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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, February 26th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Kent Jones, Ezra Klein, Chris Hayes, Gavin Newsom

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thank you very much. 

Have a great weekend.

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


Once upon a time, Democrats said they wanted health reform passed before the August congressional recess last year.  Then they said they wanted it passed by Thanksgiving.  Then they said they wanted it passed by Christmas.  Then they said they wanted it passed by New Year‘s.  Then they said they wanted it passed by the State of the Union.

And as of today, new deadline.  Democratic Senator Tom Harkin announcing today, quote, “By the time Easter comes, we will fulfill Ted Kennedy‘s dream that health care is a right and not a privilege.”

So, there you have it.  Easter.  April 4th.  Mark your calendars—you might want to do it in pencil, though.

Democrats are pledging to have health care wrapped up in five weeks and maybe this time, they mean it, because maybe this time they have learned to stop waiting around for Republicans votes.

Republicans are making it easy for Democrats now by making it as clear as it can possibly be that no matter what, they are not voting for health reform.  They‘re not even voting for their own ideas on health reform.  In fact, they now believe that their own ideas on health reform are offensive and unconstitutional.  They are now completely, diametrically opposed to themselves.

Take Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.  Senator Grassley, the top Republican senator on health reform, during yesterday‘s summit with a president, said this:


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY ®, IOWA:  The high cost of this bill comes from an unconstitutional mandate.  It comes from the fact that for the first time in the 225-year history of the country, the federal government is telling you got to buy something.


MADDOW:  The individual mandate, he says, is unconstitutional.  The individual mandate is unconstitutional according to Senator Grassley.

Right, Senator Grassley?


GRASSLEY:  I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.  I think individual mandates are more apt to be accepted by a vast majority of people in Congress.


MADDOW:  The lead Republican senator on health reform, Senator Chuck Grassley, is diametrically opposed to his own position on health reform.

Even if you wanted to compromise with this man, and why would you, at this point, where would you start?  Which of his two faces would you talk to?

When Senator Grassley endorsed the individual mandate in health care last year, it wasn‘t some misstatement on his part.  It wasn‘t some trick question, some momentary lapse in understanding.  It was consistent with his record on this issue over time.

Way back in 1993, Chuck Grassley, along with 21 other senators, introduced their own health reform as an alternative to the Clinton administration‘s effort.  On page 238 of the Republican bill, quote, “Individual mandates,” in all caps.  See it there.  “The secretary shall specifically make recommendations under paragraph one regarding establishing a requirement that all eligible individuals obtain health coverage through enrollment with a qualified health plan.”

Senator Grassley was for the individual mandate before he was against it.  He was for it in 1993.  He was for it as recently as the few months ago.  He was for it well into this current round of health reform negotiations.

But now, Senator Grassley is not only against it, he thinks it‘s unconstitutional.  He is diametrically opposed to himself.

We called Senator Grassley‘s office today to find out which of the senator‘s two faces speaks for him now.  So far, staff members for neither face have returned our calls.

The example of Senator Grassley‘s brave stand against himself is not enough to convince Democrats that there‘s really no point in waiting for Republicans.  They‘ve got to do health reform alone if they‘re doing it all.  If that‘s not enough, then consider that Republicans are just flat-out admitting as much themselves now, point-blank.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  That the American people want us to scrap this bill.  They‘ve said it loud.  They‘ve said it clear.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  We know how they feel about it.  This is not a close call.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  Our country is too big, too complicated, too decentralized for Washington, a few of us here just to write a few rules about remaking 17 percent of the economy all at once.  That sort of thinking works in the classroom, but it doesn‘t work very well in our big, complicated country.


MADDOW:  The country is too big.  It‘s too complicated for us to do anything about this problem.  That‘s the message from Republicans now.

It‘s not a matter of subjective perception.  It is rather an observable truth that Republicans have no sense of urgency whatsoever about there being anything wrong with health care.  They have no desire to or understanding of how to try to fix it.

Meanwhile, here‘s the front page of “The San Francisco Chronicle” today: “Some face premium increases exceeding 75 percent” -- 75 percent.  The insurer Blue Shield is notifying some of its customers here in California that their rates could go up more than 75 percent.

You‘ll recall that Anthem Blue Cross announced its plans to hike individual premium rates in the state by a whopping 39 percent.  Well, now, small businesses here are looking at 75 percent-plus hikes -- 75.  And it‘s 56 percent rate hikes in Michigan; and it‘s 40 percent rake hikes in Virginia; and it‘s 23 percent rate hikes in Maine.

Do you want to wait around for Chuck Grassley to find his third face?  To find something else he said he‘s for in this field that he‘s now against?  Do you want to wait around to hear more Republicans talk about it‘s too hard to do anything about this and besides, the system is great the way it is?  Why are we waiting until Easter anyway?  Is there any further reason to wait?

Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post.”

Mr. Klein, thanks very much for joining us tonight.


MADDOW:  Ezra, I do not know if you are a betting guy.  But if you were a betting guy, would you bet that we‘d have health reform by Easter?

KLEIN:  I have learned not to make bets about health care reform, the way I would answer that, and certainly not on the timing of it.  The one thing about Easter, right, it‘s a bit unclear what they‘re saying the deadline is for there.  Reconciliation does take a little bit of time.

So, even if they really began it tomorrow in earnest, there are both a number of procedural obstacles in the process itself and more of it Republicans can present by filling it up with amendments.  They could take a coupe of weeks.

So, this won‘t be quick one way or the other.  But I agree with you that Democrats need to get moving on it sooner than later.

MADDOW:  Health insurance companies are playing sort of—I guess, sort of an unexpected role at this point in the politics.  We know they‘re not stupid.  We know they‘re very savvy, both by business and politics.  They must know that raising rates by these dramatic amounts right now can only help people who support reform.

What is this 75 percent rate hike say about the state of the health insurance industry right now?  What‘s going on here?

KLEIN:  It says that this is what the business model is, right?  I mean, it‘s OK, over here, there‘s politics going on.  They know that, and they don‘t want to get hurt in it.  And they don‘t give anybody any fodder against them.

But they don‘t think this is bad because for them, it really isn‘t.  It‘s what they have to do to survive, to have quarterly earning reports, right?

What‘s going on with Anthem, with all of these groups, is that they find people and they give them insurance and then it turns out these people were sicker than they thought.  What happened with Anthem, right, is they said, well, what we were paying out in claims is more than we were taking in in premiums.  And the point now is they‘ve got to get rid of those people who are giving them all those claims.  And the people giving them those claims are people who are sick, who need health care.

So, what reform is there to do, right, is to give them an opportunity to compete as if they are not bad people.  They give them an opportunity to compete by going on price and quality, and not trying to find the healthiest people and drop the sickest people.

But the fact that they‘re doing this now, the fact that they‘re raising rates in the middle of this process, just goes to show how normal this is—how if we don‘t do health care reform, this will continue on all the time, forever.

MADDOW:  And that‘s where you—what you just described right there is where the politics and the policy come together.  And politically, it is absolutely incredible to me to see Chuck Grassley, the top, exclusively point guy in the Republican Senate on health reform, do this blatant 180 on the mandate.  He‘s been on record supporting the mandate for almost two decades now.  But even as he‘s realized that there might be better politics for him in being against the mandate, even he recognized until it became, he saw this new political imperative that that had to be part—that had to be part of reform.

KLEIN:  Chuck Grassley has a 2010 primary challenge.  You see this happen with Crist.  It happens to a lot of them.  They‘re very good at it.

It‘s worth going quickly to the individual mandate here.  In 1993, this emerged as Republican alternative because what Democrats wanted was an employer mandate.  They want to make sure your business give you health care insurance.

And Republicans said, no, that‘s terrible.  It‘s government interfering with the free market.  We are going to do personal responsibility.  We‘re going to put it on the individual.  That‘s how we do things in this country.  We‘re individualistic.

And back then, Bill Clinton complained one day that every time you think you‘re compromising with the Republicans, they move the compromise further to the right.

So, here we are, 2010, saying, fine, no employer mandate—individual mandate, personal responsibility, we‘ll do it your way.  Suddenly, individual mandate becomes not just a bad idea, but literally unconstitutional.

Massachusetts, where Scott Brown is from, has an individual mandate.  Scott Brown supports that individual mandate.  He signed—he voted forth a bill instituting it.

Do people think he hates the Constitution?  Is that the Republican Party‘s official position now?

MADDOW:  Incredible.

Ezra, during yesterday‘s summit, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander was the one who said, “This country is too big and too complicated to really try to reform health care.”  I sort felt in looking at that, that if you didn‘t have enough time to watch all 7 ½ hours of the summit, that was like the crystalline moment in the summit.  This is hard.  We don‘t really—we really don‘t want to do it.  Stop asking us about which different way we could do it or which way we‘re willing to go along with doing it.  We‘re just not interested in doing it.

KLEIN:  You know, the Republicans have found a lot—very large philosophical objections for why not to do this bill.  I spoke to Senator Alexander about this plan a couple of weeks ago.  He‘s eloquent.  I thought very hard about it.

But the fact remains that he was a cosponsor of Wyden and Bennett, which is a much bigger bill.  The fact remains he was part of the folks who passed Medicare Part D, which is comprehensive.

But then when Barack Obama and the Democrats are trying to pass a health care bill, suddenly, people in the Republican Party realize, well, you know what, we don‘t do comprehensive well.  And what you‘re seeing is not them saying you don‘t have a good bill here and here‘s a better way to achieve these goals.  What you‘re seeing is them saying, we shouldn‘t do this.  Not this bill, but this problem.  That when you‘re in power at the very least, problems should not be solved, legislation—large legislation should not be run (ph).

And that‘s, in some ways, a very strong move if you don‘t want to compromise, right?  Because what the Republicans have done is create a scenario in which is ideologically extreme about what Democrats are doing is attempting to solve.  And there‘s certainly no available compromise between those two positions, right, between wanting to do something on this and not wanting to do something on this.

But if the problem is that you want me to regulate differently.  We can talk about that.  But if the problem is you don‘t want me to do the thing that I got elected to do, that‘s much harder for Barack Obama and the Democrats to compromise with the Republicans on.  There‘s no middle ground.

MADDOW:  It should at least be a point I think of clarity for the Democrats in terms of how they‘re going to be able to move forward here.

Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post”—thank you as always.  Appreciate it.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  On the interview tonight, it is San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, live here in studio with me in San Francisco.  That‘s ahead.

Plus, there‘s a brand new anti-Obama conspiracy theory that I have to say, I think might be the best one yet.  I even think it‘s better than he‘s secretly Kenyan.  I think it‘s better than he‘s secretly Muslim.  I even think this is better on that one I never totally understood but loved anyway about Interpol becoming his secret international communist police force.  There‘s a new one that is better than all of those.  It‘s next.


MADDOW:  A huge northeastern snowstorm that somehow I managed to miss

thank you, San Francisco—has dumped as much as two feet of snow on my colleagues at our New York City home base and on my dog.  You have to stay home on this, Kip (ph).  I‘m sorry, big guy.


More than a million people lost power in the storm.  Three hundred and thirty thousand in New Hampshire, that‘s 40 percent of the state.  Two hundred and sixty thousand in Connecticut, 220,000 in New York, 140,000 in Maine, 100,000 in Massachusetts, 25,000 in Vermont, 11,000 in New Jersey.

So, once again, the most powerful nation in the world has such decrepit, fragile infrastructure that we are stunned into helplessness and are shivering in the dark because it snowed in the winter like it does every single year.  USA, USA.


MADDOW:  There‘s something very big and disturbing going on at the Defense Department right now.  The part of the Defense Department that is in charge of trying to figure out how to shoot down missiles is called the Missile Defense Agency.  And the Missile Defense Agency has new logo.  And this logo is a scary, dangerous, bad for America logo.

I know about this scary logo because the guy who employs James O‘Keefe, the arrested dirty trickster from Mary Landrieu‘s office, he has the scoop on his Web site, in an article that‘s bylined by Frank Gaffney.  Mr. Gaffney helpfully points out what you might not have noticed about the new logo which is that it, quote, “appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.”

Mr. Gaffney calls the redesign, quote, “code-breaking evidence” of “an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter‘s authorities call Shariah.”

But the president‘s secret submission to Islam is not the only really scary thing symbolically revealed in the new Missile Defense Agency logo.  “The Washington Times” notes also that the new logo bears an uncanny resemblance to the logo for the Iranian Space Agency.  Oh, my God.  Thanks goodness FOX News, of course, has been on top of the story for days now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And could this be logo-gate.  Check out these two.  One is from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the other is from the 2008 Obama campaign.  Can you tell the difference?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Obama administration is defending its use of a new logo for the Missile Defense Agency.  Check out the red, white and blue symbol on the left.  It looks a lot like Obama‘s Campaign “O” from 2008.  Missile Defense Agency says the new logo was developed almost three years ago.  OK.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The administration is defending its use of a new logo for the Missile Defense Agency.  The organization‘s official seal is on the left.  The new secondary logo is on the right.  “The Washington Times” points out that red, white and blue symbol looks strangely similar to Barack Obama‘s Campaign “O” from 2008.


MADDOW:  OK.  It is not just FOX.  Thank goodness, now, even CNN is investigating this important logo-related freedom scandal.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR:  There‘s a lot of buzz on the Internet this morning about the new logo that‘s being used by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.  Here‘s a look at it.  Some people think that the circular red, white and blue design looks a lot like President Obama‘s campaign logo.  Others were critical of the crescent and star look, claiming that it‘s a similar symbol to Islam.


MADDOW:  Is it OK?  This is mainstream scary now.  That was CNN.

And I want answers.  I mean, what could possibly explain this new Islamic Shariah crescent/Obama HOPE/Iranian space program logo that is trying to destroy America and freedom with its logo-ness?  Who is responsible for this terrible, horrible, unpatriotic, anti-American logo of evil?

According to the Missile Defense Agency, it is the George W. Bush administration.  The spokesman for the agency telling “The Washington Post,” quote, “It did not replace our official Missile Defense Agency logo, and, of course, it has no ties to any political campaign.  It was done one year before the 2008 elections.  So, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous.”  Adding that the insignia was chosen because it was cheaper, because it‘s three colors as opposed to the five colors on the official logo.

So, maybe it‘s not an Islamic Shariah crescent/Obama HOPE/Iranian space program logo that‘s trying to destroy America and freedom with its evil logo-ness.

So disappointing.  Sorry.  Talk to you later.

But the Missile Defense Agency logo story may be important here, because it is sort of a perfect little window in the political mindset of the right wing right now.  “The Washington Times,” in some ways, is an actual, real newspaper.

Frank Gaffney, the guy banging the conspiratorial drum on the right wing blogosphere is booked as a guest on mainstream political shows all the time.  He addressed CPAC.  He signed the original statement of principles for the Project for a New American Century, along with people like Jeb Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Steve Forbes.  He‘s considered a fairly mainstream American conservative right now and he is promoting the latest anti-Obama conspiracy theory that is so unbelievable, so easily disprovable that it could be debunked by the average fourth grader with one spare minute and access to Google.

I kept thinking they had hit bottom with birtherism and death panels.  But it turns out the depths of the raw self-parodying conspiratorial hysteria have yet to be plumed in this country.

Joining us to try to plum them anyway is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.

Chris, thank you so much coming on the show on for lending me your hat.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Yes.  Well, just call me Chris the plumber.


MADDOW:  Is there something about this kind of conspiracy in particular that instinctively appeals to the right wing in this country?

HAYES:  This is actually a backbone of sort of right wing populist conspiracy theorizing all the way back.  I mean, the main propagator of this kind of thinking is the John Birch Society, which remember, was expelled from the conservative movement and is now welcomed back with open arms.  Dave Weigel has done a lot of reporting on this.

But there‘s this narrative of the “stabbed in the back” narrative in which America faces this kind of internal enemies that have infiltrated the power of this day, and are attempting to bring it down—I‘m sorry I‘m laughing as I‘m saying, because presumably, they would direct their forces at something more important than the logo at an obscure agency.  But, nevertheless, remember the thing that brought down Joe McCarthy was basically he said, you know, there are communists working inside the State Department and the Department of Defense.  Maybe General Eisenhower is a communist as well.

So, this notion that they‘re everywhere is a real, long enduring part of the kind of right wing paranoid imagination.

MADDOW:  Well, but—as you point out, though, sometimes, these conspiracy theories - and not just holding them and keeping them inside your tin foil hat, but actually voicing them gets you expelled from the sort—

HAYES:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- mainstream quality.  And right now, there isn‘t anybody doing the expelling.  I mean, the John Birch Society was back, sponsoring CPAC, as you said.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  They debated the whole fluoride in the water as a mind control conspiracy with me—

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  -- on camera this year.  Frank Gaffney is considered to be a relatively mainstream guy.  I mean, this is “The Washington Times.”  FOX News put this—we were looking for FOX News sound bites about this and we have a wealth of them to choose from.  This stuff is out there and there isn‘t any purging of the fringe here anymore.

HAYES:  No.  In fact, it‘s essentially completely colonized the mainstream.  I mean, ideas that used to be wacky are now central parts of conservative catechism.  And what‘s more—I mean, because of the vessel of FOX News which can kind of perform an alchemy that transforms the lead on some Web site into the, you know, cable news gold, the amount of the audience reached that something like this can get is just stupendous.

And, I mean, you really wonder—I mean, you know, this is so easily debunkable.  But you think about someone who is in their kitchen making dinner and has FOX News on in the other room, they‘re necessarily going to get “Media Matters” debunking or Al Kamen‘s column in “Washington Post” they‘re just hearing filtered in the background that Obama has a—chosen some Islamic symbol for the Missile Defense Agency.  And that kind of stuff sticks, you know?

MADDOW:  Yes.  Well, is there an effective way to respond to conspiracy theories?  I feel like—I‘ve asked this question a million times in the past year, going all the way back to the craziness in the late era 2008 election, McCain/Palin campaign rallies—

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  -- when we‘re starting to hear all those conspiracy theories voiced there, even but some cases by people introducing the candidates or by people asking the questions from the floor and then the preponderance of them throughout the campaign—not only through the end of the campaign but all the way through Obama‘s first year.  How do you get rid of them?

HAYES:  Well, I mean, first of all, you debunk them factually, right?  So, you go to the person who is at Missile Defense Agency, who tells you it was developed in 2007 and you run that.  But that‘s not enough.  I mean, you‘d like to think that—when as John Stuart Mill said, “When truth wrestles with falsehood, that truth will win.”

But in these cases, I think you need to keep banging on about it.  The problem is, the more you bang on about it, the more that stupid logo gets floated around.  The more that—you know, and there‘s a lot of cognitive research about this that when you try to debunk this stuff, the underlying premise ends up in people‘s heads.

At the same time, you can‘t ignore it.  I think ridicule and satire ends up being the most effective, but there has to be some boundaries enforced by a place like CNN, in which they‘re just not going to treat this with anything at all.

MADDOW:  I‘m with you, Chris, and I feel protected at least from these transmissions as long as I have adequate equipment.

HAYES:  I was disappointed—I was disappointed when you took it off. 

And I was like—I was hoping that you‘re going to do the interview in it. 

So, I‘m happy to see it back.

MADDOW:  In my mind, I did.


MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”—and as always, a very good sport.  Thanks for joining us, Chris.  Have a good weekend.

HAYES:  Thank you.  Enjoy California.

MADDOW:  Will do.

Tonight on “The Interview,” a San Francisco treat as they say.  Mayor Gavin Newsom will be right here to talk about his future plans and how it feels to live in a city and lead a city that is reviled by the right wing, because everything here is nicer and works better.  That‘s next.

Stay with us.



REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  Hand the gavel to Nancy Pelosi and apply her San Francisco values.  This Congress is characterized by San Francisco values.  Pushed by Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco values—

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  Nancy Pelosi a committed secular progressive who embraces San Francisco values.

As the mayor is a very far left guy.  Mr. San Francisco values.


MADDOW:  I speak to you right now from the great city of San Francisco.  And although I speak to you from a darkened room with a fake backdrop behind me, I assure you that this is the single most beautiful large city in the entire country.  And I say that with the self-conscious chauvinism of someone who grew up in the Bay Area here and whose whole family still lives here.

Hi, mom.

Here in San Francisco, the minimum wage is $9.79 an hour.  There‘s also universal health care here in this city.  The mayor here said in his State of the City address in 2005 that he wanted all the 73,000 or so people in this city who didn‘t have insurance to have access to health care anyway.

In 2006, the city started meeting to figure out how that could be done.

In 2007, their agreed-upon plan was put into effect.  They did it.

If your family income is five times the poverty level or below, if you don‘t qualify for public insurance programs like Medicaid or Medicare, if you‘re a San Francisco resident, if you‘re uninsured, you can get medical care under the program Healthy San Francisco.  It‘s not insurance.  It‘s a doable public coordinated program to let folks who are otherwise falling through the cracks have access to health care.  I should also mention that San Francisco also has preschool for all.  In the inadvertently funny official terms of the program, it‘s, “free half-day preschool for all four-year-old San Franciscans who would like to attend regardless of income.  Children living in every neighborhood and every zip code in San Francisco are eligible.”

Did you hear that, you four-year-old San Franciscans.  Decide what you want to do.  You‘re good to go.”  San Francisco‘s is not immune from the nation‘s troubles, although sometimes when you hear it feels that way. 

The murder rate in the city is as low as it has been since the 1960s.  The California unemployment rate is an atrocious 12 percent, but San Francisco‘s is lower than that, 9.4 percent. 

It is a favored sport of our compatriots on the political right to attack San Francisco as if it‘s some sort of warning for what it‘s like when liberals run stuff.  It‘s a little like warning someone not to fall in love because there‘s a risk they might end up living happily ever after. 

Joining us now for the interview tonight, Mr. Mayor of Francisco, Gavin Newsom.  Mr. Mayor, nice to see you.

GAVIN NEWSOM (D), MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO:  I‘m missing my favorite show.  Are you running for mayor?  Is that what happens?  Just three days in this town. 

MADDOW:  I‘m running for booster-in-chief. 

NEWSOM:  I mean, the photo of you with that hat, though, may disqualify.  But beyond that, it‘s pretty unpleasant. 

MADDOW:  I don‘t know.  I think in some parts of San Francisco, that might help me out. 

NEWSOM:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  That‘s a good point.  Yes.  Actually, you‘ve got the inside job. 

MADDOW:  We want a mayor who‘s protected from the transmissions. 

NEWSOM:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  You‘ve got all that debate down.  That‘s impressive.  Public option, alive and well in San Francisco.  I just left city hall and the American flag has been flying.  It has not been replaced with the Canadian flag.

MADDOW:  When you hear in political terms, national political terms, San Francisco, the shorthand that you don‘t even need to explain. 

NEWSOM:  I know. 

MADDOW:  Itself - it‘s standalone statement of what‘s wrong with everything (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the country. 

NEWSOM:  Yes, exactly. 

MADDOW:  Do you sure feel it‘s a tourism board advertisement?  Or does it bug you? 

NEWSOM:  No, it‘s amazing.  It‘s the birthplace of the United Nations.  It‘s also the birthplace of life science and biotech.  It‘s the home of some of the most innovative companies in the world.  It‘s one of the most dynamic economic cities in the United States and arguably, the world.  

It‘s got one of the most creative workforces.  It‘s a city of dreamers and doers, of entrepreneurs, of innovators, a city that, at its best, is always on the leading and cutting edge of new ideas. 

You have mentioned a number of them - universal health care, universal preschool.  We also have universal after-school, highest performing urban school district in the State of California. 

We‘ve seen seven years in a row of improved test scores.  Comprehensive arts education - every child, every classroom.  K-12 - the city funds it.  We even put salad bars into our public schools to start focusing now on what we all should be focusing on health care debate, that‘s wellness and prevention and focusing on reducing costs by getting smart about that kind of investment. 

This is a city that has paid sick leave ordnance.  Well, they said that would devastate the economic framework of the city.  It did quite the contrary.  This is the city with a local, earned income tax credit to allow working families to keep more of what they earn. 

And our bond rating is among the highest of any big city in the State of California and the nation.  We have a rainy day reserve.  We have two-year budget cycles.  We have 10-year capital plans, fiscal policies and efficiency plans that will put up against most cities. 

We‘re not immune to macro-economic challenges.  We‘ve got a big budget deficit this year, but we‘re also a fiscally prudent city at the same, being socially progressive. 

MADDOW:  Well, in addition to having all of this things, the city also has term limits.

NEWSOM:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  And so, even if you want -

NEWSOM:  The future ex-mayor is sitting with you. 

MADDOW:  That‘s right.  Well, you‘ve got a couple of years. 

NEWSOM:  Right.

MADDOW:  You would be termed on January of 2011.  If you could run again, would you, if there weren‘t term limits? 

NEWSOM:  You know, I think two years is plenty, but then again, my friend Mayor Bloomberg, had a different point of view, because he has a different balance sheet. 

MADDOW:  Right. 

NEWSOM:  So - a different paradigm.  It‘s a tough town.  This is a town, as I say, that doesn‘t like to dislike its mayors.  It loves to hate its mayors.  It‘s a town most mayors are one-term mayors, the last two out of three. 

Somehow, I survived re-election.  I think the city‘s ready to look for new leadership though.  I am pretty passionate about this job.  It‘s an extraordinary gift.  We are a city and a county, so you can do a lot of things that other city mayors can‘t do because of the county functions. 

And I‘m able to take risks.  I‘m able to try new things.  We‘re able to advance issues around civil rights and human rights.  And we‘re able to get out front obviously on marriage equality.  We‘re able to take some risks on immigration policies and obviously on health care policies and education. 

And I‘ll tell you what.  There‘s not a city in this country - I mean this - that‘s doing more on the environment.  Maybe Portland, Oregon and I mean that with sincerity, but no other city that‘s been more aggressive on environmental stewardship.  And we‘re bringing people together.  We‘re not dividing folks as we - quite a new strategy and a new paradigm of sustainability. 

MADDOW:  Well, you have filed the paperwork to run for lieutenant governor in this state.  That doesn‘t mean that you have declared that you are running. 


MADDOW:  But you have filed the paper works.  You have the option.  I agree, for once, with the common wisdom that the California State government is in running for the worst state government in this country by a mile.  And it‘s got competition. 

NEWSOM:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  But what do you think is wrong with California state government?  And could you fix it by joining it?  Why on earth would you want to be part of that? 

NEWSOM:  You‘re right.  I mean, there is - I believe this - fundamentally, structural.  You‘ve got get two-thirds to get anything passed.  You think we have dysfunction with 60-vote filibuster in the majority of the Senate. 

Imagine getting two-thirds in the state.  So it‘s tourney again of the minority.  Governor Schwarzenegger can‘t carry many Republicans, let alone any Democrats.  So you have stasis as relates to even passing a budget.  I‘m not talking about revenue enhancements or tax increases, even a budget.

You have a problem with term limits.  So the lobbyists have all moved in because people are turned down.  They come and go as soon as get there to open the accounts to get to the next office. 

You‘ve got problems as fundamental as this.  We don‘t have rainy day reserves.  We don‘t have two-year budgets.  We don‘t have strong fiscal frameworks as relates to investments in cities and counties. 

So, there‘s a structural problem.  In addition to that, we have an absence of ideas.  And I always say, the best politics is a better idea.  You want to bring together, come up with a better idea and those ideas tend to galvanize people in a positive way. 

MADDOW:  If you think that you‘ve got good ideas for a state

government, that‘s one thing.  But if it‘s the structural problems with

state government are preventing anybody with even - I don‘t know if they‘re

in the middle - any ideas from getting anything passed, then, literally,

why join that?  Why would you want to go -

NEWSOM:  We want to - instead of being on the sidelines, instead of walking away, instead of just rolling up your sleeves and saying, “Well, actually, I don‘t want to get involved and do the hard work.  I want to just sit back and relax.”  I‘d rather get in the mix.  I‘d rather be part of that solution.  I‘d rather be part of that debate.  I‘d rather start focusing on ways we can leverage what we‘ve done in this county. 

They said it was impossible to do health care, impossible to create the framework in terms of education, support and environmental stewardship in this city.  And we proved we can do it. 

It was impossible to recruit and retain businesses in this economic environment.  And we‘ve been able to do that with some aggressive economic development strategies.  I‘d like to think the 57 other counties in state can take some of those examples and of course we can adopt other examples from those counties and start aggregating and disseminate them in a different way. 

MADDOW:  The last time we talked was in April, the last time I was here.  

NEWSOM:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  And it was the first interview that you did after you said you were ready to run for governor. 

NEWSOM:  I know.  I sound like a politician.  This is horrible.  Yes, I do. 

MADDOW:  It‘s always, “Are you going to run?”

NEWSOM:  That‘s what happens when you‘re termed out.  You worry about, you know, going back to - well, I have restaurants and hotels.  So I can go back to work there. 

MADDOW:  Well, you haven‘t decided that you‘re going to run for lieutenant governor, but you did decide you were going to run for governor. 

NEWSOM:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  You‘ve since dropped out.  Why didn‘t you get any traction? 

NEWSOM:  Because I had a brand new baby. 

MADDOW:  You‘re blaming the baby?  You‘re not blaming the baby.

NEWSOM:  She‘s so cute.  Last night, she kept me up.  She can‘t afford the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  She‘s too young to understand this.  She‘s only five months.  No, she‘s perfect. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Aside from the baby.

NEWSOM:  No.  There‘s a combination and I know it.  What a horrible thing I said.  This is not live, is it? 

MADDOW:  Oh, no. 

NEWSOM:  You told me it was taped. 

MADDOW:  Get him the hat. 

NEWSOM:  We‘re all set.  Yes, give me the hat.  No, it was a combination of all those factors at home and then my responsibilities at work.  Look, I‘ve got 6,000 people who contribute to the campaign.  Hundreds of thousands of people opted in. 

But I was running against a brand unlike any other in the State of California.  And candidly, I was having a hard time raising the amount of money I need to raise to put a good fight, not only in the primary against former Governor Brown, but also to go up against Meg Whitman, most likely, who‘s already put $39 million of her own money in to date, and is already going to put in north of $100 million to $150 million in the general. 

I looked at that honestly and I thought about the sacrifice and in the city in the context of the money that you have to raise.  And there was no way I could do all of that. 

MADDOW:  Gov. Newsom, San Francisco, not yet decided on whether or not he‘s running for lieutenant governor. 

NEWSOM:  No.  But it‘s good to see you.  Come out more often. 

MADDOW:  Sure. 

NEWSOM:  And I love more of those introductions. 

MADDOW:  Yes, I know.  I knew that it was going to start to make you - it was going to make you squeamish.  It was going to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) heartfelt. 


MADDOW:  All right.  Nice to see you, Gavin.  Thanks.

NEWSOM:  Thank you.  Good to see you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Political kookiness aside from my headwear, we had an outstanding week.  We‘re talking Shaun white on the half pipe outstanding here.  We‘ll give you some jaw-dropping highlights.  Plus, the TMI treatment for one very, very special Congressman.  All coming up.  Please stick around.


MADDOW:  Because doing something totally skivvy, unethical and ought-to-be-illegal once wasn‘t enough, the Republican National Committee has sent a second fundraising letter that‘s designed to look like an official Census Bureau mailer. 

The Census Bureau itself complained the first time.  But here it is again - 2010 Congressional District Census, smack dab on the first page of this RNC fundraising survey.  Here‘s the intentionally misleading, vaguely threatening envelope it comes in.  “Do not destroy.  Official document.”  And “Process immediately.  2010 Congressional District Census enclosed,” even though no is compelled at all to process immediately or not destroy the we all are for the actual census. 

In Chairman Michael Steele‘s three-page letter, with the header “2010 Congressional District Census,” the word “census” with a capital C appears 12 times.  On the first page alone, the word “census” appears seven times, proving that they‘re not only brazenly unethical, but also gobsmackingly clueless. 

The RNC sent one of these to me and my family.  And I thank them.  It‘s right here and I‘ll be filling it out on the plane ride home.  I‘m guessing that my answer to their questions is generally no, with an occasional “huh,” followed by the very occasional “heck no.” 


MADDOW:  Did you hear what they just did in the South Dakota legislature?  Did you hear about this today?  The South Dakota House of Representatives has passed a resolution urging public schools in that great state to teach kids about climate change in a very specific way. 

I‘m quoting here, “Now, therefore, be it resolved that the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming include the following: (1) That global warming is a scientific theory than a proven fact; (2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological and ecological dynamics that can effect (sic) world weather phenomena.” 

I think they mean “affect” with an A, not an E, you guys, first of all.  But also - can we just put that second part back up there?  “There are a variety of astrological dynamics that can effect (sic) weather?”  So maybe it keeps getting hotter every year now because we‘re having a hot horoscope? 

The South Dakota House of Representatives is urging public schools to teach that astrology might explain climate change.  It‘s in the stars.  Also, “thermological?”  Anybody who can guess as to what they mean “thermological?”

This resolution actually passed.  They voted on it.  They passed it, which puts the South Dakota House of Representatives in the running for the single-most humiliatingly idiotic thing in the news all week. 

There is competition though from Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, who told videoblogger Mike Stark of “” that black people in America were better off under slavery than they are in America today.  Because you know, abortion is legal now and stuff. 


REP. TRENT FRANKS (R-AZ):  In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long.  And now we look back on it and we say “How brave were they?  What was the matter with them?  You know, I can‘t believe, you know, four million slaves.  This is incredible.” 

And we‘re right, we‘re right.  We should look back on that with criticism.  It is a crushing mark on America‘s soul.  And yet today, half of all black children are aborted.  Half of all black children are aborted.  Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.


MADDOW:  For more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.  Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona solemnly intoning how much better off we were under slavery.  Because you know, the abortion and stuff. 

So there is competition for the single most humiliatingly idiotic thing in the news all week.  And in fact, there is yet more competition.  From Congressman Franks‘ home state legislature in Arizona, where ¾ of the Republicans in the House are birthers.

Three quarters of the Republicans in the House in Arizona have voted to try to force Barack Obama to show them his birth certificate. 

If he wants to be in the ballot for his re-election campaign in Arizona, they demand to see the president‘s birth certificate, which is right here on the screen actually, though I‘m sure they won‘t count that because I am obviously a communist Kenyan from the missile defense agency. 

This is not one kooky guy.  This is 40 of the 90 legislators in the House in Arizona.  It passed the House Committee already.  How do we choose among these?  The competition for the single-most humiliatingly idiotic thing in the news all week was so fierce this week. 

The competition is so fierce this week, there is even a person who is in the running for not a single humiliatingly idiotic thing, but for the accumulated humiliating idiocy of his whole being. 

Kent, I understand we have TMI on someone tonight. 

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Oh, yes.  Hi, Rachel.  You know how some politicians have a filter on what they say?  Iowa Congressman Steve King doesn‘t have one of those.  Take a look. 


(voice over):  What could possibly be scarier than Stephen King? 

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA):  Now, who are we up against?  And I want to define that enemy.  They are liberals.  They are progressives.  They are Che Guevareans.  They are Castro-ites.  They‘re socialists.  More enemies on this list.  Gramsciites - ring anybody‘s bell?  Trotskyites, Maoists, Stalinists, Leninists, Marxists - they‘re all enemies. 

JONES:  How about Iowa‘s eerie conservative Congressman Stephen Arnold “Steve” King?  In his seven years representing Iowa‘s fifth district, one thing has become chillingly clear.  Steve King will say anything. 

KING:  And my wife here lives here with me.  And I can tell you Mr.  Speaker, that she‘s far great being as a civilian in Washington, D.C. than an average civilian in Iraq. 

Mr. Goodell, then I‘d ask you, you know, are you prepared to level the same charges against Fergie and J. Lo?  Or are you prepared to apologize to Rush Limbaugh today? 

It‘s sad that it happened down in Texas.  But by the same token, the IRS is an agency that‘s unnecessary. 

JONES:  Propriety, restraint - what are these compared to Steve King‘s relentless siege against all things not Steve King?  Like immigrants or should I say cattle? 

KING:  We can also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn‘t kill somebody but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it.  We do that with livestock all the time. 


JONES:  Other targets - President Barack Obama, al-Qaeda and dancing, especially in the streets. 

KING:  I will tell you that if he is elected president that the radical Islamists, the al-Qaeda and the radical Islamists and their supporters will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11th

JONES:  Steve King voted against relief funding for Hurricane Katrina, telling “The Hill” newspaper it was the best vote he ever cast.  King was the sole nay vote on the House resolution acknowledging the use of slave labor in the construction of the United States Capitol. 

He said the children‘s health care bill, SCHIP, stood for Socialized, Clinton-style Hillary care for Illegals and their Parents. 

Still, there are things Steve King likes and those are creepy, too.  King voted against increasing penalties for dog-fighting and cockfighting.  On nuclear power, King said, quote, “By the way, if you had been chained to the reactor at three mile island when it started its reactivity, you would have gotten about the equivalent dose of an X-ray.” 

And he called witch-hunting Sen. Joe McCarthy a hero for America. 


JONES:  One final scary thought, Steve King‘s not finished. 

KING:  I‘m making no plans to run for president.  I didn‘t make any plans to run for Congress either. 



MADDOW:  Thank you, Kent.  Much appreciated.  Ah! 

JONES:  Ah! 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin get ready to share the stage at a “take back our country” event. 

Next on our show, our frequent guest Melanie Sloan is the recipient of one extremely valuable package that she totally didn‘t want or expect.  The amazing details, coming up next.


MADDOW:  On Monday night, Melanie Sloan is home making dinner for her family at her house in Washington D.C.  Melanie is the director of CREW - Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 

She‘s been a guest on this show a few times.  You‘ve probably seen her.  A little after 6:00, Monday night, she was making dinner and FedEx drops off a box on her front step.  Her husband opens the box and finds inside another cardboard box all taped up.  Inside that, another box, this time it‘s styrofoam also all taped up. 

Inside that, he finds blown-in insulation.  Inside that he finds a big ball of is Saran wrap.  Inside the big ball of Saran wrap, he finds a big ball of duct tape.  Inside that, he finds more Saran wrap.  Inside that Saran wrap finds coffee grounds? 



WASHINGTON:  When we opened the box, we noticed there was another box inside.  Inside of that was a lot of insulation.  So as soon as I started seeing that, I was pretty nervous and didn‘t want to open it. 

But my husband was very persistent and eventually we opened up the plastic wrap and saw coffee grounds.  And that‘s when I knew it was drugs. 


MADDOW:  Drugs.  Aha.  Like most Americans, Melanie Sloan doesn‘t generally receive anonymous gifts of ground coffee in Saran wrap.  Unlike most Americans, Melanie Sloan is a former assistant U.S. Attorney so she knew exactly what was going to be inside the layer of coffee. 

It turns out it was 33 pounds of pot wrapped in coffee to throw off drug-sniffing dogs.  Melanie then called 911. 


SLOAN:  When cops did arrive at the house, somebody asked me why my German shepherd wasn‘t alerting at the drugs, why she wasn‘t barking.  And I had to explain she wasn‘t in fact a drug dog, just a pet. 


MADDOW:  Turns out this isn‘t that uncommon an occurrence.  D.C.  police told “The Washington Post” today they recover 30 to 40 random drug shipments like this every year.  Dealers, it turns out, stake out homes to find people who aren‘t usually home during the day. 

They get drugs shipped to those addresses.  They use the tracking number to figure out when the stuff is going to be dropped off.  They grab the parcel off the front step before the homeowner comes home and no one is the wiser. 

According to the D.C. cops, it usually works.  But not when snowy streets delay delivery trucks and the goods don‘t arrive home until everybody‘s home from work which is what happened on Monday at Melanie Sloan‘s house. 

And so the snowy winter in Washington, which the right-wing says has disproved climate change, has also proven an effective tactic in the big dumb war on drugs.  Tada. 

That does it for us.  We‘ll see you again Monday night back in New York.  Until then, you can E-mail us  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.  Have a great weekend.  Good night.



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