Guest: Lawrence Bender, Victor Fehrenbach
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now, with her special guest, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, who‘s become the latest victim in the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” fiasco—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us this next hour.
What you are looking at right here is something that we have never seen before. This is the camera on the seafloor at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster showing that blown-out well not spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time in 87 days—the first time.
Now, obviously, this is good and it is long-anticipated news, but—but three things. And for this, I‘m going to need the giant numbers that we‘ve had in storage for a while. Are you ready?
Three things—one, two, three. First—giant number—first: No one knows how long this will last. This is the first time that the oil has been stopped from leaking into the ocean. But that doesn‘t mean this new cap is a done deal forever. Engineers will monitor the well for up to 48 hours to see if this cap can actually handle all of the oil without bringing a leak.
So, that‘s one. We are still in a waiting game here.
Number two: The idea with this cap is that they can use it to funnel all the oil. Not just some of it but all of it to a ship on the surface. If a hurricane comes along though, any such ship will have to head for shore.
So, what happens to the oil then? Do we go back to square one?
And number three: One of the things this cap means if it can capture all the oil is that for the first time, we will finally be able to measure exactly how much oil is leaking and has been leaking out of the blown well. No more guessing. We will have a real number. So, we‘ll know how much has already leaked into the Gulf and how much the EPA can fine BP—because you will recall the EPA will fine BP per barrel.
What‘s happening right now at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is qualified good news. This is a sight we have all been waiting to see for 87 long days. This cap, however, is just the Band-Aid. Right now, it now appears to have contained the bleeding.
But the permanent solution—the thing that will eventually stop the flow of oil altogether is still weeks away at best. It‘s the pair of relief wells that are now being drilled at the Deepwater Horizon site. And if a hurricane comes along—which they do have a propensity to do in this place at this time of year—the work on the relief wells will go away, too, and the permanent solution will get a little further out of reach.
Joining us live from Venice, Louisiana is NBC News chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne Thompson.
Anne, thanks very much for joining us tonight. It‘s good to have you back on the show.
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:
It‘s good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Obviously, this new cap is good news. But how permanent is this as a solution?
THOMPSON: Well, that‘s a big question that no one knows the answer to tonight.
Originally, this cap was designed as a collection system to make it easier for—as you said—when a hurricane comes for them to be able to disconnect and get those ships that are on the surface out of the way. And this cap was to have pipes that would go to four different ships. And it would disconnect quickly instead of having five days‘ trigger time which is the time from when the hurricane is forecast to the time they have to move out. They‘d only have to have two days‘ time.
And so, that was the original intent of this cap. But as they designed it, BP realized that they could possibly use this cap to shut in the well. And so, now, they‘re to go that well integrity test. Today, for the first time in 87 days, we saw no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico. But that does not mean this is stopped because every six hours, government scientists and BP engineers are getting together in the Houston command center and doing their calculations and deciding whether or not they‘re going to go forward with this test.
If they go forward and they go for all 48 hours—that would take us to about midday Saturday. And then they‘re going to decide whether it would be a permanent shut-in opportunity or they would turn it back into a containment cap and send it up to those four vessels on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
MADDOW: Just to be clear, in the event that they decide to do this, not as a—essentially as a plug but essentially as another means of funneling oil up to the surface, if they are using it as a containment system to funnel oil to the ships, they still will have to pull those ships in shore and stop the containment effort in the event of a big storm?
THOMPSON: Absolutely. Actually, the ships don‘t go in shore, they just go to another place in the Gulf of Mexico where the hurricane is not forecast to hit. But, yes, they would still have to have two days to get out of the way and then two days to come back and then hook up and go again. So, you do have the possibility of oil once again spewing freely into the Gulf if a hurricane comes near.
MADDOW: One of the interesting implications of this new system that‘s in place is that we may finally be able to know how much oil there is coming out of that well. How is exactly are they going to be able to assess that?
THOMPSON: Well, from what I understand, Rachel, they can do that by doing calculations with the pressure, which is one of the things they‘re measuring as they did this well integrity test. If they go to the containment is system, they would have enough capacity on the surface of the Gulf to collect up to 80,000 barrels a day.
Now, you‘ll remember the government‘s latest estimate says it‘s somewhere between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels a day that‘s spewing into the Gulf. They wanted to exceed that. They would have the capacity for 80,000 barrels a day. But it would be interesting to see just how much would be coming out of there if they do go back to that containment system.
MADDOW: And are the relief wells on track at this point?
THOMPSON: They are. And that really is the best hope here. As the first relief well is within 30 feet of getting to where it needs to get so they can lay the final casing in, it is—it is approaching the ruptured well at a two-degree angle. And then once they lay that final casing in, they hope to do it this weekend, then they have to drill another 100 feet before they intersect it.
And when they intersect it, they‘re going to look at two things, Rachel. First of all, they‘re going to look on the outside—they‘ll intersect the well and think of it like as tree rings. There‘s an annulus on the edge. And they want to see if there is oil coming up through the annulus. If there isn‘t, that‘s good news. And they can go straight into the drill pipe and plug there.
If there is oil through that outer ring, then they would plug that and then drill further into the drill pipe and then plug that. So, it‘s a multistep process.
MADDOW: We‘re learning all—we‘re all learning so much about the engineering here. It‘s a weird byproduct.
THOMPSON: Had you ever heard—had you ever heard the word “annulus” before?
THOMPSON: It must have been yes.
MADDOW: Actually, a world premiere on cable news at this point.
NBC chief environmental affairs correspondent and annulus pronouncer, Anne Thompson. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
THOMPSON: Take care, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Did you hear that the Republican Party has its groove back? Yes, that is what they say. And that makes me very excited to find out where their groove was before now that they say that they have rediscovered it. Things get very groovy in Washington, man—when we come right back.
MADDOW: The capping of the gushing well at the bottom of the Gulf Mexico is hands down the biggest story in the country tonight. But the biggest political story in the country tonight is Wall Street reform finally passing the U.S. Senate. Reform is now on its way to President Obama‘s desk where it will be signed into law sometime next week. All but three Republicans in the Senate voted against it.
Surveying that political landscape today, this was the takeaway from the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We broke out of the Washington echo chamber and fought the government-driven solutions the Democrats were proposing. In short, you might say we got our groove back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Disturbing as it is to imagine Mitch McConnell grooving in any way, consider what he sees as his party‘s groove.
Two years after the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression
thanks to Wall Street—the Republicans have decided that we shouldn‘t reform Wall Street. That everything‘s fine as it is. It‘s in the Senate where Republicans just voted against Wall Street reform. But in the House, incredibly, they have announced that they want to repeal it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: I think the financial reform bill is ill-conceived. I think it ought to be repealed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Repeal it because things were awesome before.
The rest of the Republican groove right now is as amazing as their stance on Wall Street. Their “bring back Bush tax agenda” slated to add $3.5 trillion to the deficit and they are still opposing unemployment benefits which continued to be stalled in the Senate.
So, to be clear, that‘s the Republican groove that they feel like that they‘ve just gotten back. Don‘t reform Wall Street. Add $3.5 trillion to the deficit and eat the poor.
Groovy, man. Can‘t wait until November.
MADDOW: Who‘s going to run against Barack Obama in 2012? Well, the Republican who has raised the most money to do so, so far, appears to be Mitt Romney. Through his PACs, he has raised $1.8 million as of the second quarter of this year—in the second quarter of this year. In second and third place are Sarah Palin and Minnesota Governor Tim Pa—sorry—got sleepy there for a moment. Don‘t know what happened. Whenever I start to say Tim Pa—it‘s very embarrassing.
Anyway, right, Mitt Romney. When Mitt Romney ran for the Republican presidential nomination last time, his electoral strategy was awkward. Remember his leaked campaign playbook with the Romney campaign bumper sticker idea: “First, not France.”
Not only does that not make for a good campaign slogan, it doesn‘t make sense. What is first and why isn‘t it France? And is anybody confusing first with France? Is this a problem that only President Mitt Romney can solve?
Then Mitt Romney also he tried running as the far right-wing conservative candidate, right after his last gig as governor of Massachusetts—a state that while he was in office, legalized gay marriage and instituted universal health care.
But now, Mitt Romney 2012 is a whole new bag of tricks. And this time, he is running as the guy who is against reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world.
Josh Rogan, “Foreign Policy‘s” “The Cable Blog” reports this week that Mitt Romney is raising money now off of his yes, more nuclear weapons position. Send me money so I can fight the president for more nuclear weapons. Thousands are not enough. There are other worlds we might need to destroy, too.
The Obama administration, perhaps unafraid of a Mitt Romney challenge, today made public the specifics of its nuclear reduction plan, a 30 percent reduction in long-range nuclear warheads and more money to maintain the ones we are holding onto. That still leaves us with 3,000 weapons, many on hair trigger alert. What could possibly go wrong?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1995, Pete Sampras won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. George Clooney made his first big movie. A bomb destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City. O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder. And we also came close to an accidental nuclear missile launch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On January 25th, 1995, the United States launched a rocket from Norway to study the northern lights. We told the Russians that we were going to launch that rocket. But somebody in Moscow forgot to pass word on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That fit exactly the characteristics of the beginning of a nuclear strike. One missile coming over, exploding in the atmosphere, sending out an electromagnetic force that would fry all the electronics, radar, computers, in the country to be attacked, followed by an onslaught of nuclear weapons.
And for the first time in the nuclear age, the Russians actually opened up the nuclear football. They went to President Yeltsin. They opened up the command and control launch codes, the button, put it on the desk and said, “We‘re under attack.” Fortunately, Yeltsin wasn‘t drunk and he didn‘t believe what the military was telling him. He said, “There must be some mistake.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That clip was from the new documentary, “Countdown to Zero,” which makes a really strong case against countries, including ours, having nuclear weapons.
It also makes a rally good case that being against nuclear weapons isn‘t just for hippies anymore. Take a look at who appears in this film as supporting the notion of a nuclear-free world. Yes, Jimmy Carter but also the late Robert McNamara, F.W. de Klerk, Richard Burt, Pervez Musharraf, Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev, Richard Sesek (ph), Tom D‘Agostino, James Baker III and the late Ronald Reagan from when he was president.
Joining us is Lawrence Bender, the producer of “Countdown to Zero.”
Mr. Bender, thank you for being here tonight.
LAWRENCE BENDER, “COUNTDOWN TO ZERO” PRODUCER: So great to be here.
MADDOW: You talked to Mikhail Gorbachev in the film. And for all his regrets about not being able to reduce nukes more with Ronald Reagan, he seems optimistic about President Obama‘s agenda. Do you feel the same way?
BENDER: You know, it‘s funny, I do. I feel like this is an idea whose time has come. And it‘s one of these things where this is not a liberal idea anymore.
BENDER: And as you said, Ronald Reagan started this whole thing with the START Treaty. And the START Treaty that‘s going to be hopefully ratified in the Senate, is something supported by a lot of Republicans.
And I feel like post-Cold War, post-9/11, people are starting to change the way they think about nuclear weapons. For instance, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn and Bill Perry wrote an op-ed article in 2007 and in 2008, kind of the story on this whole thing, talking about why the reduction of nuclear weapons is important post-9/11. That is not Russia and United States that may threats going to be, but from a terrorist potentially.
And so, people like that, people like Secretary Baker who‘s in our movie, and maybe if Mitt Romney saw the movie, he‘d feel the same way.
MADDOW: I guess if he did, he still wouldn‘t campaign on it.
Remember, he‘s “First, not France.” He‘s inexplicable.
If the U.S. and Russia went to zero, right, you‘d make the case U.S. and Russia, 96 percent of the world‘s nuclear weapons.
MADDOW: If U.S. and Russia went to zero, why would that make it more likely for countries like North Korea or Iran to give up on the nuclear dream as well?
BENDER: That‘s a great question, and we talk about this in the movie, too. It‘s not that—it would be naive to say, well, if we reduced, then Iran‘s not going want to learn nuclear weapon. You know, no one wants to be naive about it. But I think the idea is, and by the way, the Global Zero has a commission of 25 military leaders and political leaders that are backed by quite a few people, former heads of state, national and military commanders and so forth.
The idea is that if the United States and Russia, who own most of the nuclear weapons of the world, they need to take the leadership and reduce. And as they begin to reduce and get to low enough numbers, that the other countries are going to feel pressure to start reducing. And as we create a circular downward spiritual of nuclear weapons, then there‘s going to be pressure—more pressure and less tolerance for countries like Iran to either get it or North Korea to have it.
And so, the pressure will be come a downward pressure as opposed to the Cold War where it was an upward cycle.
MADDOW: And it‘s a good point made almost parenthetically that this is sort of what happened with chemical weapons. And at some point, chemical weapons became taboo. It doesn‘t mean that they were wiped off the face of the earth but they became—they became unacceptable eventually.
BENDER: Exactly. In the Global Zero concept basically, the only way to get rid of the nuclear threat, 100 percent to get rid of it, is to secure and lock all the nuclear materials around the world, which the president‘s summit was about a couple of months ago in D.C. and to get rid of all the nuclear weapons internationally, worldwide. And only then can there be a true—you know, the threat of terrorism, nuclear terrorism is going to be, you know, diminished.
MADDOW: One of the things described in the film is a—at a closed session in the Senate, Joe Biden, now the vice president, essentially gets a nuclear weapon, minus the uranium or plutonium, gets it delivered to the Senate hearing room.
Can you just explain that?
BENDER: It‘s a scary concept. But he was—they were doing Senate hearings. He was like, OK, I don‘t believe it. Prove it. And they literally went off—it‘s something that certain colleges do in the graduate programs. They ask them to build a nuclear bomb based on what they find on the Internet and lo and behold—
MADDOW: All commercially available components, right?
BENDER: All commercially available components. They did it. They built it, minus the fissile material, of course, and brought it into the Senate. And I think at that point, everyone goes, OK, this is a problem.
MADDOW: Yes, it‘s an incredible story and incredible issue and you‘ve done a really good job, I think, lighting the fire under a lot of people on this.
BENDER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks. It‘s really good to meet you.
BENDER: My pleasure. Nice to meet you.
MADDOW: Lawrence Bender is, of course, producer of “Countdown to
Zero.” If you have the opportunity to see it anywhere, you really should -
even if it‘s just for the Biden anecdotes.
All right. House Republicans‘ latest outreach is called America Speaking Out. And when they say “America,” they mean a very small, obscenely influential and well-funded sliver of America.
MADDOW: The Republican Party is test-driving a reach out to the little people initiative that they‘re calling America Speaking Out. The top House Republican, John Boehner, is hosting a kickoff confab for America Speaking Out tomorrow. The idea is to hammer out a plan for the fall election season using topics like American prosperity, providing Americans the opportunities to succeed, and American values, protecting those things we hold dear.
In the interest of transparency, they‘re going to stream the America Speaking Out event live on the Internet.
Congressman Boehner‘s chief of staff sent out an e-mail message saying, quote, “America Speaking Out is an unprecedented initiative to listen to the American people and give them a voice in crafting solutions to grow the economy.”
Listening to the American people, giving them a voice. Who is the “them” in that sentence?
We asked Kent Jones to look into it.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel.
Well, them—you know, the Republicans have widen their net this time. They‘ve invited a group of people to this meeting they never hear from, like, ever.
JONES (voice-over): They‘ve been shut out, ignored, consigned to the shadows of government until now—thanks to the vision of Congressman John Boehner, one group will finally be heard from at the America Speaking Out meeting: lobbyists. Congressman Boehner has extended the hand of welcome to representatives of such marginalized organizations as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Home Builders.
For lobbyist Americans, the question has always been: who will speak for me? For once, they will. Until now, lobbyist Americans have never had a voice in formulating Republican policies—except when it came to health reform, Wall Street reform, climate change, a jobs bill and some other things. But mostly, their silence has been deafening.
Their attendance at the America Speaking Out meeting means maybe our nation can put this shameful chapter behind it and finally admit that lobbyists have ideas, too—just like the rest of us.
Thank you, John Boehner. And remember, they‘re called special interests because they‘re special.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. Reparations may be in order as well.
JONES: Could be.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you.
Last night, we showed you the military‘s instructional comic book for “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and how to implement it. Tonight on “The Interview,” we‘ll speak with the man who was caught in the real life, not-very-funny-at-all version of this story, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach. He was informed of his impending discharge under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” after serving with distinction in the United States Air Force for 18 years. Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach joins us next.
MADDOW: Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach has served in the United States Air Force with distinction for almost 19 years. He‘s logged more than 2,000 flying hours and nearly 1,500 fighter hours. He has flown 400 combat hours, including the longest sorties in the history of his squadron. Col. Fehrenbach estimates that the military has spent $25 million training him.
But in 2008, he was outed as a gay man by a civilian. That began the long process of getting fired, or as the Pentagon likes to put it, separated from the military. Today, the Col. Fehrenbach is still awaiting word on whether he can continue to serve as an active duty airman.
Next month, he will celebrate his 19th anniversary in the Air Force with only one more year until retirement if he makes it that far.
Lt. Col. Fehrenbach joins us now for the interview from Boise, Idaho. Col. Fehrenbach, thank you very much for coming back on the show. It‘s good to see you.
LT. COL. VICTOR FEHRENBACH, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE FIGHTER PILOT:
Thank you, Rachel. Good to see you.
MADDOW: It‘s been about 15 months since you found out you were being recommended for an honorable discharge. What‘s the status of your case right now?
FEHRENBACH: The latest update we had was it arrived in the office of the secretary of the Air Force in early May. We were told it would go through one final legal review and then that recommendation would move forward to the secretary of the Air Force.
At the time, we expected that would be two to three weeks. And if you can do the math, it‘s been eight or nine weeks since we were told that. So that review is taking a lot longer than we originally expected.
MADDOW: Does the fact that it is taking longer than expected, does that give you hope that you won‘t be discharged? Do you know how to interpret this delay?
FEHRENBACH: No, I don‘t, because the case has been reviewed by multiple layers already. We did request to meet personally, my legal team with the secretary of the Air Force. We were turned down twice.
We requested that my legal team appear before this review board so they could present some of our legal concerns on how my case was handled. Again, we were turned down on all those requests.
But we were able to put forward a legal brief that showed all of our concerns there. But we are not sure if that just means they‘re really taking our argument seriously and they‘re taking a long time to review this.
And we also don‘t know if they‘re taking extra time because Secretary Gates, as you know, announced new, more lenient, more humane enforcement standards in March. So maybe they‘re taking the extra time to apply those standards. We hope so.
As you know, those standards - some of the things you now see, my case meets all those standards. For instance, it was not credible information that was presented. It was not from a reliable source. And my chain of command did not take into consideration how that information was gained.
And then finally, it was clearly malicious intent involved by the person who outed me. So my case should be, you know, basically the poster case for the new enforcement standards. My case meets every one of those criteria. So really, the Air Force has the opportunity to do the right thing here, to dismiss my cases and retain me. And I hope they do that under these new enforcement standards.
MADDOW: It sounds like with all of the variables in play, and obviously, you know everything there is to know about your own case. You know as much as any of us do about the status of the policy and what‘s going on internally at the Pentagon here. I imagine being in this kind of limbo for this long must be really stressful. Is it?
FEHRENBACH: Oh, it‘s extremely stressful, Rachel. I mean, I thank God every day I get to put on the uniform and I get to continue to do my job. But at the same time, you know, I don‘t know if I‘m going to get the phone call tomorrow that will say, “Hey, next Friday is your last day of service.”
And you know, I don‘t know how I‘ll react to that. So it‘s pretty hard to continue to do my job knowing and being under that stress that I don‘t know when my last day will eventually be.
MADDOW: We‘ve talked a couple of times since your case initially became known publicly. And I‘ve asked you this then and I‘m just asking you again now because I want to know if it‘s still the case.
Is there any issue in your unit with the men and women that you serve with, with them serving alongside with you in uniform with you now as an openly gay man? Is there any issue?
FEHRENBACH: No. None whatsoever. And I know we‘ve talked about this before. In fact, two weeks after I was on your program, you know, one of the issues they talked is how will this affect retention and recruiting.
Well, I had a master sergeant in my squadron approach me and he asked me personally to do his re-enlistment. He asked me re-administer his oath and sign his paperwork to re-enlist him.
He didn‘t ask his squadron commander and he didn‘t ask his immediate supervisor. He asked me. I was honored by that and I was glad to do it. And since that time, again, my unit has been nothing but professional. They‘ve been dedicated to the mission.
They have proven this survey, this study doesn‘t need to go on for 10 months. I can invite the people as part of this work group to come work with me tomorrow. You don‘t need a hypothetical study or survey. You can come to work with me and see real airmen, real warriors who care about the mission and only care that I‘m able to do my job.
MADDOW: There‘s been controversy about some of the survey questions since the survey first went out a few days ago. I know that you‘ve seen what‘s on the survey. Do you have any reaction to it? Do you think it‘s necessary, unnecessary? Do the questions bother you?
FEHRENBACH: The questions in particular, a couple of them I think - well, I would just say they - I don‘t want to say they‘re insulting. But you know, there are things in combat that we just don‘t think about.
You think about where your next meal is going to come from. You think about your next mission. You think about your family back home. And you just don‘t think about who‘s showering next to you.
Questions like that - they got specific - seem somewhat insulting. I think the survey is unnecessary completely, because for one reason, you know, 24 of our allies have already ended their bans. And so, they‘ve already looked at these issues that we have to address and may have implemented effective solutions.
So all we need to do is call the United Kingdom, call Israel, find out how they addressed these problems or these issues that came forward and implement similar solutions.
And secondly, like I said, you can come to work tomorrow and you can see that real airmen, real warriors don‘t care about my personal private life. They only care that I‘m able to do my job and able to execute mission.
And the last point I want to make is this survey is unprecedented. You know, if we wanted to see if everybody was comfortable, you know, we could ask them if they wanted to go home for Christmas or stay in a tent in Afghanistan. You‘d probably get 90 percent that said they‘d rather go home for Christmas.
And nobody asked me if I was comfortable while I was getting shot at eight times over Baghdad. Nobody if I was comfortable in my 13-hour mission over Afghanistan.
So you know, the survey was unprecedented in 1948. When we integrated the armed services, President Truman didn‘t take a survey to do that. He did it because it was the right thing to do.
In the ‘70 and ‘90s, when we integrated women in the academies and the combat units, again, we didn‘t take a survey. We did it because it was the right thing to do. And our military became stronger because of it.
MADDOW: Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who soon may be a 20-year veteran of the Air Force. Victor, thank you for taking the trip to talk to us, and thanks for sharing your story. Appreciate it.
FEHRENBACH: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: 2010 has seen the invention of a new political game. It is called bait-the-liberal, and it involves conservative candidates making campaign ads so aggressively whack-a-do that liberals can be counted on to mock them, thereby giving those candidates publicity and anti-liberal credibility.
We vowed not to play the bait-the-liberal game until the game was over. And in several amazing cases, the game ended this week. So now, let the mocking commence. That‘s next.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Michigan‘s Governor Jennifer Granholm joins Keith to review the president‘s ongoing brawl with just about every Republican about the American economy. Coming up on this show, a Rachel read that I have been working on for months and about which I have had many sleepless nights. That‘s ahead.
MADDOW: Primary season is officially over in the great State of Alabama. This week, they held their run-offs and that is good news here at the show, because the end of primary season means we‘re finally free to make fun of a select few former candidates who were desperate for us to make fun of them while they were still in the running.
What these candidates did during their short-lived campaigns is called bait. These three amazing Alabama politicians put out ads that were clearly designed to bait liberals like me into attacking them so they would then be able to raise money by campaigning against the liberals who criticized them.
Now that all of these candidates have lost, we can make fun of them without taking the bait and becoming part of their fundraising strategy. Hooray.
So first, there is this guy, Dale Peterson, who tried and failed to win Republican nomination for commissioner of agriculture. Check out his subtle and nuanced call for reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DALE PETERSON ®, CANDIDATE FOR NOMINATION FOR COMMISSIONER OF
AGRICULTURE: So listen up. Alabama ag-commissioner is one of the most powerful positions in Alabama, responsible for $5 billion. Bet you didn‘t know that. You know why? Thugs and criminals.
If they can keep you in the dark, they‘ll do whatever they want with all that money. I‘ll name names and take no prisoners. Give me the Republican nomination for ag-commissioner and let‘s show Alabama we mean business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Despite the sheer joyful irrelevance of Dale Peterson‘s big gun in that ad, Mr. Peterson and his gun lost in the Republican primary.
Then, there was this guy, Rick Barber, running in the Republican primary for Congress in Alabama‘s second district. Mr. Barber‘s ads were such good bait they were nearly impossible to avoid talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK BARBER ®, CANDIDATE IN THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR CONGRESS IN
ALABAMA: If someone‘s forced to work for months so a total stranger can get a free meal, medical procedure or a bailout, what‘s that called? What‘s it called when one man is forced to work for another?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slavery.
BARBER: You gentlemen revolted over a tea tax. A tea tax. Now, look at us. Are you with me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gather your armies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So yes, that guy lost, too. But the best guy who lost in the Alabama primaries is this guy, Tim James, trying to be the next Republican governor of Alabama, just like his dad.
Now, we did post something on our blog about Tim James, but we‘ve been waiting for his inevitable loss in the end of Alabama‘s primary season to make fun of his truly, truly terrible, laughing-at-you-not-with-you legendary ad here on the TV machine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM JAMES ®, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR IN ALABAMA: I‘m Tim James. Why do our politicians make us get driver‘s license exams in 12 languages? This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it.
We‘re only giving that test in English if I‘m governor. Maybe it‘s the businessman in me, but we‘ll save money and it makes sense. Does it to you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: While that ad is brilliant enough on its own, what is truly amazing about it is the number of truly great parodies it inspired.
First, came the inevitable translations and dubbings of the ad into Spanish. Someone even added scrolling subtitles in 12 languages to the “this is Alabama, we speak English” ad.
But the best spoofs, and they are truly inspired work, involved Tim James look-sort-of-alikes suggesting other things that should only be done in English in Tim James-ese. There are a million of these and they‘re so good they‘re actively distracting from everything else you should be doing in your productive life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I‘m Tim James.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m Tim James.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m Tim James.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I‘m Tim James.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are there so many foreign restaurants here in Alabama? When I‘m governor, Juan‘s Taco-Rio will be John‘s Flour-Bread Sandwiches. Sushi Inaka(ph)? Main Street 5th Rolls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know when you‘re watching a DVD and you accidentally hit the foreign subtitles button and don‘t know where the button was because you hit it by accident and can‘t change it back? Yes, well, that‘s next on the list.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This symbol for pi looks very foreign to me. What does it mean? It‘s certainly not American. That‘s why when I‘m governor, I‘m going to replace the symbol for pi with this picture of a pumpkin pie with the word “math” inside.
People know we‘re talking about the math version of pi instead of a real pumpkin pie. Maybe it‘s the businessman that wants to draw a picture of a pie with the word “math” inside instead of the symbol of pi drawn by a mathematician, but it just makes sense. Does it to you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Links to those parodies are at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” It makes sense. Does it to you?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN:
We‘re in Afghanistan because it really matters. We‘re in Afghanistan because if we fail in Afghanistan, it will have a direct, immediate danger to us.
It will increase al-Qaeda‘s worldwide reach. They will come back with the Taliban in all likelihood. And they will gain a worldwide success, which will be very dangerous for our national security interests.
So we have to be clear - the American public needs to be clear on why we‘re in Afghanistan. This is not Vietnam, a war which I participated in as a State Department civilian (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when I entered the government. This is not the Balkans. It‘s not Iraq. This is quite different. And this one relates directly to our safety at home.
MADDOW: But we tried to do counterinsurgency in Vietnam, too, pretty explicitly. When you look back at those efforts, all those years ago, do you really have confidence that a foreign country can help create a state somewhere else, that we really can stand up an Afghan government?
HOLBROOKE: I think we can, if we do it right. The fundamental difference is the one you and I just have already mentioned. It matters to our homeland security. Vietnam did not, although, at the time, the administrations in power did say it did, but they were wrong.
It‘s a process which is not easy, and you only embark on it if you decide that it is absolutely critical for the U.S. national interests, which it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s the argument. That‘s the case the Obama administration makes for the war in Afghanistan now, the case made to me this week by diplomat Richard Holbrooke as you saw there, but shared across the administration.
And the case is that we have to be in Afghanistan because it‘s critical to our national interests. They say the war was mishandled badly for years by the Bush administration, and that‘s why we‘re dealing with the Taliban resurgence and that‘s why we had almost nothing to show for our years there when Obama took office.
But they say despite how bad it is, we can‘t just leave. We can‘t leave, because we can make progress there, and failing to make that progress would be a disaster. The Afghan government collapses. The Taliban returns. And yes, that‘s awful for the Afghan people. But for us, that would also mean a victory and sanctuary again for al-Qaeda, for the terrorists who attacked us nine years ago and who would love to do so again.
To avert that, the argument goes, we need to do everything we can to ensure that there is an Afghan government, a big competent national police force, that isn‘t corrupt, that serves and protects its people, a well-trained, well-equipped army that can defend the government against attempts to overthrow it, basic services, national ministries, governors and municipal offices, all linked to the central government in Kabul.
Even if the Afghan people hate the Taliban, a feeble, corrupt government there doesn‘t stand a chance against the Taliban coming back. And we need and they need for the Taliban to not come back, and if not the Taliban exactly, then other radicals who would happily make common cause with transnational terrorist groups. That‘s the argument.
And so we are still there, in increasingly huge numbers. President Obama has tripled the number of American troops there since he has been president. And those troops are there with a definite, clear mission. Set up that police force, set up that Afghan army, secure village after valley, after road, after town, after orchard, after city, after mountain, after mountain, after mountain.
Secure them to make room for the Afghan government to extend its reach, so the government, not the insurgents, controls the country and controls the people and serves the people.
That mission involves combat because the plan to set up and extend the reach of the Afghan government has enemies - either people who don‘t like the government on its own terms or people who don‘t like the idea of the U.S. essentially setting that government up.
There are a lot of crazed religious death cult radicals shooting at U.S. troops and Afghan soldiers and police right now, but that‘s not everybody. You don‘t have to be crazed or even religious to be against a foreign power fighting in your country.
But we‘re there. We are there and we are talking about our Afghan partners. Gen. David Petraeus‘ statement to the troops upon taking over command referenced the American military‘s compassion for the Afghan people. We‘re here to help, in other words, to protect you from bad guys, to build your government in our own interests, sure, but in yours, too.
The administration‘s argument for staying in Afghanistan and what to do there is logical. It‘s an argument I understand. As a liberal, I believe in the social contract that people can collectively through government protect themselves, address problems and reach for greater things than they could achieve lone or with only their families.
I get it. I also feel like I saw eye-to-eye with the incredibly impressive American troops who are trying to implement the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. They are earnest, capable, professional and they understand the mission and its value.
It makes sense and - and - and it depends on a premise that is romantic and unproven and, I believe, unlikely. The consequences of there not being a real Afghan government are probably dire. Our desire for there to be a real Afghan government is strong and rational. But us just wanting it to be so doesn‘t mean that we‘re capable of making it so.
To me, it seems likely that nothing we can do, nothing within our power as the United States of America will result in there being a real Afghan government. Our presence there may, in fact, make that outcome less likely. What government can grow to full strength and legitimacy with a foreign military on its soil?
What hope is there for a government to supersede the warlords and drug lords and power brokers it competes with if the billions of dollars month our military presence drags behind it like cans off newlyweds‘ car bumpers gets funneled to those same thugs the government‘s competing with?
What better way for us to recruit for and romanticize the Taliban cause than to give them 10 years of armor-clad, infidel foreigners on their land to invade against and to attack. A real Afghan government is the outcome we want for us and for the Afghan people. It‘s practically inarguable as a desired outcome. But whether or not that outcome is achieved is not really up to us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera): I know this is a difficult question, but if over the next year, it doesn‘t essentially doesn‘t work to establish better governance in Kandahar, if the police efforts, the policing efforts, security efforts, don‘t combine to create enough space for Afghan government to step up in a way that is working, I don‘t get the sense that there‘s a Plan B. Is there a Plan B? Is Plan B just more time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s no reason why this shouldn‘t be successful if the Afghans do their part. I mean, we have - I‘ve never met an officer that didn‘t want more capability so I would never turn away more engineers or more military police. But we have enough to do what we have got to do in Kandahar, assuming that the Afghans step up and do their part.
MADDOW: If they don‘t?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then we will have given them the best chance they‘ve ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s what we‘re doing. We‘re trying to give them the best chance they‘ve ever had and they may not take it. And our troops staying there may not make them more likely to take it.
To recognize that is not to accept military defeat. Frankly, establishing a government in a foreign country is not a military objective. It just isn‘t. Counterinsurgency theory be damned, it is a civilian development objective, in this case, with military support.
A military objective is winning a war. War is destructive, not constructive. We send men into war with guns, not with shields. It is not to accept a military defeat to recognize that the 82nd airborne can do many things but it cannot make the governor of Nangarhar Province not corrupt.
If we think there‘s a future in which the Afghan government is real and it runs and controls that country to the exclusion of the Taliban, and it‘s there because we have made that possible, then there is an American national security interest in us still being there.
But if that‘s not possible, no matter what we do, if no matter
how much we want for that to happen, we can‘t make that happen, then, well
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will have given them the best chance they‘ve ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We will have given them the best chance they‘ve ever had. If we can‘t make the outcome we want come to fruition, then we should fund and train and support the Afghan government all we can. But each additional American life sacrificed to a goal we know we won‘t reach is a moral outrage, moral disaster that we have a responsibility in this life during wartime to stop.
Dollars, yes. Lives - lives? No. Not for a romantic wish. Not for something we want but know we won‘t get. Dollars, OK. Lives, no.
If you believe our actions, our American actions in 2010 can make it more likely that there‘s a real government in Afghanistan, then asking Americans to die in Afghanistan is asking them to die for something that is in the national security interests of the United States, which is what American kids sign up for when they enlist.
But if you believe that our actions, our American actions in 2010 cannot make it more likely that there‘s a real Afghan government, that there‘s a real government in Afghanistan, then asking Americans to die in Afghanistan is wrong. It‘s over.
Development, training, support, OK. But lives, no. No. That‘s the choice. It‘s not partisan. It‘s not even passionate. It is rational. Good night.
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