Guests: David Cid, Ana Marie Cox, Charlie Pierce, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for tuning in for the next hour.
We do have some disturbing new news to report about the assassination of Dr. Tiller tonight. Also, lots to say about the guy leading the fight against President Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee—that‘s news that‘s, frankly, more funny that it is scary. Same deal for Mitt Romney‘s assessment of the president‘s foreign policy.
Ana Marie Cox and the great Charlie Pierce will be along shortly to discuss those stories with us.
But we begin tonight with new and worrying details about the murder of Kansas doctor, George Tiller. Today, confirmation that Dr. Tiller‘s alleged assassin, Scott Roeder, was in contact with the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue in the months leading up to Dr. Tiller‘s murder.
Up to this point, Operation Rescue has maintained that Scott Roeder was not a member of their organization. But evidence of a link between the two that was first inadvertently spotted in local television footage, has now been followed up and confirmed.
Check this out—immediately after the Tiller shooting, when Scott Roeder was pulled over by police, local TV footage from KMBC captured a glimpse of a small note that was on the dashboard of Mr. Roeder‘s car. The note read “Cheryl Op Rescue.” And it had a phone number on it.
Cheryl at Op Rescue, we can now tell you, is Cheryl Sullenger. She is employed by the anti-abortion group as their senior policy advisor. Ms. Sullenger has now admitted that she did, in fact, have multiple phone conversations with Scott Roeder before Dr. Tiller was killed. Those conversations were about Dr. Tillers.
Operation Rescue maintained and still maintains something that they call “Tiller Watch” on their Web site. Allies of Dr. Tiller in Kansas say that until recently, Operation Rescue also posted online the doctor‘s real home address and the address of his church—which, of course, is where Dr. Tiller was ultimately murdered this weekend allegedly by Scott Roeder.
Cheryl Sullenger tells “The Kansas City Star,” quote, “I was polite enough to give him the information. I had no reason not to. Who knew? Who knew, you know what I mean?”
In addition to informing Mr. Roeder of Dr. Tiller‘s whereabouts over the phone, Cheryl Sullenger was also using her Twitter account to track Dr. Tiller‘s movements. March 12th, 11:24 a.m.: “Ambulance just took woman from hospital from Tiller‘s mill. Photos, video to come. Tiller tried to hide from us.” March 5, 7:23 p.m.: “Inviting all to Tiller trial in Wichita March 16th.” February 20th, 11:26 a.m.: “Meanwhile, bloody business as usual at Tiller‘s shop of horrors.”
Before she became Operation Rescue‘s senior policy advisor, Cheryl Sullenger served almost two years in prison for conspiring to bomb a California abortion clinic in 2008. We invited Cheryl Sullenger to be on the show tonight to discuss this matter with us. She declined. We hope that she would reconsider.
Because of the history of violence against abortion providers and abortion clinics in this country, like Ms. Sullenger‘s own attempted bombing for which she went to prison, Congress gave the federal government extraordinary powers to try to stop this violence, and to stop threats of violence against abortion providers and to stop the extreme anti-abortion movement from blocking access to clinics. Those powers come from a law that‘s called the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the FACE Act. It was passed in 1993 and it says—things that might be considered minor crimes at other facilities are federal crimes when they happen at abortion clinics, because of the pattern of for terrorizing tactics and violence against abortion providers, and because of the national interest in stopping this form of terrorism.
For example, the federal crimes defined by the FACE Act include, quote, “Intentionally damaging or destroying the property of a facility or attempting to do so, because such facility provides reproductive health services.” Damaging or destroying the property of an abortion facility in other words is a federal crime. If it‘s a first offense, it‘s punishable by up to six months in prison. Second offense? Eighteen months in prison. Federal authorities are obligated, of course, to enforce that law.
And under President Clinton, federal authorities were enthusiastic about enforcing it. According to the Justice Department, and investigative work by reporter Daphne Eviatar at “The Washington Independent” today, “The Clinton administration prosecuted 17 defendants for violations of the FACE Act in 1997 alone and an average of about 10 per year since the law was enacted in 1994.”
On the other hand prosecution of FACE Act violations nearly disappeared under President Bush. “The Bush administration brought only about two criminal prosecutions per year in the entire country under the FACE Act and never more than four in any single year.”
What happens when you stop enforcing a law like this? A law that‘s designed to not only go after individually, politically-motivated criminals, but to shut down the networks among them—well, that brings us back to what happened in Kansas this weekend, what happened with Scott Roeder and what we‘re now learning about the history of violence against abortion clinics. His history of intentionally damaging or destroying the property of abortion clinics—which is, of course, under the FACE Act, a federal crime, we‘re now learning that over the past nine years, Mr. Roeder targeted one Kansas clinic in particular, it‘s the Central Family Medicine clinic in Kansas City.
Mr. Roeder glued the doors of that clinic shut at least four times over the past nine years. Mr. Roeder, of course, allegedly, entered a Wichita church and murdered Dr. George Tiller this past Sunday. Just one day before that, Mr. Roeder was at that clinic in Kansas City, gluing shut the doors at the Central Family Medicine clinic again. It‘s a clear violation of the FACE Act. It‘s a federal crime.
And it‘s an offense that we‘re now learning the FBI was notified about not just this past Saturday when it happened but time and time and time again over the past nine years. As far was we know, for any of these matters, Mr. Roeder was never arrested.
Joining us now is Jeffrey Pederson, the office manager for the Central Family Medicine clinic in Kansas City. He is appearing in silhouette tonight in order to protect his safety and to help with that, we‘ve also chosen not to use his real name.
Mr. Pederson, thank you very much for agreeing to come on the show tonight.
“JEFFREY PEDERSON,” REPORTED SCOTT ROEDER TO THE FBI: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know that Mr. Roeder has been frequent presence at your clinic over the past decade. Going back to the year 2000, can you describe what he was doing when he showed off at the clinic a few times that year?
PEDERSON: Just—he was a picketer at that time, from time to time, but he super-glued our front and backdoors .
MADDOW: I know that .
PEDERSON: . two weekends—two weekends in a row.
MADDOW: When that happened, I know that you reached out to the FBI at that time. What specific information about the gluing the doors shut did you provide to the FBI?
PEDERSON: At that time, we had analog videotape. We handed that over to FBI. They made still photos.
The pictures weren‘t the best in the world, but I knew who it was because he had been a regular of our clinic and I normally keep track of license plates with all my protesters, so I told the FBI I know who it is, here‘s his license plate. And FBI told me that the pictures were probably not good enough to prosecute with. But they‘d have a talk with him.
And interestingly, he disappeared for six years. I didn‘t see him.
So, the talk worked rather well.
MADDOW: And so, he didn‘t show up again—he didn‘t come back to the clinic again for another six years. That was between 2000 and 2006. But then he did return in 2006. And what sort of a presence was he outside the clinic at that time and did you recognize him from six years before?
PEDERSON: Oh, yes, I recognized him. And he was probably visiting us maybe every other month or every third month. And he visited with my local protestors.
MADDOW: Did you remain in contact with the FBI about Mr. Roeder at that point?
PEDERSON: Actually, no. I hadn‘t contacted them about his infrequent visits. He wasn‘t bothering us.
MADDOW: Then let‘s flash-forward to about 2 ½ weeks ago, May 23rd, it‘s a Saturday. And Mr. Roeder shows up at your clinic again. What happened on that Saturday?
PEDERSON: Well, we were closed that Saturday, so nothing happened. It was the following Monday, in Memorial Day, staff was there mowing the lawn. He tried to let himself into the building and it was locked. They called me at about 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning on Monday. And I said, “I‘m sorry, I‘ll take care of it later.”
And I came to the clinic about 1 o‘clock or 2 o‘clock and took care of cutting locks and drilling them out and doing what I had to do get the clinic open. I got the locks in place and made an over-the-phone report with the local police department and called FBI. And I, you know, I didn‘t have anything further to give at that time because I had not had time to review the tapes. I spent probably five hours reviewing security tapes, still with no face.
MADDOW: So, you weren‘t able to identify him from looking at the tapes from May 23rd?
PEDERSON: On that Monday, I was not able to, no.
MADDOW: OK. I know that Mr. Roeder showed up again this past Saturday, which was just the day before Dr. Tiller was killed. What were the circumstances of him showing up again and what was your response?
PEDERSON: I‘m going to go back up just a little bit. I did on Thursday, the 28th, locate his face on a security tape.
PEDERSON: And I did contact FBI, I handed over the video to them on that date. Upgraded security on Friday, and 11 hours later, he came to the clinic like 10 minutes until 6:00 in the morning and was trying to glue .
MADDOW: Just to be clear, Mr. Pederson. So, he had been there on Memorial Day weekend, when you initially looked at the tape, you weren‘t able to identify him. But later in the week, you were and then you upgraded your security videotapes to be able to get clearer images in the future, is that right?
MADDOW: OK. And then it was just—it was after you had done that upgrading of the security system that he then came back the following weekend?
PEDERSON: Yes, ma‘am.
MADDOW: OK. I‘m sorry. Carry on. So, this past—this past Saturday, he ended up coming back. And what did you see and what happened?
PEDERSON: You know, Saturday the 30th at 5:50 in the morning, he had parked near the clinic, a staff member was returning from a convenience store, saw the car but couldn‘t tell who was there, since the driver‘s side window appeared to be tinted. She went on inside the building and locked the front door. And as she was moving about inside, she saw that a man came out of the vehicle and was heading towards the backdoor.
So, she started towards the backdoor also and by the time she got to the backdoor, she was able to see through the plexiglass that he was gluing the door. And so, she ran towards the door and he saw her coming, he bolted. And she chased after him.
She had had a rather—like a three-minute conversation with him, like, why are you doing this? And I know who you are. And she eventually got his license plate and once she had that, she came back into the building and he took off. He kept calling her baby killer.
MADDOW: So, at that point, with that last incident, was, again, this Saturday, it was the day before Dr. Tiller was killed, you had a witness, your employee, who recognized him. You had a license plate number from his vehicle and you had him on your improved security videotape. Did you provide all that information to the FBI after that incident on Saturday?
PEDERSON: Yes. As soon as I got off the phone with her—she called me about 6:05 and I probably contacted the FBI, like, right after that, within five minutes. I got voicemail. I left the information and said, “He hit us again. It‘s the same guy, and his license plate is 225-BAB.”
About two hours later, 8:00, 8:30, something like that, I actually spoke to the FBI and was informed that we couldn‘t do anything probably, that we were going to have to get a grand jury and from that we would be able to get a warrant to pick him up.
MADDOW: Jeffrey Pederson, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight. I know this is not an easy decision to do this. Good luck to you and thanks for joining us.
PEDERSON: Thank you.
MADDOW: I should note that we called the FBI in Kansas again today, and they confirmed to us that they were in fact notified of Mr. Roeder‘s acts of vandalism at the Kansas City clinic this past weekend. They‘d say they‘d opened up an investigation into the incident. Again, the last lock-gluing incident reported to the FBI happened the day before Dr. Tiller was killed. The FBI would not comment any further on it because that investigation they say is still ongoing.
They also acknowledged to us that this specific allegation, gluing shut the doors of an abortion clinic, is, in fact, a federal crime. It‘s a violation of the FACE Act, which, of course, leaves us with a major question: When the FBI was informed of Mr. Roeder‘s damaging property at an abortion clinic back in 2000, when they are provided evidence of this violation, why they didn‘t prosecute the crime then?
They had him on tape committing the crime. They had witnesses who recognized him and reported the crime. They knew he had been arrested in 1996 for having explosives in his vehicle. And despite that knowledge, despite having the power to arrest him and supposedly, federal encouragement and assistance to do so, Mr. Roeder was permitted to walk free. He was thereby allowed to committee that same federal crime over and over again, recognized and reported to the FBI each time, until the day that he allegedly murder Dr. George Tiller.
The whole reason we have special laws in this country to prevent anti-abortion terrorism, which has killed a lot of people and terrorize a whole lot more, the reason we have these laws and why it‘s frankly handy when they‘re actually enforced is so when anti- abortion extremists commit crimes designed to terrorize abortion providers—and those crimes are reported to authorities—those individuals can be arrested and prosecuted before someone dies—again.
MADDOW: The country is shocked by an act of domestic terrorism, a
brazen murder, and an accused killer practically draped in red flags
somehow alludes a law enforcement system that seemingly well equipped to
stop him—a description of George Tiller‘s accused murderer, Scott Roeder
yes—and of Abdulhakim Muhammad, aka Carlos Bledsoe, who‘s accused of driving up to an Army recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas, and shooting two young soldiers, killing one and wounding the other.
The FBI now confirms that Mr. Muhammad had the firepower to kill many more people and may have had additional targets as well. FBI officers found maps to Jewish organizations, to military recruiting centers in the southeastern U.S., as well as New York and Philadelphia, a child care center, a Baptist church and a post office—all in Mr. Muhammad‘s home.
According to NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams, the FBI had been interested in the young man for a number of years after he made threatening comments at a mosque in Ohio, after he traveled to Yemen to attend an institute that is known for radicalizing people, and after he was arrested for possessing a phony Somali passport. As a result, Mr. Mohammed was under investigation by the FBI‘s joint terrorism task force—a collaboration between state, local and national authorities. The FBI Web site calls the joint terrorism task force as, quote, “our nation‘s front line on terrorism.
There are two open questions, it seems, about this accused terrorist. Was he tied to terrorism groups, networks of extremists, or was he acting alone? Those seemingly inspired by al Qaeda. For the moment, we can‘t know.
But also, how is it the man who was reportedly under investigation by an elite FBI-led joint terrorism task force was able to get his hands on the arsenal that was found in this man‘s SUV after the shooting: An SKS semiautomatic assault rifle, like this one, a .38 caliber semiautomatic pistol, a Mossberg international 702 rifle with a scope and a laser sight; and according to the Little Rock Police Department, nearly 600 rounds of ammunition.
It‘s possible to put together an arsenal like this while you‘re being investigated by an FBI joint terrorism task force?
Joining us now is David Cid. He‘s a former FBI counterterrorism and counterintelligence specialist. Mr. Cid, thank you very much for your time tonight.
DAVID CID, FMR. FBI TERRORISM & COUNTER INTEL. SPECIALIST: Thank you.
MADDOW: In hindsight, after what this young man is accused of doing, and knowing what we know about his record, it‘s easy to see why this young man might have been being watched by the FBI‘s joint terrorism task force. But what are the real implications of that? What do these task forces actually do?
CID: Well, as you pointed out, Rachel, they‘re a collaboration between federal, state and local authorities, with the intention of really fusing intelligence and investigative resources to get a better outcome. In this case, of course, the outcome was tragic. But, as a concept, the joint terrorism task force is a good one, and generally, it works.
MADDOW: Does it seem reasonable to you that he would have been able to acquire weapons that were found in his SUV after the shooting while he was under investigation? We don‘t yet know if those weapons were acquired legally, but it seems difficult to understand that somebody under this type of investigation could amass that sort of an arsenal.
CID: Well, I think it‘s quite simple to get your hands on weapons, unfortunately. But the reality that the FBI was unaware that he was amassing the weapons is troubling.
MADDOW: In terms of what these joint terrorism task forces do—you described them as trying to integrate investigation and intelligence factors, not only, I guess, not only to investigate crimes that have been committed but to also prevent acts of terrorism.
MADDOW: In the blunt level, this is therefore a failure. But when you look at this case and what we know about it thus far, are there obvious things that should have been done here that weren‘t done? Is there anything you can tell us about weaknesses here that allowed this to happen?
CID: It‘s difficult to say in the specific, Rachel, because I don‘t know about the case and what was done and what was not done. But, you know, there are certain inefficiencies we place in a way of our law enforcement agencies to protect our civil liberties. A perfectly efficient law enforcement organization or investigative organization was the Gestapo, we certainly don‘t want that.
So, these inefficiencies we place in their way, sometimes cause things to fall between the cracks. And unfortunately, I think that‘s what happened here. It may have been a failure on the part of the investigators, it may have been an abysmal failure to see the obvious, but we won‘t know that until we get some more facts.
MADDOW: The FBI does seem a little bit peeved that the news got out that Mr. Muhammad might have had other targets. In a press release, the FBI said, “This message was intended for law enforcement not for the public.” What do you make of that and what do you make about the fact that a lot of information about this case does seem to be leaking through anonymous sources so far?
CID: It‘s not unusual that a high profile case to have a lot of leaks. I think, the more the public understands what we‘re facing and the more the reality of the challenge is made apparent to them, I think it‘s a good thing. I don‘t think keeping information close hold is helpful unless it‘s specific to an investigation over available (ph) source or a method.
MADDOW: David Cid, former FBI counterterrorism and counterintelligence specialist—thanks for helping us understand this tonight. I appreciate your time, sir.
CID: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: President Obama‘s political opponents are still trying to figure out how to attack his Supreme Court choice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, without, you know, attacking her. Newt Gingrich has decided not to call her a racist anymore. But he came up with some other unkindnesses in the meantime. We‘ll have more in a moment with our friend Ana Marie Cox.
MADDOW: Coming up: Mitt Romney‘s foreign policy experience is limited to his time as a missionary in France and the occasional trip from his giant mansion in Boston to his giant mansion in New Hampshire. So, naturally, the Republicans have turned to him to criticize President Obama‘s big trip abroad. That‘s coming up.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
In 2005, the Bush administration set up a Web site called the Operation: Iraqi Freedom document portal. It was supposed to be a clearinghouse for damming information about Saddam Hussein. However, instead of conning Americans into retroactively believing that the war in Iraq was justified, that Web site accidentally provided anyone with an Internet connection with detailed plans for how to build a nuclear bomb. Which is kind of like being greeted as liberators, right?
And since “The New York Times” picked up on that, the documents were taken down.
But don‘t think that the era of potentially dangerous, totally humiliating leaks of sensitive nuclear information is over. Steve Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists was the first to report this week that the Obama administration has had an embarrassing leak of its own. The Government Printing Office accidentally posting online a 267-page document that describes hundreds of civilian nuclear sites in the U.S., including where we store stuff like enriched uranium.
The information is considered highly confidential, but it isn‘t classified. It had been compiled for the International Atomic Energy Agency that somehow ended up on the Government Printing Office Web site. It has since been taken down.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for an investigation into how this material became public. Hopefully, it wasn‘t by someone googling the words “sensitive nuclear secrets” and then hitting “I‘m feeling lucky.”
And officials at Guantanamo have announced the apparent suicide of a 31-year-old Yemeni man who was found not breathing in his Guantanamo cell on Monday night. He‘s the fifth prisoner to commit suicide at Guantanamo, the first since President Obama took office in January. The man had been held without charge for the last seven years.
The military has not released specific details surrounding his death yet, and an autopsy is apparently underway. But we do know that he was probably one of the many Guantanamo prisoners to have gone on hunger strike there to protest their imprisonment. Medical records show that this young man weighed 124 pounds when he was first brought to Guantanamo in 2002, by the end of 2005, his weight was down to 86 pounds.
The ongoing hunger strikes at Guantanamo are just one form of protests taking place at the prison. Journalists were on site this week to witness weaker prisoners holding up pieces of paper that had messages written on them in crayon, signs like this one, which reads, “What is the difference between of the democracy and communist?” And this one reading, “Where is the justice?” And another that simply says, “We need to freedom.”
Yes, that‘s a typo, but give them a break. They are technically supposed to be free right now, only U.S. officials can‘t figure out where to send them.
And, finally, President Obama is off on his overseas trip. He landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today, where the red carpet was literally rolled out for him, as were the dudes with gold swords and a lot of other very royal-looking things.
The centerpiece of this trip is the long-promised speech Obama is due to give in Cairo tomorrow. There, the president will fulfill a promise he made during his campaign, a promise to deliver a major speech in a Muslim capital. The White House will make parts of it available via text message in English, Persian, Arabic and Urdu. Does your phone recognize the Urdu alphabet? Now, is your chance to find out.
When I was trying to make any phone speak Urdu today, I spent an inordinate amount of time singing along with the Urdu alphabet jingle, which is, of course, linked on our Web site today now, if you‘re interested.
Sorry, OK. Anyway - so the Saudis rolled out a red carpet for President Obama. At his next destination, Egyptian broadcasters have announced the launch of a new non-governmental Arabic language TV channel in Egypt. It‘s a mix of entertainment and education. It‘s designed to promote a moderate vision of Islam and to undercut Islamic extremism, which is neat.
That said, a word of warning to the founders of Al-Azhari TV in Egypt. President Obama says he doesn‘t watch the moderate cable news channel in this country, so don‘t be offended if he doesn‘t watch yours either. He‘s very busy, apparently, but not too busy to propound facile and demonstrably untrue beliefs about the host and contributors of this network. Classy.
MADDOW: Because this is cable news, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW has big breaking news tonight. Since he relapsed on the air, Newt Gingrich, affectionately known here as Republican blowhard emeritus, sort of and kind of didn‘t really back away from his declaration that Supreme Court nominee Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a racist.
Last week, Mr. Gingrich used Twitter to declare that Judge Sotomayor is a Latina woman racist. Today, he issued a statement that seemed designed to take credit for retracting that comment without actually retracting it.
He said, quote, “The word ‘racist‘ should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable. Sotomayor‘s words reveal a betrayal of a fundamental principle of the American system that everyone is equal before the law.
So you didn‘t mean to call Judge Sotomayor racist. You only meant to call her words racist and say that by using them, she betrays the fundamentals of the country in a sort of racist way.
Not everyone is going along with the fake retraction. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh, for example, does not retract anything - ever.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I didn‘t know why he retracted it and I still don‘t. I‘m not retracting it. Nobody‘s refuted it. She would bring a form of racism and bigotry to the court.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: When you get called racist by the guy who says the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. should get the Medal of Honor, consider yourself honored. Also, nauseated. UPDATE: 10/19 A correction was made regarding the accuracy of this quote.
Meanwhile, the right-wing continues to press for a filibuster against Judge Sotomayor. “Politico.com” this week published a letter from conservative groups to Republican senators telling them to prepare to use the filibuster against Sotomayor.
The funniest thing about this new filibuster push from the right is not just that the Republican Party in general spent the Bush era arguing against filibustering, even calling filibustering unconstitutional.
The funniest thing here is that the guy who organized the “please filibuster her” letter used to be the center of the anti-filibuster movement. His name is Manuel Miranda. He is for the cause of filibustering Sotomayor‘s nomination to the Supreme Court what Mark Foley was to the cause of cracking down on online sexual predators. That is a walking tall glass of irony.
Mr. Miranda worked on judicial nominations for then Senate majority leader Bill Frist when he was forced to resign in 2004 for helping to secretly download Democrats‘ computer files which were then leaked to the media.
Then, Mr. Miranda he went off his own and founded the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters. And now, he‘s not only supporting filibusters, he‘s leading the effort to advocate for one in this case. Tada!
Mr. Miranda told “The Plum Line‘s” Greg Sargent he thinks Sotomayor will be confirmed and he doesn‘t expect her to be filibustered. But he also told “Politico.com” he thinks Sen. Mitch McConnell is, and I quote, “limp-wristed” on judicial nominees and should consider resigning as minority leader if he can‘t take a tougher stance against Sotomayor.
Also, here‘s Mr. Miranda‘s advice to conservatives on how to attack Sotomayor without alienating Latinos.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MANUEL MIRANDA, FOUNDER, NATIONAL COALITION TO END JUDICIAL
FILIBUSTERS: Hispanic polls, Hispanic surveys indicate that Hispanics think just like everyone else. We‘re not like African-Americans. We think just like everybody else.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We‘re not like African-Americans. We‘re like everyone else. Because African-Americans - there you have it, the brains behind the conservative movement to stop Judge Sotomayor.
Joining us now the Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America and “Playboy” contributor. Hi, Ana Marie. Nice to see you.
ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AIR AMERICA: You love saying that, don‘t you, Rachel?
MADDOW: Saying hello, Ana Marie - yes, I love saying that.
COX: OK. That part, too.
MADDOW: All right. Manuel Miranda even says Sotomayor‘s nomination will not be stopped, as do the key Republicans in the Senate. So what is the political point here now with this debate, this letter demanding the filibuster and all the rest of it?
COX: Well, before anyone was actually named to this position, just when there were rumors that there was going to be someone resigning from the Supreme Court, and before, you know, we had anyone even on blackboard, both liberal and conservative groups were saying they wanted to use this as an opportunity to raise money.
I think the conservative groups are probably having a little better luck with that. This is not a controversial appointment on the liberal side. I mean, you‘ve had some very good criticisms of Sotomayor. But really, the only people that are ducking this are explicitly the right wing.
There is no elected Republican official out in front of this movement. And if you talk to Senate aides, if you talk to actual senators, all of them will tell you that, “We want to consider this appointment. We want to look at her closely.” But even as you said, Manny, as he‘s called, is not actually, you know, thinking there‘s going to be actual filibuster here.
MADDOW: Well, when you talk to sources in the Republican Party about this nomination and all the politics around this, are they at all worried that they are fighting among themselves over who‘s really in control of the party, who‘s in control of the message here instead of fighting Obama and his nominee?
COX: Well, I actually think that‘s why you see a real split here between elected officials and - I‘m not even going to call them the base. I think “right-wing operatives” is probably right word.
I actually think that the Republican senators are trying to present a united front with sort of a critical concerned, but not necessarily against this nomination. There are some people, some Republican senators who have no problem voting against her no matter what because they voted against her when she was appointed before.
Actually, McConnell and McCain probably will vote against her like they did before. However, there are a lot of Republicans senators had no cover here. And I think their only argument is to say that they‘re trying to take a measured, deliberate stance on this.
There‘s really no percentage for Republicans to vote against her if he doesn‘t have a good argument for it. This is a party that really needs the Latino vote. This is a party that distanced itself from Newt Gingrich. The only reason that Newt Gingrich stepped away at all from his comments on Twitter which, by the way, some of my favorite Twitter ever - like Cave Man Newt - called her racist.
He‘s actually doing a fundraiser this week for the Republican Senate Campaign Committee and the Republican House Campaign Committee. And actually, they didn‘t want him to come unless he distanced himself from his own comments.
MADDOW: Wow, interesting reporting there. On the issue of right-wing operatives and their own motivations for trying to pursue this, even as that embarrasses Republican senators. Manny Miranda has been called even by Republican sources “disgraced.”
Republicans in the Senate even voted to refer him for criminal investigation after he got fired in 2004 for hacking into the Democratic computers on the Judiciary Committee. How did he arrange himself into this gig coordinating the opposition to Sotomayor if he‘s such an embarrassment to elected Republicans?
COX: Well, we discussed this a lot. There really is no leadership in the Republican Party outside of elected officials. They‘re sort of a free for all, as Steve Schmidt said in an interview a few weeks ago.
This is “The Lord of the Flies” sort of period for the Republican Party. And it‘s really - anyone can grab the conch. And I think that Manny has a chance to grab it, and he‘s trying to.
Newt has his hand out as well, so does Mitt Romney. Right now, it‘s much easier for people that aren‘t elected to make these kinds of statements. People who are elected, especially get closer and closer to midterms. And it becomes clear that their strategy of being the party of no isn‘t actually working. It‘s going to be the people that don‘t have to answer to an electorate that are going to be taking this stance.
MADDOW: And the rest of us are faced with having to find someway to wipe from our minds the image of them all grabbing a shell.
COX: The conch, Rachel.
MADDOW: Yes. You said it, not me. Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America and “Playboy” contributor. Thank you for joining us. It‘s nice to see you.
COX: All right. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up, how to play video games without a video game controller thingy. Kent Jones is here to help me with that metaphysical conundrum.
Charlie Pierce will be here to help us make sense of the metaphysical conundrum that is Mitt Romney‘s foreign policy expertise. And I‘m going to work very hard in the commercial break to come up with another excuse to say “metaphysical conundrum.”
MADDOW: No self-respecting politician would declare himself or herself a candidate for president 3 ½ before the election. That would be gauche. It would be too eager. You got to be sort of nonchalant this far out.
Well, yesterday, Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Governor and former RACHEL MADDOW SHOW guest, who I will continue to ostentatiously laud as gracious until he agrees to come back to this show again, ostentatiously did not declare that he is running against President Obama in 2012 when he announced his retirement as Minnesota governor effective 2011.
He did not declare. It was not even on his mind. He even said, quote, “I don‘t know what the future holds for me.” And alas, no one can know the future.
But tonight, we can report that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has also not declared his candidacy for president in 2012.
Mr. Romney is a private citizen whose ostensible foreign policy brief is limited to his 1960s missionary work in France which is a foreign country and running the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, which did have a lot of foreign countries in it. That makes plain why Mr. Romney was on the “Today” show this morning with Matt Lauer whipping President Obama while the president is overseas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, THE “TODAY” SHOW: You‘ve called it part of a tour of apology and you don‘t mean that in a good way. What‘s wrong with this form of diplomacy?
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The prior business the president has had, for instance, to Europe really resulted in a kind of apology, I think. It‘s inappropriate. “The Guardian” newspaper said the president was more critical of his own nation on foreign soil than any president in the history of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He just quoted a foreign newspaper. As for the 2012 race, why that apparently the furthest thing from Mr. Romney‘s mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I‘m looking right now to try and get some Republicans elected in 2009, again, and 2010 and what happens down the road. Well, it‘s a very distant horizon. We‘ll look at it later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Alas, no one can know the future. Here now is Charlie Pierce, staff writer at “The Boston Globe” magazine, contributing writer at “Esquire,” panelist on NPR‘s “Wait, Wait, Don‘t Tell Me,” and author of the excellent new book, “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.” Mr. Pierce, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
CHARLES PIERCE, STAFF WRITER, “THE BOSTON GLOBE” MAGAZINE: Dr.
Maddow, it‘s great to be here.
MADDOW: And thank you for leading your book with a quote from the late great Chris Whitley which made me very happy.
PIERCE: And a terrific album it is - “Dislocation Blues.” People should go to their independent record dealers and buy it.
MADDOW: Right. That‘s the call tonight.
PIERCE: Yes. That‘s it. Let‘s go.
MADDOW: All right. So what do you think? Romney 2012?
PIERCE: Oh, I don‘t think there is any question about it. You know, I‘ve lived under the amiable, if sometimes not measurably perceptible leadership of Gov. Romney in Massachusetts. And he was sort of, you know, sort of a nice guy.
And then, he decided he wanted to run for president, and the wheels came off the wagon. You know, because of what you have to do to be nominated as a Republican because the party has cored itself down to a nice hard diamond of real craziness.
He promptly went out and I find this amusing that he‘s worried about Barack Obama apologizing for America. He went out across America and apologized for being for Massachusetts to audiences full of people who think he worships Satan in his underwear.
He has moved along to what he has done now. My two favorite moments in the previous Romney presidential campaign which you may remember from the pieces left lying around cornfields all over the country was number one, when John McCain said at a debate in South Carolina that in his experience, which I think we can all agree is considerable, torture doesn‘t work. And Mitt Romney argued with him.
Now, there‘s a lot of things I will argue with John McCain about and have on occasion. If he wants to tell me something about torture, I‘m moving along to the next subject.
PIERCE: Not Mitt. Mitt wanted to quote, unquote, “double Guantanamo,” which I believe is a rum-based drink. But then, he said - he told - I believe it was Brian Williams of “The Boston Globe” - that when he was doing his Mormon mission in Provence, I might add, that he really wanted to be - he felt really bad about not being in Vietnam.
In other words, rather than sleeping under the stars in Provence, he wanted to hop a machine gun across the central islands. Now, nobody reading “The Globe,” since we have very few readers who get to work on our load of watermelons believe this. But that was the previous campaign. And now, he‘s back again with the same thing. He‘s created this national political persona from a bit here and a little bit here and a couple of attitudes from here and a smart remark from here that menace the Piltdown Man of American politics.
MADDOW: “Idiot America” is about stupidity becoming a virtue, about us becoming sort of a nation of simpletons. And I have to ask when we talk about like stupid, hypocritical dumb arguments in politics, do you think that we‘re sort of wired for that? That these arguments are going to keep working on us unless we do something to change ourselves?
PIERCE: I think we all have to be better citizens. And “Idiot America” is not about the people who believe crazy stuff. One of the great miracles of United States of America is this is the greatest country ever devised to be completely out of your mind, which is a great thing. It‘s how we got a little richer to just name one prominent example.
The problem is we get stuff out of joint. Our cranks are now mainstream. They now have book contracts, TV shows and suits in federal court. That lessens their value. And what‘s worse is their views come into the mainstream whole. They‘re not forced to integrate them at all.
And because we are getting so much information at once, we‘ve lost the capacity for discernment and on a couple examples I show in the book, real people get hurt. And that‘s the real tragedy of it.
MADDOW: “Idiot America: How Stupidity Be Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free” is the new book by Charlie Pierce. Mr. Pierce I‘ve been a fan of yours for a really long time. It‘s nice to have you here on the show.
PIERCE: And I (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It‘s great to be here.
MADDOW: Thanks for being here. “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free” - you should buy it.
Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith looks at the president‘s flying wedge against the Republican Party bringing at least three of their moderate members into his administration.
And next on this show - look, no hands. Kent Jones has the lowdown on the brave new barehanded future of video games.
MADDOW: We turn now to our sofa sports analyst, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Microsoft unveiled this crazy new video game system this week. You‘ve got to see it. Check it out.
MADDOW: All right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES (voice-over): It is called “Project Natal,” a brave new world of gadget-free video games. There‘s no joystick, no steering wheel, no buttons to push, nothing to get lost under the bean bag chair. Natal also doesn‘t have a wand like the Nintendo WII, so that eliminates this. But not this.
Natal uses a full body motion sensor that imitates whatever you do. So you skate, it skates. You drive, it drives. You make a silhouette of an elephant, it makes a silhouette of an elephant. I‘m not sure how often that will come up but you get my point.
This isn‘t your usual coach potato, carb downloading blab-athon. This is more like mime or air guitar or jazz hands. This technology is still in its infancy and it is mind-blowing to this where gaming will be in 20 years.
I can think of two possibilities. We‘ll have some kind of exoskeleton that makes everyone into a superhero or we‘ll just do away with our bodies altogether.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Ain‘t got no body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
JONES: Pretty wild.
MADDOW: I‘m so glad to get the explanation from you. I totally
thought because I‘m a totally text-based life form that it was “project
MADDOW: And it was some freaky anti-abortion thing.
JONES: Natal. Natal.
MADDOW: Natal. It‘s a whole different.
JONES: So different. So different. Yes.
MADDOW: OK. Cocktail moment for you, Kent.
MADDOW: Today, New Hampshire, of all places, live free or die, became the latest state, state number six, to legalize gay marriage.
JONES: Right on.
MADDOW: Gov. Lynch just signed the bill, State Number Six. It is great news, of course, for the gay community nationwide, the gay community specifically in New Hampshire.
MADDOW: Also, probably the worst news ever for Mitt Romney.
JONES: Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: We were talking about with Charlie Pierce - I mean, Mitt Romney spent his entire presidential primaries time talking about how he didn‘t really have anything to do with Massachusetts and that he sold his house there and moved full time to New Hampshire so he could run again presumably.
MADDOW: Now, New Hampshire has got gay marriage, too. Darn it!
JONES: Welcome to the neighborhood.
MADDOW: And Iowa. Thanks, Kent.
MADDOW: “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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