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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, December 7th, 2009

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Sen. Ron Wyden, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Melanie Sloan, Kent Jones


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Keith, how long do you think it is before we have to start hiring teams of animators in order to get news stories across on our shows?

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  Look over your shoulder.


OLBERMANN:  What was all that noise from the newsroom before?  They‘re installing the equipment now.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.  I hope they‘re union.

Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

All right, the single most ridiculous ad of the anti-health care reform campaign has materialized.  Have you seen this yet?  Retire the prize.  Melissa Harris-Lacewell will be here with her analyst of the “I must be a racist” campaign.

Also, the Climate Change Summit kicks off in Copenhagen and America is well-represented by kook-enders and former Bush administration officials all set to deny the whole problem exists.

And we‘re preparing for tomorrow night‘s appearance on this show by the man who cures people from being gay by cuddling them.  His teachings may have influenced Uganda‘s homicidal anti-gay proposal.  And tonight, there is videotape of the man in action.

Oh, yes, much, much, much more all to come.

But we begin tonight with the exciting formation of a new gang in Washington, D.C.  It‘s not often that the emergence of a gang in a major American city can be described as good news, but in this case, it may actually be good news, at least for the prospects of getting health reform passed this year.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has commissioned a new Senate gang, called the “Gang of 10,” which is currently holding secret closed-door meeting to forge a compromise that would allow the Senate to pass health reform.

Now, this gang stuff can admittedly get a little bit confusing over time, but it doesn‘t have to be confusing.  For example, this new “Gang of 10” is not to be confused with the “Gang of Six.”  That was six conservative senators on the finance committee who had tried to forge consensus on health reform earlier this year.

This new gang is also not to be confused with the “Gang of 14.”  That was the 14 conservative senators who tried to stop judicial filibusters during the Bush administration.

This new gang, also, not to be confused with the “Gang of Four.”  That would be the radical proponents of China‘s murderous Cultural Revolution.  All four were arrested in 1976.

This new gang, also, is not to be confused with the other “Gang of Four,” the awesome British post punk bands.


MADDOW:  We really have a disco ball, all this time?

Sorry.  No, this new gang is not is awesome British post punk band or the 1970s “Widow of Mao” gang, or Max Baucus‘ “Gang of Six,” or the save the filibusters “Gang of 14.”

No, this is the brand-spanking new “Gang of 10.”  Ten Democratic senators picked to meet in the capital to save health reform.

Recently, when liberals have heard about new gangs in the Senate, it‘s a bad thing, because, generally speaking, it‘s conservative Democrats agreeing to make Democratic policy more conservative.  See, the “Gang of Six” in the Senate Finance Committee.  That‘s how we got the public option bargained away in the first place.

But this new gang is not a plot to get conservative Democrats to bargain away Democratic goals to Republicans.  But this new gang actually includes liberals.  It‘s five liberal Democratic senators: Chuck Schumer, Jay Rockefeller, Sherrod Brown, Tom Harkin, Russ Feingold, paired with five conservative Democratic senators: Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, Tom Carper and Mark Pryor.

Although their negotiations are happening behind closed doors, it‘s thought that their job might be to find a compromise on the public option.

In its current form, as you know, the public option has been whittled down to basically nothing—not nothing, but pretty close.  It would only cover about 1 percent of Americans, about 2 million or 3 million people.  It would only be available in states that choose to allow it.  It wouldn‘t be able to negotiate cheaper waits the way that programs like Medicare do.  And its premiums would be expected to be more expensive than private insurance.

Still, Connecticut senator, Joe Lieberman, says he will filibuster all of health reform and block any reform at all if even that lame public option stays in.  Liberals on the “Gang of 10” may, therefore, have been charged with bargaining to get some progressive concessions in exchange for the now super-compromised weak public option.

If that‘s true, what might they get in return for it?  Well, among the ideas that have been floated so far are expanding Medicare.  Medicare is so popular among the people who are on it now that Republicans have recently been put in the awkward position of defending it, after having attacked it for generations.

Right now, you can only get Medicare if you‘re age 65 or older.  Sam Stein at “Huffington Post” reporting today that one idea being floated to inspire some progressive faith in health care reform again would be to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 or to 55.

Another option out there is giving more Americans access to the choices that members of Congress have for health insurance.  A government negotiated plan available in the health insurance exchange that would be run by a private insurer.

This current debate isn‘t by any stretch of the imagination a liberal debate.  If it were, we‘d be talking about what kind of single-payer system we‘re going to have, or even what kind of fully nationalized health care system we‘d have.  We‘re not talking about that.

But what is being considered right now, and more importantly, who‘s doing the considering, tells you that at least relatively-speaking, compared to the rest of this debate and how it‘s gone, liberals are wielding some power right now.

As Republicans continue to stay legislatively irrelevant in the health care fight, liberals have been busy going after conservatives in their own ranks, conservative Democrats, like, say, Joe Lieberman, who now finds himself under attack from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the party he started that abandoned the Connecticut for Lieberman Party.


DR. JOHN MERTENS, CHAIRMAN, CONNECTICUT FOR LIEBERMAN PARTY:  As chair of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, I would like to explain Joe Lieberman‘s opposition to the public health insurance option.  We know that Connecticut voters support it three to one.  But Joe never forgets who he ran to represent, himself.  See, Connecticut for Lieberman, not vice versa.

So, Joe has a message for Democrats and all the voters who want him to support the public option.  It‘s not about you.  It‘s all about Joe.


MADDOW:  That‘s what it looks like when liberals push back.  Then, there‘s conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, who introduced his big anti-abortion amendment today, which, among other things, allows women to buy separate abortion coverage.  Mr. Nelson got verbally smacked down by a number of his female Democratic colleagues shortly after introducing it.


SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND:  What an insulting, humiliating thing to say, if you want an abortion, go buy a rider.  I think it demonizes women.  Why don‘t you just go into the workplace and paint a scarlet letter on your head?  Hawthorne still lives in the Nelson amendment.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  This amendment would be the biggest row back to a woman‘s right to choose in decades.  We didn‘t ask for this fight, Madam President.  We didn‘t plan for this fight.  We don‘t want this fight.


MADDOW:  Right now, liberals appear to be exerting some influence on this health reform debate, at long last.  The question is: what will that yield?

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.  He‘s a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Wyden, thanks very much for coming back on the show.  It‘s nice to see you.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Let me talk to you about my assessment there of the public option.  In your view, is the current public option so weak right now that liberals maybe should try to trade it away for something more meaningful?

WYDEN:  It certainly has been getting weaker.  The fact of the matter is: progressives have been working all across the country for a public option that isn‘t just an empty label.  The whole point of the public option is to turn the tables on the insurance lobby, to put the consumer in the driver‘s seat, to stop these anti-competitive practices.

So, we are going to negotiate, particularly tomorrow.  There‘s an effort to try to get an agreement tomorrow.  I hope that‘s possible.

But this is on a fast track.  We‘ve got a good group of people at the table.  Progressives are well-represented.

And at the end of the day, we want to be able to give an ultimatum to the insurance industry, which is, in effect, you treat the consumer right or they‘re going to take their business somewhere else.

MADDOW:  It‘s hard for those of us who are trying to watch this from outside Washington, who are not part of the Senate, or are non-Senate staff, it‘s hard for us to know what exactly the dynamics are within the debate.  Are you saying that the dynamics are such that the public option could get stronger?  From outside Washington, it feels like the public option might go away.

WYDEN:  The people that are at the table, you listed a number of progressives, are people who have fought in the trenches for the grassroots of this country.  And they have put a lot of time in this.  They‘ve been spending their political capital, mobilizing folks in their communities.  These are not people who are going to go quietly into the night.

I mean, the idea of just taking what we have today, this network of private insurance companies that engage in outrageous practices and slapping some sticker on it and calling it a public option, that‘s not going to be acceptable to the progressive folks who are at the table.  We are going to insist on real reform and I believe we‘ve got a good chance to get it.

MADDOW:  Would you support the idea of Medicare being made available to people who are younger than age 65?

WYDEN:  I‘m certainly open to that.

Here are some of the issues: First of all, Rachel, we‘ve got to understand, folks between 55 and 64 today—and 65 are essentially in a world of hurt.  I mean, many of them have faced layoffs in a tough economy.  They get discriminated against in the insurance market—certainly giving them a boost makes some sense.

The only consideration I have is, I don‘t want to forget about somebody who‘s 47 or 48.  I mean, if we can make sure that there‘s real reform in the private insurance market and get some help for those who are over 55, but before Medicare, that would be real reform.

MADDOW:  On the issue of abortion, your colleague, Senator Ben Nelson, did introduce his anti-abortion amendment in the Senate today.  It mirrors the one that had been passed by the House.

Does abortion still have the potential to really blow up unity in the Democratic caucus?

WYDEN:  Look, we are a big tent.  We are stretching that tent to try to make sure that we get everybody under it.  Ben Nelson is very sincere in his views, but I‘m against the amendment.  I think it is a slippery slope.

Look, we have a rough consensus in this country.  We protect Roe versus Wade.  There isn‘t public funding of abortions.  And, unfortunately, the Nelson amendment would unravel that consensus.  This would be a great mistake to pass this amendment and roll back the clock on women‘s rights.

MADDOW:  Do you think that there‘s any potential that the Nelson language will pass?

WYDEN:  No.  I think that, particularly, based on today‘s debate, I expect we‘ll have supporters on both sides of the aisle.

Look.  This is a critical question with respect to privacy as well.  There‘s great concern among folks on the far-right about government getting too big.  Why in the world would you want to let big government make these decisions that now belong to women?

MADDOW:  Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon—thanks for shedding some light on what‘s going on in Washington tonight.  Appreciate it.

WYDEN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  The big climate summit in Copenhagen kicks off today.  Do you remember Senator Inhofe said that he was going to lead a climate change-denying truth squad to Copenhagen to go undercut the U.S. government there?  Well, Senator Inhofe has finally unveiled the previously secret member of his truth squat.  We‘ll have that information in a moment.  I know you‘re dying to find out who it is.

Later, our investigation continues as well into American evangelicals who inspired murderous anti-gay legislation abroad.  Tonight, we learn way more than we ever wanted to know about what they call “sexual reorientation therapy.”  Oh, boy.

But, first, “One More Thing” about Capitol Hill gangs and their would-be members.  Senator Max Baucus of Montana was not only on this year‘s “Gang of Six,” he was essentially its leader.  But Senator Baucus had nothing to do with this weekend‘s “Gang of 10.”  Perhaps that‘s because he was preoccupied dealing with other big weekend news.

It came to light this weekend that Senator Baucus recommended to the president his one-time state director, a woman named Melodee Hanes, to be a U.S. attorney.  According to all available accounts, Ms. Hanes is qualified to do that job.  However, Melodee Hanes is also Senator Baucus‘ girlfriend, which probably should have disqualified her from being his nominee for that job.  Quite awkward.

Ms. Hanes has long since withdrawn her name from consideration for the job.  Incidentally, the job would have been in Montana and she has since moved to Washington to live with Senator Baucus.

So, despite shots from Republicans, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is saying that Senator Baucus is A-OK with him on this point, but Senator Baucus has proven that love is not only blind, it doesn‘t even know how to recognize a big appearance of a conflict of interest.


MADDOW:  Every so often, politics sends us a blessing.  A sort of personal, straight from heaven, blessing.  Like this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess we‘re racist.


MADDOW:  And you‘re thinking, is this really?  Is this a satire?  This can‘t be real.  It can‘t be.  No, actually it is.  It‘s the latest commercial against health reform.  People saying they‘re racist.

Lots more on this.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Let‘s say you‘re casting about for a way to show that people of all ages, races, backgrounds are coming together on your issue, that your cause transcends the differences between people, that we‘re all willing to sacrifice for something greater than ourselves.

Let‘s say you‘re looking for a way to demonstrate that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set aside on the single condition that you identify the body or the living person of the slave called Spartacus.










CROWD:  I‘m Spartacus!


MADDOW:  I am Spartacus!  I‘m Spartacus!  I‘m Spartacus.

That mean later turned into a way to eulogize martyrs, to show that someone who was killed or derided was actually identified with by other people, that‘s—that that martyr‘s message would live on, like, for example, in this iconic scene from Spike Lee‘s moving “Malcolm X.”











MADDOW:  There‘s also this real-life moment from the documentary “Eyes on the Prize.”


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the next thing I know here was one of our eighth grade boys, he jumped up and said, “I am Fred Hampton.”  And then another girl, six grade, she jumped up, “I am Fred Hampton.”  Another kid in first grade, “I‘m Fred Hampton.”  And before you knew it, the whole church, kids were all shouting, “I am Fred Hampton.”


MADDOW:  You see the theme, right?  We talked about this last week with Dave Zirin, “The Nation‘s” sports columnist.  “I am Spartacus,” “I am Fred Hampton,” “I am Malcolm X.”  “I am an athlete selling you Nike sporting goods”?









MADDOW:  That ad, of course, now has an all new and embarrassing connotation, of course, but you get the point.  “I am Spartacus,” the to-be crucified Roman slave, becomes “I am Fred Hampton,” the murdered Black Panther activist, becomes “I am Malcolm X,” the murdered black nationalist leader, becomes, “I am a black athlete in a mostly white sports selling you zip neck polo shirts.”

The commercialization of the “I am proper noun” mean brought it pretty far from its original meaning—pretty far from identifying with martyred people and with the oppressed.  But it hasn‘t brought it nearly as far as this mean has been stretched now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m a racist.

NARRATOR:  Jesse Jackson recently said, “You can‘t vote against health care and call yourself a black man.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess we‘re racist.


MADDOW:  This is an anti-health reform ad, believe it or not.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m a racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m racist.


MADDOW:  The ad, which its makers tell us, is running today and tomorrow during newscasts in Washington, D.C., has something to do with connecting opposition to health reform to allegations of racism.


NARRATOR:  If a person is racist just for opposing Obama‘s government health plan, then a lot of people in this country are racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m a racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I guess I‘m racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I guess I‘m racist.


MADDOW:  The person behind this ad is conservative filmmaker Ray Griggs.  One of the people pictured in the ad, this guy, is an elected state representative, Republican Robert Schaaf of Missouri, and he‘s now, officially nationally famous for making a political ad proclaiming that he‘s a racist.  Welcome to the national stage, Representative.

Joining us now: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University.

Melissa, it‘s nice to see you again.  Thanks for joining us.


MADDOW:  No, you‘re not!

Help me—help me understand what is going on in this ad.  Can you—can you X-ray this for me with your big brain?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  You know, when your producers sent this to me, and I have to say, you have the smartest producers in the business, but my first thought was, they haven‘t done enough research.  This must be a joke.  This must be a spoof ad.

No one could possibly, seriously be attempting to enter into public conversation on an issue as important as health care reform with something like this.  It is—I think, obscene is the best word I can use to describe something that really, I think, sucks—as I would say, sucks all the rhetorical air out of the room.  We now can‘t have a conversation about either structural racism, which exists in the health care system, the ways in which race might be motivating some of the critiques of Barack Obama, nor can we even have a decent conversation about what‘s wrong with the assertions about what the health care reform plan is, because it‘s such an appalling message.

MADDOW:  Well, it‘s—at the surface level, it‘s the ultimate straw man, right?  It‘s like saying, you know, “I‘m against the reliable replacement warhead, and that doesn‘t make me a complete idiot.”  Well, nobody said you were an idiot, people said you were against the reliable replacement of a warhead.  It‘s saying that you can‘t argue against me because these allegations that you haven‘t made against me aren‘t true and I‘ll just defend myself against those allegations.

That‘s what‘s happening on the surface level, but there is something going on about race.  And famously, race in American political ads, we think of the Jesse Helms ad showing a white person whose job has been lost to an affirmative action candidate, or the Bob Corker ad showing a white woman soliciting affections from Harold Ford.

Do these fall into that same category in any way?  Are they talking about race in any of the same ways?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, they‘re pretty unique, in that what we would say about the Jesse Helms “white hands” commercial, about the Harold Ford commercial that these were commercials they played the race card implicitly.  In fact, typically, laying words like, for example, “welfare queen,” or “crime” or a variety of code words, people like my colleagues Tali Mendelberg and Martin Gilens at Princeton have both describe how racial code words have been used to kind of prompt racial understandings and to evoke latent racial anxieties.

But this is really very different, right?  This is going right to the core of it and suggesting that, first of all, racism is primarily something that an individual has, not a structure.  So it says, well, basically it‘s saying, “I‘m not a racist.  I‘m not a racist.”

It‘s a weird kind of defensiveness that defines racism as solely sort of residing in the heads or brains of individuals, when the racism that we need to be worried about are racially disparate outcomes.  We need to be worried about the fact that we have in this country still huge gaps in education, in income, in wellness, health—all of these areas around health care.

But, see, when we frame race and racism as simply about whether or not any given individual ever uses the “N” word, then it sort of flattens our ability to really talk about racial inequality in the ways that are more useful.

MADDOW:  But it makes a real fun epithet for political ads on both sides, as we‘re learning.

Incredible stuff.  Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University—thank you very much for coming on the show tonight.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe once said that global warming was the second biggest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.  Good thing he, his truth squad, and some corporate-sponsored grassroots tea party types are heading for Copenhagen to undermine the U.S. government at the Climate Change Summit.  Details—next.


MADDOW:  The top adviser to President George W. Bush on the environment, in both of Bush‘s terms in office, is now an executive at Constellation Energy, which operates about three dozen power plants all over the country.  And the chief of staff to that top environmental adviser to President Bush, the first one left the Bush administration to join a little environmental start-up firm you might have heard called ExxonMobil.

The man who became environmental chief-of-staff after the first guy, the ExxonMobil guy left - his post-Bush administration job is a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. 

The director of communications for the top environmental adviser to President Bush from the middle of the Bush years - that person became director of communications for the National Petrochemical and Refiner‘s Association. 

Are you noticing a theme here?  It goes even further down the masthead.  President Bush‘s associate director of the Council on Environmental Quality for Environmental Protection is now a lobbyist for Shell Oil. 

Yes, this very well-trod career path from environmental job in the Bush administration to oil-soaked corporate fat cat in the energy industry was charted today in a new report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 

It‘s helpful to keep in mind that as the world convenes in Denmark to try to do something about climate change, and as America‘s conservatives lead the charge to stop the world from doing anything about climate change. 

Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma has for months been breathlessly talking up his own planned trip to Copenhagen to try to undermine President Obama‘s visit there next week. 


SEN. JIM INHOFE (R-OK):  Now, I‘m going to go to Copenhagen.  I think somebody has to be there - a one-man truth squad.  I have been the lead senator standing up and exposing the science, the cost, and the hysteria behind global warming alarmism.  And I will be traveling to Copenhagen, leading what has been called in the media as the truth squad. 


MADDOW:  The truth squad, his one-man truth squad, is actually now a three-man truth squad, because Sen. Inhofe has persuaded a couple of friends to go with him to Copenhagen.  Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming will be going and someone whose identity Sen. Inhofe said until recently was a secret. 


BILL BENNETT, HOST, “BILL BENNETT RADIO SHOW”:  And John Barrasso‘s going with you, right?  John Barrasso? 

INHOFE:  Yes.  Barrasso and there‘s another secret person going with me.  We‘re going to have a team of three, a truth squad of three. 


MADDOW:  “There‘s another secret person going with me.”  A secret person.  After lots of speculation about who Sen. Inhofe‘s secret person might be, his secret climate change-denying friend - could it be Sarah Palin? 

Today, we finally learned who it actually is.  The identity of the third member of the Jim Inhofe climate change denialist, truth-squad going to Copenhagen has been revealed in a cloud of anticlimax. 

It is Roger Wicker.  Roger Wicker, who not many people know, is a United States senator from Mississippi.  He‘s actually the man who was appointed to replace Trent Lott as senator so Mr. Lott could retire urgently to become a lobbyist. 

Again, there‘s that theme.  Cutting out the lobbyist middleman, oil billionaire, David Koch, who inherited the giant oil and chemical company, Koch Industries, from his dad, David Koch is using his tea party pressure group, Americans for Prosperity, to send its own political operatives to Copenhagen to try to undercut President Obama there. 

They had planned to broadcast live from Copenhagen on the same day President Obama was planning to visit the conference.  That plan itself was undercut when the president changed his travel plans to not be going until the end of next week. 

As President Obama prepares for his trip to Copenhagen next week, today, he met with former vice president Al Gore in the Oval Office.  As he prepares to go now, at least there‘s no mystery, really, no subtlety at all about who and what he is up against. 

Joining us now is Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.  Melanie, thanks very much for coming on the show. 


ETHICS IN WASHINGTON:  Always a pleasure. 

MADDOW:  I have to ask if you were surprised by your own report by how many top environmental officials from the Bush administration are now working for the energy companies.

SLOAN:  Right.  Well, first, maybe it‘s a little bit of a misnomer to call them environmental officials in the first place - maybe anti-environmental officials.  So no, it‘s not really a surprise.  Most of them were busy carrying the industry‘s water while they were in the Bush administration in the first place. 

MADDOW:  Is there an important takeaway from all of this, politically?  Is there something we should be learning from this information about the career choices of the, as you say, sort of environmental officials from the Bush administration? 

SLOAN:  Yes.  I think you could take away that when people come from the oil companies and the energy companies and go into the administration to work on environmental matters, they‘re probably not worrying about the interest of the American people as much as they are worrying about the interest of the big oil companies that helped get them there in the first place. 

MADDOW:  Well, two of the former Bush administration officials who you cited in the CREW report have another employer in common on their resumes.  People had been employed by Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of the climate change denying truth squad.  I‘m assuming that‘s really no coincidence, that this is a rather tight-knit and self-promoting group. 

SLOAN:  Right.  That seems unlikely to be a coincidence.  One of them worked for Inhofe before he joined the Council on Environmental Quality and one joined Inhofe after he left the council, although both ultimately ended up working for energy.  One worked for First Energy and the other worked for the National Petrochemical Association, a trade industry group. 

MADDOW:  CREW has done much to monitor, sort of, and document, really, the revolving door between industry and administration officials.  But one of the things that I think is important in policy development, generally, is the expertise of former officials, people who have had policymaking jobs in previous administrations who therefore have the expertise about how legislation affects what the government actually does, about how policy actually hits the road when it actually goes into effect. 

And that those people can be a real asset in the debate, even globally, going forward, about what countries ought to do about the problems that vex us.  Are we in sort of a unique situation, where the people who ought to have the policy expertise about the environment are all people who are tied up in industry, and so there really aren‘t any disinterested people who are able to contribute the way that other former officials have? 

SLOAN:  Well, that does seem to be a particular problem here.  But I would say that there are probably officials who could have handled these jobs.  But the Bush administration always had a goal and that was to undercut climate change from day one. 

So the people they brought into the administration were there to help undercut climate change, as we saw with Phil Cooney, for example, the CEQ chief-of-staff who was busy rewriting scientific data and ultimately had to leave over that. 

But they were there to undercut climate change.  And so it‘s no surprise that they come in to undercut climate change and then go back to the energy companies where they come from in the first place.  I think you would not see such a thing from the Obama administration, for example. 

It seems very unlikely that people are coming to the Council on Environmental Quality and are going to leave and promptly turn around and work for Shell Oil. 

MADDOW:  Unless something really profound happens to Shell Oil. 

SLOAN:  That‘s right. 

MADDOW:  Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.  Thanks very much for joining us tonight. 

SLOAN:  Nice to be here. 

MADDOW:  We have some unearthed some videotape tonight of the American activist whose teachings are at the root of Uganda‘s proposed anti-gay legislation, the legislation that would prescribe life imprisonment or even execution for the crime of being gay. 

This American activist‘s method?  He says he can cure gay men of their homosexuality by cuddling with them.  You want to see the terrifying cuddle videotape?  It‘s coming up.


MADDOW:  Still ahead on “countdown,” Keith looks at Sarah Palin‘s first semester and only semester of college in Hawaii.  Her father reportedly said she left Hawaii because the number of Asians there made her uncomfortable. 

And ahead on this show, happy birthday wishes to the most beloved blood-thirsty predator in the world.  They‘re so cute at that age. 

But, first, it‘s 9:40 Eastern time.  Do you know where your Nobel Peace Prize winner is? 


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. 

Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. 


MADDOW:  When President Obama announced his Afghanistan strategy last week, he announced a fast surge of 30,000 troops, but then also promised at least a starting date for when troops would come home.  It seems, then, that the big issue that remained to be clarified was whether just the 30,000 extra troops would start to come home then or whether all of our troops in Afghanistan would start to come home in 2011. 

It turns out that worry is beside the point.  The real outstanding question is whether or not any of our troops will definitely start to come home in 2011 or whether that‘s just a maybe, a hope, a might-do.  The day after the president‘s speech, it seemed like that withdrawal day, that starting to leave date, was for real. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Chairman, it is - July 2011 is when we expect

the transition process to begin.  Our view is that -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is that date conditions-based or not? 



MADDOW:  No, sir, not condition conditions-based.  We‘re just coming home, July 2011, no matter what.  That same day, CBS‘ Chip Reid reported that he asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs whether the July 2011 date for beginning to withdraw troops was locked in. 

REID reported Gibbs‘ response as, “There is no flexibility. 

Troops will start coming home in July 2011, period.  It‘s etched in stone.  Gibbs even said he had the chisel.”  That was Wednesday.  By this weekend, the July 2011 date for leaving was apparently no longer locked in and any talk of a firm deadline - pshaw. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And again, there‘s no timeline, no ramp, nothing like that. 

HILLARY CLINTON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE:  We‘re not talking about an exit strategy or a drop-dead deadline. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And our strategic interests in South Asia - that should not be measured in terms of finite times. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that, you know, again, I don‘t want to put a deadline on it, OK? 


MADDOW:  So forget that whole deadline, etched in stone, thing.  Between last Wednesday and this weekend, someone lost his chisel.  And we as a nation apparently lost our Afghanistan exit date. 

And finally, the Obama administration seems to have had the rarest of things in Washington, a program that actually costs less than originally anticipated.  This is like Yangtze River dolphin of politics.  It exists, but it‘s almost never seen in the wild. 

By the end of this year, the government thinks it will get back about a third of the money that it spent on the troubled assets relief program, TARP.  The big bank bailout by the Treasury Department started in the last few months of the Bush administration. 

When you combine the recovered banks‘ fast track repayment schedule with the fact that the government had to bail out a lot fewer institutions than originally projected, the whole program is going to cost about $200 billion less than originally believed. 

And that $200 billion windfall, thanks to the economy not permanently seizing and dying like an engine running without oil, is apparently set to be directed to the worst consequence of the Wall Street meltdown recession.  And that worst consequence, of course, would be unemployment. 

Close your eyes and think of it.  $200 billion jobs program.  President Obama is set to deliver a speech on jobs tomorrow, so expect to hear a lot more about this then.  And no matter what‘s proposed, expect Republicans to say it‘s the worst idea they‘ve ever heard and none of them will vote for it, no matter what it is. 

Good news, bad news, it doesn‘t really matter.  Take comfort in knowing some things can be predicted with confidence.   


MADDOW:  An American activist who says men can be cured of homosexuality by cuddling with him.  Who says that beating a pillow with a tennis racket while screaming at your parents is another path to being cured of the gay? 

This activist has seen his “I can cure homosexuality” show taken out on the road.  And the road show version appears to have helped to inspire the introduction of a proposed law in another country that would institute life imprisonment or even the death penalty for being gay. 

His name is Richard Cohen.  Mr. Cohen describes himself as formerly gay.  He‘s also formerly a member of the Unification Church of Sung Myung Moon, so colloquially, he‘s also an ex-moonie.  

Richard Cohen is also the author of the book, “Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality.”  A couple years ago, Mr. Cohen‘s ideas about how to rid oneself of one‘s sexuality were the subject of a short feature on CNN. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over):  He showed us some of his unconventional techniques like touch therapy, in which he encourages Rob to seek out same-sex mentors to basically recreate a healthy father-son bond. 

RICHARD COHEN, AUTHOR, “COMING OUT STRAIGHT”:  It‘s nonsexual.  It establishes a parent-child relationship.  So he didn‘t experience this growing up with his dad. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Rob, do you feel a sexual connection right now? 

ROB:  No, I don‘t.  I feel very safe and very comforted.  And it just feels wonderful. 


MADDOW:  After illustrating that part of his therapy, Mr. Cohen explained how tennis rackets can also play a role in un-gaying people. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over):  Another technique, bioenergetics designed to help clients release memories stored in the muscles, in this case by hitting a pillow with a tennis racket. 

COHEN:  I was angry at my mother, so I started saying, “Mom!  Mom! 

Mom!  Mom!  Why did you do that to me?”


MADDOW:  The publicity surrounding this interview did not stop Mr.  Cohen from going on TV shows to demonstrate with tennis rackets and pillows or appearing in a documentary about the ex-gay movement, the documentary called “Chasing the Devil.”

COHEN:  We have a south and a north.  And a north and a south.  What‘s going to happen? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Opposites attract. 

COHEN:  They love each other.  They love it, baby.  They love it.  OK.  Let‘s flip this around.  We have two north and two south.  What‘s going to happen? 


COHEN:  You know that - they just can‘t do it. 


MADDOW:  So it‘s proven, right?  It‘s important to note no actual magnets were harmed in the making of this program.  But actual people, on the other hand, I cannot give you the same assurance. 

What could most charitably be described as unorthodox teachings of Mr. Cohen, believe it or not, have been directly inspirational to the forces in Uganda that have pushed for this new proposed legislation to kill people for being gay. 

An employee of Richard Cohen‘s organization, The International Healing Foundation, and two other American anti-gay activists, who purport to be able to cure homosexuality, led a so-called pray away the gay conference in Uganda in March. 

The post-conference workshops led directly to the drafting of the kill-the-gays legislation.  And here is video obtained by the think tank Political Research Associates showing an organizer of that conference that led to the kill-the-gays bill specifically and explicitly crediting Richard Cohen‘s teachings about how homosexuality is curable. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Homosexuality is not about sex, but about seeking the love of the father or the mother.  OK.  It‘s not about sex, really.  Although sex happens to be in it; but a person really is seeking for love of the father, love of a mother. 

Richard Cohen is one of the writers who, one of the very authoritative writers who has written on the subject.  He himself was a former homosexual.  He studied psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and used himself as a guinea pig, and was able to come out of his homosexuality.  And today, he is a married man with three children.  This is him, “Coming Out Straight.” 


MADDOW:  Richard Cohen‘s “Coming Out Straight,” convincing foreign audiences that people are gay by choice, that he can cure them if they want to be cured and thereby directly inspiring legislation to kill or imprison anyone who doesn‘t take advantage of the miraculous curative opportunities like cuddling or beating a pillow with a tennis racquet. 

Richard Cohen is booked to be a guest live on this show tomorrow. 

No tennis, no pillows.  Don‘t even think about the prospect of cuddling.


MADDOW:  We turn now to our mammalian icons correspondent, Kent Jones. 

Mammalian icons. 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Mammalian icons.  You know, as the Copenhagen summit begins, I think now would be a good time to check in on the 500-pound poster boy of climate change.  We all know him. 


(voice-over):  Knut, the world‘s most famous polar bear, turned three years old over the weekend.  The Berlin zoo threw him a party with a cake and dinner roll shaped like a 3 and sushi - really, really fresh. 

Seems just like yesterday Knut was rejected by his mother and then raised by slightly creepy German zookeepers.  And cute - baby Knut was brutally, off-puttingly cute.  I mean, come on, that‘s not right. 

Superstardom followed.  Within weeks, he was in the one-name club

Madonna, Beyonce, Knut.  Climate change finally had a face and it was hairier than Al Gore. 

Then, inevitably decline.  Knut went through a way less-cute growing spurt phase and you know what that means.  People moved on.  But now, look at him - fat and happy, three hots and a cot, mature, handsome, ursine. 

They even hooked him up with an Italian girlfriend named Gianna.  What happened to you, man?  With the climate change debate still raging worldwide, we don‘t need this domesticated Homer Simpson Knut.  We need a fierce, furry eco-warrior. 

Get out of that cushy crib, big guy.  Hop on the first plane to Copenhagen and have a friendly chat about climate change with James Inhofe.  Come on, see the bear.  Be the bear. 


MADDOW:  Did he really have a girlfriend named Gianna? 

JONES:  He does.  I think it‘s still going on. 

MADDOW:  Who would name a polar bear Gianna?

JONES:  Italian zookeepers. 

MADDOW:  I guess that‘s true.  Germans named one Knut. 

JONES:  Like that. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  I appreciate that.  I‘m glad to see he‘s growing into himself.  I have a cocktail moment for you. 

JONES:  Very good.

MADDOW:  I drove the dreaded I-95 this weekend.  I drove from New York City down to visit friends in Annapolis.  And I‘m a pretty good driver.  I think of myself as an above average driver.  I‘m always very proud of my defensive driving skills. 

JONES:  Yes 

MADDOW:  I did the worst driving I‘ve ever done.  I didn‘t cause any accidents or anything, but I was so distracted looking for Dorpo(ph) weather balloons the whole time.

JONES:  All right. 

MADDOW:  And turns out that there was one in Delaware, but I didn‘t see it. 

JONES:  Oh.  OK.

MADDOW:  There were the 10, eight-foot red weather balloons that were put up all around the country on Saturday.  And the - by the Pentagon.  There was a $40,000 cash prize.  And the winning team - it only took them eight hours and 56 minutes to find all 10 balloons. 


JONES:  No. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Well, it was a team from MIT led by a physicist. 


MADDOW:  Makes me feel a little less bad about screwing up. 

JONES:  Right.

MADDOW:  Apparently, they set up a Web site asking people to join their team.  There‘s an E-mail.  They put out ads on mobile phones.  Ultimately, they won.  Congratulations to them.

JONES:  Very nice. 

MADDOW:  That‘s today‘s cocktail moment.  That does it for us tonight.  We‘ll see you again tomorrow.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a good one. 



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