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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Bishop Gene Robinson; Dave Zirin, Kent Jones, Eugene Robinson

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  I have to say, I want to go on record as saying that I think there is such a thing as nerd street cred.  I do not think these are two different universes.  My whole self-image depends on there being both of those things at once.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  You know my dare.  Wear them. 

Will you?  Come on.  Join the club.

MADDOW:  Oh, my specs?

OLBERMANN:  Join the club.  Come on.

MADDOW:  But your specs aren‘t nerdy.  Mine are—mine are like Clark Kent with a slide rule.  Yours are, you know, hip.

OLBERMANN:  I used to wear horn-rimmed tortoise shell glasses and a mustache.  I looked like a cheap knock off of Groucho Marx.  You don‘t have to wear the mustache.  Just wear the glasses.

MADDOW:  Although the mustache would make some headlines, particularly at Tucker Carlson‘s Web site.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, my goodness.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You know, and you—oh, no.  Let‘s talk about Tucker Carlson for an hour instead.  The nitwit that guy hired for that job.

All right.  I‘m sorry.  I‘ll go.  Go ahead.  It‘s your turn.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Keith.  Appreciate it.

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

All right.  President Obama on the offense again tonight, telling Democrats to keep up the fight.

Scott Brown, sworn in as a senator.  And his party now clearly intent on siding publicly with Wall Street.

And the president calls Uganda‘s proposed “kill the gays” bill odious and unconscionable, and he does so in public, out loud.

We‘ve got a lot to get to this hour.

But we begin tonight with President Obama as he continues to campaign for his agenda, and by extension, for the political fortunes of every other Democrat in the country.  An hour ago, the president gave Democrats a rather rousing speech at a DNC dinner at the National Museum of Women and the Arts.  Before that, he answered questions from grassroots supporters at a fundraising reception that was broadcast online.

Here is the president rallying Democrats tonight in an effort to push forward with his agenda and toward the mid-term elections.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You know, sometimes I think we got so many things done so quick that people forgot.  But let‘s just think about this: We upheld the principle of equal pay for equal work.


OBAMA:  We lifted the ban on stem cell research and restored science to its rightful place in America.


OBAMA:  We provided health care to 4 million children who now have it who didn‘t have it before.  We passed the strongest veterans budget in decades.  We protected families from getting ripped off by credit card companies and children from being targeted by big tobacco.  And helped consumers deal with the twin plagues of mortgage fraud and predatory lending.

We appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.


OBAMA:  We passed a service bill named for Ted Kennedy, that‘s giving young and old a chance to serve their country and their communities.


OBAMA:  We‘re working with Congress to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.


OBAMA:  Oh, by the way, in the meantime, we prevented the worst financial crisis from getting even worse—turned the economy from contraction to expansion, made the largest investment in clean energy in history, the largest investment in education in decades.


OBAMA:  . expanded the Pell Grant program, dealt with the H1N1 virus on the side.


OBAMA:  That‘s what your support has helped us do at home.

Abroad, we‘ve begun a new era of engagement.  We‘re working with our partners to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, seeking a world free of them.  We‘re working with other nations to confront climate change.  We are now a leader and not a follower in that critical mission.


OBAMA:  We banned torture.  We‘re rebuilding our military.  We are reaffirming our alliances.

We‘ve begun to leave Iraq to its own people as I committed to doing in the campaign.  And we‘ve chartered new ways forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We‘re making progress every single day in taking the fight to al Qaeda and across the globe.  And I went to Cairo on behalf of the American people to begin a new dialogue with the Muslim world.

We‘re living up to our obligations as a wealthy nation, helping to promote food security around the world, helping to deal with diseases around the world.  We‘re living up to a moment that demands American leadership by standing with the people of Haiti as we speak.  So.


OBAMA:  So in ways large and small, we‘ve begun to deliver on the change that we talked about—the change that you believed in and that you campaigned hard for.

But the reason that you and I are here tonight is because we‘re not done.  We‘ve got a lot more work to do.

The things that we talked about during the campaign are the things that still need to be done.  They‘ve been put off by Washington for too long.  And this is where change gets hard.

Change is easy if you‘re just talking about tinkering around the edges.  Change is harder when you actually dig in and try to deal with the structural problems that have impeded our progress for too long.  This is where we run head long into the lobbyists and the special interests and the bitterness and misinformation that characterizes so much of our politics, which means that some of you may be feeling discouraged, because it feels like things are taking longer than you might have expected.

Well, don‘t be discouraged.  I‘m not discouraged.  I knew this was going to take a long time but I knew the fight was worth it.  And we‘ve got to keep up on this fight.  This forces the status quo.

They may not give an inch, but I don‘t give an inch either, and you shouldn‘t give an inch either.  We‘re not.


OBAMA:  We didn‘t come this far to put things off or to play it safe or to take the easy road.


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an associate editor for “The Washington Post.”  He‘s also an MSNBC political analyst.

Gene, it‘s always great to have you on the show.  Thank you very much for being here.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It‘s great to be here, Rachel.  Is it true that you have the other Gene Robinson on your program tonight as well?


MADDOW:  We have two men named Gene Robinson on the show tonight—only in part because we wanted to have you both on the same show.  We probably would have done it anyway, but it‘s kind of great.

ROBINSON:  You cornered the market on Gene Robinsons.

MADDOW:  We were trying to come up with a segment where we could have you both on at once, and I was going to go, “Take it, Gene” and then just sort of do it as a personality test to see which of you would be more aggressive and go for it.

ROBINSON:  You would enjoy that, wouldn‘t you, Rachel?

MADDOW:  I would enjoy that.  Neither of you would—which is why we didn‘t do it.


MADDOW:  So—anyway, let me get your reaction to the president tonight.  I mean, two more speeches in one night tonight for the president.  What is the White House strategy here, and do you think it‘s working?

ROBINSON:  Well, I think the strategy, which you saw begin at the State of the Union and, certainly, carried forward in the question time appearance with the Republicans last Friday, and again, with the Senate Democrats, and on and on, is to take back control of the debate, of the language and the terms of the debate about these important issues.

If health care is defined—as the Republicans defined it—as a big government takeover of 1/6 of the economy, you know, run for your lives, that‘s bad for the Democrats trying to pass health care reform.

If it‘s defined as no preexisting conditions, as an impediment to getting insurance, as holding down costs, you know, the long-term deficit reduction, that‘s good for the Democrats who were trying to get it passed and I think the president has taken strides.  Frankly, the White House message machine allowed the Republicans to define that issue and other issues in the minds of voters for a good part of the year and that was not good for what the president calls change that‘s hard to bring about.

MADDOW:  And, you know, one of the things that‘s been so interesting to watch in politics over the past year is the Republican efforts to try to find their leadership, figure out who their spokespeople are going to be, see who‘s going to sort of rise to the top among a sort of chaotic, interesting period in the Republican Party, the Democrats, obviously, have somebody who‘s up ahead and it‘s—and it‘s Barack Obama.

Are there other Democrats, though, that need to be serving as an echo chamber or a force multiplier for the president in starting to make these same cases?  Should we be expecting other Democrats to step up—start using the same language, start sort of campaigning in the same way the president is?

ROBINSON:  You are expecting the Democratic Party to behave like a political party and have.


ROBINSON:  And have one message that it gets across in a coherent way. 

I‘m not holding my breath.  But it would be interesting, wouldn‘t it, if

after you heard the president, for example, give that speech, if you heard

and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and not only them, but perhaps, and Evan Bayh and one of the blue dog Democrats in the House—if you heard them echoing the language and at least agreeing on the terms of the discussion, I think that would certainly paint a portrait of the more unified and together big tent party.


Big tent parties are hard to manage.  And—so let‘s not minimize that.  But you‘re not really hearing that.  When you heard him with the Senate Democrats for example, you heard a lot of senators who were concerned about their next re-election campaign, raising their own parochial issues from their own point of view and not really kind of getting with the program necessarily.

MADDOW:  In terms of what that program is, the president has been making both a policy case and sort of a pundit case, a political case for why health care can‘t be dead.  Why health care can‘t be over.  He is saying, “Not only is it the right thing to do by the country, but it is really the right thing to do politically, Democrats, the solution to this problem that we are in—the solution to say Scott Brown being elected in Massachusetts, is not to do nothing.”

And I wonder if you have a sense in Washington, at “The Post,” in terms of the folks that you know who are close to the inside of politics, do you feel like that‘s resonating with?  As a pundit, it resonates with me.  I just don‘t know if it‘s resonating with people who are running for office this year.

ROBINSON:  You know, it resonates with me, too, Rachel.  I am not sure that it resonates with all the people who need to be ringing with this, if it‘s going to move forward.  I see a kind of two track approach going now.

Clearly, there are a lot of people in Congress who don‘t want to spend the next say month or so continuing to have the same health care discussion that they‘ve had for the last several months.  But that doesn‘t necessarily mean that we‘re stops on trying to get a comprehensive, or at least the Senate bill version of health care passed.

So my sense is that those kinds of talks about health care are still going on, but the public face, the public discussion that they really want to have right now is about jobs and about the economy.  And there‘s a feeling that they didn‘t really signal to Americans that this was their top priority item, as it is with most voters and they want to rectify that.

So, that‘s why you hear so much about jobs, but there is so much vagueness about—OK, fine.  Let‘s not drop health care but what do we do?


ROBINSON:  What happens next in order to move it forward?  And you‘re not really hearing that publicly.

MADDOW:  Yes.  That may be something that they don‘t want to talk about in public anyway.  That may be something that they have to work out behind closed doors.  We‘ll know it when they do it I suppose.

ROBINSON:  It could be.

MADDOW:  Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and associate editor for “The Washington Post”—Gene, as always, it is great to have you.  Thanks to your time.

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, President Obama began his day at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, speaking out against the bill that would have called for the execution of gay people in another country, in Uganda.  The other Gene Robinson who we‘re having on the show tonight, Bishop Gene Robinson, joins us to discuss that.

And, you‘d think that politicians right now would be running as far as possible away from Wall Street, big banks, and all their taxpayer-funded largesse.  You would be right, except for Republicans.  Republicans appear poised to outfit Senator Scott Brown‘s pickup truck with diamond-encrusted hubcaps and a solid gold pine-shaped air freshener and a Goldman Sachs logo that sits right above the grille.  Mind-boggling details—ahead.


MADDOW:  OK.  Two things about the demon sheep commercial from the California Senate race Republican primary: First, we‘re able to report that the guy who does the demon sheep voice-over is the bad guy from “The Goonies,” Robert Davi.  Also, the demon sheep commercial was not actually the worst Republican political decision of the week.  That‘s coming up next.

Stay with us.



JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you‘re about to enter so help you God?


BIDEN:  Again, congratulations.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


MADDOW:  Vice President Joe Biden warmly welcoming the nation‘s new junior senator from Commonwealth of Massachusetts today.

That new senator‘s first order of business is expected to be joining his fellow Republicans in filibustering the jobs bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today the Senate will vote on the jobs bill on Monday.  Shortly after that announcement, Senate Republicans signaled their intent to oppose it.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  If it‘s anything like what was passed through the House at the end of last year, I‘m also going to oppose.  It‘s just more of the same.  If the president and the Democrats would like to negotiate, I hope we‘ll have the C-SPAN cameras in.


MADDOW:  If Republicans filibuster, which they will, Senate Democrats will need one Republican to join them to pass the jobs bill.  Although Senator Scott Brown campaigned under the slogan, jobs are job one, when he was asked tonight if he might be willing to vote for jobs as his job one as a new U.S. senator, Mr. Brown dodged the question and then said something about the stimulus that implied that he maybe doesn‘t fully understand what‘s going on around him yet.


BROWN:  The last stimulus bill didn‘t create one new job.  And a lot, in some states, the money that was actually released hasn‘t even been used yet.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  It didn‘t create one new job?

BROWN:  That‘s correct.  We lost what, another 85,000 jobs again, give or take, last month.


MADDOW:  Wait a minute.  You understand this, right?  The economy is losing jobs.  The stimulus and the jobs bill are trying to add jobs to compensate for the ones that we‘re losing.  Just because the overall number is still negative that doesn‘t—that doesn‘t—he‘s a senator now.

The “Boston Globe” this week noted in a six-day span just before election day, Scott Brown collected nearly $450,000 just from donors who work at financial companies, including hundreds of financial executives—

450 grand in six days right before the election all from Wall Street.  Which means my new senator is going to fit right in with what is shaping up to be the Republican Party platform for 2010.

Amazingly, Republicans seem to have decided to run on a “We‘re with Wall Street” platform.  During his run against Martha Coakley, Scott Brown promised to oppose President Obama‘s plan to impose a fee on Wall Street banks that haven‘t paid back their bailout money yet.  Republicans are against that.  They are in favor of Wall Street not having to pay back the bailout money to taxpayers.

Similarly, this week, government bailed out AIG announced plans to shell out $100 million in employee bonuses.  Yesterday, House Democrats introduced a plan to get that money back for the taxpayers by taxing those bonuses.  Today, Senate Democrats followed suit.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  It‘s outrageous that many of these companies are doling out millions of dollars in bonuses while the rest of America feels the pain of their reckless decisions.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA:  They should share the benefit of that bonus with the taxpayers who bailed them out.


MADDOW:  Get that taxpayer money back.

If this AIG bonus outrage thing feels familiar to you, it‘s because in last March—because last March, during the last round of AIG bonuses, Democrats offered up a similar bill to get the money back.  It passed the House by a huge margin, 328 to 93.  Of the 93 who voted against it, 87 were Republicans, including the top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, and the number three Republican in the House, Mike Pence—voting to let those AIG bankers keep their bonus money that we paid them.

Democratic candidates all over the country are eagerly awaiting Republican votes in favor of the AIG bonuses, again this time around.

If that‘s not enough Wall Street love for you, consider that the top House Republican on budget matters has proposed his own alternative budget to the president‘s budget.  The Republican one proposes the biggest, wettest kiss to Wall Street yet: privatizing Social Security.  If Republicans get their way Americans will be able to invest a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into secure funds consisting of equities and bonds.

Gamble your life savings on Wall Street?  What could possibly go wrong?  Oh, was that the safety net?

As Joe Conason at pointed out today, the only annuity fully exempt from the economic ruin brought on by the investment banks and insurance giants was Social Security.  If that‘s really what Republicans want to talk about, then Democrats should accommodate them with a smile.

There‘s also the Supreme Court ruling last month allowing corporations to pour unlimited money into American politics.  It led to a spate of Democratic efforts to blunt the ruling‘s impact, including legislation introduced today by Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

“Talking Points Memo” did some great reporting this week on how—as expected - conservative-minded, libertarian-minded tea partiers are also disgusted by the Supreme Court ruling on the grounds that it undermines individual freedom to participate in American politics because individual participation just gets big-footed by corporate participation.

One Texas-based tea partier told the Web site “TPM” that this ruling, quote, “attacks everything this country stands for.”

Even the illiterate, racist tea party guy we keep talking about on the show, even he is against the Supreme Court ruling.  Dale Robertson, the leader of, slammed the ruling.  He said it, quote, “puts the people at a tremendous disadvantage.”

In the face of that reaction from even the extreme tea party folks that Republicans would love to count as their base right now, here‘s how elected Republicans are treating the ruling so far.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, quote, “any proponent of free speech should applaud this decision.  In Citizens United, the court ended the suppression of corporate speech.”

John Boehner said, “I think the Supreme Court decisions today are a big win for the first amendment and a step in the right direction.  Let the American people decide how much money is enough.”

In an election year, Republicans are now doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on standing with Wall Street and big business against the taxpayers.

So, welcome to Washington, Senator Brown.  Welcome to a Republican Party that is now actively campaigning against the jobs bill, against getting taxpayer money back from the banks, against taxing those AIG bonuses and for seniors, handing their retirement money to Wall Street and for big business‘s right to influence American elections at the expense of the American people—even foreign big businesses.

Democrats, this is a long, slow curveball right across the plate. 

Swing, batter, batter, batter, batter, swing.


MADDOW:  Today, President Obama spoke at an event sponsored by the otherwise secretive religious group known as The Family.  Every president since Dwight Eisenhower has appeared at The Family-sponsored National Prayer Breakfast, but this year, both the event itself and the president‘s attendance got a lot more attention and more criticism than usual—thanks to The Family‘s suddenly high-profile in the news.

Since the last National Prayer Breakfast, The Family has been in the

news for all sorts of things you do not want to be in the news for if you

are a secretive religious group.  First, there were the three—count them

three Republican sex scandals linked to the now-infamous C Street house where members of Congress live in Washington.


Then, of course, came evidence of The Family‘s ties to legislation calling for the death penalty for gay people.  The so-called “kill the gays” bill was introduced in the Ugandan parliament by a legislator who is a member of The Family, is, in fact, an organizer of that country‘s National Prayer Breakfast.

We‘ve been looking into The Family‘s influence on the “kill the gays” bill on this show for months.  On Monday, we addressed the controversy over President Obama‘s decision to attend The Family-sponsored National Prayer Breakfast with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.  That group was calling for the president to not attend the event.

The president did go to the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, but both he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the opportunity of being there to address the controversy about The Family and the “kill the gays” bill head on.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  But religion, cloaked in naked power lust, is used to justify horrific violence.  Religion is used as a club to deny the human rights of girls and women from the Gulf to Africa to Asia, and to discriminate—even advocating the execution of gays and lesbians.

OBAMA:  We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely, we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it‘s here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.


MADDOW:  That‘s one way to send a message to the kill-the-gays proponents in Uganda and the Americans who have influenced them.  Here are a couple other ways.  A pair of Washington groups, Foreign Policy in Focus and a group called Full Equality Now staged a protest outside the C Street house last night on the eve of the National Prayer Breakfast. 

And a coalition of religious and gay rights groups put together an alternative to the National Prayer Breakfast this year.  They called it the American Prayer Hour.  It was held in more than a dozen cities across the country today. 

These are images of the American Prayer Hour today in Dallas, Texas.  The multi-city event was announced at a press conference on Tuesday at which a gay man from Uganda who is seeking asylum in this country spoke about what it means to be gay in his country as the kill-the-gays bill is debated there. 

He delivered his remarks, as you can see here, with a bag over his head because he‘s afraid for his own safety if he is publicly identified as gay.  As written, the law would make it an extraditable offense for this man to come out as gay anywhere in the world.  As a Ugandan citizen, he would be forcibly sent back to Uganda for prosecution and even potentially to be executed. 

Joining us now is our second Gene Robinson of the evening, Bishop Gene Robinson.  He is the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.  He helped organize the American Prayer Hour today. 

Bishop Robinson, thank you so much for your time.  It‘s nice to have you back on the show. 


Thanks, Rachel.  It‘s nice to be back. 

MADDOW:  How did the American Prayer Hour go today? 

ROBINSON:  It went very well.  It was in upwards of 20 cities.  And while the National Prayer Breakfast was going on, we had communities gathered all the way to Anchorage, Alaska praying for these good people of Uganda. 

You know, I was in Uganda doing AIDS work helping set up a national AIDS education program back in the early ‘90s.  And I don‘t think I‘ve ever met a more hospitable and wonderful people. 

And yet we‘ve got these conservative Christians going in and lighting the fires of hatred, which must break God‘s heart to see parents turning on their children who happen to be gay or lesbian. 

MADDOW:  I understand, Bishop, that you had a meeting at the White House this week in which you talked to the president about this.  What did you say to him, if you‘re at liberty to tell us? 

ROBINSON:  Actually, the president was here in New Hampshire the day I was at the White House. 


ROBINSON:  But we did talk with some of his advisers and talked to them about the importance of our government making it quite clear that we would not cooperate with anything like these proposed draconian laws.

And you know, one of the reasons that we are making some progress here with respect to gay and lesbian bisexual and transgender rights is that, in America, so many of us have come out. 

And there‘s hardly a family left that doesn‘t know a family member or a co-worker or a former classmate to be gay or lesbian.  And that‘s just not going to happen in Uganda when coming out can subject you to beatings. 

Lesbians are almost routinely raped in order to cure them of their homosexuality.  And horrific things are happening there.  And so this really can‘t just happen from the grassroots.  We must use our leverage.  And I‘m so glad that Secretary Clinton and President Obama today took this opportunity to highlight this. 

MADDOW:  You‘re satisfied with the way that they addressed it and you think that this is - you think it‘ll make a difference in terms of what happens in Uganda? 

ROBINSON:  I think it does make a difference.  You know, there‘s an old saying that the church is pretty good at pulling drowning people out of a river.  You know, we‘re good at the charity thing. 

But what we need to do is to walk back upstream and figure out who‘s throwing them in, in the first place.  And I think President Obama and Secretary Clinton today made the first in those efforts. 

For us to begin to identify these religious groups who - it‘s horrifying to me - but in the name of God are going over and stoking the fires of hatred.  And you know, even in California forest fires, when someone lights a fire, and then it gets out of control, we hold those people accountable. 

But we have religious leaders going overseas and starting these fires of hatred.  And then when they get out of control and result in a bill like the one we see calling for the death penalty for gay and lesbian people, they back off and say, “Oh, my goodness.  I never meant anything like that.” 

I‘m sorry.  We have to hold them responsible because they are throwing gay and lesbian children in that river and they are drowning. 

MADDOW:  Do you think, Bishop Robinson, that the American Prayer Hour will become an annual event?  Do you think that it‘s possible that politicians could be drawn away from the National Prayer Breakfast?  Do you think The Family, the fellowship, the organization that supports it, has gotten itself in deep enough water here that people may start to pull away from them at that event? 

ROBINSON:  I think it‘s a possibility.  We need to be careful with whom we associate.  And I think The Family has used the National Prayer Breakfast as a way of acquiring a sort of patina of respectability and credibility.  And so perhaps, in another year, maybe we ought to offer an alternative event so that our Congressional people and even the president himself will need to think long and hard about whether they want to lend the credibility of their presence to such a group. 

MADDOW:  Bishop Gene Robinson, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  I really appreciate you making time for us.  Thank you. 

ROBINSON:  You‘re very welcome. 

MADDOW:  OK.  So something tremendously squirrel-y is going on this year with the Super Bowl ads.  Remember when Move On wanted to run an anti-war ad during the Super Bowl and they weren‘t allowed to? 

But how come Focus on the Family gets to run their “don‘t trust your doctor” antiabortion ad this year?  My friend Dave Zirin from “The Nation” is here to help us with that.  Stay tuned. 


MADDOW:  The sad day has arrived.  The once small and hairless panda endearingly nicknamed Butter Stick has left his American home for China.  Tai Shan was born at the National Zoo in Washington in 2005. 

He quickly rose to international fame thanks to the zoo‘s awesome panda cam which allowed millions to follow his every adorable, furry move online.  But as the calendar days passed by, so did Tai Shan‘s time in the U.S. 

For as much as Americans loved the panda, he belonged to China as part of an agreement that brought his parents to the U.S. 10 years ago.  So after a lengthy good-bye that even included two Tai Shan fans getting engaged at his going-away party - she said yes - Tai Shan left early this afternoon aboard a FedEx plane bound for China. 

His trainers have spent weeks training him to enter a specially made, see through plastic crate in which he traveled.  It was loaded by fork lift onto a FedEx tractor trailer with a sign on the back reading “FedEx Panda Express.”  They didn‘t give him a tracking number, however. 

Tai Shan was driven to the airport in a seven-vehicle convoy by the same guy who drove his parents from the airport 10 years ago.  At the airport, he was loaded onto the panda express plane which was actually a Boeing 777 with big panda logos on it. 

Onboard, another 3-year-old panda from the Atlanta Zoo, who is also heading to China, also on that plane.  A whole lot of bamboo and keepers and veterinarians who watched over the pandas in a pressurized cargo compartment. 

So bye-bye, Butter Stick.  Seeing you leave is almost as hard to understand and weird as seeing America export something to China. 


MADDOW:  Tim Tebow, Heisman trophy-winning quarterback for the Florida Gators football team gave the closing prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast today, sponsored by The Family and attended by the president in Washington. 

Mr. Tebow is of course an outspoken Christian conservative.  He and his mother will star in an ad that will air during the Super Bowl.  It‘s an ad that‘s about their faith and about their position on abortion. 

The ad focuses on the decision by Mrs. Tebow to not get an abortion in contravention of doctor‘s orders after she contracted a serious illness and took potentially harmful medication early in pregnancy. 

Mrs. Tebow got very lucky.  She survived the dangerous pregnancy and the baby she bore grew up, of course, to be her famous son, Tim.  The ad was produced, written, and paid for by Focus on the Family, a very conservative Christian group that campaigns against abortion and gay marriage and gay rights. 

Focus on the Family says they worked on the ad with CBS for months saying, quote, “There were discussions about the specific wording of the spot.  We‘ve worked with CBS almost since the beginning.” 

Now, CBS used to say they wouldn‘t accept advocacy ads during the Super Bowl.  In 2004 the progressive political group “” tried to air an ad during the Super Bowl that was critical of President George W.  Bush and the war in Iraq.  CBS said no to that ad. 

This year, apparently, they‘re OK with advocacy.  At least they‘re OK with the advocacy of the Tim Tebow ad, the “don‘t listen to your doctor” ad. 

I just want to make one comment about the content of this ad as reported.  Everyone of course is very glad for Mrs. Tebow that her choice to risk her life against a doctor‘s advice worked out so well for her and for her family.  Honestly and sincerely, it‘s wonderful. 

But she and her son and Focus on the Family and CBS in this ad are encouraging other women to take similar risks.  As one doctor who performs abortions told “The Daily Beast” this week, quote, “When people want to stay pregnant no matter what the risks, we hang in there with them and do whatever we can do for them.  But it doesn‘t always turn out so well.” 

This week, Planned Parenthood released a Web ad in response to the Tebow ad.  Planned Parenthood, of course, doesn‘t have the money to run it during the Super Bowl so it won‘t be seen by zillions of people, but it is pretty powerful. 


SEAN JAMES, FORMER COLLEGE AND PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER:  I‘m Sean James.  I‘m a former college and professional football player. 

AL JOYNER, OLYMPIAN:  I‘m Al Joyner.  I won an Olympic gold medal in the triple jump. 

JAMES:  I love my family and I love sports. 

JOYNER:  And Super Bowl weekend is a perfect time to honor both, sports and family. 

JAMES:  There‘s a lot of talk leading up to the Super Bowl about an ad focused on sports and family.  The ad features a great football player, Tim Tebow, and his loving mother discussing a difficult medical decision she made for her family.  I respect and honor Mrs. Tebow‘s decision. 

JOYNER:  I want my daughter to live in a world where everyone‘s decisions are respected. 

JAMES:  My mom showed me women are strong and wise.  She taught me that only women can make the best decisions about their health and their future. 

JOYNER:  My daughter will always be my little girl.  But I‘m proud every day as I watch her grow up to be her own person, a smart, confident young woman.  I trust her to take care of herself. 

JAMES:  We‘re working toward the day where every woman will be valued, where every woman‘s decision about her health and her family will be respected. 

JOYNER:  We celebrate families by supporting our mothers, by supporting our daughters, by trusting women. 


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Dave Zirin who is a correspondent for “The Nation.”  He is the host of Sirius XM‘s “Edge of Sports Radio.”  He is also author of “Welcome to the Terror Dome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports.”  David Zirin, great to see you.  Thank you for being here. 

DAVE ZIRIN, CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATION”:  Great to see you, too, Rachel.  For this interview, I‘d like you to refer to me, please, as Gene Robinson. 

MADDOW:  We think of you as Gene Robinson around the office. 

ZIRIN:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  That‘s why we booked you tonight, Dave. 

ZIRIN:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Let me get your reaction first to the Planned Parenthood response ad that we just played there, former NFL player Sean James, Olympic Gold medallist Al Joyner.  What do you think? 

ZIRIN:  I mean, I think it‘s a little bit too little too late.  Planned Parenthood should be holding CBS‘s feet to the fire right now and saying, “If you are going to air an ad by Focus on the Family, if you‘re going to be using Tim Tebow, the doe-eyed hunky Trojan horse for Focus on the Family, to enter our living rooms on Super Bowl Sunday, then we demand equal time.”

MADDOW:  Well, there is the issue of, I mean, inconsistency here.  But if the networks were consistent, I mean - would you rather, at the Super Bowl, see the Tim Tebow antiabortion ad and a Planned Parenthood pro-choice ad and the Move On ad and something - I mean, would you rather see all of that stuff?  Or would you rather see none of it at the Super Bowl? 

ZIRIN:  Well, let‘s talk about some of the ads at the Super Bowl if we could, because can talk about their not being advocacy ads.  But Super Bowl ads actually advocate a lot of things like women really like to hang out in bikinis around men who drink beer.  That‘s an advocacy ad.

Not to mention the fact that the Super Bowl is the number one day for Pentagon and the armed forces to get out there in all their glory.  Let‘s remember David Petraeus flipped the coin last year at the Super Bowl. 

So if we‘re going to have this kind of advocacy, the pro-bikini or pro-armed forces advocacy, then, I think, yes, we should throw the doors open.  And CBS has been profoundly contemptible, I would argue. 

I know President Obama said we need to have more civility in our discourse.  But, hell, no.  This ad is ridiculous and should not be on Super Bowl Sunday without some sort of response. 

MADDOW:  Well, it does seem important to me that there‘s an admission that CBS was involved in the formation of the exact language in the ad.  And I don‘t - I mean, I don‘t mean to make too much of an ad that we‘ve only heard reported or seen scripts of and we haven‘t actually seen the tape of yet. 

But wouldn‘t you think they would be risk-averse enough that there would be like a medical disclaimer or something on an ad that says essentially, ignore doctor‘s advice. 

ZIRIN:  Yes, one would think so.  And I don‘t know if CBS wants to rename itself or re-brand itself the Conservative Broadcasting System or what.  But I have to think that someone there. 

Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow are just looking at this and shaking their heads and saying, where has CBS gone that they‘re going to air a Focus on the Family ad that they co-wrote on Super Bowl Sunday? 

MADDOW:  In sports terms, Dave, Tim Tebow‘s future in the NFL is uncertain.  That‘s one of the interesting things about his career.  But if he makes it, will the NFL take kindly to the, you know, eye black with the Bible verses and preaching at post-game briefings and some of the stuff that have made him such a popular national figure because of his Christian activism? 

ZIRIN:  Look, first of all, if Tim Tebow doesn‘t make it in the NFL, it‘s because he can‘t break a pane glass window with a football, not because of any sort of censorship of his Christian views. 

I really think I have about as equal chance as Tim Tebow starring as an NFL quarterback.  And that‘s an unbiased view, just as a sports guy, I promise you.  

That being said, look, most NFL owners are roughly to the right of Attila the Hun, and Genghis Khan would look at NFL owners like, “Wow, you guys are crazy.”  So the idea that Tim Tebow would have any trouble is ridiculous. 

Organizations like Athletes in Action, Fellowship for Christians Athletes are in every NFL locker room.  He would do just fine. 

MADDOW:  Dave Zirin, correspondent for “The Nation,” host of “Edge of Sports Radio” on Satellite, thanks very much for your time.  Enjoy the Super Bowl, bikini and anti-abortion ads this year. 

ZIRIN:  Hey, go Saints.  That‘s all I have to say. 

MADDOW:  Who dat? 

ZIRIN:  Who dat?

MADDOW:  Thanks, Dave.  All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Markos Moulitsas from “Daily Kos” joins Keith because Bill O‘Reilly has been complaining about the “Daily Kos” poll that shows that rather extreme views are held by a rather large proportion self-identified Republicans. 

Next on this show, we are heading to New Orleans tomorrow, as you well know.  We actually got a little bit a head start on that today led by our stomachs.  We will start eating our way through the big easy.  Coming up next. 


MADDOW:  Tomorrow, we‘re going to be packing up the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW set, squeezing it into an FAA approved carryon bag and heading down to New Orleans. 

Kent Jones is already there.  The last time we sent Kent on the road, you might recall, he was in Ft. Worth, Texas in the rain for George W. Bush‘s motivational speaking gig. 

This time, he‘s in New Orleans in the rain and hopefully warming up at a bar stool for me.  Hi, Kent. 

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Rachel.  I‘m on Bourbon St. in New Orleans three days before the Super Bowl, so of course it‘s pouring.  But that‘s OK, because this afternoon I had a remarkable conversation with 87-year-old Leah Chase, the proprietor of Dooky Chase, the landmark New Orleans restaurant.  We talked about the mood of this city right now. 


(on camera):  Now, this is an exciting time with the Saints coming to the Super Bowl.  Now, what does this mean to this city?  You‘ve been here your whole life? 

LEAH CHASE, PROPRIETOR, DOOKY CHASE:  It is so beautiful.  Yes, this is one of the most beautiful things we‘ve ever had to happen to us where the whole nation.  Even international people are looking at us and just admiring how we live, which is a simple life, but a good life. 

We feel that we make people happy.  And that Saints team has made us extremely happy.  You know, we are just happy about anything. 

JONES:  And New Orleans has been through so much. 

CHASE:  We‘ve been through a lot.  We‘ve been through a lot.  And we‘re just now beginning to see where we‘re rising a bit.  Now, we‘re beginning to see buildings, new housing going up, new streets and things like that.  So it takes a long while.  You know, 80 percent of our city was destroyed.  Eighty percent of this city was underwater. 

JONES:  Including this restaurant, right? 

CHASE:  Including this restaurant. 

JONES:  Right? 

CHASE:  Yes.  But thanks to many good people that we are up on our feet, and now, we have to move.  We‘re up on our feet, but we would not be here had it not been for people.  Just everybody came from all over.  In this room, you see all these chairs?  My friends in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, raised money to buy all these chairs. 

JONES:  Indiana?

CHASE:  Indiana. 

JONES:  The enemy now, the Colts with these chairs. 

CHASE:  The Colts. 

JONES:  How did that happen? 

CHASE:  I don‘t know how did that happen.  And you know, that‘s a hard thing for us, too, because we have a New Orleans boy that‘s on that Colts team. 

JONES:  Exactly. 

CHASE:  We loved Archie Manning when he played football. 

JONES:  Absolutely.

CHASE:  We loved him to no end.  I‘ll never forget my first meeting with Archie and his people was when he was in college at Ole Miss.  And I had just one room over there.  Here comes this group of naturally all white kids just waving their rebel flags. 

“OK, you‘re in my restaurant with a rebel flag.  I thought that was funny.  Archie who?  I said, who in the world is Archie who?  So we got Archie who.  And we were able to have him for a long time.  And he lives here.  And he raised his children here. 

JONES:  Does he come into the restaurant? 

CHASE:  He‘s been here several times with meetings and all of that. 

JONES:  True. 

CHASE:  But we are proud of him.  We are proud of them.  You know, they‘re good people for our city.  So but this time - sorry, sorry Peyton. 


JONES:  Well, Rachel, you‘ll get here tomorrow, so I‘m sure the rain will stop.  Looking forward to seeing you here. 

MADDOW:  You, too, Kent.  That‘s awesome.  Sorry Peyton.  That‘s amazing.  Amazing interview. 

We do have a very exciting show planned tomorrow from New Orleans - politics, football, music, food, and of course, cocktails.  Can‘t go to New Orleans without talking about that.  We hope that you will tune in to our very special show tomorrow night.  We‘re really excited it. 

Until then, you can E-mail us at  Our podcast is at iTunes or at  “COUNTDOWN” with Mr. Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a great night.



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