Guests: Eugene Robinson, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Tim Phillips, Dexter Filkins
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: So far, so good.
MADDOW: So far it works. Thanks, Keith. I appreciate it.
And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour and for putting up with my fragile and croaky vocal chords throughout the hour. I will do my best. There might be some unexpected but exciting voice creaking and failure. So stay tuned, at least, for that.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi throws down the gauntlet on the public option today. Will Senate Democrats make history by siding with Republicans rather than picking up that gauntlet that she has thrown? Senator Amy Klobuchar is here in studio with us next.
And, so will be joining us, one of the organizers of the anti-reform movement, Tim Phillips, president of the corporate-funded, Republican-staffed, grassroots-ish group, Americans for Prosperity. I‘m very much looking forward to that conversation with Mr. Phillips.
Also, the real source for a Republican charge that Muslims are secretly infiltrating Congress. We‘ll be talking about that with Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson.
The real story on the ground in Afghanistan—we‘ll be talking about that with award-winning “New York Times” journalist Dexter Filkins, who joins us live this hour.
And we‘ll be talking about the real saga of that 6-year-old boy who was not in that runaway balloon.
It‘s call coming up this hour.
But we begin with the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi—as I say, throwing down the gauntlet today, saying that whether the Senate likes it or not, whether Maine‘s in the spotlight Senator Olympia Snowe likes it or not, whether conservative Democrats like it or not, whether or not it gets called Naziism or fascism or whatever-scares-you-ism on right-wing television, when all said and done, there is going to be a public option in the final health care bill, at least Nancy Pelosi said so, at least in the House.
She said if the Senate wants to take the public option away, they‘re going to have a fight on their hands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: The need for a public option is very clear and as I have said, our House bill will have a public option. If you‘re going to mandate that people must buy insurance, why would you throw them into the lion‘s den of insurance industry without some leverage with a public option?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the House, where Nancy Pelosi is in charge, the Democratic majority is so big that they cannot only pass a bill without a single Republican vote, they can pass a bill even if 39 Democrats join every single Republican in voting against it.
So, is there going to be a public option in the House? I don‘t bet, but if I did bet, I would bet that there would be.
In the Senate, Republicans are expected to filibuster—meaning, they will try to block the Senate from even getting to vote on a health reform bill. And that is the real nitty-gritty, single factor that may actually determine what kind of health reform we get, and especially, whether or not it includes the controversial public option.
It all comes down to this. Will Republicans block an up-or-down vote on health reform?
The republic minority in the Senate is so small that they can‘t block the vote on their own. There are only 40 Republican senators and it would take 41 votes to block the legislation. This means, for this all-important procedural thing, Republicans can only block a vote on health reform if they get help in doing so from at least one Democrat. And that‘s never happened before.
All the procedural rigmarole on health reform can be hard to follow and we‘ve been following it for months now. But it come downs do this: If there were an up-or-down majority rule vote on health reform, including the public option, it would probably pass the Senate. The only way it could be stopped is if Republicans block a vote. And the only way Republicans can block a vote is if they get a Democrat to help them do that, if they get a Democrat to join with them to block the vote, if they get a Democrat to filibuster with them.
A number of influential blogs on the left like Firedoglake and Daily Kos recognized this earlier in the debate as a critical factor as to whether or not health reform passes. And they have raised now a useful point. If there is a single instance in Senate history of a senator voting to filibuster against his or her own party—his or her own party which would have otherwise been able to block that filibuster—if is there a single instance of it in history, nobody can find it.
Again, I‘m not a betting person, but if I was, this information would make me more likely to bet on health reform passing, and a public option being part of what passes, it would make me more likely to bet on that to know that a Democrat would have to do something that extreme, that historically unprecedented in order to side with Republicans to kill it.
Joining us now to tell me just how naive I am about these things is Minnesota‘s senior senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar.
Senator Klobuchar, thank you for coming on the show.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Rachel. It‘s great to be on.
MADDOW: I understand that you have a cold as well.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Your voice is sounding good.
MADDOW: Oh, it is?
KLOBUCHAR: I think so.
MADDOW: You can actually discern what I‘m saying.
All right. Well, has there been discussion within the Democratic Caucus in the Senate about this prospect of Democrats crossing over and filibustering health reform with Republicans?
KLOBUCHAR: I don‘t think there‘s been that discussion because people are very focused on getting something done here and getting competition. And as you know, there are different interpretations of what the public option could look like in the Senate. There‘s talk about state by state. There‘s talk about opt in, opt out.
I don‘t necessarily view this as a bad thing. There‘s a difference between the Schumer version and the Rockefeller version. But the bottom line is: Democrats in the Senate want a bill. And they want a bill that‘s going to make health care more affordable.
I always tell people, remember just three numbers. There are so many numbers here: 6, 12, 24. Ten years ago, average family paying $6,000 a year for their premiums. Now, $12,000 a year with many people paying more. Ten years from now, if we just put our heads in the sand, $24,000 a year for the average family in America. People can‘t afford it.
And that‘s why this idea of getting something done in the Senate, there‘s unanimity on that. Is there differences on some details? Yes, but I think, in the end, people will stand together to get a bill that‘s focused on bringing costs down for American families, that‘s focused on putting strong rules in place for the insurance companies, that they can‘t people off just because they have a sick kid, and that‘s focused on allowing Americans still to have that kind of choice they want with their doctors.
MADDOW: So, in terms of your vote and where you see the Senate Democrats, broadly speaking, you think that the status quo is so bad that your bias is toward voting for some sort of change? There has to be something that‘s going to make some improvement; some bill is better than no bill. Are there bright lines for things that you would vote no?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I, first of all, want to see some cost reform with Medicare. And I think this is tied in with the public option, because for a lot of us who want to see a competitive option, we also know that we have to do something about Medicare rates to see that kind of reform. Medicare is going to go in the red by 2017. So, if you‘re a senior that‘s 65 years old, and you want to stay on Medicare until you‘re 95 and live a good, good, quality life, you don‘t want Medicare to go in the red.
And that‘s why taking some of these cost models that are good that are in the Senate bill, where they say, “OK, let‘s not have all these hospital infections. Let‘s reward hospitals that aren‘t having a bunch of readmissions. Let‘s do something about bundling and integrated care so that you can have one primary doctor and a team of doctors working together.”
One study shows that if some of the hospitals—especially in some of the more inefficient parts of the country—followed that Mayo Clinic model, we could save $50 billion every five years for high-quality care. And it‘s so counterintuitive. People don‘t realize, the highest quality states have the lowest cost.
And so, putting those kinds of cost reform in Medicare has to go hand in hand with these reforms. And I know that there are people that find that common ground in the Senate, and that‘s why I think we‘re going to get something done.
MADDOW: In terms of the push-me, pull-you bill and what does ultimately get voted on, I can tell you that the concern from the left is actually—it‘s sort of about Senator Olympia Snowe, that the focus on her potential Republican vote for reform in the end is giving her too much power. Is putting her in a position of directing too much of what‘s going to be in the bill in order to get that one vote that the bill will become more conservative than it needs to be in order to be effective. What‘s your feeling about that?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, again, first of all, I‘m not—I can‘t predict what the 60 votes will look like. We know we‘re going to need it. We know that people are going to try to filibuster it.
But, remember, Olympia Snowe has been open—it‘s not the Schumer public option—she‘s been open to a trigger, she‘s been open to some things. She has talked about this before, but it‘s possible we could get 60 votes on this without her. It‘s possible we could get 60 votes, as you‘ve pointed out, to move to the procedure and then have a vote on other elements of the bill that would only take 50 votes.
The key is to get a bill out of the Senate and then negotiate with the House.
But no one here wants the status quo. No one can do that. Not the backpack company in Minnesota that‘s, you know, with guys paying $24,000 for his family of four with 15 employees. Not the people that are waiting in line for health care. No one wants the status quo.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, thank you very much for joining us today.
KLOBUCHAR: Good to be on.
MADDOW: And braving being in the same breathing space as me. I really appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, very good. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. First, the WorldNetDaily Web site publishes a piece claiming that a Muslim group is trying to infiltrate our government. Then four Republican congressmen demand an investigation. The question now is: should we be more worried about what the first group is writing or about what the second group is reading?
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson joins next.
MADDOW: On his first trip to New Orleans since assuming the presidency, President Obama today not only had to field questions from understandably irritated town hall attendees, wondering why the government hasn‘t done more to bring the city back from the brink, but he also found himself in the strange position of defending a Republican, who not only vigorously opposed his stimulus plan, but even delivered the opposition party‘s rebuttal to the president‘s first joint address to Congress. It was Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank the governor of the great state of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, who is here.
OBAMA: No, no, I like—Bobby‘s doing a good job. Hey, hey, hold on a sec. Bobby—if it makes—hold on! Bobby, first of all, if it makes you feel any better, I get that all the time. And the second point is that, you know, even though we have our differences politically, one thing I will say is that this person is working hard on behalf of the state. And you‘ve got to give people credit for working hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I think we have finally had our first official moment of 2009 bipartisanship. There it was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE”)
SENATOR JOHNNY ISELIN: There are exactly 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party in the Department of Defense at this time!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was fictional Senator Johnny Iselin doing his best Joe McCarthy act in the film “The Manchurian Candidate,” the original one—my favorite movie of all time.
This week, four Congressional Republicans did their own best Senator Johnny Iselin impressions, accusing the Council on American Islamic relations of trying to infiltrate congressional offices with secret spy interns. The four Republicans—Congress members Sue Myrick, John Shadegg, Paul Broun, and Trent Franks—convened a press conference this week to demand that the House sergeant-at-arms investigate this group, CAIR, because CAIR does things that every other D.C. public relations and advocacy operation does, but they do it while being Muslim.
Apparently, these four Republicans‘ major concern stems from a strategy memo, in which CAIR states that part of its advocacy plan for this year is to push for more Muslims to be congressional interns.
Here‘s CAIR‘s alleged secret spy plan, quote, “We will develop national initiatives such as a lobby day and placing Muslim interns in congressional offices.” Not a lobby day! Just like every other advocacy group in Washington. And congressional interns too, the way that everyone tries to do that.
Since becoming an intern is a good first step toward getting real better jobs on Capitol Hill, it‘s sort of a mainstream advocacy group strategy. It‘s not really a new strategy. It‘s not really a nefarious one, unless, of course, you happen to pursue this strategy while being Muslim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SUE MYRICK ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: About a year ago, I learned that CAIR was trying to infiltrate the office of the members of Congress by placing interns in the offices.
REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA: Planting spies in key national security-related congressional offices.
REP. TRENT FRANKS ®, ARIZONA: It is unnerving, to say the least, that there would be members of groups catalyzed by CAIR coming into congressional offices to try to change our public policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And where did these members of Congress learn about this top-secret scary plan to get Muslims internships in Congress?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYRICK: Author Paul Sperry and his co-author‘s investigative team unearthed a 2007 memo written by CAIR which documents their stated intentions and goals to place interns in congressional offices.
REP. JOHN SHADEGG ®, ARIZONA: The book which Sue referred to by the mafia is one in a series of books that I would encourage Americans to read.
MYRICK: I did write the foreword to the book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I did write the foreword to the book.
The book they‘re promoting is called “Muslim Mafia” and it‘s published
WorldNetDaily, the inadvertently hilarious ultraconservative Website that‘s becoming a clearing house for most of the wackiest conspiracy theories on the far right. President Obama is secretly foreign. Health reform is a secret plot to kill old people. The president‘s speech to school kids is a secret plan to form a new “Hitler Youth.” FEMA is really a secret plan to put conservatives in concentration camps.
Yes, WorldNetDaily is the pulsing, throbbing, cuckoo core of all of that stuff, which, again, would just make them inadvertently hilarious, if the Republican Party wasn‘t paying WorldNetDaily for their e-mail list.
And now congressional Republicans are doing the book publicity tour for the latest WorldNetDaily blockbuster cuckoo conspiracy book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYRICK: Tomorrow, the author and journalist Paul Sperry is going to release his latest book, “Muslim Mafia.” I did write the foreword to the book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I did where the foreword to the book.
Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at “The Washington Post.”
Gene, it‘s great to see you. Thanks to your time tonight.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Great to be here.
MADDOW: Do you think that the secret plot to Islamize America starts with interns?
ROBINSON: You know, that‘s where you want to start. You know, the interns, they‘re the ones who control the real power on Capitol Hill. You get the interns and then you‘ve got the whole city and then you‘ve got the world!
It‘s—you know, this would be funny.
ROBINSON: It actually brings to mind that other old great movie, “Dr. Strangelove” and General Jack D. Ripper and the plot he perceived to sap and then purify all our precious bodily fluids, that‘s what—that‘s just kind of the way they sounded.
But it‘s not funny, because it‘s dangerous and bigoted and, you know -
· as you know, I had my differences with former President George W. Bush.
But George Bush, after 9/11, from the beginning, tried to make clear to everyone that the war on terror that he was prepared to wage was not a war against Islam, that this was not a religious war, this was not a clash of civilizations.
Yet, WorldNetDaily clearly didn‘t get the memo, and nor, amazingly, did some members of the U.S. Congress. And this is—this is really scary stuff in that sense.
MADDOW: One of the serious sides of this, it seems to me, is that, first, obviously, this is bigotry against a group that is a pretty big part of the American population, first of all. But second, this is a group—
Muslim Americans are a group that are critical to American law enforcement and intelligence work. American needs American Muslims for counterterrorism against Islamic extremism, specifically.
I wonder if, in contrast to what you just described about George W. Bush, if you feel like these sort of things hurt our efforts in that regard, even if it is just a few very extreme members of Congress.
ROBINSON: Of course, it hurts our efforts on those regards. And look, if you‘re Muslim in America and you hear that, you have to conclude that you‘re under suspicion, if not under attack at least from this kind of loony right-wing of the Republican Party. And that‘s not the message we want to be sending.
And it‘s certainly not the way we want to treat American citizens. This is supposed to be the American government. There is no established religion in this country. They made clear in the Bill of Rights that there wasn‘t going to be an established religion.
It‘s amazing to me that these fundamental principles of the—upon which this country was founded—escape our elected representatives in Congress.
MADDOW: Yes. You know, Gene, after we started working on this story today, it broke that one of CAIR‘s directors received a faxed death threat pursuant to this today. It said, “Muslim Neanderthal Dougie Hooper”—some sort of snide nickname for him—“will soon be hanged for treason against the United States.”
And it is one thing to be kooky and threatening and conspiratorial. I wonder if, in real politic terms, if Republican leadership in Congress, given the four sitting members of Congress sort of promoting this conspiratorial theory, if the leadership has to consider whether they have a responsibility to disassociate themselves from this stuff when it immediately evokes threats of violence.
ROBINSON: I think—when you get to the point of a death threat, for example, and I think the Republican leadership has to—has to take this up. And perhaps the leadership of the House itself—perhaps the speaker has to say something, different party, but still, it needs to be made clear that it is not the policy of the United States government or the intention of the U.S. Congress to conduct some sort of McCarthy-ite witch hunt against Muslims who might happen to work as interns on Capitol Hill or who might happen to be lobbyists around town or who might happen—oh, my gracious, to worship in a mosque.
It‘s—this is—this is really as un-American a development as I could think of, almost. And it needs to be—it needs to be addressed. It needs to be denounced and stopped.
MADDOW: Thank you for helping us do that exact thing tonight on this show.
Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at “The Washington Post”—Gene, it‘s always great to see you. Thanks for your time tonight.
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK, back in the hot, angry month of August, I spoke on this program with a man named Tim Phillips, the director of Americans for Prosperity—one of the main organizers of August‘s hot, loud, anti-health reform protests. Well, now, in the much cooler month of October, Mr. Phillips has agreed to join us again to clear some stuff up. I‘m really looking forward to this. It‘s next.
MADDOW: It is crunch time inside the Beltway right now for health reform. But that has not stopped the fascinating outside-the-Beltway anti-health reform traveling campaign. The purportedly grassroots organization, Americans for Prosperity, is currently barnstorming its way through the state of Virginia with its “Hands off my healthcare” bus tour. That‘s the one that features the bus with the huge, bloody red handprint on it.
On the Virginia bus tour, Americans for Prosperity featured speaker is George Allen, the former Republican governor of Virginia, who‘s most famous nationally for an unfortunate campaign incident-turned-instant YouTube classic back in 2006.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE ALLEN ®, FMR. VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: It‘s important that we motivate and inspire people for something. This bill here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you‘ve been wondering whatever happened to George Allen after the Macaca thing, he has teamed up with Americans for Prosperity to hit nine locations across Virginia over the past two days—with stops including spaces like Reverend Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty University. They‘re making cases at every stop about the dangers of health reform.
Now, we‘ve talked a lot about Americans for Prosperity on this program. The organization calls itself the nation‘s, quote, “premiere grassroots organization.”
But take that with a hot—big honking grain of salt. It is a group based in Washington, D.C. that‘s staffed by political pros.
The president of Americans for Prosperity is a man named Tim Phillips, who joins us in just a moment. His bio page on the AFP Web site brags about his time as chief of staff to Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte.
The director of Americans for Prosperity is a man named Art Pope, a multimillionaire, right-wing activist who‘s given so much money to the Republican Party in North Carolina that they named his state headquarters after him.
The man running their effort in Virginia is a man named Ben Marchi, a former Tom DeLay staffer and research analyst for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Americans for Prosperity is claiming to be a grassroots group, yet it won‘t disclose its funders and it is staffed by former Republican operatives. Those are the reasons why we‘ve talked about them so many times on this show.
When they campaign and organize against something like health reform, when they barnstorm states like Virginia and Arkansas—where they‘re headed next—to assess their impact, it would be helpful for those of us in the news business and for Americans looking at what they‘re doing to know if they‘re representing the grassroots concerns of their members or if they‘re doing work for the Republican Party from which they‘ve gleaned most of their senior staffers, or if they‘re just paid speakers for their funders—funders they refuse to disclose.
Well, joining us now is Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity.
Mr. Phillips, it is great to have you back on the show. Thank you for agreeing to be here.
TIM PHILLIPS, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY PRESIDENT: Thank you for that kind introduction.
MADDOW: Did I get anything wrong?
PHILLIPS: The way you‘re assessing AFP is off track and come.
MADDOW: Did I get anything factually wrong?
PHILLIPS: You did not get anything factually wrong.
MADDOW: But you don‘t like the angle?
PHILLIPS: I think the angle is unfair and it‘s—kind of hypocritical.
PHILLIPS: Now, I‘ll tell you why it‘s hypocritical. You say we‘re a corporate front group. I think you said that before, in the teaser at the beginning of the show.
In this health care battle, the real corporate front groups are funding Obamacare. The big, big boys—the pharmaceutical companies are on board with Obamacare. They‘re spending—published reports estimate $150 million on TV ads.
MADDOW: Like America‘s Health Insurance Plans?
PHILLIPS: They‘re the big - yes, the health insurance companies. The industry players are the ones spending big money for Obama care.
MADDOW: You know that Americans‘ health insurance plans, the industry group for the health insurance companies, is against reform and just put out that report that says it will cost them to quadruple rate - quadruple the rates and they‘re now spending - they‘ve started this new $1 million ad campaign against the health reform.
PHILLIPS: And they felt they had a deal cut with the Obama administration and Sen. Baucus. Ironically, when you and I were together about a month ago, during the break, one of the health insurance companies‘ ad was on supporting the health care reform coming out of Washington.
I remember that very clearly, thinking, wow, what an ironic point in this discussion. So the industry big boys - they‘re on the other side. They cut some deal.
MADDOW: Who‘s funding you?
PHILLIPS: We have a number of Americans across the country who are
funding us. I tell you, you mentioned Art Pope and you mentioned in the
past David Koch who is our C3 chairman. They‘re great Americans. They
love their country. They have every right to -
MADDOW: I‘m not saying they‘re not. I don‘t -
PHILLIPS: And for them to be vilified and demeaned the way you just did, that‘s all - come on.
MADDOW: I‘m not -
Wait, wait. That‘s not there. I‘m not vilifying them or demeaning them. I‘m pointing out who they are, what they‘re tied to, and what that says about your claim that your organization is a big grassroots group. Your group is corporate-funded.
You‘re founded by the head of Koch Industries, which is an oil and chemical company. And you are staffed by experienced Republican pros, staffers. And so that doesn‘t comport with you maintaining that you are a grassroots group. You may have a lot of members, but you‘re not a grassroots group.
PHILLIPS: We‘re absolutely a grassroots group.
MADDOW: And I think that‘s important for people to understand the impact to your group.
PHILLIPS: Sure. You can have your point of view about that, but to suggest that Art Pope does not have good motives or that he‘s just some Republican operative - that‘s what you‘re suggesting, though.
MADDOW: Good, bad, or indifferent, he‘s a Republican pro. He‘s not
Johnny from the block who came up with an idea about health reform and is
now trying to get his neighbors involved. I mean, grassroots doesn‘t mean
PHILLIPS: That‘s exactly what he‘s doing. He‘s getting his neighbors involved. He‘s getting activists of North Carolina involved. You just described Art Pope very well. You bet he is.
MADDOW: His neighbors at the state Republican Party headquarters that‘s named after him because he‘s given them so much money.
PHILLIPS: And that‘s a bad thing, he gets involved in a political discourse in this country? That‘s a good thing.
MADDOW: You‘re genial, but you‘re not credible. It doesn‘t make sense.
PHILLIPS: That‘s outrageous. That‘s an outrageous comment.
MADDOW: Wait. Tell me how you, a group headed by you and Art Pope and David Koch - how that group makes sense to call itself a grassroots organization unless you really have a different idea of what grassroots means.
PHILLIPS: Here‘s what grassroots is - getting Americans to get involved to fight for their freedoms and their point of view on issues. We do that - we do it every single day, like the bus tour you just mentioned in Virginia, North Carolina, where we‘re going next, Arkansas where we‘re going next.
You go to these events. There will be hundreds upon hundreds and in some cases, thousands of good folks at these events. And they are real grassroots Americans. And to say they‘re not real because somehow I‘m a Republican operative. We beat Republicans all the time. I‘m sure you‘ve researched this, Rachel.
MADDOW: I‘m not saying that they‘re not real. I‘m saying you don‘t tell us who‘s paying for you to say what you‘re saying. And therefore, I don‘t trust that what you‘re saying actually represents a grassroots point of view.
I think you have every right to participate in this, just like Art Pope does ...
MADDOW: ... just like David Koch and Koch Industries does. I just want to know that it‘s them who‘s paying for it.
PHILLIPS: I‘m not going to - and they do pay for it. But I‘m not going to expose these other folks to the kind of attacks they‘ll get from the left on these blogs and elsewhere. I‘m not going to do that. I‘m absolutely not going to do that.
MADDOW: No, I‘m trying to get to the brass tacks of who you are, because you‘re trying to be a big player in this fight.
PHILLIPS: We‘re not trying to do anything other than to protect the freedom of Americans to choose our health care. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some political gain.
MADDOW: Right. And so I want - let me ask you this. Former Virginia Governor George Allen, one of your featured speakers on this bus tours right now.
MADDOW: He is now the head of George Allen Strategies. It‘s a lobbying and consulting firm. He‘s on the board of directors of companies including Nano Tox, Lee Technologies, and the Hillsdale Group.
His lobbying firm would not disclose to us today who he lobbies for. We asked specifically whether he lobbies for any health care interests and they wouldn‘t say yes or no. Do you know? Did you ask him who his lobbying clients were before you signed him up for this speaking tour?
PHILLIPS: George Allen was also the governor, at one point, of Virginia. He has a wonderful interest in Virginia.
MADDOW: Do you know if he lobbies for health care interests?
PHILLIPS: I don‘t think he does. Actually, he says he doesn‘t not do that. And we‘re not compensating him for going out and giving the message he‘s delivering. He‘s the former governor of Virginia. He‘s in places today and yesterday that he used to represent in the state - House and Congress. I‘m proud to have him there. You bet I am.
MADDOW: Do you see the concern, though? And I‘m not trying to attack
you here. I‘m trying to be very honest with you about what my concern is
MADDOW: ... what I think a lot of people‘s concern is. And the concern is that you guys may be promoting a health care lobbyist to go tell people why health reform is a bad idea and you‘re calling it grassroots. You‘re essentially mounting an ad campaign for the lobbying clients of these lobbyists.
PHILLIPS: Oh, come on. Most of the health care industry is on board with Obama care, Rachel.
MADDOW: But you could clear up that concern ...
PHILLIPS: You would have more credibility ...
MADDOW: ... if you would tell us who your funders were and if George Allen would tell us whether he‘s lobbying for health care insurance.
PHILLIPS: You would have more credibility on this -
MADDOW: And your lack of disclosure makes it seem like you‘re a fake grassroots group running D.C. by Republican operatives calling itself grassroots. All you have to do is disclose your funders.
PHILLIPS: You would have more credibility on this if you also called out the Obama administration and Baucus and those guys for climbing and hitching their wagon up to the pharmaceutical industry. You don‘t do it. Have you done that?
MADDOW: I was going to say, have you ever seen my show?
PHILLIPS: Have you done that?
MADDOW: Yes, I have.
PHILLIPS: Have you called on the Obama administration, the senator who was just here to say, come on. Quit this deal with the pharmaceutical industry and get a real health reform package for America.
MADDOW: You know, I love the idea of you trying to program THE RACHEL
PHILLIPS: I‘m not trying to do that.
I‘m a humble guest in your presence.
MADDOW: Yes. Telling me what I had to cover on the show especially when you don‘t I have covered is an ambitious take for you. But I want to tell you that I have just killed the next segment of our show, because I would like continue talking to you. Do you mind sticking around?
PHILLIPS: Sure, you bet.
MADDOW: All right. Excellent. Tim Phillips is the head of Americans for Prosperity, grassroots-ish and proud, according to me, grassroots and proud, according to him. We‘ll be right back with Tim Phillips.
MADDOW: The president of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips joins us again. Mr. Phillips, thanks for sticking with us.
PHILLIPS: You bet. Glad to be here.
MADDOW: All right. As I have explained, I think it‘s important that you have a long history, a long, effective history, in advocacy politics. So I want to ask you about something I have never understood about your background.
While you were running - working at Century Strategies and Millennium Marketing, Jack Abramoff was representing the Marianas Islands and that‘s a place where you could sew a “Made in the USA” into clothes made by Chinese workers in conditions that were not subject to U.S. safety standards.
And your company, Millennium Marketing, put out mailers to Christians in Alabama asking them to lobby to keep those Chinese workers there, because, I‘m quoting, “They are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ while working in the Marianas,” and that many, quote, “are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.” When you look back at that, do you stand by that?
PHILLIPS: I didn‘t do that particular project at Century.
PHILLIPS: But I don‘t have an issue with it. I don‘t. I think that you have an opportunity in politics to make your point of view. And to some Americans, that would matter - that being able to spread the gospel would matter to them.
I think that‘s a relatively or a reasonable point of view to have. I didn‘t do that project, but I‘m not going to disown it.
MADDOW: You were at Millennium Marketing when that happened.
PHILLIPS: I was at Century Strategies. You bet.
MADDOW: At Century Strategies. Millennium Marketing is part of that?
MADDOW: Correct. The reason that I wanted to ask you about this is because a year before that mailing went out, the interior department had published a report. It was the year before that said actually what Chinese workers were getting into Marianas was not religion, but they were getting sweatshop conditions and forced prostitution and forced abortions.
And that was the U.S. government‘s official policy on the working conditions for Chinese workers before you sent that out saying, “Listen, they‘re becoming Christians.”
PHILLIPS: Well, before Millennium marketing sent that out - yes.
MADDOW: If I had been part of that group sending out that mailing when that was the public knowledge of what was happening to those workers, I would not - I would disown it. I would apologize for it. And I‘m troubled that you don‘t. I feel like that‘s really hard to understand.
PHILLIPS: I think that it‘s easy to attack anyone - you can pull out, even on TV - we‘re about a year and a half now. If someone takes one segment - one minute or one segment over the course of a year, a year and a half, and pulls that out and says, “Look at this, Rachel. How could you say that?”
You would be made to look bad. It‘s something that will not be hard to explain. Don‘t you might to change if you had to do differently? It‘s the same thing in a career of mine that spans for 25 years now. It‘s easy to pick and pull out one or two things and say, you know what? Your whole career - what you‘re doing now to Americans for Prosperity is somehow discredited because of one item over a 25-year period.
I wouldn‘t do that to you. I wouldn‘t take your worst quote or your most troubling, embarrassing moment on the air and say, “Does that define your last year and a half? I wouldn‘t do that.”
MADDOW: So that‘s something else.
PHILLIPS: I wouldn‘t do that.
MADDOW: You and Ralph Reed worked on Saxby Chambliss‘ campaign for him to get elected to U.S. Senate in George in 2002, right? During that campaign, Mr. Chambliss‘ campaign ran a TV ad saying that Democratic Senator Max Cleland did not have the courage to lead.
Sen. Cleland, of course, lost both his legs and one arm in Vietnam. That ad juxtaposed him with a picture of Bin Laden and said he didn‘t have the courage.
PHILLIPS: The courage to lead in the war on terror that was happening at one point in time.
MADDOW: That‘s not the truth. He doesn‘t have the courage to lead.
You don‘t think that Max Cleland -
PHILLIPS: The context, clearly, Rachel. Come on. The context clearly was on the war on terror.
MADDOW: Yes, there‘s a reason that this ad is notorious six or seven years later, the idea that you would take a guy who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam and say he doesn‘t have courage.
PHILLIPS: The context was clearly about the war on terror taking place, post-9/11. Those were very serious times. That was a crucial race and it was clearly within the context of the ongoing war on terror (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the United States.
MADDOW: And you think that he doesn‘t have the courage? You don‘t think that Max Cleland doesn‘t have the courage to lead?
PHILLIPS: The courage to lead in the war on terror.
MADDOW: You think he‘s a coward?
PHILLIPS: The courage to lead on the war on terror. I did not in any way ...
MADDOW: He doesn‘t have the courage to lead in the war on terror.
PHILLIPS: I did not, in any way, disparage his military service to our country.
MADDOW: No, but you didn‘t say ...
PHILLIPS: We focused and singled out on ...
MADDOW: ... he hasn‘t led in the war on terror. You said, he doesn‘t have the courage to lead.
PHILLIPS: The context was clearly the war on terror, Rachel, not questioning his courage to serve his country, which he did and did well. It was focused on the context of the war on terror.
MADDOW: But you think he‘s too cowardly to lead in the war on terror?
PHILLIPS: Look, I‘m not going to parse words. It‘s the courage to lead on the war in terror, to make the political decisions that were necessary to make at the time, post-9/11. And the Bush administration in those years absolutely made the right decisions. And it kept us safe and the proof is in the pudding.
We‘ve been safe throughout the Bush administration. The courage to lead in the war on terror - that wasn‘t a statement about his military service. Absolutely not. It was in the context of the war that was happening at that moment in time.
MADDOW: I‘m not trying - I‘m not just trying to cherry-pick the Jack
PHILLIPS: Sure, you are. But that‘s OK. Let‘s do it. That‘s fine.
MADDOW: There‘s the Jack Abramoff involvement. There‘s the Saxby Chambliss issue. There‘s the Koch Industries-funded group that you‘re working at now.
PHILLIPS: And let me go through -
PHILLIPS: Let me add - because you‘ve mentioned that several times.
MADDOW: Yes, David Koch taking credit just last week for having
PHILLIPS: Yes. And we‘re thrilled. David Koch has every right to do that. And Rachel, you‘re saying, “Oh, I‘m not disparaging David Koch. Of course you are, come on.
MADDOW: No, I‘m saying that this is an important thing -
PHILLIPS: You‘re attacking him for being involved in the process.
MADDOW: No, I‘m just saying when people look at that bus, they look at Americans for Prosperity. When they look at your hot air balloon and say, “Climate change is a bunch of hot air.”
PHILLIPS: And hit on Americans in good standing?
MADDOW: No. I want them to think there‘s a guy the eighth richest man in America because he inherited an oil and chemical company from his dad who founded this group that‘s saying it.
PHILLIPS: He built that company out - inherited? They built that company together.
MADDOW: But I want people to look at that hot air balloon that says,
“Climate change paranoia is all hot air.” And I want them to think oil and
chemical company, the largest privately-held oil and chemical company in
the country. And for you to try to distance yourself from you own members
PHILLIPS: You can do that. And that‘s why you‘re losing on cap and trade. That‘s why you‘re losing on health care. Do whatever you want. The proof‘s in the pudding. Obama care is below 50 percent.
Cap and trade - there‘s a governor‘s race in Virginia right now, where the Republican candidate is actually using cap and trade because Americans have woken up. They know what‘s going on, on cap and trade, because groups like American for Prosperity go out and tell them what‘s going on. And if you want to keep attacking me for a flyer that was a decade old or for a TV ad that‘s years ago, you can. It‘s a losing strategy, Rachel.
MADDOW: I don‘t want to - I just want to know who you are and I want America to know who you are.
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. And I hope that -
PHILLIPS: That‘s very hurtful and disappointing.
MADDOW: Wait. I know this sounds hurtful that‘s why I (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I wanted to make sure I wanted to say it.
PHILLIPS: And that‘s wrong. And you‘re wrong. And you‘re disparaging a lot of Americans who are out there fighting a good fight, Rachel.
MADDOW: No. No, it‘s different ...
PHILLIPS: Sure you are.
MADDOW: ... because you‘re being paid to do it. And what you‘re doing ...
PHILLIPS: What are you being paid to do? You attack guys like me and
David Koch and all -
MADDOW: No. When you signed on ...
PHILLIPS: You‘re getting paid as well.
MADDOW: you took money to say some really disgusting things in the
past like you did about those Chinese workers in the Marianas Islands. And
we know who paid you to do it then. It was 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 up for the health care freedoms of Americans is disgusting?
MADDOW: Well, no -
PHILLIPS: Wow. Rachel, that‘s a fascinating way to start that.
MADDOW: But having speakers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 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 -
PHILLIPS: A speaker who was at an event that was co-sponsored by us.
PHILLIPS: We do not control the podium. Again, if you want to pick out one of 600 rallies I‘ve asked you to come before, come with us on the road and see these people in 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.
PHILLIPS: And what are you getting fat, financially, to do, Rachel?
MADDOW: To do a news show.
PHILLIPS: To do a news show? Come on. Attacking us, please. Cut it by half.
MADDOW: What I hope 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, a Republican and corporate-funded thing - I hope your industry proverbially starves because we stop being so afraid.
I feel like I‘ve got to say that to your face, because it‘s burning under the surface while I‘m asking you these questions.
PHILLIPS: I can tell you‘re pretty upset.
MADDOW: I‘m mad about what you do. I think you‘re really bad for the country.
PHILLIPS: Well, you have every right to think that. We‘re going to keep going out there and delivering the message on health care and cap and trade. And we‘re winning at the grassroots. You go out there and look at the fire that‘s in this country. It‘s on our side.
And by the way, it‘s not about fears. It‘s about loving our country. It‘s about wanting to do what‘s right for their families. You can dismiss it as fear-mongering, but in reality, it‘s about doing what they think is best, these American citizens who are involved, whether it‘s David Koch you like to beat upon - I never really trashed George Soros. That‘s an interesting point. I wanted to do that.
MADDOW: I‘m not beating up on David Koch.
PHILLIPS: Oh, please.
MADDOW: I want people to know that he funds you.
PHILLIPS: Please. Come on.
MADDOW: And Tim, you‘ve been a sport to be here. And I feel like I‘ve been as honest as I can with you. And I appreciate you for wanting to talk to me in a civil way.
PHILLIPS: You bet. Glad to be here. We can do this. I don‘t know what we can do - having a civil discussion about the future of this country.
MADDOW: Good luck, Tim.
PHILLIPS: You bet.
MADDOW: Not professionally, though. Tim Phillips is the president of Americans for Prosperity.
MADDOW: OK, you owe it to yourself to read the “New York Times” magazine cover story this weekend. It‘s a profile of Gen. McChrystal and the war in Afghanistan that‘s called “His Long War.” The author of that article, Dexter Filkins, joins us live, next.
MADDOW: Today was yet another day of coordinated terrorist attacks against the nation of Pakistan. There have been five in the last 10 days. And the death toll is now over 100. The Taliban attackers are not just picking off easy targets either.
Over the weekend, they attacked the country‘s army headquarters. Today, they attacked the training headquarters of Pakistan‘s most elite anti-terrorist police commando unit. The recruits from this unit wear black t-shirts that say, “No fear” on the back of them.
They‘re often shown off as bodyguards to visiting foreign delegations. The attacks come as America‘s strategy in fighting the Taliban is being boiled down on the nation‘s front pages to a question of how many troops we‘re putting on the ground in the country next door to Pakistan, Afghanistan, where we have doubled our troops in the past year and where, some reports indicate, that the president is being asked to consider doubling that number yet again in this, year nine of America‘s war there.
Joining us now from Istanbul is the reporter whose lengthy profile of America‘s top commander Iraq and the challenges that face him there is the cover story of the “New York Times” cover story the “New York Times” Sunday magazine this weekend. He‘s also the author of “The Forever War,” Dexter Filkins. Mr. Filkins, thank you for staying up in the middle of the night to be with us.
DEXTER FILKINS, AUTHOR, “HIS LONG WAR”: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: Gen. McChrystal and his deputy, Michael Flynn, told you for your piece in the “Times” that if they get all the resources they‘ve asked for, it‘s another five years minimum for the security forces and the government to be able to stand on their own in Afghanistan. Is it clear to you that the military wants at least five more years of major commitment?
FILKINS: Well, I - you know, I spent several days with Gen. McChrystal as he flew around the country and went from base to base talking to his commanders. And actually, what he said - what he said to everyone was pretty much the same thing, which is, “We‘ve got 12 months to make a very decisive impact here and basically 24 months to turn it around.”
And so I think, they‘d say, on top of that, yes, they envision, if they get everything they want, that it would take several more years. Look, I mean, all you have to do is land on the ground there to see that - I mean, this is a place, you know, it looks like it‘s something out of the Old Testament.
I mean, there is no modern state there. And there isn‘t much of an army or police force even after, you know, the war is nine years old now, and so all those things have to be built. If we‘re to leave the place functioning and if we‘re going to leave a place that can stand on its own and so that‘s the challenge, I think.
MADDOW: You also went out with the U.S. Marines in some of these remote areas, in southern Afghanistan in particular. And you describe them essentially as acting as targets for the Taliban despite all of their other intentions.
At the highest levels, when you talk to McChrystal and the top people working with them, is there a worry that the presence of foreign troops itself bolstering the Taliban, that repelling the occupiers is becoming a rallying cry for the insurgency?
FILKINS: Well, it‘s like everything in life. It‘s pretty complex. And I was in Helmand Province with the Marines, you know, and it‘s a very, very tough, tough place. I mean, you know, we were in a village called Mian Poshteh and there were - you know, there‘s no electricity, no phones, no hospitals, no schools, no roads. There‘s nothing.
But you go into these villages and the picture that I got - and it was mixed. But the villagers, the Afghans themselves, are kind of caught in the middle. They‘ve got the Taliban kind of breathing down their neck. And then, they‘ve got American soldiers coming by saying, “Hi. You know, we want to help.”
And so we would talk to the villagers, and a lot of them would say pretty much the same thing, which is, “When you leave here tonight, the Taliban are going to come by and ask us why we were talking to you. And if we cooperate with you, then we‘ll be killed.”
So there‘s a lot of that. And so I think it‘s basically a struggle for the population.
MADDOW: This White House has been careful to describe its goals in Afghanistan as defeating al-Qaeda specifically. Does al-Qaeda factor into these strategic decisions that our military is making about how to fight in Afghanistan? Do they see themselves as in any way fighting al-Qaeda?
FILKINS: There‘s not - look, there‘s not very many al-Qaeda in Afghanistan anymore. They‘re all right across the border in Pakistan. But of course, the reason why al-Qaeda is in Pakistan is because they got chased out of Afghanistan.
And so, I think ultimately the concern is, is that if the Americans pack up and leave in Afghanistan, then al-Qaeda would just come right back. And that the most effective way - I mean, this is what the generals would say. The most effective way to fight al-Qaeda is to build a state, to build an Afghan state. They can basically keep them out.
But to answer your question, no. They‘re fighting the Taliban. The Taliban are almost entirely Afghan. You know, they have their sanctuaries on the other side of the border, but it‘s basically an Afghan phenomenon and Afghan war.
MADDOW: Dexter Filkins, “New York Times” correspondent. His article, “Stanley McChrystal‘s Long War” is the cover story in this Sunday‘s “New York Times” magazine. Dexter, thank you so much for your time tonight. It‘s great to have you on the show. Thank you.
FILKINS: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith Olbermann asks Congressman Anthony Weiner whether the Democrats can pull off a public option. And we will be right back. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: Big thanks to Dexter Filkins for doing that interview with us at 4:00 a.m. local time for him tonight. Have a great night. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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