Guests: Col. Douglas Macgregor, Steve Clemons, Michael Hastings, Doug Heye
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you for that special comment. And thanks for the introduction. I appreciate it.
Thanks to you at home, as well, for staying with us for the next hour.
We begin tonight with how a lightning rod works. All right. Ready?
Here‘s a house with a lightning rod on it. If lightning is going to strike a building—if all goes well, the lightning rod should get hit first and then conduct the energy of the lightning bolt down a wire safely to the ground. The big idea is that you divert the power of the lightning into this device that is designed to be able to take it—to take and conduct safely to the ground all this heat and all this energy to thereby protect the structure to which the lightning rod is attached.
The structure that lightning rod General Stanley McChrystal now stands atop, the structure to which he is attached and that he protects is the war in Afghanistan. The counterinsurgency doctrine that he has implemented that has tripled the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan since George W. Bush left office—and what is now America‘s longest war ever.
Here‘s what it looks like when lightning hits that lightning rod. This is the latest of front page—look at this—from the military newspaper “Stars and Stripes”: “A General‘s Contempt.” It leads, quote, “President Barack Obama faces two grim choices on Wednesday: Fire General Stanley McChrystal and risk looking like he‘s lost control of the war in Afghanistan. Or keep him and risk losing like he‘s lost control of his generals.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, it will be the president who must decide whether he has trust and confidence in General McChrystal to continue to command this war.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president will speak with General McChrystal about his comments. And we‘ll have more to say after that meeting.
REPORTER: Is McChrystal‘s job safe?
GIBBS: We‘ll have more to say after that meeting.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I couldn‘t believe General McChrystal, being the good soldier I think he is, at least in this article, is not being a very good soldier.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it‘s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor—showed poor judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: All this is raining down on General Stanley McChrystal right now because of impolitic quotes attributed both to him and his closest staff in an article in “Rolling Stone” magazine by reporter Michael Hastings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: McChrystal told aides, President Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” at a meeting at the Pentagon.
REPORTER: It was McChrystal and his aides who were unplugged, showing contempt and disdain for the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is personal gossip. This is personal laundry.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN: Is this insubordination? What does the law say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They make fun of the vice president. They make fun of the president‘s national security adviser.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: McChrystal and his aides disparage President Obama, mocked Vice President Biden, called the national security adviser a clown.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Those quotes give you some taste of what the media coverage of this has been like today. Those are the specifics that are being cited in explaining what‘s coming down on General McChrystal. And if that seems like a lot of criticism to come under for essentially saying mean things about people you work with, it‘s because it is more than that. I mean, first of all, in this case, the people you work with include the president of the United States at whose direction you are conducting a major war and to whom you‘re constitutionally required to answer.
But second, this is lightning. This mega-media attention that has followed these snarky comments in “Rolling Stone” is not just about the snarky comments themselves and it is not just about General Stanley McChrystal. It is about what General McChrystal represents: America‘s strategy in Afghanistan, America‘s war in Afghanistan.
Saying rude things about other people you work with, even your boss, even the president may not be enough to bring down this much heat under normal circumstances.
The reason these comments have brought down this much heat is because General McChrystal is acting as a lightning rod. He is the lightning rod protecting the structure of what we are doing in Afghanistan. He is Mr. Counterinsurgency.
He‘s the personification and the leader of this doctrine that has led a president who said he wanted to make the focus in Afghanistan very narrow, who said he wanted to not get bogged down in a quagmire, who said he wanted to not do nation-building, that led a president with those goals to triple the number of troops we‘ve got there—in year nine of the war.
And so, now, General McChrystal has attracted this light and heat to himself with these unfortunate, impolitic comments like a lightning rod does. But the question is: will he actually work as a lightning rod? Will he function that way? Will he continue to attract all the attention to himself as an individual so that this all remains just a General McChrystal issue, just a General McChrystal problem? Or will he be unable to contain this light and this heat and this energy from traveling down to the structure that he‘s protecting, the whole idea behind this war effort?
That is actually what Michael Hastings‘ article in “Rolling Stone” is about. It‘s about General McChrystal—not just as a guy who drinks Bud Light Lime and talks trash with his staff. It‘s about General McChrystal as a true leader and believer in a doctrine that is getting very, very hard to justify in America‘s longest war.
Joining us now is retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, who‘s author of the book “Warrior‘s Rage.” Colonel Macgregor is cited by Michael Hastings in his “Rolling Stone” article as a critic of the counterinsurgency doctrine.
Colonel Macgregor, thank you very much for coming on the show again.
COL. DOUGLAS MACGREGOR, RET., U.S. ARMY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: If the president chose to remove General McChrystal over these comments, do you think that he would be justified in doing so?
MACGREGOR: Oh, absolutely, without question.
Setting aside all of the imprudent remarks you‘ve already covered, one of the things McChrystal does in the article is he expresses an acute lack of confidence in the validity of the very tactics that is counterinsurgency that he urged the president to adopt last fall. And if you‘ve got a commander in the field who has serious questions about the validity of the approach that he‘s taking, that in and of itself is justification, in my judgment, to call him back and ultimately replace him with someone else.
MADDOW: Do you think this scandal presents a real opportunity for us? Not in—not in theory, not in academic terms, but a real opportunity right now for us to rethink our strategy in Afghanistan? Is there—is there a competing strategy available other than counterinsurgency to explain, justify, and give a purpose to what our troops are doing there now?
MACGREGOR: Absolutely. This is a golden opportunity.
In my judgment, what the president should do is remove McChrystal and announce that he‘s going to appoint someone else and that new commanding officer is going to have 30 days to make an appraisal and come back to the president with recommendations regarding what we should do. One of the things that Americans don‘t seem to understand is that what we‘ve been doing is clearly an extension of what‘s been going on under the Bush administration for many, many years.
If you go back to Bob Woodward‘s book, “State of Denial,” he recounts a conversation between general retired, Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army, and Secretary Gates. And he asks him, this is before the Obama election, “Don‘t you want these policies to continue? Don‘t you want us to continue doing in Iraq and to expand what we‘re doing in Afghanistan?” And Gates says, “Well, yes, we want to continue these policies.” And Keane says, “Well, then, you have got to appoint the commanders in the field who are aligned with us, who will pursue these policies.”
And you have four-star generals now who have been moved into key positions who are aligned with the policies of the past. McChrystal was not put into Afghanistan to change anything. He was put there to pick up this counterinsurgency doctrine, which was presented to him by General Petraeus and to dramatically expand our commitment in Afghanistan. That‘s what he‘s done.
MADDOW: Colonel Macgregor, I know that you knew General McChrystal as a cadet at WestPoint many years ago and knew him many years after that. In terms of what has become of his career, his role right now in pushing counterinsurgency as a justification for continued involvement in Afghanistan, the General McChrystal portrayed in this article today. Do you recognize him over the course of the time you‘ve known him since his early career?
MACGREGOR: In some ways, yes. People don‘t really change dramatically. First of all, Stan McChrystal is a nice person. And you would enjoy having a beer with him.
But Stan McChrystal is an infantry officer. He doesn‘t have a background in the kinds of things, frankly, that he‘s been asked to do. And I think McChrystal has come to the realization that what he‘s been asked to do isn‘t going to happen with the resources he‘s got.
And I think he knows that Afghanistan is not a place where you can create western institutions, new governments, new ways of doing business. This is a very backward place. It‘s very diverse. He‘s got—he‘s got a very different set of requirements than I think he ever anticipated.
MADDOW: Colonel Douglas Macgregor—thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. I really appreciate your insight here.
MACGREGOR: Thank you.
MADDOW: We‘re joined now by Steve Clemons, director of the American strategy program at the New America Foundation and publisher of “The Washington Note,” which I read everyday.
Steve, thanks very much for joining us.
STEVE CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Rachel, good to be with you.
MADDOW: You wrote at “The Huffington Post” today that McChrystal has challenged the very foundation of public trust in the White House‘s legitimacy and leadership. What do you mean by that? And am I right in thinking you think he‘s done permanent damage?
CLEMONS: I think that he and his team have done some real damage. And I think along the lines of your conversation with Colonel Macgregor, it‘s not just about these snarky comments. It‘s a question about how he looks at the role of civilian leadership and partnership with other branches of government.
I think one of the things that was most disturbing in this and why this is such a self-inflicted tragedy in some parts for him it‘s been Karl Eikenberry, our ambassador, and Richard Holbrooke and Jim Jones, who‘ve been scuffling about what to do. And if there was anybody scuttle about who might be living, it was always one of them.
And what he did with all of these resources is failed to partner with the team that President Obama assigned to handle this task in Afghanistan. And the wheels came off. And in part, the wheels came off because of his own irresponsibility, in my view.
MADDOW: Well, isn‘t that—
CLEMONS: That then causes the problem, I think, of trust in the overall enterprise.
MADDOW: But isn‘t that a smaller scale version of the overall—the overall issue with counterinsurgency and practice? That we have this incredibly efficient, gigantic disproportionate force that is our military, we don‘t have anything approaching that sort of power in our non-military governmental structures. And so, when we try to have some sort of civilian surge to go alongside this military effort so that we can call it counterinsurgency, we end up essentially just doing a very long war over a very large piece of terrain.
CLEMONS: If you stack up the resources that Vice President Biden has, that even Richard Holbrooke has, who was pretty good at amassing bureaucratic power, you add to that what Karl Eikenberry may have in his—and you look at what the National Security Council staff as a whole has and General McChrystal and General Petraeus can outgun them, outman them with P.R. press agents, who can—who got their own staff of strategists.
If you talk to the Obama White House National Security Council team, they will tell you how outgunned they are by the military on all these fronts. And this is why his behavior has such huge echo effects in the way the American public looks at these questions and why, I think, what he‘s done has had such a devastating impact.
MADDOW: Steve, let me read you one thing that was included in Michael Hastings piece today and just get your reaction.
Mike wrote, “The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest western military embarrassing recent memory. France‘s nasty war in Algeria, lost in 1962, and the American misadventure in Vietnam, lost in 1975. But even if General McChrystal somehow manages to succeed after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques, and water treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock.”
CLEMONS: I think Hastings lays it out. I think this is the problem. Hopefully, in this process of review of General McChrystal, will also review counterinsurgency strategy and, you know, begin thinking about what our objectives really are and the men and women we‘ve deployed. A hundred billion dollars a year at current levels are going into Afghanistan, into a country with a GDP of about $14 billion.
So, it‘s just a remarkable set of data points that make no sense, when you look at the kind of broad exercise of American power and how—it‘s not just Afghanistan, if you‘re Iran or you‘re North Korea, or you‘re an ally counting on the United States and you see such a devotion of resources and materials to a failing cause, do they think—that their ally, the United States, will be there when they need help? Or do you think Iran is somehow so intimidated by the American military machine from this that they‘re going to, you know, change their course because of sanctions in the U.N.?
I think that we don‘t look at the overall costs of this quagmire we‘re in Afghanistan. And I think that General McChrystal‘s—not only his comments but the team‘s comments, not just about the president‘s team, but about our allies.
CLEMONS: I mean, that‘s the really disgusting part about what we saw come out of this was the, you know, flagrant, I think, you know, flippancy towards allies that we have in the field with us.
MADDOW: Steve Clemons is publisher of “The Washington Note,” director of the American strategy program at the New America Foundation, and full disclosure, my buddy—it‘s nice to see you, Steve. Thank you for being here. It‘s great to have you here.
CLEMONS: Thanks so much. Thank you.
MADDOW: Just ahead, I speak with the reporter who is in the middle of the McChrystal meltdown from Afghanistan—“Rolling Stone‘s” Michael Hastings.
And later, tired of all the negativity about the BP oil disaster? Well, we‘ve got BP‘s shiny, happy version of the clean up. It‘s full of—this is their word—wonderment. That‘s how they see it.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: He got unprecedented access to America‘s military commander in Afghanistan. Now, from a half a world away, “Rolling Stone” reporter Michael Hastings watches as his profile of General Stanley McChrystal throws the Obama administration‘s war plans into chaos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HASTINGS, ROLLING STONE REPORTER (via telephone): I‘ve been surprised quite honestly about the fallout that‘s happened after this article (INAUDIBLE) since the stories. I mean, the story just actually published a few hours ago, I think, online. But I‘ve been quite surprised by it. I‘m not sure what the actual fallout‘s going to be. The way it‘s been playing out, I mean, has yielded some interesting—interesting questions.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: My conversation with Michael Hastings, the bomb shell about General McChrystal is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
STARR: We all understand that “Rolling Stone” is not a typical publication that the U.S. military deals with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘ve got to wonder what “Rolling Stone” did to win over the general‘s confidence because its reporter is certainly not somebody with the track record.
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: I look at General McChrystal doing an interview with “Rolling Stone” magazine and somehow, people are expressing surprise it would boomerang. Hello, “Rolling Stone.”
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: I—first of all, I just dropped my microphone, which has nothing to do with this. But second of all, I‘ve got to tell you about watching the coverage today of this Michael Hastings/General McChrystal story. That “Rolling Stone” is not the problem here. The issue is not “Rolling Stone.” The issue is not Michael Hastings.
I have been the beneficiary of this criticism before where the news outlet itself gets faulted for what the interview subject said to that news outlet. Think about this, are we really supposed to believe that if General McChrystal and his staff had said these same things to some other reporter that they said to Michael Hastings that that other reporter wouldn‘t have published those remarks for political reasons? Seriously?
Well, Michael Hastings and “Rolling Stone” got with this piece that has turned the war upside down is a scoop and it is jealous or it is a really craven cynicism about what journalism is for that‘s driving criticism of “Rolling Stone” for getting this scoop.
Michael Hastings has been a guest on this show a number of times.
Earlier today, I spoke with him from Afghanistan.
MADDOW: Joining us now from Kandahar is Michael Hastings, an accomplished and experienced freelance journalist who has reported from a number of war zones. Full disclosure: Mr. Hastings is also a friend of mine. His last book is called, “I Lost My Love in Baghdad,” but his most recent article for “Rolling Stone,” “The Runaway General” that has turned the news upside down today.
Michael Hastings, thank you so much for your time.
Mike, tell me what kind of access you were allowed to General McChrystal and his inner circle for this article.
HASTINGS: I basically ended up with unprecedented access to General McChrystal on my trip to Paris and then to Afghanistan. It was actually unprecedented access (INAUDIBLE) I sat inside the room with General McChrystal and spent time with him in his downtime.
MADDOW: And in terms of his inner circle and the degree to which they spoke freely and quite—in quite impolitic terms about people involved in the war effort and American leadership. Did they know it was on the record? Were they comfortable voicing those things knowing you were a reporter?
HASTINGS: There were no conditions set before I began the profile. And it was my understanding that it was all on the record. And that‘s why I continued to report on them for the following number of weeks.
MADDOW: Michael, I know that in the piece—I mean, General McChrystal comes across as incredibly impolitic but not in an unflattering light. You definitely portray him as a true believer in counterinsurgency. But counterinsurgency means military force combined with a lot of non-military force. And he and his inner circle talked complete smack about everybody on the non-military side.
So, how does—how does that make sense? How do they reconcile that?
HASTINGS: Well, I think—one of the things about General McChrystal and whether or not he‘s impolitic—look at his public statement, what he said recently about Marjah, which was an operation in southern Afghanistan, was that it was a bleeding ulcer. If he‘s saying that in public about the war effort, what do you think he‘s saying in private?
I think that‘s a big issue in terms of counterinsurgency, the relationship between the civilian military side, I think that‘s always very tricky in terms of operations. And I think part of the problem is, is that the military says they actually buy into these political solutions, they‘re the most preferred solution, is one to use force, and what they‘re sort of inherently good at.
MADDOW: Sort of a hollowed out insurgency idea that you talk about a
lot of non-military force, but maybe it‘s not as an important part of it
when it comes down to it. You describe, Michael, the hard core proponents
of counterinsurgency, of COIN, as having a cultish zeal, the COINdenistas -
which is something that we‘ve talked about in the past.
Does—is there something about the idea of counterinsurgency that essentially requires people to be disdainful of outside views about the wider impact of it—about the difficulty of selling it politically?
HASTINGS: I was just rereading David Halberstan‘s “The Best and the Brightest,” and one of things described is Kennedy in his 1961 being very excited about these new theories of counterinsurgency. I think then we‘ll have to look at where the counterinsurgency theorists draw their inspiration from and most of the examples they draw from are not very promising—the French and Algeria in 1962 and the U.S. and Vietnam in 1975 -- both ended in defeat.
Now, they claimed they were military victories, but if they were just victories outright, they all would have worked out. But, in fact, it‘s not really too many promising examples that they can really point to.
MADDOW: Michael, so far, a civilian press aide to General McChrystal has resigned in the light of your article. Right now, I know you‘re in Kandahar. You‘re in Afghanistan, with plans to be there for some time.
Do you have any expectation of what the other fallout of this might be?
HASTINGS: I‘ve been surprised quite honestly about the fallout that‘s
happened after this article (INAUDIBLE) since the stories. I mean, the
story just actually published a few hours ago, I think, online. But I‘ve
been quite surprised by it. I‘m not sure what the actual fallout‘s going
to be. The way it‘s been playing out, I mean, has yielded some interesting
MADDOW: Of course, the way that General McChrystal got this job because McKiernan was rather summarily relieved of his responsibility in Afghanistan, the previous top commander in country.
Does the counterinsurgency doctrine and strategy survive another change at the top, if it has to happen? Are there enough true believers just among the ranks of soldiers and officers who you‘ve been dealing with there while you‘ve been reporting?
HASTINGS: I think counterinsurgency is the only solution that they‘ve come up with that they really want to—want to do. It seems like there‘s not much stomach for actually changing our strategy, drawing down to, say, 50,000 and doing more counterterrorism missions.
You know, I think you changed the talk, but the problem remains. I mean, I think, you know, the counterinsurgency strategy was set in motion, and I believe if you even change the top, it‘s not going to make too much of a difference because I think the problem with these things—one of these things I‘m talking about—in terms of long protracted conflicts that democratic societies wage usually in, you know, developing nations, is that they take on a momentum of their own.
We went into Afghanistan after September 11th with the explicit goal not to get stuck in a quagmire. Anyone who even used the word “quagmire” was mocked mercilessly. Some years later, we‘re exactly where we set out not to be—in a quagmire, and it‘s a quagmire we knowingly walked into.
MADDOW: Michael Hastings joining us by phone from Kandahar, his latest reporting for “Rolling Stone” magazine in an article called “The Runaway General” has turned the news and American politics and the war effort upside down today because of this unprecedented access he received to General McChrystal and his inner circle.
Michael, take care of yourself. Congratulations on this scoop, and good luck.
HASTINGS: Thank you.
MADDOW: In the midst—in the midst of all of the other huge news going on right now, good news today to announce: you‘re leaving Peter Orszag. Well done.
It‘s also another primary election night tonight. And there are a number of races worth noting, including an African-American Republican running for Congress in South Carolina against the son of Strom Thurmond. We‘ll have some results for you coming up in just a moment.
Also, some upbeat news on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf as reported, of course, by BP.
And we‘ll return to the story of General McChrystal to chart the collision course leading up to tomorrow‘s less-than-pleasant face-to-face with the president of the United States.
Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: Everything else that‘s going on - you know what? It is Tuesday night in an even-numbered year. And you know what that music means, primary night in America with big elections in four states tonight.
Quickly, some highlights from the big races. Nikki Haley has survived two weird and unsubstantiated claims of infidelity and will be Republican nominee for governor in South Carolina.
In South Carolina‘s first congressional district, Tim Scott is another step closer to becoming the first African-American U.S. Republican congressman since J.C. Watts after beating Strom Thurmond‘s youngest son for his party‘s nomination for that House seat.
In South Carolina‘s fourth district, the mostly-flawed beltway common wisdom played out true as incumbent Republican Congressman Bob Inglis was defeated for his own seat by a challenger from the right named Trey Gowdy.
In North Carolina, the action was on the Democratic side in the Senate primary, where the secretary of state there, Elaine Marshall, perceived to be the more grassroots choice, beat the National Democratic Party‘s choice and financial beneficiary, Cal Cunningham, for the right to face Sen. Richard Burr in November.
And in Utah, where polls close at 8:00 p.m. local time, super conservatives already ousted incumbent Senator Bob Bennett at the Republican Party convention. Public not welcome. That led to tonight‘s showdown between the Jim DeMint-Ron Paul Freedom Works choice, Mike Lee, and not-their-choice Tim Bridgewater.
As it stands right now, that race between two relatively very un-famous men in Utah still too close to call. This is not exactly Super Tuesday, but I would feel very comfortable calling it well-above-average Tuesday.
There is news beyond the elections in Republican politics tonight. RNC chair Michael Steele offered some creative history about job creation and President Bush. And Karl Rove‘s plans to raise lots of money appear to have fallen short by almost infinity.
To discuss it all, we‘re very excited to welcome back to the show Republican Party spokesman and totally good sport Doug Heye. That is coming up. He‘s a much better sport before I mispronounced his name.
Also, later on, essential background on tomorrow‘s meeting between President Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It‘s one of those meetings nobody wants to attend. Preview of the awkward coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: What you‘re seeing is a jobless recovery. You‘re seeing people, you know, the market doing OK here and there and growth over there and maybe a little bit over there.
But it‘s not getting down to where it needs to go so that you, as an entrepreneur, will say, “You know what? I‘m going to hire Mark today because I need to expand my business.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very similar to what we went through under George Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that‘s what (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a jobless recovery coming out of the 2001
recession. So -
STEELE: George Bush created a lot of jobs, if I -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I beg your pardon?
STEELE: I think there were - I think there were jobs created in the
eight years that George Bush was -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We could pull up those numbers.
STEELE: I could pull up some numbers, too. I‘ll put my numbers against your numbers and we‘ll see where you‘ll wind up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I leave it to anyone out there in the audience to research that. The Bush administration was a massive loss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember where you got that number -
STEELE: You got that number? I think that jobs were created. I‘m almost - almost confident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was almost confident Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on CNBC this morning with his numbers on the economy and job growth under George W. Bush.
And maybe this is the kind of thing where everybody has their own data set. Here‘s mine from that bastion of liberal economic policy, the “Wall Street Journal.” Jobs created under Jimmy Carter in one term, 10.5 million. Jobs created under Ronald Reagan in two terms, 16 million. Jobs created under George H.W. Bush in just four years, 2.5 million. Jobs created under Bill Clinton in eight years, 23 million. And in George W. Bush‘s two terms, three million jobs. Three million jobs in eight years.
Woo-hoo. Nothing to cheer about, really. But certainly nothing to bring up in press as a point in an interview in an election year when George Bush wasn‘t even part of the discussion. I mean, it‘s especially a weird thing to bring up if you are the chairman of the Republican Party.
In the midst of a number of controversies surrounding Mr. Steele‘s tenure as Republican Party chairman, earlier this year, Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and some other Republican Party insiders devised a plan to raise money - kind of around the RNC - at least through a different group. They announced a fundraising group called American Crossroads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Because the Democrats have a series of organizations that have allowed them to effectively carry the fight, “MoveOn.org,” the unions, Democracy Corps, Center for American Progress - these are all organizations which have had a role and a function that we‘re trying to duplicate on the center right of American politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: American crossroads set a fundraising goal for the midterm elections of $52 million. They said they would raise $52 million for Republicans for the midterms. And goals are good. Public goals are good, unless you fall very, very short of them very, very publicly.
American Crossroads has raised $1.25 million since it was announced in March. Last month, they raised the princely sum of $200. Not 200-something, just $200 and some cents. But don‘t worry. The group says it has pledges for millions more in donations. Pledges.
Joining us now is Doug Heye, the communications director for the Republican National Committee. This is his second appearance on this show. Last time he was here, I promised to buy him a beer if Mitch McConnell actually showed up to a unity rally with Rand Paul. Sen. McConnell did and for the record, I made good on my promise. Hi, Doug. It‘s good to see you.
DOUG HEYE, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE:
It‘s good to see you. You did make good on the promise. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Hey. Is the fundraising failure, at least thus far, of American Crossroads sort of a tacit endorsement of the RNC? I mean, are Republican donors rejecting an effort to make an end-run around (UNINTELLIGIBLE) RNC?
HEYE: No, I don‘t think that - well, I wouldn‘t characterize it as an end run. Really, I would agree with everything that Karl said. We need these organizations. And I‘d also add that the American Action Network, which is run by Rob Collins, which is another organization out there trying to replicate what was done with Move On that was very successful for the Center of American Progress.
So you know, we‘re at a brave new world right now in the Republican Party. For the first time, we don‘t have a White House, a House or a Senate. We also don‘t have soft money. And when the Democrats were in that situation, frankly, they were very smart and set up these organizations to fund elections.
That‘s what these groups are doing. Obviously, we can‘t work directly with them. But we all have a united goal and that‘s to fire Nancy Pelosi, to retire Harry Reid. And we‘re glad they‘re in this fight. And we know - you look at how campaign funds come in.
They always come in most at the end. And we know that they‘ll be successful and that they‘ll help us get over that hurdle.
MADDOW: If you are - if you are psyched about them, if you don‘t feel they are competition, you feel like you‘re all sort of rowing in the same direction, that $200 in one month for an organization that wants to raise $52 million by just a couple of months from now, I - I realize that the argument they might make all their money at the end. But for a Karl Rove-Ed Gillespie organization, isn‘t that sort of pitiful?
HEYE: Well, I think you need to look at what they‘re going to be doing in the future. And if Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are in behind in operation, it‘s not going to be insignificant.
We know there are going to be major players. And again, they‘re going to help us do what we need to do what our goal is. And that‘s to win seats in November. We‘re all united behind that.
MADDOW: All right. Doug, I know you‘re spokesperson for the RNC. You have seen that interview with your boss, Chairman Steele this morning on CNBC. He seemed to get a little tied up with the George W. Bush jobs record, the jobs numbers. Was he trying to say something other than what he actually said there?
HEYE: No. Look, I think he did talk about three million jobs were created under the Bush administration, the George W. Bush administration. Is that where we wanted them to be? No, but there were jobs created and it would be false to suggest there are not.
But again, we look back too much, I think. We need to look forward and really look into the now. We see this president always trying to blame everything on what he‘s inherited. It‘s seems anything that goes wrong in this country is something that he inherited.
But we were promised to create about three million jobs with the stimulus bill. We‘ve lost 2.2 million so far. And you know, that‘s not a number that just doesn‘t mean anything.
You look at a state like Nevada where unemployment‘s at 14 percent despite having Harry Reid, the majority leader of the Senate there. And it‘s going to be a continuing issue for the voters in Nevada because you‘ve got two industries, gaming and construction, that are absolutely related. I don‘t see how that state gets out of it until we have some kind of fiscal sanity.
MADDOW: Doug, I think the reason, though, that George W. Bush came up in that discussion - and I can‘t speak for CNBC. But what seems relevant is - I mean, we had population growth over that same eight-year period of 22 million people. Three million jobs are created, the most anemic jobs record of any president of either party.
And so I think the implicit question is, do Republicans have some other idea that they kept secret during the George W. Bush administration, most of it during - most of the time in which they also controlled Capitol Hill? Is there some new idea?
Because if the old George W. Bush idea is what would come back if Republicans did win these next elections, I think that seems scary.
HEYE: Well, we want to make sure that there‘s fiscal sanity. What‘s scary to voters is this increasing spending, this increased debt. You talk to voters. You know, debt has always been something that voters say they‘re concerned about.
But the intensity of their concern about it these days is just tremendous. And it‘s part of the reason why you‘ve seen this absolute flip politically from where Republicans were a year ago to where we are now.
You know, if I‘m sitting in this chair a year ago, you‘re asking me about the Republican Party being dead. And now, we‘re talking about how many seats we‘re going to win back. That‘s a great conversation for us.
MADDOW: And we‘re talking about Karl Rove only raising $200 in a month. Let‘s be honest. But you‘re right, we had - the conversation has proceeded in a direction that I‘m sure you‘re happy with. Doug Heye, communications director for the Republican National Committee.
HEYE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HEYE: Hey, Rachel.
HEYE: Rachel, when you and I were together, would that qualify as a unity event?
MADDOW: I paid. If we had gone Dutch, yes. So next time.
HEYE: Sounds good. All right. Next time.
MADDOW: Next time. Thanks, Doug.
HEYE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Feels like Christmas whenever we get a Republican to come on this show. So thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
HEYE: Thank you.
MADDOW: So if you think the BP oil disaster is totally overblown by the lame stream media - that‘s us - then BP has a story to tell you. The second installment of BP press-release theater is coming up, and it is magnificent. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: A federal judge in Louisiana this afternoon issued an injunction trying to block the government‘s new moratorium on deepwater drilling. Here was his reasoning. Check this out.
Quote, “The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented sad, ugly and inhuman disaster. What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all gulf deepwater drilling activities put us in a universal threat of irreparable harm.”
Sweeping confirmation. Oh, federal government, you‘re being so rash. Deepwater drilling is fine. Who says it‘s not?
What we‘ve learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, if anything goes wrong on a deepwater well, if anything, say, busts at the sea floor, nobody has any idea how to clean it up, let alone how to fix it.
It‘s not a theory. It‘s not a hypothesis. That‘s the brutal 64 days of oil-covered truth. So when a judge looks at the BP disaster and says, “I still believe that deepwater drilling is safe. Full speed ahead. The oil companies say they can handle it,” when a judge does that, sometimes you check his financial disclosure statements.
And sometimes you find that that judge owns a bunch of stock in Transocean, which happens to own the rig that just blew up. Why didn‘t he recuse himself from this case?
The Obama administration says it will appeal Judge Martin Feldman‘s ruling. And tonight, the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he will issue a new order imposing the moratorium, this time with a clearer, more explicit case about its necessity.
On the other hand, the American Petroleum Institute released a statement in support of the judge‘s injunction that said this, quote, “With this ruling, our industry and its people can get back to work to provide Americans with the energy they need and do it safely and without harming the environment.”
Because they said it in statement form, it is not known whether the American Petroleum Institute said the part about “safely and without harming in the environment” with a straight face on day 64 of oil destroying the Gulf of Mexico.
For its part, BP itself continues to inform the public about the oil disaster with its reports from the gulf series. These are posted at “BP.com.” And this new one affords us the opportunity to bring you another installment of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘S BP press-release theater.
Tonight, a verbatim reading from BP‘s real life report on the company‘s own response to the worst oil spill in American history which they caused. We added the voice and the pictures and the music for your enjoyment.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TEXT: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Press Release Theater presents a reading, “Flying Higher” by Tom Seslar, BP “reporter,” June 15, 2010.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m filled with the wonderment of what‘s happening below our chopper only moments after it lifts off. It‘s strangely peaceful here, just right for surrendering to some meditation.
For a while, the most noticeable aspect of the scenes below is the presence of huge onshore facilities to supply and support the offshore oil fields. These facilities alone employ thousands just in this one region of the coast.
Soon, the scenes below begin changing, almost as if there‘s a growing competition between land and water to dominate the landscape. Eventually, the marshes and swamps prevail.
Wetlands stridently pierced by canals, channels, harbors and causeways and even the last traces of roads that are gradually disappearing into a no-man‘s land between terra firma and the sea.
From high above, I can clearly see the importance and fragility of sandy wetlands held together by a delicate mesh of vegetation. I now have a much better understanding of why the vast wetlands are so important to wildlife and as barriers against hurricanes. These natural fortifications are the shore‘s last line of defense.
Out here, flying at a height of up to 1,400 feet, the clouds are puffy white and brilliantly lighted, but cast dark shadows on the wave-capped water below. We can see the curvature of the earth and eventually pass over dozens of the more than 6,000 platforms that the oil and gas industry has built in the U.S. gulf coast waters during the past 60 some years.
It‘s likely that there will be no alternative to the gulf as a key source of American energy for decades to come. That is why it is so essential to protect it. Even the most severe critics of the oil industry tend to accept that reality.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So to summarize, we must protect the fragile environment of the gulf by continuing to drill in a way now proven to destroy the gulf, because everyone agrees that oil from the gulf is the way of the future.
And so it was that BP officially came to stand for “bull pucky,” a lot of other things that start with “bull” besides.
MADDOW: The first time a top American general has been relieved from duty in wartime since Harry Truman fired Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War - that has already happened.
That‘s what President Obama already did to the guy who Gen. Stanley McChrystal replaced in Afghanistan. That was Gen. David McKiernan, who was fired by President Obama last May from his role heading up the Afghanistan War. Gen. McKiernan was fired in part to make room for Gen. McChrystal. His own job is now very much on the line.
About 13 hours from right now, U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal is expected to be sitting face-to-face with President Obama in the White House situation room. On the line, the general‘s military career and perhaps the future of this war effort that he has championed.
This will not be the first time that these two have met face-to-face, specifically after Gen. McChrystal has done something to get himself in hot water.
In September, while President Obama was in the process of trying to decide on a way forward in Afghanistan, this was the front page of “The Washington Post,” “McChrystal: More Forces or Mission Failure?”
An internal report by Gen. McChrystal, intended for White House review only, instead magically leaked to “The Post.” It said if the president didn‘t dramatically increase the number of troops, mission failure.
A month later, Gen. McChrystal got himself into trouble again. After giving a speech in London, McChrystal was asked whether one specific strategy, one being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden, would likely work in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN: A short good answer is no. A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a shortsighted strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The vice president advocating a shortsighted strategy, says the commanding general in the war, in public, on the record. That happened October 1st. On October 2nd, Gen. McChrystal was summoned for a private meeting with the president aboard Air Force One.
And it wasn‘t just Gen. McChrystal who got in trouble. Jonathan Alter reports in his new book, quote, “Inside the National Security Council, advisors considered what happened next historic, a presidential dressing-down unlike any in the United States in more than half a century.”
General McChrystal‘s bosses, Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint-Chiefs chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, were called to the Oval Office to face the same wrath from the president.
So what‘s just happened with Michael Hastings‘ “Rolling Stone” article will be the third strike for Gen. McChrystal in terms of publicly undermining the White House about the war and getting dressed down for it.
But it should be noted that so far, strikes one and two didn‘t cost him very much in terms of his clout. After all, Gen. McChrystal was pressuring President Obama to give him an extra 40,000 troops, you all recall, in Afghanistan.
Despite the criticism, the dressing-down that he earned, the general got an increase of 30,000 troops. Now, President Obama may be politically and strategically constrained by the fact that he‘s already fired the top commander in Afghanistan, which was a historic decision. Doing it twice would create some pretty huge waves.
But you know what? One person that President Obama did not fire was Robert Gates, held over as defense secretary from the last administration. Secretary Gates is known for being willing to make a lot of waves. But one of his favorite ways to make waves is by firing really high-ranking generals and officers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maj. Gen. George Weightman, the commander at Walter Reed Medical Center, is the first high-ranking officer to be fired over deplorable conditions at the hospital‘s out-patient facility.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tonight, the Army‘s top civilian officer is out.
Army Secretary Francis Harvey was fired today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the very day this scandal broke, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been demanding accountability. And today, he got it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there is yet more fallout tonight. Another firing in the scandal over conditions for some of the patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The army‘s top doctor is now out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Admiral Fox Fallon resigned quietly today. Sources say that in the end, under pressure from the White House, Defense Secretary Gates refused to take Fallon‘s calls, making it clear he had to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Brian, this is remarkable. Secretary Gates did force the resignations of the Air Force chief-of-staff, Gen. Mike Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynn over two incidents involving the mishandling of nuclear material, or related materials, over the past year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Look at the list of people Bob Gates has fired. Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Air Force, the head of Central Command, Air Force Chief-of-Staff, Army Surgeon General, a three-star Navy Vice Admiral, a Marine Corps Major General - all fired by Bob Gates, not to mention the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. McKiernan, who used to have Stanley McChrystal‘s job.
What happens to Gen. McChrystal tomorrow and what happens to the war effort is obviously a presidential decision. Removing the second wartime commander in the space of about a year would make some serious waves.
But at this point, we know that when general McChrystal gets to his meetings with Secretary Gates and the president tomorrow, he‘s going to be dealing with people not afraid to make waves.
For tomorrow‘s historic meeting at the White House and continuing coverage of this important story, we hope you stay tuned to MSNBC. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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