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'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Thursday, May 28

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Nina Totenberg, Chris Hayes, Kent Jones, Scott Mendeloff, Curtis Melvin

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

Tonight, the eternal question of Betty versus Veronica has reportedly been settled by Archie.  That news will be made this hour, I promise you.

But we will begin with today‘s rather dramatic developments in the case against President Obama‘s first Supreme Court nominee.  Since even before Judge Sonia Sotomayor was announced as the nominee, critics on the right have denounced her as an activist judge.

Now, the word “activist” doesn‘t mean the same thing in this context as it does in the real world.  What they‘re accusing her of is essentially using court rulings to make new laws, to make policy.  It‘s an awkward accusation and it always has been because court rulings by their nature do make law.  They do make policy.  But that awkwardness has not stopped conservatives from hurling the phrase, “activist judge,” as an epithet for years now.

In the case of Judge Sotomayor, this clip of her speaking at Duke University in 2005 is being cited as exhibit A in the evidence that she is an activist judge.


JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE:  All of the legal defense funds out there, they‘re looking for people with Court of Appeals experience, because it is—Court of Appeals is where policy is made.  And I know, and I know this is on tape and I should never say that, because we don‘t make law.  I know.


SOTOMAYOR:  OK.  I know.  I know.  I‘m not promoting it, I‘m not advocating it, I‘m—you know.


MADDOW:  Court of Appeals is where policy is made.  The smoking gun.  That‘s the basis for the first big swing against Judge Sotomayor‘s nomination.  She thinks policy is made from the bench.  Law is made in the courtroom.

That accusation was cited today by the first senator to say that he plans to vote against Judge Sotomayor‘s nomination.  It was Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas.


SEN. PAT ROBERTS, ® KANSAS:  I voted “no” in 1998.  I did not feel that she was appropriate on the appeals court, since that time, she has made statements on the role of the appeals court that I think is improper and incorrect.


MADDOW:  Made statements on the role of the appeals court that I think is improper and incorrect.

We called Senator Roberts‘ office today to find out what statements of the judge‘s he was talking about.  His staff told us that they assume he was referring to those comments at Duke in 2005, that we just played.

Unfortunately, for Senator Roberts and for any other Republicans who will claim that those comments should disqualify Judge Sotomayor from serving on the Supreme Court, today, evidence was unearthed of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia—who was the supposed patron saint of non-activist judges—saying essentially exactly the same thing.  In a Supreme Court opinion, Justice Scalia authored in 2002, he wrote, quote, “Not only do state court judges possess the power to make common law, but they have the immense power to shape the states‘ Constitutions as well.”

Want a little more?  How about a footnote from Justice Scalia from the same ruling?  Quote, “Judges of inferior courts often make law,” he says.  Make law.  “Since the precedent of the highest court does not cover every situation.”  That‘s different from what Judge Sotomayor said how exactly?  Swing and a miss on the whole attempted “courts make policy” scandal.

Their swing number two is the claim that Judge Sotomayor cannot possibly be an unbiased arbiter of the law because she has admitted her ethnicity has an effect on the way that she sees the world and on her decision-making.  That‘s startling admission was upsetting to Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, who issued a written statement saying he looked forward to assessing, quote, “her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race or gender.”

Well, fair enough.  I mean, imagine a conservative judge, like Justice Alito or somebody, saying that his personal background would have any impact on his rulings.  Imagine that.


JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender.  And I do take that into account.


MADDOW:  You do?  Don‘t tell Senator Inhofe.

Swing number two is another giant miss.

And then there‘s swing number three: President Bush‘s former brain, Karl Rove, wrote in today‘s “Wall Street Journal,” quote, “Mr. Obama said he wanted to replace Justice David Souter with someone who had empathy.  “Empathy” is the latest code word for liberal activism, for treating the Constitution as malleable clay, to be kneaded and molded in whatever form justices want.”

“There‘s a certain irony,” he says, “in a president who routinely praises America‘s commitment to the rule of law, but who picks Supreme Court nominees for their readiness to discard the rule of law whenever emotion moves them.”

So, when you hear the word “empathy,” think liberal activist lawless, kneading and molding.  Yes, empathy.

Also, think Clarence Thomas.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  I have followed this man‘s career for some time.  And he has excelled in everything that he has attempted.  He is a delightful and warm and intelligent person has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor.


MADDOW:  Great empathy?  A man who has great empathy.

So, strike one: she thinks policy is made by courts.  Strike two:

she‘ll let her background influence her decisions.  And strike three: empathy is evil.

Either conservative opponents of Judge Sotomayor have thus far struck out one, two, three—or they‘re all about to surprise us by revealing they don‘t think that Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia or Samuel Alito are fit to serve on the Supreme Court either—which will make for a really awkward next Federalist Society fund-raiser.

Joining us now is Nina Totenberg.  She is the award-winning legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio.  And she is someone whose objectivity as a reporter should in on way be confused with my own blatant lack thereof.  Among many Supreme Court stories she has broken, Justice David Souter‘s recent retirement and, of course, the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas sexual harassment scandal.

Nina Totenberg, thank you so much for joining us.


MADDOW:  You are a veteran of the Supreme Court nomination fights. 

You‘ve seen the shots that are fired.

TOTENBERG:  Translate that, old?

MADDOW:  No, no, no.  Experienced.


MADDOW:  That‘s not at all what I mean.  But you‘ve seen what happens to nominees even before the hearings begin.  How do you think that Judge Sotomayor is faring overall so far?

TOTENBERG:  Well, I think that, so far, this has been a pretty spectacular roll-out for the White House.  You know, it‘s not right, but the confirmation process, the public perception process has become extremely compressed.  It used to be, for example, in—in the movie business, that when a movie came out, after a few weeks, you knew whether it was a success or failure.  Now they tell you, if it doesn‘t make money in the first weekend, it‘s a bust.

Well, in these first few days, I think that Sonia Sotomayor in the roll-out, as I say, was not a bust.  She looked warm.  She looked gracious.  She looked professional.  Her mother is sitting in the front row crying her eyes out, the mother that put her through Princeton where she graduated summa cum laude and Yale.  The mother whose husband died when little Sonia was only nine and the mother had to work two jobs and made a huge success of this family, the brother is—became a doctor, the daughter became a lawyer, and now a Supreme Court justice potentially.

I mean, this was—this is a pretty good, good beginning.  That‘s not to say it‘s the end, but it was a pretty good beginning.

MADDOW:  In terms of what has been sort of flung at her thus far, people who are opposing her and Senator Pat Roberts coming out today as the first senator who says that he will vote against her.  Can we talk a bit about this activist judge allegation?  Because it‘s political jargon that is thrown around a lot and it sounds bad.  “Activist judge” sounds like a bad thing to be.

But is there really a debate over whether appeals court rulings, in effect, make policy because they set legal precedent?  Is there a real debate over this?

TOTENBERG:  No, not really.  And, in fact, what she was talking about at that symposium at Duke was what kind of clerkships young law students should try to get.  And what she said was that, when you get a clerkship with a federal trial court judge, you‘re dealing with single cases and single sets of facts.  But when you are a law clerk on a Court of Appeals, because courts of appeal rule on broad questions of law for that area of the country, the decisions make law, make policy essentially for several states.  It‘s the law across the board.

And that‘s why she said—and this is where it picks up in the cut that everybody uses—that‘s why public interest firms like to hire Court of Appeals law clerks because they have a broader kind of experience.  So, I think that sort of explains the comment she made, although she made it inartfully, I will admit, especially saying, “Oh, I shouldn‘t say this and I know it‘s on tape and oh, dear.”  That wasn‘t so smart.

But, the point is, it‘s not extraordinary, as you illustrated to some extent with Justice Scalia‘s remarks.


Yesterday, on this show, Republican strategist Mark McKinnon was here.  And he argued essentially that Republicans should get behind this nomination.  They should do due diligence obviously in terms of checking on her record and assessing her at the hearings.  But he says they should concede that she‘s qualified and get out of the way of this nominee.

With all of the confirmations you have covered, do you see any chance of that happening this time?  Or do you think this is going to be a knock-down-drag-out?

TOTENBERG:  Well, I don‘t know how dragged out it‘s going to be.  But they‘re going to try for a few knockdowns.  And the Republicans are really in a terrible political position.  They‘re the sandwich meat between their conservative base, on the one hand, which is pressuring Republican senators to really go in there and fight this nomination.

And, on the other hand, the political reality that they—the fastest-growing bloc of voters in this country, or group of voters in this country are Hispanic voters.  And if they are perceived as alienating or is being unfair to this nominee and not fair to this nominee and being sort of knee-jerk about her, they potentially could really lose that group of voters for a generation or more.  Bill O‘Reilly said as much last night on his program.  And he‘s not normally somebody who you would expect to be saying something like that.

So, this is just a terribly difficult problem for them.  I do want to say, though, that under the Constitution, the Senate of the United States has the responsibility of advising and consenting to nominations to the Supreme Court.

MADDOW:  Sure.

TOTENBERG:  And this is the last crack they‘re going to get at her.  And they should try to find out what her views are.  They‘re not going to succeed in all likelihood because these things have become more and more kabuki dances in which nominees say less and less.

But, the fact remains that if you‘re a senator and you really think that this nominee is somehow inimical to everything that you ever believed in, you should vote against that nominee.  And there‘s no way to do that without asking her questions.

MADDOW:  Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio and the first person to ever quote Bill O‘Reilly on this show, I think it went very really well.  It‘s really nice to have you here.  Thanks for joining us.


MADDOW:  All right, coming up—


MADDOW:  In case you weren‘t scared enough by real-life scariness, say, North Korea, Pakistan, the technical foul controversy in the NBA playoffs, the Republican Party‘s latest ad campaign features Nancy Pelosi and a bomb with a burning fuse—both subtle and classy.  Chris Hayes from “The Nation” will join us to talk about that next.

But first, we got One More Thing about the attacks on the right against Sonia Sotomayor.  Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo is not being distracted by the fights over judicial activism and empathy; he‘s sticking with the “she‘s a racist” line of attack, today telling an interviewer on CNN that Sotomayor secretly belongs to the Latino Ku Klux Klan.


FMR. REP. TOM TANCREDO, ® COLORADO:  If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, just nothing more than a Latino—It‘s a counterpart—it‘s a Latino KKK without the hoods and—or the nooses.  If you belong to something like that, you have to explain that in a way that‘s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it‘s got nothing to do with race.  Even though the logo of La Raza is, “All for the race, nothing for the red.”


MADDOW:  Actually, the motto, the mission of the National Council of La Raza is strengthening America by promoting the advancement of Latino families.  It‘s also the largest national Hispanics civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—or it‘s the Klan.  You know, whatever.



MADDOW:  You know, this music used to make me feel afraid whenever we played this music, but we‘ve heard it so much recently I think the effect is wearing off.  Now, it doesn‘t make me feel afraid.  It just makes me feel like something Republican is about to happen.

This once scary, now self-satirizing soundtrack was first used in a Republican ad to convince us all that closing Guantanamo would mean the terrorists would all be sitting just one table over from you at Applebee‘s.


MADDOW:  Following the “O Fortuna”-terrorist-coming-to-a-neighborhood-near-you ad, last week the Republican sort of one-upped itself.  They pulled the threat of nuclear annihilation out of their hats for their next round of ads, using clips from Lyndon Johnson‘s notorious 1964 “Daisy” ad, an ad so over-the-top fear-mongery that it ran only once.

Close Guantanamo or we will all die in a huge bomb blast.


LYNDON JOHNSON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT:  These are the stakes.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  Guantanamo, that‘s easy.  Close down Guantanamo.


MADDOW:  How do you top “O Fortuna”-terrorist-in-your-neighborhood and nuclear annihilation in your campaign ads?  You don‘t really top things like that, hopefully.  But you do keep with the same theme.  This time, it‘s the burning fuse of a bomb in the new Republican ad.  It‘s gratuitously and inexplicably cut into an attack ad against Nancy Pelosi.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Just to be clear, you‘re accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002?

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER:  Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.


PELOSI:  They mislead us all the time.



MADDOW:  How dangerous would a vote for a Democrat be?  It‘s like a bomb about to go off unless you stop it.  Because Nancy Pelosi doesn‘t want an investigation of the CIA‘s alleged misleading of Congress.  That‘s what the ad is saying.

Awkwardly, Nancy Pelosi does want an investigation of the CIA‘s allegedly misleading Congress.


PELOSI:  I have long supported creation of an independent truth commission.  Until a truth commission is—comes into being, I encourage the appropriate committees of the House to conduct vigorous oversight of these issues.


MADDOW:  OK.  So, forget that thing about her blocking an investigation.  We didn‘t actually mean that.  But didn‘t the burning fuse and the bomb thing make an exciting ad anyway?

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation” magazine.

Chris, thank you very much for coming back on the show.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Thank you for having me back.

MADDOW:  Am I only seeing a pattern here because I‘m looking for one?  Are all campaign ads this full of scary music and stuff blowing up and the end of the world, and I‘m just paying attention to it here from the Republicans?

HAYES:  I think a little bit.  I mean, I think that is a sort of through line and a lot of it campaign advertising.  I think the reason that it crops up a lot in Republican ads is because, you know, the kind of core message they have left.  And I think they think is their core competency in politics is scaring people that, you know, the terrorists are going to get them if the Democrats are in charge.

And with everything else kind of stripped away, they don‘t have a lot of very good messages on climate change or on health care or on the economy, or they don‘t have a lot of things that they have done that kind of take down Obama‘s numbers, so they‘re kind of really retreating into the like the thing they‘re most comfortable with, and that‘s why I think you‘re seeing it over and over again.

MADDOW:  Well, because they‘re repeating it over and over and over again, even if it does sort of make political sense that they do still think it‘s their political wheel house, isn‘t there kind of a risk of self-parody, that they‘ll just go back to this thing too many times and “O‘Fortuna” will start seeming funny instead of scary?

HAYES:  Yes, I do think so.  I mean, I also think that these—all these ads, the ones you‘ve shown, you know, it‘s hard to take them that seriously.  There‘s not a ton of money being put behind them.  I mean, this is not—you know, we‘re a year and a half out from the actual campaign season.  So, I think, you know, essentially, there‘s a news cycle effect in which they try to get—land themselves in, you know, on the page, or on the note or one of the kind of cheat sheets that Washington journalists use.

And I‘m not sure that they‘re really message-testing just how effective this is with actual, real-life voters.

MADDOW:  Well, that‘s—I guess that‘s part of the other curiosity about this campaign.  I mean, I do think it‘s funny and interesting that they can‘t seem to do an ad now that doesn‘t involve something exploding or something overtly scary.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  But it is also weird to be running these ads.  I mean, these are running in specific congressional districts around the country.  And they‘re running in May of 2009, presumably to influence elections that are going to happen in November 2010.  I mean, they‘re not just running these things in D.C. or on the Web, they are actually putting these out there in the country.

HAYES:  Yes.  That‘s true.  Although, I think, the main strategy here if you kind of comb through the press release on this ad buy, they‘re running the ad—there‘s one—I think there‘s one district, they‘re running—they‘re doing five districts, I think, they‘re going to have radio ads and something, 11, they‘re doing robocalls.

So, there‘s—part of this is a little bit of a bait-and-switch in which they‘re not dumping a ton of money into this campaign.  I think what they want to do, frankly, is they want to keep this Pelosi issue alive.  Because I think that it was basically just about the only news cycle, you know, to be really reductionist.  The only news cycle Republicans won in the last three months.

And I think they think this is a winner.  They‘re going to demonize Pelosi.  They‘re going to try—the strategy is to tie her to the vulnerable congressional Democrats and they really want to kind of keep this Pelosi versus CIA thing alive as long as they can.  And this seems, I think, to them like a good way to do it.

MADDOW:  If they want to keep it alive, they should work on the whole

getting-it-right thing probably.  If you want to keep using it, that would

that might help.  I don‘t know.  I‘m no expert.


Chris Hayes, Washington editor for “The Nation”—thank you very much for your time tonight, Chris.

HAYES:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Coming up: A moment of world alteringly-cool geekery.  Without leaving home, using only a computer, a guy in Virginia figured out how to create a super-detailed accurate map of North Korea.  The whole world sort of wants to know where Kim Jong-il lives.  And this guy figured it out at home.

We have the mapmaker and the maps and the picture of Kim Jong-il‘s giant water slide—coming up.  I‘m not kidding.


MADDOW:  Senator Roland Burris of Illinois appears to be in some deep shamille and shamozzle—an assessment of just how deep is coming up.  We‘ll also meet the totally awesome computer guy from Virginia who figured out where Kim Jong-il lives.

And comic book character romance correspondent, Kent Jones, has a Betty verse Veronica update.  Archie has made his choice between his two girlfriends at long last.  Stay tuned for a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW non-exclusive semi-pop culture imaginary character full report.

But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.

One of the consequences of living in the post-9/11 world is that it seems like all our new embassies now cost about $1 billion.  The U.S.  embassy in Baghdad was completed last year at the not so-low-low price of $740 million.  It was $100 million over-budget and a year late.  But, heck, who is counting?  It‘s Baghdad.

The Vatican City-sized fortress is able to house more than 1,000 employees.  With that model in mind, apparently, the Obama administration is asking Congress for about the same amount of money—almost $740 million—to build an embassy in Pakistan, a country with which we are technically not at war.  The new American embassy will be in Islamabad, while two additional consular buildings will be built in Lahore and in Peshawar—which is the regional capital of the violence-plague North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan.

In the last 48 hours alone, five attacks in Lahore and Peshawar have killed dozens of people.  Yesterday, militants attacked security forces in Lahore, killing 30 people in an attack that involved both bombs and an ambush by well-armed gunmen.  The Taliban took credit for that one, and then today said that Pakistani citizens should leave several large cities in Pakistan, including Lahore and Islamabad, because the Taliban said they are planning major attacks against government facilities there in coming days and weeks.

Our second story tonight is something that Liberty University would like to be a correction, but it‘s not.

On Friday‘s show, you may recall that we hosted a young Liberty University undergraduate named Brian Diaz.  Mr. Diaz was president of what used to be the Liberty University Democratic Club.  The school revoked its recognition of the Liberty University Democratic Club on moral grounds, sending an email to the president of the club that read, quote, “We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against moral principles held by Liberty University.” 

We reported that because the club‘s recognition by the school had been revoked, the 30 members of the Liberty University campus Democrats could no longer use Liberty in their name, could no longer advertise events at school or receive any school activities money. 

Well, Liberty University and its president, Jerry Falwell, Jr. are apparently furious with our reporting on the subject.  They say we got it totally wrong because, well, here‘s how Mr. Falwell explained it in an op-ed column posted online today. 

Quote, “Official recognition carries with it the benefit of using the university name and funds.  While this group will not be an officially recognized club, it may still meet on campus.” 

So the college Democrats at Liberty University still have the constitutionally protected right to congregate.  But they cannot use the school‘s name, the school‘s facilities or any money. 

So in fact we didn‘t get the story wrong at all which is why this isn‘t a correction, and which is why we are standing by the story, and which is why Liberty University still needs to explain why they think they should be exempt from taxation and why they should get federally-supported student loans for people to attend that school while they only allow the Republican Party to have an officially presence on its campus. 


MADDOW:  There‘s news tonight in the long, sad, strange, salacious story of President Obama‘s former Senate seat.  The news comes to us from our unofficial bureau of lame excuses in Springfield, Illinois where the president‘s successor in the Senate, Roland Burris, today gave increasingly awkward answers to questions about his starring role in a newly-released federally wire tapped phone call. 

Here‘s the context here.  First, Senator Barack Obama became President Barack Obama.  That meant his Senate seat became vacant.  His vacant Senate seat appeared to be for sale when Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was caught on a federal wire tap saying things like this about it. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve got this thing and it‘s (EXPLETIVE DELETED) golden.  And I‘m not just giving it up for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) nothing.  I‘m not going to do it.  And I can always use it.  I can parachute me there. 


MADDOW:  That characterization, among other things, got Governor F-word both arrested and thoroughly denounced by U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. 


PATRICK FITZGERALD, U.S. ATTORNEY:  Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree.  The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave. 


MADDOW:  Before the Illinois legislator could boot Governor Blagojevich out of office, before his actual indictment, Rod Blagojevich defied everyone in politics and fill that Senate seat that he was being accused of trying to sell. 

The lucky winner was Roland Burris, a man who has since spent quite a lot of time defending himself from charges that he got that seat because he was willing to pay for it.  That‘s a case that got way more difficult to make this week, that defense, when a judge approved the release of a wire-tapped phone call between Mr. Burris and Governor Blagojevich‘s brother. 

For example, when he testified in front of the Illinois House impeachment committee in January, Mr. Burris was asked specifically whether he had spoken to anyone on Governor Blagojevich‘s staff, any lobbyists or Blagojevich‘s family members about the vacant Senate seat. 

Mr. Burris said he had spoken with one Blagojevich staffer.  Then by February, that story evolved.  Burris filed an affidavit saying that Mr.  Blagojevich‘s brother Robert had in fact called him three times asking for fundraising support.  But he said at the time he didn‘t do any actual fundraising, he didn‘t even offer to. 


SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS:  Rod Blagojevich reached out to me in three separate phone calls to ask for assistance raising money for his brother, then Governor Blagojevich, a fact that I fully disclosed in my affidavit to the impeachment committee. 

I made it very clear to him that I would not contribute, that it would be inappropriate and a major conflict because I‘d expressed an interest in the Senate seat. 


MADDOW:  I made it very clear to him that I would not contribute. 

This is the part where we go to the tape. 


BURRIS:  Now I‘m now trying to figure out what the hell the best thing to do.  I know I could give him a check. 


BURRIS:  Myself. 


BURRIS:  And my law partner, we could try to do something at the law firm.  I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright.  Because Tim is not looking for an appointment, OK? 



MADDOW:  So either Mr. Burris made it very clear that he would not contribute to Governor Blagojevich‘s campaign or he offered to write Mr.  Blagojevich a check, which is what he‘s on tape telling the former governor‘s brother. 

Senator Burris is now being investigated by the Senate Ethics committee and there‘s an investigation under way in Springfield, Illinois as to whether or not he perjured himself during his January testimony to the impeachment committee in the state legislator. 

Now he has offered up two lines of reasoning for the discrepancy in the story.  One line of reasoning is that it‘s not his fault if he was less than candid with the impeachment committee. 

“It is not upon a person who is testifying to go out of his way on anything.  It is the person who has to ask the questions.” 

So says Senator Burris.  I see.  The second explanation is that while he may have discussed donations, he never intended to actually make any.  When he sounded like he was going to make them, he was just trying to placate Governor Blagojevich‘s brother on that phone call. 

Joining us now is Scott Mendeloff, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago.  Mr. Mendeloff, thank you so much for coming back on the show. 

SCOTT MENDELOFF, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  More than my pleasure, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  What do you make of Senator Burris‘ argument that if he wasn‘t totally honest with the impeachment panel, it‘s they‘re fault because they didn‘t ask the right questions? 

MENDELOFF:  Well, as a legal matter, that‘s probably true.  If you‘re going to try to indict somebody for perjury, the way that the law works is you look very, very carefully at the precise question asked to see whether or not the answer is truthful or not. 

But in this circumstance, based on what I‘ve just heard in your recitation, I don‘t think that‘s a very good defense. 

MADDOW:  Well, these are the kinds of arguments that don‘t typically make good political cover.  The nobody asked me excuse, right? 


MADDOW:  And also the—it was all a ruse defense.  I may have sound like I was offering money but I was just trying to make that guy think that and I wasn‘t really ever going to do it. 

So politically we can already tell what the impact of these things is going to be.  Legally, though, do these sort of things matter?  Or do we need to get into much more technical back and forth before we start talking about his legal culpability? 

MENDELOFF:  Well, the latter seems to be the one where he‘s really got exposure.  Because if you look at the transcript, and I did this afternoon in anticipation of coming on to your program, it‘s pretty clear that he is absolutely committing to not only giving money himself but get money from other people. 

And what‘s more, if this is the third of three conversations about this, it‘s Roland at the beginning who starts with, gee, I really want to take Obama‘s seat.  I don‘t know how he‘s going to explain that away. 

MADDOW:  He mentions in the tapes that we‘ve got, he mentions wanting that seat I think at least about 10 times.  In the context of a discussion that is otherwise about giving Blagojevich money. 

It almost seems to me, and again I‘m not a lawyer and so I don‘t know exactly how these things are prosecuted.  But that fact alone, the fact that you‘d raise the Senate seat 10 times in a discussion that‘s otherwise about fundraising, it‘s almost enough to prove quid pro quo. 

MENDELOFF:  Yes, I don‘t think he‘s got much exposure on a bribery-related charge.  Because he comes right out and says over and over again, he doesn‘t want to—there‘s enough in there to make it very difficult for him to be able to be prosecuted on the fact—on the idea that he wanted to pay off for the seat.  He covers himself on that. 


MADDOW:  But he says he doesn‘t want to be seen to be paying for the seat. 

MENDELOFF:  Right.  And that—then he doesn‘t pay. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MENDELOFF:  Now, interestingly, he doesn‘t pay, but in the tape he says that he will pay by December 15th.  Well, the governor got charged on December 9th so we‘ll never know. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the perjury inquiry, what exactly would need to be proved about Mr. Burris and his testimony and his other statements in order to really legally put him on the hook for perjury? 

MENDELOFF:  The key point—obviously we know perjury involves a false—a knowing false statement.  But the real key, legally technicality that has to be met is something called materiality. 

In other words, the false statement has to be something that‘s significant.  It can‘t be just an offhand comment.  Now it‘s hard to call any of the things that we‘ve talked about offhand comments. 

MADDOW:  Former federal prosecutor Scott Mendeloff, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight and helping us sort this stuff out.  Really appreciate it. 

MENDELOFF:  My pleasure. 

MADDOW:  Tonight is the big premiere of a brand new feature on this show.  “The Moment of Geek” where I get to talk about dorky thing that‘s are nevertheless very useful in the world, such as maps. 

Tonight, maps of super-secretive North Korea, that are slowly being built using clues by our next guest.  Yey.  Stay tuned. 


MADDOW:  As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, the man who led them there is sort of getting back in the game.  George W. Bush is finding audiences to listen to his speeches.  Of course, it wasn‘t easy.  His first post presidential address you will recall was back in March in Canada. 

Tonight he‘s talking to the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan, which describes itself as one of the region‘s most prestigious clubs.  After that gig, he‘s back to Canada.  Tomorrow, the former President Bush will appear alongside the former president Clinton in Toronto. 

The event is being out on by a company called “The Power Within,” which says it produces, quote, “Full day inspirational, motivational and entertaining events with the power to ignite your spirit,” exclamation point. 

Sadly not that many people appear to want their spirit ignited by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  The “Globe and Mail” reporting today that hundreds of tickets are still available for tomorrow‘s event.  And a quick check of Craigslist Toronto confirms that it‘s not too hard to find tickets now for below face value. 

Given everything, former president Bush is probably going to have a hard time finding a country that‘s excited to hear from him any time soon, unless of course Texas becomes its own country. 


MADDOW:  On Monday, North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon.  On Tuesday, they fired off a barrage of short-range missiles.  Short range missiles.  That‘s how you say that.  On Wednesday they renounced the 1953 truce that ended the Korean War and today, the United States and South Korea ordered their military forces in the region to be on high alert for the first time in years. 

Yet amid these volatile and dangerous circumstances in North Korea, we actually know more today about this infamously secretive, isolated country than since before dear leader Kim Jong-Il was just a twinkle in Kim Il-Sung‘s eye. 

Thanks to some seriously dedicated computer guys and Google Earth, we not only have new insights into one of the most isolated countries in the world, we also have the opportunity to premiere a new segment on the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. 

In celebration of enormous power and potential that is nerdiness, we hereby cautiously present the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW “Moment of Geek.” 

Today‘s “Moment of Geek” comes to us courtesy of Curtis Melvin, with whom we will speak shortly.  He has spent the past two years collecting information from photos and news reports and eyewitness accounts and then matching that information to Google Earth images of North Korea. 

He‘s essentially making an annotated map of this close, secretive, Stalinist country, showing stuff like rocket launch sites and prison camps and even Kim Jong-Il‘s palaces which have little extras like a private train station and swimming pools, a big, complicated water slides, like that one there. 

There are images of Kim Jong-Il‘s Yachts.  There‘s images of the nation‘s ostrich farms.  Plus images of strange projects like this one, which looks like a runway that‘s too small for a plane and it goes right through a mountain and comes out the other side.  Yes. 

Joining us now is Curtis Melvin, he‘s a PhD student at George Mason University.  He‘s creator of the fascinating Web site NorthKoreanEconomyWatch and the North Korea Uncovered Data File for Google Earth. 

Mr. Melvin, thank you very much for joining us. 

CURTIS MELVIN, “NORTH KOREA UNCOVERED”:  Good evening.  I‘m happy to be here. 

MADDOW:  This is—you‘re at version 18 of the map at this point? 

MELVIN:  We‘re on version 17 but version 18 is already under way. 

MADDOW:  Why did you start this project? 

MELVIN:  Well, I visited North Korea in 2004 and 2005 and I wanted to map out the places I went and then I met other people who had also been to North Korea and we began putting all our information together. 

And when I posted it online, still more people with their own experiences in North Korea began sending information my way and then we began going through maps and here we are two years later. 

MADDOW:  Wow.  Take us through how you discover some of this stuff like there‘s images of what you think are burial grounds, there‘s a gum factory, you found the one and only 18-hole golf course in the country.  How do you find this stuff? 

MELVIN:  Well, if we can go to the image of the burial mound. 

MADDOW:  Oh, yes, we‘ve got that for you. 

MELVIN:  It is one of the more sobering discoveries to find in North Korea is they had a massive economic shock and a famine in the early to mid 1990s and Koreans typically bury their family members in burial mounds on hills and the nice one, the politically important one, the historical ones are all maintained. 

But here we can see there haphazard and very improvised.  And Marcus (INAUDIBLE) estimates that a million people died in the famine.  And it‘s one thing to hear a million people died, it‘s a very—it‘s much more real to see a million graves scattered across the ground. 

MADDOW:  That‘s incredible stuff.  What are—in terms of the differences between the regular people of North Korean, and the political elites, what are some of the things that you‘ve been able to find about the perks of being, say, dear leader in this desperately poor country.  I know there‘s that big fancy waterslide that we showed. 

Anything else you can tell us about this elite compound? 

MELVIN:  Well, it‘s always good to be king, I guess.  And it‘s not uncommon in the communist countries and in many developing countries where the political elite live in their own secluded compounds and enjoy high standards of living even by western standards. 

And in North Korea essentially the same clique of people and their children and grandchildren are—have been in charge from the very beginning.  And here we see the waterslide in Kim‘s compound in northern Pyongyang. 

Kim Il-Sung, the father, also lives here.  It‘s the only waterslide in the whole country that‘s at a residence and it‘s really just a great visual on the differences between the elites and the ordinary people there. 

MADDOW:  Is that also the same deal for the golf course? 


MELVIN:  The golf course is actually open to the public.  Tourists from all over the world go there to play.  There‘s a lot of businessmen that go play there and as you‘re well aware of Kim Jong-Il‘s amazing revolutionary feat perhaps none is more known in the west than his stellar golf game. 

He‘s reported that that particular course we‘re looking at is a par 72 and he supposedly scored a 34, including five holes in one on that course in his first game. 

MADDOW:  I‘m sure.  Yes.  And then it rained upside down when he looked at the rain the wrong way, right? 


Do you think—is this spying, in a way?  I mean, your work has included North Korea.  You‘ve been to North Korea, as you said.  That‘s how you came up with this idea.  Do you worry that they‘ll come after you in some way, if they can? 

MELVIN:  No, I don‘t.  It‘s all online so they wouldn‘t really have anything to gain by doing anything to me anyway.  In fact I hope they let me back in.  I want to go back in 2012 which will be 100th birthday of Kim Il-Sung and they will be having a spectacular gymnastics and fireworks show. 

MADDOW:  Curtis Melvin, PhD student at George Mason University, thank you for being here for our inaugural “Moment of Geek.  “

MELVIN:  Good looking geek. 

MADDOW:  It‘s so cool that you‘ve done this.  Good looking geeks. 

Fair enough.  Thanks, Curtis, appreciate it. 

MELVIN:  Good night. 

MADDOW:  We‘ve got links to “North Korea Uncovered.”  We‘ve got links to these maps in our map room on if you‘d like to spend the whole rest of the night messing around with it like I spent all rest of the day working on it today. 

Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” next, Keith will ask Jesse Ventura to weigh in on the revelation from a right-wing talk show host that waterboarding is torture. 

Next on this show Archie has chosen his bride.  MY friend Kent Jones has the scoop on who he picked. 


MADDOW:  We turn to our comic book matrimonial correspondent Kent Jones. 

Hi, Kent. 

KENT JONES, MSNBC COMIC BOOK MATRIMONIAL CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Rachel.  Now a week ago I filed a report about how Archie was finally going to choose between Betty, the nice girl. 

MADDOW:  Mm-hmm. 

JONES:  And veronica, the scheming heiress.  Well he‘s done it. 


JONES:  Now what I‘m about to show you may shock you.  Prepare yourself.  It‘s graphic. 



JONES (voice-over):  Oh, yes, he did.  Paparazzi capturing Archie popping the question to the future Mrs. Veronica Lodge Andrews.  Tragically, Betty Cooper just happened to be passing by. 

According to long-time friend Cheryl Blossom, Betty is devastated by Archie‘s betrayal saying, quote, “He‘s been stringing Betty along all these years and then he picks her best friend?  Come on.  She‘s been fixing his car since 1941.” 

Writing on her blog, Betty could scarcely contain her heartbreak.  “The saddest girl in the world.  I am so sad, I don‘t even know what to say.  Bets.” 

No word from the Archie camp but Riverdale classmate, Reggie Mantle, told reporters, “Why would any chick pick Archie when I‘m still on the market?  Hey, Ronnie, when it all goes south from Archikins, because it will, call me.” 

Reaction from the comic book world had been swift.  The office of Richie Rich released this statement.  “Nice played, Archie.  In this economy there‘s no substitute for financial security.  Two words, pre-nup.” 

The “Incredible Hulk” was less generous saying, “Veronica has got rage issues.  Trust me, you won‘t like her when she‘s angry.” 

Daffy Duck was more succinct saying, quote, “That‘s despicable.” 

No date has been set for Archie and Veronica‘s wedding but given it took him 68 years to propose, don‘t hold your breath. 


MADDOW:  OK, wait, Betty really has a blog? 

JONES:  Yes, oh, yes.  She‘s heartbroken. 

MADDOW:  Of course. 

JONES:  It‘s a bad day for her. 

MADDOW:  We will see how long this lasts. 

JONES:  I—we will. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent. 

JONES:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  I have another cocktail moment for you that is from the world of real estate. 


MADDOW:  Yes.  Last night we talked about how the Ferris Bueller Ferrari Garage house. 

JONES:  Yes? 

MADDOW:  . was on the market in Illinois. 

JONES:  Very cool. 

MADDOW:  Tonight, on the market for $570,000 is Rob Blagojevich‘s apartment. 

JONES:  Really? 

MADDOW:  Yes, you could own a little bit of Blago. 


It‘s his apartment from when he was a congressman.  It‘s his D.C.  apartment, two bedrooms, two baths in Dupont Circle.  $570,000.  Doesn‘t come with a hairbrush. 

JONES:  And all the Blago ambiance you should want. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Thank you, Kent. 

JONES:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  Thank you for watching tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. 



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