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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Bob Cavnar, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now to discuss the Republican‘s continuing efforts to block extension of unemployment benefits -- ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening.  Thank you very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We begin tonight with a bit of a political shock from Capitol Hill tonight.
Do you remember what made Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky nationally famous back in February?  It was his one-man stand to block benefits for people who lost their jobs—taking a stand against people with no income, yelling things like, “tough expletive” from the floor of the Senate, while he was doing so, all the while complaining that blocking people‘s benefits was taking up a lot of his precious time, which meant horrible hardships for him—like missing a college basketball game he wanted to watch.
SEN. JIM BUNNING ®, KENTUCKY:  I have missed the Kentucky/South Carolina game that started at 9:00.
MADDOW:  At the time, Senator Bunning was seen as a lone obstructer, a hard-hearted renegade choosing draconian principle over the well-being of the American people.
REPORTER:  Sir, we just wanted to ask you—
BUNNING:  Excuse me.  This is a senator-only elevator.
REPORTER:  Can I come on the elevator?
BUNNING:  No, you may not.
REPORTER:  Can you tell us why you‘re blocking this vote?
BUNNING:  I already did, I explained it.
REPORTER:  What is the issue?  Are you concern about these people who are unemployed?
BUNNING:  Excuse me.  I‘ve got to go to the floor.
REPORTER:  Senator, can you just explain to us why you‘re holding this up?  I‘m sure you have an explanation.
BUNNING:  Excuse me.
REPORTER:  Are you concerned about those that are going to lose their benefits?
MADDOW:  In addition to altercations like that with the mainstream press, there was vocal outrage on the left and in the center and a distinct absence of Attaboy Jims on the right.  nobody wanted to be Jim Bunning back in February when he pulled this stunt.
Tonight with the country and the news media looking the other way, at the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the tumult in our military‘s chain of command—tonight, they‘re all Jim Bunning.  Every Republican in the United States Senate, plus Ben Nelson, is Jim Bunning.
For eight weeks, Senate Democrats have sought passage of a bill to reauthorize several expired stimulus programs.  The bill included relief to now more than 1.2 million Americans who‘ve been out of work longer than six months, whose benefits have expired.  It also meant to fund state Medicaid programs and to extend a bunch of tax breaks, tax breaks, tax breaks, for businesses and for families.
The original bill was filibustered last week.  So Democratic leaders went hunting for votes, using the old and unreliable tact of weakening the bill, making it less stimulative to the economy and less helpful to the people it‘s supposed to help.  Because worse bills, the theory goes, attract more votes.  I‘ll never understand that.
The result of Democratic pandering for Republican votes was a bill that did less for unemployed people by $25 per check.  It pumped less lifeblood into the flagging recovery effort for our economy as a nation.  And it left states more broke than they already are because of their Medicaid costs.
By the time of today‘s cloture vote o the bill, Democrats had trimmed down the bill by about $100 billion.  It was down to $112 billion, all but $35 billion was paid for, which makes for great tea party rhetoric but actually makes for less economic stimulus—still, whatever.
Guess what the Democrats got for their trouble?  Guess what the Democrats got?  Guess what the Democrats got for doing all of that weakening, for making weaker, less effective policy?  Guess what they got?  They got zero votes.  Huzzah!
This afternoon, every single Republican and Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, united to kill the bill, preventing an up-or-down majority rules vote.  Stop me if this sounds familiar.  Democrats needed 60 votes to go ahead.  They only got 57.
They got a huge majority, 57 votes in a body that only has 100 votes total, but that‘s not enough now, that‘s not enough anymore because majority doesn‘t rule anymore.  And Republicans filibuster everything—even unemployment benefits in the middle of an economic downturn.
BUNNING:  I have missed the Kentucky/South Carolina game that started at 9:00.
MADDOW:  Boo-hoo.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky defended his party‘s relief-killing opposition by saying, quote, “The only thing Republicans have opposed in this debate are job-killing taxes and adding to the national debt.”
This is what he says about a vote for tax cuts and the single-most effective means of economic stimulus we know—which is benefits for the unemployed.  For people who desperately need the money and who will spend it, which is what economic stimulus is.
Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was on fire about this today.  We had her on the show to talk about this very issue recently.  You might remember the fire in the belly she showed in that guest appearance.  Well, this is how she made her case before today‘s honestly quite shocking vote on the floor of the Senate.
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN:  When President Obama came into office we were losing about 750,000 jobs a month.  That‘s what he inherited.  Well, we said, you know what, this hasn‘t been working for the majority of people.
We put in place the Recovery Act and we began to climb out.  We began to climb out.  Now, we‘re not all the way out.
But these guys are going, stop, oh my gosh, it‘s beginning to work.  This may affect the elections.  Let‘s do everything we can to stop the recovery.
MADDOW:  Joining us is Ezra Klein, staff writer for “The Washington Post” and an MSNBC contributor—about which we are all very proud and happy.
Ezra, thanks very much for joining us.
MADDOW:  Ezra, Senator Stabenow, in that clip that we showed, is making a case that it‘s not conspiratorial but it is a brutal allegation that Republicans and Ben Nelson would be voting against this in order to stop the recovery because that might be politically inopportune for them.  What is your assessment of that claim?
KLEIN:  I don‘t think it is so cynical as all that.  But I think that people have a remarkable ability to convince themselves of what is in their political best interest.  So, back when Republicans were in power in 2001 and there was a recession coming from the tech bubble burst in, they said they were going to do tax cuts because that would stimulate the economy.  And they put those tax cuts on the deficit and they did it again in 2003 under the same rationale.
And now that Barack Obama and the Democrats are in charge of this and they will take the blame for a bad economy, suddenly the concern of the debt becomes a much bigger issue.  But if you compare the two things and the amount this would have added to the debt, today‘s bill is 0.00043 percent.  By comparison, it would have been about $30 billion.
By comparison, the tax cuts between 2012 and between the 2022 if we extended them, $6 trillion.
KLEIN:  So, people move around depending on where their political interests lie.
MADDOW:  Wow.  By the end of this week, more than 1.2 million Americans will have lost their jobless benefits.  Republican Senator Olympia Snow of Maine said she supports extending unemployment benefits, even if she didn‘t vote for this bill.  Do you think it is still possible that a separate bill, even if it‘s just focusing on the unemployment benefit might get a vote, might pass?
KLEIN:  I do think it‘s possible.  I think Olympia Snowe very explicitly left the door open to it today.  But what with you‘re seeing her and you brought this up a little bit in your introduction is that the bill is getting smaller and smaller and smaller, to the point that it is certainly not a meaningless bill because unemployment benefits are important to a lot of people.
But we have 9.7 unemployment.  We‘ve got to get the economy out on of the ditch.  We haven‘t done enough.  The economy was worse when we recognized it was when we passed the original stimulus, which we knew then was too small.  And we are low-balling.
And—I mean, what we‘re seeing in the Senate, is they have decided essentially, the Republicans, to move on from dealing with the recession.  Today is sort of recession ended for the Senate and the election began.
MADDOW:  Wow.  My understanding, both from talking to people in Washington and from just reading the Beltway press on this, is that Democrats thought we hadn‘t reached that point.  Democrats really thought that making the bill worse, making the bill smaller, would make it pass.  That at least they‘d get a vote from somebody like Senator Scott Brown, who said, of course, his only priority is jobs, jobs and jobs.
If even the jobs, jobs, jobs supposedly moderate senator, if even Collins and Snowe won‘t necessarily vote for unemployment benefits, do you think that Democrats need to just recalibrate, recognize that, as you say, it‘s not dealing—we‘re not dealing with policy anymore, we‘re only dealing with politics?
KLEIN:  I think that‘s right.  And they need to recalibrate for the realities of the situation they‘re in.  The biggest mistake Democrats made was not putting more reconciliation instructions into the budget so they could move legislation like this on a 51-vote basis.
You can‘t get much done in the United States Senate when you don‘t have 60 votes and the other party has an incentive to make you fail.  So, that‘s essentially where they are now.  If they put reconciliations instructions in, if they had said to each other that we are simply going to have to govern by majority vote here and we‘re going to have to do in advance what is necessary to give us that opportunity as often as possible, they‘d be in better shape now.
MADDOW:  And it would be one thing if we were just talking about Republicans making Democrats fail in this case.  We‘re talking about Republicans making the country fail and a lot of people ending up probably on the street because of it.
Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post,” also an MSNBC contributor—thanks as always for your time, Ezra.
KLEIN:  Thank you.
MADDOW:  OK.  Still to come?  Hobos.  Hobos—that‘s what some Republicans are calling Americans who don‘t have jobs now, Hobos.  And they mean it in a cute way.
Also, the drilling moratorium debate gets unexpectedly and suddenly very, very stupid.  That‘s coming up.
MADDOW:  In the wake of the president firing his top military commander in Afghanistan, a traumatic brain injury center for wounded troops opened today in Bethesda.  And it opened with a loud political thud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where are they?  Not one senator, only two congressmen, no one from the White House at all, no cabinet members.  Where are they?
MADDOW:  I know where they were.  I know.
That‘s ahead.  Please stay with us.
MADDOW:  In 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, which among other things created the bones of unemployment insurance for us as a nation.  The idea was you pay into it while you‘re employed so that if you lose your job, there will be money available to help you out.
It‘s not a coincidence that unemployment insurance was created in 1935.  The people who created it and folded it into the Social Security Act and got it passed and signed into law, they knew a thing or two about unemployment.  The backdrop for the creation of unemployment insurance was the Great Depression.  Unemployment insurance was created not just because the people waiting in the soup lines at the time thought it would be awesome to have some walking-around money, it was created because it was sound economic policy.
Obviously, having a system of unemployment insurance is in the best interest of anyone who might ever for any reason lose their job.  But it‘s also in the best interest of the country, of our entire economy.  For one thing, it‘s better for everyone if we don‘t have people who lose their jobs immediately falling off a financial cliff, ending up on the street after their last paycheck.  That‘s just not good for society, even if you‘re not personally the person who‘s on the street.
But unemployment insurance is also a way to stimulate the economy.  In the kind of economic situation that we have been in since the deep recession that started in George W. Bush‘s second term, and which there isn‘t enough demand in the economy and which there just aren‘t enough people buying things, the government is constantly looking for ways to stimulate the economy, to stimulate demand, for ways to get more money into the economy, money to keep businesses open, to sustain and create jobs and to generate growth.
And one of the most efficient, most effective ways to do that—just talking in economic terms regardless of your politics—one of the most effective ways to do that to stimulate the economy is to put money in the hands of people who need money really badly and who will therefore spend it right away—which is what unemployment benefits do.
Because of the crisis that was caused by the financial collapse, we have the highest rate of long-term unemployment in this country since when we first got unemployment insurance, since the Great Depression, since the ‘30s.
There are nearly six job seekers for every available job in America right now.  One of the most surprising things about politics since the crash happened and since unemployment spiked is how many politicians apparently hate people for being unemployed, hate the unemployed.  At least they‘re willing to voice for political reason.  After you pay for unemployment insurance when you have a job, a bunch of politicians apparently think that you are a leech and a bad person for taking those benefits when you need them.
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE:  That‘s what‘s happened to us, is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry and said, you don‘t want the jobs that are available.
MADDOW:  That‘s Sharron Angle, the Republican running to place Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.  She thinks people on unemployment, as you just heard, are spoiled.
SEN. JON KYL ®, ARIZONA:  That doesn‘t create new jobs.  In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.
MADDOW:  That‘s Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona, who thinks people are unemployed because of unemployment insurance.  Same reason I burn down my own house regularly ever since I got the fire insurance.
Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa has a similar take on what the jobless think about being jobless.  He offered up this warning about unemployment benefits in February.  Quote, “We shouldn‘t turn the safety net into a hammock.  It should actually be a safety net.”
Republican Congressman Dean Heller of Nevada has a take on unemployment benefits that twice as derogatory and 17 times as bizarre as that.  Here‘s how a local newspaper reported on Dean Heller‘s position.
“Heller said the current economic downturn in policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression, people who wandered the country taking on odd jobs.  Quote, ‘I believe there s should be a federal safety net,‘ Heller said.  But he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing.  Quote, ‘Is the government now creating hobos?‘ he asked.”
If you‘re out of a job, Congressman Heller thinks you may be a hobo.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah thinks you‘re even worse than that.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  You know, we should not be giving cash to people who basically are just going to blow it on drugs.
MADDOW:  Senator Hatch actually proposed an amendment to the jobs bill earlier this month, to force anyone getting unemployment benefits to submit to a drug test—because, you know, land of the free and all that.  Now, pee in this cup.
Andre Bauer, the Republican lieutenant governor of South Carolina compared people on assistance famously earlier this year to stray animals.
LT. GOV. ANDRE BAUER ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  My grandmother was not a highly educated woman but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals.  You know why?  Because of they breed.  You‘re facilitating the problem.
If you give an animal or person ample food supply, they will reproduce, especially ones that don‘t think too of further than that.  And so, what you got to do is you got to curtail that type of behavior.  They don‘t know any better.
MADDOW:  We‘ve got the worst long-term unemployment in this country since the Great Depression.  This is going to have repercussions in our country and in our culture for generations.  The political leadership who were staying on the right in response to that called the unemployed animals, drug test them, call them bums, say they‘re only out of jobs because they‘re lazy and they want to be.  Insult, insult, insult.
And to add real injury to all of that insult, today, every Republican in the Senate plus our friend Ben Nelson blocked a bill to provide badly needed help to the long-term unemployed in this country.  And as a result, starting tomorrow, more than 1 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits.
This might sound like something you‘ve heard before.  This is the sort of thing that‘s been knocking around in and out of the headlines for months now.  And it‘s true.  It‘s because Republicans have blocked extensions of unemployment benefits before.  It‘s kind of been a Republican hobbyhorse lately.
But in the past, the measure has always been saved at the last minute.  That didn‘t happen this time.  Senate Republicans and Ben Nelson really are cutting off the benefits for 1.2 million unemployed people and probably tossing at least some of them out on the street.  And as an added bonus, they‘re giving up the opportunity to stimulate the economy in the most efficient way we know how.
MADDOW:  It is now officially map time on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.  Not nap time, map time.
This is the map.  This is the Gulf of Mexico.  This is the Gulf of Mexico showing its oil production.  Each one of those tiny little yellow dots you see on the screen, I hope you have H.D., represents an active oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico.  Look at all of them.  Look at all of those little dots.
In total, there are 3,600 oil platforms currently operating in the Gulf, 3,600 of those tiny little yellow dots.  What exactly are all of them doing?  I‘m glad you asked because this is an important point.
When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up back in April, it was not producing oil.  It was drilling for oil.  There are two different things that happen out there on those platforms in the Gulf.
You have a rig like the Deepwater Horizon that comes in and drills for oil.  But then once it‘s done drilling, they essentially, you know, put a cork in the hole for lack of a less descriptive phrase at this point.  They essentially stop up the hole they‘ve just drilled and the drilling platform goes away.  Then a whole new platform, a whole different platform actually comes in, uncorks the hole and gets the oil out of the well.
Two different types of rigs, two different processes: there‘s drilling and then there‘s production—drilling done with a drilling rig, production done with a production rig.  The production platform pumps the oil back to shore through all of the green pipelines you see there on the map.  Those are all those green lines.
So, again, drilling and production platforms, two different things.
This is sort of oil industry 101.  But this drilling versus production distinction is at the very heart of a very ugly and very stupid fight that‘s going on right now.
As we speak, the Obama administration is trying to temporarily ban deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  And, today, for a second time this week, a Louisiana federal judge told them, no, you can‘t stop that drilling from happening.  It is a decision that was met with massive celebration from politicians, including Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who headlined today, down with a ban, “Let‘s keep drilling” rally earlier today.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA:  We‘re there today—we‘re here today to call on the federal government.  We‘re saying don‘t double-down on a failed, arbitrary six-month moratorium.  The fact that the federal bureaucrats can‘t do their job should mean that thousands of Louisianans lose our jobs.  It‘s as simple as that.  The country needs the oil and gas that‘s been produced in the Gulf every day to power this economy.
MADDOW:  Hi, Governor Jindal.  It is your lucky day.  You have caught us right in the middle of map time.
When you say that America needs the oil that‘s being produced in the Gulf of Mexico, so down with the ban, fine.  This temporary ban isn‘t going to affect the production in the Gulf of Mexico.  This moratorium that the Obama administration wants to put in place affects exactly 33 of those 3,600 little yellow platforms marked on the map.
And the ones that it affects are not the ones that are producing oil.  It‘s only the ones that are drilling—drilling in deepwater toward the oil.  They haven‘t got to the oil yet.   And that‘s a grand total of 33 of these more than 3,000 dots.  That‘s it.
Remember when the oil industry executives from the top five oil companies testified in front of Congress earlier this month?  One of the amazing things the came out of that hearing—we talked about it on this show—was that all of the company‘s oil spill response plans for the Gulf were essentially the same plan.  They were essentially copies of each other.  They looked the same.  The covers were different colors, but other than that they were the same.
And those executives were questioned about the fact that all of their plans called on the same resources in the event of a spill.  So you call the same dead guy for advice on marine life.  You save the same nonexistent Caribbean walruses in the Gulf of Mexico.  You inexpertly deploy the same boom.  You activate all the same responders.  You go to the same websites.  You call the same phone numbers.
All of their plans are identical.  They admitted it.
REX TILLERSON, EXXON MOBIL CO.:  Cookie cutter characterization should not come as much of a surprise because the industry has relied upon sharing of resources, boats, booms, skimming equipment.  So, those plans look the same because, in fact, they call upon the same resources to respond.
MADDOW:  Right.  This is a very important point, right?  They call on all the same resources to respond which means—OK, oil execs, OK, politicians, think about this just for a second: all of the resources we put to deal with an oil spill in the Gulf are sort of busy.  They‘re already being used right now.
Those plans have been put into action.  The resources have all been called up.  It is all happening.
So, right now, if something else happens on another drilling rig out there in the Gulf, there are no resources available to respond.  It‘s not like each individual company or each individual platform has their own response plan.  They all only have the one.  And the one response is sort of in process.
So, can you just hold your horses while we deal ineffectively with this other ongoing disaster that we‘re nowhere near stopping?  It‘s not like the crisis is getting any better.  It‘s actually getting worse.
Yesterday, we didn‘t even have a containment dome on that gushing well for most of the day.  Tens of thousands of additional gallons of oil are pouring into the Gulf every single day.  And it‘s an additive problem.  Every day is worse than the day before.
And the cleaning effort clearly cannot keep up.  This is what the cleanup looks like right now—ineffective boom piled up on a marsh in Grand Isle, Louisiana, this week.  This is not the old bad way they did it.  It‘s how they‘re doing it now.
Globs of oil are now moving into Pensacola Bay in Florida.  Officials there are expecting it to reach farther inland tomorrow as it approaches Sabine Pass.  Thirteen hundred workers are preparing to try to clean up—to try to clean up all of the oil that comes ashore.
This oil, which is still gushing from that well, is continuing unabated towards the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and Florida.  Even if we failed to respond to this existing disaster, the oil industry and genius politicians like Bobby Jindal are fighting to have the right to start another one.
What would they suggest we do if something else goes wrong?  The oil industry is not being shut down.  New oil drilling is.  If you care, there is a difference.
Joining us is now Bob Cavnar.  He is a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry.  He most recently headed up Milagro exploration, a privately-held firm with operations along the Gulf Coast.
Mr. Cavnar, thanks very much for coming back on the show.
BOB CAVNAR, OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY VETERANS:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW:  First of all, as an expert in the field, let me just ask you if I got any of that oil industry 101 wrong.  I mean, there are different processes for drilling and production, right? 
CAVNAR:  There are very different processes, especially in the deep water.  When the deep water well is drilled, often, it‘s months, even years before that well is completed and put into production. 
So there‘s quite a bit of delay between one and the other.  I think though there‘s a whole other issue here that‘s beyond the economics.  The politicians always focus on the economics. 
And I keep wanting to continue to talk about what the safety issues are.  We had 11 good people killed on April 20th.  And we cannot forget that as we look at what we do with Deepwater. 
MADDOW:  I‘m sorry that the light has gone out on you in the newsroom there, but we can still see you, rest assured.  Hey, there you‘re back.  Well, then - sorry about that.  Technical fault on our end, I‘m sure. 
CAVNAR:  It‘s all right. 
MADDOW:  The oil on companies want to keep on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, as this existing disaster effort continues.  Are there any resources that aren‘t being tapped here if there wasn‘t another accident, some standby team or something we don‘t know of? 
CAVNAR:  I have to tell you, Rachel, when I was out at the well site, the Horizon well site earlier this week, and we were sitting in pools of oil for miles.  And I have to tell you there was not a skimming boat within 10 miles of our boat. 
And so I don‘t think that - they‘ve got to have everything activated.  They don‘t have enough for this response, much less another response. 
MADDOW:  The other thing that concerns me is that we have a problem that is not plateau-ing.  We have a problem that gets worse every single day.  The amount of oil that‘s in the water and that is steaming toward shore and that is landing on shore every day becomes a larger number based on how much is coming out of the pipe that day. 
And it feels like we need to be able to proportionally increase the containment and cleanup response.  From what you‘re saying, it sounds like you‘re telling me that there‘s just nothing else to scale up toward.  There‘s nothing else to throw at this. 
CAVNAR:  I think actually the numbers are going down, Rachel.  What I‘m hearing from people in Louisiana is that the shrimpers and the fishermen who have been skimming oil near shore are getting discouraged. 
Their crews don‘t want to be doing this.  They‘re backing away.  So I think the number of boats are probably actually going down rather than up. 
MADDOW:  Wow.  That‘s very depressing.  Bob, as a -
CAVNAR:  Yes. 
MADDOW:  Today, a federal judge in Louisiana again ruled against the administration‘s temporary ban on deepwater drilling in the gulf.  As somebody who knows the oil industry well, who‘s been involved in exploration, how confident are you that all of those 33 other drilling rigs that Bobby Jindal is having these rallies to try to get them drilling again, how confident are you they‘re perfectly safe? 
CAVNAR:  I‘m just not.  All these rigs use the same safety systems and the same kinds of blowout preventers that failed so miserably on the Deepwater Horizon.  And I‘m just unwilling to let economics and money get in the way of keeping these workers safe and protecting the environment. 
So I believe that the moratorium, that this pause must take place so we can figure out what happened and redesign before we go back. 
MADDOW:  Bob Cavnar, 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, whose insight and experience have been really invaluable to us and our viewers, thank you so much for your time tonight. 
CAVNAR:  Thanks for having me, Rachel. 
MADDOW:  For those of you who are disappointed no Congressman has recently compared a policy of this president to a policy of Adolf Hitler recently, I have good news for you.  We have fresh Obama-equals-the-Fuhrer specious and offensive dot-connecting, this time over the oil disaster.  That‘s coming right up.
REP. JOE BARTON (R-TX):  I apologize.  I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown.  So I apologize. 
MADDOW:  When Congressman Joe Barton opened his mouth to say that a week ago today, it turned into a gusher of black gold for Democrats.  And what‘s amazing is Democrats recognized the political opportunity that Joe Barton gave them and they have run with it. 
ANNOUNCER:  Republicans call BP‘s escrow fund
BARTON:  A shakedown -
BARTON:  So I apologize. 
ANNOUNCER:  Apologizing to big oil.  This is how Republicans would govern. 
MADDOW:  Democrats recognizing a political opening and moving to take advantage of it.  Whoa.  But what‘s just as amazing as Democrats having that kind of political savvy is that Republicans really appear not to have savvy about this. 
This is a genuine surprise to me.  After taking a week‘s worth of beating on the Joe Barton issue, on Joe Barton‘s behalf, Republicans have now rewarded him. 
They are letting him keep his seat as the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a position Republicans will, I guess, enjoy defending from now until November, kind of like what House Republican whip Eric Cantor had to go through on MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe” this morning. 
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA):  Joe Barton‘s not the issue.  You know, Joe Barton apologized. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He kind of is, though.  If he‘s the most powerful Republican right now on the Hill when it comes to energy, he is the issue, isn‘t he?    
CANTOR:  No, he‘s not.  I mean, some people want to make Joe Barton the issue when the issue is, you say, are the beaches in Pensacola and the economy that is being battered and the environmental disaster in epic proportions in the gulf.  That‘s the issue - and how do we stop this gushing of oil?  That‘s the issue, not Joe Barton. 
MADDOW:  Not Joe Barton.  We‘re just keeping him as the top Republican on energy in the House in the hopes you‘ll stop asking us this question.  Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson, another congressman famous not being afraid to speak his mind, defended his colleague to Roll Call” today, saying, quote, “His statements were largely taken out of context.” 
Largely taken out of context.  What context could that be other than he apologized to the company that is dumping oil into the Gulf of Mexico?  He‘s apologizing to the underwater volcano of oil company.  He said he was sorry that the government expected them to pay for the damage.  What context makes that OK? 
Not only is Joe Barton keeping his powerful committee post, not only are Republicans defending him in public, he is so not a pariah over this that Joe Barton is actually being touted, I kid you not, as a special guest at a fundraiser for one of his fellow Republicans, for Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns of Florida. 
Yes, Mr. Apologize to BP himself, is not only keeping his gig as the top House Republican on energy, he is being touted as a special guest as the draw at an event designed to raise campaign money. 
What should be even more politically damaging than doing fundraising with Joe Barton?  How about this?  How about fundraising directly with BP?  Cut out the middle man. 
That is what Republicans Marsha Blackburn and Erik Paulsen did this afternoon.  They held a $1000-a-plate lunch for a Republican candidate for lunch, Cory Gardner of Colorado. 
On this invitation, we see Dan Meyer there - Dan Meyer, lobbyist for BP.  So instead of running from all things BP, Republicans are sidling up.  That‘s one side of the Republican Party‘s response to the BP oil disaster. 
They also say that the White House standing up to BP, the White House getting money for Americans victimized by BP, is a bad thing, and not just a bad thing but a really bad thing, like a Nazi Hitler bad thing. 
Tuesday night, Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas took to the floor of the House to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler because he stood up to BP. 
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX):  When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s - and I‘m quoting from Thomas Sowell in this editorial, “Leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics.  Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler‘s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.” 
“Useful idiots” was the term, and this isn‘t in the article.  This is my comment.  But we have - we do have useful idiots today who are heard to say, “Wow.  What we really need is for the president it be a dictator for a little while.”  They know not what they say. 
GOHMERT:  Actually, nobody knows of whom you speak, Mr. Straw Man.  Republicans from Louie Gohmert to Joe Barton, on the other hand, do know what they say on this oil issue and it‘s remarkably politically toxic.  What are Democrats going to say in response? 
Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.  Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL):  Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW:  Is there an open door to push on here in terms of energy policy and in terms of legislation?  Don‘t Democrats want Republicans to keep talking about oil as much as possible between now and November? 
SCHULTZ:  Well, this is a party that is proving every single day that they worship at the altar of big oil and special interests.  And you know, what is incredibly disturbing is that - is not just that Joe Barton apologized to BP or that they left him in place as the ranking member, but that if the Republicans in November took over the House of Representatives, he would be the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and would be directing energy policy. 
So when it comes to legislation, what we need to be focusing on and what this oil disaster, if you can find a silver lining at all, has resulted in, is the American people coalescing and beginning to recognize that we have to wean ourselves off our dependence on oil, not just foreign oil, but oil, and pass legislation that will help us invest in renewable energy sources.  That is the way - that is the key to our long-term energy needs. 
MADDOW:  On the Joe Barton issue, I don‘t believe that he would be chair of Energy and Commerce if he came back, because of the way they rotate those chairmanships if nothing else. 
But it is - I mean, he is being touted as a marquis fundraiser for them at this point, which, I just wonder - remember after Joe Wilson yelled “you lie” at the president and everybody was horrified and he apologized. 
SCHULTZ:  I remember. 
MADDOW:  Yes.  And then, he raised all of this money off of it.  Is it possible that he becomes like a weird anti-hero for this? 
SCHULTZ:  This is a party that has no shame, so absolutely.  I mean, these are leaders that will use any opportunity to raise money and who have no shame.  And really, if you look at the comments, not just of Joe Barton but of Louie Gohmert and Trent Franks and Michele Bachmann and Tom Price and a litany of Republicans who not only rushed to Joe Barton‘s defense, but rushed to BP‘s defense. 
I mean, this is - Joe Barton was just the tip of the iceberg.  You have a Republican conference in the House of Representatives that has consistently been coming to the defense of BP. 
What about coming to the defense of the residents of the gulf
coast?  What about the defense of the environment?  What about the defense
of the animals that are coated in oil as a result of this spill?  And what
about making sure that we can get this thing capped so that eventually we
can actually clean it up and the residents of the gulf coast -
I‘m from a gulf coast state, Rachel.  I represent the southeast side of Florida.  But you know, we‘re really worried that, you know, as the oil begins to spread, it‘s already beginning to happen on the gulf on the panhandle.  We‘re very worried about it wrapping itself around our peninsula and affecting the east coast. 
So this is a party that, when it comes to apologies, needs to be apologizing to the fishermen, who, as a result of their lax regulation, as a result of them letting the oil industry mind their own store, ended up in this situation. 
MADDOW:  Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you for being here. 
SCHULTZ:  Thank you. 
MADDOW:  And if that oil does get into the loop current and head toward your district, I hope you‘ll help us get the word out about what you need in order to defend your space. 
SCHULTZ:  Oh, you can be sure.  Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW:  Thank you.  Tonight on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith asks Jeremy Scahill why our government keeps giving really big fat rich contracts to the company formerly known as Blackwater. 
Later on this show, among the things that President Obama and the rest of us can control about our wars is the way we treat and interact with the people who are risking and sometimes giving their lives to fight those wars.  Thoughts on that, some rather serious thoughts on that, I confess, coming up.  Stay with us.
MADDOW:  The Russian president, Dimitri Medvedev, is visiting Washington.  And today, he and President Obama hung out.  They had burgers together.  They shared fries, really.  And they talked about social networking, just like a couple of hip kids. 
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I appreciated very much the opportunity to hear President Medvedev‘s vision for modernization in Russia, especially high-tech innovation.  It is a personal passion of the president. 
And during his visit to Silicon Valley this week, he visited the headquarters of the Twitters (sic), where he opened his own account.  I have one as well, so we maybe able to finally throw away those red phones that have been sitting around for so long. 
MADDOW:  Hold on.  Hold on.  He what now? 
OBAMA:  He visited the headquarters of the Twitters (sic). 
MADDOW:  Twitters?  Did he now?  He visited the headquarters of the Twitters.  How did President Medvedev figure out how to get there?  President George W. Bush, any suggestions? 
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  One of the things I‘ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. 
MADDOW:  Isn‘t the internets great? 
FMR. SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AK):  The Internet is not something that you just dump something on.  It‘s not a big truck.  It‘s a series of tubes. 
MADDOW:  So true, former Senator Ted Stevens, so Twitter-ly true. 
MADDOW:  The signature weapon of the wars we‘re in.  The signature weapon used against U.S. troops in Iraq and, in recent years, also in Afghanistan is the IED, the improvised explosive device, the homemade bomb. 
Because of that, American troops‘ signature wound from these wars is traumatic brain injury.  Traumatic brain injury and/or post-traumatic stress, both of which are relatively hard to diagnose and hard to treat.  Three years ago, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund opened a state-of-the-art rehab center in Texas, a privately funded super high-tech center to rehabilitate vets who lost arms or legs in combat. 
Today, the same fund opened another state-of-the-art, privately-funded super high-tech center, this time to rehab vets with TBI, with traumatic brain injury and with post-traumatic stress.  It‘s a huge 72,000 square-foot facility.  There‘s nothing like it in the world.  It‘s on the campus of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. 
But again, it‘s a privately-funded thing.  They call it NICOE, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence.  The Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, had both been scheduled to attend today‘s opening ceremony in Bethesda, but some stuff came up this week in military matters. 
You might have heard about that.  So they cancelled.  And instead of being at the opening ceremony in Bethesda, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen were where you see them here, at the Pentagon, giving a rare two-honcho, in-person press briefing on the implications of the firing of the top commander in Afghanistan. 
Now, under the circumstances, it doesn‘t seem terribly unreasonable that anyone in the upper echelons of the military and the war effort right now has seen their schedules upended by this week‘s quite unforeseen events.  But check out the angry response at the opening of the center from wounded vets, this response to the fact that there weren‘t recognizable high-ranking officials there today. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Last night, I thought about this event and about this building.  You, young men and women, who risk your life - risk your life every day for us.  And I thought about the way we care for them, and I got angry. 
I was angry because here we are, in the nation‘s capitol, the seat of our government, the very people who decide your fate, the people who send you out to protect our freedoms.  And yet, where are they?  Not one senator or - only two Congressmen.  No one from the White House at all. 
No cabinet members.  Where are they?  And while we appreciate that much -
And while we appreciate that much of our military leadership that is present, our government should be behind this effort.  I know these are difficult times.  I read newspapers.  I see the news.  And still, where are they?  They call you out.  You are injured.  We are all here.  Where are they? 
MADDOW:  I know where they are.  They‘re in Washington, dealing with the fact that the president yesterday just fired the guy in charge of the war effort.  But in the wake of the Gen. McChrystal firing, the relationship between our country‘s civilian and military leadership is a white-hot issue for a reason. 
On the specifics, today, as this massive privately funded medical health - excuse me - mental health treatment center opened, the Pentagon‘s top general in charge of that issue resigned amid continuing reports that Pentagon efforts to get better at treating TBI, treating post traumatic stress, just aren‘t succeeding well enough or fast enough. 
On the political side, as the White House revels in the compliments on how strong the president looks for taking command and firing a rogue general, the fact remains that Gen. Stanley McChrystal was very popular among rank-and-file troops, on the war effort, more broadly, even as liberals like me, who lament the escalation of the war and counterinsurgency doctrine that seems to call for a never-ending escalation. 
The leaders of the nation‘s largest group of Iraq and Afghanistan vets, someone for whom I have enormous respect, Paul Rieckhoff, took to our airways on this show last night to express bitter frustration that veterans of these current wars don‘t feel like they have anyone to turn to in this White House for support on their issues. 
There‘s no magic way to knit together the military and civilian leadership in a republic like ours.  There‘s not going to be a President Petraeus.  None of the last three presidents, Democrat or Republican, served in a war. 
There is going to be resentment and name-calling and alienation and grumbling, sometimes even accidentally to reporters over Bud Lite Lime in Paris.  But as we continue to fight two wars, and as the nation finds its attention wrenched back to the Afghan war again now, there are ways for civilian political leadership to convince both the military and the country that we are all pulling in the same direction. 
I don‘t believe it‘s about just showing up to the right ribbon cuttings.  I‘m not an optics person, and neither are you, if the memory of George W. Bush in that flight suit still makes you throw up a little bit in your mouth.  It‘s not about optics.  It‘s not about style.  It is about substance. 
The Veterans Affairs Department needs more than just more money, which it has gotten.  It needs a tremendous kick-in-the-tail, like the Minerals Management Service has gotten, to make the benefits process less of a Kafka-esque hell for all veterans. 
The departure of the general in charge of dealing with TBI and post-traumatic stress necessitates an even higher profile, more powerful replacement for her.  The White House needs to know that young veterans of America‘s current wars feel out of the loop and they need a high-placed ally with some pull. 
And politically, on the war effort, if we really are supposed to believe that this unity of effort is not just a military thing, counterinsurgency doctrine, if we‘re really supposed to believe in that, then we‘re probably due to hear that post-McChrystal, the leaders on the civilian side, Karl Eikenberry, Richard Holbrooke, even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are also having their feet held to the fire on what we‘re doing in Afghanistan, that they also know their jobs are on the line if they look out for themselves and their own fiefdoms more than the mission. 
There is no magic way to close the inevitable and probably
healthy between military and civilian leadership.  But -
OBAMA:  We need to remember what this is all about.  Our nation is at war. 
MADDOW:  Our nation is war, and there is work that still needs to be done to remind us that really, it is our nation at war, and not just our military on their own.
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