Guests: Rep. Anthony Weiner, Dr. Leroy Carhart
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: How are you? OK, well, see you later!
MADDOW: Thanks, Keith.
And thank you at home for tuning in, and thank you—as Keith implied—for bearing with me if I sound like I‘ve got a little frog in my throat this evening.
We begin tonight with the galvanizing of the Democratic Party in the wake of the loss of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy this week. Senator Kennedy, of course, defined health care as the cause of his life, whether or not his inspiration will be enough to bring Democrats together to finally pass the kind of health reform that Senator Kennedy fought for for so many years, of course, remains to be seen.
But as Democrats do fail at reforming health care now, they have only themselves to blame, because as the Democrats in the wake of Kennedy‘s death have at least tried to pull together on health reform, Republicans have really fallen apart.
Today, the only nationally-elected Republican figure in the country, the head of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, gave an interview to National Public Radio in which he really struck out swinging, appearing utterly confused and tied up in knots over the most basic issues of health care—what his position is, what he has said in the past and what he‘s now trying to unsay.
You have to hear this. Here he is speaking with NPR host Steve Inskeep. This is just a portrait of bewilderment.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STEVE INSKEEP, NPR HOST: Within a couple of paragraphs of writing, “We need to protect Medicare,” you write that you oppose President Obama‘s, quote, “plan for a government-run health care system.” Now, you‘re a veteran public policy official. You‘re aware that Medicare is a government-run health care.
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Yes, and look how it‘s run! And what‘s my point. Take Medicare and writ—make it—make it writ-large across the country, because, here we now—how many times have we been to the precipice of bankruptcy for a government-run health care program?
INSKEEP: It sounds like you don‘t like Medicare very much at all.
STEELE: No, I‘m not saying that.
INSKEEP: But you write in this op-ed that you want to protect Medicare...
STEELE: No, no, no. Please, don‘t.
INSKEEP: . because it‘s politically popular. People like Medicare; that‘s why you‘re writing to protect Medicare.
STEELE: Well, people may like Medicare, and liking a program and having it run efficiently is sometimes two different things. Medicare is what it is. It‘s not going anywhere. So, let‘s fixing it so that we don‘t every three, five, 10 years have discussions about bankruptcy and running of money.
INSKEEP: I‘m still having a little trouble with the notion that you‘re going to write that you‘re going to protect Medicare, that you‘re going to preserve this program to make sure that this government-run health care system stays solvent in the long-term.
STEELE: Let‘s get it to run right.
INSKEEP: . and yet you are opposing, quote, “government-run health care.”
STEELE: Exactly. But wait a minute!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wait a minute! Exactly. No. I hate government-run health care. Since you already have it, you better not mess with it, even though it‘s totally broken.
Strike one. Strike two? Mr. Steele‘s decision to go in the same interview with a fact-free declaratory statement about what the health reform debate has been like so far.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STEELE: Look, no one‘s trying to scare people with soundbites. I mean, you know, I have not done that, and I don‘t know any of the leaders in the House and the Senate that have done that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. I understand the need to make short declarative statements in order to sound like you‘re not confused anymore, but don‘t make them about something like this. Because if there‘s one thing we can all absolutely positively, left, right and center agree on, scare tactics have been used.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: We should not have a government program that determines if you‘re going to pull the plug on grandma.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA: Republicans have a better solution that will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.
REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA: A lot of people are going to die.
This program of government options is going to kill people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And no one‘s trying to scare people with soundbites? I don‘t know any leaders in the House and the Senate who have done that. Yes, strike two.
And then there was strike three. A Republican Party mailer being sent across the country with was surfaced online today. It‘s called the 2009 Future of American Health Care Survey and it claims to be a friendly questionnaire about health care, sent by, yes, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who promises that, of course, no one‘s trying to scare people.
The survey questions about health reform include, quote, “It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person‘s political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democratic-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?”
See, health care reform, were really a secret plot to kill Republicans, which it totally might be, wouldn‘t that scare you? But really, no one‘s trying to scare people. I swear.
In the horrible Hobbesian, no rules, no shame, free for all of lies overstatements and outrageous mischaracterizations that has been the health care debate this summer thus far, this one—this health reform is a secret plot to kill Republicans lie offered up by the Republican Party itself was so bad that the Republican Party actually had to apologize for it today. They called it, quote, “inartfully worded.”
Apology or not, Democrats do seem increasingly aware the Republican Party as a whole really isn‘t here to help on health reform. Now the question is: Will any Republicans decide that they would like health reform more than they‘d like to stand with their party on this issue?
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. He sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the health subcommittee.
Congressman Wiener, it‘s nice to see you not on a Friday.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It‘s my pleasure. Thanks.
Welcome to Queens.
MADDOW: Thank you. Are you standing in a median right now?
WEINER: No. It just seems that way. It‘s Utopia Parkway.
MADDOW: Oh, very good.
WEINER: But I‘m thin enough they wouldn‘t hit me, anyway.
MADDOW: All right. Fair enough.
Listen, you and I have talked a number of times about misinformation about health reform coming from Republican members of Congress. I have now to ask your reaction to the Republican Party itself sending a survey to people asking whether they think health care reform might about plot to deprive Republicans of medical care. What‘s your reaction?
WEINER: Well, the Republicans are so furious about trying to stop any type of reform at all that they‘re about to self-immolate. It seems like they‘ll say or do just about anything. You know, you have the chair of the Republican National Committee putting out the most vigorous defense of a single-payer health care plan I can imagine and then quickly running away from that notion. And then, today, the idea that your voter registration form is going to be used to somehow to pull the plug on granny.
Look, the bottom line here is that Republicans and many folks on the right fundamentally don‘t believe that government should do anything to try to solve the problems of this country. That‘s why they lost the House, they lost the Senate, they lost the White House. But now, there‘s a team in charge and the Democrats—we‘re not getting everything exactly right. Now, I‘ve had some problems with some of the steps we‘ve taken.
But to say that we don‘t need to try to fix health care and then somehow this is an assault on our Constitution or on our way of life is just absurd. And I think more and more Americans are seeing that.
MADDOW: That‘s what coming down to the end of the August recess. Is it your sense that Democrats have realized that they may have to go it alone on health care reform, that they may not get any Republican votes, at least from where they were expecting them? And do you think that any Republicans are leaning toward supporting health reform?
WEINER: Well, let me just make it clear—that I think there are a lot of Republican citizens of this country who understand this problem a lot better than their leaders do. But it‘s also fairly clear that the Republicans in the Senate and House think that the only way that they can gain any traction and get back into the majority is by simply voting no on everything and being a general no party.
If that‘s the case, we can‘t afford to just keep sitting around negotiating with ourselves. I can‘t—I can‘t remember the last time I saw a Republican member of the United States Senate stand up and say, “Here are the things I‘d like to have in a bill.” All I‘ve heard them say is what they‘re against.
MADDOW: Do you think that Senator Kennedy dying this week is going to have a practical impact on what a final bill ultimately looks like? He, of course, was the chair of the Senate Health Committee. Is it possible that that bill will gain more traction now as opposed to the one that‘s been held up for so long in the finance committee?
WEINER: I think the active legislating in this issue is going to be just as hard with or without Senator Kennedy, of blessed memory.
But I will say this—I think more and more people reading about Senator Kennedy‘s life, reading about things like the American with Disabilities Act didn‘t just happen. It was widely opposed by many in Congress. The idea that Medicare itself was opposed by many people in Congress and many today, and that these things had to overcome similar type of scare campaigns that we‘re seeing today—just seeing that history written for people and seeing them have a chance to see it on their local television and read about it in the newspaper, I think it is going to improve the conditions for this debate.
I think a lot of Americans realize that what Senator Kennedy offered was ideas on how to improve people‘s lives. And that‘s what this discussion should be about.
MADDOW: From that big picture perspective, you, of course, have championed the idea that a single-payer option—a single-payer program ought to still be on the table. It ought to be one of the things that we are discussing when we‘re thinking about how to reform health care. How goes your fight to keep the option of single-payer alive?
WEINER: Well, I would point out that the notion of Medicare for all Americans was something that Senator Kennedy was carrying in the United States Senate.
Increasingly, as we see arguments like the one that you had carried out on your show at the top, you know, people like the head of the Republican National Committee arguing on one hand that he loved the single-payer option, on the other hand, he loves it only up to a point, has gotten people to think about what makes Medicare a success. Sure, it has financing problem, but we know, for example, that every dime that goes into Medicare goes into health care and doesn‘t go into profits and overhead.
So, we‘re gaining traction. Now, it‘s going to be tough, but frankly, it‘s going to be tough to get anything done. But I‘m comfortable making an argument. You know, I want to step back and watch Steele argue with himself for a while. That seems to be the best case of single-payer health care.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York—thanks again for your time tonight and make sure somebody gets you safely out of traffic there, OK?
WEINER: Thank you.
We have had news today that the extremist group that allegedly gave information about Dr. George Tiller‘s whereabouts to the man who eventually killed Dr. Tiller have identified the new doctor that they consider to be public enemy number one now that Dr. Tiller has been killed. That man, the new public enemy number one for Operation Rescue, joins us next to respond. Stay with us for that.
But, first, “One More Thing” about health reform. Today‘s RACHEL MADDOW SHOW award for headline excellence goes to Bob Cesca at “The Huffington Post.” Mr. Cesca‘s column today argues that if health reform legislation is going to be named for Senator Ted Kennedy, it must follow the principles that Senator Kennedy fought for during his life. It must cover everyone. It must be affordable. It must deliver quality care to all Americans.
Now, that seems like too much to remember, you can just tuck away in the recess in your mind Bob Cesca‘s excellent headline today, quote, “Health Care Reform Named After Ted Kennedy Must Not Suck.” Very snappy.
MADDOW: What you‘re looking at here are live pictures from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, where people are filing through, paying their final respects to Senator Ted Kennedy who, of course, died on Tuesday night. The doors to the JFK Library will remain open to the public at least until 11:00 Eastern tonight and then they will open again tomorrow at 8:00. So far, at least 12,000 people have paid their respects.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: If over here you have the incoherent post-rational violence-threatening hostility of the anti-health reform protesters this summer; and over here, you have the incoherent theocratic violence threatening hostility of the extreme anti-abortion movement—this is what they look like when they both happen at once.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The guy screaming, “Howard Dean is a baby killer” is Randall Terry. He may look familiar to you because he makes a living doing this.
A day after the Kansas abortion Dr. George Tiller wars assassinated, Mr. Terry gave a press conference calling Dr. Tiller a mass murderer and saying that he reaped what he sow. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Warren Hern, one of the handful of doctors in the U.S. who still does late abortions gave a speech in Denver in which he said that in August 1993, Randall Terry on the National Christian Radio Broadcast Network invited his listeners to assassinate Dr. Hern.
Randall Terry founded a group called Operation Rescue, although he is no longer with that group, that group has now sent out a fund-raising appeal celebrating the fact that Dr. Tiller‘s clinic in Kansas has been closed since his assassination and they‘re calling for action this weekend against another doctor who does abortions. His name is Dr. Leroy Carhart. He practices in Nebraska.
In an online fund-raising appeal showing both a picture of Dr. Carhart and a picture of his clinic, Operation Rescue says, quote: “This is Leroy Carhart. Now, he plans to take Tiller‘s place as the number one late-term abortionist in America. With your help we can stop him. Now that George Tiller‘s mill is closed forever, Leroy Carhart plans to take his place and open a new late-term abortion mill in addition to the filthy, butchering mill he already operates in Nebraska.
And this is where Operation Rescue comes in. As you know, our years of fighting George Tiller makes us highly experienced in how to peacefully and legally shut down these late-term abortionists.
We will be in Omaha and at Carhart‘s abortion mill on August 28th and 29th to encourage and train pro-lifers who are working with us on this project to stop Carhart from becoming the next George Tiller. So, Carhart‘s days in Nebraska could be numbered.”
The head of Operation Rescue then signs the letters, “Yours for the babies,” and asks for donations.
Women‘s groups across Nebraska and Kansas and other states are asking for counter-protesters to show up on Saturday in Nebraska, as well as to block the Operation Rescue folks. In the middle of it all, there stands our next guest.
Joining us now is Dr. Leroy Carhart, friend and colleague of the late Dr. George Tiller. He‘s one of the few remaining doctors in this country aside from Dr. Hern who performs late abortions. Tomorrow and Saturday, he will face protesters from the Wichita based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.
Dr. Carhart, thank you for your time tonight.
DR. LEROY CARHART, ABORTION PROVIDER: Thank you for inviting me, Ms. Maddow.
MADDOW: I know that you‘ve had a long history of dealing with protesters and threats. How are you and your staff preparing for this weekend?
CARHART: Well, we are still seeing patients. We—and we have not cancelled any appointments. I‘m—I have to say I‘m getting a complete feedback of everything I say about two seconds later. So, I‘m having trouble thinking here.
MADDOW: OK. I‘ll ask them to turn you down there. So, hopefully, this will still work. You signal to me if this isn‘t working.
CARHART: Let me—I‘ll turn it down so I can answer this question. What we‘re doing with our staff, we had patients scheduled and I‘m sure that they were well aware of that when they made the arrangements to come this weekend. We were off last weekend. And we will be off next weekend.
We are not canceling any patients. We have tried to meet with all the local authorities to ensure that, first of all, things remain peaceful, and second of all, that access for our clients is not denied.
MADDOW: Can you hear me while I ask you a question? Is this going to work?
CARHART: I can hear you now. Thank you. Yes.
MADDOW: Very good. Operation Rescue is an organization that worries me, frankly. They blockaded Dr. Tiller‘s clinic, of course. They relocated their headquarters to Wichita because of Dr. Tiller. They ran Tiller watch on their Web site. An ex-convict, former clinic bomber on their staff admitted to having multiple conversations with Dr. Tiller‘s alleged killer about the Dr. Tiller before the murder and their latest fund-raising appeal is all about you, saying they want to shut you down.
And I worry about you just as a fellow American and I worry about anti-abortion extremism as terrorism. Do you feel like enough is being done to protect you and your staff?
CARHART: I think the local authorities are doing everything they can. I think the national law enforcement agencies also are. But I think Congress needs to get involved. I think the biggest omission so far is they‘re not identifying anti-abortion terrorism as hate crimes. Certainly, murdering a doctor in his church is a hate crime.
Most of us that perform abortions are very religious people. We believe that abortion is both a moral right and a religious right. The antis think that they have a moral majority in the country. However, there are 41 different churches that belong to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. They all support abortion as an option, but, of course, not the option and none of us, including myself, think that abortion is the right answer for every pregnancy.
MADDOW: “Newsweek” wrote a long profile of you this month, and they noted in that profile that before so many doctors were killed in the ‘90s, there was something like 2,700 doctors in the U.S. who did abortions as part of their practice. The most recent numbers say that it‘s down to about 1,800 now. It‘s been a very big drop-off.
Do you—because you‘re so much in the spotlight—do you hear from doctors and medical students considering whether or not to include abortion in their practice?
CARHART: I have heard quite a bit from doctors. In fact, since Dr. Tiller‘s murder, I have started training two new physicians, both what I call them second career physicians are both well-established in they‘re primary medical fields, and they want to give something back to the community, and they came to me asking me to train them in abortions. I also have a list of about a dozen abortion providers already that want to be trained to do this the second—late seconds and the third trimester abortions. And take them back to their home states.
So I—you know, I think that‘s been a catalyst even though, you know, we tremendously miss the loss of Dr. Tiller. It has—it has helped to galvanize the movement for abortion providers and even Medical Students for Choice have came out now, and they‘re starting to become more vocal and demanding training in their own institutions.
MADDOW: I think, the more people that know about that as a response to this horrible murder, the more people will have hope that terrorism is going to work in this case.
Dr. Leroy Carhart, thank you so much for making time to join us tonight and good luck to you, sir.
CARHART: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, if were you to read some of the news today, you would find that the late Senator Edward Kennedy was known for being a centrist, a compromiser—actually, a fairly conservative guy for a Democrat. That and other shameless jaw-dropping historical revisionism—just ahead.
MADDOW: Barely a day after he died, his Republican colleagues in the Senate say that if they could get health care reform done if only Ted Kennedy were still alive. And yes, these are the exact same Republicans who voted against Ted Kennedy‘s health care reform bill when he was alive. Yes. That is ahead.
But, first, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.
By 2007 it was pretty widely understood the whole “torturing people” problem that we had during the Bush administration pretty much wound down. The CIA inspector general‘s report in ‘04 stopped some of it. President Bush said he emptied the CIA jails in September 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that we couldn‘t just decide some prisoners weren‘t covered by the Geneva Conventions. And even Congress—little old Congress—passed a law banning degrading treatment of prisoners.
But even after all of that happened, after all of that, “The Associated Press” reports today that we were still using the classic torture technique of extreme sleep deprivation as recently as November 2007. Newly-released documents show Bush administration lawyers authorizing five-day and six-day sleep deprivation torture in August ‘07 and again in November 2007. That would be blatantly illegal under U.S. law and it‘s much later than we knew that any of this was happening.
We are working now to bring you more reporting on this. Stay with us on this one.
In another news, there is a new grassroots pro-coal group around. They‘re called, FACES, Federation for American Coal Energy Security, F-A-C-E-S, FACES. I hope that if there‘s a Federation for European Coal Energy Security they don‘t try the same style acronym.
If you go to FacesofCoal.org or FacesofCoal.com, there you‘ll see that it‘s not just big coal that‘s against global warming legislation. It‘s not just the coal companies funding corporate P.R. to try to protect their profits no matter what the cost to America‘s air quality, American‘s health, our global competitiveness, the environment. It‘s not just faceless corporations trying to protect the bottom line. It‘s real people with real faces, the faces of coal.
Quote, “They call themselves an alliance of peoples of all walks of life who are joining forces to educate lawmakers and the general public about the importance of coal and coal mining.” And by an alliance of people from all walks ever life, they actually mean that they are pictures of people from all walks of life that appeared to have been bought on iStockphoto.com.
Honestly, these faces of coal are clip art. So, from iStockphoto.com, here‘s a photo that you can buy. It‘s called woman working at a flower shop. Coincidentally, here‘s that same woman, same flower shop identified as one of the “faces of coal.”
Here‘s another photo you can buy from iStockphoto. It‘s called “Group of happy business people standing together against a white background.” And, hey! Here are those same happy business people standing together against white background. Except this time they‘re FacesofCoal.com.
The folks at “Appalachian Voices,” “Environmental News” and the “DeSmogBlog” also figured out that the group of adult students standing in a campus corridor, the elementary school students doing a science experiment, the firefighter and the explicable whitewater rafters, they all may in fact be real people in support of the coal mining company‘s agenda. That may be true, but they also are definitely people whose photos are available for sale on a stock photography Web site.
You know, when the coal industry‘s P.R. firm stole letterhead from the NAACP and use it to write letters to Congress, to make it look the NAACP was against cap-and-trade, political science textbooks all across the country had to be scrapped and rewritten to account for the new, most blatant, fake grassroots corporate P.R. effort ever. Now they‘ve topped even that. Eventually we‘ll just scrap political science textbooks altogether and just send everyone to advertising school instead.
MADDOW: People are still arriving at the John F. Kennedy presidential library in Boston to pay respects to the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
The library will host a memorial service tomorrow night. Senator Kennedy‘s funeral mass is scheduled for 10:30 eastern time on Saturday morning. He will be laid to rest at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday eastern time at Arlington National Cemetery alongside his brothers.
On Capitol Hill, the tributes to Senator Kennedy from Democrats and Republicans have been undoubtedly heartfelt.
That said, there is a notable theme emerging in the comments on Kennedy‘s passing from many Republicans. It‘s an insinuation, or in some cases an outright argument, that if Senator Kennedy were alive today to put out the right kind of bill, these Republicans might actually be voting for health reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH, ® UTAH: Had Teddy been healthy and strong, the first thing he would have done would call me and say let‘s together and get this done.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA: Ted Kennedy has a long history of being involved in this in a variety of ways.
SEN. JUDD GREGG, ® NEW HAMPSHIRE: His usual acts over the last few months we probably would have reached some sort of consensus agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In other words, if only Ted Kennedy were still here. If only he had a health care bill, those Republicans say they‘d vote for that.
You know, Ted Kennedy did have a health care bill. Senator Kennedy was chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which approved a health care reform package in July. It‘s called the Kennedy bill. Senator Kennedy helped write that bill. Senators Hatch and McCain and Gregg all voted against it.
But the revisionist history goes deeper. They aren‘t just saying they would have voted for a Kennedy health care bill, even though they had the chance and they didn‘t. They‘re saying they would have voted for a Kennedy health care bill because Ted Kennedy would have compromised with them, because Ted Kennedy was all about making concessions to Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I would hope that his example of working together, coming together in the spirit of compromise for this sake and good of the American people, would have some affect.
GREGG: And he always was willing to reach an agreement, if it was reasonable, to try to move things along.
HATCH: We met for an hour about a couple months ago, and he said I‘d really like to get this done. And, of course I was prepared to try and put it together in a way that would really bring both sides together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Apparently in the history of Ted Kennedy‘s life and work, as imagined by the GOP today, Senator Kennedy was the great compromiser, ready to water down health care reform in order to bring Republicans onboard.
Of course, in the actual history of Ted Kennedy‘s life and work, he always said that—and I say this without a hint of shyness—he was a doctrinaire liberal who spent the last four decades fighting to get health coverage for every American.
And awash in this mainstream Republican revisionist is history about Ted Kennedy, the great compromising moderate centrist, we‘re also facing warnings from the right now about how they intend to go after Senator Kennedy‘s memorial service this weekend.
Conservative bloggers led by those writing on “National Review” online are already predicting and criticizing what they‘re calling a “politicized memorial service.”
Their message is, don‘t talk about Ted Kennedy as a liberal at his memorial service, and don‘t even think about making liberal sound like a good thing. Otherwise, conservatives will be upset.
Joining us now is Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Chris, it‘s good to see you. Thanks very much for joining us.
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: The service hasn‘t taken place yet, obviously. On the right it is already being criticized for being political. What‘s your reaction to this?
KOFINIS: Well, it‘s pretty shameful. I mean, it‘s hard to take rhetoric from, you know, the right wing fringe that have been championing some of the most vitriolic rhetoric against—whether it‘s health care, let alone Senator Kennedy over the years.
So it‘s kind of shameless that this is the kind of tact that they‘re taking, to basically suggest that those who are going to go up and eulogize Senator Kennedy and talk about the man, his career, his incredible accomplishments, that somehow they‘re going to be lectured by the right wing about what is appropriate.
It‘s pretty shameless, and I would say, actually, disgusting. But it is what it is.
MADDOW: Chris, we have seen only on the fringe of the fringe, far right attacks on Senator Kennedy so far. And I‘m sure that they will start if they haven‘t started more in earnest soon.
And I don‘t mean to say that those people who have attacked him already shouldn‘t be teased and made fun of for having done so, but it hasn‘t been a mainstream attack from Republican at this point.
That said, we are seeing a real reimaging of Ted Kennedy as if he was not a liberal, as if his real legacy was he was sort of in between Democrats and Republicans somehow, as if he was a centrist. Do you think it is hard for the right to sit by while somebody who is lauded is lauded as a liberal?
KOFINIS: I think it‘s difficult. I mean it is kind of interesting considering the fact that the right and the Republican mainstream attacked Senator Kennedy for decades and used fundraising, or used him in commercials for their very own political ends.
Now, I agree with that the Republicans like Senator McCain and others have been kind in terms of their words, but in terms of how they, I would say, are revising Senator Kennedy‘s legacy and his record—was he bipartisan in the sense that he worked with Republicans on issues like education, immigration, health care at times? Absolutely.
But I don‘t think anyone can actually argue that he was not an incredibly powerful liberal voice that woke up every day when he was a senator and fought for the very causes that he cared about in terms of improving poor people‘s lives, providing them health care, improving education option.
And in terms of his health care debate, this notion of somehow that we could find a compromise, I have yet to hear any suggestion from any Republicans, including the three that were just mentioned, what that compromise would be. Tell us. We would like—Democrats would like to know. The reality is, they‘re compromise is no health care reform.
MADDOW: Chris, we have seen something like this before in liberal politics. The right went on the attack for the funeral of the great Senator Paul Wellstone. They attacked that as being a celebration and a rededication to his political goals and to his political mores.
Is there residual resentment, do you think, among liberals and Democrats for having been attacked for the way that they mourned Senator Wellstone? Could this end up being a really big fight?
KOFINIS: I think there‘s some residual resentment in the fact that it was pretty distasteful when that happened. In terms of Senator Kennedy, I think it will be a very respectful affair, but I have no doubt that they are going to, and appropriately so, talk about his incredible accomplishments.
They defined him as public servant. Here is a man who spent nearly five decades fighting for the issues that I and so many Americans care about.
The notion that you shouldn‘t talk about that, the notion you shouldn‘t talk about health care and these other issues, I actually think to would be inappropriate. I think they‘ll do a great service to a great public servant.
MADDOW: Democratic strategist Chris Kofinism thanks very much for joining us tonight, Chris.
KOFINIS: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “Countdown,” Keith talks to Congresswoman Maxine Waters about what a Kansas Republican congresswoman could have meant when she said that the GOP is looking for “It‘s great white hope.”
Next on this show, Republicans are busy now trying to reinvent Senator Ted Kennedy as the great compromiser, the great centrist. But recently unearthed footage of a classic Ted Kennedy speech that I think you have not seen serves as testament of what he really was, an unapologetic, very proud American liberal. See for yourself in a minute.
But first, one more thing about the political implications of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. The publication “U.S. News,” which is no longer “U.S. News and World Report,” just “U.S. News” now, today they floated the idea that the Republican party might run Mitt Romney as their candidate for Ted Kennedy‘s seat in the U.S. Senate.
The idea is now being picked up and run with by conservative bloggers, and it‘s playing a useful role for all political observers in the United States serving as simple, direct, fail-safe stupid-ometer.
Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts for one term, wherepon he quit rather than try get reelected on the strength of his then 34 percent approval rating in the state.
Mitt Romney‘s home state voters in Massachusetts hated him so much by the time that he quit that his approval rating there was lower than Governor Ernie Fletcher‘s approval rating at the time. Governor Ernie Fletcher at the time, of course, had just been indicted thrice.
Mitt Romney‘s the greatest legacy in Massachusetts politics was hand picking his successor, Republican Carrie Healy, to run for the governorship after he stepped downed. She lost by 21 points.
And now Mitt Romney doesn‘t even fake live in Massachusetts anymore. He sold his multi-million dollar mansion in Belmont, Mass, earlier this year.
Still, though, this conservative dream that the voters of Massachusetts are poised to elect Mitt Romney to Ted Kennedy‘s Senate seat is a very useful thing. It is useful in the same way that a bag of dye that explodes in bag of stolen money is useful. It smears anyone who holds it with a big stain of “stupid.”
MADDOW: Have you been waiting breathlessly for your art heist update in news from Iraq and life during wartime? Well, wait no longer.
On Tuesday, I slept through the day completely on a cocktail of TAMIFLU and Theraflu and something else-flu, too. But while I slept, Iraqi police announced that they had seized an original painting by Pablo Picasso in the southern Iraqi city of Hillah.
The Hillah police released a video of the painting and of a 33-year-old man who says he got the painting from his father, who said he stole it from Kuwait while he was a soldier in Iraq‘s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The painting is supposedly a Picasso original called “The Naked Woman.” In the police video, officers are seen holding it up for the so you can see what is purportedly Picasso‘s signature.
In addition to that signature, the back of the painting has a tag on it which says it was sold by the Louvre to the Museum of—space, space, space, space, space, Kuwait.
If you‘re keeping track of the veracity of this heist at home, please note that the tag has the Louvre and the Museum of Kuwait all in lower case, like it‘s an e.e. cummings poem or text message or something.
Several other words on the tag are misspelled. Also the Louvre doesn‘t actually sell anything that in its collection, and the Louvre has never had a Picasso.
But other than that, this is totally the “Abu Thomas Crown Affair.”
MADDOW: Left politically convenient revisionism. Cloud the real legacy of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. We refer you now to a keynote speech that he made on April 7, 1968 at the Alaska Democratic Convention that met that year in Sitka, Alaska.
Originally Senator Robert Kennedy was slated to give the address. But after Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th, just three days before this speech, Bobby Kennedy decided to stay behind in Washington to monitor the reaction. He sent his younger brother Ted to give the speech instead.
What then 36-year-old Senator Edward Kennedy delivered was not compromising. It was not moderate. It was a liberal homage to civil rights. It was a pretty darn good soliloquy about liberalism itself.
Now this tape was only rediscovered this January when a contractor working for the Alaska state library found an open reel that was simply marked “Ted Kennedy—Sitka.”
Here was Senator Edward Kennedy. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: If any man ever doubted the good intentions of his fellow man, if any man ever wondered whether institutions of government could be responsive to human needs, if any man ever yearned for a way of life that satisfied his desires for human freedom and dignity, he could look to America.
This was our image in truth. This was America as we knew it, as we grew in it and as we have taught our children.
The weakness of our society is the weakness in ourselves, within each and every one of us who are complacent, who are doing well, who realize the comforts of material gain, and who are, above all else, apathetic.
Where is the moral and strength within us, the qualities of character that we attributed to our children of the American heroes who have gone before us?
I, for one, do not feel we are any less than our forebears. I, for one, do not feel that there is anyone within this room who has less courage, less conviction, or is any less dedicated to the American dream than generations past.
But I do feel in a few short years we have let events master us rather than we them. I do feel in our great history we have fallen into a lapse. We have refused, each and every one of us, to exercise the talents and character bred into us.
And as a result, in land that was created on the Judeo-Christian ideals of love and brotherhood, we have let the haters take the lead, and we are paying that price today as we have paid for it many days and nights in this difficult sector.
We are where we are because we are all of us passing through life with our own personal blinders on. We favor civil rights bills and feel a warm glow in our hearts when we hear the eloquence of a Martin Luther King. We cluck our tongues over the agitators in the streets and call them outside troublemakers or ne‘er do-wells.
In essence, we are all very decent men and women of good faith, and we are all very busy with our careers and with our families, all too busy with our own concerns to fight injustice, to fight poverty, and to fight ill will in the immediate world around us.
As a United States senator, my message to you today is very simple. We only will lose and mislead ourselves if we feel we lift a personal burden from our shoulder by passing pieces of legislation, important as that is, if we feel legislation can be our only response to our fellow men who are deprived.
Beyond that, I would say no matter how the most difficult questions of Vietnam are solved, no matter how we meet the future challenges in the Middle East, no matter how strong the controls we develop over the horror of atomic weapons, and no the matter how we face the domestic problems of health for the poor, education for our young, and decent housing and better roads for the most distant parts of America, no matter how well we do these things, they will only be the epitaph of a great nation that could not bind its own wounds within itself, and as a result, lost itself.
If laws do not meet the needs, and they don‘t, if speeches will not meet the need, and they won‘t, if marches and demonstrations won‘t meet the need, and they won‘t, where are we to turn? We can only turn to ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s recently unearthed footage of the proud liberal, Senator Ted Kennedy, speaking in Alaska 1968 just days after the murder of Martin Luther King.
We just heard from the Kennedy family that the line of people waiting to pay their respects to Senator Kennedy at the JFK library in Boston right now apparently stretches for 3.5 hours.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: We turn now to the chief of our many, many performance art correspondents, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Rachel. Welcome back. Or should I say echinecea?
The debate rages on, so when is it OK to dance in public without your clothes?
JONES: New York‘s Metropolitan Museum of Art. What better place to pause, reflect, party naked?
Model Casey Neal and photographer Zach Hyman got their freak on at the Met‘s arms and armory gallery yesterday after waiting for a guard to turn his head for a few seconds.
It‘s true what they say—form followed funky.
Here is a less sexy shot of Casey and Zach leaving the Central Park police precinct after being charged with public lewdness. Zach, who is making a name for himself shooting nudes in public all over New York City, says, lewd, who me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s not pornography. It‘s a pose. It‘s a study on the human form.
JONES: Ah, yes, the old “it‘s art” defense.
His attorney added this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The museum is full of nude art, it‘s full of nude sculptures. I mean, to call this obscenity is ridiculous.
JONES: He‘s got a point. Apparently, you can see this at the Met, and this, and this, but not this. I guess when it comes to art, people see what they want to see.
MADDOW: That was excellent, Kent. Thank you very much.
JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: I have a cocktail moment for you.
JONES: Remember your story about Bob Dylan doing a Christmas album?
JONES: Of course.
MADDOW: Here comes Bob Dylan, no way whammy number two. Listen to this. This is him talking to BBC Radio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t usually like to tell people what I‘m doing, but I am talking to a couple of car companies about possibly being the voice of their GPS system. I think it would be good if you are looking for directions and you heard my voice saying something like, “Take a left at the next street, now a right. You know what? Just go straight.”
I probably shouldn‘t do it because that‘s just the way I would go.
I always end up in one place, on Lonely Avenue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Was that you impersonating him or was that actually him on the BBC?
DYLAN: No, no. And if Bob Dylan told me to go somewhere, believe me, that is where I‘d go. I would go right there.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent, good to see you.
DYLAN: Sure, good to see you.
MADDOW: Thank you at home for watching tonight. We‘ll see you again tomorrow night. “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” starts right now. Goodnight.
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