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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Guests: Sen. Sherrod Brown, Chris Hayes, Patrick Murphy


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you very much for that.

Since this time yesterday, we have learned how unimportant the facts are of the Abdulmutallab case for those who want to use that case for political purposes.

We have learned General Colin Powell‘s new position on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

We have learned what Iran‘s position is in the space race.  That one involves worms.

We‘ve also learned Dr. Seuss‘ position on clean coal.


And we‘ve learned the identity of the politician who is guilty of creating the single worst—and by worst, I mean best—attack ad, I think, of all-time.

All of this learning to be shared with you over the course of this next hour.

But we begin tonight with omentum.  We used this—we used omentum as a headline on last night‘s show at this time to describe, essentially, the political wind that President Obama has at his back right now.

And while the word “omentum” was up with on the screen, we promptly heard from all of our medically-trained viewers, that in addition to meaning what we meant, an Obama-specific rip-off of the word “momentum,” the word “omentum” is also a real word in its own right, which means something totally different.  It turns out it is the thing in your stomach area that holds your guts in.  Without getting too graphic, it‘s a thin sheet of stuff that sort of covers and protects and holds in your guts.

This definition, which I admit to being completely unaware of before last night‘s show seems sort of strangely appropriate now, because in addition to his political momentum, President Obama is also showing off his omentum and trying to get Senate Democrats to have a little omentum, too.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  All that‘s changed in the last two weeks is that our party‘s gone from having the largest Senate majority in a generation to the second largest Senate majority in a generation.  So I would just suggest to this caucus, if anybody‘s searching for a lesson from Massachusetts, I promise you, the answer is not to do nothing.  There was apparently a headline after the Massachusetts election, “The Village Voice” announced that Republicans win a 41-59 majority.


OBAMA:  It‘s worth thinking about.  We still have to lead.


MADDOW:  That was them laughing and him quite pointedly not laughing.  That was the message from President Obama today, as he met with Senate Democrats, in what was a sort of town hall-esque setting.

But there was something markedly different about today‘s town hall and the one that Mr. Obama held yesterday in New Hampshire, where he demonstrated all of, you know, his omentum.  When President Obama opened it up for questions in New Hampshire, it was clear what was on the minds of the people who were at that town hall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Due to the great health care in this country, I am a three-time cancer survivor.


OBAA:  We‘re proud of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Health care for cancer survivors is more expensive.  How are the jobs bill and the proposed health care legislation going to account for the level of variability of the needs of cancer survivors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You also talked eloquently about the needs to have more jobs and to be more energy-efficient.  All these things together require that we get a health care act reform passed through the Senate, a better one than we have today.


MADDOW:  The first two questions out of the gate: health reform.  That‘s what the crowd in New Hampshire wanted to talk to the president about.  Today‘s Q&A session with the Senate Democrats had a decidedly different tone.


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Would you support an effort to revise, perhaps even revoke, those bilateral treaty which gives China such an unfair trade and leverage?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO:  This place looks broken to the American people.  What we need to do differently as Democrats and Republicans to fix this institution?

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS:  Are we willing, as Democrats, to also push back on our own party and look for that common ground that we need to work with Republicans and to get the answers?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK:  Would you, today, commit to working with Congress to pass comprehensive 9/11 -- comprehensive 9/11 health bill that‘s fully paid for?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  So I want to ask you about small business.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO:  How do we rebuild our manufacturing sector?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT:  You‘ve had some superb judges.  Can you commit to work with us on both parties, and keep trying to get them through?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA:  This issue of deficit and the rising debt.  Why should the Democratic Party be trusted?


MADDOW:  All interesting questions.  Eight questions there from senators, all good ones.  Not one of them about getting health reform passed.

What Senator Gillibrand was referencing there was, specifically, health care for 9/11 responders.  But the no questions about health reform was even after President Obama had pleaded with Senate Democrats to please get it done.


OBAMA:  So many of us campaigned on the idea that we were going to change this health care system.  And we said we were going to change it.  Well, here we are, with a chance to change it.  And so, as we think about moving forward, I hope we don‘t lose sight of why we‘re here.  We‘ve got to finish the job on health care.  We‘ve got to finish the job.



MADDOW:  After imploring them to finish the job on health care, Senate Democrats asked zero questions about it.  President Obama even tried to turn non-health reform-related questions from Senate Democrats into health reform-related questions—like this one on all of his yet-to-be confirmed federal appointees.


OBAMA:  But I don‘t have a GSA administrator.  Even though I nominated somebody who was well-qualified, several months ago, and nobody can tell me that there‘s anything particularly wrong with her.  Let‘s have a fight about real stuff.  Not about—don‘t hold this woman hostage.  If you have an objection about my health care policies, then let‘s debate the health care policies.


MADDOW:  Please, let‘s talk about health reform.

After being on the road for a few days now, getting his omentum back, one of the messages Mr. Obama has apparently heard is that the American people really want health reform done, and it‘s probably good politics to get it done.

Based on their questions today, Senate Democrats are apparently not on the same page.

And as Democrats in Congress, slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly tried to figure out just how they want to proceed with health reform now, Republicans, meanwhile, have been busy beavers, figuring out new ways to slow it down even more in the hopes of stopping it.

Senator Jim DeMint has now let it be known that he plans to offer endless amendments, one after the other after the other to the revised health reform bill in order to try to essentially stall it to death.  This is a tactic has apparently never been tried before on a reconciliation bill, but Senator DeMint says he wants to try it anyway, telling “The Hill” newspaper, quote, “You‘ll see Republicans do everything they can to delay and stop this process.  I think you‘ll see us offering amendments to get us into November, if we can.”

So, the question now is: do Democrats have the intestinal fortitude, the omentum, to face down the Republicans, and as the president says, finish the job?

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.  He was at the president‘s town hall-esque event with Senate Democrats.

Senator Brown, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

BROWN:  Glad to be with you again, Rachel.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  It seems to me that the president is trying to light a little fire, create a little urgency in the Senate on finishing health reform and doing it soon.  Do you think that‘s fair of him?

BROWN:  Yes, I think he—I would like to see him more engaged.  I think that he‘s urged today to do it.  I think we‘re going to.  I think that we‘ll work in the next two or three or four weeks, we‘ll do reconciliation.

Jim DeMint, there are rules that Jim DeMint can‘t continue to block this.  He can try, but that won‘t last that long.

The Senate then—the House then passes a Senate version, as we—as we correct and make the Senate version better.  I fully expect this bill to move.  I fully expect this bill to be signed by the president.

I have very little doubt, Rachel, that the—that the momentum‘s there, that the will is there of the Senate Democrats and the House Democrats.  It needs a few changes to get House Democrats to buy into a bill that they didn‘t like as much.  They‘re mad at the Senate for some good reasons, a lot of progressives in the House.

There were things we talked about on this show that we wish were in the bill, but it‘s still going to be a good bill that‘s gong to improve the lives of millions of Americans without health insurance and tens of millions of Americans that have health insurance.

MADDOW:  We keep hearing that there are parliamentary and procedural things that need to be worked out in the Senate.  That‘s the reason that there‘s been a delay, that things aren‘t happening right away.  Is it your understanding that those basic issues have been resolved?  That there isn‘t anything that seems like it‘s going to be block, moving forward, with the reconciliation strategy?

BROWN:  Yes.  I know the leadership is—the president‘s meeting with leaders in the Senate and the House and planning to move forward.  I don‘t know a timetable yet.  I‘m not sure they know a timetable yet, but it‘s going to happen in the next month or so.  It‘s not going to be June or July.  You‘re not going to be having these discussions about omentum and all these things that you were talking about, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Well, the reason, of course, that you in the Senate may have to use reconciliation here to get this done is because of this standing Republican filibuster on practically everything now.  I want to play a very quick clip for you today.  It will be familiar to you—from President Obama‘s comments this morning.

He mentioned specifically this issue of the filibuster.  Briefly.


OBAMA:  So you had to cast more votes to break filibusters last year than in the entire 1950s and ‘60s combined.  That‘s 20 years of obstruction packed into just one.  But you didn‘t let it stop you.


MADDOW:  Senator Bennet, I think, was also getting at this issue in his question today.  Is it your sense that your caucus, the Democrats in the Senate, are willing to look at reining in the filibuster through a rules change, doing something else to break this supermajority stranglehold?

BROWN:  Well, there‘s serious issues with that.  As you know, Senator Udall, who you talked about on your show last week, is very interested in doing that.  A lot of us are following his lead.

You know, progressives don‘t understand how 58 Democrats and two independents that mostly lean Democratic can‘t this done because of the Senate rules.  And this is a dysfunctional set of rules.  It wasn‘t all that—well, it was dysfunctional in the ‘50s and ‘60s on civil rights, but they broke that, finally, progressives did, and moved the country forward.

We haven‘t been able to with nearly the regularity that we‘d like to and we‘re the only democratic country in the world, I think, that has this supermajority requirement to change the status quo.  And the status quo always protects the most affluent and the most privileged.  That‘s why it‘s so important to change these rules, so ultimately a majority actually would rule in this country.

And we would see a very different government if progressives, who are a majority—by far, a majority in the Senate, if we could have a little bit more success on the Senate floor and work around these rules the way they are.

MADDOW:  Senator, in terms of political momentum right now, I have been making the case on the air for the last week or so that Democrats seem to have found a real winning issue in the Republican Party aligning itself with big business and Wall Street.  Republicans are against getting the bailout money back from the banks.  They‘re against blocking foreign corporations from spending unlimited money on U.S. elections after the Supreme Court ruling.

How potent do you think those things are politically?

BROWN:  Well, a lot of us—a group of progressives met late this afternoon to talk about using money from this bank tax to fund a jobs bill and get it out there quickly.  We‘re clearly on the right side of history there.  A group of us also are working to answer this horrible Supreme Court decision.  I‘m not a lawyer, but the worst Supreme Court decision in my memory, to allow corporations, large corporations—both domestic and foreign—to shovel money into political campaigns, undermining democracy that we hold dear.

I would—I would add that this petition drive that I‘m organizing, people could go online, sign this petition at my Web site,, go on that, sign our petition.

The only way to really stop this awful court decision that‘s undermining democracy and this opening up to corporate interests even more influence across the street in that capitol, the only way to do it is grassroots opposition.  That‘s why I ask people to go on online and petition and help us work together to blunt this awful, awful decision.

MADDOW:  Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, it‘s always a real pleasure to have you on the show.  Thanks for your time.

BROWN:  My pleasure.  I thought you‘re going to still be in Washington, darn it.

MADDOW:  I‘ll give you—I‘ll give you advance notice next time.

BROWN:  All right.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  Thank you, sir.

The president‘s critics really, really, really, really want to use the Christmas Day failed underpants bomber to attack President Obama as weak on terrorism.  So far, it is not working out very well for them.  But they keep trying.  They keep digging.

Today, when Andrea Mitchell found one Republican senator at the bottom of a very deep hole on this subject, Andrea threw that senator a proverbial shovel, live on national TV.  It was a sight to see.  That‘s coming up next.


MADDOW:  A programming reminder, we will be live from the French Quarter in New Orleans this Friday night, because—where else would you want to be on the Friday night before this particular Super Bowl?  To help us warm up for our Super Bowl/Mardi Gras show, here‘s something pointless and heartwarming involving Saints fans and the miracle of “Who dat?”





MADDOW:  Hopefully, he got lots of treats for that.


MADDOW:  Republicans really thought they had a winning political issue in the attempted Christmas Day bombing.  But their efforts to politicize the incident seem now to be blowing up in their faces—or underpants.  It‘s just not working out.  Sorry.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  Less than one hour.  That‘s right, less than one hour.  In fact, just 50 minutes.  That‘s the amount of time that the FBI spent questioning Abdulmutallab, the foreign terrorist who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.  Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist lawyered up and stopped talking.



MADDOW:  Yes.  You know, that‘s just totally wrong.  That was Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, top Republican on the homeland security committee, delivering the Republican Party‘s weekly address on Saturday.  And she‘s really, really factually wrong, a lot, just in that clip.

For starters, the right to have a lawyer does not just apply to American citizens.  It applies to anyone being tried in America.  That‘s why we call it the American criminal justice system.  Even immigrants get lawyers.  Even illegal immigrants get lawyers if they‘re tried in America.

Also, even if the alleged Christmas Day bomber were being held as an enemy combatant, under the rules of war, like Senator Collins says he should be, he would still be entitled to a lawyer.

Also, the would-be bomber apparently has been talking to authorities, even with his Miranda rights having been read to him.

So, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

You want to give it another shot, Senator Collins?


COLLINS:  When the Obama administration decided to treat Abdulmutallab as an ordinary criminal, it did so without the input of our nation‘s top intelligence officials.

The director of national intelligence was not consulted.  The secretary of defense was not consulted.  The secretary of homeland security was not consulted.  The director of the National Counterterrorism Center was not consulted.

They would have explained the importance of gathering all possible intelligence about Yemen, where there is a serious threat from terrorists whose sights are trained on this nation.



MADDOW:  Yes.  I hate to hammer this home here, but, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong, wrong.

Actually, NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell hosted Senator Collins on her show today.  So, we‘re just going to let Andrea take care of the fact-check on this one.


ANDREA MITCHELL, “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS”:  What the White House would tell you and what they‘ve been briefing reporters on, and we know there was a briefing last night, is that, first of all, there was a national security meeting, which involved all the principles.  All of them signed off on the decision to proceed in a nonmilitary way.

Secondly, they say the Nigerian family would not have cooperated if this had not been done the way it was done.

Thirdly, they point out, even ignoring all of the precedence under the Bush administration, where they did proceed in this same exact fashion, the fact is that he would have been accorded an attorney, because he was arrested in the United States.  So even if they would have proceeded under military procedures, he would have had a lawyer who would have been telling him if not the Miranda rights, not to talk.

COLLINS:  Well, you‘ve asked me about six different questions in repeating the allegations that the White House has made.  Look, the military detainee and trial system provides much more flexibility and would have allowed him to be questioned without a lawyer telling him what to reveal and what to conceal.



MADDOW:  Wrong.  Wrong.  Andrea Mitchell just said that was wrong, just ignoring all the evidence of your complete and total wrongness does not make you less wrong!

But Senator Collins, for all of her astounding wrongness on this issue, is not the only Republican tripping and falling into the wrong in this political battle over the attempted Christmas Day bombing.  Here, for example, is South Carolina‘s Lindsey Graham, along with FOX News‘s Greta Van Susteren.  And the two of them—I will warn you in advance here—are just plain making things up.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS:  Well, the interesting thing is, in my prior life as a criminal defense lawyer, so—and sort of my look at this, either he got himself a deal.


VAN SUSTEREN:  .  right up front, a good deal, or he‘s got a lousy lawyer.

GRAHAM:  Well, I.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And I understand his lawyer‘s good, so he must have gotten some deal.

GRAHAM:  I used to be a military lawyer, a defense lawyer.  I used to be a defense lawyer in the civilian world.  I wouldn‘t let my guy talk until I knew it was to his benefit.



MADDOW:  Wrong?  Wrong.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to this particular reckless speculation in a statement today, saying in part, quote, “Abdulmutallab has not been offered anything.  The Department of Justice will take his cooperation into consideration.”  In other words, there is no deal, but thanks for playing, Senator Graham.

Then there‘s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  The administration still appears more interested in managing its message than explaining to the American people and to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle why an al Qaeda-trained terrorist, fresh from Yemen, and caught in the act of attempting to blow up an airliner, was handed over to a lawyer after a 50-minute interview.



MADDOW:  Wow!  Amazing, wrong again.

As a matter of fact, just today, the attorney general released a letter he wrote to Mitch McConnell, explaining in painstaking detail, the hows and whys of the administration‘s case against Mr. Abdulmutallab.

Here‘s an excerpt that specifically addresses Senator McConnell‘s wrongness, quote, “Since the September 11th, 2001, attacks, the practice of the U.S. government, followed by prior and current administrations, without a single exception, has been to arrest and detain under federal criminal law all terrorist suspects who are apprehended inside the U.S.  The prior administration adopted policies expressly endorsing this approach.  In keeping with this policy, the Bush administration used the criminal justice system to convict more than 300 individuals on terrorism-related charges.”

In other words, wrong.  Senator McConnell, not only was the statement you made wrong, but the premise behind it was also—wrong.

Of course, Republicans making claims like this to try to score political points on the Abdulmutallab case is nothing new.  They have been doing that ever since Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the human sieve, sent out a fund-raising letter three days after the attempted attack, trying to raise money off of the attempted murder of Americans.

What is new is the administration finally releasing information about the case to rebut these now long-standing and utterly wrong political charges.  What took ‘em so long?

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”

Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.  Nice to see you.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Nice to see you, too, Rachel.

MADDOW:  What did take them so long?  Why is the Obama administration just now fighting back against these allegations when they clearly can be pretty easily factually rebutted?

HAYES:  Well, I think—I think that there‘s a few reasons.  One is that, Democrats are always in these habitual defensive crouch when it comes to anything having to do with the war on terror and, you know, just sticking to the rule of law puts people in this political nervous, precarious situation.

And two, I think, if you look over the past year, one of the really insidious things that‘s happened is that there has been an incentive structure set up very smartly by the extreme right-wing, pro-torture right, wherein anytime the administration does the right thing on one of these issues, for instance, releasing the OLC memo, there‘s a huge up-well of outrage and Dick Cheney‘s on your television and it eats up two or three news cycles.  And every time they do the wrong thing, no one says anything, except for some civil liberties groups who can‘t get on TV in the same way, your show, of course, the notable exception.

And so, what it does is it creates a really nasty set of incentives.  Where it‘s always a lot more work to do the right thing.  And I think that they thought, that we‘re going to do the right thing, but we‘re going to do it quietly until it got to the point where they had to respond.

MADDOW:  On that issue, though, of the way that terrorism is being politicized right now, the main argument the Republicans are making right now, that, you know, Abdulmutallab shouldn‘t have been read his rights, he should have been offered access to an attorney—I mean, that‘s not even the policies of the Bush administration.


MADDOW:  That‘s way to the right of Bush.  And so, are we, effectively, bringing the entire debate over civil liberties and terrorism so far to the right that we‘re going to have a whole bunch of Republicans.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  . running to the right of Dick Cheney in the next election?

HAYES:  Yes!  Yes.


HAYES:  That‘s what‘s so crazy about what‘s going on.  I mean, first of all, everybody should read the Holder letter, because he basically lays out and says, “Look, I don‘t care what you want, Mitch McConnell.  There is no legal authority to do what you want, right?”

I mean, listen, if a bunch of Democratic senators, and you and I and people writing in progressive magazines said, “I think Mitch McConnell should be arrested every time he filibusters and every Republican should be arrested every time they filibuster, it wouldn‘t suddenly become a topic of debate.  I mean, it‘s just not legally authorized to do that.

So, it‘s just not legally permissible to do the things that Mitch McConnell wants, “A.”  And “B,” I think we‘re really seeing the dangers of this kind of slippery slope-ness.  And this is something civil libertarians have been warning about.  Once you start eating away at these core protections, it gets a lot easier to start extending those arguments in very pernicious ways.

MADDOW:  In terms of the White House‘s belated pushback on this, but it is a very strong pushback they‘re doing now.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  . it seems like they‘re essentially setting up sort of a facts versus fear fight.  That, you know, they can say all sorts of things.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  . to make us seem scary and vulnerable and all this stuff.  But look at the facts.  I worry that in a debate between fear and facts, fear usually wins anyway.

HAYES:  You and I share the same worry.


HAYES:  But, you know, you know what?  You have to fight it anyway.  I mean, I think, hopefully, we can make the case and the people who support the rule of law can make the case that this is—this is both what our Constitution and values demand.  Practically, it has produced results.  I mean, all the arguments are there to be made.

But I think it really does show, back after, you know, 2001-2002, when this whole debate started after 9/11, you had people on the left saying, “Look, we don‘t want to start marching us down this slippery slope.”  And there were people who said, “Oh, you‘re being hysterical.”

But what we‘re seeing now is exactly that situation, where Bush administration policies—from as little as a year ago—are now deemed excessively differential to the rule of law.  So they are marching the debate in exactly the wrong direction.  And how that‘s going to be arrested remains to be seen.

MADDOW:  They may do it—they may sort of politically self-emulate on this.

HAYES:  I hope so.

MADDOW:  I think running to the right of Dick Cheney on terrorism might be too much, even for—even for their own base.  But we shall see.

Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”—it‘s always great to have you on the show.  Thanks, Chris.

HAYES:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, supporting the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy got a little lonelier today.  Pennsylvania congressman and Iraq war veteran, Patrick Murphy, has been doing some incredible legwork on Capitol Hill to try to kill “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  He will join us next.


MADDOW:  Gen. Colin Powell is the sort of American public figure who offers a lot of politicians a lot of political cover.  There‘s not a lot of risk, especially if you‘re a Republican, to saying, “I‘m with Gen. Powell,” on this or that subject. 

And so it has been regarding the military‘s “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy.  Back in 1993, Gen. Powell was opposed to gay people serving openly in the military.  And as chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, he persuaded Congress and the Clinton administration to adopt the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy.” 

At the 1993 Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on gays in the military, Gen. Powell said that there are, quote, “Those of us who believe that the presence of open homosexuality would have an unacceptable, detrimental and disruptive impact on the cohesion, morale, and esprit of the Armed Forces.  I also know this is not the end of the matter.  The debate will continue.  I also don‘t pretend to know where the nation will be on the issue years in the future.”

As recently as last summer, politicians as seasoned as mavericky Sen. John McCain were using Gen. Powell‘s position to justify their own.  Speaking to our panel, Ana Marie Cox, on America Radio, Mr. McCain said that he relied on Gen. Powell‘s opinion. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), SENATE ARMED FORCES COMMITTEE:  My opinion is shaped by the view of the leaders in the military.  The reason why I supported the policy to start with was because Gen. Colin Powell, who was then chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, is the one that strongly recommended we adopt this policy in the Clinton administration.  I have not heard Gen. Powell or any of the other military leaders reverse their position. 


MADDOW:  Well, now Gen. Powell has reversed his position today, releasing this statement, quote, “In the almost 17 years since the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed.  I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff.”

You know, if this were the part of Sen. McCain‘s career in which he earned that reputation for being the principled maverick of the Senate, Sen. McCain would put out a statement now saying that in light of Gen.  Powell‘s remarks, he‘s reconsidering his policy position, because McCain always said that position was based on Gen. Powell‘s advice. 

I don‘t think this is that part of Sen. McCain‘s career anymore, but we‘ll see. 

Joining us now is Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy.  He is an Iraq War veteran.  He has taken the lead in the House in the effort to repeal the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell policy” as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.  Congressman Murphy, thanks very much for joining us. 

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D-PA), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Thanks so much for having me back on the show. 

MADDOW:  How important is Gen. Powell‘s change of heart on this subject? 

MURPHY:  Absolutely huge.  The fact that Gen. Powell, Sec. Gates, Admiral Mullen - these past two days have been a tremendous success in our efforts to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”

MADDOW:  In today‘s House Armed Services Committee hearing, you and another veteran, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak, who is a retired Navy admiral - you both expressed skepticism that the Pentagon needs a year-long process to figure out how to implement a change in this policy.  Why are you skeptical? 

MURPHY:  Well, I just wanted to make sure I had them on record, but they were very clear, Rachel.  It wasn‘t a question of if they were going to do this.  It was a question of how.  So now, we have a dual-track process.  Basically, the Congress needs to act.  We need to overturn the law that the Congress put in place almost 17 years ago. 

At the same time, the Pentagon, because the military leadership has been very clear that they want to repeal it, are now figuring out how they‘re going to do that.  They said they‘re going to get it done this calendar year.  They‘re not going to delay.  And I thought that was a tremendous statement by Sec. Gates today. 

MADDOW:  So you feel like the implementation, study, and review process that they‘re talking about updating the study, some of the other things that the secretary and the chairman talked about yesterday.  Do you feel like that‘s essentially an appropriate timeline in getting this done as quickly as they can get it done? 

MURPHY:  And they were very clear, Rachel, because that was my question today in the Armed Services hearing that it was a question of doing it this calendar year and how they‘re going to implement the repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

So now we have the president.  We have the top military leadership of our country.  And now, it is time for the Congress to act to do the right thing, to stand up for those men and women that are willing to take a bullet for our country to defend us, to allow them to serve openly. 

MADDOW:  When we last talked about your bill to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” in the House, it was very memorable.  You said that your strategy was to personally, individually, you, yourself, lobby every single member of the House on the matter.  I‘ve got to ask how it‘s going. 

MURPHY:  It‘s going great.  Since the last time I was on, we‘ve got 35 new members of Congress to be co-sponsors of this bill.  So now, we‘re up to 187 co-sponsors.  I have about two dozen more folks in the Congress that said they‘re going to vote for it if it comes up for a vote.  And we‘re working every day to get even more.  And we will have the votes when it comes up for a vote this year. 

MADDOW:  It feels to me right now, as opposed to 1993, that the opposition on this is a little incoherent, that they‘re a little confused.  And I don‘t think that‘s wishful thinking, because of everybody knows how I feel about this policy. 

It just seems it‘s unsustainable for me now of opponents of this repealing this policy to say that they‘re on the military side while they‘re siding against Admiral Mullen and Gen. Powell and Gen.  Shalikashvili.  Do you have a sense of what you‘re up against about what the strategy is on the other side of this now? 

MURPHY:  They were going to throw everything at us.  And you know, Bobby Kennedy once said that change has enemies and change is hard. 

So I‘m not taking anything for granted, even though we have the past two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff - well, two former ones, Shalikashvili, Colin Powell, and now the current one, Admiral Mullen, and the Secretary of Defense and the Commander in Chief and, frankly, the American public, I am not taking anything for granted. 

We need to make sure that we get this done this year.  We act with a sense of urgency.  There are so many heroes that are serving right now in our Armed Services that are one day or one month away from being turned in because they happen to be gay. 

Not for any type of sexual misconduct, but just because they‘re gay.  It‘s wrong.  It hurts our national security and that‘s why we need to change it. 

MADDOW:  Iraq War veteran and Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy.  You‘ve been a real champion on this issue and we are grateful that you make the time to talk to us about it.  It‘s a real pleasure.  Thank you. 

MURPHY:  Thanks, Rachel.  Thanks so much. 

MADDOW:  Still ahead, a story about worms in space.  We revisit our favorite amorous parrot.  We have the best/worst attack ad maybe ever, a future sheep.  And Dr. Seuss‘ Lorax, makes non-cartoon real life news.  If you are staying tuned waiting for the critter part of the show, the critter part is about to happen.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith asks why Sarah Palin is not calling for Rush Limbaugh to be fired after he repeatedly and unapologetically used the R word. 

And ahead on this show, the worst - seriously, the worst campaign commercial of 2010, and perhaps all of human history.  It involves sheep.  It is so bad, it‘s good.  Honestly, I‘m telling you, you have to see it. 

That‘s coming up.

But first, after America‘s initial invasion of Afghanistan, when resources and attention were diverted from that war to the war in Iraq, some U.S. troops and veterans took to calling that first war “Forgot-istan.” 

In the mainstream press, Afghanistan was sometimes called “America‘s other war.”  Well, now, America‘s other war has spawned another other war next door in Pakistan.  It‘s one that America has been reluctant to call a war, because it‘s mostly been fought with robots, with CIA-operated unmanned drone aircraft shooting missiles at Pakistani targets. 

The U.S. government refuses to talk about CIA activities in Pakistan, or most anywhere.  But they‘ve repeatedly insisted that the American military is not in Pakistan. 

Last summer, America‘s special envoy to Afghanistan in Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told an audience in Islamabad, quote, “People think the U.S. has troops in Pakistan.  Well, we don‘t.”

In Brussels last spring, Mr. Holbrooke called the issue of U.S.

Troops on Pakistani soil a red line for the Pakistani government that must

be respected, saying, quote, “There are not going to be U.S. or NATO troops

on the ground in Pakistan.” I

In fact, there are U.S. troops on the ground in Pakistan.  Not a lot of them that we know of, but they‘re there.  This unspoken truth brought to horrible light today with news that three U.S. special operations soldiers were killed in a bombing at a Pakistani girls‘ school, which also killed three schoolgirls and a Pakistani soldier. 

The “New York Times” reports that the three Americans who were killed were members of a special operations team that‘s been operating in Pakistan since 2008, training Pakistan‘s frontier corps. 

There are reportedly between 60 and 100 American troops in this training unit.  Now, the arrangement reportedly does not cross the Pakistani government‘s red line against U.S. troops being on their soil, because the troops‘ mission is just training and not combat. 

Noah Shachtman at “Danger Room” reacted to today‘s news by calling it, “another sign that America‘s once-small, once-secret war in Pakistan is growing bigger, more conventional, and busting out into the open which begs the question, when are we going to start treating this conflict in Pakistan as a real war, with real oversight and real disclosure about what the heck our people are really doing there?” 

“Maybe at one point,” he says, “this conflict could have been swept under the rug as some classified CIA op, but that was billions of dollars and hundreds of Pakistani and American lives ago.”

Two minor things, he didn‘t say “heck,” and we have linked to Mr.  Shachtman‘s reporting on this at Web site today.  If you want to check it out, I recommend it, 

The nation of Iran has joined the space race.  Today, Iran launched a rocket into space.  The country‘s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described it as a victory of Iran‘s technological advancement over the west. 

I understand the desire to brag about these things, but pending, you know, the big cutbacks in President Obama‘s proposed NASA budget, we do still have far more awesome astronauts than Iran does.  The passengers on the Iranian rocket were a rat, two turtles, and worms. 

As groundbreaking as vermin in space may seem to President Ahmadinejad, it should be noted that the Soviet Union sent a tortoise and several worms into the great blue yonder in 1968 and the first rat in space went there aboard a French rocket in 1964.  All of which, of course, was described in compelling detail in Tom Wolf‘s bestseller “The Rat Stuff.”


MADDOW:  This is the only story about sleeping your way to the top that I will ever do on television.  All right, probably the best thing we put on TV all of last year was footage from a BBC wildlife show of an endangered Kakapo parrot trying to mate with the host‘s neck.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  A typical male, Sirocco is clearly only interested in one thing. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, look at that. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gosh, he‘s got sharp claws. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s getting a bit frisky. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ow, ow!  Do you think it is - he‘s actually attempting a sort of mating ritual.  He is.  Look, he‘s so happy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of the funniest things I‘ve ever seen.  You are being shagged by a rare parrot.  He thinks you are - he‘s really going for it.  Actually, you‘re in pain, aren‘t you? 



MADDOW:  Sirocco, the rare parrot‘s career has since skyrocketed.  I can‘t believe this, but his home country, New Zealand, is not going to let all that fame go to waste.  They have now named him the world‘s first spokesbird. 

He‘s got a Web site, “,” and a Twitter feed, @spokesbird.  Being a spokesbird is not a small task.  It means being an ambassador for conservation.  There are only about 120 Kakapos left.  And unless someone steps in and explains that doing that to a human‘s neck isn‘t how biology works, we don‘t expect those numbers to rise any time soon. 



MADDOW:  Remember those lumps, the clean coal carolers?  Singing lumps of coal designed to make you like coal more, brought to you by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. 

They may have been the first attempt to use popular children‘s entertainment to put a benign face on the so-called clean coal industry, but they apparently were not the last. 

A start-up coal gasification, based in my beloved Boston, Massachusetts, has named itself after a Dr. Seuss character.  And they picked pretty much the least clean coal-friendly character in the entire Dr. Seuss pantheon. 

They picked the Lorax, you know, “I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees.”  He‘s the little dude that warns the Onceler that it would be a bad thing to pillage the environment for short term profit? 

That character‘s name was the inspiration for a coal company.  Lorax AG, a company that plans to buy coal and use what they call green coal technology, TM, to transform it into ammonia, urea, sulfuric acid and potentially hydrogen and synthetic natural gas.” 

They want to sell some of those products to make fertilizer.  That is the want-to-seem-eco-sensitive company that named themselves after the Lorax. 

But you know, after a tip from our friends at “Wonk Room,” lawyers for Dr. Seuss started to fume.  They sent off a cease-and-desist letter to Lorax AG saying, “Stop what you do.”  When we called them for comment on having been burned, our producers‘ repeated attempts were all spurned. 

What to do, how to get a response for the show?  Then, a clever producer said, I think I know.  She looked at their website and got a surprise.  It was suddenly down, so we had to surmise, that the cease-and-desist letter had an effect we‘re trying to confirm it, but we don‘t expect, that Lorax AG had to say.  But if we hear more, we‘ll tell you, OK? 

And in case Dr. Seuss is on your bookshelf, here‘s the case for nature made by the great man himself, “Plant a new truffula, treat it with care.  Give it clean water and feed it fresh air.  Grow a forest, protect it from the axes that hack, than the Lorax and all his friends may come back.” 

Remember that part where he lifts himself up by his pants and he flies through the hole in the smog?  That‘s so cool.  All right.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Before today, the single-most notable feature of Carly Fiorina‘s Senate campaign was this online morsel of political regret, “Carlyfornia Dreamin‘,” complete with apostrophe.  A Web site about day and night and cats and dogs and nothing anybody else could figure out, widely held as the worst candidate Web site ever, which is saying something. 

But now, Carly Fiorina, who is the former of chief of the world-leading tech company, HP - she‘s topped herself.  She‘s topped even “Carlyfornia Dreamin‘” with a Web attack ad on one of her opponents named Tom Campbell.  Ladies and gentlemen, behold, the attack ad so bad no one wanted to believe it was real. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Purity, piety, our fiscal conservative leaders.  Men we admire, aspire to be.  Wholesome, honorable.  True believers.  Men like Tom Campbell who would never lead us astray.  His pedestal so high. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Leaving but one way to fall. 


MADDOW:  Look, if you ignore the fact that it looks like it was made by Monty Python at this point, you still have to admit that, I mean, there‘s no other way to fall, besides down.  Wait, it gets better.  Go. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tom Campbell, is he what he tells us?  Or is he what he‘s become over the years?  A FCINO - fiscal conservative in name only? 


MADDOW:  FCINO.  The thing about the catchy acronyms is you have you to be able to say them.  What Carly Fiorina has unleashed here is a FCINO?  And what‘s with the guy in the homemade-looking sheep mask with the glowing red eyes?  This is supposed to be a spooky Tom Campbell.  Oh, yes.  Or maybe another evil FCINO. 

By the end of the day, the guy in the sheep mask had become a Twitter avatar for a hardcore Republican.  And we haven‘t even gotten to the best part yet because the guy in the homemade sheep mask is - watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A wolf in sheep‘s clothing.  A man who literally helped put the state of California on the path to bankruptcy and higher taxes.  Fiscal conservative or just another same old tale of tax and spend, authored by a career politician who helped guide us into this fiscal mess in the first place.  Might there be a better choice?

MADDOW:  Well, look furry.  Run the furry.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Wow.



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