Guests: Ezra Klein, Rep. Barney Frank, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Michael Isikoff.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Now, to reveal what America have or has chosen, depending on how many of you there are, as the new name for the boring, old filibuster—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
And she named it after herself, correct? No?
HOST: No. Hello, Keith.
OLBERMANN: OK. Did you suggest that? Did you suggest calling it “Rachel”?
MADDOW: That‘s actually—that would have been a very cleverly self-promoting way to do this. I need to start thinking about things in those terms.
OLBERAMNN: Always overheating up here.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: See you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for tuning in.
Republicans are still filibustering, absolutely, everything in Washington. But as Keith said, we do have a new name for that problem.
And the Republicans did have some surprising defections from their usually unified front today.
Senator John McCain has taken a strong stand against himself recently on cap-and-trade, on PAYGO, on the deficit commission, on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” Now, John McCain is siding against himself on the bailout, too.
We‘ll be joined this hour by Congressman Barney Frank and by Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post.”
Also, the Commonwealth of Virginia has a shiny new Republican governor. He‘s got some rusty old politics to go with him, though.
All that—plus much, much more coming up this hour.
But we begin with the Republican Party‘s failed effort to stop America from getting a jobs bill. While the country is mired in double-digit unemployment, Republicans voted today to filibuster the jobs bill. It was only able to advance when five Senate Republicans bucked their own party and voted with Democrats to allow the bill to move toward a final vote. Every other Republican who voted today, aside from these five, plus conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson voted to filibuster.
To be clear, they didn‘t just vote “no” on a jobs bill. They voted to
not even allow it to pass if it got a majority vote. They filibustered it
because they filibuster everything. This is the Tarantino in action.
It kills bills.
It‘s the Republican effort from the minority to filibuster absolutely everything. So everything of any consequence in the Senate takes not a majority but a supermajority, 60 votes to pass. This has never been done before. But it‘s being done now even on a jobs bill.
The Tarantino has become such a huge problem in Washington that even outgoing Democratic Senator Evan Bayh—quite literally the least partisan person in the Senate, he‘s the most conservative Democrat in the Senate—even Evan Bayh has made a huge splash on his post-retirement announcement tour by drawing attention to the Tarantino.
Senator Bayh wrote an editorial in “The New York Times” over the weekend in which he said this. “Historically, the filibuster was employed to ensure that momentous issues received a full and fair hearing. Instead, it has come to serve the exact opposite purpose—to prevent the Senate from even conducting routine business. The minority has a right to voice legitimate concerns, but it must not employ this tactic to prevent progress on everything at a critical juncture for our country. We need to reduce the power of the minority to frustrate progress. The number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster should be reduced from 55 -- to 55 from 60.”
Senator Bayh‘s retirement tour even took him to the set of “The View” today where he again invoked the Tarantino.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: The filibuster—it‘s just got us stuck in the Senate. It‘s frustrating progress. Back in my father‘s day, they reformed it. I think we need to reform it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Bayh has pledged to use his remaining days in office to not just talk about the Tarantino but to do something about it.
But even if Democrats launched a full frontal assault on the filibuster right now, starting tonight, they—in all likelihood—would not be able to get it done in time to save the one thing that is critical to this country both policy-wise and critical to Democrats‘ collective political future and that is health reform. The prospects of which, like everything else, are threatened by the Tarantino.
Democrats cannot wait until the filibuster is dead to move forward on health reform. They have to move health reform in a way that just gets around the problem.
And that‘s what the White House started to do today: President Obama introducing his proposal to move health reform forward. It consists of minor tweaks to the Senate version of the bill that are specifically designed to allow Democrats to bypass the Republican filibuster and pass health reform with a simple majority vote in the Senate.
And here‘s the funny thing about President Obama‘s proposal. On the front page at Politico.com today, it was the screaming headline, “The Obama Plan.” And it had this picture of a giant stack of paper next to the president.
I have no idea what is in that stack of paper, but I can tell you tonight, it is not the health reform proposal that President Obama released today—unless it‘s like 1,000 copies of that proposal. Because if you want to see what President Obama introduced today, it‘s this. It‘s 11 pages. That‘s it. Eleven pages that consist of minor tweaks of what‘s already been passed by the Senate.
It‘s not starting over as Politico.com might have you believe. It‘s finishing up. And this is important in terms of understanding where we are in this process.
This is what already passed the House. This guy, this one. This one passed the House, right? Two thousand and sixteen pages. It passed way back in November.
This is what‘s already passed the Senate, about 2,409 pages. This passed on Christmas Eve. These have already passed their respective chambers of Congress—House, Senate. And the way it works, as we all know from “Schoolhouse Rock” is that if two different versions pass two different houses, they have to be merged and then that merged version has to get passed again.
But because of the Tarantino, because Republicans filibuster everything, because Republicans are filibustering health reform, Democrats have to come up with something that reconciles these two bills that can avoid that Republican filibuster. And this is what does that.
This is the view of the White House. This is what the president thinks could be done. This is what remains to be done according to the White House. It‘s 11 pages.
This is not a new proposal. It doesn‘t replace everything that‘s been done. So feel free to ignore Politico.com on this or any other issue. Their front page all day has been visually misinforming you on what they call “The Obama Plan.” Nothing that looks like that can also look like this, unless it‘s printed really, really big.
Republicans have thought that they killed health reform but they didn‘t. It‘s passed the House. It‘s passed the Senate. And now, it‘s very much alive. There are only 11 pages to go. We‘re almost done here.
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer of “The Washington Post.”
Ezra, thanks very much for being here tonight. Appreciate it.
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, am I right to think that we are pretty close in the grand scheme of things to getting health reform done here. If you can spell out the fixes needed to get things done through reconciliation in 11 pages, it sort of seems like we‘re getting close.
KLEIN: We‘re very, very close. Closer not only than we‘ve ever been, but, literally, they could it without those 11 pages. The House could, if it wanted. It doesn‘t to. But if it wanted, it could pass a Senate bill in 24 hours and it would be on the president‘s desk.
So, it is astonishing how near they are. And to let it go now would be a sort of tragedy that would be unparalleled in any recent legislative effort in—that I can think of in American politics.
MADDOW: When I read through this today, and it‘s readable because it‘s only 11 pages, in terms of the substantive policy changes here, what are the main takeaways here? Obviously, people very focused on the fact that the public option isn‘t in there. We had talked with Matt Yglesias on this show on Friday night. He had said not to expect it to be in there, but it doesn‘t mean the public option is dead.
What other than the public option is important to know about what‘s in this?
KLEIN: The big change in this bill is affordability. They added about $75 billion to the subsidies, making them a little bit more like the House subsidies, not quite as good, but near to it. They closed the Medicare prescription drug benefit “donut hole.” They make the excise tax start in 2018 for everybody rather than just for union members. They totally eliminate the Nebraska deal but give all states a somewhat better deal on Medicaid.
But these are—it should be very clear—not big changes. One problem for health care reform across this entire process is that we, in the media, we report things that change day by day by day. And the things that change are the things that are controversial, the things that people don‘t like, the things people are still trying to figure out.
But the core of this bill, which are subsidies to help people for insurance, regulations to make it so insurance can‘t tell them no, a mandate so that healthy people will buy insurance, too, and then an exchange so they can buy insurance that they know is worth something, they have not changed. They‘re still there, still very, very good—certainly much better than we have now. And it‘s just hard to get the press to report it day after day, but that is what this—it needs to refocus attention on, back onto the policy of the bill and off the politics of Scott Brown‘s election.
MADDOW: And on that issue of the policy. as I mentioned, progressives not, I think, sort of a mixed reaction today to the fact that the public option isn‘t there, because we‘ve seen now, what, 20 or 21 senators sign on to a letter saying overtly that they would like the public option to be in anything that passes by reconciliation. That seems like there‘s been some momentum around that, the White House signaling as well that if the Senate wants that that they would go ahead and fight for the public option again.
On that issue that is so important to so many people and that continues to pull so well across the country, where are we at with the public option?
KLEIN: I think it took a really hard gut punch tonight. Right before I came here, news broke that Senator Jay Rockefeller, who had been one of the key proponents of the public option in the Senate, said we should not do this through reconciliation. It‘s too big for that. It‘s too partisan for that. We shouldn‘t reopen this now.
The White House and Reid sort of have been playing hot potato with the public option. Everybody is saying, if you can get this done, if you can wrangle the votes, if you do all the work, we‘ll sign on the dotted line. Neither one of them have been willing to do it because frankly they don‘t want to.
And with Rockefeller coming out, he‘s sort of the first office to say, “You know what, we support this but we‘re just not going to do this now.” And when he‘s moving back on it, that is probably I would think—I would guess it‘s probably a lethal blow to the idea‘s momentum right now.
MADDOW: On the—in terms of the summit that‘s happening on Thursday, Ezra, what are you expecting other than Republicans to say, “No, we‘re not going to give you any votes”?
The summit—the summit is a bit of a weird bird because it is in theory a discussion between the Republicans and Democrats, and I could imagine, you know, Barack Obama saying, “Oh, tort reform. That actually is a good deal. If you would like to give us a couple votes for it, we‘d be happy to put it in the bill.”
But the real audience for the summit is not going to be present at the summit. It‘s conservative Democrats. What we have right now is a situation we keep saying what Democrats should do. But we know what 95 percent of them are going to do, what they‘ve already said they will do.
It is a small number primarily in the House right now. We don‘t know exactly who they are and who‘s really in play, and we don‘t know exactly what they want because they haven‘t been showboating the way some of the senators did in the run-up, but they‘re the ones who the White House is trying to get comfortable enough to come onto the bill—and that means showing that this is not a scary thing to their districts and it does not fulfill the worst fears of the tea partiers and that they‘ve made an effort to reach out.
So, it‘s going to be an interesting war of perception because we don‘t actually know what the relevant audience wants to see. And I don‘t think, frankly, the White House or Republicans do either.
MADDOW: Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post”—thank you so much for your time, Ezra. We really appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: OK. So, there is being for the stimulus. There‘s being against the stimulus. And then there‘s being both for it and against it depending on who you‘re talking to—that‘s next.
And later, possibly the most mind-bending mix of church and state you will hear this year. Not from a clergyman but from an elected official in Virginia. We sent up a special signal in the sky and we hear it tell that Melissa Harris-Lacewell will arrive just in time.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST ®, FLORIDA: We accepted the stimulus money. All of my fellow governors did. I think it was the responsible and right thing to do for the people, and it puts people above politics. In Florida alone, for example, it created or maintained at least 87,000 jobs.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER ®, CALIFORNIA: I have been the first governor of the Republican governors to come out and to support the stimulus money because I say to myself, this is terrific. And anyone that says that this isn‘t—it hasn‘t created the jobs, they should talk to the 150,000 people that have been getting jobs in California.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That last report, pigs have not flown, but those were two Republican governors. Florida‘s Charlie Crist and California‘s Arnold Schwarzenegger admitting that the stimulus spending President Obama signed into law a little over a year ago—a year ago—which both of those governors supported, has worked to create jobs. And they say they‘re happy to have the money. They‘re happy to have those jobs in their states.
Today, Bloomberg News added to the long list of Republican elected officials who are only willing to admit the stimulus worked some of the time when they‘re trying to get more of that money—even when they‘re trashing it as useless, while the TV cameras are rolling.
Consider just as one example from today, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Clearly, it has not helped jobs, has added to the debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It clearly has not helped jobs. That‘s what he says on the TV machine.
Ah, but look what he says in a letter describing a stimulus-funded highway project for his state—which he says, quote, “is expected to create 5,789 new jobs in the I-73 corridor region.”
You see that stimulus? It‘s magic. It both creates 5,789 jobs in Lindsey Graham‘s state and it creates no jobs when Lindsey Graham is on television. It‘s magic—magical hypocrisy.
But it‘s not just the stimulus. Consider the case of Minnesota‘s Governor Tim Pawlenty, widely believed to be setting himself up for a 2012 presidential run. Since his ambitions became national, Governor Pawlenty has done a complete 180 on the issue of climate change, going from being a proponent of capping greenhouse gases to being a climate change skeptic. And now, to being a full-on opponent of cap-and-trade, which is the thing he used to before.
Let‘s start with a new Pawlenty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA: There‘s no question the climate is changing, but the more interesting question, is how much of that is manmade versus natural causes? And the way that you address it is we should all be in favor of reducing pollution, but we need to do that in ways that don‘t burden the economy. Cap-and-trade, I think, would be a disaster in that regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Cap-and-trade, a disaster now.
But it was just a couple years ago when Tim Pawlenty took leadership on creating a regional cap-and-trade system in the Midwest, saying at the time, quote, “If you unleash the requirements and incentives and attractive features of a market, people will respond to it. Some will respond by reducing pollution directly. Others will respond by buying credits or offsets in the market place with the ultimate same net effect.” Which is cap and trade, which he now says would be a disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAWLENTY: Cap-and-trade, I think, would be a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wait. What year is it?
Then there‘s John McCain who has just reversed himself on yet another in a long line of issues. He‘s reversed himself just in the past few months on PAYGO, on cap-and-trade, on a deficit commission, on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
Now he‘s reversing himself on the bank bailout that he voted for during the campaign in 2008, today, telling the “Arizona Republic‘s” editorial board that he was misled into voting for it. He accuses then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke of misleading him into believing that the bailout was really for something else when—shocker—it was actually for Wall Street.
We asked spokespersons for Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke to give us their recollections about that today. We‘ve had no comment so far.
Senator McCain also straining credulity by claiming it was not his decision to suspend his presidential campaign in 2008 in order to rush back to Washington to deal with the financial crisis. Senator McCain told the “Arizona Republic” that that was President George W. Bush‘s idea, telling “The Republic,” quote, “I don‘t know of any American when the president of the United States calls you and tells you something like that who wouldn‘t respond.”
True in theory. However, it does not seem to be what happened in this case—at least according to two separate books recounting what happened during that same time period. From Henry Paulson‘s book, for example, quote, “This was supposed to be McCain‘s meeting. He called it, not the president, who had simply accommodated the Republican candidate‘s wishes.”
Also from the campaign tell-all, “Game Change,” quote, “In the car, he
meaning McCain—called Bush and informed him of his decision and asked if the president would host a meeting at the White House for him.” We called President Bush‘s spokesperson to get President Bush‘s recollection of how this all went down but, yes, he‘s declined to comment so far, too.
Joining us now is Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for coming back on the show. Nice to have you.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: At the time that Senator McCain called off his campaign in 2008, you called this campaign suspension the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys. Any comment on the idea it was President Bush who asked Senator McCain to suspend his campaign?
FRANK: I‘m—I‘ve gone beyond being disappointed for John McCain to feeling sorry for him. This is such a pathetically, obviously untrue statement. Those of us who were there know it.
He was in trouble on the campaign. He was trying to change it. In fact, there was a very tough bipartisan negotiation going on. And by the way, for him to blame Paulson or Bernanke is cowardly. This was Bush. Paul and Bernanke were acting for George Bush.
And we believed that we had to do something. Democrats were pushing to add some restrictions on compensation. We‘re adding to put in those provisions that ultimately led to the TARP being paid back with a profit, but we did agree something had to be done.
Everybody was trying to get a solution, from the president to the members of Congress who were trying to work on this were unpleasantly surprised by John McCain‘s announcement. As a matter of fact, if you read what Paulson says, at one point, he came to find there had been an agreement, he was unhappy, because he wanted to be the one who did it. I said he reminded me of kind of Andy Kaufman as Mighty Mouse. “Here I come to save the day.”
So, no. John‘s recollection there—I mean, it‘s not his recollection. It‘s an invention. Look, he‘s got a very conservative primary opponent. He voted for the TARP money. He clearly supported it. And he‘s now just trying to reinvent history, but it‘s unseemly for a man like that to blame other people, because he changed his mind for political reasons.
MADDOW: We are seeing this pattern come up not just with John McCain but with a lot of—a lot of Republicans in office right now who are dealing with a very conservative base. Tim Pawlenty thought of as being a policy wonk, a thinker on some issues, now abandoning a lot of his old ideas—all of this on the stimulus, more than a hundred members of Congress found to be trashing the stimulus and saying it doesn‘t work while they‘re also saying that it does work in their home districts.
Well, everybody keeps telling me the hypocrisy doesn‘t matter as a charge in Washington, that everybody is too comfortable with hypocrisy for that to be embarrassing anymore. What do you think?
FRANK: I don‘t think that‘s true. And it goes beyond hypocrisy, Rachel. But you‘re right, it‘s hypocritical. Although let‘s put this way:
if I vote against a program and I think it‘s fraud, that doesn‘t mean the people I represent who have paid their share of tax money for it should be denied it. So, I‘m not objecting to someone who votes against a program and says, but you shouldn‘t exclude my district from it.
But there are two fundamental problems they‘re talking about. One is, when they try to take credit for something they tried to kill. And that‘s where the hypocrisy comes in. They go to the announcements. They go to the shovel—the breaking dirt. They‘re the ones who try to give that impression.
But even more profound is the way you put it. I‘m glad you‘ve done this. They are contradicting themselves. It‘s not just hypocrisy. It is blatant intellectual dishonesty.
What they are doing is going—taking credit for the creation of jobs which they claim were not created. They are acknowledging when they do this that the stimulus does create jobs and then they say that it doesn‘t. I mean, that‘s the fundamental issue.
Sure, you have a right if you vote—if you‘re a member of Congress and you vote against a program, that doesn‘t mean your particular area should be enfranchised. But denounce something as having no effect and then going—taking credit for that very effect whose existence you denied is a mistake.
And there is one other great inconsistency. You and I have talked about the need to reduce military spending. And I disagree with President Obama‘s exemption of the military. You know, as I‘ve noted the other day, we still have three ways to drop thermal nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union: intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and the strategic (INAUDIBLE). Given the fact that there is no more Soviet Union, I‘m going to be radical and say to the Pentagon, why don‘t you pick two of the three and save us billions of dollars?
But the problem is, when we talk about reducing unnecessary planes like the F-22, et cetera, guess what the conservatives say? It‘s jobs. So, apparently, when you spend money on weapons that the Pentagon doesn‘t want and take money from more important things for the soldiers in the field, that creates jobs.
So, the hypocrisy about when you do and don‘t create jobs is a central one. And you‘re exactly right. They say that the stimulus didn‘t create jobs and then they acknowledge that it does and want more trying to create more jobs.
MADDOW: And I‘m—I‘m very glad to hear you explicate essentially that important difference. I have never been complaining about and I think that people, by and large, aren‘t complaining about people taking money for their districts.
FRANK: Of course.
MADDOW: It is not they are making the claim for the money by saying -
by talking about how effective the stimulus is. And for me, the real conundrum this creates for Democrats is: how do you negotiate with these people? How do you negotiate with somebody who believes that the sky is both blue and green, about sky color? I mean, if you don‘t have any real beliefs about policies, then how can you negotiate on policy?
FRANK: Well, I want to go beyond that. You can‘t.
And here‘s the deal, and I don‘t usually make this accusation. I think it‘s very clear that the dominant people in the Republican Party—and you correctly noted this—not every Republican was very much on the right wing but they are now all afraid of them. The mass cowardice of what used to be moderate Republicans in the face of the conservative Republicans has caused a problem.
And here‘s the deal—they know very well that the stimulus creates jobs. And let me say this, that‘s one reason they‘re against it, because these are people who want Barack Obama to fail, who want the notion that we can come together in what we call government and respond to our common problems and improve the quality of our lives along with some of the things done in the private sector—they want to discredit that notion. They discredited it when they‘re in government by doing it so badly. Now, they want to prevent us from succeeding.
And I honestly believe—you know why they switched on the deficit reduction commission? They don‘t want the deficit reduced. They would rather blame Barack Obama for it. And they don‘t want jobs created.
So, the answer is, they know that jobs are being created as they acknowledge and if it‘s already been voted on, they‘ll try and take some credit for it. But, in fact, they really this—I hate to have to say this. I‘ve never said it before, but the dominant Republicans today do not want Barack Obama to succeed either in job creation or deficit reduction, and that‘s why you get this intellectual inconsistency. It‘s not intellectually inconsistent—it‘s dishonest.
MADDOW: Congressman Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee—it is a great pleasure to have you on the show as always. Thank you.
FRANK: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Despite politicking to the contrary, the great Republican renaissance in the Commonwealth of Virginia has brought with it some very, very old fashioned politics—as in Old Testament-style politics. First, Governor Bob McDonald scotched existing civil rights for state employees. You will not believe the details of this I‘m telling you.
And now, a state legislator has called for an end to public funding for Planned Parenthood in Virginia with a claim that if you haven‘t heard it already, it will make you want to sit down or punch the TV or both. So, get a pillow. Melissa Harris-Lacewell joins us for this. The details of this next.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. BOB MARSHALL ®, VIRGINIA STATE DELEGATE: The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.
In the Old Testament the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There‘s a special punishment, Christians would suggest.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Children born with disabilities, according to Virginia state legislator, Bob Marshall, are God‘s punishment for abortion. One of our hardiest, most even-keeled RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producers reached Mr. Marshall on the phone today.
He said that he stands by his comments and that they are based on chapter 13 of Exodus in the Bible, quote, “The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.”
Rep. Marshall also rules that for a couple of thousand of years and told us this, Quote, “Christ is referred to as the first born and he was taken to the temple and dedicated.”
This is not just one guy‘s medieval opinion on disabilities and kids and Jesus and God‘s wrath and abortion. Bob Marshall is an elected official. He‘s a Republican elected official in Virginia.
And this is the argument that he‘s using as an elected official to call on Virginia‘s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, to cut off any state support for Planned Parenthood.
Gov. McDonnell is on record as promising to veto any funding for Planned Parenthood which says it got about $35,000 from the state last year, mostly in the form of Medicaid reimbursements.
We called Gov. McDonnell‘s office today to get his response to the comments of Rep. Bob Marshall. The governor‘s office did not respond to our request for comment.
Even as Bob McDonnell is being promoted as a promising new face for the Republican Party, Virginia‘s politics have taken an immediate, very hard right turn under the new governor. Earlier this month, Gov. McDonnell revoked an existing order in the state that banned discrimination against state workers.
Get this, Gov. McDonnell rescinded the old order and replaced it with a new one. And the new one removes sexual orientation from the lists of reasons you can‘t be discriminated against if you work for the State of Virginia.
So nine days after Republicans tapped Gov. Bob McDonnell to give the Republican Party‘s response to President Obama‘s first state of the union, the governor declared by executive order that it is legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia for anyone who works for the state to be fired only because they‘re gay.
Any state agency can put up help wanted ads now that say, “Gays need not apply.” Thanks to Bob McDonnell‘s overt action, his overt order in this case. You can be asked what your sexual orientation is in a job interview in Virginia and your answer can legally be the reason you don‘t get the job.
If you currently work for the State of Virginia in any capacity, it is now legal for your supervisor to ask you what your sexual orientation is or even to investigate your suspected sexual orientation. And you can be fired from your job with the state for the simple fact that you are gay.
That‘s legal in Virginia now. Didn‘t used to be. Bob McDonnell just went out of his way to affirmatively change the law by executive order to make that the new law in his state. Republican rising star governance, circa 2010.
Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Lacewell an MSNBC contributor and professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton. Melissa, thanks very much for coming on the show.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, PROFESSOR OF POLITICS AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN
STUDIES: Yes. I‘m sorry it has to be under these circumstances. Sometimes you bring me on just because I‘m like the one person who won‘t scream but I‘m feeling a little bit like I want to scream right now.
MADDOW: Am I right in remembering that you grew up in Virginia?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: That‘s right. I grew up in Virginia and I remember that one of my favorite moments of, you know, November, 2008 election night was Virginia going blue. And so, this is a pretty stunning and absolute reversal.
And the fact that it‘s not just around issues of fiscal governance or state craft but right at the heart in both cases of the question of citizenship, of rights, particularly for marginal classes of people is a pretty frightening indicator of what‘ll happen, you know, if in fact, for example, in the 2010 mid-term elections we lose the House.
MADDOW: Can you contextualize the first guy that we talked about in the introduction here, Rep. Bob Marshall. He is arguing incredibly that children with disabilities are God‘s punishment.
We expected - I expected that when we reached him today by phone that he would say, “Oh, it was taken out of context. I didn‘t mean it.” He‘s not backing off from it at all.
Does somebody holding a position like that get exiled from the Virginia Republican Party? Does it go over cool with everybody? What happens to somebody who voices opinions like this in Virginia politics?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, I‘ll tell you, what I‘d like to do is go chapter and verse with Bob Marshall. You know, a part of what I do, of course, is I‘m a seminary student. And I have an honorary doctorate in seminary studies. And I‘d like to talk to him about what the Bible says about dedicating one‘s first fruit.
And the fact that, you know, the notion of dedication often had to do with killing the first born and, in fact, Jesus who he points who was dedicated in the temple and who was, of course, also offered up as a blood sacrifice.
So he‘s got a little bit of theological explaining to do on the basic understanding of biblical text. I‘m going to try not to go there and instead just suggest, you know, that, first of all, what Planned Parenthood is, is the primary health care provider for millions of American women.
And what‘s happened at this moment, you know, from my perspective is that the federal government has set out a sort of behavioral practice over the past year that says you know what? It‘s OK to go after women‘s reproductive health. We‘re not going to count it under health care.
It‘s been a huge part of sort of what‘s gone on particularly with blue dog Democrats in the House and Senate. And so, we‘ve got to take a stand and say, listen. Issues of pregnancy termination are issues of women‘s health.
Planned Parenthood provides preventative care. It provides termination services. But it also provides basic, primary health care for millions of American women, particularly in rural areas, in places like Virginia.
MADDOW: I wonder, actually, thinking about that, when I was talking with Ezra Klein earlier on the show about what‘s happening next with health policy, I was thinking about whether or not hearing an attack on reproductive rights put in essentially theocratic and, as you put it, maybe inept theocratic terms by this state representative in Virginia might actually be a clarion call for people to wake up and sort of stop being, I don‘t know, so mushy in terms of defense of reproductive rights right now.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, look. It‘s the same thing relative to this issue of removing the rights of - around sexual orientation for state worker protection in Virginia. Similarly, I mean, everything you just described about what‘s now possible to happen to state workers in Virginia, is also true under “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” laws.
You know, what we‘ve done is we‘ve said, “Look, as Democrats, we are not going to take a hard stand for the protection of, and the extension of first class citizenship around sexual orientation.”
And not just sexual orientation. In 39 states in this country, it is legal to discriminate in both housing and employment around gender expression, so transgendered individuals have particularly difficult times in holding employment opportunities for which they‘re qualified, for finding housing that they can afford.
We‘ve got to send a new tone and we‘ve got say that these terms, theologically or politically, is completely unacceptable. We need one standard of citizenship.
MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Princeton professor, MSNBC contributor of which we are very proud, “The Nation” columnist, thanks for coming on the show, Melissa. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: As of today, it is legal to carry a loaded gun in many of our national parks. Finally, the right to bear arms starts to coincide with the right to arm bears. Stick around.
MADDOW: As of today, credit card companies are being forced by the government to be slightly less cartoonishly evil than they otherwise would be, with cackling glee. Thanks to a bill signed by President Obama last May.
Credit card companies have to now give you 45 days notice of significant changes to your card that include stuff like fees and interest rate changes. If they‘re going to make those changes, you have a right to say no to them and to cancel your card.
Also, your bill now must arrive at least 21 days before it‘s due and that due date has got to be consistent month to month and they can‘t say you‘re late anymore if your payment arrives before 5:00 p.m. on the day it‘s due.
When you do accrue credit card debt, you will also now find a notification on your bill telling you how long it will take to pay off that debt if you‘re making just minimum payments and how much you would have to shell out each month if you wanted to pay it off in three months.
Plus, interest rates cannot be raised on late payments anymore unless you are more than 60 days late paying your bill. And here is a detail that will drive some people crazy, but it will probably save a lot of people‘s financial lives, too.
If you are under the age of 21, you can no longer get a credit card unless you can prove financially that you can afford it. Or you‘ll have to have a co-signer on your application.
Credit card companies will also get the boot from college campuses. No more marketing directly to 18-year-olds at the student center, which I think is the way I got my first credit card because I did not want to do laundry and you could have a free clean t-shirt if you filled out the application. I‘m embarrassed to admit that.
In that same credit card sanity bill, though, there is also an amendment that was inserted into the legislation by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. This amendment allows people to bring loaded guns into national parks.
That‘s in the credit card bill. Thanks, Sen. Coburn.
The ban on loaded weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges has been in effect for 94 years. It required visitors to keep guns unassembled, unloaded, and stored separately from ammunition.
But now, the national park service no longer gets to set its own rules. Each park will be subject to the gun laws of its state. That means that 373 of the 392 national parks in this country will allow firearms.
That said, that‘s complicated by the fact that about 30 parks are in more than one state. So now, thanks to the genius of Sen. Coburn, you‘ll have to keep track of what part of the park you‘re in at all times and know where the state lines are in order to know whether or not your loaded gun is legal in that particular spot.
In exchange for all the hassle, danger, and complexity Sen. Coburn‘s brilliant idea just imposed on our nation‘s national park rangers, maybe the nation‘s credit card companies can send them junkie free t-shirts they won‘t be using to bait college freshmen anymore.
MADDOW: The would-be New York City subway bomber pleads guilty in civilian court. No military tribunals or torture involved. Anyone complaining about that? Anyone? “Newsweek‘s” investigative reporter Michael Isikoff joins us next.
MADDOW: Back in December 2005 - do you remember there was a debate in Chicago between John Yoo and the Notre Dame Professor Doug Cassel? If you remember this, it‘s because you heard this famous audio from that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DOUG CASSEL, NOTRE DAME PROFESSOR: If the president deems that he‘s got to torture somebody including by crushing the testicles of the person‘s child, there is no law that can stop him?
JOHN YOO, FORMER OFFICIAL IN THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE:
CASSEL: Also no law by Congress - that‘s what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.
YOO: I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Depends - he said. Doing that to someone‘s child might be totally kosher. Depends on the motivation of the president of the United States in wanting to do it. That is the lawyer the Bush administration called on to write legal opinions that said it wasn‘t illegal to torture anymore.
In the Justice Department report on what John Yoo did, he is also
quoted as saying this under questioning. Question, “What about ordering a
village of resistance to be massacred? Is that a power that the president
could legally -“
Answer from John Yoo, “Yes. Although let me say this. So certainly that would fall within the commander-in-chief‘s power over tactical decisions.”
Question, “To order a village of civilians to be exterminated?” Answer from John Yoo, “Sure. Sure. Why not?” Law, schmo(ph). I‘m John Yoo and whatever you want me to OK, I‘ll OK. Massacring villages full of civilians, crushing the testicles of a child this front of his parents to get the parents to talk. Yes, that‘s America.
John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who was John Yoo‘s boss and is now a federal, are basically home free now. This Justice Department report says they shouldn‘t be disbarred or have any other action taken against them for writing and signing off on these declarations that torture was legal.
Meanwhile, today, what federal officials call one of the most serious terrorism threats to the United States since 9/11, ended with a guilty plea in a civilian court of a sworn terrorist who was arrested as a criminal, read his rights, given access to a lawyer and who cooperated with authorities while he was questioned legally without being tortured.
Najibullah Zazi‘s case has already led to charges against his father, his uncle, two friends of his and a New York imam. And now, he will do time, likely a life sentence, in an American prison.
And in the face of effective counterterrorism efforts like that, the John Yoos and Judge Jay Bybees of the world and all the people delighted that John Yoo and Jay Bybee got away with what they did will keep fantasizing about an America that reacts to terrorism by torturing children in front of their parents instead of just doing what works.
We‘re joined now by Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent with “Newsweek” magazine, also an MSNBC contributor. Mr. Isikoff, thanks very much for your time.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did we learn anything new from the OPR report about what was actually done to prisoners?
ISIKOFF: I actually thought it was the most illuminating report we‘ve had yet about this whole controversy about all the - what was going on in terms of the enhanced interrogation techniques.
It sort of walks step-by-step about how the administration came to approve these tactics, the back-and-forth between the CIA and the Justice Department and the White House as - in terms of one single document, I think it‘s the most exhaustive we‘ve had yet.
And in direct answer to your question, yes, we got some
interesting new glimpses, some of them a bit gruesome into actually what
was being done. One of the issues that comes up in this report is Justice
Department lawyers after John Yoo and Jay Bybee have left are pressing for
they‘re being asked to approve, once again, the tactics being used.
And one of them, Dan Levin, says, “I need to know more about what you‘re actually doing. Tell me what this is like. Tell me what, say, sleep deprivation means.” And there is a passage in the report where he learns and discovers - I think you may have the quote.
“He learned that detainees are being shackled in a standing position, naked except for a diaper with the hands handcuffed at head level to a chain bolted to the ceiling. In some cases, a prisoner‘s hands would be shackled above the head for more than two hours at a time. In other cases, a prisoner will be shackled in a seated position to a small stool so he has to stay awake to keep his balance.”
Now, we‘ve heard the description sleep deprivation before. We haven‘t had that kind of vivid word picture. And I think if you take through all the techniques being used, you know, it dozen raise, you know, once again some serious questions. What was really going on here? What did this look like?
MADDOW: Former Vice President Cheney has repeatedly said that a specific CIA memo that he saw proved that waterboarding was an effective interrogation technique and he said that he wanted that memo unclassified.
You wrote this weekend, though, that even though that memo has not been released, because of the OPR report, we now essentially know what was in it?
ISIKOFF: Right, and it would be - the contents would be a bit awkward for the former vice president. One of the claims being made for the effectiveness of waterboarding and these techniques is that from Abu Zubaydah, the first guy subjected to them.
The CIA was able to get information that led to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the alleged dirty bomber, in May of 2003. Well, as the Justice Department points out, report points out, Jose Padilla was actually arrested in May of 2002 before Zubaydah was waterboarded, before these enhanced techniques were applied.
So as we reported last year in “Newsweek,” actually, it was an FBI agent, Ali Soufan and one of his colleagues that got this information using traditional law enforcement techniques. So one of the chief claims being used by the CIA and Vice President Cheney for the effectiveness of these techniques was called in this Justice Department report plainly inaccurate.
MADDOW: Unless they have some sort of magical time travel technique that we haven‘t learned about either. “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff, thank you for your reporting. Thank you for reading between the lines in the way that you did in order to get this reporting done this, and it‘s really helpful. Thanks for your time.
ISIKOFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” Keith asks Howard Dean about the lack of a public option in the president‘s health care plan. Next on this show, toddlers and half-pipes. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We turn now to our alpine futurist correspondent, Mr. Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. You know, amid all the winter Olympic ski champions, there is one new star on the horizon you may not have seen. He‘s little, but he‘s on the rise.
JONES: Just watch out. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice over): Kelly Clark. Shaun White. And now, introducing snowboard sensation, Wesley Muresan. No, seriously. Two reasons you may not have heard of Wesley Muresan - one, he‘s from Dubuque, Iowa, that cradle of ski champions. And, two, he‘s three, as in years old. Look at him. Wesley clearly got some prime DNA from his mom, Danielle.
DANIELLE MURESAN, MOTHER OF WESLEY MURESAN: He does rails in the big (UNINTELLIGIBLE) parks. He does launch rails. He does box rails, rainbow rails. He goes off and jumps. He grabs his board while he‘s in the air.
JONES: Let me blow your mind some more. Wesley‘s only been skiing for two months.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody up on the lifts, they‘re all focusing on him. They‘re watching him. They‘re cheering him on.
JONES: So Wesley, what is your secret, man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you like snowboarding?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. But I don‘t like the lift.
JONES: With the right coaching in the long term and a healthy dose of napping and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See,” in the short term, the sky would seem to be the limit for the Dubuque dominator. There‘s good, there‘s better, then there‘s Wes. Right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I am so like - Ezra Klein makes me feel so insecure about what happened (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This blows it out of the water.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Kent.
MADDOW: I‘m going to retire now. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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