m joined by someone who does own and watch television, my friend Kent Jones. He‘s our BBC, our Blagojevich bureau chief. Hi, Kent. Nice to see you.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Why? Why?
MADDOW: All right. Give me your thoughts on this development because I do not understand it.
JONES: Stuck in the jungle with Blago - you know, most people
wouldn‘t be stuck at Michigan Avenue and Water Tower place with Blago, you
know. Apparently, he likes watching Blago, too. He‘s kind of living in
the third person now. It‘s like -
MADDOW: I would love to see -
JONES: Oh, who‘s that, he‘s - wait! That‘s -
MADDOW: I am having a hard time picturing him in the jungle, though.
JONES: I‘m thinking big hat and heavy boots and a track suit and a lot of cash, you know. It‘s like Indiana Jones and Paulie Walnuts. He‘s going to fit right in. Hey, what‘s going on?
MADDOW: What can I trade for you? How do you think that he will hold up, though? I mean, given what we know about him, this is all about endurance in the jungle, right?
JONES: Yes. Yes. Here‘s the bad part here. The hair is going to go through it in the humidity down there.
MADDOW: Oh, you know, it‘s a really good point.
JONES: And you know that snowball effect there - you know how that affects his moods. And then anything could happen, I think. The censors really need to be on point for this thing.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, I mean, what do we know about his other survival skills? We know that he is good at the press conference. We know that he can evade.
MADDOW: He can run.
JONES: He‘s very good at that.
MADDOW: He‘s a jogger.
JONES: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: I mean, the whole, you know, spandex thing.
JONES: I think he may be able to enlist people down there to support his argument. He‘ll bring them up on stage if need be at some point. So he may be just fine.
MADDOW: Do you think there‘s any significance to the location here?
I mean Costa Rica?
JONES: Costa Rica means “rich coast” in Spanish.
MADDOW: All right.
JONES: So that had to appeal to him at some level.
MADDOW: F-ing golden.
JONES: F-ing golden - $80,000 a show. That sounds F-ing golden.
MADDOW: Is that what he‘s going to get paid?
JONES: Yes, that‘s what was in the report. And he may get to appoint Costa Rican senators.
JONES: So that‘s always a plus for him.
MADDOW: How does doing a reality show possibly help him resurrect his image?
JONES: His image at this point is - what is it? It‘s like you stand out in the rain long enough and you‘re as wet as you are going to be.
JONES: You know, at this point, it‘s like - someone is like, “Oh, OK.
You can be Rob Blagojevich now and it will be fun. And here‘s some money.”
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Kent. Thank you at home for watching.
“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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