Guest: Rep. Anthony Weiner, Danielle Brian, C. Welton Gaddy
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Wow.
MADDOW: Keith you know, those with ears will not hear.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: No, no, no. Those that have ears will not see.
MADDOW: You know, that makes it all make sense.
OLBERMANN: Yes, yes.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Keith, both from the country and from me.
MADDOW: All right. And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour even though we‘re broadcasting from Rockefeller Center.
We begin tonight with the no longer figuratively gruesome side of the health reform debate. A fight broke out at a California health reform rally last night, during which a pro-reform activist bit off the tip of another man‘s finger. Police are still looking for the biter. As for the bitee, he is recovering, and is talking publicly about the fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I threw a second punch and my fist ended up in his mouth. He bit my pinky finger off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s pretty much to the point.
Despite earlier reports to the contrary today, the piece of the man‘s finger that got bit off could not be reattached. So—well, luckily to the extent that word can ever apply to a person who‘s just had the their finger bitten off, luckily, the bitee—despite proclaiming his belief that health care reform is part of a giant scheme for the government to grab what‘s left of our freedom away from us—luckily that guy, the bitee, is covered by Medicare, the great big government-run single payer health care system in this country that removes the threat of bankruptcy pursuant to injury for Americans aged 65 and older.
Before Medicare was passed by Congress and signed into law back in 1965, the debate surrounding Medicare, the thing that paid for the bitee‘s finger treatment today, the fight about Medicare back then—much like the current health debate—was long, bitter and at least rhetorically bloody fight.
As far back as 1945, President Harry Truman had called for a system of national health insurance that would cover everyone in this country. He submitted legislation for it again and again and again but he couldn‘t get it passed. In 1951, his administration started stumping for a scaled-back plan, one that would just cover the elderly instead of everyone. That didn‘t go anywhere either.
The next president, Dwight Eisenhower, was a Republican and he did not like the idea of single payer health insurance for the elderly.
But by the time John F. Kennedy was running for president in 1960, health care for retirees was a major part of Kennedy‘s platform. Kennedy sponsored legislation to create Medicare while still a senator and he pushed for it repeatedly as president. His Medicare bill in 1960 failed by four votes in the Senate. His bill in 1962 failed by two votes in the Senate. In 1963, he tried again and failed again.
It was not until 1965, 20 years after the Truman administration first proposed national health insurance, after years of repeated failures, trying to get it through the Congress and ultimately, of course, after the assassination of President Kennedy in November ‘63, it wasn‘t until 1965 that President Johnson was able to sign Medicare into law.
You know, he e did the signing ceremony at the Harry Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. And then on the spot Johnson signed up, former President Harry Truman as the nation‘s first enrollee in Medicare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON: They told me, President Truman, that if you wish to get the voluntary medical insurance that you will have to sign this application form.
JOHNSON: And they asked me to sign as your witness. So, you‘re getting special treatment since cards won‘t go out to the other folks until the end of this month. But we wanted you to know and we wanted this entire world to know that we haven‘t forgotten who is the real daddy of Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The real daddy of Medicare, he calls Truman.
If you want in the case study in how hard it is to get health reform in this country? Even when they got Medicare in 1965, they knew it had taken 20 years to get that far. Well, now, in 2009, the beltway common wisdom is that whether or not we get health reform is contingent on this one big speech that President Obama has planned on the subject for next week, addressing a joint session of Congress, and addressing a joint session of Congress is always a big deal.
But if a great speech was really predictive of success in this field, then President Clinton would have gotten the job done in 1993 when he hit it out of the park by all accounts with his September joint address to Congress on health care.
Back at the big speech and presidential gumption and salesmanship were really the keys for success for health reform, consider that President Kennedy not only campaigned for the presidency on health reform, he not only put it in the State of Union, he not only made addresses to the nation from the White House on health reform, President John F. Kennedy, in May 1962 -- get this—he gave a health care speech to 20,000 people—speaking before 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York City, while 45 White House spokesmen simultaneously addressed their own rallies on health care in cities across the country. After all that, Medicare failed in the Senate that year, lost by two votes.
If that‘s any prologue, we have learned two things. One, reform is really hard. Two, it takes a long time—and persistence and willingness to go back to it again and again and again. It takes more than a speech or a series of speeches.
The question now is not whether or not President Obama will give a great speech and will that be determinative? It‘s not—the real question is, is whether or not this is one of those years when a long history of fighting for health reform finally pays off—or if it‘s another one of those years that is just spent fighting for?
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. He‘s on the House Energy and Commerce committee and the health subcommittee. He is, of course, an outspoken supporter of single-payer health care.
Congressman Weiner, it‘s nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It‘s my pleasure.
MADDOW: Is this a year when something passes, do you think?
WEINER: Well, it better be. You know, the arc of cost to health care, whether it be to taxpayers or individual citizens or businesses has just gone so high that, you know, I‘ve heard discussions—maybe we should trigger tougher action later on. Well, the trigger probably was this recession—I mean, that‘s got to be what is the eye-opener, that if we don‘t get health care now, we may miss this opportunity.
Now, I‘m also concerned that if all it takes is a little shouting and the tip of someone‘s finger to throw us off the track, then I don‘t know when we‘ll ever get back to this.
MADDOW: I don‘t know if the tip of that man‘s finger will help or hurt anybody‘s case here. Certainly, it‘s a symbol of the drama and of the heat of the rhetoric on both sides, but I suppose there‘s two historic ways to think about this. One is to think about this as the historic one shot that we‘ve got. This is the one time that we‘ve got to take bite of this apple, as they say, and as I think I‘ve heard you say before. The other way to think about this is as part of a long hard slog, the way that we got Medicare.
Do you think this is a special chance, a special opportunity? And if we don‘t get it now, we really won‘t get it for a long time?
WEINER: Well, we‘re kind of painted into the corner of the financial straits that we‘re in. You know, to some degree one the increments was supposed to be when he passed Medicare Part D, that folly of a plan that we gave $730 billion to the insurance industry to try to come up with a prescription drug plan. They brought us the doughnut hole and $400 billion of additional spending on top of it.
We‘ve kind tried this for quite some time. We are having such a strain on our economy that if we don‘t get costs contained, that if we don‘t stop and change the way we‘re doing things, every day, 15,000 Americans are losing health insurance. Say, we‘re going to wait another couple of years, that‘s ten and hundreds of thousands of Americans that will have to go without insurance while we get this mess cleaned up.
This is really our chance and it‘s something else—this is what President Obama campaigned on. So, we mustn‘t walk away and say, “Listen, we got a little increment.” That‘s not the change a lot of people think they voted for.
MADDOW: Well, where do you stand on the importance of the president‘s speech next week? How important do you think it is in terms of actually getting legislation through Congress and getting it through now?
WEINER: Oh, it‘s big. You know, David Axelrod said on your show that this is like we‘re in the ninth inning. That‘s not true. Our cleanup hasn‘t even come to the plate. You know, we‘re kind of like—you know, not to give another sports metaphor in here—but it‘s kind of like in hockey when the rep sits back and lets the couple of players fight for a couple of minutes before they separate to get back to the game. We‘ve been in a scrap through the month of August, but we really haven‘t had presidential leadership in the way that we need it most.
If he stands up Wednesday and says, “To the country and to my colleagues in Congress, we are going to have a public option in this plan because we need and here‘s why,” it‘s going to get done. If he doesn‘t, we‘re going to have to settle for less and that will be a tragedy.
MADDOW: Let me pose one question to you about long term versus short term effect of this. Some of the reasoning on left in particular, goes that if health reform battle fails, if there isn‘t health reform this year, Democrats will look so weak that they weren‘t able to pull it off with this big a majority, with the huge win they had over the Republicans in 2006, 2008, that they‘re setting themselves up for losses in 2010 by virtue of losing this now. That‘s one way to think about it.
The other way to think about this is that Democrats are defining for a generation now health care, the Democratic issue that Republicans don‘t want to fix, and it‘s something that Democrats can campaign on—whether or not they get it—against Republicans at this next election, the one after that, the one after that, the one after that.
Which way do you come down on that?
WEINER: Well, I basically believe that there‘s a way to get a health care bill passed this year that doesn‘t do all that much, that makes some incremental nods towards, you know, not allowing insurance companies to take pre-existing condition into consideration. Those types of relatively modest changes to the insurance system.
But, you know, the problem in this country now, that all of the 80/20 easy problems have been solved. We‘ve got nothing left but 45-45-10 problems—half, half, with 10 undecided. These are tough issues.
President Obama was elected to take on these tough issues. And I think what he‘ll find is the American people now that we‘re kind of at a point where we‘re done shouting and yelling at each other, not really want to try to get something done, if he really puts his pedal to the metal, I think this is the moment to get it done. I don‘t think it‘s—you know, it‘s irretrievable if we don‘t, but I really do think it would be a huge missed opportunity.
MADDOW: New York Congressman Anthony Weiner—we really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for joining us.
WEINER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. Do you remember—have these pictures again—these guys? Remember these guys? Yes. Sorry. These are the contractors in Afghanistan who we, the taxpayer, are paying to guard the American embassy in Kabul. Despite appearances, they were not hired to get naked and drink vodka from one other‘s glutei maximi.
Since these photos went public, the State Department has launched an investigation into why we‘re spending millions of taxpayer dollars for—this? Stay with us.
MADDOW: At the end of July, you might remember these fairly bizarre images of the former president of a country—that‘s the man in the cowboy hat there—walking across the border into the country he used to be president of all the while talking on his cell phone and then he had to run back across the border after being confronted by soldiers. Those images were from the border of Honduras, where the president, Manuel Zelaya, had been ousted in a military coup and kicked out of country.
Well, since then, the Obama administration has said that it support Former President Zelaya‘s request to return to his position of authority. Not so much out of love for Manuel Zelaya but out of respect for the democratic process.
Well, today, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Mr. Zelaya, boom. State Department announced that all U.S. aid for that country, all U.S. aid for Honduras is over—immediately, as of right now. $22 million stopped in its tracks. Quote, “Restoration of terminated assistance will be predicated upon a return to democratic constitutional governance in Honduras.”
As they say, money walks. Well, bullpucky money talks, bullpucky walks, small change takes the bus to the border while talking on a cell phone. Actually, I‘m not exactly sure what they say at all. You get the point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PJ CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We‘ve taken steps in terms of increasing our presence in Camp Sullivan so that, you know, we are—we have a better situation awareness of what is happening there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From the, more fallout today from the worst frat party on Earth, photos of Wackenhut contractors who are supposedly responsible for guarding the most important American building anywhere in the world outside of the United States. Thanks to theses whistleblower photos of contractors simulating sex and posing nude and drinking vodka out of slot B. The State Department has decided to send diplomatic security personnel to oversee these contractors.
So, if you‘re keeping track at home, that means we replaced guards with contractors who we now have to have overseen by more guards, to make sure the contractors are not doing this instead of guarding the embassy. How efficient.
Two years ago, the State Department under Condoleezza Rice investigated this contract and warned the company that because of their conduct, quote, “The security of the U.S. embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy.” A follow-up Senate report called the Kabul embassy contract, quote, “deficient since the start of the contract in 2007.”
The State Department issued this company what‘s called a cure notice back in July 2007, telling them essentially to shape up or risk losing the contract. Eight months later in April 2008, they got an even sterner warning that they had shaped up at all and they really better. And the following July, they got their contract renewed.
Now, because of the photographic evidence provided to the government by the Project on Government Oversight, this nonprofit watchdog group which has a history of supporting government whistleblowers, the State Department is now starting to take action.
Given the horrible track record of this company, why did it take photos from a watchdog group to get the State Department to send in the adults here? And what‘s happening to the whistleblowers inside this company who are the reason that we‘ve got these photos now in the first place?
Joining us is Danielle Brian, executive director on the Project on Government Oversight, the watchdog group that exposed this latest contractor scandal.
Ms. Brian, thanks very much for joining us.
DANIELLE BRIAN, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: Thank you for having me. You asked exactly the right question.
MADDOW: Well, let‘s get to the answers, then.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first about why the State Department is acting now? It seems like there‘s this incredible State Department and congressional record of these contractors getting called on their nonsense, but still, they got the contract.
BRIAN: Yes. And, you know, I‘ve actually just found today, even more outrageous news. I‘ve got e-mails today from a guard who is still there, showing that in 2007, he was raising concerns about some of these supervisors who were over in training in the U.S. and he was saying back then, two years ago, these guys are weird. They are doing weird deviant hazing. We need to do something about it. And the supervisors reported this to the State Department in 2007.
MADDOW: So, he reported that to the government. He didn‘t report that just up the chain of command in Wackenhut? He reported that to the government, then?
BRIAN: Well, it was sort of a leapfrog. He reported it to his supervisor—this is actually even more incredible—supervisor within Wackenhut at the time was actually ArmorGroup, and that guy reports it to the State Department. That guy gets fired. He becomes the whistleblower and has a suit against them.
MADDOW: POGO today, your group today put out release saying that one of the whistleblowers was forced to resign in an act of retaliation by the company. Is that the case that you‘re talking about?
BRIAN: No, that‘s another one. That‘s a guy who—that‘s just happened in the last two days. One of my biggest worries is the good guys are still the ones who are really in danger and taking the fall. The bad guys are not yet being held accountable.
MADDOW: Well, about these bad guys. I mean, has anything happened to the supervisors that these whistleblowers are blowing the whistle on? The people who created this environment at the embassy, the people who are responsible for this culture of hazing, apparently, they have sort of been named and shamed by people within that company. What‘s happened to them since this stuff has been outed?
BRIAN: Well, three of them have been allowed to quietly resign. One of them had, just last week, a big celebratory good-bye party from his colleagues. And they‘re off, you know, looking for a new contract probably for the U.S. government somewhere else. So, they‘ve already been able to resign without being held accountable.
MADDOW: How do the whistleblowers come to you? POGO is a good government group. You deal with whistleblowers a lot about things gone wrong. How do employees of this company find their way to you and how do you make sure—try to make sure—that they‘re protected after they give you information?
BRIAN: Well, that‘s actually an incredibly important point, because it‘s really hard to protect these guys. For example, this guy right now who‘s been forced out of a job, the law is going to be hard to help this guy. And that‘s one of the things we‘re working on is to strengthen those laws.
But a sort of a one at a time situation we‘re after, one reached out to us. We were talking to him then he encouraged others to come to us. And now, we‘re up to, I think, 20 of the English-speaking guards that we‘ve talked to.
So, it‘s really important to point out that they‘re really bizarre, deviant things going on. But the reason we know about this is that some of these contractors have really risked a lot to come out.
MADDOW: Right. So, what we‘ve got right now is we‘ve got information, as you say, that‘s just come out in the last couple of days about this type of behavior being reported as recently as—as far back as 2007.
MADDOW: We got 2007 investigation by the State Department. We‘ve got a follow-up investigation by the Senate. We‘ve got in the midst of all of this, a re-upping of the contracts for these guys.
What‘s your take on how the State Department now is handling this? Obviously, the track record was bad. The contract was re-upped this past summer. But what do you think about the way they‘ve responded to you now and what they‘re doing in terms of taking remedial action?
BRIAN: Well, I was happy to just get a call about an hour or two ago from the State Department that actually, the number three at the embassy is asked to come over to be briefed by us at POGO next week. So, that‘s a good sign. What worries me, though, is I‘ve had an e-mail that was circulated to all the guards that told them that while State Department investigators are there, interviewing all the people at the base, they are not aloud to speak to State Department investigator without a supervisor being there with them.
BRIAN: Yes. So, I don‘t have a lot of faith that the State Department is going to be able to dig up much on their own.
MADDOW: And if this was vending contracts, you know, at a train station somewhere, this would be annoying enough. But the fact that this is the protection of what I think is probably the most important American building anywhere outside of America.
MADDOW: The idea that the company might be able to interfere with our ability to get this right.
MADDOW: Not only to make sure there‘s accountable here, but to make sure that the safety concerns of the people who work at that embassy are met, I have to say it‘s infuriating.
Let me ask you one, I guess, slightly bigger picture question. You deal with whistleblowers a lot a things gone wrong—things gone wrong when the public is paying.
MADDOW: Is it harder to pursue accountability generally when government functions are contracted out to private companies? Does that create another layer of insulation for people who act criminally or inappropriately or wastefully on the taxpayers‘ dime?
BRIAN: I think there‘s no question that that‘s a huge issue. That‘s one the issues that we raised in our letter to Secretary Clinton was, is this the right place in this case to be having contractors? It really creates a difficult ability to hold them accountable. And that‘s true in any of these situations.
MADDOW: Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, the watchdog group that exposed the latest contractor scandal. They‘re online at POGO.org. Danielle, I would just say that not only is POGO doing good work here, you‘re doing—you personally are doing really good work communicating important issues about it.
BRIAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: And I think it‘s your credit to the organization and to the overall cause. So, thanks very much for joining us.
BRIAN: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: OK. Louisiana‘s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, has been caught having his beignet and eating it, too. He‘s been caught crusading against government spending while taking credit for government spending and while lavishing the said government spending on himself. And now, he‘s taking aim at Louisianans who are criticizing him for that by saying that those critics like gay people. Heaven forbid! Yes, that‘s next.
MADDOW: Still ahead: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and his love/hate but mostly love relationship with federal spending.
Plus, we enjoy a few bars from the new opera based on the Senate testimony of Alberto Gonzales. It is honestly, probably the coolest thing you‘ve ever seen on this show. I know. I‘m totally freaking out about it.
And from my friend Kent Jones has news about the awesome band Metallica and the monkeys who love them.
That is all coming up the rest of this hour.
But, first, it‘s time for a few holy mackerel story in today‘s news.
A skirmish of sorts has broken out on the American right. It‘s not between moderates and conservatives in Congress—that would require there to be some moderate Republicans in Congress. And it‘s not between the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives, or the partisans and the single-issue activists.
It is instead—you might not expect this—it is a fight between what many would define as the right-wing fringe and the people who think of themselves as pretty darn right-wing but they definitely don‘t think of themselves as fringe. Jon Henke at TheNextRight.com is alleging that the Republican National Committee—yes, that Republican National Committee, the official Republican Party—is renting an e-mail list from WorldNetDaily.
WorldNetDaily is perhaps the leading online purveyor of the Birther conspiracy, the idea that President Obama was not actually born on August 4th, 1961 in Hawaii, which he was, and he‘s there for secretly not really president.
More recently, WorldNetDaily has expanded its conspiracy repertoire to include the preposition that health reform is actually a secret plan to put Republicans in concentration camps. The RNC‘s chairman, Michael Steele, you may know him—at times he has tried to publicly distance himself from the tinfoil, hat-wearing fringe, including from the Birthers. And yet, by paying for and using WorldNetDaily‘s e-mail list, the RNC appears to be reaching out to the very same people who is given a war shock test would see in every input (ph) a Guantanamo prisoner and an Obama t-shirt teaching American kindergartners at a federally funded madrasa.
As Mr. Henke writes at NextRight.com, quote, “In the 1960s, Barry Goldwater and few Republicans had the integrity and guts to denounce the irresponsible fringe in the fevered swamps of the right. Today, as far as I can tell, the Republican National Committee works with them.”
We called the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington today to confirm whether or not they are using WorldNetDaily‘s e-mail list to reach out to that site‘s readers, even as they tried to distance themselves from the fringe. Our call was not returned.
Now, as for Mr. Jon Henke, who is fighting for the not-crazy side in the battle for the soul of the Republican Party, we are hoping that Mr. Henke will be a guest on this show on Tuesday. He was planning to be.
After seeing the segment, Jon, we would really love to have you. Come on. It will be fun.
We‘ve also now got a follow-up on the story that we covered last night. Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling threw his baseball hat into the ring this week, expressing a little interest in running for the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy. As recently as today, Curt Schilling was speaking publicly about the possibility.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CURT SCHILLING, RED SOX BASEBALL PITCHER: I did an interview yesterday where I said, “Yes, you know, I‘d thought about it.” And you know, there‘s a lot - but if you hear the whole interview you‘ll understand very clearly what I‘m saying.
There‘s a lot of things that would have to align themselves. The chances of it happening are slim to none, but they ran with, ‘I‘ve been thinking about it‘ and so it‘s just gone nuts.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So whether or not that sounds to you like he‘s going to run, it turns out that what looks like a first pitch was really more of a balk. Unfortunately for him, Curt Schilling is not registered to vote in Massachusetts as a Republican. He‘s registered as an Independent.
And according to Massachusetts state law and the various deadlines involved, that means that Curt Schilling could not run for office as a Republican even if he wanted to. And I can tell you this, he‘s definitely not a Democrat. But if he did run and win as an Independent - say he did - that would be there would be three Independents in the United States Senate, conservadem Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, the very liberal Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Curt Schilling of Massachusetts.
And Bernie Sanders, Joe Lieberman and Curt Schilling just sounds like the set up to a really bad joke, but it could be interesting.
Finally, five years ago, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. And despite all the dire warnings, the sky did not fall down on the day a man was allowed to marry a man and woman was allowed to marry a woman in the Bay State.
In fact, the institution of marriage is alive and well and thriving in Massachusetts. New provisional government statistics show that in 2008, Massachusetts had the lowest divorce rate in the country. Tada! The rate of divorces in Massachusetts was 2.2 per 1,000 when gay people started getting married in Massachusetts.
The rate of divorces per thousand is now down furtherer to 2.0 per thousand. That‘s the lowest divorce rate in the country. In fact, Massachusetts divorce rates are now down to pre-World War II levels - 1940. So awkwardly, it turns out gay marriage is a defense of marriage act.
MADDOW: In the grand tradition of professional implosion made famous by Alaska‘s Sarah Palin and South Carolina‘s Mark Sanford, the latest next big thing “Republican governor becoming a casualty of his own behavior” appears to be Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Bobby Jindal got the political self-destruction started back in February as the official Republican responder to President Obama‘s big speech about the federal stimulus package. I speak, of course, of the performance that came to be known at the Howdy Doody speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA): I‘m Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After that rather inglorious debut in the national spotlight, the reputed fiscal conservative and government waste fighter developed a “do as I say, not as I do” problem. The latest chapter of which is this.
Between March 2nd and July 28th, the governor used taxpayer-funded helicopter to take 14 trips to churches at a cost of about $45,000 taxpayer dollars. That data comes to us from “The Advocate” newspaper of Baton Rouge.
Mr. Jindal was simply politicking. He‘s, of course, got a government waste problem here. If he was simply preaching and praying, you‘ve sort of got a separation of church and state problem here.
His profligate Sunday travel habit didn‘t catch the eye of the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy. He is the pastor the Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana, and he‘s president of the Interfaith Alliance.
Rev. Gaddy wrote this to Gov. Jindal, quote, “It appears that you owe the people of Louisiana an apology, and the treasurer of the state a reimbursement of at least $45,000 in addition to whatever money was spent in the period not covered by ‘The Advocate‘s‘ investigation. No taxpayer money should have been used for your travel.”
In response, Gov. Jindal‘s spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, decided that instead of addressing the issue, she would just go ahead and attack the Interfaith Alliance saying, quote, “This political group opposes putting crosses up in honor of fallen policemen, has attacked the National Day of Prayer and advocates for same-sex marriage.”
So it‘s not surprising that they were attacking the governor for accepting invitations to speak at Louisiana churches. By attacking the messenger, Gov. Jindal‘s office may have hoped to distract attention from the governor himself.
Sorry. We also recall that Governor Take-the-Chopper-to-Church is the same guy who mocked the federal stimulus back in that Howdy Doody speech back in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JINDAL: While some of the projects in the bill make sense, that legislation is larded with wasteful spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Having said that and having proudly announce that he planned to reject federal stimulus money, Gov. Jindal then set off on a statewide tour, stopping in just about every parish in Louisiana handing out Publisher‘s Clearing House-sized checks drawn from both state and federal grant money including, of course, funds from the stimulus package.
Here he is in Lafayette. Here he is in Terrebonne Parish. Here he is in St. Landry another parish. Here he is in Vernon Parish, handing out money everywhere he goes. And who are these ginormous checks from?
Well, they say they‘re from Bobby Jindal. We know because he endorsed the giant checks with his very own giant signature and put the governor‘s office up there in the corner as if he found all money by cutting his own pencil allowance or something.
The governor has been sold to us as a social moralist, a fiscal conservative and an enemy of government waste. You know, none out of three isn‘t all that bad, is it?
Joining us, is Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy. He is a Baptist minister in Monroe, Louisiana. He is the president of the Interfaith Alliance. And full disclosure, he‘s my friend. Rev. Gaddy, thanks very much for being on the show. It‘s great to see you.
REV. DR. WELTON GADDY, PRESIDENT, INTERFAITH ALLIANCE: It‘s great to be with you again, Rachel.
MADDOW: Why did you take this action of writing the governor? Why did you feel like you needed to speak out about this?
GADDY: Rachel, I was appalled that the governor of the state who cares immensely about religion, by his own confession, would not acknowledge and appreciate the best friend that religion has had in the United States, and that being the constitutional provision of religious freedom, which on the one hand prohibits the entanglement of institutions of government and institutions of religion and on the other hand guarantees the free exercise of religion.
And then, when I heard the governor‘s explanation of his behavior, I was appalled even more. And I honestly do think he owes us, the citizens of the state - I think he owes us an apology and he owes the state a reimbursement.
MADDOW: When you sent this letter, the governor spokeswoman responded. And I knew that we were going to cover this story, but I decided that we definitely had to cover the story by having you on the air.
When I saw what she said, her response to it was, in part, saying that the Interface Alliance advocates for same-sex marriage, “So it‘s not surprising they‘re attacking the governor for accepting invitations to speak at Louisiana churches.”
It sounds to me she is attacking your faith. She‘s attacking your religious credibility in attacking him because you‘re not anti-gay?
GADDY: First of all, Rachel, I don‘t mind being attacked. I wish he had answered the question. The citizens of Louisiana deserve an answer to what‘s going on here and what he‘s going to do about it.
Let me take very quickly, the critique that his spokesperson offered. He said that we are supporting gay marriage. I personally did a paper - I think you may have seen a draft of it - in which I talked about the relationship between gay marriage and marriage legally and marriage in the religious community and it is a religious liberty issue.
Our point is not to tell anybody where they have to stand on that issue, but it is to say, for goodness sakes, keep the government out of the churches and houses of worship in other traditions by telling them what rituals they can practice and on whom they can practice them.
He criticized us for challenging the case about establishing crosses along the roadside to honor a patrolman who had died in service. Our interest in that - I would think Gov. Jindal would have been interested in himself. We opposed that case because the argument that‘s central to it says that the cross is not a religious symbol. The governor‘s a Catholic. He knows better than that.
We did not attack the National Day of Prayer. We did express concern that that National Day of Prayer had been hijacked by right-wing extremists, and they had turned it into an exclusive exercise. And we think when you talk about prayer and meditation, that ought to be inclusive. So his spokesperson thought that she was being very critical of us. We took it as a compliment.
MADDOW: Well, and the reason that they attacked you for all of those things that you‘ve now just defended yourself or explained yourself about is that they‘re taking a more-Christian-than-thou approach to this issue.
Gov. Jindal has campaigned as much as anything as a Christian politician. He‘s made his faith absolutely central to his reported appeal both in Louisiana as a politician and potentially nationally as a politician.
And you‘re the head of the Interfaith Alliance. You yourself are a Baptist minister. I have to ask you if railing against the stimulus and then going out to every parish in the state of Louisiana with giant checks of stimulus money, making it seem like that money came from his, putting his own name on those checks, disguising the fact that those funds came from something that he railed against as evil, it‘s going to be a problem for him in terms of his overall character issues, in terms of campaigning, using Christianity, his faith, as a stand-in for his supposed integrity.
GADDY: Rachel, I‘m not smart enough, wise enough to judge someone‘s character, so I don‘t really care much about doing that. I don‘t really even care about his politics. I do care what he does to religion and to the integrity of the religious community.
I know from the reporters at “The Advocate” who broke that story originally that on these trips to various churches - and they‘re not Catholic churches. They‘re not churches that he ordinarily goes to, that he talks about his conversion from Hinduism to Christianity, and he offers a sermon.
Now, look. We didn‘t elect him to be pastor of the State of Louisiana. We elected him to be the governor of Louisiana. And what I hope is that his actions in the stimulus package bill, that money, his actions in using tax money to go to houses of worship now, I hope he doesn‘t think that he‘s doing either religion or government any favor.
Religion will do just well without government intrusion and the government coming in, in the form of the governor and telling churches what they ought to do and how they ought to vote.
MADDOW: Separation between church and state is good for church and good for state. I think that‘s well put argument. Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, himself a Baptist in Monroe, Louisiana, joining us from gorgeous Jackson, Mississippi tonight. Welton, it‘s great to see you. Thanks for being on the show.
GADDY: Great to see you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: OK. Glenn Beck, over on Fox News, has a new target. It‘s a commie building and it happens to be the commie building I‘m sitting in right now. Tonight, on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith has an un-miss-able history lesson for Mr. Beck and some facts about Mr. Beck‘s own place of commie business.
Next on this show, if you remember Alberto Gonzales as a bad song you can‘t get out of your head, prepare yourself for Alberto Gonzales, the opera.
MADDOW: One of the great unexpected corollaries in modern American politics is between being the attorney general, the top law enforcement officer in the country, and singing in public. It was Janet Reno who started it.
After winning the intergalactic karaoke gold medal for that for obvious reasons, Janet Reno, also of “Saturday Night Live” dance party fame went on after her tenure as attorney general to curate a CD collection called “Song of America.” Here, she was talking about it on NPR.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JANET RENO, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Home on the range was one of the songs we sang. And I had a pony, and I would come home from school singing.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Attorney generals and singing. After Janet Reno, John Ashcroft kept up the singing attorney general theme. Some might say Ashcroft actually took it way too far. .
Now, we can add Alberto Gonzales to America‘s new proud and totally unexpected tradition of better understanding our attorneys general through song.
A young Australian American composer, 29-year-old Melissa Dunphy has written “The Gonzales Cantata.” It‘s an opera about Alberto Gonzales, inspired by the reaming that Gonzales got before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007 when he pled ignorant and forgetful to allegations about the U.S. attorney scandal.
Every word in the cantata is sung from the transcript of Senate hearings. The composer told “The Wall Street Journal” that because she was annoyed that there was only one woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, and because female opera singers are easier to find than male opera singers, she ended up reversing the genders of all of the characters involved.
So Alberto Gonzales and senators like Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter and Chuck Grassley are all sung by sopranos. Orrin Hatch is reportedly an alto because he was sort of nice to Alberto Gonzales in the hearing, so that called for a different vibe. Also, Dianne Feinstein is sung by a male tenor.
This is not an anti-Alberto Gonzales thing. And despite the inherent hilarity of an opera about Alberto Gonzales, I spent all day obsessing about this and watching clips of it online and listening to the music. And I have to tell you, in my opinion, it is both great and kind of moving. Here is the aria “I Don‘t Recall.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don‘t recall remembering. I don‘t recall. I did not recall. I don‘t recall the conversation. I don‘t recall whether I was present. I probably was but I don‘t recall - I do not recall.
I don‘t recall. I don‘t recall.
I don‘t recall. I don‘t recall
I don‘t recall, I don‘t recall. I don‘t recall.
I don‘t recall this conversation. I have no recollection. I don‘t
recall. I don‘t recall
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s how it ends. So awesome. “The Gonzales Cantata” is being performed this weekend as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. If you can‘t make it to the Fringe Festival to see it, the Web site that we just posted there is “GonzalesCantata.com.”
It is awesome, as you can see. It is modeled on “The Drudge Report.” so good. On the Web site, they have posted a full play list as well as videos of the cantata being performed.
I have to say if my mentioning “GonzalesCantata.com” crashes that site now, I am very, very sorry. But this is so cool I could not contain myself.
MADDOW: We turn now to our simian stimulus correspondent, which sounds dirty. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: You‘re not often going to hear the words “scientific experiment,” “Metallica” and “monkeys” in the same story, but you‘re going to now.
A pair of scientists performed studies on tamarind monkeys to study how they use tone, pitch and other auditory clues to express their emotions.
So they played them a variety of music, everything from Samuel Barber‘s “Adagio for String” to “The Fragile” by Nine Inch Nails.
Nothing. To the primate ear, it was all noise. Until, said one of the scientists, quote, “Their only response to several samples of human music was a calming response to the heavy metal band Metallica.”
Got that? A calming response to Metallica. Now, for most humans, the natural response to the artistry of James, Lars, Kirk and Roberts is something like this.
But for monkeys, Metallica is their Enya. Apparently, after a few notes, our hairy cousins decide, the alpha monkey has arrived. Resistance is futile. Nothing to do now but submit.
But then, which species wouldn‘t be calmed by the dainty, understated “Master of Puppets.” You know, I wonder if there are any other agitated, poop-flinging mammals on which Metallica could work their soothing magic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t want this country turning into Russia.
JONES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say shout down this.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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