Guests: Kent Jones, Mark McKinnon, Caroline Moore, Richard Engel
RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST: Good evening, Keith.
How have you been?
OLBERMANN: Yes, left out of that rundown of people who weren‘t there. Yes. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Keith. Thanks very much.
All right. At the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner right now, next up is comedian John Hodgman‘s turn. You may know him as the resident expert on “The Daily Show” and also as PC on the PC and Mac commercials. Here he is.
(JOHN HODGMAN‘S SPEECH)
MADDOW: Mr. John Hodgman wrapping up his remarks at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner here in Washington, D.C.—
Mr. Hodgman being the headliner, speaking after the president. The president‘s remarks which were, also, I have to say, very funny and quite sharp elbowed at time but also ended on a very sweet note.
The president‘s remarks will be replayed in full without interruption on COUNTDOWN, coming up at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
OK. We‘re going to take a short break. When we come back, the news part of the show begins with the biggest story of the day.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: The single weirdest moments for Americans watching the uprising in Iran today was when Waco came up. Waco? Yes, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei gave a speech, kind of a sermon today at Tehran University in Iran, Friday prayers. And randomly, out of the blue, at the end of the speech, he brought up Waco and the Branch Davidians.
“Even inside America, during the time of the Democrats,” he said, “time of Clinton, 80 people were burned alive in Waco. Now you are talking about human rights?”
As Republicans and neoconservatives in the U.S. criticized President Obama for not big-footing the Iran crisis, for not declaring that America is on the side of the protesters, the supreme leader served up a big striking anachronistic David Koresh reminder of how large America or at least a caricature of America looms in politics.
Still, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed by overwhelming votes today a measure condemning violence against protesters in Iran and “affirming the universality of human rights and importance of Democratic and fair elections.”
Politico.com today reporting that the White House got the language toned down from what they described as the initial fire-breathing language proposed by House Republicans. In Iran, the opposition did not march today. For the first time in the week since the election, organizers called off a planned march, leaving the day‘s headlines to the supreme leader who made, essentially, a direct threat of the state‘s violence against its own people if they continue to demonstrate against the government and against what seems to have been a bogus presidential election result last week.
Supreme leader Khamenei said that opposition leaders would be, quote, “responsible for all the violence, bloodshed and rioting if there are further rallies.” And there will be further rallies.
An opposition rally they‘re calling the “sea of green march” has been called for 4 p.m. local time tomorrow in Iran, that is about 7:30 a.m. east coast time in the United States. There are some reports emerging from Iran inside that a permit has not been granted for tomorrow‘s march, giving rise to further fears that the security forces little use blunt force against the demonstrators.
President Obama obliquely addressed those fears today in an interview on CBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CBS EVENING NEWS”/CBS)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: I‘m very concerned based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements made that the government of Iran recognized that the world is watching, and how they approach and deal with people who are—through peaceful means—trying to be heard, will I think send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and is not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president, of course, also followed up those remarks, just moments ago, speaking at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner after a very jokey, sharp elbowed address that contained a lot of humor, he ended on a serious note praising those in Iran who have risked their own health, their own safety, in order to get the word out about the demonstrations there.
Joining us now is NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
Richard, thanks very much for joining us.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It‘s a pleasure.
MADDOW: Richard, help us read between the lines about what happened in Iran today. When I read the translation of the supreme leader‘s comments, I thought he was essentially threatening violence at further protests. Will Iranians hearing that speech hear that same threat?
ENGEL: Absolutely. This was a direct threat, and many Iranians are very nervous tonight and there‘s even talk that tomorrow could be something of a Tiananmen Square, according to analysts we spoke to today. The government made it very clear—do not go out into the streets or there will be punishment.
And now, the people of Iran have to decide whether they want to have this showdown with the government—and everyone there knows what a showdown of this kind would be. It could potentially be a very violent showdown.
MADDOW: The twists and turns have been so hard to predict recently, Richard. This is a story that sort of erupted in a way that, I think, surprised most observers in the United States. So, it is hard to predict.
But if you had to predict, what do you think will happen tomorrow? Do you think that Iranians will turn out in great numbers or do you think they‘ll stay home because of the threats?
ENGEL: It‘s hard to know, obviously, but, I think, Iranians will go out and there‘s been a lot of anger and frustration and hopelessness in Iran expressed after this election. I was there when people were voting and there was a great air of excitement. And when the results came in and there was a sense that they were not fair and that they came in too quickly, people were looking at the prospect of four more years of President Ahmadinejad and they felt cornered—and when people feel cornered, they do take actions.
And the protest movement, I think, people have to understand, has totally changed today. Up until now, it has been a movement between two insiders. There was a—let‘s call it a polite debate even though it was on the street between supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is an insider, and supporters of Ahmadinejad. There had been some violence, there had been some clashes and quite a few arrests, but it wasn‘t talking about overthrowing the regime. It was complaining about how the system functioned and complaints that there were flaws in the system.
Now that the supreme leader has come out, he‘s not an elected official. He is the commander of all of the armed forces, the Revolutionary Guard, the militia. He represents the theocracy. He is said to be divinely inspired, according to the Iranian system of government.
Now that he has come out and said, “Do not protest,” he‘s put his own credibility on the line. And if the protesters come out tomorrow, they‘re not questioning the legitimacy of how the system worked, they‘re questioning the system itself—and that‘s why you could see such a potentially draconian response from the government.
MADDOW: Well, are we seeing any splits within the regime? Clearly, the supreme leader is—as the name implies—the supreme leader, and he does have unparalleled power. But there are other important—other important factions within the regime, the Guardian Council, other forms of clerical authority, the presidency itself—are there any splits within the regime?
ENGEL: There certainly are, and that is what the protesters are working on. They are actively trying to recruit followers and to tell people, “You‘re either with us or you‘re against us. When the revolution comes, we‘ll look after you.” And that is something that deeply troubles the regime.
The opposition candidates, there were four candidates in this race, three of them are now disgruntled, including a member who was a senior leader of the Republican Guard, the longest serving member of the Republican Guard, the longest person to lead it. He is now in the opposition. And that is a significance difference.
You have Karoubi, who is another of the candidates who is a prominent member of the clergy. He is in the opposition. Rafsanjani, who is one of the richest men in Iran, has been working with the opposition.
So there are many splits and that is another reason why the government has decided it has to act. You have a movement on the ground that is growing in size. It is growing in demand and is winning over important followers.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And it‘s yet another reason why what happens next is so unpredictable and why for a seventh straight day tomorrow - an eighth straight day tomorrow, all eyes around the world will be glued on what happens in the streets of Tehran, don‘t you think?
ENGEL: And nothing might happen. Nothing might happen. If the government might - on Iran‘s approach, could be we won‘t confront them directly. We won‘t roll in tanks. We‘ll just watch, take pictures and round up people later. It‘s going to be - it will be interesting to see their response.
MADDOW: Incredible story and great reporting. Thanks. Richard Engel, NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, always great to see you, Richard. Thank you.
Senator John Ensign‘s infidelity scandal is like a weed that is threatening to take over the whole Republican lawn at this part - at this point. What started out as a straightforward instance of adultery has sort of super-sized to include aspersions of misuse of campaign funds, misuse of Republican Party funds, a lot of unanswered questions remaining.
Former bush communication adviser Mark McKinnon will join us in just a few moments to talk about that. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The John Ensign senator sex scandal story that broke this week is still breaking. For four days running, since the senator‘s announcement he had had an affair with a married staffer, the story has gotten bigger every day and has started encroaching on other politicians and even on to some political institutions.
As you know Sen. Ensign admitted Tuesday that he had an affair with a woman would worked for him and whose husband worked for him, too. Complicating the workplace ethics issue there and the personal issue, Sen. Ensign had previously called for Bill Clinton and Larry Craig to resign after their affairs were made public.
So even on day one, the senator also had a hypocrisy problem. That said, ethics and hypocrisy problems are sort of dog bites around here. And this story might have gone away after day one, except it didn‘t.
In the days that followed, we learned that the other woman saw her salary doubled during the period of the affair at her job on the senator‘s campaign committee and at her job on his political action committee. Hey, Ensign campaign donors, guess what you paid for.
We also learned that during the affair, the mistress‘ 19-year-old son was given a paid job doing policy work at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Chairman? John Ensign. Hey, Republican Party donors, guess what you paid for.
And then there‘s the murky question of why Sen. Ensign went public when he did. Earlier this week, NBC confirmed that the senator told his colleagues in the Senate that he went public when he did because his mistress was trying to extort money from him.
That story changed yesterday when aides to Sen. Ensign claimed that the senator decided to go public because Mr. Hampton, the husband of the mistress was threatening to take his story to a television network. And that brings us to today when we learned the basis of that claim.
Five days before Sen. Ensign‘s announcement about the affair, the mistress‘s husband, a man named Doug Hampton - he wrote a letter to an anchor at the Fox News Channel that said, quote, “Sen. Ensign pursued and engaged in a relationship with my wife. This should not be how the leadership of our country should be allowed to behave. I need justice, help and restitution for what Sen. Ensign has done to me and my family.”
Now, Fox News today said they never received that letter. They did say that they got an E-mail from Mr. Hampton about 24 hours before Sen. Ensign went public about the affair. Fox said they did not tell Ensign‘s office about the tip that they got from Mr. Hampton.
But that leaves unanswered the question of how exactly Sen. Ensign or at least his aides knew that the affair was being pitched to a TV network if the TV network itself says that they did not tell the senator.
And tonight, Sen. Ensign‘s office appears to have retreated to the original story, telling the Associated Press that Mr. Hampton demanded, quote, “cash and other financial benefits,” although it still doesn‘t appear that Ensign has ever reported any attempted extortion to the police or the FBI. Extortion can be a felony.
Sen. Ensign‘s camp also today confirmed the bombshell report that the senator helped Mr. Hampton, Doug Hampton, the husband of the woman he was sleeping with, get a job after the affair with Hampton‘s wife had ended. The senator apparently recommended Mr. Hampton for a job at a Nevada consulting firm called November, Inc. It‘s a private firm run by the two men who also ran the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Chairman? John Ensign.
Aides to Sen. Ensign say that the recommendation was routine, something he‘s done for a number of other staffers. Mr. Hampton eventually left November Inc. and then took a job at a company call Allegiant Airlines.
According to campaign finance records, Allegiant‘s CEO and his wife are among John Ensign‘s biggest campaign donors. The implication to worry, the question that John Ensign will have to answer now is was he in some way paying off this family either to buy their silence or for any other reason?
And there‘s more actually. In his letter to Fox News, Doug Hampton wrote that he confronted Sen. Ensign about this affair in front of another Republican senator, in front of Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. All Sen. Coburn said about the affair publicly was what he told “The Las Vegas Sun,” quote, “He‘s a bright young man and lots of people make mistakes.”
Whether Sen. Coburn knew about Sen. Ensign‘s possible malfeasance about the pay raises or the job placement remains unknown. Our calls to Sen. Coburn‘s office today went unreturned. Where the story ends for Sen. Ensign is one issue, it‘s a big issue. Where it ends for the rest of his party is another matter altogether.
Joining us now to discuss that is Mark McKinnon former media adviser for President George W. Bush and adviser to Sen. John McCain. He‘s now a contributor to “The Daily Beast.” Mr. McKinnon - Mark, thanks for coming back on the show.
MARK MCKINNON, CONTRIBUTOR, “THE DAILY BEAST”: Good evening, Rachel. How are you?
MADDOW: I‘m good. I‘m not a strategist about this sort of things. You have long been a sought after media strategists in the Republican Party. If you were handling this, how would you handle it?
MCKINNON: I‘d tell him to resign immediately and I‘ve actually called for him to do that. And that‘s before the problem got, you know, much worse, which it has in the last couple days. As you just outline, it‘s gone from, you know, an affair which is bad, to some - now some very serious allegations of conflict of interest.
All of that is bad. All of that is, you know, serious business. But the real sin here is hypocrisy and that‘s a real felony in politics. And for that, he should be dismissed. And he should dismiss himself because he lives in a huge glasshouse and he‘s been throwing, not just rocks but boulders at other people like President Clinton and Larry Craig.
And when Larry Craig had his problems, Sen. Ensign said that if he ever found himself in a similar situation, he would hope that he would take it upon himself to resign. And he‘s in that position now and he ought to do it.
MADDOW: Why do you think that other Republican elected officials have either no comment on this or said positive things? There‘s not been a single negative comment. There‘s not been a single call for accountability or let alone a call for resignation from many other Republicans.
MCKINNON: I think the silence is inexcusable. And, you know, we‘ve got to be able to call out our own bad apples when they turn out to be rotten, and this is a rotten apple. You know, we shouldn‘t have to remind our elected officials who should be held to a higher standard - we shouldn‘t have to remind them of their firmly-held convictions.
You know, this is a guy who campaigned on higher standards and accused others of hypocrisy. And now, he‘s guilty of them himself and we should call him out on it.
MADDOW: On the issue of campaign funds and Republican Party funds, that‘s beyond hypocrisy. That‘s beyond the personal failing of the affair. That‘s even beyond - that‘s even sort of beyond just the workplace affair ethical issues.
Should the party be answering for that in a certain way? I mean, it seems that this 19-year-old young man, the son of the woman he was sleeping with, was on the Republican Party‘s payroll as a policy expert of some kind. Should the NRSC be commenting about that?
MCKINNON: Well, listen, at the very least, the Republican leadership and institution should be calling aggressively for an investigation, an ethics investigation, to quickly get to the bottom of these allegations. Because on the surface they seem very serious, and they ought to be thoroughly vetted and investigated until we know the facts.
MADDOW: Mark, let me ask you about the larger political impact here. It seems to me that the overarching political question, and it‘s not about John Ensign specifically, but it is about the Republican Party and how they‘ve handled issues like this over time. And it calls into question Sen. David Vitter and his persistence in the Senate, as well as John Ensign.
As the Democratic Party considers whether or not to move forward with things like repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, repealing “Don‘t Ask,Don‘t Tell,” extending federal benefits to same-sex couples, those have been issues in which Republicans have traditionally oppose them, not on, you know, fiscal bases or other things like that. They‘ve proposed essentially on family values.
MADDOW: Do scandals like this have an effect on the Republican Party‘s ability to fight back against issues like that they don‘t want to see changed?
MCKINNON: No question, I think, that it has an eroding effect. You simply can‘t be the party of family values and turn around and not value your family which is precisely what‘s happening with John Ensign here.
You know, ironically we put John Ensign on our top 10 of rising stars
on our top 10 list of candidates for 2012. And so, this is just another example of a rising political star crashing to earth with his ankles and his ethics wrapped around his feet.
MADDOW: Mark McKinnon, former media adviser for President George W. Bush and for Sen. John McCain - thanks very much for your time tonight, Mark. Thanks for spending part of your Friday with us.
MCKINNON: Hey, you bet. Thank you.
MADDOW: When you think supernova, do you think early 1970‘s Chevy, maybe with a carburetor board out in flames on the front quarter panels? Or do you think white dwarf. If you know enough about this stuff to know that that last thing I said about the dwarf wasn‘t actually offensive, you will enjoy tonight‘s “Moment of Geek.” Stick around.
MADDOW: Wasn‘t there supposed to be a big, important document release or something today? This report is sort of the big kahuna - big kahuna in the torture debate. The big kahuna to arrive on Friday, said kahuna - right.
Today was supposed to be the release of the CIA inspector general report that I‘ve been calling the big kahuna on the issue of torture. This is the report of the CIA‘s own independent internal investigation of the torture program that was conducted while the program was still going on in 2004.
People who have read this report have described it as sickening and ugly. It‘s the single most anticipated document release of the entire bloody moral conflagration our country has had over the whole issue of torture.
Well, yes, this report was supposed to come out today. It didn‘t. The CIA now says they need another week. You know, the last time the CIA released a version of this report, it looked like this. Maybe the delay this time is because they‘re out of toner.
MADDOW: It‘s time for a Friday night “Moment of Geek” pop quiz. Who among us knows what a supernova is? I don‘t actually think that I could explain it all that well. I know it has something to do with very large things very far away blowing up.
We‘re about to bring on a guest who not only knows what a supernova is, but recently discovered one 70 million light-years away from earth. She‘s part of a network of amateur astronomers who spend their spare time poring over images of distant galaxies looking for supernovae - I do happen to know the plural of supernova. It is, in fact, supernovae. At least, that‘s what it looks like. I‘m not exactly sure how to pronounce it, and that is the extent of my expertise.
When our next guest discovered her supernova, a particularly rare one, now known as 2008-HA, she became one of many amateur astronomers to make such a discovery. But she‘s the only one among them who is not old enough to legally drive a car in the United States.
Joining us now is Caroline Moore. She‘s an amateur astronomer. She is 14 years old. She is the youngest person to ever discover a supernova. Caroline, congratulations, and thanks so much for coming on the show.
CAROLINE MOORE, AMATEUR ASTRONOMER: Thank you for having me.
MOORE: What is a supernova?
MOORE: OK. A supernova is a dying star that - it kind of just starts to burn off all its glasses and it collapses in on itself and it explodes very violently. .
MADDOW: Are they hard to discover? One would expect that a big violent explosion would be an easy thing to see in the big, black universe.
MOORE: Well, they are not very rare. They happen about every second in
the universe. But the universe is pretty big so -
MADDOW: I‘ve heard that. How did you find the one that you found?
MOORE: I belong to the Puckett Supernova Search Team and so we look for them. So like half of our search team - they take the pictures with their really, really ginormous big telescopes which are in their backyard. Then they send me the pictures and I look for the supernovas in them.
MADDOW: And the telescope that you have there - A, it‘s very cool it is pink, and B, I‘m guessing that is not the telescope that you used to - that‘s not the kind of telescope that you find these things with, right?
MOORE: No. It‘s the same kind, but it‘s definitely a lot bigger - and not pink.
MADDOW: I understand, although you never know. How is the supernova you discovered different from the other ones that had been discovered before? I understand this is a really unique type of thing that you have.
MOORE: Well, yes. Back in, I would say, December, we found out it was the least luminous supernova ever to be observed, which was pretty interesting. And then we found out that there is this crazy scientific reason behind why it‘s so dim.
And there‘s different scientific papers arguing why it‘s so strange.
Some are saying that it‘s a cross between a supernova and a nova. A nova
is much dimmer than an actual supernova. So they‘re saying it might be a
cross between that which would be something that‘s really never been seen
before. So -
MADDOW: So you might have found something that is going to be a whole new category of space things?
MOORE: Yes. That‘s what they are saying. That‘s what the scientists are saying. So let‘s see. I hope so.
MADDOW: Are you going to make them name it Caroline?
MOORE: I wish. No, they‘re probably give it some little silly number
name, like they named my supernova. But whatever -
MADDOW: I‘ve just got to ask you, what is your life like now that you‘re sort of an astronomy rock star? Has this changed your life at all.
MOORE: Well, kids at school - there is a combination between like maybe a little bit of jealousy. And then, there‘s - you know, my friends all tease me, like, what is going to be next? Really - this was in November. When is it ever going to end? But it‘s a lot of fun, definitely. Yes.
MADDOW: Do you think you‘re going to end up being a scientist?
MOORE: Oh, I definitely love science. I love medicine. I also sing. I am classically singing. So you know, I don‘t know. I‘m not sure at this point. I‘m 14. I have some ideas, but I‘m not definitely sure yet.
MADDOW: Well, Caroline Moore, I think that you‘re very cool. And I think that you‘re very cool, particularly in comparison to how lame I was when I was 14. So congratulations on being the youngest supernova discoverer ever. And good luck to you. It‘s been great to meet you.
MOORE: Oh, thank you. Nice to meet you, too.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” the full and funny speech that President Obama gave to the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner.
And next on this show, my friend Kent Jones with the W-E-A-K weak in review. Plus, auto-tuning the news strikes again, this time with a mash-up from this show involving Ana Marie Cox dancing awkwardly. This comes up next.
MADDOW: Here now is my friend Kent Jones with a look back at the seven days of lame-itude. Hi, Kent. It‘s nice to see you over there.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Just when you think you‘ve seen all the weakness out there, they make more. Shall we?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES (voice-over): First up, sweaty palms of the week. In Japan, so many women complained about being groped on the jam-packed commuter train that they requested a women-only car. Now, for fear of being accused of groping, some men are asking for their own car as well.
Come on, I‘ve seen more maturity in a middle school hygiene class.
Two options - grow up or get a room. Weak.
Next, raging avatar of the weak. In the video game “Angry Barry,” President Obama becomes a one-man wrecking crew destroying everything in his path. Now, call me a prude, but I draw the line at the president of the United States crushing old ladies with a dumpster. Have they tried diplomacy? Weak.
Finally, more sweaty palms of the weak. When a player is hurt on a soccer pitch, the thing to do is carry him off the field and treat his injury. What not to do is this. Remember your oath, fellows. First, do no harm. Weak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, Kent.
JONES: Oh, yes.
MADDOW: Where was that in the world, frankly?
JONES: We don‘t actually know. It‘s an unfortunate place. It‘s just sad.
MADDOW: It happened in the unfortunate league.
JONES: In the unfortunate league.
Yes, the premiere injury league. Not that popular, really.
MADDOW: All right. I‘ve got a cocktail moment for you, Kent.
JONES: Yes -
MADDOW: It is from our friends at Auto-tune the News, the Gregory Brothers. We‘ve had them live on the show.
MADDOW: We featured a few of these. And in a shameless effort to get back on the show that totally worked, they have featured a clip from our show and something that we talked about, about smoking lettuce in their latest auto-tuning the news. I will let them speak for themselves. Here it is.
MADDOW: A link to the latest auto-tune effort is at our
“Rachel.MSNBC.com.” Well done, Gregory Brothers. Nice to see you, Kent.
JONES: It‘s good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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