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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Chris Hayes, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Kent Jones.

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

And thanks to you at home for tuning in.

President Obama did today mark the one-year anniversary of signing the economic stimulus package into law.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We acted because failure to do so would have led to catastrophe.  We acted because we had a larger responsibility than simply winning the next election—we had a responsibility to do what was right for the U.S. economy and for the American people.

And one year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility.  It‘s one of the main reasons the economy has gone from shrinking by 6 percent to growing at about 6 percent.  Our work is far from over, but we have rescued this economy from the worst of this crisis.


MADDOW:  Mr. Obama‘s event at the White House today was the latest in a week-long effort to tout the success of the stimulus, one year in.  Vice President Biden traveled to Michigan yesterday to tour three locations that had all received stimulus money.  By the end of the week, administration officials say they will have visited 35 towns and cities across the country to highlight stimulus projects, President Obama himself on his way to Colorado and Nevada.  Democrats clearly think they‘ve got something to brag on here.

But as the White House went into stimulus-touting overdrive today, Republicans went on the attack.  The number two House Republican, Eric Cantor of Virginia, blasting the stimulus as a failure.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP:  The president, in tandem with Democrats in Congress, have pushed through a $787 billion bill full of pork barrel spending, government waste, and massive borrowing, cleverly called stimulus.  We have offered alternatives to the out of control big government Democrat agenda that unfortunately became law and has completely failed to create jobs.


MADDOW:  “Has completely failed to create jobs,” he says.

Let the record show that Mr. Cantor does not always feel this way.  In April, Mr. Cantor publicly celebrated all the jobs that would be created by the stimulus in his state, specifically by a stimulus-funded high-speed rail project.


CANTOR:  We can create a lot of jobs.  Again, the estimates of job creations are 85,000 to 160,000-some jobs for the commonwealth, most of that in this area.


MADDOW:  So, the stimulus is a complete job creation failure, except for the 160,000 or so jobs I just mentioned.

It is one thing to say it doesn‘t create jobs.  It‘s another thing to say it does create jobs.  You cannot hold both of those positions at once, sir.

And how about you, Paul Ryan, the top Republican budget guy in the House?


REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  We can do better than this.  This bill, this economic stimulus package, is unworthy of our new president‘s signature.

This is just a long spending wish-list from every spending interest

group that‘s out there.  If you‘re going to go out and borrow $825 billion



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, recraft it for me, Congressman Ryan. 

Recraft it.

RYAN:  -- this is not going to work.  And that‘s what our concern is.


MADDOW:  This is not going to work.  This is not going to work. 

That‘s our concern.  It‘s not going to work.

It should be noted for the record that Mr. Ryan doesn‘t always think that—like in October when he requested stimulus funding for his district, that in his words, quote, “intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs.”

It either creates jobs or it doesn‘t, sir.

How about you, Sue Myrick of North Carolina?


REP. SUE MYRICK ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  The thing about the stimulus was, it was billed as a job-creator, right?  Do you remember that?  Why in the world shouldn‘t you keep your money and create your own jobs instead of sending it to the government?!




MADDOW:  Whoo!  Whoo!  Whoo!  Amen!  Job creator, job schmeator (ph).

As animated as Congresswoman Myrick appears to be about that belief, I want you to know she doesn‘t always think that way.  Because when she‘s not riling up crowds about how useless the stimulus is, she‘s writing letters, praising the stimulus as a, quote, “critical step in bringing economic opportunities to my congressional district,” saying the stimulus will, quote, “lead to solar energy-related jobs in an area hard hit by unemployment.”

How about you, Jean Schmidt of Ohio?  Jean Schmidt of Ohio proclaimed in November, quote, “I did not believe that it would create the jobs that were promised.  I take little pleasure in being correct.”

Sometimes she doesn‘t have think she is correct.  It should be noted, for the record, when not denouncing the stimulus as something that can‘t create jobs, Congresswoman Schmidt is writing letters, admitting that, say, a project in her district, funded—again, this is in her words—under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—that‘s the stimulus—quote, “will not only save jobs but create multiple jobs within southern Ohio.”

You can‘t have it both ways, Congresswoman.  Which one is it?  This isn‘t someone asking you if you want Coke or Pepsi and you say yes.  You either get Coke or Pepsi, not both.  Either you believe the stimulus creates jobs, which you admit in your home district, or you believe the stimulus does not create jobs, which you believe wherever there‘s a camera nearby, or a minority whip or both.  You can‘t simultaneously hold both positions unless you‘re a hypocrite.  It is not just liberals like me who find this astounding.

And it should probably also be noted for the record that Jean Schmidt doesn‘t care what liberals like me think about her, I‘m quite sure of it.  But look at the hard time that Jean Schmidt is getting about this hypocrisy on FOX News, of all places.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS:  Well, you railed against stimulus spending and dough, and you wanted a chunk of it at the time.  So, ultimately, that was rejected.  But you still had sought it, right?

REP. JEAN SCHMIDT ®, OHIO:  Yes, it was rejected.  And you know, Neil, let me add, when they made that request, I informed them that, as a large critic of the stimulus, that my letter might do them more harm than good.

CAVUTO:  Nevertheless, can you understand, Congresswoman, how this raises some hackles, because you had railed against this sort of thing?


MADDOW:  There have been some hackles raised, and not just among the creepy commies like Rachel Maddow.

On the same program, another Republican congressman, Jason Chaffetz, came to Jean Schmidt‘s attempted rescue.  Mr. Chaffetz is one of these Republican young guns who gets a lot of TV time.  You think he would be a little more savvy about these things.

But when he was asked directly, “Have you committed this same crime, sir?  Have you raised these same hackles that Jean Schmidt has raised,” Mr.  Chaffetz attempted to squirrel away from his own embarrassing record.


CAVUTO:  Did constituents seek you out and say, “Could you get funding for me for this,” and did you turn them down—yes or no?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ ®, UTAH:  Well, in general, yes, I did turn them down.


MADDOW:  In general, that‘s out there.

Senator Chaffetz‘s hometown paper, “The Salt Lake Tribune,” is nailing him on this, pointing out that he signed on to a letter with Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Rob Bishop seeking $95 million in stimulus funds for the Provo River Water Users Association.

Again, Jason Chaffetz probably does not care what liberals like me think about this hypocrisy.  In fact, I would bet on it that he really doesn‘t care.  But I bet that Jason Chaffetz does care what “The Salt Lake Tribune” cares about, what and he gets nailed for on FOX News.  And I would say that both of them have nailed him on this.

I‘m guessing also that Jason Chaffetz does care what principled conservatives think about his hypocrisy on an issue like this.  Jason Chaffetz is scheduled to speak at the annual CPAC Conference, the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference that starts tomorrow in Washington.

When you go there, Mr. Chaffetz, do you intend to explain to CPAC why you believe that the stimulus is going to do a lot of good in your district, and why you also believe that the stimulus does no good at all?  Are you going to make that argument that you simultaneously hold both of those beliefs?

CPAC is not the Republican Political Action Committee.  It‘s the Conservative Political Action Committee.  They are supposedly all about being principled on issues like spending.

How‘s that going to go over for you, Jason Chaffetz?  When some brave conservative asks you, do you think this policy works, or do you think this policy doesn‘t work?  Which is it?  What are you going to say?  And which, really, is it?

How about you, Eric Cantor?  You‘re on the agenda at CPAC, too.

Mr. Cantor put out a statement today, slamming the effect of the stimulus, saying flatly, quote, “still no job creation.”  Mr. Cantor apparently hoping that that‘s what gets picked up—apparently hoping that conservative activists are too dumb, too simple-minded to notice that while he‘s trying to maintain that position in public, he‘s also maintaining the exact opposite position when he‘s home.  He thinks you won‘t notice.


CANTOR:  We can create a lot of jobs.  Again, the estimates of job creations are 85,000 to 160,000-some jobs for the commonwealth, most of that in this area.


MADDOW:  Democrats have a challenge right now.  Democrats‘ challenge is convincing Americans that the stimulus is working.  The advantage that Democrats have is by all reputable measures that the stimulus is working.

Republicans have an even bigger challenge.  They have to convince their own base that one of their two faces on this issue is telling the truth.  And then they have to remember which of their two faces is supposed to be trustworthy before which audience.

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

Chris, it‘s nice to see you.  Thanks for joining us.

CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  Nice to see you too, Mad—Rachel.

MADDOW:  Did you call me Matt?

HAYES:  I was about to call you Maddow for some reason, like we‘re hanging out in high school.


MADDOW:  I would answer to Matt, Maddow or madam.  I thought that was the other option.  That‘s excellent.

All right, Lamb Chop.

HAYES:  All right.

MADDOW:  So, CPAC kicks off tomorrow.  Will Republicans like Eric Cantor and Jason Chaffetz and these guys—will they actually have to defend the stimulus hypocrisy in front of this conservative crowd?  Or do you think they won‘t get asked about it?

HAYES:  Well, I think they will.  CPAC is pretty managed, one should remember.  And conservatives tend to be pretty much in the “fall in line” camp just dispositionally.  But I think it‘s actual a test, a real genuine test to the independence of both CPAC, of the conservative movement, and this new, you know, tea party phenomenon, which is: are you really committed to the principles of small government or are you a tool of the Republican Party?

And for all the talk about how independent they‘ve been, so far, largely, they‘ve been essentially a tool of the Republican Party.  This is an issue where they can prove that they are genuinely, ideologically committed to what they say they‘re committed to and independent of the apparatus of the Republican Party.

MADDOW:  That said, there‘s a bit of a trap here for Republicans, because so many of them are implicated in this hypocrisy.  “Think Progress,” I think you know, has done a lot of the legwork on this, in term of putting together local news reports of what people have done in their home districts and contrasting it with their national statements.  The latest “Think Progress” report on this has 111 Republican members of Congress having demonstrated hypocrisy on this issue.  That is a majority of the Republican caucus.

HAYES:  Majority—yes.

MADDOW:  And so, if they do start getting all principled on this, it is going to be an awkwardness for a majority of all of them.

HAYES:  Yes.  And look, this is—I mean, what‘s really important to hammer home here, this is not new.  The government—the size of government grew under Reagan, the size of government grew when the Republicans controlled all levers of the federal government.  They may talk about how much they hate spending and how much they love small government, but never, ever, ever do they deliver that.

And for the people that genuinely care about reducing the size of

government in this country, as the tea party people say they do, it would

be folly to turn around and join your fate to the same Republican Party

that has time and again delivered big government.  And so, they really have

to decide, if they are committed to this, what they‘re going to do about it

because the Republicans, whatever they say, never, ever deliver on that central promise.


MADDOW:  It seems to me, though, that that‘s the argument—that‘s the most important part of the argument for Republicans talking to conservatives.  There‘s also, I think, a really important argument here about this Republican hypocrisy for Democrats in government—

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  -- because it‘s not just asking for stimulus funds for your district.  I mean, their defense to that is: hey, the money‘s going out, we just want a piece for our district.

HAYES:  Right.

MADDOW:  This is, actually—these newly obtained letters, for example, that we‘ve been quoting from, this is Republicans saying: this policy works.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  It‘s going to create jobs in my district, while they‘re simultaneously saying, this policy doesn‘t work.  It shows there‘s sort of a null set in terms of what they believe on policy.  Doesn‘t that say to Democrats, don‘t bother negotiating on policy with these guys?

HAYES:  It says—well, first of all, it says to the American people that you shouldn‘t listen to what Republicans say about these policies.  It also says the fundamental policy architecture here is absolutely sound.  I mean, they‘re just no question.  They are not idiots.

I mean, they understand.  Eric Cantor understands that a large amount of public investment in a needed infrastructure in his district is good for the district.  That‘s not rocket science—whatever he‘s saying, you know, when he‘s in front of CPAC.

So, it shows that—but yes, it also shows that they are so committed to, you know, detaching themselves from any policy successes that come out of this White House that they can‘t be asked to negotiate in good faith on any single policy issue.  If something is as vital and obvious as this is something that they‘re so duplicitous about, then how are they going to be any better on anything else, the jobs bill that‘s coming down the pipe or health care or anything else?

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”—thank you very much for your time.  I promise never to call you “Lamb Chop” again.

HAYES:  You can call me Hayes.

MADDOW:  OK.  Very good.  Thanks, Chris.

HAYES:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  If Democrats will never get any Republican votes on, say, health reform ever, ever, ever, ever—if they‘re never going to get Republican votes, why not bring back what a majority of Americans wanted from health reform in the first place—a strong public option?  Trade it away in pursuit of phantom conservative votes that are never going to come anyway.  Why not just get what Americans want?

I will discuss the return of an old famous policy with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders—next on this show.

And later on “The Interview,” the director of the “The Hurt Locker,” Academy Award nominee Kathryn Bigelow will be here.  I‘m very much looking forward to that.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Strange story from the Olympics.  Canada‘s CTV is reporting tonight that a mentally-ill man who police described as “infatuated with Vice President Joe Biden” managed to get within 12 steps of the vice president on Friday—during the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games.  Apparently, this 48-year-old man had made himself a fake security pass.  CTV describing it as something printed out from a Web site and then laminated.

The man used his forged credential to get cleared beyond stadium

checkpoints.  He had nearly reached a special section where Vice President

Biden was seated with his wife, Jill, when a Canadian police official says

a pair of female plain-clothed Mounties, who were in charge of protecting -

or at least part of who was protecting Vice President Biden, those Mounties decided that something about this man didn‘t look right.  They asked for a security pass.  They realized it was fake, they started to escort him out, and then they arrested him when the man tried to run.


The man was not armed.  He is not expected to face criminal charges.  CTV is saying that he has been committed to a psychiatric facility for treatment.

The U.S. Secret Service tells us that they did not see the incident.  They were not told about by Canadian security, and they can‘t therefore confirm the report.  But one Canadian official, again, speaking to CTV says that a Biden security staffer complimented the two Mounties who intercepted this guy, telling them, and I‘m quoting here, “Job well done.  Remind me not to mess with you.”


MADDOW:  The public option is dead, right?  Long live the public option!

Four Democratic senators, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and frequent guest on this show, Sherrod Brown of Ohio—they have all written a letter to Harry Reid and asking him to bring the public option back, to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote under reconciliation rules.  Those are rules that would mean the public option could pass with just a 51-vote majority.  It couldn‘t be filibustered.  The minority could not stop it if at least 50 Democrats wanted to support it.

Now, the senators who are the four original signers of that letter to Reid have seven additional senators who have already signed on with them.  Roland Burris of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, Al Franken of Minnesota, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  That‘s 11 senators signed on -- 11 senators on the record, calling for the return of the public option, by means that would subvert the filibuster—means that would subvert how the minority has stopped majority rule in the U.S. Senate.

That‘s right.  Prepare to be shocked.  Prepare for disapproving murmurs to spread through Washington cocktail parties.  Prepare for disapproving cluck, cluck, clucking columns written by columnists who‘ve cranked out Beltway common wisdom from Washington for longer than you‘ve likely been alive.

It‘s true and it is shocking.  These Democrats are actually proposing moving on a popular, major reform to the health care system that they support, that the public supports, that the president supports, and they are proposing doing so—shocker—without Republicans.

It‘s very shocking, I know.  It‘s very upsetting to the system.  And also, it‘s about time.

I know that to say it violates Beltway rules about what you‘re allowed to say about American politics, but it doesn‘t really make sense for Democrats to talk health policy with Republicans anymore, or to seek Republican votes on health policy anymore, because Republicans have not been negotiating on policy in good faith.  They haven‘t.

Here‘s proof, this is a case in point.  The individual mandate, the idea that as part of health reform, everybody would be required to have insurance—this is the basis of the Massachusetts health reform plan, for example.  Originally, this was mandate idea was a Republican idea.  NPR pointed it out this week, when the Clinton administration was trying to reform health care, the Republican alternative to the Clinton plan was a plan based on an individual mandate for health coverage.  That was the Republican plan.

Here‘s that plan—co-sponsored, you‘ll notice, by among others, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa.  To be clear, Senator Hatch and Senator Grassley sponsored legislation to create a mandate for health insurance—their idea, their legislation.  They co-sponsored it.

Now that President Obama likes that idea—


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY ®, IOWA:  Another area of concern is the individual mandate to purchase coverage.  I‘ve become increasingly concerned with the intrusion of—into private lives that the individual mandate represents.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  Congress has never crossed the line between regulating what people choose to do and ordering them to do it.  The difference between regulating and requiring is liberty.


MADDOW:  It‘s very moving when you put it that way.  It‘s also, apparently, not your own position.

It is possible to have a negotiation with someone who disagrees with you.  It is possible to have a negotiation with someone who agrees with you on some things and disagrees with you on others.  It is not possible to have a negotiation with someone who vehemently disagrees with themselves—vehemently disagrees with their own policy positions.  I mean, which of the two faces do you talk to, as a practical matter?

These guys are nonsensical when it comes to policy.  You cannot compromise with that.  You cannot find the halfway mark between here and Atlantis, because Atlantis doesn‘t exist.  And you can‘t measure the distance between somewhere real—here—and somewhere imaginary.  You also can‘t divide by zero.  You can‘t negotiate policy with people who don‘t actually hold real policy positions.  Democrats have to do this alone.

Joining us now is Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont.  He sits on the budget committee.  He is one of the 11 senators who had signed on to that letter, calling for the return of the public option through the magic of reconciliation.

Senator Sanders, it‘s nice to have you back on the program.  Thank you for your time.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Is the public option really alive again?  Or is this premature resurrection here?

SANDERS:  Now, we can do it, but you have to understand, it‘s not just the public option.  Through reconciliation, we now have the power to lower premiums that currently exist in the Senate bill.  We can do better.  We can fill and do away with the doughnut hole.  We can do away with a tax on health care benefits, which I think is a bad policy decision.

So, we can make major improvements over what the Senate has done, get that to the House in reconciliation, and at the end of the day, we will have a reasonably good bill with just 50 votes.

MADDOW:  If you were to take up the public option and those other measures that you just described under budget reconciliation, how long would it take before there could be a vote?  How complicated is that process that you just described?

SANDERS:  It‘s not—we can move it—we can move that pretty quickly.  And let me tell you something else: in addition to that, committees have instructions right now so that we can pass major education reform in the same bill and what we could do is substantially increase Pell grants to make college more affordable, put a hell of a lot of money into child care and school construction.  You could do that right now under the instructions that we‘re operating under for reconciliation.

MADDOW:  So, you‘re saying you could add expansion of Pell Grants, extensions—or expansions of child care help and school construction funds to the existing health reform bill?  You could pass it all at once?

SANDERS:  Yes, we can combine health care and education.  That‘s what reconciliation would allow us to do now.  After we pass that, we can come back for reconciliation and we can deal with infrastructure, we can deal with the transformation of our energy system, away from fossil fuel energy and efficiency and sustainable energy, and we can create, over a period of years, millions of good-paying jobs.  We can pay for that by doing away with immediately Bush‘s tax breaks for the rich, take a hard look at unnecessary military expenditures, corporate welfare.

The only thing that you‘ll have to do under budget reconciliation is at the end of the day, you‘ve got to cut the deficit.  You have to save taxpayers‘ money.  So, that‘s what we can do.  That‘s what we should do.

I think the American people are sick and tired of the inaction taking place in the Senate and Republican obstructionism.

MADDOW:  I think that there is—there‘s one obvious great risk to pursuing all of those things in the type of urgent time line that you‘ve described, pursuing them off of reconciliation.  And that risk is, of course, that Democrats would win a lot of elections in November and would energize their base.  That, obviously, terrifying, of course, to these powers that be.

In terms of what you‘re describing here, are you hearing mainstream support within your caucus in the Senate for moving forward that way?

SANDERS:  Rachel, I think there is a growing understanding that the current strategy of keeping—reaching out to Republicans who really do not want to participate in a serious way in the process, continuing to appeal to the most conservative of the members of the Republican—of the Democratic Caucus just is not working.  And I think people are understanding we have 50 votes to do something significant in health care, in education, in infrastructure, in energy—and in the process we can create, over a period of time, millions of good-paying jobs.  I think people are catching on that that is what we have got to do.

MADDOW:  Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont—thank you so much for joining us tonight, sir.  It‘s always a pleasure.

SANDERS:  Good to be with you.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

The movie “The Hurt Locker” is up for nine Academy Awards.  It tells the story of soldiers who disarm unexploded bombs in Iraq.  I have seen the movie, I think it‘s amazing.  I think it‘s amazing even if you don‘t like war movies.  I think it‘s amazing, maybe, even especially if you don‘t like war movies.

The director of the film, Kathryn Bigelow, and the writer, Mark Boal, are both nominated for Academy Awards for their work on this film.  They join us for “The Interview” next.

Please stay tuned.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Oh, look at that. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Nice 155, huh? 


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Hey, Eldridge, looks like we‘re going to need a charge. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Oh, I‘ve got that.  I figured four blocks.  That will give us about 20 pounds of bang, total. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  That blast is going to roll straight out there and the shell will probably kick out there.  Most of the shrapnel will shoot straight up in a beautiful umbrella pattern. 


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  We‘re going to get some smaller pieces and shell fragments this way, but we‘ll be OK if we‘re behind the humvee. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  If everything looks OK when I get down there, I‘m just going to set it up.  Give these people something to think about.  I want them to know if they‘re going to leave a bomb on the side of the road, we‘re just going to blow up their little road. 


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Craving a burger, is that strange? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Not for you, no. 




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Blaster one, can you read me? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Roger that, blaster one.  You‘re good to go. 

You‘re looking good, blaster one. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  It‘s nice and hot in here.  OK, I‘m laying down the charge, nice and sweet.  I‘m coming back. 


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Twenty-five meters.  Roger that. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Butcher shot two o‘clock.  Dude has a phone. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Why is Eldridge running?  Come on, guys.  Talk to me. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Shut the fort!  Shut the fort!

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I can‘t get a shot! 


MADDOW:  Scenes from the film, “The Hurt Locker,” which is a very, very good movie in my opinion, a movie that I did not expect to like nearly as much as I did, because I knew it was about explosive ordinance disposal teams in Iraq.  And I have always been a person who does not have the visual acuity to take in movie-sized scenes of things exploding.  I just can‘t absorb it. 

Although the movie does do explosions very well, it‘s about a lot more than just things exploding, as evidenced by the fact that it‘s up for nine Academy Awards this year, including best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best actor, and more. 

Joining us now is the director of “The Hurt Locker,” Kathryn Bigelow, and the movie‘s screenwriter, Mark Boal, who is also a producer on the film.  Congratulations to both of you on the success of the film thus far.  Thanks very much for being here. 


KATHRYN BIGELOW, DIRECTOR, “THE HURT LOCKER”:  Thank you.  Thank you for having here. 

MADDOW:  Kathryn, was that a real bomb suit that you guys were using in that shoot? 

BIGELOW:  Yes, it was.  It weighs about 100 pounds.  It‘s made of Kevlar and ceramic plate. 

MADDOW:  And I imagine since you were shooting in Jordan in the summer, it must have been wicked hot. 

BIGELOW:  It was very punishing for Jeremy Renner who had to work day in, day out.  And fan worked in the helmet, but somewhat intermittently. 

BOAL:  He loved it, though.

MADDOW:  Mark, one of the reasons I wanted to show that clip that we just showed is because it demonstrates not just the stress, but the sort of incredible expertise of these technicians.  I mean, I sort of wanted them teaching physics as well as how to defuse stuff. 

BOAL:  Well, you know what?  Yes -

MADDOW:  I know that you embedded with these guys in Iraq in 2004. 

How have these bomb techs that you know responded to the film? 

BOAL:  well, you know, I‘m glad you did play that clip, I mean, apart from the fact that it opens the movie.  To me, it‘s, in some ways, really an iconic moment for the war.  It‘s this confrontation between soldiers and bombs, which is really, quite frankly, what a lot of the occupation boils down to, the insanity of trying to run around the streets of Baghdad, finding every IED. 

And so the experience led to the film and then we‘ve had a lot of really interesting reaction from civilians and also from people who have seen the movie in the military. 

MADDOW:  And by interesting, you mean mixed? 

BOAL:  Well, you know, some pro-war sectors of the blogosphere have given us a few blows on the chin.  But I sort of think that comes with the territory.  But overall, I think, you know, the critical reaction has been astoundingly supportive. 

And most people that see the film seem to enjoy it.  And you know, hopefully, it‘s a tense and exciting movie that also gives you a taste of the craziness over there. 

MADDOW:  Kathryn, this is not a political film.  Actually, I think some of that negative response from what you described is the pro-war blogosphere, Mark, has surprised me.  It seems an apolitical film and it seems very pro-military, very pro-soldiers. 

In some ways, though, understanding the human experience of the war, humanizing the experience of combat, is an almost radical interjection into the way that we think about war.  Did your own feelings about the Iraq War drive your interest in making this film? 

BIGELOW:  Absolutely.  I mean, I was definitely not a champion of that operation.  And I felt the kind of futility of the conflict when I was over there and working on it. 

And I felt that up close and personal when we were there every single day and realizing the cunningness and the methodology of the particular insurgents that we were working - you know, portraying.  So you know, I think that it - I think it‘s a pretty difficult situation over there. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

BOAL:  Yes.  I mean, I think it was actually a personal movie for everybody that worked on it.  It was a hard movie to get made, and nobody really did it for the money, because we didn‘t have any money, and no studio wanted to finance it. 

So, you know - and then there‘s this kind of unspoken, not really discussed on set, but a sense of responsibility that you have when you‘re doing something about an ongoing conflict and being cognizant of the fact that people are dying as you‘re shooting the film. 

And even though you‘re not portraying, you know, real-life characters, there is a very grave situation going on that continues to this day, obviously. 

MADDOW:  Kathryn, on filmmaking, directing side of this, I mean it about finding it hard to visually absorb action and explosions in the way that movies typically show them now. 

But in “The Hurt Locker,” I felt like every time something blew up, I knew where that thing was and how big that thing was and how big the explosion was and what the likely effect of that explosion was going to be on these humans that I was paying attention to.  How do you do that on an action movie so you don‘t just have the special effects feeling? 

BIGELOW:  Well, geography is really, really critical and especially on something like this where bomb disarmament protocol is about 300-meter containment.  Ground troops contain an area of about 300 meters in circumference. 

And so we were shooting in a location very close to the Iraqi border where we could shoot 360 degrees.  And bear in mind the kind of geography that was kind of critical to understanding that operation. 

And so at every juncture, there was - geography was very, very critical and key.  So you and the audience are very aware of where you are in relation to the bomb. 

MADDOW:  So I think that‘s part of what makes it humanizing, even as it is a lot of action.  The movie “Transformers” this year got what Roger Ebert recently described as lavish aid from the U.S. military in making that movie.  Help from the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and the Marines.  Did the military ever tell you why they didn‘t help you guys out on this production? 

BOAL:  We had creative differences in terms of the - I think we wanted to make, first of all, a film and not a big special-effects driven - you can‘t make a movie like “Transformers” without military assistance, because the whole movie is a hardware film. 

But we had some creative differences in terms of how we wanted to go about portraying soldiers.  And there were certain things they felt - you know, you mentioned you were surprised that some people might find the film anti-war.  And they certainly did not want - you know, they certainly had that point of view. 

And while I think the film is respectful, you have soldiers that are killing insurgents on the street.  You have sort of no-good-deed-goes-unpunished in the movie.  The one soldier that‘s a doctor that‘s trying to help another soldier deal with PTSD gets blown up before your very eyes. 

And you know, you see that the combat gives, you know - the stress of combat really bears down on these guys who are decent people, but in an impossible situation.  And so I think there are just a lot of different factors that didn‘t make it a good choice for them or for us. 

MADDOW:  Academy Award nominees Mark Boal, screenwriter, Kathryn Bigelow, the director of “The Hurt Locker,” thanks to you both for coming on the show and good luck to you both at the Oscars.  I really appreciate your time. 

BIGELOW:  Thank you. 

BOAL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Should be noted that if Kathryn Bigelow wins for best director here, she would be the first woman to win an Oscar for best director in the 82 years that the Oscars has existed. 

It should also be noted that as this film competes for best picture, some of the films it‘s competing against are films that took hundreds of millions of dollars to create.  “The Hurt Locker” was made for $11 million.  It initially opened in four - count them - four theaters.  I‘m very excited for the Oscars this year. 

OK, so the excellent intern staff on this show, both of them, Rachel and Julia, have now called all 100 United States senators to get their position on the thing that is wrecking the U.S. government right now.  A filibuster update is forthcoming.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned this morning from a trip to the Middle East, a trip which had a rocky start, a rocky end, and a pretty rocky in-between, too. 

The whole thing got started a day late when Secretary Clinton‘s travel was delayed because her husband needed two stents in his coronary artery.  After that, off to Qatar where, on Sunday, Secretary Clinton met with the Turkish prime minister. 

According to late reports, that meeting was supposed to last about 20 minutes.  After roughly an hour, the U.S. Ambassador, Joseph LeBaron decided to intervene, telling the Turkish delegation that Madam Secretary had to leave with an important meeting with the emir of Qatar. 

That apparently was taken by the Turks to be the wrong thing to say.  According to an English language report from the Turkish news outlet, “Sabah,” the foreign policy adviser to the Turkish prime minister yelled at the American ambassador, “You are not the one to decide how important we are.  You cannot insult my country.” 

And according to this report, the two grabbed each other by the neck and the American ended up kicking the door in frustration.  That‘s what the breathless Turkish press says.  Now, P.G. Crowley from the United States State Department was an eyewitness to the altercation and this was his version of it. 

Here‘s what he told our producers today.  He said, “The report you got was a little too dramatic.  What did happen was they were discussing the urgency of making sure the secretary knew the emir was waiting for her.  Ambassador LeBaron did bang on the door.  I think he was pushed away from the door and escorted downstairs.  Shortly therefore the meeting ended.  It all worked out in the end.  It was a very sharp exchange of words in Turkish, but it was a flash and then it got resolved quickly.”

That was not the only strange thing that has happened on this trip.  The day after the fight at the door with the Turkish guy, Secretary Clinton met with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. 

As soon as the two sat down for a lunch of lamb and rice, it is reported that King Abdullah grabbed a remote control and turned on a big flat-screen TV that‘s within the lunch tent with them. 

Big flat-screen TV - he turned the volume all the way up.  The TV was showing a soccer match punctuated by news reports on the secretary‘s visit.  Now, one consequence of having the TV going at full blast is that reporters nearby couldn‘t hear a word of what the king and the secretary said to each other, which is the single most polite explanation for why he did that. 

At this point in the trip, we‘re up to Tuesday and the secretary‘s ready to fly back home to D.C.  But the weirdness of this trip is not over.  A fuel valve on her giant plane goes kaput.  Secretary Clinton has to hang out at the Jeddah Airport for five hours while anxious staffers scramble to come up with a solution. 

Wouldn‘t you know who‘s in the neighborhood but Gen. David Petraeus.  So Gen. Petraeus swung by on his giant plane after a meeting somewhere and brought Sec. Clinton back to Washington in his plane. 

But because Sec. Clinton outranks David Petraeus, that means that as soon as she stepped aboard his plane, it technically became her plane, which is probably the single most awesome something about Secretary of State.


MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith breaks down Sarah Palin‘s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad tea party engagement in Little Rock. 

Coming up on this show, our intrepid interns have been busy dialing all 100 United States senators to get their positions on scrapping the filibuster.  With a few exceptions, your United States senators have been busy avoiding our interns.  That and the latest awesome entries in our filibuster problem renaming contest, all coming up.


MADDOW:  On their way out the door, two retiring Democratic senators just weighed in on one of the most vital issues for how our government works or doesn‘t work.  It‘s the filibuster problem, the huge spike in how often Republicans abuse the filibuster since losing the Senate in 2006, forcing 60 votes super majority for routine Senate business for the first time in U.S. history. 

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut addressed the filibuster problem on this network this morning, saying he definitely doesn‘t want to fix the problem.  Nice. 


SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT):  I‘m totally opposed to the idea of changing

the filibuster rules.  I think that‘s foolish in my view.  You can write

all the rules you want.  At the end of the day, if the chemistry isn‘t

there - 


MADDOW:  The chemistry?  Sen. Dodd, the filibuster problem comes down to chemistry?  If only the senators were closer to each other or attracted to each other, this problem wouldn‘t exist? 

On the other hand, there‘s Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, fresh off announcing his impending retirement.  He told Andrea Mitchell this afternoon what he thinks about the filibuster problem.  This was an eye-opener.  Check this out. 

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN):  There are a number of reforms that I think we need to institute in Congress.  We need to look at the filibuster and reform that.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Do you think that the filibuster can be changed?  Could that happen now while you‘re still in the Senate? 

BAYH:  I think it can happen.  Andrea, I go back to my father‘s time.  You recall the great civil rights debates.  The filibuster was being used to frustrate some basic fundamental equities in this country. 

The threshold was 67 votes in those days.  They reduced it to 60.  Now, it‘s being routinely used to frustrate even low-level presidential appointees.  So perhaps the threshold should be lowered once again. 

MITCHELL:  Would you propose steps?  Would you lead an effort in the Senate to change the filibuster role?  You would get a lot of respect from your own party. 

BAYH:  Well, that‘s right.  But Tom Harkin and some others have talked about this.  I think it‘s something we need to do, perhaps looking at changing the threshold once again down to 55.  Perhaps saying things like administration appointees other than the very highest one should not be subject to the filibuster, because it‘s brought the process to a halt and the public is suffering. 

So the minority needs to have a right.  I think that‘s important.  But the public has a right to see its business done and not routinely allow a small minority to keep us from addressing the great issues that face this country.  I think the filibuster absolutely needs to be changed. 


MADDOW:  Absolutely needs to be changed - no hesitation there.  With that, Sen. Bayh joins fellow filibuster reform fans like Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who‘s sponsoring legislation to fix it.  Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who introduced that legislation with Sen. Harkin.  The majority whip, Sen. Dick Durbin. 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland - she‘s co-sponsoring the Harkin Bill.  Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, planning his own reform legislation.  Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, telling us on this show she would like to change the filibuster.  Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey in favor of considering reform.  And the vice president of the United States who is the president of the Senate also expressing a desire for reform. 

On the other side of that movement, Sen. Dodd, as you just heard, and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who says he doesn‘t want to change it either. 

We have calls out to all senators to clarify their exact position on filibuster reform.  We‘ve got a handful of responses.  We‘ll let you know when we‘ve got a bunch.  Senate staffers, we know you watch.  We hear from you all the time.  I want you to know this is not a trap.  It‘s OK.  Just call us back.  We‘re just seeking information. 

In our ongoing, “rename the filibuster problem” online contest, today‘s featured entries include “The Tarantino,” because it kills bills.  “The Washington Strangler,” because it is a serial killer of legislation. 

“Catch-41” - 41, right?  “Majoritus Interruptus.”  “The Stop Laws Program.” 

All good. 

If you have a good suggestion for the new name for the filibuster problem, the competition still happening online, “”  We are looking to declare a winner by Friday.  Please keep them coming.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  The Olympics, the Westminster dog show and the toy fair in New York City all at once.  Is there no justice in this world?  Since he already got to go to the dog show, and we won‘t let him go to the Olympics, we decided to let Kent Jones go to the toy fair, which has made everyone in the office very, very, very jealous.  Hi, Kent. 

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Rachel, I‘m at the Javits Center at the American International Toy Fair, and this is one of those assignments that required all of my skills as a journalist.  You won‘t believe the day I‘ve had. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These are the new HEXBUG nanos.  It is a micro-robotic creature that seems and acts alive. 

JONES:  It‘s good.  It‘s good.  It‘s good.  I put my finger - I have all of these.  There‘s an iPod inside, and I‘m watching a movie right now.  What is this? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Loops is all about music, motion and memory. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Girls around the world actually voted for Barbie (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

JONES:  As a news anchor, I can‘t make this up. 


MADDOW:  That really is News Anchor Barbie.  I‘m in so much more trouble than I usually am. 

All right.  That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  Until then, you can E-mail us,  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a great night.



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