Guests: Jane Hamsher, Eric Schmidt, Steve Benen, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Mike Precker, Dawn Rizos, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very for much for that.
And thank you at home for tuning in with us.
So, the real Joe Lieberman has stood up, again. The question now is whether Senate Democrats will stand up to him as Lieberman pledges to be a one-man wrecking ball against health care reform.
In Republican politics, even House Minority Leader John Boehner calls the politics of a special election in Upstate New York a “mess” for the Republican Party. That said, for some reason, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty says he wants into that mess.
There‘s also some really geeky, really good news about our American infrastructure tonight and I personally cannot pass that up.
We‘ll be joined by the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. We‘ll be joined by “Firedoglake‘s” activist-in-chief, Jane Hamsher. We‘ll be joined by “Washington Monthly‘s” Steve Benen and by Congressman Jan Schakowsky.
It‘s all coming up.
And Kent Jones will be joining us live reporting from a very unusual location for us on his trip in Texas. It‘s a location that involves people taking their clothes off for money and it involves Newt Gingrich—all in the same place.
It‘s all ahead.
But we begin with a day of news in which you could watch the story line unfolding just by watching what was happening to a handful of stocks. Check this out. At around 11:00 a.m. yesterday, stock prices for Aetna, United Health and WellPoint—three of the country‘s biggest health insurance companies, all took sort of a modest dive. What happened around at 11:00 a.m. yesterday? Well, word was starting to leak that at Harry Reid‘s afternoon press conference, he was going to announce that the Senate health care reform bill was going to include a public option.
Now, as you know, a public option would mean more competition for health insurance companies, and if there‘s anything that competitive companies like less than competition, I don‘t know what it is. So, the rumors of a public option, health insurance stocks started turning south.
Then, today, at around 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, those same three stocks simultaneously shot way back up. What happened today at around 2:00 that might have caused health insurance stocks to rebound? Well, today, at around 2:00, Senator Joe Lieberman of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party did something that made health insurance companies really happy. He announced his intention to block any vote on a health reform bill that includes a public option.
He didn‘t just announce that he‘ll vote no on that kind of bill, that would have not—that would not have been a surprise. Lieberman instead announced that he would vote to filibuster the bill. He would vote to keep his supposedly fellow Democrats from putting health care reform up for a majority vote.
So, who-hoo! Happy days for health insurance stocks.
Coming in into today, we knew the Senate bill would include a public option. And that a public option has majority support in the Senate, more than 50 Democratic senators support the idea of a public option. The question was whether Republicans could figure out a way to block a majority vote, to say no, it doesn‘t matter you have majority support, you‘re going to need 60 votes, not 50 votes in order to pass this bill.
Because the Republican minority in the Senate is so small, they can‘t block a majority vote on their own. They need at least one Democrat to cross over and join with them. That‘s where Joe Lieberman comes in.
Senator Lieberman informed reporters this afternoon, quote, “If the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore, I will try to stop the passage of the bill.”
Translated into English, that means Joe Lieberman plans to join with Republicans to filibuster health reform. And given that Mr. Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats, he might thereby make American history—according to our next guest—when one party has enough members to overcome the other party‘s filibuster, a member of the majority has never before crossed party lines to filibuster with the minority. That‘s exactly what Joe Lieberman is now threatening to do in order to kill health care reform.
Unless you think this is some sort of principled stand by Mr. Lieberman, that he always blocks votes on bills that he opposes, my answer to that is no. In 2005, Senator Lieberman agreed to allow a vote on a banking bill even though he ultimately voted against it. Same thing in 2006, Senator Lieberman agreed to allow a vote on a border bill even though he ultimately voted against it. In 2007, you‘re getting the idea here, right? Senator Lieberman agreed to allow a vote on an Iraq war bill even though he ultimately voted against it.
If Mr. Lieberman follows through on his threat this time and actually does vote with the minority to filibuster health reform against his own party, then health reform will take 60 votes to pass instead of 50. And in all likelihood, America will not get a public option or much else that we‘ve been debating about health reform.
If Senator Lieberman follows through and makes history in this way, if he decides to make history by punching his own party in the throat in this way, how will his party respond? Will he get to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, for example? And if so, why?
Joining us is Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of the progressive blog, “Firedoglake.”
Jane, thanks very much for coming back on the show. It‘s good to see you.
JANE HAMSHER, FIREDOGLAKE.COM: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the statistic that I attributed to you in my intro there. I know you‘ve been doing some digging on this issue of a Democrat joining a Republican filibuster. How unprecedented would a move like this be for Senator Lieberman?
HAMSHER: Well, we have seen members of the other party cross over. You remember the Dixiecrats joining the Republicans in the ‘60s on civil rights filibusters. But, they weren‘t joining—they weren‘t breaking a filibuster-proof majority. It‘s never happened before that one party had, technically, in the caucus, a filibuster-proof majority and one of the members went to join over with the opposition party to filibuster and break that.
And you have to ask yourself—and I know you have, Rachel—what were they thinking when they let Joe into the caucus and didn‘t get him to agree to join with them on procedural vote? Because that 60 votes, without that is abjectly meaningless.
MADDOW: Well, there are a handful of conservative Democrats who have been unwilling to commit overtly—one way or the other—on the issue of cloture, on the issue of procedural votes, filibusters. Is it possible that Lieberman‘s apparent defection here might open the floodgates so it won‘t just be him? It would be even more than him who would just—who would promise to do this?
HAMSHER: And that‘s the danger there, is that these people—you know, senators don‘t tend to like to do these things. You‘ll notice Joe, even himself, didn‘t say he would do it. He said he was leaning towards doing it. So, he‘s obviously looking for company in that decision. And Ben Nelson could give it to him.
On the other hand, Blanche Lincoln—I dare Blanche Lincoln—I dare Blanche Lincoln to join a filibuster. She‘ll draw primary opponents so fast it would make your head spin.
MADDOW: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reports today, and I quote, “Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid‘s problems,” referring to himself in the third person. He said, “There are a lot of senators, Democrats and Republicans, who don‘t like parts of this bill. Senator Lieberman will let us get on the bill, and he‘ll be involved in the amendment process.”
Does Senator Reid‘s apparent lack of concern about this assuage any of your concerns about it?
HAMSHER: Well, it depends on what he‘s talking about. You know, technically, Joe did say that he would let the—let, you know, the debate proceed on the floor and that they could add amendments and try to make the bill better.
So, he‘s not going to join an initial filibuster. There are actually two cloture votes necessary. One is to proceed with debate and the other is for the final bill. He‘s saying that he, you know, would potentially join with the Republicans if the bill stayed in its current form.
But Harry Reid does have to worry about this because he‘s the one, you know, back in 2008, I was actually looking at an old video of yours today, Rachel, where you said, you know, this is—is this the best idea. And Harry Reid is the one who said at that time, I trust Joe when people if he‘s going to join with the Republicans in filibuster because he was Joe. And Reid said, “I trust him.” So, you know, Reid is the one who, as majority leader, did not get Lieberman to commit, as the price of his gavel, to join with the caucus on procedural votes.
So, if Joe wants to screw him over, that‘s fine. You know, Joe may not pay a price in Connecticut, but Reid will pay a price in Nevada for it.
MADDOW: In terms of that chairmanship, it sounds like Harry Reid would be surprised if Joe Lieberman filibustered. As you say, he clearly didn‘t get a commitment on procedural votes from Lieberman when Lieberman got to keep that chairmanship. But it‘s probably worth pointing out that since President Obama has been in office, the most high-profile thing that Joe Lieberman has done with his homeland security chairmanship is hold a hearing on whether or not President Obama has too many czars just like FOX News said that he did.
What value is he to the Democrats that they would let him keep that seat?
HAMSHER: One has to wonder Joe Lieberman holding these hearings on the czars and not, say, Blackwater?
HAMSHER: Which would also be under his jurisdiction as homeland security.
It‘s meaningless -- 60 votes is meaningless, if you don‘t have them. He is not a Democrat. He‘s was elected as you know as a—you know, the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. And his job is to basically be of more value to the Republicans within the Democratic Caucus than he would be on the outside of it.
So, I don‘t particularly see the value in keeping him, and—but, you know, if Harry Reid does, then I think he and the president are going to have to lean on Joe this time. Because I don‘t—otherwise, you know, I think that there will be a price to pay for allowing him to dictate what the caucus does.
Thirty members of the Senate signed a letter saying that they support a public option. Those 30 senators are a majority once you take Joe out of the equation of the caucus and they could vote to strip Lieberman off his gavel. So, you know, there are consequences down the line for Joe‘s lack of loyalty.
MADDOW: Jane Hamsher, founder and publisher of “Firedoglake,” the first person who have ever issued a live dare on this show—thank you for crossing that Rubicon with us, Jane. It‘s good to see you.
HAMSHER: Good to see you.
MADDOW: President Obama announced today that he is investing billions of dollars to update America‘s power grid, including a cool new trick that would allow homeowners to consult high-tech electric meters so we can all plan to dry our laundry when power is the cheapest. Hmmm, infrastructure.
Eric Schmidt, who is the CEO of a little company you might have heard of called Google, will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This grid, which is made of everything from power lines to generators to the meters in your home, still runs on century old technology. It wastes too much energy, it costs too much money, and it‘s too susceptible to outages and blackouts. To offer one analogy, just imagine what transportation was like in this country back in the 1920s, 1930s, before the Interstate Highway System was built. There‘s a tangled maze of poorly maintained back roads that were rarely the fastest or the most efficient way to get from point A to point B.
Fortunately, President Eisenhower made an investment that revolutionized the way we travel—an investment that made our lives easier and our economy grow. Now, it‘s time to make the same kind of investment in the way our energy travels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is it just me? So, all this infrastructure talk is really exciting. Grrr.
The president, today, announced the largest award of stimulus money in a single day, $3.4 billion in grants to make our electrical grid less stupid. What they‘re working toward after all is called a smart grid, everything from power plants to transmission lines to the electric meter in your house, designed not only to be more efficient but more resilient, so that maybe sometime in our lifetime, we will stop being a country where the lights go out because it rains.
In other joining the 21st or maybe even just the 20th century news, Vice President Joe Biden announced that—thanks in part to a loan from the Department of Energy—a now-closed plant in Delaware that used to make these very pretty G.M. cars, the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky, that factory will reopen. The plant will now be making these pretty new cars—electric cars for a company called Fisker that‘s based in California.
The company bought the plant from G.M. It‘s going to pay to retool the plant and then its plans are for 2,000 factory jobs and more than 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014. And those jobs will be making bad ass American electric cars that look like bat mobiles.
All in all, a good day for being able to imagine us having an economy again someday in the future.
Joining us now is Eric Schmidt. He‘s chairman and CEO of a small company you might have heard of called Google.
Mr. Schmidt, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
ERIC SCHMIDT, GOOGLE CHAIRMAN & CEO: Good evening to you.
MADDOW: Now, you have to tell me honestly, before you sing the praises of the smart grid, is this going to be another one of these things that‘s going to make the kings of Google, including yourself, trillions of dollars?
SCHMIDT: Well, we actually didn‘t even enter in the competition for these awards. We support them, however, enormously. The opportunity to rebuild America‘s energy infrastructure is the great opportunity for creating jobs, getting things fixed, dealing with renewable energy, and, by the way, solving climate change at the same time. This is an important step to make that happen.
MADDOW: In terms of what energy infrastructure does for the country, obviously, it‘s easy to imagine the kinds of jobs that come from building new stuff, building the new, actual physical infrastructure. What does it mean beyond that, beyond the initial building in terms of jobs? Why would it improve the economy?
SCHMIDT: Well, to start with, we are going to have to rebuild the entire digital transmission, network of power and all the interconnection points it has. It has to go from an old line, unchanged model, to a flexible model. It looks a lot like the Internet is today. And all of a sudden, then power can get on and off this equivalent of a highway as the president called it and work really well.
Now, what we‘ve learned in our work with power meters and other things is that if you measure consumption, for example, if citizens in their homes can measure their consumption and they‘ll typically reduce their power needs by maybe 10 percent because they actually know what it is. If half of American households do that, it‘s the equivalent of saving 8 million cars worth of energy use.
MADDOW: Wow. When a company like Google looks at international operations and opportunities, how does our investment in our infrastructure, our energy infrastructure, our communications infrastructure, how does that compare to the countries that we are competing most with right now?
SCHMIDT: Well, unfortunately, the answer is not good. China, who is the competitor here, has decided to become the world‘s leader in all the piece parts and all of the necessary hardware and supplies to do this globally. To that end, they are spending more than $100 billion on the same thing that today, the largest awards we have done in America, the private sector plus the government will invest $8 billion. You can see the gap.
MADDOW: The theory behind some of these types of government investment, and obviously, part of it is trying to catch up to China, trying to make sure that we can compete globally, trying to really retrench the stuff that we got so that we stop just collapsing every time there‘s weather of any sort in most parts of the country. But it‘s also supposed to be a growth strategy.
And seeing the president today standing in front of that solar panel array reminded me of what we did in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when consumer subsidies were created for solar power and individual homes and then those were stopped, and what had been an impetus for new innovation and everything sort of went kaput all at once. How do we make this a sustainable longer-term thing?
SCHMIDT: What‘s interesting is that if you look at the speeches from the presidents back then, they said the same things. The need to get off of oil, the need to have alternative energy sources, the need to create jobs and get these industries going.
The difference now is we‘ve run out of runway, we‘ve run out of time. We literally do not have more than a few decades before some of the compounding issues of climate change make it almost impossible to reverse.
So, not only do we need to do it now to help us recover from the recession that‘s affected all of us, but we also need to do it for our children and our grandchildren.
I‘ll tell you that this particular set of activities, rebuilding energy infrastructure, rebuilding the grid, getting people smarter, is a very, very pro-growth job story. These are high-paid American workers, many of whom have skills that they learned on the automobile factories where they were laid off.
MADDOW: Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google—you‘re a very busy man. We really appreciate you taking time to join us. Thank you, sir.
SCHMIDT: Thank you, again.
MADDOW: OK. Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, Rick Santorum, Marilyn Musgrave, politicians like these have a few things in common—for one, all of those people who I just listed lost their most recent elections and they actually all lost them spectacularly. Also, they‘ve all thrown in on the same side of an otherwise obscure bellwether congressional race in New York state. Why has Tim Pawlenty decided that he wants to join that crowd?
Amazing chaos right now among the most ambitious Republicans in the country—that‘s the next news, coming up.
MADDOW: This is Betsy Markey. She‘s the Democratic member of Congress representing Colorado‘s fourth district. Betsy Markey got elected to that seat last November when she defeated a three-term, very far-right Republican incumbent named Marilyn Musgrave.
Even Colorado‘s—even as Colorado was thought of as a pretty safe Republican territory, the incumbent Republican, Ms. Musgrave, just got clobbered by the Democrat in this race. She lost by 12 points, wasn‘t even close.
This race is ringing a bell for you maybe because it‘s the only House race from the last election that we were still covering a week after the election was over, because not only did Marilyn Musgrave make news for being a conservative Republican who got trounced in what was supposed to be a safe seat, on this show at least, Ms. Musgrave also made news because even a week after she lost, she still hadn‘t conceded the race, nor had she called to congratulate Betsy Markey who beat her.
We called Betsy Markey‘s office today and confirm that even now, almost a year after that election, Republican Marilyn Musgrave still hasn‘t conceded the race. It‘s possible she still thinks she‘s in Congress.
Well, today, in “The New York Times,” we learned that one of the things Marilyn Musgrave is up to now is campaigning in a New York congressional race that‘s attracted a whole host of ambitious conservatives to rail against the locally-chosen Republican in the race in favor of a more conservative candidate.
Undeterred by the fact that the conservative party candidate doesn‘t actually live in the district in which he‘s running, undeterred by the local press saying the conservative party candidate has, quote, “no grasp of the bread and butter issues pertinent to district residents,” undeterred by any of that, a whole conga line of conservatives, who are not exactly famous for winning things, have decamped to this rural Upstate New York congressional race to try to make a national, political point.
Joining Marilyn Musgrave, famously for not only losing but then for refusing to concede, there‘s Rick Santorum, equally famous for using the phrase “man on dog” in a national interview, and for the peculiar margin by which he lost his Senate seat in Pennsylvania . Rick Santorum was the incumbent and he lost by 18 points. That was one for the record books.
Also stumping for the conservative party candidate and against the Republican is Steve Forbes, famous for spending somewhere north of $100 million of his own Forbes dollars running for president. You may recall that he did not win, nor did Fred Thompson.
Fred Thompson, actor. Also campaigning for the conservative party candidate in Upstate New York against the Republican and, of course, Mr. Thompson‘s own catastrophic presidential run last year, famous as one of the most spectacular political flame-outs in modern politics. Mr. Thompson has even now cut an ad for the conservative party Upstate New York candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN AD)
FRED THOMPSON, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America is in trouble. So, when your grandchildren ask you why you didn‘t do something, be able to tell them that you voted for Doug Hoffman. He‘s not a career politician, Doug is like us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Doug‘s like us, you know, career politicians who work as actors and sometimes as lobbyists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMPSON: He‘s not a career politician, Doug is like us—a concerned neighbor who‘s just had enough. He‘s a principled conservative who‘ll come home when the job is done. We can send Washington a message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We can send Washington a message—that‘s what all of these ambitious conservatives from the states like Tennessee and Colorado and all over the country are doing in this little Upstate New York special election. They are trying to send a national message that the Republican Party should be way more right-wing and they should know, they are all famous for losing important elections. Musgrave, Santorum, Forbes, Fred Thompson, even Sarah Palin. The marquee name conservatives racing from across the country to overrule local Republicans and instead offer their own strategic guidance on their race, they are all famous for losing.
And then spare a thought for Tim Pawlenty, who is a marquee name conservative, who is not, at this time, famous for losing, but who is also now racing from across the country to overrule local Republicans in Upstate New York to instead endorse the conservative party candidate, because that‘s what it takes to be taken seriously in Republican politics right now, allying yourself with the electoral brilliance that is Marilyn Musgrave.
As the Republican Party searches for its path out of the political wilderness, consider who they have chosen to lead the way.
Joining us now is Steve Benen, who writes for WashingtonMonthly.com.
Thanks very much for coming on the show, Steve. Good to see you.
STEVE BENEN, WASHINGTONMONTHLY.COM: Thanks. Good to be here.
MADDOW: OK. Tim Pawlenty is not often put alongside the Marilyn Musgraves and Sarah Palin and Minutemen wing of the Republican Party. What do you think he‘s doing supporting Doug Hoffman?
BENEN: I think he‘s sending a message and that message is: he‘s running for president. At this point, everyone in the base is looking to see who is going to be signing up on the Hoffman campaign and it‘s something of a litmus test. I think that anyone who wants to be taken seriously in 2012 is going to have to demonstrate right now that they‘re supporting the Hoffman campaign.
And Pawlenty has been an interesting case; it‘s an interesting case right now. He has what I kind of call Romney-itis. He‘s a blue state governor known for not being somewhat reasonable, somewhat pragmatic on some issues and yet demonstrates at the - the Tea party crowd that he can be just as big a - a tea bagger as anyone else. And so, here he is right now, supporting Hoffman for just that reason.
MADDOW: Let‘s talk about one specific thing that I know that you wrote about at Washington Monthly today, Steve, and it was about Hoffman‘s meeting with the Watertown Daily Times, the local paper. Mr. Hoffman, who‘s the Conservative Party candidate who‘s being championed by all these out of town conservatives, he went to meet with the local editorial board. He brought Dick Army, the Texas former lobbyist, with him to the meeting. The meeting went very poorly, and Mr. Army‘s presence specifically seems to have infuriated the editorial board.
What do you make of that - of that meeting, both the strategic decision to do it but also how it went?
BENEN: Yes. This is a complete disaster for the Hoffman campaign.
The paper - the local paper in New York had run an editorial that morning. They kind of signaled where they were - what they wanted to talk to - to Hoffman about. And when he got there, he apparently was not prepared to talk about any local issues, nothing about local transportation, local economy.
He, actually, at one point asked that he be given the questions in advance in order to be able to do the interview more effectively. And - and at that point, the - the Texan who had chaperoned Hoffman to this editorial board meeting intervened and suggested that local issues are really parochial issues.
So in other words, if you‘re interested in what‘s going on in the district, those questions are not important. What you should be thinking about are the big-picture questions. And so in other words, I think we‘re getting into a situation where Hoffman considers himself part of a movement, not necessarily part of a district. I don‘t imagine that‘s going to go over well with - to some local voters.
MADDOW: Particularly because he doesn‘t live in the district, which is also an awkward part of this. It‘s next Tuesday night. It‘s really, really late. We‘re getting in the results of the governors‘ races and the special elections from around the country.
See, what do you think the results from New York 23 are going to be? And what do you think the national ripples will be, given how much Conservatives have staked on this one little race?
BENEN: What‘s that Yogi Berra expression? Predictions are hard especially, about the future. I don‘t know who‘s going to win that race, obviously, but I think that, you know, that we can look at some of the polling. A couple of weeks ago, there was polling suggesting that - that Owens, the Democratic candidate, was pulling ahead because the Right had been split between the Conservative candidate and the Republican candidate. More recent polling suggests that Hoffman might be enjoying a slight edge - a slight surge. Time will tell.
But I think it‘s safe to say that if Hoffman does win this, the Tea Party crowd, the far Right base will be emboldened to carry on the same kind of tactics in other races across the country over the next couple of cycles. So it‘s one of the things that people are watching very closely in this race.
MADDOW: The great purge of 2009. It is fun spectating. Steve Benen, contributing writer for WashingtonMonthly.com, also author of all of the books you see behind him in that - in that shot. Steve, thanks for being here.
BENE: Thanks very much. Take care.
MADDOW: Today, the US government got its first public resignation in protest of the Afghanistan war. In his letter of resignation, the official compared our current strategy in Afghanistan to trying to swat a fly with a sledgehammer. That sledgehammer of a story is next.
But first, one more thing about the Republican Party and its hope for a path back to power. Today, more than one in three Republicans in the House signed on to a resolution to express the gratitude and appreciation of the House of Representatives for the 9/12 March. The 9/12 March, you will recall, was called for and organized by the FOX News Channel. It brought thousands of people to Washington to protest against the government on the occasion of the anniversary of 9/11.
Well, now today, more than one in three Republicans in the House have signed on to a resolution that would thank the marchers officially for coming to DC to demonstrate, quote, “Their grievance with recent government actions.” One in three House Republicans - more than one in three, actually, signed on to what they want to be an official government thank you for the FOX News organized march against the government on the occasion of the anniversary of 9/11, thereby resolving any doubt about where the Republican Party‘s really at right now.
MADDOW: It turns out that someone in the American intelligence community did mislead Congress in the early 2000 (INAUDIBLE). We‘re not sure yet who, but we‘ve just found out when and how many times. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky joins us later with these brand new details.
But first, there is some breaking news about the American war in Afghanistan. “The New York Times” is just reporting late tonight that the brother of Afghanistan‘s president, Hamid Karzai, his name is Ahmed Wali Karzai, quote “Gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency and has for much of the past 8 years.” “The Times” says that Mr. Karzai, who is widely suspected of an active role in Afghanistan‘s illegal opium trafficking business, is paid by the CIA for a variety of services.
Quoting from “The Times”, “‘The relationship between Mr. Karzai and the CIA is wide-ranging,‘ several American officials said. ‘He helps the CIA operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar strike force that‘s used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists. On at least one occasion the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government,‘ the official said.”
Obviously, these are very explosive allegations about the brother of Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan. That brother has been the subject of many complaints of corruption in the past. Now, “The New York Times” again alleging that he is on the CIA payroll and has been for much of the past eight years. Wow! Expect much more on this story tomorrow on this show and everywhere else, too.
But as of now, we know that October is the - is officially now the - the deadliest month for Americans in Afghanistan. Today, eight more American troops were killed while on patrol in two separate bombing attacks in the south of Afghanistan. Seven service members were killed in the first attack, one was killed in the second. That brings the total number of US troops killed in Afghanistan, just this month, to 55.
In the province right next door to where those servicemen died today, a man named Matthew Hoh, H-O-H, was until recently the Senior US Civilian working for the State Department. “The Washington Post” made public today the fact that last month Matthew Hoh resigned his Foreign Service position in protest of the war in Afghanistan. He is the first US official known to have done so. Mr. Hoh served in Iraq as a Marine Corps captain. He also later worked there as a civilian.
The US government was reportedly so concerned that Mr. Hoh not resign that they flew him in to meet with the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, and with the Obama administration‘s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke. Both men tried and failed to change his mind about resigning.
But what is most remarkable about Matthew Hoh‘s resignation is the substance of his four-page resignation letter. Quote, “I‘ve lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States‘ presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy.”
And this is the key part, “But my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why, and to what end.” He goes on, “If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al Qaeda resurgents or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy Western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, et cetera.
The deadly return only in bodily form” - excuse me, “The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence that such promises can anymore be kept. As such, I submit my resignation.”
Matthew Hoh said that if the United States remains in Afghanistan, his recommendation would be for fewer, not more combat troops, a recommendation we can assume he will deliver to Vice President Biden‘s foreign policy advisor because they are scheduled to meet this week.
And now, to our own Department of Corrections for the show. In November of last year, “The New York Times” White House correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg said in an interview on the paper‘s website that since before she had been named White House correspondent, “The Times” had had a standing request with the White House for an interview with President George W. Bush.
Ms. Stolberg said, quote, “So far, no interview, and the reason why is hardly a secret. White House officials are quite open about the fact that we have not gotten an interview because they don‘t like our coverage. I get e-mails to that effect from them all the time. But the request still stands and we are hoping for an interview before Mr. Bush leaves office.”
Well, “The New York Times” never got that interview before Mr. Bush left office. “The Los Angeles Times” published a response to that interview with Ms. Stolberg that was headlined, quote, “Nine years later, “The New York Times” still awaits its Bush interview.”
It turns that “The LA Times” was wrong to characterize it that way and we were wrong on this program last week to do the same thing. George W. Bush did do interviews with “The New York Times” three of them that we can find in total, he just didn‘t do any after the week he was inaugurated for his second term in January 2005. The point remains that President Bush‘s White House withheld interviews and access to news organizations they disfavored.
The specific dates of exactly when and for how long they withheld that access, I got wrong. I apologize. I henceforth recommit myself to getting absolutely everything, absolutely exactly right, absolutely all of the time.
MADDOW: An industry group with the nebulous name of The International Peace Operations Association just wrapped up its annual three-day summit in Washington, DC. This association represents private security companies - companies whose employees are accused of killing civilians in Iraq, companies whose employees have been implicated in sex trafficking, companies whose employees were featured in photographs released this year in which where they were drinking vodka out of each other‘s seating areas. Those private security companies have been, and some still are, members of this International Peace Operations Association - Peace Operations.
Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist, author and security contracting expert told us today, quote, “This mercenary conference is basically a trade show for war profiteers seeking to cash in further from US wars globally and Afghanistan and Pakistan specifically. They could change their name to The International Fuzzy Bunny Association, but that wouldn‘t erase what they stand for - making a killing off of the killing.” Also, I think we can all agree that The International Peace Operation Association stands for Orwell - for Orwellian naming, because we‘ve always been at war with East Asia.
MADDOW: The list of things US intelligence agencies admitted they should have told Congress but didn‘t just got longer, and tonight‘s additions follow a fairly busy summer for allegations about and admissions from the CIA on the subject.
You might remember back in May Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi alleged that she and other members of Congress had been misled by the CIA about interrogation techniques that were being used by the US, that in June, evidence that Congress had been misled on another issue. That‘s when Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees found out that the CIA had been working on a secret targeted killing program and taking out al Qaeda leadership at close range. By the time anyone in Congress was briefed about that, the program was years old and had been cancelled already by CIA Director Leon Panetta, who said that he had only just heard about it.
Well, now the reason we all should care about Congressional briefings on intelligence issues, the reason this controversy is a really big deal is because it‘s almost an existential crisis for the US government. It‘s not just because each particular thing we suddenly find out the CIA has secretly been doing turns out to be of questionable legality, that‘s one thing. It‘s a big deal because if our spy agencies aren‘t telling Congress what they‘re doing, if there‘s no oversight for these agencies and they get to operate with giant budgets in secret, they essentially become a secret shadow American government that‘s accountable to no one, including the government itself.
There‘s an investigation into intelligence reporting underway now in the House Intelligence Committee. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, is leading it. She released details today about the focus of the investigation after presiding over a hearing at which a top intelligence official revealed that an internal review last summer turned up yet more cases of our own American intelligence agencies not bothering to tell Congress what they were doing when they were supposed to.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky joins us now. She‘s chair of the House Intelligence Sub-committee on Oversight and Investigations. Congresswoman Schakowsky, thanks very much for coming back on the show.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Hi, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: First, I want to ask you about the status of the investigation. I know you‘re looking into five specific cases where it seems like the intelligence agencies were not briefing you or were being deliberately misleading to Congress, but only four of those cases are public. Is that right?
SCHAKOWSKY: That‘s correct. We have the - the shoot down of a plane over Peru; we‘ve got the June 24th announcement by Leon Panetta that there were over eight years he was not told about when he came in an eight year old program that should have been - been briefed into; detainee interrogations and the destruction of tapes, and - and one more.
And the National Security Act of 1947 says that we are supposed to be fully and currently informed about the activities and we want to set it straight now if we have to change the law, if we have to change procedures, but we want to make sure that this does not happen in the future under any president.
MADDOW: I didn‘t - I didn‘t mean to be hyperbolic when I said that this is a bit of an existential crisis for the US government. I do actually see it that way. The idea that there would be portions of our government that are highly funded, secret by design and not telling other portions of the government what they‘re doing, the ones that are legally empowered to know, to me is a scary thing about what America means. It‘s a - it‘s a very big picture question.
SCHAKOWSKY: Absolutely. And I feel that so heavily on my shoulders, because the members of the Intelligence Committee in many ways just serve not only as the Congress, but at the - as the eyes and ears of the people of the United States. We‘re the ones that are supposed to know about these secrets, and not just simply be told about it, not just notified, but actually informed so that there can be conversations. And we want to have the Intelligence Committee understand that we can be a partner. Maybe we could actually offer something that would prevent us from get into some kind of a national security crisis.
MADDOW: Especially because the actions of the intelligence agencies, if there is blowback for those actions, especially when they‘re controversial actions taken, which tends to happen with secret programs, that blowback affects all Americans everywhere. It affects us as a nation, not just the people who carried out those actions in the first place.
SCHAKOWSKY: That‘s exactly right, and, all too often, we find on the Intelligence Committee that we hear about it on a news show or, you know, on the - on the radio, and we come to committee and we say, well, how come we weren‘t briefed on that? And often some agency official come and say, oh, mea culpa. We were supposed to do that. But it‘s not good enough to ask forgiveness. We want them to come and share this with us beforehand, and we want to make sure that the policies are in place that require that.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, who has a hard job but has enthusiasm for it. I‘m very happy to hear it. Thanks for joining us tonight.
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” Keith Olbermann talks to our friend, Eugene Robinson, about President George W. Bush‘s newly known love for the TV show “24.” Yes. Surprise.
Next on this show, Kent Jones had another busy day down in Texas. Today he doubled back to a place called The Lodge, a place that Newt Gingrich honored then dishonored when he found out what The Lodge was. This is sort of a PG-13 story with a happy ending. Don‘t tell your parents.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: I‘ve been waiting for this story all day.
All right. It was a great window into the business model of Newt Gingrich Inc. Gingrich‘s Political Action Committee asked business owners across the country if they‘d like to fork over $5,000 in order to receive an Entrepreneur of the Year Award at a dinner with former speaker of the house in Washington, DC.
The owner of The Lodge in Dallas, Texas took Mr. Gingrich up on the offer, but once Mr. Gingrich realized that The Lodge is a gentleman‘s club, he canceled the invitation. But when we first met the club owner, Dawn Rizos, and her PR Manager, Mike Precker, earlier this month, they told us how disappointed they were by the decision. They had sent their $5,000 and everything. They said they were just waiting for their refund to arrive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I can‘t apologize on behalf of Newt Gingrich, but I‘m sorry that he did this mean thing, and good luck with your business.
MIKE PRECKER, PR MANAGER, THE LODGE: Stop by sometime. Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: I don‘t get to Dallas much, but thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s true. I don‘t get to Dallas much. But guess who was right down the road from Dallas in Ft. Worth, Texas to see George W. Bush motivational speech yesterday - our own Kent Jones, and he took The Lodge up on their invitation.
Kent, how was it? What happened?
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. Best assignment ever!
And I have new info on the Newt Gingrich story.
JONES (voice-over): After enjoying some Texas hospitality and sampling some of The Lodge‘s award-winning cuisine, I sat down with Lodge owner Dawn Rizos, who was still smarting over Newt Gingrich taking back her Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
DAWN RIZOS, OWNER, THE LODGE: I really think this is a beautiful place with wonderful food and I can‘t understand why he wouldn‘t be proud to give The Lodge an award.
JONES: Even though Dawn didn‘t get the award, she got something better - an idea.
JONES (on camera): You got the money back?
RIZOS: Yes. We did.
JONES: That‘s great. What are you going to do with the money?
RIZOS: Well, there‘s an animal shelter that let me know that very same week that they were in need of winter housing for their pit bulls.
JONES: Are you going to name it after him?
RIZOS: Yes. We‘re going to name it Newt‘s Nook.
JONES: Is Newt Gingrich invited to the ribbon cutting at the animal shelter?
RIZOS: Yes. We haven‘t scheduled it yet. It‘s probably going to be the first week in November, and we will make sure that he‘s notified. We‘d love to have him there.
JONES: Why did you choose pit bulls?
RIZOS: I think they‘re a very maligned breed of dog, and most of the pit bulls I‘ve met are much sweeter than my Chihuahua and there‘s a real need for people to adopt and take care of this breed.
JONES (voice-over): Newt Gingrich is also a much maligned breed, but if he ever comes to The Lodge, he‘ll be treated like best in show.
JONES (on camera): If and when Newt Gingrich decides to come, what would you serve him here?
RIZOS: Well, I think our most popular is the steak and lobster, and I‘d certainly open up a wonderful bottle of champagne for him and.
RIZOS: . make sure we had plenty of great entertainment.
JONES: That come with sides?
JONES: Salad if I want?
JONES (voice-over): Mr. Gingrich, trust me, the sides here are excellent.
MADDOW: Kent, you got paid for your job today.
JONES (on camera): I certainly did. I certainly did. Yes.
MADDOW: So the money.
JONES: Wonderful time at The Lodge.
MADDOW: So the $5,000 that they paid to accept the award - honestly, what I think has to be the sort of scam award from Newt Gingrich that Gingrich didn‘t get back (ph). It‘s going to be a winterized pit bull shelter at the local animal - animal shelter.
JONES: That‘s correct. That‘s correct. Up to 200 dogs are going to be at this.
JONES: And it‘s a fantastic deal. Everybody wins.
MADDOW: That‘s very impressive. Now, they said that they have all of the awards that they‘ve received over time, like, on prominent display in the strip club. Did you see that?
JONES: Yes. Yes, they did. Things like Best Topless Club in Dallas, for instance. I mean, they won that. So it‘s - it‘s quite a place, Rachel, and - and you‘re invited anytime. The invite stands.
MADDOW: I hear that they also (INAUDIBLE) their “Welcome Home, Mr. President from The Lodge” t-shirt from when Bush moved back to Texas, so I guess I owe them (ph).
MADDOW: Thanks, Kent.
Thank you for watching tonight. We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.
“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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