Guests: Kent Jones, Sen. Ron Wyden, Ezra Klein, Rep. Ron Paul
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour.
There is more than one way to pass health reform. One is available to Democrats right now. The other may be just right around the corner.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and “The Washington Post‘s” Ezra Klein are both here tonight—as is Congressman Ron Paul.
Dr. Paul as you know, sort of invented the modern incarnation of tea partying. For his trouble, he‘s being tea-partied in his own district.
Also, Hugo Chavez has exactly three syllables in all of life in common with Brook Shields. We will tell what you those three syllables are. That‘s all coming up this hour.
But we begin tonight with a little ray of metaphorical sunshine in stormy, stormy Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am just an eternal optimist.
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MADDOW: Mr. Obama christening himself the “eternal optimist” during a surprise appearance today at the White House briefing room. It was apparently his meeting earlier in the day with congressional Republicans that piqued this outbreak of optimism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: During our meeting, we also touched briefly on how we can move forward on health reform. Let‘s get the relevant parties together. Let‘s put the best ideas on the table. My hope is that we can find enough overlap that we can say, “This is the right way to move forward, even if I don‘t get every single thing that I want.”
You know, one of the things that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell both said is they didn‘t think the status quo was acceptable. And that‘s right there, promising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, no, it‘s not. Really, it‘s not promising. Because while you‘re talking about how you think you‘re close to being done, and there‘s a lot everybody can agree on, and you‘re looking forward to Republicans participating in a constructive process on the policies on which we agree, here‘s what they‘re saying.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: It really is time to scrap the bill and start over.
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MADDOW: And that was after the meeting with the president that caused the president to feel so sunny about that guy.
On the Senate side today, Republican leaders left that meeting with the president—that generator of presidential optimism—they left that meeting and then shut down the Senate over a routine nomination. A presidential nominee for the National Labor Relations Board earned 52 votes in the Senate, now, do the quick math, 52 out of 100? Yes, that‘s a majority, a clear majority. The nomination failed with that majority because it was subjected to a Republican filibuster.
As we have discussed many times on this show, Republicans are using the filibuster in a way that it‘s never been used before in American history, using it to force a routine 60-vote supermajority for every single substantive vote in the Senate. This graph shows cloture votes. The huge spike at the end is from when Republicans lost the Senate and they started using the filibuster on essentially vote.
The effect of that is that the Senate is no longer capable of passing legislation or approving presidential nominees. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it‘s not. In the Constitution, there are only a few specific things that require a supermajority: ratifying treaties, ratifying constitutional amendments, overriding presidential vetoes, expelling members of Congress, impeachment—those are the things in the Constitution that require a supermajority, because those are the things—those few things are the things the Founding Fathers believed should be really hard to do. So, they require a supermajority.
Now, the Republican minority in the U.S. Senate has decided that a supermajority is required for everything—for basic nominations, for basic legislation of any stripe.
This problem has been bubbling under the surface for a while now.
Today, it broke out into the open.
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SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: April, the president nominated him—
May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January. Now, it‘s February and they say we‘re rushing it. I don‘t think anybody in America at the most lethargic, slow-moving, half-dead operation, anywhere in the country thinks that‘s rushing it when it takes us 10 months to get somebody through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, shortly before today‘s vote. And again, remember, in today‘s vote, the nominee got 52 votes, 52 “yes” votes—a majority, and the nomination failed because of a filibuster.
Senator Carl Levin told “Huffington Post” today that the filibuster is going to fall, saying, quote, “It will either fall of its own weight—it should fall of its own weight—or it will fall after some massive conflict on the floor, which has happened in the past where there have been rulings from the chair that have led to reform.”
The last time the rules affecting the filibuster were changed was when I was 2 years old, 1975. That‘s when the supermajority rule changed from 67 votes to 60. It was changed then because people thought it was being abused back then. The way it was being used back then is nothing like how it‘s being abused now.
Today, the chairman of the judiciary committee, Senator Leahy, said, “I‘m in my 36th year. I‘ve never seen anything like it.” He said he conferred recently with former Senator Walter Mondale who—Ryan Grim at “Huffington Post” notes today—led the charge to change the filibuster rules the last time around in the 1970s, before he became vice president.
According to Senator Leahy, Mr. Mondale said it was just inconceivable to anybody at the time, that the filibuster would be abused as it is now. Quote, “The reason the filibuster rule has been supported all these years is people have used it responsibly. This is unprecedented.” Senator Leahy says Democrats are now finally considering ways to change the filibuster rules again for the first time since 1975.
This, of course, will cause a convulsive mass self-emulation by beltway common wisdom proprietors who have tried to pretend this past couple of years that a 60-vote threshold is something normal in the Senate and not something new that has effectively ended the ability of the United States government to make policy.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He‘s a member of the Senate Finance Committee.
Senator Wyden, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thank you, Rachel. We‘re looking at snowpocalypse II. So, it‘s pretty wild here.
MADDOW: In terms of the functioning of the Senate, is there an institutional problem in the Senate when it comes to conducting routine business in this country now?
WYDEN: I believe there is. I believe that the Senate is being hit right now by a corrosive combination. Its outmoded rules, which is what you‘ve been talking about with respect to the filibuster, and it‘s also excessive partisanship. And you‘ve got to attack both of them.
If you don‘t, for example, deal with the excessive partisanship, can you change the rules, but people will still find a way around them. You got to deal with both considerations.
MADDOW: How do you deal with excessive partisanship? Obviously, the president has been moving sort of forward aggressively in a two-pronged way, trying to embarrass people for bold partisanship when they, for example, now oppose things they used to support because the president has decided he supports them too. He‘s also tried to express optimism in saying that he really believes there is a bipartisan future.
I think I‘m not an optimistic person by nature and maybe that‘s why I don‘t see that second part of it as based in reality.
WYDEN: I got to tell you. I think we‘ll have a real chance on February 25th, and the American people are sick and tired of all this gotcha politics. I think on the health care issue, which we‘ll be dealing with on February 25th, the president is making it clear that he is going to reach out for common ground. There‘s a lot to work with.
I think our party is right that you cannot fix this without universal coverage. You can‘t fix this without getting everybody covered because, otherwise, the people who are uninsured shift their bills to the insured. I think the other party has got some valid points as well about choice and competition. We ought to make sure that everybody understands you can fire your insurance company if they don‘t treat you properly.
There is a lot to work with. And what we got to get away from is zero sum politics where one side wins and the other side loses.
MADDOW: I feel like that argument, which is similar to what the president has been arguing, makes a lot of sense. It‘s really only been argue from the Democratic side. It seems like on the Republican side, they‘re not only not making arguments like that, but they found it to be to their political advantage to just say no, even when their policies are incorporated into the proposed legislation.
For example, they‘ve said that they want tort reform to be part of health reform. As you know, tort reform efforts were incorporated into the Senate bill. They‘re still complaining about tort reform, still complaining they‘re going to vote against it.
Is—are you feeling like there‘s anything constructive coming from Republicans on this? Or are you just asking for that?
WYDEN: I have been talking to Republicans. I‘ve been talking to Democrats. And I think if both sides get together, we can, for example, say, “Let‘s go after the special interests rather than each other. Let‘s try to score policy points rather than political points.”
Let me give you an example. The Republicans very want to allow for shopping interstate. Now, we have a very good provision in our bill. It‘s called section 1333. It would allow for interstate compacts. That‘s moving in the direction the Republicans want to go.
Let‘s get into these policy questions. I think we can find common ground and particularly building around more choice and more competition, we can hold costs down. And that‘s something that will allow both sides to say we‘re putting the American people first.
MADDOW: If Republicans continue to pledge to vote no, as they have thus far. And, actually, what we‘re going to be talking about with Ezra Klein in our next segment about that very section on the bill that you‘re talking about, a Republican proposal adopted by those who drafted the Senate bill and something that Republicans still aren‘t saying they‘re going to support.
If Republicans still pledge to vote against it, despite these constructive efforts, how do you pass it anyway?
WYDEN: I‘m prepared to say we are going to keep all options on the table. That includes reconciliation; that includes all options. But what I want to do is make sure—and I think this is what the president deserves credit for—let‘s go to the policy high ground. Let us continue to find areas where both sides can come together.
Certainly, if the president is going to talk about areas like legal reform, I personally believe that insurance reform is absolutely critical. The system is about cherry picking. It‘s about taking, essentially, the healthy people, sending sick people over to government programs more fragile than they are.
If there‘s going to be an agreement around the kind of principles the president is talking about in terms of considering legal reform, let‘s match it with very strong insurance reform. That‘s the kind of thing that‘s in the interest of the American people.
MADDOW: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, braving the snow tonight and showing himself to be as optimistic about the constructive nature of Washington right now, as the president is in both cases. Very impressive tonight, sir, thanks very much for your time.
WYDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
WYDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Congressman Ron Paul will join us live in just a moment. Congressman Paul is a lot of things, but he is apparently not tea party enough for the tea party movement. We will find out how Ron Paul feels about that. That‘s the interview coming up tonight. I‘m very much looking forward to it.
MADDOW: Ezra Klein is the “Washington Post‘s” policy wonk whose blog for that newspaper makes the paper‘s op-ed page on most days look like something from a retirement home that‘s attached to a museum of what op-ed writing used to be like in a prettiest, much less useful, much less interesting, much less journalistically rigorist century. Ezra joins us next.
MADDOW: Should Republicans get what they want in terms of policy instead of what Democrats want? In one perspective, of course not. Republicans are in the minority for a reason. The American people voted a lot more Democrats into office in Washington than they did Republicans presumably because they wanted Democrats to get their policies passed for a change, since the Republicans had their shot with their majorities under George W. Bush.
Now, from another perspective, kumbayah—sure, Democrats are the majority, are but why not let Republicans make policy, too? Or at least help policy.
It‘s the kumbayah policy that‘s held sway in Washington for the past year. For example, in October, John Boehner issued the minority party‘s demands for what they wanted out of health reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Number one: let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Check. As Ezra Klein of the “Washington Post” points out, the Senate version of the health reform bill actually allows for that. There‘s a whole section relating to the offering of plans in more than one state. Individual states can band together and allow insurers in one of those states to offer plans in all of those states, buying across state lines is in the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Number two: allow individuals, small businesses and trade associations to pull together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and unions do today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Check. That‘s exactly what the proposed health insurance exchanges are all about. The more people that are allowed to participate in these exchanges, the greater the risk pool becomes and the lower the costs get. So, they‘re two-for-two with the second Republican demand already in the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Number three: give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And I‘m beginning to sound like a broken record here, but check—also in the bill. Section 1332 of the Senate bill is called the “Waiver for State Innovation.” Again, as Ezra points out, it allows states to opt out over the whole shabang if they can prove they have a better and cheaper way to do it.
So, the first, second and third of the four Republican demands on health care are all in the bill.
How about their last one, number four?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: And number four: end junk lawsuits that contribute to higher health care cost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Otherwise known as tort reform, otherwise known as in the bill. Yes, the Senate bill calls on individual states to develop new ways to deal with malpractice lawsuits—alternatives that could potentially be funded by Congress.
The Senate health reform bill addresses everything that the Republicans have identified as their main concerns for policy on health reform. And the Republican reaction is to say: the bill must be scrapped. Let me not put words in their mouths, let‘s them do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: It really is time to scrap the bill and start over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And, frankly, that response is totally rational. Republicans think that it is great politics to derail this thing, even though it‘s got all of their chosen policies in it.
What‘s irrational is to look at that—to look at them having all of their policies in the bill and still saying no to the bill. What‘s irrational is to look at that and say, “Oh, hey, maybe Republicans just aren‘t getting enough of what they want, let‘s give them some more.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There are some core goals that have to be met. So I‘m going to be starting from scratch in the sense that I will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama originally wanted health reform done by august. That did not happen because Max Baucus decided to waste three months chasing bipartisanship in the Senate Finance Committee. Now, Mr. Obama plans to hold a bipartisan health summit in two weeks, which you just heard Senator Wyden talking about. It will be presumably be similar to the bipartisan health summit that Mr. Obama held at the White House last March.
When President Obama addressed House Republicans last month, he rattled off a whole list of ideas taken from Republicans and put into the health reform bill. All of that bipartisan-reaching, all of that eternal optimism has resulted in exactly one Republican vote for health reform in the entire Congress. Congressman Joseph Cao of Louisiana is the only Republican in Washington who voted for health reform, and he now says he won‘t do so again.
It doesn‘t matter what‘s in the bill. It doesn‘t matter which of their ideas you incorporate. Republicans are not going to support this, period.
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer at the “Washington Post” who did not know about, nor does he endorse the snarky thing that I said about his paper a moment before he came on the show.
Ezra, thank you very much for being here.
EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening. I don‘t even think I heard it.
MADDOW: Hooray! That‘s the best defense. All right. Don‘t watch the TiVo.
MADDOW: What—are there substantive policy disagreements here? Because it does not seem to me like the disagreements here are about policy. It seems to me like they are pure politics.
KLEIN: I mean, you could argue there are, right? I mean, maybe Republicans don‘t believe you should spend money to insure human beings. I think that you can actually make that argument, right, that it‘s not worth doing.
But I think two things that you didn‘t include in your intro is that
actually, the larger arguments the Republicans have are also incorporated into the bill. What liberals wanted is a single-payer system, a public system. Actually, they let go of that. They don‘t even have a public option now. It‘s fully private.
What John McCain and George W. Bush proposed, which were, again, bigger changes, was to begin unwinding the employer-based subsidy or the subsidy from employer-based insurance. The Democrats actually agreed, and above House member objections, the president and the White House were pushing for the excise tax which would begin to do that.
So, I don‘t think you can really say the argument is substantive here. I think Republicans don‘t believe Democrats should do a health care bill because the argument here is: who should win the next election. The Republicans would like it to be them, and that‘s hard to compromise on.
MADDOW: So, in terms of substance, in terms of engagement and really getting what Republicans are bringing to the table, it sort of began and ended when Jim DeMint said they wanted health care to be Obama‘s waterloo.
And, you know, one way you see this is Howard Baker and Bob Dole, two former Senate Republican leaders came out with a joint proposal with Tom Daschle, and it looked exactly just about like the Senate bill, which is to say, and I think that even had some type of public option, virtually a little bit more liberal. Their leadership, who‘s now sort of outside of the scrum of elections, came up with something and said, “Here‘s what a compromised bill will look like.” And, well, frankly, it looked like what we‘re looking at. And that was true in 1994, too.
The bill we‘re looking at looks a lot like what these so-called mainstream caucus, which is made up Republicans and a couple of centrist Democrats came up with as a moderate alternative to the Clinton plan. What we‘re looking at is substantively a compromised bill. But again, the fact of the matter is, giving the president and the Democrats a large accomplishment is not a political compromise. And a political compromise is the compromise nobody knows how to reach right now.
MADDOW: You heard Senator Wyden, or you might not have heard Senator Wyden just a moment ago on our air, and the president today, both still pushing this idea of cooperation, saying, we think there are area where‘s we have—where we can agree. We think there are things on which we can see eye-to-eye, citing specific Republican policies and the idea of Republican policies that they might be willing to endorse.
I believe that Ron Wyden and Barack Obama are not only smart about policy, but smart about politics. Are you aware of some sort of secret rope-a-dope strategy going on here that would make sense of the continual efforts to try to get Republican votes in what seems to me like a futile effort?
KLEIN: I‘ve never known a man who believes in bipartisanship as much as Senator Ron Wyden. Let‘s put him in one category.
I think the White House, ever since the Republicans voted in the House to completely reject the stimulus include and then clap for themselves when they finished, had a sense that there wasn‘t going to be much compromise here. And I think they do realize that a sort of truism in American politics, right?
It‘s like the old joke about outrunning a bear, you just need to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun the other guy. And what they need to look like is more bipartisan than the other guy. And that‘s what they‘re attempting to achieve at the summit.
You know, if they hear great ideas, fine. But, you know, it‘s like -
John Boehner isn‘t coming up with a brand new policy next weekend. This stuff is a pretty well-known policy issue. You know, people have heard the arguments from experts. They‘ve been scored by CBO and people are trying to save money and cover the most people.
MADDOW: Ezra Klein of the “Washington Post”—really appreciate your reporting on this, and you making time for us, particularly in the snow. Thanks, Ezra.
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: OK. On the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, then-presidential candidate Ron Paul raised more than 6 million grassroots smackaroos in one day online. Now, limited government, low taxes grassroots enthusiast Ron Paul doesn‘t cut it for some reason with the tea party movement. Dr. Paul himself will be with us in just a moment.
Please stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: The Republican Party would be really smart to start trying to absorb as much of the tea party movement as possible. Because this is the future of our country, the tea party movement is the future of politics.
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: The tea party movement is a revelatory moment for us. It really puts in stark relief where the American people are, how they feel and what they feel. And I think it‘s important for our party to appreciate and understand this so that we move towards it, embrace it and then move into the future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they‘re not.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That‘s the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and before him, the FOX News commentator they now is the de facto leader of the tea party movement, arguing that the Republican Party‘s path back to power is that movement. That‘s the rhetoric.
Well, today, rhetoric became reality in the state of South Carolina where the state Republican Party and a coalition of state tea party groups agreed to work together moving forward. The merging has started.
And the effort by the Republican Party to adopt and absorb what it sells itself as a grassroots conservative movement this time around, is way different from what went on the last time. There was an energizing grassroots movement.
Then, it was the Ron Paul revolution. Ron Paul supporters held rallies, spray-painted street graffiti, raised astounding sums of money with one day online money bombs, all without the help of a party machine, big money beltway lobbyists or even much prodding from Dr. Paul himself.
Despite that honest-to-goodness grassroots enthusiasm, look how Ron Paul was treated by the Republican establishment. He was excluded from a presidential candidate‘s forum that was sponsored by FOX News. Dr. Paul elected to hold his own competing event at the same time. Ron Paul was refused a speaking slot at the 2008 Republican National Convention. So, he held his own convention across town which drew more than 10,000 supporters.
In contrast, FOX News today endlessly promotes the tea partiers—going so far as to have their network personalities host tea party events. Leading elected Republicans today, of course, fall all over themselves to speak at tea party events. The tea partiers claim the small government, low taxes mantle of libertarianism that has been the hallmark of the Ron Paul revolution, but the tea parties, at least some of them, seem to be opposed to him, too.
As we reported last night, Dr. Paul is facing three challengers in his congressional district in Texas—all of whom are in some way aligned with the tea party movement.
Joining us now is Republican congressman, Dr. Ron Paul.
Dr. Paul, it‘s really nice to have you back on the show. Thank you for your time.
REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You are being challenged in your re-election primary by several tea partiers. What is your relationship with the tea party movement now?
PAUL: Well, it‘s about the same. You know, sometimes the tea party represents those views that I expressed during the campaign. The tea party-type movement, the people who are unhappy with the government, where I go, generally are on the campuses, and we still get large crowds out.
But my message is somewhat different. I think the message gets a little bit diluted when a lot of people come in and the Republican Party wants to make sure there‘s a neo-con type of influence. But no - what we‘re doing with the campaign for liberty is alive and well and the young people are responding.
But I talk a lot about different foreign policy. I talk about civil liberties. And I talk about where we ought to cut the budget. And this is what they want to hear. I talk about the war on drugs.
This is not what is generally heard from the Republican Party. And sometimes, the tea party accepts these ideas, and sometimes they don‘t. But I think the one thing that brings people together is they know there‘s something wrong in Washington.
But you have progressive Democrats that know there‘s something wrong in Washington. They‘d like a better foreign policy, too. And they‘re not exactly totally satisfied.
But the people are coming together because they‘re unhappy. They know that debt is outrageous. It‘s out of control. Countries are going bankrupt. California‘s bankrupt. Our country really is bankrupt, and that‘s what they‘re unhappy about.
And it‘s out of control government. And I think I have been much more precise in what we should do in changing foreign policy, caring about civil liberties and being true as fiscal conservatives.
And believe it or not, I do have quite a few Democrats who are willing to agree with these basic principles in general, even the balanced budget issue. I mean, there are Democrats that actually have joined with me in saying, “You‘re right. We may want to balance the budget in a different manner.”
But they do agree that there‘s something seriously wrong when you‘re spending $2 trillion dollars a year you don‘t even have. That is nothing but danger for us in this country.
MADDOW: Congressman, I don‘t want to cause any family rifts in the Paul household, but I know your son, Rand Paul, is running for Senate. And he, in fact, made his campaign announcement on this show, which was great for us. We are honored by that.
Now, Sarah Palin has sort of emerged as the unofficial leader of the tea party movement. She has endorsed your son‘s run for Senate. Is there anything about her platform, either now or as a vice presidential candidate, that gives you pause about that endorsement?
PAUL: Well, I guess I could say that about most Republicans. I wouldn‘t be any different. Yes, there is, but you know, I am in the Republican Party. And I‘ve worked, you know, with Republicans. And I - but I work with the Democrats, too.
But I try to find issues that cross party lines. You take
transparency of the fed or personal privacy, or maybe ending the war or
talking about the war on drugs. So on these issues, I can get support from
both parties. So sure, there‘s a lot of things that the average Republican
I might disagree with them and they will disagree with me as well.
But I think the - what was really happening in the presidential campaign was they‘re surprised to find out, as a matter of fact, to my surprise too, that there were a lot of people out there that really cared about it, and considered themselves is even conservatives, not only libertarians, but conservatives, constitutionalists that wanted somebody to talk about these issues.
And I think it will continue. But to say, “Oh, yes. That‘s what the whole tea matter movement is all about, and that‘s all they‘re going to talk about,” I think I would be naive to believe that‘s going to happen because everybody likes to join what looks like a popular movement.
And then, they want to come in and influence that movement. But I think that happens to the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. For instance, I think the deal - because neo-con issues on foreign policy is not exactly dead these days, you know. There‘s an influence.
And progressive Democrats aren‘t all that happy with the foreign policy where the war keeps expanding and more troops in Afghanistan, bombing Yemen and bombing Pakistan and thinking about going into Iran.
So that‘s the infiltration, philosophically, of different positions. And I deal more in that arena hoping that the ideas of sound money and transparency of the fed and a better foreign policy will actually affect both parties because I know there‘s a lot of Americans who agree with this issue. And I know the young people are very open to these ideas.
MADDOW: Republican Congressman Ron Paul who, for a long time now, has represented a movement that I think really does cross some partisan lines and upset things in a mostly conservative way, thank you very much for your time, sir. Really glad you‘ve been able to be with us. Appreciate it.
PAUL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Imagine for a moment that you hear a bell. Got it? You‘re making believe you hear a bell? OK. That bell tolls for Republicans who have railed against the stimulus, while they also begged for and bragged about receiving that stimulus money for their districts.
The time has come to name names. You are encouraged to get a pen and pencil in case your member of Congress‘ name comes up. Stay tuned for a mini-cable TV style reckoning, OK?
MADDOW: Quick programming note - not about this show or network or even this country. This is a programming note about Venezuelan radio. President Hugo Chavez has a long-running Sunday show on TV and radio in Venezuela that sometimes goes on for more than eight hours. Bless his producers one and all.
Lately, though, Chavez‘ ratings have been soft. So now, he‘s calling into other radio shows and preempting other programming in addition to his regularly scheduled show and weekly newspaper column.
If what Venezuelans want is less Hugo Chavez, I fear I bring some disheartening news. Mr. Chavez is now launching a new radio show that has a gimmick. And the gimmick is that you never know when he‘ll appear.
You may tune in to listen to a sporting event or rock music, and all of a sudden, a harp will sound and then Chavez will take over and start talking. Do that again?
Seriously, it‘s the harp that plays. That is your here comes Chavez warning. The show, if it can be called that, is called “Suddenly Chavez,” honestly.
No connection apparently to the Brooke Shields sitcom, “Suddenly Susan,” which was consistently in its own time slot, never lasted more than 30 minutes. And I mean, that had harp music only when it really needed it for the plot.
MADDOW: At the top of the show today, we talked about the myth of bipartisanship, the futility of Democrats, including the president, wasting time trying to persuade Republicans to go along with them on policies that are good for the country.
It totally makes sense in the abstract if people can agree on what needs to be done to solve the country‘s problems than those policies, even if they‘re big policies, should get votes from everyone who‘s in agreement.
In the abstract that‘s how it works. In Washington, that is not at all how it works. Republicans proposed a deficit commission. President Obama endorsed the idea so then Republicans decided they‘re against it.
Republicans proposed pay-as-you-go rules for budgeting. President Obama endorsed the idea. Then Republicans decided they were against it too. Republicans who voted for the bank bailout are now criticizing President Obama for that same bank bailout.
Republicans supported President Bush‘s policy of trying terrorism suspects in U.S. courts. Now that President Obama is implementing that same policy, they decided they‘re against that now, too.
Republicans supported a cap-and-trade policy against global warming. Now that President Obama is trying to pass that same policy, Republicans have decided - say it with me now - they‘re against that, too.
See the pattern here? What Republicans are doing on policy is no longer interesting. It is so thoroughly unrelentingly, consistently predictable that anyone who thinks it‘s an open question as to what Republicans are going to do about the next legislation that‘s proposed just is not paying attention.
Let me be emphatic here. Let me be emphatic about one particular example, the stimulus. The stimulus passed despite every single Republican in the House voting no on it - everyone.
Since then, the consensus among economists is that stimulus has worked, even though it‘s maybe been too small. The consensus among Republicans is that it‘s been a horrible giant thing that hasn‘t done anything good at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think everybody would agree now that the stimulus hasn‘t worked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $800 billion pork leg in stimulus bill - it was supposed to create jobs.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): With a stimulus package that has done so well, we now have 10.2 percent unemployment.
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R-GA): The vaunted Democratic stimulus bill has failed to stimulate anything other than a few federal bureaucrats.
SEN. MIKE JOHANNS (R-NE): Many warned as did I that the stimulus would amount to a mountain of wasted money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell me where the stimulus money is?
REP. JOHN LINDER (R-GA): The $787 billion stimulus package only stimulated more welfare.
REP. GLENN THOMPSON (R-PA): We‘re united in imposing the massive waste-filled stimulus, or as I prefer to call it, stimu-less bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If there‘s one thing that Republicans agree on now, it is that the stimulus is a bad, bad policy. It‘s a bad idea that does bad things. It‘s a bad president‘s bad way of making a bad economy more bad because he‘s bad. Stimulus bad.
Also? Stimulus good. What you‘re looking at here are pictures of the same Republicans who have trashed the stimulus as a bad, bad thing in their home districts taking credit for all the good things the stimulus has done.
That‘s Bobby Jindal there, governor of Louisiana who has railed against the stimulus, then gone around the state handing out big fake checks with his own name on them as if the money came from him instead of from the stimulus that he‘s been railing against.
Then, there‘s Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia. That‘s him getting all Publisher‘s Clearinghouse with a giant check for funds that he voted against and criticized as worst than worthless. He called the money and that check he‘s holding a boondoggle and a dismal failure.
And it‘s not just a couple of these guys who have been caught like this either. Republican John Mica of Florida trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district as “helping improve one of our key economic generators.”
Republican Frank Wolf of Virginia trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying, “We could use that money desperately. There are a lot of things up here that that money could be used for.”
Republican Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home state by attending the groundbreaking of a sewage treatment plant that it funded and praising the jobs that it would create in his district.
Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas trashed the stimulus, voted no, and praised its effect in her home state by saying this funding will spur growth in Texas communities.
Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district as a great thing for this county. We‘re not accustomed to federal dollars in that magnitude finding their way to North Carolina.
Republican Senator Kit Bond of Missouri trashed the stimulus, voted no and then praised its effect in his home district by saying it would create jobs and ultimately spur economic opportunities.
Republican Joe Wilson of South Carolina, remember him? The “you lie” guy? He trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying it would provide jobs and investment in one of the poorer sections of that district.
Republican Senator Bob Bennett of Utah trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying said, the addition of federal funds would maximize the stimulative effect on the local economy.
Republican Pat Tiberi of Ohio trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying it would support businesses and jobs.
Republican Mary Bono Mack trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in her home district by saying the funding will provide much needed assistance.
Republican Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home state by saying that just one proposed stimulus-funded project in Nebraska would create 38 new jobs.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home state by highlighting a project he says would create over 200 jobs in the first year, and at least another 40 new jobs in the following years.
Republican John Linder of Georgia trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying the employment opportunities created by this program would be quickly utilized.
Republican Mike Castle of Delaware trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by sending out press releases touting how imperative those funds were.
You want to see Mike Castle of Delaware handing out one of those giant checks? Yes, as if he hadn‘t actually voted to kill the money that‘s in that check. Mike Castle is running for senator from Delaware now, presumably on the platform of being a giant hypocrite.
Republican Eric Cantor not only trashed the stimulus and voted no on it, he coordinated the feat of having all House Republicans vote against it. Then he held a job fair in his home district at which nearly which half of the companies who were at the job fair because they were in a position to hire have received stimulus funds.
Even John Boehner, leader of the House Republicans, who has led the trashing of the stimulus and voted no on it and who bragged so enthusiastically on Republicans in the House all voting against it.
When it came to his home district, John Boehner praised the federal funding for shovel-ready projects that will create much needed jobs.
Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of denying-global-warming fame - he trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised the effect in his home state by saying it would help spur additional economic growth.
Republican Jack Kingston of Georgia trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying these funds should help save or create local jobs.
Republican John Carter of Texas trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying it was a victory for the economy in central Texas.
Republican Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by saying it would be great for employment in the area.
Shall I go on? I could. I could keep going until the top of the hour and beyond. But you get the idea, right? This stuff isn‘t secret. The conservative newspaper “The Washington Times” had a big feature on this today. “Politico” has reported on it as well calling what the Republicans are doing here a “cash-and-trash” strategy.
The blog “Think Progress” has done yeoman‘s work tallying up all the Republicans who have done this and posting pictures of them handing out giant checks representing funds that these politicians voted against even though they‘re now taking credit for handing it over.
Even the president has called out Republicans for attending ribbon cuttings for stimulus-funded projects that they voted against. The White House has put some of the documentation of Republican hypocrisy on this in writing.
None of this is a secret, which is the most important thing to understand about it. Republicans right now do not care about policy. By which I mean, they will not vote for things that even they admit are good policies.
On policy terms, they have been caught bragging on the stimulus as good policy. I have no doubt that some of them think that health reform is good policy. We know they think things like a deficit commission or cap and trade or pay-go are good policy because they‘re on the record supporting them.
But they‘re not going to vote for them because - screw policy. Screw what even they believe is good for the country. Screw what even they believe is good for their own districts. They are not voting yes for even things that they agree with, for anything substantive.
They are not going to vote yes for anything substantive that this president supports. It‘s not going to happen. You‘re not going to earn Republican votes for a second stimulus, for example, by pointing out it‘s good policy that creates jobs. We know they already know that.
They concede that in their home districts and they are still not voting for it. And they are unembarrassed about this fact. They are not embarrassed. Charging them with hypocrisy, appealing to their better, more practical, more what‘s-best-for-the-country patriotic angels is like trying to teach your dog to drive.
It wastes a lot of time. It won‘t work. And ultimately the dog comes out of the exercise less embarrassed for failing than you do for trying. Grow up, Democrats. Face the music. Do it alone. You‘re the majority. Kill the filibuster if they won‘t let you use that majority. The country needs you to.
MADDOW: We turn now to my friend, Kent Jones, in part because I‘m really interested in finding out if he can talk today. Hi, Kent. How is it?
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: You‘ve recovered.
JONES: A little bit. A little bit.
MADDOW: Were you just tired or were you hoarse from yelling “who dat?”
JONES: A little both. A little “who dat” disease. Speaking of that, “who dat” celebrated their world championship today in a parade in New Orleans.
And they did it without me and I‘m a little hurt. But -
MADDOW: Do we have footage? It happened tonight. Was it after dark? Or did it sort of happen at dusk?
JONES: Sort of a - little of both. It‘s a little of both.
MADDOW: OK. I‘m so looking forward to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES (voice over): The fallout from the greatest sports-watching event of my entire life continues.
CROWD: Who dat! Who dat!
JONES: The Saints‘ first-ever victory parade was held today in downtown New Orleans. Everybody loves the Saints. I mean everybody. Not only was Super Bowl XLIV the biggest event in American TV history, it was also the biggest event in Canadian TV history - Canada. That means the Saints are even bigger than this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kelly throws a hard (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
JONES: Meanwhile, manufacturers are feverishly cranking out Saints Super
Bowl champion t-shirts. One of those places is at a plant in - wait for it
Ouch. Cloud, silver lining. Silver lining, cloud. Speaking of Indy, the “Indianapolis Star” reports that a grand total of 11 people braved the cold at the airport to welcome the Colts home from Miami. Eleven.
Unlike New Orleans, clearly not every town is doing the whole “let‘s have a parade win or lose thing.” But don‘t feel too bad for the Colts. Oddsmakers say Peyton Manning and company are a 13 to two favorite to win Super Bowl XLV next year, because we all know how accurate oddsmakers are. Who dat say they won‘t pick them Saints.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Seriously, 13 to two odds already for next year?
JONES: Oh, yes. They‘re already lining it up.
MADDOW: I will say that the fact that New Orleans planned to have a party for the Saints, win or lose, and that even people who had - even though everybody had a lot of faith in the Saints, the Colts were totally favored.
And they said anyway in advance we‘re going to have a party and a parade either way. I thought it was very cool and I sort of feel like that should become the new standard.
JONES: Finish strong.
MADDOW: Finish strong.
MADDOW: But, I mean, I‘m not an everybody-wins kind of person. I believe in competition, as you know.
JONES: Right. Yes.
MADDOW: It‘s brutal around here. But I do think this sort of getting in
the Super Bowl is a very cool thing. And to come in second in the Super
MADDOW: I don‘t know. Maybe we should have AFC and NFC parties.
JONES: Why not? Let‘s have as many parties as we can, shouldn‘t we?
MADDOW: One quick last cocktail moment. Bob Dylan played at the White House tonight. It was a special civil rights movement - like music of the civil rights era event involving Bob Dylan at the White House. Check it out.
If you‘re the president, one thing you get to do is invite Bob Dylan to sing at the White House and he‘ll say yes. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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