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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, November 6, 2009

Read the transcript to the Friday show


November 6, 2009



Guests: Suhail Khan, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Al Gore

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you for that. Happy Friday.


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Congressman Anthony Weiner will be joining us this hour to preview what's expected to be Saturday's big vote on health reform-at last.

And former Vice President Al Gore makes a very rare comment about his role in the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee from captivity in North Korea earlier this year.

There's a whole lot more going on in the show tonight.

But we begin with a story of the mass shootings at Fort Hood yesterday, with new details that broke over the course of the day and into tonight. The death toll now stands at 13. The bodies are being flown to Dover Air Force Base where autopsies will be performed. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, will travel to Dover tonight to attend the arrival of the remains of those killed in the attack.

The numbers of those reported wounded in the attack has increased. The military now is saying that 34 people, in addition to those killed, suffered gunshot wounds in the attack, and nine others suffered other non-gunshot injuries, caused by the attack.

Among the dead are 12 U.S. soldiers and one civilian Army health care provider.

The alleged gunman, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, we now know was shot four times. He survived and has been transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He is said to be in a coma and in the intensive care unit. Authorities have not been able to talk to him but investigators have examined his computer, his apartment, and they've gone through his garbage.

Law enforcement officials have revealed one of the hand guns used by Hasan in the shooting rampage was an FN-57, a semiautomatic pistol known for being lightweight and for its use with so-called "cop killer" bullets, designed to penetrate body armor. Hasan bought the weapon legally at a Killeen, Texas, gun store called Guns Galore.

Some of the new details out today conflict with some of the first reports out yesterday. Among the details that were inaccurate, Mr. Hasan was not a member of ROTC, as has been previously reported. He did sign up for the military after high school and he graduated with honors from Virginia Tech.

Mr. Hasan was also not set to deploy to Iraq at the end of this month.

He was actually headed to Afghanistan.

Major Hasan's first cousin issued this statement today on behalf of Hasan's family.

Quote, "Our family is filled with grief for the victims and their families involved in yesterday's tragedy. We are mortified and there is no justification whatsoever for what happened. We cannot explain, nor do we excuse or understand what happened yesterday. Yesterday's violence, in now way reflects the feelings, beliefs or principles of our family.

We have spoken with the FBI, answered all their questions, provided them with all the information we have. We are humbled by the overwhelming support from friends and colleague who know our family, know our values, know our commitment to our community, and know our love for America."

Fort Hood, as you know, is the largest U.S. military base. It is home to two Army divisions: the 1st Calvary and the 4th Infantry Division. The 1st Calvary is now deployed in Iraq.

Today, we reached out to the command sergeant major of the 1st Cav in Baghdad to find out his soldiers are coping with the knowledge of this shooting back at home, where many of their families live.

Command Sergeant Major Rory Malloy told us this, quote, "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the solders we lost yesterday, the wounded and the troopers at Fort Hood. We are remaining focused on our combat mission and greatly appreciate the comfort of knowing we have a strong chain of command and support system in place to care for our families back home. Our families remain resilient through the many tough times they have faced throughout this deployment. The chain of command here in Iraq are working with the troopers to ensure they know we have counselors available for them here in Iraq if they need assistance."

Joining us now is MSNBC military analyst, Colonel Jack Jacobs.

Colonel Jacobs, thanks very much for joining us.


MADDOW: First of all, let me just ask if there's any new information that's become available tonight? I know you're there in Fort Hood. Or if there's any new background you've been able to find on this shooter or on this crime?

JACOBS: Well, the weapon you mentioned is an extremely powerful weapon. My understanding is that it is extremely expensive. It costs about $1,000. And the ammunition isn't cheap, either. It fires a very, very powerful bullet at a very high rate of speed and is extremely destructive. That's the only thing I can turn up that hasn't been mentioned before.

I did discover also what you had said that he got it legally.

Any time any military person has a weapon and has-and brings it on post, it must be registered with the military police. And anybody with a weapon on post who doesn't have it registered is in big trouble. I do not know whether or not this weapon had been registered.

MADDOW: Jack, one of the-one of the issues that's been hard to understand about this story, particularly for those of us who weren't that familiar with weapons, is the feasibility that one person armed with two hand guns, even if they are semiautomatic and very powerful hand guns, could do this much damage. Could wound or kill more than 40 people, a single shooter with two pistols. Does it seem feasible to you all in all?

JACOBS: No. It doesn't actually. The math doesn't work out. One guy, even two weapons with 20 rounds per weapon, inflicting more than 40 wounds, even in a confined space, it doesn't make any sense.

My conclusion is, unfortunately, that some of the killed and wounded may have been-may have been injured or killed by friendly fire. And we won't know exactly what happened for quite some time until the investigation is completed. But the numbers just don't work out that this guy inflicted all the casualties.

MADDOW: What do you think that the Army investigation or the forensic investigation in general will be looking at here? Will they be looking to see if Major Hasan should have been red-flagged by the chain of command somehow? What else will they be looking for?

JACOBS: Well, certainly that. They're also going to try to figure out who should have done it. Don't forget, he was in the hands of a wide variety of people from the time he entered medical school until the time he finally got here to Fort Hood.

We do know-it's been reported-that the person who was the supervisor, who assigned patients at the time that Major Hasan was going through his residency, was reluctant to send him any because Major Hasan was not very good at what he did, was a loner, didn't communicate well and so on. So, whatever red flags occurred-occurred some time ago before he even got here.

And I think the other thing that's going to be turned up by the investigation is that there is a variety of things that the chain of command could have done from the very beginning of this guy's tenure back at Walter Reed that should have been picked up. He should have been yanked out of the system. And something positive should have been done either to fix him or to take him out of the system altogether and maybe this tragedy would have been avoided.

MADDOW: When you look at what we know about Major Hasan or Major Hasan (ph), I'm not exactly sure how to say it, I've seen it both ways today-when you look at his record and you look at his Army rank, you look at the amount of time that he'd been in service, the fact that he hadn't been deployed, the fact that he was due to deploy-is there anything that stands out to you as strange, as either-him as an underperforming soldier or somebody who maybe-shouldn't have been at the rank that he was?

JACOBS: Well, everything about him is strange. Now, generally speaking, I don't think I'm wrong. When somebody enters and then becomes a medical doctor, he becomes a captain. And when he gets certified in his specialty, frequently, and maybe even always, he gets elevated to the rank of major. But he has evidently been an underperforming soldier for quite some time. And what's really striking is that nothing apparently was done about it until this tragedy.

MADDOW: MSNBC military analyst, Colonel Jack Jacobs, joining us tonight from Fort Hood-thank you for your time, Jack. It's great to have you on the show.

JACOBS: You're welcome, Rachel.

MADDOW: Some of the reaction to the Fort Hood calamity has been as disheartening as it was predictable. Can we start with the fact that WorldNetDaily tried to link the alleged shooter to President Obama? Yes. More of that is next, emphasis on the moron.


MADDOW: At roughly 2:30 Eastern Time this morning, local news stations near Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in Jacksonville, North Carolina, posted a statement from base officials extending thoughts and prayers to the victims off the shootings at Fort Hood.

Less than seven hours later, the next dateline from Camp Lejeune concerned that base's own alleged fratricide. A 20-year-old marine private who was an Iraq war veteran was taken into custody and accused of k killing another Camp Lejeune marine. His body was found in a wooded area. The arrested marine is hospitalized, in serious condition from apparently self-inflicted wounds.

Then, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, about half an hour after soldiers honored the victims at Fort Hood with a moment of silence, police there got a call from a civilian who said that he shot his wife, a soldier at Fort Campbell. He then reportedly turned the gun on himself. Police found both the bodies, and their 4 and 6-year-old sons still alive inside their house.

We will be right back.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts.


MADDOW: That was either a very prescient or a very observant caution from President Obama today about the shootings at Fort Hood, because today, just as the president was urging diligence and deliberation, WorldNetDaily, the conservative conspiracy theory factory best known for advancing the cause of the birthers, was charming its way into the hearts of millions with this-this headline claiming that the alleged shooter, Army Major Nidal Hasan, was an advisor to President Obama's White House transition office, implying that Mr. Hasan was on, essentially, the president's payroll.

It may surprise you to learn that that's not true-even though it's a headline on WorldNetDaily, I know.

Hasan was not an advisor to the Obama transition. He was not an appointee to some kind Homeland Security task force. He attended a meeting actually at a college. He sat in the audience and that college wrote to the new administration to giving them unsolicited advice.

As Spencer Ackerman put it today at "The Washington Independent," quote, "Really, this is as stupid as saying that a guy who writes a letter to 'The New York Times' advised to editor Bill Killer."

It's actually even stupider than that, considering that Hasan himself isn't known to have written anything to anyone. He sat in the audience. So, really, it's like saying that anyone who ever saw anyone else write a letter to the editor was an adviser to "The New York Times."

But that's not all. This is America's conspiratorial right-wing today, this is WorldNetDaily, so, of course, there's more. You might remember, last month, four Republican members of Congress held a press conference during which they demanded an investigation into the Council on American-Islamic Relations, because the group was allegedly deep into a secret plot to place Muslim interns on Capitol Hill. The book on which that publicity stunt was based was naturally published by WorldNetDaily.

One of the book's co-authors today came out with this insight into the motives and allegiances that he's divined about the alleged Fort Hood shooter. Quote, "Hasan is a terrorist, supporting the ideology of al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and, and yes, the Council on American-Islamic relations."

Joining us now is Suhail Khan, senior from Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Institute for Global Engagement. He's also a former senior political appointee in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Mr. Khan, thanks very much for coming back on the show.


MADDOW: What's your reaction when you hear a conservative writer equating al Qaeda and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which, of course, condemns violence and has long since specifically condemned the Fort Hood shootings?

KHAN: It's just another instance, a sad instance. You know, we are in a national period of mourning after the tragedy at Fort Hood, where we lost so many lives senselessly. This unfortunate incident where there was violence and people were killed and wounded. And it's even more sad to see that there might be some who would use and exploit this strategy for their political partisan and worse, for their racist ends.

MADDOW: Even as the FBI and commanding officers at Fort Hood have said that the evidence does not necessarily suggest that this is an act of terrorism, or it should be viewed that way, the arguably premature discussion about terrorism and whether or not our military has been infiltrated, it's happening not just in WorldNetDaily wing-nutville; it's happening all over the place, even in the mainstream media.

Can you say anything to us about how that is playing out among Muslim Americans serving in our military?

KHAN: You know, it's just another tragedy that hit upon a sad incident here. You have 15,000 to 20,000 Muslim-Americans who are proudly serving in our armed services and all of the branches. Muslim-Americans have served in our country's armed services since the revolutionary war with distinction.

And so, I think-and talking to my friends who are serving in uniform, they are concerned. They know that their fellow countrymen in uniform know them and trust them and continue to serve with them as they would as brothers and men and women in military service. But they are concerned that there would be a backlash in the public because, unfortunately, there are people, as you pointed out unfortunately on the Internet and on television programs that are, you know, questioning their loyalty just strictly because of their faith.

MADDOW: You know, Suhail, there was another horrible mass shooting today. This one was in an Orlando office building. Police say, in that case, the alleged gunman opened fire at a company that he'd been fired from a couple of years ago. And, of course, in that case, no one is talking about that as an incident of terrorism. It's being seen as a workplace shooting.

KHAN: Right.

MADDOW: Do you think the contrast between the speculation about the motives in these shootings is important? Obviously, the timing appears to be purely coincidental, but is it instructive in terms of the different ways these have been responded to?

KHAN: Well, yes, absolutely. I mean, we are learning that these are not isolated incidents. That there-as you pointed out in the break there-there are, unfortunately, incidents where men in uniform have reacted violently, often violently towards their fellow countrymen in uniform, sometimes towards their family. We've seen a high incidence of suicide, unfortunately, in the military in the last four years. We haven't seen these numbers since the Vietnam War. And so, we need to do more to study issues like post-traumatic stress syndrome.

And, we know that in the work place in general, there are people like

this incident unfortunately today in Florida where people lash out against

their co-workers, and shoot and harm others. And that's something-again

we need to be on guard for.

But to put a religious face or to try to discriminate against whole

groups of people is just sad. And, again, just exploiting a tragedy for a

for a very ugly and bigoted means.

MADDOW: Suhail Khan, a senior fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement and former senior political appointee of President George W. Bush, a proud conservative who I really appreciate coming on this show. I am-there are rumors that I'm a very liberal person and I'm hard to talk to-I really appreciate you crossing the Rubicon and talking with us, Suhail.

KHAN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: OK. The day Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's "white of their eyes" rally against health reform on the U.S. Capitol steps, G. Gordon Liddy's radio show reported that there were more than a million people there. And Michele Bachmann then denied ever organizing the event in the first place. You know, in the weird get-going, the going gets really, really weird.

Congressman Anthony Weiner will join us next. Stay tuned.


MADDOW: After 138 days of waiting, House Republicans this week offered up their approach to health reform. While the Democrat's plan costs about $1 trillion over 10 years and covers 96 percent of Americans, the Republicans-according to the Congressional Budget Office-have figured out a way to spend about $60 billion and still leave more people uninsured than are uninsured right now. As you might imagine, the plan has not been met with rave reviews.

Enter Republican Party ideas man Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich teamed up with Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas today to offer a new Republican big idea on health reform. Newt and Rick's plan is to let the states lead on this issue. And they suggest that one state in particular should be viewed as America's shining example of what's possible, quote, "Texas, for example, has adopted approaches to controlling health care costs while improving choice, advancing quality of care and expanding coverage."

That's Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry suggesting that the solution to America's health crisis is to follow the lead of Texas. Texas-the state with the highest rate of uninsured people in the entire country. That's like saying the whole country should take family planning advice from Octomom.

In the context of those great adventures in Republican health reform thinking, this was the crowd that showed up at the Congresswoman Michele Bachmann-led, "whites of their eyes," anti-health reform rally yesterday. Capitol Hill Police told MSNBC the crowd looked to be about 4,000 strong, 4,000 -- very impressive. Or if you ask House Republicans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The estimates are anywhere between 20,000 and 45,000 people had assembled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a bad estimate at crowds, but tens of thousands. I've heard 25,000 to 50,000.


MADDOW: Fifty thousand? Wow! But wait, perhaps there were even more.


FRANKLIN RAFF: This looks as if it may be just as big or bigger than the one we had a month ago. I estimated that population at about a million, and I had seen the Million Man March and ours was bigger!


MADDOW: Bigger than a million.

You want to see that crowd shot again? Yes. Those more than a million people-were organized by corporate-funded fake grassroots organizations like FreedomWorks which launched, you might recall, don' especially for this rally, also by Americans for Prosperity chaired by David Koch, head of the country's largest privately-held oil company. Americans for Prosperity handled a lot of these logistics for the event.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have 25 buses from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have probably five or six from Maryland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have about 40 buses coming from the states.


MADDOW: And, of course, the lead organizer for the event was Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, with a big assist from FOX News Channel.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: We need you here. You need to come to the nation's Capitol. We're going to have a House call on Congress. And the members of Congress need to see the whites of your eyes.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So, you're organizing and asking people to come to meet you on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday and you are asking.

BACHMANN: Yes, at high noon.

HANNITY: . them to walk through the halls of Congress and try and voice your opinion. And so, if people want to participate, they got to be there Thursday at noon?

BACHMANN: Thursday at noon. You can go to for more information.


MADDOW: Once the event was over, here's how Ms. Bachmann described how it all went down to FOX News.


BACHMANN: This was nothing that we organized, nothing that we planned. We didn't order one bus, one car load, nothing.


MADDOW: Not one bus, not one car load, nothing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have about 40 buses coming from the states.


MADDOW: The opposition to health reform is as vociferous and inadvertently funny as ever. But that does not mean that it's full-speed ahead for health reform supporters in Congress. House Democrats reportedly might not have the votes they need inside their own caucus in order to get reform passed. There are mixed reports today about whether the anticipated vote tomorrow in the House tomorrow will actually take place as scheduled.

Joining us now from Washington is Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.

Congressman Weiner, it's good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It's my pleasure. Thank you.

MADDOW: I understand that the House is in session and dealing with health reform issues right now. What can you tell us about whether or not a vote is expected tomorrow and whether or not House Democrats have the votes?

WEINER: Well, it's still very close. We are considering now what kind of rule to bring up, what kind of amendments, if any, to have.

Look, it's going to be very tight, you know? There is an enormous amount of concern about various elements of the bill, but-and we are doing this entirely alone. The Republicans have offered no help. They take seat-they take great pride in being oppositionists on health care reform. But I think we're going to do it and I think we're going to do it tomorrow.

MADDOW: What do you attribute to what appears to be a mild case of political cold feet among conservative House Dems?

WEINER: Well, this is one of the things that we're trying to address. You know, I made a challenge that for every one supporter of Bachmann that came to the House steps, that we would get five people signing up on to say they want a public health plan and that they want national health care.

The problem is, you know, you can't understate the-you can't overstate, rather, how powerful the health care industry is in this town. They are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it. And, frankly, members are doing some pretty tough things here and I think they are to be commended for the fact that we are at 218, or at least very close.

MADDOW: On the eve of the big vote, I know the insurance lobby has again weighed in, outlining their vehement opposition to health reform passing. At this point, politically speaking, is having the health industry out there so overtly against reform actually sort of politically useful for getting reform passed?

WEINER: It is and isn't. You know, it's helping us animate the public to be involved here, because I think that they are overselling their case a little bit. You know, the Republican caucus just recently came out with a bill that was almost literally written by the insurance industry. It's everything the insurance industry wanted.

This is a classic grassroots type of operation. This is not going to come from Congress; this is coming from the grassroots. The irony of the tea bagger movement is it's actually animating a lot of people.

Just yesterday, I had 20,000 additional people sign up for "" because they saw these people who are not in touch mother ship coming here to Washington and they were animated to help.

So we're getting the push we need but we really need it now more than ever. And hopefully, the president is going to also weigh in strongly.

MADDOW: Well, of course, they say there was over - some of them say at least that there were over 1 million Michele Bachmann anti-health reform protestors there yesterday.

So if there really were over 1 million, that's going to be hard to match. And you don't have to answer that at all. I think it's stupendous. The idea behind Michele Bachmann's big anti-health reform rally, obviously, yesterday, was that voters should go see the whites of the eyes of their congressman and tell them what they think.

Did you - in addition to getting some more interesting reform via your Web site - the Web site that you set up, did you have any face-to-face run-ins in the Bachmann protestors yesterday?

WEINER: Well, I have a great office in that it's on the first floor. And I had said on other shows that I challenged them to come by and I was glad to meet with them. I think I know why they are such a high count because each one seems to have six or seven personalities.

They like health care reform when it's Medicare, but they don't like government-funded health care. They don't like government health care except when have to - you have a heart attack in the mall like one person did. Then they're eager to get it.

But I engaged as much as they wanted to be engaged. And very often, they really just wanted to call me names and with a name like Weiner, I'm a pretty easy target.

MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, we know that's one of the reasons you grew up to be really tough. Thanks for your time tonight, sir. Have a good weekend.

WEINER: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: As the unemployment rate topped 10 percent today and yes, the government extended unemployment benefits again, wait until you hear what we were waiting for, for five weeks before that extension passed while hundreds of thousands of Americans lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits.

Wait until you hear what we were waiting for. Grr. But first, one more thing about Michele Bachmann. Right before Michele Bachmann held that rally on Capitol Hill, her chief-of-staff quit. Neither veteran hell aide Michelle Marston nor Bachmann herself is commenting on why the chief-of-staff left so suddenly.

But an anonymous conservative Republican member of the House told "Politico," quote, "When your captain is crazy, it's time to find a new ship." Ms. Bachmann is in her second term in Congress.

She went through more than a dozen staffers in her first term. And that was before her conservative colleague started calling "Captain Crazy" in beltway press. Stay tuned.


MADDOW: Former Vice President Al Gore had not really talked publicly about his role in the release of two American journalists held prisoner in North Korea until he talked to us about it. That is coming up.

And a quick programming note. I will be a guest on "Meet The Press" with David Gregory this Sunday morning. It's on NBC. I would be very happy if you would watch.

But first a couple of holy mackerel stories in today's news, beginning with the unseemly underbelly of the legislative process. The number of Americans who do not have jobs and are actively looking for jobs has risen to a staggering 10.2 percent. Not since 1983 has the job market been this bad.

And so it probably comes as a great relief to those millions of unemployed Americans to know that President Obama signed legislation today, extending benefits for up to 20 weeks.

Less relieving to those millions of unemployed Americans is what it took to get this no-brainer bill passed. Republicans filibustered it three times over the course of five weeks, in part because they wanted to try to add to it an unrelated bill targeting ACORN.

In the end they were not successful and the final vote was unanimous, 98 to zero in favor of extending unemployment benefits, a victory for everyone except for the 200,000 Americans who saw their benefits run out so Republicans could try to wage more war on ACORN.

There is also an update today on the death of Bill Sparkman a part-time field worker for the U.S. census whose apparent murder we covered extensively on his show when it was first reported in September. Mr. Sparkman's body was found hanging from a tree near a cemetery in the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural South Eastern Kentucky.

It was determined that he died of asphyxiation. Mr. Sparkman's death became national news when an unnamed law enforcement source told the Associated Press that Mr. Sparkman was found with the word "fed," F-E-D presumably as in "federal government" scrawled on his chest. The Clay County coroner later confirmed that report.

Well, now, two anonymous officials tell the AP that they are increasingly less inclined to believe Mr. Sparkman's death was a homicide. Although Mr. Sparkman's body was found naked and blindfolded with his census worker ID duct-taped to his head and neck, this mouth gagged and his hands and feet bound, the AP sources now say they believe he may have committed suicide.

Quoting from the AP, quote, "There were no defensive wounds on Sparkman's body. And while his hands were bound with duct tape, they were still somewhat mobile, suggesting he could have manipulated the rope."

The Kentucky State Police continue to investigate William Sparkman's death. If and when they make a final determination in this, we will, of course, let you know.

And finally, to our department of corrections. On last night's show, I made fun of House Minority Leader John Boehner, because at yesterday's "whites of their eyes" Michele Bachmann-led anti-health reform on the Capitol steps, he waggled the copy of the Constitution at the crowd, bragged that he was standing with the Founding Fathers and then said he was quoting the preamble to the Constitution while he actually quoted from the Declaration of Independence.

Being myself constitutionally incapable of living well enough alone, I then excitedly exclaimed not that he wasn't reading from the preamble to the Constitution, but there wasn't a preamble to the Constitution at all, which, of course, is total nonsense and which I'm very sorry to have said.

However, it does also give me the opportunity to do penance to the preamble by - you know what's coming, don't you? Get up, get out of your chair and let me not only apologize to the preamble but join us all together now in civics geek karaoke to "The Schoolhouse Rock" version of the preamble. Go, go, go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first part of the Constitution is called the preamble and tells what those Founding Fathers set out to do.

GROUP (singing): We the people in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare of men, secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


MADDOW: America. Never fun to have to correct a mistake but this one was pretty close to fun. Thank you, "Schoolhouse Rock." I'm very sorry.


MADDOW: As the Republican Party continues its search for meaning in the political minority, Florida's governor, Charlie Crist, is trying to win the Republican primary in his bid for a Senate seat. And he's trying to do so by following the current party playbook, which reads, of course, "denounce health care reform, make something up about de-funding ACORN, express outrage about czars and, of course, condemn the stimulus."


GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R-FL): Well, I didn't endorse it. You know, I didn't have a vote on the darn thing.


MADDOW: Charlie Crist needs to know about this rule about condemning the stimulus. He says he didn't endorse it. He didn't even happen to vote on the darn thing. The problem is his record.


CRIST: It's important we pass a stimulus package. Certainly, this stimulus package, about $12.2 billion to Florida, will help Florida an awful lot. Because of the stimulus, we'll be able to pay our teachers more next year than we were this past year. So I think it works. It works well. It helps people. It does what's right.


MADDOW: I didn't endorse it. I didn't even have a vote on the darn thing. Oh, that's right. It's all right, Charlie Crist. Don't worry about it. Just follow the rule. Don't worry about anyone ever checking your record.


MADDOW: Republicans attempt to boycott the global warming bill by refusing to show up for work failed miserably yesterday as Chairwoman Barbara Boxer managed to push the bill out of the Senate Environment Committee without a single Republican vote.

It was a move that prompted the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. James Inhofe, to vow that, quote, "Her actions signals the death knell for the bill." Passing a bill now equals its death knell.

I sat down this week with Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Vice President and author of the new book, "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis." I asked Mr. Gore if Sen. Inhofe is going to have any more luck pressing his case internationally that he has so far in the Senate.


MADDOW: Senator Inhofe says that he is not only opposed to global warming legislation, to cap and trade and other things in this country, he's planning on sending what he calls a "truth squad" to Copenhagen next month to try to undermine America's negotiating position at that conference.

What is the impact of something like that on our international credibility? I know how Jim Inhofe is viewed in the Senate here. How is he going to be viewed abroad?

AL GORE, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think that the rest of the world's long since come to understand that there are some loud deniers here in the United States. I don't think they pay much attention to them. I don't want to be diminishing in that comment, but I just think that's the case. And there are some of them in other countries, and we don't pay much attention to them.

MADDOW: Are you worried that a big expansion of nuclear power may be part of what's needed for a political compromise in order to pass legislation here?

GORE: I think there probably will be a provision added to the bill in the Senate to increase yet again the subsidies for nuclear power.

MADDOW: And you say "yet again," because it's already a heavily subsidized...

GORE: It is very heavily subsidized. But I do think it's responsible to research and develop new generations of nuclear power. I think that the market has turned thumbs down on nuclear power. There's also a weapons proliferation risk.

The new technologies for enriching nuclear materials shorten the distance from reactor fuel to weapons-grade material. And during the eight years I worked in the White House, every single nuclear weapons challenge that we faced was connected to a reactor program. Look at what's going on in Iran right now and North Korea right now.

So it's not an option that's scalable very easily on a global basis. And in developed countries, there is yet another problem that's probably even more formidable, and that's cost. The present generation of nuclear reactors are very expensive. They've been a huge disappointment to the utility industry.

They only come in one size - extra large. And utilities don't want to bet the farm or their whole construction budget on an uncertain prospect. Not a single reputable engineering firm in the world that I know of is willing to back up an estimate of how long it will take to complete one of these plants or how much it will cost to do so.

The cost has been increasing 15 percent per year for quite some time now. A lot of reasons behind that. There may be some solutions. But no matter the size of the subsidies, I think the market is highly resistant to this choice, particularly as conservation and efficiency and renewables begin to capture a progressively larger share of the energy marketplace.

MADDOW: You mentioned North Korea there in terms of proliferation

challenges. I'm not sure if you can talk about this, and I didn't ask you

I didn't tell you I was going to do it ahead of time, but when Laura Ling and Euna Lee from Current TV were arrested and held in North Korea, you and Current kept very quiet about the situation until it was resolved.

GORE: Yes.

MADDOW: Can you tell us now that it is resolved about the strategy there, about how personally involved you were in that situation?

GORE: Well, I was very deeply involved on a daily basis, but I was involved in ways that led me to incur an obligation to not to talk about all that took place.

MADDOW: For strategic reasons?

GORE: Yes, and because of the folks that were helping me out. And so I just got an E-mail from Laura just about an hour ago. They're safe. I'm so happy that they're back, so grateful to President Clinton for being willing to go when they said they would accept a visit from him, just very, very happy that they're safe.

MADDOW: Were mistakes made in - that led to them being arrested? Are there lessons to be learned for American journalists for Current, for - actually for our relations with North Korea, in terms of how that situation was resolved?

GORE: Well, Laura and Euna themselves put out a very moving piece on exactly - well, not all the details, but what happened. And they themselves acknowledged that they made a serious mistake.

And, you know, as for us keeping our silence, you know, the "New York Times" did the same thing in Pakistan. And other organizations from time to time have found that the circumstances make it very wise to take that approach. We took that approach in a very considered way.

MADDOW: Former Vice President Al Gore, it's such a pleasure to have this chance to talk to you. Thanks for taking the time in your very busy schedule.

GORE: Well, the pleasure is mine, and keep up the great work.

MADDOW: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.


MADDOW: Coming up, Keith tackles the rumors of a Carrie Prejean sex tape on "COUNTDOWN." Eek! Next, on this show a new TMI. Meet the North Carolina member of Congress who thinks that health reform is worse than terrorism. That's next.

But first, one more thing about the environment. Do you remember when the coal industry brought us the singing lumps of coal last holiday season, the coal carolers? Well, the industry is now hoping to spread the good word about coal to the next generation with the new "let's learn about coal" coloring book. It is sponsored by the Friends of Coal, organized by the West Virginia Coal Association.

Their helpful black lab coal mascot will help kids learn, among other things, the difference between bituminous and some bituminous coal and how coal is cleaned. It's magic.

The best part, though, is a word scramble where kids are asked to unscramble a sentence out of these words. Ready? Than coal other cheaper is fuels! The coloring book might actually save you some money, it should be noted. After all, to make every picture true to coal life, you would really only need just one crayon.


MADDOW: Since the all-change last year in Washington, the political headlines now are often populated by people who, let's face it, almost nobody had heard of until recently. We have tasked Kent Jones with introducing us to some of these folks.

This week, we have decided to try to learn more about the person who recently said this on the floor of the House about health reform.


REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-NC): I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.


MADDOW: Oh, boy. I would like to learn more about her. Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Well, let's meet the gentlewoman from North Carolina, shall we?

MADDOW: Excellent.


FOXX: I was a pretty demanding teacher. I gave a lot of tests.

JONES (voice-over): Attention students, it's time for American Government 101 with Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of the Fifth Congressional District of North Carolina. The 66-year-old grandma used to be an English professor and trust me, she is 100 percent old school.

Her textbook is the Good Book, without all that inconvenient "love thy neighbor as thyself" propaganda.

FOXX: We're challenged by Jesus to look after people as individuals, not as a government.

JONES: Foxx takes the whole government not looking after people thing seriously, like the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill.

FOXX: We know that that young man was killed in the commitment of the robbery. It wasn't because he was gay.

JONES: That same compassionate spirit burned inside Foxx back in September 2005 when she was one of 11 members of Congress to vote against the $51 billion aid package for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Needless to say, when it comes to health reform, same lesson.

FOXX: We will make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that ensures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.

JONES: Professor Foxx also believes in recess - from the facts.

FOXX: Contrary to what our colleagues are saying over and over, we are not the party of no. We are the party of do and do right by the American people.

JONES: Not like the party of do's sworn enemy Nancy Pelosi who is apparently French.

FOXX: When the people of France were starving, they went to the queen and said, "The people have no bread." The queen's answer was, "Let them eat cake." That is not the kind of answer we expect from the leader of the people's House in the United States of America.

JONES: Plus, the Democrat party acts like they won an election or something.

FOXX: The way of this majority is to stifle every idea that is good for this country and say, "We won. We're going to do what we want to do." That's the attitude of the majority party.

JONES: Blame it all on Barack Obama who twists the language to further his own nefarious agenda.

FOXX: You may all remember that the president said in his campaign, "We live in the greatest country in the world. Help me change it." To me, that meant take what's good about this country and change it into something that's not good.

JONES: But you have to get up pretty early to fool Virginia Foxx.

FOXX: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you.

JONES: Class dismissed.


MADDOW: Fool me twice, shame on you, too?

JONES: Yes, it's the same thing over and over. Let them eat cake.


MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Much appreciated. Quick programming note. I'm going to be a guest on NBC's "Meet The Press" this Sunday along with David Brooks of the "New York Times," E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie.

Thanks for watching tonight. We'll be back Monday. "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann starts right now.



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