Guests: Keith Olbermann, Ron Suskind, Eliot Spitzer, Nathan Hodge, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening and thank you for staying with us for the next hour.
The first President Bush appeals for more civility in our political discourse. And then he says this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Here are a couple of sick puppies.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know who he was talking about? A response from Keith Olbermann and from me, in just a moment.
Plus, new video evidence to help us fact-check our rather explosive Tim Phillips interview from last night.
And, Governor Eliot Spitzer is here to “Talk Me Down,” or not, about yet another Goldman Sachs executive getting yet another important government job cracking down on firms like Goldman Sachs.
All that, plus, the barfing balloon boy and radioactive rabbits scat all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with President Obama‘s trip to Texas today. And President Bush, the elder, using that trip as an occasion to take a weird, unexpected swipe at me and Keith Olbermann. The occasion of the meeting of the presidents was the 20th anniversary of President Bush‘s “thousand points of light” call to service during his inaugural.
Tonight in Texas, both presidents gave speeches about the importance of volunteerism and public service. But the political subtext of this visit is starting to overtake the official text of why these presidents got together. It may be because this time last year, a young conservative group, at the site of today‘s event, Texas A&M, sponsored anti-Obama carnival in which they asked passersby to throw eggs at a photo of Mr. Obama.
After that same group announced plans to protest President Obama‘s arrival on campus today, Mr. Bush published an open letter on the front page of Texas A&M‘s college newspaper—a letter essentially calling for civility on the occasion of this visit.
And this is where the story gets weird. In a follow-up interview with CBS Radio today about that call for civility, the former president, out of nowhere, volunteered his own theory on where the breakdown in civil discourse is coming from.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, CBS RADIO NEWS)
BUSH: I don‘t like it. I think the cables have a lot to do with it. I‘ll take you back when I was president, we got tons of criticism, but it didn‘t seem day in and day out quite as personal as some of these talk show people.
And it‘s not just the right. There‘s plenty of people on the left.
If you want me to name a couple names I‘ll be glad to do that for you.
UNIDENTIFIED RADIO ANCHOR: Go ahead.
BUSH: Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I mean, here are a couple of sick puppies.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Reach for comment while trying on his adorable Halloween costume, my puppy said, (INAUDIBLE). Sorry.
Why is the former president calling me and Keith Olbermann sick puppies? I honestly do not know. But here‘s what he said next.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BUSH: And the way they treat my son and treat anybody that‘s opposed to their point of view is just horrible.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now by phone is my collaborator in sick puppy-hood, Keith Olbermann, who is actually sick as in ill tonight, but he‘s not a puppy.
Hi, Keith. I got to ask you what do you make of all this?
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN” (via telephone): Well, I think I can speak on your behalf here and say that we‘re very grateful for the former president‘s concern about our health.
MADDOW: I—the—it‘s easy to miss the irony here. What he‘s complaining about in terms of personalized complaint about other politicians is current era of it, name-calling. He‘s the father of it. I don‘t mean he‘s the father of George W. Bush. I mean, he‘s the father of the process that took us to the place we are now.
He is the man who employed Roger Ailes. He and Roger Ailes are the men who ran the Willy Horton ad against Mike Dukakis. He and Roger Ailes are the people who played the scam on Dan Rather.
So it‘s very ironic to hear George H.W. Bush from his lofty perch, with real—I thought I heard anger in his voice against you and me and mispronouncing your name, which adds to his credibility. You know, just sort of ignoring the fact, “Hey, you don‘t like this, buddy? It‘s your responsibility. You fix it. You started it.”
MADDOW: It was interesting to me, Keith, that he was eager to volunteer us by name. He actually said, “If you‘d like me to volunteer names, I‘ve got them for you.” I wonder if this is seen by the Bush family as some sort of, I guess, return fire against the current White House for taking on FOX News recently.
OLBERMANN: Well, I don‘t know. I mean, my assumption is—and I—this is where I give the former president something of a pass on this, that you‘d have to—you‘d have a blind spot. If your son had been president of the United States, you‘d have a blind spot about how well or poorly he did. If your son happened to be George W. Bush, the blind spot would be the size of a galaxy. And you‘d have to assume that criticism of him must necessarily be wrong and must necessarily be personal and vituperative as opposed to being predicated on what actually happened during that administration.
I mean, we‘ve—you know, we‘ve seen President Bush get weepy talking about Jeb in a presidential context and the way things turned out. There‘s got some sort of weird mixture of psychology going on in there. I don‘t think it‘s necessarily retributive.
I don‘t know that Mr. Bush is any more pleased with what FOX News became than anybody else is. But I don‘t know that it‘s necessarily that. But it‘s just—it‘s so strange for him to assail name-calling and then call us names. But we saw that—you know, Mr. McCain did that last year, too.
There‘s something about people who start a certain tenor or give a certain tenor to American political life or—this is over the centuries, it isn‘t just recently, but there‘s something about this. When they—when they take us down a path, if anybody else goes down that path who disagrees with them, they are startled, outraged and take huge umbrage because only they are correct.
And so, this is—this is what I think that‘s what President Bush did. And I think it‘s kind of a sad legacy to a sad presidency.
MADDOW: Yes. It‘s sort of—only—the only instability they recognize is that.
OLBERMANN: At least they spelled my name right or something like that.
MADDOW: Keith Olbermann, thank you for taking time to join us on your night off. I really appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Feel better.
MADDOW: Thanks, Keith. Appreciate it.
All right. Joining us now is Ron Suskind. He‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and he is author, most recently, of the book, “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism.”
Ron, thanks very much for coming on the show. It‘s good to see you.
RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, “THE WAY OF THE WORLD”: Good to see you, you sick puppy you.
MADDOW: You covered both Presidents Bush extensively. I have to ask you, based on what you know about the elder President Bush, of all the people in the institutions he could have singled out as the root cause of the breakdown in civility in this country, why do you think he singled out the cables, and me and Keith specifically?
SUSKIND: Well, you know, actually, I think when you read the whole thing and you see the whole thing, I think that you and Keith thing at the end was a bit of a throw-away. You‘ve actually seen this from the Bush presidency, Bush 41. He sort of makes a coherent case and then throws a kind of zinger, a kind of ad hominem attack, personal, and that‘s not really the point.
I think, really, what he‘s talking about here is FOX News. The FOX News/Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck kind of triumvirate and how they‘ve stolen the Republican Party. And that‘s in a way George H.W. Bush, as an old guard, traditional Republicans, says, “Hey, wait. That‘s my party and these are not my people.”
And if you look at the whole sum of what he‘s saying, I think, in large measure, it‘s a way to try to distance old, traditional Republicans from the new Republican Party. And I think that you and Keith are just throw-away lines to show, “All right, I‘m even-handed and it happens on the left, too.”
MADDOW: It‘s interesting. I have found—I get asked a lot of questions about media and about opinion versus reportage and media because of the different jobs that I‘ve had. And as, I think, the right has become more extreme, as FOX has become more extreme, particularly with their host, Mr. Beck, now, I have been accused of being more extreme than I‘ve ever been accused of before.
I haven‘t changed, but I think people are looking for parody as a way of saying there‘s a sort of incivility on both sides, just because that‘s, I think, more convenient political point to make than saying that one side is really way more out of line than anybody else has ever seen.
SUSKIND: Well, I think George H.W. Bush understands that he has some responsibility for this. He‘s probably speaking in a way from someone‘s guilt. You know, Lee Atwater and George H.W. Bush, Roger Ailes—they were behind in a way the start of modern-day attack politics which has now spread 24/7 in a way. You look at FOX News and some of the compadres there, it‘s sort of Willy Horton 24/7.
They‘re at the start of that in a kind of “ends-means” play in the way George H.W. Bush, well, engaged deeply in. I don‘t care how you get there. Just get there. Win first. The rest is for later or never.
That‘s really started in George H.W. Bush‘s time. I think he‘s probably troubled as many people are, at how it has grown and spread, deepened and widened. And in a way, I think this is his way of saying, jeez, those guys who are attacking this president—which is what he‘s talking about, Obama, he says it‘s unfair—those guys are not my people. That‘s not my Republican Party. I‘m not a FOX News guy.
I think that‘s what—that‘s what the old president is saying.
MADDOW: Ron, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this tonight is because you‘re—I think you‘re very good, better than maybe anybody that I know, at extrapolating from the day‘s events to the big picture of American politics and world politics. And at Aggie campus, President Bush is complaining about the—about cables being the cause of all incivility. But he had put out this call for civility on the Aggie campus. And the response took the form of protestors posing in a Grim Reaper costume, calling the president a socialist, pasting a Hitler mustache onto the president‘s picture.
From the big picture view of U.S. politics, do you think at this point we should give up and just see this as the new normal in American rhetoric? Or is it worthy in the big picture to continue to see this as really divisive and a distance from what we‘ve done in the past?
SUSKIND: Well, look, this is the shrunken, harden core of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And I think that it does, actually, have consequences that are quite startling.
You know, there‘s a lot of people here. This is not just a fringe group. This is a significant cohort who are engaging in a kind of vituperative, confrontational posture and language that has often led to trouble in American life, and certainly, in American politics.
And I think that, right now, what you find is a kind of battle inside the Republican Party saying, “Oh, good God! That isn‘t us.” But the fact is, the louder the better in this environment we‘re in.
And this community, this group—you know, again, Glenn Beck and the gang, they are hijacking what we once called the Republican Party and in a way, are leading people to say, “Act now, win back your country, take it back”—words of real confrontation which really don‘t fit with discernible reality as most people know it, most person Americans of whatever party. This is a dangerous trend. There is no doubt.
MADDOW: Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ron Suskind, you‘re a smart guy. Thanks very much for joining us on your Friday night, Ron. It‘s good to see you.
SUSKIND: Nice to be here.
MADDOW: OK. Last night, I interviewed Tim Phillips. He‘s director of a corporate-backed sort of fake grassroots organization called Americans for Prosperity. And in that interview, things got rather heated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAST NIGHT)
MADDOW: And I have to tell you—because we‘re making this about you and me—is that I personally think that you and the folks who do what you do are a parasite who gets fat on Americans‘ fears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After letting some time passed, today, I have not had a change of heart about that at all. But something Mr. Phillips tried to muddy on this program last night requires some clarification and I will clarify it with video evidence for you. Next.
MADDOW: There is new information to report tonight about one of the country‘s most aggressive opponents of health reform. The grassroots-ish group, Americans for Prosperity, who‘s president, Tim Phillips, we hosted on the show last night.
Americans for Prosperity has been barnstorming through southern states over the past few days, as part of its “Hands Off My Health Care” bus tour. I interviewed Mr. Phillips last night in the hopes of trying to clarify who he is and who‘s funding him to do campaigns like this, to clarify who this group actually represents when they‘re out in the country saying they are grassroots just folks against health reform.
My interview with Mr. Phillips has received a lot of attention today, particularly for the way that it ended. But one thing that happened in the heated closing of our interview has been factually clarified today, and I think it‘s important to make sure we get this on the air.
First, here‘s what‘s happened—here‘s what happened last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, LAST NIGHT)
MADDOW: I just want to know who you are and I want America to know.
TIM PHILLIPS, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: Sure.
MADDOW: And I have to tell you—because we‘re making this about you and me—is that I personally think that you and the folks that do what you do are a parasite who gets fat on Americans‘ fears. And I hope that.
PHILLIPS: That‘s very hurtful and disappointing.
MADDOW: I know.
PHILLIPS: You certainly have the right to say that and it‘s wrong.
MADDOW: I know this sounds hurtful, that‘s why I apologized before I said it, but I wanted to make sure that I want to say it.
PHILLIPS: And you‘re wrong and you‘re disparaging a lot of Americans who are out there fighting a good fight, Rachel.
MADDOW: But I want—no, it‘s different.
PHILLIPS: Sure you are.
MADDOW: It‘s different because you‘re being paid to do it. And what you‘re doing.
PHILLIPS: You attack guys like me.
PHILLIPS: . and David Koch and.
MADDOW: When you signed on—you took money to say some really disgusting things in the past, like you did about those Chinese workers in the Marianas Island, and we know who paid you to do it then—those guys like Ralph Reed who should have gone to prison and guys like Jack Abramoff who did go to prison. Now, you‘re pushing stuff that is as disgusting and the only difference is that we don‘t know this time.
PHILLIPS: Standing for the health care feelings of Americans is disgusting? Wow. That‘s a fascinating way to describe.
MADDOW: No, but having speakers at your event saying that Obama Care is like Pol Pot and the Holocaust.
PHILLIPS: I haven‘t said that.
MADDOW: Right. But your speakers have and you‘re organizing the event.
PHILLIPS: A speaker who has at that event that was co-sponsored by us.
PHILLIPS: I did not control the podium. Again, if you want to pick one out of 600 rallies, I‘ve asked you to come before, come with us on the road and see these people at these events.
MADDOW: I don‘t want to help promote you, Tim. I don‘t. I think what you‘re doing is you‘re getting fat, literally financially fat on Americans‘ fears. And what I hope is that.
PHILLIPS: And what are you getting fat financially to do, Rachel?
You‘re doing it to attack us on your show.
MADDOW: To do a news show and I‘m trying to tell people who you are.
PHILLIPS: A news show? Come on. Attacking us? Please.
MADDOW: And what I hope is that people stop falling for your shtick and stop being so afraid and that your industry that takes money to do this stuff and scare people and make money off it as, I think, Republican and corporate-funded thing, I hope that your industry, proverbially, starves because we stop being so afraid.
So, I feel like I got to say that to your face because it‘s what‘s burning under the surface while I‘m asking you these questions.
PHILLIPS: I can tell that you‘re pretty upset tonight.
MADDOW: I‘m mad about what you do. I think you‘re really bad for the country.
PHILLIPS: Yes. Well, you have every right to think that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. So, in the midst of all that, something that‘s mentioned very quickly there that is important and we need to clarify. You heard Tim Phillips there try to sort of muddy the waters about something that his group, Americans for Prosperity, has, frankly, been attacking me and this show‘s reporting about since we first have him on the program, something that happened in Pueblo, Colorado, this summer. A speaker at one of these Americans for Prosperity anti-health care reform rallies compared Democrats‘ health reform plan to Pol Pot and Hitler and the final solution.
We played this tape before, this speaker on the show, and Americans for Prosperity has not been happy about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this new Obama Care program comes to fruition, when you reach 65 and every five years thereafter, you‘re going to have a counseling session with some—with some federal airhead. Part of this process is called end-of-life counseling. And part of the end-of-life counseling can be an end-of-life order.
What does that mean? End-of-life? Another word for that is death.
Order. What‘s another word for that? Acceptance.
Now, you folks review with me a little bit as I recall, Stalin in 1920 issued about 20 million end-of-life orders for his fellow Russians.
Pol Pot did it during the Vietnam War. He ended—issued about 2 million end-of-life orders.
Adolph Hitler issued 6 million end-of-life orders. He called his program the Final Solution.
I kind of wonder what we‘re going to call ours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The last time we played that tape on this show, Americans for Prosperity went after me and this show online. AFP‘s policy director, Phil Kerpen, asserted that the entire video was a fraud. He said it was a video created by the union SEIU and that what it showed was definitively not an Americans for Prosperity event. It was not an AFP event.
Mr. Kerpen is wrong and there are attacks on me for airing that footage are also wrong.
Let me make this clear once and for all. No matter how they try to muddy the waters, no matter how they try to attack me for saying it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them about their own tactics and what they‘re trying to do to scare Americans about health reform, the Pol Pot, Hitler, Final Solution, health reform is really a secret genocide dude, was speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event.
You want proof? Well, here‘s the bloody red hand print bus rolling up to that event in Pueblo, Colorado that day. Here‘s another speaker being introduced at the same event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s a fellow co-worker of mine and a man who has been working hard on this issue—Jeff Crank, come on up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jeff Crank, come on up here. Who is Jeff Crank? He‘s the Colorado state director for Americans for Prosperity.
Here was Jeff Crank rallying the crowd at that event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF CRANK, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY, COLORADO STATE DIRECTOR: You know, we have traveled in that bus today, we started off in Fort Collins this morning. We had 400 people there who signed our petition. We came—we went to Greeley, we had 350 in Greeley. Right now here in Pueblo, we‘re at 151 people who have signed the petition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We traveled in that bus to Fort Collins, to Greeley, and now, we‘re here in Pueblo.
You want to see the official calendar of the events from that day from the Americans for Prosperity Web site? Oh, look—Fort Collins, Greeley, Pueblo. And who was one of the speakers after Mr. Crank at that event? It was Mr. Pol Pot, Hitler, Final Solution Dude.
And he wasn‘t just some guy who grabbed the mike during the event. He was an official speaker at the event. Jeff Crank, Americans for Prosperity‘s Colorado director was reportedly standing in the wings as Mr. Pol Pot was waxing poetic about how health care reform is just like the Holocaust.
We have to give our thanks to Rafael Rivera, who is the videographer who shot that event for sending along that footage, clarifying that no matter how much they want to disown it, this is what Americans for Prosperity is doing around the country, to scare Americans about health reform.
And Americans for Prosperity‘s Mr. Phillips is right. They have every right to do what they‘re doing. And I and every other American has every right to ask who they are representing when they do these things. They‘re not disclosing their funders.
They‘re trying to scare Americans about health reform. They are disavowing their own tactics when they get called out on them.
And the First Amendment is paramount. It‘s first. You have every right to say whatever claptrap you want to say in this country, and to try to exploit and scare Americans for any cause you think you can ring a profit out of.
But we, also, have every right to report on what you‘re doing and we will. No matter how much you try to get us not to, OK?
MADDOW: If there‘s one thing that we, mere mortals, have learned in the last year of the financial catastrophe in the United States is that it‘s good to be Goldman Sachs.
George W. Bush‘s treasury secretary was Hank Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs. Under Paulson, when Wall Street started exploding, it was decided that two of Goldman‘s biggest competitors, Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns, would be allowed to fail. Meanwhile, AIG would be rescued—which was happy news for Goldman Sachs since AIG owed Goldman a ton of money.
When the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the TARP program, was established, former Goldman CEO and treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, tapped another Goldman employee to be in charge of it.
When President Obama replaced Mr. Paulson at treasury with Tim Geithner, Mr. Geithner promptly chose a chief of staff who had been a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs. In March, President Obama picked another Goldman veteran to head up the very important Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Meanwhile, it only took Goldman itself a year to turn its $70 billion in taxpayer generosity from last year into a $3 billion quarterly profit right now. And its bonus pool for its executives has never looked fatter.
The cherry on top is news today, that the Securities and Exchange Commission, the supposed top cop on Wall Street, who missed everything from the subprime mortgage scam to Bernie Madoff, has just named a new chief operating officer of its enforcement division, a new top cop to keep Wall Street in line. His name is Adam Storch. He‘s 29 and he comes from Goldman Sachs.
Joining us now, the man once known as the real sheriff of Wall Street, former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer.
Governor, thanks for coming in tonight.
ELIOT SPITZER, FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Pleasure to be here. Twenty-nine, I‘m feeling very old right now.
MADDOW: I‘m feeling old right now. Am I making too much of Goldman‘s influence in Washington? Is this.
SPITZER: You are not. This is a real problem. It is a problem not just because it is Goldman vis-a-vis Citibank or Morgan Stanley or any of the other investment banks, it‘s because Wall Street controls the Treasury Department. If you look at the Geithner logs, if you look, who does he speak to, who does he listen to—it is exclusively the voice of Wall Street.
Now, Goldman thinks it‘s preeminent. They‘re not as smart as they think they are. They make money because they dominate that street through a lot of different mechanisms, some of which they should not be proud of.
But the problem is, Tim Geithner doesn‘t call the Consumer Federation of America with the same frequency that he calls Goldman Sachs. Goldman has the ear of everybody. They‘re money has money has bought access.
You know, the joke running around the street was that Goldman is going
to do an LBO for the Treasury Department. They said we‘re in the same
department. We print money, they print money. We can come together, save
· you know, everybody will come out ahead. This is a real problem.
MADDOW: Aside from the Consumer Federation of America, who are the other stakeholders the treasury should be listening to as much as they‘re listening to Goldman?
SPITZER: Well, other enforcement agencies. I can tell you that the Treasury Department does not speak, given that the SEC, the OCC, the OTS, the FDIC, all of them failed, how many times does the Treasury Department call the state attorneys general? Now, I‘m biased because that‘s where I was. I thought we made some good cases.
Did they ever pick up the phone and say, “What do you think”? Has Geithner ever reached out to that universe of people and say, “What are we missing, what is going on the street”? Have they spoken to those who represent workers, to say, “How do we create jobs,” small businesses? Small business owners—we went to an era where we went to the financialization of our economy. All we did was the razzle-dazzle of Wall Street and it killed us. We didn‘t make things. We invest in the intellectual capital we needed.
I would rather he talk to Silicone Valley than Wall Street. Silicon Valley is creative intellectual genesis where they create the next generation of companies. Wall Street - they just move money back and forth. They bid things up.
They came to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) back in Holland in 1600 and they think they‘re creating value. It‘s fictitious. What we need is people who create value. That‘s not Wall Street.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: When we look at not only re-regulating Wall Street, but when we look at recreating our economy in a way that this doesn‘t have to just keep happening, are we building smart enough, tough enough, empowered enough cops?
SPITZER: No. No.
MADDOW: The enforcement system is -
SPITZER: Rachel, I may be dead wrong about this, but I think we‘ve been rearranging the decks on the Titanic. Everybody knows the Peter Principle. You get promoted to the point of your incompetence.
SPITZER: I think in Washington we have the Peter Principle on steroids. The people who are at the top of the regulatory agencies who completely failed, created the crisis, are now using this very same crisis they created to argue for more power for themselves.
It is the Peter Principle on steroids. The people who are in charge of these groups and agencies are still there. I hate to say it. They there very ones - and I don‘t mean to pick on Tim Geithner. Decent guy - I think he‘s dead wrong about most of what he‘s doing.
But Tim Geithner was in charge of the New York fed during the entire period that this bubble was created. He testified that he had never been a regulator, a more aberrant statement that‘s hard to imagine.
SPITZER: Yet, he isn‘t - so I think we are not yet solving the problem. We have enough power if people have the will to use it. And the fact that when you see these laws being winnowed down, when you see agencies still not asking the hard questions - too big to fail is still there. Too big to fail has not been confronted.
The banks are not lending. We have socialized risk, privatized gain. None of that has changed. The banks are still using all the taxpayer money to create proprietary trading funds. No wonder Goldman makes $3 billion. You‘re given money for free.
They go in to use all that liquidity to pump up an equities‘ market so they get a return on the free money. Of course they do well. Anybody could do well in that context. We‘ve not said to them, “Do something that helps the economy.”
The one person down there on regulatory side who isn‘t unfortunately where he should be, who gets it, is Paul Volcker - Paul Volcker who testified a couple weeks ago saying that banks should not be doing the sorts of things they‘re doing with guaranteed deposits with federal assistance.
They want proprietary trading. They want hedge funds. Let them go off and do that on their own. But if we give them the money, make sure they use it for reasons that will really boost the economy. It‘s not happening.
MADDOW: It‘s still a-fox-in-the-henhouse problem.
MADDOW: And not only do we need to get the foxes out of there. We need to come up with a plan to defend the henhouse.
MADDOW: It‘s not yet done. Gov. Spitzer, thank you for coming. It‘s good to see you.
SPITZER: Thank you so much, Rachel. It‘s a pleasure being here.
MADDOW: Especially because with those Yankees game is going on.
SPITZER: I will check that out. That‘s after your show, though.
MADDOW: Thank you. I have to tell you I am very excited about tonight‘s “Moment of Geek.” It‘s not about the Yankees game. It involves rabbit poop and plutonium. Somebody finally connected those very important dots. Explosive details of the story coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: During the break, we could have chosen to kill the radioactive rabbit poop story, but we did not. Writer Nathan Hodge will join us in a moment for that. That‘s ahead.
But first, a couple of holy mackerel stories from today‘s news. Today saw yet another terrorist attack in Pakistan. We‘re now up to six coordinated terrorist bomb attacks in 11 days with the death toll in Pakistan of about 150 people.
Now, the Pakistani Taliban is claiming responsibility for these attacks. But they are also mad about the way they‘re being covered. “ForeignPolicy.com” today noticing a Taliban communique sent to a Pakistani press club this week which said, quote, “If the media does not stop portraying us as terrorists, we will blow up offices of journalists and media organizations.”
You got that? “If you don‘t stop calling us bombers, we‘re going to bomb you. If you don‘t stop calling us terrorists, we‘re going to blow up your offices.” File this “unclear on the concept, Pakistan, terrorism.”
Also this week, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America just received a say-what reaction from the Pentagon about their new report on women in the military. IAVA‘s report on the 11 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets who are women says that female service members face a huge risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment from their own colleagues in the American Armed Forces.
The toll of the experience of these wars is also tougher in some ways on our female soldiers. The divorce rate for women troops now almost three times the divorce rate of our male troops. When asked for a response to those disturbing stat yesterday, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters that they were alarming and said, quote, “This is the first time I‘m hearing these numbers.”
The problem here, the numbers are the Pentagon‘s own numbers. IAVA‘s report is based on numbers the Pentagon itself published about female troops, numbers the Pentagon apparently did not find alarming until this veteran‘s advocacy group, IAVA, put them on the spot about it.
IAVA‘s report is linked at out Web site today, “Rachel.MSNBC.com.” I highly recommend that you check it out.
And finally, the top procurement official in George W. Bush‘s White House was sent to federal prison today for lying about his relationship with disgraced Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
David Safavian traded Jack Abramoff information on government-controlled property for an all-expenses paid golfing trip to Scotland which Mr. Abramoff paid for. Now, Mr. Safavian is going to prison for his corruption as a senior White House official in the administration of George W. Bush.
And somewhere, some member of the Bush family thinks I‘m a sick, sick puppy for reporting that to you.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party continues its search for meaning in the political minority, as it looks for a path out of the wilderness, there‘s no more potent Republican brand in the land than that of Sarah Palin, the party‘s real, only marquee national name right now, a leader so tempted by the opportunities afforded her by that high national profile that she gave up her job as an actual elected official to pursue Republican fame by other means, in part, she said, by campaigning for other people to be elected to office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I
work hard for and campaign for those who are proud to be American and who are inspired by our ideals and they won‘t drive them. I will support others who is seek to serve in or out of office. And I don‘t care what party they‘re in, or no party at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For the first time since that geese-ridden resignation speech, we are coming up on an Election Day in which Gov. Palin will get a chance to make good on that promise.
In New Jersey and Virginia, both Republican candidates for governor have a real potential to win elections next month. But so far, neither of those Republican gubernatorial candidates has invited Gov. Palin to appear.
This week, however, we did learn that there is an upcoming statewide race where Gov. Palin has been invited to appear and she has said “yes.” It‘s Texas, where she‘ll be campaigning for current Governor Rick Perry in his primary race against another Republican, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
As the nation tries to understand the Republican‘s Party‘s future and Sarah Palin‘s role in it, we can say, based on the evidence so far that she is viewed as a campaign asset for some Republicans, as long as they‘re only competing against other Republicans. Critical detail. Good to know.
MADDOW: Fair warning, tonight‘s “Moment of Geek” involves poop, but it‘s not your ordinary run-off-the-mill poop. It‘s radioactive rabbit poop. In south central Washington state, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation produced the majority of the plutonium that we used in nuclear weapons starting in World War II and continuing to the 1980s.
Hanford also produced more than 43 million cubic yards of radioactive waste and over 130 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. Hanford is now the focus of the largest environmental cleanup in the country.
Part of the cleanup has to do with 50 million gallons of liquid waste from plutonium production processes that was dumped at Hanford. It‘s a liquid waste that‘s laced with radioactive cesium and strontium salts.
One little-known fact about radioactive strontium salts - apparently, jack rabbits find them delicious. In the words of “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,” quote, “Jack Rabbits routinely burrowed into those sites. They found the salt, liked it and licked it. Later, they pooped it, leaving slightly radioactive scat all over the ground.
And now, we know it‘s OK to use “pooped” as a verb in the pages of “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.” The radioactive poop that these bunnies are leaving all over the Hanford site is now, thanks to your stimulus dollars, being collected as low-level radioactive waste.
The Department of Energy hired contractor to fly a helicopter mounted with Geiger counters and GPS technology and they fly the chopper over the rabbit-poop laden Hanford landscape. The chopper methodically covers the whole 14-square mile area at a height of about 50 feet, flying at about 80 miles an hour.
They GPS-mark every single radioactive piece of rabbit poop, and then they send their unlucky employees out with a map to collect it all. The nuclear poop is then dumped along with all the rest of Hanford‘s mildly radioactive trash on a huge landfill that everyone hopes will just be fine some day if we seal it and cover it up enough.
Ah, the nuclear age. Can‘t you just smell the progress?
Joining us now, Nathan Hodge, reporter with “Wired.com‘s” national security blog, “Danger Room” and co-author of the book, “A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry.” Mr. Hodge, thanks very much for talking with us tonight.
NATHAN HODGE, CO-AUTHOR, “A NUCLEAR FAMILY VACATION”: Hey, thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know rabbits and rabbit poop are not the most important thing to know about nukes. But I have to start by asking you if this rabbit issue resonates with you. Are animals part of the management issues that we have to deal with at our nuclear sites in this country?
HODGE: Well, I‘ve always thought that nuclear weaponry was far too an important of a subject to take seriously. And what better way of reminding the public of the legacy of nuclear testing and the nuclear complex than radioactive rabbit poop.
Now, it has been a factor. In fact, I visited a few years back another facility which isn‘t a clean-up site. It‘s part of the active nuclear complex, Y-12. It also dates back to the Manhattan Project.
And they had a problem with too many deer, too many deer inside the wire. And so every year, they would organize a deer hunt. And the one thing you had to do after you bagged your deer was to check it for radiation.
MADDOW: You have to check it for radiation. And then, if they found radiation, you couldn‘t take the deer home, presumably?
HODGE: Probably a bad idea.
MADDOW: I understand. Hanford has been closed since the ‘80s. We think about these Cold War production sites as gone, over and forgotten. But our responsibility for dealing with nuclear waste and nuclear security issues at these sites is forever. How many places are there like this in the U.S.?
HODGE: Well, you know, during the research - during the course of researching our book, we went to 10 states in five different countries, all of which are dealing with this legacy in one way, shape or form.
For instance, you can go out to Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan where the Soviets touched off hundreds of nukes. And still, to this day, they‘re still trying to map out where they actually did all of these atomic tests.
Another problem they had where people were going in sort of the down-and-out post Soviet days. And they were digging up lots of irradiated metal and things like that to sell on the opened market.
MADDOW: You know, I‘m a big fan of your book, “Nuclear Family Vacation.” It‘s been vacation reading for me. If you have to recommend one American nuclear site as a tourism destination, what would you recommend that people try to go see?
HODGE: If people really want to see a great place for nuclear tourism, that would be the Nevada test site. First of all, it‘s close to Vegas. But secondly, you can really get a sense of the horrific power of nuclear weaponry, because there are still places where you can see the actual craters that were excavated by nuclear detonations.
And of course, there‘s a history of tourism there. People in the ‘50s actually used to go and see, you know, have picnics to watch, you know, mushroom clouds.
MADDOW: Wow. The big picture here, when I think about Hanford, all the low-level radioactive dumping they‘re doing now, including the rabbit poop and everything else, it makes me wonder if we really have solved the problem of what to do with all our radioactive trash that we‘ve got. Do we have a national system for dealing with this?
HODGE: No, we don‘t really have sort of - and more importantly, we‘ve got to deal with the legacy in places like the Pacific, the Marshall Islands, for instance, where we touched off our - we did our first hydrogen bomb tests. They are still cleaning up after that. And we‘ve got to deal with that legacy as well.
MADDOW: Nathan Hodge, reporter with “Wired.com‘s” national security blog, “Danger Room,” which I read every day and co-author of the book, “A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry,” thanks very much for your time tonight. And I‘m sorry to make you talk about poop.
HODGE: Anytime, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you. All right. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” tonight, Keith‘s blockbuster, game-changing “Special Comment” on the need for health reform. Highly recommended.
And next on this show, “TMI,” our second installment. Who can possibly follow up the star of our first installment, Congressman “Moo Goo Dog Pan” Louie Gohmert? Moo Goo cat pan Louie Gohmert - who can follow him up?
Kent Jones has found a worthy second installment competitor for “TMI.” We‘ll introduce you to this fine fellow, coming up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A week or so ago, I asked Kent Jones to do a TV-mitzvah, both for the staff our show and for our viewers. See, we found recently that the political headlines of the day now are often populated by people almost no one had ever heard of even a year ago, people like Eric Cantor or Liz Cheney or Alan Grayson.
But last week, Kent came up with a way to familiarize ourselves with these folks, and it‘s called “TMI.” Our first feature on “TMI” was Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert. Now it‘s time for a “TMI” episode two. So Kent, who are we going to meet this time?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Do you remember the representative who gave out that giant stimulus check down in Georgia even though he voted against the stimulus?
MADDOW: Yes, yes.
JONES: I want to know more about that guy.
MADDOW: All right. Here we go.
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): I‘ve got my teabags here. Pick your brand.
JONES (voice-over): This happy teabagger is Republican Phil Gingrey, U.S. representative of the 11th district of Georgia, a self-described pro-life ob-gyn who has delivered more 5,200 babies.
Turns out Dr. Phil is an actual birther. In 2002, Gingrey delivered himself into politics and in a happy coincidence was elected in the same part of Georgia Newt Gingrich used to represent. Gingrich, Gingrey? Close enough for government work. Since entering Congress, Dr. Phil has never shied away from making house calls.
GINGREY: We‘re (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people right outside one of the offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I‘ve been knocking on the door and I‘ve gotten no response. It seems they‘re on vacation. Congress unfortunately left last Friday. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so-called recess (UNINTELLIGIBLE) whatever you want to call it. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) represents the people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) doing nothing.
JONES: On the Iraq troop surge, Dr. Phil was a surgeon.
GINGREY: What, indeed, are we going to save our troops for? Work in the rope lines at Fourth of July parades? Helping senior citizens cross the street? What we‘re doing with this resolution is not a salute to G.I. Joe. It‘s a capitulation to Jihadist Joe.
JONES: Dr. Phil is pro-gun at home, too, even at town hall meetings.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: There are some people bringing guns to these public meetings. Why?
GINGREY: Well, Chris, they may have every right to do that.
MATTHEWS: Why are people coming armed to public meetings?
GINGREY: Well, Chris, if they have the right to do that, I have no fear of it.
MATTHEWS: Do you think people should come armed to public meetings to discuss health care or not?
GINGREY: I would think that they should exercise their rights under the Second Amendment.
JONES: When it comes to health care, Dr. Phil has a white coat and you don‘t.
GINGREY: Mr. Speaker, if these voices are not enough to get his attention, maybe my white coat will. And I yield back.
JONES: In fact, Dr. Phil finds the whole idea of health care reform hilarious.
GINGREY: 14,000 people are losing their health insurance every day, not because of the cost of health insurance. They‘re losing it because they lost their jobs.
JONES: And whatever you do, don‘t blame the insurance companies.
GINGREY: People do not want that public option. I truly believe that we have the best health care system in the world. It‘s not perfect, but this business of turning it over to the federal government to try to make it perfect is quite honestly asinine.
JONES: “Asinine” is exactly how some of his conservative colleagues would describe Dr. Phil‘s rogue comments to “Politico” back in January. He said, quote, “I mean it‘s easy if your Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don‘t have to try to do what‘s best for your people and your party.”
Whoa, call 911. This is a career emergency. Dr. Phil then went on Rush‘s show to kiss it and make it all better.
GINGREY (through telephone): I clearly put my foot in my mouth on some of my comments and I just wanted to tell you, Rush, and all of our conservative giants who help us so much to maintain our base and grow it and get back this majority that I regret those stupid comments.
JONES: Physician, heal thyself.
MADDOW: Even Limbaugh can‘t take him seriously.
JONES: Yes. OK. All right, doctor. Wrap it up.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. That was excellent. Cocktail moment for you. You know the boy in balloon saga that‘s all over TV this week?
MADDOW: The family in Colorado had a helium-powered spaceship-y looking balloon in their backyard. They reported their 6-year-old son had climbed in the balloon and accidentally floated away. As we all know now, it turns out, after five hours of frantic news coverage, the little boy was not in the balloon at all. He was hiding at home in the attic the whole time.
Now, of course, there are suspicions that the whole thing was maybe a hoax. Nobody really knows. But today‘s cocktail moment, I think is the most perfect denouement there ever could have been to this story. Today, on not one, but two network morning shows, the little boy whom they thought was in the balloon but he wasn‘t ...
MADDOW: ... committed an incident of media justice by getting on live national network television and barfing twice.
JONES: Yes. Whoa.
MADDOW: Yes, I swear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HEENE, FATHER OF FALCON HEENE: Maybe it had enough force to pull himself out.
FALCON HEENE, THE “BALLOON BOY”: Mom, I‘m going to vomit.
R. HEENE: Are you OK, buddy?
F. HEENE: No.
R. HEENE: Yes, I think he‘s queasy, OK? One of the guys told me it was for some TV show. So that‘s what he was referring to. That‘s what he was referring to when he made that statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don‘t know if it was a hoax or not, but the boy barfing on television the morning after it all happened is justice somehow.
JONES: Everyone is a critic.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Thank you for watching tonight. We‘ll see you again on Monday. Hopefully, my voice will be back by then. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts now. Have a great weekend. Good night.
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