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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Kent Jones, Richard Engel, Spencer Ackerman, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Stephen Gordon

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening.

Congressman Pete Hoekstra and Jim DeMint have used the Christmas terror attempt to line their pockets and union-bust respectively.  So, tonight, we will be paying them some pretty special attention.

Richard Engel, NBC chief foreign correspondent, is also going to be here live on set with information that he has obtained exclusively.  This is a big deal.  Richard has obtained something that may change a lot of minds about the war in Afghanistan and whether we should be fighting it.

And one of the original tea partiers will be along this hour to share his feelings about what exactly the tea party movement has become.

Plus, Karl Rove—Karl Rove will earn a sad, starring role in a brief heartfelt comment tonight on “Rachel Ray.”  That is all ahead.

But we begin with a rather dramatic, unexpected appearance today by President Obama.  The president is on vacation in Hawaii, and he made an unscheduled statement to the press late this afternoon.

In that statement, the president decried what he called a systemic failure which led to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab getting himself and powdered explosives onto Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day.  After praising the intelligence community for its hard work and for gathering the necessary information on Mr. Abdulmutallab, President Obama made a deliberate point of backstopping his Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Napolitano has come under partisan attack in recent days for comments she made on Sunday about the response to the attempted terrorist attack.


JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  One thing I‘d like to point out is that the system worked.  Everybody played an important role here.  The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action.  Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight.  We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe where this flight originated.  So, the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.


MADDOW:  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano arguing that the response to what Mr. Abdulmutallab allegedly did after he did it was appropriate.  Once the guy‘s attempt failed he was subdued by fellow passengers and then crew.  He was brought into custody safely, the plane landed safely, the law enforcement and aviation security response seems to have been appropriate after all of that happened.

The assertion by Janet Napolitano that things went well after the incident shouldn‘t really be all that controversial—unless, of course, you twist it and take it out of context.  Cue the taking it out of context in three, two, one.


SEN. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  Napolitano said the system worked.  The fact is, the system did not work and we have to find a bipartisan way to fix it.  I mean, he made it on the plane with explosives and he detonated the explosives.


MADDOW:  Through selective editing, Republicans have tried to turn Janet Napolitano‘s assessment of the response to the attempted bombing into some sort of excuse for the bombing happening in the first place.

President Obama is trying to put an end to that political trickery today by putting Napolitano‘s comments back in context.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Secretary Napolitano has said once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253, after his attempt, it‘s clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems and our aviation security, took all appropriate actions.


MADDOW:  Now, we get to se if the media just keeps parroting the Republican attack on Janet Napolitano, or if they will actually report her remarks in context, and the fact that Republicans are attacking her for saying something she never actually said.

The big assist from the talking point stenographers among my friends in the media, conservatives have been racing for the nearest TV camera to try to score political points off of this failed terrorist tack.  Here‘s another example.


TOM RIDGE, BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY SECY.:  I take a look at this individual who‘s been charged criminally—does that mean he‘s going to get his Miranda warnings?  Does that mean the only kind of information we‘re going to get from him is if he volunteers it?  He‘s not a citizen of this country, he is a terrorist, and I don‘t think he deserves the full range of criminal—protections for our criminal justice system as provided in the Constitution of the United States.


MADDOW:  That was Bush administration‘s first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, lamenting the fact that the Christmas Day underwear bomber has been indicted and will be tried in a federal court—federal court.  A real federal court, are you kidding?  Is there any precedent for doing something so outrageous?  Conveniently, yes.  There‘s almost an exact parallel to this situation, in the case of convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid.

Richard Reid the shoe bomber attempted basically the exact same thing as the underpants guy.  On a cold and wintry day in December 2001, Richard Reid was armed with the same kind of explosive.  He was also an al Qaeda operative.  He was also trying to bring down an American airliner.  He was also overtaken by his fellow passengers.  That plane also landed safely and he was arrested.

And you want to know how the Bush administration prosecuted Richard Reid at the time?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR:  And word tonight that Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber,” accused of trying to blow up an American Airlines jet, has told a federal judge he is going to plead guilty to all criminal charges against him.


MADDOW:  Federal judge?  Criminal charges?

The Bush administration tried Richard Reid in federal court.  Just as the Obama administration is going to try the Christmas Day underpants bomber guy in federal court as well.  The Bush administration even bragged about the Richard Reid‘s criminal conviction after it happened.


JOHN ASHCROFT, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  In Boston, Richard Colvin Reid pled guilty to all counts in the indictment for attempting to ignite a bomb on American Airlines Flight 63, and to murder 197 passengers and crew.  Today is a victory for justice and for the citizens who are vigilant in the pursuit of justice.


MADDOW:  Former Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft bragging on the civilian criminal conviction of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber.

Who was head of the Homeland Security Department at that time?


RIDGE:  Because of the vigilance of some citizens, we certainly got some folks on airplanes—shoe bombers.


MADDOW:  Tom Ridge.

Richard Reid‘s prosecution was not a controversial issue.  In fact, everyone now, including Mr. Ridge, seems rather happy about the fact that Richard Reid is serving out a life sentence in obscurity at a super max prison in Colorado.

Still, though, when there‘s political hay to be made, there‘s no reason to let complete intellectual incoherence get in your way.  Take it from here, you guys.


KING:  I think the administration has made a mistake by treating this terrorist as a common criminal, by putting him into the criminal justice system.  I wish they would have put him into a military tribunal so we could get as much intelligence and information out of him as we could.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The first and highest priority when you apprehend him is not to make sure he gets his constitutional rights—he‘s not even a citizen—but to get all the information you can about where he came from, who trained him, where they are, are there other attacks coming, where are they coming, and if that means, frankly, you have to deny him pain medicine because this guy‘s badly burned, I think you go ahead and do that.


MADDOW:  Why are conservatives now arguing that this case shouldn‘t be handled in civilian courts?  Was there something dissatisfying with Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, being tried in civilian courts and ending up at a federal super max prison?  If there was something dissatisfying about that, why didn‘t conservatives complain about that case before now?


BUCHANAN:  And if that means, frankly, you have to deny him pain medicine because this guy‘s badly burned, I think you go ahead and do that.


MADDOW:  This isn‘t about whether or not the underpants bomber guy is going to end up in Guantanamo or Bagram or a military brig somewhere, or in federal prison.  This isn‘t about that.  This is about some ticking time bomb Jack Bauer-style campaign ad, where torture is defined as something good and something American that Democrats are too soft to want to do.  This is about sadistic torture fantasies and the effect that conservatives think those fantasies have on American elections.


BUCHANAN:  And if that means, frankly, you have to deny him pain medicine because this guy‘s badly burned, I think you go ahead and do that.


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter for “The Washington Independent.”

Spencer, it‘s good to see you again.  Thanks for joining us.

SPENCER ACKERMAN, THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT:  Thanks so much for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  The argument from conservatives here seems to be that torture, specifically, as Pat defined it, denying a man his pain medication after being burned, would glean more information than we‘re getting right now from this suspect.  I know you‘ve been talking to intelligence sources about this case.

What are you hearing about whether or not they are getting information out of this guy?

ACKERMAN:  What‘s so significant is what you‘re not hearing, which is that no one is saying that they‘ve been able to talk to or I‘ve heard from colleagues that they had any problem getting relevant information from the would-be underpants bomber.  Instead, when he‘s brought into custody, he cooperates with investigators.  He says he‘s a member of al Qaeda.  And somehow, this has become a need (ph) over the past 24 hours that we just we need to torture the guy because.

MADDOW:  Well, the—it seems like the implicit idea is that this ticking time-bomb scenario is in effect and we need to use torture to uncover some impending plot that this suspect is going to know about, and will tell us about if we torture him.

From what we know about Mr. Abdulmutallab, does it seem like he‘s the kind of guy who plays a reasonable role in the ticking time-bomb scenario?  And what‘s wrong with that scenario overall?

ACKERMAN:  Well, first of all, the guy, if you can go off the online postings that have come to light over the last day or so, is basically the Fauntleroy of terrorists.  He‘s a whining loner raised and educated in Britain out of his wealthy banker father‘s money, complaining about how lonely he is and how he can‘t relate to people, that al Qaeda exploited and basically turned him into an aspiring mass murderer.

He is from everything we had ever learned about al Qaeda—precisely not this sort of person that they‘re going to entrust with their deepest, darkest secrets.

And that‘s why I would presume law enforcement intelligence officials aren‘t afraid at all about not getting information from him or needing to torture from him.  In fact, what we‘ve learned about torture and it‘s, you know, sad that we have to reiterate this, is that what you get is bad information.

You get, for instance, information that Saddam Hussein was working with al Qaeda which was untrue.  That Saddam Hussein had active weapons of mass destruction programs which were untrue, that lead to the sorts of national security disasters that the Republican Party promoted for the last eight years.

MADDOW:  Not to mention wild goose chases.  I mean, it was through the magic of waterboarding that Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessed to everything short of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby under U.S. custody.

One last question for you, Spencer, in the case of Tom Ridge, we now had him criticizing the Obama administration for taking this case up in civilian court.  He apparently had no such problem with Richard Reid being brought up on federal charges in 2002.

Are there salient differences between these cases or is there any other way to square that inconsistency?

ACKERMAN:  The last time I saw Tom Ridge, he was on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, performing a public mea culpa for his failings as homeland security secretary.  I can‘t think of a single relevant salient difference.

The Bush administration—as you pointed out—celebrated the fact that it secured the conviction of Reid.  And they were right to—because that‘s the way America has always works and that‘s the way that America demonstrates its commitment to the rule of law and to credibly and openly protecting the national security and the safety of its people in relevant harmony with its values.

MADDOW:  Spencer Ackerman is a senior reporter for “The Washington Independent.”  I know you‘ve had a very long day and much of it has been spent on MSNBC.  So, thanks for your time tonight, Spencer.  Appreciate it.

ACKERMAN:  My pleasure, absolutely.

MADDOW:  So, what‘s the first thing an elected official should think to do immediately following a potentially devastating terrorist attack like the one that we narrowly averted on Christmas Day?  How about fundraising and union-bashing?  Yes.  Leadership—ahead.  We‘ll have that story in just a moment.

And later on, one of the original tea partiers, a man who was tea partying, before tea partying became a for-profit corporate-sponsored enterprise, joins us to assess what has become of his beloved movement.  Do not miss that.

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  The first ever RACHEL MADDOW SHOW lesson in Yiddish.  The day‘s word is “shanda.”  A real example of shanda would be cynically fundraising in the wake of an attempted terrorist attack.  Or say, putting union-bashing ahead of national security in the wake of an attempted terrorist attack.  A full illustration of today‘s Yiddish lesson courtesy of two leading politicians—just ahead.


MADDOW:  When you‘re a member of the minority party, nothing spells political opportunity like guy trying to blow up an airliner over Detroit using explosives in his underpants on Christmas Day.

For Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, that failed attack on a Northwest Airlines flight allegedly by 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flashed a big green political go signal, as in “Go raise money for your political campaign, Congressman.”

Pete Hoekstra is running for governor of Michigan.  And after the attack, he rushed out a letter on Monday that began, quote, “Dear friend:

We don‘t have much time, so I will get to the point.  In the midst of enjoying Christmas with my family, we were quickly reminded”—you‘re getting the urgency here?

“We were quickly reminded that there is still a war against the American way of life.  On Christmas morning, it came right here to Detroit.  I understand the real and continuing threat, radical jihadists pose, but I need your help.  Please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.

Please, help me fight by making a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 so that we can fight together to protect our families, our state, and our freedom.  Yours truly, Pete Hoekstra.

P.S.: Please make a secure online donation to my campaign, of $25, $50, $100, or even $250.”

You stay classy.

Congressman Pete Hoekstra wants to be the governor of Michigan and this is how he thinks he‘s going to do it.  He‘s now the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

And in that capacity, you might remember Pete Hoekstra as the guy who spilled a few bins after the shooting at Fort Hood in November, telling “The Washington Post” that U.S. intelligence had been reading e-mail between suspect Major Nidal Malik Hasan and a radical cleric in Yemen.  That was apparently classified information that was considered sensitive to ongoing investigation.  It had not been released to the public until Pete Hoekstra spilled the beans.

And you might remember that it was Congressman Hoekstra who championed the idea of posting a huge archive of uncensored Iraqi documents on the Web, documents that included a detailed, unredacted blueprint for structuring an atom bomb conveniently written in Arabic.

You might also remember the time that Pete Hoekstra went on television with then-Senator Rick Santorum and claimed that they had found the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  They weren‘t kidding.


THEN-SENATOR RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  Congressman Hoekstra and I are here today to say that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

HOEKSTRA:  These weapons have been discovered.


MADDOW:  Remember, he‘s the top House Republican on intelligence. 

They have got no one better.

Now, over in the Senate, the (INAUDIBLE) audacity match for Pete Hoekstra in responding to this attempted bombing is Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who in the wake of the attack, is crowing about his blocking of the nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration.

President Obama nominated Errol Southers, who now runs the police force at LAX, to take over airline security, to take over the Transportation Security Administration.

A vote on Mr. Southers is being blocked by Senator DeMint.  Not because Senator DeMint is questioning whether Mr. Southers is qualified for the job, but because Jim DeMint thinks Errol Southers might allow baggage screeners to join a union.  Kill, (INAUDIBLE)

Senator Jim DeMint says unionized baggage screeners are a threat to us all.


SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  When we formed the airport security system, we realized we could not use collective bargaining and unionization because of that need to be flexible.  Yet, that appears to be the top priority now of the administration.


MADDOW:  Did you know that was President Obama‘s top priority for U.S.?  Collective bargaining for Transportation Security Administration employees, that‘s President Obama‘s top priority.  I didn‘t know that.

You‘re looking at two pillars of the Republican brand here in this issue, talking tough on terrorism, and being tough on unions.  Well, today, thanks to Senator DeMint, we found out which of those pillars is bigger.

Senator DeMint issuing a statement that the Christmas Day underwear bomber is, quote, “a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA.”

From Republican Senator Jim DeMint, standing against unions is more important than having anyone head up airline security in the United States of America.

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he will force a vote on Errol Southers nomination to head the TSA next month.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Loretta Sanchez of California.  She is the vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Congresswoman Sanchez, thanks very much for joining us.  I really appreciate it.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D-CA), HOMELADN SECURITY CMTE.:  Thank you, Rachel.  Good evening.

MADDOW:  Since the Christmas bombing attempt on that Northwest flight, politicians have been talking about the vacancy at the head of the TSA.  How important do you think it is—as vice chair of Homeland security in the House—how important is it that the TSA get a chief?

SANCHEZ:  It‘s incredibly important since I‘ve been sitting on the committee of homeland security since its inception after Congress and the president put it in, after September 11th.  And every time that we have an audit on what‘s going on in the department, there are two things that stand out, one that the moral is the lowest in the Department of Homeland Security, and secondly, that there‘s great vision.  In other words, there‘s a good mission for that department but that the leadership is very lacking, the management is very lacking.

And one of the problems that we‘ve had—we haven‘t yet had a report on that under the Obama administration—but that‘s because it takes a while to fill those positions.  Those top positions in a department.  And the problem we‘ve had is trying to fill those, getting those nominations through the Senate.  And I think it‘s incredibly important that we fill that position.

And, of course, I know the chief personally because he‘s from the Los Angeles area.  He‘s at LAX and I‘ve seen his work.  I‘ve his work under Governor Schwarzenegger.  I‘ve seen his work over at this the threat institute there at USC.

I‘ve seen—you know, so he would be a great addition to the leadership team in TSA and in the Homeland Security Department.

MADDOW:  Well, in the other chamber, in the Senate, it is Senator DeMint who is blocking Mr. Southers, and he says his main concern is questions about whether or not Mr. Southers would allow bag screeners to unionize.  What do you make of that as a reason to hold up this nomination?

SANCHEZ:  Well, I have never heard the chief say that his main mission is to unionize, nor have I heard the Obama administration say that its their main mission within the Homeland Department.  What I know about the chief would be that he knows LAX, he knows California, he knows local law enforcement.  He knows the different layers working together at the state and the federal—and as an FBI agent, et cetera.

I think he would be great, because one of the problems we have, there‘s information coming from different places, we never put it together.  I think he would have that overall view to understand that he needs to do that.  I‘ve never heard him say, “Oh, we need to unionize the workers.”

I think that he would go and take a look at all the issues that are involved with these workers to ensure that their morale increases, that they‘re doing a good job, that they‘re alert, that there‘s a career pattern for them.  That it‘s an important job—not just to the worker—it‘s an important job to us.

MADDOW:  The senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is Congressman Pete Hoekstra.  As you know, he‘s running for governor in Michigan right now.  And right after the news broke about this attempted bombing in Christmas Day, Congressman Hoekstra sent out a fundraising letter keyed to the attempted murder of 300 Americans.

You could probably tell from my introduction that that strikes me as un-cool.  It strikes me as crossing a line of crassness and exploitation of terrorism in a way that seems to be inappropriate, just in terms of my personal opinion.

Do you share that opinion?  Do you think it was appropriate for Congressman Hoekstra to go there with his fundraising appeal?

SANCHEZ:  I believe it‘s completely inappropriate to do that.  Look, we cannot afford to politicize the security of our people.  We have limited resources in our government to secure our homeland, our people, our interests.

And what we‘ve been trying to do—and it started under the Bush administration, and the Obama administration is trying to do that, is to have a layered impact, so that we can stop these things from happening.  There‘s never a 100 percent guarantee.

Nor is there the desire—none of us want to spend all our money just on security.  We have other issues, health care, education, et cetera.  So, we need to be very smart about how we do this.  The last thing we need to do is be Republicans or Democrats or—we just don‘t need to be doing that and I‘m really—I‘m really saddened that Pete Hoekstra would do that.

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, Democrat of California, vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee—thanks very much for coming on the show.  I appreciate your time.

SANCHEZ:  Thank you.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  We‘re about to break some serious news on this show.  Next, joining us here in studio, is NBC‘s Richard Engel.  He‘s NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, and he‘s joining us with an exclusive jaw-dropping report from the Pentagon about America‘s chances for military success in Afghanistan.

This is a report Richard has obtained exclusively.  It may change the whole narrative of how we discuss the war.  You can wait for tomorrow‘s newspapers to read about it or you can just stick around for a couple of minutes to see it here.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  NBC‘s Richard Engel is joining us again tonight in just a moment with some big news that he has obtained exclusively about the war in Afghanistan.  I think that this is potentially narrative-changing, course-changing stuff. 

He broke the story tonight on “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams.  We have Richard here in person in just a moment to walk us through this document that he has obtained. 

Because we are talking about Afghanistan, I do want to report first, though, that an American soldier was killed today there under very worrying circumstances.  The Defense Department and NATO are not saying anything about this yet, other than to confirm that an American was killed in a shooting. 

But it‘s reports from Afghan and Italian sources that make this so worrying.  They‘re saying that this American was killed by an Afghan soldier who opened fire on foreign troops with whom he was serving.  Two Italian soldiers wounded in the same incident in which one American was killed. 

Again, the Pentagon and NATO are saying only that they‘re investigating this case.  But a corps commander with the Afghan National Army told the Associated Press this Afghan soldier got angry when NATO soldiers tried to keep him away from a helicopter that was about to land. 

Italian sources reporting that there was no chance the shooting was accidental.  It was intentional.  Now, this isn‘t the first time something like this has happened, not by a long shot. 

In November, an Afghan policeman shot and killed five British soldiers in Helmand Province.  In October, two American soldiers killed when someone wearing an Afghan National Police uniform opened fire on them in Wardak Province during what was supposed to be a joint Afghan-American patrol. 

In March, an Afghan soldier killed two American servicemen and wounded a third before killing himself.  Back in July 2007, an Afghan soldier opened fire and killed four of his own countrymen and wounded an American adviser.  The American was reportedly the target of his rampage. 

And in May of 2007, an Afghan soldier shot and killed two American soldiers and wounded two others outside a top security prison near Kabul.  This is not a comprehensive list of incidents of this kind.  We don‘t have a tally of how many western troops killed by the very forces there in Afghanistan to train. 

But incidents like today‘s, in this even abbreviated catalog of past carnage of this type, raised questions about the nature of our mission in Afghanistan even as our president escalates it. 

The most minimal description of what our forces are there to do is train and equip Afghanistan‘s military and police so that they can defend their country themselves.  It appears that at times, we are arming them and then, they are turning around and training that fire on us. 

There are also new questions today about whether our mission to train Afghan forces, even if it is wise, a question about whether it has a chance of succeeding, at least, whether it has a chance of succeeding within the time frame President Obama has laid out for that mission. 

With us again tonight is NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.  He has obtained a sobering new report that‘s not meant for distribution, but it was prepared for U.S. military commanders by an independent research group, provides an assessment of Afghan security forces.  Richard, it‘s nice to see you again. 

RICHARD ENGEL, CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  It‘s a pleasure to be here.  This is report - it‘s 25 pages long - was provided for a briefing for the top commander - sent to top commander David Petraeus.  Also CC‘d on this report was the senior commander in Afghanistan, Gen.

Stanley McChrystal. 

And it talks about the readiness of the Afghan security forces, primarily, the Afghan National Army.  To understand the context of this, the main mission of the United States Army, all of the different forces that are there, is to train the Afghan security forces so that American forces can ultimately leave.  

MADDOW:  That is the main point of what we‘re doing? 

ENGEL:  That is the number one priority.  The reason 30,000 extra troops are going there is to try and create enough security so that an Afghan army can be built.  I was told this by numerous commanders. 

Number one priority - this report says that that priority is

facing serious, serious problems, and the military knows it.  This was an

independent study if I could just read a few things -

MADDOW:  Please.  Yes. 

ENGEL:  It talks about how - the opening statement.  The ANA, which is Afghan National Army, above company level, is not at war.  Now, company level means the small unit.  So the soldiers on the ground - they‘re fighting.  Above, say, 150 soldiers, anything - colonel, general, anyone at that level - according to this report, doesn‘t believe he‘s at war.  They talk about corruption. 

This is a quote, “Nepotism, corruption and absenteeism among ANA leaders makes success impossible.  Change must come quickly.”  Another line, “If Afghan political leaders do not place competent people in charge, no amount of coalition support will suffice in the long term.” 

It‘s more than sobering.  It says that this is a serious challenge.  It goes on to say that rehabilitating the Afghan security forces will not take one year.  It will take a long time. 

MADDOW:  So they give a time frame about how long it would take if it was going to happen? 

ENGEL:  No, I heard that independently, from this report, that they‘re thinking about four years.  And the reason that the dates are important is there is this key speech by President Obama.  He said he wants to start dialing back the surge 18 - roughly 18 months, the summer of 2011, 18 months from when he announced it. 

That is impossible, according to this study, to get the Afghan security forces up and running and in place and even with some sort of semblance.  Another key finding in this report says that the numbers of Afghan troops and police that are on the ground are inaccurate, that some battalions will over-report by 40 to 50 percent, inflate their numbers.  It‘s a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MADDOW:  So in short, if this internal assessment, which was not meant for distribution, which has been made available to you, which is, in itself, a story, says that what we know about the current strength of Afghan army and police is wrong, that it‘s been overstated? 

ENGEL:  It‘s been overstated. 

MADDOW:  And the timeline that the president laid out, an 18-month

timeline for training -

ENGEL:  It can‘t work.

MADDOW:  It can‘t work.  It explicitly says this can‘t happen in 18 months?  

ENGEL:  Oh, there‘s a line that says it cannot take a year to fix this problem.  And they go on and on describing the problems with the leadership.  Quote, “Many ANA leaders, Afghan National Army leaders work short days, are often absent and place personal gain above national survival.” 

So when you hear all of these things, it should raise a degree of concern.  It‘s the primary mission.  And I‘ve been told the primary mission is to train the Afghan security forces.  It is more than a sober assessment.  It shows we have a lot of work to do.  

MADDOW:  If this reflects the view of the military, this says that the military does not believe it is possible to do what President Obama says the mission is in Afghanistan.  

ENGEL:  This was prepared for the military. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  

ENGEL:  The top commanders want - and I‘ve been told this - that Gen.  Petraeus wants realistic, not optimistic assessments.  That‘s a quote from a spokesman tonight about this.  They say that this report is not complete yet, that it is a report in progress, and they - but they do recognize that there are serious shortcomings in the Afghan security forces. 

MADDOW:  NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, as I said, I think this is a big deal in terms of thinking about why we‘re fighting there and what for, and whether or not it has any chance of success.  You‘re the only one reporting.  You‘re the only one who has access to this information.  Thanks for sharing with us tonight.  I appreciate it.

ENGEL:  It‘s a pleasure to be here.

MADDOW:  OK.  What do the tea party organizers like even more than painting Hitler mustaches on the pictures of the president?  How about charging those same protestors thousands of dollars to come to fancy sea party events with people like Sarah Palin?  One of the early grassroots tea partiers joins us to talk about cashing in on the outrage.  That‘s coming up. 


MADDOW:  In the Karl Rove political playbook, more than one chapter covers the tactic of gay-baiting, which Mr. Rove has used to notorious electoral effect. 

To quote a 2004 profile of Mr. Rove in “The Atlantic” magazine, quote, “One constant throughout his career is the prevalence of whisper campaigns against opponents.  Often, a Rove campaign questions an opponent‘s sexual orientation.” 

The terrifying threat of gay marriage and the whole sanctity of marriage thing is a political wedge to split the electorate in favor of Republicans is, of course, Karl Rove‘s modern political calling card, his bread and butter, his go-to campaign tactic. 

On the Sunday after the 2004 presidential election, Mr. Rove promised voters a renewed effort to ban gay marriage.  


KARL ROVE, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH‘S SENIOR ADVISOR:  5,000 years of human history should not be overthrown by the acts of a few liberal judges or by the acts of a few local elected officials.  


MADDOW:  It‘s in that context we note with sympathy and without rancor the ending of Mr. Rove‘s own second marriage. 

An official family spokesperson, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, released the following statement today saying, quote, “Karl Rove and his wife, Darby, were granted a divorce last week.  There will be no further comment and the family requests that its privacy be respected.” 

With regard to the privacy of this matter, one comment.  Political figures who respect the sanctity of other people‘s relationships don‘t generally have to worry about having the sanctity of their own relationships politicized or questioned or brought up on the news. 

On the other hand, someone who has made his political career out of perfecting the science of denigrating the sanctity of other people‘s relationships for political gain doesn‘t necessarily get that same respect.  Glass houses.


MADDOW:  He was among the first of this era‘s political tea partiers. 

But now, the tea parties have become very, very big political business. 

What does one of the original, Stephen Gordon, have to say about that? 

We‘ll find out from him in just a moment.  Stick around.


MADDOW:  The emergence of the tea party movement on the far right of American politics in 2009 has been a strange and wonderful gift for America‘s liberals.  And it‘s not just because it‘s an ancient political blessing for one‘s political enemies to do things that make themselves look extreme or incoherent or just funny, particularly when they don‘t seem to get the joke. 

The tea party movement has been a strange gift to America‘s liberals, not only because of how the tea partiers have made conservatism look to the rest of the country, but also because of the homage the tea partiers have paid to the greatest hits of lefty protest tactics, even the ones that never worked. 

Just this year, they have marched on Washington repeatedly, ignoring real crowd estimates to proclaim that they theirs were the biggest Washington ever.  Just this month, they tried to make like an act up chapter and announced that they‘d be doing a die-in at a Senate office building in protest of health reform. 

Nobody actually did die-in, but hey, it‘s the thought that counts.  And now, the tea partiers have announced their latest attempt at emulating the most grandiose of all lefty protest tactics.  They have announced, and I quote, “a national day of strike.” 

That‘s the phrasing they‘re using, “a national day of strike,” at which they will make a national day of point.  On the one-year anniversary of President Obama‘s inauguration, the Tea Party Patriots say they‘re planning, quote, “the greatest confrontation in the history of modern America.” 

The way the greatest confrontation in the modern history of America is going to go down is that tea partiers on that day are going to boycott American businesses.  Quote, “On January 20th, 2010, we will demonstrate our power and reach to those companies who employ individuals backing the leftist agenda in every major city, every congressional district and every small rural town in America to spread one unified message.  That message is simple - stop funding socialism.” 

But wait, it turns out it‘s not that simple, or at least the message has a part two.  Quote, “Either renounce this behavior or we will be back, on February 27th, 2009 and we will march again against you.” 

See, they‘ll march in January 2010 against the socialist companies.  And then, if the socialist companies don‘t repent after January 2010, the tea partiers will be back the previous year in February 2009.  Do not mess with the tea partiers who can time travel you, communist companies.  You‘ll be sorry. 

So good luck to the Tea Party Patriots with their big national time travel boycott of communist companies.  Since they promise it will be the greatest confrontation in the modern history of America, I‘m sure we will be doing wall-to-wall coverage. 

Meanwhile, the Tea Party Patriots are also still locked in battle with other tea party factions, who they find insufficiently tea party-ish.  Zachary Roth, at “TPM Muckraker” today, quoting an unnamed Tea Party Patriots activist, criticizing another tea party group called the Tea Party Express. 

Now, the Tea Party Express is part of a political action committee called Our Country Deserves Better.  It was founded by a Republican consulting firm in California, a firm called Russo, Marsh and Associates. 

“Talking Points Memo” examined the PAC‘s federal election commission filings from July through November.  They discovered that nearly two-thirds of the money sent by the Tea Party Express PAC just went right back to that Republican consulting firm. 

How much did Russo, Marsh and Associates and people associated with it make from the brain child that they had, the Tea Party Express in just five months?  They made $857,122, which, if you want to do the math, carry the exploitation, works out to be enough money to buy themselves 1,561 tickets to the first ever national tea party convention. 

There‘s the Tea Party Patriots with the national day of strike.  There‘s the Tea Party Express paying the Republican consulting firm.  And then, they‘re the Tea Party Nation, which is organizing the first national tea party convention in February in Nashville. 

If you want to go to the tea party convention, tickets are $549.  The main event at the conference is a banquet and keynote speech by Sarah Palin.  If you cannot afford more than $500 a ticket to go to the whole event, you can just go to the Sarah Palin part of it for a mere $349, which is starting to make this whole thing feel less like a grassroots movement and more like a grassroots harvest. 

Joining us now is Stephen Gordon.  He was protesting taxes at tea parties years before the current incarnation of so-called tea partiers.  He is a libertarian political consultant and blogger from Alabama.  He was also Ron Paul‘s state media coordinator in Alabama.  Stephen, it‘s really nice to see you again.  Thanks for joining us. 

STEPHEN GORDON, LIBERTARIAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT:  Hey, good evening, Rachel.  How are you? 

MADDOW:  Great.  Thank you.  When we talked back in April about the takeover of the old school, libertarian tea party idea, you said on this show, it‘s important that people at the grassroots level stick to our guns and say no when they try to co-opt our message. 

In the intervening months do you feel like the message has been co-opted?  Is it sort of a lost cause?  Or do you feel like it‘s still being fought out right now? 

GORDON:  In some places, it‘s being fought out.  In some places, it‘s always been a lost cause.  And in some places it‘s somewhere in the middle.  People are trying to do the right thing, but they are - GOP organizations and campaigns are effectively taking over the tea party movement in some places in the country.  

MADDOW:  Can you shed any light for us on the splits that that‘s caused within the tea party movement?  This Tea Party Express group, for example, that‘s linked to this Republican consulting firm - how are they viewed by other tea party activists and groups that you know? 

GORDON:  I spoke tonight with one of my friends who is really involved in the Birmingham tea party movement.  And he said that they went along with the tea party stuff initially, found out that they were being exploited and usurped.  But it was too late to get out of arrangement.  But they‘re definitely not going to do anything like that again. 

However, in other places like Atlanta - and I‘ve got a lot of ties to Atlanta - they knew it all along.  And it‘s just big government Republicanism in the Atlanta movement from what I see here.  

MADDOW:  Do you see a link between that and what seems like profiteering here?  I mean $549 a ticket to go to the tea party convention.  We know that Freedom Works was selling speaking slots at the 9/12 march for $10,000.  If you gave them $10,000, they‘d let you speak to that march. 

Do you see a connection to that side of the profiteering, the exploitation side of it and the Republican Party being involved?  Or are those separate issues? 

GORDON:  Well, I think they‘re interrelated.  One of the things the tea party movement - I mean, they started off as genuine grassroots operations.  Most of these people had no political experience. 

They weren‘t even collecting E-mail addresses of people.  So when somebody comes in and offers to help organize and help them with these things, yes, that‘s great.  But what these Republican consultants want - and I‘m one of these consultants and I do this for a living.  They want the E-mail lists.  They want the dollars. 

They want to control the organization so that they can exploit it for their political purposes.  Unfortunately, the political purposes of most establishment Republicans is not to the same as grassroots conservative tea party person. 

MADDOW:  Libertarian political consultant and blogger, Stephen Gordon, it‘s really helpful to have your insight on this.  Thanks very much for coming on the show tonight.  Hope to have you back soon. 

GORDON:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.  All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith‘s retrospective of the year in crazy, a little something he‘s calling the whack job jamboree. 

But first, have you had just enough of 2009?  We have.  That‘s next. 

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  We turn now to our rearview mirror correspondent, Kent Jones. 

Hi, Kent.

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  Let no one say my job is not a rich, varied experience.  Here‘s “Just Enough” 2009. 

MADDOW:  Yay! 


JONES:  In the tradition of “Che‘s Motorcycle Diaries,” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” Regnery Publishers is proud to present a triumphant new memoir of an American rebel, Carrie Prejean, “Still Standing.”  Remember this? 

Another online game captures that immortal moment.  In this one, you score by removing birds this way.  So, to recap, we‘ve reached a point where you score by puking on everything in your path. 

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND):  Sometimes bladder control problems can cause unwanted interruptions in life.  It doesn‘t have to be that way.  Overactive bladder is treatable. 

JONES:  They want to kill your pets.  Public option.  Translation?  Lady Sparkles dies.  WTF?  The Wisconsin Tourism Federation decided it will hence forth be known as the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. 

MADDOW (on camera):  We sent our own Kent Jones to Ft. Worth today, to

the convention center and had him ask people in the rain -

JONES (on camera):  Who‘s funnier - President Bush, Terry Bradshaw? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Terry Bradshaw. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve got to say Bradshaw.  Terry Bradshaw. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Definitely, by far.  

JONES (voice-over):  Saturday was the annual world naked bike ride in which activists all over the planet got on their bikes to say no to oil dependency and no to the tyranny of underpants. 



JONES (on camera):  I squared my shoulders.  “Miss Universe, Carrie,” I told myself, “You got this.”  It‘s an inspiring story for anyone who ever had the dream of stopping other people‘s dreams. 


MADDOW:  High five.  Well done, Kent.  Appreciate it. 

JONES:  Thank you, Ma‘am.

MADDOW:  Excellent.  It‘s been an excellent year in “Just Enough.”

JONES:  It has indeed.  Thank you so much.

MADDOW:  We‘re going to do a little half-baked RACHEL MADDOW SHOW full review tomorrow. 

JONES:  All right. 

MADDOW:  It‘s going to be a surprise because I don‘t know what it is going to be yet. 

JONES:  That is a surprise. 

MADDOW:  We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.  Until then, E-mail us,  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts now.  Have a great night. 



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