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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Sen. Sherrod Brown, Bill Halter, Maj. Mike Almy, Frank Rich.

HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  I will admit to an

outright guffaw in the makeup room at the malaise potato chips.


MADDOW:  Yes.  Thanks, Lawrence.  Appreciate it.

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next


Senator Sherrod Brown, “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich, and

Arkansas Lieutenant Governor and Senate hopeful Bill Halter—all ahead.

Plus, a new face of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” fight—a man who you

will not forget after you meet him here tonight.

That is all coming up this hour.

But, first, we keep doing these segments that are called “They‘re Not

Embarrassed,” right?  They‘re about people who have lied or been blatantly

hypocritical in their opposition to policies like the stimulus and health


The reason we keep calling these segments “They‘re Not Embarrassed” is

because that‘s supposed to describe a problem in that people should be

embarrassed when they get caught lying or when they get caught showing

blatant hypocrisy.  But there is a problem here.  They are not.  They‘re


And as the health care reform fight draws to a close, people who want

health reform to not happen are becoming even less afraid and even less

embarrassed about lying about health reform and about demonstrating rank

hypocrisy about health reform.  This problem is not getting any better.  It

turns out that our diagnosis was not at all a cure.

Last night, we highlighted Republican Senator Orrin Hatch‘s untruths

about the health reform process.  He wrote an op-ed that appeared to have

no connection to the fact-based world most of us live in.  Senator Hatch,

in response to that segment, did not dispute anything that we said about

him on last night‘s show.  Senator Hatch did tweet on the matter—not to

correct me, just to say that he thought that my criticizing him was a,

quote, “wonderful badge of honor.”

To be clear, what I said Orrin Hatch did was lie.  He says he‘s

wearing that as a wonderful badge of honor.  I wasn‘t expressing my opinion

about Senator Hatch.  I wasn‘t talking about his opinions about health

reform.  I was catching him in a lie and documenting that he, in fact,


It turns out in response to that he‘s very proud.  Weird.  I know.

But it‘s not just Orrin Hatch.  The Republican leader in the Senate,

Mitch McConnell, responded to the president‘s speech on health reform today

with this whopper of his own.



reconciliation has been used, the results were bipartisan support.


MADDOW:  “Bipartisan support,” he says, virtually every time—

virtually every time.

Except for this time, when it was a 51-50 party line vote, or that

other time when it was a 50-49 party line vote, or that other time when it

was a 52-47 party line vote.

You know, actually, if you look at the past two decades of using

reconciliation in the United States Congress—if you look at the last two

decades, the majority of times it has been used, it has been used for party

line votes.  So, Mitch McConnell told a lie about that today.

I do not take pleasure in saying this—but some of the most

prominent politicians opposed to health reform are just lying about health

reform, lying about the U.S. Senate.  They‘re not embarrassed about being

caught in the lies.  They‘re not even embarrassed about taking brave stands

against their own records, their own positions in order to try to stop

health reform from succeeding.

Take, for example, Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. 

Mr. Gregg went on the FOX News Channel today to decry the use of

reconciliation to pass reform.


SEN. JUDD GREGG ®, NEW HAMPSHIRE:  It‘s bad policy.  And to do it

this way is to really railroad the American people and the Congress.


MADDOW:  Reconciliation railroading the American people and the

Congress—railroading them.  That new Judd Gregg really is not going to

be happy when we introduce him to the old Judd Gregg.


GREGG:  We are using the rules of the Senate here.  That‘s what they

are, Senator.  Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate.  All this rule of

the Senate does is allow a majority of the Senate to take a position and

pass a piece of legislation, support that position.  Now, is there

something wrong with majority rules?  I don‘t think so.


MADDOW:  I don‘t think so.  Wait until this Judd Gregg hears about

what that other Judd Gregg just said, huh?

In their desperation to try to stop health reform by any means

necessary, senators opposed to health reform have repeatedly decided to

take brave stands against themselves.  Now, this desperation is a

manifestation of the mass freak-out by opponents of health reform over the

fact that health reform is close to a done deal.

And it‘s not just the lying and the hypocrisy by politicians who

really ought to know better, it‘s also this—Code Red!  This is not a

Website that we here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW created today in order to

satirize the Republican freak-out over health reform passing.  This is

their actual Web site.  Code Red!

Look at the siren.  You see the siren?  “Alerting America to the

Democrats‘ Health Care takeover!”—exclamation point.  This is a—this

is a new project of the National Republican Congressional Committee.  Code

Red, Code Red, everybody, freak out!

Another symptom of this freak-out is one that actually makes me upset. 

You know how in baseball, if you intentionally bump an umpire, you get

slapped with a pretty big suspension.  On the street, if you assault a

police officer, you end up getting a way worse sentence than if you

assaulted a person who is not a police officer.  The idea is that not that

these people are so much more important than regular citizens, but these

folks, in doing their jobs, represent the system itself.  They represent

the commitment that we in America have to living within some agreed upon


People in our society whose job is to uphold the rules can‘t be

attacked.  That‘s sort of an American value, in everything from our

criminal justice system to sports—which is why even jaded Beltway

insiders recoiled today when Senate Republicans started to attack the

Senate parliamentarian.  Yes.  This is basically the Senate‘s ump, the guy

who calls balls and strikes on how the Senate operates.  He hasn‘t even

ruled on anything related to health care yet, but Republicans are

preemptively bullying the parliamentarian in terms of how he will rule on

procedural matters related to health care.

Republican Senator Jim DeMint warning, “I‘ve got concerns,” and

telling, quote, “I would think that reconciliation would make

or break the perception of his objectivity.”

My friend Senator Orrin Hatch warning, “He‘d be crazy not to follow

the rules and to rule properly.  If he didn‘t do that, he‘d lose all


Another brave anonymous Republican just throwing the evidence-free

insult that “Politico” duly transcribed, quote, “I think most people don‘t

trust him.”

You know, I would normally show you a picture of the guy that they‘re

attacking at this point, but I think that he actually deserves to be left

out of this.  He‘s the parliamentarian.  He‘s a guy who‘s doing his job. 

He hasn‘t even done anything yet in this fight, let alone having done

anything wrong.

The reason health reform opponents are freaking out—code red, code

red—attacking the parliamentarian, lying, denying their own records on

subjects like this, the reason they‘re freaking out is because this process

is almost done.  They‘re desperate.  And it‘s not just my opinion that it

is almost done, president Obama today made clear that this really is almost




reform health insurance last March, in this room, with doctors and nurses

who know the system best.  And so, it‘s fitting to be joined by all of you

as we bring this journey to a close.

Every idea has been put on the table.  Every argument has been made. 

Everything there is to say about health care has been said.


OBAMA:  And just about everybody has said it.


OBAMA:  So, now is the time to make a decision about how to finally

reform health care so that it works.

At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but

our ability to solve any problem.  The American people want to know if it‘s

still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their

future.  They are waiting for us to act.  They are waiting for us to lead. 

And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership.  I

do not know how this plays politically, but I know it‘s right.

And so, I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to

signing this reform into law.


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Senator Brown, thanks very much for making time for us tonight.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO:  Good to be back.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  In terms of the logistics here, the House would need to pass

the Senate version of health reform first.  They are reportedly a little

reluctant to do so until they are satisfied that the Senate really does

have the votes to pass the last fixes to the bill via reconciliation.

Can you assuage those concerns tonight?

BROWN:  Well, yes, I think there‘s—there‘s no question in my mind

that we get somewhere between 52 and 57 votes, something like that, for a

reconciliation that actually improves the bill.

And, you know, I listened, Rachel to your—to all the Republicans

and the old Judd Gregg and the new Judd Gregg and the old Mitchell and all

that.  You know, I tried to understand them better and put myself in their

shoes.  And I think they look back in history and they understand that they

had to explain away their opposition to Medicare for two or three decades,

and it cost them at the polls.

And I think Republicans, the ones that are more—that are more—

have more insight than some of the others, perhaps, understand that they

vote no on this, they‘re going to be explaining it 10 and 20 years from now

as a real bad vote, because this health care bill that we‘re passing is

going to work for the overwhelming majority of Americans.  And so, they‘re

sort of protesting to—protesteth too much in some sense.

And I think they know that—you know, this may help them short-term

in one election, this opposition.  But I think they know, as this bill

takes effect and helps people, helps small business, makes sure nobody‘s

thrown off for pre-existing conditions, or the caps on coverage when they

got real sick and it was real expensive, and people back in 2010 lost their

insurance, that won‘t happen in 2015 and ‘20 -- I think they know this is a

troublesome situation they‘re putting themselves in.  So, they want to keep

pushing back, keep delaying, keep stopping this any way they can.

MADDOW:  Yes.  It seems to me like in terms of political calculus for

the Republicans, the worst situation is if the bill passes and they all

vote no for it.  In the—with the expectation that health reform is going

to actually improve things for average Americans and improve the overall

economic situation with regard to health care.  But Senator McConnell today

started talking about not wanting to tip his hand as to what he had in mind

for stopping health reform.  I understand they‘re desperation to stop it.

Do you know what they‘re going to pull out their hat to try to kill


BROWN:  I think they‘re going to—with reconciliation, they‘re going

to try to do amendments, as many as they can get away with.  And I think we

keep them all here tonight, the next night, the night after, the night

after.  We—if they‘re going to—if they‘re going to try to filibuster

in the traditional sense or in the more modern obstructionist sense that

they do, they‘re going to have to—they‘re going to have—they‘re going

to pain too.  They‘re going to have to stay all night and we‘re going to

have quorum calls and we‘re going to do whatever we need to do to get this

passed within the Senate rules and within fair play.

But that‘s the way we‘ve done it all along.  And I just—you know,

this whole thing when they say, we‘re going to—reconciliation, we‘re

going to turn over 1/7 of the American economy, reconciliation, for one

thing, it‘s a majority vote, as you point, which every other country in the

world runs their parliamentary or their congress by.  But more than that,

the reconciliation part of the bill is small, at the edges, fixing, making

positive changes in the big bill that both houses have already passed and

the Senate with the supermajority of 60 and in the House.

So, this whole thing that we‘re turning to reconciliation—one more

point, when I hear them say they only did little things with

reconciliation.  When I was in the House, the Senate did reconciliation—

when they did reconciliation on tax bills, they took a surplus that was

going to be trillions of dollars and turned it into a deficit—a debt,

which was going to be trillions of dollars.  And they say that was a minor

thing they did with reconciliation?  Nice try on that one, my friends.

MADDOW:  Senator Brown, briefly, one last thing on health reform.  The

current bill before the Senate does not include a public option.  You said

today that you could—you might offer a separate bill that would include

the public option.

How would that work, exactly?  And what sort of support do you think

you‘d get?

BROWN:  Well, my comments that way just meant, I don‘t give up on

this.  I—when Senator Kennedy and Senator Dodd, the acting chair of the

health committee, asked Senator Whitehouse—Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode

Island and me to write the public option bill, we‘ve been working on it

ever since, for seven or eight months.  We‘re going to try to get it in

reconciliation.  If we fail, we‘re going to keep trying and keep trying. 

If it‘s a free stand-alone bill later, I‘m not giving up on this.

And by the time this bill takes effect, this law fully takes effect, I

hope to have the public option included, because it will save money.  It

will keep the insurance companies honest.

The insurance companies always play this game a step ahead of the

sheriff.  And we need the discipline on the market, the discipline on the

insurance companies, and in the choice that so many Americans that are

being told, you‘ve got to buy insurance, we want you to have the option of

buying a public insurance plan that‘s freestanding and can compete toe to

toe with Aetna and Blue Cross and all these other insurance companies.

MADDOW:  Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio—thank you for

your time tonight, sir.  Appreciate it.

BROWN:  Always.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  OK.  So this is the only TV show in America where I am quite

confident that you, the audience, will share my excitement when I tell you

that coming up in our next segment, we have the best graph ever.  Best

graph ever.  Best graph we‘ve ever had.

Admit it!  You are excited for that and you would never hear a tease

like that on any other show ever.  It‘s OK.  Just give in to your inner


Give in.  Just let it go.  Let it go.


MADDOW:  “The New York Times” columnist Frank Rich is our guest here

in studio, next.  Stay tuned.


MADDOW:  There‘s big news out of the Texas primary results.  The tea

party and Ron Paul-supported candidate for governor, a woman named Debra

Medina, had a very respectful showing for someone whose platform with the

governor who maybe wants to secede from the Union isn‘t right wing enough. 

Miss Medina got more than 18 percent of the vote.  In other words, nearly

one in five voters in the Republican primary in Texas voted for her—

compare that to the 31 percent won by Kay Bailey Hutchison, a recognized

sitting U.S. senator.

Also, a pair of tea party races in down ballot races actually defeated

or forced runoffs with Republican incumbents.

But as America continues to try to figure out in what direction the

Republican Party is going, what the GOP‘s path out of the political

wilderness is going to be, we‘re left with electoral results like that on

the one hand, but also something that the great Chris Hayes mentioned on

this show yesterday.  Chris, in our interview last night, pointed out that

before Senator Jim Bunning‘s one-man stand against unemployment benefits

came crashing down last night, Kentucky Senate candidate, Rand Paul, the

son of Congressman Ron Paul, attended a rally, celebrating Senator Bunning

and his brave obstructionist stand yesterday afternoon outside Senator

Bunning‘s Lexington, Kentucky offices.

And it‘s not just Rand Paul.  All three of the Republicans who are

looking to replace Senator Bunning endorsed what Senator Bunning did in the

Senate this week.  The folks celebrating Jim Bunning are seeing him as an

anti-government, anti-spending activist.

But to embrace Jim Bunning is to embrace a strange record, if you

really are a libertarian, if you really are a deficit hawk, if you really

care about spending and responsibility.  I mean, sure, Jim Bunning

quixotically blocked this one bill that involved spending money, but look

at Jim Bunning‘s record.

As we pointed out last night, Senator Bunning‘s been voting to add

billions to the deficit for years, including many, many, many, many, many,

many, many votes for bills like the one that he was roadblocking this week

weren‘t paid for—votes like the 2001 Bush tax cuts, the 2003 Bush tax

cuts, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the 2003 extension of

unemployment benefits, the 2008 war supplemental bill, just to cherry-pick

a few.

Here‘s something to keep in mind, as Republican senators continue to

argue against reconciliation to pass health reform, as the Republican Party

as a whole to tries to capitalize on the conservative uprising in the

streets and in the conservative movement, as the tea partiers themselves

continue to shout about how much they care about the deficit, how anti-

spending they are—here‘s the facts.  This is—this is something I want

you to look at here.  This is the historical truth from the Congressional

Budget Office.  This is their numbers.

This is a graph that in constant dollars shows three different

measures and their effect on the budget.  That first one, the one that goes

way, way, way down there—that represents the 2001 Bush tax cuts, passed,

of course, using budget reconciliation.  That was the effect on the budget

and the deficit.  The second bar, the one that also goes way, way, way down

represents the second Bush tax cuts, also passed using budget

reconciliation.  And that last bar, the one that actually has a positive

net effect on the budget and the deficit, that‘s the health reform bill

that was passed by the Senate.  That‘s what it is projected to do.

So, which one of those are the so-called deficit hawks railing against

now?  Does any of this make sense?

Joining us now is “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich.

Mr. Rich, thank you so much for being here.

FRANK RICH, NEW YORK TIMES:  Great to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I‘m so excited about that graph, I can hardly stand it.


MADDOW:  I just feel, sometimes—

RICH:  It‘s a great graph, yes.

MADDOW:  Well, sometimes you spend weeks and months talking about

something and then you look at one picture and it‘s like, right, that makes

it clear.

Where is the dividing line between the Republican Party and the sort

of the conservative uprising that you wrote about in your column this week,

the tea party movement?

RICH:  I think there‘s a huge dividing line.  I think it‘s to the

peril of the establishment Republican Party.  I think the tea party people

a lot of them, it‘s hard to generalize about them—realize exactly

what‘s in that graph.  They associate the George Bush, John McCain, Mitch

McConnell, John Boehner Republican Party with deficits.  They may have been

tax cuts that they like, they may not know the fine points, but they‘re not

inviting those people to those rallies.


They rally around Bunning for 10 minutes because he‘s a lame duck

who‘s suddenly became, you know, a deficit hawk for 10 minutes at the end


MADDOW:  And you think they rally around him out of ignorance of his


RICH:  Yes, I think they just rally around what he did this past week.


RICH:  That‘s it.  And they don‘t—he‘s a symbol.  I mean, he‘s

going to be going anyway.  He‘s out of office.

But the fact is that the—Rand Paul, for instance, doesn‘t have the

blessing of Mitch McConnell in his own state.  And I think they hate the

Republicans.  They hate all of Washington.  They may hate Obama more, but

they hate that establishment party.

MADDOW:  When you described that movement as counter-conservative in

your column this week, that sort of jumped out at me because I feel like in

some small “c” way, it is a conservative movement, but you think it‘s—

well, what did you mean by counter-conservative?

RICH:  Well, in some ways, it‘s almost like in the ‘60s on the left,

it‘s kind of countercultural to official establishment conservatism which

they feel has sold them out.  If you‘re a true libertarian and you‘re

really anti-government and you don‘t even want Medicare, you know, you

don‘t even want government to spend money on Medicare, then you don‘t like

the Republican Party in Washington that‘s now, you know, positioning

themselves as a champion of Medicare.  And you don‘t like Bush giving a

huge entitlement program and prescription drugs and all the rest of it.

So, I think they‘re counter to the official conservatism of the GOP.

MADDOW:  I wonder what happens to—there is a libertarian party in

this country.

RICH:  Right.

MADDOW:  And I wonder what happens to them and the people who have

actually been the very small, sort of, rump of the conservative movement

that really have been libertarian all this time, if they‘re able to

capitalize on this.  At this point, it seems like there‘s so much friction

between the Republican Party trying to call these folks their own, but then

the Republican Party‘s own record leaving such a bad taste in the mouths of

the tea party folks that it‘s not gelling, it‘s not working.

RICH:  I agree.  And I think you saw the split in the CPAC convention

in Washington, where, first of all, Ron Paul won the straw poll.


RICH:  Second, if you look down deeply in that poll, you find the

issues are sort of where the old right, like same-sex marriage, don‘t even

register as important.  There‘s a huge libertarian and youthful libertarian

component, and they want nothing to do with this Republican establishment. 

Will they gain as a party from it?  Probably not.  But there‘s a lot of

chaos in this whole sort of tea party conservatism.

MADDOW:  The one thing that seems useful about it to me for Democratic

prospects is that it does, if tea partiers start really making an impact in

the Republican Party, and if there is an electoral effect running against

beside the record of George Bush, as you described it, John McCain and

others, that unifies Democrats, because it gets Democrats—Democrats are

just as comfortable running against George Bush as they are running against

an “abolish Medicare, abolish Social Security” true libertarian agenda.  I

actually think, in the long run, this probably splits conservatives and

puts Democrats in a very good position.

RICH:  I think it does.  In a typical state, Texas may not be a

typical state in many ways, but in a typical state, if the far-right

candidate wins, the tea party candidate wins, that only helps Democrats in

the terms of independents.  At the same time, if a tea party candidate

loses, that energized base may not—may not turn out for John McCain.

MADDOW:  Right.

RICH:  Or Charlie Crist, should they triumph in their primaries.

So, it‘s kind of a win-win situation for Democrats, which isn‘t to

underestimate the Democrats‘ ability to screw it all up.


MADDOW:  It‘s a win-win situation for Democrats, I think,

strategically, provided that Democrats have some enthusiasm on their side.

RICH:  Right.  And they have to get it because, right now, it‘s not

clear what their program is, and as we‘ve seen in the health care debate

you‘ve been talking about, there‘s a lot of sort of cowardice and

quibbling.  And so, they have to rally their own side, too.  And that‘s not

happening right now.

MADDOW:  On the Democratic side, because they are the governing

parties.  I think the way they have to energize their base is very hard. 

They need to pass health care reform, pass Wall Street reform, pass cap and

trade, do—you know, get a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, all this

stuff.  It‘s hard to do.

RICH:  And they‘ve got to do at least some of it.  And so far, they

haven‘t done much of it.

MADDOW:  Yes.  We shall see.

Frank Rich, “New York Times” columnist—it‘s always such a pleasure

to have you here.  Thanks very much.

RICH:  Great to see you.

MADDOW:  Nice to see you.

RICH:  Thanks a lot.

MADDOW:  Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln has so agitated liberals

with her persistent conservadem-itude that her primary opponent, her more

liberal primary opponent, has raised roughly $4 million or $5 million to

challenge her for the nomination since Monday.  That man, Lieutenant

Governor Bill Halter joins us for “The Interview”—next.


MADDOW:  Last summer, Blanche Lincoln wrote an op-ed for the “Arkansas

Democrat Gazette,” saying that she was all in favor of a public option for

health reform. Sen. Lincoln wrote, “Individuals should be able to choose

from a range of quality health insurance plans.  Options should include

private plans as well as a quality affordable public plan or non-profit

plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan.”

That was in the summer.  That was in July.  By September, Sen.

Lincoln had completely changed her mind, saying that she would not vote for

a public option.  Then by November, Sen. Lincoln was not only in longer in

favor of a public option, she was not only going to vote against a public


By November, she was going to vote with Republicans to filibuster

a public option, not only completing her flip-flop, but doing so in a way

that would prohibit the rest of the senators in her party who supported a

public option from even having the opportunity to vote on it. 

Sen. Lincoln is also against the Employee Free Choice Act, which

makes it easier for people to join unions.  She‘s also joined with

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to make it illegal for the EPA to

regulate carbon emissions. 

She also joined the Republican filibuster against President

Obama‘s nominee for the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker.  And

Sen. Lincoln‘s contribution to the last televised senator sit-down with the

president was to ask him what he was going to do to push back on all those

darned extremists in the Democratic Party. 


SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D-AR):  Are we willing, as Democrats, not only

to reach out to Republicans, but to push back in our own party for people

who want extremes. 


MADDOW:  Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a Democrat, but it is no longer a

sure thing that she is the person who the Democratic Party will have as

their nominee for the Senate seat she now olds in Arkansas. 

Joining us now is the lieutenant governor of Arkansas.  He is

mounting a primary challenge against Sen. Lincoln as of this week, Lt. Gov.

Bill Halter.  It‘s very nice to meet you.  Thank you for joining us, sir. 

LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D-AR):  Thanks very much, Rachel.  It‘s great to

be with you. 

MADDOW:  What‘s your biggest concern with Sen. Lincoln?  What‘s the

single most important reason you decided to run against her in this


HALTER:  Well, I think I‘d express it differently, Rachel.  I‘m

running for the United States Senate to put Washington back on the side of

middle class Arkansas families.  I‘ve never viewed this as running against

any particular individual, but in terms of running for the office. 

Now, there are areas where Sen. Lincoln and I disagree.  I could

point out one right off the bat.  I never would have voted for a Wall

Street bailout bill without stricter accountability.  And I think we‘re

seeing how that‘s coming home to roost now as we spend hundreds of billions

of dollars bailing out financial institutions. 

And at the same time, the unemployment is at a 25-year high and

we have not seen the relaxation in credit that small businesses need.  And

at the same time that all that‘s going on, my fellow Arkansans and I wake

up and we see tens of billions of dollars being paid in bonuses to Wall

Street executives. 

That‘s just one of many areas where folks here in Arkansas are

pretty frustrated with what‘s going on in Washington.  We‘re going to talk

about that during this campaign. 

MADDOW:  Mr. Halter, one of the issues, of course, that has brought a

lot of attention to this race nationally is health care. 

HALTER:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Sen. Lincoln‘s campaign is saying that you have been all over

the map on the specific issue of the public option.  They say you‘ve

answered the question, “Do you support the public option” six different

ways.  So I‘ve got to ask you, what is your opinion on the public option

and what do you make of that criticism? 

HALTER: Well, let me just say this - I‘ve answered that question six

times in pretty much the same way and I‘ll answer it again the seventh time

for you.  If ask 100 Arkansans about the phrase, “the public option,” or “a

public option,” you‘ll get 100 different impressions about what that means. 

There‘s been so miscommunication and so much, actually,

distortion of it, and a lot of it over our airwaves down here.  Let me tell

you what I favor.  I favor the public having an option to voluntarily buy

into a program like Medicare. 

And I said that in all six of those interviews that Sen.

Lincoln‘s campaign is referencing.  And I think I‘ve said it pretty clearly

to you here tonight. 

MADDOW:  If that was the sort of proposal, if you were in the Senate

right now and that was the sort of proposal that was put up under a vote

that took place under reconciliation rules, would you support it?  Would

you vote for it? 

HALTER:  Yes.  And I think this whole idea that somehow reconciliation

is somehow a bad process or a rigged process or a new process that‘s geared

just for these circumstances is totally undermined by the facts. 

Reconciliation has been used under Republican presidential

administrations, Democratic presidential administrations.  It‘s been used

when Democrats control the Congress.  It‘s been used when Republicans

control the Congress. 

And, in fact, a great many different reforms and changes to our

health care delivery system had been passed through reconciliation. 

MADDOW:  Lt. Gov. Halter, a ton of people have pledged a ton of money

to you since you announced, in a very short time, and a lot of that money

has come from unions.  Unions, of course, have been very frustrated by Sen.

Lincoln‘s very strong anti-union stance.  Would you support card check, the

Employee Free Choice Act to make it easier for people to join unions? 

HALTER:  Well, I want to clarify the money thing in just a minute,

Rachel.  But let me answer your question.  I‘ve talked to labor leaders. 

I‘ve talked to business leaders.  I‘ve talked to folks on all sides of this

particular issue. 

And the fact is that the debate and the discussion is moving

beyond the initial card check legislation.  What is being discussed now and

what‘s being discussed as a compromise is a compromise bill that would

allow for faster elections. 

It would put some tighter restrictions upon the ability to harass

or intimidate workers as they make a decision to - whether or not to

collectively bargain, and they would do that through the normal Democratic

process.  I‘m looking forward to seeing the specific language emerge, but I

will tell you that those two concepts I do support. 

Now, about the money, because you brought that up.  You know, we

have been very fortunate that over $1 million has been raised in

contributions to my campaign in less than 60 hours since the campaign

launched.  The average size of those contributions has been around $30 per


You mentioned contributions by labor unions.  That‘s actually not

to my campaign.  It has become public and it‘s been released that some

folks are talking about independent efforts.  But I‘m not in coordination

with that, nor is my campaign.  And so we‘ve raised just north of $1


Sen. Lincoln has raised $7 million.  And so I would say to all

those folks out there that would like to see someone take on special

interests and go straight at them that we still need your help and we need

it greatly.  And I‘m very grateful for those folks that have contributed. 

MADDOW:  Arkansas Lieutenant Governor and Democratic Senate candidate,

Bill Halter.  Sir, good luck with your campaign.  Thank you for joining us. 

I appreciate your time. 

HALTER:  Thanks, Rachel, very much.

MADDOW:  I should also note that our invitation to Sen. Blanche

Lincoln still stands and we‘re looking forward, hopefully, to having her on

the show very shortly. 

When Sen. John McCain says that the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy is

working, he means that he endorses what our next guest went through, when

he was fired after 13 years in the United States Air Force while he was

deployed in Iraq.  Major Michael Almy joins us next.  You do not want to

meet missing this gentleman.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  In their effort to win back the House in 2006, Democrats ran

in part on the promise that they would drain the swamp in Washington.  In

other words, that they‘d clean up corruption and graft and ethics


Four years later, with some ethics reforms passed and the swamp

waters lowered, it looks like we can see - is that - I think it might be. 

Oh, yes, it‘s Congressman Charlie Rangel, chairman of the powerful Ways and

Means Committee. 

A House ethics panel has found that Mr. Rangel violated conduct

standards when he attended a corporate-sponsored getaway in the Bahamas in

2007 and 2008, a big no-no, clearly. 

But the whole iceberg, it is not.  The ethics panel also

investigating Mr. Rangel‘s ownership of rent-controlled apartments in New

York City, as well as his not paying taxes on an offshore rental property

and his use of official congressional letterhead to solicit donations for a

public policy center that would have born his name. 

So while those investigations continue, Charlie Rangel has now

asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to grant him a leave of absence as

chairman of Ways and Means.  The speaker has granted the Congressman‘s


And now, California Congressman Pete Stark will likely take over

the gavel in Mr. Rangel‘s absence.  Now Congressman, not chairman, Rangel,

denies all wrong doing.  For example, he says he did not even know these

Bahamian trips were sponsored by AT & T, Pfizer, Citibank, HSBC and IBM. 

He even says he didn‘t know what HSBC was.  For the record, HSBC

is one of the biggest banks in the world.  Pleading ignorance about that

might be a good way to avoid letter of the law ethics charges.  It is

probably not a good way to make your case that you should still be heading

up the most important money-related committee in the whole Congress.   


MADDOW:  A quick clarification about the way in which some senators

are publicly backing the return of the public option to health reform. 

Last night we reported that the number of senators in this pro-public

option camp had surged to 34, including newcomers senators Mark Udall of

Colorado, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Ted Kaufman

of Delaware. 

We said that these four had added their names to Sen. Michael

Bennet‘s letter, calling for the public option to be voted on under

reconciliation rules, which means it could pass with 50 votes. 

In fact, while these four senators issued statements supporting

the proposal described in the letter, they did not actually sign the letter

itself.  So I‘m sorry for the confusion on how those four senators

expressed their support. 

But the fact remains 34 senators are now publicly calling for a

return of the public option by a means by which it really could be

achieved.  Tada!



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ):  My opinion is shaped by the view of the

leaders of the military.  The reason why I supported the policy to start

with was because Gen. Colin Powell, who was then the chairman of the Joint

Chiefs-of-Staff, is the one that strongly recommended we adopt this policy

in the Clinton administration.  I have not heard Gen. Powell or any of the

other military leaders reverse their position.


MADDOW:  That was Sen. John McCain speaking this past summer,

describing his position on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  A month ago, Gen.

Powell did reverse his position.  So that seems straightforward, right? 

Sen. McCain had said he supported the policy in the first place

because Colin Powell supported it.  He was waiting to see if Colin Powell

would change his mind about that.  Then Colin Powell changed his mind and

John McCain says he still likes “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

He said on “Meet the Press” this weekend that the policy is

working, which is the same argument that he and other proponents of the

policy have been trying to make since it‘s been clear that the Obama

administration is going to repeal this policy. 


MCCAIN:  Has this policy been ideal?  No, it has not.  But it has been


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL):  I think the rule of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t

Tell” has seemed to work pretty well. 

MCCAIN:  It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension

between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all-

volunteer force.  It has sustained unit cohesion and unit morale. 


MADDOW:  Today, in the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman

“you lie” Joe Wilson explained what proponents of keeping the anti-gay

policy mean when they say that the policy is working. 


REP. JOE WILSON (R-SC):  During fiscal year 1999 through fiscal year

2008, eight of those years being wartime years, the military service

separated more than 1.9 million people - 8,300 of those, less than one-half

of one percent, were a result of Section 654. 

That‘s about 800 people being discharged per year.  And unless

you contradict me, that is not a significant loss from an overall DOD

manpower perspective. 


MADDOW:  Not a significant loss from a manpower perspective.  The

military is only losing 800 troops a year.  That‘s, what, only one - what,

two or three service people a day.  Two or three troops a day.  Who cares,


Meet one of them.  Former Air Force Major Mike Almy.  He served

the United States Air Force for 13 years, including four tours of duty in

the Middle East. 

It was during the height of the insurgency in Iraq in 2006 when

the Air Force decided to spend its manpower searching through Maj. Almy‘s

private E-mails to try to figure out if he might secretly be gay, even

though he‘d never told anyone in the military ever about his sexual

orientation, and he had therefore never violated the “don‘t tell” part of

the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell Policy.” 

At a press conference in favor of repealing the policy today,

Maj. Almy described what happened next. 



led those nearly 200 men and women into deployment into Iraq where my team

came under daily mortar attacks as they were controlling the air space over


During this deployment, I was named one of the top officers in my

career field for the entire Air Force.  In Iraq during the height of the

insurgency, the Air Force conducted a search of my private E-mails, solely

to determine if I had violated “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” and to gather

whatever evidence they could against me. 

I was relieved of my duties, leaving nearly 200 airmen.  My

security clearance was suspended.  Part of my pay was terminated and I was

forced to endure a grueling 16-month legal ordeal before I was ultimately

discharge from the Air Force. 

On my final day of active duty, I was given a police escort from

the base as if I were a common criminal or threat to national security. 


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Maj. Mike Almy who was on Capitol Hill

today with a group of senators announcing new legislation to repeal “Don‘t

Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  Mr. Almy, thank you very much for your time today. 

ALMY:  Thank you for having me tonight, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So you were discharged in 2006. 

ALMY:  Correct. 

MADDOW:  I know this is the first time you‘ve talked about it on

television.  Why have you decided to come forward in this way now and tell

your story? 

ALMY:  For a variety of reasons.  There‘s tremendous momentum that is

going on right now, in the House as well as the Senate, and also the

Pentagon and the administration. 

There‘s a great deal of movement right now and an impetus to

finally get this ball rolling forward, partly through the Senate, the great

staffers there, as well as in the House. 

There‘s also several key organizations that have been working

hard behind us, Service Members United, Service Members Legal Defense

Network as well as the Human Rights Campaign. 

I know several of these people, and they know me, they knew my

story and they had asked me to come forward at this time to tell it.  So I

said yes.  I was more than happy to play whatever small part I could in

this movement to finally end this discrimination. 

MADDOW:  The inertia that‘s pushing against that momentum has been

voiced by people like Sen. John McCain and Congressman Joe Wilson, arguing

that losing a few troops a day to this policy doesn‘t matter from a

manpower standpoint, that “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is working.  What‘s your

reaction to that argument? 

ALMY:  I kind of scratch my head and just - I don‘t understand it. 

We‘ve recruited convicted felons and brought them into the military. 

We have brought in drug dealers, people who have made terrorist

threats.  And yet we continue to turn away qualified capable men and women

who will only want to serve their country. 

It astounds me the loss of manpower that we have thrown away in

our country, thousands of people, as well as taking it personally.  When

they say that that number is acceptable, that is me that they‘re talking


MADDOW:  Some people who want to keep the policy have argued

specifically that it shouldn‘t be repealed now specifically because we are

at war.  That‘s part of the reason that your story is so incredible. 

You were relieved of duty while deployed in Iraq.  Can you talk

about the impact on the mission on the folks you were working with there of

your getting fired? 

ALMY:  It had a tremendous impact after I was fired.  I was working in

an absolutely amazing squadron.  The people there were just incredible. 

They were highly dedicated, highly trained. 

They worked very hard at getting the mission done and were very

successful at that.  We had strong unit cohesion, in other words.  After I

was fired, it had a complete disruption to the unit, to the cohesion, to

the mission.  There was a lot of chaos, a lot of confusion. 

I was replaced by an officer who was very junior to me, and who,

quite frankly, just wasn‘t adequately prepared for the job.  And as a

result, the mission suffered and so did the unit cohesion. 

MADDOW:  I know that you served 13 years before you were fired under

this policy.  You‘ve been in the private sector now for three years.  If

you could still serve, would you? 

ALMY:  Absolutely, I will be one of the first people, if not the first

person, to go back in.  And there‘s no greater desire than I have right now

to go back into the Air Force as an officer and a leader. 

It‘s what I was born to do.  It‘s what I was called to do.  I

come from a family with a strong military background, and I miss it


MADDOW:  Do you think that the military, the Defense Department needs

nine months to study this? 

ALMY:  I don‘t, to be perfectly honest with you.  I think they could

shorten that quite a bit.  I do believe that they need time to develop a

strategy to deal with implementation, certainly, that they need a little

time to prepare for that. 

Concurrently, Congress can go ahead and move this legislation

forward as the Pentagon is studying how to deal with repeal.  I‘m not sure

that they need nine months, but we‘ll see. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the specific grounds on which you were

discharged, one of the things we know about your case is you actually don‘t

seem to have violated the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy.  You didn‘t tell

anybody you were gay. 

It was a bit of a witch hunt.  They went through your E-mails for

other reasons, found things they didn‘t like, and then decided to

investigate you.  Is it your understanding under the sort of interim

softening of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” that Sec. Gates has proposed that

under those rules now, you may not have been kicked out if that had

happened today? 

ALMY:  That‘s what I understand.  From the announcement that Sec.

Gates made when he testified last month before Congress, when he wanted to

get rid of the so-called third party outings, I believe it would have had a

direct bearing upon my case. 

And in all likelihood, I would still be in active duty.  I

probably would have been promoted and certainly would have gone on to

finish my successful career. 

MADDOW:  Maj. Mike Almy, discharged from the military because of the

“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” policy, thank you for speaking out and for joining

us tonight, sir.  I appreciate it. 

ALMY:  Thank you for having me tonight, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” when presidents co-mingle,

“‘s” very funny presidential reunion.  That‘s coming up on

“COUNTDOWN” and we will be right back.


MADDOW: Thank you for joining us tonight.  That about does it for our

show.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  Until then, you can E-mail

us.  Our E-mail address is

I can tell you, honestly, we do actually read your E-mails.  It‘s

true.  Real humans read your E-mails.  Our podcast is also available at

iTunes or at 

“COUNTDOWN” starts right now.  Have a great night. 




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