Guests: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Maria Teresa Kumar, Ana Marie Cox, Jeff Widener, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
The Republican reaction to President Obama‘s Cairo speech today has been breathtaking.
The opposition to the Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination got stranger than ever today.
And, on the 20th anniversary of one of the most famous photographs of all time—the iconic image of that one man standing alone in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square, the photographer who took that picture will be here with us tonight—as will be Ana Marie Cox and Maria Teresa Kumar from Voto Latino and Marissa Harris-Lacewell.
It is all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with big news that the U.S. Justice Department has announced it is launching a federal investigation into the murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas who was vilified and harassed and attacked for years by the anti-abortion movement before he was finally shot dead inside his church this past Sunday.
The suspect in custody is an anti-abortion activist named Scott Roeder. As yet, Mr. Roeder is the only person facing charges in the murder, but today‘s announcement from the acting attorney general for the civil rights division of the Justice Department indicates that the government is not assuming that the killer in this case acted alone, quote, “The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to determine the full involvement of any and all actors in this horrible crime, and to ensure that anyone who played a role in the offense is prosecuted to the full extent of federal law.”
The Justice Department also announced that they have reconvened the task force on violence against reproductive health care providers. This is important, this is—the FBI, and the Marshal Service, and the ATF and other law enforcement agencies.
It‘s a task force that was first formed during the Clinton administration, in recognition of the fact that the multiple murders and attempted murders of abortion providers, the bombings of clinics, the harassment, the threats—these were not isolated incidents. They were the products of a militant anti-abortion movement—a homegrown American movement that proclaimed that abortion was equivalent to murder, that it was therefore justifiable, even honorable, to use violence to stop it. A movement that ultimately embraced terrorism, terrorizing tactics to make abortion services too dangerous for doctors to provide and thereby too difficult for women to seek—never mind that those services were still technically legal.
This week, since Scott Roeder has been in custody for Dr. Tiller‘s murder, we have detailed on this show how some individual anti-abortion militants have praised Mr. Roeder as a hero. But even as individual activist and websites have publicly celebrated this murder and have made a hero out of the murder suspect, the organizations that make up the right flank of the anti-abortion movement, they have tried to distance themselves from this crime.
Operation Rescue, the militant organization that blockaded Dr. Tiller‘s clinic, that ran “Tiller Watch” on their Web site, they initially denied having anything to do with the suspect in Dr. Tiller‘s murder, and they released a statement condemning the murder. That, however, was before an ex-con, former clinic bomber, on their staff admitted to having multiple conversations with Mr. Roeder about Dr. Tiller in the months leading up to Dr. Tiller‘s murder. Her Operation Rescue phone number was found in Mr. Roeder‘s car when he was arrested.
Operation Rescue statement condemning Tiller‘s murder was echoed by another anti-abortion group this week, a group called the American Life League. They put out a statement on the day of the assassination, saying, quote, “Today‘s actions were tragic and serve as another reminder that all human life is sacred.” They also said that they extended prayers to the Tiller family—which is nice.
Then today, we learn that that same group, the American Life League, has decided to go ahead with plans tomorrow, the day of Dr. George Tiller‘s funeral, to send activists out to abortion providers across the country, tomorrow, baring these signs—“the Pill Kills.” They‘re calling it “Protest the Pill Day, 2009,” the day of George Tiller‘s funeral. They‘re going to be holding up these signs at abortion providers.
The message here is, of course, that birth control pills are harmful and that women who use birth control pills are murderers. They‘re killing unborn babies. The message is that using birth control pills is tantamount to having an abortion. Information at the organization‘s Web site warns women against using, quote, “chemicals, hormones, and sex education as an answer to their problems with the natural consequences of abuse of sex.”
The group goes on to inform women who might use birth control that, quote, “They will be mothers of dead babies. The hormones, chemicals and sharp intro-uterine devices will starve and kill in the secret warmth of their sterilized wombs.”
The message is even more direct on the group‘s Facebook group page. It reads, quote, “If the pill prevents a developing baby from implanting in the lining of the uterus, a life has been killed.” A life has been killed.
So, if you use birth control, you‘re committing murder. That‘s the blunt message. That‘s what the word “kills” is all about in the sign, right? That anti-abortion demonstrators will be wielding tomorrow at facilities where abortions are performed across the country, at exactly the same time as friends and family of George Tiller will be mourning his murder, allegedly at the hands of anti-abortion activist who witnesses say used the words “baby kill killer” while gluing-shut the locks of another Kansas clinic the day before he allegedly shot Dr. Tiller dead.
We called the American Life League today to ask them if they considered postponing the event out of respect for Dr. Tiller‘s funeral. They told us that the event had been in the works for a long time and that it would be almost impossible to postpone it. The protest is, in fact, pegged to the anniversary of a Supreme Court decision about birth control. It‘s called Griswold v. Connecticut. I should note, though, that that decision was actually handed down on June 7th, which means the real anniversary would be Sunday. But they‘re not doing their event on Sunday. They‘re doing the event on Saturday, on the day of Dr. Tiller‘s funeral.
Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Lacewell. She‘s an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.
Melissa, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Thank you. I‘m glad to be here tonight.
MADDOW: The organizers of “the pill kills day” have decided not postpone their event tomorrow. And, of course, they‘re absolutely free in this country to hold any sort of protest event with any sort of methods that they want. Is it—is it tone-deafness? Or is it a deliberate provocation to have a message like this on the day of the funeral?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I think it‘s certainly more than tone-deafness. So it is accurate that they‘ve had this event before. There was an event just like this last year. And this has been in the works.
So, it‘s not as though they planned it specifically for this day, but they are capitalizing on this tragedy. They are using the fact that we‘re all, at this moment, talking about the question of choice, talking about women‘s reproductive rights as an opportunity to take their hateful fringe message and really put it right in the center of the conversation. And so, it is a kind of nasty way of capitalizing on the assassination of an innocent man.
MADDOW: Melissa, your writing on this subject this week has been really provocative and really interesting. It‘s one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show tonight to talk about it. And one of your columns this week about it—you wrote that the anti-choice community operates with a totalitarian impulse that generates a culture of terror rather than a culture of life.
What do you mean by a totalitarian impulse?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, what I mean by totalitarianism is the idea that there‘s only one right way. There‘s only one correct answer, that there‘s no gray areas, there‘s nothing complex.
So let‘s take, for example, this idea that the pill kills. Clearly, worldwide, far more women died of the complications of pregnancy and childbirth than are made ill by birth control. So, women‘s health always improves when there‘s widely available and easily accessed reproductive rights care.
Planned Parenthood—we‘re they‘re going to go and protest—are not only abortion providers and birth control providers, they are the primary health care provider for 3 million women and teen girls in this country. Because we have such a problem with insurance, so many women only see a doctor when they see a doctor at a Planned Parenthood for routine care, like cervical cancer screenings and breast cancer screenings.
So, the idea the notion of totalitarianism here is that these anti-choice movements ignore all of that. They ignore all of the complexity of this story and they instead seek to just assert their one viewpoint.
MADDOW: And anybody outside that viewpoint—this is the really troubling part of it. I don‘t mind people being impolite and have been bad arguments. I assume people with bad arguments will just lose them. That‘s the beauty of democracy, right?
But the problem is that when you do have the sort of—as you described—the sort of totalitarian impulse in the sort of movements, anybody who doesn‘t ascribe to the chosen point of view of the people who are—who are propounding it are worthy of violence. And so, you end up with this movement adopting terms like “baby killer.” Dr. Tiller‘s alleged killer, Scott Roeder, reportedly said “baby killer” over and over again at a Kansas City clinic the day before Dr. Tiller was killed while he was gluing their doors shut.
You‘ve written that you think that term has a really specific intended effect.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Absolutely. This is about terror. You used the language of domestic terrorism to talk about this murder. I think that‘s exactly the right language. These are stateless actors, asserting their kind of vigilante justice outside of the rules law.
But particularly, when we use language like “baby killer,” the goal is
to shame women and families who have to make these difficult choices. The
goal is to make them feel as though they‘re the only people who have had to
deal with this, to make them feel as though they are shameful human beings
so that instead of feeling ashamed of being part of a terrorizing fringe group of hatefulness, it‘s the women themselves and the families facing these tough choices who are made to feel alone ashamed. It is clearly about the production of terror.
So, although the vast majority of anti-choice groups do not themselves condone violence, they create a situation, they nurture a culture in which violence can emerge and is imagined as a very real sort of reasonable way to settle this dispute.
MADDOW: The federal government, after a few day when we really didn‘t know where they were at on this, they dispatched federal marshals to clinics as they have been repeatedly dispatched over the years in order to protect doctors. They did that right away and then we didn‘t hear much from them for a few days. But today, it appears they really stepped to the plate. Federal investigation, they reviving the Clinton-era task force on this kind of violence.
I wonder—as the Justice Department really does step up, about the politics of this—I wonder if the left, with its civil libertarian impulses, gets uncomfortable with saying, “Hey, the solution here is that we may need to make sure people are arrested for trespassing and criminal damage, we may need some prosecutions here.”
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Sure. I mean, I think we should tread carefully,
because, you know, part of using this language of terrorism, I think, is
useful because we don‘t want to behave as a country the way we did after
9/11, where we were willing to give up our civil liberties in order to
protect ourselves from terrorism, right? Part of the problem of living in
as you point out—a democracy where we get to engage in these debate where is we have certain rights and liberties is that there are dangers that are associated with that.
So, we‘ve got to be exceptionally careful. You know, we don‘t want to COINTELPRO, we don‘t want go over people‘s civil rights.
But, on the other hand, we want to start making—it feels like being an anti-choice group is like being in the KKK. In other words, you can be in it. You certainly have every right, but, on the other hand, we want it to be socially unacceptable to be part of a group that is actively working to take away the fundamental rights, the legal rights, the capacity of doctors and patients, women and families to make these choices.
So, I think what we want to do is be putting kind of pressure, social pressure against these groups. But we do want to tread very carefully on the question of civil liberties.
MADDOW: Yes. To me—I don‘t care how odious the opinion is or the position is—to me, when it comes down to justifying and advocating violence, that‘s when you start to get into Klan territory.
MADDOW: But there‘s a lot of debate left to have here and as yet about this case—a lot of information still to come.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton—it is always great to have you on the show. Thanks, Melissa.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you remember last week when Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, said that Republicans should stop slammin‘ and rammin‘ on President Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee? I‘m not totally sure whether what he said today about her qualifies as slammin‘ or as rammin‘, but it‘s definitely one of the two. Please help us decide. That is up next.
But first, just One More Thing about this case in Kansas that has ricochet around the nation. At the request of his friends and supporters, the National Network of Abortion Funds has opened up a new fund in honor of the murdered Kansas doctor, George Tiller. This network essentially provides means for women to pay for abortions when they can‘t otherwise afford it.
The first day the fund in Tiller‘s name was opened, they raised $15,000 for that fund. They also, that same day, received a check in the mail that had been mailed the previous week. It was a donation to the network‘s general fund that had been sent in by Dr. George Tiller himself. He had put it in the mail just days before he was murdered.
MADDOW: President Obama‘s secretary of energy, Steven Chu, is not your average cabinet secretary. He is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He taught himself how to pole vault and he sometimes freaks his security detail out in Washington by insisting on riding his bike to work.
Well, yesterday, Secretary Chu delivered the commencement address at Harvard University. After some self-deprecating humor that he couldn‘t live up to the highest standards of the university‘s previous two commencement speakers, J.K. Rowling and Bill Gates, Dr. Chu then made this admission—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. STEVEN CHU, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Today, sadly, you have me.
CHU: I‘m not a billionaire, but at least I am a nerd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At least I am a nerd.
You know, right now, if you go to AtLeastIAmANerd.com, you‘ll be very disappointed, because THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW got there first. AtLeastIAmANerd.com. We also still have EmphatizeRightOnYourBehind.com.
We are very rich in re-directional URLs.
MADDOW: Last week, Republican Party chairman, Michael Steel, confronted an opposition effort to President Obama‘s first Supreme Court nominee that was going badly off the rails. As conservatives and Republicans denounced her as an affirmative action pick and called her a racist, Mr. Steele tried to call a halt to the right-wing political self-emulation, saying on Bill Bennett‘s radio show that Republicans should acknowledge the historic aspect of Sotomayor‘s nomination and to make only substantive, cogent, classy arguments against her.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I know that a lot of folks want to do the knee-jerk, you know, let‘s start slammin‘ and rammin‘, but I think we really need to take a step back from this.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Michael Steele last week. Do you want to hear Michael Steele today?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STEELE: She has made mention of this fact that her ethnicity, her cultural background puts her in a different position as a judge to judge your case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
STEELE: And Gold help you if you‘re a white male coming before her bench.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: God help you, white guys. I‘m not sure whether that‘s slamming or ramming, but Mr. Steele apparently could not stop himself.
And not being able to stop themselves from doing things that even they have admitted are a bad idea is turning out to be sort of a theme in understanding the opposition efforts against Judge Sotomayor. Take, for example, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, last week, tweeted, quoted, “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”
A week later, Mr. Gingrich “newt-tracted” his charge of racism, saying in a column, quote, “The word ‘racist‘ should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person.”
Then he had a newt-traction of the newt-traction. Mr. Gingrich went on FOX News and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, ® FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: It‘s clear that the quote is clearly racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s like he just can‘t help himself.
And then there was South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who met with Judge Sotomayor and had this to say about her after their meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: My criticism about her comments in the speech that she gave wasn‘t that I think that this lady is a racist. I don‘t. And the reason I don‘t is because all the people who have worked with her throughout her life, all the people who agree with her and disagree with—no one has ever said that about her. There‘s no evidence of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK, OK. Start of the press conference, he‘s maintaining. Then as the press conference wears on, his sort of—his resistance fails and he can‘t stop himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: Being an average, everyday white guy, I don‘t think—does it make her better than Roberts or Alito? That‘s not exactly—makes me feel good to hear a sitting judge say that. I think she does have the intellectual capacity to do the job. But there‘s a character problem; there‘s a temperament problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There‘s a character problem. There‘s a temperament problem.
And as a white guy, I mean, how could a white guy vote far judge like that?
Yes. Clearly, the character and temperament problem also prevented her from ever really making anything of herself, right?
Then there‘s Manuel Miranda, a caricature of a guy you do not want to be heading up your interest group, who is heading up the conservative interest group opposing Judge Sotomayor. Fresh off his latest stink, heading a group called the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters, Mr. Miranda has been calling for a judicial filibuster of Judge Sotomayor.
That said, despite trying awkwardly to lead the opposition to her, he also told reporters this week, quote, “I am pretty confident as things stand now, this nominee will be confirmed.” Still, though, filibuster her anyway. We can‘t really help ourselves.
Joining us now is Maria Teresa Kumar, who is executive director for Voto Latino.
Maria Teresa, thank you very much for joining us.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: We keep hearing Republican leaders and conservative activists saying that they are rejecting attacks based on race about this nominee. And then, it seems to me, like they can‘t help themselves, and they just slide back into it. Is that how you see it?
KUMAR: I think they‘re consistent. They do one thing and are actually doing another. So, they‘re consistent.
And what is happening right now with the Republicans is that they keep
they can‘t realize that they‘re behind the American public. The American public is incredibly wanting her. Her support numbers are above the roof and they‘re saying, “You know what, America is diverse and we support her.”
The Republican Party, on the other hand, keeps scratching their head and they‘re still trying to figure what they should do next.
MADDOW: I wonder, though, if you think, in the broader context in terms of what this nomination means, if it‘s sort of a double-edge sword for the Latina community—I mean, there‘s the euphoria of having the first Hispanic picked for the court. But then, that having happened seems to have brought out a lot of really overt racism among a lot of political leaders. And I‘m sort of the belief that racial speech does damage relations.
KUMAR: I think it does, Rachel. But again, when you look at her poll numbers, I think what we‘re finding is that the politicians are way behind the ball once again. First, if you recall, last year, around this time, people were saying we would never elect a black president. Well, the American people—they proved the politicians wrong.
And I think the same thing with Sotomayor. The fact that she has such an overwhelming response and support from the Americans; the fact that she happens to be Latina, I think, is something that people are prideful of. That‘s not even more saying, you know, she‘s American and she holds the light (ph) of the law to its standard, and more importantly, she‘s the best qualified.
MADDOW: On this issue that the Republicans on the Senate are seemingly going to try to make a big deal of at her confirmation hearings later this summer. What‘s your view of the import and the meaning of her comments about the wise Latina judge? Conservatives, we know—conservatives, as we know, are going to try to make hay from that. How do you interpret them?
KUMAR: I think what she‘s basically saying is she‘s stating the obvious. Whenever one of us goes into a room, we immediately make judgments if the person is black, if the person is a female, if the person is Hispanic, if the person is white—we already make those judgments. And she was basically being honest and saying, “I‘m a Latina woman. I‘m not going to run away from it and this is how it actually does—I do have a different viewpoint,” and someone perhaps who is not.
MADDOW: And she‘s saying, when she says that she would have a better
she would do a better job of judging from that perspective, is she just making an implicit criticism of previous court rulings that she doesn‘t think were of high quality? Or is she saying that there‘s something intrinsic about being from a minority group, an underrepresented gender in the judiciary that makes you actually better at doing the job?
KUMAR: Well, Rachel, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think the question that we should be asking in this day and age is: Why is it, of the nine Supreme Court justices, why is it that there are eight males and seven of them that are white? Is it because they‘re more qualified? I don‘t think so. I think it‘s more—they‘re not really truly representative of the American people.
And Sotomayor, just because of her—not only because she‘s Latina, also her background, and the fact that she did she grow up poor and made her the quintessential “American Dream” demonstrates that she is part of America and that‘s why the American people so strongly behind her.
MADDOW: And maybe a Supreme Court that looks a little bit more like America will make decisions that are better and smarter for the rest of America. I don‘t know. There I go being all radical.
KUMAR: Right. Possibly.
MADDOW: All right. Maria Teresa—
KUMAR: Crazy idea.
MADDOW: I know. That‘s why I‘m not running.
Maria Teresa Kumar is executive director of Voto Latino. It is very nice to have you on the show. Have a great weekend, Maria.
KUMAR: Thank you so much, Rachel. Take care.
MADDOW: After President Obama‘s very, very, very, very, very well-received address in Egypt yesterday, Republicans scrambled back to their playbooks, flip to the yellow dog-eared page titled, “Accuse him of hating America,” when they found the nearest microphone and said, “I think he hates America.” Freedom fries, anyone?
We‘ll have more on that in a moment with Ana Marie Cox. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Still ahead: President Obama‘s Cairo speech is being hailed in almost every corner of the world in 2009, except the crowded nooks stuffed with conservative where is it‘s still 2003. Ana Marie Cox will be along in a moment to discuss that.
Plus, the man who took one of the most recognizable images of the century—the photo that will forever be associated with the Tiananmen protest. He goes back to Beijing 20 years later. He will join us in just a few minutes to tell us about that return trip.
But first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
The trial of American journalist, Euna Lee and Laura Ling for espionage and so-called hostile acts began yesterday in North Korea.
At least we think it did. Since announcing the June 4th trial date for the two women who have been in prison since March 17, the Stalinist regime of Kim Jong-Il has offered no further updates, no further news.
The official state news agency did issue a release about the 72nd anniversary of the victorious Battle of Pochonbo. They did congratulate the Kuwaiti prime minister and foreign minister on something. They did even announce the invention of a blood purifying capsule with the potassium content that is 30 times that of pumpkin. Really?
But what about the two Americans that they have on trial? What about them? This is what the official news agency has reported in total, quote, “The central court of the DPRK will start a trial of American journalists Laura Ling and Seung-Eun Lee from 3:00 p.m. Thursday on the basis of the indictment already brought against them.
That‘s it. Full stop. That‘s everything we know about the trial of these two women in the most isolated, erratic country in the world. We spoke with a representative of the Ling family today who said the family is, of course, eagerly awaiting more news from North Korea, as are we all.
And finally, the British government is in turmoil. Prime Minister Gordon Brown‘s labor party is still in power. But yesterday, the party suffered its worst local election defeat in 30 years. On top of that, a huge expenses scandal already forced the resignations of four cabinet ministers. They include Community Secretary Hazel Blears.
Hazel Blears walked out of the eve of yesterday‘s election. Today, the prime minister announced the reshuffling of cabinet. Prime Minister Brown had wanted to replace the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling with a man named Ed Balls.
But Mr. Balls will not replace Mr. Darling. Darling will stay put and Balls will remain a member of parliament. The prime minister‘s term in office has been rocky to say the least. The last thing he needed was a scandal having to do with Blears, Darling and Balls.
And this is a bad time to bring up the new home secretary, Mr. Johnson. Quick programming note, covering British politics is complicated by the fact that everyone‘s name sounds either dirty or like a food or like an odd geographic location.
See for yourself, we have posted the list of the names of all members of the British parliament on our Web site today. You can check them out at our map room at Rachel.MSNBC.com. We spent a lot of time with this today on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff meetings.
Staff favorites so far include Lord Ashtown of Norton Sub-Hamdon, Lord Baker of Dorking, Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone, Baroness Cox - no offense, Ana Marie - Baroness Hogg, Lord Snape, Mr. Crab, Dr. Ladyman and Mr. Love. Take that, Dick Armey.
MADDOW: Remember the “so-bad, they‘re funny” days of American politics and our place in the world during the early Bush years? I speak, of course, of the era of the Freedom Fries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WALTER B. JONES (R-NC): I‘m delighted that the Chairman Ney read the letter and thought that it might be worthy of consideration to rename the French Fries on the house side in our restaurants, the Freedom Fries.
It says, “Update: Now serving in all house office buildings, ‘Freedom
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was 2003 when French Fries were bad and Freedom Fries were American. Congressman Walter Jones in North Carolina let that re-branding effort as a way to punish France for not going along with the preventive war in Iraq.
Even Congressman Jones later admitted that that idea was a bad one and said he wished it had never happened. The Freedom Fries kerfuffle is illustrative. It‘s one of those embarrassing moments that with a few years‘ distance, no one wants to admit that it ever happened. No one wants to admit even if it happened that they ever played a role in it, that they ever supported it. It‘s kind of like -it‘s kind of like the “Macarena.”
MADDOW: “Macarena” is not a figment of your imagination. It actually happened. But if you ask around now, even if people will admit that it was a craze, no one will admit to actually having done it themselves. Never, not once. I didn‘t do it ever. Sure a lot of people did it, but no one I know.
As with Freedom Fries, it was a craze, of course, but nobody remembers participating in it. But it turns out that President Obama‘s speech in Cairo yesterday, aside from all its global policy implications, at the same time, had the magical power to expose American political figures who are still metaphorically living in the era of the Freedom Fries.
Topping the list, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma who told one newspaper that the president‘s speech was, quote, “un-American” and said of the president, quote, “I just don‘t know whose side he‘s on.”
Jim Inhofe, arbiter of what‘s American and what‘s un-American. First exhibit of un-American? The president of the United States. It‘s very convincing. And of course, Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, was available on TV to comment, though not on this show. Here‘s her sharing her views.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: To go to Cairo and to accuse the United States of falling short of its values just strikes me as, you know, a real blow and very disappointing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If “torture works” is one of your primary American values, I can see why a speech against torture might be disappointing. All of this makes me desperately want to take Jim Inhofe and the Cheney family out for freedom fries to see if they would even flinch at the reference.
Joining us now is Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America and a contributor to “Playboy” magazine. Hi, Ana Marie. Nice to see you.
ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AIR AMERICA: Hey, Rachel.
MADDOW: Does this all reflect a strategy of opposition to the president? Or is this what happens when there isn‘t a strategy? You just sort of retreat and yell “un-American, un-American” as you go?
COX: I‘ve got to say this sounds like a non-strategy to me. I‘m just going to correct myself from last time and say they‘re all grabbing for the “conch,” not the conch. It‘s “The Lord of the Flies” period. We have to just be careful about being around them when they have the sharp pointy sticks in their hands.
But they‘re really - Inhofe is not exactly a leader or a thinker on the Republican side, so I don‘t think he‘s responding to any talking points. I think this is a little bit of freelancing on his side. And he really is the only elected Republican that I can think of that‘s making this kind of crazy accusation.
MADDOW: Well, elaborate that a little bit. Because I think Inhofe‘s standing in the Republican Party is important to understanding what‘s going on, on the Republican Party when we see him do something so extreme like this.
Because if he is just an outlier who said stuff and has no connection to anything, that‘s one thing. But maybe he‘s a harbinger of things that elected Republicans are going to say soon but nobody is ready to do it yet, except Sen. Inhofe. Maybe he‘s the trial balloon.
COX: I think you could see him as a trial balloon. I love that image, by the way. But I don‘t think it‘s a strategy. I mean, I think that he does have connections. He‘s not a total crazy person. But this is a lack of leadership that we‘re seeing.
It is not - this is not a strategy. It‘s not like someone told him, “Hey, Inhofe. Why don‘t you go and say this nutty thing and we‘ll see what happens?” He might actually believe this, as bizarre as that may sound.
You know what really strikes me about this, Rachel? It‘s that I can‘t imagine the Democrats acting this way when George Bush was at 60 percent and hugely popular and he was gallivanting around the world saying nutty things. Oh, sorry - not that Obama is saying nutty things.
But Democrats tend to just knuckle under in the reverse situation. And Inhofe went on and said this insane thing. And then he has his other people like Liz Cheney, your Newt Gingriches and your Rush Limbaughs of the world also echoing it. I cannot think of a similar situation on the Democrat side.
MADDOW: Well, there is this dynamic, though, on the right, both encompassing Republicans and just conservatives in which the majority of the really extreme anti-Obama language is coming from people who are not elected. I mean, Jim Inhofe, as we‘re sort of describing here is the exception to this.
But I wonder if that is a bad thing for the party because it puts all the elected Republicans in a position of having to answer for Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Liz Cheney and the rest of them. And they can pop off, sort of, without any accountability.
COX: Well, you don‘t see a lot of elected officials like rushing to the aid of Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh right now. I think - like I said, I think what we‘re seeing here is disorganization. If this is an orchestrated activity, I think it actually would make more sense.
I think what you‘re seeing is individual Republican senators looking to protect their seats in the midterms. And you‘re seeing the vacuum being filled by the loudest voices in the room which happen to include Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.
The man, Newt Gingrich - he is saying some of the most unpopular things a person can say. His opinions on Sotomayor, I think, polled at nine percent approval rating. If that‘s his bid for a comeback, go for it, Newt. Way to go. I will follow you on Twitter as long as you do that.
MADDOW: And I‘ll keep talking about him on the television. I mean -
COX: Yes. Let‘s do that.
MADDOW: As a programming thing, I mean, there‘s this issue of all the face time that Liz Cheney is getting, all the discussion time that Rush Limbaugh gets, that Newt Gingrich gets, that Mitt Romney gets, that Mike Huckabee gets. I mean, these people don‘t have jobs.
COX: Don‘t put them on the TV, Rachel. I don‘t want to tell you how to do your job.
MADDOW: Wait, we -
COX: But come on -
MADDOW: If THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW stopped many of whom you know, we sit around all day and take whether or not we should put folks on the air. But in terms of the political debate that‘s happening in the country, it‘s just not being engaged in by elected Republicans.
The only people who are talking from the right are these folks who I‘d prefer not to put on TV because they don‘t have jobs and they shouldn‘t feel obligated.
COX: I think you would find discussions with elected officials to be different than the ones you hear from Liz Cheney and Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. They probably would not be as extreme. I talked to a few people, not necessarily elected officials, but their staffers.
People are concerned about this. I think there is a certain amount of indecision about what to say in public and the default option is not to say anything. And that is creating this vacuum where these people are stepping in.
I think that someone needs to come up and start talking on behalf of the center of the Republican Party and start representing what I think people who still call themselves Republicans. There aren‘t a lot of them - but there are some - actually believe.
And I think there is a strong intellectual argument, or at least an intellectual argument on the opposition on some of the things Obama‘s doing. I think I believe in conservatism as sort of a philosophy and principle. It‘s not being articulated by the people that we‘re seeing on TV a lot right now.
MADDOW: Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America, contributor to “Playboy,” a special thank you, actually, from THE RACHEL MADDOW show staff for sending us the video of you doing the Macarena to disprove our point today. We appreciate it. Thank you.
All right. Twenty years ago today, the world got its only picture of what was going on a world away in Beijing. We got the only picture that we had of Chinese oppression, of its democracy-seeking people and what it looked like on the ground. The man who took this photograph will be with us in the studio, next.
Plus, Kent Jones will be here with the “Weak in Review.” That would be the W-E-A-K “Weak in Review.”
MADDOW: It is one of the most famous photographs of all time, taken 20 years ago today. Alone and, to this day, unidentified man confronting a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square, one day after the Chinese government‘s violent crackdown on a pro-democracy protest movement.
The photo is, of course, synonymous with the Tiananmen Square massacre, instantly recognizable anywhere in the world, except in China, the country where it was taken. Thanks to government censorship of everything including the internet, people in China have really no access to information about the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989. They certainly have no access to its most enduring image.
Joining us now is the man who secretly took that image after sneaking into a nearby hotel room, photojournalist Jeff Widener. He now works for the “Honolulu Advertiser.” Mr. Widener, thank you very much for coming on the show tonight.
JEFF WIDENER, PHOTOJOURNALIST: Thanks for having me on your show, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know that you‘ve had a remarkable career that has traversed
that has brought you all over the world. I spent a long time in the last couple of days looking through your Web site. You‘ve had an incredible expanse of experience.
This image, of course, is one of the most iconic of the last century. I‘m hoping you could walk us through how you got that specific remarkable image.
WIDENER: Well, first of all, I had to get into China, and that was the tough part because I was denied a visa from the Chinese embassy in Bangkok where I was posted. So I went into Hong Kong on my own, got a new passport because the previous one I had had stamps from previous visits to China.
And I went to a little travel agency, got a tour package into Beijing. And I‘m loading all this camera here and I thought I was going to be arrested immediately when I got there. And as I was getting ready to go to the customs, some lady with a light chicken was, you know, yelling and kind of getting in the hustle with the customs guys.
And then I just pushed the car through and got into a taxi and went to AP bureau. So once I got in there, I got to face the June 4th night where all of the activities started. And I had a situation where I was almost killed from a rock that was thrown from a protester when I was photographing a burning armored car.
So I had a concussion. I was sick as a dog with the flu. I managed to get the film back to the office where they had to pry it open with pliers to get the film out. And then, I sort of tried to sleep. It wasn‘t easy at the Jiangwa(ph) Hotel.
Next morning, came in to the AP office and there‘s this message waiting from New York headquarters saying, “We don‘t want anyone take any unnecessary risks. But if they could please photograph the occupied Tiananmen Square, we‘d appreciate it.”
And then, from that point on, I had to get there. And so I took a bicycle and pedaled my way past these burning - burned-out buses and, you know, people running around, scattered gun fire. And I hid my cameras inside of my Levi jacket because I heard rumors that some of the journalists had been zapped with cattle prods and the film had been confiscated.
AS I entered the lobby, there‘s this kid, you know. He looked American. He had long hair, a Rambo t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. And I just went up to him and I said, “Hey, Joe. How is it going?” And then I whispered, “I‘m from the Associated Press? Can you let me up to your room?”
So he picked on it right away. And the security guys kind of just walked away and we ran into his room. So at that point, you know, I was taking pictures out the window. There is dead and dying on carts being brought to hospitals and I shot a lot of film. And finally, I ran out. I asked Kirk, “Hey, I need some film. Can you help me out?”
He said, “Sure, sure, no problem.” So he went, and two hours later, he came back with one roll of film. It‘s a roll of Fuji 100 ASA. And I loaded it in the camera. And I took a nap basically because I was pretty sick and this concussion really had me spaced out.
And as I was looking over at the window, I hear this noise and it‘s the sound of tanks coming. So I went to the balcony, looked at it, and this guy comes walking out with shopping bags. And I told Kirk - I said, “This guy is going to screw up my composition.” Because I wasn‘t thinking really clearly. I was totally spaced out from the concussion. So I waited for him, you know, to get shot, and they don‘t shoot him.
And so I‘m looking back at the bed because there‘s a doubler, which would make my lens twice as long. And it‘s too far away. It‘s like a mile or so. So I took a chance, gambled it, put this doubler on. And I had a nice tight shot. I took one, two, three pictures.
And then I noticed there‘s a problem with my shutter speed on the camera. And I couldn‘t figure out what happened. And then the guy was taken away. What had happened was that one roll of film he brought was a different speed film that I normally use. And I thought I lost the picture. So fortunately, it came out.
MADDOW: Jeff Widener is now a staff photographer with the “Honolulu Advertiser.” He took, of course, the iconic tank picture of the Associate Press at Tiananmen Square 20 years ago today. We‘ll post a link to your Web site at our Web site tonight so people can check out your entire opera and also that iconic image. Mr. Widener, thanks for joining us.
WIDENER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up next on this show, my friend Kent Jones gives us the “W-E-A-K in Review,” plus weird stuff with Legos. Come on.
MADDOW: I can‘t even see the pole-vaulter guy without thinking of Steven Chu. Time to look back on the last seven days of public lame-itude with Kent Jones in “The Weak in Review.” Kent, let‘s have it.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: It is a garden blooming with weak. Shall we?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: First up, the putative lip adornment of the weak. Following Obama‘s address in Egypt, the blogosphere started buzzing that the president of the United States was growing a mustache.
Two possibilities here. One, that the light hit Obama‘s face in such a way that it cast a shadow on his upper lip. Or two, the president felt his landmark address to the Islamic world would be enhanced by a wispy John Waters baby stash. Imagination? Strong. Logic? Weak.
Next, foolproof of the weak. In California, the makers of Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries were sued for fraud by a woman who was outraged to discover that crunch berries aren‘t an actual fruit.
Ruled the judge, quote, “So far as this court has been made aware, there is no such fruit growing in the wild or occurring naturally in any part of the world.” Read the box, people, may contain “weak.”
And finally, unitard tragedy of the week. For reasons known only to him, Joe Jonas of the fabulously popular Jonas Brothers decided to perform his own interpretation of Beyonce‘s “Single Ladies, Put a Ring on It.” Joe, please, stop. This will haunt your dreams. Weak.
MADDOW: Very nice. Thank you, Kent.
JONES: Oh, poor Joe.
MADDOW: A quick cocktail moment for you on the occasion of Obama going to Germany. At a university called Humboldt University in Berlin, there are cracks and bullet holes in the buildings left over from the Second World War.
MADDOW: A German artist named Jan Vormann has started a project of filling in those cracks and bullet holes with Legos. Isn‘t that cool?
MADDOW: Any little nook and cranny that needs help.
JONES: Oh, yes.
MADDOW: I think that‘s awesome.
JONES: A little color.
MADDOW: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Cheers, Kent. Thank you very much.
JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thank you very much for watching tonight. We will see you back here on Monday. Have a spectacular night and a spectacular week. Good night.
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