Guest: Ezra Klein
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Keith. Appreciate it.
In the next hour, we will be talking about the president‘s Oval Office address that starts with a recap coming up momentarily. And then we will be joined by Ezra Klein to talk about the policy implications and the politics.
We‘ll also take a listen to oil company CEOs essentially admitting their own negligence on Capitol Hill today.
Also, a new documentary draws direct lines between far-right conspiratorial conservatism of the black and white news reel past and the current, sometimes entertaining state of America‘s right-wing. Our friend, Chris Matthews, is the host of that documentary and he‘ll be here tonight.
Plus, the single best thing that has been written yet, having anything at all to do with World Cup soccer has to do with Kim Jong-Il. We will bring you that in its entirety.
All that to come and much, much more.
But we do begin tonight with the White House‘s dramatic decision to put the president in the Oval Office where he just finished addressing the American people for the first time from that solemn setting, talking about the crisis in the Gulf. Despite all the political speculation today that the speech might be an effort to turn the BP oil disaster into momentum, to try to get an energy bill passed in the Senate, that is not what the president‘s speech ended up being mostly about.
And I do not think that it is what it will be mostly remembered for. I think it will be probably remembered most for the—not actually moving, but more sobering spectacle of the president of the United States saying essentially that a big part of the solution to the unfolding crisis in the Gulf may be prayer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region‘s fishermen take part of a tradition that was brought to America long time ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It‘s called “The Blessing of the Fleet.” And today, it‘s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea, some for weeks at a time.
The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago—at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.
And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that he is with us always,” a blessing that‘s granted even in the midst of the storm.
The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through—what has always seen us through—is our strength, our resilience and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.
Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people. And we pray that a hand may guide us through a storm towards a brighter day.
Thank you, God bless you, and my God bless the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Presidents always, if not often, always—well, I think as far as I can remember, always end Oval Office speeches with something like “God bless, America.” It‘s true.
But presidents don‘t always end speeches like this with the way we‘re going to get through this is with prayer, especially in an ongoing crisis that is not over yet. That sort of a call is by definition not a hopeless way to look at the BP oil disaster, but it‘s not exactly a plan either.
In terms of concrete announcements about what the administration has done and what it expects to do in trying to end this crisis, the president bragged on the number of boats and the number of national guardsmen and the miles of boom that have been deployed to the Gulf Coast, and he promised that BP‘s effort to cap the well at the seabed would, quote, “in the coming days and weeks, capture up to 90 percent of the oil that is leaking out of the well.”
That‘s cold comfort, of course, to those who are already dealing with the oil that has already leaked out of the well that isn‘t being boomed right, and isn‘t being skimmed right, and isn‘t being cleaned up right, and isn‘t being kept off the shore. And when it gets to the shore, it isn‘t being taken off the shore right either.
Although the focus of the speech was not a clarion call for an energy bill, the president did make the case that we need both regulation and a new approach to energy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: One of the lessons we‘ve learned from the spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risks. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world‘s oil but have less than 2 percent of the world‘s oil reserves. And that‘s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean—because we‘re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we talked and talked about the need to end America‘s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with a sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked—not only by oil industry lobbyist, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.
The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America‘s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
You know, when I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill—a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America‘s businesses.
So, I‘m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party
as long as they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.
But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet.
You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny—our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we‘re unsure exactly what that looks like, even if we don‘t yet precisely know how we‘re going to get there, we know we‘ll get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you feeling the national capacity to shape our destiny? Are you feeling it tonight? Are you feeling it in the middle of this crisis?
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post.”
Ezra, thank you very much for coming on the show and helping us respond to this speech. Appreciate your time.
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good evening.
MADDOW: You wrote today that President Obama‘s job tonight was not necessarily to get 60 votes for energy reform, but to make the best possible case for energy reform before the American people. Do you think he did that?
KLEIN: I don‘t. I think that he made a gesture towards a good case towards energy reform, but tonight was not a persuasive case. He didn‘t attempt to offer one. The only time he mentioned the word “climate” was in a compliment to the House for passing a bill. He didn‘t mention the word “climate change” or “global warming.”
There‘s a worrying sort of polling conclusion they‘ve come to that the actual problems here, climate change and global warming, don‘t poll well enough to talk about. And that creates a very evasive sort of explanation of this issue, in so far as he‘s offering those restraints, he did an OK job, things like clean energy and ensuring that we hold these industries from China and India are very popular. But they don‘t necessarily get you going where they need to go.
And so, the one big thing you could see here was an echo of the health care rhetoric, that inactions too costly, and he won‘t accept failure and he‘ll listen to other solutions as long as they solve the problem. But he didn‘t say what the problem was and he didn‘t say what success would be. And so, it‘s very hard to say what the follow through on the speech will be.
MADDOW: I‘m notorious for having my—for having my finger nowhere near the pulse of the American people. I would make a horrible politician. I‘m not great at sort tapping of into conventional wisdom, I think.
But I have to say that—it is my sense that hearing talk right now about climate change and global warming would not necessarily be motivating for the American people. If the idea is to get the American people psyched about a new energy policy so much so that they can move politicians who have been recalcitrant on the issue, I don‘t think the idea of global warming is what would do it. I think the idea of environmental catastrophe is what would do it.
This doesn‘t—this particular disaster seems to be like a clarion call on the issue of environmental risk and the unregulated nature of the oil companies that we‘re all sort of slaves to, and a desire to do things in a way that‘s just going to be safer, even if you don‘t have to be persuaded about global warming. That‘s the case that I actually expected, and I just felt like there wasn‘t even a gesture towards that.
KLEIN: I don‘t disagree at all. I think, the last couple of years, we‘ve had a seminar in this country on the nature of risk, right? The nature of things we can see coming thought they‘re not necessarily going to happen right now—things like the financial crisis coming out of a housing bubble, things like a massive spill in a well drilling a mile underneath the ocean.
When you can pretty much predict that something will go wrong, eventually, it tends to do so. And we‘ve learned that we let it go wrong, we often don‘t have the technical or economic capacity to handle it. Climate change is at a remarkably, remarkably scale. And he didn‘t make that case either.
I agree, nobody wants to hear about global warming or climate change, but it gets to be a problem if you‘re trying to sell what‘s going to be at the end of the day a somewhat difficult policy. We really do need to price carbon and move away from the way we do our energy economy right now. If you‘re not willing to say one problem, being global warming or climate change, or another problem being, letting these risks balloon at us, and you‘re instead trying to sort of sell it in a friendly but vague way—that works when you‘re already there, when you‘re at the finish line. I don‘t think it works to take a country that isn‘t quite there yet and move them.
This was not a speech about moving them. It was a BP oil spill speech. It was not a “What do we do with this fossil fuel dependence” speech. He‘s not given that one yet.
KLEIN: And it‘s not clear if he will.
MADDOW: Ezra, let me ask you to contrast what we saw tonight with another politician who spoke a couple of weeks ago, already deep into the BP oil disaster. Another politician, different from the one we saw tonight, who gave a speech in Pittsburgh—gave a speech in Pittsburgh in which he made a very, very different pitch. Here‘s the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill. And there‘s currently a plan in the Senate. And Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months. I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can. I will work with anyone to get this done—and we will get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He did say some of those same words tonight, but it seemed like a very different guy. Could some combination of the guy we saw tonight and the guy we saw two weeks ago in Pittsburgh actually make some progress here?
KLEIN: Possibly. So, there are two things I think are important about tonight‘s speech. One is that it was about BP oil, right? I think a lot of policy wonks wanted him to really talk about climate change and talk about pricing carbon. But this was about the BP oil spill and the political problems therein and the feeling of anxiety in the country over it. So, it was never, in some ways, going to be the speech I think you or I wanted.
The second thing is that since that speech he gave in Pittsburgh, the situation has somewhat absurdly deteriorated for energy legislation in the Senate. Murkowski tried to bar the EPA from regulating carbon which the Supreme Court said it had to do, and got 47 votes for it, which is pretty worrying. And then Lindsey Graham abandoned a bill—a climate bill that he helped write with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman.
So, I don‘t—I don‘t argue that Barack Obama has some sort of magic wand he can wave or magic speech he can give to get 60 when it doesn‘t exist.
What I do think is that in American politics, there‘s got to be a place in between you‘ve got 60 for your bill and you don‘t have 60 for you your bill so you‘re not going to do it—a sort of a persuasive, explanatory place where you can go before the American people on level with them and say, listen, to the best of my understanding and knowledge, we have a problem here and we need to at least try to act on it. And if you fail at that, you fail.
But I‘m not sure he‘s quite—he‘s quite at that place yet. It didn‘t—I wasn‘t convinced that after the speech that the next cycle in American politics would be about really serious carbon and energy legislation.
MADDOW: Yes. And I think what you‘re talking about there is not just explanatory. I think it can also be emotionally satisfying. What‘s happening in the country right now is that we all feel helpless and we feel like we‘re not shaping our destiny—to be able to say, this is what we can do to shape our destiny, this is what I think we should all work on now in order to make some progress here, I think, could have actually been cathartic—a missed opportunity perhaps.
KLEIN: We‘ve been a prisoner to catastrophe in this country for about two years now. And that‘s been, I think, a rough psychological thing to go through. And so, I think you‘re right when you say that people don‘t want to hear about global warming or they don‘t want to hear about climate change.
But it may be—and as you say, a little bit cathartic to say we can do something about these problems, we can make this happen. And he did try to move on that rhetoric. He did try to say that we‘ve, you know, taken on these great tasks in the past.
I do just worry, I think that Barack Obama has generally been at his best when he‘s willing to sit down and level and talk to the American people as if they are true grown-ups who want to understand these issues. He‘s good at it at certain points late in the health care game, and I think he could be good at it here, too. I just don‘t think they‘ve gotten to the point where they feel their backs are against the wall enough to try.
MADDOW: Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post,” who I always find it cathartic to talk to you—thank you, Ezra. I really appreciate it.
KLEIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: On Capitol Hill today, the top five oil executives in the world struggled to explain their industry‘s total inability to handle the environmental devastation they have wrought, and while they fiddled, the public burned and bermed and boomed and barged and did whatever it could to clean up private industry‘s giant mess. That‘s coming up next.
And later, what does Harry Reid‘s Republican Senate opponent mean exactly when she says, quote, “What we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” We will talk violence and violent rhetoric with my colleague Chris Matthews, who has a new documentary out on “The Rise of the New Right.”
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: The titans of America‘s oil industry have enjoyed an uninterrupted flow of profits until they produced an uninterrupted flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and onto the shores of surrounding communities. As the oil industry explained its mess to Congress today, the people on the shore scrambled on their own to try to clean it up. Please stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: A mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn‘t work, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, pick me, pick me, pick me.
Problems you want to hear about, there‘s plenty about the response to the BP oil disaster that is not working. And today, the CEOs of Exxon, Chevron, Shell Oil, Conoco Philips, and BP America heard about some of those problems from Congress. All of those executives from the top five oil companies in the country were summoned up to Capitol Hill today to answer for what their industry has wrought in the Gulf—and ended up being one of those oddly satisfying days of congressional hearings when the stuff that ought to get asked actually gets asked. Stuff like hey, oil industry executives why exactly are you still using technology from the 1960s to clean up a spill in 2000s?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOIS CAPPS (D), CALIFORNIA: Now another picture—a picture I‘m very familiar with, a picture of the boom used in the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. That was about the era of the rotary telephone. Now, here‘s a picture of the boom used in the Gulf today, 40 years later. Do you see a big difference between the boom technologies used in these two pictures?
LAMAR MCKAY, BP AMERICA PRES. & CHAIRMAN: I don‘t see a big change in boom technology. There have been tremendous changes in technology and how the boom is deployed and how satellite imagery helps deploy resources into the best possible places.
CAPPS: Yes, we do have satellite imagery now, but that was the era of the rotary telephone. We now live in the era of the iPhone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, according to BP, it‘s OK to use 1960s-era technology because now, because we have satellites and stuff, we‘re better at knowing where to put our 1960s-era technology. That‘s like if we were still driving Ford Pintos and Corvairs that exploded on impact. But now, Ford Pintos and Corvairs have OnStar in them, so when they blow up, we know exactly where to find the smoldering wreckage.
This current disaster obviously happened specifically to BP. But one of the things that has emerged pretty clearly since is that it could have easily happened to any of the five big oil companies that testified today, at least, including, say, Exxon Mobil. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was grilled by Congressman Bart Stupak today about his company‘s claim that they can handle a spill as large as 166,000 barrels per day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BART STUPAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: If you can‘t handle 40,000, how are you going to handle 166,000 per day as you indicate?
REX TILLERSON, EXXON MOBIL CEO: The answer to that is when these things happen, we are not well-equipped to deal with them.
STUPAK: So, when these things happen, these worst-case scenarios, we can‘t handle them, correct?
TILLERSON: We are not well-equipped to handle them. There will be impacts, as we are seeing. When they happen, it is a fact that we‘re not well-equipped to prevent any and all damage. There will be damage occurring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There will be damage occurring. We freeze frame. Stop this, stop with this. Leave that guy there.
This is one of those moments, this is important. Append this to every deep water drilling application. Append this to every complaint about the deep-water drilling moratorium. Append this to every politician who says that what we really ought to be doing is continuing to drill.
Here it is again, here‘s the oil industry, here‘s the CEO of Exxon Mobil admitting they have no idea what to do when these things go wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TILLERSON: When these things happen, we are not well-equipped to deal with them. We are not well-equipped to handle them. There will be impacts, as we are seeing.
When they happen, it is a fact that we‘re not well-equipped to prevent any and all damage. There will be damage occurring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: While it is comforting to hear the oil industry admit out loud to what we‘ve all been seeing the evidence of—it is, again, cold comfort to the people who have to live with the consequences of that horrible truth. Those are the people in all the coastal communities who are now watching the oil in the Gulf of Mexico surge towards them. The people who are trying to figure out on their own how they can try to save their communities, because they effectively are on their own at this point.
What‘s happening in these Gulf Coast cities and towns right now is an ad hoc, invent-things-as-you-go, let‘s play MacGyver, desperate, locally-driven invent-your-own-salvation effort to try to keep the oil offshore. It‘s people in these communities essentially having to come up with something, anything, to try to prevent the oil from ruining their land and their livelihoods. We have been trying to give this admittedly local story some national attention on this show.
Today, there was a big article about it in “The New York Times” about what “The Times” described as chaotic efforts to contain and clean up the oil in the water and hoping that maybe that big article and some of what‘s been going on in Congress will help give this part of the story some more national gumption in terms of the coverage.
But up until now, this innovate-on-the-fly effort has received the most coverage and the most in-depth coverage at the local level, at local news local news affiliates. And there has been some truly amazing local coverage. Check some of this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TV ANCHOR: In Jefferson Parish, leaders are going ahead with the plan to use barges to stop oil from entering Barataria Bay. The plan is to use barges and rocks to close off these five entrances into the bay and its estuaries.
REPORTER: Sixteen barges have already arrived, with at least 100 more expected by next week. Area leaders hope to sink them alongside one another at major passes where Gulf waters flow into coastal Louisiana.
BOB GRIP, FOX TEN NEWS: Orange Beach is taking matters into its own hands to protect Perdido Pass.
REPORTER: To protect Perdido Pass, crews are now working on a $4.6 million steel pipe boom plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s 36-inch pipe filled with foams, it will float. It has a vain on the top of about 18 inches. It has a keel on the bottom of about 18 inches. So, it will afford us about three feet, 2 ½ to three feet of protection from the top of the surface. It‘s rigid so that it will stay in place.
TV ANCHOR: A new tool is hitting the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, sand sifters usually clean beaches of cigarette butts and bottle caps and other debris like that. But now, they‘re being used for oil. The machines pick up oil-soaked sand, sift it and leave behind clean sand. The machines have been used to clean up oil in Saudi Arabia, but this is the first time they‘ve been used on American soil.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Sand sifting never been used before here, sinking barges to be physical barrier against oil; steel boom that they‘re inventing, testing and deploying? These are local mayors, local councilmen, county officials trying to do the work right now that the oil industry hasn‘t done since the 1960s, since as Lois Capps said, there were rotary phones.
This unsafe industry which has created these disgusting messes have basically said to local community, you guys are on your own. You figure out how to prevent our oil from destroying your town. We‘re working on other stuff and counting our money.
This isn‘t just short falls in technology either. What‘s going on in these local communities is also the result of BP not caring enough to use the technology that does exist the right way. Today, officials in Pensacola, Florida, reported that the booming efforts set up to keep the oil out of the Pensacola Bay failed. Quote, “Oil has been able to get past a large V-shaped boom stretched across the pass.”
Booming isn‘t great. Booming is old technology. But booming done right, done professionally and carefully and tended well—which takes a ton of manpower—should have been able to protect Pensacola Bay.
In the current setup we have in this country, the oil industry has everything going in their favor. They got all the gains, all the profits, from this incredibly lucrative industry.
And the risk is always ours. It‘s our American beaches that get doused in oil. It‘s our American marshes that get ruined when something goes wrong. It‘s our American industries that get destroyed when the place where people make their livelihoods are polluted and made toxic.
So, for us citizens, us non-oil executive citizens, those of us who don‘t profit from the oil industry, big disasters like the Exxon Valdez, the Ixtoc, the Buzzards Bay spill in Massachusetts, the Prudhoe Bay‘s spill in Alaska, the seven spills after Hurricane Katrina, all the spills after Hurricane Ivan, the spill in Salt Lake City this past weekend—for those of us who don‘t profit from these industries, these are big deals. These are sort of landmark events in terms of our relationship to oil.
But get this: this is something that I learned today watching the congressional hearing that I did not expect to learn—for oil industry executives, even the biggest accidental blowout ever, 140 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, even Ixtoc, even that is apparently not a big deal, when they think about their own industry. It‘s not part of what they‘ve learned about oil and oil companies and drilling. It‘s not something they talk about. It‘s not a term they‘re familiar with.
It‘s apparently—if you‘re the head of an oil company, if you‘re the CEO of an oil company, it‘s apparently something you‘ve never even heard of before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ED WHITFIELD ®, KENTUCKY: I was reading an article about a well referred to as I-X-T-O-C one, which I think was back in 1978 or ‘79. Are any of you are familiar with the history of that particular well blowing in the Gulf? Are you aware of the facts of that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, we didn‘t edit that to take away the sound. That‘s them. They just—blank stares all around.
So, if you‘re counting on the oil industry to self-police in response to big disaster, just look at the blank unknowing faces on these guys and tell me that you‘re still counting on them. An enormous disaster like Ixtoc is apparently not something that gets discussed in oil executives‘ circles. The fact that they spill oil disastrously doesn‘t even register on the radars for these guys in terms of what they do.
And this is why we have government regulation. We care because it‘s our land, our sea, our country that they‘re destroying. And the oil industry, these disasters apparently don‘t even—don‘t even make a wave. They don‘t even register.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL NOMINEE: If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies saying, “My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? And I‘ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: And when you say take Harry Reid out, you mean using one of those Second Amendment remedies you keep talking about? Because that sound clip was Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle talking on a conservative radio show in January.
But she used the same Second Amendment language at the end of last month when she told “The Reno Gazette Journal” this, quote, “The nation is arming. What are they arming for if it isn‘t that they are so distrustful of their government? They‘re afraid they‘ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways? That‘s why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don‘t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”
What will be the next step, Sharron Angle? Sharron Angle has at least twice in the last six months threatened that Americans could use weapons to achieve their desired political outcomes if they can‘t get them through voting.
We also have learned from reporting at the “Wall Street Journal” and “Talking Points Memo” that for at least six years, Sharron Angle was a member of the Independent American Party of Nevada.
What is the Independent American Party of Nevada? Stop me if you‘ve heard this before, “Stop the North American Union.” Now, there isn‘t actually a North American Union. It doesn‘t actually exist, but lots and lots and lots of conspiratorial folks on the right think that it must be stopped even though it doesn‘t exist.
Also, “Get the U.S. out of the United Nations,” and “End the IRS,” and “Stop any form of national ID cards, including real ID, pass ID, and mandatory biometric identification and chipping for citizens and their properties/animals.”
Stop forcing Americans to be micro-chipped. Also, the North American Union. Sharron Angle was a member of this party for six years before switching her affiliation to Republican and then ultimately winning the Republican nomination for the United States Senate from the great State of Nevada, a race that she might win, as long as no one reports too much on the crazy, braid-your-own-beard horror, be-afraid-of-fluoride beliefs that she has been cooking up on the far-right fringe of politics for her whole political career before now.
My friend and colleague, Chris Matthews, has a new hour-long documentary that‘s premiering here tomorrow on MSNBC. It‘s all about the new right in America. Here‘s a little clip from the documentary on the roots of today‘s new right in the conspiratorial mire of recent American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARD BALL” (voice-over): The new roots of the new right lie in the anti-communist conservative groups in the 1950s. Fundamentalist preacher Billy James Hargis‘ conspiracy-minded Christian crusade was broadcast on hundreds of radio and TV stations.
BILLY JAMES HARGIS, FUNDAMENTALIST PREACHER: I just signed a contract
with one of the biggest record companies in America. I‘m producing three
anti-communist albums for them in the next 12 months for national
MATTHEWS: And in the late 1950s, a group of citizens banded together to weed out communists from American society. The John Birch Society, named after an American missionaries killed by Chinese communists, also opposed to the rights and other liberal initiatives.
In a 1961 appearance at “Meet the Press,” the society‘s founder, former candy magnate, Robert Welch, made an argument that sounds very familiar today.
ROBERT W. WELCH, JR., FOUNDER, JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY: What we‘re trying to do is restore what‘s been lost of a Constitutional American republic as our Founding Fathers gave it to us.
Welch was staunchly anti-communist and then favored John McCarthy fingering President Eisenhower and his brother Milton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you said, for example, “In my opinion the chances are very strong that Milton Eisenhower is actually Dwight Eisenhower‘s superior and boss within the Communist Party.”
MATTHEWS: Just as today‘s tea partiers are working to get their own candidates elected, the John Birch Society became active in mainstream politics. In the 1964 presidential campaign, they rallied behind Barry Goldwater, the arch-conservative Republican candidate for president.
BARRY GOLDWATER, 1964 GOP NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT: I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of the justice is no virtue.
MATTHEWS: It was clear that Goldwater was taunting critics who had been attacking him for being an extremist. But his battle cry was used just this year by vandals who put a brick through the glass door of a New York County Democratic Party headquarters after the health bill passed. At the time, Goldwater was too extreme for most of the country. He was trounced by President Lyndon Johnson.
ANNOUNCER: The voice of the people was heard in the land.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Chris Matthews., the host of “THE HARDBALL” documentary, “The Rise of the New Right” which premieres tomorrow at 7:00 Eastern. Hey, Chris, congratulations on this.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. You‘ve given it a great introduction, or I should say, Sharron Angle has. Her statement about the Second Amendment remedies, and the need are perhaps the plausibility of taking out Harry Reid.
You hear it from the tea party people. You see them with the Gadsden flag, “Don‘t tread on me.” You hear it from the militia, from the birthers, from the patriot groups, the oath takers - the oath keepers. They all have one resonant statement - the United States has been taken over by a foreign power.
There‘s a tyranny in Washington. It‘s illegitimate. It‘s led by a person who‘s not an American. He may be a Muslim. He may be a Nazi, whatever. It‘s not America. Anything goes.
And by the way, when you resort to the Second Amendment to take out your government officials, can you go any furtherer than that? I wonder.
MADDOW: You know, seeing the way that you juxtaposed that historical clip that we just played with, for example, the birthers, and when you draw those connections with them all thinking there‘s some foreign and illegitimate power that needs to be - that‘s usurping legitimate American authority, it just reminds me that there‘s a lot to the communists in the State Department stuff that sounds like the Kenyan in the White House stuff. Isn‘t it sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the same hot buttons for Americans?
MATTHEWS: No, of course, it‘s there. It‘s the paranoid history of America. But you know, there‘s two - I always like to tell this to people who care about America, like your audience. There‘s two armies that march almost side by side through American history.
There‘s the progressive army that led for abolition, that fought the Civil War, the good guys of the Civil War. And of course, those who really pushed for reconstruction afterwards like Thaddeus Stevens and the good guys, the radical Republicans of that day.
And alongside is this other army, the know-nothings and then the Klanmen who came along later. And then, you‘ve got in the 20th century - it‘s the same pattern - it‘s the progressives moving a step or two ahead of this reactionary army that rides right along them, some camp followers playing off the dispossessed, those who resent change.
It‘s same with sexual orientation today. There‘s always going to be another group growing along saying this threatens traditional marriage. This threatens something here.
This guy in the White House - when you hear Orly Taitz in this documentary talk with her actual immigrant‘s accent, which is kind of ironic for a person who seems like an America firster, these people have come to America, and then they immediately attack Barack Obama as some sort of usurper, some foreigner, some Muslim who was actually born in another country. The statements of the birthers, the anger of the tea party people all resonates together.
MADDOW: Chris, Republicans think that Democrats can be painted as too extreme in electoral politics. But they think that Republicans really can‘t be seen as too extreme. They think that Americans are comfortable with very far right-wing ideas, that Sharron Angle saying, “End the IRS. U.S. out of the U.N. Fluoride is a conspiracy,” they think that a Sharron Angle can win. Do you think that‘s true?
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s see. I think there‘s a lot of interesting things developing. You saw unintended consequences. I think Charlie Crist, having been pushed out of the Republican Party in Florida basically for hugging Barack Obama - let‘s face it - might well win down there. I think he will.
I think Marco Rubio is going to fade as a candidate. I think Sharron Angle, with the statements coming out now about using the Second Amendment right, which is a right in the Constitution. It‘s written there, as a way of taking on your government and bringing it down. I think that‘s going to scare you.
Nevada is not a right wing state. Nevada is kind of a purple state. I think Harry Reid is now back in the saddle. So I think Joe Sestak is going to win. I don‘t think Pat Toomey is consistent with Pennsylvania sort of center right and center left history. So we‘ll see.
I mean, it may - I think Rand Paul could lose. But we‘ll have to see. I don‘t know. I think this is a bad year for progressives. It‘s a tough economy, and you‘re always blamed if you‘re in power.
But the American people have sort of a gyroscope, something that always brings them back to center, where it very much - and nobody wants to hear this on the right, but we‘re very much like France in that way. We‘re a bourgeois country, you and I know that. We‘re a bourgeois society.
We‘re not an ideologically proletarian country or right-wing militarist country. Generally, we listen to those voices and we never get afraid of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Reagan, and the minute he got into office, he moved very much to the center, as governor of California, for example, on issues like abortion rights. He moved to the center.
I don‘t think we are an extremist country, but these voices are frightening. And at a time of economic desperation, if you will, they‘re being listened to. But the one ironic - I don‘t want to call it silver lining - the one whisper of possible good coming out of this horror in the Gulf of Mexico, what is really hurting North America, the love we have for this part of the world, our own part of the world, is that maybe it convinces people that government is important.
As you said earlier in the program, government has a very positive role to play. To regulate - when you get on the airplane, don‘t you want to know there‘s an FAA? When you open up a can of tuna, don‘t you want to know that there‘s somebody making sure it doesn‘t have toluene in it?
Don‘t you want somebody on your side besides the money guys? And I do think that we‘re looking at the gulf as a country. I think the Republicans even - the very conservative Republicans, I think, are very hesitant now to say “Do nothing to their president. Don‘t do anything, let the industry do it.”
I haven‘t heard that voice this week. Isn‘t it interesting?
It‘s a horrible way to get there, but we‘re there, I think.
MADDOW: The only person starting - Michelle Bachmann today said that her advice to BP is to say - to tell the government they won‘t be chumps. BP won‘t be chumps in all of this.
MATTHEWS: You know Michelle - I think we caught her on our program. I hate to say I played a role in bringing it out. But when she came on the show and said the media, you and I, have a responsibility professionally to investigate the Democrats in Congress for anti-Americanism, that was the beginning of this thing, this McCarthy thing which is getting wild.
MADDOW: That is one of the clips, one among many that is - makes “The Rise of the New Right” a must-see TV. Congratulations on it, Chris. We appreciate it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you, colleague.
MADDOW: The new - the film is called “The Rise of the New Right” and it premieres tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And if you‘re usually doing something at 7:00 p.m. Eastern other than watching Chris Matthews tomorrow, you need to make a special appointment to watch it because it‘s really good.
OK. Still ahead, Kim Jong-Il, psychic soccer coach. Today, North Korea, tomorrow, the World - Cup. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: There is some good cheer in today‘s news. The North Korean National Soccer Team made its first appearance in the World Cup since 1966 today. Which no doubt brought a smile to the face of one rabid footy fan named Kim Jong-Il.
According to CBS News today, quote, “The North Korean leader is said to pick his nation‘s soccer team,” as in he chooses the players on the team, “His representative in the coaching area, Kim Jong-Hun says his leader transmits tactics just by facing South Africa and emitting his thought waves in its direction.”
The plucky possibly mind-controlled North Korean squad squared off against five-time World Cup champions, Brazil, today. After battling them to a 0-0 tie at halftime, the North Koreans finally lost very respectably at 2-1. Thirty to 40 North Korean fans were in the stands for the game. They cheered quite lustily.
But one ESPN commentator, Martin Tyler, cited widespread rumors that the supposed fans weren‘t actual North Koreans. They were Chinese actors hired to play the role of North Korean fans with the risk of actual North Korean citizens being allowed to travel, and potentially to defect and all that.
Meanwhile, the game was witnessed to pure-genius level civil disobedience in a form of this, “Kim Jong-Il thinks I‘m at work.” The North Koreans may have lost to Brazil today, but that guy won the World Cup of signage, at least so far.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith talks with the Congressman who summoned five oil company CEOs to a hearing today. It‘s Congressman Ed Markey.
And ahead on this show, our coverage of the BP oil disaster gets an assist from the best viewers of any TV show that is covering the oil disaster. We get an assist from you. That‘s ahead.
MADDOW: So never mind the World Cup. I want to talk about synchronized swimming in oil. Two and a half weeks ago, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said he thought American taxpayers should pay to clean up BP‘s oil disaster in the gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: We‘re going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies. And we‘ll figure out a way to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Get the money from the government to clean up BP‘s mess?
Spend taxpayer money on this? Republicans would never let that happen.
Unless, of course, they totally would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think the people responsible for the oil spill, BP, and the federal government should take full responsibility for what‘s happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wait, wait, wait. The people responsible, BP, and the federal government? The taxpayer - federal government? Taxpayer money should pay for BP‘s mess? So says the chamber of commerce guy and thus, so says the top Republican in Congress, John Boehner, until they noticed how bad that sounded.
Now, they‘re back-tracking. The Chamber of Commerce president, Tom Donohue, now saying quote, “Let me be clear. The recovery costs should not be on the backs of American taxpayers or the businesses that have been adversely affected by this tragedy.”
See, that is clear. It‘s clearly a total u-turn from what you said about this before. House minority leader John Boehner, your turn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I just think that BP ought to be held responsible for all of the costs that are involved in this. I‘ve said that right from the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, you haven‘t. You said the opposite of that just last week, and it was on tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I think the people responsible for the oil spill, BP, and the federal government should take full responsibility.
I just think that BP ought to be held responsible for all of the costs that are involved in this. I‘ve said that right from the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, you can change your mind, but you can‘t retroactively change your record so it looks like you didn‘t change your mind. OK? OK.
MADDOW: So a couple viewers sent us this picture of a BP gas station in Ohio. We posted it on our blog several days ago. You may have since seen it because it kind of went viral and got passed around a lot. But we‘re pretty sure this is the original. It shows BP telling its customers, “Warning, do not leave pumps unattended. You are responsible for spills.” Says it all, really. It‘s awesome.
But you, our viewers, are not plain old regular awesome. You are the awesome. We know this because one of you went online and made what‘s called a de-motivator out of our little viral photo from that gas station in Ohio. Like this one, “Responsibility: Do as we say, not as we do.”
De-motivators are a cinch to make, but great ones? It would take a genius, like these, sent by you and posted on the “Maddow Blog.” Look at this one, “Irony: It‘s not just for term papers anymore.” Or this one, “Hypocrisy: The heart of never having to live up to your own standards.” Or “Accountability: I mean, whatever.”
And the hands-down winner so far, staff favorite, including mine, “Hubris: Because it‘s so much cheaper than safety.” These are great. Make your own de-motivator for BP and send it to us. You will find the instructions on our “Maddow Blog” which frankly is where you belong. That‘s “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.”
That does it for our coverage tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. I‘d also just like to take a second to say congratulations and welcome to Lawrence O‘Donnell, who will be soon hosting a 10:00 p.m. Eastern live show here at MSNBC. We‘re all very excited. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Good night.
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