'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, June 24

Guests: Gina Smith, Mark McKinnon, Reza Aslan, Kent Jones

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Keith, that‘s not fair.


MADDOW:  You saw me writhing in pain on my office floor today trying to decide how we‘re going to communicate these e-mails given my squeamishness.  Now, you‘re just rubbing it in.

OLBERMANN:  We have the music selected for you if you‘d like to use it again.


MADDOW:  Even just listening to you read them just about turned me completely inside out.  I don‘t know how I‘m going to get through this next hour.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I have that effect on everybody, as you know.


MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith, sort of.

And thank at home for staying with us for the next hour.

We will be talking about those e-mails, some way or another.  We do also this hour have the latest on what‘s going on in Iran.  Reza Aslan will be here.

We‘ve got some jaw-dropping “mission accomplished” news out of Iraq to get to.  We‘ve got new details about the fatal wreck of those two D.C.  metro trains.

All of that news is coming up over the course of this hour.

But we begin in South Carolina by way of Argentina.


GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  Let me just start with—I—

I don‘t see her—where is Gina Smith?


SANFORD:  Not here?  OK.

I had a conversation with Gina Smith this morning when I arrived in Atlanta.  And I told her about my love of the Appalachian Trail and I told her of the adventure trips, told her about my years in Congress and early years in the governorship and all of those things were true.  All of those things we talked about this morning were true.  But they‘re not the whole story.


MADDOW:  And the whole story, such as it is, is still yet to be known.  That was Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, of course, at his 2:00 p.m. press conference today.  The reporter, Gina Smith, who broke the story, who the governor mentioned over and over again in his long, at times rambling statements, will be joining us as our first guest in just a moment.

Ms. Smith‘s paper, which is called “The State,” based in South Carolina, not only broke the story this morning of the governor‘s trip to Argentina, it also followed up his press conference today by releasing bombshell e-mails between the governor and the woman with whom he says he has had an affair.

The providence of those e-mails is not being disputed by the governor and he did admit, at his press conference, that the relationship had a major e-mail component.


SANFORD:  It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one‘s life there and advice here.  We had this incredibly earnest conversation and at the end of it, I said, “Could I get your e-mail?”  We swapped emails, whatever.  And it began just on a very casual basis.


MADDOW:  Well, now, thanks to “The State” newspaper, we‘ve got at least three of those e-mails, two from the governor to his mistress and one from the mistress to the governor.  One of the e-mails from the governor is rather explicit.

And now is the part where I just sit here for a second while you read that, because if I try to read it aloud, the way Keith did, I would blush so hard my face would pop.  And then I‘d fall down and we‘d have to go to commercial break and come back with a different host.  So, there you have it.

The reason the explicitness of this e-mail matters to this as—I‘m blushing now and I‘m not even looking at it.  The reason the explicitness of this e-mail matters to this as a news story is because it is probably what explains why the governor convened this press conference and announced this affair today.  It probably explains why we learned about this today.

As of even this morning, remember, Governor Sanford was still not admitting to the affair.  What changed by 2:00 p.m. when he called his press conference?  Was he confronted with the newspaper‘s plans to publish these e-mails, e-mails that left absolutely no ambiguity as to the nature of this affair?

Well, joining us now is Gina Smith.  She is the reporter who broke the news that Governor Sanford had been in Argentina and not hiking on the Appalachian Trail, as his staff had previously maintained.  She also essentially caught Governor Sanford at the Atlanta airport this morning.  This is a picture she took of him there with her digital camera.

Gina Smith, thanks very much for joining us.  Congratulations on your scoop.

GINA SMITH, REPORTER, THE STATE NEWSPAPER:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.  Nice to be with you.

MADDOW:  Did your newspaper confront Governor Sanford‘s office with the fact that they had these e-mails and were going to publish them?

SMITH:  After I spoke with the governor this morning at the airport, we made it clear to those close to the governor that we did have those e-mails and I assume that that information was shared with the governor.  Then we did some additional verification.  For example, making sure that that e-mail address is indeed the governor‘s personal and private e-mail address.  We talked to our attorney about releasing the e-mails and decided to go with it.

MADDOW:  Can you tell us how long you‘ve had the e-mails?

SMITH:  Different people at the newspaper have had them different lengths of time.  I think somebody says they‘ve had them since December.  I did not have them that, nearly that long, but I don‘t know exactly how long we‘ve had them in house.

MADDOW:  Can you—I doubt you will tell me this but I‘m going to ask anyway.  Can I ask you .


MADDOW:  . who provided the e-mails to the newspaper?  Did they come from multiple sources?  Was it people in politics, people close to the governor?

SMITH:  It actually was an anonymous tipster.


SMITH:  We‘re not exactly clear at this point who sent them to us, to tell you the truth, but we were getting some other tips about the governor being in Argentina.  And so, when we received these anonymous e-mails, it just matched very well with other things that we had been hearing.

So we sort of put two and two together and decided, hey, we‘ve got enough of a journalistic hunch here to—for me to jump in the car last night and drive the 3 ½ hours to come to Atlanta and wait outside the gate to see if, indeed, the governor would climb off of the plane that was landing from Buenos Aires.

MADDOW:  So, just to be clear you had a tip that he was in Argentina and then deduced based on flight schedules which flight he would likely be on if he was coming back from Argentina.  Is that right?

SMITH:  Exactly.  You know, I think, Rachel, we talked a lot about new media, and certainly, that‘s important but sometimes, there‘s just some—you know, shoe leather journalism there, you know, saying, “Hey, we‘ve got a hunch.  We‘ve got a couple tips.  It‘s worth the time to just make the drive out there and stake out the airport and maybe the governor comes—shows up or maybe he doesn‘t, but we‘re going to be there either way.”

And so, that‘s what we did.  We—I was there at the Atlanta airport and one of my colleagues was at the airport in Columbia, South Carolina, where we knew his car was parked.  So, we figured probably, one of those two airports the governor would be at.

MADDOW:  We‘re, of course, in assessing this as a news story, trying to figure out how it broke, but, you know, we‘re also trying to figure out, frankly, if the governor‘s OK, and sort of where he‘s coming from in this.

I mean, part of the reason that I want towns the timing about when he knew about these e-mails and when he made this—when he made the decisions that he made, is because it seems to me that if he didn‘t know last week that this affair was going to be made public, if he flew off to Argentina for a week, thinking that nobody was going to find out that he was there, that seems sort of crazy.

And so, I guess I wanted to know if when you saw him at the Atlanta airport today if he just seemed OK mentally.  What did he seem like?

SMITH:  This morning, when I originally approached the governor, like I said, he had just gotten off the airport and sort of kind of popped up, just like, “Hi, Governor, you know, Gina from ‘The State‘ newspaper.”  And he seemed a little surprised but not overly so.  And then he said, “Well, do you want to sit down for a few minutes and chat?”  And I said, “Absolutely.”

And so, when we sat down, he did seem—he seemed a little sort of sad.  A little—maybe annoyed.  It took him a little while.  He sat there for a few minutes to collect his thoughts before he began speaking.

And he started talking about, you know, the need for vacations, how he‘s always enjoyed hiking on the Appalachian Trail, how originally that‘s what he had planned to do.  That‘s what he told his staff he was likely to do over his vacation, but then sort of last minute he says he changed his plans and wanted to opt for something a little more exotic.

He says he had been to Buenos Aires twice before, most recently a year and a half ago, and he talked about what a wonderful city it is—the beauty of being someone who isn‘t recognized, you know, a stranger in a strange city where he said he can people watch, he can walk around without being harassed, where he can go into a bar and have a beer without being molested.  And that was part of the appeal for going there.

MADDOW:  So even .

SMITH:  And I think the governor .

MADDOW:  Sorry.  Carry on.

SMITH:  Oh, I was just going to say, and as you—you know, you played the clip just there at 2 o‘clock.  He mentioned all of these things we talked about but said there was more.  There was additional information.  There were other reasons, also, that he was in Buenos Aires.

MADDOW:  But he did tell you that he was there—he was there alone.

SMITH:  Yes.  He did.  I asked him if he was there by himself.  He said, “Yes.”  Then I pushed him for some additional details about, “Well, what did you do while you were there?  Do you have friends there?  Did you stay in a hotel?”  And that‘s when he sort of started shutting down and said he saw where I was going with my questions and he didn‘t—he wasn‘t interested in talking about it further.

MADDOW:  And then by the time 2:00 p.m. rolled around, the story was quite different than the story he was telling you even just—even just this morning.

SMITH:  Right.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.  Gina Smith reporting for South Carolina‘s “The State” newspaper—you get credit for the scoop here, you and your colleagues at “The State.”  Thanks for your reporting and thanks very much for joining us.

SMITH:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  We‘ve got more on Governor Sanford‘s remarkable admission today and on what happens next for him.  They have already announced who is replacing Sanford as head of the Republican Governors Association.  Should we expect there will also be a new governor of South Carolina sometime soon as well?

Also, the uprising in Iran apparently yields to a brutal government crackdown.  But how can we really tell what‘s going on there now, a real perspective.  Reza Aslan joins us soon.

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  There‘s a generally accepted modern script for what politicians do when they find themselves in the position of having to announce an extramarital affair.  You read a short, prepared statement and an apology with or without your spouse by your side.  You do not take questions.  And then you go away for a period of time.  How long depends on whether the person with whom you carried on was of your same gender or not, on your payroll or not, underage or not, that‘s the basic script.

And it‘s a nonpartisan script.  Walk up to the podium, state your apologies, ask your family and constituents for forgiveness, and then you just exit stage left.

Well, today with Mark Sanford, there were very early signs that his press conference today was not going to go according to the accepted script.


SANFORD:  OK.  You all ready?  Everybody ready?  I won‘t begin in any particular spot.  Let me just start with, I—I don‘t see—where‘s Gina Smith?


SANFORD:  Not here?  OK.  I had a conversation with Gina Smith this morning.


MADDOW:  Gina Smith, as we now know, was our previous guest—a reporter from “The State” newspaper in South Carolina who tracked down Governor Sanford at the Atlanta airport this morning and who broke the news that he had been in Argentina, not hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

The governor‘s inauspicious opening line to his press conference was the first indication that he was not operating from a script, that he was going to be winging it.  And when you‘re winging it and you‘re emotional for obvious reasons and you‘re just off a long, secret flight from South America, sometimes, even the basic apology part of this can get long-winded and overly complicated.

The governor today started a long litany of apologies the way you would expect him to start, with apologies to his wife and kids but then it went—well, here it is.


SANFORD:  Let me lay out that larger story that as attracted so many of you all here.  I‘m a bottom line kind of guy.  I‘ll lay it out.  It‘s going to hurt and we‘ll let the chips fall where they may.

In so doing, let me first of all apologize to my wife Jenny and our four great boys, Marshall, Landon, Bolten, and Blake for letting them down.

One of the primary rules well before being a governor is being a father to those four boys who are absolute jewels and blessings that I have let down in a profound way.  And I apologize to them.

I would also apologize to my staff because, as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail—that was one of the original scenarios that I‘d thrown out to Mary Neil (ph) -- that isn‘t where I ended up.

And so, I let them down by creating fiction with regard to where I was going, which means that I then in turn, given as much as they relied on that information, let down people that I represent across the state.  And so I want to apologize to my staff and I want to apologize to anybody who lives in South Carolina for the way that I let them down on that front.

I had the most, you know, surreal of conversations a number of weeks ago with my father-in-law, laying some cards on the table.  And he was incredibly gentlemanly, as you cannot imagine, in saying here are some things I was struggling with, with regard to where my heart was, where I was in life—those different kinds of things.  And I let him down.

I‘ve let down a lot of people.  That‘s the bottom line.  And I let them down, and in every instance I would ask their forgiveness.


MADDOW:  You are forgiven at this point for not knowing what he‘s asking forgiveness for.  At this point, the governor still hasn‘t told us what it is that he has done this apology for and there is yet more to get to before he is ready to actually explain what he‘s done.


SANFORD:  But I am—I am here because if you look at God‘s laws, there are in every instance designed to protect people from themselves.  I think that that is the bottom line with God‘s law—that is not a moral, rigid list of dos and don‘ts just for the heck of dos and don‘ts.  It is indeed to protect us from ourselves.  The biggest self of self is, indeed, self.


MADDOW:  Who could argue with the biggest “self of self indeed being self.”  Just for a time check here in terms of what‘s going on, we‘re now more than seven minutes into the press conference.  And it‘s like time has stopped.  We still don‘t know what he‘s done.  But he is about to get to the point.


SANFORD:  The bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife.  I developed a relationship with a—what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.  It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one‘s life there and advice here.  But here recently, over this last year, it developed into something much more than that.

And as a consequence, I hurt her.  I hurt you all.  I hurt my wife.  I hurt my boys.  I hurt friends like Tom Davis.  I hurt a lot of different folks.  And all I can say is that I apologize.


MADDOW:  I know this isn‘t the most important part of what‘s going on at the press conference right here, but who are the people behind him who are cracking up while he‘s giving this apology?


SANFORD:  I‘ve been unfaithful to my wife.  I developed a relationship with a—what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.  It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail.

I hurt her.  I hurt you all.  I hurt my wife.  I hurt my boys.  I hurt friends like Tom Davis.  I hurt a lot of different folks.


MADDOW:  Kind of distracting and weird, wasn‘t it?  We tried to find out today who these people are.  Are they reporters, staffers, interns, random passersby who had no idea they were on national television while millions of people were watching?  We don‘t know.  So far it remains a mystery.  None of our sources in South Carolina were able to identify these folks.

And, again, it‘s not the most important question raised by today‘s Mark Sanford show but, still, after six days of misinformation and changing stories and outright lies and confusion about the situation, the press conference today did answer some important questions about the governor, but it also raised some new ones—big and small.

For example, here‘s a small one.  Who‘s Tom Davis?


SANFORD:  Tom Davis came over to the house.  He drove up from Beaufort.  I hurt friends like Tom Davis.  The Tom Davises of the world.  I wouldn‘t have done it to the Tom Davises of the world.  I, in a very profound way, have let down the Tom Davises of the world.


MADDOW:  We did figure this one out.  Tom Davis is the governor‘s former chief of staff, currently a Republican state senator in South Carolina, representing the 46th district there.

As for who all of the Tom Davises of the world are, who were repeatedly mentioned by the governor in the press conference, for the record there‘s also a Tom Davis who is a former Republican congressman from Virginia.  There‘s also a Tom Davis who is the man who first hired me in radio, and there is a Tom Davis who was the older brother of a boy who I went steady with in sixth grade for what it‘s worth.

Other unknowns from today‘s press conference: the mystery of Cubby Culbertson.


SANFORD:  I see Cubby Culbertson in the back of the room.  One thing Cubby and others have told me, is that the odyssey that we‘re all on in life is with regard to heart.  And, Cubby, I want to say thank you for being their as a friend.  That‘s where the Cubby Culbertsons and the others of the world began to help.


MADDOW:  In terms of annotating this press conference and figuring out who Cubby Culbertson is, Slate.com did the leg work here on this one.  They report, quote, “Warren ‘Cubby‘ Culbertson is a pillar of the Christian community in South Carolina‘s capital, a Bible study leader and Sunday school teacher who owns a court reporting business.  Culbertson became a part of Mr. Sanford‘s life in a counselor capacity.  He‘s a longtime supporter of the politician.”

Culbertson also appears to be someone who has been in on the news of the governor‘s affair with this woman for Argentina for at least five months now.  The actual details of the affair were almost randomly scattered throughout the very long, rambling press conference.  And, again, these details raised as many questions as they answered.


SANFORD:  I met this person a little over eight years ago.  Again, very innocently.  And struck up a conversation with this person at the time was separated, and we ended up in this incredibly serious conversation about why she ought to get back with her husband for the sake of her two boys, that not only was it part of God‘s law but ultimately those two boys would be better off for it.

And we developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years.  And then, as I said, about a year ago, it sparked into something more than that.  I have seen her three times since then, during that whole sparking thing.  And it was discovered .


SANFORD:  . let me finish—five months ago.  And at that point, we went into serious overdrive in trying to say, “Where do you go from here.”


MADDOW:  One question that remains awkwardly is: Did this woman actually leave her husband?  The subject on which it received, apparently, somewhat dodgy counseling from the good governor.  And, is Governor Sanford continuing the affair with this person?

Here‘s how he explained his current situation with his wife, the first lady of South Carolina, Jenny Sanford.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you separated from the first lady?

SANFORD:  I don‘t know how you want to define that.  I mean I‘m here and she‘s there.  I guess in a formal sense we‘re not, but, you know, what we‘re—what we‘re trying to do is work through something that, you know, we‘ve been working through for a number of months now.


MADDOW:  Awkwardly, after the press conference, Mrs. Sanford released her own long written statement—written, good idea—in which she said that she and the governor have been separated in the sense that she kicked him out of the house two weeks ago.  She also said that she did not know where he was last week because she told him not to contact her.

She also stuck this little fork in him saying, quote, “I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage.  I believe that has been consistently reflected in my actions.”  My actions.

Do the particulars of Governor Sanford‘s sex life and his personal life have news value and political value?  They don‘t in the abstract.  Of course, they don‘t.  But they do in this case, because, frankly, we need to know whether there‘s reason to believe that Mark Sanford has stopped lying.

Even today, even after admitting that he was in Argentina, his explanation was still that he was there alone.  He was enjoying driving up and down the luxurious industrial canal-esque two miles of Buenos Aires coast line.  He was still today maintaining that he only wanted to go to Buenos Aires instead of the Appalachian Trail because he wanted to do something exotic.  Those claims were today.

Even at the start of this “coming clean” press conference at 2 o‘clock this afternoon, he was still waxing ineloquent about his love of adventure trips.  This wasn‘t an adventure trip.  This was an affair in Argentina.


SANFORD:  Oddly enough, I spent the last five days, and I was crying in Argentina so I could repeat it when I came back here.


MADDOW:  Governor Mark Sanford is no longer head of the Republican Governors Association.  He is no longer a presidential hopeful for the Republican Party.  We can assume, hopefully, that he‘ll no longer be a culture warrior for the religious right envying against monogamous gay people somehow destroying the sanctity of marriage.  Heck, at this point, Governor Sanford no longer even lives at home.

But, is Governor Sanford no longer lying to us?  The story continues.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  In political terms, the most critical moment of the entire Mark Sanford incriminating, E-mail-induced press conference today happened right after it ended.  Listen closely here to this tape.  Listen closely to what is said as soon as Gov. Sanford is done talking. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Your reaction to those in your party and lieutenant governor that called this irresponsible and are disappointed in your decision to do this. 

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R-SC):  At this point, it would be obvious that they and others would be disappointed and would have disappointed them and others.  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER:  Will you resign as governor?  Joel, is the governor going to resign?  Joel, is the governor going to resign? 


MADDOW:  Joel, is the governor going to resign?  Good question. 

Personal failings made public induce shame and embarrassment, of course.  They invite ridicule.  They can render someone at least for a time politically impotent.  Forgive the phrase. 

But they don‘t always end careers.  Congress, for example, would be rather more thinly populated if everyone who had ever been caught wakachika(ph), wakachika(ph) beyond the bonds of wedlock had been immediately retired from public life. 

So Gov. Sanford‘s political future depends not just on whether or not he had an affair but on whether or not his political capital, his value as a politician, has been built up on a foundation of attacking other people for doing what he just did. 

Is he a hypocrite?  Has he built his political career on saying he‘d never do anything like this and on condemning people who do?  Moral superiority isn‘t a prerequisite for public service but it is prerequisite for those public servants who publicly claim that they are morally superior. 

Gov. Sanford‘s record on claims of moral superiority after about 2:30 p.m. Eastern today started reading like a hypocrisy rap sheet. 

In late 1998, then Congressman Mark Sanford was preparing to vote to impeach President Clinton.  His analysis at the time, quote, “I think it would be much better for the country and for Clinton personally to resign.  I come from the business side.  If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he‘d be gone.” 

The allegations against President Clinton, you may recall, were that he had had an affair and lied about it though not in Argentina.  Meanwhile Republicans in 1998 had chosen as Speaker of the House Louisiana, Congressman Bob Livingston, who then admitted to an extra marital affair. 

Congressman Sanford also gave Congressman Livingston a shove out the speaker‘s door when he told CNN at the time, quote, “The bottom line is, he still lied.  He lied under a different oath, and that is the oath to his wife.” 

We‘ve also unearthed a Mark Sanford campaign ad from 2002.  The quality of this recording is less than ideal but you look at the picture as it were. 


SANFORD:  Jenny and I try our best to teach our four little boys Christian values, character, and honesty.  You‘d like to think that those values apply to the governor, too, and that starts with keeping your word.  When I ran for congress, I said I‘d support term limits, never take a dime from special interests and not waste the taxpayers‘ money.  I kept those promises.  South Carolina needs a return to real, honest leadership in the governor‘s office. 


MADDOW:  And that starts with keeping your word.  That wasn‘t just prostitutes that sank Eliot Spitzer‘s career.  It was the combination of the gung-ho law and order profile plus the prostitutes. 

It wasn‘t just the wide stance in a men‘s room that sank Larry Craig‘s career.  It was the wide stance plus the anti-gay holier-than-thou traditional values public record.  And for Sen. John Ensign., now even before you get to the ethical issues of his mistress and family all being on and off the Ensign and Republican Party payroll, it is likely to be his demands that other people resign because of their sexual affairs that will sink Sen. Ensign for his sexual affairs.  It‘s “do as I say not as I do” and it really, really never works. 

Joining us now is Mark McKinnon, former media advisor to President George W. Bush.  He‘s now a contributor to “The Daily Beast.”  And today, he called on Gov. Sanford to resign.  Mark, we‘ve got to stop meeting like this.  


Well, to quote you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Weren‘t we just talking about this last week? 

MADDOW:  Are you starting to worry that everybody that you put on your top 10 Republican prospect list is getting picked off? 

MCKINNON:  Yes.  Listen, the way it‘s going the only guy left is going to be the Mormon.  

MADDOW:  Well? 

MCKINNON:  I‘m starting to feel like a guest on the “Dr. Ruth Show.”

MADDOW:  I don‘t know.  Huckabee seems like maybe - I don‘t know.

MCKINNON:  Well.  

MADDOW:  Why do you think that Mark Sanford should step down as governor?  Is it just the affair?  Is it lying about the affair?  Or is it hypocrisy? 

SANFORD:  Well, it‘s always hypocrisy that‘s the real sin in these things.  And I hadn‘t seen the political commercial that you just showed, but that‘s absolutely devastating. 

I think he should resign because he‘s lost all credibility to govern.  I think he needs to resign because he needs to go pay attention to his family.  But now, that I‘ve seen that ad, I mean, that is the strongest evidence I‘ve seen yet that he should be out of that office tomorrow. 

Now, let me also add that I‘m a genius yesterday that said, gee, wouldn‘t it be refreshing that, you know, a governor took a walk in the woods on the Appalachian Trail?  So, you know, I actually thought that maybe he was out there hiking around somewhere. 

But, unfortunately, the Republican Party is going south all the way to South America. 

MADDOW:  Well, I mean, so far Gov. Sanford has not resigned.  Sen.  Ensign has not resigned.  Sen. Vitter never resigned.  Sen. Craig never resigned.  He just ended up leaving at the end of his term. 

Do you think that the Republican Party does itself some damage every day it lets these guys stay on?  I mean, Sanford, himself, said when he was in the House that when a Republican does something like this, he said, “We ought to ask questions rather than circle the wagons for one of our tribe.”  Is it becoming a party problem? 

MCKINNON:  Well, I think it is and I think we shouldn‘t have to remind these guys of their firmly held convictions.  And these were strong voices who were out there saying - in Sen. Ensign‘s case, he said if he ever found himself in a similar situation to Larry Craig that he hoped he would do the right thing and resign.

So it‘s not just - I‘m just reminding him of what he said he would do if he found himself in these circumstances.  So, you know, we should hold people to a higher level of accountability in public office.  It‘s eroding our confidence miserably in our public servants.  And they do themselves good and do a country a favor if they just step down. 

MADDOW:  And beyond what the right thing is to do, both for themselves and the country and their party, I‘ve got to ask you just because you‘re a very highly-acclaimed media guy.  How did the governor do at the press conference? 

MCKINNON:  I thought it was a disaster.  I mean, I‘ve seen a lot of crisis press conferences.  This is in the hall of fame of absolute meltdowns.  And it goes to your question about, you know, is the guy really all there right now?  I mean, he seems like a guy who‘s deeply troubled. 

MADDOW:  Mark McKinnon former media advisor for President George W.

Bush, contributor to “TheDailyBeast.Com” and always a very welcome guest. 

Thanks for your time tonight, Mark.

MCKINNON:  Carry on, Rachel.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  Coming up, the government in Iran appears to be ratcheting up its campaign against its own people including reportedly targeting the family of a young woman killed at a protest over the weekend who has become an international icon. 

Reza Aslan told us last week that he thought the protests were only beginning.  He joins us ahead with his take on where things stand tonight.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Today, in the sprawling Sadr city neighborhood of Baghdad in Iraq, a bomb attached to a motorcycle killed at least 60 people.  Now, this marks the third time in the past two weeks in which large bombs have caused dozens of casualties in Shiite neighborhoods in Iraq. 

Today, in Baghdad, it was Saturday.  In northern Iraq, a bomb killed 68 people.  And last week, outside the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, another 28 people were killed.  And again, it appears that Shiites are being targeted by these massive bombs. 

Under the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement that was worked out between the Iraqi government and former President George W. Bush, the 135,000 or so American troops who are in Iraq now must leave all Iraqi cities in less than a week by Tuesday. 

That means in one very narrow sense the Iraq War, as we know it, basically ends in six days.  Troops will stay on in American bases from which they can launch combat missions but only at the request of the Iraqi government. 

While that‘s all under way, as U.S. forces are pulled out of Iraqi cities and pulled back just to bases, the Iraqi government will, starting next week, auction off oil contracts to foreign companies for the first time since the country nationalized its oil industry 30 years ago. 

Under Saddam, Iraq‘s oil industry was of course nationalized. 

Now, no longer.  So mission accomplished? 


MADDOW:  The government crackdown on the uprising in Iran may have risen to a new level of disturbing today.  There is news that the regime has targeted the family of Neda Agha Soltan, the 26-year-old woman whose shooting death has become a powerful symbol for the opposition in Iran and around the world. 

Neighbors have told “The Guardian” newspaper in London that the young woman‘s family has now been forced out of their apartment, that the police did not return Miss Soltan‘s body and that her funeral has been canceled. 

Despite what appears to be an escalating crackdown in Iran, opposition groups are reportedly planning a day of mourning tomorrow for those killed since the June 12th election. 

Today, this video, showing you here, was uploaded to YouTube.  It purportedly shows protests near the Iranian parliament today.  Aside from this two-minute, unverified video, how do we find out what happened at the protests and what‘s happening in the uprising generally?  There are a couple different ways. 

There were a couple of different ways.  There were accounts like these that were posted on Twitter today, quote, “In Baharastan, we saw militia with ax chopping people like meat - blood everywhere like butcher.  Also, I see many people with broken arms, legs, heads - blood everywhere. 

Along the same lines, CNN aired an emotional phone call today from a woman describing what she said was violence that she encountered near the Iranian parliament.  Listen. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They tore through the streets and they started beating everyone.  And they tried to beat everyone on the bridge and throwing them off of the bridge.  They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband was watching the scene.  He just fainted. 


MADDOW:  Just a brutal account today.  Again, that was aired on CNN.  But that was not the only account of today‘s events in Tehran.  The national Iranian-American Council, for example, got word from a trusted source, an Iranian student who also attended, supposedly, that same rally. 

That e-mail said, quote, “Although the police were a lot nicer, the basij continued to be brutal.  No one was allowed to stand in one place.  We had to keep on moving.  The moment we stood in one place, they would break us up.  I saw many people get blindfolded and arrested.  However it wasn‘t a massacre.  I heard that someone was killed.  However, I didn‘t see it.” 

Now, these reports don‘t necessarily contradict one another.  But they leave me in the position of not being able to do a definitive job of telling you what actually happened in Tehran today. 

And the reason is that a growing part of the massive government crackdown appears to be - at least from the vantage point of an American journalist trying to do this job, it appears to be the stranglehold on the media is getting tighter - the stranglehold on the media, on journalism and on independent reporting of all kinds. 

Joining us now is Reza Aslan.  He‘s a columnist at “The Daily Beast” and he is author of the book “How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror.”  Reza, thanks very much for coming in tonight. 


MADDOW:  Let me ask you first if you would like to dispute my premise.  It‘s my perspective from Rockefeller Center that I‘m able to get less information today than I have been able to get in previous days.  Are you also experiencing that? 

ASLAN:  Yes.  There is definitely a slowing down of the information that‘s been trickling out of Iran.  Certainly, when you look at the Twitter sites, the reliable ones, there are fewer and fewer posts as the days go by. 

But nevertheless, there is still an enormous amount of effort by the Iranians to bypass some of the obstacles that are put in the way.  And interestingly, they are getting more and more help from young American kids. 

I mean, we have these Net-free activists and these - really geeks who have joined this revolution and have begun to hack into the Islamic Republic‘s Web site.  They have shut down Ahmadinejad‘s Web site.  They‘ve even hacked into the revolutionary guards and begun to erase names of people - suspects to be arrested.  So this is a cyberwar as much as it is a war on the ground.  

MADDOW:  It‘s easy for me to understand even thought I mostly just aspire to tech geekdom.  It‘s easy for me to understand how technology can be used to shut down other people‘s ability to communicate online or to just upload - just post their Web site. 

It‘s harder for me to understand what Americans can do to ensure that the voices of Iranians are heard, that people are able to represent what‘s happening in that country.  And without professional journalists operating there in effect, with we need to count on the citizens and the participants in this uprising to find out what‘s happening.  How do we make sure that we can do that? 

ASLAN:  Yes.  I mean, this is really going to be the challenge from here on out, because the Iranian regime has become a little bit more sophisticated, but in the most simplistic way.  Rather that try to continue to use various obstacles and proxies to block access to places like, you know, Twitter or YouTube, they‘re just now confiscating people‘s phones. 

If you have any kind of electronics on you and if you‘re on the street, it‘s now being taken away.  So it‘s a very low-tech answer to a high-tech problem.  But nevertheless, I do think that we have to continue to rely on the reports that we‘re getting.  Because the wonderful thing about the Internet is that it is self-policing. 

We have numerous reports, by way, of Ahmadinejad supporters, revolutionary guard supporters, posing as reformists, joining these Twitter online discussions.  But what I find fascinating is how quickly they‘re rooted out by the community themselves. 

So it‘s harder but it‘s not impossible.  We are still getting some good information.  And not just out of Tehran, ironically, but out of some other cities, Nashad(ph), Shiraz(ph), Tabris, Isfahan, where there are also protests taking place.  They‘re not getting enough information from Tehran.  

MADDOW:  We heard this call for day of mourning tomorrow and the announcement that there would be a major action tomorrow.  It‘s been out there for some days tomorrow.  Are you expecting a lot of people to turn out in the streets, both of Tehran and of other cities? 

ASLAN:  Well, this is the one thing about Iranians, is that they really know how to mourn.  And mourning ceremonies in Iran are taken very seriously.  It‘s a sacred time.  And if you recall in 1979, this is really the process that brought the Shah down eventually. 

These huge mourning ceremonies would get out of hand usually.  There would usually be some sort of violence and then it would create another mourning ceremony.  And so in that regard, I think, they‘re really trying to take a pate out of the 1979 playbook. 

Here‘s the problem.  Both sides in this fight, thought, are using the same playbook.  These are people who fought the revolution together 30 years ago, side by side 30 years ago, and have now completely split apart. 

So in a sense, we‘re looking at something more akin to a very long chess match.  This is just getting started.  You know, the revolution the 1979 took a year.  It started in ‘78.  It took one year for that to finally go.  There were ebbs.  There were flows.  There were good days.  There were bad days.  Today was a bad day in Iran, but I don‘t think that we‘re watching the end of this just yet.  

MADDOW:  We will stay on it.  I was looking back at our transcripts in the last couple of weeks.  And I realized that aside from one breaking news day, today is the first day in 12 days that we haven‘t led with Iran.  And there‘s just an enormous appetite for the story among Americans who, I think, have been really inspired by the opposition movement.  Thanks for helping us cut through it.

ASLAN:  And let me tell you.  I just want you to know that - and this is not just me speaking.  But I think you‘re doing the best job on Iran of any anchor so far right now, no question.  

MADDOW:  Thank you.  That‘s very nice for you to say.  All right. 

Thanks, Reza.

ASLAN:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  Reza Aslan is a columnist for “The Daily Beast.”  All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith gives Sanford E-mails their due with a dramatic reading.  

And next on this show, my friend Kent Jones has been found and he has some explaining to do.


MADDOW:  We turn now to our megatron-resistance correspondent, Kent Jones.  Where the heck were you? 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  My office released a statement, OK?  Did I miss something?

MADDOW:  Oh, tell her I said hi.  

JONES:  Yes.  Oh, fine.  You know, I just wish there was a ginormous Michael Bay movie out there that was $200 million that, you know, had robots fighting or something like that - lots of fireballs and explosions.  I wonder if there could be such a film.


(voice-over):  Rejoice, dude nation, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is here.  A whopping two hours and 27-not-at-all-gratuitous minutes of this and this and this.  But an even bigger battle - dude versus critics. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thought it was excellent.  Definitely want to see it again. 

JONES:  A horrible experience of unbearable length.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Fantastic.  It was so good.  

JONES:  A pile of glittering junk.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The movie was great. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my god.  I liked it a lot.  

JONES:  Dazzled the eye, numbed the mind and may cause deafness in some cases.  Did I mention to bring along some Excedrin?  But there is one thing both sides agree on - lucky robot. 


MADDOW:  Wow. 

JONES:  Yes.  

MADDOW:  I can‘t process things moving that fast.  

JONES:  Neither can I.  It‘s like, what happened just now?  Robot! 

MADDOW:  Also Mark Sanford‘s career.   Thanks for watching tonight. 

“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. 



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