Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Hollis French, Chris Hayes, Elizabeth Blair, Joe Cirincione, Kent Jones
ALISON STEWART, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thanks a lot.
And thank you for staying with us for the next hour.
Rachel is under the weather, but she will be back tomorrow.
Tonight, along with the still hard to fathom Sarah Palin development, there is news about President Obama‘s attempt to deal with Russia, Senator Al Franken‘s big day, and the one Beatle song that Michael Jackson didn‘t own. And, former President Bush‘s proof that Saddam Hussein had at least one weapon.
But, we begin tonight in Wasilla, Alaska, the hometown of the soon-to-be former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. Governor Palin‘s decision to say “thanks but no thanks” to serving out the rest of her term there obviously came as a huge surprise to political watchers across the country.
But tonight, we have reaction from Alaska. NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell is reporting from Wasilla. She‘ll join us from there in just a moment.
Now, once Palin formerly steps down later this month, Alaska‘s current lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, will officially take over the state. He is expected to be sworn in on July 26th.
Yesterday, Parnell took his best stab at the question many are asking now: why did she do it? Soon-to-be-Governor Parnell says he thinks one of the reasons Palin decided to step down is because of the weight of the mounting legal fees she now faces. Palin‘s legal bills are now estimated to be more than $500,000, the result of 16 ethics challenges filed against her -- 15 of which have been dismissed and one that‘s ongoing. By the way, all of those complaints, except for one, have been filed by Alaskans.
Since her resignation announcement on Friday, soon-to-be-not-be-Governor Palin has been using her Twitter account to update her followers on her whereabouts and her reason for deciding to basically quit her job. Yesterday, Mrs. Palin tweeted, quote, “Grateful Todd left fishing grounds to join me this weekend. But now, he‘s back slaying salmon and working the kids at the site; anxious to join ‘em.”
She also used her Twitter account to rebut her critics, tweeting, quote, “Trying to keep up with getting truth to you like proof there‘s no FBI scandal.” No number of tweets is going to satisfy those who still want to know why. Why she did it.
For those media outlets who would dare suggest that soon-to-be-not-Governor Palin decided to bow out of office ahead of some bombshell controversy is about to erupt, the Palin camp has a simple message: see you in court. Palin‘s attorney Tom Van Flein has threatened to sue any media outlet that airs unchallenged claims about possible scandals—in an attempt to answer that question of why.
Van Flein told NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell earlier today that Sarah Palin‘s decision was a brave form of, quote, “self-sacrifice” for the state of Alaska. Andrea has been on the ground in Alaska, working the story. She joins in Wasilla where sunset is at 11:35 p.m. local time.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Alison, Sarah Palin‘s friends, her advisers, her lawyer are speaking out for her as she remains in a fishing village in western Alaska with her husband Todd, commercial fishing village. They say she is picking fish just as a lot of political analysts, Republicans as well as Democrat, around the country are still picking over her announcement from Friday—somewhat rambling, disjointed.
She is apparently trying to fix this through her advisers. She sent out her best friend, the trustee of her legal defense fund, her lawyer and others—all saying that she‘s made the right decision, that she‘s comfortable with her decision, that there are no investigations pending. They took the step of getting the FBI to make an unusual declaration that she‘s not under federal investigation. This in response to some blog claims that they had really discounted.
She says that she‘s just—the friends say, at least, that Palin is just fed up with her life, with her commute to Juneau and they deny criticism—even from some Republicans here in Alaska like Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator, that she should have finished the job. Even some people here in Wasilla, Alison, say that they‘re disappointed. They like Palin but they wanted her to finish the job, take up the fight with the legislature and not back down.
But she‘s off to greater things, presumably some big rewards, like a book deal already negotiated, lecture fees and possibly even a talk show—
STEWART: NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell, thanks for your reporting tonight.
Let‘s turn now to someone who knows Sarah Palin well: Democratic Alaska State Senator Hollis French. He was the project director for the Alaska state legislature‘s trooper-gate investigation last year.
Senator French, thanks for your time tonight.
STATE SEN. HOLLIS FRENCH (D), ALASKA: Nice to be here, Alison.
STEWART: First of all, just a basic question. I have to ask your reaction to Governor Palin‘s decision to step down. Were there any rumblings on the ground that this was in the pipeline, pardon the pun?
FRENCH: Absolutely not. You know, perhaps, the conventional wisdom leading up to last Friday was that she would not run for re-election. Most people thought that she might go like Governor Pawlenty and decide to step down at the end of her term to prepare for a national race. But I don‘t think you could have found anyone in the state that would have even guessed that she would quit midterm.
STEWART: Now, there appear to be two camps on this event. There‘s—that Governor Palin is sacrificing her office for the state. She was a distraction, now she can get out of the way and Alaska can be on the move, Alaska politics. And then there‘s the “Sarah Palin bailed on us” camp. Where do you stand?
FRENCH: You know, I don‘t think you can find a single historical precedent that there‘s some kind of sacrifice involved in quitting your job halfway through it. She signed a contract with the people of the state of Alaska. She promised to serve a four-year term. Unless something keeps you from doing that, some physical or mental disability, some kind of an accident or some—you know, perhaps getting appointed United States ambassador to China. Unless something like that happens, I think you have to—you have to tough it out and finish—finish the job you signed up for.
STEWART: She did something like this once before, on a smaller scale. She resigned in protest from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission because she thought there was a breach of ethics there by another panel member, and she gained a lot of political momentum after that. Do you think she‘s doing this again? And could it work?
FRENCH: Well, you know, what‘s missing from this episode is, compared to last one, is a strong reason. The last episode, she saw our Republican Party chairman, not my party chairman, but the party chairman of the Republican Party, Randy Ruedrich, conducting party business from a state office as a chairman of that commission. And she was so—you know, so distraught over that ethical wrongdoing that she had to leave the commission because no one would seem to listen to her complaints.
There‘s just not nexus here between this episode, quitting governor because—and that‘s where everyone is hanging up. There just doesn‘t seem to be a strong answer at the end of that “because.”
And the idea that it‘s—you know, some personal issue with the bloggers or the people that have filed complaints or some opportunity to go make money on the speaking tour or some preparation for higher office, you know, that‘s all very weak compared to her fundamental obligation, her constitutional obligation—a Constitution that she likes to wave around and hold up to lecture others with. That gives her a four-year term.
STEWART: And Senator French, I hope you won‘t take offense to this as an Alaskan, but there‘s this old saying about finding a boyfriend in Alaska, the odds are good but the goods are odd.
STEWART: You know, Alaska .
FRENCH: Hey—hey, now. Hey now.
STEWART: Alaskans should have their own way of doing things. Is she just doing something her own way and going to be laughing at all her detractors in five years when she‘s rich and famous?
FRENCH: Well, you know, time will always tell but I don‘t think it‘s a good move. I don‘t think that a quitter can really expect to get ahead. You know, politics is a tough business. We all get criticized for the stances we take. But your skin is supposed to grow thicker over time and it‘s almost as if the governor‘s skin has grown thinner.
And that‘s unfortunate, because, you know, we worked together well in the past, on oil and gas issues, on the gas pipeline issue. We got a tough fight coming next year with the oil industry as we try to get a gas pipeline deal put together. And frankly, I was looking forward to perhaps working and working well with her and her commissioners to try to see that through.
And now, suddenly, we‘ve got a new governor. His alignment with the oil industry is not exactly the same as the governor‘s. And so, it‘s an open question as to how well that‘s going to go. And, these are tough times for our state, just like every other state. And so, keeping a unified team in place, you know, I think, was paramount. And so, we‘ve lost a big opportunity.
STEWART: Let‘s talk about these tough times. In terms of her ability to govern, her effectiveness, what was she facing for the rest of her term? The 18 months or so?
FRENCH: Well, you now, and she just issued a highly controversial veto of $28.6 million in federal stimulus money for energy relief—energy relief to the coldest state in the nation. She was certainly going to be overridden on that. You know, the third floor of the governor‘s office knew that they were going to be overridden as soon as the legislature got back in office. So, she could look forward to that rebuke from my colleagues and perhaps on other fronts as well.
STEWART: Was there a marked difference in Governor Palin‘s style of governing or commitment since the presidential election?
FRENCH: You know, it was a very contentious session. Many of the stories that we saw developing in Juneau didn‘t make the national press, but there was a highly, highly divisive fight over who would replace one of my colleagues, Senator Kim Elton, who had taken a job in the Obama administration. That fight went on for 45 days, ended on the very last day of the session when Senator Ellis and I brokered a compromise peace candidate with her chief of staff and legislative liaison.
There was also her failed nominee as attorney general, Wayne Anthony Ross, a very divisive figure who—whose nomination was defeated for the first—the first time in the history of the state we defeated a cabinet nominee while she was out of town giving a speech at the right to life convention there in the Midwest.
So, she had a rough session. I think she had tough times coming ahead. And perhaps she just decided that it was going to be too much struggle. But many other—many other great figures have gone through tough times, emerged at the other end better for it. And I just don‘t think Americans embrace someone who quits in mid-stride, in midstream, and who gives the battle over to someone else.
STEWART: Democratic Alaska State Senator Hollis French, thanks for your time tonight.
FRENCH: My pleasure, glad—thanks for having me on.
STEWART: So, the leadership of the Republican Party now has a Palin-sized hole in it. Is the GOP actually better off with Sarah Palin on the sidelines raising money than having her front and center being Sarah Palin-ish? Chris Hayes of “The Nation” joins us next.
But first, One More Thing about Sarah Palin‘s abrupt resignation. Since Governor Palin announced she was quitting at her in Wasilla and via Facebook, she has asserted that Washington types and media just don‘t understand her desire to leave her post for a, quote, “higher calling.” Well, the number of friends she has on Facebook skyrocketed over the weekend. She has gained some 30,000 more followers since Friday. And according to her Facebook page, she‘s up to 603,000 supporters now.
So, with friends like that, who needs constituents?
STEWART: You want a great health care plan at an affordable price? Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has some advice for you. Senator Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, the committee spearheading the attempt at bipartisan compromise on health care has this morsel of empathy for people looking to get the same medical coverage he has.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and better than my insurance? How come I can‘t have the same thing you have?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: You can, go work for the federal government.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEWART: So, all the federal government has to do is add another 29 million jobs to cover every under-insured American and another 50 million jobs or so for every uninsured American. Presto, healthcare problem solved.
STEWART: So, short-time Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has either removed herself from the Republican Party‘s leadership picture or she‘s pulling the all-time psych on what‘s the traditional political establishment. She‘s been political topic number one since she resigned Friday afternoon, and nobody appears to have a handle on what exactly she is doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH ADVISOR: It is not clear what her strategy is.
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody knows whether it‘s going to pay off or not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s astounding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read it once and have seen it twice, and I still have no idea why she did this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: The power Sarah Palin presumably still hold is her appeal to the conservative tax-hating, Obama-opposing, tea party-throwing Republican base. And that base provided the GOP with another holiday weekend surprise in the form of a little Independence Day rebellion. The chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, John Cornyn of Texas, was invited to speak at a Fourth of July tea party in Austin on Saturday, and his welcome was not warm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Oh, yes. He was booed apparently for supporting the Wall Street bailout last year. Texas Governor Rick Perry also spoke at the tea party and also got booed, reportedly over his support over toll roads, and that‘s a surprise because just a few months ago, Governor Perry worked a hospitable tea party crowd into a lather, after which he suggested—kind of suggested Texas might secede from the union.
And then, there‘s last week‘s Republican flame out, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. As Governor Palin up and quit and Senator Cornyn and Governor Perry received the cold shoulder on a hot day from the base in Texas, “The State” newspaper in South Carolina reports today on a meeting of South Carolina‘s Republican Party executive committee—according to the party, party leaders are trying to decide what to do about Governor Sanford and are considering a range of options from doing nothing to a public admonishment, to a call far resignation, which is what the majority of senators in the state have already done.
So, right about now, Butch Otter and Dave Heineman are looking pretty good to the GOP. Never heard of ‘em? Exactly. Staying off the front page maybe the new secret weapon for presidential hopefuls. By they way, Mr. Otter is governor of Idaho, and Mr. Heineman is governor of Nebraska.
Joining us now to sort all this out, a difficult weekend in Republican politics, is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.
Nice to see you, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good to see you, too.
STEWART: Let‘s start with Sarah Palin. Is there any way this move could not take her out of the running for 2012?
HAYES: Well, yes. I mean, you know, people‘s political obituaries have been written prematurely quite a bit in American politics. I think that if you were to say—are her chances of being the next president of the United States better or worse after her performance on Friday? I think the answer is clearly worse.
But one thing just to keep in mind—and I thought it was a totally bizarre performance. I sort of agree with everyone else that it makes no sense and I think should be the kind of final word on whether this is a serious contender for national office. All that said, I mean, when you‘re talking about who she needs to appeal to in the upcoming presidential primaries that start kind of ticking along, you know in 2010, 2011, you know, you‘re dealing with a very intense hard core, very right-wing conservative group. And then she only has to win sort of pluralities of that group within a group.
And so, who knows how that sub-demographic received her speech.
STEWART: Well, after listening to her speech. Did you glean anything?
HAYES: Did I glean anything?
STEWART: Did you glean anything? About why she resigned, I should say, specifically.
HAYES: No, I didn‘t. I mean, I think if you read the text of the speech and you listen to it a few times, it takes some sort of studious parsing to get through it. The one thing that‘s clear and one of the reasons that the speech is so strange is she‘s clearly trying to rebut a charge that isn‘t yet public, I think.
So, everything around the speech is getting out in front of upcoming charges, upcoming accusations, kind of trying to inoculate herself against something that may be coming down the pipe, but we have no idea what it is. And that‘s part of the reason the speech made no sense. I have no idea what it is. There‘s obviously been a lot of speculation. But the entire cast of the speech was sort of pointed towards preemptively rebutting whatever someone is going to say coming soon, perhaps.
STEWART: I‘m now going to call it the vaccine speech.
STEWART: Now, if you‘d asked me last week who would be in office longer—Mark Sanford or Sarah Palin, I would not have said Mark Sanford. Did he catch a break here?
HAYES: Well, he did catch a break. I mean, but—well, he caught a break. It‘s—he I really do think is completely out in 2012. I mean, I think, I‘m pretty willing to write his political obituary vis-a-vis the presidency.
The thing to keep in mind is that, however much he‘s knocked off the cable news networks and sort of the 24-hour news cycle and the national media, you know, he‘s still got to answer to the constituents in South Carolina. And this is still dominating coverage, rightly so, in South Carolina. And I think that, you know, it‘s unclear whether this—whatever distraction there is at the national level is going to redound to his benefit to him locally.
STEWART: Now, between the sex scandals of John Ensign and Mark Sanford, and now, this strange, surprise resignation of Sarah Palin, the list of potential 2012 candidates from the GOP seems to be shrinking. Who do you think we should be watching?
HAYES: You know, we talked last week and I think—I said then that I thought Mitt Romney ultimately emerges stronger from this, just by dint of the fact that he hasn‘t imploded in spectacular horrifying fashion. I think that that remains the case.
I think he sort of—you know, the history of the Republican Party, they tend to kind of go with the kind of next in line. He is that, and he hasn‘t embarrassed himself recently. So, I think it probably ends up benefiting him.
STEWART: I want to go back to the base for just a minute, because part of Palin‘s big appeal is she loves the base and the base loves her.
STEWART: But as we‘ve seen with John Cornyn and Rick Perry, that tape, of those boos from people who were very much the base—that happened over the weekend—can you kind of give us a context of how significant that was?
HAYES: Well, you know, these anecdotal booing you can sort of over-interpret, but I do think it was significant for a few reasons. One, I think, that it shows that politicians on the right and the Republican Party are very kind of cynically tried to manipulate and sort of use this tea party movement to the extent that‘s actually something organic. And I think that the people actually organizing that recognize that. They‘re not fools and they don‘t want to be used.
Second of all, I think the anger isn‘t necessarily attached to very specific policies or ideologies but kind of generally inchoate, a kind of throw the bums out, they‘re all screwing up sort of feeling. I think that‘s actually a sense that a lot of people in the country have.
And third, I think it shows that, you know, what we‘re going to see on the right, what happened on the left, in its years in exile, was the first to anger was directed internal in the coalition by the sort of grassroots activist against the party leadership and the movement leadership feeling that they have let us down collectively. And I think what we‘re seeing is the exact same thing happening on the right. The anger and vitriol is going to be directed internally in the foreseeable future because those are the people they need to unseat, the repudiative leaders of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
STEWART: Natural political behavior if there is such a thing.
Chris Hayes in Washington, the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine—thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you.
STEWART: Coming up: President Obama in Moscow, negotiating a reduction in the world‘s two largest nuclear stockpiles by as much as a third. Yes, that is huge. More on that hugeness coming up.
And in this country, fans are gathering in Los Angeles for Michael Jackson‘s memorial service tomorrow -- 1 million fans if the LAPD has it right. We‘ll have all the latest on what‘s looking like a historic event.
And the battle over the state and how it‘s possible to go hundreds of millions of dollars into debt while owning the Beatles band catalog. All that is coming up.
STEWART: Still ahead, President Obama and Russian leaders talk about eliminating nuclear weapons. Take that, Cold War.
Plus: real reported developments in the story of Michael Jackson‘s estate. NPR‘s Elizabeth Blair with some very interesting details ahead.
And later: Kent Jones pays tribute to soon-to-be U.S. Senator Al Franken.
All that is coming up.
But for the first time it‘s for a few—but first, it‘s time—there you go—for a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
The Obama administration‘s to-do list is long and right up there at the top of that list is health care. The administration has promised health care reform this year. Enter the lobbyists. Wait, lobbyists in Washington? On health care? Is that a typo—OK, that‘s no surprise there.
But here‘s your holy mackerel, or holy something. “The Washington Post” reports today that the health care industry has hired more than 350 former members of Congress and congressional staffers as lobbyists—people with personal connections to the legislators themselves. Quote, “The tactic is so widespread that three out of four major health care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls. The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health care industry which is spending $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight.”
With the unemployment rate at 9.5 percent, it‘s nice to see someone is getting work—sort of. Anybody?
Next up: Uighur watch. Let‘s review. At the start of the year, more than 200 men remained in prison at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Of those men, 17 were from a Muslim Turkic ethnic group—whoa, hard time tonight—native to western China: the Uighurs.
The United States determined that these men were not terrorists nor they did pose any threat to the United States. And so, after years of international bargaining and pleading, the U.S. was finally able to find homes for these men. Four of them were sent to Bermuda and a tiny Republic of Palau has agreed to take the remaining 13.
So, at this point, you might ask, why weren‘t the Uighurs sent back to China? That answer was brought into focus on Sunday as the Chinese government severely cracked down on a Uighur protest. The Uighurs consider themselves a culture and economically repressed minority.
Chinese state media reports at least 156 people were killed and more than 800 injured in the protests. The government reportedly responded by imposing a nighttime curfew, raiding university dormitories, closing mosques and dispatching the paramilitary police force.
Twitter, which was used to great effect in Iran last month, was shut down completely. The nation largest cell phone provider selectively cut off service in the area and local Internet service was—for the most part disabled.
And tonight, Chinese state media is reporting police arrested more than 1,400 people in connection with the riots. The protest was first organized after a policeman has killed two Uighur factory workers in southern China. The Chinese government is blaming exiled Uighur separatists for the unrest.
And finally, when Saddam Hussein was captured in a hole near Tikrit, in December of 2003, he was found dirty and bearded and with a Glock. The delta four soldiers who captured the fallen dictator held on to that pistol and eventually presented it to President Bush.
Now, “The New York Times” reports today, the .9 millimeter Glock 18C found with Saddam Hussein was one of Mr. Bush‘s prized possessions—so much so it may be added to the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
For more than five years, the gun sat in a glass case in the Oval Office. When Mr. Bush‘s term was up, he shipped it to a warehouse near his new home in Dallas. A final decision on whether or not to display the gun will be made by the George W. Bush Foundation where it would presumably be proof that Saddam had weapons of some sort of destruction.
STEWART: Welcome back. I‘m Alison Stewart. Rachel Maddow is feeling a little under the weather tonight but she will be back tomorrow.
Coming up next, whereas President Bush sold Vladimir Putin‘s soul, President Obama took a much different approach today in Moscow, some change we can actually identify in just a minute.
And later, Sen. Al Franken is in Washington. It‘s a long way from baggage handler in “Trading Places” to Harry Reid‘s side kick. Kent Jones has an appreciation in just a few minutes.
But first, as everyone with access to mass communication technology knows, tomorrow is the public memorial service for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The reporting of every detail of the story since Mr. Jackson‘s death has been less than perfectly reliable, but it appears almost certainly tomorrow will be a memorial service as mega event.
Variously reported and rumored to be appearing are some of pop and soul music‘s biggest stars from Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson to Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson. The memorial will be broadcast around the world and shown in at least 80 theatres in the United States.
The Los Angeles Police Department expects potentially historic crowds. 1.6 million people registered for free tickets to the event which went to only 8,750 fans and their plus ones.
Someone who won‘t be at Michael Jackson‘s memorial is Debbie Rowe, Jackson‘s former wife and mother to his first two children. According to her attorney, Rowe changed her mind about attending out of fear of becoming a, quote, “distraction.” Her run-in with reporters and paparazzi yesterday pinged around the blogosphere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to fight for your children?
DEBBIE ROWE, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S EX-WIFE: Do not touch me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody touched you here.
ROWE: You just did. Don‘t -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to fight for your children?
ROWE: Are you ready to get your butt kicked? Don‘t touch me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: And then, there was one genuine legal development on one of the ongoing potentially contentious issues surrounding his estate. Who will manage it and how much money and/or debt did he leave?
Today, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that Jackson‘s 2002 will is, indeed, valid and as per Jackson‘s 2002 wishes, Atty. John Branca and music executive John McClain director are temporary executors of his estate.
Before the 2002 will is discovered, Katherine Jackson, his mother, had sought and was named temporary executor of the estate. At a news conference after the hearing, lawyers for Jackson‘s mother defended their request for the judge to delay the decision, adding in a statement to NBC News that the legal filings were to, quote, “prevent from granting the unfettered master keys to the kingdom of Michael Jackson‘s estate and legacy.”
And it is part of that kingdom that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) John Branca helped secure, namely Jackson‘s stake in the Sony ATV music publishing catalogue which includes more than 200 Beatles songs.
Among the outstanding stories to be told, how Michael Jackson acquired those music rights what he did with them and what they‘re really worth and how much they‘re worth relative to his enormous debt.
NPR‘s Elizabeth Blair has been reporting on this aspect of the story and she joins us now. Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining us.
ELIZABETH BLAIR, NPR: Thanks for having me.
STEWART: All right. I want you to do a little CSI on this and sort of unpack how Michael Jackson ended up with this catalogue. Who originally owned this catalogue?
BLAIR: The Beatles - the Beatles in the 1960s who started a company called Northern Songs. They started it with their manager and another investor. And it was essentially a company to publish and own Beatles songs.
But the Beatles themselves did not own very much of this company. They owned, I think, a total of 30 percent to 40 percent. And over time that company went up for sale and the Beatles didn‘t really have a say because they didn‘t own enough of the company.
And it was sold to ATV, which is with a British television music publisher. And eventually, that company was sold to an Australian tycoon. And then jump to 1985, it goes up for sale. And Michael Jackson who apparently always wanted to own Beatles songs, you know, was the highest bidder.
STEWART: Now, is it really true that Paul McCartney suggested to Michael Jackson, “Hey, you should get into this idea of owning publishing.”
BLAIR: Well, that‘s what Paul McCartney has said in interviews. In the early 1980s, the two of them worked together on a few songs. And Paul McCartney has said that, “I was advising him on business deals. And I said, ‘Yes, you should get in on music publishing.‘”
I mean, at the time, Paul McCartney owned many, many songs and still does. And then, the story goes that Michael Jackson said, “Someday I‘m going to buy your songs.”
STEWART: Well, isn‘t that ironic? How much did Michael Jackson buy the catalogue for?
BLAIR: $47 million roughly.
STEWART: Was that a good deal.
BLAIR: Well, back then, I think it was seen as a lot of money. But today, obviously, it seems like the deal of a century. In fact, in music industry history, this is seen as an incredibly interesting deal. Because not many people at the time knew how lucrative music publishing could be. And not many song writers were buying other people‘s songs. So it was a great deal.
STEWART: Yes, that‘s an interesting thing. A lot of people don‘t know that‘s where the money is made. If you write the song, you get the money. You get the publishing.
BLAIR: Yes. I mean, it makes a lot of people scratch their heads. How is it that the Beatles - they wrote the songs. Why don‘t they own all of the songs? But music, being a huge business - the publisher collects the money and 50 percent goes to the songwriters, generally speaking. Those deals are negotiated. And then, the other 50 percent goes to the publisher.
STEWART: Now, explain how Sony got involved. We keep saying Sony
BLAIR: Yes. And that was a merger that happened in 1995. When Jackson was having some financial difficulties, he put ATV up for sale and Sony - that was a likely partner for that merger.
And as I understand it, Sony bought ATV for $90 million, which is twice the original investment. And it became a merger, 50-50 - Michael Jackson and Sony.
STEWART: Now, Jackson often used this publishing catalogue as collateral, correct?
BLAIR: That‘s right. You know, he has borrowed a lot of money. He spent a lot of money and he borrowed a lot of money. And yes, he has used the Sony ATV catalogue as collateral. And he‘s also used his own publishing company which is called My Jack as collateral.
STEWART: So he owns his own songs as well. I mean, that‘s a money-making machine, this publishing he has.
BLAIR: Very much so. I mean a lot of people don‘t realize that he was a great businessman. I mean, it‘s hard to believe because he overspent so much. But I think very early on, he understood that, “Entertainment is a business. I am in a business,” and made some really good moves.
STEWART: NPR‘s Elizabeth Blair has been reporting on this aspect of the Michael Jackson story. Elizabeth, thanks for sharing your reporting. We really appreciate it.
BLAIR: Thanks for having me.
STEWART: What a difference an administration makes. After President Bush‘s first meeting with then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush said, quote, “He was able to get a sense of his soul.”
Today, President Obama is at the Kremlin, not to take any soul readings, but to get Russia to really end the Cold War. Big doings in Moscow are next.
But first, one more thing about the Michael Jackson memorial event tomorrow. The 1.6 million fans who registered for memorial tickets and got rejected didn‘t exactly go home empty handed. They got a little inbox souvenir in the form of this E-mail with a little fancy artwork to its right.
It reads, “Sorry, we regret to inform you that your registration to attend the public memorial service for Michael Jackson‘s service was not selected. Hundreds of thousands registered but only a few can be in attendance.”
And while eBay is refusing to allow memorial tickets to be sold online, they haven‘t stopped people from selling rejection E-mails. One person will let buyers download and make copies of the E-mail for the low, low price of just $9.99.
For those people, I just tell you to watch out for a little E-karma.
STEWART: His name was so synonymous with the Vietnam War that it was often referred to as “McNamara‘s war.” Today, at age 93, Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, died at his home.
A political unknown, McNamara was tapped by JFK to be the secretary of defense in 1961. And McNamara held the position for seven years, longer than anyone else before or since.
In 1962, believing U.S. technological prowess would win the war, McNamara began to ramp up the number of troops in Vietnam from 500 to more than 500,000. 58,000 U.S. troops lost their lives.
Later in life, in memoirs and in a 2003 documentary, “The Fog of War,” McNamara acknowledged how, quote, “wrong, terribly wrong,” he had been about the war. And so despite his mea culpa and his work for the World Bank and his recent work to advance nuclear disarmament, Robert McNamara is remembered first on the day he died as the architect of the most infamous war in American history.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: And there I was, free but with a plastic bag on my hand. I‘m picking up that which I had been dodging for eight solid years.
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STEWART: Former President Bush spent part of his Fourth of July holiday weekend in Woodward, Oklahoma telling poop jokes about his dog Barney. President Obama spent part of his holiday weekend preparing for a three-day summit in Russia.
You want a few more differences? We have your differences. President Bush upon meeting then-President Vladimir Putin in 2001 said this.
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BUSH: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.
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STEWART: President Obama speaking of now-Prime Minister Putin whom he will meet for the first time tomorrow has said, quote, “I think Putin has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new.”
Snap! President Bush‘s Russian policy included canceling a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that took two years to put together. President Obama‘s way of dealing with Russia? On day one of his three-day visit, he signed a preliminary agreement with the Russian President Medvedev to reduce nuclear stockpiles in both the U.S. and Russia by up to a third, a greater possible reduction than any previous agreement.
And President Obama reached a deal to allow the U.S. to transport military personnel and equipment across Russia to support troops in Afghanistan. So it appears President Obama‘s approach is different. Whether or not the results are better is an open question.
Joining us now, Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshare Fund, a global security foundation. Thanks for being with us.
JOE CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, THE PLOUGHSHARE FUND: My pleasure, Alison.
STEWART: He‘s also the author of “Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons.”
So this is the first agreement of its kind in something like seven years to reduce strategic warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675, to make even deeper cuts in the delivery systems. Is this the right move, sir?
CIRINCIONE: Oh, absolutely. ABC News called this deal a breakthrough, an extraordinary agreement today. Henry Kissinger called Obama a chess master. Obama did something that very few presidents have been able to do.
And he turned around U.S.-Russian relations with just 11 months ago were as bad as they were during the Cold War period after the Georgian conflict between Georgia and Russia. He‘s turned those around. He‘s reset U.S.-Russian relations just as he intended to.
And he‘s got agreements on his very first day to slash U.S.-Russian arsenals by as much as a third - dramatic reductions to get Russian cooperation to secure all loose nukes and materials in that country within the next four years, thereby reducing the chances of nuclear terrorism.
He‘s got agreement with the Russians on preventing North Korea and Iran‘s programs including the first ever U.S.-Russian joint threat assessment of the Iranian ballistic missile program. And the Russians know quite a bit about that program.
And he‘s got cooperation with the Russians for a global summit next year on nuclear security. And he gave up for these agreements exactly nothing. Zip. Nada. No concessions on the part of the United States, just showing the Russian president, the Russian government, respect and understanding of their points of view.
STEWART: Let me dive in on a couple of the points you made there. The “New York Times” suggested a reduction like this would send a clear message to North Korea and to Iran. Do you think this does it?
CIRINCIONE: I think it does, but it‘s only the first step. Neither president thinks this is the end of the reduction process. It‘s what they could achieve in the next few months. And they hit the sweet spot on the numbers, big enough to be significant reductions but realistic enough to win the agreement of their respective parliaments.
Both presidents see this as a first step in a multi-step process towards the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. Once this agreement is concluded, they will immediately begin negotiations on a new treaty that would reduce the arsenals much more dramatically down to perhaps 1,000 weapons each.
That would be a reduction from the approximately 10,000 weapons we have and the 12,000 weapons Russia has. That‘s the kind of vision both these presidents share and they made a significant down payment on realizing that vision today.
STEWART: What do you think about the issue of missile defense? Will that be a sticking point?
CIRINCIONE: It is a sticking point. It is difficult. President Obama has been stuck with this rushed plan that President Bush put in place, intentionally trying to lock his successor in to a deal to put in interceptors in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic.
The problem is that those interceptors don‘t exist yet and the radar appears to have some significant flaws in it. It probably wouldn‘t be able to see Iranian missiles that are launched at it.
But the Russians see this as a serious strategic threat. Both - they think that the U.S. could someday increase the number of interceptors, put hundreds in and not just 10, as is currently planned.
Or they might be able to put nuclear warheads on those missiles and use them more offensively. And this is compounded by the deep suspicions they have of U.S. intentions with expanding NATO and building military bases on their border.
Obama bridged that gap today. He didn‘t solve it, but he definitely put in place a structure to resolve these differences, including pausing on any plans to go ahead with the European defense system until he is able to review it, he said, something he is going to do this summer and find out whether it even works or not.
I‘m confident such a review will conclude that this system, in fact, does not work and there are other - more systems that we can do with the Russians that actually would provide a missile defense to the existing Iranian threat.
STEWART: Tomorrow, Obama is meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who obviously is still quite influential. Anything we should watch for there?
CIRINCIONE: I believe Obama has got a balancing act that he‘s proved very adept at doing. He recognizes that the Russian system shares power between the Prime Minister Putin and the President Medvedev.
And he is showing respect to both these leaders, not choosing sides, not tilting towards one or the other. I would expect that Putin would come out with a similar statement endorsing Obama‘s approach. And again, taking the U.S.-Russian relationship which has soured so much in the past year or two and resetting it at a new, more cooperative direction.
STEWART: Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, thank you so much for joining us this evening.
CIRINCIONE: My pleasure, Alison.
STEWART: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith talks to Shannyn Moore, the Alaskan blogger whom Sarah Palin is now threatening to sue.
And next on this show, Kent Jones commemorates a landmark event, the arrival of Senator Franken in Washington, D.C.
STEWART: We turn now to our representational hilarity correspondent, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Alison. You know, with all the big news going on right now, it‘s easy to overlook the fact that Al Franken met with Harry Reid on Capitol Hill today. And tomorrow, he‘s going to be sworn in as the U.S. senator from the great State of Minnesota.
Now, this is a remarkable event for many reasons, but for me, it‘s personal.
(voice-over): When Al Franken goes to Washington, with him go the hopes and dreams of the people, my people - comedians.
ROBIN WILLIAMS, COMEDIAN: Come the dawn‘s early life, I‘m still there.
JONES: It‘s been a long time coming, but one of ours finally broke that glass ceiling. For centuries, my people had been spat on, ridiculed and frequently laughed at. For some reason, no one ever took us seriously. The rest of society used code words when they were around us like, “He‘s hilarious,” or “What a sense of humor.” We knew what that meant, “Stay in your place, funny man.”
Oh sure, the occasional action hero or B-movie actor was allowed
to rise in politics. But a comedian, are you joking? And while there are
plenty of amateur comedians out there -
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: Well, I‘m looking for work. Will you hire me?
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I wear my hat backwards, you know, because that‘s how we roll.
JONES: A professional comedian who was considered fit only for smoky clubs and late night TV. Apparently, we didn‘t deserve sunshine. Then came Al Franken. He was funny, but it was a proud funny.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN): Look, I‘m not proud of every joke I ever told.
JONES: During his Senate run in Minnesota, day by day, speech by speech, Al Franken did the painful work of breaking down decades of prejudice and stereotypes. His message? We‘re just like you, only with the occasional fart joke.
So now, when a child asks, “Daddy, can a comedian make it to the United States Senate? You can say, “Probably not. But hey, Franken did it. Why not? Knock yourself out.” So bless you, Al Franken. Thanks to you, America isn‘t laughing anymore.
STEWART: I‘m welling up.
JONES: It‘s a thrilling moment.
STEWART: Secretary of State Kathy Griffin?
JONES: Anything could happen now.
STEWART: Vice President Gallagher?
JONES: Sky is the limit. Carrot top, dream. Dream that dream.
STEWART: Dream on. Kent Jones, thank you so much.
STEWART: And thank you for watching tonight. We do promise Rachel will be back tomorrow. Until then, you can reach us by E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also our podcast is iTunes or at Rachel.MSNBC.com. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts now. Good night.
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