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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, November 13, 2009

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Ana Marie Cox, Bill Nye, Kent Jones, Michael Isikoff

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Listen, we have been getting used to lots of news breaking on Fridays over the last few months.  But even for a Friday, this was a doozy of a news day today.  The alleged mastermind of 9/11 and four other suspects will finally be brought to justice in the United States.  Could the legacy of the Bush-Cheney torture programs make it less likely that these suspects will be convicted?  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Michael Isikoff will join us at the top.

And the truth according to Sarah h Palin, which no one else seems to believe.  Sarah Palin‘s book drops early and the fact-checking thus far is devastating.  Ana Marie Cox will be our guest live.

And bombing the moon, it turns out, paid off.  NASA announces its cool, high-techie sensors found something really important in the debris from our recent moon splat that we all thought was a bust.  Bill Nye the Science Guy will be joining us to tell us whether what it all means in the interview.

That is all coming up over the course of the next hour.

But we begin tonight with a fulfillment of a promise made more than eight years ago.


THEN-PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES:  People who did this act on America, and who maybe planning further acts are evil people.  They‘re flat-evil.  That‘s all they can think about is evil.  And as a nation of good folks, we are going to hunt ‘em down and we are going to find them.  And we will bring them to justice.


MADDOW:  Hunt ‘em down, find them, bring them to justice.

That was President Bush two weeks after September 11th, promising to capture and bring to justice those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  Well, now, more than eight years after that promise was made, we still haven‘t caught Osama bin Laden.  But among others with some alleged responsible for 9/11, finally, we learn today that while justice has been delayed, it will not forever be denied.

The Bush administration which talked so tough about getting justice for the perpetrators of 9/11 ultimately left office without doing that.  It has been left to the next administration, the incoming Obama administration, to make good on the promises of justice that are nearly decade old.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Today, I am announcing that the Department of Justice will pursue prosecution in federal court of the five individuals accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks.  After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice.  They will be brought to New York—to New York—to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.


MADDOW:  Attorney General Eric Holder today announcing that alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects will be transferred from Guantanamo to a New York City federal courthouse, to finally face trial.  Today‘s announcement means their trials will take place, as he said, just short walk from “Ground Zero” in Lower Manhattan.  The attorney general says prosecutors will seek the death penalty for all five defendants, if they are found guilty.

In addition to the 9/11 defendants, the Justice Department also announced today that five additional terrorism suspects will not get a day in court.  They will instead face military commissions for their alleged role in the bombing of the USS Cole in the year 2000 and other attacks on U.S. military personnel.

These are big developments that have been a very long time coming.  And in a move as about as anticipated as the sun rising tomorrow morning, the Republican Party says it is outraged.  Not over the military commissions decision, but over the fact that the 9/11 defendants will finally be facing justice in real courts.

Senator Jeff Sessions said, quote, “Our court system was never designed for this purpose.  These trials will turn lawyers, juries and judges into targets.”

Senator Jon Kyl said, “Past trials of terrorists have proven that our civilian courts are not the appropriate venue to handle international terrorism trials.”

Senator John McCain blasting the decision tonight during a news conference in Arizona.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I do not understand why a war criminal should be able to have the same rights as a common criminal.  And they should reverse this decision and they should be tried in military tribunals.


MADDOW:  And then there‘s the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.



the rights of terrorists are more important than anything else.  I mean, we

·         here—our criminal justice system is geared to let guilty people go free, if there is any doubt.  We think they‘re criminals.  These are soldiers in a war against us.  And the rules of war should apply.



MADDOW:  The argument of these critics is essentially that U.S. courts are not capable of dealing with this sort of thing, not capable of dealing with terrorism prosecution, that we need some sort of alternate system of justice to handle terrorism.  Terrorism cases could never be handled by the kind of normal American legal proceedings that resulted on Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh, serving a life sentence in North Carolina for conspiracy to bomb New York City landmarks.  Or Ramzi Yousef, serving a life sentence at super max prison in Colorado.  He was the bomb-maker for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.  Or the Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, convicted for attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.  He‘s also serving a life sentence in Colorado.  Or Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of being a 9/11 co-conspirator.  He faced trial in Virginia and was sentenced to life in prison.

What exactly was so insufficient about our normal constitutional legal system for handling cases like those ones?  Those guys ended up joining domestic multiple murderers and/or terrorists in prison, people like Timothy McVeigh, Charles Manson, and Eric Rudolph.

And now, finally, eight years on, we are bringing at least some of the people accused of that attacks of 9/11 back to the scene of the crime to face American justice, amid the remarkable, pitiful clamor of politicians saying how much that makes them afraid.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  He is a member of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.  He‘s also a former federal prosecutor from the state of Rhode Island.

Senator Whitehouse, thanks for joining us so late on a Friday.  I really appreciate it.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  I‘m happy to be with you, Rachel.  Thank you for inviting me.

MADDOW:  As a former U.S. attorney, what is your reaction to so many Republicans, really, claiming today that federal courts aren‘t equipped to handle terrorism cases?

WHITEHOUSE:  Well, the record is to the contrary.


WHITEHOUSE:  There have been literally hundreds of trials of terrorists.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons estimates that there are more than 350 domestic and international terrorists incarcerated in our prisons after having been convicted.  And the military commissions have a record of three convictions.

So, if you are looking for the tried and true and tested way of delivering justice to terrorists, the federal courts, with the United States prosecutors of the Department of Justice are the proven way to go.

MADDOW:  You sit on the intelligence and judiciary committees, both of which are really at the heart of the U.S. government‘s response to terrorism.  Beyond the question of guilt for these individual defendants, do you think there is an impact on al Qaeda‘s strength, it‘s ability to recruit people who would attack us, to have a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial or in prison alongside more common criminals, instead of languishing the way he has at Guantanamo and in CIA secret prison?

WHITEHOUSE:  Well, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cohorts will obviously be on trial.  But in the eyes of the world, so will the American system of justice be on trial.  And we have a long tradition of very effective justice being delivered in our courts and by prosecutors.

So, I think, in terms of the lesson to the world, it‘s a strong one.  I also think that it‘s an important lesson to scratch away where we can at the notion that these people are jihad warriors.  That enables them in a way that helps their mission.  The more we treat them like common criminals, the more effective our strategy at winning the battle for minds, I think, in the Middle East and around the world.

MADDOW:  That goes right to the heart of one of the other argument that‘s coming from critics of this decision today.  Republicans saying that if we allow these defendants to be tried in a real American court, as part of that—as part of that process, they will be allowed to speak.  The worry being that their ideology is so dangerous that they will persuading, I guess, recruits to join them by virtue of what they say in court.

Do you think there is legitimacy to that argument?

WHITEHOUSE:  I think it‘s obviously a concern, but in this country, we put up with a lot of distasteful speech, in the broader interest of showing the world that we are a country that can tolerate all of that.  And the lesson that America imparts to the world, the beacon of light that we hold up in that shadowed world, is probably our strongest asset.  And so, I feel confident that when we go that through the proven mechanism of prosecutors of the United States Department of Justice, bringing cases in the United States federal courts, we show a very strong part of America to the world.

MADDOW:  Senator Whitehouse, the Obama administration also today recommitting itself to military tribunals for an accused bomber of the USS Cole and four other defendants.  Could those cases—should those cases also be taken up in a real Article III court?

WHITEHOUSE:  I think, behind the question about the federal court is the underlying question of whose call this should be.  And as a former prosecutor, I‘m very comfortable that this call should be the call of the prosecutors, and the military officers who are engaged in the executive branch in deciding what is the best venue to get the result that we want, which is a fair and solid demonstration of American justice.

And I think in these cases, a very strong likelihood, we want that conviction and we want punishment.  To leave that decision in their hands is the right way to go constitutionally.  And of all the people to interfere, I think members of Congress are the worst to interfere in that decision.

First of all, we don‘t know what we‘re talking about in terms of the facts that the prosecutors have looked at in making that decision.  And second of all, this is an executive function and Congress is the least-suited branch of government to get involved in this prosecutorial decisions.

As a prosecutor, if a member of Congress tried to tell me what to do with the prosecution, I would push back very, very hard.  It simply isn‘t a proper role.

So, there is a, I think, considerable deference that should properly attend to Attorney General Holder‘s decision.  He has the facts, member of Congress don‘t.

MADDOW:  Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, speaking both as a Democratic U.S. senator and also as a former federal prosecutor tonight—thank you very much for joining us, sir.

WHITEHOUSE:  A pleasure.

MADDOW:  OK.  Once these suspects—these defendants arrive on American soil and appear in front of an American judge and jury, then what?  And what about all those arguments that you couldn‘t really have a real trial for somebody who‘d been tortured, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was?  “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff is all up in that question and he joins us next.

Stay tuned.


MADDOW:  The logic behind the “I‘m with Stupak” anti-abortion amendment to the health reform bill is that it‘s not enough to just ban federal money from directly paying for abortions, which is the law already.  No, the Stupak Amendment says health reform must become a vehicle to further restrict access to abortion nationwide.  It says, you can‘t indirectly pay any federal money to an entity that provides abortion coverage since that indirectly subsidizes abortion even if federal dollars don‘t pay for it directly.

Tell that to the Republican Party, which after an outcry this week, suddenly canceled its 18-year-old health insurance policy, which covered elective abortion.  Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, has made sure that the RNC is opting out of abortion coverage, but they are still paying money to an insurance company which provides abortion coverage to other people—just not with the RNC‘s money anymore, which still means if they really believe in the logic of the Stupak Amendment, the RNC is still subsidizing abortions.

Everybody freak out!  Ahhhh!


MADDOW:  Two United States attorneys, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney

for the southern district of New York, and Neil McBride, the U.S. attorney

for the eastern district of Virginia, are now in-charge of prosecuting

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged and confessed mastermind of the 9/11

attacks as well as four other 9/11 suspects.  Needless to say, these two

U.S. attorneys have a very important, very high-pressured job ahead of them

·         a job that will be made significantly more difficult by the fact that the policies of the previous administration allowed for the torture, the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed while he was in U.S. custody, 183 times over.


In the eight-year fight over just how legal we want the fight against terrorism to be, the issue of torture, one of the recognized problems with torture is that it‘s the kind of thing that a normal court might see as misconduct by the government, understandably.  And would that kind of misconduct be grounds for throwing a whole criminal case out of court and freeing the defendant?

When Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to prosecute the 9/11 suspects during a press conference this morning, Michael Isikoff of “Newsweek” and MSNBC asked him how the government plans to deal with an inevitable by the defense to bring the issue of torture into the courtroom?


MICHAEL ISIKOFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Inevitably, defense lawyers are going to seek full disclosure about the circumstances of who these detainees were treated while they were in U.S. custody and want to get as much of that before the jury as they can.  What is the department‘s position going to be on whether the defense will be entitled to know the full story of how these detainees were treated while they were in U.S.  custody?

HOLDER:  I think the question—among the questions that have to be asked in that regard is relevance.  How relevant were those statements?  Will those statements be use?

I don‘t know what the defense will try to do.  It‘s hard for me to speculate at this point, so it‘s hard to know exactly what our response will be.  But I‘m quite confident on the basis of the evidence that we will be able to present, some of which, as I‘ve said, has not been even publicly discussed before, that we will be successful in our attempts to convict those men.

ISIKOFF:  But will they be entitled to that evidence?  Will they be entitled to know the full story of how they were treated?

HOLDER:  Well, we‘ll see what motions they file and we‘ll see what response we make and a judge will ultimately make that determination.


MADDOW:  We‘ll see?  We‘ll see.  We‘ll see.

Just as a person who has seen “Perry Mason” once or twice, I would say it is a safe bet that the defense will raise the issue of torture.  They have to, don‘t they?  What we don‘t know is how the government will respond to any such motions, how the judge will rule on them, and whether they will turn a terrorism trial into a referendum on the interrogation policies of George W. Bush.

Joining us now is Michael Isikoff, “Newsweek” investigative correspondent and MSNBC contributor.  He is reporting on the potential rule of torture in the upcoming terror trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 defendant tonight at “Newsweek‘s” new “Declassified” blog.

Mike, thanks very much for coming on the show.

ISIKOFF:  Great to be with you.

MADDOW:  Watching the presser and the announcement today, I have to say, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff was quite on fire about your question and quite mystified by the answer.

ISIKOFF:  Right.

MADDOW:  Is the attorney general saying essentially that there is enough evidence untainted by torture that they are pretty sure of a conviction anyway?

ISIKOFF:  Yes.  Attorney General Holder was sort of glossing over what really was the most difficult part of the process that his team of prosecutors went through in preparing for this announcement because they know—the attorney general said, “Well, we‘ll have to wait and see.”  Believe me, they gamed this quite thoroughly.  And they know all the motions that defense lawyers are going to raise on this.  And they were concerned from the outset that this trial could be derailed by allegations of torture and other abusive treatment interrogation techniques.

So, they worked really, really hard to construct a case that was untainted by any evidence that was gleaned from the fruit of the poisonous tree—those interrogation techniques—so much so they are ruling out the use of confessions that some of these defendants made to an FBI “Clean Team” that the Bush administration set up to interrogate the detainees when they came back to Guantanamo, when they came to Guantanamo transferred out of CIA custody in the fall of 2006.  The whole purpose of that “Clean Team” was to try to elicit confessions untainted by torture.

But what the Obama people concluded was that those FBI agents already knew what these guys had said after they had been waterboarded and subjected to abusive treatment techniques.  And that alone might be enough to taint the evidence.  So, they looked elsewhere to try to construct an air-tight case independent of that, of those techniques.

MADDOW:  Your reporting on that—them rejecting even the evidence obtained from the clean teams.

ISIKOFF:  Right.

MADDOW:  . implies an even deeper rejection of the Bush administration‘s approach to these cases.  I mean, not only are they trying this in an Article III court, in a normal court, but they‘re rejecting even what the Bush administration tried to do to clean up after its own evidentiary mess created by torture?

ISIKOFF:  Exactly.  They sort of concluded that there was no way to untangle any of that evidence from what was gleaned.  Now, they do believe they have a very strong case independent of—as one official said—all that torture stuff.  They‘ve got phone records.  They‘ve got computer files.  They‘ve got all sorts—they‘ve got videos, of, at least one of the defendants taking credit for the 9/11 attacks.  In fact, remember, there was another interview that al Jazeera did with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh before they were captured in which they praised and took credit for what they called the “Holy Tuesday Operation.”

So, they‘re going to try to construct the case with all that evidence completely devoid of the CIA interrogations.

MADDOW:  It sounds, if you‘re able to report tonight that they‘re—that they can describe all those different types of evidence to you, it sounds like they are very confident they‘re—that they will get a conviction here.  Are you detecting any worry either on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any of these other four defendants that they are worried that one of these guys might walk?

ISIKOFF:  I don‘t think they are worried about a conviction.  I think

·         I don‘t think they think any jury in New York is ever going to vote to acquit any of these people.  But I don‘t think they‘re as quite confident that they‘re going to be able to keep out all the evidence of CIA abusive interrogations.  Even if it doesn‘t go directly to the evidence, there are pretrial proceedings about mental competence and whether or not they are fit to stand trial after undergoing these abusive treatment.


And then, later on in the trial—assuming they are convicted which I think they believe they will be—there is the death penalty phase.

MADDOW:  Right.

ISIKOFF:  Attorney General Holder said they‘re going to be seeking the death penalty.  And in the death penalty phase of a federal trial, all sorts of mitigating factors can come in, including how they were treated while in U.S. government custody.

MADDOW:  Right.  In the penalty phase, what we‘re talking about there is a lot.

ISIKOFF:  Right.

MADDOW:  . about the defendant, not a lot about what the defendant allegedly did to earn the conviction because that‘s already settled at that point.

Briefly, we‘re out of time, Michael, let me just ask you quickly: are there any concerns that they‘re going to be able to find a jury in New York that can be considered a fair jury?

ISIKOFF:  There will be a careful voir dire, but at the end of the day, I think everybody wants—everybody in the system wants this trial to take place and a jury will be found.

MADDOW:  Michael Isikoff, “Newsweek” investigative correspondent and MSNBC contributor, and a major contributor to what we now know about this decision.  Thanks for your reporting and for joining us.

ISIKOFF:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  A few weeks back, we crashed a missile into the moon.  Today, delayed jackpot.  The interview tonight is Bill Nye the Science Guy, helping us understand what we found on the moon and what it means and how soon we all get to start volunteering people that we want to be sent there.  That‘s coming up.


MADDOW:  The black hole that sucks all light and meaning out of our politics, otherwise known as Sarah Palin‘s memoir, has descended upon us earlier than expected.  As “The A.P.” gets an advanced copy, as the litany of accusations she makes against other Republicans get shutdown by those Republicans, as the Oprah interview excerpts trickle out early, it is a campaign without all that meddlesome, having to appeal to constituents and the restraint that sometimes encloses.  Lock up your sense of self-worth somewhere safe and join us in a moment along with Ana Marie Cox.

But, first, a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.

Former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana, who has been known as the congressman with $90,000 of cash stuffed into his freezer will be known for the next 13 years by a federal prison number.  Jefferson‘s 13-year corruption sentence today is the longest ever for a convicted congressman.  Interestingly, he was acquitted for the charge that was most closely related to the cash in the freezer problem.

But the 11 other counts of money-laundering, bribery and even racketeering were bald-faced enough that his defense lawyers conceded at sentencing that he should probably expect to do at least nearly 10 years.  Republican Joseph Cao, the only House Republican to vote for health reform now holds Mr. Jefferson‘s big Democratic majority seat in Congress.

Last night reporting on the high-drama behind the scenes of the president‘s decision on Afghanistan, I said this.


MADDOW:  “The Washington Independent‘s” Spencer Ackerman today quoting a National Security Council staffer, saying that after hearing of Ambassador Eikenberry‘s concerns about increasing troops, the president, quote, “demanded an exit strategy for the war.”


MADDOW:  Today, Spencer Ackerman retracted that reporting, saying it had been subsequently challenged by multiple sources.

That said, the implication that the president is looking for an Afghanistan strategy that affords us an exit, a way of getting our troops out, that has reiterated by the White House press secretary and other officials.  So even if Spencer‘s quote was wrong, the point is right.  And frankly, that‘s a kind of exciting point. 

The other newsworthy retraction/correction of the day was made by “Chicago Tribune” sports columnist Rick Morrissey who may have set a new standard in journalism for eating one‘s words. 

Two and a half years ago when the Chicago Bulls picked University of Florida‘s center Joakim Noah in the first round of the draft, Rick Morrissey, at “The Tribune” jumped down the team‘s throat for wasting that pick.  He said, “Noah has the look of a classic, overrated college player.  He is soft.”

Then, much to his regret, Morrissey also wrote this, quote, “Please clip and save this column.  If I‘m wrong three years down the line about Noah, I‘ll douse it in salsa and eat it.”

It‘s not yet three years later, but there Mr. Noah is averaging more than 11 points and 12 rebounds a game.  That‘s a double-double.  That‘s pretty good. 

He recently scored a career high, 21 points against Charlotte and had a career high 21 rebounds against The Nuggets, all of which means that Rick Morrissey was quite wrong about Mr. Noah, wrong enough for Mr.  Morrissey to know that he was wrong.  And to make good on his pledge from nearly three years ago, check it out. 


RICK MORRISSEY, SPORTS COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:   All right.  Here comes the salsa.  A little bit on there, and I‘m going to try to keep this on there very nice.  And I feel like this is a cooking show right here.  I think I might just roll it up a little bit. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, roll it up.

MORRISSEY:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  All right.  Here we go. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Real good.  Good job.  Good job.  You did good. 

That‘s not too bad, was it?  Would you like to try one more time? 

MORRISSEY:  No, not at all. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You did the right thing. 

MORRISSEY:  All right.  I‘m not going to show the rest.  I‘ll probably going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Am I going to eat the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?  Are you OK with this? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You (UNINTELLIGIBLE) - you have some fun. 

MORRISSEY:  You think I will? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For Rick Morrissey from “The Tribune,” and Joe, keep going.  From the polls, we say adios and that‘s because of the salsa. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stop hating, lesson learned. 


MADDOW:  Stop hating, lesson learned.  We here at The RACHEL MADDOW SHOW do not plan on adopting Mr. Morrissey‘s journalistic standard of paying penance by eating the medium in which we work. 

But just to be on the safe side, because we do corrections when we get things wrong here on the show, we have now instituted a brand-new policy on our staff in which we write all of our scripts on warm, chocolate chip cookies.


MADDOW:  Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh calls it, “one of the truly substantive books I‘ve read,” talking about Sarah Palin‘s book which comes out next week and which started leaking today.  And he actually said that specific thing about it. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I made a prediction to her when I talked to her yesterday.  I said, you‘ve got enough in here that people who get hold of this, like the AP or any of the state-controlled media - they‘re going to focus on the soap opera aspects of your book and they‘re going to ignore what is truly one of the most substantive policy books I‘ve read. 


MADDOW:  “Going Rogue” is one of the most substantive policy books Rush Limbaugh has read in his life, in his whole life.  I will admit to finding that intriguing.  The Associated Press somehow sneakily obtained a copy of the book in advance. 

They report that the Republican vice presidential candidate says the McCain campaign stuck her with a bill for $50,000, her share, she says, of the cost for vetting her for the vice presidency. 

The McCain campaign‘s general counsel responded to “The Atlantic” today by saying, quote, “I can confirm that she was not billed for any vetting costs by the campaign.” 

Several high-ranking McCain aides told “The Washington Post” that Palin most likely confused the cost of vetting her candidacy with the money she had to pay her own lawyer to defend herself from ethics charges in Alaska that were unrelated to the campaign. 

What‘s alleged to be a short excerpt of the book posted on a conservative Web site today also has Palin saying that she agreed to do what turned to be that disastrous interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric because Palin, quote, “started to feel sorry for her” after being told by a McCain staffer Nicole Wallace Katie Couric had, quote, “low self-esteem.” 

Couric is not commenting on that, at least for now.  But we have now entered into the part where Sarah Palin herself will be unavoidable for comment for quite some time. 


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”:  You do say that it wasn‘t your best interview. 


Here, again -

WINFREY:  Do you think that was a seminal defining moment for you, that interview? 

PALIN:  I did not and neither did the campaign.  In fact, that is why segment two, three and four and maybe five were scheduled.  The campaign said, “Right on.  Good.  You are showing your independence.  This is what America needs to see.”  And it was a good interview. 

And of course, I‘m thinking, if you thought that was a good interview, I don‘t know what a bad interview was because I knew it wasn‘t a good interview. 


MADDOW:  The response from an anonymous former senior McCain campaign official to “The Washington Post” about that, quote, “No sentient person would look at that and say that.”  Ouch.

Joining us now, the most sentient person with good sources in the McCain camp who will agree to come on this show, Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent and host of “Inside Story” for Air America Radio.  Hi, Ana Marie, thanks for joining us. 

ANA MARIE COX, HOST, “INSIDE STORY”:  It‘s good to be here, Rachel.  I think there are McCain staffers that might come on your show eventually, by the way, and they are sentient or kind of. 

MADDOW:  We ask all the time.  And I will tell you behind the scenes,

don‘t tell anybody, just between you and me, they‘ve been very, like,

rational and willing to talk to us about it, but still no yeses.  I can‘t

help but think we‘re getting close, but -

COX:  You might have to wait a while, let‘s just say until a certain book disappears off the bestseller list. 

MADDOW:  OK.  Well, is it - how are they, overall?  From your reporting, can you characterize for us, overall, how McCain campaign folks are feeling about this? 

COX:  Yes.  I spent some time on the phone today with a few different campaign - McCain campaign staffers.  And I think there is sort of three general areas in emotion I can say. 

One is dismay.  This is a really unusual book for a lot of reasons.  And one of them is these kinds of books usually don‘t get written.  This kind of like campaign-score-settling doesn‘t usually happen this soon after a campaign. 

Emotions like this don‘t usually get brought out.  And then, I‘d say there is some genuine hurt also among some staffers.  And they‘re just human.  And part of that has to do, I think, with the weird personal nature of the attacks that Sarah Palin makes. 

She makes fun of Steve Schmidt for being, and I quote, “rotund.”  That‘s like an oddly personal and petty thing to say.  And I think it‘s understandable for people to get upset about that.  

And then, I think the last emotion, which is the most rational of them is that they can‘t believe anyone is taking this seriously.  And to be honest, I don‘t think -I‘m here on your show talking about it, but I‘m not taking this book seriously. 

That accusation about the vetting is so patently false.  Just anyone who has done any reporting about campaigns, the idea that a campaign would bill back a possible nominee for vetting is so outrageous.  I can‘t think of a single reporter who probably called the campaign to ask about that or called McCain‘s staffers to ask if they though it was true. 

MADDOW:  But then, they -

COX:  And I think that -

MADDOW:  Sorry, go ahead. 

COX:  Go ahead. 


COX:  You.

MADDOW:  You.  I pull rank, you go next. 

COX:  I was just going to say I think that the other accusations in the book are along those lines.  I don‘t - there is stuff in there that having known these people and having like - I don‘t agree with them on very much.  But I know these staffers pretty well. 

And reading what I‘ve read, the excerpts I‘ve read, I just plain don‘t believe what Sarah Palin has to say about them. 

MADDOW:  Anything specifically that - besides the vetting, that sticks out to you as just patently unbelievable based on your reporting and your knowledge about the campaign? 

COX:  You know, that they would be concerned about her weight in some kind of condescending way seems unrealistic to me.  The fact that she - that they would curse in front of her small child seems unrealistic to me. 

And these are people who, I‘m pretty sure, curse.  I‘ve heard them curse.  I curse.  I bet you do every once in a while.  But most of us who are sentient human beings can control ourselves around children. 


COX:  And I think that is also just again a weirdly specific and weirdly petty thing to say.  I - you know, Rachel, I don‘t think she is a serious person, Sarah Palin.  I think this book is in some ways not just a source of score-settling, not just something of score-settling.  It portrays an alternate universe. 

MADDOW:  It will be a huge media juggernaut, though, over the course

of the next week, surely, if you can tell just by the attention that the

advance excerpts got today.  And so -

COX:  Just by the fact that I‘m here talking to you about it now. 

MADDOW:  And everybody else‘s, too.  But that‘s going to put McCain staffers in the position if there are things in it that are wrong.  Those things will taken as true unless McCain staffers come out and say that they are not true. 

And so even though they want us to go away, they‘re going to be put in a truth-telling position unless they want her version of the facts to stand. 

COX:  And I think something that‘s really unusual, as you already see Mark Salter, who is a very close campaign aide for McCain, a very close aide for him for 20 years, has already come out in public and done something he hasn‘t done before, I think, which is to correct some of the misapprehensions in this book about Nicole Wallace. 

Steve Schmidt has said something - I was on the phone.  He used to - I will say I spoke with him today.  He actually said it would be fine if I said that I spoke to him about some of these accusations and some of the things that he wanted to deny specifically. 

Although I can also base it again on how I know these people and saw some of these interactions and just find this stuff that she‘s saying just does not have the ring of truth to me. 

MADDOW:  Ana Marie Cox, national correspondent and host of “INSIDE STORY” for Air America Radio, my prediction is that Sarah Palin‘s reputation is going to be substantively different a week from tonight than it is right now because of what‘s going to happen with this book. 

COX:  I think that you‘re right and I hope you‘re right. 

MADDOW:  Thank you for your time tonight, Ana Marie.  Good to see you. 

COX:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  It looks that whole bombing-the-moon-thing turned out - worked rather well, thank you very much, doubters, me among them.  Bill Nye, the Science Guy, is our guest, next. 


MADDOW:  Coming up next, Kent Jones uncovers exactly what this baby-waving congressman is all about.  A must-see investigation on TMI.  Coming up.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Since the rather dramatic events in the last year in politics, the political headlines now are often populated by people who almost nobody had heard of until this year. 

We here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW have tasked Kent Jones with introducing us and the nation to some of these newly-important folks.  This week, for example, we wanted to know about the congressman who brought a baby on to the floor of the House. 


REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R-AZ):  Maddie likes America because we have freedom here.  And Maddie believes in patient choice health care.  She asked to come here today to say she doesn‘t want the government to take over health care.  She wants to be able to keep her plan. 


MADDOW:  Assuming that was a live baby and not a ventriloquist, tell me, what‘s going on here, Kent? 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Well, Maddie is only seven months old so we don‘t have that much on her.  But the guy using her to score political points - oh, there‘s plenty.  Take a look. 

MADDOW:  All right. 


SHADEGG:  Sadly, tragically, the people that control this government neither understand nor believe in freedom.  But they will lose because we‘re going to beat them. 

JONES (voice-over):  You see?  It‘s not all prop baby ventriloquism for John Shagged.  The Republican congressman from the third district of Arizona since 1995 clasps something even closer to his staunch conservative bosom, an adorable toddler called “America.” 

SHADEGG:  America, being pushed by Glenn Beck, is beginning a revolution toward freedom. 

JONES:  Not everyone is invited to his glorious Glenn Beck revolution.  Last month, Shagged joined with three fellow representatives in calling for the investigation of the Council of American-Islamic relations. 

The gang of four, using a single and super-reliable source, a “World Net Daily” book called “Muslim Mafia,” alleged that the council was trying to plant spies in our government. 

Apparently, Islamic Americans aspire to be congressional interns, not if John Shagged has anything to say about it.  But that‘s small potatoes compared to his hatred for health reform, a plot hatched from the nefarious womb mother Russia. 

SHADEGG:  We are getting full-on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care.  You and I have been handed the torch to fight for freedom, to fight against the socialism that is in this health care bill.

JONES:  Gulags, socialism - comrades, that‘s not how we do things in America where the health care system is perfect, just as it is. 

SHADEGG:  Nobody goes without any health care whatsoever in America.  Nobody in your listening audience right now drove past somebody on their way to work this morning who is dragging down a broken leg down the street because it wasn‘t being treated.  And this number of 47 million or 44 million that are uninsured. 

Most people are only uninsured for a short period during the year.  Many of them choose to be uninsured because, for them, it is a logical and rational decision. 

JONES:  Logical, rational reform bill nemesis John Shagged.  Big stacks of paper, prepare to die. 

SHADEGG:  They need to understand that this bill steals freedom.  And

those of us that believe in freedom have contempt for those who would steal

our freedom and contempt for those -


JONES:  Good thing he didn‘t bring Maddie to the podium that day. 


MADDOW:  Thank you very much, Kent. 

JONES:  Sure.

MADDOW:  More scared than I was before.  All right.  Up next, Bill Nye, The Science Guy, is here on why blowing up the moon worked out, brilliantly, actually, despite all appearances.


MADDOW:  It turns out that bombing the moon worked.  Five weeks ago, you‘ll recall, we crashed a spacecraft deliberately into the moon.  POW!  Right in the kisser. 

The idea was that the impact would send up a plume of debris.  NASA would analyze that debris to find out exactly what type of green cheese and everything else the moon was made of. 

As a side benefit, everyone thought that the spectacle of the moon bombing would be a really cool thing to watch from earth.  It wasn‘t.  The live video stream was a little hinny and even astronomers with really good telescopes couldn‘t really see much of the moon bombing at all. 

So as a spectacle, bust.  But as an audacious, ambitious science experiment, bingo.  What NASA was really looking for in that debris plume was water, and they found it - a lot of it.  That plume that we couldn‘t see from earth contained at least 24 gallons of ice and water vapor, along with all kinds of other unidentified compounds. 

We also learned as a result of this experiment that NASA can be really cute and snaky when they are excited about something.  Their press release on their findings today started with, quote, “The argument that the moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water.”

The chief scientist to the mission declared, quote, “The moon is alive.”  And another scientist proclaimed, “This is not your father‘s moon.”

Because NASA is excited, I will admit, I‘m excited.  But I will also admit that I‘m not otherwise exactly sure why this is an exciting thing. 

To help me understand and help you understand while I admit to being excited before really understanding it, we will turn to Emmy Award winner and scientist, Bill Nye, The Science Guy.  Bill, thank you very much for being here. 

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY:  Oh, Rachel, it‘s so good to be here. 

MADDOW:  Am I just experiencing pointless excitement by proxy?  Or is there cause to be psyched that there is water on the moon? 

NYE:  Yes and sort of.  First of all, freezer burn.  You ever left something in the freezer and it dries out? 


NYE:  Goes away - the water goes away, because the freezer, being cold, can‘t hold water vapor very well.  So when you go to the south pole of the moon to a crater that never gets sunlight for say, the last 300 million years, you would expect a lot of freezer burn. 

MADDOW:  That‘s fair enough, sure.  Sure, you would expect it to be all sorts of oar-frosty.  You wouldn‘t want to eat that ice cream.

NYE:  No, no.  You would expect it to evaporate. 


NYE:  That‘s what I‘m driving - you expect all the water to evaporate.  But since about 1961, people have argued there‘s enough chemical attraction between water and the rocks of the lunar regality, the lunar soil, that the water should persist there where the sun, if I may, don‘t shine. 

And so, in fact, it has.  They smacked it hard - we smacked it hard enough.  And this plume, as you described it, went up into space.  And it had about 10 kilos of water there.  And that‘s surprising - surprising to many. 

But let me just say, I don‘t think this is cause for everybody to build a nuclear reactor and send a bunch of astronauts to the moon with my tax dollars to have a moon base and live off the land.  That is an extraordinary step. 

MADDOW:  And do you think that - this is obviously a proof that the people who thought that there could be water there were right. 

As you‘re alluding to, the other thing that it seems to imply is that because there is water there, the moon might be helpful more to us than we otherwise thought it might have been in terms of getting out further into the universe to see what‘s there. 

Do you think the water there doesn‘t help us?  Or you don‘t care what‘s on the moon? 

NYE:  Oh, no, no.  No, no.  There are two questions, Rachel, that plague humans from the moment they start being humans.  Where did we come from, and are we alone?  So what you want to do is go to a place that has water. 

That‘s what we all want to do thinking the chemistry that makes us, “us” would have similar chemistry on another world and maybe we would find evidence of life or a means to support our own lives, to have a camp, a moon base. 

But there is so little water, like there may be less water, for example, in the Antarctic desert than there is on the lunar surface.  But that there is any water at all is remarkable. 

Instead, I would prefer us to send people to Mars, where it‘s also dry, but perhaps we could use the same techniques we use here looking for water, to look for water on mars and a logical place to look for life.  And then, we would answer questions about where we came from. 

MADDOW:  Is the problem - the disadvantage, scientifically, to your going to the moon sort of a “been there, done that” thing that we should be shooting at Mars so that we don‘t just keep doing something that we‘ve done before? 

NYE:  That‘s right.  And people argue that we need to go to the moon in order to learn how to go to Mars.  But we would remind you that we have dozens of assets of spacecraft on Mars as it is. 

And when humans first went to the moon, they‘ve never been there before.  You go to a place you haven‘t been before because you haven‘t been there before.  So it‘s exciting and it‘s cool.  And I remind everybody, in tax dollars, it was done for a very reasonable price.  But I don‘t think this justifies building a moon base and having human farms with greenhouses and so on. 

MADDOW:  Bill Nye, The Science Guy, thank you for helping us put this in perspective.  It‘s great to have you on the show.

NYE:  Thank you for having me on, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thanks. 

NYE:  Let‘s change the world.

MADDOW:  Yay!  Thank you at home for watching tonight as well.  We will see you on Monday night.  Have a spectacular weekend.  Thanks for joining us. 

You can E-mail us,  You can also download our podcast at iTunes or at  Have a good one. 



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