Guests: Connie Schultz, Rick Berman, Melanie Sloan, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I want to tell you that I have changed my entire schedule for tomorrow so that between 8:00 and 9:00, the only thing I‘m doing is eating popcorn and watching your special comments. I‘m getting makeup early and everything.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Thank you. I hope to live up to your expectations.
MADDOW: Indeed. Thanks a lot, Keith.
And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We will be joined live in studio this hour, in just a few minutes, by the lobbyist and P.R. man who is trying to sell America on the good things about trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, not to mention the evils of the community group ACORN. This will be an interview you do not want to miss.
Also, the Senator John Ensign resignation watch continues. The senator finally faced a journalist today. It did not go well for the senator. We have the tape.
And America is bombing the moon. That is not a complicated metaphor about politics or card games or art. We are quite literally shooting munitions into the moon. And, yes, we‘ve got the tape on that as well.
It is all coming up this hour. We‘ve got a very big show for you tonight.
But, we begin with trouble for the Republican-led anti-health reform effort. In just the last 24 hours, the anti-reform forces have suffered losses on two fronts. On the fake grassroots side of their “scare everyone to death about health reform” campaign, and also on the political side, with signs that the Republican Party‘s united front against health reform might be crumbling.
First, let‘s talk fake grassroots—the implosion of Betsy McCaughey. She is the former Republican lieutenant governor of New York. She is the creator of the “health reform is a plot to kill grandma” lie.
Just yesterday, Betsy McCaughey‘s campaign of misinformation was chugging right along, with an anti-health reform column in Rupert Murdoch‘s “New York Post” that was titled, “The Kill Granny Bill.”
In this charming work of scholarship, Ms. McCaughey cited as an expert on health care reform the tea-partying Florida doctor who was previously famous for mass e-mailing the image of President Obama as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose—a witch doctor with a bone through his nose who‘s also sort of mysteriously a communist, a communist witch doctor. Yes. In an elaborate headdress? Yes, it doesn‘t get any better the more you pay attention to it.
Betsy McCaughey in “The New York Post” cites the man who sent this out as her expert. Her medical expert who predicts that doctors will flee Medicare if—God forbid—there‘s health reform.
Well, following that up last night, Betsy McCaughey took her act out in public to a debate with the un-intimidated Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. The result was a three-dimensional look at what it means to be off the kook end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETSY MCCAUGHEY, FMR. NEW YORK LT. GOVERNOR: I think it‘s more important for people to read the text of the legislation than to rely on all of these political pundits, most of whom haven‘t read the bills themselves before they have come to their conclusions. I would like to ask Anthony if he has signed of the “read the bill” petition in Congress.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I‘ve read the bill, and just last week.
MCCAUGHEY: Yes or no?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes or no.
MCCAUGHEY: Have you signed the petition?
WEINER: I‘m a little afraid right now. Are you going to grab this again? This isn‘t a problem of people not reading the bill. In your case, it‘s the problem of reading and the bill and then lying about what‘s in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At one point, Congressman Weiner said he felt like he was debating a pyromaniac in a straw man factory.
And this morning on MSNBC, Dylan Ratigan hosted those same two combatants again. Ms. McCaughey was finally forced to admit that her plan for cutting health care costs was to cut off people aged 65 to 70 from Medicare altogether. No Medicare for you!
But even before she had to admit that, things just went very, very, very poorly for her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAUGHEY: And that is.
DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Why do you want to protect large employers, unions and health insurance companies at the expense of patients and taxpayers?
MCCAUGHEY: I‘m talking about Medicare.
RATIGAN: I‘m talking about health care.
MCCAUGHEY: I‘m a patient advocate. I spend my day in hospitals.
RATIGAN: If you‘re a patient advocate, why are you in favor of systems that give patients less options, fewer options.
MCCAUGHEY: This will go down in history as one of the most brow-beating interviews in television history.
RATIGAN: I hope that it does, and maybe you‘ll learn at that point then to answer questions as opposed to go on television and cast accusation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As anti-health reform spokesperson Betsy McCaughey two-staged rhetorical self-destruction was under way during the last 24 hours, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona was admitting in a different TV interview that the Democrats just might win at least one Republican vote in the Senate—that of Olympia Snowe of Maine. And in case the Democrats do win that vote, Senator Kyl wanted to make sure to preemptively argue that it still won‘t count, that even if there are Republican votes for health reform, that still won‘t make it a bipartisan bill.
The senator‘s strident denial that health reform will ever be considered bipartisan no matter who votes for it may be borne from evidence that probably makes him uneasy—signs of significant cracking in the “all for no, no for all” Republican party motto.
Today, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California, released a statement saying that he shares the president‘s goals on health reform, and urging Congress to take action.
Governor Schwarzenegger joins a growing list of non-Democrats who‘ve recently come out to publicly support health reform, that include former Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Frist, former Bush era Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, former Bush era Medicare and Medicaid administrator Mark McClellan, and independent sort of Republican, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
So, as the forces against health reform start to wilt a little, it is worth considered why that might be happening. It turns out that while the anti-reform forces have been busy basking this summer, in the summer of the screaming town hall meeting, progressive groups were planning their own full-court press on health reform to go into effect slightly after the August of screaming. The progressive full-court press involved some intense pressure on Democrats to stay united on reform, and it involved some intensely personal and emotional campaigning to raise the stakes for those who would oppose reform.
For example, this Pennsylvania woman‘s twin daughters were diagnosed
with cancer when they were 4 years old. The girls beat the cancer, but
they had coverage for their doctor-prescribed growth hormone shots denied
by their health insurance company CIGNA.
Health Care for America Now, which is a coalition of pro health care organizations, brought that mom to the mansion of the CEO of CIGNA, Ed Hanway. They brought her to his house for her to ask if her family could stay in his carriage house, a second house on his property, until they recovered financially from what CIGNA‘s decision did to their family.
Also, the group Mad as Hell Doctors spent the entire month of September driving around the country, making the case for a single-payer health care system. One of those doctors crashed President Obama‘s Rose Garden photo-op with 100 other invited physicians who supported his slightly less progressive health reform strategy.
And, of course, there has been a barrage of ads taken out by progressive groups targeting conservative and potentially vulnerable Democrats, like Senator Blanche Lincoln and Congressman Mike Ross, both of Arkansas, both of whom have said they oppose a public insurance option. A brand-new ad, produced by the political action committee Blue America, just started airing last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can barely pay our bills and Blanche Lincoln is worried about the insurance companies?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is what a full-court press for health reform looks like, and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the anti-health reform forces today is what it looks like when a full-court press is working.
Joining us now is Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the “Plain Dealer” in Cleveland. She‘s also the wife of Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.
Ms. Shultz, it‘s very nice to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
CONNIE SCHULTZ, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER COLUMNIST: Dr. Maddow, thank you for having me back.
MADDOW: I like that we‘re going to be very formal. This is going to be great fun.
Let me start with big picture first, your highness. Do you think that
· do you think that health reform passes by the end of the year?
SCHULTZ: Yes. I do and I think it‘s going to have a public option.
MADDOW: Do you think that the outside pressure on conservative Democrats has been effective at keeping Democrats on the straight and narrow toward reform?
SCHULTZ: Well, dare I say that I think the progressives—we might actually be on message, probably for the first time ever, because we—you know, and the polling is in support of what progressives are doing and I think that‘s helped a lot, not only in organizing and mobilizing the progressives but setting up the flares to a lot of Republicans who, you know, I‘d like to say that some of these Republicans are coming out because they—from the goodness of their hearts, they just want to help Americans, some of them may.
But also, you look at the polling—and they‘re doing their own poll numbers, running them at this point—and they know where the country is headed and they know where this debate is headed. I‘m so impressed. Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Bloomberg, what I think is so significant about those statements is they didn‘t just volunteer them. They didn‘t, you know, some Republicans are trying to tear the statements apart and say, “No, no, no, this is what they meant.” White House asked them for these statements.
And you know how this process goes, it‘s not like the White House says, “Hey, Governor, can you send us something?” “Oh, yes, yes. Let‘s send something up.” No, there‘s a lot of discussion about what‘s going to go in those statements and they are very deliberate about what they were presenting to the American people, that they, too, see the need for a dramatic health care reform.
MADDOW: It‘s—I agree with you that it seems like things are on a roll right now for health reform, that the prospects look good, the polling numbers are in the right place, the outside pressure, the legislative momentum all seems to be there. I don‘t, however, anticipate that those forces who are opposed health reform are going to roll over.
And when they look at their own poll numbers, when they look at what they‘ve been able to do to dampen the chances for reform, it seems like what‘s been most effective for them was their summer of screaming, was the August town halls. That‘s when their numbers ticked up, even though they weren‘t able to maintain them.
Do you think that means we should expect more sort of vituperative tactics from those against—those who are against reform?
SCHULTZ: You know, I‘m not convinced of that, Rachel, and here‘s why. When you—when you mentioned the town halls, I look at what happened at the beginning of the season of the town hall meetings this summer and where they ended up—and even here in Ohio, there were certainly some screamers down in the Cincinnati area of the state, the most conservative part of Ohio. By the time the final town hall that Sherrod held in Cleveland, there were—there was virtually no screaming. It was clear that some disagreed but they were there for an actual discussion. They didn‘t even pack the house that time.
And I think what had happened is it had worn itself out, because people were really angry. And, you know, I—as you know, I spend most of my time in Ohio. I was in Washington all last week, which was really eye-opening only in that it‘s so good to get back into real America where people are actually talking about health care and how much they need it.
And I‘m hearing from more and more Republicans who get mad at me if I write a column and just, you know, with a broad stroke start talking about Republicans oppose health care reform.
They keep weighing in with me in an increasing numbers and saying, “No, no, no, we‘re not all against health care reform. We‘re not those wackos. We‘re not Glenn Beck. We‘re not Rush Limbaugh. We‘re not listening to those shows. We have some real concerns and we want to talk about it but please don‘t lump us all together.”
And that to me, more than anything, has convinced me that they‘re just losing steam on these fear tactics of McCaughey. McCaughey was doing this back in August. You remember, she was on “Fred Thompson Show,” and I wrote about it then when she talked about how senior citizens would be required to meet with their doctors every five years to decide how they‘re going to end their life sooner—flat-out lie. I don‘t understand why anybody‘s still debating her.
MADDOW: Well, where she—where she turns up to debate is certainly a question. I do think it‘s fascinating, though, that even though she‘s been pushing those kinds of scare tactics, she has been a good debater. She‘s been good at maintaining her side of the—her side of the fight, even when it‘s not supported by the facts, and that we saw fall apart.
MADDOW: She got destroyed by Anthony Weiner in front of a live audience last night in that debate, and then on national television today on Dylan‘s show. And I think seeing her sort of lose it, somebody who knows what to prepare for, I think, is a sign that maybe they don‘t know where they‘re going next.
SCHULTZ: I think you‘re right. She got rattled. And part of that she got rattled because she was in front of live audiences, as you said, or she was being questioned by real journalists, not just being on conservative shows where she gets to pipe up with all of this stuff that‘s absolute nonsense—and unconscionable because it‘s just meant to scare the most vulnerable people in our country.
MADDOW: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Plain Dealer” in Cleveland, Ohio—it‘s always to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us, Connie.
SCHULTZ: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: OK. You‘d think that things like fatty foods and cigarettes and booze wouldn‘t really need public relations, right? Don‘t addiction and the Id kind of take care of promoting those things to ourselves all on their lonesome? Well, apparently, that isn‘t happening well enough. Trans fats and mercury and fish and tanning and cigarettes and booze, they‘ve got a P.R. man, and he joins us live in studio next.
MADDOW: So this is MSNBC, right? This is the place for politics.
And usually when we‘re talking politics, we‘re talking about who‘s got the majority in which house of Congress. We‘re talking about who‘s running for president. It‘s usually red v. blue, electoral politics. That is the above board, “everyone can see it” part of the American politics. That‘s the part that sometimes feels like sports.
Well, here‘s a little story about what‘s happening in American politics beneath the surface. The part that‘s really not at all like sports and is more about what the country is really like and why it can‘t ever seem to change in substantive ways.
In 2007, the company Smithfield Foods was engaged in a legal battle with the UFCW, the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The UFCW wanted to unionize one of Smithfield‘s plants. Smithfield did not want their employees to be in the union. Smithfield ultimately filed a lawsuit against the UFCW, and at some point during that legal battle, Smithfield reportedly retained the services of a D.C. public relations firm called Berman and Company, which is headed by a man named Rick Berman.
And right around the time that Smithfield hired Rick Berman for their legal battle against UFCW, up popped a Web site, UFCWExposed.com. It‘s a Web site dedicated to telling you how horrible the UFCW is. Now, that Web site happens to be run by a nonprofit, a nonprofit that is also headed up by—Rick Berman.
Now, nonprofits, of course, don‘t have to disclose who their donors are. But it‘s an interesting confluence of events, right? Smithfield sues UFCW, Smithfield hires Rick Berman, and then Rick Berman‘s nonprofit group goes after UFCW, without having to say who‘s funding them to do so.
Now, that may be a mere coincidence. But if you follow the career path and accomplishments of Rick Berman, the odds of that being mere coincidence don‘t seem very good.
Take, for example, another Web site, FishScam.com, which assures you that the mercury in your fish really isn‘t that bad for you. FishScam.com is headed by Rick Berman.
Or there‘s SunlightScam.com, which tells that you tanning beds really aren‘t that dangerous for you. SunlightScam.com is headed by Rick Berman.
How about SweetScam.com, which tells you high-fructose corn syrup is, hey, not all that bad. Feed it to the baby. SweetScam.com—headed by Rick Berman.
There‘s also AnimalScam.com, which gives you the, quote, “truth behind the animal rights movement”—headed by Rick Berman.
TransfatFacts.com tells you that trans fat can actually unclog your arteries—headed by Rick Berman.
Also attributable to Rick Berman—if you go to the Web site LivingWage.com right now—just type it in, it will make him happy. LivingWage.com, type it in, you will be redirected to Web site of the Employment Policies Institute, another Rick Berman joint that is not at all about the living wage movement. And again, this is a nonprofit, so it doesn‘t disclose donors, but this Web site is there to tell you how bad it is to raise the wage level for the worst-paid people in the country.
Along these lines, Mr. Berman also runs a Web site called
RottenACORN.com which goes after the community activist group ACORN, which works towards raising the minimum wage, among other things.
All of this stuff is done by Rick Berman. And because he does it through nonprofit organizations, he doesn‘t have to tell you who pays him to do it. He doesn‘t have to tell you if—say, the seafood industry is behind FishScam.com. I don‘t know if it is. It‘s a question.
I also have a question as to whether or not agri-business is behind SweetScam.com and its praise for high-fructose corn syrup.
Mr. Berman is allowed to create all of these grassroots-looking Web sites and not tell you who‘s footing the bill. He‘s totally allowed, totally legal.
And American politics right now is littered with groups like this right now. All of these purportedly grassroots organizations that say they stand for regular, run-of-the-mill Americans, but we‘re not allowed to know who‘s putting up the money. And sometimes, you find out that fake grassroots groups like Americans for Prosperity were founded by an oil baron, and then you think, “Hey, maybe that‘s why they‘re campaigning against climate change legislation.”
Sometimes you find out that the people who are sponsoring the big 9-12 tea party march on Washington is a group that‘s run by a lobbyist who‘s charging tens of thousands of dollars to other firms to gain access to that grassroots podium at that march.
Just because someone calls themselves “grassroots,” someone calls themselves “nonprofit,” does not mean they are not selling you corporate-funded P.R. spin. The target for what these folks are doing is us, the American people.
So when you hear from a Rick Berman-headed Web site that trans fats might secretly be great for you, wouldn‘t it be nice to be able to ask him who is paying him to say that?
Well, joining us now is Rick Berman, who‘s president of the P.R. firm Berman and Company, and founder of a bewildering number of pro-business, nonprofit organizations.
Mr. Berman, I commend you for wanting to come on this show, knowing exactly what this conversation was going to be like. Thank you for being here.
RICK BERMAN, PRESIDENT, BERMAN & COMPANY: Thank you for letting me come on.
MADDOW: All right. So, tell me what I just said there that is not true. I want to give you a chance to correct the record first.
BERMAN: Well, first of all, I don‘t know if I have enough time to do that.
BERMAN: But I brought some notes because I listened to some of your commentary on previous nights.
MADDOW: Well, I don‘t want to say anything that‘s actually untrue.
So, tell me if I‘m.
BERMAN: Well, I don‘t know if you say things that are factually untrue as much as with a healthy dose of sarcasm.
BERMAN: And with taking things out of context, you make them seem a lot worse than they are. Let‘s go to trans fat.
BERMAN: Everybody used to use saturated fat. Then there was a group that is commonly called the “Food Police,” called the Center for Science and the Public Interest.
MADDOW: Well, you call them the “Food Police.”
MADDOW: Nobody else commonly calls them that.
BERMAN: Well, actually, more and more people are starting to call them that.
MADDOW: Because you‘re doing a good job.
BERMAN: Well, thank you. But they said saturated fats are terrible. We need to go to trans fats. And they counseled the industry and they counseled the government and they counseled the media that we needed to move to trans fat. Over time, they decided, “No, no, no, trans fats are bad. We have to go back to saturated fats or some other fats.”
Now, the point is, that trans fats are not particularly bad compared
to saturated fats or vice versa. And trans fats—most people who get
connected to trans fats, get connected to it by putting margarine on their
bread. That‘s what trans fats are.‘
And when I see people say that trans fats—and we‘ve seen legislators say trans fats are like lead in paint with kids eating lead chips. We have seen legislators say that they‘re just like rat poison. I put out a Web site and I say, listen, there‘s needs to be some balance in this conversation. Trans fats may not be good for you. You may not—you shouldn‘t eat them in great amounts, but they are not rat poison.
MADDOW: When you put out that Web site, though, what I want to know is—in order to assess the credibility of what you‘re saying, and when I see the ads that you‘re doing, and look at the Web site—what I want to know is: are manufacturers of foods that contain trans fats are paying you to say it?
BERMAN: Great question. I know where you‘re going. Listen, what you were saying before about nonprofits not disclosing their donors is something that is well-known to people on the left, on the far left, and on the right. All through politics, people have nonprofits that are advocacy nonprofits, and they all are refusing to submit donor lists, because people don‘t want to have their right to free speech curtailed by people coming at them.
You know, the original case that went to the Supreme Court.
MADDOW: But wait, before you do that, though.
BERMAN: Well, let me tell you this.
MADDOW: Before we talk about the Supreme Court, you just—without me interrupting you like I did just now—you just gave this sort of soliloquy on why trans fats aren‘t so bad. In order for my viewers to know whether or not that was a paid-for testimonial by people who have a vested financial industry in trans fats being purchased and consumed by a lot of Americans.
MADDOW: . I want to know if somebody who makes trans fats or profits from them paid you to say it?
BERMAN: Go on—go on the Web site and look at the science. What I always.
MADDOW: You just—are you saying that you won‘t tell me?
BERMAN: Yes, of course.
BERMAN: And I‘m just like all of the groups on the left who won‘t tell you either. In fact, you put up one Web site about ACORN, RottenACORN, the only thing wrong with that Web site home page is that it‘s now been changed as of tonight, because you had Melanie Sloan on—Melanie Sloan from CREW.
MADDOW: That‘s correct.
BERMAN: And she has been attacking me over the years for one thing or another. And so, tonight, I put up, if you go to RottenACORN.com, you will see an expose of Melanie Sloan and CREW not wanting to disclose her donors. This is something on the right and the left.
MADDOW: This is fair enough. But I want it—but it‘s—and you can—if you‘re going to attack Melanie Sloan for not disclosing her donors, and I know that ActivistsCash.com is another one of your vehicle by which you attack groups on the left and try to expose who their donors are, why do you feel justified in doing that when you won‘t say who yours are?
BERMAN: If I get money from NBC, and NBC says, “I don‘t want my name disclosed,” it‘s not up to me to disclose it.
MADDOW: Yes, but I want—why do you expect anybody to believe you on matters of science and research if we don‘t know if you are being paid to say it by people who have a vested interest, literally, a financial interest in you being persuasive? Don‘t you think that‘s kind of evil?
BERMAN: Here‘s why. Because I can‘t make a persuasive case just because it‘s my opinion, and if you go to those Web sites, there‘s science on there. When you go to the Web site about MercuryFacts or FishScam, what you will see is that the Harvard School of Public Health says that the risks of mercury from eating fish are far more outweighed than the benefits of eating fish.
BERMAN: So, if I got Harvard saying it, I don‘t have to tell you who gave me any money to publicize their point of view.
MADDOW: On that point, you took on Harvard specifically. And this—
I‘m sure you‘ve thought about this a lot because it got a lot of attention for your company and for your nonprofits. You took on Harvard on an obesity study.
There was a study about obesity that you said was junk science. It was about whether or not soda is bad for you and contributed to childhood obesity. I looked into a lot of your campaigning around that. And I saw, for example, your research director testifying to the FDA, was it, about that? Your research director.
BERMAN: Sending a letter.
MADDOW: OK. It was written testimony. It was on your Web site, written testimony there.
MADDOW: David Martosko was his name.
MADDOW: Is he a scientist?
BERMAN: No, David repeats other people‘s science. That‘s not the point.
MADDOW: Is he a doctor? Or is he.
BERMAN: David is a Dartmouth graduate. He‘s one of the smartest guys in Washington about this stuff. He‘s been studying it for many, many years.
MADDOW: It‘s been—I want to ask you this because I think it‘s important to know.
MADDOW: When you‘re talking about your credibility on these issues, it has been reported that David Martosko, before he got this gig as your research director, he—his experience was that he was a producer in AM talk radio. That was his previous job.
BERMAN: David had several jobs. David had several jobs. But.
MADDOW: And his academic credential may be from Dartmouth but it‘s a degree in music, is that right?
BERMAN: Here‘s my whole point, David doesn‘t come on and say, “I have done the research and this is what the research says.” David finds the research and publicizes it, and he gives people the opportunity to look at a balanced point of view.
MADDOW: You should have him set it to music.
BERMAN: Well, perhaps so.
MADDOW: All right. This is going to be more fun after the commercial. You stick around, or you can—you can leave now if you want. But I‘d love for you to stick around.
BERMAN: No, no, no. I want to stay the whole show if I can.
MADDOW: All right. Rick Berman, thank you very much for being a great sport to being here. We‘ll be right back after this.
MADDOW: We‘re back with Rick Berman. He is president of the PR firm Berman and Company, as well as founder of a number, a great number of pro-business nonprofit organizations. Mr. Berman, thanks for sticking with us.
BERMAN: Glad to be here.
MADDOW: All right. You have received a lot of attention over the years for your efforts. CBS memorably christened you “Dr. Evil,” a term you seem to really relish. And I know you said in an interview about 10 years ago in a trade magazine, you said that your strategy was to, quote, “shoot the messenger. We‘ve got to attack their credibility as spokespersons.”
MADDOW: Was that your intent? Was that the strategy behind “RottenACORN.com” to go after them as messengers for raising the minimum wage and the other kinds of things that they worked on?
BERMAN: You know, most of the people that go after ACORN are certainly in the crosshairs about this are people who are hypocrites, people who say one thing and do another, people who are duplicitous.
When I first found out about ACORN, it was because I had a long
history of working on the minimum wage. And I -
MADDOW: Against raising the minimum wage?
BERMAN: Against raising the minimum wage, which is a position that is consistent all the time. Whenever they do these surveys, 75 percent to 80 percent of economists in this country say that raising the minimum wage is no longer a good antipoverty measure. There are all sorts of studies that. If you want to know more about it, you go to “MinimumWage.com” which is run by Rick Berman.
MADDOW: Which is run by Rick Berman. And the idea that raising the minimum wage hurts poor people is going to make people laugh all around the country.
BERMAN: Let them laugh, but the point is that economists who have no dog in the fight say this because when you see that the average income, the average family income of a minimum wage worker today is approximately $50,000.
MADDOW: You know, but that‘s -
BERMAN: But Rachel, let me finish about ACORN, OK?
BERMAN: It‘s important. The reason I got involved with ACORN is that I saw that ACORN had filed a brief in the California Court of Appeals saying they wanted to pay their own employees less than the minimum wage. They wanted to be exempted from the minimum wage.
And one of their arguments was that they wouldn‘t be able to hire as many workers if they raise the minimum wage on them. And, they said, and this was really incredible, they said that if they can pay their workers less than the minimum wage, they would be poor and they would be better able to identify with their poor clients.
Now, the judge threw the case out, said that this was the most hypocritical thing he had ever seen. And this was an appellate court brief. This was not some local person.
MADDOW: Who funded your website, RottenACORN.com? Who gave you the money for that?
BERMAN: I did it.
MADDOW: You did it yourself personally?
BERMAN: Yes. I start a lot of these myself because I believe in them. And then, I go to people and I say, “Listen, this is what I‘m doing. If your beliefs are consistent with mine, will you help me get this thing out?” It doesn‘t cost anything to put a Web site up.
MADDOW: Right. But who - on the ACORN - so nobody ever else supported that. That was out of the goodness of your heart?
MADDOW: The problem with that is that I can‘t prove it one way or another because you don‘t have to disclose it. And so I have to take your word on that, and I will. There‘s no reason not to.
But in general, your strategy not to say, “I, Rick Berman, am being paid to tell you that the efforts to stop you from eating fish or stop eating trans fats or stop smoking cigarettes, whatever they are, I‘m being paid to tell you that these things are a bad idea.”
BERMAN: I don‘t do things that I don‘t believe.
MADDOW: OK. But you are being paid to say them as well by people who have a vested interest in what you are arguing. And you don‘t argue - you don‘t argue from the truth of it, the fact that you‘re being paid for it. You argue that the people who advocate against cigarette smoking, the people who advocate for raising the minimum wage, you advocate they‘re bad people and can‘t be trusted.
BERMAN: I never argued -
MADDOW: You‘re against Mothers Against Drunk Driving. You‘re against PETA. You‘re against ACORN.
BERMAN: Wait, wait, wait. Wrong. Listen. The woman -
MADDOW: You‘re shooting the messenger. You said it‘s your own strategy.
BERMAN: The woman who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving came to
work for me because she believed that the MADD organization had been
MADDOW: Yes. And then she left in a bad way in your organization.
BERMAN: She left because she had been hounded for doing it. That‘s
why. But the point is that she agreed with me and there are lots of people
· traffic safety people - who agree that MADD used to be against drunk driving. I was the only consultant to MADD - the only corporate consultant to MADD. I was trying to do something about drunk driving. The organization was consistent with our views.
But then, they went about trying to go after any drinking and driving. So now, they‘re trying to put breathalyzers in all cars as original equipment.
MADDOW: And restaurants and bars and other industries that sell alcohol.
BERMAN: Yes, but -
MADDOW: And they‘re worried about it. They have an interest and they‘re paying you to say it. If you admitted that ...
BERMAN: But of course -
MADDOW: ... nobody would call you Dr. Evil anymore. They‘d just call you a PR guy.
BERMAN: No, no, no -
MADDOW: The reason you‘re on this show is because you don‘t disclose who‘s paying you to say the things that you‘re saying.
BERMAN: Well, then you can‘t have anybody on your show from the left or right who‘s connected to these nonprofit organizations because they won‘t tell you who‘s funding them.
MADDOW: And think that‘s wrong?
BERMAN: I think that they‘re entitled to do that. They‘re entitled to keep their donors quiet. I think that‘s up to them.
MADDOW: Rick Berman, president of Berman and Company, my sincere thanks for coming on tonight. I look forward to you taking down the Web site attacking CREW for not disclosing their donors, because you‘ve had your change of heart right here on set with me.
BERMAN: Hardly, hardly.
MADDOW: It doesn‘t matter what you think. It‘s what works for your business. I understand. I hope you‘ll come back. I hope you thought you were treated fairly.
BERMAN: I was and I look forward to coming back.
MADDOW: Thank you. All right. As if Sen. John Ensign did not have enough on his plate now that his adultery and payoff scandals are being investigated, today, Sen. Ensign was tracked down by a reporter who asked him some very, very uncomfortable questions on camera. The way things are going, Sen. Ensign may look back on this as one of the good days. That remarkable piece of tape is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can tell us if you have gotten any calls from the Justice Department or your lawyer?
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): Let me state this very carefully. We will cooperate with any official inquiries, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. “Now, will you please just leave me alone, Dana Bash?” That‘s Nevada Senator John Ensign, and he has managed to avoid answering almost all questions about the scandals surrounding him until today.
You will recall that the senator confessed back in June to having an affair with a campaign staffer, who was married to one of his top Senate staffers. But it‘s not the affair itself that has Sen. Ensign in growing trouble.
While Sen. Ensign was still carrying on the affair, he apparently decided that he wanted to get his mistress and her husband off of the Ensign payroll. The “New York Times” reporting that the senator called companies and suggested none too subtly that they hire the mistress‘ husband.
Those recommendations helped the cuckolded husband go right from his job in Sen. Ensign‘s office into a job lobbying the Senate, and that is against the law.
Since the initial revelation of the affair, Sen. Ensign has pretty much shunned the press. He‘s appeared sparingly in public. He turned up once at a chamber of commerce luncheon, once at a conference in Lake Tahoe.
And then this morning sort of happened to him. He was tracked down outside his Senate office. Sen. Ensign made what was clearly a very unwanted appearance on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENSIGN: You can to see our statements on that. I think it‘s pretty clear. I said in the past I recommended him for jobs, just like I have recommended a lot of people. But we absolutely did nothing except for comply exactly with what the ethics laws and the ethics rules of the Senate state. We were very careful in everything that we did and you can see our statements on that.
BASH: Did you have any indications about the Justice Department investigation?
ENSIGN: We always plan on - we‘re going to cooperate with any official inquiries. But as you all know, you can‘t comment on any that stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually you can. No comment or not, things once, then, once they were outside, got even worse for the increasingly seasick-looking senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Senator, why was it so important to get Doug Hampton those jobs?
ENSIGN: Just look at our statement. Just look at our statement.
We‘re very clear on that stuff, OK?
BASH: Is there any chance that you - are you considering resigning?
ENSIGN: I am focused on doing my work. I‘m going to continue to focus on doing my work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sen. Ensign may say he is focused on doing his work. But many others in Washington are now focused on how Sen. Ensign features in the work of the FBI.
Joining us now is Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Melanie, thanks very much for coming on the show tonight on which you have already had a starring role.
MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND
ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Right. And let me just preface my remarks by saying no one paid us to go after John Ensign. It was really our pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Fair enough. Actually, let me ask you before we talk Ensign. My conversation with Rick Berman, I think will be the first of more. I think I will probably be continuing this talk with him. Do you think we covered important ground? Do you think there was anything that I let him get away with that I shouldn‘t have?
SLOAN: No, I think you did a good job. But I would like to let you know Philip Morris actually was one of the main funders of Mr. Berman‘s work on the Center of Consumer Freedom when he was funding - smoking should be a choice in restaurants.
MADDOW: That is one of the ones we have documentation of because of all of the lawsuits in the tobacco industry. That‘s exactly right.
All right. On Ensign, today I understand that your organization provided information to the FBI and to the Senate Ethics Committee about Ensign. What did you provide and how significant do you think it is?
SLOAN: Well, we forwarded the “New York times” article to the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee as well as some of the documents the “New York times” had, which were contemporaneous notes that Doug Hampton had written as well as some E-mail exchanges between Doug Hampton and John Ensign and John Ensign‘s chief-of-staff, John Lopez.
The main thing that we‘ve learned from this “New York Times” article is that Mr. Hampton violated the lobbying ban - Senate staffer not allowed to lobby for one year after they leave. He violated that. And he did it with the assistance of John Ensign.
John Ensign knowingly and willfully helped Mr. Hampton violate this ban by finding clients, soliciting clients for him and then having meetings. And all of this is clearly against the law so John Ensign has committed conspiracy to violate this law.
And he‘s busy claiming right now that he didn‘t do anything unethical or illegal. And that‘s exactly what Bob Ney, a former congressman from Ohio said all the way until the day he pleaded guilty to this exact offense.
MADDOW: Briefly, Melanie, I know you also have called for the FBI to investigate Sen. Tom Coburn‘s role in this affair. What do you think merits investigation into Coburn‘s role here?
SLOAN: Well, Coburn also was very close to Doug Hampton, knew him well, was involved in helping facilitate some kind of restitution that didn‘t work out for the Hamptons. But Mr. Hampton and Mr. Coburn met also with Mr. Hampton‘s client, Allegiant Air. So if Tom Coburn was also assisting Mr. Hampton to violate the lobbying ban, he too, could have committed conspiracy to violate the lobbying ban.
MADDOW: Melanie Sloan, executive director for CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, thanks very much for coming back on the show.
SLOAN: It‘s my pleasure.
MADDOW: From Sarah Palin to the Democrats to Joe Wilson, comedian Lewis Black will take them all on when he joins Keith on “COUNTDOWN,” coming up next.
And the unenviable task of rewriting the Bible to make it sound more right-wing. Somebody is actually trying to do that. And we have asked Kent Jones to look into it. That‘s next.
MADDOW: It is time to “bomb the moon.” Seriously, we are going to bomb the moon. At 7:30 Eastern Time, Friday morning, NASA is going to shoot a missile traveling at twice the speed of sound - sorry, twice the speed of a bullet, into the moon.
Specifically, we will be shooting this missile at the moon‘s South Polar Region. Other than the fact that this sounds like a heck of a lot of fun for the NASA folks who get to literally shoot the moon, why are we doing this?
Well, apparently it‘s all about the debris cloud, the impact of the missile is expected to produce a six-mile-high plume of moon debris. And NASA thinks that the big plume of moon debris will help them figure out if there‘s any water below the dry, dusty surface of the moon.
NASA intends to broadcast the moon bombing live, and we will cover what happens right here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Friday night, which on Friday is, I think, about an hour before the moon is scheduled to rise. Hopefully.
MADDOW: At Dover Air Force Base today in Delaware, scenes that the American people were not allowed to see during the Bush administration. The remains of six American soldiers, Sgt. Joshua Kirk, Sgt. Vernon Martin, Spc. Michael Scusa, Spc. Christopher Griffin, Spc. Stephen Mace, and Pfc. Kevin Thompson, all being returned home to their families with solemn ceremony and with dignity.
They are six of the eight Americans who were killed in two simultaneous insurgent onslaughts on U.S. outposts near the Pakistan border and Afghanistan this weekend.
It was eight years ago tonight that the U.S. war in Afghanistan began. And just this year alone, we have doubled the number of U.S. troops we have there.
As the president today met with more than 30 Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate on Afghanistan, it‘s clear that the rationale for continuing the war into its ninth year or even potentially escalating the war into its ninth year is the theory of counterinsurgency.
It‘s the idea our troop presence can stabilize Afghanistan, that we can help Afghanistan defeat the threats to its own government, that we can shore up the legitimacy and the capacity and trustworthiness of the Afghan government and security forces so the Afghan people will choose them, so Afghanistan will function as a legitimate state with a legitimate government that can defend itself.
Then, the counterinsurgents say, then, we could leave. Mission accomplished. This is a policy that‘s supposed to apply to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, because of al-Qaeda, because the insurgents in these countries worry us for our own safety.
Our troops, our fire power, our development dollars, our diplomacy is all supposed to shore up the governments and the local security forces so they will prevail over these insurgents that we find dangerous.
Here‘s the problem. The government in Afghanistan is so corrupt, it looks like Hamid Karzai just stole an election he was probably going to win anyway. The government in Pakistan is so corrupt. The Associated Press is now reporting that of the $6.6 billion the Bush administration gave Pakistan‘s military to fight insurgents before 2008, of $6.6 billion, the military actually maybe got $500 million.
Where do you think the other $6.1 billion is that we gave them? The whole point of us continuing this war, of us staying there longer is that we‘re increasing their capacity to fight insurgents, their capacity to govern and defend their own countries.
The only way it makes sense for us to stay there is if we believe there‘s some chance of success of that strategy, and success depends on the Afghans and Pakistanis. And when you consider the likelihood of that success, consider this.
The day before the firefight that killed those eight American soldiers this weekend, an Afghan soldier on patrol with American soldiers in Wardak Province opened fire on the American troops he had been patrolling with. Two Americans were killed in that attack. At least one was seriously wounded.
And consider that Pakistani television today released CCTV footage of the man they believe was the suicide bomber of the U.N. World Food Program office yesterday in Islamabad, a bombing that killed five people. The bomber was apparently wearing a Pakistani military uniform.
The governments our troops are supposed to be shoring up are corrupt and thieving from their own people and from us. The local security forces our troops are supposed to be training and arming and putting in charge, they themselves are killing their supposed American allies and apparently bombing U.N. offices.
Forget the Taliban. Even the people we‘re supposed to be helping want to kill us. Counterinsurgency theory is elegant and impressive and its champions are among the highest order intellectuals in America today.
But as the president makes his decision about what to do now, know that this is what it boils down to. Staying in Afghanistan, escalating in Afghanistan in year nine of our war there only makes sense if these best and brightest counterinsurgency intellectuals have convinced us that when we‘re finally done, some day, some year in the future in Afghanistan, we will have won and the insurgents will have lost.
And we will believe that it‘s all been worth the cost. That‘s what we have to believe in order for us to want to escalate or even to stay. Year nine starts right now.
MADDOW: Kent Jones has long played a role in my life as a sort of comedy consultant. And one of the things that means is that sometimes when I‘m reading the news and I come across a news story that I can‘t quite believe isn‘t a joke and I don‘t want to get duped, I ask Kent to look into it to tell me whether or not it‘s a joke or for real. It turns out that this story today was for real. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Yes. This was on the real category there. You know, conservatives sometimes get upset about the supposed liberal bias in the book sometimes.
JONES: Well, what if that book is the Bible. Yes.
MADDOW: That‘s for real?
JONES: There‘s a group that wants to give the Bible a little rewrite.
Take a look.
(voice-over): Conservapedia, a conservative version of Wikipedia, has something called the Conservative Bible Project which aims to correct what it calls errors in conveying biblical meaning. Editors are scrubbing the Bible clean of what they consider liberal bias.
Their guidelines include not emasculating the Bible, not using gender-inclusive language, not downplaying the very real existence of hell or the devil, and not dumbing down the Bible.
The group was founded by Andrew Schlafly, son of Old Testament
prophet Phyllis Schlafly who once said, quote, “Sexual harassment on the
job is not a problem for virtuous women.” Amen? And while the Bible has
always been subject to interpretation -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) big nose. I think it was blessed are the cheese makers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What‘s so special about the cheese makers?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it‘s not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.
JONES: The Conservative Bible Project is taking it to another level, because after all, there‘s nothing in the Bible about, say, Kenyan birth certificates but a lot of squishy “love thy neighbor as thyself” kind of stuff.
The project started with the Gospels of John and Mark. So far, they‘ve replaced the words “Pharisees,” “Scribes” and the phrase, “died the death” with “elitists,” “intellectuals” and “death penalty.”
Somehow, the word “smite” was not changed to lethal injection. The project hasn‘t translated any of the Old Testament yet, so we can look forward to creative conservative interpretations about Noah, Moses and Sodom and Gomorrah. Good luck with that one.
As the good book says, “In the beginning was the word.” Well, obviously that has to go.
MADDOW: I can‘t believe it‘s real.
JONES: Yes, very much so.
MADDOW: I wish them luck. Thank you for covering that.
MADDOW: I have a quick correction I need to make from last night‘s show. Chris Hayes from “The Nation” was our guest and he said inaccurately that Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois was planning a trip to Honduras to go meet with that government that we don‘t recognize but all these Republicans are meeting with.
That apparently is not true. Chris says he screwed it up. And so that‘s why we have Chris Hayes tied up in a closet. Just in case you‘re wondering.
JONES: I saw him earlier. Chris -
MADDOW: That‘s what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all day. Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: I appreciate it. Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann and his special guest Lewis Black starts right now. Good night.
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