Guests: Richard Engel, Kent Jones, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Xeni Jardin
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good morning, Lawrence. I have to tell you, one of those donations today was from my parents and they wrote me to say how thankful they were to COUNTDOWN for having focused on the group and the cause. So, thanks for passing it on.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Then it‘s my mother‘s turn tomorrow.
MADDOW: All right. Fair. Thanks, Lawrence. Have a great weekend.
O‘DONNELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Tonight, we‘ve got four questions: One, why has the Nobel Peace Prize occasions such an American freak-out today? Two, is there any good choice to make about the war in Afghanistan? Three, what happens when you call out a thin-skinned, litigious fashion mogul on your scrappy little Web site?
And four, how much does America really know about Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert? Actually, that one has an answer. The answer is: not enough.
Senator Barbara Boxer, NBC‘s Richard Engel, Boingboing.net‘s Xeni Jardin, and the pride of Jeff City, Missouri, Kent Jones, will be helping us with answers to all those questions tonight.
But we begin now with a very, very unexpected start to the day today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning. After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, “Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize and it is Bo‘s birthday.” And then Sasha added, “Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.” So it‘s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate has Sasha and Malia to keep things in perspective for him.
The rest of us? Turns out we‘re not so lucky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It must be good to be the king. I guess his worldwide apology tour has worked.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: I think he won the award for not being George W. Bush.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it just diminished the award itself.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Our president is a worldwide joke. Folks, do you realize something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about, and that is that he doesn‘t deserve the award.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, in George W. Bush‘s first term as president, the conservative “Washington Post” columnist Charles Krauthammer coins the phrase “Bush derangement syndrome,” accusing Bush administration critics of reflexively opposing the president no matter what he did. Bush critics would say things like he started two wars he didn‘t win. He didn‘t get the people who attacked us on 9/11 -- 9/11, New Orleans, the demolition of the financial system, the collapse of the economy, torture and secret prisons, the biggest gap between rich and poor since the Gilded Age, turning a huge surplus into a deficit four times its size.
Critics would say things like that about the Bush record, and the Bush defenders would say, “Bush derangement syndrome. You‘re crazy. You just hate the guy for no reason.”
The idea of “Bush derangement syndrome” stuck. Well, now, in the Obama era, this president‘s critics are delighted that the U.S. lost our bid for the Olympics because President Obama played a part in the country seeking that bid.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, RADIO & TALK SHOW HOST: Please, please, let me break this news to you. Oh, it‘s so sweet.
LIMBAUGH: Oh, man, oh, man. The worst day of Obama‘s presidency, folks, the ego has landed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anyone cares, Chicago is out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were out on the first vote!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yay! America lost! That will put Obama in his place!
Yet today, President Obama‘s critics expressed outrage that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, claiming that it wasn‘t deserved, that he hadn‘t achieved anything that warranted it.
In 1984, the Nobel committee gave the Peace Prize to Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his, as yet, unsuccessful efforts to topple apartheid in South America. Apartheid didn‘t fall for another 10 years after that award.
I suppose they could have waited until 1994 to see how the fight over apartheid turned doubt and then awarded the prize based on that achievement then. But that‘s not actually the way the Nobel Peace Prize always works.
In 1935, the Nobel committee gave the Peace Prize to a journalist named Carl von Ossietzky, because he symbolized domestic opposition to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. I suppose they could have waited to see whether or not domestic opposition to Hitler in Germany toppled him, whether it worked out for them, and then they could have awarded the prize based on that achievement. But, A, that never happened, and B, that‘s the way the Nobel Peace Prize always works.
President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize for his dogged pursuit of Mideast peace. I suppose they could have waited for Mideast peace to break out and then awarded the prize based on that achievement, but that‘s not the way the Nobel Peace Prize always works.
Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize without toppling the Burmese military junta, which is still in control.
Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize without ending tyranny in Iran. President Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize for creating the League of Nations and his work on the Treaty of Versailles in the end of the World War I, though neither of those things lived up to their promise of preventing future wars.
The Nobel Peace Prize not always but often awards effort. It
recognizes people trying in big ways to get the world on a more peaceful
path. The deadline for nominations for the prize is February 1st of the
year in which it‘s awarded. President Obama‘s critics say that by February
1st, he should not have been nominated. He had done nothing by then and,
by the way, he‘s done nothing since to deserve it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We need a fundamental change if we‘re going to dig ourselves out of the hole that George Bush has placed us in. And that‘s going to require the kind of aggressive diplomacy—preparation, yes, but aggressive diplomacy, the personal diplomacy of the next president—to transform how the world sees us. That is ultimately going to make us safer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Before he was nominated for the Nobel, Mr. Obama had persuaded the people of the most powerful nation on Earth to choose him and his vision of strength through diplomacy, instead of the division offered by his rival for the presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: That old—that old Beach Boys song, bomb Iran, you know? Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb—anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Before he was nominated for the Nobel, Mr. Obama persuaded the people of the most powerful nations on Earth, the only nation to have ever used a nuclear weapon in war, the holder of the biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons on Earth, he persuaded the people of that country that the next president of the United States should try to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Before he was nominated for the Nobel Prize, Mr. Obama decided that the most powerful nation on Earth would try again to work with other countries through international institutions. This reflected quite a change from the way things had been going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, BUSH U.N. AMBASSADOR: The United States makes the U.N. work when it wanted to work. And that is exactly the way it should be because the only question, the only question for the United States is what‘s in our national interest. And if you don‘t like that, I‘m sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The last American president, he picked that guy to represent us at the United Nations. He was the top diplomat.
Before he was nominated for the Nobel, Mr. Obama declared that the most powerful nation on Earth would close its secret prisons and the prison it offshored in Cuba to avoid our own Constitution. And he declared that the United States government would no longer support a policy of torture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now. We can abide by a rule that says we don‘t torture. But that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need. The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly, we are going to do so effectively, and we are going to do so in a manner that‘s consistent with our values and our ideals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Mr. Obama‘s track record before February 1st, before the deadline for the nominations of the Nobel Peace Prize this year. When we accepted it today, he said that he felt that he did not deserve it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who‘ve been honored by this prize, men and women who have inspired me, and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace. But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women and all Americans want to build—a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement, it‘s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.
And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action—a call for all nations to con front the common challenges of the 21st century. This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration, it‘s about the courageous efforts of people around the world.
And that‘s why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity—for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom, and sometimes their lives for the cause of peace.
That has always been the cause of America. That‘s why the world has always looked to America. And that‘s why I believe America will continue to lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And he says the young woman who marches silently in the streets, he‘s talking about Neda Agha Soltan, who‘s, of course, martyred in the Iranian opposition movement. When he talks about the leader imprisoned in her own home, he‘s presumably talking about Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition to the military junta in Burma. When he says the soldier who sacrifices on behalf of someone half a world away, he‘s presumably talking about the American soldier.
President Obama‘s critics railed today that winning the Nobel Peace Prize is somehow an insult. That international encouragement and hope for success for an American president is something to be ashamed of. I never that I would quote Charles Krauthammer, but “Obama derangement syndrome” appears to be on us.
The American president just won the Nobel Peace Prize—by any reasonable measure, all Americans should be proud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THORBJOERN JAGLAND, NOBEL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.
OBAMA: I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now here in studio in New York is Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
Senator, thank you for coming in.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you for having me on this great day.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, I‘m proud.
BOXER: I‘m proud, too.
MADDOW: There were actually calls of the right today that the president should turn it down and not accept the Peace Prize. What do you make of that?
BOXER: You know, I just want to say that all of this just astounds me. This is a wonderful day for our nation and of all the quotes that I heard, I know we‘re focusing on some of the negative ones, I thought President Sarkozy of France had the best one. And I brought it with me. It‘s very short.
BOXER: He said, “The award marks America‘s return to the heart of the people of the world.” And that to me says it all. America is back, folks. I mean, we‘re back in the eyes of the world. We‘re leading again.
And people are going to look to us as the beacon for hope. And it‘s been a long time in coming and people should be so happy. And I really have to say, a couple of Republicans did step out and say some nice things and I want to say that was John McCain was one of them, and Tim Pawlenty was one of them.
MADDOW: That‘s right.
BOXER: And I want to say, good for you, because this is a time for five minutes we should just put aside all the differences and say, “All right, this is good for our country, for our people.”
MADDOW: On some of the policy issues that you work on, thinking for example about global warming, thinking about the practical impact of what Sarkozy said there, “America returning to the hearts of the people of the world”—does that give us more power in the world as well? If we are looked up to, respected, and, in fact, loved, does that help us get more of what we want in the world on the kinds of issues that you work on?
BOXER: Well, no question. Because it‘s hard power, we all know we have that, we‘ve had that forever, you know, since World War I, but the soft power. And that‘s so important, Rachel, winning the hearts and minds of the people, is what it‘s all about.
You know, it‘s very difficult for al Qaeda to recruit people when they keep saying, “Death to America” and the world‘s going, “No, we like what President Obama is saying, we think we can work together.” So, you know, I think it does make you more powerful. And that‘s why when I listen to Rush Limbaugh, I didn‘t really want to, but you made me.
BOXER: (INAUDIBLE). What he‘s saying is is very wimpy in a way, because he‘s just saying that he‘s very wimpy. Because it doesn‘t—I mean, someone who‘s strong can talk to the enemy, can look that person across the table and say, “Now, listen to me, you know, what you‘re saying is wrong, let‘s get to it.”
You can always use the fist. That‘s the easy part, especially when it isn‘t Rush Limbaugh‘s fist, you can send, you know, our beautiful men and women abroad, he doesn‘t care if they did go abroad and fight wars. But I think that this president understands that‘s a last resort.
MADDOW: On the subject of the—how the right responded, and I know that‘s not the universe, but it is definitely the news of the day, you note accurately that John McCain was very gracious.
MADDOW: He said, “Congratulations and Americans should be proud.”
Tim Pawlenty also said congratulations; it‘s the right thing to say.
The most prominently Republican today who really went out there on the limb, along with a lot of the talk show hosts and bloggers was the most prominent nationally-elected Republican, is the head of the RNC, Michael Steele. He called it unfortunate and said that the president has no achievements that merit any like this, let along any sort of award.
Does one of these two sides eventually win out in the Republican Party, do you think? Or they just co-exist constantly?
BOXER: What, I think, matters is the way the American people view this, and that‘s what I thought what you did at the beginning of the show was so important. And, I think, if the American people understand that this does make us stronger, this does mean that when we walk into a room, with people who are our enemies, we might have a chance to avoid sending our young men and women to war. I think the American people understand this. The Republicans will have no choice but to stand down.
I couldn‘t believe what Michael Steele said today. You know, everything to him is more of the same, politics as usual. They are angry about how the elections turned out. They are certainly looking to the next elections—where I‘m up and a lot of other people are—to say that American people, “Enough, we‘ve had 15 minutes with the Democrats. They haven‘t cured all the problems, it took eight years to bring about,” and that‘s—that‘s what it is with Michael Steel.
You never really get, it seems to me, honestly, and a real true, frank answer. It‘s all put through this sieve of the ugliness of politics.
MADDOW: On the issue of climate change which I mentioned earlier.
MADDOW: It is likely that climate change is going—global warming, your legislation specifically, is going to be the next target of the same groups that we saw gear up with the tea parties and the town hall meetings and all that stuff this summer. What‘s your strategy against that?
BOXER: Well, our strategy, really, John Kerry and I and many members of the Senate who are working so very hard, especially the members of my committee, our strategy is to just keep building more and more of a coalition.
We now see—there are businesses who are quitting the chamber of commerce because they say the chamber of commerce doesn‘t understand that to do this, to put a price on carbon, is going to attract billions of dollars in capital and create green jobs, and will stop exporting $1 billion a day to people who don‘t like us very much for oil, and we‘re going to have jobs here. And we‘re going to lead the world in clean technology exports.
And we keep building. We are now building coalitions with the evangelicals, they understand that the poor people of this nation and the poor people of the world are the ones who are going to suffer worse than all the rest of us. We‘ll all suffer if we face the ravages of global warming, but it would be harder on the poor. They‘ve got very involved in our coalition. We‘re excited about it. We really are.
So, that‘s our plan—to put together the broadest coalition that we can—business, labor, evangelicals, the environmentalists, and frankly, the polls really look good on this. It doesn‘t mean that our opponents aren‘t going to try to change that, but right now, people know—clean energy jobs, that‘s the way of the future.
MADDOW: And clearly, you‘re geared up for the fight and have thought a lot about this, which is information in its terms.
Senator Barbara Boxer of California, it‘s really nice for you to be here. Thank you.
BOXER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
BOXER: Good to be here.
MADDOW: OK. The silver lining that is President Obama‘s Nobel Peace Prize comes attached to a huge cloud that is called Afghanistan. NBC‘s foreign correspondent Richard Engel has just returned from the war zone in Afghanistan, and front line combat document for which he won his most recent Emmy, it‘s called “Tip of the Spear,” premieres this weekend. Richard joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: At around 11:15 Eastern this morning, the president delivered what were unexpected remarks in the White House Rose Garden, reacting to the news that he‘d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Four hours later, the newly-minted Peace Prize laureate convened a highly anticipated meeting of his war council, a meeting in the White House Situation Room regarding the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama is currently engaged in a full strategic review of that war and—while a final decision is yet to be made, “The Wall Street Journal” reported today that one option given to the president by his top commander in Afghanistan is a surge of more than 60,000 U.S. troops. That would be a lot more than the 40,000 troop increase that has previously been reported as the most intensive option.
In terms of what‘s actually happening on the ground in Afghanistan, here at MSNBC and NBC News, we have benefited tremendously from the extraordinary reporting of chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Richard has just returned from his latest trip to Afghanistan. He has a new documentary that is premiering on MSNBC on Sunday night that‘s called “Tip of the Spear.” It‘s an hour-long, jaw-dropping piece of his Emmy Award-winning reporting from the front lines in Afghanistan.
Richard, thanks for being here. Thanks for coming back on the show.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely my pleasure. (INAUDIBLE)
MADDOW: Congratulations on the Emmy.
ENGEL: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: In terms of McChrystal proposing 60,000 U.S. troops, we previously thought the top proposal was 40,000.
MADDOW: We‘ve already doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan this year. If we double this again with 60,000 more troops, would that make more strategic options available to the United States?
ENGEL: It would allow McChrystal to change what he believes is the strategy on the ground in Afghanistan. Right now, U.S. troops are stretched pretty thin because they‘d have to work with NATO partners—and a lot of the NATO partners, particularly the Germans and the Italians aren‘t doing the same kind of mission that U.S. troops are doing, U.S. soldiers and marines. So, having more American forces, reliable forces on the ground, would allow him—as he said in his leaked report—to push off of bases, to engage more with the people, and to try and win hearts and minds, and do a longer term nation-building strategy, which according to that report, he thinks will be a successful strategy in the long-term for Afghanistan.
MADDOW: Now, you have—in terms of your reporting, what you‘ve seen with U.S. troops, what you‘ve seen among the Afghan people in your recent trips, you have expressed skepticism that the American people are ever going to want Americans to be there, no matter what Americans are doing in their country?
ENGEL: Eight years have passed, and I think you have to also compare this strategy, which was really—it‘s an old strategy but it was refined in the war in Iraq by General Petraeus. And it was a strategy of winning hearts and minds by protecting the people.
ENGEL: And General McChrystal often talks about protecting the people
· that should be the focus. Continue to kill bad guys, as the military likes to say, but try and convince the people that they should be fighting the enemies themselves.
ENGEL: And that—that happened in Iraq quite successfully. The big difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is that, in Iraq, there was a civil war and one side, the Sunni Arabs, found themselves on the losing side of the war and needed protection. They needed American help and they were very therefore receptive.
MADDOW: . sought it out.
ENGEL: They sought it out.
ENGEL: It was—they were reaching out to the Americans and said, “Please help us. If you do, we will help you.” So there was a deal that was arranged.
And when Gen. Petraeus arrived in Iraq with his extra 30,000 troops, he found and helped created a 100,000 strong militia that joined up with him to fight against al-Qaeda in that case because this militia felt it had no other choice, that it is better to sign up with the Americans than to lose the civil war in Iraq. It is not a comparable situation that you have in Afghanistan for a variety of reasons.
MADDOW: Well, there‘s no civil war.
ENGEL: There‘s no civil war. The Taliban generally don‘t bother and don‘t threaten the local population. So if you‘re - put yourself in the position of a U.S. platoon leader on the ground.
You go and knock on someone‘s house in southern Afghanistan or eastern Afghanistan, the most dangerous parts.
And you say, “I‘m here to protect you.”
And the Afghan might say, “Well, who are you protecting me from?”
“Well I‘m protecting you from the Taliban.”
“Well, the Taliban aren‘t really bothering me.”
“Ah, but they are trying to repress your people.”
“Well, yes. They are a little extreme, but they haven‘t really bothered me so much. And you know, what‘s the difference? And you are a foreigner anyway and I would rather not have you protect me.”
“But we‘re here to help you establish a legitimate government.
And we‘re here to defend a legitimate government.”
But that government wasn‘t elected in the legitimate process because of the problems in the elections this last summer.
ENGEL: So if you‘re that company commander and you‘re knocking on somebody‘s door, you have a tough argument in Afghanistan. What do you tell that Afghan why would you‘re there?
ENGEL: In Iraq, you knock on someone‘s door, “I‘m here to protect you.”
“Welcome, please come inside.” You have a gun because people felt they were about to die.
ENGEL: It‘s different in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: I want to play a clip from “Tip of the Spear” because, in addition to having spent time in Kabul and having dealt with some of the strategic issues and talked to the Afghan people, you‘ve also been out on some of the “Tip of the Spear” forward operating bases. There are combat outposts.
“Tip of the Spear” premiers Sunday night on MSNBC. It‘s Richard embedded alongside U.S. soldiers from the Army division known as Viper Company. We‘ve got a quick clip here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL (voice-over): Isolated, dangerous, and at the tip of the spear in Afghanistan. Restrepo is attacked day and night. It‘s just after 8:00 p.m., when suddenly - incoming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Get yourselves up here!UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boys!
ENGEL: But the soldiers can‘t tell where the Taliban are hiding. There‘s no high-tech way to find the militants. American military superiority doesn‘t mean much in these mountains. It‘s guns versus guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire!
ENGEL: So after the fight, the men from Restrepo set out into the darkness to find the Taliban. The terrain is especially difficult to navigate at night. The ground is loose shale that crumbles under their feet.
And depth perception is difficult with their night vision monocles. But after hours hunting in the dark, the American troops don‘t find anything. This is often the mission here, hunting along trails until morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s a clip from “Tip of the Spear,” your documentary premiering Sunday night. Richard, you have spent years covering the Iraq War. You‘ve been in and out of Afghanistan a lot recently. Can you see - when you‘re out with these troops in these combat outposts, can you see what kind of effect the sheer length of these wars, these multiple deployments is having on the military?
ENGEL: Yes. The machine is getting tired. And I think you can see that in the families. You can see that in the soldiers. I spent a lot of time with the troops, not just when in Afghanistan and Iraq. But over time, they become your friends.
And I get E-mails from soldiers all the time. They‘re going through divorces. They‘re having financial problems when they come home. They‘re coming back to credit card debt. How many deployments can a marriage last?
And if you‘re going through this again and again, it puts an undue amount of strain. And generally, just being away from your spouse is difficult. But then you‘re going into combat and you‘re going into combat again and again which has a psychological impact on you.
So when you return from combat, already, you‘re in a different place than your wife or husband might be. And then to try and put things back together is very difficult. So it‘s a strain on the military, on the equipment, of course, on the budget, but primarily, on the families.
MADDOW: NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, thank you, as always, for your insight, for your reporting. The premiere of “Tip of the Spear,” Sunday night 8:00 Eastern on MSNBC. RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewers, it‘s mandatory. You actually have to watch it. And you‘ll be expected to report back on Monday. Richard, thank you.
ENGEL: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Good luck. Thanks. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just crashed a fundraiser for San Francisco Democrats. He was not well received. That story is all coming up next, stay tuned.
MADDOW: Coming up, something we could not figure out what to name today. We thought about “Photoshop of Horrors,” or “Photo Shop Fail,” or “Photo Shop Disaster Turns Model into Living Brass Doll.” We thought about “Mutant Alien Ralph Lauren Model Has a Pelvis Smaller than Her Jaw Line.” That story is next.
But I know everyone in the control room is still fighting over what we‘re going to call this monstrosity. You will find out when we do it live in just a moment.
But first, a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. The senior, senior, senior Democratic congressman from New York City, Charlie Rangel, has been under a cloud of ethics suspicion for more than a year owing to a lengthy list of alleged financial misdeeds.
That storm cloud of suspicion has just gone vertical, attracted more clouds and it‘s starting to rain. Mr. Rangel now facing an expanded investigation of his tangled personal assets by the House Ethics Committee.
Tangled personal assets include some allegedly undisclosed income and holdings, some alleged liberties taken with multiple rent-stabilized apartments as well as some alleged corporate-funded vacation time. It‘s an alleged mess.
But so far, other Democrats have been unwilling to punish Mr. Rangel while the ethics investigation is ongoing. There was, though, an important call for punishment today from the political left today.
Markos Moulitsas, the namesake of “Daily Kos,” the hugely influential, progressive blog, says that Congressman Rangel should give up his committee chairmanship. And it‘s not just any chairmanship. Charlie Rangel is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which makes him among the most powerful Democrats in Congress.
Chairman Rangel‘s defenders say that he should stay put until any investigation is complete. But now, the pressure against him is coming at least somewhat from both sides, which means the outcome is more uncertain than when this was just Republicans calling for his head and Democrats just crying “La, la, la, la.” Stay tuned for further developments on this one. It‘s an important one.
And Mary Cheney, Dick Cheney‘s daughter, the one who used to be more famous than her sister Liz because Mary is gay, but now Liz is more famous than Mary because it seems like Liz maybe wants to be president.
Mary Cheney, the less-famous, but gay one who nobody thinks wants to be president - Mary Cheney, at the end of this month, is leaving a political consulting firm that she was working at. She‘s leaving it to start her own company.
Why is this news? Because the “Washington Post” is reporting that she may be recruiting her father and her sister, the aforementioned Liz, to join forces with her at this company. Which means that somebody would be answering the phone “Cheney-Cheney-Cheney, may I help you?” Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.
Yes, it would be “Cheney Cubed,” a firm with exponentially more Cheney than the world has ever known before. Who would hire Cheney-Cheney-Cheney?
One senior Republican consultant who is apparently not a fan of the former vice president told the “Washington post” this week, quote, “Lots of right wing dictators might hire Cheney-Cheney-Cheney.”
The winner of our RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff contest to come up with a motto for Cheney-Cheney-Cheney was not “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha,” surprisingly. It was, get this, “To protect and Cerberus.” Get it? The three-headed hound that guards hell - Cerberus? Maybe “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” was better. We will keep working on that.
MADDOW: Tonight, we humbly submit THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s official nomination for great moments in Photoshop fail. OK. You‘re looking at an ad by clothing designer Ralph Lauren.
Now, feast your eyes on this picture just for a moment. At first glance, you‘re thinking, oh, of course, creepily skinny model advertising a very expensive pseudo-Bohemian-looking outfit.
But wait, she sort of looks like she was shrinky-dinked, doesn‘t she? Look at the ratio of her torso to her head. That is not a ratio that exists in nature, at least outside the insect world.
Here‘s another picture of the same model. Her name is Filippa Hamilton. Now, in this picture, she looks very, very skinny on this magazine cover, right? But still, she essentially looks like a human - unlike the Ralph Lauren ad where it looks like whoever was in charge of the retouching was inspired by some combination of Barbie and those giant-headed Bratz dolls.
Actually, both of those dolls look more normal and more human than the model. Here‘s what I would like if you did the same thing to my picture as Ralph Lauren did to Filippa Hamilton. Here‘s what President Obama. And here‘s what Angelina Jolie would look like. Yes.
Now, we were able to spend our Friday afternoon making fun of Ralph Lauren and playing with Photoshop because the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff‘s favorite blog, “BoingBoing.net,” was the blog that recently called bull pucky on this shrinky-dink disaster with a post titled, “Ralph Lauren Opens New Outlet Store in the Uncanny Valley.”
The “Boing Boing” blogger who spotted this ad, Xeni Jardin, simply noted, quote, “Dude, her head‘s bigger than her pelvis,” which, indeed, it is.
But then weirdly, in response to that very brief blog entry about a ridiculously altered image in an ad, the Ralph Lauren Company responded, or at least their lawyers did with a letter full of legalistic bombast accusing “Boing Boing” of copyright infringement for reposting the image of the model and demanding that they remove it from their Web site.
Want to guess how the folks at “Boing Boing” responded to that bombast? Well, joining us now to fill us in on what has happened in this drama since the angry lawyer letter is Xeni Jardin. She‘s editor and partner at “BoingBoing.net” and author of the original, “Dude, her head‘s bigger than her pelvis blog post.” Xeni, thanks very much for being on the show tonight.
XENI JARDIN, EDITOR AND PARTNER, “BOINGBOING.NET”: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. So Ralph Lauren‘s legal eagles come after you. What‘s your response?
JARDIN: To mock them and to offer their thin models nourishing soup and sandwiches. What else?
MADDOW: You did literally tell them that if they kept bullying you, you would keep mocking them and you would send food to their people?
JARDIN: We did. And you know, we also asked our readers to help us get to the bottom of whether this ad was retouched just by Ralph Lauren‘s artist or if maybe this was the work of an Internet prankster. And then, the very day after that, Ralph Lauren‘s attorneys or PR people finally fessed up and said, effectively, we are responsible for this ad.
MADDOW: Well, what they said was - and it was striking because there was no real apology. They said, “After further investigation, we‘ve learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman‘s body. We have addressed the problem, and going forward, we‘ll take any precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately.”
But there was no apologizing to you for trying to legally intimidate you. But they‘re admitting that you were right about the head-to-pelvis problem?
JARDIN: Yes, exactly. I mean, the law in question here, DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, basically, it‘s something that can be misused by companies to silence free speech. Basically, they came after us and said we claim copyright over this ad.
Our lawyers helped us understand that that was bogus and that this was classic fair use. If you are criticizing or parodying something, you have a right to do that. Because our Internet service provider is in Canada, they don‘t have to abide by the DMCA. We didn‘t have to take it down.
The blog that we originally found this on, “Photoshop Disasters,” they‘re Blogspot blogs, so that‘s Google. And it came down instantly. It was like YouTube or something.
MADDOW: I mean, that‘s the deeper part of this story. I mean, there‘s the body image Photoshopping shrinky-dink side of it. But the other side of it is intimidation, because it is - it does seem to be a plain fair use claim.
But you say that because of the DMCA, what‘s happening is that ISPs just immediately cave whenever they‘re confronted by anything like this and it sort of hurts the First Amendment.
JARDIN: First, they came for the supermodels and I didn‘t care because I wasn‘t a supermodel. No, seriously, I mean, imagine if somebody recorded, say, a political video or there was a document, a whistleblower document that was scanned and posted online that was on a Blogspot blog. So the way that many of these free hosting services would react is to immediately take it down, no questions asked.
Well, in this case, we have the luxury of asking questions and fighting it with help from “ChillingEffects.org” and our great lawyers at M,S & K(ph), but not everybody have those kinds of weapons in their arsenal.
MADDOW: Would you encourage other ISPs, other people who host blogs that have faced threatening letters like this, even when they seem to be bogus, based on bogus legal claims? Would you encourage them to fight them?
JARDIN: You know, I would. I would also encourage people to consider, you know, hosting your blog offshore if you‘re planning on getting into controversial material. You know, this is a funny story because we‘re talking about a silly-looking model in a denim jeans ad.
But what if we were talking about something that mattered more?
The Internet isn‘t automatically a safe haven for free speech.
MADDOW: And it is - there is something sort of serious about an already really skinny model made to look like an alien in order to be made small enough to fit in a magazine, but the right to free speech issues are bigger.
JARDIN: Guys, the offer of free soup and sandwiches still stands.
MADDOW: That‘s exactly right. And we‘ll double-down and throw in cookies. Xeni Jardin, editor and partner at “BoingBoing.net,” thank you so much for joining us tonight.
JARDIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. Fresh on the heels of his blistering floor speech against both Republicans and Democrats, Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida - yes, that guy - is on “COUNTDOWN” tonight. You do not want to miss it.
But first Kent Jones takes on the unenviable task of introducing America to the man who represents the first congressional district of Texas. Trust me this is a doozy. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: One of the things we have been running up against in the news recently is that the cast of characters in any one day‘s political headlines is frequently made up of people who no one had ever heard of even just a year ago, people like Michele Bachmann or Michael Steele or Joe Wilson.
I brought up this problem with my friend Kent Jones a few days ago and I asked if Kent could figure out a way we could try to make ourselves more familiar with some of these heretofore unfamiliar faces. Kent?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi.
MADDOW: What did you come up with?
JONES: Well, it‘s something called “TMI.” It‘s sort of a greatest hits/meet-and-greet/ speed/date so we can get up to speed on some of these people. Tonight it‘s representative Louie Gohmert of Texas.
JONES: And lately, he has been on fire. Here he was earlier this week talking about the hate crimes bill.
MADDOW: Oh, that‘s right.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): The definition of sexual orientation is wide-open. If you‘re oriented towards animals, bestiality, then, you know, that‘s not something that can be held against you. If our oriented towards corpses, toward children, you know, there are all kinds of perversions.
JONES (voice-over): Say hello to U.S. representative from the First District of Texas, Louie Gohmert. The 56-year-old Republican is a product of Texas A & M, Baylor and United States Army. And he served as a judge for ten years.
Thanks to this man, Jerry Mander-ing the Texas electoral districts in 2003, Louis Gohmert was elected in 2004, the first Republican to represent his district since Reconstruction.
And if anyone could be called “unreconstructed,” it would be Louie Gohmert. For starters, Rep. Gohmert was the one sporting that classy sign at the president‘s joint address to congress last month. He is also the proud co-sponsor of HR-1503, better known the birther bill. In an elegant coincidence, Gohmert is also a deather.
GOHMERT: We‘ve been battling this socialist health care, the nationalization of health care, that is going to absolutely kill senior citizens, put them on lists and force them to die early.
JONES: Foreign policy is also a Gohmert specialty.
GOHMERT: We‘re still borrowing money from the Chinese. There‘s no assurance that if we did that, we wouldn‘t end up with moo goo dog pan or moo goo cat pan.
MADDOW: The Gohmert world is fraught with peril. He alone stands between liberty and the heavy had of the government, which he is a part of. Here he is on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones‘ show in July.
ALEX JONES, CONSPIRACY THEORIST: Did you hear about the White House science czar calling for putting stuff in the water to sterilize us?
GOHMERT: No, I‘ve not heard that, but I guess if we -
A. JONES: I‘m not kidding.
GOHMERT: Well, if we‘re going to pay $700 million like we voted last Friday to put condoms on wild horses - and I know it just says nonpermanent enhanced contraception, whatever the heck that is. But if we‘re going to do that to wild horses, I guess it only follows that they‘d eventually get around to doing it to us.
JONES: In the spirit of the Texas pioneers, Louie Gohmert locates the far frontier and then goes there.
GOHMERT: Any time you have economic chaos, people are always willing to give up their liberty to get economic stability.
A. JONES: Look at Hitler.
GOHMERT: Yes, absolutely. One of the best examples - maybe the best example.
JONES: And then keeps going there.
GOHMERT: Germany - they gave up their liberties to gain economic stability. And they got a little guy with a mustache who was the ultimate hate-monger.
JONES: Rep. Louie Gohmert, don‘t mess with Texas. That‘s a request, actually.
MADDOW: I love that he takes the time to note that Hitler was little, a little guy.
JONES: A little guy with mustache. That‘s the Hitler fellow.
MADDOW: Alex Jones, so seriously, “Like Hitler.”
JONES: Like Hitler.
MADDOW: Like Hitler.
MADDOW: Kent, I‘m already a big fan of TMI. Thank you very much. I know they‘ll all be as easy as Louie Gohmert, but I‘m looking forward to this as a continuing thing.
JONES: Condoms on horses.
MADDOW: Man -
JONES: You know -
MADDOW: Let me get the sunbeam coming right out of the horse‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MADDOW: All right. Cocktail moment for you tonight. We bombed the moon. The Red Sox and Mazoo(ph) both lost. But then, we bombed the moon.
JONES: Oh, thinking about it.
MADDOW: I know.
MADDOW: You want to see what it looked like when we bombed the moon.
Here it is.
MADDOW: Yes, that‘s it. That‘s - yes.
JONES: Ladies and gentlemen, that was bomb your moon.
MADDOW: That was it.
MADDOW: Some choppy pictures of the moon becoming a somewhat different shade of gray. That was pretty much it. But, still, anti-climatic visually, they said it was a great success. They say they got the data that they need.
MADDOW: That‘s what we wanted.
JONES: It‘s about data.
JONES: It‘s not about us being entertained.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Thank you for watching. COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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