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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Wayne Slater, Josey Packard

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Merry Christmas to you. 

Have a great time off.



MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us for what should be a pretty rollicking hour.  It‘s been a very exciting day here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

The “health care reform is a secret plot to kill old people” myth has been dragged out of the grave for another go-round.  The off the deep-end conspiracy theorists at the John Birch Society wrong say that we were all wrong about them when we last talked about them on the show.

George W. Bush revives the second horse-related scandal of his administration.

We have a double sports anniversary to celebrate.

We have way, way TMI on a hot presidential prospect for 2012.


And we have cocktails live on set.  Cocktails that feature the involvement of the New York Fire Department.

Like I said, a rollicking hour ahead.

But we begin tonight with an update to the time at which hell will officially freeze over.  You will remember that Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas said this week that Republicans would fight health reform with their last dying breath.  He said, quote, “‘til the bitter end, ‘til hell freezes over, and we‘re skating on the ice.”

Yesterday, Republicans decided that instead of that time being as late as they could possibly push it, which would have been sometime between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, they decided they maybe interested in knocking off a little earlier and they moved the vote to 8:00 a.m.  instead of 10:00 p.m.

We led this show last night by telling you that that was the time that hell was going to freeze over.  In case you were planning on lacing on the old hockey skates and going for a twirl, I have to tell you that there‘s now been a change in plans.

Today, Republicans agreed to cave a little bit further.  The vote has been moved up even earlier than that.  It‘s now 7:00 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m., which means that unless you‘re an early riser, by the time you wake up tomorrow, in all likelihood, health reform will have passed the United States Senate.

Now, that doesn‘t mean it‘s ready to be signed into law, still a ways to go, but this is one giant previously insurmountable step toward health reform being a done deal.  That fact, that unavoidable reality that it is going to pass has not however stopped some forces on the right who are hoping to wring maximum political benefit on this from throwing up one last-second, at the buzzer, desperate “Hail Mary” attempt to stop it.  They have decided to go back to the idea that health reform is really a “secret plot to kill old people.”  The death panels—they are back.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  There are death panels back in this bill.  And this is what Harry Reid says cannot be repealed.


MADDOW:  The death panels are back.  Now, if you don‘t trust Rush Limbaugh on that, you can also take it this from credible source, Michele Bachmann.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Harry Reid slipped in a provision that made it virtually impossible to repeal part of this legislation and it‘s the part dealing with Medicare Advisory Board, what many people have labeled the death panels, because these unelected bureaucracies will decide what we can and can‘t get in future health insurance policies.  That‘s why they‘re called death panels.


MADDOW:  That‘s why they‘re called death panels.

This morning, a new death panel has turned into a last-minute clarion call on the right.  Death panel terminology pioneer, Sarah Palin, tweeted yesterday, quote, “R death panels back in?”

The “Weekly Standard‘s” Bill Kristol also warning about, quote, “creepy permanent death imagines” and you know it‘s reached it‘s apex as a new right wing talking point when the good folks at “FOX and Friends” get schooled on the matter by Dick Morris.


DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  They‘re going to be saying, “No, you can‘t give this person hip replacement, they‘re too old,” and, “No, you can‘t treat this person with colon cancer with the best drug available.  I know it increases the chance of his dying, but it‘s beyond the cost parameters that we‘re prepared to allow.”

And this will be done by this federal board, which is really the death panel that Sarah Palin was talking about.


MADDOW:  See, Sarah Palin was right, so says Dick Morris.

You may be shocked to hear that what they‘re now pushing as the new death panel actually is made up.  What Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh and Dick Morris and all the rest of them are talking about is something called the independent Medicare Advisory Board, which is—as it says—an independent advisory board on Medicare.

The language of the bill creating the board says, quote, “The proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care.”

And, naturally, the right has decided that that‘s the smoking gun that this is all about rationing health care.  See, as usual, the truth lies in the fine print where it says, “shall not,” maybe that “not” is written very small.

Now, why turn back to the “death panels” idea?  Well, I‘m not exactly sure why they‘ve decided to do it.  They don‘t ask my advice on these things.

But it should be noted that the “death panels” accusation is critically acclaimed.  The original round of “death panel” claims were christened by as “Lie of the Year for 2009” in politics.  That‘s not an award that most people in politics would like to win but it is something.  You would think the right would have been embarrassed for having pushed something that was debunk as roundly as this one was the first time around.

But leave it to these folk to it being named “lie of the year” and say, “Hey, it may have been a lie, but it was award-winning.”

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Senator Klobuchar, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  Well, thank you.  Some holiday cheer to you with that lead-in, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you if you feel like everything is still on schedule?  If you think the vote really will happen at 7:00 a.m.?

KLOBUCHAR:  I think it will be.  I‘m putting on my mukluks, my Viking cap and getting there at 7:00 a.m.  I think that we will have a vote.  And this is, of course, historic moment to be there when we had the 1:00 a.m.  vote a few days ago and had Vicki Kennedy sitting there watching—as she said in the piece she wrote in “The Washington Post,” when this is finally done, the American people will wonder why did this take so long.

And, of course, we‘re going to se these last-minute attacks, you always see them, you‘re going to see them through the first few months.  I kind of liken them in the Christmas spirit to reindeer games where they‘re getting their all antlers tied up.

But, in fact, you know and I know that saving Medicare is a major piece of this bill.  If we do nothing, if we just put our head in the snow bank, Medicare will go in the red by 2017.  And my mom who‘s 82 wants to live well into her 90s and beyond.  People who are 55 want to get Medicare when they‘re 65.  And if we do nothing, and we just go down this path, we will be in trouble.

And that‘s why—I guess, I come from Minnesota and I look at some of the independent studies that show you can get Mayo Clinic-type care in other parts of the country for cheaper, and it‘s just counterintuitive, but some of the highest cost part of the country, highest cost Medicare, has some of the lowest quality care.  In fact, one study showed that if you just use the protocol Mayo uses for chronically ill-patients, you‘d save $50 billion just for that every five years, if other hospitals use that protocol.

So, I‘m actually excited about the possibility that we can have that kind of higher quality care in other parts of the country, save Medicare, and fill the doughnut hole so our seniors aren‘t having to foot the bill for expensive prescription drugs.

MADDOW:  In terms of the conservative strategy and the Republican strategy against this, I think we‘re seeing health—death panels come back and this other sort of conspiratorial stuff come back, I‘m guessing because Republicans and conservatives are really hoping that what happened in August, in terms of people being really riled up and scared about health reform, opposing it almost to the point of violence during those town hall meetings that happened in so many parts of the country over August, I think they‘re hoping that‘s going to happen over the holiday break as well.

Do you think that that‘s likely to be true?

KLOBUCHAR:  You know, there has been so much misinformation out there, and there still is and so much in misinformation.  But I still think that the American people do agree that they know we need to reduce costs and we need to be smart about it.  We need to make sure that that stable care is in place.

Look at the benefits people can see from this bill, and a lot of them have been moved up.  Immediately after the bill is signed, if your kid gets sick, they‘re not going to be kicked off your health insurance.  You can keep kids on your health insurance until they‘re 26 years old.

As I mentioned, the doughnut hole would be filled so seniors can get some help with paying for their prescription drugs.

There won‘t be lifetime caps on benefits.

All of these things will happen in the first year or so of this bill.  That is a major change and something that the American people have wanted for a listening time.

So, the misinformation will continue and when we think about this whole notion they‘ve cooked up with the death panels, to me what this is about is really people being able to have control over their own care, putting the patients in the drivers seat, being able to talk to my doctor and say, “Well, what are my options?”  You can have this surgery, or you can have this kind of treatment and patient should be able to decide.  And that‘s what this bill is all about.

MADDOW:  As you say, some of those insurance reforms are going to go into effect right away.  But the big reform, of course, is the creation of the exchanges and the subsidies for people to be able to purchase insurance, subsidies from the government.  That‘s not going to happen for quite a long time.  And as the Senate bill gets merged with the House bill, the House actually proposes that it happens a year earlier than it does in the Senate.

Do you think that it‘s possible that the House timeline might be adopted?

KLOBUCHAR:  I really hope so.  I think there‘s some good things in the Senate bill.  There‘s more cost reforms that I really want to see, and things that are in the House bill that move up some of these benefits are also very good.

And you also have to remember that these exchanges, some of the small business tax credits that we added in the Senate that really help to defray 35 percent of employee health care costs for small businesses, those start right in 2011.

So, by melding these two bills, I think we could get a very good final product.  But there are still a lot of work that needs to be done.

MADDOW:  One Minnesota question for you.  As a senator, your constituents include all of the constituents of Michele Bachmann, and Michele Bachmann has been one of the members of Congress who‘s been most responsible for advancing some of the most conspiratorial and in many cases, totally untrue things about health reform, including death panel idea—as you just heard in the introduction.

What do you—what do you think is going on with her in terms of her politics on health reform?  And how do you reach across the Michele Bachmann divide to reach those constituents who are also yours?

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, you‘d have to talk to her.  Hopefully, she‘ll come on your show sometime, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Yes, sure.

KLOBUCHAR:  You never know.  You can dream.

MADDOW:  I dream.

KLOBUCHAR:  Put a little wish in your stocking.

OK.  But what I do think, I will talk about her constituents.  They are very cost-conscious.  They‘re very focused on making sure that we‘re not adding to the deficit.  And one of the good things about this bill, $132 billion saved in the first 10 years, $1.3 trillion on the next 10 years saved on the deficit.

I wouldn‘t be for this bill if it added to the deficit.  We can‘t afford to do that.  And so, health reform is one of the main ways that we can go toward reducing some of the costs in our country that have been really dragging us down.

Sixty billion dollars a year wasted on Medicare fraud.  Checks that should be going to help our seniors have been going to conman that set up store and shops and storefronts that say, you know, “doctor” and there‘s no doctor there.  They‘re stealing the money.

This bill has increased criminal penalties for Medicare fraud.  It actually allows for giving out of this antiquated system and do direct deposit.  And the people in Minnesota and in her district, and really, throughout our state, are very focused on bringing down the cost of government, looking at smarter ways to do things, and there are many things in this bill that lead us in that direction and begin us—to begin the path of more affordable health care and reducing some of these unnecessary costs.

MADDOW:  Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who we‘ll be watching for in mukluks and a Viking hat tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.

KLOBUCHAR:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  Good luck tomorrow morning.

KLOBUCHAR:  OK.  Thank you, Rachel.  Have a very Merry Christmas.

MADDOW:  You, too.  Cheers!

After we reported that next year‘s CPAC conservative conference will be cosponsored by the original right wing fringy mcfringerson, the John Birch Society—the John Birch Society then accused us of getting the facts wrong about them.  So, we have done a lot of triple-checking of the actual public record about the John Birch Society and the inadvertently hilarious results are next.  I‘m so excited.

Plus, we‘ve got the full blown, down to the last detail irony of George W. Bush‘s upcoming PBS show.

And anniversary that involves platform shoes with goldfish in them, and the most awesome recipe for Christmas punch.  There is—it involves firemen.  It‘s all coming up.


MADDOW:  New Year‘s Eve has champagne.  Kentucky Derby has the mint julep.  Opening day at Fenway has beer.  But only Christmas has a cocktail that requires the New York Fire Department to be onset with us when we make it in studio.

Holiday flambe—coming up.


MADDOW:  So, it‘s almost Christmas.  And this year, there are a lots of movies battling for the “I want to sit in the dark and not talk to my family anymore” box office bounty that Christmas tends to bring.  There‘s the new Sherlock Holmes movie.  Romantic comedy with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin; “Avatar”; the long-awaited “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.”

And there‘s “Invictus,” the feel-good movie starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.  The inspirational story of Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team.

Inspirational to some, sure—but not to the John Birch Society, who had posted an article about the new Matt Damon movie on their Web site, which declares that, quote, “Mandela is nothing more than a communist terrorist thug.”

We talked about that article and about the John Birch Society itself on this show last week, when it was announced that the John Birch Society would be a co-sponsor of this year of CPAC, the big influential Conservative Political Action Conference which takes place every spring.

That communist conspiracy that they wanted to rout and their fevered imaginings included President Dwight Eisenhower.  According to the John Birch Society at that time, Ike was, quote, “a dedicated conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.”

The John Birch Society also contended that fluoride being added to drinking water was a communist mind control plot and they contended that the secret conspiracy to destroy America encompassing everything from that darn fluoride to the League of Women Voters and the Civil Rights Act.

The John Birch Society was, in fact, so opposed to civil rights that they responded to the Supreme Court‘s Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate schools with billboards calling for the impeachment of the Supreme Court‘s chief justice.

Now, the John Birch Society came after us for that last week, saying that we totally got it wrong.  For example, they‘re claiming now that their campaign to impeach Earl Warren was not for his role in ending discrimination against African-Americans in the South.  They said that it had nothing at all to do with that.  It had nothing to do with the Supreme Court‘s decision to desegregate schools.

You know, if I were in the John Birch Society today, I would want people to think that, you know, I hadn‘t wanted to impeach a Supreme Court justice because of Brown v. Board of Education.  I wouldn‘t want anybody to think that.  I understand.

Unfortunately, there is a record here.  There‘s an actual record of what the John Birch Society said it was doing at that time and why, quote, “The communists had used the racial question as grist for their mills for 30 years, and ground out nothing but amazing disappointments for themselves.  Not until the Supreme Court decision of May 17th, 1954 --

Brown v. Board—did they even begin to make any head way in their nefarious aims.  And that defiant reversal simply by judicial decree of our long-established law is quite justly known as the Earl Warren decision.”

But wait, there‘s more.  Quote, “The fact that Warren could remain on the Supreme Court after such arrogant disregard of the Constitution, of the principles of English-American law, and of his own oath of office, as were shown in the school segregation cases, was decidedly reassuring to the liberal establishment, it encouraged communists and their dupes and sympathizers.”

The John Birch Society, co-sponsor of this year‘s CPAC wanted to impeach Earl Warren for desegregating schools.  It‘s in the record—even if they don‘t want it to be.

And while we‘re on the subject of the co-sponsor of this year‘s CPAC and race, how about this ad placed by the John Birch Society in the August 29th, 1960 edition of “The Birmingham News”?  It‘s titled, “What‘s Wrong With Civil Rights?”

It says, quote, “The average American Negro‘s security of person and assurance of honorable treatment by his fellow citizens in all of the utilitarian relationships of living have been exactly on par on par with those of his white neighbors.”

So, what is all the complaining about?  The complaining or the civil rights movement, as we‘ve come to know it, according to the John Birch Society was actually a secret communist plot to create, and I quote, “a Negro Soviet Republic in the United States.”  The exact boundaries of which were undetermined but which would definitely include cities like Richmond, Virginia, and New Orleans and Memphis.

You got that in civil rights secret plot to establish a Negro Soviet Republic, so says the cosponsor of this year‘s CPAC conference.

Another issue the nice people at the John Birch Society say that we got wrong on this show was their position on the fluoridation of drinking water.  In their online retort to our segment from last week, the John Birch Society said it never labeled fluoridation of water as a communist mind control plot, because that sounds crazy, right?  They wrote that actually, the John Birch Society opposed water fluoridation because it represented, quote, “a precedent for the socialized medicine Maddow supports.”

I know they would love that to be true.  But, well, here‘s a page from the March 1960 John Birch Society bulletin.  You‘ll see that there is a section here at the bottom of the page—do we have here?  Yes.

A section at the bottom of page 13 titled, “How to Defeat Fluoridation in Your City.”  After advising the reader to paper his or her city council school board PTA and church community with anti-fluoridation pamphlets, the John Birch Society warns, quote, “If you live in a large enough city, or if the communists have been able to beguile a sufficiently large enough, powerful enough, and determined enough clique into supporting fluoridation, the above formula, alone, may not stop them.”

John Birch Society, you may wish that you hadn‘t said that fluoridation was a secret communist plot—but you did in writing, and we have a library card.

I do have to say though that the most amusing complaints/clarification against us by the John Birch Society was this.  They wrote, quote, “The John Birch Society ways always cautious in accusing people of being part of a conspiracy.”

All right, gather around here for a second.  I know we‘re on the eve of a holiday and everything, and I just want to read to you for a sec from the minutes of the first meeting of the John Birch Society National Council on January 9th, 1960.  We got this document, thanks to a freelance researcher named Ernie Lazar.  He‘s used FOIA request to the FBI and original John Birch Society records to put together a pretty amazing archive of the group‘s history.

So, this is John Birch Society founder Robert Welch.  “Today, gentlemen, I can assure you without the slightest doubt in my own mind that the take-over at the top is, for all practical purposes, virtually complete.  Whether you like it or not, and whether you believe it or not, our federal government is already literally in the hands of the communists.  Our Congress now contains a number of men who are certainly actual communists, and plenty more who are sympathetic to communist purposes for either ideological or opportunistic reasons.”

He then lists a number of contemporaneous members of Congress at that time, including John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.  And he says they‘re definitely commies or at least commie symphs.

And then there‘s this, quote, “Our Supreme Court is so visibly pro-communist that no argument is even needed.  Our State Department is loaded with communists from top to bottom, to the extent that our roll call of ambassadors almost sounds like a list somebody has put together to start a communist front.  It is estimated, from many reliable sources, than from 70 percent to 90 percent of the responsible personnel in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare are—guessed it—communists.

Our Central Intelligence Agency under Allen Dulles is nothing more nor less than an agency to promote communism throughout the word.  Almost all of the other departments are loaded with communists and communist sympathizers.  And this generalization most specifically does include our whole Defense Department.”

But, remember, the John Birch Society has always been very cautious about accusing any one of being part of a conspiracy.  You know, except for that one time when they accused everybody of being part of a giant conspiracy.

Listen, the John Birch Society denying it ever made those accusations is almost as ridiculous as believing that had been taken over by communists in the first place.

So, CPAC and modern conservative movement choosing to align itself with these guys, letting these guys cosponsor a mainstream conservative event like the Conservative Political Action Conference in February—I mean, that‘s just—it‘s, well, wait.  On the one hand, given what the John Birch Society was and is, it is kind of hysterical that CPAC has chosen to align itself with them.  On the other hand, given the state of the conservative movement today, maybe this is a natural coming together.

Certainly a lot of people calling other people commies now.

Listen, if I were the John Birch Society, I wouldn‘t want people to know these things about my record, either.  But your record is your record, and when confirmed speakers at next year‘s CPAC like Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney get up to speak at that event, they will be speaking at an event cosponsored by the John Birch Society.  And maybe then it will be worth asking if they also think that the civil rights movement was a secret plot to turn, say, Arkansas into a Negro Soviet Republic.


MADDOW:  First thing to absorb: George W. Bush as a former U.S.  president gets a library.  That‘s named after him.

Second thing to absorb: Former President Bush has decided that, as an addition to his library, he would also like to have a think tank which will also bear the name George W. Bush and will be devoted to George W. Bush-style thinking.

The George W. Bush think tank has, in fact, announced its first initiative.  It‘s going to make a TV show, specifically, a public TV show hosted by the Bush think tank executive director and distributed to public television stations nationwide.  It will be a George W. Bush think tank TV show on public television.

If hearing that makes you feel like a cat being petted in the wrong direction, it may be because you‘re remembering something about how George W. Bush handled the whole issue of public broadcasting when he was president.  President Bush, you might recall, appointed a man named Kenneth Tomlinson to be the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Mr. Tomlinson distinguished himself in office by secretly paying conservative activists to monitor the political leanings of guests on public broadcasting programs. 

Mr. Tomlinson also gave the rabidly right-wing partisan op-ed page at the “Wall Street Journal,” a public TV show.  And in one of the most memorable and unexpected news leads about the Broadcasting Board of Governors ever, quote, “State Department investigators found that Tomlinson used his office to run a horseracing operation.” 

While George W. Bush‘s head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Broadcasting Board of Governors was on the taxpayers‘ dime, ferreting out left-wingers among guests on public shows, Tomlinson also, according to the inspector general, spent time while at work overseeing his stable of thoroughbreds, which I kid you not, included one horse that he named Hamid Karzai. 

That is who President Bush put in charge of public broadcasting.  And now, President Bush wants his legacy to include a George W. Bush think-tank public TV program.  If they need a co-host, I volunteer. 

Joining us now is Wayne Slater, senior political writer with “The Dallas Morning News” and co-author of the book “Bush‘s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential.”  Wayne, happy holidays.  Thanks very much for joining us tonight. 


Great to be with you Rachel.  

MADDOW:  When I think about the Bush administration and public broadcasting, I think I mostly remember Ken Tomlinson because of the horse named Hamid Karzai thing.  It‘s just a memorable detail.  Is there a bigger picture to remember though about George W. Bush and public broadcasting? 

SLATER:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, look, the Republicans for years have tried to target public broadcasting to cut programs, to cut spending, to abolish it all together.  The Bush administration tried for eight years to de-fund public broadcasting. 

Its 2009 budget sent to Congress cut public broadcasting spending in half.  And by 2011, it had zero - that would be dollars that it recommended or would have recommended for public broadcasting. 

So, yes, this is an outfit of the Bush administration that targeted public broadcasting from the beginning.  Tomlinson was the high point or the low point, depending on where you looked at it.  Tomlinson did exactly what Bush and particularly Karl Rove wanted to be done and that was his part of politicizing government.

While rove and company were politicizing all kinds of things, Tomlinson was trying to politicize public broadcasting.  I can remember one thing.  There was a meeting where he met with some affiliates and he reminded them that they ought to make sure that their programming reflected the Republican mandate.  He said later he was kidding.  People at the meeting said, “I don‘t think he was.” 

MADDOW:  Wasn‘t there also sort of a mini-scandal about - something about a bunny visiting like a same-sex couple or something and they tried to get that show banned?  Am I remembering that correctly? 

SLATER:  Absolutely.  Tomlinson wasn‘t the only thing out of the White House.  Margaret Spellings, the education chief, complained loudly and effectively against a program where a cartoon bunny buster visited a pair of lesbian parents. 

Spelling said that was an awful kind of thing that public broadcasting shouldn‘t be showing in America.  And several public broadcasting stations, though not all, pulled that segment.  So I think there was a political agenda that worked out of the White House that reflected itself in the way it felt public broadcasting should operate, if it should operate at all. 

MADDOW:  Right.  The important ideological point that they want to do abolish it altogether.  Well, the show‘s producer has cautioned us to not jump to conclusions about the content of the George W. Bush think-thank public TV show. 

But isn‘t - I mean the whole idea of the George W. Bush think

tank is to promote his ideas and his legacy, right?  I mean, isn‘t that the

by definition, the purpose of the agency that‘s going to be producing this show? 

SLATER:  Well, it is, and that‘s really the problem.  Look, these could be good people.  James Glassman who was the executive director of the Bush institute will be a co-director of this program. 

I‘m sure he‘s a great guy.  He has some journalistic credentials.  But the problem is, he‘s on the one hand operating a job where he‘s going to try to shape the Bush legacy, the Bush legacy restoration project, through the library and the institute.

And on the other hand, he‘s supposedly going to be putting a program where there‘s going to be an emphasis on exploring ideas in a way that would reflect favorably, I suspect, not unfavorably on the Bush administration. 

I mean, what program are they going to do about the collapse of the economy?  How will they describe that in a way - in an intelligent way on public broadcasting without mentioning that it happened under the Bush administration?  So it‘s a problem, I think.  

MADDOW:  Wayne Slater, senior political reporter with “The Dallas Morning News,” thanks very much for coming in on the show tonight and marking a landmark occasion, the first show in which I have ever asked a question in all seriousness, wasn‘t there something about a bunny? 

SLATER:  Great to be with you. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Wayne.  I really appreciate it.  All right, if we could put the rest of the show in a big red bag, we wouldn‘t be able to get down the chimney with it.  It would be so packed. 

We‘ve still got special TMI on a Republican presidential hopeful coming up.  We‘ve still got the actual mixing of an actual flaming cocktail just in time for the holidays.  My friend Josey, the Mix Master - Josey Packard - and the New York Fire Department will be on hand for that.  Hunker down and stay with us.  We‘ll be right back.  


MADDOW:  Still ahead, flaming cocktails in the studio.  God bless us every one. 

But first, a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  Osama Bin Laden reportedly has 19 different children by a whole bunch of different wives.  One group of his children, either six of them or seven of them, depending on who you believe, had been living in Afghanistan at the time of 9/11. 

And those kids fled Afghanistan when we invaded that country after 9/11.  They fled reportedly by walking to the Iranian border.  And then what happened to them?  Well, before today, we did not know. 

But now, according to a report in a Saudi-owned newspaper that‘s been picked up by the AP, we know that Iran has been holding those six or seven Bin Laden kids under house arrest in Iran for eight years.  We know this now because, apparently, the one sister among all the Bin Laden brothers, Iman Bin Laden, who was nine when she left Afghanistan - she‘s 17 now.  

Iman Bin Laden apparently gave her Iranian guards the slip three-and-a-half weeks ago, escaping from them in Tehran and taking refuge in the embassy of Saudi Arabia. 

The top diplomat of the Saudi embassy confirming now that 17-year-old Iman Bin Laden has been holed up in their embassy for 25 days and she is apparently trying to get herself and her brothers out of Iran and out of their eight years of house arrest.  And then what will happen to them?  This is a very strange story.  We will keep an eye on this one. 

And today, marks two landmark sporting anniversaries, one of the greatest anniversaries and one of the worst.  Thirty-seven years ago today was one of the most famous plays in football history, the immaculate reception. 

When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who now upstages George W. Bush at get-motivated huckster seminars - Terry Bradshaw threw a long desperate pass which bounced off somebody and then came back the wrong direction. 

It was caught near his shoe strings by famed Steeler running back Franco Harris.  Franco Harris then scored the miraculous winning touchdown.  That‘s the anniversary that everyone recognized today, maybe because one of the principal Steelers in the play was named Frenchy Fuqua who once wore platform shoes with live goldfish in them. 

Everybody likes talking about the immaculate reception.  But the other big sports anniversary today is a hockey one, and it‘s a bad one.  Thirty years ago this day, the Boston Bruins had just beaten the New York Rangers four to three at Madison Square Garden, when one of the Rangers fans did something to one of the Bruins who was still on the ice. 

And in the 1970s, that was an unfortunate choice.  The Bruins left the rink.  They charged up into the stands to extract their revenge.  And infamously, Bruin Mike Milbury took the shoe off the foot of the fans he was fighting with and used that man‘s own shoe to hit him with. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1:  As O‘Reilly has gone into the stands - and this is going to be something.  O‘Reilly is on the stands fighting with a Ranger fan and all the Bruins are going over.  And Milbury is in there.  Peter McNab.  They‘re all into the stands.  McNab is going up.  He grabbed somebody about seven or eight rows up. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2:  Wow.  This is too bad that after the game is over, it gets out of hand like this.  And you‘ve got to worry about a spectator. 


MADDOW:  Yes.  You‘ve got to worry.  If you are too young to remember the 1970s, but everything you hear and see in grainy video makes it seem like the entire country was slightly out of control and coming apart at the seams, you will find no American over the age 35 who will contradict you on that assessment.  Happy anniversary birthday sporting madness and to all a good night.


MADDOW:  Sen. Jim DeMint long ago promised to make health reform President Obama‘s waterloo.  Tonight, we promise way too much information about Sen. Jim DeMint.  That‘s next. 



SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV):  When each one of us comes to this floor after we‘re elected, we raise our right hand, put our hand on the Bible and take an oath.  Each one of us takes an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. 

We do not take an oath to reform health care.  When we take an oath to defend this Constitution, we‘d better take that as a solemn oath and think about whether we‘re violating that oath. 


MADDOW:  Republicans couldn‘t find anybody else to give the solemn oath speech today?  Had to be John Ensign?  The same John Ensign who‘s currently under an ethics investigation for cheating on his wife with his staffer whose husband was also his staffer and then Ensign fired the mistress and the mistress‘ husband and then had his parents pay them like $100,000?  He‘s the respect our solemn oaths reminder guy for the Republican Party?


ENSIGN:  We‘d better take that as a solemn oath and think about whether we‘re violating that oath.  


MADDOW:  We ought to.  We ought to.  The amazing thing about Republicans choosing John Ensign to remind folks about the solemnity of their oaths is that they didn‘t need to Ensign.  What Ensign was trying to do here was get the Senate to vote on whether a mandate on health reform is unconstitutional, who‘s raising a constitutional point of order. 

But he had a co-sponsor who could have made the case for it on the floor instead of John Ensign.  His co-sponsor was North Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.  Now, awkward as it was to see John Ensign up there, it would also have been awkward for Jim DeMint to be up there making the “solemn oath mandates are unconstitutional” case but for a totally different reason. 

In DeMint‘s case, it would have been awkward because he‘s on record saying he loved the Massachusetts health plan which Mitt Romney signed into law.  That plan has a mandate. 

So Jim DeMint has just decided now that he thinks mandates are unconstitutional and an outrage.  Since Jim DeMint has decided to make himself into senator stop everything by every means necessary, it does seem like it might be worth learning a little more about him.  And on this show, that means one thing - TMI. 


All right, Kent.  Sen. Jim DeMint - what have we learned? 

KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST:  Hi, Rachel.  You know, of all the staunch conservatives in South Carolina, Jim DeMint is the South Carolina-est. 


JONES:  Take a look.


(voice-over):  South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint is the most conservative member of Congress.  Wait, more conservative than John Shadegg? 

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R-AZ):  We are getting full-on, Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care. 

JONES:  Or Virginia Foxx? 

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

JONES:  Or even James Mountain Inhofe? 

SEN. JAMES MOUNTAIN INHOFE (R-OK):  In the reported history of our family, we have never had a divorce or any kind of a homosexual relationship. 

JONES:  Yes, according to “The National Journal” rankings, Jim DeMint is the most conservative, conservative, even beating out fellow South Carolinians Lindsey Graham and Joe Wilson. 

REP. JOE WILSON (R-SC):  You lie! 


JONES:  So how did this 58-year-old former businessman rise to the top of the charts?  Fundamentals.  

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC):  All the reasons for big government and growing government is our cultural decline.  One of the reasons our cultural is declining is because of a lot of government action.  

JONES:  Got that?  In his world view, big government and cultural decline are locked in a tag team cage match against freedom.  Jim DeMint loves freedom. 

DEMINT:  Government is out of control and freedom is the only solution.  In America, freedom is built on the principles and values that are derived from Judeo-Christian religious convictions. 


DEMINT:  If we allow this government to continue to purge religion and faith and religious values and the principles that are derived from them from our culture, we will lose our freedom.  

JONES:  He loved it so much, he wrote a book called “Saving Freedom:

We Can Stop America‘s Slide Into Socialism.”  He keeps using that word.  So I thought I‘d look it up in the DeMint dictionary.  “Freedom - noun.  Stuff I like.  Antonym, anything Democrats like.  See also, Barack Obama health reform.”

DEMINT:  It will be his waterloo.  It will break him.  

JONES:  Hate crimes legislation -

DEMINT:  Hate crimes actually have nothing to do with crimes or with hate. 

JONES:  Unions for transit workers -

DEMINT:  Collective bargaining would standardize things across the country, make it much less flexible, much harder for the agency to adapt to changing threats around the world. 

JONES:  Medicare, non-privatized social security, climate change legislation, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, stimulus funds going to hiking and biking trails and that‘s a very short list. 

How will he feel about a gay president?  Quote, “It would be bothersome to me just personally because I consider it immoral.” 

Gay people make freedom cry.  Jim DeMint even wants to get rid of some Republican candidates who don‘t love freedom as much as he does.  

DEMINT:  We need some people with courage and vision right now, and the people who are willing to take risks and stand up against these forces that are pushing us more toward, I think, are socialist type of ideas.  

JONES:  Jim DeMint‘s freedom lust extends so far that he defied the official policy of the U.S. to go meet with the president of Honduras who was installed in a military coup.  Military coup - freedom-y. 

DEMINT:  A friend of freedom is a friend of America.  Our commitment to freedom is not confined to a culture or a comment.  

JONES:  See, there‘s the F-word again.  And that‘s how Jim DeMint earned his number one ranking, by keeping his eye on the ball.  It‘s that kind of focus that has some Republicans thinking this way.  If you‘re wondering, the shirt costs $14.95.  Freedom isn‘t free. 


MADDOW:  Jim DeMint. 

JONES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  You know, Jim DeMint not only wants to be, I think, president.  But Jim DeMint thinks that he can be the new conservative king maker.  

JONES:  Sure.  

MADDOW:  Putting people through the Jim DeMint litmus test.  

JONES:  Absolutely.  If you say “freedom” enough times it will sink in.  That‘s free itself.  

MADDOW:  Also, we‘ll abolish Medicare - that‘s my other good idea. 

JONES:  Freedom. 

MADDOW:  Thank you very much, Kent. 

JONES:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  I really appreciate it.  I‘m so excited about what‘s coming up next on this show that I can barely contain myself.  I will say that involves delicious booze and fire.  And you can only do it at home if you, like us, have many, many fire extinguishers on hand and the people who know how to wield them professionally. 

JONES:  I‘m staying.

MADDOW:  Please do.

JONES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  We‘ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  For tonight‘s “Cocktail Moment” I‘m thrilled to be joined by Josey Packard, one of my dearest friends who tends bar at Drink in Boston.  She‘s going to make a holiday cocktail for Kent and me that is so spectacular, both the New York City Fire Department Explosives Unit and NBC‘s pyro-technicians are here in the studio on stand-by and I am not kidding. 

I really appreciate you guys being here.  Thanks a lot.  It‘s very reassuring and it‘s also really cool.  So Josey, thanks, man.  What are we going to do here? 

JOSEY PACKARD, BARTENDER:  We‘re going to do a flaming holiday punch.  It‘s loosely based on the “Handbook for Hosts” from 1949.  “Esquire” magazine put it out. 


PACKARD:  What I‘ve done is I‘ve taken some oranges and I roasted them after having studded them with cloves.  

MADDOW:  You did this in my apartment today during the day? 

PACKARD:  I think I did it in your kitchen.  

MADDOW:  Did you take the basketball out of the oven first? 

PACKARD:  Well, you know something?  I had the mind to do that. 

MADDOW:  Yes, it‘s good.

PACKARD:  What I have here is half hot brandy and half rum. 


PACKARD:  I‘ve heated it using hot tap water, so I‘m going to pour it

over our -

MADDOW:  So you put it in a - you put the jug in a bath of hot tap water to warm it up? 

PACKARD:  That‘s exactly what I did. 

MADDOW:  I got it. 

PACKARD:  Oh, thank you.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  No problem.

PACKARD:  I‘m just going to drizzle some sugar over the whole thing. 

And then - oh, I think it‘s time for some -

MADDOW:  So this is rum and -

PACKARD:  Rum and brandy.  

MADDOW:  In equal parts?

PACKARD:  In equal parts, heated.  Then, we‘re going to do a little something with our spices.  I have here some orange oil that will be expressed from the skin of the orange.  Some clove ground up, allspice and cinnamon. 


PACKARD:  Let‘s see what we got here. 


PACKARD:  Oh, yes.  We got some fire.  

MADDOW:  Can we put out the lights a little bit so we can see it?  OK. 

That‘s why we have those people over here. 

PACKARD:  I‘m going to put some orange oil here. 

MADDOW:  OK. Orange oil is flammable, apparently.  

PACKARD:  It is flammable.  And it‘s also going to make it taste good.  

MADDOW:  Why is it on fire?  What is the point of it being on fire? 

PACKARD:  It is on fire.  And it‘s going to caramelize some of the sugars that I put in there.  It‘s also going to heat up the punch a little bit. 


PACKARD:  Here, you want to try some? 

MADDOW:  Sure.  Allspice ...

PACKARD:  Yes.  

MADDOW:  ... is sort of flammable? 



PACKARD:  Go in.  Go in. 

MADDOW:  Sorry.  Dude, this is cool.  

PACKARD:  Cinnamon. 

MADDOW:  Is it just making little sparks like this because it‘s tiny little granules or these spices (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?


PACKARD:  Particulates when encountering flame will ignite.  

MADDOW:  Any particulate matter, whether delicious or not, will make little sparks when you put it over (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

PACKARD:  That‘s right.  And we‘re adding spices to our punch ...


PACKARD:  ... as we speak. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  So you should do this with your guests and your members of the pyrotechnic unit for NBC. 

PACKARD:  You don‘t want to do it for the longest time in the world because it will cause the punch bowl eventually to crack. 

MADDOW:  OK.  What‘s that? 

PACKARD:  Now, I have the juice of two oranges, the juice of two lemons.  I also have apple cider and water going in with it.  

MADDOW:  OK.  Oh, my god.  

PACKARD:  The flames are beginning to get a little wimpier.  


MADDOW:  No, it‘s still on fire.  

PACKARD:  Just a little bit of apple cider and I think that‘s going to do it for us.

MADDOW:  And does it put out the fire itself?  Or does the flame just keep going indefinitely?

PACKARD:  No, no.  When it gets to a low-enough proof, the flame will

extinguish.  And I think there we -

MADDOW:  Oh, I think it just went out. 

JONES:  There it goes. 

MADDOW:  So now, it‘s hot, awesome -

JONES:  It‘s hot, awesome holiday cider.  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  That we can serve and drink in 50 seconds? 

PACKARD:  I think we‘re going to do that right now. 


PACKARD:  Very quickly.  Just a taste for everybody.  

MADDOW:  OK.  What‘s this called again? 

PACKARD:  Flaming holiday punch.  Cheers!


MADDOW:  Josey Packard from Drink in Boston. 

JONES:  Josey Packard -

MADDOW:  This is good, man.  

PACKARD:  Oh, thank you.  

MADDOW:  Thanks for watching.  This has been really cool.  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.  Have a wonderful, wonderful holiday. 



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