Guests: Jim Cantore, Rep. Ed Markey, Frank Rich
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We begin tonight with the breaking news that is the first hurricane of the season, Hurricane Alex.
As we speak, Hurricane Alex is a category two storm, having strengthened in the warm waters of the western Gulf of Mexico. It is producing sustained winds of 100 miles an hour. The center of the storm is about 25 miles from landfall—meaning, it is expected to hit the coast within the next two hours. Its current trajectory would have it hit northeastern Mexico, about 100 miles south of Brownsville, Texas.
The hurricane‘s outer bands have already affected south Texas with heavy winds and rain in Brownsville and South Padre Island. At least two tornadoes have already been confirmed. Coastal flood warnings have been issued with up to 20 inches of rain expected.
Meanwhile, the epicenter of the ever spreading BP oil disaster is about 500 miles from the eye of the hurricane. The oil spill area is not expected to take a direct hurricane hit. But that area is already being hit with seven to ten foot seas and wind gusts up to 25 miles an hour.
Drilling on relief well at the BP oil disaster site would have to stop if winds reach 46 miles an hour. That‘s according to Admiral Thad Allen, the federal incident commander in charge of dealing with the disaster.
Cleanup efforts along the Gulf Coast have been suspended due to high waves caused by Alex, which have forced many of the oil skimming vessels to sit in port. The skimmers will likely remain out of commission for another 24 to 48 hours.
Effects of Hurricane Alex halted the controlled burns of oil on the ocean surface and flights spraying dispersants as well.
And strong winds and high tides have pushed more oil and tar balls from the spill into the already soiled Gulf Coast beaches and marshlands.
Joining us now live from South Padre Island, Texas, is Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel.
Jim, thanks very much for being out in this weather for us. I appreciate your time.
JIM CANTORE, WEATHER CHANNEL: (AUDIO BREAK) that we do this for the (AUDIO BREAK). And just want to let everybody know why we ask them to evacuate, why we asked them to kind of move to higher ground. You can see this huge pool of seaweed which has come ashore. And, you know, that‘s the good news. The storm has gone far out to our south. So, the impacts here aren‘t going to be too bad.
But the problem is, is that the worst of it here may actually be felt well after landfall in the next two or three hours. In other words, we have a tremendous amount of rain and because of the large size of this, as it moves inland, it‘s going to dump rain through the lower Rio Grande Valley and then upriver into the mountainous terrains, all of that filling the water shed and eventually potentially causing what could be a catastrophic flood.
This is a very poor area, especially getting information out for flash flood (AUDIO BREAK). You know, we are really privy to (AUDIO BREAK) especially as we go to the next 24 hours, because that‘s when it looks like this could occur.
MADDOW: Jim, are you able to tell us anything about the expected impact on the oil spill area?
CANTORE: Oh, it‘s huge. It‘s huge. There‘s no question after this is all said and done, I think if we don‘t get a catastrophic flood, and that‘s yet (AUDIO BREAK) to be determined, the potentials there. But I think the problem is we‘ve already had, like you said, seven to 10-foot seas out there. That pretty shut off a lot of the skimming efforts out there. It‘s pushed the water over the booms.
Those eight-inch booms are not going to hold that oil back, especially with that kind of late action. It‘s going over the booms. It‘s going deeper into the (AUDIO BREAK).
Plus, yesterday, we had a sustained (AUDIO BREAK) sustained 30-mile-an-hour wind from the east. That took some of the concentrated oil and pushed it farther west along the Louisiana coastline toward northeast Texas.
So, you know, when you get a storm like this, I don‘t care if it‘s 700 miles away from where this oil leak is. It‘s going to create a wash tub throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico. And that‘s what‘s caused the big problems through here and (AUDIO BREAK).
MADDOW: The Weather Channel‘s Jim Cantore, joining us from South Padre Island with a difficult connection but doing some great reporting out there—Jim, thank you for your help. I really appreciate it.
CANTORE: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, if you were responsible for planning out the emergency response for an oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which is after all the western hemisphere‘s hurricane‘s alley, surely, you would factor the storm season into your disaster response plan. And that‘s why you don‘t work for BP.
Joining us now is Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee who wrote to BP America CEO today, asking if the company had made disaster plans that accounted for the possibility of hurricanes in the Gulf.
Congressman Markey, thank you very much for being here.
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you. Glad to be on.
MADDOW: Have you received any response from BP on your letter to BP America‘s CEO about this?
MARKEY: Yes, BP actually forgot to mention hurricanes or tropical storms in their spill response plan. That is what would happen if there was an accident, an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and as we know, they do have plans to evacuate walruses from the Gulf of Mexico, which have not lived there in 3 million years, they just forgot to mention hurricanes or tropical storms and, by the way, so did ExxonMobil and Conoco Phillips in their spill response plan.
So, the level of seriousness with which these oil companies took their responsibility to insure that in the event something went wrong, that a spill occurred is obviously very low.
MADDOW: Do you have more hope that the oil companies could be made to care about these things or do you have more hope that the government will stop saying yes to disaster response plans that say don‘t mention the possibility of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico? Which is going to improve first?
MARKEY: I actually think that this nightly, daily televising of this catastrophe and the abysmal response of the oil industry is going to make them accountable. Maybe a few years from, they‘ll try to get away again from their responsibilities. But I do think it is going to catalyze the Congress to finally put on the books the minimum standards which the oil companies must have in order to respond to this kind of a catastrophic spill. They basically were owning and operating the regulator, but I don‘t think it‘s going to happen for the rest of this year and for the foreseeable future.
MADDOW: Congressman Markey, you and I have talked before about the issue of oil spill response technology, how bad it is, trying to get oil companies to invest in that. What‘s the status of those efforts in Congress right now?
MARKEY: Well, I‘ll introduce legislation so that we can have 21st century technology to deal with oil spills at ultra-deep depths. Right now, these wells are not ultra-safe. There is not an ultra-fast response with 21st century technologies which is possible.
And I‘ve introduced legislation which will create that fund, which will create the impetus for the development of these technologies, because we just can‘t allow either the federal government or the oil industry in their cozy cooperation, their complacency to allow a situation like this occur again where people look on helplessly without the technology necessary to bring a rapid end to this kind of a catastrophic event.
MADDOW: I‘d also like to get your response, Congressman, to something that happened—something that happened this week that I‘m quite surprised by. Republican Senator Jim DeMint is blocking attempts to give the oil spill commission subpoena power. So, the president is appointing this commission to investigate the oil spill to talk about what to change in terms of our policy so this never happens again. Jim DeMint does not want them to be able to subpoena anybody. I don‘t understand this.
I wonder what your response to it is.
MARKEY: Well, as you know, in the Senate, they have a system of holds, secret holds. In “Godfather Part I,” it would a code of omerta. No one gets to learn why a single senator puts a hold on a bill.
Here, Senator DeMint is placing a hold on the bill which will give subpoena powers to the commission that is going to investigate this spill which, by the way, is co-chaired by the President Bush‘s head of the Environmental Protection Agency. But he still doesn‘t trust it. He says that he‘s putting the hold on this bill, on the subpoena power on behalf of other senators who are unnamed.
Now, could they be unnamed senators from Oklahoma? Unnamed senators from Texas who might just have the oil industry interest at heart? We don‘t know. But all the ultimate result is of this is that the commission won‘t have the subpoena power they know that they need to get to the bottom of this scandal.
MADDOW: We will give those senators from Oklahoma and from Texas a call. See if they‘ll answer—see if they‘ll answer your queries, Congressman Markey. Thank you very much for your time, sir.
MARKEY: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you.
MADDOW: Ed Markey is a Democrat of Massachusetts, of course, and the chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee.
OK. After the top Republican in Congress compared the country‘s financial collapse to an ant, Democrats today led by President Obama stepped on him. That‘s ahead with “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich.
MADDOW: As expected today, the Senate confirmed General David Petraeus to command the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan. The vote was unanimous. It‘s possible that if they could have knighted him or given him the key to the city, senators would have gladly done that, too.
General Petraeus warned lawmakers during his testimony this week that fighting in Afghanistan will likely get more intense. Today, Taliban fighters mounted what turned out to be an ill-advised assault on a well-protected NATO base near Jalalabad. Eight fighters were killed.
This month is also turning out to be the deadliest month yet in Afghanistan for western troops. The Web site iCasualties reporting 103 allied troops killed in Afghanistan in June. Sixty-one were Americans.
We will bring you a first-hand look at the situation in Afghanistan in a few days when we take the show to that country. We‘ll be traveling with NBC‘s Richard Engel and broadcasting live from Kabul next Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Before then, we‘ll post photos and video on our blog. We hope you‘ll tune in next week to those special shows and check out Maddowblog.MSNBC.com in the meantime. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: The greatest show on earth this year, or at least in American politics this year, the Republican Party. We knew it was going to happen. Post-Bush, post-Cheney, post-McCain, how will the Republican Party reinvent itself? After really, really bad election losses in ‘06 and ‘08, handing Democrats majorities so large they are probably almost inherently unsustainable, how will the Republican Party take advantage of the pendulum swinging back in their direction? How will they re-establish themselves with voters as the party that should be entrusted to govern?
This has been the greatest show on earth. I mean, Sarah Palin quit as Alaska governor to cash in and become a full time celebrity. She spoke for money today at a bowling convention. I‘m not kidding.
John McCain abandoned almost all his long held notable policy positions because of a primary challenge from a talk show host who is famous for being implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal.
The conservative movement brought the—John Birch Society came back into the fold. The John Birch Society co-sponsored CPAC this year.
Conservatives marked the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing with armed marches—marches with guns.
They picked the day after the 9/11 anniversary to march on Washington against the U.S. government.
They came out against the Civil Rights Act.
They came out against Social Security.
They came out against soccer.
They came out against Thurgood Marshall.
They came out against the fact that people elect senators directly instead of state legislatures choosing senators. Honestly. The 17th Amendment—who knew this was going to be an issue they tried to run this year?
It has been a spectacular year and a half or so of Republican politics, of conservative politics in this country. It has been amazing.
But even with all of that fodder, with all of that going on, the media has found it easiest to just focus on one small part of this greatest show on earth and that, of course, is the tea party phenomenon. It‘s true. The tea party has been fun to cover. It is a notable conservative populist phenomenon. They wear great hats. They use tea bags as their symbol—and sometime as a verb which has very funny sexual connotations.
But has the fact that the tea party‘s are so fun to cover given them a significance in the media that is disproportionate to their actual importance? Is the tea party phenomenon not as large as it appears in your media-provided mirror?
Is it possible that the vaunted tea party uprising has had trouble even mustering enough support to convene a second National Tea Party Conference? That conference was scheduled for this month in Las Vegas. But the producers of it have now canceled it or delayed it for a while saying that it has just occurred to them now that in July, it‘s hot in Las Vegas.
We‘ve asked Kent Jones to look into this.
Kent, nice to see you.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel.
You know, the righteous fury of the tea party will not rest until the stench of Kenyan socialism is removed from this great country.
MADDOW: Fair enough.
JONES: Or unless, you know, it‘s hot. Then we‘ll see.
MADDOW: Then they‘ll rest. Let‘s see.
JONES (voice-over): Tea Party Nation had planned a glorious unity convention for July 15th through 17th in that crucible of democracy, Las Vegas, Nevada. Sharron Angle was scheduled to speak and Laura Ingraham.
Says their Web site, quote, “As we head into the fall elections, we must be united in our opposition to the Obama/Pelosi/Reid axis of fiscal evil.”
The excitement was reaching a fever pitch. But now, just two weeks before the blessed event, TPN has released a statement saying they‘ve decided to move the convention back to October. Yes, a change. And as we all know, the tea party hates change.
What‘s going on here? It couldn‘t be that passion for the Tea Party Movement is waning. Or that it‘s organizers don‘t have a clear agenda for anything beyond gouging gullible conventioneers at 400 bucks a piece, or that all their staged outrage has become a sad self-parody. Not at all—
Obama was Hitler last year and he still Hitler today.
Here‘s the real reason. Quote, “We have also received numerous e-mails from people who were forced to decide between family vacations and attending the convention.”
How‘s that for a socialist plot? Make tea partiers choose between saving America from an insidious one world wealth redistribution scheme or taking the kids to splash mountain.
Don‘t tread on our vacation.
And the final reason, quote, “The heat in Las Vegas is July is keeping many who would like to participate from attending.”
Oh, sure. Laugh. But you try wearing full minutemen regalia in the blistering desert heat or even in a fully air-conditioned casino conference room near the black jack (ph) tables.
This aggression will not stand. The tea party sweats for no one. But don‘t worry, America, the tea party will be there to rescue the last best hope for humanity when it‘s more, you know, convenient.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Kent.
MADDOW: I wonder if they‘ll invite us in October.
JONES: It‘s hot.
Tea Party Nation‘s scheduled speaker, Sharron Angle, for the first time since becoming a Senate candidate weeks ago gave a real live interview to a real live journalist last night. It was like Mentos meeting Diet Coke for the first time.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JON RALSTON, TV HOST: The separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution.
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: No, it doesn‘t, Jon.
RALSTON: Oh, it doesn‘t? Oh, the Founding Fathers didn‘t believe in the separation of church and state, the Establishment Clause, the First Amendment?
ANGLE: Actually, Thomas Jefferson has been misquoted, like I‘ve been misquoted out of context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sharron Angle, often mistaken for Thomas Jefferson. That‘s your appetizer. The main course is coming up. Please stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE BARTON ®, TEXAS: I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown. I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Remember when Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP earlier this month? I think I actually said on the air, pinch me, when it looked like Democrats were actually going to recognize that for the huge political mistake that it was. But Democrats did. They were all over it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think Mr. Barton‘s comments fit comfortably among the leadership in the Republicans in the House of Representatives. People in the Gulf are suffering from BP‘s negligence and recklessness. Republicans in Congress are apologizing to BP.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democrats were all over the Joe Barton thing. They were super eager to put those comments into an electoral context. The “This is how Republicans govern” context. Pinch me, indeed.
Well, yesterday, we had another huge political error committed by a leading Republican and again the question was: will the famously ever hapless Democrats realize that they could take advantage of this one, too? It was an interview with “The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review” that came out yesterday and when top—when John Boehner, the top Republican in the House, referred to the giant financial crisis that we‘re all still living through as a tiny little ant. And that Wall Street reformed to address that crisis he said, would be like killing an ant with a nuclear weapon. Who needs reform? Stop overreacting.
In that same interview, Mr. Boehner said Republicans want to raise the retirement age for Social Security to 70. And he demonstrated on tape that he has absolutely no idea what the deep water oil drilling moratorium is. He honestly seemed to just not understand it.
Would Democrats in this case after another Republican failure like this—would Democrats be able to step into the yawning breech and the political fabric? Would they able to capitalize on this unforced error?
It turns out that they will. I am not an inside-the-Beltway enough person to know who exactly gets credit for the fact that Democrats are all over this stuff all of a sudden—but Democrats are all over this stuff all of a sudden. Within hours of the “financial crisis is an ant” quote being published yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s office responded, quote, “An ant, Mr. Boehner? It was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression—Americans lost 8 million jobs and $17 trillion in retirement savings and net worth.”
Today, President Obama also took his best shot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The leader of the Republicans in the House said that financial reform was like—and I‘m quoting here—“using a nuclear weapon to target an ant.” That‘s what he said. He compared the financial crisis to an ant.
This is the same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly 8 million jobs, same crisis that cost people their homes, their life savings. I—you can‘t be that out of touch—with the struggles of American families. And if he is, then he‘s got to come here to Racine and ask people what they think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama, during a campaign-style town hall event in Wisconsin today. In addition to the president and speaker of the House pouncing on John Boehner‘s disastrous interview yesterday, the Democratic National Committee already rushed out this web ad highlighting Mr. Boehner‘s comments. Democrats are actually responding to a political opportunity all at once, all in the same direction, almost like they‘re trying to win the elections this year or something.
Remember, the whole idea for Republicans right now heading toward the elections is: don‘t have anybody talk about you, ever. Keep your head down, Republicans. Just try to keep the focus on the Democrats.
If Republicans are able to do that, anything anybody is dissatisfied with in the whole country can conceivably translate to a “no” vote against the guys in charge. A “no” vote against the Democrats. Republicans would benefit by default. That‘s all Republicans have to do. And so far, they can‘t do it.
So here comes the real challenge for Democrats: Can Democrats turn that into not just electoral gains in the fall, but can they actually turn it into political gains right now? By which I mean policy gains.
Right now, Republicans in the Senate are filibustering extending unemployment benefits for people who are out of work.
This week, Senate Republicans filibustered funding for homeless veterans for kids.
Republicans right now are demanding special favors for their home industries in the Wall Street reform bill. I‘m talking to you, Scott Brown. And then still saying they‘ll vote no on it because—because what? They don‘t want to ban bailouts?
Republicans on day 72 of the BP oil disaster are all standing up against changing the nation‘s energy policy. They‘re all against it. Cheney‘s policy is apparently working great, if you ask them.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who used to be in favor of changing energy policies, now in the face of this huge oil disaster, is now advising President Obama to scrap the whole idea or at least aim lower.
All of these things can be seen as Capitol Hill news, legislative battles, strategic issues in Congress, or they can be national political hay for Democrats.
Democrats, if you are able to make political hay here, you stand both to win the elections and you highlight to the public the politically toxic positions Republicans are taking on all the issues I just listed. And that will allow you to peel off some Republicans from those policy positions which will allow you to pass your chosen policies. You will do well in other words by doing good.
Now, I‘m an optimist about the country. I‘m an optimist about the American people and the universe in general. But because I am a liberal, I‘m a pessimist about Democrats and their propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
But they did move on the Joe Barton “I apologize to BP” opportunity and they did move on to John Boehner “The financial crisis is an ant” opportunity. Could they keep doing it? Have they established an actual aggressive “we want to win” pattern here? Pinching anybody? Pinching?
“New York Times” columnist Frank Rich joins us next.
MADDOW: Pinching, anybody? Pinching? “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB BENNETT (R-UT): As I look at the political landscape now, I find plenty of slogans on the Republican side, but not very many ideas.
And indeed, if you raise specific ideas and solutions, as I tried
to do on health care with Ron Wyden, you are attacked with the same vigor
as we‘ve seen in American politics all the way back to the arguments over
slavery and polygamy. You are attacked as being a wimp, insufficiently
pure, and unreliable
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was soon-to-be-former Republican Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, an incumbent Republican pushed out this year in the fantastic crazy heat of what‘s going on right now in our country in conservative politics.
Joining us now for the interview is “New York Times” columnist Frank Rich. Mr. Rich, nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
FRANK RICH, COLUMNIST, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: What we saw there - the reason I want to play that Bob Bennett clip is because I feel like that‘s something we really rarely see - elected Republicans actually doling out some friendly fire. How do you think the Republican Party is doing overall in its post-Bush, post-McCain era?
RICH: I think it‘s struggling, not necessarily politically. But for a message, what‘s it about? On one hand, they have this sort of reversion to this extreme fiscal conservatism of tearing down the safety net, no unemployment benefits extension against regulation, apologizing, for heaven‘s sake, not just to an abusive company like BP but a British one which is just - seems totally tone deaf.
They have the social issue component that is sort of all from the side and feeling disgruntled. They have a race problem. I don‘t know what the message is except the party of no. And while sort of the cliche, there is something sort of realistic about it.
Don‘t want to - what policies are they proposing or supporting unless maybe Gen. Petraeus is involved? That‘s about the only - the only thing they can rally behind.
MADDOW: Unanimous - everything unanimous for Petraeus. It‘s true. We just have had word since we‘ve been on the air tonight from the AP. For the third time in as many weeks, Republicans in the Senate have successfully filibustered a bill to continue providing unemployment checks to millions of people.
Republicans, obviously, keep blocking unemployment extensions as we‘ve got this record unemployment. But there is this issue of Republicans trying to make unemployment benefits themselves seem like a bad thing. People like Sharron Angle, Jim DeMint, not only voting to not only extend it or saying they would vote to not extend it, but trying to argue against it, arguing that unemployment people are lazy and spoiled. How significant is that?
RICH: Well, I think it‘s just - I don‘t know how significant it is beyond sort of the really far right-wing fringe. We‘re talking about, really, the far-right of that party in terms of office holders and candidates. But it is significant and it‘s a return to sort of the classic kind of John Birch Society Republicanism of just - you know, pure (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
No government, no regulation. Let business do what it wants.
Let people fend for themselves. It‘s as if you want to rewrite all of
history since the new deal which is what they want to do. They are
supporting Medicare because they realize they don‘t want to lose the votes
of senior citizens who like Medicare. So they‘re suddenly positioning
themselves as defenders of that during the health care -
MADDOW: Although the Paul Ryan blueprint among House Republicans calls for getting rid of Medicare.
RICH: Right. And some of the recent primary winners talk - including, I think, Angle, talk about downsizing or privatizing or phasing out Medicare and social security.
MADDOW: Yes. The guy who ousted Bennett in Utah, exactly.
RICH: Yes. And which is sort of tea-partyism, whatever the size of the tea party itself. And I think there‘s a vacuum so all of this sort of somewhat nutty stuff can rise to the top, because who‘s the leader of that party?
RICH: There is no leader.
MADDOW: But is there - is there room - if the Republicans really embrace that, and even if it is only the DeMints and Sharron Angles of the world who are saying, you know, unemployed are spoiled and lazy and bad people and that‘s why they‘re unemployed.
But all - all Republicans are willing to filibuster unemployment benefits, isn‘t there - doesn‘t that open up some political room for Democrats to say, “Hey, look at the Republicans. This isn‘t a referendum on us.”
It is a choice in this election. It‘s us or it‘s the “kick them when they‘re down, we hate you for being unemployed” party. Will Democrats do that?
RICH: Well, think Democrats, as you have shown, have been trying to do it. I think there are two problems. One is Obama‘s the best person to do it. But it‘s not really kind of in his wheel, has to be Harry Truman and do this is a lot.
And the people bearing the administration‘s economic message, you know, Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner - I don‘t think they can send them out to sort of send this message. They‘re just not going to be credible at it as reformers.
Then you‘ve got the other problem which is working the Republican‘s favor which unemployment itself. Even if this economy was inherited, and it was from the Bush years, the fact is if those unemployment numbers don‘t move, that drowns out the political message, sadly. And understandably, but sadly.
MADDOW: Let me ask you also about Afghanistan. Afghanistan obviously thrust back into the headlines because of the McChrystal scandal. But is Afghanistan likely to remain what I think it is right now, which is essentially a policy issue? Or could it become a politics issue? Could it be a sleeper issue in this election?
RICH: I think it will be a sleeper issue only if it erupts. I think, otherwise, it will be kind of, as McChrystal said, a bleeding ulcer, sort of low level fever. But if - look, if things go south badly and the status quo doesn‘t hold, then it could be a political issue.
Otherwise, I don‘t think it will be a political issue until December, after the election when the administration has already announced they‘re going to have a reevaluation of the policy.
MADDOW: Briefly, one last question - the Michael Hastings “Rolling Stone” interview. Do you think it ends up being a journalism story even more than it is a war story because of the implicit critique it represents about journalists who wouldn‘t have published those comments if they had heard them?
RICH: Yes. I think it‘s embarrassing. I think, you know, he was interviewing McChrystal and company when everyone in Washington was at the White House Correspondents Dinner, you know, getting ready for the prom.
RICH: There‘s something - I think there‘s something off about the press corps. And also I don‘t like the way that they - a lot of them trashed him as if he was doing something out of line for - nothing unorthodox about that story. It makes perfect sense. Much of it was on the record.
MADDOW: Yes. Frank Rich, “New York Times” columnist and somebody I always really, really enjoy talking to, thanks for coming in.
RICH: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. Next on “COUNTDOWN,” some pretty amazing aerial-shot visuals showing the enormous scope of the BP oil disaster. You have not seen them before. You should check them out on “COUNTDOWN.”
Later on this show, the end of Sharron Angle‘s political career, it turns out, will be televised.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL NOMINEE: Come on, John.
JOHN RALSTON, HOST, “FACE TO FACE WITH JOHN RALSTON”: But you they‘re spoiled.
ANGLE: Well, I said that it had spoiled our citizenry. That‘s a little different. They‘re not spoiled. What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They‘re not spoiled. There has been a spoilage. That‘s totally different. It totally makes sense. Sharron Angle fought the journalism and the journalism won. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: Are you ready for your accused band of wacky, deep cover Russian spies update? Of course, you are. OK. Since we left this story, there have been 10 arrests and one alleged spy still at large. That 11th guy has now been arrested. They got him in an airport in Cyprus as he tried to board a flight for Budapest.
After Cypriot police arrested him, they, for some reason, released him on bail. You know, because spies aren‘t flight risks? So they released him on bail. That was yesterday. That was yesterday‘s headline. I‘ll give you two seconds to come up with today‘s headline. One, two - yes, he‘s missing.
Christopher Metsos was supposed to check in with police in Cyprus today between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. local time, and he didn‘t show. May I suggest check the airport? And Russia? Maybe you should check Russia?
The 10 suspects who were arrested here in the United States were not bailed out. They‘re actually still in custody. Several of them are expected to appear in federal court tomorrow. They include Anna Chapman, a divorced 28-year-old who reportedly lived under her real name in New York.
Ms. Chapman founded a start-up online real estate company worth a reported $2 million and also said she worked for two hedge funds and a private aviation firm. And look, here‘s her Facebook page. She has 161 friends and they‘re almost all Russians.
Single best detail about Anna Chapman so far? When she bought her untraceable cell phone this weekend, she gave a false name and address. The address she gave was 99 Fake Street.
If I could make this stuff up, I would have a three-picture deal. Also, this kid, Mikhail Semenko, worked as a travel agent in Arlington, Virginia. Here is a picture that “Gawker.com” pulled from his Facebook page. It‘s of Mikhail wearing - if you look that closely - a Soviet Union t-shirt. Very subtle.
To illustrate spy craft of which these spies like us are accused, we enlisted two of the notorious RACHEL MADDOW SHOW players. Again, despite the appearance of actual attempted espionage, remember, these are dramatizations of real events, beginning with the secret spy language of signs and countersigns.
Here are our players reenacting almost word for word what the government claims the Russians said to each other to identify themselves as spies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, haven‘t we met last summer in California?
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: No, I think it was the Hamptons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. Did we meet in Bangkok April last year?
JONES: I don‘t know about April. But I was in Thailand in May of that year. Excuse me. Could we have met in Malta in 1999?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, indeed. I was in La Valetta, but in 2000.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you overheard that at a park bench or a cafe between guys in blazers and baseball caps, wouldn‘t it seem perfectly normal? Amazing.
Then there‘s always the alleged spies handed each other money. Here‘s one example spelled out in the complaint. During the fall of 2004, law enforcement agents searched in the area where the car associated with Metsos had stopped.
In that area, law enforcement agents cleared away approximately five inches of dirt and buried in the ground observed a package wrapped in duct tape. On June 8, 2006, on surveillance video, Satoli(ph) can be seen digging up the location and retrieving from the location a small package in the immediate vicinity of where the brown beer bottle was. Money buried in dirt, buried treasure for real.
Another technique they allegedly used was the brush pass, and this is how that worked, again, verbatim from the complaint against the accused spies, “Russian government official number three was holding a shopping bag. As Russian government official number three descended from the train platform, Richard Murphy, the defendant walked up the same stairs.”
“As Russian government official number three and Murphy passed one another on the stairs, Murphy held out his backpack and Russian government number three official placed the shopping bag that he has been holding into Murphy‘s backpack. Murphy then continued up the stairs. And the Russian government official number three continued down the stairs and walked away.”
And there is so much more. There is invisible ink. There is hiding secret data in images on the Internet. That‘s called steganography. According to an expert quoted in “The Christian Science Monitor,” this is the first publicly acknowledged use of steganography anywhere.
Quote, “The threat is no longer hypothetical.” Russia initially called the spying allegations baseless and unseemly. But now, both countries are calling this a law enforcement matter and saying it will not affect international relations.
Importantly, no one says the supposed spies ever sent anything all that interesting back to Moscow in the whole decade that they were being watched here. But if it turns out they did, you can bet their spying trade craft for how they did it will be have been foreshadowed by the movie “Sneakers” or by “Get Smart.” Excuse me, I have a call.
MADDOW: This show has been on the air since the September before last. It will be our second birthday this September if all goes well. Really, the only regret I have about the time we‘ve been on the air is that as we‘ve been on the air on TV, conservatives and particularly elected Republicans have become less and less likely to agree to be guests on this show.
Now, I honestly don‘t think it‘s because this is an unfair venue or that I‘m an interrupt-y pants screamer who is not going to let them get their point across. I think it‘s because the media is as polarized as politics and that makes it really for me to convince conservative newsmakers to come on the show to talk to me, though I do keep trying really hard. Sen. Bennett, call me.
But when Sharron Angle‘s political career ended last night on local television in Nevada, it was a perfect case study in what happens if you don‘t ever talk to people with whom you disagree. Because here is the thing - when your positions are never questioned, you‘re never forced to develop strong logic to back them up. When your arguments are never challenged, you don‘t ever have to improve them. you don‘t ever have to cast out arguments of yours that don‘t make sense or learn how to deal with evidence that appears to contradict your conclusions.
That‘s why I regret that we don‘t have more conservatives on this show. Because I do have a point of view, of course, but I like talking with people with whom I disagree, both because it is fun and selfishly because it makes my arguments better.
On the right, the downside for conservatives of their being a huge, prefab conservative media infrastructure is that conservatives groan inside that bubble sometimes cannot survive outside it. Do you want to see what that looks like?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALSTON: You have a pretty interesting view actually about jobless benefits. I want to show people what you had to say and what is now a celebrated interview about jobless benefits.
RALSTON: Listen to this.
ANGLE: You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job but it doesn‘t pay as much. And so 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.”
RALSTON: So you‘re saying to these tens of thousands and the vets -
they‘re sitting on their couches. They‘re all spoiled. They don‘t want to
go out and get a job and I‘m going to cut off your benefits. That‘s your
ANGLE: No. Now, come on, John.
RALSTON: But you said they‘re spoiled.
ANGLE: Well, I said that it had spoiled our citizenry. That‘s a little different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It‘s almost like it hadn‘t occurred to Sharron Angle until that moment that trashing the unemployed in the middle of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression maybe isn‘t the best political strategy among a number of other problems with it.
That would explain why the best she could do, rebuttal-wise was, “When I said we‘re spoiling the unemployed, I didn‘t mean the unemployed are spoiled. Don‘t take me out of context.”
But if you thought that didn‘t make any sense, get a load of Sharron Angle‘s take on the separation of church and state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALSTON: What about separation of church and state? You know, that is in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers believed in that and you know what? Back in 1995, when you were on the Nye County School board, you came to the legislature testifying in a School Choice Bill.
And here is what the minutes say you said, “The bill is exclusionary of many private religions schools and Ms. Angle believed that to be an un-American concept in the tenet of separation of church and state is an unconstitutional doctrine.” The separation of church and state arises out of the Constitution.
ANGLE: No, it doesn‘t, John.
RALSTON: Oh, it doesn‘t. The Founding Fathers didn‘t believe in the separation of church and state, the establishment clause, the First Amendment?
ANGLE: Actually, Thomas Jefferson has been misquoted like I have been misquoted out of context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wow. Sharron Angle is not wrong about the separation of church and state, OK? It‘s just that she and Thomas Jefferson and the first amendment to the Constitution keep getting taken out of context.
Congress shall make no law - never mind. Another awkward thing about the friendly, no-arguing bubble is that hypocrisy and inconsistency don‘t exist there because no one ever calls you out for engaging in hypocrisy and inconsistencies.
So when you finally emerge from the bubble, you may find yourself incapable of recognizing hypocrisy or inconsistency even in your own arguments, even when someone really slowly and carefully points them out to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RALSTON: Another thing that‘s getting a lot of play - and you do - you talked about bringing your values and you don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with that. And that came up during a conversation this year with Bill Manders who is a conservative radio talk show host. Let‘s listen to that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANGLE: I‘m pro responsible choice.
BILL MANDERS, HOST, “THE BILL MANDERS RADIO SHOW”: Right.
ANGLE: You know, there‘s choice to abstain, choice to do contraception. There‘s all kind of choices.
MANDERS: Is there any reason at all - is there any reason at all for an abortion?
ANGLE: Not in my book.
MANDERS: So all those rape and incest would not be something?
ANGLE: You know, I‘m a Christian.
ANGLE: And I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations. So we need to have a little faith in many things.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
RALSTON: In many ways, that‘s the purest of the pro-life positions. You should not have any exceptions. On the other hand, I don‘t understand the philosophy and you can explain this to me.
You don‘t want government to be in social security or Medicare, the Department of Education. You don‘t want to regulate big oil companies. You don‘t want to regulate a lot of industry. And yet you want government to go and tell a 13-year-old child who has been raped by her father that she has to have that baby. You want government to do that.
ANGLE: I didn‘t say that.
RALSTON: But that‘s your position.
ANGLE: What I said was that I was going to - no. I always say that I
value life. My position has always been that government should stay out of
this matter. But in 1973, they chose to get involved in this and since
RALSTON: You said this in 2010 though.
ANGLE: I know, but in 1973 with Roe -
RALSTON: That‘s Roe versus Wade, right?
ANGLE: That‘s right. And since then, there have been a lot of things that we have seen happen that have not been pro-life. And I‘ve always been pro-life, but what I‘m saying to you is the government decided to get involved in this, not me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Government got involved with Roe - Roe versus Wade was government involvement and that was bad. But what you want is for the government to monitor every pregnancy in the country to ensure that it ends the way the government approves of.
You want every pregnant woman or child in America to have her pregnancy monitored by the government to make sure that there is a live birth as the conclusion of every impregnation.
That‘s government involvement in reproductive decision-making. And it‘s never been put to Sharron Angle that way before, apparently. And so, she is visibly confused.
Ultimately, there were a lot of headlines out of this first mainstream media interview of the 2010 general election season with the season‘s single-most interesting candidate. Even as Sharron Angle said she really didn‘t think Harry Reid should be killed, he should just be voted out of office.
She stood by her claim if conservatives don‘t get the electoral outcomes they want in the midterm election, we should expect conservatives to take up weapons to get their way. She‘s still not walking that back.
But the bigger story and the more unexpected story here is how curdled and pitiful and inbred policy and even argument itself gets when it is never exposed to opposing views. How weak the political and rhetorical muscles get when they‘re allowed to atrophy.
So I lament the no-argue bubbles. I lament the reluctance of conservatives and Republican politicians in particular to come on this show in part because arguing is fun and talking to people with whom you disagree is fun. But also, because it makes us all better at what we do, and that‘s good for us. And if you are a politician, that is good for the country. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now. Have a good night.
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