November 4, 2009
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Matthew Hoh, Al Gore
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. I nominate you for best, and by that, I mean the worst use of the word "dispassionate" I've ever heard on television.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.
MADDOW: Well done. Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks, Michael Musto.
And thank you at home for staying with us for our first pre-2010 election show.
The chaos that marked the conservative's defeat in New York's 23rd election last night has already crept into the run-up to next year's election. I'm being serious.
We will also review the mixed night for gay rights and a big night for pot.
The interview tonight is Matthew Hoh, who resigned from the U.S. State Department in protest of the Afghanistan war. He'll be here live.
And former Vice President Al Gore took the time to answer my questions about global warming, deniers in Congress, his old running mate, Joe Lieberman, and his one-time successor, Dick Cheney.
All that, plus an excellent post-election "Moment of Geek." It's all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with the end of election 2009 and the very exciting beginning of election 2010 -- which, of course, starts with the breathless spinning of last night's results.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: There's no question that these elections propel Republicans into 2010.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We won one in California, we won the big one in New York 23, where the Obama agenda was at play were in the two congressional races, both of which were won by Democrats.
REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA: Taking away from this, you know, we look to '010. People have clearly made a choice in our state. They have said no to the one-way street of the economic policies of the Obama administration and the Pelosi Congress.
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Assume the Heisman position. Yes, baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told you!
STEELE: There you go. That's my moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, baby.
Spin aside, the political map in this country did change last night. Before last night, here was the partisan breakdown of governor seats across the country: 22 Republican governors and 28 Democrats.
After last night, this is what it looks like. Yes, I know, stunning, right? Republicans picked up Virginia and New Jersey. So, we're now at 24 Republicans and 26 Democrats.
In terms of congressional races, last night California's 10th district stayed blue, but it got a little blue-ier as moderate Democrat Ellen Tauscher was replaced by progressive Democrat John Garamendi.
The congressional race that got all of the attention last night was, of course, in the northeast. It was New York's 23rd congressional district.
Here's how the northeast breaks down in terms of all of its congressional districts. All right. There are 51 congressional districts when you look at all of New England and New York.
Here was the red/blue partisan divide in the northeast before last night's elections-all Democratic-held seats except for three Republican seats in the state of New York. Now, after last night, drum roll, please. Boink! Yes, again, not all that exciting. An overwhelmingly blue region of the country gets slightly more blue with the Democratic win of New York 23rd.
Earth-shattering, right? No, of course, it's not at all earth-shattering. But if what happened last night is taken as the template for the parties to position themselves for 2010, then last night really could have out-sized importance. Even though it only changed maps in very subtle ways.
Even though Republicans lost in New York's 23rd district last night, their actions today indicate that conservatives may be building their campaign for 2010 on what happened in that congressional race in New York.
Today's political news was all about California, of all places, where McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina today made the long-expected announcement that she's running for the Republican nomination to try to unseat Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer next year. Unexpectedly, Ms. Fiorina is already being cast by the conservative movement in the role of ousted New York 23 Republican Dede Scozzafava. Playing the role of Ms. Scozzafava's ouster, Doug Hoffman in this case, is the more conservative Californian Republican Chuck DeVore, who's running against Carly Fiorina out there.
The role of the not-from-around-here conservative celebrity here to big-foot the local race, played in New York by Fred Thompson, Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Rick Santorum, Glenn Beck, et cetera, it's being played in California by Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who is throwing his weight not behind the party favorite, Ms. Fiorina, but instead behind conservative movement favorite, Chuck DeVore.
This race even has its own Newt Gingrich figure, too. The figure once thought of as a true conservative, but now risking everything to take on the celebrity conservatives of his own party. It's Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in California, who is backing Ms. Fiorina.
Senator Graham offering this warning today to those who might try to "New York 23" any future races, quote, "To those people who are pursuing purity, you'll become a club, not a party."
As a kickoff for those who might wish to purify the Republican Party in 2010, the latest tea party-style, FOX News-promoted protest against the government is tomorrow in D.C. Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on Glenn Beck's TV show today, calling for freedom fighters across the country to meet at high noon tomorrow at the U.S. Capitol to look into the whites of the eyes of congressmen for big anti-health reform demonstration.
It's an event that's being organized in party by the group FreedomWorks, which just launched a Web site called-I'm not kidding-
Don'tKillGrandma.com. On that site, FreedomWorks is calling for a simultaneous nationwide rally tomorrow at all congressional offices in the country, as well as at the Capitol Hill steps in Washington, D.C. There, they say, there will be a simultaneous chant of "Kill the bill," followed by protesters physically burying it-burying the paper copy of the bill. If you want, FreedomWorks is also providing helpful talking points for those who might not want to attend.
The prospect of thousands of Tea Party Patriots descending on Washington tomorrow was terribly exciting for Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa, who had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA: There are buses coming in from state after state after state, converging on this city. People are dropping what's important. It's as if Paul Revere had ridden across America and said, "Here's the call. Here's the call of your country."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To be technically correct, it's not really Paul Revere that's calling, it's actually the ninth richest man in the world. David Koch, head of the giant oil company, Koch Industries, and national chairman of Americans for Prosperity.
See, it's Americans for Prosperity that is providing the buses, busing people in from all over the east coast tomorrow for the "whites of their eyes," "don't kill grandma," "bury the health care bill" rally in D.C.
We checked with Americans for Prosperity today to see if they would disclose to us who's paying to provide the free bus rides to D.C. for the "whites of their eyes" rally. They gave us some general information about the financial relationship they have with their local chapters, but they could not tell us definitively who's funding all those buses.
So, the "whites of their eyes" demonstrators tomorrow will enjoy the financial largess of undisclosed donors bussing them to D.C.
The John McCain wing of the Republican Party has already been declared the enemy by the conservative movement, and the 2010 election season is already fun.
Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of "The Washington Post."
Gene, thanks very much for your time tonight.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good news or bad news for the White House and for Democrats -
if New York 23 becomes the template for conservatives for 2010?
ROBINSON: Well, if New York 23 is the way that conservatives want to play 2010, then I think there probably is rejoicing, certainly in the California Democratic Party and maybe at the White House. It's-it strikes me as insane to think that you could win a Senate seat in California if you're a Republican running on the tea party platform. It just-I don't think that's going to work.
And I think they'd be better off with Carly Fiorina, who's not necessarily the greatest candidate, who's something of a loose cannon, but at least she's more in line with Republicans who are able to win statewide office in California. They tend to be people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, who's not-who's not of the tea party ilk.
So this, I would think, would be seen as fairly positive news by Democrats.
MADDOW: It is striking-I mean, you're a South Carolina native, Gene. It is striking to see this split between South Carolina's two conservative Republican senators, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, being played out all the way across the country in the Barbara Boxer Senate race. It makes me wonder if a lot of what we're seeing here in terms of the schism among conservatives and Republicans really is a regional thing. Maybe the Doug Hoffman race would have turned out a lot differently in South Carolina than it did in Upstate New York.
ROBINSON: Well, and maybe it would have. It's partly regional, but I think it is partly a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. I mean, there was enough tumults in New York 23 to drive Dede Scozzafava out of the race and, granted-you know, granted, a lot of that came from out of the state.
I suppose when you're talking about the Republican Party at all these days, you're almost talking about a regional party. But as a strategy for making it a big tent party that can move beyond the South and into-back into parts of the country where the Republican Party was once strong, it just seems to me to be insanity. But the Republicans probably have to fight this out and come to some sort of way forward. And it might be messy for a while.
MADDOW: Well, some of the conservative celebrities who engineered the Republican loss in New York 23, they already are promising to primary moderate Republicans in 2010. And we're seeing Carly Fiorina on their list. We're seeing Charlie Crist in Florida on their list.
Who's going to come to the defense of these folks? Or are these politicians who get targeted by the conservative movement-these conservative celebrities-are they really politicians without a country right now, without allies?
ROBINSON: They seem to be. I mean, you've got people like Lindsey Graham, who, for all his eccentricities, often takes positions that I find it difficult to agree with, but he is pretty much a maverick, you know? He's pretty mavericky as we were saying when McCain and Palin were running, and he will go out and say things that are not politically popular among the conservatives and take his chances.
But there are so many Republicans, especially in the House, are in safe Republican seats and they worry about primary challenges from the right. And where's the energy on the right? It's with the tea party people who are-who are providing the kind of electricity that there is in the Republican Party right now.
So, it's very difficult for them to say, "Well, I'm just going to defy those people and tell them, 'No, this is the wrong way to go,'" and then see somebody come at you from the right and maybe knock you off in a primary. This is-so I don't expect to see that many profiles in courage, particularly coming from the ranks of the House.
You'll hear a lot from retired Republican politicians, of those who don't hold office right now, because they don't have anything to worry about. But will they be listened to? I doubt they will be by those who have to run in primaries.
MADDOW: I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to covering it all.
MADDOW: Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at "The Washington Post"-Gene, it's always great to have you on the show. Thank you for your time.
ROBINSON: So great to talk to you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, last night was a good night for wild spending billionaire mayors, for gay rights measures that didn't say the word "Marriage," and for marijuana. It may sound like all the components from deadly war movie from about 1981, but it was American politics last night.
Later, we will be joined by Matthew Hoh. Matthew Hoh is the first U.S. government official to resign his posts because of his objections to American's war in Afghanistan. That's all coming up.
But first, "One More Thing" about day one of the 2010 races. Fresh off the big conservative loss in New York 23, Dick Armey's FreedomWorks organization is already shifting gears, to help organize the big high noon, "whites of their eyes," anti-health reform rally tomorrow in Washington. Mr. Armey's group is even providing talking points, as we said, to the marchers.
While he's busy with that, Mr. Armey is the focus of a pair of new exposes by "The New York Times Sunday Magazine" and by the "Dallas Morning News." The latter is featuring a must-read about Dick Armey's simultaneous work as the head of FreedomWorks and as a corporate lobbyist for the firm DLA Piper. It is a relationship that's now resolved because he's quit DLA Piper. But there's also an amazing and not-at-all complicated tale of Mr. Armey getting paid lots of money to support certain issues and lots of money to oppose those very same issues at the very same time.
Check our website, Rachel.MSNBC.com for both articles. You will thank me. Trust me.
We'll be right back.
MADDOW: Former Vice President Al Gore sat for an interview with me, and among the many things we talked about was another former vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You waited a couple of years before being openly critical of the Bush/Cheney administration. Vice President Dick Cheney, in contrast, waited about five minutes before he came out with very full-throated criticism of the Obama administration. Do you think he was wrong to do so?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Coming up: Vice President Gore's answer to that and many other questions. Stay tuned for this.
MADDOW: Still ahead: The decorated Iraq War veteran who resigned his post in the U.S. Foreign Service because of his articulate, passionate objections to the war in Afghanistan. Matthew Hoh will join us here shortly for his first prime-time interview.
But first, yesterday was a "Super Tuesday" for some and a perceptively less "Super Tuesday" for others. For Michael Bloomberg, it was kind of both. Bloomberg was elected to a third term as mayor of New York City, but he fell seriously short of pretty much everyone's expectations, beating his opponent by a mere five points. It was surprising, especially considering that Mayor Bloomberg spent over $100 million on this race.
Yesterday, before all the votes were tallied, we estimated based on
past turnout that Bloomberg was spending about $77.52 per vote. As it
turns out, yesterday's voter turnout in New York City was really low. So,
looking at the 550,000 votes that Mr. Bloomberg actually received, how much
did he really end up paying for each one? Actually, about $179.51 per vote
a very steep fare to pay for a ride to city hall, even by Manhattan standards.
And yesterday, the big headline-grabber on gay rights issues was the result on Question 1 in the state of Maine. Voters repealed the same-sex marriage rights in Maine, which means that same-sex marriage is now 0-31 at the ballot box.
But the northeast corner of the country was not the only gay rights battleground. Virginia elected an attorney general named Kenneth Cuccinelli, who has been called-excuse me-who has called being gay, quote, "intrinsically wrong," and has said that it does not comport with natural law. The state's new top lawyer is so far out ahead of the anti-gay pact that a pre-election "Washington Post" editorial called Mr. Cuccinelli a bigot.
It should also be noted that Virginia's new governor-elect, Bob McDonnell, just a few years ago said that certain homosexual conduct could and should disqualify a person from being a judge because of violating Virginia's crimes against nature law.
But not all of yesterday's news was a punch in the stomach for gay civil rights. Washington state voted to approve everything but marriage. Their Referendum 71 giving gay people all the legal trappings, but not the name of marriage.
In the South, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, they elected their first openly gay mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt.
And Houston's mayoral race will be decided in a runoff. But if Annise Parker wins, she will be the first openly gay woman elected mayor of a major American city.
Also in the Great Lakes region, voters in Kalamazoo, Michigan, approved a measure banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.
And, finally, your last dose of election night '09 news, voters in Maine approved a provision allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. And by overwhelming margin, voters in Breckenridge, Colorado, chose to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and marijuana-related paraphernalia.
A vote without much real-life consequence because pot possession remains illegal under state law, but still, Breckenridge is a ski town. So, for the sake of residents' corporeal well-being, we all hope that marijuana-related paraphernalia does not include skis and snowboards, dude.
MADDOW: We've learned from news reports today that five British soldiers were killed yesterday. And they were killed by someone who is not supposed to be their enemy. It was in southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province, at a checkpoint where Afghan and British soldiers serve together. But without warning, one of the Afghan troops at that checkpoint opened fire on his supposed British allies, killing five of them.
If this scenario sounds familiar, it may be because last month in Wardak province, two American troops were also killed by supposedly friendly fire as an Afghan police officer shot the Americans during what was supposed to be a joint patrol.
The stated strategy of the U.S. military in Afghanistan now is to defeat the insurgency by protecting the people, by shoring up the state, by training and arming local security forces to be able to protect their own people and defend their own country.
Here's one issue: what if those local forces want to defend their country from us? Or from their own government that they really don't see as legitimate?
Last week, a Foreign Service officer and former marine captain named Matthew Hoh went public with his resignation from the U.S. State Department, making him the first U.S. official known to have resigned over the war in Afghanistan. His resignation letter said in part, quote, "I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. To put it simply, I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war."
Joining us now is Matthew Hoh.
Mr. Hoh, thanks very much for coming on the show. It's nice to see you.
MATTHEW HOH, FMR. FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: If Afghanistan is in a civil war, who's fighting each other and whose side have we taken?
HOH: Sure. This is a very, very complex. It's difficult to talk about this in a form, because it is very complex and it took me a long time to figure this out and it's taken other people a long time to figure it out. However, basically, what you have, two sides in this conflict, one is an urban, secular, educated, elite. The other is a poor, rural, religious and traditional.
We're on the former side, which also happens to be the same side that the Soviet Union was on when it had its own Afghan war. This is a civil war that's been going on for 35 years, and the only way to solve it is through political reconciliation.
MADDOW: Is our presence there helping the likelihood of political reconciliation or hindering it?
HOH: It would help it if we forced the Karzai government to do so. The Karzai government has no interest in reconciliation. Unfortunately, U.S. policy has been for the last several years not to be involved in any reconciliation process.
MADDOW: What do you think would happen if we keep on with it? If our strategy doesn't change, if we maintain the same number of troops we've got now or even increase troops the way that's being proposed?
HOH: I think, in four to five years, we're in the same situation we're in right now. We may have stabilized the Afghan government to some extent by some measure, by some metric, that we can demonstrate success. However, it won't end the civil war.
And most importantly, though, it doesn't attain our two goals of defeating al Qaeda and stabilizing Pakistan. And Pakistan should be our priority because of its nuclear weapons and its relationship with India.
MADDOW: So, you think that if-imagining us there for another four years or five years, any military harm that we could cause to the people who are fighting-essentially, fighting the Afghan government would be offset by the continued recruiting advantages that we would offer by being there for that long and as in great as numbers as we're there?
HOH: Correct. Our presence fuels the insurgency. It's essentially (INAUDIBLE) and population control or securing the population. One of the things we should talk about was, how do you-you know, one of the tenants of counterinsurgency is to separate the population from the insurgents, or the insurgents from the population. But how do you do that when the population are the insurgents? It's very difficult-very difficult.
And we have to recognize that we are on one side of a civil war and we are only going to feel the insurgency by our presence. We're fighting people who are fighting us because we're occupying them, and we're supporting a central government that they don't want.
MADDOW: You served as a marine in Anbar province in Iraq and you served with the U.S. State Department in Tikrit as well before coming to Afghanistan, is that right?
HOH: Correct. That's actually a Department of Defense civilian-assigned to a State Department team in Tikrit. And then we were embedded with the Army's first infantry division and the 42nd infantry division.
MADDOW: OK. John McCain and others arguing for more troops in Afghanistan are specifically citing Iraq, what happened in Iraq post-2006 as the reason why we should put more troops in Afghanistan. You have argued that the Iraq experience doesn't apply to Afghanistan.
Having seen both, what do you think are the-what are the salient characteristics about Afghanistan that make the strategy not apply?
HOH: Sure. I mean, there are some similarities, but the differences are overwhelming. You have training differences, you have population differences, you have cultural differences.
One of the key things we did during a surge was to do what we call "population control," where we basically, literally, fenced people in. And then used biometrics and other methods to control the population, to make sure we could catch the insurgents as they move from place to place. As well as in Baghdad, of course, we segregated the city so they couldn't move freely between the different areas.
That's not possible in Afghanistan. The population there-the rural population where the insurgency is based was spread out. It's like this peanut butter spread of villages across the countryside. And just, so, for that reason alone, population control won't work.
But there are so many differences with the people, the cultural, the
enemy, the history, that you can't take a cookie cutter approach and just -
because it worked there, it will work there. It's just not-it's just not feasible.
MADDOW: If we left or if we pulled back drastically, you were most recently in Zabul Province.
MADDOW: What-I know you were the top-ranking U.S. civilian official there. What would happen in our wake if we left? What would be the effect in that province?
HOH: Oh, you know, this is difficult because I had Afghans who became my friends and I worked-I worked daily with Afghan officials. I mean, we literally lived with each other. They lived right on the other side of our gate. I mean, we lived in the city. So it's difficult to say this, but there would be probably a bloodbath. There would be an increased amount of fighting.
However, as difficult it is to say this, because you do have some moral obligation to this, I believe our commander-in-chief, I believe our elected officials, I believe our nation has a higher obligation to our men and women in uniform to only commit them in combat when there is something of strategic value to the United States.
And we don't have that in Afghanistan. We don't. It's not defeating al-Qaeda. And it's not stabilizing the region, our presence there.
MADDOW: Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain, political officer with the U.S. Foreign Service, your resignation has been a real clarion call to a lot of people. Thank you for speaking out. I know this has been a difficult thing for you to do.
HOH: Thank you.
MADDOW: It's nice to meet you. Good luck to you.
HOH: It's nice to meet you. Thank you.
MADDOW: Former Vice President Al Gore just sat with me for an interview on the occasion of his new book being published. I took the opportunity to find out what he really thinks about Michael Steele saying there's global cooling now as well as his old pal Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney. That is ahead - my interview with Al Gore. Stay with us.
But first, one more thing about life during wartime. The "New York Times" reports that the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 bomb detectors. They're small hand-held wands that have a big telescopic antenna on a swivel.
They cost between $16,000 and $60,000 a pop. And according to experts who have seen them in action and who have tested devices like them, they're worthless. One retired Air Force colonel tells "The Times," the device works, quote, "on the same principle as a Ouija board."
He also compared it to a divining rod - no offense to the dowsers among us. The company that sells these contraptions says they can find guns, ammunitions, drugs, truffles, human bodies, and even contraband ivory at distances up to a kilometer, underground, through walls, underwater, or even from airplanes three miles high.
Oddly, the Iraqi government loves the magic wands, even though in tests, none of them performed better than flipping a coin. So security based on wildly overpriced wishful thinking. Enjoy your own personal metaphor about that.
MADDOW: The political right really wants to stop global warming legislation in this country. Conservative Congresswoman Michele Bachmann famously said earlier this year that she'd like her constituents in Minnesota to be armed and dangerous against the global warming bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The issue of reducing carbon emissions to stop global warming also recently prompted conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to tell the "New York Times" environment reporter, Andrew Revkin, that Revkin should kill himself.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This guy from the "New York Times" - if he really thinks that humanity is destroying the planet, humanity is destroying the climate, that human beings in their natural existence are going to cause the extinction of life on earth, Andrew Revkin - Mr. Revkin, why don't you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: "Mr. Revkin, why don't you go kill yourself?" The political right is loaded for bare against the global warming legislation in Congress right now. But give Senate Republicans a little credit for creativity in the way they've decided to fight it.
They are now in day two of their bold strategy of fighting the bill by refusing to come to work, arguing that the Senate Environment Committee needs at least two Republicans present in order to move the bill forward. Only one Republican per day has been showing up to the markup hearings.
Sen. George Voinovich was the only member of his party to make an appearance yesterday. Today, it was Sen. James Inhofe's term. He arrived at the hearing this morning ostensibly to hand over a letter with Republican demands on the bill, including the need for a lengthy analysis of the bill by the Environmental Protection Agency.
And despite the best entreaties of the chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, the senior senator from Oklahoma, Mr. Inhofe, left the hearing after barely 15 minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), CHAIRWOMAN, SENATE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE:
We continue to hold our hand out. We hope you - let the record show we're holding hands right here. We hold hands on a lot of issues. This is not one where we've been able to bridge the divide.
SEN. JIM INHOFE (R-OK): We might.
BOXER: But we hope we can. Sen. Inhofe, I really appreciate your stopping by and I hope you'll come back soon.
INHOFE: I'll come back soon.
BOXER: And I hope you'll bring back a number of your friends with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At the forefront of the push for climate change legislation and working behind the scenes to get it, as it turns out, is Al Gore. I got the chance to sit down with the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former vice president of the United States to ask him about his efforts, as well as the attempts by people like Sen. Inhofe to thwart those efforts.
MADDOW: Mr. Vice President, first, thank you for taking the time to do this. Really appreciate it.
AL GORE, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: I'm delighted to be here. I'm a big fan of your show, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well, even if that's just flattery, I'll happily accept it.
GORE: Not just flattery. I was telling you earlier, I like the show. Your research staff does a superb job. And you cover stories that nobody else is really doing in that kind of depth, so...
MADDOW: That's very kind of you. Thanks. Copenhagen next month ...
MADDOW: ... to come up to - with a successor to the Kyoto Treaty. You were a negotiator for the United States on the Kyoto treaty. It was not ratified in this country. And you described it as having been demonized. How was it demonized? And are you worried that whatever comes out of Copenhagen they'll be able to do the same thing?
GORE: Well, I think we've learned a lot from that experience. And it was criticized mercilessly, heartily by an organized lobby of carbon polluters. And in some ways, this is not new. Every time we as Americans have tried to stop the dumping of pollution, whether in the air or the water or on the ground, there have always been polluters who did not want to be restrained.
And in this case, we're now putting 90 million tons every day of global warming pollution into this thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet. And as the scientists have long warned, it is now raising temperatures on the planet, giving the planet a fever, if you will, and the consequences are beginning to unfold: melting ice, rising sea levels, stronger storms, deeper droughts, tropical diseases moving northward, and southward, in the southern hemisphere.
We're seeing bigger floods and downpours. And the consequences in terms of climate refugees, the trickle has already begun, but for each meter of sea level, there are 100 million climate refugees.
And the carbon polluters do not want any restraint placed on their ability to just dump it into the air as if it's an open sewer. So they have geared up again, but there is a much stronger consensus and a much stronger conviction on the part of publics around the world, including the American people, that we've got to do something about this.
There's a very strong majority in support of action and a strong majority in support of the pending legislation in the U.S. Senate.
MADDOW: In the United States Congress, whatever's happening in the real world, you have people like John Shimkus saying things like this in Congress. At a congressional hearing on global warming, he said, "If we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, aren't we not taking plant food from the atmosphere?" That's the level of at least some of the discourse in Congress on this. And ...
GORE: Well, the leader of the House Republicans, John Boehner, said,
"I don't think CO-2 causes cancer." Well, I don't even know where to start
MADDOW: Michael Steele says we're in - we're facing an epidemic of global cooling. And ...
GORE: Well ...
MADDOW: That's the - where do you start? If - how do you win an argument with folks who literally don't make sense?
GORE: Well, I think, you know, there are still some people - maybe 14 percent, 15 percent who believe that the moon landing was staged on a movie lot in Arizona, and there are other similar examples, and there are some people with whom you're not going to successfully engage in that argument.
But I would reach out to them anyway. Even if they hold those beliefs, we need to protect our national security. We need to reinvigorate our economy.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal had a story about a huge new wind farm in Texas, one of the largest in the world. A hundred percent of the windmills are being made in China, and the financing is coming almost entirely from the Chinese government.
They've set a national priority of leading the world in renewable energy and the new economy of the 21st century. Are we going to continue to buy our energy from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and a global market that is so volatile that it has to be regularly defended with troops going over there?
And I know there are complicated reasons for the wars and all that. But our national security is vulnerable to a cutoff of those large pools of oil in the Middle East.
When are we going to say, "Wait a minute. We want to be in charge of our own destiny again. We want to have American renewable energy"? More solar energy falls on the surface of this planet in one hour than is equal to the entire world's energy use for a full year. And the engineers and scientists have now improved the technologies for capturing that and transforming it into electricity.
When we make a commitment - the reason I titled my book "Our Choice" is that the first step is, we've got to make a choice to reclaim our destiny and do right by our kids. But even those who don't want to look at the climate science or accept it ought to be concerned about the rising dependence from foreign - on foreign oil sources and the rising need to create more jobs here.
MADDOW: Which is something that the last seven presidents or so have been trying to get the American people excited about ...
GORE: Since Richard Nixon.
MADDOW: Yes, and it sounds great every time they say it. And meanwhile, our - our dependence on foreign oil increases.
You are the - certainly the country's, probably the world's leading spokesman on the issue of global warming. That makes you a heck of a target. The New York Times today front-paged a story that gave voice to criticism by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn from your home state of Tennessee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, saying that you, by investing in companies that will benefit financially if these policies that you're advocating go into affect, you essentially have a conflict of interest. What's your response?
GORE: Well, first of all, in the nine years since I left public service, I've enjoyed the business world. The vast majority of my activities has been in other areas. But, yes, I absolutely - absolutely believe in investing according to my values and beliefs. And I recommend that everybody do that. If I did not, these same people would accuse me of being a hypocrite for not putting my money where my mouth is.
So there's a shortage of capital in the markets for the kinds of technologies that need rapid development. And - and, yes, I'm proud to have invested in some of them.
MADDOW: Do you think that there is a political risk both to you and your cause if you're seen as becoming very wealthy as a result of the policies that you've advocated?
GORE: Well, first of all, I have donated all of the proceeds from this book, everything that I've made from those technologies, and more to this nonprofit organization, the Alliance for Climate Protection, which is focused on trying to build the political will necessary to bring about this change.
And, by the way, we have a new Web site up called
"RepowerAmerica.org," and I encourage everybody who wants to help solve the climate crisis to go to that Web site, become a part of what we call "the wall," and put up a short video explaining why it's important to solve the climate crisis.
MADDOW: Much more of my conversation with Vice President Al Gore coming up, including what he really thinks about the last vice president, Dick Cheney, and his current opinion of his former running mate, Joe Lieberman. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Thirty years ago, this was the scene in Tehran today. Student revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy. They took 52 Americans at the embassy hostage. They ended up holding them for more than 14 months.
Iran's new with the time revolutionary government that opposed the Shah backed the student protesters. And government essentially remains in place today. And the siege of our embassy 30 years ago is celebrated today as an Iranian national holiday.
This year, on the anniversary yielded the same anti-American banners and speakers denouncing the U.S. and chants of death to America. But it also showed signs of what could be the new Iranian revolution.
The protest movement that arose this year in opposition to the government and to the suspect re-election of Iran's president defied warnings from authorities and used today's holiday to make their latest show of force on Tehran's streets.
Media in Iran is still restricted, but witnesses describe thousands of opposition protesters in the streets. President Obama's statement on Iran today asserted, quote, "The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history. The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice and their courageous pursuit of universal rights."
We will be right back with more of my interview with former Vice President Al Gore right after this.
MADDOW: Given the recent relentless criticism of President Obama by Al Gore's successor as vice president, and given the current politics of Mr. Gore's own choice for his vice presidential running mate in 2000, I asked Al Gore what he really thinks about Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman. Check it out.
MADDOW: You waited a couple of years before being openly critical of the Bush-Cheney administration. You gave very strong speeches that I re-read in preparation for talking to you today during the run-up to the Iraq war, some very prescient speeches at the time, given how things turned out.
Vice President Dick Cheney, in contrast, waited about five minutes before he came out with very full-throated criticism about the Obama administration. Do you think he was wrong to do so?
GORE: Well, he has a right to speak, as every American does. And I don't begrudge him that right. I think - I get the feeling that an awful lot of Republicans wish he would not do so. But that's his choice. And I'm not going to try to deny him that right.
MADDOW: One other contentious person in today's politics who you've had a very close association with is Sen. Joe Lieberman, your running mate in 2000. His politics have changed a lot since then. He's now an independent. He's now personally threatening to be the guy who kills health reform, stand with Republicans and filibuster health reform, because he's against the public option.
Do you have any continuing relationships with him at all?
GORE: Sure. Sure.
MADDOW: Do you - I guess I'll just ask this in a pointed way. Do you regret the sort of turbo-boost you gave to his career by picking him as your running mate, given how he has changed in his politics in the eight years or nine years since?
GORE: Well, short answer is no. We were very close friends in the Senate. We're still friends. And he was right and forceful on many of the issues that I felt were central, including global warming. He's been one of the leaders on that issue, on women's rights, on a whole range of issues.
I disagree with him on a lot of the issues that have become more prominent since then. But I would urge people to wait until the denouement of this health care debate to see where it falls out, because I do believe that Harry Reid is going to be successful in passing it fairly soon.
I also believe, by the way, that the Senate is going to pass climate and energy legislation before Copenhagen. I know the Las Vegas betting is the other way, and my view is not widely shared, but there is much more dialogue and progress behind the scenes than is visible publicly. And I think there's an excellent chance that we will get legislation.
MADDOW: Are you involved personally in trying to get the votes?
GORE: I have been called by the leadership and also by John Kerry and Barbara Boxer, who are the key point people on this, both of them doing a terrific job. And I've given advice. I'm not individually calling senators, no, but I'm close enough to it to have a very strong feeling that it's moving forward and has a much greater chance of passage than most people think.
MADDOW: More of my interview with the former vice president of the United States, Al Gore, on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW tomorrow. But still to come on this show, a most excellent "Moment of Geek."
And coming up after us on MSNBC, the lost election night victory and concession speeches of Sarah Palin as interpreted by "COUNTDOWN." Stay with us.
MADDOW: Every once in a while in the news and politics business, it is helpful to have someone in your life close to you who isn't all that into politics. Last night, when I went back to my office after wrapping up my election night coverage, I checked my voicemail and I had a message from my partner Susan telling her to call her right away because she wanted to hear what I thought about yesterday's big news.
So I called and I found out that the big news that she wanted to talk about was that 82 brand-new baby sea turtles had just been born in San Diego. The babies started to hatch in the first week of October by using their little egg teeth to poke their way out of the ping-pong ball sized eggs that had been laid about three months ago.
The hatchlings initially weighed about half an ounce. But apparently they're gaining weight rapidly and by the time they hit adulthood about 20 years from now, they'll weigh 250 pounds.
Green sea turtles can live to be over 100 years old. The biggest one ever recorded weighed 871 pounds, which, just for reference, is about 3 ½ Junior Seaus, and it's a turtle.
All of the world's species of sea turtles are on the endangered list. So there being 82 new little ones in the world is sort of a big turtle-y deal. These were born at Seaworld in San Diego. Seaworld is very excited that these turtles did it all on their own. No human help with the egg incubation at this time.
So congratulations to the endangered, enormous turtles. Seaworld is conducting some reverse Maury Povich style genetic testing to see if there are multiple moms here or just one proud mother of 82.
And whether or not your chosen candidate or your chosen issue won at the polls last night, hey, there are 82 new, adorable baby sea turtles in the world. And that is your totally, blissfully, happily, apolitical "Moment of Geek" for today.
Thank you for watching tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. "COUNTDOWN" starts right now. Have a good one.
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