October 26, 2009
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Sen. Ron Wyden, Lee Thompson, Richard Engel, Griff Jenkins, Dave Zirin
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I will never again use an ATM without thinking about that. Thank you very much, Mr. Olbermann.
KEITH OLBERMANN, "COUNTDOWN" HOST: One convert for Suze. There you go.
MADDOW: Thanks, Keith.
And thank you at home for opting in for the next hour.
The wait for an actual health reform bill is over, just like that. Now, the fight over health reform is about an actual thing instead of a potential thing on to which we project all our fears.
Public option champion, Senator Ron Wyden, will join us live this hour. Richard Engel will also join us live from Kabul, after what has been a horrendous day in Afghanistan.
Plus, there are some jaw-dropping reporting by the "Kansas City Star." It's reporting about the accused murderer of Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider who was murdered inside his church earlier this year. Apparently, Dr. Tiller's alleged murderer has a fan club. If you have any hairs on the back of your neck when you hear how these folks are raising money, the hairs on your neck will stand up.
Plus, Kent Jones is on assignment for us. He joins us live from near the scene of George W. Bush's big motivational speech today in Texas. Yes.
It's all ahead.
But we begin with what was a very big day today in Washington. Today, just a few days shy of November, the U.S. Senate took one giant step closer to where President Obama wanted it to be in August. In a highly anticipated afternoon press conference today, the top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid, announced what the Senate will be voting on when it votes on health reform.
Months' worth of speculation about whether there would be a public option in the bill has now ended. There will be a public option.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system. It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest, and ensure competition. And that's why we intend to include it in the bill that we submitted-that will be submitted to the Senate. I've concluded, with the support of the White House, Senators Dodd and Baucus, that the best way to move forward is to include a public option, with the opt-out provision for states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There you have it. The public option lives. But it's a public option with a big asterisk. A state that doesn't want the public option can opt out of the public option.
There is a pretty big range of options overall on the table for trying to fix our broken health system. One far-end of the spectrum, we could have ended up with a British-style nationalized health system. It's the government owning the health care system, employing doctors and providing coverage for every resident-man, woman and child. That's what we have for veterans' health care in this country. That's how the V.A. runs and that's how England runs.
If we can't get that-if we're too conservative of a country to go for something like that for more than just our veterans, we could have also gone for the Canadian system, which is essentially Medicare. The government doesn't employ doctors and nurses-like they do in England-but it's a single-payer system. The government provides everyone with insurance. That's what Canada has. That's what our Medicare is.
A more conservative alternative to that is-there's no flag for this one, but it's the public option-a public option that's available to everyone. One Medicare-style, government-run health insurance program that competes with all of our private insurance companies. You can either get your insurance from like BlueCross or you can get it from the government if you like.
That's what our next guest, Senator Ron Wyden has proposed. Everybody has the choice of a public option if they want it.
But now, more conservative than that is a public option that is only available to you if you are currently uninsured. Already have insurance but you don't like it-sorry, no public option for you.
Even more conservative than is a public option that's only for the uninsured and is only in some places. It's only available to some people in some parts of the country. If your state's lawmakers decide they don't want Michiganders or Texans to be able to choose the public option, then if you live in one of those states, you don't get the public option choice.
Even more conservative than that-this is a big one-stick. Sorry, they don't make tape like they used to. It's the public option "maybe some day." This is the triggered public option that only kicks in if certain yet-to-be determined goals aren't met by private insurance companies, years down the road.
Where we ended up today is not the trigger-so, not "maybe some day." We didn't get the most conservative of all those options.
But we also didn't get what they do in Britain and the V.A or what they got in Canada with Medicare. We also didn't get a public option available to everyone or even a public option available only to uninsured people.
What we got is a public option that's only available to uninsured people only in some places. Woo-hoo! Thank goodness we got 60 Democrats in the Senate, right?
Of all of the different things that Harry Reid could have put forward, of all the options that we had as a country, we've ended up-at least in the Senate proposal-with a public option but a really modest, conservative version of the public option. Maybe that means it will get 100 votes in the Senate? Yes, right.
Republicans will, clearly, all still vote against this. Even Olympia Snowe says this is too much public option for her to stand.
Beyond the politics, though, how well will this work? It's a public option-again, just for uninsured people and probably won't be available in some states.
One of the main arguments for the public option is that it would be big and it would not only have the potential to give people another option toe consumer level, another choice of who you get your insurance from, it would also-because it would be big-have the potential to save the country a lot of money on health care. Part of the reason it would save money is because if it's big enough, it can spread the insurance risk among that many more people.
It also needs to be a big enough player in the marketplace to be able to bargain effectively to keep costs down. If they only take up a really small part of the market, they're going not going to have much bargaining power with the people who control how high health costs are. The smaller the number of people that are allowed to participate in the public option, the more you restrict who can get it-based on things like where people live, or whether or not they've already got some other form of insurance, the less likely it's going to be. The bigger it is, the more effective it's going to be at keeping costs down.
So, politically, what's been created is an incentive in which conservative politicians can say at the state level, the public option won't work, and if enough of those conservative politicians can persuade their states to opt-out of it, then that prediction that it won't work could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Still, though, we have sort of come a long way, even with the asterisks.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who's been a consistent proponent of making the public option available to everyone.
Senator, thanks very much for your time tonight.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thanks for having me again.
MADDOW: Do you think that I was right with my props, that that's sort of the-descending cascade of conservative options that we had on health reform?
WYDEN: Rachel, those were great signs. And the fact is that the public option will be a great tool, if people can get it. It seems to me that Harry Reid deserves a lot of credit tonight. He's made it clear there ought to be options.
But I continue to be concerned that the way this proposal is written, more than 90 percent of Americans, seven years after the bill becomes law, won't be able to hold insurance companies accountable. They won't be able to get the public option at the exchange, the marketplace, nor will they get additional private choices. You can't get an accountable insurance industry with just a small fraction of the population. You've got to have the whole customer base of the industry on the line.
MADDOW: When we look at what is proposed today by Senator Reid, and we look at the process between now and the Senate ultimately voting on something, potential amendments and the process this is going to go through, do you think that what Senator Reid is proposing could be amended to make it more effective in your eyes?
WYDEN: I think Senator Reid has taken a strong step in the right direction. I do think when you ask the American people about this, you do a poll, for example, you never ask them whether they support the idea of 10 percent of Americans getting the public option. You always ask whether all Americans should have it.
I think the country supports that approach. That's what I'm going to fight for on the floor. The fact is that Americans all across the country use as a talking point that everybody should get this public option. Now, we've got to get it in the bill.
MADDOW: Let me ask you on the issue of talking points specifically. Today, Senator Reid's office did put out a list of talking points on health reform for Democratic senators. And the last one caught my eye because I knew I was going to be talking to you. And it says, quote, "Under our plan, if you like what you have, you can keep it, but if you don't, there will be affordable choices for you that can't be taken away."
Is that really accurate if such a small proportion of the American public is going to have access to the public option? If the public option is the affordable way around what the limited options are right now, is that really true?
WYDEN: Right now, reality is not in line with the rhetoric. Now, we have a lot of opportunities to turn this around. As I say, Senator Reid has been a strong consumer advocate. He's advocating, for example, for McCarran-Ferguson to take away the antitrust break.
But, yes, we've got to make sure that it's possible for Americans who hate their insurance company, who feel their insurance company is abusing them, to have choices like members of Congress. Members of Congress, if you get ripped off in the fall of 2009, you have plenty of choices. But under this bill, seven years after it's adopted, 90 percent of Americans still won't have choice.
MADDOW: It seems like the potential for passing something that is robust and ambitious in health reform increases with a-it-the chances of something important passes increases as you get closer to a 50-vote margin for what you need for passing something. In other words, if the Republicans will be able to filibuster this bill, set a 60-vote threshold for what it takes to pass something, our options as a country are much more limited in terms of what we can get out of health reform. The only way Republicans can filibuster is if a Democrat sides with them.
Do you think that a Democrat will side with Republicans to filibuster this bill, given a 60-vote threshold for passage?
WYDEN: I think if progressives stay at this, continue at the grassroots level to make the case that all Americans should have choice, all Americans ought to be able to hold insurance companies accountable, I think we will have 60 votes in the United States Senate for a strong bill.
But, obviously, this is the key time, Rachel. You asked, for example, about making sure that all Americans had choices, not just talking points. If folks at the grassroots level, the folks who are carrying those signs about the public option now, say, "Look, it's not good enough that only 10 percent of the population can hold insurance companies accountable, it's not good enough at a crucial time in American history to have choice available only to a handful of people who are poor and sick and unemployed," that's almost like a health care ghetto.
Let's hold insurance companies accountable the right way by making them put their whole customer base on the line.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon-thanks for your time tonight, Senator, for your clarity.
WYDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: It's always good to talk to you.
WYDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Well, Senate Democrats are trying to pass some sort of health reform. Some of the Republican colleagues are very busy blocking President Obama's surgeon general-nominee. The reason why they are blocking her is remarkable-really.
Also, the man accused of killing abortion provider, Dr. Tiller, and his supporters plan to auction off souvenirs from the radical, violent, anti-abortion fringe in order to raise money for his defense. This reporting is shocking. Dr. Tiller's family attorney joins us next. Do not miss it.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It turns out there's a really big fight going on inside the conservative tea party movement-a tempest, if you will, inside the tea party. You betcha. That story is coming up.
MADDOW: It's a pencil drawing. It's a rendering of David and Goliath, a really gory rendering.
David's got a slingshot in his hand and somehow with that slingshot, he's managed to decapitate Goliath. David's got Goliath's head in his hand. Goliath's headless corpse is at David's feet, and the name "Tiller" as in Dr. George Tiller is written on the decapitated Goliath's head. The headless corpse is labeled "child-murdering industry."
And the whole gory, shocking, pencil art celebration and attempted justification of the murder of Dr. George Tiller is autographed by the man charged with killing Dr. Tiller. And you could buy that.
Scott Roeder is charged with first degree murder in Dr. Tiller's death. Dr. Tiller was shot at point-blank range inside his church on May 31st of this year. Scott Roeder supporters are planning to auction off that signed artwork, the David and Goliath celebration of Dr. Tiller's murder and more, to fund Mr. Roeder's defense.
Judy Thomas reported for the "Kansas City Star" this weekend that openly, pro-violence extreme fringe of the anti-abortion movement is planning an auction of anti-abortion, terroristic, amphora and souvenirs to benefit Mr. Roeder. In addition to the prison art signed by Mr. Roeder himself, they're also plan on auctioning off a cookbook of recipes you can make in prison written by the woman who shot Dr. Tiller in 1993 before Mr. Roeder allegedly did so and killed him this year.
They're also planning on putting a minimum bid of $500 on a VHS tape of people praying for that woman who shot Dr. Tiller back in the '90s. They think they can get 500 bucks for that VHS tape because the person featured praying on that tape is Paul Hill, who assassinated another doctor and a 74-year-old clinic escort in 1994. Paul Hill has since been executed by the state of Florida, making him even more of a hero to the anti-abortion movement's terrorist friends.
Another anti-abortion activist who spent years in prison for bombing abortion clinics, Michael Bray, is donating an autographed copy of his had book, "A Time to Kill," which promotes violence against abortion providers and facilities and purports to justify it.
Before Scott Roeder allegedly killed Dr. Tiller, he subscribed to and had letters published in a Kansas newsletter called "Prayer and Action News." "Prayer and Action News" is a publication that openly advocates the murder of doctors who perform abortions. The publisher of that newsletter is organizing this benefit auction for Mr. Roeder. And he, himself, is making his own donation. His own donation is a 1996 first edition of the manual for the so-called "Army of God."
The Army of God today on their Web site praises Scott Roeder as an American hero for having allegedly killed Dr. Tiller. In 1996, the Army of God's printed manual went beyond praising and advocating violence against American doctors and against facilities that provided abortions. The Army of God in that printed manual in 1996 actually explained how to do that, giving detailed instructions on how to shut down clinics, including how to build bombs to blow them up.
An original copy of that terrorist classic will be auctioned to benefit and, frankly, to celebrate the latest member of this movement, that celebrates and promotes this kind of violence to have at least allegedly made good on the murder that these folks promised.
Joining us now is Lee Thompson. He's an attorney who represented the late Dr. George Tiller for 16 years. He's currently the attorney for Dr. Tiller's widow and the doctor's estate.
Mr. Thompson, thanks very much for coming on this show.
LEE THOMPSON, ATTORNEY FOR DR. GEORGE TILLER'S WIDOW: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: First, I'll just ask for your reaction or the reaction of Dr.
Tiller's family to this planned fundraising effort for Mr. Roeder.
THOMPSON: Well, obviously, we believe that this is nothing more than a reprehensible publicity stunt that is fostered by the same people trying to sell the same publications that generated the climate of hatred and fear that led to Dr. Tiller's murder. Fortunately, it's probably also a useless exercise, because the drawings and other materials from criminals would generate funds that ought to be attached by the Kansas victim compensation fund under our Son of Sam Law.
So obviously, if this goes ahead, we'll be asking the attorney general of Kansas to simply attach whatever funds and use them to help other victims of crimes.
MADDOW: Separate from the question of fundraising or, as you say, it would in this case probably be attempted fundraising, how present are your concerns about more violence coming from the radical anti-abortion movement? Certainly, it is troubling to see Mr. Roeder as he sits there charged with first degree murder in Dr. Tiller's death to see him celebrated in this way.
THOMPSON: Absolutely. And I think it's obvious, when you look at these very materials, that it's the rhetoric that was promoted by these groups that has led to violence. The handbook of the Army of God, for example, had hints on gluing locks at abortion clinics, which Roeder did in Kansas City; hints and directions on flooding clinic roofs, which they did to Dr. Tiller's clinic in Wichita; bombing instructions and other violent directions that all led to that climate that made people think it was OK to do this.
They also suggested, I think, that it was justified and, thus, gave the impression that there was some justification, a defense which the law has routinely rejected.
MADDOW: Since Dr. Tiller's murder, clearly, the very far fringe, the violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement, has decided to celebrate Mr. Roeder. The pro-choice movement and I think a lot of centrists who see themselves as allied with this issue at all before Dr. Tiller's murder, have also organized in the wake of the assassination and I think tried to change minds and tried to change the climate in the country in the wake of that assassination-what's been your reaction to the overall way in which Dr. Tiller's murder has affected the country on both sides?
THOMPSON: Well, obviously, any attempt to use it to promote anti-abortion feelings is awful. It is sick. It is the worst possible thing that could be done.
This was a criminal act. It was a premeditated act. And anything that says it was OK or good is simply wrong.
Dr. Tiller provided a service that provided constitutionally protected rights for his patients. And it's extremely disturbing that the climate of fear is still being generated. Whether or not it should be used to promote the pro-choice approach is something that I'll leave up to those who are doing it. I think the family would just assume people remember Dr. Tiller for the service he gave to women over a long and distinguished career.
MADDOW: Mr. Thompson, what happens next in the case of Scott Roeder? I wonder if, legally, you believe that we can conclude from this fundraising effort that he's going to try to put abortion rights on trial, that he'll try to put the memory of Dr. Tiller on trial in his own defense?
THOMPSON: Well, they say the fundraiser is to hire an attorney to advance what's called the necessity defense, a justification for some violent act. But that's been routinely rejected by virtually every court and certainly been rejected by the supreme court of Kansas, which in 1993, in an abortion case, said, to permit such a defense would invite chaos and perhaps could lead ultimately to anarchy.
So, I can't imagine that any judge sitting in Wichita, Kansas, would go against the Kansas Supreme Court on that issue. I think that we really don't see that sort of publicity stunt working in Kansas courts very often. And I believe-with everything I hold dear-that that will be the case in this case.
MADDOW: Lee Thompson, attorney for Dr. George Tiller's widow and Dr. Tiller's estate-I know this has been an upsetting turn of events both for you and Dr. Tiller's family, thanks for being willing to talk to us about it tonight.
THOMPSON: Appreciate you having us. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
OK. Senate Republicans have been quietly hard at work of late blocking the confirmation vote for President Obama's nominee to be surgeon general. Good thing we're not in a-you know, swine flu epidemic or anything. Have you heard the grounds on which they're blocking her? Yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All people are our most precious resource. We're reminded of this again with today's helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. Fourteen Americans gave their lives, and our prayers are with these service members, their civilian colleagues and the families who loved them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President Obama speaking today at the naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida. We have just experienced one of the most lethal days for Americans in Afghanistan since the war began eight years ago. Fourteen Americans killed in two separate helicopter crashes, in addition to two other American troops killed this weekend due to hostile action in the eastern part of the country.
The first helicopter crash happened before sunrise in the southern part of the country, in the Helmand Province when two Marine Corps helicopters hit each other in mid-flight. Four American service members were killed and two were injured in that crash.
The second crash was even more deadly. It took place last night in the western part of the country, when a massive Chinook twin rotor helicopter went down following a gun battle with insurgents at a facility described as a weapons and drugs trafficking site. Seven American troops and three civilians working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency were killed in the Chinook crash. Twenty-six Americans and Afghans were injured.
A military spokeswoman says the military is 98 percent sure the Chinook was not brought down by enemy fire. But the Taliban is claiming responsibility.
NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was the only member of the media in the vicinity when the mission that ended in that downed Chinook helicopter was launched. His crew shot this video of the Chinook heading out on its nighttime mission, with 36 American troops and American civilian DEA agents and Afghan troops. There you can see them boarding the aircraft.
Joining us now live from Afghanistan is NBC News' chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
Richard, thank you so much for joining us after what has been a very rough day. What can you tell us about the mission that these troops and civilians were on when this Chinook crashed?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We were on a base in western Afghanistan, and it was clear that they were going on what they expected would be a dangerous mission. And the reason I say this is we spoke to the commanders before they went out on to this mission. They were pushing into an area, again, in western Afghanistan where U.S. troops hadn't been for a very long time. So they didn't know exactly what they were going to expect. They thought they would likely get into some sort of gunfight. The two helicopters left from this base where we were also stationed, went to this area where there was a suspected, as you mentioned, drug storage and trafficking site.
They got into a gunfight, killed several insurgents there, destroyed some narcotics and weapons. They considered this to be a successful mission. Then as the U.S./Afghan troops and some of the government civilians were leaving the area, one of those two helicopters crashed, and they're not exactly sure why it crashed. But it was-there were quite a few people on board and almost all of them were either killed or injured.
So it was a very serious incident. The military has asked us not to get into too many specific details about the unit that were involved or the exact location, because the notification process, telling the families that their loved one are not coming back from Afghanistan is now currently under way.
MADDOW: Richard, one of the things that you and I have talked about in regard to both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is wear and tear after this many years of war. How dependent is the U.S. mission in Afghanistan on helicopters for transportation? And how reliable are helicopters in that environment?
ENGEL: They are still considered the safest way and the fastest way
and the quietest way to travel. The reason they go into-go in with
helicopters on air assaults like this is that they can arrive quickly at
the target and hopefully get there before the militants know that they've -
that their objective is compromised.
They do get a lot of wear and tear because of the hours of use, because of their age, and because of the terrain here. It's the dust that gets into the motor. And as these motors spin and the dust gets inside of them, a lot of times it will cake inside and really tear through the motors. They do go through quite a bit of maintenance. And we know that these helicopters had very recently been maintained, which is the norm.
The reason I say that is we were supposed to be on this mission and instead of two helicopters, there was supposed to be a third helicopter. That helicopter didn't arrive, for a variety of reasons, so we weren't able to go. But the two helicopters that did leave had recently been maintained and they wouldn't have left and taken off on this mission if the crew felt they weren't flight ready.
MADDOW: Just reinforcing the dangers that you're going through in order to be able to bring us the story. Richard, we know that three drug enforcement agency civilians were killed in this crash. And it has been described the site that they were targeting has been described as you said both weapons and drug trafficking related. Are U.S. troops doing a lot of anti-drug operations? How does that fit into the overall military mission?
ENGEL: U.S. troops say their mission is not to directly target the drug industry. If it is just a for-consumption or for-cash basis, that is not their objective. They will target this facility, however, when there is a direct link to the insurgency. That's what happened here. There was a market area, almost a bazaar where a lot of drug dealers were operating. And this is where the drugs for weapons swap was taking place.
So militants would be selling opium products and then trading them for weapons and then the weapons and the funding would be used for militants, including the Taliban to carry out activities. So if it is a pure drug operation, no, the U.S. military aren't involved. But if they do see a connection with the insurgency, then they believe it is their priority as well.
MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Thanks for helping us understand what's happening there Richard, and thanks for staying up all night to do it. Safe travels.
ENGEL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW's own Kent Jones is somewhere that is nowhere near as dangerous as where Richard just was tonight. Kent Jones is in Texas, but he is on assignment there for us. We dispatched Kent to Ft. Worth to see what he could learn from the folks who attended the Get Motivated Seminar in Ft. Worth today that starred former President George W. Bush. Kent Jones joins us live from Texas in just a moment.
But first, one more thing about life during wartime. In addition to the horrendous headlines from Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, America's other war has just made the front pages for the first time in months. Two synchronized suicide car bombs killed at least 155 people and wounded more than 500 people in central Baghdad yesterday. It was Baghdad's deadliest attack in more than two years. The bombs went off outside the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Works as well as the Provincial Council offices for Baghdad.
Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki toured the site as rescuers carted off the dead and the wounded. Funerals for many of the dead were held today throughout the city. This was a really well coordinated attack on an area in Baghdad that's supposed to be well protected. Both bombs were huge. Combined they weighed almost 4,000 pounds.
In order to reach their targets, the bombers driving these truck bombs had to pass through several check points that were guarded by security forces. And those are security forces who were supposed to be using handheld devices that were designed to detect explosives. Brian Katulis who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and all-around Iraq expert told our producers today, quote, "You don't want to do this kind of attack without having someone on the inside. It implies infiltration of the government. If there is an objective it is to send a message to whoever is in power that not everyone recognizes them as being in charge."
The Iraqi government claims more than 75 people have already been arrested in connection with the bombing. And earlier today al Qaeda's Islamic state of Iraq issued a statement taking credit for the bombing. We will keep you posted on further developments.
MADDOW: Kent Jones will be joining us live from Texas with a full report on his day getting motivated. That's right, we sent Kent to Ft. Worth to find out what he could about the Get Motivated Seminar at which George W. Bush spoke today. Apparently, it rained a lot.
Plus, there's a controversy at the University of Kentucky at the intersection of big time college basketball and the big time generosity of big coal. There are strings attached, as you might imagine. Very weird sports and politics story coming up.
But first a couple of holy mackerel stories. The tea party protesters are launching a brand new bus tour, one which they appeared to have named after the second Terminator movie, the Tea Party Express II, countdown to judgment day! Yes, that's actually what it's called. It's now making stops in California. For those of you keeping track at home, there are now essentially two competing Tea Party Movements.
Washington independent reporter Dave Wigel has been covering the widening rift between the Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Express. The Tea Party Express Terminator bus tour tea partiers are affiliated with a Republican political action committee and they're considered by the Tea Party Patriots to be too partisan, by which they mean too supportive of the Republican Party.
Here's the fascinating part. It appears that in the divorce between the Patriots and the Express, it was the Tea Party Express people, the people on the bus, the people affiliated with the pac, those are the ones that got Fox News. Back when the tea parties were billed as protests before there was a rift, Fox News ran promos, not reports but promotional announcements for these planned protests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: April 15th, all across the country, Americans are making their voices heard. In California, Texas, Georgia, Washington, D.C. Citizens are standing up, saying no to more taxes and demanding real economic solutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We report, you decide. Then over the summer, the Tea Party Express launched its first bus tour and Fox News accepted the invitation. Here's a dispatch, a typical dispatch from Fox embedded Tea Party Express correspondent, Griff Jenkins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFJENKINS, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to Reno, Nevada. This is stop number two on the Tea Party Express. They're taking their message, it's a group called our country deserves better. They're taking their message from Sacramento, California, where this all started today, all the way to Washington, D.C. And by the way, I haven't found an angry mob. Found a lot of viewers of Fox News who are glad that we're out here covering them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right on, Griff. That was an example not of covering a protest but participating in one and helping to organize it. And when people describe Fox News as a political operation and not a news network, that's what they're talking about. The Tea Party Express's second bus tour starts this week. We will not be embedding on the bus.
Next up, remember when President Obama nominated a new surgeon general? If you don't remember that, it's because it happened a really long time ago, way back on July 13th when the president announced Dr. Regina Benjamin, a family physician from Alabama, was going to be his pick. Dr. Benjamin was finally and unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee early this month but she hasn't received a full vote in the Senate.
Senate Republicans are holding up her nomination as a favor to the health insurance industry. As we reported on this show last month the health insurance company Humana sent out a mailer targeting seniors that was designed to scare them about health reform. The mailer said in part, quote, Millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many important benefits and services." Not only in poor taste and factually dubious but quite possibly in violation of the marketing rules that Humana has to follow as a provider as part of Medicare, rules designed so that Medicare patients won't be confused about who is sending information about their benefits, confused as to whether it's the insurance companies or the government.
Democratic Senator Max Baucus responded to the mailer from Humana by urging the Department of Health and Human Services to take action, which they did in the form of starting an investigation into Humana's mailer. It's still ongoing. As roll call newspaper now reports it's because of that investigation that have Senate Republicans are holding up the nomination of Dr. Regina Benjamin to be surgeon general of the United States.
So at a time when there have been a thousand deaths from swine flu and the president has declared a national emergency, we as a country don't deserve a surgeon general because Republicans want the health insurance industry to be left alone to scare old people about health reform. Country first.
MADDOW: President George W. Bush's new job after leaving the White House? Motivational speaker. No, really. Our motivated motivational speaking correspondent Kent Jones went on scene to George W. Bush's speech today to check it out. He'll be here with a live report. Coming up.
MADDOW: Joseph W. Kraft III is the head of a coal company called Alliance Coal, nothing wrong with that. Joseph W. Kraft III also loves University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball. Definitely nothing wrong with that. Joseph W. Kraft III loves University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball so much that the school's basketball practice facility is called the Joe Kraft Center in his honor, sort of in his honor. More like in recognition of just how much money he gave the University of Kentucky to build that practice facility.
But now Mr. Kraft is taking it all one step further. According to the agenda of tomorrow's University of Kentucky board of trustees' meeting tomorrow, Mr. Kraft is willing to bundle together a big fat $7 million donation to the University of Kentucky in order to build a new dorm to house the school's men's basketball team, but he's telling the University of Kentucky that it will not be good enough this time just to put Mr. Kraft's own name on the building. No, this time, for $7 million he wants the word coal to be in the name of the new dorm. Coal?
Mr. Kraft is the head of a coal company and if its coal company profits that are paying for the basketball dorm, then that dorm better darn well be called the house of coal dorm or something? Joining us now to try to make sense of this is Dave Zirin, sports editor for "The Nation" Magazine. Mr. Zirin great to see you. Thanks for joining us.
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE NATION:" Great to be here Rachel.
MADDOW: When America thinks basketball, America thinks black lung?
What is this? What does this mean?
ZIRIN: This is a bad idea for three reasons and there may be more but there are three that I came up with right away. The first one is that the dorm itself, according to University guidelines, is actually going to be run on green energy. Yet, it's going to be called the Wildcat Coal Lodge. I mean, that's like opening a vegetarian restaurant and calling it McDonald's. It makes no sense.
The second thing which is ridiculous what a terrible name for your dorm, The Coal Lodge. If I were an incoming freshman, I would ask where is the butter churner and the pot belly stove? It is terrible. Where do you live? The Coal Lodge.
Third reason is that to build this dorm, they're going to be tearing one down that's called The Joe B. Hall Lodge, for viewers who don't know Joe B. Hall, he was born in Kentucky. He went to Kentucky. He played for Kentucky. He coached Kentucky to a national championship. The guy has done everything for Kentucky except put on a saddle and run in the derby. This is such a disrespect to Joe B. Hall. They have to step in and do something.
MADDOW: When you think about the transition, what it means about American college athletics to go from Joe B hall with the resume that you just described to the coal hut or whatever it's going to be, what does that say about the power of industry in college athletics right now? Is it not so much even a quantitatively different thing but qualitatively different level of involvement?
ZIRIN: It says something very scary and this to me you're crossing a serious line. Because we all know that on a lot of campuses there are corporate naming rights on the stadiums like University of Maryland right down from where I am. People play at the Comcast Center that is where they play. But to actually put a brand name on a dorm I mean then you're getting into something a little scary.
Is the Kennedy School of Government going to be Goldman Sachs presents the Kennedy School of Government? It really rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Once again, imagine you're a freshman and you say, hey, come to my dorm it is called Smith Hall by Mennen and you have to say that every time you go to your dorm. Keep corporate branding off the campuses please. No matter how much money you give.
MADDOW: I understand that some students are already petitioning against this on the University of Kentucky campus. Are they going to get final say in this or is this going to be the athletic department, who decides these things?
ZIRIN: No, this will be the school president Lee Todd who by the way is a former executive at IBM and hasn't been on a college campus teaching since the early 1980s. This is a business decision. It's interesting the coalition on campus of people who are fighting this. Its environmentalists but it is also students who are basketball fans and it's also students who are like, look. We want Kentucky to be a school that speaks to the 21st century not the 19th century. We don't want to live in a dorm called "Coal."
MADDOW: David Zirin sports editor at "The Nation" a good man. Thanks for joining us.
ZIRIN: My pleasure Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on "Countdown," Susie Upman costar of "Curb your Enthusiasm" will be Keith's guest on the "America Round Political Funnies."
Next on this show Kent Jones spent the day in rainy Ft. Worth, Texas finding out what there was to find out about former president George W. Bush's debut as a motivational speaker. Kent joins us reportedly dry but well informed. Stay right there.
MADDOW: Today was a momentous day in the post presidential career of one George W. Bush. Today was the day he officially became a motivational speaker, people. The president was among a roster of speakers who could be seen for the low price of $4.95 a person at the Get Motivated Seminar in Ft. Worth, Texas. Since we first reported President Bush's intention to speak at the event we've received a lot of unsolicited e-mails from viewers who told us they attended Get Motivated Events and they found them to have strong evangelical Christian themes and to be essentially a way to package high pressure sales pitches for get rich quick schemes between the people speaking.
We asked some of the organizers Tamara Lowe about those complaints last week and she politely said people were offered opportunities to further their education and she reiterated that all faiths are welcome at their events. So we sent our own Kent Jones to Ft. Worth today to the convention center and had him ask people in the rain what they thought of it. Joining us now from the land known as the Metroplex, now warm and dry, our own intrepid Kent Jones. Kent! Dude! How was it?
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Great. The event was closed to the press but I as a citizen bought a ticket to go because I had serious motivational issues. So I can't report on what happened inside but I went outside to talk to some folks afterwards in the rain so how was the debut of private citizen George W. Bush?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I thought President Bush did a great job. He's a Texan. He stood by his decisions he made while he was in the White House.
JONES (voice over): How was the president's speech?
(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): It was very, very motivating. I really, really enjoyed that. That was the highlight of the day.
JONES: Did you see President Bush's speech?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Yes I did.
JONES: What did you think?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Excellent. First time I ever saw him in person.
It was very good. Made a lot of people laugh.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): A lot of the speakers were very motivational. George Bush was the best speaker so far. He talked about things people wanted to hear. He was very articulate. Everything he said made sense. A lot of times he is vilified for not being a great speaker but he did fantastic.
JONES: Did you see President Bush?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I did. He was phenomenal. He got up there and was able to-I didn't know what he was going to present but he was able to draw the crowd together and kind of present a coherent speech and I think got a lot of applause. People were very impressed with what he brought out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: You know, since it was a motivational speech was it mission accomplished? Do you feel motivated?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I do. More than when I got here at 6:30 this morning.
JONES: Did he motivate you?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I think so, for sure, yeah.
JONES: Would you say you are motivated now?
(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): I am motivated.
JONES: How did it go? Do you feel motivated?
(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): Very motivated.
JONES: Do you feel motivated by him?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Actually I do. I was kind of motivated a little bit more by Terry Bradshaw. But I'm a huge sports fan so what can I say?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Yes, Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers quarterback, who went on after the 43rd president of the United States and he killed, killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES (voice over): So it was President Bush and then Terry Bradshaw?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Yes, it was. President Bush followed right behind him by Terry Bradshaw.
JONES: OK. Be honest. Who was funnier?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I got to say Bradshaw. He was hilarious.
JONES: Who was funnier, President Bush, Terry Bradshaw?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Terry Bradshaw.
JONES: Who was funnier President Bush, Terry Bradshaw?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I'd say Terry Bradshaw.
JONES: Bottom line is Terry Bradshaw funnier than President Bush?
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Definitely by far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So it seems like George W. Bush this might be a viable career for him. It seems people liked him even if he's not very funny.
JONES: Yeah but he should always go ahead of Terry Bradshaw and not after him. You don't follow Bradshaw. OK. Just know your limits.
MADDOW: Did you get motivated by this experience?
JONES: All I could say is if you can dream it, you can do it. Yes.
MADDOW: Beautiful. That's really deep. I'll go think about that for a long, long time. Kent Jones, motivational seminar and get rich quick correspondent. Thank you Kent, really appreciate it. Have fun in Dallas.
JONES: It was great.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you all for watching tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow night. "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a good day.
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