Guests: Jeff Sharlet, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Ana Marie Cox, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Never underestimate when a surprise puppet might make an appearance on this show. I‘m just saying.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Well, I‘ll be right over.
MADDOW: Thanks, Keith.
MADDOW: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We will have more tonight on the secretive religious group, the Family, that appears to be the connective tissue of the Senator Ensign sex scandal and the Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina sex scandal. Jeff Sharlet, who infiltrated and who wrote on this little understood organization, will be back with us tonight.
And Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois will be here to explain her charge that the CIA kept its own director in the dark about a secret program.
Also, Melissa Harris-Lacewell will be here to decipher the Republican playbook on the Sotomayor hearings—which start on Monday.
And we‘ll discuss Sarah Palin‘s future and an odd public appearance she‘s made tonight with Ana Marie Cox.
That is all coming up in the next hour.
But we start tonight with a mystery—a mystery that‘s unfolding alongside the two major political scandals of the summer. It‘s a mystery that concerns this house at 133 C Street Southeast in Washington, D.C. I‘m calling it a house because that‘s what it looks like to me and people do live there.
But if you consult this building‘s financial paper trail, you will find that it‘s actually considered to be a church. That designation makes C Street a convenient tax-free haven for the secretive organization that runs it, an organization known as the Family. It also makes for some awkward tax and income questions for the at least five, probably seven members of Congress who live at the house, in exchange for what appears to be substantially below market rent.
As explained by our guest last night, Jeff Sharlet, who secretly infiltrated the family to write a book about them, the C Street house is a former convent. It‘s used as a sort of subsidized, really upscale dorm for members of Congress who are associated with this powerful, poorly understood religious group.
The Family and the house at C Street have ended up reluctantly in the headlines now because of the two major politicians‘ sex scandals that are embroiling the Republican Party this summer and that have taken two of their reported 2012 presidential hopefuls out of political contention.
Embattled Nevada Senator John Ensign lives at the C Street house. The husband of Senator Ensign‘s mistress says that prominent members of the Family—this religious group—including the sons of the group‘s founder, as well as other members of Congress who live at C Street—were both aware of Ensign‘s secret affair and were involved in his efforts to pay off the mistress and her family as the affair was on again-off again ending.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn lives at C Street with Ensign. He has said he encouraged Ensign to end the affair but he has denied the allegation that he specifically encouraged Senator Ensign to pay the mistress off to the tune of millions of dollars.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford mentioned C Street by name in his long public statement of regret about his affair with a woman in Argentina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?
GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For how long?
SANFORD: We‘ve been—we‘ve been working through this thing for about the last five months. I‘ve been to a lot of different—I was part of a group called C Street, when I was in Washington. It was a, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study—some folks that asked of members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important and I‘ve been working with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hard questions.
Governor Sanford said he was working with C Street somehow about his affair for months—while the affair was ongoing, while it was still secret, and while Governor Sanford continued to lie about it publicly.
This is the first point about C Street and the Family that makes the group more than just a cameo appearance in both of these sex scandals. In both instances, these powerful family values preaching, conservative politicians who were themselves having adulterous affairs say now that they disclosed those affairs to other members of Congress and other people affiliated with the secretive religious group for a long time while the affairs continued and while they were kept secret from the world at large. This organization was allowed to know but nobody else was.
Zack Wamp of Tennessee is a Republican member of Congress who says he has lived in the C Street house for 12 years. Today, he told “The Knoxville News Sentinel” that the members of Congress who live there are sworn to secrecy.
Quoting from the “News Sentinel,” “The C Street residents have all agreed they won‘t talk about their private living arrangements, Wamp said and he intends to honor that pact. ‘I hate it that John Ensign lives in the house and this happened because it opens up all of these kinds of questions,‘ Wamp said. But, he said, ‘I‘m not going to be the guy who goes out and talks.‘”
When you start looking into this organization and its members‘ oaths to secrecy and fidelity to one another that “I‘m not going to be the one who talks here” theme looms very large. But last year, when Jeff Sharlet‘s book about the Family first came out in hardback, the resultant buzz around the secrecy and high level connections of the Family and the C Street spurred NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell to obtain sermons of the group‘s long-time leader, Doug Coe, in order to find out more about what this group‘s agenda might be.
Here‘s some of what she found.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC NEWS EXCLUSIVE)
DOUGLAS COE, “THE FAMILY‘ LEADER: I‘ve seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard. They would bring in this young man‘s mother. He would take an ax and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That‘s what Jesus said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s what Jesus said?
Here‘s more from the same sermon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COE: Jesus said, you have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself. Hitler, that was a demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, the man speaking here is Doug Coe. He‘s the leader of the group the Family, that runs the secretive C Street house that features in the sex scandals of both John Ensign and Mark Sanford.
Doug Coe describing the group‘s mission here in this next clip through his interpretation of the life and words of Jesus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COE: One of the things he said is “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can‘t be a disciple.” So I don‘t care what other qualifications you have, if you don‘t do that, you can‘t be a disciple of Christ.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you don‘t hate your father, mother, brother, sister, you can‘t be a disciple of Christ.
Every American‘s faith is her or his own business. It‘s our constitutional inheritance as Americans. Now, there is no religious test for public office, there‘s no official religion in this country, and every American has a right to believe or not believe, to worship or not worship, or as he or she sees fit. Religion is a private matter in this country.
And religion is the organizing principle of many, many powerful interests in the United States, including this one very connected, sworn to secrecy, ministry only to the powerful, that has had a key role in how two major Republican sex scandals have unspooled this summer, that has a theology of power that is poorly understood, and cites Hitler a lot, and that currently houses at least seven members of Congress in what it calls a church.
Joining us now once again is Jeff Sharlet, who lived among this group as part of the research for his book “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” which is now out in paperback.
Jeff, thanks very much for coming back on the show tonight. I really appreciate.
JEFF SHARLET, HARPER‘S MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Hi, Rachel.
Thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: I realize when we finished our interview last night there were more questions about the connection between this theology and these politics that I really wanted to ask you. And when I asked you last night how a group like the family could essentially sanction John Ensign putting his mistress‘s son on the Republican Party payroll—you said, essentially, that this group would be solely focused on looking out for John Ensign dealing with it internally.
Well, it now seems like a big part of the way Ensign responded to the scandal was by spreading a lot of money around. So, I wanted to ask you to talk to me a little bit about wealth and financial power and how that fits into the theology of this group.
SHARLET: Well, to understand the Family‘s approach to wealth, it‘s a good place to start is their own label for themselves. They like to call themselves the Christian mafia at times. And they mean this in the sense of money moving quietly behind the scenes.
As David Coe—one of the leaders of the group, the son of the man we just saw, and also John Ensign‘s spiritual counselor we now know—as David Coe explained it to me a few years ago, if money moves around behind the scenes through what they call the man-to-man financial method, then we are able to sort of maintain this veneer of privacy, and that this is very important, because when you‘re dealing with members of the Family, these guys have been chosen by God for leadership and what the Family is going to do is in some ways almost play the role of consigliores, as fixers for these guys.
So, when I heard about the Ensign money, that makes sense as a kind of thing that they might be comfortable with. But you‘ve got to pull it out into sort of a broader picture. Doug Coe, the leader of the group has said, he said, “I loan or give money to all sorts of people or I have my friends do so.”
Now, Coe takes no salary many years. All of the money is sort of moving through this man method and when you apply that overseas—as they do—you start to see what the idea of this is. They believe in something called “biblical capitalism,” and biblical capitalism is the way they‘re going to bring the gospel to the already powerful. Where the money goes they believe God goes.
MADDOW: So, biblical capitalism, this idea of the man-to-man financial method, which is one of the more awkward terms of a summer full of awkward terms. That—it‘s not just part of the way that they exert power. That is part of their theology, that‘s part of the way they understand how they are, their version of Christianity at least.
SHARLET: Absolutely yes. It‘s a theological position.
And when they call themselves a Christian mafia and talk about sort of avoiding institutionalization, talk about avoiding, you know, the books and records and all of that kind of stuff—all of this stuff allows them to avoid accountability. What they see it as is avoiding the building up of an edifice.
There is a level in which they‘re almost antichurch. They don‘t like an organized church because it‘s too democratic. They like this sort of behind-the-scenes elite approach.
MADDOW: Well, you write in the family about how Doug Coe has done political favors for dictators like Suharto of Indonesia and Siad Barre in Somalia, Jonas Savimbi in Angola. What is the Family doing with these guys? Why are there so many dictators that Doug Coe and the other members of the Family cross paths with? How does that work?
SHARLET: Well, you know, we heard in that clip, we heard Coe talking about Mao‘s China and so on. And we also hear him again and again using the model of Hitler as an ideal of strength. And I‘ve heard him—this is really boilerplate sermon for Doug Coe.
It‘s not that he‘s a neo Nazi of some sort. It‘s that they fetishize strength. They look for the leader who they believe is chosen by God. Evidence is his power, his wealth, and his willingness to align himself with their version of American power.
The dictator Suharto in Indonesia was one such. They organized meetings for him with American defense contractors, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the secretary of defense, and most notably, since Indonesia is a major oil producing company with American oil executives, who described their meetings in memos of Congress as great moments of spiritual honesty between themselves and the dictator.
MADDOW: Jeff, briefly, we‘re just about out of time—but religion is obviously a private matter in this country. Do you think that the members of Congress who belong to this religious group should feel compelled to tell the country more about the group? Do you feel that would be appropriate?
SHARLET: I think when you have—when you have members of Congress who are looking to a particular religious group for a sense of authority, which is explicitly antidemocratic, that explicitly fetishizes strength and dictatorial power, if they want to do that, that it‘s their choice. But I think they owe it to their constituents to say, “Here is why I have chosen to leave the mainstreams of American religion and affiliate myself with this sect that is so unorthodox and so really brutal in its theology.”
MADDOW: Jeff Sharlet, contributing editor at “Harper‘s” magazine, author of the book “The Family “—thanks so much for joining us again tonight. I owe you one for giving me two nights in a row. Jeff, thanks very much.
SHARLET: I appreciate it, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: OK. Coming up: A new intelligence report says the lawlessness of the Bush administration‘s spying program is way more lawless than we thought it was. Mr. Bush‘s own attorney general apparently sort of duped into signing off on something he didn‘t understand. New spying programs launched weeks before even “Mickey Mouse” legal authorization could be obtained from lawyers handpicked for that job without even the knowledge of those lawyers‘ supervisors.
Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky will head—she heads the oversight committee on the House Intelligence Committee. She‘s also blowing the whistle on the CIA keeping its own covert activities secret even from the head of the CIA. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky will join us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: There was “noted without comments” moment today on our air if you‘re on MSNBC. Conservative columnist David Brooks of “The New York Times” was discussing with John Harwood and Norah O‘Donnell emotionally needy politicians and their lack of dignity.
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
All three of us spent a lot of time covering politicians. But I don‘t know about you guys, but, in my view, they‘re all emotional freaks, in one sort or another. They‘re guaranteed to invade your personal space and touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner, and he had his hand on my inner thigh and the whole time I was like, “Oh, get me out of here.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Compassionate conservativism, anyone? This is supposed to be noted without comment. Sorry.
MADDOW: The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.” It goes on to say that if you are to be searched, the government has to get a warrant based on probable cause. And it has to be specific, quote, “particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”
That‘s one of my favorites. Who doesn‘t love the Fourth Amendment?
Well, actually today we have some more detail on that.
When the Congress last year decided inexplicably to give the Bush administration legal power to do much of the warrantless searching that they had done illegally anyway, one of the minor comforts in that legislation, that FISA reauthorization, for those who mourned the Fourth Amendment, was the fact that the legislation required the inspectors general of the Pentagon, the Department of Justice, the CIA, the NSA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to comprehensively review what the Bush administration did in terms of warrantless wiretapping.
That report is in. Today, the public at large got access to the unclassified version of it. It‘s sort of a doozie.
First, the first legal opinion that tried to pseudo-legally justify the program wasn‘t issued until weeks after the program started. Second, that legal opinion was issued by the very famous torture memo guy, John Yoo, who appears to have been handpicked to write the legal justification for that program even as his boss and everyone else in his department was kept in the dark entirely. Third, Attorney General John Ashcroft appears to have signed off on the program for two and a half years without actually understanding what he was signing off on.
The bottom line? We are talking about a very small number of people involved in instituting what appears to be an illegal program without even the barest minimum attempt to make it seem legal, and that small number of people involved includes the president, directly, George W. Bush, and the vice president, Richard Cheney.
Meanwhile, in day three of a fight over what the CIA has disclosed to Congress, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky today said that for the first five months of his tenure as CIA director, Leon Panetta was himself kept in the dark about a secret CIA program that had also been kept from Congress—which is illegal.
When he found out about the program, Mr. Panetta not only stopped it in its tracks, but disclosed it to Congress immediately and he has now launched an investigation into how the CIA is running programs without telling even its own leadership, let alone the legislative branch that is supposed to oversee the agency.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. She chairs the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Representative Schakowsky thank you very much for joining us tonight.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCER COMMITTEE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: CIA Director Leon Panetta has launched an internal probe now at the CIA to determine why Congress wasn‘t told about this mysterious program that I understand we can‘t know about in terms of the details because it‘s classified. You‘ve called for an intelligence committee investigation.
MADDOW: What do you think it will take to actually get to the bottom of this?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, my hope is that on the intelligence committee, that we‘re going to take this very seriously. There‘s really two issues involved. One is the underlying substance of the program that we weren‘t read into, that Congress was not informed about.
But the other is a very serious breach of the—I think, breaking the law of the National Security Act of 1947, where they did not tell the Congress. It‘s very clear that for programs like this, it is the obligation of the intelligence community to inform the United States Congress.
So, that program started right after 9/11 in 2001 and it was not until June that they told the director of the CIA. That was the first he heard of it, as you said. And the very next—that day, he stopped the program, and the next day, he came down to tell us about it.
Those are the two things I think we need to look at.
MADDOW: Do you—do you think that elements of the CIA or even of the intelligence community more broadly are deliberately operating outside the chain of command now, that they‘re deliberately keeping their actions secret? Or do you think that things like this—which you‘re documenting and which you‘re saying would be a violation of the national security act - do you think that these are oversights or inadvertent mistakes?
SCHAKOWSKY: Absolutely not. This, we know, that there was a decision that was made not to tell the Congress. And so, that‘s one of the things that we have to look into very carefully—why that decision was made, who made the decision not to inform the Congress. This was no mistake. They did not want us to know about this.
MADDOW: Do you know who made the decision?
SCHAKOWSKY: We‘re going to—I can‘t talk about the names that were involved, but I think our investigation needs to determine exactly who—what conversations were had and who signed off on those decisions.
The report on the so-called president‘s surveillance program that came out this afternoon—obviously, we‘ve only seen the unclassified version of it and what‘s in the unclassified version is pretty hair-raising. Are you concerned about what the inspectors general found in that report about warrantless wiretapping and these strange and very limited efforts to make the program seem legal?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, what I‘m interested in is that it extends beyond the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the TSP, which we did find out about, mostly first through the newspaper, but that there‘s a presidential surveillance program that goes beyond that, that there are—I‘m looking at the report—other intelligence activities that John Yoo wrote the memo about.
You know, they found their guy again—the guy who will say that, “Well, the president can‘t be stopped. It‘s his constitutional right in order to defend the country. He can basically do anything.” It was not only the torture memo, but now, he was justifying this program.
It is odd, I think, that a deputy assistant attorney general was the only one that—at the Office of Legal Counsel—that was read into the program at all. His boss, Bybee, said he was surprised, a little disappointed that he hadn‘t heard about it, that he wasn‘t consulted on it. And so, they obviously, I think, knew that this is a guy that would justify everything. Now, later on, of course, when a closer look was taken, his legal opinion and the contortions that he went through were viewed as inadequate to really justify the continuance of that program.
But I‘m curious. We haven‘t seen—I haven‘t seen the classified version yet, what are those other intelligence activities that constitute the president‘s surveillance program.
MADDOW: Also, of course, I‘d love to find out what John Yoo has to say about this. He, of course, refused to talk to the inspectors general for this report, as did David Addington, as did George Tenet, as did John Ashcroft. It seems—it seems like there‘s a lot more to know, Congresswoman.
SCHAKOWSKY: That‘s right. There were 200 people who did—who were surveyed, but those important players actually would not participate.
MADDOW: Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, thank you very much for your time tonight and good luck with your continued investigations.
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Still to come: Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Ana Marie Cox will be both here to discuss the future of the GOP—short term and long term. In the short term, the Supreme Court nomination hearings start on Monday.
The Republican strategy against shoo-in Sotomayor may surprise you.
And Governor Sarah Palin makes her first public appearance since the five interviews “in waders” experience she had on Monday. That latest public appearance was about an hour ago. It involves Ted Nugent. I will explain.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Still ahead: The biggest political story of the summer. Yes, bigger than the philandering of certain governors and senators. It‘s Judge Sotomayor‘s confirmation hearings that start on Monday. And it looks like they may signal a return to Republican-racial-politics-of-yore. Melissa Harris-Lacewell will join us to talk about that shortly.
And, Sarah Palin wants to help out her fellow Republicans. Is she an offer they can‘t refuse? Ana Marie Cox will be here in a moment.
But first, it‘s time for a couple holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. President Obama landed in the western African nation of Ghana today. It‘s his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president and apparently highly anticipated one.
Do you remember what Washington, D.C. looked like when President Obama was inaugurated this past January? The paraphernalia overload, the flags, the t-shirts, the pins, the posters?
Well, Ghanaians have produced a similar smattering of stuff in honor of Obama‘s visit. The airport was all spruced up. There are billboards in Ghana showing the Ghanaian president with President Obama and a word I will not pronounce that means “welcome home.”
I‘m guessing a vague sort of reference to the president‘s paternal ancestry in Kenya given the fact that Mr. Obama has never actually set foot in Ghana before. But no matter, the president will deliver a speech to parliament tomorrow.
U.S. embassies in multiple African capitals will be screening the speech live. In Sierra Leone, more than 500 movie theaters will show the speech on the big screen. And in Kenya, Voice of America will stream the president‘s speech live over cell phones.
Over in Somalia, however, no guarantees of anything like that. Somalia is considered to have been failed state for the past 18 years. And today, as President Obama arrived in Ghana in western Africa, Islamist insurgent fighters in the eastern Horn of Africa nation that most Americans learned about through “Black Hawk Down” got a terrifying reminder of just how bad things are in Somalia right now.
Al-Shabab Militiamen, who appeared to have as good or better a chance than anyone else of taking over Somalia, staged a mass execution in the southwestern Somali town of Baidoa. Sources told the Associated Press that seven people were killed for violating Islamic law.
The current government of Somalia is considered to control only a few blocks of the capital city of Mogadishu and even that tenuous hold on power is said to be slipping. Before our president left for Ghana at a press conference in Italy, President Obama made a maybe crack about Sarah Palin‘s understanding of Africa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I want to be very careful.
Africa is a continent, not a country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAMMER: And congratulations, America. We have a president who both knows that to be true and knows it‘s not a sort of joke - continent, not country.
On the western side of the continent you have the American president speaking to a democratically elected parliament. On the eastern side of the continent, you have an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization close to running things after 18 years of no real government at all.
MADDOW: The biggest politics story over the summer is about to begin bigger than the Ensign affair, bigger than the Sanford affair, bigger than the Palin shock resignation, and all the legislation we don‘t know the fate of.
It is the biggest political show yet and it starts on Monday. That‘s the first day of the Senate confirmation hearings for President Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Call in sick now to get a jump on Monday morning.
The Republican opposition to Sotomayor appears to be less-related to whether she will ultimately become a Supreme Court justice. That is a widely though not universally seen as a foregone conclusion. The Republican strategy here seems to be more about how the Republican Party wants to be seen in opposition to her.
Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback of Kansas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma have all already pledged to vote against Sotomayor. Inhofe refused even to meet with her.
And as the Republicans have prepared for the confirmation hearings, their strategic decisions about how to oppose Sotomayor‘s nomination seem to be mostly lining up in the same direction - the big, blinking, familiar, American directional arrow marked “race.”
Thus far, Republicans have attacked her “wise Latina” comment. They have called her an affirmative action nominee. They have singled out her ruling in an affirmative action discrimination case. And they have called the lead white plaintiff from that case to testify against her.
Now, in the final days leading up to the hearings, they have chosen to inveigh against her work for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. The Republicans have also decided to have Senator Jeff Sessions lead this battle for them.
When Arlen Specter defected to the Democratic Party, the Republicans had a choice of who should be their top senator on the Judiciary Committee. They overtly chose Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be that top Republican.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who had his own chance at a federal judgeship blocked in 1986 by the Senate Judiciary Committee by both Democrats and Republicans after testimony that Sessions called an African-American assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and that he called the NAACP, quote, “un-American and communist-inspired.” Mr. Sessions offered this explanation at the time for his behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS III (R-AL): These comments that you could say about a commie organization or something, I may have said something like that in a general way that probably was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Probably was wrong, but you know, who‘s to say? Is the Republican Party using the Sotomayor nomination to position itself aggressively on race? This is not a theoretical re-branding about the party and its future, about its potential future leaders. This is now. Is the party showing inaction, that it is actually refocusing the party along old school, Mason-Dixon lines?
Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Lacewell, political science professor at Princeton. Professor Harris-Lacewell, thanks very much for coming on the show.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, PRINCETON
UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. Nice to be here.
MADDOW: First of all, I have to ask if you agree with my hypothesis. Does it seem to you that the campaign against Judge Sotomayor‘s nomination is substantially about race?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Absolutely. Clearly, Sotomayor is herself a moderate progressive. She has an enormous background behind her, one of the most experienced justices to be nominated, more experienced on the federal bench even than Roberts. So rather than going after anything on her record, they‘re going after her identity, after her personhood, and most critically, after her ethnic identity and race.
MADDOW: Well, strategically speaking, let‘s talk a little bit about that decision by the Republicans. I mean, Jeb Bush did an interview this week with my former colleague Tuck Carlson in “Esquire Magazine.” And in that interview, Jeb Bush lamented that the Republican Party is completely losing Hispanics now after having made some progress with them.
He says the party can‘t win if it continues to alienate Hispanics. They all have to be cognizant of that demographic truth. So what‘s the political strategy here?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it‘s very bizarre. I mean, on the one hand, you have Michael Steele supposedly at the helm of the GOP with this hip-hop strategy that is apparently part of their big tent strategy, a strategy which actually whatever you think about George W. Bush, was effective under his administration.
In fact, W‘s administration had a much higher number of Latino and African-Americans at very high levels in the administration than are actually represented in the party itself.
So here, they‘ve been pursuing a big-tent strategy over the course of the past decade. And suddenly, it appears that they are going to fold that big tent up. And most critically, they seem to be prepared to do it around the question of Latino voters which is an enormous mistake.
Because of course, what any political party wants is new voters, and it‘s been the Latino voting bloc that‘s been able to give the party sort of new voters. And they‘re losing that here.
MADDOW: But why would they make that decision? I mean, I think it doesn‘t make sense for Democrats to think that Republicans are just willingly and knowingly stepping off a demographic and political cliff.
I think they have to sense that there‘s some political wind at their back. There are some political gains to be made even if they are going to give up Latino voters in the process.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, you know, certainly, this was true 40 years ago when the party strategically made a choice to go, you know, massive resistance on questions of racial equality in the south.
And it appears that they‘re doing a sort of massive resistant strategy here against Sotomayor as well. I mean, this is pretty much a foregone conclusion. She is going to be the first Latina justice on the United States Supreme Court. And they‘re going to go down as a party that opposed her on the basis of her ethnic identity.
All I can think is that they‘re thinking there is a way to kind of capitalize on anxiety about an African-American president, anxiety about a growing majority rather than minority of people of color, and try to mobilize a kind of white-anxiety base.
But I actually think they‘re off base here and that they‘re, in fact, likely to alienate Latino voters who are really - where the new voting bloc exists.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about a different but related matter. As you know, I follow you on Twitter because you‘re very amusing and clever.
And I know that you were one of the early major voices in this country trying to alert people to an incident that happened at a swim club in Pennsylvania involving a bunch of essentially black kids being told - sent home from the pool and told that they were changing the complexion of that club. What can you tell us about the situation?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Yes. It really was this moment where you felt like, OK, here you have an African-American president, nominating a Latina woman for the court, and at the same time, right in Pennsylvania, the most old-fashioned nasty kind of racism that we tend to associate with the 1950s.
So a group of about 60 African-American and Latino youth who were part of a summer camp program that had paid $1,900 for the purposes of using a private swim club arrive at the club and are told that they cannot be part of it. Not only that, but they hear racially derogatory comments by the white adults there and are sent home.
Now, the happy ending to this is that many of the Twitterati and progressive white Americans - moderate white Americans around the country have expressed outrage. And other swim organizations have come forward to give these young people a chance.
But you really do feel like there is this undercurrent, this kind of old-fashioned, nasty racism that hasn‘t gone away and makes us all I think a little suspicious about the idea that the election of Barack Obama, the nomination of Sotomayor necessarily means we are in a post-racial era.
MADDOW: Absolutely. Well put. Melissa Harris-Lacewell political science professor at Princeton and earpiece wrangler extraordinaire, well done. You sort of look like you‘re - you sort of look like you‘re listening really intently. You (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it up really well. Thanks, Melissa. Nice to see you.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Sarah Palin makes her first post-waders public appearance tonight. And, yes, in fact, it did involve Ted Nugent. How did you know? The full story coming up.
MADDOW: Roland Burris announced formally today that he will not run to defend the U.S. Senate seat he was appointed to by disgraced and impeached Illinois Governor Blagojevich. No surprise there, really. Burris only had $20,000 in the bank. And we got word yesterday that Burris would be making this announcement today.
There was a surprise, however, a few hours after Mr. Burris made his statement. The biggest-named Republican in the race for that U.S. Senate seat did an abrupt about face and apparently said he would not be running for the seat after all.
Just 48 hours after telling the Republican Party Senate Campaign Committee that he was going to run to replace Burris, Congressman Mark Kirk reportedly started telling colleagues he had changed his mind and was out of the race.
Now, Illinois is a deep blue state and in normal circumstances, it‘s unlikely a Republican would have a real shot at winning a U.S. Senate seat there right now. In light of Roland Burris and the Governor F-word, however, anything is possible.
That said, the one thing that Mark Kirk is nationally famous for is, of course, traveling to China this year and telling the Chinese government that they shouldn‘t trust the American government.
Maybe the reason Mark Kirk is not going to run for higher office in Illinois is because a plum seat has opened up for him in the Politburo in Beijing.
MADDOW: Gov. Sarah Palin‘s first public outing since her waders-appearance on Monday has just happened. She made an appearance on the weekly “Firearms Friday” radio show in Fairbanks, Alaska tonight.
She joins the show‘s host, Michael Dukes, and musician and fellow gun-lover, Ted Nugent of “Cat Scratch Fever” fame. Gov. Palin told these two gentlemen why she‘s quitting her job.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m going to have freedom now to fight even harder for Alaska, to fight for America, to fight for what‘s right and to support other people who will have the freedom to cast the votes and administer the policies and laws that we need to protect our Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s right, fight, fight, fight, fight. As soon as I quit. Fight not as governor, but some other capacity. That‘s the part of this that‘s important.
Her state of desire is to help other people, to help other candidates, to become, if not a national candidate herself, then a leading national Republican figure who can help other people win elections. How realistic is that?
Joining us now is Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent of Air America Radio and contributor to “Playboy” magazine. Hi, Ana Marie, nice to see you.
ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Hey, Rachel.
MADDOW: “Cat Scratch Fever?”
COX: That would explain a lot, you know, if she had it.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about the central premise here. The Republican candidate running for governor in New Jersey right now says emphatically he doesn‘t want Sarah Palin anywhere near his campaign.
The Republican running in Virginia implies the same thing, but sort of more nicely. Texas Governor Rick Perry says he would love to have her. Is that essentially the geographic sketch of Sarah Palin‘s influence from here on out?
COX: Pretty much, although I think Rick Perry wants her as his vice president like after Texas secedes. I think that - well, I would prefer to have as Texas vice president, although, being from Texas, I don‘t know. I have mixed feelings.
Well, the thing is, I think there is definitely a mixed reaction to her. I think right now what Sarah Palin‘s future looks like depends a lot on what we do as much as what she does.
I think if we continue to talk about her after she hasn‘t done anything new and talk about people talking about her, that‘s a win for her. The more - the less she does and the more that we talk about her, the people that are drawn to her will see that as demonizing her and rally around her.
However, a friend of mine who is a GOP strategist said it and I think he put it very well, she is like an ice sculpture. The more she is exposed to the elements, the faster she‘ll wear down.
MADDOW: What part of - go ahead.
COX: Under that thinking, yes, she should go out and campaign. That would be fantastic, you know. She might do great, but as the magic 8-ball might say, “Outlook not so good.”
MADDOW: Well, I was just thinking when you‘re saying that the one person I‘ve seen really express total unbridled enthusiasm for her being on the campaign trail as much as possible with as many Republican candidates as possible is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Please, please, please, let‘s send her everywhere.
COX: That‘s right.
MADDOW: I don‘t think that all publicity is good publicity. I think Joe Biden got a lot less publicity than she did as a vice presidential candidate. And Americans were left thinking he would be a better choice for vice president, right?
COX: And that‘s what I‘m saying. If she knows that and does stuff and we talk about it and analyze it, the chances are she is going to do something kind of stupid. I mean, the thing is I think she has many faults, OK? We all do.
She is arrogant and inexperienced, but those two traits haven‘t exactly kept people out of the White House lately. However, she is also really undisciplined. And all of the major scandals that followed her, the things that have caused people in her own party to get upset are things that are a result of lack of discipline.
Talking to some other GOP here today, someone mentioned the fact that she sniped back at Levi Johnston in “Us Weekly,” that is not very presidential, you know. And sometimes being presidential and being a good politician isn‘t just about knowing what actions to take, obviously, but knowing what not to do.
So in that regard, yes. Get her out there, put her in the spotlight, make her say stuff. If she goes to Nome and like write a book for nine months and we keep talking about her, again, that is something she probably wants us to do. And to the extent she thought through that resignation, that might be what she was thinking.
MADDOW: I will say that her appearing on the “Firearms Friday” radio show with Ted Nugent, which is like the trifecta of things you‘d make up about what she chose to do next, does seem like a quite deliberate act about putting herself on a very specific spot on the GOP right. And so maybe she‘s playing us all.
COX: Well, I think also that is the exact kind of thing if she keeps doing that. That‘s not. And you and I both know that‘s not exactly mainstream America there. I mean, that‘s a little bit off, a little bit to the side. If that‘s the kind of political judgment she is showing, I don‘t think that is a good sign for the GOP.
Again, most of the people I talk to who are in the center of the party, who are looking to the future, are not excited about her candidacy. And the people that are most excited about her candidacy are people who are looking forward to Obama‘s re-election.
MADDOW: Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent for Air America Radio, contributor to “Playboy” magazine, thank you very much for your time tonight. Have an excellent weekend.
COX: Have a good weekend, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith examines what has now been revealed about the bush administration‘s secret spying program‘s big new report out today. Next on this show, it‘s the W-E-A-K, weak in review.
MADDOW: Here now is my friend Kent Jones with a look back at the last seven days of lame-itude. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Time to throw some weak on the grill. Bon appetit.
First up, national past time of the weak. In an effort to boost attendance, some major league baseball teams are offering all-you-can-eat packages at their ballpark.
Now, stepping up to the plate, myocardial infarction. Said one Minnesota Twins fan, quote, “I‘ve done four hotdogs, three nachos, a pretzel, some popcorn and about four of these pops. It‘s only been an hour, but I‘m digesting a bit right now.” Take me out to the ballgame and bring me a bucket. Weak.
Next, crass commercialism of the weak. Sears department stores have put out winter merchandise hoping to get us to do our holiday shopping now in July, when it‘s hot. Santa, here is what I want for Christmas. I want you to go away. Seriously. Beat it. Get lost. Too early.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not undersold. We will not be undersold.
We cannot be undersold. And we mean it.
JONES: Weak. And finally, cyber-criticism of the weak. This big YouTube hit warns about the dangers of excess twittering.
While I agree Twitter should be used in moderation, so should flat crooning and Grade Z lyrical flow, dog. You should keep that to 140 characters or less. Not just weak, it‘s whack.
MADDOW: Oh, it would be so much better if he was wearing a shirt.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: And thank you for watching tonight. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a great weekend. Good night.
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