Guest: Rep. Alan Grayson, Melanie Sloan, Kent Jones, Sam Stein>
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. It is great to have you back.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Thank you kindly.
MADDOW: And thank you also at home for staying with us for the next hour.
As Keith said, the most talked about man in Washington today, Congressman Alan Grayson is our guest this hour, as is reporter Sam Stein, as is the head of the organization that filed a prostitution complaint against Louisiana Senator David Vitter today.
We‘ve got a big show coming up this hour.
But we begin with Republicans saying they are shocked—shocked—by what freshman Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida said about them on the floor of the House last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: It‘s my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America. It‘s this. Very simply, it‘s a very simple plan.
Here it is. The Republicans‘ health care plan for America: Don‘t get sick. That‘s right, don‘t get sick. If you have insurance, don‘t get sick. If you don‘t have insurance, don‘t get sick. If you‘re sick, don‘t get sick—just don‘t get sick.
That‘s what Republicans have in mind for you, America. That‘s the Republican‘s health care plan.
But I think that the Republicans understand that that plan isn‘t always going to work, it‘s not a foolproof plan. So, the Republicans have a backup plan, in case you do get sick.
If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly. That‘s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.
Now, the Democrats have a different plan. The Democrats say that if you have health insurance, we‘re going to make it better. If you don‘t have health insurance, we‘re going to provide it to you. If you can‘t afford health insurance, then we‘ll help you to afford health insurance.
So, America gets to decide. Do you want the Democratic plan or do you want the Republican plan? Remember, the Republican plan: Don‘t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Republican demands for an apology from Congressman Grayson commence immediately. They were led by Congressman Tom Price of Georgia, who drafted a resolution condemning Congressman Grayson‘s speech and then he condemned the speech itself on the House floor this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM PRICE ®, GEORGIA: And I have a privileged resolution that I‘m not going to introduce today that calls on the House to recognize that that kind of behavior is disapproved of by the House of Representatives. But in an effort to try to give the representatives from California—from Florida, Mr. Grayson, an opportunity to recognize that his comments were, in fact, a breach of decorum, we respectfully request that he apologize to our leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No word on whether Congressman Price got an apology from his colleagues who were talking the whole time he was talking while sitting right behind him.
But here‘s what Congressman Grayson did with the chance that was offered him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAYSON: Several Republicans asked me to apologize. Well, I would like to apologize. I would like to apologize to the dead. And here why‘s. According to this study, “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults,” which was published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven‘t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Holocaust? Always a bad choice of words unless you‘re talking about the actual Holocaust—at least in my opinion. And, of course, that was clearly not an apology.
Now, were Congressman Grayson‘s comments over the top? Absolutely. Were they fair and accurate? Absolutely not. They were hyperbolic, over-the-top charge. Congressman Grayson admitting that today when he said his remarks were meant to be tongue in cheek.
But were Mr. Grayson‘s comments a breach of decorum in the House of Representatives? (INAUDIBLE) that they were.
Yes, a breach of decorum in the United States House of Representatives for the time being anyway is something like screaming at the president in the middle of an address to a joint session of Congress. That is still considered to be a breach of decorum.
But to say it‘s a breach of decorum to make an inflammatory floor speech, to say that the opposing party is going to cause the death of Americans—that‘s not a breach of decorum in the House of Representatives today. That‘s an average Tuesday in the House of Representatives. You don‘t have to agree with Congressman Grayson or with the exact words he used last night, or with the signs that he used to illustrate his point. In order to agree that what he said on the House floor was absolutely no departure from what his colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle have been doing and saying all year long.
Does that sound extreme? Do you not believe me? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE ®, FLORIDA (July 21): Last week, Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America‘s seniors:
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA (July 15): They‘re going to save money by rationing care, getting you in a long line. Places like Canada, United Kingdom and Europe, people die when they‘re line.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS (July 15): One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine.
REP. PAUL BROWN ®, GEORGIA (July 10): This program of government option is being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care, at an affordable price is going to kill people.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA: Republicans have a better solution that won‘t put the government in charge of people‘s health care and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.
BROWN: A lot of people are going to die.
GOHMERT: I would hate to think that among five women, one of them is going to die because we go to socialized care.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA (July 27): The president‘s advisor, Dr. Emanuel, says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled. So watch out if you‘re disabled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. Now let‘s talk about political rhetoric that‘s worth apologizing for. Could Congressman Alan Grayson‘s allegation yesterday that the Republican health care plan is for sick people to die quickly—could that speech reasonably have been part of that inflammatory montage of comments from the floor of the House that we just displayed? Absolutely, it could be part of that. And was it a departure from the civility that you would hope to see in political debate in Congress? Absolutely.
But Republicans calling for an apology, just from Congressman Grayson, while they think stuff like this is fine?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN-WAITE: Last week, Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America‘s seniors: Drop dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can talk me into the idea that die quickly is a mean thing to say in Congress. But you couldn‘t talk me into that if “drop dead” is considered to be OK.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida.
Congressman Grayson, thank you very much for coming on the show tonight to talk to us about this.
GRAYSON: It‘s my pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: You are the most talked about man in Washington today. And so, let‘s take this chance of talking to you to clear some of this up. Did you mean it literally when you said the Republican plan is for sick people to die quickly?
GRAYSON: It was tongue in cheek, Rachel. But I will tell you this—
the Republicans have no plan. I‘d love to see a choice between two or
three or five or seven plans to reform health care in America. There‘s
only one because the Republicans simply won‘t offer one. They‘re not
helping Americans to avoid outrageous health care premiums, no coverage
when they need it, and they‘re not helping Americans -- 47 million of them
who have no coverage at all. They got nothing.
MADDOW: When you said today that you wouldn‘t apologize to Republicans, you said you did apologize to the 45,000 people who are said to die every year, because they don‘t have health insurance. Now, I want to ask you about your choice of words because I just criticized it. You said, “I apologize to the dead and their families because we haven‘t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”
Was the word “holocaust” there a reference to World War II? Were you making a Third Reich reference?
GRAYSON: Rachel, I was simply saying how disappointed I am that we can‘t get people to work together in Congress to solve this fundamental problem. We‘re talking about 44,000 people dying every year in America for lack of health insurance. My goodness! What are we in Congress for if we‘re not in Congress to solve that kind of problem? We have to stop the bickering and we have to move ahead.
MADDOW: Policy issues and process issues on the one hand are
absolutely the substance of how we got into this. But the character of
your comments about it is the reason that everybody‘s decided to make you
the issue rather than health care the issue today. So I just have to press
you and ask you, again: Do you regret using the word “holocaust”? Was it a
reference to World War II or was it a—did you mean it in a generic
GRAYSON: I don‘t see it that way, Rachel. I think we‘ve put health care back on the calendar and we‘re going to get it moving. That‘s the purpose of my remarks. It‘s stalled. Nothing‘s happening, and meanwhile, 4,000 Americans die every month, over 100 of them died every single day while we were debating this and debating and debating it.
We have to do this. We have to solve that problem and all the other problems. That‘s what we‘re here for.
MADDOW: I have to choice a third time and I‘m sorry. But I didn‘t mean to this, but do you regret using the word “holocaust” or do you think it was appropriate?
GRAYSON: . it may not have been the best choice of words.
GRAYSON: But I will say this—my words don‘t matter, that‘s not what‘s important here. What‘s important is that we do what we need to do, that we solve these problems, and that‘s what I came here to do. That‘s what‘s so frustrating to me.
I‘ve been here for only nine months now, and I see the Republicans have nothing. They simply stick their heels in. They dig their heels in. They won‘t let anything get done, time and time again. It‘s not just the health bill, it‘s everything. They simply block everything. That‘s not what America sent Congress to do.
MADDOW: What do you think the best way is for Democrats in Congress to fight Republicans? You‘ve obviously taken a very pugnacious rhetorical stand against them and you‘ve been very outspoken and very blunt in the way you campaign. It‘s the way that you have governed as a member of Congress in your first term. Do you think that the Democratic Party should be approaching Republicans differently just as a matter of strategy?
GRAYSON: People want a Democrat with guts. They want to see a Democratic Party with guts. They want to see us use the power that they gave us last November in the last election. They want to see us solve their problems.
And not just Democrat, it‘s not just Democrats who feel that way. People want to see Congress act, not drag their feet, not be stopped by the Republicans, not be suckered by these nattering nay bobs of negativism. They want to see us solve their problems or at least work on them.
And that‘s what this plan does. That‘s why it‘s so frustrating to see a lack of progress when we have 122 more Americans dying every day.
MADDOW: Do you think that there is a cost in terms of the likelihood of getting something worthwhile passed for health care? In terms of the overall effectiveness of the Congress, to see the sort of incredibly inflammatory rhetoric we have seen on both sides in health care. I mean, it‘s clear that Republicans are in a bind in asking you to apologize, because of their own history of inflammatory rhetoric on health care and other issues. Do you think, in general, that it should be—that it should be dialed back?
GRAYSON: Listen, Rachel, we‘re dealing with people on the other side who are utterly unscrupulous. These are foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who know nothing but no. One way or another, we have to overcome it for the sake of the nation.
MADDOW: Congressman Grayson, let me ask you about one last substantive policy issue. Because we talked about you on this show in the last week, in relation to your efforts to get the Defund ACORN Act to apply to all other contractors who have filed fraudulent paperwork and the other things that the Defund ACORN Act accuses that group of doing. How is that effort going? How is it being received?
GRAYSON: I think it‘s been going well. We‘re going to have some decision points coming up, in particular the conference between the House and the Senate. But right now, the House has passed a bill that defunds contractors who commit fraud against the government. And I‘m happy to be part of that. I think we need to protect that. We need to make sure the final bill reads that way. It would change America.
MADDOW: Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, thanks for joining us tonight and being so clear about what brought you here.
GRAYSON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We really appreciate it, sir.
OK. Trans fats are actually good for you, specifically, they‘re a good for clearing up any gunk you might have in your arteries. Tanning prevents cancer. And drunk driving—drunk driving can really be thought of as freedom. The same guy has run real ad campaigns, well-funded ones for all those positions.
You will never guess what that same guy is trying to sell you now.
I‘ll tell you when we come back.
MADDOW: Today, the conservative and Republican war on ACORN crashed headlong into your back fat, your potbelly, diabetes, bad teeth.
Today, the conservative P.R. machine that has helped lead the war to destroy this community group, ACORN, got outed. They got outed as a “pay us to say anything” corporate farce that would not only sell you the idea of this community organizing group for poor people being the death of the republic, they‘d also sell you anything—anything they were paid to sell you.
If you don‘t believe me, again, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see the one responsible for you gaining weight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might be that corn sugar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which one has the most calories?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all have the same a lot of calories and they‘re processed by the body the same way, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve seen that high-fructose corn syrup guy on the news. Maybe it was him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean you‘re making all this stuff up without any proof? You‘re free to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
ANNOUNCER: A sugar is a sugar. Find out more at SweetScam.com.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: SweetScam.com. Here to tell you to drink all the high-fructose corn syrup you want, it‘s good for you. Feed it to the baby. That TV ad is now running nationwide.
At MSNBC here, conveniently, is a doctor on our payroll, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who fact-checks this sort of stuff on her noontime TV show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. NANCY SYNDERMAN, MSNBC HOST: High-fructose corn syrup is made from corn. And here‘s the problem, it is married with fat and put into a lot of the processed food you like, may rewire the brain. I think it‘s a real cause for obesity in this country. Total spin, great PSA, though, just not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just not true. But the thing is a major campaign, that new national TV ad they‘re airing with the guy in the corn suit is paired with a ginormous full-page print which ran in yesterday‘s “New York Times.” Anyone who sees any of these ads and surfs on over to SweetSscam.com to learn more will find an entire Web site bent on convincing you that sugar, even lots of sugar, like you can get all at once in the convenient form of high-fructose corn syrup is great for you.
When you get your Cap N‘ Crunch in the morning, be a sport, pour strawberry milk over that instead of regular milk. Or maybe try Mountain Dew, sprinkle some sugar on top, wash it down with a bucket of Hawaii punch and Cookie Heaven. Then enjoy your day. Sugar is great for you.
SweetScam.com is brought to you by something called the Center for Consumer Freedom. The Center for Consumer Freedom is headed by—ta-ta-tada—Rick Berman, the D.C. public relations guy who runs these operations as nonprofits so they don‘t have to disclose the names of the companies that fund them.
Rick Berman‘s Center for Consumer Freedom is not just here to convince you to stop worrying about sugar, they also link to their other sites like TransfatFacts.com. Where under a picture of a delicious looking cheeseburger and meatballs, you can learn how—at least according to TransfatsFacts.com—trans fats are actually good for you. Quote, “Trans fats contain a compound called conjugated linoleic acid, CLA, which has demonstrated beneficial health benefits, including fighting cancer, enhancing immunity and decreasing artery-clogging plaque. Eat more cheeseburgers, it will unclog your arteries.
Berman is also behind FishScam.com, where you can learn that the tiny amounts of mercury in fish aren‘t harmful at all. The home page at FishScam.com even just flat-out says pregnant women should eat more fish.
When it comes down to picking a favorite, though, I personally find it hard to choose between Rick Berman‘s PETAKillsAnimals.com which is all about how the radical pro-animal group is actually secretly full of animal killers, and Mr. Berman‘s SunlightScam.com.
If you‘ve ever been prey to the myth that tanning could lead to health problems like skin cancer, SunlightScam.com wants to be rest—wants you to rest assured that—according to them—tanning beds actually fight heart disease and breast cancer and stroke and even osteoporosis.
SunlightScam.com has its own TV ad as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Go get a tan, your body will thank you.
Brought to you by the Indoor Tanning Association.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Totally unbiased Indoor Tanning Association and, of course, Rick Berman. Mr. Berman also heads up an organization called the American Beverage Institute which claims to fight against drunk driving, even as it argues against DUI check points and campaigns to relax on driving laws around the country.
To accomplish those lofty goals, Mr. Berman‘s American Beverage Institute attacks Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They‘re against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which, of course, is a group made up of mothers and fathers and family members and friends of drunk driving victims.
Attacking ACORN is working out great for Republicans right now. It allows them to create a bogeyman to blame for all the nation‘s ills. It allows them to take down an organization that registers lots of Democratic-leaning voters.
Attacking ACORN is also great for business interests that don‘t like what ACORN does, things like fighting for a higher minimum wage. And that side of the wage against ACORN is being waged by the trustworthy P.R. man who‘s also brought you the news that trans fats and mercury and high-fructose corn syrup and tanning are all good for you. And drunk driving—drunk driving is freedom.
Mr. Freedom—Mr. Berman doesn‘t disclose his donors, but he is scheduled to be a guest on this show next week, right here in person. I think you will not want to miss that conversation.
MADDOW: Speaking of today‘s news theme, the goose and the gander, the pot calling the kettle black, being able to dish it up and not being able to take it, or any other cliches you might favor about people trying to get away themselves with stuff they condemn others for.
The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has just filed a complaint with the Louisiana bar, the Office of Disciplinary Council and it‘s against Republican Senator David Vitter. David Vitter is most famous as the family values conservative senator who admitted to being a client of the D.C. madam prostitution ring. The new bar association complaint against Senator Vitter points out that patronizing prostitutes is a crime in Louisiana, that Senator Vitter admitted to that crime and that committing that crime, especially one that reflects adversely on the lawyer‘s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer is in the definition of professional misconduct for a Louisiana lawyer.
So far, Senator Vitter has been able to get away with admitting to be a client of a prostitution ring without facing criminal charges, without an ethics investigation of him in the Senate and without any consequences for his career as a lawyer. Senator Vitter has not only been able to get away with it thus far, he‘s even running for re-election in Louisiana right now. And he‘s had the chutzpah to put pictures of his family back into his campaign materials for this election cycle so as to demonstrate presumably to Louisiana voters his personal family values.
Because Senator Vitter is running for re-election, this is a very uncomfortable time for Senator Vitter to see his name back in the paper, back in the news again next to words like “hooker,” “prostitute,” “madam.”
In terms of the timing, Senator Vitter might not be facing this kind of ethics hassle over his history with prostitutes right now if he had not recently been standing in his glass brothel throwing stones at the community group ACORN.
When conservative activists invented a fake prostitution ring and then went from ACORN office to ACORN office with a hidden camera, trying to get employees to say something about the fake prostitution ring that would play well on FOX News, Senator Vitter took the lead in condemning ACORN for the resulting tapes. He called, first, for congressional hearings and then he called for a criminal investigation.
Quote, “The recent reports and video footage of ACORN workers from various cities and states giving how-to instructions on carrying out crimes warrants an immediate RICO investigation into ACORN.” But definitely not an investigation into me.
Senator Vitter‘s Democratic opponent for the Senate is Charlie Melancon. He responded to the CREW complaint against Vitter by saying, quote, “What David Vitter confessed to wasn‘t just a serious sin, it was likely a crime. And so far, Vitter hasn‘t been charged with anything. He‘s still got his law license. He‘s still a U.S. senator. A man‘s sin is his own, and with this complaint, Vitter may finally have to answer for his actions. But I‘ll tell you this: I cannot sit idly by and let this man represent Louisiana in the U.S. Senate.”
Joining us now is Melanie Sloan. She‘s the executive director of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Ms. Sloan, thanks very much for your time tonight.
MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON:
Oh, nice to be here.
MADDOW: Am I right that the timing here is not because there‘s any new information about Senator Vitter and prostitution, but it‘s because he‘s inveighing against other people and prostitutes now?
SLOAN: Of course, because the hypocrisy is astonishing and really can‘t be stomached. And it is just the height of irony for Mr. Vitter to be the one of all the senators in the United States Senate to decide he should be the guy to take on the issue of ACORN and prostitution, given his background. It‘s like he thinks we‘ll all just forget about it and it can go away.
But if he can dole out against ACORN for its role in a fake
prostitution ring, I certainly think his role with a real prostitution ring
at least one out because there may be as many as two others that we know about, that certainly warrants investigation as well.
MADDOW: Your organization has filed a complaint against Senator Vitter with the Senate Ethics Committee about this prostitution admission a year or two ago. Did the ethics committee just sit on that and never do anything about it, or did they actively dismiss that complaint?
SLOAN: Oh, no. They actively dismissed that complaint.
SLOAN: . because they said Senator Vitter wasn‘t a senator at the time he‘d engaged in that conduct. He was a member of the House of Representatives, though, but they thought they couldn‘t do anything because of that. And, of course, the House—well, they didn‘t have any jurisdiction because he was no longer a House member.
MADDOW: That‘s very convenient.
SLOAN: It is.
MADDOW: What is—what is your expectation about how the Louisiana bar will respond to this new complaint?
SLOAN: Well, it‘s really hard to know, but the bar ethics are pretty clear. Committing a crime is professional misconduct. And Mr. Vitter clearly committed a crime. He was on the prosecution‘s witness list in the trial of the D.C. madam after his phone number was found her call list. So we know, at least, he was involved in that prostitution ring.
And there‘s also been allegations that he was involved in a brothel called the Canal Street brothel in New Orleans. And then a woman named Wendy Cortes(ph), another prostitute in New Orleans said that he was a frequent client of hers.
So that suggests there may be as many as three and if there are three, there may well be others. And that‘s a crime. Soliciting for prostitution isn‘t just a serious sin, but an actual crime. And it‘s pretty appalling that Mr. Vitter has a lawyer who swore to uphold the law was committing crimes, much less as a U.S. senator who swore to uphold the Constitution committed those crimes.
But at the same time, as bad as all that is, he wants to inveigh against other organizations who weren‘t involved in prostitution and ask for criminal investigations. So if he‘s going to get a criminal investigation there or if he‘s just even going to ask for one, it certainly seems to fair to demand that Mr. Vitter be held accountable for his crimes.
MADDOW: Well, Sen. Vitter responded to your complaint to the Louisiana bar by saying that your organization, CREW, is biased, that you‘re pro-Democrat and you‘re pro-ACORN. I have to ask your response to that.
SLOAN: Well, sure. I think Mr. Vitter may have forgotten that CREW has gone after a couple of other Louisiana politicians, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Democratic Former Representative William Jefferson.
We also recently put out our most corrupt list, something we do every year, and this year we had eight Democrats on the list and seven Republicans. We‘re a nonpartisan organization, but one of the things we hate the most is hypocrisy and David Vitter really tops the list.
MADDOW: We have done a number of reports on the attacks on the organization, ACORN, in the last week, we have done sort of every night for the last four or five nights, I think. And the reason we have done that is because it seems that for all of ACORN‘s faults, they‘re being attacked for hypocritical reasons.
They‘re being attacked for things that other people, even their accusers, are getting away with. Obviously, there‘s a lot that ACORN has done that doesn‘t deserve defending and that is indefensible.
But do you agree with, I guess, my premise for looking into these attacks on ACORN, that some of the things that they‘ve been saying - their critics have been saying are inexcusable are things that other people have been allowed to get away with?
SLOAN: Well, when David Vitter is accused in groups like CREW of playing politics, that‘s exactly what they‘re doing with this ACORN situation. They‘ve hated ACORN for a long time. They‘ve been going after it for a very long time. And now, they just finally have something to actually go after it against.
It‘s much like when we had President Clinton. They had an impeachment resolution long before there was Monica Lewinsky. It‘s something they‘ve been looking to do. And this is just a great excuse for them to go after ACORN. And CREW is in no way defending ACORN. Its conduct here was indefensible, but so is Sen. Vitter‘s.
And I‘d also like to point out that you talked about Richard Berman earlier. CREW has long been trying to expose Richard Berman. We have a Web site, in fact, called “BermanExposed.org” where we talk about all of the different groups he‘s executive director of and all of the expertise he has from areas - from both health and consumer safety to drunk driving to unions. And now there are things like ACORN.
MADDOW: Well, he has agreed to come on this show next week. And I hope he will still agree to go on the next week even though we have been talking about him a lot. Maybe we can get you on the show that hour as well. We can all have a big kumbaya moment.
SLOAN: It would be quite a moment, but “kumbaya” probably is not the word to describe it.
MADDOW: Fair enough. Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group, thanks very much for your time tonight.
MADDOW: Senate Finance Committee members Kent Conrad and Blanche Lincoln voted against the public option twice, and then voted for abstinence-only funding in the healthcare bill. And here‘s the weird part, they both still have D‘s after their names. We‘ll have more on that in just a few minutes.
And later, today when I got to work, I asked Kent Jones to please spend the day looking into who is ghostwriting Sarah Palin‘s book. He has a special report on that subject. The answers will surprise you. That is coming up.
But first one more thing about Senator “Serious Sin” David Vitter and his all but ironic campaign for reelection on the basis of his family values and how much he‘s against prostitution.
The Republican governor of the State of Louisiana is, of course, Bobby Jindal. And as governor of Louisiana, he‘s the state‘s most powerful political voice, the de facto head of the state‘s Republican Party and probably the only politician in the state of Louisiana at all whose words carry national weight.
Bobby Jindal is not endorsing Sen. Vitter‘s reelection campaign. Now, to be clear, he‘s not endorsing anyone else either at this point. But as noted by Jonathan Martin at “Politico.com” today, when asked about the Sen. Vitter running for reelection, the governor, quote, “pointedly declined to offer his endorsement.”
Of course, it‘s possible that Gov. Jindal isn‘t ready to offer his endorsement only because he hasn‘t seen the awesome family values beauty shots on the hooker-senator‘s campaign Web site. That could change everything.
MADDOW: A typhoon, an earthquake and a tsunami caused by another earthquake have wreaked havoc in Southeast Asia and in the South Pacific.
Typhoon Ketsana battered its way through the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam killing more than 300 people over the past few days, forcing millions from their homes. The vast majority of the victims were in the Philippines.
The typhoon has now weakened. It‘s on its way west to Laos. But the danger is not over yet. High flood waters continue to threaten populations. And more storms are expected this week.
To the southeast of that disaster, two earthquakes, separated by one day and about 6,000 miles, have left hundreds of people dead, many more missing and thousands of buildings destroyed.
Earlier today, it was a magnitude 7.6 earthquake which hit just 30 miles off the coast of Indonesia taking at least 200 lives. Many more people are missing, trapped under flattened homes, office buildings, hotels and hospitals.
And just yesterday, it was an 8.0 earthquake that hit about 120 miles off the coast of Samoa. It set loose four 15 and 20-foot high tsunami waves that hit the shores of American Samoa just minutes after the earthquake struck. That gave residents very little time to make it to higher ground.
A radio station manager named Joey Cummings ended up videotaping the second tsunami wave that flooded the harbor in American Samoa‘s capital city. He describes his experience, what he saw to Britain‘s Channel 4. Watch.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOEY CUMMINGS, RADIO STATION MANAGER (through telephone): It‘s the worst earthquake I have ever experienced. And roughly 15 minutes later, the water started surging. At first, it was only three or four feet in our parking lot, just out the window of the studio.
And I thought that that would be it. There was going to be some loss of cars, but no real significant catastrophe. But after the water stayed for several minutes, another fantastic surge that completely dwarfed the first surge came up and the water rose to 15 feet.
At this point, trees, boats, cars, trucks were all floating past my second-story window in just a torrential river of mud. This lasted for several minutes until the river reversed as the flood waters receded back into the ocean.
There was a second and a third surge like every 15 to 20 minutes after that, but they were much less severe than the first. It completely wiped out everything that wasn‘t made of brick. Homes, businesses - everything that was caught in the path of this surge in the Pago Pago Harbor area was completely flattened.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: At least 119 deaths have been attributed to the tsunami so far. The Red Cross is on the ground helping victims of the typhoon and the earthquake and the tsunami. If you want to help, you can donate money at www.RedCross.com.” We posted a link to their donation page on our Web site which is “Rachel.MSNBC.com.” We will be right back.
MADDOW: Want to take threads of good news where one finds them in life during wartime? Today, the commander of the multinational force in Iraq gave his assessment on the war there to the House Armed Services Committee. During that session Gen. Ray Odierno made this surprising announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RAY ODIERNO, COMMANDER OF THE MULTINATIONAL FORCE IN IRAQ: We have approximately 124,000 troops and 11 brigade combat teams operating in Iraq today. By the end of October, I believe, we‘ll be down to 120,000 troops in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: 4,000 troops leaving Iraq by the end of October. That was not expected. Gen. Odierno also told the committee the U.S. is on track to meet the current timetable for drawing down and eventually withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
He even said he might, quote, “accelerate the drawdown by early next year, if the Iraqis have successful elections in January and if tensions, roughly speaking, are reduced.”
Gen. Odierno cautioned lawmakers to have a strategic patience. And he said to not expect a complete withdrawal before the December 2011 deadline. But progress is progress, and now, our military families are just left to wonder if the troops really do get to come home, or if they‘re just getting moved to America‘s other war in Afghanistan, a war that‘s about to start its ninth year.
MADDOW: Today is day six of the Senate Finance Committee‘s mountain-moving toil to consider the 500 amendments to the health reform bill. The Finance Committee today considered an Orin Hatch-sponsored amendment that was meant to doubly, triply restrict abortion coverage in the bill.
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe joined the Democratic opposition to defeat Sen. Hatch‘s amendment. It would have required women to buy extra insurance for abortion services. You know how everybody plans a really long time in advance to have lots of abortions? Yes. Sen. Stabenow of Michigan put her objection succinctly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): With all due respect to my friend, as a woman, I find it offensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The vote against the abortion ban was 10 in favor, 13 opposed. The one Democrat voting with Sen. Hatch on the side of the conspiratorial fear that health reform will mandate abortions somehow was Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota. We will have more on him in just a moment.
Also considered by the Finance Committee was an amendment to doubly, triply clarify that the bill will not cover illegal immigrants, because - “You lie,” you know. Democrats defeated that amendment as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER (D-WV): A rather dreadful amendment and I say that for the following reasons. We already have requirements for people, undocumented immigrants that are taking advantage of Medicaid and SCHIP who wanted to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was a relatively strong day for the Democratic majority today as opposed to yesterday which was kind of abysmal.
Conservadems on the committee yesterday not only voted against the public option for health reform, they also voted in favor of providing federal money for abstinence-only education - abstinence-only education, better known as the best teen pregnancy and STD delivery system politicians have ever devised.
In fact, this week, some school districts in Texas announced plans to end their abstinence-only education curriculum. Why? Because abstinence-only education doesn‘t work.
Texas currently ranks third for the highest teen birth rate in the country. A teenager in Texas gets pregnant every 10 minutes. Coincidentally, Texas also leads the country in the amount of government money spent on abstinence-only education.
Still, two Democratic senators, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mr. Conrad of North Dakota voted for $50 million of abstinence-only funding, which President Obama had removed from his budget proposal earlier this year.
Senators Lincoln and Conrad were not alone in their “conservadem-ness” this week. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, perhaps the most conservative of the conservadems, confirmed yesterday that he‘s completely opposed to using budget reconciliation rules, a simple 50-plus-one majority to pass health reform.
As Sam Stein of “The Huffington Post” has reported, Ben Nelson supported the use of reconciliation to pass not one, but two of President Bush‘s tax cut packages.
Sen. Nelson also told the crowd this week that any health reform bill would need not just a simple majority of 51 votes, or even a supermajority, filibuster-proof 60 votes, but he said it should have a super duper, duper, duper majority of 65 votes in the Senate in order for him to consider it legitimate.
Greg Sargent of “Plum Line” points out today that Sen. Nelson‘s most acclaimed legislative accomplishments, the one for which he pats himself on the back most readily, especially on his Web site, is the stimulus bill.
Quote, “His efforts helped target the bill more on job creation and tax relief to turn the nation‘s troubled economy around.” That bill that nelson was so proud of passed the Senate, 60 to 36. Didn‘t get that 65 vote threshold.
Last night, we pointed out that Sen. Nelson won his first Senate term with 51 percent of the vote, his second with 64 percent of the vote. Fortunately for Sen. Nelson and the stimulus bill on which he brags, his new supercalifragilistic majority standard has not been adopted retroactively. So those things apparently stand.
Joining us now is “Huffington Post” political reporter Sam Stein.
Sam, it‘s good to see you. Thanks for being here.
SAM STEIN, POLITICAL REPORTER, “HUFFINGTON POST”: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Does Sen. Nelson have any explanation for why he was for budget reconciliation rules for Bush‘s tax cuts, but he‘s not for it for the Democrat‘s legislative agenda?
STEIN: Not surprisingly, his office has yet to return my request for an explanation. Like you mentioned in 2001 and 2003, the senator supported using reconciliation to pass the tax cuts.
In 2003, he ended up being the 50th vote on that critical piece of legislation which allowed Vice President Cheney to cast the tie-breaking vote. In both of those cases, he cited the impact that would have on the budget which is the traditional use for reconciliation.
In this case, I guess health care doesn‘t have budgetary impact so I‘m not quite sure if that holds water. But no, they haven‘t provided an explanation. It does seem widely inconsistent as arbitrary as this 65-vote threshold seems.
MADDOW: Senator Nelson has picked the 65-vote threshold. We have heard from other Republican senators all summer long, even now, saying things like, “Health reform needs 80 votes. Health reform meets 75 votes.” Is it all the same strategy? Is it an idea to just raise the hurdle so high that there‘s no chance any bill could ever get there?
STEIN: Oh, yes. I mean, I think to suggest that the Republicans are interested in passing comprehensive reform is to be delusional with oneself. And let me point out that Rep. Grayson‘s lament was as much toward the Republicans for being obstructionists, but it more towards the Democrats for trying to negotiate with the Republicans on healthcare reform.
For him and for others in the progressive community, the time for negotiation has long since passed. And his frustration is that we still go to the table as in Barack Obama, Democratic leadership in Congress, expecting a vote here or there.
In all actuality, the only vote that Democrats are holding out hope for is Olympia Snowe. I talked to some people who think that she will be onboard in the end. But the party needs to start operating on the 60-vote threshold minimum.
I talked to Sen. Tom Harkin today, and he demands that everyone at least vote for cloture which would give 60 votes to the Republican filibuster. I think that‘s the end game right now.
MADDOW: That seems to be shaping up to be the important procedural thing.
MADDOW: The important procedural factor which is going to make the difference in terms of whether or not we get health reform or not.
MADDOW: We discussed it on this show last night with Charles Schumer and then with Howard Dean, both of them, I guess, imparting the political importance of Democrats being held to a standard in which they vote to vote. They vote there can‘t be a filibuster.
MADDOW: They don‘t side with the Republicans saying there has to be a 60-vote majority. How widely is that accepted among Democratic power brokers in Congress?
STEIN: Well, to tie it to the very beginning of our conversation, I did a report on how this is the new strategy for Democrats in the wake of the special pundits to the Massachusetts Senate seat and to replace Ted Kennedy. I noted that a couple of months ago, Ben Nelson, of all people, had hinted he would support cloture to end the Republican filibuster.
About a few hours after my report went up, Sen. Ben Nelson‘s office called me to correct the record. He is not committed to supporting cloture. He is keeping open the idea of supporting the Republican filibuster.
There are people in the Senate like Tom Harkin, like Bernie Sanders, like Charles Schumer to some extent, who are demanding that everyone at least votes to have a vote. It‘s not, you know, a done deal. There are people within the party who are willing to not follow the leadership on this procedural hurdle.
MADDOW: Expect more pressure on that subject from outside groups, from activists and from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) members of Congress.
STEIN: That‘s the end-game, yes.
MADDOW: Sam Stein, political reporter for “The Huffington Post,” doing much to illuminate the situation for us. Thanks for your time tonight, Sam.
STEIN: Thanks. I want to be on the Rick Berman hour, OK?
MADDOW: OK. Fair enough. It‘s not going to be kumbaya. I‘ve been warned.
STEIN: I don‘t want a kumbaya.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller joins Keith with breaking news on his latest healthcare amendment - big news there.
Next on this show, my friend Kent Jones will be here to tell us about Sarah Palin‘s ghostwriter, the person who wrote Sarah Palin‘s book. Apparently, Sarah Palin didn‘t go rogue all by herself. Stay tuned for this one.
MADDOW: Sarah Palin‘s upcoming book, “Going Rogue: An American Life” was co-written by someone named Lynn Vincent. Who‘s that? Well, today, I asked Kent Jones to investigate. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. It turns out Lynn Vincent - this isn‘t her first book at all. She‘s written several other books, and they‘re kind of scary. They‘re a little scary. Take a look.
MADDOW: All right.
JONES (voice-over): So, Lynn Vincent - for the past 11 years, she‘s been working for the Christian magazine, “World” and has co-authored six books, four of them memoirs with other people.
According to her Web site, quote, “She turns life stories into page-turning narrative that both compels and redeems, earning the praise of editors, readers, reviewers, and now, Hollywood.”
Wow. The self-regard is positively “Palin-ian.” So what other authors have profited from the Lynn Vincent touch? Well, she collaborated on “Never Surrender: A Soldier‘s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom” with Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin.
Now, that‘s the same Gen. Boykin who set up George W. Bush, “He‘s
in the White House because God put him there for such a time as this.” And
who said of one fighter in Somalia -
LT. GEN. JERRY BOYKIN, AUTHOR, “NEVER SURRENDER”: I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.
JONES: So if Sarah Palin wants to talk about gods beating each other
up, she‘s picked the right collaborator. Also in the Vincent cannon is a
book with self-described former PLO member Kamal Saleem. Does that mean -
FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pal
around with terrorists -
JONES: And here‘s a fun Lynn Vincent tome from 2006, “Donkey Cons:
Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party.” Check out the promo copy, “From bribery kickbacks and sex scandals to espionage, terrorism, and rape. What was the ‘Party of the People‘ has become a party with an appallingly long rap sheet.”
“How Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy were elected with the help of the Mob.”
“What do eyewitnesses said about JFK‘s obsession with hookers?”
Wow. Those donkeys sure are cons. Vincent‘s co-writer on “Donkey Cons” was a former “Washington Times” editor Robert Stacy McCain. No relation to that other McCain.
Robert Stacy McCain is a writer with a ‘50s mentality - the 1850s. For instance, his progressive take on interracial marriage, “The media forced interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an all-together natural revulsion.”
So, after this long, rich job history, Sarah Palin took one look at Lynn Vincent and said, “You betcha.”
MADDOW: So Sarah Palin‘s ghostwriter co-wrote her last book or one of her last books with a guy who‘s an anti-miscegenation.
JONES: Yes, that guy. “Donkey Con” - that one.
MADDOW: Yes, the natural revulsion to interracial images.
JONES: Right. Yes.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Appreciate it. Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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